Judge Brett Cullum now knows what is so roaring about the Twenties.
Lucio Fulci's erotic thriller is back to haunt DVD viewers with visions of Marisa Mell.
Strangely enough, in 1969 many Italian films were being shot in the US and countries outside Italy's borders as their film industry thrived. Perversion Story from director Lucio Fulci (Zombie and The Beyond) boasts location shots showcasing New York City, Paris, and San Francisco. The erotic thriller takes full advantage of the city by the bay's sexy, overwrought atmosphere, and pays homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo in the process. If you were searching for an Italian companion to Basic Instinct look no further than this collector's disc from Severin. For the first time in 35 years Perversion Story has been remastered from an original vault negative.
The asthmatic wife of Dr. George Dumurrier (Jean Sorel, Belle De Jour) dies mysteriously, and her insurance policy pays off handsomely. The doctor seemed to never expect this sudden financial windfall, but suspicions soon arise as to whether he murdered his spouse. His mistress (Elsa Martinelli, Blood and Roses) and the insurance investigators are shocked to learn George is now patronizing a strip club called "The Roaring Twenties." Even more shocking is that his wife's (Marisa Mell, Diabolik) death has led him into the arms of an exotic dancer who happens to look just like her. In fact, the only thing different are her hair and the color of her eyes. Who is this seductive doppelganger? And who really killed Mrs. Dumurrier? These questions lead our characters all over San Francisco from Lombard street, the wharf, and even to San Quentin.
This title oozes Eurotrash, erotic nonsense. There's not much logic to the thriller aspect which begs, steals, and borrows from several other films. Yet it's hard to resist, thanks to the hot presence of Marisa Mell who somehow pulls off mod fashions and manages to make them sexier than they ever should be. She's easily the best reason to give Perversion Story a long, hard look. Her reveal as a stripper on a motorcycle is an iconic moment that rivals the best of erotica. This is pure exploitation cinema in the hands of Lucio Fulci, who channels Jess Franco (Venus in Furs) for most of it. Perversion Story has beautiful sequences, and accomplished visualist Fulci shoots incredibly memorable scenes. The pacing is tight, and the plot twists are managed with commendable grace. Jean Sorel and Elsa Martinelli give strong performances, and Marisa Mell gives presence and face. She's the Hitchcock blond of the movie, and does a great job looking simultaneously bored and horny. The score is a jazzy romp set against a strong production design. All in all, the movie is put together well when you consider the genre. There's a lot to admire, and Fulci fans should be excited to see him working in the thriller genre even if the script sometimes falls short of the rest of the production.
The Severin DVD edition of Perversion Story presents an uncut, restored edition of the film assembled from an Italian negative. The transfer is solid, but the film comes from 1969 and shows its age. Sometimes colors go wonky, and not all of them have been corrected. There was one sequence in the stripper's apartment where the colors began flickering between washed-out and saturated. Scratches and grain pop up frequently, and the original mono soundtrack sometimes gets a little muffled. Yet this is a heroic act to save the film, and the widescreen transfer is the best the film has looked since release back in 1969. There are hardly any extras save for a spoiler-ridden, vintage trailer and an eleven-track CD with thirty minutes of the Riz Ortolani jazz score. The CD is a pleasant surprise; the music sounds very much improved when you play it. It's a nice collector's item.
Perversion Story is standard fare for European erotic horror, but this one is elevated through strong direction and a great looking cast running through San Francisco. They filmed the entire thing in English, so it's easy for American viewers to watch without having to turn to the dubbed Italian track. Nothing in the movie is original, but the project is nonetheless enjoyable and sexy. Fans of Marisa Mell will find this one a must own, and other viewers will be entertained. It's interesting to see Fulci working outside of the typical terror genre, although some touches reveal his love for that genre. This edition comes with a great jazz CD and a restored, unrated cut for the first time in over 35 years. Severin certainly delivers a nice package for Perversion Story. The film is sexy, silly, suspenseful fun. It's more thriller than horror, and a curious one that showcases a great beauty quite well. Marisa Mell makes an indelible impression easily, and I found myself as smitten as the rest of the cast.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
• CD of Riz Ortolani's Score
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