Appellate Judge Tom Becker charges $1.99 a minute to read this review.
"You and your damned visions, Darling!"
The Psychic was the last mystery-thriller that director Lucio Fulci made before leaping into full-on horror movies like The Beyond, The House by the Cemetery, and Zombie. Unlike some of his contemporaries, such as Mario Bava and Dario Argento, much of Fulci's work has been slow coming to video. In 2007, Severin Films released Perversion Story, The Eroticist, and now this.
Virginia Ducci (Jennifer O'Neill, Summer of '42) has psychic visions. She had one as a child, wherein she "witnessed" her mother's suicide; she's apparently had them since, and now, a married woman in her twenties, she has one again. Unlike her first, which was pretty straightforward (Mom jumps off a cliff, repeatedly bangs head on the way down), this one is a series of fragmented images—a broken mirror, a red room, a white room with a red lamp, a limping man, a yellow cab, a yellow cigarette, someone being entombed, and a murdered woman.
When her husband goes on a business trip, she decides to reopen his estate in the Italian countryside. As she starts exploring a room, she realizes that it's the same place she saw in her premonition. Armed with a pickax, she uncovers a body hidden behind a wall.
Since the body was discovered in her husband's house, he is arrested. Now, it is up to O'Neill to find out how the body got there. One problem: The woman being killed in her visions was in her fifties; tests on the remains that were found indicate that the woman in the wall was in her twenties.
While described in some corners (including the box) as a giallo, The Psychic is really giallo-light. There's very little bloodletting here and no maniac on the loose. Most of the film consists of O'Neill having a premonition, which leads to the discovery of a clue, which leads to a discussion of the clue, which leads to another premonition, and so on. While it's interesting watching the puzzle get pieced together, it's also kind of a cheat: Any time things start slowing down or questions are raised, O'Neill just gets that faraway look in her eyes, and—bang!—another premonition, another clue.
O'Neill is gorgeous and does a good job of conveying basic emotions such as fear. She has down pat the blank look necessary to indicate when Virginia is seeing something otherworldly. More animated is Ida Galli (Bava's The Whip and the Body) as Virginia's decadent sister-in-law, Gloria, who unwittingly provides an important piece in the puzzle, and Marc Porel (Don't Torture a Duckling) as one of O'Neill's psychic friends.
This is a fun little mystery with the expected red herrings and plot twists, and whose outcome is dependent on back story not provided the audience until the final moments. The Psychic is at its best during its final third, when the pieces come together and O'Neill becomes a woman in peril, being chased through a series of homes in a remote part of the countryside.
Severin has given us a decent looking and sounding edition, apparently the first complete version of the film released in the U.S. The onscreen title is Sette Note in Nero or Seven Notes in Black, the original title of the film. The transfer is acceptable, though far from pristine, with a fair amount of nicks and a few scratches. The Dolby Mono track is solid for this dialogue-heavy film and a good showcase for the atmospheric score (which, at times, echoes Michel Legrand's theme from O'Neill's hit Summer of '42).
Aside from the English-language trailer, the lone extra is a series of audio interviews (over clips from the film) with writer Dardano Sacchetti, costume designer Massimo Lentini, and editor Bruno Micheli. The most interesting of these is Sacchetti (Cannibal Apocalypse), who clashed frequently with Fulci during the making of The Psychic and has some rather bitter observations about the director, although the two went on to work on a number of subsequent films.
The case replicates the original poster—but, thankfully, omits the copy from that poster, which inexplicably spoils a major plot twist.
The Psychic is a neat, well-crafted, and literate little thriller. Gorehounds will be disappointed, as might be fans of pure giallo, but if you're looking for a clever and intriguing mystery, this will do fine.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
• Voices from the Black: Interviews with Co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, Costume Designer Massimo Lentini, and Editor Bruno Micheli (27:30)
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