MURDER OBSESSION (1981). Reviewed by Steve Kirkham

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MURDER OBSESSION (1981)

3 stars
Radiance Films. Blu ray. 18th December

Ostensibly a giallo – the title Murder Obsession could be seen as a good description of that predominantly Italian sub-genre – this is has Riccardo Freda in the director’s chair and plays more like one of his earlier gothic horror movies than a mystery with a killer on the loose.

The film opens with a bit of a cheat on a movie set and introduces us to Michael (Stefano Patrizi) who appears to be a touch on the unhinged side. This may be explained by the fact that we learn he was responsible for the death of his father – a famous musician and conductor. He decides it is time to return to his childhood home and visit his mother Glenda (Anita Strindberg) and maybe exorcise the past.

So off he heads to her remote Italian home with his girlfriend Debra (Silvio Dionsio) – though if you believe the subtitles the house is in Surrey (you know the one just outside Rome). They are greeted by the rather odd, somewhat shifty manservant Oliver (John Richardson), who has been with the family since Michael was a child. Mother is of course pleased to see her offspring after all these years. Perhaps a little too pleased?

They are joined later by friends from the movie they were shooting – Director Hans (Henry Garcin), along with Shirley (Martine Brochard) and Beryl (Laura Gemser). It takes a while to get get going but eventually odd things start happening and folks end up being killed (including a terrible, unconvincing axe to the head). We also get sexy shenanigans and much female nudity – well, you kind of expect it from Gemser!

Director Freda was one of the early pioneers of the Italian horror scene – probably best known for films like I Vampiri (1957), The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962) and The Ghost (1963). This was his first film in a decade and actually his last.

With a rather confused plot line, this mixes a black gloved killer, with supernatural superstition and the trappings of gothic chillers – an old decrepit house, wandering around in the dark, flickering candles et al.

There is an odd nightmare sequence, randomly plonked in the middle of the proceedings (though I guess it does kind of relate to the storyline) which includes a leftover from the Blind Dead movies and a hokey, giant rubber spider – the fact this Blu-ray looks splendid (taken from the original camera neg) doesn’t really help to show off the effects work by Sergio Stivaletti in the best light. Some of the acting veers to the histrionic side and the intrusive music score by Franco Mannino and an uncredited Carlo Maria Cordio frequently sounds like someone randomly bashing the piano keys as if they are accompanying a silent movie. (I have to admit I didn’t watch the alternative shorter English version with its electronic score which is also included on the disc).

The film has had several alternate titles over the years including: Fear, The Wailing, Satan’s Altar, Unconscious and Murder Syndrome.

This release is a limited edition of 3000 copies.

Steve Kirkham

Special Features – 3 stars
Audio commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
Archive Interviews with make-up effects artist Sergio Stivaletti and composer Claudio Simonetti
Appreciation by filmmaker Gabriele Albanesi
Deleted scene
Reversible sleeve featuring artwork based on original posters
New and improved English subtitle translation for Italian audio and English SDH for English audio
Limited edition booklet with new writing by Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo