7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Carlos E. Velasquez
- Published on Amazon.com
"For centuries, theologians, philosophers, and poets have delved into the universe in search of proof of the existence of the devil. It would have sufficed to look into the depths of their own souls." This is some fascinating statement, don't you think? But, I suspect it is not taken from the classic "Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Rather, these are the words of Hieronimus A. Steinback, during the XVII Century, and they are precisely the ones used to open the enormously engrossing "Murder Obsession," an erotic, murder thriller that will keep you glued to your seat until the final credits.
Once we read the aforementioned quote, the film goes to a dramatic scene, in which a killer proceeds to strangle his lady victim. The scene is intense, as the assassin tries really hard to kill the woman. For our surprise, we suddenly hear, "Cut!", and realize that is was only a movie. However, Michael's (the actor, played by Stefano Patrizi) behavior worries his coworkers. Michael then decides to take a break from filming, and plans a trip to visit Glenda, his mother (Anita Strindberg), who lives at the countryside. He takes Deborah, his girlfriend (Silvia Dionisio); Hans Schwartz (Henri Garcin), the director; Shirley (Martine Brochard), the director's assistant; and Beryl (Laura Gemser - yes, "Black Emmanuelle's" Laura Gemser). Once there, they not only meet Michael's mother, but also Oliver (John Richardson), the scary butler. Right from the start, too, we discover that Michael's relationship with his mother is quite strange, yet strong - with an incestuous feel to it --, and that Michael killed his father when he was a child. And, you guessed right, the killings begin again, and it is your job to figure out who is doing it.
"Murder Obsession" (also called "Murder Syndrome), which Italian name is "Follia Omicida," was director Riccardo Freda's last film. It is said that is was Freda who made the first horror Italian thriller ("I Vampiri" - The Devil's Commandment, 1956), so "Murder Obsession" was quite the movie to close his long career. The film is colorful, with many twists and turns, and with plenty nudity, especially from, yes, your guessed again, Miss Gemser. Good stuff, believe me. I wonder what she is doing these days. By the way, while researching Hieronimus A. Steinback, I found out that his quote has also been used in other films. The Blu-ray edition includes a documented booklet about the film and the director, deleted scenes, interviews with some Italian composers and directors, and more. (Italy, 1981, color, 97 min plus additional materials)
Reviewed on June 3, 2012 by Eric Gonzales for RaroVideo.
- Published on Amazon.com
This was the last directorial effort by Riccardo Freda (who sometimes used the pseudonym "Robert Hampton"), who had many of his horror films shown on TV in the 70's, including CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959), THE WITCH'S CURSE (1962) and THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK (1962) and also made such sexual horror films like TRAGIC CEREMONY (1973), which could never be shown on TV, not even today, without extensive cuts. The same could be said about this Italian/French co-production, which is a sexy mix of horror and giallo genres. If all the nudity and gory violence were to be edited from this film so it could be shown on non-pay cable stations, it would only be 30 minutes long. And a word of warning: Since this is the complete Italian version of the film (all the U.S. VHS releases were severely edited, but more on that later), the portions of the film that never made it into the English-dubbed versions of this film are shown in Italian with English subtitles. If you believe that "Books are for readin' and films are for watchin'" (and you probably poop in your Depends because you are too lazy to get off the couch to go to the bathroom), you may want to skip this rather involving and suspenseful film. The film opens with a quote from Hieronimus A. Steinback: "For centuries philosophers and poets have searched the universe for evidence of the existence of the Devil. However, it would have sufficed to look for it at the bottom of their souls." (Truer words have never been spoken, especially for this film.). We then see a woman being stripped topless in her apartment by an intruder dressed in black leather. He then throws her down on her bed, strips her naked and begins assaulting her, while choking her with his hands. It is then revealed that this was all a scene for a film that is being made, and the actor playing the intruder, Michael Stanford (Stefano Patrizi; ROME: ARMED TO THE TEETH - 1976), was getting a little too involved in his role and has to be pulled off actress Beryl (Laura Gemser; BLACK COBRA - 1976; and too many EMMANUELLE films to mention) by the film crew. Michael takes a big swig of J&B Scotch (a staple in Italian films) while the film's director, Hans Schwartz (Henri Garcin; SOMEONE BEHIND THE DOOR - 1971), congratulates him on a "very effective scene" and goes on to say "It looked like you really wanted to murder her!" (anything for a shot!). While at his home, Michael relaxes by playing guitar and singing a sappy love song (that doesn't match his lip movements), when a gust of wind blows open a window. This somehow give him the idea of looking at some old childhood photos, which triggers a flashback where a young Michael runs into his loving mother's arms in a beautiful backyard. For some reason, Michael hasn't talked to his mother in over 15 years, so he calls her and says that he and his girlfriend Deborah Jordan (Silvia Dionisio; TERROR EXPRESS - 1979) are coming to spend a few days with her at her country estate and he has invited three more friends to join them later. Michael has always had frequent flashbacks about him and his mother Glenda (Anita Strindberg; WHO SAW HER DIE? - 1972) and how, as a young boy, he stabbed his father (a famous orchestra conductor) to death when he saw him beating up his mother (he was found holding the bloody knife). Michael was committed to an institution as a child and has partial amnesia about the event, only remembering bits and pieces about it. When Michael and Deborah arrive at his mother's country estate, Glenda's longtime personal assistant (i.e. butler) Oliver (John Richardson; EYEBALL - 1975) stares at Michael and says his resemblance to the "Maestro" is uncanny. Michael swears he heard some music coming from the house when he pulled up, but Oliver says that no music has played in that house since the Maestro died. Oliver also tells Michael that his mother is very sick and not to tell her he told him (one of the first things Michael does when he meets his her!) and that the electricity is out because the wiring in the house is old and even a gust of wind knocks it out. Oliver gives Michael his father's old bedroom to sleep in, while he escorts Deborah to her bedroom, which is clear across the huge mansion. Deborah is ticked-off at Michael for introducing her to his mother as his secretary (there's a good reason for that) and it is apparent as soon as his mother locks eyes on Michael after such a long period of time, that she has incestual feelings for him (It could be because he looks like his father or his mother is just into incest). It could also be that Michael feels the same (It would be one reason whey he introduced Deborah as his secretary). Glenda also shows Michael a portrait of her father and how much he looks like him (In his head, Michael hears his father say, "Michael, why did you do this to me?"). Is it no wonder Michael hasn't visited his mother for so many years? To prove his non-incestual masculinity, a totally nude Michael and Deborah make love on the couch. The next day, Michael's three other friends show up at the house: Director and avid photographer Hans (When Hans tries to take a photo of Oliver, he shields his face with his arms); Actress Beryl (who has still remained friends with Michael even after almost killing her on the movie set); and Assistant Director Shirley (Martine Brochard; THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS - 1973), who has brought her tiny pet dog with her. When Hans asks Oliver why he didn't want his picture taken, Beryl interjects and says, "They say when you photograph someone, you take away a small part of his soul. It can make him very ill...or even kill him." Beryl says her birthplace on the Island of Martinique believes in such customs (Which begs the question: Why did Beryl become a film actress?). A short time later, they all get into a discussion about the occult, where Glenda says that even if it is not real, if you believe in it strong enough, it can still kill you (This is one of the many scenes that is not in the English language version, yet it really is important to the story). When everyone goes to sleep Glenda and Hans have a private conversation on how Michael was sent to a mental institution after he killed his father and was surprised how such a "gentle soul" could commit such a heinous crime (Hans' mind goes back to when Michael was choking Beryl on the movie set just a few days ago). She begs Hans not to tell Michael what she just told him and he agrees (Believe me, all this long-windedness really is an important part of the plot). They also talk about reincarnation, which reveals a lot about Glenda and Hans' personalities. In a strange scene, we see and invisible person leaving wet footprints on the ground as it walks into Shirley's bedroom and she screams. Beryl sees a shadow holding a crossbow and Shirley denies to Beryl that she ever screamed. Beryl decides to take a bath and then the lights go out, someone wearing black gloves trying to drown her in the tub. Shirley's dog saves the day, barking at the intruder and chasing him away, saving Beryl from a certain death. Michael begins acting like his father and when Deborah notices a strange ritualistic icon in a painting, she has a strange dream (?) where a zombie-faced monk makes her go to the basement of the mansion (her breasts are always popping-out of her nightgown), but she finds a door that leads to outside which she thinks will be safe, but she runs directly into a giant spider web, complete with a HUGE black spider hanging from the web. She escapes, only to find herself attacked by bats in a windy tunnel. Next, she finds herself in the thick brush of the woods, where she loses the top half of her nightgown and scratches her upper torso and breasts while a bunch of human skulls above her bleed from their mouths and eyes sockets all over her. Finally, she is tied to the wall of the basement while a giant crucifix on the wall opposite her is burning. Classical music plays (Franz Liszt's "From the Cradle to the Grave") and a nun rips off all of Deborah's clothes, while snakes slither at her feet and a deformed nun makes her drink the blood of a chicken she just decapitated. Then the large spider approaches her and grabs her legs, only to discover that the huge spider has black hands for legs. And you thought Michael was having problems? (Be aware that most of this sequence also doesn't appear in the English language version of the film, but, it too, plays an important part of the plot). Michael take all his friends to his childhood "private kingdom": a beautiful river with a really nice waterfall, where everyone discuss with each other all the strange things they dreamed or happened the night before. It's not long before most of these people will never make it out of the estate alive. Michael tells everyone he was in a trance last night, something his overpriced psychiatrist calls "disassociation" and "psychosomatic". Hans mentions he saw Oliver walking around in a trance last night and Michael says that ever since he was a child, he saw Oliver sleepwalking all the time, and admits to everyone that he did kill his father for beating up his mother. Michael cheats on Deborah and makes love to Beryl on the banks of the river, but when he wakes up, he discovers Beryl dead, her torso cut from her breasts down to her nether regions and Michael is holding the bloody knife (just like when he killed his father). Hans, who we learn saw the whole thing happen, writes a note saying that he is going to the police, but as he is walking through his bedroom door, someone splits his skull in two with an axe and splatters his brains all over the place. The bloody black-gloved killer then destroys the note and drives Hans' car off to make it look as if Hans is leaving by himself. As Shirley sees Hans' car drive away, she notices that he has left his precious camera behind, something that Hans would never do if he were leaving. She begins to develop the negatives and notices something interesting on one of them, but before she can tell anyone, she has her head nearly cut off with a chainsaw (the same chainsaw we saw Oliver using to make logs for the fireplace), while Deborah notices black leather gloves in Glenda's bedroom. When Oliver serves dinner, only Glenda and Deborah attend and Deborah notices that Glenda is wearing the same ritualistic icon around her neck that triggered her nightmare earlier. Or was it a nightmare at all? I'll never tell. I'll leave it up to you to discover who the killer is (the clues are in this review and, no. it's not Shirley's dog!). Like most giallo films, nearly everyone is hiding a secret from their past that they are trying to keep hidden. I will tell you this because you probably already guessed it: Michael did not kill his father. He was an easy patsy to blame since he was so young. It looks like years of psychotherapy have done him more harm than good. A tape recording left behind explains it all, but there's an unexpected supernatural angle at the finale tied to Deborah's dreams which make the killings all the more sinister. That's all I'll say, except if you are expecting a happy ending, you will be bitterly disappointed. Director Riccardo Freda (who passed away in 1999 at the age of 90) keeps you guessing from beginning to end. When you think you have it all figured out, the screenplay, by Freda, Antonio Cesare Corti (CITY OF THE WAKLING DEAD - 1980) and Fabio Piccione (QUEEN KONG - 1976), gives you another piece of information which tosses your ideas into the garbage. While there are extreme bits of gore (some of the effects are done by Italian effects master Sergio Stivaletti, this being his first film), the film doesn't dwell on them. It's basically hit and run, which is best displayed in Hans' death by axe, It's just a quick hit, some brain matter flying in the air and on to the next scene. If it plays for more than two seconds, you are lucky. Too bad we can't say the same thing about the giant spider. It is shown way too long and looks as realistic as a Sharknado. The film (made under the title FOLLIA OMICIDA) was originally released on VHS in the U.S. by Wizard Video under the title FEAR, missing over ten minutes of footage. The British VHS tapes, released under the titles THE WAILING and SATAN'S ALTAR, are missing nearly twenty minutes of footage. Thankfully, Raro Video has released the fully uncut 95 minute version on DVD, so you won't be left scratching your heads wondering what the hell is going on in the abridged versions. The pristine widescreen DVD also contains some cut scenes and an interview with Sergio Stivaletti. If you want to watch this film the way it was originally meant to be seen, go for the DVD. Also starring Fabrizio Moroni. A Raro Video DVD Release. Not Rated.