Spasmo (1974)

Giallo intrigues me because you often have an unreliable narrator whose credibility has been seriously compromised. In a 1981 study, William Riggan analyzed several types of unreliable narrators and in this film, I feel that we’re dealing with one of those types, the madman.

We open on a couple who is getting ready to make love on the beach. However, they meet a man who is parked there and suddenly notice a hanging woman that turns out to only be a mannequin. When they go to ask the man what’s happening, he drives away.

Christian (Robert Hoffman, A Black Veil for Lisa) and his girlfriend have similar romantic notions for the beach. That’s when they also discover a body facedown in the water. This body is still alive and belongs to Barbara (giallo queen Suzy Kendall, who appeared in The Bird with the Crystal PlumageTorso and non-giallo Tales That Witness Madness), who can’t explain how she got there.

Christian becomes obsessed with her, following Barbara (along with his girlfriend) to a party where they find her with Alex, her current paramour. Our hero (such as he is) and Barbara both abandon their mates and leave the party, driving through a wooded area that is filled with numerous lingerie-clad mannequins that have been lynched. Christian confesses to her how his father treated him as a child while she tells him that Alex is more provider than partner.

That’s when Barbara makes a strange suggestion: before they have sex, Christian must shave. As he does, he’s attacked by Tatum. They fight and the man is killed with his own gun. Barbara is strangely fine with the whole thing and suggests that they run. He suggests that his brother can help, but she insists that no one can save them.

They then meet Malcolm and Clorinda, two squatters, who taunt Christian with news of a local murder. Thinking they are talking about him, he confesses and they laugh. Clorinda then mentions that she knows him and he rapes her. Or maybe he doesn’t. As I mentioned before, we’re starting to learn that we can’t trust our narrator.

When he wakes up the next morning, Christian can’t find Barbara nor any dead bodies or weapons. Then he sees Tatum and finds Malcolm’s dead body. Reality has stopped working. He becomes desperate and returns to his girlfriend’s apartment where he’s attacked by Tatum.

The man tells him that the plan wasn’t to kill him, but just to drive him insane. However, now things have gone too far. Christian escapes and hits Tatum with his car.

Convinced that he is in the middle of a conspiracy, he switches clothes with the dead man, puts the dead body in his car and shoves it off a cliff.

Barbara then arrives with another man — Luca — to see if Christian is dead. He follows them back to his family’s factory and learns that Tatum was correct. The plan all along was to make him go insane and lose his fortune to his brother. Barbara has fallen in love with him, but they tell her that she must go along with all of it. That’s when I realize who Fritz is…Ivan Rassimov! Man, next to George Eastman, I think we’ve reviewed more of his films here than anyone. If you haven’t seen him in anything, I’d recommend All the Colors of the Dark or Enter the Devil.

For some reason, Christian wanders the highways and acts as a male prostitute before a woman picks him up. Remember this.

Christian finds Barbara and tells her that he knows everything but still loves her. As they begin to make love, he looks at her face and it becomes the face of Clorinda, his girlfriend and the woman who picked him up as a prostitute. He kills her and runs away.

Meanwhile, Fritz has learned that Christian is not dead. As he watches family movies, we learn that Christian has had mental problems passed down from their father. Clorinda was really his nurse and Malcolm his doctor, but he raped and killed her, as well as every other woman he saw that had Barbara’s face.

Christian appears and is shot, but makes his escape, finally bleeding out on the same beach where he first met Barbara.

Fritz makes it back home and his closet is filled with the same lingerie-wearing mannequins that we saw in the trees, except these have been stabbed and disfigured. He begins to attack one of them as we learn that he is just as mentally unbalanced as his brother.

Directed by Umberto Lenzi (OrgazmoNightmare CityGhosthouse/La Casa 3Cannibal FeroxEaten Alive! and many more), this is an effectively tense film. Lenzi wanted to up the suspense by never showing the actual murders, but American producers felt that audiences would be too confused by this and added about ten minutes of footage with the murders and other elements to clarify the plot. According to Louis Paul’s Italian Horror Film Directors, George Romero may have shot this additional footage. Also — Lucio Fulci was the original choice to direct this film.

Scorpion Releasing put out a blu-ray of this recently that you can find at Diabolik DVD. This movie has my complete and total recommendation. You may figure out its plot and the fact that you can’t trust Christian’s grip on reality, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not enjoyable.

1 thought on “Spasmo (1974)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.