The Psychic (1977)

Before Fulci became known as the godfather of gore, he made movies in nearly every genre. This is the next to last film he’d make — Silver Saddle follows it in 1978 — before 1979’s Zombie announced to the world that he was here to tear eyeballs, unleash bats and provide dazzling if incomprehensible odes to mayhem.

Fulci is no stranger to the giallo, with some of his most important films being A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Don’t Torture a Duckling, as well as the unappreciated Perversion Story. Here, he’d team up again with writer Roberto Gianviti and begin his long partnership with writer Dardano Sacchetti, who sought lend a touch of Argento to the original script’s traditional mystery.

What emerged was a strange, dark film — a rumination where death is inescapable and always close, a world where doom hangs over every moment.

Dover, England, 1959. A woman commits suicide by literally diving from the Cliffs of Dover. Forgive the bad effects — Fulci has a tendency to use wooden bodies in his films for some reason, much like the end of Duckling. The main point is that her daughter Virginia may be living in Italy, but she can see her mother’s day clear as day.

Today, Virginia (Jennifer O’Neill, Scanners) lives in Rome and is married to a rich businessman named Francesco (Gianni Garko, Sartana himself!). As she drives him to the airport for his next business trip, she begins to see visions. An old woman being killed. A wall is torn down. And a letter is under a statue. How strange is it that the house she is beginning to renovate looks exactly like the one in her visions?

When she tears down the wall that looks like the one in her dreams, she finds the skeleton of her husband’s ex-lover and the police want to charge him with the murder. Virginia becomes the detective of the story, obsessed with saving her husband with the help of psychic researcher Luca Fattori. Soon, they believe that the real killer is Emilio Rospini (Gabriele Ferzetti, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).

So who is the woman? Why was her body in that room, which was once her husband’s bedroom? Why is the woman’s face on the cover of the magazine that Virginia buys? That’s because Virginia’s visions aren’t the past, but instead premonitions of the future.

Meanwhile, she’s given a wristwatch that plays a haunting theme every hour on the house (this Fabio Frizzi song would later end up in Kill Bill). The growing knowledge that the victim isn’t dead yet — and that Virginia may be that victim — darkens every frame of this film.

Quentin Tarantino was so in love with this film that he intended to remake it with Bridget Fonda at some point in the 2000’s, but this never happened.

Perhaps just as interesting as the film is the life of its star Jennifer O’Neill. Perhaps best known for her long career as a Cover Girl model, she has been married nine times to eight husbands (she married, divorced, and remarried her sixth husband, Richard Alan Brown). By the age of 17, she’d already attempted suicide so as not to be separated from her dog, had a horse break her neck in three places and married her first husband. She’s also had a horrible history with guns, having accidentally shot herself in 1982 and being on the set of the TV show Cover Up in 1984 when co-star Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally killed himself. While he waited on a delay, he had been playing Russian roulette with a prop gun and was unaware that the discharge could still cause damage. Placing the gun to his temple, he fired and caused so much damage to his brain that he died six days later.

You can buy this movie from Ronin Flix.

9 thoughts on “The Psychic (1977)

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