5/17/10

French Sex Murders (1972): So Much Better Than Luxembourg Heavy Petting Stranglings

When you come across a film with a name like French Sex Murders, it makes it hard to resist. When you see that it stars a Humphrey Bogart look-a-like, the Swiss Boris Karloff, and a bevy of beautiful genre actresses, well, if you’re like me, then you’ll jump at the chance to see this one. Before you do, I advise that you invite a friend over to watch with you. When I watched French Sex Murders, I was lucky enough to be joined by my pal Fran Goria, and we had lots of fun watching this film together. From the opening scene featuring an animated man falling from the Eiffel Tower to the color spectrum kills and the myriad of ascots on display, there was something interesting going on even in the slowest parts of this film.


French Sex Murders was of course not the original title for the film. In Italian that was Casa d'appuntamento which can be translated literally to House of Appointment. I assume this refers to the setting where the murders first kick off, the “massage parlor” owned by Madame Colette (Anita Ekberg). When one of her girls is murdered, the Bogart-esque Inspector Pontaine (Robert Sacchi) quickly pins the blame on her jilted ex-boyfriend Antoine (Pietro Martellanza). When Antonio is sentenced to death for the crime, he curses all the people who put him in the situation to face the guillotine. Before his execution takes place, Antoine breaks free, but he is still beheaded in a motorcycle accident. Even after his death, people he had cursed start showing up dead, and it falls to the Inspector to discover if the culprit is the spirit of revenge or just someone with murder on their mind.

Director Ferdinando Merighi only directed three films in his short career and the only other notable entry is one of the generic Trinity films (Allegri becchini... arriva Trinità (1972)). There seems to be pretty good reasoning behind the lack of films in his catalog.  Merighi just wasn’t that good of a director. That’s not saying he didn’t have ideas. He also filled the role of writer for French Sex Murders, and overall the plot was well formed though a tad convoluted at times. It was the details of the movie that both made it and broke it all at once. I’ll admit that Fran and I ran the DVD back several times to laugh at the animated man falling from the famous French landmark, and both severed heads that appear in the film were cause for more than a few chuckles. It’s kind of a surprise that the effects are so poor. Esteemed special effects designer Carlo Rambaldi (E.T., Alien, and Bay of Blood) was in charge, but I imagine that the budget was very low and he had little to work with. At least the score by Bruno Nicolai hit the mark with moody pieces that stack up to any of his work in The Case of the Bloody Iris or Your Vice is a Locked Room.

The real star of the show is the performance of New Jersey born actor Robert Sacchi. He does bear a striking resemblance to Bogart which was mined more effectively in the 1980 film The Man with Bogart’s Face. From most angles he does look like the star of The Big Sleep and Casablanca, but he could almost as easily be seen as a Richard M. Nixon clone if he isn’t holding his head the right way. The actor does a fine job playing the tough guy, but the dubbing, done by someone trying to further the Bogart connection, made his lines laughable at times. As if one look alike was not enough, Swiss born actor Howard Vernon bears a striking resemblance to Boris Karloff (actually more like a cross between Karloff and Jeremy Irons). It’s no wonder that he was cast as the evil Dr. Orloff four times in films by Jess Franco and Pierre Chevalier.

The film also features a lot of fine looking ladies including Barbara Bouchet (Black Belly of the Tarantula), Rosalba Neri (Lady Frankenstein), Evelyn Kraft (Lady Dracula), and Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita). Needless to say the presence of these lovely ladies provide the film with lots of nice window dressing, but none of them really have anything to do other than look pretty. Surprisingly, there is scant nudity in the film with Bouchet being the only one who doffs her clothes. I’m not saying that it ruined the film for me, but with a title like French Sex Murders, and with a cast of babes like that, I expected something a little more salacious. I suppose this would be a good time to bring into this producer Dick Randell, whose entire body of work is filled with mondo gems like The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield, horror films such as Pieces and Slaughter High, and exploitation “classics” like For Your Height Only. French Sex Murders was not as sleazy as I would have expected from Randell’s work.

All in all, French Sex Murders has its moments. Not tense moments, or mysterious moments, or gory moments, or particularly sexy moments, but it does have enough strange moments to make the film enjoyable. I don’t know if I would feel the same way if I didn’t have someone here to riff on the film with, but thankfully, Fran and I laughed our heads off the whole time.If you can see that many French dress mullets and not laugh, then you're a stronger person than either of us. So if you’re into Italian films and gialli, and want to watch one with some friends for fun, this is a great choice. If you’re looking for a great entry into the genre then you might be better off looking somewhere else.


Bugg Rating

Couldn't find a trailer, but here's part one of the Wild World of Dick Randell from the Mondo Macabro DVD

2 comments:

  1. I had loads of fun watching this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Unexpectedly, it gave me a good feeling. I really had fun. The title itself made me curious and it paid off. Very recommended movie.
    ties

    ReplyDelete

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