I like the way Italian horror movies have multiple titles. BLOOD AND BLACK LACE is also SIX WOMEN FOR THE MURDERER, an original title less elegant than its replacement, although I do like how the final “R” is missing on my VHS. It works nicely if you say it with a strong scouse accent.
Riccardo Freda’s MURDER OBSESSION (1981) is also known as MURDER SYNDROME, THE WAILING and FOLLIA OMOCIDA and HOMICIDAL FOLLIES OF 1981, although I should admit that the it’s only known by the last title in my immediate household. This movie was Freda’s final completed job, and reprises a lot of the giallo oddness of TRAGIC CEREMONY (AKA, and I’m not kidding this time, ESTRATTO DAGLI ARCHIVO SEGRETI DELLA POLIZIA DI UNA CAPITALE EUROPA), combining incestuous oedipal desires, black magic, and heads been split in two in unconvincing but undeniably enthusiastic closeup. Lacking a Mario Bava for opticals or a Carlo Rambaldi for physical effects, Freda has to make-do with pretty shabby SFX, but make-do is what Freda does best. And to his credit, he uses the gore effects as abrupt punctuations of his languid, trippy mood, rather than lingering sadistically on them until you can literally see the joins, as would be the case in most Lucio Fulci movies.
Godard was right — it really isn’t blood, and it really is red.
After one of those already hackneyed openings when a lurid murder turns out to be a scene from a lurid murder movie, we plunge into lunacy as leading man Michael (Fiona: “He’s such a spoon!”) takes his girlfriend to meet mother (“I’ll say you’re my secretary,” he says, cheerily and not at all strangely) at her spooky, electrically-challenged mansion. Although he hasn’t visited mom for years, later he’ll be joined there for a meeting by his director, AD and co-star (exotic porn queen Laura Gemser, rejoicing in the character name “Beryl”) — as if this were a normal or even sane way to do business.
The plot trundles wonkily along, lurching from murder to murder, made appealing only by the sheer preponderance of WTF moments — if I had a clicker to count them, like David Bordwell, I would probably have notched up around one a minute. While the acting is mostly boringly competent (Gemser is neither better nor worse than anyone else), the dialogue is feverishly stupifying, helped by the fact that it occasionally switches randomly to Italian, since the original release was a cut version and the missing, undubbed scenes have now been added back in.
“You were declared not responsible and shut up in an institution far away from here. Then you became a famous actor.”
As with THE HORRIBLE SECRET OF DR HICHCOCK (sic), there’s much running around musty corridors with candelabra full of yellow candles, some characters turn up with monstrously deformed faces for no discernible reason, and change back to normal in an equally unexplained way, there’s surprisingly frank taboo sexual perversion (necrophilia in HICHCOCK, incest here) and a miasma of Catholic angst overhangs everything.
The plot is derailed utterly by a lengthy dream sequence narrated by the heroine to her spoon boyfriend, which he then has no opinion about, and which turns out not to be a dream after all… or was it? And then we get a series of alternate explanations of who’s behind the killings and why, one of which is recounted by a corpse (via a recording made earlier), which makes the whole thing seem like a giallo RASHOMON — or SLASHOMON, if you will.
Freda produces some startling and beautiful images, and succeeded in convincing me by the end that none of this would have been improved by better characterisation, dialogue, or a plot that made sense. His best effects often happen right at the point you expect the film to fall apart, and as in TRAGIC CEREMONY he goes handheld for the Satanic rituals in a way that vividly suggests complete loss of control…
“Do you think a lot of filmmakers have issues with women?” ~ MST3K