Like many a label specialising in exploitation films, along with some forgotten gems Raro Video has disinterred more than the odd cinematic corpse from its deserved resting place in obscurity, and Murder Obsession seems to be one of the latter. A rather flat Italian old dark house giallo set in a very unconvincing Surrey, England (where everyone drives left-hand drive cars), complete with Italian villa and mysterious servant in the shape of the eternally dubbed former Hammer leading man and one-time James Bond-wannabe John Richardson, it’s the final film from the father of Italian gothic horror, Riccardo Freda, and it’s not an especially memorable one. (He wasn’t the only one to take his final bow with this one: leading ladies Silvia Dionisio and Anita Strindberg both called it a day after making it as well).
Having murdered his conductor father in childhood in a particularly amateurishly staged flashback, Stefano Patrizi’s now earning his living playing murderers in movies, nearly killing co-star Laura Gemser before the credits have even started to the accompaniment of Franco Mannio’s laughably OTT score that sounds like a pastiche of silent movie melodrama piano accompaniments. Deciding to drop in unexpectedly on his ailing mother (Anita Strindberg) in the aforementioned villa, he naturally invites his co-workers without letting her know. Just as naturally it’s not long before a black-gloved killer is working his or her way through the supporting cast and his girlfriend is dreaming of being chased by putrefying corpses while her clothes fall off (a common affliction among the female cast members) and being raped by a giant spider in a black mass.
Is Patrizi having a relapse into his old homicidal ways? Is it the director who wears black gloves to dry his hair and likes hiding in the bushes and photographing his stars having sex? Is it the sleepwalking butler with paranormal powers who doesn’t like his picture being taken? Is it any of it particularly interesting? The answer to the latter is not much. It’s the kind of film that’s just well enough made to keep you watching but not well enough written to draw you in, while the hokey score vies with the odd atrocious special effect – take a bow bats on strings that even a filter and lens distortion can’t hide, the giant rubber spider and the most unconvincing axed head in film history – to drag the quality down. Only a couple of decent bits of lighting and composition at the end of the film stand out in the right way.
Raro’s Blu-ray offers a decent widescreen transfer of both the uncut Italian version and the shorter English language version, a brief fullframe extended scene from a video source, interviews with makeup man Sergio Stivaletti and composer Claudio Simonetti (who didn’t write the film’s score and talks about horror film scoring in general without mentioning Mannio’s poor contribution to the film at all), an appreciation by Gabriele Albanesi that includes a couple of moments he was evidently under the impression would be edited out and a booklet.
Murder Obsession is an odd confection of a movie. It includes various famous Italian exploitation favourites (John Richardson, Laura Gemser, etc.) in a tale of a young actor's return to his family mansion to film location shots and inflict his movie friends upon his ever-so-slightly bonkers mother. Convinced by his mum that he was responsible for his famous conductor dad's death, various skeletons tumble out of closets as well as real bodies (with some gory but very dodgy effects by Sergio Stivaletti). The film veers into true delirium towards the climax (almost invoking the spirit of Argento's 'Suspiria') but apart from the killings, the film's pace is painfully slow. A too so-so epitaph to an Italian horror great.
The basic story..Michael (Stefano Patrizi), an actor, returns to his childhood home to visit his mother for the first time in many years. Also there to scout for film locations arrives his friends who all stay at the villa too. Soon after strange things occur and the film crew start to get picked off one by one... Although this is not a classic Giallo I still like it and director Ricardo Freda certainly throws everything into it from the standard black glove killer to the occult. It's fairly slow to begin with and you could get through about 4 beers waiting for the murders begin. But during this time you get a cool, stylish and Gothic dream sequence of a black mass. Also amusing in this scene is a badly fake giant spider! But there are some great atmospheric scenes and in general the film is nicely shot. There are a couple of gore moments including death by chainsaw and also the most fake looking decapitation I've ever seen (you have to see it to believe it!). But another big plus is that there are twists and turns that continue right to the very end. This region 0 release from Raro USA is nice and transfer good enough. Extras include interviews and a nice booklet.