Perversion Story (Lucio Fulci / Italy-France-Spain, 1969):
(Una Sull'altra; One on Top of the Other)

This is Lucio Fulci's reaction to Vertigo, as Deep Red is Argento's reaction to Blowup -- his San Francisco is like Kokoschka's Polperro, the camera cranes up from Lombard Street to give a baroque view of the bay. The doctor named Dumurrier is a further nod to Hitchcock, though the casting of Jean Sorel is patently a reflection of Belle de Jour, with Marisa Mell's startling stringiness as his wealthy, asthmatic wife the first clue of the delirium afoot. Fulci contemplates his antihero from behind a medicine cabinet and then under a translucent mattress during his afternoon tryst with photographer Elsa Martinelli, whose departure is halted both by Sorel's impromptu romantic act and by news of Mell's untimely death. The cut from the wife's lifeless body wrapped in a hearse to a model's warm body sprawled in Martinelli's studio ("Nude isn't enough. It needs to be disgusting") adumbrates the overriding fixation on braided extremes, funeral blacks and swinging hippie colors, housewife and whore, normalcy and perversion. The surprised beneficiary from the tragedy, Sorel visits a strip show where the spotlight falls on a mystery motorcycle rider, who fondles the pistons and doffs her duds till Mell the sumptuous fembot from French Dressing and Danger: Diabolik emerges, his wife's inexplicable reincarnation. Sorel becomes obsessed with this woman, who takes to San Francisco's randy '69 scene with a stifled yawn; investigation unearths foul play and makes him the patsy, sent to death row in San Quentin by inspector John Ireland to wait patiently for the homicidally lovelorn deus ex machina and a last-minute dig at Kershner's Hoodlum Priest. The picture has a shortage of Fulci's gross-outs, limited to a zoom into an exhumed corpse's melted face; what it's got in abundance is the continuous surprise in the luster and force of his every composition, and the corrosive depth of his disgust at a world where human venality trumps even the supernatural. With Alberto de Mendoza, Riccardo Cucciolla, Bill Venders, and Faith Domergue.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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