Starring Brett Halsey, Stefano Madia, Blanca Marsillach, Corinne Clery
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Distributed by Severin Films
Step aside, Steve “Careless Whisper” Gregory and that buff shirtless dude from The Lost Boys (1987) because there’s a new Sexy Sax Man in town and his name is Johnny. Viewers have no doubt seen scenes of titillation wherein women are seduced by saxophone, either with sultry music playing softly in the background or a multi-talented musician knowing just how to finger those high notes. But when was the last time anyone saw a woman literally get off via sax? It was probably 1986, when infamous Godfather of Gore Lucio Fulci turned his attention to a more prurient interest, delivering a feature of unbridled erotica and undeniable misogyny. This isn’t to suggest Fulci himself was a misogynist, and I am definitely not one to lob that term around because it is so frequently misused these days, but, man, do women ever get the short straw here. In the universe of The Devil’s Honey, women are either used for sex or abused by men – often both. But don’t worry, ladies, because the men don’t look much better in Fulci’s world; reduced to one-dimensional caricatures who either want sex or a woman to beat… before sex. Hey, at least the plot is easy to follow.
Johnny (Stefano Madia) is a promising musician who spends most of his time in the studio, where he likes to engage in heavily petting his girlfriend, Jessica (Blanca Marsillach), between takes. And no, he really doesn’t care who is watching. Johnny knows how to get Jessica’s juices flowing – it’s all about that sexy sax – but even when she isn’t in the mood don’t worry, a few belts to the face and some forced entry does the trick. As Johnny & Jessica sort out their problems, Dr. Simpson (Brett Halsey) is facing a couple of his own. He’s stuck in a lifeless marriage to Carol (Corinne Clery) and even when he buys a hooker, it ends with disappointment. His only true passion seems to be in his work, at the hospital. The next day, Johnny takes a spill from his motorcycle and hits his head on a stone, but he seems fine. The guy is a pro; earlier that morning he had Jessica forcibly give him a handjob while they were out joyriding – and they didn’t crash once.
At the studio, though, Johnny’s condition worsens in, like, a second and he collapses on the floor. Dr. Simpson performs the operation on his brain, but he does so right after Carol has lambasted him and announced she wants a divorce. Uh, bad timing, Carol. Johnny dies on the table as Dr. Simpson’s mind rolls over his impending bachelorhood. Jessica is extremely distraught, blaming Simpson for her lover’s death and vowing revenge. Then, she watches a video to reminisce about Johnny – one where he basically rapes her in front of the camera. Ah, young lovers! After completely losing her mind Jessica decides to abduct and torment Dr. Simpson, reducing his humanity and belittling him in all the worst ways. But don’t think for a second this is going to stop Simpson from getting harder than Chinese arithmetic if Jessica offers to open up her flower shop.
If aliens visited our planet and saw only this film, they would be right to assume we are a species with little interests outside of fighting and fucking. Actually, that might not be too far off… Regardless, I’m not entirely sure what Fulci had hoped to achieve with this film outside of perhaps some personal sexual catharsis and the release of some deep-seeded desires, maybe? My advice would be not to take a thing you see here seriously. The film opens with a woman erupting over the sonic vibrations of a saxophone, her untamed jungle blooming over a thin pair of panties – a tone has been set. Back in 1986 this was the best hedonists could hope for: a legit feature film replete with sexuality and perversion. This was pre-internet; the prime time of softcore and Skinemax. Where Fulci succeeds here is in leaning into the absurdity of the script, pumping these deviant escapades with such ridiculousness that his tongue must have been planted firmly in his cheek.
There really isn’t a plot here. The five writers credited for this salacious skin flick might’ve found a way to string a few sentences together so a semblance of plot could be formed, but it’s really nothing more than a vehicle for masturbatory fantasies. The central conceit here is Jessica avenging Johnny’s death by blaming his doctor, with plans to kill the man for his “crimes”. Except, as the flashbacks show Johnny was a shitty boyfriend who routinely brutalized his girlfriend and – LAME TWIST SPOILER WARNING – during the finale we learn she was extra disgusted by him because he swung like saloon door. The look on Jessica’s face when some random dude starts playing Johnny’s skin flute is that of pure terror.
The third act of The Devil’s Honey gets so bizarre it nearly reaches the insane heights of one of my favorite ‘80s cult classics, Ninja III: The Domination (1984) though, really, few films can hit those deliriously dizzying highs. This is a movie that would kill with the right midnight crowd because watching it at home, alone, isn’t exactly the right setting for such devilish debauchery. I find Fulci still works best when operating under the rubric of horror because that’s where his excess can best flourish; in the world of softcore, that can only lead down one road: making an actual porno.
A new 2K scan from the camera negative has given the film’s 1.85:1 1080p image what is likely the best presentation it has ever received, warts and all. There is an inherent softness to much of the picture that is impossible to escape, with some scenes pumped full of smoke and looking expectedly hazy. Film grain is variable, though more often than not natural and not noisy. Colors are neutral, hardly popping off the screen but not drab. White flecks and minor damage are persistent throughout, which makes the new scan seem less impressive though it does have the unintended benefit of allowing the film to maintain a certain grindhouse aesthetic. Black levels are mostly dark; rich enough to get a pass.
English and Italian LPCM 2.0 tracks have been included, though the latter is a clear winner. Since all sound was usually recorded in post for Italian productions I normally prefer the campiness of a dub, but the English track here sounds anemic and flat compared to the robust presence of the Italian option. Plus, as an added bonus the descriptive subs on the Italian track are (unintentionally?) hilarious. Subtitles are available in English.
The majority of the extras here are sit-down interviews, including “The Devil’s Halsey – An Interview with Actress Brett Halsey”, “Wild Flower – An Interview with Actress Corinne Clery”, “Producing Honey – An Interview with Producer Vincenzo Salviani”, “The Devil’s Sax – An Interview with Composer Claudio Natili”, “Stephen Thrower on The Devil’s Honey”, and “Fulci’s Honey – An Audio Essay by Troy Howarth”. An alternate opening and the film’s trailer are also included.
- NEW 2K RESTORATION of the film
- FULLY UNCUT PRESENTATION of the film
- The Devil’s Halsey: An Interview with Actor Brett Halsey
- Wild Flower: An Interview With Actress Corinne Cléry
- Producing Honey: An Interview With Producer Vincenzo Salviani
- The Devil’s Sax: An Interview With Composer Claudio Natili
- Stephen Thrower on The Devil’s Honey
- Fulci’s Honey: An Audio Essay by Troy Howarth – Author of “Splintered Visions
- Lucio Fulci And His Films
- Alternate Opening
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