Directed by Riccardo Freda
Distributed by RaroVideo
Seeking a retreat from work and stress, actor Michael (Patrizi) takes his girlfriend, Deborah (Dionisio), to visit his childhood home, where his reclusive mother, Glenda (Strindberg), lives out her days with loyal manservant Oliver (Richardson). Michael is soon tortured with painful memories of his childhood, the time when he’d murdered his abusive father. The group is joined the following day by Michael’s film director, Hans, A.D. Shirley, and fellow actress Beryl (whom Michael nearly strangled to death during a violent scene of their film). Before long a shadowy killer begins picking off the group one by one in increasingly gruesome ways. Could Michael be the culprit, with his violent tendencies and troubled past, or is someone else playing their own version of Ten Little Indians at his mother’s villa? Only one thing is for certain in a movie like this – the body count will need to be high before any concrete answer is given.
The final film of director Riccardo Freda (the man responsible for I Vampiri, considered to be the first Italian horror film), Murder Obsession is a frustrating film, full of potential and talent, but ultimately empty and unsatisfying. Freda’s direction is superb, and there are many fantastic moments and setpieces throughout the film (a loopy nightmare sequence and a stunning, rain-soaked chase through a forest were exceptional), but the script is weak – full of lame red herrings and ridiculous plot twists. And while the unexpected outrageousness of the final act is a welcome addition to this fairly one-note slasher whodunit, it’s simply a matter of too little, too late.
The actors all do a fine job with the material. Patrizi is a likable enough lead (even when he’s a murder suspect or a philandering douche), Dionisio makes for a fine heroine, and Joe D’Amato regular Gemser (Emanuelle in America) is gorgeous as always as the seductive (and rather forgiving) Beryl. However, the standouts are Strindberg and Richardson, each giving a performance that makes one wish their characters and backstory had been the focus of the film.
RaroVideo has put together a pretty great package for this film. The Blu-ray’s image is mostly sharp with vibrant colors throughout, though the darker scenes do bear an astonishing amount of grain and noise at times. The audio is a bit underwhelming but is certainly serviceable enough.
The bonus features are plentiful here. There are three fairly lengthy interviews: one with makeup effects legend Sergio Stivaletti (clocking in at ten minutes); one with composer and Goblin founder Claudio Simonetti (twenty-two minutes); and one featuring Ubaldo Terzani director (and Obsession fan) Gabriele Albanesi talking at length about the film and Freda’s career (nine minutes). There is also a bit of deleted footage (including more of Gemser’s near drowning in sub-VHS full-frame), an illustrated booklet featuring an insightful write-up of the film by current Fangoria Magazine editor Chris Alexander (which makes me wish I’d liked the film more than I did), and the entire English language version of the film (which has decent enough dubbing but is shorn of about five minutes of footage).
If you’re an uber-fan of Italian horror, you’ll likely want to check this out, if only for Freda’s direction and the performances. If not, then don’t feel bad about giving this Obsession a pass.
2 out of 5
4 out of 5