Directed by Lucio Fulci
Released by Media Blasters
The later career of Lucio Fulci was full of all sorts of ups and downs, and most critics see it as the least interesting time of the prolific filmmaker’s canon. Though I agree that there’s nothing in his oeuvre that tops City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, Zombi, or The House by the Cemetery, he still had some good stuff left in him during the mid-80’s, and I would venture to say that Murder Rock is a perfect example of that.
The story takes place in New York City at a dance school. Shades of Argento’s Suspiria should be ignored, as Fulci was very clear that he had no intention of copying the master’s work; instead, he saw the dance school as a ripe setting for a giallo in the most classical sense.
The co-ed students are being worked night and day, though it’s never made entirely clear for what, but behind the scenes we learn early on that only three of them are going to be picked for a prestigious dance troupe, something that will change the lives of the chosen trio forever. Soon after this information is disclosed, the bodies begin to pile up, each dispatched by a black-gloved maniac who utilizes jewel-encrusted hatpins as his method of dispatch. He beats his victims down and slowly inserts the pin into their hearts to effectively ensure that they never dance again.
Of course, the victims are picked off in the order of their talent, giving the police all the internal motive they need to harass the students night and day, grilling them all for a confession. Fulci keeps the identity of the killer a secret as long as he can, with the requisite number of red herrings thrown in, though it’s pretty obvious in some early scenes that one of the central characters is missing a screw or two. The ending is still likely to surprise even the most hardened giallo-phile, however. Let’s just say the killer isn’t dispatched in the usual manner.
Some fantastic and memorable cinematography by veteran Giuseppe Pinori, impressive (if not sparse) makeup effects, and some very attractive females getting sweaty and naked make a night with Murder Rock worth your time. If you can get past the repetitive soundtrack (which was done by Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer of all people) and the bad dubbing, I’m sure you’ll be able to appreciate Fulci’s dedication to making a true giallo with Murder Rock.
Media Blaster’s treatment of it on DVD won’t hurt the experience either. Made in 1984, the film’s had some issues in the home video market, greatly reducing the effect of Pinori’s skillful camera work and lighting, but all that is swept aside thanks to MB and their dedication to making sure the film looks and sounds the best it possibly can. At first you may question the need for a 2-disc set, as I did, but they’ve got more than enough material to make it a perfectly sensible decision.
The commentary with cinematographer Giueseppe Pinori and moderator Federico Caddeo is full of lots of technical jargon that may turn off the causal viewer, but is there really such an animal with the films of Fulci? I doubt it. The great thing about the track is that it’s subtitled, so you can actually watch the film (if you’re watching it dubbed, of course) with the commentary track and not miss a thing. The film is also presented in its original Italian with English subtitles, which is a far more pleasurable way to watch it.
Disc Two kicks off with “Tempus Fugit”, a 30-minute retrospective of Fulci’s too-short career in filmmaking, featuring interviews with Dario Argento (well, a phone conversation at the beginning and end), Luigi Cozzi, Claudo Simonetti, and more. They’re all very respectful to Fulci and speak well of the man, painting a picture of a director who was quiet and gentle on the outside but obviously had a lot of anger and rage inside, which is one of the reasons why his films have stood the test of time.
From there we have a 15-minute chat with cinematographer Pinori (again), though this time it’s more about his overall career since there’s more than enough Murder Rock talk on the commentary. Then it’s on to a 15-minute chat with actor Ray Lovelock about his career, followed by another 22 minutes with Lovelock discussing Murder Rock specifically. The whole package is rounded out with a set of trailers for Fulci movies, which is a treat in and of itself. The man made a lot of wild movies, that’s for damn sure.
So even if you’re not the biggest fan of Murder Rock the movie, the disc is a great collector’s item for any fan of Fulci’s work thanks to Media Blasters’ extensive supplements and dedication to making sure the fans get everything they could possibly want from a DVD.
Commentary by cinematographer Guiseppe Pinori
“Tempus Fugit” – The life & cinema of Lucio Fulci
Portrait of Guiseppe Pinor
Portrait of Ray Lovelock
Ray Lovelock on Murder Rock
Fulci trailer gallery
3 1/2 out of 5
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