Dr. George Dumurrier (Jean Sorel) runs a medical clinic with his brother, Henry (Alberto De Mendoza), in lovely San Francisco that has been losing money for some time now. Adding to his problems is his wife, Susan (Marisa Mell), who suffers from various medical problems – the two of them just haven't been getting along so well. It's not surprising then when we learn that George has been having an affair with a high fashion photographer named Jane (Elsa Martinelli). She wants him to leave his wife, so that she can have a man all to herself but George can't do that. Luckily for him, Jane soon winds up dead – it looks like her medicine was switched and the results were fatal. If that weren't enough, it seems she had a substantial life insurance policy that names George, who had no idea this even existed, as the beneficiary. The local cops, lead by Inspector Wald (John Ireland) figure that George had something to do with it, but he's just as surprised as everyone else is by this recent turn of events.
Free from his wife and his financial burdens, George and Jane decide to kick back and relax at a topless bar called The Roaring 20's where George becomes stricken by a dancer who looks just like his late wife, only with blonde hair and green eyes. Her name is Monica Weston (Mell again) and soon George is hiring her services. What he doesn't realize is that Jane is starting to obsess over Monica as well, or so it would seem. While all of this is going on, Inspector Wald and his men are closing in on George, but did he really kill his wife or is there something else to consider?
Much has been made on various message boards and online cult film fan communities about the version of the film contained on Severin's DVD. The version of the film on this DVD is the French cut which removes various bits and pieces of character and plot development and which in turn contains some spicier bedroom footage. It's certainly a sexier cut of the movie than most fans are going to be used to, considering that the only way to see the movie prior to this release was by way of the grey market releases that have been circulating for years, most of which feature the English language export version known as One On Top Of The Other (which clocks in at roughly one hundred and three minutes as opposed this version at ninety-seven minutes). The alternate edit contained on this disc is just as legitimate as any other version, but it's not been as common and as such, it'll take some viewers by surprise. It's not quite as fluid as the English export version and it's a little choppier but the film in this version is still a tight, well written giallo with some fun twists, some great performances and gorgeous cinematography.
The San Francisco locations add some visual flair to the movie. There's plenty of great footage that shows us what the city looked like back in the late sixties and we get a peek at Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and a few other notable parts of the city. We also get a chance to go inside San Quentin and to check out the actual gas chamber there, which adds some historical value and morbid curiosity to the picture. The cinematography from Alejandro Ulloa (who also worked with Fulci on The Devil's Honey and Conquest and who also shot Enzo G. Castellari's High Crime) is fantastic. It captures the night life of the big city very effectively and also does a great job of capturing the flair of the mod wardrobe and sixties fashions seen throughout the picture. He shoots Mell, who will always be best known for her performance in Bava's Danger! Diabolik in an almost fetishistic way that really accentuates her exotic looks and alluring features, and the camerawork is a big part of what makes her performance so intoxicating in this picture.
While Mell certainly steals the show in her dual role, she's surrounded here by some other interesting performers. Jean Sorel is quite good as the male lead, handling the more complex bits of his character nicely and coming across as quite believable in his part. Elsa Martinelli, a very unusual looking but not unattractive woman, carries an unusual screen presence to forefront of her performance. John Ireland is fine as the top cop in the film and while Alberto De Mendoza isn't particularly remarkable here, he's not bad either. As decent as the rest of the cast is, however, there's no mistaking the fact that this is Mell's show. From the moments we see Monica emerge on stage in a white leopard print go-go/motorcycle suit, we fixate on her. She's exotic, alluring and quite capable as an actress here and Fulci was wise to play up to these qualities in the film.
Those expecting the gore and shocking brutality of the splatter movies that Fulci is best known for might come away disappointed from the film, as there really isn't much violence at all. That being said, even if the movie borrows a little bit from Riccardo Freda's Double Face (which Fulci also helped script based on a novel by Edgar Wallace) it's still a well made thriller with some great twists, a strong plot, and some fine performances. The movie looks gorgeous from start to finish and the conclusion, while a little far fetched, wraps everything up quite nicely. It's all set to a fantastic jazz score courtesy of Riz Ortolani, and along with other thrillers like Lizard In A Woman's Skin and Don't Torture A Duckling proves that Fulci was so much more than just a shock movie hack. The man had a lot of talent and Perversion Story is one of his best.
Severin presents the film in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in a very nice transfer that is properly flagged for progressive scan playback and which is enhanced for anamorphic sets. There's a little bit of print damage in the form of the odd speck here and there as well as a bit of grain but this is otherwise a great looking transfer. A couple of scenes show some color flickering but for the most part the vivid hues used throughout the film come through very nicely on this disc. Detail is excellent in both the foreground and the background of the image and flesh tones look lifelike and natural. There are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement and while there is a little bit of line shimmering in a couple of spots, there's really very little room to complain here. The film looks really good, and Severin have done a nice job on the transfer.
Audio options are supplied in Italian and English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks with optional subtitles available in English only. Some background hiss is present in a few scenes on the English track but aside from that, it's quite good. The Italian track sounds a little cleaner but doesn't match the actors quite as well as the English track does. Either way, whichever option you decide upon, there aren't any major issues to gripe about in terms of the audio quality. Aside from the aforementioned hiss, which isn't uncommon with older low budget films, things are fine here. Fans will want to watch the film twice though, just to note the differences between the Italian track (more dialogue and more of Ortolani's score) and the English one.
Aside from a menu and a chapter selection option, the only extra features on the DVD itself is the English language theatrical trailer for One On Top Of The Other. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, it's pretty lengthy and it does contain some spoilers so if you haven't seen the movie before, you'll want to watch it before you watch the trailer. It's a shame that more supplements couldn't have been provided, even a still gallery or some liner notes, but thankful Severin have also included the film's soundtrack on a CD that can be found inside the keepcase. This is definitely a nice extra to have, and all twelve tracks on the disc sound great.
While hardcore Fulci-philes will likely debate the merits of this spicier cut for some time to come, Severin have provided a completely legitimate alternate version of the film with very nice audio and video quality and the film's soundtrack on a bonus CD. Yes, it would have been nice to have the alternate footage included here, even if it were as part of the extra features, but with that said the film still plays very well in this spicier version and Perversion Story comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.