Oh, so they had Cinemax in Italy, too?
Because that would go a long way to explaining the existence of Madness (a.k.a. Vacanze per un Massacro), the 1980 yawner by noted director Fernando Di Leo. Madness is a bit of a misnomer, as there is nothing really mad about this film. There isn't anything that could be remotely described as a fever pitch, no story element that tilts the sanity meter. Madness is flat-line tits-and-ass hostage moviemaking, full stop.
Andy Warhol-favorite Joe Dallesandro stars as the cleverly named Joe (tattooed on his arm so he won't forget). Joe is a thief and a killer who escapes from prison and makes a beeline for the remote farmhouse where he buried the considerable cash he was convicted of stealing. His plans to dig it up from under the fireplace are blocked, however, when a trio of vacationers show up for the weekend. Sergio (Gianni Macchia) is looking to get away for some hunting, and he brought his wife Liliana (Patrizia Behn) and her younger sister Paola (Lorraine De Selle). What Liliana doesn't know, and what Joe quickly spies from his hiding spot, is that Liliana's slutty sibling is having an affair with her weak-willed brother-in-law. Though Sergio does do his conjugal duty that night and chooses chasing birds over chasing tail the next day, he's far from an honest dude.
When Liliana goes into town for supplies, Paola, who is naked or almost naked through the entire movie, is left alone, giving Joe his opportunity to get in the house. After a while, he gets tired of digging for the dough, so he rapes Paola instead. She protests until she realizes he's good at it, and then she gets into it, setting up the demented dynamic of the rest of the movie. Paola plays Sergio against Joe, and then encourages Liliana to give it up to the fugitive. Which the older sister does, because hey, why not?
And that's really it. That's all Madness was really made for. To get Lorraine De Salle naked, keep her naked, and eventually live up to that "massacro" in the original Italian title. Wait for it, the violence arrives just before the end credits. Yes, it takes that long. Joe Dallesandro's wooden acting and equally wooden sexuality keeps his prisoners so enthralled, there's no need for bloodshed! Well, it's either him or the omnipresent jazz-rock score. Be careful, between the music and the ladies moaning, if you turn this movie up too loud, your neighbors will think you're actually watching porn. If you want to risk your reputation, really risk it. Don't throw your good name away over this unsexy softcore gobbledygook.
There are certainly worse movies than Madness. This isn't even close to as bad as exploitation and slasher movies got in the 1980s. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more pointless one, however. There is no suspense, no visceral excitement, and for all the breasts, butts, and pubes you see, Madness is ridiculously lacking in titillation. Hell, for a sorta-horror movie, it's even lacking in subtext. Fernando Di Leo's Madness is all up top, all plain text, and that text is boring.
The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer on Raro's disc of Madness is really good. The colors and the film grain maintain the look of the 1980 cinematography, offering a clear picture with only minor instances of jagged lines. It's a pretty solid looking DVD overall, with no real glitches to speak of
The original Italian soundtrack is mixed in mono, and it sounds fine. The audio suffers from the usual overdubbing and the music can be tinny, but it's not very distracting and not out of the norm for older Italian movies.
The optional English subtitles are written well and serve the movie properly.
A text-based bio and filmography for Di Leo appear on the disc, as well as part of the booklet inside the case. The book also has extensive liner notes by Eric Cotenas.
The only true madness here would be for you to watch Fernando Di Leo's lifeless B-movie Madness. In other words, Skip It.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.