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Lucio Fulci will always be best known for Zombie (also known as Zombi 2 and Zombie Flesh Easters and his other eighties era nasties, The Beyond, City Of The Living Dead and to a lesser extent, House By The Cemetery. The man had a knack for zombie films and while they remain some of his best loved works, those in the know are also hip to the fact that he did a lot of work that didn't involve walking corpses and that more specifically he helmed one of the finest Giallo's ever made, that being Don't Torture A Duckling. In 1984 he'd return to the Giallo genre, years after the genre had more or less given up the ghost, and to make the film stand out from the pack he'd work in influences from Fame and Flashdance. It's an odd mix of mystery and dance, and as much as most of us horror fans love old Lucio, the fact of the matter is that it doesn't really work very well.
Three lovely female students are enrolled in the ever so fancy Arts For Living Center in eighties era New York City. These three are going to be competing against the rest of the student body for a shot at the big time as only the best of the best will graduate and move on to be given parts in an upcoming Broadway musical, pretty much solidifying them as the next big thing in the New York City dance world.
Before you start to think this is an Italian Fame knock off, however, you should know that once we're introduced to the girls and the premise is set up, someone, some unseen maniac wearing the requisite black gloves that Giallo killers tend to carry on them at all times, starts offing the top students. Most of the girls figure its own of their own turning on the rest of them, hoping that by process of elimination she'll make her way to the upper echelon of the dance school, but there might be more to the killings than simple envy.
Considering that this is first and foremost a horror movie, or at least its supposed to be, it's a sad statement that the dance numbers are the highlight of the movie. They haven't aged well and so a lot of the enjoyment viewers will likely get out of these scenes is from the unintentional comedy that they provide (the hair, the fashions and the dialogue all add up to a very 'eighties' experience!). The choreography isn't much to look at but an obvious swipe from Flashdance is an interesting and unexpected touch proving that as creative as Fulci could be when he was at the top of his game he wasn't above borrowing here and there if he felt like it. The whole thing is set to a very awkward sounding score courtesy of Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake And Palmer fame) that, while memorable, doesn't really fit the movie very well.
Of note are the locations that Fulci and his crew used for the film. He'd worked in New York City before with New York Ripper in 1982 and used the unique inner city locations that only the Big Apple can provide to nice, seedy effect. Here Fulci's New York is cleaner looking. There's still a big city feel to the movie but it doesn't have the effective coating of filth over top of it that New York Ripper used so effectively. That being said, the cinematography in Murder Rock is strong and even when what's happening on screen isn't very good the camera work can almost convince us that it is.
Fulci managed to assemble an interesting cast for the movie, many of whom he'd worked with before. First and foremost is Olga Karlatos, best known as the girl who gets the spike through her eye in Fulci's aforementioned Zombie, truly one of the most recognizable murder set pieces in zombie film history. She's joined by Al Cliver, also of Zombie fame, though his role is very brief and he's not even listed in the credit scrawl. Ray Lovelock, best known for films like Last House On The Beach and Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man has a good turn as the hunk of the month that one of the girls lusts after.The DVD
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that Media Blasters has provided for this release is very, very nice. There's a bit of grain present here and there and if you really keep your eyes open you'll notice a speck once in a while but other than that, the picture is very clean, and very crisp with nice foreground and background detail and strong color reproduction. Black levels stay strong from start to finish and flesh tones look good throughout. Edge enhancement is kept to a minimum and while there is some aliasing, it's not over bearing nor is it distracting. All in all, Murder Rock looks really good here, noticeably better than it did on the German PAL release from CCI (which was a fine transfer in its own right).Sound:
You've got the option of watching the film in English or in Italian with optional English subtitles and both tracks are in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. As far as the quality of the mixes goes, both sound fine. There are one or two spots where the dialogue sounds a little on the flat side but the movie has always sounded this way so that's to be expected to an extent. There are a few nice moments of channel separation that give the movie some much needed atmosphere and the score, as eclectic and odd as it is, sounds pretty decent here as well.Extras:
Media Blasters have wisely split the extra features up and spread them out over two discs for this release. On the first disc the main supplements is a commentary track with Giuseppe Pinoli who served as the director of photography on the film, moderated by Federico Caddeo. The track is conducted in Italian though optional English subtitles are provided. Pinoli's memory in relation to Murder Rock is pretty strong and he covers some of the locations where the movie was shot and what it was like working with the late, great Lucio Fulci towards the later part of his career. It's an interesting track that provides some good biographical information on a few of the actors and actresses who show up in the production and which fills in a few blanks about how the movie was made and why certain things occur in the way that they occur in the film itself.
Rounding out the extra features on the first disc are a chapter selection option off of the main menu, a German trailer for Murder Rock, and trailers for other Media Blasters/Shriek Show releases.
The second disc kicks off with a twenty-eight minute documentary entitled Tempus Fugit that is meant to be a tribute to the late director of Murder Rock. While the intent behind this piece is noble and sentimental, the execution is another story all together which results in a fairly uneven piece. It starts off with a shot of a phone conference setup in which Dario Argento speaks and gives us some insight into his brief experiences with Fulci. It's an odd shot, and it might have made more sense to maybe use some stills instead but regardless, it's Argento and that counts for something. Other people interviewed include Luigi Cozzi, who sits inside the Profondo Rosso shop with a wax Freddy Kruger behind him as he talks about Fulci flirted with directing his version of The Black Cat while Ray Lovelock talks about what it was like taking directions from Fulci. Producer extraordinaire Claudio Argento covers his experiences while working with Fulci on a few films while screenwriter Dardano Sachetti discusses how intimidated he was the first time he worked with Lucio but goes on to sing his praises and state what a great guy he was. Other interviewees include Claudio Simonetti who scored Conquest but never actually met Lucio (which means he really doesn't have much to contribute here), Sergio Stivaletti who did a fair amount of effects work for the man, and Antonio Tentori who obviously has a lot of respect for Fulci and a lot of love for the films that he made before he passed on. While it's nice to see as many participants line up to pay tribute to the man, some of the pieces just aren't that interesting and the fact that there are multiple flubs in the English subtitles (the entire thing is conducted in Italian) doesn't help matters either – in fact, it's rather sloppy.
Giuseppe Pinoli, who provided the commentary, shows up again for a fourteen minute interview that focuses less on Fulci than on his own career. Considering he gave us his take on Fulci in the commentary, this is a good thing and he gives us a quick rundown of his work in the Italian film industry and how he worked his way up the ladder from his early days through to his time on Murder Rock. Pinoli is an interesting character and he's worked on some great projects throughout the years. Hearing his side of the story is quite revelatory.
Up next we get two separate interviews with one of the stars of Murder Rock, Ray Lovelock. The first is fifteen minute piece entitled Portrait Of Ray Lovelock and here he gives us a quick biography before explaining how he got his start in the Italian film industry. From there he covers a few of the films that he worked on and provides a few fun anecdotes about some of the actors and director's he has shared the screen with. The second interview, which clocks in at roughly twenty-two minutes, is entitled Ray Lovelock On Murder Rock and it's here that he dishes out the dirt on his experiences on set with Fulci and Karlatos and the rest of the crew. Lovelock is a likeable enough guy and here he tells a few fun stories about this specific project.
Rounding out the extra features on the second disc is a rather unimpressive still gallery which features promotional artwork and the like, as well as a Fulci trailer reel where you'll find promo spots for House Of Clocks, Sweet House Of Horrors, City Of The Living Dead, Zombi, A Lizard In A Woman's Skin, Zombie 3 and finally, Touch Of Death.Final Thoughts:
Lucio Fulci made a lot of great films in his career – sadly, Murder Rock is not one of them. That being said, there's enough goofiness throughout the movie to appeal to bad movie aficionados and hey, it's Fulci, that makes it worth something to Eurocult buffs regardless of the quality. Media Blasters has done a fine job on the presentation and provided a lot of decent extra features alongside a very nice audio/video presentation. Recommended for those who know what they're getting into, but more on the strength of the package than the film itself.
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.