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Privaliged industrial heir Christian meets an alluring woman named Barbara (Suzy Kendall, Torso, Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Circus of Fear) and instantly becomes the smitten kitten. She takes him back to her apartment. While in the bathroom, Christian is attacked by a gun wielding assassin, who he kills. Was the killer sent by Barbara's husband? Or, was the man even killed at all? When they return to the scene to retrieve some evidence, the man is gone. If it wasn't some delusion and there was a killer, who was he after? Barbara and Christian take refuge in her friends supposedly unoccupied seaside castle, but find two strangers there, an old man and a exotic young woman, who only raise more questions about Christian's supposed attacker and the mysterious man that seems to be following them. And what is with the anatomically correct mannequins found hanged and stabbed across the countryside?
The first hour or so of Spasmo is a frown inducing and confusing series of illogical scenes and weird dialogue. For a relatively tame example, here's an exchange between Christian and Barbara while parked in his car- C: "That moon doesn't bother you?" B: "There's no moon in my hotel room." C: "I was right, you are a sweet, sweet whore." Or how about when Christian hitch-hikes and the woman who picks him up says, "Hey, you remind me of a dying chicken." Honestly, the first half of the film was so off-kilter, I found myself bored to tears. Weird and surreal I can take, but Spasmo just seemed utterly directionless. Then, suddenly the senselessness begins to make sense and the film begins to come together. Of course, I cannot say what begins to tie it all together or it will ruin the film. But, rest assured, it all does have a reason and the awkward suspicions and the murdered mannequins hanging in the woods all have a purpose.
Spasmo is a trippy psychological thriller rather than a stalk and slash giallo procedural mystery. It largely lacks the exploitative gore and titillation of most Euro horror thrillers. While I respect the concept, the execution leaves a little to be desired. The insanity of the first half is there for a reason, however the way it was done just made the film boring and seem to be going nowhere, just piling confusion upon confusion, making me drained and uninterested. The characters are ambiguous enough without their spouting some truly strange dialogue, and the weirdness comes off as pointless instead of clever. The "big reveal" at the end almost makes it worthwhile -maybe just okay- but I still think if re-thought, the entire story could have turned out much better.
The DVD: Media Blasters
Picture: Anamorphic Letterbox. Image quality is quite good. Often plagued by dirty, spotty prints with some wear and tear on them, this transfer is pretty much free of any glaring age wear other than the dated look of the photography. Color, contrast, and sharpness are all pretty good, and 70's Euro film fans should be very satisfied with the transfer.
Sound: Mono. English dub. The soundtrack suffers. Unfortunately it has some age distortions. You can hear a bit of hiss here and there, particularly the final ten minutes where the pop and crackle is very noticeable. It doesn't spell death for the disc because it comes with the territory. Anyone who is a fan of the genre wont be too surprised, so it is troublesome but forgivable. The great Ennio Morriconne contributes another of his fine suspenseful scores.
Extras: Chapters--- Italian lobby card gallery--- Trailers for Eaten Alive, What Have They Done to Solange?, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids and Spasmo.--- Interview with director Umberto Lenzi (13:12). Lenzi recounts some of his career, what sets his thrillers apart, and his involvement in the film, taking over for Luci Fulci who was originally going to do the project.
Conclusion: For anyone who is green when it comes to Euro horror, I definitely wouldn't recommend it. If you are a Euro horror fan, though, it will probably be a pleasant enough distraction and appreciated for its going against the norm of most 70's Italian thrillers. The transfer is pretty good, nice picture, worn sound, and the Lenzi interview will be interesting to fans.