Perversion Story Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Mondo Macabro
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Written by Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti and Jose Luis Martinez Molla
1969, 108 minutes, Unrated
Blu-ray released on November 13th, 2018
Jean Sorel as Dr. George Dumurrier
Marisa Mell as Susan Dumurrier/ Monica Weston
Elsa Martinelli as Jane
Alberto de Mendoza as Henry Dumurrier
John Ireland as Inspector Wald
Riccardo Cucciolla as Benjamin Wormser
Dr. George Dumurrier is an unscrupulous man who runs a successful clinic in San Francisco. His career is in better shape than his marriage, as his asthmatic wife Susan is fed up with his womanizing behavior. George frequently travels for work and brings his girlfriend Jane with him. It is on one of these trips that he receives word that Susan has died unexpectedly. George is her beneficiary and looks to inherit millions, making him a suspect to both the police and the insurance agency. He swears her death was an accident, but the authorities aren’t so sure. George goes to a strip club to clear his head and it is here that he meets Monica Weston, a dancer who is a dead ringer for his late wife. Is something fishy going on here? Is George guilty of murder or is it a big frame job? Inspector Wald is on the case and is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Perversion Story (aka One on Top of the Other) marks the giallo debut of horror master Lucio Fulci (The Beyond). This titillating mystery moves at a decent pace but often pauses for the occasional artsy sex scene or gratuitous nudity. Written by Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti (Don’t Torture a Duckling) and Jose Luis Martinez Molla (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin) and inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much, this film introduces a lot of themes the genre would continue to pursue as it evolved. There are no mysterious black-gloved killers or extreme color schemes or dynamic murder set-pieces, but the detective-mystery aspect of the giallo is firmly in place: the police are ineffective and our hero must investigate the crime himself in order to clear his name.
The international cast is headed by Jean Sorel (The Day of the Jackal) as George Dumurrier, the philandering doctor. We spend so little time with his doomed wife that we take it for granted his intended partner is his girlfriend Jane (Italian actress Elsa Martinelli, The 10th Victim). Dumurrier is a sympathetic character caught in a terrible position. His life is turned upside down by the death of his wife and the discovery of her large insurance policy. Sorel is really good in the role of desperate protagonist and carries a lot of the picture on his shoulders. He is a charismatic man audiences will root for no matter how despicable his behavior. The real star of the show is the gorgeous Marissa Mell (Danger Diabolik) as Monica Weston (as well as the doomed wife Susan). Her character introduction in the strip club commands viewers’ attention. Monica is a woman full of secrets and she drives the mystery forward at every turn. American John Ireland (Messenger of Death) appears as Inspector Wald, the policeman investigating a suspicious death. He is intimidating by the sheer fact that we want our hero to get away with whatever he may be up to and this guy may be good enough at his job to stop him.
As with any good mystery, things are not at all what they seem and the big reveal in the final act holds a pretty big twist. I’m not sure how practical this scenario is and the ending feels like a bit of a cheat, but not enough so to tank the picture. This is a rare US-based giallo entry that showcases several San Francisco locations, including the gas chamber at San Quentin! Cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa (Exterminators of the Year 3000) works closely with Fulci to capture the atmosphere of the city with groovy results. Together they come up with some really terrific shots and unique camera angles, many unexpected. Composer Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust) delivers a jazz-infused score that really keeps things moving and captures the energy of the late 1960s perfectly. Perversion Story reminds me a lot of thrillers like Basic Instinct and is a nice switch from Fulci’s later terrors. This film would be followed by the even better Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) and Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), marking a very solid time in his directing career. If you like mysteries or are a Fulci completist, you will definitely want to check this one out.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and featuring a new High-Definition transfer, it is safe to say this is the best the movie has ever looked. Sourced from an original negative with inserts from a 35mm print from a different country, Mondo Macabro delivers this composite cut that is the most complete version of the film available. There are some minor instances of film damage, but this is a noticeable step up from the previous DVD release.
A pair of DTS-HD MA 1.0 audio tracks, one in English, the other Italian, preserves the original mono recordings. Both tracks are dubbed due to the international cast, but the effort is not distracting. Dialogue is clear and free from distortion and the soundtrack is a smash.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Star Jean Sorel sits down for the 2018 interview On Death Row (29 minutes) in which he provides a brief history of Italian cinema in the 1960s. He tells tales of working with Fulci and the origins of the film. He’s an interesting guy who can tell a story very well. The interview is in French and comes with English subtitles.
The all-new segment The Last Diva (10 minutes) catches up with actress Elsa Martinelli, who happily reflects on her time working on the picture. She has kind words for her director and fellow cast mates and it is nice to see her looking so well. The interview is in Italian with English subtitles.
Author/ historian Stephen Thrower offers his thoughts on the film in an interview (38 minutes) conducted for this release. He provides an overview of Fulci’s career and discusses where this title fits in regarding tone and style. He covers a lot of territory with anecdotes from the production and fans will definitely want to check this out.
The original theatrical trailer is included but contains many spoilers.
A Mondo Macabro preview reel (11 minutes) offers a look at additional titles available from the company.