A few weeks ago I got two awesome multi-disc DVD collections of vintage exploitation trailers (Umbrella’s Drive-In Delirium sets, kind of the local versions of Synapse’s 42nd Street Forever series but even better), and watching them I found myself particularly struck by a trailer for a film called One on Top of the Other. Curious, I googled it and found it was, in fact, a film I already had under the name Perversion Story. Them’s the vagaries of retitling films for international release, I suppose. We’re in L. Fulci’s hands again for what was evidently his first essay in giallo, a film that could be easily summed up/dismissed as “Vertigo with more tits and quintuple split screens”; but though Hitchcock and his film loom over this, there’s more to it than just that… It’s a stylish exercise in late 60s Euro-groovy, full of strident colour (particularly a red I can only describe as huge) with a slightly sitar-happy Italo-jazz score, and running on a fairly lurid thriller narrative set around San Francisco; this latter detail contributes to the oddness of the experience of actually watching the film, at least if you do so (as I did) with the Italian soundtrack. I don’t know why it felt so odd, cos I’ve seen so many films where the characters all speak English despite the film being set in a non-Anglophone country, so why not have an Italian film set in the USA where the characters speak Italian? It makes about as much sense, but in fact it was kind of disconcerting (even more than the UK-set Lizard in a Woman’s Skin), possibly because not all the soundtrack was actually all’Italiana; there’s a lot of background voices in the prison, the strip club, etc that are all’Americana. Maybe dubbing all those voices into Italian was an ADR job too far? Whatever, it was distracting, but probably still a better bet than the English dub. That aside, no masterpiece, but consistently fine to look at, and directed by Fulci with enough style that the ultimate preposterousness of the story isn’t too hard to ignore.
Perversion Story (1969)