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Mondo Macabro presents

French Sex Murders (Casa d'appuntamento/Das Auge des Bösen) (1972)

"There must be a link between these strange murders. They're beyond comprehension."- Professor Waldemar (Howard Vernon)

Stars: Anita Ekberg, Rosalba Neri, Evelyn Kraft, Howard Vernon, Peter Martell
Other Stars: Barbara Bouchet, Robert Sacchi
Director: Ferdinando Merighi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, violence, gore, injury to eye)
Run Time: 01h:28m:32s
Release Date: 2005-06-28
Genre: suspense thriller

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-D+B B-

 

DVD Review

When dealing with exploitation films, frequently the titles oversell the contents. Hype is king, and once the ticket taker has the money, it's too late. But happily, French Sex Murders pretty much delivers on the promise of its title. This German-Italian production produced by exploitation guru Dick Randall covers all the bases that are promised, and then some, with its own weird twists to boot.

Pathetic Antoine Gottvalles (Pietro Martellanza, billed as Peter Martell) is in love with Francine (Barbara Bouchet), one of the girls at the brothel of Madame Colette (Anita Ekberg). Shortly after he leaves in a rage over a remark she makes, Francine is discovered brutally murdered. Police Inspector Pontaine (Robert Sacchi) quickly nabs his man Antoine, who is sentenced to the guillotine. Antoine promises that he will return from beyond the grave to revenge himself on those who were involved in what he insists is a frame-up. Sure enough, a mysterious figure begins to brutally murder everyone involved, and Pontaine isn't sure where to turn.

The cast roster is a veritable dream lineup for the Eurocult fan. A declining and desperate Anita Ekberg over-emotes as the madam of the brothel, her statuesque beauty dissolving into stoutness. The striking Rosalba Neri has a substantial role as Antoine's ex-wife, Marianne, who has a difficult relationship with him but suspects that he may truly be innocent. She even gets to sing a song during the obligatory nightclub sequence. Jess Franco regular Howard Vernon has a loopy turn as the diagnosing psychiatrist with an obsession for eyeballs. Bouchet would star in a long of Italian thrillers and sex comedies. And the weirdest bit of casting of all, Robert Sacchi as the inspector. Billed as "The Man with Bogart's Face," Sacchi not only looks like Bogey, but adopts many of his mannerisms and quirks, giving a totally surreal edge to the lurid proceedings.

The violence is plentiful, and so is the sex. The camera lingers voyeuristically on nude loving couples, moving up and down as if appraising them before the mayhem starts. The murders are numerous, with decapitations, stabbings and assorted other methods in use. Hardest to take, though, is likely the gratuitous tribute to Un Chien Andalou as Howard Vernon slices up an eyeball. Carlo Rambaldi (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial) contributes the gore effects and severed heads. The former are pretty convincing, but the latter much less so. This print is assembled from the English-language version, with segments added from several other prints. The result is a hybrid that never actually showed theatrically anywhere, but holds together decently enough.

The mystery is pretty thin; anyone with much Eurocult experience will have the real killer pegged in the first 20 minutes. So the film is enjoyable mostly for watching the Eurostars get put through their paces and then whisked off to a grisly end. There are also some memorable hooded revelers at Madame Colette's that looked strangely familiar: was Kubrick referencing this film during the orgy sequence of Eyes Wide Shut? There are a few die-hard 1960s pop-art flourishes, such as the switch to negative as Antoine is being sentenced, or the machine-gun repetition of the killing stroke on several of the murders. It doesn't hurt the impact of the picture, aside from dating it somewhat; the delirious nature of this pseudo-giallo is quite in keeping with the technique. And there's always the pseudo-Bogey to fall back on for amusement when all else fails.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Mondo Macabro provides a 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer that has modest speckling but no significant frame damage. Despite being shot in Eastmancolor, the color here is vivid and attractive (though some reds appear a little oversaturated). The transfer is problematic, with some severe edge enhancement at times, and there tends to be blockiness and pixelation, which are especially visible during the nude scenes. This would probably have looked much better had it been put on an RSDL disc, allowing a higher bitrate.

Image Transfer Grade: D+
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish (with inserts)no


Audio Transfer Review: The English dub is pretty marginal, with the vocal performances seldom matching the emotional levels onscreen. The sound is decent enough, with only mild and unobtrusive hiss. Bruno Nicolai contributes a memorable and off-kilter score that sounds fine. Despite the keepcase proclamations of stereo, the English audio is 1.0 mono only. During the insert scenes, it briefly shifts into French or Italian as the case may be, with subtitles added.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Galleries
Extras Review: This is Volume One of "The Dick Randall Collection," and as such appropriately carries a 38m:39s documentary devoted to Randall and his penchant for anticipating the next wave of popular film to exploit: he befriended Bruce Lee, for instance, and got rights to his early pictures, which soon paid off handsomely when he reached international stardom. The feature on this DVD is discussed, but not in depth. A set of production notes are devoted more specifically to this film and the hybrid presentation. Several galleries give a look at the German lobby cards and pressbook, as well as a selection of posters and video sleeves for the film from around the globe. Two short deleted scenes include material inconsistent with the English-language print, though the second one does explain Howard Vernon's eye obsession a little bit.

Extras Grade: B-
 

Final Comments

Sex, murders, and by gum they're in France. Check. If only they could have worked Bogart into the title somehow....The transfer has some problems, but the extras are pretty worthwhile.

Mark Zimmer 2005-06-28