[a.k.a. Casa d’appuntmento / Auge des Bösen / The Bogeyman and the French Murders]
(Italy / West Germany 1972)
Reviewed By-Kit Gavin Directed by "F.L. Morris" Starring Anita Ekberg, Rosalba Neri, Howard Vernon, Evelyne Kraft and Barbara Bouchet. Source: Mondo Macabro [US] DVD NTSC Region 0
Antoine Gottvalles (Pietro Matellanza from THE BLOODY JUDGE a.k.a. Peter Martell), a borderline psychotic jewel thief nearly gets caught whilst in his latest heist and seeks sanctuary at a brothel, run by Madame Colette [Ekberg]. There, despite the uncertainty of the girls to let him in, he pays a visits to his favorite girl, a pretty blonde whore by the name of Francine [Bouchet]. After adorning the girl with gold jewellery, and before long he goes into a fit of anger and starts slapping Bouchet around and ends up killing her in a fit of maddened rage screaming at her that she’s nothing but "a bloody whore" (surprising that, in a brothel!) .
He flees, the case is taken up by Inspector Pontaine, who in a bizarre piece of casting is played by a profession Bogart look-a-like. However soon after he is captured, tried and condemned to death in a courtroom. Understandably angered and undeterred, Antoine screams vengeance and threatens to return from the grave after his execution. However his execution never comes as Antoine escapes. He tries to seek refuge at his ex’s (Neri) but is sent on his way. However his escape is short lived, as Antoine, riding away on a motorcycle is accidentally decapitated (!)
Following on from Antoine’s death the case is believed closed, however murders start to take place in the titular whorehouse (the direct translation of the Italian title) with bodies piling up including that of the brothel madame herself as well as the Judge who passed judgment on Antoine. All of this is taking place whilst a crazed scientist (Vernon), Professor Valdemar, performing experiments with Antoine’s decapitated head (!!) who sees the decapitation as some sort of divine justice. There are a fair number of suspects with some but not all ending up as victims. The scientists blond beautiful daughter, a sleazy nightclub owner, the judge, etc, etc. With special effects having been presented by Carlo Rambaldi, they are rather entertaining and splattery, if not entirely convincing, and are also repeated a few times here and there with various eye gougings, etc after the event.
The director F.L.Morris’ identity remains something of an enigma and he has been credited as being either Ferdinando Merighi in Italian sources, yet there is speculation that he might well be a director by the name of Marius Mattei who worked with the film’s producer, Dick, Randall on another Italian production called FRANKENSTEIN’S CASTLE OF FREAKS the same year. Whoever Morris was, the film, he created is an interesting seminal little giallo none the less, perhaps not comparable in style and stature over some of the directors who have been heralded as champions for many years by the fans of such films – such as Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and Umberto Lenzi – but none the less the film has it’s own unique flavor, character and undeniable charm all of it’s own.
One of the most alluring aspects of the film is the presence of a stable of B-movie actors, mostly actresses, in various key roles. Most interesting and enjoyable is the presence of a somewhat plump and hardened looking Anita Ekberg who has aged and increased drastically in size her work for Fellini in LA DOLCE VITA, made just over a decade previous, where the stunning Ekberg had made one of the most memorable images in cinematic history, dressed in black evening dress , wading in the Trevi Fountain. Certainly those days were behind her by the time she made this film and appearing as the hardened brothel madame Colette. There is genre favourite Rosalba Neri as a lounge singer, Marianne, who also happens to be Antoine’s ex-wife. As seems to have been par for the course, Neri gets naked once again, and plays a beautiful victim as well as lip synching to a little French melody she is supposedly crooning in a night club. Barbara Bouchet in a mere cameo role, much like in BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA where she is given a nude massage over the opening credits before being butchered.
Also cast but uncredited are male genre players such as Renato Romano [as the seedy Mr Randall – a movie in-joke methinks], muscleman Gordon Mitchell, and Ciro Papas who appeared in THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT, THE BEAST IN HEAT as well as the aforementioned FRANKENSTEIN’S CASTLE OF FREAKS (together with Mitchell). Credited are players such as the splendid Howard Vernon who should be a familiar face owing to his numerous appearances in Franco films, and Roberto Sacchi cast as the Inspector investigating the case, who was a well known Bogart impersonator (hence the "Bogeyman" title that was used on numerous export versions of the film). Sacchi can’t act but he convinces as Bogart in this bizarre piece of casting. Interestingly enough Martell, as the doomed Antoine appears fully nude during his scene with Bouchet, which was unusual to say the least.
The film has been nicely presented in it’s original aspect ratio and in a very nice anamorphic print. Given the materials that Mondo Macabro were provided with from the Randall collection, wonders truly have been worked as Randall’s widow has not kept good quality copies or even the elements for many of her late husband’s films hence some of the difficulty in tracking down quality complete prints has hounded Mondo Macabro for this and the other releases scheduled for release in the upcoming, and forthcoming titles in this collection. None the less, flesh tones are natural, blacks are pure and clean and there is a minimal of speckling and damage. Some of the scenes look worse than others but once again the aim has been to create the ultimate and most complete variant of this film so MM deserves kudos for it’s dedication here. Audio is generally good and clean. Occasionally the soundtrack lapses into (subtitled) French owing to the fact that those sections of dialogue are lost and/or were seemingly never dubbed into English. The track is in mono but the film would barely benefit from being presented in stereo and at times is slightly hissy and muffled but owing to the age of the film and the dubbing is more than serviceable. Aficionados and fans of the European cult movie scene will no doubt recognise a Vast plethora of the music which has been taken from other titles in the Nicolai repertoire not least ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK and EUGENIE THE STORY OF HER DECENT INTO PERVERSION.
Extras are where the film truly excels and a lot of love, time and patience have been put into their creation it would seem. Some reviewers have complained about the lack of the presence of the director (who, as stated above, remains uncertain in identity), Anita Ekberg is funny about discussing her career outside of Fellini and most of the actresses do not really appear in a continuum of events to warrant one of interviews in a film which quite evidently was shot all over Europe and extremely quickly. Starting off the extras is an interesting essay, once again penned by author (and one of the two founding partners of Mondo Macabro) Pete Tombs, discussing the production side of the film, filled with factoids and useful, interesting information.
After that there is a documentary entitled "The Wild, Wild World of Dick Randall" which features interviews with his still beautiful widow Corliss (a most colourful character in real life), herself a talented jazz singer and artist (who is seen performing live in various excerpts during the documentary) and interviews with Alan Birkinshaw (who worked with Randall), and screenwriter David McGillivray. Also interviewed is Julian Grainger, a UK based film historian who’s name, the horror fan will recognise from numerous publications as having provided much of the research, filmographies and background information. Grainger imparts a lot of information about Randall’s ways of working, despite never having met nor worked with the producer, and the other interviewees relay more personal intimate memories. Also included in the documentary are some lively photos of Randall on location, and lots and lots of clips from his, with out a doubt, greatly varying catalogue of titles, from splatter flicks, to Bruce Lee movies, to the amazing looking FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY featuring a dwarf in a secret agent role mimicking James Bond, no less (!!).
Also included are three alternative scenes from the film of varying quality, one in French which makes one of potential suspects seem even more seedy and sleazy than he is presented in the English language version and another in considerably rougher shape (and fullscreen) featuring a demented Howard Vernon and an eyeball in a laboratory. Rounding off the extras are a nice stills gallery. All in all a nice complete little composite of extras. Thumbs up for the work there!
FRENCH SEX MURDERS is another unusual title in Mondo Macabro’s release schedule of interesting and offbeat Italian gialli (following on from the enjoyable and bizarre DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT and the spellbinding release of the excellent THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN) and also marks the introduction of a series of film titles which MM will be releasing entitled THE DICK RANDALL COLLECTION. The menu design is fun too and effort has been made to not present the menus as static and boring (as favored by some DVD companies!). Also the cover really is nice, utilising original bright colourful artwork. The film has seen numerous releases on videocassette throughout Europe under a wide variety of re-titlings and re-issues yet this DVD is without doubt the most complete (running at 88 and a half minutes) and certainly the best looking print the film ever seen light of day in.
FRENCH SEX MURDERS was never going to make it into the A-list of gialli amongst fans, mainly owing to the fact that it doesn’t quite have the style and panache that other gialli have. Yet it does have some truly memorable moments, a smattering of attractive starlets and some tacky sleazy moments. Also the film has the unique distinction of being on the few gialli to be apparently told in flashback owing to the dramatic way in which the film opens (and closes). There are a few unique flourishes too, which make the film enjoyable, and it is a film that is definitely worth re-visiting, not least for the finale and also for the bizarre way in which it was constructed especially during some of chase scenes which go from Paris to Rome and back to Paris again (anyone who knows these European cities will fill find this interchange in locations amusing and entertaining). Nicely priced, well worth the money for a piece of low, low budget Euro-sploitation, essential for the trash fiend, most fans of Italian cinema and crime thrillers should grab this little undiscovered, somewhat in the rough, gem.
Story: 3 BOUCHET SLAPS Audio: 3 BOUCHET SLAPS Video: 3 BOUCHET SLAPS Extras: 3 BOUCHET SLAPS Overall DVD: 3 BOUCHET SLAPS
To purchase this DVD, visit X-Ploited Cinema
Discuss this in our forums.