The French Sex Murders (1972)
The title says it all.
Have you ever purchased a DVD based on the cover or the title and wound up completely disappointed and feeling duped? Well, when you plunk down your $12 or so for this lurid low-rent giallo from the 1972, you will doubtlessly have the releasing company, Mondo Macabro, on your radar forevermore. They find the most cool, bizarre and totally obscure titles, and The French Sex Murders is no exception. If you’re not howling with laughter and breathless for the next outrageous scene within the first five minutes, then you are a stonier soul than I.
One of the first scenes you see is enhanced with what's basically stone age cgi – a black silhouette cartoon body falling from the Eiffel Tower, then a flashback to how the poor sap wound up speeding from air to ground at hundreds of bone-crushing kilometers per second. As the mystery unravels, so shall you if you try and make sense of The French Sex Murders.
Ferdinando Merighi, hardly a leading master of the genre, delivers a bang-up good time with a cast of past their pull-dates Eurostars such as Robert Sacci and Anita Ekberg. He's a detective done up in complete Doghouse Riley garb, and she is the corseted, penior-wearing, cigarillo-smoking madam of a swanky brothel where these murders with a French accent begin. As the crazed killer sprees across the City of Lights, our Bogart and his cohorts are just steps behind.
Along for the gory jaunt is a cast of kooky would-be suspects which include a renowned scientist (who looks just like Boris Karloff – I swear, this production company must have hit Central Casting) who likes dissecting eyeballs in his office; said scientist's sexy blonde daughter; her rather distasteful boyfriend; a French maid with armpits so hairy it looks like she has Don King in a head lock; a jewel thief with all the stealth and grace of bull in a china shop; and so on.
There’s sex and there's murders, but they don't always go together. In fact, many of the slayings take place off-camera and those that do not are more silly than scary (not to mention there's no M.O,. whatsoever – the victims are dispatched in a variety of disparate ways from bludgeoning to strangulation). All of this kookiness, however, only adds to the enjoyment of this curio which has some gorgeous locations ranging from the grassy countryside to the Moulin Rouge, to the Pere Lachaise cemetery. The sets are chock full of the strangest oddities – from bodiless statues hanging, to eyeballs, to a multitude of telephones within a single room (none of which are ever used to call the police!)
I've had more coherent experiences recovering from anesthesia.
As famed director and cinefile Eli Roth says, "All movies should be just like Pieces, playing 24 hours a day on a endless loop!" Loop — or loopy — being the operative word.
The movie starts out with a classic early-80s skater wheeling it to classes somewhere in middle America, her heavily-sprayed bangs defying the wind and gravity itself, then it cuts to a pair of delivery men moving a sheet of plate-glass right across the oblivious boarder's path. What's going to happen? Will it be a slapsticky Shelly Long moment, or a David Warner head-lop? Well, it turns out to be neither as the scene abruptly dissolves into a flashback to 1940, where a little boy is putting together a puzzle of a naked woman ("Fun for all ages!" the box's text winks).
When the precocious kid's mother catches him at his pastime, she flies into an insane rage. But, like mother like son and she winds up losing not only her cool, but her head. Flash-forward to the early 80s again, and that boy's now a madman. We don't know who he is, but he definitely knows what he's doing: with a giant chainsaw, he's trying to recreate that puzzle he never got to finish, with… du-du-ta-da! …pieces of flesh and blood women!
Pieces stars blonde, elfish Lynda Day as an international tennis champ going undercover at the college campus where the killer is cutting his blood-soaked swath of skin and bone. Ever at her side, but never at her aid, is the silly yet studly student Kendall, played by Ian Sera (whose career quickly died after Pieces' release). An unlikely law-enforcer, Kendall is called into action by the defective detectives on the case simply because he was nearby when the first dismembered body was found.
The Ed Wood of exploitation directors, Juan Piquer Simon, has put together a smorgasbord of cinematic Spam that's so salty-sweet I don't dare reveal any of the best bits. Pieces is a film best-seen knowing as little as possible, but I will say that if you love the exploitation / grindhouse style flicks of yore (and better yet, are also a fan of the 1981 horror-comedy Student Bodies), then whet your appetite and keep the coffee pot hot, because you're going to love the cream!
When a series of sexually-charged strangulation murders shock a university grounds, four female members of its most bodacious student body head for the seeming safety of an isolated Italian villa. But the silk-scarf wielding, black-gloved, stocking-masked killer gives chase (very slowly, and with a super-cool strut in his ever-polished leather-lifts).
Directed by giallo maestro Sergio Martino, best-loved for the Edwidge Fenech sex-fest The Strange Vice of Mrs. Warde and the hippy-dippy All the Colors of the Dark, Torso (also known as Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence) is by far the most entertaining of his trademark thrillers. It's got everything you need: bi-curious gratuitous nudity, many missing reels, projectile vomiting, fight scene fakery, devilish dolls, and so much more. Better yet, the film stars giallo icon Suzy Kendall and Ernesto Colli as "Gianni Tomasso, scarf vendor."
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson