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SPASMO (1974) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 25, 2010 by goregirl

Before Lenzi got gory, he directed a handful of Giallo’s in the 1970’s that were pretty entertaining. Lenzi’s films ‘Seven Bloodstained Orchids’ and ‘Eyeball’ follow a classic Giallo formula but he refuses to play by the rules with ‘Spasmo’. ‘Spasmo’ has no gore, little nudity and a low body count. There isn’t even a maniac/stalker in black gloves attacking women! Not only is ‘Spasmo’ lacking the blood, gore and sex, it has glaring flaws in other areas. Despite this, it still managed to snare me in its trippy web.

Christian Bauman has a bizarre random encounter on the beach with a woman named Barbara who suddenly disappears. Later that evening he tracks her down and the two go back to Barbara’s motel room. Barbara insists he shave off his beard and Christian obeys. While in the bathroom an armed man breaks in and attacks him. A struggle occurs and Christian ends up shooting his attacker. This is the beginning of a strange and unsettling journey down a twisted path of mannequins in death poses, questionable sanity, disappearing corpses and of course, murder!

Clearly Lenzi was trying to make a horror film of a more psychological nature. However, if you are going for the cerebral, give your characters some intelligent things to say! The dialog in this film is pretty damn bad! My husband and I laughed a few times at the idiotic things the characters say to one another. And what is with Lenzi and the word whore anyway?!? The dialog is definitely the films weakest element. ‘Spasmo’ starts out a little too slowly and I was left shaking my head at the bizarre series of information I had been fed during the films first 30 minutes. It seemed like Lenzi was going to leave me numerous plot holes to step in but by the time the films reaches its most satisfying conclusion the mystery is solved.

The mannequin is one my all-time favourite props! This isn’t the first Giallo to use mannequins but very few use them as prominently as ‘Spasmo’. Mannequins are found hanging from nooses, lying on the ground bloodied, occasionally with a knife stuck in it, and always in varied states of undress. You will wonder often what the hell the relevance of the mannequins is and you will be rewarded…eventually. The films final scene ties it all up beautifully. The mannequins were the real stars in ‘Spasmo’ but there are some decent performances among the human cast also. Suzy Kendall attempts sex kitten somewhat awkwardly but isn’t unlikeable. Robert Hoffmann does a lot of fussing, fretting and rubbing his head as Christian Bauman but he’s a likeable enough sort. The two have good chemistry together and are quite watchable. I usually enjoy Giallo regular Ivan Rassimov and he is good in this as Fritz Bauman, but has way too little dialog and screen time. There is a peculiar parade of characters that come and go but don’t leave all that much of an impression. The only exception being the striking Monica Monet who plays Clorinda; but it’s more the visual of Monet you’ll remember rather than her dialog or acting.

Visuals in the film are rather toned down and outside of the aforementioned lack of nudity and gore, even set pieces and locations are mostly unmemorable. At times ‘Spasmo’ is like a car accident you can’t look away from. But it also has moments of brilliance. The last quarter of the film is fantastic! A great reveal an exciting finale and there are a couple of awesome surprise twists. If you don’t take the film too seriously it is actually a lot of fun. You have to kick back and enjoy the ride on this one, accept the bad dialog and move on. It really does come together in the end!

Sadly, the Shriek Show version I rented was dubbed. With the exception of Godzilla films I detest dubbing. I don’t feel like I’m getting the full experience if I can’t watch the film in its original language. There is also a bit of ambient noise on the dubbing, it never drowns out the dialog and you stop noticing it after a while. While Morricone’s score is a bit on the conservative side it is still quite effective and the sound for the music is crystal clear. The transfer of the film itself looked pretty much flawless as far as I was concerned. There is a short interview with Umberto Lenzi, a poster/still gallery and trailers for other Lenzi films and one Dallamano film. An interesting fact from the Lenzi interview; Lucio Fulci was originally set to be the director on Spasmo. Hardcore Giallo fans will probably not be overly impressed with this one, and gorehounds will certainly be disappointed. But if you like off the wall flicks that march to the beat of their own drummer, this weird little mess of a film has some highly entertaining moments and a great finale worth sticking around for. Recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Robert Hoffmann, Suzy Kendall, Ivan Rassimov, Adolfo Lastretti, Monica Monet, Guido Alberti, Mario Erpichini, Franco Silva, Maria Pia Conte