Sunday, November 15, 2015

Spazzing out over Lenzi's Spasmo.

Title Card screen grab from Shriek Show DVD.
Spasmo (1974)
Director: Umberto Lenzi

Umberto Lenzi’s Spasmo has recently received a Blu Ray release from Scorpion Releasing so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to revisit this lesser discussed giallo.

Scorpion Releasing Blu Ray cover. 
 In Spasmo Christian Bauman (Robert Hoffman) is out and about and meets Barbara (Suzy Kendall), after heading back to her place he is attacked by a strange man in her bathroom. During the struggle Christian shoots the man and in a panic he flees with Barbara only to later realize that the man wasn’t dead and everyone they meet from here on out has some strange connection back to them, the man in the bathroom, and Christians brother Fritz Bauman (Ivan Rassimov.) All the while someone is leaving fully dressed mannequins with knives stuck in them around the countryside and somehow these events are linked.

Screen grab from Shriek Show DVD.
Umberto Lenzi is most remembered for his cannibal films but he is a capable director in many genres and more importantly to this review he is a maestro of the giallo who should be spoken about in the same context as Argento, Bava, and Martino. That being said Spasmo is a sterling example of the non “black gloved killer” giallo but I don’t think it’s Lenzi’s best, I prefer Paranoia and Eyeball. Overall though Spasmo is a great and fun film with a gorgeous look thanks to cinematographer Guglielmo Mancori (Paranoia, Manhattan Baby) and production designer Giacomo Calò Carducci (Seven Blood Stained Orchids, A Man Called Blade). Spasmo also features a well written taught story and characters who act believably while in somewhat outlandish situations. The film also features some stand out performances by genre regulars Suzy Kendall and Ivan Rassimov.

Screen grab from Shriek Show DVD.
The other strong aspect of Spasmo is it’s fantastic score by Ennio Morricone. It is a near perfect blend of the exotic-loungey music found in many gialli, the classical influenced standard score music, as well as Morricone’s then trademark avant-garde styling’s. It leaves the viewer on edge at times while relaxing us at others and this score recently received several limited pressings on vinyl from Dagored Records based out of Italy.

Cover for one of three limited edition vinyl reissues from Dagored.
The new Spasmo Blu Ray from Scorpio Releasing looks and sounds fantastic and is a noticeable improvement on Shriek Show’s already good looking DVD from the early 2000’s. There do not seem to be any major issues with the transfer but it is also not a disc I would use to show off the wonders of high definition equipment to anyone. Scorpio Releasing are kind enough to provide us with two full versions of the movie, one is a straight transfer of the film elements with minimal correction and leaving some of the visual imperfections while the other transfer employs a minimal amount of DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) which “smoothes out” visual artifacts and grain but if over used can cause images to look artificial. Both versions look perfectly acceptable with any imperfections being barely noticeable on most home televisions. I personally prefer the un-corrected version for my re-watches because that is the most like viewing a print in a theater.

Cover for Shriek Show DVD release.
There isn’t much in the way of extras but you get a great trailer and an older interview with Lenzi. The interview is interesting since Lenzi claims that George Romero shot gory inserts for Spasmo’s U.S. theatrical release but I can not find any info supporting this that doesn’t come from Lenzi personally so take that as you will.

I would recommend that anyone who is interested in the world of the giallo and has maybe only seen a couple of Argento films should investigate Lenzi’s work in the genre and check out Scorpio Releasing’s new Blu Ray release while also insisting that this is a must own for the seasoned 
Euro-Cult fan. Spasmo can be ordered from Diabolik DVD at their web-store here.

Title card taken from trailer, screen grab from Shriek Show DVD.

No comments:

Post a Comment