Blu-Ray Review – Spasmo (1974)

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First and foremost they don’t name them like they use too, do they? That title wouldn’t pass the political correct world we will live in now but damn it’s a memorable title. Spasmo was directed by Italian horror maestro Umberto Lenzi who would later direct a series of Cannibal films and Nightmare City, this was made during his Giallo period. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Giallo genre with the exception of a few key films by Mario Bava (who invented the genre single-handedly in the ’60s) but Spasmo has enough weird charm to keep this skeptic interested.

The film was made in the ’70s but it certainly has a ’60s psychedelic vibe throughout, the fashion especially of the women in the film certainly looks straight out of some swinging ’60s London film like Bedazzled! The “plot” is a fairly rudimental Giallo type plot, Christian (Robert Hoffman) and his girlfriend find a body on the beach and it’s a woman who is alive and she flees quickly. Christian goes to a yacht party and finds the woman again and they start affair but before they can get down to it, a man breaks in and tries to kill Christian and from that moment on weird shit does down and there is more than meets to the eye to everything.

The whole film has a dreamlike logic that isn’t necessarily alien to the Giallo genre, some of Argento’s work has a similar approach and even the early Bava’s deal with dreams. It also comes out the psychedelic films of the ’60s which this is very much a leftover of a bygone era but still fitting into the upcoming genre of the Giallo. The whole film has this very trippy use of lifelike female dolls and the film’s plot really doesn’t make any sense despite it being told in a linear fashion. The film does have some twists and turns that come completely out of the nowhere and the ending has to been seen to believed.

It wouldn’t be an Italian film of the ’70s which a score by the most noted Italian composer of all-time Ennio Morricone. The score is one of Morricone’s “psychedelic” scores which is very much a departure from the iconic sparse scores he did the Sergio Leone westerns or Spaghetti Westerns in general, Danger: Diabolik for Bava was an early example of this different style for Morricone. It also emphasises the film’s dreamlike nature with its mixture of jazz and psychedelia. I’m not overly familiar with Lenzi’s work but compared to Nightmare City it’s a wholly more satisfying in its mise en scène and for fans of strange trippy films it’s worth seeking out.

88 Films’ release isn’t a huge package but it includes both English and Italian dubs, with Italian films of the period both versions are dubbed so it really doesn’t matter which one you watch. The main feature is a recently filmed Q&A with Lezi at Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films which was his first ever appearance in the UK. The disc also includes opening and end credits in Italian along with the trailer and reversible artwork.

★★★1/2
Ian Schultz

Mystery, Thriller |Italy, 1974| 18 |88 Films | 14th September 2015 (UK) |Dir.Umberto Lenzi |Robert Hoffmann, Suzy Kendall, Ivan Rassimov | Buy Spasmo at 88Films