Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Spasmo (1974)

Umberto Lenzi, one of the most underrated genre directors of our time, created his own little sub-genre of giallos during the late sixties and seventies, the driven to insanity-thrillers! Often very little blood or nudity, instead focusing on the path to madness and the unexpected twists that lays ahead. I haven't seen Spasmo until today, why I waited so long I have no idea, but sometimes destiny makes you choose a SyFy channel original instead of that unwatched Italian thriller and when that happens time after time it's just best to let it take some time until the perfect day comes - like today.

Robert Hoffman is Christian Bauman, a successful playboy who owns a big piece of his late fathers plastic's company. The chairman is his brother, Fritz (Ivan Rassimov). During a stroll at the beach Christian finds a woman laying in the sand. It's Barbara (Suzy Kendall) and they quickly hook up for some fun. But when she's preparing for bedtime Christian is attacked by a man and kills him. They escape, finds a house that Barbara claims to be a friends house. But an elderly man and a young woman shows up, and things is starting to get extra weird!

I don't want to tell you more about the plot, but it's a very classic set-up, we've seen it a couple of times before - but with a couple of twists I never could have expected. Most of the movie is Hoffman talking and looking and suspecting that something strange is going on, but like the pro Lenzi is the story works fine with intelligent directing and a new twist or red herring everything things is starting to be slow. I love how the movie mostly is set in the sunlight and how it still creates an amazing aura of paranoia. This is Lenzi at his best, and in the interview on the DVD he seems very proud of these early bloodless giallos. I've had a feeling for a long time that he's not so fond of blood and gore, and it was just something he was forced upon by horror-starved producers.

Spasmo is a movie with very little violence and blood, except a grim murder-by-car, and Lenzi choose to have it that way to make it stand out from the rest of the thrillers being released. And I think focusing on a clever script and the mystery behind it all without stopping a murder-scenes was a smart idea. A movie like Eyeball would be a lot weaker without the blood and violence, but Spasmo is a very different kind of breed. The thing is that I got completely fooled and when it comes to watching movies and getting the rug pulled from under my feet is very rare. I expected, like a damn smartass, that the ending would be so and so - and yeah, part of that was right, but then two other twists was tossed in front of me and now the story even got better. It's a story of immoral people doing immoral stuff, but hey - that's what the world is all about, so I bought it completely. Bravo Lenzi!

The score by Ennio Morricone is worth mentioning also because it is - like the movie itself - quite discreet and not the usual orgy of emotions and bombastic melodies. It's close to anonymous, but it's so important to follow the story and dialogue that I think a "bigger" score would steal the attention. And we don't want that with masterpieces, yeah?

I like using the word masterpiece or underrated, and I do it in this review to. But I always mean it, because there's too many accepted masterpieces that's just overrated bullshit. Safe movies, boring movies. Movies that follow that almost mathematical script- template to the brink of insanity. Lenzi, and many of his low budget colleagues knew that with breaking the expected they could reach out to a much more interested audience.

And hey, the movies still lives on! In 1000 years movies like Spasmo will still be talked about on the net - and Sound of fucking Music will be forgotten.

Mark my words.


Anonymous said...

"but sometimes destiny makes you choose a SyFy channel original instead of that unwatched Italian thriller"

I have been there a couple of times...hahahhahahhah

"And hey, the movies still lives on! In 1000 years movies like Spasmo will still be talked about on the net - and Sound of fucking Music will be forgotten."

Pehaps you´re right.....nice review, have never heard about this film before.


Alex B. said...

My favourite Lenzi. His most beautifully crafted film.

Anonymous said...

SPASMO was one of the first movies I rented on Netflix, over six years ago, and I never forgot how much I loved it. I remembered it having a beautiful nightmare atmosphere to it. The story was unpredictable and strange (like a dream) and so enjoyable!


Out of the seven films I've seen by Umberto Lenzi, SPASMO and ALMOST HUMAN—which has my favorite performance by Tomas Milian ever—are the two I love most.

Ninja Dixon said...

You see Megatron, two fantastic human beings who loves Spasmo! You to someday I hope? :)

Anonymous said...

Ninja: One day maybe....who knows..?