Crazy Desires of a Murderer (1977)

APRIL 3, 2021


I felt a tinge of pride when Vinegar Syndrome's third "Forgotten Gialli" set arrived and I discovered I had actually seen one of the movies before (Autopsy, via a revival screening); it's like I'm a hardcore veteran of such fare! But I'm not, and even if I was, I could be forgiven for not having seen Crazy Desires of a Murderer (Italian: I vizi morbosi di una governante) before, as it was never given any kind of home video release in the US until now, which is sadly the case for a lot of these. I mean, that's great that they're rescuing them, but with everyone settling for streaming now, these films are going to continue to be obscure to general fans whether they deserve to be or not.

Anyway I had a lot of fun with this one, though it wouldn't necessarily come to mind if asked to recommend a few titles to someone new to the genre. Not that it's a "for die-hard fans only" affair, but it doesn't seem necessarily beholden to the formula for these things, and for a while it barely resembles one at all. Things start off on brand: there's a murder in the opening scene, then a young woman and her friends, having just returned from China, hang out at her baron father's home and party. One friend is working on some kind of drug deal where he's attempting to screw his partner out of the money, so we have our possible motive established, and there's even a creepy relative for good measure.

But after the centerpiece murder, a detective (Corrado Gaipa, aka Don Tommasino!) arrives to investigate and it basically turns into a Columbo episode for the remainder of the runtime. He takes over lead character duties, leaving our assumed heroes in the background (at one point the drug dealer guy and his partner get into a fight and he knocks the guy out - and then they're not seen again until the final scene, apparently having reconciled) and manages to make things more complicated by coming up with valid theories as to why pretty much every other character could be the killer. Don't get me wrong, it's still enjoyable - it just gives it a different feel than the other gialli of the era, giving it kind of a more throwback feel to the earlier days (where police involvement was more prominent), but also with intermittent gory murders that were the order of the day. It's an admirable attempt to blend the old with the new, for sure, but the blend could have used some fine-tuning.

Speaking of throwback: even though the movie was produced just a year before Halloween, there's a "quickie Psycho ripoff" feel to the proceedings, as the prime suspect for the killer is a mama's boy with a penchant for taxidermy and (black and white!) flashbacks showing him killing his mother's lover. We know it can't actually be him because it's too easy, but it's kind of amusing to think that nearly twenty years after Hitch's masterpiece, people were still brazenly ripping it off. I was also endlessly amused by how indestructible the Baron was, as it seems he's about to be killed in the opening scene, only to appear alive and well a few minutes later. Then he has a heart attack, which we learn is the third he's had and will probably survive this one as well! Weirdly, the actor went uncredited despite having some prominence, and never made another movie again, so perhaps Gaipa's character look into that for a sequel.

Oh, if you like sex in your violen-I mean, in your gialli, you will likely be pretty satisfied. At one point our non-detective main characters play what can only be referred to as a pornographic version of Charades, where two people have sex in a certain way and the others have to guess which movie they're copying (next time someone suggests Charades at a party, I guess I shouldn't be so dismissive). Then after that, they all go to their rooms and have more sex, with different partners than seen during the game. One pair seems to be suggesting a bit of DP via a candle at one point (the male fashions the melting candle into something a little smoother and rounded at the top as the woman turns over on her stomach, so uh...), and there's even a bit of "take sexual advantage of a mentally challenged guy" flair that I haven't seen in quite a while (Devil Times Five fans, stand up!). Like the other elements, the formula is a bit off, as it comes off like someone came along and inserted it at the 11th hour, but in the overall experience it kind of fits; it's like an exquisite corpse movie. It's a giallo, then a softcore comedy, then a '70s detective TV show.

Director Filippo Walter Ratti (for whom this film would be his last; he died a few years later) seemingly tries to apologize for the lull in the murdery parts though, as they are incredibly graphic. Apart from the killer wearing *white* gloves (10 yard penalty, movie!) the big one in the middle is a pretty standard sequence for this sort of thing until the character expires, at which point the killer removes the victim's eyes, which we watch in gnarly (and, for its day, fairly convincing) detail. One would think this meant the start of the killer offing all of the group, but nope -(spoiler for 40+ year old movie ahead) she is actually the only one of the six to die, as supporting characters make up the rest of the body count. The detective even laughs about how they were just red herrings!

The lone extra is an interview with one of those sidelined actors, who talks about arguing with the director and also believes he was never paid for the film. I'm always a fan of these candid takes, but unfortunately either due to lax translation for the subtitles or just his own inability to provide context, it's kind of hard to follow what he's talking about sometimes. He frequently rattles off names of people who don't seem to be involved, alluding to events and other movies as if we're all on the same page, so I honestly couldn't really take much from the chat beyond what I already mentioned. But hey, better than nothing, since even a trailer for the film seems to be elusive.

The last film on the set is the aforementioned Autopsy, which I never reviewed when I saw it as it was part of a double feature with Eyeball and I enjoyed that one more. But I also don't really remember much, so I'll at least give it a quickie review when I get to it. I'm kind of backed up on review discs and there's a bunch of stuff on Shudder and Netflix that I've been wanting to watch, AND I still haven't even gotten to the *2nd* Forgotten Gialli set! So I either gotta be choosier with what I actually review (I'll WATCH everything I am sent, for sure, but can't always justify a writeup) or learn to get the hell off of Twitter. And maybe stop doing so many puzzles. It's a tough life, man.

What say you?

P.S. The set is currently only available through Vinegar Syndrome's site. But here's the Amazon link for the first one, if you want to buy your cat food or household products or maybe even a book at the same time.


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