• Perversion Story (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: November 13th, 2018.
    Director: Lucio Fulci
    Cast: Jean Sorel, Marisa Mell, Elsa Martinelli, Alberto de Mendoza, John Ireland
    Year: 1969
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    Perversion Story – Movie Review:

    Dr. George Dumurrier (Jean Sorel) runs a medical clinic with his brother, Henry (Alberto De Mendoza), in lovely San Francisco that has been losing money for some time now. Adding to his problems is his wife, Susan (Marisa Mell), who suffers from various medical problems – the two of them just haven't been getting along so well. It's not surprising then when we learn that George has been having an affair with a high fashion photographer named Jane (Elsa Martinelli). She wants him to leave his wife, so that she can have a man all to herself but George can't do that. Luckily for him, Jane soon winds up dead – it looks like her medicine was switched and the results were fatal. If that weren't enough, it seems she had a substantial life insurance policy that names George, who had no idea this even existed, as the beneficiary. The local cops, led by Inspector Wald (John Ireland) figure that George had something to do with it, but he's just as surprised as everyone else is by this recent turn of events.

    Free from his wife and his financial burdens, George and Jane decide to kick back and relax at a topless bar called The Roaring 20's where George becomes stricken by a dancer who looks just like his late wife, only with blonde hair and green eyes. Her name is Monica Weston (Mell again) and soon George is hiring her services. What he doesn't realize is that Jane is starting to obsess over Monica as well, or so it would seem. While all of this is going on, Inspector Wald and his men are closing in on George, but did he really kill his wife or is there something else to consider?

    The San Francisco locations add some visual flair to the movie. There's plenty of great footage that shows us what the city looked like back in the late sixties and we get a peek at Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and a few other notable parts of the city. We also get a chance to go inside San Quentin and to check out the actual gas chamber there, which adds some historical value and morbid curiosity to the picture. The cinematography from Alejandro Ulloa (who also worked with Fulci on The Devil's Honey and Conquest and who also shot Enzo G. Castellari's High Crime) is fantastic. It captures the night life of the big city very effectively and also does a great job of capturing the flair of the mod wardrobe and sixties fashions seen throughout the picture. He shoots Mell, who will always be best known for her performance in Bava's Danger! Diabolik in an almost fetishistic way that really accentuates her exotic looks and alluring features, and the camerawork is a big part of what makes her performance so intoxicating in this picture.

    While Mell certainly steals the show in her dual role, she's surrounded here by some other interesting performers. Jean Sorel is quite good as the male lead, handling the more complex bits of his character nicely and coming across as quite believable in his part. Elsa Martinelli, a very unusual looking but not unattractive woman, carries an unusual screen presence to forefront of her performance. John Ireland is fine as the top cop in the film and while Alberto De Mendoza isn't particularly remarkable here, he's not bad either. As decent as the rest of the cast is, however, there's no mistaking the fact that this is Mell's show. From the moments we see Monica emerge on stage in a white leopard print go-go/motorcycle suit, we fixate on her. She's exotic, alluring and quite capable as an actress here and Fulci was wise to play up to these qualities in the film.

    Those expecting the gore and shocking brutality of the splatter movies that Fulci is best known for might come away disappointed from the film, as there really isn't much violence at all. That being said, even if the movie borrows a little bit from Riccardo Freda's Double Face (which Fulci also helped script based on a novel by Edgar Wallace) it's still a well-made thriller with some great twists, a strong plot, and some fine performances. The movie looks gorgeous from start to finish and the conclusion, while a little farfetched, wraps everything up quite nicely. It's all set to a fantastic jazz score courtesy of Riz Ortolani, and along with other thrillers like Lizard In A Woman's Skin and Don't Torture A Duckling proves that Fulci was so much more than just a shock movie hack. The man had a lot of talent and Perversion Story is one of his best.

    Much was made on various message boards and online cult film fan communities about the version of the film contained on Severin's DVD that came out in 2007. The version of the film on that DVD was the French cut which removed various bits and pieces of character and plot development and which in turn contained some spicier bedroom footage. It was certainly a sexier cut of the movie than most fans were used to, considering that the only way to see the movie prior to this release was by way of the grey market releases that had been circulating for years, most of which featured the English language export version known as One On Top Of The Other (which clocks in at roughly one-hundred-and-three-minutes as opposed the French version at ninety-seven-minutes). The alternate edit contained on that disc was just as legitimate as any other version, but it's not been as common and as such, it took some viewers by surprise. It's not quite as fluid as the English export version and it's a little choppier but the film in this version is still a tight, well written giallo with some fun twists, some great performances and gorgeous cinematography. Thankfully, in 2018, Mondo Macabro saw fit to give the film a high definition facelift and they’ve basically taken all of the footage from the various different versions and created the longest possible version out there, clocking in at almost one-hundred-and-eight-minutes and containing all the character development bits missing from the French version and all the sexy stuff trimmed from the English language version.

    Perversion Story – Blu-ray Review:

    Perversion Story arrives on Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition 1.85.1 widescreen transfer that takes up just short of 32GBs of space on the 50GB disc with a healthy bit rate that avoids compression problems. This is mostly taken from a new scan of the original 35mm negative, the transfer is a strong one to be sure. There were times where a print of One On Top Of The Other had to be used to make the complete version of the movie, but even when this occurs, yeah, you’ll notice a slight drop in picture quality but it’s just that… slight. Not a big deal at all and far, far better than not having the footage included. The elements used are presented in very nice shape, colors look great and black levels are rock solid. Skin tones, which are on display quite frequently (thank you, Ms. Mell), look nice and natural and there is no evidence of any noise reduction or edge enhancement. This results in a clean and nicely detailed film-like transfer that boasts some very natural looking grain but not much at all in the way of actual print damage. Some scenes do look a bit softer than others, likely a result of the photography, but all in all, there’s nothing to complain about here, the movie looks really good.

    DTS-HD Mono tracks are offered up in English and Italian with optional subtitles provided in English only. Both tracks sound quite good and the score in particular really benefits from the lossless treatment that the format provides. Levels are nicely balanced on both tracks, but the English track definitely sounds cleaner and clearer than the Italian one. The subtitles are actually subtitles, meaning they translate the Italian track and not the English track (there are some differences noticeable between the versions).

    The main extras on the disc come in the form of three interviews, the first of which is with leading man Jean Sorel entitled On Death Row. Here, over the span of a half an hour, Sorel talks about how he came to start acting in Italian films, working with Visconti on Sandra, starring in a few giallo films prior to this one, working with Fulci, shooting the prison scenes in America and how he got along with Mell and Martinelli on the set. Martinelli herself pops up next in a ten-minute piece called The Last Diva. In this featurette she discusses her thoughts on Fulci as a person as opposed to his films (she liked him but disliked his horror pictures) as well as how she got along with Sorel, who she was very fond of, and Marissa Mell.

    The third interview is with writer Stephen Thrower. Over the span of thirty-eight-minutes, Thrower, as eloquent as ever, he gives us plenty of historical context, noting how Fulci had mostly been working on comedies up until this point in his career, Massacre Time notwithstanding. He compares this picture to some of the director’s other giallo pictures, the influence of Hitchcock on the picture and its similarities to Vertigo, the different versions of the film that have existed over the years and plenty more. As is the norm with Thrower’s segments, it’s really well-researched, genuinely interesting and absolutely worth checking out.

    Outside of that we get the film’s original theatrical trailer, the Mondo Macabro preview reel, menus and chapter selection.

    Perversion Story - The Final Word:

    Perversion Story holds up really well, it’s a slick and stylish thriller performed by a strong cast and featuring some very fine direction from Fulci. A twisting, turning, sexy picture it’s never short on suspense or entertainment value and Mondo Macabro has done an excellent job bringing it to Blu-ray in its most complete form and with some great extra features too. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Perversion Story Blu-ray screen caps!