SPASMO **** Italy 1974 Dir: Umberto Lenzi 94 mins
One of Lenzi’s most disciplined and classy movies, this opens in an eerie low key, as a couple’s make-out session is disturbed by a hanging dummy – establishing the film’s fixation on unnervingly life-like female mannequins, and accompanied by one of Ennio Morricone’s most achingly beautiful giallo themes. Handsome Robert Hoffman discovers Suzy Kendall on a beach, initially mistaking her for a corpse.
She’s a little kooky and insists he shaves his beard, but the two embark on a fling that’s soured when a gun-toting stranger bursts into the house, and Hoffman has to kill him in self-defence. This is the catalyst for a compelling, labyrinthine mind-fuck, as Hoffman doubts both his sanity and the integrity of everyone around him. Restrained in terms of sex and gore, this mature thriller is intense and well-acted, building to an impressively bleak finale and a notably haunting conclusion, as hereditary madness spreads and no one enjoys a happy ending.
Review by Steven West