Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 4th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1992
Director: Lamberto Bava
Writers: Lamberto Bava, Teodoro Corrà, Bruce Martin, Domenico Paolella
Cast: Joanna Pacula, Tomas Arana, François Montagut, Gianni Garko, Erika Blanc, Matteo Gazzolo, Giovanni Lombardo Radice
DVD released: December 6th, 2011
Approximate running time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Raro Video
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
Synopsis: The widow of a pianist who died in a car accident receives body parts from a psychopath that is somehow connected to her deceased husband.
Though his career spans five decades (three as a director) Lamberto Bava has yet to gain the recognition that has befell most of his contemporaries, most notably Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento. He has also spent his whole career living in the shadow of his legendary father cinematographer / director Mario Bava. And yet despite these lack of accolades as a filmmaker, his output as a filmmaker has never waned as he continues to find work for Italian cinema and a occasional theatrical release.
By the early 1990’s the Italian film industry was a former shell of itself and formerly popular genre’s like the Giallo were like a faded memory. So when Lamberto Bava made Body Puzzle (his first Giallo since Delirium: Photo of Gioia) in 1992, it is not surprising that the film barley registered on most filmgoers radars. Reportedly when Body Puzzle was initially released in Italy it was cut by about film minutes so that it could get a PG-13 rating and released under the title Misteria.
Key collaborators on Body Puzzle include Domenico Paolella (The Nuns of Saint Archangel, Story of a Cloistered Nun) who co-wrote the screenplay, cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Deep Red) and composer Carlo Maria Cordio (Absurd, Witchery), who liberally uses Moussorgsky’s ‘A Night on Bald on Mountain’ as the killers’ calling card in the English language version of this film. The original Italian language release used Carl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ in place of the aforementioned ‘A Night on Bald on Mountain’.
Structure wise, Body Puzzle follows that blue print that were laid out by his father Mario, who’s first two thrillers The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace are considered the starting point for what would become the Giallo genre. And while all the clichés that one would associate with the Giallo genre are in full swing in this film, it does go against the grain in one way, the killers’ identity is revealed early on. Thus making this a film about the killers’ motives and not a cat ‘n’ mouse chase to discovered the killers’ identity. Of course the film ends like all Giallo’s end, with the killers’ Modus Operandi explained to wrap up all loose ends.
From a production stand point Body Puzzle is a strong effort, the film is briskly paced, there are an ample amount of revelations to keep things interesting and there are a handful striking moments visually, most notably a kill scene involving a blind school teacher, who is carved up in front of her blind students. Also though the kill scenes are not as gory as one would expect from the Giallo genre, they are sufficiently gruesome.
Performance wise, the majority of the cast are merely adequate in their respective roles. Fortunately this is not a major blow since the main ingredient for why this film works as well as it does is Lamberto Bava’s strong direction, which does a superb job setting the tone and maintaining momentum. The cast does feature several recognizable faces like Gianni Garko (The Psychic) as the police chief, Erika Blanc (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave) as a psychiatrist and Giovanni Lombardo Radice (City of the Living Dead) as a flamboyant caretaker of a horse stable. Ultimately, though Body Puzzle may not be a classic example of the Giallo genre, it is still a noteworthy entry that fans of the Giallo genre should thoroughly enjoy.
Raro Video presents Body Puzzle in a 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s intended aspect ratio. Body Puzzle has been release twice before on DVD in North America and both of these previous releases presented the film in a 4:3 full frame aspect ratio. For this release Raro Video have created a brand new transfer and it is safe to say that this is the best this film has looked to date on home video. Colors are nicely saturated, black levels look consistently good, details look crisp and there are no problems with compression.
This release comes with one audio, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Outside of few instances in which music and effects sounds slightly more robust then they should. This audio mix is in very good shape, dialog comes through clearly and there are no problems with background noise. It should be noted that tech specs on the back of the DVD incorrectly list Italian as the only audio option and English subtitles. Neither of these have been included as part of this release, with English audio being the only option supplied.
Extras for this release are limited to a collectable booklet with a lengthy essay about the film and a text bio and filmography for director Lamberto Bava. Overall Body Puzzle gets a well rounded audio / video presentation from Raro Video.