Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 4th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1981
Director: Riccardo Freda
Writers: Antonio Cesare Corti, Riccardo Freda, Simon Mizrahi, Fabio Piccioni
Cast: Stefano Patrizi, Martine Brochard, Henri Garcin, Laura Gemser, John Richardson, Anita Strindberg, Silvia Dionisio, Fabrizio Moroni
DVD Released: December 6th, 2011
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English / Italian
Subtitles: English for Italian Language Sequences
DVD Release: Raro Video
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
Synopsis:An actor is forced to confront a childhood trauma, when he nearly strangles to death one of his co-stars.Murder Obsession was co-written and directed by Riccardo Freda, who is most known for a pair of Gothic Horror films that he directed which both starred Barbra Steele, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock and The Ghost. He also holds a significant place in Italian Horror film history, having co-directed the first Italian Horror film to with sound, I Vampiri. In a career that spanned almost forty years, he would work within just about every film genre. Though he is most known for his Gothic Horror films, he also directed a trio of well regarded Giallo’s Double Face, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire and Tragic Ceremony. It should also be noted that like his aforementioned Gothic Horror films, the Giallo’s that he directed including Murder Obsession all contain elements rooted in the supernatural.
Key collaborators on Murder Obsession include cinematographer Cristiano Pogany (Eyes Behind the Wall, The Last House on the Beach) and composer Franco Mannino, who’s other notable scores include, I Vampiri, The Ghost, Conversation Piece and The Innocent.
One of the key components to the Giallo genre, is its use of misdirection to increase tension and further the story at hand. And in this regards Murder Obsession succeeds, especially with its sleight of hand opening sequence. Unfortunately the overall flow of the narrative is not without its fare share of short comings, most notably the remainder of the opening act, after such a strong opening sequence. First off, the film then spends way too much time trying explain who everyone is and what their motivations are? Also it quickly becomes apparent that it is best not to believe the information that is forthcoming. Instead just go with the flow and enjoy the ride because when the finale curtain comes down. Along the way there will be so many red herrings that trying to keep track of them becomes a chore.
Visuals the film does have a tremendous amount of atmosphere, that at times is reminiscent of the look that Riccardo Freda employed for his Gothic Horror films. And being that this is a Giallo, one of the main draws of course will be the murder set pieces. And while there is a sufficient amount of carnage to behold, the crudeness of the film’s special effects takes away from the overall impact of these kill scenes.
Without a doubt the one area of this production that is the biggest letdown are the performances of the cast, who kind of sleep walk through their respective roles. Also there are several recognizable faces in the cast like Laura Gemser (Emanuelle in America) portraying an actress, Silvia Dionisio (Terror Express) in the role of the protagonists girlfriend, John Richardson (Torso) portraying a very creepy butler and Anita Strindberg (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin) in the role of the protagonists oddly affectionate mother.
Raro Video presents Murder Obsession in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original aspect ratio. For this North American DVD release Raro Video have created a brand new transfer (their Italian DVD release of this title was non anamorphic letterboxed widescreen). And once again this is a another very good transfer from Raro Video that improves upon their previous DVD release of Murder Obsession. Details look crisp, there are no problems with compression and edge enhancement is never to excessive.
This release comes with only one audio option, a composite dual language audio track that contains the majority of the film in English, while the portions of the film that were never ‘dubbed’ into English are presented in Italian with English subtitles. For the most part this is fairly clean audio track, there are some mild instances of distortion at the beginning of the film and background noise is kept to a minimum. Dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.
Extras for this release include a interview with director Sergio Stivaletti (10 minutes 5 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles), who discusses how he got into the film industry as a special effects make-up artist and his involvement in Murder Obsession, the first feature film that he created special effects for. Also included with this release is a collectable booklet that includes a essay about the film, information about the production and key cast members, a lengthy synopsis and detail accounts of key sequences in the film (both of these contain numerous spoilers), a text bio and selected filmography for director Riccardo Freda. Overall Murder Obsession gets a strong release from Raro Video, who present the film for the first time ever in North America in its full uncut version.