Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 7th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, February 16th, 1974
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writers: Umberto Lenzi, Pino Boller, Massimo Franciosa, Luisa Montagnana
Cast: Robert Hoffmann, Suzy Kendall, Ivan Rassimov
DVD Released: March 25th, 2003
Approximate Running Time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Media Blasters / Shriek Show
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: Christian (Robert Hoffman) a industrial heir is walking with a girlfriend along the beach when the come across what appears to be a dead body. They soon discover that Barbra (Suzy Kendall) is all right. Fascinated by this mysterious woman Christian starts a complicated affair that leads to murder? They go back to Christians hotel room and while he is shaving he attacked by a man who has been spying on them. During their scuffle the man is shot forcing Christian and Barbara to flee from the scene. Later when they return to his hotel the dead man’s corpse has vanished. Is Christian losing his mind or is someone trying to push him over the edge?
Spasmo was original to be directed by Lucio Fulci. Umberto Lenzi has made his share of sleazy and notorious films through out his career. One has to wonder what he was thinking when he made 1974’s Spasmo. The film feature a few brief moments of nudity and it is virtually bloodless outside of a few gun shots. Giallo’s are best know for taking violence to another level while parading around some of Europe’s most attractive starlets in next to nothing. Lenzi with Spasmo decided to explore a more psychological angle instead of the more typical visceral route like most of his contemporaries.
Unlike like your typical giallo that bombards you with baroque set pieces. Spasmo relies more on its actors performances and its intricate plot to get its message across. Spasmo starts off slow and takes some patience from the viewer as the first half of the film is filled with strange dialog and a series of scenes that may leave some shaking their head in disbelief. The set in the first half of the movie does have a purpose even if its takes it time to get to the pay off. Lenzi expertly uses every inch of the Techniscope and Ennio Morricone provides another excellent score that leans towards classical music in style.
Suzy Kendall in one of her final roles and Robert Hoffmann make a great team as both actors’ performances are pretty good. Ivan Rassimov plays Christian’s brother Fritz in the film and it is too bad his role is reduced to nothing more then a cameo. Umberto Lenzi is often overlooked when taking about classic giallo’s because his films never obtained the artistic heights of a Mario Bava or Dario Argento giallo, still Lenzi always consistently to make entertaining genre films. What or who is Spasmo this question is never answered and I guess like some mysteries it is best left unknown.
Spasmo was given a limited release in the U.S. in 1976 under the title The Death Dealer and until now has never been released in the U.S. on home video. Shriek Show’s DVD presents Spasmo in its 2:35:1 original aspect ratio and it has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Shriek Show delivers another solid transfer as they had done for Umberto Lenzi’s Seven Blood-Stained Orchids. Overall the transfer is nearly flawless as it boasts vivid colors and rich black levels.
The DVD comes with only one audio option a Dolby Digital English dubbed Mono track. Unfortunately this is the one area were this DVD suffers the most ambient noise and hiss noticeable, still nothing that distracts the viewer as the dialog is easy to hear and follow. Ennio Morricone’s rich score is the audio tracks strongest asset and it would have been nice if Shriek Show included a music only track.
The main extra on this DVD is a 13 minute interview with director Umberto Lenzi who speaks about the films origins and his dislike for Argento’s giallo’s. Other extras include a poster/still gallery and the English trailer for Spasmo (in which the narrator constantly whispers “Spasmo!). Rounding out the extras are trailers for the following Shriek Show titles Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, Eaten Alive and What Have You Done to Solange? Shriek Show’s Spasmo is another exceptional release to their giallo series and my only qualms with this release would be the audio track and the horrible cover art designed for this release. If you haven’t seen Spasmo I highly recommend you check out this experimental giallo from Umberto Lenzi.