Thursday, July 02, 2009

Lucio Fulci's THE PSYCHIC (1977)

After a first half of the week filled with plumbing problems and car troubles I'm happy to say I was finally able to finish Lucio Fulci's THE PSYCHIC (Severin). I only wish I'd had the titular psychic at my disposal so I could have foreseen the rusted fuel filter and blown muffler... not to mention the $ it was gonna cost. Grrrr.

I first saw THE PSYCHIC a few years back at an Exhumed screening and it must not have made much of an impression on me as I remembered next to nothing about the flick (only Jenny Tamburi as Bruna kindled any kind of a spark in my brain).

Made in 1977 it feels like a bit of a transitional flick for director Fulci. He would make 1978's SILVER SADDLE followed by ZOMBIE in 1979, which would set him on the path to the beloved splatter flicks that would endear him to an army of followers.

But THE PSYCHIC seems to represent a bridge between the giallos he'd done in the early part of the 70s (PERVERSION STORY, LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN, DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING) and his upcoming horror cycle, with THE PSYCHIC relying a bit more on horror and gore (tame as it may be in comparison to GATES, ZOMBIE, etc.) than I remember his early 70s output so doing.

The story of the flick is a neat little giallo with a supernatural spin as the clairvoyant O'Neill (an interior decorator married to a rich Italian played by Gianni Garko, looking like Pasta Redford) has flashes of a woman's murder. She discovers that the murder took place in her husband's country home and she uncovers a body walled up in the sitting room.

After the husband is arrested for the murder she begins replaying the flashes in her head and with the help of a paranormal pal (Marc Porel) tries to put the pieces together to help prove his innocence and track the real killer.

The film's gory opening – set in 1959 with O'Neill's mother heaving herself off a cliff and bashing her skull in closeup on the way down – and the scene where O'Neill takes a pick axe to the wall certainly reminded this viewer of Fulci's gorier work to come and the great scene in GATES where reporter Christopher George frees a girl trapped in a coffin with a similar implement. Other trademark Fulci flourishes like his overuse of the zoom are on display here as well, but they're not as distracting or cliche as they'd become in a few years.

Other discussions of the film that I've read suggest that O'Neill's performance is somehow one of the movie's strongpoints but I have to disagree. She seems out of place here and does little more than look on with a bewildered, spacey expression, run away (poorly), and engender little in the way of sympathy. As a pal and I briefly discussed on the phone I'd have much rather seen someone like Rosalba Neri or Edwige Fenech in the role, especially after seeing the latter in ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK where she gives a believable, sympathetic performance of a woman going through similar "am I going crazy" feelings.

If I had a complaint about the flick I'd say that the dubbing, especially on Gabrielle Ferzetti (ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE) is muddled and hard to understand at times. Especially during a key scene towards the end when major plot points are being revealed, I found myself straining to figure out just what the heck he was saying.

In all this is a clever, methodically paced and generally well acted slice of giallo pie from a pre-gore-galore Fulci. Definitely glad I checked this one out again.

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