Now if you're unfamiliar with 'The French Sex Murders' (under any of its many titles…' Casa d'appuntamento', 'Murder in Paris', 'Bogeyman and the French Murders' et al) then welcome to the wonderful world of Euro exploitation cinema!
Director Ferdinando Merighi's 'The French Sex Murders' as it is known here on this Mondo Macabro release has been one of the most elusive genre titles for many years. Although it had minimal distribution on home video in the early 1980's copies of said tapes have been scarce leaving fans of the scene (like myself) having to track down third generation bootleg videos to peer at through our Euro loving rose tinted glasses, so with this long long overdue digital revisit does this rare gem actually shine?
On paper, 'The French Sex Murders' looks like it has the potential to be any genre fans wet dream. A cast of stalwarts including Howard Vernon (of Dr Orloff fame), 70's Euro babes Barbara Bouchet (Don't Torture a Duckling, Amuck), Anita Ekberg (Killer Nun), Rosalba Neri (Justine, Slaughter Hotel), effects by the legendary Carlo Rambaldi and a sumptuous score by Bruno Nicolai - but another ingredient in the mix here (and key to it all no doubt) is infamous exploitation producer Dick Randall, the man famous for delivering to us trash classics such as Dr. Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, Pieces, Don't Open 'Til Christmas and a slew of successful Bruce Lee rip offs made after the kung fu masters death.
But let's first take a peek (or should I say 'flashback') at the films plot…after an amusing animated death plunge sequence from the Eiffel Tower we flash back to the plots beginning where we find petty crook Antoine (Pietro Martellanza of 'Death Walks at Midnight' fame) turning up at his local whorehouse to visit his favourite lady Francine (the gorgeous Barbara Bouchet). After wooing her with some freshly nicked bling (that's shiny gold jewellery for the uninitiated) he takes a strop at her career choices and proceeds to slap her about with gusto decrying (in a raucously badly dubbed 'proper' English accent) "you're nothing but a bloody whore!" (no shit Sherlock?!)
Antoine makes a swift exit out the back door and poor Francine's body (sans mashed bloodied face) is found and big haired but beautiful Madame Collette (Anita Ekberg in fine form sating pantyhose fetishists everywhere) calls upon The Inspector to pursue the case. Now this is all fine and dandy so far if not for the fact that the Inspector is played by professional Humphrey Bogart look-alike Robert (The Man with Bogart's Face) Sacchi. Even more incredulous is the fact the he's been cast to do just that, be Bogart but in the traditional giallo setting. Not that in doing such is a bad idea; in fact I for one admit that this alone is the fact I sought doggedly to try find a bootleg copy of this gem many years ago.
But in traditional style I digress (as ever), back to the plot…after unsuccessfully trying to hide out at ex-girlfriend Marianne's (the sultry Rosalbi Neri rightly sends him off with a flea in his ear), Antoine goes on the run from the police (who have pinned him with the murder and a welcome death sentence - I say 'welcome' as his character grows more irritating as the film progresses and although not actually guilty of the murder you do inevitably want him to die). Before the police manage to track him down and show him the way to the guillotine fate's fickle finger beats them to it when he is decapitated during an 'unfortunate' motorcycle accident.
Whilst most would think that was us done we quickly realise that the films barely started and this is simply the premise to the real deal (well we are talking 'giallo' here folks) and soon the inhabitants of the whorehouse setting starting meeting a bloody end (Rambaldi's gory murder effect scenes are welcomingly presented repeatedly for your bloody pleasure). Inspector Bogey remembering Antoine's earlier threat to get revenge on everyone for his murder conviction is then left with a dilemma - are these new murders the act of something sinister from beyond the grave or the work of a cunning killer monopolising the situation?
'The French Sex Murders' is one of those films that folk are either going to love or hate…as I said, on paper it should be a classic stylish example of the giallo genre but in it's inevitable cheap and cheery delivery (a bit like a drunk uncle crashing merrily through a glass table at a family party) it's in fact jawdroppingly bewildering and a deliriously entertaining exploitation treat. And it is without doubt the input of infamous producer Dick Randall that makes this obscure gem what it is.
Whilst not up there with the giallo classics, it still has plenty of charm and this presentation by Mondo Macabro should be applauded greatly. Dump all those third generation bootlegs and if you are one of the few that has am ex-rental video master you can let go too…this version from Mondo Macabro is the only print you'll need. Made from all available materials and variant prints this is probably the longest version (88.30 minutes) to be released anywhere to date (there's even a couple of alternate scenes as extras from variant prints which are welcome if not essential to the flow of the plot). The film is presented in a nice anamorphic widescreen print and looks solid and colourful throughout (whilst not consistently pin sharp this has never looked so good) with a clear English dub audio track that delivers well (albeit with the occasional unintended chuckle by way of the dubbing) with only one scene subtitled in English to compensate for French dialogue (no English audio source available but in no way detrimental to your viewing pleasure).
As for extras, the main one here (following a brief text piece to explain some background to this lost gem) is an excellent all new 30 minute documentary on the life of producer Dick Randall and it is perhaps here that the appreciation for just why films like 'The French Sex Murders' are just so well loved by the genre community. As well as commentary by friends and industry fans alike, Randall's wife Corliss is on hand to give us the inside track on a charming man who was grossly maligned by his industry colleagues for his contribution to the film scene. Of course this is the man who brought us similarly jaw dropping delights as Supersonic Man and all those exploitation Bruce Lee flicks, but this is also the man who brought fan favourites such as 'Pieces', the Brit trash classic 'Don't Open 'Til Christmas' and the massively underrated (SGM fave) 'Living Doll'. Thankfully with this wholly entertaining documentary the late Dick Randall's role in the film scene is somewhat realigned and his respect is regained. Fascinating and enjoyable viewing. Rounding things off on this package are the aforementioned deleted scenes, some nice galleries of lobby cards, posters and promotional materials and a promo reel of trailer footage for other Mondo Macabro releases…which reveals the stunningly good news that MM are planning to release the aforementioned necrophilia classic 'Living Doll' onto DVD - great news indeed, Mondo Macabro, we salute you! (though you must be reading our minds to know just exactly we are wishing for DVD release!)
'The French Sex Murders' is inevitably (like all good obscure cinema) not going to be to everyone's taste - on the other hand, SGM readers will no doubt love it, we certainly do! This is a prime example of what Mondo Macabro are all about, unleashing bizarre and jaw dropping niche market movies onto an unsuspecting but welcoming genre loving market. Essential Euro trash - order now!
Review by Alan Simpson
|Released by Mondo Macabro|
|see main review|