Monday, 16 January 2017

Formula for a Murder (1985)


aka. 7, Hyden Park: la casa maledetta
Director: Alberto De Martino
Screenplay: Alberto De Martino and Vincenzo Mannino
Cast: Christina Nagy (as Joanna); David Warbeck (as Craig); Carroll Blumenberg (as Ruth); Rossano Brazzi (as Dr. Sernich); Andrea Bosic (as Father Peter); Loris Loddi (as Father Davis)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #71

Alberto De Martino is infamously known for The Pumaman (1980), a particularly infamous attempt to latch onto the Superman film boom with Donald Pleasance trying his best as the villain and some of the most cumbersome flying sequences ever to grace a film. Other films show however De Martino was better than that film, and from the beginning Formula for a Murder is a lot more interesting. The only issue is that, like the other films of his I've seen, I can't particularly shout praises to Formula for a Murder either as it's not that spectacular.

A psycho thriller whose plot can be found in multiple languages in many films, a wealthy paraplegic woman Joanna (Christina Nagy) marries her sports coach Craig (David Warbeck) only for an issue related to her childhood to be a potential threat to her. A childhood trauma of being raped by a man posing as a priest not only lead to her physical disability but a heart condition that could kill her if the painful memories of the incident were ever to be evoked, which someone is attempted to capitalise on as she starts to see a faceless priest figure carrying a bloodied doll enter places when no one else is there.

The result's a giallo potboiler that can find its routes in countless inheritance based murder stories and Gaslight (1940), whilst Joanne's best friend and assistance Ruth (Carroll Blumenberg) starts to act in a very suspicious way, or is at least jealous of her friend's marriage with Craig. Giallos' are very subjective in whether they count in the horror genre or not, murder mysteries first which were so prolific in a short period of time and with films being made still after that boom period that they bleed into multiple sub-genres, this one qualifiable in horror as it evokes a supernatural tone with Joanne's trauma and the level of gore, shown upfront in the opening scene when a man goes into a confessional booth at a Catholic Church with intentions of slitting the priest's throat. There's also the reoccurring dream which shows the extent of Joanne's trauma, a surreal one involving a rolling ball, a wheelchair that stops working properly and a priest seemingly pushing her along for no reason that stands as the more interesting moments in the whole film.

The real issue with Formula for a Murder is that it's too conventional as a giallo to stand out. Played too straight, it's a case of where giallo's tendency to go on a few gnawled tangents, even if the plot becomes difficult to grasp, would've done the story greater favour. The one virtue that does make the film worth seeing once, barring the aforementioned dream sequences, is just David Warbeck by himself. While dubbed with what doesn't sound like his voice at all, he's a figure who stands out just from having done these Italian genre films by a charisma that you can't help as a viewer but appreciate. While as much memorable witnessing the surreal horrors in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981), it's as much how he's able to brush off the more sillier roles he's had in Italian genre cinema without issue, the yellow mack raincoat he has to eventually wear in this film not phasing him at all, especially as he chews the scenery in the last bloody act with gusto. As a film though, Formula for a Murder's definitely one of the least interesting giallos I've seen sadly.  


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