Directed by Filippo Walter Ratti
Corrado Gaipa, Isabelle Marchall, Roberto Zattin, Gaetano Russo, Annie Karole Edel, Adler Gray, Beppe Colombo, Patrizia Gori, Rino Bellini, Ambrogio Molteni, Sergio Orsi, Claudio Peticchio
Time for me to sit down with another obscure little giallo – more specifically an obscure little low-budget effort named Crazy Desires of a Murderer from director Filippo Walter Ratti, who is probably best remembered for his stylish gothic horror movie The Night of the Damned (1971).
The plot plays out in a crumbling old castle and we are introduced to a beautiful young upper class girl named Ileana De Chablais (Isabelle Marchall) as she returns to her massive family estate after a trip to China. With her she has brought her old friends Frank (Beppe Colombo), Gretel (Adler Gray) and Elsa (Patrizia Gori), as well as two more recent acquaintances, Bobby (Gaetano Russo) and Pier Luigi (Roberto Zattin). Ileana’s father, an old, wheelchair-bound baron, is an antiques lover, so Ileana has brought some collectible Chinese vases for him. But unbeknownst to Ileana, Bobby and Pier Luigi have hidden a stash of opium in the vases, which went through the customs with no problems thanks to Ileana’s wealth and connections. Apparently, Pier Luigi owes a lot of money to a couple of nasty drug dealers and they are threatening to kill him unless he pays up quickly.
Ileana and her friends arrive at the castle
The precious Chinese vases
It doesn’t take long before the young friends start to engage in an evening of wild partying and a bit of kinky bed-hopping. But in the middle of the night, a mysterious killer sneaks into Elsa’s bedroom and stabs her to death. He then proceeds to carve out her eyeballs.
Elsa’s gruesome demise
Soon afterwards, a peculiar police inspector (Corrado Gaipa) arrives to investigate the murder and he decides to take residence at the estate until he is able to unmask the killer. There is certainly no shortage of prospective killers but the number one suspect is Ileana’s younger brother Leandro, a disturbed young man who is mute due to a childhood trauma and who prefers to stay hidden in the basement where he can practice his taxidermist hobby. The rest of the suspects are made up of Ileana and her friends, as well as Hans, the sinister butler; Dr. Olsen, the equally sinister family physician, and Bertha (Annie Karole Edel), the faithful but horny housekeeper who seems to be getting it on with everyone.
The creepy taxidermist brother gives Gretel a good scare
Made at the height of the giallo craze in the early 1970s, Crazy Desires of a Murderer was plagued by a long and complicated release history and it continues to languish in obscurity to this day. It was filmed circa late 1972 or early 1973 but for whatever reason it was put on the shelf for several years. However, a photo-novel version was published in the magazine Cinesex Mese in June 1973 under the title Gli occhi verdi della morte (translation: The green eyes of death). Presumably, this was the film’s original title and it is most likely in reference to the half-witted taxidermist brother whose sinister green eyes are given enough close-ups to make Lucio Fulci proud.
The cover for the rare photo novel version of the film
A sample scan from the photo-novel showcasing Elsa’s gory fate
The green eyes alluded to in the photo-novel title
The film remained on the shelf for three years until it was submitted to the Italian censorship board and obtained a censorship visa in May 1976. It was now cleared for theatrical release but somehow it still took nearly one more year before the film finally premiered in April 1977. By now, the whole giallo craze had died down and this is probably why it was released under the title I vizi morbosi di una governante (translation: The morbid vices of a housekeeper), which sounds more like a sexploitation flick than a giallo. The film’s housekeeper does admittedly get it on with several of the male characters but this title nevertheless fails to really convey what type of film this is. In any case, it did poorly at the Italian box office. An English-dubbed version was never prepared and the film received very little release outside of Italy.
The titular housekeeper with morbid vices
In 1996, the film was rescued from obscurity by British video company Redemption Film, which issued it on VHS under the title Crazy Desires of a Murderer - in Italian with English subtitles. Redemption’s release featured a good-looking widescreen print but, unfortunately, 5 seconds of an eyeball carving was removed at the insistence of the Britsh Board of Film Classification. And once again the film fared poorly as Redemption apparently only sold around 150 copies.
The reasons for the film’s lack of success may initially seem puzzling as the plot sounds quite promising. It has most of the ingredients needed to make an enjoyable giallo but, unfortunately, it falls rather flat in its execution. Ambrogio Molteni's meandering script is probably the biggest problem. Molteni’s storytelling is annoyingly unfocused as he spends far too much time on the boring subplot about Pier Luigi’s troubles with the drug dealers he owes money to. In fact, the plot is full of irrelevant details that are brought up only to be dropped a few minutes later. Characterization is kept at a strictly rudimentary level (if that) and the characters display a surprising lack of interest in the fact that someone among them is a killer, although it’s possible that the many disinterested faces are simply a reflection of the actors’ lack of interest in the material. Not helping matters any is the sluggish pacing as well as Filippo Walter Ratti’s often lifeless direction.
But in spite of these faults, Crazy Desires possesses a quirky atmosphere that is strangely compelling in its own weird way, and it does feature a couple of notable plus points. The strongest card is probably Corrado Gaipa as the wry, old police inspector who walks with a limp. Gaipa, who appeared in everything from The Godfather (1972) to nazisploitation trash like The Red Nights of the Gestapo (1977), is a fine character actor and he puts in a good performance as the peculiar Columbo-style inspector. Piero Piccioni's moody score is another great asset, and the camerawork is not bad either - capturing some pretty stylish images along the way.
The excellent Corrado Gaipa as the peculiar police inspector
Stylish camerawork in the creepy basement
Another stylish shot - of the killer with the murder weapon in hand. Notice how the gloves are actually white for a change!
With the exception of Corrado Gaipa’s inspector, the actors are not really given much opportunity to shine but petite, catty-eyed French starlet Isabelle Marchall, who also appeared in the much better giallo The Crimes of the Black Cat (1972) and in the original Black Emanuelle (1975), is very cute and appealing as Ileana, and the lovely Patrizia Gori is always a pleasure to watch even though she is under-used in the role of the ill-fated Elsa. Marchall and Gori feature prominently in one of the film's most enjoyable scenes, which occurs during a salacious party game where some of the characters are mimicking movie scenes while the others try to guess the name of the movie. Marchall and Gori get down on the floor and start kissing and caressing each other, while the others are having a hard time guessing the right movie. “All movies have scenes like that now!”, one of them complains before another is finally able to guess that the movie in question is Alberto Cavallone's Le salamandre (1969), the first Italian lesbo-erotic film and a huge box office success. A very funny in-joke that gives the film extra points in my book.
Your typical Italian party game
The graphic eyeball removals are pretty well-done and provide some much-needed visceral thrills. It's just too bad that the film doesn't have more scenes of bloodletting or graphic sex because it could have livened up the proceedings and made up for the slow pacing. As it turns out, Ratti did actually shoot some very graphic and kinky sex scenes for the film but, unfortunately, they were deemed too extreme by the censors and thereby removed. Fortunately, these “naughty” sequences are present in photo-novel version printed in Cinesex Mese, so let’s have a look at what we are missing out on.
Firstly, the sex scene between Isabelle Marchall and Gaetano Russo is considerably more detailed than the brief sequence seen in the film. As seen in these scans, the session originally included cunnilingus:
...and some doggie style action:
Even more regrettable, however, are the cuts made to the sex scene between Patrizia Gori and Roberto Zattin. In the film, Zattin gets a kinky idea when he notices a big candle next to the bed and he proceeds to light it and start shaping it into a dildo while Gori grins and licks her lips in anticipation.
But just as Gori turns over on her stomach and things are about to get more interesting, the scene cuts away. In the photo-novel, however, the scene goes much further as Zattin proceeds to fuck Gori with the burning candle while calling her a whore:
Love Italian style
The reason why these “forbidden” scenes are left intact in the photo-novel is because it was customary for the photo-novel publishers to receive copies of the films before they were sent to the censor board and any cuts were imposed. Hence, a lot of the photo-novels printed in the likes of Cinesex, Cinestop, Bigfilm and Topfilm feature racy scenes that are not present in the release version of the films. This is the case with The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (1971), Frankenstein 80 (1972) and Sex of the Witch (1973) just to mention a few. But because there is so much else going on in those films, the removal of a few naughty bits doesn’t hurt them as badly as it does Crazy Desires. If there was ever a film that could truly benefit from the restoration of censored scenes then it is surely this one!
In the end I must say that Crazy Desires of a Murderer is not a very good film but nevertheless I find myself being fascinated by it. Maybe its troubled release history is why it appeals to me as I do find things like that very interesting. To be honest I’m not entirely sure of the reason as this is one of those films whose appeal is extremely hard to pinpoint. I cannot in good conscience recommend this film but I do think that true giallo fans should give it a shot.
© 2011 Johan Melle
Corrado Gaipa as The Police Inspector
Isabelle Marchall as Ileana De Chablais
Roberto Zattin as Pier Luigi La Rocca
Gaetano Russo as Bobby Heston
Annie Karole Edel as Bertha, the housekeeper
Adler Gray as Gretel Schanz
Beppe Colombo as Frank Hoffmann
Patrizia Gori as Elsa Leiter
??? as Hans, the butler
??? as Leandro
??? as Baron De Chablais
??? as Dr. Olsen
??? as Moretti, the inspector's assistant