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October 25, 2012

The Italian Horror Blogathon: Autopsy

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Macchie solari
Armando Crispino - 1975
Blue Underground Region 1 DVD

Autopsy is over the top within its first few minutes, and as such, is something of a masterpiece of excess and dubious taste. The only part of the film where Armando Crispino shows some restraint is in the gore, but that's almost like describing an overcooked meal that spilled out of the pot and onto the stove and part of the floor, but at least didn't splatter the entire kitchen. What may make some viewers nostalgic is that Autopsy was made during an era when everybody got naked on screen, not just those corpses that poor Mimsy Farmer is examining, but Mimsy in all her skinny glory, as well as Barry Primus and Ray Lovelock.

Farmer is an intern at a Rome hospital, doing a thesis comparing real suicides with those those deaths that are made to appear like suicides. It's summertime, and apparently the sun is driving a lot of people crazy, so crazy that they kill themselves rather than spend a few bucks on a decent fan. Dr. Mimsy has her hands full checking those who've checked themselves out. In those days when sexual harassment was dismissed as "boys being boys", Dr. Mimsy also has to fight off the advances of a goofy looking associate. Even worse, Dr. Mimsy thinks she sees the dead come alive, and at least a couple of those reanimated corpses have the hots for each other. Some of these characters are both the naked and the dead.

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Even getting together with stud muffin photographer/race car driver Ray Lovelock offers little relief, when she starts seeing dead people, leaving poor Ray a bit frustrated. A young lady, Betty, appears at Dr. Mimsy's door very late, an acquaintance of her philandering father. Betty is next seen on a beach chair, barely recognizable from shooting off part of her face. It turns out that Betty's brother is a priest, played by Barry Primus. Father Barry is a hot headed, epileptic, former race car driver. Even when Father Barry's spirituality is questionable, the way he whips Dr. Mimsy's car through the streets of Rome makes the locals look like Sunday drivers.

Armando Crispino isn't the stylist like Dario Argento or even someone like Sergio Martino, but the movie moves along at such a nice clip that any plot holes are easily ignored. The most discomforting scene takes place in a place described as a criminal museum, full of statues of various malefactors, and giant images of distorted and mutilated bodies. There is also the wonderfully nutty scene of Dr. Mimsy defending herself against the harasser with nothing but a dinner fork conveniently left in the autopsy room. In a scene where Crispino wants to remind viewers that he has the female star of Four Flies on Grey Velvet, there's a weird science moment when Mimsy's paralyzed father wears a pair of goggles attached to some electronic device, and blinks a partial clue.

Because it was the law at that time, the music is by Ennio Morricone. The beginning part is very uncharacteristic, the kind of music that might have been called experimental, very similar to the atonal compositions by Gyorgy Ligeti. There is also a theme more expected from Morricone, a plaintive oboe based melody. The literal title of the film is "sun spots". Crispino begins, ends, and periodically cut away to solarized shots of the sun. My only familiarity with Armando Crispino is with a war movie, Commandos starring Lee Van Cleef and former "Maverick" television star, Jack Kelly. Like several of Crispino's other films, this was cowritten by Lucio Battistrada. More significantly, another writer on this 1968 film was a young guy named Dario Argento.

For a gialli time, Kevin Olson is hosting the Italian Horror Blogathon at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 25, 2012 08:06 AM


Wow. This sounds wacky. I need to see this ASAP. This one sounds like it has a lot of the elements that can make Italian horror such a fun subgenre to watch. That last screenshot you posted is just hilarious. I love Mimsy Farmer, especially in the extremely underrated The Perfume of the Lady in Black. Thanks for contributing, Peter. I really appreciate your interest in this blogathon each year. Now, I'm off to corral a copy of Autoposy.

Posted by: Kevin J. Olson at October 25, 2012 01:11 PM

Always looking forward to this blogathon, and glad to participate, Kevin.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at October 26, 2012 10:10 AM