Touch of Death

Good-natured isn’t exactly the right word for a movie which features a chainsaw mutilation pre-credit roll, but Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death is an easy-going, almost casual serial killer flick and a film which (probably for the best) doesn’t take itself too seriously.

As to whether Fulci himself took his work as seriously at the time of this production is a question unto itself, as the Godfather of Gutmunchers, who’d ridden high in the saddle for the much of the 80s, was starting to see his creative lights fade.

With release issues, Touch of Death (aka, Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio – when Alice broke the Mirror) languished in pre-production purgatory, finally seeing daylight at a time when Il Maestro’s creative decline matched horror’s Golden Era home-plate slide into the dreadful 90s (Touch of Death came out in 1988, along with the likes of Child’s Play, Waxwork, Night of the Demons and Killer Klowns from Outer Space, a great year all things considered before things took a turn for the worse)

Here, Lester Parson (played by sleaze/genre vet Brett Halsey) is a cannibal deviant divorcee who lives on a sprawling villa and feeds his vics to pigs. Parson suffers delusions that he’s been communicated with privately through radio dispatches, and spends his days wooing (and bedding) what in today’s politically correct times could still be referred to as “mature women.”

Halsey’s performance carries the day here, and it’s easy to believe disaffected society women would be charmed by the likes of Lester, who’s a dancing, sweet-talking, crustacean dinner-fashioning gallant.

Put into the context of Fulci’s other work, sure, there’s no contest: Touch of Death will never been up there (or as Fulci critics might have it, “down there”) with the likes of the incredible Zombi, City of the Living Dead or The Beyond). However, with touches of gallows humor, (including the protracted demise of an amateur opera diva), and some unintentional hilarity courtesy of TV journalism, Touch of Death brings the goods.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Touch of Death]

The Psychic

Fulci-lite, is like lite-beer. Still a beer. And as such still enjoyable. The Psychic, aka, Sette note in nero (Seven Notes in Black) has that usual bit of Italian flare, wobbly-pop narrative and other-wordly dreamscapes that make these kinds of flicks enjoyable.

Virginia has psychic visions, stemming from girlhood when she has a harrowing hallucination of her mother plummeting off the white cliffs of Dover. These carry on to present day Florence, where she has a premonition of a body stuffed into a wall, the corpse of an elderly woman. When the “Carabinieri” start poking their noses around, they do find the deceased, however it’s the skeleton of a 25-year old.

The boys in blue implicate Virginia’s husband, Gianni, a Lothario who once dated the woman, but more damningly, it was in his fixer-upper house and behind his drywall, that the victim was stashed.

Dutiful Virginia teams up with Gianni’s sister Gloria, to put together a case to spring Gianni from the joint (this being the Italian justice system, Amanda Knox and all, one can’t be too careful. As Gianni puts it, re: a body found on his premises…”here it takes so little” [assumption of guilt]).

And it’s through her Virginia’s visions that clues unfold…a yellow cab, driven by a guy who ferried the deceased around on that fateful night, accompanied by another Lothario, an arts expert, Professor Rospini. Perhaps it was he did the nasty deed and who wanted to shut up a young paramour and prevent the missus from finding out? He certainly has a more viable motive.

The Psychic features some absolutely incredible music, written in part by genre heavy Fabio Frizzi, with a particularly foreboding piece being the alarm for a watch Gloria gives to Virginia.

With very mild gore, there are still enough Fulci touches to sate the masses. This was two years before the inestimable Zombi 2, and the classics he ripped out in the early 80s like The Beyond and City of the Living Dead.

***1/2 (out of 5)