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Let’s begin this review with a brief film history lesson. Giallo
(Italian for “yellow”) is a film subgenre spawned from pulp mystery novels with
yellow covers. Over time, several key traits of these movies developed, like the
sacred black-gloved hand, bright red blood, sexualized victims and very
theatrical lighting, colors, and style. These films quickly shifted from simply seedy mystery
stories into gory whodunits and then into the full-out gorefests that most
people associate with greats like Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. The gialli took inspiration from U.S. directors like the legendary Alfred Hitchocock
while also serving as a predominant influence on American slasher films.
OK, pencils down and back to the review. Raro Video has
rereleased BODY PUZZLE, directed by Lamberto Bava, son of Mario (one of the
fathers of the giallo subgenre). This film was originally released in 1992, so
it’s questionable whether it can be associated with the trend’s original heyday
from the 1960s-’80s or functions more as a retro throwback to the subgenre.
Regardless, it is a perfectly framed example of giallo executed brilliantly,
with a small dose of cheesy fun tossed in for good measure.
BODY PUZZLE stars Joanna Pacula as Tracy, a wealthy widow
who seems to be at the center of a series of murders involving her late
husband’s donated organs. The recipients of these organs are being brutally
killed, and the parts are somehow finding their way back into Tracy’s house.
Moody and malevolent, the film relies heavily on a classical soundtrack to
provide tone and atmosphere. Some of the music was composed by Carlo Maria
Cordio, who scored many gialli (including some of Fulci’s), but for the most
part, the audience is bombarded with Moussorgsky’s “A Night on Bald Mountain,”
which is played anytime there is a remote chance of suspense. It’s so pounding
and loud, I found myself having to turn the TV down several times so my
neighbors wouldn’t think I was having some type of witches’ sabbath in my living
Not familiar with “A Night on Bald Mountain”? Think back to
Disney’s FANTASIA. Remember the scene with the devil on the mountain calling
all of the ghosts and witches? It probably scared the shit out of you as a
child. Yeah, it’s that music. “A Night on Bald Mountain” is beyond disturbing,
and when applied to suspense-laden organ harvesting in BODY PUZZLE, it becomes
This movie does not pull any punches. As the killer hunts
down the assorted parts, the viewer is fully privy to eyes being gouged, hands
getting hacked off and ears being sliced, all with full giallo-style bright red
bloody ooze. Yet, oddly enough, the most disturbing scene is one set in a
swimming pool—not for the pounding music or the fate of the swimmer, but the
simple framing and placement used to show the slasher in the water. You have to
see it to understand it, but this may replace JAWS as the source of my biggest
My only complaint with BODY PUZZLE lies with the ending. It
becomes a little convoluted and confusing as the true nature of the killer and
victims is revealed. There are twists on top of twists, and by the time the
final one was unveiled, I was a bit bewildered about who was who and how
everyone was related. Well, not so much bewildered as in disbelief that such a
complex and intricately coiled course of events and psychological issues could
play out with such precision. Despite some cheesy moments, though, this is
still a damn good movie.
Unfortunately, this DVD edition does not contain any special
features, though it does sport a fantastic transfer, capturing all the film’s
beauty and low-key/high-contrast lighting with sharp detail. The package also
features a sweet insert with a history of the movie written by none other than
FANGORIA’s own editor-in-chief Chris Alexander.
DVD/ Blu-ray Reviews
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