Review Date: January 4, 2010
Released by: Code Red
Release date: 8/11/2009
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
On paper, there isnít a whole lot of difference between slashers and gialli other than the continents where they were made. Both were violent, often sleazy, mysteries where the identity of the killer would be revealed in grandiose fashion during the finale after first forcing the viewer to engage in some first person voyeurism. In execution, though, the big difference between the two is the standard of quality. Simply put, the slasher had none. It was the cheapest way to break into the business in the early eighties, and thus the budgets were small, the cast and crew were inexperienced, and for every well lit film like Madman
or A Nightmare on Elm Street
, there were ten more like Shadows Run Black
, Psycho From Texas
, or Blood Massacre
that looked like they were mastered from 10th generation bootlegs of the last half of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
. The quality was always all over the place. With gialli, though, they were almost always done by artisan Italians and with internationally recognized casts. They had grand scores by Ennio Morricone, Goblin, Riz Ortolani or Bruno Nicolai. They had virtuoso camera moves, zooms and focus pulls, often all in the same shot. With gialli, you know you were getting top talent class, even if the plot revolved around murdering people with a giant wooden dildo.
Imagine my surprise then, when Code Red, the current kings of rough edged American exploitation, announced Weekend Murders
, the other half of a double feature with The Black Belly of the Tarantula
. This isnít low rent! This isnít American! It was shot in England by a crew of seasoned Italians. Somethingís afoulÖhow could this end up in the Code Red lineup? Even Ovidio G. Assonitisí Beyond the Door
was at least shot on pacific shores. I felt lead astray Ė like everything I had come to love about the House of Olsen was all a lie. And then I popped it inÖ
The story begins about as nonchalantly as any giallo could. A well-to-do officer pedals his bicycle quickly so he can take a quart of milk from the milkmanís truck. Donít worry though, he does it all the time, and after a sip he catches up to pay the driver. Phewf! And then we descend onto a lovely game of golf in the summer sun. The weather is beautiful, and a lady prepares to hit her ball out from a sand trap. She lines up, does a practice swing and digs her feet in for the shot. She swings, and then uncovers under the sand a rotting, severed hand. The camera pop zooms onto the hand. Reverse pop zoom back on her. Pop zoom in on her golf party. The sound of a gunshot. She screams. Pop zoom on the startled officer. Gunshot. Pop zoom . Gunshot, gunshot, gunshot. Epic orchestral end credit music roars on the soundtrack. Pop zoom. I definitely havenít seen this in a giallo beforeÖoh right, Code Red.
Flash back a bit, and several distant relatives and acquaintances are all gathered at a gothic manor for the reading of a will. All are expecting a big payday, but bitterness kicks in when it all goes to the deceasedís late life caregiver. This causes the young Aryan son to one of the vistors to slit his throat in the bathtub. Screams, gunshots, pop zooms and the classical theme. Then, ha, itís all just a prank. Somehow he had the means to not only rig a latex throat slit wound across his neck, but also line his body, the floor and bathtub all with fake blood. Tom Savini could have used this guy.
After that teaser people actually do start dying, and the bumbling constable starts poking around along with the Sherlock Holmesian detective. Naturally, itís the loon who ends up piecing together most of the plot, and by this point itís quite complex. The killer has been rigging a series of technological traps, sort of a Jigsaw precursor, with bullet timers and artificial recordings. Someone wants these people dead, but not even Agatha Christie could have predicted all the pop zooms, gunshot sounds, musical cacophony and rapid fire editing required to take us to conclusion. Kapow!
Released natively in Italy in 1970, Weekend Murders
has the benefit of coming so shortly after Dario Argentoís landmark The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
that it wasnít yet bound to the template that Argento basically made a genre requirement. As a result, Weekend Murders
is one of the few gialli to really just stray completely from the mark with cheeky slapstick, insanely all over the place plotting and an unhinged camera. Seriously, the propensity of pop zooms here makes Fulci look like Ozu. Itís so exaggerated it almost plays out as satire, but all the actors take the plot and the situations so serious that it couldnít possibly be. Plus, the giallo wasnít even really a term at this point. Looking back at this historically, it really is an odd piece of work.
Now, typically in Italian productions shot in English (and there are probably more examples of these than films natively shot in Italian), the English international stars all speak their own language. Not only that, but since the screenwriters and crew usually donít speak English, the cast often gets the opportunity to finesse dialogue and adlib scenarios. The cast here, especially the Sherlock-Watson police team, take it one step further, performing each scene as if it were its own breed of screwball comedy. While the lensing and scoring is all Italian, the dialogue is all cheeky British humor, and the two combined create quite the surreal experience.
Itís tough to really explain the kind of aura that Weekend Murders
exudes, but itís like two different films constantly against each other. The Brits want to talk it out with long, droll, situational humor, while the Italians behind the camera try to counter by fast visceral camera moves and music cues. One side is lobbing and the other side is smashing, but through all the confusion (and the way this plot is put together there is a ton of it) Weekend Murders
still manages an entertaining match. At the time it must have been so different, and today itís even more different still, with all the gialli made in the Argento mold making this film look even more of a lark. Itís a crazy little movie, right down to that escapist ending, and one that on second thought seems right at home with the likes of Boardinghouse
and Donít Go in the Woods
in Code Redís catalog. The Yellow meets Red for a film will all sorts of color.
This scope picture is presented 2.35:1 in anamorphic widescreen, progressively encoded. Colors look nice and saturated for the most part, and blacks hold deep and strong throughout. Being from Canada Iím always impressed with how rich the greens in the grass look over in the UK, and this transfer doesnít disappoint in all the golf and country vistas. There are a fair bit of white specs found throughout the transfer, and the optical sequences are a little rougher, but otherwise the print is in good shape with only a few momentary lapses in quality. A few times the colors donít match from shot to shot, like the reverse shots at around 7:10 that look green, while the other shots look pink. This happens a dozen or so times throughout Ė the whole thing could have used a fresh color timing. Overall, though, the pop zooms find a nice home with this transfer.
English and mono, the track has a light hiss throughout and some crackle every so often. Itís not totally flat, with that sprawling theme song coming through with fair resonance. Sound is preserved in full and everything is always very audible and properly mixed.
The supplements are familiar territory for those bred on Code Red: a commentary hosted by Scott Spiegel and Lee Christian, an actor interview and introduction, trailers and a still gallery. Peter Baldwin, sans mustache and a little greyer and a little balder, gives a short little introduction before the film. Then we move on to the commentary, with Spiegel, Christian and the actor/co-director Peter Baldwin. Baldwin is good and candid, and Christian does most of the talking in prodding from him details of the production. Baldwin details the convoluted romance history between many of those associated with the production, and as with everything Italian, somehow everything always falls back to Fellini. Baldwin also talks about his career in Hollywood, dishing out on a number of figures from Otto Preminger and Billy Wilder. This is a flowing, lively track throughout.
Baldwin also kicks around for an on-camera interview where he elaborates about all the actors and the relationships they had on set and after and illuminates a bit on the whole Italian film process. He speaks well and remembers much, and at 20 minutes itís a nice robust piece overall.
Like with other Code Red releases, we have a bunch of vintage trailers to look forward to as well. This time itís: Brute Corps
, Cheerleaders Wild Weekend
(maybe the best trailer I have ever seen), Doctor Death
(now a Scorpion title), The Statue
, Devilís Express
(with the grindhouse voice), Trapped
, Night Warning
, Sole Survivor
, and finally Stunt Rock
. That might be their best collection yet.
The disc is rounded off with a still gallery and the absolutely crazy theatrical trailer. Of note there are no chapter stops on this release. Considering horror films are usually strung together by notable murder sequences, not having chapters is definitely a bit of a deterrent.
is a crazy little English giallo, with cheeky British humor and wild cinematographic style. If youíve thought youíve seen it all when it comes to gialli, leave it to the trash connoisseurs at Code Red to dust off another complete curiosity from left field. The sound and the image are adequately presented, and the extras are of the usual personal quality that makes Code Red such an asset to the cult film scene. Not worth murdering for, but definitely worth a weekend watch.
Movie - C+
Image Quality - B
Sound - B
Supplements - B+
- Running time - 1 hour 38 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- English mono
- Commentary with actor Peter Baldwin and moderators Lee Christian and Scott Spiegel
- Introduction with Peter Baldwin
- On-camera interview with Peter Baldwin
- Still gallery
- Theatrical trailer
- Code Red trailers