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Old 11-03-2007, 10:23 PM
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Default Psychic, The



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: November 3, 2007

Released by: Severin
Release date: 11/13/2007
MSRP: $29.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1



inline ImageWell, here we areÖthe last of Fulciís acclaimed gialli is now on Region 1 DVD. The Psychic (or as it should be known, Seven Notes in Black) was Fulciís last giallo before he moved onto the more traditional gross out horror of Zombie, after which heíd never look back. Severin released his first giallo, Perversion Story (or, again, how it should be known, One on Top of the Other), so it seems only fitting that they now release his last. After this, there are only bastard offerings from other genres, like his White Fang films, and perhaps most notoriously, his epic Beatrice Cenzi. It may be a hunt to find some of Anchor Bayís out of print releases, but completists can now be happy knowing that all his horror classics now have a home in North America. So here we are now, with The Psychic. Since Iíve enjoyed all of Fulciís previous gialli, Iím predicting Iíll like it. Letís check the forecast.

The Story

inline ImageNever one to shy away from death, Fulci begins The Psychic with a stylish suicide. Modeled after the famous cliffside death in [b]Donít Torture a Duckling, a woman jumps from the edge, her face pummeled along the rocks. Fulci of course shows it all, so take it in, because you wonít see another like that until the finale. It turns out the deceased woman was mother to the now married Virginia Ducci (Jennifer OíNeill). Virginia is making a trip back to the countryside her rich husband possesses, but as she ventures through a tunnel (one of psychologyís most vaunted symbols) she has a vision. She sees another woman, dead and buried behind a wall. A mirror smashed. A cigarette lit. An ominous red light. She canít quite piece it all together, but something is awry.

inline ImageHow did she get this vision? Was it something she suppressed from her past, or was this a genuine example of psychic phenomena? She finds the place in her dreams, and sure enough, a body is encased in the wall. The dead woman in her dreams was of 50, but this one is apparently 25. How could she make such a miscalculation? Working with detective Luca Fattori (Marc Porel), she goes over all the things she saw, but the further they look into it, the less concrete her story seems. She had visions of a watch, one that played seven notes (in black), but sheís yet to ever see that watch. When someone gives it to her days later, her fate finally becomes clear.

inline ImageVirginia is a clairvoyant. The visions she saw were not of the past, but instead the future. The mirror she saw smashed is not yet that way, and if all this is true, then that means there is to be yet another body in that small bedroom tomb. But whose? Every hour, on the hour, her watch plays that famous little tune, and with each passing hour she gets closer and closer to her destiny. Itís fate, itís preordained, itís murder. Will Virginia piece together the case in enough time, or will that stroke of midnight be her overture of death?

inline ImageCompared to Fulciís fantastic A Lizard in a Womanís Skin and his other gialli, this is by all accounts more tame, yet The Psychic still entertains. After the wild start, with both the suicide and Virginiaís surreal dreams, the movie regresses into your standard police procedural for nearly an hour. Not much happens, other than a barrage of facts, but even through that there are flourishes of Fulciís style that make the neverending exposition at least somewhat bearable. Fulciís visceral pop zooms to highlight the intensity of the action, like when Virginia digs her way to the corpse, are in full effect with every swing. The camera swoops around normally trite dialogue exchanges. While thereís no question Fulci was still the master of using the camera, his set pieces here are not nearly as interesting as the majority of his other films. Yet he prevails.

inline ImageJust when the exposition gets to be too much, Fulci turns it on for a thrilling thirty minute finale. The lights go out, the shadows come, and Jennifer OíNeill runs a marathon through one atmospheric set piece to the next. All the exposition begins to finally pay off, with a few satisfying twists and developments. For all the talk (penned by meticulous mystery writer and Argento collaborator, Dardano Scchetti), Fulci is actually best when thereís none at all, following his heroine through one silent dreamscape after another. Then the glorious theme emanates from her watch, those titular seven notes in black (and the ones that Tarantino would famously hijack to make O-Ren Ishiiís theme in Kill Bill), and you realize once again what Fulci was all about. The chatter was only a vessel to get to the poetry of music and vision. His resolve happens to only the sound of music, and as one of his most subtle finales, itís also one of his best.

Image Quality

inline ImageYou can always count on a cleaned up transfer from any producer under the Ryko ring, and Severinís work here is no exception. Other than your usual dusty optical effects, this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is virtually spot free of blemish, and looks fairly sharp. The film has kind of a boring brown tone to it, so donít expect it to jump off the screen, but at least it has been accurately preserved. There are a few moments where horizontal lines noticeably distort the picture, most noticeably around the 80 minute mark, making the film seem as if it were sourced from a tape. Itís an interlaced transfer, and it very well could be from some tape master, but still, for the most part it is a quality job. Not the best, but considering itís finally out and presentable, thatís all that matters.

Sound

What? What?! Yeah, you are going to have to turn this up reaaaaaal loud. This is one of the quietest DVDs Iíve ever heard. I had to turn my receiver up to nearly 80% just to make all the dialogue audible. Obviously, at that level, thereís going to be a significant hiss to the proceedings, which makes the already quiet dialogue even tougher to decipher. The decision to use this English mono transfer over the Italian was correct, since all of OíNeillís lines are in English, as are the majority of the other actors. The decision not to remaster it in some presentable manner though, is a gross miscalculation. Considering how iconic the score is, the way Severin dropped the ball here is a big disappointment.

Update: Recognizing that there was a serious problems with the audio levels on the test discs, Severin has thankfully redone the soundtrack for the version that will be hitting store shelves soon. I've had a chance to listen and compare, and I can confirm that the levels in this new DVD are much more presentable. It's at least a good 10 dB louder than the previous track, so thankfully everything can now be heard without cranking the sound up too much. Still though, the hiss is still prominent and you never forget this is an old track. The volume has been improved, but the track itself remains without a proper remaster. I can now give the sound a pass, no problem, but this is still far from the kind of polished audio that's found on similar discs from Blue Underground and Anchor Bay.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageOther than a trailer, we get the 30-minute ďVoices From the BlackĒ, a featurette with interviews from co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, costume designer Massimo Lentini and editor Bruno Micheli. The entire piece is a montage of clips from the film, since all the interviews were conducted by phone. Once you overlook that, itís actually a pretty revealing look at how Fucli worked with his collaborators, to varied results. Micheli and Lentini have nothing but fond memories for the man, even if they do say he was hard to work for at times. Sacchetti, though, clearly has resentment, accusing Fulci of exploiting his collaborators only to take full credit himself. Fulci gets first credit for the screenplay, yet Sacchetti affirms that he didnít write a word. Sacchetti also talks about the origin of the story and title, further illustrating why The Psychic should never have been used as a title. Sacchetti refers to the film as ďSeven Notes in BlackĒ, referring specifically to how Fulci loved the title. Why, then, Severin would opt with the far less poetic (and ultimately more spoiler-worthy title), is a mystery.

Final Thoughts

My prediction was correct: I enjoyed The Psychic for what itís worth. Does that, too, make me psychic? The film isnít Fulciís strongest, but the start and end both have that quiet, gory poetry we know and love Fulci for. The image is for the most part good, save for a few odd bits of distortion. The sound has some hiss, but Severin saw fit to fix the previous amplitude issues on their test discs, so the official release is at least perfectly audible. The included featurette further expands on the mystery around the maestro. Fulci fans need this, for sure, and giallo fans should get a few kicks out of the twists too. If youíre not already sold on Fulci, though, this wonít convince you otherwise.

Rating

Movie - B
Image Quality - B+
Sound - C+
Supplements - B-


Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 36 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English mono

Supplements
  • "Voices From the Black" featurette

Other Pictures

 

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Old 11-04-2007, 07:05 AM
I love this film classic Fulci!!!!!!!!!! Great Review as always!
 
 
Old 12-13-2007, 08:54 PM
Dig me..but don't bury me
Will you be revisiting this one when the corrected version arrives?
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Old 12-14-2007, 10:35 PM
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The sound and final thoughts sections have been updated to reflect the new audio track.
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:34 AM
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Caught this one tonight. Good flick, and good review Rhett.....EXCEPT....you give away the most compelling plot point!! It seems odd I have to spoiler tag it, since you were blatant about it, but I'm talking about the fact that
Spoiler:
the visions were of the future, not the past
.

Maybe you should change that?

Oh, and I swore the young Virginia was played by Nicoletta Elmi, but IMDB says it was not.
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Old 12-26-2007, 08:10 PM
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I didn't think it was much of a secret, given that the title of the film is THE PSYCHIC. Since it was either that she was remembering these events from her past, or seeing them in the future, and with the title it should be pretty easy to gage which is which.
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Old 12-30-2007, 10:30 AM
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Well, let's remember that the REAL title is Seven Notes in Black, not The Psychic. Additionally, the first half of the film is about Virginia tying her visions to what she's found, indicating that even she believes that what she's seen is the past (she doesn't spend any time trying to PREVENT the events of her vision from happening, because she thinks it's all already ocurred).

I'm kinda glad that I only skimmed your review before seeing the movie, as that revelation was an interesting twist to me.
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