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Old 07-26-2006, 07:09 PM
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Murder Rock



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: July 26, 2006

Released by: Shriek Show
Release date: 7/11/2006
MSRP: $19.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes




inline ImageImagine Jennifer Beals, clad in knee high socks and a stretched grey sweater, dancing her heart out to prove the world she has the passion and she can make it happen. Then imagine her having her shirt viciously ripped off as a needle is fatally stabbed into her breast. That’s Murder Rock in a nutshell, Lucio Fulci’s hard to find conundrum of Flashdance and Suspiria. Not surprisingly also released as Slashdance, the film from the misogynist maestro is a bizarre blend between the eighties dance movie and old school giallo. Despite the notoriety of such a jarring premise, the film has remained unreleased in Region 1 for several years. Like they unearthed Lizard in a Woman’s Skin on DVD last year, Shriek Show is back again here to give Murder Rock the two-disc treatment. Does Fulci’s newest release dance off with the raves of his previous? Let’s find out.


The Story

inline Image After the first ten minutes of Murder Rock, you’d swear the film isn’t even remotely close to horror. First we have a shot of the beautiful New York skyline, then a Breakin’-esque montage kicks off in a glittering disco. A fish eye point of view shot follows with the intent of generating suspense, but with Keith Emerson’s poppy disco over the soundtrack, that is an impossible task. The point of view shot then leads us to another dance montage, this time at a studio filled with sweaty athletic women in leotards. It’s all eye candy, but remember kiddies, this is a giallo.

inline ImageThe film finally gets into what little plot it has at around the ten minute mark, where we learn that jealousy runs ripe at a competitive dance academy. Candice (Olga Karlatos) is a fallen dancer cum teacher who learns that a few of her students will be selected by Steiner & Morris, one of the top agencies in New York. She’s not the only one to know the secret however, as plenty of the troupes top dancers start succumbing to the attack of a vicious killer. Dressed in black leather, the killer strikes with a hairpin laced with poison, piercing it into the breasts of the nubile young dancers.

inline ImageBefore the murders even begin though, Candice begins to have premonitions of herself murdered by the pint-sized weapon. She sees the killer’s face, but is unable to identify him. When his face then appears on a billboard ad, she decides to track him down to find out the truth about her dreams. She finally meets her man, George (Ray Lovelock), and he proves to be every bit the suspect she predicted him to be. He’s been connected to some of the dead victims from previous relationships, and there are clues abound in his apartment. Will Candice be able to solve the case before her next dance is with death?

inline ImageI was first exposed to Murder Rock several years ago when a friend of mine lent me the discolicious soundtrack. I had always revered the Prom Night soundtrack as the pinnacle for dance floor soundtracks, and he suggested this as the next best thing. The suspense music generally falls flat, but Emerson hits some sort of disco magic with the second track. With a pulsing beat that seems fit for Fraggle Rock rather than Murder Rock, the track is like a fusion between “Safety Dance” and the menu selection screen from an old Sega Saturn game I used to play, Pebble Beach Golf Links. It is tough to really describe the aura of that song, but needless to say, I listened to it in loop for much of the summer. Since I hadn’t seen the film, I had endless fun trying to picture how a track as rollicking and pleasant could fit into a Fulci film. I hoped and hoped, that when I’d finally see the film, there would be a vicious eye gouging as Emerson’s track gleefully played on.

inline ImageAlas, the track came up at the 16:50 mark in the film to what was ultimately a throwaway dance scene. A shame. Yet, in the end, the track returns and Keith Emerson finally gets his justice. Candice stumbles upon a dark room filled with televisions, and as she enters the track kicks into high gear as all the televisions play footage of women gyrating. The sensory overload of Emerson’s pulsating beat and Maria Vittoria Tolazzi’s pulsating ass nearly causes her to collapse, in what has to be one of the only instances on film where a woman almost dies to disco. Edited with the typical Fulci madness of intercutting ECU’s that scene alone is everything I wanted Murder Rock to be, and more. He’s done some pretty insane stuff, but that might just be psychotic tour de force.

inline ImageAs for the entire film as a whole, it is actually better than it gets credit for. There is plenty of cheese to be had with all the dance sequences, but Fulci stages some really stylish murders throughout. Using the gimmick that when the academy closes the lights suddenly begin to pulse on and off, Fulci sets his first murder (and probably too many more) to the strobing of light and dark. It makes for a beautiful set piece, and while overused, it is Fulci at his stylish best. The early eighties is when Fulci was at his most experimental visually, from the foggy haze of Conquest to the kaleidoscope of color in New York Ripper. Murder Rock is in the same company, and like Conquest, its bizarre blending of genres makes for a unique viewing experience.

inline ImageThankfully for Murder Rock, Fulci downed the sleaze that plagued New York Ripper and upped the cheese, making for a lighter and overall more enjoyable slice of style than much of his more serious works. When you’re not marveling at Track 2, you’ll be laughing along at the wooden acting, excessive dancing and Fulci’s stubborn misogyny. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film of his where a character hasn’t called a woman a slut, or a woman hasn’t been punched. When it happens like clockwork in every film, and to disco no less, you can’t help but laugh at his unwaveringly hateful worldview. Laughs also come from the sound effects, wherein every time the killer pricks his victim, it makes this rough grinding sound, as if all dancer’s breasts were made of sand paper. With all the wooden acting and sand paper, you could probably make some really nice woodwork.

inline ImageThere is a lot to laugh at in Murder Rock, but there is also a lot to admire. Lucio Fulci was always one to beat to his own perverse drum, and his outlandish scripts and audacious visual eye always walked the line. Before Fulci would descend into lower budgets and direct to television fare, Murder Rock represents one of the final high points of his career. While it in no way compares to the legitimately great The Beyond¸ Don’t Torture a Duckling and Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, it remains nearly as watchable. Lucio Fulci was always crazy, and in Murder Rock he’s a maaaaniac, maaaaaaaaaniac on the dance floor.


Image Quality

inline ImageMurder Rock boogies down onto DVD in a lustrous 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The cinematography in the film is pretty standout, and it represented accurately here on DVD. The colors are very vibrant, the blue hues that overwhelm most of the film come out nice and cool. Black levels are good as well, and you get plenty of time to see them during all those strobe sequences. Details in faces and anything else Fulci renders in extreme close-up could look a little sharper, but at least grain is kept to a minimal. The print is very clean on the whole, and unlike Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, this is a transfer that is virtually without problem.

Sound

In what appear to be stereo tracks (who knows, Shriek Show never specifies anywhere on the package or in the menus) the film is presented in both English and Italian. Both films have some crackling that factor in throughout the film, although the English track is worse. Aside from the crackle though, the tracks are both nicely mixed, with the Italian coming out a little louder. Keith Emerson’s music is thankfully as vibrant as ever on these tracks and all the dialogue comes through clearly. There is even a bit of channel separation going on as well, particularly at the end during the crazy disco song of death montage. As televisions are shut off, the sound dynamics change, and it is actually quite impressive for a movie with such history as this. Nicely done, Shriek Show.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageTwo discs full of extras and nothing on Keith Emerson’s soundtrack? No bonus CD? Not even some menus with Track Two? Come on guys, is it really too much to ask for? That out of the way, what we have here is a fair dose of supplements for a film most probably wouldn’t think deserves them. Disc one has the usual bevy of Shriek Show trailers, although much of them are really enjoyable. The Murder Rock one is basically just a music video (yes!), while trailers for The Being and Witchery both make the films look much better than they seem to be. There is a bunch of Fangoria trailers on there as well, but who cares.

inline ImageThe real supplement on disc one is a commentary with cinematographer Giuseppe Pinori and moderator Federico Caddeo. The commentary is entirely in Italian, although subtitles are provided. This gives one the option of watching the film again with all the Emerson madness in tact, and with a pop-up video subtrack to boot! The commentary itself is pretty good, with Caddeo doing an effective job of getting Pinori to talk most of the track. Pinori can get too technical at times, but does remember a lot about the film and about collaborating with Fulci. Most interesting is probably his comparison of Fulci with Fellini of all people, saying how they both died in a time when Italian cinema no longer respected their type of cinema.

Disc two houses the majority of the video content, and there is a fair bit to go through. The biggest featurette is one on Fulci entitled “Tempus Fugit”. Although shorter than the usual Shriek Show doc at only 28 minutes, it is overall more enjoyable than most since all the speakers are succinct and filled with great insights and anecdotes on the master. A number of writers, directors and producers in the Italian film industry all chime in on Fulci, and while some haven’t even worked with him, they are still able to deconstruct his films amiably. Writer Antonio Tentori has the most interesting things to say about Fulci, putting his comedies in perspective with his other films, and offering insight into the surrealism and hyper-realist qualities of his work. Luigi Cozzi isn’t as congratulatory towards Fulci’s work, but understands the man and pertinently brings up the fact that irony was always something that completely alluded Fulci. Claudio Simonetti also throws in a few words, saying how he composed the entire score for Conquest without ever having met Fulci. Lots of good information here, and in an accessibly paced package.



inline Image inline Image inline Image




Next up are a couple “Portrait” featurettes, one with Giuseppe Pinori and the other with actor Ray Lovelock. Giuseppe begins his 14 minute interview dropping names of all the people he’s worked with, but then gets into more personal and tender waters when he talks about being the president of the Italian camera union and how he fought for member equality. Not entirely interesting, especially after having to sit through his commentary. Lovelock’s is little better. Also running 14 minutes, the featurette has Lovelock talk about his involvement with Umberto Lenzi and Ruggerio Deodato. He provides an overview of his not-so-impressive career, but does have pride in standing beside his career of B-movies with pride.

inline ImageLovelock gets to talk more in the “Ray Lovelock on Murder Rock” featurette. This one is 21 minutes, and it is more of the same, only longer. Lovelock is earnest, but just not really interesting. His responses to questions are all by the numbers. “Fulci was an accomplished director”, “New York was nice”, et cetera.

The second disc is rounded off with an incredibly bare photo gallery and a Blue Underground inspired Fulci trailer reel. Included on the reel are trailers for House of Clocks, The Sweet House of Horror, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Touch of Death, Zombi 3, City of the Living Dead, and Zombi 2. Ultimately, the Fulci featurette is the only real supplement of interest on this two-disc set, but for a film that’s been so long coming to DVD, you’ve got to admire Shriek Show’s effort.


Final Thoughts

Despite the initial cheese factor of melding Flashdance with a giallo plot, Murder Rock impresses with some stylish cinematography, a giddy synth soundtrack and some classic Fulci mania. It is probably one of the least gory films in his oeuvre, but after all the lowlife muck of New York Ripper, such reprieve is a blessing. Shriek Show has done a fine job with the presentation of the film, offering a cleaned up picture and effective English and Italian stereo tracks. Most of the extras on the two disc set are pretty forgettable, but the Fulci doc should please anyone interested in the artisan’s career. Here’s hoping Shriek Show can get a hold of some other forgotten Fulci gems like One on Top of the Other and Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes.

Rating

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


Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 32 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 2 Discs
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Stereo
  • Italian Stereo
  • English Subtitles
  • English Commentary Subtitles

Supplements
  • Commentary with cinematographer Giuseppe Pinori and moderator Federico Caddeo
  • "Tempus Fugit" documentary
  • "Portrait of Giuseppe Pinori" featurette
  • "Portrait of Ray Lovelock" featurette
  • "Lead actor Ray Lovelock on Lucio Fulci's Murder Rock" featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Fulci trailer gallery
  • Additional trailers

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Old 07-26-2006, 08:00 PM
Horny Spirit
Thorough review. I'm somewhat of a Fulci completist, so I do plan on picking this up eventually.

Rhett, I guess you're not a big fan of New York Ripper. I can understand people's problems with the sleaze and misogyny in that film, but I can't help but admit it that it's probably my favorite film from his twisted collection. Certainly not as clever as [I]The Beyond, but it really gives me the sense of NYC in the glory days of Travis Bickle.
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Old 07-26-2006, 08:53 PM
Dig me..but don't bury me
Thanks for another great review.
I'm no Fulci maniac but it's a Giallo so I'll definitely pick this one up
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Old 07-26-2006, 11:35 PM
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I just can't help but react to NEW YORK RIPPER on a gut level. It is like a gag reflex, no matter how much I admire (and I do) the cinematography and Fulci's direction, I can't get passed the overwhelmingly objectionable content. There aren't many movies that hit me like that (THE DEVILS EXPERIMENT, THE DEVILS REJECTS) but RIPPER is one that just doesn't sit well with me.

On a related note, Antonio Tentori, who is interviewed on the DVD, has a Donald Duck doll behind him (which is surreally in front of a poster for A CAT IN THE BRAIN).



Now that's a Fulci fan!
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Old 07-28-2006, 12:56 AM
I’m sure this is a great review. I don’t know because I haven’t read it.

I did read the first paragraph up to this line…

Quote:
Fulci’s hard to find conundrum of Flashdance and Suspiria
Which entirely sold me on this DVD. This is everything I need to know, in one sentence.

I hope it has breakdancing.
 
 
Old 09-11-2006, 01:01 PM
Peace, bitch
Notoriousaurus said it all. I can't believe I never saw this review until now! Slashdance? Soooold!
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