Saturday, October 29, 2016

Amuck (1972)

Pretty much everything I've reviewing for October so far this year has had a similar theme of monster get-togethers (Ghost in the Invisible Bikini almost sorta technically counts, because it's at least got a spooky haunted mansion, Boris Karloff, and a gorilla). With that being the case, you may be wondering why I'm looking at a random 70's giallo. Well that's because it contains graphic sex scenes featuring Rosalba Neri and Barbara Bouchet!!!!! Need I say more? I think not...

A woman named Greta has just applied for the position of secretary to a somewhat controversial crime writer. It becomes apparent that the last woman in this post vanished under mysterious circumstances, and as it turns out, Greta isn't just a new secretary stumbling across the foul play that befell the previous one. She's actively investigating what happened to the woman she's replacing, who was a dear friend. Greta searches for clues in the estate, while trying to to fall under the sway of either Stewart, or his sultry lady friend Eleanora, and evading their seeming attempts on her life...

More of a suspense-thriller ala Hitchcock than a traditional blood-soaked giallo, but replete with much of the sleaziness the genre contained, Amuck (also known as Leather and Whips, despite featuring neither whips or leather) is a decent flick. It's by no means great, but it's watchable, and never boring. It also wastes no time in getting to the steamy sex scenes, and while I cannot complain, there is just a *teensy* bit of a problem with jumping right into that stuff after only 14 minutes. Too little build-up! I suppose it's to be expected though, this being the 70's, the time when underwear was for chumps, and the only thing it took for straight women to be into girls was the soundtrack*.

*Yeah, the lead turns out to be bi or gay (the previous secretary possibly being a girlfriend, or at least a lover), but we don't know that when Eleanora sexes her up 5 minutes into the movie.

The villains are well-written, and it' effective seeing Stewart's mind game, with his 'latest novel' he's dictating to her (through tape) recounting the events of the previous secretary's death. There's also potentially the psychic scene, which some people criticize for being out-of-nowhere and never brought up again, but I find it makes total sense if it's just Stewart and Eleanora messing with Greta. It's just a shame the couple's more S&M aspects aren't explored as much as they should've been.

Now to the less well-handled aspects of Amuck, namely the lead's intelligence, or lack thereof. Despite knowing of Stewart and Eleanora's crimes right from the beginning, Greta still somehow manages to have sex with both evildoers! I of course have no problem with the first time this happens (with Rosalba Neri), because of course I don't! The one with Farley Granger's character though? Nope, that's too stupid for the lead, especially when it's in the last 15 minutes of the movie! It paints her in a very poor light.

Next is how the film then decides in the last quarter to go the baffling route of suddenly positing that Stewart is actually innocent, and he and Greta seem to fall in love. What? On reflection, this could be made to work, but only if Greta never suspected either party of foul play at first, or only Stewart. The fact that she suspected them both means a twist that Eleanora is the killer is signposted right from the beginning, rather than being a surprise. Putting that aside though, there's a bigger problem tied to this new direction the story follows, and that's how it's pretty infuriating that after almost an hour-and-a-half of building him up to be the villain, we're suddenly told he's innocent after all. Soooo, what, the cat-and-mouse mind games, watching rape films, as well as drugging Greta was all just fine and dandy? This reveal makes a huge chunk of the movie feel like wasted time......However it does turn out that he was evil all along. Uhh, spoilers for the plot point that was evident and signposted from the very beginning!

Finally, it bugs me how un-nefarious the previous secretary's end was. It was basically an accident that only partially involved the two villains, rather than a legitimate nefarious plot.

The climax as well as the ending are hilariously abrupt. The villains are dispatched pathetically easily, and the denouement is rushed in barely over a minute.

Amuck is overall pretty tame, but it might tick some of your boxes. There's frequent nudity (helped by the lead character's staunch refusal to wear a bra), sex scenes, but not a great deal of violence.

The score to this movie is really good, for the most part! My favourite track was the one predominately used in the first sex scene, which is very effective in establishing a dreamlike atmosphere for the scene. The soundtrack also must have made an impression on the right people, as a rescored track from it was used in The Big Lebowski! Less impressive is a certain number during a pivotal flashback scene, which was just plain annoying!

The acting is fine all-round. Nothing great, nothing bad either. The two female leads are of course gorgeous, and Farley Granger is seemingly a vampire, because the dude looks pretty youthful for around 50.

Amuck is a pretty decent Giallo. It's nothing special, and it kinda lost me come the end, but if you're interested, I recommend giving it a watch. Sure, you could do better, but you could also do much worse...

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