Director: Armando Crispino Release Year: 1975 Genre: Horror Starring: Mimsy Farmer, Barry Primus, Ray Lovelock
Edgar [Talking about a priest who'd been institutionalized]: You know... it's not a big step from the straight jacket to a dog collar!
In this little-seen giallo, Simona (Mimsy Farmer, Code Name: Wild Geese, Two Men in Town) is a medical student who works in the local morgue to make ends meet while she finishes her thesis on the difference between authentic and simulated suicide. Her troubles begin when she starts to suspect that a recent rash of violent suicides in her small Italian village may actually be homicides... and that the killings may or may not have something to do with her mob boss father. As if that weren't enough, its altogether likely that Simona is going crazy... and as a result, the viewer is never quite sure if what we're seeing is real or a product of Simona's psychosis.
The movie opens with a sequence of violent suicides intercut with shots of a solar flares serves as about an effective title sequence as you could hope for. But don't take my word for it (the 'good stuff' come in the last 60 seconds or so, and probably NSFW):
But as great as that sequence is, my favorite scene in the movie is probably when Simona decides to give it up to Edgar (Ray Lovelock), her hippie boyfriend. Up to this point she'd been saving herself until "after she finishes her thesis," a decision that bothers Edgar so much that he takes to calling her 'Ice Queen.' After hearing that nickname once too often, she tells Edgar, "I want to change... can you help me? Or don't you think the art of seduction would work on me?" So, what does Edgar do? He sets up a projector and shows her a slideshow of vintage porn... classic.
Autopsy reminded me a lot of Let's Scare Jessica To Death, in that because the film is told from the perspective of a protagonist who may or may not be batshit insane, you can never be sure if what you're seeing on-screen is actually going on in the world of the film. Crispino's use of uncomfortably tight closeups, a soundtrack layered with ambient sounds and pseudo-orgasmic moans, and random jump cuts to inanimate objects add to the overall sense of madness. Not to mention the early sequence in the morgue where Simona suddenly sees all of the corpses getting off their slabs to start an orgy... toe tags and all! There's a lot of full frontal nudity in this film, most of it courtesy of the corpses that Simona seems unable to escape. In fact, other than a few nude scenes from Mimsy, I think every naked person in this movie is 'dead.'
There's a lot of stuff going on in this movie... from the above-mentioned pseudo-suicides storyline, to Lovelock's performance as an asshole hippie who actively mocks his elderly deaf housekeeper, to the Father Lennox (Barry Primus), the racecar-driver turned priest who falls in love with Simona... I'm not ashamed to say that I didn't always know exactly what was going on. Crispino admirably doesn't feel the need to explain every aspect of the plot, and the disorientation actually adds to the film... especially if you're willing to let the film sort of wash over you, rather than trying to figure out exactly what everyone's motivation is.
Anchor Bay has released a great transfer of this film, complete with a couple of trailers. Given that the film was made in the 70's in Italy, it'll come as no big shock that Ennio Morricone composed the score. To be honest, though, I've got to admit that I was still kinda confused when the credits rolled. If you're looking for a tightly-scripted, well-told story, Autopsy will probably disappoint. But, if you're looking for an atmospheric slice of Italian goodness, this might be the film for you.