Monday, May 3, 2010

Murder Rock (Lucio Fulci, 1984)

A dewy armada of spandex-adorned female undercarriages thrusting wildly in a veiled attempt to attain physical perfection may not be the first thing we witness in Murder Rock (a.k.a. Slashdance and Dancing Death)–no, that would be shots of the New York City skyline spliced with a bunch of male break-dancers popping and locking in a disco setting. But writer-director Lucio Fulci (The Beyond) makes sure the always welcome sight of taut lady torsos lunging are the second thing we see. An Italian Giallo set in the Big Apple, the film centres around a series of homicides that take place at a dance studio with an overly elaborate yet highly ineffective security system (each murder is usually accompanied by a light flashing on and off in a rhythmic manner). Mixing energetic aerobics sequences with the whole attractive women being stalked by faceless killers genre, this bloodless undertaking bypasses flashy gore (not a single eyeball is violently prodded in this film) and takes a more psychological approach when it came to showing leg-warmer enthusiasts being meticulously stabbed in an indoor setting.

It's obvious that Lucio Fulci saw Heavenly Bodies and wondered what it would be like if one day a deranged individual decided to disrupt that fitness-obsessed universe by murdering its citizenry, one skimpy leotard at a time. Okay, it's more likely that Mr. Fulci (a.k.a. the Godfather of Gore) was inspired by Flashdance. But I like to think it was the Cynthia Dale vehicle that got the director's creative juices flowing.

At any rate, the uncompromising tightness of the sweat-drenched fabric pressing against their pulsating bodies is the last thing the ladies auditioning their firm little butts off at the dance studio should be worrying about. Oh, sure, the manner in which the constricting material digs into the wearers' genitalia–causing it to become engorged with a wide array of gratifying fluids–is not something one should take lightly. However, when there's a chloroform-soaked rag and swanky hat pin waiting to snuff out your very existence, a snugly attired crotch with some serious respiratory issues sounds like a poorly attended picnic near a park with no name.

In other words: I'd choose a binding piece of clothing over being needled in the chest any day of the week.

Filed to the brim with bogus suspects and grade school-quality misdirections, Lieutenant Borges (Cosimo Cinieri), the hard-nosed investigator in charge of solving a string of murders involving a group of dancers all vying for a much sought after role, finds himself up to his sunflower shell-covered chin in dead gorgeous Italian women pretending to be Americans dubbed in German. Presented with one creepy blonde guy after another, the gruff detective, and his agile partner (Giuseppe Mannajuolo), must crack the case before there's no-one left to be cast in what is no doubt a prestigious production.

Judging by the choreography, I'd say they were auditioning for something along the lines of Satan's Alley from Staying Alive or Cats.

The victims of the prickly killer in Murder Rock are selected in accordance by how talented they are. For example, all the other pelvis thrusters consider Susan (Angela Lemerman) to be the best dancer, so it comes as no surprise when she is the first to suffer at the hand of the heinous, pin-wielding fiend. Saturated from head to toe with her own perspiration, Miss Lemerman, gingerly removing her excessively damp leg-warmers just before entering the revitalizing embrace of a warm shower, gives a wonderfully still performance as a scantily clad woman who is about to be murdered in a highly unusual fashion.

My favourite murder victim would have to be Janice (Carla Buzzanca), the second most talented dancer of the trim lot. Mostly because she is given the opportunity to get her aerobic freak on during a solo number at a sleazy nightclub. Undue wetness and erratic limb flailing, all tied together with a dainty touch of top drawer ass crack, the way Miss Buzzanca hurtled her slender frame in every possible direction was a thing of unpredictable beauty. It's too bad she couldn't utilize her profound physical prowess to avoid a moist cloth covered in chloroform.

While technically not a dancer, Olga Karlatos, who plays Candice, a tough-as-tent-spikes dance instructor, is the best actress out of all the folks who populate this film's dance obsessed macrocosm. A cynical person would say that's not saying much when you consider the fact that Belinda Busato is repeatedly upstaged by her chic haircut, but only a clinically insane person would refuse to acknowledge Olga's greatness during her third act breakdown. It's true, the sheer largeness of her fur coat and the overwhelming verdancy of her piercing eyes had a lot to do with her charm, yet there's no denying her overall gifts as a thespian. Okay, there might be some denying. But not a lot.

Check out the look on her face as she flees the killer, his pointy hat pin held high for all to see, down this creepy corridor as the thunderous music score by Keith Emerson thumps loudly in the background; it's one of the most genuine expressions of abject terror I've ever seen.

Oh, and, by the way, whenever I hear the name Emerson, Lake & Palmer bandied about, my mind immediately thinks of things that are lame and totally uncool. Which makes the prospect that Keith Emerson was responsible for the super-terrific music heard throughout Murder Rock all the more baffling. The way the new wave tinged Euro throb kicks in just as Claudio Cassinelli is starting employ this sly smirk was brilliantly done.

video uploaded by Ryan Tekulve

If you're interested in a Murder Rock-related blog entry that doesn't focus entirely on "en-leotarded crotch shots," be sure to catch the Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire; the word "mooseknucklage" is employed.


  1. Mooseknuckle is one of my favorite words, and occasional fashion statements. :-)

    I have never been that into Giallo, and this film does not look like it will help much. Now, maybe if John Travolta would have been stalking Jamie Lee Curtis in perfect with a pin rather than pen we would have something. Especially if Barbarino bites it in the end.

    Word Verification: cricci. Christina Ricci, obviously.

  2. I never did see Perfect. Which is kinda odd -- you know, since I seem to gravitate towards flicks that are centered around aerobics.

  3. Wow. Those are wonder pictures. I have got to get a copy of this one. Great review.


  4. Thank you muchly for the out-shouting! Tis appreciated :)

    I've since revisited "Murder Rock" and I've got to say--it's growing on me. The fetishization of the women is really taken to a bizarre extreme, and it makes me kind of sad that I didn't wind up taking the dance lessons that members of my non-immediate family wanted me to take. I feel like I missed out on this awesome hotbed of sleaze and madness as a result of my awkwardness.

  5. Tenebrous Kate: No problem, T-Kate. I'm trying credit the blogs that introduce me wacked-out flicks more than I used to.

    I'm surprised you revisited it. I mean, I recall you thinking, despite its fetishistic qualities, it to be quite lame.