The Psychic Review
Talking about Fulci on the Anchor bay disc of Four of the Apocalypse, Tomas Milian refers pitifully to the director as "poor Lucio". Fulci was often seen as a misanthrope and a director who delighted in desecration and decay, but with the growing availability of his back catalogue on DVD it has become much more obvious that he, in fact, made many fine films alongside some real trash. Even in the worst of his films there are great sequences that hacks like Bruno Mattei wouldn't know how to stage and the suspicion is that the film-maker often realised how poor some of his films were mid shooting and lost interest accordingly. Perhaps he wasn't the happiest of men, but many of his films deserve to be celebrated rather than apologised for.
My own mind about "poor Lucio" changed after watching the childbirth sequence in Four of the Apocalypse which is as deliciously sad and gentle a sequence as any director has committed to film. It could be lost in the spaghetti genre stylings around it, but Fulci captures an touching humanity and pathos which made me reconsider his misanthropy as being more an inevitable pessimism about the death of beauty. As a director who finally found real success with the undead in his zombie films, I started to see even his splatter films as having a kind of morbid affinity with the oncoming end of life, and of hope. Don't get me wrong, those films are still filled with sickening gore and violence but there is a strong feeling for the corruption of flesh and the obscenity of death.
The Psychic begins with a trademark Fulci sequence as an innocent child suffers visions of her mother's suicide. As the mother falls from the cliff, her looks are destroyed as her face bangs against rocks on the way down. The suicide is neither a blessed relief or a painless way out, it is the destruction of what once radiated with life and the further obscenity is that the images of abused beauty live on with her daughter's psychic gift. Her daughter, Virginia, grows up plagued by the visions when her marriage to Francesco brings a new presentiment of a limping assassin, a red room, a moustachioed man and a dead woman. Believing this happened in her husband's old house, a corpse is found and the police soon suspect him. Virginia will fight to free her husband but as she learns more about her new vision, she is left to wonder whether she understands what she has seen.
In Fulci's films, in common with Argento, being able to see is often a curse and seeing is very rarely comforting or revealing - I could count off the number of eyeballs in his films that are gouged or lost but I guess you know what I mean by this statement. The Psychic has a central revelation about Virginia's clairvoyance which leads her to the knowledge that her being able to know some things can cause others to be obscured, much as Marc Daly found out in Profondo Rosso or as Karl Malden's blind snoop discovers in Cat O'Nine Tails. It is the latter film that Fulci's movie shares a co-writer with, Dardano Sacchetti, and the quality of the screenplay, and consequently the ideas is what raises The Psychic above an ordinary giallo. It is also probably what caused the director to remain so motivated and on his best form here as the film is suspensefully edited, full of great and clever photography and as coherent a movie as Fulci made.
None of the various reveals of Virginia's visions are botched or obvious, and the sequence in the church and the red room sustain the terror in the film's finale. The murderer is not that obvious, and of the cast, only an obviously ill Marc Porel in a limited appearance does not seem committed to the project. Numerous moments in the soundtrack have become iconic thanks to Quentin Tarantino, but this is a thriller which is well made and bar the gory opening rather muted in the sex and violence departments. It shows what Fulci was capable of if he was working with good materials in the acting and the screenplay, and it repays repeated viewings. One of the very best of the giallo genre, but possibly better categorised as a simple thriller given the lack of sleaze, Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes is a film every bit as good as its title.
Originally, reviewers lambasted this release for its ultra quiet audio track but this has now been boosted somewhat in the eventual retail release. Severin release the film on a single layer disc with a mixed transfer that those owning boots of this film may not find a huge improvement with. The opening titles are soft, muddy and lack definition, but the rest of the film is better quality in terms of sharpness and print problems with minor exceptions such as the image above. The colours are beautifully done here and the contrast is subtle and strong, there are a couple of softer moments in the image and perhaps some compression artefacts. This is perfectly acceptable but not as great as fans may have hoped for.
The English mono dub is well synched and voices are always audible during the main feature, there is a lot of background noise at times which is not overwhelming or particularly distracting but noticeable in the Church sequence. Music is reproduced well with no distortion. The lack of an Italian track is puzzling as this does exist on the French set of the film which Michael reviewed here
The featurette on the film is a disappointment with rather prosaic telephone interviews cut together over footage of the film. The most interesting contributor is Sacchetti who talks a lot about how the screenplay happened and differed from the original project Fulci had in mind, and the least interesting is costume designer Massimo Lentini who finds everyone marvellous and polite whilst failing to say anything of interest. Given their work on their other Fulci discs, this featurette seems rather paltry and a chore to sit through. There is a beaten up theatrical trailer lasting just over a minute included with a rather OTT voice-over.
Looking at the screenshots in Michael's review, I have to say this release is a disappointment as a main feature. Not quite as good as Severin's previous releases and inexplicably region coded, this excellent giallo is available in no legitimate English friendly releases so this version has to be recommended.
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