aka Vacanze per un massacro (Vacation for a Massacre)
Director: Fernando Di Leo
Cast: Joe Dallesandro, Lorraine De Selle, Patrizia Behn, Gianni Macchia
Raro Video / NTSC R1 / Unrated / 1.85:1 widescreen / ITALIAN mono / ENGLISH subtitles / 90 minutes (back cover mistakenly says 97 minutes) / BUY FROM TLACULT
Disk Extras: Fully illustrated booklet containing critical analysis of the film by Eric Cotenas
I first learned of filmmaker Fernando Di Leo after seeing the incredible sexploitation gem To Be Twenty and was instantly a fan. After a little digging I found out that he has worked with some of the biggest names in Italian cinema like Sergio Leone (For a Few Dollars More) and Ruggero Deodato (Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man). That only made me a bigger admirer. Now, with the release of Raro Video’s Madness, I have one more reason to put him on my list of favorite Italian filmmakers. For starters, just look at this incredible cast: Joe Dallesandro (Paul Morrissey Trilogy, Andy Warhol’s Dracula, Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein), Lorraine De Selle (Emanuelle in America, Cannibal Ferox, House on the Edge of the Park) and Gianni Macchia (Emanuelle Around the World, Dario Argento’s Inferno). The only relatively unknown is Patrizia Behn who, while no award-winning actress, has the body of a bronze goddess.
The opening of Madness has a man –who we later find to be Gio (Dallesandro), a convict– scaling a wall and escaping prison. He brutally kills two men (one with a huge stone, the other with a pitchfork) and steals their car. He returns to a cottage where he hid a large sum of money and finds that a married couple, along with the bride’s sister, have moved in for a hunting trip holiday. He hides outside until only the sister, Paola (De Selle), is home alone where he promptly knocks her out and begins digging in the fireplace hearth for his dough. He knows from watching earlier that morning that Paola is a horny little slut who is boning her brother-in-law, Sergio, and sure enough, she begins to tease him. Of course this leads to him forcing himself on her and her giving in after which she comments, “You’re a good lover”. Her sister, Liliana, comes home, followed by Sergio and that’s when the fun begins.
There isn’t any graphic violence to speak of until the last 3 minutes of the film which culminates into a slow-motion climax that comes straight out of nowhere. Most of the runtime is filled with sleazy sex and loads of nudity. Paola masturbates while eavesdropping on Sergio and her sister fucking in the next room. Gio forces Paola and Sergio at gunpoint to get busy in front of Liliana. The sordid affairs go on and on. Di Leo keeps the on-screen violence to a PG level with no blood shown until the nutty end. The horror that drives this engine is the games that Gio plays with everyone after finding out about the affair between the in-laws. Paola is an interesting character who is a sexually aggressive, opportunistic woman who plays every card she has throughout the home invasion. She gives herself to Gio, invites herself to travel the world with him to try to ingratiate herself to him and in the end, plots to take him down. The pacing of the whole ordeal never allows the viewer to get bored.
Fernando Di Leo is a much more proficient director than his Italian sleaze brethren like Jess Franco and Joe D’Amato. He actually understands how to move the camera with some artistic and technical merit. He doesn’t linger on inanimate objects or give extreme close-ups to actress’ buttholes. The only chink in his armor may be a couple of close-ups (of faces) that were very unfocused, but that may have been a fault in the new HD transfer for all I know. Which, by the way, the rest of the film looks really nice and clean and the color palette is natural but vivid. There is no film debris to speak of and the Italian mono soundtrack sounds fantastic especially concerning the very cool but odd score by Luis Bacalov who would go on to do the music for Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2. The only disappointment is the lack of supplemental materials although the booklet (which covers Di Leo’s career, the actors and actresses and the film itself) is a welcomed extra. Pick this one up if you are a fan of Italian sleaze but don’t be surprised if the cover is a little misleading. It makes it look like a slasher flick of some sort.