Murder Rock (DE - DVD R2)
What a feeling, has me reeling. Gabe goes out slash-dancing with Lucio Fulci...
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The brutal worlds of murder and dance school competitions are thrown together in yet another lurid Lucio Fulci Giallo. When an insane hatpin murderer (yes, you read that correctly) terrorizes a prestigious New York dance school, mercilessly poking nubile young women deep into their competitive little hearts. Is it one of the students, jealous of competitive placement? Is it the voyeuristic headmaster, who watches the students through his many lurid security cameras? Perhaps it’s even a jealous boyfriend?
The best thing about Murder Rock (AKA Dancing Death) is its preposterous set up. If anyone out there ever pondered what trash-master Fulci could accomplish by mixing Flashdance and Argento’s Tenebre, while recycling the plot of his earlier Giallo masterpiece, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, then they should look no further. It’s actually even sillier than it sounds.
Though Fulci always prided himself in finding no inspiration in Argento’s work, it’s pretty hard to deny the bamboozlement here, from similarly arbitrary camera movement, to fluorescent lighting, and an indelibly eighties look. Even Italian boy-toy actor Christian Borromeo makes an appearance as a similarly whiny young lad. In a way this wholesale pilfering actual lends itself to some impressive visuals, some of which take Argento’s neo-noir vision to some pretty outstanding limits.
The most interesting of these is that all the murder sequences taking place at the school are accompanied by lights that throb on and off (due to the school’s alarm warning system), allowing characters to move between shots without being seen. The following police photography scenes are accompanied by elaborate crime scene photography lights that achieve the opposite effect when flashed.
And then there are the dance sequences, which though entirely asinine in nature, are surprisingly well choreographed and photographed. The music and costumes accompanying them are pretty inexcusable, but I have to give Fulci some credit for not being a total hack. A money grabber willing to jump on any bandwagon that happens to be passing by, yes, but a hack, no. There’s one solo dance in particular that is so like the most famous sequence from Flashdance, including water splashing and a lone spotlight, that I’m sure Paramount might have considered legal action, had they actually seen the film that is.
The only disappointment to be had is that though full of raunchy exploitation glory, Murder Rock has none of the signature Fulci gore of the era. The killer’s use of a hatpin to the heart ensures as much onscreen breast time as possibly, with only the smallest driblet of blood. One might assume that Fucli was making some kind of specific statement against his own brand of violence, or at least his critic’s accusations of gore being the only trick in his arsenal. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough suspense to garner any real interest, and in the end the film is a little dull.
Murder Rock is not what you’d call an “A-picture”, and time hasn’t been all that kind to it. It’s presented in its original aspect ratio of about 1.77:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. Unfortunately, the anamorphic enhancement ends up slightly trimming the top and bottom of the picture when displayed on a widescreen television, which is really only obvious during the opening credits, which get a little hacked. The picture quality is about average for a low-budget release.
Black levels aren’t quite what I’d call “black”, and detail level drops pretty sharply during darker sequences. The brighter scenes fare better, and reproduce the gaudy lighting and oh-so-eighties design as accurately as one could want. The biggest drawback of the transfer is the digital blocking/pixelization, which occasional causes discolored edges. All things considered, however, I’d say this was exactly the transfer I expected, and I don’t think anyone going out of their way to purchase this disc will be disappointed.
If you love unknown, and painfully derivative early eighties dance music, you will be in post-disco heaven with this DVD. The “songs” and Keith Emerson’s uber-kooky electronic score sound decent in all of the stereo tracks made available on the disc. I chose to watch the film in English, figuring that all the tracks were somewhat dubbed, like almost every Fulci title of the era, Murder Rock was a multi-national production. Dialogue was understandable for the most part, but at times became so quite that I had to crank up the volume, which was, of course, overwhelmingly loud the second the music kicked back in.
My problems with the dialogue would’ve been fine, had I spoke German. The DVD has forced German subtitles when viewed in any other language. This was annoying, and in the end the only of the disc’s flaws that I find impossible to overlook.
Now, the real extra here is the box itself, a wonderful piece of early eighties VHS throwback. Seriously, this white plastic, oversized clamshell is a work of art. Hilarious. The digital special features are pretty slim, including the German trailer, a “bonus” scene, a photo gallery, and a soundtrack selection. The soundtrack selection is, again, only for the most nostalgic, but is one of those fun fan features I wish more discs of this sort would come with. The photo gallery and trailer kind of speak for themselves, and the “bonus” scene is really a very short deleted sequence that puts a slightly larger amount of emphasis on a particular red haring.
Murder Rock will not be mistaken any time soon for a good film. It represents the first stumble in what ended up being a devastating career quality nose dive for Fulci, an artist who’s work, while an acquired taste, had something special behind it. Despite this, the film is still a fun film. The mixing of methods is actually more effective than I’d originally assumed it’d be, and Fulci proves himself to be proficient in the filming of choreography, as well as brutal murder. Really meant for fans, but earns a couple curious yuks, and this time actress Olga Karlatos gets to keep both of her eyes.
You can purchase this title from Xploitedcinema.com.
Review by Gabriel Powers
For persons aged 16 years and over
Release Date: 2nd September 2005
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: English, Italian, and German Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: German (forced)
Extras: German trailer, Bonus Scene, Photo Gallery, Soundtrack Selections
Easter Egg: No
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Olga Karlatos, Ray Lovelock
Genre: Musical and Thriller
Length: 89 minutes
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