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Seven Notes In Black
It is somewhat common knowledge that Quinten Tarantino's Kill Bill series was his big, fat, sloppy kiss to the grind house films that molded him into the artist he is today. The most obvious homage was of the Spaghetti Western, Samurai, Blacksploitation, and Chop-Sokey varieties, but commonly missed are his nods to the Italian Giallo cycle of the ‘70s and ‘80s. These weren’t as noticeable, as the context in which they appeared was often skewed, and public knowledge of the genre is not as prevalent. There is, however, one stand out moment that appears early in the first film, when Uma Thurman's Bride hides behind an slowly opening door in preparation for the slashing of a poor, unsuspecting victim's Achilles’ tendon. The give away is the music. The tune (re-mixed by Wu Tang Clan member The RZA for the soundtrack album) is called Seven Notes in Black, in reference to the title of Lucio Fulci's 1977 film.
 
Seven Notes In Black
Film
Jennifer O'Neill (of Scanners fame) stars as Virginia Ducci, a woman simultaneously encumbered and blessed with the gift of foresight. As a child she discovers her skill when witness to a vision of her own mother's suicide. Twenty years later, the newly married, and relatively sane Virginia is driving to a large gothic house owned by her husband, which she intends to restore as a surprise, when she has another vision. Passing through a series of dark tunnels, she is stricken with a series of clairvoyant images - a murdered woman, a limping man with a mustache, a broken mirror, a body buried within a wall. When she finally arrives at the villa, she realizes it is the same one she saw in her vision.
 
After breaking through a thin brick wall (in a subtle nod to Argento's Profondo Rosso), she finds the skeletal remains of a murder victim. When the police are contacted her husband is the natural suspect, and he is jailed pending trail. Inconsistencies in the case and her own vision prompt her to investigate the murder herself, with the hope of exonerating her husband of responsibility for the crime. Needless to say, the road to the truth isn’t one of ease and relaxation.
 
Seven Notes in Black (AKA: The Psychic and Sette Note in Nero) is a surprisingly subdued film for goremiester Fulci. The only lurid moment is the opening where, in a replay of the ending from Don't Torture a Duckling , Virginia's mother's face scrapes and breaks against a cliff side as she tumbles to her death. With that exception, the films only scenes of violence are brief and actually important to the stories development. The utter lack of sleaze may put off some, more hardcore fans, but those willing to brave the ungory should find themselves pleasantly rewarded. Though this isn't Fulci's best film, it is thoroughly entertaining, shockingly highbrow, and not at all overlong.
 
The plot is somewhat predictable, but offers a genuinely satisfying twist, which the story never stops to specifically address, avoiding an awkward reveal. Though the film could have easily been cut and presented as a thirty minute Twilight Zone episode without loosing anything terribly integral, the run time does not feel padded. In its essence, Seven Notes in Black is a version of Poe's The Black Cat; ironically one that remains more true to the original in many ways than Fulci's own film version made a few years later. Tarantino's Seven Notes in Black reference are amusing when one accounts for Fulci's own constant film and literature references. Fulci also alludes to his own movies, an odd habit shared by only a handful of true auteurs - including, of course, Tarantino.
 
Seven Notes In Black
Fulci’s Profondo Rosso attributions are perhaps coincidence, but later, more obvious nods to Argento's Suspiria in his masterpiece The Beyond could easily be perceived as copying, and smack of rivalry. Fulci's workman like devotion to his craft, coupled with his willingness to create fluff-for-cash, makes for an interesting contrast to Argento's career of personal artistry. Though Argento arguably hasn't created any work of real value in over fifteen years, Fulci died after years of churning out some of his absolute worst work. Argento still has some time to redeem himself, but Fulci never got back to making movies like this one, truly, technically inspired.
 
In some ways, I suppose Seven Notes in Black  is Fulci's finest achievement in mainstream cinema. His later supernatural gore-fests are best noted for their purposeful narrative lapses. In his masterworks, Fulci blurs the lines between pulpy camp, surrealist art, and experimental cinema. One wonders what, if given the proper funds, Fulci could have achieved while still atop the apex of his creative abilities. More garden-variety moviegoers, and those more left-brained horror fans, interested in what all the Fulci fuss is about, may find Seven Notes in Black  required viewing.
 
Seven Notes In Black
Video
Beyond (Ha, a Fucli pun) the amateurish and ugly box art and menu systems, you'll find a professionally presented, 16:9 enhanced, 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Seeing as this is pretty much the only non-bootleg version of the film available on DVD, a lesser transfer would most likely have been tolerated. Fortunately, low expectations are unnecessary. Though there is quite a bit of print damage, including some scratches and dirt, this transfer is light-years ahead of the crusty old VHS version I once rented. Fulci is notorious for his crash-zoom fetishism, and when not presented in their original widescreen ratios, his films become unwatchable studies of the bridge of the human nose. Finally being able to view the film in its original aspect ratio was a joy.
 
However, there are two pretty major quibbles I had with the transfer, which I find myself unable to put aside. First, there is an annoying tendency for the material to warp periodically. This creates a wavy effect, like what happens when film is temporarily trapped in the projector. The second, and more severe problem is the three instances of missing film. Each instance last about one to three seconds, and though none occur during the height of any specifically intense moment, they are each jarring and maddening. I'm not sure if these represent missing frames in the original negative or a mistake in processing.
 
Seven Notes In Black
Audio
Though the ugly box claims Seven Notes in Black  is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo, it is in fact actually presented in mono. The (usually dubbed) dialogue is clear enough and sound levels balanced. Fabio Fabrizi's savvy score sounds OK, but at times things get a little muddled and tinny. Though this is a considerable step above the old VHS, it's too bad the music especially, couldn't have been more, well, digital sounding. At about the halfway point the audio is off by quite a bit, as mouths move separate from their voices, but the problem corrects itself by the next change over.

Extras
The only extra on the disc is a slide show put to the film’s opening song. Not very impressive,  nor really note worthy.

Seven Notes In Black
Overall
For the Fulci fanatic and the Fulci curious, Seven Notes in Black  is a good choice. Those who look upon the maestro as nothing but a second tier hack may want to view this, his more accomplished work, before jumping to conclusions. Solid story, cinematography, and score, coupled with surprisingly competent acting and a brisk pace make this, along with Zombi 2 ( Zombie) and The Beyond, the necessities of the Fulci cannon. I can’t wait for someone to go all out with a special edition, stacked with extras, surround sound, and a picture that never disappears. Until that time, this is the best we’re going to do.

This DVD is available for purchase at www.hkflix.com.


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