... aka: Formula for a Murder
... aka: Formula per un assassinio
... aka: Seven Hyden Park
Alberto De Martino
Boston, 1960: 11-year-old Joanna is attacked by a sex predator dressed as a priest, falls down a flight of stairs and breaks her back. Cut to the present day and the now-grown Joanna (Christina Nagy) is confined to a wheelchair but isn't letting that stop her from living a normal life. She's repressed all her memories from the childhood attack and doesn't remember anything about it, is heavily involved in athletics and has acquired a great deal of money over the years, some of which she's sinking into research to find a cure for paralysis. Craig (David Warbeck), an athletic director at a sports center for the crippled, falls in love with her and wants to marry her but Joanna's sexy, overly-protective live-in assistant Ruth (Carroll Blumenberg) starts getting jealous of the romance and fears her boss will cast her to the side if she goes through with the marriage. Fearing for the life of his patient, her concerned physician Doctor Sernich (Rossano Brazzi) tells Craig about what had happened to Joanna in her childhood and warns that her remembering those traumatic events may provoke a fatal heart attack.
Joanna decides to go through with the union and the two are quickly married in a civil ceremony. Craig promptly moves in and Ruth moves out to live in her own place. Joanna starts screaming and freaking out when Craig tries to make love to her, has terrible nightmares and, while she's alone at the house, a man dressed as a priest with pantyhose over his face and carrying a bloody doll, appears at the top of the stairs. Joanna passes out and the incident is passed off as a hallucination. Meanwhile, a psycho is murdering priests at a church Joanna donates a lot of money to. Father Peter (Andrea Bosic) gets his throat cut with a straight razor in a confessional booth, while Father Davis (Loris Loddi) gets his face smashed in with a shovel. Both bodies disappear.
Oddly, the identity of the killer or killers and his, her or their motivation(s) are unveiled about half an hour into this one, though I won't reveal either here. Not that it would really spoil the film or anything. Just from reading the plot synopsis and the fact the central character is a vulnerable, rich woman with a past trauma and a weak heart will be enough for most to guess the who and why. You keep waiting for something out of the ordinary to occur or for an unpredictable plot twist to swing the action in another direction, but nothing ever happens. The ordinary writing is enlivened a little by an eerie music score from Francesco De Masi, OK performances, a few bloody murders and some faintly creepy "hallucinations;" though none of that really lifts this above the realm of passable time-waster. The ending gets a little silly and over-the-top, too, as it attempts to pile on the shocks.
Director De Martino (billed here as "Martin Herbert") had made around 30 films from 1962 until 1985 and never managed to distinguish himself at all during that time. His films ranged from the awful (the bad movie favorite The Puma Man ) to the serviceable (this one; the 1982 thriller Blood Link starring Michael Moriarty), though nothing memorable seemed to ever come out of the chute. His other work includes peplum and crime thrillers, plus the b/w Gothic horror The Blancheville Monster (1963), the giallo The Killer is on the Phone (1972), the Exorcist cash-in The Antichrist (1974), the Omen cash-in Holocaust 2000 (1977) and the low-budget monster film Miami Horror (1985), which also featured Warbeck and Loddi. Formula was issued to VHS on the Lightning label here in America, though I'm unaware of any official DVD release.