Friday, December 13, 2019

Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio (1988)

... aka: Alice Broke the Mirror
... aka: La sombra de Lester (Lester's Shadow)
... aka: Licia ha rotto lo specchio (Licia Has Broken the Mirror)
... aka: Soup├žons de mort (Suspicions of Death)
... aka: Touch of Death
... aka: When Alice Broke the Mirror

Directed by:
Lucio Fulci

Lester Parson (Brett Halsey) is a middle-aged gambling addict always indebted to brutish loan shark Randy (Al Cliver, billed under his real name Pier Luigi Conti) who has an interesting way of clearing his debts: Scouring the "Lonely Hearts" personal ads, meeting highly flawed (i.e. desperate) wealthy widows and then murdering them for their money and jewelry. He's first seen sharing a fine roast with his cat Reginald and watching a home video of a homely, scrawny woman taking her top off. Immediately afterward he walks into a room with a dead, naked female corpse laid out on a table (the same woman from the video) that's missing a huge chunk of flesh from her thigh. Guess we know where that juicy rump roast came from. The body is then lovingly dismembered with a chainsaw and, in typical Fulci fashion, we get close-ups of all four of her limbs, her torso and her head being sliced off (the gore make-up is actually pretty good in this one). He grinds up her flesh into hamburger meat, slops his pigs with her guts and dumps the remaining body parts elsewhere.

Lester meets a second rich woman (Sacha Darwin) who's got a facial hair problem and hairy moles on her breasts. He gets her drunk and tries to poison her in an amusing scene where nothing goes his way. She mixes up her drink with his and then, when she's given a second poisoned cocktail, she immediately runs into the bathroom and starts puking it up. He barges in and bashes her over the head with a stick. As blood pours out of her wound, she flees in terror and is bashed over the head several more times until blood is gushing out everywhere and her eyeball falls out. Still not dead, he sticks her head in the oven and roasts her until her flesh starts melting off. Her body is dumped at a construction site in a hole full of wet concrete.

A bum (Marco Di Stefano) sees him disposing of a corpse and tries to blackmail him, but Lester runs him over with about a dozen times him with his car until his body is ripped in half. Next up is an obnoxious, shrill soprano named Alice (Ria De Simone) who never stops singing and likes to be slapped around. I'm guessing this is where the silly original title comes from, which translates to "When Alice Broke the Mirror." Lester finally shuts her up with a whip strangulation and dumps her body. The police and TV news seem to be keeping up with the crimes even though Lester appears to be doing a sufficient job of disposing of the bodies. But how?

Well, there's something weird afoot and a copycat killer at work, who seems to be murdering people in the same exact fashion Lester is. In addition, the second killer is harassing him over the phone and leaving behind evidence at crime scenes to implicate him. It's either a living shadow / doppelganger a la The Student of Prague or it's all in Lester's disturbed mind. I honestly found it hard to care about this story angle at all as it's confusing, half-assed and far less satisfying than the simple over-the-top murder / gore set pieces that are unfortunately all relegated to the first half. The plot also makes room for a mysterious woman with a bad harelip named Virginia (Zora Kerova), who enters Lester's life and seems a little more aggressive than the other victims. Wonder what she's up to?

There's an all-too-obvious attempt to make the grisly goings-on blackly humorous by inserting lighthearted music during the gruesome murders and such but the writing isn't smart enough, and Fulci isn't a skilled or subtle enough director, to pull most of this off for laughs. The most prominent running gag is Lester's difficulty in disposing of the bodies. A corpse in a trunk has legs that keep popping out so, of course, they must then be hacked off, a dead body won't sit straight up in his car and keeps falling over when he's pulled over by a cop for speeding, etc. etc. None of this is particularly clever.

Originally produced as part of a package deal between production company Alpha Cinematografica and distributor Reteitalia, this was one of nine gory horror films that union created specifically for the home video and TV markets. It doesn't appear to have been released until 1991 in Italy but may have turned up on VHS in Japan prior to that. Production lasted about a month (Fulci started shooting just three days after he wrapped Il fantasma di Sodoma), the budget was low (it was shot on 16mm for around 200 thousand dollars) and it all looks pretty murky and grainy because the only surviving prints later distributors had on hand were from video sources. Like most of the others from the series, this didn't get an official U.S. release until much later on when Shriek Show finally put it out on DVD in 2005. Their release came with English and Italian language options, an audio interview with Fulci, a photo gallery, a trailer, four unrelated trailers and two filmed interviews with actress Kerova and Fulci historian Paolo Albiero.

Note: There were Blu-ray releases in 2017 (from 88 Films in the UK) and 2019 (from Raro in the U.S.) which I assume look better than the copy I viewed, though I've not had a chance to check 'em out yet.

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