Sunday, October 11, 2020

Mania (1974)

Directed by:
"Ralph Brown" (Renato Polselli)

By using radiation to target nervous systems, the intense Professor Brecht (Brad Euston) can stop a bee in mid-air, which somehow convinces him he can use it on all other living beings. He slaves away in his basement lab hoping to eventually use his invention to cure any illness in the human body. While he's preoccupied with that, his neglected wife Lisa (Eva Spadaro) has been keeping busy getting busy with Brecht's identical twin brother, Germano (also Euston). And she hasn't an ounce of guilt over it. In fact, she openly admits to getting off on other people's misery, pitting people against one another and even makes an aside that watching people die turns her on. What a charming lady she is!

While Lisa and Germano mess around on the patio, Erina the maid (Mirella Rossi) tries to stop Brecht from coming upstairs and seeing them. He repays her for her kindness by suffocating her with a plastic bag until she's spitting up blood. Though Erina survives, she's now been "reduced to a deaf and dumb mute" and proves to be dumb in more ways than one as she just continues to live with these nutbags! While Brecht feels a little guilty about attacking Erina he's completely indifferent to Lisa's affair, which infuriates her. To get back at him for his lack of outrage, she locks him in the lab when a fire breaks out. Germano manages to break inside but is only able to pull out his brother's burning corpse while he gets part of his face burnt off.

The above tale is told via flashback by a frantic, paranoid and constantly screaming Lisa, who's convinced her dead husband is still after her. Her new lover / fiancé, Lailo (Isarco Ravaioli), who was one of the husband's students, tries to talk sense into her but she's not having it. The two are pursued down a country road by a white car that appears to have no driver and tries to make them crash. They even find the car pulled off to the side at one point, go to investigate and find there's no one driving. It then suddenly starts up and tries to run them over. Lailo only seems mildly concerned and I'm not sure why he keeps letting Lisa drive either. She's hysterical, speeding and swerving all over the place to the point where she keeps running off the road, hitting guardrails and almost even sends them over a cliff. She never uses her fucking brakes and keeps shrieking the entire time. It's so damn irritating!

The two finally make it to a house where Lisa continues flipping her shit and then tries to strangle her live-in nurse Katia (Ivana Giordan) because she accepted a package someone left there (?!) Lisa is taken to see a psychiatrist (Max Dorian), who fails at his job when he doesn't immediately lock her up and throw away the key. Instead, he recommends she return to the villa where her husband died and is now entombed (in the basement!) to overcome her mental issues. Katia decides to accompany her unhinged pal there, presumably because she has a death wish. The fire-scarred Germano (who has a withered arm and is now in a wheelchair) and Erina (who runs around the grounds wearing nothing but a dress shirt) are still around. Lailo shows up but Lisa, wanting to overcome her fears all by herself, demands he leave. The two make an agreement: He'll go but she's to call him daily with updates.

Footprints appear and then disappear and then reappear again on the terrace. The phone stops working and then starts working again and then becomes electrified. The power goes out and comes back on randomly. Lisa has visions of a hanging corpse, a face in the fire, a laughing, gray-painted ghost face and a burnt hand reaching for her. No one else seems to be seeing what she is... at least not at first. Not only would Brecht's ghost have a bone to pick with her but so would Germano. He'd been her lover for three years before she split and now that he's disfigured she wants nothing to do with him. She also has it in the back of her mind that her nurse and fiancé are possibly conspiring against her. Or is she merely insane?

Thrown into the works are a maggoty corpse, a random electric eel attack (?!), a neck slashed with a broken bottle, a head bashed in with a candelabra, a hilariously cheap looking death trap that threatens to crush two of the women between a thin sheet of aluminum siding and Erina getting run over by the wheelchair. Twice. There's also a moronic twist at the end and, as per the director's usual, such sleazy accompaniments as a naked cat fight, mild lesbianism, whipping and one of the girls running around the entire time wearing an unbuttoned shirt but no pants, underwear or bra, which put this out of contention for a Best Costume Design Oscar nomination.

After its brief theatrical run in 1974, this disappeared for decades and wasn't even released on video in its home country. Many thought it was lost until a censored print (which is missing some of the more graphic sex scenes and runs about 82 minutes) turned up in 2007. Shame then that this is so tedious and mostly takes place at a single boring location. There are lots of zoom shots, eyeball close-ups and camera tilts, plus about a hundred cutaway shots to tall trees swaying in the breeze. The constant hysterics and bug-eyed overacting get to be a bit much and the characters are all extremely unlikable, especially the leading lady we have to deal with the entire time.

Polselli directed a number of other genre films like THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA (1960), The Monster of the Opera (1964), DELIRIUM (1972), The Truth According to Satan (1972), The Reincarnation of Isabel (1973) and House of Love... The Police Intervene (1978). His movies got progressively sleazier as he went along, culminating in him shooting hardcore films, including several bestiality pornos. Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2) was the assistant director.

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