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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

Italian Grinders: Lucio Fulci Giallo Retrospective Part II – Excess and Self Awareness

With some exceptions, Italy’s violent thrillers, dubbed giallo due to the yellow coloring of the pulp paperback jackets that the films were originally emulating, can more or less be divided between the locally popular films of the ‘60s, spawned from Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much (Italian: La ragazza che sapeva troppo; aka: Evil Eye, 1963) and Blood and Black Lace (Italian: Sei donne per l'assassino, 1965), the boom that followed Dario Argento’s massively popular The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo, 1970), and the increasingly violent stragglers/tributes that followed throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s, and modern age. But neither Bava, nor Argento invented/reinvented the genre in a void. Bird with the Crystal Plumage, for instance, was a methodical combination of pop-art aesthetics, another author’s plot (it is a loose, uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown’s The Screaming Mimi [Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries, 1949]), and a film language that was being developed by Bava, Umberto Lenzi, Massimo Dallamano, Antonio Margheriti, Giulio Questi, and others. Among the many hardworking journeymen that jumped on the bandwagon just before Argento’s efforts changed the genre’s focus was Lucio Fulci, who completed a series of influential gialli, before spearheading the gore movie movement in the early ‘80s, then returning to make strange variations of the gialli formula as his career wound to an end.

The New York Ripper (Italian: Lo squartatore di New York, 1982)

A sadistic killer is stalking the streets of New York City, preying upon beautiful young women. Police lieutenant Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) enlists the assistance of Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Malco), a local psychotherapy professor, in hopes of hunting down the maniac who witnesses claim speaks like Donald Duck. Meanwhile, an aging debutante named Jane (Alexandra Delli Colli) haunts the city’s seediest corners, porno shops, and sex theaters, unaware of the danger.

In the early 1980s, Lucio Fulci was riding the highest high of his entire career. Following a successful run of spaghetti westerns, gialli, farcical comedies, and period melodramas, he had his first international mega-hit in 1979 with Zombie (Italian: Zombi 2; aka: Zombie Flesh Eaters and Zombie 2: The Dead are Among Us, 1979). Despite being a logical extension of his earlier films, Zombie’s extremely graphic violence – itself a result of cashing-in on George A. Romero’s trend-settingly violent Dawn of the Dead (1978) – became a calling card and the one thing a new legion of viewers would come to expect from his work. As a result, producers and financiers were happy to pay premium cash for whatever Fulci wanted to make next, as long as it was gory, spooky, and included zombies in some capacity. This offered the director, who was already more than happy to shoot scenes of excessive and creative violence, a unique chance to cut loose with surrealistic, Gothic-themed horror movies, culminating in a trio of fan-favorites – City of the Living Dead (Italian: Paura nella città dei morti viventi; aka: The Gates of Hell, 1980), The Beyond (Italian: ..E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà; aka: Seven Doors of Death, 1981), and House by the Cemetery (Italian: Quella villa accanto al cimitero; aka Zombie Hell House and Freudstein, 1981).

Arguably, House by the Cemetery was Fulci’s last great movie and also utilized key elements of the still-burgeoning North American slasher movement, which had grown in part out of the giallo tradition. Still, it didn’t mark a definitive end to his prime era. Its immediate follow-up, New York Ripper, was a return to the giallo model with the cruel, trashy flavor of the grimiest grindhouse slashers. New York Ripper offered fans another glance at the kind of expert gore they’d come to expect from the maestro (amusingly, House by the Cemetery was released on South African home video under the title Revenge of the New York Ripper), alongside the Zombie-levels of Italian exploitation audience placation, from postcard-worthy NYC settings to the lurid sex scenes.

New York Ripper is so mean-spirited that even Fulci’s most impassioned champions find themselves flatfooted in their attempts to defend its brutality against women. Chas Balun, one of Fulci’s earliest in-print supporters, called its violence “ugly, demeaning and frightfully pathological” in his otherwise celebratory short book Lucio Fulci: Beyond the Gates (Fantasma Books, 1997). Author Adrian Luther-Smith is more constructive, noting in his capsule review book, Blood & Black Lace: The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex and Horror Movies (Stray Cat Publishing Ltd., 1999) that the accusations of misogyny are always levied at Fulci, leaving credited co-screenwriters Gianfranco Clerici and Vincenzo Mannino out of the equation. Between the two of them (sometimes collaborating), they wrote/co-wrote loads of famously misogynistic films under varying genre settings, including Stelvio Massi’s Five Women for the Killer (Italian: 5 donne per l'assassino, 1975), Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and House on the Edge of the Park (Italian: La casa sperduta nel parco, also 1980 – noting that, at some point during production, Deodato was meant to direct New York Ripper), and Mario Caiano’s Nazi Love Camp (Italian: La svastica nel ventre, 1977), not to mention their poliziotteschi output, given that genre’s nearly across-the-board habit of hating women. On the other hand, according to Stephen Thrower’s Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci (FAB Press, 1999), original screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, who had worked with Fulci on most of his successful horror films, “unequivocally blames the perceived misogyny on Fulci alone.”

Plot spoilers follow.

Between Perversion Story (Italian: Una Sull'altra; aka: One on Top of the Other, 1969), A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Italian: Una Lucertola con la Pelle di Donna; aka: Schizoid, 1971), Don’t Torture a Duckling (Italian: Non si Sevizia un Paperino; aka: The Long Night of Exorcism, 1972) and saucy comedies, like The Eroticist (Italian: All'onorevole piacciono le donne, 1972), Fulci was no stranger to pushing boundaries with nudity and sexuality, but, even at his most explicit, he usually opted to connect sex and violence in thematic terms (the killers in Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Don’t Torture a Duckling commit murder in reaction to their own sexual impulses), rather than literal ones. The New York Ripper’s killer is motivated by anger towards women, which accounts for the misogyny, but the film also directly links violent acts with sexual ones and it is this fact that makes it feel so unconscionable. The two most egregious examples are a sequence where a sex worker has a broken bottle thrust into her vagina, shown (apparently) from both her crotch and the bottle’s points of view, and the protracted torture of a different sex worker named Kitty (Fulci’s single favorite on-screen victim, Daniela Doria). During the torture, the killer taunts Lieutenant Williams over the phone while slowly bisecting Kitty’s nipple and then her eyeball, which rolls back in its socket as a razor slides through its center.

The character of Jane – a hypersexual, voyeuristic woman that checks just about every box on the Kinsey scale, who is approaching middle age, and in a polyamorous marriage with one of the red herrings – is likely based on the lustful housewife Angie Dickinson played in Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980), who is, in turn, based on Marion Crane, Janet Leigh’s character from Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). All three characters are connected by their sexual frustration and the way their minor sins (adultery, premarital sex, theft, et cetera) doom them to be murdered. They’re also all presumably leading characters who are shockingly killed off about halfway through the story. I mention the comparison, because De Palma’s film (along with all the early slashers) was incredibly controversial for its perceived misogyny, meaning that Fulci and his writers were following problematic trends, rather than trying to set them. Furthermore, Psycho, Dressed to Kill, and New York Ripper feature killers with specific (though different) grudges against women and the murder mystery aspects of all three films force their audiences to unwittingly identify with them. So, while De Palma and Fulci might not intend to imply that their ill-fated heroines deserve their violent ends (I’d even argue that New York Ripper means to shame its audience for judging Jane’s sexual tastes), the necessities of genre render those intentions moot.

The closest to a real defense of New York Ripper’s misogynistic violence is the clear moral divide between the women and men. Again, Fulci’s intentions are rendered moot by genre, but he does present women by and large as sympathetic figures. Even the first victim, Rosie (Cinzia de Ponti), who is caught scrawling obscenities onto a stranger’s car with lipstick, has a moment of sweet-natured small talk with the killer before he turns on her. In contrast, Fulci treats the male characters, even the supposed good guys, with disdain. Again, this is partially a side effect of murder mystery storytelling. As in the case of Sergio Martino’s Torso (Italian: I Corpi Pesentano Tracce di Violenza Carnale, 1973), the constant chauvinism and lecherous behavior implies that all men – not just knife-wielding maniacs – are dangerous. Some characters, like Dr. Davis (Paolo Malco) and Dr. Lodge (Laurence Welles) are only “guilty” of “non-traditional” sexual appetites (Davis is gay and Lodge is a cuckold), but this seems less like a judgment of tastes, rather, a judgment of their hypocrisy, given their judgment of sex workers throughout the film. In the end, the nicest guy in the movie, Peter (Andrea Occhipinti), is outed as the killer and his girlfriend, Fay (Almanta Keller), overcomes her meekness and attacks him in the newly-minted Final Girl tradition, though it’s ultimately up to Williams to kill Peter, which he does by shooting a golf ball-sized hole in his cheek. In a reversal of Don’t Torture a Duckling’s overly moralistic murderer, who killed children, so that they wouldn’t grow into sinful adolescence, Peter kills sexually aggressive women out of frustration that his young daughter, who is dying of a rare disease, will never reach sexual maturity herself. It is at once deranged and pathetic, especially since Fulci ends the movie with the little girl crying, because her father can no longer answer her calls and tell her stories in a Donald Duck voice. Oh, it deserves mentioning that Peter speaks like Donald Duck while taunting the cops and killing people. This is almost certainly a reference to Don’t Torture a Duckling (the Italian title translates to Don’t Torture Donald Duck and the Disney character ends up being a clue to the killer’s identity), but has the added effect of making the woman-hating maniac sound like a complete idiot. On the other hand, during interviews conducted with collaborators and colleagues for Simone Scafidi’s documentary Fulci for Fake (2019), it is pointed out that Fulci’s eldest daughter, Camilla, had suffered life-altering injuries when she fell from a horse as a child. Perhaps the director identified with the Donald Duck character’s motivations, after all.

The New York Ripper is not a traditionally Gothic film – a format in which Fulci excelled beyond any Italian horror director short of Mario Bava – but, by the time it was made, American filmmakers, like Martin Scorsese, Abel Ferrara, and William Lustig had firmly established the New York Gothic motion picture look. Not to be confused with Gothic movies that take place in New York City, like Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) or Michael Winner’s The Sentinel (1977), New York Gothic is the aesthetic of steamy midnight streets, glowing with neon and the barely functioning signs of porno theaters. The New York Ripper was the only one of Fulci’s New York movies to be set in and around the 42nd Street district, where the aesthetic was born and these kinds of movies actually played, lending the film a bit of a (possibly incidental) meta quality, assuming you saw it in a Manhattan grindhouse on its original release. Fulci and cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller (veteran of Paul Morrissey & Antonio Margheriti Flesh for Frankenstein [aka: Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, 1973] and Dario Argento’s Deep Red [Italian: Profondo Rosso, 1975]) wring the dingy street locations for every ounce of greasy sleaze and believably apply it to the sets back in Italy, all in a comparable manner to what Fulci and Sergio Salvati achieved with New England Gothic for City of the Living Dead and Southern Gothic for The Beyond. Ultimately, it is this level of care – not the degree of gore – that manages to set New York Ripper in the same class as those fantastical films.

Together with Joe D'Amato’s Absurd (Italian: Rosso Sangue, 1981), Juan Piquer Simón’s Pieces (Spanish: Mil gritos tiene la noche, 1982), Argento’s Tenebrae (aka: Tenebre and Unsane, 1982), and Lamberto Bava’s A Blade in the Dark (Italian: La casa con la scala nel buio, 1983), The New York Ripper set the post-slasher standard for giallo going into the 1980s. Or so you might assume.

Murder Rock (Italian: Uccide a passo di danza; aka: MurderRock, Murder-Rock, Dancing Death and The Demon Is Loose, 1983)

A young dancer attending the Arts for the Living Center in New York is murdered in a locker room and her instructor, Candice Norman (Olga Karlatos), quickly becomes a prime suspect. Detective Lieutenant Borges (Cosimo Cinieri), academy director Dick Gibson (Claudio Cassinelli), and the school’s psychotherapy professor, Dr. Davis (Giuseppe Mannajuolo), team-up to uncover conspiracy and fierce rivalry between staff and students.

The New York Ripper was followed directly by an attractive, near-remake of Hammer Studio’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) called Manhattan Baby (Italian: Il malocchio; aka: Eye of the Evil Dead) in 1982. Soon after, Fulci’s films lost much of their patented visual flair. Even the creatively interesting ones – namely his foggy barbarian fantasy, Conquest (1983) and Running Man-like sci-fi action flick, The New Gladiators (Italian: I guerrieri dell'anno 2072, 1984) – lacked the atmospheric perfection of his best work. Murder Rock sits in the middle of this downturn and matches the vibe of these mediocre, but still quite watchable films.

Whereas New York Ripper was influenced by North American slashers, Murder Rock was a rather bald-faced attempt to apply the aging giallo model to Hollywood’s short-lived, ‘80s dance movie craze. Its key inspirations were Alan Parker’s Fame (1980), about the cut-throat world of the New York High School of the Performing Arts, and Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance (1983), about a steelworker and stripper applying to the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory (other films in the canon that Fulci didn’t rip-off were Herbert Ross’ Footloose and Emile Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing, but probably only because they were released in 1984 and ‘87, respectfully). Despite Murder Rock disappearing from cultural memory shortly after it was released, Fulci was actually ahead of the curve this time, as further dance/slasher hybrids, like Katt Shea’s Stripped to Kill (1987), James Shyman’s Slash Dance (1989), and Michele Soavi’s StageFright (aka: Deliria, Bloody Bird, Aquarius, and The Sound Stage Massacre, 1987), weren’t released until later in the decade.

The change in Fulci’s tonal tactics as he attempts to court Fame and Flashdance audiences – more specifically North American fans of the blockbuster dance franchises – are immediately apparent during the opening credits. Whereas the New York Ripper begins in broad daylight, beneath the scum-caked bridges where a dog finds a human hand hidden amid the trash along the waterline, Murder Rock’s credits explore NYC’s nightlife with a soft focus, lovingly exploring the skyline as the sun rises. For what it’s worth, the aerobic dancing sequences are well choreographed (credited to Nadia Chiatti) and an aging Fulci does his best impression of the MTV generation directors he was trying to catch up to. With due credit to editor Vincenzo Tomassi, the dance scenes give the otherwise lethargic movie its biggest bursts of energy. Many complain about Emerson Lake & Palmer prog-rocker Keith Emerson’s obnoxious disco score, but that’s only because they resent having “Are the Streets to Blame” (written by Emerson, performed by Doreen Chanter) stuck in their heads for days after viewing the film.

What’s really shocking about Murder Rock is that it actually isn’t very shocking. Manhattan Baby had already started a trend of deescalating violence (aside from its incredible finale) and it would be nearly impossible to out perform New York Ripper’s graphic bloodshed, but, with Murder Rock, Fulci went out of his way to avoid gore, arguably meandering into satire by making the murder weapon a long skinny needle that produces only a trickle of blood from apparently fatal wounds. Fulci’s soft approach to disco dance murder looks especially anemic compared to Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City (Italian: Incubo sulla città contaminata; aka: City of the Walking Dead), which was released a year prior in 1983, and includes a scene where bloodthirsty nuclear zombies slaughter a roomful of aerobic dancers in a television studio. Unlike Manhattan Baby, Murder Rock can’t be mistaken for a neurotic children’s film. It is still quite vulgar in the ways it obsesses over nude and nearly nude feminine bodies. This is likely further evidence of Fulci and the producers courting mainstream North American audiences by aping and amping-up the already sweat-soaked horniness of Flashdance.

In Beyond Terror, Tim Lucas notes a possible anti-corporate subtext that is initially seen during the film’s first nightmare scene, in which the man from a liquor ad (Ray Lovelock) chases Candice with a hatpin. Lucas describes the hazy, almost entirely slow-motion sequence as a “parody of a shampoo commercial.” Later, while waiting to meet up with her mysterious dream killer, who turns out to be a down and out model named George, she smokes a cigarette as the Marlboro Man watches over her shoulder from a billboard in the background, further cementing the idea that advertising mascots are genuinely stalking her. There’s also an unexplained, pseudo-sci-fi element to the dance academy building, mainly in the way it’s lit and the fact that every night, around closing time, the lights slowly pulse and a robotic voice announces that the doors will soon be electronically sealed. It’s possible that this, the oddly commercial like dream sequences, and Giuseppe Pinori’s soft, lens flare heavy photography were simply the result of Murder Rock being made back-to-back with The New Gladiators, which actually was a sci-fi movie brimming with satirical, anti-corporate messaging (even the control room used to record the dance performances appears to have been repurposed from the TV station control room seen in New Gladiators).

If it had been released a decade earlier, using largely the same cast, Murder Rock might have been a minor classic. The script (credited to Fulci, Gianfranco Clerici, and Vincenzo Mannino) is a decent whodunnit that borrows its dime-store Freudian psychology and sarcastic police detective from popular Argento and Sergio Martino movies, and the female lead owes a great deal of her particular neuroses to those of Lizard in a Woman’s Skin’s protagonist (Olga Karlatos’ performance is absolutely on par with Florinda Bolkan’s in both of her Fulci-made gialli). Furthermore, the finale (albeit briefly) threatens to combine the denouements of Perversion Story and Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. The lack of graphic bloodshed, low body count, and never-ending cavalcade of red herrings would’ve fit the era, as well, and Fulci would’ve been a lot healthier, too, obviously.

Cat in the Brain (Italian: Un gatto nel cervello; aka: Nightmare Concert, 1990)

Disturbed by the images that he creates for his own graphic horror movies, an Italian horror director named Lucio Fulci (Lucio Fulci) seeks help from a psychiatrist named Professor Schwarz (David L. Thompson). But Schwarz isn’t interested in helping his newest patient – he’d rather hypnotize the ailing filmmaker and frame him for murder.

Murder Rock represented Fulci’s career as the bottom began to fall out of the Italian horror movie industry. His final giallo-esque film, A Cat in the Brain was something more desperate, like an aging home run slugger pinning his entire late career on just one more big hit. This awkwardly metatextual film, which was aimed directly at the most ardent, lifelong Italian horror aficionados, became a legend among the second generation of Fulci’s fans, who were barely able to find the director’s most famous films on home video, let alone an obscure, mega-low-budget movie from the early ‘90s. That reputation grew as ‘zine writers and bootleggers got their hands on dupe tapes of Italian, German, and Japanese VHS releases, leading Fulci novices to check it out when it finally hit DVD, only to be baffled by an ambitious, largely slapdash, and entirely narcissistic head-trip through the director’s best and worst impulses.

Following the failed release of the highly anticipated Zombi 3 (1988) – a movie that was marred by production woes and which was taken over by Hell of the Living Dead (Italian: Virus - l'inferno dei morti viventi; aka: Night of the Zombies and Zombie Creeping Flesh, 1980) director Bruno Mattei when Fulci was too ill to finish – Fulci found himself stuck in a cycle of inferior, uninspired, and increasingly cheap horror movies for the straight-to-video and TV markets. This included one listless black comedy, Touch of Death (Italian: Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio, 1988), and three languid variations on a teens in a haunted house theme, Sodama’s Ghost (Italian: Il fantasma di Sodoma, 1988), The Sweet House of Horrors (Italian: La dolce casa degli orrori, 1989), and House of Clocks (Italian: La casa nel tempo, 1989). Of these, only Touch of Death had the slightest odor of giallo, owing a bit of its existential mystery to A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin’s untrustworthy narrator/protagonist.

With his health and career deteriorating, Fulci combined his classic gialli ideas with his esoteric gore sensibilities for A Cat in the Brain. The film had an undeniable creative spark, especially compared to the five films that preceded it (possibly six, because the release dates for Demonia [1990] differ from source to source), but was also a twisted gnarl of good news/bad news contradictions that make it one of the maestro’s most controversial films within the fan community. It is unlike any other movie in his repertoire, yet so self-referential that it remains impossible to disentangle from his popular horror movies and thrillers.

A Cat in the Brain is built around a clever concept, that Lucio Fulci, the director, is so tortured by his own violent movies that he can’t be sure if he has become a murderer himself. Yet, it wastes so much of its time revisiting the same old ideas he’d already driven into the ground following The New York Ripper. Its delirious gore is also hampered by its cheap aesthetic ugliness. Supportive fans will call it a self-reflexive final celebration of about three decades of filmmaking, while cynical viewers and Fulci detractors will notice that A Cat in the Brain is basically the Italian gore equivalent to a TV sitcom clip show. A substantial amount of screen-time is devoted to characters watching footage from other movies, including Sodoma’s Ghost and Touch of Death, as well as Mario Bianchi’s Murder Secret (Italian: Non aver paura della zia Marta; aka: Don’t Be Afraid of Aunt Martha, 1988), Andrea Bianchi’s Massacre (Italian: La morte della medium, 1989), Leandro Lucchetti’s Bloody Psycho (1989), and Giovanni Simonelli’s Hansel and Gretel (Italian: Hansel e Gretel, 1990), all of which were originally released under the Lucio Fulci Presents banner (Fulci had also reportedly co-directed Hansel and Gretel).

Despite admitting that the final product was basically made in post and that the script was nothing but descriptions of bodily mutilation, Fulci himself seemed genuinely proud of Cat in the Brain, or at least the concept of Cat in the Brain. It’s likely that, beneath the tacky production and ambitious themes, the film was a spiritual exorcism for the director, who was painfully aware of the extreme arc his career took in the 1980s. Like Dario Argento’s Tenebrae and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (a film that Fulci accused of ripping him off, despite Craven likely being unfamiliar with Fulci’s work, especially his late ‘80s/early ‘90s work), Cat in the Brain is a semi-autobiographical work – one meant to purge each director’s frustration with his artistic pigeonholing. Argento wanted to make fantasy movies, but, when Inferno (1980) flopped, he was forced to return to gialli, at which point he dissected his own storytelling conventions. Craven wanted to get away from horror altogether, but, after suffering multiple box office bombs in a row, he returned to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise that he had created. Tenebrae, New Nightmare, and Cat in the Brain all satirize the reactionary assumption that violent entertainment can only be made by violent artists. Argento doesn’t literally appear in his film, but the protagonist is clearly a stand-in who (spoiler) uses his experience penning pulp mysteries to plan the intricate murder of his wife and her lover (end spoiler). Craven does cast himself in New Nightmare as a fictional filmmaker who must continue writing Freddy Krueger stories in order to keep a very real ancient evil at bay.

Fulci’s version of the trope seems the most confrontational. He doesn’t jokingly imply that maybe the critics are right about his violent impulses, like Argento does, nor does he create a fantastical excuse for his screen counterpart to be making scary movies. Instead, the movie version of Fulci appears bored and exhausted by his creative lot in life. He’s seen going through the motions of directing with little emotional investment and minimal interest. He appears frustrated, sure, but it really isn’t until his evil psychiatrist exploits the violent art = violent artist myth and hypnotizes Fulci that reality and fantasy begin to blur. Horror movies might not make filmmakers into monsters, but prevailing misconceptions and critical protests of those horror movies just might. Of course, if this is Fulci’s point, it means that he’s avoiding any real self-assessment. In interviews, he was known to cite emotional traumas as reasons (though rarely excuses) for the escalating misogyny seen in throughout his later movies and happily offered extensive philosophical analyses of his obsession with rotting flesh and punctured eyeballs, but, apparently, he wasn’t really willing to explore these questions on-screen.

Unlike Tenebrae, Cat in the Brain doesn’t quite work as a classic giallo or even a postmodern one, because the killer’s identity isn’t a mystery. Fulci reveals Schwarz’ plan very early on (the character maniacally explains his evil plan before he executes it), which undercuts potential suspense and puts the dramatic onus entirely on the psychological component. Had he approached it as a murder mystery, he could’ve drawn out the possibility of fictional Lucio as a suspect until the startling reveal, like he had in Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, where (spoiler) the lead protagonist convinces the authorities and the audience that she isn’t sure if she’s the victim or the villain (end spoiler). Fulci almost implies a similar double-cross when he supposedly murders a woman off-screen in the film’s final minutes, but (assuming you’re watching the complete, uncut version of the movie) this is revealed to be a final metatextual joke. Though, this brings us to the question of whether or not Cat in the Brain is supposed to be a comedy, like the godfather of Italian meta-filmmaking, Frederico Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963). Surely, the idea of a crooked psychiatrist hatching a scheme to murder prostitutes and his wife based on his patient’s career in horror movies is supposed to be at least a little funny, as is the scene where Fulci runs over the same hobo with his car about a dozen times, only to realize he has been crushing an innocent garbage can.



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