Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rosalba Neri Friday # 18 - ALLA RICERCA DEL PIACERE (AKA AMUCK !) 1972

Rosalba AND Barbara Bouchet In Some REALLY (!!) Weird & Trippy 70's Italian Madness !!

....and best of all, it's

"An Explosion of Sexual Frenzy !"

    Probably best known for the presence of its two female leads in the form of Rosalba & Barbara Bouchet along with their justifiably famous slo-motion love scene, AMUCK ! is a prime example of 70’s Italian exploitation cinema. Most often labeled as a giallo it always seemed to me (in spite of its contemporary setting) to be more in the line of a perverse gothic mystery with elements of the giallo mixed in. As with many movies of this ilk it portrays the upper class/wealthy as morally corrupt hedonists with no scruples who attempt to destroy the working class via sex & violence with whom they treat as playthings to be discarded at the conclusion. Unfortunately as far as home video it’s always been hindered by some truly awful bootleg releases by way of crappy VHS transfers and really needs a nice widescreen edition. 

     Barbara Bouchet plays Greta Franklin who arrives at the secluded Italian island home near Venice of American author Richard Stuart (Farley Granger from Hitchcock’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and ROPE) and his much younger wife Eleanora (Rosalba). Although presumably there to begin work as Richard’s secretary she’s is actually there to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his previous secretary Sally, who just happens to have been her roommate and lover. Once there she discovers the urbane couple are not quite what they seem as she’s soon immersed in drug fueled sex parties, watching homemade fairy tale porn loops (starring her missing friend !) and participates in duck hunting expeditions (!?) gone horribly wrong. Lurking around in the shadows is a creepy fisherman played by Peter Martinovich (previously seen with Rosalba in LADY FRANKENSTEIN) who fillets a live eel in front of Greta and has a starring role in the Stuart’s “home movies”. 

    Seeming at the beginning to be a very basic mystery story, the slowly deepening intricate dream-like plot twists & turns it way thru flashbacks (and maybe flash forwards...) and thru maybe (?) Greta’s imagination as she slowly begins to realize that perhaps Richard’s current book in progress is being played out as actual events involving her, the missing friend and the Stuarts. 
   Although there are a few side excursions to a dreary & dinghy looking Venice (along with the after mentioned duck hunt in a secluded marsh) the entire film plays out in the Stuart’s remote house. As expected there are a couple of red herrings (along with ineffectual police) thrown into the mix including the creepy fisherman and the household butler, however they aren’t as obtrusive as usual and they do help the plot move along. Maybe a bit slow moving on the surface (and pretty much free of bloody mayhem) there is a wonderfully creepy atmosphere of melancholy and decadence hanging over the plot, that especially pervades itself in the druggy and sometimes violent sex & nudity content – as even a skinny dipping waterfall flashback with Greta & Sally seems weirdly strange. 
   Director Silvio Amadio also worked with Rosalba the same year in SMILE BEFORE DEATH and although his filmography is fairly forgettable he certainly was firing on all cylinders here. Composer Teo Usuelli contributes a suitably trippy score - a portion of which was later used in THE BIG LEBOWSKI.  

     The three leads are all very good here with Granger bringing a real Jekyll & Hyde like slowly encroaching air of evil madness to the proceedings and along with LADY FRANKENSTEIN and TOP SENSATION this is Rosalba’s best role. From the moment we see her gazing down from a balcony at Greta’s arrival like a spider from a web you just know there’s something really grotesque lurking below the surface (both with the character of Eleanora and the decaying elegance of the house). In addition Rosalba smokes - as usual figuratively and here literally as well - as in cigarettes (which IS unusual for her).
     Originally titled ALLA RICERCA DEL PIACERE in Italy (which translates as IN PRUSUIT OF PLEASURE) this was picked up for U.S. distribution in 1978 by Group 1 and re-tilted AMUCK !. The trailer is one of Group 1’s legendary hyperbole filled extravagances with the narrator claiming much more sex will be shown in the feature then what’s allowed on the trailer (complete with “CENSOR” title cards popping up at opportune moments) , when in fact your seeing the uncut footage IN the trailer. At some other points in time it was retiled & re-edited as LEATHER AND WHIPS or HOT BED OF SEX (among others) and played the more sex orientated grindhouses. 

     A bootleg DVD of the english dub version was issued by Eurovista years ago (which was an off shoot of the now defunct Luminous Film & Video Wurks ) and is obviously taken from a VHS source complete with tape rolls, squished credits and a sickly green/yellow tint to portions of it with the only credits being the title card and Granger and Bouchet’s names. Originally shot in 'scope the DVD features the tape sourced dead center transfer with often inanimate objects such as lamps taking center stage while the principles talk away unseen. 
   The LEATHER AND WHIPS version was issued eons ago by Something Weird on a long OOP VHS. Although the Something Weird tape is horribly cut with a really mangy transfer (for all its faults the Eurovista DVD appears uncut) as lots of peripheral dialogue and scenes are gone in order to cut more quickly to the naughty bits (the entire opening showing Greta's arrival at the house is missing). However it is widescreen which at least keeps the remaining compositions intact. The Eurovista DVD does feature short interviews with both Rosalba & Barbara (which makes it somewhat worthwhile and it's about the only game in town). The Rosalba interview appears to have been done at the same time as the one on the LADY FRANKENSTEIN DVD issued by DVD Drive-In back about the same time.

*** UPDATE March 10 2015 - Code Red DVD has released a nice widescreen anamorphic DVD (although slightly cut) of AMUCK ! under the MANSION OF MADNESS title. 

Here's a screen grab from the Something Weird VHS

Rosalba in the interview section of the Eurovista DVD


  1. Wow. Definitely want to see this, but I want the presentation to be somewhat closer to definitive.

    1. Yeah, I keep holding out hope for a definite release. The trouble with a lot of Italian horror/exploitation titles is that the rights are all convoluted or the known holders are asking for a ton of money - especially for anything English friendly.
      Even in this truncated version this is worth checking out IMO.