Color, 1972, 100 mins. 37 secs.
Directed by Silvio Amadio
Starring Farley Granger, Barbara Bouchet, Rosalba Neri, Umberto Raho, Patrizia Viotti
Camera Obscura (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), 88 Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK RB/R2 HD/PAL), Code Red (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), EuroVista (US R0 NTSC)
Italian murder mysteries don't come much sexier than Amuck!, originally titled Alla ricera del piacere ("In the Pursuit of Pleasure"). Though the story may be another retread of the old Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? gimmick of a seemingly innocent assistant turning out to be much more than they appear, there's thankfully much more here than meets the eye as it delivers a killer cast of giallo legends and a twisty tale of murder and deception that's earned it a fond spot in the hearts of many cult movie fans.
Lovely blonde Greta (Don't Torture a Duckling's Bouchet) has just begun a new job as the secretary to prominent writer and art snob Richard Stuart (So Sweet, So Dead's Granger), who lives in an isolated Venetian country home with his perverse wife, Eleanora (Lady Frankenstein's Neri). After the wife and secretary enjoy a slo-mo tumble in the sheets, it turns out Greta has actually come to investigate the disappearance of the Stuarts' last assistant, Sally, who happened to be Greta's lesbian lover. During a petting party, Richard shows off a porno version of Little Red Riding Hood which he shuts off abruptly when Sally appears in the frame. Then a casual hunting trip into the marshes turns nasty when Greta nearly loses her life in quicksand, and Richard's latest whodunit novel begins to bear a sinister resemblance to the deadly events occurring inside his house...
Thanks to the inspired teaming of cinema goddesses Bouchet and Neri, both of whom have copious nude scenes ensuring a strong fan following, Amuck! succeeds as a slinky thriller guaranteed to raise one's temperature a few degrees even if the mystery angle itself is rather limited. All three leads offer enthusiastic performances, with Granger's shifty, wooden demeanor actually serving him well. Meanwhile Neri takes top acting honors for her nasty bitch in heat routine, which really comes into play during the feverish drawing room climax. For once all of the sex scenes and bare skin are genuinely integral to the story, which features a haunting flashback near the end accompanied by Teo Usuelli's catchy, repetitive theme song in which a woman repeatedly purrs, "Sexually!" This nifty piece has become a retro music staple in recent years thanks to CD compilations, gaining a familiarity to rival Vampyros Lesbos, but the entire score is sublimely catchy and evocative.
The first DVD of this film was a legally dubious edition from EuroVista, taken from a complete (98 mins.) but brutally pan-and-scanned VHS master complete with dropouts (with one particularly nasty one during the finale). Overall it looks like a very good, colorful, sharp bootleg videotape, which is obviously well below the standards for DVD. The original 2.35:1 Cromoscope compositions are thoroughly lost, though thanks to the static camerawork, the effect is at least not as disastrous as many other similar titles. Extras include some spicy promotional photographs and two warm videotaped 2001 interviews with Bouchet and Neri, both of whom offer some nice reminiscences about making the film. Apparently the two are still next door neighbors, which makes you wonder what on earth goes on in that neighborhood. A VHS and DVD-R edition also popped up from Something Weird under the title Leather and Whips(!), drastically pared down to under 78 minutes but at least presented in 2.35 non-anamorphic widescreen (with pretty terrible image quality). Splitting the difference is the 2015 Code Red DVD (paired up with the deranged Super Stooges vs. the Amazon Women), which is correctly framed and features better quality than the SW transfer. However, colors are significantly paler than other releases (here's a sample frame grab), and the running time clocks in at 84 minutes; the necessary material cut from the Leather print is back here (mainly during the finale), with the trims mainly consisting of Bouchet's snooping and some minor non-salacious footage. The awkwardly inserted title card on this one is Maniac Mansion, another alternate title to add to this list. Extras on the disc include the great theatrical trailers, with the one for Amuck playing up its sexy content and promising audiences will see it uncut (sorta kinda). On top of that you get some great audience reactions ("I never saw so much sex and nudity in a movie! I can't believe they would put that on a screen!"), most of which probably won't be repeated among this film's target audience
In 2017, Amuck! finally made the leap to Blu-ray with nearly simultaneous releases in the UK from 88 Films and Germany from Camera Obscura (with separate DVD counterparts). Both are sourced from a restored 2K transfer that marks the first uncut scope version of the film anywhere, and it looks truly spectacular with rich, beautifully saturated colors, deep blacks, and razor-sharp detail throughout as well as a natural fine grain texture. Frame grabs in the body of this review are from the Camera Obscura, while 88 Films ones are below for comparison; the two are extremely similar with identical color timing and framing (which is much more spacious than past releases), though the German releases nudges ahead slightly with its higher bit rate and slightly better, detailed film grain in facial close ups. It looks wonderful either way you go, however. LPCM audio options on both are included in English or Italian with optional English subtitles, while the Camera Obscura also has optional German subtitles as well.
In terms of extras, the two releases feature some of the same talent involved but mostly separate bonus features. The Camera Obscura has another fine giallo-themed audio commentary with regular participants Marcus Stiglegger and Kai Naumann, joined this time by Pelle Felsch and all in an even giddier mood than usual as they go through the ins and outs of the early '70s shift in the subgenre, the film's various titles and its release history, and the backgrounds and enduring appeal of the two lead actresses. On the video side you get three exclusive featurettes here (all in Italian with optional English or German subtitles), kicking off with "Amadio!" (20m58s) in which the director's son, Stefano, cheerfully talks about his father's mentoring from Visconti, the diversity of genres he explored, Bouchet's exhibitionism on the set, this film's censorship hassles, and the different vibes on his father's productions depending on the degree of artistic freedom involved. Bouchet comes up next with "In a House of Sin" (18m11s), chatting about her desire to do a different kind of film after so many comedies, her friendly relationship with the director, the frugal budget, the "mysterious, beautiful" atmosphere on the set, the crazy circumstances of sinking into a swamp ("I was bogged down!"), and a very funny side story about Milano Calibro 9. Finally, Neri gets her turn with "Death in Venice" (15m15s), exploring her love of '70s fashion, her fondness for the film, her "hot scenes" with Bouchet, and recollections of producer Italo Zingarelli. That memorable U.S. trailer is also included, along with a slideshow of stills and lobby cards and the usual sturdy slipcase packaging featuring an English/German liner notes booklet by Marcel Barion, who makes an elaborate comparison between this film and Granger's first collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, Rope. The essential soundtrack release is also included as a separate CD, replicating the 24-track release from Beat Records also available separately. The 88 Films edition only ports over the "Death in Venice" Neri interview and features a Bouchet Q&A (23m9s) conducted in 2013 at the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester with moderator Calum Waddell, speaking more generally about her life and career from childhood through her heyday in both international productions (like Casino Royale, which gets an unnecessary jab on the back of the packaging) and her string of Italian crime and giallo classics. In "An Icon Amuck" (20m48s), Bouchet covers similar ground about how she first got into acting in Sweet Charity and had some odd experiences like being asked to play a totally different ethnicity in Colpo Rovente before moving into her Italian heyday, where her self-taught acting skills really came into play. Of course Tarantino gets a shout out in there, too, of course!
88 Films Frame Grabs
Updated review on May 8, 2017.