Color, 1991, 98m.
Directed by Lamberto Bava
Starring Joanna Pacula, Tomas Arana, Francois Montagut, Gianni Garko, Erika Blanc, Matteo Gazsolo, Susanna Javicoli, John Morghen
Raro (US R0 NTSC, Italy R0 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

Body PuzzleLovely widow Tracy (The Kiss' Pacula) has a problem. Not only has her famous pianist husband Abe died in an auto accident, but someone keeps breaking into her house and leaving severed body parts lying around. A candy store owner is gutted, a poor woman has her hand lopped off in a public bathroom, a young swimmer is castrated, and so on. The investigating police officer, Michael (The Church's Arana), strikes up a hot and heavy romance with her to keep Tracy's mind off the rapidly accumulating trophies. Michael's supervising police chief (spaghetti western pro Gianni Garko) tells him to keep his mind on his job; soon Michael concludes that Abe's protege and probable male lover, unable to cope with the accident, is responsible for the killings. But what's the mysterious link between all of the victims?

A fun throwback to the delirious gialli of the '60s and '70s, Body Puzzle was helmed by Lamberto Bava (Demons), credited as Larry Louis on the promotional art bBody Puzzleut still bearing his real name on the actual print. The serpentine plot involves a few nifty twists (including one borrowed from Body Parts) and a host of cameo appearances by familiar Italian horror faces like Erika Blanc (Kill Baby, Kill!, The Devil's Nightmare) and John Morghen (The Gates of Hell, Make Them Die Slowly). Arana and Pacula make for pretty stiff leads, with some of the most unintentionally laughable romantic dialogue in recent memory (you won't believe some of her comments about her brother), but Bava's swift and professional direction manages to keep things under control. Carlo Cordio's throwaway synth score is overshadowed by the use of classical music played over headphones during the murder scenes (Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" here but originally Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" in first run Italian prints).

Like many other horror films, most notoriously Dario Argento's Opera, this title was reissued in Italy in a scissored PG-13 level version, Misteria; luckily Americans managed to get the full strength cut. Though not as explicitly gory as much of Bava's other work, Body Puzzle still contains a fewjolting splashes of the red stuff, including one memorable sick sequence in a school for blind children. Though highly implausible, the twist ending delivers a nice change of pace from the usual Body Puzzlegiallo resolution and should inspire most viewers to go back and retrace how all of the, er, pieces fit together.

Body Puzzle first appeared in the US as a very messy-looking VHS release from the now-defunct A-Pix, who licensed it out for laserdisc and DVD with a better but still underwhelming full frame transfer. For some reason this film was released in mono, a complete aberration at the time even for lower budgeted European fare, and the sound mix has always sounded a bit strange with tinny voice recording and very loud sound effects and music. That sound mix carries over to the remastered version from Raro, but thankfully the transfer is a new anamorphic one presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The film still has that bright, made-for-TV look of the period (think most of Joe D'Amato's Filmirage titles around the same time) and will never be much of a visual dazzler, but at least it looks clean, crisp and detailed here; click on any of the images here for a full-res frame grab to get a better idea. Relatively speaking, it's a worthy upgrade if you still bear in mind the limited, dated nature of the film itself, which still works up a few occasionally striking images courtesy by Deep Red's Luigi Kuveiller. The only extra (apart from the one hilarious thing you get if you click "extras" on the DVD) is a liner notes booklet with an affectionate essay about the film by Fangoria's Chris Alexander and a Lamberto Bava bio and filmography.

Reviewed on 12/3/11.