Color, 1969, 90 mins. 55 secs.
Directed by Pim de la Parra
Starring Alexandra Stewart, Dieter Geissler, Tom van Beek, Donald Jones, Elisabeth Versluys, Fons Rademakers
Cult Epics (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Koch Media (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/PAL)

ObsessionsObsessionsA Dutch-German suspense thriller clearly geared for the international market, Obsessions is a surprisingly obscure film considering it was co-written by Martin Scorsese during a youthful spell in Europe and scored by the legendary Bernard Herrmann. Never released in the U.S. despite the fact that it was shot in English (with a handful of supporting actors very clumsily dubbed), this is still perhaps the most noteworthy film by Pim de la Perra, who would go on to tweak the sensibilities of local censors with sex-crammed films like Blue Movie (which really needs a good official release one of these days) and Frank & Eva.

Nils (Janssen), a med student preparing for his exams, finds his attention pulled away when he discovers a peephole drilled in his apartment wall and concealed by a painting of Vincent Van Gogh. On the other side he sees his male neighbor engaged in a string of sexual scenarios, though disturbingly, the women all seem to wind up lying inert on his bed and sometimes disappeared without leaving the adjoining apartment. Thanks to a fixation on Hollywood movies (specially Bogart and ObsessionsBacall ones Obsessionsand John Wayne, courtesy of a cowboy hat given to him by his mother), Nils decides to sneak in to find out what's going on. Inside he finds a naked, unconscious woman tied to a water pipe in the bathroom, but he's scared away before he can take action-- and then the girl is gone. He tells his findings to his girlfriend, reporter Marina (Stewart), who joins him in some amateur sleuthing as they try to figure out whether it's all tied to a missing model, Stella. When Marina gets uncomfortable and decides to fill in the peephole, Nils goes next door again and rescues another naked women, this time bringing her home. However, the nameless woman leaves without a word, and after following her, he realizes there's something very odd afoot as he starts to suspect menace and hidden bodies around every corner.

Filled with arty montages, plentiful nudity, and Hitchcock references galore (note all the stuffed birds everywhere), Obsessions is a really odd one, mixing old school thriller tropes, chic '60s fashions and decor, and sleazy kink, all with that percolating Herrmann music underneath. It's easy to see why it was a smash hit in its native country, but why it didn't break out beyond Europe is a real head scratcher. Canadian actress Stewart gives the best Obsessionsperformance in the film by a long shot (in between her notable gigs for Truffaut in ObsessionsThe Bride Wore Black and Day for Night), though it's also a nice surprise to see colorful Dutch actor Fons Rademakers, best known as "Mother" in Daughters of Darkness and director of Because of the Cats and the Oscar-winning The Assault, popping up in a menacing small role in the third act. Geissler, who also co-produced and went on to a much more productive career as a producer on everything from The Neverending Story to Sleepy Hollow, isn't exactly the most expressive actor in the world, but at least his English is good and he has a marginal amount of chemistry with Stewart as they basically offer a spin on the James Stewart/Grace Kelly relationship in Rear Window. It also climaxes with a really strong shock twist; though clumsily executed, it's a jarring artistic choice that definitely causes the film to linger quite a bit in the memory afterwards.

Virtually impossible to see for decades outside of its European VHS release, Obsessions garnered a full restoration and festival play in 2011, with a German release eventually arriving in 2016 from Koch Media. For its American debut in any format, Cult Epics presents a solid Blu-ray and DVD combo with plentiful extras. The film itself looks crystal clear but very Obsessionsodd color-wise, Obsessionsand with nothing else to compare it to, it's a tough one to evaluate. Some scenes (especially early on) have a strong teal slant, and overall the color brown plays a very strong role throughout; it's a dreary-looking artistic choice, but that's what we've got. As usual for the label, there's only a lossy Dolby Digital option for the native English soundtrack. Both Geissler and de la Parra provide brief video intros as well as lengthy video interviews, running 22m47s and 20m28s respectively, which cover the film's genesis as an English-language production, the other shooting locations considered during the writing, Scorsese's participation, the minor censorship hassles including one trim required in Germany, and the subsequent projects they made with this film's production company, Scorpio Films, which broke through as a force for commercial Dutch filmmaking in the 1970s. Speaking of which, a 4m2s excerpt from a 2010 documentary by In-Soo Radstake, Parradox, covers the Scorpio Films story with both men returning for quick sound bites along with other participants like Paul Verhoeven. Also included are a (very blue) theatrical trailer, a text Scorsese interview and script notes, and a gallery of poster art, lobby cards, and promotional stills.

Reviewed on May 13, 2017.