Color, 1975, 96 mins. 10 secs. / 92 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Luigi Bazzoni
Starring Florinda Bolkan, Peter McEnery, Lila Kedrova, Nicoletta Elmi, John Karlsen, Evelyn Stewart, Klaus Kinski
Shameless (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK R0 PAL), Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Koch Media (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), Cinekult (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

You'd have to look pretty hard to find an Italian thriller more visually stunning than Footprints, the second and final thriller directed by Luigi Bazzoni after his previous success, The Fifth Cord. That film's cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, returned here and really outdid himself with an eye-Footprintspopping symphony of Footprintslight and color that gives it a look unlike any of its peers. As much a mind-bending, dreamy art film as a commercial suspense film, this is one of the strongest vehicles for actress Florinda Bolkan (A Lizard in a Woman's Skin) and remains something of a hidden gem among genre fans, a thoughtful and melancholy alternative when you want to take a break from the more traditional black-gloved killers.

Italian translator Alice Cespi (Bolkan) suffers from eerie, unsettling nightmares about an astronaut abandoned on the moon by his colleagues under orders from their command post headed by Professor Blackmann (Kinski in a glorified cameo). She believes the visions are inspired by a film called Footprints on the Moon that frightened her so much as a child she couldn't make it to the end, but that's nothing compared to an even greater mystery. Alice can't remember anything that happened for the past three days, and the only clue she manages to find is a torn photograph depicting a hotel at a nearby beach resort town, Garma. Unable to glean any other information from her friends (including a brief role by giallo staple Evelyn Stewart, aka Ida Galli), she takes some time off to visit the area and discover what might have happened during her lost time. Upon arriving at the hotel she encounters an odd assortment of characters including a Footprintslittle girl named Paula (Elmi, the redheaded mascot of many '70s Italian horror films) who insists Alice has been there before using the name Nicole. Then there's a soulful young man named Henry (McEnery) and Footprintsthe wealthy widow Mrs. Heim (Kedrova), who all seem to know a little more than they're telling. On top of that, Alice is still plagued by visions of those astronauts, the full meaning of which won't be revealed until the end.

Originally released as Le orme in Italy and sometimes shown as Footprints on the Moon, this was never given a theatrical release in many English-speaking countries including the United States, where it only limped in later on VHS from Force Video in 1986 as Primal Impulse. For some reason the English export version was trimmed by a little over three minutes, jettisoning some minor dialogue and atmospheric moments but not particularly affecting the plot. Even in this compromised form the film still managed to grab a small fan base over the years, at least for those willing to look past the more lurid promises of the cover box and instead enjoy what turned out to be a haunting, beautifully constructed little gem of a psychological thriller. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the film's current state is the unavailability of its soundtrack in any format; composer Nicola Piovani (Life Is Beautiful) delivers a simply stunning tapestry of music here, even surpassing his excellent work on Flavia the Heretic and The Perfume of the Lady in Black (either of which would make a good double feature with this one). Hopefully some label will jump on it as this may be the single finest unreleased Italian soundtrack out there at the moment.

The first DVD out of the gate for Footprints came in 2009 from the U.K. label Shameless, who presented a new transfer of the Italian version with the entire Italian-language version with optional English subtitles as well as Footprintsthe original English track with subbed Italian slotted in for the extra footage. The slightly windowboxed transfer looks drab with muted, green-heavy colors and very pale blacks, Footprintsbut it still beats the tape. Extras include a teaser for the U.S. VHS release, an image gallery, a very lo-res English trailer, and the alternate English-language opening titles from a VHS source.

An imperfect but far superior (albeit pricier) option was the 2015 German Blu-ray and DVD set (five discs!), which is also slightly windowboxed but comes from a vastly superior source with beautiful colors and much deeper, richer blacks. The transfer does a good job conveying the striking contrast between the icy, modern environment of the opening act and the warm but sinister fairy tale wonderland of the rest, and the Italian source used is in good condition. (The print damage during the monochrome moon nightmare footage is intentional and was accidentally scrubbed off of some of the Shameless release.) Unfortunately there's some comparatively restrained scanner noise visible on the transfer that becomes annoying during the brighter scenes in particular. The DTS-HD MA mono options on the Blu-ray include the English, Italian, and German tracks with optional German subtitles. The film was almost entirely shot in English with most of the principals providing their own voices, so that's easily the best way to go. In a nice gesture, the extra Italian footage is also given optional English subtitles, so this is definitely a complete print and 100% English friendly. Extras on the Blu-ray and DVD include the English trailer (still looking rough), the Italian trailer (which looks gorgeous), and a gallery of stills and poster art. So, what's on the other discs? Well, there's Footprintsalso a Blu-ray and DVD for Bazzoni's first feature Footprintsfilm, the atmospheric La donna del lago, now known on English-speaking Blu-ray as The Possessed, which isn't English-friendly here and includes a number of extras. On the fifth disc is a DVD containing a trio of bonus features for Footprints: "Malen Mit Licht," a 74m45s interview with Storaro in Italian with German subtitles; "Kinderstar," a 50-minute interview with Elmi in Italian with German subs; and a 9-minute breakdown of the film by Dr. Marcus Stiglegger, a familiar face from many Camera Obscura releases, in German. The hefty package also contains a liner notes booklet with a Germany essay by Christian Kessler. The hefty package also contains a liner notes booklet with a Germany essay by Christian Kessler.

The 2022 Blu-ray edition of Footprints from Severin as part of its House of Psychotic Women set and as a standalone release features two discs, with the first housing the complete 96-minute Italian cut with DTS-HD MA 2.0 Italian and English tracks with English SDH or English translated subtitles (as well as subs popping up for the added bits when necessary as usual for the English track). In terms of color timing and framing this is extremely close to the German release, though in motion it looks significantly better without that gritty scanner noise mucking things up. Storaro's cinematography really shines here, and it's a very satisfying presentation. An audio commentary by Kat Ellinger tackles plenty of material including Bazzoni's minimal output and contributions to the horror genre and giallo subgenre, her personal definition of the giallo, other definition-expanding contributions, the state of postwar European tourism, the stresses of Footprintsmodern life and identity confusion, and the sense of voyeurism running throughout. "Light of the Moon" (77m57s) is a slightly repurposed Footprintsedit of the chat with Storaro from the German release, finally subtitled here, about his career making films in Italy with a focus on his start in the industry and his work in the mid-'70s, especially his relationship with Bazzoni and his creative inspiration using artificial lights in unusual environments on titles like this and Last Tango in Paris. The English trailer is also included.

The second Footprints Blu-ray features the shorter U.S. cut with English credits and the same language options, looking and sounding comparable. It can also be played with a video intro by Janisse (6m40s), who provides a terrific summation of the film's depiction of losing your psychological footing and the distinctive presence Bolkan offered to Italian cinema. In "To the Moon" (12m3s), Evelyn Stewart a.k.a. Ida Galli gives an account of her approach to acting, her love of doing "these little cameo roles," and how she approached the quick but significant appearance she has here. In the video essay "Nicoletta Elmi: Italian Horror's Imp Ascendant" (11m40s) by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Craig Martin adapted from their essay in the book Kid Power!, we get a survey of highlights from her '70s appearances for directors like Mario Bava, Bazzoni, Luchino Visconti, Massimo Dallamano, and Dario Argento, as well as the traits she brought that differed from standard child performances including the way she's positioned and framed.

In 2024, Shameless revisited the film for its first U.K. Blu-ray release, this time with three viewing options: the complete cut in Italian with English translated subtitles, the English track with Italian subtitled inserts or English SDH subs for the whole film, or the shorter 93-minute U.S. cut. Here you get a new audio commentary by Rachael Nisbet, who certainly knows her way around this territory and delivers another top-notch track covering the autobiographical aspects from co-writer Mario Fanelli, the collaborations with Bazzoni that informed this film, the themes of alienation and slippery memory that flourished here, the role geography plays in both the visuals and storyline, and much, much more. The Freak-o-Rama interviews get tweaked a bit here (including new credits, etc.); the Storaro interview "Master of Light" (77m57s) is always an engrossing watch, while "To the Moon" (12m3s) is the Stewart/Galli piece with extra editorial finessing and photos. Completely new here is "Remembering the Moon" (7m11s) with a very cheerful Bolkan recalling the film as a wonderful experience with the kind of challenges she gravitated to as an actress, along with her memories of Kinski and the "revolutionary" nature of films like these. The Italian trailer is also included.

Shameless Blu-ray

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Severin Blu-ray

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Koch Media Blu-ray

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Shameless DVD

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Updated review on April 19, 2024.