Lucio Fulci's 'Zombie Quartet' may well have won him a place in horror's 'Hall Of Fame', but it's the giallo branch of his career that contains his best work. Sublime thrillers such as Don't Torture A Duckling (1972), A Lizard In A Woman's Skin (1971) and Seven Notes In Black (aka The Psychic - 1977) have now made the leap from VHS to DVD/DVD-R, offering greatly improved clarity: all the better to display their twisted webs of malice and murder.
Una Sull' altra was Fulci's first giallo: an impressive declaration of future intent which, while lacking the violence of his later efforts, is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat as its delicious plot unravels.
Brothers Geroge and Henry Dumurrier (Sorel & De Martino) run a private clinic where the former makes false claims about the practice in order to generate publicity. Away from the clinic, George leaves his sick wife, Susan (Mell), to be cared for by her sister (Domergu) while he conducts an affair with Martha (Martinelli), the wife of a business contact. When George receives a call informing him of Susan's death, his shock is only matched by the subsequent discovery of an insurance policy that will make him some $2 million richer.
During a visit to a nightclub, George and Martha are transfixed by a gorgeous blonde named Monica Weston (Mell) who bears a striking resemblance to his late wife. While George pursues the enigmatic Monica, word reaches him that traces of poison have been found in Susan's body. Death by natural causes has now become murder, and George is the only suspect. As the police and the insurance company strive to discover the truth, George must uncover the real identity of his new lover and trace the whereabouts of the elusive woman who can prove his innocence.
To the uninitiated, a brief synopsis of this film will likely suggest standard insurance scam, with a pretty blonde thrown in to liven up proceedings as and when necessary. Yes, there are elements of the screenplay that inevitably produce sparks of recognition and Mell is certainly guaranteed to raise the temperature by a good 50 degrees, but she plays with the script rather than alongside it, clearly relishing her role as femme fatale: think Vertigo as reference to her is-she-or-isn't-she character, while her married surname is a clear nod to the author of..... Rebecca.
Our first glimpse of Weston is a real show-stopper, treating her club audience to an incendiary striptease, with motorbike as prop. Later in the film, she displays more of that fabulous body than was the case in (surely her best known role) Danger:Diabolik, though Mell's best scene occurs after leaving George Dumurrier high and dry. Elsa Martinelli also scores high marks for her performance, as Martha uses her feminine wiles to search for the truth and to explore the dark side of her nature during a memorable attempted seduction of Monica. The rest of the cast are all more than acceptable, with special mention going to Riccardo Cucciola's Benjamin Wormser; Monica's downtrodden partner-of-sorts, whose words will eventually come back to haunt the perpetrators of a brilliantly conceived crime.
For the lions share of its running time, Una Sull' altra comes over as an exquisitely crafted thriller, methodical rather than slow-moving, and mostly utterly absorbing with the only debit point being an absurd finale. The camera work - from Alejandro Ulloa who shot Franco's Diabolical Dr.Z - compliments Fulci's splendid direction, and would have been even more effective had the brief split-screen photography been used in scenes that contained some of the more dramatic moments.
Una Sull' altra is now available on DVD-R and, given the drawbacks of ths increasingly popular format, should be seen as a visually pleasing incarnation. While DVD-R discs have no pit-stops for audio/visual cleanups, they can often realise huge improvements over their VHS cousins and occasionally give official DVD releases a run for their money. Fulci's film is a clear beneficiary of the DVD-R format, with accurate fleshtones and colourful interiors compensating for scratches and dirt that come with the territory.
As the present day strand of marginal horror struggles to produce new icons, we're more aware than ever of those sadly missed stars and directors who are no longer with us. Happily, the likes of Mell and Margheriti, Miranda and Fulci can now be appreciated and remembered via films that, until recently, were almost impossible to see. That's why releases such as this are so very important. I do urge you to seek them out.
Italian director whose long career could best be described as patchy, but who was also capable of turning in striking work in the variety of genres he worked in, most notably horror. After working for several years as a screenwriter, he made his debut in 1959 with the comedy The Thieves. Various westerns, musicals and comedies followed, before Fulci courted controversy in his homeland with Beatrice Cenci, a searing attack on the Catholic church.