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  StageFright Dancing To Their Graves!
Year: 1987
Director: Michele Soavi
Stars: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Mickey Knox, Giovanni Lombardi Radice, Clain Parker, Loredana Parella, Martin Phillips, James Sampson, Ulrike Schwerk, Mary Sellers, Jo Ann Smith, Piero Vida, Richard Barkeley, Michele Soavi
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The rehearsals for this stage show dance spectacular have gone on for some time now, and with the big opening night the following evening, you might have thought choreographer and director Peter (David Brandon) would be satisfied by now. But no, he is a hard taskmaster and continues to drill his cast, putting them through their paces so his dancing examination of rape and murder can be performed to its ultimate perfection. However, there is a mishap when one of the ensemble twists her ankle and has to head off in search of a local doctor - however, perhaps trying to find one in a psychiatric hospital was a mistake...

That's because there’s a killer who escapes by secreting himself in the back of the dancer Alicia (Barbara Cupisti) and the assistant's car, who you don't need to be psychic to discern will cause a whole lot of trouble for the theatre types. Before you can say "Bob Fosse" they are all locked inside the building with the murderer, who has the key to the front door (there appears to be only one way in and out), but maybe you should be saying "Bob Fosse" after all, since presumably his movie All That Jazz was a big hit in Italy as the seventies moved to the eighties, for there were a few Italian flicks featuring dance themes like this one.

This was the directorial debut of actor turned director Michele Soavi and he was evidently influenced more by his mentor Dario Argento, not that it was a giallo we had on offer here as the world had moved on and slashers were the main diet of horror fans by this point. Even so, that subgenre was running out of steam after a heyday from a few years after around the time All That Jazz had been released, and indeed Soavi chose to enter the Italian industry just as its steady stream of exploitation movies and arthouse efforts alike were drying up, with only the occasional hit like Cinema Paradiso upcoming on the international forum.

The dancing did not take up a huge amount of the running time, but we were treated to a setpiece where we got to watch our potential victims strut their stuff, funky or otherwise. It was the kind of modern dance that you would have thought looked easy had you seen the Fosse one, but when attempts were made to emulate it you would note how difficult it was to do well, and that Soavi might have been better opting for aerobics for his cast to perform instead, given that was the easier choice for many of his contemporaries in the eighties. Nevertheless, if you were looking for some moments of pure cheese, and bad taste with it, these sequences set up the mayhem that was about to be unleashed quite neatly.

The murderer was called, somewhat bizarrely, Irving Wallace, for some reason named after the bestselling author of fictional sex survey sensation The Chapman Report and later, volumes of trivia favourites The Book of Lists, written with his family. Precisely what he had to do with going on a killing spree would appear to be... absolutely nothing, unless Soavi really disliked his output and this was his revenge for wasted hours spent reading lists, but most horror aficionados would be more keen to get to the bloodletting. While it did take a good while for the actors to be knee-deep in gore, once it started to flow there was no stopping it as limbs and heads flew, bodies were drilled and chainsawed (there seems to be maintenance going on and the workmen have left their tools lying about - cheers), and the vapid, bitchy characters found there was more to life than sniping at each other in leotards. Overall, it was not original, but it played some familiar tunes with confidence and some flair.

[Aka: Deliria.

Shameless Films presents Stagefright on Blu-ray and digital on demand 27 December 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Michele Soavi  (1957 - )

Italian director best known for his stylish horror work, Soavi first worked both as an actor and assistant director on a variety of notable genre films, including Dario Argento's Tenebrae, Phenomena and Opera, and Lamberto Bava's Demons. After making the Argento documentary World of Horror, Soavi directed the superb 1987 slasher Stage Fright.

The Argento-produced follow-ups The Church and The Sect were flawed but intriguing supernatural shockers, while 1994's Dellamorte Dellamore was a unique, dreamlike zombie comedy. Unfortunately family troubles forced Soavi out of film-making soon after, and although he now works in Italian TV, his horror days seem behind him.

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