Friday, 22 December 2006

The Sweet Body of Deorah

Back in his hometown of Geneva with new wife Deborah (Caroll Baker), Marcel (Jean Sorel)bumps into an old acquaintance, Philip (Luigi Pistilli), who accuses Marcel of murdering old lover Susanna (Evelyn Stewart / Ida Galli).

Deborah receives a threatening telephone call - but when an engineer comes out to check the line he finds it to be dead; an indication of things to come?

Later, having left for Nice, the newlyweds find themselves coming to the attention of their bohemian neighbour, a painter named Robert (George Hilton), while Susanna's favourite piece of classical music, Tchiakovsky's Sympony Number 6 / The Pathetique keeps on inexplicably playing…

This 1968 entry is one of those gialli that is best described as old-fashioned, with co-producer Luciano Martino and his co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi clearly drawing their primary inspiration from Boileau and Narcejac suspense thrillers such as Les Diaboliques and Vertigo – a fact that is in fact signalled by Susanna sharing the former man's surname.

Where The Sweet Body of Deborah does succeed is in the performances: Pistilli, Hilton, Baker, Sorel and Stewart are the kind of genre stalwarts you can rely upon to deliver the goods, playing their parts with the right levels of untrustworthiness, glamour / sophistication and paranoia; as applicable. It also benefits from some classic late 60s fashions, with Baker's one piece catsuits a particular eye-opener; a typically trashy / classy lounge jazz score from the underrated Nora Orlandi; and Baker's willingness to expose as much flesh as a late 60s production would allow.

Genre afficionados will likely see some similarities between this film and La Baker's first giallo with Umberto Lenzi, 1969's Orgasmo AKA Paranoia in terms of both overall plot mechanics and specific devices, such as the use of recurring diegetic musical motif to drive one of the protagonists over the edge; an early scene with a black dancer performing a 'primitive' / 'native' / 'exotic' dance also appears within the Gastaldi-scripted Case of the Bloody Iris in 1971, albeit with more narrative motivation.

It's somewhat mind-boggling to learn that Ken Loach's frequent 60s collaborator Tony Garnett has a co-production credit on this. Or is this a different Garnett?

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