Color, 1972, 89m. / Directed by Ferdinando Merighi / Starring Robert Sacchi, Anita Ekberg, Rosalba Neri, Evelyn Kraft, Howard Vernon, Pietro Martellanza, Barbara Bouchet / Mondo Macabro (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

The European sleaze cinema trend of uniting countries to produce all-star exploitation romps turned out a surprising amount of worthwhile weirdness, and here giving nasty treats like Slaughter Hotel and Death Laid an Egg a run for their money is this Italian-German co-production, which swirls together giallo and krimi thriller elements together along with a Humphrey Bogart look-alike star detective (Sacchi) for no apparant reason. Released in several versions under such titles as The Bogeyman and the French Murders and Murders in Paris, this oddball outing will leave newcomers scratching their heads but will give anyone familiar with Eurocult depravity a few jolts of delight.

Horny sociopath and part-time thief Antoine (Martellanza) decides to relax at his favorite brothel, run by Madame Collette (Ekberg), by slapping around a pretty blonde prostitute (Bouchet, fulfilling pretty much the same function as her role in Black Belly of the Tarantula). When the abusee turns up with a slashed throat shortly thereafter, Antoine is nailed for the crime and, despite his protests of innocence, sentenced to death. He vows revenge on his accusers but manages to escape, only to get his head sliced off for his troubles. However, the murders continue while a weird scientist (Vernon) decides to perform experiments on the brute's severed head. Who's responsible for the bloody crimes, and will our fake-Bogey sleuth uncover the truth before it's too late?

Even if it didn't have anything else to offer, French Sex Murders would be a must-see on the basis of its cast alone. Italian horror fans can feast their eyes on the unbeatable teaming of scream queens Bouchet and Neri (who were teamed to much steamier effect the same year in Amuck!), while always reliable Swedish sexpot Ekberg lends her increasing girth to the juicy role of a decadent madam. Of course, the presence of Jess Franco regular Howard Vernon should tip off viewers that there's more than the usual giallo shenanigans going on here, and indeed his presence perfectly fits the weird ambience of the film, which could easily pass for one of the higher-profile Eurocine outings later in the same decade; from the art design that tries to look elegant but instead comes off as vaguely cut-rate to the jarring, wild shifts in tone and interjections of ridiculous nudity and gore, this would be the ultimate Eurocine product if only it had the Lasoeur name somewhere in the credits.

As Mondo Macabro's notes explain, the various international money involved in this film necessitated different versions to highlight the various actors in their native countries; since there is no definitive cut, they've simply cobbled together a composite of available footage into the longest version available - which makes the already disorienting plotting closer to purely hallucinogenic. The transfer looks great considering the source; some scenes were shot very nicely with vivid colors, while others have a stark and blown-out appearance (especially one party scene near the beginning) with whitish flesh tones. This patchwork restoration also forces the occasional interjection of French-language scenes with English subtitles into the bulk of the film, which features an English dub ranging from acceptable to downright goofy. Note also that the score is credited to Bruno Nicolai but, rather than offering original compositions, pilfers the composer's back catalog with a heavy reliance on All the Colors of the Dark.

By far the biggest and most impressive extra here is "The Wild, Wild World of Dick Randall," an overview of the film's colorful producer. (In fact, this DVD is branded as volume one in an ongoing Randall collection.) Described as a bit of a shyster able to leap quickly from one hot cinematic trend to another, Randall operated under several different company names (with telephones right next to each other!) and produced a variety of exploitation favorites including Pieces and the sublime Weng Weng vehicle, For Your Height Only. Various writers, actors, and colleagues also appear with their memories of the exploitation giant, whose like we shall sadly never see again. The disc is rounded out with various galleries showcasing the film's promotion throughout Europe, as well as an essay by Pete Tombs about its complex production and release history. The disc also offers a handful of alternate scenes which offer a few different wrinkles to the plot. A valuable bit of cult film scholarship and a sleazy good time, this is another winner in the Mondo Macabro library and worth picking up for its supplemental documentary as much as for the main feature itself.

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