Color, 1981, 97 mins. 17 secs. / 91 mins. 31 secs.
Directed by Riccardo Freda
Starring Stefano Patrizi, Anita Strindberg, John Richardson, Silvia Dionisio, Laura Gemser, Martine Brochard
Raro Video (Blu-ray & DVD) (US, UK R0 HD/NTSC), Cineploit (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Raro Video (Italy R0 PAL) / WS (1.85:1)

After getting carried away during a strangulation scene on the set of his latest movie, actor Michael Stanford (Conversation Piece's Patrizi) Murder Obsessiondecides to take a breather and return to his family estate with his girlfriend, Deborah (Terror Express' Dionisio). Of course, that's not quiet as nice as it sounds since he supposedly killed his father as a child, and his mother Glenda (Lizard in a Woman's Skin's Strindberg) is in less than robust shape. Others from the production show up as well (including one of his sexy costars, played by Black Emmanuelle herself, Laura Gemser) to scout from locations in the area, which leads to a string of intense nightmares involving bats and a giant spider, a gruesome murder by a lake, and lots of deadly secrets spilling out of the family closet.

 The transition to increasingly graphic, sleazy horror films in the '70s resulted in some pretty wild efforts from the grand old masters of Italian gothics, as evidenced by such films as Mario Bava's Bay of Blood and Antonio Margheriti's Cannibal Apocalypse. One of the least prolific maestros in the genre was Riccardo Freda, an inventive (though not very personable) filmmaker who helmed such films as The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, Caltiki the Immortal Monster, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire, and the magnificent The Ghost. This one finds him mashing his ornate sensibilities with dashes of nastier thrills like copious nudity from the female leads (especially Gemser) and gory flourishes like a surprising chainsaw attack. Most of it doesn't really make much sense (especially the ending, which competes with Macabre and City of the Living Dead for sheer incoherence), but the rich Euro-terror ambiance and pounding electronic score (more on that below) carry it over most of the rough spots.

Murder ObsessionMost American horror fans familiar with this, Freda's last film, first encountered it via Wizard Video's VHS release in Murder Obsessionone of those great oversized boxes under the title Fear. This English-language version was trimmed down by five minutes from the Italian original, including the removal of some of that big fake spider and several snippets of dialogue. Various other VHS editions of varying lengths made the rounds as well including a UK version entitled The Wailing, while the initial English export version was entitled Murder Obsession (a translation of the Italian title, Follia omicida). The uncut version appeared in Italy from Raro Video in a better but still mediocre non-anamorphic transfer featuring the English and Italian audio, with Italian and English subs for the snippets of additional footage. All versions of this film credit the music to composer Franco Mannino along with his arrangements of some classical selections (including some well-placed Bach), but the Italian disc proved to be a revelation in a surprising way; that crazy pounding, electronic score familiar to English-language viewers doesn't seem to be Mannino's work at all. The Italian version has a completely different, piano-driven score that's obviously the actual work of the composer, who also worked on Death in Venice; the entire sound mix is much more sedate and classical in approach, right from the soft tolling bell and moody keyboards in the opening scene instead of those aggressive synths. The English track is a lot Murder Obsessionmore fun (with the score rumored to be the work of various composers including Carlo Maria Cordio and Keith Emerson), but it's amazing to compare the two and see the differences in how the film plays with these simple changes. Also included on this disc is a slightly extended snippet of the Gemser bathtub scene sourced from a dupey VHS tape Murder Obsession(totally disposable since you can barely see anything anyway) along with an interview with special effects guru Sergio Stivaletti (10m5s). This was one of his first films before he went on to glory working with Dario Argento, and he spends time talking about the genesis of his career all the way up to working on his big breakthrough three years later, Phenomena.

The film's American DVD debut also came from Raro, and this 2011 release features a radically improved, fresh new anamorphic transfer that leaps ahead in every respect. Detail increases significantly, contrast levels are much more controlled and natural, and the shaking and occasional video noise from the first DVD are now gone. Contrary to the packaging, this disc contains only the English version with the Italian language subtitled restored scenes; since the film is sloppily dubbed out of sync either way, it's not much of an issue. The Stivaletti interview is carried over here along with uncredited liner notes featuring comments about the film and standout scenes along with a Freda filmography, plus a particularly graphic image of Gemser from her most memorable scene in the film. A year later, Raro issued a Blu-ray with an HD presentation of the same improved scan, both the Italian and shorter English cuts as separate files (with optional English subs for the former), the Stivaletti interview and deleted scene, a new interview with composer Claudio Simonetti (22m4s) about Murder Obsessionthe evolution of horror scores for some reason, and liner notes by Chris Alexander. An interesting wrinkle came in 2023 with the German Blu-ray release from Cineploit (in its usual variety of mediabook options), completely English-friendly and Murder Obsessionfeaturing the Italian version with English or German subs plus an English track for the longer version as well (a first in HD, slugging in audio from the Italian where needed). It looks and sounds solid throughout with better encoding than the earlier Raro disc; extras include the Stivaletti interview, a subtitled assessment by Christian Kessler, an English-language rundown by Mark Thompson Ashworth (from a really weird camera angle), and the usual ornate packaging with Italian poster replica cards and a 28-page illustrated German booklet.

Later in 2023, a UK edition from Radiance as part of its collaborations with Raro featured the separate Italian and shorter English versions, again with a better encode than the first Raro disc that's subtly improved in motion. A new audio commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas for the Italian cut ties the film to her giallo book about the subgenre's connections to fine art, while video extras include the Stivaletti and Simonetti interviews, an evaluation by Gabriele Albanesi (8m33s) within the context of Freda's filmography, and the deleted scene, plus an insert with a new essay by Mikel J. Coven.


Murder Obsession Murder Obsession Murder Obsession Murder Obsession Murder Obsession


Murder Obsession Murder Obsession Murder Obsession Murder Obsession Murder Obsession

Updated review on December 13, 2023