Color, 1970, 98m.
Directed by Michele Lupo
Starring Anna Moffo, Peter Baldwin, Evelyn Stewart, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Lance Percival, Beryl Cunningham, Chris Chittel
Code Red (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Far better known for its outrageous theatrical trailer that's shown up on dozens of compilations over the years, Weekend Murders was originally released to most English-speaking audiences courtesy of MGM as a double bill with the much more graphic Black Belly of the Tarantula, even though both films inexplicably share an R rating. The plot is basically another rehash of The Cat and the Canary as a group of well-to-do malcontents get together for the weekend for the reading of the will of Sir Henry Carter, a recently deceased patriarch.
The macabre opening certainly sets the tone as the guests witness the discovery o of a corpse's hand beneath the soil of a golf course right as someone's teeing off, accompanied by violent zooms into each actor's face accompanied by Francesco De Masi's raucous, Tchaikovsky-laced score. Among the possible suspects and victims are suave playboy Ted (Kill Baby Kill's Rossi-Stuart), wounded and estranged Isabelle (Stewart) and her husband Anthony (The Ghost's Baldwin), and dedicated caregiver Barbara (Moffo). The story constantly reverses the usual expectations of drawing-room mysteries as the butler winds up dead early on, a throat-slitting in a bathtub turns out to be something very different indeed, and the police prove to be more of a hindrance than a help.
Though ostensibly a giallo based on the fact that it's Italian and involves people being bumped off, Weekend Murders has far more in common with the flamboyant and often jokey Edgar Wallace thrillers pouring out of Germany at the time, particularly with its string of knowing references to whodunit stories. Everyone seems to be in on the joke, and the very English setting and dialogue delivery actually comes off surprisingly well even if the costuming remains utterly Italian in its excessive details and color schemes. Director Michele Lupi is far better known for comedic genre studies like Seven Times Seven, Africa Express and Ben and Charlie, and his sense of humor serves him well here along with his regular screenwriter, Sergio Donati (who also penned The Big Gundown, Duck You Sucker and Tinto Brass' Deadly Sweet).
Maddeningly difficult to see despite its wide theatrical release, Weekend Murders languished for decades in the MGM vault without a legit video release. Fortunately Code Red has licensed the film from the original Italian owners for a 2009 DVD release and accessed MGM's original vault elements, which have held up extremely well. The image is colorful and looks authentically filmic throughout (understandably, the English opening titles look slightly more drab than the main body of the film), while the English audio track is looped as usual but matches the actors' lip movements far more often than it doesn't. Along with the obligatory trailer, the DVD also contains a trio of extras with Peter Baldwin, who abandoned acting shortly afterwards and became a prolific American TV director. He contributes a quick video intro as well as an interview in which he discusses his Italian and American acting career, working alongside performers like Barbara Steele and acting in diverse projects like the woefully underrated La donna del lago. Then he appears for a lighthearted audio commentary track alongside regular Code Red moderator Lee Christian and Intruder director Scott Spiegel, reflecting on his memories of working with each of the actors such as Rossi-Stuart, with whom he appeared in two films. You also get a slew of additional trailers like Stunt Rock, Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls, Sole Survivor, Devil's Express, Brute Corps, Trapped, and Night Warning.
In 2016, Code Red took another stab at the title with an upgrade to Blu-ray, sold exclusively through its online store. The product description carries the curious disclaimer, "Please note this is the original theatrical cut as shown in the US/UK/GREECE. However, there is a mysterious TV cut that's 9min longer. We don't have that so if you wanted that, DO NOT BUY THIS." Whatever that mysterious padded TV version may be, have no fear; if you like the film, you should definitely buy this. The already nice source material looks even better here, a close approximation to to watching a freshly struck print in your home, with often vibrant and striking colors including some effective splashes of red. (Here's a comparison shot from the DVD.) The DTS-HD MA mono audio sounds immaculate as well. All of the extras (apart from the unrelated bonus trailers) are ported over from the previous DVD release, too.
Updated review on May 28, 2016.