Director: Ferdinando Merighi
Mondo Macabro

The word "giallo" brings to mind the films of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi and a handful of other names who delivered the most memorable entries in the Italian thriller subgenre. But of course for every successful director who made the masterpieces most fans are familiar with, there were lesser-known men who made shockers which were never exported out of Europe. FRENCH SEX MURDERS is one of these. Also known as THE BOGEYMAN AND THE FRENCH MURDERS and PARIS SEX MURDERS, this pretty ridiculous giallo has developed a cult following because of its incredible cast and enticing title. It is definitely lower-tier giallo material, but if you like the ladies in this one, it's going to be on your to-buy list.

Antoine, a jewel thief, is almost caught in the act and runs off to visit his favorite whore at the local brothel, Madame Collette's. Unfortunately, the unlucky broad gets on his bad side and is beaten senseless before he runs off...leaving her dead body behind! He is arrested and convicted of the murder, but escapes and is decapitated in a highway accident. Case closed? Not bloody likely! Soon Madame Collette herself ends up murdered and many begin to believe that Antoine is making good on his courtroom promise to return from the grave. But there is a much more human solution to the mystery.

Unfortunately, even with a dynamite Eurocult cast and some moist special effects by Carlo Rambaldi, FRENCH SEX MURDERS is really more of a gimmick-driven mystery than a bonafide giallo. The problem is in casting Robert Sacchi. Sacchi made a career out of the fact that he was a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart and was almost always cast as a police inspector or detective investigating a dastardly crime. FRENCH SEX MURDERS is really more of a vehicle for him, not as much as THE MAN WITH BOGART'S FACE, but screen time for the lovely ladies of Eurotrash cinema on hand here is quite limited in comparison to him. Barbara Bouchet is completely wasted in a two-scene performance which allows her to flash her breasts, get man-handled by her brutish boyfriend, and then is killed off-screen (she gets a bit more screentime during the climactic explanation of the killings). The Barbara abuse scene is more jaw-dropping because her co-star, Pietro Martellanza, is completely nude while she remains in bra and panties!! Rosalba Neri, who can do no wrong in my book, appears as the prime suspect's ex-wife and stretches her thespian muscles quite well while also exposing those infamous stiffie nipples. She also lip-synchs to a lounge song in French! Her new boyfriend, Pepe, the sleazy manager of the club where she sings, visits the whorehouse behind her back and is soon a red herring in the investigation. Anita Ekberg, in-between her sexy LA DOLCE VITA days and the "let it all hang out" period of KILLER NUN, plays the madame of the brothel, looks great, and has some choice bitchy scenes and costume changes. Evelyn Kraft, known as the Fay Wray replacement in MIGHTY PEKING MAN and as LADY DRACULA, plays the daughter of Professor Waldemar, one of the prime suspects. The adorable blonde isn't given a lot of screen time and her character is so unimportant it's a wonder she's even in the film. In addition to those Eurocult starlets, Franco fans will love seeing Howard Vernon as the doctor Waldemar. Vernon has one of the film's stand-out bizarre scenes as her dissects Antoine's decapitated head and smashes the eyeballs into mush when it looks like they're moving!!

A few standout sleaze scenes: a bearded hippie licks a whore with hairy armpits; a judge has his throat slit in gory fashion; the aforementioned decapitation looks to have been directly lifted for THE OMEN (but not as effective); a second goofy decapitation of one of the stars; a hooker is strangled with colorful ribbons before having her eyes gouged out; and the final revelation of the killer is really no surprise considering the set-up throughout the film. The climactic jump from the Eiffel Tower is a genre first and last, and is very cool. But more than anything, there's lots of boring detective work and talky dramatics which overpower any sleaze factor the film may have had at its beginning. Keep your ears open: the film's musical soundtrack includes cues from Bruno Nicolai's score for EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION!! If you love the ladies mentioned above, you'll find something to enjoy about FRENCH SEX MURDERS. But the plot is so contrived and convoluted (showing this was a really rushed production) and the technical aspects so mundane it remains an unmemorable giallo entry for completists only.

The anamorphic letterboxed transfer of FRENCH SEX MURDERS is a decent effort, with bright night scenes and bold colors. Blacks are solid and true, and grain is restricted to the opening credits and a few other reel change spots. Several scenes look dirtier than others, but these are so few and the majority of the film is crisp and clear. The home video history of this film is so rocky and ugly that the overall results on this DVD are (no surprise with Mondo Macabro's track record) infinitely better than any other version available. The English mono audio does a good job, with dialogue sometimes sounding muffled, but that's dubbing for you. Some scenes appear in French only with English subtitles, indicating that these were excised from English-language export versions.

Kicking off the extras is an essay by Pete Tombs discussing the multinational history of the production and why the version presented on the DVD is the longest variant compiled from various sources and elements (Tombs also points out a cameo in the film by Gordon Mitchell!). A totally unexpected bonus feature is the documentary "The Wild, Wild World of Dick Randall," interviewing friends, co-workers, and journalists about the American producer who created some of the wildest exploitation films of the 60s (PRIMITIVE LOVE, THE WILD, WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD), 70s (FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS, THE MAD BUTCHER), and 80s (PIECES, DON'T OPEN TIL CHRISTMAS). Which isn't to say he's an unsung genius, because his films varied in quality. But he's portrayed as a colorful character who managed to crank out films on very small budgets and get them sold all over the world, no small feat for an American in a foreign land. Excerpts from trailers and films show that he was also responsible for some real dogs (GIRL IN ROOM 2A, KING OF KONG ISLAND, INVADERS OF THE LOST GOLD), but some doozies like FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY and CLONES OF BRUCE LEE are exploitation gems. Some of the interviewees include director Alan Birkinshaw (KILLER'S MOON), wife Corliss Randall, actor Mark Jax, and writers David McGillivray and Julian Grainger. You also get to peek inside the life of Corliss Randall and learn how she met Dick and appeared in NINJA STRIKES BACK, as well as directing and choreographing fight scenes when no one else would! As interesting as this documentary is, I think I still would have rather seen interviews with Barbara Bouchet and Rosalba Neri, the films' stars, about their incredible careers...but that's just me. I do love learning about how producers scammed people out of their hard-earned cash with drive-in epics in the heyday of ballyhoo, so hearing stories of Dick's multiple phones for different companies in the same office brought a smile to my face. There are lots of great clips of films which I hope Mondo Macabro attempts to release!

A pair of deleted and/or extended scenes only appeared in country-specific versions of the film (scene 1 in the French version, scene 2 in the Italian version). The first scene gives background to the character of the perverted writer who frequents the brothel and the second scene allows Howard Vernon to psycho it up a bit further than in the finished film. Three different stills galleries highlight a German lobby card set, the German pressbook and various European posters and video covers.

FRENCH SEX MURDERS has a great title (among its other alternate titles), a superb cast of Eurocult names and faces and a few sleazy scenes worth seeing. But it promises a lot more than it can offer and the real reason to get the disc is for the Dick Randall documentary. Unless you're a Mondo Macabro/giallo completist, this is a disc you should probably rent first before plunking down your long green. (Casey Scott)

Check out the Mondo Macabro website by clicking HERE.