Director: Lucio Fulci
Shriek Show/Media Blasters

Temperamental Italian gore maestro Lucio Fulci had, by 1988, shot his cinematic load. An attempt to create a sequel to his classic ZOMBIE resulted in an abysmal failure and the last few films he shot before that weren't so hot, either. TOUCH OF DEATH, or WHEN ALICE BROKE HER MIRROR, would prove a great return to form for Fulci. Meaning that plot and logic are thrown out the window to make room for graphic gore sequences, cheesy dubbing and very bad taste, the Fulci way!

Middle-aged madman Lester Parsons loves his life. Despite the problem that he is a compulsive gambler and owes thousands in unpaid debts, he relishes looking through the lonely-hearts personals ads, courting rich lonely widows, and graphically murdering them for their assets. His latest victim, Margie, is a hairy-faced broad with moles on her breasts who has her head bludgeoned in and microwaved before having her feet amputated to fit into Lester's trunk! The unhinged killer also talks to himself while listening to a breezy musical theme, and attempts to slaughter a bum who witnesses him dumping Margie's body! Thankfully for him, the bum can't positively identify him, but the close call doesn't stop him from killing off a vain opera singer and attempting to woo a young lady with a scarred lip.

When a film introduces its main character chainsawing a cadaver into pieces, grinding the flesh into hamburger and feeding the slop to a pen of pigs, all with a smile and a calm to rival Martha Stewart, you know this one's going to be weird! And indeed, TOUCH OF DEATH plays like a John Waters film with extreme gore. Believe it or not, it's a black comedy with really intense violence. 50s B-movie actor Brett Halsey became a regular Fulci leading man in the latter part of both of their careers and really digs into the role of completely immoral murderer Lester Parsons. He plays his character with tongue firmly in cheek, and hams it up while showing disgust at screwing bearded lady Margie and tolerating Alice, who never stops singing even during sex! The cheesy synth score and Halsey's great performance keep you chuckling in-between the horror elements; you won't believe it when a policeman pulls over Lester and writes him a speeding ticket with a corpse in the passenger seat! The gore effects (by Angelo Mattei) are some of the most extreme Fulci would ever photograph. They aren't as grotesquely beautiful as Fulci's early gore epics, but one sequence does stand out: the brutal demise of Margie with spurting blood, trademark Fulci eye violence and skin melting! This scene, among a handful of others from this and GHOSTS OF SODOM, would later be recycled in Fulci's autobiographical film CAT IN THE BRAIN (which for some reason has yet to see a region 1 DVD release, after two companies competed over the rights). In addition to slumming Halsey, the cast includes several familiar faces of Eurocult cinema. Most popular is Zora Kerova, the fabulous Czech blonde starlet of such horrors as CANNIBAL FEROX, THE NEW YORK RIPPER, ANTROPOPHOGOUS and TERROR EXPRESS, who stars here as the deformed heroine who survives Lester's attempts to kill her. Sacha Darwin, the sister of Romy Schneider, was a regular leading lady of Fulci films, including DEMONIA and VOICES FROM BEYOND and is downright repulsive as the heavy-drinking mustachioed Margie. Handsome Italian exploitation star and frequent Fulci leading man Al Cliver (real name: Pierluigi Conti) cameos sans trademark moustache as Lester's slimy bookie. Cliver, who romanced Annie Belle and bedded Dagmar Lassander during the heyday of his career, is still a dashing character and would soon finish his career with three more Fulci films to his credit. Look fast for Maurice Poli (RABID DOGS, 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON) as a news reporter in a few sequences!

Simply put, the transfer on this DVD is as disappointing as one could imagine. It doesn't appear to be cut, but is taken from a fullscreen tape master! Unlike Fulci's other films of the time, this wasn't shot for television, so should at least be at a 1.66:1 or 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The credits roll without sound, grain is constant, colors dull and muted, black lines appear in many shots, and the 1.33:1 presentation misframes several scenes, including several of the gore shots. Synapse Films passed on this title because of lackluster materials for a transfer, so when Media Blasters announced they had acquired it, there was a sign of hope that perhaps a negative or vault elements had emerged. Nope, this is the 1-inch or video tape master which was available before. It's still good to have this flick on DVD, but there's a version from EC Entertainment which is another option. The image wasn't so hot on that disc, either, so fans of the film probably will want both for the positives one offers that the other doesn't. Like the EC disc, both the English dub and the Italian mono mix with optional English subs are included and both are rather weak.

Where the disc excels is in the extras department, but even the supplements aren't all they could be. A rare video interview with Eurocult favorite Zora Kerova is a mixed blessing. While it's great to finally see her as she looks today (still quite beautiful and lovely), a woman who seems to be full of stories and memories is relegated to 7 minutes of footage. Saddest of all, the interview ends just as she finished telling the story of how she was cast in TOUCH OF DEATH, so no thoughts on the film itself! OK, maybe an even sadder revelation: she recalls being cast as "Alice"...except she plays "Virginia" in the film!! This may be a translation error, though. One good quote she offers is that Fulci's daughter revealed to her that Zora was one of only a handful of actresses who Fulci could stand! She does share memories of being cast in CANNIBAL FEROX and NEW YORK RIPPER, as well as her rare TV movies BLOOD MOON and a cameo in GHOSTS OF SODOM, but a good interview would have drawn more discussion of the shooting conditions, the casts, the directors, the effects, etc. of these films, as Kerova was not included on the DVD's of those titles. But instead this interview is a great tease for followers of this fan favorite who will hopefully contribute a more complete interview elsewhere. One great line is that she has a phobia of bugs, which led to some apprehension in going to the Amazon for FEROX. She also mentions ESCAPE FROM WOMENS' PRISON and TRUE STORY OF THE NUN OF MONZA, but doesn't get a chance to elaborate on those films, either. One can assume that she will also appear on Media Blasters' upcoming ANTROPOPHOGOUS special edition! A second video interview talks to Fulci historian Paolo Albiero. He discusses the film's black humor, the connection of the film's hero to the director himself, and why it is such a unique film in Fulci's later credits. I've never heard of Albiero, but apparently he wrote a Fulci book in Italy which has never been published in English. I'd be interested in reading it!

Most interesting of all the supplements is a very rare audio interview with Lucio Fulci himself!! It's labeled as an interview/commentary, but it's best to say it's an interview playing over the film, as it doesn't directly coincide with TOUCH OF DEATH. The brash Italian man speaks in his native language, with English subtitles, and sure to disappoint his followers, almost the entire interview talks about his early films of the 1950's and 1960's. After some mention of MASSACRE TIME, going chronologically, Fulci reaches discussion about ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER about 68 minutes into the interview/commentary, where he talks about casting the film, shooting the film, and the fact that his daughter (who hates his films) only likes ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER and DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING of his filmography. Fulci says his version of BEATRICE CENZI is better than Riccardo Freda's, curses out the Italian film guide for not giving DUCKLING a positive review, reminisces about Tomas Milian (who he says is now "fat and bald and lives in America") and finally gets to give some interesting thoughts on A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN. Despite the interview not really holding much of interest for Fulciphiles, it's interesting to hear the late fiery-tempered director talk about his career, even if it's not the films we know and love him for. It finishes about 77 minutes into this 82-minute film, so one can hope that the conclusion of the interview will appear on another Media Blasters Fulci disc! Strangely, there is no credit to where the audio interview came from...!

A photo gallery features little more than international video sleeves...and then kicks into lobby cards, promotional stills, and posters of the films of Zora Kerova! A promo trailer for TOUCH OF DEATH, with added video titles by Media Blasters, includes most of the gory highlights in one compact morsel, and previews are also included for SYNDICATE SADISTS, THE ORACLE, ZOMBI 2, WARLOCK MOON and Fangoria International trailers for ROJO SANGRE, CHOKING HAZARD, and HIRUKO THE GOBLIN. (Casey Scott)