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us title: Perversion Story
italian title: Una sull'altra
year: 1969
director: Lucio Fulci
composer: Riz Ortolani
full details: IMDB
overall score: 69

Bottom Line: Must-See
A quintessential example of the genre.

WARNING: Spoilers Below

score analysis

The Giallo is a fascinating genre because it's hard to pin down just exactly what elements are necessary to call a film a Giallo. So far in this humble survey of the genre I have primarily reviewed films that fall into the "killer is on the loose/amateur detective" category. But Gialli come in many flavors and some films in the genre are better described as "suspense thrillers" with less attention devoted to the act of killing and more focus on the deceitful intentions of the main characters. Lucio Fulci's Perversion Story (aka, One on Top of the Other), is of the latter persuasion.

By most accounts, Perversion Story is Fulci's first attempt at the Giallo. A style he would return to several times (and eventually perfect with Don't Torture a Duckling). The film is brilliantly photographed in San Francisco and feels like a mashup of Bullitt and Vertigo with generous amounts of naked hippie chicks mixed in. The story is well written and the acting is far above par for those who are accustomed to the bad English dubbing in most Gialli. Rounding out the film is a psychedelically charged jazz soundtrack by Riz Ortolani that is used appropriately and does not overstay its welcome.

But as far as the GialloScore is concerned, how can you possibly analyze this film against the criteria? As stated in the intentions of this site, is an evolving experiment. As more films are added to the survey, the quirkiness and limitations of the criteria will be revealed, giving rise to bad films with high scores - due to simple copycatting - and brilliant films with low scores - either due to a disregard for the normal genre conventions, or simply because they were produced before the conventions had been established. 

Perversion Story lands squarely in between these two extremes. There is no black gloved killer stalking victims and chased after by an amateur detective in an urban Italian location. But there definitely is a mystery, one that involves at least one murder by an unknown entity. And although the police are trying to reconstruct the events, it's really up to Geroge and (after his incarceration) Jane to figure out what really happened. The final revelation isn't placed at the very end of the film as it normally is, but instead is positioned with enough time for the details of the crime to be digested so that justice can be served.

The main difference between Perversion Story and typical "killer is out there" Gialli is in the motive of Henry and Susan. Normally the killer is revealed, a (sometimes) plausible reason for murder is proffered and the killer is then apprehended or killed. In Perversion Story, the motive is more intricate and the viewer doesn't really have a grasp of the details until Henry confesses to George in the jail cell. Giallo killers almost never get away with it, but with George on death row and an all the evidence against him, a simple final physical confrontation can't work here. After the revelation, more time is spent on gathering clues and reevaluating evidence, but ultimately it's a final twist of fate that proves George's innocence and spares his life.

In summary, as far as the GialloScore is concerned, Perversion Story ranks sightly above average. But from the standpoint of sheer entertainment value (not to mention historical context), this film is a must-see. Fulci is much more well known for his nightmarish horror visions, but it's important to recognize his aptitude for constructing well made Gialli, of which Perversion Story is a prime example.

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score breakdown

Hint: Hover over a score item for more details
Staples : 40/60
Italian Director10 points
Hidden Identity10 points
Amateur Detective5 points
Motivation: Blackmail/Gain5 points
Avoid Capture: Killed by Police or other character5 points
Director > 15 points
Standards : 23/30
Flashback Revelation3 points
Mistaken Identity2 points
More than one killer or accomplice4 points
Morricone/Nicolai/Ortolani3 points
Nude Scene >= 13 points
Suspects >= 34 points
Urban Location4 points
Signatures : 6/10
Airplane1 point
Gay/Lesbian1 point
J&B1 point
Pathologist1 point
Photography/Glamor/Modeling/Art1 point
Prove Innocence1 point
Total Points : 69/100



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Published: 2014-02-14