Directed by Tinto Brass
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Ewa Aulin, Roberto Bisacco
"I'll make you piss blood."
Giovanni "Tinto" Brass is probably best known by film fans for his ass-centric erotic films or perhaps having a hand in the infamously maligned period piece, Caligula (of which he had his name removed after post-production tinkering by Bob Cuccione added hardcore sex to the film and altered much of Brass's original ideas). But, if we look a little further back, we will see that Brass wasn't always the type of filmmaker that he is now considered to be.
During the formative years of Mr Brass's film-making career (1963 - 1971), his output leaned more towards the avant-garde, with not-so -subtle forays into putting his own twist on whatever was popular at the time. Take for instance the movie at hand (and also my first Tinto Brass experience), 1967's Deadly Sweet. Also known as Col Cuore In Gola, I Am What I Am, Heart Beat, With Heart in Mouth, or your choice of at least 8 other titles, Deadly Sweet is a product of it's time in many ways. Not only do we have the groovy, spastic dancing club scene covered, but we also get plenty of inconsequential pop art insertions , and hints of noir and giallo to boot. Behind all this stylistic excess, there is indeed a story here, as ultimately unimportant as it may be.
It all begins in a morgue, where a family is viewing the dead body of a man of whom we are made aware is the father of lead vixen, Jane Burroughs (played by the stunningly beautiful Ewa Aulin), her brother Jerome (Charles Kohler), and husband of the children's step-mother, Martha (Vira Silenti). The death appears to be an accident, but Jane goes so far as to suspect that he was murdered. The motive behind his death, she believes, has to do with a photo. A photo of what, we are yet uncertain, but it is obviously quite incriminating if it's very existence can drive someone to kill.
With a few quick shots of the bustling city at night, we cut to the opening credits, made complete by a groovy Brit-pop theme song from Armando Trovaioli - a prolific mainstay in the world of Italian cinema scores.
As the credits fade, we are immediately dropped into a dance club where the Burroughs family is attempting to lessen the blow of their loss with dance and drink. An actor by the name of Bernard (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant) eyes Jane from across the room and learns more about her from an unusually knowledgeable club goer. Being all the more intrigued, he immediately goes to make his move, but finds she has already left. He hurriedly goes to pay his tab so that he can chase Jane down, but learns that his credit is no good anymore. Bummer.
Bernard intends to pay a visit to the owner of the club, whose name is Prescott, to inquire as to why his bar tab was cut off. Upon entering Prescott's office, he finds the man dead on the floor - bashed in the head with a statuette. As he examines the corpse, he discovers Jane standing in the corner of the room. She quickly declares her innocence and proceeds to give Bernard a pouty, doe-eyed stare. Already being enamoured by her beauty, he wastes no time at all in believing what she says and takes it upon himself to protect her.
Whisking her away to his crib, it doesn't take long for Jane and Bernard to get on with the sweet lovin'.
From that point on, it's all about the two lovers on the run from the baddies, more sweet 60's lovemaking and the usual "is she telling the truth or is she playing me for a fool" vibe. Nothing particularly inventive, but enjoyable nonetheless.
At the very least, I can say that Deadly Sweet has made me interested in seeing more of what Tinto Brass has to offer, as his directorial skills are quite evident here and easily make up for any shortcomings this particular film might have.
As with almost every Italian giallo, Deadly Sweet is slightly bogged down by convoluted plot details and red herrings. Aside from these typical inclusions, my only real complaint comes from the occasional slapstick comedy elements thrown in from time to time, but even with those mood breaking moments, I can forgive Deadly Sweet. If you are a giallo fan or have a proclivity towards semi-experimental Italian cinema, I recommend Deadly Sweet not only for it's stylish direction, but also for it's alluring lead actress who does a great job at playing the seductive innocent in danger.
Cult Epics has done a great job at bringing this film to light in a wonderfully remastered transfer. For Italian thriller fans, and Tinto Brass fans especially, this is a must own.
- Jeremy Vaca