Autopsy/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Autopsy
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Released in its native Italy as SUNSPOTS (‘Macchie Solari’) and retitled Autopsy in the states, this erotic thriller features a young pathology student who is plagued by mild hallucinations of the living dead while at work in the morgue. What’s worse is that she also battles panic attacks from both sexual frustrations with her race car-driving boyfriend (Ray Lovelock) and seemingly daily unwanted sexual advances (and near assaults) from any number of males in her day-to-day existence. This poor girl cannot catch a break! Our protagonist’s anguish is further amplified by an unusual wave of summertime suicides which only exacerbates her work and mental predicament.

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American actress Mimsy Farmer (Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet) looks incredible with all her low-cut luxury and the aforementioned Ray Lovelock (Lucio Fulci’s Murder Rock) is devilishly handsome as her eccentric boyfriend. A particular highlight is when he shows her a vintage pornographic slideshow to set the mood and, shockingly, it actually works! There’s also an unforgettable moment at church when our protagonist declares her carnal desire for a priest while in confession! I dare say there’s a Catholic subplot afoot too, but maybe this movie is simply just Italian. There are a few red herrings to be found, as well as a woman’s wig fetish happening, and an insane scene of experimental psychiatry when a victim communicates electronically through blinking(?).

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What really sets this film apart from other European thrillers of its day is not only the striking hallucinatory visuals (the corpses look disturbingly realistic - complete with unwanted nudity), but also the artsy and mysterious concept of environmental dread as a theme. The film opens with a sequence of random suicides all cut to imagery of solar flares off of the sun. Much like the American classic of the same time The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (whose title card is set against solar stock footage), this film (like others of the 1970s Eco-Terror ilk) heightens the murderous tension by suggesting that our mere reality has gone mad for some inexplicable and perhaps environmental reason. More than once does a character mention that suicides always happen after a particularly hot summer. Unfortunately, this opening impression and theme are ultimately mere misdirections as we learn by the finale that the plot is simply a murderous psychotic’s revenge - boring! However, I did particularly enjoy this little-known thriller as it was so different from expected giallo tropes and distinctly unusual with its themes and visuals. I know our lead is merely eye-candy, but I couldn’t help but identify and feel for her frustrations, fears, daddy-issues, and perceived sexual expectations. Ultimately, the real unstoppable horror of her predicament is sadly a woman trapped within the overbearing threat of the patriarchy. Good movie.


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Josh Stephenson was born in Florida, schooled in Chicago, and lives in New Orleans. His mother went into labor while his father and brother were attending a theatrical double feature of EXCALIBUR and BLOOD BEACH. A youth spent in the VHS rental heyday led to a lifelong addiction to movies. He holds a BS in Television Journalism from the University of Florida and a BA in Film Editing from Columbia College Chicago. He continues to work in the Louisiana film industry despite a government-issued tax cap.

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