Body Puzzle DVD Review: Gory Goofy Great

Listening to Modest Mussorgsky’s powerful “Night on Bald Mountain” can prompt men to do very strange things. In the case of Walt Disney, it inspired him to whip hallucinating animators into making Fantasia. For one particular tortured young soul (François Montagut), however, listening to the strains of the aforementioned famous classical composition urges him to kill seemingly-random people with a nice big shiny kitchen knife. But he doesn’t stop there. Oh, no. This assailant likes to take a souvenir from each of his victims — hands, livers, stuff like that — which he wraps up and “hand” delivers to an attractive (not to mention wealthy) widow (Joanna Pacula); something that might just drive the poor police detective (Tomas Arana) in charge of the bizarre multiple murders nutso himself.

What’s the motive behind all these bizarre, brutal killings here? Well, they have all been brought to us by the great Lamberto Bava in this underrated Italian cheese-and-flesh-fest, appropriately titled Body Puzzle. When this one was constructed by Bava in 1992, the once-glorious Italian horror genre was on its last leg; an appendage destined to get hacked-off a few years later. With a formula that’s half giallo and half horror, Body Puzzle offers its flabbergasted viewers with a plot so wacky (not to mention indecisive), you can’t help but throwing your hands in the air and say “Bring it, Bava!” And, providing you do just that, you ought to find yourself enjoying the finished work immensely. If anything, you have to give Lamberto props for trying to breathe new life into the genre(s).

As usual, the acting ranges from campy to, well, campy. Montagut makes for a delightfully chipper chopper as he wields his magic blade upon a candy store owner and towards a lifeguard within the waves of a surprisingly bloodless community swimming pool. Arana looks like he’s the ’90s “cool” Euro version of John Malkovich and several forgotten hunky American actors (his delivery during the film’s sudden noir-esque ending will have you in hysterics), while the lovely Ms. Pacula makes for a formidable naïve heroine.

Co-starring in this gory and goofy gift from the land of great shoes and pasta are genre regulars Erika Blanc, the great Giovanni Lombardo Radice (aka John Morghen, best known for his gory demises in several popular ’80s Italian gutmunchers, such as Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, Antonio Margheriti’s Cannibal Apocalypse, and Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox), and Gianni Garko as the police chief who pops up every now and then just to look cool in front of the camera (a role that would have gone to Van Johnson had the movie been made ten years before). Eagle-eared fans of cinematic exports from Italy will identify the familiar tenor of dubbing whiz Nick Alexander providing the voice for at least three different parts.

Raro Video brings us another Italian class-ick in a superb widescreen presentation with stereo sound. Like they did with Murder Obsession (Follia Omicida), they erroneously label this as being Italian with English subtitles, but that’s not so: it’s lopped English audio and no subs whatsoever. There are no special features to be found here, either — just some DVD credits.

I won’t hold it against them, though. This is a must-have flick for Italian horror enthusiasts everywhere.

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Luigi Bastardo

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