Ferdinando Merighi’s THE BOGEY MAN AND THE FRENCH MURDERS is a cheerfully sleazy slice of Italian cheese. A haphazard and regularly confusing giallo, but a hugely enjoyable one none the less.
Before the opening credits we witness police chasing an unseen individual up the Eiffel tower, resulting in a fatal fall. The action flashes back to the past with the words, "It all began the last night of carnival...". We are introduced to Antoine Gottvalles, a violent schizophrenic who becomes the prime suspect in the killing of a prostitute at an exclusive brothel run by a certain Madame Colette (a rather plump Anita Ekberg who looks alarmingly like Divine). It turns out that, although he had beaten up the girl (in a pretty unpleasant scene) and ranted "Bloody whore!" over and over at her, she actually died at the hands of another. However, convinced of his guilt the police, headed by Humprey Bogart look-a-like (!) Inspector Pontaine (Robert Sacchi), hunt him down and he is arrested and convicted of her murder. As he is condemned to death, in the courtroom, Gottvalles curses all those who have helped in his downfall and wrongful conviction; he foretells this retribution: "...all that condemned me will die violently!". To the general unease of those he has cursed, Gottvalles escapes from custody and, in turn, from his bloody fate from the unforgiving blade of the guillotine. Ironically though, before he can begin his campaign of retribution, during a chase with the police he is decapitated in a motorbike accident. But if the ‘cursed’ think they can sleep safe in their beds they have another thing coming! One by one they find themselves stalked and dispatched by a hooded killer. Is Gottvalle’s curse still potent from beyond the grave? Or has someone else an axe to grind with the group who were instrumental in wrongly convicting an innocent man? And if Gottvalle was indeed innocent, then who slit the throat of the prostitute at Madame Colettes? And strangely, why has Professor Waldemar (Howard Vernon), a friend of the judge, requested Gottvale’s head to experiment on? And finally, perhaps strangest of all, did Roger (Waldemar’s assistant) really see Gottvale’s eyes move when he was studying the decapitated head, "Let’s not talk about the eyes Roger!"- or was it just a trick of the light? Hmmmm....
It never is explained exactly why the film has a Humprey Bogart look-a-like as the investigating officer- complete with raincoat, eternally squinting behind a fog of cigarette smoke- it just seems to be one of the delightful eccentricities of this trashiest of gialli. Other morsels to savour are the awe inspiring easy listening soundtrack that changes tempo without any rhyme or reason-( it comes to its perky zenith during a brothel party scene); and the wonderfully arch acting from the cast who all look like they are having a hoot. Merghi conjures a few arresting images- not least of all the segment after the trial when Gottvales’ accusers are seen in negative, suggesting that recreational drugs may have been used when they dreamt this baby up! And, of course, I couldn’t not mention that for much of its running time bumping and grinding naked flesh fills the screen. Garish, deep red boudoirs are filled with bouncing mademoiselles and leering, bell bottomed gigolos- (needless to say they usually find a larger, more permanent, death after they have experienced the little one). The tagline used for TORSO (1973): "GALS AND GORE!", would be equally at home with this movie- it sometimes plays like Benny Hill crossed with FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)- on acid. And that, my friend, is a compliment as far as I'm concerned!
The film also boasts a killer, replete in a natty hooded beige anorak, who wastes no time whittling down the cast in a number of crowd pleasing ways; compiling a body count to die for. Carlo Rambaldi provides the cheap, but campily effective, gore fx; throats are slit (three of them); multiple stabbings and beheadings (two noggins fly!). Not to mention an eyeball evisceration which will make even the most hardened gorehound wince... As a whodunit the film works in a charmingly off the wall way, and the killer’s identity, and motive, is revealed in a twist so sleazy it outdoes the rest of the film put together- which is some mean task! It all comes together in a denouement that would do Jessica Fletcher proud. And is nicely book-ended by climatic scenes on the Eiffel tower.
THE BOGEY MAN AND THE FRENCH MURDERS is from a time when the term ‘political correctness’ was but a twinkle in Germaine Greer’s eye. A time when film makers could get away with a deliberate and blatantly salacious mixture of sex and murder- at least in Italy!. ...This 1972 giallo is a riot from beginning to end. Admittedly it is not a particularly good film- too many peripheral characters and a sometimes disjointed narrative don’t do it any favours, but the overabundance of early 70’s madness guarantees there is hardly a dull moment. Groovy!
BODYCOUNT 10 female:5 / male:5
1) Man falls to his death from the Eiffel tower (prologue)
2) Female found with throat slit
3) Male decapitated during motocycle accident
4) Female beaten to death with ornamental lamp
5) Male has throat slit
6) Female found dead with bloody face (method unknown)
7) Male found in bath with throat slit
8) Female decapitated with sword
9) Male stabbed repeated in back with sword
10) Female strangled with ribbons and found with eyes plucked out