La lama nel corpo

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In a remote corner of the English countryside, Doctor Vance (William Berger) oversees an asylum and safeguards the tragic secrets of his past. But when a new nurse and an unlikely visitor (Barbara Wilson and Françoise Prévost) descend on the hospital Dr. Vance’s hidden past is exposed and a series of terrible murders commences.

La lama nel corpo (1966) combines the Gothic tradition with the burgeoning giallo genre by borrowing more than a little from the films of Mario Bava. Essentially a cross between an Amicus Production and a Bava helmed proto-slasher, La lama nel corpo impresses with its intensely pervasive atmosphere and dynamic use of montage. La lama nel corpo is the product of a collaboration between directors
Lionello De Felice and Elio Scardamaglia with screenwriters Ernesto Gastaldi and Luciano Martino that remains of important historical significance as a major transition between the Gothic horror films of the fifties and the explicitly violent and sexual films of the seventies.

Writer Luciano Martino would go on to produce Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh (1971); a film that successfully transposes the eerie atmosphere and mysteries of the Gothic horror into the more contemporary psychological thriller. La lama nel corpo gestures towards the narrative complexities and cerebral intricacies of Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh in the dual roles that Gisele (Prévost) and Mary (Wilson) play within the film’s narrative complex.

Although both Gisele and Mary represent a similar line of inquiry in the narrative and function as audience surrogates, the ramifications of their activities are total opposites. Gisele’s interrogation of the plot and the characters around her is destructive (and ultimately self-destructive) while Mary represents a constructive approach. In psychological terms these two characters are indicative of a single whole that has been parceled out in order to reveal specific aspects of both character and plot. This stratagem on the part of the filmmakers, though hardly new or original, is complex enough to suggest the rubric of the more sophisticated giallo films that would come out later.

Despite the aesthetic as well as the historic significance of La lama nel corpo the film has remained relatively obscure. With only a German Blu-Ray release La lama nel corpo has failed to find its audience in a post-VHS age. It has been released as a budget DVD once or twice but without any restorations or proper subtitling. A “should be” classic, La lama nel corpo deserves far better.