Not too long after completing my first draft of this review, it came to my attention that the good people at Anchor Bay were re-releasing this film on video and that the version they were putting out was, as are the majority of the Italian horror films they've offered, the unedited version available in this country for the first time. Most of you probably know this already, but for the sake of those who don't: the lion's share of spaghetti splatter films from the '70's and '80's were released over here with edits. After all, we all know how sensitive the American horror fan can be. The cuts didn't really serve to do anything except make genre addicts hungry to hunt down the unexpurgated versions, not an easy thing to do until recently. In some cases the editing didn't add up to much more than snipping a bit of sex here and a bit of gore there. In other cases, the cuts were so severe as to completely alter the film from what the director had in mind.
Upon discovering that the version of Autopsy that I had watched was the edited American release, and that the original would be readily available to me soon, a sense of duty rose in me to seek out that version and amend my review or at the very least address whatever pertinent differences existed. This sense of duty was soon supplanted by a sense of "Am I really going to watch this goddamn movie for a fourth time in less than two years?" After all, maybe I'd get lucky and the cuts would turn out to be minimal. It was probably just missing a bit of gore and all I'd have to do was change my assertion that the film was not as graphic as it had been marketed. Ha. I don't got that kind of luck.
As it turns out the cuts amounted to somewhere around fifteen minutes, the likes of which were usually only done to the more extreme of the gorefests like Fulci's The Beyond (see Dr. Freex's review) or the cannibal movies. Or to a film like Argento's rather obtuse Inferno, possibly as an attempt to tone down the more arcane aspects of the film and make it more coherent (mission not accomplished, FYI). This latter scenario is most likely what happened to Autopsy, though thankfully the changes, while they should be addressed, did not require me overhaul the whole thing.
For starters the film doesn't start with the montage of suicides (that comes a little later and without the rather inappropriate funk tune that plays in the US version), but with shots of sun flares and sunlight glaring into the camera, while a woman gasps on the soundtrack in either ecstasy or terror, it's not clear. This segues into a scene of Betty and Lenox meeting up in a square full of tourists in Rome, establishing that they know each other long before the other version does. There are a few similar scenes that serve to make more apparent plot points that could pretty much be gleaned from the US version, if not quite as clearly, and which the American distributors must have deemed unnecessary.
There's also restored footage that makes clear things that were definitely not so in the US version, making one wonder why they were taken out. This especially applies to a scene where Simona finds a typewriter with a suicide note in it. The note has her own signature on it and indicates that they will find her body in Room 13 of the Criminology Museum. This clears up both of my questions regarding what kind of museum it was supposed to be and why the hell she would go into Room 13 in the first place. The note in the typewriter also turns out to be the same note she finds on the dummy in Room 13.
One interesting cut scene goes further in asserting Crispino's interest in his characters' attitudes towards death. One night Lenox is caught by the caretaker after having broken into Dad's house. He engages him in a fight, but Lenox soon begins freaking out, screaming that he's already killed a lot of people and will have no problem killing one more and, in fact, Simona's interruption is the only thing that prevents him from beating the caretaker to death. This is clearly a reference to Lenox's racecar accident and it reinforces his internal conflict while also strengthening him as a suspect.
Further excisions were made in regard to, not surprisingly, the sexual content. For example the first scene where Simona and Ed attempt to have sex is much longer in the original version, indicating that the US people decided it was too prurient for this market (where do these people get their data anyway?). On the other hand, the scene in the morgue after Betty's body has been discovered showing the morgue assistant running his hands over the dead girl's breasts is left intact. So it would seem the US guys felt that graphic representation of two consenting adults having sex was verboten, but the depiction of one of the characters violating a dead body was acceptable. To quote Devo, "It's a beautiful world we live in."
However, the only thing that alters the film in any significant way is the removal of a quasi-cosmic bit of conceptual fluff scattered throughout that, while somewhat silly, actually lends the film a further veneer of creepiness and takes it just that much further away from the typical black-gloved killer style of giallo. As it turns out those sun flares at the beginning aren't just pretty visuals. In one scene Lenox and Simona discuss the rash of suicides in Rome and Simona suggests that the recent sun flares are responsible. (This also explains the original Italian title, Macchie Solari, which translates as Sun Spots.) The idea isn't explored in particular detail; it's never confirmed as being true and ultimately it doesn't really have that much bearing on the film as a whole. But there is something about this slim thread of plot that casts a weird shadow over the proceedings, a sense of some larger force at work. Regardless of the fact that it didn't really amount to anything, it caused me to enjoy the film a bit more than I expected, which for a fourth viewing was something of a small miracle.
In the end most everything I said above still applies, including the ratings. So the upshot is: Anchor Bay got my money, I got a souvenir of this seemingly interminable writing project and Dr. Freex finally got the review I had been promising him for somewhere around two years as well as a little extra time away from the BMR to write reviews for The Attack of the 50-Foot DVD, possibly of releases by Anchor Bay. Is that what they call the 'circle of life?'
A strange example of a strange genre.
- July 1, 2001