Cast & Crew
Alberto De Mendoza
Dr. George Dumurrier runs the Dumurrier Clinic with his brother Henry. To raise money for the failing clinic, the brash, charming George announces to the press that he is planning the world's first heart transplant. At his palatial home, George hires a nurse to care for his estranged wife Susan, who suffers from severe asthma. Susan, however, vents her hatred toward George, saying she wants only her sister Martha to remain at her side. After warning the new nurse never to confuse Susan's asthma medication with her powerful tranquilizers, George leaves on a supposed business trip, which in reality is an excuse to spend the weekend with his lover, erotic photographer Jane Bleeker. After they make love, Jane tells George that because their arrangement is too painful to her, the relationship must end. She plans to move to San Luis Obispo to get away from him, and he drops her at the train station, but then impulsively drives to San Luis Obispo in order to meet her as she disembarks. She falls into his arms, but despairs that, because he will never leave his sick wife, the relationship is still doomed. They stop in Reno, where George receives news that Susan has died. At home, he learns that after she sent away the nurse, Susan had a fatal asthma attack. After glancing at her dead body, George accepts a tranquilizer from Henry and falls into blissful unconsciousness. Weeks later, George wonders to Jane why Susan, who had grown to despise him, left him a two million dollar insurance policy. After he uses the money to pay off the clinic's debts, a representative of the insurance agency begins following George around town, suspicious about the policy. At dinner with Jane, George receives a mysterious phone call that instructs him to examine a poster behind him. It shows Monica Weston, a striptease dancer who looks exactly like Susan, except that Monica is blonde instead of brunette and has green eyes instead of brown. George makes an excuse to Jane and heads to the dance club, not knowing that both Jane and the agent are following. At the club, Monica performs her act, after which George invites her to his table. When Jane arrives, George admits that he came to see Monica. The stripper joins them at their table, and assuming they want to hire her for a ménage à trois, offers her services. However, when they stare at her intently, she strides away. Later, George hires Monica as a prostitute, hoping to gather more clues to her identity. At her apartment, he notes a bottle of tranquilizers on her bedside table, then makes love to her, seeing Susan's face in his mind. Afterward, Monica's friend visits to retrieve the tranquilizers, which she says she lent Monica earlier. The phone then rings, and when George answers it, he hears Jane ask for Monica. Soon after, he questions Jane, who states that she wondered if Monica and Susan were one and the same. As Jane's partner Larry projects photos of models to inspect, George recognizes one as the nurse hired the night of Susan's death. Meanwhile, the insurance agent informs the police that George seemed irreproachable until he was seen cavorting with a woman who looks exactly like Susan, and Inspector Wald opens an investigation into the case. After Monica is arrested and her apartment searched, Benjamin Wormser, a milquetoast who loves her obsessively, becomes concerned. The police find a piece of paper in Monica's drawer with Susan's signature on it, and upon questioning her, she breaks down and admits that a woman named Betty hired her to pose as Susan and take out a large insurance policy. The police, knowing that only George benefited from the policy, suspect his involvement and have Susan's body exhumed to determine if she was murdered. Finding evidence of a tranquilizer overdose, they search Monica's apartment again and this time find an envelope of money bearing George's fingerprints. While Jane identifies the model-nurse as Elizabeth O'Neill, Benjamin raises $2,000 for Monica's bail, only to discover that she has paid her own way out of jail. When she cruelly rejects him, he threatens to kill her. Larry then hires Monica for a photo session, during which Jane shows her Elizabeth's photograph and asks to meet her. When Monica states that she knows Elizabeth but cannot locate her, George brings the girl's picture to Wald, who dismisses it, stating that only George had a motive for the crime. George is tried and sentenced to death, during which time Monica flies to Paris, along the way removing her blonde wig and green contacts, revealing herself to be Susan in disguise. Henry visits George in jail and there confesses that he and Susan planned the subterfuge and framed George, by killing Elizabeth and, after George saw Susan laid out on the deathbed, substituting the nurse's body for Susan's. With Martha as an accomplice, Henry, who had long despised George for marrying his beloved Susan and inheriting the clinic, coached Susan on faking an asthmatic condition, developing a career as a stripper and planting all the evidence against George. Knowing that his brother will accuse him, Henry points out that no one will believe George because of his reputation for creating attention-grabbing stories, such as the heart transplant ruse. As Henry has predicted, George receives only a twenty-four-hour stay of execution, during which time Jane and his lawyer, Mitchell, attempt to prove that the dead girl is not Susan. However, Henry has switched Susan's dental records with Elizabeth's, thwarting their attempt. On the day of his execution, George is led to the gas chamber and administered last rites. At that moment, Susan and Henry meet in Paris, not realizing that Benjamin has followed her. When Benjamin sees them together, he shoots them both, and the French police call San Quentin to inform them that Susan's body has just been discovered. George is then exonerated moments before his execution.
Alberto De Mendoza
Felix De Fauce
Perversion Story - Lucio Fulci's 1969 Giallo PERVERSION STORY (aka One on Top of the Other)
The story is more or less a riff on Vertigo. George (B-movie busybody Jean Sorel) is a doctor who's more concerned about profits from his clinic and romancing his photographer mistress than doctoring. His wife (Danger: Diabolik's Marisa Mell) is sickly and housebound. So once upon a time George heads off to Reno with his mistress only to find that his wife died during the trip and an unexpected insurance policy makes the police suspicious. If that wasn't enough, a mysterious phone call leads George, like all mysterious phones calls must, to a nearby strip club where the star attraction (Mell again) is a near double for his dead wife! Let's just add more exclaimation: a near double!! Except she's blonde instead of brunette, has different color eyes and is, well, an ecdysiast and part-time hooker. So naturally George is hooked. Did his wife have a twin? Is this some elaborate con? Mysterious, magical fate? Or just the gods of cinematic oh-too-cleverness?
Director Fulci is best known for splatter films such as Zombie (aka Zombie 2 but that's a story for another time), Tarantino fave The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. Still, like so many of his peers in the Italian genre world he'd work in anything. Perversion Story was his 21st film after a series of mobster films, spy spoofs (starring Agent 002), sex comedies, caper outings and, of course, spaghetti Westerns. With such experience in stretching a low budget and the able assistance of Spanish cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa, Fulci brings imaginative visuals and a cool moodiness to Perversion Story that's welcome as the film increasingly starts to fall apart. (Vertigo built up to surrealist delerium; Perversion Story simply collapses at the end.) The San Francisco exteriors are impressive, filled with the mist of approaching rain, the grandeur of high class houses, even the institutional starkness of San Quentin prison. (The trailer on the DVD claims this was the first production to film inside San Quentin but we should take that with a couple of grains of salt.) Fulci has a better eye for framing than many of his contemporaries but isn't beyond using Welles-inspired deep focus shots where, for instance, a man's face in close up fills the left side of the screen while on the right is a distant view of woman.
Bringing this together is Austrian model-turned-actress Marisa Mell who was basically window dressing as the girlfriend in Danger: Diabolik but here consistently holds the screen. In fact, it's not hard to imagine that Fulci (who also co-wrote the screenplay) built the film around her. Don't imagine that she gives any kind of stunning example of the actor's art but her sharp beauty and sly glances provide more than ample idea why the film's various male characters go crazy, something that's tougher than many devotees of the actor's art might imagine. Not that Mell is really getting much competition. Sorel as the once-alpha-male, now-befuddled George seems confused while his mistress Elsa Martinelli is also equally drawn into the mystery while becoming no more enlightened. Appearances by John Ireland and Faith Domergue make no impact and might as well have been played by anybody. But this isn't a Cassavetes film. With its emphasis on atmosphere and a progressively more and more outrageous plot, Perversion Story makes as good use of its actors as needed.
There was a bit of a deception earlier in claiming that Perversion Story and One on Top of the Other are the same film. That's more or less true but like so many films of the time (and this was an Italian-French-Spanish co-production) there were different versions made for different markets. So despite Italian opening credits and an English "The End", there are reports that what we're seeing on the DVD is the French edit (otherwise titled La Machination) while the back of the case claims it's from a lost-for-35-years negative. (It's certainly a fine transfer to DVD, with only small moments of damage and color fading.) Both could be true but in any case, this version substitutes several minutes of supposedly erotic hanky panky for several minutes of probably not erotic dialogue scenes and story information available in the more familiar One on Top of the Other. Whether you consider these substitutions a bonus or a loss will probably be down to personal preference but more plot likely makes little difference in the long run. And who's watching this for plot anyway?
Two audio tracks are included, Italian and English. The English track has noticably muffled music but also several differences from the Italian, some quite radical. For instance, at a train station when the doctor is dropping off his mistress, the Italian is translated as "I hate long good-byes; they are ridiculous" but the English audio track is "I hate these tearful farewells on railway platforms". The English audio has very little ambient sound but the Italian unleashes full station noises in the background. Or during a photo shoot in the film there is a long dialogue in Italian but absolutely nothing at all in English! Still, the English dialogue is a bit more relaxed and the cast appears to have mostly been speaking English. Which audio is the viewer's choice but for many the decision will be made by the fact that the Italian track offers superior sound for the wonderful music by Riz Ortolani (a two-time Oscar® nominee, once for co-writing "More"). The DVD comes with a extra audio CD of the score but no other bonuses beyond the trailer.
To order Perversion Story, go to TCM Shopping.
by Lang Thompson
Perversion Story - Lucio Fulci's 1969 Giallo PERVERSION STORY (aka One on Top of the Other)
One on Top of the Other was produced wholly by an Italian company but was shot in and around San Francisco, CA and was originally released in Italy under the title Una sull'altra. Some modern sources also list the title as Perversion Story, but that May have been a re-release title. Although all contemporary sources, including the pressbook, list Movielab as providing the film's color, the onscreen credits list Technicolor. Director Lucio Fulci, who appears briefly in the film as the handwriting analyst, used frequent zooms, jump cuts and trick shots, such as upside-down aerial views, throughout the film. In addition, in the scene in which "Susan Dumurrier" is exhumed and tested, a five-way split screen shows several laboratory tests; and in the scene in which Susan hones her disguise as "Monica Weston," a five-way split screen shows Monica at multiple striptease jobs.
As noted in the Variety review, additional filming locations included the San Quentin Federal Penitentiary and Reno, NV. Modern sources state that the film was shot in 1969. The Box Office review adds that most of the dialogue for the American release was dubbed into English. In December 1971, an Hollywood Reporter news item noted that American distributor GGP Releasing was planning to hold the film's American premiere in San Francisco, but no date was specified. The picture went on to open in Los Angeles in February 1973.