Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #535
Also known as Murder-Rock: Dancing Death, Slashdance, The Demon Is Loose
Number of Views: One
Release Date: April 20, 1984
Country of Origin: Italy
Running Time: 93 minutes
Director: Lucio Fulci
Producer: Augusto Caminito, Gabriele Silvestri
Screenplay: Gianfranco Clerici, Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, Vincenzo Mannino
Special Effects: Franco Casagni
Cinematography: Giuseppe Pinori
Score: Keith Emerson
Editing: Vincenzo Tomassi
Studio: Scena Film
Distributor: BLC Services Inc.
Stars: Olga Karlatos, Ray Lovelock, Claudio Cassinelli, Cosimo Cinieri, Giuseppe Mannajuolo, Berna Maria do Carmo, Belinda Busato, Maria Vittoria Tolazzi, Geretta Geretta, Christian Borromeo, Robert Gligorov, Carlo Caldera, Riccardo Parisio Perrotti
Suggested Audio Candy
 Keith Emerson “Are The Streets To Blame?”
 Keith Emerson “Murder Rock”
If you’re looking to peruse the many works of the late Godfather of Gore Lucio Fulci, then you will be required to take the rough with the smooth. While the turn of the eighties represented something of a flush spell for the Italian maestro in terms of bankable creative output, a number of his films are far less pronounced and his résumé consists of just as many troughs as peaks. By the time the mid-eighties were looming, a number of key collaborations had perforated and, desperate to break the American market, Fulci helmed a number of misguided projects that amounted to precious little. However, if bonus points were awarded for perseverance, then he’d be largely off the hook as, to his eternal credit, he kept on plugging away in search of that elusive global hit.
Who can blame him for looking across the Atlantic for validation? Largely shunned by his countrymen, Fulci struggled to earn their respect, despite churning out Zombi 2 and The Gates of Hell Trilogy in swift succession and it took until long after his death for his boundless effort to be appreciated. Having delivered a vicious insight into the seedy underbelly of The Big Apple for The New York Ripper in 1982, the stage was set for some more Stateside-based shenanigans and, two years later, Murder Rock presented him with a second bite of this particularly flavorsome fruit. However, the setting is where any vague similarities ended.
Controversy was never far away where Fulci was involved and, of all his trademarks, his excessive violence and lingering lens was most synonymous to his brand of cinema. Coming off the back of a string of gory delights, one could be forgiven for expecting gushing grue to be a given and, if The New York Ripper offered any sort of indication, then chances are that he would only push the boundaries further with subsequent projects. Right off the bat, allow me to make this abundantly clear, if you’re looking for a bloodbath in Murder Rock, then you’ve come to the wrong dance class entirely as there is barely enough deep red spilled here to fill a thimble.
Also parading under the immensely satisfying alternative title Slashdance amongst others, it doesn’t take a genius to work out the coat-tails that Murder Rock was hoping to ride on. Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance had performed exceptionally well theatrically and with Herbert Ross’ Footloose set to continue the current vogue for rhythmic cinema, it must have seemed a no-brainer to cash in while the going was good. While the studio were keen on marketing this as a musical first and foremost, Fulci was less than enthused and instead opted to use the dance academy setting for the backdrop for the usual giallo-style murder mystery and keep any song and dance to a minimum. However, he was more than happy to break out the tight leotards, God bless him.
Up-and-coming New York studio, The Arts for Living Center, is pitting the most gifted dancers on the circuit against one another in an attempt at sourcing the very best for an upcoming music video. Pushy instructor Candice Norman (Olga Karlatos) is putting the young hopefuls through their paces and the strain is beginning to sho as the troupe are starting to adopt an each-for-their-own mentality so as not to be overshadowed by their peers. With tensions already running high, things take an unforeseen turn as one of the prize students turns up dead after one particularly grueling session, throwing the rest of the candidates into disarray.
The killer has a curious method of dispatch that consists of chloroforming said victim and stabbing them in the heart with an ornamental hair pin and, before the dust can settle, has struck again in precisely the same manner. Needless to say, the authorities are stumped and, with the remarkably unenthused Lieutenant Borges (Cosimo Cinieri) leading the snail’s pace investigation, assisted by similarly clueless psychotherapy professor Dr. Davis (Giuseppe Mannajuolo), it is left to the remaining students to point the finger at each other and generally bicker amongst themselves whilst awaiting the inevitable next attack.
Meanwhile, Candice is haunted by recurring nightmares of a dashing young cad (Ray Lovelock) pursuing her doggedly with the same oversized pin used in the murders and is growing increasingly uneasy. Fulci throws up the customary red herrings and ensures that we remain oblivious to the killer’s identity, in typical giallo fashion but offers us precious little reason to care. The dialogue is flimsy at best and Cinieri’s turn as the indifferent detective has to be seen to be believed as he simply doesn’t appear interested in the slightest in catching his killer. Even when presented with a lead, he appears unable to shift through the gears and it hardly makes for the most invigorating cat-and-mouse affair.
Having said that, Murder Rock is rescued from flatlining by some rather splendid visual touches. Giuseppe Pinori’s cinematography helps create an almost dreamlike tone, while Fulci makes up for any shortage of substance with something of a style overload and some pretty inspired shots. Alas, the same cannot be said for Keith Emerson’s cheesy score although, through sheer repetition, you may still find yourself humming the tunes come the end credits. It’s a shame that the whodunnit element is so under developed as, with a little more care and attention, this could have been a worthy addition to his vast catalogue. As it stands, it is impossible to recommend to anyone other than Fulci completionists although I just so happen to fit that particular demographic.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 1/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Incensed by the negative reaction to The New York Ripper, Fulci goes to the opposite extreme here, playing it way too safe with barely a drop of deep red to be seen. Bizarrely enough, the kills still have a certain mean-spirited charm although the sight of victims being used as human pin-cushions is compromised somewhat by the fact that they are unconscious during the act. Mercifully, he doesn’t skimp on the skin quota and there is more than enough on exhibit here to ensure that we don’t hit the showers early.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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