There’s been a string of sensational murders and suicides across Rome throughout the summer months. Some psychologists consulted by the media are saying that an unusually high amount of sunspot activity could be to blame, but no one really knows for sure.
One thing is sure: the morgues are full of fresh corpses, and the staff has been putting in double shifts trying to put the pieces –- so to speak – in each mysterious violent death. Forensic pathologist Simona Sanna (Mimsy Farmer, from Hot Rods to Hell and Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet) has been putting in more than her fair share of time cutting into dead bodies lately, and it’s beginning to take its toll on her. She starts to hallucinate that the corpses are coming to life all around her.
Her photographer boyfriend Edgar (Ray Lovelock, soon to learn to Let Sleeping Corpses Lie) doesn’t help matters much. He’s kind of a jerk, in a way that it was so acceptable for many leading men to be in the 1970s – playing cruel tricks on her and showing off. Simona has an extra reason for putting in so much work. She’s writing a thesis on authentic versus faked suicides, and sees this wave of violence as an opportunity to study and compare many cases of both.
A mysterious American woman named Betty Lennox (Angela Goodwin) borrows envelope, goes on errand, turns up dead on beach – is it another suicide? That envelope later turns out to be very important, as it contains Betty’s suicide note, addressed to Simona’s father.
That seems to satisfy the police, but Betty’s brother/priest Paul (Barry Primus) thinks it was murder. When Simona discovers a needle mark on the corpse, she thinks he may be right, but who done it? Former race driver turned hothead priest Lennox — who gets caught prowling by her apartment building and gets in a fight with the janitor (who later turns up dead) looks like a likely suspect. So does her dad — so much so that she destroys incriminating evidence she finds in his love-nest apartment upstairs.
One doesn’t immediately think of Armando Crispino when one thinks of Italian horror directors, but he made enough of a splash with this stylish thriller — originally titled Macchie Solarie (“Sun Spots”) — for it to be remembered by the Eurotrash hounds at Anchor Bay. Most folks that remember it do so for its repellent morgue scenes, but those bits are more there to make an artistic statement and set the viewer on edge than to provoke all-out horror. Crispino reiterates his point during a gruesome spectacle in a “criminal art museum” – is it gore as art? Are we drawn to gore because there’s real beauty there, and is it this fact that repels us?
However, the film’s main focus is on the Hitchcockian mystery and thriller aspects, not the horror. However, the script — by Crispino and Lucio Battistrada, with whom he collaborated on the superior giallo The Dead Are Alive – doesn’t concentrate enough on plot to build suspense. Atmosphere is king here. The entire movie seems like it’s suffering from sunspots, shuffling about in a daze. The eerie Ennio Morricone ambient score aids in this atmosphere greatly (though the end title music sounds more like Riz Ortolani to me).
Predictably, the included US trailer emphasizes horrific aspects – with lines like “Neither God nor exorcism can help you now!” and “AUTOPSY: It’ll take you apart!” – but the international trailer (playing under the title The Victim) isn’t that much better, though at least it also features a bit of plot. But that’s just what landed this title in downtown grindhouses — and later, on the less reputable video store shelves — where it could be discovered in the first place.
Anchor Bay’s transfer of Autopsy is crystal clear, and perhaps the most complete cut of the film ever available. One scene cut from English version is retained in Italian. However, though the disc has both English and Italian language tracks, there are sadly no subtitles available.
Some may find this picture to be a nicely creepy little sleeper. Me? I found myself wishing that the mystery everyone kept talking about mattered a little more. I guessed the killer’s identity pretty early, despite the fact that I couldn’t care less. It’s just one of those movies where the plot doesn’t matter. In any case, nobody should be fooled into picking this one as a hard core horror experience, despite the ads and box art. It’s a movie that just lays there on the slab, not caring how you slice into it.