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Simona Sana is a young pathologist whom works in a morgue in Rome, Italy which gets with with a wave of violent suicides which are attributed to a summer heat wave. Driven to exhaustion from the intense heat and the long hours worked, Simona struggles to complete her college theses about natural deaths when one suicide victim is brought in the morgue in which a young Catholic priest named Paul Lenox who identifies the corpse as his sister, but that did not commit suicide, but was murdered and set up to look like a suicide. Simona teams up with Father Lenox to solve the mystery and stay one step ahead of a mysterious killer who now begins to stalk her when Simona gets a little too close to the truth of the suicides. Written by
Aside from Dario Argento gialli, Autopsy (or Macchie solari, which translates as Sun Spots) is my favorite giallo. It's truly weird, quirky, trashy and unlike anything I've ever seen. Some might be disappointed by the fact that it doesn't have a gloved killer or the murders aren't as spectacular as those in Argento's movies but I personally liked the fact that everything in this giallo was so uncommon. For once, the typically convoluted giallo story-line wasn't on cruise control.
What also stands out in this film is the sleaze factor and its almost machine gun delivery, which made me wonder what drug the director was on. The list of sleazy stuff is endless. There's nudity and several sex scenes. I've lost count on the number of up-skirt shots on Mimsy Farmer's dress. How many times Farmer's clothes were riped off. Farmer's boyfriend (handsome Ray Lovelock) trying to force himself on her. Her coworker trying to rape her, whom she ferociously attacks back at. Gratuitous shots of the young woman's beautiful naked body in the morgue. The hallucination in the morgue at the beginning (great!). The photos of real dead people in the museum. The slide show, which includes dubious erections. The tempestuous race-driver turned priest (the not so handsome Barry Primus) whom Mimsy falls in love with (blasphemy!). Everyone in the movie is sorta crazed and on edge. The suicides during the opening are startling in it's rapid-fire delivery. In fact, the whole film's direction teeters on delerium. It feels like the sun had affecting everyone, including the director, the screenwriter and the editor.
I love the fact that the director deliberately leaves out bits of information and as we watch the movie, we quickly assume this and that, and then the director sneaks-in the missing info, we suddenly feel a bit silly or ashame over what we thought at first. For example, when we see the man swimming in the pool. We don't know who he is. As he swims to the edge, the camera pans up on Mimsy (and that quasi up-skirt shot) which makes us think that the man was trying to take a peek or is attracted to her in a sexual way. The next scene, the man is shown to be Mimsy's father. Okay! The director continuously pulls the rug from under us, throws-off our expectations throughout the movie with EVERY little detail imaginable, which makes for a trippy experience. We're never sure who's who or what's what. The really funny part about all of this is the director deliberately mixes and remixes everything as to create confusion but when the killer's identity is revealed, it's done in the most calm, concise and matter-of-fact way. The killer is the sanest person amongst the sun-stroked bunch.
Does this quirky direction automatically make AUTOPSY a great movie? Not really but it IS unique. I've never seen a deliberatly chaotic direction like this. There were so many dull giallos made in the 1970s, all of which look too glossy and artificial, like the dreadfully kitschy CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS or boring TORSO, that AUTOPSY stands out because of its sleazy and gritty direction. It's not your typical giallo. If Joel Schumacher is to CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS, then Martin Scorcesse (of the 1970s) is to AUTOPSY: Brash, over-the-top, lurid and with a chip on its shoulder. There are several stand-out scenes in AUTOPSY, including the suicides, the hallucination scene at the morgue, and the whole moment at the museum, where there's a booby trap rigged to kill Mimsy. The dialogue is at times uproariously bad. And when you think you lost track of the story, everything eventually falls together. AUTOPSY is a whirlwind of images, sounds (great Ennio Morricone soundtrack!) and questionable stuff that makes for a memorable viewing experience. In the end, it's not really great but its unique direction sure makes up for its obvious shortcomings. If you're game, you'll enjoy it. If you're not game, well, you'll be annoyed or turned-off by it.
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