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Murder à la Mod (1968)

 -  Comedy | Crime | Mystery  -  1 May 1968 (USA)
5.7
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Ratings: 5.7/10 from 402 users  
Reviews: 12 user | 15 critic

Naive young lady Karen wants to help her struggling amateur filmmaker boyfriend Christopher raise enough money so he can divorce his wife. Meanwhile, jolly psycho prankster Otto stalks the ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Andra Akers ...
Tracy
...
Otto
Margo Norton ...
Karen
...
Chris
Ken Burrows ...
Wiley
Lorenzo Catlett ...
Policeman
Jack Harrell ...
Salesman
Laura Stevenson ...
Girl in Boutique
John Quinn ...
Mr. Fitzsimmons
...
Soap Opera (voice)
Bob Scott ...
Soap Opera (voice)
...
Soap Opera (voice)
Leanne Harrison ...
A Bird
...
A Bird (as Jenifer Salt)
Laura Rubin ...
A Bird
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Storyline

Naive young lady Karen wants to help her struggling amateur filmmaker boyfriend Christopher raise enough money so he can divorce his wife. Meanwhile, jolly psycho prankster Otto stalks the building where Christopher is shooting a low-grade adult movie in order to keep himself afloat. Written by Woodyanders

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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A Lost Horror Film from Brian De Palma!


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1 May 1968 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Meurtre à la mode  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Film debut of Jared Martin. See more »

Connections

Featured in Blow Out (1981) See more »

Soundtracks

Murder ala Mod
Performed by William Finley (as W.F. Finley)
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User Reviews

 
better than expected; proclaims much, in weird and little ways, the path of De Palma's career
3 February 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's something refreshing to the mind of a movie buff when we come across a filmmaker who doesn't change all that much during a career, but keeps making himself seem fresh, if that makes sense. Brian De Palma, for better or worse (and he's had both), is a filmmaker who hasn't changed a whole lot in forty years, at least where some of his central concerns meet. Take the opening scene, where a director is holding a screen test for a few girls, telling them to take off their clothes. This is also seen later on in The Black Dahlia where a director auditions Elizabeth Smart (in both I believe might be voiced uncredited by De Palma himself). Right from here there's no mistaking, even in just a simple one shot, how much he loves the act of watching, the technical, plastic aspect of it, the movement of a camera, frame speeds and the possibilities in even satirizing the process of film-making and voyeurism.

Muder a la Mod is possibly his first feature, and it's certainly not technically perfect, or even very accomplished in the sense that his films of the 80s look (storyboarding, as he said he did for films like Dressed to Kill and The Untouchables). But I would much rather watch a work like this, which has a lot of invention and off-the-wall comedy and unpredictability, than one of his more recent bloated studio productions. And the story is gleefully ripped off the pages of quarter-cent paperbacks and given the De Palma twist: Karen is in love with Christopher, who is a freelance photographer and aspiring filmmaker, but she doesn't quite understand why he wants her to leave when she stops in one day as he watches dailies. Turns out he's making this film, a skin-flick, so that he can get a divorce from his wife. But there's more: a leering, merry/psycho prankster named Otto is stalking around the building doing this and that, holding not one but two ice-picks (one fake and one real, as little title-arrows direct us to at one point), and as Karen's friend waits outside for her a murder occurs, with bizarre circumstances.

The twist to this, aside from seeing De Palma mess with the speed of film and timing and framing and cutting and this and that with lighting and going between Gothic horror and silent slapstick (in more Godard form than Hitchcock as one also saw in Greetings and Hi, Mom!) is that De Palma adds the touches of dark comedy that one associates with him, and that he can do well when working without a net. He jumps around, for example, in the middle of what should be a simple exposition scene between Karen and Tracy (not bad though not quite "good" actresses Norton and Akers), where the script seems to be presented in tact, just no in the usual 180-degree kind of structure of a scene. It's an uneasy feeling at first, but it's nevertheless captivating, and this attitude continues throughout, as though De Palma knew he had nothing to lose but his creative freedom on limited resources. I'm even reminded of Kubrick's two early films, Killer's Kiss and the Killing, by featuring a freewheeling, guerrilla-style take on New York City, and a the triple-back structure of the narrative in regards to the Killing.

As I said, it's not exactly great shakes as a film, but it's flaws are mostly due to budget and, as expected, not having the best cast members (my least favorite scene involved a bank manager who gave Tracy a tough time in receiving her "ice", not simply because the bank actor but the scene goes too long). Though as in other cases, De Palma has a wild card in one of the great unsung character actors: William Finley. This is a strange, creepy man, who apparently can make some music as well as go about like some demented clown (he wrote and performed the title track). His character Otto is a little like his character in Sisters crossed with his character in Black Dahlia (the latter the one pleasant surprise in that film aside from the screen test bit); he has these two ice picks, and at first looks like a very sinister character, the "obvious" one to do the work of being the murderer, and as well carrying along a fresh corpse in that trunk. But De Palma's double back to him in the story is the most entertaining: he doesn't speak, but his thoughts are jumbled like out of a Frank Zappa record, and as he ascends stairs he sprints and the camera jubilantly follows quickly. In his first role, in the first De Palma movie, he makes his mark well.


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