Formula for a Murder (1985)

Can you believe Shameless Screen Entertainment are seven years old this year? Indeed, back in late 2007 they entered the unsuspecting UK market with Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper and followed it up with such classics as Torso and Strip Nude for Your Killer. Indeed, it could be argued that they were trailblazers at that time – ahead of Arrow Video, 88 Films and Second Sight, companies that now follow a similar model. This last 18 months though things have been a little quiet for the yellow sleeved ones, but now that the UK genre market seems to be strengthening here’s hoping that Shameless find their 2nd wind.

Formula for a Murder was the final directorial project for Alberto De Martino who had a go at almost every Italian sub-genre that happened to be in vogue, from Spaghetti Westerns to Eurocrime to Eurospy to post-apocalyptic. In 1985 though, this Gialli entry seemed to arrive a late onto the scene, but nevertheless it makes for a damned enjoyable watch. Our main character in the movie is Joanna (Christina Nagy), who is wheelchair-bound after a horrific childhood attack. Despite her disability though, she maintains a very active lifestyle by engaging in fencing and archery, all aided by her trainer Craig (David Warbeck).

She lives in a luxurious villa with her friend Ruth (Blumenberg) who is a confidante to her and helps her with day to day tasks such as spending time in the sauna and giving her a massage – something that Ruth seems to thoroughly enjoy! When Joanna announces to Ruth that Craig has asked her to marry him, Ruth takes it to heart, although for Joanna this all seems like too much of a rush. For Craig meanwhile, this pending announcement comes with words of warning from her psychiatrist (Rossano Brazzi) who tells him she has completely blocked out the accident that paralyzed her as a child, and if she were to remember it could well trigger a fatal heart attack. With this childhood incident involving a Priest as well as a blood-stained doll, it’s not long before memories from the past become visions of the present – but are they visions, or is somebody attempting to cause harm to Joanna to take control of her sizeable inheritance?

The scheming in Formula for a Murder is revealed quite early on into the movie, with a fairly early revelation of the perpetrator(s) identity, but that’s not to say there aren’t a few more surprises further down the line, all of which make for an entertaining – and sinister giallo. Some of the murder sequences are very violent indeed and at times this movie is certainly deserving of its ‘18’ certificate. The casting is just perfect with Warbeck as always outstanding, and the two female leads – Nagy and Blumenberg, while not possessing the siren-esque qualities of Edwige Fenech for example, still bring an alluring charm and with Nagy in particular, a certain level of innocence and naivety.

The print that Shameless have exhumed looks very pleasing indeed considering the movies relative obscurity, while De Martino who has at times been unfairly castigated in some circles as something of a hack, turns in an excellent directorial performance. While it’s fair to say the Giallo genre was on the decline in the second half of the 1980s, it would be remiss to overlook the strength of some of the films made during this period. Obviously Opera (1988), Delirium (1987), Stage Fright (1987) and Phantom of Death (1987) stand out – but with this excellent re-release of such an overlooked title, I have no doubt that Formula for a Murder can go on to sit comfortably in such company.

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