November 16, 2013

Primal Impulse (Footprints on the Moon) (1975)

Directed by Luigi Bazzoni and Mario Fanelli. Starring Florinda Bolkan ("Alice Cespi"), Peter McEnery ("Henry"), Nicoletta Elmi ("Paola Bersel", "Paula Burton"), and Caterina Boratto ("Boutique Owner"). Not Rated.

Source: Region 0 DVD (Mill Creek)
Running time: 01:32:18
Country: Italy

PRIMAL IMPULSE (more commonly known as FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON) is a film I've been wanting to see for a while, mainly because it stars Nicoletta Elmi - that weird-looking, open-mouthed redheaded girl from some of the best Italian genre films of the 70s (DEEP RED, BAY OF BLOOD) who blossomed into an attractive young woman (DEMONS). Ever since getting into Italian horror and exploitation, I've always liked Nicoletta. She has an undeniable presence (whether that presence be irritating or not, it's still a presence) and her track record of films has proven to be pretty amazing as I've gotten deeper into Euro-cult and horror. Plus, her looks as a child are comparable to that of a little dog who's so strange-looking that you can't help but find it adorable.

Hmm. Perhaps comparing Nicoletta to a dog isn't the nicest thing to say, but I mean it with love. Anyway, PRIMAL IMPULSE isn't a movie that's widely available in America (it wasn't until recently that I learned it was available in one of the Mill Creek 50-packs), which is why it took so long for me to get around to it, but, going into it, I was well aware of its reputation as a cult favorite of sorts amongst fans of Italian genre cinema, Gialli, etc. Aside from that, I pretty much went into this movie blind; while it's been on my must-see list, I had no idea what it's about. I've heard it referred to as a Giallo, and the alternate title led me to believe that it's a Sci-Fi film, so I basically went into it expecting a Sci-Fi Giallo, which would've been awesome if it was actually the case. Turns out it's a mystery/thriller with a bizarre Sci-Fi backdrop.

Florinda Bolkan (A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN, DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING) plays lead character Alice, whose life is suddenly shaken up by hints of an alternate existence under another name that she has no recollection of. The film opens with footage of a moon landing, in which the body of an astronaut is seemingly dumped there and the person doing the dumping is abandoned by the mission's shot-caller, played by Klaus Kinski. This opening sequence is strange, attention-grabbing, and shows signs of what could've been an unusually ambitious Italian Sci-Fi film. As I alluded to earlier, it's not the case, but this opening sequence does play a part in the rest of the film and is connected to Alice in a way that I don't necessarily need to get into.

Long story short, Alice discovers that there's an unexplained lapse in her personal timeline. When we're introduced to her, she doesn't remember the last couple of days of her life and has seemingly blacked out. She tries to piece everything together but still can't come up with a logical explanation as to what happened. The only thing she's aware of is that she's been having recurring dreams, experiencing deja vu, and has discovered clues about visiting a place that she claims to have never been to before. She's eventually drawn to a town called Garma, which seems like a deserted/haunted tourist attraction town, and she subsequently meets a number of characters (one of whom is played by Elmi) who apparently know her under a different name. Weirdness ensues, and by that I mean Alice wanders around town a whole bunch and gradually learns more about her apparent alter-ego/doppelganger/whatevs.

Knowing this is a Mill Creek public domain release of an Italian movie, I suspected it would be presented in a cut version. Plus, from what I understand, cut versions of a lot of Italian genre films from back in the day would get released under alternate titles (a cut version of Dario Argento's TENEBRAE was released in America as UNSANE for example), so there's that too. PRIMAL IMPULSE ultimately didn't strike me as a film that would be in need of any censoring, but yet there's a difference of a few minutes between this version and the running time listed on IMDB, which isn't the most accurate source in the first place. So who knows. I guess I won't know for sure until I see it under the FOOTPRINTS title.

PRIMAL IMPULSE is a very quiet and moody film, but not in a good way - for me anyway. And I say that because it lacks tension. As a mystery, it's not very engaging or interesting, and, sooner than later, it got the point where I could've cared less about the mystery surrounding Alice's identity. So yeah, storywise, it didn't do much for me personally, but at the very least Florinda Bolkan is amazing as usual, and PRIMAL IMPULSE is stylish as fuck.

It's honestly one of the best-looking Italian genre films I've ever seen, which says a lot when you consider two things: 1) most Italian genre films tend to look amazing in the first place, and 2) as you can see by the screenshots, I watched a shitty-quality version of this film, and in an improper aspect ratio no less. PRIMAL IMPULSE is so beautifully-shot that it actually transcends the poor quality of the Mill Creek print, which is a huge accomplishment and isn't something I can say about most of the Mill Creek movies I've seen. The film is full of bright blue and yellow gelled lighting to contrast an otherwise muted color scheme, which works to great effect, and the camera movements throughout are both graceful and "stalking" for lack of a better term, as it seems to be shot from the perspective of someone following Alice and carefully watching her every move. I don't believe it to be hyperbole when I say that nearly every frame of this film is a thing of beauty. Perhaps seeing a better quality version of it will make me appreciate the film as a whole a bit more. There seem to be some interesting ideas and approaches to storytelling underneath the murky surface, but I'm just not seeing them at the moment. For now, the two words that come to mind are: beautiful mess.

Score: 6.5

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