"What do you know about me, after all?"
When Dr. George Dumurrier's (Jean Sorel) sickly wife Susan (Marissa Mell) dies, he is able at last to be with his girlfriend, Jane (Elsa Martinelli). But one night, George receives an anonymous phone call, directing him to the Roaring 20's Club, where he encounters bombshell stripper Monica Weston (also Marissa Mell) who, aside from her blond hair and green eyes, is a dead ringer for his late wife. Did Susan somehow fake her own death and take on a new identity? If so, why? And who did he bury? George soon becomes obsessed with finding out – an obsession that will uncover a sinister conspiracy.
Perversion Story is a giallo re-imagining of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and is Lucio Fulci's first giallo. The focus is on sex rather than violence and, just as this film was inspired by Vertigo and Diabolique, it lays the groundwork for sexy thrillers such as Basic Instinct. But Fulci really shines as a writer here, using the switched-identity mystery as a jumping off point for a fantastically twisted plot that unfolds with clockwork precision. He hooks us in the first half with nudity and reels us in in the second half with a roller coaster ride of double crosses and ingenious con-game manipulations.
- Perhaps the title refers to a "perversion of justice" rather than a sexual perversion. Even still, that's a terrible title for such a good movie. The original title, One On Top of the Other, presumably describing George's chain of lovers, isn't much better.
- You may recognize the Demurrier house in Perversion Story, with its yellow curtains, white marble foyer, and spiral staircase with wrought-iron bannisters. The same set was used as the Terzi house a few years later in Dario Argento's Cat O'Nine Tails.
- A few years after Perversion Story, Marissa Mell played another double role in Luciano Ercoli's giallo Seven Bloodstained Orchids.
- Are Monica and Susan just two reflections of the same person? Throughout the film, Fulci plays with the mystery of their identities with a mirror motif, repeatedly showing the two women reflected in mirrors or windows.
- Fulci gave himself a small role as a handwriting expert at the police forensics lab.
- Everyone say hello to giallo all-star and frequent supporting player George Rigaud, as George's lawyer!
Fulci gets creative early on with a mattress-eye-view shot, the likes of which I have never seen before or since. The characters are in bed doing the grownup and we have a perspective from below, looking through the sheets. It's this kind of creativity and willingness to experiment that really defines the genre.
Have you ever seen a movie that takes place in a foreign country but everyone speaks English? Perversion Story is like that, but in reverse. It's set in San Fransisco, but everyone speaks Italian. And it's not like the characters are all in the Italian expatriate community living in northern California – everyone, from gas station attendants to prison guards speaks Italian.
George's clothes aren't particularly notable and Monica spends most of her time naked or barely clothed. But Jane is the real fashion star of the movie. She wears some fantastic clothes, but my favorite is this Sgt. Pepper's-inspired outfit when she joins George for a night on the town.
She looks like she raided Jimi Hendrix's closet. There's also this black leather and silk outfit, accented with silver jewelry that she wears while seducing Monica. Just like Jane, it's a great balance of hard and soft.