"You may have a knowledge of souls, but that doesn't qualify you to
dispute scientific fact, Father. Especially when the soul is a woman's"
It's a hot summer in Rome and medical researcher Simona Sana (Mimsy Farmer) is studying the city's unusually high suicide rate, looking for a way to tell real suicides from the fake ones. But her latest case study is Betty Lenox (Gabby Wagner), a neighbor whom she had met just the night before who didn't seem at all suicidal. Betty's brother, Father Paul Lenox (Barry Primus) also wants to get to the bottom of his sister's death and together they team up to follow the clues. Is the rise in suicides caused by an increase in solar flares or by a clever killer who stages the murders to look self-inflicted? Could Father Paul, who hides a dark past and a fierce temper, be the murderer? Or perhaps it's Simona herself, driven mad by her gruesome research? The investigation will lead to an antique bible, a blackmail plot, and a story that has its roots in the historic Florence flood of 1966.
Stylistically and structurally, Autopsy is all over the board, trying it's hardest to be every kind of thriller at once. It has elements of zombie horror, psychological thrillers, and, like The Girl Who Knew Too Much, doubles as a travelogue, even borrowing notable locations from that Bava classic. But despite a messy, meandering plot that frequently stalls out, Autopsy ends up as a fine Argento-inspired giallo that ultimately does make sense.
- Besides the aforementioned collage of influences, Autopsy also strives to be part of the genre I call "Crazy Woman Goes Crazy." In these movies, we watch through an unbalanced woman's paranoid perspective as she slowly goes insane. Starting with 1965's Repulsion, the genre can be traced through movies like Shock and The Perfume of the Lady In Black (which also starred Mimsy Farmer), right through Black Swan. Even though they star men, The Secret Window and 2012's giallo-inspired Berbarian Sound Studios might also be considered part of the genre.
- That body count seems awfully high, but consider that the first six deaths occur in rapid succession in the first two minutes of the movie. I didn't count all the dead people in the morgue.
- The title sort of makes sense in that several scenes are set in a morgue and we do see a brief, informal autopsy. But the movie isn't about autopsies and the plot isn't predicated on one.
- The Italian title, Macchie Solari, could be loosely translated as The Bloodstained Sun, in reference to Simona's theory that the suicides are connected to unusual solar activity.
- The final showdown takes place on the roof of the church of St. Agnes In Agone, high above the famous Piazza Navona. If you're going to have a dramatic ending, that's a fantastic place to do it.
- I could be wrong, but Simona's modern apartment, with its open staircase and cone-shaped central fireplace looks like it might be the same set used in The Fifth Cord for Helene's house.
Most of the crazy moments in Autopsy consist of shock visuals. Simona works at a gruesome morgue that's run like a chop shop and there are lots of gooey, bloody makeup effects. Exhausted by her work, Simona hallucinates that the scarred corpses come to life in an eerie, unsettling scene.
Later, Simona visits Rome's Criminal Museum, which is a real place. While it does display weapons and torture devices, the actual museum probably doesn't feature huge photo displays of gruesome, mutilated corpses and wax dummies enacting different methods of suicide.
Father Paul drives Simona from the city to the beach to see the scene of his sister's death. But Rome is so far inland that the nearest beach is about 90 minutes away by car. Hardly a quick detour from her office.
Also, we see Simona hail a cab in front of the Spanish Steps – even though cars aren't allowed in the Piazza di Spagna.
Simona's playboy father, Gianni (Massimo Serato) shows up in this killer white suit.
Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin' alive...
Also, Mimsy Farmer was born to wear these fitted, backless tops. She looks fantastic here.
Creepster morgue worker agrees.