"Killed her? I hardly knew her!"
Navy officer Richard Milford (Brett Halsey) has returned to London to visit his sister Catherine, but he is shocked to discover that she is dead, having jumped from the window of her flat – the same way her music professor killed himself the day before. Though the police label these as unrelated suicides, Catherine's classmate Helen (Marilü Tolo) believes it was murder and helps Richard to investigate. Before long their investigation puts them in the middle of a turf war between a Romanian street thug and a hippie cult leader. The clues lead to a drug den, a psychedelic nightclub called The Mousehole, a double-crossing gun moll, and a mysterious, unpublished 18th century musical composition called "The Trumpets of the Apocalypse." Were these suspicious deaths really suicides? And if not, how were the murders committed?
Murder By Music goes by many names and you'll find it on YouTube under the title Perversion Story (though it should not be confused for Lucio Fulci's giallo Una Sull'altra, which also goes by the name Perversion Story and was released the same year). The movie meanders quite a bit and more effort is put into getting Richard into and out of street fights than into progressing the mystery. As a document of late-60's culture, though, it's interesting to see how the movie plays off audiences' fears of the hippie counterculture and the dangers of psychedelic drugs, and depicts flower-child characters as the broadest of caricatures.
- Director Julio Buchs is most famous for his Westerns, including A Bullet For Sandoval (starring the great Ernest Borgnine), which was released the same year as Murder By Music.
- The score by Gianni Ferrio is a strange mix of noir-style saxaphone-and-vibes jazz music and high-energy Hammond-organ-based psych rock. There's also a bit of Morricone-esque free-rhythm bop in there, but somehow it all works. Ferrio would go on to score such notable gialli as Puzzle, The Bloodstained Butterfly, and Death Walks at Midnight.
- Richard keeps saying that the creepy organ grinder is playing a hurdy-gurdy when, in fact, he is cranking a simple music box.
- Note the two harps at Professor Stone's house. And we get a shot of the action framed through the strings, just like in Blood and Black Lace.
- Not to give too much away, but the 3rd act reveal of how the deaths occurred reminds me of a similar device in Crimes of the Black Cat. And it also presages The Ring.
Early in the investigation, Richard starts a fight at The Mousehole and ends up taking on a whole club full of (supposedly non-violent) hippies. It's about 200-to-one. At this point we discover that Richard is either very brave or very stupid.
About halfway through the film, the killer breaks into Helen's house, chloroforms her, and rifles through her things. She doesn't feel the need to mention this until days later.
It's swinging London, baby! And it looks like the 60's threw up all over this movie.