Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer
When the spirit chooses a woman and enters her body,
that woman will know the secret of life and happiness.
While Fred Wright (Gabriele Tinti) and his wife, Grace (Anita Strindberg) are vacationing in Haiti, they find an old friend, Dr. Williams (Anthony Steffen), who has developed a new miracle drug. But someone wants the formula so badly they're willing to kill for it! Which of  the rival cartels and drug companies is knocking off the competition? Secret alliances and double-crosses abound and the Wrights find themselves caught in the crossfire. Can they survive the web of treachery? And what secrets is Fred keeping from his wife?

Tropic of Cancer (not to be confused with the Henry Miller novel or its 1970 film adaptation) is an action-packed giallo that uses its Haitian setting to full effect. The miracle drug MacGuffin isn't well-explained during the exposition, but the general idea is conveyed - danger is out there and anyone could be the killer or the next victim. The kill scenes are spread out at regular intervals and offer some real creativity For example, one victim is scalded with steam, loaded onto a conveyor belt, falls into a large industrial vat, is jabbed with a pole until he lets go of the rim, and is sealed inside. Another victim's death is attributed simply to a voodoo curse. The whole film is a sweaty, bloody, sexy hodgepodge - all that's missing is a coherent plot.

  • Dr. Williams takes the Wrights to a voodoo ceremony and it's clear that the filmmakers wanted to inject the film with a touch of Mondo Cane -  naked dancers circle a bull and writhe on the ground before the animal is killed and its scrotum is removed, all set to delirious drumming. It's presented with minimal cultural context simply for cheap shock value.
  • Be warned that there are two scenes where animals are killed - actual animals actually being killed, not puppets. First is the bull being sacrificed at the voodoo ceremony and later, Grace and Dr. Williams visit a beef processing facility and see cows slaughtered. 
  • It's never clear exactly what kind of doctor Williams is. He develops the drug for humans but is sometimes described as a veterinarian. He knows a lot about both plants and spiders, creating an anti-venom on the spot when Gardner (Stelio Candelli) is bit. And he also acts as a meat processing inspector.
  • The Tropic of Cancer does not run through Haiti.
What the Hell am I Watching?

Aside from the voodoo sacrifice and cow slaughter? There's a scene depicting what is supposed to be a Haitian wedding rite: the couple lie naked, face down next to each other as they're splashed with water and surrounded by a singing, drumming crowd.

Grace is poisoned by a local flower, whose scent sends her into a trippy dream sequence.  She finds herself in a black robe, running down a red hallway lined with naked men, who reach out to her. Her hair billows in slow motion as she lies on the floor, watching as one man approaches her and kisses her.  It looks like the music video Madonna was never allowed to make.

Fashion Moment

Grace knows the secret to looking good in the tropics - keep it light and casual.

... Even when you're having a drug-induced psychadelic freak-out, layers are not your friend.


Philip (Umberto Raho) illustrates another important point: a crisp white suit seems like a good idea, but that only lasts for about twenty minutes before things get sticky.



Double Face

Double Face
She's just like her mother... rich, moody, wicked.
Shortly after marrying his wife, Helen (Margaret Lee), John Alexander (Klaus Kinski) discovers that she is having an affair with her friend Liz (Annabella Incontrera), but divorce would mean financial ruin. Despite this, John is distraught after Helen is killed in a car crash and when he finds a strange but flirtatious woman, Christine (Christiane Kr├╝ger) in his home, he is in no mood for games. But when Christine shows John a sexy movie featuring herself with a mysterious veiled woman, John becomes obsessed - the other woman is wearing Helen's ring and has the same scar on her neck as John's late wife! If the film was made just a week before, does that mean that Helen faked her death? Or has John's grief made him lose his grip on reality? Either way, his search for answers will lead him on a dangerous path!
Double Face (not to be confused with The Double) treads the same ground as some other, more widely-known gialli and I'd say that while it's more coherent than Spasmo, it's not nearly as well-made as Perversion Story. Even though the body count is low, the mystery is baffling and the nudity is abundant, making this an eminently watchable bad movie. 

  • The script, based on the novel "A Face In the Night" by Edgar Wallace, was co-written by Lucio Fulci (which may explain some resemblance to Perversion Story).
  • Luciano Spadoni, who plays Inspector Gordon, was also the set and costume designer in this production.
  • Two years after this production, Klaus Kinski, Annabella Incontrera and Margaret Lee would reunite on screen in Slaughter Hotel.
  • None of the titles really make sense. "Double Face" would make more sense if there was a Vertigo-esque identity switch and the lesbian affair is a minor sub plot, making "Liz & Helen" just as out of place. The title "Puzzle of Horrors" belongs on a film with more gore and far more murders.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

What Double Face lacks in good writing it makes up for in crazy moments. For example, the wild hippie warehouse party where two motorcyclists have an indoor jousting tournament, ripping off an article of clothing from a dancing girl with each pass.

Then there are the hilariously inept special effect sequences, which cut from footage of real cars and trains to HO-scale models crashing into each other.

Something that confused me from the start: John is trapped in his unhappy marriage with Helen because of financial necessity, but what advantage does Helen gain in staying married to John? Why does she insist that they stay together?

Finally, who handcuffs a suspect without frisking him for weapons first?

Fashion Moment

In the scene preceding Helen's car crash, we see that she's ready to shuffle off this mortal coil in high style, wearing a chic white dress, gold chain belt, go-go boots and a rich oiled leather coat draped over her shoulders.

Later, Liz vamps it up with some Elizabeth Taylor realness in this sexy off-the-shoulder low-cut fringe number.  Perhaps her shredded white dress is worn in memory of her dead lover?