Obsessions: Obscure Martin Scorsese co-written 1969 giallo is now out on Blu-ray
You can always rely on Cult Epics to drag up something strange from the vaults and have it rock your world. Case in point, their release of Dutch director Pim de la Parra’s Obsessions, a bizarre, Hitchcock-fueled murder mystery/giallo that beat Brian De Palma to the punch when it came to Hitch fetishization. The film (out now in a nifty Blu-ray/DVD combo pack) is a lurid, leering and eccentric thriller that is filled with fluid visuals, swooning music (more on that later) and sex, sex sex. Did we mention the sex? There’s lots of sex.
The film stars German actor Dieter Geissler as medical student Nils, who lives alone in his swinging Amsterdam flat, loves his mother and digs his new fiancee Marina (Alexandra Stewart, Truffaut’s Day for Night) and is a general, all-around decent and freewheeling chap. When a Van Gogh self portrait falls off his wall, Nils discovers a carved-in peep hole that leaks into his neighbor’s suite. There he witnesses the aforementioned wild sex, followed by what might be a murder. Sure enough, when Marina (who works as a journalist) tells her man that she’s working on a case about a similar murder, the pair channel Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly and launch an amateur investigation. Plenty of voyeurism, red herrings, twists, tricky dialogue and sex (yes, that again) ensues.
Obsessions is a marvel: sleazy and obviously modestly budgeted, the movie was a huge hit in Holland and, considering it was the first Dutch film made in English, was also easily marketed abroad. And, like De Palma’s later films from Sisters on up, the film has a vibrant, potent visible adoration and understanding of Hitchcock, paying faithful homage while also going off in a myriad directions of its own. Amusingly, the movie was actually co-written by a very young Martin Scorsese, who was in Amsterdam at the time shooting his own first feature Who’s Knocking at My Door and his mark is all over this, feeling like it does on occasion like a prototype for Taxi Driver. And like Taxi Driver — and virtually all of Hitchcock’s work — the score here is by the legendary Bernard Herrmann. Except it’s not. The story is that de la Parra wanted to hire Herrmann to do the music but obviously could not afford his fee. So the composer suggested he simply license existing cues from the CBS needle-drop library and thus be able to legitimately credit Herrmann as the composer. What’s cool about this is that — if you’re a ravenous fan of The Twilight Zone, which I am — you’ll note that 90% of the music here is from key TZ episodes scored by Herrmann, giving the movie an added dose of surrealism, like a weird audio/visual experiment in marrying the old with the new.
Cult Epics have remastered the film from an existing 35mm print so it’s a grainy affair but who cares. I love the rough-hewn look of the film. It makes the sex stranger and the sleaze juicier. Special features include key interviews with director and star and a great snapshot of the history of Dutch movie imprint Scorpio Films who became a legendary studio, pumping out scores of films for the domestic and international market. If you’re a fan of vintage Hitch, New Wave hits like Blow Up, early Dario Argento and again, early De Palma, Obsessions is an essential discovery.