While I remain a big admirer of Lucio's 'Zombie Quartet', my admiration of this director increases even more when it comes to his thrillers. DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING, ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER and LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN - for my money - show Fulci at his best and THE PSYCHIC is part of this group. Severin have just released the aforementioned gem on Region 1 DVD and while I'm currently unable to order a copy, it's a fairly safe bet that it's the best home video version currently available.
This 1977 thriller begins on October 12th, 1959 (dates are vitally important in this movie) as a young woman commits suicide by throwing herself off a cliff-top in England. At exactly the same time, her daughter 'witnesses' this horrific death while thousands of miles away in Italy. 18 years later, Virginia Ducci (O'Neill), now a woman in her mid-twenties, drives through a long, dark tunnel and this time is besieged by a series of visions that include; a broken mirror, a red light, a hole in the wall, a big yellow taxi, a limping man and a blurred magazine cover depicting a beautiful woman. Virginia enlists the help of paranormal expert Dr. Fattori (Porel) in an attempt to make sense of these indistinct snapshots, and is astonished to find many images from her visions come to life in a house previously owned by Francesco (Garko), her new husband.Driven by her psychic flashes, Virginia takes a pickaxe and proceeds to demolish part of a wall, discovering human remains. When the skeleton is linked to the disappearance of a young woman who had an affair with Francesco some four years earlier, the police investigation results in his arrest on suspicion of murder.With its central character struggling to recall and decipher fragmented pieces of visual and verbal information, The Psychic does occasionally run the risk of being labelled an Argento copyist; an understandable reaction, given Fulci's reputation as a dedicated follower of fashion. Still, the uninitiated can rest easy and continue their search for this film as it's a long way from being a tired rehash of Dario's greatest hits.First and foremost, there's a remarkable performance from Jennifer O'Neill. Fulci attracted much criticism regarding his treatment of certain female stars and his portrayal of their on-screen characters, but there's no denying he brought out the best in a succession of our favourite Euro ladies: Marisa Mell, Catriona McColl, Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Edwige Feneche, Dagmar Lassander, Anita Strindberg.... the list goes on, and O'Neill is arguably the pick of the bunch, delivering a performance to savour. Bewilderment, fortitude, courage and when the script demands, extreme fright: O'Neill meets each challenge, turning her emotions on and off like a tap and when those visions and flashbacks occur, it's almost as if a gun had gone off directly behind her. The script - a collaboration between Fulci, Roberto Gianviti and Dardano Sacchetti - must have been a joy to work with, involving a stolen painting, a mysterious call from a woman who claims to hold "a winning card", cigarettes with distinctive giallo paper and a musical watch: a truly labyrinthine plot, full of twists, turns and red herrings galore which demand to enthrall a wider audience than is currently the case. Perhaps Fulci should have devised a more user-friendly title ("Seven Corpses For The Coroner"?) and used our old friend the black-gloved killer, despatching victims amidst gallons of the red stuff? Then again, such a by-the-numbers approach probably wouldn't have made this one of his very best films, where damn near every scene and each line of dialogue turns out to be a scattered piece of the jigsaw.The OOP American video (Avid Home Entertainment) serves as a good introduction to this film, and now prayers have been answered with Severin coming to the rescue. Needless to say, I'll be adding this one to my collection in the very near future.