DVD Review: Formula For A Murder (1985)

Formula For A Murder DVD CoverDistributor: Shameless Screen Entertainment

BBFC Classification: 18

Director: Alberto De Martino

Starring: David Warbeck, Christina Nagy, Carroll Blumenberg, Rossano Brazzi, Loris Loddi

Alberto De Martino’s Formula For A Murder opens with a dreamlike scene where 11-year-old girl called Joanna is being given a doll by a priest who then goes on to attack the child, the young girl falling whilst trying to escape and breaking her back. Flash forward 25 years and Joanna (Christina Nagy) is confined to a wheelchair but has put a substantial amount of her family fortune into a sports centre for paraplegics, where she meets Craig (David Warbeck – Razor Blade Smile/The Black Cat) and the couple have a whirlwind romance culminating in a marriage proposal. While all of this is going on, Craig is informed by Joanna’s doctor, Dr. Sernich (Rosanno Brazzi – Omen III: The Final Conflict), that she also has a heart condition that could bring on an attack if she were to be reminded of her childhood trauma, and Joanna’s best friend Ruth (Carroll Blumenberg) is keeping a jealous eye on everything as the local priests whom Joanna was about to donate a large sum of money to get slaughtered.

So, like any classic giallo Formula For A Murder has quite a bit going on despite the fact that the main core of the plot is quite simple – somebody has money and there are murders being committed in order for the killer to get their hands on it. Where this film really differs from most other gialli is that the person doing the killings and why they’re doing it is revealed fairly early on, meaning you have to sit through nearly an hour of the film with the knowledge of who it is and why it’s all happening. Not very giallo-like in the traditional sense but the plot does have a few more twists before Joanna gets to know what we’ve known for most of the film, and although it’s not a total stretch to work it out before it is revealed it does deserve credit for mixing up the *ahem* formula a bit.

The acting isn’t too bad for this kind of film, with David Warbeck being the standout, although Christina Nagy does feel like she’s auditioning rather than acting in the final production; her ‘acting’ in one of her dream sequences where she is stabbing a priest is borderline village hall am-dram, but this is her only movie credit so to judge her too much would be a little harsh. The support from Carroll Blumenberg and Rosanno Brazzi is solid enough, although Brazzi feels a little underused considering the gravitas he brings when he is on-screen. Nevertheless, everyone does their bit to the best of their ability and that lifts the film above some of its stiffer 1970’s forerunners.

And then there’s the gore. Formula For A Murder has plenty of the red stuff to keep things interesting when it is happening but the other flaw with the film is that the pacing is way off. The film only runs in at around 85 minutes but it does feel longer when you’re watching, especially during the parts where Craig and Joanna are playing at happy couples. Shameless have done a decent job in cleaning the film up as the images are pretty sharp and colourful – being filmed in 1985 and not the deepest, darkest depths of the 1970s probably helps – and for collectors this is something of a special release as the film has never been released on DVD anywhere in the world before, so if you are a giallo completist this is certainly worth getting your hands on but if your interest in Italian murder mysteries is little more than fleeting then it probably won’t mean very much and there may not be enough here to hold your interest.

Formula For A Murder

Special Features: Audio commentary, theatrical trailer, Shameless Slashers trailers, reversible sleeve, Shameless Yellow Killer Mac.

UK Release Date: 24th February 2014

Shameless Screen Entertainment – Website

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