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Thursday, October 12, 2017

THE DEVIL'S HONEY -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

Legendary Italian director Lucio Fulci would often turn his attention from the world of graphic gore (ZOMBIE, GATES OF HELL, THE BEYOND) and focus it on less horrific subjects, one being the "erotic thriller." 

With his 1986 film THE DEVIL'S HONEY, he ventures into territory harkening back to the days of watching steamy foreign sex movies on Cinemax After Dark and The Playboy Channel.

This humid, sometimes offhandedly perverse softcore sex drama tiptoes through hazy Freudian fever dreams while remaining, for me anyway, resolutely un-erotic.  Somehow, even Fulci's sex scenes are distastefully off-putting--but entertainingly so.

This is especially true when we find surgeon Dr. Wendell Simpson (Brett Halsey) in surreptitious dalliance with a two-bit hooker in a hotel room.  The scene is about as sexy as cleaning out a cat box, but it's a good indication of what a sad dead-end Simpson has reached in that regard.  Married to Carol, played by the beautiful Corinne Cléry, he can only get aroused by cheap, impersonal sex in degrading circumstances.

Meanwhile, a gorgeous but terminally-confused babe named Jessica (Blanca Marsillach) lusts madly after her emotionally-cool boyfriend Johnny (Stefano Madia) yet feigns disinterest until he blows his saxophone up her skirt during a recording session or terrifies her with dangerous hijinks on a motorcycle. 

Then she's all over him, both inviting and then rebuffing his advances to suit some weird mental sex thing that only Johnny understands.  In short, she's pretty messed up.

Fulci smashes Simpson and Jessica together when Johnny is seriously injured and dies on the operating table after the not-so-good doctor, dazed and heartbroken from a bitter divorce decree by his jealous, unsatisfied wife, botches the operation.  An inconsolable Jessica blames him for Johnny's death, vows revenge, kidnaps him, and terrorizes him for days in a seaside villa as he lies helplessly chained to the wall.

While this sounds like a set-up for a bit of the old torture porn, there's very little here that deviates from similar "erotic thriller" stuff we've seen before and, while mildly diverting, doesn't really get interesting until the sexually perverse nature of their situation begins to effect both Jessica and Dr. Simpson in ways that neither could have foreseen.  (End of story recap lest it get too spoilery.)

Halsey, whom I recall fondly as one of the two college kids killed by the Gill Man in REVENGE 0F THE CREATURE and the human-insect monster in RETURN OF THE FLY, underplays it all nicely and allows his inherent acting skills to carry each scene.  Blanca Marsillach, wildly attractive as she stalks the place stark naked like an angry cat, has less skill but lots of camera presence.

Fulci directs them with his usual competent and sometimes imaginative style which, to me, is really only interesting because I know that it's him doing it. A sorta-kinda sex scene between the two antagonists is noteworthy because of the ironic way it harkens back to earlier scenes of the two going at it with others.  For the most part, "sex" in Fulci's world isn't all that sexy unless naked Corinne Cléry is involved, and even then we don't get to finish.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films has a full bonus menu which includes engaging interviews with Brett Halsey, Corinne Cléry, producer Vincenzo Salviani, composer Claudio Natilli, and Fulci author Stephen Thrower. There's also a trailer, alternate opening, and audio essay by Fulci author Troy Howarth. The mono 2.0 soundtrack is in both English and Italian with English subtitles.

THE DEVIL'S HONEY is one of those sleazy softcore sex thrillers that play up the seamy side of things in a big way, resulting in a kind of curdled eroticism that's more unpleasant than appealing.  Which, for the purposes of this story, is fine, if you like your romance a little on the demented side.

Buy it at Severin Films


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