Released under the more appropriate original title of Macchi solari which translates as Sun Spots writer/director Armando Crispino’s gialli is a very peculiar little film. Although Crispino only directed nine films he had previous knowledge of the form with the dour and dreary The Etruscan Kills Again (1972). In light of the other pictures that make up Crispino’s filmography Autopsy has to be considered his best film. But unfortunately that isn’t really saying much. This film is elevated slightly by a competent cast that includes Mimsy Farmer (a gialli semi-regular by this point), television actor Barry Primus, and the ever watchable Ray Lovelock sporting his trademark beard. Behind the camera the contribution of composer Ennio Morricone is vital. Morricone’s weird and eerie music that makes use of whispered voices and a repeated theme that is subtle and plaintiff does much to instil a sense of the unnatural. It is by no means the maestro’s best work, but it gives Autopsy a touch of class it badly needs. Crispino is further aided by the beautiful lighting and cinematography of Carlo Carlini who captures the stark and stifling heat of Milan and juxtaposes it with some wonderfully lit night time sequences. Crispino himself is a somewhat pedestrian director, but even he is unable to undermine what is an astonishing opening ten minutes.
A cut version of the film was released in Europe under the title Tension
One of several suicides in the very impressive montage that opens the film
Edgar (Ray Lovelock) is a more conventional gialli character - a photographer and artist, a wealthy wine sipping dilettante, but even he has an interest in deviant pornography. Interestingly much of Autopsy’s grisly nature is communicated through still photographs. Simona has countless images of crime scenes, eviscerated corpses, and medical anomalies. Crispino frames these images lovingly and slowly builds an atmosphere which is quite unique for a giallo. The film is notable for its sensation of paranoia and disorientation, but as a work of suspense and deduction it is tepid. The set pieces are few and the reveal of the killer is unusually downplayed, almost as though it’s a minor plot point that didn’t merit further attention. The film is being pulled in opposite directions. There is just the slightest evidence here of a very innovative film indeed, but it doesn’t quite have the courage of its convictions in separating itself from the cycle it sits within.
© Shaun Anderson 2011