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The Psychic

****
1976

‘…a film with a minimal reputation, but has all the depth and detail that you’d hope for in a classic…’

With Quentin Tarantino pondering a remake, it’s probably time that Lucio Fulci’s 1976 horror classic was admitted into the ranks of all-time horror classics. Fulci wasn’t much loved by mainstream critics in the 70’s and 80’s, and his canon of exploitation cinema earned his output the epithet “Fulsh*t’. But those who had followed the director’s development knew that he was something of a genre master when it came to proper old-school mystery cinema, and although his name became synonymous with wild blood-letting and gore, that’s not his only strength.

Jennifer O’Neil was a hot property on the back of hits like Summer of ’42, and brings a regal air to the role of Virginia, a rich woman plagued by visions. Virginia saw her mother’s suicide back in 1959, even though they were in different countries; the insinuation is that Virginia’s mother suffered from the same supernatural gift, given that she throws herself rather dramatically off the cliffs of Dover. The grown Virginia marries playboy Francesco (Gianna Garko), but after dropping him at a local airport, has a vision while driving their car back home. During the vision, she sees magazines, murders, strangers, a bricked-up hole in a wall. What do these images mean? When Virginia takes a pick-axe to a wall of her house, she finds a skeleton, and this provokes the police to arrest her husband on suspicion of murder; the victim is a model who her husband had a relationship with. But Virginia senses something else is going on, uncovering evidence that proves her husband was innocent, but also threatens her own investigation…

Working with regular cinematographer Sergio Salvati, Fulci conjures up something more than just a woman-in-peril mystery here, but a meditation on fate. Virginia’s visions seem at first to be located in the past, and reflect the circumstances of a murder. But by the halfway point, it’s clear that Virginia is seeing the circumstances of her own death, and she set out to try and avoid these signifiers. While some of the dubbing isn’t great, and a few dashes of humour miss the mark, The Psychic, aka Murder To the Tune of the Seven Black Notes, is a great cinematic experience that rates with the best of Hitchcock or DePalma. O’Neill has an iconic presence, and the unusual story, shorn of the usual giallo sex and violence, has a hypnotic quality with a punchline that, like Virginia, you just won’t see coming until it’s too late…

Shot in and around picturesque Florence, with a prologue at Dover, The Psychic is a film with a minimal reputation, but has all the depth and detail that you’d hope for in a classic; Fulci and O’Neill put the chic into Psychic with a stylish and foreboding thriller that haunts the imagination. The remake is a great idea, but perhaps not from Tarantino, who hasn’t made anything in this particular idiom to date. For now, this exquisite new blu-ray should do enough to rebuild The Psychic’s reputation, and make the haunting sound of Virginia’s musical watch an iconic moment in horror history.

Shameless presents The Psychic on Blu-ray and on demand from today, 9 August 2021.

Thanks to Shameless and Witchfinder PR for access.

https://www.shameless-films.com/product/the-psychic-blu-ray/

 

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  1. Not seen this one but I’m a sucker to classy horror and I like Fulci. O’Neill never really got the parts she deserved so this sounds one to put on the want list. Shameless have dug up a lot of movies once consigned to the pit of critical oblivion.

  2. “Chic in Psychic” love it. I really hope they have a terrible dummy for Cliffs of Dover scene? Sounds like a good watch but I can’t see me purchasing a Blu-ray. I will keep an eye out for it though. Great read

    • You can get a stream for a fraction of the price, and it’s a film that you do have to see to appreciate! And yes, that dummy isn’t too great, but a film like this doesn’t need horrid gore, it’s much more sophisticated and chic than that!

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