Alla ricerca del piacere [Amuck] (1972) October 4, 2019 08:00
My main critique of the many films we've reviewed in the Barbara Bouchet film series thus far has been due to the lack of screen time she receives especially in films where she's given top billing. Those reoccurring instances where she seems to be used sparingly but at the same time is the center of the film's advertising campaign. It's a cycle of disservice that is finally rectified with the notorious Italian thriller Alla ricerca del piacere, or Amuck.
Amuck stars Barbara Bouchet as Gretta Franklin, a hired secretary from a New York publishing company who travels to Italy to transcribe a new novel for the famous writer Richard Stuart (Farley Granger). It's a position she requested with the secret motive of investigating the disappearance of Stuart's previous secretary, her childhood friend Sally Reece. Up until recently Gretta had been in regular contact with Sally via letter, but there last correspondence Sally appeared to be very disturbed and frantic.
It doesn't take very long to figure out Richard and his eccentric wife Eleanora (Rosalba Neri) are clearly hiding the truth regarding Sally's disappearance, and when Gretta trips up and reveals her connection to Sally she becomes the prey in the Stuart's game of cat and mouse. Richard begins to dictate a new story-line one in which he details the murder and disposal of the body of someone who sounds a whole lot like Sally. With it now clear her cover is blown Gretta scrambles to find any solid evidence that she can to provide the police as to the Stuart's involvement, but they are two steps ahead of her, toying with her at every turn as they prepare to go in for the kill!
Amuck often gets lumped into the giallo sub-genre of Italian thrillers, yet in comparison it's far from your standard giallo story-line. For me the film has a much more comparable Hitchcock vibe with a mixture of psycho-sexual flavoring. Unlike your standard giallo the identity of the killer(s) isn't really a mystery here, and the suspense comes from whether or not the main character (Bouchet) can expose the truth to the police, while being toyed with both emotionally and physically, and make it out alive.
In terms of performances thus far for Barbara Bouchet, Amuck is by far her best and largest film role. It's a genre I think fits her much better than the shallow and repetitive Italian comedies she frequented later in her career. Farley Granger and Rosalba Neri are decent adversaries, and of course the film is widely known for the fairly erotic scene where Neri's character slips Barbara a roofie and proceeds to take advantage of her. But for most of the film Neri is more a willing accomplice to the perverted wiles of her husband and her character really never gets explored in a whole lot of depth. This works alright because the focus of the film is really meant to be more on the progression of Bouchet's character.
Overall, if you're a Barbara Bouchet fan this is likely a film you'll find very enjoyable, one of her beefiest roles and one in which she bares all on multiple occasions. If you're simply a giallo fan then you'll likely find less enjoyment here as in comparison to the serial killer slashers that the genre had begun to morph into around this time Amuck is relatively slow and uneventful in comparison. While the film does manage a few twist and turns most of them are relatively predictable, or at best not that surprising.