Monday, January 27, 2014

The Devil's Honey (1986)

AKA Dangerous Obsession and Divine Obsession

To the more casual genre fan Lucio Fulci’s name is probably synonymous with gore, hell the man shares the nickname “The Godfather of Gore” along with Herschell Gordon Lewis. Its nothing shocking seeing as the legacy of Fulci’s classic extensive bloodlettings like Zombie (1979), City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House By The Cemetery (1981) and The New York Ripper (1982) speak for themselves, but as any fanatic will attest to, Fulci was one of the most versatile directors of Italian cinema working in a variety of genres throughout his career and for the most part being able to pull it off. Fulci’s giallos such as Perversion Story (1969), A Lizard In a Woman’s Skin (1971) and Don’t Torture a Duckling (1971) are constantly referred to, rightfully so, as some of the best the genre has to offer and a film like Four of the Apocalypse (1975) is unquestionably a standout in the world of spaghetti westerns. It shouldn’t be a stretch to call 1986’s twisted psych drama The Devil’s Honey one of the more hidden titles in Fulci’s body of work. Helmed during a period which isn’t exactly held in the highest regard by many Fulci fans, The Devil’s Honey is a prime example of Fulci’s versatility and is not only the best of his post New York Ripper era but also of his best films in general.  

While teasing his girlfriend Jessica (Blanca Marsillach), hotshot saxophonist Johnny accidentally falls from his motorcycle resulting in a traumatic head injury requiring emergency surgery after he passes out during a recording session. However Dr. Wendell Simpson (Brett Halsey), the doctor performing the operation has other things on his mind after having just been told by his wife Carol (Corrine Cléry) that she wants a divorce. Too distracted by his marital problems, Dr. Simpson ends up botching the surgery, inadvertently killing Johnny. Overcome with grief and anger, Jessica eventually snaps and kidnaps Dr. Simpson and submits him to a series of various physical and emotional humiliations, yet despite his ordeal and Jessica’s constant death threats, during the course of his torments Dr. Simpson mysteriously finds himself becoming more and more attracted to his captor.

Although it might seem inconceivable to some considering some of the films that came before it, but if Fulci ever directed a film that could be considered a “love story” than The Devil’s Honey (Il miele del diavolo) would be it. Its also a film that just might make those who’ve labeled Fulci a misogynist do a serious double take. With The Devil’s Honey, Fulci has it both ways as he offers up a more than healthy amount of sleaze (including a very innovative use of a saxophone) but along with it presents an involving story of damaged lives, sadomasochism, dominant/submissive relationships and role reversal. Perhaps the most successful aspect of the film is the way Fulci presents the relationship between Johnny and Jessica. Early in the film Fulci offers a pretty good a glimpse yet its after Johnny’s death when Fulci employs constant flashbacks revealing the true nature of the relationship does the film begin to take an a entirely new meaning, and not just in terms of the evolution of Jessica’s character. Fulci was also wise to spend a good amount of time exploring the dysfunctional marriage of Dr. Simpson which makes his change of attitude towards his predicament and Jessica all the more profound and the combination of circumstances that lead both characters to where they are all the more feasible, “meant to be” in an odd way, and Fulci was wise to end the film on an ambiguous note, one that is as touching as it is unsettling.  

The Devil’s Honey has had a pretty odd history in terms of home video in that some years back an Italian DVD surfaced that, according to a few online reviews was of pretty good quality but it seemed to go out of print almost immediately and is impossible to find these days. Also not too long ago a company based in Hong Kong released an all region DVD which got some not so rave reviews but just like the Italian disc is long out of print and when copies do occasionally pop up on eBay the prices are normally outrageous. The film did get an American VHS release back in the day via Action International Pictures under the title Dangerous Obsession which will make an appearance on eBay every now and then. Alas, like so many deserving films which should have gotten a proper release a long time ago, the easiest way of seeing the film is by DVD-R sourced from a Dutch VHS tape. Really though, there’s no excuse for this films absence on DVD seeing as several of Fulci’s later films have gotten legitimate releases and many in special editions so hopefully it wont be long until some company picks this one up and gives it its due as its a film that all Fulci fanatics should see and is more than worthy of holding the title of Fulci’s last masterpiece.

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