Amuck! (aka: Leather and Whips) [1972]

I know my fellow trash cinema fans will empathize with me when I express my frustration at lousy film prints. I don’t mourn grainy, Nth-gen VHS copies, nor do I pat myself on the back for unearthing a copy of some obscurity that looks like it’s been dredged from the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes the only way one can watch a particular title is in a compromised format, and such is life. The thing that grieves me the most is that I feel like I can’t properly appreciate some titles due to crappy prints. In a genre like the giallo, where style leaves substance in a cloud of dust, it’s especially vexing to not get the full, glossy impact of a film.

That having been addressed, I’m not sure that “Amuck!,” also known by the equally lurid title of “Leather and Whips,” would’ve fared much better had I seen the most flawless print in the world. This is a movie that managed to fuck up the perfectly excellent combination of (stunning and lesbonic) Barbara Bouchet and (stunning and predatorially lesbonic) Rosalba Neri engaging in (lesbonically) mysterious intrigue set against the backdrop of (stunning but lacking in a sexual orientation on account of its being a city) Venice.
“Prepare to get hurt. Real bad. In the brain.”
In the same way that the press materials for “Last House on the Left” urged the viewer to repeat it’s only a movie, I urge you to append each sentence of the following review with it’s actually pretty boring.
Barbara Bouchet plays Greta, a young woman working as a secretary to an American author Richard Stuart (Farley Granger) who lives in a stately Venetian mansion with his wife Eleanora (Rosalba Neri). As it turns out, Greta is trying to track down the whereabouts of her lover Sally, who was last seen in the employ of the Stuarts. The Stuarts are one swinging duo, hosting drunken parties that include the viewing of pornographic films, and it becomes clear early on that their lecherous activities have an even darker side.

“But Tenebrous,” you may rightly ask, “how can you bag on a movie that offers up a delectable lesbian scene with two fully-nude, fully-gorgeous actresses within its first ten minutes of screen time?” Well, imaginary enquirer, for an admittedly-titillating five minutes of steamy sex, one has to slog through a mystery plot that one does not care about (if you saw this and you say you care, you are a filthy liar and beneath my contempt) that commits the following giallo sins:
  • Dishwater-dull soundtrack. Seriously, I’m here for the sounds and the scenery–ENTERTAIN ME, MUSIC MAKER!
  • Duck-hunting sequence that has almost no music behind it: a jammed gun has never created less cinematic tension. Watching an eight-year-old play the Nintendo game is a nailbiter in comparison.
  • Quicksand. Fuck quicksand as a plot device–fuck it right in the ass.
  • Psychic subplot that appears in one scene midway through the movie, never to be spoken of again. That’s just insulting.
  • NO leather and NO whips. Don’t think I wouldn’t notice that shit, title-writing jerk.
I hate the fact that I’m making this movie look so much better than it is.

Where Sergio Martino would have gone full-on crazy with the material, adding swooping camerawork and a lushly romantic score while eliciting downright-perspiring performances from his leads, director Silvio Amadio takes a rather direct approach, creating a movie that leaves the viewer praying for the next nugget of naughtiness. “Amuck!” is just short of dire–were it not for the erotic sequences, this movie would be like an unbuttered English muffin.
“Hahahah–can you believe that all those jackasses are going to watch this movie now? It’s like WE WIN!”
I just couldn’t manage to care about this movie, and kept hoping that its piles of wacky material might coalesce into some sort of sleazy wonderfulness. While Ms. Neri brings it–as she always does–in the form of arched eyebrows, sinister cigarette-smoking, and plush sexiness, her presence doesn’t redeem this lackluster thriller, which is characterized in large part by its general air of non-inspiration. Bland camerawork, sleepwalking performances, and a criminal lack of suspense undermine what tawdry tingles this film has to offer.
That having been said, the ladies do look lovely, so it’s worth a peek at the Flick gallery of images from “Amuck!”

11 thoughts on “Amuck! (aka: Leather and Whips) [1972]”

  1. I really hate to agree on this one but it’s absolutely true. Look, if you have Rosalba Neri (I get giddy just saying her name) in a film and you somehow manage to fuck it up, and not just “we blew through the hundred dollar budget on fake blood and lingerie” fuckup, no, no. There’s no good reason for this film to suck, and yet it does, at (nearly) every turn. Amadio, you have failed not only in art but in life. Shame! SHAAAAAAME!

    (verificaiton: smeskin, which would have been a more apt title than Leather And Whips, that’s for sure.)

  2. I was frustrated when I got the DVD of Four Flies on Grey Velvet. The footage was remastered decently but the audio track was dire. I still barely know why Mimsy Farmer was on her little killing spree.
    And why the hate for quicksand plot devices?

  3. Oh, man, you really have to be incompetent to screw up a movie with Barbara Bouchet and Rosalba Neri. I mean, how hard is it to just point the camera at them? Seriously?

    Boo for no leather and whips, too.

  4. I must respectfully disagree with your assessment of Amuck (Alla Ricerca del Piacere). Perhaps that new title threw you off, but the dreamy visual movement through the “narrative,” both in terms of composition and the stream-of-consciousness unfolding of the story, is something Amadio in general is very good at doing, making his films visually more intriguing than they ought to be.

    He conveys the tone more by the “texture” than the text – the female bodies, the music, the rather off-daft plot hiccups. I really loved it. Giallos are never entirely about following any plot and the cheesy Euro-house music by Teo Usuelli is one of my favorite elements in this film.

    Please reconsider the many pleasures this film has to offer!

    Cheers, and keep up the good work,


  5. Looks as luscious as lesbonic loveliness may be–and eh some of us prefer the Sapphodelica a bit soft (ie, sans the diesel-dykes and gear). That Bouchet byatch was in some other eros klasssic[s]. Caligula? Or choice parts of her. Not sure.

  6. Ah she was Moneypenny! ‘fore the giallo-pulp that us normal ‘Mericans avoid Bouchet.

    Hottie-hot, though could have used some tit-work (and well…trimmed La Chatte a bit). Shoulda put some bullets on, and silicon in those puppays.

  7. I’m glad you’ve got my back on this one, DB! This film got some pretty high praise on its IMDb page, but I’m inclined to think it’s from folks thinking with hearts in their eyes (or something else, somewhere else…) rather than from viewing the movie for its merits. Tis a shame, but at least there’s plenty of weird junk out there that we DO enjoy!

    Chris, I just feel like quicksand plot devices are kinda cheap and insulting. It’s like tying a damsel to a railroad track–it’s neither particularly effective as a tension-building element nor as a tongue-in-cheek bit of quirkiness. It always makes me think it’s a cheap scriptwriting ploy when someone needs to get a character stuck somewhere so something can almost-happen. I dunna’ like it!

    Doc M, in fairness, the bits where the camera was pointed at them in their scanties *were* pretty great. Too bad about the rest of the film, though. (And yes, the title makes me all fist-shakey all over)

    DW, you got it! MAKE IT SO 🙂

    D for Doom, I have pals who are huge Rosalba fans who deem this movie worthwhile, so your mileage may vary! Don’t *avoid* it, certainly, but I know I’m better served by other titles.

    Roger, I’m super-glad you enjoyed this movie, but having watched it twice, I think this is just one of those cases where I’m going to have to differ in opinion. The pleasures of cult cinema are very personal and can be downright ephemeral. Lord knows I adore movies that leave other folks scratching their collective heads! I guess I found the *potential* of this movie was frustrating. It’s not without charm, but I guess I’m going to have to just not “get” its appeal for fans.

    J, this lesbianism is indeed as good-looking as softcore lesbianism gets. THAT I shall grant this film, without a doubt! But… it’s the rest of it that’s rather dire… And I would’ve liked more slapping. THERE, I SAID IT.

    Scary Film, you’re in good company! This movie has its fanbase–sadly, I’ve declined my seat at that table 😉

  8. Wow! Sorry for the late comment but I love AMUCK! and have watched it many times. It’s literate, suspense filled, erotic, has a great score (sampled in THE BIG LEBOWSKI) and gathers Farley Granger, Rosalba Neri and Barbara Bouchet in the same film!

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