Written and directed by Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani
From the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette & Jean-Pierre Bastid
This Italian thriller isn’t about people. It isn’t about story. it’s not even about suspense. It’s arguably about violence. It’s really about cinematic style.
And what is that style? Imagine the output of an overenthusiastic, coked-up freshman film student who loves Sergio Leone beyond reason but doesn’t understand him. Every camera setup is outlandish, with a multitude of insanely extreme close-ups of eyes, gun barrels, ants, gold bars, wounds, and breasts. It’s almost impossible to follow the action. Even the musical score has passages from Ennio Morricone’s work.
The outlandishly ridiculousness of the whole thing becomes funny and entertaining at times – but more often it just wears you down. The press materials call the movie an “homage to 1970s Italian crime films.”
The action starts when a couple of very mean dudes ambush a gold shipment, kill everyone, and take the booty. Then they pick up a trio of hitchhikers (two attractive women and a young child), which made me wonder who was more stupid – the killers or the screenwriters?
Luckily, the hitchhikers and the criminals are going to the same place: the ruins of an ancient villa now occupied by Luce (Elina Löwensohn), a cigar-smoking middle-aged woman and her hangers-on. This woman has two things in common with the crooks: She hates cops, and she loves guns.
The child, of course, is there to pluck our emotions; nothing hits an audience’s nerve like a kid in jeopardy. That obvious ploy works a bit, but with a movie so unbelievable, it doesn’t work much.
Two motorcycle cops turn up, looking for the criminals. One is dispatched right away. The other is sort of, kind of, not really the hero. He tries to be the hero. But even the people he tries to help hate him.
Then the guns go blazing, and that’s what Let the Corpses Tan is really all about.
This movie probably did wonders for the Italian fake blood industry. Once the fighting begins, the red liquid spurts like tomatoes slammed with sledgehammers. Everyone’s covered with it. Everything is dripping with it. Injured people rarely die, probably so we can enjoy their gruesome agony (in extreme close-ups, of course).
But not all guns are destructive. In one scene, a bad guy uses his machine gun on an attractive woman at point-blank range. Her clothes are torn to pieces, leaving her standing, unharmed, and completely naked. In the next shot, she’s fully clothed.
Every so often, the film tells us the time. I think it was meant to clarify what’s happening. It doesn’t work.
Speaking of confusion, every so often the movie cuts to a totally different group of people, taking part in what appears to be erotic, often kinky, religious rituals. As near as I can tell, these scenes had nothing to do the story.
The shear audacity and over-the-top filmmaking style of Let the Corpses Tan has an exhilarating effect. At times it’s entertaining. But more often, it’s just overdone.