Perversion Story / Beatrice Cenci (1969)

4.5 out of 5

High production values, fine cinematography and an unconventional structure echoing Kubrick’s The Killing characterise this career-best work from Lucio Fulci. Adrienne Larussa plays the title character, a real historical figure immortalised in literature by Percy Shelley, Stendhal and others.

In 16th Century Italy, Beatrice, a young noblewoman, is even willing to enter a convent to escape the sexual and psychological abuse she suffers at the hands of her monstrous father Francesco, an important landowner. Desperate to escape, she strikes up a relationship with a besotted young servant, Olimpo, Tomas Milian, and such is Olimpo’s devotion that he gladly goes along with a plot to murder Francesco.

When the murder of Francesco is discovered, the whole remaining Cenci family stands accused. Olimpo refuses to implicate his beloved, despite being slowly tortured to death by agents of a corrupt and degenerate Catholic Church.

Whether Beatrice is simply a manipulator or not – Fulci is deliberately ambiguous about this – the viewer’s sympathies remain with her right up to the tragic end. The ruling classes and the Catholic Church don’t come off so well, as he depicts these inextricably interwoven camps as peopled by repulsive, corrupt and grasping hypocrites.

The brutally graphic murder of Francesco and the grueling torture scenes give an early indication of the route that the director would later infamously take. The film is also known as Conspiracy of Torture and, as if to willfully cause confusion, Perversion Story.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics