Body Puzzle is a 1992 giallo film directed by Lamberto Bava, the son of legendary Italian horror maestro Mario Bava and frequent collaborator of Dario Argento (having, among other things, been the assistant director of both Inferno and Tenebrae). The film follows the story of Tracy, a widowed manuscript editor who begins receiving body parts wrapped in wax paper following the revelation that her late husband’s body has been disinterred. Although the film as poorly received in its time, it holds up as a kind of last gasp of true giallo, even if the mystery of the film relies on a twist that doesn’t quite work.
The film opens on an unnamed man (François Montagut) who is seen playing the piano before his practice is interrupted by the memory of an evening in which he engaged in a car chase with a motorcycle rider, an apparent friend who he repeatedly demanded slow down; the chase ends with the biker crashing and dying. This same man then murders a confectionary shopkeeper, which brings Detective Michele (Tomas Arana, of La chiesa) into the fray, where he and his partner Gigli (Matteo Gazzolo) discuss the fact that ghastly murderers always seem to take a trophy from their victims. Elsewhere, Tracy (Joanna Pacula) plans to visit the grave of her husband, but is shocked to discover that his body has been dug up. She returns home to discover an ear wrapped in wax paper in her fridge, and Michele realizes that the serial killer on the loose has been keeping pieces of his victims not for himself but to give them to Tracy, who is understandable unnerved by this. As she and Michele grow closer, he realizes that all of the victims share one thing in common: they were the recipients of organs from Tracy’s dead husband, Abe; further, it seems Abe may not have been all he seemed on the surface when he was alive. The murderer may, in fact, be a former lover of Abe’s, driven to madness by the fact that he was responsible for the latter’s death.
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but this is a fun little giallo thriller, with delightful cinematography and a plot that works, for the most part. The tension builds slowly as it becomes apparent that there is no safe place for Tracy no matter where she goes, and the final reveal is foreshadowed in a manner that is utterly unexpected but fits all the clues that we have seen so far, minus a red herring that I am certain made most contemporary reviewers rather pissed, given the film’s overall low aggregate rating. The terror of the killer’s victims is palpable, and there are some great set pieces that permeate the run time: the multiple reflections of the killer’s visage as he stalks a woman in a mall before cornering her in a bathroom and amputating her hand is quite powerful, although it pales in comparison to the murder of a teacher in front of a classroom full of blind students, who have no idea what is happening. The film’s cinematography and planning is not perfect, however, and it’s a surprise how many amateurish mistakes slipped through in the film considering how long Bava had been directing at this point. There are reflections of camera operators in vehicle windows, which happens, but the final chase sequence uses undercranked footage to give the illusion of high speed but the movements of the actors and the scenery betray this attempted cinematic sleight of hand. Still, these imperfections don’t ruin the film, and it’s definitely worth watching if you get the opportunity.
-Mark “Boomer” Redmond