Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beyond the Darkness: buio omega (1979)

In a dream, someone once told me that nostalgia is the mind’s inability to cope with change. 

The desire to make things the way they once were, when times were happier, can be overwhelming, but we must find comfort in believing that things can be better and that new warmer days will be on the horizon. Some find the ability to carry on by fondly remembering the past in the form of keepsakes and mementos, and accept the fact that there is nothing that can be done other than to move on with strength and a resolve for a better tomorrow, while others prefer to do things a bit differently. This is definitely the case for the loathsome and childish lead character in Joe D’Amato’s BUIO OMEGA. 

Orphaned Frank (Kieran Canter) is a taxidermist with a large inheritance who has just suffered the loss of the love of his life, Anna (Cinzia Monreale of THE BEYOND). Stricken by grief, Frank commits a highly objectionable act of exhuming his recently deceased girlfriend’s corpse before preserving and making a doll out of her in order to still be close to her, to still be able to talk to her, sleep with her, and express his never ending love while still being able to look into her eyes. And woe unto any who would interfere… 

Though it may seem out of place to some, the progressive rock soundtrack in this movie from GOBLIN is bitchin’ and gives me an impulse to air-bass-guitar. It lends to BUIO OMEGA a flavor that is less horror and more sleaze, violence, and rock ‘n’ roll. Nonetheless, horror mainstays are all here such as a giant mansion, a graveyard, gore, and a knife wielding PSYCHO-esque housekeeper (Norman Bates’ sister, perhaps?). Yet, it is not the music or the story of a young man’s yearning for his love so cruelly taken from him that causes BUIO OMEGA to be an astonishing achievement, but it is the way that D’amato pushes the boundaries of ‘nasty’ through the roof and way beyond anything that would already be considered unwholesome and just plain wrong, which causes BUIO OMEGA to really stand out and be forever remembered as one of the crazier and most screwed up forays into dementia that exploitation cinema has to offer. 

The gore in BUIO OMEGA is highly novel and not just for its time, as it still has the power to shock audiences today. Unless one is already familiar with this film’s reputation, the delivery of the more grotesque elements will come as a major but pleasant surprise to unsuspecting viewers. There is a superficial picturesque facade to the initial look and feel that shields the cruel demons beneath. Just like the lead character, Frank, the film has a very polar element consisting of a wide range between elegant and distasteful or charming and demented. The Mansion and the Italian countryside that the story takes place in is very lovely and enjoyable and Frank’s losing his life-love has a touching romantic tragedy feel. However, enjoyers of romance and lovely settings will likely be put-off when the blood starts to hit the fan, and anyone impatiently waiting for action might not make it through the first soap-opera-like 20 minutes. But those who make it to the embalming scene without getting bored or past this scene without turning the movie off in disgust will ultimately find that they’ve stumbled upon a piece of horror/trash/exploitation gold. 

"Death has no power to separate us" Frank/kieran Canter

The animal models around Frank’s workshop suggests that he is a skilled taxidermist, and like a grieving pet owner having Fido stuffed and displayed on his favorite place next to the fireplace, Frank uses this skill to embalm, preserve, and place his deceased girlfriend’s body in the bed next to him. Now, taxidermy is different than embalming and doesn’t even involve dissection or removing organs but merely skinning the animal cadaver and applying preservation chemicals to the skin before mounting it onto a model form. Nonetheless, Frank’s experience as a taxidermist has caused him to come off as a very experienced embalmer as well. It’s surprising that his girlfriend wasn’t embalmed before being buried, but that’s OK, because if she was, we wouldn’t have a key scene in this film that, among many others, contributes to its notoriety.


Many could poke fun at gore effects from 1979, but nothing comes even close to the realistic effect that is BUIO OMEGA’s staged but very detailed embalming that takes the visceral image of open body organs to a very convincing level. This part is not only shockingly realistic but purposefully tries to make it disgusting and amusing with organs being haphazardly dropped into a bucket, brains being pumped out, and heart felt cannibalism as Frank grabs ahold of his girlfriend’s heart, kisses it gently before biting into it as blood sprays out the aortic valve, likely resulting in discomforting laughter and screams from the viewer. Not for the faint of heart. 

If someone had told me that D’Amato had Canter cut open a real corpse and removed its organs for the camera, I’d believe it. In fact, this scene was notorious for many thinking it was a real cadaver dissection. It will gross-out anyone and even surpasses the organ puking scene from Fulci’s THE GATES OF HELL. I can’t help sending my compliments to Canter and Monreale for actually going through with this and approaching it professionally.


Frank’s character is like a little child who refuses to move on, stubbornly deluding himself that what has already past can remain and nothing will change, by keeping his preserved dead lover in the bed next to him. One day, while out on a jog, he comes across a blonde Jogger, Anna Cardini, who provides a convenient opportunity for Frank to get to know her when she injures herself and agrees to go back to his place for medical treatment and casual sex. Meeting this blonde jogger ends up portraying Frank’s inability to move on. Here, he has found someone new, but his attachment to the past results in a horrible deed that completely ruins what could have been a wonderful future. We also find out that Frank is a biter.

"Don't worry darling, Iris is here...  Feels better now, doesn't it?  Yes, my little Frank is better now.  Good clever Iris knows how to take care of him, doesn't she?"  Iris/Franca Stoppi

Another interesting addition to the household is Frank’s housekeeper and partner in crime, Iris, Franca Stoppi of Bruno Mattei’s VIOLENCE IN A WOMAN’S PRISON and WOMAN’S PRISON MASSACRE, who unbeknownst to Frank was responsible for Anna’s death (this really isn’t a spoiler since it happens at the beginning of the movie). Each time Frank commits a gruesome murder, we find out that Iris had been standing by watching all along looking almost impressed with a “what’s my little Frank done now” attitude. The relationship between Frank and Iris is twisted, as she provides him with assurance and sexual comfort by exploiting Frank’s apparent Oedipus complex. She even helps him dispose of his victims in a few frighteningly realistic and highly disturbing manners that real serial killers have resorted to. Iris does desire to marry Frank, but her help ends up assuring her no place in Frank’s love-life, and the end result of their relationship is not pretty. 

I can’t help thinking that most who view this film would want to forever forget it or at least never want to see it again, so it makes me wonder why I’ve had a fondness for it for many years now, re-watching it when it feels necessary and always taking the opportunity to recommend it. Maybe it’s just my being impressed with what the film accomplishes with demented elements that are depicted in ways that were way ahead of their time and unlike anything available in 1979 without apologizing and without respect for the limits of good taste. This was my first D’Amato experience and naturally I explored more and only found similar but not equal enjoyment in some of D’Amato’s trendy but highly bizarre EMANUELLE films he directed, but aside from that I’ve hardly been as impressed. I did enjoy ANTHROPOPHAGUS as well as DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER, but the content of BUIO OMEGA still makes those films pale in comparison.


  1. So I must confess that I had hoped from the film then substantially more. Though the German advertising slogan "The most awful film of all times" promised a lot, however, I thought that the film had not kept to this. Oki, it is a film of Joe D' Amato and his films are, as everybody knows, a taste thing ^^

  2. @Jesper: Thanks, I’m truly honored that you equate my write up to this film by calling both great.

    @Mr. Banane: No worries, I agree that D’Amato is a matter of taste. I hope that it wasn’t overhype that caused you to expect more. Looking back it seems that I may have described this film in ways that make it seem like it’s the ‘most awful’ and therefore hope to have not overhyped it for others that have not seen it yet. But, I honestly was impressed and thought it delivered. However, being that this was my first D’Amato film I wasn’t 100% certain of what I was in for.

  3. It is also my favorite of Joe (with "Rosso sangue"), and also
    for me it was the first! :)
    Very realistic and very raw for the time, it is true, and the character of Franca Stoppi (who died recently) remained in the minds of many: perverse and diabolical!
    On Italian magazines and forums is also appreciated "Emanuelle e Francoise Le sorelline" because they say it is more than all the clichés of D'Amato.

  4. I enjoyed Rosso sangue as well. I thought it was a bit more climatic than ANTHROPOPHAGUS. I had never heard of Emanuelle e Francoise Le sorelline until now. And I thought I had seen all of D’Amato’s Emanuelle films. I think I overlooked this one because it doesn’t star Laura Gemser and it seems to have never had a US release (at least not that I know of), so it looks difficult to track down. I’m very interested in this title though since it looks like a potential D’Amato classic that is currently off the radar. I also didn’t know that Franca Stoppi had passed away so recently in July. Her onscreen presence is very attention grabbing and she is a very important contribution to BEYOND THE DARKNESS. There’s so little about her on her IMDB page, unfortunately. Although, there is a good article on her from THE WILD EYE

  5. "Emanuelle e Francoise," despite the name is out of the cycle of D'Amato Emanuelle, is a
    film starts with a different texture (thriller with little of
    If you do not know how to get it (with english sub) I'll help you, write me at the email address of my blog! ;)
    Nice site you posted, just reported news Franca Stoppi!

  6. Thanks for the offer Luigi, but I found it with english dubbing here under the title Emmanuelle's revenge:
    Thanks for alerting me of this film since I otherwise would've not known of its existence.

  7. Ah, perfect!! I also wanted to link you to a version
    Italian with English sub! ;)
    If you see it then let me know!

  8. What makes you think Frank has an Oedipus complex?

    1. For me, it was his directed libido energy towards Iris, who is a motherly figure.

    2. Good clever Iris...

  9. Very disturbing film,hard to ever forgot!,good gore effects and acting.

  10. One of the worst pieces of trash I've ever had the misfortune to view.