D: Dacosta Karayan [Kostas Karagiannis]. S: Elio Montanari [Lazaros Montanaris]. Cast: Lakis Komninos, Vagelis Voulgaridis, Dorothy Moore, Erika Raffael, Giorgos Moshidis. US dist (DVD): Mondo Macabro.
“MR S.M.GUARIENTO, did ‘Tango of Perversion’ meet your expectations?” Amazon emails are rarely this quotable. The short answer, of course, is Yes. How could it not?
But to respond more fully: Mondo Macabro, the US-based cult film distributor, has come up trumps with this outrageously entertaining Hellenic giallo, packed with enough lurid thrills, sex, nudity and death to fill a dozen films. Directed by Kostas Karagiannis (a.k.a. Dacosta Karayan, and better known on these shores for the woeful Anglo-Greek clunker Land of the Minotaur/The Devil’s Men ), the film centres on the seriously unhealthy relationship between strutting misogynist scumbag Stathis (Lakis Komninos) and wealthy-but-impotent dweeb Joachim (Vagelis Voulgaridis), whom Stathis – and his libertine cronies, hanging out at the pitifully-seedy Tango nightclub (resembling a dingy transport caff, with formica tables and crumpled pinups behind the bar) – generally treat like dirt. Joachim owns a fancy pad whose master bedroom, unknown to the rest, has been secretly fitted with a large two-way mirror, behind which is a hidden room kitted-out with a movie camera and assorted porno-paraphernalia. Stathis regularly uses Joachim’s boudoir for his own frequent liaisons, unaware that his performances are being recorded for Joachim’s private gratification.
Joachim thinks all his birthdays have come at once when the chief object of his unrequited lust, lesbian minx Rosita (Dorothy Moore), asks to borrow his shag-nest for a session with her newest conquest, Joanna (Erika Raffael), who also happens to be Stathis’s main squeeze. Seriously hacked-off with her lowlife boyfriend, Joanna has decided to satisfy her bicuriosity, and (with some reservations) gets down to business with Rosita, not suspecting that Joachim is watching from behind the glass. But even he’s surprised when Stathis bursts in on the scene, and starts slapping the women about with relish. (There’s a lot of slapping in Greek cinema. A lot.) Joanna flees the house, leaving the naked Rosita to face Stathis alone; and during the course of the ensuing scrap (convincingly brutal, with both parties giving a good account of themselves), Rosita winds up dead when her skull meets a sharp piece of 1970s furniture. Appalled, Stathis scarpers – unaware that Joachim has captured it all on film.
But wait: this ain’t no conventional blackmail setup. Nope, Tango of Perversion has far sicker fish to fry. For Joachim, emerging from his porn-booth to examine Rosita’s corpse, finally discovers the cure for his impotence – necrophilia. And when a second nude victim turns up chez Joachim (this time in his bathroom), his necro-pervery threatens to escalate into full-blown pathology – until, unexpectedly, he falls for the sweet and unthreatening Joanna, whom Stathis ditched after her Sapphic tryst. But Hell hath no fury like a jealous woman-beater scorned – and when Stathis learns whom his ex has hooked-up with, he cooks up a spot of cold-blooded revenge to teach Joachim his place…
Voulgaridis (looking like a young Derek Malcolm, sporting a nerdish centre-parting and a succession of amazingly vulgar 70s ensembles) is sweatily convincing as the nebbish pervert, while Komninos (a.k.a “Larry Daniels”) exudes macho arrogance as the amusingly OTT chauvinist villain; get any more masculine than him, as Withnail’s Paul McGann might observe, and you’d have to live up a tree. Dorothy Moore is hot-hot-hot as the unfortunate seductress, and proves herself game for anything with her copious nude scenes. The rest of the cast isn’t terribly accomplished, nor terribly attractive come to that, but that hardly matters when the events around them are so deliciously lurid. There’s no doubt at all of the decade this was made, from the eye-searing wallpaper to the dubious sexual politics and pubic coiffures; if there’s one thing director Karagiannis couldn’t be accused of, it’s restraint. Tango of Perversion – surely one of the best titles of all time – is clearly modelled on the Italian giallo format, though it’s a decidedly poorer cousin to the glossier product being churned out from Cinecittà. The interiors are tawdry and cramped, set decoration garish but ugly, and exterior locations rather less-than-glamorous; a romantic walk on the beach, for example, appears to take place in some bleak, post-industrial wasteland. Composer Yannis Spanos turns in a Greek-flavoured twist on the trad-giallo template, with bouzoukis yielding place to distorted guitar chords during the film’s more frantic passages – highly enjoyable stuff, and perfectly suited to the overheated visuals. Karagiannis, Komninos and Moore reunited in 1976 for The Wife Killer, a marginally less deranged but otherwise fun romp through similar terrain (also available from Mondo Macabro). Needless to say, both are highly recommended.