Puzzle (Luomo Senza Memoria): 4K Restoration
(Anita Strindberg, Umberto Orsini, Luc Merenda, Senta Berger, Bruno Corazzari, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1974) 2021 / VCI Entertainment - MVD Visual)
Overview: Stranded in London with no memory and no identity that he can recall, a man who believes his name is Peter (Luc Merenda) struggles with amnesia after a car accident.
With little information to help him solve the puzzle of who he is, an attempted murder and a strange series of events lead him to the discovery that his name is in fact Ted and that he has a beautiful wife, Sara (Senta Berger), waiting for him in the world-famous Italian resort town of Portofino.
Traveling to Italy in the hope of unravelling the mystery of his identity, he finds that the hurt, lonely Sara - believing that she had been abandoned by her husband knowingly - has made tentative steps to rebuild her life with the help of her best friends Whiskey the dog and Luca (Duilio Cruciani), the straight-talking and slightly infatuated young child to whom she lives next door to.
With the Hitchcockian flair of the absolute best gialli from the 1970s, Sara and Ted together try to unravel the mystery of his missing months - and they have their hands full.
Not only are there murders, international criminal plots, betrayals, but they are tormented by a mysterious woman with a hidden agenda (Anita Strinberg) and a mystery man with chronic allergies (Bruno Corazzari).
Things only continue to get even more increasingly peculiar, more complicated, and more dangerous for the newly reunited couple.
Blu-ray Verdict: This Giallo is practically unknown, and that is a real shame as Puzzle is an outstanding example of the genre.
Director Duccio Tessari made the excellent Giallo The Bloodstained Butterfly three years before this film, and the two share the same keenness to buck as many plotting trends as possible; as while this film firmly fits into the Giallo in terms of style, the plot takes the focus away from common Giallo elements such as sex and murder and puts it more on the characters and an intriguing plot involving amnesia.
The film is also known as Man Without Memory, and that is wholly down the fact that the central character, Peter, has lost his memory. He is being treated in a hospital, and it is not long before a mysterious stranger turns up and accuses Peter of double-crossing him.
We later learn that Peter is really Edward, and he is married to the beautiful Sara! He finds out about his wife and travels to Italy in order to meet up with her; although she has chiseled out a new life for herself which involves a male friend named Reinhardt, and a young kid with a crush on her.
Director Duccio Tessari uses the first half of the film to get the plot basics in place, and as a consequence it is not always exciting. However, the director manages to hold the audiences attention long enough for the film to begin revealing itself in the second act.
Puzzle was scripted by Giallo luminary Ernesto Gastaldi, and the film represents one of his best works, which says a lot considering the other films he penned.
While the plot does take a while to get going, once it does the film becomes a real thrill ride, and this both offsets the sombre tone of the first half and is hugely entertaining.
The main influence would appear to be the American classic Wait Until Dark, although the film does not take too much from the Audrey Hepburn film.
The acting is above average, with Senta Berger, Luc Merenda and Umberto Orsini delivering fine performances in the central roles. The ending is superb and ensures that the film ends on a high, as a chainsaw revs into action and the film makes up for its lack of bloodshed.
Overall, now that Puzzle has been given a righteous 4K Restoration via VCI Entertainment and MVD Visual here on this lush new Blu-ray (and DVD, in this combo pack), I really hope that it gets a wider audience - because it truly deserves to be seen more. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Commentary Track by Kat Ellinger, Editor-in-Chief of DiaboliqueMagazine.com and DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS Podcast Host
Italian and English Theatrical Trailers of Blood and Black Lace and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage
Liner Notes by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of The Giallo Canvas: Art Excess and Horror Cinema
Giallo Poster Gallery