As Schlockmania’s review of Island Of Death revealed, Greece was capable of some strange and uninhibited exploitation filmmaking during the ’70s. One local filmmaker who partook of this freedom was Kostas Karagiannis, a Greek filmmaker who cranked out dozens of films in a variety of genres during his career. He made a few twisted, sexploitation-laden thrillers in the ’70s and Tango Of Perversion is one of the most colorful, juggling plot twists, kinks and bare flesh in a tight little running time.
The plotline revolves around mean-spirited gigolo Stathis (Lakis Komninos) and Joachim (Vagelis Voulgaridis), a nerdy trust-fund baby that wants to be his friend. Stathis takes advantage of Joachim by hitting him up for money and also using his bachelor pad for trysts. What he doesn’t know is that Joachim deals with his issues of psychosomatic impotence by recording his friend’s sex sessions via a hidden camera.
That little kink goes awry when Stathis commits a crime in front of that camera: he murders Rosita (Dorothy Moore), a predatory bisexual swinger who is in the middle of seducing Stathis’s drug addicted girlfriend Joanna (Erika Raffael). This kickstarts a crazy cat-and-mouse thriller that involves betrayals, shifting loyalties, murders and even necrophilia(!).
That heady brew of ingredients make this a wild little exploitation-film cocktail that boasts plenty of energy and color. Karagiannis directs in a rough-and-ready style, keeping his focus on sharp pacing and steady delivered beats of sex and violence. He weaves in the occasional raw but compelling flourish, like having the film’s necrophile fantasizing that their sexual partner is alive and willing in weirdo little “romantic” montages. There’s an array of fun period outfits and furnishings that give it a distinctive ’70s kick, which is further amplified by a melodic post-psych score by Yiannis Spanos.
Tango Of Perversion also benefits from fun performance by a cast that really dives into the sleaze. The beardy, stylishly dressed Komninos comes on like an evil version of Hugo Stiglitz here as he manipulates and seduces his way through the plot. Raffael is an appealing (and frequently undressed) damsel in distress while Moore has fun with her vamp archetype. That said, the real scene-stealer is Voulgaridis as the film’s repressed psycho: he brings a palpably nervous, Method-style intensity to his role as he mumbles, fumbles and periodically erupts into rage.
In short, Tango Of Perversion is a fun little quickie that understands the requirements of exploitation filmmaking and puts them forward with energy and a memorably quirky sense of personality.
DVD Notes: This title just made its U.S home video debut via a new DVD from Mondo Macabro. The transfer is preceded by a warning about how it was taken from limited elements but the results look pretty good, with nice details and rich color. Both Greek and English tracks are provided: English is a suitable choice here as it was shot with the primarily Greek cast mouthing English lines phonetically anyways.
There’s also a nice package of extras. The first few are text based. “Cast And Crew” offers bios for Komninos, Karagiannis and Spiros. There are some interesting details in each, like how Karagiannis made over 100 films and how Spiros combined French chanson and Greek folk music to create a successful pop-song style in Europe. There is also an interview with producer Antonis Karatzopoulos that offers a little insight into the Greek film business of the ’60s and ’70s and “About The Film” talks about how this film and The Wife Killer were influenced by giallos and crafted to appeal to the export film market.
Next up is an alternate set of English credits: the Anglicized names are amusing but the titles are also a little better in their design than the Greek ones. The biggest extras is “Sunshine and Shadows,” a 25 minute interview with critic/musician Akis Kapronos. He offers a thumbnail history of Greece’s film business, including how it was influenced by governmental upheavals and its relationship with the Italian film business. There’s plenty of chat about Karagiannis, whom Kapronos dubs “the Greek Jess Franco,” and details on both Tango Of Perversion and The Wife Killer. The package is rounded out by the always colorful Mondo Macabro preview reel.
In short, this is a great value for exploitation film collectors and a worthy addition to their home video shelves.