195. Primal Impulse aka Le Orme (1975)
Directors: Luigi Bazzoni and Mario Fanelli
Writers: Luigi Bazzoni and Mario Fanelli from a novel by Mario Fanelli
From: Sci-Fi Invasion
A woman awakens to discover she’s lost three days. She starts to follow little clues scattered through her life that lead her to a small seaside town. Only, once she arrives, the mystery deepens.
We open with a man being stranded on the moon as part of an experiment. Who he is, why he’s being left behind, and what the experiment is aren’t revealed. It turns out this is all a recurring dream of Alice, an international translator.
And while that would normally be a red flag in a movie—opening with a dream sequence—it kind of works here. There is an overriding dream-logic to this movie. Grindhouse Review describes it as “Lynchian,” which is apt, and I think there are tonal elements that hearken back to Argento. There are layers of reality and performance at work here. Alice’s dream, for instance, is of a movie she saw as a child called Footsteps On the Moon (an alternative title for this movie) that terrified her so much that she never saw the end of it.
Alice is awoken from the dream by a friend asking to be picked up from the airport, but Alice had forgotten she was coming to town. She sits down to finish up transcribing and translating a tape and then goes to work. It’s Monday. Before she leaves the house, she finds a postcard for the Hotel Garma torn into four pieces laying on her floor.
When she gets to work, though, she learns that it’s actually Thursday and another person had been brought in to do her job. She tries to figure out what happened over the course of those missing days and eventually goes to Garma since she has some vague memories of the place.
Once she arrives, she meets a child who recognizes her as “Nicole” and says she’d been there the previous week. She starts to find more clues that fill in the gap of her lost days, but also starts to wonder if there isn’t something else afoot.
An interesting little flick that’s diminished by a cheap translation. There are long periods without background music and, what music there is, tends to be one piano cue over and over. However, the central story, that central mystery, really carries the piece. A detail here, a detail there, all start pointing to something. Unfortunately, the mystery is more interesting than the revelation. That may well be a challenge of having a good mystery, though. Few things could satisfactorily answer the questions of Alice’s situation, but, even keeping that in mind, the end still felt like a bit of a cop-out. Because I did find the mystery so compelling, though, I haven’t revealed the end here and won’t. Also, Rotten Tomatoes notes that there are various versions of this movie so a different cut may have a better ending. The description they have there doesn’t follow the order of events on my copy and they offer run times ranging from 88 to 110 minutes (my copy is 92 minutes).
I’d call this a light recommend. Because of the flat colors and so-so ending, it’s not as good as it could be. However, it’s not bad and manages to be naturally compelling. I was constantly asking, “What’s going on?” but not in the way I do with most of these movies. Every new detail, every revelation just drew me deeper into the story, and that’s an accomplishment. However, it might be worth hunting down the original Italian version and watching that.