Murder à la Mod (1968)

Genres - Comedy, Crime, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Whodunit  |   Run Time - 80 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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This early indie feature from Brian De Palma provides an interesting blueprint for his future successes in the horror and suspense genres while also retaining the satirical bite of his early underground comedy fare. Murder à la Mod plays out like an elaborate joke on the audience, throwing the viewer into the middle of bizarre storyline that switches from horror to slapstick on a second's notice as it constantly plays with the story's timeline to rewrite what the viewer is seeing again and again. Thankfully, De Palma's script is inventive enough to make this little "joke" clever and engaging. As a director, he makes cheeky references to past classics (Psycho and Peeping Tom are both given nods here) and uses a wide array of narrative techniques like films-within-a-film, jump cuts, and even superimposed titles pointing out objects in the frame to jazz the film up. He also gets solid performances from a game cast; Jared Martin and Andra Akers acquit themselves well as the couple whose troubled relationship fuels the storyline, but the real scene-stealers are Ken Burrows as a sleazy nudie-film producer and De Palma regular William Finley as the class-clown actor whose jokiness may be hiding homicidal tendencies (Finley also sings the excellent garage-rock theme song). The end result is definitely an exercise in style, but it's so engaging and so in love with the language of film that it transcends the "style exercise" label. Thus, Murder à la Mod is a solid pick for those interested in vintage independent films and a must for De Palma fans.