An Italian movie set in San Francisco that I'd amazingly never seen, Lucio Fulci's Una sull'altra (DVD title: Perversion Story), is one of the director's more memorable films, made when Fulci was transitioning from comedies and musicals to the horror films for which he'd become more renowned.
Sure, one must forgive the geographical fudges (driving south out of the city on the Golden Gate Bridge; a Southern Pacific railway station in San Francisco; a very odd route down to San Luis Obispo -- where the heck is that bridge over the ocean? Key West?; and did we need yet another movie character living on the famously crooked part of Lombard Street?) but Fulci he makes good use of the city otherwise, using San Francisco just as many American filmmakers have set and shot their films in exotic European locales. It's not only arguably the most overtly European American city in feel, it's a place Alfred Hitchcock liked to use regularly as well.
And the film has a Hitchcockian feel to it -- tracking shots behind characters and down staircases, a macabre sense of humor, cruel sexuality -- but especially, as many other critics have noted, the film makes no pretense of hiding the debt it owes to Vertgo in particular (obsession, the possible return for a dead woman); it's essentially a more ribald, perverse take on that story. Not that Fulci is quite in Hitchcock's league when it comes to building suspense,
Even if the film really isn't a true giallo, it has that genre's sense of style and mood -- just a lot less blood -- with colorful settings and costumes blotted out by ominous shadowplay. There is some absolutely haunting photography in the film, by the renowned Spanish DP Alejandro Ulloa (The Diabolical Dr. Z), including a dead body being displayed and then transported to a hearse, and then later the same body (not looking quite as well) wheeled out from and to the camera.
The plot, involving a philandering doctor whose wife dies abruptly, leaving him with a suspicious amount of money, leading to be suspected by the police, and other twists and turns that I won't go into here, is plenty enough to hold your attention, though it flags a bit a times. But it works well enough as a twisty thriller and builds to a tense final act.
And while the American DVD title seems ill-fitting, the plot, ultimately, is deliciously perverse.