Sette note in nero

Sette note in nero (lit. 'Seven notes in black') is a 1977 Italian giallo film directed by Lucio Fulci and written by Roberto Gianviti and Dardano Sacchetti. Sette note in nero stars Jennifer O'Neill, Gianni Garko, Marc Porel, and Ida Galli. The film involves a woman who begins experiencing psychic visions that lead her to discover a murder, her husband is charged with the killing. The psychic must embark on an investigation with a paranormal researcher to clear her husband's name of the crime.

Sette note in nero
Italian film poster
Directed byLucio Fulci
Produced byFranco Cuccu[1]
Screenplay by
Music by
CinematographySergio Salvati[1]
Edited byOrnella Micheli[1]
Distributed byCineriz
Release date
  • 10 August 1977 (1977-08-10) (Italy)
Running time
98 minutes[2]

The film was released in the United States as The Psychic, and also as Seven Notes in Black. Other alternate titles include Murder to the Tune of the Seven Black Notes and Death Tolls Seven Times.


In 1959 Dover, England, a woman commits suicide by leaping from a cliff. At the same time, her daughter, Virginia, living in Florence, Italy sees her mother's death in a vision. In the present day, an adult Virginia (Jennifer O'Neill) lives near Rome and has married a rich Italian businessman Francesco Ducci (Gianni Garko). Ducci leaves on a business trip, and as Virginia drives herself away from the airport after seeing him off, experiences more visions—she sees an old woman murdered, a wall being torn down and a letter hidden beneath a statue.

Virginia plans to renovate an abandoned mansion her husband has bought, but notices that the building resembles the one she has seen in her visions. She tears down a wall in one room, finding a skeleton behind the plaster. Assuming the skeleton is that of the woman in her vision, Virginia contacts the police. However, they do not believe her story and charge Ducci with the killing.

Examination of the body reveals it not to be an old woman, but one in her twenties; killed about five years earlier. The skeleton is finally identified as Ducci's ex-girlfriend, who vanished several years ago. Virginia is determined to exculpate her husband, and contacts her friend Luca Fattori (Marc Porel). Fattori is a researcher of psychic phenomena, and his investigation eventually leads to the wealthy Emilio Rospini (Gabriele Ferzetti), who may be the true culprit.

Francesco returns from his business trip where Virginia updates him on everything that has happened. He urges her to dismiss the matter from her mind, but she instead grows more and more obsessed with learning this mystery.

Virginia discusses the case with Francesco's sister Gloria (Evelyn Stewart), and Melli (Riccardo Parisio Perrotti), a lawyer friend of Gloria's. Gloria says that her brother left for a business trip to America in April 1972, and that she was the one who changed the furniture of the place. The room with the walled-in corpse had been Franceso's bedroom, but it was Gloria who had bought the furniture that Virginia saw in her vision, after Francesco's departure.

A few days later, Virginia buys a magazine which runs a picture of the murdered woman on the front cover, exactly the same magazine from Virginia's vision. When Luca notices that the magazine has only existed for a year, it becomes apparent to him that Virginia has experienced a premonition, not a vision of past crimes. Virginia and Luca find more evidence that appears to clear Francesco, allowing him to get released on bail. Gloria, in the meantime, gives Virginia a wristwatch as a gift, one that plays a haunting tune on the hour.

Details from the premonitions start to occur in front of Virginia with greater and greater frequency. Virginia takes a yellow taxi, with a blinking CB radio light, from Luca's office to her home (just as seen in her vision). The mysterious old woman phones Virginia, leaving a message on her answering machine, offering information about the case. When Virginia arrives at her house, she finds her dead (in the same position from Virginia's vision). Rospini appears and Virginia flees in panic. Grabbing a vital letter featured on a coffee table in her vision, Virginia escapes down the road to a neighboring church that is undergoing repairs. Virginia's hiding place is given away when her wristwatch chimes go off. Rospini tries to reach her on a wooden scaffold, but slips and falls to the marble floor, many feet below.

Virginia runs back to her husband's old villa nearby, and phones him at his office to come see her right away. When he arrives, Virginia is alarmed by his limp (just as in her vision), which he claims to have twisted his ankle just a few hours before. They go inside to the fateful room. Francesco puts down a copy of the magazine with Agneta on the cover, right on the table as described in the vision. Growing more nervous, Virginia starts smoking one of Gloria's yellow cigarettes, and places it in an ashtray also featured in the vision.

At the hospital, the police talk to the badly injured Rospini, who can barely gasp out his explanation of the events. Back in 1972, the old woman, Signora Casati, had an illicit buyer for a valuable painting in a nearby gallery. Francesco, Rospini, and Agneta Bignardi had all been involved in stealing it. Rospini killed a guard, a fact mentioned in a letter Agneta wrote to Casati. Rospini was not trying to kill Virginia, but only trying to retrieve the letter. Casati was already dead when he arrived, having been killed by Francesco, who sustained a twisted ankle after jumping out of a window. It was Francesco who murdered Agneta five years ago after she enraged him by trying to make off with the painting alone.

Alone with her husband, Virginia becomes more and more frightened by the gradual confluences of elements from her vision. The last crucial link in the chain occurs when Francesco sees the incriminating letter on the dresser. Virginia claims that she hasn't read it, but he refuses to believe her. He suddenly attacks his wife with a fireplace poker. His first blow misses as she ducks and it smashes a mirror (seen in the vision). The next blow strikes her on the head. As Virginia lies on the floor, bleeding profusely, he prepares to wall her into the excavated hole in the wall. Finally, all the details of room fit with the vision: Virginia realizes that she was victim all along.

A little later, Luca figures out from the magazine cover about the real location and time which Francesco could have murdered Agneta Bignardi. He then races over to the Ducci villa, while being chased by two motorcycle cops who are trying to arrest him for speeding. He manages to keep their fingers off his collar long enough to elaborate his suspicions. Francesco invites them all into his house and into the room, expressing concern at his wife's disappearance. Despite the policemen's questions and Luca's remarks, they cannot break Francesco's bland self-control. As Luca turns to leave, escorted by the police, everyone hears the haunting tune, like a music box chime, emerging from the wall where Virginia is hidden.


  • Jennifer O'Neill as Virginia Ducci
    • Fausta Avelli as Young Virginia
  • Gianni Garko as Francesco Ducci
  • Marc Porel as Luca Fattori
  • Gabriele Ferzetti as Emilio Rospini
  • Ida Galli as Gloria Ducci
  • Jenny Tamburi as Bruna
  • Fabrizio Jovine as Commissioner D'Elia
  • Riccardo Parisio Perrotti as Melli
  • Loredana Savelli as Giovanna Rospini
  • Elizabeth Turner as Virginia's Mother
  • Vito Passeri as Caretaker


Fulci has claimed the film was in development hell for over a year as producer Luigi De Laurentiis was not sure what type of film to make out of it.[4] Ernesto Gastaldi stated that he had worked on the original outline of the film with director Alberto Pugliese, titled Pentagramma in nero (lit. 'Black Pentagram') or Sinfonia in nero (lit. 'Black Symphony').[4] This film was about a woman who dreams of a murder and believes it will happen in real life.[1] Curti noted that a script kept at the CSC library titled Incubus (Pentagramma in nero) signed by Gastaldi, Sergio Corbucci and Mahnamen Velasco dated March 1972 but it appeared to be an early title for La morte accarezza a mezzanotte (1972).[4]

Sette note in nero was written by Roberto Gianviti and Dardano Sacchetti.[1] Sacchetti and director Lucio Fulci have collaborated on a number of other films together, including Zombi 2, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery, and The New York Ripper.[5] Fulci and Gianviti also collaborated on a number of films together, including Operazione San Pietro, A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Zanna Bianca, Challenge to White Fang and Una sull'altra.[6]

Dardano Sachetti was summoned by Luigi De Laurentiis and his son Auelio to collaborate with Fulci on a script based on the mystery novel Terapia mortale, published in 1972.[4] References to Razzini's novel are minimal to nonexistent in Sette note in nero.[7] Sacchetti stated he was called to contribute to the script by adding "a touch of Argento to a traditional mystery plot"[7] This included the modalities of the deaths and the victims point of view.[7]

The film was shot between September and November 1976 under the working title Dolce come morire.[8] It was shot Incir-De Paolis Studios in Rome and at Arezzo, Siena in Italy and in Dover in England.[3] Cameraman Franco Bruni commented on the cinematography in the film, stating that "we did a frantic use of zoom in this film" and "often used the tracking shot backwards, to reveal things. The camera was moving all the time."[9]


Sette note in nero is the fourth giallo film to have been helmed by Fulci, who had previously taken the reins on Una sull'altra, Una lucertola con la pelle di donna and Don't Torture a Duckling. Fulci's gialli have been cited as being "a far cry from his later excessive gross-out horrors", showing that the director was able to "put his finger on the free sexuality that permeated the culture at the time and the repercussions that came along with it".[10] The film, along with the rest of Fulci's oeuvre, has been described as "progress[ing] as if the characters are trapped in some awful, illogical dream, from which there is no escape".[11] The film's title has been noted as one of many giallo titles using either numbers or animal references, having been directly compared to Sette scialli di seta gialla.[12]

Roberto Curti stated that the film should "more properly be considered as a "female gothic"", with a film updated to contemporary times and blended mystery and the paranormal. In 1970s Italy, the paranormal was one of the countries most durable obsessions.[4] This included Pier Carpi's popular books about history of magic and Cagliostro and a book of alleged prophecies of Pope John XXIII.[4] Paranormal themes were also explored in adult comics and television miniseries such as Il segno del comando and ESP based on Dutch psychic Gerard Croiset.[4] Filmmakers and screenwriters also delved into these themes such as Riccardo Freda, Piero Regnoli, Demofilo Fidani and Pupi Avati.[4]


"Lucio was an important director in my career and also a friend, a person for whom I had strong feelings".

—Composer Fabio Frizzi on collaborating with Fulci[13]

Composer Fabio Frizzi also contributed to Paura nella città dei morti viventi, ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà, Manhattan Baby, and Fulci's 1990 film Un gatto nel cervello.[14] The film's score was performed on a carillon, accompanied by stringed instruments, synthesisers and piano notes. The score has been described as "simple, elegant and gravely beautiful", and has been noted for "steer[ing] clear of rampant atonality and shrieking strings", unlike typical giallo film scores.[15]

Some of the film's music was later used in the 2003 American film Kill Bill Volume 1, directed by Quentin Tarantino.[15][16]} A medley of the score was later included as part of Frizzi's 2013 Fulci 2 Frizzi live tour, including the 2014 live album release Fulci 2 Frizzi: Live at Union Chapel.[17][16]


Sette note in nero was released in Italy on August 10, 1977 where it was distributed by Cineriz.[1][18] Curti described the films reception in Italy as "nondescript (and therefore disappointing) results."[8] Curti stated that this was a period where the giallo was waning, and that a film that was "completely devoid of blood and gore and ultimately downbeat" was not of the interest of moviegoers.[8] The film grossed a total of 594,648,345 Italian lire domestically.[1]

The film was released in the United States as The Psychic and distributed by Group 1 International Distribution Organization.[3] It has been released under several English alternative titles including Murder to the Tune of the Seven Black Notes, Seven Notes in Black and Death Tolls Seven Times.[3] It was released on DVD in English under the title The Psychic on December 18, 2007.[19]


DVD Talk's Stuart Galbraith gave Sette note in nero three-and-a-half stars out of five, calling it "a very effective little thriller, smartly directed and engrossing". Galbraith felt that the film "offers few surprises" but moves with"palpable suspense", and added that the final scenes are "genuinely harrowing".[20] Writing for Allrovi, Sandra Brennan rated the film one star out of five.[21] A review in The Washington Post by Gary Arnold described the film as "an uneven experiment in terror". Arnold was critical of the post-dubbed nature of the sound, and of Fulci's "excesses of enthusiasm" in direction, but felt that this was more enjoyable than the "laborious tease" of the contemporary film Halloween.[22]

Bloody Disgusting's Chris Eggertsen included the film as number seven in a countdown of the "Top Ten Underrated Horror Gems", citing its "excellent cinematography [and] deft use of color", though criticising its "poor use of dubbing".[23] Sette note in nero has been compared to American film Eyes of Laura Mars, released the following year.[24] Italian film critic Riccardo Strada has described Sette note in nero as "effectively sinister and disturbing", finding it full of "healthy unease".[nb 1][25]


  1. ^ Original text—"Di grande interesse anche alcune titoli di Fulci come Sette note in nero del 1977, efficacemente sinistro e disturbante, un prodotto artigianale, ma ancora oggi denso di sana inquietudine".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Curti 2017, p. 172.
  2. ^ a b Curti 2017, p. 169.
  3. ^ a b c d Curti 2017, p. 173.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Curti 2017, p. 174.
  5. ^ Hutchings 2009, p. 275.
  6. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | Gianviti, Roberto | Filmography". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  7. ^ a b c Curti 2017, p. 175.
  8. ^ a b c Curti 2017, p. 177.
  9. ^ Curti 2017, p. 176.
  10. ^ Shipka 2011, p. 88.
  11. ^ Dixon 2000, p. 73.
  12. ^ Giovannini 1986, pp. 27–28.
  13. ^ Frizzi 2 Fulci, p. 1.
  14. ^ Hutchings 2009, p. 133.
  15. ^ a b Spencer 2008, p. 279.
  16. ^ a b Rife, Katie (28 August 2015). "Italian film composer Fabio Frizzi to play his first-ever U.S. shows this fall". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  17. ^ Frizzi 2 Fulci, p. 16.
  18. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "Sette note in nero". AllMovie. Archived from the original on August 30, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  19. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "The Psychic - DVD". Allmovie. Allrovi. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  20. ^ Galbraith, Stuart (November 14, 2007). "The Psychic : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". DVD Talk. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  21. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "Sette Notte in Nero - Cast, Reviews, Summary and Awards". Allmovie. Allrovi. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  22. ^ Arnold, Gary (May 1, 1979). "'Psychic' Shivers". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  23. ^ Eggertsen, Chris (September 10, 2010). "Top Ten Underrated Horror Gems". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  24. ^ Meehan 2009, p. 91.
  25. ^ Strada 2005, p. 156.


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