Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave, Il (1972)

...aka: Excite Me
...aka: Eye of the Black Cat
...aka: Gently Before She Dies
...aka: Your Vice is A Locked Room and Only I Have the Key

Directed by:
Sergio Martino

Unusual, effective horror-thriller (originally IL TUO VIZIO E UNA STANZA CHIUSA E SOLO IO NE HO LA CHIAVE); this is one of the best in the giallo style prominent in Italy in the early 1970s. Sergio Martino emerged as one of the brightest and most prolific filmmakers in this field thanks to above average offerings like this one and his previous efforts THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (1970) and ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (1971). Taking cue from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat," VICE makes the very wise decision to spend less time dealing with police investigations and more time developing the central characters and building an evocative modern gothic atmosphere. This not only helps it overcome the repetition that plagued many of these films but also helps to set it apart from others of its ilk. Another big plus is the cast. While Edwige Fenech and Anita Strindberg were often given little to do other than provide a beautiful, terrified female centerpiece to the action, here they are given juicy, more elaborate roles that actually highlight their acting chops. Yes, both of these ladies are fine actresses given the material, and this movie proves it. Luigi Pistilli also delivers a highly effective performance, playing one of the most brutish and detestable characters in any giallo I've seen. A few others circulate in and out of the plot, but the three performers I listed above are the ones who hold this film together and give it some psychological resonance.

In a huge, crumbling mansion (that perfect Poe setting to reflect the crumbling mind), abusive, racist, misogynistic, alcoholic scumbag Oliviero (Pistilli), a once famous writer now in a career slump, takes pleasure in humiliating both his black maid Brenda and his tortured, weak-willed wife Irina (Strindberg). Olivier not only loves to dish out the casual abuse, he also can't seem to keep his hands off of the ladies. Aside from an affair with Brenda he doesn't exactly try to keep private, he's also screwing an attractive young woman in town (Daniela Giordano), who also seems to be blackmailing him. The latter is brutally murdered and the police begin to investigate the crime but like I said before, the fuzz are a secondary element to the story. Seems the relationships all around are anything but healthy and things don't improve any upon the arrival of Oliviero's lovely, scheming niece Floriana (Fenech). While she seems to provide a tender shoulder to cry on for the near-hysterical Irina, it's obvious she's up to more devious things. And the murders continue... Mind games, manipulation, terror, seduction, sex, twists, slashings and did I mention the husband has a wicked black cat named "Satan" who figures into the story? It's all done with high style and panache; well acted, nicely photographed by Giancarlo Ferrando, elegant score provided by Bruno Nicolai and a lively and effective ending with several well-played twists. Also in the cast are Ivan Rassimov and Riccardo Salvino.


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