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.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

L'occhio dietro la parete (1977)

... aka: Crystal Man, The
... aka: Entrega, La (The Delivery)
... aka: Eyes Behind the Wall
... aka: Voyeur Pervers (Perverse Voyeur)

Directed by:
Giuliano Petrelli

Ivano (Fernando Rey) is a rich, wheelchair-bound writer in need of some inspiration just as much as his much-younger, sexually-neglected wife Olga (Olga Bisera) is in need of some male companionship. The couple have rented an apartment on their property to self-destructive loner Arturo (John Phillip Law); an eccentric man they hand-picked because of his good looks and the aura of mystery surrounding him. Using some strange electronic periscope device, the two are able to spy on their new tenant and get their vicarious jollies that way, but both want to go even further than mere spying. Ivano would like to discover what makes this "strange animal" tick to get him out of his creative slump and Olga, who initially feels a little guilty about intruding on this stranger's life, finds herself excited by the prospect of stalking Arturo and breaking into his apartment while he's away to gather "evidence." Together, the two question his "avant garde" musical tastes, catalogue all of his books and snoop through his belongings, but aren't able to really come up with anything. At her husband's behest and encouragement, Olga eventually sets out to befriend and then seduce the sexually-confused Arturo. The kinky couple probably wouldn't have bothered had they seen him strangling a woman aboard a train in the pre-credits sequence...

Often lumped together with numerous other Italian horror films and mysteries from this time in the giallo sub-genre, this psycho-drama doesn't really fit the giallo mold at all. There's almost no action, no blood or gore, no suspense thrills, no real mystery element, no police investigation and no pronounced visual style. Hell, it doesn't even really have a killer. Sure, Arturo is seen murdering one girl during the opening sequence but this scene appears to have been grafted on simply to ensure this otherwise hard-to-categorize effort could play as a horror-thriller. The murder ends up having nothing to do with the real plot and actually contradicts the Arturo we see the rest of the time, who is passive, timid and shows no signs of homicidal urges at any later point in the film. The psychology of this character is so screwy and inconsistent it would give Freud pause! That said, Eyes is an entertaining film that I had absolutely no issue sitting through. There's nothing wrong with wanting some good, (un)clean pervy fun and this provides that in spades. It's also often quite surprising at times. Just how surprising? Read on...

There's one sequence of events in particular that's pretty atypical for the time that literally had my jaw on the floor. After Arturo leaves a restaurant, he's trailed by Joe (Jho Jhenkins), a black guy dressed in a one-piece denim jumper who follows him down the street and onto a bus. The film then cuts to a dance club and Joe is cutting it loose to a horrid song called "Disco Boogie" while a frizzy-haired female extra strips off all her clothes in front of the crowd while doing the Saturday Night Fever thing. Arturo and Joe then head back to his pad, where the two start getting a little touchy-feely. Next thing we know Arturo is bent over the couch screaming while getting plowed by the presumably well-endowed new buddy! I've seen some people call this a "gay rape" scene, but everything leading up to it seemed pretty damn consensual to me. Ivano and Olga watch the whole thing play out from home and, strangely enough, it is he who seems most interested in actually watching it and he even has to force his wife to look! Ivano later defends homosexuality while Olga acts appalled by it, though it's later made clear that's not so much because she has an actual problem with gays but because she has begun to desire their tenant herself.

Voyeurism and gay sex not enough to pique your interests? Well then let me discuss Ottavio (José Quaglio), the home's chauffeur / cook / butler. Ottavio is himself a disturbed peeping tom and likes to peak through keyholes while the female half of his employ is taking a bath. He also has a life-sized photo of Olga's head on a life-size paper doll body dressed in black lingerie plastered on the inside of his closet door that he likes to make out with, practice his oral sex skills out on and frustratingly punches in the vagina when he gets upset! Olga later catches the butler retrieving her pubic hair from the bathtub drain and then sniffing it, so she slaps the shit out of him while screaming "You disgusting idiot!" Ottavio also has a strange relationship with a (retarded?!) teenage girl in the neighborhood named Lucilla (Mónica Zanchi). He's first seen chasing her around and forcibly stripping off her panties while she screams and struggles to get free. Next time Lucilla turns up, she's calmly sitting on Ottavio's bed without any pants or underwear on and cheerfully goes down on him after he feeds her what we can presume is a little chocolate ball containing clumps of Olga's pubic hair (!?!) that he keeps hidden in his closet.

After a flashback revealing how Ivano ended up in his wheelchair and his son (Roberto Posse) ended up dead, as well as a not-all-that-shocking incest revelation, things pretty much end on a downbeat whimper in a horribly-photographed final sequence sure to have you muttering "meh" under your breath. I have absolutely no clue what the director was trying to say with this film if anything at all. While I did find the film itself interesting (particularly the relationship between Ivano and Olga), the character of Arturo is severely underdeveloped, the character of Ottavio is simply there to enhance the sexual eccentricities, up the shock value and eat up time (the entire film runs just 75 minutes) and the whole thing seems like little more than an opportunity to showcase every kink, alternate sexuality, sexual deviation and / or perversity known to man without adequately actually exploring these themes. There's a couple of soft sex scenes and a generous amount of equal opportunity nudity throughout (even Law goes full frontal during a hilarious nude workout sequence including close-ups of his penis as he jogs in place and does squats and push-ups).

Not surprisingly, the film went unreleased here in America, though it did achieve distribution in Italy, France (as Voyeur Pervers = "Perverse Voyeur") and in some Spanish-speaking countries (as La entrega = "The Delivery"). A soundtrack album by Giuseppe "Pippo" Caruso was also issued. It was the sole directorial credit for Petrelli, who otherwise only has a handful of small acting roles to his credit. Rumor has it he unsuccessfully tried to get his name removed from the credits before release. It wasn't long after that he permanently disappeared from film 

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