Friday, August 9, 2013

The Giallo Cat: Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have The Key (1972)

Your Vice is a Locked room and Only I have the Key ("Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave")(Italy, 1972)
rating: ***
starring: Anita Strinberg, Edwige Fenech, Luigi Pistilli

Suffering on a writer's block, Oliviero is an alcoholic novelist married to Irana, who's down beaten into a near extreme level of humiliation. He also has a penchant for a certain Mary Queen of Scots (obsessed seems to be a more fitting word as he possesses a portrait and a recreated gown of the queen for some reason), eyes on his black maid and his former student at a local book store, and keeps a cat he inherited from his dear mumsie, named Satan.

When one of Oliviero's mistress was cut to death by a leather-gloved wearing assailant, things seems to become more unhinged for the scribe as he's forced to admit this affair with his wife after the police began questioning him. Nonetheless, Irana still stays with him, only for the situation to go from bad to worse when the killer struck again, this time slaughtering their maid right inside their mansion.

Wanting no more trouble with the local authorities, Oliviero and Irana nonchalantly bricked up their maid's body behind a wall, in typical Edgar Allan Poe-fashion, and went on to their (already abnormal) lives. This attempt for normality isn't going to go for so long when Oliviero's niece comes into the picture. Visiting her uncle, Floriana seems to be the next apple of Oliviero's eye; but how long can Irana stay sane under her husband's abusive relationship? What of Floriana's real agenda with her uncle? And what of the killer? Who was it wielding the sickle that night?

A giallo take on Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Black Cat, Your Vice seems to be more sexually fueled than Director Sergio martino's previous gialli. Dealing with topics like misogyny and incest, the insane tone of the movie came in with cost of some questionable plot holes, like the aforementioned fact that the couple just walled-up their dead maid without a bat's eye, even though the possibility that the killer might still be around, or that one of them might had done this heinous crime in the first place!

There's also some padding issues around the second act, after Floriana came in and complicate matters, but I try not to see this as a necessity to build some character and plot development to the story. Surely enough, things did go a little messed up and furthermore sleazy around these parts; a bit of twist came in early with the revelation of the possible killer running around cutting women with a sickle, along with some psycho-sexual moments that's pure stylized exploitation to the core, but it eventually found its way back into the game by the time one of them wielded a pair of stainless scissors and murders another.

The main three casts are exceptional to their roles; Luigi Pistilli did a good job portraying a near, or rather an already, unhinged writer and husband, whose one way of coping with his lack of inspiration is to torture and molest other beautiful women, as well as hold strange parties involving an all-girl hippie orgy as that from the film's lurid and strange opening scenario. Anita Strinberg plays Pistilli's character's wife Irana, with a sense of unsettling calmness that's bound to reach to a certain boiling point, conniving a way to get even and be free from her abusive life. And then there's Edwige Fenech as Floriana; I'll be frank here, I never seen any other gialli that starred her but she's awfully attractive. Her presence here has this air of mystique, something that made her possibly double-crossing persona a tad obvious, but nonetheless watchable.

It's a rather engaging giallo movie, one that's chock full of taboo and bloody kills, but I can't help but feel it was missing something. Perhaps very little of any likable characters dulled the experience, but the crime drama perspective of it made its fan following understandable. Surely, it's not the best giallo to come out in the 70s Italy, but it is good enough to own and enjoy.

1 female had her throat cut with sickle
1 female gutted with sickle
1 female had her neck cut with sickle
1 male hacked on the neck with fire poker
1 male stabbed to death with scissors
1 male and 1 female killed in motorcycle crash, set ablaze
1 male pushed off a cliff
total: 8
There's that Poe reference again!

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