During the late sixties, a terrifying new genre of film emerged from the darkest reaches of Italian cinematography. Melodramatic slasher thrillers punctuated with a heavy spattering of erotica known as gialli took popular pulp fiction and thrust the essence of Italian filmmaking into well-worn stories. With shadowy killers, sexy women and all the elements of a classic whodunit, the gialli has become a true icon of Italian cinema.
Amidst a plethora of cheesy and dated pictures, one film has returned to us from the celluloid dungeons with a vengeance; Sergio Martino`s Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.
Loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe`s The Black Cat, Your Vice… tells the haunting tale of Oliviero Rouvigny (Luigi Pistilli – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, For a Few Dollars More), an alcoholic writer grieving the loss of his mother. Taking solace in being a proper `70s style racist and bigamist, Oliviero revels in decadent parties and a bevy of mistresses, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering wife Irina (Anita Strindberg – The Case of the Scorpion`s Tail, Who Saw Her Die?). Perpetually terrorized by Oliviero`s cat, Satan, and growing more and more hateful towards her misogynistic husband, Irina is eventually driven to conspiring to killing him.
Pistilli is perfectly cast as the haggard writer, showing true depth to the tortured character. Indeed, in spite of his despicable tendencies, one cannot help but feel a pang of sympathy towards the tragic writer. Strindberg meanwhile as his suffering wife is far too melodramatic to be believable, whilst Edwige Fenech (Hostel: Part II, The Case of the Bloody Iris) though beautiful and alluring as Oliviero`s niece Floriana is ultimately little more than `70s eyecandy.
From its opening, exceedingly sexed-up credits scene to its over the top finale, Your Vice… is a voyage through exploitation, from the overtly racist treatment of the family maid (which frankly, would still not have passed as acceptable at the film`s time of release) to its explicit lesbian sex scenes, this is an adaptation that would even have had its degenerate inspiration turning in his maudlin grave. The typical of giallo unrealistic blood splatters its way across the action, and the actors` melodramatic and unrealistic responses to events lose any possibility of empathy for the tragic archetypes. Indeed, the film`s best performance comes from the feline actor playing the part of the demonic cat.
Perhaps one for connoisseurs of the genre, but by today`s standards, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I have the Key is little more than an offensive front to all senses. Go and watch Boris Karloff version instead.
2 / 5
Dir: Sergio Martino
Scr: Adriano Bolzoni, Ernesto Gastaldi, Sauro Scavolini
Starring: Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli
Prd: Luciano Martino
DOP: Giancarlo Ferrando
Music: Luca di Silverio
Run Time: 96mins
Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I have The Key is out now on DVD and blu-ray as part of the Edgar Allan Poe`s Black Cats Collection