Monday, 27 November 2017

Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Aside from having one of the greatest titles in cinema history, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is an interesting take on the giallo film.

Oliviero is a washed-up author, obsessed with his dead mother, battling writer’s block with booze, drugs and decadent parties at his crumbling villa, where he regularly humiliates and abuses wife Irina. When one of his flings turns up dead, he becomes the prime suspect. As more murders occur and the paranoia grips Olivero, his life is thrown into even more turmoil by the arrival of his long-unseen niece Fiorina (Edwige Fenech), who takes a shine to Irina. What mysterious secrets could she be hiding? And why is Irina so afraid of their black cat, the one that used to belong to Olivero's mother?

As usual with this genre the plot is a little wild and not always lucid, but the more outré elements simply reflect the increasingly delirious mental states of the characters. In addition, the script benefits from borrowing some ideas from Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Black Cat, meaning the story wraps up in a relatively rational and satisfying way (and having the protagonist live in a crumbling villa feels very Poe as well).

As well as including many of the standard Giallo tropes, such as sex, violent death, knives, and J&B whisky, director Sergio Martino creates a hothouse atmosphere of insanity, decadence and suppressed anger, helped by some excellent cinematography, crazy camera angles and clever editing, particularly during one scene of a motorcyclist having an unfortunate meeting with an oil slick. All of this is supplemented by a lush score from Bruno Nicolai.

The emphasis is less on baroque set pieces (although there is no shortage of blood), more on the destructive nature of the relationships between the characters. Fenech is excellent as Fiorina, her icy cool demeanour providing a good counterpoint to the hysteria of Oliviero and Irina.

Your Vice also predates The Shining in terms of using an alcoholic writer's literary frustration as a metaphor for frustrations in life and relationships.