Umberto Lenzi, 1969
Starring: Carroll Baker, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Helga Liné, Horst Frank, Erika Blanc
The wealthy Jean is having some trouble at home, as his wife, Danielle, refuses to have sex with him. But he has plenty of affairs and has his eye on a beautiful, but troubled new neighbor, Nicole. Soon they begin a relationship and she reveals that her sometimes lover, Klaus, is violent, abusive, and controlling. Though Nicole agrees to go on a romantic vacation with Jean, and he has fallen completely in love with her, all is not as it seems — Danielle and Nicole seem to be secretly against him and Nicole has not quite freed herself from Klaus after all…
This Italian-French-West German production is the second film in director Umberto Lenzi’s trilogy with actress Carroll Baker, this falls between Orgasmo (1969) and A Quiet Place to Kill (1970). None of these are available on region 1 DVD and searching them out can be incredibly confusing because of English titling issues. Both Orgasmo and A Quiet Place to Kill bare the additional title Paranoia, causing a dizzying amount of confusion in an average Google search — so much so that even after knowing this information, I still accidentally watched A Quiet Place to Kill instead of Orgasmo (and explains why I’m reviewing this second entry first).
So Sweet… So Perverse isn’t a standard giallo, in the sense that there’s no black-gloved killer bumping off victims, but rather a complicated love triangle that leads to murder, backstabbing, sexual intrigue, greed, and other unpleasantness. This somewhat less common giallo type was the early purvey of Lenzi, who began directing giallo films before Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage pretty much set the tone for the rest of the genre’s output. Instead, this film has something more in common with Jess Franco’s sleazy, erotic Eurotrash output like Venus in Furs, full of dizzying plot twists, but lacking in any moments of actual horror. I’ve read that it’s in the same vein as Les Diaboliques, and while this is true based on a general plot comparison, it is far less effective than Clouzot’s classic.
There are plenty of confusing plot threads, particularly where the conclusion is concerned. This is a somewhat common example of the problem with Eurohorror dubbing in the ‘60s and ‘70s and I’m guessing the film would seem less silly or vague with a more substantial audio track. There are some wonderful set pieces, including fantastic costumes worn by Baker and Erika Blanc, and Jean-Louis Trintignant will always looks stylish joyriding his troubles away in a muscle car. There’s a very ‘60s-looking dream sequence with wild colors and crazed camera movements that stands as the film’s most memorable scene.
Jean-Louis Trintignant (fresh off Death Laid an Egg and Deadly Sweet) is likable, as always, though it’s easy to see how thoroughly his character is being bamboozled. Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi is known for a number of giallo greats (Torso, The Case of the Bloody Iris, All the Colors of the Dark), though this script is hardly among his best. Apparently the story idea is from Luciano Martino, brother of and producer for giallo director Sergio Martino (who also worked with Gastaldi regularly). But this is really Carroll Baker’s show, as are all three films in her trilogy with Lenzi. She is surprisingly mutable, appearing as damaged and desperate in some moments, and as a callous temptress in others.
So Sweet… So Perverse only comes recommended to giallo completists or fans of Jess Franco-style Eurotrash. There are some delightful moments, but these unfortunately don’t balance the scenes of tedious dialogue or convoluted plot. It’s not available on region 1 DVD, but you can find it floating around online — often on Youtube, which is a surprising source of otherwise unavailable giallo films.