Sergio Martino, 1972
Starring: Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli
Oliviero, a washed up, alcoholic writer lives in a mansion with his abused wife, Irina, and his deceased mother’s black cat, Satan. He regularly humiliates Irina and holds debaucherous parties, until his lover, a young student, is found dead and he’s the main suspect. Other bodies soon turn up, as does Floriana, his sexy niece. She begins an affair with both Oliviero and Irina, attempting to turn the couple against each other so that she can take advantage of Oliviero’s inheritance. Will Olivierio kill Irina? Or will Irina finally stand up to her abusive husband?
This Gothic-themed, Edgar Allen Poe-influenced giallo film from Sergio Martino is his fourth in reunites several of his regular actors, including the surprisingly short haired Edwige Fenech (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh), the gruff Luigi Pistilli (A White Dress for Marialé), the sinister-looking Ivan Rassimov (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh), and the lovely Anita Strindberg (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale). It also marked the return of composer Bruno Nicolai, who brought another excellent, catchy score. Martino’s regularly screenwriter, Ernesto Gastaldi, also contributed his own touches to the script, which uses one of his signature themes — the persecuted woman going insane — combined with elements from Poe’s “The Black Cat.”
The cumbersome title is a reference to The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, where the protagonist receives that strangely poetic sentence on a note with flowers — from someone who is part stalker and part admirer. Your Vice continues Mrs. Wardh’s themes of perversion and sexual obsession, but kicks things up a few notches with levels of seediness unseen in Martino’s earlier films. Like Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye, the cat plays a strangely important role — while this results in some unintentionally comic moments, it’s a nice throwback to Poe’s story and the furry beast symbolizes Oliviero’s unwholesome love for his mother. In addition to bragging about his mother’s productive sex life, he keeps a menacing portrait of her in the mansion, and makes his own romantic conquests wear one of her famous ball gowns during sex (!).
And like Amuck!, Oliviero holds an orgy-like party with a bunch of questionable hippies he dug up from somewhere around town. These fetes are mostly a reason to drink himself into oblivion, torment and publicly humiliate his wife, and assault their black maid. Thanks to the partying and Oliviero’s drinking habits, Your Vice is certainly in the running for giallo film with the most amount of J&B bottles. And while the fall back explanation for many giallo films is that the murderer is motivated by greed and is in search of an inheritance, this seems a flimsy excuse meant to cover up the fact that at least two of the protagonists — Oliviero and his niece — really enjoy sadistic games and perverse sex acts and the latter two are their real motivators.
This film may have some flaws, but it is quick moving, grim in tone, and the atmosphere is absolutely wonderful. The only other semi-giallo I can think to compare it to is Death Smiles on a Murderer, which has a similar blend of ‘70s giallo style and Gothic influence, as well as a female character who seduces both a husband and wife, and the plot twist of a body walled up in a castle crypt who comes back to haunt the female protagonist. Like Martino’s earlier films, this has a delightful number of twists at the conclusion, where red herring upon red herring is resolved.
Though the film has somewhat poor effects and is light on gore — and has a random motocross subplot — the last 30 minutes are highly entertaining and Your Vice certainly goes out on a high note. The film comes highly recommended for anyone who enjoys unusual giallo films, especially those with a heavy Gothic tone. And Poe fans will hopefully be as delighted as I was by Martino and Gastaldi’s take on one of the master of the macabre’s classic stories. Pick it up on DVD, or wait around a few months for the anticipated Blu-ray release.