This, the second of three films comprising the newly released Radley Metzger collection is a real gem especially as it has never been released for the UK market before and is available here uncut on DVD and Blu-Ray. Made in 1970 it again sees Metzger concentrating on a European location principally the stunning Bolsorano Castle in Southern Italy which featured in a fair few films around the boom time of genre Italian cinema and a place eagle eyed viewers may recognise from Sister Emanuelle. Like the Laura Gemser classic it is best going into this expecting to be titillated but not if you are looking for more hardcore pleasures as these were to come later in the Metzger oeuvre.
At first it is as though you are watching an old VHS transfer but don’t worry as we are introduced to three aristocratic voyeurs watching a no doubt quite heady and explicit stag film on a black and white reel to reel. The contrast between the stock film and the restoration on the main feature is instantly evident. We discover as things unfold that the three bourgeois castle dwelling toffs are husband, wife and grown up son and it is evident that they are somewhat bored of all the opulence around them and looking for kicks. The husband / father played by Frank Wolff, so impressive in Enzo Castellari’s ‘The Cold Eyes Of Fear’ the year after, seems to be the one urging them on. It should be mentioned that unfortunately he committed suicide a couple of years later. The others are indifferent and even bored by these games; The Wife (Erika Remberg) stating she would never do anything like getting undressed and acting like this in front of the camera. “Who knows it might be exciting” is the challenging response. Switching to black and white the credits roll and we wonder what they are going to get up to next.
What do you do when kicks like this are not entirely satisfying? Well you go to the carnival in town and watch the wall of death. It’s noisy and colourful at the funfair with plenty of action and one of the motorcycle stuntwomen on the wall of death particularly captures the group’s attention, could she be the woman they just saw in the film? That is the defining question and getting her back to view it is not too tricky as the trio become a quartet back at the castle.
Again this is a film with plenty of strength in the characterisations. It is easy to follow them and become embroiled in their mystery as essentially they are just the four players. It is dialogue driven and in fact they are even quite mischievous and garrulous. The son (Paolo Turco) is a keen magician and comes out of his shell to perhaps impress the striking visitor. They all seem to be trying to compete with each other but The Visitor who is played by gorgeous Eurobabe Silvana Venturelli (fresh from playing Olympe in Camille 2000 and sadly in her penultimate film role) seems to be no fool to their games.
Colour is used extremely well, the interiors are as striking as the castle outside and even in a drab setting where everything is black, white and drab brown something like a vivid red glass being held will catch your attention. Things unfold like the popular giallos of the period; it is a game of cloak and dagger, hide and seek and illusions at every twist and turn. I was reminded a lot of Mario Bava and this has a real European feel right down to the loungesque music. Just as I was thinking this the Visitor says giddily “this is just like something out of an Italian movie.” Characters chase and hide from each other around the labyrinthine castle, never quite catching up in a way that is reminiscent of Bava’s great Lisa And The Devil. All is perhaps not what it seems.
When the Father and Visitor enter the library the interior scene took my breath away as does the eventual disrobing of the Visitor, her modesty only obscured by well-placed camera angles and an annoying bust! The wordy erotica takes things to another level, the written words littering the library set being as pornographic as anything you could envision seeing in the flesh. Contempt, resentment and sordid pasts are all waiting to come bursting out the castle walls and cannot be held even in the depths of the dungeon below. This really keeps you on the edge of your seat urged on by an abstract, displaced feeling of hyper-reality that anyone who has immersed themselves in the poetic films of Jean Rollin should feel knowingly comfortable with.
Leading to dreamy denouement the frisson charged erotic scenes hit the mark in their soft focus, never fully explicit but volatile due to what they suggest rather than what they show. This is no doubt helped greatly by the brilliant and natural performance of the stunning Silvana Venturelli who should really have gone onto much greater things in the film world but apparently simply retired from it.
Whether you peel back the layers and unfold the climax or not, it will not stifle the enjoyment of the film and there is something quite enchanting and beautiful about it all displayed as a sumptuous feast that will stand up to repeated viewings.
If you fancy digging deeper there are plenty of extras including commentary, making of, extended scene and a piece on how the multinational cast put their voices to their parts.
Coming Next The Score