Your what is a what? As the Italians got more and more into their Giallo films the titles got ever the more inventive, almost a mystery in themselves and this one is no exception. Many of them were made all the more curious by having an animal analogy within them and even if this one does not one of the main characters within this is a particularly cantankerous black cat called Satan. This is being released in a double bill format with the previously reviewed Lucio Fulci’s Black cat and if you are looking for two similar films to sit down with imbibed with the spirit of the great works of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic tale you are in the right place here. As for Sergio Martino the director, it has to be said release wise things have not been too prolific in the UK as far as his works are concerned. His most well-known giallo Torso (1973) has put in an appearance but the two proceeding Your Vice, ‘All The Colors Of The Dark’ and ‘The Case Of The Scorpions Tale’ have not. The few that I have are mainly imports and go to show how many different genres the director worked within from Western ‘A Man Called Blade (1977) to jungle romp ‘The Mountain Of The Cannibal God’ (1978) and post-apocalyptic actioner ‘2019: After the Fall of New York’ (1983). As far as Your Vice is concerned the made in 1972 flick is getting both its UK debut outing here as well as its worldwide Blu-ray presentation. For once I had the pleasure to sit down and watch a movie that I had never seen before here!
And what a highly enjoyable film it turned out to be. We pop in at a party in a somewhat crumbling mansion where the strange mother fixated Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli) is entertaining a group of local commune hippies to what is apparently one of his regular parties. Unfortunately it seems that the main game here apart from bursting into song and dancing naked on tables is the humiliation of long suffering wife Irina (Anita Strindberg) as well as making racist remarks and fondling the black maid. He is a drunken misogynistic son of a bitch make no mistake and when one of his mistresses is brutally killed by a madman with a nasty scythed implement and the maid disappears, suspicion naturally falls upon him. Things get all the more complicated when his niece Irina, Edwige Fenech arrives and proves too much a tempting proposition for both Oliviero and his wife. It’s hard not to fall for Fenech the second she enters the scene either as the Algerian actress looks absolutely gorgeous and has everyone pretty much giddy over her, the fact she seems happy to bed anyone making an advance drives the story along as the bodies continue to pile up. As for Satan, well the mischievous moggy crosses everyone’s paths and terrorises poor old Irina almost as much as her husband. It could well be on the scent for fish as there are plenty of red herrings to be found as the story develops and it’s one that is going to keep even seasoned Giallo connoisseurs guessing at right up to the final reel.
Your Vice is a film with a real nasty tone to it due to the downright duplicity and selfish greed of the central characters. Perhaps that’s the reason why under the title ‘Excite Me’ that it was only passed for cinema release in the UK as an X with cuts. I can’t find any mention of it ever coming out here on video so unless you picked it up via No Shame on import DVD this will be a first watch for many. The three central characters are all really good in this. The rugged Pistilli star of many a great Western previous to this is a mystery in himself, Strindberg plays a victim with a sting in her tail perfectly and the sumptuous sexpot Fenech simmers and has the screen literally boiling over in every scene she is in. Add to the already impressive cast the original Cannibal captive Ivan Rassimov and you have a cast list that’s second to none, all of them hustled along by Bruno Nicolai’s enigmatic score. Naturally it looks great too and Arrow have once again pulled the cat out the bag (sorry) to bring you the film in the greatest presentation you are ever likely to see it in.
It’s always good news when a director from the era is still alive and first up in the extras is a 35 minute interview with Martino. The first thing he tells us is where the confounding title for the film we have just watched came from so if that’s something you too are intrigued about you can get your answer straight away. He considers Poe to have been really ahead of his time (perhaps why his work was not considered special whilst he was alive) and observes that his stories are really easy to translate to the screen in the modern day, something that has been proven time and time again. He discusses other real life crimes that were inspirational within his thrillers and it is mainly these such as Your Vice and The Strange Vice Of Mrs Wardh (1970) that he keeps the conversation centred on. His working relationship with Fenech which is still on-going today is also mentioned and apparently they collaborated on an Italian crime series for Italian television in the 90’s too. He seems humbled by the resurgent appreciation of his films today thinking they were better than originally received but not quite as worthy of praise as they are currently getting. He offers a very humanist insight into the life and tragic death of main star Pistilli and also is very favourable with memories of Strindberg. In fact it seems like he is the sort of person who wouldn’t have a bad word to say about anyone. He ends up saying that the payment for this feature will be going to the children of Eritrea a cause he supports; a genuinely nice guy all round. With the film much fresher in his memory sees Martino again discussing Vice in an archive piece about the film where he states that he enjoyed the timelessness of the film a lot more than he expected to on seeing it again. Fenech also serves up her memories of “huge onion omelettes” as well as the film itself in this part too Writer Ernesto Gastaldi is on hand here too and remarks upon the fact that all these types of films largely disappeared for two decades before television screenings brought back a renewed interest in them. The other reason is that they had an originality lacking in modern films and that’s something I am sure many people will wholeheartedly agree with!
Next up is Dolls Of Flesh a half hour visual essay by Michael Mackenzie based around Martino’s Gialli. I do like the way this style of feature is presented as image wise it provides plenty of examples and clips to correspond with the narrative. Mackenzie describes Martino’s origins into the film world and looks at his directorial work within the genre. However as we are warned at the beginning there are spoilers involved so it might be wise watching the films first; mind you by the time some of them come out you should have forgotten the details. Resurrected recently by Eli Roth to get in front of the camera again in Hostel 2 the next piece sees film historian Justin Harries talking about the career of Edwige Fenech. Got to admit the presentation with Harries keep looming towards the camera quickly outstays its welcome and although very interested in the subject matter and what he had to say somewhat distracting and naturally the one person that would have been best to talk about Fenech would have been the actress herself, although this is something strongly hinted at that she has no interest in doing. Failing that this would have been a case of a talking head much better heard and not seen (no offence matey). The path from serious roles within Giallo film to a huge amount of throwaway sex comedies speaks for itself and it’s hardly surprising she became disheartened with acting and forged a path for herself in the more respectable world of television presentation, becoming a household name and production work. Finally the aforementioned Roth has a short segment talking about the film It’s a bit dumbed down (do we really need to have an explanation of the Giallo now) and strikes as an add on for the American market. That aside he’s entitled his say and there is a bit too much negativity thrown at the director at the moment. For the record I really enjoyed The Green Inferno and any help getting films like these green lit for Blu-ray presentation is welcome.
So two black cats in one highly attractive box set which comes complete with a limited edition 80-page booklet containing new articles on the films, Lucio Fulci’s last ever interview and a reprint of Poe’s original story. A great package all round and one well worth sitting down and watching as the nights draw in, black cat on lap optional.