"Not like my father! My god! Not like my father!"
As a child, Christian (Giancarlo Gianni) witnessed his father kill a blonde woman before hurling himself off a cliff. Now, many years later, Christian has returned to the house for the first time, accompanied by his wife, Helene (Dominique Boschero), the caretaker Paul (Luciano Pigozzi) and Paul's ditzy blonde wife, Brigitte (Mara Meryl). Christian's guests are all on edge, unsure weather his return will stir up dark, traumatic memories and slowly but surely, Christian seems to lose his grasp on reality. He sees ghostly figures in the dark, chases phantom footsteps and swears that his dead father is in the house. Is the manor haunted by Christian's father? Or is Christian being gaslighted in an effort to steal his inheritance? If so, who is mastermind behind such a devious plan?
Libido (not to be confused with the crime thriller In the Folds of the Flesh, which is sometimes also known as Libido) is a very early giallo and one of the first written by Ernesto Gastaldi, the man whose credits read as a list of the greatest gialli ever made and who created the template for the slasher film with Torso. Libido starts as a Psycho-style psychological thriller, introduces elements of gothic horror (thunderstorms, an old castle, muddy footprints, etc.) and finishes with a string of devious cons, double-crosses and mis-directs, ramping up the action all the way to the end. Gastaldi was clearly a fan of Mario Bava but also learned a lot from the French classic Diabolique.
- You may know Giancarlo Gianni from his roles in Casino Royale and A Quantum of Solace. Dominique Boschero would appear in several other gialli, such as Who Saw Her Die? And giallo superstar Luciano Pigozzi - the "Italian Peter Lorre" - was featured in the classics Blood and Black Lace and Naked You Die.
- This was the first directorial effort for both Gastaldi and co-director Vittorio Salerno.
- Please note that the 2nd death listed above - Christian's father - is one that's talked about but not shown.
- The movie opens with a Freud quote defining the concept of "libido" in clinical terms, but that provocative title doesn't really suit this mostly buttoned-up production.
Libido may not be very well-known, but it turns out to be a highly influential giallo movie. If you're already a giallo fan, you will be shocked by the opening scene: Christian, as a young boy, is dressed in a short-pants suit with knee socks playing with a mechanical toy that plays a creepy sing-songy tune. He hears a scream and witnesses a murder, scarring him emotionally for the rest of his life.
Sound familiar? There's no way that Dario Argento didn't have this scene in mind ten years later when he wrote the beginning of Deep Red.
Also, the rest of the movie involves a psychologically unbalanced man named Christian who holes up in a cliffside mansion with a blonde woman, an older caretaker and the caretaker's bubbleheaded younger wife. I'd say that's also a pretty good description of the middle third of Spasmo.
Brigitte is young, adventurous, and clueless about social cues, so her fashion sense tends to be a little daring. In one memorable scene, the camera leers as she dances the hula, wearing only black underwear and a feather boa.
Later, Helene's eyes nearly pop out of her head when Brigitte reveals this tiny pusstcat bikini.
But she does glam it up later with this elegant evening look.
As a side note, here's the musical toy that sets Christian off. He says it's Jiminy Cricket, but there's no way that's not Mr. Peanut.