An Ideal Place to Kill



An Ideal Place to Kill

"You're under the delusion that you can handle a delicate situation my yourself."

Dick Butler (Ray Lovelock) and Ingrid Sjorman (Ornella Muti) are a freewheeling young couple, paying for their romp through Europe by smuggling and selling porn out of their groovy yellow convertible. But after getting busted by the police in Pisa, getting robbed by a biker, and being mistaken for German bank robbers, the couple seeks refuge in a country estate. At first, the house's owner, Barbara Slater (Irene Papas), is terrified by her unwelcome guests but they soon charm her and things get very friendly. But what dark secrets is Barbara hiding? The situation quickly turns as Dick and Ingrid take Barbara prisoner in her own home... or is Barbara the one in control, keeping the young couple trapped for her own purposes? 

An Ideal Place to Kill (also frequently called Oasis of Fear) gets rolling with a lot of potential, showing Dick and Ingrid's Bonnie-and-Clyde adventures, breezing through Europe and flaunting the law. Then it slows to a halt when the action is confined to Barbara's house. The movie has a few good moments of suspense and is sexy and stylish, it's not a great giallo if you're into blood and murder scenes. The first murder occurs before the action of the movie starts and isn't revealed until 54 minutes in. The girl killed in a car accident is incidental to the plot and isn't shown. Instead, this movie aspires to be one of those claustrophobic mind-game suspense movies like The Cold Eyes of Fear or Sleuth but, sadly, doesn't achieve their sustained level of tension.

  • The movie isn't great, but the cast is spectacular. You may remember Ray Lovelock, who would go on to star in Lucio Fulci's Murder Rock. Ornella Muti is best known as Princess Aura in 1980's Flash Gordon and Irene Papas was in Zorba the GreekThe Guns of Navarone, and Fulci's giallo Don't Torture a Duckling.
  • This movie includes an excellent example of "inept police," too lazy to follow up an important lead in the garage after a simple distraction.
  • There's a lot of yellow going on in the costumes and production design - the car, the clothes, the wallpaper, flowers, art... tons of yellow and gold. There's so much that it doesn't really serve a storytelling function (like in a Lamberto Bava movie), rather, it's a constant remind to the viewer that this is a giallo movie.
  • The title makes ironic sense. Most of the other titles make more literal sense – except maybe for the Japanese video title, Love Stress.

What the Hell am I Watching?

Living free and flush with cash at the beginning of the movie, Dick and Ingrid celebrate life by going to a fancy restaurant and throwing birds at the other patrons.

Fashion Moment

During that drunken fowl-chucking escapade in the restaurant, the couple parties Donnie and Marie style in matching white fringed bell-bottom leisure suits.



Here's their awesome yellow roadster, covered in daisy decals.


...and one more point of interest: Do those yellow curtains look familiar? That swirling wrought iron bannister on a spiral staircase in a circular foyer? That's because this same house was used as a set for both Lucio Fulci's Perversion Story and Dario Argento's Cat O'Nine Tails.



The Girl in Room 2A


The Girl in Room 2A

"Evil can only be handled on its own terms. To forgive is to absolve it."

After spending two weeks in jail on a trumped-up charge, Margaret Bradley (Daniela Giordano) rents a room from Mrs. Grant (Giovanna Galletti). But she soon finds herself haunted by strange occurrences - a bloodstain on her floor that re-appears after it's washed away and terrifying visions of a mysterious figure in a red cape and mask. Before long, she is approached by Jack Whitman (John Scanlon) who is investigating the disappearance of his sister, another troubled young woman who once rented the same room. Margaret and John's search leads them to an asylum and to a mysterious cult, led by a man only known as Mr. Dreese (Raf Vallone). Who is the killer in the red vestments? Why does the cult kidnap troubled young women? Will Margaret be their next victim?

With its creepy nighttime visions, spooky apartment setting, cast of weird neighbors, and a plot that centers on an evil cult, The Girl in Room 2A has more in common with Rosemary's Baby than with traditional gialli like The Black Belly of the Tarantula. We're clued in pretty early to the fact that the killings involve a sinister cult, but clues, motives, and identities are revealed gradually in this rather deliberately-paced film.  But if you want a better movie in a similar vein, check out Short Night of the Glass Dolls.

  • When Margaret arrives to live at Mrs. Grant's house, she notices the photo of the deceased Mr. Grant sitting on the piano. This is an interesting reference to a similar scene in The Girl Who Knew Too Much. That scene led me to believe that Mr. Grant would make a surprise appearance at the end of the film, like in Bava's classic. This was, unfortunately, too much to ask of The Girl in Room 2A.
  • This is the last film directed by William Rose, who is best known for such campy skin-flicks as 50,000 BC (Before Clothing), Rent-A-Girl, and The Hookers. As an actor he also appeared in Werner Herzog's acclaimed film Fitzcarraldo.
  • This movie was produced by Dick Randall, whom you may remember as the bombastic writer, producer, and actor in The French Sex Murders.
  • Giovanna Galletti's name is mis-spelled in the credits.
  •  For the purposes of the check boxes above, I'm counting the prison as an "all-girl institution." We don't see any other patients, but the psychiatric hospital might also be for women only.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

The version of the film that I saw had a weird effect throughout, where the backgrounds would occasionally warp and wobble but the foregrounds stayed still. I don't know if it's in the original movie or if there was a problem with the digital transfer, but either way, it's a spooky effect.

In a scene right out of Dario Argento's bag of tricks, Margaret sneaks into Mrs. Grant's son's room to look for clues and finds an eerie collection of snakes, specimens in formaldehyde, and doll heads.

Jack rents a room in the building next door and, apparently, pays his rent in scotch.

Margaret is eventually kidnapped by the cult and, in a moment of compassion, Mrs. Grant's son, Frank, gives her a key to help her escape. One scene later, we watch her cell door swing open as she makes her exit. So was the door locked from the inside? Then how did they lock her in? This makes no sense.

While searching Mrs. Grant's house, Jack discovers a machine pumping blood (or some red liquid) through a hole in the ceiling, into the floor of Room 2A. It explains the mysterious re-appearing stain, but what was the point of all that? All that effort just to unnerve Margaret?

Fashion Moment

Margaret almost always appears in red and white. Mrs. Grant almost always appears in violet.



Margaret's social worker, Alicia (the great Rosalba Neri) gets some really interesting clothes, but here's something weird:


In this scene, Margaret's life is in chaos and the pattern on her blouse features orderly, organized rows of tiny polka dots (not visible in this photo). Alicia is being calm and reassuring, but the pattern on her blouse is wild and jarringly chaotic. They seem to be wearing each other's clothes.

Finally, a fashion tip for the gents:


There's never a valid reason to tuck your tie into your pants. It makes you look like a dufus. And for the love of God, put on a belt. 





The Double



The Double

"For you it's all a game. You're always playing."

When Giovanni (Jean Sorel) is shot by a mysterious bearded man in a parking garage, he flashes back to the events that led him to his demise. Living off his trust fund, he and his Italian girlfriend Lucia (Ewa Aulin) had a free-spirited life in Morocco, alternately making love and arguing due to his intense jealousy. But when Lucia's mother, Nora (Lucia Bosé) visits, Giovanni's lustful attention turns to her, though she seems more interested in a taciturn American hippie named Eddie (Sergio Doria). As Giovanni lays dying, his memories mix with his fantasies. Did he kill Eddie in Morocco or did Nora kill him in Rome? Who is the mysterious bearded man and what does he want? Is Nora having an affair? It may already be too late to find out the answers.

Much like it's protagonist's life, The Double is a messy, confusing, unresolved thing. The idea of a narrative spun out from a dying man's memories comes from another, much better Jean Sorel giallo, Short Night of the Glass Dolls. But instead of focusing on an elaborate mystery, The Double is a serious, arty, and meandering examination of one man's moral contradictions and his inability to commit to a relationship, a family, a career, or home. And, likewise, his mind often diverges into fantasy, showing that he can't even commit to a single version of past events. Giovanni is a nomad in every aspect of his life. This movie wants to use the giallo format to say important things about man's existential crisis during the unraveling of social fabric in the late 20th Century but, unfortunately, it works as neither a serious drama nor as a riveting thriller. It would have worked better if they had either focused on making a contemplative Malick-esque film without the genre conventions or jettisoned the arty pretense and created a high-suspense Hitchcockian thriller. Ultimately, the movie fails by trying to cover both bases at once.

  • The title The Double doesn't make any sense, but it's probably a mis-translation of the original Italian title, La Controfigura. A better translation might be The Wrong Man.
  • You may remember Sergio Doria from his small role in The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire. I mostly remember him because of the awesome jacket he wore in that movie.
  • IMDB.com lists Jean Sorel's character as "Giovanni" but in the movie, he's called "Frank."
  • During one of their arguments, Giovanni/Frank refers to Lucia as his wife but, later on, he is surprised when Nora tells him that Lucia is eager to marry him. This could be a case of an unreliable narrator, as we see throughout the film, but I think it's probably a genuine goof.
  • The phone in Lucia's Rome apartment is orange, not red. So close.
What the Hell am I Watching?

There are no fewer than two naked swimming scenes.

Early on, a group of locals crowds around the body of a dead man that has washed up on the beach. Our main characters are there and share meaningful looks. This is never addressed again in the movie. Who was he? How did he die? How does it tie in to the story? Did it really happen?

So who killed Eddie? How did he die? We get no answers.

Fashion Moment

Lucia is young, rich, thin, and Italian in the 1970's and that's a Venn diagram that leads to some adventurous high fashion. For example:


It's not a great shot, but she's wearing a flesh-colored bikini top with a matching fringed sarong.


Note the ominous yellow beach blanket.



Lucia gets funky for a night on the town in this purple velvet blouse and comically oversized hat.


In line at the breakfast buffet she's wearing that same bikini top, paired with a lace-up leather bondage collar.


And back in Rome, she goes full-on drag queen with a brunette bob wig, sheer blouse with flower appliques, and a pound of clown makeup.

 

Rings of Fear



Rings of Fear 
"The truth can never be ignored."

When the body of a teenage girl is discovered wrapped in plastic in a reservoir, Inspector Gianni DiSalvo (Fabio Testi) is put on the case. His investigation leads to a prestigious all-girls' school where the victim's friends, a clique that calls themselves "The Inseparables," share a dark secret. The mystery leads to menacing poems, a diary filled with cartoon cats, and a chic clothing boutique owned by an alleged art forger. Soon, other students and suspects in the investigation start turning up dead and even DiSalvo himself becomes a target. With the help of the first victim's kid sister, Emily (Fausta Avelli), DiSalvo must piece together the clues, learn The Inseparables' secret, and stop the murderer.

Rings of Fear is known by many titles, including Red Rings of FearVirgin Killer, Virgin Terror, and Trauma (though it's not to be confused with Dario Argento's 1993 giallo, also titled Trauma). None of those are apt or at all accurate and I suppose calling the movie The Inseparables would have made it seem like a lighthearted buddy picture. Director Alberto Negrin must be a fan of Massimo Dallamano because this film's plot is not only a retread of 1972's  What Have You Done With Solange?, borrowing its "schoolgirls with a deadly secret" plot and its star, Fabio Testi, but also incorporates elements from 1974's What Have They Done to You Daughters? - namely a scene on a roller coaster and swaggering, brassy theme music. Rings of Fear does hit some original notes, including the identity of the killer, which you probably won't see coming, and some creative murders and attempted murders.

  • Fausta Avelli does a really great job and, at first, I thought I was watching that other great giallo child star, Nicoletta Elmi. You may remember Avelli as the traumatized girl who silently reveals the killer in Lucio Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling. She was also a classmate in Dario Argento's Phenomenon and appeared in Lucio Fulci's The Psychic.

What the Hell Am I Watching?

Ironically, by-the-book cop DiSalvo's wife, Christina (Christiane Kaufman) is a kleptomaniac. Besides that little contradiction, their marriage seems fine but about halfway through the film, as he's walking out the door, she breaks up with him in the most nonchalant way. She just says "I won't be here when you get back." He casually replies "Thanks for telling me." And then we never hear from her again.

Rings of Fear also features the most matter-of-fact suicide scene I can remember. The killer casually admits to the crimes while strolling atop a dam and then when he's done, calmly climbs the railing and throws himself over the edge.

But that person isn't the only responsible party and when a second murderer is revealed, DiSalvo just lets the killer off the hook with a wink and a smile.

Fed up with all the secrets, DiSalvo bursts into the school late at night, knocking on doors, waking everyone up, and demanding answers. This is, unsurprisingly, not a very productive investigative technique.

Later, DiSalvo gets answers from a suspect by forcing him on a roller coaster and choking him. Dude has some serious issues. I'm starting to get a better picture of why his wife left him.

Giallo movies are known for creative and bizarre camera work. I've seen killer's POV, butterfly POV, and mattress POV, but this is the first movie I've ever seen - possibly the only movie ever made for a mainstream audience - that has vagina POV. 

Fashion Moment

The color palate of Rings of Fear is pretty drab, full of boring neutrals and earth tones. So when suspect Michael Paravinci (Jack Taylor) greets the detectives in a bright yellow robe it really stands out.



And if you're at all familiar with how giallo movies work, you know that that color choice isn't an accident and that it marks Michael as a significant suspect in the case.

Delerium (International Version)



Delirium
  

"Enough with you, Herbert! You selfish pig! You are a hyena!"

By day, Dr. Herbert Lyutak (Mickey Hargitay) works as a highly respected criminal profiler, helping the police catch killers, but by night he murders beautiful women to release the pent-up frustration caused by his impotence.  But Herbert isn't the only murderer in town, and when the police attribute Herbert's killings to the other maniac at large, he must help them catch that killer without incriminating himself. Could it be John (Tano Cimarosa), the shifty, pompadoured parking lot attendant who happens to be present at every crime scene? Herbert's wife, Marzia (Rita Calderoni), whose own frustrations have manifested in violent, sexually charged dreams, suspects her husband... but does she have the wrong idea? Inspector Edwards (Raul Lovecchio, credited only as Raul) must sort through the facts and find the answers.

Delirium (not to be confused with Delirium: Photos of Gioia) is one of those wild, crazy, messy gialli where style and hyperbole take precedent over coherence. It has a wonderful concept but it's so concerned with endless mis-directs, stylish dream sequences, and plot twists that it loses its own trail of bread crumbs in the woods and it ultimately makes very little sense.

Please note that the Anchor Bay DVD of Delirium contains two very different versions of the same film – an International Version and an American Version. The synopsis and all the statistics above reflect the International Version. The American Version is more tightly edited with a faster pace, is 16 minutes shorter, and features an additional four murders. Also, there is less nudity and the grownup time is less violent. Rather than being impotent in the American Version, Herbert is an Army Captain suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home from Vietnam and the murders he commits are the result of flashbacks to the war. He also has a second niece, Bonita (Carmen Young) who does not appear in the International Version. The ending is drastically different and involves an "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" twist. Overall, I'd say that the American Version, while still confusing and perhaps a little too fast-paced, makes slightly more sense than the International Version.

  • You may know Mickey Hargitay as the ex-husband of Jayne Mansfield and father of Law & Order: SVU star Marishka Hargitay.
  • The title "sort of" makes sense because the killer (okay, one of the killers) goes into a crazy sort of hyperactive mental state that could be referred to as a "delirium."
  • Six of the murders occur before the action of the movie starts, so a more accurate body count would be only six deaths.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

 Let's say you're alone late at night being stalked by a knife-wielding killer and you duck into a phone booth. Wouldn't you use the opportunity to call the police? So why would the victim in the movie take her chances with a random number and ask them to call the police? "Panic" is not a valid answer. Maybe "stupidity," but not "panic."

Marzia's dream sequences are the stylistic highlight of the movie. They depict naked, bodies getting strangled with chains and feature a bold, Bava-esque use of vibrant color and rapid, disorienting editing.

Another highlight, for its beautiful camera work and use of color is the bathtub drowning scene. The water is dyed bright blue, the victim's dress is a vivid green, and the terracotta tile is a rich red. The editing of the scene highlights the tonal contrasts, creating a mesmerizing visual rhythm.

There's a weird scene where the Lyutak's maid gropes herself while spying on the couple as they make out.

Marzia's niece, Joaquine (Christa Barrymore) briefly crosses paths with Herbert and makes a cameo in the dream sequences, but she isn't formally introduced until over an hour into the movie.

The movie ends with a slideshow of Marzia's sex dreams.

Fashion Moment

Inspector Edwards may always be two steps behind on the murder investigation, but at least he's way ahead when it comes to the latest fashions.



Officer Rainbow Dash is on the case.

Also, police woman Heyndreich (Katia Cardinali) is sent to the park as bait for the killer dressed – for some reason – as a sexy jockey.