Sunday 18 October 2015

Your Vice Is A Locked Room & Only I Have the Key (1972)

Arrow's box set of two very different (but equally bonkers) Italian movie adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's story The Black Cat kicks off with this giallo from Sergio Martino. I reviewed the film itself a couple of years ago on House of Mortal Cinema, so for starters here’s a reprise of that write-up. I’ll be back after to tell you about the new edition.

Typical goings-on at any writer's house

The title is a line from a previous Ernesto Gastaldi - Sergio Martino collaboration, THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS WARDH and then we’re off into a story that is, according to the credits, based loosely on The Black Cat. If Edgar Allan Poe had a penchant for crates of J&B, attractive ladies wearing very little, and motorcycle racing this could have been the most faithful adaptation of the story yet. Somehow, though, I suspect that he didn’t, although he might have enjoyed the decadent party held by decadent writer Oliviero Rouvigny (Luigi Pistilli) that opens the movie. 

Cormorant's nest plus knife = bad news

Luigi lives in a lovely old mansion in the country where he hosts bizarre soirees that allows Sergio Martino to cram in both nude dancing (a tiny part for FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN and PHENOMENA’s Dalila de Lazzarro) and a horrible hippy song into the first ten minutes. Luigi is married to Irene (Anita Strindberg). His heavy drinking and womanising ways have caused her hairstyle to take on the appearance of a cormorant’s nest, and not a very house proud cormorant at that. Luigi’s having an affair with one of his ex-students from his teaching past who now works in a local bookshop. Romantic old devil that he is, he arranges to meet her in the local quarry after dark. 


Those of us who have seen this sort of thing before know that the chap in the far distance wearing black gloves and wielding a machete isn’t there for a bit of chiselling and pretty soon we’re witness to the first of several gory murders, including  Luigi’s maid and a local prostitute. During all this Luigi drinks J&B, strokes his black cat ‘Satan’, drinks more J&B, beats Irene, and drinks yet more J&B. In fact the stuff is delivered to his house by the crate load by motorcycle scrambling enthusiast Dario (Riccardo Salvino). 

More Lovely

Half an hour in and disgruntled Edwige Fenech fans may be wondering where the top billed actress has got to. She finally appears and sets about getting into bed with almost everyone in the cast, including Dario, who manages to charm her into his sleeping bag in a dusty old attic after one especially muddy escapade while Luigi watches from the shadows. Ivan Rassimov, in black leather coat and grey wig, has been watching from the shadows occasionally throughout the picture as well, but it won't be until just before the end that we get to find out why he’s there. By then naughty old Satan the cat has eaten Irene’s doves and had his eye cut out in homage to Poe, and we’ve had the typical final giallo fifteen minutes of everything going completely crazy before almost everyone ends up dead. Of course I’m not going to tell you who the killer is because that would spoil half the fun, suffice to say that the climax is every bit as wonderfully mad as giallo fans the world over have come to love.

J&B Plus Black Cat and Still Not Happy

YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM isn’t the best of Martino’s gialli - that’s always going to be TORSO, with STRANGE VICE close behind, but it is worth watching for the ever lovely Edwige Fenech and one of Bruno Nicolai’s best scores. In an interview Martino has said that this is a movie about provincial Italy and the film certainly has a different, gloomier, less glamorous feel than more cosmopolitan fare such as ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK. The title doesn’t have any relevance to the story, the murders are horrible, the women are beautiful, the music is great and there are more shots of J&B in the first twenty minutes than in the whole running time of any other giallo (probably). What’s not to like? In fact, what’s not to love?

Too Much J&B Plus Cormorant's Nest Plus Knife = Giallo!

Arrow’s Region B Blu-ray offers us a lovely transfer of YOUR VICE, with both Italian and English language tracks. There are also some decent extras, including a half-hour interview with the director where he talks about the making of the film, and what it was like to work with various members of the cast and crew, including stars Fenech and Pistilli and composer Bruno Nicolai. There’s a half-hour talking head piece on the career of Edwige Fenech by a very enthusiastic chap accompanied by appropriate clips and photographs. A making of featurette has been ported over from the Region 1 NoShame release. Add in a piece on the gialli of Sergio Martino and a chance to hear what Eli Roth thinks of the film and this is a winning package from Arrow. 

Arrow Films are releasing Sergio Martino's YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM & ONLY I HAVE THE KEY on Dual Format Region B Blu-ray and Region 2 DVD as part of their BLACK CAT Box Set on the 19th of October 2015


  1. Watched this last, stunning transfer. Great extras as always from Arrow. I find Eli Roth a terrible filmmaker but I could watch him talk about movies for hours.

  2. I certainly agree that Mr Roth's skills as a film-maker could benefit from a strong producer to hold him in check (and advise him to grow up a bit) ;-)