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Giallo Power Hour | Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (1972)

This movie is wild.

Chaos is expected—wandering cameras, disappearing plotlines, unnecessary nudity—in your average giallo, but somehow, Vice threw me for a loop. It begins by dropping you into a strange, cult-like gathering of young,, hippies, singing a horrendous song about doing what you want and feeling free, while a blond woman does one of those classic seventies-white-girl dances atop a table. This is an excellent, over-the-top entrance into the fucked up world of Sergio Martino's film.

 In the first ten minutes we learn that our protagonist (is he, though?), Oliviero, is a big racist loser, with a serious Oedipal complex and a penchant for psychologically and physically torturing his wife. And really, since women dominate the narrative here, let’s just move right along to his wife, Irina. Her hair is big, which is appropriate because, a la Regina George, it obviously holds all of her secrets. She has at least one million secrets in this movie, one of which is not this: she fucking hates cats. Specifically the furry black one that roams around her and Oliviero’s palatial (if dilapidated) estate, aptly named Satan.

Irina is living in a nightmare, it seems. Oliviero, a muted, sweaty writer who hasn’t written anything of note in three years, is a general brute to his wife. He’s sleeping with multiple people that are not Irina, and all of these people end up dead by the end of the movie. The first is Fausta, his short-skirted bookstore lover. When she shows up to their regular romping spot, a “romantic” abandoned industrial site, she gets sliced up by a mysterious man in black, wielding a curved knife.

Naturally, the police (a classic tall & slim/short & stocky duo that are actually really great) show up at Oliviero and Irena's crumbling mansion, wondering if Oliviero had anything to do with his mistress’ death.

This essentially sets up the foundations for the rest of the movie. There is plenty to chew on here, what with the entrance of Oliviero’s unbelievably fetching niece, Floriana and a few plot twists here and there. I was impressed with how nearly every thread is considered and pulled together by the end of the film; Sergio Martino does a smart job of inserting characters and little backstory bits that all end up to a real whammy of an ending. There is a patch in the middle of the film where it feels slightly soft and meandering—though no one scene is wasted or overdrawn. It’s more a feeling of not knowing anyone’s intentions, but being aware that there is still 30 minutes left and everyone is just sort of having sex and getting in fights.

The female dynamics of Vice are what makes it so engaging. Floriana is presented as the woman with the most agency in the film. Oliviero wants her, which he makes apparent as soon as humanly possible, but she coyly keeps him at bay—at least until she sleeps with his wife, first. Floriana is sort of wonderfully aloof and seems absolutely amused at the dangerous cat and mouse game in which Oliviero and Irina are engaged.

I love that at any one moment, you can’t really tell whose side she’s on, because really, she is a free agent. Floriana is here (why does she stay with them, again?), to have her fun and then get the fuck out. Preferably on the back of a fast motorcycle, speeding down a winding road with mountains as a backdrop, thank you very much.

And her plan goes accordingly. She even swindles Irina out of her mother’s jewelry. Sadly, we realize too late that Floriana’s fate was unknowingly sealed the minute she came to stay (again, why is it that she comes in the first place???) with her Aunt and Uncle.

It is within the final 15 minutes of the film that we realize the tormented Irina has been playing a long game, and she would have gotten away with it, too. If it wasn’t for that meddling cat, Satan.