Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

I can’t decide if I’m enjoying these borderline gialli. Sergio Martino knows how to build tension, as characters roam the rooms of a massive run down mansion in the Italian countryside, and it depends if I’m in the mood for overwrought acting and sleazy drama. I’m not even sure what the ridiculously long title means: Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key? I suppose it means the basement, but it could also be the cupboard Irina gets locked in with Satan (the cat).

I’m getting ahead of myself. Oliviero is an abusive husband, professor and writer of novels. He has writer’s block and has become an alcoholic, abusing the women living with him. A killer murders a woman he has agreed to meet, and the police question him. Then his housemaid, Brenda, is murdered, and he forces his wifre, Irina, to help him hide the body in the basement. When his niece, Florina, arrives, she is suspicious. Her brazen sexual appetites arouse both Oliviero and Irina, but Oliviero is becoming more and more brutal with Irina, and we keep seeing a figure watching the house from the trees.

The sex in this film is deviant from the start, with the hippies willingly coerced by Oliviero into humiliating Irina, then Irina provokes him by wearing his dead mother’s dress, and he rapes her. He sleeps with Brenda, a black servant who he denigrates, then with his niece, Florina, and when Florina asks him directly if he slept with his own mother, the implication is that he did. His mother’s portrait sits above the dining room, and her cat, Satan, torments Irina, just like Oliviera does. The final act is a blizzard of switches and double crosses. Actually, his vice is surely his mother, and perhaps it is Irina who has the key. Maybe. It’s all a bit insane.

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