Director – Sergio Martino
Cast – Edwige Fenech, Luigi Pistilli, Anita Strindberg, Ivan Rassimov, Angela La Vorgna, Daniela Giordano
Release Year – 1972
Reviewed by John of the Dead
If you are like me, then you clicked on this because the movie’s title screams “giallo film”. For everyone else, you must be wondering what the heck a movie is doing with a title like that. Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is the fourth giallo film from esteemed Italian director Sergio Martino. If his name sounds familiar, he preceded this with giallo films Blade of the Ripper, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, and All the Colors of the Dark. Surely in his prime, Martino expertly delivers a film that lives up to its tremendous title. Loosely based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Black Cat, the viewer is treated to an engaging mystery complimented with a climax heavy in “poe”tic justice. Throw in gory kills, a great musical score, and Martino’s full-frontal approach to every element and you have the recipe for a rewarding giallo experience.
The story centers on Floriana and Oliviero, a married couple living in a large estate on the outskirts of town. Oliviero is a struggling author whose best days are passed him. Struggling to find the creative bug, he has since turned to alcoholism, as well as both physical and verbal abuse of Floriana. Oliviero is also a known womanizer, and he becomes the prime suspect in the death of a former student of his. When more bodies begin to fall around the estate, Floriana is left to live in fear over sleeping with a murderer. Things are not quite as they seem though, as each twist and turn leaves the viewer scrambling over the killer’s identity, and their association with the family’s estate.
This effort relies heavily on the relationship between Oliviero and Floriana. Their dynamic is terrible, as Floriana lives the life of a lesser being. Oliviero berates her in front of their company, cheats on her with other women, and then takes a turn for the worst when he begins to threaten her life if she speaks to the police on the disappearance of his mistress. On top of this, Oliviero is a racist towards their black housekeeper. I am curious to how such a film would transfer to today’s society, which is one where such things are incredibly more taboo (and rightfully so) than they once were. To an extent this was a hard film to watch for these reasons. Thankfully, the climax will deliver a smile to your face.
What makes this story special are the major twists that change the scope of who the killer could be. There are several of these, and with every change of suspicion there is another kill that only furthers the mystery. I wish there would have been more kills written into the film, but that was not a detractor as the few kills we do see are very effective. In fact, I did not realize until the end of the film that there hadn’t been as many kills as I would have liked to see.
As far as the black cat goes, its role is limited to a few rehashed scenes from Poe’s short story. This effort is only loosely based on the story, with only the story’s most notable scenes thrown into the flick. If you are aware of the original short story then you are aware of the cat’s purpose. It does not kill people, unfortunately, but it does move the story. I also like how the cat was appropriately renamed Satan in the film.
Martino’s direction is solid here, bringing this story to life in familiar fashion. It returns the usual things I enjoy about giallo films. I enjoyed the sets and locations used, which mostly involve the large estate. The dark, winding halls provide for the perfect shadowy atmosphere for the killer to lurk. The look of the killer is nothing special, however I still enjoyed seeing the classic gloved hand delivered sharp blades to the victims. Martino throw in decent gore for the kills, but he still manages to make them shocking. Shock prevails in this piece as his full-frontal direction gives front row seats to some unsettling sequences.
Overall, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is a worthy giallo film from one of the sub-genre’s key contributors. Those wanting a more exploitation-esque flick should head this direction.