A massive, run down Italian manor serves as a setting for strange murderous games in 1972's cumbersomely titled Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave)
. The second giallo
film I've seen based on my favourite Edgar Allan Poe story, "The Black Cat", it has a lot more elements of the original story than 1981's The Black Cat
but it still fails to capture the essence of the story, which is its fascinating psychological portrait of one man's escalating perversion. Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key
contrives far more commonplace motives for its killer and keeps that character's identity secret for most of the film so the focus is more on a pulpy sex plot than on an examination of cruelty. That said, the pulpy sex plot is pretty fun.
The not especially well off man and wife in the original story are replaced by a jaded, wealthy writer and his strange, nervous wife. We meet them in the midst of one of their many extravagant, hedonistic bashes where half the party-goers are getting naked and the other half are singing.
The cat belongs to the writer, Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli), and his wife, Irina (Anita Strindberg), detests the animal. She stabs out its eye one day when she catches it in her dove coop, which essentially means the roles from the original story have been gender swapped. The cat's name, rivalling the film's title for subtlety, is Satan.
But the murderer's identity isn't revealed until later in the film--when it is revealed, it doesn't quite add up with what's been established earlier in the film and feels very much like it was a decision made late in filming.
The highlight of the film is the beautiful Edwige Fenech as Oliviero's niece, Floriana, who comes to stay with the couple after their maid has been murdered. The cool and happily amoral Floriana, who doesn't remotely resemble anyone in Poe's story, is soon having sex, separately, with Oliviero, Irina, and a delivery man.
She seduces Oliviero after catching him sneaking into her room--she's already prepared, wearing his mother's dress under the covers, an over the top 16th century costume--Oliviero's mother was an actress who is frequently compared in dialogue to Mary Stuart for some reason.
It's hard to say exactly what game Floriana's playing but there's definitely some method in her debauchery along with a fetching twinkle in her eye.
Floriana seems to be allied more with Irina, who is verbally and physically abused by Oliviero, but ultimately she's more interested in sexual pleasure and jewellery. The movie errs in not having more of Floriana, spending more focus on Irina, though Strindberg's hard, cat-like face and anxious performance are fascinating to watch.