DVD: Eye in the Labyrinth / L’occhio nel labirinto (1972)

March 20, 2018 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer: Very Good

Extras: n/a

Label:  Code Red / Unobstructed View

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  December 19, 2017

Genre:  Giallo / Thriller

Synopsis: A Nervous Nellie searches for her missing boyfriend / shrink at a strange hippy health clinic.

Special Features:  Code Red Trailers.

 


 

Review:

Reportedly never released in North America, Mario Caiano’s giallo was recently restored to its uncut state and released on a limited Blu-ray in 2017, and the follow-up DVD arrives at a much lower price in a similarly bare bones edition from Code Red Releasing.

Few may have heard of the film, but the stars are no strangers to genre connoisseurs, with Alida Valli (Suspiria) and Adolfo Celi (Thunderball) headlining this clunky whodunnit in which a patient tracks down her boyfriend / personal shrink. Neither Caiano nor his three other co-writers managed to craft a fully coherent script, but the doses of ridiculous twists and bizarre character behaviour contribute to the film’s enjoyable goofiness.

Julie (beautiful Rosemary Dexter) can’t seem to find boyfriend / personal shrink Luca (So Sweet… So Perverse’s Horst Frank), but a clue is offered at her beau’s mental clinic when a patient shouts the name “Maracudi!!!” – a locale dismissed as fiction by his doctor, but one Julie tracks down when the last entry in Luca’s journal is the town name. (We know the place must be super-duper important because it’s written in bold red caps, and framed in an ovoid.)

What follows is a quasi-travelogue montage as Julie gets into her snazzy yellow convertible and eventually reaches the picturesque town. Brandishing a big B&W headshot of Luca fails to yield any help at the local watering hole, but a creepy man tells her she may find clues at an abandoned villa – a great location that has really nothing to do with the plot and functions as eerie mood and filler material. All that’s gleaned from the sequence is that no one among Julie’s encounters should be trusted. Ever!

When she ‘escapes’ from the villa and returns to town, new friend & protector Frank (Celli) suggests she take a room in the local orphanage, a building he once owned. She meets troubled boy / burgeoning artist / peeping tom Michael, whose paintings hold a clue as to what happened to Luca. The next morning, Julie heads out to an isolated villa, another building once owned by Frank (What happened, Frank? Gambling debts? Stupidity?) and where she may find more clues to her lover’s sudden disappearance.

Typical of the giallo genre, all men are lecherous sleazebags and women exist to be admired, taunted, and assaulted, and Julia goes through each experience with a frown rather than smacking sleazebags where it hurts: before she finds Luca’s diary, a sunglassed henchman whacks her across the face as a message to keep his break-in a secret; the gas station attendant is reading a girlie magazine in full view; little Michael peers through an open window to enjoy Julie, sprawled very naked in bed; and in a later scene, it’s very clear from a smash cut that she’s also raped by Frank, but she isn’t troubled whatsoever the next morning.

Instead of driving to the villa, she parks her car by a steep cliff and decides to indulge in a refreshing skinny dip, but this spontaneous act of positive hygiene is marred by a trio of foreign goofballs who steal her clothes. Instead of swimming back to the cove, Julie uses the breast stroke to reach the dock of the nearby villa, where she’s helped up and toweled by Gerda (Valli), the owner and manager of a private ‘health clinic’ who utters the incredibly welcoming line “A naked woman doesn’t have to go into explanations, especially if she’s as young and beautiful as you!”

Up at the villa, Gerda’s aloof twentysomething clients suntan with covered eyes and earplugs to maintain a state of peace, and among her new friends / possible killers is Gerda’s boy toy, a gender-bending couple, a sound designer / composer, and artist Toni (Sybil Danning) who likes to take pictures of feet. Not landscapes. FEET.

The bulk of the film unfolds at the villa, and it doesn’t take long for near-death experiences and related murders to pile up, and the ever-smiling Frank returns to the narrative with a blackmail scheme that ultimately leads to Julie confronting details of Luca’s mysterious disappearance.

Caiano’s direction is very assured in keeping momentum, and Giovanni Ciarlo’s cinematography is very up close and personal, often hovering around the actors when not framing lovely vistas and connecting visual components through with Bava-style zooms. There is a classic giallo plot in this canted oddity, but it doesn’t manifest until the final act when blackmail, murder, and the unraveling of Julie’s troubled mind are sorted out, discerning fact from fantasy and delusions from reality.

SPOILER ALERT

 

In a nutshell, Julie has an Id that’s responsible for the killing of shrink / lover Luca, but to protect ‘good Julie’ the Id blocks all memory of the killing, much in the way Psycho‘s Norman Bates has no memory of his killings unless ‘Mother’ takes over his mind.

Frank is able to stitch together Julie’s split personality and eventually blackmails Gerda to take her drug addicts & dealers and leave the villa for good, although how he’ll be able to change the estate’s ownership papers is never dealt with, nor the reason he leaves his real wife at the ‘orphanage’; his plan is apparently so foolproof, he can just walk away.

Once Gerda & Co. are gone, Frank heads down to the basement and unfetters Julie, whom he chases around the shuttered villa until she ends up where he always intended – the master bedroom – and can engage in the copulation / rape he’s been hungering for since Julie drove into Maracudi. Julie quietly remains with Frank because he knows her murderous ways, but he mistakes her silence for complete servitude, and along with a chilled tonic, gets a carving knife in the back just as the police sirens fill up the soundtrack (although why they’re en route is never addressed).

 

END OF SPOILERS

Eye is very slick, but there’s so much back & forth action that when the big reveal is delivered, it feels almost anticlimactic, as we’ve given up on the plot. Moreover, Julie just isn’t a bright bulb, but the script by committee isn’t supposed to do anything besides entertain genre connoisseurs with nudity, atmosphere, weirdness, beautiful women, and gore, and in the latter department, the violence doesn’t disappoint.

The opening murder of Luca is rather spectacular for fusing Hitchcock with Caligarian geometry: not unlike the massive close-up and pull-back of a hand smacking onto a ladder rung at the beginning of Vertigo (1958), Caiano’s titles hold on a tense hand gripping a wall until it moves and the chase between Luca and his unseen aggressor is on. A knife is dug into Luca’s back with extended details of his suffering before he bolts again, and we’re treated to marvelous canted and oblique angles in what resembles the concrete supports behind a stadium; the location may well be the same as was used in the fight scene that comes early into the messy thriller The Killer Likes Candy (1968), starring Kerwin Matthews.

Michael’s charring after a car crash is also quite riveting, but it’s the flashback in which Luca’s head is his being detached that’s the most graphic kill, although not for the right reasons. At the tail end of the End Credits is “Sound reconstruction and restoration by Damoni Packardi” which infers the English mix was reconstructed using what survived of the Italian M&E mix, plus very present day re-recordings of new effects for the aforementioned kills, and the incredibly loud head-slaps endured by Julie by that overzealous burglar. The exaggerated sounds and above-normal volume do take one out of the film, and the heavy-handedness of those slaps makes the scene unintentionally cartoonish.

Code Red doesn’t include any extras beyond a new trailer within their usual promo gallery, and although a clean transfer, the PAL-NTSC conversion shows some slight strobing when there’s lateral camera pans and character movement. There’s also faint but visible vertical lines when the frame is filled with a solid colour block, like the blue that precedes the CR logo, and black between some fades.

The main theme of Roberto Nicolosi’s jazzy score is clearly inspired by material from Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew (1970), and it works for the film’s exotic locales, the pretty cast, and all-around sleaze. Caiano’s tight pacing plows through some of the more ridiculous scenes with a straight if not indifferent tone, such as Julie ducking harpoons from a killer in a very distant speedboat.

During the 1960s, Caiano progressed from second unit director to writer-director, and his filmography is filled with several genre entries – spaghetti westerns, peplum, nazisploitation – but his best-known work is Nightmare Castle (1965) with Barbara Steele.

Striking Rosemary Dexter had a supporting role in the big budget snoozefest The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) but was more active in Italy, appearing in several films before retiring in 1976 with Povero Cristo, and passing away in 2010.

 

 

© 2018 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
 
Vendor Search Links:

Amazon Canada —  Amazon USA —  Amazon UK

 


 

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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