FTP: Olivia (1983)

JUNE 26, 2022


Some of the worst movies I've ever seen are from Ulli Lommel, so it means almost nothing at all to say Olivia (aka Double Jeopardy) is, in comparison, not too bad. It's more competent than most of his work that I've seen, not QUITE as dull as some of his other films of the era (Devonsville Terror comes to mind since it shares star/Lommel's once-wife Suzanne Love), and has an all timer nonsense kill involving a toothbrush (!) that would be enough to keep the blu-ray if the movie as a whole was slightly better. It's a good example of why it's good to overdose on these things; had I not seen the likes of Return of the Boogeyman and Curse of the Zodiac, I might not be able to appreciate what little the movie has to offer. Compared to most movies? Bad! Compared to the average Lommel flick? A masterpiece!

I'll give it this much: it's impossible to tell where it's going from one scene to the next, but not in an incoherent way. No, it's hard to do that because the script is so aimless, with each 10-20 minute stretch seemingly just setting up the next one, as if they took the "exquisite corpse" approach to crafting the narrative. It starts off in the past, where a young girl named Olivia sees her prostitute mother beaten and murdered by a john, then cuts to the present where she is now a young woman (Love) who is married to a real jerk, one who won't even let her get a job to experience some independence. One night when he's out working, she decides to try being a hooker like her mom, killing the first customer. So you're thinking, OK, this is gonna be one of those sympathetic serial killer kind of movies where she kills a bunch of dudes and then finally her husband, right?

Nope. She doesn't do that ever again. A short while later she meets Mike (Robert Walker Jr., aka "Charlie X"), who is kind and caring, and they fall in love. The husband sees them kissing on London Bridge, and goes out to attack them both. In the scuffle, the husband goes over the railing and plummets to his seeming death, at which point a frantic Olivia runs off into the night. Then we cut to a few years later (again!) where Mike is overseeing the transfer of the London Bridge to Arizona (a plot point that I've seen in ANOTHER horror movie, the David Hasselhoff vehicle Terror at London Bridge!). One day, while on the bridge, he looks down at a tour boat hundreds of feet away and - using some kind of eagle eye vision I didn't know he had - zeroes in on the tour guide, recognizing her as Olivia. But is it really her?

I mean, yeah. Why wouldn't it be? It almost seems like Ulli got confused and meant to seemingly kill HER on the bridge instead of the husband, and then have her reappear later as a reincarnation or lost twin or whatever, some kind of Vertigo riff, but there's no reason to believe Olivia was ever dead anyway. Nor does it make much sense that she pretends not to know Mike for a while, so it just adds to the "What is this movie ABOUT?" feeling. Then the husband comes back and the horror/thriller element finally returns, but it's too late to make up for the fact that the first hour of the movie feels like a prologue. I can't even imagine trying to watch it again, because now it'd seem even slower as I just wait for the toothbrush kill.

I actually got more out of the bonus features, with (apart from some behind the scenes super 8 footage of minimal interest) is comprised of four people who worked on the movie and others with Lommel, telling stories about his odd behavior and filmmaking style. Love's is the most revealing, as she explains that Lommel's father discovered his wife/Ulli's mother was having an affair, and drove his young son to the hotel that they were having their rendezvous. When the lovers came out and Ulli (being 8 and not understanding the concept of an affair) tried to run over to see his mother, his father refused to let him, explaining that she was a "WHORE!" and not worth their time. So that explains why a lot of his movies tend to have rather insane misogynistic streaks (particularly The Raven), as - per Love - it clearly made an impact and made him kind of crappy to women in real life (she notes that their marriage dissolved over him having his own affairs). One of the other interviewees (the editor I think) tells a story of how he swindled an actor out of ten grand by promising him a role in the movie if he invested in it, only to pretend shoot some made up scenes over a weekend without even putting film in the camera. We also learn he hated Nixon, so at least he wasn't totally crazy.

Some friends gave this surprisingly strong reviews on Letterboxd, so maybe it's a "just me" kind of thing - feel free to check it out for yourself, maybe you'll like it a lot, too! But my theory is that their expectations were even lower than mine to start, because the above average competence and coherence on display didn't nearly make up for the shaggy plotting, and I can't imagine anyone thinking this was a must-see. The extras were more engaging! Indeed, Lommel died in 2017, so this and any other future releases will be lacking his insight, but that's fine - I think if any more come my way I'll just skip the movie and head right for the candid interviews. His collaborators will have the better stories anyway!

What say you?

P.S. In lieu of the usual trailer (which I couldn't find), here's someone's video essay as a defense. They didn't convince me, but hey! Good effort.

1 comment:

  1. From what I remember, most BTS things with Lommel himself tended to just be rambling nonsense and were really only worth checking out for his bizarre claims and tangents.

    Odd, odd man.


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