Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (1972)

JULY 31, 2023


Despite being one of the all time most giallo-y giallo titles ever assembled, Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (Italian: Il tuo vizio รจ una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave) is utterly meaningless to the story. It’s actually just an in-joke to a note seen in the earlier The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, which shares director Sergio Martino and star Edwige Fenech. Making it even more puzzling is that it’s actually a bit of a loose adaptation of Poe’s The Black Cat, so they coulda beat Fulci to the punch by nearly a decade. Silly!

But regardless of the title, this is a top notch giallo, and my favorite of the ones from Martino I have seen, or at least tied with Torso. Like Argento, he did a few decent ones before really nailing it, and I think this one was his Deep Red (making Torso his Tenebre, if you want to keep going with the comparison). It’s nowhere near as convoluted as Mrs. Wardh (which hilariously had the villains explaining the plot to each other at one point) or as unfocused as All The Colors of the Dark, but it’s still more involving than the usual “trying to get the inheritance and/or jewels” plot (though fear not, it still has one of those shoehorned in near the end; maybe it’s as obligatory as the J&B bottle and has to be in there somewhere?). What’s fun is that it starts off with a seemingly obvious story of a (married) man who just murdered his young lover, only for a second victim to come along and prove his innocence – but only to us, as the cops (and his wife) suspect him of both murders.

Here's the thing though: the culprit is caught with plenty of the movie left, giving you a “OK, where is this going from here?” feeling that is often lacking from these things. I mean don’t get me wrong, I enjoy most that I see, but they definitely get a bit samey, which along with the meaningless titles makes it hard to remember which ones I've seen and which I haven't. Here, Martino takes a few of the standard elements (like the aforementioned jewel stuff) but mixes and matches in a way that keeps it from feeling like a rerun. In fact when I put it on I thought I might have seen it before, only for a few things to assure me I would have remembered it, such as the fact that Fenech’s character seduces her aunt AND uncle in the narrative. Also, the cat is pretty hilarious; its name is Satan and it spends most of the movie tormenting the lady of the house, prompting her to carry out several unsuccessful attempts to kill it. And at the end of the movie it actually helps the police identify the murderer! So good.

Now, I have to warn it’s not all fun and games. The husband is an awful jerk even by the standards of these things, groping his Black servant (and encouraging his party guests to do the same) and sexually assaulting his wife more than once, plus slapping her around every now and then. I mean yeah he gets what’s coming to him, and I feel anyone watching a giallo should be prepared for such material, but there’s just more of it than average. The stuff with the cat and some other goofy touches (one of the all time best/worst “let’s throw a doll off a cliff and hope people believe it’s the human victim” shots, for example) more than makes up for the unpleasantness in my opinion, but your mileage will obviously vary. Maybe it isn't great that I usually shrug off these moments in older movies, because they are gross to be sure, but I feel it's a better attitude than the folks who will try to "cancel" an older film on these grounds. To me, it's a reminder that at least some things have improved, and thus it doesn't feel as childish to be optimistic that other things can someday be better as well.

Unusual for an Arrow release, there is no commentary track, something I was so confused by I actually checked every menu to see if it was just misplaced, and confirmed with a couple of reviews. However, there are five supplements, kicking off with an interview with Martino and backed up by a longer retrospective where he is joined by Fenech and Ernesto Gastaldi, who wrote the film. Some stuff is repeated, but they all enjoy talking about the film, with Fenech in particular being refreshingly open-minded about her work, as opposed to being apologetic for it despite a few decades' worth of changed attitudes in between. Then there are a pair of video essays, one on Martino's work and the other on Fenech's, and finally an interview with Eli Roth, who cast her in Hostel II (which I now realize was probably the first time I ever saw her in anything) and has some strong insight on her work and her placement in the giallo hall of fame, as it were. So while there's no traditional commentary, there's certainly enough here to give a fan a sense of the film's origins and making, plus its legacy in general. I continue to have the same petty annoyance with Arrow's subtitled interviews on these English language discs: they should be burned in as opposed to something you toggle on/off, so us speed readers can play them on double speed and still read everything (most players don't display the subtitles when on fast-forward unless, of course, they are permanently part of the image). Martino's interview runs 35 minutes, but he's not exactly a motor mouth, so it'd be nice to get through it in half the time without missing a thing, as other blu-ray companies have thankfully done. Not a dealbreaker of course, but still, I sigh.

Arrow has put out a series of "Giallo Essentials" sets (a new volume was released last month, I just learned - I'm slipping!), one of which houses Torso, but this one appears with two others from Martino: The Case of the Scorpion's Tail and The Suspicious Death of a Minor, the latter of which I believe is the last of his gialli for me to see. Hopefully someday I'll splurge on it since I don't own Scorpion and enjoyed this one enough to not mind a double dip. Honestly, of the four of his films I've seen the only one I'm not super high on is All The Colors of the Dark, as its more supernatural/cult elements (seemingly inspired by Rosemary's Baby) aren't as interesting to me and don't mesh well with the giallo stuff. So I have little doubt I'd enjoy Minor as well, but I'd like to save it for a rainy day, as it were, as I feel at this point it's going to be harder and harder to find little gems that stick out like this one (Vinegar Syndrome's "Forgotten Gialli" sets produce the occasional winner, but for the most part... well, there's a reason theirs are called "Forgotten" and Arrow's are "Essential"). Still, I'm glad they are preserving these films and putting them together in attractive packages, as they are obviously more niche than a traditional slasher and probably don't sell as well as the likes of junk like Madman (which both Vinegar and Arrow have released), which is why I like to keep buying them. One gem like this is worth a few forgettable entries if the alternative is never being able to properly/legally see any at all.

What say you?


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