Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key
by The Acolyte/Blaise Bienvenue
Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have The Key (1972) is an exceptional Italian “giallo” (thriller) that is a great example of its type and maybe even the best by its director, Sergio Martino, who made several of the best of these films and probably contributed significantly to their evolution (Mario Bava and Dario Argento did so more famously, but Martino no less notably).
The giallo prefigured the American “slasher” film by featuring similar scenes of stylized violence, though plot-wise the films were much more like straight mysteries. Being products of the sixties and seventies, they often featured themes of repressed sexuality, skeletons in the squares’ closets, adultery, and the like. Stylistic elements included baroque music and stabbing killers with unseen faces wearing black leather gloves .
An argument can be (and has been) made for any of a number of Martino’s gialli being his best, but I’ll take Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key as a complex, something-in-it-for-everyone culmination of his work in the genre. Part whodunit slasher, part old-money-family-in-decay Gothic, part erotic incest thriller, part retelling of Poe’s The Black Cat through just those eyes. Bruno Nicolai’s score, which gives us thrash harpsichord-driven murder scenes, certainly doesn’t hurt.
My favorite thing about this film, though, is that it affords a rare, maybe even unique opportunity for us to observe monobrowed, chisel-twisted Italian character actor Luigi Pistilli, veteran of Spaghetti Western secondary bad-guy roles, in a lead part. You will see this nowhere else. He does not disappoint.
Anita Strindberg is sublimely haggard as a cowed housewife who appears to go through the entire film with slept-on hair in a dirty nightgown. Edwige Fenech and Ivan Rassimov, usual suspects for the genre, are also featured. Also has one of my all-time favorite titles, which has little or nothing to do with the film. Such titular incongruity is, itself, not unusual for the giallo genre.
– The Acolyte