‘You’re vice is a locked room and I have the Key’, recently restored by Arrow films, is Sergio Martino’s (the director of the infamous torso) 4th Giallo and his take on the well covered Poe story ‘The Black Cat’.
When you consider the story of the black cat it is clear that Martino loosely based his screenplay on the moralistic elements of the black cat, rather than looking to recreate the events in the literature in their entirety. For all intents and purposes 'Your vice is a locked room and I have the Key' aka ‘Gently before she dies’ is a straight up Giallo – this particular one low in violence, high in sleeze but with a cracking story which interlinks in so many ways.
The plots begins in a rather bizarre manner as a husband and wife ‘celebrate’ their marriage in a rather unusual traditional party. Whilst trying to comprehend what was going on, what you do take from the sequence is that a wealthy husband, obnoxious and morally dubious is tolerated, rather questionably by his tormented wife. After her open humiliation, and then witnessing his adultery with the families black servant the wife’s final test of loyalty comes when police come calling. When a young girl, and ex-student of her husband, is brutally murdered, her husband becomes suspect uno and he puts her in the awkward position of lying as his alibi. When further murders occur closer to home their relationship becomes increasingly strained. Several other sub-plots weave their way into this main story, but as you might expect, to tell you any more could ruin the story.
The plot is easily the movies strongest element, with some quality actors of the time performing well, including genre favourite Edwige Fenech. To begin with the movie seems a little bit awkward, with quite a lot demanded of the viewers to get into the characters, but once you do, some you will be routing for, others you will dispise. As you would expect, the films technical aspects are consistent with the times. Abrupt editing, the elongated out of place sequences – in this case a 5 minute sequence of a dirt bike race - plenty of static close-ups of characters expressive eyes and of course the lush visuals of Italy’s stunning architecture both urban and raural. Once again, the blu-ray transfer making the movie look as if it was shot yesterday, with only fashions and technologies betraying the films age. The twists and turns in the script keep you guessing and the inclusion of the ‘black cat’ (who in this movie is named Satan) fits nicely into the films tense and sweats inducing final set piece. I really enjoyed the numerous red and well substantiated herrings which come at good pacing throughout the runtime, some of the finer in the genre I might add.
In terms of gore there is little to report. The killer is not the most prolific and the method of dispatch is a simple stabbing. The effects look pretty good and when the murders come they are well received, but if you are looking for a gore-fest this is not it. Replacing the gore in the movies shock factor is the sleaze, which depending on your perspective, may serve in its place. Plenty of adultery, full frontal nudity, suggested rape, voyeurism and a number of lesbian scenes, some quite tastefully shot, others fairly gratuitous – specifically the boob shots.
Overall though, Martino follows the standard ‘who-done-it’ formula with a number of red-herrings throwing viewers until the big reveal to the end of the movie. If you are familiar with the black cat story, rest assured you will still get loads out of this film as that element is really only used in the last 20 minutes or so, just as you think our killer will get away with their crimes! It’s one of the tamer Giallo films, but for me it's story puts it up there with one of the more enjoyable.