AKA Vice Makes a Visit, Violation of the Bitch, et al
Available now from Arrow as part of the Blood Hunger Box Set
Time for a bit of super-seventies euro-nonsense in the third part of Arrow’s José Larraz collection, a film which has many lurid titles to advise you of the narrative contents. In this instalment the excuse for all the skin on show isn’t psycho-thriller or vampire related but instead the occult, or at least I think that’s the idea. However for exploitation genre fans looking to pick up the trilogy this is probably the most lethargic and tepid inclusion despite a story of tarot, doomed romances and sinister uninvited guests. There’s a lot of talk about nightmares and the hands fate but there’s also a whole lot of melodrama.
At a remote rural house a middle aged couple dumps illiterate servant girl Triana (Lidia Zuazo) on lonely artist Lorna (Patricia Granada) before they shoot off for a trip to England. It’s all very bizarre and the full circumstances are never explained, but it’s clear as things progress that Triana has been causing a rift between her previous employers. Maybe it’s because she’s neurotic and superstitious, but maybe there’s something more going on that will soon rear its head. Lorna apparently doesn’t see anything wrong with this sudden arrival, and soon she’s left with an eighteen year old maid who keeps having strange nightmares.
Beyond all the gratuitous sex and nudity Triana’s mental state is the focus of the story, what little of it there is. She’s from some sort of Roma or gypsy background, and is often concerned with clichés about palm lines that tell of death in her future. In one of the more laughable scenes a fortune teller explains that she is ‘the child of the devil’ and has only one purpose in life, to cause the demise of someone she meets. She also has a recurring nightmare about a naked man on a horse riding towards her through a water, an image that is expanded on as things progress.
Yes this is also a film that features a dream sequence in which Triana is trapped naked inside a gold plate horse sculpture. It’s a undoubtedly a striking image hinting at all kinds of sexual preoccupations, but this isn’t a hint of a deeper or more complicated psychological undercurrent. It’s really the only outlandish image in the whole story which is otherwise pretty dull, and all the discussions of rape or the fear of men in a lesbian relationship are super surface level and are just an excuse for various soft-core scenes and a lot of stilted romantic dialogue.
Maybe I’m expecting too much, but the films makers do offer some visual references to Kaneto Shindo’s masterpiece Onibaba with scenes of lust in a shack situated just beyond an overgrown field of reeds. If this was even half as dramatic or visceral there might be more to discuss. It’s certainly a hazy looking film with a certain sort of fever dream atmosphere at times, but it’s just too slow to be engaging most of the time. It’s plodding and cheap feeling, Triana and Lorna wander around the house, they sit watching flamenco dancing, they drink wine and so on and so on. When they do go to bed it feels like an inevitable outcome rather than the result of any heightened tensions or awakenings in the relationship.
The sexual overtones as Lorna changes from reclusive painter to hedonist are not subtle in the slightest, and the script isn’t nearly sharp enough to pull off the kind of characterisation they seem to be aiming for. If they were actually going for that at all. Later when Triana’s nightmare man enters the story for real it’s just odd and sort of gross, particularly when Lorna welcomes him into the house after an attempted rape just hours earlier. Towards the end they attempt some sort of vague social commentary about the rich and poor but it’s too little too late and comes across as a throwaway idea rather than a meaningful underlying theme.
With more focus on nightmarish imagery and the blink and you’ll miss them mystical elements of the story this might be more interesting, but despite so much flesh on display it’s oddly tame. A few good classical guitar riffs in the score and a couple of motifs that feel like spaghetti western tunes add to the sinister vibe in a couple of sequences, but it’s not really enough. There are a lot of ideas thrown in but nothing is really explored in a way that raises it beyond the expected levels of scuzzy euro trash you’d be expecting, and even the various erotic scenes are just perfunctory. With more horror or thriller elements it could be way more interesting, but as it stands it’s all just too bland and ramshackle.