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. It’s a film which has many lurid titles just in case you were wondering about the narrative contents. In this instalment of the set 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 general idea. However despite these details exploitation genre fans looking to pick up the trilogy should be aware that this is probably the most tepid inclusion. Despite a story of tarot, doomed romances and sinister uninvited guests it’s all a bit lethargic. There’s a lot of talk about nightmares and the hands fate but there’s also a whole lot of melodrama in store along the way.
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 pretty bizarre and the full circumstances are never explained. Maybe that’s just a thing they do on the continent if you wealthy enough. 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 strange going on that will soon rear its head. Lorna doesn’t actually see anything wrong with this unexpected house guest, 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 plot, or at least what little story 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’. She advised that Triana has only one purpose in life and that’s 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 lake. As you can predict this is an recurring image that is expanded on as things progress.
As the artwork used in this release shows this is also a film that features a sequence in which Triana is trapped inside a sculpture. A dream about being trapped naked inside a gold plated sculpture of a horse. Perhaps not quite the as dreaming about being lost in a public space without an clothes. It’s 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. Unfortunately it’s all 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 involving 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 strangely cheap feeling at times. 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 sudden awakenings in their 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 mystery man steps out of nightmare and into reality it’s just odd and kind of gross. Particularly when Lorna welcomes him into the house after an attempted rape just hours earlier. Towards the end the writers make an attempt some sort of vague social commentary about the rich and poor, but it’s too little too late. In the end it just comes across as a throwaway idea rather than a meaningful underlying theme.
With more focus on eerie dream imagery and the blink and you’ll miss them mystical elements of the story this might all have been more interesting. 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. Adding to this issue it’s strangely tame despite so much flesh on display. There are a lot of ideas thrown in but nothing is really explored in a way that raises it beyond the typical levels of scuzzy Euro trash you’d be expecting. Even the various erotic scenes are just perfunctory. With more horror elements it could be far more compelling, but as it stands it’s all just too bland and ramshackle.