Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key
from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Scoop's notes in white


This film is more commonly known as Eye of the Black Cat, and the second half of it is a reasonably faithful modern adaptation of Poe's short story The Black Cat. The first half is in typical Italian giallo territory, with a succession of very bloody murders, usually committed with a sharp blade and seen through the murderer's eyes. The Italians churned out many types of genre films at mass production rates in the early 70s, providing a steady stream of products for their own second-tier theaters and the American drive-in circuit. Despite the short production schedules and low budgets, many of these films were quite competent. Along with sex farces and "Spaghetti Westerns", the gialli were one of the genres in greatest demand.

The plot of this giallo centers around the usual pompous aristocrats, the Count and Countess Arrogante, who have a bickering loveless marriage. The film's first two murder victims are the count's mistresses, so the local police detective comes around to do some detecting in the general direction of the count, particularly since the first victim was killed on a night when she told people she was headed for a romantic assignation with said count. The film tries very hard - in fact, too hard - to "sell" the count's guilt by making him:

(1) an abusive alcoholic;

(2) a violent man who threatens his wife with a knife to the throat;

(3) demonstrably insane. The insanity is fairly obvious. Although he fancies himself a writer, he is seen doing the whole "Jack Torrance at the Overlook" schtick of typing the same sentence over and over again. (I wonder if Kubrick saw this film.) We become even further convinced of his instability when we hear all of his babbling about his late, beloved mother.

Of course, we know that the count could not have done it, because ... well, what the hell kind of mystery would that be? It was, of course, the countess who did MOST of the murders (I'll explain in a bit), and she almost gets away with them except that ... well, read the Poe story for the usual semi-ironic denouement.

There are many strong elements of this film, but every time I want to like one of these gialli, the writer and director give me about a score of reasons not to. Here are a few of the more obvious ones:

  • The film begins with a total time-waster which has virtually nothing to do with the main plot. The count invites some local hippies to dinner at the Castle Arrogante, and they end up performing some scenes from the Italian equivalent of Hair. One of them dances naked on the dinner table while the others sing a merry, hippie song in its entirety.
  • That only the first of many completely irrelevant scenes used to pad out the film's running time. The most blatantly unnecessary involved several minutes of motocross racing, featuring a completely extraneous character.
  • Although all of the early murder victims are the count's mistresses, the first victim was killed at a time and in a place that eliminated the countess as a suspect. (Of course, this causes the audience to eliminate her from suspicion.) How could that be? The detective explained, "Oh, it turned out that her boss killed her. I ran a check on him and it turned out he was a mass murderer from Palermo who enjoyed killing women for fun." Perfectly logical explanation - it was basically just a typical Italian small town with two serial murderers competing with one another for all the hot chicks. You know there are so many serial murderers in Italy that it isn't possible to grant them a territorial monopoly. It's a free market, and I assume there was just too much competition in Palermo.
  • I'm joking of course. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true. Although the common folk wisdom holds that the Italians are violent people, I find that hard to believe since it is clear to me that no Italian film director has ever seen real blood at any time! They always use that bright red-orange stage blood.
  • In one of the murders shown from the killer's P.O.V., the director forgot to have the killer wear gloves. Forget about fingerprints on the murder weapon - that's a minor issue. The key point is that we could see the killer's hands! This sort of ruined the whole point of setting up the count as a red herring, since we could tell that the murderer was a woman.
  • When the countess finally confesses, she claims not only the murders seen on camera (except the one done by the competing serial killer down the block), but several murders that happened before the film started. It turns out she also killed the count's lamented mother, the Black Dahlia, the Zodiac victims, and probably Cock Robin. It seems like it took her about six minutes of running time just to confess all her crimes. I think she was just reading from the phone book at one point.

Yes, it's a hippie musical. Yes, it's a sports movie. Yes, it's a sex film. A slasher film. A Hercule Poirot murder mystery. A psychological horror story.

Who was it that said it is not possible to be all things to all men? That sumbitch never saw this movie!

Credit goes, as usual, to NoShame video for yet another magnificent restoration. This one was restored and remastered from the original vault negatives, and it is absolutely pristine. It probably looks better now than it did during its premiere. Perhaps you just love these nostalgic drive-in flicks from the early 70s, or Edwige Fenech's breasts, or the spooky and often syrupy symphonic music, or all the really terrific touches that these Italian B-movie directors layered into their movies. I don't blame you. While this is not a great movie, it has many good moments and some great scenes. If this is your kind of material, I recommend the DVD transfer wholeheartedly.



  • Available subtitles: English
  • Available Audio Tracks: Italian, English
  • Unveiling the Vice - interviews with director Sergio Martino, star Edwige Fenech and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
  • Sergio Martino Collection - compilation trailers
  • Poster and Still Gallery
  • Collectible Booklet including liner notes and talent bios
  • Widescreen anamorphic (16x9)


  • Anita Strindberg - breasts

  • Dalila Di Lazzaro - breast and buns

  • Edwige Fenech - breast and buns

  • Angela LaVorgna - everything, but in a VERY dark scene.

Tuna's additional notes in yellow


Edwige Fenech plays an old acquaintance who invites herself over for a few weeks, and tries to come between Strindberg and the count. This film was a turning point in Fenech's career, in that it was the first time she played an evil character. Always before, she had been the innocent victim.

I like a good Giallo. Unfortunately, this one wasn't at all good. Director Sergio Martino was always trying to push the envelope, and in this case, did so with a girl/girl scene between Anita Strindberg and Edwige Fenech. Unfortunately, Martino worried to much about including some shock value, and not enough about creating some mystery and suspense. The nudity is the only reason to watch the film, and it isn't nearly enough.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop generally does not like gialli, but says, "It's a C-, a decent giallo, although it's fair to note that some of the genre websites and IMDb commenters feel it is an excellent giallo. It does have some great scenes, and you get the feeling it could have been a terrific movie if they could just have taken the time to craft the film lovingly and to separate the wheat from the chaff instead of just churning out a hurried product so they could move on to the next one." Tuna does like a good giallo, but not this one, and scores it a D.

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