Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Oasis of Fear (1971)

Although its release date of 1971 might lead to expect Oasis of Fear (AKA Dirty Pictures, original title Un posto ideale per uccidere) to be a giallo it doesn’t quite fit into the mould of the eurocrime/giallo movies of that era. It’s more of a classic psychological thriller. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Dick and Ingrid are two carefree young hippie kids drifting around the Continent. Dick (played by Anglo-Italian actor Ray Lovelock) is English; Ingrid is presumably Scandinavian although she’s played by Italian actress Ornella Muti. They’re free spirits, and their canary yellow vintage MG sports car with flowers painted on it proclaims the fact. By 1971 even flower children had to earn a living somehow, and Dick and Ingrid earn theirs by selling pornography. They buy a hefty supply in Copenhagen and sell it at a healthy profit in less sexually liberated parts of Europe.

Dick and Ingrid can be a little naïve at times. They decide to camp with some other counter-culture free spirits, and their camping companions relieve the young couple of the oppression of material possessions by stealing all their money. Now they’re forced to go back and start again, at the very lowest ring of the porn industry. You can’t get much more low-budget than taking nudie pictures in a shopping centre photo booth! Ingrid takes the photos of herself while Dick stands guard outside. But some days nothing goes right and Ingrid’s attempts to sell nude photos of herself to an off-duty policeman in Rome finds the young couple facing deportation from Italy.

And then they run out of petrol. But perhaps their luck is changing since there’s a huge rambling country house nearby, and the lady of the house seems rather friendly. She’s Mrs Slater (Irene Papas) and she plies them with wine and offers to let them stay the night. This turns out to be a Big Mistake. Apart from trying to seduce Ingrid, and successfully seducing Dick, Mrs Slater is going to cause our hapless young travellers a lot more problems.

There are numerous plot twists and double-crosses and attempted double-crosses, and Dick and Ingrid find themselves unwittingly involved in a murder.

There’s surprisingly little actual violence, and none of it is in any way graphic. And despite the lurid subject matter there’s considerable less nudity and sex than you might expect. It’s nowhere near as perverse as it sounds. Or rather it’s psychologically perverse rather than sexually perverse.

Ray Lovelock and Ornella Muti are both very good, conveying the right mix of cynicism and starry-eyed idealism. Irene Papas underplays her part but the performance works pretty well. It makes her scheming rather more disturbing.

Director Umberto Lenzi’s style isn’t overly ostentatious but he’s crafted a taut little thriller with a few unusual features, and it’s well-paced and highly entertaining.

This is another very fine DVD release from Shameless. It’s Region 0 and PAL and the picture quality can’t really be faulted. The soundtrack is the English dubbed version with a few scenes that had been deleted from the version restored. The additional scenes are sub-titled but as usual Shameless follow their very sound practice of editing them into the movie rather than including them as extras.

There’s an odd but interesting commentary track which is a sub-title option rather than an audio commentary.

As with many of Shameless’s releases this is a slightly unconventional film that doesn’t quite slot nearly into the expected genre groove.


venoms5 said...

Ornella Muti...wow. Anything directed by Lenzi is on my to do list, D. Well, save for maybe IRONMASTER (1983).

dfordoom said...

I'm definitely going to be looking for more of Lenzi's movies.