LIBIDO (1965) Reviews and overview of Giallo murder mystery thriller

  

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Libido is a 1965 Italian murder mystery Giallo thriller film in which a young man revisits the house where his father committed murder.

Written and directed by Julian Berry Storff [Ernesto Gastaldi (Almost Human; Torso; All the Colours of the Dark; The Sweet Body of Deborah; The Horrible Dr Hichcock, plus many more) and Vittorio Salerno (Notturno con grida; Savage Three; No, the Case Is Happily Resolved)] from a story by Mara Maryl aka Maria Chianetta (The Scorpion with Two Tails; The Great Alligator). Sergio Martino was production manager.

The NucleoFilm production stars Dominique Boschero (Who Saw Her Die?; All the Colors of the Dark; The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire; The Unnaturals), Mara Maryl (Notturno con grida; The Lonely Violent Beach), Giancarlo Giannini (Quantum of Solace; Casino Royale; Hannibal; Black Belly of the Tarantula) and Luciano Pigozzi (Alien from the Deep; The Exterminators of the Year 3000; Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes; The Young, the Evil and the Savage; plus many more).

Plot synopsis:
A boy, Christian (Giancarlo Giannini), sees his father murder his mistress in a mirror-lined room in their cliffside mansion.

Twenty years later, he returns to the family home with Helene (Dominique Boschero), his fiancée, and a married couple who are close friends, Paul, his lawyer (Luciano Pigozzi) and Paul’s wife, Brigitte (Mara Maryl).

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Christian is tormented by the fear that his father – who supposedly committed suicide by throwing himself from a cliff into the sea below – may still be alive.

As strange events begin to occur, such as finding his father’s pipe still smoking, leading Christian to suspect that someone is trying to drive him insane for the inheritance money…

Our review:
Adapted from a story by Mara Maryl (Gastaldi’s wife), this hastily shot thriller (which the writer-director claims was made in just eighteen days from start to finish as a bet!), includes elements of Les Diaboliques, while using Freud’s ‘primal scene’ theory as a pivotal basis for the plot.

Despite the inevitable constraints of its low budget, Libido looks good due to stylish directorial flourishes such as tracking shots and close-ups of eyes (how Italian!), some impressive black-and-white photography by Romolo Garroni and the claustrophobic rural locations. Moreover, the mirror-lined room where the conflab occurs is a pleasing focal point for the protagonist’s preoccupations – reflecting back his own voyeuristic obsessions in myriad ways.

The film benefits from the performances of its small yet competent cast, which includes regulars in Italian genre cinema such as always welcome Luciano Pigozzi and Dominique Boschero. Mara Maryl’s bubbly flirtatious character Brigitte seems to initially knock the developing psychodrama off-kilter yet also adds mild humour and tease appeal as she is seen performing a tantalising strip for her partner and later wears a provocative bikini adorned with smiling pussycats. This was future international star Giancarlo Giannini’s first lead role and he is suitably angst-ridden, if a little hammy, as the young man tormented by his father’s past marital and murderous misdemeanours.

Fans of Gialli will also enjoy the early tropes evidenced in Libido, such as the heavy use of Freudian psychological motivations, fetishistic imagery, blatant plugs for whisky (in this case Cutty Sark rather than the seemingly ubiquitous J&B), a killer wearing black gloves and, of course, untrustworthy double-crossing protagonists.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA

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Other reviews:
“Although Libido was made on a low budget, it is compact, atmospheric and engaging on its own modest terms. The slow, deliberate pace and moody tone are in the tradition of such Gothic chillers as Rebecca and The Spiral Staircase but the film is also reflective of its era with amoral characters…” Cinema Sojourns

“The film is unusually restrained compared to the much more well-known, later masterpieces of the [Giallo] genre and, especially at the beginning, seems quite unspectacular. But this film is psychologically all the more sophisticated and develops its very own pull over time.” 8/10 Filmtipps [translated from German]

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“This film may not be a lost classic, but it’s still an efficient, well-acted, well-written murder mystery with an edge, keeping the audience fully engaged until its pleasingly dark resolution. Worth seeking out.” Mark David Welsh

“The basic Giallo tropes are duly incorporated but the film is more concerned with character and mood for much of its running time. The end result may seem a bit talky and tame by today’s standards but it exudes a hypnotic atmosphere of its own and the film deserves to be seen by a wider audience […] The sense of claustrophobia is artfully maintained throughout and the various shocks and twists are handled with a sure and steady hand.” Troy Howarth, So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films

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“While undeniably twisted, the final moments of Libido pack a genuine punch, wonderfully, blackly ironic in their machinations but almost heartbreaking at the same time […] With its abundance of memorable performances, stylish direction and suitably slippery narrative, this is a film that deserves a critical reappraisal.” You Have Died of Dysentery

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Cast and characters:
Dominique Boschero … Helene
Mara Maryl … Brigitte
Giancarlo Giannini [as Charlie Johns] … Christian
Luciano Pigozzi [as Alan Collins] … Paul

Technical details:
1 hour 26 minutes
Black and white
Audio: Mono

Film facts:
Gastaldi reused some footage from this film (in tinted form) for his later 1982 horror film Notturno con grida.

Trailer:

Watch online here

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