The ultimate giallo pairing of Edwige Fenech and George Hilton (last seen in “The Case of the Bloody Iris” from the same year) provides a solid character base around which to construct the story. Sadly, the story hardly goes anywhere and the plot stretches believability even beyond Martino’s usual twisty logic. Jane Harrison (Fenech) is the mentally fragile wife of Richard Steele (Hilton). Richard is remarkably insensitive to Jane’s recent trauma involving a car accident that killed her unborn baby.
The film opens with one of Martino’s trademark creepy dream sequences. Inside Jane’s head, we get a wacked out schoolgirl with golden locks, a mother dying in childbirth, some crazy quad-fragmentation and the requisite knife stabbing finale. It sets up yet another set of Freudian themes to be worked out and draws connections to other “crazy protagonist” giallos like “Lizard in a Woman’s Skin” (1971), “Phenomena” (1985) and “The House with Laughing Windows” (1976). The opening imagery is a recipe for instant revulsion, but fear not: Martino shifts from alienation to exploitation within minutes with an Edwige Fenech shower scene.
Jane suffers another nightmare and it quickly becomes clear that Jane needs serious help. Fortunately, absolutely everyone has a suggestion. These range from dismissive (Richard keeps saying she just needs rest) to practical (her sister Barbara, played by Susan Scott, suggests seeing a psychiatrist) and from questionable (her neighbor Mary gets her high on drugs) to psychotic (attending a satanic mass). This last suggestion, also made by Mary, hardly causes Jane to bat an eye. Soon it’s a date.
Why Jane would think a black mass would help rid her of “visions” of a creepy stalker (complete with bad blue contact lenses) is difficult to answer, especially since it turns out she is actually being stalked. However, this twist shatters any reasonable continuity and believability, since it would require the stalker to read her mind, be coincidently at the right places at the right time on half a dozen occasions and teleport.
Jane hardly gains peace of mind as the result of her visit to the cult ceremony, and it doesn’t prevent her from being stalked by the same crazy psycho. As the suspense escalates, Jane is put into a position where it’s hard to know whom to trust. Here, as in many giallos, the answer turns out to be pretty much no one. Fenech manages decently in the thankless role, playing troubled, confused and victimized with all her might. It just goes on too long to work.
The location scouting and set design are also wonderful. The beautiful estate that houses the satanic cult works as brilliant contrast to the dark deeds done within. All the scenes outdoors make use of the autumn season, but much of the credit goes to Miguel Fernández Mila and Giancarlo Ferrando’s crisp cinematography. The London apartment complex where Jane and Richard live has a rectilinear spiral staircase and a creaky elevator, ripe for vertical chases and scares. Best of all, the roof is festooned with chimney’s perfect for a climatic action scene that looks like an evil twin of the rooftop musical number of “Mary Poppins” (1962).