The Films (5/5 Your Vice is a Locked Room, 3.5/5 Black Cat)
Arrow Video's Blu-ray box set Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cats maybe the surprise release of 2015. The reason is twofold, I didn't expect either of these 2 Italian obscurities to get a release on Blu-ray at anytime in the future, and the other reason is that is that even with a nod in the credits, and an obvious short moment in the film I never considered Your Vice... to be an adaptation of Poe. Regardless, it is a great pleasure to have these 2 fully restored on Blu-ray.
Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I have the Key is the fourth giallo by director Sergio Martino, and a sort of thematic follow up to his prior Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, a line from that film gives this film it's title. The film stars Luigi Pistelli as a writer Oliviero Rouvigny who lives in a decaying mansion with his wife Irina(Anita Strindberg), their maid, and a black cat named Satan (yeah, they went there). Oliviero is an intolerable human being, and spends most of his time drunk, and throwing parties for the local hippies. He spends his remaining time abusing Irina. In the midst of all this someone breaks into their home, and murders their maid. Being closely related to the incident it it believed to be Oliviero, other murders begin to happen giving Oliviero an alibi. As all this occurs Oliviero's nice Floriana (Edwige Fenech) arrives at the mansion as a guest, and causes more chaos for the couple, adding an additional strain on their already strained relationship.
Martino directs Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key with a great sense of suspense and style. This is contributed to by the excellent cinematography of Giancarlo Ferrando. There are some nice violent moments throughout the film, but what really makes the film are the performances from the leads Pistelli, Strindberg, and Fenech who have an intense chemistry. Watching Pistelli and Strindberg's decaying relationship before the arrival of Fenech offers a sense of powerful drama enough, but adding Fenech's Floriana into the mix, and watching her play the two against each other offers a great sense of tension through the rest of the film.
Fulci's 1981 film The Black Cat will never be mistaken for one of his masterpiece contributions to the horror genre. However, it is solid atmospheric thriller from the director that pays solid homage to Roger Corman's Poe films and Hammer's 1960's horror in near equal measure.
The Black Cat stars the iconic Mimsy Farmer as photographer Jill Trevers, while photographing some corpses for the local police, she notices that the bodies all have a common issue, cat scratches. She shares her discovery with the 2 polices detectives on case (EuroHorror dream team Al Cliver and David Warbeck!), who at first don't care to follow up on the scratches, but finally come around. As it turns out a psychic Professor Robert Miles played by Patrick Magee found a way to telepathically control his cat, and is now using the creature to seek revenge on his enemies.
The Black Cat is a weird film, it's a slow moving atmospheric romp from Fulci. He certainly manages to channel a nice Hammer-esque atmosphere, but the pace of the film causes it to suffer quite a bit. The film is oddly balanced, it has a bizarre concept that is fun to watch, but the tone is almost too serious for that concept that is on display. It's an enjoyable film, but it is not one of Fulci's best. The score from Pino Donaggio is quite effective, and Fulci directs with a decent visual flair.
Audio/Video (4/5, 4/5)
Fulci's Black Cat is presented in a 1080p AVC encoded 1:85:1 transfer while Your Vice... is presented in 2:35:1. Both Blu-ray's from Arrow Video look spectacular, and very natural, and Black Cat maybe the best looking Fulci Blu-ray I've seen to date (yes, even better than Arrow's own Zombie). Both transfers offer excellent detail, solid grain structure, deep blacks, and accurate flesh tones. I did not notice any attempts at visible noise reduction that is occasionally present on Italian transfers.
The audio on each disc is LPCM Mono with Italian and English options and subtitles available for each. The dialogue and score come through nicely, and I found nothing to complain about.
Arrow Video have stuffed their Black Cats box full of extras. The Black Cat Blu-ray features a commentary track by Chris Alexander formerly of Fangoria Magazine. We get an interview with Stephen Thrower, an archival interview with the late David Warbeck, a featurette that goes over the locations of the film, an interview with Dagmar Lassander, and more.
The disc for Your Vice... contains a new 34 minute interview with Sergio Martino a featurette on the film ported over from the prior NoShame DVD of the film a pair of visual essays, and even more included. Both Blu-rays are included in individual cases inside a box with an elaborate booklet of liner notes.
The surprise box set of the year sees 2 Italian obscurities restored and packed with extras by those folks at Arrow Video. The Blu-ray's both look and sound fantastic, and are recommended to any fan of Italian horror. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.