Although in these posts I sometimes question the validity of taking a psychoanalytic approach to each and every giallo, there is no doubt that it has their place. This 1967 entry is a case in point. Opening with a quotation from Freud and a classic “primal scene” if ever there was one – the young Christian hears a noise emanating from his father's chamber and walks in to discover the man murdering his mistress – it then proceeds to play out the enduring consequences of this trauma and his father's suicide (though significantly no body was ever found) on Christian some 20 years later.
During this intervening years Christian (Giancarlo Giannini) has been kept away from the cliff-top mansion that is one part of his inheritance by his guardian and mentor Paul (Luciano Pigozzi) who has dutifully kept the place in good repair and also endeavoured to have the young man's case assessed and treated by the very best experts in mental health and illness.
The creepy doll and the creepy kid
The moment of trauma
But now, as Christian and his fiancee Eileen (Dominique Boschero) and Paul and his partner Brigitte (Mara Maryl) – significantly and suspiciously something of a dead ringer for Christian's father's mistress – converge on the house for what may be the last time prior to the young man's belated age of majority, doubts start to surface on all sides as Christian comes to believe that his father is not dead and continues to haunt the grounds...
Neatly maintaining the balance between alternative explanations and rationales until the final act and benefitting from a quartet of fine performances and some nice touches – the aforementioned Wellesian hall of mirrors and the Jiminy Cricket musical doll that provides for a diegetic leitmotif of the sort later picked up upon by Argento in Deep Red to name but two – this is a giallo that is ripe for rediscovery.
Twenty years later in Opera it would be Like / Not Like My Mother!
Although it has traditionally been the performance by Giancarlo Giannini that has attracted the most attention, on account of his more art-house friendly work for Lina Wertmuller in particular and the fact that the film represents his debut, genre fans may be more likely to enjoy the opportuntity to see Alan Collins / Luciano Pigozzi in a more substantial role than usual.
Strangely, however,the most important contribution to the film's success is perhaps that that made by Mara Maryl, precisely because she both plays to and with / against the dumb blonde sexpot stereotype in a way that keeps you guessing.
It thus comes as no surprise on reading an old Video Watchdog interview with Maryl's writer husband Ernesto Gastaldi – also co-director here, although he indicates in the same interview that the co-credited Vittorio Salerno did not really contribute much to the finished film after his brother Enrico Maria Salerno was replaced by Pigozzi – that she provided him with the initial idea for the film and was keen to establish herself as an actress at the time.
This notwithstanding, there is also however an unmistakable Gastaldi touch to the proceedings. Indeed, if one reads Libido in relation to some of of Gastaldi's other works, it emerges across as something of a transitional work, poised between the gothic/broken mirrors and modern/broken minds milieux of The Whip and the Body and The Strange Vice of Signora Wardh respectively, albeit with an uncharacteristic focus on the neurotic (or psychotic – again, is it real or in his mind?) male.
In this regard is it also worth noting how the film features a virtual reprise of the Kurt Menliffe at the window and mysterious muddy footprints scenario of Bava's film and that the surname Corot, later applied to George Hilton's character in Martino's, makes a prior appearance here.