Paranoia (Umberto Lenzi / Italy-Spain-France, 1970):
(A Quiet Place to Kill)

The aging beauty (Carroll Baker) is a race car driver, the central gag -- her attempts to curb bad habits after an accident lead her instead into murder -- is carried in a profusion of zooms, Delaunay spirals, and Nino Rota’s parody of lounge-room ululating. The triangle is between Baker’s "overly romantic American," her tanned gigolo of an ex-husband (Jean Sorel), and Sorel’s current sugar momma (Anna Proclemer). The women conspire to off the scoundrel over the weekend but, when it comes to pulling the harpoon-gun trigger, it’s Proclemer who gets tossed in with the seaweed. Besieged by a vacationing judge named Duchamb (Luis Dávila) and a snooping, nubile stepdaughter (Marina Coffa), the guilty couple struggles to keep their cool in between vigorous bedroom sessions. Umberto Lenzi takes the smooth Chabrolian veneer and spreads a little grime over it, his camera slithers in and out of pools, inside grottos, and on the edge of Palma’s seaside precipices. Racing, scheming and shagging are throwaway bourgeois distractions, only murder finally brings life to the characters’ glassy eyes -- a wily aperçu given Lenzi’s characteristic morbid drollery. The gnarled theme is voiced at the posh shooting range, as Coffa’s already corrupted ingénue cocks her shotgun: "Killing pigeons frees us from our unconscious aggression." And later: "Only diseases kill with impunity." Rebecca (incriminating clues stashed in home movies) and Purple Noon (the telltale carcass hauled out of the ocean) are lightly adumbrated in this pleasing riddle, which points its moralist stinger firmly in the direction of the director’s later cannibal bonanzas. With Alberto Dalbés, and Lisa Halvorsen.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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