Oasis of Fear/Un Posto ideale per uccidere (1971)

Oasis of Fear/Un Posto ideale per uccidere (1971)‘She’s just expressing youth’s innate rebellion against authority figures in general.’

A young, free-spirited couple fund their international travelling by selling pornography. Getting into trouble with the police in Italy, they are told to leave the country but travel south instead. Subsequently, misidentified as bank robbers, they go on the run, taking refuge with a Colonel’s wife who offers them sanctuary. But is her offer of help as selfless as it seems?…

Fourth in a quartet of Giallo thrillers from prolific director Umberto Lenzi who also co-wrote this French-Italian co-production with Lucia Drudi Demby & Antonio Altoviti. Sadly, the law of diminishing returns had set in and yet another thriller centred around the machinations, and sexual interactions of two beautiful women and a handsome man holed up in a luxury villa can’t help but feel a little stale and over-familiar.

Feckless Dick (Raymond Lovelock) and wild child Ingrid (Ornella Muti) are hitting the glamorous hot spots of Europe, living hand to mouth by selling pornography which they obtained legally in Copenhagen. They make a fortune, blow it on the high life, fall in with a biker gang and sell naked pictures of Muti taken in a photo booth. Eventually, they run afoul of the authorities in Italy and are told to leave the country.

Travelling south, they are misidentified by a gas station attendant as suspects in a bank robbery and forced to go on the run. Temporary sanctuary arrives in the unexpected shape of military man’s wife, Barbara (Irene Papas) who catches them siphoning petrol from her car. Rather than report them to the police, she invites them to stay instead and the younger couple are only too happy to agree to another slice of the good life.

However, when the Colonel fails to come home, Papas asks them to spend the night to keep her company. The evening turns into an impromptu drinking session and party with the older woman putting the moves on Lovelock. This doesn’t bother Sixties Child Muti too much until she discovers the two naked in bed later on. In the morning, Lovelock wakes up alone with a wad of cash in his pocket and a nasty surprise waiting in the garage when he and Muti decide to blow town.

This is a rather underpowered Gaillo from writer-director Lenzi that fails to bring anything new to the table and suffers in comparison with his earlier entries into the sub-genre ‘So Sweet…So Perverse’ (1969), ‘A Quiet Place To Kill’ (1970) and ‘Orgasmo’ (1969) which it most closely resembles. The plot is a little thin, and it’s not that hard to see what’s coming before the twists arrive. Similarly, although Papas is excellent, the script gives none of the principals all that much to work with to develop fully-rounded characters. This is particularly unfortunate for Muti and Lovelock, although Muti does take advantage of the limited opportunities she is given.

Lenzi might have given the younger characters a far stronger introduction if he hadn’t chosen to deliver the first twenty minutes of the film in a scattershot, almost cinema verite style. The action jumps rapidly from one scene to another in an almost bewildering, over-busy collage of images and camera zooms. Many tiresome counter-culture boxes are ticked; including acid rock, dissing the Man, a gang of bikers upsetting the ‘straights’ and some typically vague hippie philosophy about the outlaw lifestyle. Some commentators consider that the film is making a statement concerning youth versus the establishment but, given the lack of sub-text in Lenzi’s other outings, it would seem that it was probably unintentional if it’s present at all.

Lovelock was born in Rome to an Italian mother and a British father and took his first steps into the film industry with a notable supporting role in Giulio Questi’s odd Spaghetti Western-horror hybrid ‘Se sei vivo spara/Django Kill!’ (1967) and worked his way up quickly to more prominent roles, such as the lead in Sergio Capogna’s ‘Plagio’ (1969). He followed this film by joining the cast of hit musical ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ (1971) and, although this did not open the door to Hollywood, he enjoyed a long, successful career in Italian cinema. His most significant projects were probably cult horror ‘The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue’ (1974) and crime drama ‘Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man’ (1976).

This was only Muti’s third film, having made a sensational debut at 14 years of age opposite actor Alessio Orano in ‘La moglie più Bella/The Most Beautiful Wife’ (1970), which means she was barely 16 when this film was released. Given the number of nude scenes she has here, her age would have been a definite issue if the film had been made in certain countries. International recognition eventually followed as the irrepressibly sexy Princess Aura in Mike Hodges’ revisionist version of ‘Flash Gordon’ (1980) and later years brought a long line of starring roles in Italian cinema and multiple award nominations and wins.

Lenzi returned to the Giallo for ‘Seven Blood-Stained Orchids/Sette Orchidee macchiato di Rosso’ (1972), ‘Knife of Ice’ (1972), and ‘Eyeball’ (1975) before jumping on the horror bandwagon in the 1980s. This came with questionable jungle adventures like ‘Eaten Alive!’ (1980) and the controversial ‘Cannibal Ferox’ (1981) which featured actual animal killings and was banned in 31 countries.

Ultimately a disappointment, this is a passable thriller that may well try the patience of fans of Giallo who expect a little more bang for their buck.

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