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Ideal Place to Kill, An
Brace yourself, Italy! An end to your sexual repression is on its way.
But, y'know, revolutions don't come cheap. Lodging, petrol, sandwiches: the costs quickly pile up. But Dick (Ray Lovelock) and Ingrid (Ornella Muti) have figured out a way to finance their travels across Europe and continue spreading their message of sexual liberation. Porn! At least circa 1970, it was a mighty challenge to get your hands on the stuff in a Catholic-majority country like Italy, but their yellow roadster is packed to the gills with smut. They buy it cheap, sell it at a huge markup, and live high on the hog. And when the lira runs dry...? Snap some dirty photos of Ingrid and start it all over again.
The two of 'em are having a blast. Hell, even when they're flat broke and the authorities demand that they hightail it outta Italy, their smiles never fade. And perhaps they've stumbled onto some sort of sanctuary. Their car runs out of gas just outside the palatial estate of Barbara Slater (Irene Papas), the wife of some American military bigwig. They don't exactly hit it off at first. Barbara is already in some sort of panic on the phone, pretending not to hear the happy young couple as they ring the doorbell incessantly. They siphon gas from a fancy car in the garage, she accuses Dick and Ingrid of casing the joint, yadda yadda. But before you know it, they're soon the best of friends and indulging in all sorts of Bacchanaliac excess. Booze! Youth! Lust!
The only thing is that...well, that would be telling. Though An Ideal Place to Kill is often classified as a giallo, it doesn't embrace the trappings so often associated with that style. No one would mistake this for a body count movie. There is no masked killer in black leather gloves. And while the film does deliver a murder mystery of sorts, it's hardly in the way you might suspect. I'm being deliberately vague because An Ideal Place to Kill has no interest in showing its hand quickly, and I'd be doing it a disservice if I were to prematurely flip its cards over instead. We largely see the movie through Dick and Ingrid's unjaded, idyllic eyes. Rather than some opening stalk-and-slash letting us know what they're in for, co-writer/director Umberto Lenzi prefers instead to leave us nearly as unaware of what's to come as they are.
It's an approach that proves to be wildly effective. I feel as if I genuinely get to know the two of them in a way I almost never do in most gialli. Because they're not being batted around by the machinations of the plot for so much of the film, Dick and Ingrid are able to come across more as people. Their palpable chemistry together, that carefree joie de vivre, and their generally harmless hustle: I mean, I like these kids. I could've cheerfully watched a whole movie with the two of them doing nothing but goofing around with balloons or setting birds loose in ritzy restaurants. I'm able to give a shit about them in a way I can't about some international artist/journalist/musician who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and those sorts of stakes ensure that An Ideal Place to Kill's most intense sequences are all the more suspenseful for it.
The core mystery is itself a mystery. We know something isn't right, but it's quite some time before it becomes clear what that is and what role each of these three characters are meant to play in it. In the meantime, there are fast friendships, mistrust, manipulation, and...well, sex. The sexual tension that Dick and Ingrid awaken within Barbara is incendiary – agonizing to watch in the best possible way. The uncertainty of what's to come next, the ever-shifting dynamics in power, an onslaught of twists that are wholly earned rather than the usual giallo "bet you didn't see that coming!" fodder: An Ideal Place to Kill is a hell of a thriller. And, yes, there are gleaming blades. There is a body count to reckon with. There are, of course, standout setpieces – most memorably a frantic life-or-death battle in an aviary.
An Ideal Place to Kill has long been dismissed for being slow-moving or boring, but I could not disagree more. As devoted a fan of the style as I am and to whatever extent this label even applies, I'd rank it well above much of the gialli I've reviewed for this site. And even though Lenzi himself was deeply critical of the film, I sincerely find it to be a masterfully crafted thriller. Infectiously fun, unnervingly suspenseful, seductive as hell, benefitting immeasurably from the stylish eyes of Lenzi and cinematographer Alfio Contini, and boasting a catchy monothematic score that I desperately wish would get a release of its own, An Ideal Place to Kill is far and away among my favorite discoveries of the year, and Mondo Macabro has lavished it with a terrific Blu-ray release to match. Very Highly Recommended.
Newly-remastered in 2K, An Ideal Place to Kill looks ridiculously gorgeous on Blu-ray. From the saffron yellow of the kids' roadster to the deep reds that pervade so much of the wardrobe, its colors pack a wallop without looking the least bit overcooked. Even with as fine-grained as the Techniscope image is, its filmic texture is ably shouldered by this AVC encode. The lack of artifacting is all the more impressive given its modest bitrate. Beyond being so crisp and richly detailed, the presentation is pretty much immaculate as well. There are the usual stray hairs in the gate that've always been there, sure, but no speckling, scratches, or assorted wear threaten to creep in. There are a handful of spots that rear their head just before the halfway point – in the screenshot below, between the statue's legs as well as the bottom-right of the door – but that's so brief and unintrusive that it's not the least bit cause for concern:
So, yeah: I'm in every way thrilled with what Mondo Macabro has delivered here on this BD-25 disc.
An Ideal Place to Kill serves up a pair of 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, each in two-channel mono. As was invariably the case at the time, most everything you're hearing was recorded in post-production regardless, so whether you opt for English or Italian is strictly a matter of preference. For what it's worth, director Umberto Lenzi notes in his interview elsewhere on this disc that Ray Lovelock and Ornella Muti were speaking their lines in English on the set, not that you ever get to hear it. I personally opted for the Italian audio, but the portions of the English soundtrack I sampled sound terrific, with vocal performances well above par. Bear in mind that with this lengthier cut of the film, there are some scenes that were never dubbed into English, so there'll be smatterings of Italian dialogue no matter what. These moments are, of course, subtitled. It's also very much worth noting that the subtitles accompanying the Italian track have been properly translated rather than settling for dubtitles. If you're curious how the two tracks stack up, I've recorded a couple of comparisons:
The lossless audio easily hits the marks I'd hoped to hear. "How Can You Live Your Life?", which recurs in various forms throughout the film, is such an earworm – to the point that even the bit of strain over the opening titles doesn't prove the least bit troublesome. Whatever background noise may be present doesn't get in the way, nor was I distracted by pops, clicks, dropouts, or whatever else. Dialogue in each language is intelligible and clean enough. And the low-end is respectable, from the gutteral growl of Agostino's souped-up bike to the upright bass throughout a frenzied struggle over a knife. I'm not left with much of anything to grouse or groan about here. Well done.
- Porn Smuggler (24 min.; HD): Easily the centerpiece of An Ideal Place to Kill's extras is this lengthy interview with the since-departed Umberto Lenzi. He begins by discussing how producers severely compromised his original vision for the film, which was intended to be an Easy Rider-esque journey of a couple of kids smuggling drugs into Italy from Denmark. Lenzi has much to say about casting, such as the extensive use of body doubles, deliberately shying away from Carroll Baker as the lead, and the start of a long working relationship with Ray Lovelock. Among numerous other highlights are the long list of shooting locations, filming the aviary assault in the villa of a very pregnant Sophia Loren, and the unreliable narrator sequence he rightly remained proud of many decades later.
- Audio Commentary: Some of the standout moments in this commentary with Mondo Digital's Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth come when they tear off on tangents, leveraging their encyclopedic knowledge of Eurocult and delving into the art of dubbing, films that benefitted from being trimmed down, the evolution of the giallo from its nascent years to the hybrid experiments throughout the back half of the '70s, and even Dario Argento's never-produced Easy Rider knockoff. And if the two of them are that compelling when they're not discussing An Ideal Place to Kill, imagine how phenomenal this track is when they are! I really dug this commentary, which also debates the merits of swapping which illicit material was being smuggled, the film's smiling, photogenic leads bucking the sullen hippie stereotype, the musicians behind the various renditions of "How Can You Live Your Life?", what would've lead the the producer of Doctor Zhivago to briefly venture into gialli, and how many other Italian genre movies from the era would adopt this same general ending.
- X-Rated Inserts (1 min.; HD): There are four sets of cutaways here. Given how fleeting the differences are, Mondo Macabro has made sure to frame them with enough footage for context, and there's also a helpful textual introduction. Most of them are full-frontal versions of Ingrid's pictures from the photo booth, along with a peek at a porno mag depicting a blowjob rather than semi-nightmarish areola. These inserts are served up in HD, and the quality is roughly comparable to the feature film proper.
- Original Trailer (4 min.; HD): An Italian trailer has been lovingly presented in high-def as well. This can also be followed by a more from Mondo Macabro reel that clocks in at 14 minutes.
This isn't something I mention often in reviews, but I've found myself annoyed enough by the navigation on other discs recently that I feel like I should point out how attractive and intuitive the menus are here. Oh, and An Ideal Place to Kill is an all-region release, so import away!
The Final Word
In their commentary, Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth peg the percentage of giallo content in An Ideal Place to Kill as being somewhere in the neighborhood of 15%, so if you're trembling with anticipation of black leather gloves, a bloodied straight razor, and a staggeringly high body count, you might not want to tear off the shrinkwrap quite yet. For my money, anyway, it's very much to the film's benefit that it refuses to settle for more of the same. Its sense of discovery runs far deeper than unveiling the identity of a masked killer. Sexual tension you could cut with a knife and serve on crackers, characters more richly drawn than I ever would've expected, twists that are both surprising and well-earned: I loved the hell out of An Ideal Place to Kill. And it's that much easier to recommend given how gorgeous this high-def presention is, that every last one of its extras are worth setting aside the time to watch, and that the sticker price is so easy to swallow. Very Highly Recommended.
The Other Final Word
And while you've surely had your eye on Severin Films' upcoming Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection, let me reiterate that An Ideal Place to Kill isn't on there. Don't get this one confused with that collection's A Quiet Place to Kill, which is also known as Paranoia – not to be confused with that other Lenzi film of the same title...which itself has the alternate title of Orgasmo, which is the title of another movie of Lenzi's. Just...get 'em all. You'll figure it out.