Thursday, November 25, 2010

Oasis of Fear (1971)

I guess those that expect a gory, classic giallo in the typical Italian tradition will be very disappointed by Oasis of Fear, but we who loves a good movie will get a lot of joy from this stylish and quite controversial thriller by maestro Umberto Lenzi. Lenzi has been a favorite of mine since my early teens, with his raw energy and fuck you-attitude to the world, the cinema and to the critics. This movie is a great example of that kind of filmmaking, with many layers of both critism towards “the kids of today” to Lenzi’s own generation of middle age hypocrites.

Ray Lovelock is Dick Butler, and he’s traveling around with his girlfriend Ingrid Sjöman (Ornella Muti) in Italy on vacation. Well, with a little perverted income on the side: selling pornographic photographs of her to horny Italians. After some problem with the local police they hurry out on the countryside and decide to seek shelter somehow. They find a big modern villa where a lonely woman, Barbara Slater (Irene Papas) waits for her husband to come home. At first Dick and Ingrid thinks the house is empty and uses their garage to steal some gasoline, but after a furious Barbara discovers them they decide to leave… until Barbara suddenly changes her mind and invites them for food and bed. An evening that slowly turns out to be stranger and stranger, and with Barbara still waiting for her husband to come home…

Umberto Lenzi has an amazing eye for details, and this movie is filled with fantastic shots, cool faces, rapid editing and excellent acting. The story itself is not that complicated, but has a few twists and turns. But in the end it’s a chamber play with three characters in collision with each other. Irene Papas just rules every damn frame shes’s in, and together with Lovelock and Muti this is one fine cast of actors. It feels like a mix between the free-form movies of the sixties, and the more controlled thrillers of the seventies, so of course there will be both a murder and psychedelic disco scenes.

I also love the idea of such a complex line-up of intrigues, which might not be that commercial. First of all we have something that’s almost a morality tale of how the youth behaves, uncontrolled and rude – but at the same time, Lenzi clearly stands on their side. But then our point of view is moved to the Irene Papas-character, which seem frail and weak – but suddenly changes and we understand that this generation can be as shitty as the last one. It’s all about sex and greed anyway, no matter in what age you are.

Shameless DVD isn’t that good at all, BUT that is, what I understand, the best way to see this movie. We have the longest cut ever, it’s in the original ratio and it has most of the time good VHS quality (some parts is a lot better than that I must add) and this is nothing that could stop you all to enjoy this excellent, underrated thriller from Umberto Lenzi.


CiNEZiLLA said...


It's a grand movie that one is.
Great piece, hope that more peep's check out the movie now.


dfordoom said...

It's a cool little movie, well worth seeing.

Alex B. said...

I agree, the DVD quality was not amazing. At least it's anamorphic.
Early Lenzi had great visual style, and this fil is a shining example of that. Need to re-watch this.