Color, 1972, 94m.
Directed by Mario Caiano
Starring Rosemary Dexter, Adolfo Celi, Alida Valli, Horst Frank, Michael Maien, Sybil Danning, Franco Ressel
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Eye of the LabyrinthEye of the LabyrinthNow here's a real curiosity, a giallo made at the height of the craze as an equal production between Italy and the city-state of Monaco (who only financed a tiny handful of film productions). Both glossy and strange, it falls far more in line with the sunny upper class mysteries being delivered by Umberto Lenzi around the same time (Paranoia, A Quiet Place to Kill, etc.) instead of the usual black-gloved maniac shockers. That said, it does deliver a handful of gory knife attacks including a memorably surreal opening sequence that kicks things off with a bang.

Terrified by a nightmare in which her boyfriend Luca (Frank) is savagely stabbed to death, Julie (Dexter) is startled to find upon waking that he's really gone missing with few clues left behind. One lead courtesy of the shady Frank (Thunderball's Celi) takes her to a seaside getaway presided over by Gerda (Suspiria's Valli), who's hosting a colorful variety of young counterculture types. A sinister home invasion by a man in sunglasses before her departure is just the beginning of a string of baffling encounters including a possible murder attempt via carbon monoxide in a car garage, and it soon becomes obvious that a nasty crime ring is operating right under her nose. How that connects to Luca's disappearance will only be revealed after murder strikes and multiple plot twists unfold.

This one requires a bit of work to get into as the plot seems to move in a random, dreamlike fashion for quite a while, not unlike Spasmo. Director Eye of the LabyrinthMario Caiano (Nightmare Castle) manages to inject offbeat touches along the way and certainly doesn't hold back on the brutality where it counts, while early Eye of the LabyrinthBava composer Roberto Nicolosi contributes a spare but evocative music score. The main reason to watch this is the double-twist ending, a memorably twisted turn of events that manages to pay off everything that's come before. Even with the obvious imposition of some censor-pleasing police sirens over the end credits, it's a really satisfying and perverse way to wrap things up. Adding to the fun is an early appearance by a young Sybil Danning (around the same time she made Bluebeard), and Jess Franco regular and German singer / softcore staple Michael Maien has a solid role as possible love interest Louis.

Eye in the Labyrinth was never granted a legit American theatrical or home video release until the 2016 Blu-ray from Code Red, sold directly through Screen Archives as a solo title or a three-film pack with Knife for the Ladies and White Ghost. The anamorphic transfer is obviously a significant improvement over the gray market copies from VHS floating around; colors look solid though outdoor scenes have a somewhat dreary haze presumably part of the original photography. The English-dubbed audio is about as legitimate as any other option considering the wide variety of nationalities and spoken languages involved, with lip readings indicating a mix of Italian and German throughout. Bizarrely, the sound effects missing from past releases (smack, stabbings, etc.) have been added back here but with a considerably increased volume, which is a bit jarring. The opening titles and quotation are in Italian. Extras include a newly-created trailer (which is scored with Ennio Morricone music and features every single second of people being slapped in the film), an astonishingly bizarre (unlisted) comedy intro with hostess Katarina Leigh Waters and a giant joke-telling banana, and bonus trailers for The Devil's Wedding Night, The Obsessed One, Cut-throats Nine, The People Who Own the Dark, and The Night Child.

Updated review on April 8, 2016.