Color, 1981, 84 mins. 49 secs.
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Starring Suzanna Love, Robert Walker Jr., Jeff Winchester
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), 88 Films (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

After Oliviascoring a significant Oliviahit with The Boogey Man, director and onetime Fassbinder acting stable member Ulli Lommel realized he'd found his new calling and embarked on a spree of genre films in the early '80s, many starring his wife at the time, Suzanna Love. Immediately after BrainWaves he intended to embark on Boogeyman II in Arizona, but his plans changed when he spied a recreation of London Bridge across the Colorado River and came up with the idea for a twisty, blood-drenched thriller mixing film noir with Vertigo and Belle de Jour from a female perspective. The result, Olivia, proved to be a tough sell for distributors and ended up circulating under a number of other titles like A Taste of Sin and Double Jeopardy (mostly in heavily cut prints). In its intended form, the film proved to be his strongest showcase for Love as she gets to try on numerous looks and personas as a woman with serious identity issues; the two would team up again in quick succession for Boogeyman II, The Devonsville Terror, and Revenge of the Stolen Stars, after which they divorced and Lommel's career started veering off in some truly bizarre directions until his death in 2017.

As a young girl, Olivia witnesses the impulse murder of her prostitute mother by a client during a kinky, Boogey Man-style bondage session. Unable to provide much help to the investigating detective (a cameo by Lommel himself), she internalizes the trauma and, fifteen years later (now played by Love), becomes stuck in a marriage in London to the boorish, abusive Richard (Winchester). Against his orders that she remain a housewife, she goes out at night to try streetwalking and ends up joining clients similar to those who frequented her mother -- whose voice she occasionally hears in her head urging her to exact violent revenge. Olivia also strikes up a potential romance with Michael (Walker Jr.), an American architect staying in town to plan a relocation of the London Bridge to the U.S., but their affair starts to take Oliviasome dark and strange detours of its own.

OliviaDreamlike and haunting, Olivia is easily one of the strongest of Lommel's American films and feels the most indebted to his superior German work (such as Tenderness of the Wolves). His exaggerated visual approach and weird sense of pacing actually work in his favor here as the story jumps ahead years at a time more than once with some drastic shifts in locales, and Love does a fine job of anchoring the film as the one narrative constant. It's also fascinating to see how this film not only wears its influences openly but also anticipates what would come soon after with Body Double and Crimes of Passion, both of which would pair up nicely with this one. In fact, this one joins the Brian De Palma films of the time as an indicator of the erotic thriller craze that would explode within a few years, and it's all given a nice surrealistic gloss by the electronic score by Joel Goldsmith.

Barely released in theaters in 1983 after its completion and initial distributor screenings in 1981, Olivia turned up on VHS from VCII in the U.S. and Astral Video in Canada in its original uncut version, albeit looking so dark you could barely tell what was going on in some key scenes. The film was barely noted at all until an extensive appraisal of Lommel's work appeared in the invaluable Video Watchdog, with particular praise and word count devoted to this film as an unsung gem in his filmography. In 2000, Image Entertainment bowed the film on DVD as part of a line of Lommel releases with a widescreen transfer of the edited version running 83m55s, with some of the most significant cuts made to a Walker/Love sex scene and the climactic murder (including multiple knife stabs and shots of blood seeping from the victim's mouth). That disc features one extra, a 16m17s interview with Lommel about the inspiration for the story and and his opinions about how sex and violence can't influence real behavior. In 2017, 88 Films released the film on region free U.K. Blu-ray in its censored 84-minute version as Prozzie (#21 in its Slasher Classics Collection) but featuring the Double Jeopardy title card. Image quality is significantly better than the DVD (albeit more cropped and featuring a golden cast not present on any other versions) with actual shades of black on display, but it was still murky and left quite a bit of room for improvement. Extras include a different Lommel interview (4m44s) covering the film's genesis and "Cocaine Cowboys, Boogeymen & Prozzies" (24m5s) interview with cinematographer David Sperling, who goes into the distinctive, stylized look he went for on his Lommel collaborations.

OliviaIn 2020, Vinegar Syndrome brought the film back into circulation domestically with a Blu-ray and DVD combo edition including limited embossed slipcover packaging available directly from the company's site. The big news here is that the film is finally uncut for the Oliviavery first time since the '80s VHS era (and definitely for the first time on disc), with the fresh 4K scan from the original camera negative resulting in the most impressive a/v presentation by far. An opening disclaimer notes that the negative was kept in substandard conditions and has some moisture damage in the first reel, though it's minor and can mainly be spotted during a few of the really dark shots when young Olivia is spying on her mom. It really looks great and features a gorgeous color palette only hinted at in earlier releases, particularly the little accents of red and royal blue in Love's costumes. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track is also in great shape (a tape source had to be used for the minute of reinstated footage, but it's hard to tell), and optional English SDH subtitles are included. Among the extras, the big score here is "Becoming Olivia" (15m7s) with Love finally chatting about her role including the temporary crush she had on Walker, the use of vodka to prepare for her nude scenes and the drive-by hate crime that kept her from getting a DUI, the possible reasons for the recurring prostitute motif in Lommel's work, the director's tireless work ethic, and the reason for their separation. Then "Taking on Many Roles" (17m10s) features writer and assistant director John P. Marsh talking about his multitasking on Lommel's set (including set dressing and other tasks) after first meeting the director at a barbecue and bonding over their mutual hatred of Richard Nixon. Then one of the film's other cinematographers, Jon Kranhouse, appears in "A Chance Meeting" (18m1s) to note how his career really started by Lommel who made it possible for him to amass enough work to get in the union, as well as the trickery involved to pull off the multiple international locations. Finally in "Learning From Ulli" (19m28s), editor and co-producer Terrell Tannen notes Lommel's gradual transformation from German to L.A. clothing culture (including his omnipresent Dodgers cap), his location scouting in his new black Cadillac, and the genre culture around the time that was open to endless possibilities if you didn't care about making much money. Also included are the theatrical Double Jeopardy trailer and a reel of Super 8mm production footage (19m55s) shot by Marsh, who also provides narration pointing out the various crew members (including one who still owes him fifty bucks) and pinpointing where each bit fell in the production schedule.


Olivia Olivia Olivia Olivia Olivia

88 FILMS (Blu-ray)

Olivia Olivia Olivia Olivia Olivia


Olivia Olivia Olivia Olivia Olivia

Reviewed on March 27, 2020.