Perfume of the Lady in Black, The / Il profumo della signora in nero (1974)

4.5 out of 5

Sylvia, Mimsy Farmer, a scientist living alone in an upmarket tenement building, is a bundle of repressed memories, chief amongst which being the whys and wherefores of her mother's premature death. Events conspire to trigger off a string of unwanted remembrances, events which seem to be connected with tentative boyfriend Roberto, Maurizio Bonuglia, and his slightly sinister circle of friends, who along with the creepy widower from next door, Mario Scaccia, are meeting secretly with other shifty folks in a disused downtown train station. So begins a tense and disturbing descent into insanity that will tear poor Sylvia's lonely world apart.

Although exuding giallo style and menace, Francesco Barilli's horror film clearly takes its cues from Polanski's Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby rather than the work of Bava or Argento. With a depth of characterisation unusual to Italian genre film of the period, Farmer succeeds brilliantly in carrying the film in her demanding role. With an unforgettable shock ending that is irrational, illogical, and all the more disturbing and powerful for it, The Perfume of the Lady in Black haunts the viewer long, long after the closing credits have rolled.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics