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"Il Profumo Della Signora In Nero" aka. "The Perfume Of The Lady In Black" (1974) is a film that enjoys a certain cult-status among my fellow fans of Italian Horror, and I was therefore curious to see it for quite some time. When I finally saw it recently, the film was not quite what I expected, but not in a negative sense, as it certainly didn't disappoint me. Having deliberately read no reviews before watching it, I was probably most surprised by the film since I had been mislead to believe that "The Perfume Of The Lady In Black" is a typical Giallo, whereas it is much rather an occult psychological Horror film. The fact that this beautifully filmed cult-gem is often named a Giallo is probably the stunning visual style, which reminds of many early 70s Gialli, such as some of the films by Sergio Martino, or Dario Argento's earlier work. The early films of Roman Polanski (especially "Repulsion" clearly served as an influence to this film. If there is one Giallo that "The Perfume Of The Lady In Black" is comparable to, it is probably Sergio Martino's "Tutti I Colori Del Buio" ("All The Colors Of The Dark", 1972), but the similarity also lies in the nightmarish atmosphere of upcoming insanity rather than in the Giallo-esquire elements (such as the typical depiction of murders, the mystery about the killer's identity etc.). One will not find a black-gloved killer butchering dozens of beauty-queens in "The Perfume Of The Lady In Black".
What one will find, however, is cinematic beauty, genuine creepiness, a nightmarish atmosphere and utter insanity in equal doses in this bizarre, sometimes confusing, sometimes spine-chilling gem. The beautiful Mimsy Farmer stars as Silvya Hachermann, a chemist tormented by nightmarish visions related to her own childhood... I don't want do give too much of the storyline away, since it is unforeseeable and often bizarre, but I am sure it will appeal to most of my fellow Italian Horror fans. If the film has one weakness, it is that it is sometimes a bit too confusing, and does not always make perfect sense, but then, the film's obscure, sometimes surreal nature mostly makes up for this. Mimsy Farmer is once again wonderful in her role. Farmer is known to Italian Horror fans for her roles in films like "Macchie Solari" (aka. "Autospsy", 1975), Dario Argento's "Four Flies On Grea Velvet" (1971) and this one. Beautiful as she is, Farmer also has a great talent to play women on the cusp of mental instability, and she once again delivers an outstanding performance here. The other performances are all very good, especially memorable are Mario Scaccia as a friendly elderly neighbor, and Orazio Orlando as a truly sleazy scumbag. "Beautiful" is a word often used to describe this film, and for understandable reasons (at least as far as the visual style goes). This must be one of the most visually striking Italian Horror films of the early/mid 70s, and this is saying something as the combination of this genre, country and period bears countless films that are visually astounding. The photography is as impressive as the settings, and the many occult elements only make the film more effective. The score by Nicola Piovani is also great and contributes a lot to the film's creepy atmosphere. "The Perfume Of The Lady In Black" is a chilling and nightmarish film with an ascending atmosphere of insanity and a brilliant leading performance by Mimsy Farmer. Beautiful and terrifying in equal measures, this stylish and obscure cult-gem is highly recommended to all my fellow fans of Italian Horror.
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