Tuesday, 13 July 2021


Gephyrophile Fails

aka Prozzie
aka Double Jeopardy

USA/West Germany 1983 Directed by Ulli Lommel
Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Zone A

Warning: Some story spoilers in this.

I actually had the 88 Films Blu Ray of this movie to watch under it’s more notorious title Prozzie. However, I then found out that the US release was a little longer and had precious seconds or more added to the cut so, I waited for Vinegar Syndrome to have their ‘halfway to Black Friday’ sale and then pounced on their release, under the title Olivia. Curiously, when I try and find this film on the IMDB, it loads it with yet another title, Double Jeopardy, which is odd since neither of the Blu Ray English language releases (from either side of the pond) carry that title. It doesn’t matter what it’s called though, as far as I’m concerned, the result is the same. I was expecting some kind of ultra sleazy slasher flick and, instead, I found a pretty great movie that’s neither overly sleazy nor... well, it’s not really a slasher either, if you realise that all four murders in the film are committed by three people acting on their individual motives... so, yeah, it’s hardly a slasher either.

The film opens strongly to the chimes of Big Ben and shots of the waterfront of the River Thames, including London Bridge. All the action of the movie, over the three time periods depicted, take place somewhere in the vicinity of London Bridge, even though the film is set in two countries (yeah, okay, I’ll get to it in a minute). We see young Olivia, spying through a keyhole while her mother, a prostitute who has a fairly grim looking flat overlooking the bridge, services a client. Between tricks she reads Olivia a bedtime story and then Olivia spies on her again as she takes on a new customer... an American GI who wants to be tied up and abused but, importantly as part of the game, mustn’t be untied once the BDSM game is in play. You can kind of see it coming a mile off but, Olivia’s mum finds out soon enough that the protection is for her, not him, as she releases him prematurely in the throws of his lust and he kills her by bashing her head against the bed head. He doesn’t know Olivia has been watching and discards the body in the Thames, under the bridge. After her mother’s body is discovered the next day, nobody turns up to mourn her at the funeral other than Olivia.

Cut to 15 years later and Olivia (played by Suzanna Love) is unhappily married in an abusive relationship with a terrible piece of human trash for a husband, Richard (played by Jeff Winchester) who won’t even let her take a job waiting tables in her local pub for the lucrative sum of £4 per shift. She’s pretty much living in the same spot as her mother did when she had the flat... overlooking the bridge... and has all manner of cute pets but lives with a tyrant and gets bored during the day so, soon she tarts herself up and decides to work as a prostitute, plying her trade on London Bridge.

Things go wrong with her first customer though, as she ties him up and then kills him by smashing a glass vase into his head. Turns out she has her mother living in her head, calling out for vengeance against mankind. But then a new love interest turns up from America in the form of Mike, played by Robert Walker Jr (readers may best remember him as the telepathic adolescent psycho Charlie Evans in the early Star Trek episode Charlie X). He is in England to advise the current bridge committee as to whether London Bridge can be cheaply restored or if it needs to be demolished (there have apparently been many bridges of that name in that spot in London over the centuries). Anyway, he picks up Olivia as her client and the two fall in love as she realises that, despite her mum’s insistent, murderous overtones in her head, not all men are cut from the same cloth. The two hit it off but, inevitably, Olivia’s husband finds them in a romantic entanglement on the bridge and a struggle ensues in which the husband plunges, presumably, to his death in the Thames. However, Olivia is so distressed by the turn of events that she runs off.

We’re about half way into the movie now and we then cut to... four years later. In Arizona... around London Bridge. Yep, the other London Bridge. The version of it sold off to a gullible American (who allegedly thought he was buying Tower Bridge) and reconstructed in Arizona. Mike is enjoying the bridge (and the texture of the stone on his hands, in a fairly unusual, extended shot sequence of just that close up of his hand travelling the bridge) and he spies someone who works there, giving a tour near the bridge for prospective buyers of apartments in the area.

He stalks her as the film suddenly takes a hard turn into Hitchcock’s Vertigo territory, as she looks quite a bit different but is also vaguely familiar to him as the girl from London. He knows he’s right when she displays the same penchant in her new identity for opening beer bottles by biting the caps off with her teeth. After some ducking and diving, the lovers are reunited and Olivia changes her outward appearance to match what it was in London. However, the lurking threat of the POV camera, reminiscent of when Olivia was watching her mum with her clients at the start of the movie, along with the music, tells the audience they are both being watched by a third sinister presence. But who can it be? Well, it’s pretty obvious for most of the audience, I think but I don’t want to give away any more plot details. Suffice to say, there are two more murder scenes to get through, one of them involving ‘death by electric toothbrush’... I don’t think I’ve seen that in a movie before. There’s also an ending which finishes the story with a killer dumping a body under the Arizona version of London Bridge and the melody of London Bridge Is Falling Down on the soundtrack.

And it’s a really great film. I had so much fun with this one. The framing is okay and the editing all works well and doesn’t lose you. There are lots of lingering shots of legs etc to give it an almost voyeuristic feel and also, Joel Goldsmith (son of the great Jerry) provides an extremely sinister sounding score... almost like a musical experiment involving fog horns with a kind of prominent low droning at some points. I would love to get my hands on a CD release of this one but, alas, the soundtrack has never been released in any format that I can find (I’m wondering if the Dragon’s Domain label might be able to release it some day).

The acting, though, is extraordinary... especially the main lead, who is the real star of the show in no uncertain terms. I was so taken with Suzanna Love’s performance in this and was staggered to find she hasn’t made that many movies and, most of them were for her ‘then’ husband. It turns out she’s Ulli Lommel’s spouse and she was cast because she was cheap. And, by cheap, as is my understanding from an interview with her (one of the many nice extras Vinegar Syndrome have included with this beautiful restoration), I mean they didn’t actually pay her. These were low budget movies and so if you cast your wife, you get the talent cheap, I guess was the logic. And what a talent. Never mind that she looks fantastic (she’s nude for a number of scenes in this too) but the transformation from Olivia to her new personality in Arizona, Ginny, is absolutely gob smacking and I can’t believe how good she is in this.

The interview is one of a number of special features on this presentation of the movie which also includes cinematographers, the writer and some home video footage from the shoot. All in all, I have to say I was completely surprised and bowled over by Olivia and I can’t figure out why this is not a better known movie. Despite it’s low budget and puzzlingly sleazy reputation, I’d recommend this to any of my cinephile friends and it’s certainly something I’d like, time permitting, to revisit on a semi-regular basis. Plus, how many movies can there be out there which has two different London Bridges in different countries as their setting. I’m so glad I discovered this movie. Definitely one to watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment