Last week, we talked about an Italian actor-turned-director’s film, this week, we have a German actor who turned into a rather notable director.
1983’s Olivia comes to us from Ulli Lommel. Lommel was an actor in the 60s. In fact, one of his earliest films was one of Russ Meyer’s – Fanny Hill. But he would work many times over with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was a particularly controversial filmmaker himself. Fassbinder made a lot of avant garde films and passed away young due to a drug overdose. However, Lommel produced a 1970 movie of Fassbinder’s called Whity a surreal western about a mixed race servant who kills the family he works for and runs away with his prostitute lover. Whity won many awards in the German equivalent of the Oscars.
By the end of the 70s, Lommel moved to America to make American movies permanently. By 1980, he jumped into the slasher craze with The Boogeyman. While the reviews were mixed, and there were many comparisons made to John Carpenter’s Halloween, the movie was a huge success. It was banned in the United Kingdom as a Video Nasty, and was later re-evaluated as a movie that seems to utilize a lot of Lommel’s own fears he had as a child. Boogeyman II was released a few years later. Like the infamous Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, the sequel uses many flashbacks to the first to help fill its runtime. Boogeyman II is pretty much unilaterally disliked.
In Olivia, Lommel gets to act a little bit playing “The Detective” in an early scene. However, he’s also starring in this movie with his wife, Suzanna Love. Love is playing the titular Olivia who witnessed her prostitute mother’s death and grew up to be basically repressed by her shitty husband. Knowing some about this movie already, I’m ready to jump into this little psychological thriller!
As our movie begins, we see young Olivia, at the age of five, watching her prostitute mother servicing johns. After she completes one, erm, appointment, Olivia asks for her mother to read her a story before she goes to sleep. She reads her the story of Rapunzel from a book of fairy tales. It’s important to note this as fairy tales will play a part later on in Olivia’s life.
During the reading, a knock comes to the door. The Mother answers the door and it’s an American soldier who wants something special from the Mother – something considerably kinky. He wants her to tie him up. Even when he asks to be untied, she is not to comply. He has a relatively elaborate fantasy that deals with the woman not touching him because he’s a dirty, naughty boy.
As she plays along, this only seems to play up the angry element of his fantasy. She finally says she’s had enough and she unties him. He snaps and bashes her head against the wall and kills her. He even tells the dead Mother that he told her not to untie him so, you know… Probably clearly her fault she’s dead now? Anyway, to dispose of the evidence of a dead hooker, he takes her body and tosses it off the London Bridge into the River Thames. Later, her body is recovered. When questioned, Olivia doesn’t give any information. This sad, haunting intro ends with Olivia mourning her mother alone at her funeral.
I gotta say, this is a spectacular intro into this movie. As I said, it’s sad and haunting. There’s this lonely feel to everything where all Olivia and her Mother had were each other. When one was taken away, there’s nothing for the other. There’s a haze of over the opening of this movie too that gives you this sweet little sense of nostalgia. When The Solider showed up to buy The Mother, she plays Tommy Edwards’ “It’s All in the Game”. It frames this as a romantic encounter and a song that often is associated with pleasant memories whenever used in media. The girl’s natural curiosity of her Mother’s business shows her dependence and love of her while just making her a little cheeky in that very curiosity.
It also reminds you that things are very easily taken away from you by almost little to no mistake on your own part.
Fifteen years later, Olivia is now an adult and married. She goes to get a job at a pub, but before she can start the next day, she needs to pass it by her husband, Richard. However, he is in no way down with her working. They are not a very happy couple. He’s domineering and a bit of a jerk.
When he’s doing his jerk thing, Olivia is haunted by memories of that night that Mother died. She has images of asking for a story to be read, and her reading from the same book of fairy tales while she celebrates birthdays alone. Mother speaks to her and accuses Olivia of not loving her by helping her when she was attacked. However, if she listens to Mummy, she’ll tell her how to make life better.
There also seems to be a specific tie to Rapunzel in this movie. Specifically, the idea of the locked away beauty that is not able to live her life the way she should. One night, Olivia sees some “ladies of the night” like Mother looking to pick up some johns. She decides to get dressed up and join them. However, when the women, who are older than Olivia, comment on her age, she seems to think twice about staying. She’s then approached by a man and he takes her home to where he’s got some creepy ass mannequins that he says he likes to have sex with.
She often looks out at the river as it was near where she and her Mother lived that was noted by the Soldier who killed her. When she begins on the man, she ties him down, and things start to take a dark turn. She begins glaring and staring at him. He begins to figure out that maybe she wants to punish him. So she whips him with some flowers. But soon, Mummy says Olivia can now show her how much she loves her, and she smashes a vase on his head, killing him.
Meanwhile, there’s an effort in place with an American company surrounding the restoration and/or demolition of London Bridge. It is being undertaken in cooperation with a man from Los Angeles by the name of Michael Grant. Michael is played by Robert Walker who played Charlie Evans in the classic Star Trek episode “Charlie X”.
While walking her dog along the river by London Bridge, Olivia and Michael see each other but she carries on and returns home. There, a drunk Richard is at home instead of at work. He seems to be in a mood. He first seems pissed at the dog for needing walks. He then seems suspect of Olivia. He finally lifts her skirt and smacks her ass.
Later yet, Olivia is dolled up and back on the street. Michael, captivated by her, follows and takes pictures of this beautiful woman. He eventually approaches her to talk to her. He seems genuinely nice and not at all like the guys who approach her for dirty prostitute sex. She asks if he is an American and when he says yes, they go back to his hotel room.
They get to the hotel room, and share some beers – which she opens with her teeth. She seems a little apprehensive of him, but he continues to prove he’s a good dude and genuinely interested in her. While Michael is indeed a man and an American, like the guy who killed Mother, Olivia, nevertheless, feels like this is a guy, unlike Richard, who can treat her at least somewhat nicely. This has a particularly bad effect on Olivia as her Mummy still wants her to kill Michael, but she doesn’t want to. She still goes along with her normal act of wanting to tie up the man, but he pierces through that by saying he only wants someone to talk to. They begin a tender love affair unlike any relationship Olivia has known.
The next morning, she returns home but, of course, Richard is there. He notices that she’s dressed a little unusually. He starts off with an inspection of her dress, and then rapes her. At work, Michael is pressured to give more detailed planning and cost around the restoration project at the bridge. He spends that time on hot dates with Olivia. They go to a movie and basically make out hot and heavy right there in the crowded theater.
Back at his room, Michael presses for more info about Olivia, but she plays coy and tells him she is single, that she’s never had sex before meeting Michael. He continues to ask questions and she says the one thing no guy wants to hear, “Look, I’m here with you, isn’t that enough?” That sort of comment always implies there’s a whole buncha red flags about to be raised all at once.
It doesn’t help that she also talks about how she always does with Mother says. Mother said this to her once, and that, and what not. When she finally comes clean with Michael, she meets with him late one night to say that she is indeed married. Got married when she was 16. Her husband, Richard, will KILL them. Sure enough, Michael comes home early from work to discover Olivia is not home. He sees her hugging Michael out by the bridge and goes down there and attacks!
Richard takes turns attacking Olivia and then Michael and the Olivia again and then Michael again. Eventually, Michael, in self defense, throws Richard off London Bridge into the river. Olivia runs away. She runs so far away that another time jump happens.
Four more years later, we are now in Arizona. The London Bridge was dismantled and transported to Arizona over the Colorado River. Michael is there visiting the very bridge he tossed a dude off of the last time he ever saw that fine piece of ass he was scoring in London. While he’s there, he sees something bizarre – a brunette tourism ambassador at a really nice resort of new homes for rich people that looks AN AWFUL LOT LIKE OLIVIA with darker hair and an American accent.
When she sees Michael, she stumbles over her words and presentation, but seemingly smiles at him. He approaches and is like, “Olivia?” Nah, he pretends to be interested in buying a property at this resort. He asks her to dinner, but she declines. So he begins to follow her. Maybe I should save some red flags for Michael.
We discover this lady is named Jenny. Michael tracks her to a bar where he sees her having dinner with her boss at the real estate company. He then follows her home. There, he cooks her dinner and they seem to get comfortable with one another.
Okay, look. There’s an element of this portion of the movie that is kind of endearing and romantic… on the surface. Michael and Olivia did have a lovely relationship in London. She was happy for maybe the first time in her life. He didn’t ask for more than he should from her. She gave him something he liked in return. He wasn’t some old fashioned dickwad who would refuse to let her work a job. She is sexy.
Four years have passed though. Things ended in a very not normal way with manslaughter. Righteous self defense, sure, but manslaughter nonetheless. Moving right back into this scenario with a woman that you are sure is that sexy lady in London four years ago, is not great. Yes, just like that first night with her, she opened a beer bottle with her teeth, but dude, yikes. You just made your way into this woman’s house and made dinner.
He then kisses her and they fuck… HARD.
Look, I know it seems sexy to lay pipe so passionately that you just do it right on the kitchen floor, but let’s be honest here… It really isn’t. The kitchen floor is hard, cold, and sometimes sticky – like me! It leads to back pain, sores on your knees, and headaches – like me! You really need to do the business on something soft and or warm. Like, seriously, guys, lay some of these red flags that are all over this situation down before you decide to go to Fucksville.
I also will go ahead and be just as sketchy myself, I really really really like Suzanna Love. She’s incredibly alluring and sexy as hell. I also like that there are plenty of times that they could go full on nekkid, but reserve it. In fact, for all the sexy situations she’s been in, you do not see her naked breasts until the 59-minute mark of the movie – and that’s a shower scene with Robert Walker. That’s the kind of restraint that you can use to make your leading lady that much sexier and more appealing. You WANT her by that time in this movie. You have literally seen her grow up and this final version of her is incredibly beautiful, mature, and sexy as all get out.
After a passionate night of kitchen floor sex, bed sex, and shower muff diving, “Jenny” decides that maybe she should meet up with Michael at the bridge and come clean. (I mean, she decided to come dirty last night, so I suppose she should come clean now anyway – insert rimshot here.) In the meantime, she tells us everything we already know by arranging her hair like it was four years ago.
Michael goes tot he bridge to meet with Jenny/Olivia. She even has her old dress and knee high boots to meet him as he would know her best. I don’t know if she colored her hair blonde again or what, but she’s got that too. She goes to the bridge and looks down at him and he rushes up to see her again as he saw her that last time four years ago.
While this is kind of romantic and nice for our two troubled lovers, can you see it? It’s right there in between them. It’s trying to hide, but it’s still coming through well enough to raise concern…
Now, look… I’m not saying that everything Olivia does or says is a red flag, but hear me out. First, yeah, Michael needed to cool it a few scenes ago when he just let himself into her house and started making dinner for her and fucking her on the floor. Next, Olivia has a lot of things going on and Michael seems not to do anything other than want to plow them fields if you know what I mean. She was consistently reserved. She seems to have mommy issues. She eventually did talk about having a husband – that you killed (yes, in self defense, but come on, Mikey). She then ran away from you and you haven’t seen her in four years. These are red flags. There are underlying problems that your dick can’t fix for her.
I mean it. There’s not been one scene of them talking about anything that would indicate you were trying to understand anything outside the present circumstances and when you can get her out of her panties again. You might say, “Yeah, but she didn’t ask too many difficult questions of me, either.” Yeah, no shit. That’s also a red flag. You were both kind of using each other. You for her bod. Her for some kind of semblance of a normal, happy life, but never looking beyond the here and now. IN FACT, YOU BOTH EVEN SAY THAT “PAST IS PAST” AND “NOW” IS THE ONLY THING THAT IS IMPORTANT! IN THE SCRIPT! YOU SAY THESE THINGS!
This won’t make for a good relationship.
In fact, it’s not going to be a relationship that is long for this Earth because there are two more things happening. First, that night, as they lie in bed after a pretty good night of sex, there is someone watching them outside. The next morning, Michael hears Olivia in the bathroom talking to herself as if she’s talking to her Mommy. She admits to talking to herself, but he seems cool with this.
She goes to work in her new looks and new attitude. Again, though, someone watches her. She calls home and tells Michael she’ll be working late. At home, he’s stalked by an unseen assailant and is killed by having an electric toothbrush pushed through his neck. Olivia comes home to find “Mike” already asleep in bed. As she undresses for sex times, she finds Richard waiting for her.
After beating her up a bit, and probably raping her too, Richard leaves. She gets up and finds a bloody mess in the bathroom. Richard tells her to forget about that other dude. He won’t be back. That’s because he’s in the river. And Richard has just moved right into Olivia’s new place and struggles to read the newspaper just like he did back in England.
It’s like nothing has changed at all. However, Richard makes a mistake by asking her for a knife to cut a chicken which, in turn, tells us as the audience that Olivia has a big ass knife in her kitchen drawer. He asks her to get undressed so they can do some boring married sex. And look at this picture… Just look at the burning sexual tension between Richard and Olivia:
She goes to get a glass of water and, oh yeah, that giant knife from earlier. She returns to the room and murders the holy hell out of Richard when he tries to do the sex. After stabbing Richard about 47 times with that knife, she stuffs him in a chest and tosses him into the Colorado River. She hears Mommy one more time from when she was little saying that she will someday have her Prince Charming.
I love this movie. It’s got engaging and interesting characters. Suzanna Love is wonderful. Robert Walker is good. The pacing is deliberate and good. It’s also rather moody too. The music is dark and spooky at times building this atmosphere around the darkness of the world that Olivia inhabits.
It also deals with fairy tales as its central theme very well too. As a Rapunzel analog, Olivia represents that caged bird. I should also point out that Olivia had lots of pets during the course of the movie too. She had birds and fish, both things that are cooped up outside their usual big world as she was under Richard’s thumb. She had a dog that gave her an excuse to go outside of their small studio apartment. That dog was also the only thing that loved her and she loved in return.
All the while, Michael represented the happiness that is shown and told in fairy tales. He IS the Prince Charming that has come to save her. However, she can’t talk to him about the important stuff because you don’t get that part of the story in fairy tales. The dreamy happiness is an illusion. It also could call into question exactly how real any of this movie really is. I could probably build a case that her life with Michael isn’t real at all. Perhaps she never escaped Richard. When we see Richard return and kill Michael, it was only to have the visage of this Prince Charming erased from her broken psyche.
I don’t think anything I just typed there about Michael not being real at all to Olivia is what the movie is about, but it’s a fun little alternative canon I have for this movie.
This movie is really good, and one of the Vinegar Syndrome titles I can recommend to almost anyone. It’s the right amount of sexy. It’s got just the right amount of drama. It’s an interesting thriller. It’s got a lot of stuff to think about and piece together for yourself as I just did above. This is a wonderful palette cleanser after last week’s assy ass that was The Beast in Heat.
I will most definitely return to Ulli Lommel in the future. Next week, though, it’s time to finally tackle one of the few movies that I think is simply MADE to be featured on B-Movie Enema. Frank Henenlotter hasn’t made an appearance yet on the blog and it’s time to rectify that. So, I’m going to fire up Frankenhooker and have a blast with it!
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See you all back here in a week, my dear Enemaniacs!