OLIVIA. 1983

Director: Ulli Lommel

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

While doing location searches in Arizona for Boogeyman II (1983), for which horror director Ulli Lommel already had a green light, he was amazed upon encountering the original London Bridge where it had been moved brick by brick by an eccentric billionaire.

Impressed by the sheer strangeness of having moved a medieval bridge from one contintent to another, Ulli immediately began writing a whole new script about a woman who grew up in London near London Bridge, & when she moved to Arizona, she & the bridge seemed truly to have a fated connection.

OliviaThe script for Olivia (1983) was written in under three weeks. The tiny budget for Boogeyman II was not nearly enough to film Olivia, & as his own backer, he was to bankrupt himself making what from his perspective was a Hitchcockian thriller rather than his usual cheapo slasher.

It has been compared to Hitchock's Vertigo do to certain plot elements, & Polanski's Obsession due the central performance of a deceptively innocent-seeming beauty who is mad as a hatter.

But let's be realistic. Lommel ain't Hitchock or Polanski. Still, as a slasher film, Olivia is a big step above Ulli's average film. Even at his average he's worthy of being a cult favorite of slasher fans, but in this case, having presented a girl psycho, the shift in perspective inspired Ulli to sufficient psychological complexity in the writing that his film does rate not only as a slasher, but simultaneously as an artful thriller.

Olivia's otherwise nice mother (Bibbe Hansen) is a London prostitute. Secretly child Olivia (Amy Robinson) has developed into a peeping jane. She is witness to her mom being murdered by a bizarre American soldier who is a "killer masochist" (Nicholas Love) who'd warned the whore not to untie him.

Fifteen years later Olivia's trauma is not visible on the surface, but a disturbance is brewing inside her. The adult Olivia is played by Suzanna Love, Ulli's star in a handful of his films, & for a while his wife.

Olivia's husband (Jeff Winchester) is the sort of guy to yell at his wife, kick the dog, & demand Olivia stay home with no life but him. On her pathetic birthday, having made herself a birthday cake, she begins to experience schizophrenic voices which seem like commands from her dead mother.

She takes on an alternate personality -- her mom's -- & begins to turn tricks under London Bridge, as her mom had done. Her first trick she smashed with a glass vase & cut him up with the pieces.

She falls in love with another trick (Robert Walker) & argues with the mother-in-her-head about not wanting to kill him. Her husband catches them together on London Bridge & in the ensuing fight, her husband goes over the edge, & Olivia runs off abandoning her boyfriend.

Four years later London Bridge has been moved to Arizona. A real estate agent for nearby properties, Jenny, is actually Olivia, & when her London boyfriend spots her, she pretends not to recognize him. He begins to follow her.

Cunnilingus in the shower is very surprising to see, very delicately done. Her London trick/boyfriend is back in her life, but he's rather slow to catch on to the fact that her mother, who guides her life, is not a real person, but only a voice in her head. When he's murdered, the film frames it specifically to imply it really isn't Olivia.

As the story progresses in the Arizona setting, it becomes increasingly strange. Suzanna Love's performance is suprisingly compliex & ingriguing, especially given the simplicity of other Lommel films. One really worries about her situation, her mental condition, & her fate.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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