• Olivia (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: March 24th, 2020.
    Director: Ulli Lommel
    Cast: Suzanna Love, Robert Walker Jr., Jeff Winchester
    Year: 1983
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    Olivia – Movie Review:

    This De Palma-esque thriller from Ulli Lommel opens in London with a scene where a young girl (Amy Robinson) sees her mother (Bibbe Hansen), a prostitute, murdered in the other room next to her own by one of her johns. Fast forward a few years and that girl has grown up into a beautiful young woman we learn is named Olivia (Suzanna Love). She’s trapped in a less than ideal marriage to a husband that she seems to constantly fight with. He insists he can support both of them and doesn’t want her to work, but it’s clear that she doesn’t have the faith in him he wishes she did. There doesn’t seem to be much of a spark there.

    After things get physical, Olivia has clearly had enough – and you can’t blame her for that. It’s then that she notices the prostitutes that congregate around the London Bridge looking for their next trip. It seems that these ladies of the night do a pretty brisk business and so Olivia decides to give it a shot herself. Before you know it, Olivia’s new found trade leads her to kill when she starts hearing the voice of her dead mother in her head. When she meets an American architect named Mike (), in town to assist in the dismantling of the bridge so that it can be brought back to the United States, their mutual attraction seems almost instant.

    Things get complicated with her husband learns of this affair and tries to murder the man, but it doesn’t go as planned. With her husband dead and Olivia clearly confused and conflicted by all of this, she leaves London for America without the architect, but their story is far from over.

    In interesting mix of suspense, drama, psychosexual thrillers and occasional horror movie tropes presented with some intermingled touches of surrealism, Olivia (also known as Prozzie and Double Jeopardy) is one of Lommel’s more accomplished films. While it’s neither as sophisticated as his In The Company Of Wolves or as outlandishly screwy as The Bogey Man, it’s an interesting piece of filmmaking in its own right, thanks to the keen visual sense on display and the interesting story development.

    Additionally, there is some genuinely good acting on the part of Suzanna Love. She and the director were married at the time this picture was made, her family fortunes (she was a Dupont heiress) having financed some of his work (this film included) even after they divorced. It was likely this intimacy between director and leading lady that lead to her work in front of the camera feeling as real as it does. Her character is both sympathetic and genuinely frightening at times, but even during some very drastic shifts in her persona, Love is, as Olivia, enthralling to watch. Her work in her other collaborations with Lommel was fine, but her work on this particular picture is a step or two above their other projects.

    Olivia – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Olivia to Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative with the feature taking up just over 25GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The movie begins with the following on-screen disclaimer:

    And yes, there is some noticeable damage in the first ten-minutes or so but it isn’t as prominent as that disclaimer might have you believe. Overall, the picture is quite stable. Colors look really nice here and skin tones are perfect. The picture is filmic throughout, there’s no noticeable DNR here at all, nor are there any problems with edge enhancement or noticeable compression artifacts. Detail is very strong throughout, even in the darker scenes, and there’s very good depth and texture here as well. Print damage issues aside, and they really aren’t that bad, this is a very strong presentation.

    The main audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. There are some spots where the audio, as the disclaimer notes, is a little less than you might want it to be, but those moments are infrequent and not particularly noticeable if you’re not listening for them. For the most part the track is clean and nicely balanced, no real issues here at all (though you might pick up on some minor sibilance here and there). Optional subtitles are provided in English only. An English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is also provided.

    The first extra on the disc is an interview entitled Becoming Olivia which gets lead actress Suzanna Love in front of the camera for fifteen-minutes. She speaks here about how the film shared some of the same crew members as the earlier Bogey Man, how Lommel liked to check the lighting and framing on his films, how Robert Walker wound up in the movie and what he was like to work with, the director’s insistence that she drink vodka before getting ready to do nude scenes, driving past a shooting while wasted on the way home from the warp party, how the film deals with prostitution and child abuse, how Lommel’s family life and childhood might have worked its way into some of what happens in the film and some of his other work and what he was like to live with while they were married. She also talks about the low budgets that Lommel had to contend with for most of his career and how she’s thankful for the relationship that they had and what she was able to take away from it.

    Taking On Many Roles interviews writer/assistant director John P. Marsh for seventeen-minutes. He starts by talking about his roles on the production (including a few cameos and work as a set decorator) before then talking about meeting Lommel at a cookout at his home in California. From there, we learn how they wound up getting along and how Marsh’s work as a writer was appealing to Lommel who used him for Boogeyman 2. From there we hear about how and why they wound up in Mexico together, where some of the ideas for Olivia came from, the way that the film deals with prostitution, how some scenes were shot without his involvement even after the film was ‘done,’ how as the assistant director he also wound up serving as the casting director, what Lommel’s directing style was like and more.

    In A Chance Meeting, we meet up with cinematographer Jon Kranhouse where he spends eighteen-minutes discussing how by happenstance he wound up working at a camera rental place that allowed him to use the gear on weekends which led to him gaining a lot of real world industry experience. This led to his getting hired as a gaffer, meeting Lommel and then was promoted on the spot to cinematographer for part of the production. He then talks about what it was like working on the production, union difficulties at the time, the pros and cons of working on low budget films, where he sometimes took his inspiration from, the trickiness of working with Eastman Kodak film stock of the day, Lommel’s response to the dailies, how they got the nice ‘water shot’ seen towards the end of the film and Lommel’s penchant for using postcards to help choose locations!

    Editor Terrell Tannen is up next in Learning From Ulli, a nineteen-minute interview where we hear about Lommel’s office being on a studio lot was a big deal with the director, who wore black leather all the time. From there, we learn how his appearance changed after acclimating to Los Angeles, what it was like meeting him at his office for the first time (which led to him going to a gas station and Lommel in his underwear – this story is amazing and we won’t spoil it any further!), how he financed his movies with advance sales to foreign buyers and how he wound up editing the picture. He then talks about his experiences working alongside the director, what he was like personally and professionally, his thoughts on film school, how Lommel’s approached differed from Roger Corman’s, the popularity of horror and thriller films at the time and how Olivia was too odd a concept to be as successful as Lommel had probably hoped it would be, financial problems on the set and quite a bit more.

    Marsh also narrates a selection of twenty-minutes’ worth of behind the scenes footage shot on Super 8mm film stock during the making of the film. Here we get a look at the Lake Havasu location, footage of the crew loading in at Ulli's house, an unused location from Malibu, a meeting in Malibu and some location scouting done in Mexico for Boogeyman 2. As all of this plays out, Marsh lets us know who we’re seeing and what they’re doing. It all feels very much like watching someone’s home movies but it’s interesting stuff and it definitely gives you an intimate look at the making of the film.

    Rounding out the extra features on the disc is a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    We also get some nice reversible cover sleeve art, however, and the first 2,000 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome get a very nice limited edition, embossed slip cover designed by Earl Kessler Jr.. As this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie taken from the same restoration is also included.

    Olivia - The Final Word:

    Olivia is an interesting and fairly twisted B-movie made with no small amount of style and featuring a very good lead performance from the beautiful Suzanna Love. It’s a fairly sleazy affair, but not without its own odd artistic flourishes. The Blu-ray release from Vinegar Syndrome presents the film in great shape and with a nice array of supplemental material as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Olivia Blu-ray screen caps!