Hallucinations, uncharacteristic behaviour and a decidedly strange circle of friends become fixtures in the haunted world of Silvia Hacherman (Mimsy Farmer); a chemist who finds her life is slowly turning upside down. When the subject of witchcraft is raised during a late-evening conversation ("A fear which has many names"), Hacherman begins a downwards spiral, where off-kilter sights and sounds propel her to the doorway of madness. An unstable relationship with her boyfriend (Bonuglia) underlines her profound insecurity, and his own abode is where Silvia experiences a terrifying vision: a scene which gave director Francesco Barilli his title for this highly-regarded film.
Hacherman's personal twilight zone is littered with remnants from the past and present-day menace, perpetuated by people who are still very much alive: a psychic's account of Silvia's father's death; unnerving re-enactments drawn from her formative years; bloody acts of murder which may or may not be set in reality, and the presence of a Mario Bava-esque ghost child who plays an eerie music box melody ("What do you want it for? You're too old!") all combine to spin a terrifying web of conspiracy, with the dark arts casting the blackest of shadows over proceedings.
Until now, the majority of Italian horror buffs had only encountered this film via grainy bootleg videos. Now, thanks to Italy's Raro Video, The Perfume Of The Lady In Black can be enjoyed and appreciated in an eye-popping 16:9 transfer. Here, Mario Masini's sumptuous photography comes alive, with vibrant primary colours elevating this film to a standard of visual design that matches the likes of Bava and Argento. While dialogue is not always easy to discern, Nicola Piovani's score encounters no problems regarding lack of clarity, and perfectly compliments Barilli's vivid brushstrokes.
Full marks to Raro, who also dish up an appetizing 23 minute featurette: 'Portrait In Black' features Barilli - still full of enthusiasm for his film - who recalls Perfume was shot in 8 weeks; that his original idea for a screenplay received a less-than positive reaction, and how he decided to base his story on Alice In Wonderland: a character who comes alive, thanks to Farmer (though Barilli feels she never really got into the role).
Zap that little pointer over to Fab press (or dvd.it) for a copy of this most welcome release.