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us title: Paranoia
italian title: Orgasmo
year: 1969
director: Umberto Lenzi
composer: Piero Umiliani
full details: IMDB
overall score: 51

Bottom Line: A Worthwhile Deviation
Breaks some important rules and comes out on top as a result.

WARNING: Spoilers Below

score analysis

Umberto Lenzi will often argue that he inspired the popularity of the Giallo way before Dario Argento came on the scene. And while it cannot be denied that Mario Bava and Argento created the lasting tropes that would be imitated for decades to come, Lenzi's contributions to the genre cannot be overlooked.

Lenzi released 3 films within a single year's time (from February 1969 to February 1970) that are often referred to as his Giallo trilogy. While not connected via a continuous story line, all of these films feature a plot that revolves around a central mystery. American actress Carol Baker portrays the lead character in all three films to reinforce the continuity.

In retrospect, these films are now typically regarded as "proto-Gialli" since they predate Argento's Bird With the Crystal Plumage, a film widely considered to be the premier Giallo. They eschew the "killer is out there" plot device in favor of a more internal, centrally located mystery where only a few characters are involved and most of the action takes place in a single location.

Paranoia (known as Orgasmo in Italy) presents a very simple story of Kathryn West, a widowed heiress who longs to cash in on the excitement of the swinging sixties before she gets too old. She is soon befriended by Peter and Eva who are all too willing to accommodate her desires. Through copious amounts of J&B and tranquilizers Kathryn is tricked into a game of sexual blackmail leading to her ultimate death and the acquisition of her inheritance by Peter, Eva and Kathryn's lawyer Brion.

The film is quite silly and nothing really happens during the majority of the run time. We simply watch Kathryn continue to spiral into an intoxicated haze until eventually the real motives of the rest of the characters are revealed. And yet Paranoia is far more entertaining for me than Lenzi's follow up So Sweet... So Perverse which also suffers from slow pacing. I suppose the ridiculousness of the film is what kept me interested. 

The film amasses a decent score considering its place in the history of the genre. It loses the most points in the staples section (which awards the most points for films that follow the classic Giallo prototype) but Lenzi incorporates many of the genre's signatures even before they became mainstream.

I'm listing Paranoia as a "must see" film primarily for its historical significance as Lenzi's first Giallo. For me Fulci's Perversion Story is a much more entertaining proto-Giallo, but Paranoia has its moments and shouldn't be ignored by any serious fan of the genre.

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score breakdown

Hint: Hover over a score item for more details
Staples : 30/60
Italian Director10 points
Motivation: Blackmail/Gain5 points
Avoid Capture: Acciental Death/Suicide10 points
Director > 15 points
Standards : 13/30
Flashback Revelation3 points
Italian Location3 points
More than one killer or accomplice4 points
Nude Scene >= 13 points
Signatures : 8/10
Airplane1 point
Death from Falling1 point
Dolls/Dummies1 point
Gay/Lesbian1 point
Foreigner1 point
J&B1 point
Photography/Glamor/Modeling/Art1 point
Spiral Stairs1 point
Total Points : 51/100



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Published: 2016-02-16