Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 6th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, February 20th, 1970
Alternate Title: A Quiet Place to Kill
Approximate running time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writers: Marcello Coscia, Bruno Di Geronimo, Rafael Romero Marchent
Cinematograper: Guglielmo Mancori
Composer: Gregorio García Segura, Nino Rota
Cast: Carroll Baker, Jean Sorel, Luis Dávila, Alberto Dalbés, Marina Coffa, Anna Proclemer, Hugo Blanco, Lisa Halvorsen, Manuel Díaz Velasco, Jacques Stany
Synopsis: Helen is invited by Susan after a near fatal car wreck to stay at the villa of her ex-husband Maurice new wife. Quickly the two women discover that they have a lot in common and that Maurice was a playboy with an ever wandering eye that is always looking for the next conquest. Susan offers Helen a large sum of money to help her kill Maurice. Will they be able to pull off the murdering of Maurice without a hitch or will they end up as the next victims?
Umberto Lenzi is most remembered for the Cannibal and Crime films that he directed in the later part of his career. He spent the first decade of his career primarily directing Peplums, Spy films and a superhero adventures based around the character Kriminal. In 1969 Umberto Lenzi would enter his most artistic and critically acclaimed era of his career with the thriller titled Orgasmo. Over the next five years Lenzi would direct a series of thriller based films including, So Sweet… So Perverse, Paranoia, An Ideal Place to Kill, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, Knife of Ice and Spasmo. Several of these thrillers featured actress Carroll Baker in the lead role.
The thrillers that Lenzi made up tell 1970’s Paranoia don’t pigeon hole themselves like so many thrillers from Italy that followed them would. Lenzi’s first three thrillers follow a more American like blueprint that later thrillers all but ignored leading to less of them being imported for exhibition around the world. The tone of violence in Paranoia is tame compared to the thrillers which were released after the success of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage which also ushered in a more violent and misogynist era of thrillers in Italy. The paranoia level on screen violence is more in line stylistically and visually to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Sex sells and naturally it has gotten more exploitative over the years with each new Italian thriller trying to top the last one made. Lenzi’s first three thrillers Orgasmo, So Sweet… So Perverse and Paranoia, use nudity and sex scenes in a more erotic way that is even missing in his later films.
Visually Paranoia is an exquisite film to look at with many superbly framed shots that add to the mood of the scene. The pacing of the film is flawless as Lenzi spreads out each new revelation to their maximum impact. One of the most impressive parts of Lenzi’s direction is the two car speeding sequences where Helen drives frantically down a long and winding mountain with very narrow roads. Another thing that Lenzi does very well is showcase Carroll Baker’s sex appeal with a shower scene and many moments where she wears nothing. The plot has several twists and an ending that is poetically wraps up the crime that has been committed.
The films main character Helen is a thrill seeker who became a race car driver after divorcing her husband. Her driving skills play an important part throughout the film. Actress Carroll Baker does a solid job as the demented ex wife who in her past at one time tried to kill her husband Maurice. In the role of the ex-husband is actor Jean Sorel who during this time was a main fixture in the thriller genre in Italy. Sorel’s performance is in line with his other work within the genre. The rest of the cast are more then adequate in their roles with no performance standing out as weak. One thing Italian thrillers almost always seem to have is memorable music. The score for Paranoia was composed by Gregorio García Segura and Nino Rota.
Ultimately Paranoia is a first rate thriller that makes up for its lack of brutal killings with its intricate plot and Carroll Baker’s frantic performance.