Blu-ray Review: Olivia

First things first: This Olivia has nothing to do with any of the Oliva the pig books by Ian Falconer or the TV series that aired on Nick Jr. This Olivia is not for preschool kids even though it opens with their Olivia as a young girl. Of course there wasn’t this confusion when the original American distributor changed the name to Taste of Sin when it was released in 1983. There’s not a single Nick Jr. shows called Taste of Sin. So put the kids to bed before you put the Blu-ray in the player.

Olivia (Blank Generation‘s Suzanna Love) has a pretty rough life. When she was raised by a single mother who in order to make ends meet would pick up men down by London Bridge and bring them home. One night a US solider wants her to cuff him down to the bed and get nasty with him. Olivia peeks through the keyhole and watches everything go wrong when the mom uncuffed him. Years later Olivia has become a bit like her mother. Even though she lives with a man, she will dress up and go down by London Bridge to meet men that are searching for prostitutes. Turns out she is looking for a touch of revenge for her mother as she takes out one John after strapping him down. During her night of bridge walking, she runs into an American with a camera. Michael Grant (Ensign Pulver‘s Robert Walker Jr.) there as part of the team that will be dismantling the bridge and moving it to America. They have a passionate night that doesn’t end in a body count. Later they meet on the bridge as Olivia is trying to dispose of some previous business. This doesn’t go over well and she vanishes. Years later in Arizona, Michael meets a saleswoman for the planned community next to the bridge and swears it must be Olivia. If it is her, has she truly changed her ways or should Michael be scared?

The concept of selling London Bridge and moving it to Lake Havasu City, Arizona isn’t science fiction. This event really happened. London was going to destroy the bridge and rebuilt it in the ’60s. The 130 year old bridge wasn’t able to handle modern traffic. A businessman from Arizona bought the bridge, had it dismantled in 1967 and rebuilt to promote his massive planned community on the shores of Lake Havasu. It opened to great fanfare in 1971. So there’s nothing far fetched about this part of Olivia.

The film is a bit of a tangled mess which is good in these circumstances since it doesn’t feel cookie cutter as Olivia hacks away on men in her bed. Director Jump to search
Ulli Lommel had an interesting career working early in his career with Russ Meyer, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Andy Warhol. In an odd way Olivia reflects the influence with a certain artsy element to the depiction in the film yet doesn’t hold back on the excessive blood and violence. Lommel at this time was doing well as his Boogeyman movie was a massive hit on a low budget. He wasn’t going to disappear the people who wanted strange scares in the night. He was also married to star Suzanna Love. She is all in for playing Olivia as prostitute. Like Russ Meyer, his artsy angles in the shower are not there for discretion.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer is newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm original camera negative. There is a warning that the first reel had a little moisture damage, but nothing looks that bad. The audio is DTS-MA HD mono. A few pieces of audio had to be inserted from the VHS version, but the quality doesn’t suffer. The movie is subtitled.

Becoming Olivia (15:07) is new interview with actress Suzanna Love. She talks about how they made the film with a lot of the crew from Boogeyman. She talks about having a crush on Walker during the production and it vanished at the end of the shoot. She also mentions leaving the wrap party only to drive past a nightmarish sight in the “safe” Arizona community. She explains what ended her marriage to Lommel.

Taking on Many Roles (17:10) has writer/asst. director John P. Marsh talk about all the stuff he did on the film include play multiple background characters. He first met Ulli Lommel at a BBQ at his house in California. The two bonded over their hatred of Richard Nixon.

A Chance Meeting (18:01) meets up with cinematographer Jon Kranhouse. He ended up getting access to a camera rental company because the owner was his old Scoutmaster. He met up with Ulli as a gaffer on Olivia. He received a battlefield promotion when Ulli fired the original D.P. He said the film had multiple director of photography since they shot over months and did go back to England to get certain shots. He talks about working with Ulli.

Learning From Ulli (19:28) catches up with editor Terrell Tannen. He talks of Ulli’s office and how the German director changed his fashion sense from black leather to Dodger Blue. He speaks of Ulli’s ability to raise money off of concepts without finished scripts or casts. He explains how the London Bridge came into the script.

Super 8mm behind-the-scenes footage (19:08) was shot and narrated by writer/a.d. John P. Marsh. We get to see the joy of low budget filmmaking in Arizona. It’s like having out in Marsh’s living room after dark. Marsh points out who owes him $50.

Original theatrical trailer (1:48) sells the film on the Olivia being a shy girl by day and something else at night. This is the time it was released as Double Jeopardy, an erotic mystery.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Olivia. Directed by: Ulli Lommel. Screenplay by: Ulli Lommel & John P. Marsh. Starring: Suzanna Love, Amy Robinson, Robert Walker Jr., Jeff Winchester, Bibbe Hansen & Nicholas Love. Rated: R. Running Time: 84 minutes. Released: April 28, 2020.

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