Confined to an insane asylum, taunted by ghoulish faces at her bedside, troubled young heiress Licia (Adrienne Larussa) recounts to her psychiatrist how she came to be here. On the day munitions tycoon Briganti (Rossano Brazzi) celebrates the opening of his newest factory, alongside eldest daughter Giovanna (Paola Pitagora) and her husband Francesco (Alberto de Mendoza), youngest sibling Licia sneaks away to make love in a whorehouse at the suggestion of boyfriend Mario (Nino Castelnuovo). However, it’s all part of a scheme by Mario to sell a scandal to the newspapers. To save face, the Briganti family concoct the story that Licia is insane and lock the poor girl away in the asylum. Months later Licia returns home, at first seemingly unaffected by her ordeal, but then teases and taunts the family with twisted mind games and malicious pranks, before things turn murderous.
That’s right, Rossano Brazzi, onetime matinee idol, the man who sang “Some Enchanted Evening” in South Pacific (1958), wrote, directed and co-starred in a psychedelic giallo! Will wonders never cease? Psychout for Murder was his third directorial outing, coming after a pair of family comedies, and is an unjustly obscure effort. Brazzi directs with a penchant for flashy avant-garde shots complete with Jean-Luc Godard style jump cuts and sloganeering. He blurs the lines between fantasy and reality in a manner befitting the psychedelic perversity, yet too often bordering on nonsensical exploitation as with a steamy bathtub sequence where Licia pleasures herself with a showerhead.
Full of subtle-as-a-brick social statements (“Wealth, power must be preserved above all else”), Brazzi’s script seems to be straining for some kind of topicality, turning Licia’s revenge into a metaphor for youth rebellion and the social upheaval amidst the late Sixties, targeting the shady alliance between big business and corrupt politicians. Certain elements, like the hippie protest, seem overplayed but connossieurs of Sixties tat will relish the psych-out where dozens of hip young things groove along to some anonymous rock band. Led by hip-swivelling Licia who makes Ann-Margret look subdued.
Although the corporate intrigue is on par with your average episode of Dallas (in other words: ghastly), Licia’s revenge upon her awful family is truly delicious. And that is largely down to the tour-de-force performance delivered by the fetching Adrienne Larussa, who later headlined Lucio Fulci’s controversial Beatrice Cenci (1969) and was supposedly briefly married to Steven Seagal. Though grasping at the threads of her sanity, Licia proves a winningly vivacious presence, by turns playful, fiery and sensual. With her sing-song voice and the demeanour of a particularly spiteful, prank-loving child she turns the tables on slimy Mario, teases Francesco and nerdy assistant Paterlini (Renzo Petretto) into compromising positions, blackmails her father of his affair with ambitious politician’s wife Laura (Idelma Carlo) and rigs an ingenious device to get away with murder. All whilst modelling an array of stylishly patterned mini-dresses. Brazzi concludes his film with a brilliantly detailed, low-key dinner scene that is dialogue free yet speaks volumes about the shattered relationship between Licia and daddy.