Olivia Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome

Directed by Ulli Lommel
Written by Ulli Lommel, John P. Marsh and Ron Norman
1983, 85 minutes, Unrated
Released on April 28th, 2020

Suzanna Love as Olivia
Robert Walker as Michael
Jeff Winchester as Richard
Bibbe Hansen as Mother
Amy Robinson as Olivia (age 5)
Michael Evans as Chairman
Ulli Lommel as the Detective



As a child, Olivia lived just across London Bridge in a small apartment with her prostitute mother. She would secretly watch as her mom entertained men and was forever scarred when she witnessed a john murder her. Fifteen years later, Olivia continues to live near the bridge, now trapped in an unhappy marriage. Her husband Richard is a real jerk who is always away at work and keeps her cooped up at home, refusing to let her take a job to break up the boredom. Olivia is haunted by the voice of her mother and struggles to please her.

She is captivated by the prostitutes working under the bridge at night and begins dressing up and hanging out near them, picking up a client of her own. It is here that she meets American contractor Michael Grant, assigned to determine whether the famous bridge should be demolished or restored. She begins seeing Michael on a regular basis until Richard grows suspicious and confronts them with dire consequences.

Four years later, London Bridge has been relocated to a town in Arizona and Michael finds himself drawn to it. He cannot forget his time with Olivia and that horrible night he lost contact with her. He meets an American realtor named Jenny who bears a striking resemblance to his lost love and begins pursuing her. Jenny has a secret of her own and is desperate to escape her past. Michael figures out what Jenny is hiding rather quickly as he insinuates himself into her life, but when trouble returns for her it means danger for him too.


Olivia (aka A Taste of Sin and Double Jeopardy) is a psychological thriller deeply inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo). Director Ulli Lommel (The Boogeyman) is certainly no Hitchcock, but he does a fine job with this intriguing tale. Co-written by Lommel, John P. Marsh and Ron Norman, the plot is somewhat contrived, but it moves at a decent pace and has no qualms about narrative time jumps. We start with Olivia at age five witnessing the death of her mother, then fifteen years later she is an unbalanced housewife and then four years after that we follow her next adventure. There are some murders balanced with a few steamy scenes and even a decent moment of suspense, all held together by a striking visual style.

Suzanna Love (The Devonsville Terror) stars as Olivia and does an excellent job carrying the picture. She brings a much needed vulnerability to the role that sets the tone for the final act. We see her confidence grow as she explores her dark side and comes into her own. Love works well with co-star Robert Walker (Evil Town) as Michael, with the two sharing great onscreen chemistry. It is highly improbable these characters would reunite by chance as they do, but their performances are convincing and carry the narrative forward to its grim finale.

Olivia is one of Lommel’s stronger pictures and comes loaded with some fun twists and turns that keep things interesting. There are multiple names credited to the script and cinematography, as this was not the smoothest production, but the director keeps it together. The film is more interested in pursuing the mystery angle than delivering outright scares, but the death scenes are eye-catching and the tone is definitely bleak. Lommel’s later career was filled with a number of serial killer biopics that were all pretty grim, but Olivia feels more energetic and worthy of your time.


Video and Audio:

The disc opens with a notice from Vinegar Syndrome that the first reel of the original camera negative was damaged, resulting in some minor blotching and staining they were unable to correct. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the image was scanned and restored in 4K and is in better shape than anticipated, featuring rich black levels and bold colors. Flesh tones appear natural throughout and there is a nice presence of small-object detail.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 preserves the original mono recordings for the most part. The notice also states that audio from the uncut segments is missing and cues were sourced from a video master. Overall this is a satisfying track free from hiss, pops or other distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

Actress Suzanna Love offers a frank discussion of her time with Lommel – they were at one time married – in the newly-recorded interview Becoming Olivia (15 minutes). She offers insight to the late director’s post-WWII childhood and how he used filmmaking as a way to sort out his issues with women. She goes on to discuss the various projects they made together and shares a few alcohol-related anecdotes. She is an interesting woman and I could listen to her stories for a much longer time.

In Taking Many Roles (17 minutes), co-writer/assistant director John P. Marsh recalls his time working with Lommel on the original story and the numerous rewrites during production. He learned a lot on this set and remembers the experience fondly.

Cinematographer Jon Kranhouse was responsible for the reshoots and additional scenes for the film and shares his memories in A Chance Meeting (18 minutes). He talks about the rotating number of cinematographers on the shoot and coming up with his own lighting design. He provides details about the film stock and lenses used, how he accomplished specific shots and what it’s like working on a low-budget production.

Learning from Ulli (19 minutes) is an interview with editor Terrell Tannen, a man who knows how to tell a story. He talks about how the project came together and how he found the premise laughable. He continues with production tales of the European approach to low-budget filmmaking. His interview is more focused on his time as a producer rather than editor, but it is still insightful and worth watching.

A collection of Super 8mm behind-the-scenes footage (20 minutes) shot and narrated by John P. Marsh provides a look at daily life on the set. The material is separated into five sections that play back-to-back, including film shot on location in Lake Havasu, Venice Beach, Malibu and Mexico. His commentary is a little dry, but it’s nice to see this mini time capsule.

The original theatrical trailer appearing under the title Double Jeopardy is included. The film is pitched as an erotic mystery and contains many spoilers.



Movie: Cover
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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