The film begins with a young boy wandering into his parent's bedroom only to discover his father has just choked out a tied up, scantily clad lover. His father subsequently leaps off a convenient cliff next to the house and is never found. It doesn't take Freud, who is quoted in the opening, to deduce that the kid is going to have some issues with sex and death due to this experience. Years later, the now grown man, Christian, played by an incredibly young Giancarlo Giannini, returns to his estate for the first time since the murder to claim his inheritance. He is accompanied by his wife Helene (Dominique Boschero), who is sexy, but serious; his lawyer/guardian Paul (Luciano Pigozzi) and Paul's wife, Brigitte (Mara Maryl), who is sexy, and anything but serious. Brigitte is easily my favorite character as she's clearly a trophy wife and doesn't try to pretend she's anything but. In one of the lighter moments of the film, she brazenly whips off her blouse to show her 'Hello Kitty'-type bikini (subtle!)
Far from being just the ditzy comic relief, she also proves intricate to the plot in a believable way. The tension between her and the other wife also provides some humorously catty moments as Brigitte commits numerous faux pas throughout the story. Maryl, who is the real life wife of Gastaldi and wrote the story on which the screenplay is based, clearly snagged the best character for herself and excels in the role far beyond the stereotypical platinum blond.
Being strictly a four actor ensemble piece, Luciano Pigozzi actually had a significant role and his character was a little more subtle and unpredictable than what he usually plays. As Christian's long time friend, guardian and lawyer, the character of Paul is a bit of a dark horse whose motives should be clear, but he seems to be hiding something from the start. I found the pairing of Paul and Brigitte interesting in that Paul's character would typically be a p-whipped, milquetoast which Paul clearly is not. But that doesn't mean he isn't interested in his young wife...
Giannini's character Christian is more than a little uptight, despite his denials, about coming home to where the tragedy occurred. He just wants to claim the estate, sell it, and get on with his life. Of course, it does not turn out that simple for him as strange things begin to occur that apparently only his character is aware. As in Black Belly of the Tarantula, I thought Giannini was a little stiff and uncomfortable. However, his tightness actually works in Libido as his character is supposed to be freaked out but trying to hide it.
Dominique Boschero's Helene character appears to be an intelligent, devoted, worried and overly protective wife. She's almost the perfect flip-side and foil for Brigitte, but gets along with the guardian, Paul and respects how he's taken care of her husband over the years. Helene initially appears to be a stick-in-the-mud buzz-kill, but becomes somewhat more likable as the story progresses. Boschero would go on to do a number of gialli including Who Saw Her Die and All the Colors of the Dark, but I always thought this role was one of her best and most interesting.
The story itself is carefully scripted as to not give out too much information too soon. So much so in fact, the first time I watched the film, I didn't know if I was viewing a horror film, mystery, thriller or some combination. It really doesn't become clear until the last 15 minutes or so, and up to that point, I suspected everybody of everything. The ending turns out very solid, rewarding and worth the wait.
Two things I find strange though are that Gastaldi didn't go on to direct more features and why Libido doesn't get more love. The film is rock solid, and though it misses being a classic, it is a strong entry into the genre with excellent B & W cinematography, able direction, decent acting and Gastaldi's own superior screenplay. I can only think of two possible answers to why the film didn't and still doesn't get more attention (including a proper release on DVD). The first explanation is it suffers for having been made so early in the giallo cycle. Had it come out 5 or 6 years later, I think the audience would have been in place for it and could have appreciated it. It's not lurid or sleazy as subsequent gialli, but it it one of the better written and smarter ones. The second reason for the film not becoming successful? They drank the wrong brand of booze: