Oasis of Fear (Dirty Pictures)

Co-written and directed in 1971 by Umberto Lenzi, this is a film also known as Dirty Pictures or An Ideal Place to Kill.

In the rainy streets of Copenhagen, a young couple run through the city hand in hand accompanied by a breezy and rather cheesy Europop ditty How Can You Live Your Life?

They look fresh, carefree and very much in love. This could be some youth ad from the era. They look so sweet!

Ingrid & Dick - Oasis of Fear.png

Oh wait a minute, this pair of bright young things then enter a sex shop and we learn of their plan to smuggle a stash of legally purchased porn across borders to countries where it remained illegal to finance their cross-continental adventures. Hence the alternative title of Dirty Pictures.

He is Dick Butler (played by Ray Lovelock). She is Ingrid Sjoman (Ornella Muti). Together they scoot around Europe in a zippy wee yellow convertible – decorated with brightly painted flowers – and flog their porn mags.

This is a highly lucrative business. Ingrid is a magnet to every fat lecherous man who strays within gawping distance of her. Of course, they’re only too eager snap up her wares.

Ingrid - Oasis of Fear

The motif of birds is never far away here. This ranges from the patch of a dove sewn over the back of Ingrid’s hotpants outfit through to the couple (or love-birds if you like), dressed in matching white outfits, releasing white doves in a swanky restaurant. ‘We want peace,’ Dick tells his fellow diners. Needless to say, our cut-price John and Yoko are soon kicked out. Why they were let in with so many birds remains a mystery.

They discover they’ve ran out of money but no problemo. They take Polaroids of themselves with no clothes on but this lands them in trouble when Ingrid attempts to sell these to an off-duty cop. They’re arrested and given an exit order. They must leave Italy within 24 hours.

Do they? Nope, our freewheeling duo meet up with some revolutionary bikers, one a budding Evel Knievel. Their new friends invite them to travel with them south to Napoli but steal their cash during the night.

Dick and Ingrid take off again but run out of fuel across from an isolated and luxurious villa – the oasis of the title.

They knock on the door, but the woman inside doesn’t answer. When Dick spots a garage that is open (an unlikely scenario given the way the plot will proceed), the pair push their car into it and then siphon off some petrol from a car already parked there.

This is when we’re introduced properly to Barbara Slesar, played by Irene Papas (Don’t Torture a Duckling, Guns of Navarone). She’s a middle-aged housewife married to a NATO general. She threatens them with the police but then takes pity on them and invites them in for a sandwich.

The free-thinking and feckless youngsters and neurotic socialite find some common ground. Before too long she’s invited them to stay the night. They neck champagne like they’re long lost buddies. Barbara gets up to dance with Dick and there’s definitely an attraction on both sides.


She’s keen to learn more about her guests. Dick recalls to Barbara his first meeting with Ingrid and her feminist friends. ‘They were trying to undress a policeman. I dragged her away just before the paddy wagon arrived.’

‘We’re dedicated missionaries,’ a straight-faced Irene declares to Barbara. ‘Bringing the gospel of sexual freedom to darkest Italy.’

They attempt to come over as amoral in an attempt to épater their bourgeoisie host but she’s not the uptight fuddy-duddy she might superficially appear to be. Even when the pair behave like spoiled children.

This they often do, their antics including Ingrid defacing a painting and scrawling PIG on a mirror with ketchup, an odd echo of the Tate-La Bianca murders, the trial of which was still ongoing as Lenzi was filming.

Let the psychological mind games and sexual shenanigans commence.

Oasis of Fear 1971 Umberto Lenzi

This is one of many films made around this time that sets out to be ‘with it’ but misses the mark with Dick and Ingrid coming across as hip youngsters as imagined by an older man. See also Dracula A.D. 1972.

It does err on the sleazy side but hey, it’s 1970s Italian genre cinema and it’s released by Shameless Screen Entertainment, so no surprise there.

Lenzi could be a stylish and inventive director – look at the crash zooms and spiralling camera angles utilised here – but his main mission was to put bums on seats.

This he succeeded in doing over a long career, dabbling in many genres such as spaghetti westerns, poliziotteschi and gialli. He even claims to have kick-started the Italian cannibal craze with his gory Man From Deep River from 1972.

Oasis of Fear is far from his finest work but it is undoubtedly a fun watch.

Ray Lovelock pursued a career in music in tandem with his acting (that’s him singing the film’s theme song during the opening credits). If you’re wondering about his less than Italian name, he was born in Rome to an Italian mother and English father, who’d met during the Allied occupation of the country during World War II. Strangely enough, he is half-English in the film too, which I suppose explains the union jack jacket.

Here he is with the theme tune of Tonino Cervi’s 1970 film Le Regine. This is We Love You Underground by Ray (credited as Raymond) Lovelock.

Irene Papas also made an impact musically, releasing a number of albums over the years including Odes, a collaboration with Vangelis from 1979. She’ll be best remembered, though, for lending a vocal to Infinity, a track by Vangelis’ first band, Aphrodite’s Child on their 666 album released in 1972.

When I say vocal, it’s more of a chant that includes her laughing, sighing, whispering, panting, braying, squealing and much more before reaching a hysterical orgasmic frenzy. It’s still one of the most controversial tracks ever released in Greece, the nearest that country ever got to a J’taime. It was banned from radio airplay in Greece and the military junta that ran the country at the time must have despised it, especially as Papas was a notable critic of their fascist regime.

Not one that you’d want to play every day but a remarkable listen all the same. This is Infinity (or ∞).