Inspector Gianni Di Salvo is called in to investigate the discovery of a wrapped in plastic nude body of a young girl, located and waterlogged at the base of a dam. Her death was ruled a homicide after the coroner discovers her insides ripped apart from the blunt trauma of an extremely large dildo. The case leads the detective to an all-girl private school that aims to keep it’s pristine reputation, but with many suspects at hand, Inspector Di Salvo has no choice but to play the wildcard in tracking down a killer and breaking all the rules handed down to him by his superior, Chief Inspector Louis Roccaglio. The deeper he digs into the case, his long list of suspects shortens when they turn up murdered themselves, but the inspector’s key to solving this case lies with the young girl’s inseparable friends, Franca, Paola, and Virginia, whom frantically try to keep their secret under a tight lip.
“Someone with a cock this big raped Angela Russo and threw her in the river!” Trust me, thats not a line from a porn, but spoken by popular lead actor Fabio Tetsi is the ultimate hook. The long, hard, veiny lure that sucks you deep into this 1978 giallo known as “Enigma Rosso,” the first feature film by television director Alberto Negrin. Also known as “Red Rings of Fear” or just simply “Rings of Fear,” a plethora of screenwriters penned the uber-sleazy murder mystery, including Marcello Coscia (“The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue”), Massimo Dallamano (“What Have They Done to Your Daughters?”), Franco Ferrini (“Demons 2”), Peter Berling, Stefano Ubezio, and, the director as well, Alberto Negrin. “Enigma Rosso” completes the “school girl in peril” trilogy, following director Massimo Dallamano’s two films, “What Have You Done to Solange?” and “What Have They Done to Your Daughters?”, that don’t connect via a storyline but the reigns were unfortunately handed to Negrin to finish the task after tragedy struck Dallamano that rendered him deceased before production.
Lucio Fulci’s “Contraband” star Fabio Tetsi sizes up as the determined Inspector Gianni Di Salvo with a penchant for his kleptomaniac girlfriend. Tetsi’s a handsome, rugged actor with a defined jawline, dark and thick features, and a dimpled chin when he’s not sporting a beard or a goatee, such as in “Enigma Rosso.” Di Salvo goes from suspect-to-suspect with his equally eager assistant Bruno Allessandra. The two cops report to the off hands Chief Inspector played by a very worldly Ivan Desny and Desny’s casual style is polar opposite of the act first, look later of Tetsi. The officers go through a slew of suspects, including one played by American actor Jack Taylor (“Pieces”) as a very wealthy and scandalous shop owner who likes young women and three lovelies, Silvia Aguilar, Taida Urruzola, and Carolin Ohrner as “The Inseparables” form a forbidden click of girls who know what has transpired but are too scared to say a word. Tony Isbert (“Tragic Ceremony”) also has a role of a German teacher whose too involved with one female student in particular. Rounding out the cast is Helga Liné, from the sexploitation “Madame Olga’s Pupils,” María Asquerino, and Christine Kaufman as the Inspector’s love interest with a insatiable habit for stealing, but that romance fizzles in a matter of two scenes that don’t quite build up the tension between them.
“Enigma Rosso” puts the school girl in obscene peril, for sure. And, also, puts the school girl full frontal in various scenes ranging from desire to showers and in such scenes that exhibit the exploits of a large dildo being used during a sex party to pave the way for a crime, giving the film a perverseness air about it that glorifies the giallo that it embodies and embraces. Complete with the killer’s first person point of view, ominous gloved murderous hands, and the mysterious allure of an elaborate reason behind the murder, “Enigma Rosso” has everything a thirsty giallo drinker would gulp down. However, with the long list of writers, Negrin’s film partakes in a nonconformist pattern from intriguing and intricate mystery to wild hair hunches and scattered brain antics that jive about as a well as grape jam on a hot dog. the finale also wraps up too easily that Inspect Di Salvo doesn’t even break a sweat figuring out the whodunit aspect and more goes in line with a talking head scene that’s an exposition of events rendering a lackluster finale. However, the ending does wrap up the story nicely, leaving no unanswered or unsolved enigmas about the crime.
Scorpion Releasing and Doppelgänger Releasing present “Enigma Rosso,” also known as “Trauma” or “Virgin Terror,” onto a not rated 1080p High-Definition Blu-ray in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. From brand new scans of the original negatives with extensive color correction, noted as done in The States, this is, and will ever be, the best version of the Negrin’s giallo. For instance, the coloring vastly outscores any other version with natural skin tones and in the brilliancy of conventional giallo color palettes. Some issue still surface to rear the unfortunate blemishes from the original negatives, such as vertical (blue) scratches that poison a couple of scenes. Also, there’s also a color correctness issue far right of the screen through the entire 85 minute duration, showing an fault in the scan with the unintentional exhibition of the untouched negative. Two audio versions exist on the static menu: an Italian language with English Subtitles and an English dubbed. The mono track has no real serious issues other than a slight static during more high frequency effects. “Don’t Torture a Duckling’s” Riz Ortolani furnished score has a robust quality that highlights the upbeat swanky tones of a 1970’s Italian crime film. Only an audio commentary with historian and author of the Mondo Digital website Nathaniel Thompson. Sizzlingly laced with casual nudity, glued together by elaborate criminal coverup, “Enigma Rosso” is one of Alberto Negrin’s most memorable shiplapped pieces of work in the most polished impressions of the original negative.
Millionaire Oliver Bromfield’s drinking problem perhaps cost the life of his estranged wife Helen. Unable to bear the tremendous guilt, the now sober Oliver vacates his family’s mansion, leaving behind a widowed stepmother Sara who lusts after her step son Oliver and his lesbian sister Jenny whose love affair with Helen drove Oliver mad with jealously. Oliver returns with a newly eloped and young wife Ruth, immersing her into the peculiar and mischievous family who each carry a bulging enigmatic complexity about Oliver bringing home a new wife on the anniversary of Helen’s death and as Sara continues to seduce Oliver and Jenny still simmering over Helen’s untimely death, a sinister plot to murder Ruth emerges. The body count rises with a killer on the loose and everyone becomes a prime suspect inside the eerie Bromfield home that’s isolated from the rest of the neighboring village.
“Night of the Scorpion” aka “La casa de las muertas vivientes” is a 1972 Spanish Giallo film written and directed from long time spaghetti western filmmaker Alfonso Balcázar under the pseudo name of Al Bagram. The suspenseful mystery thriller was produced Balcázar own production company and collaboratively produced in conjunction with an Italian production compnay to give it that authentic Italian Giallo flare, but maintains a native Spanish cast and still maintains the element of the Spanish horror era of the 1970s. The simplicity of “Night of the Scorpion,” by not building too many suspect into the riddling web of suspicion, keeps a tight knit storyline and keeps focus on the characters confined to the Bromfield property and the casual pace of the story builds exposition, delving continuously into the background of Olive and Helen, Helen and Jenny, and Sara and Oliver, a love triangle built upon uncompromising guilt, lust, and desire.
José Antonio Amor stars in the biggest role of his career as the wealthy recovering alcoholic Oliver Bromfield and he’s paired with the lovely Daniela Giordano (“The Inquisition”) as his new wife. Together, Amor and the former Miss Italia winner are a night and day couple on screen with Oliver’s troubled grasp with reality as he’s plagued with visions of his late wife’s death and Giordano, as a Ruth on the verge of a nervous breakdown, offers a rational approach to in the midst of being introduced to new family members Sarah (Nuria Torray of the werewolf thriller “El bosque del lobo”) and Jenny (“The Feast of Satan’s” Teresa Gimpera). The tension fabricated by Amor, Torray, and Gimpera is inauspicious and thick with an uncomfortable dynamic between Sara and Oliver in a show of will power and determination that adds to the psychological terror on not only Oliver, but also on Ruth who witnesses first hands Sara’s desiring eyes for her stepson. Jenny’s attached attitude to her brother’s life provides a mysterious wonder about her; her year long depression bares an underlining grudge that Gimpera displays so very well with a blank, nihilistic facading expression.
As aforementioned, “Night of the Scorpion” is a simple Gothic tale of a puzzling murder mystery and with that as such, under the guise of a fair amount of good thespian performances, the weak point for Balcázar’s film is the effects. In true Giallo fashion, only the killer’s gloved hand and gleaming blade arise into frame to bring a razor sharp steel from ear-to-ear on flesh. The first kill was remarkable with a very believable thrust and penetrate into the neck followed with a right to left motion across the unsuspecting victim. Proceeding kills bore the obvious lack of effort with the flat side of the blade up and a blood emerging at more of a smear than a seep through the layers of open skin. However, that’s the extent of the effects on a very low body count due to the very limited character roster.
Dorado Films presents for the first time on full 1080p high definition, all-region Blu-ray of “Night of the Scorpion” fully uncut and uncensored, despite Nuria Torray’s noticeably catered body double intercuts into the romantic moments with Oliver. Gioia Desideri, as Helen in the flashbacks, make up for Torray’s lack of skin with her own topless scene. In cut Spanish version of the film, Desideri’s topless scene is completely cut along with Torray’s body double because of the nudity ban during the 1970s, making Dorado Films’ uncut “Night of the Scorpion” an automatic must own export version. The rare-euro film distributor scans the 35mm negative to 4k and exhibits in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The negative is relatively clean with minor grain and little-to-no damage, but the coloring offers more of a sepia tone and there’s some noticeable overexposure to perhaps lighten up darker scenes suggesting that touch ups were done at a minimum. The Blu-ray back cover notes, due to fan requests, no digital restorations were made. The dubbed English 2.0 track has a bit of hissing in the dialogue and the soundtrack lacks range, but still a pretty good mix for the transfer with optional English, Spanish, and Italian subtitles available. The bonus material includes an audio commentary with Giallo expert Troy Howarth, author of “So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films” and 53 minutes of Spanish film trailers. Overall, Dorado Films provided a faithful version of “Night of the Scorpion” which the Spaniards, to my knowledge, have not had the pleasure of viewing and in a modern time of plot twists and intricate premises, the Alfonso Balcázar written and directed Giallo is a refreshing blast from the past, embodying a rich palette of Gothicism and noir.
Fifteen years after the kidnapping and disappearance of Francesca, the young daughter of renowned poet and stage performer Vittorio Visconti and his wife Nina, a string of brutal murders by a relentless psychopath links itself to the case of missing Francesca and sparks community outrage with the deaths that are connected with Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. Detectives Moretti and Succo eagerly take on the case, that’s heavy with burden, to quickly apprehend the murderer but to also solve a more than decade old missing child case. As the bodies pile up and Moretti and Succo attempt to get closer to a resolution in the midst of grave public panic, a web of past dark secrets depict a convoluted picture surrounding the private Visconti family that may or may not be directly involved in what really came of poor young Francesca.
The sweet, bloody sweet giallo genre is not dead! The crime mystery thriller with shockingly grisly murders is alive and well and embodied in the soul of Luciano Onetti’s 2015 sophomore directorial that’s co-written with his brother, Nicolas Onetti. The Onetti brothers’ “Francesca” release gets a treatment deserving of kings with a gloriously and beautifully illustrated cover and inner lining that contains powerfully-packed 3-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo set distributed by the artistic gorehounds Unearthed Films and the multifaceted MVDVisual. Complete with an inscrutable and deranged killer that’s greatly diabolical in their own insane world built upon the Buenos Aires born director’s passion for Italian horror, every giallo loving attribute has been meticulously applied to “Francesca” from the shrouded killer to the use of characterizing the antagonist with simply their leather bound, throat-gripping hands high above the clicking of offbeat high heals not casted far from a creepy doll used to motif the killer’s ominous presence. Blood red violence streaks of eye disfigurements, or any facial disfigurement, throughout a script that’s much attuned to the structure and content, reigniting a flame of hope in a declining genre to which the 33-year-old Onetti appears to hold very dear to his heart.
In addition to the inner mechanisms and the ivory gears that constitutes a giallo film, Luciano Onetti takes his feature that one step further by reducing hues and adding an Italian post-production dub track, overlaying the assumptive Argentinean dialogue, to zip back to the past for a time hop location that’s purposefully set in 1970’s Rome. With props true to the time period, “Francesca” has undoubtedly a budget that delivers the malevolent charm of a Dario Argento slasher with a slightly modern taste for the Michele Soavi ghastliness, working seamlessly together to compile an apt tribute of surging giallo birthed right out of South America. “Francesca” is a stunning visual, a clear marker of filmmaking inspiration inspired by classic filmmaking that’s specific in it’s venture from familiar Italian editing techniques to capturing or creating the menace in even the most mundane of filler scenes.
“Francesca” is certainly a film that glorifies the anti-hero with a killer wreaking havoc amongst the public’s most disparaging people who got off the hook easily. When considering the depth chart, this vigilante psychopath exploits Dante’s work as a means of justification where one’s person journey to the gates of heaven must first travel through the gates of hell, providing a similar Charon’s obol of sorts where a metaphorical coin is viewed as a bribe for the gatekeeper or ferryman of souls. Even if considered an anti-hero, the murderer still manages to appeal as the villain because so much of the story’s focus is on Moretti (Luis Emilio Rodriguez) and Succo (Gustavo Dalessanro) and both Rodriguez and Dalessanro make their first on-screen film debut, suitably connecting with “Francesca’s” elderly ambiance.
The Not Rated Unearthed Films and MVDVisual 3-Disc Blu-ray and DVD combo is 77 minutes of pure fanboy gold, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 in a vary of purposefully pruned coloring and intended faux film stock imperfections to recreate a 1970’s Italian giallo. The Italian dialogue track doesn’t quite synch and, again, that’s deliberate to fabricate a past ideal. My only gripe with this release is with the English subtitles as there were a few issues, including some key mistakes in spelling and with the pace of the subtitle that were way too quick. That shouldn’t sway anyone from this awe-striking and gorgeous limited edition release that comes complimentary with a booklet of an in-depth review from Ultra Violent Magazine’s Art Ettinger. The third disc rounds out the release as the film’s soundtrack, scored by Luciano Onetti and his progressive rock that’s a slight modernization of the synch-prog rock of this particular genre’s decade. “Francesca” comes straight out of a forgotten 40-year time capsule, looking to violate the eyes, minds, and ears of a younger generation and stimulating the nearly flatlined Italian giallo genre.