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.
New York City hospitals are being terrorized by a crazed maniac or maniacs stealing the body parts of the deceased and local authorities are discovering the half eaten remains of torn apart bodies in the streets. When a medical orderly is caught in the act of cannibalism by nearly devouring a corpse’s heart and then commits suicide by diving out high rise window, the Doctor’s assistant and leading anthropologist Lori Ridgeway recognizes the tattooed symbol of Kito on the orderly chest, a symbol from a long forgotten tribe in the Moluccas Islands. Worshipping a cannibal God, the primitive tribe still practices the form of anthropophagy. Lori’s colleague, Dr. Peter Chandler, has been placed on a research team to root out New York City’s recent cannibal problem and when the Kito symbol clues him and his team of a possible lead, an expedition team forms to travel to the Moluccas Islands in search of the existence of inhabitants. Dr. Chandler rendezvous with a long time acquaintance, Dr. Obrero, whom has lived on the islands for years. When Dr. Obrero arranges a boat and his right hand man to accompany the expedition, Dr. Peter Chandler and team step foot into a hellish nightmare, bloodied with unspeakable and aggressive cannibal acts. Just when nothing could be worse than flesh hungry cannibals, hideously disfigured zombies frighten even the primitive locals. The island holds a dark secret and Dr. Chandler aims to unveil it no matter the cost!
Finally! The definitive 2-disc edition of Aquarius Releasing’s “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” aka the Italian cut “Zombie Holocaust,” from the Flora and Fulva Film production companies, has been released and, oh, how glorious the Severin Films release is with a super sleek Blu-ray reversible cover art – “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” title as the main cover and “Zombie Holocaust” title on the reverse side – and the high definition gore that hasn’t been gooier and oozier than ever and all in thanks to the upscaled 1080p full HD resolution transfer. Uncut with eye-gouging effects, eviscerated and mangled bodies, and packed with a slew of medical terrors and oddities, the Marino Girolami’s directed video nasty from 1980 just might get itself banned once again by the international censorship boards.
The schlock runs thick through a plot that’s eerie similar to Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (aka Zombie 2) with many of the locations and sets repurposed for the Girolami picture involving exotic land cannibalism, a mad scientist, and, you guessed it, zombies. Yet, “Doctor Butcher M.D.” rightfully receives being a detached entity, an “Annabelle” to “The Conjuring” of sorts, even when both films star Scotland-born leading man Ian McCulloch. With uncanny and grisly disemboweling special effects that turn a stomach inside out and give you a reason to make use of that barf bag provided by Severin Films as a bonus insert, some death effects didn’t go quite as planned such as, in example, when the cannibal orderly dives out a multistory window and the stunt-dummy loses an arm when crashing onto the floor. The next scene has the actor, with arm intact, lying in a pool of blood. Another scene involving Doctor Butcher and his cranium saw nearly doesn’t sell the effect when the saw itself isn’t spinning at all during close ups of a cranium cap removal. However, none of these miscues matter as the rest of the special effects trumps any other gore film of this decade.
The American bought rights to “Zombie Holocaust” were destined to be re-edited as the film had to bulk up on Americanized tastes, slightly targeting specific, well versatile audiences of New York City’s infamously sleazy and exploitive 42nd Street, which is now defunct. The additional and pointless scenes that were intercut from a scrapped Roy Frumkes’ horror anthology, “Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out, at the beginning of the film didn’t transition seamlessly enough to cause an unfavorable reaction, but only added on to the powerful zombie train that spawned from George A. Romero and the Living Dead films. The antics of Terry Levene, an American producer and 42nd Street icon, led to guerilla marketing, an overlapping score from the late “Blood Sisters'” composer Walter Sear, and the superbly cut trailers had guaranteed butts in the seats at Levene’s, amongst others’, circuit theaters. Plus, the T&A from cult Italian actress Alexandra Delli Colli might have had something to do with putting butts in seats as well.
The story hadn’t changed much between the alternate film versions of the Romano Scandariato screenplay and the story itself is wound looser than a turn of a century Gary Busey. Thin motivations drive characters to do the stupidest things possible such as go on an expedition to a cannibal island, go to a cannibal island without state of the art weaponry and more bodies than a modern day NFL football roster, or go straying away from the safety of your group to stroll through the island’s bush alone. The obviousness is aggravating to say at the least, but omit the blatant stupidity of the characters and no one would die a horrible and gruesome death that fastens our morbid tastes to the screen. The story’s spontaneous and adventurous nature appeases thrills of a long-lost culture on an island of hell that’s ready to be explored and re-discovered and ready to taste fresh blood and organs once again.
Severin Films have outdone any previous release of the reconfigured “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” and the original “Zombie Holocaust” when discussing the video presentation. The 1080p performs at a high bitrate with a vibrant display of natural colors that diminish much of the natural grain and negative damage and exhibits finely tuned and leveled darker tones from the original 35 mm negative; a HD presentation that, and this goes without saying, naturally outperforms the the transfer from Shriek Show’s “Zombie Holocaust” DVD release in the early 2000s. The English DTS-HD Master 2.0 audio mix on “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” performs greatly without many given distortions or loss of audio while the “Zombie Holocaust” on disc two has the same DTS-HD Master option, but also gives an alternative with a linear PCM Italian only audio mix without subtitles. Walter Sear’s Stateside score and Nico Fidenco Italiano score tribute their respective nations clearly through the mastered audio mixes with Fidenco’s score surfacing here and there on the Aquarius Releasing edit. Severin Films provides an impressive list of new bonus material on each disc, with the first disc having insightful interviews with Aquarius Releasing’s Terry Levene, editor Jim Markovic, filmmaker and documentarian Roy Frumkes, “Temple of Schlok’s” Chris Poggiali, Gore Gazette editor and Butcher Mobile rider Rick Sullivan, and Gary Hertz all discussing their involvement “Doctor Butcher M.D.” and their ties to 42nd Street. The second disc focuses more on “Zombie Holocaust,” interviewing male lead Ian McCulloch and McCulloch sings “Down by the River” in another segment, FX masters Rosario Prestopino and Maurizio Trani, actress Susan Buchanan, and a look at New York City then and now piece where “Zombie Holocaust” shot certain scenes.
A Church youth group voluntary attends a Saint Christopher’s Catholic Middle School weekend cleanup before the school’s much needed reconstruction and restoration. As soon as they start with the sweeping, dusting, and polishing, three demon nuns, let to suffer behind an enclosed brick wall by a child molesting priest, unleashes their vengeful wrath, a gift from their new lord and savior, the devil, to whom they’ve sold their soul. Quickly, one-by-one the volunteers fall to the flesh hungry demonic nuns, using their sins against them, and extracting their souls for hell bound eternity. The select few to survive the ordeal of nuns will come face-to-face with Satan himself where praying for mercy will get them nowhere and is the same as burning in hell.
Director Richard Griffin once again pushes down the throttle to wrap the shooting of an entire movie in a matter of days on another lightweight budget. “Flesh for the Inferno” had a 9 day shoot with, and no surprise here, Griffin hiring some of his entourage of talented actors and actresses. The stage actors employed are always remarkable to watch; the underrated Michael Thurber, even in a toned down performance, is such a joy to watch with his adaptable skill set to jump into the shoes of any role in any film. The same can be said about the co-leads, Jamie Default and Jamie Lyn Bagley, who easily adjust into various roles from one Griffin film to the next. However, to my surprise, Griffin’s works with new faces, such as Ryan Nunes, Andrew Morais, and Kevin Michael Strauss, whom fit into his homage work of European possession horror. Then, there’s the talented Aaron Andrade who puts any other actor’s portrayal of Devil to shame.
Griffin and long time collaborator and cinematographer Jill Poisson purposefully softens the lens to give the photography a dreamlike or surreal state to mimic the iconic European director styles such as from Mario Bava or more in tunely with Lucio Fulci and though this respectable style was succesffully achieved and did contribute to the Bava or Fulci level of cinematic and atmospheric charm, the haziness was a bit overbearing, almost closing in on the actors within a modified frame of dominating clouds. The effect mostly shadows from what I noticed, right off the bat, the recognizable set from a previous Griffin film, “Future Justice,” sporting a new coat of paint and constructed with new, or new-ish, set pieces to create the Catholic school locale.
Screenwriter Michael Varrati churns out a script in less than a week to give Griffin much time as possible on a location rented much longer than needed. Varrati has written remarkable natural banter between opposition, connected, and flirtatious characters and does well with the dynamics for a quickly progressing story where shit hits the fan, crossing over into act two, in a matter of minutes. Its the dialogue, however, that slightly over saturates “Flesh for the Inferno” and it’s demonic, habit-wearing nuns. Fully engaged conversations between the nuns and the unlucky survivors cross over into theological debates rather than leading into a sacrilegious and unholy curse. Though at times, scenes like the one with Michael Thurber chasing his own tail in a Groundhog Day movie-type scenario was well placed in the story and well shot, even if little-to-no dialogue was present.
“Flesh for the Inferno” was suppose to be Griffin and his crew’s all out gory effects movie the homage attuned director has ever filmed. Yet, I can’t help but feel as if the opportunity was bobbled to recreate a “Demonia’s” bloodshed. The John Dusek effects were simply effective though, catering to all the film’s intention and needs to pull off a nasty nunnery narrative. The Timothy Fife soundtrack isn’t necessarily Fulci inspired as well that perhaps resemble more of a Goblin and Ennio Morricone blend and that’s highly more notable.
Scorpio Film Releasing and MVDVisual distribution together created and distributed another fantastic film that’s graced with retro-sleek cover art, like always, and I’m always impressed by director Richard Griffin’s capability to turn low budget horror into a formidable admiration of the old days of all kind of horror. Griffin and his entourage are on a whole separate level than their counterpart in their Hollywood doppleganger Eli Roth. The MVDVisual DVD looks sleek with a 16:9 widescreen presentation for the 79 minute feature. Bonus material is limited, but informative, that includes a crew commentary, cast commentary, and the film’s trailer.
Jessica is plagued by recurring horrific and lucid nightmares of a horse-headed figure that brings death to her dreams. When she has a nightmare about her grandmother being impaled to death by the horsehead monster, she’s immediately phoned by her mother Catelyn informing Jessica that her grandmother has passed away. Jessica travels to the family’s countryside estate for the funeral and is welcomed by her stern mother. Jessica’s nightmares worsen the first night and she becomes trapped in her own dreams as she can feel the haunt of the horse-head figure in the corner’s of her mind. When Jessica soon realizes that her’s grandmother’s death and her mother’s cruelty might be more involved and connected with the horse-head creature, she attempts to stay in a semi-conscious sleep state to puzzle together the mysterious pieces and to control her nightmares once and for all.
The freshman feature film from Romain Basset contains such promise and maturity and Basset shows daring courage to create a horror-fantasy of this caliber thats very aesthetically symbolic and worthy of being awarded qualities of early Dario Argento’s films with intensive surreal and haunting facets. “Horsehead” embodies the character Jessica’s head in creating and blending an atmospheric jigsaw and visceral puzzle of a world while being a mirror in which you can glance back into time, far back beyond your own existence. “Horsehead’s” unique tribute blend contains the bizarre and frightening worlds of Tarsem Singh’s 2000 film “Cell” intertwined with one’s life story similar to the past and present tales of “A Christmas Carol” with Ebenezer Scrooge. However, Jessica’s past is much more dark and grim than Scrooge’s will ever be and her future won’t end in her being generous and kind to a crippled poor boy named Tiny Tim.
Certainly a visually stunning film, “Horsehead” tries turn the mind on it’s end, leaving the suspended muscle dangling near the edge of insanity. Jessica’s reality becomes no more real than her nightmares as the horse-headed monster is has comparable dream-bending qualities to the the same effect as Freddy Krueger of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” but “Horesehead” is a lot more gothic and whole lot less sarcastic than the fedora sporting child murderer. The creature has haunted Jessica’s lineage for at least three generations, presumably starting with her late grandmother and is a symbol of Jessica’s strict-bible-following grandfather who becomes the epicenter of all the family’s issues. Her dreams hold a dark mystery to her family’s continuous cycle of troubles and use horrific symbolism to express, in stages, the truth behind their ancestral secrets.
As much as I love the symbolism in this film, I’m worried about the psycho-sexual portion the film markets, splashed as a tagline right on the Blu-ray cover. Yes, the once little girl from Robert De Niro’s “Ronin” actress Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux does become involved briefly in highly sexual situations in her electric dance music soundtrack nightmares in a down the rabbit hole type of situation, but really serve no purpose to Pointeaux’s character in reality because no much is conveyed except for her profession as a dream psychologist and she has quarrels with her mother, especially on why her mother refuses to informer on the identity of her father. Gala Besson, who plays a younger version of Jessica’s grandmother, also briefly bares skin for a more gruesome and twisted scene that would make Pinhead smile with such pleasure. Perhaps the psycho-sexual scenes stem from the heavily implied incest relationships in the story between father and daughter, sister and sister, and mother and daughter. If incest is the answer to my question on why the film blatantly markets psycho-sexual, than the taboo subject matter makes “Horsehead” that much more risque and that more interestingly ambitious, creating a film that’s hard to swallow and shocking to behold when put into that perspective. Some dream interpreters believe that being chased by a white horse, in which case the horse-headed creature is of off-white color, may represent chaste or having issues with intimacy. This might explain some of Jessica’s unusual sexual scenes in her dream sequences involving relatives.
You might recognize a name from the past in the Italian horror genre: Catriona MacColl, an United Kingdom actress who portrays Jessica’s uptight mother Catelyn. MacColl is best known for her early 1980’s rolls in the Lucio Fulci films “The Beyond,” “City of the Living Dead,” and “House by the Cemetery.” With MacColl and Pointeaux’s as the overpowering female characters, “Horsehead” rounds out with weak male characters such as Jessica’s stepfather Jim, played by Murray Head, and an estate servant George, played by French acting vet Vernon Dobtcheff.
Overall, “Horsehead” delivers solid acting, dons great editing, and has better than average makeup and effects making “Horsehead” a winning release, yet again, for Artsploitation Films. The Blu-ray release is perfectly graced with a stunning 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, evenly balanced with appropriate LFE during the EDM nightmares. The picture is quite clear with some digital noise interference but only on some minor facial closeup scenes and no damage on the prints. Even though “Horsehead” is a French film and most of the cast is French, the movie is in English and it’s not dubbed English either. Bonus features also include “Inside Horsehead Making of” and four short films that have a total runtime of 81 minutes – a movie in itself.