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.
In 17th Century France, the torturous and deadly persecutions of innocent lives at the merciless hands of the almighty Church coinciding with the vast number of ill-fated deaths from bubonic plague made the medieval era a ghastly and forsaken time. Religious pursuers, known as judges, sought to unearth those who hold contract with Satan, who lustfully weaponized their bodies, and faithfully serve the dark prince and burn them at the stake after vigorous torture to obtain a must-have confession. One particular and notable judge, Bernard de Fossey, travels to a small providence to serve similar inquisition standards, but falls in love for Catherine, the mayor’s eldest daughter who holds a secret affair with a passionate lover named Jean. When Catherine’s lover is suddenly murdered, Catherine’s uncontrollable melancholy thrusts her to shift loyalties toward the alluring power of Satan in order to reveal the person behind Jean’s murder. Bernard’s trapped between his brutal crusade and the love he has for Catherine and tries to protect her from persecution by his fellow judges and from the execution stake. While many innocent claimed women and the few who confess to witchery burn alive, the judge teeters carelessly through the conclave of trials as Catherine has her blazing eyes set to destroy the person responsible for her overwhelming grief.
The one and only Paul Naschy stars and directs, in his directorial debut under the moniker Jacinto Molina, the remarkable underrated “Inquisition,” an time-piece tale accompanied with Spain’s 1970’s macabre ornamenting from the beginning credits to the aflame tragic ending. Spanish horror generally has an unusual gothic knack that can’t be emulated. With the blunt visual cues and the in your face gratuitous sleaze that manages to be naturally appropriate in the same spatial existence, Spain’s horror scene was put on the worldwide map that cordially sat itself right next to Italian’s giallo and UK’s Hammer Horror. Putting aside the budget, Spain’s underground cinematic gems flourished in a time of governmental conservatism and, to the likes of “Inquisition,” were, If I may be so bold, well equipped with scenic locations and props, scored charismatically, shot beautifully, and even maintained some provocative acting from actors and actresses all over Europe and even the world who were willing to bare it all for the project.
A buff, and rather brutishly handsome, Paul Naschy stars as the ruthless witch hunter Bernard de Fossey, but that’s not all. Naschy dons another role as the formidable and all powerful Satan in a dual-role performance of good and evil, of sorts. As de Fossey, Naschy’s chiseled, if not slightly stoic, portrayal of a pious huntsman locks in that medieval aroma while as Satan, similarly stoic but often with a devilish charm that Naschy often pulls off well under the latex and makeup. “Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key’s” Daniela Giordano marvelously shapes her character. The leading actress’s Italiano dark features, piercingly cold eyes, and shameless willingness to bare it all, topped with an on-off switch of ferocity, makes Giordano a powerhouse antagonist against Naschy’s de Fossey. Mónica Randall, Ricardo Merino, Tota Alba in one of her last roles, Antonio Iranzo, Julia Saly (“Panic Beats”), Tony Isbert (“Tragic Ceremony”), and Loreta Tovar (“The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff”) co-star.
Supporting the remarkable cast is the incredible work of special artists Francisco Garcia San José and Pablo Pérez. These two aren’t widely known for their talent, but their grit behind “Inquisition” shouldn’t go unspoken. Naschy’s Satan wouldn’t be a glowing-eyed, skull-staff carrying Baphomet without them nor would there be that pec-tensing nipple severing during a great torture scene. There’s something very simple about San José and Pérez’s work that speaks volumes that virtually delivers in the heinous acts of the inquisition to life and that give Satan an embodiment that has inspired many films even to today. For 1976, I’m in awe of the caliber of the effects, especially being a Spanish horror film that’s notoriously inherited being low-budget.
Mondo Macabro’s widescreen Blu-ray release of “Inquisition” deserves to be one of the best home entertainment releases of the year as it’s spectacularly gorgeous with an upgrade to a 1080p transfer from the original source material. Vibrant, natural coloring charms the pants of the depth and range in the image quality from various obstacles including such as night and day scenes. For a first time director, Naschy had the eye for cinematography and capturing the moment; Mondo Macabro takes his vision a step further by reducing the grain to a minuscule amount and without completely enhancing “Inquisition” with zooming and cropping to offset source material garbage. The Spanish dialogue and English dubbed 1.0 mono track score a high bitrate with flawless integrity from the source. Extras include a audio commentary with Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn, an interview with Paul Naschy and Daniela Giordano, a retrospect on Spanish horror from the 1970’s entitled “Blood and Sand,” and a lengthy Mondo Macabro marketing trailer.
In my opinion, Paul Naschy is the greatest Spanish horror film icon ever and “Inquisition” is some of his primo work. Mondo Macabro works miracles with original source materials, one of the best video distributors of cult cinema in the business, and continues to be a leader in releasing hidden and well-known gems of the genre. Together, “Inquisition” is powerful, is scary, is gritty, is detailed, and is sexy without being campy and schlocky. The mammoth amount of production value is well worth the price of admission alone. One of my personal favorite witch hunting films from the same decade is Vincent Price’s “Witchfinder General” as it has that same barbarity in the air, those merciless persecutions that led to the anti-Church movements, and that undeniable lead actor providing a strong performance. Nothing is scarier than fact and the “Inquisition,” though just a story on paper and reel, was based off real facts and that’s the kind of horror that sears into souls.
The following review is NSFW…
Christina Von Belle is a youthful playgirl heiress who travels through the exotic locations of Europe modeling and making love to the men of the world. Her jet-setting life screeches to a full and sudden stop when a vicious and merciless faction of lesbian guerillas, led by their determined leader Rosa who seeks to inspire young women to live a life of liberated homosexuality, kidnaps Christina for a high dollar ransom because paying for the liberation cause is quite pricey. Christina will be put through multitudes of depravity seductions to pursue the heiress that woman does not need man. As the ecstasy of her captures becomes more and more difficult to defend against, Christina jumps into action, escaping when the chance presents itself, and finds herself leaping into the arms of smugglers and thieves who seek to also use Christina’s title for a wealthy pay out. Christina’s only weapon, her only means of freedom, is her young, sensual flesh that puts everybody, even lesbian commandoes and high society smugglers, under her sultry spell.
One of Francisco Lara Polop’s (under the moniker credit of Poco Lara) last known feature films and penned by the legendary schlock writer Harry Alan Towers (under the moniker credit of Peter Welbeck), “Christina” expos a mingling cast of B-movie stars and starlets such as “Return of the Living Dead’s” Jewel Shepard. Before Shepard was a blue-haired, punk-rocking goth chick ready to be munched on by brain eating zombies, the native New Yorker stripped bare as a promiscuous woman meandering quickly through hordes of wealth and a legion of similar status men. For much of Poco Lara’s film, Jewel Shepard is damn near naked the entire time, exposing her perky breasts whenever the opportunity presents itself. The same whip-it-out concept can be attributed for nearly the rest of the female cast: Josephine Jacqueline Jones (“Black Venus”), Pepita Full James (“The Story of O 2”), Helen Devon, and Anne-Marie Jensen. The male performer counterpart understandably lacks in comparison, but rounds out nicely with Ian Sera (Pieces), Emilio Linder (Monster Dog), Tony Isbert (Tragic Ceremony), and Emilian Redondo (Black Venus).
Christina’s sexual adventures turned passionate plights purposefully lays the groundwork in attempting to pave a similar path toward the highly popular French series “Emmanuelle,” its sequential films, and it’s cheaply produced spin-offs which simply focused around the erotic escapades of a young woman seeking to enhance her sexual experience. Also akin to the “Emmanuelle” series is the fact that “Christina” is an adaptation from a series of sexually charged books printed by Playboy Press. Yet, “Christina” failed to peak interest in spawning sequel additions, despite the high production value that includes exotically breathtaking locations in France and Spain and also the impressive car, dirt bike, and horse chases. To further be pro-“Christina,” the gratuitous nudity explodes onto nearly every single scene with Jewel Shepard’s tight and slender physique causing most tongues to go limp from gawkers’ mouths, secreting saliva with hound dog anticipation for more.
Though prevalent nudity thrills, the sex scenes lack that certain special something. The longevity of the scenes seem as transient as the Christina character, leaving more of the sexual intercourse to the far reaches of the implied sector than trying to push the envelope. The lesbian moments with Josephine Jacqueline Jones and Helen Devon cut briskly away to a dream sequence where Christina faints from the intensity of her captor’s advances and in these dreams, she’s metaphorically assessing her experience with black glove cladded hands rolling cars and tanks around the curvatures of her breasts and teasing the pubic edges of her nether regions. Another dilution of “Christina” is the stunts. While I mentioned the chase sequences were a refreshing surprise for soft core erotica, the hand-to-hand combat nullifies that pleasantry. The lesbian mercenaries fight each other, literally ripping the clothes from their hard bodies, to award themselves the pleasure of guarding, and seducing, Christina while Christina fights her way to escape from their enlisted clutches; yet, the choreography is horrendously slow and bad, resulting in more of an awkward contest rather than a test of might. I will say that the actresses did, in fact, do their own stunt work.
Intervision Picture Corp. and CAV Distribution release a region free, re-mastered Blu-ray edition of “Christina” in a spellbinding Hi-definition 1080p resolution. The widescreen 16×9 presentation only adds to the HD transfer without forcing to strain the image framing and clarity. Clearly more vivid than any of the film’s at-home distributed predecessors, Intervision Picture Corp.’s improvement bares ample of detail, pops the natural coloring, and balances the blacks amongst the original print damage from minor grain to centering scratches. A few times a grey-to-blue toned sepia interludes during more closeup scenes, but the vast exteriors of locations, and for most of the film as well, share in the wealth of the image upgrade. The Dolby Digital English 2.0 mix has varying levels that, at times, sporadically lower the dialogue which might have stemmed from misplaced mic setups. No hissing or pops detected, resulting in clear and spotless finish on the tracks that smooths out the dialogue and sports a rather snazzy synth Ted Scotto soundtrack, especially during more action packed moments. Finally, no extras are included with this release.
Overall, a solid piece of lost skin-er-iffic treasure dug up for display by Intervision Picture Corp. Never in my lifetime would I have guessed that Casey from the “Return of the Living Dead” would be fully nude, nearly full time, in a unique sexploitation gem entitled simply “Christina.” The Poco Lara directed soft core film might be based off the popular sleaze reads and trashy sex novels of the same name, but ultimately “Christina” just couldn’t gain any steam powered momentum on film as it so rightfully did in bedroom fantasies, leaving the kinky-lust and the misadventures of our heroine permanently in black and white of its literature bound kin.