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Cold Eyes of Fear(1971)
One man's evening with a prostitute takes a turn for the worse when a pair of hardened criminals show up at the home of the man's uncle, a judge who unfairly convicted one of the criminals years before. Tensions mount as the victims try to turn their captors against one another and save the judge's life, as well as their own.
For more about Cold Eyes of Fear and the Cold Eyes of Fear Blu-ray release, see Cold Eyes of Fear Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on May 21, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Giovanna Ralli, Frank Wolff, Fernando Rey, Karin Schubert, Gianni Garko, Franco Marletta
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
» See full cast & crew
Cold Eyes of Fear Blu-ray Review
Cold Eyes of Boredom
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, May 21, 2013
A big name in low-budget Italian genre cinema, director Enzo G. Castellari is probably best known now for his 1978 men-on-a-mission movie The Inglorious Bastards, which was brought back into the spotlight after it served as a loose inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's film of the same name. B-level war flicks (Eagles Over London), spaghetti westerns (Keoma), and politziottesco actioners (High Crime) were his bread and butter during the '70s—earning him the epithet "the poor man's Peckinpah"—but Castellari couldn't pass up taking a stab at the recently-popular giallo sub-genre with 1971's Cold Eyes of Fear. The film is only nominally a gialli, though, lacking the outré kink and proto- slasher violence associated with some of the most iconic examples of the form, like Lucio Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling, Dario Argento's Deep Red, and Mario Bava's Bay of Blood. Cold Eyes of Fear is closer to a Straw Dogs-style home invasion thriller, only slower, more talky, less psychological, and entirely devoid of suspense. It's not bad, but it is duller than a butter knife.
You'd never guess the tedium to come by the film's sexy and tense opening scene, which may or may not be an intentional send-up of the sub-genre's visual touchstones, which were already becoming cliche. A man with an open switchblade advances on a fearful woman in black lacy lingerie—played by German actress Karin Schubert—cackling and making jabbing motions. As he cuts off her underwear and pushes her—unresistingly—down on her bed, we wonder, "is this woman really in trouble, or is this just some slightly dangerous role-playing?" It is role-playing of a sort; as the woman reaches for the cast-aside blade and stabs the man in the ribs, the camera pulls back to reveal that this is all a bit of Grand Guignol theatre, applauded by the audience in a swinging London nightclub.
It's here that we meet Peter Flower (Gianni Garko), a lawyer—or, solicitor, that is—who specializes in representing the city's seamier establishments. Mixing business with pleasure, he solicits the companionship of a prostitute, Anna (Giovanna Ralli), whom he takes out on a montage tour of the West End—shot wonderfully in existing light by cinematographer Antonio L. Ballestreros—and then back to the mansion he shares with his uncle, Juez (Fernando Rey), an influential judge. Since the uncle is off at his office doing some late night legal work, Peter assumes he has the house to himself and proceeds to seduce Anna on the kitchen table. Mid-foreplay, however, Juez' butler tumbles out of the pantry closet, dead.
If that weren't enough, the couple is further interrupted when the pistol-wielding thug Quill (Julián Mateos)—with a Ramones-esque mop haircut and natty leather sports jacket—descends the stairs and takes them hostage. Constable Arthur Welt (Frank Wolff) drops by to deliver a letter from the judge—here we're meant to think Peter is saved—but it turns out that Welt is in police disguise, and that he's actually Quill's criminal mentor. They're here in cahoots to find some incriminating document, an maybe loot a hidden safe too, and we gradually come to understand their motives, as well as see a progressively splitting rift between the two home invaders, who may or may not be lovers.
To detail any more of the plot would be pointless, because not much else happens. Peter and Anna are held at gunpoint, Welt and Quill comb the house for the scrap of paper they're looking for, and that's essentially it until a brief burst of violence in the last few minutes. The long middle stretch of the film is a slog through tedious dialogue that feels more like filler than character or story development. To give some idea of how uneventful the movie is, here are the two most exciting occurrences: 1.) Anna tries to win her escape by showering in front of a totally disinterested Quill, who really can't be bothered, and 2.) a cat tries to wedge himself through the door to the judge's office, which has been rigged with explosives to blow if opened far enough. The cat makes it.
Castellari stoops to ridiculousness in an attempt to liven things up. In one scene—almost wholly unconnected to the kidnapping predicament—we flash over to a different location as two cops try to bust up a street fight involving a gang of leather-clad bikers and a guy in an incongruous kimono. Elsewhere, he gives us an unnecessary hallucination sequence, using rear projection and camera tricks. If there were more of this stuff—kooky non sequiturs and over-the-top dream interludes—Cold Eyes of Fear might have at least been entertaining in a what the hell am I watching sort of way. Instead, these wacko sections simply feel out of place in such an otherwise dry, straightforward film.
To his credit, Castellari's best movies were yet to come, and Cold Eyes of Fear does show some signs of his future fulfilled potential. It is stylishly made, and the performances—though dubbed—are surprisingly decent. Giovanna Ralli is something of a low-rent Sophia Loren, all pride and sultry eyes, and spaghetti western star Gianni Garko has the level-headedness and screen presence required of his role. The villains, understandably, get to have a bit more fun, with Frank Wolff as the obsessive mastermind and Julián Mateos as his affectionate underling. The biggest boost to whatever lasting appeal the film has, though, is the spastic, jazzy score by Ennio Morricone, which would make worthwhile listening on its own.
Cold Eyes of Fear Blu-ray, Video Quality
As we've come to expect from Redemption Films titles distributed by Kino-Lorber, Cold Eyes of Fear is essentially presented as-is, with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that hasn't been significantly cleaned or digitally restored. Personally, I don't mind this for films of this sort—it adds to the grimy grindhouse vibe—but be aware that the print is covered with flurrying white and black specks, vertical scratches that come and go, and the occasional shadows of hairs stuck in the film gate. In all other regards, however, this is actually a rather striking high definition presentation for a mid- rate giallo. Natural film grain is untouched by digital noise reduction, there are no signs of edge enhancement or other unnecessary embellishments, and no noticeable compression or encode issues.
Shot by Antonio L. Ballestreros—the cinematographer for Sergio Leone's official directorial debut, The Colossus of Rhodes—Cold Eyes of Fear has an unstylized, almost documentarian look, especially in the early scenes, shot on the streets of nighttime London solely with existing light. Unlike a lot of low-budget Italian productions, the lensing is very crisp here for the most part, and the upgrade to Blu-ray—especially from Redemption's now-ancient DVD—is immediately and consistently visible, with a strong degree of fine detail in the actors' faces and clothing. Color is handled well too, particularly when you consider that the film takes place almost entirely at night and indoors. Saturation is good, black levels rarely infringe on shadow detail, and highlights never blow out harshly. Print damage aside, this is one of the better-looking Kino/Redemption releases lately.
Cold Eyes of Fear Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Kino has given us an uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 version of the film's original English dub, and like the 35mm transfer, the audio shows its age, with quiet but near-constant crackles and light hisses and splice pops. None of this rises to the level of distraction, though, and for the most part, the mix is easy on the ears, free of high-end brashness and peaking. Dialogue is almost always clearly understand, which is good, since Kino hasn't included any subtitle options—a pet peeve of mine—and the minimal effects have all the presence they require for such a talky, low-key film. The real star of the audio show is Ennio Morricone's spastic jazz freakout of a score, with its guitar squalls and thwacked upright bass, muted trumpet blasts and funky drumming, all of which sounds as good as might be expected.
Cold Eyes of Fear Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cold Eyes of Fear Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Cold Eyes of Fear has a giallo-ish title, a giallo-ish plot, and a giallo-ish sense of style, but it's hardly a giallo—it's too slow and too talky, with a distinct lack of the razor-edged violence and gratuitous kink that has come to characterize the genre. It has a killer score from the legendary Ennio Morricone, and it does have its moments of insane weirdness—where'd that guy in the kimono come from?—but on the whole it's dry, uneventful, and certainly not a must-see unless you're an obsessive devotee of low-budget Italian moviemaking. If you are, note that Kino's Blu-ray release is a solid improvement over the old Redemption DVD; while the print is as grubby as ever, the high definition remaster does wonders for the sense of clarity.
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