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April 16, 2018

Enigma Rosso


Red Rings of Fear / Rings of Fear / Trauma / Virgin Killer
Alberto Negrin - 1978
Scorpion Releasing BD Region A

With six credited writers on the screenplay, I would think at least one of them was familiar with Agatha Christie. Keep in mind that before giallo was associated with a film genre, it was a literary genre consisting of Italian paperbacks of English and American mysteries. Among the more prominent authors was Christie. I bring her up because a significant part of Enigma Rosso appears to be inspired by one of Christie's books. I will not mention the title because it could more easily be a spoiler for Negrin's film, but I would have been unaware of the similarity had I not seen a recent film adaptation.

Among those with a hand in the screenplay were Franco Ferrini, just beginning his career which would include writing credits on several films by Dario Argento, German actor Peter Berling, who as a writer contributed to a couple of Italian crime thrillers, and director Negrin. Also listed was Massimo Dallamano, who had planned to make this film the followup to his previous films about high school girls involved with sex and murder. Dallamano died in a car accident before Enigma Rosso was produced. One can only speculate on how different a film we might have had based on his previous work. This was television director Alberto Negriin's first and only theatrical film.

The discovery of a sexually violated high school girl's body wrapped in plastic, unsuccessfully disposed of by a river, leads to an investigation of the girls three friends at an exclusive boarding school. As most people who love Italian genre films know, it's not the story that's important, but how the story is told. Giallo films, at least those that are most revered, are known for their visual style. Any visual flourishes here are few and far between. While this is purely subjective, Negrin seems unable to distinguish between the erotic and the exploitive, with the camera lingering longer than needed on the girls taking a shower, including those who have no narrative function. Worse is the cross-cutting between one girl's pain from the insertion of an oversized dildo, and shots of forceps while another girl is getting an abortion. Not that young women are the only victims in this film. What happens to a dog shouldn't happen to a dog.

On the plus side, the casually amoral detective played by Fabio Testi forces a confession out of an effete Jack Taylor by taking him on a roller coaster ride. One of the nicer moments is of Testi, lounging on his bed, with his two pet cats crawling over him. A reference to a 17th Century poem by John Donne provides a welcome literary tweak.

Overall, Enigma Rosso is a film best appreciated by genre completists. The blu-ray here is of the film in its correct widescreen aspect ratio, with a choice of Italian with English subtitles or English language dubbing. This was a European co-production with cast from Italy, Spain and Germany. The commentary track by Nathaniel Thompson keeps track of most of the main actors and the history of the production.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 16, 2018 10:10 AM