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ENIGMA ROSSO aka RINGS OF FEAR (1978)

aka RED RINGS OF FEAR, VIRGIN TERROR, TRAUMA, NEMESIS, VIRGIN KILLER
Directed by Alberto Negrin
Written by Marcello Coscia, Massimo Dallamano, Franco Ferrini, Stefano Ubezio, Alberto Negrin, Peter Berling, Thomas Danneberg, Miguel de Echarri
Starring Fabio Testi, Christine Kaufmann, Ivan Desny, Jack Taylor, Bruno Alessandro, María Asquerino, Helga Liné, Silvia Aguilar, Taida Urruzola, Tony Isbert, Fausta Avelli, Fabián Conde, Brigitte Wagner, Ricardo Merino, Tony Valento, Wal Davis, Carolin Ohrner

This Italian giallo is set apart from most others due to the perverse and downright sleazy nature of the crimes involved. Still it manages to have the definitive qualities of the typical giallo, with some obvious American influences. ENIGMA ROSSO is extremely entertaining from beginning to end due to a topsy turvy script and some infectious moments of character that helps ease some of the more creepy parts of the film.


The murder of a young Catholic schoolgirl sends the call for hunky cat-lover Investigator Gianni Di Salvo (Fabio Testi) to take the case. Di Salvo is a pushy and intense investigator, not trying to make friends and taking a no-bullshit approach to this serious crime which opens the door to a conspiracy full of sex, violence, abortion, rape, prostitution, drugs, and murder. He’s not above barging into a girl’s dormitory bedroom and make sure if you’re a suspect, you don’t go on a roller coaster ride with him. Before this one is through there will be many suspects, more than a few red herrings, and maybe more than one murderer on the loose.

While the film sets up some pretty shady characters along the way, I have to say this one kept me guessing until the end. Instead of going with the obvious choices, ENIGMA ROSSO decides to toss one freaky scene at you after another. In one instance an orgy involving a giant dildo is intercut between scenes of an abortion, which is going to make most squirm on both fronts. Giallo aspects such as the gloved killer, the focal point on the voyeuristic eye (watching the school girls in the shower), and some of the more heinous acts of violence makes the film rather typical to the genre, but there’s a LAW & ORDER SVU sort of vibe here that isn’t as intense as most giallos. If the gal is female and in this movie, rest assured she will be nekkid by the end of this one as there is a ton of nudity here, much more than one would normally expect from the giallo that lean closer to the police procedural. Still, the morbidity of the kills make this one something fans of the bloodier and more disturbing edge of giallos will want to seek out.


While I don’t want to accuse this film of out and out plagiarism, the music of ENIGMA ROSSO occasionally feels as if it was lifted straight from one of the finest slasher films ever to come out of Canada, BLACK CHRISTMAS. The distinctive banging of the piano keys that occur at the more twisted scenes are almost exactly like Bob Clark’s masterpiece. That said, there is also some boppy music more akin to the giallo that is slipped in between the piano destruction.

That said, Fabio Testi is an extremely likable hero here and while the film doesn’t really let you guess who the killer is, it does have quite a few twists along the way that keeps things on edge. There’s an especially brutal suicide by way of jumping off a bridge that is rather disturbing and the final reveal of the killer and the way Inspector Di Salvo deals with him/her is about as irresponsible as it comes. Still, all of this sets the scene for one of the more memorable and interesting giallos I’ve seen in a while. ENIGMA ROSSO one comes in the Italian version, the dubbed English version, and with an audio commentary by film historian Nathanial Thompson.

Sorry, I could only find this trailer in Italian.




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