Saturday, September 19, 2009


Original Title: Gli occhi freddi della paura
Year: 1971
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Writer: Leo Anchóriz (screenplay, story), Tito Carpi (screenplay, story), Enzo G. Castellari (screenplay, story)
Genre: Giallo

Mr. September Enzo Castellari threw his hat into the giallo ring a few years and a few lesser-known westerns later. "Giallo" may need some quotes around it in this case...

One night, Peter Flower (played by Gianni Garko) brings his date, Anna (Giovanna Ralli), home to his uncle’s house for some fun. His uncle is Judge Juez Flower (Fernando Rey) who is busy at the office and won’t be home until late. Peter’s plans are soon spoiled by the gun-toting Quill (Julián Mateos) who takes he and Anna hostage. They think they are saved when a cop shows up he is actually Arthur Welt (Frank Wolff), a criminal who Peter’s uncle sent to jail many years ago. Welt plans to kill Judge Flower with a well-placed explosive device but first he must find an incriminating file hidden somewhere in the house.

I'm trying to find the best way to succinctly describe my experience with Cold Eyes of Fear. I suppose it was like a coin toss. Heads you win - take away from it some impressive style and imagery as well as a great Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Tails you lose and get a turd dropped right on your nose. No matter how much you scrub, you're still going to smell it, and it's just going to taint anything positive that will follow.

Cold Eyes of Fear was a mess to me. I did not care for the characters. I found myself wandering out of the room without bothering to reach for the pause button. I don't want to say outright that it is shit because it had it's moments, and I may be becoming a Castellari apologist after all this time we have spent together. (he loves me... I know he does!)

We open the film with a little bait and switch and get really what is the only giallo moment of the entire film. The scene is standard fare for what you would see in a typical giallo, but is pretty cool regardless with nice lighting and shadows. I knew something was up when we soon see the assailant's face. Then for the next hour and 25 minutes, my face went a little sour.

Thank Jesus we got to see a little boob action right here at the beginning. What a hot little blonde she was! She had kind of a Beverly D'Angelo thing going on but hotter.

A little sidenote here: since I started writing this review I have gone to the kitchen to get some juice, peed, checked baseball scores more than once, and looked at the clock a few times to figure out if i could squeeze in a movie before I pass out. I can't even focus on this after it's over!

Let's get back on track

There we go!


Anyway, after the fakeout, the story that we are given is just a boring series of "tense" conversations in a living room. There were moments of real tension, but most was just nonsense I thought. Frank Wolff was actually really good in his role as Welt for the most part. This would be one of his final roles I believe as he committed suicide in Rome the year this film came out. On his wikipedia page, it says that Milano Calibro 9 (awesome film where he played a police commissioner - and When Women Lost Their Tails were released posthumously. Mr. Wolff could sweat with the best of them it seems!

With many giallos, we go in expecting (for the most part) function following form, or style being the primary draw as opposed to super-strong plots. We should be willing to overlook some logic and holes at times when we are provided with a visual feast. It just comes with the territory.

But despite being easy on the eyes thanks to some fantastic lighting, angles, etc., we are not given an interesting plotline in the least nor are we given much reason to care what happens to any of these characters. They are ready to flake out on one another as quickly as I was ready to flake out on the film itself. I hate being bored by a film about as much as anything, and Cold Eyes of Fear was very often boring.

Really, it wasn't a true giallo in that there's not really a slasher element and the mystery is not the villain's identity but rather the villain's motivation. And the driving force here is pretty weak I must say.

The look of the film kept it together for me. The lighting was very often dark and moody. One very nice scene has a hanging fixture swinging after being bumped into which makes the light dance across our main actress' face. There are lots of nice closeups (combined with not-so-closeups, which I'm a sucker for) that really help to keep this film at least visually interesting.

Some imagery used late in the film with long, moving hallways and spinning overlays was particularly interesting despite being a little strange.

But ultimately the style is not enough to save Cold Eyes of Fear for me. Not even a nice, violent close to the film which has a brutal bludgeoning with a whiskey bottle is enough to prevent it from breaking that cardinal sin of movie-making... don't bore the audience. The characters' motives are not convincing, and the story just is not all that interesting.

And if I had to watch anymore scenes with the annoying, sleep-inducing judge, I was going to bash someone with a J&B bottle myself! Ugh, just open the goddamn door already! (You'll see what I mean)

Yes, Samurai and Willy, if you ever read this... it is J&B! Nothing but the best! (!)

I would only recommend this if you want to see perhaps why Castellari only directed one giallo.

Oh, and that Morricone soundtrack...hotness!

Let's just blame this one on Leo Anchóriz. Yeah... that's it... damn you, Anchóriz!

4.5 out of 10


Matt said...

I don't get the J&B comment (obviously I can see she's holding a bottle).

pickleloaf said...

J&B whiskey appears in loads of italian genre films from the 70s for whatever reason.

the Gentlemen's Guide podcast always points it out if one is to be found