• Red Rings Of Fear (Enigma Rosso)

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: April 10th, 2018.
    Director: Alberto Negrin
    Cast: Fabio Testi, Christine Kaufmann, Ivan Desny, Jack Taylor, Helga Liné, Fausta Avelli
    Year: 1978
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    The Movies:

    Alberto Negrin’s Red Rings Of Fear (also known as Trauma and Virgin Killer domestically and as Enigma Rosso in its native Italy) opens when the corpse of a young woman is found wrapped in plastic (did David Lynch and/or Mark Frost see this?), clearly the victim of a rape/murder. The cops are called in, obviously, and Inspector Gianni Di Salvo (Fabio Testi), the man in charge of the investigation, decides to do some snooping around at the exclusive all girls school where the victim was enrolled.

    Di Salvo is a little rough around the edges, more interested in cracking the case than in making friends. This doesn’t do him any favors at the school where he finds most of the staff and students alike less than cooperative. Even the victim’s own parents seem determined to do as little as possible to help him. Eventually things start coming together for him. He gets ahold of the victim’s diary and then gets some assistance from her younger sister, Emily (Fausta Avelli) and soon learns that the murdered girl was part of a group of girls dubbed The Inseparables, all of whom now seem to be targeted by a killer writing them bizarre letters and making attempts on their lives.

    As the killer gets closer and closer to knocking off more of his targets, Di Salvo does what he can to learn the murderer’s identity and stop the rash of killings – but of course, he’s running out of time…

    If Red Rings Of Fearh isn’t exactly the finest giallo ever made it is nevertheless quite an entertaining – and gleefully sleazy – slice of Eurocult cinema. Negrin and cinematographer Eduardo Noé shoot the picture with enough style to make you pay attention and if it can’t quite compete with some of the more visually impressive entries in the genre, it’s still a very fine-looking film. Lots of great shots here to take in, and of course, the camerawork accentuates the sleazier aspect of the story and the efforts of our black-gloved killer quite effectively. On top of this, the picture also features a remarkably odd score from Riz Ortolani. It might not resonate the way some of the famed composer’s better-known works do, but it’s weird enough to stand out and, in its own quirky way, it actually works really well in the context of the strange world that the story puts us in.

    Considered by be the third part of a ‘schoolgirls in peril’ trilogy begun by Massimo Dallamano’s 1971 picture What Have You Done to Solange? and his 1974 What Have They Done To Your Daughters?, this picture emphasis putting young women into rather precarious positions over attempts to craft legitimate suspense, but the picture easily holds out attention. The picture deserves some credit for attempting – and mostly succeeding – to do something different within the confines of giallo cinema. Bonus points for including a very unusual choice for a murder weapon!

    As to the performances, Testi is really solid in the lead. He’s got good screen presence and is well-cast as the cop. He’s got many of the best lines in the movie and delivers some utterly bizarre bits of dialogue with admirable conviction. Fausta Avelli steals a few scenes that she’s involved with, there’s just something genuinely weird about her character and her whole vibe, while supporting appearances from Christine Kaufmann, Ivan Desny and Jack Taylor are decent as well.

    Enigma Rosso arrives on Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing properly framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. Generally speaking the image here is pretty good. There is mild print damage here and there and some scratches visible on the source but detail isn’t bad at all and there’s a reasonable amount of depth to the image. This is certainly more than a few notches above what DVD could provide. Flesh tones look fine and color reproduction is good. Some scenes look a bit softer than others but there doesn’t appear to be any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about and the disc is free of obvious compression issues.

    Both Italian and English language DTS-HD Mono tracks are provided on the disc. Optional subtitles are available in English only. Both tracks sound fine. Levels are balanced well enough and there aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion. The film plays a little straighter in Italian, the English dubbing is occasionally a little goofy, but it’s nice to have the choice here. Ortolani’s score sounds quite nice in lossless.

    The disc includes an audio commentary from Mondo Digital’s Nathanial Thompson, who is pretty realistic when discussing the merits of the picture, never claiming it to be any sort of misunderstood masterpiece but rather detailing the history of the picture and those who made it. He offers plenty of insight into the performances, he’s got a fair bit to say about the score and he offers up some food for thought regarding the direction and how this film compares to a lot of other entries in the giallo cannon.

    Aside from that we get two trailers for the feature, trailers for a few other Scorpion Releasing properties, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Enigma Rosso tends to accentuate sleaze over suspense, but it does what it does well enough that it has no trouble holding our attention. If it isn’t the most sophisticated giallo ever made, it does benefit from a very fine cast, a strong score, and a few memorably off the wall set pieces. The Blu-ray release from Scorpion Releasing doesn’t provide a reference quality presentation but it looks more than decent and includes an interesting commentary as its primary extra feature. Recommended for fans of the genre!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!