Combustible Celluloid
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With: Corinne Cléry, Michele Placido, Quinto Parmeggiani, Edoardo Faieta, John Steiner, Jacques Herlin, Cecilia Polizzi, Greta Vayan, Sarah Crespi, Enrico Oldoini, Tom Skerritt, Eli Wallach
Written by: Enrico Oldoini, Bernardino Zapponi, based on a story by Paolo Cavara
Directed by: Paolo Cavara
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Italian, English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 98
Date: 01/01/1976

Plot of Fear (1976)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Thick 'Plot'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Plot of Fear is a pretty good title for such a twisted example of the giallo genre. TheĀ  "plot" starts out in a recognizable fashion, but eventually moves into a series of flashbacks and twists, gets a little on the convoluted side. The "fear" part comes at the thought of trying to describe the "plot" part.

Inspector Gaspare Lomenzo (Michele Placido), who has a fashionable 1976 moustache, is assigned to solve a string of murders, connected only by illustrations in a children's fairy tale book. (The bodies are left to resemble the pictures.) Lomenzo is stumped, and also flustered by the private detective Pietro Riccio (Eli Wallach), who seems to be butting into the case. He is also catching hell from his superior officer (Tom Skerritt). Fortunately, he meets the lovely Jeanne (Corinne Clery), who once attended a party thrown by an elite sex club and witnessed something that can help.

Director Paolo Cavara was perhaps best known for the notorious "documentary" Mondo Cane (1962), and he's clearly in an exploitation mood here, concentrating more on sex and startling images than on storytelling. Additionally, Ms. Clery would have been well known for her starring role in The Story of O, released the previous year, and Cavara takes delicious advantage of her, showing her to full advantage in steamy scenes, and using her mysterious allure for the rest of the scenes. (Incidentally, Ms. Clery also went on to be a Bond girl, in Moonraker.) There's also plenty of blood and creepy stuff.

That's all perfectly fine, and certainly many fine Italian "B" films of the time neglected plot in favor of atmosphere, visuals, and moods. And Plot of Fear looks and sounds great (cinematography by Franco Di Giacomo and music by Daniele Patucchi), but the main problem is that it leads with its plot; it's the entire focus of the movie. It promises plot and delivers something quite a bit messier and more careless. But if you can forgive the confusion, the movie still has quite a few visceral thrills.

The great Raro Video is responsible for this DVD release (no Blu-Ray yet). It comes with several interviews: screenwriter Enrico Oldoini, the director's son Pietro, and lead actor Michele Placido. The transfer is fine, and has new optional subtitles. It also has a DVD-Rom feature (remember that?) with an illustrated booklet and a critical discussion by Chris Alexander of Fangoria Magazine.
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