a.k.a Un Delitto poco comune (ITA), Off Balance (UK)
Michael York and Donald Pleasence star in a gory thriller from Ruggero Deodato. Shameless UK R0 DVD release.
a doctor, and then the partner of concert pianist Robert Dominici
(Michael York) are brutally murdered in similar fashions. Police
Inspector Datti (Donald Pleasence) is forced to draw a blank on the
links between them, but starts to get mysterious phone calls from a man
claiming to be the killer. Meanwhile we learn that Dominici has
been stricken with a very rare aging disorder, that will kill him
within months - this has driven him to become a killer. His friend
Hélène Martell (Edwige Fenech), announces that she is pregnant
with his child, and terrified lest it should grow up with the same
condition he tries to kill her, but is interupted, and goes on the run,
his ever aging appearance leaving him unrecognisable. Inspector
Datti is convinced that Dominici is behind the attacks, but is
unable to find his target, and finds himself being tormented with phone
film opens well and quite mysteriously with a piano performance
intercut by a brutal murder. Although presented and marketed as a
Giallo film the script throws in its cards at the 30 minute mark to
reveal to us the killer with a flashback scene more like the ending of
a film than its mid-point. Fortunately the storyline has enought drive
to keep it moving for the next hour and it avoids desending into
simple slasher movie territory, instead coming somewhere between police
drama and a serial killer film with the focus on the exchange between
Robert and the Inspector. The pacing is rather quick and there is
certainly no padding - fortunately the characterisation of the
three leads is decent and by keeping the central cast so small it
helps to keep the film focused. In a nod to another of the decade's
most popular genres, the film contains some martial arts scenes that
although rather pointless don't come off as too gratuitous. The ending
is fitting if a little drawn out.
Deodato's direction is
generally strong, although the editing that is so good at the film's
start gets very jumpy in many places and it can be very hard to gauge
the passage of time in the storyline, which actually stretches out over
almost a year. The light soundtrack is good although it is a pity that
more piano music was not used particularly in the film's finale. The
special effects work is mostly solid raising the film above its
exploitation roots and the gory scenes are brief enough to keep it
shocking (although a dream-sequence beheading looks incredibly fake).
The brutal railway station murder in particular does seem to be a
homage to Argento.
cast are all rather older than we
are used to seeing them, but it suits the film well. Michael York is
superb in the role and looks very good and convincing in the make-up -
indeed if the film were made in America it would probably be hailed as
one of his very best performances.
Donald Pleasance makes for a perfect jaded and world-weary detective
and gives an impressively strong performance - an interesting twist on
his famous Dr. Loomis role. Forty year-old Edwige Fenech has lost none
of her beauty, although she gets
rather less screentime than the other leads, while fans of cult horror
will recognise Giovanni Lombardo Radice in a brief role as a priest,
and Deodato himself cameos as a passerby outside the station murder
Probably best defined as a mature
slasher film, raising some fascinating issues about death and aging,
Phantom of Death is a very good film. I would suggest that the typical
video nasty audience might find this rather dull, with much more focus on plot than gore - it will certainly
appeal however, to fans of the Giallo and Poliziesco films of the
1970s, and to them it comes recommended.
Anyone famous in it?
Michael York - a British actor, best known now for starring in Austin Powers films, but has an impressive filmography. Donald Pleasence - widely travelled British star, who appeared in THX 1138 (1971) and The Great Escape (1963) Edwige Fenech - beautiful Italian star of many of the best Gialli, including The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971)
Directed by anyone interesting?
Ruggero Deodato - the Italian director behind the infamous Cannibal Holocaust (1979), who also helmed Live Like a Cop Die like a Man (1976) and Airport rip-off Concorde Affaire '79 (1979)
A couple of very bloody death scenes, although not as gory as many films of the era.
A couple of brief topless/sex scenes.
Who is it for?
One for fans of the Giallo era, but a little too much plot for fans of the more hardcore video nasties.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. Picture quality is strong, with mild grain and no real damage. Some brief but noticable artifacting in the night scenes.
English stereo - sounds okay, but noticable hiss throughout. York and Pleasence's distinctive voices are retained.
The disc includes:
Original theatrical trailer.
Trailer reel for more Shameless DVD releases.
Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Previously available from Kult films Germany.
to be fully uncut. The print used is English language.
A fascinating and well made thriller, boasting a very strong peformance from Michael York. Recommended.
Fully uncut and anamorphic, although with some minor print problems. Certainly the best DVD available at present.