Written by: Nick Frame on August 11th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1988
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Cast: Michael York, Edwige Fenech, Donald Pleasence, Mapi Galan, Giovanni Lombardo Radice
DVD released: October 1st, 2007
Approximate running time: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Shameless Films
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £12.99
Ruggero Deodato, the director notorious for the seminal “Cannibal Holocaust” and “House on the Edge of the Park” is probably less well known for this late 80’s Giallo “Phantom of Death” (aka. “Off Balance” or “Un Delitto Poco Commune” in Italy). Much of the giallo and horror output from Italy as the 90’s approached was not up to very much and admittedly I was not expecting great things, however with Deodato directing and the promise of Donald Pleasence and Michael York chewing scenery in addition to the lovely Edwige Fenech filling up my screen then off we go with “Phantom of Death”
Robert Dominici (York) is a very successful concert pianist, life is good so it seems and he is having the tough decision of having to choose between two women, both very much seeking his affections. On one side is Susanna (a beautiful Mapi Galan) and on the other is Helene (the ever beautiful Edwige Fenech), a tough choice for any red blooded male! However with the mysterious murder of a pretty female doctor making the headlines, it is not long until Susanna meets a very bloody end on her way to reconcile with Robert after much soul searching! Helene then makes her move and it’s not long until she gets her man, but we are about to discover that Robert is hiding a frightening medical condition and he may indeed be off balance! As the mystery unfolds, it’s up to Inspector Datti (a great Donald Pleasence) to sort out the whole intriguing affair and find the killer!
Surprisingly this was actually a very enjoyable entry into the Giallo genre and one that somehow has managed to avoid being part of my collection. No longer! Deodato and writer Gianfranco Clerici have crafted a fine thriller for the first half of the movie and some of the murder set pieces hark back to Dario Argento’s earlier films before turning into something altogether different with us learning who our killer is very early on. Not really a common Giallo theme! Thankfully this does not hurt the film too much and due to the nature of Robert’s medical condition, he manages to outwit Datti for long periods of the film while he goes on his bloody rampage. Also worth noting is the score from Pino Donaggio, which is a perfect companion to the almost sad and wretched themes of the film. Look out too for a Eurocult hero from “Cannibal Holocaust” playing the role of a priest in a small cameo!
“Phantom of Death” is presented uncut for the first time in the UK and I believe it’s the only the second worldwide release of this film following on from the previous X-Rated Kult release from Germany in 2003. It’s presented in 1:66:1 Anamorphic and despite a little softness here and there it’s a great picture for such a little known Giallo, certainly a step up from Shameless’s previous release, “The New York Ripper”.
Audio too is fine with the mono 2.0 soundtrack doing the job and the score comes across well enough too. In addition the benefit of having English speaking actors means that they all spoke their own lines and there is very little in the way of horrendous dubbing! Once again, no extras except the trailers for “Phantom of Death” and Shameless’s recent and upcoming releases. Thumbs up again for the great box and cover art, something that will probably be said about all their releases!
For UK giallo fans this should be sought immediately if they have exhausted all of Argento’s, Martino’s and Fulci’s other efforts and despite it not being up there with the quality of the 1970’s it’s a welcome addition to the team!