Directed by Paolo Cavara in 1976, Plot Of Fear starts off like a Giallo but soon turns into a strange police thriller with some liberal doses of kinky sex and nasty murders thrown in to keep things interesting. The story follows a cop name Lomenzo (Michele Placido), who would soon make quite a name for himself as a director) who gets involved with a series of homicides in which the killer leaves at the scene of the crime an illustrated page from a children's book. Lomenzo reports to a few higher ups within the department (played by Tom Skerritt and Eli Wallach) but in his spare time, he boffs his foxy black supermodel girlfriend but is intrigued by a woman named Jeanne (Corinne Clery) who he meets seemingly completely by chance one day in the elevator of the building he lives in. When things head south with his girlfriend he and Jeanne strike up an interesting relationship and as luck would have it, she was a witness to the death of a prostitute that Lomenzo feels ties into the current rash of killings going on.
See, some months back Jeanne was at a fancy party held by a group of 'fauna lovers' in which a lovely hooker who was hired for the evening's entertainment died after witnessing their cover diamond smuggling ring in full swing. Those involved covered up her death to make it look accidental but Lomenzo is no fool and he starts putting the pieces of this puzzle together. Soon enough he finds himself tracking down suspects with Jeanne's help but his investigation will soon enough find him in the middle of a very complicated plot that stretches a whole lot further than he ever expected it could.
So yeah, this one starts off very much as a Giallo with a great murder scene in which a kinky guy winds up dead at the hands of his transvestite hooker and it just sort of hits the ground running from there. A few more gruesome and interesting kills keep things interesting but by the time we're a third into the movie's running time it's shifted gears on us and moved into police thriller territory - though the film reserves the right to bounce back and forth between genres before finishing up, something that it does quite well.
Those who know Cavara only for his work on Mondo Cane and the dark Biallo The Black Belly Of The Tarantula will know what to expect here, as the movie offers up some interesting sexual twists and a few nice turns of the plot as well. You might see the 'big reveal' coming before the movie gets us there but it's a fun ride regardless and the movie is shot with loads of style. The kill scenes are good, leading lady Corinne Clery, probably best known for The Story Of O, is smolderingly sexy, and the movie is set to an excellent and completely unusual score by Daniele Pattuchi. It all moves at a fairly solid pace, never really lagging or wanting for entertainment value and a few nice Italian locations help keep things looking impressive and maybe more upscale than they might otherwise.
Performance wise, Placido make for a pretty good leading man here. He's easy to like and handsome enough that we don't reject his relationship with curvy beauty Clery. He's tough, cool and smart and we can see why they like one another. Clery has an interesting femme fatale quality to her here (the film makes use of some interesting noirish characteristics) and plays the part well, while the supporting efforts from Wallach and Skerritt (both of whom are underused) are appreciated if not career highlights for either actor. All in all it's a strange film but a well made one with a lot to offer fans of seventies Italian genre cinema.
Sporting an all new transfer mastered in high definition in its proper 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio, Plot Of Fear looks pretty damn good on DVD. Detail can be a little soft in spots but this looks to have been how the movie was originally shot. You can't fault the color reproduction here, it looks very good and black levels are pretty strong too. There aren't any noticeable compression artifacts nor is there any edge enhancement to note and the image is consistently detailed and clean looking.
Dolby Digital Mono audio options are provided in Italian and English language options. The Italian track sounds a little more authentic but it seems both tracks were dubbed in post anyway (and neither Skerritt nor Wallach contribute to the English dub job) so take your pick. Whichever option you go for you'll get pretty clear audio, properly balanced levels and a good sounding score. The optional English subtitles contain one or two very minor typos but are fine otherwise and are always clean looking and easy to read.
The bulk of the extras on the disc come in the form of three interviews: screenwriter Enrico Oldoini speaks about working on the film and it's mish mash of ideas and about a few times he pitched in behind the camera on this film for thirteen minutes, the director's son Pietro Cavara talks in fairly philosophical terms about his father's work in the Italian film industry for just over thirteen minutes and the film's leading man Michele Placido spends seventeen minutes discussing his experiences working on the picture and noting that he wasn't especially a fan of cop thrillers and how he's gone and made the switch from acting to directing. Each of the three interviews is worth checking out and add some value to the package. Those with a DVD-Rom can pop the disc into their computer and check out a PDF of liner notes from Fangoria's Chris Alexander who makes some interesting comparisons to this film and others of its ilk - definitely worth a read.
Plot Of Fear is an interesting cop thriller by way of giallo with a pretty fun cast, some cool twists, some memorably bizarre set pieces and a couple of cool kills. How much it will appeal to those who don't already have an affinity for Italian genre films is probably debatable but for those who do, check this one out - you won't be disappointed and Raro's DVD offers the movie up in great shape and with some solid supplements too. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.