Cold Eyes of Fear (a.k.a. Gli occhi freddi della paura)
Redemption Films // Unrated // $19.95 // May 21, 2013
Review by Tyler Foster | posted May 23, 2013
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Graphical Version
Anna (Giovanna Ralli) and Peter (Gianni Garko) are having a nice night out. They return to Peter's place for a little nightcap, only to discover an intruder in the house (Julian Mateos), who holds them in the house. The intruder, Quill, keeps them there until his partner arrives, a mysterious man dressed as a police officer (Frank Wolff). It's clear to Peter almost instantly that the intrusion and hostage situation is related to his job at a law firm, working under his father Juez (Fernando Rey), but the big boss refuses to reveal the details of what it is he's looking for in Juez's files.

Helmed by by Enzo Castellari of the original Inglorious Bastards, Cold Eyes of Fear (also known as Desperate Moments in the United States) shows bursts of directorial creativity, but it feels as if the essence of the movie is lost in translation. Although I can't find any concrete information online as to whether the English dub on this DVD is any more "definitive" than an Italian-language version (some Italian films have dubs in their homeland as well), but this performance-heavy movie struggles with all the usual hallmarks of a bad dub, from strange sentence structure and weak performances, all the way through to flat-out silly voices.

Primarily, Cold Eyes ought to be a dramatic show-piece for Wolff. As the mysterious intruder, he's charismatic, he's frightening, he's desperate, and he's insane. With each new scene and challenge, Wolff gets another chance to show off his dramatic chops and one-up everyone else in the room. Sadly, as the most dialogue-heavy performance in the movie, Wolff's also the one who takes the biggest hit from the film's strange English audio, which clearly doesn't sync up emotionally with what Wolff is doing on screen. One dramatic line reading, which Wolff appears to be yelling, is delivered in English with the intensity of a guy checking out at a gas station. Although the visual aspect of his performance remains intact -- the beads of sweat on his face, the anxiousness in his eyes -- it's only half of what he's attempting to deliver.

It could be argued that Mateos gets the shorter end of the stick, with the actor hired to dub him in English adopting a voice that sounds something like an early Borat impression done through the nose, but his character is less involved, spending a chunk of the movie unconscious. Rey is replaced by a generic American actor who plays it mostly like a soap opera. Still, the fact that Rey and Garko are in different places and must communicate by telephone helps maintain some of the tension; a scene where Wolff has a gun trained on Garko while they talk on the phone (and Garko attempts to devise some sort of message about his predicament) is still pretty gripping, because the tension comes from the situation, and not the intentionally banal dialogue between the characters.

Castellari, for his part, does a good job. Although the film is front-loaded with character and dialogue situations, some opportunities for flair arise in the second half. The appearance of a bomb rigged to a door leads to a wonderfully stylish shot from behind the doorknob, and a car short car chase crackles with tension and kinetic excitement. The film's best scene involves a cat squeezing into a tiny space, which Castellari stages with just the right undercurrent of humor. Sadly, these little morsels just increase the desire to see the film as it was originally intended -- these would make for fantastic escalating beats in a film where the groundwork wasn't mucked up. Some people can deal with dubs, and some movies can handle the extra pressure, but as a first time viewer of Cold Eyes of Fear, the loss of Italian was a fatal blow.

Redemption sticks with its usual art template: a newly-created piece with the original title treatment right off the poster, with a still of a character in the foreground (usually a gorgeous woman), against another crucial moment as a background, with the Redemption banner across the top. The disc comes in a standard plastic-conserving eco-case and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Kino's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio presentation are mostly on par with the Rollin titles I've seen. Detail and definition of the image is very good, especially considering the age of the movie. Colors are improved and are nicely vivid, although they have that vintage tint toward pink skin with hints of yellow and green creeping in. Print damage is visible but generally not intrusive.

As mentioned in the review, the audio is more disappointing. The only track on this release is an English dub. Although many Italian films were produced without a true "original" language, IMDb says the original language was Italian, and the packaging refers to it as a dub, so I'm operating under the assumption that there was an Italian track at some point. In terms of the actual sound of the track, it's a little rough around the edges but basically clear, with a nice representation of Morricone's frantic score, but the separation from the picture is obvious even ignoring the loss of the actors' original line readings. Frustratingly (given the constant fluctuation in volume), there are no subtitles or closed captions.

The Extras
The only extra is a gallery of trailers, including Hatchet For the Honeymoon, Black Magic Rites, The Asphyx, The Comeback, and Night of the Hunted. An original U.S. trailer (complete with alternate title Desperate Moments) is included.

Although the film has plenty of merit and the transfer is nice, I'm lowering this to a rental. There are probably plenty of people who have already seen and are accustomed to this version of the movie, but newcomers should be aware that this is a limited version of the picture.

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