Circle of Fear

Circle of Fear

"You get him and we can bust the whole operation."

After police Detective Tony Giordani (Michael Woods) and his professional - and secret romantic - partner, Lisa Bonetti (Kay Rush, credited as Kay Sandvik) botch a drug bust, a mafia hitman takes out Tony's ex-wife, Elvi (Gianna Paola) and wounds Tony.  Upon recovering, Tony finds photos of an abandoned house that Elvi took shortly before her death and realizes that she was targeted because of an incriminating detail in the photos. His investigation leads to homicidal psych ward patient Mrs. Beaumon (Annie Girardot), who holds answers in the cold case of the Full Moon Killer, who decapitated his redheaded victims before his murder spree came to a sudden and mysterious end. Could the killer be Mrs. Beaumon's creepy psychiatrist (Yves Collington)? Or perhaps it's the shifty-eyed legal aide (Pier Paolo Palladino). Tony and Lisa must hurry before the killer strikes again!

Ohmygod this movie is awful. Hilariously, watchably awful. But Circle of Fear (not to be confused with Rings of Fear) is a different kind of awful than you might expect. The filmmakers cram way too many ideas into the scant 78 minutes of screen time, trying to touch every base, including Rambo-style shootouts, narcotics cop drama, sexy thriller, serial killer mystery, heist movie, and mobster movie.  And it includes just about every laughably obvious clich√© that those genres are famous for. There are so many ideas, in fact, that most of them go unresolved, including the narcotics investigation that starts the plot. Legendary giallo director Aldo Lado used a pseudonym on his credit and for very good reason.
  • Cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller, who created the visual language of Deep Red with Dario Argento, is really slumming here.
  • The only other notable name (besides Aldo Lado) is Burt Young as mafia don Mancini. You may recognize him as Pauly Pennino in the Rocky movies.
  • The whole production – down to the jazzy cop-show music – has a very TV-movie vibe, but it actually did receive a theatrical release.
  • The original Italian title translates to The Perfect Alibi, which does not make any more sense than Circle of Fear.
  • The body count is 10+ because we're never told how many people the Full Moon killer originally killed.

What the Hell Am I Watching? 

Where does this movie take place? It starts off at a restaurant in a pagoda, which implies that we're in southeast Asia, but then the action moves to a Western-style city. The cars have European license plates and the parks have palm trees, so I'm inclined to think that the movie is set in Italy.

The most eye-rolling and shameless appropriation is a large chunk of the movie lifted almost verbatim from Silence of the Lambs, when Tony visits Mrs. Beaumon in psychiatric solitary confinement. Her creepster psychiatrist gives strict instructions – stand away from the glass, don't pass her any objects, etc. - and he enters in darkness, staring at his own reflection before she emerges, Hannibal Lechter-like from the darkness. This whole plot thread continues exactly as in Jonathan Demme's Oscar-winning film and this painfully feeble copy only serves to highlight how beautifully written, acted, and directed Silence of the Lambs really was.

There are two crazy 80's-style shootouts in restaurants. In the second one, Lisa pulls out a shotgun from nowhere and just starts blasting away.

This movie appears to have been made with no concern for depicting police procedure (and, in fact, rational human behavior) in a realistic fashion. The examples are countless, from the way the cops enter a room to how they hold their guns, to the fact that Tony, the victim of a failed assassination attempt, gets no police protection upon returning home. And he doesn't think twice about opening his door to strangers.

Also, imagine how difficult, messy, and time-consuming it would be to sever a human head using only a switchblade.

At the end of the movie we see someone commit suicide by gun. Then he gets up, grabs a knife, and stabs himself in the chest. It's so stupid your brain might just explode.

Fashion Moment

Lisa makes a striking first impression in this blue silk dress.

Later on, she totally rocks the asymetrical top-pony tail.

Also, this mafia thug keeps up the long-standing giallo tradition of hitmen in mirrored sunglasses.

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