RINGS OF FEAR (UK VIP pre-cert video cover)
aka TRAUMA (US video title)
aka VIRGIN TERROR (US video title and alternate UK video title)

3 and a half stars

"Sweet sixteen...
They'll lose more than their lives."

directed by: Alberto Negrin
starring: Fabio Testi, Ivan Desny, Bruno Alessandro, Jack Taylor, Christine Kaufmann, Fausta Avelli, Brigette Wagner, Caroline Ohrner, Silvia Aguilar, Taida Urruzcla, Helga Line', Tony Isbert

(back of video blurb):

       "Young police detective, Di Salvo, is investigating the discovery of the body of a 16 year old schoolgirl, found mutilated and brutally sexually assaulted on the outskirts of the city. His investigations lead him to a kuxury villa where wealthy businessmen enjoy entertaining themselves with the murdered girl's schoolfriends

       Di Salvo finds an unspoken bond of silence between the girls. A silence instilled through fear, the fear of being silenced by being slaughtered themselves before he can question them. A disturbing and explicit portrayal of the lengths that people will go to, to protect their name."

choice dialogue:

"Must have been somebody with a pretty developed sense of peversion."

- the police discuss Angelo's killer

slash with panache?

        Whilst audiences in the States were being wowed by John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN in Italy they were being entertained by the ultra sleazy schoolgirls-in-peril thrills of Alberto Negrin's RINGS OF FEAR.

       In a pre-credits sequence (to the strains of some seriously funky music) a corpse, zipped up in a body-bag, is tossed over the side of a cliff from the back of a distinctive looking car. The body, that of a sixteen year old girl, is Di Salvo buys cat food (right); a photo of Angelo (right) discovered by the shore-side and Inspector Johnny Di Salvo (Joe Dallesandro look-a-like Fabio Testi) is called in to investigate. He discovers that she had been violated with a blunt instrument- something which fellow policeman relays to him, "Somebody made a real mess of her belly- cut up this long. Awesome.", to which Di Salvo retorts, "You come up with the strangest choices of words somedays!". "I get my vocabulary from the Readers Digest", the policeman bounces back cheerfully (more than hinting that good taste ain't high up on this giallo's agenda!).

       The girl (named as Angelo Russo), it turns out, was a student at an exclusive girl's school- St. Theresa's. Di Salvo speaks to Angelo's Mother (Helga Line') in an effort to shed some light on the girl's death, but finds that Angelo's little sister, Emily (Fausta Avelli), who also boards at St. Theresa's, has lots of information to share. She tells him that Angelo was Angelo's little sister points Di Salvo in the right directionpart of a clique at the school, a group of friends who call themselves 'the inseparables', and who never did anything without the others knowing about it. Di Salvo visits the school and meets the motley staff (a shifty bunch- a more likely bunch of reprobates you'd be hard pressed to find), which are headed by an prim head-mistress who mutters, with some distaste, to the Inspector, "Make sure you quite understand we're not used to having police officers on the premises."- to which Di Salvo bites back, "I hope you're not used to having your students murdered also!". He comes away with Angelo's diary, which Emily manages to secure of for him, and ponders over the meaning of a cat figure which had been sketched next to each Saturday.

       Meanwhile the murdered schoolgirl's friends- the surviving members of 'the inseperables' ( Franca, Paola and Virginia), are being plagued by menacing notes, ("Death will come to each of you!") ,from someone who calls themselves 'Nemesis'. Virginia (Brigitte Wagner) nearly collapses from some ailment and the girls findthe inseperables are confronted by Di Salvo themselves in real danger, which begins when one of them nearly breaks her neck after a bolt is fired at the horse she's riding.

       Di Salvo has to employ more and more underhand ways to solve Angelo's murder, protect the school girls of St. Theresa's and dodge attempts on his own life, as he unravels a seedy underground of deadly vice…

       Alberto Negrin's film works pretty well on all levels. As a giallo it is especially successful, the central mystery unravels nicely and, for once, the denouement came as a real shock- and made perfect sense in retrospect. It echoes the classic gialli of the early 70's- despite the fact that it looks a little old fashioned when compared to what was coming the inseperables are under the gaze of Nemesis even in the shower.out of America at the time, but it does benefit from employing all the best elements of the golden age of Italian thrillers. However, at odds with this is the film's resolutely grimy feel which mixes ultra-sleaze with classic imagery (black leather gloves left by a bed-stand as a throwaway red herring and the spooky Bava-esque close-ups of statue's of a nun's face in the moonlight- mixes with voyeuristic shower room shenanigans (observed by a leering and disembodied eye- utilising Argento-esque macros) and, in a jaw droppingly tasteless moment, inter-cutting flashbacks from an orgy scene during an abortion). Clearly this was the way that the genre was heading- reaching a zenith of delirious debauchery with Mario Landi's GIALLO A VENEZIA a year later. Negrin's film certainly doesn't reach those depths (or heights depending on the way you look at it!), and it never really overshadows the central mystery.

Di Salvo uses an unusual method of interagation!       The film benefits from being peopled with a lively bunch which whilst colourful never quite slips over into the realms of caricature. From Testi's rounded and quirky cat loving Di Salvo, who, in a memorable scene, interrogates a suspect by scaring him witless on a thundering roller-coaster. To the oddball teaching staff at St. Theresa's. Curiously, the only characters who don't really shine are the schoolgirls who play 'the inseparables' at the centre of the puzzle, they seem to be most of the time fairly indifferent as the action unravels around them. However that is really only a minor quibble.

       RINGS OF FEAR is well worth tracking down. I was lucky, I stumbled across the uncut pre-cert UK 'VIP' tape recently which sat shamelessly on top of a pile of light romantic tat in a chaotic junk shop (which just goes to show that these films do still turn up).

BODYCOUNT 5   bodycount!   female:2 / male:3

       1: Female body seen being thrown from cliff
       2: Male motorcyclist forced into path of on-coming truck
       3: Female killed (method unseen)
       4: Male stabbed to death with curling tongs (!)
       5: Male falls from dam