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[PLOT OF FEAR - (1976) - Widescreen - directed by Paolo Cavara - In Italian w/ English subtitles] An effeminate middle-aged man in an extremely colorfully decorated, well-to-do apartment sits in his afghan reading aloud from a book about artful decadence when his doorbell rings. He's both expecting and excited by this caller, and has to disarm an elaborate alarm system to open the door. In walks a large, expressionless tall woman, whom he greets with a glass of champagne after she takes off her coat. She slaps his face, then once again as he slumps to the floor submissively, and she drags him to his feet by his hair and proceeds to strangle him. Opening credits roll.
A bus pulls into its last stop, and the sole passenger, an attractive woman with brunette hair, gets up to leave by the rear door. It won't open; she makes a harsh comment to the driver, tries the door again, and sees the faceless driver with his cap pulled downward walking down the aisle with an extremely large wrench. Instead of using it to pry the door, he bludgeons her with it. He then leaves a children's book illustration on her lifeless torso.
In a packed police station, we're introduced to a stereotypical selection of societal outcasts (hookers, pimps, drunks, trannies, cons, etc.) and the inspector in charge of these two particular homicides, Lomenzo (Michele Placido). We soon learn that the male victim was known by the hookers as 'Lollipop', due to his penchant for licking feet, legs and buttocks of the hired women, and he was into S+M fetish clubs. There was a calling card left there too, and both were from a 19th century children's classic, "Shock-Headed Peter". The victims were both members and founders of a now defunct sect, 'The Fauna Lovers Club', affluent animal lovers who went on safari to collect endangered species and transport them back to Villa Hoffman, and also pot and hashish in the process - so probably more flora than fauna. They disbanded when their leader, Hoffman, split for Amsterdam with all the proceeds, and is now rumored deceased. And the Villa abandoned.
Elsewhere, someone who's missing a few fingers is compiling a scrapbook from the obituaries of the fallen members. The Inspector and his lowbrow assistant get a lead and are off to an address in a low income apartment area, and while they're sidetracked by an attractive tenant who undresses as distraction after telling them to leave, the person of interest gets away on a scooter. They find the scrapbook in his apartment and locate him hiding nearby, and Lomenzo and he scuffle brutally before the suspect is arrested. He's a former pimp who just got out of stir, and now they believe they've got their killer but, that same night, a streetwalker in a secluded area is accosted, bound to a tree, doused with gas and set aflame. Another illustration is left on her scorched corpse, and the inspector is back to square one.
Soon enough, three more members of the notorious club are killed in different but equally grisly manners, more illustrations are left at crime scenes, and Inspector Lomenzo meets a fashion model (Corrine Clery) who too was once a club member, and they begin a relationship that unveils new information regarding a party held at The Villa Hoffman four years ago where bizarre sex games, drugs, and a dead call girl all tie into the homicides currently under investigation. The backstory now unfolds through a series of ingenious flashbacks, and there's also a unique subplot involving a high-tech surveillance company run by Eli Wallach (in one of his better late-career roles) that plays more than a passing role in the film's interesting plot and outcome. But that's all that can be divulged without spoilers, and this little gem is certainly worth hunting out and watching the 'Plot of Fear' unfold for you. There's much more than I've even suggested going on in this flick, and Cavara does a solid job directing a fine cast in a late-period giallo that keeps you unaware of the final outcome and killer (or is he?) until that moment arrives. Peppered throughout with dark humor and wry dialogue, this one won't insult your intelligence while you're awaiting the next kill or probable outcome.
RaroVideo again delivers a little-known film that's newly transferred with great colors and contrast, crystal-clear audio, new subtitles (though there are a few typos) and the occasional blemish here and there to remind us of its age (and probable poor storage through the decades), but these in no way diminish your viewing enjoyment. I was entertained from start to finish, and recommend this one highly to anyone looking for an older oddity to help bring them down from the bad acid of all that CGI crap they've been ingesting lately. 4 stars.