KNIFE OF ICE (1972)
THE COMPLETE LENZI BAKER GIALLO COLLECTION
THE COMPLETE LENZI BAKER GIALLO COLLECTION
Label: Severin Films
Region Code: A
Duration: 92 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: Italian & English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Cast: Carroll Baker, Alan Scott, Evelyn Stewart, Eduardo Fajardo, Silvia Montelli, George Rigaud
In her fourth and final team-up with Lenzi in '72 Carroll Baker gives a fantastic performance as Martha Caldwell, a woman who has been mute since witnessing her parent's death fifteen years earlier in a horrific train wreck. She lives with her elderly uncle Ralph (George Rigaud, Eyeball) who suffers a serious heart condition, and at the start of the film she is at the train station, a traumatic place to be considering how her folks dies, but in an effort to face her face her fears head-on she meets her cousin Jenny (Evelyn Scott, The Psychic) there, she being a singer of some repute. Soon after arriving Jenny is found murdered in the garage of the house, and things begin unraveling from there, with this fourth Lenzi-Baker team-up being the most traditional black-glove giallo of their collaborations, with a variety of guilty-looking red-herrings and a black gloved, strange-eyed killer on the loose, with a mounting body count.
Seriously though, the could-be killers are a dime a dozen in this whodunit romp, you have your choice of an ominous looking chauffeur (Eduardo Fajardo, Nightmare City), a drug-addled satanist (Mario Pardo, The Platform) that lurks in the cemetery across the street, and doctor (Alan Scott) with a penchant for disappearing when murder is afoot, it could be any one of them. While there is a decent body count for a Lenzi directed giallo of this era the deaths all happen off screen and there is absolutely no nudity in this chaste whodunit, but that doesn't at all detract from the engaging story and dizzying plot twist that caps this taut thriller.
Something that adds quite a bit of atmosphere to this whodunit some welcomed Gothic touches and an old dark house vibe, with the power often turning off during storms and people wandering darkened hallways by candlelight, often wandering into the arms of a black-gloved killer wielding a knife. It's also got a nice inversion of The Spiral Staircase story with a mute victim at the center of it all, bodies piling up around her, but the way it all comes together at the end is pure giallo WTF-ery. This feels like the most playful of the Lenzi-Baker whodunits, in terms of it following the tropes but having fun with them.
That's not to detract from the performance of Baker whose wordless turns as the mute is so good, she does a lot of acting with her face, often silent screaming in wide-eyed terror, adding nice touches along the way like the way she claps to communicate in a rudimentary way, as well as tapping coins on the receiver of the phone to talks with her physician, it's really good stuff that adds to the film in a little ways that add-up.
Audio/Video: Knife of Ice (1972) arrives on region A Blu-ray from Severin Films as part of their The Complete Lenzi Baker Giallo Collection 6-disc set, framed in the original scope aspect ratio in 1080p HD, sourced from a 2k scan from the original camera negative. We get a pleasing looking image with good grain management and nice clarity throughout, colors are vivid and the black levels are string in the shadowy night-time sequences. Some of the scenes are shot with a soft focus with some filtering and lack sharpness but this is no fault of the transfer. Audio comes by way of both English and Italian DTS-HD MA mono with optional English subtitles, dialogue sounds crisp and the score from Marcello Giombini (Eerie Midnight Horror Show) sounds terrific.
Surprisingly there is no commentary track for this film, but we do get nearly an hour of interviews, the first being the 18-min 'Until the Silence Screams' with the late director who talks about making this fourth film with Carroll Baker, having grown slightly tired of working with the same actress and with the same sort of plot variations, so he spiced it up with a nod to The Spiral Staircase (1946), rearranging the narrative structure and other elements to put a different spin on it. He gets into how the Manson Family murder of Sharon Tate affected him, so much so that he asked a young screenwriter to pen a script based on the Manson murders, only to find out that the screenwriter sold it to another director! Nonetheless he made this film and the drug-addicted Satanist is a slight reference to that. He also pays tribute to the young screenwriter who co-wrote the story with him, he having passed away at the age of 30 from cancer before filming had even started. Lenzi takes a moment to points out that not only was American Alan Scott - who played the doctor - to poor to buy socks when he hired him, but says he was a wretch of an actor who was worse than mediocre, and it was difficult to get a decent performance from. He then goes onto compliment Spaniard Eduardo Fajardo (Django), and forgiving him for being a fascist, and how he enjoyed working with Argentinian George Rigaud (Bastille Day). He also notes how difficult it was to shoot the fog drenched sequences, they being difficult to film, and working with composer Marcello Gombino (Legion of the Damned) for the score, and how tastes in Italy were changing with Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) creating a demand for more blood and violence, and as such this film did not do well.
Stephen Thrower shows up for a half-hour appreciation of the film, keeping with a theme of sorts for this box set in re-evaluating the filmography of Umberto Lenzi. He notes that it's unfortunate that the director has been earmarked by the trashier cannibal films he made, and that's what he is best known for but he makes the argument that Lenzi was not really a horror director at all, that his bread and butter were the poltizia and giallo thrillers he made earlier in his career. He gets into star Carroll Baker's career both before, during and after her Italian cycle of film, and how '72 was a particularly dense year for gialli films, and that creating a new twist on this sort of film at that time was a challenge. He also touches on the various influences on the film, from The Spiral Staircase (1946) to what looks to be an echo of Fulci's A Lizard In A Woman's Skin (1971). Thrower also gets into how this film is ripe with giallo tropes, including a plethora of could-be culprits who might be the killer, and how it has a Gothic old dark house vibe. Extras are buttoned up with a 3-min trailer and a 2-min alternate credit sequence.
- Carroll and Umberto's Final Stab - Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of 'Nightmare USA'(29 min)
- Until the Silence Screams - Interview with Director Umberto Lenzi (19 min)
- Trailer (3 min)
- Alternate Credit Sequence (2 min)
Despite being asolutely sexless, near bloodless - though there is a child murdered and a blood covered kitten! - Knife of Ice (1972) is a high-caliber bit of Italian whodunit, the story is interesting, the performances are mostly fantastic, and it's a definite memorable finale to the Lenzi-Baker series of giallo shockers. The film is available as part of Severin's 6-disc limited edition The Complete Lenzi Baker Giallo Collection, there's not a bad apple in the bunch and each one pack it's own peculiar giallo punch, highly recommended.
More screenshots from the Blu-ray: