Alberto Negrin, 1978
Starring: Fabio Testi, Christine Kaufmann, Ivan Desny, Helga Liné
"I hope you're not used to having your students murdered!"
When a teenage girl’s dead body is found floating in the river, Inspector DiSalvo begins asking questions at a nearby private boarding school, St. Theresa’s. He learns from the girl’s strange younger sister that she was part of a small clique known as “The Inseparables,” and the autopsy report reveals that she was assaulted before death. DiSalvo meets with resistance at seemingly every turn, from the school’s reticent teachers to the other “Inseparables,” who begin receiving menacing letter, possibly from the killer. DiSalvo is determined to use any means necessary to find the murderer’s identity and get to the bottom of goings on at the school.
The third and final film in director and writer Massimo Dallamano’s schoolgirls in peril giallo trilogy, Rings of Fear is entertaining — thanks to the ever wonderful Fabio Testi — but is sadly inferior to the first two films, What Have You Done to Solange? and What Have They Done to Your Daughters? Dallamano died in an accident right after directing poliziotteschi film Colt 38 Special Squad, so Alberto Negrin took over this last film in the series. Negrin primarily director for television, including recent Italian crime series L’isola and WWII-themed fare like Memories of Anne Frank (2009) and Mussolini and I (with Susan Sarandon, Anthony Hopkins, and Bob Hoskins).
Co-written by Dallamano, this covers much of the same ground as the first two films in the trilogy. SPOILERS: The clique of schoolgirls, to no one’s great surprise, is involved in an underage prostitution ring, where they have sex with wealthy, powerful men in exchange for clothes and money. While this film downplays the violence and suspense found in the first two, there are plenty of sleazy scenes, including shots of an orgy, yet another abortion, and some naked shower room games. It’s enough of a stretch to believe that there’s one giallo movie where a woman is attacked with a giant dildo, but between Rings of Fear and The Sister of Ursula (where this is the killer’s murder weapon of choice) there are, quite incredibly, two. At least two, since I haven’t seen ever giallo ever made.
As I’ve already said, the film is so enjoyable primarily because of Fabio Testi’s starring role. He covered an unusual amount of territory throughout his career, including art house classics like The Garden of the Finzi-Contini’s and The Most Important This is to Love, poliziotteschi films such as Gang War in Naples, Revolver, and Contraband, and even a few giallo efforts such as this film and What Have You Done to Solange?, among many other genres. Unlike most of the actors of his generation, he still has an active career and is still ludicrously handsome. Strangely, he’s aged to look more and more like an Italian Sean Connery.
Here, he must contend with a lot of difficult customers at St. Theresa’s, the girls’ school. The group of teenage “mean girls” known as “the Inseparables” are not only incredibly unhelpful with the investigation, but they seem to be in actual danger at times — one of them is nearly killed on horseback — and someone known as “Nemesis” (an easy to figure out but unidentified figure) is sending them menacing notes. The school has what must be the world’s most untrustworthy teaching staff and his girlfriend is a kleptomaniac who abruptly leaves him halfway through the film. But with the usual charm, he is adept at kicking ass and taking names — even going so far as to interrogate a suspect on a roller coaster. And I think I failed to mention that the only person who helps him out is the first victim’s younger sister, an outsider at the school who is just a little bit creepy.
Also known as Red Rings of Fear, Virgin Terror, and Trauma, this Italian-German-Spanish giallo is really only for giallo completists or Fabio Testi fans. There’s a delightful Riz Ortolani score, a fair number of entertaining scenes, and very sleazy tone, but the script is flawed. There are lots of bizarre subplots that go unresolved and characters that sort of wander off — such as the Inspector’s girlfriend — and it’s very derivative of the two previous films in the trilogy. But where else are you going to see a suspect interrogated — and terrified out of his wits — on a roller coaster? I don’t believe the film is available on DVD for English-speaking audiences, but you can find it floating around online.