Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sotto il vestito niente (1985)

... aka: Last Shot, The
... aka: Mannekiinimurhaaja (Mannequin Murderer)
... aka: Modelmordene (Model Murders)
... aka: Nothing Underneath
... aka: Où est passée Jessica (Where is Jessica?)
... aka: Pele nua (Bare Skin)

Directed by:
Carlo Vanzina

Small town Wyoming girl Jessica Crane (Nicola Perring) makes big as a model in Europe after landing a gig as cover girl for Moda Italia Magazine. To celebrate, she goes to a disco and ends up getting assaulted in the bathroom by a coke-snorting playboy who attempts to rape her. Jessica manages to claw his face and escape, returns to her hotel room late at night and disappears shortly afterward. Meanwhile in the U.S., Yellowstone park ranger Bob (Tom Schanley), Jessica's twin brother, suspects something is up. He and his sister share some kind of telepathic link where they can sense when the other is being harmed or in danger. Since Bob had visions of a scissor-wielding psycho approaching Jessica's room at the same time it actually was happening, he immediately hops on a plane and flies to Milan to try to locate her. He goes to her hotel and discovers what it's lacking in security (the desk clerk is more interesting in sneaking into the laundry facility to sniff panties), it sure makes up for with beautiful women. The place is filled with gorgeous models but, alas, Jessica is not one of them.







Bob goes to the cops to report his sister's disappearance and is initially met with skepticism by Commissioner Danesi (Donald Pleasence) when he reveals the "telepathic phenomena" he shares with his sibling. Still, Danesi is a little more open minded about the idea than usual and begins researching it. Bob goes to talk to Jessica's modeling agency boss (Anna Galiena), who tells him she's missed her last four jobs and has been fired, and a Japanese photographer who worked with her frequently, who claims to know nothing about her. Another model - Carrie (Catherine Noyes) - is murdered in her hotel room with a pair of scissors. Carrie's lover Giorgio (Paolo Tomei) is a filthy rich jeweler who's well-known for screwing every model in town. He's also the same guy who'd tried to rape Jessica in the bathroom before she went missing. Still, he appears to have a foolproof alibi for at least one of the murders. Another model named Margaux (Maria McDonald), who has ties with Jessica, Carrie and Giorgio, is murdered at a fashion show with the same weapon and there are sepia-toned flashbacks to a deadly game of Russian roulette. Just who's doing all this and why?







International supermodel Renée Simonsen makes her film debut as Barbara; another of the models staying at the hotel who gets friendly with our hero (though perhaps not as friendly as many viewers would like). The Danish Simonsen - who launched her career in 1982 after winning "Supermodel of the Year" honors - isn't much of an actress, but damn if she's not a complete fox. Actually, the entire cast - from our leading man to all of the ladies filling out the supporting roles - is extremely good-looking. And that is sadly about the best thing going on in this one. Some have called it a giallo, and I suppose it technically is with its black-glove-wearing, scissor-slashing mystery psycho, but this comes off mostly like a sub-Hitchcockian thriller more than anything else, with copycat camerawork, a Bernard Herrmann-like score and (failed) attempts at quirky supporting characters. It is competently photographed, presented and edited, and features a decent amount of nudity, but the plot is too ordinary and predictable for it to command much interest.






Mr. Pleasance made this during a time when he was doing a lot of genre films in Italy. He'd already made the wonderful Phenomena (1985) with Dario Argento prior to this one, and would go on to also play supporting roles in Specters (1987), Nosferatu in Venice (1987), Ruggero Deodato's Phantom of Death (1988), Paganini Horror (1989) and others. He's not given much to work with here. It's a pretty boring part. Still, he at least has one odd scene where he eats a plate full of plain spaghetti noodles at Wendy's (!?) and discusses his aversion to ketchup and other "red sauces."







Pino Donaggio contributed the score and it sounds nearly identical to his score for Brian De Palma's Body Double (1984); another film fashioned in the Hitchcock mold. The director was also clearly influenced by Double, as this too features panty-stealing, several scenes of voyeurism (not at all tied in to the plot) and use of a large power drill during the finale. Gloria Gaynor's "I Am What I Am" and Chess / Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok" are heard at a runway show where one poor model is forced to stomp out onto the catwalk clad in a red cape with cows on it. The screenplay was written by the director, his brother, Enrico Vanzina and Franco Ferrini, and is based on the novel of the same name by Marco Parma.







Sony released this on VHS here in America and there was a DVD release in Sweden. Surprisingly, there were actually two sequels to this. The first was Dario Piani's Sotto il vestito niente 2 (1988), which was released under the English titles They Only Come Out at Night (in the U.S.) and Too Beautiful to Die (in the UK). The second sequel was Sotto il vestito niente - L'ultima sfilata ("Nothing Underneath: The Last Parade;" 2011), from the same director and writers, which was a box office flop in Italy and has never been released here.

★★

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