Knife of Ice

02/21/2023 09:12

Film: Knife of Ice (Il coletello di ghiaccio)

Year: 1972

Director: Umberto Lenzi

Writer: Umberto Lenzi and Antonio Troiso

Starring: Carroll Baker, Alan Scott and Evelyn Stewart



This is a movie that I heard about thanks to Duncan and Dave Parker. I believe this was part of the Lenzi/Baker boxset that they covered over on the Podcast Under the Stairs. This went on a list of movies to check out. I decided to give it a go since it fell in genre. Another Umberto Lenzi movie was selected by the randomizer for New Year, New Movie on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie podcast and it ended in a year I’ve gone through with a Trek through the Twos. Decided to do a double feature of his works.

Synopsis: a mute woman finds herself at the center of a series of murders in the mountains of Spain, which police suspect are being committed by a drug-addled Satanist.

We start this off a bull fight. The opening credits roll and we get a quote from Edgar Allan Poe about fear being a knife of ice. I did look this up and it was made up by the filmmaking as a FYI. Martha Caldwell (Carroll Baker) is in attendance. We see her as she leaves and goes to a train station. She seems freaked out about it. It is here that we learn she is mute. She makes a call to her boyfriend, Dr. Laurent (Alan Scott), by using morse code through tapping on the phone. She is at the station to pick up her sister, Jenny Ascot (Evelyn Stewart). Martha’s driver is Marcos (Eduardo Fajardo) and he’s there to take them home.

There is an odd scene where the car overheats. Around them is a thick fog. Marcos leaves to see if he can find something to cool the engine. While he is gone, Woody Mason (Mario Pardo) pops up. He has a weird coloring of his irises. We learn later that this is caused by drug use. After spooking the two women, Marcos returns and they head home.

Martha lives with her uncle, Ralph (George Rigaud). He is into the occult which Jenny brings him books on the subject he doesn’t have. They live with a housekeeper, Mrs. Annie Britton (Silvia Monelli). There is also a teen girl that comes around of Rosalie (Olga Gherardi). I will include here that Dr. Laurent is seeing Martha, causing him to be over quite a bit.

This family knows tragedy. I wanted to make sure I set up that up. Martha and Jenny’s parents died in a train accident. This is why Martha is afraid of them. Dr. Laurent is helping her get over this. That odd man they saw might also be in the area. He traumatized Martha to where she keeps seeing him. More misfortunes strike when members of this group are murdered with Woody being the prime suspect. Is he doing the killings though?

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that this is a bit different take on a giallo. Inspector Duran (Franco Fantasia) is leading the investigation into the first murder. There are others that follow. We get a black gloved killer as well. Where we go wasn’t something I was expecting though so I did like that.

Now that I’ve established the main giallo elements, I want to delve a bit more in the specifics that make this one different. The main suspect is Woody. The belief is that since he is a satanist. There are markings that are found by the crime scenes. We don’t necessarily see them at first, but we go back and see the evidence. This also makes Uncle Ralph a suspect with his knowledge and love of the occult. Dr. Laurent also comes and goes at odd times which is suspicious. Marcos just has a look about him so that makes me consider him as a possibility. These all kept me guessing until the reveal which I thought was good.

The last bit of the story I want to go into is with Martha. What is interesting there is that she is a mute. It is never established what there was an injury that caused this or if it was psychosomatic. I lean toward the latter with what happens late in the movie. She never got over the trauma of what happened to her parents. I thought how this handled mental illness with her was good. This also makes for an odd performance for Baker. She must convey everything with facial expression and body language. What she did there was good so I give credit.

Sticking with the acting, the rest of the cast is solid. I think that Scott, Stewart, Fajardo, Monelli, Rigaud and the rest of the cast was good. They all play their characters well, making some of them into red herrings. I should also include Pardo in here as well. His eyes are so creepy which was good. The acting was consistent across the board and the rest of the group rounded this out for what was needed.

The last things then to go into would be with the filmmaking. I thought this was shot well. We get that point of view to hide who the killer is so that keeps the mystery going. The reveal there was interesting and I wasn’t expecting it so I give credit. I don’t think this is a cheat which is also good. The effects were solid. From what I remember, they were limited which surprised me. I’d expect a bit more from Lenzi. I’m not holding it against the movie though. Other than that, I thought the soundtrack was fine. It worked for what was needed without necessarily standing out.

In conclusion, this is a solid giallo. It has a simple enough set up and I think it does well in setting up a decent number of red herrings. I tend to judge these types on whether or not I can guess who the killer is. This is one where I was left guessing until the end. I thought that Baker had a good performance and the rest of the cast was consistent around her. This is a well-made movie as well. I would recommend it to fans of this sub-genre of film for sure. Not the best, but worth a viewing for sure.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10