International Horror Film Review: Nothing Underneath (dir by Carlo Vanzina)

The 1985 Italian film, Nothing Underneath, is a giallo that’s achieved some notoriety based on the fact that it’s not a very easy film to find.

Seriously, I’ve spent years looking for this film.  I had read enough good things about it to make me believe that it was a film that I, as an unapologetic fan of Italian horror, simply had to see.  Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, it’s never gotten a proper DVD or Blu-ray release in the United States.  It’s not so much that the film is controversial or even particularly graphic.  Apparently, the main problem is that the film takes place in the world of high fashion and that means that there are several scenes that take place at fashion shows and most of those scenes feature songs that were very popular in 1985.  Nothing Underneath has never gotten a proper video release because of all the music.  It’s kind of unfortunate, really.  There are so many good movies that are currently in limbo because of disputes over the rights to the music on the film’s soundtrack.

Anyway, the good news is that last night, I was able to find Nothing Underneath on YouTube!  So, I finally got to watch it.

The bad news is that I watched it in Italian with no subtitles.

Now, that’s not quite as big of an issue as you might think.  The thing with Italian horror films is that the story is often less important than how it’s told.  The best Italian horror films are all about style and suspense and less about keeping track of who did what to whom.  That’s certainly appears to be the case with Nothing Underneath.  Film is a visual medium, after all.

The film is about a brother and a sister.  Bob (Tom Schanley) is a park ranger who works at Yellowstone and is very happy with his simple and honest life.  Jessica (Nicole Peering) is a fashion model who currently lives in Milan and who spends all of her days modeling lingerie and fighting off sleazy coke addicts.  Bob and Jessica have such an extremely strong bond that, occasionally, Bob has visions of Jessica’s life in Milan.  Whenever Jessica is in danger, Bob knows it.  When Bob has a vision of someone stalking Jessica while carrying scissors and wearing black gloves, he rushes back to his ranger station and calls Italy to warn her.  Unfortunately, he’s too late.  By the time he convinces the surly desk clerk as Jessica’s apartment building to give Jessica the message, Jessica has disappeared.

Bob flies to Milan, determined to find his sister.  He teams up with Commissioner Danesi (Donald Pleasence) to investigate Jessica’s disappearance.  As soon as I saw Donald Pleasence, I automatically assumed that he would eventually turn out to be involved in Jessica’s disappearance but no.  Pleasence actually plays a good guy in the film, one who appears to harbor no dark secrets.  That was kind of a nice change of pace and, even though he was dubbed into Italian, I could tell that Pleasence gave a likable and sympathetic performance in this film.

It turns out that the black-gloved killer is murdering models all over Milan.  Can Bob discover the killer’s identity?  Will he be able to protect Barbara (Renee Simonsen), the killer’s latest target?  And will he discover all of the sordid details about Jessica’s life in Milan?

Despite the language barrier, I enjoyed Nothing Underneath.  It’s an old school giallo, right down to the whodunit mystery and the point-of-view shots of the black-gloved killer.  Visually, the film is impressive.  The opening sequence neatly contrasted the simplicity of Yellowstone with the decadence of Milan and the scenes of the killer stalking their latest victim were nicely done and very suspenseful.  It was a bit hard to judge the actors (as usual, some of the dubbing was very poorly done) but Donald Pleasence was a delight as always and Tom Schanley come across as being very sincere and likable as the park ranger.

I’m glad to have seen Nothing Underneath.  I hope it gets a decent video release at some point in the future.

One response to “International Horror Film Review: Nothing Underneath (dir by Carlo Vanzina)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 10/26/20 — 11/1/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

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