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Phantom of Death (1988)
"Un delitto poco comune" (original title)

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Ratings: 5.4/10 from 381 users  
Reviews: 18 user | 20 critic

Police Comissioner Datti is investigating the murder of a female doctor whose murderer seems to be a thirty-fivish year old man. Soon another murder follows: Pianist Robert Dominici's ... See full summary »



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Title: Phantom of Death (1988)

Phantom of Death (1988) on IMDb 5.4/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Dominici
Hélène Martell
Inspector Datti
Mapi Galán ...
Renato Cortesi ...
Agent Marchi
Gloria Datti
Carola Stagnaro ...
Dr. Carla Pesenti
Daniele Brado ...
Dr. Vanni
Caterina Boratto ...
Robert's Mother
Lewis E. Ciannelli ...
Chief Physician (as Lewis Eduardo Ciannelli)
Renata Dal Pozzo ...
Agent Corsi
Giovanni Lombardo Radice ...
Father Giuliano
Gianni Franco ...
Marino Masé ...
Expert on aging


Police Comissioner Datti is investigating the murder of a female doctor whose murderer seems to be a thirty-fivish year old man. Soon another murder follows: Pianist Robert Dominici's girlfriend is found killed. The killer also challenges Datti on the phone and says he can't be caught since he has a secret which makes him invulnerable. In the meantime the clues seems to point in strange directions... Written by Salvatore Santangelo <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

December 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Phantom of Death  »

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DIRECTOR CAMEO: [Ruggero Deodato] Man at train station who hops on moped. See more »

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User Reviews

Promising but also flawed thriller
15 June 2003 | by (Finland) – See all my reviews

Ruggero Deodato's Un Delitto poco comune aka Off Balance (1987) is an Italian thriller about a wealthy and happy pianist (Michael York) whose life turns upside down after the doctors find a very rare and lethal disease inside him. He starts to grow older very fast, having only few months to live or so and things turn even darker for him as someone starts to viciously murder those close to him. The plot follows police agent Donald Pleasance's attempts to find the killer before it's too late as well as the pianist's own efforts to return a some kind of balance to his life.

Film maker Ruggero Deodato has made one of the most challenging and important films of all time, Cannibal Holocaust (1979) which tells about rotten media violence and the animal species that consumes it. The film is notorious for its unspeakable acts of carnal violence but none of it is in vain or gratuitous which is way too much for some viewers to understand and admit as most of them can't face themselves on the screen. Deodato has also made pure exploitation trash like the 1980 La Casa sperduta nel parco aka The House at the Edge of the Park or Inferno in diretta aka Cut & Run (1985) both of which are mostly just extremely gratuitously violent but also have at least some thoughts and themes to make them more interesting than other nasty and gory Italian films of the period.

Off Balance is written by Gianfranco Clerici whose other credits include the mentioned masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust with Deodato as well as The House at the Edge of the Park but also Lucio Fulci's sadistic and misogynistic terror tale Lo Squartatore di New York aka The New York Ripper (1982) the last two of which are perfect opposites to the firstly mentioned and its subject matter. Off Balance is easily among their weakest works but, fortunately, has some brain too in addition to blood.

The film has a very promising beginning with the first murder scene taking place during the credits inter-cutting to calm scenes depicting the protagonist play piano in his concert. The film moves fastly from the beginning and the characters and their relations get introduced well too. But ultimately, after the first half or so the film loses its fire and becomes slower with plenty of talk and things that don't make too much sense, mostly involving the killer and his (absent) motives for his vicious acts. I can't name one single explanation for his acts and that is rather frustrating once one has realized that. The things that are discussed in the second part are also interesting and important but they are presented with too much contrast with the more lively first half.

The film's theme about aging and living one's life while it's offered and on hand is of course important and surprisingly well-concentrated on in the script and practically the whole last part is about this and not about the killings anymore. The film tries to make the audience understand how important it is not to let your life pass by without living it, as there may come times in the future that you start regretting it as life after all would have offered something interesting and worth living. It definitely doesn't say life or youth ends when your hair go off but it says that some things should be understood not by experience but for example by other people around us or art depicting these things.

The film works also as a pure giallo thriller as it has its moments of suspense and mystery and of course the graphic blood letting. There are few nasty murders in the film, both at the very beginning and they are definitely very "Italian like" with the huge amount of red color sprayed over the screen. The second one is very close to Dario Argento's style but serves not any other purpose than itself, unlike the great usage of similar effect in Argento's Tenebre (1982) for example. The effects are pretty good and the aging character becomes all the more tragic as we see the horrible face mutations of his in so little time. York does a believable role and never over-acts at all.

Off Balance is more promising and potential than some other films of the giallo/slasher genre and since it's Italian, it could've been so much more than it now is. Deodato and Clerici have once proved to be a very efficient couple but it seems they're ambitions are either not supported by the producers anymore or have just changed a little bit in themselves. 3/10

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