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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It seems as though life couldn't get any better for classical pianist Robert Dominici (Michael York): not only is he an extraordinarily successful musician, and a skillful martial artist, but he also has attractive women falling at his feet, with a beautiful girlfriend, Susanna (Mapi Galán), and a doting admirer, Hélène Martell (Edwige Fenech), fighting for his attention.
In reality, things aren't so great: Robert has been diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease that rapidly ravages his body, ageing him way beyond his years, and affects his psyche, turning him into a vicious killer. Investigating the trail of bodies that Robert leaves in his wake is Inspector Datti (Donald Pleasance), who is confused by the mounting evidence that suggests a killer of ever-increasing age.
From director Ruggero Deodato, the man who gave us gory exploitation classics Jungle Holocaust, Cannibal Holocaust and The House On The Edge Of The Park, quasi-giallo Phantom of Death starts off promisingly with two murders that result in a lot of the red stuff splashing all over the screen. Unfortunately, the film soon settles into routine potboiler mode, with only one more murder (a spiked table lamp forced under the chin) and, with the identity of the killer revealed so early on, precious little in the way of mystery, thrills or suspense.
York, hidden under some pretty good old age make-up for the latter half of the film, does as well as he can with his role, but Pleasance doesn't seem to be trying as hard, giving another one of his stock detective turns that we've seen many times before in the Halloween sequels and other Italian murder/mysteries. Seasoned giallo babe Fenech is there to add some eye candy, but it is up to a couple of other Euro-lovelies to provide the obligatory nudity.
As a side note, Dominici's predicament reminded me a lot of Seth Brundle in Cronenberg's version of The Fly (1986), who suffers a similar physical and mental degeneration. Of course, Phantom of Death is nowhere near as good as Cronenberg's film.
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