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  Nothing Underneath Catwalk Carnage
Year: 1985
Director: Carlo Vanzina
Stars: Tom Schanley, Renée Simonsen, Donald Pleasence, Nicola Perring, Maria McDonald, Catherine Noyes, Paolo Tomei, Sonia Raule, Cyrus Elias, Anna Galiena, Big Laura, Bruce McGuire, Mimmo Sepe, Phillip Wong
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bob Crane (Tom Schanley) is a park ranger at Yellowstone who today has an item of mail which puts a spring in his step. His twin sister is Jessica (Nicola Perring) who has taken a job in Milan as a top fashion model, and she has sent him a copy of the expensive, glossy magazine for which she is the cover girl. Bob has always been close to his sister, but how close is rather mysterious as they share a psychic bond they do not precisely understand, but occasionally comes in handy as today when Bob has the strong feeling of someone bending his arm behind his back and deduces his sister is in trouble. Right enough, across the Atlantic Jessica is fending off a sexual assault from a sleazeball - but though she escapes, a more powerful signal is about to be sent to Bob.

Italian giallo still commands a healthy respect among fans of horrors and thrillers thanks to their brand of convoluted, not to say over the top, plotting, setpiece sex and violence, and in the best examples downright wackiness, but by the time the nineteen-eighties arrived the whole experience was lacking that invention the previous decade had brought, replaced by a slicker but not necessarily more pleasing format, and the innovators were either losing their touch, going off the idea, or even dying. Brian De Palma valiantly tried to keep the torch lit, but examples such as Nothing Underneath (obviously indebted to his Body Double) were largely what you had on offer by then, and it's no surprise that the odd Tenebrae apart this and its contemporaries slipped into obscurity shortly after release.

The title, always an important element of this form, referred to the models not wearing any underwear so as not to interrupt the line of the clothes they are modelling, although from what they see going commando seems to be the norm even when they aren't strutting down the catwalk, with director Carlo Vanzina taking many an opportunity to catch a glimpse of his actresses au naturel (and his actors, too, for that matter). It was as if he was recognising the gore quotient was not high this time around, so left us with an attempt at titillation, setting this in the world of high fashion therefore reasoning the audience preferred to ogle the ladies rather than be troubled by the notion that one of the characters is a crazed serial killer bumping them off.

But they do succumb to a large pair of shiny scissors, leaving us trying to work out whodunnit, and when we find out rather baffled as to the whydunnit. As often, the phallic nature of the weapon was intentional, and underlined when the killer resorts to an even more masculine metaphorical power drill to advance upon the hero for the grand finale, a scene which finally lives up to the nuttiness the film has been threatening to embrace for rather too much of the running time. Nothing Underneath tended to burble along rather than adopt a pace of increasing to breakneck speed to up the tension, which gave you a chance to mull over the mystery but failed to generate much in the overall excitement stakes, leaving this unmistakably second division for the aficionados.

Brightening this up - well, brightening is the wrong word - was an appearance from a proper star, Donald Pleasence taking one of his Continental roles and likely a (ha) pleasant holiday into the bargain. His somewhat overage visage was excused by his detective character retiring in a few days, so when Bob (curiously named after the Hogan's Heroes star who died in sordid circumstances - was that deliberate?) shows up in Italy dermanding to see someone in authority because he is convinced Jessica met a sticky end thanks to his vision of scissors outside her hotel room door, it's a sceptical Pleasance he sees. Meanwhile, to add a certain ambience we get such scenes as a fashion show staged to Gloria Gaynor belting out I Am What I Am and Murray Head detailing his One Night in Bangkok, in case you were in any doubt what decade this was from, and even more oddly Bob gazing reflectively out of the hotel window only to be greeted with the sight of a woman enthusiastically masturbating across the way. Oh, and there was an actual supermodel and Russian Roulette too. Music by Pino Donaggio.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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