Friday, September 8, 2017

Italian Horror Week 2017 - The Man With Icy Eyes, or The Giallo That Wasn't by Ryne Barber

I’ve seen The Man with Icy Eyes, AKA L’uomo dagli occhi di ghiaccio, mentioned a few times online, and I’ve always thought the title sounded like an interesting attempt at a giallo - there’s enough mystery to compel a viewer to watch, especially when one considers the Italian trope of showcasing eyes in various forms. So I decided to tackle the film for Dr. Terror’s Italian Horror Month as a way to fulfill my ongoing fascination with the title; I also found myself thoroughly disappointed.

I quickly realized that The Man with Icy Eyes sits on the cusp of giallo and poliziotteschi, with an emphasis on political and criminal drama rather than the usual black-gloved killers of Italian horror. The film follows reporter Eddie Mills (Antonio Sabato), an up-and-coming writer attempting to get out of the regular slew of boring stories by breaking the news about the murder of a state senator. Only one witness can finger the suspect currently undergoing trial - Valdes, admittedly not a good guy anyway - and her testimony is fairly disputed anyway. Anne Saxe (Barbara Bouchet) is a sexy stripper who claims she saw the murder while another eyewitness states he saw her elsewhere at the same time. It’s up to Mills to figure out the murder while also being warned that he’ll die before midnight thanks to pointed letters from the man with icy eyes.

As I stated before, director Alberto di Martino likes to operate between the two Italian film genres popular at the time of The Man with Icy Eyes’ release; however, the film does neither of them very well. The plotting is too inconsistent and boring to make a thrilling poliziotteschi film (and considering Eddie Mills isn’t a cop but a smooth-talking journalist with some good boxing skills, there’s very little police involvement whatsover) and the murders mostly happen offscreen with none of the creeping point-of-views that gave gialli their defining characteristics. Instead, di Martino’s film focuses on the more mundane aspects of crime procedurals: interviewing suspects, coaxing people to provide eyewitness testimony, and generally doing a lot of sleuthing to help solve a mystery that the police apparently don’t care too much about.

There are only a few moments that truly generate suspense, and they mostly occur towards the end of the film. One of The Man with Icy Eyes’ more interesting elements is its supernatural subplot about Eddie Mills’ horoscope, which indicates he’s in grave danger. There’s even a cleric character that warns two people will die before Eddie’s death at midnight. It sets a grim tone, but di Martino has difficulty with the mood of the film anyway - for such a gritty crime plot, it’s often far too upbeat and corny, from Eddie’s constant Elvis-esque impersonations (there’s even an Elvis movie playing at a theater in the background of one of the shots) to his boss’ annoyed equivocations.

There’s a reason The Man with Icy Eyes remains unreleased on Blu-Ray and lost to obscurity: it’s simply not interesting, especially considering the more thrilling giallo/poliziotteschi films of the time. Di Martino did direct some surprising films including The Antichrist and Holocaust 2000, but he never found his footing with this giallo-sounding movie that’s too timid for its own good.

Ryne Barber runs his own horror website at, but his newest venture is co-editing a new website about cult films ranging from horror to exploitation and everything in between at He’s also one-half of the movie-and-beer podcast Blood and Black Rum Podcast, also part of the Cultsploitation Podcast Network. When he’s not writing online he’s petting his three cats and finding new beers to consume.

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