A word of advice to those wanting to see this film: try not read too
much about it beforehand (including this review). It’s an Italian made
movie theater set murder mystery that gradually morphs into something
far stranger and horrific.
Like many giallos (erotically-charged Italian
thrillers) of the seventies, 1978’s CLOSED CIRCUIT (CIRCUITO CHIUSO) was
made for Italian television but played theatrically in several European
countries (although it doesn’t appear to have ever reached the U.S.).
The top-heavy cast includes the late giallo and spaghetti western
veteran Tony Kendall, as well as French starlet Aurore Clement and, in
the movie-within-the-movie, the Italian action movie mainstay William
A strikingly diverse group of people have shown up to
see a crappy Spaghetti Western at a big city movie theater. It seems
there’s some nefarious business going on among a couple of the patrons,
one of whom keeps leaving his seat. Then it happens: during the film’s
climax, depicting a GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY-esque stand-off, a middle
aged man slumps over in his seat with a gunshot wound in his chest.
The projection is shut off and the theater closed. No
one is allowed in or out but for several detectives called in to
investigate. The theater is searched thoroughly but no firearms are
found; likewise, the theater’s patrons and employees are all
interrogated but no pertinent clues turn up.
Next the detectives investigate the life of the slain
man. They learn he was a film-obsessed loser whose landlady claims he
had no friends or enemies to speak of, and so nobody who’d want him
The detectives then try to recreate the crime,
rerunning the film with all the patrons in the same places they sat when
the crime occurred--except for the victim’s seat, which is occupied by
an usher. Sure enough, at the exact point in the film when the previous
guy died the usher is shot.
Tensions mount among the theater patrons and law
enforcement officers stuck in the theater. Eventually a third
reenactment is staged, this time with the police commissioner sitting in
the cursed seat…and I won’t reveal what happens next.
This film is a first-class exercise in misdirection,
with helmer Giuliano Montaldo making us think we’re viewing a
conventional murder mystery. The mystery comes complete with a highly
involved and detailed investigation, the details of which are laid out
in the highly methodical manner of a Sherlock Holmes mystery.
This is all a ruse, of course, as the film’s true
driving force is supernatural. The solution to the mystery, it must be
said, isn’t made especially clear; a last-minute comparison to Ray
Bradbury’s classic science fiction story “The Veldt” only further
confuses matters, as the proceedings simply don’t work as science
fiction. I’ll also gripe about some less-than-convincing plot elements,
such as the idea that an extremely large and diverse crowd of
people--whose ranks include an old lady, several young women and a
little boy--would turn up for a matinee showing of a crappy western, as
this film would have us believe.
But as an eccentric meditation on the destructive power
of celluloid, CLOSED CIRCUIT’S quality is undeniable, with a climactic
sequence that displays considerable imagination and audacity in its
depiction of real and reel world characters interacting (revealing
details would be unfair). In this manner the film ranks with similarly
themed classics like SHERLOCK JR,
Ivan Zulueta’s ARREBATO and
VIDEODROME--high praise indeed!
CLOSED CIRCUIT (CIRCUITO CHIUSO)
Director: Giuliano Montaldo
Producers: Mario Gallo, Enzo Giulioli
Screenplay: Nicola Badalucco, Mario Gallo, Giuliano Montaldo
Cinematography: Giuseppe Pinori
Cast: Aurore Clement, Flavio Bucci, Tony Kendall, William Berger,
Giuliano Gemma, Luciano Catenacci, Giovanni Di Benedetto, Umberto Gradi,
Elisabetta Virgili, Mattia Sbragia, Michaela Martini