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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.

The Package
     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 Berger.

The Story
     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 dead.
     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.

The Direction
     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 David Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME--high praise indeed!

Vital Statistics


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