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Hotel Fear (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Hotel Fear (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: June 14th, 2022.
    Director: Francesco Barilli
    Cast: Leonra Fani, Lur Merenda, Francisco Rabal, Jole Fierro, Lidia Biondi
    Year: 1978
    Purchase From Amazon

    Hotel Fear – Movie Review:

    Francesco Barilli’s second and final feature film directorial effort is 1978’s Hotel Fear (Pensione Paura). Set in and around an aging but still somewhat elegant hotel in rural Italy in the final days of The Second World War, the movie introduces us to Rosa (Lenora Fani), and her mother Marta (Lidia Biondi), who toils incessantly to keep the business going. The fact that the war is still going on and that bombs are frequently dropped nearby doesn’t help them much, but there are guests that show up hoping to enjoy some rest and relaxation at the hotel and the beautiful, scenic lake nearby even if the power seems to go out as often as it’s on.

    Rosa’s father is off serving his country in the war against the Nazis. She writes to him continuously when she and Marta, who has taken a lover (Francisco Rabal) in his absence, when she isn’t trying to figure out how to feed and care for the guests that arrive, many of whom seem to be crazy, criminal or both. One guest named Rodolfo (Luc Merenda) who is in the hotel at the whims of his much older lover (Jole Fierro) is particularly persistent with her.

    When Marta dies, seemingly out of nowhere, Rosa finds herself having to fend off the advances of some of the sexually aggressive guests who have rented rooms in the hotel she now has to run alone. After being raped by two of the men, Rosa makes a plea to her wayward father to exact revenge on her behalf. When a mysterious black-gloved killer shows up and makes short work of the two rapists, it looks like her plea was heard – but is Rosa playing with a full deck or is she just as insane as she believes some of her guests to be?

    Not nearly as well-known as Barilli’s earlier The Perfume Of The Lady In Black, Hotel Fear, which makes its first official U.S. release with this disc from Mondo Macabro, is a worthwhile thriller that features strong production values and some good acting. Barilli does a great job of getting the most out of the different locations that he uses for the his backdrop and a strong eye for period detail keeps the movie feeling very much set in the time that it plays out in. The cinematography from Gualtiero Manozzi is strong and Adolfo Waitzman’s score works well for the picture, highlighting the suspense and the drama that play out over its hour and forty minute running time.

    The pacing is solid in the film. The giallo-esque trappings help to build suspense (though it would be a stretch to call the film a full-fledged giallo in the typical sense) but it’s the performances that really stand out. You’d expect a genre stalwart like Merenda to turn in good work here, and he does, he plays his character, essentially a gigolo, very well. Rabal is also solid in his part, as is Biondi before she’s killed off. It’s Lenora Fani who really impresses here, however, as she delivers a consistently believable turn as her character runs the full gamut of emotions, making it curious why she didn’t go on to bigger and better things (appearing in The House by the Edge of the Lake and Giallo a Venezia, as fun as those two trash classics are, may not have been a step up).

    Hotel Fear – Blu-ray Review:

    Mondo Macabro brings Hotel Fear to Region Free Blu-ray framed in 1.33.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc with the feature using up just over 31GBS of space. Taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative, you won’t find anything to complain about in terms of the way that the move looks. Colors look great, black levels are nice and deep and skin tones always look natural. There’s strong detail evident throughout, even the darker scenes, which are pretty frequent, look good here. There are no problems with any obvious compression, noise reduction or edge enhancement and print damage is never a problem.

    Italian and Spanish language options are provided in 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono with separate subtitle tracks provided for each option. Both tracks were taken care of in post and not shot live and both tracks sound fine. The levels are balanced and there weren’t any noticeable issues with hiss or distortion detective during playback. The Italian track does seem to match the lip movements of the actors more closely than the Spanish track, however.

    A new audio commentary by Rachael Nisbit and Peter Jilmstad of the Fragments of Fear podcast starts off the extras with a well-researched examination of the film, its history and the people who made it. Lots of talk here about Francesco Barilli’s career and how this picture compares to his better known The Perfume Of The Lady In Black, thoughts on the score and the cinematography, plenty of details about the different cast and crew members that worked on the picture and some insight into some of the themes that run throughout the movie.

    After that, jump into a new interview with director Francesco Barilli in the half-hour Madness In The Time Of War featurette. He talks about his thoughts on directing a script he didn't write, some of the issues that arose on set, the marketing behind the film, working with Merenda and the other cast members and the locations that were used for the movie.

    Luc Merenda himself shows up in the twenty-nine minute I'm Not That Guy featurette. Here he speaks quite candidly about how he was trying to do something different with his work on this film after appearing in so many crime thrillers, thoughts on the character that he played in the movie, his thoughts on the film overall and what it was like to work with the other actors in the picture.

    The disc also includes an archival interview with Francesco Barilli that was recorded at Cine-Excess in London in 2015. This twenty-eight minute piece sees the director talk about his career in film as a whole, working in television versus working in film and how he got into painting.

    Finishing up the extras is a seven minute piece that compares the differences between the Italian and Spanish language versions of the movie, an unsubtitled Italian language trailer for the movie, the Mondo Macabro promo reel, menus and chapter selection options.

    Hotel Fear - The Final Word:

    Hotel Fear is an interesting mix of character development, suspense and general weirdness that come together in pretty effective ways to make for a pretty compelling watch. Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray release presents this rarely seen effort in excellent shape and with some choice supplements, making it an easy one to recommend for fans of more pensive thrillers.



    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Hotel Fear Blu-ray screen caps!

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