PHANTOM OF DEATH aka OFF BALANCE (1988) Reviews and overview

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‘Let the symphony of slaughter begin!’

Phantom of Death aka Off Balance is a 1988 Italian giallo horror feature film about a pianist with a genetic condition that causes him to go insane and kill.

Directed by Ruggero Deodato (The Washing Machine; House on the Edge of the Park; Cannibal Holocaust; Last Cannibal World) from a screenplay written by Gigliola Battaglini, Gianfranco Clerici and Vincenzo Mannino (The New York Ripper), the movie stars Michael York, Edwige Fenech, Donald Pleasence and Mapi Galan. The original Italian title is Un delitto poco comune (“An Uncommon Crime”).

The film’s soundtrack score was composed by Pino Donaggio (Seed of Chucky; The Howling; Dressed to Kill; Carrie; et al).


Robert Dominici (Michael York) is a classical pianist who suffers from a genetic condition that causes him to physically age at a rapid pace and also to go insane.

Distraught by his condition, Dominici goes on a killing spree. Inspector Datti (Donald Pleasence) sets off to catch him. Meanwhile, Dominici targets the Inspector’s daughter, Gloria (Antonella Ponziani)…


“It’s surprisingly involving stuff, and this you can chalk up to three things: Ruggero Deodato is a far better director than his video-nasty reputation misleadingly suggests (the editing is sometimes particularly impressive); the crucial ageing makeup is pretty damned good, and Robert and Datti are played not by a pair of badly dubbed matinee idols but Michael York and Donald Pleasance respectively.” Cineoutsider

” …it’s painfully obvious that Deodato not only miscast, and failed his directorial duties on this one, but also shot it ten years too late. With the right cast, the right score and made at the right time it would for sure have been a classic, and not a dud […] Great eighties special effects, some brief nudity and the always wonderful Edwige Fenech, but that’s about it.” Cinezilla

“Admittedly, Phantom of Death doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny plot-wise. York, however, does surprisingly well in a role which demands he runs the gamut of emotions and guises – from suave playboy to embittered old git – which could have easily have become ridiculous in lesser hands. Kudos, also, to York for taking the role – it’s certainly against type!” Hysteria Lives!

Phantom of Death is a rather limp giallo which had a decent idea and even had some alright moments but it’s too talky and doesn’t make a lot of sense at times. You’ll most likely be as exhausted and tired as the poor old dying pianist by the end of it!” Popcorn Pictures

” …Phantom of Death isn’t the best that the [giallo] genre has to offer but it certainly is an enjoyable and entertaining slasher picture. Deodato sticks to what makes the genre work – sexy women, bloody kill scenes, a reasonably interesting mystery and plenty of style to make up for periodic lack of substance – and he pulls it off admirably.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

” …Phantom of Death does have some saucy death sequences. And it’s great to see perennial ’70s gialli queen Fenech in a late ’80s horror outing. With the exception of always hammy Pleasence as the investigator on the case, this has well done acting from the rest of its cast.” The Terror Trap


In 2009, Ruggero Deodato told Total Sci-Fi:  “I did Phantom of Death because it was based on a true element – the idea of growing old […] And I got to work with Michael York and Donald Pleasence…”


Cast and characters:

  • Michael York … Robert Dominici
  • Edwige Fenech … Hélène Martell
  • Donald Pleasence … Inspector Datti
  • Mapi Galán … Susanna
  • Fabio Sartor … Davide
  • Renato Cortesi … Agent Marchi
  • Antonella Ponziani … Gloria Datti
  • Carola Stagnaro … Dr Carla Pesenti
  • Daniele Brado … Dr Vanni
  • Caterina Boratto … Robert’s Mother
  • Lewis E. Ciannelli … Chief Physician (as Lewis Eduardo Ciannelli)
  • Renata Dal Pozzo … Agent Corsi
  • Giovanni Lombardo Radice … Father Giuliano
  • Gianni Franco … Inspector
  • Marino Masé … Expert on ageing
  • Achille Brugnini
  • Giovanni Tamberi … Andrea
  • Loris Loddi … Danzil, a cop
  • Hal Yamanouchi … Swordmaster (as Hal Yamanouchy)
  • Diego Verdegiglio
  • Raffaella Baracchi … Laura, Venice prostitute
  • Emy Valentino … (as Emi Valentino)
  • Daniela Merlo … Mother
  • Rossana Canghiari … Party Guest (uncredited)
  • Lella Cattaneo … Woman at Robert’s piano concert (uncredited)
  • Ruggero Deodato … Man That Gets on Moped at Station (uncredited)
  • Giuseppe Marrocco … Uomo al concerto (uncredited)
  • Benito Stefanelli … Man in Restroom (uncredited)

Filming locations from 10th August 1987:

  • Empire Studios, Rome, Lazio, Italy (studio)
  • Olgiata, Rome, Lazio, Italy
  • Perugia, Umbria, Italy
  • South Tyrol, Italy
  • Venice, Veneto, Italy

Technical details:

  • 90 minutes
  • Audio: Mono | Dolby Stereo
  • Aspect ratio: 1.66: 1

Watch trailer on YouTube

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