At a staging of an avant garde thriller play in a London theatre, Italian Anna (Giovanna Ralli) is sitting barely tolerating the banter of a drunk Englishman who obviously believes he has a very good chance of taking her home tonight. But she has no intention of that occuring, so when another, suaver Englishman, the wealthy son of a judge Peter Flower (Gianni Garko) catches her eye she welcomes him coming to interrupt and pretend to spill his drink on her to offer the excuse she needs to get away. They then spend some of the evening seeing the sights of the Big Smoke, but Peter wishes to get Anna back to his house, which she should not have done...
Cold Eyes of Fear starts with a cheat, as it comes on like a typical giallo where you see a young woman (Karin Schubert) menaced by a knife-wielding mystery man, and as he cuts off her underwear and starts to make love to her all the signs are that this is yet another woman in peril. There is a woman in peril in this, but she's not played by Karin, as it turns out this is simply a play we're seeing which the audience apparently think is great hearing how much applause they offer. You may beg to differ, especially when it turns out the rest what you're watching could also have passed muster as a play seeing as much of it takes place on a single set.
That set being the house of Peter, who thinks he's onto a good thing with Anna although he is overenthusiastic about getting amorous with her and she keeps wriggling out of his clutches. However, they are not alone in the place as they quickly discover when Peter's butler shows up only to collapse dead in front of them and they can't help but notice there's a man with a gun over there. He tells them they've got to beware in no uncertain terms, but what he actually wants is not given away by the film too early, which is just as well because once you have all this worked out it does comes across as less than the sum of its parts.
So Peter and Anna become hostages to Quill (Julián Mateos), and Peter's father (Fernando Rey) turns out to be the key to all of this. He spends practically the whole film in another location, his office, although he does have an excuse in that the adversary has booby trapped it. This being an Enzo G. Castellari movie, you can fully expect an explosion to go off at some stage, although he manages to make this as much a cheat as the giallo-except-it-isn't opening five minutes. What is really on the director's mind, then, if it's not serial killers and whatnot? It's actually police corruption, a big news story in Italy at the time, and to an extent in the United Kingdom as well.
But you get the impression that Castellari was transposing the corruption of Italy's lawbreaking lawmen with those of Britain, almost as if he didn't have the courage to depict his homeland in such unflattering terms. On one beneficial hand, this does mean some neat location shots of London in the early seventies with all the atmosphere that implies, but on the other that tends to be deflated by the fact that the rest was filmed on Cinecitta sound stages. After a while Frank Wolff (this film was released the year of his tragic suicide) shows up as a policeman who might offer Peter and Anna a way out of their predicament - or not, as the case may be - and it all gets bogged down in acres of talk that grow harder and harder to care about the longer it goes on. There may have been a serious point to be made here, but this is average at best in its execution. Jazz freakout music by Ennio Morricone.