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Saturday, September 27, 2014


Gatti Rossi In Un Labirinto Di Vetro
Sales Title: Wide-Eyed in the Dark
US Video Title: Eyeball
D: Umberto Lenzi
P: José Maria Cunilles//St &Sc: Felix Tusell & Umberto Lenzi//DP: Antonio Millan//E: Amadeo Moriani//M: Bruno Nicolai//Art D: Jose Massague//Color
Cast: John Richardson, Martine Brochard, Inez Pellegrin, Silvia Solar, Jorge Rigaud, Martha May as Alma, Daniele Vargas, Andres Mejuto, Raf Baldassare, Jose Maria Blanco, John Bartha, Olga Pehar.

An eclectic group of Americans are touring Barcelona by bus. Before long, this diverse gathering (which includes a priest, executive with his mistress, a lesbian couple, a husband and wife who fight all the time and others) begin to be decimated by a maniac with penchant for removing his victim's eyeball. Each tourist seemingly has a reason for being the orb snatching killer, however blame finally rests on a person who lost his/her eye while playing doctor as a child. She is now psychotically trying to replace it by killing those around her.

The only misstep in Umberto Lenzi's prolific career in the genre, one has to believe the addition of graphic gore to his bag of tricks was not a welcome one (unlike Sergio Martino, whose Torso was both extremely violent and a taut thriller to boot). No doubt Lenzi was more comfortable making thrillers that relied on eroticism (the many films he made with Carroll Baker) rather than grue. He allows everyone to overact shamelessly which throws the entire mood of the movie off kilter. It becomes ludicrous after a while with every move someone makes framed as if he was the guilty party (a man can't even shave without coming across as a potential maniac). This mostly Spanish production boasts fine photography by Antonio Millan and a host of familiar faces—Jorge Rigaud, Silvia Solar and Mirta Miller from that country's film industry—but it's not enough to overcome the handicap of a poor script. Fortunately for Lenzi his career would rebound and head off into another genre, Crime Films, where he did his most interesting work.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion

Le Foto Proibite Di Una Signora Per Bene
The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion
D: Luciano Ercoli
P: Alberto Pugliese & Luciano Ercoli for Produzioni Cinematografica (Rome), Mediterrane (Rome), & CC Trebol Films (Madrid)//St & Sc: Ernesto gastaldi & Manuel Velasco//DP: Alejandro Ulloa//E: Luciano Ercoli//M: Ennio Morricone//Art D: Claudio Gianbanco//Costumes: Gloria Cardi//Color
Cast: Dagmar Lassander, Pier Paolo Capponi, Simon Andreu, Osvaldo gennazzani, Salvador Bugetti, Susan Scott (Nieves Navarro).

Minou is the high strung wife of an industrialist named Peter. He often travels leaving Minou by herself which stresses her out to the point where she drinks and takes pills to cope. One night, while out for a walk, she's attacked by a stranger who accuses her husband of murder. Obviously shaken up by the incident, she can't seem to get her best friend Dominique, to show much concern. The next time she meets up with the mystery assailant, he rapes her and threatens blackmail. Minou tells all of this to Peter, but when the police are called in to investigate, they find no clues. As the film builds to its climax, you can't be sure whether Minou is losing her mind or is someone close to her trying to drive her to suicide.

You can always tell a Luciano Ercoli directed thriller, it features his actress/wife Susan Scott in a prominent role (here as Dominique), and, the characters never shut up! While the appearance of Scott is always a big plus (although unfortunately she keeps her clothes on while appearing in her husband's films), it's the interminable talking that ultimately cause his thrillers to fall short of the mark. A prolific producer in the sixties, he was responsible for director Duccio Tessari's best work (ie the RINGO Spaghetti Westerns). Dagmar Lassander is quite stunning here, especially the opening bubble bath scene, as Minou and she manages to involve the audience with her character's rather desperate situation. The big casting mistake was using Pier Paolo Capponi in the role of her husband. As soon as you see him on screen, you can't help but feel he's an unsympathetic bastard, capable of anything. This certainly doesn't help the supposed surprise revelation at film's end. Finally, this was the time period when composer Ennio Morricone created some of his best work and he doesn't disappoint here.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Flowers with Steel Petals

Il Fiore Dai Petali D'Acciaio
Italy 1973
D: Gianfranco Piccioli
P: Riccardo Cerro for PAB Distribuzione & PARLA Cinematografica//St & Sc: Gianni Martucci & Gianfranco Piccioli//DP: Antonio Borghesi//E: Attilo Vincio (Asst: Maria Ciro)//M: Marcello Giombini//Costumes: Silvio Laurenti
Cast: Carroll Baker, Gianni Garko, Ivan Staccioli, Pilar Velazquez, Paola Senatore, Umberto Raho, Eleonora Morana, Angelo Bassi, Giuseppe Mattei, Alessandro Perrella, Alba Maiolini.

Doctor Adrian Valenti is a talented surgeon who returns home late one night after surgery to find an unwanted lover waiting in his bed for him. They fight and in a fit of temper, Valenti knocks her to the floor. When she doesn't respond to his taunts, he discovers she has landed on a sculptured flower made out of metal. One of the petals has stuck in her neck and killed her. Panicking, Valenti takes out his surgical tools and proceeds to dismember her. Placing the body parts into plastic bags, he drives to a deserted factory and throws the bags into a huge stone-wheeled mill. Soon after, Evelyne Giraldi accusses the doctor of killing her sister Danielia, who was one of the good doctor's lovers. Inspector Garrano soon begins to investigate the good doctor's background and discovers that he had his first wife committed to an insane asylum for being a nymphomaniac. She  was the daughter of a very influential surgeon and soon after she was out of the way, Doctor Valenti's career began to take off. Evelyne decides to look through Valenti's apartment for clues to her sister's whereabouts and is surprised by a killer wearing black gloves and coat. The Inspector arrives too late to save her but kills Valenti as he aimlessly walks along the rooftops. Unfortunately for the Inspector, he has shot the wrong person as Valenti's last words are, "I never killed anybody."

Director Piccioli's only foray into the genre (in fact he has only made 3 films in his entire career) is an impressive one and makes one wish he had been more prolific as a director (his main claim to fame is as a producer for Francesco Nuti). The plot is very convoluted and you really have to be paying attention at the end to catch what all happened, but it's worth the wait. The performances by both the principals and the supporting cast are excellent. Gianni Garko plays a slimy womanizer yet he isn't a killer. His past just catches up with him and he definitely ends up paying for all the times he abused the women in his life. Carroll Baker creates an uneasy character who appears to have more than the normal concern for her sister's well being. There's more than the hint of lesbianism in the opening sequence that comes to the forefront by the film's conclusion. Paola Senatore as Daniela performs her usual nude scene, but is also allowed to create a presence in this film (even though she all but disappears for most of the film's running time) that proves important to the overall plot. As Inspector Garrano, it's nice to see Ivano Staccioli play a good guy for a change. He even gets to project some tragedy into his character's part when he develops a relationship with Evelyne, only to discover her bloody body late in the film. The sense of loss he feels for her comes right out of his eyes and onto the screen. Marcello Giombini's score mixes electronics, jazz and a pounding drum beat to good effect. This film's obscurity is hardly justified.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Bloodstained Butterfly

Una Farfalla Con Le Ali Insanguinate
The Bloodstained Butterfly
Italy 1973
D: Duccio Tessari
P:  ST & Sc: Gianfranco Clerici & Duccio Tessari//DP: Carlo Carlini//E: Antonio Proia//M: Gianni Ferrio//Art D: Elena Ricci//Costumes: Paola Nardi//Makeup: Raoul Ranieri//Color
Cast: Helmut Berger, Giancarlo Sbragia, Evelyn Stewart (Ida Gallieni), Silvano Tranquilli, Amendi D'Olive, Gunther Stoll, Lorella de Luca, Wolfgang Preiss, Peter Shepherd, Anna Zinneman, Dana Ghia, Federica Tessari, Carole André as Francoise.


A young girl has her throat slashed in a wooded area during a heavy downpour. Though the killer escapes, there are quite a few witnesses who think they can identify him. Detailed crime scene analysis along with the eye witness testimony pegs the murderer as a sportscaster named Alessandro. Unfortunately for him,his wife (Evelyn Stewart) and lawyer are having an affair and are using the trial to get Alessandro out of the picture. He's found guilty and given life imprisonment. However the murders continue to occur in the same wooded area. This along with new evidence, causes Alessandro to be released. It turns out that the first victim was the girlfriend of piano virtuoso Giorgio (Helmut Berger). He discovered who the real murderer was and so committed two other killings just so he could have the pleasure of killing the real murderer.

In gathering the data for this project, it was rewarding to discover certain behind the scenes personnel who have been over looked in the past. Screenplay writer Gianfranco Clerici's main claim to fame (or infamy) was as the screenplay writer for Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. In fact, he along with Ernesto Gastaldi can lay claim to be the best toiling in the Giallo salt-mines. The structure of this film, mixing both the present and the past is brilliant. Tessari also goes into great detail about the actual procedures used by crime labs and the technicians involved doing the work long before the torrent of CSI clones playing endlessly on TV today. Gianni Ferrio's use of Tchaikovsky's Thematic Concerto #1 for piano emphasizes Giorgio's torment and descent into madness. Interestingly, Francesco De Masi used this same piece of music (for comic effect) in THE WEEKEND MURDERS. Silvano Tranquilli plays the harried police inspector who spends the entire film trying to get a decent cup of coffee. Helmut Berger is not one of my favorite actors as he usually comes off as unfocused and stiff. I will give him credit for being able to carry out the requirements of the film's downbeat ending with aplomb as he makes you sympathize with his motivations, even though he has murdered two innocent people. One of the best.