Search This Blog

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Death Walks on High Heels

Director: Luciano Ercoli. Sc: Velasco, Ernesto Gastaldi,Verde. Music: Stelvio Cipriani. Cast: Susan Scott (Nieves Navarro), Frank Wolff, Simon Andreu, Jorge Rigaud.

Susan Scott is an exotic dancer (ie stripper) who has a relationship with a very violent boyfriend, played by Simon Andreu. Frank Wolff is an eye surgeon who becomes infatuated with Scott (even though he's married). After spending lavish amounts of money on her for a new wardrobe she begins to take him more seriously. Meanwhile, she is receiving threatening phone calls which culminate in the maniac entering her bedroom and sticking a knife to her throat. The only distinguishing feature of the madman is his piercing blue eyes (he was first seen killing a one-eyed man on a train). The surprise comes half way into the film when Scott is indeed killed (quite anticlimactically, as she is smothered to death with a pillow). From there, the police must narrow the field of suspects, setting a trap that finally results in the capture of the blue-eyed maniac.

A spectacularly talky film (and like all of Ercoli's thrillers, well over 100 minutes) that is saved by the twists and turns of its plot. Even at the halfway point, there is still a lot of plot left to slug through including diamond thieves and a transvestite.  As you might can ascertain from the above, the visual motif of Frank Wolff's profession gives director Ercoli a field day. At one point Wolff is seen filming one of Scott's performances with a movie camera. Blind patients and a set of blue-colored contact lenses also figure into the scenario. Simon Andreu gives a fine performance as the brutal boyfriend who is all too obvious as the red-herring of the cast. Stelvio Cipriani's score is a disappointment. I have to think he was overwhelmed by all that damn dialogue. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Death Walks at Midnight

Italy 197
D: Luciano Ercoli
P: Luciano Ercoli & Alberto Pugliese for Cinecompany S.R.L. & C.B. Films Produccion S.A//St & Sc: Sergio Corbucci, Ernesto Gastaldi & May Velasco//DP: Fernando Arribas//E: Angelo Curi//M: Gianni Ferrio//Art D: Francisco Di Stefano & Juan Alberto//Costumes: Barbara Pugliese//Makeup: Irma Bacciardi
Cast: Susan Scott, Simon Andreu, Peter Martell, Ivan Staccioli, Carlo Gentili, Luciano Rossi, Claudie Lange, Claudio Pellegrini, Fabrizio Moresco, Alessandro Perrella, Elio Veller.

Valentina agrees to take a new hallucinogenic drug so her boyfriend, reporter Giovanni Baldi, can do a story on its effects for his paper. During the experience, Valentina "witnesses" a brutal murder. Once the story is published, her reputation is ruined and she's fired from her job. A former love, Stefano, shows up and saves her from the man she saw as the murderer during her drug hallucinations. It turns out that a murder did take place where Valentina claims she saw it, but it happened six months earlier. Valentina realizes this wasn't the crime she witnessed as the victim was not the same person. When that woman turns up dead, killed in a drug deal gone sour, the mystery deepens even more. Finally, with the help of Giovanni, Valentina discovers Stefano'r real reason for returning to her place and what part she is to play in the murders.

This film could be referred to as a "Just say no" Giallo since it involves drug trafficking and the ill effects such illegal substances have on their victim's lives. We even get a lecture from the police commissionar about the evils of narcotics. The film suffers from being too talky and with a minimum of exploitable staples, such as nudity (there is none) and gore (a few splashes of blood), one could quickly deem this film as unworthy. There must have been a heavy influence exerted on the film by its Spanish producers as this is one of the tamer entries in the Genre by director Luciano Ercoli. When you watch Ercoli's DEATH WALKS IN HIGH HEELS you know he has no qualms when it comes to nudity and gore. If you can overlook these flaws however, you're in for a real treat in other ways. Susan Scott (Nieves Navarro), the wife of director Ercoli, gives a Hell of a performance, probably the best of her career. She's on screen for almost every minute of the film's running time and never once wears out her welcome. Surrounded by non-believers, led on wild goose chases, hit on by creepy truck drivers; you name it. Scott has to work overtime to overcome her incompetant lover, dimwitted police men and psycho drug dealers (check out Luciano Rossi's non-verbal crazy, he's the king of creeps when it comes to Italian genre cinema. The amazing Kier-la Janisse even wrote a short softcover book devoted to this singular unique actor!)) to solve the crime. It's a whirlwind performance that deserves a better film. If you're in the mood for a strong role model to meet the demands of your feminist significant other, here it is.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

ETC Special #1 The Legendary Jess Franco Interview!

OK Folks, here's another rare item from the ETC vaults. The longest english language interview ever printed of the controversial filmmaker, Jesus Franco. This 40 page issue was conducted by Kevin Collins who went on to forge a relationship with Franco that led to One-Shot productions. This in turn led to Collins' producing Jess Franco films in the 90s. Conducted in March of 1996, it covers the his entire career from early beginnings to the then present day. Franco also goes off on a wide variety of filmic subjects besides his own career. Lina Romay also participates as well, filling in gaps when needed. The price is $15 which includes postage (Foreign postage adds an extra $5). Not available on the website, here's your chance. I also need to point out that both special issues of ETC featured brilliant cover design by Tim and Donna Lucas.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

You'll Die at Midnight

Italy 1986
D: Lamberto Bava Sc: John Old Jr. (Lamberto Bava),
Dardano Sacchetti. Music: Claudio Simonetti. Cast: Valeria D'Obici, Leonardo Treviglio, Lea Martino, Eliana Hoppe, Paolo Marco, Lara Wendel.

Nicola (who is a cop) and his rich/bitch wife are fighting again only this time, she turns up dead (killed, once again in a shower, with an icepick thrust through the curtain and into her torso). Nicola (Leonardo Treviglio) is the prime suspect and one of his co-workers, Inspector Pierro Terzi (Paolo Marco) is assigned to the case. Anna (Valeria D'Obici) is a criminal psychiatrist who is a friend of both men. She refuses to believe that Nicola is guilty, instead, she postulates that the killer is really Tribbo, a madman supposedly killed several years ago in a hospital fire where she worked. Even after Nicola is killed (he was involved in a scuffle with Anna), the murders continue, lending credence to Anna's theories. Terzi's daughter Carol (Lea Martino) is threatened by the killer and so she and two school friends head to an abandoned hotel for safety. The killer follows the girls and after killing all but Carol, Paolo arrives in time to blow the murderer away.

Lamberto Bava continues to get a raw deal in the fan press for his TV movies (of which this is one). It's true that THE OGRE and GRAVEYARD SHIFT aren't exactly masterpieces, but they and especially this film, put 90 % of the horror TV movies in this country to shame.  While Bava and Sacchetti have brought nothing new to the genre with their script, it is Bava's camera placement and technique (along with yet another excellent score by Simonetti) that save the day. The last third of the film owes a lot to Sergio Martino's TORSO when the three girls isolate them-selves at the abandoned hotel. It slackens the pace considerably as we wait for the killer to stalk his victims. Bava casts the crucial part of Anna with an androgynous actress that helps to sell the fact that she dresses as a man whenever the act of murder occurs. Look for Lamberto in a swift cameo as the police photographer who appears in the background at the scene of the first murder.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Unearthed a bunch of ETC Specials #2 Devoted to Riccardo Freda!

Well folks, one of the issues of EUROPEAN TRASH CINEMA I was most proud of was Robert Monell's 40 page monograph on the career of Riccardo Freda. To my knowledge, the first career retrospective devoted to this Italian Euro-Horror pioneer to appear in english. Sadly it was the issue that sank ETC's boat as only a handful of people bought it, and the huge loss incurred caused me to pretty much shut down the magazine (after 16 issues and 2 specials). I was so distraught, I took the bulk of the print run and sent them to the landfill. You'll note it was never offered for sale on the website and just try and find one for sale on Ebay. Well, as I was cleaning out my collection of VHS tapes (the landfill operator just loves me!), I happened upon a box of the aforementioned special. So, in case you're interested, just click the paypal button and get one while you can. The cost is $15 postage paid.

Add to Shopping Cart

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My Dear Killer

Italy 1971
D: Tonino Valerii.
P: Roberto Goggo for BRG Produzione, Kramot Cinematografica, & Tecisa//St & Sc: Franco Bucceri, Roberto Leoni,José Maesso, Tonino Valerii//DP: Manuel Rojas//E: Franco Fraticelli//M: Ennio Morricone//Art Direction: Claudio Ginini & Francisco Canet//Costumes: Fiorenzo Senese//Makeup: Vittorio Biseo
Cast: George Hilton, William Berger, Patty Shepard, Marilù Tolo, Piero Lulli, Helga Liné, Manolo Zarzo, Tullio Valli, Dante Maggio, Dana Ghia, Alfredo Mayo, Monica Randall, Corrado Gaipa, Andrea Scotti.

A series of murders take place to hide the identity of a child killer. As cast members discover who it is they are quickly dispatched. George Hilton plays a police detective (and for once he's NOT the killer!) who throughout the film displays his genius at solving crimes based on the evidence found at the scene. The killer is revealed by Hilton as he forces each of the surviving cast members to look into a mirror that belonged to the long ago murdered child. On the back she had drawn in chalk a picture of the guilty party.

Ennio Morricone uses a child's humming to set the mood for this elegiac somber film. However, those looking for a score rich in thematic material, will be disappointed. This time Morricone is using a very atonal approach to indicate the mind set of the maniac. Director Tonino Valerii pays tribute to his roots in the Spaghetti Western genre (he directed TODAY IT'S ME, TOMORROW YOU and would be picked by Sergio Leone to direct MY NAME IS NOBODY) by having a character watch DJANGO on TV. Valerii also doesn't flinch from showing the red stuff during the murders. Right off the bat we have a graphic decapitation and later in the film the killer uses a portable circular saw to really chew up the  front and back of a victim (of course it takes place in the bathroom). Helga Liné has a cameo as the wife of the first victim and her demise, compared to her husband's is quite subdued (she's strangled). And how about that Marilu Tolo (she plays Hilton's lover), has she got Brooke Shield's eyebrows from Hell or what?! One of the better efforts in the Gialli genre, it features all the right ingredients for a special experience.