Search This Blog

Saturday, March 28, 2015


D: Dario Argento
P: Dario Argento for ADC, Cecchi Gori Group, and RAI Radio Televisione Italiana//St & Sc: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini//DP: Ronnie Taylor//E: Franco Fraticelli//M: Claudio Simonetti//Art D: Gianmaurizio Fercioni//Costumes: Francesca Lia Morandini//Makeup: Franco Casagni
Cast: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Antonella Vitale, Barbara Cupisti, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, William McNamara, Antonio Juorio, Carola Stagnaro, Francesca Cassola.

When opera diva Moira walks off the set of her latest production due to her disgust with horror film director Mark's unconventional stagings, her understudy Betty gets the chance of a lifetime. From the beginning however, the opera (a production of MACBETH) seems cursed as accidents and death seem to dog its every step. It is revealed that a killer is stalking Betty and he forces her to watch him murder her stagehand lover. The murders continue and culminate in the murderer revealing to Betty that he was a sexual slave to her mother and wants to renew that relationship with her. Trapped in the opera house and surrounded by the police, he decides to commit suicide and murder by burning himself and Betty alive. She escapes to the country with Mark but soon realizes the killer may not be dead.

OPERA ranks as one of Argento's greatest films in the Giallo genre. Indeed, after its completion, he decided to come to America to make films having one partial success (TWO EVEIL EYES) and one outright failure (TRAUMA). Fortunately, he came to his senses and returned to Italy where he made THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, a definite return to form. OPERA definitely took on a more personal bent when Argento recreated his own persona in actor Ian Charleson who plays the director attempting to go legit, but remains true to his horror genre roots. What really sets Argento's films apart from the pack are his murder setpieces and it's here that OPERA delivers the goods. Forcing actress Christina Marsillach's character to watch the grisly deeds by taping needles under her eyes, pretty much defines Argento's pathological need for the audience to not flinch when it comes to his brand of horror. Also, the bullet through the keyhole sequence never fails to get the appropriate reaction from anyone who's seen it. Unusual for an Argento film is the cinematography by Ronnie Taylor—crisp but noirish, it reflects a more mature Argento style that didn't need to pour on the colored gel effects. OPERA does fail on one point however, the use of anonymous heavy metal music for the film's murders. It jars you right out of the scene and leaves you shaking your head at its utter wrongness. Other than that, OPERA is damn near perfect. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Return of TRASHMAN ON THE PROWL by Robert Monell!

One of the main contributors to the success of EUROPEAN TRASH CINEMA magazine was my good friend Robert Monell. He created the special edition of ETC devoted to Riccardo Freda, contributed lots of reviews and had a column titled TRASHMAN ON THE PROWL where he pontificated on all things EUROTRASH. Well, Robert has decided to revive his column for the newly revised ETC Blog and so I'm proud to present his interview with Eurotrash Icon Paul Muller!


I am reluctant to term the following an "interview" in the conventional sense, but it was the best Paul Muller and I could do considering circumstances of time, language and the gremlins of international long distance telecommunication. First, I would like to thank my dear friend, researcher and film historian par excellence Kit J Gavin, for making this possible. I didn't think I'd be able to reach Mr Muller, but after numerous calls to Francesco  Cesari in Venice , also a key player whom I gratefully thank, I was able to finally contact my distinguished subject in Tivoli and conduct this interview.

PATIENT is the term which comes to mind first when attempting to describe the character of Paul Muller, tempered by a distinct Swiss formality which, in time, dissolves to reveal a very warm, kind human being who has seen it all, been there and done that, but remains humble about his own considerable gifts. There's a certain very low key frustration about his career, a certain wistfulness and sadness which is very difficult to describe in written words. Like his layered performances, he simultaneously and subtly, very subtly, suggests all the burdens and possibilities of human creativity in a world and business where extraordinary sensitivity can be a stimulus or a curse...

Paul Muller (b.  1923  in Switzerland) has appeared in well over  200  films since  1948  and still has an agent. He has been in Hollywood mainstream productions, obscure European genre films, TV dramas and has been a recognizable visage in Italian  Cinefantastique  from the seminal I  VAMPIRI  ( 1957 ) to the not so hot GATE OF HELL, the eminently forgettable Umberto  Lenzi  satanic adventure from  1990  where he appears very briefly as a murderous monk stalking scientists in a haunted cavern. Our conversation covered the films he made with Jess Franco from 1968  to  1975 .

"Pronto!" The voice was both high pitched and full of undefined emotion. Paul Muller speaks very loudly and clearly, immediately shifting to English when told I can't speak Italian . I report our conversation from the outset to give a feeling of the man himself and perhaps for entertainment value, as it seemed that at times Paul Muller was interviewing me:

PM: "Where are you from?"

RM: New York, well upstate New York.

PM: You have an American accent which is hard to understand.

RM: Yes, I've been told that. I'm sorry.

PM: No, don't be sorry. You'll have to speak slowly. 

RM: I am writing a book about Jess Franco and wanted to interview you about your work in his films.

PM: You are writing a script about me?

RM: A book about Jess Franco.

PM: Ah, yes, Jessie. How old is he?

RM: He's about  75  now.

PM: Ah, that's younger than me [laughs]. Is he still making films.

RM: Yes, he just completed one.

PM: Does he still make them in the same way?

RM: Well, he still makes them quickly and inexpensively and in his own way.

PM: I thought so. What do you want to know about the films I made with him?

RM: Well, first of all, I'd like to say I'm an admirer of your extensive acting career. You are a very impressive actor.

PM: I don't understand.

RM: Well, I meant you are very good in all the films I have seen you in, but let me ask you about Jess Franco.

PM: What years do you want to know about? What exactly do you want to know?

RM: About your feelings about him as a director and the experiences you had while making these films.

PM: Jessie could have been a very good director. But he was never prepared. I think if Jessie had taken time to prepare, to work on the scripts he could have been a good director. But he never had the time or the money. These films never, ever had a script. There were all just ideas he had. He had plenty of ideas, but you need more than ideas. He had good ideas but they were never developed properly. He never shot with a script and he was trying to get the production money as they were being shot. He was very busy and the films were lacking many things.

RM: So, there was never any finished script or secured completion funds on ANY of the films of his you were in?

PM: No, never. That was the problem. 

RM: Let's start at the beginning. I believe your first film for him was VENUS IN FURS in  1968 ? Do you remember that one?

At this point Mr Muller excuses himself and when he returns appears to be reading something which he often consults during the conversation.

PM: No, I only remember the years and the titles Jess called them by when we were shooting.

RM: That one was also called BLACK ANGEL or  Paroxismus ... in Italy, I believe.

PM: No. I was in DE SADE  70  first then THE TRIAL OF THE WITCHES and THE NIGHT HAS EYES then DRACULA and EUGENIE. Later, in Germany I was in DR JEKYLL AND MRS HYDE and  AKASAVA .

RM: I'm trying to get a correct chronology and I appreciate it that you have records. When was  VAMPYROS LESBOS  shot? With  Soledad  Miranda.

PM: I don't know that title. I made a film Jessie called UNDER THE SIGN OF THE  VAMPIRE  with her in Germany and Spain and then JULIETTE.

RM: Right, that's it. But lets go back.

PM: I'll try my best.

RM: Thanks. Now you don't seem to remember VENUS IN FURS but....

PM: No, I remember DE SADE  70  in  1969  as the first with Maria  Rohm , Jack Taylor and Christopher Lee.

RM: OK, good, that's got a different title now, EUGENIE... HER JOURNEY... but was DE SADE  70  the shooting title?

PM: Yes, that was shot in Spain.These first films I made with Jessie were shot partially in Madrid, then in Barcelona and someplace else in Southern Spain. 

RM: THE BLOODY JUDGE was shot partially in Portugal. Do you remember that? And where, exactly, in Southern Spain? 

PM: All I remember is in southern Spain.

RM: Do you recall the cast of DE SADE  70 : Christoper Lee or the lead, Marie  Liljedahl ?

PM: I don't know who Marie  Liljedahl  is.

RM: She played the leading character, Eugenie.

PM: I don't remember her. I remember being there with the cast who were all very nice, that's all. These films were made very quickly and sometimes he would make two films at the same time. And later they were all made in a row, one after another. 

RM: I understand. What came next?

PM: Then there came THE NIGHT HAS EYES with Diana  Lorys  and Jack Taylor.

RM: Good, you remember the exact casting. That's also known as NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT. Diana Lorys  is very good in that one.

PM: I don't remember her at all. That was also shot very quickly in Spain.

RM: How quickly.

PM: Maybe a week, maybe less. I don't remember much about that one.

RM: THE BLOODY JUDGE and EL  CONDE  DRACULA had more prominent casts including Christopher Lee. Were they bigger budgeted?

PM: I remember  Soledad  Miranda from DRACULA, THE VAMPIRE.

RM: I wanted to ask you about her.

PM: She died in a car accident. She could have been a great actress, a big star, if she had lived.

RM: Mr. Muller, which films do you remember the most about and which actors?

PM: EUGENIE, made in  1970  with Miranda, then UNDER THE SIGN OF THE  VAMPIRE  and DR JEKYLL AND MRS HYDE, also with her. She was called Susan  Korda  in those films. Then, later I made  AKASAVA  with her in Germany. Part of DR JEKYLL was also shot in Germany with Horst  Tappert . Earlier I made SEX CHARADE with her and Jack Taylor. 

RM: OK, let's go back to SEX CHARADE and EUGENIE. Were these the first of the series of films you made with her in  1970 ?

PM: Yes, I think so. But these two were made almost at the same time. I remember EUGENIE was a good film which could have been a very good film if he had more time to prepare the script. This was shot all in Germany.

RM: In Berlin.

PM: Correct. Also shot very quickly. I remember Jessie was writing all the lines on the set for the next scene as we were shooting. We would take a half an hour break and then shoot the scene he had just written.

RM: Dialogue and blocking?

PM: Yes, everything was written just before it was filmed. 

RM: Talk about the day to day filming of EUGENIE. Was it all hectic, as you have suggested.?

PM: Yes, we didn't have any preparation or any rehearsal time. And no money for anything. It was all made up on the spot. As I said, Jess was writing as he was shooting.. He would be dictating lines which we would shoot shortly a half hour later. He was never sure about anything, never sure about thematic things. He had very good ideas but never had the time to work on them. 

RM: Was EUGENIE filmed MOS? And what language did you speak your lines in?

PM: EUGENIE was shot in English. Miranda and I were given our lines by Jessie in English and we spoke them in English. They recorded our dialogue in English. 

RM: That surprises me. I thought it may have been filmed in French.

PM: No, Jess spoke to me in French on the set. He spoke in German, French, Italian on the set to the crew when giving directions. I spoke to Jess in French and I spoke in Italian on the set to everyone else, but my lines were always given and delivered in English.

RM: "Given" by whom?

PM: Jessie, he always gave the lines in English but other directors to me in French.

RM: It sounds like the Tower of Babel? How did you  communicate  with  Soledada  Miranda? Did she speak English or Italian?

PM: No, she spoke just Spanish. But I talked to here in Italian, which she seemed to understand. There wasn't any trouble between us. She just spoke her lines of dialogue in  English . She was good, as I said, and would have become a better actress had she lived

RM: On the EUGENIE set, did she speak her lines phonetically?

PM: Yes, she just repeated the way they sounded in English if that's what you are asking.

RM: She's very good in that. What did you think of her performance?

PM: She was very good, she was a very good actress in that, not timid. 

RM: Can you discuss her as a person? How was she offset?

PM: A nice person, a very good working partner. Very friendly. 

RM: Was  VAMPYROS   LESBOS  filmed right after EUGENIE.

PM: Yes, if you mean UNDER THE SIGN OF THE  VAMPIRE . We shot that in Germany and Spain.

RM: And Istanbul.

PM: No, just Germany and Spain.

RM: There's a lot of scenes set and shot on location in Istanbul. 

PM: I haven't seen it and I didn't go there then. This and DR JEKYLL were shot close together in Germany and Spain. Fred Williams was also in DR JEKYLL and Howard Vernon.

RM: What do you remember about them?

PM: I just have it written down that they were there. I don't remember them.

RM: DR JEKYLL also has a different title now, SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY about a Doctor who is driven to suicide and how his wife avenges him.

PM: Yes, that was called DR JEKYLL on the set by Jessie.
You must understand I had forgotten about these films until you called. Look, they all could have been good films! But I keep telling you that he didn't take the time or didn't have the time to prepare or develop them or film them. I really can't tell you anymore than that, but thank you for asking about them.

RM: I wanted to ask you about the others.... You spoke of JULIETTE...

PM: Yes, that was filmed by never released. I think it was left unfinished at the time because of money problems. That's all I remember.

RM: You also made one with Christina Von  Blanc  called A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD in English. Do you remember her or that film.

PM: No, I don't remember her, I only remember making one called THE NIGHT THE STARS CRIED in Spain after the ones with  Soledad  Miranda. I don't recall anything about filming it, though. That's the last one I remember. I apologize but I think I have given you what you wanted to know and I'm sorry I didn't understand you at first. I wish I remembered more, but these were made many decades ago.

Then Mr. Muller said "Goodbye", a final bow shaded with that mysterious mixture of wistfulness, wisdom, sadness and humanity which we all remember from his many cinema incarnations.. 

contact the author of this post @  monell579 @ hotmail .com

(C) Robert Monell 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Date for a Homicide

Omicidio Per Un Appuntamento
Date For a Homicide
Italy 1966
D: Mino Guerrini
P: Liliana Biancini for Discobolo Film (Rome) & Parnass Film (Madrid)//St & Sc: Fernando Di Leo & Mino Guerrini//DP: Franco delli Colli//E: Franco Fraticelli//M: Ivan Vandor//Costume: Giorgio desideri//Makeup: Giuseppina Bovino.
Cast: Giorgio Ardisson, Ella Karin, Gunther Stoll, Hans Von Borsody, Mario Brega, Cesare Miceli Picardi, Luciano Rossi, Bettina Bousch, Peter Martell (Pietro Martellanza).

Irving, a private eye from America is hired to find Lydia, a millionaire's daughter. Soon after he's knocked unconscious and made to look like he was involved in a fatal car crash. He survives and hunts down his assailants to find out who wants him dead. Turns out the millionaire himself is behind the plot to get rid of his only heir in an effort to give his money to his lover instead (who is much younger than he is). Irving successfully saves the girl and puts an end to the millionaire's life.

Mino Guerrini can certainly make a fine horror film when the script requires it (see Il Terzio Occhio), however here he mixes too many elements from the spy genre (including lead actor Giorgio Ardisson) making for a very unsatisfactory thriller. there's definitely tongue in cheek action, such as the millionaire's hot rod/wheelchair that would have been more at home in a James Bond parody. There are a few plusses including an atmospheric shootout at a slaughterhouse and a very spooky sequence involving a killer with his face wrapped in bandages, but overall it's a film that just doesn't make it as a Giallo. Notable mainly for actors in small roles who would go on to larger parts such as Luciano Rossi ( an Italian Klaus Kinski lookalike who starred in Death Smiles at Murder) and Mario Brega who beats Clint Eastwood half to death in A Fistful of Dollars).

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


When I started this blog, my ultimate goal was not to just update ETC #6, the Giallo issue, but to slowly revitialize the magazine in a digital format. Well, with Dennis Capicik's contribution below, the process has begun. This is an open invitation to both former (like Dennis) and new contributors to ETC to begin to showcasing their thoughts and ruminations on what I refer to as the much despised term, EUROTRASH. Send all contributions to and let's make this place like the good old days, the late 80s-early 90s, you know, before the internet.

The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive
Italy 1972
D: Francesco Mazzei
P: Francesco Mazzei for Julia Film (Rome) // St & Sc: Francesco Mazzei, Marcello Aliprandi, Mario Bianchi, Bruno Di Geronimo, Vinicio Marinucci // DP: Giovanni Ciarlo // E: Alberto Galitti // M: Francesco De Masi
Cast: Renzo Montagnani, Bedy Moratti, Eva Czemerys, Salvatore Puntillo, Claudia Gravi, Alcira Harris, Arturo Trina, Adolfo Belletti, Arnaldo Bellofiore, Francesco D’Adda, Filippo Marcelli, Gina Mascetti, Lorenzo Piani & Maurizio Bonuglia.

As the title clearly demonstrates, that’s the puzzle that haunts commissario Franco Boito (terrifically portrayed by Renzo Montagnani) in this surprisingly effective and rarely seen giallo

When Father Giorgio (Maurizio Bonuglia) is found murdered at a convent chapel outside of Florence, detective Boito (Renzo Montagnani) is soon on the case, and, through his investigation, he unravels deceptions, betrayals and adulterous behavior among a small group of affluent people living in the vicinity.  To complicate matters, he begins a relationship with Orchidea Durantini (Bedy Moratti), one of the many red herrings, who, along with her husband, also take care of Ferruccio (Arturo Trina), a sickly orphan the convent nuns have adopted.

Like many of the contemporary gialli, which flooded cinema screens in the early-to-mid ’70s, L’ARMA, L’ORA, IL MOVENTE also has its fair share of stylistic flourishes, but one-time director Francesco Mazzei seems more interested in exploring the rather claustrophobic and repressive atmosphere in both the convent setting and small provincial town where everyone is harboring some sort of secret.  As played by Bonuglia – the lover of BOTH Rosalba Neri and Edwige Fenech in Ottavio Alessi’s TOP SENSATION (1969) and one of the stars of Francesco Barilli’s equally gloomy The PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK (1974) – Father Giorgio is “adopted” by the locals, but its Orchidea and her friend Giulia (Eva Czemerys) who vie for his attention.  During a typical midday lunch in lush garden surroundings, Father Giorgio is treated with the traditional respect a priest would normally receive, but it almost borders on Christ-like adoration, even when discussing mundane trivialities such as astrological signs.  It’s certainly an interesting sequence, but, it isn’t until Father Giorgio is found murdered at the steps of the church altar, found splayed in a pool of his own blood, that this aspect is further developed when he is essentially ‘punished’ for his own indiscretions, but also for the transgressions of everyone around him. Then, in an interesting turn of events, when detective Boito is well into his investigation, he begins an illicit affair with Orchidea and essentially takes the place of Father Giorgio and is treated with the same reverence, albeit with more apprehension from his newfound acquaintances because Boito uses every opportunity to scrutinize his suspects.

Further religious iconography populates the narrative, with nuns roaming the convent grounds – their sort of ‘garden of Eden’, which is surrounded by the “sins” of the outside world.  “We all sin, so we must suffer for this,” exclaims Sister Tarquinia (the rather alluring Spanish actress Claudia Gravy, who also appeared as a novice in Domenico Paolella’s The NUNS OF SAINT ARCHANGEL [1973] the following year), as she too conceals her own feelings for the deceased Father Giorgio.  In a highly exploitable moment, which looks like it ventured in from some “nasty nun” film, Sister Tarquinia flagellates herself – which provides yet another red herring – but, as the camera slowly pans across the room, it reveals the rest of the nuns all performing the very same ritual as Francesco De Masi’s choral music swells on the soundtrack.

Even though Boito is first presented as the outsider “from the city”, who at first is seen roaring into town on his motorcycle like some justice crusader right of out of a polizieschi film, he places himself above the old-world outlook of the church.  He immediately reprimands the nuns for “moving the body”, but, as the narrative unfolds, he too is soon engrossed in this reclusive world, and, when he becomes romantically entangled with Orchidea, his wits as a detective also become clouded.  He becomes just as conflicted as some of the very suspects he is interrogating.  Well-acted and compelling, L’ARMA, L’ORA, IL MOVENTE’s greatest strength comes from Renzo Montagnani as Boito – generally regarded for his many comedic roles alongside such Italian starlets as Edwige Fenech – in one of his rare ‘serious’ film roles, that turns out to be the real surprise.  It’s a terrific role, full of frustration, conflict, and, ultimately, sadness, which Montagnani pulls off with great conviction.   
But special mention should also be given to Arturo Trina as Ferruccio “il bambino”, who, in this world of hidden secrets and illicit behavior, casts his eyes on all the deceptions; and as it turns out, it’s Ferruccio who witnesses Father Giorgio’s murder through a rooftop peephole in the old church.  In a nice aesthetic touch, one of his marbles falls through the peephole immediately after the murder, and as it hits the stone floor, the sound resonates throughout the entire church, thus alerting the murderer.  Then his inquisitive nature gets the better of him, and in one of the film’s more overtly horror-tinged moments, Ferruccio ventures from his room and wanders into the dark corridors of the church.  Much of the scene plays out like one in any Gothic horror flick, which is abruptly and rather effectively concluded with the crotchety caretaker Anselmo (Adolfo Beletti) scaring the bejesus out of him.  In an earlier scene, because he “really likes mysteries”, Ferruccio makes a remark about gialli, Italy’s little yellow mystery paperbacks from which the genre derived its name; leading to some nice, unexpected turns in the final act.

Handsomely shot by Giovanni Ciarlo, with plenty of arresting images, including a rather vicious murder sequence halfway through the film, L’ARMA, L’ORA, IL MOVENTE never outstays its welcome with some sharply-written characters and decent plot twists along the way.  It’s too bad this turned out to be Francesco Mazzei’s only directorial effort, as it’s an engrossing little film that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. 



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cross Current

Un Omicidio Perfetto A Termine Di Legge
Cross Current
Italy 1971
D: Tonino Ricci
P: Jose Manuel for Producciones Cinematografica (Madrid & Rome)//St & Sc: Arpad De Riso, Teodoro Ricci, Rafael Azcuna, Jose Maria Forque, Aldo Crudo, Miguel Herrero, Francesco Campitelli//DP: Cecilio Paniagua//E: Ornella Chintolini//M: Giorgio Gaslini//Art D: Luis Vazquez.

Cast: Elga Andersen, Philippe Leroy, Rossana Yanni, Ivan Rasimov, Franco Ressel, Julio Pena, Franco Balducci, Mario Morales, Nando Poggi.

Marco, a high speed boat racer, is involved in an accident in which he loses his memory. He doesn't remember such items as his wife cheating on him with his best friend Bart or why a gnarled old tree in his backyard bothers him so much. The police investigation of the crash reveals it was sabotage. One night Marco and his wife are involved in argument when she is accidentally shot and killed. He decides to dump the body in the ocean but soon discovers clues that reveal she may still be alive. When she does show up on his doorstep, he freaks out and drives his car off a cliff. Monica celebrates his death with her lover Bart but she discovers he is actually in love with Terry, someone she thought was her best friend! Monica kills them both and returns home only to realize that Marco may very well have returned from the grave to exact his revenge on her.

Tonino (aka Teodoro) Ricci is not usually recognized as one of the premiere Italian filmmakers based mainly on his work in the eighties (such as PANIC, RUSH, RAGE, etc) which received much wider releases than his films made a decade earlier. However, if this film is any indication, he wasn't always churning out hackwork. This film is well directed and paced to keep you guessing from beginning to end as to who is alive or dead. The cinematography by Spainard Cecilio Paniagua (LISA AND THE DEVIL) is shimmering with effect, especially in the numerous night time sequences where it's crucial to be able to see just enough to hold your suspense. Although the script reveals many diverse hands involved, it's never confusing and what a nice change of pace to see a man in jeporady during most of the film's running time. It's also apparent that Giorgio Gaslini was already mapping out his contributions to the Giallo genre with motifs that would later reappear in Dario Argento's PROFUNDO ROSSO. The mixture of Spanish and Italian actors is perfect, but sadly it was Julio Pena (he plays the police inspector here) last appearance as he died shortly after appearing in this film.