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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Death Carries a Cane

Director: Maurizio Pradeaux. Sc: Arpad De Riso, Maurizio
Pradeaux, Alfonso Balcazar, George Martin. Music: Roberto Pregadio. Cast: Susan Scott, Robert Hoffmann, Anuska Borova, Simon Andreu, George Martin.

Kitty (Susan Scott) is waiting for her fiance Alberto (Robert Hoffmann of SPASMO) at a tourist observatory when she sees (through a coin operated telescope) a young woman being brutally knifed to death. The killer is wearing the standard attire (black gloves, black overcoat and hat) and so can't be identified. Even after telling her story to the police inspector (George Martin, in a plastered-down, jet-black toupee that makes him look like a lounge singer from Hell!), no one seems to believe her. We are introduced to the rest of the cast, and a more likely group of suspects and red-herrings I've yet to witness. There is Alberto, who knew the first victim and is often caught knifing faceless clothing store dummies (he's a performance artist and this is part of his act). Marco (Simon Andreu of NIGHT OF THE SORCERORS), who is a composer and worked with soon to be victim #2 for a future concert appearance, Sylvia (Anuska Berova) and her twin sister Lydia (also played by Berova), the latter hates ballet music which just happens to be the profession of the victims. Sylvia's creepy looking boyfriend (Luciano Rossi, he played the hunchback in D'Amato's DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER) is even shown stabbing at a store window display of straight razors (the killer's weapon of choice). Finally, the killer walks with a limp and uses a cane (hence the film's title) and we indeed see Alberto and Sylvia using one early in the film. As you would expect, the cane has no bearing on who the killer is. It comes to a climax when the killer is shot down while trying to finish off Kitty in a greenhouse.

With all those characters to play with, the film easily fills its 89 minute running time spreading around the suspicion. I have a high tolerance for ETC, but a film like this, tests even my low standards to their very core. DEATH CARRIES A CANE is so bland, so cliche-ridden, so awful yet so entertaining that it ends up getting an average rating in spite of all that.  No one, either in front of or behind the camera, distinguishes themselves in any form. Even Roberto Pregadio's patented thriller score seems to have no effect on the film when it is heard. George Martin had a hand (or was it a middle finger?) in the script and one wonders if he was responsible for the dialogue his character spouts such as the time he asks a fellow co-worker to, "Get me the files of all the deviants and sex offenders with leg disabilities." I don't know about you, but those bastards are really organized! Finally, I can't even recommend the film's copious amount of female nudity because (except for Susan Scott), the actresses who appear here needs breast implants to distinguish them from the male cast members. Boredom is a crime no film should inflict on its audience, unfortunately, DEATH CARRIES A CANE is guilty, guilty, guilty! 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Quiet Place to Kill

Italy 1970

D: Umberto Lenzi
P: Bruno Bolognesi for Tritone Filminstria & Medusa Distribuzione//St & Sc: Rafael Marchent, Marcello Goscia, Bruno Di Geronimo, Marie-Claire Solleville//DP: Guglielmo Mancori//E: Enzo Alabiso & Antonio Ramirez//M: Gregory Garcia Segura//Art D: W. Buran//Makeup: Mario Van Riel
Cast: Carroll Baker, Jean Sorel, Luis Davila, Alberto Dalbes, Marina Coffa, Anna Proclemer, Liz Halvorsen, Hugo Blanco, Jacques Stany, Rossana Rovere, Calisto Calisti, Manuel Diaz Velasco.

Helen (Carroll Baker) receives word from her ex-husband Maurice (Jean Sorel) to join him at his villa in Majorca, Spain. When she arrives, she finds out that it was actually Constance (Marina Coffa) who summoned her. It seems she knows that Helen attempted to kill Maurice when they were married and she wants to enlist Baker's help in knocking him off again. The tables turn on Constance when during the attempt, it is she that is killed instead. Constance's daughter Susan (Anna Proclemer), arrives to discover her mother's fate and instantly suspects Helen and Maurice of foul play. The joke turns out to be on Helen as Maurice and Susan are actually lovers and it was they who planned Constance's and now her death (in a car crash). Just when these two think they have pulled it all off, Constance's body (wrapped in chains and tied to an anchor) is found.

Here's a film that never shuts up. The US released version is an edited TV print and so spends all of its time trying to be clever and forgets about the exploitation items, like nudity and violence, that makes this genre unique. Fortunately, the unedited export version has come to light and it contains the exploitation goodies. This is more reminescent of a TV episode of COLUMBO, where you spend the first half of the show setting up the murder, and the last half involving a detective who solves the crime. We are also stuck with all that sixties baggage—bad fashions, crappy rock and roll music score and set design by Target. Sorel and Baker were sleepwalking through their parts—she comes across as innocent and Sorel as the bad guy, only to reverse their positions by film's end. Camera angles consist largely of static, talking-head shots, doing nothing to relieve the audience's boredom. Part soap opera, part travelogue of Majorca, A QUIET PLACE TO KILL is just that, too damn quiet.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Murder Obsession

Director: Riccardo Freda. Sc: Riccardo Freda, Antonio Corti,
Fabio Piccioni. Music: Franco Mannino. Cast: Stefano Patrizi, Anita Strindberg, John Richardson, Laura Gemser, Martine Brochard, Silvia Dionisio.

Michael Stanford is an actor who decides to return home and visit dear old Mom. He brings along his girlfriend Deborah (Silvia Dionisio) and invites his director Hans, lead actress Beryl (Laura Gemser) and assistant director Shirley (Martine Brochard). Upon arriving, they meet creepy Oliver (John Richardson) and of course, Mother (Anita Strindberg, still looking good and proving that silicon implants do hold up over the years). Almost immediately strange things start to happen as Beryl is strangled in her bath and Deborah dreams of Black Magic rituals. When people start dying (in very graphic, bloody fashion) it's made to look like Michael has gone off the deep end (he supposedly killed his father when he was younger). Michael finally discovers that his Mother and her lover Oliver, were behind the murders. In fact, Oliver is so disgusted with it all, he commits suicide. Deborah turns up at the end just in time to discover that Mom has killed Michael and she too is trapped and about to become the next victim.

This film definitely takes the kitchen sink approach to plot elements. It features a little bit of everything, from a traditional stalk and slash killer to a Mother only Norman Bates could love to Black Mass and mind control. All that plus large amounts of nudity and gore show that Freda was far from over the hill when he made this film. Freda must have been in a bad mood when he made this one as no one survives to the end except Strindberg, giving the performance of her career as the Mom from Hell. Pulchritude is at an all time high in this one especially Silvia Dionisio (who looks like Olivia-Newton John). The U.S. video version edits out her second dream/Black Mass sequence, either because a real chicken gets beheaded or because there's an embarrassingly fake spider that makes the ones in MESA OF LOST WOMAN look terrific by comparison. The film telegraphs its shock sequences such as when a character is seen cutting wood with a chainsaw, you just know that implement will make a return appearance with far more gruesome results. Franco Mannino's score veers from grandiose orchestral themes to sleazy synthesizer beeps that ruin whatever mood he was trying to maintain. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015


D:Umberto Lenzi.
P:Salvatore Alabiso. SC: Umberto Lenzi, Ugo Moretti, and Marie Claire Solleville. DP: Guglielmo Mancori.Music: Pierro Umiliani. E: Enzo Alabiso. Art D: Giorgio Bertolini.
Cast: Carroll Baker, Lou Castel, Colette Descombes, Tino Carraro, Lilla Brignone. 

Helen West is newly widowed and rich as sin. She wants to escape the glare of publicity and so moves back to her remote villa in Italy. Soon after returning, a young man named Peter Donovan appears in her life. He has car trouble outside her gate and before too long, works his way into her bedroom. Soon after that, Peter's sister Eva shows up and the two young people encourage Helen to give up her inhibitions and so she begins to drink and take pills in excessive amounts. Increasingly, Helen is driven to the brink of suicide as Peter and Eva dominate her every move. Ultimately they succeed, but they too pay a high price.

Here's a film that differs radically when comparing the English and Italian language versions. The Italian print removes most of the nudity and any sign of the lesbian relationship between Baker and Descombes . There is also an entire subplot with Baker's character involved in the actual murder of her husband that is completely missing from the US print (no doubt removed to maintain viewer sympathy for all the grief Baker's character experiences). Without question the English language version is the one to see as the amount of sordidness, which is important to show how low Baker sinks to, is of tantmount importance to the film's denouement. Umberto Lenzi had a special relationship with Carroll Baker as he featured her in a variety films, allowing her to play both predator and prey. Although she'll never receive praise for her film work in Italy, fans who know better, appreciate this excellent body of work. She always dubbed her own voice which allowed her to get the best out of each part. Here she takes chances with a role that is far from glamourous. I've never been a fan of Lou Castel, but here his worm-like appearance works well. He becomes increasingly crazed as the film progresses, ultimately revealing a total amoral side to his character. Of all the Lenzi-Baker collaborations, this is their best.