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Saturday, May 23, 2015


Director: Piccio Raffanini. Sc: Lidia Ravera, Piccio Raffanini. Music: Gabriele Ducros. Cast: Virginia Hey, Gerard Damon, Gioia Scola, Carlo Mucari, Dario Parisini, Eva Grimaldi, Kid Creole.

Diane (Virginia Hey, from MAD MAX 2) is a photographer, who, though difficult to work with, is considered the best. She is always striving for the offbeat and weird which includes her pick of models and what they wear. Her choice of Teagan (a muscled up androgynous woman who looks like Stallone with tits) eventually leads to murder when the model is killed during a bondage tape sent to Diane. The opening credits read, "To the one I love." A cop, who is a walking cliche, named Arnold is assigned the case and he takes an instant dislike for Diane and her entire lifestyle (but that doesn't stop her from trying to get him into bed). Diane's ex-husband produces bondage tapes and is the most likely suspect (meaning of course he's innocent). When Teagan's roommate Kim (a big, beautiful black woman who's as bald as Telly Savalas) is murdered and taped, George (Diane's ex) is able to use his sophisticated equipment to reveal who the murderer is.

Giallo-BLADERUNNER style. A marvelous film that I could watch repeatedly and never tire of. Along with DEATH LAID AN EGG, this is one of my favorites. It's a true winner in the style-over-content parade. Although it doesn't call attention to itself, the film is set in a not too distant future where drugs and bi-sexuality are the norm. This is a film that needs to be played with the volume turned way up as the score by Ducros is a sonic delight. The SF trappings are just that, but certainly help to put across that feeling of off-centeredness. When Diane and Kim go to a gay nightclub looking for a friend of Tegan's, you'll think you've entered a Ranexerox Comic (and damn if there aren't drawings of that character by Liberatore on the curtains). Look for Eva Grimaldi in a wordless cameo as one of George's toys/models.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Italy, 1980.

D: Gianni Martucci
P: Alberto Marras for Lark Cinematografica & Joint Working Group//St & Sc: Gianni Martucci, Alessandro Capone & Gaetano Russo //DP: Angelo Bevilacqua//E: Enzo Alabiso & Antonio Ramirez//M: Ubaldo Continiello.
Cast: Ronny Russ, Dafne Price, Roberto Posse, Timothy Wood, Franco Diogene, Per Holgher, Silvia Mauri, Anna Maria Chiatante, Gina Mancinelli.

Although labeled in many genre reference books as a giallo, Gianni Martucci’s TRHAUMA has more similarities to the then popular stalk-and-slash craze, which, thanks to the enormous popularity of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978), dominated box office receipts at the time.  If it’s not glaringly obvious by the misspelled title card, TRHAUMA is pretty much the rock-bottom of the genre – albeit with a few oddball and sleazy characteristics to keep it mildly entertaining – so it’s easy to see why it was pretty much dismissed in most circles.

A disheveled man (Per Holgher – credited as L’Essere / “The Being”) with a disfigured blind eye roams the crypts of a large Italian villa, who, in his spare time, is also constructing a large toy castle made entirely of Lego (!).  As he secretly works away, a wailing cat in the background is soon ‘hushed-up’ when he removes its head with a large sickle – but don’t worry, folks, it’s all very unconvincingly done.  In the meantime, a group of well-to-do socialites – including a photographer named Paul (Timothy Wood), his model Olga (Anna Maria Chiatante), a wealthy industrialist (Franco Diogene) and his newest “secretary” (Gina Mancinelli), and also Carlo and Silvia (Roberto Posse and Silvia Mauri), an unhappily married couple – are all visiting Andrea (“Ronny Russ” / aka Gaetano Russo)’s country villa, which seems to be a thorn in the side of his wife Lilly (“Dafne Price” / aka Domitilla Cavazza).  As Andrea and Lilly bicker over this “shack”, which he purchased instead of getting something fancy on the Côte d’Azur, his guests make themselves at home around the large outdoor pool.  As night falls, everyone becomes the target of the resident madman obsessed with kids’ plastic building blocks, but who is that mysterious figure taunting him with new boxes of Lego…?

As wacky as the above premise sounds, the set-up is about as simplistic as it gets, and the second half is simply one extended stalking sequence.  Like any low-budget flick, characters simply gather together to more conveniently get bumped-off, but, as in many earlier gialli, this is an especially unpleasant bunch, with plenty of dirty secrets and hidden agendas.  At one point, Paul blackmails Silvia with compromising photos of her taken while she was having a lesbian tryst with Olga, and, during the requisite photo shoot, Paul urges Olga to “throw away the dress”, as she prances through the woods in her birthday suit.  Andrea is probably the most pathetic of the group: a degenerate gambler who is obviously financially supported by his wife, but is an asshole to boot (”You’re crazy if you think I’ll continue to finance your megalomania!” exclaims Lilly). 

Characterization is certainly not the film’s main impetus, and, in typically clichéd fashion, when Olga goes missing, they all decide to “split up” and search for her in the surrounding woods.  Although gore is minimal, there is one uncharacteristically nasty scene of “The Being” having his evil way with Olga’s corpse in an open field – incidentally, this unpleasant scene was edited out of the French Canadian VHS release, entitled DÉMENCE – which seems to have strayed in from another film.  During TRHAUMA’s extended finale – in an obvious nod to Italian Gothics – Lilly is pursued by “The Being” as she runs through the villa in her negligee; but unlike many of its contemporaries, the film’s sudden and very cynical ending is quite surprising.  But we never do get an explanation about that damned Lego!

It’s quite incredible that it took fully three writers (namely Alessandro Capone, director Martucci and star Russo) to slap this together, and the slapdash approach is evident almost immediately as Ubaldo Continiello’s irksome disco tune (“Come on, dance…”) plays over a black screen and generic credits; some prints contain psychedelic, rainbow-colored brush-strokes in the background.  Incidentally, most of Continiello’s score is also taken from Ruggero Deodato’s earlier The LAST CANNIBAL WORLD (a.k.a. JUNGLE HOLOCAUST, 1977), which further exemplifies the unoriginality of this entire decidedly lowly production. 

Director Martucci only directed a grand total of five films, including BLAZING FLOWERS (1978), which is arguably one of his best efforts; an entertaining and highly exploitable poliziesco starring Euro action cinema icons George Hilton and Marc Porel.  One of Martucci’s last efforts – again with star Gaetano Russo – was The RED MONKS (1988), a relatively bland horror cheapie put together during the fading days of Italo-horror, which gained some unexpected popularity due to the controversial – and confusing – “Lucio Fulci presents” moniker it got saddled with.

As for TRHAUMA, this is a poor imitation of the burgeoning slasher craze of the time, which, although utterly bizarre at times, wears out its welcome rather quickly.    

Sunday, May 3, 2015


The 1990s genre bootlegging scene, Oz style!
By Michelle Alexander

A long time ago in an era far, far away (i.e. the 1990s), before fans of cult and otherwise obscure-to the-mainstream movies had the luxury of their favourite titles readily available on Blu-Ray or for instant download, those of us in Melbourne, Australia had to make do with plenty of ropey, grainy, censored prints (jarring jump cuts eliminating most of the gore were the bane of just about every Italian cannibal and Fulci VHS release here) , and forget about rocking up to your nearest video store and walking out with the likes of Cannibal Holocaust, Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,  The New York Ripper and anything Ilsa, as all had been refused classification by the Australian censorship board (the first three finally had their ludicrous bans lifted in the mid 2000s, but the Ilsa films still remain ‘forbidden’ in this country). Also, many desired titles (Burial Ground, The Church) were simply not available as they hadn’t been distributed here. As writer John Harrison lamented in issue 15 of the legendary Australian zine Fatal Visions

“Unfortunately Melbourne has yet to establish anything that could be considered an ultimate video marketplace to compete with those overseas (take a look inside any issue of Filmfax or Psychotronic to get an idea of the length and breadth of weird and wonderful titles available in the U.S.)”.

However, if one was up to some persistent detective work, they would be able to find all of the above titles, uncut and uncensored, via local mail order outfits Phantastique Video and The Graveyard Tramp, or, if you were willing to risk the wrath of Customs, buy or swap off a myriad of international operations such as European Trash Cinema, Something Weird, Midnight Video, Cinefear Video (still going strong today!), and the infamous Video Search of Miami.

And how did I discover the world of bootlegging? When the world cinema TV channel SBS screened a letterboxed, uncut subtitled print of Deep Red in September 1994, the film completely blew me away. The stunning visuals, cinematography and Goblin soundtrack left me awestruck and wanting to seek out more of the director’s output immediately. I’d caught the Eurohorror bug, and began renting every Fulci, Deodato, Bava and any other movies of this ilk I could find, never mind that many were cut-to-shit and  residing forlornly on the bottom shelves gathering dust and major sunbleaching (the same tapes that collectors now happily pay hundreds of dollars for). 

Certain ‘unscrupulous’ video outlets would stock the odd banned dupe, such as Salo - the absurd history of its banning and unbanning here is headache-inducing and deserving of its own article. My local video store, Sunshine Video Ezy, proudly hosted the entire Faces of Death series in their ‘Documentary’ section, by all accounts particularly popular rentals.

In the mid to late 90s I was a regular visitor to record fairs held around Melbourne and while wandering around one held at the Royal Exhibition Buildings in early 1996, I stumbled across a stall which looked vastly different to all the others selling boxes of vinyl records – the table was covered with dubbed VHS tapes of uncut and unavailable horror titles in Australia, as well as imported Goblin and other Eurohorror CD soundtracks. A VCR set up was even playing The Church, which I’d been dying to see. I had arrived at Phantastique Video, the aforementioned horror/cult/trash mail-order service, ran by Gregg Lewis from the mid 1990s-early 2000s. Gregg was manning the stall that day, along with Adam Lee, who helped stocked Phantastique with its jaw-dropping range of titles - everything from uncut Fulci, Franco and D’Amato to XXX fare to those banned cult classics mentioned earlier.  Being low on cash I was only able to purchase a copy of Last House on the Left, but I made sure to take a catalogue before I left and over the years would have spent thousands of dollars on everything I wanted to see (seeing The Beyond and Zombi Holocaust uncut was a revelation – no massive splices chopping out eyeball and cranium violence!).

Discovering Phantastique was a major stepping stone for me and in that same year I found inner-city store Polyester Books’ stash of bootlegged tapes at the back of their store, which gave me access to my first viewing of Cannibal Holocaust. Needless to say I was shocked and stunned by Ruggero Deodato’s brutal masterpiece – the film has lost none of its power even after at least a dozen subsequent viewings – and the tape’s nth generation quality and Spanish subtitles only added to its devastating effect, giving it a ‘snuff movie from bedlam’ feel.

Another fondly-remembered Melbourne mail-order (and subsequent online) store of note was John Harrison’s ‘The Graveyard Tramp’, specialising in dupes, ex-rental tapes, books, magazines, posters, and KISS memorabilia. Along with top-quality service, John always offered a consistently varying range of product, including a great mix of local and international zines.

As I obtained most of my tapes from contacts within Australia, I only ever ordered from overseas one memorable time – from Video Search of Miami. VSoM had a 60 page catalogue offering a mouth-wateringly vast range of product. I was a little apprehensive about having to initially pay a $10 ‘non-refundable initiation fee’ but figured it was worth it as I naively assumed I’d be getting, at the least, decent quality copies and service. I ordered a few titles including the ‘Argento Collectors Package’ (a compilation tape consisting of two Dario Argento interviews and a fashion show he directed for Italian television in 1986). Several weeks later Australia Post delivered the tapes to my door, and I immediately loaded up the VCR with the Argento cassette. And much to my surprise instead of the Argento programmes appearing on my TV screen I got some European porno flick instead!  Fortunately the other cassettes had the content they were meant to have, but I was far from impressed. Not only with the ‘mix-up’- but with the horrid, barely watchable muddy quality of the dubs. I never expect perfect quality from bootlegs, but after paying extortion, I mean a ‘membership fee’ and more than above-average prices I expected better.  Needless to say, I didn’t waste my time ordering from Video Search of Miami again, especially as I never even received the courtesy of an apology.

In the late 90s, still considered the dawn of the World Wide Web, early genre message boards such as the Mortado’s Page of Filth forum allowed fellow collectors to meet and organise their own trades, which provided another avenue for me to add to my tape collection (and meet some more great like-minded folks along the way as well).

In the Noughties and beyond, the introduction and subsequent popularity of DVD’s, torrents, streaming video and Blu-Ray discs has effectively eliminated the chase of tracking down the right contacts to search for formerly elusive films, save for the most obscure titles. Pretty much everything I used to have to wait weeks for though the post, or spend years searching for, is now available within minutes online. Which of course is fantastic for accessibility and convenience, not to mention the far superior quality of Blu-Ray compared to VHS, but the sheer thrill of scouring random video outlets and discovering lonely copies of Bloody Moon, Murderock and Dario Argento’s World of Horror emblazoned with $1 Weekly Hire stickers, pouring over the goodies in mail-order catalogues, and reading about formerly mythical films not touched by the mainstream horror press like the early works of Michael and Roberta Findlay in ‘labour of love’ zines, is something that can never be replaced.