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Saturday, June 27, 2015

So Sweet So Dead

Sales Title: SO SWEET, SO DEAD
D: Roberto Montero (Bianchi)
P: Eugenio Lorimonte for P.C.R Produziono & Produzioni Cinematografiche//St & Sc: Luigi Angelo, Italo Fasani, Roberto Montero//DP: Fausto Rossi//E: Rolando Salvatore//Music: Giorgio Gaslini.
Cast: Farley Granger, Sylva Koscina, Silvano Tranquilli, Annabella Incontrera, Femi Benussi, Chris Avram, Krista Nell, Susan Scott, Angela Covello, Fabrizio Moresco, Andrea Scotti, Irene Pollmer, Luciano Rossi, Ivano Staccioli, Nino Fotti, Jessica Dublin, Philippe Hersent.

Rich society women are being killed off in a number of gruesome ways. The reasoning behind their deaths appears to be infidelity as photos of the women involved in illicit affairs are left at the scene of each crime. Inspector Capuana is assigned to the case and it's obvious he'll receive no help from the victims' aristocratic husbands. Professor Cassali suspects a jealous homosexual but Cappuana sets his sights on morgue attendent Gastoni. As the murders continue, Cappuana, in a last ditch effort to flush out the real killer, arrests a mentally deficient man who claims to have committed the murders. Cappuana plan works as the real killer is offended by being associated with a mental inferior and is flushed out into the open. But not before the inspector allows the madman to bump off his own wife since he discovered she too had been unfaithful to him.

Roberto Montero Bianchi, father of director Mario Bianchi, had a prolific career in all the major Italian genres, such as Western, Crime and Horror. This film was his most delirious, out of control film and unlike say, Ferdinando Merighi, who had a great cast for LA CASA D'APPUNTAMENTO and refused to exploit it, Montero does not make that same mistake here. The actresses who play victims here read like a who's who and are all featured in various stages of sex and death—ultimately what this genre is all about. Montero is by no means an artist, but his offbeat visual absurdity reaches overload in the SO SWEET SO DEAD version where the killer, in black gloves, mask and hat is seen in broad daylight, running down the beach chasing future victim, Femi Benussi. In Montero's defense, that's more a fault of the lab transfer as in other versions of this film, the scene is darkened to simulate night time. Farley Granger's performance is usually singled out as one of his worst (no arguement for the first 90% of the film's running time), but the last sequence where he allows the murderer to kill his wife before sending him to Hell, redeems an overall perfunctory delivery. For the film's 1976 re-release in the U.S., William Mishkin added hardcore sex sequences featuring Kim Pope and Harry Reems and retitled the film PENETRATION. To date, this version has never surfaced.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nude Girl Found Killed in the Park

Italy 197
D: Alfonso Brescia.
P: Luigi Mondello for Luis Films & Dauro Films//St & Sc: Alfonso Brescia, Antonio Fos, Peter Skerl, Gianni Martucci, Enzo Gicca, & Aldo Crudo//DP: Alfonso Nieva//E: Rolando Salvatori & Roberto Fandino//M: Carlo Savina//Art D: Cruz Baleztena
Cast: Robert Hoffmann, Irina Demick, Pilar Velasquez, Howard Ross, Philippe Leroy, Adolfo Celi, Patrizia Adiutori.

Catherine's father takes out a million dollar life insurance policy and promptly drops dead. She begins receiving mysterious phone calls claiming her father was murdered. The insurance company sends Chris Buyer to investigate the man's death and he decides to get to know Catherine a little bit better. She invites him to her home where he meets her mother (who still carries on conversations with her dead husband) and sister Barbara (who is a nymphomaniac). He learns that Catherine has a bad heart and any sudden shock might prove fatal. All this comes into play as Barbara is found murdered, the threatening phone calls increase and Catherine claims to see her father walking the halls at night. As the film comes to it's conclusion, you have to wonder if Catherine will survive the night.

Al Brescia (aka Al Bradley) is my nominee for the worst Italian director. Name me one film he directed that reveals the least bit of talent (while his BEAST IN SPACE is trashy fun, it still proves my above point). As you can tell, Brescia is not one of my favorites. About all he succeeds at here is instructing the cinematographer to photograph Irina Demick so she looks like Barbara Steele from one of her sixties Gothic movies. Much like George Hilton, if Hoffmann is the star, you can bet your ass he's the guilty party. Here he's allowed to overact so his Mr Nice guy act doesn't fool you for a minute. Howard Ross as a mute (but still sleazy) stableboy has a sultry love scene with nymphomaniac Pilar Velasquez that is one of the few highlights of this film. Both Adolfo Celi (who was great in WHO SAW HER DIE?)and Philippe Leroy phone in their roles. Screenplay writer Martucci would go on to direct his own thriller in 1974 called THRAUMA. The most successful element of this film is the score by Carlo Savina. What a shame his work is so totally overlooked when it comes to soundtracks released on CD. Be wary of versions of this film that cut out the prologue set in WW2.
It is vital to understanding the film's denouement.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Evil Eye

Italy 1962
D: Mario Bava.
P: Massimo De Rita for Cosmopolis Films, Galatea SPA, Coronet and Les Filmes Marbeuf//St & Sc: Sergio Corbucci, Ennio De Concini, Eliana de Sabata, Mario Bava, Franco Prosperi & Mino Guerrini//DP: Mario Bava//E: Mario Serandrei//M: Roberto Nicolosi (Les Baxter US version)//Art D: Giorgio Giovannini//Costume: Tina Grani Loriello//Makeup: Euclide Santoli
Cast: Leticia Roman, John Saxon, Valentina Cortese, Dante Di Paolo, Robert Buchanan, Gianni Di Benedetto, Jim Dolen, Lucia Modugno, Virginia Doro, Luigi Bonos, Chana Coubert, Adriana Facchetti, Milo Quesada.

Nora (Leticia Roman) arrives in Rome to visit her Aunt Ethel who isn't feeling well. When Auntie dies that night and Nora experiences a wild chain of events that lead to her witnessing a murder, the police, along with Dr. Bassi (John Saxon), are skeptical since there is no body. She ends up staying with friends of her Aunt's, Laura Craven (Valentina Cortese) and her husband. Nora also learns about a series of murders that took place over the past ten years, dubbed The Alphabet Murders (the victims last names followed along like the letters of the alphabet). More murders occur before it is revealed that Laura herself is the killer (she also did in her sister) and it's not the "heroic" doctor who saves her, but Laura's near-to-death husband.

Although THE EVIL EYE is usually mentioned as the precursor to the Giallo cycle, that honor should really go to Bava's BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. THE EVIL EYE is more akin to Alfred Hitchcock's fifties films, with Leticia Roman playing the Doris Day role, and John Saxon as Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart (in fact the Italian Title of THE EVIL EYE translates as THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, which is no accident). Both are bland in their appearance and actions and it is the flamboyance of the killer that makes the film memorable. The film definitely benefits from the fact that Bava acted as his own cinematographer. The B&W imagery utilizes light and shadow to effective extremes. When the Aunt dies in her bed in the middle of a thunderstorm, it acts as definite foreshadowing of Bava's technique utilized in a similar situation in BLACK SABBATH. Finally, a note about the fact that two, quite different versions of this film exists. The US print emphasizes comedy throughout, using different takes and sometimes even reshooting scenes emphasizing slapstick pratfalls and overacting. No doubt the "geniuses" at AIP required such stupidity. The European version is much bleaker and noirish, with no lessening of tension through comic relief. There are scenes unique to both versions that makes one wish a best of both prints could be created for the definitive viewing.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Italy 197
D: Dario Argento.
P: Salvatore Argento for Seda Spettacoli & Universal Prod.//St & Sc: Luigi Cozzi, Dario Argento Mario Foglietti//DP: E: Francoise Bonnot//M: Ennio Morricone//Art D: Enrico Sabbatini
Cast: Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Bud Spencer (Carlo Pedersoli), Jean-Pierre Marielle, Aldo Bufilandi, Calisto Calisti, Marisa Fabbri, Oreste Lionello, Fabrizio Moroni, Corrado Olmi, Stefano Satta Flores, Costanza Spada, Francine Racette.

A musician named Robert Tobias (Michael Brandon), is being followed by a mysterious stranger whom he accidently kills. During the altercation he sees someone up above taking photographs. At first he thinks blackmail is the photographer's motive, however he soon realizes that it's much more serious. His wife Nina (Mimsy Farmer) leaves him after their maid is killed. As more and more people around him die, Robert discovers from the police the last image seen by his recently deceased new girlfriend. Going home he finds Nina has returned and wearing a pendant containing 4 flies. Just as she is about to kill him (he reminded her of the father she grew to hate), Robert's friend God (the aptly titled ex-Italian Olympic champion, Bud Spencer) arrives and saves him. Nina ends up getting decapitated in a car accident.

There isn't much left to say about Argento these days as he's now been accepted into the critical mainstream. This film still holds up and is a good indicator that more ambitious work (ie PROFUNDO ROSSO) was just around the corner. Michael Brandon has been criticized (and rightly so) for his rather bland portrayal, however Mimsy Farmer has NOT received near enough credit for her role. Her screaming, raging psycho-freak-out at the climax is Scream Queening at its finest!