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Saturday, September 19, 2015



Directed by Bruno Vani, [Uncredited: Renato Polselli]
Dialogue: Renato Polselli
Music: Stelvio Cipriani-CAM
Cast: Rita Calderoni (Helen Valdez), Raul Martinez (Mirko), Tony Matera


A quick look at the IMDB director’s filmography of Renato Polselli says a lot about his odd career. An interesting start in the crime-giallo genre, some key 60s Gothic horrors, forays into comedy, spaghetti westerns, sex drenched violent giallos, quasi experimental return to Gothic horror, porno-mondo affairs, impoverished crime thrillers and a final descent into the hardcore swamp.

 1983 Teresa altri desideri (supervisor)
 1980 Quando l'amore è oscenità (as Ralph Brown)
 1979 Torino centrale del vizio (uncredited)
 1978 Casa dell'amore... la polizia interviene (as Ralph Brown)
 1974 Mania (as Ralph Brown)
 1972 Delirio caldo (as Ralph Brown)
 1972 La verità secondo Satana (as Ralph Brown)
 1961 Solitudine

I first saw this as a vhs dupe of an Italian TV broadcast. For this review I managed to view it via the US MYA DVD (retitled LUST], which has better color (the video was virtually drained of color), is somewhat sharper and is subtitled in English, the last being essential since there is a lot of complicated dialogue/narration. Still, It’s in pretty rough shape and rather soft throughout. Not that this is essential viewing for Eurocrime fans or even Polselli collectors, but it is a rather mad, compelling oddity. The kind of film which remains almost totally unknown outside of European Trash Cinema circles and had dropped off the map for decades before the MYA DVD release.

Polselli’s career as a director started in 1952 with two films released that year, the second of which, DELITTO AL LUNA PARK sounds like a crime-giallo entry from its title, cast (Renato Baldini, Franca Marzi, John Kitzmiller) and looks like one from its poster, depicting a somewhat frightened looking woman wearing a red dress (danger!) descending a staircase as a group of rather sinister faces float in the background. What does it all indicate? I don’t know since the film hasn’t surfaced on English language video/disc anywhere. There may be an Italian video, but I’m not aware of one. If there is, please notify me as I’d be very interested in seeing a possibly significant giallo or at least a lost Eurocrime title. Polselli’s career really begins eight years later with the vampire film L’AMANTE DEL VAMPIRO (1960), featuring Walter Brandi as an ugly vampire who becomes handsome when he isn’t drained of blood by his female vampire lover. He roams the area, draining victims, then arrives at the castle where he is fed upon by the beautiful countess. A vicious cycle, but who is dominating force here? Helene Remy is also featured as a dancer who becomes the vampire’s current interest. Released in English as THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA, there aren’t any ballerinas or ballets, just a group of leotard clad starlets jazz dancing to upbeat nightclub tunes. This was first major filming of a screenplay by the important, prolific Italian screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH, LIBIDO, THE WHIP AND THE BODY, THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK), who worked in numerous genres, writing some of the key Italian horror films of the 1960s and most important giallos of the 1970.  In his first horror film Polselli evidenced some talent at creating a potent gothic atmosphere and utilizing stylized camera work to tell his story. The film borrows shots and elements from Dreyer’s VAMPYR, Lon Chaney’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and other classic horror films but at  least has the sense to utilize superior models. Disregarding for the moment such fare as AVVENTURA AL  MOTEL and SHERIFF WON’T SHOOT, one skips ahead to the even more experimental mix of gothic and exploitation, Il MOSTRO DEL OPERA, a 1964 remixing of another ugly vampire figure, sexy dancers and delirious mise-en-scene. But his career really kicks into high gear with the outrageous giallo sexploitationers LA VERITA SECONDO SATANA (1971) and DELIRIO CALDO (1972), both featuring Rita Calderoni is various states of undress, sexual torment and emotional dysfunction. Mickey Hargitay stars in the latter as demented police psychologist who is helping the local cops look for a serial killer, who turns out to be ….himself! A classic giallo, stuffed with 70s sex and gore, complete with a black gloved killer, this film finally got a much welcome deluxe DVD release from BLUE UNDERGROUND, complete with two versions of the title along with interviews questioning Polselli and Hargitay on the film’s production. The director and actor would team up again with Rita Calderoni in the completely off the rails BLACK MAGIC RITES aka Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel trecento..., a mad 1973 vampire epic which features a witch (Calderoni) in love with a reincarnation of Count Dracula (Hargitay). At least that’s what I THINK is going on. No one has succeeded in deciphering this non-linear enterprise which combines the best of Ed Wood with the worst of Alain Resnais.. But it sure is NOT boring. It has since come out on Bluray from REDEMPTION-KINO DVD, which is probably the best way to experience this colorful historical nightmare.

 In 1973 Poslelli seemed to completely abandon all convention and good taste to make the rather vile RIVELAZIONI UNA PSICHIATRA SUL MONDO PERVERSO DEL SESSO, which I reviewed in my Trashman On The Prowl column in ETC #15. With hints of bestiality and worse, this fake Mondo effort features a psychiatrist who presides over a group of neurotics who recount horrid sexual misadventures which give us way too much intimate information. As I wrote in my review “this is one sick puppy” (and his later OSCENITA (1980) is even sicker). Orgies, rape, necrophilia, random perversions, more animal stuff, more incoherence, more ugly photography, with Polselli favorite Isarco Ravalioli(who goes all the way back to L’AMANTE DEL VAMPIRO) presiding over the decidedly messy proceedings. These things make Pasolini’s SALO (1975) look like restrained and responsible art filmmaking in comparison. Which brings us to TORINO, CENTRALE DEL VIZIO, a kind of follow up to CASA DELL’ AMORE, LA POLIZIA INTERVIENE, made a few years earlier with Polselli “working” with the obscure Bruno Vani, a dubious writer-director who is actually credited with directing TORINO…. Polselli, apparently took over from Vani, who also contributed footage to the equally frenetic, and seimi-incompetent, earlier crime thriller. Like CASA DELL AMORE, TORINO… features Tony Matera and brings back Polselli muse Rita Calderoni as Helen Valdez, an ex hooker who has been involved with a ruthless drug cartel which drops international caches in by helicopter. She knows where the drop is which makes her a target for the mob when she decides to resign and retire with her journalist husband, Mirko (Raul Martinez). But this is the Mob, and as the saying goes….  you’re either in, or in the way.

Opening in media res with a car chase through the city, the action then abruptly cuts back to the meeting of our lovers as they water-ski, dance and relate their stories via a bizarre narration, at least the English subs are bizarre. “ It was me, Helen..” “It was you.”,  “The day she died like a bitch there, under the castle.” “In those shitty streets… where I first saw you.” And so forth… . Since Polselli is credited with the dialogue these nonsense lines might very well have come from the pen of the man who wrote the equally (deliberately?) incomprehensible BLACK MAGIC RITES… . The car chase continues as Polselli cuts to all kinds of architectural details around town. One memorable zoom shot moves back from a close up of a sewer grate, pans up and zip zooms into a close up of a church spire (Jess Franco is outdone here). Cut back to Mirko chasing Helen and goofy looking Tony Matera as they try to outrun him in their dune buggy. Remember the dune buggies in Mario Bava’s BAY OF BLOOD (1971) and Riccardo Freda’s TRAGIC CEREMONY … (1973)? Something was up with dune buggies in 1970s thrillers. I guess Steve McQueen’s famous car chase from BULLITT (1968) was also a commercial influence. The zip zooming action gives way to more waterskiing, more mobsters moving in on Rita, who gets choked with her own hair at one point, more beatings for Mirko. All this continues for around an hour until a final confrontation between the bad guys, armed with pitchforks, and Mirko and Helen, armed with garden rakes! An upbeat narration ends it all by informing us that, “It’s the merry-go-round of life.” Yes, it is … in a way. A few arty compositions and the crazy dialogue are all that remain of the memory of Polselli’s earlier, more interesting work. He appears to have been totally burnt out at this point by the effort to keep up with the commercial realities of the rapidly changing market.

The one Polselli giallo I would really like to see, MANIA (1974), is the one which appears to be the most elusive of all.

  © Robert Monell--2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Psychic

Export Title: Murder to the tune of Seven Black Notes
D: Lucio Fulci
P: Cinecompany//St & Sc: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti,
Dardano Sacchetti//DP: Sergio Salvati//E: Ornella Micheli//M: Bixio-Frizzi-Tempera//Art D: Luciano Spadoni//Costume: Massimo Lentini//Makeup: Maurizio Giustini
Cast: Jennifer O'Neill, Gianni Garko, Marc Porel, Gabriele Ferzetti, Evelyn Stewart, Jenny Tamburi, Fabrizio Jovine, Riccardo Parisio Perrott, Elizabeth Turner.

Virginia has a psychic experience and almost wrecks her car. The vision she saw involved a man with a limp, burying a woman alive behind the wall of a villa. Later on she discovers that particular villa is owned by her husband and when the wall is opened up, a woman's skeleton is revealed. Her husband is arrested for murder since he was involved with her years earlier. Meanwhile, Virginia sees the man with a limp from her vision and tries to discover his link to the crime. The psychic experiences continue, revealing more and more clues to what happened in the past and what will happen to Virginia, her husband and the man with the limp in the future.

Because Fulci followed this film with ZOMBIE, THE BEYOND and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE PSYCHIC tends to get overlooked by fans and critics alike. Which is a shame because it's an excellent thriller, with a very complex plot that relies on Fulci's sensitive direction (not something he's known for) to maintain viewer interest. His use of zooms and quick cuts to inform you that a vision is about to take place, is a clever device that helps keep confusion to a minimum. Actress Jennifer O'Neill does a fine job as the psychic who almost misinterprets what she experiences to the detriment of her own life. Gianni Garko, as her husband, comes across as a man victimized by circumstances, who, when the time is right, reveals his true nature. I also enjoyed Evelyn Stewart as Garko's take charge sister. She pumps some much needed energy into a gloomy scenario. Fulci cribs from himself here (the opening death scene is a more graphic variation on the ending he used in DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING) in places, but shows he still had valid contributions to the genre (something he abandoned later on for THE NEW YORK RIPPER).  You really should give this one a chance.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

7 Cadavers for Scotland Yard

7 Cadavers for Scotland Yard
Sette Cadaveri Per Scotland Yard
D: José Luis Madrid
P: Sandro Amati & José Maria Tellez for Cinefilms S.L. (Madrid) & International Apollo Film (Rome)//St & Sc: José Luis Madrid, Jacinto Molina & Tito Carpi//DP: Diego Ubeda//E: Luis Puigvert//M: Piero Piccioni//Art D: Juan Alberto Soler & Bruno Cesari//Costume: Tony Randaccio//Makeup: Manolita Novda.
Cast: Paul Naschy (Jacinto Molina), Patricia Loran, Renzo Marignano, Orchidea De Santis, Franco Borelli, Miguel Minuesa, Terestita Castizo, Isidoro Novellas, Carmen Roger, Victor Iregua.

A homicidal maniac is stalking the denizens of the flesh pits of London. The police have named him Jack The Ripper because of his prediliction for killing prostitutes with surgical precision. After the death of Peter Dockerman's wife, he becomes a suspect by the police. The Inspector on the job enlists the aid of his friend, Professor Winston. Meanwhile, the killer has resorted to sending severed body parts of his victims to the police in an effort to mock their lack of success in capturing him. Although the police are after him, Dockerman continues to work behind the scenes trying to uncover who the real killer is. Ultimately he's successful, however Peter almost loses his life during a scuffle with the insane murderer.

Director Madrid (who's also made The Horrible Sexy Vampire) is one of the more inept practioners of his craft. His films are always a chore to watch, with continuity usually the first casualty. I have to believe his lack of talent is the reason the film's editor can't match up scenes from one camera angle to the next. Paul Naschy plays the red herring (which is a cheat because it would have been much more interesting if he had indeed been the killer) role in a surly manner and there's not much reason to empathize with his character's attempt to prove his innocence. There are also endless shots of him walking the streets of London which is supposed to impress us that yes, some of the exteriors were shot there, but the tedium with which they are executed defeats this purpose rather quickly. It's pretty easy to guess who the killer is early on so the film's value as a who done it goes south rather quickly. Orchidea De Santis as the wife of Professor Winston has even less to do than usual which is a shame because when given a chance, she's more than just a pretty face.