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Saturday, October 31, 2015



D: Umberto Lenzi.
P: Ugo Tucci//St & Sc: Massimo Franciosa, Luisa Montagnana, Pino Boller, Umberto Lenzi//DP: Guglielmo Mancori//E: Eugenio Alabiso//M: Ennio Morricone//Art D: Giacomo Calo Carducci//Costumes: Silvia Laurenzi//Makeup: Antonio Mecacci Cast: Robert Hoffmann, Suzy Kendall, Ivan Rassimov, Maria Pia Conte, Adolfo Lastretti, Franco Silva, Mario Erpichini, Luigio Antonio Guaria, Rosita Tarosh, Monica Monet, Guido Alberti.

Lover boy Christian, meets and almost beds Barbara (Suzy Kendall), but is interrupted by an assassin. Christian "kills" him and they escape to a deserted chateau where they meet an odd couple Malcolm and Clarinda (the oddly attractive Maria Pia Conte). Before you know it, Christian admits to the killing and flees. At the same time, women are being murdered (offscreen) and near their bodies is found a plastic dummy, hanging from a tree with a knife in its belly. We finally learn that Christian and his brother Fritz (Ivan Rassimov, dubbed with a fey voice) inherited a huge business from their deceased father (he was mentally deranged and comitted suicide). It seems that Fritz has been trying to drive his brother insane to get him the medical help he needs. Unfortunately, he succeeds resulting in the death of Barbara and many others. Christian is killed by Barbara's lover as we discover that Fritz too, has begun to show tendencies of stabbing mannequins with a long knife.

The film is so convoluted and talky, that until you're able to follow all the twists and turns of the plot, you can't begin to appreciate all that Lenzi and his fellow screenwriters were trying to accomplish. For the first hour of this 90 minute sleeper, you will be as in the dark as the main character, Christian (Robert Hoffmann). For the American release of this film, George Romero filmed approximately 10 minutes of explicit violence to help spice up the film. The print reviewed here is obviously the original export version. Because we don't know who the murderer might be, none of the killings are shown when they occur (which runs counter to ALL other Gialli where you witness the murder sequence either as a participant or as a victim). While certainly original, I can see how that would pose a problem for the film's producer. There's no nudity to speak of either so Lenzi really left exploitation fans in the lurch. However, I find this all distinctly refreshing and would use this film to prove to fans disgusted by Lenzi's cannibal films, that the man really does know how to make an entertaining film that relies on plot and atmosphere alone. Morricone's score is among his best (comparable to the one he penned for WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO SOLANGE?). 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Young, The Evil And The Savage

Italy 1968
D: Anthony M. Dawson (Antonio Margheriti)
P: Virgilio De Blasi & Lawrence Woolner for Super International Pictures & B.G.A//St & Sc: Antonio Margheriti, Franco Bottari, Giovanni Simonelli//DP: Fausto Zuccoli//E: Otello Colangeli// M: Carlo Savina//Art D: Antonio Visone//Costumes: Annamode//Makeup: Perry Mecacci
Cast: Michael Rennie, Mark Damon, Eleonor Brown, Alan Collins (Luciano Pigozzi), Selly Smith, Patrizia Valturri, Lorenza Guerrieri, Malisa Longo, Franco De Rosa, Ester Masing, Gianni Di Benedetto, Valentino Macchi.

Students are being killed off at St. Hilda's, a finishing school for young girls. There are the usual suspects: a voyeuristic gardener (Alan Collins), fencing instructor De Brazzi, and young stud Richard (Mark Damon). Inspector Duran (Michael Rennie, in a performance that defines the term, wooden) finds out that Lucille (Eleonor Brown) is about to inherit a fortune and uncovers the fact that her cousin, a man, had killed the school's newly appointed teacher Miss Brown, and impersonated her so as to get close enough to Lucille to put her out of the picture.

With opening theme music that sounds like the Batman TV show, the tone of the film is set for what at times seems like a tongue-in-cheek parody of the genre. The film is entirely too cutesy and the fact that Mark Damon goes right along with it, hurts the film's chances for establishing any type of mood. As usual, Alan Collins is used as the ultimate red herring, handling a scythe suspiciously, spying on the girls as they take their showers, etc. Eleanor Brown as Lucille is the only actress who doesn't get on one's nerves. The tiresome cliche of a corpse being discovered, only to disappear whenever someone, besides the original discoverer comes to look, is endlessly repeated. The murder sequences are pedestrian and staged without imagination. The fact that the killer is a strangler means gore is non-existant. Michael Rennie's performance is poor as usual, but at least it retains some dignity as he dubs his own voice. The gender bending killing is one of the best I've seen as the male actor posing as a female really sells the part. That old Giallo standby, the lime pit, makes a cameo appearance here. Overall, the film is just too tame an exercise in terror and you're left with spending 90 minutes with a bunch of characters  you'd just as soon not be around.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Crimes of the Black Cat

Sette Scialli Di Seta Gialla
Sales Title: Crimes of the Black Cat
Italy 1972
D: Sergio Pastore
P: Edmondo Amati for Capitolina Produzioni Cinematografiche//St & Sc: Alessandro Continenza, Sergio Pastore, & Giovanni Simonelli//DP: Guglielmo Mancori//E: Vincenzo Tomassi//M: Manuel De Sica//Art D: Alberto Boccianti//Costume: Luciana Marinucci//Makeup: Eugenio Ascani//Color.
Cast: Anthony Steffen (Antonio De Teffe), Sylva Koscina, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Jeanette Len, Renato di Carmine, Umberto raho, Romano Malaspina, Annabella Incontrera, Liliana Pavlo, Isabelle Marchal, Shirley Corrigan.

Francoise runs a model agency that is experiencing a rather serious problem. Her models are being killed off, one by one. Their death is the result of being scratched by a cat whose claws are spiked with curare, a deadly poison. The victims are given a yellow silk shaw that causes the cat to attack. A blind composer named Peter is drawn into the crime when his girlfriend Paula is killed. He discovers the owner of the cat is a drug addicted ex-circus performer and when Peter offers to supply her with heroin, she agrees to reveal who is in charge of deciding which model will be the next to die. More murders occur before the killer is revealed and takes a fatal plunge from Peter's apartment window.

Sergio Pastore's only contribution to the Giallo, his career began in 1967 with the crime film, Omicidio a Sangue Freddo and ended with his death in 1987 while working on Delitti (the film was finished by his wife, Giovanni Lenzi, aka Jeanette Len). It's a shame as he definitely had a talent for setting up unusual set pieces (the shower of glass that crashes down on Steffen in an abandoned factory) and displaying graphic gore when need be. In fact, it's the extremely violent murder sequence set in a shower—imagine Hitchcock's Psycho filmed in color and featuring the type of gore you find in a Lucio Fulci film from the late seventies—that has gained this film a sort of legendary status. That's a real shame as it's only one small part of this film's overall excellence. For once, Pastore and his fellow screenplay writers came up with a way to excuse the general poor performance usually given by Steffen, make his character blind. Now there's a reason why his character appears stiff as a board! And though Koscina was beginning to show signs of age, the denouement revealing her character's deformity is a shocking highlight in a career that usually only required to look beautiful. One of the better efforts of the genre.