Friday, 31 July 2009

Witchfinder General - Ronald Bassett

This novel by Ronald Basset was first published in 1966 and then reissued with a new cover in 1968 as a tie-in with Michael Reeves' film of the same name. Besides being a interesting curiosity in its own right, it's both worth a read and provides some insights into the adaptation process undertaken by Reeves and his collaborators.

The first difference that is apparent, as mentioned by David Pirie in his seminal A Heritage of Horror, is that the film-makers dispense with much of the psychological motivation underlying the self-styled witch-finder of all England's actions. In the book he's the original forty year old virgin, regarding women with a mixture of fear and loathing.

In keeping with this, the book, which is divided up into sections covering the years 1643 to 1947, starts with Hopkins and his assistant-to-be Stearne as reluctant pikemen in the Parliamentarian army. They soon desert and embark on a more profitable career as witch-finders. These initial excursions are absent from the film, which begins with Hopkins secure in his position and, as such, showing little sign of insecurity.

Running parallel to this narrative we are also introduced to the young soldier Ralph Margery, also in the Parliamentarian army but a bit more dedicated to that cause than his enemies-to-be.

The two men's paths cross, as in the film, when Hopkins executes John Lowes, a clergyman suspected of Catholic sympathies. While Stearn simply has his way with Lowes's ward, Sara, Hopkins makes a bargain with her for the life of her uncle.

Margery swears that he will have his revenge on Hopkins for defiling his fiancee, and pursues the witchfinder as best he can, given the contingencies of the war raging around them.

There's a strong western element to all this, strangely reminiscent of the picaresque structure of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, as the characters just manage to evade one another or, on occasion, unwittingly cross one another's paths.

At the same time the distinction between the resources available to Leone and to Reeves is highlighted by another omission from the film, that of the battle of Naseby where Hopkins is pressed into military service for a second time. Another omission, that of an orgy which turns out to be attended by the local magistrate upon whom Hopkins would otherwise depend upon for a successful prosecution, can presumably be attributed more to the censorship regime of the day.

The novel also has a different ending to the film, one that takes place in 1647 at a point by which the war has been won by the Parliamentarians but the peace has not yet been established. Compared to the film's unforgettable ending – Margery, consumed by his desire for revenge, hacks at Hopkins until one of his colleages puts the witchfinder out of his misery – it's somewhat anticlimactic.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Mystere / Dagger Eyes

Herr Reiner, a German tourist visiting Rome happens to snap not only some Zapruder-like shots of an assassination on the Spanish Steps but also the gunman (John Steiner) at a window. Unsure of what to do with the shots, Reiner hides the film in his gold cigarette lighter

Two point and shoot technologies; why is the frame within the frame absent in the last image?

Later he calls up a couple of high-class prostitutes, Pamela (Janet Agren) and Mystere (Carole Bouquet) to his temporary residence, the Rome Sheraton. Pamela steals the lighter, depositing it in Mystere's handbag.

By the time Mystere discovers the McGuffin, Pamela and Reiner have been murdered by an unidentified agent, first seen on the steps during the opening assassination.

The steps; note Reiner in the foreground with his camera.

Dubious symbolism #781

The police understandably take an interest in the case generally and, in the case of Inspector Colt [sic], Mystere specifically, but it's unclear whether he or they can be trusted...

As signaled by the identification of Steiner's assassin at the outset, the absence of any immediate Blow-Up styled examination of the resulting images, Mystere is as much an espionage thriller as a giallo per se.

There is plenty of intrigue but little in the way of a mystery to be solved, despite the connotations of the lead character's name. Instead, her primary goal is to disentangle herself from the situation she has unwittingly become involved in, alive.

As incarnated by Bouquet, Mystere is beautiful, classy and intelligent. This also means, however, that she doesn't get naked or really quite deliver in exploitation film terms in the way that an Edwige Fenech would have done in the role; she's also less of a frightened woman, actually carrying a handgun in her handbag for self-defence and providing a more active protagonist than many.

Consequently, it's the supporting cast – which also includes Gabriele Tinti as a pimp nicknamed Mink for Blaxploitation-type reasons; Inspector Colt also practices with nunchucks as if in a Hong Kong movie – who may make or break the film for the Euro-cult viewer, alongside the details.

Mystere takes the initiative

We do get some murders with a staff concealing a hidden blade; fetishistic touches like the killer donning black leather gloves prior to murdering Pamela and then wiping the blade clean of blood on her exposed panties; some (non-traumatic, enigma-free) flashbacks; a rooftop chase; Bouquet's donning a canary yellow dress for a key period of the action, and a climactic defenestration death and dummy.

Director Carlo Vanzina would later go on to direct Nothing Underneath, another transitional if slightly more traditional giallo. His work here is much the same as there: Undoubtedly stylish, in that obsessive, 80s postmodern, surface manner, but perhaps not always with a great deal of substance behind it – an impression enhanced by Armando Trovajoli's slick and moody, but ultimately unmemorable, score.

Monday, 27 July 2009

X Rated: Adventures of an Exploitation Filmmaker

Over recent years Reynolds and Hearn has established itself as one of the leading publishers on cult British cinema, with volumes such as Jonathan Rigby’s self-explanatory English Gothic and Simon Sheridan’s Keeping the British End Up, about the British sex film, and Come Play with Me, a biography of perhaps its biggest star, Mary Millington, vital additions to the bookshelves of anyone interested in the subject.

This latest volume, co-authored by Stanley Long and Sheridan, takes a different approach from the latter’s previous works on the British sexploitation film in that it’s the former’s memoirs of working in the low-budget exploitation end of the British film industry from the 1950s to the 1980s. As such its gives a more direct and personal take on things, presenting a valuable counterpoint to the drier chronological and genre based account presented in its predecessor.

The two accounts complement one another to a large degree, with Long’s discussions of such industry figures as Derek Ford, a former film-making partner who increasingly merged business and pleasure by moving into illegal hardcore territory, according with Sheridan’s previous work.

But they also show the potential pitfalls in taking a genre centred approach when addressing the work of an outfit like Compton / Tigon and a producer-director-cinematographer-distributor-whatever figure like Long.

As producers, Compton / Tigon dabbled in horror and (s)exploitation; as Long comments they were the two genres that for a time more or less guaranteed a profit, though he admits that horror wasn't really his thing.

As a cinematographer Long worked on Repulsion, where he stood in for the credited Gilbert Taylor after shooting overran its schedule, and The Sorcerers, where he recalls Michael Reeves’s intensity and apparent blood kink.

In his capacity as a pilot, Long also helped Polanski scout locations for Cul de sac; talk about a jack of all trades.

Though Long respected Polanski and Reeves, he is also forthright about the difference between his own no-nonsense approach to the business of film-making and the creative excesses of such more artistically inclined figures, that their imaginations could outstrip the means at their disposal.

Long has far less time for the snobbish critics along with Mary Whitehouse and other moral entrepreneurs of the day, viewing the former as out of touch with the ordinary audience member who just wanted to be entertained and the latter as little more than a canny self-publicist. On both counts, it’s hard to disagree.

The BBFC come across a bit better, particularly John Trevelyan, with Long acknowledging the position they were caught in between film-makers keen to push the boundaries forward and the Whitehouses who wanted them pushed back to some pre-permissive golden age.

Long is deservedly proud of his own accomplishments, giving work to actors and technicians who would otherwise have been unemployed and pleasure to his target audience, and bringing in his films on time and on budget.

Informative, entertaining and a pleasure to read, X Rated: Adventures of an Exploitation Filmmaker is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the shadow / unofficial history of the British cinema, of the films audiences really went to see rather than the ones the critics favoured.

Dr Blood's Coffin

Or another film this month to link to Konga.

The first, and most obvious, point of connection is that we have yet another arrogant mad, bad and dangerous to know scientist meddling in things really best left alone, in this case the unfortunately named Dr Blood (Kieran Moore).

The second, and less obvious, is that the other monster – or the monster-as-victim rather than the real monster – in each film is played by Paul Stockman, who filled the ape suit there and is here buried beneath a layer of zombie-type.

The story begins with Dr Peter Blood getting thrown out of the prestigious Vienna medical school after he caught carrying out some organ transplantation experiments, of the sort that definitely wouldn’t pass an ethics board by his mentor, Professor Luckman (Paul Hardtmuth).

Returning home to the sleepy Cornish village of Port Carron, where his father, Dr Ian Blood, is the local GP, Dr Blood junior secretly sets up a laboratory in some abandoned mines nearby and starts looking for new experimental subjects and material amongst the local populace; in Peter’s eyes anyone inferior to himself and other geniuses is fair game.

He also finds time to start romancing the pretty and recently widowed Nurse Linda Parker (Hazel Court), [spoiler alert] who doesn’t realize that Peter has been experimenting with her deceased husband and would like to eventually re-introduce them to one another… [/spoiler alert]

Obviously inspired by Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein, in which actors Hardtmuth and Court appeared as brain donor and love interest respectively, Dr Blood’s Coffin is nevertheless distinctive enough in various ways to be of interest for the British horror fan.

Baron Frankenstein is someone whose experiments are usually sound but are compromised by the uncomprehending, traditional 19th century society around him.

Dr Blood is someone who talks a good game, whose experiments failing because of his own inadequacies, with modern society comprehending his experiments and their Nazi heritage all too well.

Related to such distinctions, one of the more unusual aspects of the film is its use of colour. As a number of commentators have argued, British horror films of the late 1950s and early 1960s often exhibited a divide here that could not be explained purely on budgetary or aesthetic grounds.

Contemporary-set films often used black and white whereas their historically set counterparts used colour. It's been argued that the combination of colour and the contemporary was too close to home, or the lived reality of the audience and that this helps explain, for example, the acceptance of Hammer's early psycho thrillers compared to the rejection of Peeping Tom.

While there's probably more to it than this, insofar as this period saw a profound change in the semiotics of colour and black and white film, with the previously established fantasy / spectacle and reality / documentary connotations undergoing something of a reversal, it is a useful starting point for a more developed year-by-year analysis of the contemporary critical responses to individual texts.

Another intertextual point is the setting, with its affinities with the later Hammer Plague of the Zombies. Ironically, however, Peter's use of curare to induce a coma state indistinguisable from death, perhaps comes closer to the origins of the voodoo zombie than the black magic using Squire Hamilton. Both, however, clearly point to a return of the (colonial or foreign) repressed, of bad things being brought back to England from abroad.

Nic Roeg was camera operator, while Hammer men Les Bowie, Scott MacGregor and Philip Martell performed FX, production design and conductor duties respectively; the score itself, by Buxton Orr, is pretty good.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Sex Thief / Ladro di sesso

Here is a perfect example of why it is unwise to criticise the low budget sexploitation film out of hand. For New Zealand-born director Martin Campbell, who debuted with this film and followed it up with Eskimo Nell subsequently went to Hollywood and made the likes of Goldeneye, Zorro and Casino Royale – i.e. big-budget, major-studio productions. If these are not the kind of films that qualify him as an auteur, they do suggest a competent and reliable journeyman.

With regard to the Bond films, this is also the reason why Quentin Tarantino will never get the opportunity to direct one: his own directorial personality is too strong, such that he would bone up on 60s spy films and seek to make a meta-commentary on the form.

Such references are not arbitrary given the Bondian elements of The Sex Thief; the casting of David Warbeck, who was both an understudy for the role of Bond and played the Sex Thief-like Milk Tray Man in a long running-series of adverts, in the role; and Tarantino’s own avowed enthusiasm for the film.

Returning to Campbell and the importance of exploitation, it is also significant is that, according to exploitation veteran Stanley Long, the debutant director was not the most technically aware at this time, requiring advice on the importance of eye-line matches and the like. Either Campbell was under the influence of new wave directors like Godard and needed to be disabused of such notions as distanciation or – perhaps more likely – he just didn’t know the rules before breaking them.

The two approaches come together to a degree within the film anyway, insofar as it features one of those speeded-up sex scenes, like A Clockwork Orange, that arguably make you aware you are watching a film, along with the characters of a crass agent and a dumb starlet. This said, Eskimo Nell takes things far further in this regard, seeing that it is itself set within the world of the British (s)exploitation industry of the time. (For what it’s worth, I recently entertained the idea of programming Eskimo Nell and Godard’s Contempt with one another.)

If The Sex Thief is not as endearing as Eskimo Nell, it is also more problematic in terms of its attitudes.

The first thing here is the character of the Sex Thief himself. He’s a Bond meets Diabolik meets Milk Tray Man jewel thief, black clad and wearing a domino mask. His modus operandi is to break into the houses of wealthy couples when the husband are absent, steal the valuables and make love to the wife by way of compensation: Not quite a housebreaker-rapist, insofar as the women consent to sex, albeit sometimes in a vaguely no to yes manner, but enough to highlight division between 70s and 90s / 00s mores.

Seeing this is a British softcore sex film, it also serves to again foreground the differences between the form and its contemporaneous US hardcore counterpart, as a viewing of the Vietnam veteran rape-trauma entry Forced Entry will make particularly clear. Similarly, when The Sex Thief was circulated in the US under the titles Handful of Diamonds and Her Family Jewels it was with hardcore inserts.

The second is the way the manager and starlet try to take advantage of the Sex Thief’s notoriety to grab a bit of publicity for their latest project, by claiming that he broke in, stole her (non-existent) valuables and raped her no fewer than seven times – one time for each of her previous films.

Since the Sex Thief’s victims enjoyed their experience and were placed in compromising positions with regard to their respected, society husbands, they told a somewhat different story. Their thieves, one purportedly a six foot six Russian, another a midget, and so on, had only committed burglary, not rape.

One issue here is the growing disbelief that emerges at the press conference as the starlet describes her purported ordeal with ever increasing implausibility. It’s played for laughs, but you don’t have to be much of a feminist to see that the filmmakers are thereby treading on rather thin ground. Another is the way in which the Sex Thief responds to this challenge, by actually breaking into the starlet’s apartment and giving her what she was ‘asking for’. Again, it’s played for laughs, and is not ‘really’ a rape scene, but probably wouldn’t be done today.

But the film is saved by Michael Armstrong and Tudor Gates’s witty script and its equal opportunities approach to offending sensibilities. Thus, Armstrong’s vice squad officer is less concerned with catching the sex thief than taking advantage of his position to steal porn from the customs vaults, which he then trades with the equally sex-obsessed journalist assigned to report on the case. The figure of the corrupt cop also, of course, allows the filmmakers to comment on what they and everyone else in the exploitation industry knew was a fact at the time: That the vice squad were on the take.

While not sex-obsessed, the male half of the insurance team investigating the case and another male cop are basically pathetic and incompetent, both in marked contrast to the smart, sassy, karate and judo expert female insurance adjustor on the look out for a real man able to satisfy her carnal desires…

Friday, 24 July 2009

Mille peccati... nessuna virtù / Mondo Sex / Synnin palkka

This was the debut film from Sergio Martino. Released in 1969, it was produced by his brother Luciano, with the pair going on to collaborate on numerous films over the subsequent decade, sometimes with Luciano also involved in a screenwriting capacity - although not here, with Sergio credited as writer and director.

It is a fairly standard example of the less violent and unpleasant side of the mondo film at the time, more reminiscent of Luigi Scattini’s Sweden: Heaven and Hell and The Satanists than the work of Prosperi and Jacopetti.

This is not just because a fair proportion of Mondo Sex’s scenes are located in Sweden; nor that it features the obligatory dubious occultists; but also because of Peppino De Luca’s rocking soundtrack, with its prominent use of Cream’s 'Sunshine of Your Love' riff as the basis for some psychedelic grooving and that Edmund Purdom supplied the English voice-over for all three films (the Italian voice over here is courtesy of respected actor Riccardo Cucciolla, who later impressed in the likes of Sacco and Vanzetti and Rabid Dogs).

Though the end credits declare that every scene is true and authentic, there’s the inevitable sense of dramatic reconstruction or imagining about many of the smaller scale, indoors ones, such as the occultist’s orgiastic ceremony and (also present and correct in that checking the mondo film boxes way) the lesbian club scene.

Others, generally of a larger scale and location nature, are clearly genuine. These include a cross-country skiing event in Sweden and various demonstrations linked to the events of 1968 and their emerging longer-term fallout.

The generation gap and culture wars also form the basis of other predictable scenes around the permissive society, including such topics as communal living, unmarried couples, drugs, pornography and prostitution. In relation to the last two we get an interview in which one Swedish adult film actress is asked whether what she does is different from prostitution. Initially she says yes but when then pressed to explain why by the interviewer hesitates and ends up agreeing with his implicit position that they are one and the same; end of interview, without further questioning, probing, or asking for what this might then mean.

It’s one of those scenes that demonstrates the filmmakers’ lack of a real agenda, beyond exploiting the various possibilities that the counter-culture was throwing up, not least in terms of allowing them to proclaim virtue in principle whilst enjoying vice in practice.

From the perspective of the Martino fan, the most significant aspect is probably the stylised way in which he handles the material. The sequence with the occultists begins with a frightened woman in some woods and is shot with distorting fish-eye lenses, whilst the orgy itself sees him bring out the hand-held camera. Coupled with De Luca’s music, the effect is very much like seeing a prototype for the black magic moments in All the Colours of the Dark.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Hellcats: Mud Wrestling

Or, from Konga to Queen Kong

Not the 1976 Frank Agrama entry but the American female wrestler, Dee Booher, of the same name and a film that makes even Agrama's monstrosity look accomplished by comparison.

For what we have here, as the title indicates, is a short on the subject of mud wrestling, a sports entertainment that sees scantily clad women rolling around in mud for the pleasure of a mostly male and plebian audience .

The drama is provided by the US versus UK angle and its provision of the necessary villain and hero role functions, all played with appropriate excess (cf Roland Barthes' famous essay in Mythologies).

The main points of interest are sociological and historical rather than aesthetic - unless, of course, seeing women rolling around in mud gives you a particular thrill.

And that, I suppose, that was what the film-makers were banking upon.

For bankrolling Hellcats: Mud Wrestiling was none other than David Sullivan, one of the UK's biggest porn barons. He was the man who specialised in the bait and switch, of promising the punters one thing - usually then-illegal hardcore material - and giving them another - the same old softcore as last time and, if they hadn't wised up yet, the time before that.

With a plethora of magazines to uncritically hype his wares it was a winning strategy.

One of the few occasions on which Sullivan himself was taken for a ride was by veteran nude photographer Harrison Marks on Come Play with Me, a bizarre combination of 70s softcore sex comedy and old-style music hall that looked all but unsaleable.

But thanks to his magazines' ceaseless promotion of the film and its nominal star, Mary Millington, along with keeping it in one of his cinemas for four years solid, Sullivan still managed to somehow make the film profitable. (Among the posters for other films featured within Hellcats, even the not so sharp eyed can spot one for Come Play with Me.)

It was around this time that Sullivan met John M. East, the disreputable member of a respectable theatrical family. Their association outlived Millington's suicide, with East going on to appear in other productions by Sullivan's Roldvale company, within which the porn mogul also sought to find a replacement for his most profitable but now dead asset.

East is the writer on Hellcats: Mud Wrestling and conducts the on-screen interviews - with an admirably straight face, it must be said, given the preposterousness of his subjects - while the film might be read as a vehicle both for its 'sport' and for another porn performer, Vicky Scott.

Incredible though it may seem, Hellcats: Mud Wrestling may not even represent the nadir of the British sexploitation film. Its companion pieces Queen Kong: The Amazonian Woman and Foxy Female Boxers would also have to be considered contenders...

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Snuff / The Slaughter / American Cannibale / El ángel de la muerte

First things first: Snuff is not an actual snuff film.

If we define a snuff film as one in which someone is deliberately killed on camera with the intention of releasing the resulting footage for entertainment purposes, then no such thing has been found or proven to exist to date.

There are certainly films which trade on the myth of snuff - like this one - or which incorporate real-life death footage. But even in the marginal case of the mondo film Africa Addio, which features actual on-camera executions, there is no evidence that the presence of the film-makers and the camera was the decisive factor behind these killings.

What Snuff did, however, was connect the idea of the snuff film back to its origin, in rumours around the Manson family; present what snuff footage might conceivably look like; and generally popularised the form in a way that the far more disturbing Last House on Dead End street had failed to do.

The origins of the film lie in a 1971 horror film made by notorious exploitation couple Roberta and Michael Findlay, The Slaughter. Made in Argentina and post-synchronised into English, Slaughter depicts a Manson-like guru named Satan who compels his female followers to commit murder. Two of their victims are a sleazy independent film producer, Max Marsh, and his Sharon Tate-styled leading lady, Terri London, who have come to South America to make a film.

The bargain basement, utterly inept production was redeemed only by a Steppenwolf-esque rock soundtrack; some gratuitous breast exposure; and the naming of one of the characters as Horst Frank, presumably not in reference to the German actor even though there is a strange discussion of the ethics of the West German arms industry equipping Israel to indicate that nationality did have some bearing here. (We all know about The Boys from Brazil and Adolf Eichmann hiding out in Argentina, after all)

Later exploitation distributor Alan Shackleton bought the film and, realising what a dog egg he had on his hands, had a new coda filmed in which another actress, who looks nothing like her Argentinian predecessor in the main film, is supposedly killed by her director and crew.

The effects within this sequence are unconvincing as is the way in which the camera 'just happens' to run out of film at the climactic moment. But, bolstered by Shackleton's clever promotion of the film, as he himself orchestrated a campaign of outrage against it, it didn't matter.

If someone went to see the film for themselves then Shackleton had already made his money off them, no matter what their response to it.

If Shackleton couldn't lose, nor could the feminists who put their hearts before their heads in supporting his campaigns and not bothering to research the subject. Basically, it seems the truth just didn't matter all that much when the legend was so much better to print.

Co-director Michael Findlay later died in a helicopter accident on the then Pan-Am building. He was on his way to demonstrate a new 3D camera. Part of me cannot help wondering if there is footage of his death extant and that it would thus make a suitably ironic inclusion in a Faces of Death entry.


This is one of those films that’s bad in almost every way – the exceptions being Gerard Schurmann’s beautiful score and the nice animated titles – but which is nevertheless so endearing that it’s certain to win over all but the most hard-hearted viewer.

Made under the auspices of Herman Cohen under the working title of I Was a Teenage Gorilla, the plot sees the famous scientist Dr Decker return unexpectedly from Africa a year after his plane went down, equipped with a new way of growing plants and animals to giant size and accompanied by a chimpanzee, Konga.

Note the discrepancy: We have an original title referring to a Gorilla but that Konga – who may have been a teenager in ape years for all I know – is a chimpanzee. It’s a discrepancy that can be explained away on the grounds that, first, a gorilla would have been rather more difficult to control on set and, second, that gorilla suits are easier to come by than chimpanzee ones.

Before: a chimpanzee

After: a gorilla

Indeed, one of Cohen’s earlier ventures was Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, whose man in the ape suit, Steve Calvert, actually made a career out of such roles, also appearing in The Bride of the Gorilla and The Bride and the Beast amongst others.

Another gorilla man, George Barrows, would later appear in Cohen’s follow-up to Konga, Black Zoo. Apparently Cohen here hired one of Barrows’ gorilla suits, which was then donned by another actor, Paul Stockman. The suit got damaged, encouraging Barrows to make sure that he was hired to wear it next time round.

Anyway, Decker is welcomed back by his assistant Margaret. Unfortunately he’s not as in love with her as she is with him and instead prefers co-ed Sandra Banks, who already has a boyfriend. This rivalry, along with an academic one featuring the dean of the college, is of course nothing a trained chimpanzee grown to giant gorilla size can’t deal with...

Besides Konga’s eventual suitmation rampage through the streets of London, tearing down buildings as if they were made of cardboard – probably because they were – and throwing people around as if they were dolls – probably because they are – other highlights include some decidedly phallic and vaginal carnivorous plants and an unfortunate cat whom the doctor is forced to shoot before it turns into a tiger after it drinks some of his miracle-grow formula.

Some of the plants...

Konga and a puny human

Though he was something of the go to man for any British horror film which couldn’t secure the services of Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, who plays Decker, also had his own distinct approach to the material. Whereas Lee would voice his derision at bad parts and dialogue and whereas Cushing approached each and every role with the same seriousness, believing that if he couldn’t take it seriously his audience would not, Gough always seemed to enjoy hamming things up, a bit like a British Vincent Prince, and Invariably playing the same smug, superior, self-satisfied and shouty character each time.

I wondered if the Decker name is a reference to Dr Cyclops’s Albert Dekker, especially since that film also sees its mad scientist experiment with size alteration, albeit miniaturisation.

How much?!

Die Die My Darling poster, currently on Ebay with a buy it now price of £1,000,000, though offers for £500,000 would be considered.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Malpertuis / Inferno

Has Argento ever commented on Harry Kumel’s Malpertuis in relation to Inferno?

Especially as Kumel's Daughters of Darkness referenced Last Year at Marienbad, as Argento later did. (Seyrig / Pitoeff)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Delitto a Oxford / Alba Pagana / May Morning

This is one of those films whose alternate titles give rather different expectations.

Delitto a Oxford, Crime at Oxford, suggests a giallo, perhaps something akin to the same year’s The Weekend Murders.

Alba pagana, Pagan Dawn, suggests more of a fantasy or horror film, perhaps still a mystery/thriller but one that will move into Nothing But the Night or Wicker Man territory.

In the event, Ugo Liberatore’s film is less a giallo or a horror film than a drama, though its denouement isn’t too far from being a more realist, 1970-set version of Society.

For, like Brian Yuzna’s film, what is explored here is a particular demi-monde where it is all about fitting in, with our protagonist being the one who does not.

Not only is Alessio Orano’s Valerio Montelli an Italian in this most English of settings, but he’s also from humble origins, attending Oxford University on a rowing scholarship. As such, he’s only of interest to his fellow students and his tutors as athletic commodity and for his value as an anthropological curiosity.

And anthropological curiosity is what the film comes across as today on account of its documentary style scenes of student life and hippie subculture circa 1970 along with a prominently featured and ear-pleasing folk / psychedelic rock soundtrack, each as a vision of England through Italian eyes. (Franco Montemurro’s The Battle of the Mods is also worth a look in this regard for its representation of the Liverpool scene of a few years earlier.)

Equally, however, the combination of entrenched social hieararchy and hippies doesn’t quite gel given the latter’s purported ideology, unless we see the film as a proto-punk critique that was advancing the “don’t trust a hippie” idea six or so years avant la lettre.

John Steiner plays the aristocratic villain of the piece, Rodney Roderick Stanton; Jane Birkin the potential love interest and Rosella Falk her vaguely Mrs Robinson-esque mother, each proving ideal for their respective roles.

Liberatore’s direction is energetic and quite stylish, with some nice use of mirror-based compositions to highlight the themes of doubling, distortion and representation.

London in the Raw

This is a DVD that I have somewhat mixed feelings about on account of its provenance. The British Film Institute has long been, after all, the gatekeepers of official British film culture, the one who decide what counts and what does not.

Indeed, in the 1960s it was their journal, the Monthly Film Bulletin, which had a policy of reviewing every film released theatrically in the UK, but which also divided these releases up into two categories: those of special interest and everything else, where the best a film could typically hope for was to be acknowledged as a good example of its type.

No prizes for guessing where London in the Raw was placed, nor for guessing the BFI/MFB's general attitude towards mondo-type documentaries as a whole.

As such, the whole project can't help but have a sense of gamekeeper turned textual poacher (or vice versa) to me, of someone within the BFI belatedly recognising the social historical or potential economic value of the kind of material that they would hitherto have preferred did not exist, even as it was often sustaining the British film industry. (The film's producers, after all, subsequently bankrolled Polanski's Repulsion and Cul de Sac and Michael Reeves's Witchfinder General.)

The first thing that differentiates the film from most of its Italian mondo counterparts its its staying fixed within the one geographical location, which helps provide an additional degree of coherence whilst also lessening the exploitative aspect: Rather than witnessing some film-makers overtly intent on acquiring the the weirdest, most sensationalistic footage they could find from around the world, we instead get a more focussed portrait of one particular city at one particular time.

As is common for the form, imaginary continuity is provided by the narrator's voice over and the montage-style juxtaposition of scenes: At one point a sequence dealing with the theme of beauty juxtaposes women in a health club with another buying a figure enhancing bra, with these being followed by a woman undergoing electrolysis to remove 'excess' hair and a man undergoing a hair transplant to treat its absence. At another a group of alcoholic tramps drinking methylated spirits are contrasted with society types an exclusive club ordering expensive vintages of wine.

With no animal or human death footage, the hair transplant scene is also the goriest London in the Raw gets, as the hair surgeon removes plugs of flesh and follicles from the back of the patient's head and inserts them into holes in the front. The tramps meanwhile prove the closest the film-makers get to exploitation of those less fortunate than themselves, precisely because it isn't as clear whether they're "just doing a bit of acting" like many of the other characters featured.

Otherwise we get a number of stage routines including the obligatory nude; she doesn't do a strip-tease routine on account of a legal particularity of the time, that you could have nudity or movement but not both simultaneously. The commentators voice-off doesn't mention this, although elsewhere it does point to the peculiar situation whereby a man playing a penny whistle in the street was committing a public order offence whilst the prostitute above him calling down to potential trade was not. Needless to say this scene, or at least the part with the prostitute, is one of the more obviously staged ones, the camera moving behind her to catch a shot of her bum as she leans out the window.

What the other stage routines lack in exploitation they gain as historical document of the changing city, as with the contrast between the relatively new Cypriot community and the longer established Jewish one. In this regard the skits we see at London's only Jewish theatre are also interesting for their insiders' play upon stereotypes and as a reminder of the origins of a number of those connected with the film, including co-director Norman Cohen, who would later direct three of the Confessions... films amongst others (again: yes, they were shit, but they and other sex comedies also sustained the British cinema in the 1970s), and producers Michael Klinger and Tony Tenser, of Compton/Telki and Tigon note.

In sum, a very British take on the exploitation documentary both in the film itself and the way it has been presented and contextualised here, with the balance between exploitation and documentary further towards the latter than the former.

Or, at least, in the integral version. For also included on the impressive DVD as the main extra is a shorter cut of the film which drops most of the stage routines to concentrate on the sleazier stuff to be more transparently targeted at the normal Soho picture-goer of the time...

Saturday, 11 July 2009

El jorobado de la Morgue / The Hunchback of the Morgue / Rue Morgue Massacres / The Hunchback of the Rue Morgue

Which Spanish horror star of the 1970s do you think would be the obvious choice to play the Hunchback of the Morgue?

If you answered Paul Naschy / Jacinto Molina, the one-man horror factory who seems to have made it his mission to play each and every monster he could, you would be right - although the question may also be a somewhat easy one in that there really aren't any other Spanish male horror icons of that time.

Naschy imbues his character, named Gotho in apparent reference to the Gothic, with all the familiar traits: He is monstrous, but in a tortured, suffering, Romantic way. His enemies, the normal people who conceal their evil crimes and schemes beneath a virtuous and attractive veneer, are the real monsters.

If Gotho is in the first instance derived from Victor Hugo and Lon Chaney - it is always difficult to say when we are dealing with films that remain far better known than their literary sources - the film as a whole has a distinctly Frankenstein feel to it.

And, while the character of the hunchbacked assistant first appeared in James Whale's Frankenstein via Dwight Frye, the film's immediate models seem more Terence Fisher's Frankenstein films, with elements of The Revenge of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Created Woman particularly evident, along with that same general structural opposition between the good and the ugly on the one hand and the evil and the attractive on the other.

Spanish poster for The Hunchback of the Morgue, with obvious classical horror allusions

Though there are also affinities with Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell these may be taken as coincidental rather than deliberate seeing as both films were released in the same year; the same may also be said of the world-weary Dracula of Naschy and director Xavier Aguirre's Count Dracula's Great Love and his namesake in Hammer's The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

The Revenge of Frankenstein also featured a none-too intelligent hunchbacked assistant, Karl, a hospital worker who was promised a new body by Frankenstein in return for his help. Gotho, who works at the Feldkirch Hospital, is made a similar promise by his mad scientist Dr Orla, involving bringing Gotha's terminally ill and now recently deceased loved one, Ilse, back to him. Yet this also foregrounds a romantic subplot more aligned with Frankenstein Created Woman's Christina and Hans - the two young lovers who together eventually constitute that film's severely troubled monster through Frankenstein's intercessions in the natural order of things.

But for all these intertexts - to which we might also add Joe D'Amato's delirious Buio Omega, as another necro-philiac/mantic entry - The Hunchback of the Morgue is also unmistakably a Paul Naschy film.

In Frankenstein Created Woman the unimaginative authorities went after the ill-fated Hans for a crime he did not commit. Here, by contrast, Gotho is guilty of at least some of the crimes he is accused of. Moreover, those defending him do so not out of a sense of justice, as Peter Cushing's progressive Baron Frankenstein did, but rather because of their own self-interest, in Dr Orla, or liberal naïvete, as in the case of Elke, who is in charge of the Feldkirch Women's Reformatory. (Yes, there's even a bit of WIP thrown into the mix.)

As played by Rosanna Yanni, Elke is also your classic Naschy love interest figure, impossibly beautiful and inexplicably drawn to his doomed character like a moth to a flame.

Were it not for the fact that Naschy was already happily married by the time he made most of his films you could almost believe he was operating some sort of casting couch system through them as a means of obtaining the otherwise unobtainable / unattainable.

The presence of the reformatory also serves to remind us that Gotho's crimes might be excused on grounds of his simple-mindedness, and that the film takes place not in some ambiguous 19th century mittel-European Erehwon but in contemporary 1970s Germany.

This location also affords a hint of political commentary via the caverns where Gotho hides out and Dr Orla establishes his secret laboratory. We are told they once used by the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages and more recently saw service during the Second World War.

But, as with Naschy's other non-Spanish set films, it's difficult to determine the extent to which there is an anti-Francoist point to this or whether it was simply taking advantage of the ambiguities that a more distanced foreign setting afforded.

As it is, the most problematic aspects of the film as far as today's audiences and censors are concerned are surely the rumours that a real corpse was used in some of the morgue scenes, along with some real life animal cruelty as some rats get burned alive. In fairness, the scene with the rats also demonstrates Naschy's commitment to his art, inasmuch as he also let himself be attacked by them for the sake of authenticity - De Niro eat your heart out!

[See also The Mark of Naschy's review at]

La bestia nell spazzo / Beast in Space

Beast in Space is a title that raises a question: Who, or what, is The Beast?

Well, to explain: The Beast was a 1975 film by Walerian Borowczyk, an offshoot from the previous year's Immoral Tales. It presented a distinctly adult version of the beauty and the beast myth, in which a young heiress fantasised about an 18th century French noblewoman Romilda de l'Esperance's dalliances with a prodigiously endowed bear-like creature, with these encounters then proving to have placed a curse on the noble family, including her feeble-minded, be-tailed husband to be, Mathurin de l'Esperance.

It is not exactly an obvious piece of material to combine with space opera, even if the form does affords the possibility by virtue of going "to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations [...] where no man has gone before," just as the presence of The Beast's Sirpa Lane explains the thinking behind the title.

Beast in Space could perhaps have just about worked worked as a parody or a sex film, as the two options its model presents. It is neither. Instead it's a space adventure that's played essentially straight, even when the most ridiculous pseudo-scientific dialogue is being spoken. But it definitely isn't suitable for children on account of the nudity and sex scenes. These scenes themselves present an odd combination of softcore and hardcore material to further distancing the film from mainstream audiences whilst probably being insufficient for their raincoater counterparts.

Though the DVD of the film presents two and a half minutes of generally harder material as deleted scenes, these images are largely indistinguishable from what appears in the film itself, being close-up of genitalia and mouths that are never re-attached to a specific body via pans, only cuts, in that time honoured inserts manner.

Beast in Space might also have worked had Lane had the kind of name and recognition value that could be used to actually sell it, a la Laura Gemser or Sylvia Kristel.

But in The Beast Lane played the noblewoman without dialogue and in the kind of 18th century wigs and underwear that don't really allow for making any immediate connection to her character here, whether she's wearing a flimsy about-to-come-off dress or a figure-hugging space/jump-suit and helmet. True, Lane had been more exposed as herself in the likes of Nazi Love Camp 27 and Papaya of the Caribbean in the interim, but these were hardly productions with the same kind of profile as The Beast and her debut film, Roger Vadim's 1974 The Assassinated Young Girl.

The poster

The plot, that thing which provides an excuse for the inanity and the sex, sees the crew of the MK31, led by Captain Larry Madison (Vassili Karis) being sent on a mission to the planet Lorigon where a rare and strategically vital metal, Entalium, is to be found.

Rivalling them in the race is the Han Solo-esque rogue Juan Cardoso (Venantino Venantini).

A personal edge to the rivalry is provided by the fact that Madison and Cardoso have already come to blows with one another over their rival positions - Madison doesn't like civilians and Cardoso doesn't like the space navy - and sexual possession of the beautiful Sondra Richardson, a lieutenant aboard the MK31 (Lane).

Lt Richardson finds herself plagued by strange dreams - some culled from Borowczyk's film, including the horse copulation footage - in which she encounters a giant robot, has sex with a hairy man-beast in some woods, and generally sees the crew of the MK31 (who also include Marina Frajese) going at it like their lives depended on it...

The MK31 is drawn towards a mysterious planet Lorigon where they re-encounter Cardoso, who has got there first, and his host and friend Onaf (Claudio Undari), one of the figures from Lt. Richardson's vision...

There are probably all sorts of subtexts that could be drawn out of The Beast in Heat - the implied existence of a primitive subconscious, with creatures and planets from the id even in the ostensibly civilised far future; the relationship between the military industrial complex and the rest of the world (or indeed universe) - but it's questionable whether the film-makers ever seriously thought about them.

Or, to paraphrase Freud, sometimes a light sword is just a light sword...

What's there, then, are the surface pleasures: the bad dialogue (this must be the only film where someone actually says "Quickly! A bottle of Uranus milk!" with a straight face), acting, costumes, production design, effects, direction and scoring (courtesy of the inimitable Pluto Kennedy).

Or, in other words, one hell of a lot for the Euro-trash fan, especially if he or she is already familiar with any of director Al Brescia's other sci-fi epics of this period.

[More reviews and information on the film: and]

Un buco in fronte / Hole in the Forehead

A nicely executed deliberately paced, mood-heavy opening sequence sets the scene as gunman Bill Blood (Antonio Ghidra) arrives at a monastery and takes advantage of the monks' hospitality.

Blood's first distinctive feature is that he does everything with his left hand. We soon learn his second, and what is his right hand is reserved for as bandit Murienda arrives at the monastery with an acute case of lead poisoning courtesy of General Munguya's men: Blood is a deadly shot with his right hand, invariably planting a bullet in the forehead of his target, right between the eyes.

With Munguya's men dealt with, we learn that Blood had been waiting for Murienda because was in possession of a playing card on which is written one-third of the location of a fortune in stolen pesos.

General Munguya has the second of card and clue, another bandit, Garrincha, the third. Bill thus goes in search of Munguya to see if they might make a deal and share the treasure...

Yes, what we are dealing with here is essentially a The Good, The Bad and the Ugly knock-off. It is also, however, one distinguished from its model in that, once the leisurely opening sequence is out of the way, everything else comes at us quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

Blood, the General and Garrincha are already aware of the treasure and that it is somewhere nearby. Nor are there any external obstacles in their way: Though Munguya's title and acquisition of some arms hint at civil war in Mexico, and thus the possibility of discussing revolution and social banditry in the manner of the more political spaghetti, no such context or subtext emerges. Munguya remains thus just being another Mexican bandit whose excessively large sombrero is only matched by his excessive sadism, cruelty and talent for betrayal. (Yes, the arms include a Gatling gun and, yes, it is used for some summary executions, amongst other things.)

Hole in the Forehead's attitude towards its model is made most clear at the finale: It momentarily looks like we are going to get a truel, or three-way duel, as one of the characters (I won't say which) makes an unexpected entrance from out of frame to establish a triangular rather than linear re-arrangement of figures. Then, before we get any serious discussion of the dynamics of the situation, of the possibilities for alliances and betrayals, or the building of tension through the score and the ritualised close-ups, the three are reduced back to two by the summary removal of one (again I won't say which).

Hole in the Forehead also has a distinctive approach to the kind of figures who would have represented its primary Southern Italian audience. Leone's film is ultimately more Tuco's than Blondie's. Here, by contrast, we are placed with the non Mexican Blood against unsympathetic Mexican antagonists in Munguya and Garrincha. Crucially, however, note that I do not say Anglo: If Blood is an Anglo he's also appears to be a decidedly Catholic, non-WASP one considering his relationship to the monks whose monastery has the misfortune to be located right at the centre of the treasure hunt.

Joseph Warren / Guiseppe Vari's direction is efficient and effective, if a touch heavy on the shock zoom - a trope which, ironically, undercuts its impact precisely because we come to expect it.

The dialogue is agreeably pared down and the production design, costuming and cinematography pleasing. Roberto Predagio's contributes an memorable Morricone-styled score. Coupled with Serbian-born actor Anthonio Ghidra's / Dragomir Bojanic's successful conveyance of Blood's self-confident invulnerability, the net result is to make one wish Vari had been more thoughtful in his own contribution at times.

Robert Hundar plays the General with his customary gusto, making for a nice those who talk / those who don't talk 'two kinds of people' pairing with the taciturn Ghidra.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Some subtleties

While Argento's writing is of variable quality, he has a knack for the short, multi-layered line of dialogue:

The Card Player: "I know everything about you"

Opera: "I don't think it's wise to use movies as a guide for reality? Do you, Inspector?"
/ "That depends upon what you mean by reality"

One I'd never thought about until now was the headmistress's insinuation in Phenomena, that Jennifer Corvino, after the flies incident, is some sort of devil-spawn via "Beezelbub, the Lord of the Flies"

Doesn't Lord of the Flies also relates quite nicely, via William Golding's novella, to the petty cruelties and bullying of the other girls towards Jennifer?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Dogs / German Shepherds

A common trope in Italian horror seems to be the Alsatian or German Shepherd which cannot be trusted and has a negative role in the narrative (e.g. Suspiria, The Cat with the Eyes of Jade, The Beyond).

What other films can you think of that refute this? And which confirm it?

Tenebre / Giallo

Lara Wendel, in Tenebre:

Why don’t you say something?
Go fuck yourself!
Bastard! [Spits]

Emanuelle Seigner, in Giallo:

You’re so selfish!
You’re just like him! [repeat, ad nauseam]

What is the difference, quality of dialogue wise, other than the ad nauseum?

Do we just forgive Tenebre its faults and criticise the same in Giallo?

Some posters

Beautiful works of art in their own right, even better if you know the films they are promoting:

Contatto con l'oriente

Italian performers, including Edda Dell'Orso, doing the music of Akira Ifukube:

Does it get more cult?

Edinburgh Zombie Club / The Edinburgh B Team

Just a shout to out /about The Edinburgh Zombie Club and Edinburgh B Team, whom I've just discovered:

Hope to see some of you guys soon; you may also find the EFG's Friday night programme of interest ;-)

Invitation to Hell / The Last Night

When I was offered a promo DVD of Invitation to Hell and The Last Night I was intrigued: Two British horror films I had never even heard of? While I would not claim to be an absolute completist as far as the form is concerned, nor to have the degree of knowledge of Darrell Buxton, whose excellent Pass The Marmalade site seeks to document every horror film ever made in Britain, I have seen my fair share of obscure stuff over the years.

Well, as it turns out, the two films contained on the DVD are obscure on account of the simple fact that they are not very good. While I don’t want to be too harsh, inasmuch as it is often something of an achievement to even make a film, the need to inform the potential consumer emerges as paramount.

The thing that swayed my decision was the age and nature of the films. It’s not just their obvious lack of budget, but also that they were made in 1983 and are too long to be short film calling cards and too short to be independently made features: We are emphatically not talking about Sam Raimi’s Within the Woods as show-reel and enabler for The Evil Dead.

Rather, what have are two of the type of film which emerged in the UK in the wake of the home video boom of the early 1980s and which then just as quickly disappeared with the passing of the Video Recordings Act and the requirement for all videos to carry a BBFC certificate.

The hunger for product circa 1981-84 meant just about anything could be put onto home video and return a profit. Away from big name releases, at the time few and far between because the major studios regarded video as a threat rather than an opportunity, the consumer was often renting a pig in a poke. And, indeed, checking on the UK pre-cert website’s database, we find that the two films were in fact released by fly-by-night outfit Scorpio Video.

Then, with the post-VRA need to pay a certification fee of a few hundred pounds for a work that might well need cuts before it could be granted a certificate, and which may only have barely made back its certification fee, if that, made such releases uneconomical.

As films which lack not only ability but also ambition - there is no sense of whichever film came second building on whichever came first - it should be little surprise that their scenarios are so derivative.

Invitation to Hell is part Virgin Witch, part The Evil Dead, as a virginal female student is invited to a fancy dress party in a haunted house now owned by some friends; taken to a coven; is drugged; wakes up with mysterious marks upon her body Rosemary’s Baby style, and is then told by her apologetic friends that she’s to be sacrificed to Satan.

The Last Night is part Theatre of Death, part The Flesh and Blood Show, part (Soavi’s) Stage Fright, as the last performance of a convoluted murder-mystery play by a provincial amateur theatre company is visited by a couple of escaped killers.

The resultant self-referential aspect, that we’re watching a bad play within a bad film, is aesthetically disastrous, as we’re treated to one-note performances that have the same lack of convinction in both the ‘fiction’ and the ‘reality’. Moreover, we also see that director Michael J. Murphy has little grasp of either theatrical or cinematic technique.

It’s telling here that Scorpio Video’s other release at this time was notorious New York trash film and off-off Broadway director Andy Milligan's Blood Rites. For, remarkable as it may seem, Murphy actually makes Milligan look accomplished by comparison.

Note should be made of the quality of the transfers, or lack thereof: I have downloaded AVI’s of Greek and Finnish pre-cert videos that look better than the transfers here.

In sum, I can think of few situations in which you would want to shell out on Invitation to Hell and The Last Night. One is that you are a British horror completist with a fondness for pre-cert marginalia. Another is that you are an aspiring film-maker and want something to remind you of what not to do. Another is for bad film bragging rights over those who've 'only' seen a Don't Open till Christmas or Death Shock.

Manhattan Baby

Released in 1982 Manhattan Baby is a film which may, in retrospect, be seen as the beginning of the end for its director, Lucio Fulci.

In the preceding three years, beginning with Zombie, Fulci had formed a successful partnership with producer Fabrizio De Angelis. Though that film was more of a work for hire for the director, he subsequently developed his own vision, particularly with the trilogy begun by City of the Living Dead, continued by The Beyond and completed with The House by the Cemetery.

If all Fulci’s films during this prolific period (the others being The Smuggler, The Black Cat, and The New York Ripper) have their moments, it is fair to say that the trilogy remains at the core of his critical reputation.

With this in mind, what really emerged for me on watching Manhattan Baby again was how far it seemed to represent an alternative grouping of Fulci’s films, much in the way that John Martin suggested Phenomena could be considered the (Heavenly) conclusion to a Dante-eqsue triptych in Argento’s work.

What also makes this comparison worth considering is the way in which Manhattan Baby now seems to be Fulci’s Phenomena, a greatest hits package of moments culled from his previous films, most notably City and The Beyond.

Indeed, the film can also be called a greatest hits package in a more literal sense insofar as much of its score is drawn from Fabio Frizzi’s work on these films, with countless cues creating a sense of déjà vu.

The big question here is how far this intertextuality was present in Fulci’s and screenwriting couple Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Livia Briganti’s original version or imposed by De Angelis’s refusal or inability to commit the resources he had originally promised.

The early scenes of the film take place in Egypt, where archaeologist Professor George Hacker and a native assistant enter a lost tomb bearing a curse. The curse predictably leads to the death of the admirably, if foolishly, non-superstitious assistant via an Indiana Jones-esque spiked pit trap, with the use of Beyond cues as the two men enter the formerly sealed, subterranean space foreshadowing their doom; the fall onto spikes also being found in The Black Cat.

Hacker is then blinded with two Conquest-like blue laser beams to his eyes at the exact moment as his daughter Susie is given a mysterious amulet by an blind woman who had clearly been waiting for her…

If all this is already pretty weird, and marked by Fulci’s ocular obsession, it only gets weirder as the Hackers return to New York. There, alongside their neighbours and friends, they fall prey to random manifestations of killer snakes; unexpected portals emerging into an otherworldly desert; a lift which inexorably conspires to deposit its charges into the abyss, all culminating in a battle for Susie’s very soul.

At this point we also get two of the film’s wider intertextual allusions as the occult expert Exorcist type happens to be called Adrian Mocata in reference to Rosemary’s Baby.

What also makes Manhattan Baby such a Fulci compendium is its casting, with roles for Giovanni Frezza (House), Cinzia De Ponti and Cosimo Cineri/Lawrence Welles (Ripper), Carlo De Mejo and Martin Sorrentino (City) and, yes, Fulci himself, as yet another doctor.

Overall, not a film for the Fulci newbie, nor those who would prefer more extreme gore – although there is still probably more than enough by most film-makers standards – but one which the fan should get something more out of.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Karl Malden, RIP

A more serious death notice this time, for Karl Malden, most famous to genre fans for playing Franco Arno in The Cat O' Nine Tails.

He was definitely one of the best actors Argento had the chance to work with.