Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Black Emanuelle UK quad

Just a little something I picked up on Ebay:

Note how it does not actually mention Laura Gemser, in contrast to later films in the series she appeared in.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Caramelle da uno sconosciuto / Sweets from a Stranger

We open with the murder of a prostitute by a black gloved, razor wielding killer.

Soon after a second lady of the night is murdered, but manages to whisper a vague, fragmentary clue to a colleague before dying.

With the police both unconcerned and ineffectual, the prostitutes take it upon themselves to unmask the killer...

An evaluation of the situation that may prove to be of particular significance

Around about this point the film moves into more of a dramatic mode, to examine the womens’ lives more generally. It’s an interesting shift in focus and not intrinsically negative, but does make for a lack of stalk and slash thrills if these are what you were expecting and after, although it does return to more generic territory towards the end.

If however you want a quasi-documentary look at a collective of prostitutes, or just something different, then it might appeal.

This assumes, however, that the sleaze and exploitation won’t cut against the serious intent too much, though the film is quite light on these counts compared to Rino Di Silvestro’s Red Light Girls and Carlo Lizzani’s Teenage Prostitution Racket from the mid-1970s – or, indeed, the third part of Massimo Dallamano’s schoolgirls in peril trilogy, Rings of Fear, to which director and co-writer Franco Ferrini also contributed in the latter capacity and which ultimately proves most intertextually significant here.

A Bava-style angel and some symbolic yellow

Ferrini is best known as an Argento collaborator, of course, with that director’s long-time editor of choice, Franco Fraticelli, also handling duties here.

With a tongue of fire?

Arthouse favourite and two-time Bava favourite Laura Betti has a small role as an old-time, independent prostitute who falls victim to the killer.

002 Agenti Segretissimi

On the advice of a computer, our two heroes are secretly recruited by the Italian secret service to serve as decoys while the real agents go about their business unmolested; Franco also has a false formula implanted in a filling in his teeth. The complication is that he and Ciccio prove surprisingly elusive and effective, perhaps precisely because they don’t have a clue...

As usual Ciccio is the smarter of the two, but that isn't saying much; besides being Bondian the 002 refers to their low intelligence levels

Highlights include a visit to a health farm, with some amusing double-entendres and with a couple of gay-coded peplum type bodybuilders; a scene at a club where confusion over who is wearing the jackets with the X marked on them leads to the assassins from different enemy powers inadvertently killing one another; and the duo’s being taken as subjects for female agents to practice their seduction skills on – one getting the aged teacher rather than a beautiful young student.

I think Mary Arden from Blood and Black Lace plays the student seductress here

A visit to a Chinese restaurant, where the orders lead to plates of worms, bowls of beetles and suchlike, is perhaps a bit un-PC, but in keeping with our heroes limited view of the world – at another point, while burgling a house, they reject a Da Vinci as worthless in favour of an unknown painter with a Sicilian name.

The Italian cultural context is important in these films, which were more for domestic consumption (especially in the south) than international distribution.

Lucio Fulci directed, in that anonymous, professional, efficient way that tended to be the case for anyone working with the two comedians. An issue here, much as with the Bond films it spoofs in fact, is that the franchise was more important than the filmmaker. (This is why Tarantino, despite his avowed desire to do a Bond film, will probably never get the chance.) Basically it was don’t get in the stars’ way and let them do their thing.

Neither the best or the worst of its type, it moves along at a decent pace and is good natured enough, with Piero Umiliani’s breezy soundtrack a further plus.

Special thanks to Merlin for the custom subs.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Brillantina Rock / Disco Crazy

This Italian musical looks to have had an eye to establishing Monty Ray Garrison as the filone cinema's answer to John Travolta, at the time riding high on the success of Saturday Night Fever and Grease; note here how the Italian title references rock and a hair styling product, the English one disco.

Monty Ray plays Roberto, or as he prefers to be called Robbie, a young dancing enthusiast.

He and Rick, a member of a rival gang -- Robbie's wear colourful outfits, Rick's dress all in black -- become rivals for the affections of Cindy, a visiting American girl from a rich family and a talented dancer to boot.


Cindy and Rick

With Monty Ray never appearing in any other films, the main cult interest lies elsewhere.

Among the cast, Cindy is played by Auretta Giannone, better known as Auretta Gay and who appeared under that name as the ill-fated tourist Susan in Zombie. Fiamma Maglione, who appeared in Cannibal Ferox and a few others as Meg Fleming and composed as Budy Maglione, has a small part as Robbie's pregnant sister. She does not contribute to the score here, however, which is instead credited to Gianfranco Reverberi. Jimmy Il Fenomeno makes a cameo appearance as a gas station attendant.

Top Jimmy

Comedy specialist Michele Massimo Tarantini co-wrote and directs. He handles things competently but unexceptionally, with the inclusion of motorbike race and a car chase scenes alongside the dance numbers highlighting the film's crowd-pleasing approach of something for everyone -- comedy, romance, musical numbers, and even a bit of social commentary in the contrast between the privileged Cindy and Robbie's old friend Sandra, like him from a less advantaged background.

A similar opportunistic eclecticism is apparent in Reverneri's musical numbers, which include a phonetic English disco version of the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction, some rock numbers, and a weird disco-country and western combination. All very cheesy, but infectious -- in fact, a good summation of the film overall.


An alien spaceship lands in rural England. One of the inhabitants wanders off and in front of a car. Taking his ''funny clothes'' to be fancy dress, the driver (now minus his mistress, one of those nice little touches that grounds the story) take him to the local hospital for treatment.

The staff, led by Dr Mike Vernon (the ever-dependable Edward Judd), soon realise that their patient is not of this earth, beginning with a blood sample that does not look normal and followed by the discovery of a metal disc in the man's head. Meanwhile, two other (female) aliens search for their missing compatriot and soon track him down to the hospital, which is then discovered to be sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible barrier...

The aliens, later designating themselves as Lystrians, all look Oriental, though any racist subtext to this is rendered less likely by the casting of Tsai Chin as one of the hospital nurses and, as such, a fully integrated member of the local and by extension national communities. Moreover, before the alien's true otherness is revealed, her character is also asked if the alien man is Chinese or Japanese, but she does not think he is -- there is something not quite right and she's never seen clothes like his before; all very much contra the racist cliche “They [we] don't all like alike”

Edward Judd, Tsai Chin and the alien

More importantly, the Invasion title itself is actually somewhat misleading, insofar as the aliens are more concerned with their own matters than earthly ones, namely the recapture of an escaped prisoner (or two).

The film's writer, Robert Holmes, had earlier worked on Dr Finlay's casebook and would later become a prominent contributor to Dr Who. It is easy to see Invasion as a combination of the two. The hospital setting equates to the Earth-centred 'base under siege' scenario that were becoming especially common during Patrick Troughton's tenure as the Time Lord. More directly, other aspects of the story prefigure the introduction of Jon Pertwee in the Holmes-scripted Spearhead from Space, as the newly regenerated Doctor is taken to hospital and it gradually becomes apparent that he is not human, although the other aliens there are more predictably malign and actually intent on invasion. Beyond this, there are also UNIT-like military men, an unsympathetic, narrow-minded man from the government, and a competent pre-Liz Shaw female scientist. (The film as a whole has an unusual, if sometimes more obviously pre-feminist, take on gender issues.)

Fans of the Quatermass (E)xperiments or Terence Fisher's Planet triumvirate, especially the slightly later Night of the Big Heat (Island of Terror also starred Judd), will also find much that is comfortably familiar and oh-so-very particularly British. In other words, while the special effects aren't up to much this is somewhat beside the point: Rather, it's about the ideas, the performances, and the generation of an atmosphere of unease.

They don't make them like this anymore, more's the pity...

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Emmanuelle in Soho

Young couple Paul and Kate (Julie Lee) and their bisexual flatmate Emanuelle (Angie Quick, billed as Mandy Miller) are short of money. Paul and Emmanuelle try their hand at glamour photography, while Kate gets a job as a stripper at a nude review, Hang About Sebastian. Paul takes his photos to Bill (John M. East), who tells Paul that they are not really what the punters are after and kindly offers to take them off his hands for £50, then sells them for several times this. After Bill has worked this scam several times, Paul realises he is being conned and schemes his revenge. He invites Bill and his secretary cum mistress Sheila to a party, also attended by the cast and artistic crew of Hang About Sebastian. Inevitably, several of the guests pair off, including Bill. Paul secretly films Bill, then blackmails him...

Released to cinemas thirty years ago this month, Emmanuelle in Soho pretty much marked the death of the British sex film as a theatrical form.

The once proud Tigon tiger-lion...

British Cinema: From Blow-Up to this in the span of 15 or so years...

Blackstone and Hooper should be familiar names to students of the genre, with the latter also having some surprise Italian connections...

The film was bankrolled by porn baron David Sullivan as a vehicle for Julie Lee. She was a half-Chinese model who was being groomed as the successor to Mary Millington, who had committed suicide two years earlier and whose legacy it was becoming harder for Sullivan to exploit.

Keep it on!

Lee was originally cast as the Emmanuelle character. This could have suggested more of a connection, however tenuous, to the unofficial Emanuelle cycle from Italy insofar as these had similarly stressed the exotic appeal of 'Black' Emanuelle and 'Yellow' Emanuelle. Any sense of Oriental(ist) fantasy is however immediately dispelled when Lee opens her mouth and reveals her broad Yorkshire accent; had it been an Italian film, shot silent and post-synchronised, this could of course have been avoided.

East and some publicity for other Sullivan product

Lee and Miller swapped roles when it became apparent that she really could not act. Think about that: One model in a sex film being replaced by another because the quality of her performance was not up to scratch!

It is not, however, that the rest of the cast are much better. The actor playing Paul -- I use the term loosely -- performs primarily through raising his eyebrows, while producer and co-writer East reprises his Max Miller comedy routine from the Millington cash-in Queen of the Blues, firing off gag after gag, mostly unfunny.

The direction from first and only timer David Hughes is perfunctory. There is however the odd moment, such as the rack focus from Paul and Emmanuelle in a potentially compromising situation to Kate as she enters the room positioned in the back of the frame, in between them, which suggests someone making an effort.

The version under review ran barely an hour, with much of the running time padded out by the various performance and softcore numbers -- or, depending on your point of view, there is not enough of these and too much of plot stuff.

Signs of the times

Internationally it was also released with a documentary type introduction to Soho and with hardcore inserts. For the present day viewer, meanwhile, its interest is more as a classic piece of trash and for the incidental historical, social and cultural details, ranging from dialogue indicating a pre-AIDS fashionability of bisexuality (though other lines predictably suggest this was exclusively for women); to the giant top-loading VHS machine that was killing off this kind of cinema; to the size of flat the three supposedly impoverished friends have; to Paul's massive bouffant cum mullet.

Lee tragically died less than two years later after crashing her car and suffering massive burns. She was on her way home from a beauty contest in which, as the Monopoly card has it, she won second place...