Friday 31 October 2008

Mister X / Avenger X

This 1967 fumetti adaptation was directed by Piero Vivarelli who also contributed Satanik to the filone a year later. Unfortunately whilst containing all the right ingredients, including a mysterious costumed anti-hero complete with attractive female sidekick; gadgets and gimmicks, like a gun that fires cigarette-style crampons; the odd bit of sadistic tortures with a blowtorch; memorable locations in London, Rome and Capri; despicable bad guys, and ineffectual to incompetent representatives of authority, it never really comes together to make for a completely satisfying whole.

So, Mister X...

The credits sequence, with comic book panels and an energetic jazz / lounge score from Manuel Parada, certainly get thing off to a good enough start.

The promise of sex, danger and adventure

We're then introduced to respectable businessman and secret gangster Lamarr and his erstwhile courier, Veronica, who has gradually realised his true occupation. Rather than being horrified, she wants into the operation – as Mrs Lamarr no less – and agrees to courier a consignment of heroin from Rome, where she is murdered by other members of Lamarr's outfit.

Besides thereby demonstrating his utter ruthlessness, Lamarr makes his first mistake, as he attempts to frame the mysterious Mister X for the crime.

Though Interpol take the bait as intended, it is doubtful whether Inspector Roux and his men are adequate to the challenge of capturing X who has, after all, clearly evaded them many times in the past. Moreover, X is aroused to seek out and punish those responsible for implicating him in “a beastly vulgar crime”; as is often the case in this kind of film, it is not just about doing something but also doing it with panache.

And, sure enough, X soon finds that Lamarr and his allies are planning to take advantage of the situation by putting Operation Black Dragon into motion, flooding the world with heroin...



For me the biggest weakness Mister X has is X himself. Though Pier-Paolo Capponi, credited here as Norman Warren, is a decent enough actor he just feels miscast in the role of the costumed master of disguise, his athletic and other shortcomings particularly apparent when we imagine what Gianfranco Cianfriglia, Glenn Saxson or John Philip Law might have done with the role.

Gaia Germani is a lot better suited to the role of X's partner in work and pleasure,Timi – indeed, heretical though it may be, I actually preferred the character to Diabolik's Eva Kant – whilst Helga Line is in fine feline form as another member of the syndicate, the femme fatale Gloria, amongst whom Umberto Raho is also enjoyable as a Scottish accented godfather type, Mac.

A familiar location in Rome

On the downside, Donald Murray / Vivarelli doesn't impart much of a comic book tone to the proceedings, using much the same approach to his set-ups, as one suspects he would apply to any other film in contrast to both the opening credits and Diabolik. It must also be acknowledged, however, that the panned and scanned somewhat fuzzy VHS sourced version under review hardly represents the ideal showcase for any director's talents.

[Thanks to Cosmobells Blog for the film]

Thursday 30 October 2008

A couple of new locandine

One on top of the Other / Perversion Story

I really like the fragmented, collage / photomontage type look here, and the way it echoes the film's visual style.

Cat o' Nine Tails

The hands round the woman's neck are a bit of an artistic liberty here, since one of the distinguishing things about Cat o' Nine Tails is the almost dismbodied nature of the killer, with an avoidance of black glove shots and suchlike

I also got 5 Dolls for an August Moon (strapline: "the assassin always kills slowly and cruelly") but don't have a picture of it. It's basically this one, but in the locandina format

Wild West Gals

A new book from Glittering Images on the cowgirl in films and pop culture:

Looks interesting, though maybe not as Euro-focused as some might like.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

The unconscious truth revealed by a Suspiria poster?

'The Only Thing More Terrifying Than The Last 12 Minutes Of This Film Are The First 92,' or that one of Suspiria's few possible weaknesses is peaking too early, in establishing an intensity that cannot be sustained?

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Der Rächer / The Avenger

The Avenger is one of the odd films out amongst the 40 odd krimis made between 1959 and 1972, as the sole film within the cycle to be produced by Kurt Ulrich Filmproduktion rather than the more familiar Rialto or CCC.

Seeing the success of The Fellowship of the Frog, Ulrich quickly moved to make an unofficial Edgar Wallace adaptation, beating Rialto's Die Bande des Schreckens to West German screens by a few weeks in August 1960. Rialto had the last laugh however, taking Ulrich to court and preventing his company from making subsequent films – a decision which in turn explains why CCC used the work of Bryan Edgar Wallace rather than his better known father when they began making krimis shortly thereafter.

Though Kurt Ulrich Filmproduktion only made one krimi, it was nevertheless to prove an influential one, featuring the genre debuts of a number of krimi stalwarts in Heinz Drache, Siegfried Schurenberg and Klaus Kinski, along with one of the cycle's more memorable monsters in the form of Al Hoosman's Bhag, a non-too PC primitive type (variously referred to as “a negro”; “an animal from the jungle”; “a demented creature”, and “The best servant in the world: he doesn't think, he doesn't speak, he doesn't answer” brought to England from the wilds of Borneo.



Additionally, it also pushed the self-referential aspect that bit further than its immediate predecessor by locating the investigation amidst the making of a film, giving Kinski an early opportunity to play the tortured artist as its highly-strung screenwriter.

Though far from this type himself in own approach to writing, Edgar Wallace had started working for the cinema in the 1920s (most famously penning the original story for King Kong shortly before his death) while Bryan Edgar Wallace would subsequently actually work in the film industry, including with CCC on adapting some of his own thrillers.

A painting that may or may not prove important

Besides this, we also see an early – albeit quite possibly coincidental – instance of the krimis influencing the later Italian giallo when the film's director, Mr Jackson, elevates an extra, Ruth Sanders, to the position of lead after getting fed up with the diva antics of his star, Stella Mendoza, in a manner reminiscent of Dario Argento's Opera. It is, as Jackson says, the sort of incredible thing which normally only happens in the movies.

If this connection seems a spurious one, we can also note that the German name for the killer, der kofpsjager, or 'the headhunter', also prefigures that of the maniac in the Italian director's Trauma. (Admittedly here the killer does not keep the heads, however.)

Faces at a window

Similarly while The Fellowship of the Frog had featured covert filming that revealed a vital detail, here we have a similar detail – a woman at the window, no less – being captured purely by chance, much like the murder in the park in Antonioni's anti-giallo Blow-Up.

Some nice old dark house thing lurking in the shadows action

The typically convoluted plot opens in media res: An apparent maniac known as 'The Executioner' has struck no fewer than 12 times, decapitating his victims on each occasion. The last victim was beyond reproach, a fact which seems to have spurred the authorities into action at last, the majority of the previous victims having been incorrigible criminals.

Fortunately special investigator Brixan (Drache) has several clues to work with: the killer is extremely strong, having beheaded his victims with a single blow from a heavy blade; uses a typewriter on which a couple of the keys are distinctively out of alignment, and posts cryptic messages in the newspaper under the name of “the Benefactor”. (Curiously, however, Brixan is not a Scotland Yard man, rather being associated with the Foreign Office.)

Posing as a journalist sent to cover the making of the film, Brixen is quick to uncover a number of potential suspects, including the aforementioned Bhag – albeit as the tool of his white master Sir Gregory Penn, a womanising adventurer type – and Kinski's screenwriter, Voss, on whose typewriter the messages seem to have been written...

Of course this surfeit of suspects only serves to further complicate things, as do the array of quirky supporting characters, such as the harmless old eccentric Longman and – in one especially 'what the' moment – a swordsman who seems to have stepped out of a wuxia, coupled with the inevitable romantic subplot that develops between Brixen and Ruth, herself also another of Wallace's orphans / nieces / wards in peril.

Director Karl Anton was an industry veteran whose career dated back to the Czech cinema in the 1920s. Though clearly a competent filmmaker, his direction here old-fashioned and routine, though he does use the zoom lens to nicely augment / express the undoubtedly shock of finding a severed head in a box on a couple of occasions.

Admittedly, however, a fair evaluation of Anton's contributions is not helped by the overly dark, somewhat panned and scanned copy under review, originally released on video by Sinister Cinema in the 1990s.

[More information on the versions of the film and its relationship to the Wallace text:]

Blastfighter / Force of Vengeance / L' Exécuteur

Released from prison after serving eight years for killing the hitman who murdered his wife, ex-cop “Tiger” Sharp's first thought is to assassinate the corrupt District Attorney behind the crime. But after former colleague advises Tiger to think things over a bit, whilst also incongruously supplying him with an experimental, state-of-the-art, multi-function gun, Tiger instead returns to his old home in rural Georgia, complete with blind, mutant banjo player.

His peace is soon disturbed by the some of the local rednecks who are systematically killing the area's wildlife population to make into Chinese medicine. Their no-good leader, Wally, turns out to be the younger brother of Tom, with whom Tiger has a history. He was responsible for injuring Tom, leaving him with a limp that has kept him in the small town. It may have been a blessing in disguise, however, since Tom has subsequently built up a successful logging business.

Tom and Tiger

Out of mutual respect, the two men agree to disagree over the slaughter, though Tom also makes it clear what will happen if push comes to shove:

“You want a war?”
“Nope – you just tell your brother to leave the animals alone and I'll leave them alone.”
“Tiger – if something happens between you and my brother you know whose side I'm going to have to be on.”

And, with Wally and his idiot gang foolishly escalating the conflict, going beyond the point of no return by raping and murdering Tiger's daughter Connie, who had shown up wanting to bond with the father she has never known, this is exactly what happens...

Connie and Tiger

Though obviously drawing inspiration from both Deliverance and First Blood, this 1984 actioner from John Old Jr. / Lamberto Bava, Blastfighter seeks to be a bit more than hicksploitation through also throwing in touches of science-fiction, in the form of Tiger's experimental super-weapon; giallo, through a traumatic flashback scenes incorporating a black gloved killer that seems to pay hommage to his father's Blood and Black Lace and mentor Argento's Tenebre in equal measure; (super)cop on the edge poliziotteschi; western style a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do attitudes and settlings of accounts, and post-mondo / cannibal survivalism.

If the giallo and poliziotto elements are perhaps misplaced, its worth thinking about the western one in relation to Deliverance and First Blood themselves, as respectively a film in which the redneck is the equivalent of the unknowable Native American other and a film in which the hero is coded as the Indian against the white man, and what they thus highlight about the increasingly confused boundaries of Hollywood cinema around this time. If, that is, both films have certain western qualities, these are also those of the post-spaghetti western with its very different worldview.

Special make-up effects, rather than mondo / cannibal no-effects

As far as the mondo and cannibal filone are concerned, meanwhile, I say post here because in its pro-ecological message and avoidance of actual animal slaughter – thought apparently a deer suffered a seizure and died during the production – Blastfighter distinguishes itself from these earlier cycles, whose own logical end point, Cannibal Holocaust, he had worked on as assistant director.

Giallo imagery

If Bava seems to be atoning for this involvement here, his experiences on Deodato's film would seem to have also stood him in good stead, insofar as he works well with the rugged locations and up to the kinds of filmmaking challenges they pose – challenges very different, we might note, from the characteristically studio-based and more heavily resource-constrained films made by his father.

Michael Sopkiw makes for an agreeable lead, capable of being troubled and taciturn without turning the viewer off from caring about his character, whilst Valentina Forte is appropriately everyday attractive and sympathetic as the ill-fated Connie.

Though bad guys are written as a bunch of backwoods redneck clichés for the most part, being all 4x4s, plaid shirts and retrograde attitudes, the filmmakers also succeed in conveying something of their limited world through this, including the hostility it breeds towards those who are different from them and the desperate self-destructiveness that all too often result as they attempt to (im)prove their worth in abiding by outmoded doctrines of rugged and macho individualism.

It further helps here that the various Italian performers hiding behind Anglo-sounding pseudonyms also look and feel the part rather than standing out like sore thumbs; besides the always useful Luigi Montifiore / George Eastman we've also got the likes of Ottaviano Dell'Acqua as one of Wally's gang and Michele Soavi, credited as Michael Saroyan – and also performing second unit duties – as Connie's doomed forest ranger boyfriend.

The Deerhunter hunter

Things exploding

Nicely shot by Lawrence Bannon / Gianlorenzo Battaglia and scored by the Barrymore / De Angelis brothers with a combination of suitably mauldin Country & Western and energetic pumping action themes, Blastfighter is simply a good, unpretentious little filone film that accomplishes all it sets out to do in delivering action thrills, with plenty of things and bad guys exploding, and its messages, however rudimentary this may be to the (non-filone) cognoscenti.

Monday 27 October 2008

Giochi erotici nella 3a galassia / Escape from Galaxy 3 / Starcrash II

While the original Starcrash could hardly be called a masterpiece, it is light years away from this in-name only sequel which reuses some of its predecessor's already not too special effects footage on multiple occasions, sometimes even playing the same shots forward and in reverse for further economy.

The key to the difference between the two films' actual approaches lies in Starcrash II / Escape from Galaxy 3's original Italian title: Giochi erotici nella 3a galassia or Erotic Games in the 3rd Galaxy.

Besides being a title more in keeping with director Bitto Albertini's previous work in the Emanuelle series it also highlights one of the weaknesses of the film compared to its predecessor: just who was it intended for?

The nudity would seem to rule out out children, yet the script, dialogue, costumes, production design and performances are of the sort that it's hard to believe the filmmakers could take the film seriously themselves let alone expect an adult audience to.

But while this admittedly leaves the possibilities of intentional camp or kitsch appeal, as with Flash and Flesh Gordon or certain pepla – a filone that the film is reminiscent of at times – one gets the impression that Albertini and company weren't really considering such possibilities.

The story begins with the evil Oraclon, the “king of the night,” announcing to the various planetary rulers that they must submit to his authority or else. He's played by Don Powell, costumed like he's auditioning for a place on the P-Funk Mothership or the Sun Ra Arkestra and, in line with such 'space is the place'-isms, also contributing a disco inferno type soundtrack complete with whacked out pitch-bending synth work.

One of these rulers, Ceylon, played by Chris Avram in what may be his given Romanian name, Cristea Auran, declines Oraclon's offer you can't refuse and thus seals the fate of his planet, Exolon, and its people. Two however escape: Princess Belle Star, played by Sherry / Cheryl Buchanan, and her loyal servant Lithan.

But with their spaceship damaged the pair are forced to set down on the nearest planet for repairs. The people there are primitive and initially give Belle and Lithan a hostile reception. Fortunately through demonstrating some of their magical / technological powers in saving a child from falling off a cliff, they earn the villagers' gratitude and permitted to stay.

Over the next few days Belle and Lithan learn something of primitives' ways, most notably in the form of mating and fertility ceremonies – on their home world, sex has long been abandoned on account of being incompatible with the immortality we now learn they possessed; they also curiously enough don't have water, except in museums, while the appearance of a domesticated water buffalo also causes terror – and come to respect their simpler way of life. Unfortunately with Oraclon closing in, they also know they must also leave before they bring doom to their new friends...

As another one of those films where a few stills tell you everything you really need to know, I'll say no more and let the pictures do the talking:

The throne room / command centre

The Princess and her space-knight

Don Powell

The closest we get to a Star Destroyer

Sunday 26 October 2008

La Seduzione / Seduction

La Seduzione is a key film for anyone interested in Fernando Di Leo. Unfortunately it's also a film that many fans of his action movies will likely dismiss on account of being a melodrama and which those with a more exclusively arthouse orientation will resist as derivative and, in its more explicit scenes, exploitative if hardly pornographic. (As Last Tango in Paris reminds us, the ways in which this kind of 'adult' film and the debates around it are framed are crucial: art or exploitation, erotica or pornography)

I sat this because the subject matter of the drama – a middle-aged man, Giuseppe Lagana, returns to his old home town after years abroad, embarks upon a relationship with a woman his own age, Caterina, and then becomes involved with her adolescent daughter, Graziella – has obvious affinities with Nabokov's Lolita and Kubrick's adaptation of it.

Nevertheless, Seduction is its own film, with less of a paedophiliac subtext given Graziella's older age and greater maturity; the casting of the more womanly 20-year old Jenny Tamburi in the role of Graziella compared to the 15-year-old Sue Lyon in the title role of Kubrick's film; and the fact that the contours of the characters' relationships are different.

Most importantly the film was adapted from a respectable literary source, in the form of the 1970 novel Graziella by the Catanian writer Ettore Patti, which if obviously post-dating Nabokov's novel can also be placed in the context of a writing career stretching back to the 1920s in which he had earlier also approached the subject of Peter Pan syndrome – i.e. men refusing to grow up and accept adult roles and responsibilities.

While it would take an extraordinarily brave critic to favourable compare Di Leo's direction to that of Kubrick, it is clear in any case that Di Leo has his own approach to the subject matter, one that is less detached and observational and more involved.

Similarly, if none of the male players, led by Maurice Ronet in the role of Giuseppe, are quite as memorable as James Mason and Peter Sellers in Lolita, this may also be an advantage insofar as we often now remember Sellers' performances more than the films in which they appeared and characters they related to. As it is, Ronet does well in making his character neither pathetic, nor a monster, but a believable, if flawed, human being whom we may feel for even as we recognise his wrongdoing.

The two female leads, the other being Lisa Gastoni as the mother, are beautifully played, both actresses delivering the kind of brave and sensitive performances that deserved more attention and recognition than they ever received.

Interestingly, Di Leo had originally considered Ornella Muti for the role of Graziella, but was apparently given something of a her-or-me ultimatum by Gastoni and thus went with Tamburi. While there seems little doubt that Muti's presence would have changed the dynamics of the film considerably, if we think of the likes of her work for Damiani as the young bride of The Most Beautiful Wife – itself another film that reminds us of the culturally specific aspects around adolescent sexuality and community moral standards – it's a testament to the under-rated and sadly subsequently under-utilised Tamburi that one also finds it difficult to re-imagine the film without her. Anyone seeking more evidence of her abilities is advised to check her out in Silvio Amadio's Smile Before Death, where she plays a similarly (not so?) innocent victim.

[Some Italian references on Patti and his work:]

I Padroni della città / Mr Scarface / Blood and Bullets / Rulers of the City / The Big Boss / Zwei Supertypen räumen auf

Though not quite as accomplished as the “milieu trilogy” of Milan Calibre 9, Manhunt and Murder Inferno, this 1976 entry is nevertheless the kind of poliziotto that confirms Fernando Di Leo’s position as one of the key players in the filone in terms of style and themes alike.

We open with a slow-motion flashback sequence in which Jack Palace’s ‘Mr Scarface’ / Manzini guns down his partner in crime before the man’s son, whom he then punches out after the boy picks up an empty firearm and tries to shoot his father’s assassin.

The opening scene

What’s odd, however, is that the meaning of this traumatic fragment, beyond the basic fact that Manzini is clearly a badass, though not quite so unremittingly evil as to kill a child who might recognise him like Once Upon a Time in the West’s Frank – is that subsequent sequences appear completely unconnected to it.

Most poliziotto directors would have made it clear that the next character we’re introduced to, Tony, played by German actor and frequent Fassbinder collaborator Harry Baer, is the grown up version of the child who in now in search of revenge. Di Leo leaves us wondering and, indeed, thereafter appears to drop this plot thread. It’s not bad moviemaking, more another sign that he was willing to take risks and do things other filone filmmakers wouldn’t.

Is this the same child grown up?

Much the same can be said of his tendency to avoid straightforward identification figures. Baer’s Tony, like Gastone Moschin in Milan Calibre 9 and Mario Adorf in Manhunt, is clearly a more attractive proposition than the rest of the gang he’s with.

Is this Eleonora Fani?

He adheres to the gangster’s code, as also fore-grounded by his old-timer friend, Napoli, whom the others regard as a has-been or never-was and treat with attitudes ranging from disregard to contempt. (“You know you old guys are pretty funny, all that talk about practice. Give me a Honda and I’d make more snatches than you anyday. Works faster these days,” remarks one younger member, whose pocket Napoli then surreptitiously picks to demonstrate the value of his supposedly outmoded practice.)

He’s also a likeable, light hearted kind of guy – a characterisation further at odds with the conventional figure on a vendetta, if he is indeed such – whose goal is less to be padrone of the city than to make some money and retire to Brazil.

Moreover, he’s reluctant to use violence unnecessarily or to excess, despite being more capable in a hand-to-hand fight than anyone else in either gang. (“You’re beginning to tire me. If I have to fight you like this every week for what you pay our friend, one of us might get hurt,” as he says to one reluctant – and armed – debtor he knocks out with his hands and feet alone, leaving no doubt as to who might get hurt next time round.)

Yet, despite all this, there’s nevertheless the sense that, like the protagonists of the spaghetti westerns Di Leo co-authored, Tony’s the hero because he’s the one who wins the fights, rather than the one who wins the fights because he’s the hero. It’s a subtle, but important, distinction.

The relatively complicated plot really gets going as one of Manzini’s gang, Rick, played by Al Cliver, visits the illegal gambling den run by Tony’s boss, Luigi Cherico, played by Edmund Purdom and clearly cast, like Palance, for special guest star type marquee value.

Rick gets thrown out of the place after complaining – rightfully as it turns out – that its games are rigged by the house, but issues the warning that he or his boss will be back. Whilst Manzini makes a visit to the club to restore face, he is also displeased that Rick should have been fooled and expels him from the gang following a punishment beating. (“If you don’t know which table to sit at don’t go gambling. I stepped in because my men don’t get taken, but if a man gets taken for a sucker he can’t be one of mine”)

Joining a card game and claiming to be out of money, Manzini convinces the dealer to let him cash a cheque for three million lire. In the morning it’s discovered that the cheque is no good. After fighting and defeating his rival Peppi, who considers himself Cherico’s rightful number two, Tony rashly announces that he will get the money back from Manzini.

Back home, it is Rick, whom Tony had conveniently found and taken home to recuperate following his beating, who provides the method: The two men hire an actor from a variety hall and he and Tony then visit Manzini’s offices posing as tax inspectors, compelling the absent boss to pay up ten million lire to avoid an official investigation whilst also helping illustrate the world of corruption and collusion in which the 70s poliziotto as a whole is so firmly embedded.

Keeping seven million for themselves, Tony gives Cherico back his three million, expecting him to be pleased. Instead, however, his boss – encouraged by Peppi – is furious, fearful that Tony has just escalated the conflict with Manzini still further. Disgusted at the gang’s all-talk and little action approach, Tony announces that he is going it alone.

As Manzini makes his next move, sending his men to take care of the music hall performer, whose identity they have uncovered, Tony and Rick realise that continuing to play both ends against the middle – to introduce another spaghetti western theme Di Leo would have been familiar with – is going to prove a challenge, even when assisted by Napoli’s and his wise counsel. (“If you want to take this seriously you’ve got to learn. But a lot of these punks today have never passed the third grade – what do they know?”)

One of the numerous fight scenes

While taking some time to get up to full speed, it would be wrong to give the impression that Mr Scarface is all talk and little or no action, with several decently executed fight scenes affording Tony the opportunity to demonstrate his skills and – more importantly – nature even at this stage, not to mention one of those signature Di Leo girl dancing / camera dancing around girl scenes. But unlike Milan Calibre 9’s Barbara Bouchet, she’s strictly there for decoration, with this proving one of the more masculine films out there and, in the process, reminding one of Leone’s Dollars trilogy westerns.

The definitive Di Leo shot?

Much the same can be said of Gisela Hahn’s nightclub singer cum moll, Clara, clearly included as part of the German side of the co-production given the notable absence of any subplot between her and Tony; if we get no sign that Tony prefers men to women, as per one of Peppi’s taunts, romance isn’t a particular interest / weakness of his either.

Purdom and Hahn

Moreover, after the midway point those more interested in action than auteurism should be more than satisfied with the procession of chases and shootouts that ensue, especially when these culminating in a settling of accounts set against the always welcome abandoned slaughterhouse setting in which also we get an exploding car and a the running down of another bad guy by a motorcyclist doing a wheelie.

Note the various carnival posters expressing Tony's desire to go to Brazil

With a good cast featuring plenty of familiar faces amongst the supporting players, like Fulvio Mingozzi as Manzini’s initial victim; well-chosen locations and adroit use of the camera, and an effective score by regular Di Leo composer Luis Enrique Bacalov – albeit one lacking anything matching the brilliance of his outstanding, oft-used Preludio from Milan Calibre 9, but featuring some nice percussion and funky flute work nonetheless – Masters of the City is well worth a look for fans of the Di Leo or the poliziotto as a whole.

Saturday 25 October 2008

There's only one Joe the Plumber

And he is in The Beyond.

Would this Joe vote for the 'Jesus Saves' candidate or the Greater (Lovecraftian) Evil?

I Racconti della camera rossa

Some of you are probably wondering what an apparent Hong Kong Category III film is doing in a blog about European exploitation cinema.

The answer lies in that title. It's not a translation from the Cantonese, but the original title. For Stories from the Red Chamber is actually an Italian production, being directed by Joe D'Amato / Aristide Massaccessi under yet another of his multitudinous pseudonyms, namely the made-in-Hong Kong sounding Robert Yip.

Note that 'Heijin Lab' is an Italian company

In interview Massaccessi freely admitted to copying the then-in vogue Sex and Zen films and hoping to pass it off as an authentic Hong Kong product. While those more knowledgeable about Italian or Hong Kong productions could probably identify the film as a counterfeit – where are the otherwise familiar Hong King cinema faces and names and who is hiding behind the pseudonyms being used? – one wouldn't be surprised if the casual viewer was taken in by the ruse.

Yet, I don't think it matters too much, since a number of the episodes presented, such as the man who disguises himself as a woman in order to infiltrate the master's house and then has his comeuppance when he discovers a hermaphrodite engaged in a similar kind of deception, or of the wife who is fitted with an locked chastity belt on the instructions of her untrusting husband before he goes away for a time, prove to be somewhat universal, the differences emerging more at the level of the costumes and setting.

Up the chastity belt

Indeed, for anyone more familiar with Italian exploitation of the 1970s than Hong Kong exploitation of the 1990s, the thing that the film may prove most reminiscent of is a Decamerotic. There is, after all, that same basic combination of bawdiness and earthiness juxtaposed with moral tale wrap up found in the likes of Ubalda: All Naked and Warm – a Fenech vehicle that tellingly also features a chastity belt scenario – and D'Amato's own Novelle licenziose di vergini vogliose / Le Mille e una notte di Boccaccio a Canterbury, the latter title also foregrounding the actual and purported literary origins of both the Italian and Hong Kong forms.

We can explain everything, honest...

The abundance of nudity and softcore fumblings amongst the Chinese-looking cast and corresponding absence of hardcore material and Europorn types further distinguishes the film from the bulk of the D'Amato's 1990s output, including – just to bring things full circle – the two Decameron Tales entries he lensed for frequent partner-in-porn Franco Lo Cascio a couple of years later.

As such, the film is also revealing of how far the tide was turning against the old-style of Italian exploitation film by this time, that Italian filmmakers were now seeking to imitate their Hong Kong counterparts rather than the other way around when we think of the likes of Tsui Hark's The Butterfly Murders and We are Going to Eat You.

This also extends to the soundtrack where Piero Montanari delivers a rather obvious and repetitive pseudo-Oriental synth based score; at least when Hong Kong filmmakers borrowed Morricone or Goblin cues and placed them in all sorts of unexpected places and contexts they were stealing something worthwhile.