Friday, October 21, 2016

The Card Player

Well, I'll keep this short - one to avoid spoilers as usual and avoid movie bashing because I don't like to do that here. :) However, in the interest of GIALLOCTOBER FEST, I'll put up a review for THE CARD PLAYER even if I didn't enjoy the film.

Short overview is simple - police are forced to play online poker to save the lives of kidnapped women.

Shortest synopsis I've ever written on here.


Because this film would have made an OK 20 minute short, but it makes a painfully slow feature film. I had a brief moment of excitement when the lead female detective introduced herself. I thought she said that her name was Det. Anna Manni - the lead from The Stendhal Syndrome. I thought, "Oh cool - this is like her life before the other film. That's neat." But, was Marri, not Manni. And I continued to watch even more deflated than I was before. hehehehe

The police playing cards against the killer was interesting for a moment. They set up the basis rather well and the technology behind it seems reasonable and doable, which made the scenario believable. However, after the first time or two, it gets stale quickly. There is a sense of tension that I appreciated - the police forced to watch the victim die if they don't win the three hands of cards. The tiny window on the computer screen focused on the victim's face as they play to the right of it. I could almost see Dario planning it all out in his head and it sounding like an awesome idea. It's almost a pre-visualization of the SAW movies, really. But, it's not interesting for a full film.

Interesting too - this film came out in Italy in January of 2004 and SAW came out here in the States in October of the same year. The only thing that's really the same here, however, is playing a game for a life. There are no complex traps or things of that nature in here. 

The other sad part of the whole of it is that the story itself isn't fleshed out well, so we're forced to watch as police mill about waiting for the killer to strike again as as they do autopsies and find strange, giallo-style clues that...honestly...we don't really care about.

On a positive note...uh...oh! The dead bodies in here are really gross and amazing looking. Some top notch special effects work. They are like large, nasty looking PRACTICAL dummies. I appreciated that.

It was interesting to see GAME OF THRONES star Liam Cunningham here. He did a fine job. Stefania Rocca in the lead role was...there. heh :) Brooding and beautiful, but not much more. 

I'll end this here. :::sigh:::

I was glad I saw this film to complete my DARIO ARGENTO catalog, but I won't revisit it again.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Stendhal Syndrome

The Stendhal Syndrome is not one of Argento's stronger movies, but it's a movie that is packed with interesting parts. I believe that may be the best way to approach this film - viewing it as a film of parts and halves.

According to the WIKI:
Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal's syndrome, hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.

The spoiler free review is simple.

Dario's daughter, Asia Argento, plays Det. Anna Manni. When we meet her, she's rather frantically exploring a museum and we're not sure what she's doing there. She strolls through, viewing the paintings and artworks with a sort of crazy desperation. She collapses after seeing artwork come to overwhelming life before her. As she starts to come to her senses, we find out that she's a detective on the trail of a serial rapist/murderer. Unfortunately, it seems she's the object of his obsessions - a pet project. She catches up with him, but he gets the upper hand and has his way with her violently. And so begins their odd, destructive, violent, and horrifying relationship.

I won't say much more to avoid spoilers.

Hitchcock had to be the influence for this film - there is a Hitchcock vibe throughout the film in the introduction of characters, pace, lighting and framing, and plot development. It's very interesting to compare this to something like Vertigo which is another film of halves. There are Brian De Palma aspects to the film as well, especially in the lighting and the use of shadows. Of course, Dario Argento is no stranger to fantastic lighting - I would never say that he was just copying other directors. Not at all.

The Stendhal effects in the film are rather wild. Artwork slowly slips into life with sounds and vibrancy, then eventually Det. Manni actually interacts with the artwork and is able to move inside the art itself. There are some stunning scenes in this film.

Asia is adorable as always and manages to stretch a bit as an actress here. She really gives her all and runs a full range of emotion from whimpering, helpless damsel to aggressive wildcat.  I thought she did a grand job working with the acting tools at her disposal.

Thomas Kretschmann plays a wondrous horror as the rapist. He went on to play Dracula in Argento's Dracula 3D...which I actually kinda liked, though everyone HATED it! hehehe  My expectations were subterranean. He's a monster in Stendhal as well - an evil creature. Marco Leonardi is also in this, though his acting and the role is a major step down from CINEMA PARADISO, I have to say.

Now, I watched this as part of my GIALLO OCTOBER fest - now to be referred to as...wait for it....


However, this really doesn't fit into my definition of classic giallo or even horror to be honest. More like "giallo light"or classic thriller. However there are still giallo-like elements at play here. And, the film is very heavy on some major dramatic elements as well.

The subject matter is rough, for sure. Very hard to watch. Brutal acts of violent rape are portrayed, albeit as tastefully as they could possibly be. I'm not even sure there is any nudity in the film. There are several non-sexual acts of violence as well, but unlike other Argento films like DEEP RED, they are not overplayed and could possibly be counted on one hand, really. Another interesting aspect of the film.

The film is long. Too long. It could have easily told the same story with a tight 90 to 100 minute running time. At roughly 2 hours in length, it's easily split into two stories. However, the time isn't completely wasted. Argento looked like he was trying to create something beyond what he had before artistically and it shows. It's visually interesting throughout and packed with visual and audio style choices that add to the overall "edge of sanity"feel of the film.

It was obvious to me that Dario Argento was trying to make a statement with the film. The last few scenes of the film really hit home for me and helped to erase any lingering feelings of the film's running time being too long or the story being thin in parts out of my mind - it's a powerful wrap up for a story that was surprisingly deep and effective.

Other Argento films should be watched before this, but The Stendhal Syndrome should definitely be part of any Argento fan's viewing list. Check it!

A great soundtrack as well! (below)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


My giallo fest continues with the 80s gore flick PIECES directed by Juan Piquer Simón (SLUGS, THE RIFT) This fantastic giallo goodness packed with 80s wonder as well.

We start out strong with a boy taking an ax to his mother because she slaps him around for having a pornographic puzzle.  

ZOOM! we teleport 40 years ahead to a college campus where randy 20-somethings try stroll around trying to hook up and tease teachers with sexual innuendo. But, there's a killer wandering the campus with a chainsaw....killing them one by one and shopping them into...pieces. Get it?

I love that the killer uses a chainsaw on campus to kill folks. A giant, loud, yellow chainsaw. The police are lead by the awesome Christopher George showing his awesome detective work by asking questions like, "Do you think this could have been done with a that one over there?" as he points to the bloody chainsaw next to the chopped up remains of a co-ed. Amazing deduction. Bluto from Popeye (Paul L. Smith) stomps around growling before getting caught in the same room with the body and chainsaw.  Christopher George's then wife Lynda Day George goes undercover as a tennis teacher to see if she can sniff out the killer. And, yes, the introduction of her into the campus environment features a tennis match that awesome. :::giggling:::  Clearly, the balls are FLYING all over the place, but the magic of editing saves the day.

Red herrings abound and between the ham-fisted dialogue, over the top gore, and the bad dubbing, this film is a real treat! Man...the dubbing. They are always trying to keep up with the lips being shown, so we get sped of phrases and...very...slow phrases that...come...out stilted.

We have great giallo scenes with the killer sporting a long trench coat, mask, hat, and giallo issued black gloves as he travels around the campus leering at young women in various states of undress as they swim, practice awful dance numbers and more - his giant chainsaw always at the ready. I thought, "Must be easy to sneak around carrying a massive chainsaw." There are scenes where the killer is stalking someone and you see their shadow with the HUGE chainsaw large and out in front. Mind you, the police are looking for this killer on the campus (No...they don't shut the campus down or have patrols cruising the area), yet he walks around freely with this giant...tool. :)

When the gore appears on screen, its big and wet and nasty. Limbs fly and blood splashes. The detective enlists the help of one of the students - Kendall...over and over again. The same student that bosses around two police officers when they hear one of the victims screaming. "Come on! Don't just stand there! Call the Detective!" Shortly after, the student has no problem trying to have sex with another girl even though he discovered the body of a woman he knew sans limbs just shortly before. Great stuff!

There is a rather clever hook to the film that actually had me saying, "Ohhhh...I get it..." out loud at one point.

There are some fantastic trivia nuggets associated with the film including:

Because producer Dick Randall was simultaneously making kung-fu films in Rome, a cameo for a Bruce Lee imitator, Bruce Le, was written into this film, even though this scene makes no sense in the context of the rest of the film.  This was a really amazing WTF?! moment that is worth the viewing alone! Just one of the many, "Wait...what...what the HELL did I just see and WHY?!" scenes in the film that are a lot of fun.

In the only trailer released, one of the final shots shows the chainsaw killer approaching the camera. As this happens, the same scream from Janet Leigh, the scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) when she gets killed in the shower scene, is used.

I had not seen it for ages. I remember renting it back in the day on VHS - the cover calling to horror fans from across the store with it's sexy body and GIANT chainsaw splashed across the front of it.  It was one of the VHS tapes that really had us chomping at the bit to see it.

Fans of 80s slashers have to add this to their TO WATCH LIST at once if they have not seen it. Currently available on SHUDDER in the US.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Strip Nude For Your Killer

Another quick and dirty movie review for you from the SHUDDER collection.

Looking for a few deliciously curvy women stripping for misogynistic, womanizing assholes but don't want a lot of plot getting in the way? Well, STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER is TOTALLY what you're looking for!

This classic from 1975 is a hot mess of giallo goodness. First, we see a woman undergoing some sort of gyno exam. She dies and these two gents drop her back at her apartment and into her tub with the water running. Then...we're done with that stuff - moving on. :::grin::::

And onward. Someone is murdering folks around a fashion agency - I think that's what it is - where women are brought in and paraded in front of people like meat on racks.

"Wouldn't she make a GREAT model?" 

"Let's see, Baby? Oh yeah....look at her...."

Edwige Fenech and Femi Benussi are amazing. True beauties. Nino Castelnuovo play a fantastic bastard. hehe  The Director, Andrea Bianchi, also directed BURIAL GROUND - another VHS classic.

The killer has more than gloves in this one - they sport a full motorcycle outfit and helmet as they dispatch people. A full, colorful cast of characters lines up to be slaughtered, the blood is HYPER-red, and there is even an appearance by J&B whiskey which is also present in many other giallo favorites. I'd like to do a drinking game where you need to drink a whiskey every time you see the J&B bottle! hehehe

Did I mention the women in this film yet? :::grin:::  Remember, the title is STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER. There are lots of delightful, full figured great, 70s outfits that always seem to be open to high or too low... :::stares off into the distance...remembering...:::  

AHEM! uh...anyway....  

Um....OH! There's another great giallo trope that appears in here. The one where they use two camera set ups to get two different sides of a conversation or interaction and the distances and continuity is off from one shot to another. That's a fun one. So endearing, really. The 70s Italian apartment styles and outfits are grand as always and it's stylized as all get out, but there's not a lot of substance in the film overall. However, what it lacks in substance it makes up for in its...giallo-ness. hheheh

It is hard to watch women paraded around in the nude all the time. Sure, they are lovely, but the more violent scenes with nudity are always hard to view. There's one scene involving a semi-nude man being attacked that's hard to watch for different reasons. :::shiver:::  This has always been a tough thing for me - I love giallo films for the mystery and beautiful women, but the violence towards women is a tough one for me.

They are nice enough to provide several THE STORY SO FAR moments for the viewer where the events to that particular segment of the movie are rolled out to make sure they are all caught up and following the action. A classic police station scene, TV news program, and two of our main characters all manage to give an update at one point or another in the film. Another cute trope that's played out in clunky glory in this film. The films last STORY SO FAR moment at the end - voice over while a woman undresses - is topped only by the last scene of the film which had me laughing and groaning out "Holy Crap!" as I watched it play out. No, it's nothing gross or gore filled. It's a really amazing sexual joke that is

Microscopic and disjointed plot, misogyny, and demeaning roles for women aside (all also known as Italian cinema of the 70s...heheheh) this sloooooow, C LIST giallo nugget is still well worth a watch. It's fun and packed with so many tropes that it's a must watch for fans of the genre.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Lake Nowhere, Exists, and hellos

I'm trying out a new little format - a video review!

I was watching LAKE NOWHERE and was inspired to toss my hat into the video ring. However, this isn't going to be the quality all the time. I plan on giving this a shot a few more times in October with proper lighting and a better intro. I literally did this on my laptop with candle lighting and a glass of whiskey. hehehe

LAKE NOWHERE was a fun little throwback to my time as a teen watching VHS tapes with friends until the wee hours of the morning. 50 minutes of time machine goodness. The story was odd and interesting and they managed to get the classic 80s tropes in without pushing them too hard. I guess the one downside to it was that somewhere in the mix they awkwardly transitioned into a more standard horror film, dropping the 80s throwback feel a bit. Still really good, but it felt like they lost the desire to keep the gag going a bit. Hard to explain. Still a fun, worthwhile watch.

EXISTS was a tense little found footage film. I'm usually not a found footage guy, but this was really well executed and tight. It even hooked my wife in and she's not a genre fan.

I really should come up with a little nickname for my wife and her genre input. heh I'll work on a little cute name for her. :) I'm always impressed when she watches a film I'm watching, even more impressed if she truly watches - sans phone - and is interested, then wowed when she actually mentions the film the next day. EXISTS got a next day mention - a positive feeling and thought on the length and story line. It really was a grand little thrill fest with limited "WTF?!" moments carried out by characters. Enjoyed it MUCH more than Willow Creek.

Feedback is welcome! I'd love to hear what you think! 
((...keeping in mind that the production quality will go way up on the next rev!))

Monday, October 3, 2016


Made time to watch TORSO's SO GIALLO it hurts! heheheh  It's a great giallo primer, really. It has all the elements one needs to be aware of to dive into the world of Italian giallo horror mysteries. Violence, a crazy killer dispatching people left and right, an equally insane plot, MORE violence, gloved killer, and a ton of female nudity. If you watch this and hate it, no need to dive further into the genre. :)

The plot is super light. Basically, folks are getting killed in this small village. But, who is doing it...and why?

Yup...that's pretty much it. hehehehe   Braless women walk around and proclaim their friendship. EVERY MAN is a leering potential rapist. As a matter of fact, everyone in the film looks like they could have murdered someone.  The murder weapons is sold by a shady looking, sweaty perv. It's a rain wreck, really, but SUCH an enjoyable wreck and so much fun to watch.

Hint: There's NO way you're going o figure out who the killer is because you don't have the information. And, i really doesn't make a whole lot of sense when it's explained - by the killer, either. hehehe  Fun stuff.

Like most giallo films, this thing is held together by thread and tape. People are introduced, then killed off. You watch and think that you're seeing something develop, but then you realize that you're just looking at naked women and angry men and you give up. But, that's the beauty of giallo. The dialogue alone is well worth a viddy.

And violence abounds. There are the usual, brutal scenes of death and violence as well. I'm not 100% sure why the killer was doing what they were doing, but it's obvious that they are really upset about something. :::grin:::

All that said, TORSO does have a fair amount of tension and a hell of a third act that makes it well worth watching.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Cat o' Nine Tails

Another Argento classic, The Cat o' Nine Tails leans more towards giallo mystery thriller rather than horror, but there are some horrific moments in the film for sure. Seeing as this came one year after Bird With the Crystal Plumage, a more straight up mystery film with a few kills makes a lot of sense. That's what he was producing at around this time period. Four Flies on Grey Velvet came out in the same year as The Cat o' Nine Tails. This is what people refer to as the ANIMAL TRILOGY - far more successful a trilogy than the THREE MOTHERS trilogy, sadly, thanks to the Mother of Tears fiasco.

Reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus)  investigates the goings on at a lab facility after a failed robbery attempt leaves a guard rattled. He enlists the help of Franco Arno (Karl Malden) - a blind ex-reporter who happened to spot a car near the facility on the same night. As they get closer to the one they are hunting, they become the hunted themselves.

It's a fun little mystery. As with most giallo films, when you find out who did it and why, you might find yourself blinking at the screen blankly and mumbling, "Uh...ok....sure." But, it's still well worth a watch seeing as this is Prime Argento at the height of his film career.He really keeps things moving forward well and manages to get some humorous elements in that really work well, too

Gigi   :)

Franciscus and Malden are fantastic in this. They really sell their characters and work well as the crime sleuths. Other standouts are Rada Rassimov and the odd faced Ugo Fangareggi as the awesome criminal helper Gigi the Loser - really dug that character as well. 

The robot award for the movie goes to Catherine Spaak who's as stiff as the doll from DEEP RED. :)

While I'm still not sure why this was called The Cat o' Nine Tails (...were there nine suspects? Hmmm...maybe?)  this is definitely a new fave of mine now that I've finally seen it. I need to revisit Four Flies now that I'm older. I originally saw it "back in the day" after ordering a VHS bootleg. We're talking the, "You send me $15 and...who may actually get a VHS of the movie you want from me a few weeks later," time period in the 80s when that was the only way to see these films here in the States. :)

Where does this film sit in the Animal Trilogy for you? I put it second to BIRD, but above FOUR FLIES, I believe. Check it!