Thursday, October 27, 2016

Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye

Sadly, GIALLOCTOBER FEST is coming to a close. I ended on a rather high note with DEEP RED, but added one more film to the lineup at the last minute. I thought it was going to be a toss away item, but it turned out to be a fun little Hammer horror-like gothic tale that I enjoyed.

SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE was a lot of fun. No, it wasn't fantastic, but it was a perfect film for a cold, rainy day. This 1973 Antonio Margheriti (click it! Click it!)  directed giallo tells a rather simple tale of a family in an old castle in Scotland. Corringa returns to her Aunt's unannounced and finds herself in the middle of a small, family drama as her mother, Aunt, nutty cousin, and various guests and servants skulk around the drafty old place and plot. And....what is that hairy beast there lurking in the halls? No...not THAT one. THAT'S the CAT, silly. The OTHER one - the one that's as big as a man. Hmmmmm....

I thought the plot was going to be rather simple and it was, but not in the way I thought it was going to be. A complex series of murders left me rather confused towards the end after they scrambled what I thought they were going to wrap up with. There were also many lovely WTF?! moments that I found endearing. I can totally see myself tossing this on later this winter on some dark and stormy night, snuggling in with a whiskey, and just letting it play out as I smile.

Jane Birkin (...who I always think of as "That girl from the Agatha Christie movies"...) is sweet, lovely, and confused as the returned niece Corringa and American born Hiram Keller's (Fellini Satyricon ) nutty Lord James MacGrieff nails the striking madman expertly.  The awesome Anton Diffring's portrayal of the plotting doctor is fantastic, but he is always awesome - even when he's not playing a German commander or some such. :::grin:::

It's not getting much love on SHUDDER right now. People are railing against it. However, I feel it's well worth a viddy.

Deep Red

GIALLOCTOBER FEST continues with an old favorite of mine from Dario Argento - Profondo rosso also known as DEEP RED.  This has to be one of my favorite giallo films and is definitely one of my favorite Dario Argento movies hands down.

The plot and pace of this film really make me happy.

A medium at a live psychic reading in front of an audience latches onto one of the attendee's and finds a deep secret they hold. We see through the killer's eyes in a classic POV shot as they get up and walk away from the scene. Needless to say, blurting out this knowledge in front of the killer doesn't go well for the medium. She's dispatched violently as our hero Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) watches from below. He races to the scene to try and help his poor neighbor, but to no avail. But, something troubles him besides the death of his neighbor. There's some piece of the puzzle he isn't seeing. He teams up with reporter Gianna Brezzi played by the ever awesome Daria Nicolodi to track down the murderer and solve the mystery. Simple and understated, but it turns into a real thrill fest when Brezzi publishes a photo of Daly in her paper....and states that he can identify the killer.

Love the music for this as well. A great driving swell with the tinkling higher notes. 

And...the lullaby.....   :::shiver::::

What I love about this film is that it actually has substance - not just a series of deaths and naked women flopping about waiting to be killed. There's a strong sense of story and character development in Deep Red and a fantastic sense of play as the characters interact and investigate. The comedic elements are wonderful in the film as well. Really top notch. There were points where I was laughing out loud, but it was driven by the writing and not some bit of bad dialogue or silly acting. There's a scene where the characters and relationship between Daly and Brezzi are demonstrated expertly with a fantastic comic twist that helps vary the waves of emotion in the film. You're interested, tense, terrified, then you get a moment of comedy to cleanse the palate before rolling into the next tense moment.

But, the film still has those classic Dario moments of nasty, gore filled deaths - don't you worry about THAT. You'll still get your bloodier moments in this film as well as some truly freaky visual elements that are unnerving to say the least.

The shot composition is A-class Dario Argento as well. Not only do we get the fantastic Argento lighting, but we get some really lovely shots and set pieces that help to add to the artistic quality - again, taking the film from ditsy blood filled titillation to top tier horror film. My personal favorite setup is right as Daly is returning to his apartment towards the beginning just before the death of the poor psychic medium Helga Ulmann - played by the beautiful Macha Méril. We get these fantastic long shots of the area that give a wondrous sense of space. We also get a smart nod to the 1942 Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks. The painting is a personal favorite of mine that I was lucky enough to see in person on a business trip to Chicago a few years ago. It's always been a favorite of mine, so when I saw it represented in the film, I believe I might have let out an audible squeal of happiness. ::grin:::   This level of detail is what separates Deep Red from it's lesser counterparts.

Lastly, the film makes sense. The actions of characters and plot really hit a not of reality that sells the film for me 100%. People do somewhat normal and realistic actions.

I'm going to say it....

DEEP RED is my favorite Dario Argento movie. 

So good. Check it out! 

Halloween Costumes of the 70s

Ah...the 70s.

A simple time. A time of plastic masks that covered the front of your head, but not the back.
Masks that cut into the skin around your eyes and cut your vision down by roughly 45%.
Of rubber bands that snapped and whipped your skin, forcing you to either hold the mask in place with your hand or abandon it all together - popping it into your treat bucket (...mine was an orange pumpkin bucket with a black handle that would cut into your hand more and more the more candy you got!) or in a neighbor's yard.

Good times!

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.