|Index||6 reviews in total|
Vampires are the real BAD guys (i.e. corporate honchos feeding on much more than blood) in this satirical, quirky outing. Visually stunning, with a main character who goes by the name of Giovanni Nosferatu... not to forget an army of white, man-eating utility cars from hell (just forget wimpy, musty ole bats!)... I mean, how can you go wrong?
After re-watching this obscure Italian gem, I'm even more convinced that Corrado Farina is a true neglected maestro of Italian horror cinema. Granted, he's only made four films, two of them being horror (the other one is the delirious fumetti adaptation "Baba Yaga"), but they really shows a unique style that is hardly seen elsewhere in the genre. In fact, even more so than "Baba Yaga", "Hanno Cambiato Faccia" is something of a black sheep of 70's Italian horror. The most obvious difference is the look of the film. While most of it's kind are photographed with Bavaesque colors, this one is almost completely pale and "lifeless", with all the exterior scenes filmed in nearly deserted, fog-shrouded landscapes and with stark white, minimalist interiors. Corrado's script is also very well written and intelligent. Something of a loose adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula", set in 1970's Italy, we follow a young man who goes to visit his boss - Giovanni Nosferatu, the head of a huge corporation, at his secluded country villa, in order to get a promotion. As soon as he gets there, however, he soon realizes there's something not quite right with Mr. Nosferatu, and he eventually comes to the conclusion that the man is a vampire. Not unlike Hans Geissendorfer's eccentric masterpiece "Jonathan", this is an obvious allegory to capitalism, with corporate tycoons presented as vampires who feed on the expenses of their consumers, and the title means that these foul beings are still living in our modern society, only under a different image. The metaphor is presented very subtly, and doesn't come across as being pretentious. The film's finale, though some can see as being anti-climatic, actually enhances this, and leaves a haunting, lingering impression, rather than a shocking one, on the viewer. One of the film's greatest assets is the contrast between classic Gothic imagery with high-tech, ultra-modern settings. Nosferatu's villa is, on the outside, old and crumbling, surrounded by a foreboding forest and an ancient cemetery. There's also a nearby village with the creepy innkeeper-ish character who warns the protagonist of his destination before he gets there. Hell, there's even a cobwebbed crypt for the vampire to sleep in. Another brilliant aspect is the choice cast. Adolfo Celli is just effortlessly creepy as the undead businessman, and Giuliano Esperanti makes for a likable protagonist in his Jonathan Harker-type role. Argento fans will be surprised to see the androgynous Geraldine Hooper, best known as Gabriele Lavia's homosexual lover in "Deep Red", as Celli's mysterious and seductive secretary, a "Bride of Dracula", if you will. As a whole, I think I slightly prefer "Baba Yaga" over this, but only by a hair, as "They Have Changed Faces" is obviously the better written, better acted of the two. Speaking of which, even if you didn't like "Baba Yaga", I urge you to see this film - it's a highly original, intelligent slice of Italian Horror, and another one that deserves more praise and recognition. 9/10
This Italian horror film is one that is most certainly coming at us
from a decidedly different angle. Its director Corrado Farina was also
responsible for the more well-known Baba Yaga but for my money They
Have Changed Their Face is the better film. It's an adaption of Bram
Stoker's novel Dracula but with some serious differences. In it the
Dracula substitute is a powerful businessman called Giovanni Nosferatu.
Like the book, he also lives in a remote mountainous region of Eastern
Europe and the storyline also follows a hapless businessman who has
been sent to see him. But aside from a similar basic story structure
this film takes the material into very unusual places. Atypically for
an Italian horror film this is a somewhat satirical movie. It's an
allegory on capitalism, where the modern vampires have moved with the
times and now prey on the public differently. Instead of sucking their
blood, they suck the life from them with soul-destroying commercials
and generally prey on the population with ruthless capitalism.
All this is well and good but what takes it up a level is the overall strangeness of the presentation. The vampire's house is a crumbling old building but inside it is very chic and modern. His henchmen drive around in white minis while sporting jump suits and helmets. While inside the house the hero is exposed to commercials; cumulating in an excellent later scene where a selection of newly developed adverts are shown to Mr Nosferatu in his board room. It's all very disconcerting and, to be honest, it's very hard predicting where this one is going to go. This is very inventive genre film-making that's for sure. The soundtrack by Amedeo Tommasi is great as well, with a variety of tones and themes. It helps set the atmosphere, which is one of real mystery. There is also a good cast too. Adolfo Celi is well suited to the role of Giovanni Nosferatu. But perhaps most interesting of all is Geraldine Hooper who was most famous for her turn as a male homosexual in Dario Argento's Deep Red. Frankly, it was only due to this film that I was even aware that she was not a bloke!
This is one of the most original Italian genre pictures from the 70's. It's one that certainly needs to be seen by a far wider audience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"They Have Changed Their Face" reworks the Dracula story in a modern
context, but this is not a horror movie. The story uses elements from
Dracula as a foundation for an extended metaphor with some
philosophical depth. The philosophical elements are drawn from Herbert
Marcuse. The movie develops the message that personalities are so
surrounded and immersed in the system of labor, work, promotions,
advertising, production, and consumer goods that the human being loses
creative freedom and zest for life. The personality is constricted to
the limited freedom of choosing work, mates and consumption goods, with
even those preferences shaped by society and powers outside the person.
These freedoms become mere options among what people view as
necessities. The system suffocates real freedom. The system determines
This and other related themes come through to us by the nature of the story and how it is told in the movie. It is all done artistically and with some subtlety. There is understatement here, not bombast, but the anti-system messages come through clearly. The constricted world of controlled production and consumption is often implied in the action. We also see some meetings of executives with their chief and see how they propose to put over their products. At other times, we see power being exercised and furthered by the dominant and controlling character played by Adolfo Celi. He plays a vampire. Early on we learn his name is Nosferatu. He has summoned a lowly employee of his, Giuliano Esperanti, to his modernistic villa, replete with devices that spew out ads for the products of his empire. The entire mansion becomes part of the constricting world that controls the person. Celi is a very powerful industrialist. He plans to gather Esperanti into his fold and make him a CEO of his auto company. He also owns a drug company, food companies, and so on.
Before entering the villa, Esperanti has encountered a free spirit, played by Francesca Modigliani. Her fate and transformation at the hands of Celi, of which Esperanti is unaware, will determine Esperanti's final entrapment by Celi. She abandons her free-spirited hopes and dreams, considering them now as foolish, in exchange for a steady job and security. Her change exemplifies the loss of personality within the system. Esperanti realizes there is no hope of fighting Celi and decides to go along with him. The story reaches a pessimistic conclusion as there is no outside force that can withstand the all-embracing and monopolistic control of Celi. His immortal life is itself a pessimistic signal, as he stands for the system. The system is viewed as vampiric and as draining life. Much of life becomes joyless in the service of the system's routines. In the villa, there is a room with babies and a large log book that records their birth details. It is a sign of Celi's even more complete control of people who will obey him and extend his reign.
It would be easy to dismiss the movie for having an extreme anti-capitalist bias. However, Marcuse sends a deeper series of messages than that. He has written "Either one defines 'personality' and 'individuality' in terms of their possibilities within the established form of civilization, in which case their realization is for the vast majority tantamount to successful adjustment. Or one defines them in terms of their transcending content, including their socially denied potentialities beyond (and beneath) their actual existence..." In the context of desiring that people do not simply adjust but transcend, another message of his that is close to this movie's message gives us a deeper picture: "By virtue of the way it has organized its technological base, contemporary industrial society tends to be totalitarian. For 'totalitarian' is not only a terroristic political coordination of society, but also a non-terroristic economic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests." Nosferatu is the totalitarian operating through non-terroristic means including manipulation of needs. In doing so, he frustrates the emergence of transcending personalities.
A largely unknown but highly rewarding Euro-Cult gem that transposes the ancient Transylvanian vampire legend into the commercialized industrial age of 1970s Italy; director Farina is perhaps best-known (if at all) for the Carroll Baker-starring adult comic-strip adaptation BABY YAGA (1973) a film which I was kind of lukewarm on at first glance but would now love to revisit (for the record, I do own the Blue Underground DVD of it). The mostly anonymous cast is headed by distinguished character actor Adolfo Celi (playing the all-powerful tycoon Giovanni Nosferatu) and whose underlings include one Harker, one Van Helsing, etc.!; the hero of the piece is played by Giuliano Disperati (who reminded me of a less handsome version of Hurd Hatfield) and their female counterparts are essayed by Geraldine Hooper (as Celi's androgynous secretary) and red-headed hottie Francesca Modigliani (portraying a bare-breasted hippy who hitches a ride in Disperati's car and stays on). Obviously, Jean-Luc Godard had already paid similar tribute to F.W. Murnau's Silent vampire masterpiece in his own iconic neo-noir/sci-fi opus ALPHAVILLE (1965) by naming the Howard Vernon character as Professor Nosferatu von Braun; the beauty of Farina's and co-writer/assistant director/editor Giulio Berruti (who would go on to direct the middling nunsploitation/slasher KILLER NUN ) concept, however, is that (as the film's very title implies) vampires have nowadays changed their faces and instead of sporting bloodied fangs and enveloping cloaks, they don suits, haunt business boardrooms and prey upon millions of gullible TV viewers via puerile (but obviously effective) commercials! The film's initial stages have a deceptively light-hearted air about them: predating the amiable "Fantozzi" comedy series of movies by four years, Disperati cannot believe his luck in being invited to meet the elusive President of the firm he works for (who inhabits the 20th floor on which, apparently, only a handful of people have ever been to); when Disperati is invited to Nosferatu's country house, he is made to listen to commercials whenever he gets to sit on the sofa or take a shower! Even so, the subtle choral music on the soundtrack ominously underscores the sinister air of the rural surroundings represented by Nosferatu's omnipresent watchdog army of white Fiat 500 which 'accompany' every visitor to the villa. Needless to say, the usual expected elements of vampire movies are also present in the mix here: the crypt housing Nosferatu's decaying coffin; the midnight secret meeting of the Vampire and his acolytes (here made up of, among others, a Renfield-like advertising agent dreading his boss' reaction to his clips and even an ecclesiastical authority who imparts his blessing on the latter's work vis-a-vis censorship issues, etc.). Despite Disperati's apparent shooting of Nosferatu (whose main relaxation activity is taking target practice on moaning puppets!), the eventual climactic defection to the cause conformism to the consumerist mentality of both hero and (the sadly largely absent) heroine does not really come as a surprise and concludes the movie on a satisfying ROSEMARY'S BABY-like coda.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
They Have Changed Their Face is perhaps the most innovating and
original take on the Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. In this intoxicating
allegory on capitalism, they substituted the well- trodden Dracula with
a successful and powerful businessman, Giovanni Nosferatu, the head of
a massive corporation, who invites a low- ranking employee to, from
what appears on the exterior as an old dilapidated villa. As soon as he
arrives in the locality - things are not quite what they seem. He soon
finds the locale nearly deserted with the heavy fog enveloping
everything in sight. He tries to ask the few locals for directions but
they are behaving most peculiarly, non-compliant and almost in a
trance. That should have been a deterrent! Before entering the villa,
he meets a young attractive woman. She promptly changes her outward
behavior from a free-spirit to a tense and overly manner. The employee
eventually comes to the conclusion to himself that, Giovanni Nosferatu,
is a vampire.
There are many strange and intriguing details in the film such as the villa, from the exterior, appears as an old dilapidated villa that is crumbling with ancient grounds to a highly modernistic interior, well-stocked with apparatuses that vents out adverts for the products that his corporation sells. From the intimidating band of cars that patrol the grounds of the villa that kills anyone who is trespassing to marketing of illicit products like "domestic LSD" or the nursery offering predetermined career paths for babies. It is a very well- made and stylish horror that throws around references to Godard, Fellini and Bergman. I'm sold!
It is an obvious allegory to capitalism, with the most affluent portrayed as "vampires" who appear to feed off consumerism, hence why They Have Changed Their Face. It is a biting and satirical moody piece, but above all, it is really good and at just 285 votes-it is shockingly unknown to the masses. If this was made in 2017 we would all be saying it was way ahead of its time, but it was in fact made in 1971! They Have Changed Their Face is a thoroughly original and intelligent slice of Italian horror. My vote is a 9.
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