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5 tombe per un medium (1965)
Despite Its faults, "Cinque Tombe" has a lot going for it.
What's Good About It: Barbara Steele and Mirella Maravidi - not necessarily in that order - atmospheric locations and interiors, bravura camera-work, colorful (if somewhat illogical) plot.
What's Not So Good About It: Slack direction, poor editing and a less than spectacular climax.
If you haven't already seen this film a "spoilers alert" may apply
Mirella Maravidi (a.k.a) Marilyn Mitchell is an attractive romantic lead who can look convincingly frightened and is obviously enthusiastic about the project. Barbara Steele, on the other hand, seems less enthusiastic about playing, yet again, the adulterous wife. However, her under-played characterisation contrasts well with that of her excitable step-daughter, and her death scene is very effective.
One of the key features of "Cinque Tombe" is the choice of locations and Carlo Di Palma's lighting of them. The action takes place early in the last century during the winter - a most suitable time of year to set a horror film. The Villa Hauff, where much of the drama takes place, makes use of Castel Castelfusano - a building with a bizarre truncated shape. The prologue of the U.S. version shows a terrified man hurrying from a tavern late at night through deserted cobblestone streets and down a wide flight of steps. This sequence is ominously lit and conveys a real sense of menace. In contrast, later on in the film, the lake beside which Mirella Maravidi and Walter Brandt walk as their relationship develops is bathed in winter sunlight. In the exhumation scene, a gray mist drifts across a line of gaunt trees that form a backdrop to the cemetery. This location is also overshadowed by an odd-shaped "capella".
The interiors are also superbly fitted out: the walls of Villa Hauff are like an art gallery. The Apothecary's store is lined with wooden chests of drawers and glass jars. The fireplace in Stinel's sparsely-furnished living room is used to frame a glamor shot and, later on, the aftermath of a suicide.
In addition to the atmospheric lighting, Carlo di Palma occasionally treats us to some startling camera-work, such as a sequence quite early on in the film that begins with a high angle long shot of a departing horse and trap, followed by a big close-up of Barbara Steele's eyes as she watches and then turns as the camera draws back to show her furtively examining papers in Walter Brandt's briefcase.
As director, Ralph Zucker should have tightened the script - which is essentially a tale of revenge that goes out of control - before starting. He should also have removed some of the more obviously illogical aspects of the plot - for example, if the plague-spreaders had their hands severed before they were hanged and buried in unconsecrated ground, how come it's their hands we see reaching out from their graves! In several scenes, most notably that of the town clerk's office, the dialog needs condensing to prevent the pace from flagging. If the failure to do this was because of pressure or inexperience, the editor should have been able to tighten the scenes. Unfortunately, the editing - especially in the second half - looks more like a basic assembly job than skilled cutting. Unnecessary "cover shots" are left in: when the shock discovery of an empty grave prompts the hero to phone his business partner, we don't need to see him leaving the graveyard to locate a phone - you can cut straight to him making the call! A shot of mummified hands inside a glass case coming to life, if kept short, can be scary; a prolonged tracking shot of all the hands wriggling (and doing nothing more) is not. Now, if one of those hands had suddenly smashed through the glass....
As far as the disappointing climax is concerned, it looks as if the film either fell seriously behind schedule and/or ran out of money. The final scenes look hastily improvised. If the director hadn't intended to show the plague-spreaders at the climax, it was a mistake to show one of their disfigured hands after Stinel's suicide. A partial manifestation two-thirds of the way through the film leads us to expect to see more later on. When this doesn't happen, we feel let down.
In spite of its faults, "Cinque Tombe Per Un Medium" or "Terror Creatures From The Grave" has a lot going for it. If Ralph Zucker had had more experience, a less restrictive budget and a better editor, the film might have been a minor classic. As it stands, I believe this is a case of a film being saved by atmospheric locations, an imaginative lighting cameraman and a couple of enthusiastic actors.
Et mourir de plaisir (1960)
The European and American Versions
This article is aimed at people already familiar with the American version of Roger Vadim's "Blood And Roses". For those who have not seen the film, it may contain possible "spoilers". Since so few fans appear to have seen the original "European" version of this film, I shall try to detail the difference between the two versions. The only video copy I have is the American version, but have seen the 84 minute English-dubbed original several times in Irish and U.K. cinemas. The information given below is drawn from memory. The biggest difference is the way in which the story is told: in the U.S. version the narrator is Millarca; in the original, the story is begun and concluded by Dr. Valeri. Both versions begin with the Caravelle jet taking off, but in the original this is followed by a scene on board the aircraft in which Valeri is in conversation with a small group of friends. After a little encouragement - "Doctor, I've known you a long time; I'll bet you have a story to tell us", Valeri begins the story of Carmilla, Georgia and Leopoldo. This is then followed by several scenes that have been cut: 1. Martha, one of the children who has a fascination with the Vampire legend, is seen exploring the Karnstein cemetery, much to Marie's trepidation. 2. Signor Lugieri is seen doing a reconnaissance of the old abbey as a possible location for his firework display. 3. Carmilla and Georgia are seen sharing a horseback ride. They are greeted at the villa by Leopoldo, who reminds them that there will be guests for dinner that evening. 4. Martha and Marie are saying their night-time prayers. When Martha pleads "Please let me see a Vampire someday" this leads to a comic altercation between the two, ending in a pillow fight. The above 4 scenes - which account for about 5 minutes running time - are introductory, so their absence does not impact too much on the plot.
However, also dropped is a brief scene in which Carmilla, in the presence of Judge Monteverdi, is seen laughing heartily at an unspecified joke. This occurs just before the scene with the fox, and shows another side of Carmilla's character. In two more scenes - the greenhouse scene and when Dr. Valeri gives his explanation of Carmilla's behavior to Leopoldo - the dialog has been shortened. Apart from scenes being cut/shortened and the narrator being changed, there have also been some additions. These include extra lines spoken off-camera ("You make it seem too real, Carmilla", "Carmilla, enough; you're frightening Georgia" etc.), extra sound effects (the unconvincing screams), and even visuals (the big close-ups of the rose fading) that Paramount presumably felt were needed to make the story clearer and the film more "marketable". The difference between the two versions, therefore, is considerable. My purpose here has been to list the differences, not evaluate them. However, the use of a Vampire spirit(!) as a narrator in place of Dr. Valeri destroys the film's intended ambiguity. In the original, Dr. Valeri's medical/psychological explanation of Carmilla's behavior is balanced by Giuseppi and the children Martha and Marie who explain it according to their superstitious beliefs. The audience is left to decide for themselves. No such choice for the American viewer: Millarca's over-dubbed voice tells us that she is taking possession of Carmilla. Giant close-ups of the fading rose prove it. To my knowledge, "Et Mourir De Plaisir"/"Blood and Roses" has never been released on VHS or DVD in Europe. Since it has appeared on VHS in America, it is possible that Paramount may eventually put out a DVD. However, this would most likely be the U.S. version. That is unless fans of the film were to bombard the distributor with requests for the original. But why would fans request release of a version they have not seen? Maybe this article will awaken an interest.
Clever but grim screenplay; haunting images.
Jimmy Sangster's screenplay for "Nightmare" is an excellent contemporary (early 1960s) thriller with Gothic touches. However, the script falters about halfway through when the young heroine Janet, who has been driven almost out of her mind by a series of terrifying events, is removed from the action of the story.
Instead of centering the action of the second half on characters sympathetic to the heroine who might take up her cause, identify the conspirators and bring them to justice - as happens in, for example, "Psycho" - the script reveals to the audience who the conspirators are, and then, until the final scene, makes them the center of the action.
It is asking a lot of an audience to identify with those whose machinations have brought about the committal of a sympathetic heroine, and this may well explain why the second half of "Nightmare" is less gripping than the first - especially as the plot of the second half is a variation on what has gone before, this time with an unsympathetic character experiencing terrifying events. This part of the screenplay also stretches credibility, since it seems unlikely that an antagonist with an alert and cunning mind would not detect a plot which is dividing him from his female accomplice.
The real strength of "Nightmare", however, is in director Freddie Francis' visual flair. A former cameraman/director of photography, using black and white 'scope and obviously influenced by his work on Jack Clayton's "The Innocents", he succeeds in creating a real sense of fear and isolation around his vulnerable heroine.
He achieves this by using the expanse of the 'scope frame, often surrounding Janet with shadows or, in daylight, setting her in a frame devoid of anything or anybody reassuring. For example: when Janet travels home from school, the railway station is almost deserted; we do not see the departing train from which she has presumably just alighted. There are no other cars on the road as she is driven home. As they pass the asylum she dreads, there are no signs of human activity within the grounds. Once back home she is dwarfed by the mansion "High Towers" she has become heir to, and her isolation is compounded by her home being located in remote snow-covered countryside.
Janet's isolation is social as well as physical; ostracized at boarding school in the early scenes, and clinging to a grotesque doll and a small transistor radio, she is never seen with anyone her own age (mid-teens). Her only friend at the school is a sympathetic teacher. At "High Towers" the guardian she dotes on, Henry Baxter, is at least twice her age - as are her other household companions.
In addition to traditional Gothic trappings (heroines wandering dark corridors in flowing night-dresses, candlelight illumination, door handles seen turning slowly and ghostly nocturnal figures) Freddie Francis endows several everyday objects with fearful connotations - Janet's doll, her transistor radio that forever blares out fast jazz, and above all, a birthday cake with lighted candles. The latter becomes a powerful image of dread, since it was on Janet's eleventh birthday the horrific event occurred that started the cycle of nightmares and fear of inherited insanity.
"Nightmare" has a particularly bleak atmosphere: most of the action is set during a harsh winter, the dialogue has virtually no humor and the ending - which should give the audience a sense of satisfaction - is grimly downbeat. This is probably because in achieving justice for Janet, her sympathizers have virtually duplicated the methods of the conspirators and brought about a similar result - a gruesome death and a woman on the edge of madness.
Highly recommended viewing.
This Other Eden (1959)
Too much plot, but excellent characterizations.
One of three early Ardmore Studios comedy/drama productions combining Dublin's Abbey Theater players with one or more international stars. The other two are "Sally's Irish Rogue" and "Broth Of A Boy"
Based on a successful 1950's Abbey Theater play, Patrick Kirwan's screenplay lightens the anti-clerical and anti-Nationalist tone of the original.
Brief Synopsis: Ireland, late 1950s. The erection of a statue in a small provincial town to patriot martyr Jack Carberry creates two problems: it focuses anti-British sentiment at a time when a wealthy Englishman wants to settle in the area, and causes a moral dilemma for a local high-minded young ward who learns (somewhat belatedly) that he is Carberry's illegitimate son.
The main plot of "This Other Eden" has some similarities to "The Quiet Man" - a wealthy outsider wants to settle in Ireland, falls in love with a native girl and arouses a variety of local feeling ranging from support to open hostility. The hostility, of course, is political; but some sympathy and much humor is generated by the Englishman's romantic vision of Ireland: he is willing to buy an Irish mansion because of the "Irishness" of its name, he has learned a few phrases in Gaelic (and uses them inappropriately) and much to the disconcertion of his adversaries, he admires the patriot Carberry and sympathizes with the nationalist viewpoint. In his romanticism he has much in common with those around him. The idealization of patriots - the commemorative statue, when unveiled, neatly reflects the distorted image the locals have of their hero - is only one of a plethora of themes within Patrick Kirwan's screenplay. Other themes include: the Irish antipathy towards the British, the commercial exploitation of Irish patriots, the Church's attitude towards them, conspiracies of silence - enough for several films, never mind a modest 80-minute feature! There is also too much plot; only the main plot is satisfactorily developed and resolved. Some of the sub-plots are too often hastily and unconvincingly tied up - especially the dispatching of a "bloodhound" press reporter with only a few threatening words.
However, there is much to enjoy: the story itself is continually interesting and upbeat; the characters are well-drawn and well-acted - especially Audrey Dalton as the independently-minded daughter of a wealthy local businessman. Leslie Phillips strikes a nice balance between blundering romanticism and resourceful practicality. Only Hilton Edward's snuff-taking Canon Moyle borders on caricature.
For anyone with an interest in Ireland "This Other Eden" is well worth seeing as a microcosm of that country just before attitudes began to change in the 1960s.
The Locations: the town square is in Chapelizod (near Dublin's Phoenix Park), the hotel is in Wicklow town (The Bayview) and Kilgarrig House is in the grounds of Ardmore Studios itself.