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Apparently, I must have seen the cut-down version of 'Bella Mafia' - running time: 113 minutes - because like every fifteen minutes there was a time leap into the future (sometimes only months, sometimes years). I just didn't have time to get into the story that way. Also, it had this artificial drama feel to it and the same sappy score to go with it. Now, I understand this way of film making, but I don't exactly approve of it. But than, at the 1-hour mark, a lot of people suddenly get killed in two simultaneous scenes and this made-for-TV movie promptly becomes very, very interesting. And during the next 50 minutes, it totally redeems itself from the flaws of the first half. The ending is marvelous, especially when you've come to learn a lot about the characters' background. Nastassja Kinski's role is the pillar of all the drama & intrigues in 'Bella Maffia' and the best part of it all is that nobody knows about it (except for one person at the very end). There seems to be a two-part mini-series of this film (with a lot of extra scenes, I imagine - 2x105 minutes). So if you're interested in seeing 'Bella Mafia', I could advice you to watch the full mini-series. You'll probably get more out of it. Oh, and there's quite a few shocking scenes in this movie, especially considering it was made for TV. Not bad at all. Just be sure to be persistent biting your way through that first hour.
'Satan's School For Girls' really looks like a cool vintage seventies
satanic horror-thriller, but regardless its über-cool title, that
doesn't necessarily make it a great movie. When Elizabeth Sayer's
(Pamela Franklin, delivering a decent performance) sister commits
suicide, she works her way into the private school her sister went to.
It doesn't take too long for her to discover other girls have been
dying too. The concept is nice and it's not a boring watch, but the
mystery is a little weak and the denouement is underwhelming. Features
a bunch of good-looking seventies beauties, but no skin and no blood.
Some ladies do die, and those scenes are pretty much the only shocks
this film has to offer.
Interesting trivia: during the '70s, legendary producer Aaron Spelling ('The Love Boat', 'Dynasty', 'Beverly Hills 90210', 'Melrose Place',...) produced several made-for-TV horror movies, and with having watched at least one more of them (the amusing 'Cruise Into Terror', 1978), I strongly suspect they all might be enjoyable watches. So is 'Satan's School For Girls' to some extent, even if it's a quite forgettable film. Makes me curious to see what the remake from 2000 (also made-for-TV and produced by Spelling) might have turned into.
Not exactly recommendable for die-hard horror fans, since the film offers a tame mixture of drama & thriller, with only the added supernatural element occasionally venturing into horror territory. Little Lisa (Aemilia Robinson) has, just like her mother Ellen Downey (Cheryl Ladd), psychic abilities. We're talking communication with the dead here. Her contacts with the other side will lead the good guys onto the trail of a very bad serial killer. Performances aren't too bad, but the whole film is just unremarkable, boosted by some very cheap special (editing) effects. A by-the-numbers supernatural-tinted affair for bored housewives from the nineties as its target audience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For his early films, José Ramón Larraz moved to England and delivered
the sort of psycho-sexually flavored genre efforts many British
directors seemed incapable of conceiving (except for people like
Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell at the start of their career, with
'Performance' being a fine example). A film like 'Vampyres' (1974), at
the time, even earned Larraz a reputation of being a feminist
filmmaker, which is a fairly odd side-effect when essentially creating
an on-screen lesbian vampire bloodbath. His second feature, 'Deviation'
dates back to 1971 and turned out a strange and unsettling little film,
very much worthy mentioning as an early entry in thrilling '70s
Euro-exploitation cinema. Larraz, directing under his pseudonym J. R.
Larrath, manages to concoct a mildly surreal and fairly unnerving
atmosphere without either reverting to more typical & meaningless
dream-like imagery (like his fellow Euro-colleagues Jess Franco and
Jean Rollin often tried their hand at; with what I've seen from him so
far, I place Larraz on a higher pedestal as a filmmaker) or
blood-soaked stagings (like exploitation movies in general were
starting to dictate). 'Deviation' does contain a fair amount of
weirdness, nudity and bloodshed, but in a somewhat more subtle manner.
Not seldom so would Larraz's visual flair often lean more towards the
Italian giallo films from the '70s than it would be in sync with the at
the time prevailing British horror cinema. 'Deviation' can easily be
placed between movies like Wes Craven's 'Last House On The Left' (1972)
and Don Gronquist's 'Unhinged' (1982), coincidentally two American
films, yet it still has that tangible European flavor to it (not in the
least shaped by Stelvio Cipriani's splendid original soundtrack
The plot (spoilers): One dark night, Olivia and Paul are driving home when a deviation sign leads them onto a road into the woods. When they have an accident, they are invited by Julian and his sister Rebecca to spend the night in their mansion. Paul is convinced he hit someone on the road, while Olivia doesn't believe him. Julian is a taxidermist in his spare time and he, uhm, doesn't exactly stick to animals. Paul will soon learn he did run someone over, but won't live long enough to tell anybody about it. Meanwhile Olivia is kept drugged & dazed and because of her state willingly participates in psychedelic, nightly orgies organized by Rebecca and Julian. When things go from bad to worse and Olivia finds out they murdered and skinned her lover Paul, she manages to fight back and kill the two siblings.
As I watched it, 'Vampire Circus' makes up for a fun double bill with Hammer's 'Lust For A Vampire' (1971). Equally seasoned with a fair amount of nudity and a tad bit gorier than 'Lust For A Vampire', Hammer's 'Vampire Circus' doesn't fail to entertain. A plague-ridden town witnesses the arrival of a circus. Yes, it's the titular circus, so naturally blood will flow. And for a particular reason too: some prominent townsmen managed to slay Count Mitterhaus fifteen years prior to the events about to unfold. The vampire circus folks are descendants of the count and are here to exact revenge and resurrect their master, whose remains are still taking up residence in the caves beneath the hilltop castle. It all adds up to some fun Hammer horror pulp, delivering the goods that fans had grown accustomed to by that time.
Quite amusing latter-day Hammer outing, loosely based on the novella 'Carmilla' by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Featuring an enjoyable amount of lovage, including the female/female kind of affection-sharing. Mark Raven is no Christopher Lee, so fortunately his role as Count Karnstein is limited. Yutte Stensgaard, however, is very pleasing on the eyes, taking on the role of Mircalla/Carmilla, the freshly arrived nubile student of a boarding school for girls. Jimmy Sangster in general might be considered as not being on par with some of his fellow Hammer directors, but he does manage to concoct a couple of fairly atmospheric scenes (like the nightly encounter between Mircalla and teacher-turned-servant-of-the-occult Barton). The amusing goings-on make up for an entertaining intrigue, leading up to a suitably satisfying fiery climax.
Back in the avid rental days, Dohler's 'Nightbeast' already made it as an abominable cult trash hit. Man, was that horrid piece of alien terror a hoot or not? A truly wonderful bad movie with a capital "B". Virtually a laugh riot all the way through. It's definitely worth it, if you dig a little celluloid craptasticism from time to time. Some time ago I finally got my hands on a copy of 'The Galaxy Invader', which is pretty much, more or less, give or take a little, completely the same movie, in a subgenre I like to dub "clueless aliens loose on earth". At least 'Predator' was here on earth for a good reason, right? Sports! As good as any reason, for most people. But 'The Galaxy Invader'...? Perhaps my mood just wasn't right for this flick. There's some pretty hilarious bad filmmaking at display here (on all levels), but it just doesn't make you laugh as hard as 'Nightbeast' did. 'Night Beast' was tremendously entertaining. 'The Galaxy Invader' not really. At best, you can giggle every now and then with some (very) bad acting. Halfway through I suddenly had the luminous idea to switch on the audio-commentary (because the on-screen madness was starting to turn into a bore-fest, honestly). Instantly the film became much more entertaining, and that's how I managed to sit through it. Those who don't drink alcohol, shouldn't watch this film. I watched it completely sober, so I know. The damned thing doesn't go down well in a sober fashion. Then again, alcohol + this film? Take care of your brain, folks. Might not be that good of an idea either.
Thankfully, there are now quite a few uncut releases of 'A Cat In The Brain' on DVD. Not surprisingly this film suffered a great deal from the censors back in the days; just watch it for yourself and you'll get the picture. So I re-watched an uncut version recently, and boy, this still is such a 'fun' film. Whatever Mr. Fulci's intentions were at the time - must have been more than one, that's for sure - I'm still strongly convinced (more than ever, actually) that 'A Cat In The Brain' was partly intended to be a comedy. The movie is virtually plot less, or instead of a plot, it basically has only plot holes (think the size of Nebraska) tied together with hints at a plot. There's a hint at a murder mystery here, about a deranged murderer killing random people, though it's merely reduced to a background story. And as you all have probably read by now, it stars Fulci playing himself. It's also one of Fulci's most incoherent films. It also is quite ridiculous. And it all feels like it was meant to be this way. Literally stuffed with gore footage (both new and some lifted from his previous films), it's undoubtedly Fulci's most insane movie. Good stuff!
With 'Eko Eko Azarak II', we're offered a prequel this time, learning us (in a subplot) how Misa got acquainted with witchcraft and developed her powers. The rest of the plot is *very* much inspired by the first 'The Terminator' movie. Only replace Arnold Schwarzenegger by an ancient evil witch, jumping from body to body, constantly chasing the young Misa and her protector. The pace of events is higher this time than was the case with the first film. The occasional blood & splatter is still there. The story is interesting enough. And the effects are about as good as they could get for a 1996 modest-budget Japanese horror effort. It does slow down a bit too much just before the third act, but other than that, it's pretty much a fun ride with a great climax. Worth hunting down a copy of it.
I had seen this first 'Eko Eko Azarak' movie at a festival when it came out at the time. I remember being enthusiastic about it. I planned on re-visiting it together with the next 3 installments of this series. Only watched the first two so far. And re-watching this one, was a bit disappointing, sadly. I remembered it to be a bit better. Or maybe that first-time-viewing impact that many movies have, was simply gone now. There's a few moments were the story just doesn't seem to move on. But other than that, it's still a fun flick. High school kids trapped in the school building overnight. Satanic rituals going on. Someone out to inherit all evil powers of Lucifer. A good teenage witch out to stop her. Lots of magic. Possession. A handful of nice gore and very bloody killings. A couple of really hot lesbian scenes. And all-in-all it's not even some trashy Japanese exploit-effort, so the production values are pretty decent. A fun enough watch, worth seeking out.
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