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Karate Warrior 4: The Colour Purple
It seems that being continually kicked in the face during the last two Karate Warrior films has not diminished jerk John Carson's attempts to become top jerk in whatever weird social situation these people exist in throughout these films. At first, I thought all the youngsters involved where at college or something, but now that John Carson looks like he's entering his forties, I have no idea what's going on here. Are they all just unemployed bums? Except the fried chicken guy of course.
It doesn't help that I had to watch the film in Italian either, although that did make the nightclub scenes funnier as I got to hear someone try and rap in Italian. Basically, Larry the winner from the last Karate Warrior film is happy with his girlfriend but John Carson's still out to get him, which he does this time round by having some South Korean karate champ seduce and humiliate his sister in public.
Larry aint happy at this and neither is his similar looking buddy who is his sister's boyfriend. This gives way to a repeat of that soul-destroying cycle race from the last film as our good guys have to take on the bad guys at a motorcycling race that just eats up time and makes you wonder why you aren't looking up porn on the internet instead. There's also a few sub-plots, like Larry hating on war veteran Dad David Warbreck, and something involving diet pills the chicken guy is taking that are used to poison Larry before his underwhelming fight with Bruce Wayne the South Korean d***head.
Just as terrible as the preceding three Karate Warrior films but somehow also featuring porn guy Ron Jeremy as some point (I wouldn't have known this if I hadn't nicked that information from another site), Karate Warrior 4 serves to remind you that the early nineties were just like the late eighties, with more house music. Who are these people though? Are they all at college, or unemployed bums?
Karate Warrior 3: The New Blood
It seems that our original Karate Warrior, Tony Scott, has moved away from the small coastal town to South Dakota! Who can step into his shoes as the biggest jerk martial-arse champion in the US? No one it seems, which is why his golden kimono and various items are kept in some sort of shrine by best friend/stalker Leo.
It seems that bad guy Dick is still around though, even though inexplicably his name has now changed to Joe. Joe/Dick has not learned any lessons about strutting about the place acting like he's got three balls, so who now is going to stop Joe giving Leo and ass-kicking every two minutes? Enter Larry.
What you'll notice right away about Larry is that he's not an jerk like Tony Scott was. Plus, he doesn't even know anything about karate! Like most of these films, Larry, his sister, and his mother are all at risk from being evicted by an evil landowner, who's niece Larry has just met and fallen for. Larry needs $2500 dollars to save his house, so luckily there is a cycling event taking place, and as luck would have it, the grand prize is $2500! All Larry needs now is some jerks to ruin everything for him.
Larry also agrees to take on Dick in a low-budget karate fight, so obviously not knowing how to practice karate is a bit of an issue there. There are only two possible people in town who can teach Larry how to kick Dick in the dick, so let's present it as a multiple choice question:
1) Is it the fat guy who sells fried chicken, doesn't practice karate, and is the comedy sidekick, or
2) Is it the Japanese guy who has just opened as Japanese restaurant in town, has just kicked three jerk's heads in, and was once the world's top martial art master?
Larry needs a crash course in ass-kicking because he's got three days to learn karate, stop his eviction, win the girl's heart, and get that goddamned $2500? You knows it!
Completely generic in every way a teen sports drama can be, yet filtered through an Italian brain so that you get such important stuff as a Halloween party where Dick comes dressed as Tony Scott, a cycling race that's terrible in every aspect, and bad guys who laugh at everything, the cheese is so thick here the actors practically wade through it. If you liked Karate Warrior 1 and 2, then you'll like this one, because THEY ARE ALL THE EXACT SAME FILM
Karate Warrior 6: The Worsening
Finally, for the last Karate Warrior film, director Fabrizio De Angelis decides to change things up a bit by having the action take place on a Greek island. And what action takes place on that island? The same crap that's happened in the last four or five Karate Warrior films; a motorcycle contest, some half-arsed mentoring, and a very low budget face-off with a jerk.
There's no sign of arch-nemesis Joe Carson this time around, so maybe he moved away or killed himself or something. The rest of the gang are still here though: Larry the Karate Warrior, fat fried chicken guy Leo, guy that looks like Larry but is slightly taller and some other guy. Plus Larry's rich girlfriend, but she's not in it much.
As usual, most of the actual story revolves around Leo, who this time finds himself ten grand up when he fakes being knocked over by an African dignitary's limo. Leo decides it's time they got a bit of a holiday and decide on Greece, where everyone know karate and everyone is as big of a jerk as Joe Carson was. This allows director De Angelis plenty of time to suck the fun out of everything by making us sit through Leo and his gang going on a shopping spree, flying to Greece, discuss getting a taxi, then getting taxi, then doing a bit of sightseeing before discussing a buffet breakfast.
The only halfway interesting part of this film is the strange scam Leo falls far when he pay five hundred dollars to take pictures of what he's told is a mermaid, only for the mermaid to turn out to be a guy and Leo turning out to be a moron when he has all his money and plane tickets home stolen! If only there was some sort of contest with a cash prize that Larry can win in order for them to get home. Larry needs a bike, and luckily he's just beaten up two goons that work for a jerk whose ex-girlfriend has a bike. The jerk is called Mustafa, and strangely the highly-camp acting skills of this fellow somehow didn't lead to a career in Hollywood, but it sure provided me with a lot of laughs. Which is just as well as the bit where they all repair the bike goes on forever. The ex-girlfriend, Eleni, starts making goo-goo eyes at Karate Warrior, but he stays loyal, even though Eleni is definitely an upgrade.
All this staggers lamely towards the showdown, although Karate Warrior's got to bring in his mentor, his girlfriend, and father David Warbreck in order to bet it together long enough to beat up Mustafa (who hilariously says "Prepare to be killed" in the lamest, least threatening voice ever). I'll tell you another thing; Mustafa kicks the crap out of Karate Warrior and decks him several times so that Karate Warrior can lay there staring at his father, but when Karate Warrior decks Mustafa once, he's counted out and Karate Warrior wins. I don't think that referee was being impartial and reckon that someone slipped him a few drachma before the match started.
And thus concludes my pointless trail through the most worthless film series in cinematic history. As a precaution against any other Karate Warrior films being made, the Italian government executed most of the cast and crew.
Omicidio a luci blu (1992)
A killer that whistles "Greensleeves" and leaves a fake grenade on the crotches of his victims? That sounds like it come from the mind only about half-a-dozen or so Italian directors, and this time around it's Alfonso Brescia that's delivering the goods.
After we see our first victim get stabbed in a typical music video looking scene, we get to see the stroppy antics of supermodel Scarlet, who is always being nagged by her manager while she throws a tantrum and such like. At night, we get to see the life of hooker Sherry, who's clientele consists of mostly old men with very strange demands. But why do these two women have a picture of the same guy?
Meanwhile, cop David Hess is on the hunt for the fake grenade killer. Hess wanders the streets at night and generally looks out for all the hookers in the area, so it's a matter of time before Sherry and Hess cross paths, especially as one of her customers just got murdered by fake grenade guy. Sherry's pimp gets the blame, but Hess isn't too convinced. While this is all going on, Scarlet is beginning to fall in love with some cute hunky guy.
Call me stupid, but I didn't figure out that Scarlet and Sherry were the same person until about two seconds before Hess did the same thing, but why is Sherry/Scarlet so determined to look at her customer's balls? Was that Japanese guy going to give her an enema? And how hard will you laugh when you see David Hess in a sexy nightdress and a wig?
This film spends quite a bit of time concentrating on Sherry's weird customers and their quirks, as she tries to get them to strip off. Then again, you don't get much filth, and the film doesn't have much blood in it either. It looks good though, nearly as impressive as Brescia's Iron Warrior. Visuals didn't seem to be much of a priority back when Brescia was filming Mario Merola driving a blue Mercedes and crying.
Expect loads of early nineties house music too.
This looks like it might have been Mario Ciaino's last film before he went off to work in television, and I'm not going to lie to you - it's a very slow moving drama with a light horror tinge.
Rather a lot of the film involves Lou Castel standing around, staring at things and being sad and if he's not standing around being sad, lead character Monica is pretty much doing the same. There's a cat involved too, and it likes to stare at people.
The barely there story starts with Lou Castel wandering around some Italian town, trying to work up the courage to kill himself. Why he's doing this isn't immediately apparent, but we do know it's got something to do with a girl called Monica. This Monica in question, via flashback, is pretty enigmatic herself, as we see her move into a strange old attic room that used to be occupied by an even stranger old man...
Monica also gets to meet Castel and the two of them eventually hit it off, but Monica's weird past (possibly literally) comes back to haunt her, and various characters are sent off on miserable trajectories before the downbeat ending to an already pretty downbeat film.
Strange one, this. Almost nothing happens for its entire running time, but some of the imagery and especially the soundtrack is good. There's a tarot motive throughout the film and various elements that are left for the viewer to figure out (like the little girl also called Monica). Not that I figured out any of it.
Lou Castel seems to revel in these kind of films for some reason. His weird dancing in the disco did raise a chuckle.
La ragazza dei lillà (1986)
Weird film that kind of plods around the place jabbing at various genres before settling on none of them, all centred around a dodgy premise.
Larth is what you'd call a real Tomb Raider. He doesn't wear tiny shorts or fight dogs, but he likes to locate Etruscan tombs and get the goodies out of them to sell on, with the help of Mario Adorf. Walking home one night, he hears gunshots coming from a museum and witnesses a red car driving away. Turns out the guard has been killed, some pieces stolen, and suspicion falling on Larth.
Larth's wife Mimsy Farmer offers to give him an alibi, but Larth manages to convince the police he wasn't involved. Elsewhere in his life there's a race against time to get to a tomb that a better equipped Swedish team come along and get the good stuff, and adding more complications to Larth's life is barowner Vasco's teenage neice, who keeps giving Larth the eye and who resembles an Etruscan woman called Tania whom Larth has been in love with, even though she died 2,600 years ago.
The film is split between Larth investigating the murder of the guard, trying to get to the tomb first, and fending off the advances Tania, who even ends up staying with Larth and Mimsy and parading about the place topless. I guess the plot points do eventually converge, but the film is bizarrely lacking in energy and even spectacle, save for the vision Larth has in the tomb of a perfectly preserved Tania melting in front of his eyes.
It's visually quite interesting though, with lots of inventive camera angles and shots, especially the 'POV soup-eating' shot.
Porci con la P.38 (1978)
Pig with a .38
Although this film starts out with a lengthy credits sequence involving cop Marc Porel firing guns at things at a shooting range, the film itself spends very little time with Porel, as it's concerned more with all the other characters, including the bad guys, some drug addicts, and Porel's wife.
The main crux of the story revolves around old gangster Raymond Pelligren, who decides to retire from his business and split the organisation between his three underlings. This triggers a series of giallo-style killings where one of the three (Gabrielle Ferzetti) decides to off the other two and Pelligren himself, who gets a bullet between the eyes from a black-gloved killer, and underling Luciano Pigozzi, who gets garroted.
The third underling Giancarlo Sisti proves a little harder to kill. They try while he's carrying out a drug deal, but he escapes with the cash. There's a slight problem in that his girlfriend is also Ferzetti's girlfriend, and he's also a smack head, which ties in with the sub plot of a young heroin addict chick trying to score while Porel kind of lingers around trying to solve the case.
To be honest, Porel just sort of beats loads of perps up for the first two thirds of the film, as his investigations take him into the seedy world of heroin addiction and smelly looking junkies. He does get to do some action at the end of the film, but I'm being serious her when I say most of the supporting cast have more action than him.
Still, it's not a bad film at all. It's pretty grim even for a Eurocrime film, and there's plenty of nudity if naked dead junky women is your thing.
Il baco da seta (1974)
Worth tracking down
We're back in the Giallo realm of those with loads of money who live in big villas, and those who pretend to like those with money who wish to obtain that money by illicit means. We are all familiar with the scenario, but the way it plays out is what puzzles us and draws us in.
Najda Tiller plays a retired singer with a thing for young guys who has just caught secretary/lover George Hilton cheating on her in a boat. She wants George to leave while she deals with her many financial problems (possibly caused by George). Her lawyer and sister/manager are urging her to come out of retirement and do a concert or two to draw in the cash, but Nadja thinks that perhaps pawning her beloved emeralds might be a simpler solution. However, there's a problem with that.
One night, while she is all on her lonesome, a young man called Costas appears in her house. He's been working next door and needs an aspirin and is coincidentally within Nadja's favourite age group, and seems to be making eyes at her and saying all the right things. Just as they are about to go to bed however, we see Costas eyeing up a painting which the audience knows hides a safe full of jewels, and we also see Costas slip a little something into Nadja's drink...
The next day, Nadja is down all her jewels and nursing a headache. The cops know she's been robbed, but then again Costas has vanished, his blood-stained top is lying on her bathroom floor, and George Hilton is wandering around town, looking for a fence. We've all seen this kind of set up before, but what's happening?
Various characters/suspects include Nadja's maid Marcelle, who was trying to fend off Hilton's advances, Nadja's sister Yvonne (wow!), who has past form with Hilton, Nadja's lawyer, and probably more people I've forgotten about. Every giallo fan will have their theories about what's going on, but will their guesses be correct? That's where the fun lies with this one.
Most of the film focuses on Nadja Tiller's character, who may or may not be losing her mind due to the robbery and possible murder of Costas. The angle that there may or may not be a murder just adds to the mystery here, and thankfully Tiller is more than capable of carrying the film on her shoulders. Hilton doesn't have too much to do but look shifty, but he does get a good chase scene in later in the film. Hunky Guy Madison turns up for a cameo and does a good turn as the only possible person Tiller can trust.
It's all kitsch interiors and cheesy music but this obscure giallo is entertaining from start to finish, with nary a drop of blood. Nadja's sister provide the nudity though, and it's enough to give you a nosebleed.
Cientificament perfectes (1996)
The only Paul Nascy thing I didn't like
Oof. One of the cheapest looking films I've ever laid eyes on outside of shot-on-video films, Scientifically Perfect somehow has legendary Spanish horror star Paul Naschy in it, and that's the only positive aspect of the whole sorry mess.
Some guy is walking along the street when a mysterious woman make his head explode in a woeful display of special effects. Then, another guy is walking along the street when she tries the same thing with him, only for the guy to escape. This guy is our hero, a jack-the-lad type trying to find a way to kill the mystery woman for reasons no one will ever care about.
Paul Naschy plays an angry cop trying to stop whoever it is that's making people's heads explode, but he's fooled into thinking that it's the hero by the mystery lady, who then zaps him into ash, which means that the only reason you'd watch this is removed from the film rather early on.
I don't mind a cheap film or bad acting, but nothing much happens for the duration of this one, save for people explaining what's going on or cheap banter between the hero and the girl who's father he's been tracking down. Where does Amazon Prime find these things?
Not even worth watching for Paul Naschy. He doesn't even turn into a werewolf or nothing.
Giallo alla regola (1988)
A Case of Mystery or Mystery To The Law (my translation)
Bored politician Sergio is mooching about his apartment one night when he spots some gangsters having a shoot-out with the cops. Things seem to blow over pretty quickly, but when Sergio and other tenants go outside to have a look, Sergio seems to be the only one who spots the briefcase hidden under a car. Returning later in disguise, Sergio retrieves the suitcase and finds it's filled with money - Three billion lire in fact.
Sergio hides the money in his apartment, but is shocked the next day to open his shutters and find a dead body staring up at him, along with cop Marcello Bazzuffi. Sergio keeps tight-lipped about the money, and with his mate Paolo Malco, heads off the Switzerland for a holiday with his family. On the way there however, two guys in disguise hold Sergio at gunpoint and steal all his luggage, so who has twigged that Sergio has the money?
You know what happens there? Not much for the remainder of the film. Sergio goes to Switzerland, gets searched at the border, stops to look at a dog, meets his family, talks to his wife, goes to a dinner party, acts all huffy, goes off and stares at things, goes up in the hills and stares at things. I began to wonder if I'd stumbled onto some sort of drama instead of a giallo. Now and again the film threatens to get exciting, then Sergio goes off and smokes a cigarette and stares at something.
Some sort of plot eventually emerges in the last twenty minutes as someone breaks into Sergio's apartment and a couple of twists creep in, but this is an extremely low energy film, with little action or plot. The only bit that's any good at all is the mind games that Marcello Bazzuffi and Sergio play with each other as the cop tries to get Sergio to crack about the money. Other than that, this film is a bit of a waste of time.
Rare, too. The only copy I could find was in Italian with English subtitles, but with some Russian people translating the film as well. I guess no one can be arsed releasing a cleaned up copy.
Africa Express (1975)
Guiliano Gemma drives a kind of mobile Lidl around Africa with the help of a chimpanzee and gets into all sorts of scrapes and jolly japes.
This seems to be kid-orientated film so don't go expecting Ursula or Jack Palance to strip off and even though this is an Italian film no one slaughters any animals. At least in the bits I was paying attention to.
Gemma is a happy-go-lucky guy who just wants to make enough money to by a gas station in Detroit and perhaps bugger his chimp on a lazy afternoon, but this ideal lifestyle is shattered when he rescues what looks to be a helpless sexy nun who gets Guiliano's head a-spinning.
Jack Palance is the bad guy who is exporting ivory and generally being a jerk to everyone, with his sidekick Romano Puppo providing the muscle. He's also after Ursula for some reason and keeps knocking Gemma's hat off, the cad!
This is basically a light-hearted comedy with plenty of slapstick. Not bad for an afternoon's viewing for sad adults like me, but obviously aimed at annoying little brats like my kids.
La traque (1975)
More Reasons not to go to France
You think you know grim and then a film like this comes along. A rape revenge film where there's not much revenge and not even much rape, but plenty of scenes were men give in to peer pressure and take the easy route out of a bad situation.
Somewhere in France, Mimsy Farmer is looking to buy or at least rent a house, but instead finds herself right in the middle of hunting season. At first she's quite taken by the place, but soon finds that there are lecherous men around who wouldn't mind putting the moves on her. Let's get to this complicated bunch of characters....now!
There's Mansarat, a man who is having an affair with his friend David's wife. David is a wealthy landowner. Then there's Clamoud, a bungling bunch of nerves, and Rollin, a sober Christian who disapproves of everything. And the Danville brothers - mechanics who like to drink and are the ones who set the whole horror show in motion by raping Mimsy in a destroyed building in the middle of a hunt.
Problem being, Chamoud or Clamoud or whatever has forgotten his gun at the scene of the crime, and when one of the rapist brothers goes back to get it, Mimsy shoots a hole in his gut. Thus begins a series of events involving a lady on the run and a bunch of dour-faced Frenchmen trying to track her down.
I guess the theme of the film, except for 'never go to France for any reason at all' is complacency and the group mind. Only one man commits the rape, but for various reasons each fellow present is complacent in the violence and the subsequent events. It's a good film, but not an easy watch. Kudos to Mimsy Farmer for having minimal dialogue but bring true horror to the screen.
I've been trying to find out what the title of the film means, and I think that it genuinely is a spelling mistake! The mind boggles...
This bizarre semi-giallo seems to do everything wrong. The kills happen mostly off-screen. It's full of scenes of people wandering about a house shouting on each other. It's also full of scenes of people arguing with each other. And yet...it's not a total write-off.
First we get a prologue where a pushy kid cajoles a one eyed kid into climbing a tree which then leads to his injury. We then fast-forward to 1980 or whenever, where a guy called Andrea is working on a run down house he bought with his wife's money. They've invited a load of victims to the house to hand around the pool, but no one reckoned on the one-eyed killer stalking everyone in the place.
The best bit of this film I guess is the large Lego set one-eyed killer guy has. It's huge and some mysterious stranger keeps giving him more stuff for it. Best still, when he's trying to work on it, a cat keeps moaning to the point he just cuts the head off the damn thing. Beats taking it to the vets I guess.
This is a strange film in that most of the characters bicker with each other until old one-eye starts doing them all in. The giallo element is almost dispensed with in favour of more slasher elements, but there is a mystery that would be difficult to solve if you've never watched a giallo ever. The ending is truly a head scratcher though.
Il giorno del Cobra (1980)
More of the same, but still good
Both The Shark Hunter and Day of the Cobra feature director Enzo Castellari punching actor Franco Nero in the face. Is this some sort of in-joke?
Nero scruffs up as an Italian private investigator living in San Francisco as some sort off disgraced ex-cop. Down on his luck, he's contacted by Narcotics agent William Berger and given the task of going back to Genoa to track down a sinister figure called Kandisky, whom we see killing a guy who looks like Alan Partridge and stealing a key off him. This Kandisky person seems to be Nero's mortal enemy, and he heads off to Genoa to kick ass.
Once there, he enters a shady world of drug smuggling, imports, and Massimo Vanni wearing dodgy porn moustaches as he tries to track his prey. All is not as it seems, however, as he's followed everywhere, Kandisky starts taunting him by phone, and even glamourous night club ladies might actually be kung-fu expert men in drag.
This one takes a while to get cooking but its plain sailing due to Nero's eccentric Cobra character, who constantly chews gum and leaves it everywhere while bouncing a rubber ball all over the place. There's plenty of action, mostly of the punch up kind at first, but as the story goes on it becomes darker and more violent, with Nero not being able to trust anyone. He does have time to bed Sybil Danning a few times. Or maybe he was checking she wasn't a dude.
I do have a couple of niggles, however. While I'm always up for Nero shooting Massimo Vanni, he'd already shot him in the balls in High Crime, and Nero loses a kid to a speeding vehicle, like he did in the film High Crime. I have a sneaking suspicion that Castellari might have been running out of ideas here, which is why perhaps he moved on to ass-kicking post apocalyptic films.
You can't fault the back up cast here: Big Romano Puppo and Wee Massimo Vanni on hired goon duties, Ennio Girolami, William Berger, even Enzo's daughter Stefania sporting some dodgy looking dreadlocks. It all worked for me.
La nottata (1975)
Hippy Art Pap Baffle
During my review of Blood and Diamonds, I wondered whether or not Claudio Cassinelli had ever starred in any comedic roles or ever did any smiling. Well, in this film he's both smiling and trying to give Giancarlo Prete one up the botty.
You'll be thinking 'that doesn't sound like the regular plot of a seventies Italian cop film and you'd be right. I don't even know where this film fits in from a genre perspective. It might be a comedy, but then it isn't funny and is a bit heavy on the darkness. My guess would be that director Tonino Cervi is striving for some sort of Fellini-type atmosphere, giving us a city full of weird and wonderful characters.
Angela and Suzy are two free-loving, mooching, possibly smelly, definitely disease ridden hedonists perpetually out for a good time. Both meet up in a toilet during a party where one of them steals an expensive ring which they then try to sell on, leading them on a strange adventure through a dark night in Milan. First off they meet taxi driver Giancarlo Prete, who joins them on their quest to sell the ring.
The bit where they meet a bereaved family with a gory corpse kind of went nowhere for me, but after that its plain sailing as the girls meet a bunch of transvestites, have an open air shag in a car, get robbed of their money and meet an eccentric married couple who love putting it about. Lynn, these are sex people!
In fact, everybody in this film has a better sex life than anyone who exists today in this world of computer and TV binging. They'd all be dead of the syph by now I guess. I'm not sure why I watched this one to be honest.
The ol' Merli magic!
How much mileage can you get out of a genre involving maverick cops who play by their own rules? Even though the genre is on the wane, Stelvio Massi pulls another great film out of the bag.
Maurizio Merli is indeed a maverick cop who plays by his own rules, but he's also retired at the start of this film until old partner Francisco Rabal shows up at his door and asks for his help. Rabal has branched out as a bodyguard but isn't doing too well. His last two clients were murdered and Rabal reckons he's got one more chance before he gets the boot. Merli reluctantly agrees to help, perhaps because of the offer of a free trip to Venice
Merli tries his best, but this German businessman still ends up with a bullet in the back of his head. Annoyed at this, Merli bursts through an entire window all guns blazing and takes down what seems to be a hundred or so bad guys, but not before Rabal gets a cap popped in his ass. One dead ex-partner later, Merli swears revenge. He's so punch-happy in this film I'm surprised he didn't give Rabal's corpse a final sock on the jaw before he left the hospital, although he does assault a seriously injured bad guy so it's all good anyway.
I was just letting the awesomeness flow over me by this point so I'm sketchy on the details, but somehow Merli manages to pass himself off as the injured bad guy and heads to Berlin to get revenge for Rabal, get it on with a blonde chick, but will he actually get revenge for Rabal (certainly) and still save the life of the blonde chick (optional)?
Massi throws in all the goodness you need from this kind of stuff: Merli being cunning and passing various tests for the bad guys (mad driving skills, killing folk) while having a more complicated relationship than usual with the blonde chick. She's part of the gang but she also loves Merli, who kind of loves her back but then likes punching people in the face more, but then again he slapped her about a bit and she tried to have him killed, so who knows what's going on there. You've got your shoot-outs, foot chases, people falling off things, and Merli being beaten up by Bobby Rhodes, who looks about ten feet tall.
How many more of these films did Merli make? I'll have to find out what he did after the genre went down the tubes.
Got a Ciggy?
London-based hi-jinks in a mix of comedy and violence and bumming smokes from people.
Guiliano Gemma plays Rudi Patti, the world's best racing driver or something. He's just survived a crash and while he's tasked sidekick mechanic Venantino Venantini to fix it, he's off at his girlfriend Susan Scott's getting 'calmed down'. Gemma's a bit red blooded however, and needs to be serviced himself a further three times before he drifts off to sleep (I did laugh when Susan Scott blew a smoke ring at his crotch and he mutters 'bulls eye').
As this is somehow still the swinging sixties even though it's 1973, Gemma wakes up to find himself in the middle of a party full of strangers. Someone drugs his drink and an extremely camp fellow driving a pink Volkswagen drives him home. When he wakes up, he finds his car missing, his memory missing, and the cops waiting to ask him why the girl he was sleeping with has been murdered. Maybe it's got something to do with Gemma accidentally mixing up his identically coloured suitcase with Scott's when he picked her up from the airport?
Gemma gets thrown in jail to be abused by Nello Pazzafini while a rich businessman who's always pestering him to work for him tries to spring him, leading to some mysterious figures actually springing Gemma from jail. This leads to an on-the-run Gemma trying to clear his name, find his car, and of course bed a few ladies along the way.
There's a lot of comedy in this one, mainly from Gemma, Venantini as the horny mechanic, and the ultra-campy VCW driver. It's not too forced like some of those Spaghetti Westerns from the same era, and it's balanced out strangely by murder, savage beatings, and a really top notch car chase at the end. Plus, both Gemma and Vanantini have charm in spades and I do find that if anyone can carry these more lightweight films, it's Gemma (see Sky full of Stars for a Roof and Ben and Charlies for other examples).
The London setting works well too, and I find that Luciano Ercoli always seems to leave his mark on whatever genre he's working on, even if i'm not quite sure what the mark is.
Oh, and Gemma goes around the film tapping ciggies off everyone.
Great, until the end
This could have been some sort of weird-ass classic, if they'd actually included a satisfying ending. Spoilers ahead, even if the only spoiler is 'you'll come away from this one feeling let down'.
In Rome, rich playboy Dave or whatever has a strange dream where red-eyed naked hippy types scream wordlessly at him while a ritual is conducted. He awakes in his big rich guy villa with lots of partied-out people lay about, and orders his cockney (Spanish) butler to get rid of them all.
The dream haunts him throughout the day, and worse still, he meets a lady from out of town (Lone Fleming) who jumps at his name, saying she had a dream where Dave or whatever would kill her. Dave might be suffering brain problems, but there's nothing wrong with his balls: he puts the moves on Fleming but ends up tearing her throat out with his fist instead. Or does he?
So begins Dave's long weird journey, where nothing might be quite what it seems. His car breaks down at a house and an old woman lets him. He finds two people who claim to know him and who tell him the old woman is dead. Objects constantly move when he starts having one of his episodes. Someone who might be Dave visits an old friend and although we only get to see the back of his head, everyone treats Dave like he's Dave. Or do they?
Antony Steffen is brought in as the superstitious cop with a talisman to ward him from evil. He suffers from strange hearing loss from time to time, especially around the presence of possibly sinister brain doctor Richard Conte. He stops two men beating a woman only to find the woman grinning at him insanely before loads of rubble nearly kills him and the woman disappears. Or does she?
Dave receives blackmailing letters from someone and his butler spews up a frog. He also gets it on with Richard Conte's assistant but then she asks him if he wants to listen to either Beethoven or Tom Jones but then puts on a different record altogether which spins so fast it flies into the air. Steffen goes to see Conte who is facing him but as Steffen leaves he finds Conte isn't facing him, then tells him he knows who the killer is without ever telling the audience who the killer is. Is Tom Jones Richard Conte in disguise?
I've tried to make this review as disjointed as the film. Nothing makes any sense but the whole bizarre merry-go-round is pretty entertaining as statues move, camera angles focus on things they shouldn't, people's characters change for no reason (especially the butler), but then everything is let down as you get to the end of the film and realise that every single question the film raised goes unanswered.
Was Dave possessed or was someone driving him crazy? Don't Know. Why did Antony Steffen say he knew who the killer was, then give up when his car broke down? Don't know. I don't think the filmmakers knew either. The closest I can come to an answer is that Conte was some sort of devil type who was punishing Dave for things his father had done.
Un fiocco nero per Deborah (1974)
What are you trying to do to me, film? I was all out for watching some sort of Giallo judging by the title, and instead I get a tepid film of pregnancy, moaning, and marital strife. I could have switched off the film and just lived life, morons!
Marina Malfatti (with a fetching Mia Farrow haircut that highlights her rather lengthy neck) can't have kids. She's not happy with this either and it seems to causing all sorts of psychological problems, like predicting a horrible accident at the circus. Her husband is supportive enough despite trying to get his end away with another lady, but things go pear-shaped when they attend a paranormal event hosted by the strangely named Gig Young.
As it's the mid-seventies Gig's all into the paranormal and wants to display psychic abilities by guessing the name of a book Marina has chosen by having the guests telepathically send him the title of the book, Marina ends up usurping his glory instead by having a vision of her own that involves flashing lights and loads of glasses of whiskey exploding. This also serves to lull the viewer into thinking they're up for something good.
On the way home from this party an impatient driver tries to overtake Marina and her husband and ends up crashing, where Marina spends a moment with the seriously injured female passenger (Dellia Boccardo). The next day, Marina's feeling a bit queasy, the dog doesn't like her anymore, and she suspects that she might have we what call back in our home town 'Irish Toothache'.
Yep, Marina's now preggy, but her husband and her doctor think that she wants a baby so much she's suffering from the old phatom pregnancy (and nobody bothers doing an ultra sound because I guess that would ruin the film). Is Deborah pregnant? And why is Dellia Boccardo now appearing everywhere?
Sadly, this film really bogs down in the marital strife, arguing, and staring around the place in fear. Surely someone at some stage in the production of this film could have said 'Look, this is going to turn out really boring', because that's what it is, a really tepid Rosemary's Baby rip-off with very little going for it except some nice credits and one good supernatural bit. What a let down.
Vacanze per un massacro (1980)
There must have been a sharp drop in budgets here as Fernando De Leo goes from huge sweeping Eurocrime epics to...an old house out in the country with four actors in it, complete with recycled music from earlier, and better films.
That's your first warning sign right there. The theme tune for Milano Calibro 9 plays over footage of Joe Dallesandro escaping from prison and killing two farmers. He then heads off to a house in the country he has a special interest in, only to find that it has been bought over by a man and wife combo, complete with evil nymphomania sister who is having an affair with her brother in law.
There's something under the fireplace Joe wants, but maybe Joe wants a little bit of action too. While the man is out hunting, the wife out shopping, and the horny sister out sunbathing while wearing what looks like just a headscarf, Joe knocks her out and brings her into the house while he digs out the fireplace. When the sister wakes up, instead of pouncing on her, Joe makes her do some digging instead.
They do get in on eventually however, but the sister likes it of course. When the wife and the husband return, Joe starts playing them off each other, but to be honest with you this film never really gets going at all, including the predictable ending.
You could never say that Joe Dallesandro was ever going to win an oscar for acting, but here it seems like he just cannot be bothered at all! He just kind of threatens people and bulges his eyes out a bit. The whole thing comes across as being a bit half-arsed, like Fernando De Leo was just going through the motions. There's a bit of nudity to keep you awake a bit, but this is bare bones, plotless crap.
Creepy and different.
It's notable that Lamberto Bava's debut was released in the middle of the Italian splatter era, and yet it's fairly restrained. Don't worry though - the subject matter is appropriately sick. In fact, this is one of most bizarre love stories you'll ever see.
In what at first seems like it is a prologue to another film, Bernice Stegers watches her husband leave for work, then telephones someone who is obviously her lover. Telling her gardner to keep an eye on her two children, Bernice heads for a guesthouse run by blind Stanko Molnar, where she meets her lover Fred. Bernice's daughter Lucy is no fool however, and 'phones the guesthouse looking for her mother. Soon after being given the brush off, Lucy drowns her brother in the bath and phones her mother again to tell her that her son had drowned in the bath by accident. Rushing home in a car driven by Fred, Bernice is caught up in a car crash that kills Fred.
A year later, Bernice is released from a mental hospital, seemingly cured. She heads straight for the guesthouse and sets up shop there, much to Stanko's delight. He thinks he's in with a chance, but that night he hears Bernice welcome home Fred and have noisy sex while Stanko looks confused. Has she got another lover called Fred? Is she just insane? Or has Fred come back from the dead?
Unlike his father, Lamberto Bava is a much more erratic director. For every fun-fest like Demons, we also get the unbearable The Ogre. Macabre at first seems as if its going to be a boring slog, but the whole strange set up is fascinating and the twist is a killer (if you act like Stanko's character and open the DVD case without having the artwork spoil the film for you). Due to being blind, Stanko doesn't quite know what to make of all the strange noise and strange behaviour (and he can even see the shrine Bernice built for Fred). Bernice Stegers puts in a good turn as the lady who can put on a front while possibly being totally insane, but her daughter puts her to shame in that respect, being a scheming, evil kid manipulating poor Stanko and her own father to get her own way.
There's not much gore, but I wonder if Peter Jackson was taking notes when he used that 'ear in the custard' bit for Brain Dead. The only thing slightly off is the forced New Orleans accents used to dub the actors. Still, a good debut.
Patrick vive ancora (1980)
Patrick Still Cracks A Fatty
Where to start with this one? It's a kind of sequel to an Australian film called Patrick, which had a comatose man killing people telepathically. It's been years since I've watched that one but I don't remember it being the most action packed film. The Italian version of this certainly ups it in every department. And then some.
In this one, Patrick is with his father beside a broken down car when someone tosses a bottle from a passing car and hits Patrick directly in the face. As with most head injuries, this causes Patrick to fall into a coma, but also gives him psychic abilities. Don't worry, it gets even more absurd from here on in.
Patrick is now a vegetable staring into space, but also somehow hooked up to three people who are also in comas. If this was explained, I must have missed it, but what I reckon was these three were being used to somehow telepathically link Patrick up to...no, it's gone. Let's get to the victims instead.
Six people have been invited to this mysterious villa, and you'll hate all of them on site. There's the Cough family (that's what the subtitles say), who consist of an alcoholic politician and his top heavy wife, then there's Mariangela Giordano and her drug dealing boyfriend, and then there's a cool-headed stranger and last but not least, a blonde woman whom I thought actually worked for Patrick's dad, but upon reflection I don't have a clue.
Everyone's there for some reason, but there's no time to explain as everyone has to get naked first. Mrs Cough breaks out her fat rascals for no reason at all while Mariangela Giordano just goes straight ahead for some topless sunbathing, while making kissy faces at the stranger. The blonde isn't doing too well as Patrick seems to be hypnotising her and making her go to his room which eventually results in an eye-poppingly sleazy scene. Hey! You're not blonde at all!
This film is packed from start to finish with nudity (male and female) but wouldn't be worth watching if those horror elements weren't in there at all. Patrick starts bumping off the guests, starting with Mr Cough who gets boiled alive in a swimming pool, then things escalate to include impalements, beheadings, and Mariangela Giordani getting the Vlad the Impaler treatment. If you compare that with her death in Mario Landi's Giallo E Venezia, you'd be forgiven for thinking either Landi or Giodani had some sort of fetish. My money's on Gioradni, if we take in that scene from Burial Ground.
I'm guessing the only reason this gore splattered, nudity filled madness didn't get banned by the BBFC is because it probably wasn't released in the UK. It's crappily made, has terrible special effects, but still delivers 100% trash goodness.
Slow, but good anyway
Another complex, serious crime drama from Damiano Damiani here, with an ultra-complex plot full of characters whose motivations you're not entirely sure of.
Cop Gemma wakes up one day to find 100,000,000 lire has been deposited into his bank account without explanation. He also receives a phone call from a mysterious person who hopes he'll spend it well and conduct himself expertly in an upcoming investigation. Confused, Gemma goes to work, only to find his boss is setting up a high-level prosecution and he's also received a mysterious bribe.
Nevertheless, the boss is going to bring in a dodgy mafia accountant to see if he will spills the beans. Not a good idea, as about two seconds after this man is escorted into the building, his escorts turn out to be hit men who kill the accountant, the boss, and another two cops. Gemma should have been there, but after receiving yet another strange phone, he had decided to quit. One dead boss later, that resignation letter gets torn up and Gemma goes on the rampage!
Wait - this is a Damiano Damiani film, so he doesn't go on the rampage at all. He starts investigating a world where he can't trust anyone but needs to work with everyone, including DA Martin Balsam, whom Gemma suspects of working for the bad guys, and the boss guy's widow, whom Gemma suspects of working for the bad guys, and the sleazy journalist, whom Gemma suspects of working for the bad guys. But who are the bad guys? Those dodgy looking businessmen with their suits and their champagne - those are the bad guys!
If you seen any Damiani film, you'll know that he's not Mr Action but Mr Plot, as The Warning doesn't skimp on that. In fact, there's so much plot I wasn't even sure who was working for who or why people where doing what they did. They do try and put in as much exposition as possible, but I was losing the thread on what was happening when just about every character turned up at a wedding at the end. There is some grim violence on display, but this is a head-movie, not a moustache movie.
There are a few criticisms mind you - although Gemma and Laura Trotter are pretty good, I was expecting more from Martin Balsam after he blew me away in Blood and Diamonds and Confessions of a Really Long Film Title. I wasn't totally satisfied with the ending either, but I'm guessing by 1980 they couldn't throw in the old 'maverick cop getting shot in a drive-by shooting' as they'd done that to death by this point.
Damiani's next film would be the sequel to The Amityville House!
Tuetonic Goth Goings on
At one of those annoying beatnik parties that probably never happened in real life, a lecherous man called Baron Brack invites a lady and her friends back to his place in the country via a vigorous horse ride. This is just a ruse however to separate this lady from her mates and rape her, which of course the Baron blames on her. "You shouldn't have tempted me!" I hear Harvey Weinstein is going to use that one at his upcoming court case.
The ladies friends all arrive but shortly afterwards she does a runner towards an old castle where the gothic action starts off right away. Here lives Graf Saxon, an old scientist whose daughter has just been found raped and murdered, and now he's got a bunch of beatniks stinking up the place. These beatniks are all into dressing up in period costumes and carrying on their annoying ways during a dinner party, but when another one of their friends shows up, things are thrown into turmoil. Let's start a new paragraph so we can analyse this Gothic horror 'trope'.
It seems this new girl is the spitting image of Katerina, Graf's daughter. That's just standard practise in Gothic horror. People don't even grieve that much in these films as they know it's only a matter of time before someone is reincarnated as their departed or some doppelganger walks through the door complaining that their car broke down. Graf gets all excited and starts his evil plan right away to replace his daughter's heart with this dead ringer.
While that's happening there's also some sort of time slip/flashback/dream involving a previous rape committed thirty years previous which somehow this Graf fellow feels the need to reproduce using dummies in a room (why?). We then get to see our beatniks as previous versions of themselves, some as rapists, some as victims, some as butt-ugly witnesses. It's all a bit disjointed.
There is a random bear attack that was pretty good in its crapness. The whole thing I guess revolves around old rapey McGhee and the reincarnation of Katerina, but even then the strange meandering plot, high nudity levels (no thanks Janine Reynaurd!) and terrible acting make it watchable for all the wrong reasons.
Un'ombra nell'ombra (1979)
"You mean having a child with Satan has it's negative aspects?"
Eh, better just ignore or try not to think about Lara Wendel's date of birth when it comes to this film, which is labelled as an Exorcist rip-off but strikes me more like an Omen rip-off.
I'm not one to look down on people, but when you join up for a Satanic cult that involves a choreographed disco session followed by group sex with the Dark Lord himself, isn't it a bit naive to feel put out when the spawn of such a union turns out to have evil tendencies? What did they expect to happen?
Mother Anne Heywood is concerned that her daughter Lara Wendell is getting a bit lippy and argumentative and a bit too wise in the ways of Satanic rituals that no one's ever told her about, so she goes to see her three mates who also seemingly set up carnal relationships with Lucifer without thinking of the consequences. They also do this kind of South Central LA gang hand signal to each other which was pretty funny. Each of them regrets doing the nasty with the Anti-christ, including Irene Papas who has turned to prostitution to meet men, but fails every single time as Satan shows up scowling disapprovingly every time she's about to get busy. Not the best career choice. Get this though - even though they're all going on about how their children are acting up and being devilly, they still attend these black masses. Where's the commitment?
I'm not quite sure what he had to do with it all, but Ian Bannen shows up to put the moves on Anne Heywood while spouting garbage about 'the black and the light' but he pretty much high tails it once Satan shows up to stop anyone having any fun. While Lara somehow arranges the death of her stepfather (that big goofy looking guy from Cosmos: War of the Planets), Anne tries to stop her going full evil by asking high Priestess Mellisa Mel to get involved.
I know - it's confusing. Surely the intention of the coven or sect or whatever would be do to Lucifer's bidding and bring down society, so why are they getting all arsey when the kids start acting up, stealing dolls, rejecting dolls that are bought, burying finger nails, shouting and throwing stuff around, and killing their classmates for getting fresh? Were they just into it for the long cloaks and the dance sequences?
John Philip Law is brought in as a priest who does some dodgy acting at one point. Lara Wendell gets naked a lot which is quite disturbing due to her age and even has a nude Satan fight with her mum at the end. The whole things lacks gore and even scares, but is so bizarre and non-sensical in every way I couldn't help wonder what they were aiming for.