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Main Entry: exclusion
Definition: expulsion; forbiddance
Synonyms: ban, bar, blackball, blockade, boycott, cut, debarment, debarring, discharge, dismissal, ejection, elimination, embargo, eviction, exception, excommunication, interdict, interdicting, interdiction, keeping out, lockout, nonadmission, occlusion, omission, ostracism, ousting, preclusion, prevention, prohibition, proscription, refusal, rejection, relegation, removal, repudiation, segregation, separation, suspension, veto
Antonyms: acceptance, addition, admittance, allowance, inclusion, incorporation, welcome
send to Coventry, to refuse to associate with; openly and pointedly ignore: His friends sent him to Coventry after he was court-martialed.
People from the music industry that I respect, idolize or just simply appreciate: Ennio Morricone, Amy McDonald, Daan, David Bowie, Therion, Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen, Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Joy Division, Bobby Darin, the Everly Brothers, Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, The Animals, The Byrds, Donovan, Vargoth, Drudkh, Behemoth, Triggerfinger, Falkenbach, Finntroll, Einherjer, The Smiths, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, BB King, Ministry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rufus Wainwright, The Allman Brothers Band, Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, Raymond Lefèvre, Children of Bodom, Volbeat, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Anathema, Velvet Underground, Norah Jones, Fatboy Slim, Moloko, Angelo Badalmenti, Sarah Brightman, Lady Antebellum, Enigma, Muse, Army of Lovers, Chris Isaak, Lesley Gore, Kasabian, Pearl Jam, dEUS, Mumford & Sons, The Subs, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Cuff the Duke, Pulp, Oscar and the Wolf,
People from the movie industry that I respect, idolize or just simply appreciate: John Saxon, Mario Bava, Joe D'Amato, George Eastman, Darren Lynn Bousman, Boris Karloff, Enzo G. Castellari, Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Antonio Margheriti, Klaus Kinski, Lloyd Kaufman, James Gunn, Rob Zombie, Sid Haig, Matthew McGrory, Karen Black, Dennis Fimple, Irwin Keyes, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley, Wolfgang Petersen, Nicol Williamson, Fairuza Balk, Piper Laurie, Philippe Mora, Tom Holland, Ronny Cox, Lucio Fulci, Christopher George, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Catriona MacColl, Fabio Frizzi, Nicolas Cage, Todd Farmer, Tom Atkins, Paul Verhoeven, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Stuart Gordon, H.P. Lovecraft, Jeffrey Combs, David Gale, Barbara Crampton, Fernando Di Leo, Joe Dallesandro, Terence Fisher, Anton Diffring, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee, Robert Stevenson, William Girdler, Rebecca De Mornay, Mako, Ti West, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, David Carradine, Roger Corman, Adrian Hoven, Monte Hellman, Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton, Steve Railsback, Ed Begley Jr., Peter Fonda, Nathan Juran, Lionel Jeffries, James Glickenhaus, Ken Wahl, Joaquim de Almeida, Sam Peckinpah, William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson, Edmond O'Brien, Kurt Raab, Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani, Karl Freund, Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, William Lustig, Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, Charles B. Pierce, Robert Wise, Fred Dekker, Fritz Lang, David Hemmings, Michael Ironside, Jan-Michael Vincent, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Victor Buono, George Kennedy, Charles Bronson, Richard Fleischer, Elmore Leonard, Paul Koslo, Michael Winner, Brian Garfield, Lee Marvin, J. Lee Thompson, Riz Ortolani, Yul Brunner, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Michael Crichton, James Brolin, Mel Brooks, arry Cohen, Michael Moriarty, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Robin Hardy, Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Michael Reeves, Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Dick Maas, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Paul Naschy, Paul Morrissey, Truman Capote, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Elsa Lanchester, Peter Sellers, Gene Wilder, Patrick McGoohan, Herb Freed, Richard Kiel, John Landis, Tim Curry, Simon Pegg, Jenny Agutter, Frank Oz, Dario Argento, Quentin Tarantino, Everett De Roche, Stacy Keach, Russell Mulcahy, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Donald Pleasence, George Peppard, Simon Wincer, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Gary Sherman, Faith Domergue, Alexandre Aja, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Eli Roth, Ishirô Honda, Greydon Clark, Cybill Shepherd, Neville Brand, Vincent Schiavelli, Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Alan Rudolph, Jonathan Demme, Pam Grier, Mark L. Lester, Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Kilpatrick, Don Dohler, Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Jake Busey, Charlton Heston, Lorne Greene, Walter Matthau, Peter Bogdanovich, Woody Allen, John Milius, Franco Nero, Crispin Glover, Dennis Hopper, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Armando Crispino, Sergio Grieco, Helmut Berger, Lee Van Cleef, Robert Forster, John Huston, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., George Miller, Mel Gibson, Robert Rodriguez, George Hilton, Kane Hodder, Michael Madsen, Tony Todd, Nicolas Winding Refn, William Grefe, Cirio H. Santiago , Joe Dante, Don Coscarelli, Angus Schrimm, Tobe Hooper, Tiffany Shepis, Brad Dourif, George P. Cosmatos, John Boorman, Stephen Boyd, Tommy Lee Jones, Rod Steiger, Brian DePalma, Gunnar Hansen, George A. Romero, Simon Boyes, Adam Mason, Jack Arnold, M. Emmet Walsh, James Stewart, Darren McGavin, Kathleen Quinlan, Jack Lemmon, Robert Foxworth, Olivia De Havilland, Michael Pataki, Jerry Stiller, John Carradine, Julian Sands, Freddie Francis, Don Sharp, William Castle, Bill Rebane, John De Bello, Terry O'Quinn, Peter Sykes, Wes Craven, Michael Sarrazin, Lewis Teague, Yaphet Kotto, Sergio Stivaletti, John Phillip Law, Michele Soavi, Umberto Lenzi, Anna Falchi, Lon Chaney, Sergio Martino, Edwige Fenech, Ursula Andress, Michael Sopkiw, Edmund Purdom, Hal Yamanouchi, Barbara Bach, Cameron, Mitchell, Alberto De Martino, Ernesto Gastaldi, Maurizio Merli, John Steiner, Mel Ferrer, Barbara Bouchet, Marty Feldman, Tomas Milian, Bruno Mattei, Lamberto Bava, Luc Merenda, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Sergio Corbucci, Tito Carpi, David Warbeck, Luciano Pigozzi, Gianfranco Giagni, Florinda Balkan, Rosalba Neri, Mel Welles, Dagmar Lassander, Neil Jordan, Walter Huston, Ray Bradbury, Gregory Peck, Orson Welles, Bert I. Gordon, H.G. Wells, Ida Lupino, Kirk Douglas, David Lynch, Eddie Romero, Bela Lugosi, Al Adamson, Tor Johnson, Edward D. Wood Jr, David Cronenberg, Christopher Walken, Tom Skeritt, Martin Sheen, Dino De Laurentiis, James Wan, Anthonhy Perkins, Curtis Harrington, Julie Harris, Ornella Muti, Ray Lovelock
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Pretty Poison (1968)
Oh Sue Ann, you're poison running through my veins
There are a lot of brilliant motion pictures out there to discover, but as a film-buff I honestly daresay that not too many movies have genuinely original and refreshingly inventive plots. Noel Black's "Pretty Poison" is one of those rare films with a plot so incredibly unconventional that it literally almost blows your socks off! In fact, this film is so good overall that it remains an incomprehensible mystery why it's still obscure and unknown. Initially it seems as if Anthony Perkins is purely typecast, as his role echoes the landmark Normal Bates character in "Psycho", but somehow nor the script nor Perkins' performance ever causes the slightest feeling of déjà-vu. Perkins, as Dennis Pitt, is freshly released from the mental asylum but still placed under the strict supervision of Dr. Azenauer. Dennis moves to a small town in Massachusetts, where he quickly finds a job in the local chemical factury, but he obviously isn't fully sane yet. With his overly vivid imagination, he persuades a seemingly naïve local girl that he is a secret agent with a mission to uncover a fantastic conspiracy theory. Sue Ann, the cute majorette girl, idolizes the enigmatic Dennis but her innocence rapidly turns out to be quite deceptive. "Pretty Poison", based on a novel by Stephen Geller and marvelously adapted by Lorenzo Semple Jr., may seem incredibly far-fetched, but I assure you this wicked little is captivating and blithe from start to finish. Needless to say, the production also owes a lot to the wondrous performances. Anthony Perkins and (the unearthly beautiful) Tuesday Weld form a terrific onscreen pair. Everything else is flawless, too, from the picturesque small-town USA setting to the enchanting cinematography and soundtrack. When the end-credits roll, you are likely to think: "damn, this was really good!".
They do the walk, do the walk of life
As a patriot and an admirer of local Flemish television & cinema, I see it as my duty to globally promote the great films and TV-series that are being made in my home country. Since 2010, Belgium - and Flanders in particular - has brought forward quite a few qualitative TV-series that can easily compete with the finest productions that Netflix has to offer, notably "Beau Séjour", "Tabula Rasa", "Undercover", "The Twelve" and "The Day". The expectations for "GR5" were set extremely high as well, since it has many things in common with the aforementioned series: an original plot concept, unexpected story twists and plenty of suspense/atmosphere. I really enjoyed the series, no doubt about that, but in the end it's not as impactful and staggering as I hoped it would be.
GR5 stands for "Grand Route 5", which is the name of a famous European hiking path of more than 2.000 kilometers, from the West-coast of the Netherlands all the way down to Nice in the South of France. Five years ago, 18-year-old Lisa mysteriously disappeared whilst she walked the GR5 all by herself. She was supposed to undertake the long trek with her four closest friends, but they all bailed out last minute. The guilt-ridden friends now decide to walk the distance after all, to shoot a documentary in honor of Lisa and hopefully uncover new clues that lead to her.
The long hike naturally reveals copious amounts of dark secrets from the past, between the friends mutually as well as between Lisa and her parents. Each of the friends also still battles their own personal demons, and they regularly get confronted with the fact they all hurt and disappointed Lisa tremendously. Some of the "revelations" are clever and tense, but sadly there are also the usual cliché twists and predictable liaisons. But hey, there's nothing a little bit of "suspension of disbelief" can't solve. At least the atmosphere is always stressful, and the filming locations are phenomenal. I read a lot of criticism regarding the acting performances, especially of the young cast members, but I sincerely disagree. Violet Braeckman and Boris Van Severen are multi-talented, and they receive good support from enthusiast new-arrivals Laurian Callebaut and Saïd Boumazoughe. The denouement is a risky and guaranteed to divide audiences. Personally, I didn't like it at first, but when it sank it completely, I do feel it's a very courageous and refreshing ending.
Blood Drive: Rise of the Primo (2017)
The absurd but necessary plot twist
Let's be brutally honest, the last 2-3 episodes of "Blood Drive" were really boring and extremely bleak in comparison to the first handful of installments. Ever since Grace was forced to give up the search for his missing sister, Julian Slink turned into a marionette of the Heart board of directors, and Arthur got too preoccupied with moral dilemmas and Stepford-hallucinations, the supposedly blood-soaked dystopian Sci-Fi series became rather melodramatic and whiny. The show desperately needed to shift back into higher gear, literally, and with "Rise of the Primo" it looks as if at least some of the scripters realized it, too. The episode supposedly covers the final racing day, and Slink invited lunatics from all corners of the planet for a fight until death. But since a couple of extremely violent mass murders aren't enough to bring "Blood Drive" back to its original dementia level, the plot foresees an utterly insane, far-fetched and completely implausible story twist. But even though insane, far-fetched and implausible, the twist somehow works and crazily makes sense in the overall concept of this series. So, there, I'm slightly optimistic again for the remaining two episodes.
By the way, Alex McGregor is stunning hot as Karma!
Da Corleone a Brooklyn (1979)
One Lenzi Poliziotesschi per day keeps the confinement stress away!
Like the vast majority of the earth's population, yours truly is currently (May 2020) stuck in confinement at home due to a nasty new little virus called Corona. Also like most people, I'm often on the verge of going berserk, not being able to get out of the house and occasionally escape from (otherwise very lovable) wife and children. But, fortunately, I discovered a very effective method to release stress, and I would like to recommend it to as many people as possible! The secret to surviving this lockdown is reverting to the extreme violence and fast-paced action of the Italian Poliziotesschi from the 1970s, and then preferably those directed by Umberto Lenzi, since he was the undeniable master of this wonderfully twisted exploitation sub-genre.
By 1979, the release year of "From Corleone to Brooklyn", Lenzi had already made more than a dozen euro-crime thrillers, but still he always succeeded in making them refreshingly original, genuinely tense, extraordinary well-scripted and full of exhilarating stunt work. And even though Maurizio Merli never once played another role in his career, he still depicts the role of obsessive police captain with a tremendous amount of passion, energy and persuasion. In this awesome thrill-ride, police commissioner Giorgio Berni (Merli) must escort the apprehended hitman Scalia from Palermo to New York, in order to get him to testify against the fled mafia boss Michele Barresi. The film is called "From Corleone to Brooklyn", but it might as well have been named "Six Million Ways to Die on the Way to the Airport, and another Four Million Ways to Die from the Airport to the Courthouse". Barresi calls upon all his mafia connections to execute Scalia before reaching New York, and Cpt. Berni risks his life, and even that of his loved ones, numerous times to prevent these assassination attempts from happening.
There are several downright terrific sequences, like the virulent chase in the ultra-narrow streets of Palermo or the confrontation in the apartment block's basement, and the film also benefices from superior production values, a proper budget, a sublime soundtrack and a stellar supportive cast (including Van Johnson). Bring on the next confinement week!
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
And so, it began, eternal skepticism towards sequels
I remember being 9 years old, in 1990, when the trailer for "Gremlins 2" came on television. It was my first acquaintance with the franchise, and shortly after a national television channel also aired the 1984 original. I instantly loved it, as I assume everyone did, and couldn't wait to go and see the sequel on the big screen. Unfortunately, this also marked my first major cinematic disappointment. As much as I worshiped the original classic, that much did I also dislike the sequel, and ever since I never looked forward anymore to sequels. Anticipation turned into skepticism and the overall belief that follow-up's can never live up to the originals.
"The New Batch" typifies, in my humble opinion, everything that makes a sequel inferior. The assumption that a plot isn't required when you've got a successful gimmick, exaggerated self-parody, lead characters depicting a bleaker version of themselves, over-the-top absurd plot-twists and the complete absence of the surprise-effects. For some reason, everything seemingly must be unproportionally bigger. The action is transferred from the delightful small-town USA towards the Big Apple. The young stars Zach Galligan & Phoebe Cates are downgraded to supportive minions, and unsubtly get replaced by greedy business tycoons (John Glover) and ultimately evil scientists (Christopher Lee). The magic is irreversibly gone when Gizmo gets captured in downtown New York (his old Chinese master just dies; period) and ends up in the laboratory of a colorless skyscraper. There isn't even any effort made to repeat that the critter mustn't get wet or be fed after midnight, and the next moment the place is overrun with nastier, meaner and uglier versions of our little Mogwai friend.
In the original film, the Gremlins pulled off sardonic little pranks, which was hilarious. In the sequel, pranks apparently aren't good enough. One of the creatures transmits itself through electricity, and another one drinks brain serum and begins to jabber like a New York stockbroker. It's not funny, and quite often I even found it even embarrassing. The only worthwhile moments still are Joe Dante's delicious tributes towards other films, like "Rambo" or "Marathon Man", and the ever-reliable Dick Miller who reprises his bonkers neighbor role.
I never looked at sequels the same way again after "Gremins 2", but hey, the world needs all kinds of people. A good friend of mine, for instance, has a bizarre obsession for low-key (horror) sequels. He more abysmal they reputedly are, the more eagerly he seeks them out. Thanks to him, I also occasionally still get to see a sequel that is better than expected.
Fluffy fun for the whole family!
Warning: the first paragraph of this review is admittedly very sentimental and irrelevant. For the more objective part of the review, please just skip to the next paragraph. Nothing gives me greater pleasure in life than rediscovering my old childhood favorites, only now nearly 30 years later and in the company of my own 10-year-old son, who's also developing an enthusiasm for bizarre cinema! I literally get tears in my eyes when I notice my offspring cheering over the same highlight-sequences in the same movies that I used to love so much myself. I felt this joy during "Escape from Witch Mountain" and "The Dark Crystal", but never experienced it so intensively as during "Gremlins".
"Gremlins" is ideally representative of the creative and highly original fantasy cinema of the early 80s. With Steven Spielberg as producer and, even more importantly, the eternal inner child embracing Joe Dante as director, the film is a gleeful mixture of delightful special effects, classic cinematic tributes, an engaging plot, colorful characters and just the right balance between slapstick and action. The narrative starts in Chinatown, a couple of days before Christmas. Eccentric inventor Randall Peltzer seeks a unique gift for his son, and finds an adorable little Mogwai they name Gizmo. The fluffy critter is awesome, but he comes with a few responsibilities. He cannot be exposed to bright light, should never be sprinkled with water and must never ever be fed after midnight. This turns out to be a lot more difficult than it sounds, and pretty soon the picturesque town of Kingston Falls is overrun with Gizmo's malignant and monstrous offspring. "Gremlins" contains far too many highlights to mention, including every word spoken by Dick Miller and every smallest shot of the unearthly cute Phoebe Cates, and it's even more amazing if you can watch it with the entire family... around Christmas.
Blood Drive: Scar Tissue (2017)
Can we get back to racing, please?
Although I haven't finished the entire series yet, I can safely say already that the previous episode - "The Chopsocky Special" - is the absolute low point of "Blood Drive". It was a chaotic waste of time, full of pointless hallucination sequences and pretentious narrative elements. It could only get better again after this, but I worried that it might take another episode of two before the series was up to its regular speed again. "Scar Tissue" definitely still lacks the fast pacing and the outrageous violent parts of the first handful of episodes, but at least the straightforward absurdity comes back to the surface. As explicitly referred to by lead actress Grace, "Scar Tissue" is a sort of homage/reworking of "The Stepford Wives", with her racing buddy and soon-to-be-lover Arthur getting hypnotized and tricked into marriage in a dodgy town called Cronenburgh (delightful little tribute there, isn't it?). Due to toxic fumes and gasses floating around town, Arthur's brain sees his new wife and circle of friends as picturesque perfection, but in reality, they are a bunch of deformed mutants. The savior of "Scar Tissue" is - once again - Julian Slink, undeniably the main trump of "Blood Drive". The side story of Arthur's former partner Christopher developing a love bond with the Artificial Intelligence robot Aki is becoming derivative, but at least I have good hope the next installment will be a blast again.
The Call (2013)
Capricorn: you'll be having a horrible week...
Sometimes all you need after a horribly stressful week at work (or a depressing Covid-19 confinement, for that matter) is a straightforward thriller tense enough to keep you on the edge of your chair! It doesn't necessarily have to be highly original, innovative or super-intelligent, it simply has to offer good action and adrenaline rushes. In case this is what you seek, I can warmly recommend "The Call". With Brad Anderson ("Session 9", "The Machinist") in the director's seat, you can rest assured the suspense and pace is kept at maximum level. With Halle Berry & Abigail Breslin in the lead roles, there is also more than enough girl-power represented. And, finally, the plot is simple yet effective and identifiable enough to make you feel terrified about this happening to your own loved ones. After spending a day at the mall, 14-year-old Casey (Breslin) gets kidnapped and locked up in the trunk of a car. Fortunately for her, she has an additional cellphone in her back pocket and can alert the emergency services. Unfortunately for 911-operator Jordan (Berry), the phone signal is untraceable and she herself is still mentally recovering from her previous kidnapping call that resulted in the death of another teenage girl. Yes, there are quite a lot of cliches passing by, and particularly the climax requires a tremendous portion of "suspension of disbelief" (must Jordan really succeed where numerous police rescue teams fail?), but in return you at least receive an hour and a half of great entertainment.
Marathon Man (1976)
Consider that next dentist appointment cancelled!
"Marathon Man" is definitely one of the most unclassifiable movies ever. Personally, I would never rank it among the greatest movies in history, because therefore the plot is too occupied with connecting seemingly random and overly complex loose ends together into an eventually rather trivial denouement. It is, however, undoubtedly one of the most effectively tense and suspenseful thrillers ever. I'd even daresay that "Marathon Man" is essential viewing for all aspiring filmmakers, to properly learn how to create atmosphere and build up tension. The "Is-it-safe?" torture-sequence in the dentist chair is legendary, and still as horrifying as ever, but there are numerous other and genuinely powerful suspense-highlights. The doll-bomb in Paris, for instance, as well as the sequences at the opera or with the bouncing football, are phenomenally spine-tingling. Director John Schlesinger further demonstrates his masterful skills during the nightly New York chase sequence, and especially during the astounding scene in which Nazi-butcher Szell strolls through the Jewish diamond quarter.
William Goldman adapted his own novel into a screenplay. Haven't read the novel, but I can safely assume it's a very thick and detailed book. You can tell by the multiple semi-processed sub plots that are cut short (like the mysterious circumstances around the suicide of Babe's father), the character drawings that are begging to go more profound, and the excessively elaborated set-ups for relatively banal events. The best example to illustrate the last point is the downright fantastic opening sequence, centering around a chaotic race between two old-timers (in their old-timers!) in the narrow streets of New York, and resulting in a deadly accident. Like with a lot of sequences in "Marathon Man", you are wondering where this is all going, but it's nevertheless a joy to behold. And of course, I can't finish the review without mentioning the sublime performances of Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier, each showcasing their own styles and talents.
Werewolves in (and around) London ain't what they used to be...
Like most horror lovers, I'm crazy about werewolves. An adoration that got sparked by the legendary transformation scene in "An American Werewolf in London". But if you are really honest ... How many truly great werewolf movies are there? Maybe 10 or 15 over the course of cinematic history? In the past decade, I saw two very enjoyable titles (notably "Lobos de Arga" and "Late Phases") and had high hopes for a third one. The third one being "Howl", but it actually turned out a minor disappointment. The omens were nevertheless very positive: directed by make-up effects wizard Paul Hyett, who's first effort as a director "The Seasoning House" was quite solid, and a fantastically claustrophobic setting aboard a night train in the outskirts of London.
There certainly isn't anything wrong in terms of body count, gore and make-up effects. The lycanthropes feasting their way through the train carriages full of nitwits look reasonably impressive, and they like their buffets messy and gooey. The problem merely lies with the "nitwits" and the script. Regrettably, this is yet another film full of dreadful clichés (people wandering off into the woods by themselves, etc...) and a cast full of annoying stereotypes (the dorky anti-hero, the fat football-fan, the fancy jerk, the elderly couple, ...). You simply don't feel much empathy for any of them, and the only more or less unpredictable thing about them is the order in which they die.
A final word of advice: unless you have lived your entire life in London already, I strongly suggest purchasing a DVD-version with subtitles. I like to think of myself I speak and understand English fairly well, but I missed out on a good 20-30% of the dialogues because of heavy London accent/dialect.
Tragedy! Because the ceremony went wrong, but the weirdness goes on!
Some stars are world-famous and forever immortal for just one role they played. Camille Keaton, for instance. She was the lead actress of the notorious
"I Spit on Your Grave", in which she cut off the wiener of a rapist in a bathtub and instantly became a cult siren. What most people have forgotten, however, is that the lovely and damn sexy Keaton also starred in a handful of Italian gialli/thrillers, including this oddly amusing genre hybrid.
The official title roughly translates as "Extracts from the Secret Police Files of a European Capital". Since it's a downright horrible title, the film is commonly known as "Tragic Ceremony", but even that is slightly misleading. "Tragi-comical Ceremony" would be more apt, since the titular black mass where the film builds up towards to is literally a MESS. The film starts out with a free-spirited and hippie-like atmosphere, with four young friends on a yacht, around a camp site with a guitar, and in a dune buggy. There's one girl for three boys, so monogamy is definitely out of the question. The buggy runs out of gas on a stormy night, and a vicious gas station attendant sends them to the mansion of the wealthy Lord & Lady Alexander. Then quickly comes the hilarious "ceremony"! The intention is to sacrifice one girl (Keaton) but the whole thing turns into massive bloodbath, with extremely cheesy gore and chaotic shrieking. Although the undeniable highlight of the movie, the insanity doesn't stop here, since our young friends escape from the mansion but nevertheless die in mysterious and gruesome circumstances shortly after.
The plot is shamelessly and blatantly inspired by the, in 1972, still fairly recent murders committed by the Satan-worshiping followers of Charles Manson. The name of poor Sharon Tate is even boldly mentioned. There are quite a few dull moments, but "Tragic Ceremony" is curiously addictive horror oddity worthy of its cult status. Several great names involved, too, like director Ricardo Freda, writer Mario Bianchi, composer Stelvio Cipriani, and acclaimed cast members like Luigi Pistilli and Luciana Paluzzi.
And then they go and spoil it all by showing something stupid like hallucination sequences...
"The Chopsocky Special" is the ninth episode in the eccentric and pleasantly deranged cult/horror series "Blood Drive". Most episodes were really great, one or two were only mediocre, but this entry is the first true disappointment of the series (to me, at last). I was afraid that a redundant and largely irrelevant side story would come sooner or later, and as far as I'm concerned, this whole installment easily could have been left out. During the previous racing day, Arthur was shot by a demonic small-town Sheriff and now he's balancing between life and death. Grace, growing more and more fond of Arthur, takes him to a forsaken Oriental restaurant in the desert for clandestine surgery. Arthur himself has subconscious hallucinations, featuring female cyborg Aki, Julian Slink and his pal Christopher, but they are not very interesting. Deadly dull episode, pointless, irritating, and entirely without highlights. I miss the stoic and emotionless Grace of the pilot episode, and Slink's role here is hardly more than a cameo. Next episode, please, and fast!
Ça va, Poepie?
Since a few years already, I deliberately stopped watching zombie comedies, simply because there are too many of them and the vast majority aren't very funny. Of course, I had to make an exception for the very first zombie splatter comedy produced in my home country Belgium! Admittedly it isn't much better than the rest, but at least it also isn't worse, the cast contains a bunch of familiar faces (if you're from Flanders, that is) and there are a handful of deliciously absurd and grotesque gory sequences, which we really aren't used to seeing in Belgian cinema. Seriously, I'm still surprised this film received funding from the VAF (a Belgian governmental institute that decides which cultural projects receive financial support), since usually only stern and tragic family dramas receive funding.
The set-up is very light-headed. The gorgeous but insecure Alison is on her way to a dubious plastic surgery clinic in a non-specified Eastern European country to get a breast reduction. With her are her surgery-addicted mother Sylvia and her clumsy and geeky boyfriend Michael who spontaneously starts vomiting when he sees blood. At the clinic, things go horribly wrong since the head doctor's experimental rejuvenating serum actually turns people into zombies, and Michael unknowingly lets patient zero escape. What follow is a rundown of typically cliched and derivative zombie situations, while the lead characters get munched in order of obnoxiousness. There are a handful of inventive death sequences, but that is a requirement in every zombie comedy, I suppose. The funniest parts include the OTT Slavic accents used by renowned Belgian actors, and the fact that Alison repeatedly asks "ça va, Poepie?" (roughly translated: "Are you ok, sweetie?") every time when her blundering boyfriend hits his head, trips over his own feet or accidentally injects himself with needles.
PS: yes, that shoddy surgeon operating with extremely loud music in his OR is the world-famous DJ Dimitri Vegas.
Panic in the Streets (1950)
70 years later... Not a lot has changed.
As I'm writing this review, pretty much the entire world is in some sort of lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus. This modest film-noir classic, that incidentally also turns 70 (!) years old in 2020, also handles with the outbreak of a highly contagious virus - the pneumonic plague - in a big & crowded city. It's downright astonishing to see how very few things have changed in seventy years, in fact. Notably the sequences near the beginning, during which Dr. Reed desperately tries to persuade the local politicians and authorities about the seriousness of the menace while they are minimizing it, is shockingly relevant today! Moreover, numerous aspects in "Panic in the Streets", such as the increasing fear, the concept of contact tracing, the gradual spreading of virus and the feeling of helplessness when the first victims decease, feel frightfully familiar these days.
Purely talking cinematically, "Panic in the Street" is also a very solid, tense and sophisticated film-noir gem, which can - of course - more or less be expected from a director like Elia Kazan, and a cast that includes names like Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas and Jack Palance (in one of his first, but nevertheless most memorable roles). When, in the docks of New Orleans, the corpse of a criminal execution victim is discovered and diagnosed with the pneumonic plague, a manhunt-against-the-clock must urgently be set up. Military Doctor Reed and police Captain Warren have 48hrs. to find the murderers, as they are undoubtedly plague-carriers as well, before they will start infecting new and numerous victims. The performances and atmosphere are great, though admittedly the pacing occasionally slugs and the plot shouldn't have focused so much on the interactions between Dr. Reed and Capt. Douglas. The towering Jack Palance is massively intimidating as the killer with the silly name ("Blackie").
Decent, but can't hold a candle to the genuine Gialli of the 70s.
"Francesca" was my first acquaintance with the works of the Onetti brothers; - Luciano and Nicolás. As a major fan of the Italian Giallo, I instantly fell in love with the DVD-cover, bought it, and then put it safely away in my honoree-closet for more than three years because I waited for a special occasion. During these three years, however, I saw two newer and truly disappointing films of the Onetti brothers that gradually made me wary. "What the Waters Left Behind" is a dreadfully uninspired "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" clone, while also their other giallo-homage "Abrakadabra" was a serious misfire. Maybe, just maybe, it was best to lower my expectations for "Francesca" as well.
Happy to say that "Francesca" is definitely the best, or at least my personal favorite, of the Onetti tribute thus far! Still, the giallo is such a periodically and culturally specific 70s sub-genre that it simply doesn't this current post-Millennial era. Even though I admire the Onetti brothers' goodwill and enthusiasm to pay tribute to these unique films, "Francesca" just didn't evoke any feelings of nostalgia or excitement. Exceptions aside, the true Gialli came from Italy and were released between 1969 and 1975. They are wonderfully deranged movies with convoluted plots, absurd twists, graphic violence, gratuitous sex and experimental stylistic aspects. The Onettis most certainly did their homework in terms of look & feel, as "Francesca" features chaotic color patterns, a psychedelic atmosphere, perverted characters, theatrical death sequences, and bloody bizarre imagery. For some reason, however, they also assumed that an incoherent plot and a horribly slow pacing were also mandatory trademarks. That's not the case, or at least I never felt so! I honestly don't understand why a film with such a solid basic plot (a series of grisly murders leads back to the disappearance of a young girl 15 years ago) must suffer from so many needless pacing-interruptions and premature plot revelations. There are some really great aspects, like the soundtrack and certain murder sequences, but overall "Francesca" is not as awesome as that cool film-poster suggests.
The Longest Hour
"The Man with the Icy Eyes" continuously balances back and forth between being a giallo and a poliziotesschi, but in fact it's neither. Sure, there's a mysterious killer wandering around, but he/she doesn't target hot fashion models, uses sharp razor blades or wear black gloves. Actually, he/she doesn't even do much killing in general. So, definitely not a traditional giallo. And sure, there's one person (although a journalist instead of a police commissioner) investigating a corrupt and treacherous conspiracy, but there aren't any virulent car chases, violent shootouts or Maurizio Merlis with moustaches. So, not exactly a poliziotesschi.
Even though I'm a pretty big fan of director Alberto De Martino ("Strange Shadows in an Empty Room", "Holocaust 2000", ...), "The Man with the Icy Eyes" is admittedly a rather boring thriller. The plot is fairly original, though, but there simply isn't enough action, intrigue or surprise. When a congressman is killed in front of his house, the police quickly arrests a suspect, also due to the private investigations of an enthusiast journalist and the testimony of a stripper. The journalist (Antonio Sabato) begins to doubt the story of the ravishing stripper (Barbara Bouchet) and seeks to uncover the real truth, but the wrongfully accused man is already being prepared for the electric chair.
The film is extremely slow-paced and low on action, but then something peculiar happens. Our journalist is also stalked by a sort of clairvoyant medium who keep telling him that he's about to die by midnight, along with two others. When he realizes there's only an hour left, suddenly A LOT happens. In supposedly sixty minutes, there are accidents, murders, deceit and a massive amount of driving up and down the city. Seriously, it's impossible to fit all these activities in one hour. The best thing about "The Man with the Icy Eyes", for me at least, is the presence of the wondrously underrated Victor Buono... And the nakedness of Barbara Bouchet, of course.
Blood Drive: A Fistful of Blood (2017)
Sheriff Leon creeps you out!
"A Fistful of Blood" is definitely a step down from the previous episode "The Gentleman's Agreement," but that's also acceptable since the latter was a downright fantastically entertaining effort and undoubtedly the best entry in the series (although I haven't seen all episodes yet). This is one of the more above average instalments, with a good setting and an old-fashioned but delightfully despicable villain. The title, obviously, but also the plot and the ambiance are a clear homage to Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars". It's nice and apt to process some love for Spaghetti Westerns into a show like "Blood Drive", for sure! On the 10th racing day, through the wasteland area, Grace and Arthur are pulled over by the eerie small-town Sheriff Leon. He spots Arthur's police uniform and insists that he helps to arrest a supposedly criminal community, but are they really the enemy? Meanwhile, Grace and Slink engage into a duel of whiskey-drinking, while Christopher brings out genuinely romantic feelings in cyborg Aki. Less outrageous than usual, but with some very meaningful (and well-acted) sequences, like the tender moment in the bathroom or the suspense-chemistry between Grace and Slink. Danny Keoh has an awesome guest role as the nightmarish sheriff Leon.
PS: one of the great things about "Blood Drive" is that every episode has a "fake" VHS-cover/poster. The poster for "A Fistful of Blood" looks, whether or not intentionally, very much like the poster for the Chuck Norris vehicle "Good Guys Wear Black".
Not a prudish spinster after all?
There's only one thing I enjoy more than reading a good Agatha Christie novel, and that is watching a terrific Agatha Christie book-adaptation, preferably with an all-star cast and prestigious production values. There are several good adaptations of Mrs. Christie's work, notably the famous Hercule Poirot blockbusters ("Murder on the Orient Express", "Death on the Nile", ...) and the comical Miss. Marple series from the sixties starring Margaret Rutherford ("Murder She Said", "Murder at the Gallop"...), but there exist also a ton of TV-films that are worth seeking out if you are - like me - a devoted fan of history's most brilliant fiction writer.
Of this series, starring the lovely Geraldine McEwen as Miss Marple, I particularly wanted to see "Murder at the Vicarage". It was the novel in which Agatha Christie introduced her brilliant female protagonist. Miss Marple is an elderly and lovable lady, living in the small parish-community St. Mary Mead, where she uses her shrewd intelligence to solve all sort of mysteries varying from town gossip to first-degree murder. She's a die-hard spinster, or at least she that's what she is Christie's novels, because in this TV-film it is suddenly revealed that Miss Marple had an affair with a married man prior to World War I. What a shock! I would refer to it as blasphemy, but the writers processed the little sub plot very sophisticated and plausible into the plot of "Murder at the Vicarage". Apart from the naughty addition of Miss Marple's dubious past, the script follows the excellent novel very closely.
The loathsome Colonel Protheroe is the most hated man in St. Mary Mead. The elderly magistrate is cruel and merciless, and he shouts ridiculously loud because he himself is practically deaf. When the Colonel is found shot and killed in the library of Reverend Clement's vicarage, there isn't any mourning but nevertheless a lot of speculating. After all, half of the town had motives to kill him, including his closest relatives and numerous of people who felt mistreated by him. The police inspector in charge is initially reluctant to listen to Miss Marple's clever deductions, but he quickly turns to her for more advise, since her observations and theories are so wise and helpful.
Although I read the novel and already saw a different adaptation of the same story, I still find the plot very captivating and puzzling. Furthermore, this series also hugely benefices from delightful photography and a splendid recreation of the post WWII period. McEwan is a marvelous Miss Marple, and the ensemble cast of this TV-film is simply stellar, with supportive roles for Derek Jacobi, Angela Pleasance, Robert Powell, Herbert Lom, Jason Flemying and many more.
The Freaks are off their Leashes!
In case it was Scott Beck's and Bryan Woods' life-long dream was to make an instant Halloween classic, which people will traditionally watch every year on the 31st of October, they probably failed. However, if their sole intention was to make a fun and engaging scare-flick, they did a fine job! "Haunt" is straightforward horror with a very simplistic & derivative plot, but also with a thoroughly creepy atmosphere, effectively spooky monsters/killers and a handful of genuinely tense moments. Bunch of bored kids are looking for excitement on Halloween night and end up in a pop-up haunted house. Naturally, the death traps and boogeymen quickly turn out all too real. The murderous freaks in "Haunt" wear uncanny masks, but the definite strongpoint of the film is that they are even more petrifying when their masks are removed. It's never made clear who or what they are, though. Do they form a dysfunctional family? Are they sickos that gathered together in an illegal internet chatroom? A real explanation is never given, but it's not bothersome. The haunted house is a terrific horror location, with narrow tunnels, fake emergency exits and nasty scenery. The acting performances are nothing special, but still decent especially considering the lead teens are quite stereotypical. There's a fair amount of gore, but (sadly?) not too extreme, and the finale has an original "Home Alone" twist in store.
Bersaglio sull'autostrada (1988)
Mattei, you say... Any relation to Bruno, perhaps?
The name of the writer/director of "Moving Target" is Marius Mattei. That name doesn't necessarily ring a bell, but the family name is the same as one of the most notorious "bad directors" of the Italian horror industry; - namely Bruno Mattei. On neither of the two men's profile pages here on IMDb it is mentioned they are related, but a blood connection would definitely seem logical, especially considering the abominable quality level of this thing!
Pretty much like every flick Bruno Mattei ever worked on, Marius Mattei's "Moving Target" is bad but incredibly entertaining! The plot is downright dumb, major Hollywood stars appear in meaningless supportive roles (solely to collect their paychecks), cheesy and cheerful 80s pop-songs are exchanged with moments of excessive graphic violence and - most importantly - there is lots and lots of nudity! Janine Lindemulder makes her acting debut and she's naked, or at least topless, in practically 90% of her scenes (she has a lot of scenes, by the way). Janine obviously didn't mind showing what nature gave her, because she made it big in the adult film industry. Yummy Janine plays a bimbo on the run for a stone-cold mafia hitman, and she seeks shelter in the mansion (more particularly, in the jacuzzi) of former tennis player Ferry Spencer. Ferry may even be her long-lost father, but that still doesn't prevent him from sleeping with her. The almighty Ernest Borgnine depicts a veteran copper pretending to solve the case, and Linda Blair stars as a meaningless doctor. I think they both accepted the job for the complementary holiday in Florida. The identity of the "mysterious" biker-with-black-helmet is quite easy to guess, and the final twist is so cliche it's eye-rolling. Classic Mattei!
Awesome, mindless gorefest!
After the rather dull and formulaic episode "Booby Traps", I got a little concerned that the rest of the "Blood Drive" series would rapidly descend into a repetitive show. You know, the same structure over and over again, namely a different setting and grotesque opponents per race day. Well, I love it when I'm proven wrong! "The Gentleman's Agreement" perhaps isn't the best, but definitely the most entertaining episode of the series thus far! Story-wise, it's an incoherent mess, but to make up for it there are large amounts of extreme violence, gross-out gore, sick black humor and general depravity. The board of the TV-network downgraded Julian Slink to be a janitor at Heart headquarters, and transferred the task of supervising the Blood Drive race to the participating Gentleman. This homosexual megalomaniac would like nothing better than to immediately eliminate Grace and Arthur, but that's easier said than done. Meanwhile, Slink uses the semi-cyborg Christopher in his plan to get back in the game. They unleash a bloodthirsty demon from the catacombs of Heart HQ and send it to the race camp. The body count is tremendously high in this installment, and the deaths are really, really nasty! We're talking head explosions, face-smashing, throat slitting and various limb dismemberment. Bon appetit!
Sharks' Treasure (1975)
Too many males in tight Speedos...
Let's start with a round of applause for Cornel Wilde; - that's the least of recognition he deserves for all the work and effort he put into his one-man-show "Shark's Treasure". Wilde wrote, produced and directed the film, and he also plays the lead role of boat captain/treasure hunter Jim Carnahan. And he did all this just to prove that he still looks fit and mighty hunky in his naked torso at the age of 65!
Seriously, at several moments throughout the movie, I had the impression that "Shark's Treasure" secretively was a film for gay men that hadn't outed themselves yet. There's one woman in the cast and she appears only briefly, while most of the film's padding footage exists of the four lead stars parading around the deck bare-chested and in their tight Speedos. Ideally for married men still in the closet. "What are you watching, honey? Oh, just a macho flick about treasure hunting at sea, dear". Unfortunately, the adventure-part of "Shark's Treasure" is quite disappointing. Captain Jim and his crew are peacefully diving up ancient valuable coins off the coast of Honduras, but then become hijacked by a group of escaped convicts that naturally want to confiscate their loot. Admittedly the underwater footage is beautiful, but the pacing is incredibly slow, the film is far too long and it's a little too obvious that the shark footage is either shot at a different location or borrowed from other movies/documentaries.
Bermude: la fossa maledetta (1978)
Spaghetti sharks: the cheesiest species known to man
Have you always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle mystery? Would you also like to know more about the mystical forces or possible extraterrestrial activities that are at large on the ocean's floor? Well, then I suggest you watch National Geographic or dive into the relevant Wikipedia pages, because you most certainly won't find any answers in this largely goofy & low-budgeted Spanish/Italian co-production! It does, on the other hand, provide a good hour and half of brainless (albeit utterly senseless) exploitation entertainment for fans of sharks, demented plots, underwater footage and the ravishingly beautiful Janet Agren.
The beginning of the film is admittedly very intriguing, as it starts with the sudden return of professional diver/adventurer Andres Montoya after he, and an entire ship with crew, inexplicably vanished at sea more than six months ago. Andres doesn't have any recollection of where he spent the past half year, but it doesn't bother him too much. He gets back together with his fiance Angelica, even though she hooked up with his brother in the meantime, and cheerfully visits illegal cock-fight events. Andres is then hired by the despicable Arthur Kennedy to dive up a valuable box that got lost during a plane crash, and he realizes that he's drawn back to the mysterious bottom of the Bermuda area.
It must be highlighted that, even though completely random and disconnected from the rest of the film, "Cave of the Sharks" contains one very atmospheric and uncanny sequence. In a sort of flashback, a bunch of people on a yacht suddenly all become hypnotized and stoically step into the sea. One of the group's member is a little girl with the world's ugliest and creepiest doll, which is a cheap horror trick, I reckon, but still very effective. Furthermore, there also are sleeping (!) sharks, bare-knuckle fights and lots of nasty back-stabbing acts from Kennedy's character. The finale is extremely violent and doesn't solve anything, but that's exactly how we like our Italian cult!
47 Meters Down (2017)
In Too Deep
I honestly don't want to sound too harsh, but the main problem with a film like "47 Meters Down" is, well, that it is what it is! You know what to expect and you get exactly that, so don't count on any surprise-twists or shocking revelations. The film's poster and synopsis promise a tale about two hot sisters vacationing in Mexico and deciding to go cage-diving to spot Great White Sharks. Naturally, their little excursion goes wrong. The crummy cable of the shabby crane on the ramshackle boat snaps, and the cage with the two girls in it sinks straight to the bottom, which is - you guessed it - 47 meters down. On the ocean floor they struggle with shortages of oxygen, bizarre hallucinations, flesh wounds and up close and personal encounters with ferocious sharks. That last danger is basically what they paid for, so they shouldn't nag. "47 Meters Down" is beyond formulaic. Not only the plot is rudimentary, everything else is boringly conventional: the sisters are complete opposites, Murphy's Law applies, and the shark-attacks are meticulously timed at typical moments when suspense flicks like these require a jump-moment. The underwater photography is dark and unclear, and the sharks are merely just footnotes in the rivalry-between-sisters plot. On second thought, I do want to sound harsh: it's a lousy film and a waste of time!
Great White Death (1981)
Stop calling them "Pirates", Glenn Ford!
Don't even think for a second that the obscure "Great White Death" is a hidden treasure, or even a remotely recommendable animal-horror flick. It's not. Not even for shark-aficionados. It' a wildly uneven and umpteenth attempt to further cash in on the tremendous successful of "Jaws" and other giant killer animal movies of the 70s, except the makers of this junk were too lazy or too uninspired to come up with a story. Instead, they put together a bit of cool shark-attack stock footage and a lot of dull & irrelevant padding footage and labeled it as a documentary. Glenn Ford, trying to earn a few extra bucks in the autumn of his career, appears a couple of times in a fake library and pretends very hard to be interested in sharks. His job as narrator is largely limited to emphasizing that our oceans still homes many mysteries, and that we've only just begun to explore the wonders of nature underwater. He also uses a lot of superlatives and several sensational terms to refer to sharks, even the non-dangerous species, like "predators", "sea-monsters" and "pirates". Pirates?!? There certainly are a handful of interesting moments, notably the testimonies and reconstructions of actual Great White attacks, or the trivia insights given on Black December (1957-1958). Too bad there also are many irrelevant and dull sequences (like endless ritual African tribe-dances) and footage that'll cause shark fanatics a lot of heartache (the sight of numerous beautiful animals caught in fishnets).