Friday, August 14, 2009

"Malenka"(1969)d/Amando de Ossorio

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Should be returning to the regular grind here shortly,I've been busy tapping out my first screenplay,and frankly,I'm pretty excited about it.All I'm gonna say about it at this point,is that it's a modern American giallo with some really strong character studies,and loads of inventive shocking deaths.
I'm a huge fan of the late Amando de Ossorio's Blind Dead series(Tombs of the Blind Dead,Return of the Evil Dead,Ghost Galleon,Night of the Seagulls) starring the Knights Templar zombies.Now that I've gotten that out of the way,my conscience is clear to talk about Malenka,his first foray into the horror genre,released under a multitude of aliases since 1969.In fact if you watch one of his later horror ventures then follow it up with this number,you'll probably be scratching your head as to how someone with such a clear vision and grasp on cinematic atmosphere could be responsible for writing AND directing such a fucking boring movie.His campy attempts at humour peppered throughout the overly long running time are less funny than the American dub/cut of Dracula and Son(1979),and that's no easy task,friends.Anita Ekberg spends half the movie looking like a top heavy Shirley Temple,avoiding the flaccid fangery of her uncle,who has to be in the top five least threatening vampires of all time,with his mouse shoulders and turtleneck.Hell,he even gets knuckledusted by a skinny Italian guy.Strength of twenty men,my ass.
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"I'll check out this bacteria culture once I've finished my Lucky Strike."
A Roman model named Sylvia(Anita Ekberg) is two weeks from marriage to her fiancee, a handsome young doctor named Pietro(Gianni Medici),when she receives word that she's inherited a castle and Countess title from her late mother."Something fantastic has happened to me!" she relates to Pietro and Max,his stereotypically goofy Italian sidekick.Funny,but I've never heard anybody use the word fantastic when receiving news that their mother just died but hey,I liked mine.Sylvia leaves her boyfriend behind to travel to the family castle,stopping to imbibe a frothy beer at the pub,and freaking out the townspeople when she announces that she's the new Countess.If only they could see the baloney curls she's gonna give herself in the next scene,then they'd know what true terror is.At the castle, she's greeted that night by Count Walbrooke(Julian Ugarte'),who shows her a younger,sexier painting of herself in a brunette wig,and informs her that it's her granny,Malenka,a woman roasted at the stake for dabbling in the black arts,forever cursing all descendants to an eternity of vampirism.He then forces her to write a "Dear Pietro" letter to her squeeze,informing her that she carries the family blood,and is doomed to drink the red stuff,too.
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This vampire could use a good impaling,if you catch my drift.
Pietro and Max,apparently not hindered by a closed work schedule,set off for the castle because,well,you know,one letter from a broad telling him it's all over written in her handwriting isn't usually enough discouragement for the average guy,right?Just as they arrive in the village,they're forced to examine boob-heavy anemic grog wenches,which the local doctor slags off from behind his ever-filled stein of booze.Meanwhile,Sylvia bears witness to strange behavior from her uncle,who enjoys chaining up fellow vampire,Blinka(Adriana Ambesi),and whipping her into submission.He tries forcing his niece to drink a goblet of his blood,and in one of the more convolutedly messy finales I've seen in a long time,demands that she drinks from her fiancee who's chained barechested to a post,while two female vampires catfight with a torch.During this hair-pulling extravaganza,which the Count is so mesmerized by that he fails to notice Sylvia freeing her beau from his chains over a several minute period,allowing Pietro to sock the effeminate blooddrinker in the mush,knocking him into a chair,where he is jabbed with a burning stake in the labonza.The papier mache covered skeleton burns.The couple returns to Rome,with Max revealing that Blinka has transformed him into a vampire,happily chasing a screaming grog wench during broad daylight over the end credits.Uhhh,yeah.
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"Mr. Carradine! This hardly qualifies as a script reading!"
De Ossorio's original script played out like a precursor to a Scooby Doo episode,with Sylvia's scheming uncle using the vampirism curse as an excuse to get his hands on her inheritance money(and he would have done,if it wasn't for you meddling Italians!),but the producers balked,forcing the director to shoot real vampire sequences,which probably adds to the on-screen confusion that's abound here.As for Ekberg,the former Swedish sexbomb of the 50's was forced to toil in an assload of b-movies throughout the sixties and seventies,with Killer Nun(1979) and Cicciabomba(1982)(aka/the incredibly titled Fatty Girl Goes to New York)among her later credits.There's no blood to mention here,no thrills,no shocks,not even a laugh to be found.Depressing,really.I wouldn't recommend this title to anyone save for de Ossorio or Ekberg completists,and even then,with ample pre-warnings attached.Malenka gets staked through its limp heart with a scale rating of:
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A 150 year reign of terror ends in flames and papier mache.
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