Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Africa Addio"(1966)d/Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi

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Tonight we'll focus on two Italian filmmakers who are no strangers to controversy.Having shocked the entire world in creating what would come to be known as the "mondo" film in 1962 with Mondo Cane, they would outdo themselves a thousand-fold with the release of tonight's entry just four years later, a searing portrait of a changing continent that the film's detractors(which include Roger Ebert) have accused of being bathed in pro-white European colonial racism(Europeans filmed in soft focus as their properties are seized, black Africans shot with a fish-eye lens from unflattering angles) and chock full of staged sequences, to which Jacopetti responded with an adamant denial, claiming that the only footage the two men ever staged appeared in the earlier Mondo Cane 2, and that everything one sees within Addio is completely real.Jacopetti even found himself being tried for murder in Italian court over the film, amidst accusations that one of the on-screen executions in the movie was staged for the cameras.He was eventually acquitted.West German protesters at screenings of the film in Berlin are looked upon as the first anti-racist movement that Germany had ever experienced, and the film was banned outright as racist in Italy.The U.S. cut, Africa:Blood and Guts, released four years later in 1970, is even more sensaltionalist.
Inevitably, I'm forced to interject my own personal feelings on the controversial film here.Addio is an important work, both shocking and thought-provoking, in that it reveals not a biased slant towards white or black(it really doesn't), but the depraved depths we as a species can sink to, if left to our own devices.The unflinching lens of two documentary filmmakers shows us our own preordained nature which harbors both redeeming good and deplorable evil.It's who we all are, it's what we all do to differing extents.Whether or not you can handle a film like this that evokes great emotion in every single frame depends entirely on how big the horse blinders you've chosen to experience life through are.If this all seems a bit too unsettling for you, I suggest you screen the film anyway, as it may just be the wake up call you need.
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A cruel bonfire burns out of control.
At the outset, we see the dark continent as it says farewell to its old colonial ways, and welcomes a new era with Great Britain providing much pomp and circumstance as the guard changes.Then there's a fox hunt, only the fox in this case is dead, lending its scent to the hounds, and handled by a running African native.Then we see the trial of some Africans who've snuck onto a British-owned farm and murdered everyone in their sleep, slashing the tendons in the legs of the livestock as some added cruelty.We then turn to the auctioning of white European property and belongings to Africans who remain.A lush estate once owned by whites gets impromptu landscaping via explosions and bulldozers and is now occupied by a hundred Africans who bust up the furniture for a bonfire and use the bathtub as a makeshift playpen for multiple infants.Then we watch hundreds of black Africans trying to tame a group of wild horses, that, according to narration, is "physically racist" and fearful of being handled by the blacks.Finally, we bear witness to the mass southerly migration of displaced Boer farmers, before dropping in on a big game hunt, edited for time by a helicopter driving a bull elephant directly to a hunter so that he can shoot it dead from point blank range, as compared to a massive throng of natives group-spearing a wide variety of animal species, not excluding a bull elephant and a hippopotamus that they repeatedly spear like a colossal pin cushion.Then we witness European volunteers rescuing and rehabilitating a wounded,sick elephant, with one poor bastard losing his arm past the elbow in the massive beast's turd cutter.All together now,bleeech.Next we focus on the poacher element that has been exploiting the chaotic political climate to rape the African plains of countless animal skins and tons worth of ivory tusks, before watching a baby zebra rescued from its mother's lifeless,poached corpse by airlift as the sun sets.
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The only spears not sticking out of this poor hippo is probably Britney.
The Italians document a massacre of Arabs by African insurgents in Zanzibar by plane, complete with burned out villages, mass graves, and beaches scattered with Muslim cadavers.The camera then follows the quelling of an Angolan rebel uprising by mercenaries, complete with firefight and obligatory smoked out,flaming corpses; before we turn to the Bantu massacre of Watusi in Rwanda as evidenced by piles of amputated hands and post-murder Bantu perps mugging for the camera.Before we're too sickened by human v. human violence, the lens again focuses on animal violence, as several antelope, elephants, and hippos are sent to their maker by point blank, high caliber death, then hacked into sections for the cameras(a pregnant hippo corpse is robbed of its unborn fetus and a jeep drags a grue-stained severed elephant head across the terrain in low points of the segment,where the Italians remark that the most ferocious animal in Africa has to be man himself.).A vast wasteland of dried animal bones is tragically panned across.We then set our sights on the miracle of South Africa, as bikini-clad Euro girls run, swing, and do trampoline flips in slow motion juxtaposed against the backdrop of Cape Town(my favorite segment,I ain't gonna lie to ya), then some Africans in traditional Zulu garb break out some instruments and play some rock n' roll, before we see modernized tribeswomen adopting the clothing and mannerisms of European women, and the League of Decency handing out bvds to Zulus(!).I say, put that Alabama blacksnake away, M'butu.Pantsify yourself, old chap.Then we follow a libidinous male lion unable to get his swerve on due to carloads of voyeuristic tourists.The aftermath of a muslim massacre in Tanganyika is captured on film, and then unrest in Uhuru Square where the filmmakers are nearly executed before someone notices that "they aren't white, they're Italians".A massacre in Stanleyville by Simba rebels is also documented, and the subsequent counterattack by mercenaries, black and white bodies alike feeding the scavengers.Finally, we examine the gold and diamond industry before focusing on a small group of penguins on the crashing surf at sunset.Wow.
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White South African girls enjoying their favorite pastime: slo-mo trampoline flips.
Let the squeamish be forewarned, there's enough wholesale animal murder and mutilation(set to a mostly upbeat score by maestro Riz Ortolani)captured here for a hundred Umberto Lenzi movies, and nearly as much human slaughter to match it.The U.S. print(Blood and Guts)removes most of the non-exploitative material, leaving just 90 expurgated minutes worth of human cruelty, as opposed to the nearly two and a half hour running time of the director's cut, as included in Blue Underground's excellent Mondo Cane Collection, released a few years back; a necessary addition to any worthwhile genre collection, indeed.An amazing movie, by any standards, and completely successful in generating a response from its audience with its cruel and powerful imagery that few could dismiss easily.You may never see another movie like it, but you owe it to yourself to give it a shot, at least once.A closed minded leftist idiot like Roger Ebert may have given you zero stars back in 1967, but Addio, you're four wops from first frame to last, to me, baby.Highest recommendation.
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"Don't back up over that unusual looking rumble strip, boys, you'll blow the tires..."
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Lisa and the Devil"(1974)d/Mario Bava

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We stop our kaleidoscope of covetousness tonight on a hauntingly surreal lost seventies masterwork by genre-king, Mario Bava; one of his favorite films that he regrettably never lived to see released in its original form, as was his intention.Producer Alfred Leone, desperate to find distribution in the United States after having given Bava free reign to make a non-commercial movie however he liked due to the international success of their prior collaboration,1972's Baron Blood, suggested to the director that they rework the entire film with new profane,sexual material and in essence, rip off the popular American classic, The Exorcist, in the process.Leone's troubled finished product(that Bava eventually walked away from), released as House of Exorcism in 1975, tanked to both critics and fans alike.Thought lost until a print finally surfaced in the 1990's, Bava's original vision, one of his best IMHO, is the film we'll focus on tonight, ending the week here at the Wop.
Lisa has all of the glorious cinematography and stylized directorial flare that made Bava the godfather of Italian genre cinema, bar none.Factor in a stellar ensemble cast that includes Telly Savalas(this review'll have to hold you over until I find a print of Pretty Maids,JM!), Elke Sommer, Syvia Koscina, Gabriele Tinti, and Alida Valli, some creepy atmosphere, a harrowing uneasiness and dream-like unfamiliarity, and it's transparently easy to see what a cult classic you've got on your hands.If this one isn't part of your dvd collection yet, and you're a genre fan that's true to your lollipops, baby, what are you waiting for? It's bonus time!
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"Who lugs ya, dummy!" exclaims Leandro(Telly Savalas).
Lisa(Elke Sommer)notices an eccentric bald man carrying life-like mannequins through the cobbled streets of Toledo, while mesmerized by a fresco of the devil(who the man bears a striking resemblance to, mind you) with her tour group, which her guide explains survived through the ages because of a local belief that Satan himself occupies the region.She wanders off from her group to locate the source of some haunting music that catches her ear,and finds herself in an antique shop where the owner is crafting, what else, a mannequin for a customer.Her attempts to buy the responsible music box are thwarted when the owner relates that it belongs to someone already...the customer whose dummy he's working on, who turns around, and yeah, it's him.Spooked, she rushes out into the winding, ominous streets and finds herself completely astray from anything remotely familiar.She asks a few antisocial townsfolk for directions, who affably ignore her.After bumping into the quaint fellow with the dummies again, she's detained by a man who not only believes she is a former lover of his named Elena, he also resembles the mannequin the bald fellow's been lugging around.Frightened, she pushes away from him, sending him down a flight of stairs and rendering him unconscious.Still lost by nightfall, she encounters the Lehars,Francis and Sophia(Fajardo, Koscina) who instruct their chauffeur George(Gabriele Tinti)to give the poor girl a lift.The limousine stalls out in front of a colossal mansion, owned by a blind Contessa(Alida Valli) and her son Maximillian(Alessio Orano).Their butler, Leandro(Savalas) just happens to be the man who's been creeping her out all day.Fancy that.
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Francis(Eduardo Fajardo) selflessly lends himself as a human rumble strip.
Max takes a shine to the attractive young tourist, insisting that she and her new friends stay for dinner amidst the Contessa's decries.While Francis showers, Sophia passionately fucks her chauffeur.Meanwhile, Lisa spots the man who harrassed her peering through her window,ending up in Max's arms as she watches Leandro drag the man away...only it's just a mannequin.Things get stranger as the night progresses.Max takes an extra piece of after-dinner cake upstairs to...while the Contessa remarks after feeling Lisa's face,"You shouldn't have come back, now it's too late."A pair of scissors does in George the driver, sending Sophia into hysterics.She, in turn, believes she's avenging his death when she promptly runs her husband over with the car six times, well short of Pasolini's record.A weird love triangle is unfolding between Max, Lisa, and Carlo, the man who insists she is his former flame,and while holding her in a room full of dummies and statues, he is bludgeoned from behind.Sophia witnesses this and flees, only to be fatally thumped by Max.The contessa discovers Carlo in a casket in the chapel, revealing that she was formerly his wife, and that an affair between he and Elena resulted in their subsequent murders.Max takes Lisa to meet Elena, a mummified corpse in bed, while putting her under with a trusty chloroform rag.He tries to lay some surprise sex on her with the corpse in the same bed(!!).It doesn't work out.As Leandro prepares to make Lisa into a new puppet,Max and his mother argue over why he's killed their dinner guests(!),to which he voclaizes his fears that they were going to take his Lisa away,and when she suggests that he ties up the final loose end by getting rid of her as well,he shanks her in the labonza,instead, leading up to a dizzyingly surreal shocker of a nightmare climax...that you'll have to see for yourselves!
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"A little lower,you're licking my sacrum." thinks Sophia(Sylvia Koscina).
Savalas' lollipops(which he opted for instead of gumdrops)were a personal touch that he would carry on into his hit television series Kojak afterwards.Also interesting to note, a scene where Leandro breaks both of a corpse's legs at the feet to stuff it into a coffin is a nifty tribute to H.P. Lovecraft.When Alida Valli appeared on the set in purple, it sent Bava into a superstitious fervor, as he believed the color was bad luck, leading to strange complications on the production.For the reworking, scenes with Robert Alda portraying a priest who exorcises demons from Sommer's character were shot afterwards, with his role introduced to the story via flashbacks.The rough language and sexuality that Leone demanded for House ultimately led to Bava setting up the actors and cameras and in protest, leaving them for the producer to shoot.As for Lisa, it's safe to regard the film as one of his true classics; some Bava-ites claim it is his final masterpiece, though I enjoy his later Cani arrabbiati(1974) and Shock(1977) too much to fully agree with anyone who says that.Three wops and a strong recommendation.
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Is it technically a threesome if the mummified corpse slumped next to the two of you never participates?Just wonderin'.
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"Scream Bloody Murder"(1973)d/Marc B. Ray

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The weather outside might have gone more schizo than Syd Barrett in a basement fulla psilocybin caps, but the Wop stays constant like Seka's neckerchief over here, with a full palate of genre reviews for you avid woprophiles.Tonight's feature is a memorably gritty and grimy little cultish chunk of low budget seventies horror, packed to the gills with outrageous dialogue, hook-handed hatchet men with homicidal level Oedipal complexes, an early cameo from Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man of the Phantasm series(credited here as Rory Guy), and ample amounts of that glorious red stuff, a-spurtin' and a-squirtin', just the way you like it.My first exposure to Scream years ago was a trailer at the tail end of a VHS tape I had just bought, that had just drawn me in with its incessant screams of terror and foreboding voice over taglines when it abruptly cut off in mid-sentence and rewound automatically, as the tape had run out.I don't miss that aspect of the dated format, I can assure you that.A few weeks later I had scored myself a copy of the movie itself, and though it wasn't particularly gory, frightening, or even suspenseful for that matter, I came away from it pleasantly surprised and thoroughly satisfied.I'm not sure if the movie has earned its own dvd release as of yet, but the print on the double feature disc with "Sisters of Death" is watchable though expectedly washed out in some chapters and grainy in others(the way a movie like this oughta look IMHO, not everything needs to be restored, remastered and hooked up on blu ray,y'know).
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Look before you leap(off of your paw's tractor) for as you sow, yer bloody mitt you won't keep, or something to that effect.
On a farm, we meet Matthew, a mischievous lad who hops onto his father's tractor as it idles and is so inclined to throw it into forward as Paw stands helplessly in its path.Though a Galápagos tortoise could probably lap this laggard piece of farm equipment on a bad day, Matt's dad doesn't stand a chance and is effectively mushed.Matthew leaps off the still-moving tractor and inexplicably lands directly in its path.The murderous machine pulverizes his hand, which he holds up for all to see as the opening credits roll.We next see Matthew(Fred Holbert)as a teenaged amputee in the care of nuns as he reads the latest correspondence from Maw, who's taken refuge in the arms of one of the local man-folk during these trying years.He furiously crumbles the letter with his shiny new hook.Upon his return home, he's shocked to discover that Maw selfishly went off and married this guy she'd been talking about.He throws a psychotic tantrum culminated by his stepfather's axed up carcass and his momma's head smashed on a rock.That'll learn the two of you.Matt breaks camp, haunted by foggy visages of his dead parents taunting him repeatedly, and hitches a ride with a newlywed couple who he snuffs in the midst of one of his hallucinations; the groom eats rock-smashed head death while his bride gets dunked in the drink.Next he meets a cheap-but-friendly whore who dabbles in art in between tricks(don't they all?)and quickly grows all sweet on her.Jealous of a sailor who'd just solicited her for fleshy favors, he follows the squiddly diddly afterwards and cuts his throat with her palette knife.That'll learn ya.
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The Hook(Fred Holbert) hews n' hacks the hired help to keep his hooker hostage harmonious.
At this point, he decides that only a spacious mansion and vintage limousine will impress this professional leg spreader, so he procures himself one by hacking a black maid to pieces with a meat cleaver, then pillow-smothering the face of the geryatric broad who owns the place after she attacks him with double walking canes(!).Then he turns to the dog."Come on,boy.You're next."Oh man, even the dog??Matthew picks up the hooker in his stolen car, bringing her back to the mansion where he's envisioned a rich, fruitful life for her: bound, gagged, forced to paint for him, and when she's less than enthusiastic about it all, he delivers this gem:"See what I do for you? I get groceries and clothes and art stuff and kill people. And do you appreciate it? No."When Dr. Epstein(Angus Scrimm)shows up to check on his elderly patient, Matthew adds him to the body count; during the commotion, his hog-tied captive frantically tries to dial the police...on a rotary phone...with her tongue(!!).If she managed to succeed, I know where my next twenty dollar bill'd be goin'.During her next escape attempt, she uses her feminine charms to bewilder the virginal amputee,conking him on the back of the head as they're both sitting on a bed together.She desperately rushes out of the bedroom,through a hallway and down a long flight of steps, across a sizeable foyer to the door, but when she opens it, he's somehow already on the other side.She eats hook-driven throat slashing death for her troubles, having not figured that the young man could be in two places at once.He scrambles to a church, his nightmarish hallucinations of black-clad taunting victims surrounding him, and erases himself from the equation with a well-placed hook to the breadbasket.Roll credits.
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"You've got (silver)balls, trying to lie to me, boy." growls Dr. Epstein(Angus Scrimm).
Interestingly, Marc B. Ray never directed again, instead writing for kid-based television shows like Lidsville, New Zoo Revue, and Kids Incorporated(!!!).Who'da thunk that, huh.Holbert doesn't seem to have done any other movie work after nailing a satisfyingly twisted maniacal performance here.That's really too bad.Scrimm, on the other hand, has appeared in genre fare like I Sell the Dead, Subspecies, Mindwarp, all four Phantasm films, and a memorable turn in Don Coscarelli's "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" episode of Masters of Horror.Though it probably won't merit multiple viewings for you, Scream is definitely worth one good look, at least.On the scale it earns two big ones.
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Matthew misdiagnoses a diabetic emergency,and performs an impromptu pancreatectomy on himself, with dismal results.
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"Lemora:A Child's Tale of the Supernatural"(1973)d/Richard Blackburn

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Before the dynamic dvd release by the folks over at Synapse a few years back, tonight's review was a long standing lost vampiric cult classic of the early seventies that many hadn't seen nary a frame of since the late night television circuit of the same era(that was my experience, anyway!).It enjoyed regular truncated screenings under various re-titlings(Lemora-The Lady Dracula was one I remember distinctly) on the platform of a highly popular local horror host,WNEP's Uncle Ted's Ghoul School, where the late Ted Raub in a signature red fez told corny jokes and did magic tricks on a threadbare dungeon set and showed B horror movies every Friday night for years(1974-1982 to be exact).He was no Dr. Shock or Zacherle by anybody's standards, but I got to enjoy those two hosts growing up as well(Shock on WPHL and Zach on WWOR and WPIX),so it all worked out in the end.Now, about the movie itself...
To say Lemora was a low budget feature is like saying that snorting bath salts for kicks might make you hallucinate about multiple strangers living in your walls and conspiring to kill you(or so I hear on the local news, anyway) .With it's visible dimestore fangs and ghoul makeups(reminiscent of Ormsby's work in CSPWDT,I've gotta say), it's practically budgetless.Lead actress Lesley Gilb graces the screen for most of the running time like Sigourney Weaver's blink-resistant older sister who would have done well to get some acting lessons under her belt(one brutally embarrassing and amateurish line delivery that me and the boys are still quoting between laughs comes to mind),and no one could accuse exploitation vet Hy Pike(in his first major role,howabboudat!) of being much more than a budget hunk of ham, but the entire cast seems pretty game with the material they're given.Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith is appropriately innocent and adorable as always, though her eighteen year old curves must have been pretty hard to cover up while portraying a thirteen year old character(she has more than one nipple slip in this production, originally rated PG!Those were the days.) With that obviousness out of the way, let me go on to say that Blackburn's period vampire fairy tale oozes heavy duty atmosphere in every color-drenched frame, in the same way a movie like Suspiria does, rising above its budgetary constrictions on more than one occasion, ultimately making for a decent seventies horror-exploitative experience.
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"Would you like a chocolate...or some inappropriate sexual innuendo with that bus ticket?"
Career do-badder Alvin Lee(who's just blasted his adulterous wife and her latest bedroom conquest to high heaven), while on the run from the authorities haphazardly finds himself a prisoner to Lemora(Lesley Gilb),a vampire who surrounds herself with a posse of hooded confederates and several gleeful dead children, ultimately ending up on the silk-clad nosferatu's personal wine list.Lemora glimpses a picture of Alvin's angelic teenaged daughter,Lila(Cheryl Smith), a sweetheart who's been living with the local reverend(director Blackburn himself) and singing hymns during his religious services, as distanced from her father's life of evil criminality as she could be.Lemora writes a letter to Lila urging that she come right away to hear her dying father's confessions and apologies as per his wishes.The irreproachable child stows away in the car of a couple for a ride to the bus station,with the driver making offcolor remarks about the girl's upright nature and joking about her ostensible sexual relations with the reverend.At the station, the ticket vendor comes on to her before offering her candy with sexual connotations attached.She boards a rickety antique bus,the only one of the night bound for Astaroth(nice name),when the capricious driver(Hy Pike)warns her of the surrounding countryside during the midnight hours;roamed by multitudes of beastmen overcome by an inborn need to shed human blood, who drag him off screaming in front of the girl's very eyes when the bus breaks down.
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"Astaroth...that's gotta be six or seven branch shadows past the windows away from here."
Lila gets herself locked in a small room, and harrassed by a cackling,toothless old hag who preys on her fears until Lemora is content to let the young abductee into her home.Lemora offers her a change of clothes,an endless flow of obsequious banter, and finally presses her to join the vampire and her merry band of cherubic corpses in a chalice full o' blood.When Lila gets dizzy from the plasma cocktail, Lemora spins her wildly in a maypole dance to a victrola recording, bathes her in a copper pot, then tickles her.Maybe Lila would have been better off with some of the perverts from earlier in the movie.Just sayin'.The reverend, lost without his delicate, young flower, sets out in his car to find her, just as she attempts a daring midnight escape from her pale captor in purple nailpolish, whose eyes rarely nictitate.There's a beastman v. vampire rowdydow that momentarily aids the pubescent church singer in her skedaddle, with her own escaped father fighting for the beastie cause, but Lemora ends up on top, as she always has.Lila takes part in a weird silk-based(where are these dust bowl bloodsuckers getting these elaborate silk outfits anyway?) vampire ritual according to Lemora's wishes as the reverend appears on the scene.Lila(wearing silk,natch)jumps into the holy man's arms and smothers him with kisses to his initial dissapproval, but he soon gives in and starts making out with the child(!), who rears back and displays her nifty new pointy eye teeth, just before she goes in for a drink.Credits,anyone?
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Lilah(Rainbeaux Smith),naked and crammed into an uncomfortable tub,and still looking less uncomfortable than Lemora(Lesley Gilb) does.
The late cult goddess Cheryl Smith appeared in countless horror and exploitation flicks in the seventies and eighties:Caged Heat,Swinging Cheerleaders,Massacre at Central High,Incredible Melting Man,Laserblast,Cinderella,Up in Smoke,and Vice Squad,to name just a few, before succumbing at 47 to complications from her long battle with heroin addiction in 2002.She's still one of my very favorite actresses,and will probably always be.Sadly, Lesley Gilb herself was killed in a car accident two years ago.Director Blackburn only ever directed an episode of tv's Tales From the Darkside apart from tonight's review, but to his credit, co-wrote and produced the Paul Bartel cult classic "Eating Raoul",as well as scoring a cameo within.The venerable Pike appeared in cult favorites such as Dolemite,Spawn of the Slithis,Vamp,Hack O'Lantern,and even Blade Runner before he passed away in 2006.Wow, this update paragraph is turning out to be a real drag with all this death already, isn't it?Let's wrap it up before I do a screaming header out the bedroom window myself.Seek this out and give it a look, I think you'll find a lot to like about it, despite its visible flaws.Two wops.
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I suppose those could pass as fangs.Yeah, I'm feeling charitable.
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"La Setta"(1991)d/Michele Soavi

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As the resident uber-Italian on the block, I draw the most satisfaction from reviewing my fellow countrymen and their genre efforts here for your entertainment.Nothing exhilarates me more than a good horror movie, except maybe a good Italian horror movie, of course.Tonight,we'll cover a beautifully ominous and enigmatic example from my favorite of these aforementioned directors, fellow Milanese, Michele Soavi, that happens to star eighties scream screen Jamie Lee Curtis' older sister, Kelly, as well as genre legend Herbert Lom in one of his winter years appearances, and Soavi regular Tomas Arana in a splendid turn as a Manson-esque mass murdering Satanist.Also on board for the nether-born chaos and carnality (filmed over three months in 1990 for roughly two million dollars) are Donald(Dr. Butcher,M.D./Zombi Holocaust)O'Brien, Mariangela Giordano, and the legendary cult hero, Giovanni Lombardo Radice in a memorable cameo sequence, proving he may be the best at portraying an off-kilter kook on camera.Even Soavi himself turns up in an uncredited cameo as a magician on television.The effects were, of course handled by maestro, Sergio Stivaletti(some of the oddest work I've seen from him to date); with original sountrack work handled by none other than Pino Donaggio.
From the initial frames the viewer instantly knows it's a Soavi movie, due to the highly stylish trademark cinematography within, engulfing the film in a dream-like aura, making one wonder if he or she wasn't in the middle of an elaborately strange yet beautiful nightmare; a nod of influence to producer and co-writer Dario Argento perhaps, perhaps due in part to the surreal quality of the odd story itself.I haven't seen too many people champion Setta, as should definitely be the case here, but I blame that upon lack of exposure to many genre fans, and not a general dislike for the movie.I suspect that the pedestrian U.S. release title,"The Devil's Daughter" and the uninspiring Italian region 2 dvd sleeve artwork(Kelly Curtis holding a constrictor superimposed over some tinted energy lightning.Scared yet?Nah, me neither.More horrible than horrifying.) haven't helped win many viewers over either.A screening will have the opposite effect, revealing a murky,atmospheric,and often very spooky experience if you're willing to accept it.Highly recommended.
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What Martin Romero(Johnny Morghen) lacks in hair follicles, he makes up for with batshit craziness.
We open in the desert with a commune full of sixties reject hippie dirt merchants doing what they do best, getting their tits painted and neglecting their kids, until they're finally set upon by a murderous cell of Satanic bikers, led by Damon(Tomas Arana) who's like Charlie Manson with better taste in music(he quotes the Rolling Stones, not the Beatles).Thankfully they slaughter the whole camp like groovy peacenik piggies,with Damon pow-wowing about a devil-driven apocalypse with unseen passengers in an ominous black limousine afterwards.It's not time, just yet.We spring ahead decades later to the nineties in Germany, where Martin Romero(get it?)(Johnny Morghen) is driven by unhallowed motives and impious forces to stalk and kill a woman, before a subway pickpocket unwittingly lifts a disembodied human heart from his pocket(Bobby Rhodes Demoni voice:"That'll teach ya to steal thangs!"), leading him to kill himself with an officer's revolver rather than be arrested for his heinous crime.Meanwhile a grizzled, feculent methuselah(Always wanted to call somebody that FTR) named Moebius(Herbert Lom)rides a cross-country bus, clutching a mysterious package and intermittently dosing his peepers with some horrible dark liquid.During a pitstop he is walloped to the asphalt by a car driven by a woman named Mirium(Kelly Curtis).He refuses the obligatory ride to the hospital, opting instead to recharge his creepy batteries on her couch for the night.A bad move on her part, unless she was looking for the elderly stranger to sneak into her room during the night and allow an earwig-esque insect of unknown origin crawl up one of her nostrils and exiting Stage Well-in-the-cellar, which I probably don't think was the case...A simple "Heyyy,thanks for letting me crash at your place, baby." would have been closer to proper etiquette here.
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Jovny the Vlasic stork delivers a diabolical pickle from Hell.
Before too long, Moebius' true intentions for the attractive young school teacher become known, camoflaged against a haze of deliriously wild dream imagery like a television watching bunny(...yes,bunny) that even channel surfs with the remote, an amorous stork(...yes,stork) with a propensity for rape and pecking mealworms out a beak-created meathole in a human neck, faces peeled off n' jacked up with the aid of multiple surgical finger-hooks, origin-free blue stringy residue in glasses of drinking water, evil animate hankies that form-fit into death masks(Sam Raimi was watching, no doubt) on the grillpiece of Miriam's friend and fellow schoolteacher Kathryn(Mariangela Giordano,of "Burial Ground" fame), and irrational giallo-styled stabbings: He is the elder of a sinister sect that has targeted Miriam as the life-vessel to carry the hell-seed to bear the son of the dark lord and master, Satan himself, triggering the Astarothical armageddon that Damon was plugging for in the first reel, enslaving the doomed human race.This all should have become painfully apparent when she discovered the Carollian portal to Hell in her basement.She probably might have wanted to check for that when she bought the house in the first place, I dunno.Does Ol' Scratch get the opportunity to hand out brimstone-flavoured "It's a boy" cigars? I'll let you snare a copy and find out what happens at the climax for yourselves.You'll dig it.
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...On the receiving end of what's known in the industry as a "reverse Joan Rivers".
As far as I know, no NTSC dvd has been released for tonight's review as of yet; I rushed out and grabbed the Italian disc with all speed ages ago, and it perplexes the writhing screw out of me to see genre fans whimpering about paying twenty-two dollars for a dvd(I paid more than that, ya petticoats!), let alone one by a masterful director such as Soavi that they've more than likely yet to see, yet box packages of Peter Jackson's Rings trilogy(they've likely seen a dozen times already) go for upwards of eighty bucks(...an expensive hobbit indeed.Sorry.),and spend weeks on the best seller list with no backlash.Prioritize intelligently, is what I'm saying here, woprophiles mine.
A visually stunning and bizarre progression from his previous two genre pieces,Stagefright(1987)and La Chiesa(1989),Setta, which was also puzzlingly marketed to some extent as Demons 4(with Chiesa serving as Demons 3), is an expert honing of Soavi's directorial blade, which would be held aloft over all(at least according to ol' Wop's standards anyway) by the time of his next film,Dellamorte Dellamore(1994), his last horror film to date.I've seen hardline Argentophiles rip on Soavi for this movie's Dario-esque feel, even going so far as to call him a hack because of it.Climb out of Argento's ass already, ye blind sycophants, and conserve your venom for more deserving Italo-cinema failures,like Trauma(1993) or Phantom of the Opera(1998).Pssst, that's two more asspies than Michele has ever helmed.Soavi rules.Three wops.
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Put that groady external womb-bag away, would you? Can't take you anyplace.
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"Raw Meat"(1972)d/Gary Sherman

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You'll have to wait for my "Mind the doors!" pun 'til later on in the post(with Doors fans acknowledging and respecting my personal opinion,thanks), since most of you already know it's coming before we start.For years this title remained a rarely seen, admittedly dated little number indeed, until that marvelous new vista in home entertainment(digital versatile disc,natch) made it readily available for the horror-starved masses looking to finally screen c.h.u.d.'s British predecessor for themselves, myself included.What followed is a twisted little dittie with surprising levels of early gore as the U.S. title promises(released as "Death Line" in d.o. Blighty), that occasionally plods along just like its minimalist synth-heavy score as provided by Wil Malone, and examined in-depth by the L.I. Ripper on one of his glorious blogsites.Despite its pacing troubles, the movie offers interesting character studies by long-time cult fave Donald Pleasance as a skeptical-yet-street smart Cockney cozzer with no hatred for the drink, and genre maestro Christopher Lee in an enjoyably smarmy cameo, all directed by American Gary Sherman, whose other work we'll also come back to later in the entry, if that's alright with you lot.Tube filming(for you Underground historians and factual hairsplitters) took place at Aldwych station, which was in a state of disuse at the time, and Holborn, which was still up n' running, despite a disused Museum tube in the movie, mentioned by name.All-in-all, not a bad way to burn an hour and a half for horror fans hoping to catch something relatively unique in both story and tone.The story goes like this...
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Cannibalistic British Underground Chappies: One man's cadavers are another man's(Hugh Armstrong) vittles.
After a political suit's attempts at procuring a bit of weathered-looking krumpet in a mostly deserted area of the tube go sour when they haggle over prices(she knees him where lemonade is made), he is suddenly attacked by an unknown assailant, who is interrupted by an incoming train that lets off Alex and Patricia(David Ladd, Sharon Gurney), an American collegiate and his British squeeze, who come to the man's aid, but when they return with a nearby bobby, the bloke's pulled a bloody Houdini, hasn't he?Enter Detective Sargeant Rogers(Norman Rossington) and Inspector Calhoun(Donald Pleasance), the salt-of-the-earth duo responsible for the investigatory procedures that follow the ensuing report, only to be visited by a mean-spirited MI5 agent named Stratton-Villiers(Christopher Lee) who matter-of-factly tells the policemen that their services are no longer needed for this particular case(in more sarcastically brilliant terms).Calhoun tells Stratton-Villiers that he and his partner will continue the investigation despite the agent's words(well, he tells him to fuck off, actually).Though the lawmen seem content to merely harrass the American student and his girlfriend to no end, even though they're the pair who brought the disappearance to light in the first place(what is it with cinematic cops and young people anyway?), the real reason behind the vanishing is much more convoluted and sinister...
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Inspector Calhoun(Donald Pleasance)tells Stratton-Villiers(Christopher Lee) to "fuck off".Not very nice at all, is it, now?
The last surviving cannibalistic descendants of a small group of miners subsisting in a sealed off section of the Underground(trapped when a turn of the century mine collapsed upon them and the mining company simply gave up in retrieving any survivors and/or corpses as they went bankrupt) previously content to only eat each other as they grew old and sick, has taken to venturing out into the surrounding subway tunnels in search of the titular life-sustaining meat.One sickly pregnant woman, and one scabrous hulk of a man(Hugh Armstrong), neither of which would classify as "healthy-looking" under the medical scrutiny of many practitioners of such.The man resembles a Led Zeppelin roadie after one seventies acid trip too many, forever shambling after a tour bus that's long since been retired to blocks.Their subterranean digs are peppered with both the decaying remains of family members the man honours by showering gifts pilfered from recent victims upon, and the victims themselves, hung on hooks as morbid future food supplies, surrounded by scavenging rodents, and dimly lit by Victorian era gaslights.Bleech.When the man's vile mate finally expires due to disease(unidentified, but really, just pick one and you'll probably nail it), he takes it upon himself to blag Stephanie to replace her(when he isn't biting the heads off of rats, that is), leaving it up to Alex(who proves to be just as violent-prone as our sore-laden antagonist...who's the real savage,I say!) to pull off an exciting rescue at the finale.Mind the doors, indeed.
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A different brand of 'terrifying':Lee playing a squirrelly MI5 agent with an unnerving smile.
Director Sherman would go on to helm the cult classic Dead and Buried in 1981, as well as Vice Squad, Wanted:Dead or Alive with Rutger Hauer, and Poltergeist III.Pleasance moved on to Tales That Witness Madness, The Mutations, and From Beyond the Grave after finishing this one.Christopher Lee?He only followed his cameo up with roles in The Satanic Rites of Dracula and The Wicker Man, while Norm Rossington appeared in the telefilm Frankenstein:The True Story, and later in my favorite tv series of all-time, I, Claudius.David Ladd was a seventies tv staple, while co-star Sharon Gurney disappeared off the radar after this film, despite her volcanically hot chelsea-esque hairdo within.Hugh Armstrong went on to a long career in British television, and an appearance in Don Coscarelli's 1982 sword and sorcery nod, The Beastmaster.Seek it out, give it a chance, and you'll most likely find yourself entertained by the final credits, if not feeling a bit peckish yourselves.Two wops.
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"Mind the doors!"(I don't mind them, actually.They're okay, if not slightly overrated and very overplayed.)
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Decade's Most Diabolical:Wopsploitation's Horror Top Ten of the 2000's

We've gone through the first decade of the new millenium like Charlie Sheen with a seven gram readyrock(and finished it, too,'cuz that's how we roll.Duh!Winning.)and an itchy lighter-thumb, so it stands to reason that we might post a leaderboard of sorts thus far, to showcase my favorite examples of genre cinema of the past ten years.A lot of flicks just missed the cut, but ten didn't, and
in no particular order, here they are, in all their gruesomely gory glory:
Dog Soldiers(2002)
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My favorite modern werewolf movie since The Howling(1980).Read the review here.
À l'intérieur/Inside(2007)
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Beautifully crafted tension, wince-worthy effects.As if pregnancy wasn't trying enough.Here's the review.
Српски филм/A Serbian Film(2010)
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Repugnantly brilliant.Makes the drugs,AIDS,and suicides in the porn industry seem downright glamorous.Covered here.
August Underground's Mordum(2003)
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If I end up in Hell, it'll be because I sat through this unspeakably repulsive nastiness,reviewed here.Thanks, Fred.
The Human Centipede-First Sequence(2010)
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Equal parts originality and straightjacket-worthy lunacy.You might've read the recent entry here.
[rec](2007)
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¡Viva España!Extremely well-constructed avant garde chiller with jump scares a plenty.Can't believe I haven't gotten around to reviewing this yet.Soon, droogies.Soon.
Haute Tension(2003)
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Aja's finest to date,a throwback to the splattery eighties.The titular tension abounds, matched only by De Rossi carnage.A full entry is in the works.
The Descent(2005)
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Neil Marshall makes the list twice.Maybe the finest chicks down a hole movie I've ever seen.
Land of the Dead(2004)
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Romero's last good movie to date.I hope it doesn't end up being his cinematic epitaph.Covered here.
Låt den rätte komma in(2008)
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Probably my favorite horror movie of the past twenty years; lyrical, poignant, and innovative.Read my gushing praise for it here.
That's my list.Disagree with my inclusions?Agree with my exclusions?All feedback will be grooved upon heavily, no doubt about it, baby.Lay your decade's top ten on me in the comment section or via e-mail(lastwopontheright@gmail.com).I'd highly dig dialogue with any and all of you on the subject, and value your opinions, as always.Perhaps in the coming months I'll tackle the tops of the nineties and work backwards from there.Anything's possible.Either way,I'll be looking forward to hearing from you.
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B-Dub

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Justine"(1968)d/Jesus Franco

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Tonight we examine the screen adaption of a book once called "the most abominable book ever engendered by the most depraved imagination"(that's a tall order,shorty) by no less than Napoleon Bonaparte, resulting in the thirteen year imprisonment of its author;a man known the world over as the father of Sadism, the Marquis DeSade.An ambitious undertaking for any director, granted, and somewhat ironic that none other than Jesus Franco would helm the project during one of his more prolific and respectable periods of work.Perhaps the true irony here is that Franco doesn't bung the whole production down the lavvy, despite his signature eternity-long zooming hand held shots that often end up blurred and out-of-focus, or more often, on some broad's hairy gravy boat, on display for all to see.In this film, the bush just happens to belong to the daughter of silver screen swashbuckler,Tyrone Power,whose fatal heart attack came ten years earlier in 1958, and not directly after screening Romina in her birthday suit here as one might deduce.Also lending credibility to the Italian production are performances by Franco regular Maria Rohm, the one and only Klaus Kinski(who's kind of wasted here, only bagging silent screen time as DeSade himself), the actress behind the husky screen voice of Pazuzu in The Exorcist, Mercedes McCambridge, and even local great Jack Palance, who's not only appropriately off-the-chain as a sexually deviant libertine here, he also levitates for anybody interested in seeing that sort of thing.Nothing would surprise me at this point after checking out some of the search topics that bring readers to the Wop every day.Y'never know.So does Franco do the literary pornography of DeSade any justice?Read on for my verdict.
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DeSade(Klaus Kinski)lets his quill do all the talking.
As we begin,the Marquis DeSade(Kinski)relates the sad tale to the viewer from the confines of prison, tortured by hallucinogenic images of, well...bare-assed women being tortured(I'm pretty sure he grooved on this sort of thing IRL).Juliette and Justine(Maria Rohm, Romina Power)get thrown out of a nunnery when their father unexpectedly dies.When Juliette's friend, Madame de Buission, turns out to be a brothel madam, the more virtuous and pure sister, Justine, bows out gracefully, while her nasty whorish sister Juliette willingly sets up camp in the whorehouse, learning all the carnal skills to make herself the apex prostitute.Meanwhile, things for Justine go from bad to progressively worse.A passing priest jacks her up for her gold doubloons and passes her on to a fat old scumbag named Du Harpin, who frames her with a gold amulet stolen from his master, Monsieur Derroches, ultimately landing her in prison.There she is befriended by Dusbois(Mercedes McCambridge),a gravelly-voiced she-assassin who takes pity on her for her innocent looks, and incorporates the young girl in a daring escape plan involving a set fire.Her sister, meanwhile, has honed her treachery to a fine point, adding murder to her growing list of unscrupulous talents; killing her madam and a rich client to boost her own pile of duckats.When Dusbois' henchman vie for dibs on deflowering their new young accomplice in the forest, she makes her escape, finding shelter and love for a short time in the home of a painter named Raymond.
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Dusbois(Mercedes McCambridge),a condemned virago, still manages to set aside some quality gypo dancing time.
Her happiness with Raymond is short-lived though, as the police inquire as to her whereabouts, forcing her to flee into the woods, coming upon the shrewd and loafer-light Marquis de Bressac, who hires her as an attendant to his wife, the Marquise(genre fave Sylvia Koscina), that he's been planning to eighty-six all along.When she refuses to kill the woman for him, he kills her himself with poison and frames Justine anyway, branding a huge M(for murderer) between her smallish(but appetizing just the same!) busom.At the same time, her sister Juliette has amassed a small fortune from her wicked ways that she no longer fancies sharing with fellow prostitute Claudine, so she sinks her in the drink while bathing in a river.Just when things seem to be looking up for Justine as she finds herself in a chateau occupied by a monastic brotherhood led by Father Antonin(Jack Palance), she discovers in horror that the men are perverted hedonists in search of the highest forms of physical pleasure, torturing women that they keep as sex slaves.During a ceremony where Antonin plans to reward Justine for rapidly learning their philosophy by releasing her through torture-killing her(Englebert Humperdinck would not be amused), things go wrong and she escapes once again.Her brief lover Raymond rescues her again only to have Dusbois abduct her again, forcing her to appear nude in a stage show where the crowd notices her murderess brand, causing her to be dragged off by the police again(Phew!).Before the King's men can enforce their justice though, she is noticed by a minister's mistress who saves her life.The woman of position turns out to be Juliette herself, confessing that her life of big black evil badness turned out be less fulfilling than she thought, and her sister Justine would finally be rewarded despite her long-standing misery.Justine takes up at the palace with her sibling, and is reunited with her lover, Raymond.Awwww, that's nice.
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The sweet and virtuous Justine(Romina Power), willing to break it all out for love and art.
Surprisingly, the movie is as reasonably close to the book as one could expect here, sparing audiences Justine's death at an untimely lightning bolt after confessing her sins to her sister(!).I dunno, I woulda dug seeing that, to be truthful.Franco sandwiched this release between 99 Women and Eugenie, The Story of Her Journey into Perversion, before moving on to Venus in Furs, and two Christopher Lee vehicles, The Bloody Judge and Count Dracula, the following year.The oft-nude Power would continue on in Italian film for decades, adding singing, writing, and painting to her already impressive repertoir.She does an adequate job here(though she's at least five years older than the literary model fyi), always looking the right mixture of innocence and untapped sex appeal.McCambridge, who also landed a part in 99 Women as Franco-philes will already know, bagged herself a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1949 and was once called the greatest living radio actress by none other than Orson Welles himself.Tonight's review will finally break the string of three wop movies we've had here recently, though it should be noted that a two wop Franco movie is like a three wopper for other directors, in most cases.Worth a look!
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Jack Palance's portrayal of Father Antonin is based entirely on a chunk of Prosciutto di Praga...believe it....or not.
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