One would be justified in saying that director Emilio Miraglia's genre output is hardly prolific, consisting of merely two films, 1971's La notte che Evelyn usci dalla tomba aka/ The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, and the film he made the following year, which just so happens to be the one we'll be focusing on tonight, but most of his fans would also agree that the caliber of his work far negates the scarcity of it. Nowhere is that more apparent than here, a stylishly framed giallo of the highest order, with plenty of atmosphere and complexity, vibrant colors, beautiful women, and violent death set against the gothic backdrop of a castle with a murderous history that even the most gluttonous genre-gastronomes will find themselves well gorged on by the final reel.
"Teste rotoleranno se non ottenete dalla mia vista!"
After watching adorable little blonde Kitty's unbalanced brunette sister Evelyn gleefully stab up and remove the head-piece of her favorite doll in front of an odd painting of two historical sisters at perpetual war with each other in hundred year intervals, their kindly old grandpa decides that it'd be a good time to lay the castle's well-worn legend of the Black Queen and Red Queen on them, having barely just stopped a crazed Evelyn (who's also been singsong-edly repeating "I am the Red Lady, and Kitty is the Black Lady!", mind you) from turning the ornately decorated blade on her own hysterical sister. That oughta calm them down, for sure. You see, the Black Queen killed the Red one, titularly stabbing her seven times, before she vengefully arose from her grave a year later, killing seven people herself, with her seventh and final victim being her sibling-in-black. You know, I'm no psychic or anything, but I'd lay a c-note on the possibility that something very similar to the legend is going to occur between these two tiny terrors when they grow up...
Damn, you leakin'....brang ambalamps.
Wouldn't you know it, years later, a beautiful adult version of Kitty (Barbara Bouchet), now a highly touted fashion photographer, stands to gain a large inheritance in twelve months time, except that a pale figure with dark hair in a red cape that many have identified as the Red Queen with the maniacal laugh herself, has begun stalking and offing folks in a savage (yet strangely inventive) manner nearby. Kitty's pretty sure it can't be Evelyn, since she ran off to the States...or she may have been accidentally snuffed during an icy catfight, and possibly by her golden-haired sister, at that. Then, we've got her ambitious beau, Martin (Ugo Pagliai), who's in line for promotion in fashion house management when he's not fighting off the amorous advances of Lulu Palm (Sybil Danning), a model who's even more enterprising than he is, and often quite vocal about her sexual prowess, when she isn't shedding every stitch of gear in a Manhattan millisecond, just to prove her point, Gods bless her. Herrings-a-plenty, and each as red as the titular Queen's memorable hooded cape, follow, and of course, I'm not going to spoil any of the gruesome goings on here for you. See it.
This particular blonde queen(Sybil Danning) kills me innumerable times.
The picturesque blonde Bouchet would appear throughout the decade in genre fare such as La tarantola dal ventre nero aka/ Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971) and Fernando Di Leo's Milano calibro 9 aka/ Caliber 9 (1972) , Casa d'appuntamento aka/ The French Sex Murders (1972), as well as Fulci's No si sevizia un paperino aka/ Don't Torture a Duckling (1972). She'd later represent the "Have's" (versus the "Have Not's", of course) in Scorsese's Gangs of New York (2002), which also features a brief cameo from Johnny Morghen, interestingly enough. Meanwhile, besides her roles in both of Miraglia's genre efforts, Marina Malfatti was showing up in things like Eugenio Martin's La ultima senora Anderson aka/ Death at the Deep End of the Swimming Pool (1971), Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso aka/ Seven Bloodstained Orchids (1972), Sergio Martino's Tutti i colori del buio aka/ All the Colors of the Dark (1972), and Il prato macchiato di rosso (1973).While we're on the subject, I should probably mention that Sybil Danning...sigh...would also appear in L'occhio nel labirinto (1972). You could still pick up the famed Miraglia Killer Queen box set from NoShame (which not only includes both films, but a nifty sculpted figure of the Red Queen herself, and was limited to seven thousand copies) on Amazon for fifty bucks, so why wouldn't you. Not on par with Argento at his best, by any stretch of the imagination, but still... Four wops.
Lei ha molto sulla sua mente...come spuntoni recinzione.
While we Italian genre maniacs were all waiting patiently for the final installment of Dario Argento's Three Mothers trilogy at the tail end of the eighties, director Luigi Cozzi, of Starcrash (1978) and Contamination (1980) fame, went ahead and delivered his own take on the witchy goings on, in the form of tonight's review, with splashes of colored light, a pinch of gore, and obligatory rubbery sorceress action courtesy of Rosario Prestopino. The film, alternately known as Demons 6: De Profundis, showcases the familiar genre faces of Urbano Barberini, Florence Guerin, director Michele Soavi in a brief cameo, and of course, Caroline Munro. Wouldn't be a proper Cozzi film without her, and in this particular case, lots of her.
"Stress lines, cover wear, staining...and you call this copy VG/FN??"
We meet a rising actress and new mother named Anne (Florence Guerin) as she's working on a formulaic horror film based on Poe's The Black Cat for a hack director named Carl (Michele Soavi...yeah, right!) while her husband Marc (Urbano Barberini) jockeys to get his next project funded. With the upcoming film's subject matter concerning the third, and most horrible of the Mothers of Sorrow, as imagined by author Thomas De Quincey, and Marc even name dropping Dario Argento along the way, is it any wonder that such a blasphemous production would awaken a witch named Levana, with copyright infringement, possession, and bloody witchcraft-based death in mind. The rubbery resurrected spellcaster takes her would be cinematic namesake's role research personally, infiltrating her dreams with space footage borrowed from Cozzi's Hercules movies, repeatedly visiting from inside her mirror, Exorcist-style projectile vomiting, and even haunting the poor girl's refrigerator and creating refrigerator repairmen mirages, along the way. Just stay outta the veggie crisper, Levana, come on now.
She's Lump, she's Lump, she's Lump. She's got a rubbery head.
Of course, the film's producer, is an invalid named Leonard Levin (Brett Halsey) who may or may not be in secret cahoots with Levana, having that cleverly homonymous last name and all, and Anne's actress/gal pal and girlfriend to Marc's scriptwriter, the ever-mugging Nora (Caroline Munro)'s sun-scorched leathery skin is too similar in texture to Levana's latex black magic acne problem for her own good, methinks. Oh yeah, people get murdered along the way, there's a close up neck ventilation, a slow motion exploding midsection that will more than remind some of you of Cozzi's earlier Alien (1979) rip-off, Contamination (1980), and a television screen that vomits entrails and soupy goop in a similar fashion to that famous Cronenberg 1981 floor model. Levana kidnaps Anna's newborn, with designs on sacrificing her, naturally, but Anna allies herself with the spirit of a fairy, and that can only mean one thing: it's time for a lackluster, low budgeted, laser effect-packed "what the fuck just happened?" finale. Roll credits.
When Celiac sufferers eat pizza made with high gluten flour, this is often the tragic result.
Whether you consider this one Demons 6, Suspiria 3, or The Black Cat (I don't really consider it a true sequel to anything, really, more of an ultra cheap spin off), depends on what characteristic rises to the surface from Cozzi's cloudy soup of genre elements for you, I guess. If it's poxy eighties hair metal, nonsensical gore, and Urbano Barberini, then you'd roll with Demons 6. If the colored filters, cues lifted from Goblin's Suspiria score, and direct references to the Argento film stand out, you'd probably call it Suspiria 3. There's barely anything Black Cat-ish to speak of, here, though Fulci allegedly expressed some desire in taking the chair on the movie, despite having already covered all things ebony feline himself, some eight years earlier. You see where I'm going with this, don't you? On the scale, Il gatto's much too incoherent and balls up to merit anything more than a single Wop, though you completists and trash lovers might want to hunt down the Japanese VHS, which may very well still be the only legitimate release of the film to date, just the same.
Cheap laser visual effects. Nothing embodies the powers of eighties-style witchery like them.
I'm not gonna apologize for my several day sabbatical from the Wop that just so happened to coincide with the weekend of my birthday, which began promisingly enough, hanging out with several of my favorite genre stars in the so-called Electric City, but quickly dissolved into another antisocial bender after watching my kicker-less Lions lose one they had under wraps for most of sixty minutes on Sunday. Sure, they're notorious for such heartbreaking shenanigans, but it never gets any easier to stomach for the die hard fan base, especially those of us who've been watching since the late seventies...even if it's like, the five hundredth time it's happened. Linnea still gives the best hugs, and Jeffrey Combs is a trip, in person, as I'd long expected. Cat dead. Details later. Back to the usual rock n' roll...
"Wait until you feast your eyes upon my groovy head wrap...", quips Mara (Paola Tedesco).
After a stage actress named Mara (Paola Tedesco) narrowly misses being an eyewitness to the brutal blunt force trauma/neck ventilation upon a hapless old workaholic pharmacist as performed by your obligatory shadowy, black gloved killer , she finds herself drawn into a larger, more convoluted mystery, as investigated by her old flame, a cigar puffing, mustached busybody named Lukas (Corrado Pani), who's not at all connected to the police, but thinks nothing of putting his psychedelic head-wrapped love interest in dire jeopardy, with a rising tide of unsolved murders rushing in, as he focuses his attention on a spindly balding fellow named Bozzi (Fernando Cerulli), who's been receiving some interesting crank calls late at night, that seem to showcase some blood-curdling screams, barking Dobermans, trains, you know, that sort of thing.
"Chi di voi libertini sta per cambiare il mio pannolino di merda?"
Meanwhile, some poor female pawn in the deadly game gets her face cooked in an oven like so much manicotti, leading Lukas to lean on the escaped criminal named Ferrante (Franco Citti), who happened to be incarcerated while the growing list of victims served as jurors. A visibly annoyed Ferrante orders Lukas to chuck himself off of the top of a steep waterfall at gunpoint, which leads to an uninspired punch up on the rocks, after which Ferrante puzzlingly vows to help him uncover the real murderer. I'm on the lam, you alerted the authorities that I might be the killer they're looking for, you know what, why don't I help you find the guy. With an unglued Mara ready to split the scene for keeps, Lukas convinces her to instead travel to Padova with him (Can this guy sell ice cubes to Eskimos or what?) to tie the last few loose ends in the case, but Bozzi gets c.t.f.o.-ed in the tub in an unpleasant manner, indeed, before he can come clean to the would be-detective. Could it be overzealous Nazi-hunting Jews behind the horrible murders afterall? Hmmmm. I wonder.
After Janet Leigh in the shower, Fernando Cerulli in the tub just seems like overkill.
Tonight's review is a decent enough giallo from the guy who'd also later helm Solamente nero (1978), translated as The Cat With Jade Eyes, and re-released in the United States at the dawn of the eighties with a nifty new violent looking one sheet and title (Watch Me When I Kill) that misleadingly disguises the film as a straight slasher flick, which it really never was. I never noticed any jade-eyed cats either, but who really pays that much attention to minor details anyway, right? Bido's leads were Paola Tedesco who'd appeared in things like Alberto Di Martino's Crime Boss (1972) and Dario Argento's La porta sul buio aka/ Door Into Darkness (1973) series, and Corrado Pani, of nothing I can recall seeing, offhand. Mi scusi, Corrado. Bido himself, turns up in a cameo as a dance choreographer. On the scale, this cat scores a pair of Wops, and is always worth a look for any enthusiasts of the genre searching for new/old material to screen. Look for it.
Do those peepers look Schweinfurt green to you? Baby blue, I dunno, I'm no color specialist.
Some Italian genre directors, like Fabrizio De Angelis (under his favorite pseudonym Larry Ludman, here) fully realize that inanimate-looking prop sharks and grainy stock footage aren't the only homicidal animals they can sculpt a horrendous Jaws rip-off around, as the international title of tonight's review, Killer Crocodile (Murder Alligator, too, I shit you not), would lead you to believe. To fabricate Fabrizio's raucous rampaging reptile, none other than the gore FX maestro, Giannetto De Rossi, was called upon, and you can see what the results looked like for yourselves, below. Not quite as jaw-dropping as his work on Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974) or Zombi 2 (1979), but the croc's signature wheeze (Go easy on the 'Ports, big fella?) sounds an awful lot like one of De Rossi's flesh-eating ghouls from the latter film, to me.
"Questo ragazzo sapore come pollo!"
It all kicks off when two night fishermen are interrupted by a legendary killer crocodile. How do we know this? It must be the dramatic titles hastily slapped over a freeze frame of the attacking beast, around one minute in. No tension-packed slow build to a shocking final reel reveal here, no sir. Enter a vanilla assembly of would be environmentalists, as led by Richard Crenna's son, who unwittingly stumble upon several fifty-five gallon hand-painted drums of toxic waste sloppily dumped along the river's edge, then lean on a very sweaty and very irritable local judge (Van Johnson) to, you know, clean it all up, maaaaaan. Only he's pals with a cat named Foley (Bill Wohrman) who can't wait to dump his next big shipment of waste in the river. The group's token black girl, Conchita, gets chewed up and spit out first, leading her mourning friends to, you know, side with the croc, maaaaan, instead of the local croc hunting son of a bitch, a scarred up adventurer in a panama hat named Joe (Ennio Girolami), who shares a roomy shack of corrugated cardboard and plywood with his pet snake. "C'monnn Joe. You aren't afraid of a...killer crocodile, are you?", one of the kids actually asks him at one point. Seriously.
How could we have guessed she wasn't gonna be the "final girl".
It seems that Foley's careless dumping of toxic waste has mutated the prop-odile into monstrous (and varying, depending on the shot) proportions, and after comically terrorizing a little girl on a sinking chunk of pier, it starts picking off our young peaceniks, who camp out on the shore of the river in a show of support for the misunderstood monster, who's gotta endure being harpooned and ridden like a surfboard by the relentless Joe. Once their male buddies become the croc's dinner (and not the black girl with two lines, and her dog), the formerly environmentally conscious survivors naturally declare war on the amphibious beast and team up with Joe, who's prone to carrying his shotgun everywhere he goes, and also dramatically admiring his scarred reflection in the mirror in his shack. Foley reassures the judge that he can handle the animal himself, and by "handle", he means "get his arm chewed off after leaving the sweaty adjudicator to drown in a dastardly double cross". Sound ridiculous? Just wait until a bloodied and battered Joe miraculously pops out of the trees and throws one of the boys his cheesy hat, no doubt inspiring the young man to blow the beast up by chucking an outboard motor into its open yap. He repeatedly screams, "Yeah! Yeah!! YEAHHH!!" like a fanatical maniac, while being showered in raining blood. I had to laugh, and you might, too.
"I was in 'The Caine Mutiny' with Bogart, and now I'm doing fucking 'Murder Alligator'...", laments Van Johnson.
Even maestro Riz Ortolani, how can I put this... borrows generously from John Williams' groundbreaking 1975 score in creating one that befits such an unapologetic low budget rip-off of the Spielberg film. De Rossi's animatronic crocodile, on the other hand, almost looks too impressive for the cheap affair, or at least, it might have, if they didn't show so much of it and so damned often. De Rossi himself would direct the sequel, Killer Crocodile 2, which happened to be shot at the exact same time as it's predecessor, using the same cast. While the gore here is ample and of passable quality, the (non-)acting, editing, and script are all unintentionally laughable, dragging the whole scareless, tension-free production into single Wop territory, as one might have expected.
Joe, the crocodile hunting son of a bitch-1, Quint-0.
Though many remember Abruzzi director Tonino Valerii for western fare like Il mio nome e' Nessuno aka/ My Name is Nobody (1973) and Una ragione per vivire e una per morire aka/ A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die (1972), with tonight's review, a complex giallo packed with stylish violence and rare levels of intensity, he proved himself well worthy of mention among the genre's finest, to be sure. To help him execute such a feat, Valerii enlisted the acting talents of Uruguayan giallo-staple, George Hilton, who'd appear in such films as Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh (1971), La coda dello scorpione (1971), Il diavolo ha sette facce (1971), and Tutti i colori del buio (1972), among others, over the years. Also aboard are the likes of Marilu Tolo, Patty Shepard, Salvo Randone, and William Berger. Andiamo...
"Dragare la palude... non mie spalle!"
After a choice decapitation-by-excavator effectively ends the final case (and life) of an insurance investigator named Paradisi, the mysterious death is looked into by a tireless police inspector named Peretti (George Hilton), who soon links the man's murder with the unsolved disappearance of a small girl named Stefania Moroni whose emasciated body was found in the same flooded quarry some twelve months earlier. With each lead he follows, Peretti is also faced with a new murder to cope with, as it seems the sadist in the obligatory black gloves that's responsible for the violent killings is always one step ahead of the frustrated lawman, who's also got an insatiable dame nipping at his heels for some horizontal action to the strains of another damned engaging score by the maestro, Ennio Morricone.
Nothing to see here, just another well-hung Italian guy.
With broad daylight post office stranglings, staged hangings, bludgeonings with heavy statuettes, and even a POV-style blood-spurting death-by-power saw, the killer eliminates all loose ends tying them to the original Moroni murder, though one of Stefania's school drawings offers Peretti special insight into the horrible deeds, and to the ultra-sketchy Moroni family for answers. There's a one-armed war hero named Oliviero(Tullio Valli), and his wife Carla (Monica Randall), a drug trafficker named Canavese (William Berger), a shack-dwelling garbage rummager named Mattia and his common law squeeze, Adele, a pedophile sculptor named Beniamino (a pubescent nude "model" strolls out while Peretti's questioning him), and a few others in the mix. But who could be secretly monstrous enough to hurt children? Fret not, all is revealed in the dynamic final reel of this one, but not by me, here, good sport that I, no doubt, am.
"Qualcuno mi ha finalmente inviato biglietto di S. Valentino!"
Randone is best known for roles in Salvatore Giuliano (1962) and Fellini's Satyricon (1969), among others, while Berger turned up in things like Bava's 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto (1970), Superfly T.N.T. (1973), and even Shark :Rosso nell'oceano (1984) . Tolo would appear in films like Dario Argento's Le cinque giornate (1973), Bluebeard (1972), and Assassinio al cimitero etrusco (1982). Patty Shepard moved to Spain and appeared in movies like Assignment Terror (1970), The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman (1971) and Escalofrio diabolico (1972), not to mention Hannah, Queen of the Vampires (1973) opposite Andrew Prine. I have to admit, I wasn't always a huge fan of the giallo outside of the Argento, Fulci, and Lenzi output I'd seen, but as I've gotten older I've come to better and more fully appreciate it's many quirky nuances and twists, much like I'd traded the hops and barley of my reckless youth for the taste of a good wine and a comfortable chair. If my reviews spark your interest in the genre, then you might also trust me when I say that this particular example is among the best of its kind, and a damned choice movie to begin your exploration with. Four wops.
"Non potro' mai ottenere queste piastrelle pulito ora!"
When you're dealing with Italian Jaws rip offs, things usually go one of two ways: a) The movie is laughably terrible and thus, a fucking blast to behold. b) The movie is Sangue negli abisi, or Deep Blood, an awful, sloppy, boring mess fumbled through for the most part, by Raf Donato, and completed by Roman porn king Joe D'Amato, our focus tonight as we kick off a month long selection of genre movies from Italy here at the Wop. As rotten as this thing is, and trust me, it's as rotten as the meat dumpster behind the slaughterhouse during a Texas heatwave, Italian trashmaster Bruno Mattei still somehow borrowed footage from it for his own pathetic Jaws rip-off, Fauci Crudelli/Cruel Jaws (1995).
"What's the big idea...dumping your Strawberry Quik in here!"
So, we've got these four young boys roasting weenies over a fire on the beach in broad daylight, when they're suddenly interrupted by what looks to be the town drunk vaguely garbed to resemble some sort of Indian. He lays a tribal legend about a monster from the sea on them, and gives them some ornate piece of wood to bury in the loose sand, but only after they've taken a blood oath to be there for each other, you know, for always. Fast forward several years, and our boyhood chums have now matured into young preppie non-actors, each with their own clunky exposition and flair for flubbing dialog. One's the son of a mayor, who shouts his lines and wears his slacks just south of his nipples, the other's the son of a fisherman who no longer fishes, content to bang a hammer against a wooden coop in the garage rather than fish. He doesn't even clearly explain why he doesn't fish anymore, he just doesn't. The third gets eaten while researching spearfishing locales (I think he does, anyway, if splashing around in strawberry-colored water before disappearing with the edit constitutes a shark attack here) with the fourth, a pouty kid with an annoying accent who's always telling the sweaty sheriff, who later exclaims, "How many sharks could there be out there!", how to do his job.
"Of course I'm a shark expert. Can't you see me running water over these shark jaws in the sink?", queries Rob Reiner.
Loads of inappropriate synth instrumental, action dialog from a stationary helicopter, footage of a dead shark being chain-dragged onto a pier by the mouth, a digested waitress, and one consumed mom on a pool float later (her mulleted little boy takes her passing like a champ, btw), the boys convince the fisherman to take them out to hunt the stock footage beast responsible for the deaths. The shark snaps the bait line and scares him into returning to land. Not much of an angler, this guy. Anyway, there's a rotten dramatic exchange between Pouty and his dad, and before you know it, the boys are joined by an eighties-tastic douchebag smartass who has a last second change of heart, they dig up the wooden artifact (and pocket knives, can't forget those), and set out to blow up the shark with crate upon crate of wooden planks painted to look like dynamite. Hell, they even recruit one of their mallrat pals to whip up an electronic shark attractor just for the occasion. Because sharks find yellow metal boxes with flashing lights on top irresistible, apparently. More synth, more stock footage, endless shots of nautical preppies wrapping wood together with electrical tape, and then there's the dollar store underwater explosion we've all been waiting for. Finally over.
"This doesn't look like enough dynamite. I know where we can score a tactical nuke."
I'm not one hundred percent sure about the Florida locals claiming to be actors here, but if I was to make an educated guess, I'd say none of them ever made that same mistake again, save for credit as an extra in a crowd scene, maybe. For some of these mooks, even that'd be a fucking stretch. If any of the shark footage looks familiar to you, it's probably because it was purchased by D'Amato from National Geographic, and packs nearly as much tense thrills and excitement as one of their television specials. There's no nudity, there's no gore, no suspense, hell, there's barely even a shark to speak of, beyond an artificial dorsal fin that wobbles repeatedly as it cuts awkwardly through the surf. One wop is probably me at my most generous here, as there's hardly anything that would merit such a rating in this thing. If you haven't seen this one, you really aren't missing much.
"Yaaaaaahhh! It's a Great White Stock (footage)!!!"
This month of Italian genre movie reviews is posthumously dedicated to my favorite aunt, Julia from Manhattan, my head scarved horror movie buddy with a perma-hack that sounded like a glasspack muffler coming up our sidewalk, with Chou-Chou San Juliet Monteforte, her abusive male poodle, always in tow. As far back as I can remember, Judy was always down for cinematic scares with her weird little nephew, and we'd always rap about whatever late night gem we'd caught the night before while she downed cups of java and chain smoked Mores at our kitchen table. Things like Jean Brismee's La plus longue nuite du diable aka/ The Devil's Nightmare (1971) and Emilio Miraglia's La notte che Evelyn usci dalla tomba aka/ The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) scored big with her, and tv series like Dark Shadows, Kolchak the Night Stalker, and Night Gallery were always her favorites. She never shrank from the task of thumbing through the stack of horror mags and comic books I dragged around with me, from room to room, either.
Over the years, my old man figured out that any horror flick that was too gruesome for his own tastes was right up his sister's alley, and he often sent her off to the movies with me, in his stead. She was there with me for Fulci's Zombi 2 aka/ Zombie (1980) at the American Theater, though I think she managed to see about twenty minutes of the movie in all, spending much of the running time smoking like a rubber burnout out in the lobby, back in the days when that sort of thing wasn't frowned upon at all. " Oooooooooh-hoo-hoo!! Crazy, man, cuh-razy!", she'd exclaim, as the foot long wood splinter entered Olga Karlatos' ocular orbit through the magic of Giannetto De Rossi and company. It was clear to anyone within earshot that she glaringly approved of such things. It was probably her encouragement that sent me off the deep end for those same things growing up, and why I still love seeing them forty years later.
So, it is to her gloriously eccentric memory, that the month of October be full of cult classics, exploitation oddities, and black gloved giallo goodness from the land of our heritage, that seasons the blood pumping through my heart. Welcome to Italoween II...
We'll wrap up September with another one of those groovy early seventies British horror anthologies from the folks at Amicus, with segments based on four short stories from R. Chetwynd-Hayes, and featuring the likes of David Warner, Donald and Angela Pleasence, Diana Dors, Lesley-Anne Down, and Peter Cushing tying the whole thing together, as a creepy, old antiques dealer with a clientele of cheats, chumps, and burglars who all get more than they bargained for in the end. The first-time director, Kevin Connor, would move on to Doug McClure drive-in fodder like The Land That Time Forgot (1975) and At the Earth's Core (1976) before moving on to campy cult classics like 1980's Motel Hell and 1982's The House Where Evil Dwells, which, for those of you that happened to be wondering, also stars Doug McClure.
"I seem to have stumbled out of my flat and onto a Mario Bava set..."
In "The Gate Crasher", we see an artsy know-it-all twat (David Warner) con The Proprietor (Peter Cushing) on the sale of an antique mirror, which after an obligatory seance, proves to contain a murderous spirit that resembles Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, leading the man down a dark path that surely can't end well for anyone involved, especially birds picked up on the fly at a dance club. Then, in "An Act of Kindness", an unfulfilled husband (Ian Bannen) pockets a wartime medal from the shop without paying, thus becoming the focus of a down-and-out war vet named Underwood (Donald Pleasence) and his pin-happy lookalike daughter, Emily (Angela Pleasance). Diana Dors is in there, too, and she's delightfully abrasive, up until her untimely demise.
"He's bad, bad Leeroy Broooown, baddest man in the whole damned tooooown..."
Next, a chap named Warren (Ian Carmichael) switches out the price tags in a pair of antique snuff boxes, and manages to get a troublesome, invisible titular "elemental", burrowing psychically into his shoulder, strangling his wife in bed, and making a general nuisance of itself until he calls upon the services of Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) who's apparently just the woman for the job. Then, a young fellow (Ian Ogilvy...shee, there's a lot of Ian's in this one) purchases a ornately decorated, bulky antique door for a linen closet in his flat, only to discover that it sometimes leads into a blue room from another era, belonging to an evil nobleman who dedicated his life to the pursuit of, as if you couldn't guess, more evil. Finally, an enterprising criminal enters the shop with designs on relieving it of any excess cash lying around, only to provide the final twist for the audience, whom the Proprietor addresses directly before closing his doors and end credits roll.
For those about to rock, Donald salutes you.
Amicus Studios filled a genre niche with a fine run of pormanteau-style anthologies, starting in 1965 with Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, followed by Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Asylum (1972), Vault of Horror (1973), and this, which would turn out to be the final one they'd tackle. Nothing out of the ordinary going on here, but the whole production is handled so well by all involved, you'll be too entertained to notice. On the scale, Grave earns a solid score of three Wops, and should really be checked out, if you're on board with this style of film. Recommended.
"No, you certainly may not have the freeze-dried crocodile for five quid."
Tonight, we'll examine Freddie Francis' first effort in the director's chair for Hammer Studios, a tightly wrapped psychological thriller starring the always excellent Oliver Reed, as well as Janette Scott of Day of the Triffids (1963) fame. Closer in look and feel to the director's later film, The Elephant Man (1980), than the color-splashed genre romps the studio would come to be known for, Paranoiac wears a shroud of Hitchcock-esque deceit in weaving its potent parable of madness and money around Francis' richly framed black and white shots. They don't make 'em like this any more...
"We're out of brandy, Williams. I should think that you'll order eighty-four more cases immediately..."
We meet the affluent Ashby family as they attend a memorial service at church for their deceased parents, when Eleanor (Janette Scott) is struck with a sudden vision of her dead brother, Tony, who may or may not have committed suicide some eight years prior. Her brother, Simon (Ollie Reed), is a devil-may-care posh sot, who's taken to driving his E-type Jaguar through the estate's lush flower beds and drunkenly dart-fencing poofs at the pub, when he isn't downing brandy's and/or Eleanor's busty nurse, Francoise (Liliane Brousse), that is. It seems that Eleanor's grip on reality has been steadily slipping since her brother's untimely demise, so much so, that she even tries to copy him, jumping blindly from a cliff out of misery, only to be saved by...her dead brother, Tony (Alexander Davion)? Well this certainly fucks Simon's chances for an inheritance pay out in three weeks' time, doesn't it?
"The flights on these...I believe they're crooked."
Of course, as is usually the case when dealing with a taut British thriller like this, nothing is as it seems at first glance. Eleanor's condition improves with Tony's arrival, but Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell) and Simon aren't at all sold on the man's identity, calling in the family attorney Kossett (Maurice Denham) to test him with family trivia, which he passes with flying colors, thanks to a thorough prepping from Kossett's son, who's been skimming cash from the family funds for quite a while. It's a good thing that he's an impostor, too, as Eleanor seems to have fallen in love with him somewhere along the way, and incest is the kind of scandal that might ruin the family name. His extravagant, drunken lifestyle forever nipping at his heels in the form of debt collectors and magistrates, Simon cuts his returned brother's brake line, nearly removing his recovering sister in the process to narrow down the division of his inheritance, and drowns the nurse when she realizes too late who the real family mental case is. If you didn't know, seeing a mysterious depiction of Oliver Reed on the release poster as you walked into the theater might have tipped it off for you, I dunno, anyway, it's Simon. But the shocks don't stop there, no sirree.
"Is that "Summer Holiday" by Cliff Richard and the Shadows? I bloody love that track!"
Scott went on to appear in The Old Dark House (1963) and Crack in the World (1965) while Sheila Burrell who had a long stage career, was Sir Laurence Olivier's cousin, no less. One of my favorite Hammer movies, hands down, and easily just as enjoyable as Christopher Lee leering with fangs displayed, at Veronica Carlson's technicolor tits, or a post-surgery Peter Cushing straining to wipe away brow sweat with a hand doused in bright stage blood. Sure, it's a British Psycho-clone like several others of the era, but one that's been masterfully handled by Francis and his crew, with solid performances from the cast, Reed's being the notable standout, of course, and thus, the sum of those excellent parts is full of enough suspense, mystery, and atmosphere to merit four Wops on the scale. A true classic. See it now.
Would you look at the state of that... Impossible to hire good clean up staff these days, 'innit?
Sixth Feature: ????? We end our weekend of gory, sleazy and just plain weird movies with movie number SIX, which is... a secret! Yes, as a reward to all our devoted fans, we are providing a bonus film that is sure to please lovers of destruction and mayhem. We actually debated showing a sixth film—we were afraid of pushing people over the edge of sanity. Well, we may Destroy way too many brain cells, but we probably won't kill All of them. We hope. We don't want any lawsuits on account of viewers suffering from an overdose of Monsters! (and oh, if you think you know what film this is, please don't spoil the surprise for others. Keep it to yourself, OK?