Monday, October 19, 2015

"La notte dei diavoli" (1971) d/ Giorgio Ferroni

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Tonight's review is based on a story by Tolstoy called "Lu Famille Du Wurdulak" that was last adapted for the silver screen by Mario Bava, and unforgettably so, in his I tre volti di paura aka/ Black Sabbath (1965). The 1971 Italo-Spanish co-production directed by Perugia native, Giorgio Ferroni, the guy who gave you things like Mill of the Stone Women (1960) and Per pochi dollari ancora aka/ For a Few Extra Dollars (1968), features some disturbing and impressive gore for the era from FX wizard Carlo Rambaldi, and stars familiar genre favorites Gianni Garko and Agostina Belli. The resulting, infrequently seen film is no less a cult classic than Bava's earlier work, perhaps a more modern-flavored, funereal update on said effort, albeit a gradually paced one, with it's fair share of violence and nudity.

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Bet you won't see any dynamic exploding prop headery in Dracula Untold. Just sayin'.
After he's found stumbling aimlessly on the beach, a contused Nicola (Gianni Garko) struggles to cling to sanity, as he tries to piece together the weird events that have left him in this hospital bed, when a strange woman's appearance sends him into a panicked frenzy of violent hallucinations. A wrong turn sends the lumber dealer's automobile crashing in the darkest depths of the Yugoslavian forests, leading him through a mostly abandoned town to the homestead of Gorca (Bill Vanders), a superstitious peasant whose sourpuss family lives in the terrible shadow of a malevolent witch (Maria Monti), who's the reason for the family's insistence that he stay indoors after the sun has set, and the source behind the strange noises that disturb Nicola's rest that evening. He weathers the wild tales for the striking beauty of Gorca's blue eyed daughter, Sdenka (Agostina Belli), who happens to be a dead ringer for the woman who visits him at the outset in the hospital. The plot thickens...

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Working on Duck, You Sucker! with Sergio Leone sure took its toll on James Coburn.
The following day, Gorca sets out to rid the family of the spell caster's evil influence, with a sizable wooden stake in hand, and on the guarantee that his loved ones not unlock the door for him should he return even moments past six o'clock, betokening the desperate man's failure. His volatile son, Jovan (Roberto Maldera), tries to fix Nicola's car, after having helped bury his uncle the previous day, in hopes of ending the witch's ongoing malediction towards his family. Nicola is then forced to weigh his increasing feelings towards Sdenka against the grotesque goings on around him, as Jovan jockeys for familial power amidst growing evidence of Wurdulak activity. Unlike their vampiric kin, these variants prey solely upon the blood of loved ones, and can be dispatched in a myriad of gruesome, more conventional methods besides just the obligatory stake through the heart, running water, burning rays of sunlight, etc. we've come to expect from bloodsuckers. As you'd expect, this leads to a satisfyingly goopy, twist of a finale, where Nicola frantically searches the hospital for his female visitor as the events leading up to this unfold through flashback. If any of this sounds promising to you, you'll have to seek out a copy, to see how it all wraps up, for yourselves.

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When everyone else is sick of seeing your rotten face, the maggots still love you.
Garko also turned up in things like Castellari's Gli occhi freddi della paura aka/ Cold Eyes of Fear (1971),  Il venditore di morte (1971), Il fiore dai petali d'acciaio (1973) and Fulci's Sette note in nero (1977), when he wasn't appearing in westerns like Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte (1968) and 10,000 dollari per un massacro (1967). Belli appeared in Il castello dalle porte di fuoco aka/ Scream of the Demon Lover (1970), Giornata nera per l'ariete aka/ The Fifth Cord (1971), and Bluebeard (1972), as well as several sex comedies later on in the decade. You can pick up tonight's review on a reasonably priced Blu-ray from the fine folks at Raro, and should do so, by all means. On the scale, a four Wop rating is reserved for but apex examples of genre fare, and Ferroni's film certainly falls into that category; recommended viewing as we draw nearer to All Hallow's Eve...

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Ho potuto guardare una faccia come questa tutta la notte...
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