Saturday, June 17, 2017

Junesploitation Day 17: Italian Horror!

You may never live to see the end of it!

66 comments:

  1. ITALIAN HORROR! TWO-FER:

    Emilio Miraglia's THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE (1971, 102 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.

    From the director of "The Red Queen Kills Seven" comes this little-seen Italian thriller that is more giallo than horror. The print streaming on Amazon is widescreen and beautiful, but it only has an Italian language option with English subtitles. Set in England for no particular reason, we watch as wealthy Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) lures over redhead companions to his castle so he can sexually humiliate and debase them... or worse. Poor little Alan, he's just doing this because his redhead wife Evelyn passed away and has inner demons tormenting him. A seance prompted by Alan's friends and family brings forth the spirit of Evelyn, which scares the widow into marrying the first pretty blonde he sees (Marina Malfatti's Gladys). As the new Lady Cunningham settles into Alan's state, though, bodies start piling up and Gladys swears its a redhead doing it (even though every woman working at the mansion is as blonde as her).

    If you love movies in which (a) redheads are constantly naked and being tortured or (b) everybody is a raging asshole (not a single sympathetic or likable character in this bunch... not one!) this one's for you. I personally dug cousin George (Enzo Tarascio) because he looks like a heterosexual perv version of "Bewitched's" Paul Lynde (CENTER-SQUARE-SPLOITATION! :-P). And just because I didn't see the ending coming doesn't mean the filmmakers knew what they were doing. They just chose 'E' from the 'A-Z' options at their disposal of where to stop this runaway crazy train.


    Dario Argento's OPERA (1987, 107 min.) on DVD. Also available on Amazon Prime.

    The last great horror masterpiece from Argento's golden period (except for a handful of scenes in "The Stendahl Syndrome"), one that uses classical, opera and rock music (from the likes of Bill Wyman and Brian Eno) as excellent contrasting motifs to the plight of an opera understudy (Cristina Marsillach) being stalked by a black-gloved masked killer. Dario borrows a few tricks from Fulci about how to maximize audience discomfort via eye trauma, but a series of elaborate set-pieces (including an insane POV of a crow flying through a theater seeking to avenge his knifed-by-the-killer brethren) are classic Argento. Even better than one of my favorite horror movie deaths of all time (peephole bullet) is the elaborate build-up leading up to that moment, followed by the most out-of-nowhere-but-properly-set-up escape from an apartment where the killer has cornered his/her victim I've ever seen.

    It goes 15 minutes too long (you can literally feel the moment "Opera" should cut to 'The End,' but instead keeps piling on the crazy) and the reveal of who the final killer is and why he/she is stalking Betty are milk toast. Still, "Opera" is a SLASHER-CUM-LAUDE-SPLOITATION! alumni from the Italian horror genre and comes highly recommended. Like the "Lady MacBeth" curse the opera people keep talking about, Dario Argento has to live the rest of his filmmaking days trying (and failing) to get back to the same level he was at when he did "Opera." No wonder Daria Nicolodi hasn't worked on an Argento movie since doing this one.

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  2. A Blade in the Dark (1982)

    It's that age old story. You're a young man writing the music for a horror film and hot women keep showing up at your house and then geting brutally murdered right under your nose. Ya know how it is.

    My favorite Junesploitation day is here! Glad I got to spend it with this bonkers gem. It's jam packed with WTF moments, weird as hell dialogue, and insane violence! What more do you need? There's a murder scene in a bathroom that is especially horrifying and disturbing and worth watching the movie for. Sure it's almost 2 hours and really doesn't need to be, but overall it's a lot of fun.

    Also, what is this thread's picture from?

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    1. Delirium. At least that's what the pic's filename says, I've never seen it.

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    2. Where is this one streaming? Sounds awful, bloody and disgusting... must-see stuff! ;-)

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    3. Delirium is a thriller directed by Lamberto Bava. It involves the acquaintances of a magazine publisher, played by the buxom Serena Grandi, being murdered. George Eastman has a bit part in it. I remember it at least being entertaining.

      - A Casual Listener

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  3. Torso (1973)

    I went into this having heard of it but not knowing anything about it. I'm a little short on free time this weekend so I can't write anything too in-depth and I'll probably only be able to watch one movie today and only one tomorrow as well. Suffice it to say that like a lot of Italian Horror this movie never takes the clear cut path from point A to point B. Also, (and I realize this sounds horrible) this movie has my favorite scene of a child falling off a cliff. I can't explain the context without spoiling part of the movie, but they just launch that dummy off there and I swear later on in the week when I have time I'm going to have to make a gif. of that somehow.

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    1. I know what you mean about that cliff scene, it's pretty nutty.

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    2. Even unintentionally, the aliens in Mac and Me are more horrific that just about anything anybody here is watching today.

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  4. Phenomena (1985)

    It's Dario Argento, a Labyrinth-esque (even though this was made before), Donald Pleasence, a Chimpanzee and whole lot of nightmarih nuttiness, what is not to love?

    I am still taking the movie in. At the moment I am going to say it's not my favourite Argento, but wait too weeks and I will be talking about nothing else. As is my way with most Argento movies.

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    1. And even only a few hours later, I am loving Phenomena more. I just need it to sink in.

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    2. I'm watching this one later today. Looking forward to it!

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    3. Did you 2 listen to the Phenomena podcast a couple months ago?

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    4. Yeah half of it. And its why I bought a copy. Looking forward to listening again.

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    5. It's always super fun and rewarding to go back and listen again after watching the movie.

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    6. Thanks for reminding me there was a podcast for that film, Paul. :)

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  5. Deep Red (1975)

    This was a bit of a cheat, as I mostly watched it yesterday, but it didn't end until after midnight so I'm counting it (also bite me). I've been saving this one for a couple months, and it was easily my most anticipated of the month, and it did not disappoint. While it did drag it's feet a bit, being over 2 hours while including an extensive arm wrestling scene, I mostly enjoyed it. It does go a little overboard at times, leading to some unintentional laughs (one character death late in the film feels straight out of a Zucker brothers film), it does have one of the most insane and abrupt endings I've ever seen. Definitely a recommend.

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    1. Forgot to mention this, but the music is also superb. The killer's motif, in particular, is the bees knees.

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    2. It's not a cheat. I started Junesloitation several days early, kept ahead for a bit, then was in sync for several days. Unfortunately I'm currently a couple days behind, and am resigned to skipping those days because it's more enjoyable to be watching the same as everyone else. I'll fill in the missing blanks early July.

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    3. Looove Deep Red. That movie has so much texture, even in its pacing. Daria Nicolodi feels like she is out of a Howard Hawks movie.

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    4. I'm a Junesploitation purist. I try to only start the movies after midnight. And yeah, Deep Red is pretty great. It's got Argento's signature flowing camera, and it's so engaging.

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  6. Lust of the Vampire aka The Vampires (I Vampiri) (1957, dir. Riccardo Freda & Mario Bava)

    The first Italian horror movie of the sound era, Bava shot it beautifully in black & white, and also directed some of it after original director Freda had an argument with the producers and left the set (Bava's first directorial job on a feature film).

    The story isn't the most exciting thing I've seen and it's not the kind of crazy you'd want on Italian Horror! day, but it looks great (some dodgy sets and matte paintings notwithstanding) and a runtime of 77 minutes means there's no dead air. And that one effects trick lifted straight from 1931's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde makes an impression here too.

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  7. The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)

    I had a lot of fun with this one. Though, the whole gothic sensibility, castles, a possible ghostly curse and murder mystery has always appealled.

    The movie does dip in the middle, mainly because (mild spoiler) The Red Queen does in fact kill 7 times and it's the process we have to go through. But to be fair two of my favourite horrors from the 70s have the same structure (Theatre of Blood and The Abominable Mr Phibes). I liked this movie a lot.

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    1. Glad you enjoy it, and joined the Barbara Bouchet fan club.

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  8. Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)

    I didn't mean to turn tonight into a Barbara Bouchet double, but now I have a growing girl crush.

    This is definetly feels more like drama giallo than crazy slasher giallo, but it was my favourite out of tonights movies.

    A series of child murders rocks a small town, and I went from almost turning it off and going to bed to getting completely obsorbed in the unfolding drama.

    I loved how Fulci used this as a frame work to look more closely at religion, youth, sin, sexuality in Italy. He's not sutble but it works really well, as the town closes rank and starts to question and hit out and at what they consider outcasts.

    It isn't not as violent as The Beyond, but I glad, since this is about child murder. But when violence does occur it has meaning of what has happened before and death has real meaning and consquence - or some times a notable lack of in one really brutal scene. I loved this movie to the point that I am rethinking The Beyond (a movie I liked) and may have to re-visit it soon.


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    1. It is nice to see Don't Torture A Duckling getting some attention. It is definitely my favorite film from Lucio Fulci and one of the best of the giallo genre. There is a lot of subtext in the film, particularly the struggle between modernity and tradition. Florinda Bolkan is extremely memorable in her role.

      Have you ever seen an early Fulci film with the English title The Conspiracy of Torture? Since you liked Don't Torture..., I think that film might interest you. It is a historical drama about a 16th century noble family than can be as brutal as any of his horror films.

      Although this is a thread about Italian horror, there is so much more to talk about in the career of Fulci than his horror films. He dabbled in a lot of genres. Massacre Time, from 1966, is a very idiosyncratic western. La Pretora, starring the lovely Edwige Fenech, is Fulci's entertaining contribution to the very popular sex comedy genre of 1970s Italy.

      Speaking of Lucio Fulci and Florinda Bolkan, I will watching A Lizard in a Woman's Skin today.

      - A Casual Listener

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    2. This was my second Fulci. But thanks those sound great I will have to try and seek them out.

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  9. A Blade in the Dark (1983)

    Lamberto Bava must be a Brian de Palma fan. This film contains elements clearly inspired by 1980's Dressed to Kill and 1981's Blow Out. It's well made, and that bathroom murder is indeed bonkers. Our protagonist Bruno is just the right mix of curiosity and uncertainty. I do wish the interiors for the main house weren't so drab. Overall, it's definitely a recommend.

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  10. If any of you are subscribers to the Fandor streaming service, there are several choices when it comes to Italian horror and giallos. For a recommendation, check out Death Walks At Midnight. Directed by Luciano Ercoli and starring his wife, Susan Scott (Nieves Navarro), this is a fast-paced giallo that gets increasingly unpredictable as Scott's character gets sucked into the mystery of woman's murder in a neighboring building. This was one of the best viewing experiences I have had over the past year.

    - A Casual Listener

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I have something else lined up for tonight, but will add it to the list.

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  11. THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA (1960)
    Vampires (more than one) stalk ballerinas (more than one) in a small village. I love how these early Italian horror flicks are so heavily influenced by the Universal horror classics. This one is all about the gloomy black and white photography, with lots of long, looming shadows. It’s cheesy and the dance scenes are too long, but wow is it pretty to look at.

    A GIRL FOR SATAN (1982)
    Italian horror is often criticized and/or applauded for being all atmosphere and no plot, and that’s this movie all over. It’s your basic Exorcist ripoff, but with lots of boobs and sex. Sure, that’s the point, but scenes are thrown together so haphazard that there’s barely (heh) any narrative.

    MANHATTAN BABY (1982)
    Lucio Fulci! Yet another Exorcist/Rosemary’s Baby riff, with a possessed little girl troubling her family. I wonder if this was Fulci’s attempt to go mainstream, as the movie feels very generic Hollywood, with only a little of the otherworldliness that Fulci is famous for.

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    1. What you stated about THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA is true of many films from the Gothic period of Italian horror production. They are on the long side with an emphasis on the visuals. Sometimes this is not a bad thing, though. I watched a lot of these kind of films on a Saturday night horror film program out in Pittsburgh.

      My favorite Italian Gothic film outside of Mario Bava's work is NIGHTMARE CASTLE. That is a beautiful film to look at and has Barbara Steele in a dual role.

      Other Gothic films I enjoyed are THE BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER and CASTLE OF BLOOD.

      - A Casual Listener

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    2. Thanks! I own the Nightmare Castle Blu-ray. Love that movie.

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  12. City of the Living Dead aka The Gates of Hell (Paura nella città dei morti viventi) (1980, dir. Lucio Fulci)

    Not as good as The Beyond, but the gory deaths, eerie nightmare logic and the trippy music still made it entertaining. Also, what the fuck was that ending!?

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  13. BLACK SUNDAY (1960)

    I simply must begin the movie watching day with this one, as it's the film that changed everything for me in terms of Italian horror. Been a hell of a ride ever since.

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  14. So, guys, I've never seen an Italian horror flick before. I'm considering starting today. Does anyone know a good one for beginners?

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    1. My first was Suspiria, and because it's so amazingly well made I really loved it. I think that's a good start. Another would be Tenebrae because the characters are so likable.

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    2. Suspiria is a fantastic choice! Fulci's Zombi 2 is another great one!

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    3. Susperia is incredible, you could Deep Red another Argento, or go with Torso, which feels like a really stylish slasher.

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  15. Caltiki the Immortal Monster (1959)

    It's #Blub, Italian Style! An ancient blob is let loose and wreaks havoc in an incredibly entertaining, surprisingly nasty creature feature. The characters are fairly dull, but the monster makes up for it as it consumes everyone and everything unlucky enough to be in its path. I'm still a little bit surprised at how graphic some of the imagery (courtesy of Mario Bava) was considering the era (era) in which it was made.

    It's sort of amazing that this came only a year after The Blob terrorized American audiences because the creature stuff is legitimately frightening, much less campy than its American cousin (though to be fair, The Blob scared the living hell out of me when I was a kid). It's a short one, too, clocking in at around 75 minutes, so it definitely doesn't overstay its welcome. I do still need to see more giallo, but it was sort of refreshing to watch an Italian horror movie with a plot that you could actually follow from scene to scene. Well worth a look for creature fans.

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  16. Tenebrae (1982)

    I have been trying to pack in as much Italian horror as I can this Junesploitation (I'll take any excuse I can) but I had to save a huge gap in my knowledge for today. I think Suspiria (my first Argento movie) will always be my favourite but this one moved right up there. His technical perfection is on full display here and it definitely felt like one of his more cohesive stories. I loved it and I have to give a hand to that scene with Neal's ex-wife, that was crazy.

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  17. KILL, BABY, KILL (1966)

    ...well, this is a shocking development.

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  18. Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981) (First Time Viewing):

    I thought I had seen all the zombie classics up to this point but man was I wrong. This movie is awesome. I am hard pressed to think of a movie more stuffed wall to wall with insane zombie mayhem than this. The plot is simple, zombies are unleashed upon an old mansion, the folks trapped inside have no chance. I think this is right up there with the zombie greats. And as all great zombie movies should, the ending is insanely nihilistic and brutal. Highly recommended.

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  19. A double dose of Italian Horror intro. Turns out it's not as intimidating as a I thought it was going to be. Sure it's weird and at times random, but the movies are well made. Although, maybe my picks to start digging into the genre were good ones for a beginner. Which is good, because now I'm more ready-ish to venture into the deep end. Anyway...

    Suspiria
    Absolutely beautiful to look at. Vivid colors, blaring sound and a little bit of mystery.

    Phenomena
    Dug this one too, if a little overlong at times, but many fun elements to keep your attention. I'd definitely watch a buddy/cop series based on Jennifer Connelly solving crimes with the help of bugs and a zany monkey.

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    1. The opening scene, in Suspiria, where she exiting the airport and boards the taxis, I can watch endlessly.

      I show this scene to my kids a lot, because I can.

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    2. Great double feature! I can't wait for the Suspiria Blu to come out. I need it.

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  20. One of my favorite things about Junesploitation is how it made me a fan of Italian horror. I would have loved to do more today, but I did manage a great double feature with the time I had.

    The Black Cat (1981)
    Obviously I had to see some Fulci today, and this turned out to be a good pick. It follows an elderly man who can record the voices of the dead, and a mysterious cat that is involved in a string of deaths. Wish I had more to comment on, but I just liked it. Honestly my second movie took up more of my brain processing.

    Phenomena (1985)
    Now that was certainly a movie. I knew that this pick would be different, and it's more of a giallo that a straight up horror for most of its running time, but then it... does some stuff. That has to be one of the weirdest, and most disgusting end sequences ever. I didn't see any of that coming, and boy does it deliver. Really great payoff to a film with good characters, an interesting story, and a fantastic soundtrack.

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    1. Took the words out of my mouth for Phenomena. I admired Argento's inability to give a fuck. ;)

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  21. A Blade in The Dark (1982)

    Thanks for the recommendation Patrick and Daniel. My toe is officially dipped in Italian horror I suppose. I was expecting some pretty crazy shit but it was pretty tame. The bat shit will surely come as I wade further in. I found myself enjoying the whodunit aspect of the film. Also, as mentioned above, the dubbing was really pretty entertaining. Not just the idiomatic mistakes such as “you are a female” but also the sound effects which actually enhanced the terror of the kills and the insanity of the killer (some Black Christmas flavor). Ridiculously fun ending “All’s well that finishes well”.

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  22. A Blade in the Dark (1983)

    Give the characters in the movie a break. Yeah, they all do the completely wrong thing at the wrong time over and over and over and over again, but that doesn't mean they're dumb. Who among us hasn't been scared by their own reflection in the mirror, or corrected someone that the spider that scared them was actually a cockroach when it was obviously a spider? This is the kind of movie where its ok that the main character, after opening a locked wooden chest, and seeing it was filled with nothing but tennis balls, is told by another character that "It has to belong to the Linda I know, you don't understand...she was obsessed with tennis!" You just sort of have to be ok with someone owning a chest filled with tennis balls, and the logic jumps made from there.

    At first I started getting mad about how bad the decisions were that everyone was making, but the movie is just so shameless with it, and the characters so earnest, my feelings suddenly flipped and I was just laughing the whole time. The trope of characters in horror movies making bad decisions is alive and well in this movie, its best to just embrace it. If you do embrace it, whats left is actually a pretty entertaining movie. I was actually glued to the screen wondering what insane or unneeded thing would happen next. The story completely had me hooked and kept me guessing till the very end. The score the guy was working on sounds straight out of Halloween, and the bathroom murder scene was pretty intense. This one is well worth checking out if you can have fun with it, if not, go be too cool somewhere else, man.

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    1. Totally agree! If I wasn’t clear I had a good time watching this movie. I will definitely watch it again! That spider vs. roach debate was truly fun. I even love the fact that when he told the story to his GF he went with spider. I also did like the score he was working on and thought it served a cool duel purpose. Wasn’t trying to shit on the movie relax.

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    2. Didnt even read your review before posting mine. Had nothing to do with you. Relax.

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    3. My bad. Happy Italian Horror Day! May all our roaches have 8 legs.

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  23. nothing to do with today's theme, but i just found out it's Scott Adkins birthday.

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    1. Nice! I'm way behind on Juneploitation, and am about to finish a Scott Adkin movie I started yesterday, but man, does he kick some ass! Patrick is dead on that he is the MAN

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  24. The Return of the Exorcist aka Exorcist III: Cries and Shadows (1975, dir. Angelo Pannaccio)
    I looooove rip-offs, especially Italian ones, and one of my very favorites is the Exorcist knock-off Beyond the Door, so I'm always excited to see another one. This one is particularly interesting, because instead of a young woman being possessed, it's a young man... a noticably in-shape young man who's frequently shirtless. There's a Nightmare on Elm Street 2-esque homoerotic undertone to this one, though not nearly as pronounced as that movie's. It's pretty by the numbers otherwise. Not bad!
    Demons 6: De Profundis aka The Black Cat (1989, dir. Luigi Cozzi)
    Crazy! Crazy! This movie is crazy! First off, this is the same director as Star Crash. This means he was able to get Caroline Munro, and also that your're in the hands of the mind that made Star Crash (his mindhands.) Michele Soavi, from Demons 1 has a cameo, so there's a sort-of affirmation that this is an actual Demons entry. Brett Halsey is in it, so there's a flavor of Fulci to be had. It's, as usual of Poe "adaptations", totally unrelated in any way to its namesake. And most importantly, this is about filmmakers who are putting together a sequel to Suspiria. Seriously, they name drop Argento and everything. This is about the witch from Mother of Tears killing off the people who are trying to make a movie about her. It even incorporates pieces of Goblin's score in some places. But where it ends up is ten times crazier than that. I would never spoil the insanity that is the way this movie ends. The BALLS of this movie. It's on Amazon Prime. For people with a strong tolerance for this kind of crap only.
    The Killer Must Kill Again (1975, dir. Luigi Cozzi)
    I was riding so high off De Profundis that I had to watch another Cozzi right away, and I'd been meaning to watch this one anyway. I have owned this dvd for well over ten years, so it was about time. This is a very competent, though, yes, a little wacky, thriller. It's not a Giallo, because you know who the killer is right away. It's all about how much of a pain in the ass it is being the killer in a Giallo. If they'd taken it as far as they should, it would essentially be After Hours starring a serial killer, but it just isn't creative enough. Of interest to fans of the genre, but nothing super special.
    The Eerie Midnight Horror Show (1974, dir. Mario Gariazzo)
    A crappy Exorcist knock-off. Boring.
    The Reincarnation of Isabel (1973, dir. Renato Polselli)
    INSANE. Explain this movie to me, I dare you. Reincarned witch, love curse, revenge, haunted castle, hunchback, hallucinations, etcetera, etcetera. Mickey Hargitay was lookin' old. There's some awesome, crazy lighting choices. The characters are all gorgeous or bizarre looking. Multiple characters have facial tics. I LOVED it. Can't wait to see it again.

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    1. "The Black Cat" is as good as watched. I love my Amazon Prime subscription year-round, but especially during Junesploitation! :-D

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  25. Suspiria (1977)

    I watched this on the shittiest transfer of all time and I was still awed by the visuals. I can't wait for the blu.

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    1. I got the korean release of the blu. It's region free.

      Not the greatest transfer, but still way better than a dvd.

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    2. I almost bought the korean blu but I've been holding out for the new one.

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  26. Delirium (1972) Dir. Renato Polselli

    Perversely violent with some amazing shots. Women are getting nakedly killed all over the place by a psychiatrist who works with the police. His wife knows what's going on but still wants to be with him cause she's just as crazy as he is. Opening title sequence, music and overall crazy vibe keeps it an above average entry of the genre.

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  27. The House by the Cemetery (1981, dir. Lucio Fulci)

    I was originally going to watch something i own but have never seen like La Bambola di Satana, but after hearing Jackson wax poetic about this movie on the new episode of the podcast made me really want to revisit it. Plus, it's Fulci's 90th birthday, so I should really be watching one of his movies. I'm so glad I did, because I loved the movie a lot more than I remember loving it and think it has some of the best-directed shots and scenes of Fulci's career.

    I wish I had more time today to watch five or six movies. It's the day I was looking forward to most. Oh well.

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    1. That's why you scheduled two more 'Free Days' for what's left of Junesploitation, Patrick. You knew what you were doing. ;-)

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  28. A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971)

    Watched late on June 17.

    This giallo, co-written and directed by Lucio Fulci,concerns the killing of a woman in her London apartment that a neighbor has a dream about. From that point the murder investigation proceeds. The film unfolds largely in a police procedural structure. Anybody who finds that procedural approach off-putting might get a little bored, for there are scene after scene of interrogations and police discussions. The stalk-and-slash element is not a prominent part of A Woman in a Lizard's Skin.

    Overall, this is a solid film. The cinematography is excellent, the narrative is generally coherent, the cast is engaging, and the English dub is more than passable. With part of the film set in the hippie/counterculture milieu of the late 1960s, Fulci indulges in a few psychedelic sequences that border on the avant-garde. The many red-herrings are handled well, but satisfaction with the narrative's outcome with depend on the viewer.

    A Lizard in a Woman's Skin is more of a lukewarm recommendation than an enthusiastic one. If there are other Fulci films higher in your must-see list, you do not need to move them to a lower spot for this. Saying that, however, there is nothing terrible about this film to deter anyone who desires to get deeper into Fulci's filmography.


    A Casual Listener

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  29. All the Colours Of The Dark (1972)

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