Thursday, June 27, 2019

Junesploitation 2019 Day 27: Italian Horror!

Some nightmares haunt you. Some can kill you!



    THE EDITOR (2014, 95 min.) on TUBI
    for the first time.

    Patrick raved about this one a few years back, and now I can see why. It may have Canadian blood cursing through its cinematic veins, but the brains behind "The Editor" (Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy) are firmly aiming for a homage to the heyday of 70's Italian exploitation in the vein of "Black Dynamite." Somebody is killing the cast and crew members of a 'giallo' picture, and all eyes turn toward editor Rey Ciso (Brooks) and his wooden fingers. Inspector Peter Porfiry (Kennedy, who seems to be channeling Will Ferrell) also fixates on Ciso as the likely murderer, which threatens the picture's release, Ciso's livelihood and what little domestic life Rey has with never-was starlet Josephine Jardin (Paz de la Huerta, who is either way too much into character or not trying at all).

    You really need to have at least 6-10 70's Italian giallos, slashers, 'Poliziotteschi' and horror flicks under your belt before watching "The Editor." While some of its gags are too obvious (the 'cigarette burn' that "Fight Club" did better) or bordering on Zucker-Abraham parody (sex scene with broken glass and cake... the hell?!?!), there are choices in fonts, music (by former Goblin musicians no less!), camera angles, background details and throw-away lines of obviously-dubbed dialogue that are both appropriate for the subject matter and (in the right state of mind) hysterically appropriate. "The Editor" even manages to turn the potentially uncomfortable rape of a female character into one of the funniest didn't-see-that-coming laughs of the month, something that can only be informed from way too much exposure to these films. Recommended, worth putting up with Tubi's annoying commercials.

    Ivan Zuccon's HERBERT WEST: RE-ANIMATOR (2017, 79 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.

    Imagine what a modern-day Italian re-imagining of Stuart Gordon's 1985 movie (with some H.P. Lovecraft ideas thrown in for good measure) would look/sound like in the late 2010's. That version of "Herbert West: Re-Animator" you just pictured in your mind lasts exactly 16 minutes. At that point a jaw-dropping reveal completely upends the opening act, which paves the way for another 'WTF!' twist at minute 33. The filmmakers run out of stunts around the 50 minute mark (I couldn't have taken another one!), settling into a hallucinatory, artistic and blood-dripping vibe that sadly meanders for most of the final act before simply just ending. The basic premise: poor ol' Dr. West (Emanuele Cerman) has a violin-playing young daughter whose tragic death sends Herbert's quest to bring the dead back to life into overdrive. The less you know going in the better...'TRUST ME'-SPLOITATION!

    Underwhelming ending notwithstanding (my opinion), "HW:R-A" is everything the much-hyped re-imaging of "Suspiria" should have been but wasn't. It pays homage to Gordon's original (the actor playing West looks like an Italian Brandon Routh! :-P) and has a sly sense of humor (green liquid on vase + dead flowers = new arrangement, West gets drunk sipping from a J&B bottle, etc.), but charts its own weird-but-acceptable path of being a no-nonsense dramatic reimagining of the original's thematical narrative. After a rough first couple of minutes that feel like you're watching a trailer and not the start of a feature, "HW:R-A" starts giving viewers the blood splatters and glowing serums (now in a variety of colors!) they've come to expect. All that plus more... lot's more. One of the best out-of-nowhere finds of the month for me, "Herbert West: Re-Animator" comes highly recommended to those willing to let their sacred horror cows be slaughtered at the altar of Italian horror experimentation.

    1. My experience with Tubi has been good. I watched a movie earlier this month, and there was only 1 short commercial, and I've watched several movies in the past that didn't have any commercials at all.

      Perhaps it varies by geographic location? Or maybe it's because I'm watch from a laptop (HDMI to TV) and there is an ad blocker on my browser? I dunno.

    2. On my TCL/Roku Smart TV Tubi had several three-minute commercial breaks every 15 minutes or so. Annoying but, like commercials on Sundance or IFC, as long as the movie is uncut and unedited I can live with it. And boy, did "The Editor" have a lot of full-frontal and graphic stuff that wouldn't have passed muster with the censors. :-)

  2. Italian horror has been at the center of my dive into European genre and exploitation cinema for most of the past decade. (It all started with a watch of Suspiria in 2008.) Over the last year, I have started to revisit some of those films. My choices for today are reflective of that general trend. It is most likely due to a lack of undiscovered material to watch, but there is undeniably an element of nostalgia there. The films bring me back to a more optimistic time of my life.

    CASTLE OF BLOOD, A.K.A., DANSE MACABRE (1964, dirs. Sergio Corbucci and Antonio Margheriti)

    A skeptical reporter in London bets that he can survive a night at a supposedly haunted mansion where others have died attempting the same thing. Will he collect his wager with the coming of the dawn? With such a thin story to fill nearly 90 minutes, Castle of Blood becomes more of an exercise in atmosphere than narrative. Based merely on that criterion, the film is a masterpiece in Italian gothic cinema. There is an appropriately otherworldly sense to it. The black-and-white cinematography is beautiful, and Riz Ortolani contributed a fitting score.

    Since most people watch films for stories, however, Castle of Blood can turn out a challenging watch. There are lots of sequences of the reporter wandering around the mansion holding a candelabra. Things do happen, but the most engaging scenes are concentrated towards the conclusion. For those with patience, Castle of Blood can be a rewarding watch with the right frame of mind. In addition, the film has one of Barbara Steele’s finest roles. When she is on the screen, you do not take your eyes off of her.

    Though I did become impatient at certain moments, there is much more to appreciate than dislike in Castle of Blood. I watched a cut of 87 minutes on the Synapse DVD, and the public domain prints all seem to be around 82 minutes.

    BLOODY PIT OF HORROR (1965, dir. Massimo Pupillo)

    With a decent quality widescreen version available on Amazon Prime (Look for DOUBLE DOSES OF HORROR: SADISTS!) I decided to revisit this ludicrous flick. I still find it ludicrous, but a better-looking movie does make the experience more enjoyable. The general story is of a group of photographers and models who force their way into the castle of a crazy actor who fancies himself the reincarnation of a 17th-century murderer. You can guess what the outcome of the intrusion is.

    Some might consider this among the worst Italian horror films. In any case, I can overlook its ridiculousness because I sense that was it was intended to be silly. The dubbing also adds to that silliness. This is one that definitely qualifies as a deep cut in the genre. The one scene I would recommend watching is when the actor- portrayed by bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay- talks about himself while applying oil over his chest. It sums up the humorous qualities of the film.

    What stands out the most in Blood Pit of Horror is the color cinematography and the amount of flesh on display.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Anyone looking for Italian gothic films on Amazon Prime should check out Terror In The Crypt. Based on LeFanu's Carmilla story and starring Christopher Lee, it is a beautifully shot film that moves along at what is a quick pace for the genre. (By modern standards it is still slow, though.) It has held up over multiple viewing for me, too. Of the two versions available, the one showing Christopher Lee in the picture has the better image quality.

      Also available on Prime is Mario Bava's gorgeous The Whip and the Body, which also stars Lee. He, unfortunately, is dubbed by someone else. The aesthetic of Whip and the Body is top-notch, full of striking visuals throughout the film. I wish the story was as strong. It can found in the Double Dose of Horror: Whips and Exorcists compilation.

  3. Body Count (1986)

    Ruggero Deodato and David Hess..a match made in Heaven.
    Sleazy, Sleazy Heaven.

  4. "Sleepless" a.k.a "Non Ho Sonno" 2001, Dir. Dario Argento

    A past-his-prime Argento still has a few tricks (or English horns) up his sleeve.


    Island of the Fishmen aka Screamers (L'isola degli uomini pesce) (1979, dir. Sergio Martino)

    The survivors of a shipwreck find themselves on a tropical island with a mysterious English villain, a beautiful damsel in distress and fish-human hybrids straight from the Black Lagoon. It starts with "gruesome" deaths barely shown on screen and a lot of running around the island, then at the one hour mark the movie stops dead to provide a huge exposition dump that introduces a ridiculous new wrinkle to the story in a way only the Italians can. After that, the ending goes crazy, but not crazy enough to satisfy.

    Richard Johnson plays the most English man who ever drew breath. And Barbara Bach is gorgeous.

    Lady Frankenstein (La figlia di Frankenstein) (1971, dir. Mel Welles)

    Frankenstein creates monster, monster kills Frankenstein, daughter continues experiments... A tale as old as time. Rosalba Neri and the silly monster make-up are the highlights of the movie.

  6. Mother of Tear (2007) - first watch

    My suspicions confirmed. That emo chick I (very) briefly dated was indeed, a witch.

  7. The Church (1989)

    I’m a big fan of Soavi’s movies. This was the first of his I ever had the chance to see. It’s not my favorite, but I do enjoy it quite a lot.

  8. A Blade In the Dark (1983)

    While the film isn't particularly bloody, some of the kills are about as brutal as giallo has gotten. It has a great atmosphere, with most of the film taking place in a short amount of time in only a few locations. I admit that I've only seen a few of his films, but I think Lamberto Bava isn't respected enough as a director.

  9. Anthropophagus (1980)

    I had heard this title bandied about a number of years ago. Then I bought and watched and enjoyed, The Grim Reaper, blissfully unaware that it was the cut-down, American version of this. So, naturally, I sought out this, the uncut version.
    I'm a big fan of this film.

    1. I watched this as well. Unfortunately I found it pretty rough to get through. BUT! It was all worth it for that final scene. I’d rank it pretty high up on the list of insane endings. Unforgettable!

  10. Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)

    I hate that I've been too busy to participate this month, but I had to pull some stops to show respect to the junesploitation day that turned me on to one of my favorite genres.

    I chose to tackle a film I've been meaning to catch up with for a while now by the great Lucio Fulci. I found this to be one of his more beautiful and surprisingly personal films. It certainly feels more like a giallo than straight horror at times, but that's because it's a surprisingly reserved movie in parts that occasionally indulges in darker impulses. I felt it dragged towards the end, but it kept my interest the whole way through (partially due to its beautiful photography) and rewarded me with one of the greatest ending sequences I've seen in a long long time.

  11. Torso (1973)

    The case says Torso, but the unrated Italian print on the disc was titled The Bodies Show Traces of Carnal Violence which is a hilariously on-the-(severed)-nose title. At first it’s a nasty but conventional Giallo in which (usually naked, because Italy) women are being murdered by an unseen killer, the first hour presents not a bad movie but nothing particularly memorable either.

    It’s a nice surprise when the last half hour or so changes gears and becomes a game of cat-and-mouse between the killer and an intended victim. What had been a decent but repetitive thriller becomes something more exciting as the last third is almost completely free of dialogue and generates some real suspense. It feels a bit like somebody poured a bottle of J&B onto a print of Wait Until Dark, the last third takes an ok movie and elevates it to a legitimately good one. While it’s not as batshit crazy as I tend to prefer my Italian horror, that last half hour makes it absolutely worth seeing.

  12. Demons (1985)

    This was exactly what I was in the mood for. It's like a huge adrenaline hit. It's fast, punk and very messy. I loved it. Though I would have been that person shhhing everyone in the theatre. I still might have been doing it when they were baracading and throwing the chairs.

  13. The Whip and the Body (1963, dir. Mario Bava)

    One of the most Gothic looking films ever, and I love all the weird sexual themes. Christopher Lee is a scary, handsome bastard. It's also really slow, even more than the other Bava films I've seen. I also got tired of hearing the same short piece of score play over and over... and over. But overall, I fall more on the positive with this one.

    1. If the story was not so weak, this would easily be a top-five Bava film for me. As you stated, the visuals are perfect for gothic cinema. The emergence of Lee's character from the shadows is some of the most beautiful cinematography Bava ever created.

      The repetitiveness of the score did not bother me, but it certainly could have used a couple more pieces of music. Part of the soundtrack was recycled two years later for Kill, Baby, Kill. The other part of that film's soundtrack came from Blood and Black Lace. I guess the producer was trying to trim costs.

      For the combination of story and visuals, Black Sabbath has long been my favorite Bava film.

    2. Thanks for the reply! Yes, the shadows were some of the major things I noticed in this movie. Really beautiful stuff. I need to rewatch the Bava films I've seen, but I think Black Sunday is my favorite. Really like Kill Baby Kill as well.

  14. SHOCK (1977)
    Your basic haunted house story, courtesy of a Mario Bava and Lamberto Bava directing team-up. A little kid is possessed by his father’s ghost to take revenge on the mom and stepdad. (No, it’s not Hamlet.) Aside from a very icky mother/son relationship, this isn’t as over-the-top as some of Lamberto Bava’s other movies.

    Bonus #Godzillasploitation: GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (2003)
    Mothra is all ticked off about the new Mechagodzilla being made from a former Godzilla’s bones (something about disrespecting the dead). This comes into play as Godzilla and Mechagodzilla square off again. The plot is slight even for a Godzilla movie, but all the pyrotechnics made up for it.

  15. The Sect (1991)

    Not my favorite Michele Soavi film, but it's still pretty good. Super-weird with a few standout moments.

  16. Full Moon of the Virgins (1973)

    Every fifty years, 5 virgins are drawn to Dracula's Castle never to be heard from again. There's an amulet. Some brothers. Vampires. I'm not happy that there is a character named Karl. I've already forgotten everything else.

  17. City of the Living Dead (1980)

    Lucio Fulci is currency. If you meet someone and they know who he is, you immediately know they're in the brotherhood. This Gates of Hell trilogy is quite comforting. There is a rhythm to all 3 that lift you right up or knock you out. I think it is my favorite of the 3 but it always changes.

  18. The House by the Cemetery (1981)

    Your enjoyment of this movie may hinge on how you feel about Bob. I love Bob. Him and his ridiculous voice. I just find his movies so gorgeously grungy. You might not love or understand his films at first but if you can give in, you will be rewarded. Maybe this one is my favorite.

  19. Giallo in Venice (1979, dir. Mario Landi)

    Despite the title, it's not really a horror movie. It's more of a sex movie. The main cop on the case is seen eating a hard boiled egg literally every time he's on screen. It's his trademark. The mystery isn't all that interesting, but there's sleaze enough to spare.