Monday, June 22, 2020

Junesploitation 2020 Day 22: Giallo!

When the lights go out, the knife goes in!


  1. BARON BLOOD (1972, TUBI, Steve K.: 6/3/2013)
    An attractive young couple (Elke Sommers' Eva and Antonio Cantafora's Peter) want to fuck in the Austrian castle where they first meet, but they realize they're trapped in a 'PG' picture that won't let them get naked. Sexually frustrated, these two do what any bored rich white people with too much free time would do: read the incantation in an old parchment that brings Peter's long dead uncle (who looks like "Chakan: The Forever Man" of Genesis/Megadrive fame) back to life and into a killing spree. Okay, I'm kidding about the sexually frustrated part, but this one's pretty intense for even an early 70's 'PG.' Mario Bava at one point rents every fog machine in Austria and Italy to scare Elke Sommers to near-death, and also gives Joseph Cotten a hell of an entrance. Neither the best or worst Italian supernatural thriller, "Baron Blood" at least has Bava DNA to sell its creepy mayhem in style. 3 BLIND CLAIRVOYANT MEDIUMS (out of 5)

    THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS (1972, PLEX, Patrick Bromley: 6/20/16)
    Someone's stalking and murdering pretty girls in an apartment building full of oddball tenants. It's a thin premise onto which this flick hangs typical-for-the era casual racism/sexist attitudes: a black woman (Carla Brait's Mizar, often referred to as "negro girl" :-O) fights men at a cabaret, a pouty gay photographer (clear inspiration for "Austin Powers"), policemen who not only have provocative ideas (Islam heaven's better than Catholic heaven) but are actually shown doing their job (badly and for comedic effect, because Renzo!), etc. I prefer Edwige Fenech with short rather than long hair, but her Jennifer character earns audience sympathy due to her being stalked by an ex from their days in a sex cult (cue the topless flashbacks). I knew who the killer was early on, which freed me to admire the pics' chic look. 3 CREEPY BASEMENT STEAM BATHS (out of 5)

    THE BLOODSUCKER LEADS THE DANCE (1975, A.Prime, Mac McEntire: 6/19/2016)
    More Jean Rollin-like than Italian giallo (so many breasts and lesbian trists, so little time! :-P), this provocatively-titled tale of 1902 Irish female performers (and their manservant Samuel) invited by a widowed count to visit his isolated island estate moves at its own peculiar pace. It's basically a Gothic whodunit, but a detective we've never met comes in the last 10 minutes and solves/explains everything, "Psycho" style. Violence is more matter-of-fact postmortem than kinetic, and the supporting characters are naughty early 20th century version of "Clue." An acquired taste. 2.75 B&W CRASHING WAVES (out of 5)

    DELIRIUM (1987, YouTube, Anonymous: 6/28/14)
    Somebody has it in for Pussycat magazine owner Gloria (Serena Grandi), and the bodies of models/associates/relatives are posed stylishly for the killer's camera. Lamberto Bava must have gotten a great deal on the house with giant pool where Gloria lives, because we keep returning to it constantly. Interesting touches (the killer seeing red and distorted faces on his/her victims) and set-pieces (a department store after hours), plus Daria Nicolodi in a plum role as Gloria's assistant. No joke, I took a shower after watching "Delirium." It was hot in New York, but mostly because that final scene in the hospital... EEEEWWW!!! Now that's horror. 3.5 GEORGE EASTMAN-AS-HIMSELF SEXY CAMEOS (out of 5)

    1. BTW, is it too early to suggest we have a GEORGE EASTMAN! day for next year's Junesploitation!? I swear I'm not trying to find movies with Eastman in them, he just happens to randomly pop up in stuff ("The Gladiators," "Antropophagus") I've decided to watch without knowing he's in them. At least "Delirium" has George essentially playing himself off-camera and not a character, which felt refreshing. What a guy! :-)

  2. DEATH LAID AN EGG (1968, dir. Giulio Questi) on Amazon Prime

    I kept asking myself, “What is going on?” But it was always in a good way.

    Death Laid an Egg is a giallo, yet it fits into the genre in a very oblique way.

    It is best not to go into too much detail about the film because how it unfolds is a significant part of the fun. There is a couple, a secretary, and a chicken farm involved. The music and editing edge on being avant-garde in a very 1960s way. The style of the film is almost playful at certain moments.

    If anybody enjoys this, I recommend tracking down another film starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Ewa Aulin from this time, DEADLY SWEET. It blends genre with experimental filmmaking in an even more radical way.

    THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS (2013, dirs. Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattat)

    Giallo as surreal arthouse movie. It all begins with a man coming home and finding the apartment he shares with his wife empty but locked on the inside. Then the craziness starts to build up. The imagery of giallo films permeates the film: knives, razorblades, figures wearing a hat and dark trench coat, victim stalking. I could even spot where shots from specific films are referenced. Some of the music is familiar but not all from giallo films (a piece from Emanuelle Around the World, for example). What The Strange Color… lacks is a narrative to bind everything together. Can style be enough? Certainly, but with giallo there is some kind of mystery to focus on, no matter how silly it is. The verdict is still out on how I feel about this.

  3. With a little more time for movies this morning, I decided to re-visit a giallo.

    Who Saw Her Die? (1972, dir. Aldo Lado) on Amazon Prime

    This is not a satisfying giallo, and I hoped to find something more to like than on that first viewing. Beyond the Venice locations and Morricone’s score, there is little that I enjoyed. The characters are thin and unengaging, the plot plods along, and there is an emotional flatness to everything. With child murder involved, there should be even a little bit of emotion to the proceedings. A film like this makes me appreciate What Have You Done To Solange? even more. Skip Who Saw Her Die? and watch Solange.

    1. I haven't seen a whole lot of Giallo movies, but What Have You Done To Solange was among the very best. The mystery element of it was very well done, rather than just being a backdrop to showcase a series of murders.

    2. It is the giallo I go back to most often. I do love how everything comes together at the conclusion, a conclusion that always makes me sad.

  4. The Fifth Cord (1971) free on Vudu

    Franco Nero stars as a hard-drinking journalist in what I believe may be his only lead role in a Giallo. Director Luigi Bazzoni doesn't seem to have a big filmography (only 5 feature films) but does a solid job with what maybe isn't the strongest screenplay. I say that because due to a bunch of red herrings and vital information only being revealed near the end, you'll have as much luck trying to figure out who the killer is as Patrick had spotting Loo-Kee in old episodes of She-Ra. Nero is good as a generally unlikable lead who ends up on the list of suspects because cops apparently don't accept "blackout drunk" as an alibi. The murders aren't particularly graphic or crazy, but there was some pretty good cinematography, especially during the fight at the end.

    1. The cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, has three Oscars, including for Apocalypse Now. He also worked with Bernardo Bertolucci, Warren Beatty, and Dario Argento. Not a bad career.

    2. Hadn't had time to look it up so yeah, I was not aware that Vittorio Storaro was the cinematographer here. That certainly explains the quality!

  5. DROPS OF BLOOD (1960)
    A doctor conducts experiments while living inside a big windmill filled with creepy automatons. We’re meant to be shocked when it’s revealed that he’s the villain. This movie is more about creating a weird/gloomy atmosphere than it is about full-on scares. It has its moments, but this is more advanced viewing for Italian horror fans. Newbies should stick with Argento, Bava, etc.

    30 days of HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, day 22
    This movie is horny.

  6. The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)

    Not sure who taught math to the person who gave this movie its title, but by my count the Red Queen still has a little bit of killing to do to make her quota. You just can’t find good help nowadays, I guess. That being said, I really enjoyed this surprisingly straightforward giallo, involving a string of murders perpetrated by a mysterious figure with long black hair and a flowing red cloak.

    There’s tons of great (and very very not great, which somehow makes it greater) early seventies style on display, and the bold color palette and gothic overtones are quite striking. The mystery is a tad underbaked but when it’s presented with this much style I find it hard to be bothered, it’s all too much fun. It’s not as surreal as a lot of the other gialli I’ve seen, but there are a few surrealistic touches (in particular a dream sequence with one character actually in the frame and another reflected on glass) that really pop. I’m already excited to watch it again with Alan Jones and Kim Newman’s commentary.

    1. Don't you wish you had that wallpaper, JP?

    2. I do! I want to get a shirt patterned after it but I’m a big dude and horizontal stripes are the opposite of slimming.

  7. Body Count (Camping del terrore) (1986, dir. Ruggero Deodato)

    A group of friends (consisting entirely of slasher movie character archetypes) at a Colorado camping site are stalked by a masked killer, who may or may not be an Indian shaman protecting an ancient burial site.

    There's some atmosphere at times and Claudio Simonetti's theme is fun, but mostly it's just an entirely unoriginal and forgettable slasher.

    (I was planning to watch A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, which appeared on Mubi last week, but the Android TV app decided to stop working, so this was my rather disappointing fallback.)

  8. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

    Saw it on recommendation from fellow FTM-heads and I'll say it was a good call. Even though this movie is a much more down to earth affair, you can easily see from the stylish visuals and imaginative camera work that this is the same guy who would make Suspiria a few years later (an observation I am now qualified to make after watching Suspiria exactly 19 days ago). As for the story, it's a pretty standard serial killer plot which zigs and zags until the very end. I felt it kind of dragged a bit in the middle, but by the time the climax rolled in, things got really tense and I was thoroughly entertained. Apart from the finale, my favorite part was probably the scene at the recluse painter's house, which was deliciously deranged.

  9. The Cat 'O Nine Tails (1971) dir. Dario Argento

    Haha wow, did not see the MacGuffin of this mystery to be hateful, eugenic pseudoscience. Probably not a good time to watch this film, especially if you don't know the transphobic history of "Klinefelter Syndrome". Also the way the characters store/pour milk is criminal and should be abolished.

    However, watching a blind crossword author use braille and tiles to transcribe a new puzzle is more engaging than most action movie set pieces. I would have put on a 24-hour loop of it just to relax. You could probably turn it off after that, or just read the synopsis.

  10. Trauma (1993, dir. Dario Argento)


  11. The Weekend Murders 1970, directed by Michele Lipo. Amazon Prime. A family gathers at an English estate to hear the reading of a will and are bumped off one by one. An Italian approximation of a classic British murder mystery with a nice comedic touch and a little bit of giallo weirdness for good measure. Very entertaining and the transfer on Prime looks great.

  12. The Black Belly of the Tarantula

    A serial killer paralyzes his victims before slowly stabbing them.

    Starts off pretty sleazy with a nude massage, domestic violence, and some murder. Add in blackmail and a detective on the case and it's a solid movie.

  13. The Police are Blundering in the Dark ('75, Vinegar Syndrome Blu)

    Vinegar Syndrome... To the rescue! My half way to black Friday sale purchases arrived just in time for giallo day! Sadly taking place on a work day, so I obviously had to go for the sleasiest looking film and it does not disappoint.

    Beautiful, topless women are being murdered, a creepy, wheelchair-bound, affroed photographer photographs people's thoughts, and a dinner scene goes on approximately forever.

    I truly believe seeing less successful attempts at certain genres is helpful is truly appreciating the masterpieces we get caught up watching over and over again. My wallet is certainly going to be in pain if Vinegar Syndrome continues releasing the boxed sets, but I am absolutely in love with and will continue to support these endeavors without hesitation.

    1. How does the set look, Frank?

      I skipped the VS sale this time around with an eye to other purchases. There is box set of Umberto Lenzi gialli coming out from Severin that appeals to me. Maybe next Junesploitation I will get a watch out of that.

    2. It's always hard to say with VS! I may be a bit biased as I have a soft spot for how lovingly they approach such bizarre material (and live in state so feel a special connection to their physical location). The only one I've watched out of the three (police Blundering) was fun in being able to see what lesser, micro budget versions of giallo might look like though I'm hard pressed to call it a good film by any means. The a/v quality is beautiful, as with most VS releases, and it comes with a handful of special features which might help deepen my appreciation.

      I'd say, production-wise, the film surpasses a lot of the other 70s/80s VS releases I've picked up. If the other two are similar I'll honestly end up feeling the box was a major steal content wise, especially at sale price.

    3. Haven't watched the other two but:

      Trauma looks like equally sleazy fun. Heard it positively reviewed on a horror podcast recently.
      The killer is one of 13 looks like a low budget, giallo attempt at Agatha Christie's 'and then there were none' which is exciting after listening to the pure cinema with Rian Johnson where they recommended a modern adaptation of that which also looks great.

  14. The Evil Eye (1963, dir. Mario Bava)

    I really loved the look and feel of the movie but found the plot difficult to follow and somewhat tedious. It's Giallo day!

    Through most of the film it's a more restrained and conservative approach to Giallo than much of what would come later, but then has a final moment that might rival the insanity of the last scene in Strip Nude for Your Killer. Serious, what the hell???

  15. Tenebrae (1982)

    A first time watch for me, and I liked it a lot. Great music. Good kill sequences. Very entertaining.

  16. Day 22

    Dario Argento's Inferno

    Great gore moments, crazy fuckin cats, and a fun soundtrack just can't overcome a mystery that is mostly boring.

  17. Deep Red (1975, dir. Argento)

    It's been a while that I've been meaning to watch this one. Although it's not as colourful as the movies that were to follow (Suspiria, Inferno), there are plenty of visual flourishes and playing around with lighting in this. The mystery plot is fairly intricate with several surprising twists and turns.

    The score and particularly the theme song was one of the highlights. Although a great deal of the movie was without music, or if present, it was diagetic. So when a track from the score kicked in, it was that much more effective.

    Looking forward to listening to the Saturday Night Movie Sleepover episode for Deep Red, which I was saving until after viewing (It's been 4 years! Time flies)

  18. THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMMAGE (1970, Dario Argento)

    No surprises, I loved this movie. It's such a tight stylised thriller. You can see how Argento is really playing what Hitchcock did but making it more Argento with the black gloves. Though maybe because of that it felt what De Palmer would pick up and run with. The elevator staging in particular felt very familar. But Argento and De Palmer are favourites for similar reasons....

  19. Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971, dir. Aldo Lado)

    I had a really good time with this one. The dreamy, impressionistic montages are incredibly well-suited to the narrative of the film, and unlike some gialli, those flourishes aren’t simply included for the sake of style alone. The film is packed with grotesque Felliniesque faces, unusual rhythms, and lingering images of objects that feel primed with some kind of forgotten importance: altogether one of the best “nightmare logic” movies which (very appropriately) feels like a bad trip.

  20. The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974, Francesco Barilli)

    Huh. I was not expecting that ending. I'm not sure what I think of this movie. I ended up watching it in chunks, never the best way to see a movie, and it made this one even more disorienting. Missy Farmer is going crazy? Maybe, maybe not. That ending is definitive but at the same time, maybe not.......

    I need to watch it this again, and not take stop in the middle to watch the Office with my partner.

  21. Blood and Black Lace (1964)

    Thoroughly enjoyable. Great look. Sometimes with giallo I feel like there's no way to predict the murderer/mystery. In this I felt like every character was going out of their way to seem like they are the murderer. Really enjoyed it, it didn't feel like it took its foot off the gas at all for the 88 minute runtime.

  22. Cosa avete fatto a Solange? [What have you done to Solange?] (1972 - Massimo Dallamano)
    The first movie of the loose "Schoolgirls in Peril" trilogy. A person, dressed as a priest, is killing young women of a catholic school via stabbing them into her vaginas. Why is he doing that and can he be stopped by Inspector Inspektor Barth (Joachim Fuchsberger) and the teacher Henry Rossini (Fabio Testi), who had a liaison with one of the victims and is framed as the killer?
    One of the last movies of the 38-part long "Edgar Wallace Series", which started in 1959 and ended in 1972. This German-Italian co-production is dense, sometimes sleaze and offers an interesting plot. I liked it a lot.

  23. All the Colors of the Dark

    1972, Sergio Martino
    Streaming on Shudder

    All Rosemary, no baby. The plot is very similar in many specific ways but ultimately lacks the black humor, the setting-as-character quality of NYC, and ultimate payoff that helps the Farrow movie reach the upper stratosphere of cinema. Edwige Fenech is always intriguing to watch in these films, not only because she’s one of the most beautiful women in cinema, but because she has an ethereal quality that works so well in hazy, psychotically ambiguous Italian horror and giallo. I tried a few other Martino titles before settling on his one once I realized his work is a pretty large blindspot of mine. I’m not sure what about this one grabbed me other than that it wasn’t immediately mean spirited in the same way his other films can be. Like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, you feel empathy for the lead because we all know what that paranoia, distrust of loved ones, and sense of gaslighting feels like. You want to make sure she makes it out of the film okay. The supernatural angle is ultimately superficial for a variety of reasons and I wish it had gone much further - not “darker”, just “more”.

    EDIT: Started work again this weekend and forgot to post a few days, catching up now, oops.

  24. Blood and Black Lace (1964):

    Graduating from my favorite giallo to one of my favorite horror movies, in general.

    All the Colors of the Dark (1976):

    This is a movie about Edwige Fenech. It's about how she has some problems and people occasionally say and do things to her. I think one of them was Satan. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that this movie is about Edwige Fenech.

    1. I never tire of watching Blood and Black Lace, Rob. There are so many shots to admire. Bava gets some fascinating angles, and those great colors are there. The antiques store sequence is a masterpiece. It is a surprisingly vicious film for the early 1960s. I still wince when one of the victims is banged against a tree.