Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Junesploitation 2024 Day 11: Italian Horror!


  1. Always one of my favorite Junesploitation days, Italian horror is something that has become a major part of my movie life. So many of my comfort films come from it, particularly Mario Bava's work. Though there are some films of his that I have not yet seen (and have owned for a while), I decided to go with two new watches from a recent acquisition, Arrow's Gothic Fantastico box set.

    LADY MORGAN’S VENGEANCE (1965, dir. Massimo Pupillo)

    Massimo Pupillo (under the name Max Hunter) is among my least favorite of the Italians who worked in the horror genre. This did not improve my opinion of his work, yet it is likely the best of his films that I have seen. The plot is a mess, going from a long section of melodrama to supernatural revenge in seemingly a second. The WTF ending is what it is. It’s Italian horror, after all. The element that I enjoyed most is the lovely black-and-white cinematography. Also, genre regular (and personal favorite) Erika Blanc gets a meaty part as a scheming domestic worker. Though not as fun as his cheesy Bloody Pit of Horror, Pupillo did at least make a watchable film.

    THE WITCH (1966, dir. Damiano Damiani)

    The Italian title is the The Witch In Love. Though not a horror film at the outset, the gothic trappings start to come through. What sets the film apart is the setting of a very 1960s Rome. Sergio (Richard Johnson) answers a newspaper ad for a librarian job at a dilapidated palace. Recognizing the old lady who placed it as the woman who has been following him, he at first refuses the job but takes up the offer when he meets the beautiful Aura. I really do not want to give more away because much of the delight of the film stems from the unveiling of details and the beguiling imagery. Although on the long side, there is a lot happening to keep the viewer occupied. In the blending of horror elements and art film, The Witch definitely is different from most entries of Italian gothic cinema.

  2. By the way, the image for today comes from Mario Bava's excellent Kill, Baby, Kill. It does star Erika Blanc, too.


    This is exactly what I'd do if I owned a castle.

  4. Stage Fright 1987

    I had lots of fun with this one....its a completely self contained serial killer flick that takes place during a stage production. Takes a bit to kick into gear but once it does its filled with creative kills and practical gore. Plus...as we all know, 80s serial killers are often beholden to their mask. The hockey mask look is solid. The william shatner mask repurposed as the shape is classic. But this flick? Super creepy owl mask! Dig it.

  5. Beyond the Darkness (1979, dir. Joe D'Amato). What a nasty vile movie. I made it 1/3 of the way through Junesploitation before running into some necrophilia.

  6. Witch Story (1989, dir. Alessandro Capone)

    College-age kids party at a house, where the spirit of a witch possesses the women. Slasher hijinks ensue. This is a fairly standard movie of this type, with a couple highlights: A witch bursting out of a swimming pool with a running chainsaw (they work underwater?!) and someone getting run over by a tractor going 1-mph Austin-Powers-Style. I would recommend this deep cut if you're a fan of this genre.

  7. Shocking Dark AKA Terminator 2 (1989)

    Aliens/Terminator 2 rip-off directed by the mad man that is Bruno Mattei (Rats, Cruel Jaws, Night of the Zombies). Only a few minutes in and this already has all the makings for a wild afternoon viewing soaked in grime, sneering one-liners, and badass synth score.

  8. The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972, dir. Giuliano Carnimeo)

    A call girl is found murdered in an apartment building elevator, then a stripper is killed in her apartment. When two models, one of them tormented by her past in a new-age s-e-x cult, move into the latter's old apartment, they become the killer's next targets.

    It's a pretty typical giallo with psychos-e-xual overtones and plenty of silly twists and red herrings, elevated by the presence of Edwige Fenech and some inventive camerawork.

  9. The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972, dir. Giuliano Carnimeo)

    A c-a-l-l g-i-r-l is found murdered in an apartment building elevator, then a stripper is killed in her apartment. When two models, one of them tormented by her past in a new-age sex cult, move into the latter's old apartment, they become the killer's next targets.

    It's a pretty typical giallo with psychosexual overtones and plenty of silly twists and red herrings, elevated by the presence of Edwige Fenech and some inventive camerawork.

    1. Seriously, Blogger? Murder, sex cult and stipper are fine, but c-a-l-l g-i-r-l you take issue with?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. You're right, i tested it and it deleter the message (i also deleted something else myself

    4. How about b-l-a-c-k m-a-g-i-c? Blogger is certainly interesting in the words it censors.

    5. Apparently migrating from Blogger to Wordpress is relatively simple. But i understand Patrick has other things to do. I also don't know if Wordpress is even a good platform

  10. Planet of the Vampires (1965)

    I decided to not overthink it and just go with another Mario Bava.

    An acting troupe takes over a long-closed theater to stage a new production, unknowingly awakening a vampire. The vamp takes an interest in a beautiful young actress, and we’re off and running. This premise, though, is just an excuse for a bunch of dream sequences full of spooky and macabre imagery. That’s what we’re here for, and the filmmakers seem to know it. I liked this one quite a bit, drawn in by the visuals alone.

    BAY OF BLOOD (1971)
    Looking over the Italian horror lists, it occurred to me that I still hadn’t seen this Mario Bava staple. No time like the present! Good-looking young people at a lakeside cabin are stalked by a murderer. This is yet another “slasher before there were slashers” movie that came out before Halloween. In particular, the first Friday the 13th owes a lot to this one. None of this is to the movie’s detriment, however, especially if you long for horror flicks the way they used to be made.

    Bonus Universal Monster-sploitation: THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (1940)
    We leave the horror genre behind (mostly) for a slapstick battle-of-the-sexes comedy. A woman uses the invisibility formula to get back at her jerk boss and some bumbling gangsters. It’s goofy and silly, but great if silly is what you’re looking for.

  12. CRUEL PETER (2019)
    First-time watch. Vertical DVD. 5/10.
    Considering I just got my VinegarSyndrome sale box containing a 4K of PRIMAL RAGE (& TCM2 w/Bromlentary), I figured I should branch out & watch this Italo-horror I bought at Dollar Tree instead.
    A disgraced archaeologist goes to Sicily with his deaf, vegan, teenage daughter. We already know that the titular youth was slicing & tormenting folks in 1908, so when a grave is found & the daughter starts eating meat... lookout.
    If this same exact story had been made in 1982 by Pupi Avati, it would surely have a boutique Blu. Instead, there's a mix of interesting images & newfangled horror hokum. The characters are all either unlikable or we barely know them enough to get worked up. We also get a soundtrack with excessive bass tones. There's worse out there.

    ...maybe there's still time to express my PRIMAL RAGE before bed...

  13. PRIMAL RAGE (1988)
    Rewatch. VinegarSyndrome 4K. 8/10 up from 6/10.
    Another old rating from my objectivity days/daze...
    I probably watched this first on VHS about 20yrs ago, then again in 2010 when the Code Red DVD came out (which I probably picked up at Best Buy).
    This is plenty of spaghetti fun in Miami.
    Beware the scientist with a frustratingly tiny ponytail.

  14. EVIL FACE (1974)
    dir. Yilmaz Duru & Sergio Garrone

    Klaus Kinski is a Frankensteinish doctor harvesting skin from unwilling country girls to restore his burn-victim wife to her original youthful beauty. Burial alive! Carlo Rimbaldi body horror FX! Creepy doll! Hot sex!

    It’s kinda slow, especially with the drawn out ending. But still, Krazy Klaus Kinski! What more do you need to know?


  15. Now I'm really late! :-D


    These are just the two mainstream movies I had to watch with my stepmom during the day (along with playing with her grandson/my nephew, walking her elderly mother, cleaning the basement, etc.) to get in her good graces. For the record, she now loves Jennifer Lawrence and thinks "No Hard Feelings" is better than "Jaws" and "Hidden Figures." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Then again, after "HF" we spent a good hour talking about racial issues in the US and our homeland through the decades. Then stepmom went to bed and I got the 75' Vizio all to myself... after midnight. :-)


    I'd agree with Chris Ceballos (see above) that having Klaus Kinski in your Italian/Turkish period piece horror production would be an automatic win, except for one crucial detail: Kinski is missing during the most important scenes in the movie! A too-obvious body double performs the Carlo Rimbaldi-designed gore effects during the skin transplant operations, and it's beyond distracting. It kills the pace of an already slow-moving, slow-burn of a horror thriller lacking in tension, especially if you've already seen Georges Franju's "Eyes Without A Face" (a clear inspiration). The directors love their extreme eye close-ups, though, and nobody can top Klaus at the thousand-yard 'looking dead inside' stare. The three female leads (Katia Christine, Marzia Damon and Carmen Silva) are smoking hot, which only highlights how ugly the men in the film are, especially Erol Tas as Kinski's Igor-like gimped assistant. I'm glad I saw it and it has some great moments (Masha's hubby entombed, lesbian interlude), but a lot of bad ones as well (a rape victim struggling to live for a while longer to get revenge) and it ends on a huge meant-to-be-deep-but-feels-cheap, anti-climactic denouement. 2.75 OUT-OF-CONTROL, OFF-CAMERA CARRIAGE CRASHES (out of 5).


    Well, I finally climbed the top of Misogyny mountain and can't go any higher (lower?). This is the apex (depth?) of Italian horror depravity, tonal incompetence, copycat mise-en-scène and contempt for female characters on film, a piece of crap so vile it makes "Strip Nude for Your Killer" look like a female empowerment indie. A man is stabbed to death, a woman drowns in the canal and a completely off-kilter song starts the opening credits. It's not even 30 seconds in and "Gore in Venice" has already jumped the entire "Sharknado" catalogue. Using the excuse of solving these homicides, we follow a too-cool-for-school inspector (Jeff Blynn, aka Italian Marjoe Gortner) who can't stop fondling, eating, asking for or sharing eggs... IN EVERY SCENE HE'S IN! With a Kojak-lookalike underling by his side, the inspector tracks down and interviews people who knew Flavia (Leonora Fani) and Fabio (Gianni Dei) who in turn lead the cops to other characters. Between flashbacks and ongoing finding we get some Herschell Gordon-Lewis-caliber gore pieces that are phony /unrealistic, but (a) they're all vile toward women and (b) go on forever without a hint of irony. It's like these filmmaker a-holes (director Mario Landi, writer Aldo Serio, etc.) think the cheapness of their props is their shield from criticism, when in fact it highlights their moral bankruptcy. Then again, that dude pleasuring himself in the movie theater while couples are having sex next to him and on the big screen highlights how unlikable, repulsive and off-putting every single character is.

    At the end we do find out why Flavia and Fabio die in the first 30 secs. of "GIV" (the McGuffin that pushes the story forward) but it wasn't worth the 98 minutes getting there... especially when it's one more chance to kick dirt in the face of an already-suffered-enough female character. 1.5 TOO-SMALL-FOR-MARZIA REFRIGERATORS (out of 5). And Italian Horror! 2024 turned into a big dud after dark. :'(

  16. The Long Hair of Death (1964)

    Less horror, more Gothic thriller, but good to look at. Actually able to watch in Italian with subtitles rather than English dubs, which was nice! Works for Barbara Steel day too!!!

  17. Alien 2: On Earth aka Alien Terror (Dir: Ciro Ippolito, Biagio Proietti)

    An unofficial in name only sequel to Alien in which the claustrophobic atmosphere of the spaceship is replaced with a cave. Well once we make it too the cave. Until then we get stock footage of the Apollo missions in which a TV director shouts about making sure to put the stock photo tag on the footage so its not mistaken for the real footage. Then uses stock footage for the actual event. The alien eggs are replaced with rocks and the aliens look like red sock puppets dipped in tomato sauce. Being Italian instead of the chest burster we get an
    ocular eruption. By the end we have psychic connections, symbiotic possessions and slow-motion head explosions. Didn't make a lick of sense but it was entertaining as hell.

    1. Damn, I really need to see this one. Thanks for the reminder!

  18. Nightmare Castle (1965) Wow! Two Barbara Steeles for the price of one— she plays twins. The downside is that like other Italian horror films, after a bang-up first 15 minutes, the middle hour is a snooze, followed by a bravura finale. What gives? Does Italian horror only care about the outer shell but not the delicious filling? A mystery. Still, there’s plenty to love here, including death by acid and bathtub electrocutions. Beautiful sets and costumes too!

  19. Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)

    This entry is a bit late. Or maybe it's operating on the same nonsense logic as the film - take your pick! I'm definitely not too old for watching movies past 930 on weeknights... couldn't be that.

    I know giallo are known for being brutal but this shit is just cruel even by those standards. Not overly graphic but the method of killing is so unpleasant it's hard to stay entertained (I'm not at all prude to film violence, Terrifier 2 made my top 10 the year it was released).

    I want to pretend Morricone had a Travolta in Blow Out intense journey to find the perfect orgasm for this bizarre ass soundtrack.