March & April at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Links to some of the writing I did for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in March & April 2016.

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Warning! TCM’s Condemned Film Festival is Here
Excerpt: “It’s probably not surprising that TCM’s Condemned Film Festival has come under scrutiny from some sources and individuals who find the programming objectionable and Sister Rose Pacatte’s involvement unacceptable, particularly during Lent and the run-up to Easter Sunday. To provide more insight on this upcoming series I decided to contact TCM programmer Millie De Chirico, who kindly answered my questions and Director of Program Production Scott McGee, who allowed me to quote from an insightful interview he did with Sister Rose. I hope it might encourage viewers of all types and stripes to tune in, no matter what their religious affiliation may or may not be.”

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Beware of Birds: Crow Hollow (1952)
Excerpt: “Crow Hollow (1952) is a little seen low-budget British B-movie typically categorized as Film Noir in the few books where I’ve seen it mentioned. After catching up with it recently I discovered that it had much more in common with Gothic mysteries, Gaslight (1940) inspired thrillers and classic “Old Dark House” movies. Directed economically by Michael McCarthy, who excelled in television and made a number of suspenseful WW2 dramas such as The Accursed (1957) and Operation Amsterdam (1959), the film lacks the stylish flourishes and sophisticated set pieces that the material cries out for. But it is held together by some sharp performances and a twisty plot based on a book by Dorothy Eden and it’s Eden’s involvement that drove me to watch Crow Hollow.”

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Six Irish Tales of Terror & Imagination
Excerpt: “To celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day I thought I would share a collection of outstanding short Irish horror and dark fantasy films that readers can view online free of charge. The six films I’ve selected showcase the talents of some up-and-coming Irish filmmakers who frequently incorporate Irish folklore and legends into their work. These films also demonstrate how potent a succinct shock to the system can be when it is thoughtfully executed by creative writers and directors. In fact, some of these short films are so accomplished and effective that you might find yourself wishing that they were full-length features.”

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New on Blu-ray: Roger Corman’s The Trip (1967)
Excerpt: “Conceived by Corman and written by cohort Jack Nicholson, who had appeared in five of the director’s previous films (The Cry Baby Killer; 1958, The Little Shop of Horrors; 1960, The Raven; 1963, The Terror; 1963 and The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre; 1967), The Trip was one of the first movies to explicitly deal with drug use without moralizing the act. Intentionally or not, it also acted as a sort of road map for anyone considering taking their own drug induced ‘trip.’ At the time, LSD was infiltrating L.A. cocktail parties and Hollywood thrill seekers such as Cary Grant, John Huston, Rita Moreno, Steve McQueen and James Coburn reportedly experimented with hallucinogenics. Jack Nicholson also enjoyed using LSD and his personal ‘happenings’ embellish the script but he wasn’t the only one involved with the film who had dabbled with drugs. The movie’s stars, including Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg and Dennis Hopper, had all experimented with psychedelics and Roger Corman took his own ‘trip’ before shooting started so he’d have a deeper understanding of the material.”

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Bob Peak: Poster Artist
Excerpt:”One of the best movie posters I own is a U.S. design for Joseph Losey’s Modesty Blaise (1966) featuring a gorgeous eye-popping illustration by Bob Peak. Recently I decided to do some research into Peak and was surprised and delighted to discover that he had illustrated many of my favorite movie posters made during the 1960s and 1970s. I also learned that the artist’s son, Tom Peak, had been keeping his father’s memory alive by maintaining a website celebrating Bob Peak’s artistic achievements and publishing books that feature his work. Today I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned about Peak with our blog readers and showcase some of his best movie poster designs.”

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Death Walks Twice: A Giallo Double Feature
Excerpt: “Both films were directed by Luciano Ercoli and feature Ercoli’s wife, actress Susan Scott (a.k.a. Nieves Navarro). Like many of the best Italian thrillers, these two budget conscious productions look more luxurious than their American counterparts thanks to the creative direction, exotic European settings (Milan, Paris, London and Catalonia) and their innovative use of period specific aesthetics and attitudes including the music, architecture, fashions, and shifting sexual mores of the times. Comprised of labyrinth-like plots inspired by classic Alfred Hitchcock movies and the best Film Noir, Arrow’s new Death Walks Twice box set should appeal to genre novices as well as seasoned giallo fans.”

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Barrymore Best: The Spiral Staircase (1946)
Excerpt: “Merging various genres and subgenres including gothic horror, classic Old Dark House mysteries and atypical Film Noir, Siodmak was able to concoct a potent cinematic cocktail that has inspired countless imitators and admirers in the U.S. and abroad. Films such as Alfred Hitchock’s The Lodger (1927), Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and Richard Thorpe’s Night Must Fall (1937) had explored the sordid world of serial killers before and incorporated some of the same visual motifs. But The Spiral Staircase with its gloved killer, POV photography, violent depictions of death, obsession with dead animals, unrelenting suspense, atmospheric score, compelling use of location and the unabashed use of dream logic that’s integral to the narrative, became a sort of prototype for giallo.”

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On the Waterfront (1954): A Poster Gallery
Excerpt:”If you’ve never had the opportunity to experience this powerful and provocative movie on the big screen I highly recommend doing so. You might think you understand what made Marlon Brando such a commanding screen presence but until you’ve had the opportunity to see him strut and fret for more than an hour on the big screen, I don’t think you can fully appreciate what made him a Hollywood trailblazer and acting heavyweight. But don’t just come to watch Brando at his best. There are many more reasons to see On the Waterfront including Elia Kazan’s outstanding direction, Boris Kaufman’s moody black and white cinematography, Budd Schulberg’s potent script, Leonard Bernstein’s compelling score and a top-notch cast of supporting players that include Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger and Lee J. Cobb firing on all-cylinders while delivering some of their finest screen work.”

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Star Scents: A Pictorial of Classic Film Star Fragrances
Excerpt:”I decided to try and track down as many movie star scents as I could and what I discovered genuinely surprised me. What follows is a select pictorial of perfumes made famous by the actors who inspired, promoted and occasionally played a part in creating them.”

June & July at the Movie Morlocks

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I haven’t been online much the last few months for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I’ve been having some medical problems with my left eye and spending lots of time on my computer reading, watching vids and writing can often be problematic. My eyes get easily irritated and I’m prone to headaches, etc. The other reason is simple net fatigue, particularly on social media sites such as Facebook & Twitter where petty bickering, herd-like behavior and one-upmanship among film fans, critics and journalists can become unbearably tiresome. With that out of the way, I want to apologize to anyone you visits Cinebeats often hoping for new updates (excuses I know… but I seem to be suffering from an extreme case of weltschmerz this year) but you can still find me regularly posting on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog and I occasionally write articles for TCM’s website. Here are some links to things I’ve written in the last few months:

They Wore It Well: Actors & Mustaches: “Mustaches of all shapes, sizes, widths and weights have long been part our movie history so it’s easy to take them for granted. But a good mustache can have power and presence in the movies and many actors have made great use of their facial hair to seduce costars, entice laughter and menace their enemies.”

Hammer Noir: Terence Fisher’s STOLEN FACE (1952): “While a few of the Fisher’s earlier films, such as SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950), hinted at his penchant for gothic fantasy and costume drama, STOLEN FACE gave the director the opportunity to begin exploring (and exploiting) his apparent fascination with science, philosophy, psychology and medicine that would later permeate his full-color horror films made for Hammer. Amid the noir elements and abundant melodrama that can be found in STOLEN FACE, Fisher spends a noticeable amount of time lingering on strange medical devices while focusing on the doctor’s interactions with patents and colleagues. The doctor also makes a noteworthy trip to a pub where he mingles with some inquisitive locals. This seemingly innocuous event became a staple in Fisher’s horror films…”

Summer Reading Suggestions: “Like many people, I tend to do a lot of reading when the weather warms up and with summer officially about to start on June 21st I thought it would be a good time to share some of the books I’ve been enjoying with my fellow film buffs. My own tastes tend to be somewhat eclectic but I hope readers of all types and stripes will find something that piques their interest when pursuing my list of Summer Reading Suggestions.”

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“I wonder if my brother remembers his brother?” – Remembering Eli Wallach 1915-2014: “Leone famously liked to shoot his actors in extreme close-up or in sweeping wide shots where they were barely visible. But Wallach instinctively knew how to make the most of his screen time and easily navigates between these two very different modes of filmmaking. His eyes speak volumes when Leone’s camera zooms in for a signature close-up but when the director’s camera is out of sight Wallach skillfully used his body language to define his character from a distance. Many actors would get lost in the vast deserts, dilapidated cemeteries and shabby old towns that make up Leone’s film but Wallach seamlessly becomes part of the landscape. We know he’s there even when we can’t see him.”

When Fact Mirrors Fiction: AGATHA (1979): “Redgrave and Hoffman make an unlikely pair and some critics apparently found their height difference distracting but I think the two actors have an incredible chemistry on screen. Redgrave seems to be channeling Garbo while Hoffman displays the kind of arrogant charm that made William Powell so likable. Both performers have rarely been as vulnerable, sympathetic, affable and flat out sexy as they are here, which is partially due to the way they interact and seem to identify with one another’s characters. Their unconventional but utterly convincing on-screen romance is one of the many reasons why I find AGATHA so compelling.”

The Malaise of the Ghetto: LA HAINE (1995): “The broad appeal of Kassovitz’s film can also be traced to another film that mesmerized young audiences in 1955, Nicholas Ray’s timeless classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Both films focus on a troubled threesome who form a makeshift family during the span of 24 hours. The neighborhood fighting might be on a much smaller scale and the suburban hood of 1955 Los Angeles appears much more inviting than the suburban slums of 1995 Paris, but both movies use the threat of gun violence to their credit. Neither Plato (Sal Mineo) nor Vinz (Vincent Cassel) can fully comprehend the lethal power of the weapons they’re carrying and their shared desire for some kind of notoriety or control in the face of an indifferent world is something many young people can unfortunately sympathize with . Does LA HAINE have the staying power of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE? That remains to be seen.”

A Century of Scares: Happy Birthday Bava!: “This week marks the 100th birthday of Mario Bava who was born on July 30th (according to leading Bava researcher Tim Lucas and author of the essential Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark) or 31st (if you want to believe IMDB.com and Wikipedia). The brilliant Italian director, cinematographer, special effects artist and screenwriter died in 1980 but today he’s fondly remembered by horror film enthusiasts as the Maestro of the Macabre. Bava has long been one of my favorite filmmakers so I couldn’t let this important anniversary pass without acknowledging his artistry.”

April & May at The Movie Morlocks

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Highlights from my April & May contributions to TCM’s Movie Morlocks. You can read all the articles by following the links below:

Happy Birthday Doris!
Excerpt: “The legacy of this vivacious movie star, popular vocalist, television personality and animal rights advocate is truly unparalleled. And knowing Doris Day’s is still here with us doing good work that benefits us all is something worth celebrating!”

When Insects Attack: GENOCIDE (1968)
Excerpt: “The unexpected blend of film genres makes GENOCIDE a unique viewing experience that benefits from some impressive psychedelic inspired visuals. Director Kazui Nihonmatsu uses a number of imaginative film techniques including superimposition and slow dissolves to express the fractured state of mind of his tormented cast as well as the apocalyptic nature of their plight. And the relentless close-ups of actual insects munching on human flesh gives this low-budget production an uncomfortable documentary-like ambiance. Fans of Toho’s more atypical outings such as THE H-MAN (1958), THE HUMAN VAPOR (1960) and MATANGO (1965) will appreciate GENOCIDE and if you enjoy a good bug invasion movie as much as I do you should find this interesting little gem worthy of your time.”

Matrimony, Madness and Murder: HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)
Excerpt: “What sets HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON apart from many other pretty-boy “psycho-thrillers” (a term I’m borrowing from film journalist Kim Newman) that were prevalent in the late sixties and early seventies is its international setting and baroque setpieces. Bava’s film was shot in France, Italy and Spain and used the elegant villa of the infamous Generalissimo Francisco Franco as one of its backdrops. The House of Harrington contains an extravagant bridal salon adorned with mannequins that model beautiful wedding gowns and resemble the lifeless corpses of dead brides. And it is in this enclosed and highly stylized setting that the killer feels most at home as does Bava’s camera which lovingly lingers over every macabre detail allowing us an intimate look into the murderer’s mind.”

Rough, Raw & Randy: UP THE JUNCTION (1968)
Excerpt: “Peter Collinson’s effective slice-of-life drama UP THE JUNCTION (1968) makes its DVD and Blu-ray debut in the U.S. this week thanks to Olive Films. Today the film is often fondly remembered by fans of sixties cinema for its South London setting, colorful mod fashions, beehive hairdos, boastful bikers and jazzy psychedelic pop score by Manfred Mann. But UP THE JUNCTION has more to offer viewers besides an abundance of great style and an unforgettable soundtrack.”

Bad Movie Mothers We Love to Hate
Excerpt: “TCM is celebrating Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11th) with a great program of classic films showcasing notable mothers. While looking over Sunday’s line-up I was surprised to spot NOW, VOYAGER (1942), which features Gladys Cooper as the incredibly cold and domineering mother of Bette Davis. Cooper won an Oscar nomination for her memorable performance and went on to play another overbearing mother in SEPARATE TABLES (1958) who torments poor Deborah Kerr. While considering Gladys Cooper’s portrayal of two heartless mothers I started thinking about other horrible movie moms that I’ve enjoyed watching over the years.”

Spy Games: BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD! (1966)
Excerpt: “BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD! Is just one of hundreds (possibly thousands) of spy spoofs that were released in the sixties following the world-wide success of the early James Bond films. Its unwieldy plot and cookie-cutter characters will be familiar to many but thanks to a solid cast, the spectacular North Africa locations and some thrilling action sequences this amusing romp managed to keep me entertained throughout its 92 minute running time.”

Mystery & Melodrama: THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE (2012-2014)
Excerpt: “It’s a shame that so many women who took on incredibly difficult and challenging jobs during WW2, such as flying planes, driving tanks, nursing the wounded, spying for their governments and breaking complicated codes shared by enemy nations, have been overshadowed by their male counterparts. Rosie the Riveter has become a symbol of female ingenuity during wartime but women did much more in WW2 besides working in ammunition factories. THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE shines a welcome light on a group of heroic women that have all too often been forgotten by history and brings them to vivid life.”

“The World’s Most Beautiful Animal!” – Ava Gardner in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954)
Excerpt: “Ava Gardner makes one of my favorite film entrances of all time in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954), which airs on TCM June 1st. If you want to kick off the new month with a bang I highly recommend making time for this verbose Technicolor-noir that critiques Hollywood excess and the powerful studio system that frequently exploited its stars. Mankiewicz’s film is a heady brew of CITIZEN KANE (1941), LAURA (1944), SUNSET BLVD. (1950) and the director’s own ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) shot with abundant style by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff.”

Giallo Notte

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My newest Halloween music mix at 8tracks is called “Giallo Notte” and it contains 14 great music tracks from some of my favorite giallo films such as Dario Argento’s Deep Red (1975), Aldo Lado’s Short Night Of Glass Dolls (1971), Sergio Martino’s The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh (1971) and Emilio Miraglia’s The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972), plus much, much more. Enjoy!

Track Listing:
Goblin – “Profondo Rosso” Original Sound Effect Bonus Track (1975) from DEEP RED
Goblin – “Death Dies” Film Version-Part 1 (1975) from DEEP RED
Ennio Morricone – “Valzer” (1971) from SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS
Ennio Moricone – “Piume di Cristallo” (1970) from THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMMAGE
Roberto Nicolosi – “Preparando La Trappola E Un’Ombra Nel Buio” (1963) from THE EVIL EYE
Piero Umilani – “Cinque Bambole Versione Coro” (1970) from FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON
Piero Umilani – “Danza Primitiva” (1970) from FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON
Sante Maria Romitelli – “Hatchet Shake” (1970) from HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON
Nora Orlandi – “The Blade Pleasure” (1971) from THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH
Nora Orlandi – “Shakin´ With Edwige” (1971) from THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH
Riz Ortolani – “Lombard Street” (1969) from PERVERSION STORY
Riz Ortolani – “Golden Gate Bridge” (1969) from PERVERSION STORY
Bruno Nicolai – “Perche Quelle Strane Gocce Di Sangue Sul Corpo Di Jennifer?” (1972) from THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS
Bruno Nicolai – “La Dama Rossa Uccide Sette Vo” (1972) from THE RED QUEEN KILLS 7 TIMES
http://8tracks.com/mixes/415075/player_v3
Cinebeats @ 8Tracks

Reinventing Lolita

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Top: Sue Lyon in Murder in a Blue World (1973)
Bottom: Sue Lyon in Lolita (1961)

From my latest post at The Movie Morlocks:

One of the most iconic images to emerge from the cinema in the 1960s is the figure of a young Sue Lyon, peering over her sunglasses at a leering James Mason in Stanley Kubrick’s LOLITA (1961). And I’m definitely not alone in my view. The Spanish genre director Eloy de la Iglesia must have agreed with me when he decided to cast Sue Lyon in his intriguing futuristic thriller, MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD (aka CLOCKWORK TERROR; 1973). Eloy de la Iglesia’s film has often been labeled a low-budget and poorly constructed Spanish knock-off of Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) and it’s easy to understand why. But its meta-referencing goes way beyond A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and tips its hat in equal measure to Kubrick’s LOLITA. In fact, MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD is really an homage to Kubrick himself and arguably one of the most interesting films released in Spain during the early ‘70s.

Murder in the Blue World (1963)

Murder in the Blue World (1963)If you’d like to read more about Sue Lyon in Eloy de la Iglesia’s MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD please follow the link:
Reinventing Lolita in MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD (1973) @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

I’ve also compiled a Flickr gallery of images from the film that you can find here.

ZEN on PBS

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Actress Catherine Spaak in 1966

I rarely write about modern films or new television shows but if you happen to follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’ve probably noticed that I occasionally mention movies and TV shows that don’t warrant a full post on Cinebeats. My latest obsession is the BBC import currently playing on PBS titled, ZEN (2011).

Rufus SewellZEN is a modern day cop show starring the handsome & talented Rufus Sewell, who should be a household name by now. Sewell’s character is a Venetian detective named Aurelio Zen and he gets to wear expensive Italian suits while solving crimes in Italy. ZEN takes full advantage of the beautiful setting and there’s lots of show stopping shots of the Italian countryside. In ZEN Sewell’s character lives alone with his mother who happens to be played by the beautiful 66-year-old actress, Catherine Spaak and Spaak’s name should be familiar to fans of Italian films like Pasquale Festa Campanile’s The Libertine (1968), Dario Argento’s The Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971) and Antonio Margheriti’s Take a Hard Ride (1975). The show is based on a series of books by British author, Michael Dibdin and if I had to guess I’d say that the directors, writers & casting agents are fans of Italian Poliziotteschi films and possibly Italian horror/giallo films. From the groovy soundtrack to the Gothic settings, ZEN is a show that should appeal to some fans of Italian exploitation films, but be forewarned! It’s slow-moving and takes awhile to get going. And the proceedings have naturally been “softened up” for the BBC television audience. And although it’s set in Italy, ZEN is a BBC production so almost all the actors involved are British performers pretending to be Italian and they don’t bother with fake accents. But if you’re looking for something new to watch on TV, you could do a lot worse than ZEN. The first episode is currently available to watch on the PBS website in case you missed it. Just follow the link posted below to find more information about the show:

ZEN : Masterpiece Mystery : PBS

As I’ve mentioned before in various places, PBS is currently running some of the best shows on television including SHERLOCK and DOWNTON ABBEY. You can add ZEN to the list of great shows on Public Television right now.

Jodorowsky at Severin

Severin has recently released my favorite Alejandro Jodorowsky film on DVD, the magnificent Santa Sangre (1989). Santa Sangre has been one of my favorite films since I originally saw it on video back in 1990. It had an extremely limited theatrical run and hasn’t been available on DVD in the US until now. Severin did an amazing job on their release and the DVD looks terrific. It’s also loaded with extras including:

ssanta2Forget Everything You Have Ever Seen: The World Of Santa Sangre. Exclusive Feature Length Making-Of Documentary Featuring All-New Interviews with the Cast And Crew
• Audio Commentary with Jodorowsky and Journalist Alan Jones
• Deleted Scenes with Director Commentary
• For One Week Only: Alejandro Jodorowsky: 1990 UK Documentary
• Goyo Cárdenas Spree Killer: Documentary on the Real Life Inspiration For Santa Sangre
• On Stage Q&A With Jodorowsky
• Jodorowsky 2003 Interview
. . . and more!

I previously wrote about my deep appreciation for Jodorowsky’s movie back in 2007 when I was asked to select some of my favorite foreign language films for an online poll. At the time I said:

Santa Sangre is probably Jodorwsky’s darkest effort and it’s also his most fully realized film in my humble opinion. It’s brimming with unforgettable imagery and startling storytelling techniques that recall an earlier time in European horror cinema. Like many of the films on my list, Santa Sangre is not easy viewing. It demands a lot from potential viewers but it’s a film that constantly comes to mind when I think about foreign language films that have deeply affected me. It changed the way that I view cinema and shaped my appreciation of the art form.”

I still feel that way today and the Severin’s DVD release has only added to my enjoyment of Jadorowsky’s masterpiece. You can find my full (but brief) comments about Santa Sangre in the Cinebeats Archives.
12 Favorite Foreign Language Films (including Santa Sangre) – From the Cinebeats’ Archives

Ennio Morricone’s My Dear Killer OST

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George Hilton in My Dear Killer aka Mio Caro Assassino (1972)

This month Digitmovies is scheduled to release Ennio Morricone’s incredible score for the excellent giallo thriller My Dear Killer aka Mio Caro Assassino (1972). This will be the 9th volume from Italy’s Digitmovies devoted to the original soundtrack recordings of Ennio Morricone and if it’s as good as their previous releases Morricone fans are in for a real treat!

My Dear Killer happens to be one of my favorite giallo films and it was directed by Tonino Valerii who made some great Italian westerns such as My Name is Nobody (1973), but he is probably best known for his work as an assistant director to Sergio Leone during the making of A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965). My Dear Killer was Tonino Valerii’s only giallo film but it’s a smart, creative and surprising thriller that offered its talented star (George Hilton) one of his best roles. In the film Hilton plays a police inspector trying to solve a gruesome series of crimes that may or may not be connected to the kidnapping and murder of a young girl that took place years earlier. Besides George Hilton’s standout performance as Inspector Luca Peretti, My Dear Killer also features one of Ennio Morricone’s most creepy and effective scores.

A few of the tracks from Morricone’s soundtrack for My Dear Killer have been released before on compilation CDs, but the upcoming Digitmovies CD will mark the first time that Morricone’s complete score for My Dear Killer has been made available in any form.

This impressive soundtrack includes haunting vocals provided by the brilliant Edda Dell’Orso who worked closely with the composer on many of his best film scores. All together the CD contains a total of 17 remastered tracks and it’s available just in time for Halloween. If you’re a Morricone fan or just enjoy genuinely eerie film soundtracks you’re definitely going to want to pick up a copy of the My Dear Killer OST.

You can currently purchase new and used copies of the soundtrack for My Dear Killer aka Mio Caro Assassino at Amazon. At the moment these CDs are a little hard to come by since they’re imported from Italy but Digitmovies is still in the process of shipping out orders so check back at Amazon often.

The film is also available on DVD from Amazon and you should be able to rent it at Netflix.com or Greencine.com

I’ve posted the trailer for My Dear Killer aka Mio Caro Assassino below since it also features samples of Ennio Morricone’s score, but if you’ve never seen the movie before you might want to avoid watching it. It’s a great clip (not exactly work safe) but it also happens to be one of the most spoiler filled trailers I’ve ever seen.

March Madness

Over at The Destructible Man blog an impromptu blogathon has started simply called Destructible Blog-a-thon.1.

The gory details:
We want everybody to bundle up, dig deep into the recesses of their consciousness, fiddle about a bit and then go over to your laptops by the fireplace and post about the cinematic ANIMAL dummy death that you covet the most!

I didn’t have to dig too deep to remember the dummy animal deaths featured in Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (aka Una Lucertola con la pelle di donna, 1971). As I’ve mentioned previously, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is one of my favorite horror films (as well as on of my favorite giallo films) and it also happens to be my favorite Lucio Fulci movie. It’s easy to find copies of the film on DVD now, but for years it was nearly impossible to see an uncut version of A Lizard in a Women’s Skin due to the movie’s erotic content and one of the most brutally imagined vivisection scenes ever captured on film. The scene was so graphic and believable that it reportedly landed Fulci in hot water with Italian authorities. Special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi was even forced to present the fake dog props used in the film in court to save the director from a possible two-year prison term.

tube down the neck
flesh pulled back
to crawl underneath the skin
the corporate death no sentiment
the pain sustained at will
they preach on high morals lie
in this farce called vivisection

– song lyrics from “Ode to Groovy” by Skinny Puppy

Before making horror films, Lucio Fulci studied medicine and this experience colored his work and lent it an edgy realism that many viewers find incredibly disturbing. As a young medical student Fulci was undoubtedly familiar with vivisection practices and his choice to introduce them into his horror film as an element of terror is both surprising and enlightening. This personal aspect of Fulci’s work is often overlooked by critics who have trouble sifting through the unexpected emotional depths found in many of the director’s best films.

The graphic nature of the faux animal vivisection in A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is shocking, but I think it’s made more unsettling by the way the director places it into his film. The particular scene in question begins when Carol (played brilliantly by the gorgeous and talented Florinda Bolkan) awakens from a nap she’s just had on the lawn of a psychiatric hospital. Carol’s a murder suspect and a sexually frustrated wife who’s been sent to the hospital to get some rest, but her troubled imagination is working overtime. Lucio Fulci used many creative camera techniques and directing tricks to give his film a haunting dreamlike atmosphere. The director clearly enjoys playing with Freudian dream imagery so the audience is never quite sure what’s real and unreal throughout the course of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin.

Waking from her nap, Carol has no idea how much time has passed. She looks around the hospital grounds which are strangely silent and empty. A feeling of dread seems to come over her and she’s suddenly startled when she spots a gentleman watching her from the nearby bushes.

She begins to run towards the hospital, but many of the entry ways are blocked.
Carol is running from her past as well as her fears.

When Carol gets inside the hospital she’s greeted by twisting spiral staircases and stark white hallways that seem to go on forever. This Escher-like landscape is a reflection of Carol’s inner turmoil.

She finally finds an open door and steps inside, but the room engulfs her in darkness. This is not the escape Carol or the audience was expecting. As she makes her way through the gloom a light suddenly illuminates the shadow of a human hand behind a curtain. It appears to be holding a pair of sharp scissors. In this brief ode to Hitchcock, Fulci playfully hints at many of his film’s own themes.

Carol experiences a new level of horror after seeing the menacing shadow, but Fulci’s camera suddenly cuts to a doctor’s table carrying various medical instruments. There is no mad killer behind the curtain. Instead we find only a doctor and his tools. What is the threat now? Where is the terror coming from? Why should we fear the doctors?

She continues to run through the hospital before finally reaching another unlocked door and opening it. This time the light within the room illuminates Carol instead of hiding her in shadows. As Fulci zooms in on Carol, her face becomes a mask of terror.

The audience is suddenly shocked by the same revolting images of vivisection that terrified Carol. The dogs are not dead, but they are slowly dying and Carol’s face registers exactly what the audience is expected to be feeling at that moment. As the dogs whimper and twist in agony from the torture they’re suffering at the hands of medical men, Carol’s face becomes a reflection of our own horror and our own fears.

Suddenly Carol is overcome by the terrible site before her and she collapses. Beneath her crumpled body the ground is colored a deep shade of red that resembles spilled blood. The scene ends where it began, in dreams. Dark and troubling dreams.

The Devil with Seven Faces (1971)

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Top: Carroll Baker has just seen the final cut of The Devil with Seven Faces (1971)
Bottom: Even a cheap gorilla mask couldn’t make the movie any better.

Normally I neglect to write anything about movies I dislike. I never have enough time to write about all the films I like so why waste my time writing about films I don’t? But occasionally my disappointment in a film runs so deep that I feel the need to save others from suffering what I’ve just endured. This is one of those times.

I had high expectations for director Osvaldo Civirani’s 1971 thriller The Devil with Seven Faces (aka Il Diavolo a sette facce) when I stuck it into my DVD player. The film stars two of my favorite actors, the lovely American actress Carroll Baker along with the talented George Hilton. Stephen Boyd also has a major role in the film along with the always entertaining Luciano “the Italian Peter Lorre” Pigozzi, genre favorite Daniele Vargas and the cute Lucretia Love. The script for The Devil with Seven Faces was co-written by Tito Carpi who also co-wrote a lot of good spaghetti westerns such as Fistful of Lead (1970), Any Gun Can Play (1967) and Django Shoots First (1968). And last but not least, the film features a score by two of my favorite composers; the amazing Stelvio Cipriani and Nora Orlandi.

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Top: George Hilton and Carroll Baker feign interest in one another.
Bottom: Luciano Pigozzi channels Peter Lorre.

The convoluted plot of The Devil with Seven Faces involves a diamond heist that goes wrong, some conniving twin sisters (played unconvincingly by Carroll Baker) and a large batch of bad guys who stumble all over themselves trying to get to Carroll Baker and the million dollar diamond. For some reason a lot of reviewers insist on calling The Devil with Seven Faces a “giallo” film and as far as I can tell, it’s not. Contrary to many critical opinions, I don’t believe that one mysterious corpse and a long irrelevant title with the word “devil” in it suddenly turns any Italian movie into a giallo film. The Devil with Seven Faces seems to simply be an original crime movie written by Tito Carpi and director Osvaldo Civirani without any literary basis. Or to be more exact; it’s a “heist film” in the same tradition as countless other European heist films I’ve seen. I love a good heist film but unfortunately The Devil with Seven Faces is not good.

Osvaldo Civirani’s direction is completely uninspired and hampered by Walter Civirani’s lackluster photography. Mauro Contini’s sloppy editing also doesn’t do the film any favors. The Devil with Seven Faces totally lacks suspense and even the car chases and shoot-outs managed to be uninteresting. The mild sex scenes seemed forced and were extremely ineffective, which is a shame considering they involved Carroll Baker and George Hilton. Unfortunately the terrific cast, wonderful score and a potentially worthwhile script could not save this poorly constructed film. I get no joy from saying that The Devil with Seven Faces is one of the worst films I’ve seen all year. I really wanted to enjoy this movie but it let me down again and again. It’s possible that an uncut version of the film exists that is somehow better than the version I watched, but I have no desire to revisit the movie if a new print does surface. There are only three reasons I watched all 90 minutes of The Devil with Seven Faces so I thought I’d at least make mention of them.

Reason #1: George Hilton’s performance as racecar driver Tony Shane.

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Top: George Hilton as racecar driver Tony Shane.
Bottom: George Hilton shoots the director.

George Hilton’s character in The Devil with Seven Faces is underwritten and he doesn’t seem to get as much screen-time as his costars. But unlike Carroll Baker who seems to be sleepwalking through the entire movie, and Stephen Boyd who comes across as rather sleazy and unappealing here; Hilton at least seems to be trying to make the most of his role. He also looks terrific in his ’70s style fashions. Hilton’s wardrobe consists of lots of great looking racing jackets and expensive sunglasses. A sharp dressed man will often keep my attention in a lackluster film, especially if that man happens to be someone like George Hilton. And last but not least, Hilton’s multiple death scenes in The Devil with Seven Faces are the highlights of the movie.

Reason #2: Stelvio Cipriani and Nora Orlandi film score

The soundtrack for The Devil with Seven Faces was so good that it actually managed to elevate the film at times and made me forget how completely dull it was. Stelvio Cipriani composed the music and Nora Orlandi adds lots of lush vocalisms to just about every track. Their work together on The Devil with Seven Faces is truly fantastic and I’d love to get a copy of the entire soundtrack. I’m sure I have bits and pieces of the music on one or two of the library compilations I own but the score really deserves to be heard in its entirety.

Reason #3: Carroll Baker and Lucretia Love’s wigs

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Top: Carol Baker modeling her “ill-fitting bright blue fright wig”
Bottom: Lucretia Love modelng her “messy red Ronald McDonald wig”

One of the great things about European thrillers and crime films made during the ’60s and early ’70s is the fashions, hairstyles and modern design that can often make a potentially dull film much more interesting. Unfortunately The Devil with Seven Faces is sorely lacking in all these things. Even when the cast was wearing something that caught my eye, the horrible photography and direction usually made the fashions almost impossible to fully see. Most of the film seemed to be shot from the waist up or the waist down and it was littered with pointless close-ups that didn’t compliment anyone. Thankfully Carroll Baker and Lucretia Love had lots of unnecessary wig changes that managed to keep me entertained. I’ve seen a lot of bad wigs used in films before, but Carroll Baker’s ill-fitting bright blue fright wig and Lucretia Love’s messy red Ronald McDonald wig absolutely floored me. What in the world was hair stylist Iolanda Conti (aka Jolanda Conti) thinking? I do commend Steven Boyd for somehow keeping a straight face during the scenes where he was forced to appear opposite “the wigs.”

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Top: Steven Boyd showing off his acting chops.
Bottom: Daniele Vargas was so bored on the set that he started looking at porn to pass the time.

I truly wish I had more positive things to say about The Devil with Seven Faces, but unless you happen to be a George Hilton or Carroll Baker completist like myself, a huge fan of Stelvio Cipriani and Nora Orlandi’s scores or just curious to see some of the worst wigs imaginable, then I can’t encourage you to spend 90 minutes with this movie. If you do decide to watch The Devil with Seven Faces I recommend doing so with a good bottle of wine by your side.

The Devil with Seven Faces is available on DVD from Alpha Home Entertainment and it’s currently selling for the appropriately low price of $7.98 at Amazon.

If you’d like to see more images from the film please see my Flickr Gallery for The Devil with Seven Faces.