Category Archives: Imaginary Italian Cinema

#233 – Evenings of the Dead (Soirées du Morte, Les)

(1976, Fr/It, 118 min) Dir Alain Andere. Cast Sylvia Maria, Niels Arestrup, Maria Rohm, Orson Welles.

For his first film since 1968’s Extase de l’Obscurité Alain Andere teamed up with Sylvia Maria, then white-hot following her performance in Louis Blanc’s absurd, offensive and inexplicably popular Prostituée de l’Amour as the titular ‘Prostitute of Love’. She and Arestrup are a pair of heroin addicts bobbing on the poverty line in Paris – nonpersons, basically, who can be kidnapped by Maria Rohm and her band of henchmen who travel around the city in an old ambulance collecting such types. They are conveyed to a vast country estate presided over by Orson Welles’ Count Puce (mostly confined to a big chair or a litter), the head of a group of parasitic entities from beyond space who drain the life force from their victims. But first, sport – they, along with another half-dozen victims, are released onto the estate and are hunted down one by one. To the keen-eyed this is basically the same film as his last one but with the Marxist subtext amplified and as subtle as a brick. To those who can stomach their metaphors broad and can live with Maria’s inept acting (she appears cross-eyed and stoned throughout) there’s plenty to enjoy with typically stunning photography and some fantastically gruesome death scenes both sides of the class divide.

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#205 – Seven Deaths in a Broken Lens (Sette Morti in un Obiettivo Rotto)

(2013, It, 98 min, b/w) Dir Bruno Cattet. Cast Claudio Gioè, Laetitia Casta, Elio Germano.

A curious giallo homage/mash-up of Italian cinema history. The year is 1963 and the fact that this is the same year that Fellini’s was released is no coincidence. Claudio Gioè is blocked film director Nino Milo (done up as Mastroianni in, yes, ) following up the international sensation that was his last film, Ama LaVita with his dream project – a simple slice of life drama set in Rome. The problem? Well, for a start it’s a slice of life drama set in Ancient Rome, not it’s modern day counterpart and on top of that Milo hasn’t a story beyond that, the setting. As we join him on the set in the third month of shooting amidst the vast historical set he is so bereft of ideas that he is seriously considering the inclusion of a character from another planet. “Possibly Mars,” he says, “Or Venus. We would need to research.” Oh yes – there are also a slew of grisly murders happening in and around the film studio at night with the police – more interested in the catering than investigating – clueless. As we follow the killer at night we’re given glimpses into the myriad genre of Italian cinema, all beautifully recreated – the sword and sandal epic, the science fiction, the spaghetti western are all given their time in the sun. Soon enough Milo’s lead, the international film sensation and lust object Tutti Ripieno (Casta) has fallen to the beast and the world’s media are thick like flies on the proceedings to disturb Milo’s delicate muse. A fun affair made no less entertaining by the obviousness of it’s ending – if you haven’t figured it out already then shame on you!

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#186 – Giungla Che Derise, La (Laughing Jungle, The)

(1981, It, 101 min) Dir Marco Pastrami. Cast Robert Yorke, Gabriel Ciardi, Francesca Pirkanen, Perry Giorgio.

Poor Marco Pastrami – a more gentle-hearted would-be exploitation filmmaker you would be hard pressed to find. A dedicated leech on the hide of success, he followed Il Pugile (The Boxer, his Rocky knock off) with The Laughing Jungle, his own entry to the burgeoning cannibal film genre. Unfortunately for him while Ruggero Deodato, for example, had the imagination to come up with all kind of graphic horrors to depict and the constitution to walk into a jungle and start slaughtering animals for the camera too, Pastrami couldn’t even bring himself to look at Francesca Pirkanen’s breasts during the filming of the obligatory nudity, apparently directing the action with a pillowcase over his head. So what we have instead is a film where the violence is accompanied with all the realism of actual tomato ketchup, jungles which look as much like the Amazon as you can find in northern Italy and Amazonian tribespeople who are really just short actors in fake tan and bowl haircuts. So tame a film that it was only in the cannibal genre to survive the UK government’s ‘Video Nasty’ witchhunt.

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#169 – House at the End of the Street of the Dead, The

(1980, It, 86 min) Dir Sergio Patrino. Cast Sal Lion, John Morghen, Annie Belle, Pat Bellows.

A curious conflation of the post-Fulci zombie film and the post-Last House on the Left revenge fest. Carl and Manny (Lion and Morghen) are a pair of New York street punks out for thrills who decide to indulge in their favourite pastime – breaking into people’s houses so that they can rape and torture its occupants. The first house they happen upon is Annie Belle’s swish, modern digs and they have their gruesome fun there. The next house – as they have apparently not sated their bloodlusts – is further down the street and, as they find out, is populated with the recently revived dead. Meanwhile victim house #1 are on the blower to the fuzz and within no time our punks are the filling in a sadist sandwich between a slice of the law and a slice of the undead. It’s a cheap flick to be sure and not as hardcore as it makes out it is which will be a relief to some and will dismay others. On the plus side it betrays an invention that is pure Patrino, who couldn’t stop himself even when he was onto the nastier type of no-budget schlock.

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#166 – Jehovah Slim

(1972, It, 95 min) Dir Sergio Patrino. Cast Jimmy Wrigley, Lee Van Cleef, William Berger.

Right on the back of The Beast in London’s Fog, a Victorian horror romp, Sergio Patrino jetted back to Italy for this, his follow-up – a Blaxploitation spaghetti western. You can’t fault the guy for versitility. The genre starting one-two of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft were barely a year old at this point but ol’ Sergio knew a hit when he saw one and corralled NFL benchwarmer Jimmy Wrigley, Lee Van Cleef and William Berger in Spain and on set in double time. Wrigley is Jehovah Slim, ex-slave bounty hunter, Van Cleef’s train robber Alan Dunnock is on his hit list and nobody gets in Jehovah Slim’s way. It’s a straightforward chase movie, the only thing setting it apart being the choice of a black lead but then the same could be said (and has been said) about Shaft. Wrigley returned for three more films, all featuring his patented sign-off “Your chances are SLIM!”

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#165 – Beast In London’s Fog, The

(1971, It/GB, 90 min) Dir Sergio Patrino. Cast William Berger, Catherine Bess, Helmut Messerschmitt.

Here comes Sergio Patrino, getting his Victorian London gore on like an Italian Hammer Horror. The fog-thick streets of the city are being stalked by once more by a knife wielding killer, bringing up uncomfortable memories for Detective Alan Brindling (Berger) who was hot on the trail of the Ripper a mere five years previously. On the prowl for the murderer he sees, through the fog, no man but a green-skinned, knife fingered beast. He passes out and when revived is believed by none. So be it – he’s on his own, one man against a foul creature that lurks beneath the streets themselves, the labyrinthine sewers it’s home. Logic? Plausibility? Forget about it – The Beast in London’s Fog has atmosphere to spare, hysterical acting without equal and an ending that’ll make you soil yourself one way or the other.

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#148 – Quanto profonda era la sua tomba? (How Deep Was Her Grave?)

(1969, It, 130 min) Dir Paolo Andreotti. Cast Franco Nero, Klaus Kinski, Luigi Pistilli.

Nero and Kinski star in this effective, if derivative, addition to the stuffed Spaghetti Western genre, as a bounty hunter and desperate criminal teaming up despite their own personal animosity to battle it out with Pistilli’s crooked lawman Oates. You see Nero’s wife was brutally raped and murdered by the man and buried out in the desert where he’ll never find her, hence the title which is bellowed at the felled Oates come the finale. If you’re into Spaghetti Westerns (particularly Leone’s) then you’ll love this, packed as it is with sweaty theatrics, agonizingly drawn out stand-offs and a veritable delirium of dreamy flashbacks. It’s particularly recommended for Kinski’s performance, which sets a new height of crazed eye-rolling in a career stuffed with barking loonies.

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#110 – Three Deaths for the Magi

(1973, It, 93 min original (61 min surviving)) Dir Andrea Tontorre. Cast Marco Bostoni, Angella Min, Franco Francini.

Super rare festive knife-fest from shooting star Andrea Tontorre, the Jean Vigo of the giallo with a mere two films to his name before he died, run over by his own car on the outskirts of Rome when he opened the driver’s door to be sick and fell out. Unlike Vigo his innovations went unheralded by the film mainstream and his features remain out of print – I’ve only seen Three Deaths for the Magi by virtue of attending a private party thrown by octogenarian über-producer Hans Belli, appropriately enough in the catacombs under Paris. The print was old and scratched and the loss of two of its six reels left more gaps in logic than is usual, even in giallo, but despite this Belli’s old eyes were brimming with tears by its end, so moved was he by the sight of so much youthful vigour lost. The basic plot is your basic giallo meat and potatoes – Marco Bostoni witnesses a murder and finds himself of the killers hit list. There are only three days until Christmas and killer’s M.O.? You guessed it – leaving gold, frankincense and myrrh at the crime scenes. Can Marco work out the connection and find the killer? The set prices that remain still stun, bursting with a colour and verve that should be equally credited to Tontorre, similarly doomed cinematographer M. Bris (seafood accident, 1977) and soundtrack artists Imp. Hopefully one day Tontorre’s slim oeuvre makes it out of an old man’s catacomb party and into the world at large…

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#88 – Milo e la Marmotta (Milo and the Marmot)

(1975, It, 83 min) Dir Paolo Andreotti. Cast Toni Forte, Luca Ferrari, Franco Fantasia.

Much like notorious gross-master Lucio Fulci following Don’t Torture a Duckling with a production of White Fang, fellow horror director Andreotti produced this adaptation of the popular Italian children’s book Milo e la Marmotta the same year as his Exorcist rip-off The Night the Devil Came for Sandy. High in the Dolomites is the village of Tyluno where young Milo lives. One day he’s out in the alpine meadows when he happens upon a Marmot who has become caught in a trapper’s snare. Milo frees it and takes it home to nurse back to health. This marmot can talk by the way but nobody seems to react to this revelation with any surprise so one can only presume that talking rodents are just a part of life in the Italian Alps. Once back to full health Milo and the Marmot plot to get revenge on the trapper who had been laying his snares illegally. It doesn’t go typically Andreotti at that point though, there’s no dismemberment or anything, and on the whole Milo e la Marmotta displays a more peace and animal loving side to the man that would be completely unknown to his English-language fans. While I’m a fan of Vendetta di Zombie and Coffin Orbit and all that, it would have been interesting to see more of this Paolo Andreotti. A pleasant film, only let down by an unconvincing mix of real marmot and puppet.

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#82 – House of Midnight, The

(1987, It, 100 min) Dir Mario Andreotti. Cast Paula Pitt, Robert Englund, Romeo Romero.

One film in and already Mario Andreotti needed a comeback but thankfully for him The House of Midnight was it. Young Alison (then muse/now wife Pitt) is somehow convinced into moving into what has to be the shadiest piece of real estate in Rome by what must be the palest, creepiest agent in the biz. Maybe it was young blonde neighbour Al (Romero) and his habit of wandering shirtless into the hall that did it? We’ll never know. So she moves in and everything and everyone there is, as expected, super weird. But it’s okay – Al will protect her. But is he what he seems? Spoiler alert: no, he’s not. Mr Black Harkness on the top floor (a slippery, snakey Englund) wants her young body for something something devil satan and if it means murdering everyone she knows to the accompaniment of Iron Maiden then by gum that just what he’s going to do. The man’s got a bee in his bonnet! It’s not hard to see why this worked commercially for Andeotti – he pretty much stole the story from better and already proven films, he got his attractive female lead to take her clothes off as much as she could and he staged a half dozen inventive and gratuitous murder scenes that would have done Argento proud. Not a perfect film but one that’s definitely worth it’s weight in pure disgusting fun.

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