I'm pleased to announce that we have a new reviewer to CRITICAL CONDITION. His name is Steven Jackson and he wrote all the reviews that you will read below. I have been communicating with Steven for the past few years on a fairly regular basis; he was the one who convinced me to review mainly European fare in all genres and I thank him for that, as I have discovered a lot of real gems among the filmic paste jewelry that I wouldn't have known about without Steven's input (He also gave me the courage to create a Spaghetti Western section). Steven always makes me laugh, with his views on films, current events and anything else that comes his way. He even sent me a list (a book, really) of over 500 films he reviewed and when I was reading it, I was wiping away the tears of laughter he evoked from me. I wanted Steven to write for me for the longest time, but I was too scared to ask him, thinking it would harm our friendship in some weird way which I only understood. I finally got the nerve to ask him and he accepted. We decided he would write reviews for films that I wouldn't touch with a "ten foot pole", since he watches films of all genres that I wouldn't normally touch with a...well, you know. So sit back, relax and prepare to be entertained, not only by Steven's hilarious writing, but also his choice of films, many, I'm sure, you never heard of before. And that's what this website is all about!

The Adventures of Hercules Part 2 (1985, Italy, Fantasy, Director: Luigi Cozzi)
Notable actors: Lou Ferrigno! William Berger! Maria Rosario Omaggio! Claudio Cassanelli! Venantino Venantini! Margie Newton!

The lesser Gods have rebelled against Zeus and stolen his seven thunderbolts, causing the moon to start bouncing around space like some sort of crater-covered pinball! Only one person can put it right, but he got turned into a constellation at the end of the last film (what kind of reward was that?). Lou Ferrigno, who kind of looks like my wife's brother if someone force-fed him protein shakes and steroids for a decade is back, as Hercules!
     That's all the plot set-up we get at the start of the film which is more concerned with giving us yet another universe creation origins story like the first HERCULES film. This one involves Disco Space as usual, but for some reason there's an eyeball looking out of a void like some sort of early nineties techno video for good measure. You may remember Disco Space from the first HERCULES film, or STARCRASH, or even DEMONS 6: DE PROFUNDIS.
     We also have too sisters - Urania and Glaucia, who have set out to find Hercules in order to get him to stop witchdoctor Venantino Venantini sacrificing them to some fire monster (which looks like the being from FORBIDDEN PLANET). Most hilariously of all is Venantini's outfit, which is surely the most ridiculous outfit he's ever been asked to wear. It looks like he was going to go out to some Halloween party dressed as a Glam rocker, but then decided at the last minute to go as a really flamboyant drag queen, but then thought that wasn't far enough and stuck on Tina Turner's hair as well.
     The film basically follows Herc as he goes around fighting monsters who all have those lightening bolts inside them, which means we get a never-ending parade of monsters for Hercules to punch in the face, from the first monster who is so crap it resembles a very aggressive shag pile carpet, to the bunch of guys who come out of a wall who all looks like the 'green man' light you get at road crossings, to an animated Medusa in a cave where a bunch of extras try to look like they've been turned into stone but do a really terrible job at it.
     Also thrown into the stew is the big return of William Berger as King Minos! He gets brought back to life to kill Herc but instead runs off to that weird place he lives (on a rock that looks like a head in the middle of a lake in space), where he gets right down to making his sidekick Daedelus make him some more technological rubbish for him to throw at Herc. It didn't work in the last movie, but in this film it somehow gives Berger the ability to kills gods, shoot lasers from his eyes, and best of all, turn into Godzilla - in space!
     No doubt the highlight of this amazing film is the last act, where Herc and his sidekick end up in a very strange land where Herc and Minos go up into the stars, where Minos becomes Godzilla and Herc becomes King Kong! Now, at this point I'd like to point out that director Cozzi goes absolutely nuts in this film with the special effects - those colourful Eighties ones we all know and love. Here, everything frazzles with animated light, eyeballs flash, and when Herc hits something, the whole screen goes either red or green. Nary a second goes by without the use of effects, and it all leads to the battle in space which I think actually gave me a nose bleed.
     And check out those crazy twins! Not Lou Ferrigno's undulating pecs, but those cosmic freak winged kids one of the girls talks too. This film is full of weird visuals in fact. Weird visuals, crazy monsters, William Berger looking like he's about to burst out laughing, Claudio Cassanelli looking like he's about to start crying (as usual), and big Lou giving us one highly entertaining film. It's bad, but it's so good. One of my favourites, along with the first one. Genuinely entertaining.

Afrika (1973, Italy, Drama/Giallo, Director: Alberto Cavallone)
Notable actors: Ivano Staccioli!

A plot that jumps back and forth in time. Absolute shitloads of racism. Is this a Quentin Tarantino film? No, it's another Alberto Cavallone joint, and as you would imagine, it's all over the place.
     A painter (Ivano Staccioli, from the giallo CLAP, YOU'RE DEAD, the Formula 1 film LE MANS - SHORTCUT TO HELL and the OTHER Formula 1 film FORMULA 1 - THE HELL OF THE GRAND PRIX) comes to an Ethiopian Hotel to meet a young lady. The two quarrel and Ivano stomps out, only to shortly afterwards hear a gunshot. The police find the lady dead of a gunshot wound to the head, and they also discover that the victim is a post-op transgender person. The police turn up shortly afterwards, and when a woman in the hotel reveals that she is the victim's sister and she saw Ivano leave the room, the film decides to get a bad case of the flashbacks. Some relevant to the mystery, other just so Alberto Cavallone indulge in his usual shock tactics. So those looking out for that needn't worry.
     The dead person was once a young gay guy called Frank, a budding poet who was getting hassled in school by nasty girls and guys with rather shocking haircuts. One day, Frank gets kidnapped by his schoolmates, taken out into the African shrubland, and gang-bummed by the macho classmates (doesn't that also make them gay, or are they the kind of guy you find in prison who think you're only gay if you're on the receiving end)? Either way, Frank's treatment leads him to meet Ivano, which leads to further flashbacks as Ivano invites him to stay, much to the chagrin of Ivano's bitter, horny, often naked wife. Oh, and that rape? It was organised by Frank's own father, who wanted to teach him a lesson and make him more of a man (by having him botted? You're sending mixed messages there buddy).
     The sister (who has no problem with showering naked in the presence of her father. What the fuck is it with these Alberto Cavallone films?) works in a leper colony, so that gives Cavallone plenty of chances to shows us the effects of leprosy too as an 'added bonus'. He also throws in cow slaughter, a guy hand feeding a huge hyena (I didn't think they were that big), and even starts the film with Ivano witnessing two women being beaten and shot before the white policeman in charge apologies for delaying him because 'he didn't realise he was white'.
     Frank and Ivano's relationship deepens as Ivano grows more distant from his wife, who has history of seducing Ivano's mates and still has the hots for him, which leads to her spending most of the film naked and trying it on with a disinterested Ivano. That side of the plot makes sense, but the rather expedition into the wilds of Africa by Ivano, his wife, and all their friends doesn't add much, except to show how horrible these people are as they insult the locals (one woman asks upon seeing a breast-feeding native "Is she giving milk or coffee?", take part in native ceremonies (Ivano's wife naked again), or just cheat on each other, including one woman getting it on in front of her blind husband.
     The mystery does eventually get solved, but I'm not revealing it here. There's not much suspense in this film and not much mystery either. Just a load of white people hating on each other while the theme of colonialism is touched upon now and again when things get slow. Who knows what Cavallone was trying to say here, but I've thought that about every film I've watched of his. He went on to make arty porno films before dying at the age of fifty-nine, having wanked himself to death.

The Angel of The Night (1974, Brazil, Horror, Director: Walter Hugo Khouri)

This was one of those films I found on YouTube and decided to watch without knowing anything about it, and I swear when the opening credits started I thought I was going to be watching something made in the nineteen-forties. However, the first shot of actual footage we see is of a girl in bell-bottoms. The IMDB states this film was made in colour, but the version I watched was black and white, and was so blurry it was almost like it was made using old security cameras.
     The film itself involves a student named Ana being drafted in to watch some rich people's children while they are away at some conference or other, and although that's quite a hackneyed set-up right there, the filmmakers go that extra distance in making every single character Ana meets be as weird and/or odd as possible. First off are the kids themselves - the daughter is very quiet and likes to stare, while the son is chirpy and happy enough, but in a rather fake fashion (as in he's smiling at Ana, but his eyes aren't). The mother is very cold and standoffish, whereas the father sits in a room listening to wonky classical music (that may have just been the terrible copy I watched) while he just looks at Ana.
     Worst of all is the groundskeeper, who does seem at least superficially to be kind towards Ana, but when she not around him he does an awful lot of staring into space. I suppose I kind of do the same when I get five minutes peace but that's because I have two children, one of whom plays Call of Duty with his headphones on, screaming at the top of his voice, and the other relaying incomprehensible anecdotes about things that happen on a thing called Tik Tok. Then my wife shows up going on about such things as this bill and that appointment, oblivious to the fact that I'm trying to watch WHEN WOMEN HAD TAILS or WHEN WOMEN LOST THEIR TAILS or WHEN MEN CARRIED CLUBS AND WOMEN PLAYED DING DONG. I mean the groundskeeper does mention having a wife and kids so no wonder he looks so bewildered and lost. He was probably just trying to watch the news when the constant noise and endless screaming drove him from his house.
     Despite not doing too bad in the babysitting stakes, things start to get creepy when someone starts phoning Ana and telling her she'll be dead by the end of the night. With no one to turn to but strange people, Ana's not got much to do except panic like hell, but who is the mystery person on the 'phone?
     Nail-biting, riveting, and shit-yer-pants scary are...not words I'm going to use to describe this film. It's not bad though, and it gets rather bleak and horrible towards the end. There's no gore or nudity, but a certain grim tone throughout. It's a short film too, which is always good when you're in a hurry or have a family to look after.

The Angels From 2000 (1969, Italy, Crime/Drama, Director: Lino Ranieri)
Notable actors: Franco Citti and that blonde guy who looks like a ferret who is always one of the bad guys in Spaghetti Westerns.

This is a rare one! Thanks for uploading it onto Youtube, mysterious stranger, and just ignore those indignant comments from that angry guy claiming you stole it from his private collection. Not sure why he's so up in arms - the film isn't much good anyway.
     What is labelled a giallo on the IMDB is in fact yet another one of those Italian films which documents the bored youth of the time getting their kicks from drugs, sex, parties and petty crime, just like SAN BABILA - 8 P.M., THE BOYS WHO SLAUGHTER, THE KIDS OF VIOLENT ROME and that one where that guy shags a pinball machine (THE KIDS OF VIOLENT ROME). This time around though, things are wrapped with a nice trippy bow, seeing as how this is the sixties and not the nihilistic seventies.
     There's also one hedonistic character here who is trying to escape his past. His name is Marco and he likes to deal drugs and steal stuff as part of an organised gang, but deep down the drugs are there to cover the horror and guilt he feels for getting his teenage love killed in a stupid accident, something that still haunts him whenever the drugs wear off or he sits down for five minutes. Redemption may be on the horizon in the form of a young neighbour girl (who randomly falls down a flight of stairs for no good reason in an unintentionally funny bit), but do you expect a happy ending? Not if you've read the plot description on the IMDB, which gives away the whole plot. Thanks for that, whoever uploaded that.
     Expect mumbly navel-gazing monologues, freak-out sequences as everyone takes acid, the odd nude scene and young, smug guys terrorizing young women, arguments between lovers and parents and children, a whole lot of flashbacks and a downbeat ending.
     It's kind of miserable, really. I suppose visually it was okay - plenty of famous Roman locations and psychedelic stuff going on - I'm not sure if it was the quality of the print or intentional that the colours were washed out for the non-drug stuff.
     It's also subsequently been removed from YouTube by the looks of things. You're not missing much.

At The Edge of the City (1953, Italy, Eurocrime/Drama, Director: Carlo Lizzani)
Notable actors: Giulietta Masina!

Carlo Lizzani's AT THE EDGE OF THE CITY is nominally a noir-ish murder mystery, but as usual there's hidden layers that reveal themselves throughout the film that involve themes of middle class ignorance of the poor and the desperation of the underclass to keep their head above water, which results in a pretty good, almost touching film.
     Mario Ilari has been accused of murdering a woman called Marcella but insists he's innocent. She was his lover in the past but claims he broke off the relationship after his girlfriend Gina (Giulietta Masina) tried to kill herself. If that's the case, why was Mario spotted with Marcella on the night of her death, and why was his knife used in the murder? A middle class lawyer with a snobby, icy girlfriend takes on the case, with the help of his typist, an educated girl from the same slums as Mario.
     Roberto, the lawyer, meets Mario and tries to persuade him that claiming that constant harassment led to him murdering Marcello, saying that this might get the charges reduced to manslaughter. Mario insists he's innocent but his distrust of everyone and reticence to discuss what happened that night just makes him look more guilty. Luisa the typist believes his story and along with Robert, they start a little investigating of their own to try and weed out the real killer. Roberto, however, isn't very good with dealing with working class people.
     Roberto and Luisa track down many witnesses and discover that a lot of lies have been told to place Mario at the scene of the murder, but obstacles stand in the way. One is a group of people who are determined to make a certain person Mario claims to have met seemingly not exist, and the other is Roberto's complete ignorance of how to handle people he perceives to be beneath him (although his intentions are good). He also doesn't realised that Luisa is in love with him, preferring to hang about with his snobby girlfriend who sees the underclasses as an irritant.
     As usual with a Carlo Lizzani film, the tone is deadly serious, but the subtleties are...subtle. The glimpse into how the homeless live, and those in the slums, is fascinating, as they have a social system far more honest than those of the middle class lawyers, who will use any method to undermine each other. Also, how can a lawyer defend a client that he believes is guilty in the first place? There might be the odd dull patch here and there (like the sub-plot about Luisa being in love with Roberto) but overall the shanty town setting and mystery win through.
     For reasons unknown, Carlo Lizzani killed himself at the age of 91 by jumping from the balcony of his apartment in Rome, which is coincidentally on the same street Dario Argento's Profondo Rosso store is located.

Behold Man - The Survivors (1969, Italy, Sci-fi, Director: Bruno Gaburro)
Notable actors: Philippe Leroy! Irene Papas! Frank Wolff! Gabriele Tinti!

It's an early Italian post-apocalyptic film! Still, don't expect a cigar-chomping Fred Williamson to be sass-talking anyone or hope that George Eastman is going to be appear in leather to bum-rape Giancarlo Prete, because this is serious drama post-apocalyptic stuff. With only five characters. Set almost entirely on beach. Luckily, we have a bunch of actors that are a joy to watch, so the film's pace is rather quick, considering.
     A nuclear war has ravaged the Earth, and family man Philippe Leroy keep his hot wife Irene Papas and serious, introspective son Patrick well away from the irradiated cities. Instead, they live in a caravan on a beach, where Philippe goes out out fishing every day, despite have had his hands destroyed when the bombs dropped. This perhaps is maybe why he's not so interested physically in Irene, which is going to work out bad for when out of the blue Gabriele Tinti and Frank Wolff turn up.
     Irene doesn't even try to hide her desire when she and Tinti start making eyes at each other (Wolff tries it on too, but fails, badly). A strange dynamic falls on the group as Irene learns that those destroyed, poisonous cities Philippe has been telling her about are clean, and Philippe seems to understand that Irene is about to dump him for Tinti, so tries stirring things up between Wolff and Tinti, while Wolf and Philippe clash as Wolff wants to rebuild society, whereas Philippe thinks what remains of the human race should just shrivel up and die. The kid, for the most part, gets almost completely forgotten about, and I'm sure that was intentional, as is the general misanthropic tone of the film.
     Also adding to the air of nihilism and isolation is Ennio Morricone's often minimalist soundtrack, with Western twangs mixed with percussion, lone flutes, and wailing voices (most prominent when Irene Papas and Gabriele Tinti are doing a bit of skinny dipping, so you get to see Irene's Papas). The constant shots of empty landscapes and the sea further add to the general atmosphere of the film being 'not full of jolly japes'.
     Acting wise, you can't go wrong with any of the actors here. Wolff is eccentric and moody, where Leroy is just plain moody. When he first sees that there are new people in his life, he seems to know instantly that he's lost everything, and does well to convey that despair. It's Irene Papas that steals the show for me though, probably because she's given the most to do - acting bored, lustful, and at times, completely insane at the situation.
     I'd been after this one for years and it turned up on Youtube a month ago. That doesn't mean it will still be there by the time you read this review, mind you.

Blood Feud a.k.a. A Blood Event In The Town of Siculiana Between Two Men Because Of A Widow. Political Motives Are Suspected. Love-Death-Shimmy. Lugano Belle. Tarantelle. Tarallucci And Wine. (1978, Italy, Drama, Director: Lina Wertmuller)
Notable actors: Sofia Loren! Marcello Mastroianni! Giancarlo Giannini!

Just like Claudia Cardinale in THE DAY OF THE OWL, Sofia Loren plays a very angry widow (who kind of looks like she wouldn't be out of place in an Eightie's Goth band). Unlike Claudia Cardinale in that film, Loren knows exactly what happened to her husband and who did it, because one night a local thug Acicatena burst into her house and killed her husband with a shotgun due to his involvement as a witness in a Mafioso trial. Yet, no one will come forward as a witness and three years later, she still hasn't found justice, instead, she's known as The Widow With The Rifle, running around brandishing a gun and ranting.
     Enter socialist Marcello Mastroianni, who has returned to Sicily to live with his mother (their scenes together are pretty much the only source of humour in the film). Since his father died, Marcello has become a rich landowner, but his political leanings may get him into trouble due to the rise of Mussolini and the fascists, of which the murderous Acicatena has become leader of the local branch. It also doesn't help that Marcello stops Acicatena from raping Loren after she fails to kill him. Not put off by Marcello's disgusting long beard, she makes love with him by way of gratitude.
     It seems that out in those roasting hot Sicilian hills you can't just start one love affair without another one starting up, because complicating things are the arrival of cocky, rich gangster Giancarlo Giannini, just returned from the US to do some smuggling business. He was Loren's husband's cousin, and it could be that he's fixing to take out Acicatena, but then again, he also falls in love with Loren, who soon finds herself pregnant. Will she choose the chivalrous Mastroianni or the passionate Giannini, who promises to take her away to the US? Or it could just be that she'll choose both of them...
     Well fleshed-out characters and top-tier acting (as expected from the Italian acting royalty involved) make this a pretty good watch. Sofia Loren's inexhaustible rage and inner turmoil carries the film while both the introspective Mastroianni and the flamboyant, but dangerous, Giannini support her well while their own strange relationship develops (Mastroianni's rich father basically set the course for Giannini's life by making his father, then himself, work in a sulphur mine). All the while, Turi Ferro's Acicatena is a vile, smug creature who thinks he's untouchable, which sets up a very tense scene later when Giannini calls him out.
     For some reason the scene where Mastroianni is having dinner with his mother stands out. It has no real bearing on the film but when his mother scolds him for getting sauce on his shirt and Mastroianni counters this by pouring sauce all himself struck me as pretty funny. Maybe that was needed because the film gets gradually darker and more violent until the outstanding ending, which happens to be both very violent and very touching.
     Loren could sure act, eh? Check out TWO WOMEN and YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW for further examples.
     Also, the alternative title of this film is the longest in cinematic history - it says so on Italian Wikipedia!

Blue Tornado (1990, Italy, Sci-fi, Director: Antonio Bido)
Notable actors: Face from The A-Team! Patsy Kensit! David Warner! That guy who got his face ripped off in After Death!

Should be called Blue Waft of Fetid Air, more like. Filmed in lame-o vision, what we have here is TOP GUN mixed with CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, all made as boring as possible by Antonio Bido.
     Face from THE A-TEAM plays Tom or Alex or something, a hot-shot pilot for NATO who, along with his buddy Phil, love getting into chases with the enemy over Italy. Phil has kids and a family while Face is a fanny rat, but Phil also keeps going on about a mountain him and his dad used to climb, while Face nods to pretend he's listening. On the ground, grumpy David Warner is their CO, trying to keep these cheeky chappies in check.
     One day, these fellas are flying towards said mountain when all these balls of light appear and before you know it Phil's plane has crashed and Face is getting dragged over the coals because the military won't believe his story of UFOs. He's also got to bond with Phil's old man and console Phil's kids, so how are we going to have time for that tacked on romantic sub plot?
     Luckily, while at the library looking for UFO books, he stumbles on Patsy Kensit researching flying saucers (should have been researching acting Pasy) and the two hit it off. Well, that's what they're trying to convey I guess. The on-screen chemistry is as explosive as like what happens when you add water to...water.
     Most of the film features Face looking up at the things, arguing with his bosses, and talking UFOs with Patsy, so it's no real surprise to find out that this bore-fest takes forever to get back to that mountain, and it's tepid as hell. Cheap looking too. His voice kept annoying me as well. I guess David Warner needed some quick cash for something, which is why he ended up in this.
     I was going to say that Face was the first A-Team person to end up in an Italian film, but now I've got a feeling that George Peppard probably featured in some late sixties Italian war film (I can't be bothered checking). And Mister T was no doubt in a giallo while Murdoch probably just got bummed in some Joe D'Amato porno.

Bora Bora (1968, Italy, Drama, Director: Ugo Liberatore)
Notable actors; Haydee Politoff!

Finally, after all these years of watching Italian films, I've found the most annoying and horrible character that ever found his way onto the screen. Ugo Liberatore must have hated his intended audience, because watching BORA BORA is like Ugo himself went around to your house and shat on your toilet. Not in your toilet, mind you, but on top of the cistern, leaving it on display for all to see. And he goes even further than that with this one...
     Roberto's wife has run off and left, and no fucking wonder. He's a narcissistic dickhead for starters, and a contrary bastard too. He's tracking down his wife, but at the same time he manages to try and bed every woman he sees. Roberto's adventure starts in Tahiti, where he stoats about acting like a total twat looking for his wife Marita (Haydee Politoff). He finds her location from Swedish tourist Susanne (but he can't understand why she would go to somewhere so backward). He also tries to get it on with her, but she changes her mind, then changes her mind again after Roberto slapping her about a bit turns her on (more reasons to hate this film).
     It turns out that Marita has gone off to somewhere called Bora Bora and has remarried. What's the first thing Roberto does when he sets eyes on Marita? He slaps the shit out of her, that's what. He also around this time turns out to be a racist too, gets to the village Marita's staying in before her, tells her husband that Marita slept with him, then demands to drink coconut juice, has Marita's husband fetch him one, drinks a little bit and then tosses the coconut away. I'm really struggling to find some sort of point in this film, and it just gets worse from here on in.
     Upon seeing that Marita (and we'll get to her shortly) is happy and content, Roberto decides that he's going to get married and live there too, which results in him seducing a local girl and generally hanging around the place while the locals build him a new house. And he insults them when they're doing it too! It also starts becoming evident that Marita isn't totally over Roberto and that they've been playing sick mind games with each other since they were teenagers.
     Ugo Liberatore then decides that Bora! Bora! Bora! isn't shit enough and throws in a curveball that made me nearly kick in the television. A bunch of natives drag a live turtle out of the ocean, smash its head in with a hammer and proceed to cut it up while the poor thing suffers horribly on a level exactly on a par with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Some of these films try to get away with this shit by claiming it's documenting local customs and what not, but the natives did this to give Roberto a turtle shell as a present. For fuck's sake!
     Worse still, and this is the equivalent of Ugo Libertore coming round to your house, offering to make you a coffee, then rubbing his foreskin around the rim of your cup in secret then giggling as you drink it in front of him, Marita goes home with Roberto! I don't usually spoil films, but this one offended me to my core. There's no pay off! Roberto, through a serious of passive-aggressive and outright aggressive actions, gets his way in the end, with no retribution, as it seems that Marita had intended that to be the case all along.
     Reading over this review, I've made the film sound like things actually happen in it, but not much does unless you like to watch a smug arsehole manipulate people. BORA BORA was a Snore-ah Snore-ah! This is a good candidate for worst Italian film ever, even worse than EVIL CLUTCH (at least they didn't kill any animals in that one) or WAR OF THE ROBOTS.

The Cat (1977, Italy, Comedy/Giallo, Director: Luigi Comencini)
Notable actors: Ugo Tognazzi! Mariangela Maleto! Philippe Leroy! Mario Brega! Dalila Di Lazzaro!

This is an excellent mix of comedy and giallo that balances both genres nicely, thanks to some solid direction and good performances from the two leads. Plus, just like Luigi Comencini's other giallo/comedy THE SUNDAY WOMAN, there's a nice Ennio Morricone soundtrack to round things off.
     In Rome, two siblings (Ugo Tognazzi and Mariangela Maleto) are landlords that own a huge apartment complex in the middle of Rome. They are delighted because one of the tenants has just died, and that means that they are one step closer to achieving their goal - once all the tenants leave, or are evicted, or die, they can sell the complex for 500 million lire so that property developer can build on the site. They even keep a scoreboard on their wall and cross out the name of the tenant once they are gone (Maleto hates one tenant so much she crosses them off dozens of times). There's a couple of problems this duo are facing, however...
     One is that the siblings hate each other and find it hard to sometimes occupy the same room. Maleto is a huge giallo fan and has to often hide her crime books from Tognazzi, because when he finds them he tears out the page that reveals the killer and eats it! The two often also fight over food, which we see during a sequence where they are spying on two men in a restaurant where one sibling keeps stealing what they both perceive as being the larger of two hamburgers from the other's plate when their back is turned. The other problem is the tenants themselves, or mainly, the tenant's rights they have that prevents them all from being thrown out into the street.
     Four paragraphs in and I haven't mentioned the cat yet - that'll give you an indication of how much is packed into this film. The cat belongs to the hate-filled siblings, and it's just as vindictive and petty as the both of them. It's through the cat (and a nicely fluid sequence) where we meet the remaining tenants of the building. As the cat strolls from apartment to apartment (and driving everyone nuts), we get to meet Philippe Leroy the priest, whom Maleto is trying to seduce so Tognazzi can blackmail him with discreetly taken pictures), Dalila Di Lazzaro, a secretary whom Tognazzi has the hots for who seemingly transcribe telephone conversations for her corporate boss every night, then there's the old age chamber music group, the secretive chess teacher, and a journalist. There's a lot of people to keep track of in this film.
     The plot itself kicks off when the cat is murdered one night, prompting the siblings to go the bumbling cops with the dead cat in a bag and demand the police do an autopsy on the cat (!) and open up a murder case. When the police refuse, the two of them start their own investigations, and we get to see what the people in the apartment complex are really up to as many secrets are revealed, the plot take many sharp turns into different territories, and everything is neatly tied up when they finally solve the cat's murder.
     This film is absolutely brilliant from start to finish, jam-packed with twists and reveals throughout it's duration. I'm not going to reveal much here at all in order to be fair to the film, but expect nudity, gunfights, drugs, actual laughs (sometimes Italian comedy doesn't translate well into English - the references and analogies get lost), and a performance so great from Mariangela Maleto that she received some sort of reward for it. I actually burst out laughing when Tognazzi slammed a car door on a corpse's hand in a panic. Italian comedies are very hit and miss because sometimes the slapstick is beyond silly, but not here.
     Mario Brega's not in it much though, so fans of him might be let down. This is yet another film I know of because of the soundtrack, which at one point the entire cast enjoy themselves as part of the plot! Highly recommended. Other giallo/comedy hybrids are NO THANKS, COFFEE MAKES ME NERVOUS and the painful WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY TOTO?

Conjugal Love (1970, Italy, Drama, Director: Dacia Mariani)
Notable actors: Tomas Milian! Macha Meril!

I should have known what I was letting myself in for with this weird-ass film, as this was written and directed by Dacia Mariani, who also wrote the off-beat THE INVISIBLE WOMAN and the even weirder KILL THE FATTED CALF AND ROAST IT.
     The premise of the film doesn't sound very promising: a married couple stay in a huge villa in Sicily. The husband (Tomas Milian) is a writer struggling with an extremely bad case of writer's block, and is considering writing for the local communist newspaper as they keep harassing him to do so. His wife (Macha Meril, who if you saw her now seems to have aged in Helen Mirren years) is even more bored than he is, tending to a citrus grove which is their only source of income, and being driven crazy by the terrible hired help. The only way out seems to be the offer to buy the land by Milian's distant family...a distant family who also happen to be Mafia property developers.
     That's doesn't sound that exciting, does it? And the tedium and inertia of the couple in the villa is the plot's main focus, which is carried out in a cyclical way. Milian gets a daily shave. Meril goes to the shops. Milian meets the communists. Meril fights with the staff. Meril and Milian eat dinner. The same thing happens the next day. And the next, while in the background the Mafia employ cheap tactics to try and get the land.
     The thing is, all this is done in the strangest way possible, with the quirkiest characters. The barber who cuts Milian's hair has a very strange haircut himself, and is a lecherous womaniser. A sub-plot develops on whether or not he rubbed his crotch on Meril's shoulder while giving her a perm. The hired help don't like him, calling him a thief, but then what we see them do is basically sponge off of Meril and Milian. The help is basically a grubby father/son team who steal Milian's booze and cigarettes. The son in particular is bizarre. He permanently walks around with a blaring radio around his neck and seems to have a fascination with throwing objects out of windows. He's also a tuneless singer in a band and uses Meril's clothes to clean his shoes. The Mafia presentative who now and again appears to try and persuade Milian to sell the land talks like a poet. There's even a scene where Meril greets a young child only to be answered by "I like your thighs. I would definitely do you." And so it goes on.
     The film probably still wouldn't work if the two leads weren't up for it. It's no surprise that Milian is up for being covered in filth, screaming, and walking around naked, because that's pretty much what he does, but Meril pretty much does the same thing! The film literally starts with Milian eating a raw egg yolk (with half of it dribbling down his chin), while Meril licks artichoke juice from his chest. Turns out these bizarre meals are part of the cycle too - at one point Meril scoops out a fishes eyeball and eats it, just before the hired help takes the rest of the fish away and dumps it in a pond. The next meal consists of a huge plate of soft shell crabs with raw, giant onions and random tinned stuff. The fact that these two act like everything that's going on around is not only normal, but boring, won me over.
     I'm still leaving plenty of stuff out of the review to discover for yourself. Fans of Milian should definitely track this down. This and THE YEAR OF THE CANNIBALS, made the same year. In that one he acts like a rat in a city full of corpses that the citizens aren't allowed to move!

Contact (or The Encounter - who knows?) (1992, Russia, Horror, Director: Albert S. Mkrtchyan)
Notable actors: Nyet!

From good old Russia and their altruistic concern for British politics comes a spooky horror film that has barely any special effects whatsoever, but still manages to brew up a nice atmosphere of grimness.
     A sweet old lady is woken up one night by an alarm going off in a neighbour's house, but when she investigates she finds the young lady living there dead, having slashed her wrists. Even more nasty is the discovery of the woman's son, seemingly smothered to death in his bed.
     A young detective is brought in on the case, along with his sidekick dog Smok, who is going to get rather heavily involved in proceedings, poor thing. The detective discovers via the neighbour that this young lady had a married lover who would visit, and therefore tracks the guy down. However, this is where things start getting weird for the cop. The guy, who has a solid alibi, tries to get the cop to drop the case, but then reluctantly reveals that the girl was hounded into killing herself by her father, who used to visit her every night. That sounds like strange behaviour for a father, and even stranger behaviour for one who has been dead for twelve years. Before the cop can ask this guy if he's talking out of his arse or what, the guy also kills himself.
     At the funeral of the dead girl and her son, the cop bumps into her much sexier sister, who also has a small child. At first, there's no talk of ghosts or suicide or such, but I guess that the rules of attraction mean that after a good meal it's usually the appropriate time to reveal to a potential lover that the ghost of your dead father is stalking you and wants to take you and your child into the afterlife for some vague reason. Rather than making his excuses and running for the hills, the cop instead decides to stick in there. After all, the ghosts did predict that the woman and the cop would marry in a week (don't ask).
     The first half of the film is pretty sinister but kind of drags a bit. However, when the ghost dad starts trying to get proactive in expanding his post-mortal family, things get downright creepy. The young child gets very, very sick, and the cop knows that if she dies, her mother will kill herself, and then there'll be no more hanky-panky for the cop. If only he could find a way to communicate with the paterfamilias? When he does, it'll catch you off guard.
     Without revealing much more plot things get stranger and spookier as that damn ghost dad (and possibly others?) are hanging around the place ruining the cop's sex life and getting on his tits with the anger and the threats and such like. Even the dog gets involved, being friends with the little kid one minute, then freaking out at things that aren't there the next. Basically, the film travels on a dark trajectory that just keeps on getting darker and more random before we get to an extremely dark ending indeed.
     This one was a nice surprise and worth a look for folks into ghost stories. Keep in mind however that the budget seems to me to have been extremely low, and stick through those draggy bits, because there's a good few shocks later in the film.

Corbari (1970, Italy, War, Director: Valentino Orsini)
Notable actors: Giuliano Gemma! Tina Aumont! Frank Wolff!

Despite the year it was released, this is no boring DIRTY DOZEN rip-off where a band a daring Allied soldiers head behind Nazi lines to do something or other. In fact, Nazis barely feature at all in this ultra-serious film. This is all about Italians fighting each other.
     Giuliano Gemma is Corbari, a hunter who does not want to be drawn into the war, especially on the fascist's side. One day, while a fascist friend is trying to convince him to join up, they spy Italian fascist and a Nazi release a dog after a naked prisoner. Although advised not to get involved, Corbari shoots the dog, and his friend shoots the naked man, so Corbari shoots him. Before you can say 'that escalated quickly', Corbari is on the run and becomes a partisan, but on his terms only.
     With his trusty friend and biographer Casadei by his side, Corbari quickly forms a fairly large partisan unit in the North of Italy, which quickly becomes a pain in the ass to all the rich landowners up there. Along with the Italian army, these guys start to form a plan to get rid of Corbari, so maybe the very keen Tina Aumont is a spy? Or an ultra-keen ally? And can fellow Partisan Frank Wolff, up in the mountains, strengthen Corbari's army?
     Gemma's well known for semi-goofy Westerns, but he's a strong enough actor to get serious, as he does very well here (And also in the films THE IRON PREFECT and THE WARNING). Corbari is a strong individual with a very clear vision of what he wants to get done, even if reality has a habit of kind of getting in the way of such strong ambitions, and this is a film about World War 2, so don't be expecting sunshine and lollipops either.
     Grim, dark and tragic all the way through, CORBARI contains two execution scenes that are rather realistic in their matter-of-fact manner, plus one sudden suicide of a character that took me back. Probably best watched back to back with also-realistic war film MASSACRE IN ROME for that extra "World War Two was depressing" feeling.

Death Has Blue Eyes a.k.a. The Para Psychics (1976, Greece, Action/Sci-fi, Director: Niko Mastorakis)
Notable actors: Jessica Dublin, who has a few notable Greek films and gialli under her belt, including Greek giallo THE HOOK, and who can forget her decapitation in ISLAND OF DEATH?

Wow. What sounded good on paper absolutely didn't work onscreen. I was expecting a high octane, low budget action film where two guys protect a psychic lady from shadowy government agencies, but what I got instead was a little bit of that with a shitload of Robin Askwith-style sex comedy mixed in for good measure. To make things even worse, there's a huge generic Eurospy vibe about it all too.
     English Vietnam veteran (?) Kowalski has made his way to Greece to meet his friend Ches and bum about the Med for a bit. He does this by stealing a ticket off a guy in England, locking him in a toilet, and stealing his identity. Once in Greece, Kowalski meets his mate at the airport and uses his stolen identity to blag a limo and scam a meal from the hotel he's staying at by giving the waiter the wrong room number. Strangely, the two women sitting next to him seen to know he's faking it, and it doesn't help that Kowalski's charging a meal to their hotel room. The younger of the women, Christina, reveals Kowalski's real name and freaks the guy out.
     Not that it stops Kowalski getting it on with his mates girlfriend, who seemingly wanders around Ches's houses with only an apron on. It also must be an open relationship too, because she jumps into bed with Kowalski straight away, then, both Kowalski and Ches while a parrot makes disparaging remarks. This was the seventies - I bet they all reeked. Turns out that Ches had scammed his way into the house of an older lover and she returns to find them all in bed together, throwing everyone including the parrot out into the street. It's at this point Christina calls, tells Kowalski she knows he's homeless and that she has a job for him and Ches.
     As Christina's mother Geraldine explains, she and Christina have been on the run from Germany and need Kowalski's protection from strange people who have been following her (including rather a lot of guys on motorbikes). For me things start to get a bit hazy around this point of the film because Kowalski and Ches seem to make things a lot worse for everyone, and Christina doesn't seem to need any protecting at all, because she can use her powers to blow shit up and make people kill themselves.
     So on one hand you have what would have made a kind of enjoyable sci-fi caper with government bad guys getting whacked left right and centre, but in this film the action always grinds to a halt so that either Ches or Kowalski get it on with some lady in a light-hearted, comedy manner. The only bit where this actually works is when Christina remotely gives Kowalski the 'brewer's droop' when he's about to get it on with a sexy racing car lady he randomly meets.
     I'm a big fan of Niko Mastorakis (especially NIGHTMARE AT NOON, ISLAND OF DEATH and HIRED TO KILL), but his debut film is a bit rubbish to be honest. There's plenty of nudity and a couple of scenes of Christina using her powers that's pretty good, but choppy editing, bi-polar tone, and lead characters I hated instantly just put me off.
     I did however get a huge 'FIRESTARTER' vibe from this film (Christina does at one point start a fire with her mind), so maybe Stephen King was unlucky enough to see this but had his notebook with him at the time. Don't believe me? There's that vampire kid trying to get into the house in Mario Bava's BLACK SABBATH that turns up in SALEM'S LOT, and the second last scene in THE SPIDER LABYRINTH? The birth scene in the seventh Dark Tower book.

Desert Commandos (1967, Italy, Action, Director: Umberto Lenzi)
Notable actors: Ken Clark! Horst Frank! Franco Fantasia! Howard Ross! Tom Felleghy!

One morning, a nice man called Umberto Lenzi excitedly sprung from his bed and ran to the nearest window. Pushing it open, he espied a young child travelling to school, and ushered him over.

"You there!" Lenzi cried.

"Me, sir?" The child enquired.

"Yes," Lenzi affirmed. "You. Go out there and buy me the biggest Turkey in all of Rome...and film Giovanni Radice killing it with a shovel."

"Why, sir?" The child enquired, becoming nervous in case any British light entertainers/weathermen were sneaking up on him while he stood still for a few minutes.

"Because I have had the greatest idea in the history of Italian World War Two films. You see-"

The telephone by Lenzi's bed suddenly rung. Tentatively, Lenzi lifted the receiver and uttered "Pronto".

"Ha! Lenzi?" A disparaging voice mocked. "This is Ruggero Deodato- King of Cinematic Animal Cruelty. I have just spent the morning filming Lorraine De Salle bumming a dolphin to death with a strap-on for my new film. How are you going to top that one, Umberto LAME-zi?" And with that, he promptly hung up.

"Damn that maverick Deodato and his inventive ways of killing animals. I am jealous, yet I cannot let this get in the way of my brilliant idea," Lenzi said, to no one in particular. However, keen to get away, the child indulged him.

"Why is that, kind sir?"

"Because I believe the Italian World War Two film genre has become stagnant due to the same DIRTY DOZEN plot being played out again and again, what with squads of American soldiers sneaking into Nazi territory to perform an assassination. However, what if we had a group of Germans trying to invade allied territory to kill Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt? That's much more intense. Plus, I'm going to have Horst Frank in there as a German soldier who doesn't believe in Hitler's cause, going up against his tight-ass commanding officer who likes to murder people in order to achieve his goal."

"Why should I give a fuck about all this sir?" The urchin gently enquired. 

"You should care because you have a series of tense situations as a murderous soldier will do anything to obtain his goal while the audience isn't sure who these guys should trust, as they cross a desert full of mines, hostile nomads, sandstorms, and possible internal espionage problems," Lenzi explained.

"'Possible internal espionage problems' is the stupidest fucking phrase I've ever heard," explained the child. "Can I not just go now?"

The telephone rung again. Shaking, Lenzi picked up the receiver. 

"WASSAAAAAAAP? Deodato here. I just had Ivan Rassimov drown a blue whale in hundreds of gallons of crude oil while tossing Koala bears into a bonfire with a pitchfork. Top that, ya mad rockets."

Lenzi dropped the receiver into the cradle and pinched the bridge of his nose. He addressed the kid outside, but discovered had left minutes previously. Either that or Jimmy Saville had bundled him into the back of a Transit van and was ferrying him to a lay-by somewhere outside of Leeds.

"You see, in this film you kind of root for Horst Frank but then there's a series of twists that keep you glued to the screen as well. It's like Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, only there's actually some action and there's not hours of redundant dialogue about nothing in particular that stretches out the running time and makes you want to kill yourself. There's not a lot of action but the mere journey they make to their destination is never boring for a second."

Horrific silence greeted the end of this speech. He leaned out of the window and noticed a dog turd with a hand-written sign stuck in it, saying "Watch out for this shite".

"Fine!" Lenzi exclaimed, "I'll make this film, then a series of old school Gialli that are actually pretty good, but still contain pigeon shooting and bull-fighting, then I'll have Ivan Rassimov join a cannibal tribe, then some Eurocrime films, then I'll show that TWAT Deodato who is the king of animal crueltly by having a gorilla fight Janet Agren with bike chains before forcing Maurizio Merli to stick fireworks up a white tiger's arse in front of a classroom of six-year-olds. I'M the fucking controversial director! ME!"

And with that, Lenzi returned to bed, and knocked one out to the thought of driving over a sloth with a steamroller.

Diabolically Yours (1967, France/Italy/West Germany, Giallo, Director: Julien Duvivier)
Notable actors: Alain Delon! Santa Berger! Sergio Fantoni!

If you've watched any late sixties film starring either Carroll Baker and/or Jean Sorel, you'll know exactly what to expect here; one of those old school giallo films where people try and outsmart each other in huge houses/villas/mansions/castle for usually monetary reasons.
     DIABOLICALLY YOURS wastes no time in building up the 'what's going on this time?' vibe by having hunky Alain Delon waking up after being in a coma for three weeks. Despite being drunk and driving at one hundred miles an hour, Alain has survived a car crash. Even more of a miracle is the survival of his wife, Santa Berger. This takes Alain aback, not because she survived, but the fact that he's married at all. For it would seem that Alain has completely lost his memory due to the crash, but you can never be totally sure with these films.
     By the time he gets out of hospital and gets home, Alain's practically pinching himself. Not only is he married to the beautiful Berger, he lives in a giant mansion, has classic cars lying about everywhere, and a Chinese servant he can order about. What's not to like, apart from Berger never seemingly being in the mood for a bit of love action, and the fact that something just doesn't feel right to Alain. They say that he's George Campos, owner of a construction company, just returned from Hong Kong to live in the country. Alain isn't so sure, because he keeps dreaming of Algeria and what is supposedly his dog wants to take a bite out of him. Then again, he can speak a little Chinese and remembers beating the servant so much he has scars, so what's going on?
     Those familiar with these mind-game film is that just about everything that is meant to be true at the start of the film is turned on its head by the end, and even though I was half-right when it came to the mystery, director Duvivier (who has a lot of fans it seems, I'm unfamiliar), throws in plenty of twists all over the shot and plenty of stuff to make even Sherlock Holmes doubt himself, and he was a HUGE fan of giallo films as well as a totally real human being who definitely existed.
     Also, with such flawlessly put together people as Alain Delon and Santa Berger on screen making eyes at each other while veteran Italian actor Sergio Fantoni sits in the background swigging wine, I was aware that as a mere plain human being, if I theoretically appeared onscreen beside them, it would be like some kind of ape-like creature wearing a Guiness t-shirt had somehow wandered onto the set. I guess that's why they are the stars and I'm the whatever it is I do.
     In conclusion, it's hard to write about a film without revealing any of the twists.

The Drifting Classroom (1987, Japan, Sci-fi, Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi)

A bit of advice for kids and parents of kids - don't have massive arguments with each other that you later regret, because sometimes the chance to make up never comes, be it through accident, disease, or your kid's entire school getting caught in a time slip and thrown in the future. A bad future.
     This happens to young Sho (Yasufumi Hayashi), who storms out on his mother after she scolds him for dancing around her naked singing Camptown Races (I say she had good cause) and refusing to attend Japanese class. You see Sho and his family have just returned from Los Angeles and now Sho is attending an international school full of international students, which I guess is why quite a bit of the film is in English. It also gives us quite a variety of characters, as one hundred and eighty-one kids find themselves in a future full of sand, monsters, and death.
     Sho withstanding, the pupils include a nice girl who fancies a rich, athletic white boy who proves to be one of the more complicated characters here, a fat guy called Piggy, an American kid who can't stop chewing bubblegum (who gets the film's most spectacular death), two sets of twins, a girl who keeps fainting, a very young kid called Yu who followed Sho to the school, and a scientist-like kid who provides what little exposition were allowed in this crazy film. Adults include actor Troy Donohue, who has the hots for the lovely young teacher who becomes a mother figure for everyone, an old lady who doesn't seem to mind what's happening, and a delivery guy who becomes violently insane because his dog was turned into a skeleton (but also seems still alive in the 'past'), The amount of characters becomes rather overwhelming as even more are introduced after the entire school ends up in a bizarre place where it rains sand.
     There's a lot of elements to this film that's like a cheesy kids movie, which includes teeny-bopper romance and TWO somehow spontaneously occurring dance/music numbers (one based on Here Comes The Bride, and the other Camptown Races again!), a bit of ET, by which I mean the strange creature who befriends young kid Yu (and pisses on him [?]). This thing looks like a green arse with chameleon eyes on its cheeks and prawn legs. It's initial appearance is a head frying stop-motion sequence that kind of signals that the film has stopped being plain weird and is now heading for completely weird territory.
     Then there's the horror: one guy's face is melted by boiling water, sand pours from a dead teacher's mouth, and one kid has his entire flesh melted off his body. There are large monsters that attack the school and the kids violently attack each other. I'm not even particularly going into these scenes in great detail as I wouldn't want to spoil the crazy imagery for anyone, but advise that you seek it out yourself (it's made an HD appearance on YouTube as of March 2020, so you better be quick).
     What makes the film so watchable is that you actually care for the kids. Sho at first comes across as a hyperactive pain in the ass, but then as his guilt about his last meeting with his mother sinks in, her image becomes his focus to be a better person. His mother (one of the few characters not thrown into the future who never gives up on her son's vanishing) tries to contact him (and does, in a way you'll have to see for yourself). This, along with a lot of the characters being generally nice (rather than selfish and duplicitous, as you might find in other horror films), makes you care about what's happening and makes the ending rather poignant.. Or it might be that I've slept about six hours in the last three days and would probably find the ending of Luigi Cozzi's HERCULES sad because he didn't throw enough stuff into outer space. For the record, this Japanese horror film features the most well-rounded, lovable and sensible characters I've ever seen in a film. Filmmakers should do that more, in this world where everyone is angry about everything all the time about ideologies they didn't even know they cared about until the Internet and the Media shoved it down their throats.

The Fall of Rome (1963, Italy, Action? Director: Antonio Margherriti)
Notable actors: Ida Galli!

There's doesn't appear to be any reviews of this one anywhere, and after watching it I can see why. It's not only boring and uninteresting, but compounding the crapness is Antonio Margheriti Godfrey Ho-ing some other film into certain scenes (or rather, building scenes around the footage he's 'borrowed'). I'm almost certain this is what happens in this film, but I can't check, nor am I an expert enough in Peplum to identify the film the footage has been nicked from.
     The ultra-thin storyline involves the persecutions of Christians in Rome after the death of the Emperor Constantine (himself big on the bible-bashing), this means that Romans who are enthusiastic for polytheism are turning on their Christian fellows, even if they are in a high-ranking position like tribune Marcus and his wife (Ida Galli, a.k.a. "Evelyn Stewart"). Marcus goes from beefy nice guy to homeless beefy nice guy fleeing for his life while being chasing by his own soldiers. His wife is gravely injured, but only by breaking a dam and flooding the plain below does Marcus escape. It also gives good ol' Antonio Margheriti the chance to break out the minature sets and provide us with one of the few interesting scenes in the film.
     Marcus hooks up with a barbarian tribe, but not soon enough to save Ida. Then again, her death means Marcus has got the green light for barbarian Svelta (Loredana Nusciak), so it's a kind of "glass half empty, glass half full" kind of situation, and Svelta in my opinion is definitely an upgrade on Ida Galli. Marcus goes all DANCES WITH WOLVES with this tribe, but when he gets the offer to fight in the arena in order to free his Christian homies, he's back in Rome before you can say "Jesus, has only half an hour of this film went by?".
     I was going to slag off Marcus's moobs but now that I've been trapped with my kids during lockdown for months on end doing nothing but eating and drinking beer I'm just going to shut up about that and move onto to the stolen footage. From here on in, whenever the film has to get to something epic, footage from another film creeps in, be it shots of a crowd watching Marcus take on gladiators in the arena, or the big battle at the end, some other film kicks in, with some close up shots of Marcus and whoever to pad things out a bit. In Margheriti's defence he does pull out the tiny sets in the end when Rome gets destroyed either by God or by an earthquake. I'm not watching this again to double check.
     For a guy who provided so many kick-ass moments later in his career, Antonio Margheriti sure has some stinkers right at the start - ASSIGNMENT: OUTER SPACE drags on forever, BATTLE OF THE WORLDS is only watchable whenever Claude Rains shows up (because his character is a complete jerk!). You know what though - I'm still going to track them all down and watch them all!

Fatal Deviation (1998, Ireland, Action, Director: Shay Casserley)

This is a rural Irish kickboxing film, and therefore it's hard to get by the fact all the character look and sound like they've just walked off the set of FATHER TED. It's also shot on video, badly acted, has terrible sound and rubbish effects, but it's so earnest and charming the whole thing turns out to be pretty entertaining from start to finish.
     Young orphan Jimmy Bennet just got out of reform school and heads back to his dilapidated home (which is seemingly just around the corner). In his head, we hear him say "Oi must foind out what happened to moi fadder". Jimmy is a champion kickboxer, and as we'll find out, needs next to no provocation before his feet are connecting with people's heads. Just check out what he does to those guys in the Londis supermarket who are annoying the girl who's stacking the Crisp N Dry!
     For some reason this tiny village has a drug kingpin with an army of very Irish looking, tracksuit wearing henchman. The drug kingpin seems to live in a caravan or something and has a gobby son who's girlfriend is now hanging around with Jimmy (hilariously, Jimmy does two guys in who are hassling her too, kicking one over a wall who utters a very genuine cry of surprise and pain when he lands on the other side). This also causes Jimmy to get banned from the local pub (!) so he gives the bouncers a kicking, then just about everyone inside too, including the gun wielding barman. "Fook yer gun, ya prick", is the Bruce Willis-style one liner we get there. There's also a monastery in the village where a mysterious monk trains Jimmy up in martial arts before the big tournament which draws every kickboxer from all around. The bad guys want to win, so they kidnap Jimmy's squeeze so he'll take a dive. Or will he?
    Filled with a ridiculous amount of action, including Jimmy standing up on a moving bike so he can shoot bad guys, a shootout in what looks like some sort of dump and Jimmy flat out murdering people without a sniff of the Garda (Irish Police), FATAL DEVIATION has all the clichés of a nineties action film, but is much more enjoyable as it's carried out by amateurs. The songs were terrible, however.
     Best acting goes to the old drug kingpin, with his "Oi don't pay you to sit on yer arse," dialogue. Regarding the guy who fell over the wall - They show a montage of outtakes at the end which shows you how much fun they had making this film (just like a Jackie Chan film). The guy falls over the wall, we hear a cry, and the guy sitting up saying "Oi'm not doing dat again".

Fatal Temptation (1988, Italy, Giallo, Director: Either Remo Angioli or Beppe Cino)
Notable actors: Possibly?

A giallo that tries to recall the old-style plots of the late Sixties with the erotic attitude of late Eighties gialli, and then promptly fails in every single aspect, mainly due to nothing really happening throughout its running time.
     Hotel owners Paolo and Silvia have a terrible relationship that they try and hide from their guests and customers. Paolo is cheating on his wife. During a wedding. In the basement. He makes as much effort at hiding his tracks it's like as a side project he was hired to plan the 'suicide' of Jeffrey Epstein. And he's not the only one. They are all at it in this film. These days we're all too distracted by Youtube lists and Coronavirus updates to make the beast with two backs, but in the Eighties that's all they could ever think of.
     Silvia heads off somewhere one day and Paolo takes his girlfriend for a ride (a real one) in his posh car. Not long after, he's involved in an accident that makes him blind. The young motorcyclist that nearly loses his life due to Paolo feels strangely guilty about being involved, and then gets some strange movements in his undercarriage once he spots pouty, busty Silvia and her blind husband. He's a jobbing actor, but Silvia hires him anyway and after catching her husband getting it on with his mistress while blind (!), she thinks 'to hell with this' and gets it on with the young fella.
     Things get pretty tedious by this point because all the viewer has endured is endless scenes of people getting it on while other people listen in or watch them. I was wondering if anything was going to happen when at last Silvia comes up with a plot to kill her blind husband and get his inheritance. Things are complicated by her lover being a reluctant killer and the fact that he also has a bit on the side who might be in for a spot of blackmail once it all kicks off...and I mean kick off like a small kitten accidentally batting a cotton ball into a pile of odd socks.
     Now, this film basically exists on Youtube in a copy about one hour eight minutes long. I was thinking to myself "This film must have been filthy before it was edited - I must track down a longer version and confirm this for academic reasons". So I found an Italian language version on Youtube (by using Yahoo or Bing to search for the film because a direct search on Youtube doesn't bring up the film. I have no idea why this happens), and that version runs at one hour seventeen minutes, and that version is tame as hell!. There's one shot of actress Loredana Romito having a shower, and the rest of the footage cut out involves thigh stroking, moaning, and Paolo smashing a vase. What was this film edited for? A children's TV channel?
     Worse still, the lame attempts to create a giallo atmosphere basically end in a wet fart. There's a murder, then a mysterious murder, then a bizarre random gunfight, then the film is over. I am VERY lenient when it comes to late Eighties Italian films (I love them basically), but this was a poor, poor effort.

Foodfight! (2012, US, Kids, Animation, Director: Lawrence Kasanoff)
Actors that surely needed the money for cocaine: Charlie Sheen, Hilary Duff, Eva Longoria, Christopher Lloyd, Jerry Stiller, Cloris Leachman and many other suckers.

Imagine Charlie Sheen on a crack binge (or maybe I should have just said 'imagine Charlie Sheen') mixed with the video for The Residents' Constantinople. Picture Nazi-imagery mixed with supermarket products and very thinly-veiled sexual innuendo. Take this mix and pretend the animators were forced at gunpoint to produce the film on a ZX Spectrum while also blindfolded and full of LSD and you're still only getting a glimpse of the nightmare that is FOODFIGHT!. This film cost 45 million dollars to make!
     The premise is that at night in a supermarket all the brand icons come to life, like NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM mixed with TOY STORY. Protecting everyone is Rex Dogtective (it hurt just typing that), but when his extremely badly animated girlfriend goes missing, he gives up his job and runs a club instead with his stereotypical black sidekick Daredevil Dan (who is made of chocolate, but looks kind of like a squirrel with a scrotum for a face). Meanwhile, in the human world, a walking animated nightmare voiced by Christopher Lloyd start putting Brand X on display, which causes Foodworld, or whatever it's called to be taken over by Nazi food products.
     But why go on with the story? This film is easily one of the worst high-budget animated films I've laid eyes on. Nothing looks right at all, from the expressionless faces of the characters to their body movements to the backgrounds and the crowd scenes that just repeat the same five or six characters over and over again. It is truly diabolical, especially considering it was made in 2012.
     Everything else about this film is awful too  - The voice-acting is an assault on the ears and it just shows you what actors will do for cash spouting lines like this:
     “I'd like to butter your muffin!”
     “You better go easy on the potato juice before you get... chip-faced.”
     “I'm not the one who's gonna be puppy whipped, you cold farted itch.”
     I believe those quotes cover the dialogue well enough too. If you want to see something that is vindaloo strength bad, FOODFIGHT! is way up there. Way way up there. It's like suffering an acid flashback on behalf of everyone who took acid during the rave years in one go.

The Gestapo's Last Orgy a.k.a. Caligula Reincarnated As Hitler (1977, Italy, War, Director: Cesare Canevari)
Notable actors: You've got to be kidding.
VIDEO NASTY!

Fucking hell! Who's the intended audience for this crap? I think even serial killer Fred West would have had trouble with certain scenes in this one. In fact, I think in one of his last interviews he said "I liked the bit where they covered that woman in cognac and burned her, but the bit where they showed pictures of a woman eating shit was a bit too far to be honest. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to bury one of my daughters, who I've just murdered, in my back garden."
     I suppose if you're going to make some sort of exploitation film about the Holocaust you might as well go the whole way and make it almost a parody of the horrible events of World War Two. Not that I'm a fan of this kind of film. In fact, even though I've spent four years watching every Italian film possible, the old Nazisploitation films have never been a priority, but then this one showed up on Youtube and as I'm also trying to watch all of the "Video Nasties" on the BBFC list, I had to make the stupid decision to watch it, because I'm not fucking paying for a film like this.
     Once you're suckered in, you'll find that the plot involves an ex-concentration camp survivor called Lisa helping some Nazi commandant called Conrad escape a death sentence, but just why she does this isn't immediately apparent. Following the trial, the two meet at the abandoned camp, which triggers a flashback that involves all manner of disagreeable crap.
     You see, Lisa's taken to some woman-only camp where the girls there are to service resting soldiers from the Eastern front, and to truly cement the tone of this film, a bunch of naked soldiers are shown a series of pornographic slides, like a mother having sex with her daughter and the aforementioned 'woman covered in shit' picture, which triggers a huge orgy/rape scene. I'm not sure I'd be turned on by someone covered in shit in any situation, but then again I'm not German.
     It's around this point we get introduced to Alma, Conrad's lover, who likes to feed women to her dogs when they are on their period (the women, not the dogs), who also likes to torture the prisoners. When realising that Lisa doesn't seem to suffer under any torture at all, due to her misguided guilt in thinking she was responsible for her family getting sent to the gas chamber, she and Conrad embark on an adventure where they try and push Lisa as far as possible to make her beg for her life. It should be noted here that Alma shoves a whip right up Conrad's arse because he spunks his pants while torturing Lisa, but in the next scene, Conrad is using the whip while addressing the troops. I hope he gave it a rinse first, the dirty bastard.
     Full of torture and speeches about how the Reich can just do whatever they want with Jews, including making lampshades out of them and underwear made of hair (did I actually see that?), the film really, truly scrapes the bottom of the Italian exploitation barrel when there's a huge dinner party involving all the Nazis, where the main course is a stew made up of unborn Jew babies. Once again, I must ask who the intended audience for this was, taking into account Italy's allegiance during the war.
     I couldn't recommend this to anyone, to be honest. 
     It should be noted however that apart from directing this quicklime prisoner-dipping crap, Cesare Canevari does have some films under his belt that aren't shit. There's the weird Crime/Giallo HYENA IN THE SAFE, which is one of the stranger Gialli out there, plus the surreal Western MATALO!. However, he dropped the ball on his last film, KILLING OF THE FLESH, a giallo where he included so much sex that he didn't leave enough space for the actual giallo plot!

Good News (1979, Italy, "Comedy", Director: Elio Petri)
Notable actors: Giancarlo Giannini!
Ennio Morricone Soundtrack!

Although he's labelled as, and probably was, a political director always on the side of the people, Elio Petri's films always seem to me to be more about men facing dilemmas regarding the changing world and their inability to change with it, be it through sheer ignorance (Gian Marie Volonte in THE WORKING CLASS GO TO HEAVEN), getting life's priorities all wrong (HIS DAYS ARE NUMBERED) or just basically not having a clue what's going on at all, with anything, like Giancarlo Giannini in GOOD NEWS. I must include the caveat here that I might just be talking out of my arse.*
     In Elio Petri's most profane and sexualised film of his career, Giancarlo Giannini plays a media type. What he does exactly isn't really gone into in much detail. He does sit around watching six television screens at once (one always including the news, and I might be reading too much into it but I swear some of the topics refer to other Petri films, like the mystery disease in TODO MODO and political turmoil in the workplace, as in THE WORKING CLASS GO TO HEAVEN), but it's merely a backdrop as Giannini sinks into a world of misery due to his various hang-ups and his marriage to a frigid wife.
     He's surrounded by sex but can't have any, despite even trying it on with a colleague at work, although asking her for advice, dropping his drawers, and asking if his penis is either too big or too small doesn't quite break the ice as well as he expected. At night, instead of paying attention to his wife, he watches television, and as the film goes on the images get more erotic (if a guy giving himself a blowjob is erotic to you, that is). He even tries it on with his wife's cousin on a day out to no avail.
     Through all this, and the weird backdrop in which the film is set (which I'll discuss later), a mystery arises. An old friend of his, Gualtiero, makes contact after fifteen years as Giannini is his 'best friend'. Gualtiero thinks people are out to kill him, but somehow, with all conversations involving Giannini's character, talk turns to sex, and Giannini finds out that Gualtiero's wife is a nymphomaniac. Whether this prompts Giannini to help his friend, whom he thinks is mad, is up to you.
     The events of the rest of the film roll out surrounding Giannini 'helping' Gualtiero and his wife Ada (which leads to the most awkward sex scene I've ever seen in a film), and somehow trying to get through to his wife. Oh, and watching, always watching, those screens.
     The Rome these characters live in is also very strange. There are constant black-outs. Constant bomb threats at work, which prompts everyone to go down to the park and play football and eat gelati. Everywhere, literally everywhere, is covered in trash, either indicating that there's a lengthy strike going on with the garbage collection or things in general are breaking down. No character acts normal either, as if they've all forgotten how to act normal.
     It is a comedy mind you, so there are farcical moments, like Giannini waltzing with Gualtiero, but it's Elio Petri's version of a comedy, so you know it's going to be off-kilter. I wouldn't say it's among his best work, but it's still a good film. It's a pity the version I watched was blurry as hell and fullscreen. However, it IS a great film if you want to learn loads of Italian swear words, because there's a whole scene based around Giannini pondering his use of profanity, so it's "Figa" this and "cazzo" that. Eeh, the language.
* I've since discovered that Elio Petri stated the film was about how, due to the media, people don't actually live life anymore, only living some kind of fake version of life, and that's what the film is about. So there you go.

H2S (1969, Italy, Sci-fi, Director: Roberto Faenza)
Notable actors: Lionel Stander!

Absolute arthouse madness from the director of CORRUPT, starring Lionel Stander? I've got to admit that I watched this without subtitles, and I don't think it would have made much sense in English anyway.
     The plot involves something to do with sex being banned to stop world over-population and then something regarding students revolting against the establishment perhaps. Luckily, plot seems to something that isn't really focused on here, as the bulk involves lead character Massimo being put through various insane situations. Like being strapped to a shagging machine while other students watch, being put through a kind of car wash with a plastic bag on his head, being slapped on the arse by a giant book, and entering a room with loads of tiny statues of liberty while Lionel Stander talks through a grill hanging from the ceiling.
     There must have been some serious acid on the streets of Rome in the late sixties as this film is a deluge of insane imagery and strange acting. Lionel Stander looks like he's having the time of his life as he runs about in a nappy. The film switches from the university to a mountain at some point, with two students living in a giant pyramid with an entirely tin-foiled interior. Also, the screen goes black for about five minutes.
     What the use of describing it? I'll just plaster together some random insanity myself to represent my feelings about the film: Four geckos playing Mario Kart. A piece of gammon sellotaped to a crying child in space. An old man playing a keyboard but then his fingers are sausages and the sound coming out of the piano is that of a tuba. A huge room where custard drips off the ceiling onto a basketball team playing rugby with a football team, backwards. The cast of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND sacrificing a goat to a huge picture of Danny De Vito's elbow. A microscope driving a wheelchair down an alleyway while stray cats fart pink steam that forms the word "Plimsole". Buddha: "Gonnae geez a light, chief?" Elton John: ("Untranslated Japanese text")

Hercules (1983, Italy, Fantasy, Director: Luigi Cozzi)
Notable actors: Lou Ferrigno! William Berger! Sybil Danning! Mirella D'Angelo! Claudio Cassanelli! Gianni Garko! Brad Harris! Bobby Rhodes! Delia Baccardo! Franco Garofolo!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Luigi Cozzi is a director with an imagination and drive to equal that of early Peter Jackson or Eighties James Cameron, but with a budget of a Sensodyne advert. The result is HERCULES, a fantastic trip of bad effects and insane design that is one of the most entertaining films to come out of Italy.
     Things start as they mean to go on as we get a detailed account of how the universe started: a disco jug in space explodes and the pieces form the planets of the solar system. The first beings to arrive are the gods, who live on the moon. Their leader is Zeus (Cassanelli), who looks more like Santa Claus designed by Jean Paul Gautier. Zeus wants a being on earth who can take care of everybody else, and therefore sends a bit of light down to occupy the body of baby Hercules.
     Things go alright for about ten seconds before evil King Minos' daughter Ariana (Sybill Danning), her thief Franco Garofolo, and usurper Gianni Garko steal some sword, slaughter Herc's parents and try to kill Herc, who is cast unto a river on a boat and escapes as Gianni Garko just gives up looking for him, before disappearing from the rest of the film despite being set up as the main bad guy.
     Either Hera or Minos (William Berger) are the main bad guys, as Hera tries to kill Herc constantly (even with green-eyed snakes when he was a baby). Minos has a minion design robot monsters to kill Herc, who pop up sporadically throughout the film. This is because Minos is all into technology and shit, which gives Cozzi the director the chance to throw in some stop-motion robot monsters that Ferrigno can battle.
     The plot eventually gets round to being all about Herc going to save his future bride from Minos, with his sidekick (and much better looking) Mirella D'Angelo by his side. On the way, they encounter bridges and fountains and swords made of rainbows, go to Hell, go into space to drive a chariot around an asteroid belt, grow giant and separate Africa from Europe for Bobby Rhodes while Herc throws a lot of stuff (including himself) into space, like some cosmic fly-tipper.
     Add to this stop-motion monsters and ropey cheeseball eighties effects literally every second, seemingly every destination being in space (Minos seems to live in the middle of a fog filled crater on a giant crystal head, up until Herc finds him in the city of Atlantis, which is also seemingly in space), and a near constant pec-flexing by Lou Ferringo, and you've got a near unstoppable juggernaut of greatness that is simply a delight to watch, even if it's sometimes for the wrong reasons. By that I mean scenes where Herc fights the bear, which is scenes from the film Grizzly mixed with Ferringo fighting a guy in a bear suit (I'm not making that up!), which he promptly throws into space. That bit always cracks me up.
     My son, nearly ten, remembers this film from when he watched it back when he was five. It might be Luigi Cozzi's crowning achievement...if it wasn't for the sequel!

Hercules, Samson & Ulysses (1963, Italy, Fantasy, Director: Pietro Francisci)
Notable actors: Kirk Morris! Enzo Cerusico!

Hercules and his catamite Ulysses are in for it this time! They set out to sort out a simple sea monster problem and end up getting stranded in the Holy Land instead. Worse still, you don't even get to sea the sea monster that well! Sort yourself out, Herc.
     Herc (rubber glove filled with walnuts Kirk Morris) and Ulysses (Enzo Cerusico, who'll later get himself in a whole heap of trouble in the film NO, THE CASE IS HAPPILY RESOLVED, not to be confused with the film THE CASE IS CLOSED, FORGET IT), are seemingly fascinated by this new land, possibly because they could maybe stretch things out into a 'dirty weekend' scenario now that they've been 'accidentally' separated from their wives, but things are about to get stupid as Herc is mistaken for a local steroid-enhanced nutcase who seemingly doesn't know how to properly clothe himself.
     Samson is the name of this fellow, and it sounds like he has had one 'Roid Rage too many, as he's been declared a terrorist by the local Philistine government. Samson sure loves to stand on higher ground and throw spears at people, because he does this a lot to the Philistine army. What he doesn't do is strangle a couple of lions, because Herc does that. I actually typed 'loins' there originally instead of 'lions', because maybe deep down I want to see Herc strangle loins with his bare hands. Or at least a lion (or loin) tamer with a Herc wig on. Plus, I thought I saw Herc strangle only one lion, but then they find another one dead in someone's house (?), so who knows what's happening there.
     The Philistine King, who seems to think the best way to command troops is to kill some of them, has a scheming evil wife that's always got his ear. I can't remember if it's her that prompts the huge slaughter in the town that happens in the middle of the film, but it's all rather violent, with people being stabbed, hung, and crucified. This makes Samson even more mental than he was before, while Herc and his mates just get captured. Herc does manage to convince the King that he's not Samson, and is sent to get the other muscle-bound moron.
     Most people when they meet introduce themselves and shake hands, but Herc and Samson do it the man's way - by wrapping huge fucking steel bars around each other. From what I saw Samson was more into it than Herc, but I believe that's because Herc needed something extra going on in there, like 'pulling a train' as it were, with Ulysses in the middle so Herc could donkey punch the little bastard in the back of the head when he was on his vinegar strokes.
     Things pretty much follow the usual plot of these films, but the battle at the end was pretty epic. You'll feel sorry for the Philistine army as their King is firing arrows at them from behind and Herc and Samson are pushing down an entire building on their heads from the front. Herc's parting speech to Samson is pretty funny too, because Samson pretty much looks like he hasn't got a fucking clue what Herc is talking about.
     I'm in two minds whether or not to review more sixties Peplum films, because it's not like I'm treating them seriously, is it? Mind you, about eight years ago the security guard of the building I worked in found out that I liked Italian films and told me that him and his schoolmates used to go to the cinema back then and watch the old Peplum films, have a good laugh at them, and throw stuff at the screens, so maybe they were never meant to be taken seriously, eh?

High Frequency (1988, Italy, Giallo [at a stretch], Director: Falerio Rosati)
Notable actors: Vincent Spano (I don't know if he's well known or not)! David Brandon!

Eleven year-old Danny has it all. He's in denial about his dad vanishing at sea, his mother is dating another guy, he's got no mates, spends his time on a ham radio every day and now there's a guy on there asking him to tell him about his 'special antenna'. Life couldn't be happier.
     Luckily it's an actual antenna the guy is talking about, and this guy way over on the Alps is working in a satellite relay station that seems to be providing Europe with Prince videos and boxing. Peter's the guy's name, and when not fixing signals and talking to kids he's outside playing his drums in the snow or feeding his pet rabbit. While he and Danny are watching a boxing match, Peter somehow stumbles upon a secret channel with a fixed camera and witnesses someone being murdered. With no clue as to where this has happened and the Atlantic Ocean between them, Peter and Danny have to figure out who committed the murder.
     Adding as sense of urgency to proceeding is the discovery that what Peter was watching was happening live and being broadcast via a fixed camera, and that there's a lady in the apartment who doesn't seem to know she might be the next victim...
     Enough plot, however. This is a giallo in a very loose sense of the word. There's no gory murders and no nudity, but we've got a kid with a childhood trauma, and a musician guy trying to figure out clues using images. The slight problem with this is it's hard to sustain suspense between two people nowhere near a murder, one of which lives on top of a mountain. The director does try his best however, even though everything's a bit tame, and does manage to bring it together in time for the ending. It's a little overlong though.
     One thing I did notice is that actress Isabelle Pasco is one of the least emotive actors I've ever seen. Her expression is completely blank through the film, so I have no idea what her character was thinking at any time. Oh well. Not an essential film, but more of a film you'd use to pass a lazy afternoon or perhaps fool family members into thinking you've gone completely insane, especially if you invite them over to watch it while naked and acting like a screaming chimpanzee with a scat fetish. It worked for me, and now I'm saving a fortune this Christmas!

His Days Are Numbered a.k.a. On Borrowed Time (1962, Italy, Drama, Director: Elio Petri)
Notable actors: Salvo Randone is a guy I've seen in dozens of films, but this is the first time I've bothered to learn his name. For shame, me!

They say youth is wasted on the young, and judging by the vast amounts of time my kids waste playing Fortnite or looking at videos on Tik Tok (whatever that is), that saying is true. They should be doing something more productive, like watching sixty year-old Italian films while drinking beer, like me.
     That muddled and confusing first paragraph was supposed to tie in with theme of Elio Petri's second film, where a middle-aged plumber witnesses a man of a similar age die of a heart attack on a bus in Rome. This gives the plumber (played by Salvo Radone) a bit of a wake-up that he could go at any time, so he quits his job and heads out into the world...to find out he doesn't really know what to do with himself.
     That just about the plot, as Radone impulsively wanders around Rome trying to find some sort of reason for existing, be it lost loves, his birthplace, begging for cash and even turning to crime at one point, but all carried out in a confused, half-arsed manner, as if deep down he doesn't quite believe he deserves anything more than what he's already got. The whole thing kind of reminded me of George Orwell's "Coming Up For Air", although Radone's character is much more likeable than the selfish protagonist of that book.
     I'm making it all sound a bit dull, but it's all carried out in that Elio Petri fashion where everything is slightly off, like Radone going to a shanty town and witnessing people burning piles of debris while being interviewed about a tick infestation (symbolism lost on me, by the way - I just enjoy these films, but I don't ever have any great insight into them). There's a visual theme running through the film too of black and white stripes - be it road markings, art, or on the clothing people wear. A reference to the prison Radone is trapped in, no doubt, tied in with a visit to zoo to see the animals in their cages. Maybe I'm wrong. Who knows?
     It's not top tier Elio Petri but like everything I've seen by him, it's unique and well worth a watch. Elio Petri himself didn't even make it to the age of the character Radone plays in this film - he died at the age of fifty-three. Whether or not he died on a bus, we'll never know.

House No. 13 (1991, India, Horror, Director: A. G. Baby)
There's probably notable actors, but I can't be bothered checking.

Now, I've watched a lot of horror films and witnessed a lot of strange deaths, like the kid killed by a washing machine in Umberto Lenzi's HOUSE OF LOST SOULS, but I have never ever watched someone be killed by the Mona Lisa's hair before. That happens in HOUSE NO. 13, a kind of Bollywood POLTERGEIST, with songs!
     Cable TV back in the late nineties used to have a couple of Bollywood channels - Zee TV being the only one I can remember the name of, and when sufficiently stoned and/or drunk enough, it was nice to watch a Bollywood action movie. The cheap action scenes were always a laugh, and the songs were always earnest and charming. This practice kind of fell by the wayside when I started getting into Italian films more (and stopped smoking hash), so it's been twenty years since I watched a Bollywood film. I picked a haunted house film due to me knowing only two words in Hindi, and most haunted house films generally follow the same path.
     After a prologue that features a creepy girl scaring the crap out of an artist, a multi-generational family move into a new house. From what I can gather this house was previously own by a relative (perhaps an Uncle), which would explain why there's a tearful middle-aged woman there. Apart from her, the family are made up of the elderly grandad, the mum and dad (who is a doctor), the older son and the young daughter. The haunted house gets to work right away by doing a bit of curtain twitching while the family are outside, then sets its sights on the old man.
     No-one believes the old man when he starts claiming that the mirror in his room if filling up with smoke, so it's a pity later when the replica Mona Lisa picture above his bed starts growing real hair in huge tendrils and strangles the poor fellow. This is written off as a heart attack when the family find him later, but this ghost isn't happy with just one corpse. She wants loads!
     While that's happening, there's also a budding romance between the son and a local girl (he saves her from being raped in a badly-stage, funny punch up). This is where the songs in the film come in, as instead of endless scenes of onscreen chemistry, the two love birds have a bit of a song and a dance instead, which I've got to admit is much more entertaining. For the record, the third song features some Mariachi trumpet and a guitar solo for variety.
     Love is in the air and scares are in the house as the ghost sets its sights on the kid, making a doll come alive and lure the kid in with some antics before stretching its arms right across the room and trying to strangle the kid. When this doesn't work, the ghost flags down the doctor to help with a sick relative before spending rather a lot of time scaring the crap out of him, tricking him into finding the houses secret creepy bit, and scaring him to death. This also leads to the most confusing and hilarious parts of the film.
     For reasons I can't fathom out, the son of the family becomes involved in a chase sequence where he has to track down and attack four guys who are driving a truck. I'm not sure why this happened but it might have something to do with grave-robbing. Who knows, but it does lead to some pretty funny shots as the son somehow manages to catch up with this truck by kind of driving down a hill, running down a hill, and kind of stumbling down a hill, where he fights the guys on the truck, and some pretty lame wirework pulls them into the air and onto the ground. It's hard to describe the disjointed madness of this scene, but it did make me chuckle.
     The romance bit leads to a marriage bit which leads to the wife being pregnant for over tenth months, which prompts the family to get a Hindu holy man involved. Things get a bit more urgent when the ghost steals the young kid away to the afterlife, prompting a POLTERGEIST-style rescue mission into the houses creepy zone, complete with angry plants, floating kids, and giggling ghosts. I also must admit that both my wife and kids were fucking milling about the place by this point and ruining the atmosphere of the film when they should have been either sleeping or watching whatever it is they show on Netflix (I'm guessing re-runs of Scottish cop show TAGGART?).
     Director A.G. Baby seems to know how to keep the right balance between the scares, the songs, and the punch-ups, so what you get here is an extremely low budget horror film that pretty much delivers the goods if you're willing to cut the film a bit of slack. Baby uses a lot of Italian influence here - a lot of gel-lighting, just like Bava and Argento.
     Note: There are two versions on Youtube just now - one is terrible, like trying to watch a film through cataracts, and the other is fine, but ten minutes shorter. None have subtitles, so good luck!

The Hunchback (1961, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Carlo Lazzani)
Notable actors: Pier Paolo Pasolini! 

Way back before Tomas Milian stuck it to the man in Umberto Lenzi's BROTHERS TILL WE DIE, another hunchback criminal was not only a pain in the Roman police forces' arse, but also stuck it to the Nazis at the same time. This hunchback is working for the partisans, but he's really out for himself.
     The Nazis, being Nazis, just arrest anyone who is a hunchback at all, but THE Hunchback hates that, and takes it upon himself to waste the German invaders and release the prisoners. He's also got beef with the Chief of the Militia, and while the Chief hunts the Hunchback, the Hunchback forces himself on the Chief's daughter, starting a pretty complicated relationship.
     While stealing munitions from a Nazi camp in a very well-constructed action scene, the Hunchback takes a slug to the leg and with the help of a kid, heads to the only place he figures the Germans won't look - the house of the Militia Chief. There, the daughter reluctantly takes care of him, and seemingly forgives him, because they fall in love and she falls pregnant. The Hunchback however proves to be a bit unreliable - the Chief uses the Hunchback's scarf to make him out to be a Nazi collaborator, and the Hunchback guns him down in revenge.
     Eventually the Hunchback does get caught, but does he turn in his mates for freedom, and how will he react to the news that the daughter has had an abortion? This all happens in the first forty-five minutes of the film, by the way.
     The second half of the film takes place after the Allied Forces have run the Germans out of Rome, and how most of the characters that have survived this far into the film are coping with life - the daughter, being the daughter of a Nazi collaborator, is forced into prostitution while the Hunchback doesn't want to give up a life of crime, but may still try to find a way to save his soul...
     After sitting through some meandering Carlo Lazzani films (SAN BABILA - 8 P.M., for example) I'm surprised by how fast-paced this one is, and how violent it is for a film from nineteen-sixty. The Hunchback is a character who wouldn't be amiss in a mid-seventies Umberto Lenzi or Fernando De Leo film, a messed up orphan who grew up learning violence is the answer to everything, and yet he's not a totally evil character. His on/off relationship with whatever her name was is complicated and not entirely his fault, as both are victims of circumstance in a war that's been forced upon them.
     The action scenes are filmed immaculately in this one. Modern films could learn that jackhammer editing and overloud music isn't the way to go - sometimes less is more. Look out for notorious director Pier Paolo Pasolini, a man who died in Giallo-like circumstances in real life.

In Search Of The Titanic (2004, Italy, Kids, Animation, Director: Kim Jun Ok)

The stuff of nightmares, IN SEARCH OF THE TITANIC is thankfully the last in the micro-sub-genre of Italian cartoons with talking animals based around the sinking of the Titanic. It's also the weirdest one, which by default makes it the best one. Still, you'd only show it to children you hate.
     Three years after the events of LEGEND OF THE TITANIC (1999; where a giant octopus threw an iceberg at the Titanic, but then saved everyone on board through guilt), our loving couple Elizabeth and Don Juan, plus their talking dog Smile, plus the two rats from the first one, all descend in a bathysphere to find the sunken ship. Unfortunately, there's a bunch of gangster sharks down there who are in cahoots with the bad guy from the first film who make the vessel sink to the bottom of the ocean. But not before hurting the viewer bad with a rapping shark song.
     The giant octopus from the first one then arrives to save them but can't, so it's down to the folks of Atlantis to help the humans/dog/rats. This is where the film starts getting weird, as everyone is taken to Atlantis, which is ruled by a king with no face who has a throne with a big face on it that follows him around and a group of counsellors made up of a red dolphin, some sort of hybrid of a sting ray and an otter, and something that looks like Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout, only like a fish and also gay, and if you think I'm just saying that, you should see the musical number and many outfit changes this character goes through.
     Also inhabiting Atlantis are a bunch of living toys that share a big room and join Zebedee in a musical number that made my mind try and break free from its moorings before blurting out that our heroes are trapped in Atlantis forever, which they take very well before the plot lurches onto some sort of rebellion happening involving rats (one of which sounds like Fu Manchu), the sharks from the start of the film, and the bad guy from the last film. Before you know it there's a huge battle where no one gets hurt.
     This badly animated seemingly made-up-on-the-spot crap is good for a laugh once the film stops making any sense at all, especially the hilarious looking walking throne which the King magics across the room for no real reason. It attracts a lot of hate on the IMDB, as it 'disrespects those who died in the Titanic', making me wonder what these people would feel if they watched any of Italy's Nazisploitation films.
     Plus, one person points out the goof that cannonballs won't fire underwater as the gunpowder would get wet. Really? They're okay with the talking animals, the octopus that acts like it needs a full-time carer, the talking screwdriver that appears out of nowhere, the praying mantis the size of the Titanic, the disturbing scene with the rats in an asylum, the squelching noises the king makes as he walks about underwater, the conveyer built pavement system in Atlantis, the Scottish artillery guy dressed in drag, but has to point out that tiny scientific fact that got looked over? What a fanny.
     I need to get a better hobby.

The Invisible Woman a.k.a. The Fantasies of a Sensuous Woman (1969, Italy, Drama, Director: Paolo Spinola)
Notable actors: Giovanna Ralli! Silvano Tranquili!

I sought this one out because Ennio Morricone's soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous and I wanted to see if the film lived up to the music. Now I'm not sure if I liked this one because the soundtrack is so good, or if the film itself was genuinely good. Eh, I'm not making myself clear here.
     You see, a lot of the film involves Giovanna Ralli looking sad and staring off into space while the soundtrack plays, and we all know that Morricone's music works best when its got plenty of time to move around and develop. Director Paolo Spinola seems to understand that here, and in having a film where there's not much plot anyway, he just lets the music and the visuals fill in the gaps. This, however, some may perceive as being boring.
     Giovanni Ralla (the cop from WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS?) is having a bit of a hard time. It seems that her academic husband Silvano Tranquilli has become so bored of her that he doesn't notice she's there anymore. At one point, he can even see right through her to a stain on the wall she should be obscuring. Ralli's not coping very well with this at all, and begins to think that Silvano might be cheating on her, especially with the free-living Delfina. I'm not sure why or who in particular she was, but Delfina was always hanging around with Silvano and Giovanni, and regularly flirts with both.
     Despite painting half her head white and sitting directly in front of him, it seems Silvano literally at times cannot see Giovanna, although in saying that he does take notice of her when he walks in on Delfina seemingly just about to put the moves on her. His negligence even goes so far that he doesn't even believe her when she admits to sleeping with a young socialist student who is the polar opposite of Silvano's character.
     This leads me to another aspect of the film that I found interesting - Giovanna's rather tenuous grasp on reality. Often throughout the film we see what she sees, and what Giovanna sees isn't always actually happening. At the opera she sees Silvano groping her friend Anita, and later is really upset to find Silvano in Delfina's room, both of them in the buff. This greatly upsets her (and leads to yet more shots of Giovanna Ralli's huge hazel eyes staring off into space while the soundtrack plays), and yet, when she returns to her room, she finds Silvano fast asleep.
     I guess that kind of leaves the events of the last half hour of the film ambiguous, and I'm still not sure what to make of the ending (was Giovanna even real? Was she the ghost of an ex-wife Silvano was trying to forget? Who knows). Best to seek it out for yourself. At the least you'll get to enjoy Morricone's soundtracks, which is as haunted and lonely sounding as Giovanna herself. Breathy, wordless female vocals, sad strings, minimal percussion. Very good indeed. If you want to skip the film the entire soundtrack is on YouTube anyway.
     Also, no one smokes like Silvano Tranquilli. So suave!

Isabella, Duchess of the Devil a.k.a. Ms. Stiletto (1969, Italy, Action, director: Bruno Corbucci)
Notable actors: Brigitte Skay! Sal Borgese! Mimmo Palmara! Enzo Andronico!

Oh no! Some asshole has murdered Brigitte Skay's rich mother and father and stolen all their land and cool stuff and now Brigitte has to go and live with the gypsies. Years later, Brigitte swears revenge on the Van Nutter family and decides to kill the lot of them. To make things more challenging, Brigitte has decided to do this while wearing as little clothing as possible. It's like SHOGUN ASSASSIN, but instead of there being a kid there, there's boobs instead.
     It's good that Bruno Corbucci, director of eleven Inspector Giraldi films starring Tomas Milian ( I've only watched the first three), woke up one day and realised that the swashbuckler genre has a lot of dull spots, and the solution to those dull spots was to fill them with as much female nudity as he can muster. That means, between the nifty sword fighting sequences, and sometimes during the nifty swordfighting sequences, there's always a pair of jelly water mangoes bouncing around the place.
     Brigitte may have been brought up by gypsies (including Sal Borgese in hyperactive mode), but she hasn't forgotten the nasty land grab by the Van Nutter dynasty. They haven't forgotten either, so when she re-emerges into society, they immediately send a lesbian assassin out there to murder her, so you get nudie love scenes between Brigitte and some other lady that ends in a killing by Brigitte, who has serious sexual hang-ups due to witnessing her parents being murdered. Well, that and every guy in the film trying to force themselves on her, including squint-eyed actor Enzo Andronico, who gets a blade to the guts for his trouble.
     I've got to admit that there's a certain satisfaction to watching Brigitte wipe the smug smile of the evil dictator's faces when she stabs/disfigures the lot of them while usually being topless, a state which she also seems perpetually caught in during the film BLACKMAIL (which features no blackmail). It's certainly a device that keeps you awake during the non-violent parts of the film, as well as all the other ladies who get naked during the course of the film. In fact, there's plenty of sleaze here as scenes involve slaves who face death if they become aroused in front of crowd, and the bad guy's wife who tries to convince her man she's a bit dirty by possibly taking it up the wrong 'un.
     There's even a bit of gore thrown in at the end and a couple of twists. For those repelled by the thought of watching an Italian swashbuckler, this one is worth the watch. It's the perfect match of history and sleaze. Poor Brigitte Skay died back in 2012 and I've seen several references to her being a dumb ass, but very little evidence. That's a strange assumption to make about someone, and if anyone's got evidence, send it to me.

Jiboa (1989, Italy, Action, Director: Mario Bianchi)
Notable actors: Rick Dean! Bobby Rhodes!

Somewhere in his career b-movie actor Rick Dean took a wrong turn and instead of ending up in a crappy US low-budget film, he ends up in an even worse no-budget Italian one instead. One that's a kind of little bit INDIANA JONES, a wee bit ROMANCING THE STONE, a little bit of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and a whole lot of crap.
     The film starts with Rick waking up with no memory in what looks exactly like the village from AMAZONIA: THE CATHERINE MILES STORY. Now, you're going to be wondering why the natives are so friendly to Rick, because throughout the film whenever Rick ends up in this village, a guy with a machine gun in a helicopter turns up and starts blowing the crap out of everything. Why? I'm not sure. I thought he was Rick's partner, but he might have a drug dealer or something.
     Rick escapes the helicopter and jungle, but then gets sent right back in there with a female sidekick in tow. Turns out his partner, whom he can't remember, was her fiancé and they'd found some sort of emerald mine or temple out in the jungle somewhere. It's a shame Rick can't remember where it is, because an angry, violent Bobby Rhodes and his angry, violent entourage insist that he's got to take them there anyway.
     Rhodes' gang, Rick and the chick end up going on a jungle trek, where Rick tricks piranha fish into eating a guy, a spider into biting some other guy in the face, and then everyone gets kidnapped by a bigger group of violent folk. It doesn't make much sense but our heroes escape, turn up at the village (where Rick seems to have a topless girlfriend) only for the helicopter guy to turn up and start murdering everyone again. If I was the chief of that tribe I would have tied Rick to a pole, drawn a target on his chest and run for shelter.
     Things get a bit hut-explody for a bit before Rick regains his memory drinking native spit and everyone has a stand off in a cave full of jewels. It's like every mid-to-late action cliché thrown into one film, saved only by Bobby Rhodes rage. It sure as hell isn't Rick Dean's finest hour. Save the acting chops for CARNOSAUR 3: PRIMAL SPECIES Rick!
     Director Mario Bianchi would go on to make such harmless sounding films as THE CLINIC FOR ANAL INSPECTION, THE ANGEL OF SEX... ANAL, EUROFLESH 8: DEEP ANAL, DOUBLE CONTACT ANAL, FRANCESCA: ANAL SYMPHONY and THE LAST ANAL TANGO. I hope they opened a window after making that lot and sprayed a bit of air freshener about. Good Lord!

Joshua and the Promised Land (2003, US, Kids, Animation, Director: Jim Lion)
Starring: GOD!

So, if you've watched FOODFIGHT! (2012) and thought that's as bad as animation can get, check out this one, which is exponentially worse, although it does have the excuse of being extremely low budget. It's also a God film, with an unhappy kid called Joshua (who looks like a lion, but has no tail and looks bizarrely naked) hiding in his room from his miserable parents and being visited by a ghost creature who looks like he's made of television static. After a dodgy sounding conversation "Come with me Joshua, you trust me, right? Take my hand", this potential ghost paedo takes Joshua back in time to the land of Moses, where I must say the main problem for me was how much of an asshole God was.
     While a purple flying creature with a bow-tie narrates for us, Joshua somehow enters the back of some guy (possesses, I guess), and becomes the object of Moses' desire, or at least that was the impression that I got from the 'you can pitch your tent next to mine Joshua' - sounds to me like Moses was pitching a tent right there and then if you know what I mean!
     The thing that gets me about this whole set up is that God (presented here as a gigantic ball of flame that can fly and shoot lightening but can't fight Moses' battles for him) makes a big deal of choosing Moses and the Jews as his chosen ones, but then he makes a big deal of destroying the Egyptians (whom he created), the Malacites (whom he created) and the Canaanites (who he not only created, he made them break the Ten Commandments as well). The rewards of Moses' faith is to wander the desert for years and die without him or all the original escaped slaves every entering the promised land. That doesn't sound like a god - that sounds like a petulant gamer playing a sandbox game in 'evil' mode or a kid in a bad mood hurling his action figures around. Why didn't they just all tell God to fuck off? He would have probably had a tantrum and killed them all anyway, but at least it would have been quicker.
     But that's not the message this weird-ass film is out to give you. Here, God will give you the strength so that your stressed out freaky looking lion parents will forgive each other their sins and get on with life. My daughter watched this and couldn't stop laughing until she remembered twenty minutes into it that she'd actually stopped playing a video game to come see what shite her dad was watching this time, at which point she went back to that. In conclusion, I watched more animated films than my kids.

Karate Rock a.k.a. The Boy With The Iron Fists (1990, Italy, Action, Director: Fabrizio De Angelis)
Notable actors: Antonio Sabato Jnr! David Warbeck!

It's a race to see who is the biggest wanker at Really Old Student High School, USA! Is it Jeff, Tae Kwan Do champion with a group of fawning fans and a dirty looking girlfriend whom he shouts "Put out or shut up!" at? Or is it new kid Antonio Sabato Jnr, a cop's son brought to down by dad David Warbeck, who has the hots for Jeff's disloyal girlfriend? Sabato I mean, not Warbeck. I'd fix that sentence structure but this film isn't worth it.
     It's hard to tell or even care, but Antonio wins a crappy dancing competition with Jeff's girlfriend, who changes sides more often than the country this film was made by when involved in a war. This frankly strange world these pseudo-youngsters inhabit is filled with a neighbour who fancies Antonio but is ignored by him for most of the film, a Korean old man who will show Antonio how to kick ass...eventually, the fat guy from the KARATE WARRIOR films for some reason, and a terrible nightclub where Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" plays all the time on the video monitors. There's also a token black character called, and get this, Chocolate Jim! That wouldn't happen today in the twenty-first century's racially harmonious society.
     What possessed director Fabrizio De Angelis to take time out from making the six films of the KARATE WARRIOR series to make a film with the exact same plot as the KARATE WARRIOR films? Did he have some sort of ultra-specific OCD that made him continually make the same film over and over again? Or some kind of mild brain damage where he couldn't remember making the last twenty-seven KARATE WARRIOR films and just woke up every day thinking "I better make that karate film I've been meaning to shoot"? Or was he just making a karate film so shitty that it made those KARATE WARRIOR films seem like masterpieces by comparison? That's two films I've watched with Antonio Sabato Jnr in them, and both times I've wished someone had run him over with a steamroller after the first five minutes. Or failing that, hoping that someone would run me over with a steamroller instead.
     The plot is identical to the KARATE WARRIOR films. New kid in town with David Warbeck as a dad? Check. Bunch of morons acting the twat in town because they can do "Korean Karate", as it's referred to here? Check. Fat guy eating chicken/ice cream? Yep. Two lead wankers competing in a bike race/car race/dancing contest? Check. Sycophantic sidekick getting a kicking by bunch of fannies? Check. Low-budget showdown where previously discouraging family members turn up to approve of serious assault? Check.
     For fuck's sake!

The Legend of the Titanic (1999, Italy/North Korea, Animation, Director: Orlando Corradi/Kim J Ok)
Notable actors: Legendary voice actor Nick Alexander, who appears in about 99% of Italian films in voice form, and his daughter!

Imagine my horror when I discovered that there wasn't just one Italian animated film involving the Titanic and animals, but three! THREE! There is no god. This happens sometimes when exploring Italian films. Once upon a time I thought there were maybe two or three films based around the story of White Fang. Now I know there's at least nine.
     Anyway - Camillo Teti's deplorable TITANIC: THE LEGEND GOES ON now appears to me to have been cobbled together quickly to confuse the money-paying public into thinking they were watching this film, which is still bad, but tending more towards good-bad rather than total shite bad. No rapping dogs here for starters.
     This film is also comparably better animated than the other one, but still pretty crappy. It's the story here that makes it easier to watch, because it's so fucking ridiculous. The set up is as usual - a bunch of humans get on the Titanic from various levels in society. One Duke and his daughter are on board, pursued by a suitor who wants to marry into the family and obtain a global whaling contract. On another level, a bunch of talking animals get on board too, including a mouse who is telling the entire story in flashback to his grandchildren (and it's heavily implied at the end by his wife that he may just be talking absolute bollocks).
     So far, so shite, as a romantic sub-plot develops between the daughter and some gypsy guy. Luckily things pick up slightly as the daughter's tears hit a moonbeam and she ends up being able to understand a floating dolphin while the suitor's minion tells a gang of mobster sharks that they have to sink the ship by tricking a gigantic octopus into throwing an iceberg at the Titanic. I haven't watched the James Cameron version of events - was there any floating dolphins in that one?
     Best of all is the octopus, which for some reason has the face of Casper The Ghost, only with a dog's nose. I also think that there was mentally something wrong with the octopus too, because he seemed awfully susceptible to suggestion by anyone around him, gleefully throwing icebergs around so he could win a shark's hat, getting guilt-tripped by a dolphin, holding the Titanic together so our heroes can escape, and most bizarrely of all, letting a bunch of animals have a party on his head at the end of the film.
     Due to the outlandish events, this one is less painful to sit through than TITANIC: THE LEGEND GOES ON. At least some attempt is made to actually entertain, even though it doesn't make any sense and no child in its right mind would watch this. My favourite bit was when the octopus ran (!) to the ship to save it.

The Long Shadow of The Wolf (1971, Italy, War, Written/Produced/Acted and Directed by: Gianni Manera)

It's hard to describe Gianni Manera's films. He only directed three of them (and wrote one other, the possibly lost or even non-existent Western CHRYSANTHEMUMS FOR A BUNCH OF SWINE) and all three films exist in already crowded genres. However, despite lack of budget or even acting skills, Manera for me has managed to make his work stand out, just because of how odd his whole approach to film-making.
     Now that I've watched all three I would say that your introduction to Manera should be the loopy crime/giallo ORDERS SIGNED IN WHITE, a near two-hour film directed by and starring Manera as a bank robber stuck in a house where a killer is doing in the criminals...and painting their heads white for some reason. This mix of drama, heist, murder and lengthy ski-slope/satanic ritual dream sequence is a must, if you can find the subtitled version. It was there on Youtube at some point, which means it might be there again in the future.
     THE LONG SHADOW OF THE WOLF is the least of Manera's films, but still has plenty of moments and strange directing decisions that will leave you scratching your head. First of all is the title sequence, where Manera's Wolf character, the leader of a group of Italian partisans, crosses a barren landscape while running from the Germans. Quite a typical opener, except for the animated eagle that interrupts the credits for no reason whatsoever.
     The Wolf and his gang have been troubling the Germans for a while now, so the Wermacht have drafted in SS Lieutenant Heinze Werner, who is missing an arm, possibly lost during one of those epileptic seizure-inducing flashbacks he keeps having at every time he stops to think about anything. His great idea is to draft in a local who now works for the fascists, someone who knows the area, someone who is going to flush The Wolf out, someone who just happens to be The Wolf's childhood best friend and whose ex-lover is now The Wolf's wife and mother of The Wolf's kid (cub?). Drama ahoy!
     This childhood friend is Andrea, and when he bumps into The Wolf's sister, she claims that she doesn't know where his childhood sweetheart is now living. She also lies and says The Wolf was killed. These lies are going to cause trouble further down the line, but most confusing for me was the sequence where The Wolf's sister is grabbed by two Germans and raped, but then seems to enjoy it before partisans kill the two Germans and warn her that her brother won't be happy. In true Manera style, none of this is ever mentioned ever again.
     Just to confuse the viewer, Manera the director includes an extremely lengthy sequence where the German soldiers and the local Italian aristocracy have a never-ending party which is intercut with the scenes of Manera the actor meeting some US paratroopers and heading out to destroy a chemical lab (a shed with one guy in it). For reasons unknown to anyone but himself, Manera has Lt. Werner's assistant mingle with the party guests even though his character isn't of much significance to the plot, then introduces some people we never see again, then has the camera focuses right up on a guy's face as if he's going to cut away to another scene, only to pull the camera back to reveal some character has entered the room.
     This quirkiness livens up what really would be a dull story line, from the billiard-table pocket POV shot to a truly head scratching moment where the camera pans away from the conversation to show a suit of armour that suddenly moves it's arms for no good reason. There's even an animated blood splat that hits the camera in the end battle. What it's meant to convey, I don't know.
     I'm making this out to be a lot more interesting than the film is, being as it is nearly two hours long and featuring about five minutes of action, so be warned. Those looking into the outer-reaches of Italian cinema may find it worth the journey. I don't regret it.

Madame And Her Niece (1969, West Germany, Drama, Director: Eberhard Schroder)
Notable actors: Edwige Fenech!

We can all agree that Edwige Fenech is the type of woman for whom you would crawl for three miles over broken glass just to poke matches in her shit, but I don't know if I can sit through another one of her crappy late sixties films where not much happens.
     The moral compass on this one is way off as we see that Edwige is not really the niece of gold-digger Michelle, but her daughter. Why this deception is in place, I don't know, but maybe it's to convince potential rich sugar-daddies that Michelle hasn't got a vagina like a burst couch due to child birth. Michelle is convinced that Edwige is an innocent student, whereas we get clued in on Edwige not only taking part in sexy photo shoots, she also part of the old gold-digging business herself, with a nice attentive doctor under her thumb. As well as loads of annoying hippy friends who stink up both her house and the film.
     When Michelle's current lover takes ill while in bed with her (he's loving it, and she's going on about a forthcoming holiday in Acapulco), Michelle has to look elsewhere, finding a rich billionaire Count and his bed-hopping son. She's into the son and thinks Edwige can distract the dad, but it soon becomes clear that the son is more interested in Edwige. I think. It was hard to keep track of things while rummaging around looking for Kleenex and pausing the film every two seconds when I detected footsteps approaching the living room door.
     The thing is, this film kind of sets thing up for Edwige to discover that tricking men into loving her is a foolish task and that only true love can lead to happiness, but then goes down the route of gleefully following Edwige's sociopathic tendencies as she pretends to get involved in an orgy in a hot tub (that was a good bit), pretends to overdose on hashish (what? A Snickers bar and some diet coke would have sorted her out) then, stunningly, pretends to have attempted suicide in order to get the rich count's son to propose to her - which works without any negative repercussions! Good lesson taught there then.
     Not as erotic as I was led to believe, although it did seems to be cut in places, Madame and Her Niece does contain plenty of Edwige flesh, pouting, and whatever it is she does with her eyes, but the character she plays in the film is a spoilt brat always with the eye on the money, so it's hard to feel anything but contempt both for her and for yourself after you've knocked one out to the hot tub scene.
     To be fair, maybe the images of rich, snobby people sipping on champagne and having loose, free sex didn't quite connect with me as I sat on my destroyed piss-smelling couch which has been chewed by rats, feeling my newly-acquired lockdown gut slope down either side of my hips while I sat there wearing a Santa t-shirt five times too big for me in June (my mum got it free in a supermarket) and a pair of horrible jogging trousers that had also been chewed by rats, drinking cheap supermarket beer and hating the world. (NOTE: Steven doesn't have a rat problem. He had pet rats he let have run of the place! I just thought I would clear that up, because I know how our readers think! - Editor)

Madness - The Eyes of The Moon (1971, Italy, See below for explanation on genre, Director: Cesare Rau)
Notable actors: Thomas Hunter seems to have been in a few other films.

On the IMDb, this film's genre has been tagged as Crime, Horror and Music. The keywords on the site also include Giallo, Eurospy (not sure about that one), and banana. The banana bit I get, because it's part of one of the main unintentionally funny bits in this all-over-the-place film.
     This one off feature by Cesare Rau starts with two separate plot strands that come together about halfway through the film. Our first and most important part involves Thomas Hunter as part of a trio of guys who escape from an insane asylum. Thomas seems pretty sharp at first but it slowly gets revealed that he has a real problem with women and is totally cracked out of his gourd. The other two guys don't matter much to the plot, because one is captured by the police and the other guy gets struck by a car while Thomas goes to ground.
     The other plot involves your usual bunch of late sixties/early seventies hippy types, out for a good time. It was hard to keep track of them to be honest but I think there were four women and three guys, one of which is particularly hands-on and eager to get it on with the ladies. In particular, he's got eyes on a foreign lady who gets roped in to joining everyone else at a remote villa, where our old lunatic pal Thomas ends up too. That doesn't happen for a while though, because we've got to spend time watching some lady getting dumped in a nightclub first, which provides us some laughs. You see, the print on Youtube is jumpy as hell, so when we see the band on stage playing the song "She's A Stranger" (and you'll be hearing that a lot), the lead singer's flute is suddenly replaced with a guitar, which now sounds a lot less funny now that I've typed that out.
     Anyway, Thomas takes his sweet sweet time getting to that villa, in the meantime hiding from the cops, nearly strangling a prostitute, fixing a guy's car (why put that in there?), then stabbing to death the woman who got dumped in the nightclub in a pretty realistic murder scene. Until the actress starts blinking. When Thomas finally gets to the villa, he breaks in, finds no food but then finds a squeaky banana that he finds funny for about three seconds before he gets angry with it and throws it away before finding a wooden crocodile which he seems more fond off. This film does get rather bogged down in details that have nothing to do with anything.
     Strangely, the tone of this film is more in line with an Eighties slasher than a giallo, at first. A bunch of young(ish) people turn up at a house to get wasted and have sex, and there's already a murderous psycho in the house spying on them. While Thomas is upstairs eating food he nicked while everyone was picking fruit, the others get wasted as one of them pours LSD on some sugars cubes and gives them out. Or maybe it was Polio vaccinations, because I remember being given that on a sugar cube when I was a kid, but now this film has got me worried that the nurse gave me LSD as a kid for a laugh. Anyway, to prove that the actors involved here aren't very convincing as groovy hipsters (the dancing scenes are painful), they also give us a pretty unconvincing scene where they act like they are tripping.
     The next day, the foreign girl lies dead, strangled, but who killed her? I'm not saying, but be assured that the characters here make plenty of stupid decisions, and we get a 'final girl vs killer' sequence which is also very much in line with an Eighties slasher. There's also the slight giallo element of who killed the girl, and a couple of bizarre, and funny choices by the director to have a sequence where a character has a flashback with a slowed down version of the 'She's A Stranger' song (struck me as funny, anyway), and an even stranger Benny Hill final shot of a couple driving a car that made no sense either.
     Giallo? Thriller? Banana? Who knows. Strange though, and entertaining. Short too. This is so rare it didn't even appear on my obsessive 'to watch' list that I've been keeping since 2017. I'm just some guy who watches these things, but who are the people that have these films? What else is out there for discovery?

Man, Woman and the Beast a.k.a. Spell (1977, Italy, Drama (I'm learning on the IMDb, 'Drama' is the go-to genre option for 'don't have a clue when it comes to Italian cinema'), Director: Alberto Cavallone
Notable actors: Aldo Massasso! 
Number of times I said "For Fuck's Sake!" during this film: 8
Number of close-ups of a chicken's eye and chicken/egg references: 3,221 (Still not anywhere near Guilio Questi's Death Laid An Egg, which contains over nine million chicken/egg references).

I've heard this one is Pope Francis' favourite Italian film, which he watches regularly while smoking crack and laughing that God has cursed us all with Coronavirus.
     There seems to be some sort of message buried in Alberto Cavallone's mental MAN, WOMAN AND THE BEAST, but I'm having a bit of trouble working out what that is. In fact, I get the feeling that there are many messages and themes in the film, be it from some sort of commentary about the hypocrisy of people who outwardly appear good and follow religion but indoors act out their basest human desires, or that humans, despite their outer layers of socialising, ceremonies, and dancing, are all just smelly animals that fart and crap everywhere. It might be some attack on religion in general, considering the jaw-dropping act performed at the end of the film. Or it just might be that Alberto Cavallone wanted to film loads of sex and crazy crap and call it an arthouse film. He did go on to direct porn in the eighties, including the film BABY SITTER (You're killing me, Steven! - Fred), where a student is asked to look after a kid who turns out to be a sex-crazed dwarf (It's out there on the internet if you look hard enough). Cavallone died at the age of fifty-nine after having wanked himself to death.
     Plot isn't something that this film is overly concerned about. It's more about a bunch of stuff that happens to some people in a town that is celebrating some sort of patron saint. I suppose the main focus is on a communist fellow who does collages of naked woman and medical journals. It's weird enough when the film opens with this guy dreaming of watching himself being dug up from a grave, but when he wakes up to see his wife sitting on a potty, peeing and staring at him, I guess that's the point you'll decide whether or not to bail out of this one, or maybe a couple of minutes later when she eats her dinner in the toilet and drinks toilet water. Or a few minutes after that when the local butcher gets so turned on by watching the local teenage girls that he goes back into his shop and shags a beef carcass that was hanging in the back!
     We also get introduced to the farmer guy after a prolonged, detailed scene of a cow giving birth. He's a total dick to his wife, who is fed up making him fried eggs and dreams of a better life. Some solace in that department arrives in a Jesus like drifter who gets involved with most of the characters in this film, be it becoming a hero to the local kids, shagging most of the female cast, or the last scene, which...I'll get to later. I can't remember if we first meet him via the pervy cop who likes to hang out with the local hooker (whom Jesus-guy also gets to do some horizontal bopping with), or if it's via the daughter who's leaving town because her dad got her pregnant while the two of them were sitting next to her grandfather's corpse. At her instigation! I've got to admit that the look of guilt on Aldo Massasso's face is priceless, and that this film is so dirty, one of the actors has the word 'ass' twice in his second name.
     This frankly ridiculous film just keeps zapping at you with the obscene imagery and madness that some of it comes across as (possibly) unintentionally hilarious. There's a drunken night of debauchery where a woman lies naked on a billiard table and a guy pots a ball up her fanny, which means that Lucio Fulci probably stole that bit for GHOSTS OF SODOM. Also, to quote Stephen King's book The Regulators, "I don't know who the other two are but the one in the middle looks like Willie Nelson." You can see why the general intended message of this film can get lost when grown men do running headbutts at one of those 'see how hard you can punch' machines or there's a painting of a woman only with tits for eyes and a fanny for a mouth. Or when a guy is performing a bit of cunning linguistics on a lady only to turn around and have what looks like half her pubic hair stuck to his lips. I was pissing myself laughing at those bits, and the bit where the communist guy did a photo montage that made it look like a naked lady was giving birth to a fully grown Vladimir Lenin. It was just as well no one walked in while I was laughing, because I'm not sure my daughter would have found it funny to see a cow's eyeball hanging from a fanny. I did though.
     All this, and the many other bits I've either forgotten or not mentioned on purpose, is like a pleasant afternoon tea with your grandparents compared to the ending, when Jesus gets it on with the communist's crazy wife. Now, it's going to be hard to describe this, but during the act of tender, sweet love, she suddenly craps into the guy's mouth. Fake or not (I'm going with fake for sanity reasons) I have never been so glad to be watching a washed out, blurry copy of a film in my life. Mercifully, the film ends shortly after. Either that or I passed out.
     So there you have it. It's one of those films I guess where you can write endless bollocks about Grand Guignol and dadaism and such like, or you could just laugh at how far out there this film goes to offend. People compare this to Pasolini's SALO, but I wouldn't know because that looks like a right load of crap. Maybe that's Cavallone's message - outrageous arthouse films are a load of crap force fed to the audience.

Many Wars Ago (1970, Italy, War, Director: Francesco Rosi)
Notable Actors: Gian Maria Volonte! Pier Paolo Capponi! Giampiero Albertini! Daria Nicoladi!

You don't get that many films about World War One in comparison to World War Two, and you certainly don't get a lot of films about Italy's involvement in the War. The Alpine Front sounds just as a horrible and nasty as every other front. Better scenery I guess, but I'm sure that wasn't a priority to the countless youths blown up or machine-gunned in futile frontal attacks on machine gun posts.
     It's in the Alps the film takes place, although I'm unsure of the exact year as there were about twenty battles pretty much in the same area over the course of the war. The Italian Army has been ordered to abandon a mountain, but is then immediately ordered to retake it. The men are understandably upset about this, but General Leone won't accept anything but courage from his men, even if it means making an example of them over and over again. On the side of the men are officers Pier Paolo Capponi and Gian Maria Volonte, who repeatedly acts as buffers between the insane orders of the senior officers and the crushed spirits of the men.
     There's not much background to many of the characters, and I think this was done on purpose. All the infantry are burned out by the time we meet them, and still they are thrown into battle over and over again, until even the Austrian defenders beg them to 'turn back - stop committing suicide'. The soldiers don't have a choice, however, as their own machine guns are trained on their backs. It's death in either direction and to quote from a British soldier involved in the Battle of High Wood during the Somme: "You had to go forward because at least you had a chance to stick a knife in the person shooting at you".
     There are grumbles of rebellion among the soldiers, and as the orders to attack despite little progress, who will even survive long enough to rebel?
     This realistic, horrific film is kind of like an Italian PATHS OF GLORY, only with a bit more action (if you can call it that when people are basically slaughtered). Both Volonte and Capponi are pretty intense as the officers who know how futile the situation is, and the whole film rolls along pretty quickly, just like the never-ending attacks ordered by the top brass. The only female character is Daria Nicoladi, who puts in a quick cameo as a nurse tending to a wounded man following a particularly costly attack, which also happens to be a turning point for a previously loyal soldier.
     Don't expect a happy ending. There's also a nasty bit where a soldier has his face totally destroyed and just kind of lies there while Volonte screams for him to be given mercy.

Master of the World (1983, Italy, History?, Director: Alberto Cavallone)
Notable actors: Aldo Sambrell!

An Italian QUEST FOR FIRE rip-off that I found on YouTube. It certainly ups the gore stakes for sure, but it also certainly ups to bore stakes too, at least in the middle.
     Back in the days of the caveman, it seems that instead of going out to see a film or perhaps settling down next to the fire with a nice book and some Sun Ra on in the background, early man would spend his Friday evenings worshipping a bear's head and pulling his enemies brains' out of their decapitated heads to eat. Thus begins the story of...Buddy...the cave man from the Bee Gee tribe who has just managed to escape the brain eaters.
     He's wounded though, so it's just as well a girl from another tribe takes a shine to him and heals him, right before a bunch of guys come to kill him. A bear, who we're going to see a lot of, steps in for a playful fight too and rips off a guy's face. The rest think Buddy can control the bear and put him in charge of the tribe, but this doesn't last long as Buddy is giving yet another girl the glad eye, which ends in him running across the land being hunted by Aldo Sambrell and his tribesmen while the first girls' tribe turn up now and again to take on the bear and Aldo Sambrell.
     There's no dialogue by the way, and, after a while, that's what bogs the film down a bit. A love triangle thing develops between Buddy and his two women, and its all kind of hard to keep track of everyone when they look like Robert Smith from The Cure in a loincloth. Things do eventually resolve themselves in a gory fashion that involves a couple of brutal decapitations, a face gouging, a birth and a baby being anointed with blood.
     My attention did drift around the half hour mark so be warned. 
     This is the first Alberto Cavallone film I've watched, but having a quick look over the IMDb, it looks like this might be his tamest film. There's an Alberto Cavallone channel on YouTube if anyone's interested.

May Morning (1970, Italy, Giallo [kind of], Director: Ugo Liberatore)
Notable actors: John Steiner! Jane Birkin! Rossella Falk!

Here's something that's not normally produced by Italy - a film of mind games and trickery set in Oxford University, where just about every character is a horrible example of a human being. I suppose I would file it under the giallo genre, mainly due to the film containing back-stabbing and people messing with each other's head (like PARANOIA or ORGASMO), but then that might just be down to me being lazy and not being arsed to break every fucking film I see into never-ending sub-genres.
     Ugo Liberatore brings us the story of Valerio, an Italian student who has found his way into Oxford University, but isn't quite settling in due to his fiery temper and the fact that British people tend to cling to tradition like barnacles. Valerio could join the Blues, Oxford's premier rowing team, and this would allow his various academic shortcomings to be overlooked, but Valerio hasn't really figured on the general xenophobia of the institution he's found himself in. Or the fact that upper-class people are mental (believe me, I'm saying this from experience! Not that I'm upper-class. I was born in a council skip and actually dragged out by a rabid mongrel dog who had rabies).
     Valerio is known as one of the 'hearties' due to him being on a rowing team, as opposed to the 'eggheads', of which John Steiner is a part of. Problems arise in the form of Steiner's girlfriend Jane Birkin, who has the hots for Valerio. When an attempt at sex is rumbled by Birkin's mother (Rossella Falk, who also wants in on the action with Valerio), Birkin's rage at rejection and Steiner's rage at Valerio putting the moves on his girlfriend set off a tit-for-tat battle where Johnny Foreigner isn't going to get one over on the English establishment with their unseemly behaviour and genetic insufficiency. It's like the whole Brexit thing boiled down to a bunch of early Seventies hippies trying to one-up each other.
     Although mostly interested in the dramatic aspect of things, Ugo Liberatore (who directed the mental DAMNED IN VENICE, which Fred covered very well) throws in a lot of giallo tropes that keep things interesting. The film is very colourful and the cinematography very fluid. People try and have ordinary conversations while holding back the malice in their eyes. At one point, Valerio walks in on his tutor (who is also Birkin's father) brushing the long hair of a wig, suggesting he may be trans-sexual. The whole film is full of little touches like this. Plus, there's a very Beatle-esque soundtrack permeating the entire film to compound the general contemporary feeling of the film.
     Best of all is Steiner as Roddy, monocle-wearing Roddy, who is set up to be a racist student, but subtly comes across as a victim in the whole tale of Valerio. He is presented as scheming (typical of a Steiner character) but as the film unfolds it becomes apparent that Valerio is just being a dick in general. He asks Steiner if he thinks one of his mates is 'queer', to which Steiner answers "It's none of your business, nor mine", and later still Valerio tries to generalise women as being all the same, prompting Steiner to call him out once again. I love it when we get restrained John Steiner as opposed to mental Steiner. In fact, the best bit of this film is when Valerio has the chance to make up with Steiner, but ends up losing his temper (again) and destroying all of Steiner's poems, so in retaliation Steiner stands up calmly, grabs a book, a throws it straight at Valerio's head, hitting him right between the eyes! I'm guessing there wasn't much acting involved in the beating he receives straight after this.
     So, another off-the-radar, hard to pin down film from Ugo Liberatore, who gave us the quasi-giallo THE SEX OF ANGELS (also good), the not-so-good BALI, and the soon to be reviewed by me BORA BORA.
     I passed through Oxford once on the way to Bognor Regis. It looked great, you couldn't park anywhere, but there were some very nice food trucks selling falafel. That's totally relevant to a film review, don't you think?

The Medium (1980, Italy, Horror, Director: Silvio Amadio)
Notable actors: Sherry Buchanan! Philippe Leroy!

Way off the radar, this one. It's a kind of haunted house film to a certain extent, albeit coming from a different angle.
     A widower and his young son are struggling to cope with the loss of their wife/mother. The widower is also a composer of soundtracks (as common a job in Italian film as being a taxi driver is in the UK) and he's given a gift by his painter sister-in-law for inspiration - a scary oil painting of women in torment. It's not long after that strange things start happening around the house, with the noises in the attic and his son acting out in weird ways. He also starts being plagued by visions of a woman in a burning car, but what can it all mean?
     In our house we always have an evening where we sup wine and reminisce about the scene in NINJA TERMINATOR where Ninja Master Gordon receives death threats from a toy robot, so I was tickled pink to see the same make of robot turn up here in a similarly sinister role! The sister-in-law gives the kid a toy robot for his birthday, but the kid is getting bad vibes from his aunt and even goes so far as to destroy the robot, which then turns up fully functional some time later. The composer thinks he's going nuts, but its only when the kids starts acting very strange that he called in Paranormal investigator Philippe Leroy!
     We first see Philippe at the very start of the film, jawing about how the spirit lives on after death etc etc, so he's the perfect guy to be brought in to fight the evil forces that I've been struggling not to reveal throughout this terrible review. The best bit in the film is when Leroy turns up much earlier than usual at the composer's house, only for the composer to find out that Leroy is still at the airport!
     It's all very low budget but I've got to hand it to Amadio - he takes the old ghost story cliches and stirs it up with that '70s fascination with the paranormal. Sherry Buchanan doesn't have much to do though, except scream at a dead dog.

Miami Cops (1989, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Alfonso Brescia)
Notable actors: Richard Roundtree! Harrison Muller! Maurice Poli! Alberto Dell'aqua! Ottaviano Dell'Acqua!

Surely by the time MIAMI COPS rolled out of the Italian movie industry, Alfonso Brescia's score for directing films based in and around the Bay of Naples was in triple figures? Here, he replaces teary crooner Mario Merola with goofy Harrison Muller and Lucio Montanaro's ear-piercing screaming with the laid back cool of Richard Roundtree.
     This cheesy Eurocrime film doesn't start in Italy, mind you. It starts in what I guess is Miami, even though it doesn't look like Miami. In fact, we first get treated to a prologue where Harrison Muller's cop father gets double-crossed and murdered by his partner, which drives Muller into joining the cops to find his dad's killer. That's a good enough premise, and having Muller play his own dad was a good move too, as they just grey his hair up a bit and give him glasses and a moustache. Muller snr puts in a good shift at the docks taking down drug smugglers, but when his partner decides to keep the cash and the drugs, it's curtains for dad.
     As this is an Italian film, there's an undetermined amount of time that passes before Muller joins the cops and is partnered up with Richard Roundtree, whose nickname is PO (for Pissed Off). The rest of this paragraph requests that you cast your mind back to any Eighties film where a rooky cop is partnered with a salty veteran, because that will save me the time of describing the initial interactions of this odd couple. Basically, Muller messes up at a robbery, then earns Roundtree's respect at a following kidnapping while also doing a little undercover work to investigate his father's death. When Muller rescues a guy who has been thrown into the sea (that either came out of nowhere or I missed something), the two cops get their big break.
     Now, I thought that Muller's dad's murderer would still be part of the cops, only older, but Brescia must have decided that things like plot twists would just complicate the film a bit, so he just has the guy from the prologue now occupying the island of Ischia, just off the coast of Naples. This gives the two cops a chance to head over there, which I'm guessing saved a bit of cash for Brescia by way of location shooting. Around the same time, Muller also meets a young girl studying the Etruscan language who seems to be everywhere Muller wants to be, and yet his suspicions are not raised even once. Dumbass.
     I might be suffering from a bit of Stockholm Syndrome from having watched so many Alfonso Brescia films (Twenty-three at a rough guess) but I didn't hate this film. It has that late-Eighties craptastic charm that a lot of Italian films have from this era. The action is steady enough, although haphazardly thrown together. The music is that smoky saxophone style jazz we'd expect from any film produced at this time, and Roundtree may be no Fred Williamson when it comes to attitude and sass, but he still delivers. And, to be fair, his fight sequences are much more convincing than Fred's BLACK COBRA stuff, where it looks like he's doing a bit of dad dancing. If you know Fred Williamson, don't tell him that.
     There's a couple of car chases and even a bit of gore thrown in for good measure. Plus, as we're talking Alfonso Brescia, there's that blunt disregard for continuity, so you can witness Muller and Roundtree emerging from the sea practically dry after swimming to shore following a boat chase, or even see a corpse having a wriggle around to make itself comfortable during a warehouse gunfight. Every day's an adventure in the world of Alfonso Brescia. And that's my review of Shaft in Ischia.

Monkeys In The Attic (1974, Canada, Drama? Director: Morley Markson)

I think I'm taking the 'review films Fred wouldn't go near' brief a bit too far with this one. MONKEYS IN THE ATTIC is agonisingly pretentious and annoying, and a true endurance test for anyone daft enough to try and watch it.
     The plot involves four artistic people who share a house together, and what happens between them over the course of one night. I can't be bothered finding out what their names are, but there's the very French-Canadian actor guy, slightly less French-Canadian dancer lady, not-very-French-Canadian angry man who listens to recordings of his girlfriend, who doesn't seem to be French-Canadian but does look a bit French.
     Now, over here in Scotland we have the Edinburgh Fringe Arts Festival, where performing artists from all around the world flock to show of their talents (or lack thereof, in about ninety-percent of cases). This loud, screaming, expensive mess goes on for about a month, but this year, like everything else, it's been cancelled due to the Coronavirus. The plot of this film is what I imagine is going on around the world right now - a bunch of performance artists, trapped inside a flat, without an audience, going mental.
     The characters in this film dance around their house while others play music. Clothes come flying off without warning. One actor stands naked on a stool with a megaphone covering his balls before asking "Is dinner ready?" (It's not, but the dancer making it is wearing a salad strainer on her head). "I wonder what it's like to be covered in banana skins?" One person asks. Two of them dress up as Ronald McDonald before the guy pretend rapes the woman. At dinner, one woman put her head into her soup while the others applaud. And on and on and on it goes...
     The only, and I mean only, event in the film that would constitute a plot is the turning up at the door of a pizza guy, who is sucked into this world of non-sequiturs, screaming monologues, shitty dream sequences and crying that makes up the rest of the film. Then it just kind of ends.
     If you want weirdness, then you get that, but weird for the sake of weird is just tedious. If you want nudity, you get that too. The most chin-stroking, arthouse loving film fan would have a hard time separating the symbolism and metaphors from this crap. Consider this a serious warning.

The Monster (1977, Italy, Giallo/Comedy, Director: Luigi Zampa)
Notable actors: Johnny Dorelli! Sydne Rome! Renzo Palmer!

From the director of the off-beat Eurocrime film THE FLOWER IN HIS MOUTH comes a giallo that's also referred to as comedy, but to me it didn't contain any more humour than Dario Argento's THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. It's satire of the genre in the beginning, but the ending to this film is one of the darkest I've seen.
     Johnny Dorelli plays a divorced journalist who has never had that one scoop that would send him to the big leagues. His desk at work is situated right next to the office toilet, his ex-wife thinks he's a failure, and only his son seems to respect him. In fact, when the film opens both Dorelli and his son have just finished watching a giallo in a cinema (decorated with posters for SPASMO and the great DESTRUCTION FORCE), but then his son has to witness and argument between his warring parents.
     At a low ebb, Dorelli attends work the next day to find a letter sent to him by someone called The Monster, who says they are going to kill a much-loved children's television personality (who is an asshole in real life). When the grumpy old bastard gets his head smashed in, Dorelli is first on the scene, doesn't take any pictures, and gives the letter to the police. This does not please the owner of the newspaper, nor his power-hungry son, so when he receives another letter from The Monster about the next victim, Dorelli is ready to record every aspect of the next murder, even to the detriment of the intended victim, but the newspaper sales propel him up the ladder, and the media magnate's son proves to be quite the exploiter...
     THE MONSTER is a piss-take of journalism and the lengths the media will go to in order to boost sales, but it's also a bona fide giallo all the way through. There's a big Argento influence on the film, with loads of quirky characters, like Renzo Palmer's lipstick salesman whose business gets a boost from the killer using his brand at the murder scenes. He also keeps turning up at various points acting like he may be the killer, scaring the crap out of Dorelli and his son. There's also a policeman who hates Dorelli's guts as every crazy person in town strolls into the station to claim they are The Monster, and is also driven nuts when Dorelli publishes a story about a theory regarding where the killer plans to strike next.
     It's not overly gory, but giallo fans should enjoy the mystery here, with plenty of clues and twists, and I've got to admit that the best thing about the film is actor Johnny Dorelli, who is unknown to me - he runs the whole spectrum from bitter and acerbic to smug, and when the humour totally drops out of the film in the last twenty minutes or so, numb and empty. Very good turn from that fellow.
     Strangely, Ennio Morricone's soundtrack didn't really register this time around, but I wonder if he wrote the song that Sydne Rome sings? Who knows. Watch out for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from professional ugly actor Salvatore Baccaro as a werewolf.

The Morbid Habits Of A Governess a.k.a. Crazy Desires Of A Murderer (1973, Italy, Giallo, Director: Filippo Walter Ratti)
Notable actors: Corrado Gaipa!

"Arse Candle" was a phrase I thought was only used for laughs in Chris Morris' TV series BRASS EYE back in the nineties, but in this giallo, it turns out to be true! This mix of sleaze, giallo tropes, and police investigation doesn't quite deliver, but is quite the journey anyway.
     This is one of those giallo deals where a lot of people gather at a remote castle so they can all be bumped off in gory fashion, but then this film can't quite decide what direction it's going, so you get a bit of Eurocrime thrown in too, and some Gothic action as well. In the remote castle lives a crippled Baron and his mute, taxidermy-obsessed son who suffers from GICMT (Or Giallo-Induced-Childhood-Memory-Trauma). Visiting are the Baron's daughter and various hipster types, including Greta (who looks like Carla Mancini, but isn't Carla Mancini), another blonde girl, three guys, two of whom seem to be involved in some sort of drug smuggling racket which rather diverts the plot from the giallo action.
     There's also the hired help to be concerned with, which includes the maid (who likes to boff the mute brother), a stern-faced butler type, and a drunken doctor who seems to be pre-occupied with injecting people with sedatives. Once this lot are together, the film settles in as we watch various people pair off with each other, and now that I think about it, not much of it has much bearing on the story. The blonde girl who isn't the Baron's daughter hits it off with the drug dealer guy, which leads to him getting a cheeky glint in his eye and moulding a candle into a shape which is heavily implied to be rammed up the girl's chocolate starfish. (NOTE TO FRED: If I die suddenly please delete this review before my family come sniffing around for examples of stuff I achieved in life).
     Post-coitally, this girl gets stabbed up and her eyes pulled out, as well as her expensive necklace getting nicked. This prompts an actual actor to turn up in the form of Corrado Gaipa (from ILLUSTRIOUS CORPSES, SHADOWS UNSEEN and some obscure film called THE GODFATHER). Corrado goes into full Poirot mode and interviews everyone involved, which is pretty entertaining until you realise it's eating into the old "Gloved killer murdering people" time.
     I'm serious. A lot of the more typical gialli involve set-piece killings, one after the other. What we get here is competent police investigation, followed by a crime sub-plot, flashbacks, and then eventually some more giallo murders (about ten minutes before the film ends). Strangely, I didn't think that was too bad a thing, as the film also has the odd surreal sequence, like a stop-motion strip scene, and a sex scene where one embalmed owl turns to have a better look. When the murders do happen, they are gory, and there's plenty of sex thrown in too, so there's not much to complain about here.
     I had to track down an Italian language version of this one, but it was released in English at some point on video in the UK at least.

Morel's Invention (1974, Italy, Sci-Fi, Director: Emidio Greco)
Notable actors: John Steiner! Anna Karina! Ezio Marano!

If you know nothing about this film and are interested in weird pseudo-science fiction films, you'd probably be best stopping reading now and tracking down the film, which is on YouTube just now. I'm not going to spoil anything about it in the review, but it's a film best experienced without knowing a single thing about it.
     MOREL'S INVENTION has been on my watch list for years. Apart from the usual gialli, horror and Euro-crime, I like to stick films on there I like the sound of, and just like the equally weird-sounding ECCE HOMO (BEHOLD MAN - THE SURVIVORS), MOREL'S INVENTION stood out. I knew nothing about it, but it sounded weird enough to track down, and it was worth it.
     Be warned: Thirty-three minutes pass before anyone speaks in this film, but that doesn't make those minutes boring, because this is a film where both the protagonist and the viewer have no idea what's going on.
     A dishevelled man known only as The Castaway ends up on a island that has a strange building on it and not much else. The interior of the building is covered in years and years of dust, but The Castaway finds a book that takes his fancy, and also finds a false wall that he breaks down, a wall that was covering up a giant machine. The Castaway has a bit of a fiddle about with the machine, then gets on with more important stuff, like finding water to drink.
     All we know about The Castaway is that he's running from something, so when people start appearing on the island, dancing to old music, The Castaway is naturally skittish, but when he starts seeing Anna Karina walking around, he gets brave enough to approach her. Strangely, she acts as if he's not there at all, as if a man in torn clothing wouldn't stand out among immaculate looking tall, skinny people.
     Tallest and skinniest of all is John Steiner, whom The Castaway hears referred to as Morel. The conversations The Castaway hears are a bit strange (and ambiguously worded), and when he hears what sounds like the exact same conversation two nights in a row, things get rather bizarre, as he becomes a spectator to some very strange goings on indeed...
     That's all you're getting plot-wise as this is a film that you just kind of let roll over you. There's no blood or gore, not even a nude body, but the entire atmosphere and tone of the film is fascinating (and current too). The Castaway's incredulous investigation into the island is pretty creepy, as he explores an abandoned landscape then reels in terror as it comes to life, and John Steiner does well as the arrogant and stoic Morel. You can't say the guy didn't diversify. Sometimes the roles he picked were wrong, like the hilarious DEPORTED WOMEN OF THE SS SPECIAL SECTION, or just plain crap, like the never-ending hippy nightmare BALI, but when he gets it right, it's cinema gold.
     There's a creepy soundtrack and the cinematography emphasises the isolationist feel of the film. It actually reminded me in places of Peter Greenaway's A ZED & TWO NOUGHTS, but that will only make sense if you see the film.

The Moro Affair (1986, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Giuseppe Ferrara)
Notable actors: Gian Maria Volonte! Bruno Corrozzari! Umberto Raho!

Aldo Moro was Prime Minister of Italy in 1978, during the 'Years of Lead', and this film details what happened to him after he was kidnapped by extreme left-wing terrorists going by the name of The Red Brigades.
     Now, Scotland is divided into various political and ideological factions just now but they are easy to categorise - the Nationalists, Unionists, Remainers and Leavers, but I have no idea how anyone in Italy could distinguish between socialists, communists, The Red Brigades, and whatever other left wing factions seem to be kicking about there during the seventies and eighties. It may have easier on them all just to do what I do - categorise people into two groups: "Annoying Arseholes" and "Less Annoying Arseholes".
     These Red Brigades people are angry and shoot up a bunch of cops when they grab Moro, taking him to a flat in Rome, chuck him in a secret room (I'd love to have one of these - I wouldn't tell the wife and kids about it either), then put him on trial for some sort of crime. Moro's group are the Christian Democrats, who are 'centre-left'. I know nothing about Italian politics. Meanwhile, Moro's colleagues in his party are running about like headless chickens, trying to find him and caught up with their own agendas.
     This is the second time Volonte has played Moro, having played a parody of him in Elio Petri's TODO MODO ten years earlier. Here he plays Moro as a calm, almost resigned person who seems to realise his fate far sooner than even the people who have captured him. Maybe the guy was like that in real life. I could try asking the Italian guys in my work but they're only eighteen and probably don't give a fuck about anything from so long ago.
     It's one of those 'acting' films and not trashy, but still good. Bruno Corrozzari is especially grim-faced in this one.

The Mushroom a.k.a. The Killer Strikes At Dawn (1970, Italy/France/Switzerland, Giallo, Director: Marc Simenon)
Notable actors: Alida Valli! And some French folks perhaps.

This kind of tame murder mystery is only really notable because it's set in Switzerland and has Alida Valli enjoying psychedelic mushrooms that fuels her artistic creativity. She also keeps a monkey in a secret cupboard in her room, but if that bit was explained I missed it.
     The main character of the film is Dr Eric Calder, a man with enough childhood trauma to fill about five or six gialli. You see, when he was a kid, his mother used to abandon him all the time. To make things worse, the Second World War was going on and his mother couldn't even be bothered looking after him during a bombing raid. Eric's got abandonment issues up the wazoo, so this doesn't help his relationship with his young, free-living wife Anne, who is often away filming commercials and leaving Eric to go crazy on his own. Both these actors seems to have lengthy careers and may be well known, but I cannot be arsed trying to spell their names correctly. It's bad enough with the Italian ones.
     The only things entertaining Eric is his medical practice and the crazy antics of Alida Valli, who often calls him over to talk jibber jabber about her art and get sleeping tablets off him. She also has a little fancy for Eric, which annoys creepy son Gaetan, who might have a bit of an Oedipus complex going on. There's also groundskeeper Kurt who's also milling about the place, and it's easy for everyone to get into each other's business as Alida insists that every door in the house remain open at all times.
     It's when Anne works away overnight on their wedding anniversary that sends Eric into a depression. Getting wasted, he receives a phone call from Alida to get his ass over to her place. Sensing that he might be in there, Eric agrees to share some crazy mushroom juice with Alida, leading to a psychedelic sequence that only appear in roughly ninety-seven percent of the films made around this time. The next day, Alida has been strangled, Eric is back home, and his memories of the night before are very hazy indeed...
     This is one of those films where the police are actually competent enough to round up all the suspects and question them - Eric, his maid, Gaetan, the groundskeeper, and when Anne returns from her trip, she notices that Eric seems to be cracking apart at the seams and is also the main suspect in the case. I guess that happens when someone sends the police a note that says 'Eric is the killer'. And when Eric lies about what he did that night.
     The problem is that Alida Valli plays the most interesting character in the film, and when she's gone, it's just a dull police procedure with Anne also figuring stuff out while Eric goes crazy. It's not bad or anything like that, but it needed something in there to boost the energy levels a bit. Oh well. The mystery isn't that hard to solve either and I didn't like Gaetan's haircut. Next!

My Crasy Life (1992, USA, Documentary (kind of), Director: Jean-Pierre Gorin)

I totally understand that a bunch of young guys with nothing to do might stake some sort of territorial claim in the area they live in and form some sort of gang around it - we pretty much did the same things back when we were teenagers, but the whole notion of staying in that life, killing for it and deeming it more important than your own family is beyond me. Mind you, I stopped doing all that crap when I was about fifteen and looked old enough to get into a pub, and we didn't have all the cool stuff like guns, and rap music, and tattoos (although I did know one guy who inexplicably had his own name tattooed inside his mouth!).
     MY CRASY LIFE claims to be about a Samoan gang from West L.A. (they sure love referring to their geographical location in the L.A. metropolitan area), but while watching it you start to get the feeling that something just isn't quite right about it. The interviews seem to be normal, where one gang member interviews another, asking probing questions about how he would feel if his family were killed by accident, how he feels about how he's treated his mother, but there's entire sections of this film that come across as at least partially scripted, and now that I've did a little research, I've discovered that they were.
     This is most obvious when one gang member mugs a guy for his wallet, but there's the two gang members who have left the 'hood to go and work in Hawaii where it's also obvious there's some sort of script going on, but this doesn't make the film any less watchable. It probably helps in fact, because for all their talk of shooting things and hitting up and such like, this lot spend an awful lot of time sitting about playing cards and not doing much at all. Most of their day seems to involve playing Trumps, drinking, smoking, shouting "Westside!", talking about the old times, shouting "Westside!", rapping, and shouting "Westside!"
     There's another parallel story where a Samoan cop takes an interest in a gang-banger in prison and heads off to trace his family. This doesn't really lead anywhere, but it does introduce the bizarre narrative device of the psychopathic on-board computer that taunts him constantly with a creepy voice. This judgemental computer seems to imply that the cop has some sort of romantic interest in the gang-banger, and then later also implies that the computer fancies the cop. Usually this is set to some creepy music while the cop patrols the streets at night. This generally pushes the film from 'documentary' territory to 'fucking weird' territory as this computer seemingly looks down on everyone involved in the documentary and basically acts like a mix between HAL from 2001 and Hannibal Lecter if he was in the prison cell next to you, indulging in a never-ending character assassination of you in an attempt to drive you insane.
     I don't claim to know anything about LA gang culture and I know even less about Samoa, and the film, while entertaining, didn't quite enlighten me much either. In fact, the most glaring question left unanswered is where did the gang get those huge bottles of beer from? I want some!
     Westside! 
     Oh, and I only know about this film due to it being sampled by Cabaret Voltaire for their melancholy ambient track 'Low Cool'

My Friend, Dr Jekyll (1960, Italy, Comedy/Horror, Director: Marino Girolami)
Notable actors: Ugo Tognazzi!

Light hearted stuff here the director of ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST. We get to the horror part of the film right away when a mysterious caped man and his assistant kidnap a young lady from a park in Rome and take her to a underground laboratory, where we see a goose barking like a dog and a cat making bird noises.
     Turns out the dude who kidnapped the girl is a mad scientist who has figured out a way to transfers the minds of creatures into other creatures, and using the girl he kidnapped, he transfers her mind into the mind of the assistant. The girl wakes up as a huge fat man but doesn't seem to notice, chatting away about how she is lost in Rome with nowhere to go, but soon her mind returns to her own body and she is taken back to the park. Best not to ponder the science behind this, but the reason is obvious. The scientist is so ugly and horny he's needs a way to stop woman being terrified of him.
     Luckily for him his lab is situated across the road from a place that would give a British seventies television presenter a nosebleed - a reform school for drunken hussies, where mild mannered, repressed teacher Ugo Tognazzi works with his equally repressed girlfriend Malfada. Ugo's all about teaching those girls (including last night's victim of the scientist) all about keeping those skirts long and the 'primal urges' in check...that is until the scientist gets a hold of his body and turns him into a wild sex maniac. Don't get too excited though, this film is from ninety-sixty, so there's not much by of nudity or the old rumpy-pumpy.
     The film thankfully doesn't veer into the cringe-inducing antics of those CARRY ON films either, instead relying on Ugo Tognazzi's skill at balancing to different characters - the red-blooded, partying 'Jekyll' character and the very confused teacher who faces a lot of fallout in the morning. Backing him up comedy wise is Carlo Croccolo as a private detective hired to find out what's going on, who dons various terrible disguises throughout the film and invariably gets himself beaten up.
     Strangely watchable but very dated and entirely from another era (Jekyll's hands-on antics would have him sharing a jail cell with Bill Cosby these days and at one point the private detective joins a band of black and white minstrels), MY FRIEND, DR. JEKYLL is notable for being one of the earliest Italian films where someone is attacked by a rubber bat. It's probably notable for other things too, but that's the main thing I take away from it. I suppose there's also the message that you can get away with shagging your mother-in-law if you are possessed by a crazy scientist. Jolly japes indeed.

My Nights With Susan, Sandra, Olga and Julie (1975, Holland, Horror (perhaps), Director: Pim  De La Parra)

Well, this is a weird one. In Holland, somewhere, two young hippy chicks get bored of throwing rocks at swans (eh?) and hitch a lift from a middle-aged American guy driving by. The younger of the two girls gives the old guy the come-on, and while he's pumping away the other girl gets jealous and cracks his skull open with a bottle of whisky. Getting bored, the two dump the guy in a pond and run off to the cottage where they live with some other weirdos, not knowing that the local crazy woman has witnessed everything.
     In the cottage lives Susan, who once bought the cottage to be alone, but now has a bunch of stray people living at her house. One is former lover Albert, who has gone nuts and now lives entirely in a cupboard. He does however have a little spy hole where he watches Sandra and Olga, the two murderesses who constantly taunt everyone else in the house, as well acting like cats in heat every time there's a man around. There's also Julie, who sleeps most of the day and spends most of the night in the cupboard with Albert, Walking innocently into this madness is Anton, who was merely sent to Susan's house to pick her up for some appointment.
     Sandra and especially Olga are on him like ferrets, which almost earns him a skull-bashing, but it's really Susan who's captured Anton's eye. Deciding that a houseful of very strange people is a great thing to experience, Anton settles down for a while with a view to seducing Susan, but he gradually finds out that Susan doesn't quite like to face reality so much, which is why things like murder can take place almost right under her nose. In fact, the only person who seems to know everything that's happening is crazy Pyit, whom the girls mercilessly taunt. Pyit seems to seek vengeance for the man's murder, even retrieving his body and keeping it in her shack. She never utters a word for the entire film but kind of steals the show. Plus, now the police have started sniffing around too, but Susan just doesn't want to know...
     This beautiful looking film is hard to categorize. The murderous girls are portrayed as so joyously smug and evil that they seem to constantly get off on winding everyone up and using their sexuality to manipulate the men around them (although Anton manages to fend off the more aggressive Sandra). This seems to be down to Susan, who is so caught up in caring for the crazy Albert that she's become blind to everything else going on around her, and with everyone getting naked and getting it on every five minutes, it's like a soap opera written specifically for Red Tube, or, possibly, just an everyday Dutch soap opera that I happened to watch by accident.
     There's loads of nudity and an almost giallo-like use of colour here, mixed with a David Lynch-style atmosphere. Apparently this Pim De La Parra fellow is quite notorious, so I'll have to seek out more films of his. For academic reasons, obviously. Which reminds me, there's an awesome threesome bit in this film! Jeeves - pass the kleenex!

Mystery To The Rules a.k.a. A Case Of Mystery (1988, Italy, Giallo, Director: Stefano Roncoroni)
Notable actors: Paolo Malco! Marcello Bazzuffi! Remo Girone!

Bored politician Sergio is mooching about his apartment one night when he spots some gangsters having a shoot-out with the cops. Things seem to blow over pretty quickly, but when Sergio and other tenants go outside to have a look, Sergio seems to be the only one who spots the briefcase hidden under a car. Returning later in disguise, Sergio retrieves the suitcase and finds it's filled with money - Three billion lire in fact.
     Sergio hides the money in his apartment, but is shocked the next day to open his shutters and find a dead body staring up at him, along with cop Marcello Bazzuffi. Sergio keeps tight-lipped about the money, and with his mate Paolo Malco, heads off the Switzerland for a holiday with his family. On the way there however, two guys in disguise hold Sergio at gunpoint and steal all his luggage, so who has twigged that Sergio has the money? Whoever it is, they are going to have to try a lot harder to get to the cash, because Sergio is a lot tougher and stubborn than he looks.
     While the film has a nice premise and looks all set to have Sergio chased around for the cash, not much else happens for the remainder of the film. Sergio goes to Switzerland, gets searched at the border, stops to look at a dog, meets his family, talks to his wife, goes to a dinner party, acts all huffy, goes off and stares at things, goes up in the hills and stares at things. I began to wonder if I'd stumbled onto some sort of drama instead of a giallo. Now and again the film threatens to get exciting, then Sergio goes off and smokes a cigarette and stares at something.
     Some sort of plot eventually emerges in the last twenty minutes as someone breaks into Sergio's apartment and a couple of twists creep in, but this is an extremely low energy film, with little action or plot. The only bit that's any good at all is the mind games that Marcello Bazzuffi and Sergio play with each other as the cop tries to get Sergio to crack about the money. Other than that, this film is a bit of a waste of time.
     Rare, too. The only copy I could find was in Italian with English subtitles, but with some Russian people translating the film as well. I guess no one can be arsed released a cleaned up copy.

Naked Companion (1977, Italy, Drama, Director: Bruno Pischiutta)
Notable actors: The majority of the people in this film don't appear anywhere else.

I'm beginning to think I'm taking this Ten Foot Pole concept a bit far, because this is a film that not even a ten foot pole would touch with a ten foot pole. It's terrible!
     I knew I was in trouble right away when I was greeted with a full five minutes of shots from various angles of a woman's face, and then the credits started. What followed was a hideously pretentious cavalcade of mixed messages with some sort of commentary about feminism getting mangled in the process. Plus, lots of zoom shots of arses and an extremely dubious sub-plot about a teacher feeling up the pupils.
     Sandra (I think that was her name) has been married to Claudio for eighteen months and seems to be getting a bit antsy. Claudio on the other hand is one of these hilariously over-stated sexist characters that crop up from time to time in Italian cinema (for example Carlo in STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER or the gym instructor in Fulci's AENIGMA). When she arrives home one night, Sandra can't wait to tell Claudio all about this exciting new political group that she's met, but he's watching the football and can't be bothered listening to her, except to comment that if someone is a woman they can't be intelligent, and if they are intelligent they can't be a woman.
     To further prove that he's one of life's good guys, Claudio is also getting it on with a client he's met through his estate agency business, a business that gives him loads of excuses to go off for days on end. Unfortunately for him, someone has let Sandra in on the secret, but rather than confronting him about it, she goes off an jumps into bed with Melisa, part of the left-wing group and also a teacher who likes to get it on with the pupils. This triggers one of many flashbacks throughout the film (in fact, the film is one long flashback, so there's often flashbacks within flashbacks) where we see one of her pupils/lovers getting it on with an older man.
     In fact, it might worth pointing out here that Melisa has many complaints about her getting touchy-feely in school, but rather than face any kind of consequence for her actions, she just blackmails her boss into not saying anything about it and the plot just rolls right on! You go ahead and molest those pupils, Melisa! That's messed up right there. Luckily in Britain during the seventies our kids where all safe in school, because all the paedophiles were working in children's television and on radio at the time. Except that one guy who was a teacher, then a weatherman.
     You see, I thought this film was about how badly men treated women and Sandra's voyage of self-discovery through free sex, drugs, and shitty beatnik poetry, but by the time we'd had a bondage session, a gang-rape, and whatever that crap was at the end with the pretend orgy, I had no idea what the point of the film was at all. Plus, don't get all excited about the bare arses and boobs and that - it's all done in the most terrible way possible, with people just sort of writhing about, nuzzling each other's necks. Also it's the seventies so they all probably stank of shit.
     The director must have thought his film wasn't annoying enough and therefore made only the prologue and epilogue in colour, with the rest being monochromatic or black and white. That's probably why the soundtrack was pretty much the same track played over and over again too, just to wind me up just a little bit more. The whole thing plays out like a misguided student film, albeit one where the director has convinced the actresses to get naked. I need to watch something good just to wash this one out of my mind.

Necropolis (1970, Italy, Bollocks/Horror, Director: Franco Brocani)
Actors whose families were kidnapped in order to force them to appear in this film: Bruno Corazzari! Tina Aumont! Pierre Clementi (also known as 'Russel Brand, travelled back in time')!

Excerpts from How To Make Your Pretentious Arthouse Film Even More Unbearable For The General Public, by Franco Brocani.
     1) Make the incomprehensible film nearly two hours long to prolong the agony.
     2) Make every scene last twice as long as the longest scene Jess Franco ever filmed. The scene in this film where a lady discusses her marital problems while her husband calls for silence lasts longer than both the World Wars combined. Plus every season of M*A*S*H Also, make it apparent to the viewer that there are only about six or seven scenes in the entire film so that they can have plenty of time to plan out how they can kill themselves once the film is finished.
     3) In order to make sure your film is totally impenetrable to the viewer, film it in four different languages so the only person who has a chance of understanding what's going on is the actor Peter Ustinov, who actually died through auto-suggestion when he was asked to view this film.
     4) Don't actually include any plot, but make the film vaguely about sex, prompting reviewers on the IMDB to suggest that King Kong and Satan appear in the film, which never fucking happened (unless I mercifully passed out during those bits). All you get is a scene where a hippy blathers on about Leonardo De Vinci, Bruno Corazzari playing a despondent Frankenstein monster who relays a speech in a monster voice that goes on forever (but is pretty funny), Pierre Clementi being decorated with all crazy shit, some woman complaining about her husband forever, and then the same woman talking to a ghost guy while a giant fabric cock just stands there.
     5) Have the soundtrack consist of tape machines being reeled back and forth forever in order for the viewer to go crazy and start chopping at him/herself with a razor ala that guy in HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II.
     6) Label your effort 'horror' so that stupid bastards like me track it down.

Night With Cries (1981, Italy, Horror, Director: Ernesto Gastaldi)
Notable actors: Mara Maryl! Luciano Pigozzi!

It's a haunted house film without a house, a sequel of sorts to the giallo LIBIDO, and it's Mara Maryl's first acting gig since 1971's THE LONELY VIOLENT BEACH. It's also pretty obscure, the only way to see it being a horrendous copy on YouTube. I'll explain more about that later.
     Five people - psychic Bridgitte (Mara Maryl), her husband Luciano Pigozzi, soon to be rich Eileen, her lover Paul, and his on-the-side lover, hold a séance so that they might discover what happened to Eilieen's brother Christian, who vanished nearly ten years to the day. Brigitte can see what happened to Christian - it looks like some supernatural force killed him (a knife basically floats of its own accord, and even the telephone moves away from him as he tries to call for help). That's all Brigitte can see, but the rest want to know who actually killed, and where his body went. Eileen especially needs to know as she due to inherit his fortune.
     The next day everyone heads out into the woods a Paul and his lover/assistant are sizing up the land for development. This is where things get strange, as their car disappears (and reappears, then vanishes), someone finds the knife used to kill Christian, and Paul starts seeing Christian wandering about in the distance. It also seems that every road they take to escape from the woods leads them back to a weird rock in the middle of the woods. Soon enough, people start turning on each other.
     Brigitte and Luciano keep recalling the night Christian disappeared, and the flashbacks use scenes from the excellent 1965 giallo LIBIDO that they both starred in. Seems that night someone took both of them out of the picture so they couldn't help Christian, but who is the culprit?
     Things get stranger as Paul's young lover vanishes, and when her corpse is found, she seems to have aged ten years. Time seems to start slipping and tempers fray as we finally find out who killed Christian and why...
     This ultra-low budget film exists only in one form - a terrible print on YouTube. It's okay for the first forty minutes or so, but then for the next twenty another film keeps cutting in and the screen freezes over and over again - It doesn't look like we miss too much during this time, and luckily I got to see what happens to all the characters and the end of the film. I nice cleaned up version would be good, however. It's no classic but it would be good as a double bill with the classic LIBIDO.
     Maryl still plays the ditzy character of Brigitte from the first film, and Pigozzi was no spring chicken to begin with but does well here as the grumpy old man. There's almost literally one location for the entire film and it looks cheap, but its interesting to see what director Gastaldi can do with a low budget.

One By One (2014, Drama [there's that all-purpose label again], UK, Director: Diane Jessie Miller)
Notable actors: The Rik Mayall!

Have spend almost my entire life being a Rik Mayall fan, I was gutted when he suddenly died. When I was a kid he'd appears on kid's TV doing the linking bits between cartoons (where I learned from him how to move one eye at a time), later on he'd appear in THE YOUNG ONES or THE COMIC STRIP PRESENTS (A Fistful of Traveller's Cheques being an outstanding episode there). He starred in THE NEW STATESMAN in the late eighties, and although he didn't have much success with THE DANGEROUS BROTHERS, he and Ade Edmonson struck gold with BOTTOM, which I went to see live three times. My now wife knew I was the one for her when I told her how big a fan I was of Rik Mayall, and we even managed to get him to sign his biography and wish her a happy birthday during a book signing. We went to see him play THE NEW STATESMAN on stage, and some Noel Coward play he starred in too (where Robbie Coltrane was in the audience with his son).
     Rik died young, of what might have been a heart attack. Sad days indeed, but even sadder when I notice conspiracy theories about him dying because of some sort of message he was trying to get across to 'warn the people' of how the government was going to invent a cataclysm in order to control people and reduce the population. Either that or how he's explaining 9/11 was a set up. Now, whether or not you believe that was a set-up or coronavirus is fake (I have no opinion on either), I'm pretty sure you don't cover up a guy trying to wake up the people to a conspiracy by killing him and drawing attention to a low-budget, so-so film that no one was ever going to watch in the first place. I've watched it to see what all the fuss was about so theoretically assassinating Rik Mayall kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Plus, I was convinced this was a joke so I did a Lisa Simpson-like 'scanning for sarcasm' and no, people believe this.
     Anyway, the plot itself concerns one Dione, a wannabe children's writer working in a cafe in an English coastal town. She's happy because her best mate is the cafe owner's daughter, but her policeman boyfriend Jeff isn't happy because he's one of these dicks in life who keep nagging their other half about getting better jobs and shit like that. Dione would rather hang about with her pal Lily and much sexier, less uptight John, which makes Jeff jealous to the point where they split up. Dione goes to live with Lily, who seems to be part of a conspiracy group consisting of herself, her dad, this John guy, and Rik Mayall. They all believe that there is an upcoming conspiracy to reduce world population, but are not sure in what form that'll take, be it the military, or some sort of biowarfare lab developed virus. They are also types who seem to think that its a big revelation that religion, sport, race, gender are such like are used to control the population, and that people need to wake up. Not that they attempt to wake many people up because they all sit around jawing for almost the entire duration of the film. It's like THE MATRIX, only Dione is Neo and Rik Mayall is Laurence Fishburne, if Laurence sat around raising an eyebrow now and again, playing Jenga, and eating pasta bake.
     I wouldn't say the film is a complete failure, but it's not exactly a roller-coaster ride either. Sure, there are slight (and I mean slight) comparisons with the shit storm we're all living through now, and those who love a 9/11 conspiracy will cream themselves when they see DROP DEAD FRED talking about the way the two towers fell, but I got the feeling that Rik Mayall was half-arsing this one and just trying to perhaps add a known name to cast list in order to help a low budget film? I mean, compare him here to what he was doing in the TV series MAN DOWN around the same time, where he was outstanding. Either way, no one is going to listen to me because be it 9/11, Brexit, Scottish Independence, Black Lives Matter, the US Election, or whatever's happening in Belarus that I'm not paying attention to, everyone has already formed their own firm opinions on the matter and has limitless internet resources/allies to back up that opinion, and a lot of those people are online just now, arguing with people who hold opposing views to theirs. Maybe that's the true conspiracy - those in power want to keep everyone arguing online so they can get up to the shady stuff in the background.
     Not that I'm any better, sitting here night after night watching thousands of Italian films, but that's only because there's a hidden illuminati message hidden in one of those Mario Merola films. I'll find it one day! Sfogliatelle IS people! Oh no the same guys that offed Marizio Merli are coming for mlwagens lkbnabeinslisrnlge4 8orhb

One Hundredth of a Second (1981, Italy, Sport, Director: Duccio Tessari)
Notable actors: Numb!

Who asked for a drama about skiing, and not a very exciting one at that? And why did I rush to watch it, having promised myself I'd do so after missing it the first time it appeared on Amazon Prime? I know the answer to the second one (which begs the question why I asked about it in the first place) - It's because I desperately seek out Duccio Tessari films in the hope that there's something out there he's made that's the equal to TONY ARZENTA. So far, no luck, although there are some other good Tessari films. This film isn't one of them. Plus, I'm babbling so I don't have to try and recall the plot, which I'm sure even the screenwriter had trouble recalling.
     Five hot shot skiers are really just four cold shit skiers and one good one called Gustav. Gustav is quitting the sport (Speed skiing? I dunno) and the rest of the team need him because they don't do so good without him. And their coach is threatening to get rid of all of them if they don't have Gustav. They talk Gustav back into the sport, but then one of the cockier skiers takes a tumble and breaks his back, destroying his career and making him one whiney, petulant bitch.
     The guy ends up in a wheelchair and at one point proposes to do the ski run (time trials?) in his wheelchair, which would have made a much funnier film. Instead, Gustav and the team man up to get the bestest ski speed time and it takes ONE HOUR AND FORTY-SIX MINUTES to get to the point. Why use italics when you can just scream in big letters.
     Endlessly boring with five guys you just hate and no discernible bad guy to go against them, this lot just sort of discuss a lot of stuff and ski, sometimes in slow motion, sometimes in flashback form. I guess the music was okay though, and that pair of fur boots the girl was wearing were cool. But come on! Skiing? Why?
     I went skiing once to Aviemore and hated it. Maybe that hate manifested itself subliminally throughout the running time of the film and that's why I didn't like the film, or maybe it's because Duccio Tessari totally fluked it with TONY ARZENTA and is actually one of the dullest directors out there.

Org (1979, Italy, Genre listed as horror for some reason, Director: Fernando Birri)
Notable actors: Terence Hill!

This one is so weird it makes H2S and ARCANA look like shopping channel broadcasts. If you isolated the sound it would be like some sort of lost Nurse With Wound or Hafler Trio album, but then that would devoid you of the visual assault of what's going on onscreen. I watched it in Italian on YouTube and people were commenting that they'd like a subtitled version. Believe me, having English subtitles is not going to shed any light on what's going on in this film.
     The plot summary on the IMDB says "Explores the complex relationship between the spirit, body, and mind. The film is a nightmare with closed eyes because it counts among the most terrible moments of my life, my second exile, which lasted a very long time. Inspired by an ancient Hindu legend." Well, that clears that up then. What I got from it is that it seems to be some sort of commentary on life, death and politics in the sixties. It was filmed in the sixties but then it took ten years to complete. There's a three hour version out there too, but if you think I'm going to watch that one, you've must be insane.
     There are principally three characters here - Terence Hill as Zohommmm!!!!, some lady as Shuick, some other guy as Grrr???? In the barrage of stop motion animation, backwards running footage, negative footage, pop art superimposed on footage, cartoon, images from found films and documentaries, washed out images, still photographs, repeating images, glitching images and blank, orange, or black screen, these three actors frolic naked while dressed in plastic or dressed as flowers, talk nonsense to each other, have some sort of fight, act like monkey with monkey masks on, then act like monkeys without monkey masks on while a fat naked guy plays the trumpet. This is all intercut with interviews with avant-garde directors, or sequence with loads of Italian insults flashing on the screen, or, in the exciting nail-biting ending, nothing happening at all as an old man sings over a white screen, then an orange screen, just for variety.
     When things are really freaky there's some kind of cathartic pleasure derived from the assault in the senses, but the avant-garde director bit dragged on. I'm sure it means something to somebody, but I'm not sure Terence Hill has it on his Linkedn profile, that's for sure!
     It's on YouTube if you get bored enough to want to watch it. So is H2S. Recommended for fans of Terence Hill who suffer from psychotic episodes or like to take huge amounts of acid.

Pancho Villa (1972, UK/Spain/USA, Western, Director: Eugenio Martino)
Notable actors: Telly Savalas! Chuck Conners! Clint Walker! Antonio Casas!

"Gmmffsssklpp!" I exclaimed, while watching some pretentious Japanese animated film (WOLF CHILDREN, it turns out). "What was that?" my wife asked, languishing nearby on a futon, dressed in only a coat made from Madagascan Tenrecs. "That," I said, waving my glass of brandy in the air, "was the sound of my brain trying to vomit out of my ear because of this film." I'll never forget her reply. "That," She imitated, around a mouthful of roasted dolphin, "is how I feel when you are watching one your crappy old European films."
     My blood froze. Cold sweat broke out on my forehead. My fingers clenched into my palms, forming bloody crescents. I unsteadily rose to my feet, staggering to the front door, only pausing once to vomit into one of my children's wellington boots. I somehow made it to my car, got in, and blindly drove through the tears until my heart stopped racing. I parked the car in a disabled space and, hunched and tortured, called my wife from a phone box somewhere outside the town of Penrith. I couldn't believe how much they charge for a simple phone call these days.
     "Wh-what did you say?" I muttered into the phone. "How can you compare an arty Japanese film with Italian (and/or Spanish) films? How can you, for example, compare that to the Italian Rambo-rip off BROTHERS IN WAR, where the two protagonists sing "Jingle Bells" to cheer each other up while captured by the Vietcong?"
     Noting that I had several minutes left and wanting to get my money's worth, I continued. "PANCHO VILLA is another example. It's a seventies Spanish film with Telly Savalas playing the titular General, and yes, since you ask, people do say 'titular' to each other in conversation. This film spends about five minutes discussing why Pancho Villa has no hair just so it can have an excuse to have Telly Savalas in the lead role. It's not striving for any artistic merit!"
     I angrily pounded my slave-shop produced meerkat skin gloves on the telephone box walls, stomping my crocodile skin boots. "And what about the bit where Chuck Connors has an entire room of US army officers trying to catch a fly? That was terrible no matter what way you looked at it. Just thought I'd mention that bit. What I'm trying to say is these films aren't meant to be taken seriously. This is supposedly a historic film about a guy who invaded America, and instead we get Telly Savalas pretending to be in a coma, trying to sort out his sidekick's marital problems, and some other third example, too!"
    I was in tears now, and would have been lying on the floor of the phone box had it not been for my ivory walking stick. "I mean, Telly Savalas sings the jazzy theme tune at the end! How can you deride these spectacles of wonder I hold dear to my heart? How? For is it not enough that I deemed you suitable to bear my children? Must you destroy my true love in life – the crappy Euro film?"
     "Why are you using a phone box instead of your mobile phone?" She asked, deaf to my entreaties. My vision greyed as I stumbled out into the night, a broken man. Nearby a red squirrel paused in its search for food to regard my twitching form. I felt a little bit better as I opened the back door of the car and set my two attack dogs on it.

A Pink Stain (Or Rose Spot - I'm not sure) (1970, Italy, Drama, Director: Enzo Muzii)
Notable actors: Giancarlo Giannini! Delia Boccardo! Valeria Moriconi! Leopoldo Trieste! Orchidea De Santis!

It's best to point out straight away that folks who like anything happening in their films should probably walk away from this one right now, because this is a film that can indulge itself so much there's a scene literally made up of still photographs from the river Ganges, and the film itself ends with a minute long shot of a wall. Still, I was strangely sucked in by this one, due to the fluid camera work, the gorgeous music, and Giancarlo Giannini's big sad eyes.
     There's not much to say about it mind you. Ambient, laidback music and shots of clouds start off the film and pretty much give an indication of what were about to experience. This is a film that is quiet and subdued, where people have civil conversations and barely raise their voices.
     Giannini's just returned to Rome after spending some time in India documenting life and death on the River Ganges, and he's having a hard time adjusting to life back in the eternal city. First he visits his girlfriend (Delia Boccardo), and although they enjoy a healthy bout of welcome back sex in a pink velvet room, reality soon creeps in as Giancarlo is driven nuts the next day by the incessant beeping of car horns on a busy Roman street (In Rome, beeping your horn means "Get out of my way", "I need right of way", "I'm driving down the street", "I'm beeping my horning because I'm a complete asshole" and "I'm beeping my horn because that's what Rome needs right now, another fucking car horn at full volume"). Giancarlo can't believe he's returned to what he calls 'the trap', and finds out that the people he left behind aren't so happy either.
     Case in point is sister Valeria (Valeria Moriconi, from THE CAMP FOLLOWERS). Valeria comes across as a free-living party girl, but Giancarlo finally gets it out of her that she's completely miserable and lost in life. He later also finds out that she doesn't visit her father anymore either. Everyone seems to be in a pretty melancholy moon, except I guess the actress Nadia (Orchidea De Santis, from the giallo YOUR SWEET BODY TO KILL). She features in what is the only part of the film with humour, as she's taking part in a film being made which seems to involve her taunting and eating ice cream in from of Leopoldo Trieste while he's handcuffed to a radiator.
     Basically, the film is just a series of scenes where Giancarlo goes to meet someone and they discuss life and death, before Giancarlo moves on to someone else. It's a very solemn film, and is rather sad in the end, but as I said, nothing really happens. On the other hand I've never quite experienced a film with an atmosphere quite like it. The music and rather unique cinematography (I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's both fluid and kind of cold at the same time), combined with Giancarlo's subdued reactions to a world he doesn't want to be in make for something I was fascinated by.
     The very small amount of information and reviews about this film aren't favourable so take that as a warning.

Poor Christ (1976, Italy, Fantasy, Director: Pier Carpi)
Notable actors: Ida Galli! Curd Jurgens! Franco Ressel! Edmund Purdom! Adolfo Lastretti! Sonia Vivianni!
"Jesus must have been an Italian. His mother treated him like he was the son of God and he thought his mother was a virgin" - Antonio Carluccio.

Yet another Italian arthouse film, but I guess one thing it has going for it is that it is not totally incoherent and has a storyline you can follow. It still has plenty of other elements that'll annoy the crap out of you though.
     In a strange version of Italy that is both modern, with cars and shit, and medieval, with the old clothes and that, poor Giorgio is at a crossroads in life. He doesn't want to work alongside his father any longer, but wants to be a detective instead. His mother, nun Ida Galli, disapproves, but never the less he sets off to start his detective agency, moving into an arcane chamber behind a golden door. Once there, he immediately gets his first assignment. The mysterious Curd Jurgens(from the fun giallo/crime movie KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL!) offers Giorgio one hundred million lire if he can obtain proof of the existence of Christ within two months. Giorgio accepts, and sets off on a weird, and extremely talky person journey.
     On his way he gathers a crew he calls Brothers of the Night, one of whom is pyromaniac, and sets out going around all levels of society trying to find proof of Jesus being a real dude. Walking the streets he finds his childhood sweetheart is now a prostitute (she was reluctant to tell him during a last-supper sequence earlier in the film where Giorgio manages to find more wine for wedding guests), and she joins the group. He also encounters Edmund Purdom as the devil, who offers him anything he wants not to find out the truth, and Franco Ressel as a criminal who mocks him for his mission. There's also a Pontius Pilate policeman who has it in for Giorgio, and a more sympathetic cop in the form of Adolfo Lastretti (from unusual crime film ONE WAY and Damiano Damiani's excellant CONFESSIONS OF A POLICE CAPTAIN), who is an actor who's more of a 'that's that guy from that thing' type actor rather than a star. He's good here though as the cop with the terminally ill child.
     However, all that cast cannot cover up the fact that this film is all talk and although some of the sets are impressive, some give off the impression that you are watching a theatre show rather than a film. The surprise twist at the end is about as surprising as taking your socks off and finding feet attached to the bottom of your legs. It took four days to get through this one because my mind was literally wanting to do anything else instead. Like watch nonce sting videos.
     Speaking of nonce stings, Pier Carpi's only other film was the confusing EXORCIST/OMEN rip-off RING OF DARKNESS which is a dodgy one considering Lara Wendell being naked and underage in it. If they'd have made that these days there would have been a crowd of angry Facebook users heading round to Carpi's door in mere seconds! He also wrote the film CAGLIOSTRO, a film that I could not stand more than ten minutes of, and I'll watch any crap, as demonstrated by this review.

The Rat Saviour (1976, Yugoslavia, Horror, Director: Krsto Papic)
Notable actors: Err...

A very nifty, Dali-esque credit sequence ushers us in to a film full of atmosphere and dread, but just slightly falls short of the mark of being a great film. Still, I'm glad I stumbled upon it.
     In a Croatian town young writer Ivan is struggling to make ends meet, and no one cares, because everyone else is struggling to make ends meet too. The country is going through a very bad economical downturn and Ivan has been forced to try and sell his books on the streets, and it is in this flea market that he meets mysterious girl Sonja. Sonja shows him kindness by giving him her scarf, but during a protest on the street the two become separated and Ivan goes to the park to sleep on a bench, having been evicted earlier that day...
     Ivan must have one of those faces, because even though the patrolman in the park tells him he can't sleep on a bench, he does show him a huge empty bank that he can use for a few nights, as long as he keeps his mouth shut about it. Ivan agrees, and accessing the bank via a sewer grate, he finds an empty office to bed down in. He's too hungry to wonder why someone has stashed a huge amount of food in one of the cupboards, and is also delighted to find that the phone still works, which means he can try and track down Sonja.
     It's about this point I started wondering if anything was going to happen and it was about this point that the director flew from Croatia to my house, kicked down my front door, rushed into the living room and hoofed me in the nuts, shouting "YES, something is going to happen." And he was right! Hearing music, Ivan creeps through the bank to find what looks like a huge dinner party/orgy going on in the main entrance, only some of these people look a bit...odd. About two minutes later, everyone is called to stand before a shadowy figure who we soon find out intends to take over the world...someone who thrives in poverty and disease. Der Rattengott!
     It's a kind of THEY LIVE situation involving rats, with Ivan finding himself joining up with a very small group of people going up against an increasingly large amount of rat humans who love getting jobs within the civil service. Paranoia also sets in as it turns out they can imitate people Ivan knows. Can he find a way out or is he rat nuggets? My kids have two rats, I wonder what they would have made of this one if they weren't more intent in climbing up my trousers and punching me in the scrotum for a laugh.
     It looks like there wasn't much of budget for this one but it's good to watch the increasingly paranoid Ivan trying to get around town without losing his marbles. The rat/human effects are not that great though, but the film's atmosphere is dark and broody. The only problem is that there's maybe too much brooding and not enough munching, as following the initial discovery of the rat people, things don't get manic enough. Still, it's short and well worth sitting down for.

Ring (1978, Italy, Eurocrime/Sport, Director: Luigi Petrini)
Notable actors: Stella Carnacina! Joshua Sinclair!

The director of WHITE POP JESUS brings us a film that's half ROCKY, half drama, as we find ourselves caught up in the tale of a young guy who solves problems by punching them really hard in the face.
     Ciro (played by a guy who looks a bit like Helmut Berger) is a young guy in what might be Naples, grifting while his father runs a restaurant with his mother and younger daughter. Things would be dandy if that damn local mafia weren't sticking their nose into things and demanding protection money of 50 million lire (although it might have been a loan they were wanting paid back, and it might have been 500 million lire - this film had no subtitles and I was translating it live, in my brain, which doesn't function too well at the best of times but after three months of lockdown with the wife and kids is now just running on fumes). These mobsters, led by a fat gobby old guy, want the money as soon as possible, or else.
     Not wanting his father to end up dead, Ciro tries to gain the money any way possible, but when it turns out he's not a very good criminal (a robbery ends up with him and his friend receiving spare change, and trying to sell stolen goods almost ends up with him nearly being shot). It's too little too late as not only do some mobsters kick Ciro's dad to death, the shock causes his sister to turn mute! That's unlucky because that only happens in about 50% of these sorts of films. Also, the mafia boss who ordered the fatal beating ends up with a bullet in his head, courtesy of Joshua Sinclair, who plays some sort of 'regional manager' mobster who does a lot of sitting in chairs glowering at things.
     It's only when Ciro spots the guys who killed his dad that the film starts heading in a ROCKY direction, and it's lucky for him that when he starts hitting these guys really hard in the face he's doing it in front of a boxing manager. This guy takes Ciro under his wing and offers him a promising career punching people for money. Ciro agrees, but the manager does tell him: no tobacco, no alcohol, and no women. That would cause me a problem because Ciro's girlfriend is pouty Stella Carnacina from WHITE POP JESUS!
     There's not so much of a training montage as a kind of training plus fledgling boxing career montage as Ciro punches his way through the amateur leagues (do they have boxing leagues? I only watching homeless people fighting with themselves in Glasgow city centre, personally), and when Ciro's career starts to get big, he attracts the attention of none other than Joshua Sinclair.
     Joshua (who in real life worked with Mother Teresa and wrote the book Shaka Zulu) sends a spy over to Ciro's camp in the form of sexy sports car driving Nikki Gentile. How much time do you think passes before Stella gets dumped? About ten seconds, as it happens. Little does Ciro know that Joshua is setting him up to fight an English fighter way more professional than Ciro. Can Ciro rise up to the challenge? Will he choose Stella or Nikki? And why did Ciro's mate kiss Ciro on the arm?
     This semi-bland film does have a few things going for it, including a funky disco soundtrack and some unintentional laughs. Part of Ciro's training seemed to involve hitting sand with a huge wooden mallet and then running down the middle of a street, causing a traffic jam. Then there was the bit were Ciro bought his mute sister a terrible talking doll that did handstands, and it seemed she started crying because of how crap it was, and then there's the bit where they solve Ciro's love problems over the end credits with a bit of overdubbed dialogue.
     The IMDb says this is two hours long, but the version I watched was an hour and a half, and that was plenty.

Rome Vs Rome a.k.a. War of The Zombies (1964, Italy, Fantasy, Director: Guiseppe Vari)
Notable actors: Ettore Manni! John 'Drew' Barrymore! Ida Galli! Ivano Stacciolli!

Well looky here - a good sword and sandals film! This one includes crazy wizards, mutant animal-men, and zombies who fight battles in psychedelic colour schemes. It has a plot that moves quickly and is full of violence. Not too shabby at all.
     In Dalmatia (modern day Croatia), a bunch of uppity druid-types have attacked the local Roman garrison and wiped out the lot of them, but not before strange creatures take the bodies for some nefarious practise. Back in Rome, the Senate are enraged against this affront to the Roman Empire and send Ettore Manni over there to sort stuff out. Manni's problems are huge - the resident Praetor is a complete asshole who likes to extort money from the people, and his wife is a bigger asshole who has designs on Manni and may be in cahoots with the local mental druid/wizard, who worships a cyclopean entity who can bring the dead back to life. The dead...like that bunch of dead Romans from the start of the film!
     The druid in question is John Barrymore Drew Barrymore Snr Jnr, and he's all up for gathering the local warlords together to kick Rome's ass out of Dalmatia. He worships some god who looks like a Thai statue of Bhudda, only with a third eye that can make people go on fire. Barrymore is also lacking in the people skills department because he thinks he can get his own way by babbling a lot of crap and having sidekick Ivano Stacciolli kill everyone who disagrees with him. This strategy does not have long-lasting positive gains.
     With Ettore Manni having to fight off the designs of the praetor's wife, and also having to put the moves on former slave Ida Galli, it's hard for him to find time to take part in the massive battle that happens at the end of the film which involves hundreds of undead Roman soldiers (don't get too excited as they are regular Roman soldiers with a colour filter added), and the regular Roman army. This battle, which seems to pre-empt the trippy visual sequences of late sixties cinema, is quite impressive in scale and just adds to the general 'competent atmosphere' of the film, which regularly verges on horror without quite getting there.
     Strangely, Sixties Ettore Manni barely resembles Seventies Ettore Manni. I wonder what happened there. Still, as these films go, this one actually moves quickly and features plenty of violence and weird visuals. Guiseppe Vari is a very erratic director. You have films like this, but then he ended his career with the unbearable cut-up movie URBAN WARRIORS. In between, you have the unremarkable giallo/crime film WHO KILLED THE PROSECUTOR AND WHY? and the better-than-average RETURN OF THE .38 GANG. Take this knowledge and spread it amongst the people.

The Rudeness (1975, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Marino Girolami)
Notable actors: Leonard Mann! Tom Felleghy (hilariously billed as "Pom Felleng" for some reason)! Nello Pazzafini! Romano Puppo! Carla Mancini! John Bartha!

It's safe to say that the main thing you need to know about gangster Salvatore is that he lets his balls do the thinking for him. Salvatore (played by "Luis Vito Russo", a.k.a. Gianni Russo)) has a cushy life carrying out drug smuggling in the good old US, but when he's distracted by a bit of tail in a bar (and I was thinking "Wow, he got in there quick"), rival gangster John Bartha does the old switcheroo on the drugs stashed in the car Salvatore was driving. He does finally retrieve the drugs after a shoot out, although how he found out where they were is left a mystery, but the loss of face in the eyes of his mafia superiors means that he's shipped off to Palermo for his own protection.
     Here, he is given a bodyguard in the form of loyal Leonard Mann, but Salvatore gets bored after five minutes of hanging around Sicily and wants to start his own business. He's also got eyes on his protector, the wheelchair bound Don Mimi's wife. This is where the film got slightly confusing for me as Don Mimi's wife and another separate lover are very similar in appearance so I kept getting confused as to who was who. Basically, Salvatore wants loads of money to start up a business in Sicily. Don Mimi refuses, and Salvatore plans a heist to get the cash, as well as wooing Don Mimi's wife into the bargain. And the other girl too. And probably those two party chicks he ropes in for his blackmail business.
     This is a kind of rags-to-riches story for mafia dudes as Salvatore pisses off every single person he could possibly piss off in the mob. He might as well have painted a target on his chest as various hired goons are sent after him to waste him, including big Romano Puppo, who dukes it out with Salvatore in Paris. This film does do a bit of hopping around the place as Salvatore starts off in the US, ends up in Sicily, then goes to London for some blackmailing while trying to secure a deal in France with some guys who just want to pop a cap in his ass.
     There's not really much plot here but it's entertaining as hell as director Marino Girolami (father of Enzo G[irolami] Castalleri, father of Ennio Girolami, brother of Romolo Guerrieri, grandfather of Stefania Girolami and uncle of Massimo Vanni) throws in loads, and I mean loads of naked women and shoot-outs, so there's nothing to complain about. Acting wise Leonard Mann is the standout as the faithful and stressed out protector of Salvatore who does what he's told but grudgingly so, and the last shots of him in the film is evidence as to how he went on to bigger things.
     Strangely, or not so strangely considering the adorable plagiarism of Italian cinema, the soundtrack sounds like THE GODFATHER theme tune with just enough changed to avoid a lawsuit, and there's also a tune that sounds a bit like House of the Rising Sun for good measure. This film does exactly what it says on the tin - delivers a load of sex and violence in the standard Eurocrime way. Nothing to complain about here whatsoever. I bet Tom Felleghy had no regrets about that scene he did with those two naked ladies. Playing an Englishman who keeps his bowler hat on during sex with two babes is something that would be held in the 'great times' part of the memory banks, although no doubt not shared with the grandkids.

The Salamander a.k.a. There Was A Blonde (1969, Italy, Giallo [at a stretch], Director: Alberto Cavallone)
Notable actors: Beryl Cunningham! Antonio Casale!

Alberto Cavallone is another one of those Italian directors whose work isn't easily pigeonholed. If I can sound like a pretentious critic type for a sentence before returning to the usual profanity, he has a unique voice among his peers, just like his contemporary (oooh!) the egregious (I wish the internet was working so I could check the definition of that) Elio Petri, the apotheosis of idiosyncratic Italian directors. Incidentally, in the supermarket today I spotted a sweet potato that look exactly like a human testicle. It had all veins up it and was the exact shape and everything.
     Cavallone is a bit of a controversial figure, mainly for his film MAN, WOMAN AND THE BEAST (review shortly, and I'm taking one for the team with that film), and BLOW JOB. He also directed some obscure giallo called AFRIKA which I tried to watch. I can't remember anything about it, but next to its entry on my 'to watch' list, it says 'this looks shit'.
     THE SALAMANDER is set over the course of a day and bit, is set in Tunis, and involves white photographer Ursula and her black model Uta. I've got to make that distinction because this film seems to be about the white colonisation of the world and Uta's inner turmoil regarding both her relationship with Ursula and her recurring dream where she sees a black man attacked by three men on a beach before they cut his balls off and go after Uta, where eventually Ursula 'saves her'. The two have a strange relationship. The very Aryan Ursula is jokey and sarcastic, where Uta is introverted and is one of those people who says 'nothing' when you ask them what is wrong, but injecting enough nuance into that 'nothing' that it literally means 'everything'. It doesn't stop them getting it on though, in one of the many casual sex scenes in this film (which I remind you just takes place within a day).
     Disrupting the brittle harmony is the arrival of psychologist Antonio Casale, who initially seems to be brought in to sort out Uta's moods, but instead starts causing a bit of bother between the two girls. It's also flashback city for the two of them as Uta flashes back to being hassled and (possibly) raped by another model (who might be pre-op transgender? Something might have been lost in translation), and Ursula flashes back to painting certain parts of Uta's body white and making her dance naked in front of an entirely black backdrop. Cavallone is a bit heavy handed on the old messages here, as we get inserted footage of ethnic terrorists being shot (real footage), civil rights rioting, and in a scene that is cack-handed to say the least, Ursula and Uta have a dance-off based on their cultures' music. Ursula dances to typically sixties beat music whereas Uta dances to some bongos and chanting.
     There's also some guy who turns up lying in the middle of the road who tries to rob Casale, then seduces Uta and slaps her about a bit (more casual sex), before vanishing from the film, which mainly focuses on Casale trying to seduce Ursula. He manages in the end, and hats off to the actress who played Ursula. He's a good actor, as you can see in THE CASE IS CLOSED, FORGET IT and THE SEVENTH GRAVE, but let's be honest; he's no oil painting. Kissing him must have been like kissing some sort of weird, clammy Lego brick.
     This one has plenty of 'giallo' keywords attached to it on the IMDB, but that side of things doesn't appear until the end, where after some murders, Cavallone decides to totally mess up our heads by throwing in a very strange twist, and then another on top of that. Most people would bail on this film when it becomes apparent that most of it is talking, but I didn't mind that so much. There's was enough weirdness in here to keep me interested.

San Babila - 8P.M. (1976, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Carlo Lazanni)
Notable actors: Brigitte Skay!
Ennio Morricone Soundtrack!

Eh, too grim. Then again, what was I expecting from a film about neo-nazi youngsters in Milan? A custard pie fight?
     From the rudimentary research I did about this film it seems that the Piazza San Babila was some sort of hanging around place for fascist types in the seventies. I'm sure they weren't allowed to rampage to the extent that these lads do in this film though.
     Fours youths - Franco, Fabrizio, Big Malky and DJ Industrial Pukegrinder are all members of a fascist group whose main rivals in Milan seem to the communists. Fabrizio is their leader, but he also seems to be an informer for the police and may also just be doing what he does for kicks. Franco is the weak link, a mummy's boy and a virgin, much to the amusement of the others. In fact, one of their first actions is to try and break his duck, using ditzy model Brigitte Skay to do so. When he can't crack a fatty, he goes nuts and assaults her with a truncheon. Symbolism, eh?
     I think that the events in this film are supposed to happen in one day as well, but if that's the case these guys sure get around a lot. We see one of them fighting with his crazy, abusive father. Another quits his job when caught with a knife. At various points they argue their fascist dogma with fellow students and when they finally get around to doing something constructive they plan an attempt to blow up a communist party headquarters.
     To be honest things meander quite a lot in this film and as the four are unrelentingly horrible I didn't quite connect to what was happening in the film. My only sympathies lie with Brigitte Skay, who is generally abused by Fabrizio and Franco. Even the murder at the end of the film goes on forever as our four chase a couple around Milan for what felt like about six hours.
     Carlo Lazzani seems to be one of those directors who certainly had his own vision for things, but sometimes that vision failed him. This is interesting as it tries to tell a story from a different point of view, but it still suffers from an overdose of grimness as a lot of these 'raping, killing rich kids' films seems to have.

Sara's House (1984 [or 1987?], Poland, Horror, Director: Zygmunt Lech)
Notable actors: Errr....

I'm a sucker for a Gothic horror film, and although at first this one looks like its not going to do anything special or even gather any pace, it does manage to mix things up a bit. It's also only a hour long, which is welcome in my world of constant annoyance and moaning.
     Poland, somewhere. A mysterious lady looks out from a coach at a dashing young gentlemen hunting, but the next time we see this fellow he's in a bad way indeed. This fellow is Kamil and it's his friend Wiktor who becomes really concerned that his friend is all over a sudden frail and very sickly looking. Kamil keeps going on about someone called Sara that he's in love with, and Wiktor takes him back to a mansion where this Sara lives. She claims she's looking after the dying Kamil, but then why is she now making go-go eyes at Wiktor?
     Shortly after Kamil goes missing, and Sara is putting the moves on Wiktor, who suspects something is deeply wrong about the whole situation. He also keeps hearing weird moaning noises from within the mansion which Sara tries to explain is 'just cats' (you need to work on that Sara), and just as if it looks like Wiktor may fall to Sara's charms just like Kamil, the film takes a bit of swerve into uncharted territory.
     Stick with this film, because after a slightly draggy first half the Gothic horror is ramped way up, with a genuinely clever hero for a change. You won't forget what Wiktor finds in the attic of the mansion for starters, plus there's plenty of creepy back up from Julian, Sara's butler/driver. The lighting actually reminded me of the Barbara Steele film THE GHOST, come to think of it. There's not much of a plot, but you'll be rooting for Wiktor all the same.
     This is a nice dark tale of revenge that makes me want to seek out more Polish horror films. 

The She-Butterfly (1973, Yugoslavia, Horror, Director: Djorde Kadijevic)

It's appears this TV movie has quite a following in the Countries Formerly Known As Yugoslavia due to loads of kids watching it when it broadcast ridiculously early back in the day, just like when us kids all caught DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW back when we were kids (I swear "Bubba didn't do it!" is stuck in my head forever). Some things make a mark on you, and although THE SHE-BUTTERFLY is nowhere near as scary as folks make out, it's still worth watching a rural period horror film to see that particular country's take on genre. Plus, it's only an hour long and now comes with subtitles (it's on the Internet Archive site).
     I'm not sure what year this film is set, but there's no electricity and everyone sits around drinking and being bored, so it's either 19th Century Yugoslavia or 21st Century Glasgow. The villagers, mostly wheat farmers, are at a loss as what to do with their crop as something keeps biting the necks out of anyone who works in the local mill. In fact, at the beginning, this is exactly what we get to see, as current miller Vule dismisses the weird noises he's hearing and gets his throat ripped out for good measure. For some reason that's never explained (and a few things in this film aren't), the vampire-creature that attacks him likes to fondle the flour being made. Maybe because they're not happy with the quality of it, so maybe they were some kind of vengeful undead baker or something.
     Plot wise we have a young Christopher Eccleston-looking guy who wants to marry the rich landowner's daughter, who will not allow it due to the young guy being unemployed and poor (you can see where that's heading), but most of the film is spent with the villagers, who get drunk, provide some comedy relief, and try and track down the undead creature who is stopping them getting some bread, which also leads to more comedy relief and getting drunk. I may or may not be wrong in saying that a lot of references here may be specific to the area this was made in (be it in present day Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia - who knows?), so I don't know if there is a myth about the undead and butterflies, or whether or not you use a horse to find a grave, or whether or not you poke that horse up the arse with a stick to get it to move.
     If you've got a spare hour you can tick this one off your list and be the envy of your confused colleagues at work as you interrupt their conversations of travel and family to tell them about the bit at the end that's a bit weird, then unintentionally funny, and have them all run off to watch THE SHE-BUTTERFLY, too. Or maybe just call the police on you. Like the Czech Vampire film FERAT VAMPIRE, this one doesn't live up to its reputation, but that doesn't mean it should be skipped.
     I was in Yugoslavia back when the country was just about to break apart. The economy was haywire, so one day a hamburger would cost 38,000 dinars, and the next day it would cost 47,000 dinars. Strangest of all, however, was one night at the hotel we could see a massive electrical storm heading from the sea to the beach. When it reached us everyone ran inside while chairs and tables were blown about. The thunder was deafening and every time lightening struck it was so bright it looked like it was the middle of the afternoon. We sheltered inside in the bar and I looked out to see the hotel's resident band outside, still playing music while this madness was going on. Nutters!

Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989, Italy, Fantasy, Director: Enzo G Castellari/Luigi Cozzi [uncredited])
Notable actors; Lou Ferrigno! John Steiner! Ennio Girolami! Daria Nicolodi! Hal Yamanouchi! Romano Puppo! Stefania Girolami! Massimo Vanni (uncredited)! That buffed up lady from Alienator, still wearing her Alienator costume!

It makes perfect sense that the third film in Luigi Cozzi's HERCULES trilogy is called SINBAD and doesn't feature Hercules. It's still got Lou Ferrigno a moob-flexing hero. The special effects are exactly like those of the HERCULES films. And the whole thing is just as hilarious.
     However, this one is directed for the most part by Enzo Castellari, who apparently couldn't be arsed finishing the film which resulted in it being shelved until Luigo Cozzi appeared, gave it some of that 'Cozzi magic' (which is why we get to see a shot of Disco Space, just like STARCRASH and those previous Herc films), and added a PRINCESS BRIDE-like narrative where Daria Nicolodi tells a very confused girl the entire story, which was written by Edgar Allen Poe (really?).
     Daria's narrative details how the city of Basra was the happiest place on Earth as the Caliph was a good guy and his daughter was all set to marry Prince Ali, one of Sinbad's crew (which also includes Ennio Girolami as a Viking, Hal Yamanouchi as a colourful Chinese warrior and a same sex couple who serve as comedy relief and on-ship duties). All is good until the Caliph's advisor Jaffar (John Steiner, going for gold in the pantomime bad guy stakes) makes the land evil, hypnotises the caliph and sends Sinbad down into the cellar where things become rather funny.
     Finding himself in a pit of plastic snakes, Herc, I mean Sinbad, smooth talks these poisonous reptiles into thinking he's their pal and that he won't hurt them. It looked pretty painful to me when he tied the lot of them together to make a rope, so maybe the lesson is that snakes shouldn't trust large-breasted oiled up men. Sinbad then invades a torture room where all his mates are and punches loads of bad guys into a piranha tank (including an uncredited Massimo Vanni, whom he's already punched in the throne room in an earlier melee).
     I don't proclaim to have the brains to understand Jaffar's complex bollocks 'five jewels' plan at all, but somehow he's got these magic jewels which he sends around the world, causing the film to descend into video game territory as Hercbad goes off to seek out and retrieve the jewels in various lands, most of them involving some sort of "boss battle" with a ridiculous monster.
     Never mind the rest of the plot, just be on the look-out for the various chuckle-tastic happenings assaulting your looking-eyes as the film thunders on. See Sinbad and his mates get attacked by a bunch of zombie pirate monsters. See Sinbad punch a zombie pirate monster right through the chest and pull his heart out. Laugh hysterically as it turns out the zombie pirate monster's heart has a little zombie pirate monster face!
     Rock monsters, slime monsters, undead knights, nothing is more funnier in this film than John Steiner's turn as Jaffar. Steiner can play subtle bad guys - like Beauty Smith in the WHITE FANG films, or Rudy from THE CRIMINALS ATTACK, THE POLICE RESPOND, so I can only guess that he made the conscious decision to go way over the top for some reason, maybe just for his own amusement (or maybe because this is primarily a children's film, which is always something to keep in mind when watching them). Whatever the reason is, his finger-jabbing, eye-rolling, screaming performance makes the film much more entertaining than it would have been.
     On the whole, Sinbad is not as non-stop crazy as the two Hercules films, but it's worthy enough to be part of the "Lou Ferrigno playing a mythical character in a film involving Luigi Cozzi in some way" genre.

Slap the Monster on Page One (1972, Italy, Drama/Giallo, Director: Marco Bellocchio)
Notable actors: Gian Maria Volonte! Laura Betti! John Steiner! Jacques Herlin!

Gian Maria Volonte plays a man who is seemingly devoid of a soul, a man who will let nothing at all get in his way to produce the results he wants. Volonte is an editor for a right-wing newspaper in politically troubled Milan and even manages to use a petrol bomb attack on his own office as a way to influence the masses to vote the way he wants them to vote in the upcoming elections. Just think what he could have done with Facebook/Twiiter/Whatever they use in the time era you're reading this in!
     When a young school girl is raped and murdered, Volonte is practically rubbing his hands together with glee, as he sees it as another opportunity to cast a bad light on the left wing. He's even more pleased when the suspect turns out to be a left-wing radical, and is determined, through hysterical headlines and speculation, to make a scapegoat of the suspect, and his associates, regardless of whether he's actually innocent or not. However, a young, idealistic journalist at the newspaper might spoil his plans...
     It's stating the obvious, but the main attraction here is Volonte's acting. Nothing, simply nothing, will throw him off his quest to get the exact headline he wants in that newspaper, and it's even hinted that he doesn't particularly have any strong right wing feelings and is just doing it because he can. His meetings with the equally evil industrialist John Steiner are chilling, as they discuss murder in terms of voting predictions. Even Volonte's own family are detached to the point where they barely look at him and merely watch him being interviewed on television as he rants about how stupid they are. I did love his speech about the difference between what people say and what people think. Chillingly true in the time we live in.
     Laura Betti also puts in a good turn as a witness who is suckered in by Volonte, as does Jacques Herlin, who seems to find all the subterfuge amusing above anything else. In among all this there is a murder to solve too, giving the film a slight giallo flavour which is fitting considering the year it was made.

The Squid/Lo Scugnizzo (1979, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Alfonso Brescia)
Notable actors: Marco Girodino! Gianni Garko! Rik Battalgia! Lucio Montanaro!

You know Oliver Twist, right? The kid in this film is, like, MEGA Oliver Twist. Not only is he an orphan, he can't go to school, his adopted mother is terminally ill, they haven't had electricity in their house for three years and have to perform songs in the street for cash, he's also thrown in jail for robbery and murder, and also ends up siding with the Gomorrah. "Please can I have some more?" The kid here doesn't even have 'some' to begin with, let alone the chance to ask for more. And he's only nine. NINE! The only thing he didn't do during this film was go blind, and there was a bit in the toilet in jail where I thought he had.
     Gennaro is pretty tough seeing as how his mother is a fallen star singing for pennies, but when she gets ill, they can't afford to get her medicine and that's where Gennaro ends up blackmailing bag-snatchers and ending up with a Fagan-like boss. Sadly, the Artful Dodger of this venture hates Gennaro, and a failed attempt to frame Gennaro ends in the bad guy's death, which leads Gennaro in the dodgy direction of being in jail while his surrogate mother and faithful dog are outside. He doesn't sing a song about his mother that makes everyone cry like Mario Merola would, but he does have a crazy dream about heaven where his surrogate mother is the Virgin Mary!
     This insanely bi-polar film swerves from being a comedy (the bit in the hospital where big fat loudmouth Lucio Montanaro does his trademark screaming rant before being crushed by a bus) to severe melodrama as Gennaro's surrogate mother can't get to see him in jail due to not actually being his mother to an outright Eurocrime film involving Gennaro helping gangster Rik Battalgia take down some bad guys. This actually makes the film highly entertaining, because this all adds to the madness and the film is never boring for a second. For all those fans of Naples-based tear-jerkers out there, we have such trademarks as pizza eating, coffee drinking, dinner eating, extremely loud screaming passing for everyday conversation, cigarette selling, boat sailing, singing, traffic problems, people arguing with each other loudly and Gianni Garko as a documentary maker making a film rightly called 'Chaos'. This is Naples in a nutshell and rather enjoyable.
     I'm confused, however, as to who actually put subtitles to this thing. I've had this film on my list for years due to my obsession with watching Alfonso Breschia's love letters to Naples, but never thought someone would actually translate this madness. I think the only two Alfonso Brescia/Napoli-based films I haven't watched is the tear-jerker TRADIMENTO ("Betrayal"), where Mario Merola plays an octopus stew seller, and the one where Mario Merola has to pretend an adopted baby is his wife's natural child. That sounds like a laugh, eh? It would have been funnier if he had to pretend an octopus was his natural child, or something.

Titanic: The Legend Goes On... (2000, Italy, Animation, Director: Camillo Teti)
Notable actors: David Brandon! Edmund Purdom! Jacques Stany! WHAT WERE YOU ALL THINKING?

This notorious bad film is made with such contempt for the audience that it truly deserves to be known as one of the worst animated film of all times. Put it this way: the running time of the film is seventy minutes, but the film ends at fifty-seven minutes in, leaving a further thirteen minutes consisting of very slow end credits.
     You know the story of the Titanic, right? But what if that story involved talking animals, the CINDERELLA story, a bit of 101 DALMATIONS, a fucking rap song sung by a dog, a disturbing amount of large animated cleavage, a bit of LADY AND THE TRAMP, and a Mexican band of mice? Then, if you took that lot and gave it to an animation team who had just ingested twenty Valium each, giving them two hours to cobble together some footage before bursting in on them, taking what they'd managed to cobble together, burning half of it to make your job harder, and finishing it all off by using William Burrough's 'cut-up' technique, you'd end up with something probably better than TITANIC: THE LEGEND GOES ON.
     This endurance test is bad enough, what with all the slapstick, vomit inducing love story and arsehole animals helping a human girl get her necklace back and meet Prince Charming, but the film really gets into trouble once the ship hits the iceberg. I swear I have never seen a film use Godfrey Ho's 'cut and paste' techinique on itself!  The amount of recycled footage within the film is astonishing. As the boat sinks we get to see the same footage of the hull bursting, people panicking, a lifeboat descending, a flare firing, the lead girl reacting, a kid crying, over and over and over again, then again, with reverse shots! You've got to marvel at the sheer audacity of it all, and the clear lack of any kind of care into what the end product will be.
     Due to it's badness (and it's a bad-bad film, not a good-bad film), this is one of more well known Italian films out there, and it's also one of the worst. What I can't help but wondering is why I can't get a hold of Camillo Teti's other films when I actually own this on DVD. Don't start thinking I paid full fucking price for this though - I got it in a car boot sale for about ten pence.
     For a musical, there was only three songs, too, one of which is the traumatising rapping dog song "It's Party Time". I showed this to my kids and one of them cringed so much he actually turned inside out. So thanks for that, Camillo Teti.

Todo Modo a.k.a. One Way Or Another (1976, Italy, Drama/Sci-fi/Giallo, Director: Elio Petri)
Notable actors: Gian Maria Volonte! Marcello Mastrioanni! Mariangela Maleto! Franco Citti!
Ennio Morricone Soundtrack!

What a film! A mixture of political and religious satire and critique mixed with a giallo-like murder mystery, dystopia, and who knows what else, TODO MODO actually deserves to be as long as it is and should be seen by more people.
     As an epidemic ravages Italy (why does that sound familiar?), the ruling party head away to a religious retreat for spiritual cleansing. This clinical place, full of white sculptures depicting various scenes from the bible, is run by Don Gaetano (Marcello Mastrioanni, and if he's acted better anywhere outside this film, I've not seen it), a self-confessed 'bad priest' who by definition also ensures the longevity and strength of the Church. Don Gaetano is superficially a pious, hot-blooded religious man determined to help the politicians cleanse their souls, but he also seems to give drugs to various guests, plot with others, and have a special bond with Gian Maria Volonte, whom the others refer to as 'The President'. Since watching this film I've discovered he's playing a parody of the then President Moro, whom he would later actually play in the film THE MORO AFFAIR.
     Volonte also has his wife secreted away in his room, and they have a very complicated relationship where his wife (Mariangela Maleto) is more like his mother. Volonte is also a man of two sides - his outward persona is that of a scared, anxious man looking for absolution, whereas inwardly he seeks to destroy his enemies and seize power. There's many a shady dealing going on between Volonte and his inner circles, Gaetano and Volonte's superior, and a maverick called Voltrano who seems to have a whole lot of damning evidence against everyone.
     Oh, and most of the film takes place in a complicated science fiction-like underground bunker full of mass surveillance and the film takes a right turn into outright weirdness when it develops that there's a murderer among the politicians. When the bodies start piling up (and they really do start piling up), it becomes clear that someone has an ulterior motive. But what does it all mean?
     Don't ask me. However, the endlessly inventive camera work, clinical set design, arty visual composition, and especially acting, won me over right from the start with this film. Elio Petri always made something interesting, and this one is outstanding. Volonte and Mastrioanni seem to be trying to outdo each other here, with Volonte's bipolar pious/scheming character and Mastrioanni's effortless conveying of Don Gaetano's razor sharp mind just bursting out of the screen every time they start glaring at each other.
     Like A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY, Ennio Morricone's soundtrack is a mix of industrial groans and atonality. This was yet another film that proves Elio Petri to be one of the most original of Italian directors, as both this and QUIET PLACE are masterpieces.

Tortilla Road (1991, Italy, Crime, Director: Fabrizio De Angelis)
Notable actors: Antonio Sabato Jnr! Old Lou Castel! Strangely not aged too badly Franco Diogene! David Warbeck!

Hilariously bad action film from Fabrizio De Angelis. Some people may be offended by the film's blandness and lack of excitement, but the awful acting, predictable plot, bad continuity and zero effort dubbing pushes everything into the unintentionally funny territory. Just check out the dubbing of the singer in the country band in the bar - it's brilliant! Somehow the usual dubbing guy who isn't Nick Alexander has taken it upon himself to sing country and western songs in the background of one scene in such a half-arsed fashion I'm not sure I even picked up a single bit of the dialogue I was supposed to be listening to!
     Now, no one could ever claim that Antonio Sabato Snr was that great an actor, but have you seen Junior Sabato in action? If you have, it probably means you accidentally switched your television channel to Sy-Fy by accident, because mostly he appears in the terrible CGI monsters movies on there, and no one in their right mind, including his dad I imagine, would actively seek out his work. Here, he plays some young jerk who rescues a nun called Aurora from dirty rich businessman Lou Castel, goes off for a while, then comes back to town to help some old drunk mine for gold. Aurora is now a floozy, Castel wants revenge, and Sabato finds himself accused of murder.
     The budget here looks like it was collected the day before filming in a charity can collection at a mildly busy train station, and I'd imagine the actors weren't paid much, which would explain both Castel and Warbeck's phoned in acting. It's hard to tell what Sabato's trying to convey as his acting spectrum runs from 'constipated scowling' to 'granite statue' to 'painting of a man with no expression'. I was totally confused as he got all uppity that Aurora, who he'd met only once, was a bit of a goer, but then the next minute he was into her. I did find it funny when they shared a bottle of whiskey together, then went off to fly in a plane, and threw the empty bottle of whisky out of the plane in mid-flight. Ah, care free young love.
     Even the action sequences are flat and filmed as if director Fabrizio De Angelis was shouting instructions from a toilet while he was having a shit. Yet still, the general crapness of it all worked for me. I think I have some sort of bug mind you, so for all I know I just dreamt this entire film in a fever. Best bit was when floozy girl tells Sabato Junior she's going to hitch out of town, and then a car immediately pulls up behind her and offers her a lift.
     Fabrizio De Angelis must have thought this one was crap, because there's not dozens of sequels to it like those high-octane KARATE WARRIOR films, insurance company nightmare THUNDER WARRIOR films, and Unemployed Listless Man Watching TV and Scratching His Balls Warrior films.

Two Magnum .38s For A City Full of Corpses (1975, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Mario Pinzauti)
Notable actors: Luigi Pistilli! Gordon Mitchell! Guido Leontini!

Dino Strano seems to be an odd choice for a hero in a Eurocrime film. With hair like late Irish Eurovision Song Contest presenter and all-rounder Terry Wogan matched with a horrendous, ill-fitting suit and a huge kipper tie, he's about as far removed from Maurizio Merli as you can get. In fact, he reminds me of this guy we used to see outside the gates at school who would always be having an argument with himself. More surreal still is the matching of this guy with a bad guy played by Italian Guido Leontini, who also resembles a long-term unemployed man who owns one set of clothes and spends his time between a bar, a bookkeepers, and the local job centre. You know the type - they smell of overused vegetable oil and cheap tobacco and always tell stories that go "So I fuckin' says to him...".
     This film comes from the outer reaches of Italian cinema and it's very hard to find information on it, so let's go ahead with the plot and get it over and done with. Dino Strano plays a struggling writer who cannot afford to keep his lover and secretary Silvia, so she ends up turning to prostitution. Strano also has a shady past where he was a button man for the mafia in Sicily, but a kindly Don set him up on the road to fame with the writing, which led to nothing. Now, Strano wants Silvia to give up being a hooker and return to him, but he has her pimp Piero to contend with.
     Piero I guess is just thinking of his finances, but this prompts a war between Piero and Strano which starts off innocently enough with a punch up and Silvia being smacked around, but the next thing you know Strano is turning up at Piero's club to beat him up and Piero is putting a couple of slugs in Strano's leg. This sparks off the interest of policeman Luigi Pistilli (I'm guessing so, because the otherwise good Pistilli looks bored out of his mind here), and when Piero is killed in a hit and run, Pistilli thinks Strano has something to do with. Then again, he was in hospital, so who did do it?
     It's about then Guido Leontini, another gangster connected to the same gang as Piero, contacts Strano. Now I've got to admit that something got lost in translation at this point for me, but Strano ends up owing the mob a lot of cash (either compensation for Piero or paying to keep Sylvia off the streets). Strano, while pretending to make the money required while also setting up a double cross, also falls in with a young artist lady whom he puts the moves on. I thought this melted Johnny Cash-looking mofo was loyal to Silvia, but there you go. It was the seventies after all.
     I guess I should mention that Gordon Mitchell is supposed to be the head of the crime syndicate, but he's in the film even less than Luigi Pistilli. In fact, there is no other actor better than 'doing a Kinski' than Gordon Mitchell (excepting Kinski himself). "Doing a Kinski" involves appearing in the film as little as possible while taking top billing and the wages that go with it. Check out the film GANGSTERS' LAW. It's a very RESERVOIR DOGS-like film where Kinski barely interacts with the cast at all. There are a few Westerns like that too with him reacting to shots off-screen like Godfrey Ho is behind the camera. John Ireland was bad for this too, and much later in the lifetime of Italian cinema, Maurice Poli and Paul Muller.
     What happens in this film is that Strano takes things too far and gets a severe beating for his troubles which results in him having a ruptured liver (and being pissed on). Now he's got a limited amount of time to sort everything out before he dies, so it's a pity that besides the odd brief bit of violence, this film waits one hour and fourteen mintues in before including any proper kind of action. Before that it's just talk, talk, talk, and there's only so much mileage you can get out of a crappy looking nightclub where people dance like it's still the sixties.
     Like 99% of Eurocrime films, it's still not painfully terrible. I don't know how they manage it.

A Violent Life (1962, Italy, Crime, Director: Paolo Heusch and/or Brunello Rondi)
Notable actors: Franco Citti! Enrico Maria Salerno!

Another early film that details how the disaffected teenage boys of Italy act out in various violent ways and blame it on society, starring Franco Citti, who did pretty much the same film in the previous year's ACCATTONE. Like that film, this one is also written by Pier Paolo Pasolini but not directed by him, for this film is directed by Paolo Heusch of WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS' DORMITORY fame! And to add to the confusion Brunello Rondi is also listed as director. He directed the absolutely jaw-dropping film THE DEMON, which I recommend more than just about any other film on this page.
     Judging by the relentless grim content of A VIOLENT LIFE, I'm going to speculate that Pasolini was like the Morrisey of Italian films. In the film ACCATTONE, Franci Citti's character is so self-centred that he even tricks his own estranged son into thinking he wants a hug when all he really wants is to steal the necklace the boy is wearing. His character in A VIOLENT LIFE, Tommaso, is nearly as bad as that, at least to begin with, but at least is changed, or tries to change because of certain events.
     Just like all those other films that have jobless, macho youths hanging around, this one starts with a bunch of jobless, macho youths hanging around. They are all pretty interchangeable, save for Tommaso and a mate of his who does a bit of singing. Tommaso and his mates don't fancy the idea of working, but they do love to go out at night and terrorise people, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE style. They got out and find a necking couple to beat up and possibly rape (bearing in mind this is nineteen sixty-two, that's kind of glossed over). Then, they rob a gas station but end up with a pittance. Tommaso's life doesn't seem to be going anywhere until he bumps into the innocent Stella, and now he's got to try and act like he's not a complete asshole.
     The first date involves going to the cinema to watch a HERCULES film! Stella's acting all engrossed, but Tommaso wants a little loving and doesn't pick up on any of the subtle hints Stella is giving off that he's not getting any that night. I mean, she was acting like she was interested in an Italian Peplum film for a start man. Nobody does that. Stella doesn't maintain contact however, so Tommaso's brings in his singer friend to serenade her, but there's a problem - his guitar is in the pawn shop and he needs cash. Tommaso knows how to get - he simply robs a young woman in the street and it's job done. Remember - Tommaso - Asshole.
     The serenade goes well, although I was wondering why Tommaso brought about ten of his mates with him. Stella switches on her bedroom light and looks out of the window, just before a bunch of other guys turn up and start taking the piss out of Tommaso. He deals with it the only way he knows how - by stabbing the guy to death (You see? Asshole). This gets Tommaso eighteen months in prison for manslaughter, and yet somehow Stella decides to stay by his side.
     That's just the start of Tommaso and Stella's journey together. Tommaso is all about getting a job and doing right by Stella, but his macho insecurity leads to him giving her a slap when they try to love in the middle of some wasteground (classy!). Will Tommaso ever be able to change in order to finally win over Stella for good? Maybe a bout of TB and a run-in with communists may change his mind, or a biblical level flood.
     I sound kind of down on this film but I enjoyed it. Franco Citti's a strange kind of actor. He can show rage well, but other emotions just result in a blank, incredulous star, and I think that's a deliberate move on Citti's part to convey that Tommaso hasn't really got a clue what to do when faced with something that isn't part of his clique of chest thumping macho men. Not to mix confusion with stupidity though, because Tommaso can turn into a viper at the drop of a hat, still wearing the same expression. The cinematography is as dark as the tone of the film itself, and set mostly in some part of Rome that's part ghetto, part apocalyptic landscape. I couldn't help wonder how they did that flood scene in the shanty town. Outstanding set design there.
     This is probably one of those neo-realist films, isn't it? I don't know much about them, mainly because you have to pay for them and I'm a tight-arsed Scotsman.

Wanted Ringo a.k.a. The Revenge of Ringo (1970, Italy, Western/Giallo, Director: Mario Pinzauti)
Notable actors: Mickey Hargitay...for about ten minutes

It says here that the film was due to star Mickey Hargitay, but he had to leave after his son was attacked by a tiger in California? Weird. Was it that event which pushed this whole film into giallo territory? We'll never know, but the plot does centre around his character vanishing into thin air.
     You see, Mickey was hired by rich landowner Don Alonso to figure out what was causing a mysterious run of deaths on his ranch. Mickey instead fell in love with Don Alonso's daughter Pilar and the next thing you know, he's finding strange totems in his room and doing a disappearing act. Some time later, Mickey's brother Ringo and a sheriff fella come looking for Mickey. Separately, mind you. I'm not sure if it was worth pointing that out.
     Ringo gets hired by some enemy of Don Alonso but on the way to the ranch this guy has some sort of fit and dies, spouting a mysterious name through all the foam he's spitting up. Ringo finally gets to the ranch to find his brother still gone, Pilar now single and giving him the eye, and many people either having fits and dying or dying in the regular 'getting shot/stabbed' method popular in these films. But who is the killer and where are they getting those little totems from?
     Ridiculously cheap in every aspect, from the sets, the acting, the editing, the script and the music, the film still delivers in the mystery stakes as Ringo and the sheriff run around the place trying to get clues from the rapidly diminishing pool of witnesses and accomplices. There's no skimping on the body count either, as the killer cuts a swathe through the cast and Ringo guns down a shitload of hired guns working for the killer.
     Plus, the film is only 73 minutes long so won't take up much of your time. It's oddly enjoyable.

War of the Planets (1966, Italy, Sci-fi, Director: Antonio Margheriti)
Notable actors: Franco Nero! Tony Russel! John Bartha (it says on the IMDB - I didn't see him. Incidentally, both Wikipedia and the IMDB don't have any mention on Bartha being dead, which would make him either one hundred or nearly one hundred years old!), Umberto Raho! That guy who was in that Jess Franco film called Succubus. I'd love to tell you his name but the internet is so shitty tonight, so I guess we'll just never know. Thanks, Virgin Media!

As I continue my journey through the cinema of the past in order to avoid mentally confronting the events of just now, I have learned that in science fiction films of the sixties and seventies, you can make dialogue more futuristic by dropping in cosmological terms into the script and therefore I'm going to do the same in my galactic review of this space-ass astro-film.
     Not to be confused with Alfonso Breschia's COSMOS: WAR OF THE PLANETS, which is by default the best of Breschia's space anti-epics*, WAR OF THE PLANETS is one of the several dozen or so sci-fi films Antonio Margheriti made in the sixties before moving on to actual good films. This one starts of promising enough with dangerously high galactic-cheese levels, but soon descends into boredom as the horrible alien enemy turns out to be...smoke. By the end, I felt like I was on some sort of intergalactic journey, only to find myself the only passenger onboard the spaceship that hadn't been put into hypersleep. It honestly took me three Earth days to get through this one. Mostly because I was watching Karen videos on stellar-YouTube and playing Fortnite. Those kids aren't very good at shooting people in the face!
     The film details the antics of Earth's frontline defence, made up of several space stations that have names like Delta-one, Gamma-three, and all that bollocks. Everybody is all happy and getting ready to do some astro-sixties terrible dancing to crappy solar-beat music, but on one of the many different space stations, some green smoke has possessed Michel Lemoine (NOW the internet is working) and he's going to be spouting some pretty insane lunar-bollocks in order to get the many good guys in the film to understand what the fuck the aliens want from Earth. I'm still not sure myself.
     In what turned out to be the only enjoyable part of the film, all the defenders of Earth have a big party and some astronauts even venture outside to use their bodies to spell out "Happy New Year" with their bodies. Anyone familiar with Margheriti's work knows that this means he gets to break out the old models, which is still more realistic than the actors who have to actually pretend to space walk, which in this film means being swung around on a hook. It was pretty funny when one guy has to pretend he was spacewalking while firmament-drunk.
     Things start getting boring when this green smoke starts turning up on Margheriti's model sets and various crews try to fight it, which leads to various actors trying to shoot smoke with their '.38s' and then turning to stone (kind of). Most people the smoke attacks end up in some kind of suspended animation, and there was some sort of explanation for this, but by the time they got around to it, I was almost comatose from how boring the film was and for all I know I was having some sort of space-hallucination.
     I haven't enough life span left to track down all of Antonio Margheriti's sci-fi films (although I get the feeling I'm going to regret saying that), but this is astro-marginally better than ASSIGNMENT: OUTER SPACE and BATTLE OF THE WORLDS. It's still not good though, which is why I haven't mentioned anything about the actors or even characters. Franco Nero is in it, but he and various other actors all look the same, so it's hard to keep track with what's going on. I think there was a bit about food appearing in strange things that dropped from the ceiling and a bunch of dead spacemen at the bottom of a bin, but who knows. You see, this is how you review a film - by hazily recalling things you might have seen in the film, then trying to make lame jokes based around cosmological phrases.
     Now astro-fuck off before I kick you in the supermassive black hole, you low-ionization nuclear emission line region, red-shifting, galactic bulge!
* For the record, it has been detailed that there's five of these bloody films, but there's only four. Listed on the IMDb are BATTLE OF THE STARS and WAR OF THE PLANETS, which are the same film. If you want to save several hours of your life, I can detail these films for you. COSMOS: WAR OF THE PLANETS is the best of the four, as it goes down a kind of 'PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES' horror route in its last third, It also, very strangely, has a character sing 'I belong to Glasgow', which is where I live. WAR OF THE ROBOTS is the most action-orientated film of the four, but if you've watch that then you'll know that this is a bad thing. STAR ODYSSEY is more humorous than the others, including two robots who are suicidal because they can't have sex. THE BEAST IN SPACE is the sexier of the four, and includes Sirpa Lane as a space chick being threatened by a goat-legged fellow with a huge tummy banana but features little actual action and is the worst of the lot.
     So there you go. I've wasted my time so you don't have to.

We Still Kill The Old Way (1967, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Elio Petri)
Notable actors: Gian Maria Volonte! Irene Papas! Gabriele Ferzetti! Luigi Pistilli! Leopoldo Trieste? Didn't see him

Gian Maria Volonte's got himself into some hot water this time! Doesn't he know that in Sicily, if someone gets murdered, you just keep your trap shut and let whoever the police randomly arrest go to jail?
     Luigi Pistilli keeps getting letters telling him he's a dead man, and it's making him a bit paranoid. Nevertheless, one morning he says goodbye to his wife, then his lover, and sets off with his friend to go hunting, only to find himself the prey. Two corpses later, we've got a big Sicilian funeral to go to while the police chat about the people attending, including a well-respected lawyer (Gabriele Ferzetti) whose cousin (Irene Papas) was married to one of the victims, and Gian Maria Volonte, a professor friend of the two who starts poking in places that should not be poked.
     Pistilli is generally thought to be the target as he was a bit of a fanny rat and some family members are arrested, but they are all illiterate so how could they cobble together those threatening letters? Volonte also finds that the words in the letter were from a Vatican-based newspaper, which leads him to the priesthood. Oh, and a lot of people are related in this film, so one of the priests is the uncle of Papas and Ferzetti.
     It's a formula you'll see a lot of in these films, so it's just as well the lead actors are good! Volonte has the hots for the widow Papas and has to basically restrain himself every times he meets her, while Papas kind of has the hots for him too, leading to all kinds of awkward moments. Volonte is very good at the bookish professor who is just too smart and curious for his own good, while Papas just smoulders as the widow.
     It looks absolutely scorching hot in Sicily in this film, and just like Damiano Damiani's DAY OF THE OWL, the island itself is a character, with all the strange culture that lives on its land.
     The only let down of the film is that the plot is a bit predictable, but it's by no means a bad film.

White Pop Jesus (1980, Italy, Musical, Director: Luigi Petrini)
Notable actors: Stella Carnacina!

I love WHITE POP JESUS, me. It takes all the funk and disco of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, tries to mix it with the usual Italian comedy, has a Jesus in it who just kind of wanders about, judging people, and yet provides so many awesome and unintentionally funny moments that in my melted brain constitutes some sort of classic. If you don't use the word 'classic' in the way it's supposed to be used.
     Be warned though - I've yet to find a copy of this film with subtitles, even auto-translate titles, so the film's dialogue has had to be interpreted by my basic, clunky grasp of Italian. Not that the film is big on plot to be honest. It's more like a series of scenes strung together before another kick-ass disco tune starts up.
     Jesus, who seems to live on the set of FAME, gets fed up one day and decides to come to Earth. This he does by changing into a white costume and walking into some smoke, which leads to him walking out of the sea in Italy. Immediately he finds himself stopping two Mafiosi trying to extort money from office worker Stella Caracina. This he does by reminding the criminals that Hell and the Devil awaits. The gangsters scarper, and Stella instantly falls in love with Jesus, who leaves her just long enough for her to sing the song "Unisex", which may be about Stella renouncing modern technology and working life to go off and follow Jesus, but using my command of Italian seems to be about a her desire to piss out of a window of a moving car in front of some nuns.
     Jesus in the meantime has bumped into the Devil and his entourage of dozens of dancers. The Devil shows Jesus the life of hedonism in a remarkably funky sequence (where, hilariously, Jesus guilt trips two gay men having a snog to the point that one of them walks away!). Meanwhile, the gangsters and various other corrupt members of society meet up to discuss how to fleece people of more money (I think), and also serve to introduce crappy slapstick that kind of disrupts all the awesome music.
     Stella isn't taking no for an answer from Jesus and even picks him up hitchhiking while dressed as a man, but Jesus gives her the slip. Jesus is having a kind of crisis of conscience at this point as he's supposed to be all virtuous and pure, and engages in a debate with God, where I'm pretty sure God gives him the go ahead to give Stella one! Get in there my son! I'm guessing God's going to be kind of tuning in there when Jesus does the business. I know I would. This also prompts another song from our divine duo which by my translation is about whether or not it is morally wrong to kidnap a bison and stuff loads of contraband up its arse in order to smuggle booze into Slovenia.
     I've got to admit that the Jesus action is kind of broken up in a bad way by the crime syndicate, as if they've been allocated the crappest songs of the film. So does the policeman and whatever he's up to, but then again Jesus gets to call on his Dad's wrath when two guys on a moped steal his scarf. He also somehow makes shoplifting okay for people and gets involved with some hippies. It's around this time the songs kind of dry up until Jesus comes up against heroin, and the Devil!
     When a guy overdoses in Jesus' arms and dies, he's got to go and find out what injecting skag is all about, which leads to another highlight - when Jesus meets the Devil in a cave full of junkies and we get a choreographed sequence where a thin dancing girl with spiky hair randomly changes into a giant syringe that the Devil then points at while smiling. AH! I get it - he's trying to tempt Jesus with some quality smack! Maybe Jesus could have tried some and then got his Dad to miracle that monkey off his back. Also, this entire sequence seems to happen in Christ's mind while he's holding a dead junky. It happens to us all at one time or another.
     I've also got to admit that the bit where Jesus stops two machine-gun toting nuns from dynamiting a TV mast went right over my head, but that just sets Jesus up with two extra female followers so we get another of my favourite songs, which may be called 'Jesus'. Now, in my work we get a lot of European students that come over to Scotland to witness how horrible it is here so they can appreciate the country they live in a little more (usually from Austria, Spain, or Italy) and one Italian girl was game enough to watch this particular song and try and translate it for me. Sadly, her translation was that the song was about the three girls going on about how Jesus was great and sweet, but I think she might have just been saying that in order for me to stop playing the film, because by my translation of the song is about the three girls begging Jesus to funnel feed them ice cream and cake until they all grow enormously fat in order that they can smother him to death with their collective gigantic arses in some sort of obesity-fuelled suicide pact.
     Eventually we get to my favourite song in the film, "Come Navigante", which was released as a single by the guy who plays Jesus (Awana Gana Agawanaganawanawagana Gananawanaganawa). There's even a promotional video for this song, and the b-side is another song from the film. I truly love this song, that plays out while Jesus leads his followers down into the town square. With it's strangely uplifting, gorgeous chorus, this song may be about how faith effects the human condition, but by my translation seems to be about Jesus inviting everyone he meets to go to the town centre so they can witness him buggering a frozen chicken back to life. Also, the song he sings when he gets to the square isn't so good.
     It's around this point that the film decides to include some plot when the accident-prone cop arrests everybody including Jesus (I think), due to a female Judas selling him out (once again, I think). We do get another song here sung by Stella, who laments losing Jesus forever, maybe, but by my translation the song seems to be about her not being able to decide what her favourite King Crimson album is. It all gets rather confusing by this point as it seems that rather than be in jail, Jesus would rather teleport back to heaven or something. I have no idea, to be honest. All the characters in the film appear in some sort of cattle grid shaped like a crucifix while an instrumental version of Come Navigante play out before some sort of storm happens.
     I've reviewed this film once before for the IMDB, and in that review I noted that I was very aware that I was the only person on Earth that was watching WHITE POP JESUS, and by extension, that meant that I was the only person in the universe watching WHITE POP JESUS. That's all paid off now as I have been entered into the Guinness Book of Records as The Person Who Has Watched WHITE POP JESUS The Most Times. I've watched it twice!

Wooden Overcoat a.k.a. Fear In the City [but not to be confused with Guiseppe Rosati's 1976 film Fear In The City a.k.a. Hot Stuff] (1981, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Gianni Manera)
Notable actors: Gianni Manera! Fred Williamson! Michel Constantin! Nello Pazzafini! Numerous Eurocrime muscle!

The IMDb description of this film covers only the first forty minutes of WOODEN OVERCOAT. Just like Gianni Manera's odd Crime/Giallo hybrid ORDERS SIGNED IN WHITE, this film packs in a remarkable amount of stuff, like Manera just wanted to include everything you get in a Eurocrime film.
     It's all done on the cheap mind you, and one-man film industry Manera isn't exactly the best director or actor, but I find his films pretty entertaining. Here he plays Antonio, son of Don Vincenzo, played by French actor Michel Constantin in 'old man' make-up, and this seems only be done so Manera can include a five-minute flashback later in the film. Don Vincenzo is dying and wants to leave New York to go back to Abruzzo and die in peace, which is a bit of an ask seeing he's a Mafia Don. The main problem, at least at the start of the film, is that black gangster Fred Williamson wants to take over Vincenzo's turf.
     Fred is all sass and cigars as usual, and I tip my hat to him multi-tasking by holding a business meeting and getting a blowjob at the same time, but don't get too attached to him as the action switches from New York to Abruzzo. Then Palermo. Then Calabria, and then Marseilles, then New York again and I think Lisbon then somewhere in Italy. Basically, Don Vincenzo can't get any peace as another Godfather has turned on him and he passes his powers on to Antonio (in a scene that literally looks like he's passing on psychic powers to Antonio). Manera also throws in a kind of Romeo and Juliet plot as one of Antonio's brothers gets involved with the daughter of the bad Godfather guy, and she may or may not be some kind of Dracula-like reincarnation of a girl Don Vincenzo fell in love with years ago.
     Basically this film is all over the place, but it sure isn't boring, as the body count goes through the roof and Don Antonio seems especially keen to kill just about everyone he comes across. In fact, the film moves so quickly and jumps around so much it’s hard keeping tabs on who works for who or even where anyone is supposed to be at any given time. The randomness factor is quite high too, from a transvestite hooker who changes his voice mid-sentence to utter this line: "They found them with Camels stuck in their mouth, and stuck in their asses too!"
     I wish this guy had made more films to be honest. He might look like a homeless guy has wandered on set and is rambling into the camera, but his films are unique!

The Working Class Goes To Heaven a.k.a. Lulu The Tool (1971, Italy, Drama, Director: Elio Petri)
Notable actors: Gian Maria Volonte! Plenty of other familiar faces too!
Ennio Morricone soundtrack!

This film is both fantasy and complete reality at the same time. Gian Maria Volonte plays an extremely efficient worker doing piecework in a factory, not even sure what the parts he produces are used for. At the same time, Volonte's precise rhythm and total concentration make him an object of hate among his fellow workers, all of whom are continually time-managed by snidey supervisors who mostly hide behind a yellow screen in an observation box. A large hand, index finger pointing down oppressively, is printed on the wall above the workers.
     Volonte is a good worker but not good at anything else. His son lives with his ex-wife and fellow worker. He can't get it up for his girlfriend, and her little boy spends his time totally consumed by television. Exhausted from working all day, Volonte's only break from routine is to visit a old colleague who has ended up in an asylum. Soon enough, Volonte begins to think that what this man is saying is making sense...
     Outside the factory, radical communists screams slogans through megaphones and clash with the unions as the workers trudge in to start their shift. Volonte gets to work right away, but his fellow workers are grinding him down, and a lapse in concentration means that Volonte loses a finger and his whole world outlook changes.
     Be warned, this film has so many scenes of people screaming into microphones, or crowds of people screaming at each other, that if you're not careful you'll end up with a headache. I'm guessing that might be part of intention of the film to a certain extent. With the loss of the finger Volonte loses his urge to be the best worker and starts to see how his life in the factory may not be a life at all, but all those folk screaming about smashing the system or how unity can get better rights, are they any less self-serving than those in charge at the factory?
     Petri does everything he can to make the factory look like some sort of prison, continually filming through bars and even doing the same thing later with a school. Ennio Morricone's soundtrack also enforces the idea of some kind of industrial trap where the self is wiped away in place of production. The film is run down and grey on purpose, but there are a few bits of Petri's weird visuals here and there - like the strange diagram Volonte faces while getting psychologically tested.
     The main reason for watching this is for Gian Maria Volonte, who comes across as a guy who isn't that smart, a man who makes an arse of everything and in losing the only thing he was good at starts unravelling. In the Italian language version you can hear how fragile and hysterical Volonte sounds. He seems to mess up just about every conversation and even when he thinks he's made the wrong choice, it dawns on him that he's not the only one that's shallow.
     Good film this. Nearly two hours long though.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963, Italy, Comedy, Director: Vittoria De Sica)
Notable actors: Sofia Loren! Marcello Mastroianni Carlo Croccolo!

Although the classier Italian films have their many down-points, like not featuring people having their brains pulled out the back of their heads, not featuring modified dune buggies battling it out in a quarry, and not featuring Massimo Vanni, we mustn't neglect them. Case in point is YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW, which I'm reviewing for nostalgic purposes.
     I first watched this film on Italian television while on holiday some time ago and was taken in by the anthology aspect of it and the acting talents of both Sofia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, who in all three stories included play a couple of varying closeness and class. The comedy in the film isn't forced or overly silly either, like some other comedies produced by Italy. It's more of a snapshot of the sixties and a much different world.
     The first story we get is set in Naples where Sofia Loren is illegally selling cigarettes on the streets (the act of hooky ciggy selling is covered well in at least a dozen Mario Merola films), and Sofia has gotten herself into a lot of trouble. She's been fined for punting knock-off smokes and refused to pay the fine. She's also managed to side-step the seizing of her furniture by bailiffs through hiding it with her neighbours. This results in a warrant being issued for her arrest. A passing lawyer comments to Sofia's husband, Marcello Mastroianni, that Sofia is going to get jailed, until he realises that Sofia is several months into what I call "Irish Toothache", and there's no way the police can arrest a pregnant woman and must allow six months after birth for her to nurse the child. Sofia's plan - getting dropping babies - avoid the barry hole!
     However, there's a slight flaw in the plan. Sofia and Marcello already have three kids, and by the time they get to having seven kids, Marcello is a burned out husk who can't get a moments peace because the family share a one bedroom flat (Naples being extremely densely populated) and he has to look after the kids while Sofia's out selling boosted snouts. Mastroianni performs this beautifully by the way - pale, dishevelled, almost insane with exhaustion. Inevitably, this leads to Marcello not being able to get up and angry to produce more kids. Sofia gets desperate, but is she desperate enough to let another man perform 'last hot dog in the tin' as surely the situation would be down there after seven kids? You'll have to watch the film to find out. Or not. I couldn't give a fuck either way to be honest.
     What struck me about this segment is that everyone, Everyone, is really nice to each other. The neighbours, the fellow ciggy punters, the folks in the prison, even the police. Everyone is nice to each other in this sequence. Then after watching I'm sucked back into 2020 where everyone seems to have, during lockdown, taken their unbalanced online personas out into the real world which has resulted in conflict, raging arguments of political absolutes that no one will budge from, videos of supermarket customers screaming at staff about their right not to wear masks, rising racial tensions, lunatics in charge everywhere that people will follow into oblivion just because what they preach adheres to that person's world view, and people just being total cunts to each other. What happened to the human race?
     Anyway, the second sequence involves a very rich wife of a business magnate (Loren) picking up a lover she met the night before (Mastrioanni). He's a quiet, poetic person who's soft words have seemingly changed Loren's world view, as before she was an entitled trophy wife. Now she's an entitled trophy wife driving a Rolls Royce while talking about how she can give up everything just to be with Mastrioanni, who looks doubtful from the the outset as Loren spends her time shunting her Rolls into the car in front of her, nearly running people over, and generally moaning about money, because she's never had to do without it. Most remarkable here is the contrast between how the actors play these characters compared to the first segment.
     Third and last part involves high class hooker Loren living in an apartment on the famous Piazza Navona in Rome (I get the feeling they underplayed how much this would actually cost). She's a nice girl at heart and chooses her clients only if she likes them. She has neighbours who don't approve however. An old Nona and her husband know the truth about Loren, but their Grandson idolises her and won't believe she's a prostitute. He's just about the enter the priesthood and it seems that Loren's presence is putting a spanner in the work. Mastrioanni's role in this part is playing a politician customer of Loren who is totally head over heels with her and continually tries to get her into bed while failing miserably.
     This part also contains the most famous part of this film, where Loren does a striptease for Marcello. Up, periscope! Mind you, it's Sofia Loren we're talking about here, so don't expect to see anything. This is a great film that wears its heart on it sleeve. Acted perfectly. Looking perfect. ETC.

Zappatore (The Hoer) (1980, Italy, Drama, Director: Alfonso Brescia)
Notable actors; Mario Merola! Rik Battaglia! Lucio Montanero! Biagio Pelligra!

Mario Merola gives up the cigarette smuggler/mob boss with a heart/straight businessman role in Naples and relocates to the countryside as a humble zappatore (hoer), breaking his back day and night on the land, with loyal wife by his side. Mario doesn't mind, as all his money has gone to educating his son. The son in question is now a fully qualified lawyer, and is all set to head off to the big city (Naples of course) but not before Mario belts out another one his songs, as he is won't to do in these films.
     After a tearful farewell, Mario settles back into rural life, complicated by a money lender leaning on him to pay back his debts and the sinister interests of the local mafia Don (played by a suave Rik Battalgia). Mario can't pay back the money lender, who seems to have an ulterior motive, but luckily the local policeman is watching Mario's back and tells him to avoid the Don at all costs.
     Months pass without Mario and his distraught wife hearing from their son, and Mario dispatches to farm workers to track him down. One of these is played by Lucio Montanaro, who, if you've watched any of these films, you've definitely seen. He's the comedy element in this film, which is kind of needed as most of the film involves people either weeping, crying madly, or screaming in each other's faces. When he gets to Naples he finds the son won't talk to him and gets his sexy assistant to hand him a 100,000 lire note and a blank bit of paper, which Mario pretends to his increasingly depressed wife is an apologetic letter from his son.
     You see, his son has hooked up with a rich blonde heiress and is pretending to be a rich land owner orphan from a family of judges. He's ashamed of his rustic roots, to the point of even pretending his mother is a mad woman who mistakes him for her dead son. A tsunami of tears later, Mario's wife is on her death bed, Mario's heading to New York to get his son back, and the Mafia Don wants that land off of Mario.
     My favourite bit in this strangely watchable drama is when Mario turns up at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel to confront his son. The reaction of the posh people is so over the top its like Mario walked in naked, covered from head to toe in shit, rather than looking like a slightly dishevelled man. The best bit comes just after as Mario resolves the situation with a loud, sad song about how his son has abandoned him. Great stuff.
     Once again its Merola that makes these films, his overweight, emotional character is at odds with the usual hard case with a moustache you get in these films. His humanity once again shines through. I guess that's why he's so loved in Napoli.