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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.

The African Deal (1973, Italy/Gambia, Giallo [don't get your hopes up], Director: Giorgio Bontempi)
Notable actors: Calvin Lockhart! Yanti Somer! Anita Strindberg! George Hilton! Enrico Maria Salerno!

Picture your usual old school or 'soft giallo'* plot, with cold-hearted babes out to get their hands on some rich guy's money, some duplicitous playboys with strong, bushy moustaches trying it on, and a huge amount of cash at stake. All you have to do is swap the usual giant villa with the entire country of Gambia and you have THE AFRICAN DEAL.
     Big businessman (small actor) Enrico Maria Salerno wants to do a deal with a Gambian businessman in order to get his hands on a lumber business, but being quite shrewd, he personally hangs back in Italy and sends some of his employees instead: Chief negotiator George Hilton and his calculating wife Anita Strindberg, troubleshooter and racist asshole Antonio, and young, sexy kept woman Yanti Somer (of three Alfonso Brescia sci-fi films and Lucio Fulci's horror filled children's film THE RETURN OF WHITE FANG - where she burns to death!). This lot immediately assume supremacy over everyone when they arrive, even trying to get the logging company's representative Ruma to carry their bags.
     Ruma (Calvin Lockhart - King Willie from PREDATOR 2!), quickly proves to be much smarter than our four Europeans...not that they would notice. Hilton is keen to meet the elusive owner Kofi and strike a deal with him while trying to butter up Ruma into revealing company secrets. Anita Strindberg tries to come on to Ruma but is rebuffed, to which she is livid (she's not my type either Calvin so don't sweat it - she resembles David Bowie to me). Antonio just lords it over 'the blacks' while Yanti and Ruma seem to be eyeing each other up.
     Problems abound as it turns out that Yanti is Salerno's lover and is there as some sort of present for logging magnate Kofi, but then Ruma is charming her in his own way, showing her the terrible legacy the Portugese wrought with bringing slavery to the country. This leads to Yanti envisioning slavery back then, while walking about in said visions. I liked when they did that in KEOMA, and it works here too. Also, as always when you induce guilt-complex fuelled visions in young ladies, Ruma's got Yanti in the sack right after that. They also get it on up against a tree, leading to some very awkward camera angles with both Lockhart and Somer staring straight into the camera pulling sexual ecstasy faces. At least Lockhart does. Somer looks like she's trying to choose between curly or straight fries on a cafe menu but keeps thinking about something else altogether, like David Cassidy.
     The interracial love tryst causes consternation among Salerno's lackeys, with Antonio starting to scheme behind the scenes and Strindberg getting into some hilarious bitching sessions with Somer. Ruma also seems to be playing a game, introducing Somer to his boss Kofi, testing Somer's love, and Salerno turns up, throwing everything into confusion.
     Strangely watchable as you get to see a bunch of priveliged assholes get ring run around them by someone they perceive as inferior, THE AFRICAN DEAL is the kind of film you'd watch when bored of an afternoon. It's okay, but don't reserve a special time to watch it. It's also nearly two hours long, like anyone asked for that. Hilton, Salerno and Lockhart are pretty good here, but my major problem is with Riz Ortolani's soundtrack - it's 1973 man! Where's the funk?
     *'Soft Giallo' was a phrase I read on the IMDb in a review of this film. Is that a phrase or a typo? Either way, I'm stealing it and claiming it as my own.

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 Afterman (1985, Belgium, Sci-fi, Director: The Mysterious Rob Van Eyck)
Notable actors: Does their famous beer Stella Artois count? Back when it was extra strong, my brother drank eight pints of it, then walked across the entrance of a night club. Suddenly, several hours had passed and he was waist high in the canal that runs through our home town, nine miles east of the night club, and he had no memory of what occurred in that time. That's the power of Stella Artois!

Way in which various countries cope with life post-nuclear warfare:
    Britain: Struggle horribly to maintain agriculture during a nuclear winter, develop cataracts due to the raised ultraviolet radiation levels, die horribly of cancer in front of barely-literate offspring before they go and give birth to some nasty mutated horror-foetus (c.f THREADS [1984]).
     Australia: Don some huge shoulder-pads, modify cars into dune-buggy killing machines, eat dog food, kill everyone in pursuit of mankind's dwindling resources, mourn over death of gay lover due to severe head trauma caused by a boomerang thrown by a feral child. Meet Tina Turner. (c.f MAD MAX franchise).
     Italy: Pretty much the above but minus Tina Turner and on a much lower budget. Meet George Eastman but hopefully not get bummed by him. (c.f THE NEW BARBARIANS)
     Belgium: WALL TO WALL SEXY TIME AND RAPE! Plus beer and meat. AND MORE RAPE! Orally, for diversity!
     THE AFTERMAN is a Belgian post-apocalyptic film that features no dialogue, mainly because half the cast can't speak due to someone else's genitals being stuffed in their mouths. I mean, the guy we're meant to be rooting for starts out in a nice safe bunker full of televisions, but what he likes best is to eat maggots and have sex with a frozen cadaver. And he's the hero! And morally he's not even close to the mad shit that goes on in this film.
     This film plot wise is a bit disjointed to say the least, but the guy in the bunker finds a way out and while he's wandering about he meets some of the locals, who immediately subdue him so that one of them can arse-rape him (while some of the crowd knock one out - remind me never to go to Belgium). Once that's done, he stumbles upon a rich person's house where the owner forces a slave to give her underwater cunnilingus, drowning them in the process. Our hero sneaks off after that but gets caught by some farmer who keeps slaves to work and rape, so our boy gets roped into that shit.
     This farmer isn't the best employer in the world, because it turns out if you constantly whip and berate your employees, they will bash your brains out with a giant piece of wood, and therefore our hero gets to escape once again, only with a female companion that he has sex with several hundred times over the duration of the film. That's when they find the time between all the other sex scenes and rape.
     And that's pretty much the format of the film - our hero and his new wife travel the land, some people try to rape them, they find shelter somewhere, and those people providing shelter try and seduce or rape them. At one point the end up at a religious sanctuary where things seem fine until the wife finds out that the monks are orally raping the tenants and cutting their hearts out. They only have to impale a guy through the throat with a pitchfork in order to easily escape.
     As plotless as this is, there is some gore thrown in too - from eyeballs being ripped from heads to people being impaled on spikes, it's like the director just thought he'd throw loads of random offensive crap together for a laugh. I didn't mind it so much, A more upmarket critic would use the terms Grand Guignol and such like, but I need a pish so that's the review.

After the Condor (1990. Italy, Action, Director: Sergio Martino)
Notable actors: Daniel Greene! Brent Huff! Charles Napier!

It's a late-era Italian action film. Need I say more? Well, see ya.
     More elaboration? Fine. Daniel Greene, who kind of looks like a werewolf on the poster art for this one, is a happy-go-lucky journalist who disgraced himself by faking executions in South America somewhere that got some marines killed or something (I didn't get that from the flashback to be honest, but that's what gritty, angry editor Charlies Napier spits out). Now, he's tried to redeem himself by getting some incriminating pictures of a corrupt senator with a hooker, but Napier says the guy is so crooked they can't even publish the story. Daniel resists, and gets himself a severe kicking at the hands of some hired goons.
     That plot line is dropped as soon as Daniel is sent to Argentina or somewhere to keep out of trouble, under the premise that he's going to film an ecological documentary on the native Condor, whereas in fact he's off to find a downed plane flown by some guy who robbed some jewels from China or some shit. It literally doesn't matter because it gives Daniel the chance to go and stand near and/or fly over glaciers, shag women, sock bad guys on the jaw and let fly some wisecracks.
     With crippled sidekick Brent Huff (from STRIKE COMMANDO 2) and plucky pilot Anne, Daniel's has to fight off a rival group searching for the treasure, fend off the repeated phone calls from Napier about what the hells he's up to down there, and bed several women based on the premise that he kind of looked at them slightly, causing them to drop their drawers almost immediately, because that's how things work in a world where a man has blow dried hair, wears denim, and looks like someone burst Lou Ferringo with a fork.
     Listen - if you are familiar with late Eighties Italian action films, there's almost nothing I can tell you about this film that you don't know already, even if you haven't watched it. Apart from a native covering himself in yak fat to go diving, but other than that, you have a cheesy synth score, dubious sexual politics, tepid action, predictable twists, and that's about it. I liked it while hating it. I watched it from a car with tinted windows, the film not knowing I was watching. I called the film several times but didn't speak when it answered. I entered the film's house while it was out, rummaging through its underwear drawer. I loved it so I could not share it with any other crappy film fan. I carved 'Danile Geerne is my God' incorrectly on the side of a cow before crapping on the cow from a tree and pushing it off a cliff. I constantly walked by the store where the film worked, looking in on the film working at the tills, over and over and over again. I received a restraining order which I fried with butter and spinach and ate in the nude, staring at a mosaic made of broken beer bottles, blood and semen that represented the werewolf poster of the film. I kidnapped and restrained what I thought was the film in a car park before realising that it was selfless actor/wrestler Hulk Hogan wearing a 'After the Condor' wig, who proceeded to almost beat me to death before the police intervened. I spent the rest of my life in an insane asylum, covering myself in yak butter and sticking my jaw out like Charlies Napier.

Alone Against Terror (1983, Giallo, Spain, Director: Jesus "Jess" Franco - it is Christmas after all).
Notable actors: Lina Romay! Ricardo Palacios!

Pantomime-style antics here as Lina Romay, described by one character as a 'retarded paralytic' lives a horrible existence at the hands of her evil stepmother, her ugly aunt, and literally every single other character in the film, save for the guitarist of a local band who tries to woo her by scaring the crap out of her and making fun of her name.
     Romay's got a whole heap of problems going on due to that old giallo staple of being severely traumatised as a kid. This time, she witnessed her father dying right in front of her, appearing with a huge gash on his head, and despite of this she still asks "Daddy, what's wrong?". His blood dripping on her legs has caused her to lose the power of walking, given her horrific nightmares, and pretty much driven her completely crazy.
     I can see why the stepsister and aunt are a bit tetchy due to all the screaming and crying that Lina is doing, but to be fair it was their fault, as they murdered her father in order to get his inheritance, only to find that he'd left it all to Lina. Now all they can do is get drunk and cackle like hags while mocking her, as does Lina's Uncle Enrico, Enrico actually asks why the sisters haven't just bumped Lina off yet and is so drunk he offers to do it himself. That's when things get a bit strange...
     You see, Lina's often staring into space, thinking about her dad and what not, but when her dad himself appears to her, all bloody and zombie like, things have gone next level weird. Her dad, with blood dripping down his face, gasping her name, says that Lina can walk, and tells her to go get vengeance on the people that killed him. So it turns out Lina can walk, but only if mentally, she returns to the age she was when her dad was killed. One stabbed up Enrico later, and the sisters start to get edgy. Who killed Enrico? They suspect Lina, but she can't walk...right? Enter Doctor Orgaf (Ricardo Palacios, from a shitload of films, including THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK and RUN, MAN, RUN). Orgaf seems to know a lot more than he's letting on, and may have even more sinister intentions than the sisters.
     Somehow, the cheaper and lesser a Jess Franco film is, the more I like it, and I didn't mind this one that much. Maybe it's because Lina Romay's character is surrounded by horrible human beings who see her as an annoyance, and I was anticipating them getting their just desserts, or maybe it was because of Lina being wheeled around in a child's pram (!) rather than a wheelchair. The Gibraltar setting was quite nice too, even though it reinforced my thoughts that there doesn't seem to be much to do there except get robbed for food by a monkey.
     Now this is going to be hard to believe, but not once does Lina Romay get naked in this film. Not once. A Jess Franco film without Lina Romay's pubes is like buying a Big Mac and only getting the box. Maybe she wanted to show off her acting talents by spending an entire film crying and lying in bed, staring at stuff. I did get a few laughs from her returning from her childlike murder states and immediately losing the power of her legs.
     I know nothing of the Jess Franco fan community so I don't know how they rate this one, but it was okay. A few murders, some cheesy acting. Loads of zooms.

American Rickshaw a.k.a. American Tiger (1989, Italy, Action/Horror, Director: Sergio Martino)
Notable actors: Daniel Greene! Donald Pleasence!
Not notable actors: Mitchell Gaylord. Victoria Prouty.

Ouch! Even the usually dependable Sergio Martino can't escape the curse of late Eighties Italian horror. Sure, the film looks good, but the plot makes about as much sense as any of Fulci's stuff made around the same time, with two leading actors who seem to have wandered in from an Umberto Lenzi movie like NIGHTMARE BEACH or HITCHER IN THE DARK. That said, there are plenty of unintentional laughs to be had in the last half hour, if you can get through a full hour of Daniel Greene chasing after a guy over and over and over again.
     The plot involves Scott Edwards, brainy graduate who inexplicably pulls people around Miami in a Rickshaw. Scott's going nowhere in life (kind of like the plot for a good while), but he's a kindly sort, taking care of an old Chinese lady one day, who gives him a mysterious locket he immediately forgets about. She also gives him a note, but he drops it and rats eat it, meaning that it takes a long time for him to guess what's going on, long after the audience has. One night, he gives a rickshaw ride to a young stripper lady who offers to provide him some nooky in exchange for the ride, on her fancy yacht no less. Scott's pinching himself with glee but once they get started, and brace yourself here, the old lady who is somehow remotely watching psychically sends her cat over to screech and reveal that there's a guy in the toilet filming Scott and the stripper!
     Scott's enraged at this despite behind offered one hundred bucks for a free shag and decides to fight with the guy instead, which results in a key going flying out of a window and Scott retrieving the wrong video tape. These two items and their location eat up a lot of time in this film, as do the cops trying to figure out what's going on (you and me both). When Scott returns to the yacht to get the real video cassette, he finds the porno maker murdered and the tape missing and unbeknownst to him, murderer Daniel Greene watching him from his car. At this point the 'helpful' old lady sets fire to the boat with her mind, while Scott is in it! You're just making things worse dear, go far a nap or something.
     Rather than go on with the plot, which involves Scott running away from Daniel Greene while Daniel Greene kills some of the cast and uses the stripper to get at Scott, it's better just to skip to when Donald Pleasence gets more involved, because that's where most of the funny bits comes from. He's the principal bad guy of the film, and I'm guessing Sergio Martino gave up making something good and just elected to try and think of ridiculous things for Donald Pleasence to do, like wearing a bad wig while his face is painted red or green or fighting the world's fakest looking cat. Mind you, nothing tops the end though, where Donald tries to make a speech while at the same time oinking like a pig. You've got to give him credit for keeping a straight face doing that. Him and every single other person in that scene.
     Full of bollocks about Chinese folklore and astronomy, people returning to the same location over and over again, Daniel Greene appearing to be the only actor who seems to care about the film, some gore, and two lead actors so crap I would have trouble picking them out of a police line-up even though I just watched the film last night, AMERICAN RICKSHAW is a low point for Sergio Martino, he even fails to make it stupid enough to become a legendary bad movie like ZOMBI 3 or TROLL 2. He does carry on the tradition of terrible dummies in Italian films by having a truck run down a mannequin that looked like they'd nicked it from a window display.

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.

Anima Persa a.k.a. Lost Soul a.k.a. The Forbidden Room (1977, Italy, Giallo, Director: Dino Risi)
Notable actors: Catherine Deneuve! Vittorio Gassman!

Lovely mix of giallo/gothic where nary a drop of blood is spilled, but a slowly unfolding plot and weird atmosphere are fascinating. 
     To be honest, it's not really a giallo or gothic film at all, but it does have a huge mystery at its centre and is set in an old house full of secret and/or blocked off rooms, so we'll leave it at that. I don't really want to say much about it either because like all good mystery films the plot writhes all over the place, even though you might guess some of what's happening before the end.
     Young budding artist Tino heads for Venice to study and while there he'll be staying with Uncle Vittorio Gassman (who steals the show by far) and younger Aunt Catherine Deneuve. Both are welcome but there's something 'off' about the whole dynamic between the two, and there's also someone up in the attic in what Tino's Uncle calls 'The Forbidden Room'. Tino finds himself embarking on a journey to find out what's up in that attic, and even though it's revealed rather early in the film, it's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to secrets with this family.
     Director Risi also throws a lot of strange elements into Vittorio's dialogue, like how he thinks women smell of vegetables, speeches about insects, and how certain books by certain authors don't like to be next to each other on a shelf. His treatment of his wife is rather weird too, as he tells her she should go out for a walk then telling her its too cold, and constantly berating her for being stupid.
     Vittorio Gassman makes this film with his seemingly staunch, conservative character whom on closer inspection doesn't quite seem so sharply turned out. Yet again, talking about his performance would reveal major spoilers, so I'll just end by saying this is a weird film worth tracking down.

Assassination on the Tiber (1979, Italy, Eurocrime/Giallo, Director: Bruno Corbucci)
Notable actors: Tomas Milian! Marino Mase! Massimo Vanni! Enzo Adronico! Bombolo!

Nico Giraldi's sixth (!) outing takes a giallo form when a leading industrialist type guy is stabbed in the back when the lights go out during a meeting. Who killed the guy and why? Everyone attending is a suspect, but an old man who was seen arguing with him prior to the meeting is arrested as the prime suspect.
     Giraldi knows the guy who's been arrested and doesn't think he's responsible, so he starts investigating all those who were in attendance at the meeting, while also playing special attention to the dead guy's attractive wife, whom he hits on merely three days after the murder of her husband. Giraldi also gets to get it on and possibly marry the prime suspect's daughter, but does he ever track down the killer?
     You know these Inspector Giraldi films are merely an excuse for Tomas Milian to ham it up for laughs, right? The fairly standard giallo plot (dead person, loads of red herrings, killer bumping off witnesses) is just background noise for Milian to dress up in crazy outfits, swear an awful lot, hit on women and do a bit of crazy slapstick.
     At first I thought this one was a bit mild in these stakes until Milian started chasing a suspect on horseback and the film turned into a Western, with the horse remaining as a character for the rest of the film and even ending up living with Milian (no mouse called Serpico this time around). The highlight of the film for me was when Milian has to get to one of the suspects, but in order to do so enters a singing contest, which does with a cheeseball disco song with drag artist backing singers. Be warned, however. I sent the link of this scene to Fred and 'highlight' was definitely not included in his expletive ridden response, so be warned. ("Lowlight" was more like it, douche nozzle! - Fred)
     These are Milian's films all the way mind you, so if you like to see him mouthing off to his superiors and acting like a horny fanny rat, there's eleven of these Giraldi films just waiting for you. I read that these films were so successful, the audiences would cheer when he would mouth off to his boss, so at least we know that Italian audiences are very easy to please.

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.

The Barbarians a.k.a. The Barbarian Brothers (1987, Italy, Fantasy, Director: Ruggero Deodato)
Notable actors: David Paul! Peter Paul! Richard Lynch! Virgina Bryant! Eva La Rue, according to folks who have watched CSI Miami! Michael Berryman! George "Let's never forget that despite all the bile I spew about the Italian film industry being garbage, I did actually write and direct Dog Lay Afternoon which is about a girl shagging a dog" Eastman! Giovanni Cianfriglia! Nello Pazzafini!

With the cheese levels set to Gorgonzola, THE BARBARIANS starts out the way it means to go on - as a full on goofball adventure with some gore thrown in, some fine overacting from Richard Lynch, and two leads so obnoxious, dumb and loveable, you'd have to be insane to think all this was intended to be serious. And despite the majority of people getting it and signing up for the ride, others do seem to think this is all unintentional. It's has the tone of an episode of XENA or HERCULES, so if you go in expecting that, you'll be fine.
     Faraway in CONAN-rip off land, some narrator goes on about some tribe that end up being travelling entertainers who have some magical ruby with them, but let's face it - it's a load of old bollocks. What we have is a bunch of circus performers in wagons being chased by evil warlord Richard Lynch's cronies, which leads to a fairly good, gory battle where the circus folk hold their own (using the tools of their trade) before inevitably failing miserably. Among the circus is Queen Canary (Virginia Bryant, whom you won't remember from DEMONS 3: THE OGRE because like everyone else, you fell asleep about five minutes into that crapfest), and three kids, twins Gore and Kutchek, and a girl called Kadia or something. Queen Canary has already hidden the ruby Lynch desires, but offers her submission to Lynch if he'll spare the kids.
     Lynch says they won't die by his hand or any of his cronies, which is a fairly loaded statement to make. For Canary it's all she's getting though - so while she thrown into a cage, the twins are separated, each told the other died, then trained for years on end by an hysterical, screaming Michael Berryman for a showdown in many years time, when the both of them have transformed into what only be described as a fairly loud hair-metal hybrid of CONAN THE BARBARIAN and The Three Stooges (only, you know, there's just two of them).
     The two twins recognise each other and rather than kill each other, they scream in each other's faces a bit, and escape. They also hook up with thief Eva La Rue and try and lead the tribe of circus folk back to glory. While one of them honks like some sort of hog and both of them immediately forget what they're supposed to be doing every time a naked woman appears before them. As if having two hollering, dumbass, sweaty-arse crack goofballs descending on him isn't bad enough, Lynch also has to contend with his cronies getting annoyed at him falling in love with Queen Canary, and planning a little rebellion of their own.
     That's the plot right there, give or take, but we all know it's the stupidity levels and set pieces that make the film, so watch out for one of the twins getting involved in an arm-wrestling match with George Eastman, the twins having a goof around with a head they've just torn off some monster, and the twins taking on what's supposed to be a dragon, but what really looks like the long-term unemployed, bitterly depressed brother of that giant turtle from THE NEVERENDING STORY.
     He may have been the perennial bad guy, but I kind of miss Richard Lynch in these roles. In spite of his racially offensive throne that puts Xerxes' staircase from 300 to shame, he plays the bad guy like a kind of mixed up, misguided tyrant who can't quite go the whole way in being evil, but can't quite redeem himself either. It lends the film a certain depth that somehow we don't get from two goons flapping about hooting and slagging each other off. Not that I'm knocking the twins - it's this half-arsed approach to seriousness that makes the film so enjoyable.
     So in the end, Deodato, in not trying to be serious, delivers a CONAN rip-off that's rather enjoyable, and certainly not meant to be taken as a piece to be academically analysed (just like LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN, which always seemed to be a piss-take of the Eurocrime genre).

The Beautiful Summer a.k.a. A Summer To Remember (1974, Italy, Drama, Director: Sergio Martino)
Notable actors: Senta Berger! John Richardson! Lino Toffolo! Carla Mancini (as either a maid or a nurse, I wasn't sure)!

Young Gianluca is suspicious of his mother's motives when she moves both of them from Milan to some seaside town for an undetermined amount of time. She claims it's too cold back in Milan, but Gianluca wants to see his father, a high-flying businessman with a sideline in dangerous race car driving. Why won't Gianluca's mother take him back to his father, who until recently was taking part in the very hazardous sport of high-speed racing in flimsy vehicles. Why? Could it be he's just working in America? That's what Gianluca goes for in the meantime.
     Ignoring the obvious suitor hanging around the villa of Gianluca's widowed I mean holidaying mother, Gianluca embarks on a soul-searching quest to find himself in a strange land, frequently lapsing into flashbacks where he and his father (John Richardson, from other tearjerker ANNA: THE PASSION, THE TORMENT), rolling about grass, laughing, swinging each other about on beaches, and chasing each other through pigeon filled piazzas. In the real world, he acts up to Senta Berger and 'Uncle' Mario Erpichini (who gets a rather notable death in Enzo Castellari's HIGH CRIME). He also has a kind of early girlfriend in the shape of Olga, a neighbour who suggests that Gianluca's parent may be going through a divorce.
     Socially, it turns out that being driven to your new school by a chauffeur isn't the best idea, as Gianluca becomes a target for bullies. A local boy, Marco, takes umbrage at the presence of a millionaire's son, but when Gianluca doesn't grass him in for a beating that's given out, the two embark on a bromance where they try and finance a trip for Gianluca to go to Milan to find his father. This also involves a local crazy person known as the Red Baron who lives on the beach and gives lectures about dog fights he's been involved in. Most notable of all (for those who haven't read the wikipedia page for this film) is that his personal theme tune is also the theme tune to the popular US comedy CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, a show I have never watched but am nonetheless aware of due to the overuse of the theme tune in memes on YouTube.
     As far as I'm aware, this kind of film is well known in Italy, so you can expect a set up in the first third of the film, some comedy in the middle, and some horrific tragedy in the last third, and that is what happens here. I was curious to watch this one as I'm always curious to see how these genre directors handle films outwith the parameters within which we know them for, and safe to say that Martino carries this one off perfectly. It's not my type of film at all, but Martino films it's beautifully, filling the screen with strange angles and plenty of primary colours, mixing that with some expert editing when Gianluca lapses into his flashbacks with his dad.
     The tearjerking part is also well executed, with Gianluca's friends standing out in the rain, anxiously watching a hospital window. Good soundtrack too, although I doubt many people are going to want to track this down, or even want to read this review. The stuttering pimp from Dario Argent's BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE shows up here as a fence. His name is Gildo Di Marco, and I was going to call him Italy's Marty Feldman, when I realised that Mary Feldman was Italy's Marty Feldman, having starred in Sergio Martino's SEX WITH A SMILE. Full circle!

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.

Bizarre (1987, Italy, Giallo, Director: Giuliana Gamba)
Notable actors: Florence Guerin! Luciano Bartoli! Robert Egon (not that he's that notable)!

I notice there are currently fifty-three plot keywords on the IMDB page for this film. Who are the people who have the time to do this? 
     This is one them erotic very late era gialli that have the plot of a late-sixties giallo, but with a whole lot more sex thrown in there for good measure. It's all about the mind games again, this time with a really small cast and two people who are really messed up in the head. However, the plot of this film gets rather ridiculous in places, so it was good for a laugh.
     Florence isn't really enjoying her marriage to Luciano any more. There's just something about pretending to be a prostitute in a hotel and having him stick a gun barrel in her proud mary and play Russian roulette while he held a pillow over her face that she just didn't like, so now she's hitting the road and Luciano can go find someone else to mess around with. Except that leaving him isn't going to be so easy both in the real world and the world in Florence's head.
     She does get over it quick enough when after a few days of hanging around a hotel, she hooks up with a sexy gentleman (Stefano Sabelli from DINNER WITH A VAMPIRE and MEAN TRICKS). You've got to love the way Stefano approaches the situation - he gives it the old 'hey baby, you look hot' routine, tells her he's been watching her for days, follows her to the bar, offers her a cigarette and starts stroking her thigh. Just look back on that sentence and imagine a guy trying that these days. I'm not even sure that would have worked back in the Eighties, but in this film, it does! Even better is when Stefano turns out to be a plant just so Luciano can watch them get it on from a cupboard! Oh, that Luciano.
     Florence runs off to a huge villa by the beach and because of past experience is not rather wary of men, especially sexy young groundskeeper Robert Egon (Willy the Nazi from SODOMA'S GHOST, Willy the Nazi from A CAT IN THE BRAIN, and MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO [eh?]). Florence gives Robert the brush for at least a few minutes before the two of them fall in love, which means we're treated to a 'love montage' as they drive around the beach, run about laughing, and make sweet sweet love on the beach. Didn't you listen to Anakin Skywalker? That sand gets everywhere - and by that he means up your arse crack!
     Speaking of arse crack, I hope you like Robert Egon's arse because it should really have it's on separate screen credit, the amount of time it appears in this film. You see, there are really two Lucianos in this film. There's the real one that's messing with Florence's head, and then there's the one in Florence's head that keeps telling her that her relationship with Robert isn't filthy enough and that she needs to dirty things up a bit, which leads Florence to jamming a hairbrush up Robert's arse without warning, or, indeed, any kind of lubrication. Robert, to put it mildly, is not pleased.
     We all know however that when young lovers fall out there's always the joy of make-up sex, and I'm sure we've all shook up cans of full sugar coke and poured them all over each other before making even more sweet sweet love to someone's big toe, the most sensitive part of a person's body. And this film is in no way finished with being stupid yet, because Florence and Robert (mainly Florence) decide to gender swap to get back at Luciano, which means Robert Egon has to dress in drag and perv himself up in an apartment across the road from Luciano's office, although it's more funny earlier than, as a test, Florence arranges for Robert to meet all his friends in a bar. Somehow they don't notice that he's there, even though he looks exactly the same, only with lipstick on.
     I'm leaving out Luciano's side of things and the out of nowhere plot twist at the end. For a film that sets out to be sleazy and psychological, there's a fair dollop of cheese on top by way of Florence and Robert's flirting and the saxophone-led soundtrack. The stupidity of the situations onscreen is enough to carry the film through. Not that it's any good, but worth a few laughs. Just don't watch it with the missus or she might come at you with a hairbrush.

Black Journal a.k.a. Great Boiled (well, that's the literal translation of the Italian title Gran Bollito, but who knows?) (1977, Italy, Horror, Director: Mauro Bolognini)
Notable actors: Shelley Winters! Max Von Sydow! Renato Pozzetto! Antonio Marsina! Laura Antonelli! Adriana Asti! Mario Scaccia! Alberto Lionello!

Well, they sure don't make them like this anymore. Shelley Winters plays a Sicilian woman who moves to mainland Italy with her son and takes up residence in an apartment block, quickly making friends with three spinsters and caring for her husband, who unfortunately has a stroke on their first day there and becomes paralysed. Sounds like a pretty solid drama, eh? Like one of those 'painful lives' books that are inexplicably popular.
     It would be, if Winters wasn't an overprotective psychopath and her son wasn't a fully grown Antonio Marsina, the only survivor of thirteen children whom Winters believes she has stolen from death. Plus, the three sisters are all played by perfectly by men, for no reason I can discern, and all three do their job perfectly, especially Max Von Sydow, who revels in the role of sensitve, caring Lisa, whose fretful nature jars with Sydow's huge figure. Lisa, by the way, is also haunted by nightmares of being raped by the Devil. You also have Stella, the melancholy lady who has been unlucky in love and years to return to the US to seek out her ex-husband, and Berta, a sarcastic singer. All three bond with Winters pretty quickly, which is good for her as they know the gossip on everyone, including that pretty dancer who has been sniffing around Marsina.
     Winters is one of those mothers who thinks there is no woman out there that's good enough for her son, and she's also getting a bit cagey about the upcoming war that Marsina is possibly going to get called up for. Thinking Death is now going to get what is rightfully his, Winters starts to panic, then flat out goes nuts when she catches Marsina in bed with Laura Antonelli (from the horrible BALI and the obscure giallo LA GABBIA which I have yet to track down). Like any right-thinking person, Winters thinks that she can control the situation by flat out murdering those spinsters as some sort of sacrifice to Death. Roping in her mentally handicapped servant (Milena Vukotic from THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET, who is great here), Winters first selects Stella (as she is leaving the country), cuts her head off, and turns her flesh into soap and her bones into powder that she then makes into biscuits and feeds to everyone.
     The absurdity of the film is played up for laughs, and it gets really absurd and sick, as Winters tries to lure Marsina away from Antonelli by sending in her totally naked, handicapped servant into Marsina's room to seduce him (he's too much of a good guy though), and also dries a fully naked Marsina off after he's had a bath. There's some slight gore here and there too - blood splatters, boiling flesh, but this is really a comedy of the blackest kind. It reminded me strongly of the British comedy THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN, with the cast playing characters of both genders (I meant to say that all three spinsters return as male characters as the film goes on), and having a similar domestic horror feel about it. LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN co-writer Mark Gatiss is a fan of Italian cinema, even covering it in his documentary about Horror Films (HORROR EUROPA WITH MARK GATISS - 2012), so it could be he caught this film at some point.
     It's a delight to watch Max Von Sydow in this one, but Shelley Winters completely steals the show as Lea, the crazy mother. She's not a raving lunatic, she's just a disturbed individual following some kind of internal logic that only she understands, and the way she matter-of-factly prepares rooms for murder and cleans up afterwards is brilliant. She truly does love her son and will do anything to protect him, even if it means killing (and not just the spinsters either).
     Sometimes you hear about a film and hope it's as crazy as it sounds, and this one is. It might be too talky for some, but not for me.

Blazing Flowers a.k.a. Milan...Defend or Die! (1978, Italy, Eurocrime, Director; Gianni Martucci)
Notable actors: Marc Porel! George Hilton! Al Cliver! Barbara Magnolfi! Anna Maria Rizzoli! Guido Leontini! Mario Novelli! Nino Vingelli! The big fat guy from Tentacles and Strip Nude For Your Killer!

Man, this was hard to track down. Luckily, it's not that bad a film. Not the best either, though.
     Marc Porel, in non-acting mode, is released from prison following being jailed for six years as a getaway driver in an armed robbery. The prison warden reckons that Marc is one of life's good guys, so he arranges for him to go to Milan, where he will work for his uncle (Nino Vingelli, from the utterly tongue-tying film SPIACCICHICCICATICELO (Congratulations Steven, there's a first time for everything. I was unable to find a single image for this film!!! - Fred.) and quite a few Mario Merola films). His uncle is a kindly sort with two lovely daughters, innocent Barabara Magnolfi (who fancies Marc and parades in front of a mirror naked) and Anna Maria Rizzoli, who has been forced into prostitution by evil Don Cicio (Guido Leontini, from loads of Eurocrime films like THE WARNING and THE MAFIA TRIANGLE, which is also a Mario Merola film). Guido Leontini looks less like an Italian and more like the kind of long-term unemployed guys found propping up bars throughout my home town in Scotland.
     Marc discovers that his cousin Anna Maria is a prostitute in the worst way possible - by finding that out after he's shagged her, courtesy of his uncle. His uncle is oblivious to this and only wanted Marc to blow off some steam after being in jail for so long, so he gave him some money to go to the local brothel. Turns out that Marc was in love with her as a teenager and now he's got to go back to crime to get her free, by working for Don Cicio and his suave sidekick, Al Cliver, in a rare 'no facial hair' appearance. I also found out recently he's released a biography, which more people involved in Italian genres films should do.
     Watching this from a car and sometimes from his office is cop George Hilton. He's been after Don Cicio for ages, and as Marc's parole officer he thinks that Marc will sink back into crime and give him a way in to finally capturing Don Cicio. Meanwhile, Marc, via ex-jail friend Nosey, signs up to do some work for Don Cicio in exchange for Anna Maria, but can he trust a violent criminal? And will George finally bag his man, seeing as how the script only allows him to do anything interesting at all with only fifteen minutes of the film to go?
     Apart from all the inter-cousin action, quality funky music and overload of female nudity, this film takes ages to get violent, coasting along on punch-ups and robberies before shots are fired. This isn't too much of a bad thing as the film has a habit of distracting us with loads of naked women, from both female leads to random strippers, Don Cicio's junky girlfriend, whose actions forward the plot more than anyone else in the film, get naked a couple of times and even Hilton has a hooker girlfriend who disrobes.
     Gianni Martucci is a very strange director. Apart from a couple of comedies, he directed the weird giallo TRHAUMA, possibly the only giallo featuring Lego, and the just plain weird THE RED MONKS. BLAZING FLOWERS may actually be his most coherent film, even though Don Cicio and his minions don't seem to do much crime apart from kidnap relatives of Marc Porel and try to export heroin. It's not a bad film though, but there's not enough to make it stand out from the pack and therefore is a film that should be approached after having exhausted all the good Eurocrime films, of which there are many.

Blood and Bullets a.k.a. Cop's Blood (1976, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Alfonso Brescia)
Notable actors: George Eastman! Jack Palance! Jenny Tamburi! Nello Pazzafini!

This is definitely one of Alfonso Brescia's better films, and a solid enough Eurocrime film. It ticks all the boxes with the gun battles, car chases and naked babes anyway, even if the plot is a little thin.
     Seven-foot-ten George Eastman must have asked Alfonso Brescia what his character's motivation was in this film, and the answer must have been 'your character smokes', because that's literally all you are going to get there. He's a man bent on revenge as he's returned to Philly to avenge the death of his cop father, who has been accused of being corrupt and involved with the mob. Someone doesn't want George to find out, as the moment he steps off the plane, which he was having a nice relaxing smoke on, a bunch of pretend-terrorists open fire on him, and just about anybody else that's around, resulting in a nice opening shootout that's probably the best part of the film, especially when George shoots a bad guy carrying explosives and the guy explodes! The police are amazingly understanding about all this, but they also know why George is back in Philly.
     One other guy who knows is mobster friend Jack Palance (whom, I realised, has a face like an armed robber who has worn panty hose on his head so many times his face has just decided to remain squashed looking forever). Jack at first guns down a couple of guys waiting to ambush George, and seems to be helping out just because Palance was mates with Eastman's dad, but he may have some other nefarious reason for grinning like a freak while gunning down shitloads of mobsters.
     The general storyline basically goes as follows - Eastman goes to a certain location on a hunch or a tip, or to meet an informer, and gets either ambushed or his informer gets murdered. He can't even visit childhood sweetheart Jenny Tamburi (from SMILE BEFORE DEATH, the giallo with the most irritating theme tune ever, FRANKENSTEIN: ITALIAN STYLE, and, as I am about to try and review, THE EXORCIST: ITALIAN STYLE. I'm horrified to discover that there's more than one 'Italian Style' film out there) without getting into a punch-up. It's a case of wash, rinse, repeat, but this time around Brescia does a good job of keeping things fresh, like Eastman having a huge punch-up in a bar that's intercut with a striptease, or having a shoot-out take place in pitch darkness where only Eastman knows the layout of the room.
     There's loads of action in this one, and the end battle is quite epic. I can't even believe I'm saying these things about an Alfonso Brescia film, but there you go. In those Mario Merola films things were padded out with Merola's songs and Luciano Montaldo's screaming, so I guess in this one Brescia had to make do with putting some action in there. Neither Eastman or Palance are that great at acting, but both are perfectly watchable here.
     Oh, and the theme tune is a total rip-off of the theme from SHAFT. Brescia wanted it that way!

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?

Cats (2019, Horror, UK/USA, Director: Tom Hooper)
Cringing Actors: Ian McKellan, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, James Fucking Corden, Rebel Wilson, Ray Winstone, Taylor Swift, etc, etc...

Well, it's been reviewed to death, but I believe I'm owed some sort of restitution due to the trauma, and some sort of catharsis from what I've just witnessed, so here goes...
     My kids thought it would be fun to hold me captive and make me watch this one, but the joke was soon on them as I knew what I was getting into, but then soon after that the joke was on all of us as a bunch of CGI cats with actors faces floating on them jumped around the screen, gibbering the word 'Jellicle' over and over and over again for a full one hour forty-five minutes of hardcore cringe.
     After the ordeal was over, I was straight on the internet to see if there was some sort of plot I might have missed because we were all screaming in pain so much, and to see if the stage musical was as bad as the film. The stage version is definitely a lot gayer than the cinematic version, but I'd much rather see loveable actor John Partridge bouncing around stage belting out (or maybe miming) songs than watch Rebel Wilson eat dancing cockroaches and flinging her legs asunder.
     The plot involves a cat called Victoria getting dumped in an alleyway where other dumped cats live (probably because they won't stop fucking singing!) and Victoria being indoctrinated into their weird cat cult, which involves saying Jellicle every three seconds or so until the head cat (Judi Dench, who looks more like a lion) makes the Jellicle Choice, which means (my keyboard actually stopped working there - even it hates this film) - which means that they pick whatever cat they think sung a song about themslves the best and fire them off into the atmosphere in a balloon/chandelier combo to die. So that means that an almost endless parades of cats appear, sing a song about themselves, then get turned into dust by Idris Elba and teleported to a barge on the Thames where Ray Winstone the singing cockney cat awaits. Yes, Ray Winstone. I wondered aloud why he was in the film. "Maybe he's developed dementia" my wife said.
     Rebel Wilson turns up to sing about being a "Gumbie" cat, Inexplicably popular James Fucking Corden turns up to sing his song, "Obnoxious Fat Prick". "I'm an obnoxious fat prick/Yes an obnoxious fat prick/Thank fuck I'm only in the film/For about five minutes", Imagine being the poor guy who had to wash James Fucking Corden's green screen suit after all that dancing. He's probably dead now. Idris Elba continues his run of baffling career choices including the almost equally terrible DARK TOWER (if you've read the books) and the hideously bad last season of the otherwise great LUTHER by playing Macavity, who wants to be the cat they fire into the sky after the Jellicle Choice, but Taylor Swift sings his song, called "Let's Just Say Macavity A Whole Bunch of Times". Which is similar to the song "Let's Say The Name Mephistophiles A Bunch Of Times" which appears later in the film.
     My son was running around singing "I'm a genital cat/A genital cat" after this film and its taken a full hour of Fortnite to help him forget it. Other lyrics we came up with were "Everybody Buggers Rum Tum Tugger", and "It's been such a wonderful Jellicle night/Now I'm off for a Jellicle shite". I see some positive reviews on the IMDB state that folks that don't like it just don't like musicals, but that's bollocks, because I love JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. I can sing "What then to do with this Jesus of Nazareth" EXACTLY the way the guy sings it in the film. CATS has none of the camp value that the stage version has, none of the energy either. It seems that in the stage version the performers just play up the ridiculous nature of the plot, but it just comes across as really fake and false in the film version, with next to nothing to pin anything emotional on. It's pretty hard to feel anything when the most famous song, Memories, is sung by a CGI cat with a human face with snot running down it.
     There's good bad, and there bad bad, and CATS is bad bad. Be warned - it's a cinematic version of Tartarus for bad movie fans.

The Cavern a.k.a. Seven Against Death (1964, West Germany/Italy, War (kind of ), Director: Edgar G Ulmer)
Notable actors: John Saxon! Larry Hagman! Rossana Schiafinno! Nino Castelnuovo! Brian Aherne! Peter Marshall (if you live in the US)!

This film may be set during World War Two in Italy, but that's just the preface for what is one of those 'contrasting-survivors-stuck-in-a-deadly-situation' type deals, like Alfred Hitchcock's LIFEBOAT and the Leslie Neilson starring FOUR RODE OUT. It's kind of slow, but thanks to every actor involved making an effort, it's not too bad at all.
     Hanging around outside a cave in Northern Italy, farm girl Rossana Schiafinno is kind of flirting with Alpini Nino Castelnuovo, who has been given the task of guarding a German supply dump hidden in a cave. Nearby, UK General Brian Aherne has just been captured by the Germans due to the lack of defence from Captain Larry Hagman. Driving John Saxon puts up a fight and is wounded, but all three are captured when suddenly passing planes start an ariel bombardment.
     Saxon, Hagan, Aherne, one surviving German, Nino and Rossana, plus an escaped Canadian POW make it into the cave. but for reasons I've already forgotten the Germans blow up the entire hillside, destroying the land and burying everyone under tonnes of rubble. Luckily for them the cave is full of food and water, oil and bedding, and, unknown to all except alcoholic Larry Hagman (I ain't going there), a huge stash of Vecchia Romagna brandy, a very fine brandy that's traditionally given by sons to their fathers. I would have kept that hidden too.
     It seems that there's a bit of a power struggle going on, as the General wants to impose his authority over everyone, but then John Saxon, small, resourceful, aggressive, is the clear obvious leader. Everyone is also a bit interested in Rossana Schiafinno (from the boring SILENCE THE WITNESS and CAGLIOSTRO, which I'm going to have to watch because no one else will). She makes the obvious choice by eventually going with Saxon, but that makes Nino a bit jealous.
     Although slow-going, we do get a sense of how much time these folks spend underground, fruitlessly searching for a way out while trying to stay civil. Hagman and the General try to keep their secret booze stash secret, the German becomes friends with everyone, and Saxon never gives up hope. If you are prepared to cut the film a little slack in the first half, it pays off as you become more invested in the characters in the second half, and the remarkable display of patience they have with each other as they begin to freak out at their situation.
     Everyone gives one hundred percent here, from Saxon's hard case soldier who still respects the General, even though he's gone nuts, to Nino Castelnuovo (Carlo from STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER and PSYCHOUT FOR MURDER, who passed away September 6, 2021) who tries so hard to overcome his jealousy that Saxon even forgives him when he tries to murder him, this is one of those films that just works.
     I'd love to include a paragraph about the director as he seems important, but I'm not gonna lie - I know nothing about him.

The Ceremony Of The Senses (1979, Italy, listed on the IMDb as Crime/Drama even though it's nothing of the sort, Director: Antonio D'Agostino)
Notable actors: None...strangely.

Before going on to direct a shitload of porn films, director Antonio D'Agostino tried his hand at the last Seventies fad of making a film about Jesus in modern times (like WHITE POP JESUS and POOR CHRIST and perhaps CHRIST STOPPED AT EBOLI, but someone would need to upload that to YouTube for me to check. That's a subtle hint).
     Some guy is driving about when he all of a sudden hits a badly disguised ramp and crashes, which instantly sends his consciousness into some alternate reality where he's Jesus. While his car is screeching along the road on its roof, he's standing in an industrial yard when a bunch of people turn up representing the various authorities in modern day Italian life - The Church, The State, The Police, The Military and...er...The Hookers. This lot drive up in a bunch of cars and proceed to tie Jesus up and set him on fire. Back in reality, his car burns away. I knew this one was going to be hard to describe.
     Later, in some unknown city, Jesus is wandering around when he finds a woman who has been beaten up by some youths. Jesus helps her and is taken home, where he tends to her wounds and she explains that she's become a hooker due to being hooked on drugs. Then she sparks up a pretty fat dooby and hallucinates all sorts of crap before getting in on with Jesus in a scene that must have involved some hardcore bits because it pretty much jumps through that fairly clunkily.
     Mind you, the whole film is pretty disjointed so who knows. Now, D'Agostino cleary wears his influences on his shoulders because there's a fairly large Fellini and Pasolini vibe about this whole film, and never more so than in the huge brothel that hosts in the form of guests all those authority figures, who are being serviced by a topless Madam and her naked charges. Jesus watches while everyone's attention is drawn to a huge foam mouth sitting in the middle of the floor, from which emerges a blonde girl whom I'm guessing from the plot keywords on the IMDb is a hermaphrodite. Then from what I can gather the Madam invites everyone to either shit or piss on the floor before Jesus goes nuts and loads of people get arrested. This would also be known as 'that bit in a film where I wonder why I'm bothering watching any further'.
     Jesus is arrested with a bunch of left-wing revolutionaries and while waiting in the corridor he hears the police beat a guy to death and then try to cover it up, causing widespread riots. Jesus himself cures a blind guy and gives him powers to heal others which leads to more political upheaval, and the powers that be have to think of a way to sort things out...perhaps by getting Jesus on their side? Whatever happens, there's sure to be plenty of nudity.
     Filmed nicely and with an electronic soundtrack that's by far the best thing about the film, THE CEREMONY OF THE SENSES is a commentary of Italian life that's been commented on in much better ways, and is seemingly heavily influenced by SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (still haven't watched it yet). It also pretty much follows the twelve stations of the cross, with a Last Supper scene consisting on the authority figures laughing for seven minutes (!) while getting noshed on by naked slaves and Jesus getting persecuted by the police. Of note, however, is a scene that reflects the one in THE SHINING with Jack Nicholson and the lady in the bath. I wonder if D'Agostino ripped that one from the Stephen King book?
     It's all kind of pointless to be honest. D'Agostino would go on to make the hermaphrodite film EVA MAN (TWO SEXES IN ONE) before descending into porn with BATHMAN AND THE PLANET EROS and DEFECT IN THE BELLY.

Cjamango (1967, Italy, Western, Director: Edoardo Mulargia)
Notable actors: Ivan Rassimov! Mickey Hargitay! Piero Lulli! Plus, many familiar faces from the Sergio Leone films...

There's something not right about this film and I can't figure out what it is. The cinematography is excellent. Ivan Rassimov makes a good hero, with Mickey Hargitay backing him up as the mysterious gunfighter with a secret. Piero Lulli does a good turn as the grinning evil bad guy, and there's a huge gun battle at the end. Somehow, however, I wasn't impressed.
     Maybe it's because it's just so damn generic. Ivan Rassimov is Cjamango, a cocky gunslinger who wins a shitload of money and gold in a card game, only to have it immediately stolen from him when a gang led by The Tiger (Lulli) and Don Pablo (the guy Lee Van Cleef shoots through a pillow in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY). They do this in the most subtle way - they storm the saloon the card game is taking place in and gun down everyone in it (watch the table falling on Rassimo when he's shot - he seems to get a bit of a shock!). Not only do they not pay local drunk Hernandez for tipping them off about the money, The Tiger steals the lot and hides it out at his ranch, much to the rage of Don Pablo.
     Some unspecified time later, Cjamango returns, and wants his money back. To do so, he'll have to watch  A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, because this film generally follows that plot, what with the two rival gangs and Cjamango proposing allegiances and what not. I suppose Cjamango isn't so much of an anti-hero, as he stops a woman from being raped and chums about with some kid that's been ostracised because the dumbass villagers think a scar he has it the plague.
     The thing is, I couldn't have given a crap. The film looks great (the HD version I watched was nice), but where's the quirkiness and sleaze? It's like Sardinian director Edoardo Mulargia decided to play things real safe and the result is one of the most straight down the middle Spaghetti Westerns I've watched. It does have the gunfights and what not, but the only notable scene was Lulli tying the kid up with some dynamite and lighting the fuse in order to force Cjamango to tell him where the gold was.
     Maybe some folks prefer their Westerns this way - realistic and grim, but I prefer mine slightly surreal or quirky, like Carlo Lizzani's REQUIESCANT or KEOMA.

Closed Circuit (1978, Italy, Giallo, Director: Giuliano Montaldo)
Notable actors: Flavio Bucci! Tony Kendall! Luciano Catenacci! Ettore Manni! Giuliano Gemma! William Berger! It says Luciano Rossi on the IMDb but I didn't see him...

This made-for-television Giallo has a very interesting premise and might even carry some sort of message about the relationship between ourselves, our self-image, and visual media. Just like Fellini's INTERVISTA, only much, much more subtle, if you remember the bit from that film where all the people dressed like televisions attack the Cinecitta.
     At a cinema that advertises films such as DAY OF ANGER, THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK, KING KONG, THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A, TENTACLES, SQUIRM and that A*P*E* film I never get around to watching (thanks to Fred for spotting the majority of those), the audience are eager to get in and start watching whatever film they are showing (which is A SKY FULL OF STARS FOR A ROOF, only with any element of humour removed). We'll get to the audience in a minute, as there are rather a lot of them and the film spends a lot of time introducing them, but I'll cover the murder first.
     In the show's finale, which features Giuliano Gemma and William Berger (who doesn't appear in A SKY FULL OF STARS FOR A ROOF), a gunfight enues, but it seems that the loud gunfire has been used as cover for someone to actually murder a member of the audience. A man in the front row, who mysteriously entered the cinema ten minutes before the climax of the film, has been shot in the heart. No one is allowed to leave, and the police turn up to interview all fifty-three members of the audience, and one glance at the IMDb will show you that barely any of them have names, so here we go...
     There's the shifty looking pair consisting of Tony Kendall and a familiar face from Spaghetti Westerns who are eager to escape the cinema, the awkward sociologist (Flavio Bucci from pervy kidnap film LA ORCA and LULU THE TOOL), a shame-faced couple who are having an affair, a guy who likes smoking (look- that's all I've got on him), a young couple, a feisty granny and her chaperone, a mouthy gay guy and all the staff at the cinema. The police descend on the place and start interviewing folks while checking out the victim's background.
     They make progress on the guy's background at least. He was a keen cinema goer and a retired civil servant who, according to his landlady, led a sedentary life and just liked to watch television, save for those times he liked to stand in front of a mirror and muse over his image and how his reflection did in a way exist in some form separately from himself. Actually, that doesn't sound like they made any progress at all, but it's better than the avalanche of lies and verbal abuse they get from the audience.
     Luciano Catenacci turns up as a higher ranking cop determined to get to the bottom of this by now irritating murder, as the media are getting involved and a crowd are gathering outside. He sets up a reconstruction of the first murder, but when a second person is murdered, more questions are raised and the audience begin to freak out, and not in a good sixties way. Man.
     The film heads off in a different direction in the climax, but it's well foreshadowed by some clever dialogue. The audience, including Tony Kendall, don't have much to do, so most of the investigations are carried out by the cops and Flavio Bucci, who has some ideas of his own. That sounds boring but it isn't, as there are so many quirky characters in this film the plot just bounces along nicely in an absurdist fashion, almost surreal in some places.
     I guess you can take it for what it is or look deeper to see if there is any hidden meanings. I was going to write what my interpretation was, but I'm afraid it would spoil the film.
     Fuck off, that's not a cop out ending to the review. Just go watch it on Giallo Realm on YouTube before he gets his account suspended again. This is a proper rare one that was on my 'to watch' list for a good few years.

Cold Blooded Murder (1981, Hong Kong, Martial Arse/Giallo, Director: To-Bong Law)
Notable actors: Bruce Le! Carter Wong! Bolo Yeung! Many others, probably.

Someone is killing Hong Kong's hookers, rather frequently. Like about four a week - he goes through three in about five minutes of screen time. If the cops don't get off their arses and catch this bastard, there ain't gonna be no hookers in Hong Kong no more! At least those named Ying, because it's only those he's going for.
     The killer wears sunglasses and dons white gloves to do his killing, be it by knife, pipe or coke bottle. There's loads of POV shots and for some reason he always leaves his own blood at the scene. He also lives in a stinking hovel full of cockroaches he likes to pierce with needles and the pictures of his victims stuck to the walls. We're led to believe that his hidden identity may hint that one of the cast is the killer, like a giallo, but that doesn't happen.
     Neurotic cop Carter Wong (from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA) is lead cop on the case, with Bruce Le (the random Kung Fu guy from PIECES!) as his sidekick who also has his own sub plot on the go, featuring some drug dealers consisting of Bolo Yeung (of side-splittingly funny Jalal Merhi vehicle FEARLESS TIGER - watch that instead!). Carter's getting all worried that his boss is bringing in a new cop to help because Carter's not very good at catching serial killers, which Carter proves to the audience by having one of his female officers pose as a hooker in order to lure the killer in. You can imagine how that works out.
     In yet another sub-plot that made me think I was watching a Godfrey Ho cut up, illegal immigrant Wei (possibly) is trying to grift in order to make cash for his wife and baby, but his missus is getting all up in his face about money, and instead goes off to sell her body to a local rich guy. Mocked by the rich guy's goons, Wei goes nuts and gets into a fight with both wife and goons, leading to the baby being crushed by a chest of drawers (!). This part of the film literally makes no sense until much later. It also leads to two of the fakest mannequins you've ever seen being tossed from a balcony. Then another one near the end of the film.
     Can Carter and Bruce find the killer without getting too many of their own people killed? Can Bolo Yeung sport a rather fetching red tracksuit while throwing a car on its side during a kung fu fight? Can you stay awake for the last ten minutes of the film as the filmmakers inexplicably try to fit in as many kung fu fights possible in an effort to tie up the drug dealer plot the audience didn't care about in the first place? Can Bruce Le handcuff a guy who's neck he'd just broken just seconds before?
     It's on YouTube if you want it. There's plenty of violence but not much gore (I'm also guessing some nudity was cut out the version I watched), and although some Kung Fu films can seem never ending this one went by quickly. The giallo elements are pretty fun to watch (including spiral staircases, POV shots, stalking scenes, kid's toys, etc., etc.) so that livened things up a bit.

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.

The Cop In Blue Jeans (1976, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Bruno Corbucci)
Notable actors: Tomas Milian! Jack Palance! Maria Rosaria Ommagio! Franco Garofalo
Guido and Maurizio De Angelis Soundtrack!

Well, this is where it all starts. The franchise for which both Tomas Milian and Massimo Vanni are most famous. This is Tomas Milian as quirky cop Inspector Giraldi, a strangely-dressed, dirty-looking freak who keeps a mouse called Serpico and likes to get the bad guys in less violent fashion than his contemporaries (even those played by Milian himself).
     The film was a huge success in Italy, mainly due I guess to Milian's off the wall performance as Giraldi, a crook turned cop who is always trying to track down a bad guy called the Baron, plus some other guy who keeps leaving message consisting of nothing but 'Up Yours!' on Giraldi's answer machine. Things are played out lightly enough until the Baron accidentally steals five million dollars from a hard case gangster (Palance) and starts getting his mates killed while the Mafia try and get their money back.
     This doesn't stop Milian getting it on with the strangely patient Maria Rosaria Ommagio (who looks like Kate Bush), a robbery victim who doesn't seem to mind going to bed with Milian even though he wears two pairs of socks, three jumpers and some nifty red budgie smugglers, because of course no Milian film is complete without him at least appearing once in his underwear. He also takes her disco dancing which made me burst out laughing at Milian's moves, as well as his get-up and the hat he wears that has "Tomas Milian" written on it in red pen.
     It has a mainly light tone this film, but don't think of it as some sort of Eurocrime 'TRINITY' film. The film does mainly stick to the grim plots of before, just with a much better character up front than the usual stone-faced killing machines. And his mouse wears a little hat at the end!
     Oh, and all Jack Palance did was chew cigarettes and scowl, as usual. Is it strange for me to think that if you look at Jack Palance and Angelina Jolie in profile, they both look the same?

Cop In Drag (1984, Italy, Crime/Comedy, Director: Bruno Corbucci)
Notable actors: Tomas Milian! Bombolo! Others!

This is Tomas Milian's last (and eleventh) film playing ex-thief-turned-cop Nico Giraldi, and I've no doubt that although it was a popular series in Italy, surely the audiences were getting tired of this stuff by 1984. Don't get excited by the title either - Tomas Milian does not cross-dress in this film, so there's another fantasy that's never going to become reality for us. Er, you, I mean.
     This time around the flimsy premise that's going to serve as a backdrop to all the japes is the murder of a drag queen at a club called Blue Gay in Rome, but Inspector Giraldi has to turn down the job due to his wife giving birth to their second child, and although Milian does attempt to participate in looking after the baby, the incessant screaming of the kid and his wife drive him to take on the case, and to pretend to his wife that's he gone to New York, even though he's still in Rome. You can tell where that one's heading right away, as there's always a bit of marital strife in these films.
     Milian suspects a rival drag queen is guilty of the murder, and plans on infiltrating the trans scene by pretending he's gay, with a transgender partner. For this he cajoles thief Bombolo into donning a dress (with much slapping, their signature move) and the two head off for the club. The drag queen, who performs as Colomba Lamarr, is rather quite taken by Milian, but if they are prime suspect in all this, who is the shifty looking guy following them around? And why is he trying to listen in on their conversations? And what has it all to do with those German fellows that are hanging around?
     I have to point out that plot isn't a strong point in these films. They just drop Milian (and Bombolo) into a stupid situation and milk some jokes out of it, have a couple of scenes where Milian proves irresistible to women (and trans folk in this one), and throw in a couple of scenes of him mouthing off to his superiors. A couple of action scenes, and the jobs a good 'un. Except there's barely any action scenes in this one - just Milian catching a homophobic drug dealer, a slight punch up, and Milian chasing a guy in a car while driving a horse-drawn chariot and dressed like a Centurion. There are, however, five dance sequences in this film, one of them to a sped-up version of a song from Bugsy Malone.
     The mystery of the killer isn't very exciting either, so the other question is - is it funny? Well, not really. There's a couple of moments with Bombolo that are okay, but mostly it's slapstick and screaming, with Milian slapping Bombolo over and over again. I even read that this was so much of a running gag that Milian even slapped Bombolo's coffin at his funeral. I'm not making that up.
     So in short, it's garbage, and Tomas Milian was deported from Italy shortly afterwards due to this film (I'm making that bit up), where he returned to America and wore a hat forever more because no one would guess that he had started going bald in the late seventies.

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.

Corleone (1978, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Pasquale Squitieri)
Notable actors; Giuliano Gemma! Claudia Cardinale! Francisco Rabal! Michele Placido! Tony Kendall (yes, the one from those Spaghetti Westerns)! Fulvio Mingozzi!

The rise and fall of a Sicilian gangster from the director of GANG WAR IN NAPLES. Giuliano Gemma is the man in question, and somehow Gemma can de-age himself by dying his hair black, because at the start of this one I thought they'd hired some sort of lookalike to play him as a youngster.
     You see, Giuliano and mate - old droopy drawers Michele Placido - are just trying to survive on the streets of the town of Corleone, Sicily. Giuliano sees the way out of his poverty via the Mafia, whereas Michele wants to back the people and lead a socialist revolution against the gangsters. Gemma gets his chance first, when he kills a man with a shovel during a work dispute (abruptly brutal). Local mobster Francisco Rabal witnesses the murder but agrees to cover it up if Gemma will work for him. On the other hand, Placido is going to prove to be a total pain in the arse to the Mafia...
     This film alternates between Gemma's rise to power and his present-day trial for kidnapping, while long-suffering wife Claudia Cardinal stays loyally by his side. The problem here is that Claudia isn't given much to do in this film until the last scene, so I was kind of let down to find she's relegated to mostly reaction shots and standing in the background while Gemma takes centre stage. He is quite good though, going from youthful arrogance to cold, calculating killer while also suffering from serious guilt when Rabal pits him against Michele Placido, who, in a very vocal performance, has become the voice of the people.
     People compare this one to THE GODFATHER, but for the most part I see a lot of parallels with SCARFACE (which was made later). A young buck proves his ruthlessness, takes over the business, and lets his insecurities become his undoing. I doubt Brian De Palma has seen this film though. It was hard enough to find in an age where nearly every album or film is available for free if you can be arsed typing in the title. It was worth tracking down though. The opening murder by Gemma is a bit of a shock, and there's moments like that dotted all over the film. It doesn't quite build up a head of steam mind you.
     Also notable is the performance by Stefano Satta Flores, an actor who unfortunately died quite young at the age of 48. He also appears as a paranoid businessman in the film THE GUN (also starring Claudia Cardinale). Cardinale does have rather a lot of good Eurocrime films under her belt, including MAFIA, where she goes up against the mafia and the hateful locals to locate her missing husband, and BLOOD BROTHERS, where Franco Nero cries so much he's actually floating in a boat on his tears.

Crime At A Chinese Restaurant (1981, Italy, Crime/Comedy, Director: Bruno Corbucci)
Notable actors: Tomas Milian! Bombolo! Massimo Vanni! Enzo Cannavale and...Tomas Milian again!

Let's talk quietly, me and you. In 2021, a film starring a guy pretending to be Chinese isn't going to be especially popular, and quite rightly so. I mean, Tomas Milian is basically reprising his role from Bruno Corbucci's brother Sergio's film THE WHITE, THE YELLOW AND THE BLACK, and by referring to himself as the 'mongoloid' (because, you know, Mongolia) and starting every sentence with 'awww...', I'm sure he's not respectively paying homage to Chinese culture (although in the Sergio film he did manage to display a certain humanity as the Japanese Sakura). What I'm trying to say is: if I showed my daughter this film she'd kick my ass, but I found it funny in parts, so who am I to hate on folks who like Peter Sellers in THE PARTY? To cut a long story short, Milian is dead, so is Bombolo, and Corbucci, so what are we going to do - exhume their corpses and kick utter fuck out of their skeletons or just watch a film from a different era (40 years ago) and dig the moustache and huge eighties spectacles Massimo Vanni is sporting.
     It's an inspector Giraldi film anyway, so the plot is just an excuse for Milian to ham it up as Giraldi, who this time around has a broken leg and has taken a vow not to lapse into his usual sarcastic swearing ways (which I have found out there's a word for - 'turpiloquio'). He's also building an illegal house in the country because this is some sort of loophole if you build it before you are caught. Who knows. The main thing is - Milian is also playing a Chinese guy. Now, I had to muddle through this film in Italian, but I think Milian's Chinese guy is supposed to be a co-owner of a Chinese restaurant right across from the Trevi Fountain, and he gets caught up in a murder when one of the customers is found dead of arsenic poisoning.
     The key to all this is Bombolo, who this time is called...Bombolo. He's currently working loads of different jobs, working as a chauffer, a cook in the Chinese restaurant, and helping Giraldi build his house. Plus, he gets a slap in the face every time he swears due to Giraldi's vow. When Bombolo and Ciu Ci Ciao (Milian's Chinese character) discover the body, they decide to take the cadaver home as a dead guy in a restaurant would destroy it's reputation. This leads to some actually funny scenes as Bombolo tries to drag the body up a flight of stairs. In fact, the main key to the funny bits of this film is because the funny bits most resemble the Three Stooges and their antics.
     Giraldi becomes involved in the investigation and quickly deduces that Bombolo is involved somehow, but decides to keep his investigations hidden from his superiors (one of which gets an impromptu acupuncture session from Cio Ci Ciao). He deduces that a clue might be held by the photographer hired by the restaurant to make a bit of extra cash (and the photographer makes a bit of cash himself from blackmail). This leads to a car chase through a factory full of explosion chemicals where the photographer gets accidentally frozen and his body starts sliding around the floor and bouncing off of things, ending in Milian riding the body around and slapping the crap out of an obvious dummy. It worked for me.
     I did get some genuine laughs from this one, but I also like Adam Sandler films so you might want to tread carefully here. Apart from the car chase, there's maybe a lack of action that balanced out the earlier Giraldi films, but at least it hasn't lapsed into the 'going-through-the-motions' of the last Giraldi film.
     Then white actors shouldn't portray folks of a different colour. Now, I'm off to watch something more culturally rich - Anthony Hopkins playing OTHELLO. I bid you good day.

Crime In Formula One (1984, Italy, Crime/Giallo/Comedy, Director: Bruno Corbucci)
Notable actors: Tomas Milian! Dagmar Lassander! Licinia Lentini! Bombolo! Massimo Vanni! That guy with the squint whose name totally escapes me!

Nico Giraldi film number ten here, and although I expected it to be as bad as COP IN DRAG, it's not even close. That said, most people will probably want to avoid it like the plague. This is broad, un-PC comedy here, although there's a bit of action mixed in with some drama too. When they get the balance right like that, the formula works for me.
     This time around, as you can tell by the title, a top racing car driver crashes during a race and dies, and it's quickly discovered that the car had been sabotaged beforehand. As usual, car thief-turned cop Tomas Milian is given the case, along with faithful but not very bright sidekick Massimo Vanni. As you may know, Milian's domestic life always features prominently in these films. In this film he's got a troublesome brother-in-law who also likes to take vehicles without the owners consent. There's also the omnipresent Bombolo who Milian keeps catching trying to cause crimes, be it a bank note scam or being the getaway driver in a robbery. It turns out that Milian actually keeps a book of how many times he's slapped Bombolo - is it 3,674 or 3,640?
     Milian's son Rocky also features, and he's got a serious SMURF obsession going on. As a person who grew up in the Eighties, I've got to say I hated those fucking things. We also get a reference to post-apocalyptic cinema when Milian's wife insists on wearing a post-nuke fashion wear to the policeman's ball, and if you're all for films from the Eighties referencing things that happened in the Eighties, wait to you get to the FLASHDANCE sequence in this film!
     I'm getting ahead of myself though. First, Milian has to discover that the Engineer in charge of the pit team at the race track has got a really hot wife in the form of Dagmar Lassander. They both insist that the dead driver was a great guy they loved like a son but there was a rival team out there who hated him. It seems that he's going to have to dig into the driver's past to find clues, but then something monumentally stupid happens that you shouldn't think about too much because the odds of it happening are astronomical.
     After getting his brother-in-law out of a bad situation in a pool hall with some nifty skills, he drops the guy off outside of his apartment. Totally ignoring Milian's advice to stay on the straight and narrow, he steals a white Mercedes and drives it to his nearest fence. The guy freaks when he finds a corpse in the boot, and the brother-in-law drives the car with the corpse in it to Milian's house and begs for help, which, stupidly, Milian does. He goes to his precinct and claims he found the car like that, prompting a magistrate to investigate Milians past. Also, this corpse is linked to the death of the racing car driver, but as I said, don't ponder how much of a coincidence that is.
     Although it gets a bit talky in the middle, CRIME IN FORMULA ONE does manage to keep the balance of comedy, drama, and action just about right, with a giallo plot that Milian actually refers to as such in the dialogue. You have Milian doing the usual slapping Bombolo and insulting Massimo Vanni (who literally obeys any order he's given, even if it's pressing every switch in Milian's house to see if there's a bomb attached). You have drama in the form of Milian getting suspended due to his past, which he plays straight, and you also get Milian foiling a robbery and a fairly decent chase sequence involving two racing cars at the end of the film.
     The most prominent scene in the film however is when Milian (or a guy pretending to be him) does an energetic dance sequence like the film FLASHDANCE (disclaimer: I'm guessing as I've never seen it). He goes to a dance class to interrogate an ex-girlfriend of the dead driver, but when challenged about why he's there, he breaks into a lengthy, slow-motion dance that goes on for some time.
     It's a decent enough entry in the series if you're already a fan (unlike COP IN DRAG, where it just felt to me like everyone was going through the motions).

Crimes a.k.a. Delitti (1987, Italy, Giallo, Director: Giovanna Lenzi)
Notable actors: An extremely tired looking George Ardisson! Gianni Dei! Luigi D'Ecclasia, who doesn't even get a credit in this film but is more well known as Shorty from 2019: After The Fall of New York!

I've read one review of this film, and in that review it states that this is known as one of the worst of the gialli. Sure, it's really low budget, the Guido and Maurizio De Angelis soundtrack swings insanely from good to full fat cheese, the acting is randomly bad and the giant cast confuses the plot, but I'll be damned if I wasn't entertained. Who wouldn't be entertained by dwarf punch-ups, rampant nudity, and a killer who injects his victims with a venom that turns the victim's head into what looks like a giant foam mushroom?
     It all starts with one of those rich people orgies where all those rich people flock to a huge villa in Italy and get wasted on drugs then have group sex before one of them is found dead with a face like a ball of playdough that's had all the colours mixed in. This dead person is Harry, a wild guy who has all sorts of lovers, and his death has sparked a huge wave of panic among those who attended the party, those who supplied the drugs for the party, and just about everyone else associated with Harry. There's a murderer out there, and everyone involved is overdue a venom injection!
     On the case is an inspector whose daughter is concurrently reading a giallo with a very similar plot to the movie, and a journalist who wrote the giallo that the inspector's daughter is reading. How's that for meta, Wes Craven? These two, with the aid of ill-looking police chief George Ardisson, set out to find the killer among the several hundred potential victims we have to confusingly sift through throughout the film. There's relations of Harry, lovers of Harry, drug dealers of Harry, and addicts of drug dealers of Harry all getting involved in this thing. Most end up injected with venom and having their face turn into a rubbery looking mess with an eyeball poking out.
     I did get the feeling that this film isn't exactly meant to be taking seriously, as quite a lot of the film is less interested in the plot and more interested in actress Michela Miti, who plays the girlfriend of the guy who lent his villa to Harry in order for him to have his orgy (this film is exhausting in that respect). Michela gets to do a ridiculous seduction routine with villa owner William (whom I swear turns to the camera and rolls his eyes, but can't confirm due to the terrible print). She also takes part in a sexy photo shoot and more sex scenes before getting turned into a foam horror. There's also the police inspector having a punch up with a dwarf, and one character being terrified out of her mind by being stalked by a killer, only for it to turn out to be a random guy who discards his disguise in order to perform a weird dance, and then run off!
     Director Giovanna Lenzi, who also appears in the film, has a bit of form when it comes to the giallo genre, appearing in old school films like A...FOR ASSASSIN, DEADLY INHERITANCE, the great CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT, and the mysterious Gianni Manera vehicle CHRYSANTHEMUMS FOR A BUNCH OF SWINE.

Crimes and Perfumes (1988, Italy, Giallo/Comedy, Director: Vittorio De Sisti)
Notable actors: Jerry Cala! Eva Grimaldi! 

Well, this didn't quite work. CRIMES AND PERFUMES has been sitting in my 'to-watch' list for years, and I can't say it was worth the wait. Sometimes the giallo and comedy elements do gel, like in THE CAT, but when a woman is on fire and screaming and a guy is doing slapstick while struggling with a fire extinguisher, I'm not sure what to think.
     Frustratingly, the premise of this could have resulted in an awesome late Eighties giallo that overdoes on the fashions and music of the era, just like TOO BEAUTIFUL TO DIE and NOTHING UNDERNEATH. Someone is murdering women by giving them a perfume that catches fire in halogen light, burning them to death. The film also relies on giallo cliches like childhood trauma and clues in photographs, and a normal guy trying to unearth the mystery.
     But...it's a very broad comedy too. I realise this film was probably just a vehicle for comedian Jerry Cala, and maybe fans of him will like it, but sad giallo fans like me who tick these films off some list like a birdwatcher catching a glimpse of a rare bird will be let down, and in the end, is that not the true tragedy of the film? Does director Vittorio De Sisti lie awake at night, pondering how die hard giallo fans emerge from their dank unaired hovels into the blinking sunlight, depressed as they have wasted yet another hour and a half watching a load of crap? The answer is no...he died in 2006. Eva Grimaldi fans will also be let down as she appears for about five minutes, does a provocative dance, and goes up in flames.
     I'm waffling because I can't even look the plot in the face. Jerry Cala plays Eddy, a security guard working in a shopping mall whose most exciting outing is tracking down the black-gloved arse pincher haunting the stores. He works alongside Barbara, his fiance, who has just been given a bottle of perfume by a mysterious stranger. A couple of minutes later Barbara is a pile of ash in a corridor, and a bumbling policeman is on the case, who strangely kind of resembles Matt Berry from GARTH MARENGHI'S DARKPLACE. This guy's just here to chase Eddy about, thinking he's the murderer, but the real investigation is undertaken by Eddy, and his sidekick Yoko, played by the very pretty Nina Soldano (from NIGHT OF THE SHARKS and FATAL FRAMES). Not that you'd be able to tell that from the version I watched, which was more like a 123rd generation porn VHS that's been handed around a high school for years and had the tape churned up by a teenager hurriedly trying to remove the tape from the machine as they've just spotted their parents entering the front gate. My brother broke our dad's VHS in this exact manner, getting a porno stuck inside it in a mad panic and destroying the VHS player in the process.
     Look, it takes FIFTY minutes for Eddy to figure out that it's the perfume that's the killer's method of murder, so that doesn't leave much time for anything else to happen, save for Eddy pretending to be a priest for ages in order to get a clue or two about the murders. I suppose he uses a cheeseball Eighties computer method to figure out the victims, and there's a chase scene at the end that seems to come from a different film in its tone. This film is all over the place.
     After watching this I'm a bit worried about watching some other comedy/giallo films, like NO THANKS, COFFEE MAKES ME NERVOUS and THE NOSEY ONE, although I'll probably watch the latter, because Edwige Fenech is in it. And her arse.

The Curse of Belphegor (1967, France/Italy, Giallo/Horror, Director: Georges Combret)

I'll begin with saying that this is some sort of spin-off of a French TV series but I had trouble finding information on that during the whole five minutes I was Googling the title. Also, for those who aren't death metal fans, Belphegor is one of the Devil's henchman in Hell, along with Baal, Astaroth, Asmodeus and Michael Jackson. He's supposed to tempt people into selling their souls by offering them strange inventions, which is maybe why the killer in this film uses so much gadgetry.
     In France, somewhere, a dance troupe are putting together a gig about said demon, using hilariously bad dance routines that end in a pretend human sacrifice. The guys behind the troop - the theatre owner, an extremely over-the-top gay guy who reminded me of Mr Humphries from ARE YOU BEING SERVED?, a floor manager, and some other guys, are just getting over the death of one of the stage hands, but they are not sweating it too much - shit happens. What they don't know is the guy died after being startled by some freaky dude wearing a Belphegor mask who is going to be putting the hurts on everyone very shortly.
     While pondering whether or not the huge Belphegor statue they have is too big, the damn thing starts speaking. The voice of Belphegor tells them all that he doesn't like his name being besmirched (no wonder - the dancing is shit!) and now everyone involved is going to die. He even lists what order they will die in, and the theatre owner is first up for a killing. Strangely, instead of brushing it off, these folk do actually call the police in, but they are unable to find any speakers on the statue, or even the many cameras Belphegor seems to own, seeing as he's able to watch every thing that happens in the film on a giant screen in his hideout.
     The first kill actually sets a sinister tone that isn't followed through, as Belphegor stalks and traps the theatre owner in the theatre before stabbing him in the guts and leaving him on the fake altar. It's quite atmospheric, so it's shame the film descends immediately into a lot of unfunny comedy scenes and the cast acting like a guy didn't just get murdered the day before. In fact, they go out to dinner to celebrate the young hero guy inheriting the theatre! There's also far too much comedy from the janitor of the theatre (Achille Zavatta, a real life clown) who gets drunk a lot and has some slapstick antics with the plot's red herring.
    And that's basically how the film runs until the end. Belphegor kills someone (including shooting a poison dart from his eye!), the police turn up, the young guy and his plucky female journalist friend do a bit of investigation, and the old janitor or the gay guy provide the laughs. The shifts in tone reminded me a lot of IT: CHAPTER TWO, and it sure as hell didn't work in that one. You do get to find out who the killer is in the end, but believe me, you won't care.
     The weird mix of giallo, comedy, sixties grooviness, spy film gadgets and horror does not work at all, and it doesn't help that the hero looks like what you'd get if Davey Jones of the Monkees and Herve Villechaize had a baby. We have a beggar kicking around in the street outside my office who looks exactly like Herve, by the way, only female and with a rather shrill Glaswegian accent. I guess THE CURSE OF BELPHEGOR is rare for a reason - nobody wants to fucking watch it.
     I also couldn't figure out why the killer spray-painted his hands gold either. No one ever saw them.

A Dangerous Toy (1979, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Guiliano Montaldo)
Notable actors: Nino Manfredi! Marlene Jobert! Vittorio Mezzogiorno! Luciano Catenacci! Mario Brega! Olga Karlatos! Pamela Villaresi!
Yet another Ennio Morricone soundtrack, with a bit of Sergio Leone executive production thrown in too.

Here's an interesting one that the Italian audience, suffering through the 'Years of Lead', would have related to. The common Italian person in the late Seventies must have been sick to the back teeth of the constant political extremists, the terrorism, the corruption, and most of all, the robberies and violent street crime. Would you be justified in picking up a weapon and becoming part of the problem, rather than sit back and take it?
     Nino Manfredi is faced with such a choice. A meek accountant working for a very rich businessman, he's started to get a bit paranoid about life in general in what I'm guessing is Milan. Transporting large sums of cash across the city is a nerve-wracking affair, even with the armed bodyguards. All Nino wants to do is get home safely and work on his time pieces in his clock-filled room, and have petty arguments with his wife, who always seems to have a headache when Nino wants a bit of the old filthy-squeezy.
     Hell, Nino can't even get jars of passata from the supermarket without getting shot in the leg during a battle between security guards and robbers. Wounded, he's taken to hospital but ignored by all the paparazzi there due to him being only a bystander. It's during his rehabilitation at a local gym where his life takes a real turn. He's just about to get his arse kicked by a bunch of guys practising karate when hunky cop Vittorio Mezzogiorno steps in to help him, kicking off a fairly intimate bromance! If you aren't comfortable standing naked in front of a likewise naked guy and discussing the last scene of FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, that man isn't your true friend. Unless I misunderstood that bit and all Italians discuss Sergio Leone films totally naked.
     Nino And Vittorio go jogging together, have lunch together, and have dinner at Nino's house (where it looks like Vittorio and Nino's wife might just be a little attracted to each other). Nino discovers he has a hidden talent when Vittorio takes him to a shooting range and Nino turns out to be a natural. He also becomes completely obsessed by guns, taking his fascination to the same level as that of his watch repair hobby, and totally doing his wife's head in.
     A chance meeting between Vittorio and a wanted man takes the film in a much darker direction than the pretty lightweight first half, where Nino's deadly accurate shooting skills make him somewhat of a celebrity, but then violence breeds violence, and Nino finds himself in a world that starts getting harder and harder to escape from, and relying more and more on the power he feels when holding a gun, much to the detriment of those around him.
     I knew next to nothing about the film before I watched it, the title being something I added to my never-ending watch list a couple of years ago, and I swear when it started I thought it was supposed to be a kind of light comedy. Nino Manfredi seems to feature in a lot of comedies (save for GIROLIMONI, THE MONSTER OF ROME, which is also on my to-watch list), and this goes in his favour here as he's kind of goofy and timid at first, preferring to take a step back from things and be a bystander, including those fiery arguments between his boss and his rebellious daughter. However, when he realises the power in being able to wield a gun, he changes, becomes brave and bold...and reckless. Hats off to Marlene Jobert who plays his wife too - they bounce off each other quite well.
     Look out for Olga Karlatos as the wife of Nino's boss. I swear that lady looks different in every single film I've seen her in. Luciano Catenucci turns up as the guy hired to take over the dangerous cash-runs, and Mario Brega (from AN ANGEL FOR SATAN) appears as a bad guy who becomes Nino's nemesis. This film isn't all about action however, although there are a couple of shoot-outs. Vittorio warns Nino that a gun is not a toy, and the film is more about Nino not taking that advice seriously.
     One last note about Ennio Morricone's soundtrack. I love the guy's work, but I do notice that when called on to compose Eurocrime music, he tends to use the same kind of sound - the soundtrack here kind of sounds like the soundtrack to CORRUPT, which in turn sounds like the one from VIOLENT CITY, and THE UNTOUCHABLES. Just saying is all. Well, that and there's a very similar film called THE GUN, directed by Pasquale Squitieri.

Dead of Summer (1970, Italy, Giallo, Director: Nelo Risi)
Notable actors: Jean Seberg! Luigi Pistilli!

It's going to be hard to write a review about a film that consists mostly of Jean Seberg wandering around an apartment in Morocco, but let's give it a go.
     Jean Seberg is a frustrated, bored, and anxious wife of an architect, languishing in an apartment in Morocco. We get to witness such thrills as Jean trying to get the air conditioning to work, knocking some ceramic statues around in a bored fashion, drinking some cold water, watching paint dry, staring at her toes, and annoying the hired help.
     Hang on to the edge of your seat as Jean listens to recording of her husband and tries to call her doctor, Luigi Pistilli, then has a shower and stands at a window as towel falls off. Then she completes a crossword and fills in some outstanding tax invoices before seeing how long she can stand watching Channel 4 racing. Pulses race as Jean walks into the kitchen but then can't remember why she went in there in the first place, so instead she spends two hours scraping dried cereal from a kitchen counter.
     The plot thickens as Jean alphabetizes her compact disc collection, then decides that perhaps chronological order might be better before things take a turn for the exciting when we have a chase sequence where Jean chases a fly around the house with a rolled up copy of a newspaper, ending with the gory murder of the fly up against a window. Then Jean sits watching cringe videos on YouTube for six hours while stuffing Pringles into her mouth.
     Gasp as Jean finally goes outside, only to drive aimlessly around trying to find her doctor, getting annoyed by the locals, then getting annoyed by the non-locals who languish themselves in a private country club. Then faint in shock as Jean returns to her home and starts staring at people again before dramatically finally getting in touch with her doctor.
     Jean Seberg fans will have a field day with this one as the film is nearly a one person show. Giallo fans may not have such a good time because the mystery of 'Where is Jean's husband?' is easy to solve. The film looks good and is definitely leaning towards arthouse, but maybe too chilled for its own good.
     Jean Seberg's real life makes for particularly grim reading. Possibly hounded by the FBI to the point she can't stand the anxiety and kills herself?

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.

Death Kiss a.k.a. He Killed His Wife a.k.a. Rape Killer (1974, Greece, Giallo, Director: Kostas Karagiannis)
Notable actors: Lakis Komninos!

Proper sleazy giallo here featuring some very hairy men indeed. In Greece, former drug-smuggler and disgraced ship's Captain, Captain Jim, isn't happy enough with the yacht his millionaire wife bought him for his birthday (the ship is also called Captain Jim, by the way). No, he wants the lot - the money and the house, so he can go hang around with what I believe the youth of today refer to as his 'side-bitch'. This girl looks a lot like Agnetha from Abba, which is fitting because Captain Jim looks a bit like Benny from Abba.
     Jim is also remarkably and hypocritically jealous of his wife's former lover, a doctor who didn't like Jim's vibe but somehow didn't manage to stop Jim muscling in on the millionairess. In one of many unintentionally funny scenes in this film, Jim stands out on a balcony to smoke a ciggy and spots his lover hanging around outside in a car. He goes to meet her, just as the doctor emerges on another balcony to puff on a sneaky ciggy of his own spotting Jim and getting all suspicious and stuff.
     Jim's plan is simple: there's a serial killer scaring the crap out of everyone by stalking lover's lanes, shooting the guy lover in the head, then dragging the woman out onto the dirt to ravish and slap around and finally strangle. There's a lot of slapping in this film, by the way. It happens that the killer (who is an undertaker) and Jim know each other, something which the film actually takes time out to give an explanation for. Jim and his wife will go to one of the killer's stalking grounds, he'll rough up Jim, and before you know it Jim's down one wife and up a seven figure fortune.
     The killer's plan, however, isn't simple. I won't go into it in great detail, but he doesn't trust Jim and is about three steps ahead of him in setting up a very convoluted plot where he keeps various other woman drugged up in his home and goes looking for a woman who looks exactly like Jim's wife. He's also lucky to get away with an awful lot of stuff out on open roads without any passers-by but let's not analyse how stupid parts of this film are.
     The pace for this one is pretty quick and although the actor playing the killer is kind of goofy, he's pretty entertaining, too. The whole film is filled with nudity. And slapping, loads of slapping. I've read comments saying that the soundtrack isn't that good but I found it fine, and very Greek. Culturally there's a bit of folk dancing but I'm sure a disclaimer in Greek said there were no plates harmed in the making of this film.

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.

Desert of Fire (1971, Italy, Action, Director: Renzo Merusi)
Notable actors: Edwige Fenech! George Wang! Carla Mancini (didn't see her)! Guiseppe Addobbati!

For Edwige Fenech completists only, and that's only if you can manage to knock one out to the only version that seems to exist of this film - a Minecraft-looking blurry mess with Greek subtitles.
     DESERT OF FIRE is kind of like a Western set in the Saharan desert, with good guys and bad guys and a hidden treasure and all that stuff, but it's a film that never really goes anywhere. There's no energy to proceedings and things just kind of happen, then things slow down a bit, then there's a little action and repeat.
     What it involves is Chinese actor George Wang playing an Arab who robs a jeep full of wages so he can use the money to track down the hidden treasure of Sharif...something or other (I've forgotten already). Wang kills everyone travelling in the jeep, then all his sidekicks, but while he's being smug, someone steals the cash and flashes bright light into his eyes. Firing blindly, Wang thinks that the spirit of Sharif has come back to haunt him, and runs away to the nearest town to very badly lie that the jeep was ambushed by someone who wasn't him.
     In the town, lost English ex-Patriot St John dreams of returning home to England, but also needs to locate Sharif's treasure. Rather handily, he's married to Sharif's daughter, and his own daughter is played by Edwige Fenech, a girl also seeking to escape the desert by procuring money, even through any, naked means. At first she attempts to seduce Wang, but when he reveals he hasn't got the stolen cash and tries to rape her, Fenech seeks other less traumatising avenues, like hooking up with the mysterious Ben (or Bill? Man, this film is forgettable).
     Ben/Bill has the cash and wants to use it for the greater good, but he faces the wrath of Wang, the wrath of Fenech's mother, and the machiniations of Fenech's dad. That rather small pool of character means there's isnt going to be much by way of action in this one.
     In fact, apart from a couple of lame gun battles and an explosion, most of the action comes from Wang shooting at people through a scope (or while standing on a moving horse, so kudos to the stuntman who did that bit), so it's not so much a desert of fire as a desert of a slight puff of smoke on the horizon.
     Therefore, the highlight of the film is Edwige Fenech, and thankfully she has to run about braless, because if she didn't I'd have been in a coma after the first couple of minutes.

The Devil's Ransom a.k.a. No Way Out (1971, Italy/France/Spain/Sweden, Giallo, Director: Piero Scuime)
Notable actors: Philippe Leroy! Marissa Mell! Lea Massari! George Riguad! Roger Hanin! Well, that's the entire cast then.

Thank God that there's hardly any action in this film, because it was seriously interfering with the endless scenes of Philippe Leroy travelling to and from work and the other endless scenes of a troubled Philippe Leroy staring at things.
     It's bad enough when the opening credits of a film are so slow that they trick you into thinking you've become trapped in some sort of cinematic event horizon where it's never going to end, but when the film following the credits unfolds with the pace of continental drift, you've got a problem.
     We then cut to a clearly troubled Marissa Mell, who has a very strange relationship with her husband, banker Philippe Leroy. Philippe works for a high-ranking bank, acting as a courier to ferry funds to certain account holders under the watchful eye of boss George Riguad. Philippe's work often takes him away overnight as he travels to Italy, France, etc with a lot of cash handcuffed to his wrist. Whether or not it's this is causing tensions between them is unclear, but they sit in awkward silence eating dinner until Phillipe breaks a cup and Marissa goes of to check isn't hasn't woken their son.
     Now, be warned that a lot of this film involves Philippe going back and forth from his work and it's upon returning from one of these trips (via his secret lover Lea Massari) he finds that Massari has discovered their son missing and that a man has called claiming that he has kidnapped him. The kidnapper calls Philippe and tells him he wants loads of cash, but he should go about his business and act normally, so Philippe...goes back and forth between work again. Sigh.
     However, the kidnapper also has a bit of fun with Marissa, who is demented at the thought of her son being kidnapped and will do anything to get her back. Cue naked Marissa Mell pictures, which the kidnapper develops in his mannequin filled home. He eventually starts putting the pressure on Leroy to come up with the money, but when Leroy is strangely nonchalant about the possibility of his son dying, the kidnapper gets confused and confides in his partner, who turns out to be none other than OH GOD there's a dog having explosive diarrea outside my window, surrounded by laughing homeless people! It's a Christmas miracle - wife, fetch the kids!
     It's kind of hard to write about a film where nothing really happens about 80% of the time, so all I can say is Philippe Leroy (from the trippy THE LAUGHING WOMAN and the introspective semi-Gothic horror THE POSSESSED) does his best, as does Marissa Mell (from the Spanish giallo VIOLENT BLOODBATH and MARTA, which is also a kind of introspective Gothic horror/Giallo film). There's a decent twist towards the end of the film, but it's clear that director Piero Scuime was a novice, as the editing is choppy and even confusing at times, the pacing is woeful and he doesn't seem particularly interested in injecting any excitement into proceedings. The film even ends with a character on a train (yep, travelling again) while staring into space, flashbacking the plot of the film.

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.

Diabolicamente...Letizia a.k.a. Sex, Demons and Death (1975, Italy, Horror, Director: Salvatore Bugnatelli)
Notable actors: Gabrielle Tinti!

Those bloody teenagers and their psychic abilities! You do your best, invite them to stay when their mum dies, and what do they do? Start glaring at things evilly, rub toast on the maid's face, and cause a local doctor to miss his mouth when drinking water.
     The girl is Letizia and she looks about as much like a teenager as I look like Beyonce, but let's go with the flow. She arrives at the villa of her Aunt Michela and her husband Gabriele Tinti, and although things start out simple enough, it becomes clear that something is a bit strange about Letizia. First, she comes on to the butler, but at the same time scares the crap out of him by transforming into some sort of demonic Bee-Gee! This affects his sex-life with maid Gassella, who Letizia also comes on to (with some erotic toast rubbing), which somehow causes Gassella to come on to the Aunt. The Aunt resists, but someone is hiding and taking pictures of the naughty deed!
     Gabriele and the Aunt also take Letizia out for some dinner where they are met by a psychologist (turns out the Aunt has been having some sort of funny turns and may have had a breakdown in the past). Letizia gives him the evil eye, which makes the psychologist simply pour the water down the side of his face. Yes, Letizia has some sort of evil power, but what does she want with the family, and who is that guy hanging around the place, looking sinister?
     What we have here is the plot of a late sixties giallo with a pinch of THE EXORCIST thrown in because this film was made in 1975. There's also a lot of nudity, and Gabriele Tinti gets to sleep with every female in the cast. You get a lot of dodgy visual effects as Letizia walks through walls etc, and a nihilistic ending that's pure seventies gold. Too much screaming though, way too much screaming.

Dirty Heroes (1968, Italy, War, Director: Alberto De Martino)
Notable actors: Frederick Stafford! John Ireland! Curd Jurgens! Michel Constantin! Howard Ross! Aldofo Celi! John Bartha! Tom Felleghy!
Ennio Morricone Soundtrack!

Alberto De Martino's a strange one, from a film making point of view. His films for the most part are competently made and entertaining, but most of them never really take off in terms of excitement or insanity. STRANGE SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM is the exception here, due to random transvestite fights and what not, but films like CRIME BOSS, THE MAN WITH ICY EYES and THE KILLER IS ON THE PHONE are examples of how his films never really get going. Technically, they're fine, but they don't get the blood racing. They're just okay films.
     Same with DIRTY HEROES I'm afraid. There's a good cast, even a decent battle near the end, and good cinematography, but my god it takes forever to get to the action, and although I think Adolfo Celi has the most Roman 'Roman nose' I've ever seen (sorry Guiseppe Castellano!), even I get bored of looking at it eventually.
     It's very near the end of World War Two, and three US soldiers have just escaped their prison camp in occupied Holland. One is rugged Frederick Stafford, called Sesame due to his safe cracking skills. Another is an inexplicably red-headed Howard Ross (actually born Howardo Rosso in Rome), another part time crook. The other guy gets killed quickly so we'll never know his occupation. These two escape to the partisans, commanded by Adolfo Celi. Seems like they all have some sort of heist planned in enemy territory, so there's a whole lot of planning and the whole gang to meet, so the first fifty minutes of the film are taken up by this.
     The gang include Stafford, Ross and Celi who will be doing most of the leg work, whereas John Ireland (in a bigger role that usual) is a US pilot and former partner of Stafford who will be causing a distraction from the air. On the enemy side is Michel Constantin (from the grim as fuck French film THE HUNT) as a German soldier trying to make a bit of cash on the side and Daniela Bianchi, who is coerced into doing the good guy's work because they know she is a Jew hiding in plain sight by being married to General Curd Jurgens, who is guarding the diamonds that are the main purpose of the heist. He's a fairly benevolent leader, knowing the war is done and just trying to keep his remaining troops safe until it all ends. On the other hand, he's got a nasty SS officer who has a serious case of denial going on.
     And that's the set up, which is basically the set up for just about every Italian war film from the sixties - it's the plot of THE DIRTY DOZEN. When the film gets going it's good enough, with scuba diving and boat chases and such like, but then things slow down again for more talk until mercifully we get a large battle between the US and German forces.
     Surprisingly, De Martino then somehow gets ahead of the curve by beating Peter Jackson's RETURN OF THE KING by three decades for somehow making the decision to have us sit through an ending for every single surviving character, which adds on about ten minutes of run time. Thanks for that.
     Another alright film from De Martino then. The Morricone soundtrack is okay too, just rising above average now and again, and the film looks rather good, but that's about it really, unless I can somehow go back in time and give De Martino advice about pacing. I'm not going to do that though, because if I ever learn to go back in time I'm going to go back to the early seventies and kill Roy Wood of Wizzard so I'd never have to hear "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" ever again.

Distant Lights (1987, Italy, Sci-fi, Director: Aurelio Chiesa)
Notable actors: Tomas Milian! William Berger! Laura Morante!

If you are a big fan of Milian or Berger and haven't seen this film, I recommend you do not read this review and instead try to track down a copy. I'd never even heard of it, and just happened to notice the title on William Berger's filmography on the IMDb (while researching the film HER HAREM - review shortly of that). This might be a sci-fi film from Italy during a time where the film industry was waning, but compared to, say, MIAMI GOLEM, you have a film that might be just as cheap on the effects front, but is completely different in tone and structure.
     Hats off to Tomas Milian as well, because I'm not sure many actors could successfully play this role. Here, he plays Bernardo, a recently widowed father of one, trying to put a brave face on for his son while also trying to comfort his grieving mother-in-law. He's so recently bereaved his wife only passed away a few days before the film starts, so he's understandably upset that his son Guiliano arrives for dinner well over an hour late, for the third night running. He's not angry with the kid, merely comforting him and gently asking what took him so long, and when Guiliano answers that he was playing with his mother in the park, Milian's paternal instincts take over and he reckons his son is just having a bit of trouble getting over his mother's death.
     Things get more serious the next day when Milian is contacted by Guiliano's teacher Renata. It seems that although Milian dropped his son right outside of the school, Guiliano never arrived in class. Remembering that his son said he was playing in the park, Milian heads there, where he finds Guiliano's schoolbook with the word 'Mama' writtten on it. The police get involved and eventually Guiliano is found sleeping in some old tunnels next to the park. His excuse is again that he was playing with his mother, but when he presents Milian with the necklace his wife was buried in, things get really strange.
     Milian and Renato at first go to the graveyard, where Milian accuses the gravedigger of stealing jewellery. The man protests his innocence, and on the way back home Milian spots his wife from a distance. By now the police, the gravedigger and mayor/doctor William Berger have become involved, as he personally treated Milian's wife and signed the death certificate, but when Milian's wife's coffin is taken to the morgue, occupied only by a dead vagrant, it is found to be empty. Worse still, Milian meets that vagrant in the same tunnels his son slept in the night before...
     I'll go no further with the plot than the moment Milian comes face to face with his seemingly resurrected wife, because it's this moment that perfectly reflects the tone of the film (and it occurs only about half an hour in, so there's much more to discover here). Director Aurelio Chiesa doesn't go for scares or hysteria (although certain scenes in the film are very atmospheric); he presents a man who has possibly imagined he's already gone through the worst period in his life presented with something he couldn't possibly have predicted, and Milian's conveying of utter incomprehension mixed with grief and love is something to behold. This isn't the loud, screaming Milian of BROTHERS TILL WE DIE or the subdued, underplayed Milian of Fulci's BEATRICE CENCI, but a new side - a middle-aged, melancholic side I hadn't seen before, and it's impressive.
     He continues in this vein throughout the rest of the film, which has quite a few unexpected turns throughout, as well as a great performance from William Berger as the stoic public representative who wants to subdue stories about corpses walking about and tries to use logic to solve what's going on. He gets his own scene near the end to show off his acting chops too, and nearly pips Milian to the post in the emotional stakes when he breaks down and pleads for help, or even just hope from Milian, which led the point of the film to finally sink in to my not very smart brain.
     It was about this point I realised that what is superficially a film about aliens (don't get excited about that - you see as much as some blue laser lights and that's it), is really a film about dealing with bereavement, and the fact that when we lose someone we can't, initially, grasp that they are truly gone and keep hoping for them to walk back in that front door, wishing that anything could bring them back. This is sad film, but not overly so - it does have it's bittersweet moments too, plus an out-of-nowhere full front nude scene by Laura Morante. There's no violence as such save for two nasty road accidents, but this film doesn't need anything like that - DISTANT LIGHTS is its own kind of entity. There's even a mix of comedy and horror when one poor fellow is mistaken for a reanimated person and get locked in a room with a load of actual reanimated people.
     I don't know if this Claudio Argento produced film is well known or not, or even if an English language or subtitled version is available, but it should be more popular. It took me totally by surprise, and I did find myself welling up now and again (note - I may just be insane, however). One of the few other Italian films that managed that was the Edwige Fenech tearjerker ANNA: THE PASSION, THE TORMENT. I see there's another late-era Tomas Milian film directed by Damiano Damiani called MASSACRE PLAY that looks good too.

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.

Emma, Dark Doors (1974, Spain, Horror, Director: Jose Ramon Larraz)
Notable actors: Susanna East! George Riguad...for a couple of minutes! Perla Cristal!

I dissed Jose Ramon Larraz's AN UNCERTAIN DEATH for being too slow, but that's not a problem here with EMMA, DARK DOORS. The plot is a thin as the skin of a bongo, but it delivers on the horror, with a couple of twists thrown in for good measure.
     Emma is a mentally unstable girl with no family and a dire fear of becoming blind, so you can imagine how lucky she must a have felt when she was run over by a car driven by a psychiatric nurse who then subsequently took her in to care for her, nurse her, and give her a bit of the old sapphic love. Doctor George Riguad voices a small voice of caution towards the whole matter, but then it turns out he's not in the film much anyway, so that's pretty much disregarded right then and there.
     The nurse, Perla Cristal (from hilarious William Shatner playing twins WHITE COMANCHE and the giallo THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER) has Emma cared for in her rich country house, but Emma's clearly a few beers short of a six pack and terrorises the help. Perla has also hooked up with a rich businessman, which does not please Emma one bit. I've got to admit that in Emma's defence Perla sure gives out a lot of mixed messages, from running her over to taking her in to care for her to slapping her around for hanging around with psychic Lupe to threatening to put her back in the asylum to trying to protect her after Emma goes nuts and knifes Perla's lover to death.
     The pair run off to the country, but Emma has got a serious neurosis going on about people wanting to put her back into the loony bin, so Perla's going to have to watch where she stores her sharp blades. Just when you think you know where the film is heading, we get a nice excursion into horror territory as a couple of hippies decide to be Emma's friends, and you know hippies - act like assholes without fear of retribution. Then again, you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes.
     Benefiting greatly from being very short at seventy-five minutes, EMMA, DARK DOORS just rolls along nicely, giving us some bloody kills along the way and even throwing in some Bava-like head games when the story randomly turns into a haunted house film. Susanna East does very well as a girl that's struggling to match reality with her destructive obsessions, and Perla Cristal also does her bit as a woman who clearly loves Emma but has no idea how to control her.

The Evening Travellers (1979, Italy, Sci-fi, Director: Ugo Tognazzi)
Notable actors: Ugo Tognazzi! Ornella Vanoni! William Berger! Corrine Clery!

In 2021, it's not that hard to imagine that the youth of today would reject consumerism and live sterile, ordered lives to preserve the human race and keep down the population, and it's not that hard that my generation, used to sparking up a spliff and necking ecstasy tablets two at a time, would reject such a notion and descend into fatalistic hedonism, resorting to flatulent. bingo-winged boffing while ignoring the fact that our sons and daughters are now systematically eliminating us from society.
     Such is the world that DJ Orso (director, actor, screenwriter and fluffer Ugo Tognazzi) finds himself in. In the future, the world has become so shitty that the youth conform to some organisation called the ESP, wear bland clothes of grey and white, do not partake of any fun and more importantly send anyone reaching the age of fifty to a holiday camp. Permanently. Ugo, a popular DJ, has now reached this age and at the urging of his compliant kids and grandson, is not setting off on holiday with his wife Ornella Vanoni. Both have their own view on this strange new law that's been implemented, with Orso being more vocal about this new sterile generation. "You have an anus, I have an arse," he says. "You copulate, I fuck," The young folk are all like 'whatever grandad' and send him off anyway.
     We get a kind of road trip sequence as Orso, his wife, kids and grandkid travel to the holiday destination, stopping off for a weird party in the some woods where decadent twins kill themselves as loads of middle-aged people dance around naked, Orso has a bit of a hissy fit ordering coffee (those designated for 'holiday' are given arm bands that affords them free beverages on the way), hits his son, which results in his daughter being blackmailed into sex by the coffee server in order to stop him calling the ESP police, and Orso going off on some half-arsed escape attempt that comes to nothing.
     Eventually, they end up at the holiday camp anyway. The camp seems kind of nice (the cinematography here is great, and is apparently a real place in Spain, somewhere). Everyone seems happy enough, smoking state-sanctioned grass, getting wasted, and getting it on with the younger servants in exchange for their possessions. Orso is dismayed to find a former suitor of his wife (William Berger) is on site and seems to be getting the green light from Ornella. Even worse is the discovery of the horrific Game everyone has to play every night. It's like a reverse Bingo, so if you have cards left, you 'win' a cruise, from which you never come back from.
     With Ornella sensibly commencing an affair with super hunky Berger, Orso has no choice but get slightly involved in some sort of resistance, smoke dope and get hooked up with youngster Corrine Clery (from KLEINHOFF HOTEL and Fulci's perv-tastic THE DEVIL'S HONEY (which is out there on the 'net if you remove enough safe filters from your browser).
     So yes, it's basically LOGAN'S RUN, Italian style. The sets are amazing, the empty, emotionless human society portrayed rather well. Ornella Vanoni is pretty good as the divided wife of Orso, driven to seek some sort of sensuous oblivion that leads to some pretty emotional scenes later in the film, as is Berger, with his boyish charm and subtle defeatism, but it's Tognazzi's performance that this film hinges on, ranging from defiant, to resigned to horny to having some stubble. Pretty versatile.
     Film & Clips, who are uploading far too many Clips when they should be uploading films, sneaked this one about a year ago with English subs. It's not that exciting, has no gore, loads of middle-aged nudity, but is still pretty good.

The Exorcist: Italian Style (1975, Italy, Horror/Comedy, Director: Ciccio Ingrassia)
Notable actors: Ciccio Ingrassia! Tano Cimarosa! Jimmy Il Fenomeno!

So, my wife walked in on me the other day while I was rubbing sandpaper on my balls in the kitchen and quite rightly was curious as to why I was indulging in such an activity.
     "Well," I began, pausing to dip my toes into some boiling vegetable oil, "During lockdown, I've discovered that I like inflicting pain on myself. I guess during this difficult and snack-filled time we have all had to resort to various tactics in order to pass the endless hours we've had to spend locked inside. Mine is to, from time to time, use a cheese grater on my arse cheeks for my own personal gratification, It just, you know, stops me from breaking into our downstairs neighbour's house and beating him to death with a toilet cistern lid because he won't stop fucking drilling things."
     "That's okay," my wife replied, "As you say, we've all got to get our kicks somehow. Mine has been to lace dog treats with poison and leave them scattered around the park across the road. There's just something about a dog owner's face when their dog goes into agonising paroxysms that, you know, just helps temper the obsessive thoughts about murdering that neighbour who gets drunk every Friday night and plays Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" at full volume. I mean, he's fucking long term unemployed! Why is he celebrating a Friday night - was it a hard week sitting on his arse doing nothing but smoking skunk and drinking Malibu? However, if I may offer you some advice, you have not suffered enough pain until you have sat through THE EXORCIST: ITALIAN STYLE."
     "You have piqued my interest," I said, wiring up my nipples to the microwave, "And it is strange that you, who have literally no interest in Italian films, should suggest a rare title to me, the sad, bald, Italian film enthusiast cursed to watch every Italian film ever made! Pass me those pliers, and tell me of this film. Is it like BEYOND THE DOOR? I liked that one. Or is like that MAGDALENA one where the girl ran around shouting about her fanny the entire film?"
     "No, it is not. THE EXORCIST: ITALIAN STYLE is a horror comedy by comedy duo Franco and Ciccio, only Franco isn't here for some reason. Ciccio Ingrassio (whom I believe you liked in the film TODO MODO) wrote, directed, and starred in this one. It's kind of just THE EXORCIST, only instead of one person being possessed by Satan, there's multiple people as the possession comes from whoever has a strange amulet on their person."
     "Go on," I said, and took a casual drink of bleach.
     "Well, first to get possessed is the son of the mayor, who is shit at football one minute, but when he has the amulet on his person, he's able to kick a football through a tree, swears a lot, and sexually assaults women while stealing their underwear."
     "So he's like sixteen or seventeen or something?"
     "No, he's ten."
     "Well, we'd better move on from that and not think about it too much."
     "I agree. The family need someone to help them out, so they turn to Ciccio Ingrassia, a fake guru/exorcist who dresses up as a priest and goes to the kid's house, where the kid has a fight with everyone that's almost good, so they ruin it by including a Benny Hill-style chase sequence. Then he drops the amulet and his sister picks it up so she turns from a quiet girl to doing a striptease in front of her family. Then they do the exorcism scene from THE EXORCIST, only using chillies instead of crucifixes, but you get all the stuff flying about the room and all that. Plus, instead of pea soup, one of them gets hit in the face with cheese. Speaking of cheese, can you hand me the cheddar, some razor blades, and some nails?"
     "Sure - here you go. Tell me more of this film, for it sounds like while watching it I would cringe so much my testicles would retract into my body and sprout out of my ears, which would be rather unconventional, but would also act as ad hoc ear warmers during the winter season."
     "Indeed. So, the girl loses the amulet and it ends up in the hands of the mayor's wife, who proceeds to grow a beard that leads to an interminable scene in a barbers. Later, the mayor himself ends up with it and does the head-spinning thing while pissing on a stage, which leads to a rock-n-roll song that strangely predates the shitty "Devil in A Blue Dress" from the film REPOSSESSED. Then, Ingrassia eats the amulet and explodes. For some reason."
     "I've got to admit the film sounds painful, but I have also got to ask, is there any point in me watching now that you've told me the entire plot?"
     "I've not got time to answer these questions as I now have to go to the park."
     I watched on as my wife lifted a carrier bag laden with dog treats.
    "I'm off now," she said, and turned to me, "One more thing - do not shove the kid's pet rats up your arse again. I don't know how they accepted my last explanation, but I'm not going to be able to come up with another excuse like that."
     And she left, not knowing that it was already too late.

Eyewitness (1990, Italy, Giallo, Director: Lamberto Bava)
Notable actors: Barbara Cupisti! Mary Sellers! Lorandana Romito! Lamberto Bava!

It’s just as well I re-read my review for THE MAN WHO DIDN'T WANT TO DIE because this review would have sounded really similar. This is another movie-length episode of Lamberto Bava’s High Tension TV series, and just like the others, it’s a stand alone story not much different in production value or quality from anything else he produced around this time, so let’s dive in and see how Bava messes this one up too.
     Unlike THE MAN WHO DIDN'T WANT TO DIE or PRINCE OF TERROR, this one is more straightforward, but is also filled with characters who do the stupidest things to forward the plot. At least there is some sort of point to it all, unlike GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE, and you won’t be wishing death on yourself by the end, like DEMONS 3: THE OGRE.
     Elisa (Barbara Cupisti from STAGEFRIGHT and DARK BAR), is a blind shoplifter who is left behind in a department store so her disfigured boyfriend Karl can go fetch the car, resulting in Elisa being locked in the store. Seems she just waited in a changing cubicle. I guess the staff don’t check those before they leave, so if you’re in the mood to rob somewhere you might want to take note of that. While Karl is trying to figure out a way back into the store, Elisa is wandering around trying to find the exit.
     Up in the store’s office sexy secretary Lorandana Romito (from Tomas Milian tear-jerking sci-fi film DISTANT LIGHTS and giallo FATAL TEMPTATION) has just snuck her boyfriend in for a bit of a love-in, not knowing that her sleazy boss Alessio Orano has also hung around so he can sneakily watch them getting it on. However, he accidentally knocks over a pot plant and scares off the boyfriend, leaving him to chase his secretary around and kill her right outside of the shop Elisa is trapped in.
     A security guard then finds the shocked Elisa and the corpse, but gets into a short scuffle with Karl, who will make a habit of turning up at the wrong place and the wrong time throughout this entire film. Cops descend on the place, including Mary Sellers (also STAGEFRIGHT and GHOSTHOUSE), who is the deputy for hunky cop Marra. Now, I was willing to cut Bava a lot of slack over everything that happened up to this point, but when the plot asks for the police to take Elisa from the shopping mall all the way to a police station, get her up a flight of stairs and into an office, then standing shouting at her before her boyfriend actually has to tell the cops she’s blind, we’re in that special ‘Lamberto Bava’ zone again. The plot remains in this zone for the rest of the film. It's like THE TWILIGHT ZONE, only really fucking stupid.
     Elisa’s excuse for not telling the cops that she’s blind is that she and Karl are part of a rural commune run entirely by disabled people who produce art and flowers to make cash (she left out shoplifting there), and they are all committed to acting as if they have no infirmities at all times, even apparently if they are involved in a violent murder case. Even more brain damaging is the cops bringing the store manager down to the station, too, but not treating him like a suspect to the point that they even mention that there was a female eyewitness to the murder.
     This film is so idiotic I’m actually in pain recounting the plot, but the cops then ignore the store manager's suspicious and startled look, and then HE looks over at Marra talking to his deputy and decides “There’s a female talking to that cop I met back in the shop. She must be the eyewitness! I must kill her!”. Coincidentally, the deputy is staying in the same hotel apartment as Elisa but the killer doesn’t notice Elisa, plus Karl also turns up straight after the murder to compound things for himself, and then even though the murderer finds out he killed the wrong person, they just leave Elisa in the same hotel anyway, and that’s after they leave her alone in the middle of the street to chase after Karl.
     I’m genuinely getting a headache from trying to remember all this now, but surely Bava just didn’t give a shit what happened in these films at this point? My plot description stops around the halfway mark of the film’s running time, so there’s a shitload of other stuff to get through here until you get to the film’s unintentionally hilarious finale. There’s a romantic subplot that involves boiling water in a paper cup using candlelight, Marra just straight up bitch-slapping Elisa for some reason, and Karl trying to escape the cops by going into a public toilet and squeezing himself through a gap in a wall into an adjoining toilet. Not a toilet cubicle, but an entire different room that also functions as a toilet. What the fuck?
     Well, it was good for a laugh at least. There’s some throwbacks to his father’s work, like the murderer self-flagellating with a huge whip, some black gloves, and the commune is full of weird and wonderful art. I would say this one is worth enduring for the sheer amount of ridiculousness Bava expects you to take on board, and the ending which involves a plan so convoluted and unlikely it's like Bava didn't even expect anyone to actually watch this film, let alone enjoy it.

The Face With Two Left Feet a.k.a. John Overwhelmed...by a Strange Destiny* (1979, Italy, Comedy, Director: Neri Parenti)
Notable actors: Massimo Vanni! Sonia Viviani! Adriana Russo! Claudio Bigagli!
*In Italian, the title is John Travolto...da un insolito destino - Travolto meaning overwhelmed in Italian. I'm guessing 'underwhelmed' will be the general reaction to anyone reading that fun fact.

When I read the word 'disco' and the name 'Massimo Vanni' on Amazon Prime, I excitedly totally forgot about it for several months until it dropped off Prime and I had to search it out on the internet, when I finally remembered to watch it, as Amazon Prime have rather unhelpfully dumped most of the Italian films on there. Now I've got no reason to pay them any money. Except for THE TICK Season Two, I guess, and that'll probably be gone by the time I get to it.
     Yes, this is one of those broad Italian comedies, but for once it is actually funny, to me at least. It involves a bunch of friends who all work in a hotel, trying to set their mate up with the sexy DJ/dancer lady who works in the disco called John's Fever. The mate is Gianni, the cook at the hotel, and a goofy, awkward sort, with his bushy moustache and giant glasses. He's a terrible dancer too, but underneath that exterior lies a face that rather closely resembles belly-buttoned chinned disco-visiting mad shagger John Travolta. Could that possibly be the key to getting that DJ to let him on her proud mary?
     Assisting Gianni in his transformation are his mates, and as they all pretty much share the entire screen time with Gianni, let's find out who they are. First up is hotel porter Massimo Vanni (from excellent Eurocrime film FIRST ACTION HERO and most famous in Italy for backing up Tomas Milian in those Inspector Giraldi films). super-hot Italian actress Sonia Viviani (from THE LAST GUAPPO and my dreams, which also perhaps features Massimo Vanni, too), Adriana Russo, who continually locks her boss in the clothes shop she works in within the hotel, Claudio Bigagli who is a bag boy, some guy who operates the lift, and a Travolta-obssessed switchboard operator. Pretty much everyone appears on screen all the time throughout the entire film, getting into jolly japes.
     For a change, however, the japes are jolly! I did actually laugh at some of the gags in this film, from the Bee Gee piss-take disco track that consists solely of their high-pitched 'Ah!' noises, to Massimo Vanni's accident prone slapstick (let's admit it, he's not John Gielgud, but a physical actor, so it works here). There are many sub plots that carry the film along too, mainly the hotel receptionist who has learned to sleep with his eyes open but in doing so leaves himself open to continual pranks from the main cast. He also gets to be the experimental subject for the group testing how closely Gianni resembles John Travolta, which leads to him actually punching the real John Travolta, who turns up at the hotel. Or at least an actor's legs pretending to be his turns up.
     I was getting a bit worried around the middle of the film when the disco music dried up but when Gianni turns up at the club in Travolta mode that all kicked back in again, providing us disco fiends with plenty of disco action. The entire soundtrack is on YouTube by the way, so somebody out there cares. Interestingly, the soundtrack includes a track by Linda Lee, who sings that awesome dark disco song that's playing in ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS when Ian McCulloch and Tisa Farrow are trying to sneak onto the boat. That's called 'There's No Matter' and was a single, backed by the b-side 'Love was the Magic', which leads me to believe that English probably wasn't Linda's first language. Fulci also used one of her songs in The Psychic too. She's woefully underrepresented on YouTube.
     Suspiciously, they even include a Massimo Vanni combat sequence where he does a few stunts. This takes place during a huge disco dancing/fight scene at the end of the film. It's like someone went into the future and discovered that a sad bastard (me) was a huge fanboy of Vanni, then went back in time and added that to the script. You do get plenty of Vanni screen time here, so try not to blow a gasket when he flicks he eyes straight at you at the end of the film and does a cheeky 'sniff' expression. I was just recovering from Sonia Viviani doing a double eye wink send off at that point. Ruined a perfectly good pair of boxers shorts right there and then.
     In conclusion, I bet that Travolta lookalike Guiseppe Spezia looks more like John Travolta now than John Travolta does, seeing that Travolta looks like a peanut that's fallen behind a cooker and is only discovered years later when the cooker is removed, sporting a proud beard of fungus around it's lower half.

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 Possession (1995, US, Horror, Director: Adeeb Barsoum)
Notable actors: I guess they're notable for being horrible actors.

You know you are in for something special when the filmmakers can't spell the director's name right in the opening credits, which is strange because Adeeb Barsoum also edited, shot and produced this film, so I'm guessing he did the credits too and managed to spell his own name wrong. That's impressive. There's also a guy in 'chagre' of production, and the character Sam is credited as the character Same, so they managed to misspell a three letter word by adding an extra letter.
     I'd love to go into the intricate plot and such like, but FATAL POSSESSION is so badly made that quite a lot of dialogue is drowned out by the soundtrack, or mixed in too low, between shots, so that the next shot could be double the volume before cutting back to the quieter shot, or sometimes the dialogue isn't there at all, and better still, the dialogue occurs twice because in editing they must have realised they had more footage than audio. It doesn't seem to matter, because most of the dialogue consists of people calling out each others names.
     From what I can gather, student Anne is obsessed with Egyptology and either imagines herself to be or actually is the Goddess Isis. Whatever the truth is, she has a dream one night where a voice (Osiris?) makes her go out into a fantasy Egypt land and dig up a necklace. The voice also tells her wear it or else someone will get hurt. So that's Anne. Then we have Jeff, who I think is Anne's brother? He's just hooked up with Susan, and she's brought in friend Nancy, who goes all weird when the Egyptian stuff is mentioned. All four, plus some random guy called Sam, decide to go camping somewhere, and it takes them nearly half the film to get around to making that decision!
     Most of that time is taken up with people just standing around talking, although Anne does dream her mirror is bleeding now and again. Anne also dreams of an aggressive black dog, played by the least aggressive looking Labrador you've ever seen, dubbed with evil roars! I guess that's supposed to be Anubis. Maybe. Anyways, there's a whole load of dialogue before the horror bit starts proper fifty-four minutes in.
     Plot aside, I've got to admit that eventually the whole film has a kind of GARTH MARENGHI-vibe, only genuine. Lines are flubbed left right and centre, edits don't make any sense, people run holding hands through the woods but in close up they are running alone. It was only when I realised I should be concentrating on that stuff that I started to enjoy the film. There's a scene where two girls decide to go for a swim, and you can clearly see one of them trying to keep a poker face while the rocks under her bare feet are clearly causing discomfort.
     I don't know why Adeeb Barsoum decided to keep all the horror elements to a minimum, but hats off to him for including one of the most hilarious fight scenes I've ever seen, right at the end of the film. Who wants brutal fist fighting when the two combatants can simply tug on the sleeves of their opponent and kind of jerk back and forth a bit? Better still, it's intercut with shots of the black labrador with evil dog sound overdubs. I also laughed at loud at the brutally insulting, sudden ending.
     It only cost a grand to make according to the IMDb, and I don't like to be down on films that are labours of love, but this one is pretty funny in its awfulness. Bad movie fans could pick this one to pieces, which I guess was the motive of the guy who uploaded it onto YouTube.

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.

Female (1998, Italy, Giallo, Director: Giuseppe Ferlito)
Notable actors: Monica Guerritore!

Look - it's a reaction video, in text form, and not totally fucking pointless.

Film: Monica Guerritore from OMBRE is a bored housewife living with a borderline OCD husband who is always away on business, looking after her daughter, sometimes. One day when in a cafe a hunky young man accidentally spills an espresso on her and tries to wipe it off while simultaneously putting his hand inside her blouse, which would in reality land you on the sex offender's register, but instead gets Monica going once she gets home and replays the scene in front of a mirror. During all this, someone seems to be filming Monica from a distance.

Me: So far, so good. The husband looks familiar, but I can't be bothered looking up his name. Also, my guts are rotten today.

Film: Monica, in a chance meeting, finds the guy who spilled coffee on her and basically tells him he's got the green light. She pretty pro-active here, and goes to his apartment where they get it on. There is some nudity here, which is probably why this film has over three million views on YouTube. Plus, someone is filming Monica everywhere she goes.

Me: Right, someone's filming them. Get on with it.

Film: Monica does feel a bit of guilt once she sees her husband interacting with their daughter, and tries to distance herself from her lover. He meets her in a supermarket and she becomes really paranoid. He convinces her that everything is okay, and he manages to worm his way into her house. With her husband's upcoming business trip means there's a window for days of loving. Also, someone is filming all of this.

Me: I UNDERSTAND THAT SOMEONE IS FILMING HER BUT FORTY MINUTES HAVE PASSED - DO SOMETHING ELSE!

Film: Things go tits up when her lover vanishes for a few days, saying he's going to Milan, and she becomes obsessive about it, calling him over and over again and sitting in dark rooms, going a bit mad. When he does turn up, she goes nuts at him and stabs him in the arm with a pair of scissors. He forgives her and they get it on, which leads her to run out in the rain laughing, snogging him in full view of everyone in a Piazza, and running around with just a trenchcoat on, with nothing underneath. She also wants her lover to kill her husband. Even he thinks that's a bit strong and asks her about divorce, but it's 'not enough'. Also, no one is filming this.

Me: Wait - she was paranoid about them talking in a supermarket and the next thing she's practically showing it off in front of the population of Rome? Why does she need her lover to kill her husband when she just stabbed the guy she actually likes without a second thought?

Film: The rest of the plot hidden for spoiler purposes, even though the synopsis on the IMDb totally spoils the entire film.

Me: Well, it was okay I guess, but it's an entire hour before the film gets around to the Giallo stuff, and I'm talking the old school, soft Giallo of lovers plotting against spouses, with more erotica thrown in for good measure. Monica Guerritore seems to have made a living from these erotic Gialli, so if anyone wants to upload more, I'd be grateful. However, this is a film that isn't really worth tracking down - the cinematography is too 'nineties' in execution and was almost like a TV movie, so there's none of that style you'd expect from such a film.

Film: Shut up you judgemental bastard. Do you think anyone cares what you think? Go and open a window. It stinks in here.

15 Scaffolds For A Murderer a.k.a. The Dirty Fifteen (1967, Italy/Spain, Western, Director: Nunzio Malasomma)
Notable actors: Craig Hill! George "Francisco Martínez Celeiro" Martin! Howard Ross! Aldo Sambrell! Frank Bana! Umberto Raho!

I thought this was going to turn out to be a giallo-Western, like KILL THE POKER PLAYER. I mean - look at the title! Alas, this is not an out and out whodunnit like that film. However, I did enjoy it immensely due to the many twists, the tension, and the growling, sweaty cast.
     George Martin (from Spanish horror film DIABOLICAL SHUDDER) is a horse rustler and he's just robbed a farm and killed the owner. The owner's widow agrees to pay Craig Hill and his gang seven thousand dollars to get those horses back, which Hill agrees to. After a bit of investigation (and a few shoot-outs), Hill finds that Martin has set up shop at a ranch owned by the widow Cook, her sister, and her daughter. Her sister is due to marry hunky Howard Ross the next day, but for now they are busy dealing with a mysterious new neighbour and a bunch of hairy-ass cowboys sleeping in the barn.
     Strange thing is, when Hill and his gang turn up, there's no shoot out as you'd expect. Instead, Hill and Martin agree to team up to scam the widow for the reward money. That would be all well and good, except for someone murdering all three women in the middle of the night. Everyone's blissfully sleeping in the barn when Howard Ross shows up to get married and discovers the bodies. He also finds a bunch of strangers sleeping in the barn. Rather than take on a lot of guys, he sneaks back to town and forms a rather huge posse. By this time Hill and Martin have found the corpses and realise who's going to get the blame for it. They barely escape before the posse comes gunning for them, but how are they going to prove their innocence when facing a hail of bullets, and who among them did kill the women?
     Others might find the build up slow, but once this film gets going it's pretty much action all the way, and it takes it's own route plot-wise, rather than the old tired plots of bounty hunters and corrupt businessmen. Here we have two gangs who barely trust each other trying to survive together while being chased across the endless landscape by bloodthirsty townspeople as one by one the gangs get whittled down. There's plenty of violence and grim sights on display, like the townsfolk hanging the bullet ridden corpses from gallows so that the remaining gang members can see what fate they are going to meet. Whereas I never seem to read a good word about Craig Hill or George Martin, both do well here. They are not just caricatures - they are complex characters trying to outsmart each other and the law. Even minor characters get a chance to stand out - the sheriff trying to calm the baying mob, the protective gang member who embarks on a suicide mission to avenge his kid friend, and the Scottish religious couple who sound like Groundskeeper Willie.
     The cinematography by good old Stelvio Massi always helps too. I don't know why this one gets bad press - it was pretty good.

First Action Hero a.k.a. The Puppet Master (1994, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Nino Grassia)
Notable actors: Middle-aged Fabio Testi! Old Gabrielle Ferzetti! Middle-aged Orso Maria Guierrini! Middle-aged Giovanni Cianfriglia! Strangely still young Massimo Vanni!

You don’t want to mess with Miami cop Fabio Testi. He loathes crime and corruption, and he really hates it when his partner is crippled by a masked gunman at a roller disco. He probably hates it mainly because he's knocking on a bit and he's worried about his blood pressure.
     As a cop, Fabio has a pretty complicated family set-up. He’s divorced, which is usually a given for a cop like him, but his ex-wife was the daughter of gangster Gabrielle Ferzetti, who used the Press to run Testi out of town (although in saying that, they’re on good terms). Fabio’s previously estranged daughter has shown up to hang around his house like a typical teenager, and over the course of the film he ends up dating Laurie, who is the lawyer for the bad guys.
     But has why Fabio been allowed to return to Miami after so long? It's all down to a violent gang who are targeting the crime syndicate running the city and massacring them, and only Fabio is mad enough to go up against them. You’ve got your typical tropes here as the D.A. is on Fabio’s case and Fabio has a habit of killing anybody who could lead him to the gang’s leader, much to the D.A.’s umbrage. How is a cop supposed to get his job done while he’s chasing Massimo Vanni around Miami, dodging assassination attempts on his life, badly preventing witnesses from being murdered and playing mind games with his ex-father-in-law?
     It might seem at first that this film is just going to drag on and on, but the body count is through the roof and the film is rather violent as the assassinations of the criminal syndicate are rather heavy on the collateral damage. In fact, when two guys burst into a restaurant and try to kill Fabio, they seem to hit everything in the room except him.
     What I love best about this film is the last twenty-minutes, when Fabio’s daughter gets kidnapped and Fabio goes on the rampage, seemingly killing every crook in Miami in a hail of bullets, or killing them in a hail of bullets while driving heavy plant machinery, or just giving up on hails of bullets and blowing the crap out of everything with dynamite. He evens shoots a guy on fire and another who looked like he was dead already, plus the bad guys get in on the act as one manages to fire off a shot while falling off a tall building to his death. This is all done on a budget of about ten pounds.
     That’s not all though – Fabio also has to take on Giovanni Cianfriglia in a middle-aged man mud fight (Cianfriglia’s a little grey around the temples, but still looks rock) and a slow motion scene before the film ends.
     There’s doesn’t seem to be a great deal of Eurocrime films from nineties, and the Stelvio Massi films from this era are a bit tepid, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to see anything as good as FIRST ACTION HERO. It’s like THE BIG RACKET with an enlarged prostrate gland.

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.

Formula One: The Hell of The Grand Prix a.k.a. Maniacs on Wheels (1970, Italy, Sport/Drama, Director: Guido Malatesta)
Notable actors: Brad Harris! Ivano Staccioli! Agostina Belli! Franco Ressel! Fulvio Mingozzi! Graham Hill (What?)

I'm not exactly an expert on Formula 1 racing. All I know is that there's a guy around just now called Lewis Hamilton who always wins these races, because when the COVID crisis started, he was kind enough to lower himself from his celebrity status to show us stinking vermin masses how to wash our hands. I'm glad he did, because if he, and many other famous people who seemingly think that they'll die if people aren't paying attention to them for more than five minutes, hadn't uploaded videos on social media showing us unimportant, irrelevant scum how to wash our hands, I wouldn't have discovered that up until now I've been doing it all wrong. You see, what I thought were my hands turned out to be my knees, and although I know now that I have to use soap and water, I was until recently rubbing my knees in a pool of baboon semen and washing it off using Castrol GTX. Thanks, Lewis Hamilton, Gordon Ramsey, and all those other celebs out there! Thanks for uploading videos of you all showing us how to wash our hands! Can you upload one showing us how to wipe our arses too, please? Because up until now I've been using the hair of that old-age pensioner neighbour of mine.
     Having suffered through ONE HUNDREDTH OF A SECOND, I know that putting drama into sport is not an easy task, and that opinion is reinforced by this film. It's not as bad as that skiing snore-fest, but it's not exactly as rip-roaring emotional rollercoaster either. It follows the career of one Ken Stark (Brad Harris in non-acting mode), a man determined to win the Grand Prix from the hands of actual real life fast car-driving dude Graham Hill. Stark works for manager Franco Ressel, who has a few other drivers under his wing too. Look, I don't know how racing works at all, so don't bother writing in to point out the technicalities of Formula One. There's some drivers that seem to be all on the one team, including Harris, Ivano Staccioli, and some other guy who likes to bring his wife and kids along for good luck. There's also a rival manager guy whom Ressel pulls smug faces at.
     When Staccioli has a crash and ends up paralysed, Ressel has him replaced by up-and-coming motorbike driver Valli (Giacomo Agostini, who was a real life motorbike controller pilot. He also does better acting than most of the cast, so kudos to him). Depressingly, whereas I thought I had only LE MANS, SHORTCUT TO HELL to watch after this film with regards to racing-themed films, I notice that Agostini also starred in the musical (!) LOVE FORMULA 2 and motorbike film RACING CARS ON THE ASPHALT AT FULL SPEED. That one is on YouTube so I guess I'll review that at some point too.
     Valli is young and ambitious and literally cocky, especially when it comes to Harris' wife. His momma worries about him, but then every driver has someone who worries about them, like that driver who has a wife. He doesn't want to drive anymore, but when Harris convinces him to go back on the road and brave those 'parabolics', the guy ends up looking like overcooked Kofta and Valli gets kicked right out of the team for causing his death, out of the team and straight into the arms of the rival manager, who has a mechanic on his team played by perennial bit-part actor Fulvio Mingozzi! He has more to say in this film than the last ten I've seen him in, and most of it is racing car bollocks. Skidding limit? What the fuck is that? He also has a mega-car for Valli to ride in the last race, but can Valli beat Harris and also beat Graham Hill? You'll have to not bother watching this film to not care about finding out!
     Somehow not coma-inducing but by no means any good either, director Guido Malatesta tries to include every trick in the book to keep the viewer's interest, like having us hear the thoughts and worries of the drivers, seeing their day-dreams of victory, and including split-screen flashbacks that you can hardly see on the pan and scan version available online. Those expecting a lot of Graham Hill should expect mostly stock footage of him and some proper footage of the actors trying to talk to him while he looks confused and nervously smiles, like a film crew just snuck onto the racetrack and started filming him. Everyone else (except Ressel, Staccioli and Agostini) just half-arse the film, especially Harris, who arrives home to find Agostini getting it on with his wife only to just stare at them a bit, and then leave, like he's forgotten to get something out of the car.
     It's been on YouTube since March and only 165 people have watched it, and I guess about 65 of them are me dipping in and out of the film while doing something more interesting. Still, the relentless drive to watch every Italian film ever made will force me to watch all the other films mentioned in this review. Some say I have a choice, but it is a curse. A curse!

Fracchia Versus Dracula (1985, Italy, Horror/Comedy, Director: Neri Parenti)
Notable actors: Paolo Villagio! Edmund Purdom! Ania Pieroni! Gigi Reder! Romano Puppo! Paul Muller!

I can't help but wonder if Lamberto Bava's semi-comedic horrors DINNER WITH A VAMPIRE and GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE were inspired by this film, a more full-on comedy horror that is actually entertaining and inventive,
     What drew me in was the cast - Romano Puppo as Frankenstein's monster? Ania Pieroni as a sexy vampire? It's no surprise that Edmund Purdom plays Dracula though, seeing as he always looks like he's allergic to sunlight and likes drinking blood. Ania Pieroni as a sexy vampire? Paul Muller not as a monster unless that monster is the cold-hearted greed of the real estate market? Ania Pieroni as a sexy vampire?
     Comedian Paolo Villagio plays forty-year-old-virgin estate agent Fracchia, who has once again messed up selling property at his work. Enraged boss Paul Muller gives him three days to sell a property or he's fired, and his only chance comes in the form of myopic, verging on blind Gigi Reder. He requires a five bedroom property, and luckily Fracchia finds one - located in far off Transylvania. Now all he has to do is pretend to his customer is that everything in the castle is fine and the place isn't inhabited by two terrifying vampire people.
     First off, however, they have to spend the night in the local town, where they meet vampire hunter Kaspar, who tries to warn the dumbass Fracchia about the castle. Fracchia won't listen, and goes back to the local inn with Reder, fending off two attacking rubber bats (Purdom and Pieroni in vampire form) before stupidly passing up a chance to pop his cherry with the innkeeper's daughter. While he's off trying to talk himself into being brave enough to sleep with her, Kaspar uses a machine that fires ultra-violet light beams on Pieroni, but it isn't enough and he gets munched. When Fracchia goes back to the innkeeper's daughter's room, he finds her in the throes of passion with a mysterious stranger, although in reality it's Purdom feeding on her.
     The next day, Fracchia and Reder head to the castle, where they try and ignore the blind butler (with Fulci-like "BEYOND" white eyes) while Fracchia improvises sales talk to cover up the creepiness of the castle - describing the torture room they find as the 'entertainment room' and the crypt as the 'wine cellar', where he also has to try and ignore the butler chopping off servant Boris's hand and adding it to a stew. What is pretty hard to explain are the two coffins containing what appear to be two very dead people, and when the sun sets, these two get up and introduce themselves as Count Dracula and his sister, who takes a liking to Fracchia, which does not please her boyfriend, monster Romano Puppo.
     Endlessly stupid and a film that just keeps gathering more momentum in the stupid stakes as it goes on, FRACCHIA VERSUS DRACULA (for me) did contain a lot of laughs and inventive scenes, like Boris's hand constantly detaching itself, Purdom putting on a live performance for Fracchia where his voice randomly changes from male to female in the middle of a song for no reason, and the tennis match between Fracchia and Puppo, where Puppo hits the ball so hard it explodes like a bomb upon impact with the ground. Throw in the bizarre wedding at the end where among the guests are entire zombie horde, Purdom randomly teleporting around the place and the sound on the copy I was watching being replaced by digital static sounds for two minutes and you've got an Italian comedy that's actually good.
     This Paolo Villagio fella seems to have made his bread and butter playing a character called Fantozzi in nine films, with this Gigi Reder fella as a sidekick, and in searching for those facts, I see there's another horror comedy in there called DOCTOR JEKYLL LIKES THEM HOT, with Edwidge Fenech, so I can't not watch that one.|
     On the other hand, Ania Pieroni only made ten films, and this is the last one she made. Apart from INFERNO, TENEBRAE, and HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, the other films seem to be comedies, except for STAY AS YOU ARE, a really bizarre sounding romantic drama film starring Marcello Mastrioani and Natasha Kinski, where she makes him bite her naked arse and tricks him into drinking her pee. Don't take the guy who pointed this out on the IMDb's word for it - it's on YouTube right now.

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!

Getting Even a.k.a. The Vendetta (1989, Italy, Action, Director: Leandro Lucchetti)
Notable actors: Richard Roundtree! Harrison Muller! George Ardisson!

Now I'm not going to call MIAMI COPS a great film, or even a good one, but who in their right mind would gather the three lead actors of that film and basically remake it, only with Vietnam vets instead of cops? That's what Leandro Lucchetti did here, and if you've watched his APOCALYPSE MERCENARIES, you're probably not going to watch this.
     It's nowhere near as bad as that Godfrey-Ho like, cobbled together crapfest, however. This is because the stolen footage here is mainly of the exploding hut kind, and Lucchetti throws in enough nudity and action that made me stick it to the end, like a McDonalds that isn't that great, but you eat it anyway because you need to eat something. That mainly happens in the last third of the film, however, because what we have here mostly is a buddy movie exactly like MIAMI COPS.
     The film starts off with a homeless Harrison Muller getting shot in the stomach by some guy who were going to rape some chick, and while he's in hospital it gives him plenty of time to have a flashback back to the Nam, where he was conflicting with another soldier, Slisco (Yes, Cisco would have been easier, but there you go). Slisco (sigh) likes to brandish and threaten other soldiers with a fancy knife that he also likes to torture Vietnamese hookers with. This doesn't go down well with Muller, and the next think the two are fighting and its only the intervention of Major Richard Roundtree that saves the day. Although he might have considered sending the both of them on a secret mission together a bad idea as Slisco heads home without Muller and Muller gets five years in a VC prison for his troubles.
     Now Roundtree is back because him and FBI agent George Ardisson (who has appeared in all flavours of Italian movies, from gothic horror KATARSIS to piss-take giallo CLAP, YOU'RE DEAD and even a bit of Mario Merola in THE INMATE [where Merola reduces a whole prison to tears by singing a song about his momma!]). It seems that not is Slisco up to his old tricks at carving up hookers with weird blades, he's now head of an international drug-running ring. At least he's been keeping himself busy, unlike Muller who we first see sleeping under a bridge. Also, fifteen years have passed but no one's aged a bit.
     The return of Slisco means that at first Roundtree and Muller have to run around the good ol' US slapping drug dealers around and getting into punch-ups and gun fights, which is all good, healthy stuff. Where the film runs into trouble is when Muller heads off to Vietnam to track down his old buddy, because when Muller starts getting into gun battles in the jungle, it seems that all they've done is film him shooting at stuff off-screen while bits of others films are shown (especially when it comes to stuff that costs money, like huts exploding and stunts). Even worse, it does look like Muller is on location in the Nam (Philipines then), but Roundtree obviously hasn't even left American soil, because he doesn't even appear in the footage with Muller! Instead, he also shoots at stuff off-screen. What can you do when the biggest name in the film can't be bothered appearing alongside the guy who's taking part in the stolen footage sequence? Plus, I swear there's a short shot of Roundtree running through smoke that's been lifted from a Seventies film of his - the stock changes and everything.
     Still, there's nudity galore as all parties get involved with naked ladies, and the action is pretty much non-stop, even if it is crap.

Ghost of Love (1981, Horror, Italy, Director: Dino Risi)
Notable actors: Marcello Mastroianni! Romy Schneider!

It's a ghostly love story, except it might not be. It's a paranormal horror, or it might be the product of a sick mind. One character even argues that time doesn't exist, which may just be as well, seeing as she's either dead, or alive, in possibly two different forms, until she dies again, but possibly doesn't die at all before appearing in another form.
     GHOST OF LOVE is a horror film directed by a guy who didn't really make horror films (except for THE FORBIDDEN ROOM, which some would argue isn't a horror film), starring a guy who didn't really appear in horror films, with cinematography from Tonino Della Colli and a romantic soundtrack from Riz Ortolani. Some may find it slow, but for me it was quite unique and rather touching, as well as maintaining a fairly high creepy factor.
     Marcello Mastroianni plays Nino, an accountant trapped in a fairly dull marriage who decides to get the bus to work one day. While minding his business, a decrepit looking woman boards the bus but has trouble finding a 100 lire coin for the fair, so Marcello selflessly gives her a coin, but tries to mainly avoid the sick-looking lady with the bad teeth. Thinking nothing more of the incident, he goes about his business, although the lady promises she will return the money. When he arrives at work, he finds a 100 lire coin on his desk.
     Brushing this off, he returns home to banal conversation with his wife and receives a phone call from someone claiming to be the old lady from the bus, who reveals that she is Anna (Romy Schneider), Marcello's long lost love, who broke up with him for no good reason twenty years prior. Marcello is shocked by this sudden turn of events, and the sickly appearance of one who once found so beautiful.
     This all sets Marcello off on a nostalgia trip, made worse when he receives a postcard from Anna in the post that was originally sent in 1963. Confused, he walks through the misty streets of Pavia until he happens upon Anna's old house, only to startle the landlady. Shortly afterwards he is accosted by the sickly Anna, who forces a kiss on him before running off. In shock, Marcello drops his umbrella and runs off home, only to find a friend of his has just witnessed the throat-slashing murder of the landlady, with an filthy old lady in a white coat as a possible suspect.
     It doesn't help that the police find Marcello's umbrella at the scene, but then again the landlady's nephew is the prime suspect and he's run off, so Marcello tries to keep things normal by having lunch with his friends (in a scene that highlights Tonino Della Colli's skills as a cinematographer). It is here that Marcello explains recent events, but then his doctor friend reveals that Anna has been dead for three years, so you can imagine Marcello's surprise when a younger, healthy Anna appears on the scene...
     I guess the only perfect love is the one that gets away, because Marcello's character tries to find happiness in rekindled love with someone who might have sinister motivations. Or it might all be happening in his head. Director Risi keeps things muddy enough that you can draw your own conclusions, but that doesn't mean the ending of the film is unsatisfying. He's also clever enough to insert enough paranormal stuff to cut through the romance, some of it so subtle you have to be on your toes to spot it. There's the in-your-face horror of Marcello having a seemingly normal conversation with an entity that's just called him out of the blue at some random person's house while said person (a priest trying to keep Marcello out of trouble) cowers in the background asking who Marcello is talking to over and over again, and then there's the blink-and-you'll-miss-it split second shot in the seemingly healthy Anna's home that indicate that things just aren't quite right.
     This is a film that'll divide opinion, but I liked it. Marcello Mastroianni is subdued here, but he plays Nino with a certain naive innocence, like he himself doesn't quite believe his lost love has come back to him, but he's willing to gamble it all anyway for that one last chance at love. Not much gore except for a neck slashing, but plenty of atmosphere and creepy imagery.
     Good music too. The risotto they were eating looked good too.

The God Serpent (1970, Italy, Horror, Director: Piero Vivarelli)
Notable actors: Nadia Casini! Beryl Cunningham!

I suppose when you're in a strange land you can get pretty curious about the locals and surrounding environment, but I don't think I ever witnessed anyone dive head first into the unknown like Nadia Casini does in this film, then again I've also never witnessed someone get bored with that almost instantly and just go off and do something else instead. And then get bored with that too.
     This atmospheric film starts out with Nadia Casini and her new husband arriving on a Caribbean island. Nadia is young, pretty and spontaneous whereas her husband is old and pot-bellied. He does have a shitload of money though, which is why Nadia married him. In fact, first thing he does is take Nadia out on his yacht, where she sees a mysterious part of the island. Her husband tells her she should never go there, as it is called Black Rock and the locals are scared of it. Nadia then immediately drops the subject because she spies local woman Beryl Cunningham running around a beach with her arse out, making love to some guy in the sand.
     Beryl turns out to be a former secretary of Nadia's husband who now works as a teacher. Nadia's interest in piqued as she's been looking for someone to chum about with. There is the guy who works on the yacht and fixes her radio, but all she does with him is ask him about Black Rock, to which he says she probably shouldn't go there as it's dangerous and stuff.
     When Nadia finally gets to hang out with Beryl, they do all these cool things that friends do when they meet up, like get naked in front of each other, sunbathe topless with each other, take showers in front of each other and even swap clothes with each other. Gaining Beryl's confidence, Nadia confides in her that she doesn't love her husband and is still looking for true love. Beryl says she knows someone that could sort that out for her. Nadia also asks her about Black Rock, and Beryl warns her that the locals shun the place, and that she should leave it alone. So when Beryl falls asleep while sunbathing, the first thing Nadia does is swim over to Black Rock and gets startled when a huge python starts moving towards her. Nadia tells her husband about the incident and also complains that nobody warned her about Black Rock, but he just tells her she's talking crap because there are no snakes on the island.
     Nadia also gets deeper into local culture when Beryl takes her to see a local witchdoctor in a creepy graveyard who does a quick ceremony where Beryl sees the transparent figure of a white guy she's never seen before and Nadia receives a love potion from the voodoo guy. I couldn't help but notice that even though this guy was very badly crippled and was struggling with two walking sticks, Nadia just kind of stood there and let him walk all the way towards her over rough terrain, which lends more to the idea that maybe the director told Nadia Casini that her character's motivation was that she just never thought about anything, ever.
     It isn't long before Nadia's chatted Beryl into taking her to one of those voodoo ceremonies she's seen on television and we get the low point of the film. Rather than go into details I'll just state the phrases "Goat","Machete", "Italian Film", "Seventies" and "Unnecessary" and we'll just move on to one of the high points of the film, where Beryl, Nadia, and just about every female at the ceremony goes nuts, strips off, and writhes about in the dirt. This pleases the head voodoo lady, and indeed the mysterious guy standing behind her.
     It turns out the guy is The Snake God and he's taken a liking to Nadia, so he makes the voodoo lady ask her out for him because he's a bit shy and they end up on Black Rock getting it on, so maybe Nadia's found true love after all. Better still for Nadia is her husband dying in a plane crash roughly around the same time so now she's free and single, and has a huge house on a Caribbean island so you can't get better than that then, eh?
     Well, Nadia also has an ex-lover called Tony whom she brings over from Rome the day after her husband's funeral. Beryl's all like "Wait - didn't we just bury your husband?" and Nadia's all like "Well Duh! That was YESTERDAY, silly." So Tony's here to service Nadia, but will the God Serpent be okay with this set up, and why is Tony the guy Beryl saw in her vision? You'll have to watch the film to find out.
     Strange that such a film plays out like a horror for the first hour, then with the arrival of Tony becomes more of a soap opera. The scenes of the witchdoctor and the voodoo lady are great, moody, atmospheric moments, as is the Serpent God kind of hanging around the fringes of Nadia's reality. There's also a massive amount of nudity in the film too, especially from Casini, who spends about sixty percent of the film naked. She also does that thing we've all done. You know, when you're on holiday somewhere really hot and can't sleep due to the heat, so you get up and rub your arse up and down a wall while groaning erotically.
     As well as a lot of nudity, we also get what literally can be termed 'Bongo Fury'. These folks pretty much play the bongos all day and all night, no matter what they are doing. That voodoo stuff looks a lot more fun than the Catholic stuff I experienced while growing up. We never had naked woman writhing about in the dirt. We were just told we were all going to hell and to not get too close to the priest.
     THE GOD SERPENT is kind of good if you like pretty looking women and good cinematography, but just be warned it does not go in a direction you'd expect. It looks like Beryl Cunningham also bares her arse on a beach in the film BLACK DECAMERON, but I guess there's no way to confirm that other than watching the film.

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.

Goodbye and Amen (1977, Italy, Crime, Director: Damiano Damiani)
Notable actors: Tony Musante! Claudia Cardinale! John Steiner! Renzo Palmer! John Forsythe! Fabrizio Jovine (the priest who kills himself at the start of City of the Living Dead)! Luciano Catenacci!

Damiano Damiani follows his excellent thriller I AM AFRAID with yet another good one, this time swapping a justly paranoid Gian Marie Volonte for a calculating Tony Musante in a film that is mostly hostage drama, but also a study in corruption and betrayal and the questionable actions of those in authority.
     It all starts off like it's going to be really complex too, with the CIA gathering in Rome to discuss a future operation to overthrow rulers in some African country and replace them with US-friendly people. This lot of CIA are led by Tony Musante, an agent on his last chance with his superiors, with sidekick Renzo Palmer in tow. They, and others, are keeping an eye on an African dignitary currently visiting Rome, but then Musante receives news that a rival agent, Lambert, might be meddling with matters.
     We don't initially see Lambert, but we do see his son and wife watching him drive angrily away following an argument. Later that night, someone sneaks into Lambert's house and takes a high-powered rifle, and we soon see that this person is a (thankfully reserved) John Steiner, who rather nonchalantly heads for a nearby Hilton hotel and calmly guns down a beggar who was pan handling outside. Then he guns down a tourist taking pictures, just to make sure everyone gets the general idea there's a gunman on site.
     Steiner also stacks the odds in his favour by taking two hotel patrons hostage, namely famous socialite Claudia Cardinale and her lover, some vain actor guy who for some reason answers the door to Steiner totally naked. The police are soon on site, and after a brief gun battle where a policeman dies, Steiner starts with his first demand - three coffees and twelve boxes of cornflakes. The cornflakes aren't due to some fanatical devotion to cereal, but rather to have an extra crunchy early warning system outside of the hotel room.
     After Lambert's rifle bag is found on the roof, the CIA are sucked into proceedings, and Musante finds his superiors breathing down his neck again and Cardinale and Steiner try to outsmart each other, but is Steiner the agent Lambert, and if he isn't, who is he? And where's Lambert?
     I love the Eurocrime films of Lenzi, Castellari, Massi etc, but I also love the totally different way Damiano Damiani approaches the genre. His films are more realistic, which makes the sudden outbursts of violence seem more shocking when they finally arrive. This film isn't as graphically violent as I AM AFRAID or his later (and less satisfying but still good) THE WARNING, relying instead on the various attempts made to get to Steiner and the clever ways he keeps outsmarting the cops to carry the film along. His plan to escape is pretty clever - I won't mention who ends up in the room with him, but he makes everyone dress exactly the same, wear motorcycle helmets, and hold guns and identical suitcases in order to confuse snipers.
     Guido and Maurizio De Angelis are also old hands at the Eurocrime genre, and give us a mix of electronic and symphonic tunes on the soundtrack. As well as a restrained, charming Steiner, we get good support from Cardinale and Musante, but Renzo Palmer isn't given much to do. Fabrizio Jovine also stands out as the Italian cop having to deal with a crazy American shooting people, and the incredulous machinations of the CIA.
     You can't beat a bit of Damiani - the early quasi-giallo RED LIPS, Ornella Muti's debut THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WIFE, the unique THE CASE IS CLOSED, FORGET IT. He was one of the true masters of Italian cinema, and yet, there's so many of his films that are hard to track down.

Great Hunters (1990, Italy, Action, Director: Augusto Caminito)
Notable actors: Harvey Keitel! Klaus Kinski! Roberto Bisacco! Debora Caprioglio!

What's the worst thing you can encounter out on the plains of Africa? It's Klaus Kinski. And what's the worst thing you can encounter out on the permafrost of the Arctic circle? It's also Klaus Kinski. The African tribesman call him Khoe!arga Igaro! Kenangu, which means "The one who looks like his features are trying to slide off the bottom of his face". and the Inuits have twenty names for him, the most common being Inuvinirnik Takujunga, which translates to "Please put this bag over your head, you're scaring my children".
     But what causes Kinski to occupy two separate hemispheres in the same film? Well, for the most part, it's because he's trying to avenge the death of his wife by killing the panther that mauled her, then it's mainly because while he was in jail for hurting some guys who were trying to kill the panther he wanted to kill, the panther died, perhaps of old age. We never find out. What we do know is that Klaus Kinski is really bad at deciding whether or not he wants to kill something. By my count I think he had three separate chances to kill the panther. The first time he just sort of looks at it. The second time he seemingly decides he needs bigger bullets, and the third time he actually frees it from some other guys who were trying to catch the panther.
     Apart from dithering about panther killing, Klaus seems to spend a lot of time drinking and staring into space thinking about his dead wife Debora Caprioglio (and no, you don't get to see her jaw-droppingly large assets). He sometimes does this while staring over a waterfall while a tune eerily similar to the theme tune from BLADE RUNNER, although sometimes he just does it while at home, where a strange native woman stares at him and say nothing. Was she meant to be the panther or something? Who knows. The panther also has some spooky POV stuff going on that goes nowhere too. It's great that we're spending so much time with Kinski's character here. I'm just mentioning that for some reason. Also his character's name is Klaus Naginsky. You wonder why they even bothered doing that.
     Kinski gets sent to jail for blowing up some other hunters and that's when he's recruited by Roberto Bisacco (from the great TORSO and the not-so-great THE RAGE WITHIN). He wants Kinski to head up to the Arctic circle and kill a seal hunter who murdered a young guy trying to document how brutal fur trapping is because the police won't do anything about it. Kinski agrees, his bail is paid, and we spend forever watching him staring into space, shaving, showering etc, then he heads off into the tundra, talks to a seal, eats something and then walks off only for a voiceover to tell us that his character vanished and the search was called off after three weeks. So, forty minutes of this film is dedicated to a character who is barely involved in the plot.
     I thought Harvey Keitel would have turned out to be the bad guy here, but instead he's Kinski's replacement, so then we get to watch HIM travel all the way to Arctic Circle and set up camp too. Plus, it takes him about five seconds to find Kinski's body (he's under the ice somehow, possibly murdered, but I'm going to sail right past this because it raises so many questions about what happens later). Proving that the title Great Hunters might be a bit optimistic, Keitel gets attacked by the murderer and his mates and left for dead, only to be adopted by an Inuit tribe. So the film turns into DANCES WITH WOLVES, too, I'd imagine as I've not watched that one.
     This film sounds like it's about three hours long, and it feels it too, but it's only one hour forty and I've only described about the first half. Keitel the actor barely even attempts to do any acting at all and genuinely looks totally confused about what he's supposed to be doing, which leads to some funny scenes, especially the bit where he's in an igloo and an Inuit girl is burping his worm under some blankets, only for Keitel to worriedly glance around at an old man who's sitting watching them.
     Better still is when Keitel tracks down the bad guy and gives him Rutger Hauer's speech from the end of BLADE RUNNER! He even says "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe" then goes on about seal clubbing and it's cruelty. I'm pretty sure the bad guy would believe him though, seeing as how he was supposed to be a seal clubber. Lucky for us we don't get to see any real seal clubbing, just extremely fake seal clubbing, which was also kind of funny.
     This weird empty film ends with even more head-scratching dialogue as Roberto offers Keitel a cigarette to which Keitel replies he quit ages ago, then asks Roberto if he's quit too, even though Roberto pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pocket and offered Keitel one. Things like that happen all through this film. With most of the film concerned with either documenting Kinski or Keitel doing menial tasks or staring at things, a weird BLADE RUNNER fixation, and almost total lack of action, GREAT HUNTERS isn't even about great hunters. Kinski was a terrible hunter and Keitel I guess trained to be a hunter with the Inuits, then went home and never hunted again.
     The cinematography was nice though. No wonder this film is obscure.

The Great Swindle (1971, Spain/Italy, Giallo, Director: Jose Antonio Nieves Conde)
Notable actors: Marisa Mell! Sylvia Koscina! Stephen Boyd! Fernando Rey! Howard Ross! Massimo Serato! Simon Andreu!

Yet another old school Giallo of the mind-game type here, with sexy Marisa Mell, sexy Sylvia Koscina, sexy Fernando Rey, not bad Stephen Boyd and sexy Howard Ross all taking part in the shenanigans.
     Like the film MARTA which was also directed by Jose Antonio Nieves Conde, and also starred Marisa Mell and Stephen Boyd and Howard Ross, the viewer doesn't have much of clue as to what's going on in this one, and this is especially so in this film as it does not follow a linear plot at all for the first hour, preferring to jump and back and forth in time to reveal precisely why the characters on screen are doing what they're doing.
     First off, we have a moody-looking Marisa Mell (from other old school Gialli like ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER and THE DEVIL'S RANSOM) standing on a cliff, staring off into the distance, possibly even considering suicide. She's unknowingly being watched by painter Stephen Boyd. Later, he invites himself over to her house and generally acts in a way that would land him in prison these days, but back then results in a successful sexual encounter. The next day, however, Marisa is gone.
     Through flashbacks, we begin to learn exactly why Marisa was there. It turns out she was a high class hooker servicing very rich businessmen like Fernando Rey, all organised by Sylva Koscina (from SO SWEET, SO DEAD). Without revealing to much of the plot, I'll say that all of these people start complicating everybody else's lives, resulting in people being conned, people being shot, Howard Ross having an outlandish hairdo and a lesbian bath between Marisa and Sylvia. Hooray for lesbian baths and all who sail in them!
     No blood or gore here, just twists and ulterior motives and Marisa Mell staring moodily at people, seething with rage. Some nudity though, especially during a groovy orgy at the home of playboy type Massimo Serato (from the so-so WHO KILLED THE PROSECUTOR AND WHY?), where both Sylvia and Marisa do a striptease, Hooray for stripteases and extra absorbent tissues!
     There's not much else to say about this one without spoiling the plot. The music was pretty good too. A lot of smoking action as well. Ah, the days when you break the ice with a girl by offering her a Malboro and flashing your nicotine-stained teeth.

Guapparia (1983, Italy, Crime, Director: Stelvio Massi)
Notable actors: Mario Merola! Sal Borghese for about a second! Ria De Simone, the Opera singing lady from Fulci's Touch of Death!

Mario "Versatility" Merola branches out once again by swapping his usual role as a tough but jovial Neapolitan mobster who drives a blue Mercedes with that of the role of a tough but jovial Neapolitan mobster who drives a WHITE Mercedes.
     This time around he's not so much getting into trouble via a son or daughter but it's women that are causing him to cry and sing very loudly. Merola's out one day at the Madonna de'llArco near Naples (I looked that up), where pilgrims get blessings by rubbing a huge brass plaque with their napkins. Merola's there with current girlfriend Ria De Simone, a struggling actress, when she meets an old friend of hers, Margherita. Merola's already giving her a bit of the eye while rubbing that shrine, but there's real sparks in the air when he's having lunch with both Ria and Margherita, when the locals urge Merola to grace them with his lovely voice. I'd have been more angry that people where stopping me eating that nice looking half roast chicken on my plate, but for Merola it means he can not-so-subtly hint that Margherita and him might have a future together.
     It's not just singing and chicken eating that a Guappo has to do of a day, because Merola's got to go around sorting out the community's business, like making sure the theatre company Ria is working for change the script for her, or making sure that nice boy who knocked up that girl does the right thing and marries her. He also slaps a great deal of people, in both aggressive and friendly styles. Eventually though he gets 'round to Margherita and starts wooing her and scaring (slapping) off the competition - a local jeweller with the hots for Margherita. Soon enough all this works and he's giving Ria the old heave-ho, where she has a flashback to when she met Merola. One night, Merola got shot while slapping Sal Borghese, and they fell in love while she tended his wounds. Now he's off and all Ria can do is have a knife stand off with Margherita in public. If there's one thing I learned from this film, it's that every single person in Naples carries a knife.
     What Merola doesn't seem to understand is there are two types of women in the world. Those who like watching tiny men getting slapped about, and those who take that as an indicator that the person doing the slapping might be a bit of an asshole. Margherita starts having doubts almost right away, and when he tries acting the big man with her, she's having none of it, and that jeweller is back on the scene - can Mario sing his way out of this one?
     Maybe it doesn't matter who directs these. This one is by Stevlio Massi, but it could well have been by Alfonso Brescia and I wouldn't have noticed a difference. Most of the usual traits are here - Naples, food, Merola singing, Merola getting sad, Merola getting angry, everyone talking at full volume. The only things that are missing are two kids pretending to be a married couple and the deafening comedy antics of Luciano Montaldo, who is replace here by staff in a bar who provide the laughs. There's a bit more singing than usual I guess, and for some reason his character is more of a dick than usual.
     Would you believe this is the ELEVENTH Mario Merola film I've watched? The others are NAPLES...9 CALIBRE SERENADE (He's a cigarette smuggler in Naples), THE LAST GUAPPO (Cigarette smuggling mobster), BIG MAMMA (Naples - based cigarette smuggling mobster), FROM CORLEONE TO BROOKLYN (mobster on the run from Maurizio Merli!), THE SMUGGLERS OF SANTA LUCIA (you guessed it - cigarette smuggling Naples based mobster), COP, YOUR LAW IS SLOW...MINE...NOT! (Naples-based mobster running a gambling den!), NAPLES...THE COMMORA CHALLENGES, THE CITY HITS BACK (Legit businessman? Can't remember), THE HOER (A farmer! This leads to a pretty unintentionally funny finale), THE MAFIA TRIANGLE (Naples based mobster), and THE INMATE (middle-aged divorcee who makes an entire prison cry by singing). I enjoyed most of those, by the way.
     Also, I'm now in the Guinness Book of Records because of this, holding the title of 'World's Saddest Bastard'.

The Gun (1978, Italy, Crime, Director: Pasquale Squitieri)
Notable actors: Claudia Cardinale!

More of a chronicle of one man's psychological disintegration than a crime movie, THE GUN does however tell a different side of the story when it comes to Italy in the 'Years of Lead'. It's not about cops or criminals, journalists or politicians. It's just about a man who wants to protect his family while all this goes on, but somehow manages to prove he's an asshole in the process. Which I believe I also said about the film A DANGEROUS TOY.
     Luigi is the stone-faced protagonist here, distant from his wife (Cardinale) and a stranger to his teenage daughter. One night a neighbour alerts police to a break-in happening in their apartment complex and one of the unarmed burglars is shot dead by the police. Thinking that society is breaking down, Luigi seeks to arm himself.
     The thing is, Luigi becomes obsessed with the gun and thinks it can solve all his problems, and it also seems to give rise to his less sociable aspects, thinking that a gun will stop his daughter attending hippy parties and taking drugs, or heal the broken marriage between himself and Cardinale. Whereas in A DANGEROUS TOY, Nino Manfredi's character is a goofy guy who finds courage weilding a gun and is consumed by it. Luigi was already an asshole and uses the power the gun gives him to exert his asshole personality over others.
     It kind of reminded me a bit of the Michael Douglas film FALLING DOWN, although not as extreme. Luigi doesn't seem to realise that he's dug his own furrow and although he can't control his aggression, he does regret it. Cardinale does well as the wife who puts up with his crap, even though Luigi doesn't seem to understand there's anything wrong at all.
     Nicely acted by a small cast, consisting of not much violence but strangely affective, THE GUN is a nice deviation from the usual trodden path, with a good musical score chucked in there too. If I had to compare with A DANGEROUS TOY, I'd say that film is more enjoyable over this, as the guy who plays Luigi (Stefano Satta Flores), doesn't display as much depth as Nino Manfredi.

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")

Heaven Is Only In Hell (1994, Holland, Horror, Director/Producer/Script/Special Effects/Editing: Wim Vink)
Notable actors: I don't even know why I typed that.

I don't mean to be down on very low budget films, because I know that they face a lot of hardships that big budget films don't have to bother with. If you're making a low budget film, chances are you are also supporting yourself in a job, so both free time and money are a constant problem. Plus, you can't just run out there and bag hotshot actors like Tom Cruise or Massimo Vanni, can you? However, my problem with HEAVEN IS ONLY IN HELL is that it's a horror film consisting of a rather lot of footage of people just living their lives and doing menial tasks.
     In this film of possession and witches, marvel at the sight of two separate aerobics classes, two different people commuting to work, a girl switching on items at an electrical store and working on some administration, a man house-hunting, the same man preparing for a house-warming party by setting out cheese and wine (and as an ex-cheesemonger, I'm going all out there to guess that's Gouda those folk are chowing down on), a woman walking down the street, a guy working on a car engine, a woman on the subway, a man going to a bar on the pull, a woman making coffee, a man waking up with a hangover, and even more administration. It was so exciting my brain was literally making me do anything else in order to avoid watching this. I even washed my front door. Who washes their front door, especially in Scotland, where my front door is washed on a daily basis by the endless deluge of Scottish weather (Torrential rain, Heavy rain, Blustery Showers and Light Rain, which these days counts as 'not really raining')?
     The story is that a witch and her daughter are seeking eternal life and centuries later they seem to invade the brains of two people - the househunting guy and the shop girl. The house-hunting guy buys a house in which there's some evil well in the basement, and his mind starts going as a voice keeps telling him about eternal life and how he has to give a blood sacrifice in order to obtain said eternal living. The shop girl suffers from similar dreams, hearing the same voice and even dreaming about killing someone and lowering them into the well. Both seek victims, the guy from several bad attempts at seduction at a bar, the girl from her aerobics class.
     Once again, I don't mean to be down on a film that was a labour of love, but it took me three days to watch this. There's a bit of gore at the end when someone receives a hatchet to the head, and someone else impaled on knives, but it's too little too late. Good aerobics scenes though I guess.

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?

Her Harem (1967, Italy, Drama/Comedy, Director: Marco Ferreri)
Notable actors: Carroll Baker! William Berger! Gastone Moschin! Renato Salvatori! Michel Le Royer!
Ennio Morricone Soundtrack...again!

You know those fake trailers you get on Youtube where a film is recut, like turning MRS. DOUBTFIRE into a horror film or SILENCE OF THE LAMBS into a romantic comedy? Marco Ferreri did that with his own film!
     Initially filmed as a comedy, director Marco Ferreri changed his mind about the film and edited it to be more of a drama instead, so what you end up with is something somewhat unique, if not entirely successful, It also kickstarted Carroll Baker's career in Europe, where she notched up, by my count, nine Giallo titles (including the rare THE BODY) and also giving us the great BABA YAGA, putting her up there with Edwidge Fenech as Giallo royalty.
     Now, the plot of this one will be familiar to those who have watched some of Baker's Giallo films, because HER HAREM is also a film where rich people are holed up in an exotic villa somewhere, playing mind games with each other, but this time, they aren't doing it for inheritance, or blackmail, or murder, they are doing it for love. Isn't that nice? The answer turns out to be no, by the way.
     Baker plays the rich Margherita (I can't remember what her job was), who initially wakes up on her wedding day, next to groom Gastone Moschin a rich industrialist/wanker who can't believe his ears when Baker tells him that she doesn't want to get married after all. Moschin pretends to people that he was the one who called off the wedding in a macho attempt to save face, then storms off. Baker is unfazed, and seemingly just goes off to hang around with another lover, lawyer/tosser Gaetano (Renato Salvatori), a reserved mummy's boy type, whom she just teases a bit. Adding to proceedings is the arrival of first love, beatnik/prick William Berger, just returned from Africa with a baby leopard for a pet!
     Baker has a bit of complicated love life going on, and regularly confides in her gay friend Michel Le Royer. He suggests that what she's looking for is man with all the best qualities of the three she's been messing around with, but Baker doesn't want that at all - she wouldn't mind just keeping things the way they are - avoiding total commitment and living free. However, they both come up with a plan to get all three suitors in one place, forming a harem, so to speak, where she can have some fun at their expense.
     Heading to Dubrovnik, everyone (including the leopard) meets up at one of those villas that crop up in these films, and the head games begin with Baker pretending she called everyone there because she was ill. Everyone reacts differently when it is revealed she's not - from Berger's amusement to Gastone's outrage, which grows as Baker toys further with the 'harem', making them wear signs that proclaim them 'immoral', but this backfires somewhat when the three lovers are drawn closer in their anger. This first manifests itself in them pretending to be slaves in a funny scene, but their reactions become darker as the film goes on.
     The subversive element to this film is Baker taking on the role of the Casanova type, keeping multiple partners which doesn't sit right with her lovers and probably didn't sit right with the audience either. Moschin even goes on a rant about how it's acceptable for the male to act in such a way, but for a woman it is wrong as they are "physically inferior". You can see how European audiences would be taken in by Baker the actress. With her hair died raven black, she makes for quite a strong, driven lead, and quite erotic too, in a very subtle way. There's no graphic sex scenes, this being 1967, but a lot of scenes are erotically charged. We see Berger taking nude pictures of her from a distance, but the scene that struck me most with Baker is when Berger is kissing her feet, and she stares straight into the camera, a mix of power and pleasure on her face.
     Backing up all this stuff is a very strong, colourful cinematography and a cool Ennio Morricone soundtrack that pretty much sums up the tone of the film by pitting a soulful jazz saxophone with those sad-sounding, high-pitched strings he likes to use. Both these elements help the film along, as things get progressively less light and more serious as the film progresses. If anything, this film has brought my attention to director Marco Ferreri, who seems to be quite revered. The only films of his I've ever heard of are THE SEED OF MAN and DILLINGER IS DEAD, and I've already found a copy of THE SEED OF MAN to watch, so review soon!
     Also, if I was Baker I would have just chosen William Berger. Gastone Mochine? It would be like choosing between a diamond and a rotten potato.

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.

Hit Squad (1976, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Bruno Corbucci)
Notable actors: Tomas Milian! Massimo Vanni! Robert Webber! Nello Pazzafini! First appearance of Bombolo - get used to him!
Guido and Maurizio De Angelis Soundtrack!

Inspector Giraldi is back in a film that eerily resembles the first film, but is even more entertaining! More costume changes! More mouse action! More Milian running around in his underwear!
     This time around he's trying to sort out a car stealing ring (and gaining a girlfriend in the process) and yet again a bunch of petty crooks ripping off a much more serious and deadly crooks which results in many bad guys getting killed and Milian having to adopt many guises in order to get to the bottom of what's going on. My favourite of this is when he tricks the recently widowed girlfriend into bed, but then also convinces her that he can't make it unless she shouts out the names of all her dead boyfriend's mates. This of course results in Milian shouting "What the fuck are you doing talking like that in front of a woman, asshole?" to two guys who interrupt him.
     Other brain damaging goings on involve Milian's dumb but well-meaning sidekick Massimo Vanni, who isn't very smart but at least is very handy with a gun, which is good because the film doesn't skimp on the usual Eurocrime violence we all expect from these films. That's what is good about these Giraldi films - there's a certain comedic element about it all, but it still delivers. So you'll get to see many a punch up, car chase, and shoot out as well as Milian dancing badly and threatening dorty porvorts.
     You also get Milian forcing Bombolo to eat his own shit, and a bizarre detour in the last fifteen minutes when the action switches to New York and Milian romancing a maid. Throughout the film you'll either be charmed by Milian's weird behaviour or just outright hate it. I was entertained.
     In fact, the funniest moment here is when Milian goes to New York and when talking to his cop cousin there, they are interuppted by a hobo dressed in what looks like wax paper. This encounter is so random and comes across as so genuine that I thought it was a random moment with a homeless guy they put into the film (Milian even bursts out laughing at one point), but it turns out it was just a great performance by some obscure actor called Taylor Mead. Well done Taylor - you cracked me up.
     How many Giraldi films is that I've reviewed Fred? Is it enough for you to free my family, because it gets confusing here as the films are all called Anti Squad - something or other? You're going to make me watch them all, aren't you? (You have reviewed six of them. If you ever want to see your family again, you better deliver on all eleven films! - Fred) And that Bud Spencer film CAT AND DOG or whatever it's called.

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!

House of Love...The Police Intervene (1977 [possibly 1973], Italy, Horror?, Director: Renato Polselli)
Notable actors: I'll get back to you on that.

This film is so disjointed, cobbled together and forgotten about that no one can even agree on which year it was made. Plus, Renato Polselli has totally pulled a Godfrey Ho on this occasion by taking an old unused horror film called A VIRGIN FOR SATAN and intercutting footage of his own in there, creating a huge pile of crap that at least has some of that old Polselli randomness we've come to expect by now.
     The copy of HOUSE OF LOVE that I watched looked like how the world probably looks to an old dog before it finally goes blind, had no subtitles, and seem to have hardcore footage removed from it, so it was pretty hard to follow. It does seem that the film starts off with three young archaeologists out in the field, looking for stuff, when one of them spots two strange men kidnapping a young woman in what looked like a giant net and throwing her in the boot of a car. One guy drives off, but the top-hatted, sinister fellow left behind ominously follows the girl who witnessed the kidnap, seemingly teleporting around the place and intimidating her. Then, he just leaves and our young trio follow.
     The trail leads them to a house where various dodgy looking people are arriving, including a woman with a goat on a leash. Through the window, they see the kidnapped girl being forced to take part in some ceremony to praise the demon Astaroth (and apparently have a rubber hand stuffed in her mouth(?)), but when the two girls suggest that they call the police, the archaeologist guy says "bollocks to that - this would make a great news story" and runs off to get some weird equipment to spy on the ceremonies within. I can't remember if this was before or after he interrupted the girl's game of darts(?) to erotically rub a huge tree branch all over one of them while she writhed about sexily. You can kind of understand why I'm having trouble explaining this.
     Basically, the footage of the trio comes from Polselli (as if that needed pointing out) and the inside footage is from the old film, which means that our trio spy on everything happening inside and follow people about outside, mainly the guy in the top hat, who disposes of the bodies of the various girls who are kidnapped and used up in the old demonic nonsense going on indoors. There's another sub plot involving a potential victim who escapes the ceremony and goes to the police, but regardless of whether or not that's old or new footage, it's just there to pad out the running time.
     For those seeking some of that old Polselli madness, there is the odd thing like another scene of tree based erotic massage and a scene at the end where two men throw live chickens at each other, but this film is mainly dull. Maybe the hardcore bits livened it up a bit, but mostly it involves people spying on some people having a demonic ceremony for almost the whole film. Poor show.

The House of Ripe Apples (1971, Italy, Drama, Director: Pino Tosini)
Notable actors: Erika Blanc! Carla Mancini, probably!

This film has the giallo keyword attached to it on the IMDb, which is why I watched it, but even I, who would consider anything a giallo* if it prevented me from having to make an effort, would be stretching things by calling this a giallo. I suppose there's a childhood trauma/repressed memory thing going on, and it's definitely sleazy enough, but there's no mystery and no mind games getting played. It's still pretty watchable though.
     First things first though - also on the IMDb, Erika Blanc is listed as playing one of the main characters here, but that's not true. In fact, Erika only appears for about five minutes of screen time. Carla Mancini is listed as playing 'nurse', but that's the only role here I can confirm she's not playing, but she could be one of the asylum inmates though. To be honest, there are about a dozen people here who could have been Carla Mancini.
     THE HOUSE OF RIPE APPLES is kind of a mix of drama and women in prison, but played ultra-seriously. It involves two friends who have grown close because they have spent mutual time together in a mental hospital. First off is Judy, played by Marcella Michelangeli from crappy Eurocrime film COULD IT HAPPEN HERE?, but is listed on the IMDb as playing the other main character, Marsina, who is played by Susanna Levi from the sequel to nothing HOLOCAUST 2. I can't believe I spent so much time sorting all that out. Judy is basically incarcerated because she's sullying the family name by partying and hanging around with left-wing types, and Marsina is in there because a repressed childhood memory of being raped as a kid keeps trying to break through her mind. It's a buddy movie!
     Judy gets released when her slimy, uncaring brother gets her out while also obtaining power of attorney over her, and luckily Marsina has a caring husband who wants her to get better, but it's obvious the Judy is in love with Marsina and Marsina has serious sexual hang-ups. Both of them suffer from a bad case of the flashbacks too, most of them involving sex, and all of the involving body doubles who don't resemble the actresses at all!
     Things go smoothly for a few seconds before both attend a party hosted by Erika Blanc, which results in Marsina having a flashback/meltdown and Judy shaming her family again, so both of them end up in a much harsher asylum, where the nurses are much more brutal. The girls escape, but Marsina's flashbacks result in them being thrown back in there, but the real problems start when the ladies are separated...
     Whenever things threaten to turn stale in this film, director Pino Tosini (who has a lot of interesting sounding films that have no reviews and barely any information) throws in some nudity and sex. There's plenty of drama too, as Judy descends into madness in what must be the most badly managed insane asylum in cinema. Marsina herself goes on a personal journey to overcome her bad memories, and unless I missed something, she did this by going to a park and looking at a dog.
     The short runtime suggests there might have been porn inserts in this one at some point, but the short run time also meant that I didn't mind spending time watching it. I could have done with less naked male buttock action though. I get enough of that in my part time job as a middle-aged male prostitute!
     *Other films I consider giallo - GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, ONLY YESTERDAY: THE CARPENTERS' STORY, SPICE WORLD, GANDHI and *batteries not included.

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 An Old Manor House Or The Independence of Triangles (1984, Poland, Horror, Director: Andrzej Kotkowiski)
Notable actors: Beata Tyszkiewicz (She was also in the 'Battle of Sexes' sci-fi comedy Sexmission that I remember watching back in the late Eighties as a kid! Now, if only someone could remember the name of the film set in a brothel where one of the customers was a serial killer who kidnapped women and took polaroid pictures of them slowly starving to death. That wasn't even part of the main plot of that film, which has alluded me for years. Maybe I should ask director David Fincher, who totally stole that polaroid bit for Se7en).

Now, we all know that in Gothic horror being dead is like having the common cold, and that after a few days you can just shrug it off and go back to that old draughty castle you live in, but this film takes that to the extreme. Nominally a scary story about revenge from beyond the grave, IN AN OLD MANOR HOUSE also covers the dynamics of the family, the class system, failed ambition, parenthood and probably a lot of other stuff that went right over my head.
     The film entirely takes place in our around a run-down Manor House where an aging businessman runs his empire. Anastazja, his second wife, is much younger and has the hots for her stepson Jerzy, upon whom the film mainly focuses on. The old man has two daughters by Anastazja too, who mainly live in their own little world, giggling at everything, including the fact that Jerzy is in the woods somewhere with his head jammed between Anastazja ample fat rascals.
     The old man (whose name I wish I'd taken note of), shoots Anastazja, and weirdly there doesn't seem to be any consequences to this, which is perhaps a dig at the upper classes getting away with murder. He settles down for a new life by sending for his cousin Aneta, who has recently become widowed herself and has fond childhood memories of hanging around with Jerzy. Jerzy on the other hand is a mess. He was already a failed artist and poet, and his main inspiration is now dead...for a wee while.
     At this point in the film I wasn't sure what to expect, as I randomly chose to watch this film on the Movies For Nothing channel on YouTube (be quick - the films are starting to get deleted), so when Anastazja appeared during a dinner party and sat herself down like nothing had happened, the film took a sudden left turn into the weird, and got weirder as it went on. Anastazja admits she was dead, and even met Aneta's husband, but now she's back, seemingly to avenge herself on the old man and Jerzy.
     Another strange aspect of the film is how everyone just kind of accepts Anastazja is back and tries to work around it, as she reveals she didn't love Jerzy but was in love with the old man's most cherished employee. Jerzy is the most needy character, emotionally, and instead of falling back in with Anastazja, she persuades him to go after Aneta, while she convinces her two daughters to drink cyanide. This is made even more surreal by the kids dancing around while a narrator sings a song about how they will shortly die...for a day or so.
     Things pretty much carry on in this fashion, with Anastazja taking her revenge on various people and killing them (slightly) while Jerzy falls in love with Aneta, who is then revealed to have a lover. Everyone kind of knows that Anastazja is the main problem, and Jerzy comes to the conclusion he has to kill her again, but how do you kill someone who just keeps coming back? Things get even stranger as Jerzy shoots Anastazja out in the woods, and as she falls to the ground dead someone else digs themselves out of the ground, only to be revealed as Jerzy's hitherto unknown son! This too is accepted without much contest from everyone in the household...
     It's obviously some sort of piss-take, this film, and a swipe at the rich, but there's still a lot of horror elements in there too, mainly from Anastazja and the use of mirrors throughout the film. Anastazja often appears reflected in them to talk to Jerzy, who paints over one at some point. Even the mysterious son using one to direct sunlight about a room he's sitting in. In fact, as the film progresses Anastazja becomes more and more sinister. Luring a drunk guy to his death while standing on water, walking out of a painting to speak to Jerzy, sitting silently with her two dead children. It's quite effective.
     An interesting film, this one. Maybe a little talky, but as an Eighties gothic horror which is also some sort of social commentary, it worked for me.

Ingrid on The Street (1973, Italy, Crime, Director: Brunello Rondi)
Notable actors: Janet Agren! Franco Citti! Bruno Corazzari! Enrico Maria Salerno! Luciano Rossi! Franco Garafolo! Fulvio Mingozzi!

Before we begin, let's have a little quiz. What do you think happens to Luciano Rossi in this film? Is it:

A) He enjoys an evening meal with Janet Agren where they discuss the fragility of interpersonal relationships
B) He trains a junior soccer team to take on a team made up of rich middle class spoiled kids, or is it
C) He gets a large clump of hair pulled out the back of his head, has his face forced into a bowl of shit over and over again, and then has his tongue cut out?

Answer at the end of the review.
     When she's suddenly raped by her father (Fulvio Mingozzi), Finnish girl Ingrid (Janet Agren) high tails it out of there and heads for Italy on what must be a particularly long train journey. On the way there, she discards her knickers and declares that she'll never wear any ever again, deciding to become a prostitute. She's rather proactive in this decision, taking on two separate customers on the way to Rome. For the record we do see her wearing underwear later in the film, but then we all make promises to ourselves that we break, right?
     INGRID ON THE STREET starts off like a light-hearted, almost arthouse depiction of a girl getting into prostitution, as Ingrid quickly makes a friend in Claudia, who takes her under her wing. Claudia is loud and shrill but good hearted, and nowhere near as loud and shrill as a character we'll meet later in the film. She also lives with eccentric artist Bruno Corazzari, who paints gory pictures with bleeding dolls stuck to them. Ingrid is entering an uncertain world where everything is borderline surreal, including some of her customers.
     She doesn't have much luck at first (Claudia says she's too perfect looking), but then a customer picks both her and Claudia up and takes them home. The customer is Enrico Salerno, a charming, humble old man who sets them both up in his living room, showing them pictures of his ancestors and giving them antique clothes to wear, but then the girls realise that there's a seance going on next door that they seem to be indirectly involved in, and that there's an apparition appearing at one end of the room!
     This off-kilter tone remains in place for the entire film, but the mood of the film changes dramatically in the second half, with the appearance of Claudia's pimp, Franco Citti. Not only is Franco smug and arrogant, he's also psychotic and leads a group of neo-Nazi bikers with him everywhere he goes, who kiss his feet and treat him almost religiously. This includes henchman Franco Garafolo. If you shoved Franco Citti and Klaus Kinski into one of those teleporters in Cronenberg's THE FLY and mixed their DNA, Franco Garafolo would be what crawled out of the other teleporter.
     Claudia is subservient to the mad Citti, but Ingrid hates him on sight and sets up the rest of the film, where the two have a tit-for-tat grudge with each other that leads to rape, drugs, murder, church-organ playing, and Franco Citti yelling and screaming and chewing the scenery. He maybe could have learned a thing from Salerno or Corazzari, who both play eccentric characters in a very restrained fashion.
     This film isn't exactly sunshine or rainbows, and certainly a bit bi-polar in tone, but the weird set design (including tunnels full of stolen loot and that old Seventies staple, the mannequin), the odd set-pieces and the sudden exploitative violence make it an interesting watch, but not something you'd watch more than once.
     The answer of course to the multiple choice question is C, although I may add that Rossi probably did have his hair pulled out for real, used real shit in the bowl, and really had his tongue cut out. That's dedication to your chosen craft!

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.

Insult To The Mafia (1973, Italy, Crime/Musical, Director: Ettore Maria Fizzarrotti)
Notable actors: Mario Merola! Silvia Dioniso! Dada Gallotti!

Amount of seconds that pass before we see someone eating pasta in this film: 50
     This is where the MMU (Mario Merola Universe as we ultra-fans call it) starts. This is Merola film number twelve for me, and I was shocked to find that it wasn't set in Naples. Just...slightly down the road from Naples a bit. Other than that, it pretty much maps out the tried and tested formula we'll be getting from here on out, in this bizarre mix of crime and drama and music and screaming and slapping known as sceneggiata.

Amount of seconds that pass before we hear Mario Merola singing: 119
     In the seaside town of Cerata on the Amalfi coast, an arrogant guappo called Andrea makes innocent fisherman Mario Merola drive him to a restaurant, where the man Andrea's wife has been cheating on is enjoying his evening meal. He also makes Mario go into the restaurant and get the guy to go out into the street so he can shoot him in the guts. Now, I've read a plot summary of this film that states that Andrea frames Mario for the murder, but what he really does is just hand the gun to Merola, who just stares at it like he's never seen one before as the police turn up.

Amount of scenes featuring people eating pasta of some kind, or even just pretending to eat invisible pasta: 4
     Seven years later, Mario is freed from jail as someone's been pulling strings in the background, but Mario doesn't care about that and just wants to go back to work. His best mate Peter is over the moon to have Mario back on the streets, as all he's had to do in the meantime is strike up a deep and meaningful relationship with the innocent Silvia Dioniso (who appears in the Maurizio Merli face-puncher FEAR IN THE CITY, where she strips off for Maurizio while he just sits there fully clothed, smoking and drinking Scotch. They call that 'poliziotesschi foreplay'). Peter and Silvia makes eyes at each other all the time and secretly exchange marriage vows in the local Chapel. where Merola just wants to get on with things.

Amount of songs Merola sings, sometimes to the sea (which sings back!) and sometimes while knocking over loads of wine bottles for no reason: 5
     Deep down Merola knows he's been let out for a reason, and that reason soon comes looking for him. Andrea wants to use him in his smuggling operation, but it may just be a complicated ploy to have him killed so he can't blame Andrea for killing that guy back then. Too complicated if you ask me, seeing that Andrea just flat out kills two other people without any planning and pretty much right out in the open. There's a whole load of other crap going on too, from Peter having an affair with Andrea's wife to internal politics and double crossing in the Mafia, to the Mafia putting the squeeze on folks working at the docks, and my favourite part, where Merola has a huge fight in a fish market and ends up dumping huge amounts of fish and clams onto his assailant, ending with an octopus to the face. That scene couldn't have been more Southern Italian if it tried.

Amount of times Merola slaps people across the face with almost superhuman strength: Three.
     So, all the elements of the Merola Universe are here, give or take. Close families (Merola, Peter, Peter's mother and the two comedy sidekicks get together at Christmas and have...spaghetti), Comedy sidekicks (they haven't discovered ultra-loud, screamy Lucio Montanaro yet, so they have two old men instead, and we spend way too much time with them), scheming guappi, tragedy and much weeping, food and coffee, the love of the Naples region and it's people, punch-ups and wine, smuggling and poverty. All that's missing is Merola's blue Mercedes and two street kids who argue like a married couple.

Amount of songs Merola sings about how he's disappointed his son is ashamed of him while looking like he hasn't slept for three weeks and had ten tonnes of horseshit dumped on him: None (that was in the film ZAPPATORE, but it was so funny I had to mention it again).
     To conclude, this film couldn't have been a success, as Merola didn't make another film until five years later.

In the Highest Of Skies (1977, Italy, Horror?, Director: Silvano Agosti)
Notable actors: The only one I recognise is Francesca Romana Coluzzi from the TV series Rome and Red Sonja, which I now see is a part-Italian production, and therefore goes on the never-ending Watch list!

Art as horror here, or horror as art. The human condition laid bare, perhaps. The human centipede as a metaphor for how Subway is good in theory but not good in reality. Umberto Lenzi strangling a goat to impress some girls at a beach while Ruggero Deodato does press-ups to do the same, his crotch covered in sandpaper that scrapes away the delicate skin of an otter nailed to the ground beneath him. I'm Professor John M. Dober, Head Film Bufter of the Department of Critical Analysis and Talking Bollocks About Film, University of Gowkthrapple, Scotland, and I'm here to talk shite about Silvano Agosti's IN THE HIGHEST OF SKIES (Or IN THE HIGHEST OF HEAVENS...maybe).
     Sometimes, one must rise above the material presented and try to objectively view the intention of the artist. IN THE HIGHEST OF SKIES is a comment on something, but one struggles to focus on what that particular something is. Before we dribble our word-noodles into the Ramen of the void, let us establish just what we are focussing our brain-lasers on.
     The film involves a group of people travelling to the Vatican to meet the Pope, this group representing what in the director's mind must be a contemporary slice of Italy's Years of Lead: Some priests, some industrialists, some nuns, a journalist (a film critic no less), a nuclear family, and a Marxist. They come bearing gifts for the Pope - bespoke Eucharist, fancy wine, and other superfluous crap. What none of them are expecting is that the clinical elevator they have just embarked on will endlessly ascend to the heavens, causing everyone aboard to revert to their primitive urges and discard the ersatz vestiges of modern society to satisfy their base instincts.
     Panic sets in rather quickly, and our captives desperately try to find a way to escape the elevator, via the door and the roof, but to no avail. Desperation comes next, and I must point out that the entire film's soundtrack is set to the Vatican Cable Radio that plays endlessly into the confined space (including some no doubt illegally acquired Frank Zappa, namely the George Duke performances from 'Eat That Question' and 'Blessed Relief').
     One person decides to go insane early and tries to strangle a nun, resulting in him being bludgeoned by what my hazy Catholic upbringing tells me what might be some sort of tabernacle. This is just the beginning of the horror, as everyone involved languishes in the endless purgatory, one priest gets the idea to hump the young girl that's been brought along. While everyone is sleeping, the film spends a rather uncomfortable amount of time showing this priest giving the girl a bit of a toe-job while also trying to knock one out, and credit where credit is due, I quote user Lazarillo from the IMDb when he comments "Of course, this scene is totally preposterous (after all, there is also a teenage BOY on the elevator that the priest could have molested)."
     Eventually things descend into the scatological and anthropophagic when the group start eating themselves and their waste, which reminds one of the film SALO (of which my mother will not allow me to watch, and I always listen to mother, because if I don't she makes me wear the skin suit we made out of daddy, and then daddy has to do things to mother while I watch, then I have to go in the naughty house and it smells in there, smells of the homeless folk we dry out on the fireplace after we give them the special juice that stops their pain)...but I digress.
     The problem with this film is that it could mean anything. Is the message of the film that you have to go through hell to get to heaven? Is it that those who seek a higher level of existence must first experience life's lowest points? Or that those who pretend to be most pious are those who are most morally corrupt? Or perhaps that the Papacy are in reality untouchable and unobtainable, and the very notion of penetrating their social sphere is an impossibility, and that there really exists a them and us society, where a world of wealth and leisure are basically beyond our reach, and our attempts to reach it are like some sort of purgatory?
     Questions, and question marks. That is all we have. Punctuation, and punk attitude. I don't know what it means but it must mean something. There are foxes fighting over territory outside my window. I believe one of them just uttered "Copper is the metal of the devil. I have dropped something, but I don't know what it is yet."

In the Name of The Law (1949. Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Pietro Germi)
Notable actors: Massimo Girotti! Camillo Mastrocinque!

Massimo Girotti turns his powerful peepers on the corrupt and the Mafia in this film that might be made in the Forties, but still packs a punch thanks to a dense plot, gritty atmosphere, and the weird backdrop of rural Sicily, which always struck me as Italy's stranger, but extremely violent little brother.
     The film hits the ground running when a man is robbed of his mules by two masked men, one of whom is forced to kill their victim after he pulls his mask off. Giving the guy two shotgun blasts to the chest (of which we see the aftermath), the two men run off with the mules. These mules however belong to a local Baron (Camillo Mastrocinque, actor turned director of AN ANGEL FOR SATAN and CRYPT OF HORROR) and he's not too happy, mumbling about how the Mafia are failing in protecting his assets. The two Mafia foot soldiers standing right in front of him when he says that gently remind him to shut the fuck up, and reassure him that justice will be served.
     Later that day, new Judge Massimo Girotti arrives by train, only to be met by his predecessor, who is waiting to leave. This guy instantly recognises Massimo and tells him the best thing he could do is turn around and go back home on the train. Massimo asks why but the guy just laughs and leaves, and Massimo heads into town to find a very warm welcome from lawyers, and the mayor, and the head of the local police. Only the policeman seems sincere, however, as even his new landlord seems to be hiding behind a false smile. This is where the atmosphere of the film comes into play, because where Massimo goes, the entire town seem to be watching and judging him.
     The town's problems are manifold; there's a guy lying in the doctor's house with a shotgun wound to the chest, there are scores of court cases lying unresolved in Massimo's new office, the mine that provided the town jobs is closed for mysterious reasons, and most town officials are subtly hinting that perhaps Massimo would be best just putting his feet up in his office and just relaxing. However, Massimo is young and just and earnest, and wants to clean things up using the law of the state, but he's soon to find out that there's another law in Sicily.
     The guy who's been shot won't name the guy who did it, but he's one of the mule thieves and the other guy is on the run. The guy who shot him is a real sinister bastard out to deflower his girlfriend's daughter, and the girlfriend is all up for that if she gets the financial security he promises! Complicating things further is the daughter's boyfriend, a young kid who befriends Massimo, who gets caught up in all this later on in the film.
     In the meantime, he's looking into the mine business and finds it is owned by the Baron. While out inspecting the place, the Baron refers to him having friends everywhere, and that prompts the appearance of the Mafia, led by Don Massuro. Massuro is diplomatic and friendly, and when Massimo subtly hints that he's out to help those in need using state law, Massuro gently reminds him that out in the sticks, folks adhere to a different and more ancient law. Massimo then insults Massuro with his insolence, causing a disturbance in the general order of things.
     And that's pretty much what he keeps doing throughout the film, as he meets various people and becomes embroiled in psychological battles with them, as the more malicious side hide behind veiled threats and Massimo glares at them and simply states the truth. The true villain of the film is the Baron, who has a lot of corruption he doesn't want uncovered, whereas Massuro, despite the many folk who receive shotgun blasts to the chest on his behalf, is very approachable and honourable, and likes Massimo as he reminds him of his son, who has followed a more legal path in the life. This humanity actually makes the Mafia Don very likeable.
     However, the film lies on Massimo Girotti's shoulders. From the outset he proves he's above bribery and threats, putting his life on the line for his belief in the law, so much so that he rants at the entire town and the Mafia in the end, calling their way of life cowardly. His steady gaze and bottled rage is something to behold, and this might be the best I've ever seen the actor. Simply mesmerizing, and though people have put down the romantic sub plot of this one, I think it was thrown in there to show his character did have a softer side.
     So, if you want to see a seventy year old film where a guy murders a woman with a sword and there's a sub plot about trying to take a sixteen year old's virginity, this is your film! It could have easily been made in the Seventies, although I'd imagine the ending would have been grimmer.

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 Ralli (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.

I Zombie, You Zombie, She Zombie (1979, Italy, Comedy/Horror, Director: Nello Rossati)
Notable actors: Renzo Montagnani! Daniele Vargas! Nadia Cassini!

Is this the first ever zombie comedy film? I think so, even though I've done no research into the matter or even bothered to find out if that's remotely true. What the hell, eh?
     Those hoping for a kind of 'missing link' Italian zombie comedy/horror crossover film will be disappointed to find out that this film contains absolutely no gore whatsoever. The zombies are properly undead people, but they just look a bit pale and walk like zombies, and have a craving for human flesh which will pretty much fuel the entire plot of the film...until the zombies discover they don't actually have to eat human flesh. But don't worry about that turn of events because even stupider things happen later in the film.
     It all starts when gravedigger Renzo Montagnani witnesses a road accident involving two Fiat drivers and a cyclist just trying to have a casual piss at the side of the road. Renzo ends up in the same room as the three corpses while reading aloud a book called "Revenge of the Zombies". Little does he know that when he reads out the voodoo ceremony from the book, he unwittingly resurrects the trio lying in coffins behind him, and when they come to life, he instantly dies of a heart attack. Luckily though the trio of undead read out the voodoo ceremony again and Renzo finds himself part of a comedy zombie quartet who are pretty much the Three Stooges with a craving for human flesh. Or at least they crave flesh because the book told them that's what they need to eat.
     There's not much character development to be had, but apart from Renzo you've got Daniele Vargas from the giallo spoof THE TERROR WITH CROSS-EYES (there's a copy on YouTube of that, so I'll probably review that if I can get over the fact that the copy there looks like I've instantly developed cataracts), the cyclist guy, and a guy who kind of looks like Dean Stockwell in BLUE VELVET. These four shortly figure out they are pretty shit at ambushing humans at the roadside, so it's lucky that cyclist guy's Aunt owns a hotel and instantly dies of a heart attack when she discovers her nephew is still alive. Shortly afterwards, the four set up shop in the hotel and most of the film details their attempts to eat the guests, which always goes wrong.
     First there's a very sick man that they all salivate over, then there's the family that consist of a hen-pecked husband, nagging wife, and evil, pranking son who carries a picture of Hitler around with him and constantly trips up the zombies. I've got to say that things kind of level out about this point in the film what with the overwhelming constant slapstick comedy, but luckily Nadia Cassini turns up and interest is once more piqued.
     Nadia's travelling companion is a shady criminal guy and he's shady because he's Nadia's lover and he's just killed her husband. The zombies are over the moon by this because it means there's a corpse they can chow down on without any hassle and to make things even better Nadia is a bit of a nymphomaniac, so when zombie tries to bite her, she thinks he's coming on to her and the guy gets the green light for a bit of the old boffing. It's a pity the kid ruins everything by stealing the zombie book and bringing her husband back to life.
     I suppose it doesn't ruin anything for the audience as we still get to see Nadia perform a zombie striptease which is the highlight of the film. The thing to keep in mind is that it doesn't matter which genre the film exists in, be it horror, Eurocrime, sex comedy, sci-fi, whatever, the main aim of any Italian film between the late sixties and mid-nineties is to show some naked lady action. Even the kids cartoon WINX CLUB sailed close to the wind what with the short skirts and the dirty old wizards praying on the fairies (and gave rise to all those grown up Italian ladies cosplaying Winx Club characters, whatever the fuck cosplaying means). I suppose you'd only be offended by all that objectification if you were a woman yourself, and seeing as my wife didn't even know who Daria Nicolodi was when I told her that she'd just sadly passed away, I'd say we're in pretty safe territory for ogling Nadia Cassini's arse, so have the Kleenex at the ready. It's all good.
     Is this film funny or even worth tracking down? It's okay I suppose. The comedy is very broad though, and even though it takes the piss out of DAWN OF THE DEAD at the end by having the zombies being the ones in the supermarket besieged by the living, the ending is still a total cop out. It was okay I guess. I did feel a bit relieved when it ended, to be honest.
     Notable notable: Nadia Cassini also starred in THE SERPENT GOD, which I now know is also on YouTube. The strange thing is, when I searched on YouTube itself the film didn't come up, but when I searched using Google, it did come up. It did the same thing with Bing (!) of all things. So if you're searching for films, use different search engines. That's how I end watching so many of these films.
     Either that or you could do something actually worthwhile. It's your call. Like, save donkeys or something, or be part of some polarized political mob that would support their cause even if their leaders used a helicopter to defecate on a children's play park for a laugh.

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.

Judas Kills on Friday a.k.a. Macro: Judas Kills on Friday (1974, Italy, Crime, Director: Stelvio Massi)
Notable actors: Leonard Mann! Franco Citti! Luciano Rossi! Angelo Infanti!

Stelvio Massi's debut film! Pity the copy I watched was so muffled and messed up, making all the actors appear like they had green lips and were wearing green eye-liner while speaking through a thick cloth. Plus I had to watch without subtitles, so with my wife and kids having a loud conversation in the background about jam and butter, following the narrative wasn't easy.
     Still, this is yet another Italian film that's basically the story of Jesus, although told in modern times. Unlike WHITE POP JESUS, POOR CHRIST, and For Fuck's Sake, Jesus (God, I hope this isn't a real film! - Fred), Stelvio Massi's version of events is much more gritty and violent. It does have moments of arty-farty pretension, but it is rooted in reality much more than those other films.
     The focus here is on Jesus's relationship with Maddalena, who in this film is a high-class prostitute servicing the more rich (and middle-aged) clients of Rome, bringing home her hard-earned cash to her pimp, Angelo Infanti who plays the bodyguard who betrays Al Pacino in THE GODFATHER, who coincidentally has a violent right hand man in the form of Franco Citti, who played the bodyguard who didn't betray Al Pacino in THE GODFATHER. Maddalena is in the park one day with her pimp when her fancy bird-glider thing lands at the feet of the Guitarist, a Jesus figure played by Leonard Mann. She stoops to pick it up, but he, for some reason, stands on it, which makes her fall in love. I would have thought that was more of a dick move than anything, but there you go.
     Leonard and his five (?) apostles, including Luciano Rossi, get arrested for some reason and the besotted Maddalena can't get him out of her head, even drawing a picture of him in lipstick to kiss in the local sleazy bar she dances in. That night, she contacts one of her high-ranking clients and gets him released. She's totally in love with the guy, but if she's out hanging around with Jesus, who's making Angelo the dough he needs to maintain a healthy, silky moustache? Nobody, that's who.
     During the romance we learn that Maddalena ended up in her profession because she was gang-raped as a child and ended up liking it (from what I could gather, ensuring this film would never be released in the UK), plus, even though he walks around with a guitar, it seems Leonard actually plays church organ in his groovy band. Angelo the pimp doesn't like this, so he has Franco Citti demonstrate what happens to errant hookers by having Maddalena witness the severe beating (and pissing on) of a hooker while her boyfriend is tied to some scaffolding and has his face cut up. WHITE POP JESUS this ain't.
     While a bit talky, Stelvio Massi injects enough darkness, quick editing, and quirkiness into the film to make it watchable. I'm sure the crappy print doesn't do his usual great cinematography justice, as the guy worked on many a Western and Giallo. Think of it as a practice run for his later crime classics like the MARK THE NARC trilogy, THE IRON COMMISSIONER and his own slice of the Mario Merola pie COP, YOUR LAW IS SLOW...MINE...NOT!
     Also I thought Luciano Rossi would be Judas but he was more like Peter, which confuses me regarding the title of the film.

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!

Karate Warrior 2 (1988, Italy, Martial Arse, Director: Fabrizio De Angelis)
Notable actors: Kim Stuart...I guess.

Fred has reviewed the first KARATE WARRIOR so I'll just do a quick recap here - when Giacomo Rossi-Stuart's dumbass son Jimbo Rossi-Stuart mistook the local film studio for a hardware store, he was accidentally recruited to play Karate Warrior, an ignorant twat whose only weaknesses are his inability to perform Karate and the his own brain. Taught to use blue magic to knock out cows, something he would literally never do again, Jimbo went on to become Karate Warrior, the shittiest super-hero of all.
     For the first two films. After that it was some other guy. Due to them featuring a tall, ayran, arrogant swine lording it over everyone, the series was highly popular in Germany and spawned many sequels. Let's suffer through them now!
     If you didn't hate Karate Warrior/Human Punch Bag Jimbo Rossi-Stuart enough in the first film, don't worry. Director Fabrizio De Angelis devotes the first ten minutes of the sequel establishing that Jimbo is the biggest jerk on the planet.
     Not only does Jimbo (Jimbo Rossi-Stuart, from THE NAME OF THE ROSE [?] and DOMINO [that's more like it]) ditch his girlfriend to attend his birthday party, he gets on his bike and knocks bags of shopping out of two pensioner's hands before shortly kicking the bonnet of a Porsche. When the Porsche driver takes after him, Jimbo then mocks him for getting caught speeding by the police. Nothing endears the audience to a character like having him assault a pensioner and causing criminal damage.
     Jimbo then goes to his surprise birthday party (I think it's a birthday party, but they may be celebrating Scott winning the 'Biggest Tosser of the Year Award') where his grandparents reward him for his behaviour by giving him a brand-new car that he can take to college with him. A mere five minutes later, Jimbo is out on the road causing a road rage incident by tailgating and beeping his horn at a seemingly innocent car. When the car turns out to be full of aggressive karate experts, Jimbo's car ends up in a swamp and he hitches a lift with new friend/stalker Luke. And we're supposed to feel sorry for him!
     It's no surprise that all these karate guys go to the same college as Jimbo and Luke and even less of a surprise when it turns out that Jimbo's father, whom Jimbo did not know attended the same college as him, had the lead karate guy's father kicked out of school twenty years ago. It seems that everyone at this college (with the exception of Luke, who lives in a huge house and only has champagne and caviar to eat [?]) knows karate and the only way to solve any problems is to kick each other in the face. Which they don't do that often.
     The lead karate guy is aptly named Dick and Jimbo not only tried to ram him off the road and has a father who had Dick's father expelled, he also steals Dick's girlfriend from him. Don't feel sorry for Dick, because he's just as bad as Jimbo, and arranges for them to have a fight in front of the entire school in a scene that Fabrizio De Angelis will continue to provide various versions of in all the sequels.
     But that's only halfway through the film! How can Dick get the better of Jimbo? By bringing in the biggest jerk of all to kick Jimbo's face in. Throw a spanner in the works when Jimbo's old mentor turns up to remind him of the blue magic punch thing* and karate chop him in the neck for not listening and you have a sequel that throws in more jerkiness, more pouting from Jimbo, more road rage, and an extra mooning the camera during the fight at the end. All that culminates in the greatest Krappy Warrior film out of the two I've watched so far! And this is the second time I've watched it, because I caught this one on Italian television years ago. I think it occupied the same prime time slot as DOCTOR WHO would in the UK!
     *Budget for the sequel does not allow blue magic punch effects.

Karate Warrior 3  (1991, Italy, Action, Director: Fabrizio De Angelis)
Notablace actors: Jimbo Rossi-Stuart (flashback and on a poster only)

"I wish people would realise that other folk need to use this thing", Fabrizio De Angelis said as he used a damp cloth to wipe off the previous brain-storming notes from the whiteboard, mostly consisting of words like 'Karate', 'Warrior', 'Terrible' and started writing things like 'Karate', 'Warrior', and 'Cycling Race'. "Now I've got an idea for a completely original film that no one's ever made before".
     He turned and faced an empty room. A clock, unnoticed, clicked away. "Gentleman," he began, "I predict sales of golden kimonos will rise after the realise of brand new film franchise I'm about to pitch to you - a martial arts extravaganza..."
     It seems that our original Karate Warrior, Tony Scott, has moved away from the small coastal town to South Dakota! Who can step into his shoes as the biggest twat martial-arse champion in the US? No one it seems, which is why his golden kimono and various items are kept in some sort of shrine by best friend/stalker Leo. I betcha Leo's not averse to slipping on that kimono when he thinks no-ones looking.
     It seems that bad guy Dick is still around though, even though inexplicably his name has now changed to Joe. Joe/Dick has not learned any lessons about strutting about the place acting like he's got three balls, so who now is going to stop Joe giving Leo an ass-kicking every two minutes? Enter Larry.
     What you'll notice right away about Larry is that he's not an asshole like Jimbo Rossi-Stuart was. Plus, he doesn't even know anything about karate! Like most of these films, Larry, his sister, and his mother are all at risk from being evicted by an evil landowner, who's niece Larry has just met and fallen for. Larry needs $2500 dollars to save his house, so luckily there is a cycling event taking place, and better still, the grand prize is $2500! All Larry needs now is some jerks to ruin everything for him.
     Larry also agrees to take on Dick in a low-budget karate fight, so obviously not knowing how to practice karate is a bit of an issue there. There are only two possible people in town who can teach Larry how to kick Dick's dick in the dick, so let's present it as a multiple choice question:
     1) Is it the fat guy who sells fried chicken, doesn't practice karate, and is the comedy sidekick, or-
     2) Is it the Japanese guy who has just opened as Japanese restaurant in town, has just kicked three moron's heads in, and was once the world's top martial art master?
     Answer: Fabrizio De Angelis probably has OCD.
     Larry needs a crash course in ass-kicking because he's got three days to learn karate, stop his eviction, win the girl's heart, and get that goddamned $2500? You knows it!
     Completely generic in every way a teen sports drama can be, yet filtered through an Italian brain so that you get such important stuff as a Halloween party where Dick comes dressed as original Karate Warrior, a cycling race that's terrible in every aspect, and bad guys who laugh at everything, the cheese is so thick here the actors practically wade through it. If you liked KARATE WARRIOR 1  and 2, then you'll like this one, because THEY ARE ALL THE EXACT SAME FILM.

Karate Warrior 4 (1991, Italy, Action, Director: Fabrizio De Angelis)
Notable actors: David Warbeck!

One day, Fabrizio De Angelis woke up and said out loud: "I really must make that Karate Warrior film I've been meaning to make." Striding through a hall filled with Golden Kimonos, fried chicken and memorabilia from the previous three Karate Warrior films, he pondered where to begin while his wife wept gently in the bedroom...
     It seems that being continually kicked in the face during the last two Karate Warrior films has not diminished jerk John Carson's attempts to become top asshole in whatever weird social situation these people exist in throughout these films. At first, I thought all the youngsters involved where at college or something, but now that John Carson looks like he's entering his forties, I have no idea what's going on here. Are they all just unemployed bums? With the exception of the fried chicken guy, no one seems to do any work or have any means of supporting themselves, while seemingly having all the time in the world to antagonise each other in the fighting tournaments.
     It doesn't help that I had to watch the film in Italian either, although that did make the nightclub scenes funnier as I got to hear someone try and rap in Italian. Basically, Larry the winner from the last Karate Warrior film is happy with his girlfriend but John Carson's still out to get him, which he does this time round by having some South Korean karate champ seduce and humiliate his sister in public.
     Larry isn't happy at this and neither is his similar looking buddy who is his sister's boyfriend. This gives way to a repeat of that soul-destroying cycle race from the last film as our good guys have to take on the bad guys at a motorcycling race that just eats up time and makes you wonder why you aren't looking up porn on the internet instead. There's also a few sub-plots, like Larry hating on war veteran Dad David Warbeck, and something involving diet pills the chicken guy is taking that are used to poison Larry before his underwhelming fight with Bruce Wayne the South Korean dickhead.
     Just as terrible as the preceding three Karate Warrior films but somehow also featuring porn guy Ron Jeremy as some point (I wouldn't have known this if I hadn't nicked that information from another site), KARATE WARRIOR 4 serves to remind you that the early nineties were just like the late eighties, with more house music. Who are these people though? Why did David Warbeck agree to do anything this? And don't say money, because this film was funded by collecting spare change outside of a train station.

Karate Warrior 5  (1992, Italy, Action, Director: Fabrizio De Angelis)
Notable actors: Is Marty Wright famous?

"I've just had an amazing idea for a film!" Fabrizio De Angelis screamed from his padded cell as the sound of rushing feet approached outside and a key rattled into a lock. "We'll have this guy called Karate Warrior and set it in ARRGH get your hands off ME! I'll blue magic your ass!"
     This John Carson guy is gay for Karate Warrior, isn't he? He's obsessed with the guy. He longs to hold Karate Warrior close (wearing his famous golden Kimono), but just can't work up the courage to come out of the closet. This is the fourth time round for John Carson and his ever changing sidekicks (I think this is because John tries to fruit them up after being beaten by Karate Warrior once again), and this time round things are getting downright illegal!
     John thinks this time it's a good idea to talk giant car thief Marty Wright into a match with Karate Warrior, in the usual crappy gym where nearly every Karate Warrior film has ended. He kind of did that the last time when he made that guy from Korean fight Karate Warrior while he Karated his own Warrior whilst watching from the sidelines. Also, Marty's mates get the idea to kidnap Karate Warrior's girlfriend, blackmail her rich dad, and pin the crime on the fat fried chicken guy from the last 600 Karate Warrior films.
     In his usual anti-entertainment mockery of action films, Fabrizio De Angelis decides to leave the actual Karate until one hour and sixteen minutes into the film and instead concentrate on fat guy joining a club called the Extra Large Club of America where tubby folk can hanging around with each other. This is where fat guy gets involved in the kidnapping as the fat kidnapper wears an Extra Large Club of America jumper and mask and Karate Warrior's girlfriend immediately jumps to the conclusion that one of her friends kidnapped her for no reason.
     Full of stuff that by now we can call "Karate Warrior Signature Scenes", we get, yet again, Karate Warrior entering a cycling contest, Karate Warrior squaring up to bullies after they throw his mate in the sea, Carson's pretend girlfriends being bitchy (different again, probably because Carson accidentally shouted "Karate Warrior!" at the point of orgasm with his previous girlfriend), and Karate Warrior learning a new special move he can bust out at the end of the film, Karate Warrior delivers the goods, if the good are a huge pile of crap taking place in a world where no one actually seems to have a job or do anything.

Karate Warrior 6  (1993, Italy, Action, Director: Fabrizio De Angelis)
Notable actors: Ron Williams (Notable only for Karate Warrior 3-6), Scotty Daffron (Notable for Karate Warrior 3-6) David Warbeck!

Recon-Robot RX13 hit its reverse thrusters as it reached the debris strewn ground. Its sensors detected high levels of radiation and mozzarella cheese. Cautiously, it settled down amongst the rubble and started broadcasting:
     "Have finally reached the ruins of the CineCitta. Carbon isotope decay suggests half-life of 20,000 years, minimum, which suggests high megatonnage was detonated here. It will be a long time before anything organic will be able to survive here, except our Massimo Vanni clones if we pack them in enough leather shoulder pads.
     "Approaching the main stage now. I'm picking up what may be some sort of heat signature...something's alive out here! There's what looks like a human face sticking out from the rubble. That can't be! The place has been deserted for centuries. It's trying to talk - let me get my mic closer."
     The parched lips in the grey face twitched in some grotesque parody of human vitality, and yet, somehow, discernible words issued forth from a throat caked with dust. The vocals chords, scarred by ages of inertia, found hideous form:
     "Quickly...grab a notepad and a pen. I've had the greatest idea for a film ever. I've kept it alive in my mind for eons...willed myself from death's grip to pass it on...cycled it around in my head like a nursery rhyme, fearing decay, dementia...and...rot...it's called Farty Warty War...about a golden bicycle who enters a fried chicken race against a kimono to win a kick in the face from David Warbeck..."
     Finally, for the last Karate Warrior film, director Fabrizio De Angelis decides to change things up a bit by having the action take place on a Greek island. And what action takes place on that island? The same shit that's happened in the last four or five Karate Warrior films; a motorcycle contest, some half-arsed mentoring, and a very low budget face-off with a jerk.
     There's no sign of arch-nemesis Joe Carson this time around, so maybe he moved away or killed himself or something. The rest of the gang are still here though: Larry the Karate Warrior, fat fried chicken guy Leo, guy that looks like Larry but is slightly taller and some other guy. Plus Larry's rich girlfriend, but she's not in it much.
     As usual, most of the actual story revolves around Leo, who this time finds himself ten grand up when he fakes being knocked over by an African dignitary's limo. Leo decides it's time they got a bit of a holiday and decide on Greece, where everyone knows karate and everyone is as big of a jerk as Joe Carson was. This allows director De Angelis plenty of time to suck the fun out of everything by making us sit through Leo and his gang going on a shopping spree, flying to Greece, discuss getting a taxi, then getting a taxi, then doing a bit of sightseeing before discussing a buffet breakfast.
     The only halfway interesting part of this film is the strange scam Leo falls far when he pay five hundred dollars to take pictures of what he's told is a mermaid, only for the mermaid to turn out to be a guy and Leo turning out to be a moron when he has all his money and plane tickets home stolen! If only there was some sort of contest with a cash prize that Larry can win in order for them to get home. And there is - JUST LIKE THE LAST FOUR FUCKING FILMS.
     Larry needs a bike, and luckily he's just beaten up two goons that work for a jerk whose ex-girlfriend has a bike. The jerk is called Mustafa, and strangely the highly-camp acting skills of this fellow somehow didn't lead to a career in Hollywood, but it sure provided me with a lot of laughs. Which is just as well as the bit where they all repair the bike goes on forever. The ex-girlfriend, Eleni, starts making goo-goo eyes at Karate Warrior, but he stays loyal, even though Eleni is definitely an upgrade.
     All this staggers lamely towards the showdown, although Karate Warrior's got to bring in his mentor, his girlfriend, and father David Warbeck in order to bet it together long enough to beat up Mustafa (who hilariously says "Prepare to be killed" in the lamest, least threatening voice ever). I'll tell you another thing; Mustafa kicks the shit out of Karate Warrior and decks him several times so that Karate Warrior can lay there staring at his father, but when Karate Warrior decks Mustafa once, he's counted out and Karate Warrior wins. I don't think that referee was being impartial and reckon that someone slipped him a few drachmas before the match started.
     And thus concludes my pointless trail through the most worthless film series in cinematic history. As a precaution against any other Karate Warrior films being made, the Italian government executed most of the cast and crew.

Karzan, The Fabulous Man of The Jungle (1972, Italy, Adventure, Director: Demofilo Fidani)
Notable actors: Ettore Manni! Edmund Purdom (dubbing only)!

You know you are in for a fun ride when Demofilo Fidani misspells the fake name he's given to Karzan actor Armando Bottin, who is billed here as Jhonny Kissmuller Jr. There's also another actor listed as Crazy Matthew, so you're not even out of the credits before realising this film is something special.
     The thing is, I honestly can't tell if Fidani is taking the piss or not. Judging by the last ten minutes, it would seem that he is, but I just can't tell if he tacked that on because what goes before it is so goofy and hilarious. I mean, most of the film is your bog standard jungle adventure story, but with the tone of Bruno Mattei's ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH. Plus, Karzan, who has a sidekick chimp called Chika, doesn't even turn up until forty five minutes into the film, and that's while his girlfriend Shiran is having a sexy cat fight with a blacked-up Carla Mancini wearing an afro wig.
     The first half of the film details a scientist hiring Ettore Manni, a journalist, some lady and harmonica playing mute called Crazy to go to Africa and bring back Karzan, whom they've spotted in some travelogue footage. Ettore reckons he can make a pretty penny from Karzan, whereas the scientist wants to keep him for research, and so they all head off to Africa and an awful lot of stock footage. Don't worry about animal cruelty in this one folks - Ettore Manni starts shooting at an elephant, and director Fidani can't even afford footage of an elephant being shot, so instead we get short shots of an elephant bathing in a river. Also when I think about it you do see stock footage of a bison getting shot later, so forget that thing I said about there being no animal cruelty.
     The film is pretty entertaining and daft before Karzan even turns up. The girl gets a fake looking spider crawling up her leg, and Crazy blows it away with a blow dart! Their jeep gets stuck in the sand, so Fidani cuts in stock footage of a lion looking bored to ramp up the excitement. Funky looking savages attack our brave white travellers while their bag carriers cower in fear. You can see how that would cause offence, but the terrible dummy of a savage falling from a tree was pretty funny. Everyone runs away from a huge battle with the natives before all of a sudden they are tied to poles and about to be sacrificed by the aforementioned Carla Mancini and a guy who is seemingly having a GREAT time battering away at some bongos.
     This is when Karzan and Shiran turn up to rescue the lot of them, taking away the young lady to their treehouse, where she shows Shiran how time works and what her name is in a remarkably cringey scene. I thought we were maybe building up to a sexy threesome or something, but it turns out just to be a load of fluff before the white men show up to take Karzan and Shiran back to civilisation. They grab Shiran but Karzan escapes, mainly because he hasn't fought any animals yet.
     The crocodile fight is pretty funny as the crocodile is one of the worst I've seen, but I have to admit that one of my favourites scene here must be when Karan is walking through the jungle when a guy in the worst ape suit in history challenges him to a fight. Now, the jungle blabber Karzan and Shiran spout had me laughing a lot, but when Karzan kicks the ape's arse and it goes off in a huff, muttering to itself, I nearly lost it. Please note that this film is still played 100% straight at this point, even though it's obvious the mouth of the ape suit isn't working right and keeps hanging open.
     This is where things start getting strange for Karzan, because he gets captured and ends up in a cage in a zoo, where an old man laughs at him and calls him an asshole...and then...

[MAJOR SPOILER FOR A FILM NO ONE CARES ABOUT BELOW]

...an alarm rings beside a bed and Karzan wakes up, seemingly late for work. In true Benny Hill style, he gets ready and runs through Rome, speeded up, to get to his work, where all the characters he encountered work too. He then grabs Shiran (who is Ettore Manni's secretary) and they both run off to the beach and go for a swim, before Chika strolls down to the sand and writes THE END with a stick.
     What the fuck?
     Is KARZAN an elaborate joke played on the audience? Were all the terrible punch ups intended? And the shaky cameras, sharp edits, and people ending a scene by either walking or shoving an object towards the camera? Or did Fidani realise he didn't have an ending for the film and just tried to say 'you see, it was a comedy all along'. Who knows? I sure don't, but that's why I like Italian cinema. You just never know what you're getting into sometimes. If the bulk of the film is a satire, I think Fidani played his cards too close to his chest, but I believe the ending was inserted to mask the stinker of a film that it follows. I enjoyed it either way.

[SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT CARLA MANCINI'S INCLUSION IN FILM CREDITS ALSO BEING SOME SORT OF ELABORATE IN-JOKE IN ITALIAN CINEMATIC CIRCLES]

Carla Mancini may or may not be some sort of running joke in Italian films. Not the actress herself, who definitely exists, but the insertion of her name into the credits of a film seems to be an in-joke, surely. I’ve seen her for certain in films like FIVE WOMEN FOR THE KILLER, but look at the amount of films she’s supposed to have appeared in, by year:
1970Twelve films
1971Twenty-eight films
1972Fifty-nine films!
1973Fifty-nine films!
1974Fifty-one films
1975Fifteen films
     After that, there's not much, but you have to wonder if they just stuck her name in the credits for a laugh, because she does get some 'credits only' credits. Why? Who knows. She does appear here and there, sometimes just in one scene, sometimes with a few words to say, and sometimes you can watch the entire film without seeing her at all. The main question is this: Why did I count how many films she'd been credited for and could I have been doing something more productive instead?
     The answer to that is no.

Kinski Paganini a.k.a. Paganini a.k.a. I'm So Great I Made A Film About How I Shagged Myself While I Watched a.k.a. Ah, So THAT'S Why Eva Grimaldi is Gay Now (1989, Italy, Horror [to me at least], Director: Klaus Kinski)
Written by: Klaus Kinski
Edited by: Klaus Kinski
Director: Klaus Kinski
Jizz mopper: Klaus Kinski
Notable actors: Klaus Kinski! Debora "Kinski" Caprioglio! Nikolai Kinski! Dalila Di Lazzaro! Eva Grimaldi!

Klaus Kinski's narcissistic personality disorder becomes manifest in this tribute to violinist Niccolo Paganini, but in having written and directed the film, what we really get here is a film where Klaus Kinski celebrates himself. Seriously, this film basically starts with Kinski receiving a standing ovation before he even starts a performance, and when he does start it, the ladies in the audience start jilling themselves off!
     This terrible, disjointed pile of crap is acclaimed by some as a window into Kinski's mind, and if that is so, it's like looking in on a pile of discarded cartilage that somehow became sentient and tried to reproduce by shagging itself. Literally every woman in this film is aroused by Kinski, who sometimes looks like Wolverine if he drank two bottles of vodka a day and had at least six or seven gypsy curses working on him at one time, although sometimes he looks like Edward Scissorhands if he'd been kept in an underground Austrian slave cage while suffering from untreated mental disorders for which he was suddenly diagnosed and given all his strong medication in one huge dose.
     Apart from all the ladies in the audience flicking their beans to his off-key caterwauling, there's also the woman who gets so aroused by Paganini that she chugs one out to some horses getting it on, which brought back my horse porn trauma of Massimo Dallamano's VENUS IN FURS, and that's not the worst crime Kinski commits here. He gets so entrenched in documenting Paganini's sexual prowess (aka his sexual prowess) that he has him receiving a blow job from a possible underage hooker while fantasising about even more underage girls. In light of what one of Kinskis daughters accused him of, this made the fish fingers and baked beans I had for dinner crawl back up my throat. Oh, and thanks for killing both a chicken and a goat in this one Kinski, you fucking Easter Island statue looking nonce.
     I watched Kinski's original version of the film so I don't know what the official version contains, but what you get here is Kinski possibly rimming a woman, actually 'dining at the Y', having a woman beg him for more because he's so good, and lifting Debora Caprioglio into the air so he can nuzzle her gigantic breasts. Careful there Klaus, you might lose an eye there, and we don't want one of those weird fuckers getting loose on the world.
     There's no real plot and the whole thing is filmed in the Cinema Verite style, which means loads of shaky cameras and out-of-focus stuff. The whole thing jumps back and forth in time too, so it starts with Paganini on his death bed (possibly by catching sight of himself in the mirror), and ends by Kinski discarding all the actually interesting sex stuff to focus on his relationship with his son, so that the last half hour of the film is interminably boring.
     Wanker.

Kleinhoff Hotel (1977, Italy, Drama, Director: Carlo Lizzani)
Notable actors: Corrine Clery! Bruce Robinson! Werner Pochath! Michele Placido!

This is going to be a hard one to review because rather a lot of this film involves Corrine Clery in a hotel staring through a small crack at the weird occupant of the next room.
     Like Lizzani's giallo THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET, most of this film takes place in one location - the Kleinhoff Hotel, located somewhere in Germany. Clery ends up there because she misses her flight back to Paris and choose the hotel because of a sordid relationship she had there back when she was a student. She's a bit shocked to find the place run down and filled with low-lifes, but decides to stay there anyway for nostalgic reasons.
     That same night, she hears crazed muttering from the room next door and finds that there's a crack at the top of the adjoining door where she can just about see what's going on. The guy in there is Karl (played by Bruce Robinson, who would go on to direct the very famous British film WITHNAIL & I). Karl's a bit highly strung and seems to be hiding out in the hotel for as yet unknown reasons. He does seem to have a girlfriend, a junky by the name of Petra who likes to shoot up in his room, much to his disapproval. Clery finds herself fascinated by Karl, and judging by the inquisitive looks she gets from him when their eyes meet out in the hall, the feeling might be reciprocated.
     Clery should really be going back to Paris and back to her rich, unfulfilled life, but she remains at the hotel, watching Karl and listening in on his conversations. One day Karl is visited by photographer Werner Pochath (don't get excited - he's only in this one scene) and Clery learns that Karl is part of a radical political movement who plan on various activities to shake up the system. There also seems to be some sort of inner turmoil in the group, as a member, Pedro (played by perennially depressed looking Michele Placido) seems to have become a turncoat.
     However, Clery isn't interested in all that. Clery clearly wants to get into Karl's pants, big style, and no doubt anyone who has spotted the word 'film' and the name 'Corrine Clery' knows what's going to happen next. That's right - Clery gets naked and pretty much stays in that state more and more frequently until the film ends.
     Now I thought this film would bore me to tears at first, but it does pick up a bit. Karl's politics and Karl's mental health keep coming to the fore while Clery seems to see Karl as an escape from her boring, settled life back into the past when she was free. Or something like that. It's a Carlo Lizzani film - not exactly full of hilarious dialogue and slapstick. Even when he does start off with a light-hearted film, it usually ends up being a horribly depressing experience - check out his film BLACK TURIN - that's one bi-polar film.
     For fans of naked Corrine Clery only or Carlo Lizzani completists. Or fans of Bruce Robinson having screaming sessions while listening to jazz.

The Knight, The Devil and Death (1983, Italy, Horror [I guess], Director: Beppe Cino)
Notable actors: Mirella D'Angelo! Jeanne Mas seems to be famous in France!

Despite being a big fan of Stanley Kubrick, I've never watched EYES WIDE SHUT, which is based on the same book as this film, Traumnovelle. I read a quick synopsis of the book however to see if the plot was the same, and it kind of was...up to a point.
     Basically, some married man gets depressed at the revelation that his wife was thinking of cheating on him and goes for a wander through the city at night, encountering a pervy secret society. This happens in the book and the film, but the film is also full of strange sights such as hanging corpses, the husband dreaming he's being murdered by his daughter, and visions of him finding his wife's bloody body.
     There also seems to be a sinister recurring character who must be the Devil, and loads of shots of the guy's daughter running around looking for her mother, who also seems to be suffering from a bad case of arthouse movie surrealism. Everything is rather dreamlike as you'd expect, with people appearing/disappearing or running over the same bit of ground over and over again. Mirella D'Angelo looks startled a lot.
     Eighties pop star Jeanne Mas turns up as a mysterious girl who tempts the husband and opens up the whole weird night for him, but I can't see this rare film being unearthed and re-released. It's basically a film about a guy wandering around staring at things. I can barely remember what happened in it and I watched it last night! The music was rather snazzy though.

The Last Bullet (1973, Romanian, Eurocrime, Director: Sergiu Nicolaescu)
Notable Peeps: Ilarion Ciobanu! There's a guy in this film called Ion Bog. That's a GREAT name!

(Spoilers for the film WITH CLEAN HANDS below)

Giant policeman Roman is back! Things have gone a bit pear-shaped after the arrest of criminal superbastard Semanca has just been set free with all charges dropped, as the courts believe that he was merely passing by that warehouse from the last film where that gun battle took place. This greatly upsets Roman, as that mean his cop buddy Miclovan died for nothing. Worse still, Miclovan could have shot Semanca that night, if Roman hadn't unintentionally blocked his shot. Worse still, Semanca is being a dick by claiming to everyone that Roman saved his life. Roman slowly begins to realise that Miclovan was right, and basically begins turning into him, following a thoughtfully black and white visitation to his dead mate's grave.
     Just like the last film, we get thrown straight into the action as Semanca's men try to rob a train (I think), prompting Roman and an army of police to storm the railyard, and a huge gun battle ensues, involving grenades and exploding trains. I couldn't help but notice that this reminded me of a similar scene in Enzo Castellari's THE BIG RACKET, and the credits in this one are very similar to Big Enzo's STREET LAW. Most definitely a coincidence, but note I got a huge Castellari vibe from WITH CLEAN HANDS, so fans of him might want to check these films out.
     The post-war political turmoil continues in Bucharest as socialist protesters are seemingly gunned down by the police, although this is a set up by Semanca to disrupt things. Teaming up with the twin brother of a guy who Roman accidentally got killed in this last film, which is something I neglected to mention in the review of WITH CLEAN HANDS, Roman sets out to bring Semanca down by targeting his brother, who is also a smug rich asshole.
     Eventually Roman ends up going undercover at a Monastery (don't ask why), sporting a full beard and long hair that makes him look a bit like Liam Neason. The monks are impressed by his speaking voice (???) but soon it turns out there's an escaped Nazi war criminal hiding there, so it becomes a bit of mystery as Roman tries to track down who this guy actually is. Plus, it becomes kind of funny how many monks aren't really monks and how many of them are sporting fake beards and wigs.
     My only problem with this film is that there's no huge, violent battle at the end to cap things off, but there's still a pretty satisfying conclusion to matters. Fred tells me there's another four of these films kicking about out there too. Maybe we'll get to them.
     Oh, I meant to mention that both WITH CLEAN HANDS and THE LAST BULLET are pretty high budget films, and the period sets are absolutely spot on.

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.

Little Hero (1978, Taiwan, Martial Arse, Director: Hung-Min Chen)
Notable actors: Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan! Lo Lieh!

Polly Long-name plays a dude in this crazy Taiwanese film, and not in a MULAN type way. She literally plays our hero and it is never mentioned that the 'man' standing there is wearing kinky boots, make-up, and is pretty much making no attempt to act like a man whatsoever. I guess in these non-binary days that's rather progressive.
     Whatever the reason, it's an example of what's right about LITTLE HERO - there's loads of moments that make you stop and scratch your head, but what should be a cavalcade of weirdness is offset with patches of terrible slapstick comedy, constant ear-rape, and a very distinct lack of a decent plot. The end result is watchable but no classic.
     The plot is this: bad guys Gold Mask and Silver Mask (who can fly) want two precious swords off a local rich man, and kidnap the man's daughter. That's pretty much the plot. Little Hero is roped in to rescue her, which is quite fortunate as she/he has already gone up against the Mask brother's goons, including a mascara wearing dwarf, in a string covered, gravity defying fight at the start of the film. Hero is helped by two sidekicks who also provide some deeply unfunny comedy, and some other guy.
     Basically, Little Hero wanders around looking for swords while encountering the dwarf guy and his sidekicks encased in metal balls, tiger and elephant men who looks like members of the cast of CATS or THE LION KING, only every time they scream the actual sound of a tiger or elephant is dubbed onto the film, and best of all, two giant squids who can float in the air. It all sound pretty bonkers, eh?
     Except without exception these crazy scenes are followed up by an endless slapstick scene where the two sidekicks laugh or scream endlessly, dragging on and on and on like some mental illness has manifested itself onto your screen. And that's about it - good stuff followed by bad stuff. Hardcore kung fu fans might get a kick from it, but it was hard going for me in parts.
     Well, that's it. I'm going to kill you!
     Oh, I'm not really going to kill you - it's just that most conversations in LITTLE HERO end with someone saying they are going to kill the other person, so I took it to mean it was some new way of saying goodbye. So, I'm going to kill you, later!
     And your family.

Little Italy a.k.a. Anti-Mafia Squad (1978, Italy, Crime/Comedy, Director: Bruno Corbucci)
Notable actors: Tomas Milian! Eli Wallach! Bombolo! Enzo Cannavale! Massimo Vanni! Tom Felleghy! Taylor Meade! Franz Beckenbauer! Giorgio Chinaglia!
Goblin soundtrack!

Fourth time around for Tomas Milian as foul-mouthed thief turned cop Nico Giraldi, with an eye for the ladies, a harsh word for his superiors, and a boiler suit that probably stank seeing as how he never takes it off.
     The plot this time, when the film gets around to it after about fifteen minutes, involves the murder of a witness by a hitman posing as a cop during a prison riot. Before we get to that, we have Bombolo robbing a man of all his possessions while a naked lady distracts the fellow, Massimo Vanni going undercover as a lady of the night and Milian destroying a car during a sledgehammer fight with a guy running a protection racket. Then, Milian walks into a bookkeepers, blows all his money on horseracing, then robs the place before being arrested...
    Turns out this was all a top secret ruse as the guy who was murdered could have put a NYC mafia don behind bars, and Milian now has to pretend to escape prison, go to New York, ingratiate himself with the boss and find out who the hitman was in order to restore the reputation of the Italian police. In the world of Inspector Giraldi, the really means getting Milian into various situation where Milian can act up and provide some laughs, be it stealing a taxi and tailing the mafia boss (Wallach) around New York while passenger Taylor Meade* goes nuts, or getting a job at Wallach's favourite pizza parlour where he slaps a pizza directly into Wallach's second hand man's face.
     While it gets off to a good start the film kind of drags in the middle while Milian tries to make his way into Wallach's gang, the only laughs provided by Wallach's ugly daughter (due to her Scottish mother!) having the hots for Milian and pursuing him all the way to Vegas, where Milian struts around in a pimp suit while funky Goblin music plays.
     Luckily, the film redeems itself by getting all serious. Milian finds his hitman, but then is framed for murder, allowing Milian to drop his swaggering persona in favour of a more vulnerable, frightened man, as he desperately tries to find a way out of a facing the death penalty. Tom Felleghy turns up as the jobsworth warden of the prison to make his usual cameo.
     You'll notice I've not mentioned Bombolo much, as he's left behind in Rome and vanishes in the first third of the film. He still gets a few slaps however. Instead, Enzo Cannavale takes his place as sidekick. For reasons I can't figure out, Milian goes to see New York soccer team Cosmos at one point, so we get to see stock footage of legends Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia.
     So, business as usual here. Fun if your a fan, but not too painful if you're not. The Goblin soundtrack does add an extra dimension.
     *He's not mentioned on the IMDb for this film, but I know for sure this is Taylor Meade due to his bizarre performance in the second Giraldi film HIT SQUAD. In that one, he accosts Milian and his cousin in a New York street while wrapped in brown paper, flailing his arms around and making weird noises. This was one of the funniest moments in the film (even making Milian burst out laughing during the scene!) that I had to make sure the actors weren't randomly approached by some sort of NYC street crazy. He also appears in BROTHERS TILL WE DIE, so maybe he was mates with Milian or Corbucci.

Long Lasting Days a.k.a. A Life In A Day (1973, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Ferdinando Baldi)
Notable actors: Mino Reitano! Ewa Aulin! Luciano Catenacci! Franco Fantasia! Nello Pazzafini! Eva Czemerys! Philippe Leroy! Franco Ressel! Possible split second shot of Fulvio Mingozzi during dance sequence!

Docker/Sailor Mino Reitano finds that every cloud has a silver lining when he returns to the guest house he lives in when not out at sea. He is first informed that the landlady has died while he was away, but it turns out her hot niece has just inherited the place, and she's single and interested in Mino. Plus, he gets to pick her up from the airport, so he can start putting the moves on her right away.
     After roughly seven or so seconds of screen time it seems our couple are in love, but what the plot isn't in a hurry to do is explain why we keep cutting away to rich millionaire Philippe Leroy and his sister (wife? I had to watch in Italian and didn't quite catch her relation to him). Both seemed bored with lounging around drinking, gambling, and partying, and both seem keen on having lackey Luciano Catenacci go out on an errand that somehow involves Mino. Docker Franco Fantasia seems in on things too, but what are they up to?
     Meanwhile, Mino finds discovers that in life, the good times are fleeting and a shitstorm is always waiting around the corner as Ewa gets attacked in her room by a drunken Nello Pazzafini and during her stay in hospital it is discovered that she has a heart defect that (informs Doctor Franco Ressel, sporting the weakest, most transparent combover ever) needs an operation that's going to cost a shitload of money. Mino resolves to get that money, be it through a weird encounter with a giggling lady pawnbroker who wants into his pants, or the suddenly available £300,000 lire being offered by Philippe Leroy.
     Leroy isn't giving the money away, however. He's just watched Big Arnie in THE RUNNING MAN and wants to recreate that film Italian style by having Mino try to get from one end of the city to the other. Five people will try and kill him, using five methods: gun, car, fire, knife, and pogo-stick using specially trained Marmosets brandishing poison-tipped plaster-cast dildoes of Joe Dallesandro's penis, although he does decide that it would be simpler to change that to Mino being beaten to death. And with that, the chase is on! After forty-five minutes of dialogue and not much else happening.
     Hilariously, even though they seem to know exactly where Mino is at any given time during the hunt, the killers don't really try that hard to kill Mino. He gets into a knife fight with a guy who just kind of gives up. The guy sent to kill him with a gun seems to have only brought one bullet with him, and weirdest of all, even though Philippe Leroy has arranged all this, he and his other rich mates don't seem to be witnessing what's going on, as if the thrill of anecdotal evidence is enough.
     Old Leroy does turn up later though in the film's best scene - Mino ends up in a swanky club where the lights come up on Leroy, Czeremys, and a whole lot of funky people, and they all start dancing to some Hendrix/Funk hybrid while Mino gets attacked by two goons. I can't decide whether it was cool or cheesy. but I did enjoy it on some level. Upon mentioning funk I have now drawn attention to the soundtrack to this film, which the best thing about it.
     There's other things to discover here and while the film has many, many failings, it was still pretty entertaining, Luciano Catenucci gets a much larger role than usual and Philippe Leroy is always a standout, plus you get to see the world's longest cigarette holder, which ironically would take the unsullied lungs of a native pearl diver to be powerful enough to get a drag of smoke out of.
     Ferdinando Baldi sure was versatile, even from a country where directors jump genres willy-nilly. Not only do you have time-travelling madness in GET MEAN and the grim TEN ZAN, I've just found a musical called I DON'T PROTEST, I LOVE, which sounds interesting and trippy.

Long Live...Your Death! a.k.a. Don't Turn the Other Cheek (1971, Italy, Western, Director: Duccio Tessari)
Notable actors: Franco Nero! Eli Wallach! Lynn Redgrave! Eduardo Fajardo! Carla Mancini! Marilu Tolo! Victor Israel...and, god help us...his arse!

Italy's most hit and miss director takes on Italy's most hit and miss sub-genre (the western comedy) and comes up with a film that is totally hit and miss, which means it's mostly enjoyable, except for those bits where it's not.
     The premise involves Franco Nero as a dodgy faux-Russian prince posing as a priest to rob a wedding, but then getting roped in to take the last rites from a dying man who knows where a shitload of gold is. Nero finds out the name of the town the gold is near, but learns that the information regarding the actual location of the gold is known by only two men, and he doesn't know their names. He also learns that the only guy who does know their names is about to be hanged as a rebel leader, even though he's not a rebel leader.
     He's actually just an ordinary bandit played by Eli Wallach, but Irish revolutionary Lynn Redgrave needs a figurehead to start the Mexican revolution, and seeing as how the actual rebel leader is dead, she's going to use Eli Wallach instead. Nero blags his way into jail but is caught, mainly due to the sheriff being his cousin, whom he paralysed with a bullet to the back years prior, causing the sheriff to walk around wearing a tortoise like armour outfit.
     Nero breaks out Wallach and they reluctantly team up with Redgrave, only to be instantly caught by military general Eduardo Fajardo, who's looking to put down any local insurgents. Fajardo's kind of taken by Redgrave, which works in favour for the Nero/Wallach team up, even if they don't even trust each other. A race across Mexico ensues, as Wallach knows the identity of those have co-ordinates of the location of the gold on their person, whereas Nero knows the town that acts as a starting point for those co-ordinates. Try not to think about it too much.
     Things eventually lead to Victor Israel, a mining tycoon who underpays his employees, and then some. In a scene that accurately portrays the kind of tonal problems this film has, a violent gunfight breaks out and Wallach and Nero take Israel hostage, where Wallach reveals that half of the co-ordinates are tattooed on Israel's arse. Now, I must point out that Israel has been made to look even more ugly than usual, with a hare lip and mutated nostril and such like, so when Nero pulled down Israel's arse and stared at it from a far too uncomfortable distance, I must admit a part of me died inside, rather than confront that scene head on.
     It's basically THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, only it's The Liar, The Thief, and The Irish Terrorist. The premise is the same though, only due to the time this one came out, there had to be a comedy element thrown in there too. The thing is, whereas I'm glad this one didn't go over the top in the slapstick stakes like a lot of these comedy westerns, this one might have gone too far in the other direction, with remarkably grim scenes contrasting badly with Chaplin-like antics. I mean, Marilu Tolo's character can't take as she's had her tongue cut out, but then gets further brutalized and murdered by the military, and yet not much further on Lynn Redgrave (Nero's real-life sister-in-law) has a cheese ball slapstick sequence with Eduardo Fajaro. This happens over and over again - violent gun fights married up to comedy antics. Unlike the film MY NAME IS NOBODY, or CALIFORNIA, where the balance works out, the changes in tone in this one are kind of jarring and annoying.
     That said, it's Franco Nero and Eli Wallach up there acting like a couple of fudds, so there's not much to complain about there. When the editing settles down a bit from frenetic, the cinematography does recall the RETURN OF RINGO and other goodness, so the film isn't a total washout, but I kind of wish Tessari had settled on a certain mood for this one and just stuck with it, because it seems likes he's going for all moods at once, and it doesn't quite work.

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.

Love Circle a.k.a. One Night At Dinner (1969, Italy, Drama, Director: Guiseppe Patroni Griffi)
Notable actors: Florinda Bolkan! Tony Musante! Jean-Louis Trintignant!
Written by Dario Argento (so you can blame him for this one).

Here's me selfishly concerned about my own well-being and lot in life when I discovered these people in this film have real problems. I had just come home from my job as an elephant jizz-mopper at my local porn zoo to my wife and family, connected up my wife's feeding funnel and six gallon drum of ice cream, gave the kids their dog food and sat down to watch LOVE CIRCLE before the electricity ran out for the night.
     Half an hour in and it dawned on me. I realised how much of a self-centred bastard I was. I looked up at the screen at Florinda Bolkan's face, a single tear running down my cheek. How could I just sit...just sit there on a pile of empty boxes, eating Lidl brand beans from a tin with my bare hands, my feet resting on a dead dog, totally oblivious that there was a whole society of people out there crippled with worry and anxiety, struggling from day to day, preoccupied by the notion that they were in fact having too much sex and fun. What a heartless bastard I was.
     LOVE CIRCLE details the misfortunes of these poor creatures and the burden they have to bear in their exhausting and fruitless jobs as actors, playwrights, or just being plain rich for no reason. We have Jean-Louis Trintignant as Micheal, a writer who wants to write a play about his wife (Florinda Bolkan) shagging his best friend (the facial mole-tastic Tony Musante). What he doesn't know (or maybe he does) is that Florinda and Tony have been at it together for years, possibly even before Michael got married. What's more, to spice things up a bit Musante has introduced another lover for he and Florinda to share - an angry revolutionary actor who likes to make love under a Nazi flag.
     For us, the sympathetic viewer, we have to piece all this together because the film jumps around chronologically like some hyperactive PULP FICTION where nothing happens but flirting and people being middle-class, so at the start of the film Musante has already told the Nazi guy to take a hike and now Florinda has started cheating on both him and Michael with this other guy. Gradually, and I mean gradually in this two hour film, we get the full story, then some things happen, then the film ends with people sitting around a dinner table talking about Chinese nuclear warfare capability. I'm not joking.
     I suppose if you are big fan of the leads you might get something out it. You get to see Florinda Bolkan naked, which doesn't happen very often, but to be honest she could do with a six gallon drum of ice cream as she's like a coat hanger with hair. Jean-Louis Trintignant's' character is detached, so there's not much happening there, so you have to rely on Musante and the young guy for any form of drama. There's also a threesome scene that shows little but must have pushed the envelope a bit back then. It's hard to care for characters like this who have loads of money and free time on their hands to be honest, and I wasn't even too sure what the ending was all about.
     I only sought this one out due to Ennio Morricone's soundtrack, and other than that and the cinematography, there was not much to this one for me.

The Loves Of Daphne a.k.a. Forbidden Intimacy of A Young Bride (1970, Italy, Drama, Director: Oscar Brazzi)
Notable actors: Rossano Brazzi!

There is no one called Daphne in this film. This film was written in part by Renato Polselli. That's why the title refers to a Daphne that doesn't exist, and that's also why a character in this film has two separate flashbacks at the same time, and also why the ending of this film doesn't just have one ending, but all the possible endings it could have.
     It's a period drama narrated by a girl who enjoys running through the woods naked. I also enjoyed her running through the woods naked, so everyone is a winner in that respect. She's the niece of rich Uncle Rossano Brazzi (from PSYCHOUT FOR MURDER and actual normal world films like DAMIEN: OMEN II and such shit). Rossano is your every day average rich guy living in a huge villa with his son, his niece, and his borderline insane henchman who spends a lot of this film screaming and gibbering.
     From naked wood-running girl's point of view, everything is great until Electra shows up. When she does, it's clear that Franz, Brazzi's son, is madly in love with her, what with the flirting and the interminable giggling from Electra. Then again, Brazzi also seems to be in love with her, and therefore an unspoken love rival issue appears between father and son (and insane henchman, who releases all the horses from their stables while screaming at the top of his voice, which he'll do again and again throughout the film). Somehow, the jealous father wins, and Electra agrees to marry him, prompting Franz to vanish for a while and also prompting the henchman guy to have a hilarious meltdown in the kitchen while smashing loads of eggs but at the same time seemingly screaming and mixing some nice pancake mix at the same time.
     Electra, for whatever reason, is up for a bit of honeymoon sex, and this is when Brazzi's chronic flashback syndrome goes into overdrive, when he simultaneously has sex with Electra while flashing back to not one, but two different sexual encounters with his first wife, who died while giving birth to Franz, whom Brazzi blames for her death. That's harsh, but what's also harsh is Electra's realisation that Brazzi is out of his mind and thinks that Electra is his first wife, which he does by referring to things that happened back then with her, which causes Electra to freak out and placate him by playing along.
     Now, from watching this film I'm going to give out this piece of advice to potentially cuckolding lovers out there. If you absolutely have to make goo-goo eyes at each other across a room, please make sure that the spouse, who is being cheated on, is not sitting directly in the middle of your field of vision, and is not, at that precise moment, cleaning their gun collection. I know this is common sense for most people but in this film it's okay to cheat on husbands directly outside of villas in full view of every single person in the villa. Although that does lead to a funny bit where Brazzi plays dominoes with three people who aren't there.
     As if the crazy dialogue, flashback attacks, and colour filters aren't enough to alert you that Renato Polselli was involved, there's also the ending, where every possible thing that could have happened happens. I think if figured it out, but it sure is the weirdest part of what already was a pretty weird film.
     Director Oscar Brazzi (wait - was he related to the lead guy?) also directed the even more strange giallo SEX OF THE DEVIL (a.k.a. TRYPTICH). That's one well worth tracking down. Oh, I should also mention that Stelvio Cipriani's soundtrack is very lush and adds to the strange atmosphere.

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)

Madeleine, Anatomy of A Nightmare (1974, Italy, Horror?, Director: Roberto Mauri)
Notable actors: Camille Keaton! Silvano Tranquilli! Paola Senatore!

This film starts off promising enough, with a pregnant Camille Keaton being chased through a misty forest by a bunch of witches wearing coloured wigs, with eyes the same colour. They torment Camille for a bit until she sees the burning wreckage of a race car with the dead, smouldering body of a racing car driver next to it before they carry a coffin containing a baby doll in front of a distraught Camille before throwing that on the fire too. While it burns, Camille sees visions of medical staff saying that something 'is dead'.
     Even though it turns out to be a dream, that's an awesome start to the film. Turns out Camille lives in a huge villa with Silvano Tranquilo, although their relationship isn't really clarified, there is some sort of emotional connection there. Confusing matters is Camille's behaviour - she seems to be able to wander around freely in Rome, glancing jealously at pregnant women, and picking up hitchhikers to shag back at the mansion while Silvano spies on them. In his spare time, Silvano reads books about the human psyche, stares into space, and randomly teleports in his garden, seemingly only to freak out his staff.
     To confuse things further, the guy who seemingly died in Camille's dreams turns up at the house as Silvano's son and immediately gets into Camille's pants (at least it seems this way. I had to watch this film relying only on my dodgy command of Italian. They do go for a topless horse ride about five minutes after meeting and I did pick up that this guy says 'by the way' an awful lot). However, despite the promising start, quite a lot of what happens post-dream is drowned in an awful lot of dialogue (although you do get to see Camille Keaton naked if she floats your boat. At least it's consenting plot-wise, unlike that I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE shit). It takes about forty minutes of sex and dialogue for the weirdness to kick back in, when things from Camille's initial dream start creeping into her waking life.
     I suppose things perk up a little when the hitchhiker turns up for a party with girlfriend Paola Senatore, at which she goes nuts and performs are rather lengthy but not unwelcome striptease. This also confuses things, because just when Camille and Paola are just about to get it on, Silvano interrupts, dismisses Camille, then gets it on with Paola. When the hitchhiker finds out, he starts beating on Silvano, who (it looks to me) hypnotises him into killing himself? Man, I bet David Lynch is kicking himself for not having thought of half the stuff that happens in this film. Wait - is it too late to say "Spoilers"?
     I'm not going to spoil the twist at the end, however, and although I found it quite fitting, I'm sure some would kick in their televisions. That aside, this isn't a total failure from the director of KONG ISLAND, although you think it would be if you've ever suffered through that crap. If you can make it through the dull middle section, there's enough nudity and weirdness here to warrant at least one watch. After watching this, I do understand why it only exists in Italian language only form. There's probably not enough strangeness here for anyone to make the effort to add subtitles.
     By the way (or approposito, as they say in Italian), I've noticed there's a tendency for certain Italian actors to be pigeonholed into certain roles. If you want a suave rich guy, you go for Silvano Tranquilli. If you want an academic type or a member of the clergy, you go for Umberto Raho. Rough diamond type? Giampiero Albertini. Rapist? Luciano Rossi. Sexual deviant? Luciano Rossi. Mentally unstable convict? Luciano Rossi. Handicapped sibling? Luciano Rossi. I don't understand how the guy didn't turn into a neurotic anxiety-fuelled depressive. If he did however, he'd totally be first choice to play that character in a film.

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?

Make The Chicken Legs Sleep (1977, Italy, Giallo, Director: Amasi Damiani)
Notable actors: Gianni Dei! Rita Calderoni! Andrea Aureli, who turns up in scores of these films even though I never mention him! Anjita Wilson (in a hardcore version of this film called Morbid Desires of A Countess - she isn't in the version I watched)!

If I had a penny for every time I've written 'villa', 'rich people', 'mind games', 'money' and 'old school' in a review I'd have a lot of pennies but very little time to count them as I'm too busy going insane trying to home school kids during lockdown. However, this one is a very rare film, totally unknown to me until it popped up on the internet. I'm not even sure the title is correct, so I'm going with Fred's translation as I'm certain he won't get distracted by a child somehow managing to headbutt a wall while sneezing. That's my life - I'm not making that up. (Hey, I have mice crawling through my walls! I'm not making that up! - Fred)
     We start with one of those rich people who live a kind of Brett Easton Ellis type of lifestyle, a Countess so rich she's taken to playing games with people, watching them having sex in her attic, having rich people discussions about the church at parties, and breaking up close friendships. This latter reference is the focus of the film, as the Countess leads a communist trio of friends to one side and declares that although their friendship and political allegiance are strong, she bets them that the bond can be broken with the prospect of a huge amount of money. They deny this can happen, but the Countess then announces that there is hidden treasure at her abandoned childhood rich folk villa, and they will betray their values in order to get that money.
     The three, including Gianni Dei from the almost gynaecology-level study of Mariangela Giordani's genitals film PATRICK LIVES AGAIN, and the almost gynaecology-level study of Mariangela Giordani's genitals film GIALLO A VENEZIA (who passed away in October 2020, I now notice - not Mariangela Giordani's genitals, but Gianni Dei), Rita Calderoni (from a lot of Renato Polselli films), and Marina Hedman (from a hell of a lot of Mario Bianchi porno films - better get her a soft cushion to sit on judging by his favourite subject), head to the villa and are told to expect a letter with more information. On the way there they become familiar with the Countesses' driver, and a discussion ensues about working for the upper classes.
     When they arrive at the villa, paranoia sets in almost right away, with Gianni Dei succumbing to the desire for money. Both Dei and Calderoni set their sights on Marina Hedman as a sexual object too, and Hedman seems to be working on the driver to get information, especially when the much-anticipated letter contains only the words 'Make the Chicken Legs Sleep'. The arrival of a stranger at the villa, a man who says he's there to collect herbs from the garden with the consent of the Countess, sets off a chain of murder and deceit. Also, this isn't one of those film where the treasure is a metaphor or anything - there really is a stash of treasure in the villa.
     While not action-packed or full of gore (although you do get some nudity), MAKE THE CHICKEN LEGS SLEEP is fascinating as it highlights what people would do with their so-called principles when the option of a rich, easy life becomes available. In this film, people kill, sell their body, and double cross in order to get to the treasure, and worse still, the Countess is right. It holds a mirror up to society, especially in our age, when people are so ready to choose absolutes and stick with them not matter what. People have their opinions and ideals, but then, if someone waved a wad of cash under their noses, how tightly would those ideals be held?
     I don't think I've come across an Amasi Damiani film before, and judging by Italian websites I've badly translated, he's one of the more mysterious directors out there, with most of his work possibly lost. I might have to do a bit of digging to find more films by him, or they might just randomly appear to me due to the curse I suffer where I have to watch every Italian film, ever.

A Man On His Knees (1979, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Damiano Damiani)
Notable actors: Giuliano Gemma! Michele Placido! Tano Cimarosa! Eleanora Giorgi! Luciano Catenacci! Nello Pazzafini! Nazzareno Zamperela! Ettore Manni!

I've never been to Sicily, but it's been covered on television enough times for me to know that the food looks good (apart from that deep fried cartilage they sell), the weather is real nice and there's some good history and scenery there. Going by this film, however, it could well be that the Mafia will just stick my name on a hit list for no good reason whatsoever, and therefore I may be gunned down in the street. I've told my kids that if this happens, it's what I would have wanted.
     Giuliano Gemma is a reformed car thief who makes a living selling coffee from a little kiosk in Palermo. One day, his friend, bagsnatcher Tano Cimarosa (who directed the sleazy giallo REFLECTIONS IN BLACK), grabs his arm and shows him a guy sipping an espresso in a cafe. This man, Tano tells him, is a hitman for the Mafia, and he's just asked where he can find Gemma. Gemma isn't as panicked by this as Tano, but they follow the hitman anyway...all the way to Gemma's kiosk, where Gemma's son is watching over things.
     Gemma confronts the hitman (played by Michele Placido), but Placido just claims he wants a drink and goes on his way, shortly before two gangsters show up to collect their protection money from Gemma. We see these two go back to their headquarters and hand the money to Nello Pazzafini, who has about one line of dialogue before Placido appears and kills both him and one of the gangsters.
     Something bad is going down in Palermo, all due to the kidnapping of the wife of a lawyer who worked for the ruling Mafia clan. Worse still, she was being held in a building right next to Gemma's kiosk, and the kidnappers were customers of Gemma. Kind cop Luciano Catenacci, another customer of Gemma, brings Gemma into the place to show him a corpse, but Gemma doesn't know that particular guy, stating that he only ever brought coffee over and barely set a foot in the place. However, that simple cup of coffee is now going to turn Gemma's life upside down.
     There's a list of eight names and Gemma's name is on there, as well as other prominent Mafia types from a rival gang. Placido is also out to get him, but is such a downright twisted individual he's decided to play around with Gemma first. He says he wants two million lire in order to call off the hit, and the race begins for Gemma to raise the money, if he can even trust Placido in the first place. Finding two million lire isn't going to be easy for a man with two kids who sells coffee all day, but then there's those car-stealing skills that were retired after a stint in jail...
     It's all personal opinion in the end, but for me A MAN ON HIS KNEES is lesser Damiani, although that doesn't mean it's crap. The acting all round is solid as usual, from Gemma's subdued everyman trying to think his way out of a bad situation to Eleanora Giorgi as his long-suffering but loyal wife to Tano Cimarosa as the faithful sidekick. Michele Placido stands out as the hitman who will literally do anything to get his own way - lie, beg, blackmail, threaten, cry - anything at all, including using his own mother in scams and holding a gun to a child's head. Placido plays it perfectly (if rather loudly at times), throwing cowardice, malice and friendliness into the same scene. By the end I wasn't even sure that the last thing that happened wasn't some sort of trick. I'd imagine that's what Damiani was going for.
     The problem is, it's a little wordy in places, like it contains things that could have been cut down a little, dialogue wise, and although other Damiani films include some action to balance things out, this one didn't quite have enough, concentrating more on Placido's extorting of money from Gemma and Gemma's attempts to raise funds. Still well worth a watch though, because there are plenty of scenes of tension and a couple of twists in the end.

Man, Pride and Vengeance (1967, Italy, Western, Director: Luigi Bazzoni)
Notable actors: Tina Aumont! Franco Nero! Klaus Kinski! Franco Ressel! Alberto Dell'Acqua!

Love isn't just blind - it's deaf, stupid, sullen, moody, tearful, annoying and nuts too. Franco Nero proves this in Luigi Bazzoni's tale of how moronic a man can act when presented with a prize chick. Why am I getting that 'I hope my kids don't read this' vibe already? I haven't even used the phrase 'hooked through the sack' yet!
     Franco is just your run-of-the-mill conscripted soldier, and although we're given a flash-forward of a teary-eyed Nero being pursued by some mysterious men, when the film proper starts he's guarding a factory that chooses it's workers on a daily basis. The day's workers have been chosen, but the gypsy girl with the huge brown eyes wins him over. Her name is Carmen and Franco has around ten seconds to bask in her beauty before she gets into a fight on the workshop floor and stabs up a fellow worker for calling her a whore. Which she actually is by profession.
     Franco however is so head over heels in love already that he allows Carmen to walk ahead while escorting her to prison allowing her to escape, which leads to him being jailed for a bit. Carmen then begins playing Nero like a sucker, declaring love for him while he's on guard duty so that her fellow gypsies can rob the place he's guarding, whispering sweet nothings in his ears then going off to do a bit of loving with senior officer Franco Ressel before Nero accidentally kills him in a fight.
     Nero and Carmen are on the run by this point, and talking of making enough money to head off to the US, but everyone in the audience knows she's talking bollocks. Nero is so hooked through the sack he'd believe anything by this point, but at least he strikes up a friendship with fellow gypsy Alberto Dell'Acqua, who accidentally reveals that Carmen's husband has just been released from jail, and will be taking part in the forthcoming stagecoach heist Carmen has talked Nero into leading. I wasn't sure if Nero was acting shocked that Carmen had a husband or was more shocked to discover that he was custard cousins with Klaus Kinski.
     Naturally, Klaus is playing a character that is a total dick and the stagecoach robbery goes tits up, leading to the final third of the film that I won't reveal, but as you would imagine, nothing will deter Nero in his unshakeable faith in his love for Carmen, and her perceived love for him, which leads to an awful lot of crying from Nero. You see that beach scene near the end? That's not the sea - that's a soundstage comprised entirely of Nero's tears!
     This may be one of the few Spaghetti Westerns actually set in the country they were filmed in (save for GET MEAN). I'm a big fan of Luigi Bazzoni too, and this was the last film of his I had to track down. His flare for stunning cinematography (a duty carried out by his brother Camillo) stands out in this film, with his penchant for shooting backlit actors well to the fore, only most of the time the backlighting is done by the sun. There are also some stunning images here, like Nero and a gypsy friend (the only one who gets a happy ending) having a discussion on a beach filled with huge anchors. Could have done without the bullfight scenes though - but I suppose that was meant to be symbolic.
     Bazzoni also directed the top tier giallo THE FIFTH CORD, the proto-giallo THE POSSESSED, the existential giallo FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON, and the weirdly American-flavoured Western BROTHERS BLUE. Every single one of those films are worth your time.
     MAN, PRIDE AND VENGEANCE is also the Spaghetti West version of the opera Carmen. I'm also a big fan of Spaghetti Westerns that are versions of some existing event or media, like Shakespeare in JOHNNY HAMLET, Treasure Island in BETWEEN GOD, THE DEVIL AND A WINCHESTER, the JFK assassination in THE PRICE OF POWER, and Homer's The Odyssey in RETURN OF RINGO.

The Man Who Didn't Want To Die (1988, Italy, Giallo, Director: Lamberto Bava)
Notable actors: Lino Salemme! Martine Brochard!

You know, my mamma said to me "Son, life is like Lamberto Bava's filmography, mostly it's shite, but now and again there's a good bit thrown in there to keep you on your toes". Is THE MAN WHO DIDN'T WANT TO DIE one of those good bits?
     The answer, as you would expect, is no. It's not the worst Bava product out there either, but seeing as how we're comparing this to such crap like DEMONS III: THE OGRE, the bar is very low, so the next question is - Is THE MAN WHO DIDN'T WANT TO DIE so stupid that it becomes kind of enjoyable in a car crash kind of way, like PRINCE OF TERROR? The answer is - nothing is as stupid as PRINCE OF TERROR. Both of these are from TV series called HIGH TENSION that Bava made, and that's literally all I know about that.
     However, that doesn't mean that this film isn't not stupid, because the man who doesn't want to die in the film THE MAN WHO DIDN'T WANT TO DIE is a rapist, and the way the film plays out, he's supposed to be the guy that we the audience root for. You see, it all starts off with a seriously injured guy being found naked and taken to hospital. He can't speak but he can move, grabbing a junior doctor's wrist like "he didn't want to be left alone". Sounds like a good mystery has just been set up, right?
     Well, don't get used to it because Bava basically immediately explains what happens by showing us that this guy was part of a five man team put together by a rich lady to rob a fancy household of all their expensive goods, including a Renoir painting. Things are going well, with the security guy and his wife getting tied up and shifted out of the road, but rapist guy has his eyes on the lady, and only takes enough time out to steal the Renoir picture for himself before returning his attention to her. I couldn't tell if he was going to sell it or knock one out while looking at it - he did seem pretty turned on with it. He hides the painting in a shed on the premises and then attempts to rape his captive, only for her husband to kick him in the back of the head and crack his skull.
     My first thought was that the rapist must have had very thin bones for a shoe to break his skull, but you've got to kind of go along with these things I guess. He can't speak or move, but just kind of rolls his eyes around like he's trying to do an impression of Klaus Kinski. Gang leader Fabrizio isn't too happy about this, pointing out that it wouldn't have happened if he wasn't an idiot, but later events would prove that Fabrizio isn't exactly going to be invited to join MENSA any time soon. Still, they wrap the rapist up in a carpet and dump him in the back of the van while Fabrizio has to murder the guard and his wife.
     Long story short - the rapist gets dumped in the woods, the gang have to try and kill him in hospital, the rich lady discovers the Renoir missing and the police link him to the murders, and then...things somehow inexplicably jump forward a few months so the rapist is well and walking around freely. I guess Bava just wanted to get some giallo action in there because someone starts killing the gang one by one, including a murder that would involve blindly knowing someone's location inside a large shipping vessel, then being able to drop a huge metal object inside the boat over the exact place that person is located, several floors down. To be honest, the film needed more scenes this daft. I won't go on about the giallo part of the film, save to say there's about three people to choose as the killer.
     At least the plot zips along quicker than some Bava films, but who cares about a rapist? It's hard to create suspense for a character you'd like to see killed anyway. I did like that Fabrizio's mother has an eating disorder and he constantly has to bring her cakes and sweets while she emotionally blackmails him, but that's as far as character development goes for this one, apart from trying to paint the rapist guy as a bad boy gone wrong in order to generate some sympathy among the five or six viewers this film is going to have.
     Basically, if you've heard of this film and know how low Italian films sank in the late Eighties, you've basically watched this film without watching it.

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.

The Masked Thief a.k.a. In the Name of The Father, The Son, and The Colt (1971, Italy, Western/Giallo, Director: Mario Bianchi)
Notable actors: Craig Hill! Agata Lys! Frank Bana!

Now this is a genuine mix of Giallo and Western, with a masked killer brandishing a knife and wearing black gloves and everything. It's not that great though. Not terrible either.
     The film starts with a prologue involving a stagecoach being robbed by a load of men in drag, led by a leering Craig Hill . He takes particular interest in the daughter of clothing salesman Pick (Francisco Sanz, from several thousand other Spaghetti Westerns), taking her to the side and raping her while his men laugh and taunt her father.
     Four years later, Pick and daughter Tony (Agata Lys - you'll have to watch the film to find out why she's called Tony) return to the same general area, hawking their wares in town. The sheriff of this particular town bears a striking resemblance to the bandit who raped Lys all those years ago. Pick spots this almost immediately, but who do you go to if the man you want arrest is the head lawman? Maybe that deputy who has it in for the sheriff, but there's other stuff going on here too.
     Most important of all is the recent murder of a mask-maker who was murdered after creating a special mask for a client. Complete with POV shots and everything, this guy gets a good old knife to the guts before the black-gloved killer takes the mask and heads off. The same masked killer also gets involved in a robbery and kills all his hired goons straight after, but there'll be more killings and a very lengthy chase scene before we find out who it is.
     Things are looking pretty bleak for the sheriff, and it isn't his fault. You see, he's got a twin brother who loves robbing and raping and he's back on the scene, seemingly in cahoots with the masked killer. Looks like things are building up steam to a Halloween heist complete with shoot-outs and guns that never run out of bullets, but when do they ever in Spaghetti Westerns?
     This is Mario Bianchi's debut as a director, and not a bad effort at that. Both the Giallo and Western elements are blended quite well, including a scene with the killer moving around freely as the townsfolk hold a masked ball to celebrate Halloween. He doesn't quite get things to build up a full head of steam however, concentrating more on the mistaken identity thing that involves Craig Hill playing twins (not a spoiler by the way). He did better with his second film, KILL THE POKER PLAYER, with the mystery becoming the whole focus of the plot. I'm not sure if Bianchi made another Giallo/Western mix, because he's credited for directing over one hundred films and I haven't got the time to track them down, so I'll never know if he tried to blend Giallo with other genres, like his porno film WORLD CUP '90 (where nymphomaniacs help the Italian football team win the World Cup by sapping all the energy of rival teams), his historical murder-fest porno THE CASTLE OF LUCRETIA (where someone on the IMDB has left a very detailed review to read), the innocent sounding porno AT HOME WITH PENIS (the same guy's left a review of that one too - he must look like a fucking boxer crab with all the porn he watches), and THE FLYING DOCTORS, which is not the Australian drama programme, but yet another excuse for - hang on I'll read THE SAME GUY's review - threesomes and bumming.

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?

Mean Tricks a.k.a. Hornsby and Rodriguez Challenge The Criminals (1992, Italy, Crime, Director: Umberto Lenzi)
Notable actors: Charles Napier! David Brandon! David Warbeck!

Charles Napier, the actor who always looks like he's growling at everybody, gets to go macho and take on South American drug dealers in Umberto Lenzi's last film. And it's good!
     Good in comparison to other Umberto Lenzi films of that era, I must add. At this point in the history of Italian cinema, we must take what we can. He may have not plummeted to such depths as Lucio Fulci with his SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS, but have you seen WARTIME? Jesus. Napier is a guy who has quit the FBI and headed to the Southern part of the America's looking for his old buddy David Warbeck, and on the way there he dreams some exposition where Warbeck is wounded trying to stop some big bad drug dealer, who is then killed, maybe, in a boat explosion. Get used to that because at least three scenes involve witnesses being shot right before revealing a major spoiler.
     Rumours are going around that Warbeck is on the take but when Napier confronts Warbeck in an open patio area, Warbeck is quickly gunned down by a bad guy (see what I mean? It also shows you that Napier's character doesn't learn because it happens to another guy not much later too.). Napier tries to make out that Warbeck and the other guy killed each other, but this doesn't fool plucky young cop Rodriguez, with his sexy young secretary Iris Peynado. Rodriguez think that both Warbeck and Napier were into something together, and Napier's going to have to prove that isn't the case, by punching Rodriquez in the mouth and not shooting him or some shit.
     Eventually, these two team up to find out what's really going down, as it seems that the dead drug dealer isn't dead at all, but he has had extensive plastic surgery, so there's a bit of a guessing game going on in the plot as to who specifically is the bad guy, and Napier's going to have to gun down a shitload of bad guys in order to find out. And boff that secretary in his down time. Plus, also convince her to go undercover as an escort girl so that she can get the drop on the bad guys and be a nice hostage for the bad guys later in the film.
     It's your typical early ninties/late eighties action film to be honest, but Lenzi digs deep and gives us plenty of murder, gunfire and sexy ladies, plus despite being an old fart Napier can play quite the tough guy. I don't know if Lenzi just retired or gave up on the industry, but this is a decent enough film to go out on, so fair play to him. Tragically, although Lenzi had a healthy retirement, he was gunned down outside his apartment in Rome by the family of that muskrat that he killed during CANNIBAL FEROX. Tell Deodato it was just business, Lenzi!

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.

Medium (1985, Horror, Poland, Director: Jacek Koprowicz)
Notable actors: Jerzy Stuhr! Plus the rest of the cast, looking at the IMDb

In Gdansk, a medium and his psychically sensitive wife make contact with a much more powerful medium. On a beach, a dishevelled man wakes up and heads for a strange house. A schoolteacher falls into a trance and walks out of the school, leaving her class abandoned. A man on a train disembarks at Sopot, but suddenly comes to and has no idea why he is there. It's not a good time to be wandering either, as this is the early Thirties, and there's a load of brownshirted bastards kicking about who are part of the Hitler fan club.
     Thus begins MEDIUM, which dumps a huge mystery not only on the viewer's lap, but the characters trapped within. It turns out the dishevelled fella is murder detective Selin, and it's not unusual for him to wake up on the beach as he has a fondness for the old hooch. His assistant, sudden Nazi-party member Krank, loves to tell his superiors all about Selin's misbehaviour. He also likes to tell Selin about the lady at the local museum who keeps complaining about a lady who repeatedly steals a vintage dress, then brings it back, looking confused. This turns out to be our schoolteacher.
     The guy in Sopot decides to stay until he can find out what the hell's going on, and the medium and his wife deduce that the more powerful medium is controlling these people, but have no idea why it happening or where this very powerful medium is located. Selin gets a break (if you can call it that) when, upon buying fish food, the sales assistant asks him to check up on the shop owner, who it turns out lives in the strange house Selin entered at the start of the film. Going inside, he finds the owner/medium seemingly dead on the couch, and actor Jerzy Stuhr trying to escape, as it turns out he is also being controlled, and has travelled all the way from Berlin under the medium's control...
     That's enough plot! At first I couldn't understand why this had such high praise on the IMDb as it unravels very, very slowly, but then the mystery deepens as the film rolls on and the characters, especially those the medium controls, start to either panic or find their own ways to try and deal with someone who can seemingly reach inside their heads and move them around like toys. The film focuses mainly on Selin and his partner Krank, whom at first we're led to hate, but then we end up kind of rooting for. He seems to drop his attempts to get Selin fired and gets on board to unravel why the psychic shop owner believes his life is linked with the turtles he keeps in his shop, the history of the house, and the nefarious plans as the medium wises up and starts controlling other people to stop Krank. Selin goes from being motivated to horrified, the guy in Sopot becomes more desparate, Jerzy Stuhr takes drastic action and the schoolteacher...kind of gets forgotten. You see her arse though, so maybe she was just toning that thing up a bit while the plot played out.
     MEDIUM goes from so laid back, it's in a diabetic coma, to true horror, featuring axe murders and scary kids and is definitely up there in terms of good Polish horror films. Some say its the best, but I don't know about that. I'm looking forward to tracking down the rest. The unique setting, doomy music, and Hitler backdrop (whom Winston Churchill described in his books The Second World War as 'A demon-genius from the abyss') make this one fairly unique.

Merciless Man a.k.a. Genoa At Gunpoint (1976, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Mario Lanfranchi)
Notable actors: Tony Lo Bianco! Maud Adams! Adolfo Celi! Howard Ross! Yanti Somer! Ottaviano Dell'Acqua!

Tony Lo Bianco of Richard-Lynch-origin-story GOD TOLD ME TO To travels to Genoa to be irresistible to women, slightly resistant to electricity, and get into some sort of violent shenanigans involving drugs, performance art, and ball-kicking. The version I watched was missing fifteen minutes of footage due to a jumpy print, as people would enter rooms and then teleport across them, sentences would be cut off mid-speech, and thrown punches would end in completely different scenes.
     Tony's a disgraced American cop now living in Genoa and working as a private investigator, a job that somehow gets him a severe beating and ball-kicking at the hands of mysterious gangster Howard Ross. Cop Adolfo Celi, from arty horror THEY HAVE CHANGED THEIR FACE, is curious as to why Tony is hanging around the port, and after a gentle cop beating Tony reveals that he's trying to start a new life as a P.I, but has only one customer - a rich chick called Mayar (Maud Adams). Maud has hired Tony to find out who kidnapped her father, killed him, and run off with the billion lire ransom money.
     The film basically rolls out like this: Tony uses his street contacts to dig into the criminal underground, Howard Ross turns up to kill him, Tony runs off, Adolfo Celi turns up at the crime scene, and Tony gives him a phone call and they have a chat about what's happening. At one point Adolfo tries to track down Tony but finds the wife of Tony's landlord has tricked them because she was looking for some sexy time with Tony, which leads to her being beaten by her husband within earshot of Adolfo, who doesn't seem to give a shit.
     Tony discovers that the kidnapping has something to do with a dance school where Yanti Somer is a performance artist (who dresses like Annie Lennox from the Eurithymics), and that drugs are being smuggled around the place, which leads Howard Ross to just flat out kill the guy with a machine gun, leading Tony to try and quit his job. Mayar won't let him though, and instead of quitting, Tony gets it on with his boss, living the American dream.
     The missing footage does kind of get in the way of understanding what's going on, but to be honest it was still a kind of run of the mill Eurocrime film with plenty of action to stop you getting bored. A punch-up here and there, a car chase, a couple of gun battles, Adolfo Celi vomiting up a milkshake, you know - the usual. The strange things was the swinging from serious to comedy, as one minute Lo Bianco is acting all goofy and care-free, and the next he's injecting heroin so he can infiltrate some sort of drug smuggling hospital type deal. Maybe.
     The funk-tastic music was outstanding though. Good acting all round as you'd expect from the likes of Celi and Lo Bianco, fairly zippy plot, plentiful violence. It ticks enough boxes to put it somewhere near the middle. There's much worse out there (like DON'T SHOOT ON CHILDREN and HALLUCINATION STRIP). The reason, however, for the bad guy doing what they do is monumentally stupid, however.

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.

Midnight Blue (1979, Italy, Horror I guess, Director: Raimondo Del Balzo)
Notable Actors: Giancarlo Prete! Antonio Cantafora!

Woohoo, another LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT rip-off. I got sick of rape/revenge films DURING LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, fast-forwarded through most of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and only watched LATE NIGHT TRAINS, HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK and LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH because of my moronic decision to watch every Italian film ever. Now here comes another one, like a bit of shit that comes poking out of your arse long after you got rid of the rest, and are now standing in line at the bank.
     Luckily, director Raimondo Del Balzo pretty much fucks everything up by not including much torture or violence against the women, and not much revenge either. In fact, the entire first half of the film doesn't contain any of that crap at all. It involves three girls training for the Olympics, one of whom, if I may mention for no reason, is training for the javelin event. These three are tired of topless bathing at the beach with all their mates and want to go off on their own to an Aunt's villa nearby. This they do, despite the warnings of a more attractive team mate that doesn't get involved.
     Off they go, and do whatever it is girls do in huge villas (I admit to drawing a blank here so I might have passed out, or it may be that literally nothing happens in this portion of the film). Whatever. In the end the three girls head off to the beach to sunbathe topless and run into three fellows - hunky, moustache wearing Antonio Cantafora (from SHADOW OF ILLUSION), rugged Giancarlo Prete (from weirdo art film THE LONG NIGHT), and some other guy who has a pot belly and is going bald (well, they can't all be winners I guess). Although fairly put out that these fellas would be ogling the fat rascals on display, the girls are easy going and invite the guys back to the villa.
     Things pretty much work out for everyone in the short term, as they all hang about drinking, having knife/javelin throwing contests on the beach, and moustache guy gets lucky with one girl in the shower, and then in bed, in a scene that goes on forever. Turns out the other girls are actually in a same-sex relationship, but thems the breaks for the other two guys. Things take a turn for the worst when one of the girls spies the front cover of a newspaper declaring a manhunt for (etc etc - you all know this bit).
     When the guys discover that they've been discovered, they hold the girls hostage, and...don't really do much else I guess. A bit of glaring, Prete gets to watch one of the girls take a shower, then there's some implied rape. It's all bollocks really. Nicely film bollocks though, with a Stelvio Cipriani score.
     The revenge bit doesn't come to much either. I was taken aback by the use of the javelin but once again, that's about it. There's a scene at the end where the director seems to imply that all men are rapists, but I was beyond caring.

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.

Morbidity (1974, Italy, Giallo [if you squint enough], Director: Luigi Russo)
Notable actors: Jenny Tamburi! Eva Czemerys! Fernando Cerulli! Tom Felleghy!

In a huge villa just outside of Modena, rich Guilia (Eva Czemerys from LONG LASTING DAYS), lives a luxurious but languid life, and wants more. First off, her boyfriend Alessandro (Gianni Macchia) is an architect, but not a very good one, as we can see from the bollocking contractor Tom Felleghy gives him on site one day. Guilia’s plan is to butter up the heads of the municipality of Modena in order to get Alessandro a better job with more cash, and it seems that these three fellows are corrupt to the core, scheming in their office and getting the Church on board to boot. Just your usual day in Seventies Italy then.
     Guilia is also trying convince these guys to redirect a planned motorway to her land in order to boost the price of it, but so far Alessandro isn’t getting anywhere and the planned motorway route is staying as it is. The stalemate however will soon be broken by the arrival of Guilia’s younger sister Anna (Jenny Tamburi from Fulci’s THE PSYCHIC). Anna has returned unexpectantly from boarding school, taking Eva by surprise, although that doesn’t stop her getting it on with Alessandro while Jenny spies on them (to be fair, she only wanted some snacks from the kitchen).
     It's not long before it becomes apparent that Alessandro is becoming more attracted to Anna, but he’s not sure if this is reciprocated (I’d be confused too, as Anna leaves the bathroom door open while standing in front of a mirror naked and runs up a flight of stairs wearing a dressing gown and nothing else). This starts to effect Alessandro’s working life as he tries to vent his frustrations on a willing secretary, but changes his mind at the last minute.
     At this point the plot seems to be heading in a pretty predictable direction of Alessandro hooking up with Anna and scheming against Guilia, but things go off on a tangent when, at a house party, we see Guilia getting it on with one of the council heads in the garage and Anna is gang-raped, leading to some characters in the film revealing some very dark sides and Anna going from victim to aggressor, using her wiles against her foes. But not in a I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE way, sickos.
     With colourful, playful cinematography, experimental editing, a whole lot of sex and nudity, MORBIDITY is a giallo without any murders. There are some twists and turns, however. Guilia turns out to be almost soulless in her pursuit of money, and Alessandro turns out to be a more sympathetic character than what the plot builds him up to be. Not the most riveting film however, especially in the first half, but I believe Jenny Tamburi has her fans, so they’ll be pleased with this one.

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 Body In Anger (1972, Italy, Drama/Giallo, Director: Roberto Natale)
Notable actors: Peter Lee Lawrence! Massimo Girotti! Silvano Tranquilli!

Man, it seems that as a pastime in Italy in the late sixties and early seventies, folks were either involved in crime, political activism, or hanging around in some villa, hotel, or mansion, playing mind games with each until some sort of violent event occurs. Guess what this film involves?
     It's the latter. Usually money motivates the psychological warfare devious folk would wage on (mostly) Carroll Baker in these sorts of films, but here, young Silvia seems to be messing with her folk's head just because she wants to. Her parents, especially her father (played by Massimo Girotti, most familiar for BARON BLOOD), are stuck up, and don't know quite how to deal with her. She's an ex-drug addict and has just returned from rehab in Switzerland, but her parents aren't quite ready to bring her home, so instead they are all holed up in a hotel in Sardinia. Silvia knows that her parents don't want her to bring shame on the family by way of scandal, and she plays up to that by messing with their heads, so much so that they bring in psychiatrist Silvano Tranquilli to examine her.
     Silvano doesn't have much luck because Silvia messes with him too, claiming that all the Roscharch images shown to her are nonsense. To be honest, Silva comes across as a spoilt brat who may act brazen, weird and confident, but hasn't quite figured out she's got major daddy issues. Just before I was about to gouge my eyeballs out with boredom, Peter Lee Lawrence (from the rather good giallo LOVE AND DEATH IN THE GARDEN OF THE GODS) turns up as young guy hiding out on the hotel grounds because, as he tells Silvia, he's killed a woman and is on the run. Due to this being a film and not real life, or possibly because it's the early seventies and young people in cinema at that time are annoying subversive types, Silvia thinks that's cool and the both of them hit it off...for about five seconds before they start messing with each other's minds too. Is love in the air or are other motives coming into play?
     These films, where nothing much happens, seem to be ten a penny in the sixties and seventies. Films where next to nothing happens for the entire duration of the film. People have dinner together and talk. People stand on beaches looking out to the sea and talk. They hide in hotel rooms and talk. And what they talk is shite. Silvia acts like such a smart arse. Going on and on about her father and winding Lawrence up by leading him on then blowing cold with him (or switching the lights off and blinding him with camera flashes). Who was the intended audience for this film? It's not arty enough for the arthouse crowd. It's not sleazy or bloody enough for the giallo crowd (although I read somewhere that there were sex scenes that were cut out of the film), there's not even enough drama to make it a soap opera. It vaguely follows the late-sixties Lenzi film template, but in the most bland, eventless way possible.
     There's two things this film does right. The cinematography is rather nice, and the music by Stelvio Cipriani is rather good too. Other than that, I've got nothing more to add.

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!

The Mysterious Mr. Van Eyck (1966, Spain/Italy, Giallo, Director: Augstin Navarro)
Notable actors: Massimo Girotti! Tere Velazquez! Others!

This film seems to be undeservedly obscure, because it's a fine early giallo involving double crosses, sudden plot twists, groovy music, and yachts!
     Yes, yachts, which means it belongs to the micro-sub genre of gialli that take place on or around yachts, like INTERRABANG, TOP SENSATION, and THE SEX OF ANGELS, which are all worth tracking down. This one has a plot that unfolds slowly, and I'm kind of loathe to reveal too much, so let's keep this brief.
     Two guys who work on a boat for some rich dude reflect on their life while their boss is onshore. One of them is innocently accepting his lot in life as a guy who works on a boat, whereas the other guy is smoking his bosses' cigars and drinking his whiskey. While he's doing so, a young sexy lady randomly boards, looking to hire a boat for her and her husband, Charles Van Eyck, a semi-famous diver. Our imposter Daniel pretends he's the owner of the boat and ropes in his innocent mate Santi along for the ride.
     It becomes apparent very shortly that the Van Eycks don't get on very well. She can't stand to have him touch her, and he can't stand for anyone to get a look at the map he holds on his person and secretly consults, but where is the map leading him and why is it such a secret? I'm not saying, but Charles better watch out, because his wife (if she is even that) is after what he wants, and she may very well use her new friend Daniel to get it.
     Charles does a bit of diving but turns out not to be as ignorant as he makes out, knowing fine well that his wife and Daniel may be conspiring against him. That said, he doesn't reckon on getting his head crushed in an accident, and it's when Charles bites the dust that the real twists start revealing themselves, and I'm not going any further to reveal them, so you'll have to seek out this film for yourself.
     Containing a small cast in a very small location, it's impressive how director Navarro manages to ring suspense out of nearly every scene. You never quite know who trusts who or even what the whole purpose of the sailing trip is all about, as it seems at first that Charles Van Eyck is looking for some sort of treasure, but then it turns out to be something totally different. It's hard to write about this without majorly spoiling things though, so I'm saying nothing more about the plot.
     For such an obscure film, the version I watched was in HD in widescreen, so somebody out there must like it. Spanish gialli are so hard to come by online for some reason, like THE GLASS CEILING and THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER, two films I count myself lucky to have found, that I'm happy I managed to find this one. I didn't even know it existed until a few days ago, when I found it on YouTube. Imagine going back in time and explaining that to an earlier version of yourself in the Eighties.

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.

The Napoli 5 of the Special Squad (my terrible translation) (1978, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Mario Bianchi)
Notable actors: Richard Harrison! Enrico Maisto!

Cheap and grim, but never boring. I think I must be coming up for watching nearly three hundred of these Italian cop films, and yet this is the first one I've seen where a cop pisses in a suspect's face.
     These cops don't mess around, even if they're not quite sure what they are after in the first place. It's a fairly complex set up, what with some plutonium being stolen from the government, and then stolen again by some more ruthless gangsters who want to sell it to the highest bidder.
     The special squad consist of a guy whose wife and kids were killed by the Gommorah, Ninja Master Richard Harrison, a young guy, a guy who gets shot fairly quickly and that guy from Fulci's CONTRABAND who gets the back of his head blown off. This lot aren't very good at police work, keep turning up to places where the action has already taken place, can't keep witnesses alive and even stand around discussing whether or not to get a doctor while their mate lies dying in front of them.
     The Mafia aren't doing much better as the old school try to hold back the young school for getting revenge on the special squad (when the special squad do win one for the team), resulting in a rather high mortality rate on both sides that provides surprise deaths and a particularly grim ending. The whole thing looks like it was filmed for about 20 pence and yet there's fistfights, gunfights, car chases, foot chases and an annoying hippy kidnap scene.
     It's also set in Naples, so there's mention of food and plenty of shouting. Funky music too. Written by Claudio Fragrasso, maybe before he found his soul mate in Bruno Mattei. Director Mario Bianchi's a good substitute though - I quite liked this one.
     Oh, Harrison is his usual non-acting self, but Enrico Maisto that steals the show. The guy's an unsung Eurocrime star.

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.

Nest of Vipers a.k.a. Portrait of the Bourgeoise In Black (1978, Italy, Drama, Director: Tonino Cervi)
Notable actors: Ornella Muti! Senta Berger! Stefano Patrizi! Christian Borromeo! 

Venice, somewhere around the early to mid-Thirties I'd imagine. Fascism on the rise, the Disco Scene so depressingly far in the future. Stefano Patrizi (from THE TOUGH ONES, who always reminds me of Andrew McCarthy for some reason), is a young orphan who has a scholarship at a prominent Venetian school to play piano or some shit. While there, he befriends Christian Borromeo, a young seemingly rich kid with a superhot mother in the form of Senta Berger (from DIABOLICALLY YOURS and THE BEAUTIFUL SUMMER).
     At first, Stefano mistakes Senta for Christian's sister, but she explains she had Christian when she was seventeen, but does not regret doing so. It may be that the short gap in time means that the friendship between Senta and her son is more informal, as he calls her by her first name rather than mother, or it could be that everyone in this film is filthy pervert. Which is probably true. One thing is for sure - Stefano is definitely in there with Christian's mother, as she (and Christian!) start grilling Stefano on how he'd like to be with an older woman. Before you know it, Stefano and Senter are bumping uglies. A review on the IMDb refers to nudity by both Berger and Muti, but I didn't see any, so thanks for that, YouTube's Film & Clips channel!
     Things are all good with Stefano getting some from Senta, but all this time Ornell Muti has been catching his eye in random encounters, so he's delighted to find out that Senta is Muti's piano tutor. Eventually the two meet, and Stefano finds that Muti is from a genuinely rich and powerful family in Venice, rather than a once-powerful family that Senta used to belong to. Now, if only he can get rid of Muti's brother (who, and I might be reading too much into things, may have had a thing for his own sister), and get on her family's good side.
     All events in this film stem from Christian's insane love for his own mother and his jealousy that Stefano is now the object of her affection. If it weren't for that Stefano wouldn't have had to go sniffing off elsewhere. It turns out that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree as Senta isn't quite willing to let Stefano go without a fight, which leads to treachery and a pretty brutal murder, and also some social commentary about the rich are always fucking over the poor.
     The main focus here is Ornella Muti (from OASIS OF FEAR and my Wank Bank). Director Cervi (who also made the strange QUEENS OF EVIL and the film where Claudio Cassinelli tries to bum Giancarlo Prete (THE LONG NIGHT), films Muti in every way possible, with her staring intently from underneath her fringe to posing in dresses to putting on the 'I'm In the Mood For Love' and giving Stefano serious 'do me' eyes. Totally smouldering in every scene. Worked for me.
     Not the most exciting film mind you, but Ornella Muti fans and Senta Berger fans will get something out of it. Strangely, for a period drama, the fascism thing wasn't really focussed on.

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.

O-Bi, O-Ba. The End of Civilization (1985, Poland, Sci-fi, Director: Piotr Szulkin)
Notable actors: Jerzy Stuhr! Loads, probably.

Much more grim than it's predecessor WAR OF THE WORLDS: NEXT CENTURY, the plot of O-BI, O-BA centres around a group of humans all living in a huge concrete vault following a nuclear war. Things are not going so well, as food is running short, mental health has deteriorated badly, and the vault's walls and ceiling are about to crack, exposing the survivors to a whole load of radiation and a nuclear winter. Some of the people actually welcome that happening, which is not surprising considering the conditions they live in.
     Not wanting to die any time soon is Soft, the guy appointed to lift people's moral using any means, including making up fake salvation in the form of The Ark, a mythical machine that most people believe will come and rescue them from their subterranean nightmare. Soft has to listen to the people reverentially gibbering on about something he made up, while his insane boss rants at him and he sells cutlery on the black market just in order to get a luxury - an onion.
     Life is pretty much hell for everyone down there, from functioning people like Soft, to insane librarians who keep books only covering the subject of the mysterious enemy who nuked the country, to a friend of Soft who keeps dragging him away to see his 'Eden', which turns out to be one of the grimmer parts of an already grim film, to the strangest of all - a bunch of almost catatonic people who wander around a huge hall being fed a strange type of bread from a tube that hangs from the ceiling, the source of which is one of the few satirical parts of the film.
     Visually it's a nightmare too. The vault (which reminded me very much of the horror-filled vaults of the Fallout game series) are badly lit with blue neon lights hanging from the ceilings and the walls. Worms crawl along the floor and the walls crumble. Everything is pretty monochromatic except for where Soft's potential love interest lives, which is more warm and red. Not that she spends much time in it, as instead she's doing a trapeze act over the hall of catatonics. In fact, this is the second bluest film I've ever seen, because no one's going to top Derek Jarman's film BLUE in the blue stakes. It's on YouTube just now if you're interested. Be warned - it's a blue screen for the entire film.
     O-BI, O-BA. THE END OF CIVILIZATION is also on YouTube just now with English subtitles and is highly recommended by me. Every actor does this film justice, bringing the right amount of panic, hysteria, mania and rage to the screen, which is exactly how anyone would act when faced with total oblivion. The ending is rather spectacular too.
     I haven't mentioned much about the plot because there's loads of little surprises thrown in there that I don't want to spoil. You can guess what the director is taking the piss out of, so no need to go into detail about it.

Obscene Desire a.k.a. The Prophecy (1978, Italy, Horror, Director: Guilio Petroni)
Notable actors: Marisa Mell! Chris Avram! Victor Israel! Lou Castel! Laura Trotter!

Finally, I managed to track this one down. Be warned, this is a film that can be easily ruined by comparing it to a film that it's similar too, the same way the film THE MURDER MANSION can be ruined by comparing it to a certain TV show it resembles. I'm not going to include spoilers in this review, but I would still advise just watching the film while you know nothing about it as the best way to approach this film.
     From director Guilio Petroni, who gave such great Westerns as DEATH RIDES A HORSE and A SKY FULL OF STARS FOR A ROOF, comes a late entry into Gothic horror that piles on the mystery and actually manages to provide answers to all the questions raised before the end (unlike the film EVIL EYE, which could have been a masterpiece if the end wasn't a massive "up-yours" to the audience.). Here we have the usual Gothic setting of an old villa with suspect staff, dark secrets, and a family cemetery. Who knows what we would do without one of those in a gothic horror?
     Marisa Mell is the newly married wife of Chris Avram, who is now moving the couple into his childhood rich-person villa/castle. Here, Marisa Mell finds not only the corpse of staff member Michele, of whom she is told "He was old", but she also finds that the remaining staff member is Victor Israel in full 'socially-distancing' eyeball mode. Avram claims Israel is harmless, but the guy seems to be playing major mind games with Mell, while Avram seems to be deeply shaken by the death of Michele and becomes withdrawn.
     Lacking attention, Marisa meets fellow American Peter Clarke (Lou Castel, who seems drawn to this kind of film like a moth to a light or a former glam rocker to a child). Peter claims to be an anthropologist researching ancient curses in the area, and in particular one that centres on Marisa's husband's family, It's around this time that reality starts getting a bit pliable for Marisa, as it turns out she's pregnant, and it's also around this time that we are privy to a serial killer preying on hookers in the area, which results in some splattery gore. Israel starts receiving phone calls that reveal he's up to something, and then Marisa's dreams start getting very weird as she sees a supernatural figure out in the darkness and may even have been visited by an Incubus at some point.
     I'm not talking anymore about the plot so you can spoil that for yourself, but what we have here is a pretty well made horror film that somehow hasn't been given the proper attention. There's not much by way of gore with the exception of the hooker murders, but there's tonnes of atmosphere and mystery with Marisa at the centre of some sort of shenanigans that neither she or us are privy too, and that, plus the moody cinematography, are what makes this film rather enjoyable. There's loads of gothic stuff going on here, from the sinister servants to the hidden rooms and the weird-ass shots of the servants giving Marisa a birthday cake.
     Fans of either Marisa Mell's naked body or Chris Avram's arse will be happy to know that both feature prominently here. One other observation is that Lou Castel always looks like he's rolled out of bed two minutes before shooting was supposed to start. He pretty much looks like that in every film I've seen him in.

Obsession (1943, Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Luchino Visconti)
Notable actors: Clara Calamai! Massimo Girotti!

Remember that bit in DEEP RED when Carlo's mother shows David Hemmings a load of old pictures and talked about how she used to be an actress? She wasn't kidding!
     Obsession is one of those films that shows that sometimes desperate people make bad decisions and perhaps shows us, the viewer, that we too are only one step away from completely ruining our lives by doing something dumb. A classic noir film full of moody cinematography, OBSESSION is quite rightly seen as a great film, with it's depiction of people trying to enjoy life while in the middle of a catastrophic war, the Italian love of music and food rising above all, and how you've always got to reap what you sow. Now that I'm done praising the film, let's get down to what really matters - making sarcastic comments about the actions of the characters.
     Giovanna (Clara Calamai from DEEP RED and a shitload of films from the thirties) is a young wife who doesn't love her husband (Guiseppe) and only married him because she had no money and hated having to drift around mooching food from men (for sex, it's implied). Her husband is a big fat loudmouth who owns a roadside bar/restaurant and thinks the man of the house is in charge, doing such romantic things as having Giovanna dry all the sweat off him after he's cycled home or generally moaning about her homemaking skills. Luckily for her the hunkiest drifter in all of Italy has just shown up at the bar, and the first thing he does is give Giovanna a smouldering look and asks her if she'll cook him a meal. Then he asks her again, because she doesn't answer the first time.
     The drifter is Gino (Massimo Girotti from MOTEL OF FEAR) and he pretty much senses that Giovanna's got the hots for him right away. It's a pity her husband is bouncing around the place loudly shouting that she better guard the chickens because there's a shifty-looking hobo lurking about the place, but Gino manages to wangle his way in there, using his mechanical skills to fix Guiseppe's truck and various other technical issues and it turns out Guiseppe is a very trusting fellow, because about ten seconds later he heads off fishing with a local vicar. Gino pretends to work on a water pump for a second or two before Giovanna lures him into the house with a song, siren like. Then they passionately make love...probably. This is a film from nineteen forty-three so you don't get to see anything.
     Turns out when Guiseppe says he'll back soon that means he'll be fannying about in the countryside most of the day while Giovanna and Gino get it on. This gives Giovanna plenty of time to tell Gino her life is shit and she hates Guiseppe's big fat arse and asks Gino to stay with her forever, which comes across to me as kind of moving a bit fast but then again there was a war on and such like. Gino agrees to stay, but Guiseppe make things unbearable for both of them.
     Gino wants to hit the road with Giovanna but she can't face a life of uncertainty again, so they sadly call it a day and Gino goes back to drifting. It's here he meets The Spaniard (Elio Marcuzzo, who was killed shorty after World War Two by partisans. Not shot as it says on the IMDb, but hanged and buried alive when the hanging didn't work, merely for translating some documents for an employee of a fascist group, even though he was anti-fascist himself). The Spaniard bales Gino out of a bad situation and takes him under his wing (there's a lot of homosexual undertones here, mainly due to Marcuzzo's gentle performance as The Spaniard). The most likeable character in the film, The Spaniard gives Gino some sage advice after finding out about the affair. "Run as fast as you can from the direction of Giovanna". Gino, however, thinks he knows better.
     Fate brings the love triangle together when Gino meets Giovanna and Guiseppe as Guiseppe is entering a singing contest. The two lovers find that they can't stay away from each other, but neither is willing to budge on how their future could be. That's until Guiseppe gets very drunk and insists on driving back home. The next day, Giovanna and Gino are explaining how Guiseppe crashed the truck, but the police are sceptical. Can their love prevail over all and their dark secret stay hidden. Well...no.
     Now, if I killed someone I'd want no one to find out about it by not ever mentioning it ever, but Giovanna and Gino simply don't know how to do this. First Gino has a screaming argument with The Spaniard which rouses the suspicions of a policeman hanging around, then an open conversation about it in front of hired staff, then Giovanna and Gino have a very vocal argument about it in a town square, then Gino just outright confesses to some random girl he met. Oh, and Giovanna writes a confession down, changes her mind, then scrumples up the paper and tosses it to the side. At least they tried their hardest to keep it a secret.
     Even though the film goes on forever, the run time doesn't become an issue due to the acting and the whole look of the film. How they managed to make this during a war is beyond me, but time wise it looks like they managed to get it complete before the allied invasion. Credit to both lead actors for both managing to look smouldering, I was going to say that Clara Calamai is very easy on the eye, but saying an Italian actress is attractive is like saying that water is wet, so why bother?
     I've never seen THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (either version), neither read the book by James Cain so the plot was all new to me, but then again Luchino Visconti hasn't read the book either, so I guess that's why James Cain gets no credit in the film. Probably just a huge coincidence.

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.

Our Lady of Lust a.k.a. Love of a Nympho (1972, Italy, Drama, Director: Sergio Bergonzelli)
Notable actors: Magda Konopka! Vassili Karis! Carla Mancini! Marco Guglielmi!

To: Nona Stronzo
Via Valpolicella 39
Nomentano
Rome

Dear Nona,

     You won't believe what happened to me the other day! I joined the Mile High Club! Is it right that you just do it in your seat, egged on by passengers? That's what me and Luca did, anyway. The air hostesses seemed mildly put out about, but all they did was put a blanket on us which just kind of fell off again. There was a guy playing a guitar and then I played a flute badly and then you won't believe what happened - the airplane started to plunge to the ground! The pilot was all like 'put your seatbelts on' which nobody did, then everyone was screaming and flying about the place and when I looked out the window it seemed like the plane was some really bad kid's toy being shaken about, but that might just have been panic setting in. I said there and then that if God save me I would devote my life to him - which he did!
     Long story short - the plane became stable again and we all laughed and celebrated and Luca looked all sad when I told him I was giving up the crazy hippy life to become a nun. Mum reacted even worse, but she's nothing but a wrinkly old whore anyway, ranting on about the gift that God gave me (she means my fanny) and this and that while wearing enough golden necklaces around her neck it looks like she's joined the Ndebele tribe over in Africa. She's a total pain the arse.
     Anyway, I'll write again from the convent. It's called The Church of Saint Rosalba Neri of the Engorged Erogenous Zones. I hope they have individual toilets because have you ever used the bog after an old lady's been in there? Blech!

Yours,
Cristiana.

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To: Nona Stronzo
Via Valpolicella 39
Nomentano
Rome

Dear Nona,

     I'm all holy and shit now, but celibacy sucks! I've only made love to Sister Eleonora three times today, and once with that hot painter guy who looks a lot like actor Vassili Karis (you know, the guy from SCALPS and GIALLO IN VENEZIA). He started giving me the eye the moment I started at the convent, but Sister Eleonora got in there first, using the old 'cycling-along-with-a-basket-of-apples-before-plunging-into-a-huge-puddle-and-saying-'Oh, your clothes are all wet, better take them off'-move. So one thing led to another and we've got it on a few times, and then me and the painter got it on while I was pulling the ropes in the bell tower when he showed up with a kind of 'I've got something better for you to pull' look in his eyes. Luckily, he was smart enough to tie the bell ropes around his ankles so he could ring the bells while ringing my bell.
     I'd didn't think that anyone noticed, but when I looked out the bell tower all the nuns were looking in my direction, but I guess there might have been a rare bird flying by.
     Oh, and I've also started masturbating in my sleep and dreaming of shagging Jesus! Catholicism rocks!

Yours, 
Cristiana

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To: Nona Stronzo
Via Valpolicella 39
Nomentano
Rome

Dear Nona,

     You know who showed up the other day? Luca! He's on the run now due to some botched jewellery robbery where a policeman was wounded or killed or something, so I've hidden him up in the bell tower. I was a bit preoccupied with toilet duties however, and I was wondering where he was going to poop, and he's all like 'don't sweat it' and I'm like 'what, are you going to go in the corner?' and he's like 'look- it's not a big deal' and I said 'because you can't just hang your arse out the side of the bell tower and let loose, because some nun is going to notice' and he's like 'just leave it' and I said 'because your not doing it in a box or something and leaving it for me to carry down to a toilet' and then he went in a huff. Men. Also when he called me at the convent I was like "AH LUCAAAAA!" at the top of my voice, then pretended that my mother was sick.
     Worst still, and you won't believe this, us novice nuns were marrying Jesus in a ceremony and it turns out that Sister Eleonora sneaked up into the tower to give Luca one. Despite me getting my rocks off with Eleonora, artist guy, and dream Jesus, I had a hissy fit and have now left the church. All men are bastards. Nuns too, all nuns are bastards. Jesuses too - all Jesuses are bastards. Is there more than one Jesus? I wasn't really listening during Jesus class.
     I think Luca got arrested, so he's probably having his shit pushed in right now, so he won't have to worry about where he poops for a while. 

Yours angrily,
Christian Bale or whatever the fuck my name is.

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To: Nona Stronzo
Via Valpolicella 39
Nomentano
Rome

Dear Nona,

     I've gone back to mum's house. You know how sometimes you kind of have the soundtrack to your life going on in your own head? For some reason I imagined, when approaching my mum's house, that a guy with brain damage should be screeching about how the devil has his claws in me while loads of geese scream in the background. Not sure why, but then again it was a crazy night - I ended up auctioning my fanny off to everyone attending the party, including the painter guy and a guy who looked a lot like actor Marco Guglielmi -you might know him from such films as BANDIDOS, HOW TO KILL A JUDGE and NICK THE STING. I hope next time I have to reference him I remember the name, because that took a lot of effort to get that correct.
     Then we all had an orgy so we had to air the place out a bit the next day. Not sure what else I've got planned - maybe I'll become a hooker or just go crazy and kill myself. The world is my oyster I guess.
     You never answer my letters, asshole.

Crisp N Dry

A Pair of Shoes Size 32 a.k.a. The Student Connection a.k.a. Someone Saw A Murder (1973, Spain/Italy, Giallo, Director: Rafael Romero Marchent)
Notable actors: Ray Milland! Sylvia Koscina!
Written by Luciano Ercoli of Death Walks On High Heels and Death Walks At Midnight fame (and producer of Whatever Happened To Baby Toto infamy. Fie! Fie on that film! Giallo my arse)
This film is Rated R - for Ray Milland Really Resembles Relatively Similar Acting Regular Jimmy Stewart! R!

In a nice twist on the old 'guess the killer' stick that we get with the gialli, in this film we get a bit of 'guess the witness' instead, but first we get to see a man in a neck brace who kind of looks like Sean Connery get off a flight at the airport, get into a car, and drive to somewhere nearby the airport, where he removes his neck brace, wig, moustache, eyebrows and contact lenses before the plane he was on explodes. Looking kind of smug, he heads to the boarding school where Ray Milland works and lives.
     Ray seems to have been the instigator of such actions, as he pays the fellow a rather large amount of money for killing someone called Andolini, but when the hitman reveals that an entire plane full of people have also died in the process, Ray goes nuts. The hitman tries to explain that the murder will be almost undetectable and the explosion blamed on terrorists (which has happened in real life a few times), but Ray's response is to bash the brains out of the guy using the most cumbersome ashtray in film history.
     Worse still for Ray, the audience has been made aware that some kid is wandering about in the dark, sneaking into the kitchen to get at a jar of pickles (and spattering his shoes in the process). The kid seemingly spots the murder through a very unwisely placed window above Ray's room which is on the kid's route between kitchen and dorm, and although Ray catches a glimpse of the kid, he has no idea who it is, and neither do we. All Ray knows is that the kid lost his shoes on the way back to the dorm, and the kid is a size thirty-two, and the shoes smell of pickle.
     We then get to find out why Ray wanted someone dead - it was so he could get into Silvia Koscina's grundies. She was the one who ordered Ray to arrange the hit, and it turns out her husband was the intended victim. Kind of awkward that Silvia has a kid at Ray's boarding school, but it gets funny for us as Ray seems to build his entire teaching curriculum around the possible witness to his murder.
     At first Ray checks to see if any kids are missing shoes, but the only one that is missing shoes is the kid in the infirmary with the broken leg, so the witness has stolen his. Ray then starts testing the kids. He makes every kid sit in a chair having their pulse monitored while Ray stares intently at them while crushing cigarette butts into the murder weapon/giant ashtray. He does word association with them in class about the words 'window' and 'ashtray', and then tests their memory by showing them a picture of the hitman (whom the police have identified by now) and asks them to recall details of his features.
     Funnier still, when Ray fixes on a kid, the film goes into giallo mode while he murders them - his first kill is a straightforward poisoning, but his second involves stalking a kid at a swimming pool, complete with black gloves. And the look on his face when he realises that the kid he's just killed is not the witness is pretty funny...
     Absurd premise aside, this is a pretty fun, if bloodless film. It's like an episode of COLUMBO where Columbo has forgotten to turn up. There are some nice giallo-style shots scattered about the film too, from Ray's shadow on the wall above the empty bed of a victim, to him walking backlit towards a kid. Some good music too, especially the funky music used during the overlong chase scene near the end.

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.

Passion Plantation a.k.a. Emmanuelle Black And White (1976, Italy, Drama?, Director: Mario Pinzauti)
Notable actors: Malisa Longo!

I've never seen MANDINGO (let alone a normal dingo), or even Mario Pinzauti's rip-off MANDINGA, but I ended up watching this one anyway as it was dubbed in English and I was feeling lazy.
     PASSION PLANTATION is garbage, of course, and like MANDINGO (from what I know about it), this is a film set on a cotton plantation that tries to mix exploitation elements with a serious message about racism. Plus, now that the world's gone mad, I'd imagine some folks out there who would be more uncomfortable with regards to the message about how we are all the same and should be equal and more comfortable with black folk being subjugated. It's not like me to get political - better get back to jokes about arses and balls and stuff. After all, the message of this film is that everyone's spunk is the same colour.
     Malisa Longo is a southern Belle with fur on her words and eyes for the slaves, but she's also insane, so every time she gets some off of one of her slaves, she goes nuts and calls for the help to break out the chains and whip those black guys good. She also doesn't think that her father is harsh enough on the slaves. After all, he only makes them work ten hours a day. Nevertheless, she has plans, and that is to get her lover Lawrence married into the family so she can take over. Or something.
     Lawrence at first is nearly as bad as Malisa, eyeing up the young lady slaves, acting like a dick, and boffing Malisa every chance he can get. His father is also a plantation owner and the marriage is approved, only something happens to Lawrence that changes everything. He gets bitten by a snake. Not on the balls like I hoped, but on the leg. When a pretty slave lady saves his from death by using a herbal remedy, Lawrence is transformed.
     Lawrence now believes that slavery should be abolished and falls in love with the girl that saved him. Trouble is that she belongs to Malisa and Malisa is as crazy as hell. In a case of 'well, that escalated quickly', Lawrence and Malisa have a lovers tiff over the slave, only for Malisa's henchmen beating the crap out of Lawrence and Lawrence shooting some of the help when they try and rape the slave girl. Was there even an audience for this kind of crap back then? There's also a sub-plot about two of Lawrence's henchmen forcing slaves on each other then having jealous slave lover types fight it out. Then Lawrence shoots them as well.
     Full of very crap simulated sex but not much nudity and sleaze, this film cannot even achieve the terrible goals it set for itself in the first place. Malisa Longo has never been much of an actress either, but you get to see her naked a lot if you are a fan. Lots of naked slave arses too for those who get off on that stuff, and judging by the 1.5 million views the film has on YouTube, someone out there likes gyrating slave butts. Haven't they heard of XHamster? That's where Fulci's THE DEVIL'S HONEY is hiding, by the way. Err...someone told me that.
     I'm truly scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Maybe I should just give in and start watching all those Italian spy films. They must be better than this.

Pig's World a.k.a. Dirty World (1978, Italy, Giallo, Director: Sergio Bergonzelli)
Notable actors: William Berger! Carlo De Mejo! Karin Well! Alida Valli! Arthur Kennedy!

Although listed as a crime/drama film, Pig World is pure old school giallo all the way. There's a huge villa where most of the action takes place. Every character is shady and may have multiple allegiances. There's a lot of money at stake. No one can trust anyone and as a result a lot of people turn up dead.
     Those familiar with IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH and BLOOD DELIRIUM will know that Bergonzelli is an off-kilter director who likes to pack his film full of plot twists, and this one is no exception. It starts off in a fairly Eurocrime style, with three junkies driving a car straight into a shop and robbing the place before heading back to their pad to shoot up some skag. These three, who include Manuela (Karin Well - the blonde from BURIAL GROUND: THE NIGHTS OF TERROR - and after watching this I can say she 'aint a natural blonde!) and two smug, gum chewing hippy types, one ginger, the other seemingly channelling David Hess, decide that petty robbing isn't for them any more and head for the big guns.
     The big gun in their sights is none other than William Berger, here playing a senator who claims he is out to rid the political system of corruption, something that doesn't please fellow politician Arthur Kennedy for reasons that become clear later. In public Berger may be the clean living fellow, but once he's done with work he picks up Manuela, who has complicated ties with Berger's family, and the two junkies to go back to Berger's house for drink, disco, and naked speeches from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Berger might be having a good time, but when he tries to give the ginger junky a chewie, he's photographed in the act by the other guy. That blackmail plan would have worked out if they didn't accidentally kill him straight after.
     Berger's son is Carlo De Mejo and it appears that the apple didn't fall far from the tree, as he returns home to find his dad dead and some people escaping. Firing wildly into the dark, he shoots Manuela in the shoulder while the others escape. It's here we find out that Manuela used to not only be Carlo's lover, but also his sister's lover, and Berger may have been murdered, but there's a huge life insurance policy with a natural cause clause attached to it, so it's handy that Carlo's sister Nadia is a doctor, eh? Can you believe all this happens in the first twenty minutes or so of this film?
     What follows is a full throttle dive into cover-ups, blackmail (from all angles), political back-stabbings, sneaky journalism, mind games, back room bargaining, murder, and even a little bit of Gothic thrown in for good measure as Carlo, Nadia, and the ever-changing allegiance of Manuela also have to put up with Berger's shady housekeeper Alida Valli (who does a good turn here). There's also Kennedy's role in all this and his hired goons who do his dirty work. It seems that in this world no one has a clear conscience and it's a case of the most ruthless being the survivor.
     As well as cramming as much plot into the film as possible, Bergonzelli also throws in almost subliminal split-second editing, trippy visuals, and even a self-referential film about the events of the film where he reveals how he gets that prism-like LSD shot. Now that's attention to detail. This is one film that could really do with being cleaned up, subtitled, and sold to the public.
     There seems to be some sort of message in this one about how people turn their eyes away from the bad things that happen in the world, but I was too taken aback by William Berger doing a full frontal. Better tick that one off my bucket list now.

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.

Predators of the Antilles a.k.a. Sexy Pirates (1999, Italy, Adventure, Director: Joe D'Amato)
Notable actors: Anita Rinaldi's famous in the porn industry.

Why on earth Joe D'Amato would, after filming twenty-three porn films in 1998 and a further four porno film in 1999, suddenly decide to go and direct an almost straight ahead swashbuckler is beyond me. I can only imagine there was an admin error somewhere, and when Joe turned up on set to find people dressed as pirates and a goddam ship docked outside, he'd have said "No, when I said I wanted Anita Rinaldi and semen, I meant-"
     Terrible jokes aside, it's weird that he'd tried to revive the swashbuckler genre because let's face it, no one liked it the first time around. I know late in the Italian film industry there were attempts to revive interest in certain genres, like the Spaghetti Western (JONATHAN OF THE BEARS - great film), and Eurocrime (FIRST ACTION HERO - great film), but this is a bit of stretch. It's his last film, but it's not like he knew he was going to die and did a David Bowie on us with one last cryptic send-off. It's just a crappy pirate film.
     Thankfully, the English dub is hilarious! It seems they blew the budget on set, authentic ships and costumes, and locations, and then realised they didn't have enough money to get in a proper dubbing team, electing instead to hire a local amateur dramatics troupe. This gives us side-splitting accents for most of the the characters, including one that sounds like Mick Jagger, terrible imitations of Chinese people, and foley effects that seem to have been thrown together in someone's kitchen. You don't get to hear swords clashing so much as someone rubbing some cutlery together.
     The plot at first resembles a very famous film indeed. On his way to Jamaica to forge an alliance with the French against the Spanish, Lord Hamilton's ship is boarded by sneaky pirates (who all shout "Aaarrr" and "Pieces of Eight!" while they fight!), killing the crew and taking Lord Hamilton prisoner. Back home, Lady Hamilton can't get any help from the King, so she goes to a bar full of freaks to pick up a cocky pirate by the name of Hans Solo I mean Thomas Butler, the 'gentleman pirate' who, when he remembers, has a Scottish accent. The film then turns into THE DIRTY DOZEN, as Lady Hamilton also recruits a merchant, a giant bodyguard, a fat knife thrower, a sharpshooter and a martial arts expert...all nearly at random and within a three foot radius, it seems.
     This takes up most of the film by the way, but eventually Lady Hamilton (Anita Rinaldi, of porn films such as SEYMORE BUTTS: MY TRAVELS WITH THE TRAMP) head off to Jamaica to rescue her husband. There's a few fights in there, a bit of double-crossing, flirting with cast members, that kind of shit. It's not the greatest to be honest. Don't watch it. Why don't we see if Joe D'Amato has any funny film titles in his porn filmography instead? That'll pass the time.
     Let's see. Not much that's funny, but it looks like old Joe tried to revive many a defunct genre, in porn form! There's the Western/Porno films CALAMITY JANE 2 and JOE D'AMATO'S OUTLAWS, the Peplum/Porn films SAMSON IN AMAZON LAND and HERCULES: A SEX ADVENTURE, and the gangster films GANGLAND BANGERS and COP SUCKER. There might be post-apocalyptic porn in there, but I can't be bothered checking. (As huge of a fan that I am of Joe D'Amato, don't expect me to find images to any of his porn films. Even I have my limits! - Fred)

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.

The Return of Ringo (1965, Italy/Spain, Western, Director: Duccio Tessari)
Notable actors: Giuliano Gemma! Nieves Navarro! Fernando Sancho! Antonio Casas! George Martin! Duccio Tessari! Fernando De Leo! Lorella De Luca!

"A man who is afraid dies every day. A man who is never afraid dies only once."

For years I've been looking for a Duccio Tessari film that compares with the inspired inventiveness of TONY ARZENTA. Some were good, like THE BASTARD or PUZZLE, but some were hard going, like ALIVE OR PREFERABLY DEAD or especially ONE HUNDRETH OF A SECOND, but none matched the visual style and emotionally charged atmosphere of the mope-tastic ARZENTA. THE RETURN OF RINGO more than matches that film, I think it might be even better.
     Based loosely upon Homer's The Odyssey, Giuliano Gemma plays Montgomery Brown, a Union Officer returning home after the Civil War. Stopping off at a local tavern for a drink, he notices that the barman, a good friend of his, is pretending not to know him, probably due to the mean-looking Mexican duo sitting in the corner of the bar. A gunfight ensues (not much of one, as Gemma drops the two bad guys really quickly), and then he finds out what's really going on in town: gold was discovered, two Mexican brothers have ridden over the border to claim it, declaring the land and the town as Mexican land, and his wife is now engaged to one of the brothers.
     Gemma doesn't take this news too well and turns to booze instead, something he is prone to doing throughout the film. With his whole life stolen from him and an army of murderous Mexican practically surrounding his wife, he decides to go undercover and try and figure out how to get his wife back, so he dyes his skin (!) and hair and goes into town as a drifter, which is quite handy as the brothers have just bribed a Union soldier into declaring that Montgomery Brown has died so one of them can marry his wife!
     Never mind the plot though, it's how this film is put together is what makes it magical. THE RETURN OF RINGO is gorgeous to look at. When you think of Spaghetti Westerns you think of sand, barren landscapes, sweaty men in torn clothing. Here it's a wonderful world of pastel colours and bright clothing, the former of which is brought to screen by the use of flowers, which are every in town thanks to Gemma's sidekick Morning Glory, who lies in a house full of weird gadgets and plants. Nieves Navarro is drop dead gorgeous in this film and struts about in loads of loud, garish costumes. Even Fernando Sancho, usually chewing on a chicken's leg, lives in a house where even the crockery is multi-coloured. Add to that the method of filming people with colourful objects in front of them and primary colours behind them, and you've got a Spaghetti Western that's punching well above its weight.
     Then there's all the little tricks and techniques Tessari throws in there, like filming people through objects (just like Enzo Castellari), or throwing in an unbroken long take at the bad guy's villa, panning around a dining table as Nievess Navarro sings a Mariachi song in the background, starting with her and featuring most of the cast. You get the feeling that Tessari was really into pushing himself with this one, as the film is full of tiny details that give the film a sense that its deeper than it might actually be, with Gemma's facial twitch and Antonio Casas' bizarre method of overcoming his shakes while drinking whiskey.
     The cast do well, too - Nievess Navarro as the fortune reading whore and part-time lover of Fernando Sancho, Mexican tyrant and brother to the more serious, knife-throwing George Martin, who is determined to marry Gemma's wife Lorella De Luca, backed up by sad-eyed, redundant sheriff Antonio Casas (from the SOUND OF HORROR). Manuel Muniz (from the KILLER OF DOLLS), and even Duccio Tessari and screenwriter Fernando De Leo as hired goons!
     Like someone shaving a truffle over what would have been an already tasty meal, Ennio Morricone's soundtrack just seals the deal on THE RETURN OF RINGO being one of the true classic Spaghetti Westerns. Bombastic and emotional, it does what a Morricone soundtrack does best - marries well with what's happening on screen and adds extra emotional depth. The scene where Gemma's wife discovers that her husband isn't dead is one of the more powerful scenes in the genre, and not a word is said.
     I was blown away with this one, but the best endorsement I can give it is that even though there's not a great deal of action in the first hour, my ten year old son sat and watched the entire thing.

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.

Run, Psycho, Run a.k.a. Later, Claire, Later (1968, Italy, Giallo, Director: Brunello Rondi)
Notable actors: Georges Riviere! Rossella Falk! Marina Malfatti! Janine Reynaud! Michel Lemoine!

After watching this film I've subsequently read, on Wikipedia, that Brunello Rondi didn't really set out to make a giallo at all, and only wanted to use a murder as the set-up to cast a light on how horrible and awful the rich and privileged are. He did get that bit right - the people in this film do come across as a bunch of self-serving assholes. Could have done with a bit more than that though.
     RUN, PSYCHO, RUN is part giallo, part Gothic, and part soap opera, all exclusively set in and around a huge villa owned by George Dennison, who lives there with his wife Claire, his young son Robert, George's sister Eveline, George's mother, George's niece, played by a young Marina Malfatti, a seemingly live-in doctor called Boyd, a nosy priest, and a whole load of hired staff who all love to spy on each other and eavesdrop. That's a lot of characters, and sometimes just about every one of them appears on screen at the same time.
     When we first meet Claire she's watching Robert playing tennis with coach Michel Lemoine (from Jess Franco's pile of horse vomit SUCCUBUS). Michel tries to put the moves on her, but she's having none of it, preferring instead to go back to the house and have an argument with her sister-in-law Eveline, who is staying at the house and basically mooching off of her brother George. That evening, everyone gathers together to listen to young Robert play a Bach piano concerto (and make bitchy comments about it). Claire, who seems reluctant to mingle amongst these snide guests, instead spies on them from another room. Once Robert is finished, she spirits him away upstairs, preferring to watch him fall asleep rather than talk to George's family. Then again, she needn't worry about that anymore when someone kills her and Robert dies falling down a flight of stairs.
     One year later and the family, none of whom seem to work and mostly spend their day lounging around, are talking about George's new girlfriend, Anna, mainly because Anna is the spitting image of Claire (another Gothic trait there). Anna also has a young son about Robert's age by the name of Charlie, who has taken to hanging around with a crazy lady who lives on the grounds who was formerly Claire's best friend. Naturally, every single other person in the villa thinks it's not a hugely sensible idea for George to hang around with someone who looks exactly like his wife, and they don't hold back about it either. In one of many scenes involving most of the cast, Eveline calls Anna a slut and Charlie a bastard, then the mother has a go at her too, and her George's niece, and then the priest. The only person supporting George and his plans to marry his wife's doppelganger is Boyd (George Riviere). It could be, however, that Boyd is greatly fearful for his friend's mental health, and is putting his own plans into action...
     Oh, and Boyd is sleeping with one of the maids who is sleeping with the butler too and Malfatti is sleeping with Michel Lemoine and Janine Reynaud (from Jess Franco's abomination from the devil's anus SUCCUBUS) just kind of hangs around smoking and making catty comments about things. Plus it turns out that George and even Anna have their own agendas too, so it's hard to keep tabs on these things. It does come as a relief that some Gothic elements starting appearing too, like someone playing the organ in the middle of the night, and someone pretending to be Claire playing tennis. This would all be much better if the film actually headed in a good direction, but it just kind of fizzles out into a 'is that it?' kind of ending.
     I'm guessing that Rondi is making some sort of statement that upper classes will never accept one of the lower classes into their fold, maybe, or that the upper classes can basically get away with whatever they want to and can manipulate the truth into whatever reflects their own personal vision. Or maybe he just couldn't think of a good ending, because a decent pay off would have been sweet with all that build-up. Some nice camerawork and a good soundtrack ease the pain a bit however, and it's not as bad as his later giallo YOUR HANDS ON MY BODY, and nowhere near as good as the classic THE DEMON.
     In conclusion, Jess Franco's SUCCUBUS is fucking terrible.

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.

The Salamander (1981, UK/Italy, Eurocrime, Director: Peter Zinner)
Notable actors: Franco Nero! Anthony Quinn! Martin Balsam! Sybil Danning! Christopher Lee! Cleavon Little! Paul L. Smith! John Steiner! Claudia Cardinale! Eli Wallach! Renzo Palmer! Anita Strinberg! Marino Mase (as a corpse)! Jacques Herlin! Tom Felleghey! Nello Pazzafini! I should have just cut and pasted all that from the IMDb.

Political hi-jinks in Italy with Franco Nero taking on seemingly everyone to stop an upcoming coup-de-tat by the Fascists. When a high-ranking General dies, word on the street is he died of a heart attack, but the truth is he received a bullet to the temple courtesy of a mysterious killer known as The Salamander, a killer who is known in the past to go after Nazis on the run.
     I could spend hours detailing the plot here, but let's just say that the death of the general starts the wheels rolling on a coup-de-tat led by new general Eli Wallach, who has far-reaching ties with the fascist underground movement that is stirring into life. It seems that every witness and every person who can expose the conspiracy ends up dead, mostly at the hands of giant torturer Paul L Smith, who is so confident in their success he throws one victim through a window right in front of Franco.
     The film basically details Franco going from place to place trying to find evidence while constantly nearly getting killed or double-crossed as the masses of billed stars parade across the screen. I wish both sinister Christopher Lee and Eli Wallach had more screen time, but I'm not complaining when we get Martin Balsam as an Italian Jew recounting how buying cigars resulted in him escaping the rounding up of all the folk in the Jewish Ghetto during the Second World War (an act you can watch in the heart-breaking Carlo Lizzani film GOLD OF ROME). Like he did in CONFESSIONS OF A POLICE CAPTAIN, Balsam acts Franco Nero off the screen, although the two of them interact brilliantly, as they did in the aforementioned film.
     Other folks showing face is the suave Anthony Quinn as a partisan turned big-shot businessman who may or may not be helpful to Franco, John Steiner as an army sub-ordinate loyal to Eli Wallach and even more loyal to Wallach's wife, Claudia Cardinale, who isn't in this much but is fascinating to watch as a more sinister character than usual, and Nello Pazzafini as Quinn's bodyguard who gets a lot more screen time than usual.
     That's all by the by, however, because the big event in this film is when Paul L Smith and Franco Nero go up against each other in battle which becomes far more homo-erotic than intended and also quite funny, all because Nero is wearing nothing but a jockstrap and jumps on Smith's back in slow motion, like a hairy short-arsed sumo wrestler is trying to bang a giant scientist. Truly bizarre and not the first time Nero's arse has made an appearance. Some may recall the inexplicable "naked shaving in front of a kid" scene from REDNECK. Maybe he has it written in his contract.
     I enjoyed this one but I've got to admit I'd have preferred a more action-packed finale than the Agatha Christie-like reveal we get. I'm not sure this one slipped by me all this time, but then again, Franco Nero is one prolific actor, and there's still loads of his 230+ filmography I have to track down. And I'm tired! Tired!

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.

Sangraal The Sword of Fire a.k.a. The Sword Of The Barbarians (1982, Italy, Fantasy, Director: Michele Massimo Tarantini)
Notable actors: Pietro Torrisi! Hal Yamanouchi! Luciano Rossi! Sabrina Siani!

Before we discover that Sangraal isn't the sharpest guy in the world, even by Italian CONAN rip-off standards, we get a four and half minute narrative as to why Sangraal becomes Sangraal. Problem is, the version I watched online was extremely muffled and at the same time one of my kids was using an electric toothbrush so I only caught the gist of it. Some guy called Nantuk, possibly on the orders of some Goddess, raided a village and killed all the people in it, including Sangraal's father Ator. An old lady gets away with baby Sangraal and he grows up to be strong, imposing Pietro Torrisi (who has rather a lot of uncredited roles in films such as Fulci's traumatising children's film THE RETURN OF WHITE FANG and THE BOSS).
     What Sangraal has in muscle mass and strength he lacks in basic cognitive powers and intuition. Somehow he has become leader of his people, and leads them across the land looking for good fertile soil and water. They keep wandering as people start croaking left and right (says the unceasing narrator) and even though one guy finds a good water source in a land free of danger, good old Stephen "Sangraal" Hawking over here reckons that's not the land God wants them to have, and that they should exercise their divine right on that land over there. You know, the one marked with crosses with corpses on them, upon which a battle is already happening. And you know what? Sangraal kicks over them crosses, randomly picks a side in the fight, and piles in for a good old battle.
     Miraculously, Sangraal picks the right side, and these people live humbly in a village ruled by Luciano Rossi of all people, giving off a huge Charlton Heston as Moses vibe. His daughter starts giving Sangraal the eye, but Sangraal is already married. Still, when Nantuk's people muster themselves to attack the village again, Sangraal's wife finds time to start giving the daughter some major attitude. Using his massive brain power, Sangraal reckons that if he flanks these guys using only four people, they should get the drop on that massive army approaching the village.
     You'd be surprised to know that doesn't go well, and instead Nantuk crucifies Sangraal above his village and makes him watch as everyone is slaughtered below, giving us two village massacres in the first twenty minutes of this film, which isn't bad going really. Naturally, Nantuk is rather put out to find that Sangraal has been rescued by wandering guy Hal Yamanouchi (from THE LAST HUNTER and ZOOLANDER 2 [?]) and Luciano Rossi's daughter, Ati. More annoyed is the Goddess Nantuk worships who cannot stress enough how important it is that Sangraal die, and rather soon if you don't mind, there's a good chap.
     It's around this time that Hal reckons Sangraal should head up a hill and talk to some disco guy hiding in some fog to go on a couple of fetch quests to pad out the film a bit, so basically the rest of the film features Sangraal, Hal and Ati wandering the land taking on all sorts of bad guys, like the monkey cavemen, or the frog cavemen who splatter blood everywhere when they die (don't get excited - this only happens twice).
This is all pretty entertaining for those into these kind of films, as the action is relentless, the toplessness plentiful, and the film even gory in places, with arms being cut off and guts being exposed. Even though the film is cheap, the ambition is high, from inventive camerawork to a bombastic soundtrack that recalls EXCALIBUR, the shoutiest film ever made.* It worked for me.

*Sample dialogue from EXCALIBUR:
     "I WILL NOT...SWEAR FAITH TO A SQUIRE!"
     "NO ONE WILL WIELD EXCALIBUR BUT MEEEEEEEEEeeee!"
     "The King without a sword. THE LAND WITHOUT A KING! AARRGGGGHH! ARRRRGH!....(in the distance) AAAARGGGGGH!"

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. 

Satanik (1968, Italy, Eurocrime/Fantasy, Director: Piero Vivarelli)
Notable actors: Magda Konopka! Umberto Raho! Carla Mancini (didn't spot her)! Fulvio Mingozzi (for a micro-second)! Tom Felleghy! Giancarlo Prete!

This is a hard one to pin down, genre wise, but it's best to look at it as some sort of permeation on Mario Bava's DANGER: DIABOLIK film, with the central character being a criminal. However, where Bava's film was full of strange sets and groovy gadgets, SATANIK leans more towards Eurocrime and feels like a Eurospy film, even though the closest it comes to that genre is the suspiciously James Bond theme-sounding soundtrack.
     In fact, SATANIK starts out almost in horror territory, with scarred (or diseased?) scientist Marnie Bannister (played by Magda Konopka from A SKY FULL OF STARS FOR A ROOF and the so-so Giallo REFLECTIONS IN BLACK) heading to the laboratory to find that her boss has perfected a serum that reverses age. He's tried it out on an old dog, and now has a bouncy young puppy instead (albeit an aggressive one). Speaking of aggressive ones, Marnie isn't too happy that the professor won't try out the serum on her, so she stabs him to death and steals the sample, which turns her into a swinging Sixties chick with the mascara and the lipstick and the wig (if you're having to ask why a serum provides such aesthetic bonuses to the de-aging process, then Italian cinema is going to be problematic for you in the old realism stakes).
     Young Marnie, flush with youth and sexy legs, heads off to sniff out trouble. The security guard at the lab reports seeing her flee the murder scene, but the two cops involved take some time to put two and two together, only figuring things out after Marnie has murder high-flying gangster Umberto Raho (who gets a fair bit of screen time here). It's also around this time that Marnie realises that the effects of the serum are temporary, and heads back to the lab to cook up some more. You'd think she would have done that in the first place, and she also only cooks up two more batches, so I guess she was planning to return later to cook up even more...at a place where she murders someone every time she's there.
     The plot kind of stumbles along into the old crime genre where Marnie plans a heist by stealing the identity of a girl she murders and heading off to Geneva, but basically the plot is an excuse for the film to wallow in Sixties excesses - especially fashion. Actress Magda Konopka goes through a LOT of dress changes in this film, many of them of the Paisley pattern and mini-skirt variety. As for the costume she wears on the promotional posters for this one, that only turns up in one scene, where she does a very slow striptease. The second one of the film. So that's two very slow stripteases you have to sit through.
     I guess SATANIK was never meant to be digested in any other form but that of a film to be enjoyed and forgotten about. There's not much to give it classic status, but then there's not much to get offended about if you like Italian genre films. This is the first film I've watched that's directed by Piero Vivarelli. Looking at the IMDB, the only other film of his that looks interesting is something called THE SERPENT GOD.

The Seed Of Man (1969, Italy, Drama/Sci-fi?, Director: Marco Ferreri)
Notable actors: Rada Rassimov, for a little while. Annie Girardot, for slightly longer!

This is going to be hard to relate to in our day and age, but SEED OF MAN's plot involves a terrible plague engulfing the world, and a young couple who have to isolate themselves away from the rest of the human race until things calm down again. Then they make a bunch of annoying Tik Tok videos with them singing uplifting songs that makes me want to fucking throw up.
     No, no, they don't do that. I'll start again. Cino and Dora are just a regular pair of annoying hippy types travelling around while the news burbles away in the background about a plague. Like most young folks, they don't really think it's their problem to deal with, and they just kind of get on with being annoying, and hippy like, but everything changes when they are forced to confront the disease in real life. They drive into a tunnel listening to upbeat music, but when they emerge, all they can hear on the radio is incoherent shortwave broadcasts, plus the first thing they encounter is a school bus full of dead children. Shortly afterwards, they are arrested by the military for buying far too much toilet roll. No, wait.
     In a huge dome where a doctor is trying to revive a bloodied woman lying next to an even bloodier child, they are questioned, given a pill that will protect them from disease, and then sent out into the world to find an abandoned building to hide out in. Finding just such a building on a beach, with the director playing a corpse in a chair just outside of it. The two kids settle in and listen to the demise of the earth via radio, where the authorities are trying to rescue the Pope from a destroyed Vatican. Following this, all contact with the outside ceases.
     Two people stuck in a house together for ages, with no contact with other human beings sounds like a boring film, but now we've all been trapped in our house for some time, I was positively jealous by what Cino and Dora get up to. Cino turns the lower level of the house into a museum of human artifacts. Dora takes up vegetable growing. A huge whale washes up on the beach. Some people turn up wearing facemasks and make the couple sign a contract agreeing to procreate to help bring back the human race, but then again that's where the trouble starts too.
     As I've been homeschooling two kids since October, I really don't have the brain capacity to dig out all the metaphors and imagery of this film, but I did find it extremely enjoyable just to watch (and it's there on YouTube, without subtitles, but then this is not a dialogue heavy film). Cino and Dora are a pretty likeable couple, even if Cino becomes more and more feral as the film goes on (definitely something to read into that I'd say). Also, for a film leaning towards the arty, the whole plague set up and aftermath is done pretty well on a low budget, and believe it or not, there's even a bit of gore and cannibalism in this one.
     The whale was a pretty clever move too - using it decaying to show the passage of time. The ending was completely random and came out of nowhere, mind. I guess it probably meant something, but I'm going to be honest, if I review any more Marco Ferreri films (like TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS or THE LAST WOMAN), I'm probably not going to offer any new insight. Looking at the IMDb however, people seem to love his films.
     No zombie films though?

Sex Crime a.k.a. Killing of the Flesh (1983, Italy, Giallo, Director: Cesare Canevari)
Notable actors: Marc Porel!

Samples of dialogue from this film:
     "Well, we're here for my Uncle's funeral. Seems like we have a few hours to waste. Let's pass the time by having sex! Oh! Oh! Right there! Don't stop! Ride Me Sideways, you big bastard!"
     "Hi, we're lesbians, and therefore will spend the next ten minutes pouring oil over each other in a bath. Uh, that's it! Get it all over them and rub it in. Now let's do you."
     "Ooooh! Slap me with that mackerel. Slap me with it, right on my ass. SLAP THAT MACKEREL ON MY ASS RIGHT NOW. Slap it on my big black ass, even though I'm not black, and that ain't my ass! Do it and say my name, but when you say my name I want you to say it like you are Nelson Mandela. Slap my non-black black non-ass ass with that fish and sound like late South African President Nelson Mandela. What's weird about that?"
     "Isn't this supposed to be a giallo? SPROING!"
     "Pop me the shocker! Ooof! Yeah! That's right - get another one up there! FRING!"
     "Oh no! Someone has been murdered! Death turns me on - do me on the corpse!"
     "Oh no! There's only twenty minutes of the film left - should we try and find out who the killer is or do you want a soapy tit wank? That's what I thought."
     "Maybe the killer is hiding up my arse - better have a look."
     "Has anyone seen my testicles? They seem to have fallen off."

Shadows (Ombre) (1980, Italy, Giallo?, Director: Giorgio Cavedon)
Notable actors: Monica Guerritore! Lou Castel! Laura Belli! Auretta Gay!

This director Giorgio Cavedon's only proper film and I'm not going to lie to you - it's a very slow moving drama with a light horror tinge.
     Rather a lot of the film involves Lou Castel standing around, staring at things and being sad and if he's not standing around being sad, lead character Monica is pretty much doing the same. There's a cat involved too, and it likes to stare at people.
     The barely there story starts with Lou Castel wandering around some Italian town, trying to work up the courage to kill himself. Why he's doing this isn't immediately apparent, but we do know it's got something to do with a girl called Monica. This Monica in question, via flashback, is pretty enigmatic herself, as we see her move into a strange old attic room that used to be occupied by an even stranger old man...
     Monica also gets to meet Castel and the two of them eventually hit it off, but Monica's weird past (possibly literally) comes back to haunt her, and various characters are sent off on miserable trajectories before the downbeat ending to an already pretty downbeat film.
     Strange one, this. Almost nothing happens for its entire running time, but some of the imagery and especially the soundtrack is good. There's a tarot motive throughout the film and various elements that are left for the viewer to figure out (like the little girl also called Monica). Not that I figured out any of it.
     Lou Castel seems to revel in these kind of films for some reason, although I've never been able to track down the interesting sounding FISTS IN THE POCKET (hint to YouTube uploaders). His weird dancing in the disco did raise a chuckle.

Shame on You, Swine! a.k.a. Dirty Angels (1969, Italy, Giallo, Director: Mauro Severino)
Notable actors: Roberto Bisacco! Lino Capolicchio!

Your enjoyment of this one depends on how tolerant you are to endless discussion and the perennial problem of the bored privileged few and their dealings with those who aspire to such languished ennui. Man, I think I may have won an award for the amount of bollocks written in one sentence!
     The events in this film revolve around the death of a man during a typical late-sixties threesome (a foul olfactory assault, no doubt), while a rich kid (Roberto Bisacco) knocks one out from the side lines. Like all sexual interactions that result in the pretty innocent death of one of the participants, the trio who didn't die panic and therefore decide the best way forward is to get rid of the body and continue their lives as normal. This means that Roberto joins his father's business, pervy Lea renounces her sexual proclivities to become a teacher (which she doesn't do, but marries into money instead), and the other guy does something else that I'd tell you about, but I wasn't paying much attention at that point!
     I'll be honest - after the guy dies at the start of the film, not much happens, except for Robert receiving a blackmail notice that request that they leave four million lire next to some beehives in the middle of nowhere. The trio muse on who may be blackmailing them, and this kind of drags on a bit until they decide that old friend Carletto may be the one demanding money and doing all those weird phone calls that people keep answering instead of ignoring.
     Carletto, who still lives in the same apartment where the guy died, is the only one who hasn't moved on in life. He's drifted instead into the extreme politics of Italy's 'Years of Lead', becoming a revolutionary artist. The trio being blackmailed therefore lure him into their world of the rich, mainly exploiting his unrequited love for Lea. While they play mind games with Carletto, the blackmailer continues to play mind games with them, but have they really got the right guy?
     Almost chronically talky for the first hour, SHAME ON YOU, SWINE does develop into something that holds your interest, mainly due to the mystery of who is blackmailer versus the shock of Carletto being submerged into a word of middle class excesses. Plus, as the film goes on it gets progressively more experimental in approach, as if Carletto's confusion in the world he has previously been denied has partly unhinged his mind. This, coupled with Ennio Morricone's playground chant soundtrack, practically saves the film from being terminally boring.
     It's not the greatest film either, but director Mauro Severino manages to produce something that at least has something going for it. It's on the Giallo Realm channel on YouTube, but if you want to watch it you better be quick as that channel gets deleted roughly every fifteen minutes or so.

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.

Special Killers a.k.a. The Woman of Condotti Street (1974, Italy/Spain/France, Eurocrime, Director: German Lorente)
Notable actors: Frederick Stafford! Femi Benussi! Alberto De Mendoza! Michel Constantin! Patty Shephard! Guiseppe Castellano! Simon Andreu!

It just drags on forever this one, and I can't quite put my finger on why that is. SPECIAL KILLERS is one of those hybrid films that merges the giallo and Eurocrime genres together, forming something that should be good, but what comes across instead like a soap opera with a couple of murders thrown in.
     The film starts off well enough, with private investigator Frederick Stafford (of EAGLES OVER LONDON) despairing at the antics of his alcoholic, neurotic wife Patty Shephard, who just lies around in bed all day, getting drunk and doing that derisive cackle that spouses in Euro films seem to reserve for their other half. Stafford rebuffs her advances, and Shephard, Spain's version of Barbara Steele (they look like they could be sisters!), threatens to take on a lover, prompting a seventies slap in the face from Stafford, who flounces off to hang around with a young lady who I think is either an ex-girlfriend or a colleague who fancies him. I'm not sure.
     Meanwhile, Shephard (of rare giallo THE GLASS CEILING and CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD, a film that only I seem to enjoy) has taken on a lover as threatened. What she didn't expect was for the guy to just flat out strangle her, which leads to a freeze frame of her face as the credits play along to some funky music, featuring a guitar solo! When Stafford arrives home, he doesn't seem to have the acting chops to act bereaved enough, but he does find a photograph on the floor of the room that prompts a lame giallo plot, so I guess that counts as a win. The murder also gets actor Michel Constantin involved here as the investigating cop, but Constantin the actor looks like he can't be arsed making an effort here, so don't get too excited.
     Stafford's lady friend recognises a girl in the background of the picture as Femi Benussi, a stripper turned socialite who has opened a boutique based on her stripper earnings and financial contributions from her lawyer boyfriend Alberto De Mendoza (no doubt most famous for being the priest in HORROR EXPRESS, and probably not from the rubber plant slavery film MANAOS). Femi fans will delight in the striptease scenes, but plot fans will despair as somehow Femi knows who the guy in the photograph is, but won't say who it is, but then embarks on an affair with Stafford anyway, and gets involved in some mystery man who shoots someone randomly, which effects her sex life with De Mendoza, which prompts him to hire Stafford to find out why Femi won't get it on anymore, which the sends Stafford off on some hunt for some guy who the police are also looking for, which prompts Femi to accuse an innocent man who then turns insane, which leads to more arguing and now and again, some action.
     There are punch ups and car chases and gunfights and such like in this film, all set to a rather funky soundtrack (my ten-year-old son remarked that it was good, as the funk is strong in him), but it all kind of doesn't register. There's plenty of nudity from Femi Benussi so I guess fans of her will like that, but the whole film is rather flat and rote, which is probably why it's so obscure. Look out for Guiseppe Castellano (from the interesting sounding MY WIFE IS A WITCH) and Simon Andreu as other actors who turn in the film playing certain characters.

Spectrum (Beyond The World's End) (1978, Spain, Sci-Fi, Director: Manuel Esteba)
Notable actors: Eduardo Fujardo! Daniel 'Jose Martinez Martinez' Martin! Victor Israel!

Biblical references abound as Eduardo Fujardo and Daniel Martin (from HIGH CRIME) play scientific brothers who go underground to live in a cave for three months and conduct experiments while being monitored by a team above ground. In the cave, it seems that there's a bit of sibling rivalry going on as Fujardo is the more successful of the two, and the more pragmatic, at least on the surface, whereas Martin is less repressed and seemingly more gentle. The expedition is well publicised and even televised, watched by a strange woman who smiles to herself.
     Fraternal tension is nothing to what's happening outside the cave, as while some of the team are in town getting it on with the locals or boozing, some cataclysm occurs. The first that the boys underground learn of it is when they can raise anyone on their walkie-talkies, so they head up to find the landscape looking rather bizarre, the sun fixed in one point in the sky, and the one member of the team on site dead, with his eyes turned into crystal.
     Trudging across the landscape, the boys find what they think is a fisherman standing over his boat, but when they touch him, he just topples over dead, with the same crystallised eyes. It seems that the Earth has suffered from some catastrophic event involving the electromagnetic spectrum and the Earth is now somehow moving away from the sun, which would explain why Spain has gotten much, much colder than before. A trip to town reveals that no one has escaped death, as in the bar their friend was drinking in is now full of frozen corpses with weird eyes. Hats off to Victor Israel here as the barman, as he's got to stand completely still in the background for a very long time. That would be genuinely hard to do.
     In what these guys think is a stroke of luck, they find the team's jeep parked outside of someone's house. Martin elects to go in first and finds the last team mate lying naked with a lover, both quite dead. He hears someone coming in and hides in the shadows, only to see Fujardo come in and stroke the dead girl's breast before catching himself and leaving. Disturbed, Martin finds the jeeps keys but the car is dead, as well as all other cars. Things are looking bleak for these two guys, and tempers are starting to fray too. Luckily, it turns out that there might be another survivor - the lady who was watching them at the start of the film...
     That's enough plot. This film isn't exactly action-packed, but it was interesting enough and had a pretty creepy atmosphere. Eduardo Fujardo, once again, manages to elevate what could have been mediocre material with a pretty good performance as a man barely holding it together, and barely holding his baser instincts in check, which is one of the themes of the film that's explored in the latter half. The version I watched was only 76 minutes long, and I believe there might be longer version out there on DVD maybe. This might also be one of those 'lost' films that was recently found, but I've got beer to drink so fact checking is not a priority.
     For those who watch it and think it's crap, watch it to the end at least, because I found the ending to be particularly freaky and downright weird. Maybe I've got no taste though, because I rooted around some Spanish film sites and the general consensus was that they didn't like it.

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.

Stranger...Make the Sign of the Cross! (1968, Italy, Western, Director: Demofilo Fidani)
Notable actors: Jeff Cameron! Ettore Manni! Fabio Testi and...Joe D'Amato???

Folks always seem to give Demofilo Fidani a hard time, calling him the Ed Wood of Spaghetti Westerns, pointing out anachronisms in his films, driving up to his house and shoving dog shit through his letterbox. He's definitely not on the same level as Ed Wood, although I do recall seeing a van driving about in one of his films (can't remember which one though).
     To be honest, I do like it when directors of genre films change things up a bit, especially when it comes to Westerns and Martial Arts films (give me a hilarious Godfrey Ho film over any generic kung fu film), so I quite like that Fidani decided to insert a few head-scratching moments into this film. Strangest of all being director Joe D'Amato taking part in a bizarre egg-shooting contest, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.
     The film starts with a whole load of bad guys heading into town to rob a bank - including Fabio Testi in his second feature. Three of these guys, led by Carson, go into a bank under the pretence of depositing money but rob it instead. Carson get angry that one of his guys just put a cushion over a screaming woman's face and shot her, but then as they escape town loads of people, including three kids, get killed, so maybe Carson was mad that the guy ruined a perfectly good cushion?
     Carson's taken a slug to the neck during the shootout and heads off to hid near White City, where his brother Donavon is in charge and has his own gang. It is in White City that our mysterious stranger arrives, carrying a photograph of a young lady. Our stranger, also known as Frank, heads into the local bar for a beer where most of Donavon's gang are hanging out, as well as local, crippled drunk Ettore Manni and local hooker Trudy. There's also a "What the fuck?" moment when Donavon's son suddenly bursts into the bar riding a horse and firing a gun. He then starts mocking Ettore, which leads to a punch up with Frank.
     Besides punching people, Frank is doing a little investigation looking for Carson, which leads to the egg-shooting scene where D'Amato and another guy are tossing eggs in the air and trying to shoot them whilst standing in a huge pile of smashed eggs. Frank fares a little better but I'm not sure if this is what leads to D'Amato and his mate wanting to kill Frank, but this gives Frank a chance to use his bizarre water canteen/mirror/gun combo. And this isn't the last time an everyday object turns out to contain a gun...
     It's things like that in a Spaghetti Western - little odd moments, that makes the film stand out from the pack. We can all agree that Spaghetti Westerns aren't exactly the most realistic films to begin with. Even FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE has that over-the-top hat shooting sequence. They might as well be set on the moon, so when people start pulling out gadgets or weird characters starts appearing, that's the fun zone for me. This film delivers in that respect, whatever you think of Fidani as a director (and while I'm at it, I liked his giallo A.A.A. MASSEUSE, GOOD LOOKING, OFFERS HER SERVICES too!), his films aren't just generic copies of the Leone films. Or maybe they are, but they just turn out all wrong anyway.
     I might as well get in with the spirit of pointing out the anachronisms in this film as that's what people will be waiting for, so here we go:
     1) After the robbery at the start of the film when the robbers are sitting around the campfire, you can clearly see that one of them is eating from a Muppets lunch box.
     2) I don't know how Fidani left this in the film, but Trudy has a poster of Jimmy Hendrix prominently displayed in her room.
     3) At one point the sheriff uses a dot-matrix printer to print out a wanted poster.
     4) Fabio Testi takes part in a bar fight wearing an astronaut's outfit. What were you thinking, Fidani?
     5) Frank rides off into the sunset at the end of the film not on a horse, but driving a Soviet T-34 tank!

The Strange Story of Olga O a.k.a. Olga O's Strange Story (1995, Italy, Giallo, Director: Antonio Bonifacio)
Notable actors: Serena Grandi! David Brandon! Daniela Poggi! Florinda Bolkan!

It's not that strange a story really, but more of a chance for screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi to remix his back catalogue of gialli plot points. It's alright though, but let's play giallo cliche bingo!
     First thing we're ticking off the list today is childhood trauma, as Serena Grandi (from Lamberto Bava's DELIRIUM) is haunted by nightmares of finding her mother's naked body after she shot herself in the head, plus there's some added madness as child Serena then goes on to shoot her father, who enters the rooms as a masked, black-gloved killer, so better tick that one off too.
     Husband David Brandon (from every Italian horror film from 1985 onwards, including BEYOND DARKNESS and UNTIL DEATH) doesn't have a clue what to do about all this, but as Serena isn't performing too well in the sack he refers her to a psychiatrist, who recommends that she return to her childhood home and face the ghosts of her past, which she does, and right away there's a mysterious motorcyclist wearing a black helmet following her about (tick that off!). We also get a quick close up of an eyeball (tick!).
     Serena's doing okay at first in her old home, meeting her old maid Mary (why she's still living in the house when no one is there is anybody's guess), her old pal Shiela (Florinda Bolkan), who is an artist an photographer who lives in an arty apartment full of mannequins (tick), and some other people I've already forgotten about (some old guy). Things look shaky at first for Brandon's sexy prospects as Serena does some heavy flashbacking wandering around the house, but eventually he gets her in the sack. I guess he's not caring too much about the post-coital flashback Serena has when she looks out of her back window and more trauma rises to the surface as she sees her father making sweet sweet love in a gazebo (?), but after he notices Serena watching him, he shoots himself in the head.
     For some time after this, the plot is mainly focussed on two things - having someone pester and threaten Serena by telephone and parade a whole bunch of suspects before us so we can have a guess at who is carrying out such an act, and following her about as well. We've got sexy cop Micheal (Stephane Ferrara from WHO WANTS TO KILL SARA?) who is also Serena's ex-boyfriend, which enrages his current girlfriend Isabel (Daniela Poggi, from A CASE OF MYSTERY), who is an erotic dancer in a club owned by a gangster who isn't listed on the IMDb, where Serena also used to work, so she knows the old barman who also gets sucked into all this crap.
     I'm all for managing people's expectations so let me say right here and now that apart from the opening scene, no one is killed until fifty-three minutes into the film. In that time you get a lengthy scene in the nightclub where we get a stripper followed by a very passive-aggressive dance by Poggi to crappy electronic music while a full rock band performs behind her, more phone calls and someone trying to strangle Serena, and probably the same person messing with her head. Poggi threatens Serena with a knife, Brandon looks concerned and then Serena starts jumping in the sack with Michael. In fact, many scenes open with Serena either lying in bed post-coitally, or shortly after being traumatised by some event.
     This is Gastaldi's second-to-last story, so perhaps he thought he'd throw in everything. Is there a masked killer bumping off people or is there some plot to drive Serena crazy? One thing's for sure - the scene where a character is killed by being brained by an entire mannequin was pretty funny.
     There's rampant nudity and sex in this one, but the killings take some time to start happening, plus I guessed who the bad guy was. I just remembered I should have been doing that bingo thing throughout the entire review. Oh well. Weirdly, the music was exactly the same as the kind of music you'd expect from a giallo six or seven years prior. That's the only strange thing about this strange story.

The Strange World of Planet X (1958, UK, Sci-Fi, Director: Gilbert Gunn)
Notable actors: Forrest Tucker! Geoffrey Chater!

There were many catchy catchphrases and slogans used during the campaign to get Britain's fat-arsed populace to vote in favour of leaving the European Union. "Watch out for Italian food, it actually tastes of something", was one, "The Bosch don't dig pie," was a slightly ambiguous one. "The English Channel shall choke with the corpses of a thousand illegal immigrants," was popular in the home counties, but my favourite was "Are you a foreigner? You look like one. Better get rid of the beard and try to fit in".
     This last line originates from the sci-fi film THE STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X, where we learn that our scientists can't bally get on with meddling with nature without some Johnny Foreigner interfering in order to stop the planet being destroyed. Fair enough, the foreigner in question dressed and acted like he was from East Sussex and took sage advice from a little girl about acceptable facial hair levels in polite society, but he was still not one of us.
     Forrest Tucker wasn't either, but we tolerate the Yanks due to us joining forces to get it right up Hitler during the Second World War. That doesn't mean to say Tucker gets to be in charge, however. He's only an assistant to scientist Doctor Laird, who's using some nifty post-war science to magnetise metal into disobeying the laws of physics. According to the civil servant overseeing the project, played by Geoffrey Chater (of every single British television show ever made, including blasts from the past such as BRASS and BLOTT ON THE LANDSCAPE, plus he celebrated his one hundredth birthday back in March), this new invention could be used against enemy aircraft, because although Gerry's taking his pasting, Ivan still lurks behind the iron curtain.
     This would be all well and good if Laird's other assistant hadn't gone and electrocuted himself that morning. At short notice, Chater shyly admits they can only supply a woman scientist, which shocks both Tucker and Laird. Luckily she's a hot French chick that Tucker fancies and Laird discovers has quite a brain in her head, so she's what us sensitive types like to call "Swotty Totty". Sadly she's too good at her job and just quickens Laird's doomsday device, causing an electrical storm at sea, UFOs to appear, and a homeless man to receive radiation burns to his face and go crazy. Oh, and there's the small problem of all the insects suddenly getting really big and chowing down on people. And Laird going crazy.
     Luckily, helpy may be at hand in the shape of some guy who appears in the woods. He sounds English. He looks English (except for the beard, which he ditches early), but he ain't English. He's not even human, but he's here to help. That's the hardest thing these hard-drinking, heavy-smoking English people have to face - can they lower themselves enough to listen to some foreigner tell them what to do? That's not how the British Empire bally-well works, damn you.
     Everyone, even the alien, likes a nice pint in this one and you can't help but feel at home in the pub where rather a lot of the film takes place. Although slow at first, the sudden turn into giant insect territory was rather good as the pace leaps up a few notches as the army pile in to deal with the creepy crawlies. You even get to see a soldier with half his face bitten off, which was something I was not expecting from a fifties film. Good theremin abuse on the soundtrack too, like in all good old school sci-fi films.
     The bugs are mainly just enlarged footage of real bugs with some plastic ones thrown in for good measure. The film isn't very long but contains everything you need from this kind of film. Makes you want to spark up a Woodbine, drink a pint of bitter, play darts and put your feet up on a dead Belgian. Gawd Bless The Queen and all who sail in her!

Suddenly...On the Third Floor (1977, Italy, Giallo/Comedy, Director: Amasi Damiani)
Notable actors: Rita Calderoni! Gianni Dei! Ajita Wilson! 

Ouch! There was me celebrating for finding another film from the director of MAKE THE CHICKEN LEGS SLEEP when it turns out that SUDDENLY...ON THE THIRD FLOOR is possibly one of the worst Italian genre film I've sat through.
     Part crime film, part comedy, part giallo, and all shit, Suddenly...Nothing Happens is set in and around a hotel somewhere in Italy, where some evil dudes are using corpses to smuggle money by using false-bottomed coffins, I know that sounds possibly interesting, but instead of focusing on that we get a whole load of soap opera level drama, people talking bollocks, and Ajita Wilson doing a Kinski by appearing in the film without interacting with many of the other characters (save for some Godfrey Ho-like "pretending to talk to a character over the telephone" business).
     I feel like I've spent many months trapped with these people, so I might as well describe them. Making up the hotel guests are two American girls, one of whom is going out with Gianni Dei, who is kind of investigating the coffin thing in a half arsed way. There's a jolly monk and an old couple and a hooker and a drug addict and Ajita Wilson, who never leaves her room or puts any clothes on. What we the audience get is a perpetual cycle of the various interactions and thoughts these people over and over and over again.
     Meanwhile, a slapstick cop provides the comedy for the film which isn't funny at all. Jesus, I can barely bring myself to write about this one. Not even for completists!
     Look, there's a bit of nudity, but no gore, no blood, no action. Just talk, talk, talk, talk, comedy, dead body, talk, talk, talk, comedy, dead body, comedy, talk, talk, talk, end. There, you've watched the film. This one nearly took the crown from EVIL CLUTCH for being the worst Italian film I've watched.

Temptation (1988, Italy, Giallo, Director: Sergio Bergonzelli)
Notable actors: Antonio Marsina!

At the time of writing this review, Antonio Marsina is seventy-four years old, and I bet there are times when a family member is trying to talk to Antonio and notices that Antonio is just staring off into space, or perhaps a loving grandchild has asked Antonio a question and noticed that Antonio is having what they might construe as a senior moment. It may be even that when trying to choose what kind of bacon to buy in the shops, Antonio starts acting like someone has reached into his brain and flipped the switch to 'off'. There's nothing wrong with Antonio, however. He's simply recalling that magical time in his life when he starred in the film TEMPTATION, a film where he got to cavort naked with not one, not two, but three lovely naked ladies for much of the film. Proper naked ladies with pubes and everything that he got to touch and stuff, the lucky bastard.
     Antonio is basically the turd in a turd sandwich in this film, which continues with the tried and tested plot of sixties giallo like LIBIDO and LIZ AND HELEN where rich, sadly oversexed folk mess with each other's heads for some sort of monetary gain, only because this is the late Eighties, the giallo has evolved to involve a lot more sleaze and a lot less blood, and you won't be surprised to find, just like NOTHING UNDERNEATH and TOO BEAUTIFUL TO DIE, this film involves a model agency and a whole lot of shagging. I don't want to underplay that either - for a change Sergio Bergonzelli is unusually focussed on what he wants from this film, and what he wants is female nudity.
     Marsina is strutting about like a cockerel with its first hard-on because he's shagging the owner of a modelling agency, her husband has just died, and he's suspiciously come into a lot of money through what may be a forged signature of said deceased husband. He couldn't be happier, or could he? He's got a sexy lady and money, but what if he could get his hands on a much younger, sexier lady who seems allergic to underwear? His prayers are answered in the form of Katrine (actress Trine Michelson). She's just passed the audition to be the next cover girl for whatever magazine/modelling thing these people are working on (it was hard to concentrate what with all the nudity), and Antonio wastes no time in giving Katrine a special audition at home while pretending to his girlfriend that he's working late. Subtlety is not Marsina's strong point, because not only is he cheating on girlfriend Anna, he hilariously leaves his front door open, which leads Anna into his living room, where she spots Antonio and Katrine having sex ABOVE her in Antonio's rooftop swimming pool, which naturally has a glass bottom so he can be caught cheating. This isn't the last time this monumentally stupid pool features in the plot either.
     Antonio wants to off Anna and get the business for himself, but he's not very good at killing and another problem arrives when someone turns up looking for Katrine - turns out Katrine is a porn actress on the run from her pushy director, and he's got a ditzy daughter trying to get into modelling. Looks like by the end of this film everyone will be wanting to kill everyone else, but I've got to admit director Bergonzelli still managed to take me by surprise with a nice twist in the finale. Thanks for making up for that stupid TRUMPET film!
     Full, and I mean rammed with female nudity, this film isn't boring for a minute, and I'm talking right up close on Katrine and Anna's undercarriage, which probably explains why this film has ten million views on YouTube. Plus Marsina gets to fondle the lot of them. Luckily the giallo element is rather good too, with every character practically being unlikable (except Anna I guess), so you know you have to watch until the end to see who gets their commupence. The cinematography is very giallo-like too, with lots of posed mannequins, and garish colours. A success all round, thankfully, seeing as how I was suffering through a batch of boring films for a while there. The lack of bloody violence might put people off though, but the porn version of those HERCULES films featured here might lift the spirits a bit.
     Strangely, due to all these fashion based gialli of the late Eighties, I'm lost as to what I've watched and what I've not. I have FASHION CRIMES and FATAL TEMPTATION on the list, but is FATAL TEMPTATION not just this film? It's totally confusing.

Texas, Adios (1966, Italy/Spain, Western, Director: Ferdinando Baldi)
Notable actors; Franco Nero! Alberto Dell'Acqua! Luigi Pistilli!

People - know your Dell'Acquas:

Ottaviano Dell'Acqua - Scientist (uncredited), After Death; Stunts - John Wick 2 (?)
Arnaldo Dell'Acqua - Man Throwing Dynamite (uncredited), Django The Bastard
Robert Dell'Acqua - Glass-smashing zombie (uncredited), The Beyond, Zombie (uncredited), Nightmare City
Fernanda Dell'Acqua - Role unknown (uncredited), Battle of the Amazons
Alberto Dell'Acqua - Scientist who shoots the voodoo priest (uncredited), After Death

Now that's cleared up, let's get down to the business of reviewing TEXAS, ADIOS. A film where the hero has unlocked the 'infinite ammo perk'.
     In Texas, somewhere, a still baby-faced Franco Nero is Burt Sullivan, sheriff who always brings his man back alive. Luckily for us about two minutes after we find that out Nero quits being a sheriff and doesn't seem particularly interested in keeping anyone alive, as he goes after the man who killed his father - Cisco Delgado (Jose Suarez from the awesome Spaghetti Western version of the JFK assassination THE PRICE OF POWER). Burt witnessed Delgado kill his father all those years ago, but is having trouble locating the bastard, who is hiding out somewhere in Mexico. That's all well and good, but the main problem is that Burt's younger brother Jim wants to tag along.
     Jim isn't used to killing bad guys but is a persistent bastard, so Burt lets him tag along until the get to some town in Mexico, where Jim's overzealous questioning of the locals results in him being beaten up and Burt having to shoot up a bar full of bad guys. They also witness the cruelty of a lawless Mexico, as a Delgado associate (Livio Lorenzon, the guy who gets a pillow over his head and shot in the face in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. He looks at LEAST in his mid-sixties, but was only forty-three! He must have had a rough life!) executes a bunch of locals and laughs it off.
     The Sullivan brothers are repeatedly warned off finding Delgado but are helped by a local barmaid who takes a fancy to Jim and gets killed in the process, and a lawyer (Luigi Pistilli) who is preparing to revolt against Delgado. What should really roll out as your basic revenge film starts getting a bit complicated as the bad guys have a lot more depth than usual and there's a few secrets to be revealed that complicate things for a little bit at least before the usual bloodshed and death.
     It's no classic, but the constant grim violence, revelations, and regret displayed by the antagonist's older selves add a little more dimension to this one. Delgado is cruel but has hope in an offspring making a decent life. Lorenzon is revealed to be a br