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 couple of 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 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.

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

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

Blood Feud a.k.a. A Blood Event In The Town of Siculiana Between Two Men Because Of A Widow. Political Motives Are Suspected. Love-Death-Shimmy. Lugano Belle. Tarantelle. Tarallucci And Wine. (1978, Italy, Drama, Director: Lina Wermuller)
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 (1991, 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.

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.

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.

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".

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.

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")

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pancho Villa (1972, UK/Spain/USA, Western, Director: Eugenio Martino)
Notable actors: Tele 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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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