Wednesday, June 22, 2011


(Riccardo Freda, 1971)
A woman, disfigured by acid, is found with her throat slit in the trunk of Swiss Ambassador Sobieski's (Anton Diffring) Rolls Royce. Inspector Lawrence is called to the scene and begins questioning Sobieski and his staff of shifty individuals. When this leads only to dead ends, he hires former police detective John Norton (Luigi Pistilli), a man still suffering from the guilt of a past tragedy that ended his career.
Shortly after a threatening exchange with the ambassador, his mistress, a nightclub singer, is found dead in her dressing room with her throat cut. Sobieski's daughter Helen (Dagmar Lassander) runs into John outside the club in the ensuing panic, and he escorts her back to the embassy. By unorthodox means, and with help from his quirky, mystery-loving old mother, John continues his investigation, but soon finds the lives of his nearest and dearest threatened by the acid-wielding madman. So whodunit? Was it the busybody maid? The secretive, sweaty butler? How about the light-sensitive chauffeur, or the ambassador himself? Or was it Mrs Peacock in the library with the lead pipe?
Freda's first giallo, TIWTTOF, was obviously inspired by the then-recent success of Dario Argento's The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Among the parallels are the use of an animal in the long-winded title, the black gloves and razor, a sinister redhead, and even a silly being-shaved-with-a-straight-razor scene. In fairness, though, Brian De Palma must have seen this, or at least it's ending, prior to making Dressed To Kill.
All the trademark Freda-isms are present in TIWTTOF, from the kooky camera angles to the messy, though unrealistic, gore. There's a fair amount of the red stuff here, a decent amount of action, and a cringe-inducingly mean ending that includes elderly abuse and underage nudity (talk about opposite ends of the spectrum!). It's too bad the entire film couldn't keep this pace; there's far too much investigation and chatter going on to keep one's interest for long.
The humor also detracts a fair bit from what suspense Freda was hoping to create, though it does give Norton's mother and daughter enough substance and sympathy to make the viewer fear for them. It's not a bad giallo, but definitely not the best place to start.It has yet to have a north American DVD or BluRay release, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed because *shhhtttt, don't tell ANYone!* I actually kinda like Freda's films. So sue me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ZOMBIE 4 aka After Death

(Claudio Fuckin' Fragasso, 1989)
Dear God: Why hast thou forsaken me? Why did you ever allow Claudio Fragasso to make movies? And are they really movies? Granted, Troll 2 is one of the most brilliant films ever made, but for every Troll 2 there's a Shocking Dark, a Beyond Darkness, and a handful of collaborations with Bruno Mattei.
Zombie 4 opens promisingly enough with a Demons-inspired massacre, but immediately turns to shit when we learn that there will be no more demonic shenanigans; just a bunch of terrible actors (including gay porn star Jeff Stryker) duking it out with some questionable-looking zombies on a cursed island.
Hate to break it to you, but that's about all you need to know about this corny cheese and beer-fart-fest. Zombie (and Zombi!) movies were tired (or dead, if you will) by the late 80's, so it's a wonder Fragasso got ANYone to fund this turd trek. And it doesn't even have proper zombies; just a bunch of pasty ghouls in matching rags outrunning, out-jumping, out-gunning, and generally outsmarting our helpless fodder. I guess you could say the plethora of continuity errors work in the undead's favor!
Plus they have their own fog machine and backlighting, and seem to know they are being filmed as they have an annoying habit of looking directly into the camera. Zombie 4's one saving grace is that it IS gory, and excessively so. Shame it's such a chore waiting for the good stuff! And sorry, boys, Stryker doesn't get nekkid, though he does get a fist through the chest! Only for the morbidly curious. And bi-curious (I'm lookin' at YOU, Fragasso, you bastard!) Buy it here.


(Dario Argento, 1993)
Bulimic drug addict Aura Petrescu (Asia Argento) is talked out of jumping off a bridge by passing motorist and former drug-user David Parsons (Christopher Rydell). After a very brief lunch Aura runs off, only to be escorted by police back to her parents' house and told she'll be returned to "the clinic" the following morning.
Aura's mother Adriana (Piper Laurie!), a powerful medium, holds a seance that same stormy night and frightens the participants when she becomes possessed and runs off into the woods with her husband in pursuit. Aura follows them only to come upon their decapitated bodies and a figure in black making off with their heads. From the news David discovers Aura's identity and whereabouts, and takes her under his wing. Meanwhile, the killer, dubbed The Headhunter by the press, continues his reign of terror, decapitating his unfortunate victims with a custom-made motorized wire noose. David undertakes the task of unmasking the psycho on his own, which is never a good idea in this kind of film!
Though it does play out like an Argento best-of, and contains some rather goofy moments, Trauma does have it's merits. His fans will recognize a variety of images and themes from his earlier gialli, from toys to insects and lizards, broken glass, water, and of course the old black leather gloves. Trauma doesn't disappoint in the cinematography department either, as would be expected of Dario.
There's some wonderfully tense scenes, and the deaths, though short on the traditional Dario gore, still maintain his mean-spiritedness and black humor. One may find that the stilted acting and oft misplaced comedic bits throughout distracting and occasionally boring, but the end reveal more than makes up for it.
Now, I present to you, the What Was Dario Thinking? segment of this review. It's a bit unsettling that Argento actually filmed his daughter Asia in the nude. And then there's the talking heads; no, I'm not referring to that innovative band from the days of yore, but actual decapitated heads speaking and screaming. See it to believe it! Buy it here.

Monday, June 6, 2011


(Armando Crispino, 1975)
A rash of murders and suicides sweeps through Rome, and pathologist Simona Sana (Mimsy Farmer) has more corpses and workplace harassment on the slab than she can handle. Before being sent home, she nearly has a breakdown and hallucinates that the corpses are coming to life. To add to her stress, her boyfriend Edgar (Ray Lovelock) has been getting a bit pushy with his unwanted advances, and the only solace she has are her father and her thesis on the differences between real and staged suicides.
One morning, the corpse of an unidentified woman is found on the beach with a bullet in her head and a gun in her hand. Simona takes an interest in the case, as it may be valuable to her thesis. She discovers, with the help of a red wig, that not only was the suicide faked, but that she'd met the woman not long before. The corpse is soon identified by the victim's brother, ex-race car driver-turned-priest Paul Lennox, a man with a spotty past and a nasty temper. When those around her start dying under mysterious circumstances, and an attempt is made on her own life, Simona finds she may be better acquainted with the killer than she might have imagined.
Most viewers, gialli fiends included, might find Autopsy a bit draggy. It opens promisingly enough with a montage of suicides, and then some craziness in the morgue, but completely putters out shortly thereafter. It's only the purposely awkward nude scenes and the Crime Museum sequence that might keep one going until the sadly predictable ending.
On the technical side, Autopsy is also a little flat, though there are a number of memorable images and sequences to balance out the bland color palette and uninspired camerawork. The soundtrack by the ubiquitous Ennio Morricone switches from dissonant strings and moaning female voices to some rather cheesy chamber music, and matches Farmer's performance in it's chilliness and paranoia. Not a bad film, but not terribly exciting either. Buy it here.