Italian language teacher Diana Berti is hired by a prestigious private school halfway through the school year. On her first day as the new teacher, she learns that:
A) The previous teacher died.
B) A student was kidnapped the year before.
C) The students are a secretive, manipulative lot, and their headmistress (Daria Nicolodi) is their protector.
Nonplussed by the barrage of bad news, she starts the semester enthusiastically, though her optimism fades quickly when she catches onto a secret, sinister "game" that her pupils are playing in the school's basement. Little does she know that the kids have already waged psychological warfare on her, and intend to include her in their game.
Il Gioko is one of Bava's better made-for-TV movies, with some content that must have pushed the boundaries of acceptability at the time. The film kicks off speedily enough as the soon-to-be dead teacher is chased through a vault, stumbling across a severed head and teased by kids' shadows before falling to her death. The following 85 minutes or so do live up to the prologue's promise of steady pacing, heavy atmosphere, and general weirdness. The hurried conclusion, however, may be unsatisfying for most. Character-wise, my only beef was with Diana, who, despite being clever enough to catch on to the game and associate the students with her predecessor's death , cannot see that she is being played. Fortunately, her policeman boyfriend is there to keep her ignorance and rampant emotions in check. 1989 and the woman still needs a man to figure things out; guess that was the style at the time, but I digress.
This film is an unmistakeably Bava production. Though he's never had the most original ideas for his pictures, he's always given them a slick, professional look that is uniquely his. The fluid, voyeurish camerawork, stylized lighting, creative compositions, and even the soundtrack by frequent collaborator Simon Boswell are pure Lamberto. His recurring theme, "what horrors the kids get up to when the parents are away", as demonstrated in most of his previous work, is also found in Il Gioko. More mystery than horror, Il Gioko is somewhat engrossing and worth a watch, though one will be hard-pressed to track down this TV obscurity. Happy downloading!
Born June 19, 1950, in Florence, Italy, actress Daria Nicolodi started performing at an early age. She dabbled in theatre and underground film before making her bigscreen debut in 1970's "Men Against". Her first daughter, Anna was born in 1973. She continued with theatre and TV appearances until her big break in 1975, when avant-garde thriller director Dario Argento cast her in his hugely successful Deep Red. A romance blossomed between the two, and that same year their daughter, actress Asia Argento, was born. Their union, which would last until 1985, started to unravel in 1977, when the two cowrote the masterpiece, Suspiria, based on a story Daria's grandmother had told her. Though the lead role was written for Daria, it was instead given to American cult-goddess Jessica Harper when the distributors demanded an American play the part. Perhaps the greatest injustice she was dealt was not being given any credit for her part in the film when it was released. It wouldn't be until two decades later that Dario finally gave her writing credits. It wasn't all doom and gloom though, as that same year she starred in Mario Bava's Shock. She continued to act in Argento's films until 1987, though throughout that time period she also acted in horror films for Lamberto Bava,and Luigi Cozzi, and even wrote Cozzi's Paganini Horror and Demons 6/ The Black Cat. Sadly, her daughter Anna died in an accident in 1994. To this day she continues to appear on TV, and not long ago had a part in Argento's Mother of Tears, where she performed alongside Asia.
When American reporter Gregory Moore's (Jean Sorel) body is found near a park in Prague, it's taken to the morgue where he is pronounced dead. Unknown to the attendants is that Gregory is still alive, conscious but unable to speak or move, and unsure of who he is, and how he got there. From here he must piece together the sequence of events that led to his predicament, before those responsible for it return to complete the deed.
Cleverly written and stunningly filmed, Short Night of Glass Dolls is one classy giallo. It absolutely oozes style, from the moody, noirish lighting, to the hauntingly decadent Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Lado avoided taking the tawdry route that many gialli at the time followed, so even the images of sex and death are beautifully portrayed. Storywise, SNOGD (haha) is also a cut above the rest. Keen viewers will spot some clever foreshadowing at the beginning, and despite a slight lull in the second act, the story is quite intriguing and grows more bizarre and nightmarish as it reaches it's downbeat climax. Anyone who has an aversion to crappy hippies singing crappy hippie songs about butterflies (and hasn't the ability to appreciate cheese) should avoid this film. Sadly, yes, they do exist. But for everyone else, I highly recommend this giallo gem.
Three deranged, morally-bankrupt sisters share a home in Budapest. First, there's Vida; dance instructor by day, call girl by night. Then there's bisexual Sissy, who works with the blind. Ludmilla, the most bizarre of the three, is a musician who carries random percussion instruments around with her. When Ludmilla discovers Vida's shady boyfriend, Yuri, dismembered in their washing machine, police inspector Alexander Stacev is called to the scene. When he arrives, there's no body to be found, so he assumes it was just a late night, alcohol-induced hallucination. However, the sisters insist that Yuri is dead, and each one brings new clues to light by seducing Alexander with increasingly depraved acts. By the time they reveal their true faces and intentions, the inspector is already ensnared in their tangled, and notably sticky web...
Deodato's updated giallo/ erotic thriller was a pleasant surprise. Sexy, sleazy, and stylish, it pushes the erotic angle to the point of softcore porn. Nothing new for the genre, but he really heaps it on here. What keeps The Washing Machine from being but early 90s Euro smut is that there's actually a story, convoluted as it may be, and unprecedented character development, a rarity in gialli. Another anomaly is the controlled use of gore. Aside from the opening scene with Yuri's corpse, the blood is kept to a minimum, thus making it's rare appearances that much more effective. And to top it off, it's all set to Claudio Simonetti's particualr sound. That's more than enough reason to track it down. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the cast are sexy as Hell either.
I feel I have to somehow justify the hours, nay, years I've spent watching some of the best, worst, and most unique horror and thriller movies ever made. I hope casual browsers might just catch on, and that experienced Italian horror fans might come across new and unheard-of titles to track down. If nothing else, please enjoy the pretty (and occasionally frightening) pictures.