Night of Fear (1972)

Night of Fear (1972) movie poster

director Terry Bourke
viewed: 06/17/2018

Can you imagine this showing up on prime time television in 1972? Apparently neither could Australian Broadcasting Commission. Shot as a pilot for telly, Night of Fear was rejected, then quickly banned before getting a brief theatrical release. 

And then came obscurity.

And now, it’s considered the forefather of Ozploitation.

In Night of Fear sex is ruthlessly suggestive, using still nudes cut together to impress much more lurid than what is really shown. It’s still pretty gruesome and racy for the boob tube.

Director Terry Bourke’s inventive style plays like a student film but though much more well-produced. It includes modernist editing styles, juxtaposing images for effect. And it is effective.

On top of all that the film runs dialogue-free. 

It’s 54 minute run time and the title sequence’s repetition of images from pieces of the film confirm that this was meant for broadcast.

Aenigma (1987)

Aenigma (1987) movie poster

director Lucio Fulci
viewed: 06/16/2018

“How does a young girl who is brain dead experience a violent emotion?”

Well, she’s brain dead but controlling a human avatar and seeking vengeance on schoolmates who pranked her into a coma in Lucio Fulci’s Aenigma.

Revenge is a dish best served … weird … and is meted out in dollops of reflections, snails, and living statuary.

Aenigma is derivative of a number of films and directors, coming in what would become the autumn of Fulci’s career. But it’s not not fun. It’s still Fulci.

Madhouse (1981)

Madhouse (1981) movie poster

director Ovidio G. Assonitis
viewed: 06/15/2018

I’m forever telling people that in any pair of twins, there is always one that is good and always another that is evil. That’s just science.

Madhouse is an Italian-American production directed by an Egyptian-born Greco-Italian and filmed in Savannah, GA. It’s another sort of slasher-giallo hybrid, with some nice cinematography and production values (except for the dog puppet, let’s say).

Savannah could be an interesting location but the film stays indoors a lot, shot at the historic Kehoe House, which seemed to be under some restoration at the time. The house is pretty cool and makes for some of the interesting shots and atmosphere.

But yeah, evil twins, a blood-thirsty Rottweiler, and a kooky priest who digs on children’s rhymes.

It’s not half bad. But then there’s the other half. Or slightly more than half.

Compañeros (1970)

Compañeros (1970) movie poster

director  Sergio Corbucci
viewed: 06/04/2018

After watching Compañeros, I realize how I’ve really got to get around to watching all of Sergio Corbucci’s Westerns.

Compañeros is a Zapata western, Corbucci’s second, after 1968’s The Mercenary. Stories set against the Mexican Revolution proved keen metaphorical landscapes for the more political Italian filmmakers, and they really deserve closer reading. I recommend Simon Gelton’s write-up on Compañeros at Spaghetti-Western.net.

On the surface, Compañeros seems more lightweight, as the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s moved towards more comedy in the 1970’s. Thomas Milian and Franco Nero are good, but as almost everyone has noted, Jack Palance steals the show, in what is definitely my favorite Jack Palance role. He seemed to be having a very good time, smoking weed with his prosthetic hand and vengeful raptor.

Good stuff.

Se sei vivo spara (1967)

Se sei vivo spara (1967) movie poster

director Giulio Questi
viewed: 06/02/2018

The title Django, Kill…If You Live, Shoot! is an inappropriate misnomer to what is definitely one of the most crazy, violent, and fascinating Westerns to come out of Italy in the heyday of the genre there. Since the Django piece of the title was tacked on for marketing abroad, I think it would be better to refer to it as the literal translation of the Italian original Se sei vivo spara (If You Live, Shoot!)

The whole thing starts with our protagonist, “half-breed” Thomas Milian reaching out from his shallow grave. Betrayed by gringos who ripped off a load of Wells Fargo gold, he tracks them only to find them lynched by the most villainous town in the West.

There is so much going on in this film: visual play in the camera work and editing, the bizarre deconstructed revenge story, four sets of villains, the gay caballeros, fingers digging into the patient’s wounds for gold bullets, that final shot of the children playing and distorting their faces. A sense of horror pervades the whole.

People just ain’t no good.

La nave de los monstruos (1960)

La nave de los monstruos (1960) movie poster

director Rogelio A. González
viewed: 06/01/2018

Women are from Venus; men are from the rest of the galaxy, in La Nave de los Monstruos (The Ship of Monsters en Inglés.) The is a Mexican horror-sci-fi-Western-comedy absurd and good-natured, weird and fun.

Yes, two Venusian babes show up on Earth, looking for men to help the Venusian cause. They’ve picked up characters from Mars and elsewhere, all brought back to re-seed Venus. Only when they set eyes and ears on Earthling Lauriano (Eulalio González), they fall into a squabble over who lands the singing vaquero. And it turns out that Beta (Lorena Velázquez) is actually a vampire from Uranus.

That’s right, a vampire from Uranus.

The other monsters are a variety of oddities, under the sway of she who wields that belt of power. Unfortunately for Beta, Lauriano’s heart is given to Gamma (Ana Bertha Lepe) and so Beta’s quest to take over the Earth is set to failure.

Initially, the comic aspects seem disappointing. But Eulalio González is funny and charming, giving the movie just the right verve in its tone and style. I’m not sure how good the translation was in the version I saw but it had some genuinely funny moments.

At the end of the day, Tractorr, the robot doesn’t just fall for a jukebox, the robot gets the jukebox in the end. The kind of happy ending they just don’t write enough of nowadays.

 

Devil Girl from Mars (1954)

Devil Girl from Mars (1954) movie poster

director David MacDonald
viewed: 05/30/2018

“Nothing like a good cup of tea in a crisis.”

Devil Girl from Mars or possibly “The Day a Small Nameless Scottish Village Stood Still” is 1950’s science fiction by way of the UK.

The war of the sexes was won on Mars by the ladies, but afterward, their men became weak and useless. So, Mars needs men! And to gather some prime specimens, they sent a gothy Agnes Moorehead type (Patricia Laffan) and her handy (though rather clumsy) robot named “Chani” (Per a cited reference in the Wikipedia entry, Chani was actually “fully automated,” something that seems rather dubious, but okay!)

The very noisy spacecraft lands in wee old Scotland. Some problem with the atmosphere drifted them from their original London location. The flick features a lot of additional character dramas and backstories (a young Hazel Court among them) that both fills it out and bloats it as well. 

It might not be spectacular, but it’s give the world a cosplay character for the ages.

Being Different (1981)

Being Different (1981) movie poster

director Harry Rasky
viewed: 05/08/2018

Being Different is a quasi-Exploitation documentary about “human oddities” or “freaks.” Director Harry Rasky mixes titillation with a more humanistic approach, interviewing his cast of characters, allowing them to tell their own stories of lives of difference.

By 1981 a lot of the classic freak shows had stopped touring, and yet, many notable stars of the scene were still available to interview. As cultural mores were changing, and as the freak show was falling away into the past, the beginnings of interest in this disappearing world were stirring. Perhaps this started with Daniel P. Mannix’s 1976 book Freaks: We Who Are Not As Others, but Being Different also winds up being a nice document.

The most famous fellow detailed here is doubtlessly Billy Barty, who was leading the way with his Little People of America at the time. But we also have Johann Petursson (the world’s tallest man), Dolly Reagan (the human doll), Siamese twins Ronnie and Donnie Galyon, Sandra Elaine Allen (the world’s tallest woman), and the “World’s Strangest Couple,” Percilla “The Monkey Girl” and Emmett “The Alligator Skin Boy” Bejano.  Rasky even employs a classic barker to introduce some of the folks in the lively patter that drew the curious into the tents.

This was a timely re-watch for me, having just finished re-reading Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. I’m kind of in the mental milieu.

Massacre Time (1966)

Massacre Time (1966) movie poster

director Lucio Fulci
viewed: 05/06/2018

Fulci’s first Western has requisite grit, perversity, and blood, the stuff that set the Spaghetti Western apart from the Hollywood ones and revitalized the genre. Also Massacre Time is a pretty badass title and that poster is killer too.

Massacre Time itself is not all meat, but it is pretty toothsome featuring Franco Nero and George Hilton as brothers, reunited to inflict some vengeance on a clan of nogoodniks who have taken over their small town.

There is a similar, if less effective, half-brother twist as in Adios, Texas (also 1966 — released in the same month, no less). There is also a foppish Sadist archetype (played here by Nino Castelnuovo – how old is this archetype, I wonder).

Fulci pulls off some stylish shots and sequences, but it’s the violence that elevates the film, from the more pointed cruelty of the whipping scene to the somewhat elegant shootout towards the end.

I also liked the scene with the kid playing the diegetic harmonica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daughter of Dracula (1972)

Daughter of Dracula (1972) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 05/02/2018

Daughter of Dracula is a little confusebslls but what good Jesús Franco flick isn’t? It does, however, feature a more substantial acting role for Jess than in a lot of other films of his.

What is it about Jesús Franco that makes him compelling? Not simply that he cranked out movies prodigiously more than competently. Per IMDb, Daughter of Dracula is one of nine films he directed in 1972 alone. He displays sometimes amateurish skills, heightened by passion and aesthetics, often incoherent but sometimes cohesive yet still inconsistent. 

A lot of people seem to see Daughter of Dracula as more giallo than horror. True, it’s got a detective working a series of killings. It’s also got a girl turned vampire upon her mother’s deathbed confession relating a family history and then, yes, Dracula (Franco stalwart Howard Vernon). And lesbian sex scenes.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Franco. I just can’t articulate why exactly.