The Weekend Murders (1970)

The Weekend Murders (1970) movie poster

director Michele Lupo
viewed: 10/19/2018

The Weekend Murders brings together two terms that don’t usually collide, giallo and comedy.

Gastone Moschin’s Sgt. Aloisius Thorpeis is the kind of character that is usually really annoying but actually works rather well here. The bumbling policeman who turns out to have more on the ball than anyone thinks is quite charming and even funny.

It’s more an Agatha Christie style of mystery than your typical black-gloved killer slasher Italian crime flick. Because though it does technically meet the qualifications of the giallo genre, it’s much more a comedy and maybe better taken as such.

Quite enjoyable.

The Great Alligator (1979)

 The Great Alligator (1979) movie poster

director  Sergio Martino
viewed: 09/23/2018

Many levels and layers of racism and exotica bedangle Sergio Martino’s The Great Alligator. Sri Lanka (and Sri Lankans) stand in for somewhere in Africa (and some people of Africa), depicting an isolated jungle and river spot converted over to a tourist attraction for Americans and Europeans. I mean in what particular part of the world do orangutans and hippos coexist?

Still, the costuming is pretty nicely done.

You think a rubber shark is bad? Try a plaster of Paris crocodile. Actually, it seems that there are a variety of crocodile models used for different shots. Mostly, it’s the clunky giant jaws grabbing people, but there are some very inanimate models for the miniatures.

And yet, it’s still tolerably fun.

And the old Chekovian tenet stands: If you show natives blowing up trees n the first act, you have to have some white folks blowing up gators in the final score.

Crunch crunch crunch.

And God Said to Cain (1970)

And God Said to Cain (1970) movie poster

director Antonio Margheriti
viewed: 09/02/2018

And God Said to Cain starts a little slow, with Gary Hamilton (Klaus Kinski) getting pardoned after 10 years hard labor on a work gang. But it quickly picks up, with the wind and tumult of a coming storm, both literallly and metaphorically. Antonio Margheriti stages the majority of the drama over one tornado-ravaged night in a small Western town

Kinski is the protagonist, if not quite the “hero” of the picture, slated to dole out revenge one rifle blast at a time. While not exactly “supernatural,” Kinski’s Hamilton is see as a ghost, a monster, “one miserable man,” working his way through his vengeance via outright slaughter .

And God Said to Cain does indeed play as a horror film, with an atmosphere of implacable dread and through the haunting ringing of the church bell.

Margheriti puts Kinski’s unusual visage to great use, casting the camera over planes and crannies of his face and lingering on his inscrutable  and vaguely tragic hooded eyes.

Good stuff.

Endgame (1983)

Endgame (1983) movie poster

director Joe D’Amato
viewed: 08/31/2018

Parts Road Warrior part The 10th Victim and maybe original Judge Dredd  or X-men comics, Endgame mashes up and masticates post-apocalyptic ideas and spews them readily all over the place.

A punk gloom looms over post-WWIII wherever we are, ruthlessly guarded by Security Services (SS) gas-masked militia, killing the mutated and the impoverished and shilling “health” supplements.

For my money, Endgame is much more imaginative and eclectic than other Italian Mad Max knock-offs. Still,  it’s 3 star movie with higher ideas and aspirations pumped through the pulpy action, deadly karate chops and all.

Though it’s a different subgenre indeed, Endgame might be a good double feature with Fulci’s Conquest.

Run, Man, Run (1968)

Run, Man, Run (1968) movie poster

director  Sergio Sollima
viewed: 08/17/2018

Currently at #20 on spaghetti-western.net’s 20 Essential Spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Sollima’s Run, Man, Run is the director’s third and final entry in the genre. 

Not exactly a sequel to his more generally appreciated The Big GundownRun, Man, Run, Tomas Milian reprises his role as agabond Cuchillo (in brownface?), the knife-thrower extraordinaire, who evolves from petty criminal to revolutionary through the film.

The narrative is episodic, almost picaresque, and the tone, which is the site of much apparent criticism is comedic, while still pushing a serious message.

Hitched to the windmill

You can always reason with a woman in love.

A cavalcade of characters run after Cuchillo, who himself is on the trail of a cache of gold, intended to support the Revolution. Chelo Alonso is great as his Mexican spitfire, Dolores and in stark contrast to the blonde Salvation Army worker, Penny Bannington (Linda Veras).

In my opinion, I wouldn’t necessarily place it in the top 20 of the genre, but it is a good, solid film.

Best bit of dialogue:

“Hey amigo, can you tell me where…”
“I ain’t your amigo, dirty Mexican, get outta here”
“I think we’re in Texas.”

El ser (1982)

El ser (1982) movie poster

directors Stefano D’Arbo, Sebastián D’Arbó
viewed: 08/14/2018

Psychophobia arrives in a rough print with an even rougher dub, courtesy of the nearly endless whimsy of Amazon Prime.

The bad dub would make this fish in a barrel for MST3K or the like.

“You load your brain with psychic gunpowder.”

El Ser, as it was in its original Spanish, came out in ‘82 yet feels more like ‘72. Though this supernatural oddity mashed up a decent amount of Poltergeist in its parsnormality. So it seems.

That said, it’s kinda entertaining as an unintelligible object. Definitely qualifies as psychotronic. Weirdness out of time.

A pretty definitive write-up is available at Bloody Pit of Horror in case you desire more details.

Women’s Prison Massacre (1983)

Women's Prison Massacre (1983) movie poster

director  Bruno Mattei
viewed: 08/07/2018

A weird avant-grade theater sequence belies the otherwise straightforward sleaze of Women’s Prison Massacre. And quality sleaze it certainly is.

Laura Gemser stars in what is likely the first Laura Gemser flick I’ve ever seen in which she didn’t get naked even once. The rest of the cast makes up for that in an abundance of flesh.

Albina the faux albino (Ursula Flores) is Gemser’s primary foil in the first half of the film, which is a sort of by the numbers “women in prison” flick. The formula takes a major twist when a quartet of vile male criminals are set to be temporarily housed in this women’s prison. They break out, take over, and sex and violence rule the roost.

It’s quality from a sleaze point of view if not from others.

Most amusing tidbit: “The sole bit of unintentional humor comes from the proliferation of expensive hosiery worn by the female cast, which was courtesy of the film’s main producer, a French undergarments company.” – Paul Gaita, AllMovie.

Death Sentence (1968)

Death Sentence (1968) movie poster

director Mario Lanfranchi
viewed: 07/25/2018

Death Sentence is an interesting if not essential Spaghetti Western. Notable for it’s four act structure, a quartet of revenge plays set Cash/Django (Robin Clarke) on the trails of his brother’s four killers.

Many agree that the first sequence, starring Richard Conte is the film’s strongest segment as Clarke hounds him in the desert as Conte’s Diaz has a gun but no water and Cash has water but no pistol.

Tomas Milian really chews scenery as the albino O’Hara, or at least tries to. 

Clarke has the rugged looks of late Sixties manliness, but doesn’t exactly exude charisma. When he digs a bullet out of his thigh to get his revenge – that’s pretty rad.

Terrible theme song.

Phenomena (1985)

Phenomena (1985) movie poster

director Dario Argento
viewed: 07/18/2018

I first encountered Dario Argento’s Phenomena as Creepers back in 1985 in the theater. Lucky me! I don’t recall my exact impression, though years later when I realized I’d viewed a compromised and hacked-up version, I wasn’t terribly surprised.

As a lot of folks have noted, Phenomena reuses several scenarios from Suspiria, which isn’t such a bad thing, but makes for a little confusion. And though I would agree with most that Phenomena doesn’t stand up quite as well as its predecessor, it’s still vivid, surreal, and in the final moments, a whole lot of bananas!

Actually, that ending that just won’t quit. I sensed a serious borrowing from the ending of Friday the 13th. You’ve got the girl on the raft on the lake, the mutant child attack, the finale with the mother on the shore and a beheading that comes out of nowhere.

I was a little more enchanted by the firefly scene than I was back in the day. I think even then I was cognizant of the slowed motion of the images tracking the animated light. This time through I found that quite nice.

Maybe the borrowed elements from Suspiria work against Phenomena only really in comparison. It’s an entertaining brew of its own, though probably not a masterpiece.

Bandidos (1967)

 Bandidos (1967) movie poster

director  Massimo Dallamano
viewed: 07/15/2018

A cool title sequence opens Bandidos, a very solid, though lesser-known and seen Spaghetti Western.  

This was Massimo Dallamano’s first film as director, having served as cinematographer for at least 15 years prior. He was fresh off of shooting A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965) for Sergio Leone. According to spaghetti-western.net, Dallamano was disappointed with not being brought back for the finale of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), and infused Bandidos with themes of betrayal, apparently pointed at Leone.

“Hurry up and die, will you?”

Bandidos is packed with lots of action, nearly brimming with it, and the cinematographer turned director shoots the whole thing teaming with style and panache. It all starts with a train robbery, the brutal killing of all of the passengers, save one, a sharpshooter who has his hands maimed. Revenge percolates, a young man comes into play, student to the damaged gunslinger, but it doesn’t turn out quite the way one might think.

Good stuff.