Following the success of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Italian cinema was awash in lurid crime stories with baroque titles featuring one animal or another. The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire came out about one year after Argento’s quintessential giallo, and it's clearly aping some of that films tropes while also blending in Poliziotteschi crime elements. It has a masked killer, graphic violence, and lurid sexuality, but it's told in a much more conventional way without the typical giallo camera flourishes and wild color schemes. It is much more centered on the crime, catching the killer,
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This giallo/poliziotteschi has too much confusing plot and not enough style to be interesting to anyone but fans of the genres.
Takashi Miike's sci-fi adventure on Mars should have stayed on Earth a little longer.
Japanese director Takashi Miike is probably best known for his ultra-violent splatter films like Ichi the Killer and Audition. Or perhaps for his deviant, bizarre films such as Visitor Q (featuring incest, rape, and something known as lactation sex) or MPD Psycho (about a detective with multiple-personality disorder working on a case in which the killer makes flower pots out of severed heads). But with over 100 films to his name, he’s made films in nearly every genre including westerns, samurai flicks, and even a family film or two. Not all of them are great, in fact quite a few
Salacious 1970s giallo is quite dull despite being packed full of sex and violence.
There are certain expectations that come with genre films. What is a genre except a set of criteria that help define different types of films? Once in a while, a film will come along that is so inventive, so creative that it breaks free of a genre’s expectations which then sets the standard for all films in that genre that come after it. When a film is so inventive, it sometimes creates its own subgenre. Afterwards, many subsequent films try to imitate the first film's success with diminishing returns. Eventually what was inventive becomes cliche and films can slip into
Low-budget 1980s horror flick waits until the end to get interesting, but by then it is too late.
A little free critical advice to anyone planning to make a low-budget horror film: don’t put all of your money, your scares, and inventiveness into the last twenty minutes of the movie. You might think you need to have a grand finale so that your audience leaves the theatre with a bang, but if they are bored for the first half, they might not stick around to see what crazy stuff you can throw at them in the end. Richard Friedman (the auteur behind such classics as Doom Asylum and various episodes of Silk Stalkings and Baywatch Nights) did not
Franco Nero stars in this later-period spaghetti western that's got a lot of style, and little else.
With his Dollars trilogy, Sergio Leone revived the failing western genre, infused it with European sensibilities, and created his own subgenre, the Spaghetti Western. With their scruffy, loner heroes, off-kilter visual design, and unusual scores, Leone’s films gave the western a new and distinctive style. Their worldwide success created a numerous imitators, some more successful than others. By 1970, the genre had slipped into parody or outright slapstick. By 1976 it had all but died out. With Keomo, director Enzo G. Castellari along with star Fraco Nero gave it one last gasp, but by then we had all moved on.
A '90s slasher has plenty of violence and little else.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to cross MTV’s seminal reality TV series The Real World with a trapped house horror film on an extremely low budget and a totally late '90s aesthetic then look no further than Kolobos. It is all those things and more. Now with an Arrow Video release, you can see it in all its restored glory with plenty of extras to fill you in on all the behind the scenes trivia. Answering a classified ad, a group of attractive, young, obnoxious people show up at a house filled with video cameras to
Takashi Miike's disturbing melodrama gets a nice restoration from Arrow Video.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about Takashi Miike's 1999 film Audition is that for its first half or so there is nothing shocking about it at all. Miike, a Japanese director known for films featuring perverse images, black humor and extreme violence, spends the first 50 minutes of his nearly two hours run time telling an intimate, emotional, family drama. For anyone who comes to Audition knowing Miike films such as Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q, or Izo, watching nearly an hour of cinema in which nothing weird, blood soaked, or insane happens is the craziest twist of all. This
Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee battle an alien ape on a train. What more could you want?
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing first performed in a movie together in Laurence Olivier’s 1948 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Cushing played Oscric, a minor character, while Lee was an uncredited spear carrier). They were nearly inseperable after that, performing again together more than 20 more times. They made several great movies, quite a few bad ones, and became stars performing for Hammer Studios in a slew of horror films. They were the best of friends up until Cushing died in 1994. In 1972, both actors were set to make a low-budget horror movie based upon the novel Who Goes There?
Two films from Luigi Bazzoni illustrate both what a great director he was and what seismic shifts Dario Argento created on Italian cinema.
There were giallo around before Dario Argento unleashed The Bird with the Crystal Plumage but that film upended, supplanted and redefined the genre creating a million copycat films in its wake and making all previous films feel like they are part of a different genre altogether. Luigi Bazzoni directed two films in the genre, The Possessed in 1965 and The Fifth Cord in 1971, which straddle both sides of Plumage, making it a fascinating double feature to see how in just a few short years the genre had completely changed. Arrow Video is releasing both films this week with new
More psycho-sexual thriller than giallo, this film nevertheless delivers the goods.
Giallo films had been around for several years before Dario Argento revolutionized and popularized the genre in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. These early films tended to be less lurid, much less graphically violent, and had plots that actually made some sense. Such it is with Luciano Ercoli’s Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. But enough genre talk, the real question is does the movie work? The answer actually depends on which parts of the genre you like. It is surprisingly bloodless, has no black-gloved killer, does have some interesting camera work, and a wonderfully baroque set. The
Arrow Video brings together a collection of three early collaborations between two titans of the cinema with mixed results.
That Robert De Niro is one of the greatest film actors of all time there is no doubt. He has starred in some of the greatest films ever made, won nearly every acting award in existence including two Oscars, an AFI Life Achievement Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His work in the 1970s and '80s on films like The Godfather, Part II, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and Once Upon A Time in America is nearly unparalleled. That his filmography over the last couple of decades doesn’t really hold up does not in any way take
Kids behaving badly in a really bad movie.
What is is about kids behaving badly that makes for such delightfully creepy cinema? The genre has been around since at least Patty McCormack’s turn as a demented killer in 1956’s The Bad Seed and has turned out such classics as Children of the Corn and Village of the Damned. There is just something about children doing horrible things that is both really disturbing and really fun to watch. In 1981, cult director Ed Hunt took the killer-kids genre and spliced it onto the burgeoning slasher genre and made Bloody Birthday an ultimately silly flick that generally fails to do
Here's a few new releases to add to your Christmas stocking.
Over the years, I’ve become a pretty big Brian De Palma fan. It has been a slow process. I first came to him through the Oscar-winning, Al Capone-drama The Untouchables in 1987, then it was likely another decade before I caught him again in Mission:Impossible. I’d then catch a film here, a film there. Then the last couple of years, I’ve really started to pay attention. I’ve caught up on a lot of his older films - The Fury, Blow Out, Dressed to Kill - and while his stories are often a gloriously mess, I really dig his visual style.
Teruo Ishii's strange anthology of period stories of sex and torture is more bizarre than erotic, though entertaining.
When a form of entertainment is facing a crisis, when other forms of media cut into its business and make it more and more difficult to be profitable, the most tried-and-true formula for clawing your banks books out of the red: exploitation! This was what faced the Japanese film industry from the early '60s onward, when television had finally become more pervasive and people could get their entertainment without having to go to the movie theater. Movie studios worked hard to show on the movie screen material you just can't get on television...which in the case of the Japanese studios
Herschell Gordon Lewis's splatter classic is terrible in the best possible way.
If there’s one thing I know for sure after watching The Wizard of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis's splatter classic is that Lewis was no auteur. Hell, he was hardly even a director. If you are feeling generous, you might call him a filmmaker. He was, however, one heck of a salesman. After spending a few years doing various jobs - teaching at university, managing radio stations, and working in advertising - Lewis turned his sights on movies. Not because he had any artistic dreams, but because he figured he could make a few bucks at it. Teaming with notorious exploitation
A wonderfully somber portrait of women at a crossroads.
As I have mentioned time and time again, the essence and importance of women filmmakers continues to be taken for granted. It is really a damn shame, because women have excellent ability to make their own films about life, love, and everything in-between. And fortunately, director Allison Anders is definitely one of them. With her stunning 1992 landmark, Gas Food Lodging, she elevates familiar territory while adding her own distinctive flair for women in emotional peril. Based on a novel by Richard Peck, the film takes place in a small New Mexico town where Nora (Brooke Adams), a single mother
Director Sergio Martino crafts a precursor to modern slasher movies that combines sexploitation with stabbings. And gougings.
One of the things that make giallo movies arresting is setting. Giallo movies are Italian, and, unsurprisingly enough, tend to be shot in Italy. And it turns out Italy has a lot of picturesque, attractive, and downright beautiful settings for murder and mayhem to take place. Torso, shot in Perugia in 1973, has breath-taking hillside vistas and incredible, ancient-looking city-scapes and plazas which are a decided contrast to the rather transparent exploitative boobs and blood strategy of the film. If nothing else, there's always something worth looking at on screen, whether it be architecture or arched-back Italian beauties in the
A minimalist, but masterful portrait of harrowing family dynamics.
Stories about troubled families doesn't hit cinema too often, but when they're done well, such as in Rachel Getting Married, Ordinary People, Hannah and Her Sisters, and A Family Thing, they can hit hard. Such a case is director Terrence Davies' 1988 breaktrough masterpiece, Distant Voices, Still Lives, which brilliantly tells an all-too-real harrowing story, but with music, humor, and unsentimental truth. Loosely based on Davies's own upbringing, the film is told in two parts of the lives of a family in 1940s/'50s Liverpool, where siblings Tony (Dean Williams) and Maisie (Lorriane Ashbourne), along with their mother (Freida Dowie), gather
A movie so bad we reviewed it three times.
Made in 1971 on a minuscule budget, John Landis’ first film as a director, Schlock, is broad comedic satire of sorts about a prehistoric ape wreaking havoc in a Los Angeles suburb. It is a bad movie. I cannot recommend a single thing about it. Everything, from the writing, directing, and acting to the music and even the comedy, is bad, poorly executed, and difficult to watch. Its only distinction is that it was directed by Landis who later went on to make such comedy classics as Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and Amazon Women on the Moon and features
Ted Post's odd ball 70s horror film has all the trappings of a camp classic but the execution left me bored out of my skull.
The 1970s must have been an amazing time to make movies. The studio system was breaking down, allowing more independent cinema to get made. The censorship inherent within the Hays Code was destroyed, allowing for more freedom of expression. Money was pouring in from all corners. Grindhouse cinemas were willing to play any kind of movie at all hours of the day and night with willing patrons flowing through their doors. This allowed all sorts of imaginative, wonderful, and terrible films to be made and find an audience. Made in 1973, The Baby is a film so bizarre it defies