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
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More psycho-sexual thriller than giallo, this film nevertheless delivers the goods.
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
Put your PJs on, this giallo will put you to sleep.
In 1934, the corpse of a woman clad in exotic silk pajamas was found lying in a culvert in New South Wales, Australia. She had been beaten, shot, and partially burned, leaving her identity a mystery. Police were perplexed. The media made it a sensation and the crime enthralled the country. Especially after the body became a public spectacle when she was laid in a formaldehyde bath for display in Sydney. In 1977, Flavio Mogherini turned the story into a movie. It is an odd, often-salacious, rather-dull police procedural that for some reason gets lumped into the giallo genre (Arrow
Teruo Ishii's strangest film of murder, doppelgangers, and the titular malformed men finally makes it to Blu-ray.
Escaped asylum inmates, mistaken identity, resurrection from the grave, bizarre biological experiments, murder, incest, and a plot for world domination via freaks - the barest bones of a plot outline makes Horrors of Malformed Men, directed by Teruo Ishii, sound itself malformed - overstuffed with ingredients that can’t cohere. Surprisingly, the film maintains an integrity to its own oddity and perversity, never pausing for a moment to let a hint of self-awareness turn the proceedings into farce. We meet our protagonist, Hirosuke Hitomi, in a woman’s cell of an insane asylum, where half-naked women dance around him and try to
Terry Gilliam's controversial tale of an innocent in a grotesque world is four parts beautiful, six parts repulsive.
In a recorded introduction to Tideland, director Terry Gilliam states flat out, "Many of you are not going to like this film." And "Don't forget to laugh." I didn't find a whole lot to laugh about in Tideland, which earned Gilliam the worst reviews of his career and scared up very little in the way of box-office returns. Gilliam has never been a commercial filmmaker, though. A challenging vision coming from him isn't a surprise. And Tideland is not some routine carnival of shock and gore. It is more thoughtful in its repulsive elements, and more likely to get under
The second part of Massimo Dallamano's "schoolgirl's in peril" trilogy gets an excellent release from Arrow Video.
Two years after he directed the excellent giallo What Have You Done to Solange?, Massimo Dallamano helmed this giallo/poliziotteschi hybrid. It has some interesting moments but definitely feels like a step down in quality. It contains many of characteristics of a giallo - gruesome murders by a black clad; knife-wielding (or in this case, butcher’s-cleaver-wielding) killer; odd, off-kilter camera angles; a unique score; and a bold use of color - but in many ways the plot is closer to a poliziotteschi. It spends most of its run time following the police, detailing their procedures as they try to solve the
Kinji Fukasaku's brings docu-drama realism and brutal ugliness to the Yakuza genre in this gritty film.
Street Mobster is a rough, often ugly story about Okita, a common street thug who tries to eke out a living as a low-level yakuza, but whose temper and inability to kowtow to his bosses lead him to disaster. He's not a gallant rogue or a tragic figure. His father was killed in the war; his mother was a whore who walked drunk into a river and was fished out dead the next day. He turned to crime as soon as he was capable, and one of his jobs was grabbing country girls who'd just moved to the city and
'Vigil' shows much of the talent and promise that would be delivered in 'The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey.'
There's a funny thing about favorite movies. You can easily find people to share a love for anything Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. You can go a little further and find friends who enjoy 2001, On The Waterfront, or The Philadelphia Story. Then there's another level where you might mention a movie you love that not everyone has heard of but mostly they are aware of like Eraserhead, Freaks, or 8 1/2. Those are part of the popular-culture vernacular and you don't get weird looks when bringing them up in discussion. Then there's that final
Sergio Martino's horror film ticks off all the giallo boxes but never rises above them.
When Lisa Baumer’s (Ida Galli) husband dies in a plane explosion (via a very obvious model getting blown to bits in a special effect that will make Classic Doctor Who fans proud), she must rush to Athens in order to collect on the $1,000,000 insurance money. That she was dallying with a man who was decidedly not her husband when the plane exploded and that despite the insurance’s protests she takes her money in cash creates an all-too-familiar suspicion amongst fans of Italian horror. The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail follows the stereotypical hallmarks of the Italian giallo to near
Arrow Video has done their usual magnificent job releasing this ridiculously bad, yet somehow entertaining horror film.
When a hotshot palimony attorney (Michael Rogen) wins a big case, he takes his girlfriend (Patty Mullen) for a ride in his convertible. He pays a little too much attention to the girl and too little on the road and winds up wrapping the car around a tree, killing the girl, and maiming himself. In the next scene, he finds himself on the autopsy table of a nearby asylum where a medical examiner (Harvey Keith) and his assistant (Steve Menkin) prepare to cut him open (why he’s taken to the asylum and not a morgue is never explained). Ah! But
Released in 1963, director Seijun Suzuki was on the brink of his artistic breakthrough with this comic gangland picture.
Seijun Suzuki, one of the stable of directors at Nikkatsu in the '50s and '60s, Japan's oldest film studio, was fired in 1967 after his imaginative and visually inventive Branded to Kill completely confused the studio head. It was the culmination of an increasingly prickly relationship between Suzuki and the studio, as he worked very hard to put a personal touch and visual flair on what were standard studio genre scripts. He would happily undermine the generic beats and tone of the violent gangster movies he was tasked with making, if it would allow him to get something interesting on