Giallo January: Off The Beaten Track
Throughout this series I've talked about a slew of great Gialli from the 60's and 70's and for this week's installment, I thought I would throw out a few lesser known films while also mixing it up a bit and taking a look at some newer, modern day entries!
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
1971 d. Emilio Miraglia
Lord Alan Cunningham is a man haunted by the memory of his dead wife Evelyn. This leads to a nervous breakdown which has him being restrained in a psychiatric clinic. Once released, Cunningham channels this trauma by taking redheaded prostitutes to his countryside castle, subjecting them to vicious acts of torture, and killing them. His doctor and friend, Richard Timberlane advises him to forget the past and remarry but Cunningham is obsessed with Evelyn and even organizes a séance at the castle. Eventually, after killing some more girls, he meets Gladys, another redhead, and marries her almost immediately, but the arrival of his new wife spawns a series of sinister events. Bloodthirsty creatures strike at Sir Alan's family, killing them off one by one. Becoming more distraught, Cunningham visits Evelyn's tomb and discovers it to be empty. Soon, a number of "outsiders" begin to suspect something fishy is going on in the castle and Lord Cunningham's treatment might not have been that successful after all.
This is a sleazy slice of Italian cinema and has some very solid performances. Miraglia' first Giallo does an excellent job mixing gothic horror with traditional Gialli elements. Last year, Arrow Video released Killer Dames: Two Gothic Tales by Emilio Miraglia and it's an essential release. The transfers are wonderful, the artwork impeccable, and the special features are informative. Kudos to Arrow for giving us these pristine editions!
The Red Queen Kills Seven Times
1972 d. Emilio Miraglia
Two sisters, Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) and Evelyn, are cursed by a family painting depicting a hundred year-cycle in which a Red Queen is raised from the dead to kill seven times. After Evelyn dies and multiple killings by a red hooded killer ensue, their niece, Franziska (Marina Malfatti) and Kitty start to suspect that Evelyn may be the Red Queen.
Miraglia' second genre outing proves him to be the master of "Gothic Giallo", continuing the genre mixing of his first film; in this case an old castle replete with a crypt populated with rats and bats, as well as a legend about an evil supernatural killer. This gothic material is combined with a contemporary setting, where we have a fashion house populated with a selection of gorgeous girls. This setup gives the movie a slightly different angle to most others in the genre and Miraglia makes full use of both the gothic and the giallo conventions as well as one of the coolest looking killers in the genre! I really wish we had more films from him. Of special note, the Bruno Nicolai soundtrack is stellar. As a matter of fact I'm listening to it as I write this!
The Fifth Cord
1971 d. Luigi Bazzoni
The great Franco Nero (Django, Hitch-Hike, Die Hard 2) plays alcoholic journalist Andrea Bild, who becomes a suspect after guests of a New Year's Eve party start turning up murdered. He gets on the case to clear his name and eventually stumbles upon the motive! The kills aren't as grizzly or clever as some other Gialli, but it gives the film a sense of realism. Nero's character is on the edge of snapping at any moment due to his immense alcohol consumption. Snazzy direction from Bazzoni, some beautiful cinematography from the amazing Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now), another fine Ennio Morricone score (of course) and a top notch performance by Franco Nero elevate this genre entry. It's available on DVD via Blue Underground, and very reasonably priced. I'll be revisiting this one very soon!
2009 d. Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani
Amer is an interesting picture. It pays tribute to giallo without actually being a genuine giallo, at least in the traditional sense. The movie doesn't feature any sadistic murders except for one notably grisly moment near the climax or explicit sex sequences and the plot doesn't necessarily revolve on the manhunt for a deranged knife-wielding maniac. Instead, Amer pays its respects towards the stylistic trademarks and design of the giallo. The film is a non-stop smorgasbord of cinematographic elegance; imaginative camera angles, specifically focused close-ups, POV shots, experimental photography delusional color schemes, intentionally rough editing, and recognizable giallo soundtrack classics (with Stelvio Cipriani's theme song of "What Have They Done to our Daughters" a mesmerizing highlight). There is hardly any dialogue in Amer, and yet all your senses will nevertheless be tantalized.
2001 d. Dario Argento
Detective Ulisse Moretti (the legendary Max Von Sydow) is investigating a series of murders in Turin in 1983. The main suspect, a giallo novelist named Vincenzo de Fabritiis, turns up dead and the case is considered closed. However, seventeen years later, a similar series of murders begin and draw the since-retired Moretti back into the case. Moretti teams up with Giacomo (Stefano Dionisi), whose mother was a murder victim in the 1983 spree, to determine if de Fabritiis is still alive or was actually innocent of the crimes for which he was accused. As the murders continue, the investigating duo discovers specific clues, left at the scene of each murder is a cut-out of an animal, all of which link to a mysterious nursery rhyme.
The 90's weren't particularly kind to Dario Argento, while I enjoy Trauma quite a bit, and have a soft spot for Stendhal Syndrome, Argento's Phantom of the Opera (not to be confused with his 80's hit 'Opera') is one of his worst offerings. I remember reading about this, and my interest was immediately peaked; Argento, Max Von Sydow, a Goblin score, and Giallo. When I finally got my hands on the Artisan Entertainment DVD I was blown away by the opening scene. When the film ended I was less enthusiastic. Since starting this weekly column, I've gone back and watched so many films I hadn't watched in years, Sleepless was one of them. To be honest, I enjoyed this a lot more than on my initial viewing, it's not as sharp as Argento's golden age, but still shows signs of greatness here and there, such as a classic bonkers plot, great camera work and kill scenes paired with an above average Goblin score, and a neat twist ending. Those are just the right pieces to make this a solid mystery thriller. Solid cast performances and a knockout job by the legendary Max Von Sydow make this a "modern day" Giallo totally worth checking out.
2014 d. Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy
Oh man. This movie. Let me preface this by saying if you've enjoyed the movies I've been writing about, than this is a comedy horror made for you. Rey Ciso (Brooks) was at one time, considered one of the best film editors in the world. After a horrific accident, and a mental breakdown left him disfigured, he now only works on low budget B-movies. When the lead actors on his latest film are brutally murdered, Rey becomes the lead suspect. He still struggles to complete the movie while also dealing his mentally ill, former actress wife (Paz de la Huerta), a new love interest (Hill), a moronic actor (Sweeney) and an incompetent police detective (Kennedy). The killer continues to viciously murder people, at the same time, leading Rey down a investigative rabbit hole of death and mayhem!
The story of The Editor has all the ingredients that are required (not to mention dozens of references to the directors and films which inspired it): Grotesque deaths, mediocre special effects, black gloves, J&B whisky, beautiful women, bad dubbing, anachronistic misogyny and various suspects who can be the mysterious killer. The exaggerated imitation of those elements are essential for the humor of The Editor, but it's not the only virtue. As they did previously in Father's Day and Manborg, Astron-6 gradually move from familiar territory in order to add twisted digressions and unexpected surprises, including a series of final twists, each one of them more bizarre than the previous one, until leading to an "ending ending" which is simultaneously ingenious and ridiculously ludicrous! This was put out on Blu-ray by the ever reliable Scream Factory and makes for a great group viewing!
We've gone over some really cool movies these past few weeks but before we get to next week's heavy hitting grand finale, I'd like to throw out some more titles that are totally worth seeking out! Each week I usually end up talking about a director's other works, many of those recommendations can be found in each weekly article .
Spasmo 1974 d. Umberto Lenzi
The Bloodstained Butterfly 1971 d. Duccio Tessari
Francesca 2015 d. Luciano Onetti
Seven Deaths in the Cats Eye 1973 d. Antonio Margheriti
The New York Ripper 1982 d. Lucio Fulci
Sonno Profondo 2013 d. Luciano Onetti
Short Night of the Glass Dolls 1971 d. Aldo Lado
Masks 2011 d. Andreas Marschall
Strip Nude for Your Killer 1975 d. Andrea Bianchi
Opera 1987 d. Dario Argento
Next week I'll be discussing two of the very best Gialli and also doing my personal Top Ten Giallo list! So feel free to tweet me your own top ten lists and recommendations on Twitter @hpmakelovecraft