DOLCEZZA EXTREMA (2015) BY ALBERTO GENOVESE

Reviews

AKA: Sick Sock Monsters from Outer Space
Director: Alberto Genovese
Writer: Massimo Vavassori
Starring: Alessandro Bianchi, Giovanni De Giorgi, Marco Antonio Andolfi, Paola Masciadri, Massimo Muntoni, Alberto Pagnotta

Synopsis:
In an unspecified year in the future, the Captain Pixws and his space pirate crew are forced to deliver tanning showers to every corner of the universe. Dolcezza Extrema starship will live an extraordinary adventure.

Review:
I feel that this review is almost pointless as after reading that synopsis the majority of film fans will have already decided if this film is for them or not. Clearly this film is absolutely bonkers, as a former drug taking hard rocker Captain Pixws (Giovanni De Giorgi) hurtles through space to sort out these bloody tanning showers and his crew of a plankton-loving (sock) fish, a desperate doctor who needs crew members to get ill in order to remain in a job and also nymphomaniac puppet who just wants satisfaction.

This plot is intentionally bizarre and the film revels in its own insanity proving at times hilarious while potentially borderline satirical of today’s body worship culture. Oh did I not mention that as well as tanning showers the beings in this film have to work out and achieve good bodies in order to stay warm enough to live. Yep, you read that right. So is this a take on today’s body worship culture or just a tale of ridiculous absurdity?

Away from the unique plot the fact that the film is filled with relatively cheap yet effective CGI (it was shot in front of a green screen) and some pretty nifty sock puppets, of which credit has to be given to the crew for the majority for, which rather than being just a quirky gimmick actually turn out to be a rather inventive bit of fun.

Additionally the music, courtesy of Antony Coia deserves special mention which on the whole was nicely done, varied and slightly bonkers; perfectly suiting the tone of the movie. One downside however is that even at just 80 minutes DOLCEZZA EXTREMA does unfortunately lag in some places and disappears into its own vortex of absurdity at others and so could benefit from a little bit more editing to tighten it up and add to the punchiness as witnessed in the trailer. Talking of punchiness the humour was a little hit and miss for me and I believe it will be for a number of viewers also but thankfully it is not jarring or too far off in terms of intention and so does not negate the overall experience of watching the film.

Born outoof a love for film and creativity this is a film which can be best described as a charming oddity, one that unsurprisingly had been picked up by Troma and distributed under the title SICK SOCK MONSTERS FROM OUTER SPACE, and it is either a piece of satirical genius or simply the writer Massimo Vavassori and director Alberto Genovese having fun and letting us join in with the laughs…I would recommend you have a drink beforehand and just go with the flow.

So if you are looking for a sexualised, surreal sci-fi film with puppets then DOLCEZZA EXTREMA is the film for you. If not, well I doubt you even made it this far in the review.

As well as Troma the film is distributed in Italy (and so should be reasonably accessible for all Europeans) on DVD and Blu-ray and if you are lucky you will be able to pick up a copy with a sock puppet! Makes sense and is certainly better than just a cardboard slip (which you may also get with certain editions).

The Case of the Bloody Iris comes to UK Blu

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Now I don’t normally write stuff based on press releases I receive, from my previous site Cosi Perversa I found this to be a pointless exercise in the main, but as I am such a big fan of both the label and the film I thought I would make an exception. Especially since one member of the cast, and I doubt it is who you expect, has helped inspire me with a forthcoming article.

So without much further ado (and it is very obvious from the title) coming from the terrific UK label ‘Shameless Films’, and for the first time on UK Blu-Ray is Giuliano Carnimeo’s (RATMAN) 1972 giallo THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRISa giallo featuring the iconic duo and giallo royalty of Edwige Fenech and George Hilton.

After two beautiful women are murdered in an apartment block, Jennifer (Edwige Fenech) and Marilyn (Paola Quattrini) move into the flat of one of the slaughtered girls. But before long, the unknown predatory pervert soon turns his salacious attentions to the gorgeous Jennifer. The list of suspects of who this maniac could be grows ever longer as we start to consider a woman and her deformed son, a crazy lesbian and even Jennifer’s own lover!

All the while throughout the film we are serenaded with Bruno Nicolai’s enrapturing (and extremely memorable) score and terrific cinematography from Stelvio Massi, this long-sought-after 70s sleaze gem will be available on Shameless Blu-ray in a 2k restored special edition for the first time ever in the UK!

With Bonus Features including a new candid chat with the always handsome George Hilton, as well as one with the bubbly Paola Quattini, I certainly do believe that it is time to upgrade from the old ‘Beyond Terror’ DVD release or even discover this neat little giallo for the first time. I even suspect that your favourite character will the quirky and hilarious Police Inspector.

One watch of the trailer should be enough to make you purchase this essential film.

THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS is released on Blu-ray (and also DVD) from Shameless on 19th November and will be available for pre-order and order from all the usual places and also direct from Shameless themselves here.

[Also of interest, the original story by Italian screenwriting legend Ernesto Gastaldi has also been novelised by Michael R Hudson and is available in both paperback and digital edition. This version has several differences to that of the filmed version.]

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Trailer below;

Sock puppet sci-fi!

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So earlier today I received an email from the director Alberto Genovese in which he briefly discussed his film DOLCEZZA EXTREME, which I was unfamiliar with, and after watching the trailer I sat there in incredulity. Bizarre. Genius. Compelling.

Distributed in the USA by TROMA, make sure you watch the trailer below and let me know your thoughts. A full review coming soon I hope.

THE WIFE KILLER (1976) BY DACOSTA CARAYAN

Reviews

Alternative Titles: The Rape Killer; Death Kiss; Vai Killer!; Mata Killer…mata; Crime in Cavouri; Eglima sto Kavouri
Director: Dacosta Carayan aka Kostas Karagiannis
Writer: Thanos Leivaditis
Year: 1976
Starring: Lakis Komninos aka Larry Daniels, Dorothy Moore, Vagelis Seilinos, Leslie Bowman

Synopsis:
Penniless playboy Captain Jim is in hock to his rich older wife, Helen. She has even bought him the fancy yacht that now bears his name. But Jim does not want to be Helen’s toy boy anymore. He wants to marry his lover, Laura. Jim pays a psychopathic killer of women to murder his wife so that he will inherit her millions. But the psycho killer has his own plans. Suspecting Jim will double cross him, he engineers a complex scheme that will give him the upper hand.

[Taken from the 2015 Mondo Macabro release]

Review:
By the time of this films release the giallo genre had built up momentum which arguably culminated in 1975 with its defining moment – Dario Argento’s DEEP RED – the effect being that subsequent films would begin to enter more exploitative territory in order to maintain the audiences interest and offer something different.

Marking director Dacosta Carayan’s second foray into thriller territory, with TANGO OF PERVERSION coming a few years earlier, he clearly learnt a few tricks to help ease the production (and post-production) process and you might very well notice a number of dialog scenes being shot from beside or behind the actors, thereby reducing the need for accurate lip synching. Not that that would have been a consideration had this been an Italian production.

But what of the film itself?

Well on their DVD release Mondo Macabro state that this is “A brutal thriller in the style of the Italian “giallo”…” and that is not far from the truth as this Greek production is clearly influenced by and should be evaluated as being in the filone of the genre. But THE WIFE KILLER displays a some particular influences both on and off screen. It takes inspiration from true events, from Alfred Hitchcock – most notably DIAL M FOR MURDER and also from Dario Argento’s long-time friend and collaborator Luigi Cozzi’s 1975 thriller THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN. A film with which it shares several similarities but considering the close proximity of the release dates between Luigi Cozzi’s film and THE WIFE KILLER we cannot say for sure if this was an actual influence or just a coincidence. Although we can clearly argue that several scenes are reminiscent of Sergio Martino’s 1973 giallo TORSO which was clearly an influence, particularly for the initial sequence set in the wooded area where lovers are spied on and attacked.

On the subject of TORSO and the KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN, both of these films are brought to mind with the opening of THE WIFE KILLER while the quick reveal of a sex maniac is bold move that works predominately thanks to the characters utilised in the film; including the adulterous Captain Jim and the slightly off Doctor. Hell, soon we even begin to suspect the beleaguered wife may or may not be involved. Nothing is beyond the realm of possibility in a film where double crossing and deceit is as natural as breathing.

Meanwhile fifty minutes in, the film begins to toy with the idea of introducing the more familiar amateur sleuth plot arc as one of the characters makes a startling discovery and although this is not fully explored on screen it does help to drive the overall story forwards while displaying a surprisingly restrained and mature writing approach that allows the film to remain focused and tight. This is still an exploitative film however and makes sure that we have plenty of female flesh to savour, several rape scenes to abhor (which would lead to an alternative US title of THE RAPE KILLER) and a few bouts of violence which is predominantly on women lending the film a slightly nasty undertone. But crucially and thankfully this aspect never overpowers the mystery or the film itself.

Of special mention is the score by Yannis Spanos which flits between jazz, rock and traditional Greek music – sometimes combining them all to great effect and for me is one of the stand out soundtracks of the genre as it perfectly complements rather than detracts from the scenes- hopefully someone puts this soundtrack out there.

It is a compliment to say that THE WIFE KILLER feels and plays out like the Italian films it was meant to emulate and this is true across all aspects. From the double crossing plot, the aforementioned soundtrack and the sex maniac angle all the way to the more brutal and sadistic action which was becoming more prevalent in the genre as a whole at the time.  The competent inclusion of these elements help us to place the film within the filone of the giallo as previously stated but it is the quality of the film itself that helps it to stand out as a strong and entertaining film even today. Greece may not have produced much genuinely good genre fare of note during this period but they can be proud of this film and I recommend fans of giallo to check out this sordid little gem.

Version Reviewed:

I reviewed the 2015 Mondo Macabro release which features a brand new transfer from the negative and looks fantastic both the format (DVD) and the age of the film. Mondo Macabro list this as the first official DVD release of the film and present it complete (including scenes with subtitling where no English dubbed version exists) and uncensored and the film does not hold back in this respect.

THE WIFE KILLER is highly recommended for all fans of cult cinema and aside from the excellent film Mondo Macabro have put together a brilliant package which includes information on the original influence of the film, detailed text about the film itself and the cast and crew, alternative English credits as well as a couple of US trailers under the title THE RAPE KILLER and its VHS release title DEATH KISS providing an interesting insight as to how the film was marketed to that audience.

However it is the documentary SUNSHINE AND SHADOWS in which critic/musician Akis Kapranos takes a look at the film and cult genre scenes in Greece. This documentary is extremely insightful particularly for those of us who do not know much about the Greek cinematic movement or phases and Mondo must be commended for its inclusion on this and the TANGO OF PERVERSION DVD.

Overall this is an excellent package and a mandatory purchase for those interested in European mystery / thriller cult cinema.

The Wife Killer DVD cover

MCBETTER (2018) BY MATTIA DE PASCALI

Reviews

Director: Mattia De Pascali
Writer: Mattia De Pascali
Year: 2018
Starring: Andrea Canaiello, Nik Manzi, Donatella Reverchon, Oscar Stajano, Sereno Toma

Synopsis:
A modern-day tragedy loosely based on Macbeth where the main character wants to conquer a fast-food restaurant chain instead of the Kingdom of Scotland. 

Review:
The synopsis of the film clearly states that this is a contemporary take of a Shakespearean classic and one would further assume, indeed I did, that this would be framed around a contemporary fast food joint, resulting perhaps in something like the American films WAITING (2005) crossed with THE FOUNDER (2016).

However MCBETTER plays more like a dynastic family struggle; a struggle for power and wealth with events unfolding within the mansion of a wealthy business man, Joe McBetter. The stakes though are for much more than just the future of the fast-food empire. De Pascali chooses to open the film with a televised mystic, a modern day witch if you will, providing encouragement to the portly figure of Malcom (Andrea Cananiello), a man who looks like a cross between Ron Jeremy and Joe Spinelli, and she tells our visually unlikely hero that his doubts are nothing and that he is the master of his own destiny. It is up to him to seize it.

Soon we learn that this is not strictly true as it is his girlfriend, Melanie (Serena Toma), who is really calling the shots. And as our power duo set off on a couples trip to her family home we start to grasp the extent of their duplicitous plans in which Melanie’s estranged father, the eponymous McBetter, is the key.

Much like Macbeth we are taken on a tale in which there are plans to usurp a king, to take and create a dynasty and the dangers of ambition but there is so much more in play here. From the quirky off-beat business idea of Malcom to the familial struggles of Melanie, MCBETTER works its black comedy into what at its heart is a much darker story…and it is all the better for it.

Throw in a doddering old housemaid, a young vivacious step-mother and her son, aptly named Little Joe, and you also have the recipe for a dysfunctional family drama in which talking solves nothing forcing our scheming duo into more drastic action. But they aren’t the only ones who are willing to go to such lengths.

By keeping the tone relatively consistent through his script Mattia De Pascali gives himself the leeway to experiment with visual styles (some of the lighting is positively Mario Bava or Dario Argento-esque) and tones as required by whichever strand of the story the narrative is following. While at just over one hour ten minutes long the film is perfect length, not once overstaying its welcome.

There are plenty of influences competing inside of MCBETTER but thankfully none of them overpower or unbalance the final project and as debuts go Mattia De Pascali has made a darkly comic tale which takes the themes of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and updates it with some Wes Anderson (RUSHMORE; THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS; ISLE OF DOGS) sensibilities and Italian style. 

Thanks to decent performances, strong direction and varied cinematography MCBETTER is an accomplished debut that is worthy of your time, but this is hardly surprising considering it features a supporting crew that includes David Bracci, Lucio Massa and Giulio Ciancamerla – all names who are growing in stature in the independent Italian scene.

Despite all of this I do worry that MCBETTER will be resigned to playing only a few festivals outside of its home country as has happened with many independent Italian films before BUT if it can get exposure I know it will find a fanbase, if in all likelihood only a small one.

However if you like quirky dark comedies, fancy taking a risk (check out the trailer below) and don’t mind ordering from (mainland) Europe then you will be able to pick up the film on DVD and Blu-ray in November as it gains a release from Home Movies.

Follow the film on Facebook.

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A fantastic celebration of regional film

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Over the past few years I have contributed several reviews and pieces for a regional British website named Midlands Movies. A website that was set up to celebrate and promote actors, crew and film productions from the Midlands region of England.

The site has been running since Winter 2012 with its activities expanding into free film nights a few years ago and last year saw the first live award ceremony which celebrated the best of the region.

Now why am I writing this now? Well it’s nearly been a year and the second annual Midlands Movies Film Awards is in this planing stages and they need your support be it through raising awareness or cold hard cash via a Kickstarter campaign, but don’t worry you do get a decent return for your support.

Now why am I bothered? Despite not having any stake in the awards I backed last years event (and had a great evening attending as part of my perk) and I have already backed the next event simply because I think the whole concept behind the site deserves support …ironically because it’s whole point is to altruistically promote the work of others.

So if you can (and especially if you are based in the Midlands of the UK) check out the site, follow Midlands Movies on Twitter and check out the awards ceremony which are due to held at Hansom Hall in Leicester on Saturday 3rd March 2019.

 

 

BAGHEAD (2017) BY ALBERTO CORREDOR

Reviews

Year: 2017
Director: Alberto Corredor
Writer: Lorcan Reilly
Starring:  Oliver Walker, Natalie Oliver, Julian Seager, Pat Boothman

Synopsis:
BAGHEAD is a ghost story. Kevin is haunted by grief and has questions that only the recently deceased can answer. His search takes him to the most unremarkable of locations, a grotty storage room at the back of a rundown pub. However, what he finds there is anything but unremarkable. He is introduced to Baghead, a shape-shifting witch who can channel the dead in a most unusual manner and maybe provide Kevin with the answers he seeks.

Review:
Not to be confused with the 2008 American feature from the excellent Duplass brothers, the short film BAGHEAD comes from the mind of British writer Lorcan Reilly and Spanish director Alberto Corredor.

Opening with despair and punishment, you would be forgiven for initially believing BAGHEAD to be a slasher or revenge movie. With the post-title sequence doing little to dispel that second option, even calling to mind, if only loosely Stan Winston’s PUMPKINHEAD.

In only fifteen captivating minutes writer Lorcan Reilly manages to convey a full narrative complete with past and present but perhaps crucially without any one aspect feeling rushed or under thought. It is clear to see why the script for BAGHEAD went on to win production funds from ShortTV. Money that was very well spent.

Due to the length of the short film and the story contained within it I won’t discuss or detail the plot, but I do urge you to check out this darkly comic and twisted tale of loss, love and vengeance.

The majority of short films that I see are portfolio pieces as writers and directors develop their skills for wider audiences and bigger (feature) opportunities and if taken in that spirit then BAGHEAD is  an accomplished piece in every aspect.

Credit needs to go to both the cast for their strong performances and the crew for strong and well composed shots, editing and sound. However BAGHEAD is more than that and more than the sum of its (considerable) parts and in its own right stands up as a terrific story and watch. With potential to become a feature length I am looking forward to seeing what comes next from both Lorcan Reilly and Alberto Corredor…hopefully an extension of this impressive short.

The film is currently doing the rounds on the festival circuit, and in fact played at the most recent FrightFest in London,  and as of September 2018 it was confirmed for the following upcoming festivals:

Sitges Film Festival; Manhattan Short Film Festival; San Diego Film Festival; Freakshow Horror Film Festival; Mollins Film Festival; Sacramento Horror Fest.

I presume if you are going to one of these then you will already know the date…and now you will know of BAGHEAD so make sure you check it out.

View the trailer here.

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