The Nightmare continues

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In 1990 Lucio Fulci unleashed his own personal nightmare upon the world with A CAT IN THE BRAIN and now it is the turn of fellow countryman Domiziano Cristopharo to continue the fantastical and horrific vision with his upcoming film NIGHTMARE SYMPHONY.

As horror film fans we often read about directors channelling past masters or continuing legacies and it has become almost standard promotional waffle but here there is something more to it. Something both tangible and conceptual.

So what is this link between these two particular films and these two unique film makers? Primarily it is as simple as it having been reported that NIGHTMARE SYMPHONY pays homage to Fulci’s aforementioned meta-film and if that was not enough, both films share a screenwriter in Antonio Tentori – a man who straddles the old guard and the new and both have its main theme composed by the iconic Fabio Frizzi, a regular Lucio Fulci collaborator.

Nightmare Symphony

Sure this could just be window-dressing, after all any old production could theoretically hire the relevant people. Thats the nature of the industry and it doesn’t equate to or guarentee a genuine connection.

But having watched several films from Domiziano Cristopharo, a man who through several of his films displays an artistic flare for bringing the surreal and the strange to the screen, I am of the belief that he is perfectly placed to do justice to a modern take on the work of Lucio Fulci.

Seemingly the shared passions of art, horror, Lovecraft and a deeper philosophical drive leads me to believe that conceptually they may both be of the same vein while the addition of Antonio Tentori does help lend the film more validity than would be possible without featuring someone who had a direct working relationship with the great man. After all I don’t think it is a stretch to argue that Lucio Fulci was somewhat of a mentor, if only briefly, for a young Antonio.

Now onto the film itself and although very little has been leaked so far, plot wise the film unsurprisingly see’s a director (played by Frank LaLoggia) attempt to take up and finish an old ‘cursed’ film but the lines between reality and fiction soon merge no doubt with surreal and violent results.

I am intrigued however at whether this film will be self-referential, for either Cristopharo or LaLoggia, and whether it will draw comparisons to other films such as Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 in terms of execution of delivery or whether it will play things a bit more direct. Either way I am curious to find out more and hope some promotional footage lands soon.

Antonella SalvucciA few exclusive images of the production were put on the Italian site DarkVeins which I won’t reproduce here out of respect (check out the site which handily has an American-English translation button for its articles) and it has just been announced that Antonella Salvucci (Lamberto Bava’s THE TORTURER, Paolo Sorrentino’s THE FAMILY FRIEND) has been cast as the female lead seeing her work with director Domiziano Cristopharo once more, having appeared in 2011’s BLOODY SIN.

Very little additional information has been confirmed on this film which is due to land in early 2019 but

Keep an eye out for it.

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Please note that this blog post was originally posted on the 21st October 2018 and was updated on the 19th November to take into account additional imagery and information.

 

 

La Serenissima…until the killing starts

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A couple of weeks ago I visited Venice for the second time and in honour of my little trip I thought that I would once again return to my favourite films that have been set, either entirely or in part in this historic and beautiful city.

Normally when you mention Venice, chances are the first things that come into peoples minds is the  sun reflecting off the water of the canals, the intimate narrow winding streets and couples enjoying a romantic cruise on a gondola. However there is a darker side to the city that is also known as La Serenissima where our expected and imposed characteristics become inverted and what was once a close, cosy and calm setting suddenly becomes claustrophobic, dangerous and a little unsettling.

Based on this and my own personal opinions this piece will focus more on the horrors that occur in the dark, winding labyrinth of the city. Forgetting about the big budget visits of James Bond and Indiana Jones and most certainly banishing memories of THE TOURIST and the remade THE ITALIAN JOB, here this is the real cinematic beauty and horror of the city. Ones in which the city itself may play a character rather than a backdrop.

  • THE EMBALMER (1965)

THE EMBALMER sees a crazed killer on the loose in Venice who flits between donning scuba gear and a monk’s outfit with a skull mask. Fashion is clearly not his number one priority.  Much like Dario Argento’s terrible 2009 effort GIALLO, our assailant stalks beautiful women, taking them to his secret lair before killing them. After this however he would also embalm then, thus preserving their beauty and adding them to his collection.

Synoptically it is a deviation from the earlier HOUSE OF WAX  although the killers’ hideaway reminds me more of a low-budget take on the home of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA meanwhile finally the canal side setting invites comparisons to Dick Maas’ later Dutch mystery AMSTERDAMNED from 1988.

THE EMBALMER will perhaps be a slight change of pace for many horror fans and is certainly a product of it’s time. Tonally think more THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1963) than Hammer horror.

  • WHO SAW HER DIE? (1972)

Preceding the arguably more famous DON’T LOOK NOW by a year, Aldo Lado’s giallo benefits from a star cast which includes former James Bond, George Lazenby alongside the beautiful Anita Strindberg and the familiar face of Adolfo Celi. Not forgetting young Nicoletta Elmi who also appears in genre fare such as A BAY OF BLOOD; BARON BLOOD; FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN; LE ORME; DEEP RED and finally when all grown up she appears in DEMONS. Quite a résumé.

Anyway, back to the film. Opening with the murder of a child, this act sets the grim tone for what will follow as we are transported to Venice where estranged father Franco (Lazenby) welcomes his daughter Roberta (Elmi) to come stay with him.

Everything starts off well enough, despite Franco having some very peculiar friends, but eventually his selfishness leads to young Roberta being left playing with local kids and then left on her own out in the street while her father gets busy first with a female friend and then his own work, seemingly forgetting he has his daughter come to stay. Hardly father of the year material.

The inevitable occurs, giving us the title, and Venice descends into a dark and story night, paralleling Franco’s anguish as he sets out to get justice or vengeance for his daughter.

The weather and the colour scheme beautifully represents the mental state and pain of the lead characters, and this remains throughout with a fog enveloping the city as the mystery becomes more and more convoluted and socially expansive. And it is for this reason, and the cinematography by Franco Di Giacomo (IL POSTINO) that I strongly recommend the film.

WHO SAW HER DIE? is overall a solid entry into the giallo genre which manages to please both aesthetically and in terms of plot.

  • ANIMA PERSA (1977)

Yet to receive an official English language release (to be the best of my knowledge and searching at least) is this gem from Dino Risi, which is based on a novel by Giovanni Arpino – the man BOCACCIO ’70 and SCENT OF A WOMAN. Hoo-ah.

Starring the enormous talent of Vittorio Gassman (RISO AMARO; KEAN; SCENT OF A WOMAN; SLEEPERS) alongside Parisian Catherine Deneuve (THE HUNGER; POTICHE) and Danilo Mattei, who can also be seen in CANNIBAL FEROX and IRONMASTER amongst others, ANIMA PERSA is a film about loss and much like Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW (which I do seem to mentioning a surprising amount considering it hasn’t made my list), this film uses the city to portray a mental state.

However while Roeg’s film is arguably more ambiguous in terms of story, ANIMA PERSA is a lot more direct and in my opinion it is a lot better for it.

In basic terms the film follows Tino (Mattei) as he does to stay with his Aunt (Deneuve) and Uncle (Gassman) in Venice so that he may begin his studies at an art school. Not long after moving in Tino begins to hear bizarre noises coming from a supposedly empty room in the building. Although presented like a straight-forward maniac-in-the-house situation this story is all wrapped up within the first act leading you wonder what more is to come.

And it is from here that the film really comes into its own as it conceptually deals with not only issues of love and loss but also the duality of man and the fluctuating status of relationships. A must watch for all fans of Italian cinema…if you can track down an English language version.

  • THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW(1978)

Also known as SOLAMENTE NERO, the action here actually takes place primarily on the nearby island of Murano, famous for it’s glassworks. On a side note I find Murano much more relaxing to stroll through on account of it’s lower footfall. However director Antonio Bido paints a much darker picture of the island.

The film begins with the body of a schoolgirl being found in a field (what is it with Venetian-led films and child deaths) but no killer being identified. Years later and a young man, Stefano (Lino Capolicchio) returns to the Island in order to see his brother who is now the local priest. This return however coincides with a new spate of murders and threats against the man of God, forcing young Stefano to don the amateur sleuth role and solve the mystery. Which is not easy to do in a small paranoid community…one which is seemingly getting smaller by the day.

Mixing Catholicism, paedophilia and backstreet abortions with a hint of the occult, THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW weaves a tale of suspense and mystery from the very beginning and thanks to it’s almost oppressive atmosphere and a convoluted plot all fans of gialli will get something out of Antonio Bido’s sophomore effort.

  • GIALLO A VENEZIA (1979)

Now it would not be a Venetian film round up without mentioning this infamously sleazy entry. Marking the end of the decade, quite literally having been released on December 31st, GIALLO A VENEZIA is the perfect example of the change in giallo from a mystery-focused genre to that of one of sleaze, sex and graphic brutality.

We follow boiled-egg connoisseur Inspector De Paul as pieces together the double murder of a couple. Taking in drugs, perversion and violence GIALLO A VENEZIA became best known for its lurid take on the genre but now thanks to the source materials being cleaned up and put out on Blu-ray I believe that the actual substance (and yes I genuinely believe there is some) behind the shock can finally be appreciated.

Despite what many would say Mario Landi (CRY OF A PROSTITUTE; PATRICK STILL LIVES!) actually proves himself to be a more than competent director as the film manages to display a strong technical awareness alongside some beautiful shots which complement the script by Aldo Serio (WATCH ME WHEN I KILL).  However I do have to admit that some of the more salacious scenes are overlong and do serve more to kill any momentum than add any excitement.

That said, although admittedly not executed perfectly, “sex is the key to the mystery” in this film as our Inspector states in-between the scoffing of another egg and so there is no escaping it being a vital component of the story, but it just does not have to be dwelled on for so long is all I am saying.

Moving past that gripe of mine however and regardless on which aspects attract you to this film, be it the sex and violence or simply to check out an obscure giallo that is only now more widely available – you will not be disappointed as there is much in GIALLO A VENEZIA to reward you thanks to its tale of love, lust, depravity and death (not to mention eggs) that just like Venice, has a lot more under the surface if you care to look.

So, there you have it – my five favourite films set in Venice or around it’s islands. A location that provides the perfect juxtaposition between beauty and decay. A place that straddles the line between the intimate and the claustrophobic. It is therefore no wonder so many (good and not so good) films have been set in this most captivating of cities.

Notable mentions also go to ‘DEATH IN VENICE’, ‘DAMNED IN VENICE’, ‘AMUCK!, and of course Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW, all of which are worth your time.

If you are interested in finding out more about the films of Venice you can see my piece in Issue 9 of Weng’s Chop magazine, which for some reason saw me accidentally omit Luigi Cozzi’s enjoyable but somewhat disappointing overall 1989 film PAGANINI HORROR.

 

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.

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.

 

 

Beware of Satan’s bite!!!

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Out there exists many many aspiring and established film makers and one benefit of living in the digital age where the internet is accessible to the majority of the Western world is that these film makers have easy access to their audience and the means to reach a broad range of people at a relatively low cost.

However with this amazing promotional opportunity comes an almost insurmountable amount of competition. This competing noise ironically makes it more difficult to stand out from the crowd and not only gain awareness but to go that one step further and actually have people watch and interact with your creation.

Therefore I feel it is important for us as fans  that when we do see something that we enjoy that we support it, we advocate it and we discuss it. So I would like to point you in the direction of a short film which I happened across recently; ‘Satan’s Bite’, from writer & director Dean Puckett and Grasp the Nettle Films. A tale of witchcraft which I cannot recommend enough.

Shot in just one day and on one roll of Super8 (as part of the Straight8 annual competition) the short film went on to be selected to be screened at Cannes which certainly tells you of the quality behind it.

Along with a clear nod and (admittedly easy) comparison to the 1968 film’Witchfinder General’, Puckett also took influence from Carl Dreyers ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ and Robert Wiene’s ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’. With the mention of these last two films you won’t be surprised to learn that it is a silent film. And one that is all the more effective for it thanks to strong performances and a haunting, almost hypnotic audio track that generates an eerie and foreboding mood.

‘Satan’s Bite: or The foolishness of the Witchfinder Thomas Eastchurch’ is a bizarre and uncompromising occult short film with an unsettling score and an effective, authentic look (no doubt thanks to the use of Super8 film). Successfully delivered in under three minutes this is how short films should be, but make a like a Witchfinder and judge for yourself below:

You can follow the writer/director Dean Puckett on Twitter and keep up to date with Grasp the Nettle films and their work on their website. Upcoming film ‘The Sermon’, made with support from Creative England and the BFI looks particularly interesting and a continuation of the great British rural and folk horror genre.

Turkish Star Wars!

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Later this month my local independent cinema in Leicester will be showing ‘Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam’; a title that perhaps means very little to many of you (myself included) but when it is suddenly referred to by its alternative title ‘Turkish Star Wars’ things get a little more interesting.

Also known as ‘The Man Who Saves the World’ this 1982 film from prolific director Çetin Inanç has become notorious not for being a rip-off of George Lucas’ series but rather for actually editing in footage from the films of the venerated one. Not to mention the liberal use of music from ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and ‘Flash Gordon’. It is not hard to see why ‘Turkish Star Wars’ has been referred to as “the ‘holy grail’ of remakesploitation cinema”.

After languishing in obscurity for a long while, with very few having seen low-resolution bootlegged copies, a 35mm print was discovered back in 2016 and a digital scan made allowing us to fully witness this film on the big screen the way it was meant to be.

The plot of the film see’s two space cadets crash-land on a desert planet, where an evil wizard seeks the ultimate power to take over the world. It is worth noting that although the movie uses some background footage from Star Wars, the plot is mostly unrelated but hey why let stop anything.

No doubt after this cinema run (I am assuming that it is being shown around a few places) a home release cannot be far away so keep watching the skies!

The film will be playing at 8pm on Leicester Phoenix on Wednesday 19th September. Tickets are free but limited and can be booked on the Phoenix website here.

Discover the films trailer below:

Alternatively if you are in Leicester on this day also of interest might be the FREE Midlands Movies event that is happening at Firebug bar, 1 Millstone Lane, Leicester.

This event will see music from the films of Quentin Tarantino being played by a live band so if you’re a fan of the former video store clerk or the soundtracks he employs and fancy a boogie get on down there instead.