Monthly Archives: November 2016

Who Ate All The Pies? I DRINK YOUR BLOOD Reviewed

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The morning after the rabid drug binge the night before…

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DVD. Region Free. Grindhouse. Unrated.

(The company ident, the “coming attractions” and characteristically hilarious animated menus on this disc strongly suggest that the “deluxe uncensored director’s cut” edition of David Durston’s “legendary hippie horror classic!” under consideration here is indeed a Grindhouse release, though they are mentioned nowhere on packaging that does allude to MTI Home Video, Bedford Entertainment, Fangoria’s Midnight Classics and Box Office Spectaculars.)

Vying in popularity with the “Don’t (Do Something Or Other)” formula for titling exploitation pictures is that old standby “I Do (Some Objectionable Thing Or Other To Somebody Or Something Of Theirs)”, hence I Eat Your Skin (frequent double-bill mate of Durston’s 1970 gore-fest), I Dismember Mama and such unforgettable, time-specific Jose Mojica Marins (Coffin Joe) offerings as Tonight I’ll incarnate In Your Corpse, Tonight I’ll Steal Your Soul and Tonight I’ll Turn Your Corpse Red (he really needs to work on those chat-up lines…)

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Jerry Gross, the aptly named king of grindhouse distributors, had already scored big by marketing Meir Zarchi’s obscure rape / revenge effort Day Of The Woman as I Spit On Your Grave. We all know what fate befell that one on its UK video release, but I Drink Your Blood never made it the DPP list. The (bowdlerised) Media release was seized and perused by more than one regional police force during their periodic purges of the nation’s video shelves in the early ’80s, and no doubt they drew pertinent lessons from it on such upcoming threats to natural security as Messianic cults, biological terrorism and (most worryingly of all) rampaging gangs of rabies infected construction workers. The only possible sane response from the rest of us is to fire up that pizza, crack a cold one (or several), sit back and enjoy I Drink Your Blood for the prime slice of entertaining schlock that it is… the first film rated ‘X’ by the MPAA on the grounds of violence rather than sex.

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Calm down, it’s the hilt of his sword…

The picture’s tone is set by its sleazy opening scene, which details an open air Satanic ritual unfolding somewhere in the American boon docks, involving “the community of Sados” and presided over by a poor man’s Charlie Manson apparently glorifying in the name Horace Bones (played by the scarcely less exotically named Bhaskar.) “Let it be known to all the spirits that I am a Capricorn, living in The Tenth House… the house of our lord Satan!” he proclaims: ” Let it be known to all the spirits that I, Horace Bones, was born into Hell and reborn to this Earth. Let all the spirits here know that I am the first-born son of Satan! He commands my thoughts! I speak his words! Sons and daughters of Satan, put aside your worldly things and come to me. Let it be known that Satan was an acid head… drink from his cup…pledge yourselves… and together we will all freak out”. Horace’s dorky disciples obediently swig down some Electric Cool Aid, sacrifice a chicken and kick off a pretty tame looking orgy. A local gal who stumbles upon their infernal ritual is roped in for a spot of unsolicited sexual molestation, which is where things start to go downhill for Horace’s coven, which includes the superannuated exotic glamour of Jadine Wong in the role of Sue-Lin and the uncredited, non-speaking film debut of subsequent Hall of Famer Lynn Lowry, who later turned out for Romero (The Crazies, 1973), Cronenberg (Shivers, 1975) and Paul Schrader (Cat People, 1982) and is still very much in demand as an actress. As I type these words she’s guesting at the 2016 Abertoir Festival, up in tornado-ravaged North Wales.

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The local vet Doc Banner (Richard Bowler) sure as shoot ain’t gonna stand for none of these pagan shenanigans… he grabs his rifle and heads for hippy HQ, where Horace and co are busy torturing a back-sliding cult member. The doc is easily disarmed and force-fed with heavy psychotropic substances, whereupon the mantle of family avenger devolves to little Petey (Riley Mills), the unlikeliest male lead of any fantasy / horror film since that brat in the original Invaders From Mars. Not happy that local girls have been messed with and his grampappy given “that crazy L stuff”, he grabs his own shotgun (a perfectly feasible scenario in rural America, as we are reminded by harrowing news reports on virtually a daily basis) and downs the nearest rabid dog … apparently the place is just bristling with them. Displaying improbable scientific know how for such a red neck ragamuffin, Petey then siphons off the mutt’s blood, injects it into a batch of meat pies and flogs them to the Sados dudes at the family bakery (being Satanic hippies, they can’t be expected to subsist on the kind of macrobiotic mush favoured by their non diabolically inclined fellow heads… and rat shish kebabs only go so far.) Having scoffed the poison pies, Horace, Sou-Lin, Rollo, et al waste no time rolling around screaming about stomach cramps, frothing at the mouth, torturing and decapitating each other, etc. Good riddance to bad rubbish, you might well be thinking, but Petey’s master plan has unforeseen repercussions when a bunch of construction workers, on their lunch break from building a local dam, make whoopie with a rabid hippy girl.

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“Rod Munch”, eh boys?

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When bad acid meets rabies, there are no winners…

Can hydrophobia be sexually transmitted? Does “the fear of water (lead)”… as Durston claims on the commentary track “to an insatiable craving for raw flesh”? There’s no time to ponder these important questions, because before they’ve had time to clock on again, those rabid Village People rejects are running around growling through mouthfuls of toothpaste, decapitating goats and brandishing axes and power tools at the long-suffering inhabitants of Valley Hills… it’s threatening to turn into a Trump rally until a deputation of good ol’ boys finally turns up to mow them down, but not before we’ve had the chance to laugh our socks off at the spectacle of murderous hard hat hydrophobics being fended off with hoses and even, at one point, water splashed at them from a pond (my favourite moments in this whole gloriously tacky mess, along with those regular portentous pronouncements from the Satanic Bible according to Horace Bones).

“Rabies sure is a horrible way to die” tut-tuts the district coroner, just before the credits roll. Sure is, doc, but full marks to director Durston for managing to overcome his natural reserve about exploiting such a sensitive subject, tossing in tasteless allusions to the Tate-LaBianca killings  as he goes.

Extras include the expected trailer (for “the biggest double horror show in history… I Drink Your Blood and I Eat Your Skin!”) and radio spot (“Every horror film you’ve ever seen… every tortured body, every severed limb, every hideous creature… has been preparing you for this moment!”) , poster and still gallery… you get filmographies of the principals, a few minutes of discarded takes (some with, some without sound) and at least three easter eggs which I’ll leave you to discover for yourselves… as if all that weren’t enough, there’s “rare and shocking film of Bhaskar performing THE EVIL KING COBRA DANCE!”, after which you’ll need to go and lie down in a darkened room for a while.

The Coming Attractions I mentioned are for a bunch of stuff that Grindhouse subsequently released or intended to, including An American Hippie In Israel (“The long-lost early ’70s psychedelic classic”), Cop Killers, The Tough Ones (Umberto Lenzi’s Assault with A Deadly Weapon aka Brutal Justice and Rome, Armed To The Teeth), Cannibals Ferox and Holocaust, Fulci’s The Beyond and A Cat In The Brain, plus Mad Ron’s Prevues From Hell (a trailer anthology in which that for I Drink Your Blood / I Eat Your Skin is prominently deployed.) Best of all is the legendarily gob-slapping trailer for Duke Mitchell’s Massacre Mafia Style (1974), which famously comprises nothing but the film’s opening, er mafia massacre, attaining in two minutes or so what Quentin Tarantino has aspired to over several feature films.

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Grindhouse aren’t finished there, though. Not by a long chalk. We are also treated to four deleted scenes, including a touching romantic one in which it’s suggested that one of the hippy Satanists might be capable of redemption (though in fact he ends up decapitated by a rabid construction worker), another in which we get to see more of Grampy tripping out and not one but two alternative endings… a “humorous” (i.e. puke-inducing) one featuring little Petey and “the original blood-drenched ending deemed too disturbing for ’70s audiences!”… cool!

Durston interviews  thesps Lynn Lowry, Tyde Kierney and Jack Damon, plus Barry Cohen, the ad executive responsible for changing the title of this picture from his preferred handle “Phobia” (“You might as have called it Who Shit In My Saddle Bag?”, complains the disgruntled director.) Then there’s the audio commentary from Durston and Bhaskar, in which we learn many interesting things… Durston spends much of it arguing, unconvincingly, that no animals were killed or injured during the making of his magnum opus. He also claims that the one of the rats that didn’t end up on a shish kebab subsequently starred in Ben. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised then, to learn that he dropped LSD under medical supervision (perhaps not enough medical supervision) when researching his earlier acidsploitation epic The Love Drug (1965.) Bhaskar is tickled by the memory of the muscle-bound dude who played one of the rabid construction workers and his obsession with how his toupee would look on screen. We also learn that before dancing and acting, Bhaskar pursued a boxing career that came to an end when he got comprehensively battered around the ring…

Durston explains that to get around the X-rating, producer / distributor Gross authorised local projectionists to cut their print of the film into whatever shape would comply with contemporary community standards, hence the bewildering variety of versions of I Spit On Your Grave in circulation. On this disc you get a choice of two cuts, the “Uncensored X-Rated Theatrical Cut” and the “Uncensored Director’s Cut” (having watched both, I can’t honestly say that I could discern any significant difference between the two.)

The DVD edition reviewed here has been unavailable for quite some time, apart from on the internet for silly money. Thankfully (?) Grindhouse are about to release a two disc Blu-ray edition including all of the goodies enumerated above plus a newly recorded audio commentary by stars Jack Damon and Tyde Kierney, a new interview with the late David Durston and not one but two bonus co-features (!)… finally, I Eat Your Skin (plus an exclusive interview with its 2nd unit director, William Grefe) and the home video debut of Durston’s Blue Sextet (1969), a “long-lost uncensored psychedelic shocker” whose cast includes the also sadly deceased Bhaskar…  “PLUS OTHER SURPRISES!”

Put away your worldly things, dear readers, pledge yourselves to score a copy of I drink Your Blood on Blu-ray… and together we will all freak out!

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This blacksploitation hippy Satanist just fell victim to one of the three biggest lies in the world…

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Horace… mad as a box of frogs but no wimp!

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Magic Flounders All Around Us… Dario Argento’s MOTHER OF TEARS Reviewed

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DVD. Region 2. Optimum. 18.

After a quarter of a Century’s teasing, here it is… the “thought you’d never live to see it” conclusion to Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy kicked off by the audio-visual assault dished out to viewers in Suspiria (1976) and continued in the stylishly enigmatic Inferno (1980.) The first of those dealt with the Mother Of Sighs (running a ballet school in Friburg as a front for her malevolent coven) while its successor concerned the Mother Of Darkness, up to God-knows-what in an apartment block built for her by the alchemically-inclined author and architect Varelli. Inferno gave us a preview glimpse of the Third Mother (in the succulently pouting form of Ania Pieroni) but Argento cooled on the idea of completing the trilogy, perhaps because the second instalment (despite its ongoing cult following) did pretty much zip commercially and possibly on account of his estrangement from former muse Daria Nicolodi, who maintained a creative and financial stake in the franchise. Every so often, Argento would express an interest in reviving the project (invoking such intriguing prospects as Jennifer Connelly playing the weep inducing witch) though one always suspected that these announcements amounted to little more than ploys intended to prop up interest in a directorial career that was going rapidly off the boil, reaching its stone cold nadir with the cinematic triptych (Trauma / Stendhal Syndrome / Phantom Of The Opera) that was intended to launch the acting career of his and Daria’s daughter, Asia.

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Meanwhile Nicolodi and Argento acolyte Luigi Cozzi collaborated on the latter’s
De Profondis aka The Black Cat (1989), a typically confused and confusing Cozzi effort which starts as an unofficial and uninvited conclusion to Argento’s occult odyssey before mutating (at the insistence of paymasters Cannon) into one of the countless Poe adaptations that were littering contemporary screens, with a squirt of Philip K. Dick introduced, a propos of nothing, at the death (which it effectively was for Cozzi’s directorial career.) That oddity notwithstanding, the trilogy has lacked a proper crowning piece… until now.

So why now? (where “now” = 2007) Perhaps John Moore’s 2006 Omen remake was a particularly big hit in Italy (certainly should have been, featuring as it does the godlike thespian genius of our old pal “John Morghen” / Giovanni Lombardo Radice). Whatever… does Mother Of Tears pass its MOT test? Surely there must be more substance to it than to Cozzi’s undoubtedly entertaining but ultimately shambolic concoction? Well no, not really, though of course a senseless schlock-fest from Dario Argento is always going to be an altogether more polished and up market proposition than one by his erstwhile assistant.

The action (and boy, there’s a lot of it) kicks off with the exhumation of a monk and a sealed casket covered in occult runes during the development of a piece of land outside Rome.  At the Eternal City’s antiquities museum, professor Giselle Mares (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni from Opera and Demons 2) and her assistant Sarah Mandy (Aaargh, it’s Asia again) open the casket but soon wish they hadn’t. The former is disembowelled and strangled with her own chitlins by cultists who want the contents of the box (a red, rune-covered robe, a fuck off ceremonial knife and several grotesque fetish figures) to facilitate the revival of Mater Lachrymarum’s  dark powers. As Rome descends into violent chaos, Sarah is obliged to confront the oncoming Apocalypse with the aid of her own rapidly awakening magic powers and the advice and encouragement she receives from pop-up blurry visions of her dead mother (Nicolodi, looking in every respect a shadow of her former self).

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“Hey, did you ever see that film, The Beyond?” “Never mind that… you can see our house from here!”

From here on in, up to the film’s arbitrary anticlimax, Argento packs in plenty of mortifying violence. Taking its cue from Hostel and its ilk, also following on from his own contributions to the Masters Of Horror cable TV series, this is hands down il Maestro’s goriest offering yet and also establishes another personal record with unprecedented levels of female nudity…. very nice, too. Characterisation is as flimsy as ever… Sarah’s lover Adam James and cop Cristian Solimeno could easily be cut straight out of the picture without anybody noticing the difference. Unfortunately the same could be said for Udo Kier, his presence here a token attempt to invoke the glories of Suspiria. As Father Johannes he also gets to mouth lines from Inferno, when not ranting  about the onset of “The Second Age Of Witches” (sorry, the first one appears to have passed me by.) To be fair, Kier’s grisly demise (in a picture that’s not exactly short of them) does provide Mother Of Tears with one of its most memorable moments. Discovering his possessed housekeeper tucking into the corpse of her infant son, he registers his dismay at this turn of events and is promptly dismembered on the staircase with an opportunely placed axe, neatly referencing another classic moment of Spaghetti Splatter hysteria, his death scene in Margheriti and Morrissey’s Blood For Dracula, 1973 (commemorated below.)

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Mind the doors!

Sarah develops a similarly summary and cavalier attitude towards human life (a witch glares at our heroine on a train so Sarah squashes her head to pulp in a door… when her boyfriend expresses some vaguely pro-witch sentiments she sets fire to him!) as The Eternal City descends into the thrall of Evil,though this process is not rendered particularly convincingly.

Italian exploitation directors, God bless ’em, have always struggled to portray the onset of The Apocalypse in a believable manner… remember the climax of Fulci’s marvellous Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), where a frenzied voice over attempt to convince us that New York is going into meltdown doesn’t quite gel with the closing visuals, in which shit faced deadsters stagger over the Brooklyn bridge while traffic proceeds in a perfectly orderly fashion beneath them? And what of Enzo Castellari’s New Barbarians (1982) and its post nuclear ilk… don’t start me! Similarly, Argento’s vision of “the second fall of Rome” comprises people scuffling on street corners as Asia walks down the road, and heavily made-up sluts in Goth gear shouting drunken abuse at passers-by… Dario, if I took you for a drink down my local high street next Saturday night you’d see far worse, mate!

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Girl Power spirals out of control in Mother Of Tears…

When Sarah seeks help from two of her mother’s spooky friends, a couple of lesbian witches, one has eyes gouged out and the other is fucked to death with a harpoon! Sarah must rely on her own burgeoning paranormal powers to locate the ongoing Sabbat in Rome’s catacombs that is responsible for all of this nonsense. In fact, all she has to do is follow a bunch of Hell’s Harpies then wade through showers of shit and pools of human offal (Jennifer Connelly did all of this and more for Argento in Phenomena and eventually won an Oscar, so maybe it’ll do the trick for Asia too) before witnessing the Satanic knees-up in question, which comprises mainly Hostel-style dismemberment plus some far out and, for the most part, physically impossible sexual unions (this stuff looking like out takes from Bran Yuzna’s Society) presided over by Ma Waterworks herself, in the sumptuous form of Israeli model / actress Moran Atias. “Who wants to eat the girl?” she asks her followers, indicating Sarah’s prone form (I’ll pass on Asia, who looks a bit sinewy, but would happily accept an invitation to a fish supper from Ms Atias anytime) before the good guys snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in improbable fashion.

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Mama Mia!

OK, let’s run down some of the problems with this picture… the misconceived fumetti inserts stick out like septic thumbs, the pointless outbreaks of CGI look more than ever as though they’ve been included just to keep FX man Sergio Stivaletti happy, DP Frederic Fasano’s attempts to invoke the cinematography of Suspiria and Inferno come across as distinctly half-assed and Claudio Simonetti’s “Original” Sound Track is similarly regurgitative of former glories. Once again Argento moves his camera around in disappointingly pedestrian style… no abseiling over the Konigsplatze here! As an unexpected plus point though, Asia didn’t grate on my nerves anything like as much as usual!

Does MOT make any kind of “sense”? Clearly not, though exactly same charge could be levelled at its highly rated predecessors. Does it employ everything but the kitchen sink (and that’ll probably turn up in some future “director’s cut”) en route to a finale that fizzles out like a wet fart? Sure, but again that’s entirely consistent with the first two-thirds of the series. In its general tone, is Mother Of Tears “like” Suspiria and Inferno? No (in fact there are closer parallels with the La Chiesa / La Setta brace that Argento produced for Michele Soavi in the early ‘90s) but then Suspiria and Inferno were hardly “like” each other, where they?

As I post this review, Luca Guadagnino is directing an Argento-approved reboot of Suspiria intended for release forty years after the original. I seriously doubt that anybody will consider it worth their while to remake Mother Of Tears in 2047.

MOT is crisply transferred in its original screen ratio (2.35:1) for Optimum’s DVD release. Bonus material is restricted to a theatrical trailer.

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Don’t like the look of yours much…

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With Friends Like These… AMICUS – THE FRIENDLY FACE OF FEAR Reviewed

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“You do The Hokey-Cokey and you turn around…”

Amicus – The Friendly Face Of Fear by Alan Bryce. Ghoulish Publishing. P/B. ISBN 978-1-5272-0271-9

While knocking out issues of The Dark Side under the Stray Cat banner, Allan Bryce also managed to publish a series of nifty film books… among the niftiest of them, I would count (never having found modesty all that forbidding) the third edition of my “video nasties” tome Seduction Of The Gullible and the follow-up Cannibal! (which I still prefer to refer to under its original title “Slaves Of The Cannibal God – 20 Years Of Italian Man Munching Movies.”) After the death of Allan’s business partner Ken Mills, Dark Side disappeared from our shelves for a couple of years before its triumphant re-emergence courtesy of Ghoulish Publishing, which now brings us Allan’s own Amicus – The Friendly Face Of Fear, touted as the “definitive history” of this much-loved low-budget Hammer competitor, named for the friendship between its co-creators Milton Subotsky (the creative schmendrick with the DIY haircut) and Max Rosenberg (the hard-headed money man.)

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Definitive? To assess this claim I would need to have read the various previously published accounts of Amicus  (including one by Stray Cat, 15 years ago) which, I must confess, I haven’t. Safe to say, though, A-TFFOF is a terrific read in its own right, simultaneously eminently knowledgable, fannishly enthusiastic and rigorously analytical as it guides us from the soup of Subotsberg’s pre-Amicus horror effort City Of The Dead (1960) through to the nuts of the daft plastic dinosaur epics from which you might remember Doug Mclure, with all those portmanteau treasures and such endearing oddities as And Now The Screaming Starts (1973) and The Beast Must Die (1974) nicely packed in between. While doing so it steers a middle course between previous accounts of the breakdown in amicable relations between Rosenberg and Subotsky (their ups and downs mirroring those of the company’s fortunes), which have tended to favour one or the other. While reiterating that Milt was the creative heart of Amicus, Bryce acknowledges that turning in a coherent, feature-length screenplay wasn’t exactly his forte (much to the chagrin of literary sources such as Robert Bloch and the consternation of several Amicus directors.)

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The dynamic duo first collaborated on an early draft of The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957), maintaining thereafter that they had been bilked out of their due credits (and payments) on Hammer’s horror breakthrough. Thereafter they strove manfully to compete with Carreras and co, poaching their talent from both sides of the camera while never consistently competing with Hammer at the box office. Amicus certainly couldn’t compete in budgetary terms, making a virtue of necessity by hiring multiple name actors for short stints in their beloved multi-story horror films.

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If you’re reading this you’ve probably already got some knowledge of and / or affection for these films… if not, I can do no better than point you in the direction of The Friendly Face Of Fear, 168 perfect bound glossy pages heavily illustrated in both colour and b/w and just bursting with Amicus minutiae… who knew, for instance, that the then Marquis de Sade petitioned successfully to have the family name removed from French marketing for Freddie Francis’s The Skull (1965) on the grounds that it would be brought into disrepute (“Locking the stable door after the cheval has bolted”, as Bryce wryly notes)…  that Rosenberg deep sixed Subotsky’s plans for e.g. a tripped-out revamp of It’s Trad, Dad! (starring The Byrds, The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful dead!) and film adaptations of Marvel’s superhero characters (no commercial potential there at all, eh?) … that The House That Dripped Blood supported Last House On The Left in the U.S… that Geoffrey Bayldon was an 11th Hour replacement for Spike Milligan in Asylum… that Tales From The Crypt was being shot at Shepperton at the same time as Tower Of Evil, a film with which it shared sets… that the negative response to Vault Of Horror from E.C. Comics’ Bill Gaines scuppered Amicus plans for More Tales From The Crypt, The Haunt of Fear and Tales Of The Incredible (the latter to have been shot in 3D)… that, according to special FX man (and no relation to the author) Allan Bryce, the squirming green innards of a Dalek were cut from Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965) on the grounds that they would upset tiny tots… and who remembered that Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966) was freighted with product placement shots promoting the breakfast cereal Sugar Puffs? (*) If your answer to these questions or most of them is “Me!”… just shut up Darrell and give somebody else a chance, OK?

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A splendid read then, topped and tailed by a characteristically eye-catching Rick Melton cover and irreverent biogs of Messrs Bryce, Melton and Kevin Coward (who acquits himself admirably in the design of this volume) and, for some reason, their respective spouses. Helps to keep things amicable, I suppose.

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(*) Just consider, if that movie had been made in Italy, I Daleki would have been exterminating their way through rivers of J&B!

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If A Problem Comes Along, You Must W.I.P. It… THE JAIL – THE WOMEN’S HELL Reviewed

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DVD. Region 1. Intervision (Severin). Unrated.

We’ve already alluded to the gonzo career twilight of “Vincent Dawn” (and I’m using that line here because I gather it’s been vetoed as the title for my upcoming Dark Side piece) and considered some of the zombie and cannibal efforts perpetrated by Bruno Mattei in his unexpected (indeed unpredictable, unprecedented and arguably unwelcome) Indian Summer of shot-on-video atrocities elsewhere on this blog. The germ (in every sense of the word) of The Jail – The Women’s Hell was apparently a screening of Jess Franco’s 99 Women, introduced by its director, at a Festival dedicated to the memory of Joe D’Amato. Mattei attended (my God, what a Fest… where / when was it held? Why weren’t we invited?) alongside new screenplay collaborator Antonio Tentori and when the latter asked producer Giovanni Paolucci if his Japanese buyers might entertain a sleazy Women In Prison effort alongside all those zombie / cannibal gut munching extravaganzas, his answer predictably ran along the lines of: “Is a bear a Catholic? Does the Pope shit in the woods?”

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Yvette Yzon, subsequent star of Mattei’s swan song zombie brace, stars as Jennifer, whom we first encounter on a boat taking her and fellow female cons Lisa (Love Gutierrez) and Carol (Amelie Pontailler) to a prison camp in the remote Philippine jungle. An Oscar-worthy exchange of dialogue (kind of) establishes what they’re in for…

Lisa: “Dirty trafficking for dirty people!”

Carol: “I whacked my pimp… that bastard had it coming”

Jennifer: “I’ve done everything you said…and worse!”

Hard cases, for sure, but even they are chastened, on arrival at the prison, to witness a disobedient prisoner being pulled out from the confines of the camp sweat box and given 20 lashes… even though she’s already dead! Talk about flogging a dead whore!! This proves to be an appropriate welcome to what the guards describe as “The House Of Lost Souls”… no, there’s no mad scientist subjecting the inmates to bizarre evolutionary experiments, but the expected cohort of sapphic, sadistic camp director (Odette Khan), gun-happy governor (Jim Gaines, who would also appear in Island Of The Living Dead and Zombies The Beginning), lecherous camp doctor (David Brass), casually cruel guards and collaborationist fellow prisoners subject them to just about every other indignity that you could hope for in a W.I.P. … about none of which, to paraphrase Sir Allan Bryce, would Amnesty International be best pleased:

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… hosing downs, cavity searches, mandatory lesbianism, enforced participation in the sexy floor show of the burlesque club that seems to have been built on the side of the jail, , incarceration in that sweat box and / or a submerged rat cage… one unfortunate is even trussed up, semi naked and has a snake draped all over her. The reptile in question is clearly some kind of constrictor but apparently kills her with a venomous bite. I’m not going to quibble too much about because I was worried that this scene might take an exceptionally dodgy turn, only for Mattei to wind it up with an uncharacteristic fit of self restraint.

For the first hour of The Jail Bruno sticks enthusiastically but unexpectedly closely to the sleazy W.I.P. formula but as its final third looms, you sense that he just can’t control his eclectic itchings anymore and after a successful escape attempt, Jennifer and pals are pursued through the jungle in the best Most Dangerous Game style by Jim Gaines and pals, making the short hop from overacting, lip-smacking rapists to overacting, lip-smacking Count Zaroff types, keen to re-enact their favourite moments from Cannibal Holocaust and Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals.

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Indeed, there are even pop-up attacks from a troupe of South American cannibals who look like they took a wrong turn off the Orinoco somewhere. No zombies but, y’know, Mattei was probably writing / prepping / shooting / post-producing about five other movies that week and it must  have slipped his mind…

More gob-slapping than any of the by-the-numbers excesses of The Jail – The Woman’s Hell is its arbitrary and unbelievable conclusion, by which Jennifer, having escaped and alerted the authorities, is driven back to the jail in time to abort the imminent hanging of one of her mates and be installed as the new camp director as her predecessor is arrested and driven off… just like that! Say what you like about these developing nations, but they cut through that red tape like a dose of salts!

The Jail – The Women’s Hell isn’t quite as deliriously distracting as Mattei’s eleventh hour cannibal and zombie efforts but demonstrates that, even at this late stage in the game, when all of his more feted contemporaries had long given up, Mattei was unapologetic about serving up trashy exploitation… and God bless him for it! Maybe he, Joe D’Amato and Jesus Franco are together in heaven (or somewhere else) right now, planning the greatest sleaze portmanteau movie of all time. If only…

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Bonus materials comprise the expected trailer and two featurettes, Prison Inferno (in which Paolucci and Tentori recall the genesis of this project and look back fondly on their collaborations with the late Bruno Mattei) and Acting for Bruno, in which Yvette Yzon and Alvin Anson remember the shoot as a demanding but ultimately rewarding experience. Yeah, he was a shouty director but they’ve forgiven him. Aaaah…

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Don’t Shoot Me, You’re Only The Piano Player… THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY Reviewed

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BD / DVD Combi. Regions B/2. Arrow. 15.

Duccio Tessari rose through the ranks writing (historical then fantastical) peplums but really earned his spurs with an uncredited scripting contribution to Sergio Leone’s epochal A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) and his own directorial career took off in earnest the following year with a brace of Spaghetti Westerns, A Pistol For Ringo and The Return Of Ringo (the films which established Giuliano Gemma as a box office draw in Italy.) Tessari continued to direct Spagwests as late as 1969’s Alive Or Preferably Dead (another Gemma vehicle) and 1971’s Don’t Turn The Other Cheek but by 1970 had already contributed his first offering in the genre that was supplanting them in the hearts of Italian movie goers… the giallo.

Death Occurred Last Night boasts great performances from Raf Vallone as a desperate dad searching for his mentally handicapped daughter and Frank Wolff (himself a Spagwest veteran) as a maverick cop who throws away the rule book to identify the white slavers who abused then disposed of her (“Spoiler”? I think the film’s title was a bit of a give-away, there!) Throughout this giallo / polizioteschi hybrid Tessari is significantly less interested in the details of violent death (which clearly bewitch such contemporaries as Argento, Fulci and Martino) than he is in the obssessional pursuit of vendetta, the privileging of natural justice over the ineffectual pretensions of legal process and the macho imperative: “A man’s gotta do…” Spaghetti Western ways clearly die hard in the filmography of Duccio Tessari.

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The giallo convention by which a loner amateur sleuth is at odds with law enforcement, clearly derived from Spaghetti Western antecedents, is taken to its logical and brutal extreme in 1971’s The Bloodstained Butterfly aka The Bloody Butterfly (“Una Farfalla Con Le Ali Insanguinate”.) Nubile French student Francoise (beguiling Jane Birkin lookey-likey Carol Andre) is stabbed to death during a torrential downpour in a public park. An abundance of eye witness testimony (including that from cameoing director Tessari, sporting trade mark chrysanthemum) leads to the rapid arrest of  one Alessandro Marchi  (Giancarlo Sbragia), a well-known TV sports reporter (we see him interviewing the late Lazio and Italy striker Giorgio Chinaglia) and ageing, toupee-totin’ lothario.

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The investigations of Inspector Berardi (giallo and spaghetti western veteran Silvano Tranquilli) and the courtroom drama of Marchi’s trial take up much of this picture’s running time  (and pretty involving stuff it is) culminating in the latter’s conviction (just imagine the impact if Frank Bough had been caught up in cocaine-fuelled sado-masochistic shenanigans… oh, hang on…) His wife Maria (Ida Galli / “Evelyn Stewart”) and lawyer Giulio (Gunther Stoll) are quite happy with this outcome as it leaves them free to pursue their long-running, clandestine affair.

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While Marchi’s banged up in jail, however, two more women are bumped off by a knife attacker in that very park. Marchi is released, only to be confronted by intense, alienated concert pianist Giorgio (Helmut Berger) who has spent most of his scenes so far flashing back to and angsting over his relationship with the murdered Francosie…

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Throughout and atypically for the giallo, Tessari has been more concerned with forensic and legal procedures than with detailing the delivery of mortal wounds. Even when such civilised niceties have been set aside, Tessari abstains from giallo clichés, choreographing his climactic corrida in the best Spagwest tradition, invoking populist frustration at the perceived inefficiency and leniency of the legal system, while leaving nobody in any doubt as to the disastrous consequences of taking the law into your own hands. Berger’s portrayal of a character who goes so far down that road as to lose all sense of moral perspective, is sometimes criticised for itself going way over the top, but personally I find it preferable to the phoned-in lead performances that mar so many gailli.

Special mention must also be made of Ganni Ferrio’s score, which jazz-funks up Tchaikovsky in a manner pleasantly reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s work on Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966.)

Arrow’s 4K restoration of The Bloodstained Butterfly looks and sounds every bit as spanky as you’d expect. It’s longer than any version you’ve probably seen, too, reinstating Tessari’s opening establishment of his dramatis personae, generally jettisoned in previous video and DVD editions in favour of plunging straight into the killing of Francoise. Frankly, the film works better without it but for all you completists, here it is… and who are we to begrudge Tessari the opportunity to showcase the lovely legs of his wife / muse / assistant, Lorella De Luca?

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As for bonus materials… the dynamic commentary duo of Jones and Newman illuminate and entertain on their audio track and Troy Howarth keeps busy with the “visual essay” Murder in Bb Minor. There’s an exhaustive, engrossing hour-long interview with Galli / Stewart in which she admits to an equal enthusiasm for collaborating with Federico Fellini or Lucio Fulci (good for her) and a touching featurette in which De Luca remembers her husband. Erstwhile “most beautiful man in the world” Helmut Berger supplies an introduction to the film and is interviewed in the featurette Mad Dog Helmut… make up your own unkind gag about The Picture Of Dorian Gray. He confesses to mixed feelings about Salon Kitty and reveals that he turned down the title role in Caligula (“Perhaps one Tinto Brass film was enough!” … or perhaps it was one too many?)

You also get the expected trailer and image gallery, reversible sleeve and a booklet with some tasty vintage stills and three essays. James Blackford’s Perversion Story is, as subtitled, a brief introduction to the Italian Giallo and useful enough to any newbies out there. Howard Hughes writes on Gianni Ferrio’s film music and Leonard Jacobs’ Breaking The Fourth Wall has some interesting things to say about how Tessari uses his camera to draw the viewer into the mystery, the tragedy and its resolution.

Another winner from Arrow.

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Plan 9 From Transylvania… THE HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF Reviewed

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You’ll have somebody’s eye out if you’re not careful!

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Told you!

BD / DVD Combi. Regions B/2. Arrow. 15.

Actually she’s not, she’s a highly respected historical novelist, but let’s not get into that right now… Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981) was a state-of-the-art special FX tour-de-force (courtesy of Rob Bottin) and engaging horror comedy, though its comedic aspects might not have been immediately apparent to casual viewers unhip to its ongoing in-jokes… by the time Dee Wallace (as Karen White) closed the picture by transforming into a pathetic werewolf while reading the news, though, I imagine everybody was in on the gag…

… but was Philippe Mora while directing Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf aka Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch, four years later? The clues are there in those titles, but Mr Mora seems to think he’s directing some sort of genre milestone, an illusion no doubt enhanced by the presence of Christopher Lee (must have been coming up short on the mortgage payments that month) in his cast as Steffan Croscoe, “psychic investigator”… that’s what it says on the card he hands to Karen’s brother Ben (Reb Brown) at her funeral, anyway, following up with the immortal line “Your Sister Is A Werewolf!” Ben and Karen’s colleague Jenny Templeton (Annie McEnroe) are understandably skeptical until a pack of lairy lycanthropes attempt to liberate Karen’s corpse from consecrated ground and the girl herself emerges as a snarling wolfwoman due to the removal of the siller bullets that felled her. Crosscoe fires off a few more and applies a silver stake to put her out of her misery. Suitably convinced, Ben and Karen accompany him to to confront werewolf-in-chief Stirba (as strappingly embodied by Austrian uberfrau Sybil Danning) in Transylvania (actually Cesky Krumlov in what was then Czechoslovakia), where she spends her time enjoying shape-shifting orgies with Marsha Hunt and her assembled acolytes, occasionally to the accompaniment of their god awful house band, desperately striving to cop a bit of punk “credibility” several years after the event.

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If you thought the sheer Presence of Christopher Lee could bring dignity and gravitas to any old tat he appeared in, here’s irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Of course it doesn’t help that Mora introduces him in a ludicrous, Criwellesque pre-titles sequence and subsequently decks him out in risible “new wave” threads. Brown is amiable if plank like. McEnroe seems to be here on the strength of a vague physical resemblance to Jamie Lee Curtis. Both look like exemplary casting, though, after you’ve seen (and heard) Jimmy Nail essaying the role of an LA punk… no, I didn’t just make that bit up. It’s left to Danning to steal the show in her fab fetish threads and with her pterodactyl-on-a-stick.

Otherwise, the special FX in this film are… I was going to say “variable” but in fact they don’t vary at all, starting off shit and stopping there. The featured creatures, furthermore, are consistently more Fraggle Rock than American Werewolf In London. Tom Burman had already worked on The Thing (1982) and had Terminator 2 (1991) ahead of him so Christ only knows what he was doing working on this one…

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… other FX technicians on Howling II got worse (or better, depending on your point of view) jobs. In a featurette focusing on the contributions of Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler there’s much talk of the perils of applying werewolf fur to a tumescent todger. Elsewhere among the bonus materials, the amiable and plank-like Reb Brown is interviewed and credulously rehashes Christopher Lee’s claim to have trained the guys who assassinated Heydrich, possibly oblivious to suggestions since Lee’s demise that many of his war-time espionage exploits got a little, er, exaggerated in the telling. Mora is interviewed, of course and you get a choice of two commentary tracks, one from him and another with composer Steve Parsons and editor Charles Bornstein. There’s “behind the scenes” footage, alternative opening and closing sequences (which don’t seem to depart markedly from what you’re already familiar with), a stills gallery, trailer and a reversible sleeve giving you the mandatory Graham Humphreys option. Sybil Danning usually comes across as a very feisty, together lady but in her interview here congratulates herself on standing up to the producers who wanted to over-exploit the celebrated shot of her whipping her norks out, with the result that it “only” gets looped 17 times (!) under the credits.

Was Mora completely unaware that he was (inadvertantly?) delivering such a comedy classic? Bad as Howling II is, you’ll want to watch it again (or possibly experience its marvels for the first time) on account of its certified Golden Turkey status… and Ms Danning’s awesome display of boobage isn’t exactly going to discourage anybody from checking it out, either! If all that tickles your fancy, you’ll be wondering when Arrow are going to get their fingers out and release Mora’s equally batty The Marsupials: The Howling III (1987)

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“Hey, have you ever been to Electric Wolfy Land?”

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Thankfully, it is…

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The Tao Of Cube Fu… KUNG FU TRAILERS OF FURY Reviewed

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“Burt Lenzi”, my arse…

BD. Regions A/B/C. Severin. Unrated.

One of the recurring gags in Severin’s marketing of their superior editions of a range of crucial genre titles is that they have been, e.g.

“… restored from a film element recently discovered beneath the floorboards of a Trastevere church rectory.” (Burial Ground)

“… remastered from materials recently seized in a Roskilde vice raid!” (The Sinful Dwarf),

“… restored from a 35mm print discovered in a Barcelona bordello.” (The Hot Nights Of Linda),

or even…

“… stunningly transferred in HD from vault elements recently unearthed in a Mongolian film depot! (Horror Express.)

Amusing stuff, if best consumed with more than a pinch of salt. As it happens though, Severin’s Kung Fu Trailers Of Fury compilation really was sourced from “original 35mm trailers discovered underneath the stage of a maverick UK cinema.” The maverick UK cinema in question is Bristol’s grass-roots labour of love collective The Cube, about which you’ll learn a lot more in the bonus feature The Way Of The Cube, specifically about the serendipitous discovery of the Coming Attractions in question.

There’s also A Brief History Of Kung Fu Movies, a self-explanatory title for a nifty featurette in which lead chop socky authority Ric Meyers (with the able assistance of Frank Djeng) sketches the history of kung fu movies from uplifting historical yarns of chivalric derring-do, through the cinematic supernova blazed by Bruce Lee in his quest to vanquish the myth of Chinese as “the sick men of Asia”, Lee’s tragic early demise and the unedifying “Bruceploitation” feeding frenzy that followed in its wake, the rise of comedy kung fu (as exemplified by Jackie Chan and the incredible Samo Hung) and Chan’s crossover into the Hollywood mainstream…

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… and oh, did I nearly forget to mention the trailers themselves? Over two hours of the buggers here, newly transferred in 2k from those rare original 35mm prints. They comprise (brace yourself, grasshopper!) … The Ways Of Kung Fu (“There are fights! There are laughs! There are surprises!”), Fists Of Bruce Lee, Kung Fu Vs Yoga (“He must face The Yinyang Shemale… The Powerful Monk!”), Death Blow (“Cunnig! Suspense! New Gimmiek”), Two Champions Of Shaolin (“Monkey Boxing vs Flower Boxing!”), Daggers 8, Secret Of The Shaolin Poles, The Happenings, Snake In The Eagles Shadow, The Story Of Drunken Master, Chinese Kung Fu Against Godfather (“Chinese bumpkin wreaks havoc in Europe! Starring the most popular actress in Holland, 1972!”), The Invisible Swordswoman, Return Of Bruce, Bruce Le’s Greatest Revenge (“See Chen Jun, the strong man of Asia! Upholding his pride, his heritage and his fighting spirits!”), Shaolin Iron Claws, Fast Fingers, Enter The Fat Dragon (“He’s Bruce Lee possessed with nunchuks in hand… thugs get to eat them for breakfast!”), My Kung Fu 12 Kicks (“Witness also the return of The Golden Turtle fist!”), The Brutal Boxer, Blacklist, Bruce’s Deadly Fingers (“Filled with fiery lust, the bad guys take on the weak!”), One-Arm Chivalry Fights Against On-Arm Chivalry (“Who will win? Who will lose? Why Did They Fight?”), The Damned, The Way Of The Dragon, Hong Kong Connection (“The slut who can’t control her lust and stirs up a storm… she’s the horniest of all!”), Chinese Kung Fu, 18 Shaolin Disciples (“With Yi Chang shaving his head for the first time!”), The Blazing Temple, Shaolin Wooden Men, The Magnificent Boxer and last, but certainly not least, Golden Dragon, Silver Snake (“Explosive Snake and Drunken Monkey styles!”)

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Not even their mother could tell them apart… then again, she is blind!

When not simply deploying this trailer loop as one of the coolest “party tapes” of all time, you have the option to learn something from it by paying attention to the informative commentary track by Meyers and fellow kung fu buffs Rick Stelow (from the Drunken Master Video label), Michael Worth (author of The Bruceploitation Bible) and Greg Schiller, a for-real martial arts instructor… I wonder how many of these gruelling / bonkers training routines he actually inflicts on his own students.

Remember kids, these guys are experts and you shouldn’t try any of this stuff at home…

“Buddha have mercy!”

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Lucio Fulci Grabs You By The Pussy… THE BLACK CAT Reviewed

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BD. Regions A/B. Arrow. 15.

Even while Lucio Fulci’s zombie quartet was wowing the splatterati in the early ’80s, any attempt to do critical justice to his underrated non-Z offerings was thwarted, if not by sheer unavailability then by the poorly panned, scanned, expurgated and washed-out looking video releases that some of them did manage… One On Top Of The Other, Lizard In A Woman’s Skin, The Naples Connection, Manhattan Baby and “The Eroticist” all suffered in this way, as did the film under consideration here. All have subsequently been resurrected and reappraised in all their diverse digital glory and now it’s the turn of Fulci’s 1981 effort, The Black Cat…

Fulci only got the gig directing Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) for Fabrizio De Angelis after both Enzo Castellari and Joe D’Amato had turned it down. When that one scored big time at international box offices, De Angelis overlooked the obvious claims of Fulci to direct his quickie cash-in on his own quickie Dawn Of The Dead cash-in, 1980’s Zombi Holocaust (possibly in an attempt to boost profits by cutting costs, possibly because he just couldn’t get on with the notoriously irascible Fulci), ultimately signing up Castellari’s dad (!?!) Only when City Of The Living Dead aka Gates Of Hell (1980), wrought by Fulci and his crack team of collaborators (Salvati, De  Rossi, Frizzi) for rival producer Giovanni Masini, brought home the Grindhouse bacon, did De Angelis see fit to liaise once more with Lucio for that crucial 1981 brace of low-budget living dead miracles The Beyond and House By The Cemetery. In the meantime Fulci had undertaken this predictably looser-than-diarrhoea Pasta Paura variation (“freely adapted”, as the credits readily admit, by Biagio Proietti) on Poe’s portentous pussy parable for producer Giulio Sbarigia.

Much loved by UK horror hounds, Fulci obviously found these British Isles a convivial environment, as witnessed by his swinging London giallo Lizard In A Woman’s Skin (1971) and the Beachy Head opening to The Psychic / Sette Note In Nero (1977.) Here he appears to have gone native, turning in a rendering of The Black Cat that you might swear, if you didn’t know differently, had been produced by Amicus in the early ‘70s. This impression is underscored by the iconic presence of Asylum star Patrick Magee (on top scenery-chewing form) in the role of Professor Robert Miles, whose attempts at communicating with both the eponymous evil moggy and recently deceased inhabitants of his village recall nobody as much as doomed maverick record producer Joe Meek. Rumour has it that this role was originally offered to Peter Cushing.

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The rolling pea-soupers that frequently fill the screen are another nod to the iconography of Brithorror but also reminiscent of the prevailing weather conditions in City Of The Living Dead’s Dunwich. Needless to say, the man who directed that priest-hanging, brain drilling, gut-puking atrocity doesn’t let all this eldritch atmosphere obstruct the unfolding of the expected cavalcade of ultra-violence… I mean, Daniela Doria’s in this film (misspelled as “Dorio” in its titles, though a victim by any other name…) for Chrissake! Surreptitious hanky panky is often the cause of DD’s demises in Fulci’s films and here, as “Maureen Grayson”, she sneaks off with the amorous Stan to make out in a boat house, only for that darned cat to make off with the key and sabotage the air conditioning, so both of them  suffocate (which apparently involves foaming rabidly at the mouth), their putrefying corpses (in a typically gratuitous Fulci touch) subsequently being gnawed on by rats.

Because their disappearance follows hot on the heels of a guy going head first through his windscreen then burning to death in the wreckage of his car (after another run in with that malevolent moggy), Scotland Yard bike over one of their finest, Police Inspector Gorley (!) to this rural backwater. As played by David Warbeck, his double act with local beat bobby Wilson (“Al Cliver” / Pier Luigi Conti) makes for a characteristically skewed and perversely enjoyable Italian take on British police procedure (and approved hair styles!)

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Not that this dynamic duo can do much to quell the ever-accelerating accumulation of bodies… the local drunk is stalked through a derelict building by you-know-what until he falls from a beam and is impaled on some handy-dandy spikes. Then the feline fiend starts a fire in the house of Maureen’s mom (Dagmar Lassander), who ends up crashing through the bedroom window in her flaming flannelette nighty (wasn’t that a George Formby song?) Warbeck ends up in hospital too after his own run-in with the eponymous flea-bag, though Fulci’s decision to cut the sequence of his convalescence and spring DW as a surprise survivor at the picture’s climax meant that his customary directorial cameo, this time as a doctor, also had to go.

Did I nearly forget to mention Mimsy Farmer as “Jill Travers”? If so it’s because her turn as an ex-pat American photographer (who spends her time strolling around local cemeteries and climbing down into the catacombs and ossuaries with which Fulci apparently believed our English countryside to be littered) is one of her least effective forays into the field of Pasta Paura. As for her misfiring love scenes with Warbeck… put it this way, David – normally gentlemanly to a fault –  remembered her to me as “that odd bitch”! He also told me that Fulci advised him not to worry too much about acting in The Black Cat because the script wasn’t up to it! The film is indeed an entertaining albeit insubstantial souffle, which only serves to underscore the intensity of Magee’s mesmerising central performance, a performance that is doubly (trebly?) impressive given that he was simultaneously battling the poor script, alcoholism (not very effectively) and Fulci (the director intimated to me that their troubled working relationship culminated in an actual fist fight!)

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“C’mon, own up… who farted?”

Of course the other factor holding everything together is that Fulci (when he could take time out from beating up his lead actors!) was a considerable visual stylist. With the aid of favoured DP Sergio Salvati he mounts painterly compisitions and delivers familiar low slung steadicam shots (here rendering feline POV), signature tracking zooms and ultra close-ups on characters’ eyes (while uncharacteristically resisting the temptation to force sharp objects into them.) Editor Vincenzo Tomassi, art director Massimo Antonello Geleng and production designer Massimo Lentini all make sterling contributions to that Fulci look. Makeup FX technicians Franco Di Girolamo and Rosario Prestopino substitute satisfactorily for the De Rossis and music wise, the absence of Fabio Frizzi barely registers, given a splendidly quirky Pino Donaggio score that perfectly compliments Fulci’s visuals by alternating the beautiful (wistful woodwind motifs) with the bizarre (droning bag-pipes!)

Arrow’s 2K restoration of The Back Cat presents all this sound, vision and feline fury with admirable clarity, restoring this previously marginalised title to the pantheon of late ’70s / early ’80s Fulci classics where it belongs. This edition boasts, furthermore, some truly nifty bonus materials. In “Frightened Dagmar”, Frau Lassander reflects on her lengthy exploitation career and how the roles dried up when she attained “a certain age.” Interesting that the supposedly misogynistic Fulci found roles for her when her bloom had faded though, as she laughingly recalls, he nearly did set fire to her for real. I’m yet to check out the audio commentary by erstwhile Fango editor Chris Alexander but can’t help wondering if Stephen Thrower might have been a better choice to deliver it. Thrower fans fret ye not, though, as he’s all over the rest of this disc. The featurette From Poe Into Fulci: The Spirit Of Perverseness hints at the painstaking approach to Fulci studies which make the upcoming, updated edition of his Beyond Terror tome from FAB Press such a tantalising prospect. At Home With David Warbeck is a lengthy interview with the much-missed actor at his Hampstead pile, The Convent. Looks like it was recorded on super-VHS at best but Jeez, did it bring back some wonderful memories. Shortest and sweetest though is In The Paw Prints Of The Black Cat where ST, in suitable rambling attire, takes us on a walking tour of the film’s Hambledon and West Wickham locations, including the caves where Mimsy Farmer had a rummage among them bones and Francis Dashwood before her had hosted his Hellfire Club bunga-bungas. By its very nature the shortest of shorts, this one had me wishing that it could have gone on ten times as long. You get a trailer and a reversible sleeve of course but no booklet… apparently that was reserved for the pricey box set in which Arrow previously  paired The Black Cat with Sergio Martino’s Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key, a title which I’ll be reviewing in these very blog pages shortly.

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He thought he saw a puddy tat…

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