Monthly Archives: November 2018

An Iron Rose By Any Other Name… The FRANÇOISE PASCAL Interview.

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During a career that’s taken in everything from Jean-Luc Godard to Jean Rollin… Coronation Street to Can You Keep It Up Downstairs?… Mind Your Language to Twelfth Night… Françoise Pascal has done it all. Having seen off her demons, she remembers some of it a lot better than we did, too, as we discovered during this 2009 encounter…

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Françoise, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us about your career…

Thank you, I’m happy to set the record straight…

How did a young Mauritian girl like yourself come to be discovered dancing on Top Of The Pops?

I was born in Mauritius, went to school and lived there until the age of 11 when I moved to London with my parents… my father was very sick with emphysema when we came to the UK. At the age of 15, I was introduced by the King of Carnaby Street, a clothes designer called Colin Stagg, he got me dancing on TOTP and made the sexiest clothes for me. I got noticed because I was a good dancer and moved well.

Do you remember what you were wearing, or which songs / artists you were dancing to?

Oh Gosh! I remember The Four Tops but I don’t remember which song… I was wearing a flowery cat suit, very tight and I danced my head off!

Wow… we believe that Susan George played a big part in your “discovery”?

She and Fraser Hines happened to be at the BBC Centre and we befriended each other. She took me to her parent’s house and I met all the right people through her.

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Susan George. Swinging during the 1960s. Yesterday.

You started your film career in Godard’s Sympathy For The Devil aka One Plus One…

I was discovered by the producer Ian Quarrier, who happened to be at a party that I was at. I was 17 then. I remember filming in Battersea… it was cold and damp and we had to lay on the damp and cold floor playing dead. Oh my God, I was cold!!

Your “proper” acting debut was in  Norman J. Warren’s Loving Feeling (1968)… is it true that this was a difficult film to make because Norman was embarrassed about shooting sex scenes? Also that a “racier version” (“She Loved With Her Boots On”) was prepared by producer Bachoo Sen without Norman’s knowledge?

I don’t know much about the director being embarrassed about shooting sex scenes, as by then we were allowed to go that far. I played a model and I remember being embarrassed doing the nude scene as it was my very first one and I was nervous. Bachoo Sen took me for a drink of Brandy to calm my nerves and I ended up having 3 doubles and was very laid back afterwards… nerves gone, embarrassment gone and I was ready to shoot. Since I had no lines, it was just kissing scenes, it was then a doddle.

Have you yourself always been as comfortable with nude scenes as you seemed?

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After that film I was, as I rather thought I had a great body so why not flaunt it? To the dismay of my boyfriend and family, of course!!

In the same year you played a similar “dolly bird” role in Pete Walker’s School For Sex… was Walker as “difficult” a man as he is sometimes painted?

You know I really don’t remember a thing about that film of Peter Walker, maybe because I did not like him at all. I thought he was an arrogant so and so and did not like working with him. I suppose I blocked him out of my memory. He was the only director with whom this has ever happened.

Do you remember anything much about the 1970 TV series Go Girl, which was filmed but never broadcast? Why did it disappear like that?

I loved doing that series with Luanne Peters, I thought she was rather good in it. A girl that is never mentioned is Sue Shifrin (David Cassidy’s wife)… she was lovely to work with, I adored her. We were choreographed partly by Arlene Phillips and partly by Mat Mattox, a member of the cast of Seven Brides and Seven Brothers. Wonderful dancers, both of them. I suppose it disappeared because of bad marketing and a bad production team. They couldn’t sell the series to a major TV network. Greed has a lot to do with this kind of thing…

Another film that disappeared for several years was George P Cosmatos’s The Beloved / Sin (1970)… what was the problem with that one?

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That I do not know, it was a bad script and Richard Johnson and Raquel Welch (above) did their utmost to make the film succeed as they are brilliant actors, but again… production, marketing, distribution deals. All sorts of things can go badly; I could not really tell you.

What was Welch like to work with?

I adored her she was a great lady. I remember her in Hollywood when she was at Hugh Heffner’s Mansion in LA; she was ever so kind to me.

Was it through the Cosmatos film that you got together with Richard Johnson?

No I had lived with Richard from the age of 18, long before that film was made. I was in Cyprus with Richard when George Cosmatos said that he had a small part in the film for me, would I be interested in doing it? It was very flattering to be asked.

Johnson was a respected Shakespearian actor… was it through his encouragement that you made your well received appearances as Olivia (12th Night) and Rosalind (As You Like It)?

He did influence me a lot in Shakespeare. I was in Los Angeles when I did Twelfth Night and As You Like It and I was no long living with Richard, in the ’80s, as he had married another lady. He came to see me as he had our son with him at the time.

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How do feel about stage as opposed to film work?

I love stage better than TV and films, definitely!

Any memories of working with Peter Sellers on There’s A Girl In My Soup (1970) and four years later in Soft Beds, Hard Battles?

My dear friend, Peter Sellers… I loved him so. I have nothing but happy memories and happy thoughts about Peter. I’m very privileged to have known him and to have worked with and been influenced by him in my comedy acting.

Diana Dors appeared with you in Soup… did she have any advice for a younger girl such as yourself, starting off in the business?

I actually also appeared in another film with Diana, Can You Keep it Up Downstairs? It was only later on the set of a TV Quiz show that she told me to be careful of this business as it can eat you up and spit you out in seconds. I took no notice as I was young and foolish…

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In 1971’s Incense For The Damned aka Bloodsuckers you are an uncredited “girl at orgy”! Is it true that the orgy scenes were added after Robert Hartford-Davis had finished filming it, and that this is why he disowned the picture?

No, Robert Hartford-Davies is a diva of a director! He knew damn well what he was doing and he is the one that added the scenes and directed them, too. I have no recollection of him disowning the picture.

In the same year you got a role in the long running British soap Coronation Street… any anecdotes from that?

Ha! Ha! Violet Carson (Ena Sharples) hated me, she used to call me “That French woman”! The publicity that followed me on the set was huge as it was my first time on TV and it was also after my accident when I had fallen out of a window in 1971 in a fire and broken my left arm in 7 different places! So you can imagine the paparazzi… I was the darling of the press at that time.

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What do you remember about Vernon Sewell’s 1972 effort Burke And Hare? You seem to spend much of that one playing a corpse…

Oh! Lovely Vernon, lovely man, old gentleman that must have been a fantastic director in his time and he was gentle and lovely. It was not a great script, but I enjoyed my time working with Yootha Joyce, Glyn Edwards, and Derren Nesbitt. I learned a lot from watching the best actors work, like Lee Remick when I worked with her in Summer & Smoke, Rex Harrison when I worked with him on Don Quixote, Richard Johnson in numerous Shakespeare plays and TV as well as his films, Peter Sellers, Robert Urich etc. By the way, I did not spend the whole film playing a corpse! I had many scenes in the film before I died. Have you seen it?

Yes, but it was a veeeeery long time ago! Apologies for my hazy recollection, I’ll try to have another look at it if possible. Round about the same time, you appeared in all your naked glory in the inaugural edition of Paul Raymond’s Club International magazine.. nowadays people don’t bat an eyelid at such stuff, but did it cause you any problems back then?

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Yes, it caused problems with my family and many of my friends. I had already appeared in Bob Guccione’s Penthouse, by the way, which caused the same problem but to a lesser degree as I was in America when it came out, promoting There’s A Girl in My Soup with Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn.

Kirk Douglas spotted you in a restaurant and wanted you to appear in his film Skallawag, but you opted instead for a role in Jean Rollin’s La Rose De Fer (surrounded by dead bodies again)… couldn’t this be seen as a perverse career choice?

What are you talking about? I saw this as an opportunity to do a very artistic film… though I did not know that Rollin did vampire films. I was happy with the script and Rollin became one of my favourite directors to work with.

Did you feel more simpatico with Rollin’s gallic sensibilities? Or was the attraction of La Rose De Fer that you had more of a leading role?

I felt happy doing the film and Rollin guided me but left me to my own devices. Having a leading role meant nothing, you have to carry it on-screen and make sure the audience does not take their eyes off you. I think I achieved that.

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You sure did… following that you did a lot of TV and to many people in Britain you will be best remembered as Danielle Favre in the sitcom Mind Your Language, from 1977 to 1980… in our more PC conscious times, that show has been criticised for being “sexist” and “racist”… how do you respond to such criticisms?

There is a bunch of nuts in this country who are followers of the bigger nut cases that lead them by the nose. If the big nutcase says it sexist and racist, the other nutcases (petit bourgeois I call them!) follows and cries louder. This country has too many petit bourgeois ruling the TV companies and the BBC…

Here here… your  MYL co-star Barry Evans later died a mysterious death and people have said that he was a troubled individual… did you get any sense of that from working with him?

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I didn’t, he was a great guy to work with and we all loved him dearly. We miss him terribly, all of us. Vince Powell the creator of the series died too and he is sorely missed by all of us… he was a great friend to me.

Any memories of either of  the films you made in 1976… Robert Young’s Can You Keep It Up Downstairs?, which we already touched on and Jacques Besnard’s Et Si Tu N’en Veux Pas (aka French Undressing)?

I loved working with Jacques Besnard, he was a great film director and I only wished that I had worked on a better film with him. I loved my time on Keep It Up Downstairs, it was fun and I met some lovely people who became friends of mine until this day… so sad that Jack Wild is no longer among us, nor is Diana Dors nor Willy Rushton…

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You were back working for Rollin in 1978’s Les Raisins De La Mort aka Pesticide… did Rollin ever confide in you the artistic vision that guided his enigmatic films?

No I did that one as a favour to him, there was nothing particularly artistic about it.

Was the female lead in that film (Marie-Georges Pascal) any relation to yourself?

Yes, a distant cousin… coincidence.

Anything to tell us about your U.S. TV credits?

I worked for two years on The Young & The Restless and it was an experience that I will never forget, I also did a series with the late Robert Urich called Gavillan, which was canned after the first series… pity, it had a lot of potential but the powers that be did not like it.

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On your final feature credit Lightning The White Stallion (1986) you were reunited with Susan George and also got to work with the legendary Mickey Rooney and (producing), the notorious Harry Alan Towers…

I worked with the girl Isabelle Lorca more than Susan but it was good to have Susan on the film set, Mickey Rooney was great to work with, a legend and a great actor. I was in awe. Harry Alan Towers was very good to me in LA on the film. I met the director, William Levey, who chose me to play Isabelle’s mother (I thought I looked too young for that, but there you go) at Susan George’s party, actually.

Any reminiscences of such glamour girl contemporaries and co-stars as Yutte Stensgaard, Lena Skoog, Luan Peters, Imogen Hassal or Jenny Hanley?

Jenny Hanley and I are best friends from when we starred in Soft Beds And Hard Battles. The others I do not know, I don’t remember them too much.

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I knew Imogen Hassal through Richard Johnson… she was a tormented girl but I liked her.

Richard Burton advised  you that “if you’re going to make rubbish, be the best rubbish in it”… are you surprised that there is still such interest in some of the exploitation pictures you made, so long after the event?

Let me correct you. Richard Burton never said this to me, I took it from a quote that he said, as it was appropriate to some of the films that I have done. Let’s face it, they were a bit rubbishy, but I was the best thing in them. Such is this world. They exploit you as much as they can, even long after the event… greed!!

There’s another motto to live by on your web site”: “ Le Coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connait point”, a quote from Blaise Pascal… was the great philosopher, by any chance, an ancestor of yours?

Blaise Pascal was never married. No relation. I love the quotation because that is what I was always taught all my life. I believe in it. It is a very profound saying.

You’ve been very candid about problems that you had with cocaine and so on, and describe yourself as “a showbiz survivor”… how would you advise any young aspiring starlet starting out today, about the pitfalls that she needs to navigate?

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Work hard, learn your craft, start low in the theatre then move to TV and films. Looks are not the only thing that will sustain you nor your youth… talent will always triumph above beauty and age. That is my belief.

We’d be delighted to hear anything you have to tell us about your current involvement in the charity Elizabeth Finn Care and anything else that you’re up to.

Elizabeth Finn Care has been helping people overcome the worst effects of poverty for over a Century. They are here to support people who were once self-sufficient, but who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in need of help.  EFC help people who have fallen below the poverty line, ordinary people who have been overcome by circumstances, such as family breakdown, redundancy, injury, physical or mental illness. In the UK and Ireland, there are four million adults who eligible for our support. We help all sorts of people in your community… nurses, teachers, farmers, solicitors, accountants, and people from the armed services. We probably help people you know, people just like you. I am very proud to be part of this charity, for which I have a passion.

Once again, thanks a lot for your time and your kind attention.

My pleasure!

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For more info, see http://www.francoise-pascal.co.uk

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Ringing Down The Curtain On The Golden Age Of Giallo… THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS And OPERA Reviewed

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The charnel house at Parma: Opera

BD/DVD Combi Edition. Cultfilms. Region B. 18.

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Edwige Fenech’s Garden Of Love: The Case Of The Bloody Iris

BD. Shameless. Region B. 18.

Now I like mechanical, by the numbers spaghetti slashers… but I like barking mad, auteurist gothic cross-over gialli, too. So which is better? There’s only one way to find out…

A timely brace of releases from sister labels Shameless and CultFilms affords us the opportunity for a “compare and contrast” exercise that might shed some light on certain aspects of the giallo phenomenon. Failing that, at least we’ve got a pretext to run yet more alluring photos of Edwige Fenech…

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The Case Of The Bloody Iris (an unassuming little handle compared to the film’s original Italian title, which translates as “Why These Strange Drops Of Blood On The Body Of Jennifer?”) was directed by Giuliano Carnimeo (masquerading as “Anthony Ascott”) during 1972, quite possibly the giallo’s annus mirabilis in purely quantitative terms, when every journey man who could work a camera seemed to be churning ’em out. Qualitatively, Argento took the genre to its zenith in 1975 with Deep Red and while others slackened off, his reputation / connections / family fortune enabled him to carry on obsessively reworking his favourite giallo themes with the likes of 1977’s Suspiria (you heard me!), Tenebrae (1982) and Phenomena (1985), before contributing one of the final two worthwhile entries (Opera… the other was his protegé Michele Soavi’s Stagefright) to the now moribund cycle in 1987.

Sergio Martino spent 1972 tweaking the giallo template, adding supernatural overtones with All The Colours Of Darkness and injecting a little Poe into his Les Diaboliques variant Your Vice Is A Locked Room and Only I Have The Key (before kick-starting the stalk’n’slash wave with the following year’s Torso). All very well but in the meantime big brother / producer Luciano, craving another “Martinoesque” thriller to cash in on Sergio’s 1971 successes The Strange Vice Of Mrs Wardh and The Case Of The Scorpion’s Tale, roped in reliable jobbing director Carnimeo to collaborate with scripting stalwart Ernesto Gastaldi, plus returning stars Fenech and George Hilton and ubiquitous OST composer Bruno Nicolai to knock out this very passable facsimile.

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TCOTBI packs a string of nubile psycho fodder (in all their funky ’70s finery) plus a veritable shoal of red herrings onto photo model Jennifer (Fenech)’s floor of a swish Genoan apartment building. Who’s cutting this collection of cuties off in their respective primes? Difficult to say, given the culprit’s standard issue black leather trench coat, broad-brimmed hat and stocking mask, but the cast of candidates comprises suspiciously smooth architect Hilton; a predatory lipstick lesbian (Lana Del Rey lookalike Annabella Incontrera) who’s predictably hot for Fenech’s bod; her disapproving, grumpy father; a nosey-parker old crone who’s keeping tabs on everybody else in the building; and her secret, scarred son, who is presented as obvious psycho-killer material because of his addiction to lurid horror comics (an imprudent tack to take in a lurid slasher film, one might have thought… ) Dodgiest of all is Jennifer’s ex Adam (Ben Carra), who’s stalking her, sending her irises and generally trying to lure her back into her former drug-crazed swinging lifestyle.  ”I’ll tear you as I tore the petals of the iris…” he rants: “You’re an object and you belong to me… since our celestial marriage you’ve belonged to me!” (shades of the overheated fruit loop played by Ivan Rassimov in Strange Vice).

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All of this understandably reduces Fenech to a nervous wreck, though her fellow photo model Marilyn (Paola Quattrini) is keener to attribute her agitated state to sexual frustration. “You made a big mistake, going from group sex to chastity” she advises, urging Jennifer to let her hair down a little, not to mention her drawers. The mandatory clueless cops (an inspector who’s more interested in collecting stamps than cracking the case, and his long-suffering side-kick, who seems to have wandered in from a Sexy-Comedy) persuade the reluctant Jennifer and Marilyn to stay in their apartment in a high risk strategy designed to flush out the killer (leaving them with the helpful advice: “Don’t trust any of your neighbours!”) as the bodies and improbable plot convolutions proliferate all around them.

One memorably barmy scene involves the night-club act of athletic black chick Mizar (Carla Brait) which involves her challenging horny audience members to get her clothes off in three minutes, while she’s beating them up (no, really!) This character’s later bath-tub demise is modelled upon one in the mother of all “imperilled models” gialli, Mario Bava’s Blood And Black Lace (1964). Elsewhere an attack on a girl while she’s pulling a garment over her head and a public stabbing in broad daylight anticipate sequences in Argento’s Tenebrae (1982), and an elevator slashing is every bit as clearly the inspiration for one in Brian De Palma’s Dressed To Kill (1980) as the power-tool slaying in Umberto Lenzi’s Seven Orchids Stained In Red (1972) was for the one in De Palma’s Body Double (1984)… what is it about Italian slasher directors and bloody petals, anyway?

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Carnimeo adroitly keeps the viewer’s suspicion alternating around his collection of ne’er do wells, with Hilton ostentatiously flagged as prime suspect, despite his professed haemophobia. Predictably, things are even more complicated than they appear, the true culprit’s puritanical motivation getting the customary curt airing before his / her equally obligatory dispatch by being chucked down a stair well. Gastaldi also manages to work a Spellbound-type cathartic liberation for one of the main characters into this boffo denouement. DP Stelvio Massi and sound track composer Bruno Nicolai perform their respective chores with the customary panache and although TCOTBI is nowhere near as adventurous, inventive or influential as Sergio Martino’s several stabs at giallo, suspend your disbelief to enjoy one of the genre’s most pleasantly time passing guilty pleasures.

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The second release under consideration here is another balaclava-load of bubbling brains altogether, the final refinement of its director’s patented giallo mix before a precipitous slide into self-parody (if you’ve never seen Argento’s on-the-nose 1998 Phantom Of The Opera remake… well, do yourself a favour and keep it that way). So, there’s a primal (and decidedly sadistic) scene that’s left an indelible mark on one of the main characters, a leading lady struggling to make sense of something she’s witnessed (or possibly just dreamed), an ineffectual police investigation that obliges another character to turn amateur sleuth… pepper all this with state-of-the-art camera technology in the service of vaulting directorial ambition and fiendish Sergio Stivaletti splatter FX and what do you get? Dario Argento’s Opera, that’s what!

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Thrown into the spotlight on the opening night of a controversial production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth, young diva Betty (Cristina Marsillach) promptly feels the full force attendant on the proverbial “Curse of The Scottish Play”. Trussed up by a mysterious masked stalker who tapes needles under her eyelids, she is forced to witness her nearest and dearest being stabbed in the gizzard and butchered before her unblinking eyes (an ordeal exacerbated by outbreaks of terrible heavy metal music on the soundtrack!)

So who’s giving her the needle… her dictatorial director Marco? A disgruntled diva? Urbano Barberini’s drippy, star-struck investigating officer? If Marco was a controversial pick to direct opera then Dario Argento, in the light of such operatic horrors as Suspira, Inferno and Phenomena, was a natural to direct Opera… indeed, it’s unlikely that anybody but him could have dreamed up (in conjunction with Franco Ferrini) this extreme twist on Gaston Leroux’s source novel). To render his OTT vision, Argento roped in DP Ronnie Taylor (*), with whom he’d previously shot some cutting edge car commercials, to collaborate on such startling moments as Betty’s agent Myra (Daria Nicolodi) being shot in the face through a keyhole, or the climactic attack of pouncing, vengeful ravens, viewed from the birds’ aerial POVs. Things are ultimately wound up with an ending that’s so very left-field, even by Argento’s standards, that Marsillach’s space cadet soliloquy / lizard rescuing routine were cut from export prints for many years (you get to see it all here, though you won’t necessarily believe it).

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Opera is baroque, beautiful and downright berserk enough (Nicolodi’s death scene holds it own in comparison with anything else in Argento’s extraordinary canon) to secure its place in the director’s matchless golden era (on which it rings down the curtain in appropriately flamboyant style) although it’s no Suspiria. Accordingly, it’s been given a mere 2k restoration (half the ‘k’s of CultFilms’ eye-searing Suspiria restoration) and looks mighty fine for it, with the revelation of pastel tendencies that recall the job Arrow recently did on Deep Red restoration. Argento supervised this one personally, with reference to his own favoured cinema print which, we learn in the lengthy bonus interview on this disc, he stole! Among the other extras we are given a split screen look at the restoration process plus extensive behind-the-scenes “making of” footage… I’ve seen various permutations of this stuff in previous featurettes and documentaries but what we have here appears to be the motherlode.

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Shameless have managed a sharp BD transfer of Carnimeo’s film with little grain to distract you from your contemplation of the onscreen carnage, though some might find the colour palate of this particular Bloody Iris a tad dull and overly green compared to, e.g. (my handiest reference point) the DVD on Anchor Bay’s 2002 “Giallo Collection” box set. Bonus wise, you get Interviews with Paola Quattrini and George Hilton. Quattrini is mystified that people would still want to ask her about this film 45 after the event, but muses that this tale of misogynistic murder might have renewed relevance in the age of #metoo. George “I know I’m handsome” Hilton reminisces about his many love scenes with Edwige Fenech… well, it’s a tough job but some jammy bastard’s gotta do it!

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(*) Mr Taylor took his wife to see Opera for the first time when it played at The Scala in 1991, as part of the launch event for Maitland McDonagh’s book Broken Mirrors / Broken Minds, with Argento in attendance. I was privy to her reaction. “Not impressed” would be a serious understatement…

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At Least It’s Not Those PPI Bastards! THE KILLER… IS ON THE PHONE Reviewed

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L’assassino… É Al Telefono aka Scenes From A Murder. Directed by Alberto De Martino. Produced by Aldo Scavarda, Guy Luongo and Valerio De Paolis. Written by Alberto De Martino, Adriano Bolzoni, Renato Izzo, Lorenzo Manning and Vincenzo Mannino. Cinematography by Aristide Massaccesi (“Joe D’Amato”). Edited by Otello Colangeli. Production Design by Antonio Visone. Music by Stelvio Cipriani. Starring: Telly Savalas, Anne Heywood, Osvaldo Ruggieri, Giorgio Piazza, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Rossella Falk, Antonio Guidi, Roger Van Hool, Ada Pometti, Alessandro Perrella.

Although he worked his way up through the mandatory succession of peplums and spaghetti westerns and signed off his directorial career in 1985 with a skid row giallo (Formula For A Murder) and similarly under-resourced monster movie (Miami Golem… David Warbeck starred in both), Alberto De Martino was a capable director (responsible for my all time favourite Italian crime slime picture, Blazing Magnum) who nearly crashed the big time in 1977 with Holocaust 2000, a Kirk Douglas-starring Omen clone that did tidy international box office business. The er, omens for Alberto’s career were looking good until he perpetrated The Pumaman, a terminally lame superhero effort that crashed and burned in 1980.

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The aforementioned Blazing Magnum (1976) is one of those poliziotteschi with strong giallo overtones and Martino’s The Man With Icy Eyes (1971) similarly straddles both genres, to less compelling effect. The Killer… Is On The Phone is often dismissed as “for giallo completists only” but having finally caught up with this 1972 effort, I’d hesitate to go even that far, the film playing out more like a ponderous “psychological thriller” than a full-blooded Italian whodunnit…

… for starters, we know who did it (“it” being “bumped off actress Eleanor Loraine’s husband Peter”) from the get go. Yes, it was hit man Ranko Drasovic (Telly Savalas, the year before his apotheosis from cinema character acting stalwart to TV icon with Kojak).

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Ranko’s been contracted to kill a Middle Eastern diplomat in Bruges, when he spots Eleanor (Anne Heywood). His assassination job immediately goes on the back burner (to the chagrin of his employers) because he knows that Eleanor saw him killing Peter (Roger Van Hool). What he doesn’t know is that she was so traumatised by what she saw that she’s completely blotted it out of her memory.

So, an eye-witness to a crime who, unknown to the perpetrator, can’t testify against him… think of how cleverly Lucio Fulci deployed this device during his psychedelic giallo tour de force Lizard In A Woman’s Skin (1971). In contrast, De Martino just has Drago wandering around the canals of Bruges, dogging Eleanor’s footsteps and looking vaguely menacing while he ponders what to do next. When he does finally take decisive action he only succeeds in bumping off the wrong woman, Eleanor’s sister Dorothy (the very lovely Willeke van Ammelrooy, possibly best known to our readers from Dick Maas’s The Lift, 1983) who has taken the indisposed Eleanor’s role in a production of Lady Godiva. Yeah, I’d pay to see Ms  Ammelrooy (below) in that…

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Eleanor had to bow out of the show when she started declaiming Lady Macbeth’s lines during rehearsals and indeed, she seems to identify closely with Lady M… in one flashback she is apparently seen egging on her co-star / brother-in-law / lover Thomas (Osvaldo Ruggieri, who looks like Udo Kier in a Kenney Jones wig) to murder Peter (now there’s a twist!) only for it to be revealed that this is a scene from a play in which they previously appeared together (taking his cue from Busby Berkeley, De Martino stuffs the purported stage production with visual material that no theatre audience could possibly have seen…)

Any viewer roused from their slumbers by this potentially interesting development will soon wish they hadn’t been, as further endless scenes of Savalas wandering around ensue, detracting from what is (when it finally arrives) a rather gripping and suspenseful finalé in which Eleanor rings the curtain down on Ranko’s murderous career in conclusive style. Then there’s an unexpected twist which identifies who really ordered Peter’s murder (and why), all of which comes way too late to salvage this Italo-Belgian co-production which, even if it doesn’t quite piss on your giallo chips, saturates them in an unappetising slurry of stodgy narrative mayonnaise.

Disappointing stuff…

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The Joy Of Pinky Violence… ORGIES OF EDO Reviewed.

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BD. Arrow. Region B. 18.

By the late 1960s the Japanese were in the throes of a collective love affair with their TV sets and it was clearly going to take more than another cycle of yakuza epics to tempt them back into movie theatres. The ruthlessly commercial Toei Studio was ready for a change and so was director Teruo Ishii (who had directed no less than ten episodes of the Abashiri Prison series in two years!) So was born the “pinky violence” / “abnormal love” series, inaugurated with Ishii’s  The Joy Of Torture / Shogun’s Joy Of Torture in 1968. Prohibited from depicting explicit sex or even full frontal female nudity, these films doubled… nay, tripled down on BDSM imagery, to increasingly delirious effect.

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The überprolific Ishii’s fourth entry in the series, Orgies Of Edo (1969), like its predecessors, examines the Edo (Tokugawa) era of Japanese history (1603-1868), continuing to explore the proposition that a world of psychosexual malaise underlay that ostensibly serene and prosperous period. It’s not entirely inconceivable that criticisms of contemporary Japanese society were being implied and inferred… whatever, the film’s gleeful “News Of The Screws” style moralistic condemnation of “abnormal love” enabled its makers to have their cake and eat it, a framing device involving the idealistic doctor Gentatsu (Teruo Yoshida), who encounters the casualties of assorted carnal excesses, enhancing its credentials as some kind of cautionary “sexual hygiene” film.

The first segment of this infernal triptych involves Oito (Masumi Tachibana), a naive girl who is lured into a life of prostitution by smarmy conman Hanji (Toyozō Yamamoto). Her Hogarthian harlot’s progress terminates when, having become pregnant, she is beaten by a Madame in an attempt to induce a miscarriage. Her dying plea is that Hanji and her callous sister (with whom he was conducting an affair behind her back) be looked after. Gentatsu wishes he could have saved her life by removing the dead foetus via the Western method of Caesarian section … hold on there doc, you’ll get your chance.

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The second episode introduces us to Ochise (Mitsuko Aoi), a respectable merchant’s daughter who rides her devoted servant Chôkichi (Akira Ishihama) around like a horse and enlists his aid in recruiting deformed and disfigured men for her to enjoy rough sex with. Dwarves… the disabled… none of this is particularly PC but when Ochies’s Jonesing for “repulsive” men drives her into the arms of a black guy… well, they don’t make ’em like this any more and it’s probably just as well. When Dr G hypnotises Ochie, the root of all this perving is revealed… as a young woman she was kidnapped and abused by a man with burn marks on his face. Before she can derive any benefit from this insight, Chôkichi scars his own face in the hope of bedding his mistress but while attempting to monopolise her affections by scarring her, too, he inadvertently administers a fatal wound to her throat. Ochie forgives him as she dies… don’t you just love a happy ending?

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Finally, a depraved lord (Asao Koike) who thinks nothing of dragging women behind his horse and setting charging bulls on them draws the line when he finds out that one of his concubines has been involved in a sexual liaison with her dog! He expresses his disapproval of this by having her painted gold so that she’ll expire, Shirley Eaton style, but before this can be completed she reveals to him that his favourite mistress Omitsu (Miki Obana), whose debauched enthusiasm for rope bondage and cutting matches his own and who’s pregnant with his child, is actually his own daughter. As his Lordship succumbs to madness and the place burns down, House Of Usher style, Doctor Gentatsu gets to do his C-section (a scene that’s both risible and rather icky) and bears the child away, advising it as they (literally) head off into the sunset: “You must live, despite your burden. Resist madness and put all your strength into this precious life”.

Despite its hypocritical moralistic veneer, Orgies of Edo is a truly Sadean film, extolling the joys of individual sexual satisfaction, whatever its consequences, over a life of stifling social conformity. Obviously a pointer towards such increasingly delirious and surreal Ishii offerings as Horrors Of Malformed Men (1969) and Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) it’s also a down-market predecessor of e.g. Oshima’s Ai No Corrida (1976).

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Patrick Macias contributes a video appreciation, as well as liner notes (I haven’t yet seen the booklet accompanying this release) and you also get an amazing trailer that never knowingly understates this film’s salacious selling points: “Surpassing the unique The Joy Of Torture… uproarious scenes of sado-masochism… in the chaos of this world, madness and derangement… a tale of cruelty and perversion… a must see for all adults… a perfect study in debauchery in this highly controversial piece of work… once seen, never forgotten… women’s bodies in sexual ecstasy… sweet perversion… one hour and fifty minutes of trying not to look at theses numerous ancient forms of torture… new face of Playboy 1968 – Masumi Tachibana… with her 40 inch bust – Reiko Misaka… plus over 200 nude stars… only Toei could make this unusual yet stimulating film… more than 30 minutes is life-threatening… the agonising torture of being lacquered in gold… a magnificent spectacle!”

Hold the fucking phone… “one hour and fifty minutes of trying not to look”? The version I just watched clocked in at barely more than an hour-and-a-half. Is there more of this in somebody’s vault somewhere? Saints preserve us!

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Gold…

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… Minger.

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