Posts Tagged With: Daria Nicolodi

Death Stalks On Five Yellow Discs… Severin’s Monumental ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK / ALL THE COLORS OF GIALLO Box Set Reviewed.

10066.jpg

All The Colors Of The Dark. BD / CD. Severin. Region A. Unrated.

All The Colors Of Giallo. BD / CD. Severin. Region Free. Unrated.

Severin have always been generous with their bonus materials but here, like that ambassador dishing out the ferrero rocher at his embassy reception – possibly the very one attended by Edwige Fenech’s Julie Wardh in Sergio Martino’s The Strange Vice Of Mrs Wardh (1971) –  they are positively spoiling us! Their “All The Colours” sets, available singly at the links above and as a (getting rarer by the minute) box set, were only issued in January but, taken together, constitute what can already be confidently acknowledged as the release of 2019 (and if I’m wrong, cool, because it means that something very special is on its way during the next several months…)

You’re already going to be familiar with the plot of All The Colors Of The Dark (1972) from earlier editions of it that have been reviewed on this blog… and if not, why not?!? If you do need to get up to speed though, take a look here and / or here). Suffice to say, Martino’s third giallo is a bewitching fusion of that genre’s conventions and Rosemary’s Baby-patented Satanic panic, which consistently undercuts audience (and indeed, at the death, its own) expectations… with the divine Edwige Fenech fulfilling her quota of soapy shower scenes, for good measure.

41-0OQU2kSL._SX450_.jpg

ATCOTD now looks and sounds every bit as good as you’d expect from a Severin release, though I’m still longing for a surround sound mix of Bruno Nicolai’s memorable score, particularly that Sabbat theme, which the Marketing-Film DVD (as “Die Farben Der Nacht”) only offers on its German language track, necessitating more viewer fidgeting than during Fenech’s ablutions. Bonus materials include a somewhat less pristine looking print of the alternative US cut, retitled They’re Coming To Get You and shorn of several minutes so that distributors Independent-International (whom we’ll shortly be looking at in connection with Severin’s comparably nifty Blood Island Collection) could more easily shoehorn it into grindhouse and drive in double bills. This they managed by substituting a short passage of lame “spooky” graphics for the original’s “long day’s journey into night” intro and 99% of Martino’s subsequent carefully contrived, surrealistically nightmarish sequence. Needless to say, Fenech’s post-nightmare trip to the bathroom is present and politically incorrect…

They'reComing.jpg

There’s a nice bonus interview with director Martino, who renders a comprehensive A-Z of ATCOTD… a real “soup to nuts” job. He also reflects on Fenech’s long-standing reticence in talking about these movies (“For a woman, it’s embarrassing to admit that she was exploited for the public. Today, she’s a lady”) and expresses a particular fondness for All The Colors, on account of his second daughter being conceived during location scouting for it. He pays sad tribute to his late producer brother Luciano (“I was the mind and he was the arm”) and talks fondly of his prolific favoured screenwriter, Ernesto Gastaldi: “Now that we are both old, we lick the wounds of our old age together”.

In his interview, Gastaldi returns the compliments to Martino (“We are the last of the Mohicans!”) while suggesting that Martino had more mixed feelings about working for his brother than he generally lets on. As for Gastaldi’s own relationship with the producer: “Luciano was a strange friend… he never paid me much!”

ATCOTD.jpg

Gastaldi states that his intention with ATCOTD was to debunk the supernatural (though the finished film concludes a lot more ambiguously than that) and complains that he never wrote any of the shower scenes with which Fenech’s films are littered. He found the Queen of Giallo “cold… I’m not saying I wouldn’t have touched her with a stick or anything!” The interview is also noteworthy for Gastaldi’s touching tribute to the memory of Antonio Margheriti.

Fenech’s frequent leading man, George Hilton, is also interviewed, with useful interjections from Italy’s top home-grown genre pundit, Antonio Tentori. Kat Ellinger (author of All The Colors of Sergio Martino) supplies a commentary track to the main feature which, she admits, is anything but unbiased. There’s never any dead air on an Ellinger commentary.

You get a bunch of trailers and TV spots too, plus (if you bag one of the first 2,500 copies) a very welcome CD of Bruno Nicolai’s score, which I’ve coveted for so long that I think it’s one of the things you’re admonished not to covet in The Ten Commandments.

todos.jpg

If that little lot has got you in a yellow mood, prepare yourself for the second sub-set in this box, All The Colors Of Giallo. On disc 1, a new feature-length documentary of that title by Federico Caddeo gives a domestic perspective on this most enduring of Italian exports via a plethora of interviews… some of them recent, some that you’ll be familiar with from previous releases. The big five giallo directors are covered by interviews with Argento (who talks about how close The Bird With The Crystal Plumage came to box office oblivion on its original Italian release), Lamberto Bava (representing and remembering his father Mario), Martino (who claims to have experienced no sexual frisson from his frequent proximity to the naked Edwige Fenech… if you say so, Sergio), the ever-pugnacious Umberto Lenzi and (in an audio interview, on predictably coruscating form), Lucio Fulci. Luciano Ercoli also gets his say, alongside the most prolific giallo scripter of all, the indefatigable Ernesto Gastaldi. There are contributions from staple actor George Hilton (who describes the longevity of these movies as “a beautiful surprise”) and some of the genre’s glamorous female stars, including Edwige Fenech (during the short-lived period when Quentin Tarantino’s endorsements emboldened her to talk about her exploitation credits), Barbara Bouchet, Daria Nicolodi and Nieves Navarro / “Susan Scott”.

Tied together with the observations of film historian Fabio Melelli (“The Argento of today is a very different director from the one he once was”… no foolin’, Fabio!), this doc takes a bit of a scatter gun approach, though often hitting the target square on. I mean, do you really want to hear Bouchet dishing the dirt on who shagged whom during the making of Don’t Torture A Duckling? “Is a bear a Catholic?”, I can almost hear my incredulous readers shouting at their screens: “Does The Pope shit in the woods?!?”

BBouch.jpg

In an interesting sideline, Melelli suggests that Italian censors couldn’t be too strict on gialli / horror after the stuff that they’d permitted Pasolini as “a serious artist” … a double standard the British establishment has never had any problems sustaining.

Before you’ve had a chance to catch your breath (or don a pair of shades to protect your eyes from his Op Art shirt), erstwhile Giallo Pages editor John Martin is presenting a 20 minute overview of the genre in which he doesn’t come across as too much of a dick. Kudos to editor Zach Carter for that. David Flint directs.

The ensuing Giallothon comprises 4 hours (I kid you not!) of trailers for Italian slashers… the 82 coming attractions, of varying provenance and spankiness, might provoke debate about what should have been in there and what could comfortably have been left out, but that’s half the genre-defining beauty of it. You might even discover a couple of titles you’ve yet to catch up with.

Kat Ellinger pops up again, here deploying her extensive knowledge of the genre to rattle off a sustained series of capsule commentaries on each of the titles represented in this collection. Why is it that Italian giallo trailers are invariably more psychedelic than trailers for Italian acid movies? The one which compares Curse Of The Scorpion’s Tail, another Martino effort, to Bunuel, Eisenstein, et al, is a strong contender for the most enjoyably wacky selection here but that for Silvio Amadio’s Amuck is another bona fide hoot. Then, of course, there’s Lenzi’s “Spasmo… SPASMO… SPASMO!!!

Spasmo.jpgIm-Banne-des-Unheimlichen-The-Zombie-Walks-39x55-2-e1405437612120.jpg

Disc 2 takes us over the Alps into Germany for film historian Marcus Stiglegger’s investigation of that country’s krimi genre and its mutually influential relationship with its little Latin cousin, the giallo. This sets up another trailerthon in the shape of Kriminal!, 90 minutes of coming attractions for the cinematic offspring of Edgar Wallace’s interminable scribblings.

If your interest is sufficiently piqued by that, you might well want to seek out Universum Film’s gargantuan 33 krimi DVD box set. If, on the other hand, your eyes are bleeding after taking in all these yellow visuals, you might prefer to sit back in your grooviest chair, freshen your tumbler of J&B, slip those headphones on and enjoy The Strange Sounds Of The Bloodstained Films, a CD selection of musical highlights from the likes of Morricone, Ortolani, Orlandi, Alessandroni, Cipriani, De Massi et al, compiled and remastered from the archives of Beat Records by Alfonso Carillo and Claudio Fuiano. Go on, you’ve earned it…

50272460_648496648920810_5973879021494712968_n.jpg

And if you really feel like splashing out…

Advertisements
Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Dario Argento's OPERA (1987) - CultFilms (2).jpg

The charnel house at Parma: Opera

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

The Case Of The Bloody Iris (1972) - Shameless (2).jpg

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…

42736186_1058095301036979_1012336323191213100_n.jpg

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.

cbi7.jpg

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).

1172818_10201g1352209529_o.jpg

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?

Bloody Iris.jpg

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.

CULT503_Opera_2DPackshop copy.png

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!

Dario Argento's OPERA (1987) - CultFilms (3).jpg

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).

mira.pngOperaKeyhole07.jpgOperaKeyhole09.jpg

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.

27_dario-argento-pictured-on-the-set-of-terror-at-the-opera.jpg

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!

MV5BNDFlNjg1NjQtODQ1NC00YmYyLWJkYzctYTVkZjg0MGMzODc4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODkxOTE5ODg@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_.jpg

(*) 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…

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

40,000 Flies On 4K… Arrow’s PHENOMENA Upgrade Reviewed

DNinPhenomena.jpg

02c20faf45fd3876b8330253677c40fd.jpg123

BD/CD Combi. Region B. Arrow. 18.

I’ve always loved Dario Argento’s Phenomena (1985), ever since I first saw it (cut down to “Creepers”) at the long-defunct 123 Cinema (*) in Liverpool (above… now and then-ish), supported by The Evil Dead in its theatrical follow-up run. Support film? Ask your granddad. But wait, I hear you say… if you like Phenomena so much, Herr Freudstein, how come it’s taken you so long to review Arrow’s 4K restoration of it on this blog? Well, here’s the thing… significant chunks of my time are taken up, regrettably, with matters completely unconnected to watching and writing about films. When I am writing about films, I’m obliged (not least by Frau Freudstein) to prioritise assignments that are going to bring in some money (i.e. not this blog) and when that’s been taken care of, I feel duty bound to concentrate on releases for which somebody has bothered to furnish me with review copies. Stuff I’ve had to shell out for myself goes straight to the back of the queue, whatever its manifest, manifold merits. As with Arrow’s Phenomena, so it goes for their recent(ish) Bird With The Crystal Plumage set, which I might or might not get round to reviewing in the coming weeks and months.

0669e7bcbc96f469722ffcd03626ee46.jpg

Anyway, Phenomena… I’ve always loved it and indeed, what’s not to love? A sleep walking schizophrenic schoolgirl uses her telepathic understanding with insects and friendship with a razor wielding chimpanzee to hunt down the butt-ugly deformed, demented dwarf who has been, with the connivance of his psychotic mother, dismembering and collecting the body parts of her classmates. If that synopsis doesn’t appeal to you, you’re probably reading the wrong blog… and you’re definitely following the wrong director. Yet there are those, even among the more Argento inclined demographic (who presumably accepted Four Flies On Grey Velvet, Deep Red and even Inferno as models of kitchen sink linear narrative) who’ve dismissed Argento’s ninth feature on account of its “bizarre plotting”. Such criticisms reappear regularly among the bonus materials  in this Arrow box set,  which makes you wonder why they’ve expended so much effort over it…

phenomena_fb_06.jpg

… to impressive effect, it has to be said. What we have here are four discs (three BD and one compact) containing three variant versions of the film plus its original soundtrack. “The Italian / Integral Version” (i.e. Argento’s original directorial vision) runs at 116 minutes. Six minutes of trims to scenes yielded “The International Version” which, it was felt, might slip by a little more comfortably for international viewers. More drastic excisions (and the “Creepers” rebranding) were felt necessary for English language territories, where cinema goers had to be content with a mere 83 minutes of maggots-versus-mutant mayhem. Of course in mid-80s Britain, the BBFC insisted on further butchery for the film’s video release by Palace, though there’s no room for that particular cut (and good riddance to it) on this set. Every incarnation of the film included here looks as marvellous as you’d expect and Arrow have worked particular wonders compiling audio crap-free sound tracks for each from the available elements. The English soundtrack for the 110 minute version comes in lossless stereo and the necessarily hybrid soundtrack to the integral version also offers you the option of glorious 5.1 surround sound.

PHENOMENA H1.jpgDP:Chimp:DA.jpg

As for extras, The Three Sarcophagi, another of those “visual essays” by Michael Mackenzie, compares the three versions and examines the painstaking process of rendering each in the spankiest shape it has ever been seen in for this release. There’s more information about that in the accompanying 60 page limited booklet, which also includes three essays – “The Poetry Of The Gross-Out” by the always interesting Mikel J. Koven, “Argento, Armani And The Fashions Of Phenomena” from my antisocial media pal Rachael Nisbet (the fashion clock stopped somewhere in the mid ’70s… 1870s… here at the House Of Freudstein, but Rachael’s stuff is invariably a pleasure to read) and Leonard Jacobs’ Phenomena As A Key To Unlocking Opera, which takes several pages to arrive at the conclusion which is expressed far more succinctly by the director himself in an Argento interview elsewhere on this site,  i.e. “Opera ends where Phenomena begins, even if I made Phenomena first…. it doesn’t really matter which order you watch the videos in, does it?”

Troy Howarth contributes a characteristically sure-footed commentary track and maintains an admirable balance between saluting the genius of early Argento and deploring how he subsequently sank into sterile self-celebration. Similarly, he’s critical of  Daria Nicolodi’s performance in Phenomena but reminds us how well she performed in plenty of previous pictures (for Argento and plenty of others) and acknowledges how her director (and disgruntled ex lover) hung her out to dry in this one.

dario-argento-e-daria-nicolodi-sul-set-di-phenomena-296494.jpg

Nicolodi gets to have her own say in the feature-length documentary Of Flies and Maggots, as do plenty of others, including Argento, his daughter Fiore (whose severed head is thrown out of a window during the film’s memorable opening sequence), Davide Marotta (the defenestrating dwarf himself), co-writer Franco Ferrini, cinematographer Romano Albani, production manager Angelo Jacono, assistant director Michele Soavi, special optical effects artist Luigi Cozzi, makeup FX ace Sergio Stivaletti, underwater photographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia, musicians Claudio Simonetti and Simon Boswell and just about everybody else you’d expect to hear from plus some you possibly wouldn’t, e.g. actress Fiorenza Tessari (daughter of Duccio).

No Donald Pleasence of course, but it’s a pity that Connelly (who had the presence of mind to star for two of my favourite directors in her first two feature outings) declined to take part in this doc. Possibly aware of the words of one contemporary critic who opined that she had ruined Phenomena and should stick to modelling

65b63aee91e771fd1b9ea2fa039369ff.jpg

“Cheeky bastard said WHAT?!?”

(I imagine that she recalls these wise words every time she polishes her Oscar) she will be further discomforted to hear Battaglia’s catty comments about the size of her feet (considering how many crazy elements Argento manages to pack into Phenomena, I guess there’s room for a Sasquatch subplot). Cozzi talks about the strained relationship between Connelly’s protective Dad and the production, Jacono refers to his agonising attempts to reconcile Dario with everyone from whom he’d become estranged – his father Salvatore, brother Claudio and Nicolodi. We also learn that Jack Sholder (Alone In The Dark, Nightmare On Elm Street 2, The Hidden) was responsible for the Creepers cut. Perhaps he could usefully have been assigned to Of Flies And Maggots, which at over two hours will probably prove a bit much for general viewers. The again, it’s unlikely that they would buy such a lavish celebration of one film and the doc is a real treasure trove for those who love Phenomena…

PHENOMENA Z1.jpg

… did I already mention that I love Phenomena? We are constantly told (on this set and in general film discourse) that no critics have got any time for the film, from which I and others who do can only infer the sub-text “no critics worth a light” have got any time for it. Well, it’s good to learn your place in the scheme of things but one can’t help but be tickled at the spectacle of Argentophiles who turn their noses up at Phenomena, only to devote hundreds of breathless column inches to the worthless likes of Phantom Of The Opera, Giallo and Dracula 3-D. Does anybody imagine that any of those will be appearing as multi-disc collectors’ box sets in years to come? Nah…

Supplementary materials are rounded out by the expected trailers, a cheesy promotional clip for Simonetti’s exhilarating “Jennifer” theme that Argento threw together with the composer, Connelly and a demented looking bint named Elena Pompei (who also appeared in Deodato’s Body Count, Cozzi’s Paganini Horror and DA’s lame ’80s TV series Night Shift), and pages from the characteristically lush Japanese pressbook. Candice Tripp is responsible for the box’s artwork, about which I’m still making up my mind.

Phenomena-Limited-Edition-UK-Blu-Ray.jpg

Nice to know after viewing the doc that excrement was used to wrangle the flies… this is one set that must have smelled just delightful! One recalls that honey was used to make them behave on Once Upon A Time In The West, the Sergio Leone epic on which Argento got his writing break… reminds me of Sheldon’s best line in The Big Bang Theory and also seems emblematic of the shift from a Golden Age of Italian popular cinema to one of Silver (= “Argento”) en route to the distinctly Brown patch of the late ’80’s – early ’90s with which the cycle wound down.

More extreme means were used to control other animal actors. Albani seems to find it a hoot that the chimp was beaten to make it co-operate. I don’t and nor, hopefully, do you.

chimp-phenomena-600x300.jpg

Try that one more time, pal…

It’s not only WRONG but totally out of whack with the MDMA-style “getting down with nature” blabberings that litter Phenomena and are developed to dismaying effect in Opera.

Nevertheless, I’ll continue to champion Argento’s grand guignol paean to Gaia. I’ve always fought its corner, whenever nay sayers have… er, said nay about it. In fact (boring historical sidebar alert!) when Alan Jones rubbished Phenomena in Starburst I sent a dissenting response to him and Shock X-Press, the editor of which declined to run it but hooked me up “with a guy who’s trying to start a fanzine”. The guy was John Gullidge, the fanzine became Samhain and how you feel about that publication and the whole UK fanzine renaissance it kicked off might confirm you in whatever positive or negative feelings you have ever entertained towards Phenomena. Me, I’ve always loved it. I think this is where you came in…

phenomena-pit.jpg

(*) I also caught Re-animator, Demons 2 and a shitload of Russ Meyer films (among many others) there… The 123 was ground zero for Liverpool’s shabby raincoat brigade. In fact I’ll never shake the memory of seeing somebody jack off to the “severed head menaces Barbara Crampton” scene in Re-animator, no matter how hard I try.

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Apologies To Proudhon… Daria Nicolodi in Elio Petri’s PROPERTY IS NO LONGER A THEFT

MV5BMTUxNjUxNjk4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDkzMTMyMjE@._V1_UY1200_CR795,0,630,1200_AL_.jpg1.jpg

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

“What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?” – Bertolt Brecht.

“Money doesn’t smell!” – the emperor Vespasian, dismissing his son Titus’ qualms about a tax on piss collected from public urinals.

Some directors (as we shall shortly see) reacted to Italy’s “years of lead” (the pandemic criminal and political violence of the late ’60s and ’70s) by packing heavily moustached detectives and all manner of ballistic hardware into trench coats and unleashing them on the bad guys, whoever they were perceived to be that week. Elio Petri responded with darkly comic satires of the official corruption that had accompanied Italy’s “economic miracle” and was implicated, in ways not yet fully explained, with the turmoil that followed it. His films from this period (as suggested in the title of the 1973 offering under consideration here) also constitute an arch critique of the contemporary state of class consciousness and the Left’s fitness for purpose. Petri’s cinematic approach to these questions had less to do with the balletic bullet fests of Enzo Castellari than with such theatrical antecedents as Dario Fo’s celebrated Accidental Death Of An Anarchist and – as here – tends to be theatrically lit by Luigi Kuveiler. In Property Is No Longer A Theft he grants Shakespearian soliloquies to his principle cast members…

… and what a cast it is.Flavio Bucci (who made his screen debut in Petri’s 1971 effort The Working Class Goes To Heaven but will probably be more familiar as the blind pianist in Suspiria and one of the two murderous rapists on board Aldo Lado’s Late Night Trains) gives a superbly twitchy performance here as Total, a downtrodden bank teller who quits his job after developing a fixation on one of the bank’s clients, an affluent butcher identified simply as “The Butcher” (Italian comedy legend Ugo Tognazzi), whose wealth Total reckons (with some justification) to have been amassed via criminal means.

6.jpge443-the-property-is-no-longer-a-theft.jpgProperty_Is_No_Longer_a_Theft-307775533-large.jpg

Total resolves to steal The Butcher’s property, his reputation and his mistress Anita. The latter is played by another HOF Hall-of-Famer,  Daria Nicolodi, who emerges as a revelation when armed with a proper script and strong characterisation to sink her teeth into (and without the cruddy dubbing that have so often disfigured her screen performances.) There’s a gialloesque murder in a lift and a Diabolik gag or two thrown in for good measure as the blackly comic complications multiply, nicely complimented by one of Ennio Morricone’s quirkiest scores (though it’s not as flat-out bonkers as the one he contributed to Petri’s Investigation Of A Citizen Under Suspicion, 1970.)

Limited to the first pressing of this release, you also get an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Camilla Zamboni (upon which I can’t comment because I haven’t seen it.) The other bonus materials comprise interviews with make-up artist Pierantonio Mecacci, a knackered looking Flavio Bucci… who gets quite emotional talking about producer Claudio Mancini…

C4Kp5FrXAAAVqhC.jpgProperty-is-No-Longer-a-Theft.jpg

… and Mancini himself, who restores the balance with some light-hearted, gossipy reminiscences. He pokes gentle fun at Petri (above) for being what British right-wing rags now call a “champagne socialist” (a charge they routinely level at any Lefty who doesn’t live in a mud hut) and recalls the perils of dealing with Maoist trades unions on location. Intriguingly, for such a cerebral effort, he attributes the box office success of PINLAT to the amount of prurient punters who wanted to see the sex scene in which Nicolodi takes the upper berth, a scene on account of which this film was originally banned (a decision promptly rescinded) by Italian censors. You might well want to check it out, too.

MV5BMTUxNjUxNjk4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDkzMTMyMjE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,960_AL_.jpgMV5BODgyMDU1MjYxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTkzMTMyMjE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,960_AL_.jpgMV5BMTU5NDc1OTMxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTgzMTMyMjE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,960_AL_.jpgMV5BMjAyMzE2NTYwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgzMTMyMjE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,960_AL_.jpgPROPERTY5.jpg

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

mother-of-tears-1.jpgmother-of-tears-bluray-uncut_NSM.jpg

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.

aed7e3b8c55f5d29411d32018e597cee.jpg

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).

hV8S13qIQK1Tq6iMslujxO95RZQ.jpg

“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.)

BFD.jpg

mother-of-tears-witch-eye-pop.jpg

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!

mother-of-tears-2.jpg

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.

Moran-Atias.jpg

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.

motheroftears_1130_430_90_s_c1.jpgs734CTEE8ivdyzfzNcSKBgkIxJ9.jpgmother_of_tears.jpg2008 The Mother Of Tears 048.jpgmother-of-tears-set.jpg

2008_the_mother_of_tears_012.jpg

Don’t like the look of yours much…

Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: