Posts Tagged With: Drugs

The 104 Minute Technicolor Nightmare… LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN on Blu-Ray

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Blu-ray. Region Free. Mondo Macabro. Unrated.

I’ve already commented elsewhere on this blog about how the reputation of various Lucio Fulci pictures have been salvaged by successively better proportioned and more complete releases in increasingly high definition. Take his 1971 giallo Lizard In A Woman’s Skin (1971)… for a long time all we had to go on was VIP’s pre-cert VHS release, a washed out, panned-and scanned transfer of a print that had been significantly cut. Compared to the full throttle zombie stompers that were exercising the attention of the DPP at this time, it was easy to dismiss the film as of only marginal interest to the rapidly growing legion of Fulci devotes. Shriek Show began the film’s rehabilitation in the mid noughties with their much-anticipated, much delayed Region 1 double discer, which came with a useful selection of bonus interviews and a nifty repro of the U.S “Schizo” press book. Concern was expressed though that with its dual presentation of widescreen / cut and full screen / (allegedly) uncut versions, this edition rather fell between two stools. The label responded shortly afterwards with an “uncut” anamorphic 1.85:1 jobby (with 5.1 soundtrack option to boot) that contained inserts of varying picture quality (inevitably, in view of the tangled censorship history outlined in one of its bonus features) and was still, according to avid internet posters, missing a few minor bits of business here and there. The UK edition released by  Optimum Home Entertainment (Studiocanal) in 2010, looked and sounded rather lovely, was billed as “the longest version ever available” though (according to the internet diehards) it came in shorter still. Finally (well, about a year ago but – as previously mentioned – the wheels grind slowly here at The House Of Freudstein), LIAWS has made it, courtesy of Mondo Macabro, to region free Blu-ray where it looks absolutely stunning but (stop me if you’ve heard this before…)

It won’t have escaped your attention, you perceptive buggers, that much of what I’ve written so far has been heavily hedged around with qualifications… “alleged”, “people claim” and such weasel worded shit… truth is, I have neither the time, the attention span nor the sheer gluteal fortitude to sit, stopwatch in hand, glued to a succession of versions of the same film. There are plenty of people who pack all of those qualities in abundance and  as I say, their findings are on the internet, where you shouldn’t have too much trouble locating them. If you are the kind of consumer who wakes up in a cold sweat, suspecting that you might have missed a few frames of a minor character walking across a room, then you’ll find much there to divert you. Otherwise, the Mondo Macabro BD is LIAWS in excelcis… let’s wallow in it, people!

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Florinda Bolkan stars as Carole Hammond, pampered daughter of a high-flying barrister (Leo Genn). Her marriage to rising legal eagle Frank (Jean Sorel) isn’t in particularly good shape though, and the dullness of her family’s bourgeois existence is thrown into sharp relief by the loud, drug-crazed sex parties regularly thrown by their next door neighbour Julia Durer (silicon-stuffed Swedish giallo stalwart Anita Strindberg). Fulci makes great use of split screen to emphasise the gulf between the dreary life Carole leads and the edgy alternative that seems to repel and fascinate her in equal measures. She confides in her psychoanalyst that she is having erotic dreams about Durer which end in her stabbing the swinger to death (all rendered in gratifyingly sexy and psychedelic style by Fulci.) The doc interprets these apparent flights of fantasy in comfortingly cod Freudian terms but when Durer’s corpse is actually discovered in her flat, along with a shedload of clues that point to Carole as the perpetrator (including her own paper knife), things start getting really interesting… has Carole gone nuts? Did she really do it… or is she being set up?

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Enter Stanley Baker as Inspector Corvin, an irascible cop with barely suppressed fascistic tendencies (“Scour the city, Brandon… find anyone who has red hair and put the screws to him”) and an irritating habit of whistling Ennio Morricone’s (rather wonderful) theme music out of tune while pondering various suspects, their motives and opportunities. Fulci keeps us guessing through the convolutions of a plot which is considerably tighter than, e.g. that of its predecessor, 1969’s One On Top Of Another / Perversion Story, but not to the detriment of the director’s increasingly flamboyant visual style and way with a suspenseful sequence, as various family members are messily dispatched and Carole herself comes under threat from the more sinister elements among Julia Durer’s boho circle. There are tremendous cat and mouse scenes, amid the shabby gentility of the Alexandra Palace (which sequence features a bat attack that is much more convincing than the one in Fulci’s later The House By The Cemetery and, as Howard Berger has pointed out, seems to have exerted an influence over a very similar one in Argento’s Suspiria) and in the grounds of a sanatorium, where Carole’s attempts to escape the murderous attentions of improbably named killer hippy Hubert aka “Red” (Mike Kennedy, best known as the singer in “Black Is Black” combo Los Bravos) lead her to the notorious lab of vivisected dogs, a much cut scene which nearly landed Fulci in jail before Oscar-winning FX ace Carlo Rambaldi proved to the satisfaction of a judge that the unfortunate canines were actually animatronic constructions devised by himself (it has even been claimed that they were knocked up under the uncredited supervision of Mario Bava).

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Fulci has a ball packing the film with visual quotations from the likes of Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Francis Bacon’s screaming Popes, and although he always waxed cynical about the value of psychoanalysis (“Freud was a fraud who stole psychoanalysis from the Catholic confessional to finance his cocaine habit!” the director once told me) LIAWS employs fur coats, geese, and plenty of other symbolically charged objects in a style that Freud would have recognised only too well.

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When Hubert and his studio tanned girlfriend Jenny (Penny Brown) testify to the shocking truth (or at least, every cliché ever dreamed up in a tabloid) about LSD use, supplying this film with its enigmatic title in the process, it becomes apparent that the real culprit for Julia Durer’s murder has given themself away in an attempt to refute evidence that would never have stood up in court anyway. D’oh…

During my interview with Fulci, he rejected a comment I made along the lines of Lizard In A Woman Skin’s being “in the post-Blow Up tradition of swinging London gialli” (or some such flip formulation.) He didn’t perceive any such influence and, while acknowledging Antonioni’s stature, described Blow Up as “nothing special.” Well, I beg to differ on both counts. If Blow Up pokes beneath the surface and finds swinging London dead on arrival (which is precisely why its Metropolitan hipster detractors have always hated it so much), LIAWS returns to that scene a few years later to see what acid had added to (or subtracted from) what was already a cultural and spiritual void.

It has been suggested (notably and repeatedly in Phil Hardy’s Aurum Horror Film Encyclopedia) that Fulci was a reactionary stuffed shirt who bridled at any hint of social liberalism / permissiveness and punished it relentlessly in his films… and of course this is a narrative that ties in conveniently with the whole tired “misogyny” chestnut. But it’s clear in LIAWS that Carole Hammond’s simultaneous repulsion towards / fascination with the groovy goings on next door are actually projections of Fulci’s own mixed feelings towards such shenanigans. Nor does he present a particularly sympathetic portrait of the straight life, to the extent of depicting those involved in it as rotting corpses!

Some commentators have had a chuckle at the expense of Barbara Bouchet’s “marijuana dependent” character in Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Duckling…

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… and indeed, how we used to laugh at The Man’s attempts to harsh our mellow with dire warnings about addiction and reefer madness. Decades later, some of us look at the state of some of our mates and wonder if maybe The Man had a point. As for the advent of skunk… have you caught an episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show recently? Suffice to say, Fulci was no babe in the wood on this score… indeed, it’s an open secret that he proved adept (albeit reluctantly so) at scoring for doomed junkie jazz trumpeter Chet Baker when nothing else would get his poorly chosen celebrity guest star back on the set of 1960’s Howlers In The Dock. There’s more in heaven and earth than is dreamed of in your philosophy, Aurum Horror Film Encyclopedia…

Stephen Thrower traces Fulci’s indulgence (which was not entirely unmotivated, of course, by commercial considerations) at least as far back as his second directorial outing, Juke Box Boys (1959) and expands engagingly on the establishment’s ambivalent attitude towards the encroachment of an energetic ’60s counter culture in the appropriately named featurette When Worlds Collide… pop festivals at Woburn Abbey, beatnik poetry at the Royal Albert Hall (he might also have mentioned Keith Emerson burning The Stars And Stripes there) and The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream at that bastion of establishment broadcasting, The Alexandra Palace…

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The Pink Floyd on stage at Ally Pally, 29.04.67

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Florinda Bolkan on the roof of Ally Pally, three years later.

In an interesting sidebar on the film’s title, Mr T mentions that for much of the project’s production schedule LIAWS was a mere subtitle, which supplanted original choice “The Cage” late in the day and, pointedly, in the wake of Dario Argento’s game changing giallo hit The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Apparently Argento was a bit peeved by the perceived opportunism of this retitling but it has to be said that, while The Cage is a perfectly fitting title for a tale of the torrid passions seething behind the facade of bourgeoise respectability (how apt that the film’s cast includes Anita Strindberg), Lizard In A Woman’s Skin is an even more appropriate handle on the notion of an eminently civilised character who’s ultimately undone by the eruption of basal, basilisk passions from their reptilian back brain… from this perspective, the title by which Fulci’s second giallo has become known couldn’t be further removed from such throwaway titlings as Riccardo Freda’s Iguana with a Tongue Of Fire, Umberto Lenzi’s Red Cats In A Glass Labyrinth or, dare I say it, Argento’s The Cat O’Nine Tails…

Thrower, who’s update of his already herculean Beyond Terror tome is almost upon us courtesy of FAB Press, also offers some interesting observations on why it has proved so difficult to assemble a “definitive” cut of LIAWS or even to decide on what such a thing might possibly look like.

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The audio commentary, by the redoubtable Pete Tombs and Kris Gavin, is well worth a listen… Gavin does go on rather a lot about his friendship with Florinda Bolkan and co but it would be rash of me to start slinging bricks around in this connection, the House Of Freudstein being so palpably constructed on foundations of glass. He and Tombs offer plenty of interesting insights into dialogue differences between the Italian and English soundtracks  and the attendant nuances of meaning. They also point out the few lines of a minor character that were dubbed by giallo icon Suzy Kendall and helpfully identify Fulci’s second wife amid the minor players.

“Shedding the Skin” is a documentary pinched from the first Shriek Show release, hosted by Penny Brown (who looks just great) and including additional interviews with Bolkan, “Mike Kennedy” (the stereotypical Irishman turns out to be a German), Carlo Rambaldi and the (also rather well-preserved) Jean Sorel. Curiously, you get the option to watch this while listening to more of Gavin’s reminiscences.

There’s also an interview with Tony Adams… yes, Crossroads fans, it’s “Adam Chance”… here playing a rookie cop whose rough treatment at the hands of Baker’s character is apparently pretty faithful to their actual on set relationship.

You get the expected original trailers and radio spots but the real jewel in the crown, bonus wise, is Dr Lucio Fulci’s Day For Night, an interview by Antonietta De Lillo in which the director, no doubt with an eye to posterity, offers the closest glimpse we’ll probably ever get of that elusive essence, “the real Lucio Fulci” (I was aware, when interviewing him, that I was barely scratching the surface.) This is an extra that really warrants a review of its own and I intend to post one on this blog at some point in the near future (but please bear in mind that constant caveat about wheels grinding slowly here at THOF.)

A sublime release… now, when are we going to see Don’t Torture A Duckling on Blu-ray? At an affordable price? The bank manager refused my application for a second mortgage so that German mediabook is out of the question…

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“Hey, how d’you like our new dado rail?”

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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!

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

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