Posts Tagged With: Franco Nero

Buio Alpha (Before The Darkness)… Mino Guerrini’s THE THIRD EYE Reviewed

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Il Terzo Occhio (“The Third Eye”), 1966. Directed by “James Warren” (Mino Guerrini). Produced by “Louis Mann” (Luigi Carpentieri and Ermanno Donati). Written by “James Warren” (Mino Guerrini), “Dean Craig” (Piero Regnoli), “Phil Young” (=?) and “Gilles De Rays” (?!?) Cinematography by “Sandy Deaves” (Alessandro D’Eva). Edited by “Donna Christie” (Ornella Micheli). Production design by “Samuel Fields” (Mario Chiari). Music by “Frank Mason” (Francesco De Masi). Starring “Frank Nero” (Franco Nero), Gioia Pascal, “Diana Sullivan” (Erika Blanc), “Olga Sunbeauty” (!) (Olga Solbelli), Marina Morgan, Gara Granda, Richard Hillock, Luciano Foti.

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Mino Guerrieri’s The Third Eye concerns itself with the murderous misadventures of an uptight young man who’s dominated by his mother and spends too much time on his hobby of taxidermy… hm, remind you of anything?

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Said young man is a spoilt aristo who goes off the rails when his beloved fiancee carks it. He picks up young floozies and has it off with them in the company of his enbalmed paramour then does away with them, with the collusion of his infatuated housekeeper. Everything’s going swimmingly until his fiancee’s identical twin turns up… remind you of anything else?

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Yep, Mino Guerrini’s The Third Eye is the missing link between Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and Jolly Joe D’Amato’s Buio Omega / Blue Holocaust / Beyond The Darkness / Buried Alive (1979). That domineering mother figure, who’s absent from the D’Amato flick and only exists as a figment of Norman Bates’ warped imagination (albeit a pivotal one) in Psycho, is present here in the all too fleshy form of Contessa Alberti (Olga Solbelli) and the resentful, calculating housekeeper (Gioia Pascal’s “Marta”), completely missing from Psycho, foreshadows Franca Stoppi’s spectacularly overplayed Iris in Buio Omega.

The Third Eye 3.jpgThese two alpha females go mano a mano over young Count Mino (Franco Nero) but are smart  enough to call a pragmatic truce when his fiancee Laura (Erika Blanc) threatens to eclipse both of them in his affections. At the suggestion of The Contessa, Marta drains the brake fluid from Laura’s car and she ends up dead in a pond. Having witnessed this sorry spectacle, Mino returns to the family chateau to be informed by the local gendarmerie that his mother has died after a fall down the stairs (in fact Marta pushed her)…

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Mino’s definitely had better days but his response to these events, traumatic as they are, can only be classified as overreaction. After Guerrini’s given him a goofy nightmare sequence, he starts picking up a string of strippers and hookers (the first of whom reminded me more than a little of Ania Pieroni) and making out with them until they object to the presence of the mummified Laura, at which point he throttles them to death.

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Screams were heard in the night as the result of him stuffin’…

“I’ve done it again…” Mino confesses to Marta (who’s already mopping up the evidence of his latest homicide) before protesting that he didn’t want to … his third eye made him do it!!! That’s OK then… After Marta has assisted on a few clean ups, she has sufficient leverage over Mino to extract a promise of marriage from him… perhaps a happy, if seriously twisted ending is in prospect? No, because now Laura’s identical twin Daniela (Blanc again, obviously) turns up and things start getting really wiggy!

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For Franco Nero, who’s about to overtake Donald Pleasence and may well live to challenge Malcolm McDowell or possibly overhaul John Carradine in terms of sheer quantity of screen appearances, 1966 was a particularly busy and fruitful year, even by his standards… we’re talking this, Margheriti’s War Of The Planets and Wild, Wild Planet, no less than three important Spaghetti Western’s (Corubucci’s Django, Fulci’s Massacre Time and Ferdinando Baldi’s Texas, Adios) and playing the role of Abel in John Huston’s The Bible, among others. The following year, the role of Galahad in Joshua Logan’s Camelot would elevate Franco into the firmament of international stardom, though he continued to maintain a healthy prsence in Italian genre Cinema. It’s a single note performance that he gives here, but perfect for a part in which he’s effectively dominated by the female characters. Veteran Solbelli impresses as the Countess. Gioia Pascal as Marta chews nowhere near as much scenery as Franca Stoppi in Buio Omega but delvers a performance so solid that one is surprised to learn that this, only her second screen appearance (after Franco Indovina’s Menage Italian Style, the previous year) also turned out to be her last.

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Was Guerrini attempting some kind of auteurist statement by naming the character after himself? He directs well throughout, with his own distinctive eye for the camera angles and compositions that will best enhance the telling of his sick little tale, though hereafter he marked time as a filone hack-for-hire.

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Just as Hitchcock, feted for the “tastefulness” of Psycho’s signature shower murder, felt empowered by shifts in Cinema community standards to get a whole lot more brutal twelve years later in Frenzy, so Joe D’Amato (never the most shrinking of violets anyway) had no qualms whatsoever about bringing the viler implications of the Norman Bates legend to the screen in 1979. Mino Guerrini was never going to get away with anything like that level of explicit sadism in 1966 and any grand guignol eruption of guts, filmed as here in black and white, was going to lose much of its impact anyway. Picking up on hints in Riccardo Freda’s Dr Hichcock brace (1962/3), The Third Eye cracks on more in the manner of Italian Gothic (coming right at the end of that particular cycle) than the giallo as which it has sometimes been identified… presumably by pundits who haven’t actually seen it. Last time I checked, it was still available (subtitled) on Amazon Prime, complete with shots from the first stripper killing that were excised from some releases. What are you waiting for, you sick puppies?

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Bring Me The Head Of Cisco Delgardo! TEXAS, ADIOS Reviewed

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Django unradicalised?

BD. Arrow. Region B. 12.

Sharp shooting Texan Sheriff Burt Sullivan (Franco Nero) takes his kid brother Jim (Alberto Dell’Acqua) south of the border to on a mission to collar Cisco Delgado (José Suárez), the sadistic grandee who murdered his father. Along the way they encounter Mexican insurgents but are less concerned with Revolution than the revelation that Delgado fathered Jim after raping their mother…

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Ferdinando Baldi’s Texas, Adios and Lucio Fulci’s Massacre Time were the earliest Westerns to star Franco Nero in the immediate aftermath of Sergio Corbucci’s seminal Django (all three films hail from 1966). Consequently both of them were among the first of countless Italian Oaters to suffer retitlings as phoney entries (Baldi’s film became “Django The Avenger” for its German release) in a “Django series” that actually only ever included one official sequel, Nello Rossati’s Django Strikes Again (1987).

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Nero himself states, in the bonus material on this release, that Texas Adios isn’t a “proper” Spaghetti Western, being more closely patterned on American avatars than the innovations of Corbucci and of course Sergio Leone. In another featurette, pundit Austin Fisher embellishes the point, observing that the film dips its toes into the Mexican Revolution without displaying any of the political consciousness that would subsequently emerge in the likes of Damiano Damiani’s A Bullet For The General (1967), Sergio Sollima’s Face To Face (also 1967), Giulio Petroni’s Tepepa (1969) or Corbucci’s Companeros! (1970).

 

 

Although its story is, at superficial glance, simple stuff (encapsulated in its trailer, above, as “the story of a Texan’s Fued”), a more considered viewing of Texas, Adios reveals that its SpagWest credentials can’t be dismissed quite so easily. Like the Leone films and Corbucci’s Django (channeling Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, 1961 and ultimately Goldoni’s 18th Century farce The Servant Of Two Masters) you get a protagonist who’s playing various factions off against each other and there is stuff here about the awakening revolutionary conscience, albeit not so artfully played as by Gian Maria Volontè, as El Cuncho, in A Bullet For The General (whose “Yankees go home” message was quite explicit, whereas in Baldi’s film the peons pine for an injection of American democracy / capitalism to help them throw off the shackles of Spanish feudalism). Baldi also deploys emotionally charged flashbacks in the Leone style, albeit nowhere near as effectively (then again, name me any director who uses flashbacks more incisively than Leone).

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The Gothic overtones of Django (pushed to their limits in Giuli Questi’s Django Kill! / If You Live, Shoot!, 1967) continue to reverberate in this film’s sickly Oedipal ambience and the many acts of casual sadism it contains. Or once contained… branding scenes have been clumsily excised from the print sourced here. It’s too long since I watched Aktiv’s VHS release of Texas, Adios for me to recall whether they were included in that, ditto the occasional print damage, variable colour and moments of wonky focus on this 2K BD restoration.

The redoubtable cinematography of Enzo Barboni (another Django holdover) allows the hills of Almeria to pass nicely for the Sierra Madre and an honourable mention must also go to the macabre mariachi music of Antón García Abril (working his way up to the  unforgettably atmospheric scores he conceived for Amando De Ossorio’s Blind Dead films) and his main title theme (available on Parade Records, apparently) is belted out in suitably melodramatic style by Don Powell (not the Slade drummer, surely?)

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Apart from the already mentioned extras, there’s an informative and amusing interview with Alberto Dell’Acqua (billed as “Cole Kitisch”!) Yes, Dell’Acqua is one of the legendary stunt specialist family that also produced Zombi 2 poster boy Ottaviano. Spagwest buffs C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Park supply the audio commentary and co-writer Franco Rossetti is interviewed, in what looks like an off-cut from a session that’s already featured on some other release which I haven’t caught up with yet. The trailer and a gallery of original promotional images from the Mike Siegel Archive complete the bonus materials… the ones I’ve seen, anyway. You’ll also benefit from a booklet including contemporary reviews and new writing on the film by Howard Hughes, if you buy the first pressing… and why wouldn’t you? Texas, Adios is perhaps more evolutionary than revolutionary in its approach but does enough to earn itself a respectable place in the SpagWest firmament.

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As if anticipating the accusation that his Westerns were somehow too conservative, Baldi subsequently made such Oater oddities as 1971’s Blindman (starring Ringo Starr) and the 3-D effort Comin’ At Ya (1981) also the execrable Terror Express (1980), a late arriving entry in Italy’s interminable series of Last House On The Left clones and arguably the most reprehensible of the lot.

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A pistol for Ringo…

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