Saturday, 31 December 2011

Celluloid Sounds - Zombi 2 (1979)

This edition of the ever popular and world famous Celluloid Sounds will investigate the musical contribution of Fabio Frizzi and Giorgio Cascio to Lucio Fulci’s gore soaked zombie opus Zombie 2 (aka too many different names to list). For pure entertainment I don’t think Fulci ever eclipsed this film, and it remains a firm favourite of mine. Intellectually I find myself gravitating to more nuanced and layered productions such as Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) or A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971), but for sheer enjoyment then look no further than this wonderful film. Crucially it lacks the dream like and hallucinatory feel of his later horror films, and is subsequently able to tell its story with efficiency and economy. I often find that adjectives such as ‘dream like’ or ‘hallucinatory’ are normally used in Fulci’s cinema to explain away the terrible and shoddy lack of continuity, and to ultimately forgive incompetently plotted screenplays.

Zombi 2 is wonderfully free of such barriers, and it is also wonderfully free of the adolescent social commentary that so blighted George A. Romero’s infantile zombie pictures. Like the best horror films the primal terrors are created through music. Frizzi had contributed musical offerings (along with his frequent collaborators Franco Bixio and Vince Tempera) to several earlier Fulci productions, including Four of the Apocalypse (1975), Seven Black Notes (1977) and Silver Saddle (1978). Although Cascio gets a credit on Zombi 2 I’m not certain as to the extent of his contribution. I shall open this out to my tremendously knowledgeable readership, and hopefully someone can leave a comment telling us more about this man. Easily the most successful composition to grace the film is the eerie primal shuffle of the main title theme. The slow and plodding nature of this piece resonates with the laborious progress of resurrected corpses. It was clearly impressive enough to function not only as the title theme, but as a leitmotif whenever the zombie hordes appear.

One of the stylistic elements that binds a great number of the films outlawed in the United Kingdom as ‘Video Nasties’ is their use of electronic music. Undoubtedly this was partly attributable to the low budget nature of the production. But the use of synthetic instrumentation in so many of these films was a serendipitous side effect of a forced economy, and the results were often more impressive than the films themselves. The stark and clinical sounds only added to a sense of dislocation and alienation; a sense of the unnatural invading the natural world. One of the pleasures of Zombi 2 is its unabashed embracement of the voodoo culture upon which the myths of the zombie were born. This had become increasingly unpopular in the post 1968 Night of the Living Dead conception of the zombie. But Fulci and his collaborators were seemingly uninterested in using the zombie motif as an allegorical or metaphorical device. This is represented in musical terms by the deft combination of electronica and tribal drums.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Lobby Card Collection - A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Italian director Sergio Leone's rip off of Akira Kurosawa's masterful samurai flick Yojimbo (1960) has achieved a huge prominence in the bitter and cynical landscape of the European western. Although it made Clint Eastwood a star, and showcased Leone's exaggerated stylisations, it is the music by Ennio Morricone that has had a greater lasting appeal. Here is a selection of lobby cards used to promote the film in British, Spanish, French, and West German cinemas.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The City of the Dead (1960)

Country: UK

Horror Hotel

"Just Ring for Doom Service"

The City of the Dead belongs to a subset in British horror cinema that explores the relationship between the arcane beliefs of witchcraft and the occult and contemporary modernity. Other notable examples include Night of the Demon (1957), Night of the Eagle (1962), Witchcraft (1964), and The Witches (1966). Although The City of the Dead was produced under the banner of Vulcan Productions, in many ways it can be considered the first production of Amicus. Max J. Rosenberg  was an uncredited producer here, with Milton Subotsky taking the role of executive producer as well as contributing the story upon which the screenplay by George Baxt was based. In its own way then The City of the Dead is an historically important film, though you wouldn’t think so thanks to its descent into relative obscurity. This was a situation that was remedied somewhat by the DVD release courtesy of VCI in 2001. What makes the film particularly striking and unusual was the decision by the filmmakers to recreate the town of Whitewood, situated deep in the heart of the Massachusetts countryside, on a soundstage at Nettlefold studios, which was situated deep in the heart of the Surrey countryside in England. This gives the film a unique look, and a slightly surreal vibe, which is heightened significantly by Desmond Dickinson’s lustrous monochrome cinematography.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Lobby Card Collection - Lolita (1962)

This latest instalment of the Lobby Card Collection features Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Vladamir Nabakov's scandalous Lolita  I was only able to find one set of lobby cards for this film on my travels, nevertheless I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Don't Go in the House (1980)

Country: USA

This dreary and depressing slasher flick was the inspiration of writer/director Joseph Ellison. I use the word inspiration cautiously in this case, because it would be fairly clear to anyone who has watched this film that Ellison was very familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Elements borrowed include a socially inept alienated psychopathic protagonist, a monstrous matriarch who also rots away in a chair and who also taunts the protagonist from beyond the grave, and a suitably creepy and gothic house on the hill. However there are also some key differences which enable the film to just about stand on its own two feet. The psycho in question Donny Kohler (Dan Grimaldi) stalks his victims whereas Norman Bates waited for them to come to him. Kohler also has a fetish for dressing up the charred corpses of his female victims and creates a kind of macabre family for himself. Norman Bates meanwhile collected stuffed animals rather than dead people. Don’t Go in the House also has a highly subjective attitude to narration. From the outset we are placed inside the head of Donny Kohler. We are given access to his motivations by virtue of flashbacks and by the disembodied voices that haunt and torment his waking moments. The result is that the film manages to explain away Kohler’s psychosis far more successfully than Hitchcock’s movie which resorts to a hackneyed summing up by a psychologist at the end.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Spaghetti Westerns Poster Gallery [Part 2]

"A politician would promise an amnesty to the murderer of his own father to win an election." - Sheriff Burnett ("The Great Silence")

The Mercenary aka A Professional Gun (Sergio Corbucci, 1968) - US Poster

Find a Place to Die (Guiliano Carniemo, 1968) - Spanish Poster

Ace High (Giuseppe Colizzi, 1968) - US Quad Poster

The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968) - US Poster

Friday, 2 December 2011

Spaghetti Westerns Poster Gallery [Part 1]

This two part celebration of  Spaghetti Western poster designs is by no means definitive. This is a purely subjective selection, so if your favourites are not amongst the images I apologise. Without further ado I invite you to explore some wonderful art work for one of my favourite popular European film cycles.

"There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend: Those with a rope around their neck, and the people who have the job of doing the cutting" - Tuco ("The Good, The Bad and the Ugly")

A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964) - Italian Poster

Minnesota Clay (Sergio Corbucci, 1964) - US Poster

A Pistol for Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965) - Italian Poster

For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1965) - Italian Poster
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