Saturday, 29 September 2012

Eaten Alive (1977)

Country: USA

Brutes and Savages
Death Trap
Horror Hotel
Horror Hotel Massacre
Legend of the Bayou
Murder on the Bayou
Slaughter Hotel
Starlight Slaughter

Few filmmakers are burdened with the kind of expectation that Tobe Hooper endured when he came to make his second feature film. His first just happened to be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), a film that to this day has a visceral impact that remains undiminished. I’m happy to go on record in stating that I think it to be the greatest American horror film of the last forty years, and it is the sole entry in Hooper’s filmography that enables me to forgive him the celluloid offal that he has since produced. Hooper’s career has been a lamentable, pitiful, and at times desperate, search to recapture the waking nightmare of his first film. It is in itself a noble aim, but his debut picture was made without consideration of its commercial prospects, and Hooper has since worked largely as a director-for-hire; a position which immediately undermines and weakens a filmmakers attempts to develop his/her thematic passions. Of course many of the projects directors-for-hire work on are tailored to what the producers believe are the strengths of the filmmaker. The Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike for example, has over eighty credits to his name, but not a single one of them originated from his own mind. Yet Miike has been offered films which have enabled him to build a distinctive thematic universe which seems uniquely his. Hooper has been less fortunate, and one need look no further than his second film Eaten Alive (one of numerous titles the film was marketed under) to see how everything went wrong for the man that just a few years before created a horror masterpiece.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Calling All Police Cars (1975)

Country: ITALY

...a tutte le auto della polizia
Without Trace

Calling All Police Cars is one of the most notable obscurities to cross my desk in recent months. I say notable because its position within the landscape of popular Italian cinema of the 1970’s is truly undeserved. I have yet to read a negative assessment of this film, but the problem is being able to actually find any critical writing on it at all. The age of DVD has been particularly kind to some films and directors from this era, in some cases richly deserved, in others far from it. Mario Caino appears to be a director that frequently slips through the net, though the few films of his I have seen, easily stand up to many of his contemporaries. Caino is perhaps best known to fans of cult cinema for his 1965 gothic horror picture Nightmare Castle, which featured British actress Barbara Steele in dual roles, beautiful cinematography by Enzo Barboni, and a fitting score by Ennio Morricone. This distinctive contribution to Italian cinema’s gothic horror cycle was not really followed up though, as Caino found a productive niche in the popular and profitable spaghetti western cycle; titles include Ringo; Face of Revenge (1967, featuring Anthony Steffen), Train for Durango (1968) and My Name is Shanghai Joe (1973, featuring Klaus Kinski). Caino further proved his skill at adapting to different genres with Milano Violenta (1976, aka Bloody Payroll) and the Henry Silva starring Weapons of Death (1977), both of which were assured entries in the Euro-Crime cycle. A departure into the vile and sleazy world of Nazisploitation resulted in Caino’s most controversial film Nazi Love Camp 27 (1977), which, despite its subject matter, was still quite effective.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Martin Scorsese Poster Gallery

Who's that Knocking at my Door AKA I Call First (1967) - US Poster
Boxcar Bertha (1972) - US Quad Poster
Mean Streets (1973) - US Poster

Italian Poster

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Celluloid Sounds - The Blood on Satan's Claw (1970)

From a purely personal perspective, the Tigon production of The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1970) represents the pinnacle of the British horror film. Of course an objectively dispassionate and critical eye is able to discern a myriad of plot deficiencies and narrative weaknesses, and one or two performances diminish the overall effect, but for me this is an insidiously perverse, eerie, and troubling piece of work, which evocatively renders the fears and superstitions of a rural 17th century community. In addition to its censor baiting visuals, and its various concessions to generic cinema, it is also a beautiful film about the English countryside. It is incredibly earthy, overflows with a rich autumnal palette, and possesses such a sense of pastoral isolation that at times the narrative takes on the mythical persona of a folk tale. The gorgeous Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire countryside was strikingly shot by cinematographer Dick Bush, and the natural lighting brings an exquisite rustic charm to its tale of a village’s children succumbing to the influence of Satan. Like the best examples of film art The Blood on Satan’s Claw works on an allegorical level, and its dramatic clash between a group of children realising and celebrating their freedom and sexuality, and the forces of patriarchal adulthood that seek to contain it offers a prescient message for the age of permissiveness.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Hanzo the Razor - Sword of Justice (1972)

Country: JAPAN

Sword of Justice

Sword of Justice is the first film in a trilogy of pictures exploring the controversial character Hanzo the Razor. Hanzo was the brainchild of Kazuo Koike who brought his adventures to life in a series of Manga publications. Koike is perhaps best known however for his Lone Wolf and Cub series, which ran to twenty eight instalments, and over 8 million sales. The success of this series spawned six feature films that showcased the stoic talents of Tomisaburo Wakayama, and found their way to the West via the hotchpotch efforts of Robert Houston and David Weisman under the title Shogun Assassin (1980). The enterprising pair grafted twelve minutes of the first picture Sword of Vengeance (1972) onto the vast majority of the second picture Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972), gave it a contemporary electronic soundtrack by Mark Lindsey, dubbed it into English, and enjoyed a notable success. Koike also created the character of Lady Snowblood, and though not as successful as Lone Wolf and Cub, still ran for fifteen instalments, and led to two feature films starring Meiko Kaji as the titular lady who seeks revenge for the rape of her mother, and the murders of her mother’s husband and son. All of Koike’s most famous Manga creations are marked by grand stylisation and extreme violence, and the film adaptations do not skimp in these areas. But Hanzo possesses a grotesquery that the others do not, and this is largely due to the Policeman’s novel interrogation technique, which sees him target mistresses, whom he then fucks into such a lather of ecstasy with his oversized penis that they are begging to spill the beans in order for the pleasure to continue.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Colt 38 Special Squad (1976)

Country: ITALY

Quelli della calibro 38

Thus far on every occasion that a film directed by Massimo Dallamano has crossed my line of sight and made it to the screen, I’ve generally been impressed by the results. I say generally because his 1969 take on Venus in Furs left me cold, unimpressed, and most damagingly of all; bored! But since that fateful afternoon where I lost ninety minutes of my life to that asinine garbage, the films of his I have screened have had me reaching for the superlatives. The giallo double of What Have They Done to Solange? (1971) and What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974) were remarkably consistent examinations of not only corrupted innocence, but also how a mask of innocence and youth can conceal all manner of perversions. The former totally outgrew the Edgar Wallace pot-boiler which it took tacit inspiration from, and the latter injected some of the high octane action strategies of the Polizio/Euro-crime cycle into its formulaic gialli narrative. It is this fusion of elements which points forward to Dallamano’s inevitable full blown entry into the Polizio/Euro-crime cycle with the fast paced thriller Colt 38 Special Squad. He seems far more confident amongst the chase sequences, shootouts, fistfights, and vengeful violence of this cycle than the muted atmospherics of the passable The Night Child (1975), the rather dry and forgettable horror flick that preceded it. One of the great tragedies of popular Italian cinema was that Colt 38 Special Squad would be Dallamano’s last picture; certainly on the evidence displayed here Dallamano could have made a number of vital contributions to the cycle, and would no doubt have further enriched a variety of generic soil.

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