Friday, August 31, 2012

The Caller (1987)



I've always been attracted to films with few characters or set on a confined space. That might be the reason why I LOVE Alien clones or even slashers, who often depends on a bunch of idiots stuck in the same camp/hospital/theatre etc. The Caller is very interesting just because of this, but also because it's a production from Empire Picture and produced by Charles"Full Moon" Band. Band himself is a guy that both can give us CRAP, but at the same time both director and produce minor horror classics, packed with imagination and passion. Puppet Master is an old favourite of mine, but he's also the producer behind Stuart Gordon's masterpiece Dolls.

One day night a stranger, The Caller (Malcolm McDowell) appears at the doorstep of The Girl (Madolyn Smith Osborne), his car has broken down and he needs to borrow the phone to call for help. Soon they both understand that the other one not really what he ands he claims to be, and they start cross-examine each other. This goes on for couple of days - not only in the house - and slowly they're getting closer to solve the mystery...

Director Arthur Allan Seidelman's only claim to fame was his first movie, the terrible, awful, Hercules in New York - starring a slightly stoned Arnold Schwarzenegger. If I knew it was him behind the wheels of this film I wouldn't have bought it, but I'm happy I was living in a bubble of not knowing it - 'cause The Caller is a great little mystery thriller, better than I thought it would be, and way wilder than I ever could imagine. It's hard to discuss a movie where the twist is so extreme in its absurdness without mentioning it, but after studying the movies from the same time and the work of Band its actually quite understandable why this movie came to be. It has everything that was trendy at the time, but executed so different and so classy that it probably just scared away the audience, resulting in a lot of people missing out a little gem of a movie.

The Caller has Malcolm McDowell and Madolyn Smith Osborne in frame for most of the time, there's not other actors - not even extras in the background - which makes it even cooler. It reminds me a lot about something that could have been a play, except for the special effects in the end that never would be convincing on the stage. Both actors is splendid, even if it's easier to raise McDowell as the best just because he's so colourful and charismatic, but Osborne gives us one helluva performance, even more intensive and physical than McDowell.

What might scare away audiences that I know will love it in the end is that it's very talky. I mean, it's based on dialogue - good dialogue - but a lot of dialogue. It's also quite flat, almost like a TV-movie. Because of the build-up, which lasts for ninety minutes, don't expect gore, violence or even horror - this is a mystery that takes it times and then delivers something very bizarre and unexpected. I didn't expect it! Maybe - just maybe - it could be considered a deus ex machina, but hey... I really don't think so. I think it's smarter than that, even if it leaves out a lot of answers.

The Caller is a really good, fun and (quite) smart mystery thriller with a wonderful cast and a great script.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Year's Evil (1980)


I was an avid collector of x-rentals as a young man, believe it or not. My apartment - at the time - was filled with thousands of movies, some very rare. I bought tapes from Sweden, Denmark, Greece and every other country. One film that always showed up in its Swedish release was Emmett Alston's (who directed the brilliant, crazy, trasherpiece Nine Deaths of the Ninja) NewYear's Evil, a slasher/thriller/something produced by legendary madmen Golan & Globus, yes Mr & Mr Cannon themselves. I remember I watched it and forgot it quickly because of the lack of bloodshed and it wasn't until today that I saw once again, now on MGM's print-on-demand DVD.

New Year's Evil still lacks that important bloodshed, something that's a very important ingredient in eighties genre cinema, and Cannon has never been afraid of showing some blood and guts. But I have a feeling they wanted to break into the American market with something a bit more classier - and less sleazy and bloody - than the usual by-the-numbers Friday the 13th rip-off (something they totally forgot two years later when they gave birth to the trashiest and silliest slasher ever, X-Ray, starring Barbie Benton). NYE almost succeeds in being a good thriller. The set-up isn't at all actually:  a killer (Kip Niven) is murdering himself through the timezones during new year's eve until he reaches the main goal, the rock-queen TV-host Diane who's airing a live show, rock/new wave/punk/goth concert together with an audience of heavily make-upped wannabe-rockers.

The twist and some of the characters is genuinely good, so good it would work to do a remake to make the idea work better. Right now the script strolls along like a senile pedestrian, just stopping from time to time to kill someone - without gore or blood - and then stumble away to the next kill-scene. Make no mistake, everything look nice and proper and the cinematography by Thomas E. Ackerman (who later shot the immortal classic Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked) looks splendid. The film looks a lot more bigger and expensive than it probably was.

Kip Niven, a very competent but slightly forgotten leading man of the seventies - who's agent probably made a couple of very bad choices (lots of flops and increasingly smaller parts in big Hollywood films) - does one of his best, wildest and craziest performances here. What I like about him is that he looks terrible good, but somehow - don't ask me how - he manages to twist his whole appearance so he looks damn ugly when he's going on killing sprees. I guess that's called acting, of course, but I wouldn't have mind seeing him in more baddie-parts instead of just leaving to the land of has-been's. If you read this Kip, remember I think you're awesome. Even Grant Cramer (who later found fame in Killer Klowns From Outer Space) is good as Diane's creepy son.

And talking about the acting, don't miss John Alderman's performance as Dr. Reed, which makes William Shatner look like subtle, low-key, naturalistic actor! I'm surprise they didn't run out of film when they shot his scenes - the pauses in-between the words make up half the dialogue!

I still don't think New Year's Evil is a good movie, but it entertained me more than the first time and it has some wonderful acting and looks stunning. The soundtrack, mostly songs by the bands Shadow and Made in Japan, is excellent - which is another reason to revisit this uneven slasher-wannabe.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

????

Give me one good reason for me continuing this blog?
Maybe I should let it be and start over at some other place?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Knife of Ice (1972)




As some of you might have noticed, Umberto Lenzi is one of my favourite filmmakers. A versatile director, able to jump from genre to genre without any hesitation, sometimes a hired gun - but what a hired gun! A pro, from classy cop movies to trashy horror. Like most Italian genre directors he also did a couple of gialli, among them the fairly obscure and not so popular Knife of Ice. Not sure why, but I've stayed a way from it for years - even of the DVD was quite easy to find. Anyway, here's the review - finally!

Martha (Carroll Baker) is mute since childhood, when she was traumatized in a train accident. She now lives with her uncle Ralph (George Rigaud, who also played the weirdo priest in Lenzi's Eyeball) in a nice countryside villa. Her cousin Jenny (Ida Galli) comes to visit them, but soon she falls victim for a serial killer who roams the area. More murders follow and - believe it or not - soon Martha seem to be the killers next victim!

Knife of Ice is a very basic thriller, a co-production between Spain and Italy and far from the craziness of Eyeball or the darkness of Spasmo, but like most films by Lenzi is works pretty good even if the story hardly is unique and the production values just is a villa and some forest and nothing else than that. The story is generic and we've seen it before, but Lenzi elegant use of camera tracking and - as usual - superior editing makes this giallo stand out a little more than I thought.

The cast is very good. Carroll Baker is excellent and Ida Galli, in a small part, is cold and shallow - egocentric, but not so she becomes annoying. George Rigaud has more to do in this one, a less silly character than in Eyeball, works with a character that usually is quite boring for any actor to work with. Visually Knife of Ice is competent, but the location is boring and the story very rarely moves around outside the area, so the film seem a bit flat. Lenzi seem aware of this and tries to liven up the interior shots with smart use of the camera to a certain degree.

I like the story, the script isn't bad at all, but it lacks "it" if you know what I mean. That extra little thing that would make it stand out. A couple of gory murders would have spiced up the story of course, but remember that Lenzi never been a fan of gore (much like Lamberto Bava) and when he used it's mostly because the producers wanted it. The murders here is completely bloodless and off-screen, a pity, but we have to accept what maestro Lenzi wanted with his production.

Marcello Giombini's score is brilliant, the best thing with Knife of Ice. A clear strong melody, emotional cues and just that melodrama we love so much with Italian scores. I need to see if it's been released on CD. A must in my collection!

Knife of Ice is a good little giallo, but maybe mostly for fans of Lenzi - like me!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Upcoming project: Hermit: Monster Killer



Up here you see one of the concept drawings made by Richard Svensson for Den Gamle och Monstret (aka Hermit: Monster Killer). Cool eh? :) I'm actually doing this to help the talented crew behind the movie, but I was the one who wrote the script - but that's all!

Around ten years ago Ola Paulakoski asked me to write a short movie. I did, nothing happen and life continued. Five years later he asked if I could rewrite it as a feature length movie, and I did! Since then we've been working on the script, Ola has been trying to get it off the ground - and now they're sooooo close.

Pre-production is underway, casting, designing monster and prepare special effects... yeah, monster! This is basically a story about one old man trying to stop one angry, bloodthirsty monster from ruining his forest (and house, and dog, and...) and those affected by the monster rampage! It's a mix between Tremors, Alien, Shaun of the Dead and... Moby Dick, with a big chunk of humor and slapstick between all the flying body parts and gore!

It's gonna be shot in Swedish, because there's no point anymore for us Scandinavians to shoot things in English. Just look at Troll Hunter, Cold Prey etc. It's all about the region, and the region here is Sweden! :)

I work as a writer nowadays, right now for TV, but I've written several screenplays - some of them resulted in films! Ola Paulakoski has directed numerous music videos, short movies and worked behind the scenes on killer-scorpion film Stinger and Johannes Pinter's Skills (starring Tim Man from Raging Phoenix, Bangkok Adrenalin etc). He also worked as second unit director on upcoming thriller Angry, starring Bo Svenson.

If you feel for supporting a VERY cool and gory and bloody indie-project, support Hermit: Monster Killer.

Here's the project's IndieGoGo page and the official Facebook page.




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Assignment Terror (1970)




I've read a lot of bad reviews about Assignment Terror, and more than a few of them has compared it to Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space, in that meaning that it's on the same level of crappiness. The thing is that Ed Wood's classics is not that bad, it's just very cheap and very rushed - its made with love and talent, but overshadowed by it's Wood's enthusiasm for filmmaking than his talent. Assignment Terror has a similar storyline, which is hard to deny - but with that nice, sexy eurocult flair that we love so much.

An alien species, lead by Dr. Odo Warnoff (Michael Rennie, without silver underwear), arrives to earth because their own planet is dying. They need a new place to live. The problem is how they're gonna take over earth without destroying it! Warnoff has a brilliant idea: use the superstitions of mankind! So he and his team searches for famous monsters: the werewolf Daninsky, the Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster (which more correctly is doctor Farangslang or something similar...) and of course Dracula! They take control over them and plans to - somehow - multiply their powers with injecting humans with their blood or something and create a monster army to take over the world!

Assignment Terror is as silly as it sounds, but far from bad. It's just another cheesy spin on the old Universal monsters (much like Jess Franco did with The Erotic Adventures of Frankenstein and Dracula: Prisoner of Frankenstein), but with a little bit more blood and stupid dialogue. The most interesting thing is of course Paul Naschy's character of Daninsky, who once again is raised from the dead to suffer under his werewolf-curse. Also written by Naschy, Daninsky is also the only character that gets some depth and also gets a change so fight all the other monsters. Good old Naschy, he knows how to steal a movie!

And do I even need to say that Naschy is the highlight here? When many of the other actors just is doing their jobs and cashing in their paycheck, Naschy is ready for action and dominates the scenes he's in. What a guy! He left this rotten world way too early...

It's impossible to take this film seriously, but why should we? It's a matinee, and a very good-looking matinee with gorgeous locations and splendid, but a bit gritty, cinematography. The comedy is more or less unintentional, but never disturbing - it's just a movie made of cheese, accept it or watch Transformers 3 instead.

What more to say about this film, not much really. Just don't take it serious and get the beautiful DVD from Germany company ArtFilm, who together with magazine Creepy Images put together a nice package including a cool 3D card and a special issue of Creepy Images, only with posters and other promotion materials from the movie. 

Grabbers (2012)




Nothing makes me happier than a good old monster movie and to tell the truth: there's been a bunch of excellent monsters movies during the last ten years, but nothing like Grabbers. What we have here is a mix between Tremors and... any random Irish countryside dramedy made, and boy... it worked out fine! A good horror-comedy takes the horror part seriously - like Tucker and Dale, Shaun of the Dead, Severance etc. That makes everything work so much better. There's not need to make the genre-part silly, that's just means that the filmmakers lacks respect for what they're trying make a movie from. Grabbers is a splendid example of taking that old "Tentacle-monster attacks small village"-storyline we've seen so many times and twist it a little bit extra, inject love and warmth, passion and comedy and produce an awesome monster-movie.

Something is coming down from space, crashes in the sea next to an Island of the Irish coast and quickly kills a couple of fishermen. The usual story of space-squids attacking earth. But instead of the silly US marines they meet resistance in the form of an alcoholic cop, a drunk old man, a young female city cop, the local marine biologist and of course the bartender! Because the monsters can't stand alcohol and the only way to survive is to get really fucking drunk! And I mean MEGA-fucking drunk! And that's what our heroes do, and the rest of the village... and the battle can begin!

It's actually a pretty thin story (...and come on, it's a monster movie!), but what it lacks in the basic storyline it gains in the fantastic gallery of well-written characters and witty exchanges of dialogue. I'm a weak person and I can't stop myself to love a movie who has tentacle monster attacking a character while he's scream "It's fucking my mouth!" over and over again. No, it's not a movie based on cheap jokes, it's based on honest jokes, on the absurdity of the situation. There's not one single bad actor in the whole movie, and especially Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley brings so much love to their characters. Russell Tovey, who plays doctor Smith, also does one of the funniest drunken routines I've seen! There's some priceless situations here, especially when he's gonna try to light a flame thrower... but 'nuff said about that.

So what about the monsters? You have something to look forward to see! There's basically three different creatures here: a female, a male and the kids - and all of them, digital, looks stunning! They're both extremely bizarre, funny and a bit scary! The main monster, the final creature, is a huge motherf**ker that has to been seen to be believed. Maybe the finest tentacle monsters I've seen in a long time!

 There's not bad things to say about Grabbers actually. It's a high-quality, Irish, monster-comedy that takes its monster seriously without dumping the comedy into the sea. The audience at the Monsters of Film-festival in Stockholm laughed and laughed and I think the small details, like one of the characters taking a rolled-up newspapers as a weapon, brought down the biggest laughs.

That what sets Grabbers apart from, for example, many American comedies: you don't need big stuff to make the audience laugh - but it helps to add huge tentacles-monsters to the story! There's no reason not to see this film. See it in cinemas, festivals and get it when it's out on DVD and BD!

Thale (2012)



Written, produced, shot and directed by Aleksander Nordaas - who also did the set decoration, editing and also something with sound, and probably tons of other stuff that there was no need to mention in the credits just to give the other crew some room. Thale is another groundbreaking, intelligent Norwegian horror movie that dares to go somewhere else, skipping the usual clichés and twists and gives us an adult, serious horror movie.

Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) and Elvis (Erlend Nervold) is two cleaners. Their speciality, or it's more the speciality of Leo, is to clean up bodies who's been laying around waaaay too long - hired by the police and hospitals of course. Today they're up in the wilderness, close to the mountains and endless forests. An old man has died and what's left is just bones. Elvis is a bit too curious and finds a trap door leading down to a secret basement - where they find a young naked woman. Slowly, bit by bit, they start to understand who...or what she is. Trapped in the cabin they soon realize that they're not alone. Someone is out there...

Thale has it fair share of low-key humour, but don't expect a laughing riot like Troll Hunter or Dead Snow. Nordaas has decided to do a serious quite slow horror movie about the Huldra and have created a unique twist on the legend. Most of the story is spent in one room, down in the basement, but the script is never boring and the length of 76 minutes is actually perfect. There's no room for being bored and the twists comes when they're needed.

The main three actors, and most of the time it's only them in front of the camera, makes the movie alive and kicking. Jon Sigve Skard and Erlend Nervold uses small means to make big drama and their chemistry is magic. Silje Reinåmo - who's nude a big part of the movie - is quiet all the time and uses her eyes and body to tell a very interesting story. This is probably the best performance of the movie and I'm not the only one deeply impressed by her work.

Thale is a cheap movie, it's shot digital and with simple set-design - but because it's a damn fine story and well-told it never makes the magic disappear. This is a great example of storytelling at its finest, and that there's not need for tons of money and fancy ancient retro-technology to tell a story and make a great movie. Imagine what these people could do with a slightly bigger budget? Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps!

This could so easily had been a Predator-rip off, or yet another backwoods-slasher/creature feature, but we had enough of them. Aleksander Nordaas did it his way and that's the best thing with this production. Thale a work of passion and originality and I would say it's pretty scary also!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005)




I still remember the surprise when the Swedish state television actually aired this in 2005, probably one of the first showings ever - not counting the Italian TV of course, both because we horror geeks in Sweden could feel a bit unique for the first time ever but also because it was an Argento on Swedish fucking television! Do You Like Hitchcock? is a TV-movie, meant to the first of eight thrillers in the same vein as the work of Alfred Hitchcock. I doubt those other movies ever was produced, or do anyone know something about that? Anyway, Argento got the honour of starting this series and I would say the result turned out pretty interesting.

We start with young Giulio (who later grows up and is played by Elio Germano) discovering two witches performing a animal sacrifice in a deserted cottage deep in the forest. They discover him and they go after him, screaming and waving with a knife. Many years later Giulio is a film student, but his love for voyeurism is still there and he can't stop himself from studying the people in the opposite house, including a young attractive woman who lives with her aggressive mother. One dark night the mother is killed and Giulio puts one and one together and believes that the daughter and an unknown woman has made a deal, just like in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, to switch murders with each other. Soon someone is after Giulio, but he can't stop watching. He must watch...

Those who expects a gory, violent, sexy and typical giallo will be disappointed. This in many, many ways a quite complex tribute to Hitchcock, with several storylines mixed to a new one - and I must say it works quite good. Argento still has the giallo-vibe going with a killer wearing gloves, breathing weirdly and a lot of red herrings. It's a bit dry, a bit low-key, compared to most other films by Argento, but it is a TV-movie and that's probably to blame for the non-spectacular style of the story.

But I must say it works very good. It's a fine little thriller, with cheesy dubbing and a lot of good details. The main - and only - murder is in good Argento-style: violent, bloody and sadistic with a few interesting macro-shots of the door lock. What doesn't work is how the final is written. It has a twist, and even if it could have been interesting the script just moves along in a calm, boring way and the twist gets lost, like they didn't have time to stage the revelation properly - and in the end it's almost as there's no twist. First time I saw it I didn't even notice the twist, but the twist is an anti-twist which could have been very cool if they did it right.

The acting is also very uneven, even if I think the main characters do a good job.

The main theme with Do You Like Hitchcock? is voyeurism, deeply connected with Rear Window of course. Argento seem more interested in the idea of watching, investigating, than the mystery itself. The prologue might seem very detached from the rest of the story, but if you read it as a film about watching you will find that it's very important to why our main character do what he does. When he was a boy he found excitement in discovering something forbidden and this is so rooted in his persona that he can't stop doing it as a grown man. The final moments of the movie has a brilliant montage of him watching, and it kinda puts the signature on what kind of person he his - and always will be.

What's even more interesting is a small detail that Argento added for us who likes to watch, who keeps our eyes open wide. Giulio watched a naked woman in the end. She reads a book, but it's not just a book, it's this book:


La Finestra Sulla Notte, original title The Window at the White Cat (1910), by Mary Roberts Rinehart, one of her first detective stories! What the woman holds is also the 1937 release (or an identical reprint) from the Mondadori publishing house, published in their highly successful series "Il Giallo Mondadori" from 1929 and forward.

Yes, this is the origin of the gialli, the sole reason why Argento ("The Italian Hitchcock) became THE Argento,  the reason why Bava did Blood and Black Lace, why Fulci abandoned comedies and musicals. The reason for so much of the things we love.

This is a tribute and a test. A tribute to what started it all and test to see if we, the viewers, really are voyeurs of Italian genre cinema.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Suspiria (1977)




This is almost too mainstream for Ninja Dixon. Why? Because Suspiria is one of the most famous horror films EVER made and it's one of the pillars of the Italian genre cinema. First time I saw Suspiria it was actually Nouveaux Pictures old tape, a quite nice-looking VHS in proper ratio, uncut and with a nice packaging. After that I got Anchor Bay's DVD and recently I went back in time and got myself the only good (but far from perfect) blu-ray, from... Nouveaux Pictures. It was in my old apartment in Östersund, a dark night on very loud volume, mostly because the sound mix is a bit odd, on purpose, with the dialogues being almost impossible to hear sometimes and Goblin's amazing score pounding out from the speakers.

The only catch with this first view was that my TV was broken and it was incapable to show the colour red. Yeah, RED! You can imagine the look! But it didn't stop me from getting the dark spell of Helena Markos and I've been blessed by black magic ever since. Did you know that I actually once got some real black magic put on me? Long story, so I won't bore you, but that's what happen and... it didn't work. My life turned out for the better after that actually.

Suspiria is an enigma in every way possible. Daria Nicolodi based it on the experiences of her grandma, who once went to a acting school where the teachers also taught black magic to the pupils, but much of the final is also based on a dream Daria had. The title and concept of the witches is from Thomas De Quincey 's Suspiria de Profundis. Almost every scene is filled with symbols, words, odd architecture and colours inspired, the legend says, by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  

It's a ghastly fairy tale for grown-ups starring young women acting and talking like the children they were suppose to be from the beginning, which makes the story even more eerie, more surreal. I love how Argento's tries to communicates with us through the camera, from his ghostly cameo in the beginning to the end scene where Jessica Harper seems to come out of character before she walks out from the frame. It's a blink to us all, that it's a dream, a fantasy.

Most of Suspiria feels like a classic giallo and using arms and hands of men during the murder scenes makes the idea of red herrings even larger, but it's never a mystery. We all know that something is terribly wrong in the colourful, yet so spooky, ballet school in Freiburg. I think Suzy Bannion is under surveillance already from the beginning. The woman in a red dress that sneaks outside before her in the airport, the taxi driver - who also makes a similar appearance in Inferno, maybe even the cops. They're all goblins, devils, slaves under Helena Markos.

I'm a very forgiving Argento fan, my quest is to see every work of his with open eyes and without that slightly pathetic patronizing way that a lot of his "fans" sees his newer movies. But I think Argento burned out after Suspiria. It was his magnum opus, the movie where he fulfilled every wish he had about constructing the ultimate horror film. He rarely looked back at the same visual excess and I like that. He wanted to change and he's been striving ever since to change, to do something different with the visuals. He's not interested in doing what the fans want him to do (just look what happen to the snoozefest Nonhosonno), he's interesting to do what he wants to do.

And that's the only way he should do it.

"Fear is a 370 degree centigrade body temperature.With Suspiria I wanted 400 degrees"
Dario Argento

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blackaria (2010)




Here's a short review, but it's a move you have to see instead of reading this silly text!

A couple of days ago I reviewed François Gaillard and Christophe Robin's Last Caress, and I was very impressed. Well, until I saw Blackaria - and then I got even more impressed! What we have here is a full-blown, story-wise, perfect tribute to an Italian giallo. The big and major difference between this and Last Caress is that Blackaria looks cheaper - but also feels more like a real movie and not just a series of very cool murder-sequences stitched together with a very thin, red thread of pretend-o-story.

A young woman is having visions and dreams of people - and herself getting killed by a wild-eyed woman. She's convinced she will be the last victim when the killer appears in real life, slashing her way through the cast!

That's it. I don't want to write more, but the story is actually more complex than this with some excellent touches of Dario Argento, Brian De Palma and mindfuck-thrillers like Roman Polanski's Repulsion and The Tenant. The absence of a nice country villa and apartments instead makes it looks cheaper, plus the photography has not the same sharpness - could be shot on DV and the other one is shot in HD? What makes it strong is the wonderful, simple script with the most necessary. No silly storylines of padding or boring romance.

Interesting enough I think the acting is better in this film than Last Caress, it feels more natural and I guess it's because there's more to work with for the actors. The woman playing the killer looks like a fucked-up, crazy, Daria Nicolodi and her killer-look is absolutely fabulous! They couldn't have done it better in seventies!

Blackaria also boasts a lot of violent, graphic killings. Most of them echoes Lucio Fulci with extreme nastiness (including, of course, a slit eye and even some violence against a breast). But the surroundings, the set-ups, feels a lot more like Argento. The effects also look very good, like from the golden age of gialli, filmed with style and talent.

Both Last Caress and Blackaria is extremely good and well-made tributes to our favourite genre, and the DVD release from Njuta Films is a MUST! You can buy it a Diabolik DVD for example, if you live outside Sweden. And yes, there's English subs!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Last Caress (2010)


I've wished to see a good, talented tribute to the Italian horrors of the 70's, for a long time now. Matthew Saliba's short movie Amy's in the Attic failed miserably and I kinda gave up hope after that - until I, earlier this year, saw the trailer for Last Caress and Blackaria and my pulse started to beat a little bit faster. 

Now Njuta Films has released an excellent package - Last Caress, Blackaria, two short movies ( Die Die My Darling and Under the Blade) plus the splendid soundtrack! And it also have English subs for those who's not familiar with the ancient language for Swedish! Today I've watched Last Caress and what's it all about? Not much really, but who the frakk cares!

In a scene similar to the opening sequence in Mario Bava's Bay of Blood (and Blood and Black Lace) one character is killed after murdering another character and the story is on. A man wearing sunglasses and a spiked metal glove breaks into a country villa, on the hunt for a mysterious painting. Shortly after four victims... eh, characters, arrives for a weekend of booze, sex and occultism. The man with the sunglasses starts killing everyone off in his hunt for the painting and a chance to meet someone from the past...

Last Caress is more or less a series of extremely cool murder set-pieces. Yeah, that's it. And I love it. It's probably the most relaxing movie I've seen in a long time, with gorgeous (and sometimes sloppy) photo, a bit uneven editing and actors that's very natural in one scene and extremely stiff in one. But that's how it is with very small, cheap, indie-movies. Directors François Gaillard and Christophe Robin knows what the giallo-fans want and packs the story with references and stylish sets. The blood is flowing, the gore is graphic and there's enough nudity for everyone who might appreciate it.

Honestly, this is neither a technical or artistic masterpiece, but it works surprisingly and the strong passion and love for the genre is there. Compared to Swedish indie-movies here we have actors or actually works with their characters and understands it's a movie and not reality, but the French has always had a different approach to art and understand it to the fullest. To create a giallo-mode isn't only about light the wall in the background with red and green, it's about flow and editing, the choice of actors and themes like art and culture.

I wish someone could give these awesome filmmakers a bigger budget and give them time to construct a more complex, but not less bloody, story. They are worth it, we in the audience are worth it. So go on, invest in them!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rest in peace, Carlo Rambaldi...


Carlo Rambaldi, a great artist and visionary has left us, and behind him is a fantastic career of special effects and creatures. Here above you see his (I guess, he's the only one credited on special effects) amazing Medusa from 1963's Perseo l'invincibile, one of many highlights and a great peplum.

I personally don't care of E.T, and prefer to remember him from this movie, Riccardo Freda's Tragic Ceremony, John Guillermin's King Kong, Dario Argeno's Deep Red, Mario Bava's Bay of Blood, Andrzej Zulawski's Possession and of course Vittorio Rambaldi's Primal Rage. Dune and Silver Bullet is good stuff to!

It was a fun ride, Carlo. Keep rocking.

Marquis de Sade's Justine (1969)


Someone didn't want me to do a week of Jess Franco, but I told him/her to read another blog instead of Ninja Dixon - I'm sure they have yet another review of Evil Dead or Halloween there so he'll be happy. He claimed Jess Franco is oversaturated on the net, but hey... that's just not true. Not reviews that take Uncle Jess seriously and just doesn't mentions all the "funny bad details" they find in Franco's less-budgeted epics. Justine is Franco's most expensive movie, shot over seven weeks and with an all star cast. Produced by Harry Alan Towers of course and shot in beautiful Spain.

We follow Justine (Romina Power) and her journey into adulthood. From being a maid at a perverted old dirty man, being accused of theft and thrown in prison - where she escapes with the help of crime queen Madame Dusbois (Mercedes McCambridge), almost raped but ends a while later at a rich couple where the man, Marquis de Bressac (Horst Frank), who's gay and having an affair with one of the servants, wants to kill his rich wife (Sylva Koscina) and uses Justine to do this, she escapes from there and finds a monastery lead by the crooked Antonin (Jack Palance) where she's tortured and... well, she's not a happy lady - that's for sure!

Justine is a series of small adventures, some more fun than twisted - and some more twisted than fun, based on the works of de Sade. Franco loved the script written by Towers, but the American financiers wanted a bigger name as Justine and cast 18 year old Romina Power, and suddenly Franco couldn't do the adult, dark, movie he wanted it to be. He describes her as furniture, furniture guarded by her mother and her Italian prick of a boyfriend. This was of course a letdown for Franco, but the movie turned out really good in the end anyway - even of it's a lot tamer than it was planned to be.

It's a big movie, or a "big fake movie" as Franco describes it. Lots of spectacular locations, hundreds of costumes and overall a very glossy look and one f**king amazing score by Bruno Nicolai. This is a classy production in every sense and Franco tells it like a master. The cast, especially, is great. My favourite Horst Frank is so cool as the greedy gay Marquise and Jack Palance - drunker then ever, something that's very visible, is over-the-top as the crazy monk. Franco stalwart Howard Vernon is brilliant has Palace's colleague and Maria Rohm is wonderful. Ah, Klaus Kinski is in it to of course, without any dialogue, as Marquise de Sade. He's great and it's the second Franco-movie I've seen him in where he only sits in a room saying nothing (the other being Count Dracula). Franco himself has one of his funniest roles, as a burlesque turban-wearing ringmaster!

Mercedes McCambridge is just hypnotic as the angry, tough, queen of crime. Imagine she did the voice for the demon in The Exorcist a few years later!

I also love how Franco's love for architecture shows, including two locations designed by Antoni Gaudí. The inclusion of his work gives the film another otherworldly dimension, a sense of a fairy tale, but still stuck in the brutal reality.

Justine isn't THAT tame by the way. It has some blood and a good amount of nudity, mostly boobs and an ass here and there, but imagine if Power didn't get the part and the cool Rosemary Dexter (who plays a smaller part, but first got cast as Justine) did it instead? I think we would have seen a very different movie, an even better and more brilliant production.

Now it's "just" great. 





Thursday, August 9, 2012

Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977)


I once read that according to the Catholic church the two most dangerous filmmakers during the seventies was Pier Paolo Pasolini and Jesus Franco. While I personally think Pasolini had a lot of Catholic guilt to deal with, Franco on the other hand never had any problem with bashing religion and hypocrisy of all kinds. This is very visible in Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun, another movie produced by the notorious Erwin C. Dietrich. Movie geeks who claims Franco is ha hack and never made a good movie has obviously not seen so many of his movies, and if they have it's Oasis of the Zombies, Devil Hunter, Mansion of the Living Dead or something even more trashy and easy-to-find. They're too lazy to go any further into his huge body of work. That's a pity, because here we have another excellent and edgy production!

14 years old Maria (played by 17 years old Susan Hemingway) gets caught fooling around (very innocently) with a boy by Father Vicente (William Berger). He brings her home to her mother and uses his best Christian manipulation to send Maria to a convent, lead by the sinister Mother Alma (Ana Zanatti). Maria is soon punished for being completely human and natural and Father Vicente starts to abuse her sexually while Mother Alma uses her in satanic rites! Maria just wants to get away from there, but her newfound love for god makes it even harder to leave the, by god blessed, sadism and torture!

Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun is a point blank fuck you to organized religion and abuse of power. It feels even more fresh today with the tons and tons of sexual abuse being uncovered inside the Catholic church, and while this one deals with satanic rites and more visual terror a lot of what's said from the religious representatives in this movie is eerily similar to what we've heard during recent year from PR-people at the Vatican.

This is also a gorgeous movie. Franco had a lot of fantastic exteriors and interiors to use and he uses them well. I've seen more expensive productions look less interesting and more flat than this one. For those who don't like Franco's trademark (and I would say very important trademark) use of zoom will be happy here, because it's shot in very conventional way, still beautiful, but also very calm and without apparent stress. Like many of Franco's films the cast is the most important thing and I think he has one of his strongest casts ever in this film.

First of all, William Berger is brilliant. He plays probably the most disgusting priest I've ever seen in a movie, mostly because he's a hypocrite and uses his power to get money and other things from poor citizens (just like the church to do today, to support their fancy buildings and huge paychecks) but also his sexual appetite for young girls. The scene where he cums in the confession booth while hearing Maria talk about her wet dreams is both extremely funny in a very dark way, but also sick and disturbed. Susan Hemingway, who looks way younger than she was, makes a fine performance as the frail and innocent Maria - who ironically gets corrupted by the church and not the boy she's in love with. Ana Zanatti balances the religious angest with pure sadism and coldness like no one else.

This is yet another fine production from Jess Franco and I urge you all to give it a try! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Barbed Wire Dolls (1976)



Here it is, the mother of all fake slow-motion
filled with Lina Romay's hairy sexual potion.
Barbed Wire Dolls is back to deliver the sleaze
plus some additional scenes of extra gooey cheese!

The wardress dyke wants female flesh
fingering vaginas on new inmates - so juicy and fresh!
Lina remember how she killed her dad
Pity that fake slow-motion was just a fad!

Rarely boring, but hardly original
Fun but not a reason to start a bacchanal.
Stylish angles and a sleazy cast
But the all seemed to had a sexual blast!

Maybe it's missing some important shower scenes
Could have used someone blown to smithereens?
I'm missing the playfulness of Uncle Jess
Next time I would like to see some fun finesse.

Oh, now I sound so mean and grumpy
Didn't meant to make all of you jumpy!
Barbed Wire Dolls is fine, fine euro cult
for us who appreciates films for the adult!

So get your copy already today!
Prepare your remote control for action replay!
Long Live Uncle Jess and Lina, his late muse
May they forever light the cinematic fuse...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Voodoo Passion (1977)


I'm always a bit sceptical when it comes to the pure softcore productions from Uncle Jess, but Voodoo Passion was still made during the seventies and the steady hand of Erwin C. Dietrich as producer. Why sceptical? Probably because they mostly are focused on tits and ass, shaky zoom-shots on pubic hair and going gynaecological with the camera. That just bores me. But I need to learn to trust Uncle Jess, because behind the most boring premises there's actually some nice ideas and originality. This one is a remake, according to many, of Franco's own 1970 production Nightmares Come at Night. I have it on DVD but never seen it, so I guess that's one thing I must do now. But back to Voodoo Passion - Call of the Blonde Godess!

Susan (Ada Tauler) moves to Haiti to join her new husband Jack (Jack Taylor) there. They are newly wed and it comes as a surprise when Jack's sex-crazy lesbian sister Olga (Karine Gambier) also lives in their house. Her life revolves around sex and nothing more. Susan soon finds this quite nice and starts living the dream together with her husband and his sister - but something is wrong! She starts having hallucinations, almost trance-like walks - and she's killing people! Is it voodoo? Or something more sinister, something more natural?

There's a lot of penis in this movie. And buttocks (often those of Jack Taylor). And pubic hair and vaginas. Often in close-up and often lingering a few seconds too long. But that's what's it all about, it's a softcore thriller set on Haiti by Jess Franco! What to expect? While I fail to see the exciting with these many, many sex scenes, I can still see that it's a stylish and often very entertaining sex-thriller. The bright and clean cinematography looks fantastic (at least when it's in focus) and the hotel gardens standing in for jungles looks good.

Even if the sex and nudity is the most important thing here it's easy to see that Franco want to create a mystery and build-up an interesting, but thin, storyline that will help us get through the cheesiness. Karine Gambier is easiest the best thing here. Not that she's the best actress, but she's so vulgar, blonde and over-the-top that it's hard to dislike her. Muriel Montossé, who plays the lesbian housekeeper Inès, has a stunning and almost scary look (the eyes, the eyes!) and rules most of the footage she's in. Jack Taylor does his job, and is great, but this is a strictly women's movie and so shall it be.

In-between these reproductive organs and nice tropical gardens there's the music of Walter Baumgartner and I must say that here he's created a couple of masterpieces. Especially one piece, traditional jazz fused with some form of tropical bongo-beats. It's so good and so hypnotic and suddenly raises the somewhat cheap production several notches up to a completely different class of filmmaking.

No, I can't say that Voodoo Passion is a great movie, but it worked for me and Franco made it a little bit interesting with some clever twists and nicely handled sleaze-filled voodoo-sequences.

The only thing really bad is the awkward opening dance-number on the beach. I've seen drunk old men do better than that on the ferry to Finland!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Strip Nude For Your Killer (1975)


The funniest (or most disturbing) thing with Blue Underground's DVD of Strip Nude For Your Killer is the interview where screenwriter Massimo Felisatti decided to stop working for director Andrea Bianchi because the latter one was too sadistic and couldn't stop himself when he was behind the camera shooting a violent scene. That says a lot about the perverted genius of Bianchi!  But before he made such trashy masterpieces as Burial Ground and Command Mengele (and Massacro, a movie I need to review sometime) he made this fairly normal giallo - and normal for him means a lot of female nudity and hairy Italian studs!

It begins with a failed abortion. The mother also dies, of a heart attack, and the people doing the surgery cover everything up so it looks like a natural death. Some time later we're following the usual business at the Albatross studio, where naked models are being photographed by always horny Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo), who starts the movie by abusing a woman into being a photo model - but that's a different story. Soon the generic and glamorous  intrigues in the world of super models comes to a brutal end when they one by one gets brutally killed by a person in a leather outfit and helmet!

At a first look this is a pretty normal giallo, until you wait like... five seconds you see that it's a sleaze-movie disguised as a giallo. Nothing bad with that, it's fine and actually feels refreshing in a sick way. Not that Italian movies usually don't have nudity, but it's something voyeuristic about Bianchi's creation. Most of the actresses - and the actors - looks terrible normal for example. This is a movie in Jess Franco-mode. Even if your tits is a bit saggy and your ass has cellulites you're welcome to show it off completely in front of Bianchi's curious camera. And then men, well... it's hairy. A lot of hair. On the back. And way to tight speedos on Castelnuovo!

As a mystery it works quite well, but don't look too close, because nothing really hangs together. The murders are plenty and violent, but not especially graphic, and mostly there to just be murders and pad out the stuff between the nudity and sex. This also makes it extremely entertaining and I would dare to say that it's not the least boring, even if some critics out there has claimed so - but they're wrong as usual and they don't have the same sense of quality as Ninja Dixon! ;)

Strip Nude For Your Killer is a nice-looking thriller and only if it wasn't for the copious amounts of sleaze this would probably have a much better reputation as a "real" giallo. Sure, the script could have needed a little bit more work and that classic first scene at the spa borders to mega-silliness, but that's also one of the strengths with it - it just doesn't care. It goes almost all the way and ends everything with a very cheap and tacky joke about anal-sex that you would never see in a modern movie.

This is a twisted, sick, depraved and sleazy giallo that delivers on everything - except the gore. But Bianchi left the rest to Burial Ground and we should be happy for that, or else it would just have been yet another zombie movie and not the masterpiece of trash it is now! 

Blue Rita (1977)


Jess Franco is back on Ninja Dixon. I wrote about a week ago that I wouldn't write any new Franco-reviews for a while, but here he is again. The reason is that when I'm very down the works of Franco is the best movies to make me feel better again. I've never been interested in Blue Rita mostly because I thought was a normal softcore romp without any redeeming qualities, but when I finally started to read more about it I saw that it's actually more fun than I first though. Produced by the Erwin C. Dietrich (and according to some sources Robert de Nesle also), Blue Rita is a fun little spy-thriller behind all that sleaze and nudity...

At the Blue Rita Bar there's a secret organization lead by Blue Rita (Martine Fléty) and her team of lesbian strippers/killers. They lure important politicians, journalists and other power-hungry men to their bar to drug and torture them, only to get their money and secrets - the latter something they can sell to other countries to the highest bid. Oh, she torture the men by exposing them to a chemical that makes them absurdly horny and then she teases them with her women! But what she don't know is that there's a spy among them, a female Interpol agent who's there to expose their dirty business!

Blue Rita was a big surprise. I still can't say its a masterpiece or anything, but here we have a fun and tongue-in-cheek thriller set in an extremely stylish (but cheap, like everything else in this film) bar and a script that's not just humping, but has a few fun twists. The set design and visual approach from Uncle Jess feels like one of this more kitchy 60's films, like The Girl from Rio - but instead of an exotic country and lots of locations we have here a very grey Paris and a couple of glittering plywood sets. Even of the script was more than I expected it to be this is more of an adventure in style than anything else. The sex-room, for example, is painted totally white with only transparent, blow-up furniture! Only in the mind of Jess Franco.

Expect a lot of boobs, ass and pussy from the female actors, but also some dicks and ass from the not-so-attractive male cast. I must confess I have a soft spot for Eric Falk, the tall karate-freak that did a lot of sleaze during the seventies and early eighties. He's probably most famous or his hilarious performance as the nudy, karate-kicking nazi-biker in Mad Foxes. In that one he acts like he's gonna die tomorrow, but he's not bad at all in Blue Rita. He's also in the most stylish scene in the whole film, when he and his bodyguards visits a Eastern European restaurant and it all ends with a fun fight outside.

I've read at least one review of this movie that claims that Franco has very little talent when it comes to staging action sequences, and yes, I can agree on that. The odd thing is that the action in this movie, while very short and not so spectacular, isn't bad at all. Especially the fight outside the restaurant and some of the shooting at the end. It's simple yes, but it also works better than a lot of unnecessary editing.

Blue Rita is a lot more fun than you could imagine. It's a nice sleaze-movie with a fun cast and lots of cool sets and clothes. It's shallow and stupid, but made with passion and love for the art of cinematic storytelling - even if the budget wasn't there to help out in the end. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Watch Me When I Kill (1977)


Before I watched Antonio Bido's giallo Watch Me When I Kill again I read an old text I wrote about it, in Swedish, several years ago. It's interesting how I've changed my mind since then, not that I dislike it - but more that I actually felt it was very connected in style and somehow even in themes to Dario Argento's Deep Red. My imagination was running wild at that time probably. What I still agree on is that it has the same nice charisma between the two lead characters and a street-wise attitude. Like Deep Red it's more realistic than kitschy for example, which I always prefer. The silliness often, for me, takes away the power of the mystery.

Paola Tedesco plays Mara, a dancer and actress, who indirectly witness a murder. Her boyfriend Lukas (Corrado Pani) is a slacker private investigator who happens to be around just when this happens. At the same time more people is killed, and it's of course connected to the past. One of them, Bozzi, gets weird phone calls with a recorded message consisting of weird noises, dogs barking etc. He hires Lukas to analyze the recordings and slowly they start to find details and clues hidden in the sounds. But the killer is also out to kill Mara, because she might have seen something...

Bido only made two gialli, and I like them both. They have an aura of realism and a serious, not especially campy, concept over them. He takes the genre and twists it back a little bit, to something that actually could be taken more serious by mainstream critics. I think this is a good thing because I like a good story and I hate when it's destroyed by unnecessary silliness. But make no mistake, Umberto Lenzi's Eyeball is still the most campy and silly giallo ever made - and it's a masterpiece.

I would like to discuss the final twist and who's the killer, but I can't do that. What I can say is that I still think it's one of the more interesting and serious motives for murdering people in a giallo I've seen, and it works a lot better than "Oh, my mother forced me to dress in girls clothes and then she had sex with an unknown man under the Christmas tree" or whatever fucking childhood traumas they use. It's just a good explanation and as a viewer you buy it, to that extent that you actually agrees with the killer.

The violence? Well, it's pretty rough, but not especially graphic. It's violent, but there's not much blood. The "best" murder is actually totally bloodless, a violent strangling in a bathtub, which usually is the most boring kills in these kind of movies, but here it has a lot of energy and very well-shot. Something that's splendid is the score by someone calling themselves "Trans Europa Express". It sounds a lot like a more acoustic Goblin, but when I once asked Claudio Simonetti about this he just avoided the question. Anyone know who's behind the music?

I really like Watch Me When I Kill, even if it's a bit dry and lacks thats unique and spectacular atmosphere that we love so much in this genre, but the story is strong and acting is excellent. Recommended giallo-viewing I would say!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Next week will be...

...Jess Franco week! There will be, I hope, one sleazy Jess Franco film per day - from Monday to Friday. I've been quite busy and haven't been able to update Ninja Dixon as much as I would like to recently, especially the last few days.

I will go into a new project from Tuesday and work with that for two months, and that means I will probably have less time write reviews. But I'll do my best to keep it updated. That's why I've prepared a week with Franco, just to be able to get a starting with my new job and still having updates. Like television (where I work), blogging is also about cheating and preparing carefully to not let down the audience ;)

I've also deactivated myself on Facebook and Twitter, but just for a few days. I never had discipline to not just log in. Everything to be able to concentrate on my job.

Cya soon!
Ninja Dixon

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives (2010)


When Ticked-OffTrannies with Knives was scheduled to be show at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2010 people who never even saw it before wanted called out for boycott. That the movie was made in co-operation with transgenders and directed by a gay man didn't seem to affect all these idiots (yes, idiots - like everyone who have no clue what they're talking about). This is as far from a transphobic film as it can be, but it's a modern grindhouse movie - so of course it's filled with crude jokes, violence and sexual themes. The public, the small minority that engaged in the protests, got some idea that this was a movie where the characters was victims, but nothing could be further from the truth...

A group of transgender show artists with names like Rachel Slurr, Tipper Sommore, Bubbles Cliquot and Pinky La'Trimm is living la dolce vita in Dallas. One night a couple of them are attacked by a couple of transphobic rednecks and only one of them comes out alive. Instead of giving the information to the police she and her friends plans to take revenge on the men who did this! They contacts a martial arts master and learns the ancient craft of kicking-ass, gets themselves some cool outfits and hits back - hard!

Here you have it, a movie with a strong transgender theme where the characters are strong, funny and smart: Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives. I understand that the word "trannie" is a sensitive word in the US, but remember that this is one way of kidnapping a bad word and make it something good. There's nothing transphobic about this film, nothing - believe me. Instead there's fun and well-written characters who do what they do to get revenge on the heteronormative society who can't accept them, in a spirit of fun and tongue-in-cheek.

The production values is cheap and simple, but director Israel Luna keep up the quality with good directing and mostly a good and fun script. The dialogues is as witty as the actors are uneven, but it works and I like the characters. Tom Zembrod, who plays the lead redneck Boner is especially nasty in that manipulative ugly way that you can see among people who claim they are good Christians or not homophobes even if they think LGBT-people shouldn't have any rights at all, because it's against the will of god... or any other fairy tale entity.

What surprised me, in a good way, was how serious this film is. The title, trailer and the start of the movie - and the martial arts training - has a very cheesy style, made with a lot of humor - but in the end it's a serious, kinda, revenge-flick with some excellent low-key acting and fine drama. I've always enjoyed this mix of genres and it works well here.

I wonder if the controversy around this film belongs to the similar kind of scandal as William Friedkin's Cruising, that the environment is too extreme for some? Here we have show artists, dancers with outrageous names and looks instead of a "normal" person with a "normal" job. What the wackos out there don't understand is that the clothes or work has nothing to do with normal or not, and criticize that is just a form of self-loathing in my opinion. Live and let live, accept others and they accept you.

The film ends with a fake set-up for a moral lesson, but ends in the opposite - which is both radical and very fitting in a movie that fights for being controversial in that nice way that we all like. It's revenge the right way, the way we all think it should be - but never dares to say because we're afraid of hearing some stinkin' Folkpartister say we're encourage violence. What they don't understand it's all in the imagination, it's just film, it's a dream of taking control over our destiny - whether we are trans, gay, bi or just good old straights.

I liked it. Maybe you will like it to?

For my Swedish readers: Queer Skräck på FromBeyond.se


Ikväll är det Bögskräck! på SF-bokhandeln och för er som inte kan komma så rekommenderar jag From Beyonds podcast i två delar, om Queer skräck. Alex Kassberg bjöd in mig för att snacka HBTQ-skräck från filmens barndom till nutid och det blev så långt att det blev två avsnitt!

Del 1.
(där vi lyckas blanda ihop två karaktärer i The Haunting, men ignorera det bara ;))

(där vi börjar bli lite trötta, det var galet varmt i studion!)

Hoppas ni gillar det och jag ser fram mot att gästa deras podcast igen någon gång i framtiden!

/Ninja Dixon


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eyeball (1974)


Even I find it odd that I haven't reviewed Umberto Lenzi's Eyeball (aka the more fancy schmancy Italian title Gatti Rossi In Un Labirinto Di Vetro!). Lenzi is one of my favourite directors and Eyeball is, without any regrets, one of my favourite gialli. That doesn't mean it's one of the best, because I mentions dozens of Italian murder mysteries that's both smarter and better-looking. But none of them is Umberto Lenzi's Eyeball, and I think even Cat O'Nine Tails wakes up in the middle of night, having angst over that fact and going back to sleep with anti-depressant mixed with J&B Scotch Whisky wishing tomorrow will be a better day...

A slightly stupid group of tourists is on their with on a bus through Spain, among them a fishy priest, a big-mouthed American tourist with family, a lesbian couple - yeah, the usual gang of suspects. Their guide is a man who looks a little bit too much on the teenaged girls. On the bus is also Paulette (Martine Brochard) who's gonna meet her boss, Mark (John Richardson). They stop in Barcelona and visits a local market - but suddenly one of the girls is getting brutally stabbed to death and one of her eyes is gouged out! Without much hesitation the group continues, after the usual interrogations by the police, until yet another murder happens - this time in a funhouse, and her eye is also removed! This won't stop our dear tourists and they continue together. But soon the paranoia grows - who's the killer, and why is he/she taking the eyes from innocent young women?

I know, I know. The story is actually beyond stupid - but I DON'T CARE! :) It's friggin' Lenzi and he's going crazy with the giallo-concept. Except not so smart idea with having every victim going by the same bus even if they know they will get killed, the rest of the story isn't bad at all and delivers on of the most entertaining films in the genre ever. First of all, the kills - while not extremely gory - is very violent and sadistic. Very stylish stuff, especially the bathroom-murder (the bloodiest of the bunch also). The killers look, a red raincoat is also very effective and gives a totally different look to the murders than the usual black clothes. It's a brilliant visual idea and makes this a stand-out among giallo-killers.

Eyeball also stands out because it's one of the most unsubtle thrillers I've seen. People scream and over-act like never before, but it fits the hysterical set-up and I think Lenzi just decided to fuck around with the usual stereotypes and create a giallo that would scream it's way through the cinematic flesh of all the other thrillers of the time. Hey, even the music - by Bruno Nicolai is big and bold and slightly tacky, but it all comes together in the end. This is a movie made not for the small details but for the bigness of it all.

In this crazy romp there's some fine, fine performances also. I've always liked John Richardson and he's good here, vulnerable actually - quite far away from the typical macho men inhabiting these movies. George Rigaud as the priest is perfect. He takes a very adorable character and makes him the "probably paedophile" priest we love so much, years before the Catholic Church made it trendy. Best of them all is Martine Brochard, who has a lot to do and do it very well.

I need to force you all to see Eyeball, not because it will make your brains explode because how smart it is, but it will make them explode because of how passionate, how fun and entertaining it is. So grab your sharp knifes, take my hand and get on the bus dammit!