Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Paganini Horror

Happy Halloween, folks. We come to the end of another glorious month of blood, gore, supernatural threats, silly plots, and fun. Early on in preparation for The Italian Horrorshow, I was focused on the big names and the big titles from Europe’s boot. But, it didn’t take long to regress to the mean. This site’s bread and butter is bad cinema, and the final film of the Horrorshow reflects that. Oh, boy, does it.

From writer/director Luigi Cozzi comes Paganini Horror, a story about a pop band that gets more than they bargained for when they use a previously unknown composition by famed violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini as the basis for their new song. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Paganini Horror”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Metamorphosis (1990), aka Regenerator, aka DNA formula letale

George Eastman, aka Luigi Montefiori, is one of the legends of Shitty Movie Sundays. His long career as an actor and writer spanned six decades before he hung them up in 2010. He’s worked with some of the giants of Italian cinema, including Mario Bava and Lina Wertmüller. He had a long professional collaboration with schlock director Joe D’Amato. He’s acted in, and written, spaghetti westerns, crime flicks, giallo, horror, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, and smut (although I don’t think he’s ever taken his pants off in one — I could be wrong). His face has been a constant presence in the types of movies featured in Shitty Movie Sundays, but he only has one solo directing credit in his oeuvre — Metamorphosis, from 1990. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Metamorphosis (1990), aka Regenerator, aka DNA formula letale”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Witchery, aka La Casa 4 – Witchcraft, aka Witchcraft (Evil Encounters)

More Italian title trickery! Upon release in Italy, this morning’s film was titled La Casa 4 – Witchcraft, a sequel in name only to La Casa 3 – Ghosthouse. It’s an unfortunately common thing overseas, not just in Italy, for movies to be marketed as a sequel to an unrelated film. Most of the time, we don’t have to deal with that shit here in the States, so we were given the simple title Witchery, although the print I saw used the title for the film’s release in Australia, Witchcraft (Evil Encounters). How silly the business of movies can be.

The good news is, Witchery stars Linda Blair and David Hasselhoff. I’ll repeat that. Linda Blair, adorable teen star of The Exorcist turned prolific b-movie actress, and The Hoff. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Witchery, aka La Casa 4 – Witchcraft, aka Witchcraft (Evil Encounters)”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Body Count (1986), aka Camping del terrore

This is the third film from director Ruggero Deodato to be featured in the Italian Horrorshow, after the unforgettable pair of Cannibal Holocaust and Jungle Holocaust. Both of those films were impressive in their storytelling and shocking visuals. Deodato must have had enough of cannibals after that, and instead turned his talents to an American-style slasher/cabin in the woods flick.

Written by many people, including Italian cinema stalwarts Sheila Goldberg and Dardano Sacchetti, Body Count tells the story of two groups of youths that are brought together by chance, to be chased around a derelict campground by a masked killer. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with horror flicks will have seen this plot, or something damned close, once or twice. This being the fifteenth year of the Horrorshow, on top of a lifetime of watching horror flicks, I figured there would be nothing all that special about this flick. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Body Count (1986), aka Camping del terrore”

October Horrorshow: A Bucket of Blood

This year’s Horrorshow is nearing the end, and I could not let the month pass by without adding a Roger Corman flick to this list. It’s one of his best.

A Bucket of Blood, released in 1959, had a budget of $50,000, and a five-day shooting schedule. That type of swiftness and frugality was perfect for Corman, who never met a budget that was low enough to his liking. The first of Corman’s comedic collaborations with writer Charles B. Griffith, A Bucket of Blood is satire of the highest order. Its target are beatniks, a subculture which faded away decades ago. It features all the familiar targets of beatnik mockery. Berets, black turtlenecks, coffeeshops, poetry, folk guitar, heroin, pretentiousness. It’s that last part that made the beatniks such an easy target, and, in this film, a hilarious one. A typical line in the movie said by a swelled-headed beatnik was, “One of the greatest advances in modern poetry is the elimination of clarity.” That says it all about the artistes of this movie. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: A Bucket of Blood”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Aenigma

From Lucio Fulci’s latter days as a filmmaker comes Aenigma, an Argento-like revenge flick set at a women’s college in Boston, although principal photography took place in Sarajevo.

Written with Giorgio Mariuzzo, Aenigma takes the basic plot elements of a ‘prank gone wrong’ horror flick, combines it with a bare bones setting and bare bones surrealism, and spits out a movie with a superfluous main character, and a purposeful avoidance of exploitation.

At St. Mary’s College in Boston, Kathy (Milijana Zirojevic), daughter of the school’s cleaning lady, Mary (Dusica Zegarac), is being prepped for a big date by her roommate, Kim (Sophie d’Aulan), and her boyfriend, Tom (Dragan Bjelogrlic). They go through the usual 1980’s teen outfit montage trope, before Kathy is finally dolled up and ready to meet her date, the college’s athletics instructor, Fred (Riccardo Acerbi). But, all is not well. The girls at the school despise Kathy’s humble origins, and the date is a cruel prank, set up just so all the girls can gather and laugh at Kathy’s presumption that a hunk like Fred would actually like her. Kathy flees from her tormentors into the path of a truck, and is left in a coma at the hospital. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Aenigma”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Deep Blood, aka Sangue negli abissi

Deep Blood movie posterAccording to the internet, so it must be true, Raffaele Donato, whose work in film had been very limited, decided one day that he would like to direct a movie. As it happened, Joe D’Amato was looking for someone to helm a cheap sharksploitation flick, the only requirement being fluency in English. Donato leapt at the chance, but after filming a single scene, decided life in the director’s chair was not for him. No worries, as the prolific D’Amato was ready to step in and finish beating this dog of a movie to within an inch of its life.

The result was Deep Blood, a Jaws ripoff whose greatest danger to characters was stock footage.

From a screenplay by George Nelson Ott (possibly an alias for D’Amato, as this is his only credit on IMDb), Deep Blood tells the tale of an oceanside community terrorized by a killer great white shark.

The first we see of the shark is rank, amateurish, manipulative filmmaking. A mother, her son, and their tiny dog visit the beach for a dip in the ocean. We know one of these three is going to get eaten. Which is it to be? The shot switches to and fro. It’s not frantic, but it’s meant to keep the audience guessing. Will this movie kill a child? A mother? It surely won’t kill the dog, as, in the hierarchy of film murder, dogs elicit the most groans. It kills the mom, and the plot, what there is of it, is off and running.

Four local, college-aged youths with uninteresting backstories are reuniting in town for vacation, and the shark attack has upended things. When one of them, John (John K. Brune), is eaten in a cloud of blood and no gore, Miki (Frank Baroni), leads the effort to exact revenge on the creature. A whole bunch of character drama is placed in his way. The sheriff (could be Tony Bernard, could be Tom Bernard, could be Tody Bernard — the credits are unclear) doesn’t believe him. The responsible adults in town join in the sheriff’s skepticism. Yet, Miki perseveres against authority and town bullies alike to get us to denouement. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Deep Blood, aka Sangue negli abissi”

October Horrorshow: The Alligator People

If one ever wanted to know what would happen if a cheesy 1950’s monster flick had a respectable budget, this is it. The Alligator People is an obscure film that, if one were to judge by its well-worn theatrical trailers, was shot in 4:3 aspect ratio with cheap film stock and lenses. Nope, it’s right there at the end of the trailer in the title card. This sucker was shot in glorious 2.35:1 CinemaScope. Academy award-winning director of photography Karl Struss, who was getting set to wrap up his long career in Hollywood, made sure everything looked great. It was way more than this movie deserved.

Directed by Roy Del Ruth from a screenplay by Orville H. Hampton, The Alligator People tells the desperate story of Joyce Webster (Beverly Garland). Told in flashback in a totally unnecessary framing story (but useful to get this flick to 74 minutes in length), Joyce relates how, while traveling on honeymoon, her husband receives a mysterious wire while their train passes through the bayous of Louisiana. Her husband, Paul (Richard Crane), hops off the train at a lonely station in the middle of nowhere, leaving Joyce frantic as the train leaves the station. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Alligator People”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Lisa and the Devil

Lisa and the Devil movie posterLisa and the Devil, the 1973 film from Italian auteur Mario Bava, has become one of his more renowned films in the last couple of decades. I first saw it around twenty years ago with a roommate who was watching it for her film class at NYU. Upon release, though, it was a butchered product, with a framing story shot and added after Bava delivered his cut. Of this film, which had been released under the title of La Casa dell’esorcismo (House of Exorcism), Bava said, “La casa dell’esorcismo is not my film, even though it bears my signature. It is the same situation, too long to explain, of a cuckolded father who finds himself with a child that is not his own, and with his name, and cannot do anything about it.”

That’s some pretty strong language. But, he wasn’t referring to the film that was eventually released as Lisa and the Devil. He was referring to a cobbled-together mess insisted upon by the film’s producer, Alfredo Leone, who wanted a whole bunch of exorcism-related material added to an already completed film in order to cash in on William Friedkin’s Exorcist. This year’s Horrorshow is not concerned with that movie.

Lisa and the Devil follows Elke Sommer as Lisa, a tourist who gets lost in the wandering, narrow streets of old Toledo, Spain. She hitches a ride from a rich, married couple, Francis and Sohpia Lehar (Eduardo Fajardo and Sylva Koscina), and their chauffeur, George (Gabriele Tinti). The Lehar’s old limo breaks down in front of a villa, and they are invited in by the Countess (Alida Valli) and her son, Max (Alessio Orano). In a bit of stunt casting, the Countess’s butler, Leandro, is played by Telly Savalas. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Lisa and the Devil”

October Horrorshow: Severance (2006)

A horror comedy would seem to be a contradiction in terms. However, horror fans aren’t watching horror because they like death. Well, most of us, anyway. Horror fans look for the same things from film as everyone else. Escapism. Specifically, the ability to experience places, people, and stories that we otherwise would not. Films evoke emotion, but do so in a way that exists outside of everyday life. Combining genres, especially in contradictory fashion, creates a delicacy of mixed emotions that we could never experience otherwise. In what other place than film could one experience the wonderful flavor profile of a humorous decapitation? Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Severance (2006)”