Shitty Movie Sundays: Blue Money (1972)

Self-described cult cinema preservation and releasing company Vinegar Syndrome, on their sales page for Blue Money, describes the film as “a powerful, Cassavetes-esque examination of LA’s burgeoning hardcore [i.e., pornography] film scene.” I don’t agree with the ‘powerful’ part, which is one reason this flick makes the Shitty Movie Sundays cut, but describing the film as Cassavetes-esque is great shorthand. The way this film was written, shot, paced, and acted, is very much akin to one of the films of John Cassavetes, in particular Opening Night, with its look behind the scenes of a theater production. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Blue Money (1972)”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Eaten Alive! (1980), aka Mangiati vivi!, aka Doomed to Die

Oh, look, more cannibals! And rape. Lots of rape.

From 1980, writer/director Umberto Lenzi’s initial foray into the cannibal subgenre of horror might be the most exploitative of the bunch. It has everything that I’ve become familiar with during this year’s Horrorshow. There is cannibalism, of course, Stone Age tribalism, an impenetrable jungle, caucasians getting more than they bargained for, nudity, brutal depictions of violence, real animal slaughter, and rape. This flick is a little lazier than the others, as it lifts footage from earlier cannibal flicks for extra punch during gore scenes. Shame on any movie that can’t do all its heavy lifting on its own. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Eaten Alive! (1980), aka Mangiati vivi!, aka Doomed to Die”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: A Bay of Blood, aka Ecologia del delitto, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, or, The Real Estate Market is Cutthroat

Mario Bava was one of the greats of horror cinema. Not just Italian horror, but horror in general. Horror junkies the world over celebrate his more famous films as essential to the genre. Like with all artists, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. By the 1970s critics had begun to fall out of love with Bava, and that shows with the negative reaction to A Bay of Blood upon its release in 1971.

Contemporary critics and fans were hard on A Bay of Blood, as Bava had moved on from atmospheric gothic horror and into exploitation. Funny enough, though, this film proved to be as much an influence on later horror films as any other movie he had made. Viewers with more than a passing knowledge of American slasher flicks will see some of that subgenre’s genesis in A Bay of Blood. As such, it’s a film that garnered a much better reputation before the decade was out. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: A Bay of Blood, aka Ecologia del delitto, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, or, The Real Estate Market is Cutthroat”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Beyond the Darkness, aka Buio Omega

Holy jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! Whatever one’s expectations going into Beyond the Darkness, one of Joe D’Amato’s flicks from 1979, they will be exceeded. I went into this film knowing only so much as what was provided in a small blurb, and was left either speechless or exclaiming in shock, depending on what depravity D’Amato and company were putting on screen. This is that kind of movie, folks. Allow me to spoil some of it for you.

Working from a screenplay by Ottavio Fabbri, D’Amato constructed a film that is light on character development, light on exposition, light on plot, even. The purpose of the film is to shock — visually, sensually, what have you. It does that, but not in a way that is purely exploitative. There is some not-so-shallow stuff going on. That’s impressive for D’Amato, who could usually be depended upon to provide as much depth as linoleum tile. Maybe this was by accident, or maybe I’m reading too much into a film that’s just meant to be experienced, rather than scrutinized. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Beyond the Darkness, aka Buio Omega”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Jungle Holocaust, aka Ultimo mondo cannibale, aka Last Cannibal World

Three years before he made Cannibal Holocaust, filmmaker Ruggero Deodato gave viewers Ultimo mondo cannibale, released in the States as Jungle Holocaust. Many of the lessons Deodato learned making this film, he would later apply to his more notorious followup, including real animal slaughter. According to Joe Bob Briggs, so it must be true, the reason Deodato, and others, featured animal killings in their films was that it somehow increased box office in South and Southeast Asia. Who knows if that is true, as I imagine box office figures from 1977 Bangladesh or Kuala Lumpur are hard to come by. What I do know is that, if it is true, it undermines any artistic argument for including animal killings in a movie. Anyway… Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Jungle Holocaust, aka Ultimo mondo cannibale, aka Last Cannibal World”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Cannibal Ferox, aka Make Them Die Slowly

…And then there’s Cannibal Ferox. Released a year after Cannibal Holocaust, in 1981, Cannibal Ferox tries to succeed as a film by taking the most exploitative moments of Holocaust, and wrapping footage around them. Writer/director Umberto Lenzi did not seem to realize that what made Cannibal Holocaust a successful movie was not the animal slaughter or the graphic violence. Those are, arguably, essential parts of the package, but Holocaust is indeed a package deal. It succeeds because most aspects of the film are well done, including story, acting, cinematography, music, etc. Without all those things working together, viewers get, well, Cannibal Ferox. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Cannibal Ferox, aka Make Them Die Slowly”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Massacre in Dinosaur Valley, aka Nudo e selvaggio

Massacre in Dinosaur Valley movie posterThere are good Italian cannibal horror flicks, and there are bad Italian cannibal horror flicks. Besides the plot elements they all share and steal from one another, the other thing they have in common is that they are prime exploitation cinema. Massacre in Dinosaur Valley is one of the more exploitative of the bunch, and it has nothing to do with animal slaughter and mutilation, or graphic depictions of bodily injury. This flick is about the nudity. It’s right there in the Italian title of the movie.

“Nudo e selvaggio” translates into English as, “Naked and wild.” The English-language distributors must not have thought much about that title, which would probably have frightened off more than a few theater owners back when it was released, so they titled the film Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. It’s just as descriptive and accurate as the Italian title. There is a massacre, and it happens in some place called Dinosaur Valley, but I have to admit that, going into this film blind, I was disappointed that there weren’t any dinosaurs. Meanwhile, had the film just been called Naked and Wild, my expectations would have been satiated. Anyway…

From 1985, Massacre in Dinosaur Valley is a joint Italian/Brazilian production, written and directed by Michele Massimo Tarantini, with some uncredited script work by prolific screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti. The film stars Michael Sopkiw as Kevin Hall, a mercenary paleontologist who roams all over South America in search of fossils. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Massacre in Dinosaur Valley, aka Nudo e selvaggio”

Shitty Movie Sundays: French Quarter

French Quarter 1978 movie posterIn a recent article about the film Passages receiving an NC-17 rating from the censors at the MPAA, Slate columnist Sam Adams writes:


The online discourse about sex scenes often focuses on whether or not they’re “necessary.” Do they advance the plot? Do they tell us something about the characters we don’t otherwise know? Or are they just there to gratify the audience’s voyeuristic urges?

I’d…argue, though, that “is it necessary?” isn’t the right question, or at least the only one. Part of what makes movies (and art more generally) important is that they serve as an implicit rebuke to a strictly utilitarian view of the world, the spiritual parsimony that says that the only necessary things are the ones we can’t live without. We don’t need movies the way we need food or water, but we need them to remind us that being alive is more than drawing breath.

Amen. One of the greatest areas of cognitive dissonance in how we watch films has always been the embrace of violent imagery, while heavily censoring sexual imagery. It’s a reversal of a person’s real-world experiences. Despite how many pearls are clutched or how many angry harangues there are from the pulpit, your children will be having sex at some point during their lives. The continual expansion of the human population on Earth points to it being far less likely that they will ever kill someone, or be killed at the hands of another person. Yes, it happens, but if one were to watch movies as their sole basis of understanding the human condition, one would think that life entailed navigating a maze of explosions and flying bullets. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: French Quarter”

Shitty Movie Sundays: The Lost Empire

This flick is for the chest men, the boob guys, the fellas that love nothing more than doing a little motorboating or some light mountain climbing. In short, this movie has breasts. Many, many, female breasts, of the bolted-on variety that is so integral to the economy of southern California. It’s not the most breasts one will see in a b-movie, and the majority of them keep nipples hidden away like some rare commodity, but there is a theme to this flick, and it is breasts. And taxes, as it turns out. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: The Lost Empire”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Pick-up

Often, it can seem as if the only b-movies that get made are throwaway attempts at a quick payday, à la something produced by George Weiss or Roger Corman. Occasionally, a shitty movie will have artistic pretensions. It will a be a filmmaker’s magnum opus or a collaborative stab at something meaningful — an earnest attempt at telling a story or making a statement. Earnestness is no sure sign of success, as today’s film would attest, but it’s also not something that can be dismissed out of hand. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Pick-up”