Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Raiders of Atlantis


The Raiders of Atlantis
Aka: Atlantis Interceptors
Original Title: I predatori di Atlantide
Directed by: Ruggero Deodato
Italy/Philippines, 1983
Action/Adventure, 93min

Weren’t the seventies and eighties just bloody great? Weren’t the B-movies of this time period so much better than they are now? These days cheap DV, crap dialogue and shitty acting all feel so damned rough, raw and most often lack the passion for making an imprint. Back in the eighties (and before then too of course) B-movies and even worse were at least shot on film. There was a larger machinery behind the process, which demanded more than just calling up your mates and shooting. B-movies where still all about telling the best story for the least bucks, and they did make some really great movies. But the best part of it all was that these cheap low budget flicks pretty quick ended up on video (some on the big screen if we where lucky) for the thirsty home entertainment crowds outside of the native countries, which constantly fuelled our cravings for cheap kicks; Hong Kong kung-fu movies, European and American horror, Giallo and exploitation movies, Italian Spaghetti Westerns and Bud Spencer - Terence Hill action comedies that we could watch with our mates in front of the gargantuan video tape recorder. And watch them we did, over and over again.

Following the Australian low budget surprise hit movie Mad Max 1979, directed by George Miller, Italian movie producers, screenwriters and directors went post apocalypse mad. Movies like Sergio Martino’s 2019: After the Fall of New York 1983, Joe D’Amato’s Texas Gladiators 2020 1982, and Endgame 1983, Enzo G. Castellari’s trillogy The Bronx Warriors 1982, The New Barbarians 1982, Escape from The Bronx 1983, Lamberto Bava’s Blastfighter 1984 and Lucio Fulci’s The New Gladiators 1984, to name a few, hit hard and milked the path of the impending doom, biker gangs in barren wasteland to the max, and in it creating the splendid Italian Post Apocalypse genre.

Ruggero Deodato also directed his take on this amusing little subgenre, and even through screenwriters Tito Carpi [one of the writers on Deodato’s Last Cannibal World (together with Deodato regular Gianfranco Clerici), Enzo G. Castellari’s The New Barbarians 1982 and Escape From the Bronx 1983] and Vincenzo Mannino [who wrote Deodato’s The House on the Edge of the Park 1980, Phantom of Death 1988), Castellari’s The Last Shark 1981, Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper 1982 and Murder Rock – Dancing Death 1984 together with Gianfranco Clerici too] took the task of setting yet another adventure in the bleak future, they did try something that differs it from the other urban city end of the world movies, they brought in one of mankind’s most cherished and fascinating myths, the legend of Atlantis.

Time for a quick fix if you haven’t seen this delight since the age of video: Shot in 1983, the movies is set in a near future - 1991, Miami, Florida - or rather a distant past watching it these days Mike [Christopher Connelly] is a old school action guy who comes across as a mix between Don Johnson in Miami Vice and Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones films, as he jump starts the movie with his compadre Washington [Tony King], as they rush through a rapid kidnap scenario. The dudes are paid and take off for a weekend of cruising the seas outside Miami. A helicopter blasts by them and tauntingly circles them before taking off for the horizon. We cut to an oilrig like location where Professor Peter Saunders [George Hilton] greets Doctor Cathy Rollins [Gloia Scola], and pretty quickly delivers the exposition needed. ON the bottom of the sea, a Russian atomic submarine lies abandoned, and the plan is to raise the sub, but during the preparation, they have found some strange ancient tablets that can only be encrypted by Dr. Rollins. Well a movie without conflicts is a boring movie, so as soon as they start their successful levitation of the Sub, the shit hit’s the fan and an electrical storm blacks out the entire coast. Up from the bottom of the ocean a glass encased island forces it’s way to the skies, creating such tidal waves that the oilrig topples over and crashes into the ocean. Luckily Mike and Washington are in the area and manage to save but a few survivors – James [Michele Soavi], Professor Saunders, Bill Cook [Ivan Rassimov] Frank [Giancarlo Pratoi] and Dr. Rollins and together they set of for shore, not the island which would have been the obvious choice, but for the safety of land.

At the same time that this strange aquatic phenomenon has been taking place out at sea, mysterious gangs have been roaming the streets, creating chaos and raising havoc amongst the population. Murder is their game, and the Atlantis Interceptors are their name. These gang members, led by Crystal Skull [Bruce Baron] and ancestors of Atlantis, are killing off the people of our world in their quest for the knowledge that will make the Atlantians the truthful rulers of the world once again… and after a few violent battles, the finally find the one they are looking for. Yeah, you may have guessed it, Dr. Rollins is the woman with the knowledge, and the Atlantians snatch her right from under Mike’s nose. Needless to say this is at approximately midpoint, dramatically speaking, movie wise we’re two thirds through. Mike persuades the rest of the gang that they have to go to Atlantis – the island that rose earlier – and take back Cathy. Hence starts the jungle adventure part of the movie, and also gives Deodato yet another opportunity to shoot in the Philippine jungle, which see’s most of the cast meeting their deaths in various battles against the Atlantis Interceptors. As all good things come to an end, so does even The Raiders of Atlantis, and after the the final bout between Crystal Skull and Mike, which you probably already can guess the outcome of, there's a spectacular and enigmatic meeting with Cathy, now hailed and worshiped as a god by the Atlantians as she’s cracked the code to their power. In the somewhat confusing climax, the survivors’ race towards freedom as Atlantis once again closes its glass casing and returns to the bottom of the ocean. Phew - what a rush. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

There are a few wonderful tricks in this movie, tricks that make it an enjoyable flick. The first being the way the sell Christopher Connelly’s character Mike. Just like those hard formulated James Bond movies, and the Indiana Jones flicks, The Raiders of Atlantis starts up with the culmination of the previous mission which shows Mike and his sidekick Washington breaking into a house, kidnapping some dude, punching and shooting their way back out. They deliver the kidnapped victim to the mobster who gave them the task, get paid and take off for new adventures. Just before they get to the rendezvous place, the mobsters’ henchmen deliver the following dialogue: “They made it!” – “They always do!”

This little action opening shows us that Mike and Wash’ are men of action, they don’t talk bollocks they get the job done. No task is too hard for the duo, and we also understand that they have been around the block a few times before. This is further indicated as they get closer to the rig later, and meet up with their fellow adventurers. They already know who Cross [Rassimov] is, and as they alter share a beer, and fly the helicopter they reference previous adventures. The reoccurring gag where Mike calls Washington “Wash”, instead of his new name as a reborn Muslim, Mohammed, also adds to the layers as their friendship obviously goes so far back that Washington has always, and will always be Wash.

And that’s pretty much what you take with you into the movie, as it sets up Mike and Walsh as the shit kicking action heroes that they are, and they do kick some shit in this wonderful, sometimes cheesy, but excellent action flick which manages to do the job and keep me entertained for the ninety-two minute duration of the film.

The stunt team – Rock Stuntman Team – frequently used in Italian movies, pull off some great bits here. Apart from the usual falling off bikes and high cliffs in the jungle of Atlantis (much like they fell off horses and rooftops in the Spaghetti Westerns), they also perform some amazing aerial stunts as they throw themselves out of a moving helicopter onto a moving buss containing our group of protagonists. Impressive stuff to say the least, and definitely one of the highpoints of the movie.

Needless to say the re-naming of the movie: The Raiders of Atlantis, is once again a cunning trick of the marketing department and the producers, and is only there in an attempt to cash in on the success of Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981, and the original title – I predatori di Atlantide translates as The Predators of Atlantis, is a more understandable title, as no one really raids Atlantis, but rather the Atlantians are the predators. And in some bizarre way the screenwriters have even managed to pack in a warning to mankind in the movie. After Atlantis has risen again, the Atlantians start killing mankind as they feel we have misused it. Gang leader Crystal Skull makes it quite clear when he declares his mission with the line of dialogue - ”You have violated our world, and therefore you must be punished. All of you will be executed!”


Directing under his pseudonym Roger Franklin, Deodato’s splendid The Raiders of Atlantis was edited by Vincent Thomas, or rather Vincenzo Tomassi Fulci’s main man in the edit suite, there’s some pretty grand special effects by Gino De Rossi (decapitations, classic Deodato booby trap in the jungle, deadly darts and an arrow through the head), the mighty Nick Alexander supervised he English dialogue version (and provided the Dub for Rassimov’s Bill Cook) and there’s a real chunky score by Maurizio and Guido De Angelis under the cryptic name Oliver Onions. Great combinations that make it a highly enjoyable movie, and keep an eye out for Deodato in a cameo appearance on the oil rig during the first half.


Image:
Fullfram 4:3

Audio:
Stereo. English Dialogue, Swedish Subtitles

Extras:
Well it’s taken from an old Swedish rental tape, but theirs is actually a trailer for Fabrizio De Angelis’ Thunder 1983 after the movie.

Here's the great trailer, and if you pay attention, you'll even catch Deodato in there.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage



The Bird With The Crystal Plumage
Original Title: L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo
Directed by: Dario Argento
Italy / West Germany, 1970
Giallo, 96 min
Distributed by: Blue Underground

For the last few years I’ve had a somewhat complex relationship to the films of Dario Argento. It sounds kind of silly, but I got too full of Argento. I’d spent years watching, writing and analyzing his movies – (both my film study thesis’s focused on his movies, structure and technique – not to mention the ludicrous amount of papers, articles and reviews I wrote on his movies.) and after a string of disappointing movies that bookend Sleepless 2001 – which still is a great return to form – I just couldn’t watch his stuff with out feeling let down. I guess that’s what happens when you spend too much time twisting and turning one filmmakers movies over and over and inside out on a frequent basis. The more you learn the higher demands you make, I just got fed up with the movies and I couldn’t understand why, or where he lost that magic touch.

But at the end of last year I realized that I was constantly catching, either the start, or the end of several of his movies as they screened late night on the telly. (Showtime) I found myself settling down in front of them and just couldn’t tear myself away, even though these where movies I’ve seen on more occasions than possibly healthy. With this in mind, I decided to slowly and gently return to the director who once dominated my world so profoundly, and where else to start, but with that great debut feature The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and no I’m not going to get into a deep end analysis, but just a few things that come to mind after revisiting this fantastic movie.

There’s no doubt in mind when I say that Dario Argento’s debut feature The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is one heck of a fine Giallo. It’s one of those movies that many other Gialli are measured by and with all right. But at the same time, and without taking anything away from this great movie, it’s quite unfair as this is in no way the first, or the best Giallo. Although what makes this one stand out above it’s predecessors is the artistic value that Argento brought with him to the genre… and there where even better movies to come from this “Italian Hitchcock”.

What differs Argento from the others at this point in time is that he explores much more with his camera. It’s always been apparent that Argento is a lot about imagery that makes his debut feature still today feel refreshing after watching the many Gialli made at the time. Instead of just shooting people getting out of a car, he’ll take the camera to the top of the building and shoot down towards the ground, he puts the camera not only in the subjective view of the killer, which was done several times previously, but he also adds to the emotional damage by having the audience take on the point of view of several victims. The murder of the fourth victim (fourth in the movies narrative time space, first of the movie) [Rosita Torosh], as she lies smoking in bed looking out of the doorway, turning to butt out her cigarette, and looking back to the starting point only to see the killer, is without a doubt one of the finest sequences ever put on film.

This is very apparent in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and many other of Argento’s films. He takes those extra shots, from the most unexpected angles, to add an extra level to the film, almost forcing us into certain mind frames. The slashing of the killer is more direct when we see it from the eyes of the victim. These traits of his, where taken to extensive levels a few years later when he started using the steady cam to give a fantastic flow to some of the most memorable scenes in his movies.

You know the drill, and here’s the quick fix. After a enigmatic opening, where the gloved killer, not only writes a cryptic letter, but also chooses a weapon, and stalks a young woman, Sandra Roversi [Annamaria Spogli], later paid homage to by Q.T. in Death Proof 2007, we are introduced to Sam Dalmas [Tony Musante], an American journalist working in Rome, and as in many other Dario Argento's movies, he’s only a few days away from returning home, after completing the task he has performed in Italy. During a late night stroll through Rome, he is startled when he witnesses an attempted murder of a young woman, Monica Ranieri [Eva Renzi] inside an art gallery. After talking to Inspector Morosini [Enrico Maria Salerno] for a while, he’s released back out on the streets, only to be attacked by an axe-wielding maniac. Making a narrow escape he returns to his girlfriend Julia [Suzy Kendall] and tells her all about his little incident at the art gallery… Which he obviously can’t get out of his mind, and in true Gialli fashion, he makes it his task to figure out what he really saw going on there. And what better way to waste time as he waits for the cops to return his passport to him. Needless to say, one thing leads to another, and Dalmas is slowly drawn into a tangled web of mystery as he starts fitting pieces of the puzzle to a comprehensive image.

Several techniques that Argento used as his bag of tricks in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and later movies too, became traits that define the Giallo. Emotional childhood scars – often used as explanation for the killers insanity. Music cues with a childlike naivety to them – often used to signal that there’s something in the childhood that is relevant to the killers rampage. Fine art – often used as the spark to that initial flame that plummets the killer into the depths. Here you can find them all. The rape in the killer’s background, sparks murder frenzy when exposed to the Brugel like painting, and always cued by Morricone’s childlike score. It will return in several other Argento movies like clockwork.

The amateur detective - Now this is a theme that Argento - and others, that's why it's a Gialli trait - almost consequently returned to in all his early Gialli; the common man (or woman) investigating and solving the crime that the coppers couldn’t. It’s no secret that Argento’s political views where on the left side, and it’s a fair assumption that he held little faith in the police force. Placing the protagonist in a situation where he, or she, is the one to take the reins of the investigation is a great device which you already know is one of the significant traits of the Gialli. This is also quite possibly why the critics decided to name Argento as the new Hitchcock. Which is in some ways just, but at the same time somewhat erroneous, as Hitchcock often had his protagonists set in such high level of suspicion with the police, that he, or she, had no other option than to solve the crime or be jailed for it in person. Argento frequently has the relationship be somewhat more passive in his movies. More than often the police do not have enough evidence, or suspicion to actually detain the protagonist, and after having a few polite conversations release them back on the streets, where their relationship becomes more of the nature where the protagonist tries to find clues to assist the coppers, or go all in and solve the mystery due to their own curiosity.

But even though this is considered one if the best it has some flaws, flaws that Argento solved in films to come. There’s the comic relief characters that so often destroyed many a good spaghetti westerns, here’s it’s the antique dealer, the prison snitch So Long, and the gag where Sam has eaten cat, only to have the artist selling him a painting completely misunderstand him. Sure there’s some value to inserting a few tension releases, but at the same time it’s scenes that take some of the seriousness out of the movie, and give a lighter tone to the film. I presume that this is a side effect of the Spaghetti Westerns that Argento had previously written, as the ”funny gimp” character is frequent in most of the movies of that genre. Fortunately as his films evolved, exploring darker and more sinister topics so did also his screenwriting.

In film studies the words Image System is frequently used. This refers to the finer details of the piece where certain symbols and imagery is recurrent. In Roman Polanski’s Chinatown 1974, there is a very detailed image system of water, which is apparent throughout the movie, images of dripping taps, seas, water reserves etc, and even on the audio track there’s several sometimes odd, but effective uses of water related audio. All this is because of the main subplot; the sinister plan that Noah Cross holds for the water reserve.

Looking at The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, it’s no understatement that birds are a heavy part of the image system. Sam and Carlo [Renato Romano] walk through a gallery of stuffed birds, bird claw sculptures are seen in the gallery during the initial attack, there’s the obvious one, the rare crystal bird that gives away the location of the suspected killer, and one could even go so far as commenting on the airplane collage at the very end, where image and audio of moving aircrafts are frantically cut against each other in as representing migrating birds. Argento would later continue his use of images as part of his tightly woven movies and riddle his films with relevant symbolism. Unfortunately he’s somewhat shifted away from this in his later movies, and the image systems are not as apparent any longer.

Cast wise there’s a load of great small parts to keep an eye open for, well some you can’t really miss, Reggie Nalder from Michael Armstrong’s Mark of the Devil 1973 is a nasty hit man who gives his best shot at assassinating Dalmas, and Werner Peters is that above mentioned campy antique dealer. And it may come as no surprise that Fulvio Mingozzi makes an appearance as a copper.

You can’t really talk about The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and it’s splendid look without mentioning Vittorio Storaro, the Academy Award winning cinematographer who definitely adds value to the smashing visuals of this movie. Last but not least, Ennio Morricone’s superb soundtrack is definitely one of the better soundtracks that he made for an Argento movie. Soft, tender and at times versatile and ferocious. A splendid mix and a great soundtrack. This is also one of the smaller details that I often feel Argento took a bit to far. The demand for a more modern sound is fine when he bring onboard the progressive rock of Goblin some years later, and the more experimental stages he went with them. But the movies with the contemporary heavy metal just feel so out of place these days, even with the last few years’ old school metal revival.

All in all this is the definitive starting point to getting into Dario Argento’s movies, you start here not only because it’s his first, but also because it gives you an insight into the style, tone and approach he takes to his subjects. Then you settle down to Four Flies on Grey Velvet 1971, Tenebrae 1982, Terror at the Opera 1987, The Stendhal Syndrome 1996, and Sleepless 2001 before climaxing with the masterpiece, Profonfo Rosso 1975. That’s my take on how to watch Gialli in the shape of Dario Argento. The Mothers trilogy is something quite different and a whole separate discussion.


Image:
Widescreen 2.35:1

Audio:
This is the way a DVD special edition should be presented, Dolby Digital 6.1 dts-ES, Dolby Digital 5.1m Dolby Surround 2.0, and the Original Italian Mono. English Subtitles are optional. Wonderful selection and great sound.

Extras:
This Blue Underground two-disc special edition doesn’t leave much more wanted. It’s packed with interviews, giving Argento, Vittorio Storaro, Ennio Morricone and Eva Renzi time to talk about the movie. Then there’s the great audio commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman, international trailer Italian trailer and TV spots.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist



The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist
Original Title: Il cinico, I’infame, il violento
Directed by: Umberto Lenzi
Italy, 1977
Poliziotteschi, 100min
Distributed by: Alpha Digital


Of all the genre’s that Umberto Lenzi tried his directing skills in, I feel that the Poliziotteschi flicks are among his finest. Obviously there are several brilliant entries of his to be found on the other sphere’s – Cannibal Ferox 1981, Nightmare City 1980, The Oasis of Fear 1971, Seven Bloodstained Orchids 1972 and Eyeball 1975 to name a few, but it’s the Poliziotteschi that I find myself returning to and rediscovering with a new passion that wasn’t there the first time around. The Tomas Milian pieces, like Almost Human 1974, Rome; Armed to the Teeth 1976 and The Rat the Cynic and the Fist, stand out and have against all odds stood up to the tests of time.


The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist is a fantastic piece of Italian genre cinema where the title possibly refers to Sergio Leone’s splendid spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 1966 and saying that, there’s more to the movie than just a cryptic title. Maurizio Merli is obvious the Fist as he slugs his way through the antagonists of the film, then there’s Tomas Milian in one of his finest performances ever, as Luigi “the Chinaman” Maietto, without a doubt the cynic of the piece, leaving John Saxon as the rat, or rather the Infamous as the original titles call him. Some stuff just get’s lost in translation doesn’t it.

Performances are tight, and well acted, Merli is great in this sequel to Lenzi’s previous piece Rome: Armed to the Teeth, which also sees Merli in the role of Inspector Tanzi. But the movie definitely belongs to Tomas Milian in a performance that out shines both Merli and Saxon by yards. He owns this piece with his sneering, sinister criminal who just oozes cynicism towards the law officials, the mob Boss Frank Di Maggio and even towards his once cohorts that he eliminates on his struggle towards the top of the food chain.


As usual, here’s a quick fix on the movie to remind you, or wake your interest for the film: Leonardo Tanzi, once Rome’s most feared police inspector has handed in his badge and now works as an editor of murder mystery novellas. (Watch the scene closely and you’ll see that its Gialli books he’s working with) When he learns that upcoming criminal Luigi “The Chinaman” Maietto has been released from the pen, he’s not so surprised to find his own obituary waiting for him under his door when he returns home. Shortly there after Maietto’s hit men make their entry [Bruno Corazzari and Claudio Undari], and after taking a few shots at Tanzi, they leave him for dead. Once a cop, always a cop is the pathos that Tanzi lives by, and after his former boss, Commissioner Astalli [Renzo Palmer] forces him into hiding so that they can lure the guilty by claiming that the legendary Tanzi is dead, Tanzi becomes a one man vigilante working outside the law. Obviously Tanzi doesn’t hide from anyone, and pretty soon he gets himself involved in rescuing a colleagues young sister from the hands of a pornographer who keeps his models/prostitutes on a strict diet of smack. (Bo A. Vibenius Thriller - A Cruel Picture anyone?) Herein also lies the connection to Maietto.

Trying his damndest to move in on American mobster Frank Di Maggio’s [Saxon] turf, Maietto is pushing the good old “Protection” racket, which obviously clashes with Di Maggio’s interests and Tanzi’s morale values. Slowly but surely the three opposing parts twist and grind their way through a grid of double crossing, enforcing violence, cunning heists and sadistic actions towards a climax, a climax that comes with a splendid blaze of glory as the three leads finally stand face to face.

What I feel makes this piece quite entertaining is that there are so many rifts and conflicts on both sides of the law. There are the conflicts on the criminal side, Di Maggio vs. the newcomer Maietto, and there’s certain tension between Tanzi and commissioner Astalli, which gives a deeper dimension to both the characters and the narrative. It’s an amazingly entertaining ride which I already said stands out among both the genre and Lenzi’s work.

Along the way there’s some great supporting cast performances by Bruno Corazzari, Claudio Undari, and the man who is almost everything worth watching Fulcio Mingozzi makes yet another short appearance. It’s a pretty male dominated movie, as nearly no women hold any specific role in the plot, other than scared victims for Merli to rescue and save, although Gabriella Lepori does have a bit of importance as she brings the narrative to an important junction, and connects the pornographer’s mischief to the racket Maietto has going.

Now there’s no way to discuss this movie without mentioning the great Ernesto Gastaldi. Ernesto Gastaldi’s name in the screenwriting credits is enough to make me want to watch the movie. If you are a regular reader, you will now that I can rant on about on his resume – Bitto Albertini’s Human Cobras 1971 and all those great Sergio Martino, Luciano Ercoli and Lenzi movies to name a few names - and there’s no doubt that Gastaldi is among the greatest of the Italian screenwriters. He frequently manages to bring depth, and complexity to the characters that so usually are mere generic personality. Just take a look at what he did to Maurizio Merli’s character police detective Leonardo Tanzi in the two movies of that series. In the second of the films, The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist, he injures the lead character, Tanzi, early on in the movie only to have him rubbing his sore wound over and over again. It also works as an instrument to give the character some personality and bring him down to a human level. He is vulnerable, but still doesn’t back down from busting up a few criminals despite his injuries, even if his actions make him sore. It’s something that action hero’s seldom consider as they move from one scene of severe damage to full fledged ass kicking without any side effects in the next scene. If you pay attention to the names of the writers in the opening titles, you will also spot Dardano Sachetti among the writers. With movies like Dario Argento’s Cat o’ Nine Tails 1971, Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood 1971, almost everyone of Lucio Fulci’s classics, Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes 1977, Zombie 1979, City of the Living Dead 1980 and the others, Antonio Margheriti’s Cannibal Apocalypse 1980 and many many more, it’s no understatement that Sachetti is quite possibly the greatest of them all, and with the two giants of Italian screenwriting working off a Sauro Scavolini story, on the same movie, there’s no more reason to hesitate about this one. The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist is a must see movie with an excellent script, great actors, and a terrific entry into the Poliziotteschi genre.

Franco Micalizzi’s score is excellent, and holds some strong reminders of Stelvio Cipriani’s scores for movies within the genre, although with Micalizzi’s unique fully orchestrated funk jazz umph to it. For some strange reason the Soundtrack is available under the name Violence… Once again Eugenio Alabiso’s editing is tight and ferocious, adding to the rapid pacing of the scenes, and thanks to the widescreen presentation that I recall wasn’t there in the previous vhs version I used to have of this magnificent movie, Federico Zanni’s excellent cinematography come to it’s right. Certain scenes could actually be lifted from this movie to show cinematography students the power of composition and value added to a scene by simple effects as framing the shot in the right way.

The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist is a definitive statement to the craftsmanship of Umberto Lenzi, a guy who easily get’s lost as a second rate director among the many cheesier of his movies, especially the later ones, but this one is a gem and proves that Lenzi really had the knack for putting forth tight action movies that still work perfectly to this day.



Image:
Widescreen 16:9

Audio:
Dolby Digital Mono, English Dubbed version, which will give you a few laughs with the voice Saxon has been given.

Extras:
Nothing special, just the original theatrical trailer.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered – Volume 1



Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered – Volume 1
Directed by: Mike Baronas
USA, 2008
Documentary, 225 min
Distributed by: Paura Entertainment

Everyone I know who has the slightest knowledge of Euro Horror, has at least has one Lucio Fulci story to tell. Be it a memory of his films, the scores to those fantastic movies, the powerful imagery, some even being in the presence of the great maestro himself.

I’ve been a fan of Fulci’s movies since I first started watching horror on video. His stuff was among the first movies to be released on video over here in Sweden, and they made an impression on me that is important to me still today. And being a Fulci buff, theres no quiestion about the fact that I do try to read, watch and listen to everything that I can which can tell me more about this fascinating director and his movies. The latest piece that I picked up is Mike Baronas splendid documentary on the life and times of Lucio Fulci, Paura : Lucio Fulci Remembered – Volume 1.

Certain days stay with you for life. Certain deaths affect you and you clearly remember exactly what you where doing at the time you first heard about them. I’ve had a few of them during my lifetime, the first being the day that Elvis left the building back in 1977.

Lucio Fulci’s passing was definitely one of those strange days, or rather nights. One of those emotional moments that probably will stay with me for a long time, even though there was no freak accident, or chock suicide involved. It was just unexpected and really startled me.

At the time, internet was still only in its early stages, and was nowhere like it is today, faxes, letters and telephone where the way’s people stayed in touch. Today it’s a piece of cake to get online and find out exactly every detail that you want about almost anything, but back then it was different and information wasn’t accessible at the click of a button.

The night I learned that Fulci passed my mate and I where sat preparing the latest newsletter/fanzine for Art Video Club, a small movie distribution organization consisting of me and two friends, who saw it as our mission to make uncut videos available to our members, be it imports from the UK, Greek Ex-rentals, those great Dutch releases or imports from René as CinéCity and Bill at Midnight Video. At the time we’d been up and running for a few years, and among our contacts where the guys [Steve Aquilina] at Hard to Get Video. Hard to Get Videos, based in Hamburg, where responsible for releasing restored, uncut editions of Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, Umberto Lenzi’s Eaten Alive, and Fulci’s New York Ripper on both Vhs and Laserdisc.

These guys had obviously met Fulci on several occasions, including the Eurofest in London 1994, and where in the process of getting the then unseen Nightmare Concert [aka Cat in the Brain] out to the fans. There was also a talk about us coming down to these guys and meeting Fulci at one point in time. I can’t remember the exact circumstances – possibly that it was for a signing session in their store? But it was talked about on more than one occasion. So when they sent us a fax telling us of the sad news, we didn’t question the authenticity of their comment. All that was written on that paper was “Fulci has died! – Call you later!” But still, not really wanting to believe I got right on the phone and started shaking the jungle drums to see what more I could find out. I called Allan Bryce editor of UK magazine The Darkside and asked if he’d heard he rumour… It was fairly common that rumours like this circulated at the time. There was even one, supposedly spread by Jess Franco that Amando De Ossario had passed, which obviously was fake, and every week, there where new rumours of this one and that one had passed on. You never really knew certainly. Anyhow, I talked to Bryce, who seemed just as startled as we had become, and he said that he had to make some calls of his own, and we agreed to talk again later. A few hours later, he called and confirmed that it was true, the maestro had passed. There would be no more movies from the godfather of gore.

I think that part of the reason for the shock that I and everyone else who loved Fulci’s movies are due to several factors. He’d made a triumphant return to our consciousness as he attended two of the major horror movie events shortly before he died. The Fangoria Weekend of Horror in 1996 and Trevor Barley’s Eurofest two years earlier. I kicked myself each and every time I missed attending the Eurofests' – even with the invites from Barley in person – I never managed to get my sad-ass over the UK to enjoy the festivities. Festivals that saw Paul Naschy, Jean Rollin, Brigitte Lahaie and Lucio Fulci as headlining guests are growing rarer by the day, and are cherished highlights from those who actually where there. These festivals of horror showed a Fulci completely different from the Fulci that we thought we knew. The Fulci we had heard all about was the grumpy misogynist that didn’t like taking to people, was constantly in a bad mood, and just a complicated guy. Not saying that those things where true, but that wasn’t the person those who met fans and attended these two astonishing nights. It was Fulci the maestro relishing in the attention, signing numerous amounts of autographs, and taking time with his fans.

This “revelation” and sympathetic side of Fulci along with the excitation of his project in the works, Mask of Wax, scripted by Daniele Stroppa, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, to be produced by Argento and directed by Fulci was something of a super band of horror movies, the anticipation was immense, and it could have been something absolutely amazing. Also there was that wave of Fulci movies that swept over the world, rereleased Videos and Laserdiscs - remember just how deep you had to dig to pay for that Japanese Laserdisc of Gates of Hell? – these I’m sure just all added fuel to the fire of anticipation of things to come.

The rest is history. He never made that last movie, the festivals became his last public appearances, and Fulci became even more of a legend than before.

Many, many books, articles (I wrote a large piece for Swedish Magasin Defekt, and our Art Video fanzine), and various pieces where, have and still are written on the maestro, and it’s all done with the outmost respect for Lucio. Books like Stephen Thrower’s Beyond Terror – The Films of Lucio Fulci, and the late Chas Balun’s Beyond the Gates, are cornerstones in any Fulci fans collections, and highly sought after sources of information.

Mike Baronas, Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered - Volume 1, is an impressive piece of work, collecting memories, anecdotes, insight, and loving tributes to Lucio Fulci from nearly ninety interviews with colleagues, cast and crew members who all share their thoughts on Fulci. There are many stories that you definitely haven’t heard before that will make you laugh, tales that will make you feel part of the alliance of Fulci, because you will feel for the man after watching this documentary. THere's no end to the names featured in the interviews, and the movie reads like a Who's who of Italian cinema: Enzo G. Castellari, Luigi Cozzi, Umberto Lenzi, Sergio Martino, Renato Poselli, Michele Soavi, Fabio Frizzi, Riz Ortolani, Catriona McColl, Florinda Bolkan, Al Cliver and on and on and on. It's an impressive, if not the most impressive cast ever.

Baronas is no stranger to the world of genre cinema interviews and has been one of the men behind many of he supplementary interviews that you most likely have seen on your Euro Cinema DVD’s if you like me watch that stuff with a passion. It’s probably also one of the keys to the impressive amount of interviews conduced for this project.

But the most impressive thing about this documentary, apart from the stunning amount of time that must have been put down on tracking down and interviewing all these people – is the respect that has gone into the project. The love for the maestro is what makes it worthwhile spending almost three hours watching people just talk candidly about a guy they knew, or worked with. And three hours never went by so fast. There are moments of laughter, sadness, and all in an emotional shroud.

It would be easy to complain about minor technical stuff, but that’s not what this document is about. This is about a fascination and respect for one of the most complex movie directors to ever have lived. You probably know that Fulci lived a pretty hard life, had some serious luggage to carry, and only ever really wanted to make great movies that pleased him and his fans. He was never really accepted within the movie making business or the critics or either. But we are all part of an alliance of fans that know they are wrong.

I’ve always been a sucker for artists who are or have been underdogs in the cynical world of TV and Film. The frustrating anxiety of trying to put your best into something that doesn’t have a budget to meet the needs, or a time schedule to do the project justice is something that I come across everyday in my line of work. And it does ware you down.

Also there are a few names that I find missing from the large amount of interviews, but then again this is only Volume 1, and with that in mind there’s no lack of stars one can imagine on the eventual second volume. Baronas’, who has a genre magazine background, is also a very active on the convention scene and is a key figure in many of the Euro genre stars appearances at these events.

Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered Volume 1 is an excellent addition to any Fulci fan’s collection. It will give you a further insight, knowledge and understanding of one of Italy’s greatest, most gifted and definitely most talented directors ever. It comes with my highest recommendation, and should be purchased by anyone who at least once in their lifetime stated that they love, like, enjoyed, or even dislike the films of Lucio Fulci.

Get yourself over to Paura Productions right now and buy this excellent, impressive and definitive document right now.


Image:
Full frame

Audio:
Stereo. Italian dialogue is subtitled in English.

Extras:
There’s one Easter egg that gives director Mike Baronas an opportunity time to discus his passion, respect and fascination for Lucio Fulci, which really could have been part of the main documentary, as the driving force of the project is at least as interesting as the people featured on the documentary.