Thursday, October 29, 2009

Grapes of Death

Grapes of Death
Aka: Pestilence
Original Title: La Raisins de la mort
Directed by: Jean Rollin
France, 1978
Horror / Zombies / Psychosis, 85min
Distributed by: Njuta Films / Another World Entertainment.

Often referred to as one of Jean Rollin’s few Zombie movies together with Zombie Lake 1981, and The Living Dead Girl 1982, it's fair to say that Grapes of Death is by far the best of the three movies. Although I feel that Grapes of Death has more in common with Romero’s psychological horror The Crazies 1973, than his zombie classic Night of the Living Dead 1968, because there are really no zombies in the movie! There are buss loads (well a dozen at least) of degenerated psychos that want to kill everyone that they lay eyes on dragging themselves slowly through the movie, with the intent to kill people, but they don’t eat them and they turn before they die.

Grapes of Death has a rather straightforward narrative without any specific complications making it an enjoyable film to wind down to. After a title sequence where we see farmhands spraying the crops at the Roublés vineyard, we are set upon a train where Élisabeth [Marie-Georges Pascal] is on her way to the vineyard run by her boyfriend Michel. The same guy who just told the workers of the title sequence to get back out in the fields as one of them returns to the farm complaining that the pesticide is making him ill. Élisabeth and her travelling companion soon encounter the same worker on the train and he now transforming into a murdering beast due to the insecticide. From this initial kill, Élisabeth’s friend, it’s all about survival, reaching the destination the farmyard and Michel. For as you will realise after the climax, this movie is in a sinister way all about the things you will do for love.

Smaller and larger obstacles are encountered and overcome, with a, for Rollin measures quite small amount of nudity thrown in to keep the audience happy. Élisabeth is constantly surrounded by death and carnage as she sweeps through the wonderful landscapes of Southern France, trying to stay one foot ahead of the infected. She arrives at a farm only to be confronted by the manic farmer, she finds a car and is attacked once again. Up on the woodlands, Élisabeth runs into the blind Lucie [Mirella Rancelot] who is trying to make her way back to the village she comes from. Together they find their way to the village… …only to be learn that the entire village is infected by the strange virus and death comes knocking big time in a really violent sequence which possibly makes this movie the first French splatter flick.

As the infected close in on Élisabeth, she’s saved in the nick of time by a strange ally; Brigitte Lahaie. French adult film star Brigitte Lahaie makes her debut as part of Rollin’s stable of actors with Grapes of Death, and you could consider this movie the breaking point where Lahaie started to shift into movies outside the pornographic sphere. But ironically most parts she ever played after her career in the adult industry where still heavily dependent on her erotic image and saw her on more than one occasion acting in the nude. (Even Fabrice Du Welz has her play on her eroticism in his evocative and disturbing psychological thriller The Ordeal 2004) Jean Rollin at least tried to motivate why she needs to get her clothes of in Grapes of Death as she does it in a semi-seductive manner to prove that she is not infected and has no marks of the disease. Well in reality she has the infection, but no visual scars or gooey boils. But just wait, as she will be hideously disfigured before the scene is over.

After making and loosing new allies along the way, Élisabeth finally reaches the farm, and is reunited with her lover Michel, but in a last twist of fate, tables are turned friends turn into foes, and after the violent climax you find yourself wondering which monster/killer is the most vicious, the ones who do it due to the infection, or the ones who kill for revenge?

With today’s infectious outbreak/zombie flicks, think Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead 2004, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later 2002, and Juan Carlos Fresnadillio’s 28 Weeks Later 2007, the movie is rather slow, but that’s what you would expect from a Jean Rollin movie, a slow pace that relies more on the hypnotic imagery and atmosphere than dark, menacing urban locations with speedy monsters chasing protagonists down narrow hallways.

Considering that more than thirty years have passed since Rollin shot this flick, it’s fair to point out that this could possibly be the first movie with ”fast” zombies/infected, as there is no slow Romero-esque dragging of the legs here. The infection victims are plain people trying to cope with their new state of being. And this is one of the finer points of the movie, up till Élisabeth reaches the village; everyone she meets is torn between their polarised emotions. On one side the lust to kill, on the other a deep regret and frustration over loosing control. This reaches it’s peak as the infected Lucas, decapitates Lucie and crying begs for forgiveness as he snogs the head. It’s a wonderful little detail that isn’t too common in the genre, as you rarely encounter an antagonist with remorse and sorrow of being the monster.

If you boil this flick down to a concentrated form it is a brilliant idea that Jean Rollin with co-writers Jean-Pierre Bouyxou (yes the actor from several Rollin and Jesus Franco movies) and Christian Meunier (who did sod all after writing and shooting for second unit on this movie) have come up with. If you wanted an infection to spread rapidly and aggressively, how best to transport it but through wine, the national drink of France. At the same time there is a smart critique towards the use of toxins in modern agriculture, much like the themes used by Jorge Grau in the superb Let Sleeping Corpses Lie 1974.

Just like the Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Grapes of Death has a very interesting and mezmerising score. This one composed by Philippe Sissman, who only ever scored one more film, much later in 1991, but his score to Grapes of Death is interesting because of its minimalistic use of electronica. The almost avant-garde keyboard beep and blips suit the movie perfectly and really bring a futuristic and eerie mood to the film.

Grapes of Death is unlike any other Jean Rollin film, mostly because of the storyline and narrative, that is zombies/infected instead of the usual sexy vampires, and it would be unfair to say that he temporarily shifted away from his usual slow pace and poetic imagery, because in all honesty Grapes of Death is still quite slow, almost meditatively slow, which I why I’m so fond of it. The imagery is still very Rollin-ish, over grown woodlands and castle ruins as the camera almost hovers through the landscapes that he so often returned to. The movie was shot in the Cevennes National Park in Southern France, witch had Rollin and cinematographer Claude Bécognée use the landscapes to the maximum. Shooting under severe cold is never an easy task, and I’m’ sure that you have heard the story of Lahaie being so cold during her nude scene that she couldn’t speak her lines.

You have to keep in mind when you watch Jean Rollin movies, that this is a director that was so terribly shy that he instead chose to focus on themes, imagery and atmosphere in his movies over the acting. Not to say that the actors are bad, but in some way I guess that's why most of his actors are seen in his film only and never again, and the ones he managed to work with, like Lahaie, the twins Catherine and Marie-Pierre Castel to name a few, where used repeatedly in his films. He spent ages researching his movies and drafting the best possible people around him. During the shoots was said to be so shy that he didn't dare direct the actors. Instead he preferred to hide behind the camera, sometimes leaving the set, and letting second unit step in during the adult sequences of his films. There's something in that fragile delicacy and I see a strange paradox to the casts and shyness that fascinates me, as many of Rollin's leading ladies where former adult movie actors whom he offered roles outside of their usual parts in pornography. You wouldn't expect shyness and tenderness from a director so strongly associated with erotic imagery.

The suspense elements are very well composed. Working with great balance Rollin frequently presents the threat, isolates the key characters and keeps the audience in anticipation as he builds the suspense ever so gently, before having it erupt in a gory, gooey and emotional finale in each case. Grapes of Death, is one of my favourite Rollin movies because of this, the threat-build-release schematic works wonders and he really never stays in them long enough for them to grow tiresome, there’s always a new twist or turn as Élisabeth makes new companions that may, or not, help her in her quest to reach her goal and live through it. A wonderful film that definitely should be checked out if you are into that brooding Eurohorror scene of the 70-80’s.

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1

French Dialogue, Dolby Digital Stereo. Swedish, Danish, Norwegian or Finnish subtitles optional.

The original trailer for Grapes of Death, trailers for Rollin's The Living Dead Girl, Demoniacs, Requiem for a Vampire and the fantastic Lips of Blood, and a slideshow of stills from the movie and even a few scenes not featured in the movie.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Last Cannibal World

Last Cannibal World
Aka: Jungle Holocaust, The Last Survivor, Cannibal.
Original Title: Ultimo mondo cannibale
Directed by: Ruggero Deodato

Drama/Horror/Cannibals, 92 min

Italy, 1977

Distributed by: Noble Entertainment

Among all the strange and bizarre sub-genres ever to come out of the wonderful world of Italian cinema, the brief, but impactful cannibal genre must be among the most provocative and disturbing. Perhaps the genre itself isn’t such a strange niche as it in many ways is a progressive evolution of the previous Mondo genre perfected by directors like Franco Prosperi, Gualtiero Jacopetti. Gianni Proia and Luigi Scattini.

Say the words cannibal film and two definitive movies come to mind, Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (aka Make them Die Slowly) 1981 and Ruggero Deodato's landmark gut-muncher Cannibal Holocaust 1980 come to mind. Both landmark movies that stand out and still are considered quite offensive and provocative.

Where the nazisploitation traits are sleazy Germans tormenting naked women in their bordello concentration camps, the nunsploitation has sinful nuns engaging in lesbian romps and hailing the forces of darkness, no cannibal movie is complete without loin clothed savages tearing open the stomachs of their victims, cultural clashes between modern and primitive worlds and a fair deal of violent animal deaths. The killing of animals in the genre is still today a sensitive subject, which the directors still are at unease talking about. But in it’s own unique way it’s part of the genre, and it is within here that the movies have their historic debt to the Mondo genre. It’s only a natural progression of the re-enacted rituals and lifestyles of exotic cultures once showcased as documentary footage in the Mondo genre would be brought to life as part of dramatic narrative. This is also what director's of the genre fall back on. I was only showing the primitives everyday hunt and preparation of food, and all animals killed in front of the camera where eaten by the primitives. A rather pale excuse as these scenes of barbaric slaying is still what makes these movies disturbing, but then again so is any footage of slaughter, be it by primitives in the jungle or in your nearest processing plant. Death is a bitch to watch whey you know it’s for real. But no matter how haunting the real animal deaths are there is a vital point to why they are such an important part of the genre’s traits and narrative. The real violence enhances the illusionary violence that the characters are put in front of. We know that the monkey/crocodile/turtle snuffed it for real, there’s nothing but my common sense retaining me from believing that the human deaths on screen are fake. Which is most likely why the cannibal genre was surrounded in controversy and frequently banned as audiences where fooled into believing that the movies could have been snuff films. But for those still in doubt, actors Me Me Lai, Ivan Rassimov and Robert Kerman starred in many more cannibal movies pre and post Last Cannibal World.

Deodato’s Last Cannibal World wasn’t the first of the strange niche, as Umberto Lenzi beat him to it with five years when he directed his Man From Deep River in 1972 which is considered to be the one that set it all in motion. Although Deodato will forever be associated to the genre because of his classic masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust from 1980, a truly disturbing and impactful movie, which leaves no one untouched after a viewing. Directors like Sergio Martino, Mario Gariazzo and Michele Massimo Tarantini also jumped in on the genre, well jumped on isn’t really fair as the majority of these fantastic directors where all “directors for hire” guys, which is why they all followed each others leads when the genre demands turned, but still they all got in to their elbows and went with the flow churning out some savage movies in the obscure niche. Even Jesus Franco, and Joe D’Amato got in on it and brought all their sexploitation traits with the, producing some really weird entries in the subgenre. Who could ever have thought up the movie Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals 1978 but good old Joe D’Amato. During the eighties, the themes once again changed, the cannibal genre was abandoned in favour of the undead zombies, and slasher hybrids which dominated the ever inspirational American scene. A few years ago the late Bruno Mattei tried re-vitalising the cannibal niche with a few low budget attempts, but considering that nobody really noticed, it's fair to say that the genres time has passed long ago.

The producers of Man from Deep River approached Lenzi with a proposal to direct Last Cannibal World, in some ways a sequel to his previous movie, but when Lenzi demanded to much pay, producer Giorgio Carlo Rossi went after the second name on his list, Ruggero Deodato.

Staying with the idea of dramatised realism, Deodato starts his movie by proclaiming that it is based on true events, that this is the true story of Robert Harper and his terrifying ordeal. A group of people Harper [Massimo Foschi], Rolf [Ivan Rassimov who held the leading role in Lenzi’s Man From Deep River 1972 and Eaten Alive 1980], Charlie the pilot and Swan find themselves stranded in the middle of a god awful jungle on the island of Mindano after landing their small airplane on an overgrown landing strip. Charlie sets about repairing the landing gear as Robert and Rolf shoot into the jungle looking for the team supposed to meet them there. In a few minutes they find the remains of the previous teams’ radio, and set off towards the camp location. Obviously it’s abandoned and Ubaldo Continiello’s rather bleak score set’s the tone as flutes taunt us and bring us into a mood of mystery. After finding bloody weapons apparently made by primitives Robert rushes into the jungle and witnesses the first animal death as an anaconda wrestles and chomps down on a large monitor lizard. Nature at work, survival of the fittest, and it is shocking as the snake swallows the giant lizard, which definitely set’s a tone for the movie.

Back at the plane Charlie the pilot starts to curse the two men as it will soon be too late to take off. With this said Robert and Rolf find the rotting remains of the other team… and as night falls the fight for survival begins. Forced to spend the night in the hazardous jungle with the knowledge that the “last cannibals left in the world” are most likely watching them as they speak, taking shelter inside the small airplane. Going out to retrieve herself, Anna is snatched by something sneaking in the rough terrain surrounding the craft. The next morning, the men venture out into the jungle to look for Swan. Charlie finds her dress and grabbing it triggers a deadly trap. Charlie is skewered and dies in front of Robert and Rolf who scramble deeper into the jungle only to come upon a group of primitives enjoying a barbeque. You don’t need any previous knowledge of genre to understand that it’s the remains of the well-done Swan that they are chomping down.

For the next ten minutes Robert and Ralph build themselves as tiny raft and set of towards salvation down the river. But where there are rivers, there’s bound to be rapids and once again the forces of nature strike down man. Climbing ashore on the riverbank Robert tries to come to terms with the fact that he’s the only survivor of their small assemblage. Obviously Robert never watched any nature programmes and is really ignorant as he hungrily binges on some strange mushrooms he finds. After fainting he’s rudely awakened by the savages who drag him along to their amazing camp inside a cave. This is where the movie gets really interesting, as modern man meets primitive culture in a wonderful clash of cultures.

The first thing the cannibals do is humiliate him and reduce him to their level, tearing off his strange clothes leaving him naked just as they are. Screaming and objecting to their treatment of him Robert sees Pulan [Me Me Lai who also starred in Lenzi’s Man From Deep River and Eaten Alive] make her entrance as she pokes his strange white flesh, yanking the elastic in his underwear and finally ripping them off. Robert is now equal to the savages. As the savages saw Robert arrive by plane, they want to see this strange god like entity fly and hoist him up by a rope to the top of the cave. Needless to say Robert can’t fly and as they repeatedly rise and drop him towards the ground he passes out. This scene is reminiscent of the coming of age ritual that Richard Harris goes through in Elliot Silverstein’s A Man Called Horse from 1970. A Man Called Horse is very much the same template and definitely an inspiration upon the cannibal genre, as it deals with the same topic. The savage rituals and crashes between primitive and modern worlds.

The primitives go about their everyday life, as Robert sits starving in his primitive cage but for some strange reason Pulan takes pity, or perhaps it’s fascination, upon Robert and starts befriending him. As we reach half point Deodato reminds us of the cruel and harsh reality of nature as we are shown how the cannibals capture and kill not only a huge snake, but also a crocodile which is sliced open to reveal it’s still beating heart. The obligatory nature documentary footage is here too, as yet another snake snares and swallows a bat whole. The footage acts as reminder of the carnage gone before, and also an effective tool to sell the illusion of reality in the scenes about to come.

Finally Robert get’s his big break, he manages to escape after his cage door is left unsecured and snatching Pulan by the arm the two set off towards the deep deep jungle. The tables are turned in more than one way as Robert is now the predator and Pulan the victim, after all he has kidnapped her. Civilized man plummets deeper and deeper into his repressed primal instincts and as he almost reaches the bottom he rapes Pulan. Robert is now the alpha male and Pulan his subordinate, which is enhanced in the next scene where Pulan hunts for food and serves Robert a delicious meal of fresh caught fish, fruit and berries.

While seeking shelter from a monsoon rainstorm the couple take refuge in a cave, a cave that reveals itself as the hiding place of Ralph! He also survived the ordeal on the rapids, but has a gangrenous knee injury after his bout with the forces of nature. The two friends and Pulan make the most of their safe place as they plan their route out of the jungle. But in any self respecting script, there has to be downfall after joy and happiness, and the script writers of Last Cannibal World [Gianfranco Cleric, Tito Carpi, Renzo Genta and Giorgio Carlo Rossi, yeah the producer] are well aware of this as they unleash the final reel of savagery upon us. Pulan attempts to lead the two men back to their aircraft and obviously they run straight into the cannibals. If you where waiting for mayhem, this is where you will find it in the most disturbing scene of the movie as Pulan is captured, decapitated, gutted and finally roasted before the cannibals consume her freshly grilled flesh.

Coming to it's climax, the movie sees Robert going head to head with the cannibal leader and becomes what he has been fighting against all this time, the civilized man becomes a savage. After beating the leader to death Robert embowels him and frantically gobbles down the tribe leaders innards. Seeing him eating the flesh of their leader, the cannibal let Robert escape and they finally get to see their strange visitor fly off into the skies.

For an early entry into this bizarre subgenre, Last Cannibal World is still an entertaining movie. Its ferocious, disturbing and packs a punch even though it a times is somwhat tedious. Unfortunately the movie was to be overshadowed by the movie magnificent Cannibal Holocaust that Deodato would make a few years later. Daniele Alabasio’s editing is worth pointing out, as instead of focusing on the onscreen violence, he edits his way through the violence towards the cast with such ferocity that the images are almost impossible to see clearly; hence creating mental images that surpass what really was shown. I also have to comment on Paolo Ricci’s special effects, because they are top notch. Keep in mind that in 1976 this harsh violence wasn’t as common as it is in the horror genre these days. It was only a few years previously that George A. Romero showed zombies eating human flesh in Night of the Living Dead 1968, and two years before he unleashed his Dawn of the Dead 1978, setting the guide lines for the splatter genre. People hadn’t really seen stuff like this, and packaged with all that real animal violence, there’s no wonder that the films where controversial. After creating special effects for many of the infamous Cannibal flicks, Ricci later worked with the special effects on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia 1983. For Deodato and screenwriter Gianfranco Clerici it’s quite apparent that they planted the seeds which they three years later would reap with the masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust, where instead of observing the carnage, they would turn the cameras on themselves and question the genre and it’s origins the Mondo genre in a remarkable way. But Cannibal Holocaust is a completely different movie which apart from being extremely gruesome, also holds a lot of social and political criticism that makes up part of the legacy it brought with it. Although that is a completely different story.

Image: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

Audio: Optional English or Italian dialogue, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian or Danish subtitles are available.

Extras: Well unfortunately there are no extras at all apart from the theatrical trailers for each individual film. The trailer for Last Cannibal World is by far the most spectacular as it sees Deodato and Crew paying homage to those great Alfred Hitchcock walking through the set trailers, as they talk about the shoot and the perils they have encountered during it. But considering that this is a rather price worthy collection “The Cannibal Collection” packaged with Lenzi’s Man From Deep River and Mario Gariazzo’s Amazonia: The Catherine Miles Story, I feel that you are getting to great genre pieces and one lesser (Amazonia, which focuses more on Elvire Audray getting her kit off than the horrors of confronting the cannibals) which makes up for the lack of extras.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Skräcken har 1000 Ögon

Skräcken har 1000 Ögon
Aka: Fear has 1000 Eyes,
Sensuous Sorceress
Directed by: Torgny Wickman

Horror / Eroticism, 73 min

Sweden, 1970

Distributed by: KlubbSuper8

If I ever had to single out a bunch of Swedish Exploitation flicks for an uninitiated fellow cineaste, then this would be among the few selected. The movies of Arne Mattson and Bo A. Vibenius in all respect, but Torgny Wickman’s Skräcken har 1000 Ögon (literally, Fear has 1000 Eyes) is one of my favourite Swedish exploitation flicks. Not because it ‘s very scary, neither is it especially erotic either, (there’s more nudity on the TV these days) but I dig it because it holds a magnificent ambience, it is a great document of a very special time in cinematic history and is pretty dammed near the witchcraft/occult/ exploitation flicks that directors like Renato Polselli and Luigi Batazella where churning out a few years later. Perhaps mostly recognised for his 1969 shock/documentary/educational/explicit study Kärlekens Språk (The Language of Love) 1969, Wickman's Skräcken har 1000 Ögon is something completely different, and the first ever attempt at combing eroticism with horror produced in Sweden.

Starting with a close up of dripping blood and the words “I hereby dedicate myself to the devil!” being written with the blood there’s a tone set for the movie which gets right to the point, there’s no need fiddling about and wondering what the heck this movie is going to be about, as it’s all there in an awesome opening sequence. The movie contains a fair deal of witchcraft, occult references and the complementary nudity to go with pagan rituals is all there. But for the most of the time there is more to be asked for, like a short scene where the village doctor’s x-ray plates show one of the villagers wearing an inverted cross. We already know who it is, Hedvig, and there’s nothing made of the find but a shallow “Do you see what I see? An inverted cross!” And there’s no name on the plates…” remarked by the Doctor and his staff. It’s opportunities like this that make the story feel somewhat wasted. Never the less the movie is quite fun anyhow, and sometimes you don’t need a perfect story to enjoy a movie. Especially if the movie holds a great atmosphere, has a splendid cast and a fabulous score to keep the mood flowing.

Sven [Hans Wahlgren] is a vicar in a small village in Sweden, he and his pregnant wife Anna [Anita Sanders, who had a short career in Italy and held both smaller and larger roles in movies by Fellini, Pasolini, Tinto Brass, Alberto De Martino and Pupi Avati] return home from a trip to Spain to be greeted by Sven’s aunt, Barbro [Barbro Hjort af Ornäs, who not only stared in many Swedish erotica movies (keeping her clothes on of course) but also acted in several Bergman movies too] Shortly after, their friend and maid Hedwig [the stunning Solveig Andersson] moves in with them. Andersson who you may have seen in the leading role of Wickman’s previous film Eva – den utstötta 1969 (Eva: Swedish and Underage), which also featured Wahlgren, and Hjort af Ornäs. She can also be seen as Christina Lindberg’s bordello mate in Bo A. Vibenius extraordinary Thriller – En Grym Film 1974 (Thriller - A Cruel Picture, Aka They Call Her One Eye)

Anna is suffering from her pregnancy, she can’t sleep and she’s having strange visions, and hasn’t slept for ages. She can’t stand lying next to Sven who sleeps like a baby all through the night. Hedwig starts her manipulation on a small scale suggesting that Sven could sleep in the library as to let Anna rest in peace. Obviously Anna suggests this to Sven who without any major objections gathers up his stuff and shuffles into the guestroom. Needless to say Anna turns up in her sexiest nightgown (definitely a Jean Rollin moment if ever there was one...) and after seductively slipping it off glides into his bed for a hefty session of lovemaking… but is it really Anna?

The movie ponders on; Hedwig seduces both Anna and Sven. In between sessions of seduction she’s tormenting Anna with fake visions, like the great scene where she exchanges the ordinary baby leggings that Anna is knitting for a three legged version! Anna find’s it screams and faints. The sinister Hedwig, switches back to he ordinary pair and claims that Anna imagined it all. To make things worse Hedwig keeps a bunch of self crafted Voodoo dolls that she uses to torment Anna, and even drives Barbro to her untimely death as she discovers Hedvig’s hidden past. Even the warm homely bread gets used as an ominous tool of Hedvig’s witchcraft. The seduction/mind games progresses until the threesome have a full-blown orgy after Barbro’s funeral where Hedwig going all in makes Sven smash a crucifix and then carves an inverted cross on the naked torso of Anna.

Plot wise the movie is in shambles. In at nutshell the problem is that there is never any real value at stake, Hedwig has no apparent agenda. She just sells her soul to the devil, seduces Anna and Sven the Vicar and goes about corrupting them, which also kind of fails, Anna leaves the house by her own free will with out any major obstacles but crawling up on the kitchen sink. Sure Sven smashes a crucifix and chucks it on the fire to keep them warm during the final orgy, and he’s already been unfaithful to his wife with the Seductive witch, but it’s not of free will as he’s put under Hedvig’s spell and has no recollection of the incidents at all when the firemen pull him from the burning vicarage. There’s never a conscious decision to abandon his faith as its all Hedvig’s doing. The same goes for Hedwig, she never really has that agenda written out, apart from selling herself to do the devils work. But opportunity is there, even though it is completely ignored by Wickman in his script. Was she planning on taking Anna’s child? Did she want to corrupt the vicar? Or what? We never know as the movie ends with the naked Hedwig laughing at the fire brigade and police officers outside the burning rectory, during their feeble efforts. It’s a strange and confusing ending. Neither do any of Hedvig's foes really make any honest threat to her, she easily manipulates Anna into believing that she’s going insane, and every other major threat is taken care of in the next scene. Sure she kills off her antagonists, but that’s all she does, there’s no build or suspense created around it.

Supposedly Wickman based his screenplay on a series of events that happened in a small rural village where he spent his childhood, and that could be the case, there’s nothing to prove the opposite.

Now perhaps the movie doesn’t make much of an impression with today’s standards, as it solemnly finds a spot somewhere in between the nudie-cuties/ roughies of Doris Wishman, Russ Meyer, George Harrison Marks and the wave of innovative porno chic movies that where to be produced a few years later, both in Sweden and outside it. The novelty of porno chic decimated the demand for soft erotic imagery; especially as full hardcore could be seen on the big screen in almost every major city. But there is a certain charming innocence to these movies of the past as they explore how far they can go without crossing the border. Ironically they could have gone much further with the events about to take place.

Skräcken har 1000 Ögon was one of the first really genre specific movies out of Sweden that I saw many years ago after a dear friend gave me a few VHS tapes with Swedish titles he demanded that I watch. (This guy was amazing at locating former starlets of the seventies and getting interviews with them for the magazine we used to work for back then. Christina Lindberg was one of them he profiled in the magazine. He’s still a, finger on the pulse guy, currently working for one of the leading Swedish movie magazines.)

I had always ignored Swedish film, apart from the mandatory; Ingmar Bergman, Vilgot Sjöman and Victor Sjöström, so these tapes really blew me away! Watching stuff like Bo A. Vibenius Thriller – En Grym Film 1974, Arne Mattson’s Smutsiga Fingrar 1973 (Dirty Fingers) and Wickman’s Skräcken har 1000 Ögon 1970, opened my eyes to a complete new world in my own backyard. Yes backyard, as these movies where shot in and around Stockholm, and a ten-minute walk from where I lived at the time. And the basic fact that these movies where shot in the same studios as Bergman used is exhilarating. I’ve said before that a whole bunch of Swedish directors vanished under the shadow of Bergman’s marvel, and that’s where you find these guys.

Although I’m sure that VHS version of Skräcken har 1000 Ögon was longer and contained more nudity, and it’s often rumoured that there was a longer print, which could partially be responsible for the erroneously quoted 99 minute run time. But for there to be an additional almost half-hour there has to be a whole load of stuff missing, I’m only missing a few longer scenes of seduction, especially the one where Sven pulls the wig of Anna only to reveal Hedvig. Then again there could be a whole lot of shagging in 26 minutes of missing footage so perhaps that rumoured longer version could have contained the sex Wickman was accustomed to directing. It’s a teasing thought, but producer Inge Ivarsson says in the interview featured on the disc that he had to hold Wickman on a short leash so that the “erotic” elements didn’t get out of hand. So presumably the longer print is a figment of wishful thinking, and if there were an extra half hour of skin and smut, the movie probably wouldn’t have faded into oblivion shortly after it’s release.

What I find so fascinating about the movie is how obvious the Sweden + Nudity + Horror epithet worked so well as a marketing banner. According to producer Inge Ivarsson the movie regained all it’s costs on the international market alone, which he also claims was the prime target audience for these flicks and the two words Swedish Erotica will even today receive a joyful grin from people acquainted with the genre. There was a huge market for Swedish erotica overseas, and recently this retro niche has been rediscovered with the advent of DVD. I think it would be fair to claim that starlet’s of the seventies, like Christina Lindberg for an instance, have a larger fan base now then all those years ago. Well perhaps not the same kind of fan base at least.

Yeah, in many ways The movie is a kind of cute and innocent flick, and all credit has to go to Wickman and Ivarsson who at least tried to create the first erotic horror ever produced in Sweden, and I say cute in the context to Wickman’s previous movies like Kärlekens Språk and Eva - Den Utstötta and his later ones, as he just like so many other directors that had been dabbling in erotica, ended up directing full blown porno’s at the end of his career. Also to that discussion there’s the fact of the casts of these movies. There are many really great well known and recognizable actors seen through out these movies, many beloved Swedish faces and names, even though there’s some nudity and erotic subplots going on. Even a few international Swedish stars, Stellan Skarsgård to name the most renown of them all, participated in these movies. There’s almost the same type of mentality as the Japanese actors took when they where only offered pinku roles during the pinku era of Japanese Cinema. They took it at face value, a job is a job and you do the work that is requested of you as an actor. This is quite an admirable approach to your acting career, as a few years later actors in movies containing eroticism and sexually graphic imagery where considered porn actors and that brings a complete different set of luggage with it. Eroticism to enhance your story, and a story to motivate your eroticism is one thing, but when fuck scenes after fuck scenes are all that your movie is about it’s no longer interesting

Finally the biggest surprise of the film comes with the soundtrack! The score that Mats Olsson put together for this one is a fantastically suave new-Jazz groove strut that definitely could have been found on Italian Giallo and Poliziceotti flicks of the time. Great stuff that someone should re-release some day, it’s a winner to say the least.

Image: Originally shot in 1,66:1, but brought into some kind of semi 4:3 full screen in the scan.

Audio: Swedish dialogue, Mono. Unfortunately as I have whined about before no subtitles at all are available on the KlubbSuper8 DVD’s.

Extras: Bolmört i mitt öra (Henbane in My Ear - the intended original title), a nine minute short interview with producer Inge Ivarsson and Klinga Wickman about he movie and the actors. A few deleted scenes (once again perhaps from that legendary longer version?) unfortunately without any audio, a whole load of still from the movie and behind the scenes, Biographies for cast and crew and theatrical trailers for Fear has 1000 Eyes 1970, Anita 1973, and Kärlekens XYZ 1971 also available from

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