Saturday, June 25, 2011

99 Women

99 Women
Directed by Jess Franco
West Germany, 1968
Women In Prison, 89min
Distributed by: Njuta Films

Harry Allen Towers
, may he rest in peace whilst he rest of us enjoy his legacy. Towers is an important character for me and my introduction to the world of Jess Franco. I’ll get back to that in a moment, but first some stuff about the story of Harry Allen Towers.

He started out as a child actor, I know nothing of what movies he was in nor does anyone else when trying to find stuff our. But this probably came in handy when he started scriptwriting for radio and DJ’ing in the 30-40’s. He landed a gig at the BBC where he came up with the programme March of the Movies, a good fashioned movie show. During the 50’s he distributed radio shows to abroad and through his company Towers of London, he helped pirate radio like Radio Luxembourg. When commercial TV hit Britain, Towers was the goo to man and pretty soon he was supplying ITV with cheap programmes shot on film. After a string of generic TV theatre productions he more or less invented the English version of the TV movie. Finally – or rather the start of the career we will remember him for - came during the sixties, when he started producing movies.

Towers produced some one hundred plus movies, nine of them with Jess Franco between 1968-1970. But for me the introduction came through the satellite station Super Chanel. Super Chanel was an odd little bastard as it was a rabid mix of old TV serial re-runs, music magazines, music videos, live concerts and old movies. This is where I first saw Franco’s La Conde Dracula (Count Dracula) 1970 at the end of the eighties and damn did it leave an impression. Tracking down more Franco movies – from the UK – the titles I could get hold of where more of the Harry Allen Towers produced Franco movies. Amongst these I found several movies that laid something of a Franco foundation for me.

The quickfix for 99 Women is that a bunch of women are boated out to Castillio de Muerte – the Castle of death – where they spend time for crimes they supposedly have committed - guilty or not. The best ingredient for seedy women in prison flicks, is to fill the movie with sexual harassment, vile prison staffers and scantily clad inmates. 99 Women has it all. Superintendant Thelma Diaz [Mercedes McCambridge] runs her camp with an iron fist. Prisoners who are ill during the night do not deserve treatment and inmates who try to help end up getting punished. On the other side of the island lies an all male work camp run by Governor Santos [Herbert Lom] sinister, sleazy friend of Diaz who runs the all male camp on the other side of the island, lets him have his way with the female inmates. A second executive, Leonie Caroll [Maria Schell] comes to inspect rumours of poor prisoner conditions and strikes up an odd friendship with new inmate #99 [Maria Rohm]. No W.I.P. film is complete without a daring escape plan and 99 Women blasts into its last act with just such a moment.

Co-written by Franco and Towers – under his nom de plume Peter Welbeck99 Women sports a good solid script with several details that make it a splendid movie. Pay attention to the first fifteen minutes of this movie. These are amongst the finest establishing minutes you may ever see, and just one example of what I mean with a detailed script where threads run fluently through the narrative. The boat is on its way to the island, the three women are introduced and their archetypes are established.

They are all very determined archetypes that are all established within the first fifteen minutes. Marie [Rohm - Towers wife, hence her starring in many of his movies.] soon to be renamed #99 is concerned and almost naively asks where they are being taken already on the boat and not half as cocky as Helga [Elisa Montés]. This makes the audience understand that Helga is aware off her crime, and Marie most likely isn’t… it plant’s the thought that she may be innocent. After all this is a women in prison flick, and they ain’t never fair. Nathalie [Luciania Paluzzi] cowers in a corner of the boat and when later locked up all the signals of a claustrophobia attack are there.
Following the presentation of our leading lady #99, it’s time to establish the antagonists, head warden Thelma Diaz [McCambridge] walks in to Governor Santos who eats his roast chicken sloppily and praises Diaz for the women she has selected for him today. Although he raises a finger or warning as he tells her that the woman who died that morning had visible bruises. An issue that may get them in trouble, if officials start to ask questions about the several dead women and how Diaz goes about taking care of discipline. The scene ends with McCambridge out of focus in the background and the only thing in focus is a book in the foreground. A copy of Arnold J. Toynbee’s La Europe De Hitler is at the front, Diaz apparently holds Nazi sympathies. We are not going to like warden Diaz and pretty soon she confirms our suspicions.

Back to the ladies… During the first night Zoie #76 [Rosalba Neri] wakes #99 from a bad dream only to be disturbed by Natalie, #98 writhing and moaning in pain. #99 tries to get help by calling for the guards. Instead she get’s Warden Diaz who screams that she’s up for punishment as she’s interfering and creating a disturbance. The next morning #99 gets involved in a fight where she’s caged in isolation for her further provocations. The night before her isolation she’s raped by #76 as the Governor drooling watches on.

Through showing her sympathetic sides – caring for others, wanting to do right, putting her in situations she has no control over - the audience feels empathy for 99 - or should we call her Marie, and as soon as we feel empathy we start to bond with the character. We wan Marie go have hell in the next hour and a half, but we want her to break out and live a better life too.

Two “alarming”, or rather “helper” characters are also introduced early on. Characters that help the audience invest in the plot. Also characters that will drive it forth and generate a disturbance in the ordinary world of Thelma Diaz hell camp for women.

One is presented after the death of #98 in the shape of the Doctor [José María Blanco]. As he leaves the island he complains that the women are always dead by the time he arrives… and that’s about to change. This external force obviously contacts officials hence the arrival of the second challenger to Thelma Diaz corrections facility.

The second is Superintendant Leonie Caroll [Maria Schell] who poses a threat to Warden Diaz when she arrives on the island and demands to inspect the prison. This threat stretches past Diaz and towards Governor Santos too. The two try to set her up by reporting to the officials that she pays attention to the young female inmates in the wrong fashion… anything to avoid a rupture of the good thing they have going.

Two things come out of this introduction of Superintendant Caroll. The positive tension between #99 as Caroll somewhat acts as a “parent/Helper” to her as she suggests to help her clear her case and possibly clear her name. Then there’s the harsh tension between Caroll and Diaz. The provocation of being scrutinised by external parts drives Diaz round the bend and frequently lands in her screaming out brilliant dialogue along the lines of “Purpose of a prison is punishment for crime, it is not meant a happy place! To which Caroll calmly replies, “In that case you efforts here can be extremely successful!”

Storylines are somewhat linear with the odd flashback now and again as the girls explain why they are incarcerated, some fair - some not. But by delivering their raison d’être in this way Towers and Franco keep the movie interesting, as I want to know what situation had the women end up in the prison to start with. The flashbacks see cinematographer Manuel Merino’s best moments in the movie, and are highlights for the movie where the typical Franco nightclub act and minimalistic sets, suggestive lighting are used. This is the sort of imagery and compositions I associate with Franco. Merino worked with Franco and Towers on almost all the films produced under the Towers of London period, and on approximately twenty something Franco movies in all.

Propelling the movie into it’s final act, #76 rallies a disappointed 99 – who by now has been lead on by Superintended Caroll with a promise to look into her case. But after a rejection, #99 looses all faith and is left disillusioned. She needs something new to latch onto, which makes #76’s timing perfect. #76 and Rosalie #81 suggest that #99 come in on their cunning plan to escape from the otherwise inescapable prison.

They make it into the surrounding jungles where they meet “Buster” one of the male interns from Governor Santos all male prison on the other side of the island A previous subplot concerning # 81 and her lover who used to sneak back to forth between the male and female prison comes to an end. Instead of finding him, it’s buster who tells her of her partners’ untimely death during their own escape. But after taking a few minutes to grieving she snuggles up and gets it off with Buster… who had a sinister plan to steal his cellmates girlfriend all the time.
The jungle scenes are claustrophobic – even more than the prison – as the women are chased deeper and deeper into the green web of bush and leaves. Dogs chase them and escape seems almost impossible. Although the peril of the jungle is nowhere near as hazardous as the next obstacle in their way. The men of the all male prison are out on a chain gang, Buster and the women daringly approach them begging for food, but instead the men become so overwhelmed by the sight of the scantily clad beauties that their primal instincts take the upper hand and they chase the women into the jungle like a pack of hungry wolves. Rosalie falls and now she pays the ultimate price for her insatiable lust – the chain gang tear off her clothes and use her for their own means. It’s a harsh moment and not to unlike the climactic death scenes found in the cannibal and zombie movies to follow a decade later. Pawing, clawing tearing hands ripping their victims to shreds.

There’s some brilliant detail in the escape, as they refer to places and locations that already have been pointed out as traps and perilous territory by Warden Diaz in earlier scenes between prison staff. We the audience know that there is going to be trouble if they take this path of that path. Moments of insight like this work wonders for the movie, and bring a deep cynicism to the final moments of this masterpiece of Women in Prison classic.

Overall the tone is seedy, but never really goes to far, there’s always a safe, almost artistic approach to the physical moments. 99 Women is undoubtedly an exploitation masterpiece, with moments of degradation and sensuality. If you want to see the movie as it was intended make sure to watch the shorter 89min version as this is the better movie. This is also the way Franco & Towers wanted you to see the film and you don’t really need the graphic inserts. At the same time the harder version obliterates several great moments such as the entire flashback that explains why Rohm is in prison. This is a classic Franco moment – much like Neri’s burlesque show flashback earlier – where a lot of the style and minimalism work in his advantage. I would go as far as saying it’s one of his most poetic conceptions of a rape and revenge, because it looks fantastic, plays with your imagination and rings back to early experimental black and white movies. It’s a scene, which elevates the movie a thousand miles higher than the pale smutty beach rape that replaces it in the adult version

But if you are looking for dirt then I guess you will want to watch the longer harder french version assembled by Bruno Mattei some years later. The golden age of the adult movie was just around the corner and more than one low budget sexploitation movie was re-edited with new footage to cash in on the new fascination and new French laws concerning film and pornographic material.

If you where to watch the old Redemption release, you would find that to be cut too, as there are pieces of the quite unsettling stabbing of an anaconda snake in the jungle snipped away. Why they didn’t use that penknife earlier I will never know. Escape had been so much easier.

99 Women, is really nowhere near the sleaziness of the Franco W.I.P. movies that where to follow, but this is a great place to start if you want to see just how easy one Franco template could be re-edited into something completely different with a few minutes of extra footage here and there – and believe me, Mattei took every opportunity available to get some triple X action into the movie. It’s also a template in the way that it’s a theme that Franco returned to on several occasions too. The unjustly condemned woman either sentenced to prison or by society, as she knows it. The main drive, to prove one’s innocence and settle the score isn’t too far away from punishing those who have done her wrong and settling the score. And as mentioned, this is really at the other end of the spectrum compared to the W.I.P. flicks to come, but at the same time proof that Franco could put together a really artistic flick.

Soundtrack by frequent Franco collaborator Bruno Nicolai is a gem. I challenge you to listen to the lead track “The Day I Was Born” and not hum it to yourself. It’s addictive just like Jess Franco’s movies.
There used to be an odd rumour that Towers of London where to make a 3-D remake of 99 Women after an announcement in 1983. Although that never happened, it boggles the mind to imagine a Jess Franco movie in three dimensions.

Jess Franco and Harry Allen Towers worked on nine movies together. If you still haven’t seen them I suggest that you go find them now. If you are a fan of Franco already they you perhaps should revisit them, if you are a newcomer, then they definitely want to go to the top of your list. These movies see Franco at what may be his most mainstream, but at the same time they are some damn fine movies that stand the test of time.

Colour, Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1

Dolby Digital Stereo, English dialogue (French Dub on longer version) Swedish, Finnish, Danish or Norwegian subtitles are optional.

For some odd reason the original softer version is enclosed as an extra and the french version as the main feature. Again, this is the one you want to watch. The main version is the French dialogue, hardcore-insert version clocking in at almost 98min. There’s biographies, Franco trailers and trailers for other Njutafilm releases.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Island of the Living Dead

Island of the Living Dead
Originl Title: L’isola dei morti viventi

Directed by: Bruno Mattei (Vincent Dawn)
Italy, 2006
Distributed by: Ritka Video

Despite being commonly referred to as one of the biggest hacks of Italian cinema, The king of recycling footage and a completely talentless copycat, Bruno Mattei continued making low budget genre pieces until the day he passed away. He’s one of the few who never strayed from the path and continued to churn out cheap, enjoyable trash when many of the others either lost their touch or simply retired. For this reason alone one should stop hounding Mattei and instead start to appreciate his dedication to genre cinema. Bruno Mattei demands your respect, and if you are not prepared to give him it, then you should stop reading now, burn all your low budget trash flicks and go back to watching rom-coms with Hugh Grant, as you obviously don’t appreciate what Mattei is all about.

In the last years of his life, Bruno Mattei returned to on of the genre he’s most commonly associated with, the zombie flick. None of the other old school genre directors where getting much work, but Mattei packed up his bags and shot a series of zombie themed movies in the Philippines. Movies that capture the passion, enthusiasm and energy of the movies Bruno Mattei - and others - made back in the eighties.

Time for a quickfix to fill you in on The Island of the Living Dead. A boat full of treasure hunters and scientists get caught in storm whilst on a mission and end up on an abandoned island. This is obviously an island where the undead – in various shapes and forms – roam the dark labyrinth of the desolate buildings. They encounter the flesh eating monsters and in a varied manner of ways they start to decrease in numbers. The most unlikely of characters survives and in the best fashion, there’s a last minute shock in store after a highly spectacular rescue sequence…

…especially considering where Mattei went on the movie that followed this one.

As you can see, it’s a good old zombie nightmare story with all the frills and chills that you would come to expect from a Bruno Mattei movie. He even directed it under his old classic pseudonym, and believe me, this movie is all Vincent Dawn. In all fairness this isn’t one of Mattei’s best movies. But it’s not one of his worst either, because if there’s one thing that shines though the somewhat poor acting – mostly due to the cheesy dubbing – it’s an overall atmosphere that simulates the eighties movies. There’s a somewhat lack of predictability that was one of the ingredients that drew me to Italian genre to start with. Here Mattei presents us with a somewhat evolved zombie flick as we meet vampire and ghost incarnations of the old classic gut-munching ghouls. Kind of like a smorgasbord of horror paraphernalia, as long as they get the job done.

Again the unpredictability works for this movie as where you may think you know where it’s about to go, it takes a quick twist and tosses something new at you. I feel that Mattei and his scriptwriters have taken Island of the Living Dead seriously – yes one can write a movie seriously even if it becomes a cheap low budget flick in the end - and I see this in several areas. Nah, it’s not in the dialogue where everyone is angry and swears at least once in ever line. But it’s in the framework. This isn’t’ something that’s just been tossed together as a series of incidents bound together by slow paced slush. Instead there’s an obvious amount of work gone into this project.

Any self-respecting movie wants’ to either set the force of antagonism from start of open so we know what we have pending a threat to our world in the original world. Island of the Linving Dead does both, after a lengthy initial attack taking place hundreds years ago Conquistadors fight off hordes of living dead. It has to be said that musket shots to the head of the bagged undead may remind of the opening to Lucio Fulci’s Zombi, although the pack these shots punch are fucking hard. The soldiers can’t hold back the horde and finally the church is overthrown leaving the governor and his men to their bloody fate. The initial attack has been presented, if by chance I’d never seen a zombie movie before, I at least know what the hell is threatening the characters.

Much like the old classic Italian Zombie flicks, there’s a wraparound story, something that establishes the ordinary world – the treasure hunters on the boat. This plants that these are active characters, and it also shows that they are capable of the most challenging tasks – salvaging the treasure – even if they do fail at times. It gives dimension to them, and there would really not be anything at stake if they had succeeded getting the treasure, navigating through the fog and then just chugged on to the next challenge.

There’s a neat back-story about the vessel “Natavidad” which sank off the coast of the island. This boat plays an important part in the genesis of the undead, and a boat from which all the evil unravels. It's not to hard to connect the dots between the looted treasure in the segment that introduced us to the characters, and the boat that they stole it from… to the spirits of the dead come back to claim revenge for having been disturbed.

Island of the Living Dead also uses the classic device of mixing in a few gags before a horror moment. Perhaps not in the formatted way of the American popcorn horror flicks, where the gag and the horror share the same moment, but more like a gag and then over to the horror. A line of dialogue like “oh I think I shat my pants…” is delivered before cutting to the other half of the cast and an attack made on them by a zombie passing by. In it’s own peculiar way it works and once you get into reading the movie in that way and taking it for what it is – it get’s the job done even if it means watching a flamenco dancing scene.

Island of the Living Dead has plenty of amusing nods to classic moments in earlier genre movies. If you know your stuff you will be laughing at referents to classic scenes from Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Fulci’s Zombi and Bianchi’s Burial Ground – well at least the monks that live by the prophesy of the black spider.

I have a problem with the video look of the movie, but hey, if that’s what it took for Mattei to get out there and shoot, then I guess I can lay my grain fetish to one side. Shot on HighDef video, there’s crispiness to the film that makes it feel very much like a TV soap, which kind of takes away from what Mattei’s after. Although this isn’t made for TV, and there’s enough moments to prove it.

As said, Island of the Living Dead may not represent Bruno Mattei’s best work, nor his worst. But it is a entertaining flick that definitely captures the atmosphere and feeling of the old school classics that appeal to me so profoundly. I enjoyed Island of the Living Dead and pretty soon I stopped moaning about the image, and just got into the story and found myself swept away by the flick and the magic of Bruno Mattei once again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Antichrist

The Antichrist
Original Title: L’antichristo
Directed by: Alberto De Martino
Italy, 1974
Horror/Satan/Occult, 112 min
Distributed by: Optimum Releasing.

As far as satanic possession movies go there’s not too many of them tach come off as anything else than cheesy Exorcist rip offs. These past weeks I’ve seen several variants on the old possessed teenage chick story, and it’s fair to say that the most of them all fall into the same pitfalls and needless to say they all have the same familiar traits that we know all to well.

Current stuff like Manuel Carballo’s La posesión de Emma Evans (Exorcismus) 2010, Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism 2010 or even Paco & Balaugeró’s [Rec]2 2009, all play by the book, and you know before the last act rolls through you will have seen bile, rolling eye whites, foul language snarled out by the possessed and in the most cases levitation. Needless to say these movies look fantastic, a lot has happened since William Friedkin unleashed his 1973 milestone movie based on Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name. But I still hold a naïve fascination for those movies released much nearer to that landmark of genre cinema, the stuff so painfully trying to cash in on the success of The Exorcist. I’m obviously talking about movies like Mario Bava’s Lisa e il diavolo (Lisa & The Devil) 1974 - also recut with alternate material to assimilate Fridekin’s movie under the name House of Exorcism, Amando De Ossorio’s La endemoniada (The Possessed) 1975 and Alberto de Martino’s L’antichristo (The Antichrist) 1974 to name a few.

Those movies, despite how they did at the box-office back then, have become somewhat cult classics by today’s standards. Back then they where painfully trying to get in on the action, and being so close to that original flick, I feel that they where lost at the time. Today it’s movies like these that I can appreciate as they tried to pull stuff off on minimal budgets and to some extent succeeded in mimicking the sensationalism of the original.

Since a terrible accident in her childhood Ippolita Oderisi [Carla Gravina] has been paralyzed from waist down. Her religious father Massimo [Mel Ferrer] is supportive and takes her on pilgrimages to various sacred places and statues of saints in hope of some miracle cure. Even Bishop Ascanio Oderisi [Arthur Kennedy] is concerned and holds masses to pray for Ippolita. Although when Ippolita’s brother Fillipo [Remo Girone] turns up at a party with his mate Marcello Sinibaldi [Umberto Orsini] desperately trying to match the two together, Ippolita pretty soon realises that Sinibaldi is a psychiatrist with a hidden agenda.

Convinced that Ippolita’s handicap is rooted in her background, perhaps in a former life way before that childhood accident, Dr. Sinibaldi persuades Ippolita to undergo some regression therapy hypnosis. That’s when the trouble starts. In her previous life Ippolita was a witch, also playing dual roles with a spiffy longhaired blonde wig, and this witch was burned at the stake for being in league with Satan. Obviously this demonic force takes a grip of Ippolita and pretty soon she can’t tell the awoken past life persona from the real Ippolita. Which is a great thing for us as this gives De Martino and his cinematographer Aristide Massaccesi – yes old loveable Joe D’Amato – an opportunity to mess around with back projection, mate screens and creating some pretty neat levitation, transformation and freaky special effect moments including a couple of really impressive imploding mirrors and television screens along the way.

Like any movie in the demonic possession realm Ippolita vomits bile, she spreads her legs and taunts everyone around her with her sexuality, makes sideboards and cupboards levitate around the room and decomposes with each day that goes until there’s only the demon present and almost no Ippolita at all. Finally the moment we have been awaiting is upon us, Massimo's brother, Bishop Oderisi, arrives to take on the age old nemesis of the church and the final battle commences… or wait it doesn’t because this movie holds yet another surprise for it’s audience.
In film theory some studies latch frantically onto what’s known as the image system, it’s at times so farfetched that it becomes almost more parody than anything else. One of my favourite passages in all the writings Russian filmmaker Andrej Tarkovsky left behind is when he discusses the reoccurrence of horses, apples and billowing fields in his work. After years of film students and academics trying to force their theories and interpretations of his “image system” Tarkovsky himself wrote that he simply liked the look of horses, apples and billowing fields. That’s fucking brilliant and such a smack in the face of over analytical bullshit. Which also is one of the reasons I write the crap I write on here, there’s no need to sneer at alternative low budget cinema, as it’s filled to the brim of the same symbolism, traits, storytelling and image systems that the acknowledged filmmakers and art house posers have been using for all time.

Getting back on track, it’s fair to say that the image system of The Antichrist has to be toads. Toads figure in several occasions throughout the movie and these toads are obviously associated with negative values, evil magical beasts and demonic creatures. The reason for this is of course the metaphoric value that they hold, the transformation from tadpole to full grown toad represents the resurrection, the rebirth. Much like the rebirth of the demon in The Antichrist. Then there’s the symbol value of strong feminine energy, clearly the energy of the female demon. It’s also a key part of the antichrist communion, where the torn off head of the toad serves as the body of Satan!

This is a great little movie. It’s entertaining as hell and takes several sudden turns. It has a lot going for it with the back-story that slowly lets out more information as it goes along. For a while I was sure that the Mel Ferrer relationship with Swedish starlet Anita Strindberg would be milked and become a sinister back-story where Ferrer had cheated on his wife with Strindberg before that terrible accident hence being projected guilt that had paralyzed Ippolita. There’s a small indication of oedipal jealousy in there, but nothing that really pays off apart from a few lines of possessed blasphemy and raunchy talk concerning her father and future wife’s sexual appetites. But it never goes for the guilt trip in that classic way. Instead the entire back-story arc is dedicated to the witch trial and execution. A parallel story that’s also reflected in the main narrative, such as the last minute redemption that turns former life witch Ippolita into the saint she visits at during the opening sequence. This opening sequence is mirrored in more than one-way during the movie’s climax, but you’ll just have to check it out to see in what way.
I find that Alberto De Martino’s script, co-written with Vincenzo Mannino and Gianfrano Clerici is satisfying as it uses what we've seen and brings something new with it - a very salty italian twist just the way we want it. This approach is nothing new for Mannino – writer of several character driven Poliziotteschi about Police Inspector Betti, commonly portrayed by Maurizio Merli and epic adventures also “in the familiar style of others” like Enzo G. Castellari’s L’ultimo squalo (Great White) 1981 or Ruggero Deodato’s I predatori di Atlantide (The Raiders of Atlantis) 1982, has been down that path on more than one occasion. But perhaps it mostly the movies he worked as co-writer on, stuff like Deodato’s La casa sperduta nel parco (House on the Edge of the Park) 1980, Lucio Fulci’s Lo squartatore di New York (The New York Ripper) 1982 and Murder-Rock: uccide a passo di danza (Murder-Rock: Dancing Death) 1984 that he’s most known for. Movies he primarily co-wrote with Gianfranco Clerici. Regular readers will know that I have something of a fetish for movies based on Clerici’s scripts, as I feel he very much indeed did write/work on some of the finest genre movies to ever come out of Italy.

Every demonic possession movie demands a grand entrance of Old Nick himself, and at least one moment that leaves it’s mark on the audience. The Black Mass where past life Ippolita engages in a satanic orgy is fantastic. I won’t spoil it for you but there’s a goat scene – which isn’t graphic at all, but fantastically suggestive and really brilliantly edited by Vincenzo Tomassi, who you recall edited all those Lucio Fulci movies. Tomassi brings a great flow to The Antichrist and it rarely feels as if it’s loosing pace, and there’s several brilliant juxtapositions you really need to see if you are into suggestive editing – and fucking amazing movies. Apart from the goat incident, there’s a hilarious moment where Ippolita flashes her lady parts to Bishop Oderisi, and his reaction is priceless, and just one of several splendid moments in The Antichrist.

I’ve hade the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai lying around for years, and it’s finally been a treat to actually put some images to the mental ones those tracks have been conjuring all these years. Needless to say the music is tremendously fitting when you have images to go with it.

Something I find intriguing about The Antichrist is the way De Martino uses, or rather not doesn't use his cast. There are some pretty damned good genre names in there, but none of them really get a moment to shine. Instead the whole movie does belong to Gravina who gives a grand performance in the lead. But it still feels kind of sore not to use the cast more than De Martino has. Mel Ferrer is about as interesting as drying paint, Strindberg more or less disappears from the flick after she once briefly get’s her kit off (next to an obviously bothered Ferrer who has to snog her next), the iconic Alida Valli is merely there for two small sequences and Kennedy, well he does his five minute bit and then fucks off. It’s odd and primarily saved by Gravinas dedicated performance.

As a little bonus for you if you want to get über-geeky, look out for bit part actor Ernesto Colli as the possessed man, he’s part of the mirror imagery I was talking about earlier, he's one of those faces you always remember and recognise in the large amount of movies he had bits in. And keep your eyes open when Filippo walks into the party after the opening segment. That blonde on his arm is another Scandinavian actress, this time none other than Ulla Johannsen! Doesn’t ring a bell? Well perhaps you remember her better as the naked chick with the machinegun in Enzo G. Castellari’s Ouei maledetto treno blindato (The Inglorious Bastards) 1978. There's iconic imagery if there every was iconic imagery!

Alberto De Martino followed The Antichrist with the Poliziotteschi Una Magnum Special per Tony Saitta (Blazing Magnum) 1976, held by many as one of the finest entries into that genre. It’s comes as no surprise to see that Clerici and Mannino wrote the script. Only three years later De Martino ventured back into satanic territory with Holocaust 2000, which wasn’t only a take on Richard Donner’s 1976 hit The Omen, but also sports a great performance from Spartacus himself, Mr. Kirk Douglas.

1.85:1 Colour.

Dolby Digital Mono, 2.0 English dialogue.


Disney Star Wars and the Kiss of Life Trope... (Spoilers!)

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