Sunday, May 23, 2021

AN EVENING WITH EMILIO VIERYA.

Hey, I’m not dead, just doing my stuff on other platforms. But occasionally, there's an urge to share something here and see if people still read blogs. So, here’s a compilation of my past night on Letterboxd, AN EVENING WITH EMILIO VIERYA!

 

So quickly putting this into context. Emilio Vieraya, Argentinian low budget filmmaker with most digressions into action, thrillers and horror during the sixties and eighties, with lesser output as the nineties progressed.  Started off as an actor, and eventually graduated to directing movies. Perhaps mostly known for The Curious Dr Humpp,1971 which was a US reedit of his La venganza del sexo, 1969. Not long after he retired from filmmaking in the mid 00’s, Vierya passed away at the age of 89 in 2010. The Curious Dr Humpp, recently released in a stellar remastered release in a collaboration between AGFA and Something Weird, ended up sitting on my shelf (because I pick up all those releases) and ignited a desire to check out a couple of selected titles further in Vieraya’s filmography. 

 

Ok, Let’s go.

 

 

An Evening with Emilio Vieyra #1

 

LA VENGANZA DEL SEXO, 1969

Now let me be clear that off the bat, I opted to watch the original Spanish language version of La venganza del sexo as I wanted to see it as Emilio Vieyra intended it. Not the American distributors, re-edited version with sexploitation inserts. Not that there's anything wrong with a nice bit of sexploitation, and I did indeed watch the American version known as The Curious Dr. Humpp back to back with this binge watch.

 

Youngsters are being kidnapped by what is said to be a hideous monster stashing its victims in a black hearse. Journalist Horacio (Ricardo Bauleo) sets about investigating he mystery. In a secret lair, Dr Zoidas (Aldo Barbero), with the aid of his assistant Enfermera is conducting sinister experiments on how to control the human sex drive, if you resist he'll turn you into one of his many henchmen automatons. Whilst staking out a drugstore, Horiacio spots a man placing a large order of drugs, unbeknownst to him it's Dr Zoidas, but he follows him anyway as he drives away in his hearse. Sneaking around an old house, Horacis is captured by strange looking men, and held captive. At this institute, Dr Zoidas conducts an experiment where Horacio and his roommate Raquel (Gloria Prat) are eternally bonded through their libido. But Horacio is planning his counteract whilst Dr Zoidas is just on the brink of taking his experiment globally. Did I mention that he has a 200-year-old pickled brain that acts as Dr Zoidas mentor, and that the hideous monster also has a crush on Raquel? Eerie love triangles, automatons and ancient ones, oh my.

 

Right out of the gate, where the American has a new credit sequence giving the actors more American sounding names, the Argentine original has an excellent Saul Bass-ish opening credit that's worth watching in itself. The original also has a phenomenal backlight fog sequence where the monster carries Raquel to the institute... missing from the American cut in favour of more nudity. But more on that later. 

 

All in all, La venganza del sexo, is very much a product of its time. Kinda slow, kinda cheesy, kinda cozy, but for a schlocky 60's Argentine horror, it sure has some excellent shots in the mix of sci-fi, horror and light exploitation tropes. I had a good time with this.


An Evening with Emilio Vieyra #2
PLACER SANGRITO (Feast of Flesh), 1967.

Before The Curious Dr Humpp, there was Placer sangriento (literally Bloody Pleasure), shot with basically the same cast, and...


A young couple making out on the beach notice a man in a mask dumping something on the beach. On closer investigation, they realize that it's a dead woman. Inspector Lauria (Mauricio De Ferraris) reveals that two other women have gone missing as he starts investigating the case of the latest heroin ridden body. A lead from a bar pianist gives him the name of Silvio Valverde (Ricardo Bauleo, later lead in Venganza/Dr Humpp). Whilst following up his leads, Lauria hears a woman screaming on the beach, almost voyeuristic, he watches until the last possible moment before stepping to interrupt the man assaulting Bebe Villegas (Gloria Prat). Bebe, a young flirt who quickly has Lauria wrapped around her slender figure. Frustration grows within the investigation as they realize that the killer always is one step ahead and seems to know every move they are going to make. But when Bebe goes missing, Lauria steps up his game. Has the killer kidnapped his final victim, or is Bebe going to become another number in the body count?

 

Something of a cautionary tale where teenage lust is punished by the basically proto stalker antagonist masked killer/organ grinder who supplies his young female victims with heroin in exchange for a quick snog. However, once given a high from the masked man, the women become almost zombie like, responding to the weird music he plays on his organ, summoning them for more smack and soft petting. The music loop becomes something of a red thread as the killer plays it, the girls play it and it's the only real clue the police investigation has, as it was heard when the girls who "wander off as summoned" mysteriously wander off.

 

...I'd say that Placer sangriento has more action than La venganza del sexo, a better plot, and in all fairness, I find it to be a better film. Kind of like a mix of beach party The Phantom of the Opera, Carnival of Souls wrapped up in an investigation plot. Masked killer, police investigators and young damsels in distress. An appealing sixties horror/thriller hybrid signed Emilio Vieyra.

 

 

An Evening with Emilio Vieyra #3 

SANGRE DE VIRGINES (Blood of the Virgins), 1967.

Here we find Vierya doing gothic horror, and with a title like Blood of the Virgins there's really not much more that the film could be but gothic horror.

 

Sometime in the 18th century Ofelia (Susana Beltrán) marries Eduardo, despite the looming presence of Gustavo (Walter Kliche) outside the chapel window. Later that night Ofelia bleeds, but only because Gustavo skewers her husband in the throat with a knife, then proceed to bite and drink her blood. As the yet again excellent opening credit animations play, Gustavo, complete with cape and fangs summons Ofelia as she rises from her grave in true Hammer horror style!

 

Post credits and we're introduced to a bunch of mates who end up spending the night in a remote lodge where creepy manservant TIto (Ricardo Bauleo) greets them after their van has broken down. Candlelight, cobwebs and the curious painting of Ofelia we saw in the wedding sequence play right into the EuroGoth tropes. As soon as the ladies go to bed, it's tits out and Gustavo wavers above them with his fangs out ready to draw blood. As Raul (Rolo Puente) wanders the hallways, he encounters Ofelia, and they end up in bed together. As dawn creeps in, Ofelia is gone and Raul is all alone, without a clue to her whereabouts. But Ofelia isn't the only one missing, they can't find Laura (Gloria Prat), Gloria or Eva either... 

 

Although the period piece opening is a mere six minutes I can't see anything else than hammer and the European Gothic horror films of the time period. As we slip into the contemporary, it's like watching those Italian pieces that mix modern with the old, or later Hammer films where Gothic meets swinging London, although this is Swinging Argentina lifted out of Buenos Aires and dropped in the rural landscape. Stoker's Dracula and all its adaptations are clearly an influence with Kliche playing the clichés, Puente as a version of Harker, while Prat clearly is a Mina/Lucy composite. 

 

A novelty with Sangue de Virgenes is the use of color film and with color film comes a reason for colorful special effects. Not that the piece is riddled with them, they are sparse and far apart, but a gooey stabbing, some bloody bites and a crescendo with some obligatory gory stakes in the heart get the job done.

 

Vierya's ensemble of stock actors, Gloria Prat, Ricardo Bauleo, Susana Beltrán are all present, however, they don't really get much to do here. Even though she holds the female lead, Beltrán is only on screen for a total of a like fifteen minutes. Clearly this is a vehicle for Rolo Puente, an Argentine comedian, possibly trying to break out of his typecast as a funny guy. 


All in all, an entertaining piece, I do enjoy EuroGoth, even if this was a tad too much on the cozy side.



An Evening with Emilio Vieyra #4
LA BESTIA DESNUDA (The Naked Beast), 1971

The return of Aldo Barbero into the Vierya fold. Barbero, who a few years earlier starred as Dr Zoidas in La Venganza de sexo is now Inspector Héctor Ibáñez, the detective leading the investigation into a series of mysterious deaths of young women. The common denominator is that they all are stage artists at the vaudevillian Teatro Tapia where singers, dancers and fakirs perform. This is also where Ibáñez girlfriend Sonia (Gloria Prat) works. 
At the scene of the latest crime, Ibáñez notes some syringes. Syringes he takes to the theatre manager to inquire if the girl used drugs. He’s led to the theatre handyman, an off-kilter hunchback who they all call Quasimodo, well… who has some sort of medical knowledge, who explains that it’s heroin, a recurring plot device for Vieyra. Costume designer/seamstress René (Osvaldo Pancheo) has an odd costume in the back of his workspace. A grotesque vampire, fangs, cape et all, and gets really testy when Sonia questions him about it. He also has an obvious heroin problem which stage hand Julio desperately tries to snap him out of. Julio by the way is way played by Vieyra himself, who frequently did cast himself in his pieces, in a good low-budget fashion. During a hallway conversation, Quasimodo, clearly affectionate towards Sonia, confides that his real name is actually Carlos.
The Vampire figure visits Sonia one night. As she pulls and tears at his face, she realizes that it impossibly could be the mask she saw previously, however, as she passes out, he gently tucks her back into bed and leaves. The intrigue tightens and more murders take place, with Ibáñez constantly finding new evidence and leads that have him on the heels of the vampire masked killer. There is a moment where Vieyra gives us an excellent pan shot of all the suspects following a double murder inside the theatre backstage as Ibáñez sizes all main characters up for size. Although, despite Ibáñez having a selection of suspects that most certainly have been set up in several red-herring ways, the murders continue, and our prime suspects are killed off one by one. Another Vieyra regular Susana Beltrán has a rather spectacular death where we as the audience are expecting to have the killer revealed in front of our eyes as she undresses and notes the vampire costume thrown over a chair next to the bed. But instead Vieyra goes to a subjective angle instead of showing us who was in the shower, and it’s the small aesthetics like such that add to the entertainment value of the piece. 
I realize during this fourth piece I watch this evening, that Vieyra, like Jess Franco, has a thing for scenes set in nightclubs with at least one musical performance, this time Rolo Puente's lounge lizard character Rolo Borel. If this was an Italian movie of the same time period, Rolo Borel would have been played by Adriano Celentano, that's the vibe around him. 

ALSO, watching this I'm once again impressed by the animated opening credits that really are slick, so mooching about I found that the credits to La bestia desnuda and all other pieces watched in this session of Vieyra's Latin horrors were conceived by the duo Gil y Bertolini. Hugo Gil and Mario Bertolini two illustrators and animators who occasionally even worked for Walt Disney. Digging further into the rabbit hole, Gil y Bertolini seem to have acted as a central hub where many Argentine illustrators and cartoonists had their formative years. So, the initial observation on La Venganza de sexo of the opening being of a Saul Bass-ish quality turns out to have been spot on. I'd love to explore them further, although that will be in a different forum.
For a movie made in the early seventies, and Vieyra's La venganza de sexo as The Curious Dr Humpp the previous year having been spiced up with nudie and sexy inserts for added sensualism, La bestia desnuda is rather coy with its eroticism, and has a very deceptive title! Sparse on nudity, showers are held behind shower curtains, and bed sheets are firmly grasped at neck level as not to expose anything indecent. Although the last act does let some skin pass, perhaps to keep the audience in their seats for the crescendo seen as the film does loose speed as it progresses. Now, this could be a national version, and perhaps there is an international/European version on some shelf in some basement archive with more skin, but here it's held to a PG minimum, which is surprising considering the setting of backstage theatre, where a lot of actresses walk around in minimal costumes. Missed opportunity or national censored, I do not know. But it wakes my curiosity considering what I've seen ahead of this. I must add that I really found myself fond of the climax, revealing the killer and riffing off the emotion of guilt to bring about the downfall of the killer. Guilt has always been the crown jewel of the horror genre, even if this is more melodramatic thriller than horror.

A good piece of low budget cinema that yet again proves that genre can be mastered in any region of the world, and Emilio Vieyra is a certified Argentinian auteur of Latin exploitation movies.


An evening with Emilio Vieyra #5

 

THE CURIOUS DR HUMPP, 1970

Closing the evening spent with the films of Emilio Vieyra, or rather early morning seen as my new meds kept me awake all night, I’m back where we started off. 

This time the US distributor's version of La venganza del sexo retitled The Curious Dr Humpp released in 1970, with sexploitation inserts directed by Jerald Intrator, perhaps best known for stuff like Satan in High Heels and Striporama

The edit shuffles a couple of scenes around, adds the uncredited Intrator’s sexploitation mainly in the beginning to add more victims to the lair of Dr Zoide, or Dr Hummp as he is called in the US version. Then it’s more or less spiced up all over the place as to juxtapose against the original footage bringing the added nudity, fondling, petting and dry humping into the piece. Also, the names of most the actors are changed from Latin to western names in the new credits that are nowhere near as slick as the Gil y Bertolino animated credits that opened the earlier watched pieces.
So, does the addition of more musky sex scented trash add or take from the piece as a whole? Well both no and yes. As a movie of its own La venganza del sexo is as mentioned a decent sixties sci-fi/horror flick with a bit of gentle topless nudity. However, the US version as The Curious Dr Humpp makes it much more accessible for target audiences in the time it was released in the US. Considering that the majority of the added performers in the earlier sex scenes are present throughout because of the inserts in the later parts of the film, and at times inserts just to add a more graphic illustration to the original material, I’d say it’s more than just simply adding sex, it’s adding more content. More sexy content, more victims of Dr Humpp’s libido experiments. There’s a hell of a lot more shagging going on in Dr Humpp’s camp than in Dr Zoide’s. As the regulations on nudity where diminishing and exploitation flicks where getting more and more into sexploitation, the added soft-soft sex and full-frontal nudity help it fill a nice spot as being something trashier. Drive ins and grindhouses would not have wanted light nudity on their fare at the point in time when hardcore sex was peeling off its cinematic pants ready to kill the soft-core exploitation niche with its graphic depictions. Pull up to the bumper, or fade away.

Whoa, I almost got reception studies on you there! I’ll leave it at that.

This marathon of Argentinian genre auteur Vieyra has been a blast. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this and it’s tickled my fancy to at a future date look into the films of Colombian genre director Jairo Pinilla and his forays into horror, sci-fi and thriller cinema.

Thanks for reading, stay safe.

 

 

 

 

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AN EVENING WITH EMILIO VIERYA.

Hey, I’m not dead, just doing my stuff on other platforms. But occasionally, there's an urge to share something here and see if people s...