Archive for the 70’s Category

Evil Eye – Mario Siciliano – 1975

Posted in 70's with tags , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2014 by bookofdread

evil eye

Mario Siciliano’s Evil Eye is weird little psycho-dream. It’s as if you dipped American Psycho in euro-sleaze and draped it in a Lynchian dream logic. The film embraces the style and color of the mid-seventies, and yet it juggles all these great elements so clumsily that it is nearly impossible to experience the film as a whole, and yet the frustrating puzzle demands at least cursory examination.

Kudos first and foremost to composer Stelvio Cipriani who’s work here is not only typically excellent, it is, in this case, the absolute finest element of the film. The swinging seventies sounds are immersive and the melodies create that kind of dreamy booze fueled haze that one imagines one might feel if waking up amidst a bunch of passed out models in a sexy euro-mansion.

So, the lead actor is Jorge Rivera, long before his be-mulleted, bone-nunchuck wielding warrior in Fulci’s conquest. However, this goofball is no less wooden and hilarious. In fact, the film, with all its strange editing and bizarre narrative might have actually congealed into some kind of immersion if not for Jorge. Every time this guy was on screen led to one of the most laughable line-readings ever. It’s like this guy never heard anyone speak before. Clearly he was cast for his sculpted torso and not his acting ability.

This film is about a guy who dreams about killing people, then kills people. Then he just kills people. Then he goes to the doctor and tells him, and the doctor says, “People who say they are crazy never are… Admitting you have a problem is the first step.”
Then playboy caveman leaves his super-hot girlfriend and hooks up with his super-hot nurse.

The two of them go up to her cabin hideaway, and are menaced by cheap telekinetic attacks ala breaking glass, and furniture being turned over. Before all is destroyed caveman playboy awakes and says, “It was all a dream.” Around him lie six passed out beautiful women.

This film is tedious, but funny, and very strange. Here’s what I think. The film is a wish fulfillment film much like American Psycho, and speaks like Easton Ellis to the hubris of youth. Like Patrick Bateman, this guy just walks around killing the women he needs to for whatever reason. And like American Psycho the film ends an “It wasn’t real, it was just their dream…”

It plays cheap and unsatisfying, but it suggests a reason for the dreamlike world that precedes it and the supernatural force that pursues Playboy Caveman is essentially his deeply buried conscience, illustrating a kind of divine retribution for thoughts and dreams so murderous and vile.

And then the film breaks under the weight of its own principles. At the end of the film, Playboy Caveman is still Playboy Caveman, and I really am not sure he’s not going to go out there and do those awful things that he never did in the dream, now that he doesn’t have some internal avenger out to get him.

On the other hand, the fact that he had such an elaborate dream, must absolutely call into question his new current reality. If he just woke from a lucid dream, how far down the rabbit-hole hall of mirrors might he go? Was it all a dream, or could this be a hellish loop, Playboy Caveman destined forever to be pursued by the gentle shaking of furniture and the breaking of glass?

We’ll never know, because these are just things I’m thinking about at this point, and no longer the text of the film. I do know this, I liked watching it.

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Deranged – Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby – 1974

Posted in 70's with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2013 by bookofdread

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Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby probably had no idea how influential their little film base on Ed Gein would be. Told in a semi-documentary style, with a reporter occasionally appearing to give details, Deranged is a lurid piece of sleaze, anchored by one of the great performances in film history. Roberts Blossom, as Ezra Cobb, gives a super damaged and creeptastic portrayal of a man who likes to dig up corpses and set them around his dinner table.

Before his creepy mom dies she tells him that all women are trying to get him to have sex with them and that you can’t trust any of them, unless they are fat. Really. That’s a point in the film. And at some point Ezra meets with a fat “psychic” lady who swears her dead husband wants Ezra to oblige her carnal desires. Luckily, Ezra knew this might happen and puts a pillow over her face and shoots her. Down flies up in front of the photo of her husband. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

I’m getting ahead of myself. After his mom dies, Ezra digs her up and begins making treasures out of human remains. Soon he needs fresh supplies. At a bar he makes friends with an older waitress. After a few weeks of ingratiation, he slashes her tires and lurks about until she asks for his help. He basically abducts her and takes her to his house…I don’t really know what his plan was. She discovers his corpse zoo and he shows her a flesh drum and wears a flesh face “ala Leatherface”. Soon he smashes her and that’s the end of her.

Ezra is a friend with the neighboring farmer, and the farmer’s son has a hot girlfriend who works at the hardware store. Ezra sets his sights on her and the third act of the film features him shooting her, her getting stuck in a bear trap and eventually Ezra being caught in the act of filleting her while she hangs by her feet. Ezra is shot in this act but it gives very little sense of relief.

This film was obviously made cheaply and quickly to cash in on the sordid details of the Ed Gein case, however, what could have been an HGL horror-show, ends up a strange existential picture in which Roberts Blossom takes us inside the mind of a maniac. His characterization comes off as pitiable and broken rather than insidious and malevolent.

By straddling the line of gore and character, the film gives us that rare creature; one I celebrate here, art-horror. It is a primary goal of the film to have us connect with this monstrous man. I’d say due to Blossom’s extraordinary performance they succeed. Another indispensable element is the funerary organ score by Carl Zittrer. We first here the music during Ezra’s mothers funeral, and by repeating this music, we know that Ezra carries around his mother’s death with him. This moment is so defining for him, that his every action reflects his mother’s expectation for him.

In this way, Deranged occupies a very specific place in the history of horror films; it is the direct descendant of Psycho, even being based on the same events. Deranged is much less plot based than Psycho and revels more in the red stuff and the brain of the killer. Deranged is also the father of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It came one year before, and while I doubt Hooper saw this film before he shot TCM both films consider that purgatory that exists on private property in rural areas, far from the prying eyes of official types.

Because of the pseudo-doc style, the film never allows for the subjectivity of a horror scene. Instead, it plays the events with objectivity, never seeking to manipulate the audience with suspense or terror. Rather, we are left cold observers, powerless to help the victims and fascinated and repulsed that such event s transpire in the world around us.

Gillen and Ormsby didn’t end up being Horror Gods or even Film luminaries, but the lightning in the bottle that is Deranged left a lovely legacy to existential gore films. The film world is better with films like this in it.

Born For Hell – Denis Heroux – 1976

Posted in 70's with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2013 by bookofdread

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Denis Heroux’s Born For Hell is a nasty little piece of sleaze. Few movies have the nerve to be so fucking slimy. But this one is one of the lowest films I’ve ever seen. Even with its’ fairly sterile presentation, the content alone is enough to make one want to bathe in Holy Water.

The film begins with a Mass. As a bomb explodes a Vet in a green jacket barely reacts to the dead bodies on the floor. A church bombing in the first 5 minutes? Yeah, it’s going to be that kind of a movie. This is a film about the cycle of violence, and how sometimes one cant leave the frying pan for carrying the fire around inside.

A US Vietnam Veteran is stuck in Belfast. He doesn’t have enough money to board a ship back to the states, and the next one doesn’t leave for a week. He’s broke, begging, abandoned by his nation. He’s staying in a hostel. An Asian man beds next to him. The vet asks where he’s from.

“Vietnam”.

The vet pulls out a medal and tells him he had to kill a lot of men to get it. He offers it to the Vietnamese man. The man tells him to, “Shove it.”

After a good thirty minutes of building a slight but definite empathy for veteran, Cain Adamson, (Good Grief….), Cain enters a house full of nurses for a lengthy second act. Good God does it get ugly.

Cain ties up all the girls in one room, and then takes one out to talk to her. He tells her she looks like his ex-wife before he tries to rape her. She resists his advances so he takes off his belt and pulls it around her neck choking her. He rapes her and chokes her to death. One down.

This film is incredibly misogynistic, and the villain clearly hates women. He tells one victim that Jimmy-Boy, his best friend went home early with hepatitis but then knocked up his wife. So, this man is cuckolded, and a war-killer. Here in Belfast, he’s desperate, defeated, destroyed.

Cain returns to the room and asks for two more girls. He forces them to perform lesbian sex acts as he whips them with his belt. As the girls resist he resorts to his trusty switchblade. He places the weapon inside one of the woman’s hands and forces her to slay her friend. Then he drags her to a sink where he half-assedly washes her off before choking her to death with his hands.

This character both hates women and desires them. Much like in Werewolf Woman, Cain desires these women, but wants to destroy them in the name of his wife’s betrayal. This conflict makes him murderous. Though it is a bit more believable here because he is a war killer.

The late nurse and housemother come home at 2am. Whoops. Cain stabbed them.

He returns to the room where two are left. One is hiding. He goes to a wardrobe and stabs mercilessly through a golden curtain, slaying the woman hiding inside. He kills another, until only one is left.

Except, Cain doesn’t know there is a visitor this night. A pregnant nurse hides under the bed.

Cain takes the now hysterical final nurse to the kitchen and gives her cake. She takes his switchblade off of the table in a despondent act and stabs herself. This act is quick, but in a modern film, it could be excruciating.

Cain heads back to the bedroom and robs the corpses of their money. He falls asleep on the bed the pregnant nurse hides under. She sees a tattoo on his arm—Born For Hell.

The next day the man leaves. As the milkman discovers the women, the news descends on the gruesome crime scene. Cain learns there was a survivor who saw his tattoo. He tries to cut it off.

We cut to a hospital where a doctor saves his life and cleans his wounds. The doctor sees the tattoo. Born For Hell.

“So, It’s you.”

Born For Hell is a scathing satire, and grimy exploitation piece.  Made by a German production company, directed by a French director, set in Belfast and featuring an American protagonist, (?) this film shockingly contrasts the religious conflict in Ireland with the US’s lack of responsibility in reigning in their own shell-shocked GI’s after conflict.

This film is only for the most fearless of viewers.  It is an incredibly hard picture, though I can totally imagine an even less sanitized modern version. 

What if Adrian Garcia Bogliano made a version of this film? It would be ruthless and incredible! I want to see that film!

Werewolf Woman – Rino Di Silvestro – 1976

Posted in 70's with tags , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2013 by bookofdread

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Rino Di Silvestro’s Werewolf Woman is a blood soaked tale of mental illness and feral violence. The film begins with visions of a werewolf woman killing men and eventually being burned at the stake by a grip of men. The film is very casual in it’s portrayal of sex and violence and heightening every titillating situation as much as possible. However, the film always portrays it’s murderous female protagonist as crazy rather than evil, and in doing so, creates a devastating, existential, portrait of a monster.

The film actually has no supernatural elements. The opening sequence is the only one featuring an actual werewolf, and it is revealed to be a dream. Daniela Nesiri sees a photo of an ancestor accused of being a werewolf and begins to have these violent dreams where she is werewolf. Here, the media of a photograph, an article of the past affects the present. An individual witnesses the media and is changed by the interaction.

Her father hires a head shrinker that determines that lycanthropy in his daughter is possible and has been proven. Even though, there is never a transformation scene, the film’s resident physician basically says, if it walks like a werewolf and growls and bites like a werewolf, it’s basically a werewolf at that point. This is an example of action reflecting an individual over physical appearance. Daniela may act look like a princess, but if you rip out people’s throats with your teeth, you may need to be put down.

Daniela spies on her sister and her husband having sex. This scene is very long and voyeuristic. The sexual gratification Daniela is denied manifests in a volatile way. Is her father over protective? Does Daniela have no suitors because she is crazy or is she crazy because she has no suitors? It is revealed that she was raped as a child and fears most men. Yet, she clearly desires them. Out of this frustration, and the connection to the spirit of her ancestor she becomes a destructive force of nature.

Daniela runs into the woods, frustrated her sister is getting plowed and she’s scared of men. Her ghost self tells Daniela the circle is complete and gives her werewolf power. Fabian, the husband follows Daniela into the woods where she rapes him, rips his throat out with her teeth and throws his body into a ravine. At this point, Daniela has disposed of all morality and exists basically as animal drive.

Now crazy from her murder, Daniela becomes locked away in a nut house. She flies off the handle at every individual so they tie her down. In effect, the asylum is keeping her libido in a pressure cooker. Here, the repressed desires only grow in power, waiting for ignition. The flame comes in the form of a nymphomaniac patient who frees Daniela looking for a cheap thrill. What she gets, is killed with a scalpel.

Daniela escapes from the asylum in a daring scene featuring pulse-pounding music by composer Coriolano Gori. After her escape, she sees a couple making love in a barn. She watches them finish, then in a rage kills the woman after the man leaves. Here again we find that the film suggests an insatiable addiction. As if an addict couldn’t even do his favorite drugs even if they were right in front of him. This boiling frustration ends in murder after murder.

As in most euro-sleaze pictures, some ineffectual cops show up to try and piece together the crimes. In this case there isn’t much mystery, they just need to track this menace down and get her off the streets.

The film takes a crazy third act jump here, but as this is a true story, I guess this is what happened. Daniela meets and falls in love with a stunt man. Really. There’s a cute lovey-dovey montage of them doing stunts together. They are in love and it seems Daniela is over her complex. Until one night when Stunt Man is away, some thugs come in and go all Straw Dogs on her. Stunt Man comes in and they kill him. The next day we are treated to a kind of mini-Death Wish film. Daniela kills all three of the rapists, but unfortunately for her gives away her whereabouts in doing so.

The film begins with a woman dancing around a fire. At the end of the film, the cops trap Daniela in ring of fire. The woman is no longer the master of passion, but the passion and flame consumes the woman.

Werewolf Woman is sexy and gory. The women are beautiful and the countrysides are picturesque. The music is atmospheric and weird and the plot is never boring. I recommend this film to fans of werewolves, crazy people, and the ripping out of throats with ones teeth.

Private Parts – Paul Bartel – 1972

Posted in 70's with tags , , , , , , on March 19, 2013 by bookofdread

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Paul Bartel’s Private Parts is a solid little thriller. I can’t say the film is entirely successful, because I can’t help but think Bartel intended the film to be a bit funnier than it is, but hey, I guess, that’s as much on the audience as him. As it is, the film is a strange little thriller. Cheryl runs away from her friends. She finds her way to her aunt’s hotel, where her aunt treats her like a whore for wearing make up. Once she finds out Cheryl is her niece she allows her to stay for a few days while she gets on her feet.

The hotel is peppered with strange residents. There is a quiet photographer named George and a creepy priest who always seems super happy to see everyone, in a gross way. Before long we see a couple of gooey kills and we are left to wonder who’s doing the killing. This suspense rarely works, due to lack of character investment. The film starts like a slasher, and then heads into Hitchcock territory. There’s a type of slow burn as Cheryl meets and becomes enamored with George the photographer. Her aunt won’t let them meet, but they talk on the phone. Honestly, this part is slow, slow, slow, and it has everything to do with the likeability of the characters.

Cheryl, as played by Ayn Ruymen, is terribly dishonest and cruel little bitch. Sure, youth plays a large role in this, and we aren’t supposed to like her much, but still, she could be more likeable. She’s supposed to be this wayward youth, but she just comes off as someone the world could live without.

Her aunt is no better, but is at least complex. She is both a nurturer and a destroyer. She helps the world how she can and sees herself a respectable type of woman, but her dark secrets betray that moral attitude. She is actually a woman imposing her will on the world, worse, a woman hating woman. She is that woman fighting against feminine liberation, yet also represents a type of feminine control. Her role in the tale is what makes the whole thing work. She is not unlike what one might imagine Mrs. Bates to be like, and Psycho is clearly referenced in the film several times.

George is the wildest of all. Inside of his room, he has a transparent blow up sex doll. It is filled with water and wears a mask made from a photograph of Cheryl over its face. In the film’s most awesome and crazy scene, George draws blood from his arm with a syringe while he makes out with the doll and then injects the doll with his blood. I’m not going to lie, this shit is crazy and looks really cool, but you can’t believe what you are seeing. Why would someone do this?

In the end it is revealed that George is a woman raised by mean Aunt as a boy. This type of gender reversal has been seen in other films such a Sorceress and Sleepaway Camp. By having the character or the audience believe in the gender of a character, and then revealing the opposite to be true forces the viewer to re-evaluate the characters actions. George penetrated the sex doll with his syringe because he(she) didn’t have a penis with which to penetrate  it.

After the final few murders I was left feeling a bit seedy, not too thrilled, and only a little amazed at the films weirdness. Paul Bartel really wanted to play loose and fast with human life and in this film, it still feels linked to a recognizable reality. In later works, such as Death Race 2000 and Eating Raoul, his zest for bloodshed would be met by producer approval.

I recommend this film for gender studies students, fans of Paul Bartel, and people who think there aren’t enough blow up sex dolls in movies. 

Double Agent 73 – Doris Wishman – 1974

Posted in 70's with tags , , , , , , , on March 6, 2013 by bookofdread

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Double Agent 73 by Doris Wishman isn’t what I’d normally recognize as a film. That’s because it’s apparent that only very few people knew what they were doing in this films production. In this list of ineptitude I would include the editor, cinematographer, the actors and definitely the financiers if your name weren’t Ms. Wishman.

She creates a satire of a satire type, the His Girl Friday genre. This in and of itself is almost the entire conceit that the film hangs it’s boobs on. The His Girl Friday genre is already a type of spoof of the James Bond films, always being kinky spy farces, usually with a buxom blonde as the girl in question. Now, the Bond films are already a delicious atrocity of sexism, but the HGF films actually don’t really comment on that, in fact, they are as a rule, even more sexist!

So Ol’ Doris gets a bee in her bonnet about this and rightfully so. So she makes a film with the biggest tits of all, Chesty Morgan. Oh. You clever girl. You got us right where it hurts.

It hurts so much. Chesty has her chest out all over this movie and her tits are hideous. It’s like a slow-motion train-wreck, starring vein-spotted, stretch-marked 73’ inch jugs. She has about as much sex appeal a plastic bag filled with cottage cheese.

See, as a secret agent they installed a camera in her left tit. We never see it, but it’s there. After she strangles a yutz with a telephone cord, (her preferred method of assassination), she takes her milkers out and squeezes lefty. Our ears are treated to a camera noise. Awesome right? I do not joke.

There is a scene in the beginning where they consecutively cut to five very similar angles of a pair of feet walking.

There is a scene where Chesty is receiving orders from her boss and she is out of focus and the back of her boss’ head is in perfect focus.

The music however is a confident, jazzy tune that evoked laughter every time I heard it. Thank God. This was the only levity in the otherwise trying experience.

Doris knew exactly what film she was making, and she’d be damned if it was going to take her more than 8 days to shoot and edit the thing. (I made that stat up, but you get my point.)

Plot? Uh, She’s a spy? She takes her tits out and takes pictures of people she kills.

They cut around 90 percent of Chesty’s dialogue. I think I saw her speak maybe twice.

So, to sum up, Double Agent 73 is probably best enjoyed with a head full of mescaline and your hand in a box of termites. This is one cinema cocktail for the adventurous and masochistic only. Grotesque and well, just really grotesque, Double Agent  73 is essential viewing for exactly no one and that’s precisely what makes it so fascinating.

Violent City – Sergio Sollima – 1970

Posted in 70's with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2013 by bookofdread

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Sergio Sollima’s Violent City is likely the very best “bitch done me wrong” tale ever told. The opening credits remind me of the middle sequence of Death Proof where Mike is photographing the girls. Sollima uses almost the same technique, only with each still of Bronson and Ireland the frame goes to a solid color, (Blue, Yellow), and he throws a credit up on it. It’s cracking cool and revs you up for the first scene. The film begins with an astonishing car chase, and at the end Bronson realizes his lady has it out for him as he witnesses her get into a car and leave after he’s been shot.

Well, you can’t really kill Bronson. Not and have a movie too. So Bronson has to “get his lady back”, in perhaps every interpretation of the phrase. The film’s attitude is stark and Bronson isn’t holding back at all. His character is a cold killer, none of the warmth of Paul Kersey to be found. We are given virtually nothing about his life prior other than the fact that he was a paid killer.

What’s strange is how throughout the film Bronson tinkers with the idea that somehow this bitch is worth a damn. This bitch that tried to have him killed. Worth a damn? She plays him all over again just like Telly Savalas said she would. If I have a beef with this film at all it’s that I spend too much of the run time telling Charles Bronson that this gal is no good for him. But you know what? Those two play those tender scenes so believably, (because they are clearly in love), that when the story dictates she betray him it cuts deep.

Telly Savalas looks like he shot maybe three days on this movie, and if I’m not mistaken he has one Tarantinian flashback scene where Jill Ireland’s lawyer introduces them and two scenes in his office. He makes the most of his time, and his mob boss functions mostly as an example of just how big a fish this bitch can fry. She plays Bronson against the man again and he helps her kill him.

Jill Ireland is good, but not really as two faced as this character should be. She plays the role a bit skinkily but she seems too put off by her own evil to really be this woman. I imagine what Michelle Pfiffer or Jessica Lange would have done with the role and get chills. But, this woman is actually Bronson’s wife in real life. This adds a super freaky “Eyes Wide Shut” element to the film. By confronting this fictional confrontation of character involving duplicity and greed, perhaps Ireland and Bronson became closer! In what other movie does a husband get to shoot his real life wife?

The finale of Violent City is outstanding. Ireland and her shitbag lawyer ascend a building on a street-view elevator. Perched across the roof is Bronson with a rifle. He shoots and the lawyer falls with a ping. Ireland, terrified looks to the roofs across the street and understands. She mouths, “Don’t make me suffer.” He doesn’t. He shoots her in the head. As he stands a cop on the roof tells him to freeze. Bronson tells the kid to shoot or be shot. Bronson dies, a victim of his life of violence. So it goes in Violent City.

The music by Ennio Morricone is stellar and Tarantino sampled several tracks from the score for “Django Unchained”. But greater still is the lack of music in the final scene. The final moments play out in complete silence, the only sound the “ping!” of a bullet slicing through a glass elevator.

Is the film sexist? Lord yes. But to be fair, there is no moral compass in Violent City; all of the characters are victims of their own evil acts. The values present here are only the fleeting dreams of killers and con-men who cannot escape the trappings of the world around them. Notions of love and trust are a nice thought but blood rules the streets in Violent City and every one must give their share. 

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