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Featured Post - Slasher Movie Marathon 2022

Every summer I cover a bunch of slasher movies for the site. Check in here to see what I've covered so far this summer. You can also che...

Monday, August 30, 2021

Death Falls Lightly (1972)

The Giallo fun continues with this one. The action kicks off with a POV shot of someone sneaking around an apartment. They eventually find a woman sleeping in the bed. Then we watch as a man excitedly drives to his friend’s house for help. Apparently, the woman we saw sleeping was his wife and she was brutally murdered. He knows the police will blame him, because it is always the husband, so he asks for help. The Judge, his friend, gets on the phone and starts setting things up. It seems that no one really likes Giorgio, the panicked man, but they have to help him. Why? We find out later. 

Giorgio and his girlfriend Liz… maybe he did kill his wife… are hidden away in a yet to open hotel. We watch them go a bit stir crazy while his friends try to figure out who the real killer is. This leads to some stuff that I don’t want to spoil in my review but be warned it gets confusing before it all makes sense. I will say that along the way we find out that Giorgio smuggles drugs for an organization that funds all sorts of important political figures and because he makes them so much money, they feel obligated to protect him. Eventually we do find out who killed his wife and why they did it. It was oddly simple and wasn’t a great payoff for the complicated and confusing plot. 

This is a hard one for me to recommend. The story is interesting, and I was kept guessing for a good long time as to who the killer was. So, there it succeeds in a way. Unfortunately, one of the reasons for this was due to a confusing and at times incomprehensible script. The movie waits until the very end to explain the role that the Judge and the police play in the story. There is also a far-fetched bit with a director and his cast of actors that sort of spoiled things for me. When the story stays with Giorgio and Liz it is much better. Them going stir crazy being locked up in the empty hotel and wandering around in the dark provide the best scenes. 

Not gonna lie... I want that groovy wallpaper
If you haven’t figured it out yet the genre of Gialli leans heavily into the killing and sleaze. I mean I keep talking about it so you really should know that by now. The movie does give us a good bit of skin on screen, from both genders. A lot of “naughty” business is gotten up to in Death Falls Lightly, so expectations were met. Kill wise we get a measly three with two of those happening at the very end. And the wife dying isn’t even on screen. So here we have a murder mystery without any murders for a long time. Some movies might be able to get away with that but not a Giallo like this. The one kill we do get to see happen is very tame, even by the standards of the early seventies. Here my expectations weren’t met. 

The at times confusing plot coupled with the lack of good death scenes ruined the movie for me. It had potential and fans of the genre might be interested in checking it out once, but there are much better movies out there to watch. I can’t recommend Death Falls Lightly. 


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer


Friday, August 27, 2021

Torso (1973)

This is what I would consider one of the best Gialli ever made. It has everything you could ask for. A decent mystery as to who the killer is that keeps you guessing until the end. Lots of sleaze and nudity because… well that is what makes a Giallo a Giallo. Fun kills with some decent gore effects work. And finally, a wonderful bit towards the end where we get emotionally wrung out with one of the characters watching in silent horror as her friend’s bodies are butchered. Good times, but then I guess I should backtrack some and talk about the plot.

Our story is set or at least starts off at the campus of a large university. We see students working on their art degrees, which is why they are in Italy. Lots of paintings and statues around. One of the girls goes off with her boyfriend in her Cooper Mini to have naughty grown up times with him. This leads to her and him both being killed, which is a shock to the other girls. When another of their friends also ends up dead one of them, Dani, with a rich uncle sends them to his villa in the country to get out of town and possibly out of danger. This includes an American named Jane who arrives late after driving up rather than taking the train with the others. This is important later as between that and being laid up in bed after hurting her ankle she isn’t around when the killer takes everyone else out.

The black gloved killer thinks he has killed everyone and is leaving town when he hears some of the locals talking about the fourth girl. This means he needs to head back to finish her off. He is in the middle of doing this when the doctor treating her realizes something is wrong and goes to check on them. There is a huge and well-staged fight sequence before the killer gets what is coming to him and the day is saved. Also, we finally find out who the killer is and why the crimes were committed. I won’t spoil that here, but I will say it wasn’t random.

I’ve already mentioned that the mystery is good. There are a lot of suspects and the film does a great job not cluing you in too early as to what is going on. What I especially appreciate about Torso is when they do pull back the proverbial curtain and show you the truth it all makes sense. I love Italian movies, but the plots aren’t always easy to follow and make some odd leaps in logic. Here it is satisfyingly straightforward. While I admit some of the characters are here simply to raise the body count there is an effort to connect them to the bigger storyline. So again, some effort was put into the script.

Being a Giallo you expect some nudity and naughtiness. We get a lot of that from the sex scene that plays under the opening credits to the ladies who enjoy each other’s company there is no end to that sort of thing in Torso. If you don’t want to see that sort of thing then honestly the Giallo genre isn’t for you. This is a staple, and it is nicely done here.

Something else fans expect are decent kills and gore. Again, the movie delivers the goods with a respectable nine kills. Throats are cut, girls strangled and drowned. My favorite kill has to be death by Mini Cooper. Ever wanted to see a guy’s head squished by a bumper? If so, then Torso is the movie you have been waiting for! A lot of the kills are offscreen and seen after the fact, but they stage them so well that it wasn’t a big deal. We also get an extended gag with bodies being dismembered. While it isn’t explicit the sound effects used sell the scene are almost better than any gore could have pulled off.

I love this movie and highly recommend it. This along with Bay of Blood are a couple of Gialli that clearly influenced the Slasher genre of the late seventies and eighties that I grew up on. For that alone it is worth checking out. But again, this is a fantastic movie that has a lot of stuff going for it.  If you haven’t seen Torso, then stop reading and go track down a copy. It is easy to find out there, but if you have the option the Blue Underground Blu-Ray is the way to go.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974)

This is another movie that falls into the Giallo category, but at times doesn’t feel like one. As I explain the plot, I think you will see where I’m coming from. As the movie opens, we are met with a beautiful blonde woman, played by Mimsy Farmer. She is getting ready and while leaving her apartment stops to turn all the lights on. Her name is Sylvia, and she is a big shot at a chemical company. We are also introduced to her boyfriend who is annoyed by how much she works. The movie makes a point to show us how driven she is. There are also some other friends and neighbors, but really no one else matters.

As the story unfolds, we see that Sylvia had a traumatic childhood. Her father died when she was young and she walked in on her mother with another man, who was very creepy about it. It is also hinted at that she might have killed her mother. This becomes important when she not only bumps into the boyfriend but starts to see what I think is the ghost of her mother, the titular Lady in Black. You might have noticed that there aren’t any murders yet. Well, they do come in the end but I’m not sure that they actually did. Why? I think that Sylvia was either hallucinating or crazy the entire time. The events in the movie may or may not have happened. Yeah, this is one of those flicks.

Be warned spoilers are coming. While not a traditional Giallo The Perfume of the Lady in Black is a decent mystery. While watching the movie I kept wondering if Sylvia was being gaslighted. For those who don’t understand that reference I was thinking that those around her were using her childhood trauma to their own advantage. Perhaps pushing her over the edge for control of the company or some inheritance. I’m thinking that the characters were written and portrayed to that end as they seem creepy for the sole purpose of messing with her. Whether that is the talk of black magic and human sacrifices, the fortuneteller bringing up her past, or the bit with the tennis racket and the blood there are lots of spots where characters are pushing her buttons.

I was sold on the above premise as it made the most sense especially when I saw all of the characters, including those who died, show up for a secret meeting. Is there where they get together to split up the spoils of their plan? Kind of. Sylvia’s body is laying on a slab and they cut her open and start feasting on her organs. Honestly, I have not a damn clue what is going on here. I suppose it might be some horrible hallucination by Sylvia or it might just be the movie being weird for the sake of being weird. Not sure but in the end, I don’t think I care.

I was intrigued from start to finish with The Perfume of the Lady in Black. The story is engaging because it has a surreal feel to it. From the little girl who invades Sylvia’s home, to the weird bit with her walking in on her mother and the other man there is always something surprising showing up on screen. I was never bored, and while confused at times there was enough to sink my teeth into that I was never frustrated by the story. Mimsy Farmer is excellent in the role and if I’m to be honest is also a very beautiful woman. That is important because we do get the requisite naughty bits that all good Italian genre flicks provide.

Since I’m on the subject of expectations I think Giallo fans might be a little disappointed in the fact that this is mostly a bloodless movie. Other than one obviously fake dead cat, a finger, we only get a bash to the noggin’, and a couple of clever attacks. The best gag is the one at the end where she is sliced open and eaten, which they linger on and don’t pull back from showing. That is a good bit of effects work, but that is about all you get. If you are looking for a bloodbath this isn’t the movie for you.

I will freely admit that The Perfume of the Lady in Black isn’t going to be everyone’s idea of a good time. It is slow and has an overly complicated nonsensical plot. This is the kind of movie that requires you to not only watch closely but be willing to fill in some blanks for yourself. I really liked it, but I can’t argue with someone who hates it due to what I’ve pointed out above. Is that a recommendation from me? I’m going to leave that up to you… much like the movie does.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Monday, August 23, 2021

Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971)

Time for another entry into Argento’s Animal Trilogy. I’ve already covered Four Flies on Grey Velvet, so I suppose it is time to check out Cat O’ Nine Tails. Yes, I also just realized that I’m covering them in the reverse order that they were released. That wasn’t on purpose, but since they don’t connect to each other it isn’t a big deal.

The action starts off with Karl Malden’s character, Cookie, a blind man, walking down the street with his young niece. Because he is blind his hearing is much better than normal, so he overhears a conversation in a parked car about blackmail. Stopping further along he asks his niece to look back and see who is in the car. This bit becomes important later. The next day there is a ruckus across the street from Cookie’s house, where he also heard the threat. It is a medical facility doing special research on genetics and a guard was assaulted during a break in. Though it appears nothing was stolen. Later a doctor from that facility is killed and Cookie’s niece notices from his picture in the paper that he was the man from the car.

Cookie seeks out the reporter who wrote the story about what at first appeared to be an accident. But when they have the photographer blow up the picture, he tells them someone shoved the man in front of a train. Before they can see it for themselves the evidence is stolen, and the photographer killed. This leads to even more murders as they attempt to solve the case. Eventually the murderer tries to warn them off and when that doesn’t work targets them. All of this leads to an explosive and fun conclusion.

I love this movie and in general really dig all of the Argento directed Gialli. Here the story is solid and easy to follow. While it maintains the mystery until the very end nothing feels forced or overly coincidental. The characters do rational things, except maybe the killer who is supposed to be unbalanced so that is okay. The bodies pile up as the suspect list is narrowed. Many times the pool is narrowed because the suspects end up dead. The story is setup so that we see both Cookie and the journalist doing their own poking around before coming together to pool resources. That keeps things fresh as we jump back and forth between them. When we get to the end it all makes sense. Though I was a bit put off by the fact that the reveal points us towards a character that we hardly get to meet. Then again, the characters are also shocked so I guess that was the point.

The kills in the movie are very brutal and well-staged. We only get five, but they are memorable. The first is a crazy gag where someone is rolled between a train and the platform as they are crushed. It is obviously a dummy, but I’ve not seen that before and it was interesting. We get a couple strangulations that linger on the person slowly dying. While not graphic it is disturbing and will stick with you. Finally, there is a bit with an elevator and hands getting shredded by a cable that was nice and bloody. All in all, this was some good stuff.

In case you were wondering yes, the movie does check the sleaze and nudity boxes that most fans expect when sitting down to watch a Giallo. I also wanted to mention the leads. Malden is great as Cooke and James Franciscus does a fine job as the journalist. When they are on the screen together the movie is even better. We also get some of the creative shots and lighting you would expect from an Argento project. There is even a killer car chase as well as a foot pursuit on a rooftop that are staged awesomely.

Cat O’ Nine Tails is a fantastic entry into the Giallo genre. If you haven’t checked out one of these movies yet and are looking for a place to dip you toe into the waters this is another excellent place to start. I highly recommend it.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Friday, August 20, 2021

The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972)

I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to get around to reviewing a Giallo starring the lovely Edwige Fenech. She was a very big deal in the genre and made many classics. Well now I’ve fixed this omission as we are going to take a look at The Case of the Bloody Iris.

The movie kicks off with us seeing a woman using a phone booth. She calls someone who tells her they are alone and to come on up. She enters a large apartment building and gets on a crowded elevator. People come and go until she is alone, which is when a black gloved killer steps in and stabs her. Now ladies and gentlemen that is how you start a damn movie! She is found by some people, one of which is a beautiful black lady named Mizar who excuses herself as she has to get to work. We are also introduced to the quirky stamp collecting cop investigating the crime.

Speculation is made as to who killed the girl and what she was doing in the building. While that is happening, we see the same black gloved killer murder Mizar by drowning her in the bathtub. That means her apartment is now available so Andrea, the architect whose firm is running the property, moves a couple models who he hired for an advertising campaign in. One of those ladies is Jennifer, played by Fenech, who is trying to get away from her abusive husband who wants her to return to the marriage and his sex cult. Hey this is a Giallo, so we must have some sleaze! Sure enough the killer starts to stalk the new inhabitants of the apartment. We are introduced to some more suspects, more people are killed, and eventually the mystery is solved.

This is a classic Giallo. They seriously don’t get much better than this. Fenech is beautiful and has the acting chops to carry the story along. The mystery is engaging, and the movie keeps you guessing until the very end. There are clues along the way that if you notice them will point you towards who the killer is. Not giving the audience a chance to figure it out is a big pet peeve of mine when it comes to any murder mystery. While I didn’t initially figure it out upon a second viewing, I saw what I missed. This is a sign of a quality flick.

Edwige Fenech is great in this!
We get a respectable six kills in the movie. The camera lingers on the stabbings and slashings. They are pulled off nicely so I’m glad that we get a chance to see the mayhem onscreen. This also adds a level of nastiness to the murders that goes a long way towards making this a memorable movie. In additions to the stabbings, we get death by steam pipe, an ex-husband stuffed into a closet, and my favorite the previously mentioned bathtub drowning. That one is particularly disturbing as the character is alive and begging for their life as the water slowly rises.

It’s a Giallo so I have to mention the sketchy parts as they are expected. We get plenty of nudity, especially from Fenech. There are some naughty bits on display with several sexy times had by the characters. There is also a cringeworthy conversation here and there about the Mizar character that might offend some people. But this was the early seventies in Europe and while I don’t think it is okay, I will cut the movie some slack. Just thought I should mention it.

The Case of the Bloody Iris is shot beautifully with all sorts of interesting lighting choices and camera angles. This is done without being distracting and just adds to the fun. The same can be said of the soundtrack that is filled with groovy seventies music. Honestly, movies from Europe in the seventies just sound different from anything else that I’ve ever watched. Oh and if you wanted to see some odd fashion choices that used to be hip this is also the flick for you.

The Case of the Bloody Iris checks all the boxes that I’d want a Giallo to mark off. Great story, lovely ladies, fun kills, and a satisfying unmasking of the killer. This is one of the best that the genre has to offer, and I highly recommend it.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (aka. The Lady in Red Kills Seven Times) (1972)

The movie opens with two little girls, sisters Evelyn and Kitty. Kitty is playing with her doll when Evelyn snatches it away from her and runs off with it. Eventually the pair end up in a room with their grandfather who tells Evelyn to give it back. Instead, she grabs a knife and stabs it repeatedly. That girl might have some issues. All of this takes place in the shadow of a painting of a woman stabbing another. He tells them the story of the Red Queen and the Black Queen as well as why it is important. The family is cursed and every hundred years there are seven killings that revolved around a pair of sisters. I’m sure that won’t important later…

Fourteen years later the girls are grown up. Evelyn has left for the United States and has cut off all contact with the family, Kitty is a successful photographer for a fashion house, and we meet a third granddaughter Francesca who with her husband lives with and takes care of their grandfather. It is also about time for another batch of murders to take place, at least according to the family curse. A mysterious woman shows up in the elderly man’s bedroom and scares him to death bringing Kitty back for the funeral. Though Evelyn is nowhere to be found. That might also be important later.

We are introduced to some other characters like Kitty’s boyfriend, the boyfriend’s crazy wife who is institutionalized, a model named Lulu (played by a very young Sybil Danning), a family friend named Rosemary, and others. Some are victims and other suspects as they mysterious woman in red aka. The Red Queen starts stabbing her way thru the cast. But who is the killer and how do they connect to the family curse? Is there even a connection or is it simply someone trying to get ahead at the fashion house? There are so many questions to be answered.

The Lovely Ladies
This is another fun Giallo that is new to me. Because I enjoyed this one so much and spoiling the plot would kill the fun for first time viewers, I’m going to be very careful to keep this review spoiler free. The story is solid and while it has a lot of characters and subplots, I found things easy to follow. They do a fine job of not only giving us a few suspects, but also keep us guessing as to the motivation of the killer. Is it all about the family curse, or perhaps the inheritance after the grandfather dies, or maybe even taking control of the fashion house? The first death is the managing director who was in the way of Kitty’s boyfriend taking over. So not only do we not know who the killer is, but the motive is kept vague until the end as well. That is a nice twist.

Part of the movie is set at the family estate, which is an old castle with hidden rooms and a creepy basement. This is used to great effect for a couple of scenes, including the ending which was great. When not at the castle the movie is filled with all sorts of groovy seventies locations that are also a lot of fun. I mean nothing quite looks like décor from the decade of disco and the clothes… just wow. Toss in a groovy soundtrack and you get a flick that is entertaining on many different levels.

I liked the killer and kills!
As for the other hallmarks of a Giallo, violence and sleaze, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times gives us both. Sybil Danning plays Lulu, a model who I’m fairly certain is allergic to clothes. She runs around seducing and blackmailing people until she picks the wrong target and ends up dead. Yeah, don’t threaten to expose a homicidal maniac with a body count because they might just decide to add you to the pile! We get a plentiful nine murders in this one,  mostly stabbings with a fun death by car door and fence spikes tossed in for fun. One of the kills is not only violent but a good jump scare as well. All in all, this movie gives me what I want from an entry into the subgenre.

This is a cool flick that I enjoyed the heck out of. A movie like The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is why I decided to do a deep dive on Gialli. I have seen most of the well-known ones or those from filmmakers that I was aware of like Argento and Bava. But I know I was missing out on other flicks like this one. I highly recommend that everyone check it out.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

 

 

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Bloodstained Butterfly (1971)

Time for another mystery as the first annual Giallo marathon rolls along. This time it follows the murder of a young French girl. The action kicks in when her body rolls down a hill and is found by a nanny. The action is furious as we see a figure in a trench coat running away from the scene. The police are called and give chase but the suspect escapes. After some investigation and speculation by the characters a witness comes forward and identifies a local sports anchor, Marchi, as the man that ran away. He knew the dead girl since she was his daughter’s best friend. He goes to trial and ends up put away in jail for the crime.

But when more girls are killed in a similar way the authorities are concerned that they have imprisoned the wrong man. This is bad news for Marchi’s wife and lawyer. Mostly because they have been having an affair and weren’t sad, he was out of the picture. We also find out that Marchi’s daughter is having an affair with Giorgio. He was the boyfriend of the dead French girl and seems to be really messed up by her death and because of that gets a bit rough with his new lady. This leads to a lot of sexy times… a lot of it. This is a Giallo, so we do expect some sleaze and The Bloodstained Butterfly doesn’t disappoint.

Marchi is eventually released since the killer is obviously still on the loose and he wasn’t the murderer of the young woman. Or is he? There are some more twists and turns before we get to the end. One that is both a neat twist and a satisfying comeuppance for those responsible for the mayhem.

I enjoyed the heck out of this one. First, I dig how they tied the title into the story. Gialli tend to connect the title to the primary victim that kicks off the killing or sometimes it is a clue to the identity of the killer. Here the French girl has a butterfly necklace as well as some sort of band around her books. It’s bloodstained for obvious reasons. Not hugely important to the story, but again it was a fun bit.

The story can be confusing as we are introduced to characters in rapid succession and early on it can be hard to follow who is who. But as the plot progresses the characters are fleshed out and pared down so that things begin making more sense. I think that the early confusion helps keep the audience off balance, which makes the overall who done it feel to the proceedings more satisfying. The filmmakers walk a tightrope here as I never felt totally lost, which would have had me checking out, but instead it made me pay more attention to what I was watching. In the end when all is revealed it was worth the effort to stick with the story and I was pleased.

The music was noticeably good. There is a bit at the beginning of the movie where we seamlessly transition from a classical soundtrack to a jazzy version of the same music. The fact that it also ties into the story later and serves as a clue is nifty. At the time thought I thought it was just a creative choice and enjoyed it.

This isn’t a body count sort of movie. Here there are only three deaths and none of them are terribly explicit either. Though there are some gruesome autopsy photos that pop up onscreen and linger a bit. They are so disturbing that I wouldn’t be surprised if they were real. We don’t see the actress’ face just some nasty stab wounds. Other than that, things are rather tame. Again, this isn’t the kind of movie that needs a lot of gore as it is leaning heavily into the who done it aspects of the story instead. Still those photos are going to stick with me, so good job movie.

I’m trying to keep my review spoiler free so there aren’t many more details I can go into. Bottom line is The Bloodstained Butterfly is a cool story with lots of suspects and an eventual reveal that I enjoyed. I recommend that people check this one out. It really is a good time.

 

© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Friday, August 13, 2021

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

I haven’t covered enough Mario Bava for the site. Since I’m covering some Gialli I thought I’d take a look at Hatchet for the Honeymoon. While it isn’t a Giallo in the traditional sense, which will become obvious later, I thought it would be a fun inclusion. 

The movie opens on a train. I’m a sucker for movies set on a train, though this is only the opening scene so bummer. We see a killer stalking a newly married couple eventually killing them both with a large meat cleaver. I guess that is the hatchet in the title. Something might have been lost in translation. The weird bit is we see who the killer is so there is not mystery there. His name is John Harrington, and he runs a bridal business helping women pick out their wedding dresses and do planning. He is in an unhappy marriage, has some mommy issues, and lives by the motto “A woman should only live until her wedding day, love once, and then die.” I guess that is why he kills.

Now you might be asking what the mystery of this particular Giallo is. Well John has some suppressed memory that he can glimpse when he kills. He isn’t only killing because he is homicidal but is also trying to figure out what has been torturing his dreams. That is a creative twist to the genre that I dig. We also have an inspector that is keeping track of John, suspicious that he has had something to do with the disappearances and murders that have surrounded the bridal business. There is clearly something up with that as well as with the new model named Helen who has showed up with some sort of hidden agenda herself. As you can see there is a lot going on here. 

While not a traditional who done it, I enjoyed this movie. There are several questions that linger until the final scene, so I was engaged with the story until the very end. It was odd to follow the killer instead of an intended victim, but I’d have to say it works. I will admit that pacing can be an issue at times, especially when John is trying to work out his demons and being melodramatic. I don’t mind this myself, but I also can’t argue with fans that get annoyed with it. If you are looking for a lot of sleaze and kills every couple of minutes this isn’t the movie for you. 

I must also warn casual fans that this is one of those movies that require you to pay close attention to if you want to enjoy it. Bava was an influence on Dario Argento and much like him you need to keep your eyes open for some important visual cues. It is important to realize that Bava is telling the story not only with the dialogue but with his camerawork as well. If you half watch this because it is “boring” you are missing much of what is cool. Some of my favorite visuals are binocular vision, the overhead creepy mannequin dancing scene, a distorted face in a serving dish, and a closeup of an eye that disappears into the darkness as the camera pulls back. I understand that this sounds a bit… well I guess douchey. But film is a visual medium and I appreciate creative and subtle efforts to make a movie look interesting. That is a hallmark of Bava and is on display here. This is a very stylish flick and should be appreciated for it. 

The kills are light with only four. The best is when John chops up his wife, Mildred, and burns her body. This leads to a bit of fun where she is haunting him or is she? There is some question as to if this is a delusion or if it is a supernatural thing. I like how that is kept vague allowing for the audience to fill in the blanks. In the end I had fun with Hatchet for the Honeymoon but didn’t love it. The pacing issues do takeaway from what is an otherwise creative and interesting spin on the traditional murder mystery Giallo format. Though I fear that those not well versed in the tropes of the genre might not like this one as much as a more established fan would. I suppose I can cautiously recommend this one with the caveat of you might want to start with a movie like Eyeball before jumping into Hatchet for the Honeymoon.  


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)

The Gialli keep coming. I realized I haven’t covered any of the classics so I have decided to fix that and there is nowhere better to start than with one of Dario Argento’s “Animal Trilogy”, Four Flies on Grey Velvet. 

I’m going to do my best with the plot synopsis, but this is an Argento movie, so somethings are sort of left up to interpretation. Our main character is Roberto, a drummer for a rock band. After a recording session he sees a man who has been following him around and gives chase. Eventually cornering him he is angry and wants to know what his issue is. The man pulls a knife and in the struggle is stabbed and killed. What is really weird is that there is a strange figure wearing a kewpie doll mask taking pictures. 

Using those pictures, the masked figure starts to torture Roberto by slipping copies into some records during a party and sending threatening letters. But since this all started off with him killing someone and running from the scene, he obviously can’t call the cops. Instead he turns to a motley crew of friends that I think are either bohemians or just homeless. One of them is played by the late great Bud Spencer who is wonderful in his limited role. He also hires a flamboyantly gay detective to help him figure things out. That might not seem like a big deal, but this was the early seventies so I’m sure it was shocking to see that character on screen. 

I enjoy the hell out of Four Flies on Grey Velvet. While it might not be the best Giallo I’ve seen and might not even be the best of the “Animal Trilogy” it is a solid flick that delivers what I expect. The identity of the killer is kept from the audience until the very end of the movie, but when it is revealed it is a great twist. Have to be careful as to not give anything away. If you go back and revisit the movie, which I have on several occasions, it is entirely plausible. Nothing worse than watching a flick like this only to realize the plot doesn’t support the big reveal. I know that a lot of fans complain about Argento’s movies having very thin plots, and in some cases they are correct. But here it is well constructed and thought out. 

You have to have a bit of sleaze in your Giallo and we get some here. While Argento doesn’t wallow in it like some of the other directors there is a bit where Roberto jumps into bed with the cousin of his wife after she leaves him. Just because she is scared and leaves the city after the killer keeps breaking into the house, he gets annoyed and at the first opportunity beds her cousin? This leads to some naughty stuff and a bit of nudity. The Giallo genre more or less hangs its hat on scenes like the above so it was a must. 

What I didn’t expect was the comic relief. Between the detective and the bohemians that come to help Roberto we get some very funny scenes and dialogue. I’ve already mentioned how much I loved seeing Bud Spencer in his supporting role, but the other actors are equally as entertaining. There is a bit of important dialogue delivered to move the plot along in a scene that takes place at a casket or undertaker convention/show. Pay attention in the background for some subtle physical humor. What could have been a boring exchange is livened up by where it takes place. 

The killer looks cool!
There are five deaths in the movie with a couple of them being off screen. The others are decent with the highlight being a slow needled into a chest to induce a heart attack. That is what I would say is the most explicit of them. If I have a criticism of Four Flies on Grey Velvet, it is that I think they missed a chance to go all out on the onscreen deaths. Even by the standards of the early seventies this is a bit tame. Then again, I can see an argument being made that this isn’t that kind of movie. 

I have a final thing to mention before I wrap things up. One of the best parts about Gialli are the titles. They normally all give some clue to an important plot element or twist. Sometimes they are giving you a giant hint as to the identity of the killer. Here Four Flies on Grey Velvet refers to an image they pull off of one of the victim’s retina’s after their death. The science isn’t very good, but as far as plot devices goes it is fun. 

If it isn’t obvious yet I really like this movie. This was the hardest of the Argento movies to find for many years and I was really excited when MYA announced a DVD release about ten years ago. That is the disc that I watched for this review, but I think that there might be better releases put out since then. Regardless I think it is well worth your time tracking down a copy of Four Flies on Grey Velvet. If you are new to the genre this is a wonderful place to start and if you are already a fan this is a must see. I highly recommend it. 


© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer


Monday, August 9, 2021

Eyeball (1975)

My very first Giallo marathon kicks off here at the site. I thought it would be fun to start things off with some Umberto Lenzi goodness. Yeah, it is time to watch Eyeball, where a tour group in Spain has to deal with a homicidal maniac killing off women and cutting out their left eye. Sounds like fun, no?

In case you are new to Gialli let me explain what we are looking for. You have a killer who is wearing gloves, normally black. There is also a lot of twists and turns before the killer is revealed. The movies linger on the kills and the twisted they are the better. And finally, there has to be a bit of sleaze, including a lot of nudity. The name Giallo comes from the Italian word for yellow, which was the color used on the covers of most of the books that inspired these movies came in. Now that we are set, we can continue.

The movie starts in an airport where we see a woman, who we later find out is Alma, changing her flight from New York City to Barcelona. That is important later. Then we meet our main cast of vacationers from Burlington Vermont on a tour of Spain. Not long after arriving in Barcelona the group is nearby to where a young girl is killed, and her left eye is removed. One of the women on the tour, Paulette, bumps into the man whom she has been having an affair with. His name is Mark and if you haven’t guessed it yet his wife was Alma from earlier. We also have a photographer and her girlfriend, a grandfather traveling with his granddaughter, and a few others. Now that we have our characters in place let’s talk the plot.

After the first girl dies, we get several more deaths. All along the way suspicion is thrown from one red herring to another. Is it the angry wife Alma? Or maybe the creepy tour guide who keeps playing practical jokes? Hell, it might even be Mark since he seems to brood a lot and is already cheating on his wife with Paulette. So many suspects are suggested and then discounted by the inspector. The inspector who we find out at the beginning of the killings only has a week before he retires! He is definitely getting too old for this shit! Does he solve the crime before he goes fishing? Of course, he does. Really this is a mystery movie so they have to solve it before the end credits roll.

Referring back to what I’m looking for out of a Giallo we need to take a critical look at Eyeball. First, we have a really cool killer in this movie that has a unique look that the plot takes a lot of time to explain. Early on it rains and the tour company provides all of them with identical raincoats. When we see the killer, all wrapped up in the red raincoat, we have no idea who it is. That means the movie can actually show us the killer attacking the victims without doing a perspective shot or hiding them in some other way. That was pretty damn cool.

I love the look of the killer in Eyeball!
The movie is paced excellent with the kills spaced out evenly while presenting and then occasionally discounting suspects. I was guessing until the very end as to who it was. Though I was a bit annoyed that the killer was revealed to be someone that they had carefully kept out of the suspect list. Damn I suppose that is a spoiler… The resolution comes from information that the audience never had. That said the twist as to why the killer was taking the left eye from their victims was satisfying and more than a bit fun.

The deaths are a bit tame and we only get six in total. But we do have a neat eye stabbing scene and a throat getting cut nicely on screen as well. This isn’t the bloodiest Giallo that I’ve seen there are far more explicit ones out there. Speaking of explicit we do get a bit of sleaze with some nudity and hinting at offscreen girls “enjoying” each other. Again, I’ve seen other movies in this genre that go way further with it then Eyeball does, but I still dug it.

You know I’ve said in the past and I think that it is still the case that Eyeball is an excellent gateway into Gialli. It is a bit tame in the gore and sleaze, which is likely a good thing for newbies. It also has a very linear storyline that easy to follow. The deeper you go into this genre the more you need to understand the weird leaps in logic that the viewer is expected to make, so again this is a great place to dip you toes in the water. Eyeball is a movie that gets revisited by me every few years. I dig this flick and recommend that everyone check it out.

 

Ó Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

 

 

Featured Post - The Giallo Marathon

Yep I'm back with another marathon. This is a first for me here at Crappy Movie Reviews as I've never spent much time on Gialli. These European made murder mysteries, mostly from Spain and Italy, are a favorite of mine. I've been watching them for the last fifteen or twenty years but still have many I've not seen yet. So I suppose it was time for me to begin talking about them here. Not only because I love the genre but also because it gives me an excuse to check out a bunch I've not seen before. 

Speaking of movies I've not seen if you have some Gialli to suggest to me drop me an email at gutmunchers@gmail.com and I'd be happy to cover them. 

-John


1. Eyeball (1975) 

Why not start the marathon off with some Umberto Lenzi goodness? I know that many of his movies are hard to wrap your mind around aka. they can be tedious. But Eyeball is a well paced and fun way to dip your toes into the genre. This is also one of the easiest to find as it is on a lot of those public domain sets as well as regularly popping up on YouTube. 




I've not covered much Dario Argento here on the site. That is odd since he is legitimately one of my favorite filmmakers. So I thought this Giallo marathon was a good place to start correcting that. His famous Animal Trilogy is going to show up a couple of times at least in this marathon. 




If I'm going to cover Argento I have to sneak some Mario Bava into the mix as well. This one doesn't follow the traditional formula of murder mystery and suffers from some pacing issues, but I like it. Though be warned this isn't for the "newbie" to the genre as it plays with expectations. 



This is a fun movie that lacks some of the gore but leans heavily into the sleaze and mystery. This is a fantastic murder story with lots of twists and turns, tons of suspects, and an ending that I rather enjoyed. If you are looking for a movie to keep you guessing until the finale this is the one for you!



This is another entertaining little mystery with a family curse coming into play as ladies start to be murdered by a mysterious lady in red. This connects back to a fashion house and the politics that surrounds it's control. Plus it is run by the cursed family. Lots of suspects and murders make for a fun flick. 




Wow I haven't covered an Edwige Fenech movie for the site yet. That sort of shocks me as I'm a big fan. Though it makes sense she appears on this list since she did many awesome Gialli. This one is particularly fun featuring some great kills and an even better mystery. 



Time for another Argento flick as I cover another of the animal trilogy. This one stars Karl Malden as a blind man named Cookie that gets caught up in a series of murders connected to the medical research facility across the street from his apartment. This is another great Giallo from Argento. 




This is a weird one. Honestly the plot is confusing at times but I do really like this movie. If you are looking for something a bit different maybe this is the flick for you. Click on the title above to see my full review. 





Time to cover one of the classics of the Giallo subgenre. Torso has it all. Lovely ladies, sleaze, kills, mystery, and a satisfying ending that is a blast. This is one of the best and a flick that I regularly revisit. If you only watch one movie from my marathon this should be it. 





I went from one of the best to one of the most confusing and disappointing that I've watched. This movie has some potential with a spooky setting with an empty hotel, interesting characters, and a decent who done it. But the reveal at the end is disappointing and filled with some twists that don't make a like of sense. 



How is this for a title? These Gialli have some of the best eye catching posters of any movie from the '70s and early '80s. Here it doesn't so much follow thru with the promise (A murder in the park and a naked girl but not a murdered naked girl!) but is still a good flick. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Deep Space (1988)

I’m not a huge fan of Fred Olen Ray, but I dig where he is coming from as a fan of sci-fi and horror. Occasionally I do end up enjoying his movies, but when he is bad… he is really bad. So where does Deep Space fall on that spectrum? Let’s look and see.

The movie opens with a satellite crashing to Earth. On that Satellite is an experiment that the military and the mad scientist guys don’t want anyone knowing about. The latter insists that the project is dormant, but when some kids show up, they get killed by it. Then we meet some cops played by Charles Napier and Ron Glass. They are the bad asses that get suspended after a shootout but are immediately called back to investigate the crash. Their boss is played by Bo Svenson. We also get some footage of Julie Newmar as a psychic who keeps calling Napier’s character with her visions.

Finally, you can toss in Ann Turkel as the new lady cop who ends up in bed with Napier’s character and becomes part of the chase. See they found these egg things at the crash site that hatch into baby versions of the creature and after killing them they track mama down to a warehouse where Napier’s character must go mano y monstero. Oh, and Bo Svenson shows up with a gun to participate in dispatching the monster.

Deep Space is a derivative flick that is trying to copy things from all the more popular big budget monster movies of the eighties. The creature is clearly an Alien clone, the crash and rock thing on the ground cracking open is very reminiscent of the Blob, Napier is certainly channeling his inner Tom Atkins as he does battle with the creature. There is nothing new here. I will also readily admit that at times the movie can be slow. Whenever they try and develop the characters things grind to a halt. But happily, this doesn’t happen too much.

Okay now that I have all the negative stuff out of the way let me tell you this. I like this movie. The creature, while not at all original, is very well done for the low budget affair that Deep Space was. It looks decent enough on screen and director Ray knows how to shoot around its weaknesses most of the time. There are a decent number of kills, though the gore isn’t explicit. We do get to see some limbs tossed around.

But this isn’t the best part of the movie. That is the excellent cast of “B” actors. Bo Svenson, Charles Napier, Ann Turkel, Ron Glass, and Julie Newmar are all great in their roles. Sure, some of them are limited and the writing isn’t very meaty, but my inner nerd loved seeing them on the screen. Plus, these are all veteran actors and can make something out of nothing. Napier does a great job dropping some funny lines like, “I’m gonna kick some monster ass.” and “…somebody’s got to come down and clean up the mess ‘cause I’m gonna make a big one.” Maybe it is cheesy, but I loved it. I know that I started this review off by saying I'm not a big Fred Olen Ray fan but now I'm not so sure. I think I need to track down more of his movies and give him another chance. 

If you are looking for serious horror Deep Space isn’t for you. But if you are looking for a fun “turn your brain off for ninety minutes and watch cool character actors do their thing” movie then check this one out. With that qualification I recommend this one.

 

Ó Copyright 2021 John Shatzer

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Werewolves Within (2021)

Finn has arrived in a small town, Beaverfield, to serve as their new park ranger. He arrives and spends some time meeting the locals, who are an odd bunch. One of those locals is postman…er postwoman? Her name is Cecily, and she is also a newcomer to the town. They stroll around delivering the mail and she fills him in on the town gossip. This is a clever way to introduce the audience to the characters and the setting.

Not long after this is established the killings start. Bodies are found, dogs are killed… boo movie… and paranoia reigns. At first, they band together as there is safety in numbers. But soon after they turn on each other and split up. This is just what the werewolf wanted as it starts to pick them off. Or does it? The people of Beaverton seem just as happy to kill each other before the creature can get to them. In the end we find out what is going on and why it is happening. Honestly it is a solid way to finish the story.

Low budget werewolf flicks are normally not that great. But this movie bucks that trend. They keep the creature under wraps and don’t show us anything until the end. That allows them to not do too much with the effects, though when we do see it, the creature doesn’t look too bad. Though if we saw the monster on the screen too much it might have ruined it for me as I’m not sure how it would have held up under the scrutiny. The kills and gore are okay, but not terribly explicit. If you are looking for limbs to go flying and blood spraying everywhere this isn’t the flick for you. What does Werewolves Within give us, you might be asking.

Werewolves Within is one of those odd horror flicks that is carried by the cast of quirky characters. Finn and Cecilia are our main characters in the movie but there are lots of supporting roles like the crazy mountain man, the rich gay guys from the city, the local pipeline businessman, and a couple of crazy redneck types. At times they do come off a bit as stereotypes, but overall, the story never feels like it wants to be overly serious, so this doesn’t bother me too much. The cast does a very good job in their roles and the movie is paced decently so that it never drags or feels dull. It is a good time from start to finish.

As I was researching for my review, I came across the fact that this was based off a video game. I’m not a huge gamer but I can’t believe that I missed that fact before watching Werewolves Within. This makes me even more impressed with the movie because most video game adaptations are a mess as I firmly believe it is hard to translate from one type of media to another. The fact that this was done so slickly here is very cool.

Obviously, I dug this one and am going to recommend it. I will drop a warning here. If you are looking for a serious horror flick this isn’t for you. It has a more lighthearted feel, though with a body count, than a flick like the Howling. This isn’t that kind of movie nor was it intended to be. Manage your expectations and I think you will have a blast with Werewolves Within.

 

Ó Copyright 2021 John Shatzer