31 July, 2007

The Outcry of Michelangelo Antonioni



A few thoughts about the passing of Michelangelo Antonioni. I remember being at a New York City screening of his 1975 film, THE PASSENGER. During the famous shot which slowly moves away from Jack Nicholson's body, through a hotel window, finally turning in a geometrical pattern to reframe the scene from an exterior viewpoint, an elderly man in the theater starting shouting, "It's too SLOW, the photography's good, the acting is good... but it's too damn SLOW!!!!" Antonioni's pacing had caused the Outcry. I was fascinated, the other patron was bored. All of Antonioni's films look great and some have provoked great controversy. His masterwork L'AVVENTURA was roundly booed at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.








Edvard Munch's famous 1885 painting, IL GRIDO, could perhaps be considered as the structuring absence behind the Antonioni aesthetic. He also made a film with that title in 1957, which is perhaps his most underrated feature in a career that spanned six decades. All of his major works culminate in a kind of horrific, silent Outcry. It's no coincidence that this image can also be recognized as evoking the oeuvre of Ingmar Bergman, who also passed away yesterday. Like Munch, Antonioni was a painter. He used cameras instead of brushes and put his light and tints onto film.


Antonioni had a very tough time with many critics and still does with audiences unprepared for what the does with time and space. He gives us all the time in the world to consider Time and Space. For some that's probably Not Cool when they may be in a great hurry to get to where they want to go. But it's always been that way. Antonioni's camera seems to always want to crawl past his characters, or figures, toward.... let's just say something else. We don't want Steve Cochran to climb up that tower in the last scene of IL GRIDO. You want to shout, "Don't do it!" But he does. The preceding film has been a contemplation of a downward spiral leading to his final act. Suicide is a major taboo in our culture and not generally considered a viable option. Antonioni's film perhaps allows us to consider the act in a different light.

The image above is of Riccardo Freda (1909-1999) who, along with Antonioni, is my favorite Italian director. Freda hated the work of Antonioni, and Bergman, but especially Antonioni, whom he probably saw as representing everything which frustrated him about the post WWII Neo-Realist dominated Italian cinema: deliberation, intellectual pretension and Art Cinema over Genre Cinema. But in 1958 the two titans actually worked {as directors} on the same film, in one of Italy's most notorious genres, NEL SEGNO DI ROMA. Produced in 1958 by Italian, French and German companies, it was an Anita Ekberg-starring Peplum. Helmed by the ailing veteran Guido Brignone, who died the next year, Antonioni was called in to pick up some scenes, along with other directors, including Sergio Leone, who also worked on the script. Freda was second unit director for the action scenes, which are spectacular, possibly the best thing he ever did. NEL SEGNO... is set up as a series of Neo-classical paintings which burst into life from first to last shot. The fact that Antonioni and Freda were involved comes as no surprise, even though this is not a well-known collaboration, and considering that it is dramatically void and only intended to showcase Anita Ekberg's virtues, perhaps that's understandable. But it sure looks great.



IL GRIDO (1957) Kino Video DVD
L'AVVENTURA (1960) THE CRITERION COLLECTION

Both of the above DVD's are highly recommended and good places to start in a survey of Antonioni's essential oeuvre.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007









































30 July, 2007

Ingmar Bergman: ENDGAME

The Game is Over. But this image will live on imprinted in our collective consciousness, in that universal bank of essential images which hovers somewhere linking us even if we've never seen the film in question, THE SEVENTH SEAL. And there were many more: The fused faces of the female protagonists of PERSONA, and the burning of the film at the end. The floating bodies at the end of SHAME. The negative images of nightmare creatures in HOUR OF THE WOLF. The fades to red in CRIES AND WHISPERS. The protagonist in A PASSION walking endlessly back and forth in torment on a isolated Baltic island in that film's final image. Just a very few from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Ingmar Bergman's passing is not a tragedy as much as a reminder of something perhaps lost. He made Tragedies and a surprising amount of Comedies, the news was for me like a splash of ice cold water in the middle of a hot Summer. And there is no one around who can replace him. Like Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa or Stanley Kubrick, he was a singular giant who made films his own way.


I can't even begin to calculate how many filmmakers have been inspired by/borrowed his images for thrillers, dramas and horror films. His influence on such major figures as Andrei Tarkovsky, John Cassavetes, Monte Hellman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Woody Allen cannot be denied. Films like PERFORMANCE, TWO LANE BLACKTOP, THREE WOMEN, STALKER, INTERIORS, or keeping our own blog topic in mind, DAS BILDNIS DER DORIANA GRAY, have that hushed, internal tone, and are sometimes built around the specific image structures which the great director burned onto celluloid. And they weren't all high-toned. Even, God forbid, the dreadful THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was a remake of THE VIRGIN SPRING. And Bergman also made exploitation of sorts, THE DEVIL'S WANTON (1949) and SUMMER WITH MONKIA (1952), the latter being one of my personal favorites along with SUMMER INTERLUDE, which has the world of ballet as a backdrop, an artform in which I have zero interest. The disturbing, erotic SAWDUST AND TINSEL, is strikingly similar to early Fellini (cf LA STRADA) while showing the influence of German Expressionism.

He also made Le Bad Cinema: THE TOUCH (1971), THE SERPENT'S EGG (1976). The highly enjoyable, and underrated, FROM THE LIVES OF MARIONETTES (1980), can almost be described as his entree into Eurotrash.

Ingmar Bergman wasn't my favorite director or even the best director who ever lived, at least in my view. He made Film, Cinema. An Ingmar Bergman Film. You didn't go to see an Ingmar Bergman Movie. But they were moving pictures, as if Edvard Munch had become a cinematographer, in high contrast B&W, exquisite chiaroscuro, muted color. He had a long, successful career and life. When I heard about his death at the age of 89 this morning I wanted to thank him for what he gave me. The will to become a writer and a filmmaker. It didn't all work out the way I wanted, but that's not what counts. What counts are images like the one at the top of this blog.



(C) Robert Monell, 2007









26 July, 2007

Whatever Happened to Martine Stedil?


Martine Stedil lights Lina's fire in Jess Franco's Z grade subterranean WIP production, WOMEN BEHIND BARS (1975). Isn't it illegal to smoke in prison?


One of our blog readers has sent in a question concerning the fate of catwoman Martine Stedil. I'm not sure what became of her. Can anyone offer clues? Thanks to Tobias for asking.



"Hi Robert!

I´m a reader of your excellent blog "I´m In A Jess Franco State Of Mind". Keep up the good work. Anyway... I have a question to which I hope you have the answer.

Martine Stedil made a short but bewitching stint in Jess Franco´s filmography. What happened to this gorgeous woman? Did she retire after Doriana Grey or did she venture into hardcore pornography (considering the scenes in Doriana Grey) ? Any info you might have on this awesome creature would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,


Tobias"


7/26/26 from EMAIL.



24 July, 2007

Jess Franco at the Public Library


I never thought I'd see Jess Franco's 1972 EROTIC EXPERIENCES OF FRANKENSTEIN (LA MALDICION DE FRANKENSTEIN) at a local library (I live in a VERY conservative community) but there it was, listed as "SPANISH FRANKENSTEIN." Actually, it was the IMAGE DVD, RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (onscreen title LA MALDICION DE FRANKENSTEIN). I first saw this under the title THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (my preferred titling), and it's one of the few JF films I prefer dubbed into English. I noted that the scenes shot for the Spanish "covered" version, featuring Lina Romay, are slightly speeded up, as if the operator wasn't cranking the camera properly!


Here's my IMDB review from 2005:

Totally delirious take on BRIDE OF FRANKSTEIN: 100 Proof Jess Franco, 23 July 2005Author: monell579 from Antigua and Barbuda
Cagliostro (Howard Vernon) and his bird woman daughter work tirelessly to create a female mate for the silver skinned creature created by Dr. Frankenstein (Dennis Price).A wild ride deep into Jess Franco terrain. This is an unhinged, no-budget attempt to redo the Universal horror motifs in the style of Italian Erotic Comics. It works, at least in the nude/uncovered version, simply because Franco and his cast immediately go way over the top and stay there: ratty set design, the silver skinned monster who looks like the confused survivor of a spray painting attack, the nude whipping scene, the mysterious sect led by the perverse, totalitarian Cagliostro, Melissa-the flesh eating human vulture who predicts pleasure and death, are typical "Jess Franco" elements, but this time he stages them with such Sadean glee that those who "get it" will be utterly transfixed while those who hate will cite it as another file in the case against the director. It's a long way from James Whale...The version made for Spain contains additional scenes featuring Lina Romay as a gypsy and omits all of the outrageous nudity which is so essential to Franco's aesthetic (or anti-aesthetic). The score is an iconoclastic collection of sonic blasts, jarring cues and odd sounds.



At the top of this blog is the cover for the Japanese DVD, which was NOT at the local library. Thanks to M. Kino.




(C) Robert Monell, 2007




22 July, 2007

UN FLIC: Jean-Pierre Melville's Final Masterwork

From his first film, LE SILENCE DE LA MER (above image) to his last, UN FLIC, the legendary French director Jean-Pierre Melville imprinted his personal vision onto his work and eventually onto the essential collective iconography of Film History, influencing and inspiring the work of Jean Luc Godard and the nouvelle vague, John Woo and Quentin Tarantino, to name just his most obvious acolytes.




Before putting on UN FLIC, I suddenly remembered a Jess Franco connection to its director. Franco icon Howard Vernon was given the lead role of a shunned Nazi in a small French town in the first film of the great Jean Pierre Melville, LE SILENCE DE LA MER (1949), which found critical and commercial acclaim in postwar France. I scanned Melville's 1972 UN FLIC (A COP) aka DIRTY MONEY for a glimpse of Jess Franco starlet Pamela Stanford (LORNA, THE EXORCIST). I couldn't locate her, although she may appear among the chorus girls in the nightclub owned by the protagonist, the criminal mastermind Simon (Richard Crenna). What I did find was how this film deepens every time one returns to it, while mysteriously receding at the same time. The screenshot below is from what is probably the best bank robbery scene ever filmed. It runs for 12 nearly dialogue free minutes, is bathed in an eerie blue twilight and accompanied mainly by the sounds of the North Atlantic crashing waves into the nearby rocks. You see, the robbers have chosen to hit a coastal branch of the BNP. Far from the crowds and regular police patrols of Paris, the mission unfolds as if on another planet. The image below, of the team leader backing into the getaway car, an early 1960's Plymouth, dressed in a trench coat which seems borrowed from Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP and flashing a machine gun, perhaps can transmit a sense of Melville's fetish for all things American ported into a Gallic context. The aesthetic synthesis of objects, figures, environment is subtle, ultimately overcoming one's rational expectations. Melville replaces disbelief with an alternate universe all his own. It's a starkly beautiful film, chilling, and leaves one wanting more. I immediately wanted to somehow see Melville's LE SILENCE DE LA MER, also set in a winter which becomes Existential, to compare it to his magnificent final work.



Beyond reporting to the blog readers my failure to find Pamela Stanford in it I want to celebrate Melville's last film before he died a premature death in 1973. It's the most austere and Bressonian of the director's last series of color crime films and the third film he made featuring Alain Delon. It was preceded by two masterworks, 1967's LE SAMOURAI and 1970's LE CERCLE ROUGE.


Melville was a tough customer who knew the local underworld argot. In his L'ARMEE DES OMBRES (1969), finally released in the US only last year to great acclaim, the French Resistance (in which he participated during the Nazi occuptation of France) became an ironic shadow of a crime milieu. And he mastered the argot. Most importantly, he mastered the cars and the clothes and the language of the eyes (his Italian counterpart, Sergio Leone, did something similar to a familiar genre with his Spaghetti Westerns). And his characters sure know how to smoke cigarettes with a certain elan, especially Melville's Superstar-icon, Alain Delon.


The supporting performances of Richard Crenna (RAMBO) , Michael Conrad (HILL STREET BLUES) and Riccardo Cucciolla (RABID DOGS) are also excellent, making memorable characters out of what could have been crime film cliches. Cucciolla's quietly desperate ex-bank employee is the kind of disgraced company man who might be sitting on a park bench in any city in the world as life passes him by. Delon's Detective Coleman is a psychopathic, sometimes empathetic, sometimes sadistic, executioner who brings them down one by one but without any ego fulfillment or professional pride. He's already dead. And as his secret lover (Catherine Deneuve) tells him, a dead man can't kill people. He's already a zombie, the living dead. His thousand yard stare is like a moral X ray which allows him to dispense cruel mercies, like allowing a trapped gang member the chance to commit suicide or delivering Simon from the certainty of life in prison by cutting him down in a final confrontation which recalls many an old fashioned western quick draw with the silenced, emptied streets of Paris filling in for the dusty street of a Wild West town . In Melville's universe suicide can be a positive action, the right thing to do; and a man shooting down a friend can be an act of mercy.


The film opens with a quote which is repeated by Coleman as a way to remind himself that he's only a cop doing a dirty, necessary job. He tells his partner that the prey only inspire ambiguity and derision in the detectives who pursue them. Everyone and everything is a mystery, there are no easy categorizations for a thinking and feeling person, and we all die.


If you haven't seen this film, get the DVD. If you're not into Eurocrime, you'll experience a film which transcends its genre while transforming it. And let's have a R1 DVD of LE SILENCE DE LA MER.
(C) Robert Monell, 2007












19 July, 2007

The Robert De Nesle Legacy



Robert De Nesle's C.F.F.P. was one of four European Production companies which bankrolled this wonderful template for the 3 FANTASTIC SUPERMEN films. I do wish this outrageously entertaining Eurospy adventure-comedy were available on US DVD in it's original aspect ratio. The colorful cinematography, catchy-campy music and enthusiastic direction of Gianfranco Parolini aka Frank Kramer highlight the high rolling antics of Brad Harris, Tony Kendall, Nick Jordan and co. And how about Sabine Sun and Gloria Paul?! Supersexy Women from an era when we didn't have to worry about being Politically Incorrect....

Thrills from a simpler, less cynical time which I find myself much more in synch with than today's CGI powered Superhero epics.


Just scroll down two blogs for a comprehensive listing of C.F.F.P. productions and coproductions with IMDB links.

18 July, 2007

Mirek Lipinski's KRIMI CORNER




I highly recommend Mirek Lipinski's engaging, expertly written, smartly laid out and handsomely illustrated 'zine KRIMI CORNER. It's the only current US publication I am aware of which focuses exclusively on these German Edgar Wallace films which were very popular in Europe during the 1950s and 1960s. These are crime films with horror elements based on the works of Edgar Wallace and his son Bryan. They were mostly produced by the Rialto company and Artur Brauner's CCC. Jess Franco worked in this genre several times with Brauner's backing, lensing the THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA with Soledad Miranda (1970) and DER TODESRACHER VON SOHO (1971) based on Bryan Edgar Wallace stories. Franco himself has amusing cameos in both titles.


These German krimis, of course, strongly influenced the Italian gialli of the 1960's onward both in terms of style, casting and atmosphere, like Mario Bava's BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and Dario Argento's THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970). In issue n. 1 Mirek explains the origins of the genre, profiles Edgar Wallace and provides a helpful checklist of Rialto produced krimis. There are also informed reviews of two krimis released by Retromedia on DVD. I'm hoping he'll take a look at the Jess Franco krimi titles and the related German DR MABUSE films in future issues. If you are a fan of these films or want to learn more about them this is a must have.
Checks, money orders and well-hidden cash should be sent to M. Lipinski, P.O. Box 2398, New York, NY 10009

BTW, if anyone has a copy of DER TODESRACHER VON SOHO/THE DEATH AVENGER OF SOHO/DEATH PACKS A SUITCASE they would be willing to make a trade for please contact me asap. Thanks...

(C) Robert Monell, 2007







16 July, 2007

Comptoir Francais du Film Production (CFFP) Films

Here is a listing, compiled by the IMDB, of the C.F.F.P. produced titles. I wouldn't be surprised if this list is incomplete. The distribution of adventure/peplum films in the 1950s and 1960s was very profitable for them and De Nesle ended his career by producing XXX/hardcore JF directed titles like COCKTAIL SPECIAL.

Comptoir Français du Film Production (CFFP) [fr] Filmography:
Production Company - filmography
Comptoir, Le (1998) ... Production Company
Cocktail spécial (1978) ... Production Company
Emmerdeuses, Les (1976) ... Production Company
Prostitution clandestine (1975) ... Production Company
Chatouilleuses, Les (1975) ... Production Company
Jouisseur, Le (1975) ... Production Company
Plaisir à trois (1974) ... Production Company
Quartier de femmes (1974) ... Production Company
Comtesse perverse, La (1974) ... Production Company
Christina, princesse de l'érotisme (1973) ... Production Company
Journal intime d'une nymphomane, Le (1973) ... Production Company
Al otro lado del espejo (1973) ... Production Company
Maciste contre la reine des Amazones (1973) ... Production Company
Tarot (1973) ... Production Company
Drácula contra Frankenstein (1972) ... Production Company
Démons, Les (1972) ... Production Company
Ebranlées, Les (1972) ... Production Company
Expériences érotiques de Frankenstein, Les (1972) ... Production Company
Mektoub (1970) ... Production Company
Aux frais de la princesse (1969) ... Production Company
Philosophie dans le boudoir, La (1969) ... Production Company
Mandabi (1968) ... Production Company
Coplan sauve sa peau (1968) ... Production Company
Hallucinations sadiques (1968) ... Production Company
Con la muerte a la espalda (1967) ... Production Company
Kommissar X - Drei grüne Hunde (1967) ... Production Company
Coplan ouvre le feu à Mexico (1967) ... Production Company
Fantastici tre supermen, I (1967) ... Production Company (co-production)
Nuit la plus chaude, La (1967) ... Production Company
Homme de Mykonos, L' (1966) ... Production Company
Roger la Honte (1966) ... Production Company
Coplan FX 18 casse tout (1965) ... Production Company
Mission spéciale à Caracas (1965) ... Production Company
Deux orphelines, Les (1965) ... Production Company
Johnny West il mancino (1965) ... Production Company
Strada per Fort Alamo, La (1964) ... Production Company
Coriolano: eroe senza patria (1964) ... Production Company
Goldene Göttin vom Rio Beni, Die (1964) ... Production Company
Maciste e la regina di Samar (1964) ... Production Company
Coplan, agent secret FX 18 (1964) ... Production Company
Amour à la chaine, L' (1964) ... Production Company
Sandokan, la tigre di Mompracem (1963) ... Production Company
Judex (1963) ... Production Company
Diavoli di Spartivento, I (1963) ... Production Company
Col ferro e col fuoco (1963) ... Production Company
Mafia alla sbarra (1963) ... Production Company
Ercole contro Molock (1963) ... Production Company
Sette spade del vendicatore, Le (1962) ... Production Company
Furia di Ercole, La (1962) ... Production Company
Ursus e la ragazza tartara (1962) ... Production Company
Pianeti contro di noi, I (1962) ... Production Company
Anno 79: La distruzione di Ercolano (1962) ... Production Company
Sgarro, Lo (1962) ... Production Company
Vecchio testamento, Il (1962) ... Production Company
Ercole alla conquis
Bal de nuit (1959) ... Production Company
Misteri di Parigi, I (1957) ... Production Company
ta di Atlantide
(1961) ... Production Company
Colosso di Rodi, Il (1961) ... Production Company
Regina dei tartari, La (1961) ... Production Company
Vendetta della maschera di ferro, La (1961) ... Product
Avventure di Giacomo Casanova, Le (1955) ... Production Company
ion Company
Vendetta di Ercole, La (1960) ... Production Company

15 July, 2007

The Sounds of Andre Benichou




Andre Benichou is considered to be an accomplished classical guitarist. In a parallel career as a soundtrack composer his fusion-jazz electric guitar stylings for such mid 1974 Jess Franco films make for fascinating listening. The gothic organ cues in EXORCISM; the haunting theme heard at the openings of LES GLOUTONNES (credited to Robert Viger ) and LE MIROIR OBSCENE; that same theme is played on the piano by the villain Radeck (Victor Mendes) and as a sort of acid-jazz guitar riff throughout the wild and crazy sexy Eurocrime comedy LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES. I also like the upbeat wind dominated number which opens LE JOUISSEUR, heard over impressionist style images of the foilage canopy over upscale Parisian boulevards.

Possibly the most memorable of his compositions is the hypnotic and sinister sexual/emotional turbulence evoked by his electric guitar playing the same series of notes over and over and over again at increasingly elevated pitches on the soundtrack of LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE. It's the music of demonic possession. By the way, the producer of that notorious C.F.F.P. production, Robert De Nesle, is cocredited for the music.

Benichou also scored several Pierre Chevalier-directed comedies for Eurocine and a 1980s French TV show. He is remembered by classical music connoisseur's and rare album collectors for his still sought after 1970 JAZZ GUITAR BACH recording seen at the top of this blog

We'll be discussing the music of this unique composer-performer and the Jess Franco films which he scored in the future. Does anyone else appreciate his sound and know if any Andre Benichou music for Jess Franco films is available on CD anywhere?

Thanks to Francesco Cesari for the image.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007



14 July, 2007

Satan is Coming, Make Mine a Double!


I asked for Eurotrash and they gave me Eurotrash. Two Eurotrash obscurities served up on a low priced platter garnished with a number of vintage trailers for such 70's and 80s drive-in material as THE PICKUP, PRIME EVIL, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE and the Asian Trash epics SISTER STREETFIGHTER and LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI. Also included are those blaring OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION notices in appropriately scratchy condition just as they were in this project's template, the feature film GRINDHOUSE, released earlier this year to mostly good notices and sharply disappointing box office results. You can see from the images above that the DVD's producer's also based their cover art on the film's garish poster, designed in basic black and blood red. But where the poster for the Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino GRINDHOUSE is eye-fetchingly packed with amusing detail, hyperbolic text and graphics the DVD cover is laid out in a rather clumsy, overcrowded fashion. In fact, the actual DVD looks even worse in hand as the bright reds have turned into color faded, smudgy lettering against what reproduced as a muddy background. The copy on the back, especially the film's specs, are difficult to read and need to be held under a light. Intentional? Maybe. But for me this is the ugliest DVD cover of the year.
Now, I'm not going to trash the entire enterprise, since I did want both of these on DVD and EVIL EYE turns out to be quite a nasty and compelling slice of mid 1970s paranoia fueled satanism. The price is certainly right. I just wonder about the wisdom of piggybacking on a notably unsuccessful project, at least in its brief US theatrical run, although GRINDHOUSE may turn a tidy profit on its coming DVD. In the previous blog we discussed our preferences concerning the popular brandings EUROTRASH vs EUROCULT. These films definitely cry out to classed as the former, despite the fact they both feature very aggressive satanic cults. WELCOME TO THE GRINDHOUSE is the kind of product which invites off-the-rack impulse purchases but I've yet to come across a copy after visiting numerous retail locations. Hopefully, the people behind this will sort things out and maybe there will be a couple of other Eurotrash items they'll be releasing which might find their way into this blog.
EVIL EYE (both films are presented in 1.85:1 widescreen ratio) is a very welcome and watchable transfer of Italian hack Mario Siciliano's 1974 Mexican-Italian-Spanish giallo-horror combo MALOCCHIO aka EROTICOFOLLIA. I would have preferred the latter title onscreen but EVIL EYE is the correct English translation. The late Siciliano (1925-1987) directed a number of Spaghetti Westerns before his career burned out with a series of low-budget porno items (ORGASMO ESOTICO). EVIL EYE is presented in a rather grainy print which looks like it was taken directly from a film element rather than a negative, which is just fine, since the film quality rather suits the subject matter and delirious style, and the film does have a style, even if it's mostly provided by the mid 1970's wardrobes and porkchop sideburns which most of the male actors sport. It looks like one of those post EXORCIST horror films which jump back in time to late 1960's psychedelic aesthetics with a crude attempt to make it all hang together using trendy flash forwards, crossing cutting, odd camera angles and an assortment of tricks which don't really work. But that's part of the fun.
Mexican hunk Jorge Rivero is a bizarre casting choice for American millionaire playboy Peter Crane who is tormented by dreams of being driven to murder by a mysterious sect who perform rituals with oversized candles while wearing the required red and black hoods or jump around in the nude screaming into wide angle lenses. When the dreams seem to start becoming reality Crane consults his psychiatrist (THE GODFATHER's Richard Conte) as he is tracked by a suspicious police detective (THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE's Anthony Steffen). It will all end badly for Peter and incomprehensibly for the viewer. I wouldn't have it any other way. Value added extras include a delightfully "groovy" score by maestro Stelvio Cipriani and a wildly eclectic Italian-Spanish supporting cast including Luciano Pigozzi (THE WHIP AND THE BODY), Lone Fleming (TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD) and Eduardo Fajardo (DJANGO) as Crane's proper English butler who ends up vomiting toads just like Elke Sommer in HOUSE OF EXORCISM. Conte looks somewhat uncomfortable with his involvement while Steffen appears to be having fun while picking up his paycheck. This made me want to see Siciliano's THE SATANIC MECHANIC (you have to love that title!) featuring Lee Van Cleef in a script by sometime Jess Franco scribe Santiago Moncada.
BLACK CANDLES (1982) is another story. The English language equivalent of Jose Ramon Larraz's LOS RITOS SEXUALES DEL DIABLO, bears a 1980 date and his name on the title of the print, which is alternately over and underexposed with somewhat faded colors. It's actually credited to Joseph Braunstein, one of the Spanish director's Anglo beards and the rest of the cast also get similar name changes. The English dubbing is annoyingly out of synch and voice cast with mid Atlantic accents which I also found irritating. Poor Helga Line was nearing 50 when she agreed to strip off and perform in numerous autoerotic and orgy scenes in this dubious enterprise. Still trim and fit, she proved a trouper. Born in 1932 as Helga Lina Stern in Berlin, she fled Germany and wound up acting in Spanish and Italian dramas, horror (THE BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER), spy films (OPERATION POKER), westerns (HANDS UP DEADMAN, YOU'RE UNDER ARREST!) and still appears on Spanish TV. She was one of the Queens of Spanish horror in such titles as HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB and THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY (both 1972). She's fine here as the "bitch in heat" who is a Player in the satanic cult hidden away in rural England and the only performer in the cast who appears to know how to act. The hapless supporting cast includes Vanessa Hildago and Carmen Carrion, who also appeared in Jess Franco's much better SEXUAL STORY OF O around the same time. The plot is an unimaginative rehash of ROSEMARY'S BABY and the 1965 INCUBUS, without the skillful direction of the former or the gothic atmosphere of the latter. The ending is recycled from the classic DEAD OF NIGHT. Larraz seems to have been going for a soft-focus elegance but comes up empty handed. There are a lot of extended sex scenes, none the least bit erotic, including a notorious one involving a goat (that one is also lifted from INCUBUS). The director has since rejected the film as a hopeless project which he used as a way to stay afloat at the time. Larraz and Line would also work together on ESTIGMA (1982). Missing from this print are approximately two minutes of exit music where Marcello Giombini's score (lifted from 1974's THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW) played over a black screen. It was the only thing which I found effective about the film, since it gave the familiar proceedings an oneiric spin and a long goodbye which cleared the mind. Larraz will be remembered as the talented director of a series of 1970's horrotica, including DEVIATION, SCREAM AND DIE, SYMPTOMS, EL MIRON, and VIOLATION OF THE BITCH, which are all excellent and really need proper DVD presentations. His WHIRLPOOL, EDGE OF THE AXE, DEADLY MANOR and REST IN PIECES are also worth seeing and notably absent on DVD.
*To access my review of the movie GRINDHOUSE type in the title in the SEARCH function at the top of the blog.
(C) Robert Monell, 2007

09 July, 2007

Bring Back EUROPEAN TRASH CINEMA!

One of my favorite issues of the long gone, but not forgotten, "European Trash Cinema." But then they were all favorite issues. Craig Ledbetter's legendary publication which ran 16 volumes and 2 Special Editions. Having written one of those SE's [on the late Riccardo Freda] and contributed several reviews to Issue #12, seen above, I'm hardly an objective observer. I do want to salute Craig for being a terrific editor and inspiration. All its readers and writers will join that salute. In July 2007 it seems like it all happened 100 years ago, or yesterday...

As the 1990's faded so did ETC, and something called the Internet happened, or at least sucked me into its vortex. I have all the old issues and consult them often, if only for a warm glow of nostalgia. I wish it could have gone on forever. Or at least I sometimes wish I could go back in time. But I haven't invented that machine... yet.

And now The Rant: If we can't bring back "European Trash Cinema" then let's bring back European Trash Cinema. I mean the term. I want to know who the hell came up with that unfortunate replacement we now know as Eurocult, or Euro Cult. I HATE that term. I cringe every time I read, which is often. And I HATE to admit that I've used it myself. In the first place anyone who knows me will tell you I am NOT a member of any cult or not the cultist type. The word "cult" always conjures up images of Jonestown or satanic rituals to me. It's probably useful as a marketing hook for DVD companies and a thread title for message boards. It's not for me, though. It's not me. I am an individual. I've always thought of it as a group of individuals tentatively linked by the films, the posters, the music, the faces of the actors; not as a cult grouped in some dank catacomb waiting for the National Guard to burn them out with flamethrowers.

We are now living in an age where Jess Franco alone is a DVD industry, an international one. And despite what you've heard all the important European titles have not come out on DVD.
I mean European Trash Cinema. Or just Eurotrash if fine. This will be the first of several blogs planned to give you a chance to think about what you are not seeing going on in popular culture right now, what's not on the shelves at Best Buy, and why it's not there.

In the meantime: Bring Back European Trash Cinema!

06 July, 2007

ZINES!





I highly recommend "Clifford Brown's" ZINES blog, which since October 2006 has been publishing rare images of covers, photo layouts, articles and interviews from such legendary specialty/cult/fantastique zines as SEX STARS SYSTEM and MIDI-MINUIT FANTASTIQUE.
An interview with one of our favorite obscure 1970's Eurotrash actresses, Pamela Stanford. appears in the most recent blog, featuring the interview text from EUROSCORE #3, 1975.
The issue of MIDI-MINUIT FANTASTIQUE in the above image contains an interview with my own favorite Italian director, the late Riccardo Freda. My 1997 ETC SE #2 career monograph on Freda is still the longest and most in-depth English language study of this often underrated director and I hope to expand it into a book when I complete my present longstanding project on another European director.
There is also a blog on a special issue of SEX STARS SYSTEM devoted to Jess Franco, complete with an interview and salacious photo layouts from LES DEMONS and other titles.
There are also blogs with issues of these magazines containing interviews with/articles on Christopher Lee, Terence Fisher, Jean Rollin, Alice Arno among others.
I had never seen an issue of any of these magazines until coming upon this blog....


Keep up the good work, Clifford!
(C) Robert Monell, 2007

02 July, 2007

BESAME MONSTRUO: Spanish DVD


Here's an image from the new Spanish FILMAX DVD of Jess Franco's 1967 sci-fi tinged spy spoof, known in the US as KISS ME, MONSTER. You won't see this image on the BLUE UNDERGROUND DVD, though. Why? Because the distributor put footage of a car chase from another film under the credits. A film Jess Franco had nothing to do with. KMM also has other footage included NOT generated by the director, including the long jazz fest scene.
The Spanish version is the covered version, while the English language shows above the waist nudity. But I much prefer the Spanish, which retains numerous personal and arcane audio jokes/references which have been removed or changed in the English language variant, which also replaced the original score besides dubbing it into English. This last point is significant since the whole point of the film is a search for a secret formula in which the clues are in musical notation from a score we are not hearing!
Our Spanish reader Nzoog reports that there is no English subtitle option or any other extras on this and the other new FILMAX discs.* I would still recommend this disc to those who have only experienced the English language variant.
*See the June 30 blog: the 5th Filmax Jess Franco DVD release is 1989 action/adventure/political melodrama, LA BAHIA ESMERALDA, one of Franco's larger budgeted productions featuring the veteran US character actor George Kennedy.
Thanks to Bloody Planet, Orlock, Francesco Cesari and Nzoog W.
(C) Robert Monell, 2007