Saturday, 13 July 2013

Giallorama Double Feature

What Have You Done To Solange?
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Starring Fabio Testi, Cristina Galbo, Camille Keaton, Joachim Fuchsberger, Karin Baal,

All the Colors of the Dark (Tutti i colori del buio, aka They're Coming to Get You) (1972, Italy / Spain)
All the Colours of the Dark (1972)  alias They're Coming to Get You
Directed by Sergio Martino
Starring Edwige Fenech, George Hilton, Susan Scott, Ivan Rassimov, George Riguad, Luciano Pigozzi

The giallo is an Italian mystery-thriller with elements of the slasher named after the Italian term for "yellow", in relation to the packing of mystery thrillers as yellow-jacket paperbacks in Italy similar to the Gollancz books in the UK. The giallo, in cinema arguably began with Mario Bava's 1964 Blood and Black Lace, and other directors, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and the two we will cover today, Sergio Martino and Massimo Dallamano.
Both these films are set and filmed in London with Italian actors, both rely on doomed pregnancy as a McGuffin.The two directors are different. Dallamano (1917-1976) was Sergio Leone's cinematographer, did other films including Dorian Grey (1970), Superbitch (1973) and The NightChild (1975), all UK-made. While they were co-productions with British actors such as Richard Todd, Stephanie Beacham, Richard Johnson and even Michael Sheard, Solange is an Italian-German film, produced by the German makers of the Krimi, the German equivalent of the giallo, based on the novels of British writer Edgar Wallace and German actors Baal and Fuchsberger (in his recurring Scotland Yard Inspector role) appear as part of this co-production deal.
Solange involves Testi as Enrico Rosseni, a teacher who has an affair with a rich pupil (Galbo) who then is mysteriously murdered. He tries to investigate, then hears about Solange (Keaton), a girl whose existence is denied by all. What is going on?
It turns out to be (Spoilers Alert! Spoilers Alert)
that the killer is a paedophile priest who got Solange pregnant, and the abortion Solange got drove her mad.
It's a dark but sublime movie. There's an excellent Ennio Morricone score, some nice London photography, including a foggy, grubby Tower Bridge and the dubbing is serviceable though in unlikely Mid-Atlantic accents. Testi is a captivating performer, and the schoolgirls are over-aged eye candy, but it is dark and an icky experience, not for the faint-heated.
All The Colours of The Dark is similar fare, involving giallo queen Fenech being haunted by a devil cult and Rassimov as a mysterious overalled killer, after a miscarriage. With appearances by good solid Eurocult stars such as Riguad (Horror Express) and Peter Lorre-alike Pigozzi (a Mario Bava regular), it is stylish, slightly pretentious but quite good.
Martino (1938-) is best known for his proto-slasher Torso (1973), as well as doing everything from cannibal movies (Mountain of the Cannibal God, 1978) to the post-apoclayptic extremes of 1983's 2019 - After The Fall of New York. He is a captivating, stylish director, and underrated, every inch the equal of a Fulci or a Bava.
If you like slightly sleazy, strange murder mysteries, these are recommended.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Motel Hell (1980)/Pieces (1982) - Slasher Double Bill

I'll be honest. I don't love slashers but I don't hate them. I find the genre a mixed bag, but it is usually formulaic. For every Halloween, there's sixty Aerobicide (1987) or Splatter University (1984) types lurking on the aged video shelf. However, it's not all just hokey masked nuts hacking nubile but overaged teens.

Motel Hell (1980)
Directed by Kevin Connor.
Starring Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod, Rosanne Katon

I like this movie. A rare United Artists attempt to jump the Halloween II/Friday the 13th bandwagon of major studios making exploitation horror. Directed by Kevin Connor, post-Amicus/Doug McClure, doing his first US film, it's a camp marvellous wonder that is a very noble attempt at doing a comedy horror. It's OTT and as cheesy as a grilled mozzarella bake, and that's the way it should be, complete with a chintzy z-rate country music theme by the possibly pseudonymous "Kregg Nance".
Ex-B-cowboy Calhoun is scene-swallowing (never mind chewing) as Farmer Vincent, a low-rent Colonel Sanders -type fast food merchant/motel owner behind Farmer Vincent's Fritters ('It takes all kinds of fritters to make Farmer Vincent's Fritters'.), helped by his younger sister Ida (Nancy Parsons, another scene-stealer as the overweight, pig-tailed, dungareed farm-girl), all is going well, until their  kid brother (Paul Linke, at 32, an improbable brother for the 60-odd Calhoun, less so for the 40-odd Parsons) returns with his new love, and all hell breaks loose.
This film has it all - creepy little girl twins, cannibalism (achieved by burying motel guests in the ground, their heads sticking out, tied with nooses, the ropes connected to a tractor, to make the tractor lift upward with the pulling power), swingers, hillbilly comedy, and a chainsaw-fight with Calhoun wearing a fake-looking pig's head.

PIECES (1982)
Directed by Juan Piquer Simon
Starring Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Ian Sera, Edmund Purdom, Paul Smith, Frank Brana, Jack Taylor

This, produced by semi-legendary smut/kung-fu/trash-horror producer Dick Randall is not the best slasher, but it is one of my favourites. It's not a good film, but it is semi-competently made. It has an all-star cast for a third-rate slasher (USTV stalwarts/married couple Christopher and Lynda Day George, Paul 'Bluto off Popeye/Midnight Express' Smith, former Matinee idol-turned-exploitation reliable Purdom, Spanish exploitation regular Jack Taylor) but because it is a Spanish film purporting to be an American one, it adds such a depth, such a layer, that it may indeed be the greatest film of all time. And it made $2 Million in America on its initial theatrical release, not bad for a low-budget film in a time when the drive-ins and fleapits died out.

The film begins in "Boston, 1942", though it clearly is "Valencia, 1982". A little boy in a cardigan is piecing together a jigsaw of a very 70s-looking naked lady with big Farrah Fawcett hair. Anachronistic baseball ephemera is seen on his wall, the look clearly trying to be more American than authentic period. His mother comes in, disgusted, asking for a "plastic bag" (in 1942) so he slaughters her up, then the neighbour and a Super Mario/Luigi alike cop comes in. The boy cries, saying a big man came in. Somehow, they believe he's innocent, despite him being covered in blood.
Cut- 40 years later.
In a suspiciously tropical Boston University, a girl skateboarding slowly crashes into a glass window carried Laurel and Hardy/Chuckle Brothers-style by two workmen from Masiello and "O'Donell" Co. (sic). Somehow, she survives and then is attacked by the killer who beheads her with a nice yellow chainsaw. The killer still holds dearly his mother's bloodied dress (How did he sneak it away from the scene of the crime I have no idea).
Meanwhile, the cops come in, invited by the Dean (Purdom). There's Lt. Bracken (George, tongue slightly in cheek) and Brana as his Leslie Nielsenesque sidekick. There's Smith as the odd caretaker, Willard (dubbed by the voice of Bud Spencer, Edward Mannix) who cherishes his yellow chainsaw. There's Professor Brown (Taylor), a polo-necked homosexual biology teacher who keeps bones in his office. The cops are helped by geeky permed stud Kendall (Ian Sera), who must have some ultra-magnetic attractive force, since he's not particularly desirable (this may be explained by a dubiously advised full frontal shot for our hero). Note how the cops accept Kendall, despite him being a potential suspect. Then, they bring in Lynda Day George as the world's worst tennis professional, Mary Riggs as an undercover cop/teacher, all watched by the Dean  (Purdom) and a Daria Nicolodi-lookalike nosy reporter.
This is undercut by weirdness - how is the killer able to sneak in a chainsaw into a lift? Why do they recognise him, behind his Shadow-esque scarf and wide-brimmed hat? Why does a kung-fu professor (an uncredited Bruce Le, a popular Bruce Lee-alike) wander about, kicking the air in the dark?
Only the identity of the killer is revealed - being the Dean, who is the boy, despite in the forty years between gaining an English accent (did he study at Oxford, Cambridge, Darlington Polytechnic?)
Well, he wants to create a jigsaw girl out of different body parts (Frankenhooker mark 1) to wear his mother's dress, why is not sure? Did he steal it from another Spanish Horror, 1969's The House That Screamed? Nobody knows.
The cops and Kendall rescue Mary from the Dean, and kill him before he plans to cut off her feet to put on the Frankenhooker.
The Frankenhooker comes to life, with a completely different face to the girl who was beheaded, whose head is now the hooker's.

And pulls off Kendall's penis through his denim jeans.
The film ends, freeze-frames on Kendall's anguished face.
Yes, not only did the Frankenhooker come alive all of a sudden (possessed by the Dean, the mother, one of the victims who was jilted by Kendall?) but it suddenly gained super strength.
The film is an enjoyable cheesefest. There's aerobic scenes, kung fu, laboured sex comedy between a breasty student asking where the pectorals are,  Friday the 13th poster (the head of Friday's production company, Steve Minasian produced PIECES).
The actors are serviceable, though the Spanish actors are quite stilted, rendered more by the dubbing.
But I cannot truly sum up this film's charms. Director Simon also did the 1979 Superman mockbuster Supersonic Man and a Kenneth More-starring Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 1976, also with Jack Taylor as a time-traveller, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey bloke.

Both films have Arrow editions. Motel Hell has some interesting cast interviews, critiques by writers and journalists, and a  commentary with journalist Calum Waddell and director Kevin Connor.
There's a similar batch for PIECES, with a good amount of extras on one disc (though no features from the US Grindhouse edition) including a commentary by Fangoria editor Tony Timpone and Waddell, an interview with Jack Taylor, a nostalgic critique and a trailer. Both are recommended to horror fans.

Stitches and Grabbers (2012) - AN Irish horror double bill

Stitches (2012)
Stitches 2012 movie poster.jpg
Directed by Conor McMahon
Starring Ross Noble, Tommy Knight, Gemma-Leah Devereux
Irish horror has had its up and downs. I think that there has not been a truly great Irish horror director since John Boorman, and even he's British-born. Glenn McQuaid's films have been interesting and there have been various international films made here. Neil Jordan's films are too artsy-fartsy and the likes of Grabbers seem to play it up for paddywhackery. This is a slightly restrained variant on the latter.
Director McMahon, previously behind Dead Meat (2004), a film that should have been called "Culchie-Zombies In Leitrim", as that is what it was exactly. Stitches is a comedy-horror. Now, I have to say, I like comedy-horrors IF they are good. Young Frankenstein, Shaun of the Dead, even Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, but there's a particular knock. For each one of these, there's a Scary Movie, a Boy Eats Girl and a National Lampoon's Class Reunion.
The plot concerns Stitches/Richard Grindle (Geordie comedian/BBC panel show regular Noble in his acting debut), a children's entertainer/clown composed out of the worst features from Reece Shearsmith's Psychoville character Mr. Jelly and amped up to a 100, who is an inexplicably Tyneside clown in Ireland who is killed in an accident by a group of particularly bold children.
Six/seven years, the leader of the kids (Sarah Jane Adventures' Tommy Knight, an inexplicably English Home Counties boy in Ireland) is hosting a big teen party, only for Stitches to come back for revenge.
The plot has elements of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Stephen King's It!, Nightmare On Elm Street and every teen movie ever. The romantic leads, Knight and Devereux are appealing and likeable, but everything else isn't.
The supporting teen actors are dreadful, all D4 ways, and almost winsome portentousness in their little heads that makes you want to see them suffer. Sadly, the humour in the film doesn't work, the deaths try to go for an Elm Street-type dream logic, but they happen in reality. Noble is a slight OTT, almost reminiscent of Tim James in Funnyman (1994), with his Northern (Tyneside not Yorkshire) accent and wisecracks like a Newcastle Krueger.
It's unfunny, feels longer than it is, and only really of recommendation if those want to see Irish teens slaughtered rather than Americans or Canadians.  

Stitches (2012)
Directed by Jon Wright. Written by Kevin Lehane.
Starring Richard Coyle, Russell Tovey, Ruth Bradley, David Pearse

From Anglo-Irish director Jon Wright (of tubby-schoolboy-goes-slasher British horror Tormented (2009)), this is a spin on Tremors with elements of Island Of Terror/Night Of The Big Heat (1967), that takes its 'original' concept from 1986's Blue Monkey - basically "Get Drunk to Survive Alien Invasion". Its characters, a veteran Garda (Coyle, from Steven Moffat's shitecom Coupling, and doing a very convincing Irish accent) and a Dublin rookie (Ruth Bradley, who gets under my skin, don't ask me why, she just irritates me) find an alien and a local British scientist, Dr. Smith (Tovey, showing his credentials as a potential Doctor in Doctor Who, and the film's best performance) doing research. The aliens - cephalopods/squid-like Cthuloid monsters are allergic to alcohol, so the locals and the Garda and Dr. Smith (no, not  him from Lost In Space) have a lock-in in the only pub.
The film plays up stereotypes, not quite in tbe scathing way Father Ted did, which did this thing a million times better in "Night of the Nearly Dead". Coyle is very good, Bradley serviceable, Tovey excelling in his role as a scientist who when drunk goes to Brian Blessed-levels of extreme) but the Irish character actors cast are lost, playing it up slightly too much, and the humour gets lost. TheCGI is okay, but I never really felt a CGI monster's presence, bar Mars Attacks! (1996) and this film definitely is lacking.