Marina Malfatti R.I.P.


Tragically, Florence actress Marina Malfatti, aka Marina Mulligan, known for several Italian horror films, including The Red Queen Kills Seven Times and The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave, has passed away. The To Watch Pile would like to pass on our condolences to her family. 

For those who don’t know her work, Arrow Films recently released this box set, but you better grab it quick as its limited to 3000 copies.

Deep Red (1975) Review

We made it, the final day of our ‘three colours Italian’, and what better way to celebrate then ‘red’ stripe on the Italian flag than with a favourite film of mine, Dario Argento’s Profundo Russo aka Deep Red!
One from the re watch pile…

Deep Red (1975)


Film: It wasn’t until Umbrella Entertainment in Australia started releasing Dario Argento’s films in the early 10s that I really started paying attention to who Dario Argento was. Sure I’d had a casual dalliance with him via Suspiria and Creepers (aka Phenomena), but my go-to guy for Italian horror was Lucio Fulci and his zombie flicks. I had, however heard and read a lot about Argento in Fangoria and was interested in seeing his work, so when Umbrella his the accelerator on things like Suspiria, Phenomena, Tenebrae, Sleepless etc I was ready to roll.

The ones that really captured my imagination though, were this film, Deep Red, and the aforementioned Tenebrae, which turned me from casual English speaking thriller fan to full tilt lover of Gialli.

This film, directed by Argento, was written by him along with Bernardino Zapponi, a writer who also worked on such legendary pieces of Italian cinema as Fellini’s Satyricon and Roma.


Deep Red tells of pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) who has witnessed the murder of renowned psychic Helga Ulman (March Méril), a Oman who recently publicly outed a mystery person as a murderer. In the back of his mind, Marcus feels he has seen something important to the identity of Ulman’s killer, but can’t quite put his finger on it. He enlists the help of friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) and annoying, but tenaciously cute reporter Gianna (Daria Nicolodi) to dos little private investigation, but what he finds is that maybe the killer is closer than he ever suspected…

This disc has two versions of the film in the packaging, both remastered in hi definition. Disc 1 contains the director’s cut of the film which is longer and tells a more intimate version of the tale. The second version on the film on disc 2, is the shorter English version of the film. Even though each tell more or less the same story, I do prefer this one, and watch it more often than the other. Why? Well my reason is, and this is an affront to everything we as cinemaphiles think and that is, what is cut isn’t really necessary to move the story along. Sure some of it is character building stuff, but you don’t miss it in the theatrical version, and to me it tells the story more efficiently. Also, in the director’s cut, the police seem buffoonish and don’t suit the overall tone of the film.

My love of Argento films is defined by this film and two others: Suspiria and Tenebrae. As a murder mystery, it’s perfect and the violence shocking and sudden. It engages with the topic of homosexuality that films of this era rarely did without being insulting, nor with any trace of ‘whoopsie’, you know: the John Inman-ish mincing. The best thing about this film though is the staging of each scene; Argento appears to be a frustrated painter as each scene has a rhythm, and a layout that is visually striking.

A special note has to be made for the inclusion of someone whom I think is the Princess of Gialli, Nicoletta Elmi. This young redhead girl appears in many films of this era, and judging by her appearance in Demons, grew to be a beautiful lady. For my she’s like a ‘Where’s Wally? special guest star.


The soundtrack is amazing too. I’ll bring up Tenebrae here again as the Goblin score on Deep Red is second only to that one. Most modern day soundtracks seem to disappear within the background, but the score here is like a palpable character whose presence effects the viewers state of mind, like a good score should.

All in all, I love this film. It’s a great watch, a sound thriller and has an epic score. You really need to have this in your collection!

Score: *****

Format: The Arrow bluray release of the film is presented in the 127 minute director’s cut, or the 105 minute theatrical cut, and is presented in a well restored 2.35:1 anamorphic image with various choices of sound, the best being the director’s cut Italian 5.1. If you watch the director’s cut in the English 5.1 audio you have to be aware of the fact that the dialogue switches from English to Italian. Across the board though both image and sound are great.

Score: ****

Extras

This disc has some really awesome extras across two discs, and for an Argento fan (like me) it’s quite entertaining.


Disc 1 has both a US and Italian Trailer, Lady In Red – Daria Nicolodi Remembers Profundo Russo, Music to Murder For – Claudio Simonetti on Deep Red and Rosso Recollections – Dario Argento’s Deep Genius

Disc 2 has the documentary Rosso: From Celluloid to Shop which is basically an interview with Luigi Cozzi, director and the gentleman who runs the horror store/ museum in Rome, Profundo Rosso.

This Arrow edition also came with a choice of 4 different covers for the sleeve, a double sided poster featuring the new artwork and a booklet by Alan Jones, the author of Dario Argento – The Man, The Myth & The Magic. There is also a commentary by Argento specialist Thomas Rostock, which sounds very stilted by is quite fascinating.

For a fan of gialli and/ or Argento there is heaps to enjoy here!

Score: *****

WISIA: It is one of my all time favourite movies,and I probably watch it once every 6 months, so definitely!

Italian Republic Day

June the 2nd is Italian Republic Day, aka Festa Della Repubblica so we here at the TWP are going to celebrate with pizza, lasagne, spaghetti and three reviews of Italian films, each one representing one of the colours on the Italian Flag, and culminating in a YouTube video with an Italian slant, and maybe a swig of J&B to celebrate!! The first review (green) will go up on Tuesday 31st May, the second (white) on the 1st June, and the final one, represent the profoundly deep red of the flag will be on Festa Della Repubblica itself, the 2nd June.

I hope you stick around and enjoy.

Phantom of Death (1988) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Phantom of Death aka Off Balance (1988)


Film: Also aka Un Delitto Poco Comune. What do you get if you take two of the writers of The New York Ripper, team them up with the director of Cannibal Holocaust, Ruggero Deodato, attach two well known English actors in Michael York and Donald Pleasance and then drop in the gorgeous Edwige Fenech?

Why you get a crazy Italian production like this film, Phantom of Death, of course!!

Robert Dominici (Michael York) is an acclaimed pianist who has been invited to London to expand his career, but this is to the detriment of his relationship with his girlfriend, Susanna (Mapi Galán). This, along with flirtations from the beautiful Hélène Martell (Edwige Fenech) are causing him to become distracted, which is even interfering with his ninjutsu practice.

Yep: ninjutsu practice!


When his girlfriend is killed though, he becomes involved in an investigation being held by Inspector Datti (Donald Pleasance) as she appears to be the second victim in a series of murders. The murderer taunts Datti with phonecalls, and claims to be so good at his work that he’ll drive Datti mad! 

When Hélène is attacked though, Datti immediately suspects Robert just due to his involvement in both cases. Unfortunately for his investigation though, DNA found on her to create a profile of the person who assaulted her, doesn’t match Robert’s and nor does the identity sketch created after she was interviewed.

So if it’s NOT Robert, who could it be… Or does Robert have a secret than disguises his identity from such tests?


The film is an interesting mix of traditional gialli tropes mixed with Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera and Deodato’s choices of actors are quite fun here. You’ll see some great faces from other Italian horror films, my favourite being the ninjutsu master played by Hal Yamanouchi, who is also in such a variety of films like Umberto Lenzi’s House of Lost Souls and James Mangold’s The Wolverine, or maybe it’s the inclusion of Italian horror stalwart Giovanni Lombardo Radice aka John Morghen as a priest.

Deodato drops in a few trappings of his contemporaries, like Argento, with stabbings to the neck, and a murder that sees the victim pushed through a window in an act of bloody violence, which echoes films like Phenomena.

I can’t let a review go by without pointing out that the murderer, when he makes his phonecalls, sounds like Billy Idol after a night with a carton of Marlboro Reds.  

All in all it IS pretty silly, but does a few unique things within the gialli environment like making the murderer a tragic figure rather than a selfish one, and some of the acting pieces have to be seen to be believed… Particularly Donald Pleasance taking the obsessive manic-ness of Dr Loomis from the Halloween series to the nth degree.

Score: ***


Format: This film is from Shameless Screen Entertainment’s ‘yellow’ series of DVDs from the UK. This particular film is number 2 in the series and is region 0. The film runs for approximately 88 minutes and is presented in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The image isn’t the sharpest it could be and it is quite artefacty at times, but not so that it’s distracting. I have to say though one real issue I have with the presentation of the packaging. The blurb on the back quite clearly states who the murderer is, so if you are watching this after reading it, then there are no secrets. For me, the synopsis on the back of DVD or bluray packaging shouldn’t be spoilery at all.

Score: ***

Extras: The disc starts with several trailers for other films from the Shameless Screen Entertainment line, including The New York Ripper, The Black Cat, Torso (Carnal Violence), Manhattan Baby, Baba Yaga The Devil Witch and The Killer Nun, which can also be accessed on the ‘Forthcoming Attraction’ button on the main screen. The only other extra is the trailer for this film.


Score: **

WISIA: This film is far from an example of great Italian horror cinema, but the inclusion of Michael York and Donald Pleasance’s hilariously overblown performance make it a rewatch must!