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!

Black Sunday (1960) Review

It’s the 1st of June and the second day of my celebration for Italy’s Festa Della Repubblica, and so the second color on the Italian flag, and what better way to celebrate than with a black and WHITE film, Black Sunday!
So here is one from the re watch pile…

Black Sunday aka La Maschera Del Demonio (1960)


Film: One can’t celebrate Italian cinema without the name Mario Bava coming up. The son of special effects artist, Eugenio, Bava was born to make movies. His seemingly natural eye for misé en shot and his ability to be trans-genre made him a formidable director, and more importantly cameraman (It is out of respect I say ‘cameraman’ rather than cinematographer as he himself preferred that term). His eye for setting a scene is unrivalled and every new act in a film is a visual revelation.

Truly, Bava was a cinematic artist.

This review was done on the Arrow bluray release from the U.K. and upon watching, the first thing you will notice is the opportunity to watch either Black Sunday or The Mask of Satan. Black Sunday is the American International Pictures version of the film, whereas The Mask of Satan is the Galatea Jolly Film version of the film. I watched The Mask of Satan several times on this collection, but never bothered with Black Sunday as I knew it was an edited version. For this review I did watch both.


 In Moldavia in 1630, a vampiric witch Asa (Barbara Steele) and her consort Javuto (Arturo Dominici)are in league with Satan and are put to death by the the chief inquisitor, who happens to be her brother, and the townspeople by hammering the mask of Satan, a spiked iron mask onto her head. Of course before she is put to death she vows external vengeance in her brother’s descendants… Like we ALL do when being put to death by a sibling. They attempt to burn her body but the elements stopp it, so instead she is interred in a windowed coffin, which constantly casts the shadow of a cross onto her face to keep her there.

200 years later in the 1800s, a young doctor, Andre Gorobec (John Richardson) and his learned elder, Professor Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) are on their way to a medical conference in Moscow when their horse and cart loses a wheel in the forest they are travelling through. The horseman fixes the wheel, but the two go exploring in a tomb close by.: the very tomb the witch was buried in!!

The horseman requires assistance is resetting the wheel, and so Gorobec goes to help, leaving the Professoralone, but he is attacked by a bat and accidentally smashes the godly protections placed around the tomb to keep the witch in her stead. As they leave the tomb they are greeted by a young woman, Katia (also played by Steele) a descendant who looks like the original witch, and her good looks enchant Gorobec and they are soon on their way, accidentally taking with them one of the contents of the tomb.


What they don’t realise is they have revitalised the witch, and very soon she will returned reap her revenge upon the ancestors of those who killed and entombed her, but can she be stopped?

The two versions of this film on this disc have slight variations. Just by looking at the time codes you will realise the American version has had 3 minutes of ‘questionable’ material removed from it for American audiences, including a shorter ‘mask impalement’ and branding, and changed elements such as Asa’s brother Javuto now being her servant. The dialogue has also been altered slightly when it was entirely redone in the states as AIP bosses Samual Z. Arkoff and James Nicholson decided the Italian translations to English were stilted. The American version also has a title card with a small explanation as to what was happening in Eastern Europe during these times.

The first thing one must notice is just how damned grisly this film is for 1960. I remember when I first watched this film I checked and rechecked the date it was made as the special effects are stunning, and quite brutal. I completely understand why the American’s excised so much from it as in the 60s, even cut, it still must have created quite an impact.

Bava’s affection for special effects obviously comes from his father, but his skill as a cameraman and his understanding of lighting a scene is definitely on show here. His obvious and possibly natural comprehension of artists using chiaroscuro, the use of contrasting dark and light for effect, is used here in such an effect that the depth of each scene makes it almost three dimensional, and the way a closing door or a slight shift of light can change the mood of a scene is amazing.

I especially like the touch of having the emblem of the vampires being that of a dragon, which lends itself nicely and was possibly a tribute to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the character, and the actual real Vlad the Impaler, being of the ‘Order of the Dragon’, a chivalric order formed during the crusades in 1408. I also wonder if Amando De Ossorio borrowed his silent, slow motion horses from this film for his Blind Dead series, which was used here to great effect.

So is this my favourite Bava film? Definitely not, but there is so much to like here: the atmosphere is a tangible and the performances melodramatic and a joy to behold.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This viewing was done on the UK’s Arrow film’s bluray release which has been masterfully restored. Depending on which version you watch, the film The Mask of Satan runs for approximately 86 minutes whereas Black Sunday runs for 83 minutes, due to the aforementioned slicing and dicing by AIP. The film is present in 1.66:1 with a Mono 2.0 audio, both of which look and sound just fine.

Score: *****

Extras: You want extras? Oh boy, do we have extras in this package!


Disc 1 features a commentary by Tim Lucas, an Introduction with Alan Jones (the English Italian horror expert one, not the Australian one), and Interview with Barbara Steele, a deleted scene, the international, US and Italian Trailer, a TV spot and Bava’a ‘first’ film I, Vampiri, which when click upon take you to a sub menu that also features it’s trailer and trailers for other films from Bava including The Mask of Satan, Hercules in the Haunted World, Erik the Conquerer, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Black Sabbath, The Whip and the Body, Blood and Black Lace, The Road to Fort Alamo, Planet of the Vampires, Knives of the Avenger, Kill, Baby…Kill, Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, Danger: Diabolik, Hatchet for The Honeymoon, Five Dolls for an August Moon, Roy Colt & Winchester Jack, Carnage (Bay of Blood), Baron Blood, Four Times That Night, Lisa and the Devil, Rabid Dogs and Shock.

I have to quickly insert a mini review of I Vampiri here as well. This is a beautifully shot film that tells a modern (well, modern for the late 50s) version of the legend of Lady Bathory. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am glad it came as an extra on this disc… Honestly, I would say I enjoyed this film MORE than Black Sunday!

Disc 2 is a DVD featuring every thing above, except for the film I Vampiri, and the trailers.

Disc 3 is a DVD featuring the film I Vampiri and the other extras listed under the sub menu for I Vampiri on disc 1.

So that’s just the discs, also in the package we have a booklet with articles relating to the films on this disc: Black Sunday by Matt Bailey, a Barbara Steele interview, I Vampiri by Alan Jones and Riccardo Freda on I Vampiri and Mario Bava. It’s a cool booklet that is quite informative.

Honestly I think the only thing this package is missing is another run of Black Sunday, but instead with the U.K.’s less distressing title of the 60s, Revenge of the Vampire!

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a Bava film so at the forbidden Castle of J.R. it gets a regular re-spin, as does a lot of his films, especially Baron Blood… But not so much Lisa and the Devil. It’ll be pulled off the shelf a lot more now though that I’ve experienced I Vampiri!

Jungle Holocaust (1977) Review

Today is the first day of our Italian Festa Della Repubblica celebration, and for the next three days we’ll have a film representing a colour of the Italian flag. The first colour is, of course, green, and what better way to celebrate ‘green’ Italian cinema than with a cannibal/ jungle film…One from the to watch pile…

Jungle Holocaust aka Last Cannibal World (1977)


Film: Also known as Ultimo Mondo Cannibale.

I became a cannibal film fan late in my love of horror films. During the VHS era I was more interested in zombie films and American stuff, though I had seen Survive and Cannibal Apocalypse. It wasn’t until DVD that I saw Cannibal Holocaust for the first time, and was completely won over by what I magnificent film it was, not just as a genre/ horror/ exploitation film but also as a thriller about how no matter where you walk on earth you have an effect, sometimes positive, sometimes negative. This of course led to to pursue other cannibal films, and even though I have had this in my collection for a while, I had never actually watched it.

It is directed by Cannibal Holocaust’s director Ruggero Deodato, from a script by Tito Carpi, Gianfranco Clerici and Renzo Genta.


Robert Harper (Massimo Foschi) travels to Malaysia to visit a group of employees, but the airstrip has gone to ruin and his plane crashes upon landing. Soon, the pilot and his female companion are killed by a local tribe of natives, and Harper finds himself separated from his companion Rolf (Ivan Rassimov).

Harper is quickly captured by the locals and is tortured and humiliated by the tribe, though one girl, Pulan (Me Me Lai) offers him sympathy… And a hand shandy ( I guess that’s why her name is ‘Pulin’).

Of course, he is desperate to escape, but will he? Is he forever trapped?


I have to say I’m luke warm on this. This film came before Cannibal Holocaust and a lot of this feels like a testing ground for what comes after. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but occasionally it is hard to make a proper judgement on something when seen out of release order. I am sure if I had seen this before the others my opinion would be different.

That’s not to say it doesn’t tell a great story about the jungle environment, and what men might do to survive, and the three leads are quite good in their roles, and Me Me Lai isn’t too hard on the eyes at all!

I will point out, if nudity, or particularly male nudity, and I’m talking full frontal, sack up close nudity either offends or threatens your masculinity, avoid this film. There more sausage in this film than at a German butchers.

Also, animal cruelty is present in this film, though Deodato claims, in an introduction, that he was not responsible for it. If you have a tender sensibility or a weak stomach, boy oh boy is your constitution gonna be tested.

…aaaaand as far as feminism is concerned, well the offence may continue. I don’t admit to knowing anything about it, but I am sure a native girl who suffers from penis envy, and falls for a guy after he slaps her around and then rapes her isn’t a feminist icon.

Ok, so if your offended by nudity, a vegan or a feminist, you probably shouldn’t watch this.

For me this is far from the best cannibal films around, but I am glad I have now seen it as I can add it’s viewing to my list of cannibal films.

Score: **

Format: This review was done using the apparently uncut, 2001 Shriek Show release on region 1 DVD. It runs for approximately 88 minutes and is presented in a 2.35:1 video with Dolby 2.0 stereo audio. The picture is quite clear, but occasionally a touch soft and has a mild amount of tiny artefacts here and there. The sound though is pretty damn good.

Score: ***


Extras: Not a bad amount of extras can be found on this disc, including Memoirs From The Jungle which is broken up into Materials Archive, which is a series of promotional posters and lobby cards for the film, an interview with Massimo Foschi, some personal snapshots of the film taken from Foschi’s collection and another interview, but this time with Ivan Rassimov.

The original trailer is also here (though as Last Cannibal World), as well as text pieces of the director’s filmography, and Talent Biographies of Deodato, Foschi, Lai and Rassimov.

There is also a director’s commentary performed by Ruggero Deodato, though he does it in his native Italian, with English subtitles, and wow, he comments on everything. Fascinating!

There are also trailers for Beyond the Darkness, Zombie Holocaust, Nights of Terrors (sic) and Eaten Alive.

Score: ****

WISIA: In a world where Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Apocalypse and Cannibal Ferox exists; I probably won’t watch this again.

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.