Sidecar Racers (1975)

One from the to watch pile…

Sidecar Racers (1975)

Film: I fell absolutely head-over-heels in love with Australian filmmaker Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood, which was an amazing celebration of the Australian film industry’s darker, and perhaps occasionally sleazier side. There is a problem with admiring that doco as much as I do, though.

I have found myself in a situation where all you have to do to sell me a film, is describe it as an ‘Ozploitation Classic’ and dammit, Australian company Umbrella Entertainment have found so many films of this ‘Ozploitation period’ that my stupid DVD and Bluray collection is swollen with so many films that I may not have bothered with.

The Gods of Marketing have discovered my Kryptonite and take advantage of it at every opportunity.

This offering is certainly a film that I would never have bothered with as it’s about a sport, and I have a mind and a body made for horror, sci-fi and action, I’m afraid, but here we are, due to that dastardly label.

Sidecar Racers was directed by prolific American TV director Earl Bellamy, who worked on everything from The Brady Bunch to The Mighty Isis, from a script by John Cleary, who has several of his novels made into movies, such as High Road to China and Scobie Malone (based of his book ‘Helga’s Web’).

Sidecar Racers tells of Jeff Rayburn (Ben Murphy), a former American Olympic swimmer who is spending is time bumming around Australia, trying to figure out what to do with his life when he happens upon Lynn (Wendy Hughes) who sees his amazing balance whilst surfing and introduces him to her not-quite boyfriend, Dave (John Clayton), a sidecar motorcycle racer who was responsible for the death of his former racing partner in a horrific crash.

Dave and Jeff become a solid team and have dreams of hitting the European Sidecar Racing Circuit, but only if their partnership can survive their mutual affection for Lynn, a local motorcycle gang and more importantly, Dave’s seemingly self-destructive nature.

One of the things I found amazing about this movie is the fact that you’d have to be an absolute bloody mad-person to have ever engaged in this sport! Crappy 70s cycle-gear, nutso-drivers and insane daredevilry make for a spectacle that I can’t say I’ve seen before.

This film, of course, has a few names floating around in it other than the ones I’ve mentioned above. John Meillon (Crocodile Dundee) plays a mechanic known as ‘Ocker’, Peter Graves (Million Impossible TV series) plays Lynn’s father and type magnate Carson and Australian well-known TV face Serge Lazareff, seen in things like Bluey, Cop Shop and A Country Practice.

It’s a weird film too. It comes across as a pretty straight drama, with an occasional odd directorial choice. For example, there is a ‘musical interlude’ scene where a live band is playing at a party, and the singer spends part of the time looking directly into the camera as if she’s aware that it’s there. Fans of understated and subtle acting won’t find much here for them either as it’s as melodramatic like you wouldn’t believe. Every piece of emotion is underlined with shouting rather than actual ‘acting’.

The films also runs at 100 minutes, which is probably about 20 minutes too long, and even then, the ending is ultimately, a little unsatisfying.

This is a fun, albeit silly film that for me is more interesting as a document of Australia in 1975. Honestly, I didn’t realise that Wendy Hughes was such a stunner either, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Score: **1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release which is presented in a surprisingly good 1.33:1 image with a clear 2.0 mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: None, not even a menu screen. The disc rolls straight into playing the film.

Score: 0

WISIA: It not being the type of film I’d normally watch, but for the images of Australia in 1975 it’s worth looking at again.

The Night Child (1975)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Night Child (1975)

Film: With the likes of Argento, Fulci, Leone and the various Bavas dominating the spotlight it would be easy to get your name lost to these far more well known Italian directors, but in amongst these is the name Massimo Dallamano. Dallamano started as a cinematographer in 1964 and worked on films like A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, but was also an accomplished director in his own right, , as can be seen in films like 1969’s Le Malizie Di Emerge aka Venus in Furs (which he directed as ‘Max Dillman’), 1972’s Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange? aka What Have You Done To Solange? And this film, 1975;s Il Medaglione Insanguinato aka The Night Child.

The Night Child tells of recently widowered Michael Williams (played by Zombie Flesh Eaters’ Richard Johnson) and his daughter Emily (Italy’s first scream queen Nicoletta Elmi) who are to travel to Italy so Michael can film a documentary about the image of Satan in Art for the BBC. Emily, as one would expect, is extraordinarily disturbed by the death of her mother, and asks her father if he would mind if she could take a medallion from her mother’s belongings to wear as a keepsake.

Of course the old man doesn’t mind, and along with Emily’s nanny, Jill (Evelyne Stewert, aka Ida Galli from La Dolce Vita) they travel to Italy and meet up with the American producer of the documentary Joanna (Ghost of Mars’ Joanna Cassidy) and a local, Contessa Cappelli (Lila Kendrova from Polanski’s The Tenant), who knows all about a mysterious painting rumoured to have been painted by the devil himself.

Then, weirdness ensues.

Emily starts to have strange fantasies about a medieval girl being pursued by angry and fuck-ugly townsfolk, and the murders… that is, the ‘accidents’… start to happen…

My biggest problem with this film is it’s story. I have watched the film several times now and I am still not sure if it was the painting, the medallion, the girl, or all three are the cursed thing, and this ambiguity is hard for me to get over and therefore, spoilt any enjoyment I could had have of the film. I guess the clue that should straightedges out that curly one is the fact the film in Italian is called The Cursed Medallion but if you the film, I’m not sure that completely makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong, The Night Child is exquisitely shot, with some pretty good performances from a varied cast but the story was so flat, and the ending SUCH a downer (you know those ones where it seems like the writers wrote themselves into a corner?) that I just can’t give it any real credibility, because to this reviewer, the story is the most important part of a film.

So does Dallamano deserve to be amongst those big names of Italian cinema? Well, I believe he does, as like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, he sets scenes and shoots them so wonderfully that at times you just get caught up in the art of cinema itself.

Unfortunately the story here is just far too convoluted to be a good example of his storytelling, and The Night Child simply cannot complete with that competition.

On. Side note, redhead-o-philes will love this film as in addition to young Italian film legend Nicoletta Elmi who was in stuff like Demons and Bay of Blood, and American bombshell Joanna Cassidy, almost every female character is a redhead. Is there something Dallamano is trying to say, or was he just a fan of the red? Maybe there was a subtle I nod to the medieval idea that redheads were of the beast..

The Night Child feels like, it had several initial ideas, but instead of picking just one, the writer went with all of the , resulting in somewhat of a mess. It is a well-crafted and beautifully crafted mess, but still a mess. Really for Dallamano or Elmi or possession completists only.

Score: **

Format: Arrow’s DVD presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the image is sharp, colourful and generally a decent with only occasional film artefacts present. The audio is presented either in English mono, or Italian mono with English subtitles. It is a clear soundtrack, but you will notice what almost seems to be a vinyl record styled crackling here and there. Honestly I only noticed as I was listening for audio faults, and a casual viewer may not even notice it at all. The English track does occasionally play Italian with subtitles: for completion purposes, I suppose.

Score: ***

Extras: Exorcism – Italian Style is an interesting look at the post Rosemary’s Baby/ The Exorcist Italian rip-offs of possession films with interviews with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi, screenwriter Antonio Tentori and Italian film critic Paolo Zalati.

There is also an Italian and a US trailer. the Us trailer is particularly funny with the Last House on the Left tiff of ‘keep telling yourself, it’s only a child, it’s only a child…’

Included in this DVD release from Arrow films is a booklet featuring a detailed history of Dallamano’s work by High Rising Productions Callum Waddell, which is an interesting and thorough considering it’s only 5 odd pages of text.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I don’t believe I need to revisit this yet again.

Cinema Sex Sirens by Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer

One from the re-read pile…

Cinema Sex Sirens

I have to say I love books about films almost as much as I like films themselves. I love stretching out on the lounge, feet up, beverage in one hands and a good book in the other. The content of the book is important though: it has to be about an aspect of cinema I love, it has to cover a genre I love, it has to be informative, and maybe a decent amount of photos or illustration. The book will get bonus points if it mainly deals with cinema of the 60s, y0s and 80s. What really makes a book special is if it fulfils all this criteria. Cinema Sex Sirens does exactly that… ok, it’s doesn’t cover the 80s, but I’ll let that slide.

Cinema Sex Sirens is written by Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer, co-producers of magazine and web site Cinema Retro, which celebrates the cinema of the 60s and 70s: their claim being that most of the best films ever made come from these decades, and who am I to argue? These gentlemen have been responsible for other film related books like The Essential James Bond and The Great Fox War Movies, not to mention the fact that Worrell produced most of the documentaries on the MGM releases of the James Bond films!

his book, Cinema Sex Sirens, takes a look at the women present in films through the 60s and 70s, and how their sexuality evolved from the pin-up styles of earlier starlets like Betty Grable and Lana Turner and how these beautiful women were used as selling points for the film’s success. These women are also a precursor to the 80s scream queens and beyond, but in general were a bit more demure and less likely to drop undies on screen. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I will point out that a gift is more exciting before it is unwrapped: it’s that whole Schrodinger’s Cat thing, I guess.

The cover has a beautiful selection of the women of this period and is styled in a classic, almost Brady Bunch, series of windows, featuring lovlies like Sophia Loren, Ann-Margret and Jane Fonda, and boldly claims an introduction by Sir Roger Moore. Remember him? He was one of the James Bonds’. Upon reading that doesn’t really amount to much other than him claiming that he didn’t sleep with most of the women he worked with, which is a shame when you consider some of the downright gorgeous things with which he shared a fake bed.

The authors introduce our ladies with a beautiful picture of Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks, an example of how modern TV and cinema can still do voluptuous and demure when they want to, and discusses the lives of the studio employed star, and how they have become likes goddesses in comparison to the media whores of today, who are regularly seen in such gossip rags as Who and NW snorting cocaine off the back of some farm animal that they have just screwed for five dollars. It looks at how these women were taught grace, poise, deportment and etiquette and how everyday saw them dressed like they were at the Academy Awards, instead of picking their noses in sweatpants whilst buying pregnancy tests from a midnight to dawn convenience store.

The book is laid out in 3 main sections based on their locations, each which have an introduction, a series of bios on the bigger names of the subset, and a round-up of those who were still great, but not great enough to get their own full section due to how well known they were. The three sections are “Hollywood or Bust”, which looks at the sirens of the Americas (like Raquel Welch, Angie Dickinson, and many others not to mention subsections on Russ Meyers Ladies, The Drives In Gals and the hard hitting babes of Blaxploitation); “The Continentals” which looks at the exciting euro babes likes Ursula Un-dress… I mean, Andress, Claudia Cardinale, Anita Ekberg (my favorite), Sylvia Kyrstal, and a subsection on Giallo Girls, and finally “Made In Britain: Brit Glamour”, featuring Susan George, Valerie Leon, Caroline Munroe and of course, Ingrid Pitt (obviously the Hammer ladies could have a whole book just on their own, and they do in Marcus Hearn’s Hammer Glamour, another must have for cinema beauty fans). There is also a final section called “Sex Sells: The Art of the Movie Poster” which is an interesting, albeit brief look at how cleavages and legs have been used to sell films.

This book is a great tome for those interested in the films of this era, and if you are reading this site, or a fan of Hammer, Corman or Meyers films, you’ll find something in this book. It is photo heavy, which usually means ‘light on text and information’ but this book isn’t! The authors share a great deal of information, even though they are career and vocation overviews rather than in depth, hard hitting exposes of the actresses. I enjoyed this book and will no doubt refer to it regularly.

Score: ****

Island of Death (1976)

One from the re watch pile…

Island of Death (1976)

Film: I admire director Niko Mastorakis more than I admire almost any other director. All too often we hear that a horror or exploitation film was made as the writer and or director wanted to create a discussion about some ill in the world. Mastorakis has no such delusions of grandeur: as a matter of fact, he openly laughs at those who would attempt to find absent subtext in what I choose to call one of the greatest exploitation films ever made: Island of Death. Mastorakis admits that the script is based around a series of murderous and perverse ideas brought to him, and that the only reason he made it was because he heard that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was made for almost no money, but earned a heap.

Our film starts with a man trapped in a lime pit, begging for assistance from a girl sitting on the edge, which she denies him. We suddenly flashback to a few days earlier, where we meet the couple, Christopher (Bob Belling) and Celia (Jane Ryall) landing on the Isle of Mykonos for a bit of a holiday . After getting some accommodation on the island, they call Christopher’s mother, as he wants his mother to hear him and Celia screwing in the phone booth.

As the story unfolds we learn that these two are…well, crazy. They refer to each other as husband and wife, and then cousins (the real truth is revealed later), and start to rape, molest and kill their way through the islands denizens, and its goats, all in the name of God!

Immediately, I have to comment on both the acting and the direction: both are terrible. Half the time it feels like the actors learnt their script a half an hour earlier, and may have idiot cards to help them with their lines (funnily enough, the worst actor is probably Mastorakis himself: a true crime against good acting). That is not to say all the acting was dire. Belling (aka Robert Behling) is sufficiently devious and menacing, and the pretty Ryall (aka Jane Lyle) maintains an amazing sense of innocence through the entire proceeding, even during any acts of perversion in which she is involved.

In general Mastorakis’ direction is OK, but now and again, the camera drops out of focus, or the initial set-up is at odds with what may be deemed ‘good cinema’. He does however have some picturesque scenes that show of the beauty of Mikonos. There’s a couple of times the voice doesn’t quite sync too, but that seems to be an editing issue rather than a fault of the disc.

The thing is though that none of that matters. The film is just nutty enough that one can’t keep their eyes from it as the unfolding tale is ridiculous and I for one, think it is a great example of what ‘exploitation’ should be. All of us fans of sick cinema should thank both Mastorakis and Arrow films for the opportunity to see this film uncut.

At first I wasn’t sure if this film was so bad it only deserved one star for being sick, depraved and horrible, but then I realised that it deserves five stars for exactly the same reason. This is a fascinating film packaged with a great collection of extras. Well done, Arrow!

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed with the 2k remastered Bluray from Arrow Video which is presented in a decent 1.37:1 image which does have a few artefacts, and is clearly an older film, but it’s been cleaned up beautifully. The audio is in 1.0 and is is clear and crisp but unremarkable.

Score: ***

Extras: There’s a nice bunch of extras on this disc:

Exploring Islands of Death sees Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Horror and Nightmare USA talk about the making of Island of Death. This isn’t a casual peek either, this is a full tilt critical assessment1

Return to the Island of Death see the director return to the past of Mykonos where the film was made. Mastorakis is a charming host on this visit and shows to have quite the sense of humour as well. The island itself is just as lovely, and hasn’t changed much either! He also makes a confession that Island of Death 2 should be made soon.

There is an interview with Niko Mastorakis where he talks about not just this film, but his career as well.

The Films Of Nico Mastorakis is a dissection of Mastorakis’ career, broken into 4 parts, but told by Mastorakis is a series of anecdotes about the behind the scenes of his films.

There are alternate opening titles under the names Island of Perversion and Devils of Mykonos.

Island Sounds has 5 pieces of music from the score played over a still image of the name of the film and the song title.

There is an original theatrical trailer, and a trailer reel of Mastorakis’ films.

There is also a booklet with an essay about the film’s history by Johnny Walker, and notes about how the 2k transfer was done and any issues had with its production. This Bluray edition also comes with a DVD copy of the film which contains most of the extras.

Score: *****

WISIA: Honestly, it’s not a frequent re-watcher for me, but it is so batty that one can’t help but feed the need to see it several times… and then maybe watch a friend’s reaction when THEY watch it!

Fear in the Night (1972)

One from the to watch pile…

Fear in the Night (1972)

Film: It seems to me that every time I reach a point where I think I have seen every Hammer film, ten more that I haven’t seen pop up. The best thing about these films is in general the reason I didn’t know about them is because I was a ravenous lover of Hammer’s monster movies, like the Frankensteins and the Draculas, but a lot of these thrillers and real fun and a great watch.

This film, Fear in the Night, is directed by one of the real creative forces of Hammer, Jimmy Sangster, who also directed Lust for the Vampire and The Horror Of Frankenstein. Being a prolific writer of Hammer films, he do-wrote this screenplay with Michael Syson, who also wrote the 1979 western, Eagle’s Wing.

Fear in the Night is a thriller starring Judy Geeson as Peggy Heller, a newly wed who is packing her things from the sharehouse she lives in so she can go with her new husband, Robert (Ralph Bates) at the boys boarding school where he is employed as a maths teacher.

On this night, though, she is attacked by a man with only one arm, and as she is someone with a history of mental issues, she is not immediately believed though the police are called and a report made.

She travels to the school where she finds it abandoned, as it is apparently end of term, and meets the headmaster, Michael Carmichael (Peter Cushing) and his wife, Molly (Joan Collins). Molly is immediately hostile towards Peggy, but Robert explains that she is apparently a bitch to everyone. Michael is a calm, studious type… WITH ONLY ONE ARM!!!!

DUM, dum, DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM!!!

Is Michael the man who attacked her, or is there a highly detailed plot involving misdirection leading to MURDER?

Well obviously there is, this is a Hammer film for goodness sake!!

This is a beautifully shot film, with some cool cinematic subtleties throughout, for example, Geeson’s costuming changes as her state of mind becomes fractured.

Considering Geeson basically holds the film single-handedly, she is perfect for the role. Girl next door pretty and with a tragic demeanour she nails this mentally-unstable waif brilliantly. That’s not to disparage the others: Collins plays perfect bitch, Bates plays perfect cad and Cushing? Well, Cushing is Cushing, and what else would you want?

All in all, it’s a quality Hammer Horror thriller, but it telegraphs most of its surprises quite early, and whilst the pay-off works, the epilogue is somewhat lacklustre.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian, region B Bluray which runs for 94 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.66:1 image with a matching Dolby DTS-HD audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: There is not a great deal of extras on this, but what there is is quality.

End of Term: Inside Fear in the Night has various film experts from the UK like Jonathon Rigby, who wrote the amazing Euro Gothic, Alan Barnes, co-author of The Hammer Story, Kevin Lyons, the editor of eofftv.com and cultural historian John J. Johnston talking about the history and providence of the film. The only problem with this extra is it only goes for just over 15 minutes!

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

WISIA: Once the well-telegraphed twist is revealed, it doesn’t really lend itself to repeat watching.

Baron Blood aka Gli Orrori Del Castello Di Norimburga (1972)

One from the re watch pile…

Baron Blood aka Gli Orrori Del Castello Di Norimburga (1972)

Film: I have to preface this review with a short story that I have told to many people, but it particularly refers to this film and my affection for it. You see, Baron Blood was probably the last film to really scare me… not because the film is particularly scary, but instead because of the situation that I found myself in after it.

As a early teenager, I was lucky enough to see this at a little independent cinema known as the Miranda Forum, in Miranda, NSW. The forum did stacks of double features and I was lucky enough to see this film, under the guise of The Torture Chamber Of Baron Blood with another horror film you MAY have heard of called An American Werewolf in London.

The experience of seeing the films was amazing, and after it finished it, my friends were all picked up by their parents and it left me to walk the 5km trip home alone, at about midnight, during a blackout that was effecting the street lights.

Sufficed to say, I ran like a rat up a drainpipe.

Due to this, Baron Blood sits in my brain as a particularly scary film… and let’s just say that the blonde-haired and green-eyed appearance of Elle Sommer set a stamp in my mind that would be permanent, and I have always been mainly attracted to that type.

Much later, after becoming a fan of the work of Mario Bava, whom I discovered through my love of Dario Argento’s body of work, I realised this was in actual fact a Bava film, from a script written by him, Willibard Eser and Vincent Fotre. Even at such a young age I must have instinctively been able to spot great talent!

Anyhow, Baron Blood tells of Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora), a young man who has travelled to Austria to see his family’s castle and there he meets the sexy… I’m not sure what she does actually… Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer) and the two of them have an instant attraction.

Peter convinces Eva, as a joke, to perform a ritual that he found written on a parchment discovered at a relatives house to see what happens, and unfortunately for them, and the many victims, it brings the evil legendary Baron Otto Von Kleist (Joseph Cotton) back from the dead, ready to reclaim his castle and murder everyone who gets in his way!

During the ritual, the ceremonial winds… you know the ones, every GOOD evil ritual has them… blows the parchment into the fire, the parchment containing the words to reverse the spell! Without that information, how will our lovestruck heroes survive?

Mario Bava is well known as one of the greatest Italian filmmakers ever, and he has an incredible fluid style with occasionally an almost cartoonish palette which creates a greater sense of depth within his images. His usual extreme colors aren’t present in this film, but it’s a beautiful film nevertheless, and a great example of modern gothic.

The film has a great cast too. Joseph Cotten from The Third Man, Massimo Girotti from Last Tango in Paris, Antonio Cantafora from Demons 2, Elke Sommer from A Shot in the Dark and even Nicoletta Elmi, an child actress seen in many Italian horror films, from Bay of Blood, to The Night Child and Demons.

This film is a particular interesting piece of Bava’s history too as it isn’t filmed in his native Italy, and instead in Vienna. This is interesting as Bava notoriously hated to travel and rarely filmed away from home.

It may be for strange reasons but I love this film, it’s easily one of my favourite Bava films and is well worth a watch, even if you don’t have to walk home in the dark after seeing it.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was on Arrow Video’s Region B Bluray/ DVD combo pack. The film, on the Bluray, is presented with a 1.78:1 image with a 2.0 Mono and both are fine considering the age of the film and the restoration has brought it back beautifully.

Score: ****

Extras: Oh, boy do we have some extras.

First, there are actually three different versions of the film available to watch on the disc: the ‘export version’, the AIP version and the original Italian version, aka The Horror Of Nuremberg Castle. Being able to watch the film in these three different formats is quite interesting, even though the story doesn’t change. Bare in mind though, the American International Pictures (AIP) version has had a solid 7 minutes cut from it and has a far less interesting musical track accompanying (it’s not bad, just a little horror-movie generic). The entire contents of the Bluray are also presented on two accompanying DVDs as well!

There is an audio commentary by Tim Lucas, the author of Mario Bava: All The Colors of The Dark (a seriously detailed look at Mario Bava’s history) and Video Watchdog editor, which really dissects the film both in its actual story, its place in Bava’s filmography and in Italian cinema in general. This is on the export version of the film.

Introduction by Alan Jones sees respected UK movie expert Alan Jones (not the Australian one) briefly introduce the film and its history.

There are both English and Italian trailers for the film, and some radio spots too.

Bava at Work is a series of photos of Bava making a bunch of different films. There is some interesting shots, but stills belong either in books, or in moonshiner’s backyards.

Ruggero Deodato Interview is a look at the golden age of Italian horror through the eyes of Cannibal Holocaust director Deodato. He has some amusing anecdotes and recollections of Bava and the period.

Also in this package is a booklet with an essay by film critic James Oliver, and details of the restoration process as well. The booklet is illustrated throughout.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a permanent nostalgic favourite so it gets a lot of respins at the To Watch Pile Estate.

Emmanuelle (1974)

One from the to watch pile…

Emmanuelle (1974)

Film: There was once a time when soft core porn was cool. When a man and a woman could go out and enjoy a film with saxophone and oboe filled soundtracks, lithe sensual women, iron-jawed rugged men and more camera filters than you could shake a nubile titty at. Porn evolved fairly quickly as it became less something artistic that could be enjoyed by the general public and became a dirty societal secret, shunned by the mainstream because, you know, masturbation is dirty and only the scum of the earth do it.

Over the course of history the production value on porn films has been of varying degree, just like any other form of entertainment but this is a review about one film, not a reflection on an industry that even defines technological advances by what it uses to get its message across, like VHS and Bluray.

Emmanuelle was directed by soft-core legend Just Jaekin, who also directed The Story Of O and Gwendoline, a film I thoroughly enjoyed as it is a bizarre mix of a female Indiana Jones movie and a titty-flick. The film’s script was written by Jean-Louis Richard which was of course based upon the original novel by Emmanuelle Arsen, which was a series of erotic fantasies. This film launched an entire sub-genre of films which has Emmanuelle in the title, from the Black Emmanuelle flicks to the bizarre is-it-a-comedy-or-a-soft-core-porn-film Carry On Emmanuelle.

Emmanuelle (Sylvia Krystal) is the wife of a French ambassador, Jean (Daniel Sarky) assigned to Thailand. Emmanuelle and Mario have a very open relationship, as jealousy is out of fashion and apparently Emmanuelle is a spectacular lay and he doesn’t believe he should keep her gift all to himself.

So of course the story here shows Emmanuelle riding the beast with two backs across a foreign country, whilst her husband has his way with the various housemaids that litter their property, but is he honest with his lack of jealousy, or will the amount of people, male and female, who end up face down in her private parts start to piss him off? This is all without even taking into account her tryst with one of his work colleagues who just hands her around like a towel to all and sundry!

Be careful what you wish for, Jean!

There is no doubt Just Jaekin knows his way around a camera. The whole production is filmed softly, but not so softly that it takes away from the content. It does, however, spend most of the time looking like a Stevie Nicks music video but with boobs and gentle lovemaking.

I am well aware of the importance of this film but I was as bored as bored can be through the film… except for a sequence with a naked girl and a cigarette: here I was intrigued!! This is one of those films that I am glad I can tick off my list of films that should be seen. But it will definitely only ever get one tick.

Score: *

Format: The review of this film was done with the Umbrella region 4 DVD release which runs for approximately 94 minutes. It’s is presented in a decent 1.66:1 image with a 2.0 audio soundtrack.

Score: ***

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: No.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

One from the re watch pile…

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

Film: As with all film fans, there are ‘Holy Grails’ on my mental checklist of ‘need to sees’ and before I had seen it, this was one of mine. This film, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, is also known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (which is more or less a translation of the Italian title “Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti” which literally means “You must not desecrate the sleep of the dead”) and Don’t Open the Window. I had these three films on my list, and for some reason I was ignorant of the fact that they were one in the same film.

Imagine my joy when I found out they were one and the same.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue tells the following tale: George (Ray Lovelock) is an antiques dealer who enjoys his weekends in the country, away from the hustle and bustle and pollution of the big city. One weekend on his way to his retreat, he has a small accident with the gorgeous Edna (Christine Galbo) who is on the way to assist her brother in law Martin (Jose Lifante) in an intervention with her heroin addicted sister, Katie (Jeannine Mestre). Unfortunately his motorbike is wrecked, and so Edna offers to take him to where he has to go in her car.

Typically they get lost, and George stops to ask for directions at a farm that is using a revolutionary pest control technique that has a disturbing side effect: it brings the dead back to life! Whilst George is away from the car, Edna is attacked by one of the living dead, and so begins a descent into madness that finds corpses returning to eat the living, babies showing deadly signs of cannibalism and the local constabulary, led by a hardnosed old-school inspector (Arthur Kennedy) thinking they are a pair of homicidal hippies!

One of the things I really like about this film is what a misogynistic, sexist arsehole the male lead, George (Ray Lovelock) appears to be. He is a condescending, self assured jerkoff, and honestly I can’t tell if he is representing men of the era accurately, or if he is a parody akin to what was seen in something like the MUCH later film The Editor.

Now the female lead is one I really like. Christine Galbo plays her role of Edna like a more realistic Barbara from Night of the Living Dead. She is definitely in shock, but almost completely avoids the dumb-founded catatonia that made Barbara a frustrating piece of furniture to be thrown around by the male protagonists.

Actually I felt this film owed a lot to Night of the Living Dead, and not just due to its walking dead, its machismo fuelled male lead or weak-ankled female lead. There is an all over sense of impending doom, and the more cynical of us might just say the ending is a blatant copy of Romero’s B/W film.

The script, by Sandro Continenza, is both retro and revolutionary at the same time. It has hippie-hating cops and the women are of the shrinking violet variety, but it also looks at ‘new’ clean pest-rid technologies. It’s anti-pollution, looks briefly (and amusingly) at heroin addiction and demonstrates a high level of environmental awareness.

An absolute cracker. It precedes George Romero’s ideas of the dead’s instincts presented in Dawn of the Dead by several years, and its anti-pollution, pro-eco stance is well ahead of its time. As for Blue Underground’s disc, well it is chock-a-block full of more extras than you could shake a grave marker at. I never thought I would see a film to rival Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and while I still may not have, this comes real close

Score: *****

Format: This review was performed on the Blue Underground, two-disc Set from about ten years ago. The DVD has a delightful image: bright, vibrant, detailed, and is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The cover claims the image has been remastered in Hi Definition from the original camera negative, and I am guessing it is that process which gives it…ahem… new life. The film is presented in a choice of 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, Dolby Surround 2.0 and Original Mono. I reviewed this as 5.1 and was impressed by the quality. Of course, the voices do not always match the speaker’s lips but this may be due to dual language tracks rather than a fault of the disc mastering.

Score: ***1/5

Extras: This being a 2 discer means we are treated to a coffin full of extras.

Disc 1 treats us to the International trailer (which identifies the film as The Living Dead at THE Manchester Morgue, but gets away with it by providing a COOL music track), the U.S. trailer (under the title of Don’t Open the Window, and is one of those SEE!!! HEAR!!! Type trailers), TV Spot (another US trailer for Don’t Open The Window), Radio Spots (a collection of radio adverts with a collection of posters played over the screen…excellent) and Poster and Still Gallery (a collection of pixelated pictures and posters and stills from the film).

Disc 2 has a great series of featurettes:

Back To the Morgue – On Location With Jorge Grau sees director Grau revisit locations in Derbyshire and Manchester and talk about the production, location and filming of the movie. The revisitation of Southgate hospital shows it to be a condemned building…shame but the visit to the graveyard is fantastic (especially to a grave yard explorer like me) as it is the graveyard that contains the grave of Robin Hood’s Lieutenant Little John!! The visits are accompanied by amusing reminiscences from Grau. A favourite would have to be his justification of having the streaker in the opening part of the film; while he admits it wasn’t in the script, he believed it was ‘suggested’ by the scriptwriter.

Zombie Fighter – Interview with Star Ray Lovelock is an interesting interview with the actor where he basically recounts his career.

Zombie Maker – Interview with Special Effects Artist Gianetto De Rossi is an interesting look not just at the effects of this film and the effect’s artist’s body of work, but also a brief history of effects artists in European cinema.

2000 Interview with Jorge Grau is a more personal interview with Grau, and he discusses his life and influences, and the making of the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s an amazing zombie film and well worth repeated viewings!

Orca (1977)

One from the to watch pile…

Orca (1977)

Film: I just love cinema, I really do, and one of the things I love is when something becomes popular, or a blockbuster, smaller, not as well funded productions gear up to challenge whatever was the ‘hit’.

After 1975’s Jaws, killer sea life was all the rage: several Jaws sequels, Piranha, Humanoids from the Deep, The Deep, Mako, and this film, Orca (which, ironically, was the name of Quint’s ship in Jaws: the orca being a creature that can kill a great white shark). Orca was directed by Michael Anderson, legendary director of things like The Dambusters, Logan’s Run and Doc Savage, from a script by Luciano Vincenzoni, the writer responsible for The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Policewoman and Raw Deal.

I honestly don’t remember if I have ever seen this film before, but if I have it would have been on TV rather than any of the multiple forms of home video, as I don’t have any recollection of ever hiring the film, and I certainly have never owned it before.

Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) and his crew, Novak (Kennan Wynn), Paul (Peter Hooten) and Annie (Bo Derek, in her first released film… she had filmed one prior but it wasn’t released until after this) hunt sharks to sell, but when they witness a killer whale kill a great white they decide, against the wishes of marine biologist, Rachel Bedford (Charlotte Rampling), turn turn their attention to capturing one of those instead.

So they make their merry way to sea and try to catch a male killer whale, but instead accidentally snag a female, who at first attempts to kill herself to avoid capture by pushing herself against the prop of the boat, but fails, and once slung up, we find that she was also pregnant and she spontaneously aborts the foetus. Her mate spends the whole time in the water freaking out and commits Nolan’s face to memory…

Soon, the boat is attacked by the male and Nolan decides to throw the female overboard, but the male kills Novak and the male pushes the body of his dead mate to shore as a warning to all that he wants his revenge! Even a local Native American, Umilak (Will Sampson) warns Nolan about the memory and capacity for revenge that orcas have.

The small town is attacked by the whale, but will Nolan face up to his responsibilities and clear out of town, leaving it in peace, or will he try to kill the male, and leave the town in pieces?

You have to love a film with an opening action scene that is a clear challenge to Jaws. The destruction, with ease, of the Great White in the beginning is clearly Anderson saying,’ you think Jaws was something, our Killer Whales will make mincemeat out of them!’

The film is made in an exquisite location of Petty Harbour in Canada and every scene makes me want to go their more and more. Upon a bit of research I discovered that ironically two of the tourist locations in this town are whale-watching and their aquarium!

The real winner here is the cast, who do their very best to make do with a story that is preposterous, for example, the orca knowing where to bust a fuel line and what part of the pier it can hit to cause a lot lantern to fall and ignite it: remembering a guy’s face from the water is one thing, but understanding chemistry and physics is something else. It is a horror movie though, so preposterous is to be expected.

Other than the silly idea of a vengeful sea-mammal, the cast don’t really get much of an opportunity to create characters that are sympathetic. The majority of the focus is of Harris’s character and the rest don’t get much of a look in, to the point I reckon that Harris could have performed this as a one-man live stage show! This unfortunately means that whenever something happens to another character, you don’t really care too much, and their deaths seem to be for the purpose of giving Harris some to grieve over and reflect on his character’s stupidity.

I will compliment the special effects crew on the fake orcas: they look amazing in the film and one can’t tell the difference between the real and fake ones except when their situation is out of the ordinary. This is apparently true as well as the trucks delivering the models during the shoot were stopped by anti-whaling protestors!

Orca is a well acted but ultimately silly film that doesn’t seem to have any reason to exist other than as a challenge to Jaws. The cast and the location is really the only reason to watch this film.

Score: ***

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment region B Bluray, which runs for approximately 92 minutes is presented in a surprisingly clear 2.35:1and an excellent 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc:

First there is a commentary by film historian Lee Gambin, anthropologists of Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making of Cujo and Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film,

Moby Dick ala De Laurentiis: Martha De Laurentiis remembers Orca sees Dino De Laurentiis’s business partner, co-producer of his films and widow discuss briefly the making of Orca.

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

WISIA: If I felt like watching a movie about sea life gone wild, I’d probably watch any of the Jaws films, any of the Piranha films or Humanoids of the Deep before this one.

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

One from the to watch pile…

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

Film: Somehow this film, over all these years, has passed me over.

I mean I haven’t actively avoided it, I just never purchased it nor have I seen it on TV. Maybe there was always something else to buy or watch, but even after Jurassic Park and I discovered a love of writer Michael Crichton, I still didn’t get around to watching it, even though I did watch the… shall we say below average… Congo (in my defence it was after reading the book, which I love, so I was high on crazy white monkey business).

In addition to being based on Crichton’s writings, this film has some amazing pedigree. The script writer, Nelson Gidding, was responsible for the scripts for films like The Haunting (1963) and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) so you know it’s well written. The director was Robert Wise, known for SO many famous films: Audrey Rose (1977), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), West Side Story (1961), The Sound of Music (1965) as well as the aforementioned The Haunting and Odds Against Tomorrow. The blurb on the back describes Wise’s direction as ‘clinical precision’ and that description NAILS it.

The Andromeda Strain tells of a satellite that crashes to earth in the small town of Piedmont in New Mexico which releases something that causes the entire towns population to die quite quickly. Scientist Dr. Stone (Arthur Hill) and surgeon Dr. Hall (James Olsen) get into hazmat suits and search the town for answers, and eventually come across two survivors, a baby and the town drunk.

The return to their research facility in Nevada, Wildfire, and are joined by two other scientists, Dr. Dutton (David Wayne) and Dr. Leavitt (Kate Reid) who are all employed to find out exactly what has killed the townspeople.

Wildfire is an intense environment to do their research in as it requires 4 levels of decontamination before the research can even be started, and the threat of a nuclear cleansing is ever present should any of the alien material should leak from its housing.

Will the research scientists be able to find out what has caused all the death, or is mankind doomed?

This film is intense for sure, and at no time is it not a feast for the eye. The production design of the town is depressing and as sad as any film that shows the death of a town. The research station is an amazing visual too, albeit dated, and apparently the sets were so good they were used repeatedly throughout the 70s in Tv shows like The Bionic Woman and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

The direction style has this great multi-screen format at times which really tells the story in an exciting, almost comic book fashion, and the acting is of a high caliber.

The Andromeda Strain is a science fiction film that deals with a potentially real problem so very realistically that it is quite disconcerting and is conceptually horrifying.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Umbrella Entertainment, multi-region DVD which is presented in a clear, though with the occasional artefact, 2.35:1 image with a 2.0 audio track which is just fine.

Score: ***

Extras: Nothing, not even a menu screen.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a long film so I’ll have to be really in the mood to take the time to watch it, but I’ll totally watch it again!