Tenebrae (1982)

One from the very top of the rewatch pile…

Tenebrae (1982)

The cover of my well worn Arrow edition of Tenebrae.

Film:

In 1929, Italian publishing company Mondadori started publishing a series of crime books that had garish yellow covers. It is from here that the Italian thriller/ horror film gets its name: giallo, the Italian word for yellow. The films from the early sixties started as adaptation of these early thrillers, but eventually became a genre of their own. The main characteristics of the giallo film take elements from detective stories and slasher films, with operatic elements and a large dose of blood, gore, violence and nudity. While many films from Italian directors can come under the ‘giallo’ title, the masters are truly Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Dario Argento, son of producer Salvatore Argento, began his career as a writer for a film journal, before heading into screen writing. He worked for Sergio Leone on such films as Once Upon Time in the West before heading into his own movies, thrillers that kept in mind his childhood love of Italian folk lore, the tales of the Brothers Grimm, but most of all, the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. Argento is responsible for some of the greatest horror films ever: Deep Red, Suspiria, and this one -Tenebrae.

Author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) has come to Rome to promote his latest novel, titled Tenebrae. His arrival is marred, however, by a series of killings that copy those in his novel. The police, Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Detective Altieri (Carols Stagnaro) are frustrated by the murderer, who is directly referencing Neal by leaving pages from his novel at the crime scenes.

Anthony Franciosa asks Daria Niccolodi how one can star in more Argento films.

Neal, along with his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon), his assistant, Anne (Daria Niccolodi)and his other employees begin their own investigation to uncover the identity of the killer…but what Neal doesn’t realise is that someone, an ex-lover, Jane (Veronica Lario) is in pursuit of him, but what is HER connections to killing? Does she even HAVE a connection?

John Saxon – legend.

Tenebrae is the film that saw Argento return to traditional giallo after his sojourn into the supernatural with his previous two films Suspiria and Inferno, two chapters of his so called (and as of early 2006 unfinished) ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy and then right back into it with his next film Phenomena. With its rich exterior shots of some exquisite Italian locations, and an unusually bright palette for a horror film…a lot of the murders take place in broad daylight, Tenebrae is a pleasure to watch. Some really great performances by the actors, and some great bloody effects, particularly a brilliant axe murder.

I must admit that Tenebrae is one of those ‘perfect storm’ horror movies for me. My favourite director, an interesting story, a great soundtrack, a big dash of violence, John Saxon and beautiful Italian women. I honestly think there is only one horror film that is better than this one and that is Re-animator.

Score: *****

The menu for the Arrow Bluray Of Tenebrae.

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video multi-region Bluray release from 2011, which runs for approximately 101 minutes. It is presented in a grainy, but clear 1.85:1 and a good mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Some amazing extras on this disc, but you’d expect nothing less from Arrow! Before the disc, though, the package contains four options for the cover of the disc, a poster of the new disc art and a booklet about the film written by Alan Jones.

There are two commentaries on this disc, both which are super interesting. The first is with horror journalism legends Kim Newman and Alan Jones, and the other is with screenwriter Thomas Rostock.

Screaming Queen! Daria Niccolodi Remembers Tenebrae is an interesting interview where she talks about her character in this film, and her history in cinema and with Argento.

The Unsane World Of Tenebrae: An Interview With Dario Argento where he talks about his career and Tenebrae.

A composition for Carnage: Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae sees the lead player in the band Goblin and composer (as well as hero of mine) Claudio Simonetti discuss his work on this film and his career.

Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches is footage from 2011 of Claudio Simonetti and New Goblin playing live. I admit I caught them in Sydney in 2015 so seeing this brought back fond memories.

Trailer is, well, the trailer for the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: Tenebrae is one of my favourite films of all time so it gets regularly rewatched, and it should be by you, too!

Sometimes, guests arrive when you are still getting ready.

Nightmare City (1980)

One from the re watch pile…

Nightmare City aka Incubo Sulla Cittá Contaminata (1980)

Film: We have SO much to thank George A. Romero for. Not only did he give us a bunch of amazing films that have risen above their lowly horror roots, he also generated an entire horror sub-genre that has become so popular it not only appeals to horror fans, but the general public are totally into it as well, as can be seen by the popularity of TV shows like The Walking Dead and even events like the annual Zombie Walks that several cities worldwide get involved it.

After the splatterfest that was Dawn of the Dead in 1978, every producer was looking for an avenue to deliver a zombie movie down, and Italian director, Umberto Lenzi (The Cynic, The Rat and the Fist) was offer a small script to produce.

He realised this script was too short for a feature and didn’t want to just produce a zombie movie that emulated Romero’s, so he created a world where human beings (not zombies) who suffered from nuclear radiation poisoning would end up with a blood disorder that required them to consume the blood of the Living to survive. His ‘zombies’ were more ‘nuclear vampires’.

The story starts with a mysterious airplane landing with no advice to the control tower as to their identity. Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) is a reporter at the airport who goes to deliver a story as to what this mysterious plane is, but when it lands, he, and a bunch of incompetent soldiers, find that the plane is full of these nuclear vampires, who immediately go on a spectacular, unstoppable rampage which doesn’t stop when they are all killed as everyone they bite gets irradiated and turns into another nuclear zombie.

The military, led by General Murchison (Mel Ferrer), is trying to keep a clamp on this news getting into the general public’s hands, but the wave of monsters is seemingly bottomless, and the threat increases exponentially.

Will humanity survive this horrible invasion, or was it just a horrible dream?

This film is dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb, but so enormously watchable because of that. The script is terrible. I remember once reading an article about the economy of cinema and how every scene should move the story forward and if it doesn’t, it should be excised from the script. This film has a weird discussion about a work of art that has absolutely no payoff.

The vampire’s motivations are odd as well. They seem to be smart enough to fly a plane, use a gun, even cut a phone line, but are easily distracted during an important feeding session by a new victim, even though they haven’t ‘finished’ the victim they have off… maybe the love of the hunt is just as important to them and the actual catch.

All in all it’s a pretty stupid film that is so bat-guano crazy at times that it’s hard not to like it. Give it a go.

Score: ***

Format: On this Arrow Bluray release, there is two different versions of this film, the original negative version and the dupe, both are present in 2.35:1 and neither are perfect. The dupe is not very sharp and the negative transfer has several spots where the image has stains on it, but both versions are entirely watchable. The audio is presented in a mono 1.0 and again, isnt fantastic but clear enough.

Score: **

Extras: There’s a great amount of extras on this disc:

There is an interview with Umberto Lenzi which is quite informative, about the production of the film, and how is well-known zombie film, is NOT a zombie film at all!

Maria Rosario Omaggio is also interviewed on this disc and to assist in her English she reads a charming letter to horror fans that she previously prepared.

Hostel and Cabin Fever director Eli Roth talks about the importance of Nightmare City within the history of cinema.

The Limits of Restoration explains the difference between the a negative transfer and a dupe reversal transfer. It is just a text extra with examples, but an interesting look at a process I knew absolutely nothing about! This is accessible here and on the main menu when you are able to choose which version you would like to watch.

There is a Trailer for the film and alternative opening credits, which has the title Attack of the Zombies!

Finally we have a commentary by ex-Fangoria Horror Movie Magazine editor, and Uwe Boll’s punching bag, Chris Alexander, who doesn’t in any hold this film in any way precious, so he’s very honest with his interpretation of it which makes for an amusing commentary.

The Arrow release also has a cool reversible cover, and an interesting booklet on the inside featuring an essay y John Martin, author of the book Seduction of the Gullible.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s as dumb as a box of hammers but it has enough charm to make it a repeat viewer.

Phenomena (1985)

One from the re-watch pile…

Phenomena (1985)

Film: The works of Italian director Dario Argento feature prominently in my top ten horror flicks, because with Tenebrae, Suspira and Phenomena he really appeals to my internal, and occasionally external horror nerd. His ability to make violence look like a beautiful choreographed dance has always amazed me, though in his more recent films, he seems to have lost it.

Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) is a young girl who starts at a Swiss boarding school in a town where several murders have taken place. The investigators have employed a local Entomologist Professor, John McGregor (Donald Pleasance), who is assisting them with his knowledge of the time of death on the victims using the lifespan of the various bugs that consume rotting flesh. Jennifer, as it turns out, is quite special and has the uncanny ability to communicate with insects, and this gift may be able to help the investigation move forward. Her power though puts the investigation closer to the murderer, and puts her at great peril.

As the synopsis would suggest, Phenomena falls among Argento’s supernatural work, like Suspiria or Inferno but with elements of his giallo, like Tenebrae or Sleepless.

In this picture, Argento has created a bizarre world with quite possibly the most unusual plot within his output, which features bugs, serial killers, a chimp and a mutant just for good measure. The locations and camerawork are wonderful to watch. The treatment that Arrow have given the film really shows just how beautiful the camerawork is as the presentation is crisp and pure. There are some stunning tracking shots, and the opening exterior shot (you know the film, of the girl missing the bus) is just perfect. That’s not to say the interiors are inferior, as they too, look magnificent. When Argento gets to stage a scene how he wants to see it, he really is at his best.

The cinematography is typically excellent Argento, but what is a surprise is the quality of the performances he gets from the actors, which has occasionally been his downfall. The acting in Phenomena is mostly of a particularly high standard, with Connelly, Pleasance and regular player Daria Niccolodi being the stand-outs. Actually, Connelly needs to be commended in particular as Argento really puts her through her paces as an actress and as a performer, with some physical work that most actors would flatly refuse.

The soundtrack is another high point. Goblin are on top of their game with this film, and the addition of other artists makes for a great audio experience.

Phenomena is a brilliant piece of, not just Italian cinema, but of cinema in general, and I simply can’t recommend it enough. Not having this in your collection is a crime worthy of having your head pushed through a glass window.

Score: *****

Format: The film is presented in 1.66:1 and is nothing short of spectacular: sharper than a film reviewers wit! Occasionally the image does lose some of its clarity, but I assume that is due to this most complete film getting some of its material from varied sources. The audio on this disc is in LPCM 2.0 and is as fine as it could ever get, I believe. The actual film content changes from English to Italian or German and back but it remains clear throughout, and is appropriately subtitled when the language changes. The music track is a must for fans of soundtracks too, with music from Bill Wyman, Motorhead and Iron Maiden… not to mention Goblin, on it.

This Arrow BD release of Phenomena is something of a revelation to me, as I had previously only seen it as the disastrous edit Creepers or the somewhat visually lacklustre Umbrella DVD release. There is no doubt this version both looks and sounds the business.

Score: ****

Extras: There are some great extras for Argento enthusiasts on this disc courtesy of High Rising Productions. Typically they are all interesting and I reckon even the most stalwart of fan will come away with something new

Dario Argento’s Monkey Business: The Making of Phenomena is a retrospective look at the making of the film with Argento, actress Daria Argento, visual effects Luigi Cozzi, cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia and special effects Sergio Stivaletti. Most of this is is subtitled Italian.

Music For Maggots: Claudio Simonetti Remembers Phenomena sees Goblin’s Simonetti recall details of the musical selections for this film.

Creepers and Creatures: Sergio Stivaletti Live Q&A Sessions is a Q&A hosted by High Rising Productions Calem Waddell with the Italian special effects master. The sound is somewhat muddy but some of the harder to hear comments are subtitled.

This BD edition from Arrow also has a double sided poster of the film, and a booklet with a piece by Alan Jones in it… I imagine it is not 2GB’s Alan Jones though. Also, as with many of Arrow’s BD release, this film comes with four different covers for the cardboard slipcase.

I must admit to wishing the filmclip Valley by Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor was included, like on the aforementioned Umbrella release, but you can’t have everything.

Score: *****

WISIA: Being one of my favourite horror films, it gets rewatched regularly and I love it! You will too! As I stated earlier, this film is a standard in my top ten favourite films, and this release is the best I have seen. A horror fan’s must have!

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.

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

One from the re watch pile…

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Film: As regular reading of the To Watch Pile may guess, I much prefer a more human villain in my movies than a supernatural one, mainly because I actually don’t believe in ghosts and ghouls and all that sort of stuff. I admit I do like zombie films, but there is a human horror to them with the loss of identity I suppose.

Anyway, cannibal films are are staple of the human horror film, and for me, and probably a lot of other horror film fans, the Hungry Trinity would be Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, and this film, Antonio Margheriti’s Apocalypse Domani, aka Invasion of the Flesh Hunters, aka Virus aka Cannibal Apocalypse. Margheriti, also known as the director of Yor: Hunter from the Future directed this film under his alias Anthony M. Dawson from a script co-written by him and Jimmy Gould aka Dardano Sacchetti, who is probably best known for 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

Cannibal Holocaust tells of Viet Nam vet Hopper (John Saxon) who is contacted by a buddy from the war, Charlie Bukowski (John Morgan aka Giovanni Lombardo Radice) who is suffering quite badly from a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which reminds him of acts of cannibalism he committed in a POW camp.

Charlie has attacked a young lady in a cinema and begs Hopper to get him out of town, but it would appear that Charlie’s acts of cannibalism aren’t a learnt trait, but instead appear to be some kind of transmittable disease which causes others to have a lust for human flesh.

Will Hopper successfully get Charlie out of the city, or will their needs outweigh their survival…

I first saw this movie on VHS in the eighties when I worked at a video shop in Sydney as a kid and fell in love with it. Along with The Never Dead (aka Phantasm), Dawn of the Dead, Re-Animator and The Beyond, it was one of my most regularly watched horror films. I like those other cannibal films I mentioned earlier, but I think because I saw this film first it set a standard that the others don’t reach.

… and it’s got John Saxon and John Morghen in it, for goodness’ sake: how could a Viet Nam vey Cannibal film get any better than that?!?

Score: ****1/2

Format: This Umbrella Entertainment NTSC DVD release of the film runs for approximately 93 minutes and is presented in an average 1.77:1 image with a functional mono audio track.

Score: **

Extras: There’s a mixed bag of extras on this disc.

Apocalypse in the Streets is a revisit of the exterior locations of the film told in a stiles and honestly not very well edited way. It is however interesting to see that some of the locations still look the same so many years later.

There is a European and a Japanese trailer for the film.

Alternate US Opening Sequence is just what the name suggests, but the one intact with the film is far better and uses less stock footage from Viet Nam.

Poster and Stills Gallery is a selection of posters and promotional material material from the film and a bunch of behind the scenes pics.

The Butchering of Cannibal Apocalypse Essay discusses the editing of the film in its various releases throughout the world.

Score: ***

WISIA: It is my favourite Cannibal film so of COURSE it’ll get looked at again and again!

Castle Freak (1995)

One from the re watch pile…

Castle Freak (1995)

Film: Of course, everyone knows of the Cornetto trilogy, and the Romero Trilogy, but my favourite loosely themed, syncopated trilogy is writer/ director Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft trilogy… and whilst you might easily think to yourself, ‘ oh that’s easy, it’s Reanimator, Bride of Reanimator and Beyond Reanimator’, but you’d be wrong as two of those suckers are actually directed by Brian Yuzna.

So what is Gordon’s Lovecraft trilogy, you ask? Well, it isn’t officially known the Lovecraft Trilogy, even though it should be. It could also be called the Combs/ Crampton Trilogy, as they play, in each film, a couple of people with a strained relationship… anyway I digress. This ‘Gordon Trilogy consists of the aforementioned Reanimator, but then goes to From Beyond, and then to this, Castle Freak, which was loosely based on Lovecraft short story The Outsider.

(As an aside, he also did the Masters of Horror episode Dreams in the Witch-House and another film Dagon, both based on Lovecraft’s work, but these three particularly have the common actor thread through them, so I don’t necessarily count these, even though they are Ok in their own right)

This film tells of the Reilly family, who are a family in crisis. Susan (Barbara Crampton) can’t forgive her husband John (Herbert Combs) for a car accident he had whilst drunk which killed their son, JJ, and blinded their daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide).

Things seems to be getting better for the Reilly’s though, as John has inherited a castle in Italy from a deceased relative who was a duchess.

The castle has a horrible secret though as many years ago the duchess claimed to have had a son with an American soldier during the war who left when the son was born horribly malformed. The duchess claimed the boy had died to the townspeople though, and actually kept the boy locked in a dungeon… but now he is loose.

Will the Reilly’s survive his wrath?

Of the three films I mentioned in this trilogy, this is certainly the lesser of them mainly due to the fact it is missing the dark sense of humour that Reanimator and From Beyond have, and honestly, it’s not as sexy either.

The film does tell a great story and Gordon’s direction is solid, but casting Combs and Crampton as an estranged couple works until you think of them as a couple, which doesn’t. These two have great antagonistic chemistry but not as a romantic couple. Even in From Beyond the relationship was a more physical and based in passion rather than a romantic relationship.

The story has a few weird anomalies too. The castle John has inherited is echoey and even John says that to another character yet when the mutant son of the duchess screams in agony, no-one seems to hear it. It’s not a deal-breaker but it’s a stupid horror trope that Gordon is normally above.

One surprisingly wonderful thing about this film is how it really feels like a classic European gothic horror film, with the tragedy, the environment, the backstory and a climactic battle straight out of a Frankenstein movie!

Of the three films it is certainly the lesser, but it still tells an emotional story, with a great big mutant freak thrown in. Not great but it’s better than a lot of 90s dreck.

Score: ***

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the UK, 88 Films multiregion Bluray copy of the film which runs for approximately 95 minutes and presented in a perfectly ok 1.85:1 image and a 5.1 audio track, though there does seem to be a fair bit of barely noticeable artefact damage on the film.

Score: ****

Extras: There is a decent bunch of extras on this disc:

Castle Speak with Stuart Gordon sees Gordon look back on the creation of the film.

Next is the trailer for the film.

The Making of Castle Freak is one of Full Moon’s Videozone makings-of styled things which features some behind the scenes stuff and interviews with the cast.

The Evil Clergyman (a previously unreleased short film also based on Lovecraft’s writings taken from an anthology called Pulse Pounders) which is a half hour horror short reuniting Combs, Crampton and another Reanimator Star, David Gale. I guess this makes my Trilogy a quadrology, or whatever 4 of something is called, well except it’s directed by Charlie Band. It stars David Warner as well, which is pretty cool.

The Premiere of The Evil Clergyman Featurette sees a bunch of horror fans at a cinema watching the premiere of the film.

Trancers 1.5 Preview looks at a re-release of Trancers with some footage restored to the print.

The Pit and the Pendulum trailer.

There is also a booklet by Calum Waddell which features interviews with Gordon and producer Charlie Band from Full Moon Studios.

Score: ****

WISIA: I like Stuart Gordon’s films and even though this isn’t a priority of his to rewatch, I would, and have, watched it multiple times.

Suspiria (1977)

One from the re watch pile…

Suspiria (1977)

Film: There’s a lot of films that I return to again and again. Some are because they are like comfort food and just make me feel good, some for nostalgia, and some because I just flat out like the film. Suspiria is all those things together.

I was introduced to the film by a good friend on laserdisc and was IMMEDIATELY entranced by it. The style was something I didn’t recall seeing before, the story spoke to my love of stories about cults and witches and it starred Jessica Harper, whose presence is startling.

Not to mention Udo Kier!

This film made me a Dario Argento fan and introduced me to the wonderful world of gialli which are now my favourite type of thriller. I should point out I had seen these types of films before but had never really paid attention to them as cinematic movements or sub genre.

Now Argento’s films sit highly on both my list of favourite films and most rewatched films, particularly this one, Tenebrae, Deep Red, Phenomena and his much later film Sleepless aka Non So Honno which felt more like one of his earlier films even though it was made in 2001. I love his visual style and his choice of actors for the lead roles.

Suspiria is the first part of a trilogy of films (the second being Inferno and the third being Mother of Tears) about three ancient sisters who are witches. This first film tells of Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), a young dancer from New York who has been accepted into a exclusive dance school in Germany but she starts at a very strange time for the school.

On the night she arrives, another student leaves and her and a friend’s bodies are found soon after, but their deaths are not the first mysterious occurrences. The school’s blind pianist is murdered by his faithful dog, and another student disappears… This all amongst a strange maggot infestation and Suzy suffering from an illness on which she is put on a special diet.

Quickly Suzy discovers that the school has a strange past involving witchcraft and the occult and maybe, just maybe everything that is happening is connected…

Argento’s eye is amazing in this film and everything has a particular look and feel to it, with an amazing depth of field created with the use of colour and geometry which harkens back to Italian directorial great Mario Bavaria and his style.

His casting choices are fantastic here too. Jessica Harper moves with a natural grace and she really plays into the whole Stranger in a strange land/ alienation thing that horror does so well perfectly. Her natural acting style and girl-next-dooriness make her a perfect Nancy Drew character in this Scooby Doo type adventure.

Suspiria is an exciting watch, both for the visuals and the story, and I really can’t recommend it enough. Top shelf horror.

Score: *****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was performed on the Australian Umbrella region B Bluray release and it being sourced from a new 4K restoration means it is quite an amazing looking. It is presented in 2.35:1with an equally impressive 5.1 DTS-HD audio and runs for approximately 99 minutes.

Score: *****

Extras: Extras? You want extras? Oh boy, do we have extras!! Granted with most of them being about Suspiria, some themes are re-discussed, but it doesn’t become annoying. Actually it’s a completely look at the film. It must be noted though that if you are adverse to reading subtitles, you may not enjoy most of these extras.

Suspiria Told By Dario Argento is a thorough interview with Dario Argento by Variety’s Nick Vivarelli. It’s a fascinating reflection on the film and the filmmaking process, even down to the selection of the film stock!

25th Anniversary Suspiria Documentary is the documentary that was presented with many DVD releases of the film in 2002 which goes just shy of an hour but looks at the making of the film. It features interviews with Argento, Niccolodi, Harper, Kier, and others involved in the making of the film.

Exclusive Interview with Dario Argento is an interview with Argento from 2004 where he discusses the making of the film. It’s the most uncomfortable interview I’ve ever had to watch as he is twisted in a chair for the whole thing. I swear my back ached by the end of it.

Fear at 400 Degrees: The Cine-excess of Suspiria looks at Argento’s career, the giallo as genre and reflections on the film by various critics and academics.

An Eye for Horror is a TV special from 2000 about Argento’s career, and features interviews with his cast and contemporaries. Essentially, it’s an Argento Love rest. That’s not a criticism in any way: he deserves a love fest!

Dario Argento’s World of Horror is the Michele Soavi helmed from the 80s. Great for its time and still relevant, with some pretty cool behind the scenes footage of the making of some of his films.

The is an image gallery which normally I don’t think are a valuable addition to a DVD or Bluray, but in this case it shows all the promotion material for the film, which I do find interesting.

Next we have a pile of trailers for the film, including the international trailer, the US theatrical trailer, a Tv spot and a few radio ads, followed by an Argento Trailer Reel, starting with Bird With The Crystal Plumage and finishing with Sleepless.

Score: *****

WISIA: One of my favourite films of all time and this release is fantastic; it will get rewatched over and over again.

Anthropophagus (1980) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Anthopophagus (1980)


Film: Sometimes you’ll find a film that you’ll like that you just can’t nail down why. For me, Anthropophagus is one of those films. Directed and co-written (alongside George Eastman, who also stars as the Killer) by Joe D’Amato aka Aristide Massaccesi, a name that some people will associate with the less impressive films of European cinema.

I don’t necessarily subscribe to that point of view. Yes, I agree, some of his films have been… well, crap, but occasionally there is a diamond in the rough. I put Buio Omega I that category along with this one.

Something this film is probably best known for is being one of the films that was labelled a ‘Video Nasty’ in the U.K. in the early 80s, and had only, until released fully intact in 2015, ever been released with 8 odd minutes cut from its approximately 90 minute run time.

Anthropophagus tells this sordid tale…

Julie (Tisa Farrow) manages to hitch a ride on a yacht to a small island community off the coast of Greece where she is supposed to meet up with a family whose daughter she is paid to be a ‘companion’ for whilst they travel. Upon arrive they find the entire town abandoned and as they investigate further they find several bodies and one survivor, Julie’s young charge who has been hiding from a man who she describes as smelling of blood.


Who is this man and what does he have to do with the missing population of the island?

I also have to say whenever I watch this, and I have done it this time, I immediately have to watch 1982’s Humongus: it’s basically the same film but with two special features, and both of them are attached to Joy Boushel, an actress whom a young me fell in love with and still have fond memories of… she’s probably more famously exposed in the cult comedy film Pinball Summer.

Fans of Eurotrash cinema will notice several people amongst the cast aside from Farrow and Eastman:Selena Grandi from Portrait of Gloria, Zora Kerova from the New York Ripper and Mark Bodin from Alien 2 – On Earth


Anyway, back to Anthropophagus. It’s notoriety is completely warranted. There are a couple of scenes in the film which are such WTF moments of epic magnitude than you’ll wonder if you really saw what you just saw. There is one scene it’s particularly known for where you’ll be absolutely gobsmacked, and every woman in the room will slam their legs shut and cringe.

This film is criticised for being slow but I prefer to think of it as being deliberately paced. Synthy-soundtrack fans will get a kick from Marcelo Giombini’s score, a combination of frenetic synth riffs with church-like organ, which fills some of the scenes with a certain amount of anguish, which is what a good score is supposed to do!

Basically I love this film and I don’t know why. I always enjoy watching it. Though the fact I watch it alone may suggest others don’t have a similar thought…

Score: *****


Format: The reviewed copy was the UK, region B, 88 Films release of the film, as part of their Italian Collection (its number 7) which runs for approximately 90 minutes. It is presented in a somewhat grainy 1.66:1 image with a good mono audio. Also this film can be watched in English, or in Italian with English subtitles.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Some excellent extras on this disc, including the amazing documentary 42nd Street Memories: The Rise and Fall of the Most Notorious Block! which has many people, including Debbie Rochon, Lynn Lowrey, Frank Henenlotter and Lloyd Kaufman discuss the history of the notorious grindhouse strip of cinemas in New York in the 60s, 70s and 80s. For me, it’s my favourite of director, film documentarian Calum Waddell best work. It’s not just some crappy ten minute thing either, it’s a proper 90 minute doco. I admit it’s not directly linked to the film of the disc, but it’s a nice extra anyway.

Italian Opening titles shows the beginning of the film but with the Italian titles instead of the English ones.

Anthropophagus trailers features a bunch of different trailers with various titles of the film.

The Bluray slick itself also can be reversed to have either 88 Films’ cover, or a replica of the original cover.

Score: ****

WISIA: For some reason I love this film, and I watch it regularly!

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.

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!