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!


Jungle Holocaust (1977) Review

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

Jungle Holocaust aka Last Cannibal World (1977)

Film: Also known as Ultimo Mondo Cannibale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: **

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

Score: ***

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

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

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

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

Score: ****

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


Italian Republic Day

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

I hope you stick around and enjoy.


Phantom of Death (1988) Review

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

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

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

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

Yep: ninjutsu practice!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***

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

Score: ***

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

Score: **

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