Bezenby

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Africa Express
(1975)

Jolly Japes
Guiliano Gemma drives a kind of mobile Lidl around Africa with the help of a chimpanzee and gets into all sorts of scrapes and jolly japes.

This seems to be kid-orientated film so don't go expecting Ursula or Jack Palance to strip off and even though this is an Italian film no one slaughters any animals. At least in the bits I was paying attention to.

Gemma is a happy-go-lucky guy who just wants to make enough money to by a gas station in Detroit and perhaps bugger his chimp on a lazy afternoon, but this ideal lifestyle is shattered when he rescues what looks to be a helpless sexy nun who gets Guiliano's head a-spinning.

Jack Palance is the bad guy who is exporting ivory and generally being a jerk to everyone, with his sidekick Romano Puppo providing the muscle. He's also after Ursula for some reason and keeps knocking Gemma's hat off, the cad!

This is basically a light-hearted comedy with plenty of slapstick. Not bad for an afternoon's viewing for sad adults like me, but obviously aimed at annoying little brats like my kids.

La traque
(1975)

More Reasons not to go to France
You think you know grim and then a film like this comes along. A rape revenge film where there's not much revenge and not even much rape, but plenty of scenes were men give in to peer pressure and take the easy route out of a bad situation.

Somewhere in France, Mimsy Farmer is looking to buy or at least rent a house, but instead finds herself right in the middle of hunting season. At first she's quite taken by the place, but soon finds that there are lecherous men around who wouldn't mind putting the moves on her. Let's get to this complicated bunch of characters....now!

There's Mansarat, a man who is having an affair with his friend David's wife. David is a wealthy landowner. Then there's Clamoud, a bungling bunch of nerves, and Rollin, a sober Christian who disapproves of everything. And the Danville brothers - mechanics who like to drink and are the ones who set the whole horror show in motion by raping Mimsy in a destroyed building in the middle of a hunt.

Problem being, Chamoud or Clamoud or whatever has forgotten his gun at the scene of the crime, and when one of the rapist brothers goes back to get it, Mimsy shoots a hole in his gut. Thus begins a series of events involving a lady on the run and a bunch of dour-faced Frenchmen trying to track her down.

I guess the theme of the film, except for 'never go to France for any reason at all' is complacency and the group mind. Only one man commits the rape, but for various reasons each fellow present is complacent in the violence and the subsequent events. It's a good film, but not an easy watch. Kudos to Mimsy Farmer for having minimal dialogue but bring true horror to the screen.

Trhauma
(1980)

Nhice!
I've been trying to find out what the title of the film means, and I think that it genuinely is a spelling mistake! The mind boggles...

This bizarre semi-giallo seems to do everything wrong. The kills happen mostly off-screen. It's full of scenes of people wandering about a house shouting on each other. It's also full of scenes of people arguing with each other. And yet...it's not a total write-off.

First we get a prologue where a pushy kid cajoles a one eyed kid into climbing a tree which then leads to his injury. We then fast-forward to 1980 or whenever, where a guy called Andrea is working on a run down house he bought with his wife's money. They've invited a load of victims to the house to hand around the pool, but no one reckoned on the one-eyed killer stalking everyone in the place.

The best bit of this film I guess is the large Lego set one-eyed killer guy has. It's huge and some mysterious stranger keeps giving him more stuff for it. Best still, when he's trying to work on it, a cat keeps moaning to the point he just cuts the head off the damn thing. Beats taking it to the vets I guess.

This is a strange film in that most of the characters bicker with each other until old one-eye starts doing them all in. The giallo element is almost dispensed with in favour of more slasher elements, but there is a mystery that would be difficult to solve if you've never watched a giallo ever. The ending is truly a head scratcher though.

Il giorno del Cobra
(1980)

More of the same, but still good
Both The Shark Hunter and Day of the Cobra feature director Enzo Castellari punching actor Franco Nero in the face. Is this some sort of in-joke?

Nero scruffs up as an Italian private investigator living in San Francisco as some sort off disgraced ex-cop. Down on his luck, he's contacted by Narcotics agent William Berger and given the task of going back to Genoa to track down a sinister figure called Kandisky, whom we see killing a guy who looks like Alan Partridge and stealing a key off him. This Kandisky person seems to be Nero's mortal enemy, and he heads off to Genoa to kick ass.

Once there, he enters a shady world of drug smuggling, imports, and Massimo Vanni wearing dodgy porn moustaches as he tries to track his prey. All is not as it seems, however, as he's followed everywhere, Kandisky starts taunting him by phone, and even glamourous night club ladies might actually be kung-fu expert men in drag.

This one takes a while to get cooking but its plain sailing due to Nero's eccentric Cobra character, who constantly chews gum and leaves it everywhere while bouncing a rubber ball all over the place. There's plenty of action, mostly of the punch up kind at first, but as the story goes on it becomes darker and more violent, with Nero not being able to trust anyone. He does have time to bed Sybil Danning a few times. Or maybe he was checking she wasn't a dude.

I do have a couple of niggles, however. While I'm always up for Nero shooting Massimo Vanni, he'd already shot him in the balls in High Crime, and Nero loses a kid to a speeding vehicle, like he did in the film High Crime. I have a sneaking suspicion that Castellari might have been running out of ideas here, which is why perhaps he moved on to ass-kicking post apocalyptic films.

You can't fault the back up cast here: Big Romano Puppo and Wee Massimo Vanni on hired goon duties, Ennio Girolami, William Berger, even Enzo's daughter Stefania sporting some dodgy looking dreadlocks. It all worked for me.

La nottata
(1975)

Hippy Art Pap Baffle
During my review of Blood and Diamonds, I wondered whether or not Claudio Cassinelli had ever starred in any comedic roles or ever did any smiling. Well, in this film he's both smiling and trying to give Giancarlo Prete one up the botty.

You'll be thinking 'that doesn't sound like the regular plot of a seventies Italian cop film and you'd be right. I don't even know where this film fits in from a genre perspective. It might be a comedy, but then it isn't funny and is a bit heavy on the darkness. My guess would be that director Tonino Cervi is striving for some sort of Fellini-type atmosphere, giving us a city full of weird and wonderful characters.

Angela and Suzy are two free-loving, mooching, possibly smelly, definitely disease ridden hedonists perpetually out for a good time. Both meet up in a toilet during a party where one of them steals an expensive ring which they then try to sell on, leading them on a strange adventure through a dark night in Milan. First off they meet taxi driver Giancarlo Prete, who joins them on their quest to sell the ring.

The bit where they meet a bereaved family with a gory corpse kind of went nowhere for me, but after that its plain sailing as the girls meet a bunch of transvestites, have an open air shag in a car, get robbed of their money and meet an eccentric married couple who love putting it about. Lynn, these are sex people!

In fact, everybody in this film has a better sex life than anyone who exists today in this world of computer and TV binging. They'd all be dead of the syph by now I guess. I'm not sure why I watched this one to be honest.

Poliziotto solitudine e rabbia
(1980)

The ol' Merli magic!
How much mileage can you get out of a genre involving maverick cops who play by their own rules? Even though the genre is on the wane, Stelvio Massi pulls another great film out of the bag.

Maurizio Merli is indeed a maverick cop who plays by his own rules, but he's also retired at the start of this film until old partner Francisco Rabal shows up at his door and asks for his help. Rabal has branched out as a bodyguard but isn't doing too well. His last two clients were murdered and Rabal reckons he's got one more chance before he gets the boot. Merli reluctantly agrees to help, perhaps because of the offer of a free trip to Venice

Merli tries his best, but this German businessman still ends up with a bullet in the back of his head. Annoyed at this, Merli bursts through an entire window all guns blazing and takes down what seems to be a hundred or so bad guys, but not before Rabal gets a cap popped in his ass. One dead ex-partner later, Merli swears revenge. He's so punch-happy in this film I'm surprised he didn't give Rabal's corpse a final sock on the jaw before he left the hospital, although he does assault a seriously injured bad guy so it's all good anyway.

I was just letting the awesomeness flow over me by this point so I'm sketchy on the details, but somehow Merli manages to pass himself off as the injured bad guy and heads to Berlin to get revenge for Rabal, get it on with a blonde chick, but will he actually get revenge for Rabal (certainly) and still save the life of the blonde chick (optional)?

Massi throws in all the goodness you need from this kind of stuff: Merli being cunning and passing various tests for the bad guys (mad driving skills, killing folk) while having a more complicated relationship than usual with the blonde chick. She's part of the gang but she also loves Merli, who kind of loves her back but then likes punching people in the face more, but then again he slapped her about a bit and she tried to have him killed, so who knows what's going on there. You've got your shoot-outs, foot chases, people falling off things, and Merli being beaten up by Bobby Rhodes, who looks about ten feet tall.

How many more of these films did Merli make? I'll have to find out what he did after the genre went down the tubes.

Troppo rischio per un uomo solo
(1973)

Got a Ciggy?
London-based hi-jinks in a mix of comedy and violence and bumming smokes from people.

Guiliano Gemma plays Rudi Patti, the world's best racing driver or something. He's just survived a crash and while he's tasked sidekick mechanic Venantino Venantini to fix it, he's off at his girlfriend Susan Scott's getting 'calmed down'. Gemma's a bit red blooded however, and needs to be serviced himself a further three times before he drifts off to sleep (I did laugh when Susan Scott blew a smoke ring at his crotch and he mutters 'bulls eye').

As this is somehow still the swinging sixties even though it's 1973, Gemma wakes up to find himself in the middle of a party full of strangers. Someone drugs his drink and an extremely camp fellow driving a pink Volkswagen drives him home. When he wakes up, he finds his car missing, his memory missing, and the cops waiting to ask him why the girl he was sleeping with has been murdered. Maybe it's got something to do with Gemma accidentally mixing up his identically coloured suitcase with Scott's when he picked her up from the airport?

Gemma gets thrown in jail to be abused by Nello Pazzafini while a rich businessman who's always pestering him to work for him tries to spring him, leading to some mysterious figures actually springing Gemma from jail. This leads to an on-the-run Gemma trying to clear his name, find his car, and of course bed a few ladies along the way.

There's a lot of comedy in this one, mainly from Gemma, Venantini as the horny mechanic, and the ultra-campy VCW driver. It's not too forced like some of those Spaghetti Westerns from the same era, and it's balanced out strangely by murder, savage beatings, and a really top notch car chase at the end. Plus, both Gemma and Vanantini have charm in spades and I do find that if anyone can carry these more lightweight films, it's Gemma (see Sky full of Stars for a Roof and Ben and Charlies for other examples).

The London setting works well too, and I find that Luciano Ercoli always seems to leave his mark on whatever genre he's working on, even if i'm not quite sure what the mark is.

Oh, and Gemma goes around the film tapping ciggies off everyone.

Malocchio
(1975)

Great, until the end
This could have been some sort of weird-ass classic, if they'd actually included a satisfying ending. Spoilers ahead, even if the only spoiler is 'you'll come away from this one feeling let down'.

In Rome, rich playboy Dave or whatever has a strange dream where red-eyed naked hippy types scream wordlessly at him while a ritual is conducted. He awakes in his big rich guy villa with lots of partied-out people lay about, and orders his cockney (Spanish) butler to get rid of them all.

The dream haunts him throughout the day, and worse still, he meets a lady from out of town (Lone Fleming) who jumps at his name, saying she had a dream where Dave or whatever would kill her. Dave might be suffering brain problems, but there's nothing wrong with his balls: he puts the moves on Fleming but ends up tearing her throat out with his fist instead. Or does he?

So begins Dave's long weird journey, where nothing might be quite what it seems. His car breaks down at a house and an old woman lets him. He finds two people who claim to know him and who tell him the old woman is dead. Objects constantly move when he starts having one of his episodes. Someone who might be Dave visits an old friend and although we only get to see the back of his head, everyone treats Dave like he's Dave. Or do they?

Antony Steffen is brought in as the superstitious cop with a talisman to ward him from evil. He suffers from strange hearing loss from time to time, especially around the presence of possibly sinister brain doctor Richard Conte. He stops two men beating a woman only to find the woman grinning at him insanely before loads of rubble nearly kills him and the woman disappears. Or does she?

Dave receives blackmailing letters from someone and his butler spews up a frog. He also gets it on with Richard Conte's assistant but then she asks him if he wants to listen to either Beethoven or Tom Jones but then puts on a different record altogether which spins so fast it flies into the air. Steffen goes to see Conte who is facing him but as Steffen leaves he finds Conte isn't facing him, then tells him he knows who the killer is without ever telling the audience who the killer is. Is Tom Jones Richard Conte in disguise?

I've tried to make this review as disjointed as the film. Nothing makes any sense but the whole bizarre merry-go-round is pretty entertaining as statues move, camera angles focus on things they shouldn't, people's characters change for no reason (especially the butler), but then everything is let down as you get to the end of the film and realise that every single question the film raised goes unanswered.

Was Dave possessed or was someone driving him crazy? Don't Know. Why did Antony Steffen say he knew who the killer was, then give up when his car broke down? Don't know. I don't think the filmmakers knew either. The closest I can come to an answer is that Conte was some sort of devil type who was punishing Dave for things his father had done.

Un fiocco nero per Deborah
(1974)

Interminable
What are you trying to do to me, film? I was all out for watching some sort of Giallo judging by the title, and instead I get a tepid film of pregnancy, moaning, and marital strife. I could have switched off the film and just lived life, morons!

Marina Malfatti (with a fetching Mia Farrow haircut that highlights her rather lengthy neck) can't have kids. She's not happy with this either and it seems to causing all sorts of psychological problems, like predicting a horrible accident at the circus. Her husband is supportive enough despite trying to get his end away with another lady, but things go pear-shaped when they attend a paranormal event hosted by the strangely named Gig Young.

As it's the mid-seventies Gig's all into the paranormal and wants to display psychic abilities by guessing the name of a book Marina has chosen by having the guests telepathically send him the title of the book, Marina ends up usurping his glory instead by having a vision of her own that involves flashing lights and loads of glasses of whiskey exploding. This also serves to lull the viewer into thinking they're up for something good.

On the way home from this party an impatient driver tries to overtake Marina and her husband and ends up crashing, where Marina spends a moment with the seriously injured female passenger (Dellia Boccardo). The next day, Marina's feeling a bit queasy, the dog doesn't like her anymore, and she suspects that she might have we what call back in our home town 'Irish Toothache'.

Yep, Marina's now preggy, but her husband and her doctor think that she wants a baby so much she's suffering from the old phatom pregnancy (and nobody bothers doing an ultra sound because I guess that would ruin the film). Is Deborah pregnant? And why is Dellia Boccardo now appearing everywhere?

Sadly, this film really bogs down in the marital strife, arguing, and staring around the place in fear. Surely someone at some stage in the production of this film could have said 'Look, this is going to turn out really boring', because that's what it is, a really tepid Rosemary's Baby rip-off with very little going for it except some nice credits and one good supernatural bit. What a let down.

Vacanze per un massacro
(1980)

Rather weak
There must have been a sharp drop in budgets here as Fernando De Leo goes from huge sweeping Eurocrime epics to...an old house out in the country with four actors in it, complete with recycled music from earlier, and better films.

That's your first warning sign right there. The theme tune for Milano Calibro 9 plays over footage of Joe Dallesandro escaping from prison and killing two farmers. He then heads off to a house in the country he has a special interest in, only to find that it has been bought over by a man and wife combo, complete with evil nymphomania sister who is having an affair with her brother in law.

There's something under the fireplace Joe wants, but maybe Joe wants a little bit of action too. While the man is out hunting, the wife out shopping, and the horny sister out sunbathing while wearing what looks like just a headscarf, Joe knocks her out and brings her into the house while he digs out the fireplace. When the sister wakes up, instead of pouncing on her, Joe makes her do some digging instead.

They do get in on eventually however, but the sister likes it of course. When the wife and the husband return, Joe starts playing them off each other, but to be honest with you this film never really gets going at all, including the predictable ending.

You could never say that Joe Dallesandro was ever going to win an oscar for acting, but here it seems like he just cannot be bothered at all! He just kind of threatens people and bulges his eyes out a bit. The whole thing comes across as being a bit half-arsed, like Fernando De Leo was just going through the motions. There's a bit of nudity to keep you awake a bit, but this is bare bones, plotless crap.

Macabro
(1980)

Creepy and different.
It's notable that Lamberto Bava's debut was released in the middle of the Italian splatter era, and yet it's fairly restrained. Don't worry though - the subject matter is appropriately sick. In fact, this is one of most bizarre love stories you'll ever see.

In what at first seems like it is a prologue to another film, Bernice Stegers watches her husband leave for work, then telephones someone who is obviously her lover. Telling her gardner to keep an eye on her two children, Bernice heads for a guesthouse run by blind Stanko Molnar, where she meets her lover Fred. Bernice's daughter Lucy is no fool however, and 'phones the guesthouse looking for her mother. Soon after being given the brush off, Lucy drowns her brother in the bath and phones her mother again to tell her that her son had drowned in the bath by accident. Rushing home in a car driven by Fred, Bernice is caught up in a car crash that kills Fred.

A year later, Bernice is released from a mental hospital, seemingly cured. She heads straight for the guesthouse and sets up shop there, much to Stanko's delight. He thinks he's in with a chance, but that night he hears Bernice welcome home Fred and have noisy sex while Stanko looks confused. Has she got another lover called Fred? Is she just insane? Or has Fred come back from the dead?

Unlike his father, Lamberto Bava is a much more erratic director. For every fun-fest like Demons, we also get the unbearable The Ogre. Macabre at first seems as if its going to be a boring slog, but the whole strange set up is fascinating and the twist is a killer (if you act like Stanko's character and open the DVD case without having the artwork spoil the film for you). Due to being blind, Stanko doesn't quite know what to make of all the strange noise and strange behaviour (and he can even see the shrine Bernice built for Fred). Bernice Stegers puts in a good turn as the lady who can put on a front while possibly being totally insane, but her daughter puts her to shame in that respect, being a scheming, evil kid manipulating poor Stanko and her own father to get her own way.

There's not much gore, but I wonder if Peter Jackson was taking notes when he used that 'ear in the custard' bit for Brain Dead. The only thing slightly off is the forced New Orleans accents used to dub the actors. Still, a good debut.

Patrick vive ancora
(1980)

Patrick Still Cracks A Fatty
Where to start with this one? It's a kind of sequel to an Australian film called Patrick, which had a comatose man killing people telepathically. It's been years since I've watched that one but I don't remember it being the most action packed film. The Italian version of this certainly ups it in every department. And then some.

In this one, Patrick is with his father beside a broken down car when someone tosses a bottle from a passing car and hits Patrick directly in the face. As with most head injuries, this causes Patrick to fall into a coma, but also gives him psychic abilities. Don't worry, it gets even more absurd from here on in.

Patrick is now a vegetable staring into space, but also somehow hooked up to three people who are also in comas. If this was explained, I must have missed it, but what I reckon was these three were being used to somehow telepathically link Patrick up to...no, it's gone. Let's get to the victims instead.

Six people have been invited to this mysterious villa, and you'll hate all of them on site. There's the Cough family (that's what the subtitles say), who consist of an alcoholic politician and his top heavy wife, then there's Mariangela Giordano and her drug dealing boyfriend, and then there's a cool-headed stranger and last but not least, a blonde woman whom I thought actually worked for Patrick's dad, but upon reflection I don't have a clue.

Everyone's there for some reason, but there's no time to explain as everyone has to get naked first. Mrs Cough breaks out her fat rascals for no reason at all while Mariangela Giordano just goes straight ahead for some topless sunbathing, while making kissy faces at the stranger. The blonde isn't doing too well as Patrick seems to be hypnotising her and making her go to his room which eventually results in an eye-poppingly sleazy scene. Hey! You're not blonde at all!

This film is packed from start to finish with nudity (male and female) but wouldn't be worth watching if those horror elements weren't in there at all. Patrick starts bumping off the guests, starting with Mr Cough who gets boiled alive in a swimming pool, then things escalate to include impalements, beheadings, and Mariangela Giordani getting the Vlad the Impaler treatment. If you compare that with her death in Mario Landi's Giallo E Venezia, you'd be forgiven for thinking either Landi or Giodani had some sort of fetish. My money's on Gioradni, if we take in that scene from Burial Ground.

I'm guessing the only reason this gore splattered, nudity filled madness didn't get banned by the BBFC is because it probably wasn't released in the UK. It's crappily made, has terrible special effects, but still delivers 100% trash goodness.

L'avvertimento
(1980)

Slow, but good anyway
Another complex, serious crime drama from Damiano Damiani here, with an ultra-complex plot full of characters whose motivations you're not entirely sure of.

Cop Gemma wakes up one day to find 100,000,000 lire has been deposited into his bank account without explanation. He also receives a phone call from a mysterious person who hopes he'll spend it well and conduct himself expertly in an upcoming investigation. Confused, Gemma goes to work, only to find his boss is setting up a high-level prosecution and he's also received a mysterious bribe.

Nevertheless, the boss is going to bring in a dodgy mafia accountant to see if he will spills the beans. Not a good idea, as about two seconds after this man is escorted into the building, his escorts turn out to be hit men who kill the accountant, the boss, and another two cops. Gemma should have been there, but after receiving yet another strange phone, he had decided to quit. One dead boss later, that resignation letter gets torn up and Gemma goes on the rampage!

Wait - this is a Damiano Damiani film, so he doesn't go on the rampage at all. He starts investigating a world where he can't trust anyone but needs to work with everyone, including DA Martin Balsam, whom Gemma suspects of working for the bad guys, and the boss guy's widow, whom Gemma suspects of working for the bad guys, and the sleazy journalist, whom Gemma suspects of working for the bad guys. But who are the bad guys? Those dodgy looking businessmen with their suits and their champagne - those are the bad guys!

If you seen any Damiani film, you'll know that he's not Mr Action but Mr Plot, as The Warning doesn't skimp on that. In fact, there's so much plot I wasn't even sure who was working for who or why people where doing what they did. They do try and put in as much exposition as possible, but I was losing the thread on what was happening when just about every character turned up at a wedding at the end. There is some grim violence on display, but this is a head-movie, not a moustache movie.

There are a few criticisms mind you - although Gemma and Laura Trotter are pretty good, I was expecting more from Martin Balsam after he blew me away in Blood and Diamonds and Confessions of a Really Long Film Title. I wasn't totally satisfied with the ending either, but I'm guessing by 1980 they couldn't throw in the old 'maverick cop getting shot in a drive-by shooting' as they'd done that to death by this point.

Damiani's next film would be the sequel to The Amityville House!

Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde
(1968)

Tuetonic Goth Goings on
At one of those annoying beatnik parties that probably never happened in real life, a lecherous man called Baron Brack invites a lady and her friends back to his place in the country via a vigorous horse ride. This is just a ruse however to separate this lady from her mates and rape her, which of course the Baron blames on her. "You shouldn't have tempted me!" I hear Harvey Weinstein is going to use that one at his upcoming court case.

The ladies friends all arrive but shortly afterwards she does a runner towards an old castle where the gothic action starts off right away. Here lives Graf Saxon, an old scientist whose daughter has just been found raped and murdered, and now he's got a bunch of beatniks stinking up the place. These beatniks are all into dressing up in period costumes and carrying on their annoying ways during a dinner party, but when another one of their friends shows up, things are thrown into turmoil. Let's start a new paragraph so we can analyse this Gothic horror 'trope'.

It seems this new girl is the spitting image of Katerina, Graf's daughter. That's just standard practise in Gothic horror. People don't even grieve that much in these films as they know it's only a matter of time before someone is reincarnated as their departed or some doppelganger walks through the door complaining that their car broke down. Graf gets all excited and starts his evil plan right away to replace his daughter's heart with this dead ringer.

While that's happening there's also some sort of time slip/flashback/dream involving a previous rape committed thirty years previous which somehow this Graf fellow feels the need to reproduce using dummies in a room (why?). We then get to see our beatniks as previous versions of themselves, some as rapists, some as victims, some as butt-ugly witnesses. It's all a bit disjointed.

There is a random bear attack that was pretty good in its crapness. The whole thing I guess revolves around old rapey McGhee and the reincarnation of Katerina, but even then the strange meandering plot, high nudity levels (no thanks Janine Reynaurd!) and terrible acting make it watchable for all the wrong reasons.

Un'ombra nell'ombra
(1979)

"You mean having a child with Satan has it's negative aspects?"
Eh, better just ignore or try not to think about Lara Wendel's date of birth when it comes to this film, which is labelled as an Exorcist rip-off but strikes me more like an Omen rip-off.

I'm not one to look down on people, but when you join up for a Satanic cult that involves a choreographed disco session followed by group sex with the Dark Lord himself, isn't it a bit naive to feel put out when the spawn of such a union turns out to have evil tendencies? What did they expect to happen?

Mother Anne Heywood is concerned that her daughter Lara Wendell is getting a bit lippy and argumentative and a bit too wise in the ways of Satanic rituals that no one's ever told her about, so she goes to see her three mates who also seemingly set up carnal relationships with Lucifer without thinking of the consequences. They also do this kind of South Central LA gang hand signal to each other which was pretty funny. Each of them regrets doing the nasty with the Anti-christ, including Irene Papas who has turned to prostitution to meet men, but fails every single time as Satan shows up scowling disapprovingly every time she's about to get busy. Not the best career choice. Get this though - even though they're all going on about how their children are acting up and being devilly, they still attend these black masses. Where's the commitment?

I'm not quite sure what he had to do with it all, but Ian Bannen shows up to put the moves on Anne Heywood while spouting garbage about 'the black and the light' but he pretty much high tails it once Satan shows up to stop anyone having any fun. While Lara somehow arranges the death of her stepfather (that big goofy looking guy from Cosmos: War of the Planets), Anne tries to stop her going full evil by asking high Priestess Mellisa Mel to get involved.

I know - it's confusing. Surely the intention of the coven or sect or whatever would be do to Lucifer's bidding and bring down society, so why are they getting all arsey when the kids start acting up, stealing dolls, rejecting dolls that are bought, burying finger nails, shouting and throwing stuff around, and killing their classmates for getting fresh? Were they just into it for the long cloaks and the dance sequences?

John Philip Law is brought in as a priest who does some dodgy acting at one point. Lara Wendell gets naked a lot which is quite disturbing due to her age and even has a nude Satan fight with her mum at the end. The whole things lacks gore and even scares, but is so bizarre and non-sensical in every way I couldn't help wonder what they were aiming for.

Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel trecento...
(1973)

Nuts
"Don't try and understand it," says one character here, standing in what may be another dimension while green and red light plays over his face. I think I'll take his advice.

Although this doesn't quite top Renato Polselli's Mania in terms of delirious insanity, it gives it a good try! Set...somewhere...it involves a young girl being taken to a castle by her stepfather (Micky Hargity) 'round about the time where a young girl is sacrificed by four cloaked cultists who remove her heart and promise that a girl called Isabel will be born again. Isabel by the way is chained up to a wall where the cultists live (it might not actually be a place at all), and she has a huge burned hole in her chest, like someone has stubbed out the world's biggest cigar there. This being a Gothic horror film, the young girl (Laureen) is either Isabel reincarnated or her doppelganger. I'm none the wise even though I just watched the thing. Oh, and someone gets attacked by bats and their heart ripped out by an unknown person in the real world. Jesus. One paragraph in and I'm already struggling.

Before the plot completely unravelled I managed to understand that Hargity had bought a bit of a castle but there was a strange cultist guy living in another bit of the castle. There are also seven virgins there to celebrate Laureen's engagement to Richard.There was also a creepy caretaker type and a guy with a twitch who fancied an over the top ditzy girl who both supplied comedy at all the wrong times. We also get a very lengthy flashback where Isabel is impaled and burned at the stake which goes on forever but also seems to highlight that everyone in this film is a reincarnation of someone from 500 years ago. I've got a headache now.

I'm still making this sound straightforward! With all the time travelling, flashbacks, dimension hopping, screaming, comedy and people possibly being vampires but possibly not being vampires, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this film is bad, but it's not! I doesn't make any sense, but the whole film from start to finish seems to be intended as some sort of visual LSD tripe. Polselli's can barely film a scene in a normal fashion, with rapid editing from multiple angles (including upside down for extra insanity), bathing people in gel lighting that constantly changes, or intercutting scenes so rapidly you'd swear you were going to have a seizure.

Between this and the film Mania I'm not sure what Polselli was aiming for, but I have no regrets going along for the ride. Both of these films are amongst the most insane, entertaining films Italian cinema has to offer. I've no doubt left out about 90% of what happens in this film.

Speed Driver
(1980)

Where's the action, Stelvio?
What are you trying to do to me here, Stelvio Massi? I've been a big fan of Mark the Narc, Mark Headbutts the Pope and several billion moustache epics starring Maurizio Merli, but this is too far.

Fabio Testi is a hot shot stunt driver/racer out to make a quick buck to have his heroin-crazed brother treated in hospital when he catches the eye of suddenly-with-a-full-head-of-hair-again promoter Francisco Rabal. Francisco is all full of encouragement and invites him to come and be his star racer on the professional track, but Fabio soons finds that the job that is too good to be true...is too good to be true.

Testi has without his knowledge smuggled drugs into whatever country they are in, and he's not too happy. Rabal's all like 'too bad buddy' and blackmails him into dropping off a shipment in between races. Will Testi tow the line for this wig-wearing drug-donkey, or will he drive his new fangled racing car directly up Francisco Rabal's rectum?

Sadly, apart from lots of car racing, not much happens in this film, which is disappointing. Usually Stelvio Massi at leasts builds up to a great shoot-out in a warehouse or something similar involving Maurizio Merli, but don't expect that here. Throw in a lot of drama where Testi starts being a jerk to everyone because his brother died and a journalist who may or may not be double-crossing him, and that's about it. Massi seems to have a lot of genuine racing going on, but the stock footage crashes stand out a mile, even in the terrible transferred laserdisc version I watched.

Massi also made Speed Cross the same year, also with Testi. I hope that one's better. That's one hundred and forty-six of these Italian crime films I've watched, so if I don't like it that much, something's wrong.

La bestia nello spazio
(1980)

In Space, no one can hear you knock on out
Alfonso Breschia goes back to his garden shed, break out the old costumes, blonde wigs, a crappy robots to give us his fourth sci-fi epic, only this time he's trying to keep you awake by loading the thing full of sex. And it's still rubbish.

It's true what they say - in space, no one can hear you knock one out. In a galaxy no one cares about, a space captain in a bar hits up on Sirpa Lane. She's all up for it, but first he has to fend off plucky space pirate Venatino Venantini. The captain (or whatever he is) also discovers that Venantini knows a planet where there's this rare element that people will pay a fortune for. That's the plot!

The captain and Sirpa get it on and Sirpa has a strange dream that she's being chased through a forest by a crappy robot. Eventually a crew gets together and they all head off for this planet in the usual terrible, poundland version of special effects. What you'll also notice is that although Breschia has upped the boob quotient, he's totally forgotten to include any action! Nice move, Breschia!

This lot eventually do get to this planet, and of course they find it deserted (although we the audience are horrified to find that those bloody Brian Jones-like androids are lurking about in the background, ready to bore us to death). Sirpa (who is carrying a metal detector!) goes all dizzy and heads off on her own. I'm blanking on what happens next even though I watched this last night.

Basically there's a hirsute fellow in charge of the planet and says there's this giant robot that used to be in charge who kept this rare element to himself, but why go on about the plot. There's a protracted sex scene where everyone (except Venantini) gets it on and I was rather startled to find that the Russian dubbed version I was watching on Youtube (due to the English subtitled one on there being censored) had hardcore inserts in it. I did get a laugh from how ridiculous the hairy guy looked when it was revealed he was a goat-legged fellow with a foot long slag hammer. I'm not sure why Sirpa was dreaming about it though.

Due to all this crap being interspersed with what looked like footage from War of the Robots and Cosmo: War of the Planets, a whole lot of nothing going on throughout and endless shots of people wriggling against each other, this is even worse than Breschia's other sci-fi films. No wonder there are so many second hand copies of it on sale throughout Glasgow. I wonder what possessed Shameless Screen Entertainment to release this crap.

La nuit des traquées
(1980)

The Dark Tower
A young man driving through an unnamed French city chances upon a startled girl in a nightdress. To say she's confused is an understatement, as she asks for help, forgets about asking for help, forgets about where she is, what her name is, and general seems to have her mind wiped completely clean. The young man drives her back to his house, unheeding of the other girl left behind in the woods.

The rescued girl is called Elisabeth, but that's about all she remembers. Our young man, Robert, settles her down in is home, not knowing that some mysterious people have followed them there in a car. After a morally dubious, lengthy sex session with Elisabeth, Robert sets off for work only for a doctor and nurse to appear and take Elisabeth 'home', which turns out to be a huge monolithic black tower.

By the time Elisabeth has forgotten all about Robert, and is taken back to what she's told is her room, where a similarly stricken girl called Catherine lives. Elisabeth, as far as she can perceive, realises that everyone in the tower block is like her, with the exception of a rape happy orderly, the doctor, and those armed guards stopping anyone from leaving. There's also Veronique, who turns out to be the girl who tried to escape with Elisabeth at the start of the film.

The question is, why is Elisabeth there and what is the purpose of the doctor and his minions? Don't expect a custard pie fight and a sing-a-long at end of this one as the film descends into gory murders and suicides, gun fights, and another escape attempts due to Elisabeth finding Robert's phone number in her pocket (she doesn't remember him of course, but he remembers her!).

Between this and The Grapes of Death, I cannot believe that Jean Rollin was the man responsible for the terrible Zombie Lake. Both Grape and this are short on plot but high in atmosphere, and this one, although not exactly a pulse-racing action fest, is fascinating as a mystery and a grim modern horror. The clinical interiors of the black tower just add to the unease, as does the brutal violence that comes out of nowhere.

This being a Jean Rollin film, and a French film, every lady in this one gets naked. This is why I love tracking down all these films, there's always one or two that come out of nowhere and surprise.

I've never made to the end of Zombie Lake, but I'm going to give it another go.

Mangiati vivi!
(1980)

Mother Mother Mother Mother Please
Umberto Lenzi's despicable response to the equally despicable Cannibal Holocaust is sick on many levels and infuriating because without the animal cruelty the gore and story are much more palatable and stupid than Ruggero Deodato's sadistic monstrosity. It's sick because it contains (depressingly) animal cruelty, excessive gore, and bases the main storyline on the Jonestown massacre that was barely a year old at the time. Too soon, Lenzi...too soon!

I can't deny however that the opening credits are cool. Following several people being murdered by blow dart at Niagra Falls and New York, we see Janet Agren walking down 42nd Street, NYC, to a tremendously funky soundtrack. Janet's from the deep south and has lost touch with her cotton plantation owning sister. She goes to Mel Ferrer for help and heads off for New Guinea, as it seems that her sister has joined a cult run by a mystery figure called Jonas.

The jungle isn't a place you can go wandering in, so Janet hooks up with Vietnam vet Robert Kerman (from Cannibal Holocaust of course) and they both of them head off in an adventure that features stock footage of such cannibals films as Umberto Lenzi's Deep River Savages, Sergio Martino's Mountain of the Cannibals, and Rugger Deodato's Last Cannibal World. Why? I guess it saves money. Plus, if I guess you don't have to buy animals to kill if you're just using footage of them from a previous film. Godfrey Ho would be proud.

It comes as no surprise that Ivan Rassimo is Jim Jones I mean Jonas and Janet's sister is full of drugs and brainwashed. Me Me Lai is a native girl in the cult to Lenzi gets to have her generally abused too as Janet and Kerman end up suckered in by the cult and then try to escape in an avalanche of old footage of people being eaten and carved up and some new footage of people being eaten and carved up while Lenzi draws the whole thing to a close by having the whole cult commit suicide like those 900 or so people who did the same in Jonestown in 1978. Hmmm.

It's sad that Lenzi went from kick-ass films like From Corleone to Brooklyn to this in such a short time. He would redeem himself with the craptacular Nightmare City but he wasn't done with the cannibal genre yet - we've still got to suffer through Cannibal Ferox!

The theme tune of this gets a TEN! I love it.

Il bandito dagli occhi azzurri
(1980)

The Bored Bandit
Packed full of anti-action and non-thrills, The Blue-Eyed Bandit is only saved by Franco Nero's performance. Other than that, there's not much else going for it at all.

Franco is plays a crippled old man working a mundane accounts job in an insurance firm. Derided by his colleagues and the rest of the staff in the building, he's always last out after work, and doesn't seem to want to mingle with folk, including the nymphomaniac dinner lady.

What people don't know is that Franco is literally playing a crippled old man, because in the safety of his own home, he takes off his brown contact lenses, wig, and cripple shoes and becomes buff, daring Franco Nero the heist planner. We all know he's up to something, and it looks like that something is a huge payload courtesy of that firm he works for. Franco also has mother problems and regularly goes to visit his senile mother in an old folks home, even though he wishes she was dead for ruining his life.

I'm not sure which way Nero's character is meant to swing but there's a sub plot with him visiting a sauna and striking up a strange relationship with the guy who works there. Watch out Nero - he wants to turn your brown eye blue! Both the mother and the sanua guy will come back to haunt Nero after he pulls of his heist. He makes a big deal of making sure the victims know he's got blue eyes, but still makes enough mistakes that there's at least three people in the building cottoned on to his ruse.

The problem with this film is that even though Nero puts in a good turn as the quick-changing thief, most of the time not much happens expect Nero pretending to be an old man or people trying to catch him out. There's barely any action to speak of at all and even the heist is a bit of a wet blanket. The police sketch of him is quite funny though as it resembles Nero-lookalike Terence Hill rather than Nero himself.

Apart from that, my wife happen to catch a bit of this while passing by and noted that Franco Nero is saying his lines in English while everyone else is obviously speaking Italian, and the film was probably more likely aimed at the Italian market, so why was Franco Nero speaking English. Stranger still, the print I watched was recorded from Italian television and yet was an English dub. Reality is tangible when it comes to the extremes of Italian cinema.

Paura nella città dei morti viventi
(1980)

Attack of the Brain Squeezers
Lucio Fulci's first attempt at dispensing with cohesive narrative and plunging us directly into cosmic untethered horror is still creepy after all these years, even if it doesn't make much sense. It really doesn't bear much scrutiny either - just strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

In a mid-western town called Dunwich, a priest wanders a fog-blanketed graveyard and hangs himself from a tree. This action is observed via seance in New York by a girl called Mary (Catriona Mccoll), who seemingly drops dead on the spot. Cigar-chomping journalist Christopher George thinks something's slightly off about the whole situation (just as well he didn't see the dancing flames in Mary's apartment!) and heads to graveyard to dig a bit further, which he literally does some time later when he realises that the muffled screaming he can hear is Mary, who has regained consciousness.

Mary didn't die at all (try not to apply logic to this or anything else that happens - the sequence with Mary in the coffin is still effective) and since waking up she's now bangning on about this priest who's suicide has opened up the gates of hell in a place called Dunwich. Now Mary and Christopher George have to high-tail it to Dunwich before All Saints day or the world will end. It doesn't stop Mary moaning about being hungry and wanting to go for lunch, mind you.

Intercut with Mary and Christopher's journey is all the crazy crap that's started going down in Dunwich. Not only do they now have a serious fog problem, strange things have started happening, like mirrors cracking, weird noises, and that priest turning up to scare the crap out of people. First victim is young Emily, girlfriend of psychiatrist Carlo De Mejo. Emily's death is blamed on local weirdo Bob (Giovanni Radice), but we all know that in Italian horror, the dead don't stay dead for long...

Flimsy plot aside, the whole film works because Lucio Fulci and scriptwriter Dardano Saccehetti thought up loads of cool things they'd like to see in a horror film, then tried to connect with a tenuous end-of-the-world storyline. The zombies eat people, but they also like appearing out of nowhere and pulling people's brains out of the back of their heads. The priest stares at people until they bleed from their eyes and he even causes Daniella Doria to vomit up her own guts, and who can forget the bit where Venantino Venentini shoves a huge drill through Giovanni Radice's head? I had to look it up but now know that the actors really where showered with millions of maggots. Hope they got paid well for that bit

All that gore got this one banned as a video nasty which is a shame. The music, visuals, gore, and scares are all top notch, even if narrative flow and good acting aren't a priority. Fulci would top this one with The Beyond, which is even less cohesive than this one.

The final thirty seconds of the film are a real headscratcher by the way.

L'uomo puma
(1980)

Not Crap Enough
Puma

man, when he finally gets around to being Pumaman, looks like he got his outfit from Primark's 'Sensible Gentleman' section and attached a cape to it. He also displays the natural talents of a Puma. You know, like seeing in infra-red, passing through walls, and flying. If you start thinking about why aliens and pumas are linked and why Donald Pleasance can somehow take over people's minds using a gold mask from South America attached to what looks like a tricycle, you are going to end up having a stroke.

"It looks bad, and not good bad," my wife remarked while heading to our indoor pool manned by Joe Dallesandro look-a-likes. After watching it, I tend to agree to a certain extent. Pumaman has a reputation as a bad movie. Donald Pleasence said it was the worst film he starred in. Alberto De Martino says it was the worst film he ever made. Are there laughs to be had? Let's see.

After a demented introduction about how aliens contacted the Aztecs and made the first Pumaman, we switch to Donald Pleasence who has this gold mask that he's using to take over people's mind. He won't to control the world and only Pumaman can stop him, if only he knew who he was. This leads to various Americans in London being thrown out of windows before some mystic good guy tracks down the real Pumaman. I can't be bothered looking up what his character's name was.

New Pumaman has to learn to be Pumaman and is reluctant to fly about the place looking like a complete moron but eventually he does, and the effects really do look like someone hung Pumaman from a hook attached to his arse, then used the worst blue-screen effects in the world. And they use it in about 50% of the film. He can also go in and out of walls, something he seems to forget when chasing Donald Pleasence later in the film.

Donald's gold mask/mind control set up is pretty crap too. Once he grabs someone's mind, a rubber head of theirs appear on a shelf and then Donald commands it through the gold mask. This looks worse that it sounds, as the visual effect for communication seems to be wobbling a bit of sheet metal with the rubber head reflected on it. Truly dire. There are some laughs to be had by this, but apart from amatuer fist fights, Pumaman arguing with his mentor, really bad romantic scenes with Sydne Rome, and the constant nose-bleed inducing flying sequences, the best bit for me was when I realised that ten minutes of the film had begun to repeat itself, leading to a blissful moment where I fast forwarded the film, therefore reducing the running time.

Zappatore
(1980)

The Hoer
Mario Merola gives up the cigarette smuggler/mob boss with a heart/straight businessman role in Naples and relocates to the countryside as a humble zappatore (hoer), breaking his back day and night on the land, with loyal wife by his side. Mario doesn't mind, as all his money has gone to educating his son. The son in question is now a fully qualified lawyer, and is all set to head off to the big city (Naples of course) but not before Mario belts out another one his songs, as he is won't to do in these films.

After a tearful farewell, Mario settles back into rural life, complicated by a money lender leaning on him to pay back his debts and the sinister interests of the local mafia Don (played by a suave Rik Battalgia). Mario can't pay back the money lender, who seems to have an ulterior motive, but luckily the local policeman is watching Mario's back and tells him to avoid the Don at all costs.

Months pass without Mario and his distraught wife hearing from their son, and Mario dispatches to farm workers to track him down. One of these is played by Lucio Montanaro, who, if you've watched any of these films, you've definitely seen. He's the comedy element in this film, which is kind of needed as most of the film involves people either weeping, crying madly, or screaming in each other's faces. When gets to Naples he finds the son won't talk to him and gets his sexy assistant to hand him a 100,000 lire not and a blank bit of paper, which Mario pretends to his increasingly depressed wife is an apologetic letter from his son.

You see, his son has hooked up with a rich blonde heiress and is pretending to be a rich land owner orphan from a family of judges. He's ashamed of his rustic roots, to the point of even pretending his mother is a mad woman who mistakes him for her dead son. A tsunami of tears later, Mario's wife is on her death bed, Mario's heading to New York to get his son back, and the Mafia Don wants that land off of Mario.

My favourite bit in this strangely watchable drama is when Mario turns up at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel to confront his son. The reaction of the posh people is so over the top its like Mario walked in naked, covered from head to toe in cow dung, rather than looking like a slightly dishevelled man. The best bit comes just after as Mario resolves the situation with a loud, sad song about how his son has abandoned him. Great stuff.

Once again its Merola that makes these films, his overweight, emotional character is at odds with the usual hard case with a moustache you get in these films. His humanity once again shines through. I guess that's why he's so loved in Napoli.

Il mammasantissima
(1979)

Spaghetti e Vongole and a bullet to the head
How does this Alfonso Brescia directed, Mario Merola starring, Naples based gangster involving cigarette smuggling, kid sidekicks and blue Mercedes driving film differ from the other hundred or so Alfonso Brescia directed, Mario Merola starring, Naples based gangster involving cigarette smuggling, kid sidekicks and blue Mercedes driving films made in 1979? Well, Mario doesn't sing a song in this one. Other than that, business as usual.

Mario plays a cigarette smuggling, blue Mercedes driving Guappo with a heart of gold, keeping an eye on the downtrodden working class while also being a proud father to his soon to be married daughter. This involves a lot of shouting and eating, being a film based in Naples There's also a slight glitch in the subtitles which made me think that the groom had a gay lover and was interested in seeing where that was heading, but it turned out to be a badly translated joke of some kind.

Like all of these Merola films, drama takes precedence over action and Merola has to try and educate the street urchins that the way of the Guappo is not a stable future. Needless to say it's the same kid that appears in all these films who has the same jealous girlfriend. He also has to deal with a guy trying to muscle in on his cigarette racket and another guy who is a money lender bleeding the people dry. I nearly forgot to mention the clan of gypsies Mario batters with a huge stick because they stole a crown from the Madonna in a church. I think they made him a saint after that.

What you don't do to Mario Merola in these films is kill one of his family - he hates that! It also drives the plot along a bit I guess, with a finale taking place in (what else?) a restaurant as people partake of (again- what else?) spaghetti and clams. This also involves dozens of people dressed like Pulcinella, which is a personal nightmare of mine made flesh.

Lucio Montanaro turns up as a tourist that gets suckered in by a game of three card monte. This was in 1979. I was there in 2006 or thereabouts and they were still trying to sucker people in with that one. Luckily I'm a tight-arsed Scottish person and trying to part me with my money is like trying to prise a barnacle off of one those boats they use for smuggling.

Inexplicably, I get a lot of enjoyment out of these films. Hopefully I'll uncover another dozen or so from the same year. I do still have the Mafia Triangle to watch - let's hope Mario sings a song about the Mafia in that one! And a song about triangles too.

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