Monday, February 27, 2012

You've Got Yellow On You: Double Feature... Or Rather Two Weeks Spent Coughing Up Mucus

I've been just a little under the weather as of late. I’m not entirely sure what upper respiratory distressed illness I may have contracted, but someone with my symptoms was recently diagnosed with a late case of Pneumonia! Since I hate doctors (being a doctor of course) I rarely try to make myself better at their well practiced hands. I take on the Notes from the Underground perspective by the great Dostoyevsky. Let me elaborate by offering you my favorite quote from the Dos:
“I am a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don't consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can't explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot "pay out" the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don't consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well--let it get worse!”

 Needless to say that after a week of feeling like I hear a death rattle around every corner I’ll be making my way to the physician’s office today so that she can tell me that I have…  a cold. That’s what they always fucking tell me. Why do you have to hear about this on your weekly (bi-weekly due to illness) giallo challenge update? Because I have a few words to say about Nyquil; The green monster in juxtaposition to our yellow monster, giallo.

Nyquil is a writer’s demonic enemy. It prevents putting words on the page. It’s not that I disagree with writing a bit looped. On the contrary, some of my best writing was done with the aid of pharmacological intervention, however Nyquil removes the will. The great green monster puts you into a slumber absence of your sicky sick symptoms and encased in every so real dreams. I myself had quite a few dreams most of which do not bear repeating, but I assure you they were vivid, trippy and far beyond those experienced under the influence of the “green fairy” beverage known as Absinthe.  So it’s the monster that’s been preventing my nightly discourse with myself that allows me to get the words to you in a timely manner.

Now of giallo (I’m sure you’re tired of this long winded bitch session). Over the course of the last couple weeks I’ve watched a few movies. I may have found my favorite, non-Argento giallo so far. Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye by Antonio Margheriti is a masterpiece of horror, not just a great piece of yellow cinema. We’ll talk more about that in a second. What amazes me about finding this particular work so fascinating is that I don’t often associate Margheriti with giallo, but that more than a couple Sergio Martino flicks don’t quite make the grade for me; one of the so called godfathers of giallo.  Maybe some of these filmmakers that have achieved royalty as genre specific artists are known for one piece within said genre and that carries enough weight to give them title, but what does that say of some of the less accomplished directors in this arena? What if they made just a couple really great gialli instead of the one off inspirational pieces that put the spotlight on Italy? It’s something that I’ll be musing over in the next couple of weeks. Do the great artists who made giallo great, deserve all the credit?

Now the films:

HOUSE WITH THE LAUGHING WINDOWS: Nice cover and poster artwork, but a damn boring movie. Not much going on which pretty much means a bunch of catch phrase “who done it” dialogue tossed like salad. Soft focus makes me angry when not used for a specific purpose/shot and there’s a whole lot of it. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, the ending is amazing. So skipping the movie and reading the synopsis while fast forwarding to the ending just might be the way to go. Great title.

HITCH-HIKE: David Hess in a giallo film is a treat. This film comes off like a movie shot in America for Americans. It’s full of uncharacteristic 60’s rock/psychedelic music. Hess plays his typical role of a guy who just want to be the most degenerate individual he can be. This film is full of big camera work that takes in some amazing landscapes. Hess fans will enjoy it doubly so because the man is damn talented.

SPASMO:  Umberto Lenzi is da man! … when it comes to the zombie or cannibal genres. I adore Nightmare City and I first fell in love with cannibals during the hook through breast sequence in Cannibal Ferox. So his giallo is competent as well, just not the blockbuster I was hoping for.  The music is superb and the production is sound with a twist at the end that is worth catching this movie. There’s this burning car sequence that feel signature Lenzi.

YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY:  This is the film that had me citing Sergio Martino above. It has an amazing title; simply the best giallo title there is. It has the naked hotties you adore. It’s a good flick. Solid, with some staple Italian, giallo actors, but the movie itself, if shot today, would be nothing more than a Cinemax/Skinamax, nude fest. Not that I disapprove of seeing beautiful Italian women disrobe, but I’m looking for the narrative to grab me and mind fuck me. I didn’t quite get that from this tie in to the The Strange Vice of Mrs. Ward aka Blade of the Ripper.

CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS:  This movie has some nice kill sequences especially the strangulation in the tub. Some familiar faces too. The music is atrocious and comes off like a soap opera. Call it the As the World Turns of giallo pictures. There are one liners that drop like bombs and an excellent ending worth sticking around for. Best to watch this movie half in the bag with a sense of humor.

HITCHER IN THE DARK: Simply put: bad acting. This is a late entry into the giallo genre that sorta feels like it might not really be giallo. It’s Lenzi but past his prime and in an era where 80’s music began to dominate Italian progressive rock in film. Umberto Lenzi does cast some hot 80’s starlets to play his victims. Remember, it’s not about the quality; it’s about the nude-ity. Nice RV... totally wouldn't suspect this guy was butchering babes in the back. Totally.

NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS: Last House on the Left… ON A TRAIN. It’s not a completely faithful reproduction of the Craven classic, but the lead actor looks more than a little like David Hess. The opening scene is fantastic and primes you for a completely debauched train ride full of vaginal knifing, rape and even forcing a man to rape a woman. The whole thing is validated by a woman attacker which seems to make the whole thing worse.  I wasn’t even prepared for the brutality this one had in store. It’s actually on the Video Nasty list so I can cross this one off both challenges.  The harmonica music is brilliant. Total creep out.  This film will have you asking, “if sex on a plane gets you into the mile high club, what does sex on a train get me into?”.  Aldo Lado makes a mean motion picture. Doesn't that knife to the crotch scene make you think of What Have You Done to Solange?

SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT’S EYE: This film had me struggling at first... and not in a bad way. Am I watching giallo or just a pleasantly suspenseful murder mystery, haunted house, monster in the closet flick. It’s all of those things really. Margheriti blends his expertise in camera work and creates what I would like to refer to as an homage to Hammer horror of the 60’s. The music sounds like Hammer. The sets look like Hammer and there’s even an actor that resembles Peter Cushing. The Technicolor is gorgeous and the tension is superior.  There’s plenty of gore to go around and the Crayola red blood is flowing like an H.G. Lewis picture. Secret Passages too! My only query… why the transition to some less than adequate jazz music for the credit sequence at the end? Hammer and giallo meet in this well executed, well advertised picture. The artwork is phenomenal.Also the title seems to vacillate between Seven Dead in the Cat's Eye and Seven Deaths in a Cat's Eye.

That’s two weeks of my life. Sorry I couldn’t squeeze this one out sooner. Green Monster and all.

-Dr. Terror

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