Friday, July 20, 2012

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK: I JUST EXPLODED MYSELF ( A Review of Tough to Kill by David Zuzelo and Paul Cooke)



What I want to tell you about Tough to Kill by David Zuzelo and Paule Cooke isn't that their book is a comprehensive guide to action films from Italy during the 1980's (although that might be a recurring theme). I don't want to tell you that it has glossy color pictures (except for the cover it doesn't). I want to tell you that even if you have no fucking clue what the Italian action explosion refers to or if you have zero care about action movies in general, this book is hilarious!

Now let's get the dirty laundry out. David Zuzelo is a friend of mine, borderline family and  contributor to Italian Horror Week. For me to say that this is an unbiased look at the work of these two mad geniuses would be a bit unfair. I can assure you that my motives are pure. I have a purpose. Let's start at the beginning (a very nice place to start).

I purchased Tough to Kill to review for Italian Horror Week though I have wanted to own a copy and have promoted it sight unseen for some time. I knew David and I knew that this book. I read his blog TOMB IT MAY CONCERN and I enjoy his style. He's also written the story and words for Ascension of the Blind Dead which is a must pick up for Blind Dead nuts. It's included in Zombie Terrors, Anthology of the Undead. Just look at this artwork. The story is brilliant and the only reason I haven't reviewed it is because it's currently packed away with David's signature right on the cover. When you meet David make sure he signs his work for you because he's a very clever signor.  Someday when I'm feeling limber I'll pull that beauty out and gorge on it's feast images and captivating story. It's not Italian, but it doesn't have to be. Some of the finest drawn breasts I've seen inked (not to offend).

A misconception about Italian Horror Week is that it has to stick strictly within the confines of the genre. We touched on Friday the 13th this week and Krimi. We even perused some Italian Metal. Celebrating all aspects of Italy and art in general. We'll look at anything that makes sense to look at. There are definitely some crossover films in Tough to Kill. I think the case can be made from Cruel Jaws and Massacre at Dinosaur Valley as well as others. Every cannibal movie is a potential action flick and most of Fulci's stuff has a fun battle vs. the evil or the zombies or the undead or the Freudstein at the end anyway. Do you know the sheer volume of movies that were released in Italy that are based on or rip off Jaws? It's a ponderous number. When I worked at Blockbuster (yes... NO!) we used to subdivide the horror section just on the outskirts of the action section. It's not a bad move. Let's move on.

The book came in the mail, over sized and with the epitome of Italian action. A man with a gun  standing confidently in front of the post-apocalypse. I brought it to work and went to our favorite pizza joint, devoured a few slices and read reviews out lout to my coworkers who had never seen an Italian horror or action movie for that matter. We're talking folks who haven't seen Suspiria or Phenomena (Creepers or not). They got a curious case of the giggles during the Robowar review for reasons I can't fully explain to protect my day job. I also had a good chuckle. I've talked to the pizza guys before about Italian horror and had them decipher a few pieces of dialogue as well as translate titles (to make sure we were getting it right here in the states). I really wanted to talk to those fellas about these flicks and see if they had grown up watching any of them. They grew up in Italy. They were the perfect age. I'll definitely revisit this idea.

The review style of Cooke and Zuzelo is write-to-inform, write-to-entertain and all the while make beautiful crafted catch phrases that will help the reader identify with the review as much as he can identify with the films he loves. The content speaks for itself running the gamut from the works of Bruno Mattei, Antonio Margheriti, Ruggero Deodato, Enzo G. Castellari Lamberto Bava and Umberto Lenzi... all the greats of the horror genre and beyond. I won't list them all, but if you're a fan of Italian action your favorite director is in here. Fred Williamson and Bobby Rhodes are represented handsomely as well.

Tough to Kill Volume 1: The Italian Action Explosion is scored in Exploding Huts. I would assume that a movie could get no huts, but the top number of huts a film might achieve are five. While I the idea of exploding huts is comical one has to ask himself, just how many exploding huts are in these damn movies?This book has some pretty high scoring films, so don't be surprised at the lack of stinkers. You'll also find studio info, director, stars and a favorite quote from the movie. No there are no glossy pictures. That's why you watch the damn movie. Also, the book is not simply a compilation of reviews. There are special tributes to Bruno Mattei, Margheriti, star profiles, and an examination of the post-apocalyptic nuclear explosion in action cinema. While it appears to be a thin book, it's encumbered with information and will only leave you wanting for Volume 2.

As a horror fan it was easy to slip into the shoes of some of these non-ghost, zombie stories. Same actors and directors with similar scores and shot in the same locations. Hell, I even went to a double feature of Demons and Bronx Warriors and felt very comfortable watching an action film I had never seen simply based on the production value and the knowledge I had gained from reading about it. It didn't hurt that Fred Williamson was in the movie and that the theater crowd was ruckus with laughter. Tough to Kill prepared me for seeing Bronx Warriors in all its hilarity; its brutality and its chaos. The thing about reading Tough to Kill is that you read it and think, "well I feel damn entertained", but then you realize that you've actually learned something about the films as well. Little flash bulbs of information scatter factoid dots across yours eyes and you suddenly feel learned.. like you might know a thing or two and didn't realize you were being educated.

I took the time this past month to watch Robowar, Strike Commando, Cruel Jaws and Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. All entertaining with the same amount or parody to rip off ratio that I found in Bronx Warriors. Watching these movies is like watching movies that maybe you wanted another sequel to but the big studios in America wouldn't oblige. Enter your brethren across the Atlantic to fill in the gaps. There is a treasure trove of unwatched and even unreleased cinema here so you'll have to dig deep to find some of these titles.

Zuzelo and Cooke have put together something scholarly that reads like a Cracked magazine without the clever cartoons and with a much higher IQ. It's a great pick-me-up read. It's the perfect beach reader (has the size of a magazine so you're hands won't cramp up around that damned Stephen King novel or Giallo paperback). Consider it the underground guide to the thing you never knew you loved;a book of guilty pleasures and maybe even a few secrets.

You can purchase Tough to Kill HERE.
You can purchase Zombie Terrors featuring Ascension of the Undead HERE
If you wanna read and view and take part in a truly epic piece of Euro blogging then please follow David's blog, Tomb It May Concern HERE.


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