Archive for Giallo

Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) Review

Posted in Don't Torture a Duckling with tags , , on November 19, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


**** ½ Out of 5

Release Date- September 29th, 1972

Running Time- 102-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Gianfranco Clerici, Lucio Fulci & Roberto Gianviti

Director- Lucio Fulci

Starring- Florinda Bolkan, Tomas Milian, Marc Porel & Barbara Bouchet

Starting with the 1979 release of Zombi 2, Lucio Fulci’s splatter era had started and while not every film he made in the 80s were splatter films the good portion of them however were and these films were filled with crazy gore scenes, which gave Fulci the Godfather of Gore nickname (H.G. Lewis has also been dubbed that). Zombi 2 is often cited for its gore and I’ve said this many times in other reviews that Zombi 2 had a lot more going for it than just gore. If anything it’s the perfect combination of gore scenes, but also legit suspense and tension with eerie atmosphere, but after that while I very much enjoyed films like City of the Living Dead and House by the Cemetery as they are eerie flicks, but they also lack logic and without the gore scenes they probably wouldn’t be nearly as good. The biggest problem in Fulci’s career is when he started making zombie films he was in the shadow of George Romero, which is really unfortunate since his zombie films were vastly different and while Zombi 2 shares more in common with George Romero’s work it’s not a ripoff like some people claim. But before Lucio Fulci started making gore films he made films such as Don’t Torture a Duckling from 1972, which does feature some gore, but not a whole lot. At the time this film was released Fulci was in the shadow of Mario Bava and the newly emerged Dario Argento and many of his pre-Zombi 2 films were overlooked, which is too bad since in my opinion Don’t Torture a Duckling was his best film (Zombi 2 a close 2nd). With Don’t Torture a Duckling, Lucio Fulci shows he’s far more than just a gore director and while this film may not be as crowd pleasing as his gore epics they have nothing on this film as a whole. I’d rate Don’t Torture a Duckling not just my favorite Fulci film, but also my favorite Giallo.

In a small village in Italy pre-teen boys are being found murdered, which is quite a taboo subject as its quite rare to see films where young children are the victims and while the deaths aren’t gory and some are off camera it’s still quite shocking. As much as I enjoyed Don’t Torture a Duckling it was after the film was over and I thought about it that I realized the brilliance behind the film. Besides the child murders, sexual repression and pedophilia are very much hinted at and it really elevates the movie to a whole other level. Also a 20-something woman has some kind of sexual attraction to the pre-teens that also gives a very weird and bizarre vibe and obviously makes her a suspect.

The screenplay was written by Gianfranco Clerici, Lucio Fulci & Roberto Gianviti and it was simply terrific. As much as I enjoyed Italian horror films in the 80s the biggest flaw was often the writing. What made a good portion of these films so enjoyable was either the silly nature of the film (intentional or not) as well as the gore scenes and or the visuals. Writing however in the 80s they range from ok to weak with a few exceptions and I suppose you could say the same for a lot of American horror in the 80s. That isn’t a knock on 80s horror since its one of my favorite eras for horror and film in general. But the 70s in my opinion was the best in film. Many Italian horror films had strong scripts and Duckling is no different. The film is cleverly plotted with strong characters for the most part. The mystery on the identity of the killer is solid, but the reveal isn’t overly shocking either. The motivation for the killer is very shocking and disturbing and upon watching it you may not get that feeling, but when you think back to everything and take in all what writing implies and the direction it makes is very dark and creepy. The villain isn’t your typical one either, while it’s obvious the person isn’t normal the motivation is very different and not really done out of evil. Perhaps I’m reading too much into things, but I guess we all take something different away from certain films and again when I thought back to everything it really elevated the film for me from something I thought was very good to something I see as a great film.

As director Lucio Fulci crafts in my opinion his best film. Duckling as stated doesn’t really feature the gore or graphic violence (there is a bit) like his work in the late 70s and into the 80s, but he more than makes up for that by crafting a well made film that’s very much driven by story. Pacing while never sluggish can be a little slow in spots, but these also keep the story unfolding. In Fulci’s gore epics that’s what made them such cult favorites, but they also had an eerie feel, which most people tend to overlook and while Duckling doesn’t quite have that eerie atmosphere it still succeeds in being suspenseful. As I stated some of the deaths are off camera, which might turn off fans more familiar with Fulci’s gore films, but off camera or not these scenes still pack quite a punch. For those who think Fulci can only make gore films, Don’t Torture a Duckling proves that’s clearly not the case. As I stated this film at least to me implied sexual repression and pedophilia and in my opinion Don’t Torture a Duckling is Fulci’s best film and shows he can make a deep and powerful film.

There is a scene, which a woman is severely beaten with chains while a ballad plays over the scene. This scene does feature some graphic violence and gore and its really unsettling and very disturbing. The gore may not be on the level as say the Beyond, but its far more powerful in Don’t Torture a Duckling.

There have been some who poked fun at the title of the film and I’d hate to think some may avoid the film due to the title or not fully grasp the film since they can’t get past the title. Don’t Torture a Duckling is truly a great film and like I said my favorite Fulci film and Giallo and has a chance for my favorite Italian horror film. As much as I enjoyed Fulci’s splatter films its a shame he didn’t continue down this path. This is truly one of the greats and if you think Lucio Fulci is just a gore director think again.

Writer Gianfranco Clerici had quite a prolific career in Italian horror writing or co-writing such films as Jungle Holocaust, Cannibal Holocaust and House By the Edge of the Park and all three were directed by Ruggero Deodato. He also besides this film worked with Lucio Fulci on New York Ripper, Murder Rock and House of Clocks. Roberto Gianviti also worked with Fulci a couple of times with Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Seven Notes in Black (AKA The Psychic) as well as Murder Rock. Lastly Don’t Torture a Duckling was composed by Riz Ortolani best known for his work on such films as Cannibal Holocaust and House by the Edge of the Park.




Bay of Blood (1971) Review

Posted in Bay of Blood with tags , , , , , on October 14, 2013 by Last Road Reviews



*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- They Came to Play, They Stayed to Die

Release Date- September 8th, 1971

Running Time- 84-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Mario Bava, Filippo Ottoni & Giuseppe Zaccariello

Director- Mario Bava

Starring- Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso, Anna Maria Rosati, Chris Avram, Leopoldo Trieste

Mario Bava is one of the most influential filmmakers and not just in Italy, but the States as well and has influenced a wide range of filmmakers and I suppose the horror genre is where his impact is most seen. Mario Bava paved the way for the Giallo and without him who knows where filmmakers like Dario Argento would be. Released in 1971 A Bay of Blood, which also goes under such titles as Carnage, Blood Bath, Twitch of the Death Nerve and when released in the States in 1972 it had the title Last House of the Left Part II. A Bay of Blood while a giallo seems to have a bigger impact on the slasher films in particular Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2 (more on that later). However the giallo and slasher are sort of cousins and many films that are slasher films had they been made in Italy would be seen as a giallo and many of the Giallo if released in the States or anywhere else outside of Italy would be seen as slasher films. While there is a difference the line between them is thin. There are some that consider Bay of Blood to be Bava’s best film and I suppose a case could be made for it I’d disagree.

The story was written by Franco Barberi & Dardano Sacchetti and the screenplay by Mario Bava, Filippo Ottoni & Giuseppe Zaccariello. I really can’t say much about the plot as I don’t wanna spoil things. The story for Bay of Blood is very good and basically all the murders have to do with getting the land around the bay. However the problem is the story is a little overly complicated (though easy to understand). I’m not sure if this was due to the story concept or the actual screenplay, but the script is the biggest issue, which does hinder the film in spots. While Italian horror isn’t really known for great writing, but more so of the visuals, beautiful women and gory murders, but many Italian horror films were fairly well written in the 70s. It was more the 80s when the scripts were a bit weak, but all the things I mentioned were present to help make up for any shortcomings in the writing. But with Bay of Blood the script is weak and characters lack depth and are inter-changeable. As I stated the story is complicated, but easy enough to follow. What’s interesting is pretty much every character is somehow tied to murder and again the premise was great though the story by Barberi & Sacchetti could have used a little more work and the script by Bava, Ottoni & Zaccariello could have done a little more with the solid story presented. There is also a subplot of four characters looking to party at the bay and this is where the influence on the slasher film really shows, which I’ll get into in a bit.

As director Mario Bava crafts a stylish thriller only brought down by some sluggish pacing. The first half of the film was the strongest with about 6-murders in a 40-minute span, but even than the film had some pacing issues. The 2nd half has about 7 murders in the final 44-minutes, but this is when the pacing is the biggest problem despite the high body count. With all the plot twists in the 2nd half it does make Bay of Blood a bit uneven. However despite the pacing issues, Bava does craft some solid suspense and an eerie tone, which does help make up for the shortcomings. Like I mentioned there is a subplot, which has a few characters looking to party at the bay and you can clearly see the influence in the slasher film and on Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2. His was in my opinion the strongest scenes of the film and Bava does a great job with them. The death scenes are very much in tune what we would see in slasher films with one guy getting a cleaver to the face, which was clearly the influence of the axe to the face in Friday the 13th and one scene has a couple getting impaired while having sex and this almost shot for shot would be used in Friday the 13th Part 2. Even the setting of the film seemed to inspire Friday the 13th. Like I said many consider this Bava’s best film and even if I disagree its quite easy to see why many feel that way. While the pacing of the film can be an issue despite only running 84-minutes it features a high body count with some strong suspense and while a Giallo, Bay of Blood made a much bigger impact on the slasher film.

Overall Bay of Blood is a solid film and again while pacing is an issue it’s made up for with some excellent murder scenes and suspense while the film isn’t confusing it is a little overly complicated. However despite the flaws this film comes highly recommend and the ending of the film is quite hysterical. Some say it was brilliant and others idiotic and I think both have a point. Mario Bava’s influence on film can’t be denied and while films like Psycho helped pave the way for the slasher film, Bay of Blood did as well. Dardano Secchetti whole wrote the story went on to have a great career and wrote or co-wrote a good portion of Lucio Fulci’s more popular titles such as Zombie and City of the Living Dead among many others. He also was a writer on A Blade in the Dark & Demons, which was directed by Mario Bava’s son Lamberto.

Bay of Blood has two blu-ray releases one from Kino, which has the English and Italian versions than there is the UK release from Arrow Video (which is multi-region disc). Based on screenshots the Kino version seems to have the best print, which is for the English version as the Italian cut is rough looking. I have the Arrow release, which features an excellent HD presentation on the English version with the Italian version also looking rough. Based on screenshots edge seems to go to Kino, but the Arrow release is very good with only little grain, but its natural looking and just happens to be a very good print. If even the slightest difference in video is important I guess Kino is the way to go, but if extras are also important than its Arrow all the way. The Arrow release comes with 4 different covers plus a booklet and double sided posters with a slew of features on the disc that features Dardano Sacchetti, Joe Dante and Edgar Wright. I don’t wanna undersell the Arrow HD quality since its terrific and even if based off screenshots Kino might have an edge I really can’t see it making that much of a difference. The colors on the Arrow release might be a little on the dull side and the overall image a little dark, but I prefer this as it adds to the atmosphere whereas other prints colors pop a bit more and the image a bit brighter. Best advice is if its quality on video that matters most look up some screenshots of both to help you decide.

















Trauma (1993) Review

Posted in Trauma with tags , , , , , on July 17, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Some Nightmares Haunt You; Some Can Kill You

Release Date- March 12, 1993

Running Time- 106-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Dario Argento & T.E.D. Klein

Director- Dario Argento

Starring- Christopher Rydell, Asia Argento, Frederic Forrest, James Russo, Brad Dourif, Laura Johnson and Piper Laurie as Adriana Petrescu

Released in 1993 Trauma was Dario Argento’s first full length movie of the 90s and also his first full length film made by an American production company. At the time of Trauma’s release a lot of the great horror filmmakers that got their start in the late 60s and into the 70s were starting to decline and with the lack of younger filmmakers to emerge the horror genre began to hit a bit of a rut. Trauma is a movie by a filmmaker who may not be what he once was, but still hanging on to his old glory. Most Argento fans see Trauma as a middle of the road movie and while I can’t really defend it from being just that, but I personally always enjoyed this movie and I still do and by no means is this one of Argento’s best movies, but I still very much enjoyed Trauma.

When compared to movies like Deep Red or Suspiria I suppose you can find a few things to dislike about Trauma. The movie doesn’t feature the amazing use of colors, the camera shots aren’t anything special and it lacks the eerie feel of Argento’s earlier films, but with that said I personally think Trauma is an excellent movie and even if it doesn’t hit the highs of past Argento movies in my opinion it’s a movie that can still stand proudly with his classic movies. A lot of the themes in Trauma are classic Argento and again this is a film made by a director that is just able to deliver enough to hold onto his old glory, but after Trauma the films of Dario Argento were very hit or miss and this last film by Argento I hold in high regard.

When it comes to Argento’s work the only thing I always mention in my reviews is the writing. In general I think that would probably be his biggest weakness; at times some of his movies can be incoherent or feature plot twists that don’t always make a lot of sense and sometimes the characters can do things that sort of lack logic. And speaking of the characters I personally felt Argento never really had great characters that could carry his movies or at least not for too long. Deep Red & The Bird with the Crystal Plumage are the two movies I felt Argento had very solid characters, but even in those at times certain things the characters do kind of lack sense. Trauma was written by Dario Argento & T.E.D. Klein and this just might be the most coherent script to come from Argento. The movie deals with a killer on the loose decapitating their victims and the killer is dubbed the Head Hunter. Argento & Klein craft a solid script with a nice mystery and this is pretty much standard Giallo.

The one area where I think Trauma has an edge over most of Argento’s work is here he creates two excellent characters in Aura (Asia Argento) and David (Rydell). Aura and David are both interesting characters with plenty of depth and these characters can also carry the movie. Both characters are quite complex in particular Aura who among several problems is dealing with anorexia and this adds a layer of drama mostly unseen in Argento’s past movies. The script by Argento & Klein may not be perfection, but it’s the most character driven movie Argento has ever done and even in other movies where certain characters were able to carry the story they were only able to do it for so long whereas with Trauma the characters here are more than able to carry the script for long stretches and I think Aura and David might be Argento’s best and most deep characters.

As director Dario Argento delivers a solid paced and fun movie; even though Trauma has quite a few elements found in past Argento movies the direction isn’t anything special, but yet something for me really works well here. The use of colors isn’t on display and visually Argento doesn’t really create any wild shots. However none of this hurts Trauma as Argento again delivers a well-paced movie and while Trauma might lack the atmosphere as such movies as Deep Red & Tenebre, he still delivers an entertaining movie. Argento is able to craft some decent suspense and even though again it might lack at times in that area, Argento still keeps the movie entertaining. However the final act is when the pacing does begin to slow down a bit and honestly Trauma could have been wrapped up a bit quicker, but overall don’t expect another Deep Red or Suspiria, but at this stage in his career, Argento crafts a solid film.

As much as I enjoyed Trauma it’s not without its flaws; starting with Deep Red every Dario Argento film was scored by Goblin or Claudio Simonetti formerly of Goblin, but with this film the studio felt a more American sounding score was needed and Pino Donaggio was brought in and he’s done some great scores such as Carrie, but there are films where his score can be quite poor and Trauma was one of those films. The score at least for me at times does kill the suspense and tension at times. When he’s on Donaggio is an excellent composer, but when he’s off it can be bad and sadly this was an off film. I think Trauma would have greatly benefited is Simonetti was the composer and would have helped elevate the film. Also the movie does lack the needed gore and seeing as the F/X were done by Tom Savini one can’t help, but be a little disappointed. I enjoy gore in flicks, but it’s not a must and even though Argento’s flicks can at times be really graphic I never really thought of him as a gore director, but this movie is a little too light on gore seeing as Savini did the F/X and the fact the movie deals with decapitations one would expect a little more in the gore area, but the F/X are solid, but wouldn’t make a Savini highlight reel.

I think Argento fans should give Trauma another try and while it’s hard not to compare this to his earlier work, but if you take Trauma for what it’s worth you might be surprised; the characters are among Argento’s best and this is his most character driven movie. Trauma is a movie by a filmmaker that may not be what he once was, but still has enough left in the tank and is far better than given credit for.












New York Ripper (1982) Review

Posted in New York Ripper with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2012 by Last Road Reviews



**** Out of 5

Tagline- It’s a Nice to Visit, but You Wouldn’t Want to Die There

Release Date- March 4th, 1982 (Italy)

Running Time- 93-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino, Lucio Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti

Director- Lucio Fulci

Starring- Jack Hedley, Almanta Keller, Paolo Malco, Zora Kerova & Andrea Occhipinti (under the name Andrew Painter)

Released in 1982 The New York Ripper in my opinion was the last great film made by Lucio Fulci and after this there was a decline in his work and really the only movie I really liked after this was Cat in the Brain and I found Murder Rock to be an average at best movie, but as a whole I really didn’t care for the majority of his work after Ripper, but depending on who you ask some feel the decline started with the New York Ripper I would very much disagree and rate this movie as my 3rd favorite movie by Fulci. Even though I did enjoy his films in the 80s prior to this a lot of these movies like City of the Living Dead & the Beyond were a bit incoherent and often really didn’t make a lot of sense, but New York Ripper has a story and also has more depth in the plot than some people might realize.

The New York Ripper is probably the most controversial movie Lucio Fulci made and perhaps his most brutal as well. The gore in Ripper isn’t as over the top as his splatter flicks, but the movie is quite gory and its funny when people say it lacked gore, which in some ways is sort of true if you compare it to the Beyond, but Ripper is quite gory, but it’s not over the top and this movie is also probably his most sadistic as well as many of the death scenes have a mean spirited approach. Like I said the gore isn’t like some of his splatter flicks, but it’s still quite graphic as we get one girl get stabbed in the crotch with a glass bottle and even features one character get sliced up by a razor, which for me was actually cringe worthy as it’s so graphic and mean and I almost had to turn away from the screen.

Not only is the New York Ripper, Fulci’s most graphic in terms of the tone of the movie, but it’s also quite sleazy at times and more often than not horror films are accused of being misogynistic and I highly disagree with that, but it might be hard to argue against that with The New York Ripper. The violence against the female characters is so raw and brutal it’s very hard to defend the movie as not being misogynistic. Regardless of that there really is a great movie here that often gets overlooked due to the violence, sleaze and for being misogynistic, but if people can see past that I think more might realize what an excellent film the New York Ripper was and it sort of reminds me of the great Gialli that Fulci made in the 70s only with a lot more graphic violence.

The screenplay was written by Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino, Lucio Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti and features a psychotic killer on the loose stalking the streets of NYC killing off women while a detective and doctor franticly search for the killer. The script has a lot of good ideas and all are mostly well executed. In many ways this is the typical Italian horror screenplay of the 80s, but quite honestly I find it better written than most from the era. While the characters might lack some depth for the most part they are still in general well-written for. The killer talking in a duck voice while yes, a little silly, but does make sense in regards to the story and I’ll admit upon my first viewing it was a little difficult to look past, but now it doesn’t bother me at all and again makes sense when it comes to the story. While the screenplay at times puts a little too much focus on the sleaze, which isn’t a problem for me, but it does slightly hinder the story at times, but as a whole this was a mostly well written movie with a lot more depth than people give it credit for.

As director Lucio Fulci delivers in my opinion the last great movie of his career and one of his best in general. Fulci manages to capture the ugly and sleazy side of 1980s NYC better than most filmmakers and as far as horror goes I would say the only filmmaker to capture that better was William Lustig with Maniac. What I love most about the NY Ripper is the ugly and dark feel the movie has and you never really feel safe since the movie has a real a raw and gritty feel to it. The death scenes just might be the best Fulci ever shot. As I stated before its not his goriest, but it is his most sadistic, which makes even more graphic. Unlike his splatter flicks the gore level while high isn’t over the top. The deaths in the movie very much have this mean spirited nature behind them, which is what makes the violence so much more shocking even if we’ve seen far more graphic deaths in terms of gore in other Fulci movies, but the fact the gore isn’t as over the top for me makes the deaths so much more powerful.

The pacing of the New York Ripper is excellent due to the gritty feel the movie has and like I said before you always have this ugly feel to the movie where you never feel safe and even when there isn’t any action the movie still has an uneasy feel going for it and as I stated the death scenes are Fulci’s most disturbing. As much as I enjoyed Fulci’s splatter flicks, the New York Ripper for me was a return to form in a sense. Despite the graphic violence Ripper reminds me of such movies as Don’t Torture a Duckling to where it doesn’t rely on violence and also Zombi 2, which despite the great gore F/X has a lot more going for it and that’s exactly how I feel on the New York Ripper; despite the violence the movie has a lot more going for it and it also has a very downbeat and sad ending, which for me added a lot more power and depth to the movie.

Overall The New York Ripper is a movie that sparks great debates as some see this nothing more than vile trash with a deep hatred towards women whereas others see this as a really dark and gritty movie and of course some see this as the end of the great Lucio Fulci whereas I feel it ended after this movie. Like I said in the opening of the review after Ripper I can’t say I really cared for the majority of Fulci’s movies with the exception of Cat in the Brain and Murder Rock (well sort of).

Daniela Doria who played Kitty has one of the most brutal deaths ever captured on film and while it was violent it was more due to the mean spirited feel that made it so graphic. Daniela Doria is one of Fulci’s favorite victims as she also appeared and was killed in House by the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead and Murder Rock.

























Blade in the Dark (1983) Review

Posted in Blade in the Dark with tags , , , on July 9, 2012 by Last Road Reviews



**** Out of 5

Release Date- May 11th, 1983 (Italy)

Running Time- 108-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Elisa Briganti & Dardano Sacchetti

Director- Lamberto Bava

Starring- Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, Fabiola Toledo, Michele Soavi, Valeria Cavalli, Stanko Molnar, Lara Naszinsky

Despite having a pretty successful career it’s not easy being Lamberto Bava seeing as his father is the legendary Mario Bava one of the most influential filmmakers to come out of Italy. Despite his success, Lamberto will always compared to his father and for me Lamberto Bava has always been hit or miss and A Blade in the Dark in my opinion is not only his best film, but also one of the very best Giallos of the 80s; A Blade in the Dark is one of those movies that there is this potential for greatness and while it doesn’t fully reach that level, but again for me it’s one of the best Giallos of the 80s.

The screenplay was written by Elisa Briganti & Dardano Sacchetti and both writers should be fairly well-known to fans of Italian horror with Sacchetti being one of the more prolific writers in Italian horror in the 80s. Of all their scripts I think this might just be one of their best and the only script in my opinion they did a better job with was Lucio Fulci’s Zombie. While at times some of the dialogue can be a little silly it’s a well written mystery that is quite interesting and while it may not break any new ground in the Giallo is works well with some fairly interesting characters and an interesting twist at the end.

Director Lamberto Bava takes a few cues from his father and Dario Argento and delivers a mostly solid movie with some solid suspense and some good tension and handles the mystery aspect very well. The pacing is a bit sluggish in some areas, while I can’t say I was ever really bored the pacing can be quite slow at times. Some scenes did drag in spots and had the editing been a little tighter the pacing would have been a lot better. But there is a good sense of dread through the movie and the kill scenes are well-done with the 2nd murder being quite brutal.

A Blade in the Dark doesn’t feature a lot of death scenes as more is put on the mystery and I really liked the fact the movie focuses more on suspense rather than death scenes and while the 2nd death scene is rather brutal the gore level isn’t as high as one would expect for an Itlain horror film from the 80s. A lot of Giallos in the 80s were quite graphic and that was done probably to keep up with the American slasher films, but I really liked how the movie again doesn’t just focus on gore and Bava really does an excellent job with the death scenes.

Overall A Blade in the Dark is one of the better Giallos of the 80s and the movie features some strong writing and directing and really the only flaw is some scenes do slightly drag and at 109-minutes the movie might have been better off losing a few minutes, but despite that A Blade in the Dark is my favorite Lamberto Bava movies and again one of the better Giallos of the 80s.
























Torso (1973) Review by Dave Kaye

Posted in Torso with tags , , , , , on May 6, 2012 by Last Road Reviews


**** Out of 5

Tagline- Enter If You Dare the Bizarre World of the Psychosexual Mind

Release Date- January 4th, 1973

Running Time- 90-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Ernesto Gastaldi & Sergio Martino

Director- Sergio Martino

Starring- Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Roberto Bisacco, Angela Covello, Carla Brait, Conchita Airoldi and Luc Merenda

Released in 1973 Torso directed by Sergio Martino is prime example of how truly great 70s Italian cinema was; it was back in 2006 is when I first discovered the films of Sergio Martino and while he has a large cult following I’m also surprised at how little even the most hardcore fans seem to know of his work at times. After seeing The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail I was on a mission to seek out more of his work and the films Martino made in the 70s were as good as any other Italian filmmaker and while he may not be as well known as Argento, Mario Bava and Fulci I would rate him just as highly as those filmmakers. In the 80s Martino would sadly become a knockoff director making films that while fun in no way showcased the talent he showed in the 70s and Torso is considered by many of his fans to be his best work and I’m not quite sure if Torso would be my favorite, but it would easily make my top 3 films by Sergio Martino and one of my favorite Giallos.

Torso is a really great example of 70s European cinema; it’s got violence some sleaze, but underneath all that Torso is amazingly suspenseful with the final act of the movie being on the most tense films I’ve ever seen. The 70s were my favorite time for cinema and Torso features a lot of why I think the 70s were the best era for filmmaking; as I stated before Martino may not have the popularity of filmmakers like Dario Argento, but quite honestly I think his work is just as good.

The screenplay by Ernesto Gastaldi & Sergio Martino is actually fairly strong and while the characters may not have the most depth they are however strong enough to carry the movie in-between the death scenes. The plot has a killer on the loose killing coeds around town, but the killer than follows a group of students to a secluded Villa where the bloodshed continues to flow until only Jane (Kendall) is the last one left alive, besides a red and black scarf found at one of the crime scenes the police are totally clueless on the identity of the killer.

As well written as Torso was it does feature a few flaws such as besides the female characters nobody else really serves a purpose other than to be a suspect and then killed off, but with that said Torso does make for a nice mystery on the identity of the killer, but I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t the obvious choices as that would be too easy. The one thing I really loved about the script is Jane isn’t the typical character found in these movies that often always make stupid mistakes; Jane is one of the smartest characters and makes smart choices and while she does make a few mistakes rather than be annoying it makes sense and is logical and my only complaint is that it should have been Jane that stopped the killer after how smart she was on surviving, but while women may have dominated European cinema it was always the men who saved the day in the end and in other movies that is perfectly fine, but Jane for being not just a well-written character, but a smart one as well deserved to be the one who stops the killer. The only complaint I really have is I didn’t really care for the motivation of the killer, but despite that problem I have it in no way takes away from the script or movie.

Like I sometimes state in other reviews horror doesn’t always feature smart writing and Italian horror at least in the 80s despite how entertaining them were I don’t think can be cited for the screenplays, but 70s Italian horror was quite different and didn’t feature some of the silly dialogue found later in the 80s and Torso is very well written and Ernesto Gastaldi who wrote a lot of fantastic screenplays in the 70s (including writing other movies for Martino) is one of the sadly forgotten writers of the horror genre.

As director Sergio Martino delivers an excellent and creepy movie; the first half of the movie is well-paced with a lot of suspense, but the middle sections the pacing can become a little sluggish, but Martino still manages to keep the movie interesting, but what makes Torso so memorable at least for me is the final act. After all of Jane’s friends are killed, which happen off-screen, which some people say they felt cheated, but I thought it worked brilliantly, but Jane is left alone in the house with the killer who at the time is unaware she’s there and the final act features very little dialogue and it’s all about the suspense and tension and you’ll be hard pressed to find something more tense than this.

While Torso has a large cult following it does deserve to be far better known that it is; the first half of the movie there is plenty of suspense and sleaze and even though as mentioned the middle sections can be a little slow it never gets boring and I really cannot stress how truly suspense and tension filled the final act was; I would urge anyone that wants to be a horror filmmaker to pay close attention to the final act as its prime example on how to build suspense and tension. Torso is also often cited for its violence and nudity and while there is no shortage of beautiful women naked it’s not nearly as sleazy as its reputation and while Torso does feature a good sized body count the movie doesn’t focus on the death scenes, which is a good thing since the F/X weren’t very good in fairness make up F/X were still developing, but even for its time they were a bit sub-par. Regardless the death scenes are staged great and even if they F/X weren’t all that great the set up on the death scenes are filled with suspense.

Overall Torso is one of the very best Giallos of the 70s and one of the very best in general. The writing is strong with interesting characters and the film is loaded with suspense with one of the all-time great final acts. While Sergio Martino may not be the most known name in the horror genre he is truly an excellent filmmaker that deserves far more credit than he gets.






















The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972) Review by Dave Kaye

Posted in Case of the Bloody Iris, The with tags , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by Last Road Reviews


*** ½ Out of 5

Release Date- August 4th, 1972 (Italy)

Running Time- 94-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Ernesto Gastaldi

Director- Giuliano Carnimeo (As Anthony Ascott)

Starring- George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Annabella Incontrera, Paola Quattrini, Giampiero Albertini, Franco Agostini, Oreste Lionello

Most cite the 60s as when the first Giallo film was made and in the 70s these films reached their peak with the emergence of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and the continued success of Mario Bava who stared the Giallo; The Case of the Bloody Iris is pretty much the typical Giallo of its time and the formula for these movies are quite simple and in many ways these films can sort of be seen as the Italian slasher film as there is a thin line between them. As great as Italian cinema was in the 80s and despite how many great Giallo’s were released in the 80s nothing can top the 70s and Case of the Bloody Iris is an excellent if now flawed Giallo.

The screenplay was written by Ernesto Gastaldi who is no stranger to the Giallo; he wrote many of the more popular ones in the 70s most notable writing for Sergio Martino with such movies as Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and Torso. The script is well written with some touches of comedy and while the comedy can be a little silly it isn’t over the top and does work rather well and offers something a little different than the norm; the investigation scenes while well written can at times be the only flaw in the script as it’s just not as interesting as many other movies like this. The actual mystery however is fairly strong and did have me guessing and while the identity of the killer may not be shocking I will admit I was caught off guard. The movie is driven more by the characters rather than action and while the characters may not have the most depth, Gastaldi does however create some fairly interesting characters that are able to keep things interesting when there are lulls in the action.

Director Giuliano Carnimeo going under the name Anthony Ascott does a solid job at keeping the pace moving along and there’s no shortage of suspects and nudity. The murder scenes are done well with some pretty good suspense and tension and while the investigation scenes can at times slow down the pace, Giuliano Carnimeo still is able to keep the movie above float. I can’t say I was ever bored with the movie, but at times the middle sections of the movie I did zone out just a little bit, but overall the movie is mostly always interesting and the scenes with the killer are well-done with some excellent moments of suspense, but this movie is more about the characters than the deaths and Carnimeo handles it well with only a few moments where things can lag.

The cast is solid led by the amazingly stunning Edwige Fenech as Jennifer. I haven’t seen a lot of her work, but what I’ve seen I have liked. You’ll be hard pressed to find a woman more beautiful than Edwige who I think might be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and for me she was never more stunning than she was Case of the Bloody Iris. If you are a fan of Edwige this is essential viewing. George Hilton also stars as Andrea Barto and like Fenech I haven’t seen a whole lot of his work, but what I’ve seen I have liked. The two previously worked together in The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, which was produced by Luciano Martino who also produced The Case of the Bloody Iris.

Overall the Case of the Bloody Iris is an excellent Giallo that sadly is mostly forgotten and while it may not be one of the best this style of film has to offer it’s still an excellent movie with no shortage of nudity and suspense and like I said earlier does make for an excellent mystery and despite some slight pacing problems in the middle of the movie Case of the Bloody Iris deserves more attention than it gets.













The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) Review by Dave Kaye

Posted in Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The with tags , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave Kaye



**** Out of 5

Tagline- If You Think You Are Being Followed Home from This Movie, Keep Telling Yourself That It’s All in Your Mind

Release Date- February 19th, 1970

Running Time- 96-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Dario Argento

Starring- Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho

While The Bird with the Crystal Plumage may not be the best known Dario Argento movie it is legendary seeing as this was his directorial debut; prior to Plumage, Argento was a film critic and then began writing screenplays including a story credit on Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. With Plumage, Argento makes one of the best directorial debuts and watching the movie it comes across as a movie by a seasoned pro rather than a first time director. If you look at Craven’s debut with Last House on the Left and Romero with Night of the Living Dead these two are great films and a little rough around the edges, which only make the movies better, but you can tell they were early in their careers, but with Plumage if someone told me this was Argento’s 5th movie or so I’d believe it.

Mario Bava is the man credited with staring the Giallo and as great as Bava was it was Dario Argento who mastered the Giallo and he’s never been and never will be matched. I’m not sure where I’d rate The Bird with the Crystal Plumage in Argento’s career, but it is one of his strongest films in my opinion. Everything that made Argento such a force in the horror genre is on display here and again I’m not sure where I’d rate this, but a case can be made for this being Argento’s best film.

I think even the most loyal of Argento fans could agree his one weakness are the screenplays, which is odd since he got started as a writer, but in general his scripts can sometimes be weak with a plot that isn’t fully developed. I don’t think Dario Argento is a terrible writer by any means, but it’s his directing that made him such a legend in the horror genre and not the writing; Argento is such a brilliant director he was more than able to make up for any flaws with the scripts.

Sam Dalmas (Musante) is an American writer staying in Rome and on his way home he sees a woman Monica (Renzi) being attacked in an Art Gallery and as he tries to help he gets stuck between a double set of glass doors the woman survives and Sam ends up getting involved in the investigation and as he starts thinking back to the attack he feels something doesn’t add up and he soon becomes a target for the killer. This was a common theme in a few of Argento’s movies including Deep Red and Trauma, which you see something, but if it may not be so cut and dry. For the most part Plumage is well-written and cleverly plotted with some nice plot twists, but it is slightly brought down by scenes that aren’t explained in enough detail, which makes them sort of pointless. When Sam is attacked by an assassin no explanation is ever given though I suppose the audience can put two and two together, but that isn’t the point; also there is a scene in which Sam gets attacked while walking home and afterwards he plays it off like it wasn’t a big deal. These flaws with the script aren’t major, but they do slightly hurt the movie just a little bit.

The characters are fairly interesting and as a whole probably some of Argento’s better characters. Sam in my opinion is one Argento’s most interesting and likable characters. Overall Plumage is one of Argento’s better screenplays, but as I mentioned before certain elements aren’t explained enough, which can make them a bit confusing and later pointless; the script does focus more on the investigation rather than action and Argento does a fine job at keeping it interesting. Argento had some interesting characters, but I felt he never really had Iconic characters and while Sam and Julia (Kendall) may not be the best developed both characters work well enough for the viewer to become invested in them.

As director Argento does an excellent job at creating suspense and an eerie tone as well as even creating some light moments with a nice touch of comedy that never feel out of place or hurt the pacing of the movie. There are a few scenes that never really go anywhere, which has more to do with the writing and editing rather than the direction, but at least these scenes provide some light moments, but if removed such as the scene with Sam and the inmate and later on the painter I think Plumage would have moved at a much tighter pace; Argento makes these work, but they do slightly hinder the film, but besides these minor complaints the direction by Argento is top notch and like I said seems more like a film by a seasoned pro rather than first time filmmaker; there are only a couple of death scenes in Plumage and the only disappointing thing about that is the scenes with the killer are very suspense and tension filled and some of the best sequences Argento has ever filmed; the highlight comes around the 30-minute mark with one of the most memorable scenes in the movie or any Argento movie for that matter.

Dario Argento would be dubbed the Italian Hitchcock and there is good reason for that; everything that has made Argento such a brilliant filmmaker is on display in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and while as his career went on he would master these things, but Plumage shows why Argento was called The Italian Hitchcock and shows why this filmmaker has gone down as a legend in not only Italian cinema, but cinema around the world.

Overall The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was an excellent debut for Dario Argento with a strong plot and plenty of twist and turns and while this may not be Argento’s finest outing it can however be a contender.