Archive for Italian

Beyond the Darkness (1979) Review

Posted in Beyond the Darkness with tags , , , , , , on July 31, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

By Dave Kaye

(This movie goes under several different titles and I have posters or lobby cards under some of the alternate titles).

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BUIO OMEGA AKA BEYOND THE DARKNESS

**** Out of 5

Tagline- A Fate Worse than Death

Release Date- November 15th, 1979

Running Time- 93-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Ottavio Fabbri

Director- Joe D’Amato

Starring- Kieran Canter, Franca Stoppi, Cinzia Monreale, Sam Modesto, Anna Cardini, Lucia D’Elia

Released in 1979 Beyond the Darkness has built a large cult following and is often dubbed one of the most gruesome exploitation flicks of the 70s and I would have to agree with that comment. I’m not an expert when it comes to the films of Joe D’Amato and has much as I know of him I’ve only seen a handful of his work. Of all his films I’d have to rate Beyond the Darkness as by far his best work. This movie truly is from another era as we don’t see movies like this and even in its era it still stands out as more is actually implied than shown when it comes to certain subjects.

Beyond the Darkness is driven more by the characters and the story than it is action and while both characters and story might be lacking a bit this isn’t the type of movie with constant action and while the movie is very gory it’s only a few scenes that feature any gore. If you’re expecting a constant gore-fest one might be disappointed, but there are still some cringe worthy gore scenes, but I love the way the movie turned out and for me this is one of the best exploitation flicks out of Italy or America for that matter as well.

After the death of his girlfriend Anna (Monreale), Frank (Canter) a rich orphan is driven mad and steals her body and takes it back to his mansion and keeps it perfectly preserved; Frank also begins killing young women he comes across and his housekeeper Iris (Stoppi) helps him dispose of the bodies.

The screenplay by Ottavio Fabbri focuses more on the characters, which was a nice idea and while this works it also hinders the movie in certain areas. When we first meet Frank he seems a bit weird, but was he always so crazy? When someone you love dies the first idea isn’t to steal their body and murder people, but we never really get much of an idea on what Frank was like prior to Anna’s death. Regardless for an Italian exploitation flick, Fabbri actually delivers a fairly well written script with a few shortcomings. The characters are odd, which helps keep them interesting and while necrophilia is the main basis for the story we actually never see any such actions.

Director Joe D’Amato delivers an excellent and eerie flick; D’Amato makes perfect use of his locations and delivers a movie loaded with atmosphere. Rather than focus on gore scenes, D’Amato lets the story unravel, but when it comes to the gore, D’Amato really delivers a sick and gruesome movie and some scenes may even have the most hardened gore fans a little squeamish. The pacing of the can be a little slow in some spots, but due to the eerie feel and the total weirdness of the movie, D’Amato almost always keeps things interesting.

I’m not really an expert on Joe D’Amato’s career and while I know a lot about him I’ve only seen a handful of his directorial efforts and while they had their moments I was never really impressed with him as a filmmaker, but Beyond the Darkness shows D’Amato was a filmmaker with talent as he makes one of the best Italian horror flicks of the 70s. Besides directing D’Amato was also the cinematographer and he’s credited under his real name Aristide Massaccesi, D’Amato was also the cinematographer on the cult classic What Have You Done to Solange also using his real name and I think he’s a much better DP and really knows how to get the most out of each scene and I think that also is what elevates this movie perhaps more than his direction.

It’s quite difficult to rate the acting seeing the movie dubbed in English, but based on movements and all the other things that go into acting besides dialogue Kieran Canter does well in the lead, but it’s Franca Stoppi as Iris that steals the show; Stoppi delivers one of the most strangest performances I’ve ever seen and she’s really creepy; Franca Stoppi is truly memorable in the role of Iris.

One of the things Beyond the Darkness is best known for was the score by Goblin; most fans of Euro horror no doubt are big fans of Goblin from their great work in the genre and best known for their work with Dario Argento. Beyond the Darkness just might be their best work or at least the main theme. Goblin has had many different line ups and this one is without Claudio Simonetti, but even without Simonetti, Goblin is still solid and with their score for Beyond the Darkness they add a whole new dimension to the movie.

Overall Beyond the Darkness is an excellent movie and while it has a few shortcomings it has more than enough going for it to make up for it. This is classic exploitation cinema.

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Torso (1973) Review by Dave Kaye

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

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TORSO

**** 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.

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Demons 2 (1986) Review by Dave Kaye

Posted in Demons 2 with tags , , , , , on March 27, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave Kaye

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DEMONS 2

** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Nightmare Returns

Release Date- October 9th, 1986

Running Time- 91-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini, Dardano Sacchetti

Director- Lamberto Bava

Starring- David Knight, Nancy Brilli, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Bobby Rhodes

Released in 1986 Demons 2 like the original has built up a large cult following and while I found the first Demons to be flawed it was also a lot of fun as well and in general I’ve never really been a big fan of Lamberto Bava with the exception of the first Demons movie and A Blade in the Dark. Demons 2, was for me the typical Bava movie where I didn’t really dislike it, but I can’t say I really enjoyed it either. Upon my first viewing of Demons 2 I actually liked it more than the original, but going back and revisiting the movie I’m not quite sure why I ever felt that way as quite honestly I was mostly bored while watching it. In general Demons 2 is a sequel by name only as it doesn’t really have much of a connection to the first film and while the events of the original are brought up there really isn’t a connection between the two films and plot wise Demons 2 is the same exact movie only this time set in an apartment building rather than movie theater.

The screenplay was written by Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sacchetti and I’m not really sure why it took four people to write this. The characters are mostly boring and lack any depth at all and a good majority of them are inter-changeable and while the original film didn’t have the best developed characters some at least had their own identities and some of the characters in Demons 2 are sort of copies of those in the original. The writing is quite weak and boring with a rehash plot and boring and lifeless characters that you really don’t care in general if they live or die and I suppose some could say the same about the characters in the original, but I actually liked some of them whereas here the faster they die the better since the movie would be over. A lot of the characters are also quite dumb as they try to break the glass in the building using weights, but when that doesn’t work one decides to try and use a flower pot. If the weights didn’t work I think it would be a safe bet to say that a fucking flower pot won’t work either and while it is sort of funny it’s also a bit annoying as well.

Director Lamberto Bava delivers a mostly sluggish movie with boring pacing and the death scenes lack the gore of the original. It takes a good 25-minutes before anything really exciting happens and when the action does kick in the movie does get better, but its pacing is still sluggish and the action sequences lack any excitement as we’ve seen this done and done far better. Lamberto Bava does manage a few entertaining scenes, but for the most part I just found them lacking for the most part and for a good portion of the running time I was mostly bored.

While I can understand the cult following Demons 2 has gotten over the years and like I said originally I actually really liked the movie, but it just doesn’t hold up for me and I was mostly bored throughout most of the movie. The only thing of note is Demons 2 marks the acting debut of a very young Asia Argento.

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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

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THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE

**** 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.

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