Cruising (1980) - Director: William Friedkin - 7/10 -> 8/10 - A re-watch.
Clash of the Titans (1981) - Director: Desmond Davis - 6/10 - There is no denying the fact that most of the appeal the movie has comes from its overall aesthetics and special effects rather than some scripting ingenuity or any outstanding direction. The whole composition is permeated by the old-fashioned approach towards storytelling, which is reinforced by classic acting theatrics endowing the venture with a rather dated feel. While some people may regard this characteristic as somewhat vexing or tedious, I kind of find it charming in the sense that it is highly reminiscent of old-school cinema in its fable-like naivete. There is no remarkable depth or sophistication to be found here and all we basically get is the presentation of the old myth in a firmly classical fashion. While I do confess that I had to fast-forward a couple of longish action sequences and that some of the content felt rather overlong and repetitive, I believe it was still a thoroughly enjoyable and evocative piece of fantasy filmmaking with some imagery you’re unlikely to see anywhere else. It’s well worth tracking down for the medusa scene alone.
Dog Tags (1987) - Director: Romano Scavolini - 6/10 - The primary issue of the work dwells in the fact that the script is simply too perfunctory, doesn’t have sufficiently defined characters and remains at a loss for a proper character development throughout its running time. Thankfully, what it lacks in the writing domain is largely compensated by its grungy aesthetics as well as its suitably gruesome atmosphere. Genuinely gloomy and dark Nam outings are relatively few and far between and even though this movie is admittedly deficient in quite a few respects, what it does get right is the overall sinister Nam vibe you get from such pre-eminent motion pictures as Apocalypse Now among others. It’s true it initially feels somewhat overcooked and forced with bouts of combat-induced lunacy exhibited in the typically exploitative fashion, however, once several characters are killed off, the storyline sort of stabilizes and gradually evolves into a tastefully grim Nam yarn. There is no disguising the fact it easily could’ve been much better with a few tweaks and some more scripting diligence, notwithstanding, the venture still constitutes a fairly engrossing Nam affair as long as you’re willing to overlook that general screenwriting superficiality.
The Guardian (1990) - Director: William Friedkin - 5/10 - While the movie is hardly one of Friedkin’s best efforts, I have to say I kind of enjoyed this one in the end. Sure, it’s very uneven, intermittently quite goofy and its disjointed nature manifests itself in its incoherent symbology as well as remarkably erratic tone; however, what ultimately redeems the tout ensemble is the fact that it never grows boring and remains incessantly enjoyable regardless of the incongruous tone. With all that being said, there is no denying the plot kind of fizzles out at some point and main characters start to do things that do not make much sense, conveniently behaving in such a way as to propel the plot forward, any realism or screenwriting common sense be damned. This chaos is not exactly remedied by the topsy-turvy narrative and the incongruency in the symbolic realm, which clearly attests to several creative concepts battling each other at the center of the tale in lieu of reinforcing one another. Apparently, the original writer intended to pen some kind of modern take on the motive of Lilith, which would subsequently come to clash with Friedkin’s rewritings and outlandish forays into druid mythology. Certain scenes towards the end do evoke an indubitable sense of awe and terror, but then again, others prove to be just plain stupid and goofy. All in all, some ideas work, some don’t, but thankfully, all of it remains diverting enough in spite of its inner incongruousness and frequent ludicrousness.
Dr. No (1962) - Director: Terence Young - 6/10 -> 8/10 - A re-watch.
Das Netz (2003) (Doc) - Director: Lutz Dammbeck - 7/10.
Terza ipotesi su un caso di perfetta strategia criminale (1972) - Director: Giuseppe Vari - 5/10 - Even though Vari happens to be one of those directors who are able turn a heap of turd into a chunk of gold, he doesn’t have much to work with here as far as the budget and the story are concerned, as a matter of fact, more so than in other projects of his that I’ve viewed. Truth be told, the basic premise ain’t bad at all, nevertheless, the director cannot entirely surmount the underlying cheapness the whole venture is fraught with. With that being said, Vari succeeds in adding enough substance to the equation, making the most of the limited resources and ultimately coming up with something sufficiently diverting. All in all, the motion picture never drags and ultimately turns out to be kind of fun to watch despite the aforementioned low-budget scrunginess. The fact of the matter is that it’s simple, but effective; although the general shabbiness and the television-film-like appearance tend to detract from the final result to some extent, the venture still proves to be as solid and balanced as you would expect from a Vari entry and I didn’t find any of it to be protracted or otherwise tedious. Nothing to lose your sleep over, but quite decent for the most part.
Ombre (1980) - Director: Giorgio Cavedon - 6/10 - One of the most eccentric as well as delirious pseudo-gialli I’ve ever come across. As a matter of fact, the storytelling and the plotline turn out to be so nebulous and opaque at times they make it quite hard to categorize the whole entry without accepting one of several possible interpretations of the story beforehand. The motion picture appears to amalgamate elements of horror as well as psychological thriller genres and seemingly attempts to convey the true meaning of its tale via its fairly enigmatic symbology. On the surface, it does seem like a relatively straightforward drama recounted in a non-linear fashion through a series of flashbacks, however, the film gradually comes to acquire a rather ghostly and quasi-supernatural zest in that some of its imagery ultimately proves so cryptic as to defy any prosaic explication in the end. Despite a lack of any palpable scripting goal, the crux of the drama itself is quite well delineated and feels rather poignant, barring Lou Castel’s droll as well as goofy disco dance perhaps. Notwithstanding, what makes the whole schmear so absorbing to watch is its stylish approach towards the narrative as well as its prevalent eccentricity, which renders the entire storyline unpredictable at times and infuses the yarn with a distinctly frenetic ambiance. Filter sweeps, burbles as well as squelches in the soundtrack further contribute to the eerie atmosphere. Overall, definitely recommended to fans of weird cinema. BTW, the IMDb synopsis is complete bollocks.
La gatta in calore (1972) - Director: Nello Rossati - 4/10 - One of those films whose soundtracks precede the movies themselves. Although the giallo entry does have a great premise as well as a well constructed introductory phase of the script, the whole enchilada begins to fall apart along the line pretty quickly. The issue with the tout ensemble dwells in the fact that Rossati is not a strong enough writer to realize story’s full potential. The middle section of the plotline grows rather amorphous and flaccid in view of the uninspired screenwriting, choppy plot development and muzzy culminations. Albeit with some genuine attempts at a sociopolitical commentary pertaining to the existential malaise of the middle class, the motion picture ultimately turns out to be at a loss for novelty and sophistication, which results in a number of redundant scenes, certain superfluous detours and a plethora of questionably manipulative writing choices. Furthermore, despite some tasty tracking shots at the beginning, the effort is not remedied much by Rossati’s confused sense of direction. Some scenes, which are intended to be minatory, ominous and all that, simply prove corny, cheesy or just plain stupid. Even though the resolution pretty much reaffirms film’s banality and feels rather contrived, at least it attempts to introduce an element of character development into the equation, however futile and helpless that may appear in the end. It’s an okay viewing for a snowy winter evening when there is presumably nothing else to do, but there are plenty of other more prepossessing gialli to check out first.
Le foto proibite di una signora per bene (1970) - Director: Luciano Ercoli - 6/10 - No matter how enjoyably twisted the story may appear at first glance, it ultimately fails to live up to its full potential by virtue of film’s rather limited character development as well as erratic pacing. With that being said, what redeems the whole schmear in the end is Ercoli’s acute sense of visuals and aesthetics, which make this particular outing a genuine pleasure to watch; virtually every frame is infused with deep, dark colors, which is something that additionally contributes to the psychologically anguished atmosphere and readily attests to Ercoli’s visual sensibilities. Despite having a great cast, the excellent cinematography, the pleasing Morricone soundtrack and the relatively interesting plotline, something is missing to turn it into one of the biggest gialli classics. If it’d had a stronger pacing, a less confused sense of focus as well as a more detailed characterization, this would’ve been much better and a lot more memorable. Nonetheless, this is still a fairly engaging and well executed giallo that’s well worth checking out despite being more of a well-filmed psychological drama rather than a clear-cut whodunit mystery.
La morte cammina con i tacchi alti (1971) - Director: Luciano Ercoli - 4/10 - If Ercoli had spent less time on worshipping Nieves Navarro’s ass and paid more attention to the actual story, this might’ve turned out a lot better. Sadly, it’s one of those murder mysteries that juggle with dozens of suspects, span several countries and liberally switch between characters and different narrative strands as they see fit. There is virtually no central, integral storyline to latch on to nor are there any veritably chief characters to follow; we basically get a completely flaccid, out-of-focus mishmash of disparate ideas and motives meshed together in a futile attempt at offering as many turnabouts as conceivably possible within one whodunit plotline. What is worse, the moments providing comic relief seem forced, the gore appears gratuitous and kinda comes out of nowhere, whereas the whodunit component of the tale is rendered pretty much pointless by virtue of a paucity of likeable characters you could root for and identify with. Consequently, all the aforementioned faults debilitate the motion picture and result in a total structural decomposition. Even though it’s a moderately entertaining mess of a movie, this is still a mess nonetheless.
La morte accarezza a mezzanotte (1972) - Director: Luciano Ercoli - 7/10 - Albeit admittedly far-fetched at times, the film greatly benefits from its steadier pacing, stronger characters and proper development of the storyline deprived of the outrageous structural excesses of its predecessor. The quasi-delirious and somewhat nonsensical plotline makes this entry kind of unpredictable and thus, exceedingly entertaining in the process. Furthermore, the visual tastefulness exhibited in the previous two Ercoli gialli is still very much present here and the cinematography here likewise constitutes a veritable asset and makes the tout ensemble all the more enjoyable. Truth be told, the motion picture grows a bit too rushed towards the end, however, the over-the-top finale, strong enough writing and convincing performances all around keep the entire vessel afloat and manage to sustain the narrative momentum up until the very end. Undoubtedly the most engaging and compelling of the three Ercoli gialli, definitely not to be missed.
Tutti i colori del buio (1972) - Director: Sergio Martino - 6/10 - The biggest issue with the work lies in the fact that it vacillates between glum and goofiness on too many occasions, which is regrettably not dispelled by the sporadically out-of-place soundtrack reminiscent more of a blaxploitation flick rather than a horror movie. Most of the action found in the first half of the tale feels sort of clumsy, cheesy and corny, notwithstanding, it gets much, much better in the latter portion of the story, which exhibits more narrative focus, more storytelling restraint, signs of genuine directing inspiration as well as tokens of visual imaginativeness. It is such a shame the former section of the motion picture fails to hold a candle to the great second part and eventually comes to detract from the end product as much as it does. If it hadn’t been for the aforesaid unevenness, this could’ve been much better and become a minor classic for me. Still, I imagine plenty of people enamoured with the genre should find a lot to enjoy here and come to appreciate the movie a lot more than I did.
Haiti Untitled (1995) (Doc) - Director: Jørgen Leth - 4/10.
Red Nights (1988) - Director: Izhak Hanooka - 4/10 - The most commendable thing about the whole affair is the fact that it at least tries in the face of its conspicuous budgetary constraints and isn’t hopeless in the end. Nonetheless, this fact alone cannot entirely expunge film’s occasionally lousy editing, generally poor filmic decoupage, mediocre directing as well as deficient acting of its leading cast with the sole exception of William Smith. The idea of exposing the seedier side of Hollywood is not really that novel, but at least it offers a nice point of departure for a potentially compelling story. What we’re ultimately served is decent enough I suppose, but it doesn’t really stand out from the legion of similarly themed flicks. The movie starts going through the motions in the second half and virtually runs out of steam the moment there is a need for some more dynamic editing and action directing, at which the director fails miserably. The Tangerine Dream furnishes a relatively prepossessing soundtrack with some nice digital harshness and PPG clangor to it, but it doesn’t really stand out from their other compositions either. Suffice to say, other than the TD score as well as some sporadic moments of poignancy, this is strictly mediocre stuff.
La corta notte delle bambole di vetro (1971) - Director: Aldo Lado - 9/10 - Instead of opting for the predictably gory and sleazy presentation in the vein of other gialli entries, the motion picture steers clear of the exploitation territory and chooses to build its story in a much more systematic and gradual fashion. Considering that the work deploys a non-linear structure, completely shies away from crowd-pleasing gore or overflowing action and predominantly focuses on developing its exceedingly original central concept in the face of more commercial deliberations, the opus might constitute one of the most ambitious and uncompromising gialli of all time. Moreover, in the teeth of the typically effusive style of most gialli ventures, the effort rejects coloristically warm overstylization in favor of its distinctively cold, blueish palette, which additionally contributes to the dismaying atmosphere. Last but not least, the psychological confusion of the protagonist is reflected in the increasingly fractured form of the narrative, which eventually culminates in the blood-curdling, nightmarish finale. All in all, this is a stunning giallo and one of the best conceived films of this kind even if it happens to be not the easiest film to watch in view of its deliberate pacing and unusually restrained nature.
Spasms (1983) - Director: William Fruet - 2/10 - There is not much to say about the movie other than the fact that pretty much every element of the production is marred by an ever-present amateurishness. The movie drags like hell not only because of the sparseness of the overall story or by virtue of the exasperatingly deliberate pacing, but also on account of the fact that the plotline is pretty goddamn stupid and makes very little sense the moment you think about it for more than three seconds. The first half an hour is decent enough I suppose, but what comes after that really strains one’s patience with some fuckawful acting, cringe-worthy dialogues, vexingly digressive detours, completely suprefluous subplots and some genuinely unpalatable directing all around. All in all, I found the whole offering so thrilling that I decided to watch the last fifteen minutes on the next day because I valued my sleep more than finishing this meaningless, atrocious piece of trash in one sitting. Not that it helped much in the end, as the resolution proved to be probably one of the most uninspired and anti-climatic endings I’ve ever had the displeasure to witness. Suffice to say, the whole enchilada is about as titillating as being pestered by a large blowfly at 4 AM in the morning.
Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer? (1972) - Director: Giuliano Carnimeo - 6/10 - Trivial as it may sound, the overall rendition here reminds me of the way Carnimeo handled the Sartana series; in other words, the flick is somewhat short on characterization, but is simultaneously endowed with an increased dosage of action as well as tongue-in-cheek humor. One could argue the direction is rather manipulative in an all too familiar way, which is clearly reminiscent of other whodunit mysteries in this regard, however, none of the aforementioned faults bothered me to any significant degree, on the contrary, the manner in which the whole concept is tackled and developed here feels rather brisk, snappy and refreshing despite the whole effort not being too dissimilar from other gialli. While I don’t think it’s one of the strongest entries the genre has to offer, the energetic pace at which the whole schmear progresses as well as the invariably proficient level of directing ensure a steady flow of zestful action and make the motion picture a genuine pleasure to watch. Albeit not one of the most inventive and resplendent movies of this sort, I guess it’s fair to call it a highly accomplished genre offering. No frills and no bullshit, just an enjoyably cheesy piece of well-crafted giallo, what’s not to like.
I paladini - Storia d’armi e d’amori (1983) - Director: Giacomo Battiato - 4/10 - Probably the only fantasy film to feature Tanya Roberts as an Arabic woman (?) and to have a samurai Moor (?) battling against the crusaders or whatever that was all about. While the costumes, the staging of sword fights as well as the general atmosphere are all spot-on and constitute a genuine attraction, there is no disguising the fact that the motion picture severely suffers from its exceedingly poor writing, virtually non-existent structure, atrocious dialogues, sporadically cringe-worthy acting as well as distinctly quasi-phatasmagoric storytelling, which imparts a surreal, frenetic quality to the whole endeavor. It is undeniable certain parts of the flick exude a kind of ghostly feeling and that coupled with the odd, frequently incongruent soundtrack makes this offering a one-of-a-kind trip. With all that being said, it’s too repetitive, intrinsically ludicrous and confused to be anything more than a moderately intriguing curiosity. All in all, most of it basically boils down to progressing from one sword fight to another with some truly weird stuff thrown in between to take the audience aback every once in a while. Just don’t think too much about what you’re actually watching and how some scenes relate to the rest of the general plotline and you might even like it in the end.
I guerrieri dell’anno 2072 (1984) - Director: Lucio Fulci - 4/10 - Not really terrible, not that good either: it’s merely a bunch of cliches purloined from a number of American sci-fi classics and slapped together in the typically exploitative and cheap manner all’italiana. While this results in a somewhat diverting piece of exploitation (I guess), there is no denying the fact that most of the content feels rather threadbare and shoddy; truth be told, all of it would feel completely impersonal and flavorless if it hadn’t been for Fulci’s emblematically blurry visuals. The way the narrative, the characters as well as the overall story are handled seems cheapjack and flabby, not to mention the readily obvious budgetary constraints contributing to the already ugly, amorphous appearance of the whole production. Nevertheless, what ultimately dooms the whole project is its conceptual confusion: various ideas are juggled with, but nothing really comes to the foreground and it’s ultimately hard to determine what the movie is actually trying to say subject-wise. Overall, just look at the explosions and the cheesy, old-school special effects because at the end of the day, there is nothing else to see here.
The Deadly Spawn (1983) - Director: Douglas McKeown - 7/10 - Probably one of the most impressive DIY horror flicks I’ve ever come across. While it is true that the work is predicated on a number of horror bromides and tends to stagnate in the middle, feeling a little protracted and overlong despite being only around eighty minutes long, the motion picture still constitutes one of the more sickening and scary movies of this kind. The special effects prove to be surprisingly gruesome and made my stomach churn on a couple of occasions. There is no denying that many a viewer has seen the same basic storyline recounted in many different configurations, nevertheless, what makes this particular entry so effective are its simplicity, grisly gore scenes, moderately taut storytelling as well as relatively well-delineated main characters. In the case of low-budgeted affairs of this kind, it’s hard to come across stuff that’s genuinely compelling and the fact that this film gets so many things just right despite some sporadic blunders makes it exceedingly entertaining and kind of unique in its own right.
Sulle tracce del condor (1990) - Director: Sergio Martino - 6/10 - Probably not one of the sturdiest thrillers I’ve ever stumbled upon, nonetheless, considering that we’re dealing with a DTV movie, the flick is actually written, narrated and directed in a better fashion than the rest of the bunch. Oddly enough, the film even goes so far as to feature a brief, but welcome prelude to the main story, duly elaborating on the main character and making him less of an anonymous action hero with nothing but a loud mouth and predictably asinine braggadocio. On top of that, its unique Argentinian locations, balanced pacing as well as engaging concept all come to bolster the whole composition even further, making the entire venture a lot more polished than it would seem at a glance. I mean yeah, there is no denying the fact that the narrative grows a little rushed towards the end and that the final twist is undermined by an absence of an appropriate foreshadowing, granted, a lot of those flaws just come with the territory though and all things said and done, it’s hard to do better than this as far as the VHS stuff goes. All in all, surprisingly enough, this one ain’t bad at all.
Future Hunters (1988) - Director: Cirio H. Santiago - 2/10 - I’m not necessarily the one to bash a B-movie for being a B-movie, the issue with the flick at hand is simply that it’s too structurally amorphous and too repetitive to sustain viewer’s attention throughout its duration. The movie basically constitutes one long action sequence whose choreography and locations change every now and then to introduce some variety to the equation. Needless to say, this action pulp doesn’t prove to be nearly as much fun as it desperately endeavors to be and what we’re ultimately left with is an exceptionally inept and tedious action trainwreck with space Nazis, Mongols, martial arts warriors, dwarves and God knows what else. Suffice to say, the piece of crap excessively relies on the B-movie sort of tongue-in-cheek humor and unless you buy into this specific kind of juvenile nostalgia and don’t need anything more than that, you’re likely to be left sorely disappointed. My finger was pressing the fast-forward button pretty much the entire time during the second half. Painfully stupid and excruciatingly boring.
L’isola degli uomini pesce (1979) - Director: Sergio Martino - 6/10 - Having seen Italian fotobustas with these goofy looking “fishmen”, I knew I had to track down a copy of it sooner or later. Truth be told, it ultimately turned out to be a lot less cheesy and trashy than I’d expected it to be. All in all, Jules Verne meets Italian horror meets The Island of Dr. Moreau basically. While the movie sporadically suffers from its out-of-focus narrative, the underdeveloped main hero as well as the eye-rollingly far-fetched resolution, most of the film’s content is handled pretty well in my view and maintains viewer’s attention thoughout. The amphibian creatures look pretty bad, but honestly, the cheesy costumes only add to the corny charm and render the whole affair all the more enjoyable in the end. You’ve gotta love how utterly bonkers the overall tale proves to be; despite failing to live up to its full potential (obviously, duh), the motion picture moves at a steady pace, boasts the moderately solid storytelling and features enough cool events presented in a cool enough fashion to make up for its fair share of flaws. Me likey.
Maya (1989) - Director: Marcello Avallone - 5/10 - While there is no denying that the movie boasts a fairly evocative atmosphere and that it manages to capture the supernatural component of the story much better than a lot of other genre entries, it is nonetheless afflicted with superficial writing and a general lack of focus and purpose. Murders occur, giving rise to the redolent sense of dread, however, the flick seems to be at a loss for a central theme or some kind of concept which could pool disparate thematic motives up and endow this smorgasbord of ideas with a degree of coherency. As a consequence of this, the work acquires a somewhat episodic quality and although this could work under the right circumstances, the issue is that the endeavor likewise exhibits a paucity of directional vision as to what to show, where the whole tale is supposed to go and how to go about it. The plotline sort of meanders around helplessly without ever settling on one idea for too long and without developing any of the themes to a satisfactory extent; this directing tentativeness comes to invest the project with a streak of ephemerality. The climax shows some genuine inspiration and partially compensates for the aforementioned weaknesses, however, a large portion of the film’s content preceding the resolution is far too flabby and generic to offer much out of the ordinary, however resonant the supernatural atmosphere might be.
Whisper Kill (1988) - Director: Christian I. Nyby II - 4/10 - A fairly unremarkable and stylistically tepid psycho thriller with superfluously manipulative direction at the center of it. Other than Joe Penny’s gripping performance, there is not much else to sink one’s teeth into and most of the film’s developments and the general trajectory are completely derivative and easily foreseeable from a mile away. The way the whole venture unfolds would’ve been more gracious and interesting to follow if the filming crew and the cast had been equipped with something a little more sophisticated than this paper-thin premise and the similarly underdeveloped screenplay. As a consequence of this, the plot progression feels unnecessarily slow and the narrative seems to linger on and elaborate on things that need no further elaboration, beating about the bush whilst pretending to be showing something worthwhile. The only remotely surprising moment is the final twist, which isn’t anticipated in any way, shape or form anyhow; this lack of a proper foreshadowing comes to undermine the revelation and attests to the firmly pedestrian writing all around. Overall, while the motion picture is not a particularly painful to watch, it’s hard to deny that too much of it is too readily obvious and bromidic without ever being stylistically compelling enough to compensate for some of its scripting unimaginativeness.
Born of Fire (1987) - Director: Jamil Dehlavi - 7/10 - It is a lot closer to Jodorowsky than regular horror filmmaking, which means it has to be approached on its own terms in order to be fully appreciated. While the movie is initially reminiscent more of a modern take on folk fables with a distinctly Islamic and Middle Eastern flavor, it gradually evolves into a fully surrealistic journey later down the road and basically endeavors to convey the story through its cryptic, esoteric symbolism. The motion picture effectively constitutes a filmic experiment, setting out to depict the Middle Eastern mythology through the uniquely delirious tableau of musician’s spiritual journey. However, the most striking as well as the most prepossessing components of the whole project are its opulent, sumptuous visual presentation as well as its magnificent musical score. Whether you’re going to cherish this panoply of frenetic images depends on if you’re able to connect with the content of the flick on an emotional level, it’s well worth a shot in my estimation though.
Dark Tower (1989) - Directors: Freddie Francis, Ken Wiederhorn - 5/10 - It’s obviously hard to argue the film is impeccable in how it goes about recounting the central ghost tale, however, the movie likewise possesses a certain kind of trashy quality that makes it enjoyable in the trashy and corny sort of way. There is no doubt that the middle section of the narrative is completely muddled and is apparently at a loss for the direction it’s supposed to follow. Despite the out-of-focus storytelling and some ham-fisted acting, there are some golden nuggets scattered here and there and the script manages to show some of its potential irrespective of the film’s confused, troubled nature. The flick conspicuously might’ve been much, much better as exhibited in some spots, with that being said, the oddity at hand constitutes a sort of guilty pleasure for me and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Large portions of the running time are directed tastefully and I found the climax to be exceedingly enjoyable despite being somewhat predictable. All in all, the work feels like a bit of a trashy VHS classic, if only it’d been penned in a more compelling way.