‘From out of the grave stalks the creature that undrapes the passions of the living!’
The Curse of the Living Corpse is a 1963 American horror feature film, written, directed, and produced by Del Tenney (Violent Midnight; The Horror of Party Beach; I Eat Your Skin). The movie stars Roy Scheider, Helen Warren, Robert Milli and Margot Hartman.
The film marked the film debut of actor Roy Scheider (Jaws). It was picked up for distribution by 20th Century Fox and co-billed with Tenney’s The Horror of Party Beach. Both movies were filmed in black-and-white by Iselin-Tenney Productions, a short-lived company formed with Alan V. Iselin, the owner of a chain of drive-in theatres extending from New York to Florida.
New England, 1892: Tyrannical millionaire Rufus B. Sinclair was obsessed with a fear of premature burial. In his will, he stipulates that if buried alive, he will return from the grave and murder his heirs in the manner each of them fears most: his wife, Abigail, will die by fire; his sons, arrogant philanderer Bruce and alcoholic Philip, will die by disfiguration and suffocation respectively; and Philip’s unfaithful wife, Vivian, will drown.
Several days after Rufus’ burial, his corpse vanishes from the family crypt, and the anticipated homicides start to occur. In addition, Letty, the maid, and Seth, the servant, are murdered…
Reviews [may contain spoilers]:
“An early gore movie – its best moment has the maid’s severed head served up on a breakfast tray – it is evidently intended as a straight-faced parody of the old-dark-house school (complete with secret panels and watching eyes) but is so laboriously directed that it emerges as creakily old-fashioned melodrama.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“Curse of the Living Corpse is a good, competent (if formulaic) little horror film, with only the occasional piece of less-than-sterling camera work ruining the mood.” The Bad Movie Report
“It’s not a great film, suffering from a lack of originality, predictable plot, low budget, and poor soundtrack that mars the atmosphere. But it feels focused and sincere, and the actors’ performances are strong across the board.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
” …the whole terrifying thing is finally explained logically in the usual illogical manner of an Edgar Wallace mystery […] Still, lively gore flick, more stylish than most,” John Stanley, Creature Features
” …this early gore “who-done-it?” effort is a convincing period piece done on a shoestring budget, and even though it was shot in black and white, it’s reminiscent of some of the AIP and Hammer films done around the same time. With its masked murderer on the loose and inventive killings, it also pre-dates the Italian giallo cycle by a few years…” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In
“Just about the only ho-hum aspect of the film is the semi-comic police inspector and his booze-hound lackey, who sits around waiting to be klonked on the head by the prowling killer. Otherwise, The Curse of the Living Corpse rates a solid ‘not bad at all.” Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant
“Curse of the Living Corpse loses its way a bit with the addition of two inspectors in the finale; their comic relief isn’t nearly as biting as the sardonic material that precedes it. This glorious-looking, unabashedly nasty little melodrama is also a sinfully entertaining black comedy about some loathsome people who receive some retribution.” Greg Woods, The Eclectic Screening Room
“The gore and sex aspects of the movie were certainly up-to-date in 1964, but the skulking cloaked figure, the whole “old dark house” plot, and the comic relief all seem to belong to another era.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
” …boasts decent production values and a couple good moments, such as Vivian’s bathtub scene. The acting is all over the board, but remember, this stuff isn’t Chekhov anyway.” The Terror Trap
Bruce Sinclair: “Noblesse oblige! Now that I’m master I can do what I please, when I please and where I please. Are you so callous as to deny rank its privilege? Or so fickle as to have forgotten our nights in the kitchen?”
Cast and characters:
Roy Scheider … Philip Sinclair (as Roy R. Scheider) – Jaws and Jaws 2
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Short Night of the Glass Dolls follows Greg (Jean Sorel of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin), an American journalist working in Prague. Greg’s primary problem is that he is dead (or appears to be) and he cannot remember who killed him or why. In a state of limbo between life and death, Greg retraces his steps in an attempt to remember who could have wanted him dead and for what reason.
This film marks Aldo Lado’s (Who Saw Her Die) feature film directorial debut. And an impressive first outing it is. Lado comes across as a confident and assured director who isn’t afraid to go against the grain and make some unexpected decisions. For one, the film doesn’t really have a conventional love story. Greg spends most of the feature’s runtime searching for his romantic interest, Mira, who inexplicably disappears shortly after arriving on the scene. The film also breaks from convention by telling the story through the eyes of a character who is presumed to be dead. As strange as it sounds, the approach works well. Telling the story through a series of flashbacks and bursts of recollection helps to build tension and instills a sense of urgency in the viewer to find out what happens next.
Short Night of the Glass Dolls is not a typical giallo. The performances are a step above the hammy scenery chewing to which fans of the genre are accustomed. Jean Sorel turns in a fine performance in the lead role and Ingrid Thulin (The Damned) is effective as his journalistic peer and not-so-secret admirer.
Also differing from the output of the time, the bloodshed is very understated and the bodycount is surprisingly low. The film is much more focused on the captivating audiences with the mystery element than wowing viewers with countless acts of senseless carnage and numerous onscreen deaths. The end result is mostly positive. While, I do wish that there had been a little more violence for the sake of violence, it’s hard not to commend Lado’s restraint in a time where excess was the name of the game.
The film is very slow burn. It takes a long while to get where its going and that can be a little frustrating when viewing the film for the first time. But the but patient viewer will be rewarded, as the third act delivers in almost every way imaginable. The first two acts are used to establish the storyline and build a mounting sense of tension. And the third brings everything together beautifully. The final scene is shocking, (somewhat) unexpected, and totally horrifying. It makes the build worthwhile and is likely to haunt the viewer long after they finish watching the film.
The famous Ennio Morricone (The Cat o’Nine Tails) composed the film’s score. And while this may not be his most noteworthy outing and certainly isn’t as memorable as some of his other works, the music is very appropriate to the era and fits well with the film’s thematic elements.
If you haven’t had the occasion to check out Short Night of the Glass Dolls, it is definitely worth a look for the giallo enthusiast. The third act is quite memorable and the film is just different enough from the Italian horror output of its era to make it noteworthy and secure its place as an important contribution to the giallo genre.
Short Night of the Glass Dolls is now available (in a limited pressing of 3,000) on Blu-ray via Twilight Time. The transfer and sound quality are excellent, as per usual. The release also features an isolated music track and a commentary with two film historians.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Aldo Lado
Writer(s): Aldo Lado
Stars: Jean Sorel, Ingrid Thulin, and Barbara Bach
Release: Now available on Blu-Ray from Twilight Time
Studio/ Production Co: Cinerama Filmgesellschaft MBH
From Suspiria to Black Swan, it seems that filmmakers have always been fascinated with the darker side of ballet. It makes sense, considering all the hardcore training and painful conditioning that goes on behind a facade of traditionally feminine beauty and dreamlike grace, but this age-old dichotomy has provided us with several great horror stories in the past. With that in mind, director and co-writer Brett Mullen aims to use this art-form as a jumping-off point for his own Giallo-inspired thriller, Bloody Ballet.
Bloody Ballet stars Kendra Carelli as Adriana Mena, an up-and-coming dancer who’s just landed the coveted lead role in a new rendition of The Nutcracker. However, Adriana’s inner demons begin to spoil the excitement as she’s plagued by terrible visions, all the while her friends and rivals are being stalked and murdered by a mysterious masked figure. Madness, jealousy and the supernatural intertwine as these ballerinas face their most dangerous performance yet.
At first glance, the plot sounds like a straightforward homage to the work of masters like Dario Argento, but as the film goes on things start to get shaky, as the creative cinematography and kickass (albeit misused) soundtrack can’t quite make up for a frustratingly obtuse narrative. Mullen seems to have all the ingredients ready for an entertaining psychological thriller, but the shoddy execution makes the film feel like less than the sum of its parts.
Carelli delivers a compelling performance as a tortured but talented dancer, but it’s too bad that the script doesn’t do her character justice. The story rushes through several conflicting personality traits and uses them as plot devices rather than allowing the movie to work as a character study. This disregard for the more human side of things is almost justified by the quality of the kills and gore effects, but it ultimately makes the film ring hollow.
It’s possible that the filmmakers thought so as well, as they attempted to spice things up with dreamlike storytelling, erratic editing and a slightly obnoxious (though consistently entertaining) soundtrack. Individually, all these things seem like great ideas, injecting energy and creativity into an otherwise dull experience, but the overuse of these elements just ends up confusing the viewer.
While Bloody Ballet does boast some legitimately thrilling sequences, there are also quite a few extraneous plot threads that should have been cut in order to streamline the experience. At times, it feels like there are several smaller films edited in-between scenes here, and they don’t all add up by the end. The final twist is also poorly executed, explained through a condescending voice-over that really hurts the entire film.
Bloody Ballet may not be an outright awful film, but it does feel rather underwhelming when you consider its cinematic inspirations. While there are several instances of genuine creativity in most areas of the production, none of these can quite make up for the film’s narrative shortcomings. At its best, the movie is a flawed yet entertaining dreamlike romp, but at its worst, everything feels like a derivative mess with pretentious overtones. At the end of the day, you have better options if you feel like watching some Giallo-inspired ballet horror.
Bloody Ballet will be available on VOD November 13th.
Reviewing this film has been quite the challenge. Even as I was jotting down notes during the screening I attended, I found myself having to catch myself and scribble out my words. Why? because I am reviewing SUSPIRIA 2018. I am not reviewing SUSPIRIA 1977. I am not doing a comparison of the two either. I am not writing about the film as a fan, I am writing about it as a reviewer for you beauties and for those who are completely unfamiliar with the original. I approached this as if I had my memory erased by that little device from MEN IN BLACK, except without the aid of the actual tool itself. With that in mind, let’s talk about SUSPIRIA.
Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), a Mennonite and dancer from Ohio, has arrived in Berlin to audition for the Markos Dance Company. The elite company is housed in a very stark and slightly run down looking mansion which not only houses the dance school but its dancers as well. Susies audition goes well. Very well. So well in fact that she lands the lead in Madame Blanc’s (played by Tilda Swinton) dance masterpiece “Volk”. This is where the discourse begins as she starts getting an inkling that something is amiss. The other dancers confirm her feelings when they reveal that the the elder women who run the dance company are witches who prey on younger female dancers in order to revitalize its founder, Helena Markos (also played by Tilda Swinton).
It will surprise absolutely no one that Tilda Swinton’s performances was out of this world. I was particularly impressed by her performance as the elderly Dr. Josef Klemperer. I was worried it would look a little “Professor Clump” like, but it was eerily authentic. Kudos to the makeup and prosthetic’s team for that incredible transformation.
Dakota Johnson was better than I thought but I had very low expectations for her in this role. An unfair generalization on my part based on past projects and roles that suffered from bad writing. She has a very ethereal air about her that lends itself well to the demeanor of the character. I only wish she was more expressive.
Chloe Grace Moretz, one of the higher billed actresses in the film, has very little screen time. You know who else had a criminally small amount of screen time? The ABSOLUTELY stunning Alek Wek. I could NOT take my eyes off of her when she was on screen. Please cast her in more movies a.k.a….everything.
Anyone who knows me knows that my personal preference for films is to not run over an 1 1/2 hours, 2 hours max. So I was put off to learn that SUSPIRIA clocks in at a hefty 2 1/2 hours. I tried not to let that taint my experience. Who knows? MAYBE this is one of those rare occasions where this story really needs all 2 1/2 hours to give us it’s all. It wasn’t such an occasion. Especially given that the time wasn’t spent well.
One of my issues with the film was the lack of character development overall. We know Susie is a Mennonite from Ohio, and with that information we can use deductive logic to fill in some blanks. It would lead me to believe that she has had a very sheltered life and probably hasn’t left the United States before. It would also lead me to believe that she is silently dealing with a lot of repression. Repressed sexuality, repressed individuality and repressed expression to name a few. This lends itself to endless creative possibilities for character development, yet it was an opportunity not seized. It was hard to get in their heads and to get lost in film and it’s players when they all had the warmth and depth of the Albert Speer style mansion they live in.
SUSPIRIA carries an “R” rating, which could mislead people to think it’s full of blood and gore. It is not. But when there is blood and gore, it is pretty damn explosive. Our first exposure to a brutal death in the film was something really special. The visual was cool but it was the sound design that really put it over the top. The crunch of bones, the twisting of body parts. Just disgusting and awesome. In fact, the sound design throughout the film was exceptional and I am so thankful for it and the impact it left with me.
Speaking on sound, let’s talk about the films score. I am someone who is profoundly affected by scoring and some of my favorite films are almost solely my favorites because of the score. Thom Yorke of RADIOHEAD did the score for this film and in theory he seems like he would be a perfect fit. Prior to seeing the film, I envisioned hearing these haunting and sparsely, yet perfectly placed sweeping melodies. I also pictured songs that play like hymns. I pictured the score becoming my favorite character in the film. That didn’t happen. The score played more like an afterthought to me. Again, a missed opportunity to add greater dimension to the film.
I am a huge fan of the original SUSPIRIA, and giallo‘s in general. To say I have been highly anticipating this film would be the understatement of the year. I am not alone in this sentiment. Horror fans and cinephiles alike hold this iconic Dario Argento film very near and dear to their hearts. That is why the news of this “remake” rattled everyone and left fans extremely weary of this modern update. I want to address this “remake” label that is being slapped on this film. Actually, lets just address that term and how lazily that very loaded word is used when identifying a film. Unless the film is a shot for shot carbon copy ( like the Vince Vaughn starring PSYCHO remake from 1998), a remake it is not. To refer to a re-imagining or re-visioning of a film as a remake is not only a disservice to the film, but it is highly misleading. Let me set the record straight. This is NOT a remake. This is it’s own stand alone film and a divisive one at that.
“SUSPIRIA suspends belief and is a sight to be seen and heard”
Starring Vanessa Paradis, Kate Moran, Nicolas Maury
Written by Yann Gonzalez, Cristiano Mangione
Directed by Yann Gonzalez
At the opening night screening at Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema, Knife + Heart was preceded by a music video at the insistence of the director, who wanted to “set the tone” for the film. The video is a French New Wave disco jam in which a woman goes on a man-hating murder spree, only to be swarmed by the undead men she killed. It certainly prepares the audience for the grisly kill sequences that follow in the feature, as well as director Yann Gonzalez’ highly stylized storytelling in his latest feature film Knife + Heart.
Knife + Heart‘s plot is as follows: In 1979, gay porn producer Anne (Vanessa Paradis) is attempting to pull off her magnum opus. Her production is interrupted by a masked killer who picks her actors off one by one. The opening sequence that immediately follows the music video is something out of a Sergio Martino joint; an oscillation back and forth between an anonymous pair of hands editing a film, and the luring and killing of a gay adult film actor by a masked man, all to the pulses of M83’s electro beats. As the film goes on, several other actors attached to the same production meet similar fates, often by way of a bladed dildo in a more depraved version of Peeping Tom‘s camera shiv. The metaphorical implications of such a murder weapon would normally be a bit on the nose, but a phallused shank is right at home in a giallo-steeped murder mystery.
The eye figures heavily into Knife + Heart‘s narrative. From peeping Toms to blind birds to audience spectatorship in a theater, sight (or the lack thereof) is often positioned as ownership; a person sees someone onscreen and assumes ownership of them through these images. How this ownership is consummated becomes a running motif of the film. Everyone in this movie is an object in some way or another; one orally talented individual is only referred to as “Mouth”. Murder becomes a way to possess a desired object as much as sex is a way to devour the object of one’s affections.
Anne’s latest feature, titled Homocidal, is her ode to her former lover, film editor Lois (Kate Moran). After an awkward late-night phone call in which Lois fails to reciprocate Anne’s love, Anne pours her heart into every shot, every scene of her project. Likewise, Vanessa Paradis pours herself into the role of Anne breathlessly, emoting whiskey-soaked longing and slave-driving callousness with equal zeal. After a booze-soaked crying jag one night, Anne breaks into the editing room with a pair of scissors and scrawls the message, “You killed me” onto a strip of film stock for Lois to see the next time she runs the dailies. Film cutting and splicing in the editing room is juxtaposed with mutilations of the body throughout the story, all serving a greater theme of the consumptive, sometimes harmful pathos of desire. Gonzalez’ awareness of 70s exploitation announces itself in scene after scene, and the sensuality that is embroidered through his past screenplays (Island, You and the Night) is given gainful employment among both the principal characters and the fictional gay films Anne creates.
For those who’ve exhausted all of the Euro-horror currently streaming, Knife + Heart offers a potent strobe-lit dive into the mania of lust, both of the flesh and of the blood.
Halloween III showed a perfect willingness to move on from the story of Michael Myers. Producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill felt that if the franchise had to continue, the best course of action would be to do it as an anthology, telling different stories every year, only connected by the holiday itself. When that direction proved unsuccessful, the decision was made to once more return to the elements fans knew and loved: Doctor Loomis, Haddonfield, and of course Michael Myers. Had it not been for the combination of the lukewarm reception to Halloween III and the box office success of Halloween 4, it’s entirely possible that the shape may never have returned. Many, no doubt, would consider that a blessing, as they consider the later sequels to have cheapened or watered down what made the original so effective. But the Halloween sequels all attempt to do something new, even when they’re not always met with positive response, and even when the new directions aren’t as extreme or obvious as Halloween III. With the massive box office success of Halloween 4, especially compared to its predecessor, the decision was made to make a new Halloween as soon as possible. And that’s exactly what happened. Halloween 5 was released less than a year later. It was rushed and it feels like it. It’s an uneven, shaky movie, and isn’t generally celebrated as one of the best of the series.
But as uneven as it is, there are a lot of positives to be found in Halloween 5. Under the guidance of Swiss/French director Dominque Othenin-Girard, Halloween 5 has a distinctly more European feel than its predecessors. Many filmmakers, especially genre filmmakers, outside the US aren’t nearly as hard set on the three act structure that defines most American movies. The influence of that can definitely be felt in Halloween 5 to a very specific degree, even to the point that it doesn’t really feel or look like an American movie. But it doesn’t look like a Swiss or French one, either. Looking at all of the individual elements of the picture, from the structure to the mythology to the way it plays with tone, Halloween 5 most closely resembles an Italian giallo.
While the previous entry teased a dramatic new direction with young Jamie taking up the mantle after Michael’s presumed death, Halloween 5 immediately makes it clear that it’s going a different route. In an opening that heavily echoes Bride of Frankenstein, it’s revealed that Michael survived by climbing through a mine shaft and is taken in by an old hermit. It’s also revealed that Jamie was not compelled to carry on Michael’s evil, but that she formed a psychic link with him at the end of that movie instead. While that might seem out of left field (because it is) it’s not altogether unexpected when considering the feature’s giallo influence.
Many gialli actually involve psychic powers in some way, shape or form, often as a major plot point. The films of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci are particularly known for this. Both Deep Red and Phenomena hinge on characters with some degree of psychic potential. In Deep Red, a woman receives a precognitive vision of her own death while giving a public demonstration of her abilities. In Phenomena, the lead character has the ability to sort of communicate psychically with insects, which is a major part of the feature and often plays to her advantage.
The psychic link between Michael and Jamie doesn’t feel out of place in this context. Stories of psychic phenomena at the time often linked the power to children, in particular children who had experienced some kind of trauma. This is a frequently reoccurring theme in the work of Stephen King. Carrie White’s power manifested on instinct when her mother tried to kill her the moment the child was born, and once again when her mother was abusive when Carrie was a little girl, causing a massive hail storm. In The Shining young Danny Torrance’s abilities become more concrete after his father breaks his arm when he is three. While these are both American stories, they’re just a few of many examples of the time, and there is quite a bit of cross-pollination between the filmmakers of the U.S. and Italy when it comes to one influencing the other, especially in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Both influences stem from the fact that psychic phenomena was just a global fascination at the time, almost being taken as a form of popular science. Universities conducted tests into E.S.P. and writers and filmmakers—including Stephen King himself—simply accepted its existence without question. Argento had a fascination with the phenomena as well. While it’s abrupt that Jamie would suddenly have these abilities after no sign of them in Halloween 4, it does make sense in its own way in this context. After all, she doesn’t have E.S.P. or telekinesis, her psychic connection is limited to Michael himself. She can see what he’s doing, and feel it as well.
It almost suggests that there is an attempt on Michael’s part to use this connection to pull Jamie toward the darkness, but that’s a very American storytelling device, especially in a franchise that was already influenced by Star Wars with the infamous sister twist. When Michael actually chases after Jamie, it’s clear that he intends to kill her. There’s no story reason for the connection between them save to be an interesting idea. At no point is there an answer as to why this happening to her, because that’s what most of the best gialli do. They present things to make the audience ask questions, but there’s very rarely much interest in providing answers. A giallo film generally starts with a concept based in hard reality—usually the investigation to uncover the identity of a serial killer—and then explores that in the most surrealistic, dreamlike way possible.
By this point, the Halloween series had been moving further and further away from reality, so a giallo sequel does kind of make sense. Michael had always been a semi-supernatural killer and the influence of filmmakers like Argento and Mario Bava was clear even in the original. Taking a more surreal approach isn’t without merit, even if it might logically stem from a rushed screenplay.
The unanswered questions of Halloween 5 don’t stop with Michael and Jamie’s psychic connection, after all. Far from it. There are so many things that are just thrown into the movie, major reveals and mysterious characters that were never meant to be explored, but are just there to keep the audience on the edge of their seat, having no idea where the film might take them next. Who is the man in black and what is his connection to Michael Myers? What does the tattoo on Michael’s wrist mean? In the context of this movie by itself, these things aren’t answered. We don’t know. And we’re not really supposed to. They’re just there to keep us guessing. Is the man in black a sinister figure watching over Michael or is he some nameless incarnation of abstract evil? Maybe neither. Maybe both. Ultimately, we can reach our own conclusions. Logic doesn’t matter, it’s not something Halloween 5 is focused on, Othenin-Girard is not providing clues or red herrings, he’s simply presenting ideas and images to make the audience question what they know and to provide a viewing experience in which it truly feels like anything could happen at any time.
The man in black on his own also represents a particular stylistic choice prevalent in so many giallo films. Countless gialli revolve around a mysterious killer dressed in black, often focusing particular on black gloves, whereas Halloween 5 instead focuses on this character’s steel-toed black boots. In his overall appearance, from his trench coat to his hat, the man in black certainly looks like a killer in a giallo—from what we see of him at least. Those wardrobe choices are almost identical to someone like the faceless killer in Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace.
All of these mythological ideas float in and out of the movie, apparently at random, mirroring the drastically fluctuating tone. Halloween 5 doesn’t look much like a giallo in terms of its aesthetic or cinematography, instead settling on a design that much more clearly evokes the gothic tones of the 1930s and ‘40s. This dark, stylistic atmosphere is off-set by the comedic elements, particularly the two bumbling police officers. Instead of a few jokes for levity, Halloween 5 really leans into these characters, even giving them their own wacky music whenever they enter or exit a scene. This feels much more akin to a giallo in its approach, having more in common with the scenes played for high comedy in Deep Red, especially the longer cut with an entire scene devoted to the protagonist forcing himself to fit into a very tiny car.
Whether intentional or not, Halloween 5 just feels like a giallo film in so many ways. The splatter’s a little more mean spirited, there are so many elements introduced that don’t appear to have any narrative connection to one another. For a single feature, they might make things interesting. After all, they’ve already proven to be talking points for nearly thirty years. But that’s the problem with doing a giallo as the fifth entry of an ongoing franchise. Each of these new pieces are not necessarily meant to continue to build a puzzle, but rather to spill over the top of that puzzle in a pattern that is at least interesting to look at. When the franchise is passed along to the next filmmaker, it becomes their task to make sense of things that were never intended to make sense to begin with.
It fell to the eventual Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers to answer the questions that Halloween 5 had put forth. With the movie being a cliffhanger, ending with a shootout at the police station and Michael’s disappearance, those mysterious lingering elements were forced to become set lore and the series’ evolving narrative wound up having no choice, really, but to take a pretty extreme direction. Now that there are so many different timelines within the Halloween franchise, those more radical choices aren’t set in stone anymore. It’s a little easier to go back to Halloween 5 and just see it on its own terms. This is an oddball and experimental feature that tosses aside structure and narrative for a more dreamlike approach, telling the story through set pieces and loosely connected ideas rather than one singular through line.
We’ll always be able to look back on it as the Halloween movie that did whatever the hell it wanted. While not all of it worked, it is at least an interesting turning point in the franchise’s history and worth another look.
The Black Belly of the Tarantula is a 1971 Italian-French giallo horror thriller feature film directed by Paolo Cavara (Plot of Fear; The Wild Eye; Mondo Cane) from a screenplay by Lucile Laks, based on a story by producer Marcello Danon. The movie stars Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet and Rossella Falk.
Ennio Morricone provided the musical score for the film, which was arranged by Bruno Nicolai.
A mysterious killer is attacking women associated with a blackmail conspiracy. The deranged murderer, wearing surgical gloves, kills his victims by paralysing them with a needle and then slicing open their bellies with a knife (in the same way tarantulas are killed by the black wasp or spider wasp).
The victims are conscious and can feel the pain, but they are unable to move, resist or scream. It is up to the reluctant Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) to find out who the killer is, before he or his girlfriend become the murderer’s next target…
“There’s oodles of lovely naked European starlets and a gloved killer lurking in the shadows of the mod apartments and flashy spas where the movie unfolds. There’s a chase scene, some giant spiders, plenty of red herrings and a really bizarre motive for all of it and it’s all wrapped up in some gorgeous cinematography – in short, it’s a textbook case encompassing everything that the genre seems to require.” Ian Jane, DVD Talk
“A solid, engaging thriller, The Black Belly of the Tarantula offers enough of the compulsory nudity and gore to keep audiences entertained, while containing enough in terms of plot and characterisation to do more than simply provide a visceral buzz. One of the better examples of a giallo, it deserves to be seen, especially by those who think that the genre begins and ends with Argento, Bava and Fulci.” Michael Mackenzie, The Digital Fix
“The story itself is decent but certainly not earth shattering, and the reveal isn’t exactly a shocker. By the time the final credits roll, Black Belly of the Tarantula’s outstanding qualities overcome it’s flaws. Well-filmed, with good performances and a decent story. A film well worth watching.” Goregirl’s Dungeon
“The murder sequences are a bit dry in terms of gore, but Cavara eerily flash-cuts during the act, focusing on the anguish of the victims’ faces instead of satiating the audience’s bloodlust. He also slips in some well-done suspense sequences, one involving a dizzying room full of mannequins, and another involving a cool, dynamically shot rooftop chase…” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!
“Aside from Barbara’s regrettably early exit, The Black Belly of the Tarantula is a giallo firing on all cylinders. This was a departure for former mondo filmmaker Paolo Cavara and he certainly rises to the occasion. Marcello Gatti’s scope photography is superb and heightens several striking suspense sequences…” Andrew Pragasm, The Spinning Image
“Excellent Italian horror benefits from some good performances (most notably from handsome Giannini as the sympathetic cop caught up in the unsavory mess). The killer’s motivation may be weaker than Tarantula as a whole, but overall this 1971 giallo finds itself a memorable effort. Well made and stylishly done.” The Terror Trap
Paolo Zani: “You’re no nymphomaniac! Whore is much more like it, more accurate.”
Cast and characters:
Giancarlo Giannini … Inspector Tellini
Claudine Auger … Laura
Barbara Bouchet … Maria Zani
Rossella Falk … Franca Valentino
Silvano Tranquilli … Paolo Zani
Annabella Incontrera … Mirta Ricci
Ezio Marano … Masseur
Barbara Bach … Jenny
Stefania Sandrelli … Anna Tellini
Giancarlo Prete … Mario
Anna Saia … Maria’s friend
Eugene Walter [as Walter Eugene] … Ginetto, the waiter
Nino Vingelli … Inspector Di Giacomo
Daniele Dublino … Entomologist
Giuseppe Fortis … Psychiatrist
Guerrino Crivello … Informer
Fulvio Mingozzi … Surgeon
Giorgio Dolfin … Policeman
Carla Mancini … Client at Beauty Parlor
98 minutes | 1.85:1 | Eastmancolor
The film was shot on location in Rome, Italy in 1970.
In the USA, MGM released the movie on a double-bill with The Weekend Murders
Blue Underground Entertainment released the film on DVD in 2006.
I was a big fan of INK, but I found TiCK to be leaps and bounds ahead of it. There is much more depth to TiCK and Wessel has taken directorial risks that really pay off.
I went into the film blind which I recommend you do as well. I say that because part of the fun of the film is watching the story unfold. However, I have included the synopsis below if you prefer to have some background of the films plot.
The synopsis for the film reads “In a post-pandemic society, a vampire in hiding is forced to make a stand when confronted with the oppressive regime who kidnapped and enslaved her family”. Now, lets talk shop …
Ava Close plays Nishiime, the lead character in TiCK. The film’s cast is small and most of the film rides on Ava’s young shoulders. Having a young performer carry a film is risky and unless you have an extraordinary actor, it can be its downfall. Close is not only extraordinary in her role, but she elevates the film to the next level. Ava may be young in age but she is a very skilled and seasoned actress. She is most definitely one to watch, and you can catch her in the highly anticipated Soska sisters re-imaging of the Cronenberg classic RABID.
Wessel appears to have gone to the Gareth Evans school of film, as she uses sound and light to make it feel like there is a sea of people that you don’t see wrecking havoc on the other side of the wall. It’s a great way to maximize a minimum budget and when done right (like here) it’s very effective. As a major fan of Evans, I like to see this technique used to it’s full capacity as it does in TiCK.
The camera work and framing (especially in the opening) really give you the sense of chaos and claustrophobia that combined with the intense scoring of Lukus Benoit makes for some really exciting moments.
TiCK’s art house elements and giallo influences are worn on its sleeve. And that’s a beautiful thing to me.
“TiCK takes some directorial risks that pay off in a huge way”
4 1/2 tombstones out of 5…
TiCK will be playing at The Toronto After Dark Film Festival on Sunday October 14th at 4:00pm as part of the Canadian Shorts After Dark program.
The New York Ripper – original title: Lo squartatore di New York – is a 1982 Italian giallo horror feature film directed by Lucio Fulci (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin; Zombie Flesh Eaters; City of the Living Dead; et al) from a screenplay co-written with Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino and Dardano Sacchetti. The score was written by Francesco De Masi. The movie stars Jack Hedley, Almanta Keller, Howard Ross, Alexandra Delli Colli and Paolo Malco.
The film was banned in many countries or only released after heavy editing. Whilst most of Lucio Fulci’s other films have been released uncut in Britain, The New York Ripper remains censored to this day, even for its 2011 DVD and Blu-ray releases, although it can be easily bought uncut via Amazon.com
In 1982, real-life British serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, nicknamed ‘The Yorkshire Ripper’ had only recently been apprehended, so any film about a serial killer with the word ‘Ripper’ in its title became even more contentious, had it not already been rejected by the British censors, the BBFC.
New York: After the dismembered body of a local prostitute is found by an old man walking his dog it becomes clear that a maniacal killer is on a killing spree.
Dispatched to investigate is grizzled, bitter Lieutenant Fred Williams (British actor Jack Hedley) who after visiting the young woman’s landlady is given his only lead; the victim had recently been talking with a man who had a voice like a duck (presumably an in-joke reference to Fulci’s 1972 rural anti-religious giallo Don’t Torture a Duckling?).
Before the world-weary detective can investigate these bizarre claims, another young woman is viciously attacked and killed aboard the Staten Island ferry, providing the audience’s first introduction to the killer who not only sounds like a duck but a very famous duck – Donald.
Warned by the Chief of Police (Fulci himself in one of his common appearances onscreen) not to reveal details to the public for fear of causing mad panic, Williams learns that the quack-voiced foe has been trying to contact him, leading to plot-length taunting by the killing after each victim is slain.
Director Lucio Fulci in a cameo role with Jack Hedley
Further hideously lurid murders take place – including a nasty green-lit fatal bottle assault on an adult entertainer – and suspicion falls on well-known drop-out called Mickey Scellenda, already convicted for drug and moral offences and with tell-tale missing fingers. Fay Majors (Almanta Keller) becomes the lynch-pin to the case, surviving an attack and confusing the issue by believing the killer is actually her boyfriend.
The Ripper’s attacks become ever-more frenzied and increase in regularity but just as the net seems to be closing in on the killer, has Williams got the wrong man/duck?
Having already covered many genres with often stunning results (the tour-de-force western, Four of the Apocalypse, and landmark living dead film Zombie Flesh Eaters to name but two), Fulci returned to the giallo genre for the first time since 1977’s The Psychic (aka Sette Note in Nero) but with a considerably colder heart and with outrageously graphic sexual violence, most of which is shown on-screen, though graphic stills suggest that even the director excised some scenes from the most intact prints.
Containing just about everything that then head of the BBFC, James Ferman, objected to in films, he allegedly ordered the print sent for certification in the UK to be escorted back to the airport where it could be flown to safety, away from sensitive British eyes. The Ripper remained uncertified for cinema screenings and unreleased on VHS. Ferman never let go of his hatred for this and several other controversial films, and years later in a Channel 4 documentary entitled Sex and the Censors, he declared it to be ‘irresponsible’.
The move away from Fulci’s early ’80s gothic template (City of the the Living Dead, House By the Cemetery; The Beyond) and relocation to the urban squalor of New York permeates the resulting film with an atmosphere of despair and filth (reminiscent ofThe Driller Killer and Maniac) before the killer and his motivations even begin; it’s a cinematic sickie that is utterly without remorse.
Accusations of misogyny were flung at Fulci and his co-scripters way as the graphic scenes of womens’ bodies slashed and mutilated under the veil of what can only be described as a very thin plot, rather pointlessly winds its way to a revelation that is the cinematic equivalent of a shoulder-shrug.
The New York Ripperis one of Lucio Fulci’s most frustrating films. A sometimes gifted artist behind the camera, he resorts to slasher men-as-brutes/women-as-victims sensationalism and crudeness at the expense of a hole-filled plot and unremarkable acting and electing to ruin any tension (and promote unintentional guffaws) by giving the killer the voice of a cartoon duck.
On a first viewing this trashy giallo is actually rather entertaining, more due to novelty than genius – repeated viewings show it to be increasingly baffling and desperate. Though other films of the 1970’s and 1980’s were similarly morally dubious and little more than excuse to titillate an easily pleased audience, few do it with such brazen garishness.
On the plus side, we are given an excuse to listen to a score by Francesco De Masi, usually to be found as the writer for euro-crime poliziotteschi films (Napoli Spara) or Italian westerns (Arizona Colt). Although great fun and an excellent listen (click below for a sample), it’s an odd mis-match to a film that though required viewing for gorehounds, is essentially a ‘greatest hits’ of sexist splatter effects with Donald Duck quacking away in the background.
Friday the 13th Revision is a 2018 American slasher horror fan feature film edited together by Jorge Torres-Torres (Fat Tuesday) from footage of the Friday the 13th franchise.
“I basically took the first five films and edited them as if the murders were being committed all in the same night by Jason and his mother, Pamela,” Jorge told Bloody Disgusting. “The rest (parts VI-X, including Freddy vs. Jason) are edited to form a more coherent narrative even as the franchise ventures into insane storylines. In addition, I swapped music from the films with a more giallo soundtrack, giving it a slightly romantic palette (most songs are from the Cannibal Holocaust soundtrack). I started this revision on Friday, July 13th of this year. It took almost two months to put together.”
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