Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) and Black Sabbath (1963) were world wide commercial successes. As a consequence, Bava was given creative control over Blood and Black Lace. An Italian-West German co-production, the film’s backers were expecting a routine murderer-on-the-loose yarn in the Edgar Wallace-tradition. In Europe during the early 1960’s, movies based on the murder mystery novels of the incredibly prolific Wallace had become a mini-genre of their own. Forty or so of these movies were ultimately made, most of them produced in West Germany. Although some of the murder sequences could be vicious, the emphasis was on the police procedural and mystery aspects of the narrative. Continue reading
A wealthy heiress and landowner dies under mysterious circumstances (her husband did it, but don’t worry, he was done in too), and anyone with a minute claim to her property shows up to collect. The would-be heirs and heiresses start offing each other in increasingly creative and graphic ways, along with some dimwitted teenagers that stop by the bay looking for a party. Basically, it’s Ten Little Indians on the bay.
Toto most successfully attempts to go one better than Chaplin in this entry in which he cleverly uses his expressive face not only to telegraph laughs but to induce audience sympathy. Set against a war-scarred Rome in the middle of winter, Toto plays a petty thief, living on his wits to provide for his family, who are uncomplainingly making the best of a small, cold-water flat with no heating. The screenplay divertingly contrasts the gaunt, if talkative Toto with excitable, roly-poly but equally loquacious Aldo Fabrizi, playing a fathead police sergeant whose family is housed in comparative luxury.
The catalyst for the plot’s ingenious action is provided by that under-rated born-in-Wisconsin actor, William Tubbs, who is wonderfully perfect here in a major role which gently pokes fun at Americans. Not only are all his scenes an absolute howl, but they are most cleverly contrived to increase in intensity as the plot progresses. You will chuckle as Toto leads him on a merry path through the Forum in his introductory scene, gasp with delight when he confronts Toto at the grocery hand-out, split your sides when he gives chase to Toto all over the countryside, and absolutely roll on the floor when he complains bitterly to Fabrizi and Carloni at the police station. This riotous scene, cleverly compounded, when Tubbs finally exits, by a gloriously satiric look at various police regulations, marks the end of the First Act.
God casts Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden because Eve decided to have a fling with a visiting Cro-Magnon named Bearkiller. The disgraced couple find themselves on the outside up against an assortment of various dinosaurs, flying monsters and cannibals. Continue reading
Plot: Totò plays an esteemed professor with no interest in sport who wants to marry a sexy blonde. She mockingly says that she will agree to this if he manages to win the Giro d’Italia.
When Totò says that he would sell his soul to the devil to achieve this, a gentleman in a cape pops up from a puff of smoke… Continue reading
Italian writer-director Salvatore Mereu’s drama of Sardinian childhood adapts a short story by local author Sergio Atzeni.
There are films that gently invite the viewer into their world, and there are others which yank us in throat first. Salvatore Mereu’s Bellas Mariposas, a twelve-year-old’s precocious journal of one long summer day in her run-down Sardinian neighborhood, is a fine example of the latter. Writer-director Mereu, ably following up 2008’s well-received Sonetaula with another snapshot of life on his native island, accumulates detail and atmosphere to a claustrophobic degree, audaciously deploying direct-to-camera address to make the viewer more confidant than spectator.
Immersively evocative and grittily atmospheric, this is distinctive auteur fare whose hard-knock verisimilitude recalls more violent recent predecessors like Matteo Garrone’s widely-admired Gomorrah (2008) and Matteo Botrugno & Daniele Coluccini’s lesser-known Et In Terra Pax (2010). Somewhat overlooked when premiering in a Venice sidebar, Mereu’s “free” adaptation of an unfinished tale by influential Sardinian author Sergio Atzeni unfortunately faces an uphill battle to find room even at mainland Italian arthouses. Edgy festivals and those with a particular interest in young people’s issues should nevertheless definitely give it a try. Continue reading
Undeniably one of the strangest drug-related movies ever made (not to mention the title itself!). Dr Fink is a quite ruthless and cynic college professor. One of his students, is addicted to heroin. The professor invites him to his villa along with his wife to spend the weekend. The psychedelic, surreal and sleazy situations that take place have to be seen! One of the rarest, weirdest and most obscure Italian exploitation films of all time. Continue reading