Archive for the Year Category

The Monster Of Venice (1965) – Giallithon #4

Posted in 1965, Giallithon, Giallo on October 6, 2009 by eibonblog

Monster Of Venice (1965)Monster Of Venice (1965)Creepy is the word you would use most to describe this strange horror/giallo mix from 1965 which is also known by the name The Embalmer but Monster Of Venice is much closer to the original Italian name of Il Mostro di Venezia.

This low-budget film owes an awful lot to the story of the Phantom of the Opera, except here we have a crazy mortician who stalks beautiful women in the canals and catacombs of Venice. He does this by hiding in the water of the canals in full scuba gear, and grabbing them to take down to his subterranean lair. There he changes into a monk’s cassock and a skeletal deathmask, then embalms and stuffs the women to add to his collection.

Sounds pretty grim right?

It’s actually an excellent idea for a film, and themes from this were explored again in other films such as Amsterdamned (1988) and Don’t Look Now (1973). Films based in cities that are composed of many canals are eerie, it’s now a proven fact.

The film itself was written and directed by Dino Tavella, who went onto do precisely nothing after this film. You can kind of see why. Although the film has a brilliant premise, the execution can be extremely lackluster. The characters are either highly annoying, or pretty vacuous. The script is pretty terrible, and doesn’t pull you into the proceedings much. The cast is full of people that didn’t pop up much, if at all again in other films. There are comedy characters that just don’t work, and the women just aren’t beautiful enough to be part of a Giallo.

 Monster Of Venice (1965)
Monster Of Venice (1965)
Monster Of Venice (1965)

Where the film does excel is creating eerie foreboding atmosphere that peaks in the underground lair of the killer. It’s a rotten place of death, filled with the skeletal remains of dead monks from seems to be an ancient subterranean sect. The Embalmer’s victims are displayed in his trophy cabinet, as he stalks around in the dark kicking skulls from his path.

Monster Of Venice (1965)
Monster Of Venice (1965)
Monster Of Venice (1965)

Tavella excels in some great camerawork, and maybe this is where his real strength lay. It’s a shame that this film didn’t have any involvement from a strong scriptwriter such as Gastaldi, or even a great director such as Bava who really could have made this into a macabre masterpiece of cinema.

As such it’s still an entertaining film that can drag in places, and border on the ridiculous in others. There are moments of brief flashes of genius, especially near the climax where the killer disguises himself by hiding among the corpses of the long dead monks to surprise a potential victim.

Monster Of Venice (1965)
Monster Of Venice (1965)
Monster Of Venice (1965)
Monster Of Venice (1965)
There is a decent version of this on DVD from Retromedia/Image Entertainment, but unfortunately the DVD version I own is in the wrong aspect ratio. As you can see from the screenshots it’s 4:3 stretched to 16:9, and therefore everything looks squashed. However it’s a fine print with little damage, and strong blacks so you can easily make out what lurks in the shadows of the catacombs beneath the streets and canals of Venice.

Worth searching out if only to see the creepy climax.

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Libido (1965) – Giallithon #3

Posted in 1965, Giallithon, Giallo on October 6, 2009 by eibonblog

Libido (1965)This was to be the legendary scriptwriter Ernesto Gastaldi’s first foray into the world of Giallo, and here he actually gets behind the camera and directs this early Giallo under the alias of Julian Berry. He actually co-directed this with Victor Storff aka Vittorio Salerno. The script was written by Gastaldi’s wife Mara Maryl, who also is one of the four main stars of the film, the others being Giancarlo Gianni, Luciano Pigozzi (here as Alan Collins), and Dominique Boschero.

This was also the first Giallo to bring up the much used theme in the Giallo genre of a primal scene (thanks Freud), where something that happened to one of the main characters in their childhood goes on to have a big significance in the film.

In this case, our main protagonist is Christian (Giancarlo Gianni) who as a young boy witnesses his sexually depraved father murdering his mistress in his secret sex room full of mirrors. His father then apparently committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs into the sea at the family home… although his body was never found.

 Libido (1965)
Libido (1965)

We then find ourselves back to present day 20 years later (well the mid-60s here) and we have our 4 main characters driving towards the cliff-top mansion of Christian. We have Christian’s fiancee Eileen (Boschero), his best friend and legal guardian Paul, and Paul’s girlfriend Brigitte (Maryl). In the years after Christian’s father killed himself, Paul has taken guardianship of the estate and looked after the interests of Christian. As they head towards the mansion, we find out that Paul has arranged it so that Christian can finally claim his inheritance including the mansion.

 Libido (1965)
Cue the worst camel toe ever in a Giallo!
Libido (1965)
Once we arrive at the house, the trauma of the past events starts to haunt Christian, and his friends start to get dragged into a vortex of sleaze and violence. Can Christian overcome his demons?

The plot is pretty simplistic compared to later Gialli but you have to remember that this was one of the first films to treat this ground, and it does so very well. Gianni perhaps overcooks his acting a bit with a wild and frenzied performance, but the real stars here are the two lady leads. Maryl does the blonde but mysterious role excellently, and the beautiful Boschero is both lovely and tragic.

Libido (1965)
Libido (1965)

This is a highly recommended essential early Giallo, and as such must be seen by all fans of the genre. Unfortunately it’s one of those classic titles that still languishes without any DVD release, and the only versions that seem to exist are very ropey hard subtitled VHS rips (as you can see from the screenshots). These are also badly cropped from the original aspect ratio, and are missing the sides of the picture.

Libido (1965)
Libido (1965)
Libido (1965)

It’s criminal that it hasn’t had a proper release yet, and I can only hope that someone who will do it a lot of justice will get hold of a good source and give it the release it deserves.

Blood And Black Lace (1964) – Giallithon #2

Posted in 1964, Giallithon, Giallo, Mario Bava with tags , , , on May 22, 2009 by eibonblog

Blood And Black Lace (1964) - Mario BavaThere are no two ways about it… Mario Bava’s Blood And Black Lace (1964) is a genre defining classic. Not only did it lay much of the groundwork for many giallo films to come, it upped the ante and included the kind of savagery that came to characterise these films over and above thrillers that were being made in the USA. It also laid the groundwork for a new genre of films, that wouldn’t actually really take off until the late 70s and early 80s… stalk’n’slash, or slashers as they are affectionately known by fans. This was the first film to feature a seemingly unstoppable killer who lurked in all the shadows that stalked and murdered victims in a brutal and vicious way. Bava then further cemented the genre with the excellent Bay Of Blood (1971) taking things a step even further. It was also the first film where the director started to employ point of view (POV) shots from the eyes of the killer, to further bring the audience into the film and help them identify with the killer. Lastly, another of the big giallo genre staples was the killer being dressed all in black, with a black fedora, and black leather gloves. The giallo killer’s favourite weapon was also introduced… the cut throat straight razor.

Blood And Black Lace

Blood And Black Lace 

The story follows a seemingly pretty simply premise. Contessa Cristina (Eva Bartok) and Max Marian (Cameron Mitchell) run the exclusive Christian haute coutre fashion house populated with beautiful models and fashion designers. One stormy night the model Isabella (Francesca Ungaro) is murdered on her way into work at the fashion house and is discovered dead in a cupboard. Soon Isabella’s diary is found, which highlights some seedy corrupt goings on at the fashion house. Soon each model that comes into contact with the diary, or seemingly knowns more about what’s going on… are murdered in various gruesome ways. Only Inspector Sylvester (Thomas Reiner) can discover the truth…

Blood And Black Lace

Blood And Black Lace

Blood And Black Lace 

What ensues is an exhilirating mix of brutal violence, highly stylised visuals, beautiful women, numerous red herrings, and the required unexpected twist (or two). Bava directs with so much gusto and beligerance against the usual standards of the thrillers coming out of the USA, or even the Wallace inspired Krimi films. He deliberately focus on everything that is visceral in the World that his characters inhabit, and fills it with sleaze, violence, drugs, and sex.

When pivotal plot devices are introduced, such as the discovery of Isabella’s diary, he deliberately uses the camera to make everyone look like a suspect. Each character gives uneasy looks, as if they are all hiding some terrible secret. Bava wants his audience to question every little detail he throws in front of them, and to keep them guessing right up to the big reveal (which is only about 3/4 of the way through this film!).

Blood And Black Lace

Blood And Black Lace 

Bava was advised to shoot the film in black and white, as he did with his previous The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963). Being Mario Bava, he filmed this film in glorious Technicolor and deliberately filled the screen with as many bright styles and fashions as he could cram on. From the highly stylised opening sequence where we are introduced to each character as the cool jazzy soundtrack from Carlo Rustichelli indignantly blasts forth, to the extremely visceral killings.

Blood And Black Lace

Blood And Black Lace 

All the lead performances are very strong, particularly from Mitchell and Bartok. Reinher’s Inspector Sylvester never appears to be ahead of the killer, and always on his heels… and as such he is a much more minor character than you would probably expect. We don’t even really have a main character who is pivotal in the investigation… Bava is quite content to just let things play out in their own inexplicably macabre manner.

There’s not really much that can be said about this film that has not already been said. It is a true classic in every sense of the word, and possibly one of the most influential films of all time. It’s a shame that it’s not heralded a true classic in the Citizen Kane (1941) sense of the word, as it’s every bit as important as that film or even Hitchock’s Psycho (1960).

Blood And Black Lace

Blood And Black Lace 

The version under review here is the truly excellent Hande Weg German DVD (as Blutige Seida). This is by far the best transfer of the film available in it’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 presented here anamorphically. Every visceral detail is presented with stunning colour, and great clarity. It’s certainly an improvement from the VCI releases of the film. There are also some great extras including a comparison of the murders from the censored version of the film  and the complete uncut version. It also has 11 great trailers of other classic Mario Bava films. Highly recommended if you can find it, but unfortunately out of print and commanding high prices on such sites as eBay.

Blood And Black Lace

Blood And Black Lace 

Blood And Black Lace 

Essential viewing for every giallo fan.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) – Giallithon #1

Posted in 1963, Giallithon, Giallo, Mario Bava with tags , , , on May 18, 2009 by eibonblog

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)So starts the Giallithon with the film that arguably started it all, Mario Bava’s 1963 classic The Girl Who Knew Too Much (La Ragazza Che Sapeva Troppo). Obviously inspired by the pulp fiction yellow (giallo) covered books, even as far as the heroine reads them and is inspired in her investigations by them and other famous crime novels, this is the first film to take a story that could have been lifted from the pages of those books and transpose them onto the screen with lashings of Hitchcock style. In fact it seems that Bava was reluctant to direct this, but it doesn’t show. They weren’t sure what they wanted to achieve with the film. In fact the American release is a totally different beast to this Italian subtitled version under review. The American release was touted as a romantic black comedy called The Evil Eye, a parady of previously released Hitchcock films, and it featured more scenes of humour. These didn’t really fit in with the overall tone of the film (a mystery with horror elements i.e. a proto-giallo), so the Italian release is much more streamlined and all the better for it. This was due to Bava being determined to make this into a serious film, and as a consequence he played down the comedy and boosted the horror. It was a stroke of genius. In this and his next proto-giallo, Blood And Black Lace (1964), he laid down the foundations for the entire Giallo genre.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

Starring Leticia Roman and (a young) John Saxon, this was to be Bava’s final film to be shot in black and white, and also was filmed mostly on location in and around Rome. Bava shoots everything using purely natural lighting, and with each and every shot he uses obtuse angles, and an ever encroaching darkness to bring a sense of dread and foreboding to the proceedings.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much
The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

Roman stars as the lovely Nora Davis, a young naive American who flies into Rome to visit her Aunt Adele. At her Aunt’s place, she encounters the suave and handsome Doctor Marcello Bassi (Saxon) who informs Nora that her Aunt is in failing health, and that he has been keeping an eye on her. That very night Nora sees her Aunt suffer a fatal heart attack. Freaked out by her deceased Aunt’s body twitching (it’s actually her cat trying to get up onto the bed), Nora flees from the house and out onto the big plaza outside. As she tries to make her way to the nearby hospital to fetch Dr. Bassi, she is mugged and knocked unconcious in the street. Nora comes around in a dizzy haze, and as she does, she witnesses a woman being stabbed in the back and dragged away… Did she really see a murder take place?

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

The Girl Who Knew Too Much

The rest that follows is a great mix of your giallo staples of red herrings, scenes of peril for our heroine, and bloody murders. Of course these were fresh then, and the elements that Bava brought to proceedings are evident in all the major players in the first wave of giallo and beyond. The black humour and creepy camera angles were no doubt a huge influence on Dario Argento and Umberto Lenzi in their films that followed this.

Saxon and Roman make great leads, and it’s unfortunate that it was reported that Saxon and Bava really did not get on well at all (detailed by Tim Lucas in the included sleeve notes). A strong leading man was unfortunately not a giallo staple, as many of the films feature very dull lead actors indeed. It’s a shame this wasn’t something that continued on through the genre.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

This DVD version was released by Image Entertainment in 2000, and has a good transfer in it’s original 1.66:1 ratio presented anamorphically. It has parts where there is some evident print damage, and the contrast looks to be slightly too high in parts, but apart from a few ropey scenes… it all looks very good. It’s in the original Italian language with optional English subtitles. You can also get the film as part of the Bava boxset released by Anchor Bay, or a good transfer from French label Film Sans Frontiers.

A great film and a very worthy start to the Giallithon. Essential Giallo.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

Lone Wolf & Cub (1972-1974)

Posted in 1972, 1973, 1974, Martial Arts with tags , , , on April 8, 2009 by eibonblog

Lone Wolf & Cub (1972)The Lonewolf & Cub sextet of films are a personal genre favourite of mine, blending together everything that’s great about martial arts, OTT blood spilling, Japanese culture, and gorgeous feudal Japan landscapes and women. The series of films is known by many names; Kozure Okami in Japan, Babycart Series, and of course the Lonewolf & Cub Series. Prior to becoming films the story originated from a popular Japanese Gekiga or Manga cartoon strip. They also made some theatrical plays and a television series from it, but I’ve not seen anything of those.

The premise of the story chronicles the exploits of Ogami Itto, the Shogun’s executioner or second. In a time and culture where honour and the way of the warrior is everything, the corrupt shadow Yagyu clan puts into an action that disagraces the house of Itto, and kills his wife. Faced with the decision to either commit suicide to clear the honour of the house of Itto, or to become like a demon and follow the path of the assassin… he (thankfully for us) chooses the latter. He also gives his then baby son, Daigoro, the same choice… the sword or the ball. Choosing the ball would send his baby son to be with his now dead mother, or choosing the sword would mean becoming a demon like his father at the crossroads of hell. Choosing the sword we are left with Lonewolf & his cub. What follows is the most bloody, savage journey through feudal Japan by Itto you could imagine. Pushing a now three year old Daigoro around in a babycart/pram that has a few tricks up its sleeve… seeking revenge on the evil Yagyu clan. The films are really as good as it sounds!

The first three films were all released in 1972, were directed by Kenji Misumi, and produced by Shintaro Katus (the eponymous star of the Zatoichi film series, and also the brother of the star of these films).

These films were later to gain an infamous notoriety, but not in this guise. Shogun Assassin (1980) was produced for American audiences as an English language compilation, edited mainly from the second film, but with 11 minutes of additional set-up footage from the first film. This version of the film shot to fame in the ‘video nasties’ debacle of the early 80s, and was promptly banned from the UK. I’m not a huge fan of this edit, as I feel it leaves out some very important parts of the storytelling that contribute to the entire series. As a standalone no-nonsense action flick though, it is superb. They then decided to release the third film as Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords Of Death to English speaking audiences.

 The last three films were then released over the period of 1972 to 1974, and were produced by Ogami Itto himself… the incredible Tomisaburo Wakayama who is master samurai personified. Never before on screen has someone been so intimidating, and so commanding on the screen. You honestly believe that he can slaughter armies of ninja & swordsman (which he often does!). He despatches his enemies with a speed and cold efficiency that is just breathtaking to behold. Oh boy does he despatch them! Fountains of blood gush high into the air, severed limbs fly, heads roll, entire bodies are cleaved in half. The gore level is simply incredible. If you’ve ever seen the great section in Kill Bill at The House Of Blue Leaves where she has the huge sword fight against the Crazy 88… imagine that, but 10 times more spectacular and gory… and then you’ve got one of the tamer fight scenes in the Babycart series. They’re really that good! You can clearly see where Mr Tarantino got some inspiration from in his film, as he acknowledges in part 2 where the young daughter is actually watching her favourite film… Shogun Assassin.

The first film is Sword Of Vengeance (1972).

Sword Of Vengeance (1972) 

After the killing of his wife by the Yagyus, Ogami Itto gives his young son Daigoro the choice between instant death (a ball) and the life of the ronin (a sword). As the child reaches for the sword, father and son’s fate is sealed to a life of violence and tragedy. Wheeling Daigoro through the countryside in a pram rigged with deadly surprises, Itto comes to a town held hostage by bandits, where he is to stop a planned assassination of an official. The first film is a little slower than the others, but it sets the tone beautifully. The final duel between Ogami and the Yagyu man at dawn is staggering and also beautifully filmed. Although extremely violent and gore-drenched, the film remains highly stylised and remarkably intelligent.

Sword Of Vengeance (1972)
Sword Of Vengeance (1972)

The second film in the series is the terrific Babycart At The River Styx (1972).

Babycart At River Styx (1972)
Babycart At River Styx (1972)
Babycart At River Styx (1972)
Babycart At River Styx (1972)

The second installment in the Lone Wolf and Cub saga finds Ogami hired to kill a defecting worker about to reveal the secrets of a prosperous clan’s dyeing process to Ogami’s nemesis Lord Retsudo Yagyu. Little does Ogami know that Lord Yagyu has sent a gang of female ninjas to kill him, and that he will have to fight a vicious trio of brothers sent to escort the informer. The bond between father and son is intensified as Daigoro assists Ogami in his quest, and nurses him when he is critically injured. Boasting more action than the initial installment, Baby Cart at River Styx is also beautifully photographed, with style to spare and great period atmosphere; this episode is considered by some to be one of the best of the series. Not for me though, I consider the next installment to be worthy of that title. This title did however make up the bulk of Shogun Assassin, and contains much of the gore-soaked footage that no doubt led to it being banned.

The third title in the sextet of films is the absolutely incredible Babycart To Hades, which is probably my favourite installment (either this or the fourth).

Babycart To Hades (1972)
Babycart To Hades
Babycart To Hades (1972)

Ogami hired by a female yakuza to kill a corrupt governor. While wandering the countryside, Ogami stumbles upon a brutal crime being committed by three mercenaries accompanied by the ronin Kanbei. After killing the mercenaries, Ogami refuses to do battle with the ronin, taking refuge in a nearby town. It is there that Ogami meets Toizo and is offered the job of assassinating the corrupt governor Gamba. After exposing the previous leader’s mental illness and exploiting it to his own benefit, Gamba is now the wealthy and powerful leader of the clan. Gamba attempts to hire Ogami to kill the previous governor, then suspects that he is Ogami’s intended target after he refuses the job. His suspicions are confirmed, as Ogami is led into a treacherous series of cat-and-mouse games with Gamba’s men. What follows is an incredible orgy of violence as Ogami single-handedly faces off against an entire army of men, then faces Kanbei on the blood-drenched battlefield.

I love this installment, it has everything. Fantastic fights and battles, beautiful women, and a some interesting developments to the main characters. At times it’s almost like watching a live-action cartoon. I’ve never seen this style bettered.

 

Part four is the thrilling Babycart In Peril (1972). It depends on what day you ask me, but I’ll either say this or part three are my favourite installment.

Babycart In Peril (1972)
 Babycart In Peril (1972)
Babycart In Peril (1972)
Babycart In Peril (1972)

A group of grieving widows hires Ogami to kill tattooed female assassin Oyuki in this noir-ish fourth entry in the popular Lone Wolf and Cub series. After being raped and subsequently desecrating her perfect body with tattoos to detract her foes, Oyuki, an expert with the short sword, seeks vengeance on those who wronged her. As Ogami seeks Oyuki’s father in order to track his hit, Daigoro is separated from his father, encountering Lord Retsudo Yagyu’s vengeful son Gunbei in a compelling sequence. After the resourceful boy survives a burning field, as well as defends himself from his would-be assassin, Ogami comes to the rescue of his son. Ogami later discovers the truth about Oyuki, and allows his sympathetic victim to do battle with the man who wronged her before carrying out his mission. After doing battle with another horde of Yagyu soldiers, Ogami is confronted by none other than Lord Retsudo Yagyu himself. This thrilling battle is notable as the only time the two actually cross swords in the series.

The fifth installment is Babycart In The Land Of Demons (1973).

Babcart In The Land Of Demons
Babycart In The Land Of Demons
Babycart In The Land Of Demons

Five swordsmen hire Ogami, each revealing a portion of his mission as they are defeated in this fifth entry in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. After defeating the swordsmen, Ogami discovers his mission is to save a clan’s honor by killing its royal family. The senile lord of the clan has substituted his daughter (raised as a boy) to be the heir he never had. In addition to murdering the lord, his concubine, and the girl, Ogami must stop a document revealing the deception from reaching the hands of Lord Retsudo Yagyu. Daigoro is again separated from Ogami in a delicate sequence revealing much about the relationship between father and son, and finding young Daigoro learning to maintain honor in the face of injustice. After seeking out the lord and carrying out his mission in a final battle within the castle, father and son become closer than ever as they follow the road to their final battle. Graced with the finest photography of the series, along with excellent action set pieces, Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is noted as possibly the best (as well as the grimmest) of the series.

 Finally we have the final part of the series, White Heaven In Hell (1974).

White Heaven In Hell (1974)
White Heaven In Hell (1974)
White Heaven In Hell
White Heaven In Hell (1974)
White Heaven In Hell (1974)

In this sixth and final film of the series, Ogami faces his ultimate challenge when all remaining members of the enemy Retsudo clan band together for a face-off on a snowy battlefield. I won’t ruin it anymore than that for you…

I can’t express how truly thrilling and fantastic these films are. If you haven’t already seen them, please do so as soon as possible. I strongly urge you to make sure you watch the films in their original Japanese form with English subtitles. Otherwise you will miss out on the sheer impact the Japanese language has on proceedings. Never before has Japanese sounded so threatening and menacing as when spoken by the mighty Ogami Itto.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

Posted in 1971, Giallo with tags , on March 6, 2009 by eibonblog

Right, what we have here is pure sleazy Giallo fun from 1971. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is one of two Gialli made by director Emilio P. Miraglia, the other being the absolutely fantastic The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. However, it has always been this film that has been the more infamous of the two.The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave (1971) - Poster

The basic plot of the film is a bit muddled, and ultimately seems to have a few gaping plot holes. What it lacks in a coherant plot it more than makes up for with beautiful women, garish 60s-meets-70s style, nudity, sleaze, violence, a sexy slick Bruno Nicolai score (which is more Morricone than his usual style), and even gore! How many films do you get to see a family of foxes eat someone including graphic scenes of them pulling out intestines?(!) If you like great looking red-headed women, this film is for you! If you’re a fan of the gorgeous Christina Hendricks then you will love the range of gorgeous, curvy redheads on display.

Back to the plot, and we find ourselves in England at the start of the 70s. Anthony Steffen plays wealthy Lord Alan Cunningham, a man haunted by the memory of his deceased wife Evelyn. Lord Alan’s grieving is not what you would call normal. Instead he takes a series of redheaded women (who remind him of Evelyn) back to his rotting, dust-encrusted castle where he procedes to pay them to indulge in his perverted games in his chamber full of torture devices and medieval weaponary. Once his games get underway, he becomes haunted with visions of his wife cheating on him in the past (a nice flashback to slow-motion garden nudity!). This enrages him and invariably leads to him killing the redhead! So our Lord Alan of Rotten Castle is not a nice guy!

The Night Evelyn Came Out From the Grave (1971) 

We also find out that one of Lord Alan’s best friends is Psychologist Dr. Richard Timberlane (played by Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) that knows all about Alan attacking the redheads, and believes this is just Alan’s way of fighting his demons from his dead wife (I’d actually call it murder!).

The Night Evelyn Came Out From The Grave 

Also living in the Rotten Castle estate are Albert (Evelyn’s brother and the gamekeeper), Aunt Agatha (confined to a wheelchair and supposedly paralysed), Farley (who I still have no idea what he does on the estate other than give stern looks at everyone), and occasionally Lord Alan’s playboy cousin George (who likes to wear big hoop earings).

The Night Evelyn Came Out From The Grave (1971) 

Dr. Richard Timberlane tells Lord Alan that he must marry again to help heal his slowly decaying mind, and eventually Lord Alan is introduced to Gladys (Marina Malfatti). After one night of passion, Lord Alan proposes to Gladys and they are married. They head to the Rotten Castle (which has now miraculously been restored to all its stylish early 70s glory!) and set-up their new life together (complete with 5 maids sporting identical blonde afros!).

The Night Evelyn Came Out From The Grave 

However, soon Gladys realises that not all is right in the kingdom of Lord Alan, and starts to dig a little deeper…

As I said earlier, there are massive plotholes in the film. For a start, Lord Alan is a cold-blooded killer who murders women who remind him of Evelyn. However, by the end of the film he is the hero! Not something that will go down well with those concerned with the explotation of women. The film seems to conveniently forget that he’s somewhat of a bastard. The film also provides many plot tangents that are never explained properly (if at all!). These include why does paralysed Aunt Agatha stand-up and walk just before she is brutally despatched? Why do the maids have to be identical? Surely as long as they’re not redheaded, there would be no stirring of the evil Lord Alan beast?  Why does Gladys get involved with the subtefuge, when she seemingly seems to be none-the-wiser about anything going on? Who was Evelyn having an affair with, and did she actually have one?

The Night Evelyn Came Out From The Grave 

Many plotholes and some point towards maybe some heavy editing before the film was even released to shorten it (it does have a long runtime already for a giallo). I’m sure some of the nonsense would probably have been explained by some potentially trimmed dialogue. However none of this detracts from the fun of the film, and the overall sense of style. The nudity is gratutious and plentiful, the actors all look great and carry the film well. The most infamous scene of the film is Erika Blanc’s coffin striptease.The Night Evelyn Came Out From The Grave (1971) The dancing is some of the worst seen on screen until we got to Lenzi’s Nightmare City (even the zombies couldn’t take that disco dancing), but you can’t deny the sex appeal of the whole scene. My favourite appearance is the gorgeous Maria Teresa Tofano who appears as the first victim, Polly. Her naked cavorting around Lord Alan’s dungeon of perversion simply has to be seen to be believed! It’s a shame that her only other appearance is in Pupi Avati’s creepy Zeder (1983).

The Night Evelyn Came Out From The Grave (1971) 

The version I watched was the full restored, uncut NoShame Films release that came as a double feature with The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. It’s an astonishingly good transfer and looks sumptious. The garish colours of the fashions and styles leap out of the screen. There is a wealth of detail on show, and even the dark scenes have plenty of detail. It’s presented in its full 2.35:1 widescreen glory, and I am sure has not looked as good since its original theatrical run. It’s very much worth your time to pick up this double-feature, if you have not already done so!

The Night Evelyn Came Out From The Grave (1971) 

Very silly fun, but definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of Italian style’n’sleaze!

The Beyond (1981)

Posted in 1981, Grindhouse Releasing, Horror, Lucio Fulci, Supernatural, Zombies with tags , , , , , on March 5, 2009 by eibonblog

Well we couldn’t very well start off a blog entitled ‘Eibon: Do Not Entry’ without first looking at Lucio Fulci’s infamous The Beyond aka ‘E tu vivrai nel terrore – L’aldilà’ or ‘Seven Doors Of Death’. Certainly many consider this to be his finest work, however my own personal tastes have always favoured his excellent Giallo contributions… particularly Lizard In A Woman’s Skin and Don’t Torture A Duckling. It’s certainly my favourite of his supernatural films, and definitely the superior of the unofficial Gates Of Hell triology (along with the earlier City Of The Living Dead & House By The Cemetery). I’m also a huge fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and there’s more than a subtle Lovecraftian influence in The Beyond. Not least the fact that it features the book of Eibon, which appeared in several Lovecraft stories.The Beyond (1981) - Lucio Fulci - Film Poster

The film was originally to be a haunted house story, focusing on a woman who has moved into a hotel that was built upon one of the seven gates of hell. Fulci is often criticised that his films don’t really make much sense, and that they skip around from one violent shocking scene to another. As a result, critics are often quick to label his films as badly edited and dubiously plotted. If these critics were to look a little deeper they would see the one of Fulci’s all time greatest influences is the playwright Antonin Artaud, a prominent advocate of Surealism. The plays of Artaud were not primarily concerned with linear plots, and concentrated more on "cruel imagary & symbolism" that would shock his audiences into action. This is what Fulci originally wanted to achieve with The Beyond. It was to be a number of shocking scenes around the hotel with little to link it together.

However, Fulci’s plans were scuppered by the German distributor of his films, who wanted him to continue the zombie craze that was still sweeping the cinemas. So Fulci rewrote his film and added in a hospital, in which he wrote many more scenes of action, shootouts, and zombie attack!

 The Beyond (1981) Lucio Fulci - Title

The end result was a genuinely atmospheric, and highly creepy film that really encapsulates the best of Fulci’s zombie’n’gore period. It has all his trademark agonising slow deaths, animal attacks, and of course eyeball mutilation!

 The Beyond (1981) Eyeball Gouge

The film starts off showing us a flashback to Louisiana in 1927. An artist named Schweick is using the book of Eibon to open one of the seven gates of hell in his room at the Seven Doors Hotel. An angry lynch mob storm in and claim him to be Warlock. Schweick claims that he is trying to save them all from hell itself, but the mob want blood! What we see next is a graphic and brutal whipping with chains, crucification to the hotel wall with nails, and eventually covering the poor artist with quicklime to burn off his flesh! Nice people in these lynch mobs.

 The Beyond (1981) - Schweick Zombie

The level of atmosphere that Fulci manages to generate during the runtime of The Beyond is fantastic. The hotel feels like it was lifted directly from the pages of a Lovecraft story, and transported to the 80s. The dark, flooded, and deadly cellar area feels like the stuff of nightmares. The walls drip with the sense of dread and evil that is so crucial to the strengths of this film.

 The Beyond (1981) - Zombies

The Beyond (1981) - Dog Attack

The Beyond (1981) - Zombie Hospital 

It wasn’t just Fulci behind all the elements that make The Beyond such an effective horror film. There was of course the great performances by MacColl and Warbeck (who provide great commentary on the DVD, just before Warbecks untimely death from cancer). They have extremely good chemistry on screen together, and this is illustrated perfectly (if not intentionally) by the brilliant scene in the elevator in the thrilling finale. Warbeck is clearly seen trying to reload his gun by putting the bullets into the barrel… only for MacColl to desperately try to stifle a smile as the elevator door closes!

The Beyond (1981) - Bullets go where?

The Beyond (1981) - Bullets go in the barrel?

The Beyond (1981) - MacColl LOL 

The real maestros at work were behind-the-scenes. Sergio Salvati provided some breathtaking cinematography that took viewers into the hotel, that made them feel the dark evil was ever further encroaching on them. Special effects were courtesy of Gianetto De Rossi, and let’s face it… these are what made the film so infamous. He delivers eye gougings, face meltings, acid burnings, zombie attacks, and those nifty little flesh-eating spiders. He doesn’t hold back on the gore, and even after repeated viewings, they still make you wince!

The Beyond (1981) - Spider Attack 

The Beyond (1981) - Nail Impale 

Not least of all was an absolutely stellar soundtrack by one of my alltime favourites, Fabio Frizzi. Poor Fabio had his score removed from the initial (heavily cut) US release of ‘Seven Doors Of Death’ and ultimately, when it was restored back into the film, fans realised just how cheated they had been. The music is some of the greatest of any horror film, and compliments the extremely visceral nature of the film beautifully. I urge you to hunt down the soundtrack if you don’t already own it!

The Beyond (1981) - DVD CoverBizarrely enough, if it wasn’t for Quentin Tarantino, a guy named Bob, and Sylvester Stallone’s son Sage… we might never have seen The Beyond in all it’s 2 perf Techniscope 2.35:1 widescreen glory, nor heard Fabio Frizzi’s masterful score! Previously the only way to see it uncut in all its original glory was to either have the original film reels, or to have the Japanese laserdisc (or one of the many rough bootleg copies). Sage Stallone and film editor Bob Murawski were big fans of euro cult classics and grindhouse cinema, and set-up the company Grindhouse Releasing. When they sought to re-release The Beyond to US audiences, they didn’t just grab a copy of the heavily cut transfer and port it to laserdisc/DVD. Oh no, they flew to Italy to meet with Fulci and his daughter and not only secured the rights to distribute it, but also the original film negatives. They took these and lovingly restored them in a high definition transfer. Although Grindhouse Releasing have as yet not released their own DVD of the film (they have sold on their restored version to be released by Anchor Bay), they did release the film to the midnight matinee market at cinemas across the United States. Although derided by mainstream critics (they just aren’t meant for these films!), it was met with huge acclaim from horror afficianados Worldwide… largely thanks to the theatrical release being masterminded and promoted by Tarantino and his film company in conjuction with Miramax. The rest, as they say, is history. The film rejuvenated interest in Italian horror and other related genres. Slowly but surely, other Italian classics were given the same loving treatment by other afficianados who set-up similar companies to Grindhouse Releasing (Noshame, Shameless, Severin, Blue Underground, and Shriek Show to name a few). Even now many classics are languishing without a good DVD release.

The Beyond (1981) - In The Beyond 

I’m sure most of you reading this will be very familiar with this film, so I will be preaching to the converted. For those of you who have not yet witnessed the splendidly gory tour-de-force that is The Beyond I urge you to hunt down either the Anchor Bay DVD (even better is the wonderful special edition tin – this has a wealth of postcards with alternate art and great inner notes), or to get the Grindhouse Releasing version (if it ever comes out!).

This next part contains some spoilers, do stop reading here if you have not seen it!  

Many people are left confused by the ending of the film, and there are many weird and wonderful explanations circling. However, I feel it’s best left to Fulci himself to explain it:

"What I wanted to get across with this film was the idea that all life is often really a terrible nightmare and that our only refuge is to remain in this world, but outside time. In the end, the two protagonists’ eyes turn completely white and they find themselves in a desert where there’s no light, no wind, no shade, no nothing. I believe, being Catholic, that they have reached what many people imagine to be the afterworld." – Lucio Fulci, 1993

What we must not forget though is that this is fun Italian cinema, it’s by no means all a master-stroke of genius… but a great blend of the right elements and pure hokum. Not least best illustrated by the other title of this blog: DO NOT ENTRY

The Beyond (1981) - Do Not Entry