Tuesday, 27 November 2007

All the Colors of the Dark


In opposition to the financial drain of being addicted to DVD's, there are plenty of pluses. See, a gambler will keep betting because he thinks the next bet will get him the big pay off, and this almost ever happens. Those with DVD obsessions experience something similar, with the major distinction being that pay offs happen far more frequently. This is all aided and abetted by the availability of previously hard-to-see genre flicks.

I've always thought of myself as a top notch horror movie fan. My earliest movie memories are of being scared at the theatre when I was two years old. Later, I stayed up with my Dad to catch the classic Universal monster movies on the late show when I was a pre-teen. As an adolescent I became a fan of gialli, watching censored VHS copies of 'Deep Red' and Lamberto Bava's early, just-released flicks. During my VHS-fueled adolescence, anything Italian meant outrageous gory entertainment. How many of these Italian gut-munchers (or chunk-blowers), as they were called, were there? I mean, I must've seen almost all of them, I thought.

Wrong! Turns out there's a whole world of horror flicks I'd only just touched upon. Now, thanks to countless DVD companies releasing restored, intact copies of international genre output, I feel like I'm initiated into something special, something undiscovered by the masses. Like Max Renn in "Videodrome", I've gone to a deeper level and discovered the "New Flesh" ("Old Flesh" maybe, since most of these flicks were released in the 70's and 80's).

Part of that new-to-me world that I'm discovering involves the great, beautiful Edwige Fenech. I hate to admit it, but I've only recently seen my first giallo starring Fenech --- "All the Colors of the Dark". Fenech is now mostly retired from acting, but she's a very successful producer in Italy; She also recently had a cameo in "Hostel Part 2" as an art teacher. In her acting heyday, however, Fenech was one of the stalwarts of the giallo.

In "All the Colors of the Dark", a pretty good giallo with supernatural themes, Fenech stars as a woman who's recently miscarried, being pursued by a maniac. Her new and mysterious neighbour (another giallo regular, Marina Malfatti), offers Fenech a solution to her stalker troubles. Unfortunately, that solution involves black magic, which opens the door to a whole host of new problems.

"All the Colors of the Dark" offers solid direction from Sergio Martino ("Torso"), who orchestrates an unforgettable ultra-cool 70's-style opening nightmare sequence (If I ever get to make a perfume commercial, it's going to look exactly like this scene.). The film also features the fantastic combination of not one, not two, but three of giallo's leading ladies - Fenech, Malfatti ("The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave"), and Susan Scott (a.k.a. Nieves Navarro, and star of "Death Walks on High Heels"). George Hilton, also a giallo regular, appears as Fenech's always out of town boyfriend. Julian Ugarte is the head of the coven, and is truly slimy, while Ivan Rassimov is the menacing contact-wearing stalker.

Any review you read of "All the Colors of the Dark" will make mention of the film's similarity to "Rosemary's Baby", which is justified when comparing scenes involving black masses and in both films' shifts between reality and fantasy. "All the Colors of the Dark", though, is unique enough and provides enough of a gambler's reward to keep this betting man hunting for the next big score.

Monday, 5 November 2007


(1979) This movie has been written about ad nauseum, and it's so well known that it's a part of pop culture history. The premise isn't far removed from that of a slasher film --- a group of stranded people are killed by a stalker, one-by-one. Elements of the film are also reminiscent of "It! The Terror from Beyond Space" and Mario Bava's "Planet of the Vampires". Still, it's a scary and suspenseful outer space horror movie with terrific effects and an iconic villain, one of the last (to this date) great monster designs.

Though I partially spoiled the experience of seeing "Alien" in the theatre for the first time by reading Heavy Metal magazine's illustrated version of the story before seeing the movie, I found certain scenes incredibly tense even though I knew what was coming. As a 13-year-old I found other stretches of the film dull, but that has changed as I've grown older, which is the reverse of my experience with most movies.

Though the first sequel, "Aliens", is the preferred alien flick by many, I still prefer the original. I like its emphasis on horror and suspense over the second film's focus on action scenes. And I find the original alien infinitely more scary than those in the sequel. The original creature is almost unstoppable, while the creatures in "Aliens" are easy to destroy, finding their strength in numbers.

Ridley Scott's direction is controlled and builds suspense terrifically. The script by Dan O'Bannon is smart, and the score by Jerry Goldsmith is eerie and effective. The cast are all perfect, with Sigorney Weaver being a standout. The unexpected arrival of the baby alien is one of horror's classic moments. File this movie under "You Must Have Seen This By Now" category.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Alice, Sweet Alice

(1976) "Alice, Sweet Alice" is a creepy little thriller, commonly referred to as an American giallo (Not to be confused with that Richard Gere movie with the Blondie theme song). I hate movie writing that gives away too much plot, so I'll skip those details, and instead say that "Alice, Sweet Alice" involves a creepy killer in a creepy see-through mask and a creepy yellow raincoat (in an oft noted nod to Nicholas Roeg's "Don't Look Now"). It's also a very Catholic flick with themes of guilt and sin and scenes set in a church and a manse, populated with preists, nuns and the devout. In fact, the atmosphere is key to the flick's effectiveness. Shot in the 70's and set in the 60's, "Alice, Sweet Alice" has a terrific feel for its working class New Jersey backdrop. The cast adds to the overall oppressive atmopsphere, with Brooke Shields in her acting debut, a Felliniesque Alphonso DeNoble, and Paula Sheppard perfect as Alice. Though "Alice, Sweet Alice" drags a little around the two-thirds mark, it's a very good movie, well worth seeing. And that mask is seriously creepy.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

31 Films That Give Me the Willies

On his website http://ShootTheProjectionist.blogspot.com, Ed Hardy Jr is compiling a list called 31 Films That Give You the Willies. Readers were asked to e-mail a list of 31 films (There's 31 days in October) that scared them, arranged in decending order. Films receiving 3 votes or more were added to the final voting list, which now totals 181 movies! Now... from that list of 181, readers are again asked to select, in decending order, the 31 films that scared them the most. The results will be posted on Halloween.

The current list of 181 movies is nicely varied with some relatively obscure horror movie choices. Compiling my own selections was difficult, though it was interesting to take a look at those flicks which I found personally most effective. To be sure, there were a lot of different reasons why certain movies worked for me --- the age at which I'd seen a film, personal experience, etc.

Here's the list that I sent to Ed:

1. The Exorcist (1973; William Friedkin)
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974; Tobe Hooper)
3. The Blair Witch Project (1999; Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez)
4. Black Christmas (1974: Bob Clark)
5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991; Jonathon Demme)
6. Don't Look Now (1973; Nicolas Roeg)
7. Halloween (1978; John Carpenter)
8. The Fog (1980; John Carpenter)
9. Deep Red (1975; Dario Argento)
10. Session 9 (2001; Brad Anderson)
11. The Tenant (1976; Roman Polanski)
12. Seven (1995; David Fincher)
13. The Thing (1982; John Carpenter)
14. Jaws (1976; Steven Spielberg)
15. Alien (1979; Ridley Scott)
16. Psycho (1960; Alfred Hitchcock)
17. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956; Don Siegel)
18. Night of the Living Dead (1968; George Romero)
19. The Wicker Man (1973; Robin Hardy)
20. The Vanishing (Spoorloos) (1988; George Sluizer)
21. Les Diaboliques (1955; Henri-Georges Clouzot)
22. The Shining (1980; Stanley Kubrick)
23. Onibaba (1964; Kaneto Shindo)
24. Lost Highway (1997; David Lynch)
25. In the Mouth of Madness (1995; John Carpenter)
26. Prince of Darkness (1987; John Carpenter)
27. Alice Sweet Alice (1976; Alfred Sole)
28. The Haunting (1963; Robert Wise)
29. Eraserhead (1977; David Lynch)
30. Ringu (1998; Hideo Nakata)
31. The Devils (1971; Ken Russell)

Ed has also posted a bonus list, asking for your 5 Favourite Horror Comedies, which, of course, I was happy to provide. Mine are:

1. Evil Dead 2
2. Lair of the White Worm
3. Planet Terror
4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2
5. Theatre of Blood

Though I would've loved to also include The Abominable Dr. Phibes, An American Werewolf..., Basket Case, A Bucket of Blood, Creepshow, Dead Alive, From Beyond, The Howling, The Little Shop of Horrors (original), Night of the Comet, Night of the Creeps, Piranha, Re-Animator, Shaun of the Dead, Squirm, and Spider Baby..., I didn't.

Giallo Generator

I love gialli. They take their name from a style of books published in Italy and printed with predominately yellow covers (Giallo is Italian for yellow). These books were written by mystery writers like Edgar Wallace.

Their filmic counterparts are said to have originated with Mario Bava's "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" (1963). They feature obscured killers, frequently wearing black raincoats or similar garb, wielding razors or other weapons. The villain(s) often call the hero/heroine, giving warnings via the telephone in a disguised voice. Sometimes they whisper threats through a locked door. The heroes/heroines have usually witnessed a murder, but can't quite recall the most important clues until the film's climax. These flicks are stylish, exciting, spooky, and rarely make a lot of narrative sense. An atmosphere of sex and violence is usually implied if not in your face. They also frequently have elaborate and evocative titles like "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage", "Death Walks in High Heels", and "The House With Laughing Windows".

Now you can join Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and Luciano Ercoli by playing giallo director. Cut and paste the link below to generate your own giallo:


Friday, 12 October 2007

Airport Terminal Pack (Contains all 4 Airport Movies)

Airport (1970)

It's been years since I saw the original Airport on TV. Here's why I haven't revisited it: It takes itself entirely too seriously (It has an all-star cast, after all), and it's got the classic disaster movie formula all wrong for my tastes. See, in my kind of disaster flick, we meet a variety pack of characters, then half an hour in, disaster strikes, and we spend the rest of the film watching celebs try to escape. Airport saves its disaster for the end. I guess it follows the Hitchcock example of suspense over shock (A group of people sit around a table, talking. Suddenly, a bomb goes off. That's shock. A group of people sit around a table, talking. Cut to a bomb. Cut back to the people. Back to the bomb. Etc. That's suspense.).

The film, based on the best-seller by Arther Hailey, features a soap opera-y plot about pilots, flight attendants (they were stewardesses then), airport authority figures (i.e. George Kennedy, the only actor to appear in all four Airport movies), passengers, and a depressed on-board bomber (I remember feeling really sorry for the bomber's wife when I saw this flick.). The celebrities on and off board include Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin(!), Jacqueline Bisset, Jean Seberg, Maureen Stapleton, Dana Wynter, Van Heflin, and Helen Hayes.

Though Airport feels more like a drama than a disaster movie, and it doesn't even feature a ballad sung by Maureen McGovern, credit where credit is due, it really did kick off the 1970's disaster movie craze.

Airport 1975 (1974)

Now this is the reason I own this 4-movie set. Airport 1975 follows my preferred disaster movie formula (1. intros, 2. disaster, 3. survival), and it's a great bad movie. Plus the cast is terrific disaster movie fodder: Karen Black, Charlton Heston, Linda Blair (as an in-transit liver transplant recipient), Helen Reddy (as a singing nun), Gloria Swanson, and a zillion other recognizables, including George Kennedy.

When Dana Andrews has a heart attack while flying his small private plane, he crashes right into the cockpit of a Boeing 747, killing the pilot and co-pilot. It's up to stewardess Karen Black (yay, Karen!) to land the plane with the help of her pilot boyfriend, Charlton Heston. (Black's plea of, "Something hit us... The crew is dead... Help us, please, please help us! " adorned Airport 1975's cool poster.) Heston first tries to help Black by coaching her via headset, but when that doesn't work, he has himself lowered into the plane through the hole in the cockpit (Hello, Freud!). I love it.

Yeah, it's bad, but it's really entertaining (which is more than I can say for respectable films like "Out of Africa"), so what more do you want? Oh yeah, it's got a era-centric theme song with soaring violins. Makes you feel like you're flying through the clouds, your stewardess scarf fluttering in the wind over your shoulder. Oh no! Now it's in your eyes. You can't see ! Watch out for that jumbo jet!

Airport '77 (1977)

After the '75 model Airport flick, this is probably the next most entertaining, and its plot is even more ludicrous. A jumbo jet loaded with celebrities crashes into the ocean... and sinks! Art thieves are responsible, but that doesn't really matter. That the airplane stays together underwater for 90 minutes is a feat of aero-engineering (does that term/job exist?). Eventually the soggy jet is raised from the bottom of the ocean floor.

As a kid, I was horrified by the notion of being trapped undersea in an airplane. How dare the filmmakers exploit my fear of flying AND of drowning?!

James Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Olivia De Havilland, and Christopher Lee fill in the little cast picture boxes on the movie poster. George Kennedy does too.

The Concorde: Airport '79 (1979)

Ding dong! That's the death knell of the Airport series, rung by this putrid blue screen mess. It's like a whole bunch of airplane disaster movie elements were written down on cards, thrown into one of those bingo ball-spinners, and pulled out randomly to create the plot and casting.

The Concorde: Airport '79 commits the cardinal movie sin: It's uninteresting. And that's with Charo on board. With a poodle. Evading rockets. With George Kennedy's help. And it takes place on a Concorde. At least Sting isn't on-board like he was when the real Concorde flew its last flight. He would've brought his lute. And that would have been the high-point. That's all I've got to say about this.

After Hours

(1985) Griffin Dunne stars in this fine Martin Scorsese-directed blind date nightmare set in New York's Soho area. Dunne meets a woman in a cafe, gets her number, then meets up with her later. The date goes from promising, to bad, to worse, to worser. Terrific black comedy (It's really a blend of black comedy and film noir) has great cast including Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, John Heard, and Cheech and Chong. Yes, Cheech and Chong. It was written by the guy who wrote another great black comedy, Vampire's Kiss, starring Nicholas Cage.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

The Abominable Dr. Phibes / Dr. Phibes Rises Again

(1971 /1972) Tongue in cheek art deco horror double bill with Vincent Price as a disfigured doctor seeking revenge on those he holds responsible for his wife's death following a car accident. In the first film Phibes uses Biblical plagues as the basis for his revenge. In the sequel, Phibes attempts to resurrect his wife, stopping those who interfere with Egyptian-themed deathtraps. The first flick is better, but they're both worth seeing.


(1974) Warner Brothers, the company that produced The Exorcist, successfully sued to have Abby withdrawn from theatres. It's directed by William Girdler, the same guy who did Grizzly, Three on a Meathook, The Manitou and Day of the Animals. Though the movie is relatively rare, the picture and the sound quality of this DVD are pretty poor. Still, it's fun for fans of this sort of thing. Like me.did y poor. Still, it's fun for fans o this sort of thing. Like    m                   

Bloody Terror, C'est Wha?!

I'm obsessed with movies, and the advent of DVD's and Blu-rays have really brought out the beast in me. Suddenly I can see pristine letterboxed prints of movies I've only read about, or movies I haven't been able to track down for years --- giallo, 70's disaster flicks, devil movies, drive-in classics... I'm obsessed. And I don't care.

Bloody Terror takes its name from a horror flick I saw when I was a kid. An avid reader of Famous Monsters of Filmland, The Monster Times, Vampirella, Creepy, Eerie, House of Hammer (Then later Fangoria, Gorezone, and now Rue Morgue), I tried to see as many horror movies as I could. At around the age of 10, I found myself at the now-gone Prince Edward Cinemas, all alone (I think) at a 2pm matinee of Spanish actor/writer Paul Naschy's "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror" ("La Marca del Hombre-lobo"). This was fairly representative of the kind of programming that happened at your local theatre and drive-in in the 70's --- Hammer Horror double bills, Godzilla flicks, and AIP movies. Not that Frankenstein's Bloody Terror was the first horror movie I'd seen (That was a TV-viewing of "The Deadly Mantis"), but, all these years later, the title reference seems appropriate --- Obscure horror in an accessible venue. Foreign, vivid, and bloody. The damage is already done... why not write about?