Man, I don’t know if this is strictly a giallo or just plain sleaze. But hey, I watched it, you’re going to read it and then we’ll all go about our way. Seriously, I always thought The Devil’s Honey had the most ridiculous sex scenes in an a quasi-giallo and here we are with Profumo, which has nothing to do with the British sex and politics scandal, and was also known as Bizarre.
Florence Guérin (Top Model, Faceless, Too Beautiful to Die, The Black Cat) plays Laurie, a woman who is pretty much haunted by a violent lover named Corbi. No matter how far away from him she gets, he always pulls her back in.
Yet now she’s found a new lover named Edward (Robert Egon, the only actor I can think of who is in a Marvel movie*, My Own Private Idaho and two Fulci films**, Massacre and Sodoma’s Ghost), who she feminizes, sodomizes and pours Coca-Cola all over his pubes and licks it off. Yes, this is that kind of movie.
Frankly, I’m shocked Severin has put this out yet, but this may be because not that many people know about it. Maybe we can do something about that.
I’ve honestly never seen Russian roulette used as foreplay before, so I guess that late model giallo has wonderful things to teach us all.
*To be fair, it’s just the Cannon Captain America.
**You could say three, as he also shows up in the mashup of these movies, Cat in the Brain.
When I was a young child, roughly nine or ten years old, my parents decided to put on a Saturday afternoon movie showing on one of the local broadcast channels, The Scorpion with Two Tails. The film held little interest for me initially, until one very “special” scene came on. In it, a woman has a vision of some of her friends being murdered by an unseen figure who snaps their necks from behind. Meanwhile, the eyes of an ancient statue fall out with the sockets spewing maggots. My parents were unimpressed, with my mother grumbling, “This is gross.” Young me, however, was scared and quickly left the room.
Roughly thirty years later, I sought out The Scorpion with Two Tails, also known as Assassinio al cimitero etrusco (Murder in the Etruscan Cemetary). It proved to be a largely unmemorable giallo, albeit with some good atmosphere and brief appearances by well-known actors. The film revolves around a young woman (Elvire Audray) investigating the murder of her husband, played in an all-too-brief appearance by John Saxon. Saxon’s character, an archeologist, is briefly seen investigating an Etruscan tomb in the Italian countryside, which he thinks may be the find of the century. Unfortunately, his neck is broken by a hidden assailant after a phone call with his wife, who has a premonition of his death.
When Saxon’s wife travels to Italy, her visions intensify, culminating in the scene that scared me as a child. She gets a pendant that her late husband retrieved from the tomb, a scorpion with two tails. She soon learns that she perfectly resembles an ancient Etruscan painting of an immortal woman. Could she be the woman’s reincarnation? More importantly, are the murders connected to the heroin she finds hidden in the tomb, or is something supernatural afoot?
The film wavers between supernatural horror and real-world suspense, never finding a balance between the two. The main story following Audray’s character and her visions is grafted to a sub-plot involving drug smuggling, with the two plot lines never really gelling together. Spooky scenes in the Etruscan tomb are juxtaposed with gunplay and car chases. Furthermore, in the last five to ten minutes, there are scenes implying that the Etruscans had some sort of advanced technology involving anti-matter and anti-gravity, an element that is never really developed. (To be fair to the director, Sergio Martino, the film was originally intended as a miniseries, so it may just be suffering from the truncation.)
The film’s performances are mixed. John Saxon does his usual good work, but his part is little more than a cameo. Elvira Audray, who plays our protagonist, has a tendency to overemote, although that may simply be the way her character was dubbed. Although some might claim that you shouldn’t watch a giallo for the acting, this ignores the role acting plays in keeping us invested in the story. If we care about the characters, we feel greater suspense.
These plot difficulties are to some degree alleviated by the film’s good use of atmosphere. The Etruscan tomb, which figures prominently in Audray’s visions, is genuinely creepy, with lots of shadows and a sulfurous fog emanating from a pit. The visions themselves are disturbing, even as an adult, with necks being broken all too realistically. The film also boasts a good soundtrack, although some themes seem to have been lifted from Fulci’s City of the Living Dead.
The Scorpion with Two Tails is available on YouTube.
“The Christian community has kind of left the art world on the back burner. My vision would be them treating the art world, the film world, with the same sense of urgency as they’re treating, for instance, an overseas mission. . . . This is an emergency for our culture, to be able to influence our film, our arts, the American pop culture in this way [through Christianity].” — Director T Jara Morgan, in an interview with Life Site News
Ah, those ’90s-halcyon Miramax and Fox Searchlight days of driving to an outside-of-the-big-city six-plex with a screen or two dedicated foreign films. Films that you had to see that week — that Friday, in fact — before the manager, seeing the low box office, banished the celluloid from the silver screen, for the film never to be known beyond a few film dorks: like moi.
In the case of this feature film debut by writer-director T Jara Morgan, his Argentinian-shot, music-driven comedic adventure has bounced around the worldwide festival and indie circuit since 2012. And finally, thanks to the fine folks at Indie Rights Films (who always seem to be rescuing just the right films from celluloid obscurity to digital recognition), A Band of Rogues finally makes its well-deserved U.S. streaming and hard-media bow.
Hey, but wait second . . . all of these actors, as well as director T Jara Morgan, hail from Atlanta, Georgia, in the good ‘ol U.S.A. Uh, okay, so . . . then we’re reliving the ’90s-halcyon Miramax and Fox Searchlight days of driving to an outside-of-the-big-city six-plex with a screen or two dedicated to indie films. Films that you had to see that week — that Friday — before the film vanished from the silver screen.
In other words: Different film genre, but the same ol’ hard-road-to-mainstream-distribution travels for the non-Tinseltown film.
As a film academic and critic, I watch a lot of (new) films — and I end up not reviewing more that I review. Sadly, while I realize the writers and directors behind each and every film I watch have depleted their internal organs and inner essence into their digital images, there are just some films that I can’t get behind; there is no common good served by eviscerating the vision of a filmmaker: I ain’t Roger Ebert nor Rex Reed. I’m R.D Francis and R.D don’t play that.
But then . . . along comes A Band of Rogues: an obscure film on the run that deserves to be seen. Reviewing T Jara Morgan’s IMDb page, while he is still producing various video products for television and other outlets, he hasn’t made another feature in the ensuing nine years of the first festival appearance of A Band of Rogues. And that’s a shame. For a director to transition from two short films, to creating a film with an all-original soundtrack of songs (crafted by brother-producer Matthew D. Morgan and actor Luke Micheal Williams) tailored specifically to the character’s personalities and plotting of the film and — with a László Kovácian eye — expertly capture the Argentinean countryside to convey an analogy of the South American expanse to one’s spiritual freedom, is a film that deserves to be experienced.
As with his Christian message-based shorts that are worthy of investing your fifteen minutes, A Band of Rogues is a bit more quiet of a film; a not-so-heavy-handed, faith-based tale regarding the fate of one’s decisions, the importance of the guidance of friendship, and discovering your moral compass that a mass audience — both religious and non — can enjoy. No matter your belief system, man requires faith to survive. Faith has nothing to do with God. It has to do with man. Faith is what keeps us, keeping on. We all have to believe in an endgame to have purpose in our lives. And you can never have enough films pushing that message.
“Live a good life. For you. For me. For both of us.” — Gabriel Consisco
Our “rogues” are a trio of American indie musicians touring their latest album in Argentina — when they’re arrested for drug possession (pot, coke, prescription drugs) and property damage at their hotel. Unable to make financial restitution, and to escape deportation to the U.S. where they’d be locked up for their prior drug records, they accept sentencing to a rehab center for six weeks before their court date. But since these “Ugly Americans” can’t assimilate nor contribute to the rehab’s society, they’ll be kicked out and sent to prison by the end of their first week. So the band decides, with the help of Gabriel, a sympathetic, English-speaking native Argentinean (standout Italian-Argentine actor Leonardo Santaiti of the Divergent series), to shanghai an old kitchen-delivery truck and make a (causal) run for the Chilean border.
The most fascinating aspect of A Band of Rogues is, that unlike most indie films about an indie rock band’s adventures, the film’s music isn’t just plopped into the film willy-nilly: our wayward musician’s personal stories unfold as chapters analogous to one of the tracks on their album — a Beatlesesque acoustic album rife with ukuleles, mandolins, and upright basses, just like the indie ’90s used to make.
Dude, I really enjoyed this movie — and its music. It made me laugh. It made me smile. It made me contemplate. It made me remember my radio and band roadie days. A Band of Rogues is filmmaking at its finest brought to us from an explementary contingent of filmmakers, actors and musicians who deserve bigger and better things in their respective careers. Remain encouraged, ye mighty band of analog and celluloid rogues. Keep that Tinseltown faith alive, my brothers, for we all walk a common road in our love of telling stories.
A young nude-model is stabbed to death with a pair of scissors, the third in a series of victims who had all had their photos taken by Parisi, a potentially mentally unhinged individual who claims that his camera can photograph people’s thoughts.
Director and writer Helia Colombo made one giallo and here it is, rarely seen outside of Italy until today. It really has the best title — The Police Are Blundering In the Dark — because if you think about it, the police never do a great job in these films.
Now, reporter Giorgio D’Amato meets his friend Enrichetta at the photographer’s villa, but when he arrives, he learns that she’s the model we watched die at the beginning of the movie.
She’d been begged by Parisi — who is in a wheelchair and looks quite frail — to come to speak to him about his magical camera. And just like Clue — you know, but with plenty of graphic murder and no short supply of nudity — we meet the suspects, ranging from Alberto the butler to the photographer’s lesbian wife Eleonora, his niece Sara and the sexed-up maid Lucia, who is the next to be killed.
I have no idea why that camera figures in, but maybe the filmmakers thought that Four Flies On Grey Velvet was going to force everyone to have science fiction photography as part of their plot, so they ripped it off. There’s also little police involvement, but it’s not like there’s an actual rule that giallo titles have to make sense. I prefer when they don’t.
Giovanni (Jean Sorel, Perversion Story) is shot in an underground car-park by a mysterious man and as he dies, he flashes back on his life — including jealousy, adultery and worse — in this 1971 giallo known here as The Double.
While vacationing in Morocco with his stunning girlfriend Lucia (Ewa Aulin, Candy, Death Smiles On a Murderer, Death Laid an Egg), Giovanni grows jealous of an American named Eddie (Sergio Doria, Cave of the Sharks). In retaliation, he forces himself on Lucia’s mother Nora (Lucia Bose, The Legend of Blood Castle) and then becomes obsessed all over again that she’s also in love with Eddie. To top all of that off, he soon finds the American’s body in her apartment, so he disposes of the body to protect her. But if she wasn’t in the country when it happened, who killed the man?
Oh yeah, and between being caught in a mother-daughter triangle with Lucia and Nora, there’s also the gorgeous — and face-painted in one scene — Marilù Tolo to deal with.
Romolo Guerrieri also directed another giallo I really enjoyed, The Sweet Body of Deborah, and his artistic sensibilities elevate this film as well, starting with the Sunset Boulevard conceit of the main character getting killed off before we discover anything about him. And even more interesting is the fact that the more we learn of him, the less we like Giovanni.
Translated as Crime of Author, this giallo has pretensions to high class, as it’s all about a wealthy countess named Valeria Volpi Gerosi has been warned that if she gives away a valuable painting that she will be killed. Instead, the painting is stolen, she is still murdered, her niece Milena (Sylva Koscina, Hercules, Lisa and the Devil, Deadlier Than the Male) is kidnapped and the police, as always, blundering in the dark.
American giallo? Why, it seems like a few years ago, we did an entire week of those movies. Well, we missed this one, directed by Ken Stein (who only directed one other movie, Mad Dog Coll) and written by Ray Cunneff (who wrote a movie called A State of Emergency about nuclear testing and visions of the Blessed Mother, so looks like I’ll be tracking that one down).
Welcome to a Los Angeles where it’s always raining, neon is everywhere, all you can hear and sax solos and Michael Chiklis wears a different baseball hat in every scene. Ray Sharkey (Du-beat-e-o in Du-beat-e-o and, of course, Wiseguy) is the burned out cop, David Beecroft (Creepshow 2) is the FBI agent and a scene where Sharkey and his police chief share a bottle of Wild Turkey in a bathroom stall.
In the midst of all this darkness and swearing and rampant sex — my favorite IMDB review of this basically takes a puritanical take on all this filth, which made me want to watch it over again — is a great looking film thanks to cinematographer Janusz Kamiński. What did the man who shot Schindler’s List have to do with this grubby movie? Well, he got his start shooting stuff like The Terror Within II, Grim Prarie Tales and even Cool As Ice — let that set in, two years before he won an Oscar, Kamiński was filming Vanilla Ice — before Steven Spielberg started using him.
Maria Ford plays an exotic dancer who gets killed. You’ll recognize her as she’s been in a ton of things — everything from Slumber Party Massacre III and Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans to the remake of The Wasp Woman, Night Calls: The Movie, Part 2 and kid movies like Beethoven’s Big Break and Casper Meets Wendy.
This really starts like a giallo, as The Rain Killer — named for his m.o. of killing women in the pouring rain — knifes three women in under five minutes while wearing a black overcoat, leather gloves and a hat. Sadly, this is an American film, so there are times where it decides to tell a story that somewhat makes sense. It turns out that all of the victims are members of a support group called The Sewing Circle and the FBI agent just so happens to be divorcing one of its members, his wife Adele (Tania Coleridge, who was in George Michael’s “Father Figure” video and played the drill model in Van Halen’s video for “Poundcake”). So you know — Sharkey hooks up with her because, well, that’s how movies work.
For a movie that is so influenced by giallo, isn’t it odd that Argento’s Trauma uses the same m.o.* — killer who murders in the rain — three years later?
Also known as Assassinio al Cimitero Etrusco (Murder in the Etruscan Cemetery), this is one of the few Sergio Martino giallo films that I had not seen. It was originally to be an 8 episode TV series called Il Mistero Degli Etruschi (The Mystery of the Etruscans) or Lo Scorpione a Due Code(The Two-Tailed Scorpion) before it was made into a full-length film, which was then cut down again to air as a two-part movie in Italy.
Working from a script by Ernesto Gastaldi and Dardano Sacchetti (with screenplay work by Maria Chianetta), Martino tells the story of Joan (Elvire Audray, Ironmaster), who foresees that her husband will die in the Etruscan tombs that they have been exploring. And with that, her husband Arthur dies in just enough time to get John Saxon a special guest star title.
Now, she wants to find the killer, working with her friend Mike (Paolo Malco, Escape from the Bronx, The New York Ripper) and going up against her father (Van Johnson), who may not be involved for altruistic reasons.
I always loved this Enzo Sciotti poster, which looks just like the one for The House by the Cemetery.
Everyone feels like they’re going through the motions here, which is kind of sad. It’s a great idea, mashing up ancient rituals and giallo murders. It should work, but it doesn’t. Even the Fabio Frizzi score sounds a bit like The Beyond, a much better film.
The reviews on this feature film writing and directing debut by Disney wildlife documentarian David Fowler have been of the middling-to-hated variety. And I must admit that, after my first watch, I didn’t care for Welcome to the Circle either — and since I couldn’t find a positive in the film, I wasn’t going to write this review.
But obviously, there’s something happening here — or you wouldn’t be reading this — in the Don Coscarelli-mindfuck frames that I just couldn’t put my finger on my first go-around. For this film’s raison d’etre isn’t flying Chinese cuisinart harmony balls: it’s mannequins and masks and fucked up human-strung marionettes. And it wasn’t until Sam, our Mix Master General of the Movie-themed Drink Blender, rolled out another “Giallo Week” of even deeper Italian and Spanish obscurities*, and my sitting down for a two-day Nazisplotiation binge as I geared up for my review of Naomi Holwill’s everything-you-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask genre document Fascism on a Thread: The Strange Story of Nazisploitation Cinema, that the celluloid memory centers of my analog cortex streamed across the synapses in hallucinatory harmony.
There are just some movies that require a second run through the digital sprocket rollers. The FUBAR’d world of Welcome to the Circle is one of those films.
Now Giallo and Nazisploitation films may not — at all — be at the ambiguity-open-to-your-interpretation roots of Fowler’s retro-madness, but somewhere along the line, between the feel-good Disney docs, he’s ingested his share of films from both genres and they somehow bled into his Final Draft QWERTY-ing.
We’ve got the mannequin and mask creepiness of Mario Bava’s Lisa and the Devil and Umberto Lenzi’s Spasmo. There’s Coscarelli’s they-don’t-make-any-sense surrealistic nightmares of the Phantasm franchise. There’s Bigas Luna’s snail-slithering corkscrews of Anguish. There’s the haunting of Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls with his mannequin-like souls in their undead waltz. There’s the twisted, pseudo-Nazi ideology that makes no sense to anyone but its we-can-do-whatever-we-want followers. Then there’s those narrative time jumps (which seems to annoy the streamer-critics the most) where you don’t know if the character’s insane, trapped in a dream, or the owls are hootin’ down at the Ambrose Bierce bridge of reincarnation sighs.
As the film begins, we meet Greg, a father who takes Samantha, his young daughter, on a bonding camping trip; they’re subsequently attacked by a bear. However, amid the film’s unfurling ambiguity and surrealism, one questions if the bear attack was even real — and if the attack was, instead, in human form, since cults need children to nurture.
Greg comes to wake in the warming bosom of The Circle, a backwoods cult led by a Matthew, a white-suited Ron L. Hubbard-type that deals in philosophical, circular logic: reasoning that means nothing to know one but the cult’s members — whose numbers are dwindling.
And here’s where those mannequins and masks come in . . . and time starts a-jumpin’.
As Samatha’s assimilated into the cult, she’s obsessed with wearing a happy-face mask given to her by the cult’s flower-child rhetoric-spewing handmaidens Sky and Lotus Cloud. In fact, anytime someone is absorbed into the cult — by their own will or by force — they “personality” is replaced by a doppelganger mask. And as the cult numbers dwindle — by escape or death (we think) — they’re replaced by doppelganger mannequins that, (again, we think; keeping with the film’s circular mindfuckery), represents the lost, human soul . . . or the zombie-like autonomic nature of man . . . and your own mindfuck opinions, may vary.
Also pulled into the time loops and identity shifts is Grady, a professional cult deprogrammer hired by a husband and sister-in-law to abduct the cult’s third hippy-handmaiden, Rebekah.
Then there’s the right-back-where-you-started multi-dimensional travel and whacked-out hallucinations of the Tallman “Space Gate” variety that occur in the rural lair-shack of perpetually reincarnating Percy Stephens, an evil Baron Munchausen-styled world adventurer — (cursed to?) a lair that, you always end up where you left. As with Rudolf Enich Raspe’s literary hero, Percy’s a master sportsman, world-class deep sea navy diver, and world traveler (and master B.S. artist) whose life experiences led to his creation of The Circle, a supernatural cult with twisted moral standards. (Luckily, Percy wasn’t a product of Nazi Germany — but he did subjugate some African natives along the way, at least according to the creepy, morphing black and white wall photos hung around the compound, and per everyone’s Ringu-jittery mindbending flashbacks — or this backwoods camp would be a backwoods Nazi-prison farm with Sploitation-atrocities o’ plenty.)
Does young Samantha escape and is Rebekah rescued? Yep. But Rebekah’s got a shite-eating-grin on her face as Samantha fans the pages of the self-made book, “The Adventures of Percy Stephens.” So, will The Circle, continue?
All in all, I’m glad I gave Welcome to the Circle a well-deserved second watch. And it’s well worth your streaming it the first time. But hey, we’re the guys who loved The Invisible Mother, She’s Allergic to Cats, and Under the Silver Lake — that almost everybody else hated and didn’t see. So what do us film reviewing schlemiels and schlimazels of Hasenpfeffer Incorporated in the backwoods of Allegheny County know? We’d tell you that the Giallo cycle was misunderstood by mainstream Americana, with the genre’s mixtures of murder, the supernatural, Entomology, and junk sciences (and, in The Circle’s case: junk philosophy) wrongly critiqued as “style over substance” and “lacking in narrative logic.” And you’d say, “Poppycock.”
And that’s your loss, for you just missed out on a great introduction to a new voice in horror with this debut work from David Fowler.
After a making its streaming debut in October 2020 on various online platforms, Welcome to the Circle makes its January 2021 debut as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi. You can learn more about the film at Artsploitation Films and follow the film at its official Facebook page.
* In June of last year, we had our first, month-long Giallo blowout, which we recapped with our “Exploring: Giallo” featurette with review links to over 50 films. Yep, the blood runs Tallman-yellow in our veins. And there’s nothing like starting off a New Year with Giallos; you can catch up on our reviews with our three-part “Giallo Week Wrap Ups”: Recap 1, Recap 2. and Recap 3.
Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request from the director or a P.R firm. We discovered this film on our own and we truly enjoyed the film.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.