June 9: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is Italian horror.
Marcello Avallone made three movies in Italy — the mondo The Queer…The Erotic, Un gioco per Eveline and Cugine mie before moving to the United States. Nearly ten years later, Avallone began this film through the help of producer Maurizio Tedesco, the brother of actress Paola Tedesco.
He wrote the script along with Andrea Purgatori, a newspaper reporter turned movie scribe, and Tedesco. While Dardano Sacchetti’s name is in the credits, it’s because the film’s financial people were not confident in the script and hired him to doctor it up. He discussed the film with the writers but otherwise didn’t add much, by his own admission.
During excavations for the Rome Metro, a collapsed wall reveals a necropolis known as the Tomb of Domitian, a place that Professor Lasky (Donald Pleasence) claims was built for Roman Emperor Domitian, the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty. In real life, he was not sacrificed by a death cult, but was assassinated and given the worst sentence possible, as his memory was condemned to oblivion by the Roman Senate and his name was erased from anywhere that it appeared on official documents and buildings.
Lasky’s three students, Barbara, Marcus (John Pepper, who was an assistant director on Ghostbusters and cast for his ability to speak English) and Andrea (Trine Michielsen, Delirium), must explore the tomb and attempt to escape with their lives.
There’s a scene where the students all watch a movie-within-a-movie version of Creature from the Black Lagoon and a bed kill that completely is taken from A Nightmare on Elm Street. This also feels like the Italian version of Quatermass and the Pit with Dr. Loomis screaming dialogue at Italian youngsters. Actually, that’s totally what this movie is, but that sentence makes Specters sound like a much more interesting movie.
Avallone would go on to make Maya, which by all accounts is a much better — if somewhat similar — film to this.