BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Emanuelle and Francoise (1975)

This movie is quite literally the Batman and Superman of Italian sleaze filmmaking uniting to create some art. Those two men have many, many names, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll use the names that they used most often: Joe D’Amato and Bruno Mattei.

Producer Franco Gaudenzi wanted to bring the movie The Wild Pussycat to Italy, but it would have never made it past the Italian censors. For some reason, if the movie was made in Italy, it would pass. This is the country where it’s legal to call your movie Zombi 2, but illegal to use Mrs. Ward’s name. Let’s forget the complexities of law when it comes to exploitation cinema and move on.

D’Amato and Mattei took up the challenge of remaking this movie for Italian audiences with both writing the script and co-directing the picture, even if only D’Amato got directing credit. What was important for the producers was that the film could play theaters and it passed the Italian censorship board on November 5, 1975 after some lesbian elements and scenes with sodomy were removed.

Ironically, when this was brought to Switzerland by Erwin C. Dietrich, he added in actual hardcore scenes with French actress Brigitte Lahaie (who is in Fascination) and dubbed it into German, releasing it as Foltergarten der Sinnlichkeit (Torture Garden of Sensuality) and Die Lady mit der Pussycat (The Lady with the Pussycat).

Truly, scumbag pictures bring all the nations of the world together, do they not?

Francoise (Patrizia Gori, The Return of the Exorcist) has had enough of the abuse from her gambler cad of a husband Carlo (George Eastman!), so she jumps in front of a train. Her sister Emanuelle — no, not Laura Gemser just yet, she’s played here by Rosemarie Lindt from Salon Kitty — gets revenge by drugging Carlo and restraining him in a soundproof room. There, she teases him through two-way mirrored glass as he’s forced to watch her make love to numerous men and women, all while he’s repeatedly dosed with LSD.

Finally, Emanuelle enters the room and attempts to castrate Carlo, who has been repeatedly fantasizing about killing her and finally does so for real. His joy is short-lived as while he’s hiding in the secret room, he gets locked in and the police closed down the crime scene for thirty days, basically leaving him to die.

Also known as Emanuelle’s RevengeBlood Vengeance and Demon Rage, this is exactly the kind of movie that you’d imagine D’Amato and Mattei would make together, filled with numerous sex scenes, frequently spinning and zooming camera angles and a cannibalistic feast sequence.

Back when we reviewed Emanuelle In America, the guys at Severin said, “If you thought that was rough, watch this one.” Their release has a great George Eastman interview in which he says that  D’Amato had the ability to do bigger and better things, but preferred doing ten B movies a year than one A film. You can get the Severin edition of this film and see just how good-looking a completely irredeemable piece of trash — I say that with love — can look.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: The Jail: The Women’s Hell (2006)

When most Italian men get to be 75 years of age, they become kindly older men, their rough edges filed down and replaced with good humor and happiness. Bruno Mattei was not one of those men, because if you think his return to the women in prison genre would start pulling punches, you don’t know Vincent Dawn. Or David Hunt. Or Werner Knox.

The first moment in this movie would be the roughest in anyone else’s film. The warden of the prison hell on an Adian island asks for a woman to be released from the hole that she’s been in for a month. When the guards take her out, she’s already dead. She orders her to take twenty lashes anyway to the shock of everyone, even the hardened people guarding the prisoners. In another director’s hands, this would be enough. But we’re in the world of Mr. Mattei and that means we have to watch a dead body literally get the deceased horse treatment.

Three new fish — prisoners 50-52 — are coming to this jungle hell. They’re Carol, who killed her pimp. Lisa, who was part of the wrong crowd. And finally, our heroine Jennifer (Yvette Yzon, who was in two other late Mattei films, Island of the Living Dead and Zombies: The Beginning), who we know won’t crack under pressure. Or high pressure hoses. Or whatever other horrifying things the mind of Mattei can bring.

Jim Gaines — who shows up in plenty of Mattei movies like Zombies: The BeginningIsland of the Living DeadRoboWar, both Strike Commando movies — plays the Governor of the island who runs a strip club, because I guess that’s the kind of business that thrives in a hellhole, and uses the girls as talent. If you don’t play along, they make you stand in a bamboo cage filled with corpses, so most of the ladies get on the pole.

During a huge party at the Governor’s club, the girls make a break for it, turning the film into The Most Dangerous Game slasher territory, yet it’s somehow some of the best-lensed stuff Bruno did. Life’s funny that way. Somehow, the Philippines were just made for the director.

That said — this movie is 100% not for anyone. Really, it’s filled with such repellant imagery that it goes into near parody territory. The House of the Lost Souls is not a place that anyone wants to go to and the film shows you all of it.

Somehow, someway, Bruno didn’t rip anything off in this other than every women in prison movie ever.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: The Tomb (2006)

Remember when there were a whole bunch of Brendan Fraser mummy movies? What if Bruno Mattei made his own version of those movies — using the name David Hunt — and filled it with all of the wonderful things that his movies are known for? Well, he did. He sure did.

Over the last few years of his career, Mattei began working with Giovanni “Gianni” Paolucci, who wrote and produced his films Dangerous AttractionSnuff KillerMondo CannibalIn the Land of the CannibalsThe Jail: The Women’s HellIsland of the Living DeadZombies: The BeginningCapriccio VenezianoPrivéBelle da Morire and the sequel to that film. Before working with Mattei, he also wrote and produced Antonio Margheriti’s The Ark of the Sun God and was the producer of Argento’s Dracula 3D (as well as the upcoming Antropophagus II, which will be directed by Dario Germani).

The amazing thing is that now that Bruno has moved on to digital video, he’s able to completely not just rip off movies — this is The Mummy right down to the bad guy who looks kinda sorta like Arnold Vosloo — he’s now able to even more easily copy and paste footage from other films directly into his own. Now, when a major Hollywood film takes a plot point, I get apoplectic. Yet when Matti outright takes entire scenes from other movies, I get overjoyed. Such are the weird ways of how I enjoy film.

That means that while Bruno takes the Titty Twister scenes that were a major part of From Dusk Till Dawn and films his own version, he is just as comfortable with directly taking footage from Army of Darkness and The Mummy and inserting them into The Tomb.

Somehow, the guide that a group of students is using to get through the Aztec pyramids is the reincarnation of an evil priestess and one of those students is the reincarnation of the girl who her lover never got to sacrifice because movie logic demands these things occur. Again, in any other movie, I’d roll my eyes, but I kind of demand these kinds of things from the Italian masters of beyond basement value movies.

Then, to show us all that Mattei does not care at all about the world of Hollywood, he outright takes footage from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I doubt Spielberg had any idea who Bruno Mattei was, but just the sheer “Che palle!” of Mattei brings a tear to my eye. Then, to top that, he also ripped off footage from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!

This isn’t the best movie Bruno ever made — I cannot and will not answer that impossible inquiry — but damn if it isn’t a million times better than any mummy movie Hollywood has made said the black and white Universal days.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Privè (2002)

At this time in his career, it seemed like all Bruno Mattei was making — sorry, Vincent Dawn — was Cinemax After Dark fodder with interchangeable covers of women turning their backs to the camera.

This time, we’re dealing with the dangerous liaisons of the rich and famous. Francesca (Dana Ceci, in her one and only role) can’t get anything out of her husband’s lovemaking skills, so she starts a secret identity as adult star Bizou. Along the way, she falls for a male adult actor named Bingo (Hugo Baret, who was Bruno in Mattei’s Belle de Moirre and High Priest Tatamackly in his movie The Tomb, pretty much playing the role that Arnold Vosloo essayed in The Mummy).

What a ridiculous name, I thought, and then remembered that one of the most famous male European adult stars of all time is named Nacho Vidal.

This was written and produced by Giovanni Paolucci, who we have to thank for the late period burst of Mattei’s shot on video horror period in the 2000s, but also have to blame for funding Dracula 3D.

There’s also a full-on devil worshipping scenes that feels straight out of Tim Vigil’s Faust comic. You know, when they adapted that movie, they should have just asked Bruno to make it. Also, there’s some PS1 level CGI in this, which made me love it even more.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Caligula and Messalina (1981)

Vincent Dawn, in case you couldn’t guess, is Bruno Mattei and here, he’s making one of the several Caligulasploitation movies he’d churn out in his career. If you thought, “I liked Tinto Brass’ Caligula but I really wish it wasn’t so highbrow,” then Bruno — or Vincent — is your man.

Antonio Passalia, who co-directed this and Mattei’s other Romesplotation film, Nero and Poppea – An Orgy of Power, also appears in both of these movies as Cladius. But the real story revolves around Messalina (Betty Roland, who not to sound like a broken record, but also appeared in Nero and Poppea), who has one goal: to be Empress of Rome. If that takes fighting in the gladiator pits or literally blowing Claudius’ mind, so be it.

Meanwhile, Caligula’s sister Agrippina (Françoise Blanchard, The Living Dead Girl and, yes, both of these movies) sleeps with her own brother before eliminating him, all so that her son Nero can become Emperor. How will she make that move? Well, Messalina sleeps with everyone — even pulling off a surprise terzetto on her wedding night with a muscular man who is under 147 centimeters and somehow bedding a eunuch — and it comes back to haunt her when she becomes pregnant while her husband is fighting in a foreign war.

Agrippina is not to be stopped in her goals. She’s also a gladiator, albeit one that can do karate, and not shy when it comes to castrating her victims.

As if this movie couldn’t be any wilder, Mattei falls back to his tricks of, well, ripping off scenes from other movies, lifting from The Colossus of RhodesPontius Pilate and The Beast.

To be honest, I’m shocked that there weren’t more of these Roman epics filtered through the nothing-held-back mania of Italian maniacs like Mattei. Maybe they didn’t sell as well as prison, cannibal and last days of the Third Reich films.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Strike Commando 2 (1988)

Only the genius — or madness — of Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi could take a Rambo ripoff made in the Philippines and decide to add ninjas, the KGB and no small amount of inspiration from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Sgt. Michael Ransom’s (Brent Huff!) owes a debt of honor to his Vietnam squad leader Vic Jenkins (Richard Harris!), who has been captured by heroin-selling terrorists who want ten million dollars worth of diamonds. Now, everyone is going to pay.

How else can I sell this movie to you? Oh yeah, Vic Diaz is in it! Plus, the Strike Commando works with a girl he meets in a bar who is in the midst of a drinking contest named Rosanna Boom. Yes, that’s her name, but I’d forgive you if you called her Marion Ravenwood. She swears more than me, which is saying something, and is played by 1977 Miss World Mary Stavin, who was also in Mattei’s Born to FightA View to a KillHouse and Adam Ant’s video for “Strip.”

Italian stalwarts Ottaviano Dell’Acqua and Massimo Vanni are also in this movie, which was shot at the same time as Zombie 4: After Death. And speaking of recycling, a lot of the jungle action here also shows up in Mattei’s Cop Game, which is also beloved in my world.

The movie has a great twist which I didn’t see coming. Then I realized that the movie had been missing one of the essential Rambo ingredients. We had not yet seen our hero get tortured. Yes, like a southern tag team babyface, he must sell and sell to build for his comeback on the man who has turned heel on him, then emerge from the mud and the blood and the filth and unleash unholy hell on people who only care about diamonds when the Strike Commando’s one true love is the unending thrill of bullets, brawls and blowing things up real good.

You have no idea how excited I am that Severin is releasing a 4K version of this movie.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Strike Commando (1986)

Sgt. Michael Ransom (Reb Brown, who was both Yor Hunter from the Future and Captain America) and his team of Strike Commandos are decimating a Vietnamese base, ready to blow it up real good. But one of the team is killed and alarms go off, scuttling the mission. Instead of allowing the team to come back and fight another day, the mission’s commander Colonel Radek (Christopher Connelly) orders that the explosives be set off while the Strike Commandos are on the retreat. One of Ransom’s men is killed and he’s knocked into a river.

So begins Strike Commando, a post-Rambo: First Blood Part II film directed by Bruno Mattei and written by Claudio Fragasso that lives up to everything I dreamed that it could be.

Ransom is rescued by a young boy named Lap and brought to a village to recover. There, he makes friends with a retired soldier named Le Due (Luciano Pigozzi, making this an unoffical Pag and Yor reunion!) and tells the children of the village just how amazing America — mostly Disneyland — can be.

Of course, everyone in that village is soon killed by Russians, so our hero goes back to Vietnam again, this time motivated by the need for horrible revenge. He sees his little Vietnamese friend  Lao one more time, talking him into the next life with more stories of Disneyland before unleashing absolute hell on the Russians until they threaten to kill civilians unless he surrenders.

Let me just share this dialogue with you, as Lao dies…

Lao: American… tell me… tell me about Disneyland.

Ransom: (choking back tears of rage) They got tons of popcorn there. All you gotta do is go climb a tree to go eat it. And there’s cotton candy. Mountains of it. And chocolate milk, and malts. And there’s a genie. A magic genie. And he can’t wait to grant your wishes.

Much like all post-John Rambo military films, that means it’s time to torture our hero, which includes making him stay inside a cell for months with a rotting corpse and forcing him to record a message renouncing America. Of course, it’s just words, not deeds, because in seconds Ransom is killing Russkies all over again before getting is revenge on Radek, which involves a gigantic machine gun and a grenade, all before a final battle with his nemesis Jakoda. They’ve already battled on a waterfall, Holmes and Moriarty be damned, but this time, the big bad and brutal bolshevik has metal teeth after losing all of his molars in their last battle.

This is the very same Jakoda who made sure to tell our hero, “Hey, hero. Remember that Vietnamese village? With that boy called Lao? Nice boy, wasn’t he. That’s why I decided to save him for last. He had such fragile bones.”

Oh Vincent Dawn and Clyde Anderson! Oh Bruno and Claudio! You never cease to thrill me with the madness that you throw at the screen, filling this movie with explosions, machine gun fire and Reb Brown screaming every single line of dialogue with the blazing intensity of a thousand Republican wet dreams.

If you’re wondering, “Did Bruno steal any footage to make this?” the answer is, “This is a Bruno Mattei movie.” Look for the helicopter scenes from The Last Hunter. Why pay for something when someone else has already shot it? Bruno would pay himself back by reusing footage of this movie in Cop Game.

My greatest dream is that someday, somewhere, somehow, Strike Commando and Thunder form an Italian exploitation version of The Expendables with Jake “Tiger” Sharp from Blastfighter, Paco Quernak from Hands of Steel and Nadir from Warriors of the Wasteland.

There’s a reason why Severin is my favorite label. They keep releasing movies like this and putting them out in way better quality than anyone ever thought that they’d deserve. Beyond a 2K remaster of the film — looking better than it probably did when it was originally screened — you also get interviews with Fragasso and Rossella Drudi. You can get this movie from Severin now.

Movies in Outer Space Week Recap

Image banner design courtesy of Mike Delbusso/Splatt Gallery.*

Well, so goes another theme week blow out on movies set in outer space, so let’s round ’em, up, space cowboy. No, we didn’t review that mainstream movie, nor Armageddon or Deep Impact or Geostrorm. Don’t you know the B&S About Movies’ jam, by now? And, why yes, we did go overboard, again. See, you do know our jams.

12 to the Moon (1960)
2+5 Mission Hydra (1966)
Alien Beasts (1991)
Alien Intruder (1993)
The Aliens are Coming (1980)
Attack from Space (1964)
Attack of the Robots (1966)
Beyond the Rising Moon (1987)
Conquest of the Earth, aka Battlestar Galactica III (1980)
Convict 762 (1997)
Cosmic Princess (1982)
Dark Star (1974)
Death in Space (1974)
First Spaceship on Venus (1960)
Flesh Gordon (1974)
Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders (1990)
Flight to Mars (1951)
Fugitive Alien (1986)
Fugitive Alien II, aka Star Force (1987)
Future War (1997)
Galaxis (1995)
Hyper Space (1989)
Inhumanoid (1996)
Lifepod (1981)
Lifepod (1993)
Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack, aka Battlestar Galactica II (1979)
Mission Mars (1968)
Mission Stardust (1968)
Mutiny in Outer Space (1965)
The Noah’s Ark Principle (1984)
Oblivion 2: Backlash (1996)
The Phantom Planet (1961)
Primal Scream (1988)
Prince of Space (1959)
Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars (1981)
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)
Robotrix (1991)
Solar Crisis (1990)
Space Chase (1990)
Star Crystal (1985)
Star Pilot (1977)
Starship Troopers or: Why I Need to Stop Worrying about the Poor Portrayal of Women in Space Flicks and Just Love This Movie (1997)
Syngenor (1990)
Terror from the Year 5000 (1958)
Time Walker (1982)
Timestalkers (1987)
Within the Rock (1996)

And there’s more movies set in outer space that you can enjoy with these easy-to-use compilation lists from out past “theme week/month” blow outs:

Attack of the Clones: Redux
Ten Star Wars Ripoffs
Exploring: After Star Wars
Exploring: Before Star Wars
Exploring (Before “Star Wars”): The Russian Antecedents of 2001: A Space Odyssey
A Whole Bunch of Alien Ripoffs at Once
Ten Movies That Ripped Off Alien

Phew! And we still haven’t reviewed them all. You know the B&S motto: Never Say Never. We’ll do it again.

* From the Facebook pages of Splatt Gallery, Southeast Michigan’s largest public collection of concert posters, gig posters, lowbrow and street art, about their theme/banner posting:

1978 was the year of the spaceship. The Electric Light Orchestra’s Out of the Blue tour used a stage construction that had the band performing inside a giant spaceship, a prop so massive that the set-up time required ELO to only use it every other show for most of the tour. The band Boston released their second album, again, as with the first, with their signature spaceship illustration by artist Roger Huyssen — the same artist that illustrated the cover for Sky King’s 1975 Secret Sauce album.

The cover art for the Live in London album by Andrae Crouch featured a keyboard transformed into a space craft, and drummer Lenny White released a concept album titled The Adventures Of Astral Pirates. A band from France called Space, who had a disco hit with the song “Magic Fly,” performed in spacesuits.

George Clinton, who had landed a mothership on stage for nearly two and a half years, temporarily parked his spaceship in a hanger and embarked on an “Anti-Tour.” Parliament-Funkadelic’s mothership now resides in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, but it is a smaller replica built in the mid 1990s. The story of the strange fate of the original mothership can be read in an archived post at the Washington Post.

About the Authors: Sam Panico is the founder, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, and editor-in-chief of B&S About Movies. You can visit him on Lettebox’d. R.D Francis is the grease bit scrubber, dumpster pad technician, and staff writer at B&S About Movies. You can visit him on Facebook.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: When Frederick Burdsall isn’t at work or watching movies while covered in cats, you can find Fred in the front seat of Knoebels’ Phoenix. 

Way back when in the time of the dinosaurs there were these places called Drive-Ins. You can pretty much count on both hands how many still exist today but they were magical and I consider myself fortunate to grow up in a time when they were prolific. The one near me was the Tacony-Palmyra and it boasted 2 huge screens with 3 films every night. One side was your standard movie fare but the other….oh, the other screen was heaven to a guy like me. 3 horror movies every weekend and for 10 straight weeks my friend and I would get some beer and head over to see Maniac, Zombie and whatever third feature had been added for that weekend. Most were forgettable but one in particular remained in my memory and that was the Bruno Mattei film Hell of the Living Dead.      

 Under the pseudonym Vincent Dawn and assisted by Claudio Fragassi ( who gave us the sensationally awful Troll 2) we start in New Guinea at a chemical research facility named Hope Center 1 where they are working on a project called Operation Sweet Death, a gas which will turn those it comes into contact with into zombies. Unfortunately, a rat in the works has created a leak and now the lab techs are turning on each other.

After the 4 commandos are introduced in a hostage rescue scene (which would have surely resulted in dead hostages in real life) we jump to New Guinea where they are investigating why contact with Hope1 has ceased. Believing it to be just another eco-terrorist takeover they set out in their jeep and cross paths with Rousseau and Max, a journalist and her cameraman already being stalked by the dead.

The group suffers several more attacks, one in a nearby village and another in a seemingly abandoned plantation that is anything BUT abandoned before finally reaching the river and their raft, with the dead hot on their heels. Once across, they finally reach the facility where they discover the grisly truth. Will anyone make it out alive to warn the world of what’s to come? 

There is certainly no end of things you could crap on this movie about. The dubbing is comical in a few scenes and Goblin is credited with scoring the movie but in reality they just used Goblin music lifted from Dawn of the Dead. Footage from the film La Vallee was also incorporated into the movie. Shot in Rome and Barcelona it was originally scripted to take place in Africa but was considered too costly.  So by all means watch and enjoy Hell of the Living Dead in all of its eye-popping, maggot eating, head crushing glory and I’ll see you at Knoebels.  

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Libidomania (1979)

Man, when you get Bruno Mattei to make a mondo, you get something that’ll shock even the most jaded of us. Like me.

Working under the name Jimmy Matheus and basing his work on German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis — which had already been made into a film by Albert Zugsmith — you may think, hey, this could very well be a well-thought-out exploration of man’s carnal side. I mean, the opening even gives credit to Sigmund Freud, the Marquis De Sade and Masters and Johnson.

Then you realize, hey, it’s Bruno Mattei.

This movie was so upsetting on release that 38 minutes of the film was cut in its native Italy. This is the same country that gave birth to movies like Giallo In Venice and Salò. It did, however, run uncut in Germany. They got to see everything from a sex maniac cutting off a girl’s leg and a sex change operation to flirting with farm animals and priests making sweet, sweet love to dead people.

Now, that’s the stuff I felt comfortable discussing in this review. Just imagine what got left out. Nope, it’s worse than that.

Mattei also made a sequel, Sesso Perverso, Mondo Violento, bringing on Claudio Fragasso to direct the second unit.

Anyways, there’s also a lot of stock footage and, if you’ve never seen a mondo in your life, plenty of scenes taken from other movies and outright fake moments presented as being real. There are also experts debating what we see, lending an air of scientific meaning to what one can only assume is footage that someone, somewhere finds inordinately arousing.