Drive-In Friday: USA’s Night Flight . . . Night!

If you’ve spent any amount of time at B&S About Movies, you’re sick of our waxing nostalgic for USA Network’s “Night Flight” weekend, four-hour programming block that ran on Friday and Saturday nights . . . it’s what got us through middle school and high school, and even college, from 1981 to 1988. But what more can we say about the visual-arts magazine and variety program that hasn’t already been said? Just drop “USA Night Flight” into Google or You Tube or Letterbox’d and you’ll have a good night’s nostalgic reading n’ watch.

The great news is that “Night Flight” is back as an online subscription service, Night Flight Plus, and as an entertainment news and information site at Night The greatest aspect of the new online version of “Night Flight” is their programming of a whole new batch of quirky, underground programming — such as I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney, American Hardcore, and L7: Pretend We’re Dead — in addition to streaming all of the ’80s classics we know and love: such as the films on tonight’s Drive-In roster: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, Liquid Sky, The Brain, and Kentucky Fried Movie.

So strap on the popcorn bucket and lite up that cathode ray tube. Let’s rock!

Movie 1: Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains (1982)

Sam, the chief cook and bottlewasher at B&S About Movies (I just clean the grease pits, scub the grills, and mop up around here the best I can), loves this movie (as do I). And we’re both gobsmacked as to how acclaimed screenwriter Nancy Dowd made her debut with, of all things, the raunchy Paul Newman-starring sports comedy Slap Shot, moved onto the Oscar-winning war drama Coming Home and the acclaimed Straight Time with Dustin Hoffman, then one of the best football flicks of all time, North Dallas Forty, and then a second Oscar winner with family drama, Ordinary People, only to end up with a movie that was only seen by a mass audience courtesy of USA’s “Night Flight” overnight-weekend hodgepodge sandwiched between rock videos and film shorts.


Well, it’s because Nancy Dowd met music impresario Lou Adler. And we met her “Rob Morton” nom de plume as result. And her rock-centric statement on female empowerment — that could have ranked alongside Times Sqaure as the greatest female empowerment rock flick of all time — became, as we look back on the film all these years later, as a slightly creepy titillation fest. Could you imagine Tim Curry’s DJ Johnny LaGuardia leering endlessly at Pammy and Nicky with the same camera-lingering “male gaze” as on Corrine, Jessica, and Tracy?

True, Adler had the rock-centric Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke under his director’s belt, and it was a huge hit for a first-time director. But that feature film debut for the stoner comedy-duo was not so much a narrative-movie, but a series of dope-inspired skits masquerading as a movie (as is the case with our fourth flick on tonight’s program). And sure, Adler produced The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it was a huge midnight movie. But it was also huge a box office boondoggle during its initial release. In the end, as with the equally successful film composer and arranger Richard Baskin (Nashville, Welcome to L.A., Honeysuckle Rose) taking his first step behind the camera with the disaster that was 1983’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel, Alder probably should have stuck to his forte as a record producer and music svengali and shouldn’t have been directing a movie in the first place.

In then end, while our big brothers and sisters were out hitting the rock clubs and going to concerts, we, the wee-lads haunting the middle school halls and shopping malls, fell in love with Diane Lane courtesy of Nancy Dowd’s well-intentioned rock flick airing on the USA Network. It’s what geeky, socially maladjusted kids did back then. And besides: where else can you get a punk-supergroup comprised of Paul Simonon from the Clash on bass and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and Paul Cook on guitar and drums (and journeyman Brit-actor Ray Winstone from the Who’s Quadrophenia) as The Looters?

Factoid: The Looters were actually . . . the Professionals, Jones and Cook’s first post-Sex Pistols band (rounded out by guitarist Ray McVeigh and bassist Paul Myers). You can listen to their one and only album, 1981’s I Didn’t See It Coming released on Virgin Records, on You Tube. “Join the Professionals” from the film eventually ended up on the 2001 CD reissue. The Professionals, sans Jones, is back in business since 2017 and you can visit them on Facebook.

Movie 2: Liquid Sky (1982)

It goes without saying that we, the wee-lads spending our Friday and Saturday nights by a cathode ray tube’s glow, watched an edited version (as with the Mike Ness and Social Distortion-starring Another State of Mind) of this . . . well, as Sam pointed out in his review . . . we’re not really sure.

It’s a dizzying kaleidoscope of colors, music, and fashion about New York’s City’s night-life denizens falling victim to endorphin-addicted aliens extracting the “Liquid Sky” chemical from human brains during sexual orgasms — and when the human’s die happy, the aliens suck up all of that energy as well. And to what end, who knows? And who cares: it was on Variety’s top-grossing film chart for over half a year.

Star Anne Carlisle, who played both male and female roles in the film, also starred in Susan Sidelman’s (Smithereens) Desperately Seeking Susan and appeared as the transvestite Gwendoline in Crocodile Dundee (You Tube). Oh, you’ll remember that “Sheila.”

The snack bar will be open in five minutes . . . and we don’t pee in the popcorn (you’ll get the “joke,” soon)!

INTERMISSION: The shorts Hardware Wars (1977) and Recorded Live (1975)

And now . . . back to the show!

Movie 3: The Brain (1988)

Ah . . . more sinfully-quenching brain fluids courtesy of “Night Flight.”

What more can we say about this Canuxploitation shocker from writer-director Ed Hunt? If he can’t go “all in,” he just doesn’t make a movie at all: you never get run-of-the-mill storytelling with Eddie-boy. And to that not-run-of-the-mill end: you’ll root for the evil alien (we think it’s “alien”) Brain and not the dick-whiny high school hero and his screechy girlfriend. That’ll never happen in a mainstream movie and that’s what made The Brain perfect, gooey fodder for us, the wee-tween denizens of the “Night Flight” hoards.

What’s it all about? Hallucinations of inward-pressing walls, come-live teddy bears bleeding from the eyes, demon hands tearing through walls, and monster tentacles punching out of TV sets. It’s about mind control of the Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome variety. It’s about Dr. Carl Hill from Re-Animator as a self-help guru of wayward teens. It’s about a giant-brain-with-teeth that munches on nosey lab assistants, it’s . . . oh, just watch it!!

Movie 4: Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)

“The popcorn you’ve just been eating has been pissed in. Film at 11.”

And with that “classic” line, disconnect your brain and just roll with the childish insanity of John Landis, Jerry and David Zucker, and Jim Abrahams — before they unleashed the likes of National Lampoon’s Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Airplane!, and The Naked Gun upon us, the wee triplex hoards (with our older ‘rents or brothers and sisters in support). This quartet of box office-bonanza writer-directors had to start somewhere . . . and Kentucky Fried Movie is it . . . and we love them for this beautiful mess of a “movie” that we watched on USA’s “Night Flight” and taped-from-cable via HBO.

Back in the day, the ‘rents let us watch Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and NBC-TV’s The Midnight Special. But under no circumstances were we allowed to watch Saturday Night Live. It was “inappropriate” for us. It was “for the adults.” But thanks to HBO and USA, this “film” comprised of non-narrative sketches and parodies of popular films and TV commercials got by our parental guidance sensors.

This cleaned up at the Drive-Ins during its initial release, and yes, that was a night where you were stuck with a babysitter, as mom and dad went for a “night out” — without you. As I watch this all these years later — as with Midnight Cowboy with Dustin Hoffman, Shampoo with Warren Beatty, and Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls — I fail to see what all the fuss was about.

Yeah, Kentucky Fried Movie is all about “the times” and a case of “you had to be there.” And to that end: if you’re watching this for the first time in 2020, you’ll either love it for its nostalgia, or dismissed it — the same way we then kids dismissed our elder’s variety TV series from the 1940’s and 1950’s — as “dorky.”

Be sure to join us for “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” coming Sunday, June 19 and running until Saturday, June 25, as we’ll be reviewing a few more of the films we enjoyed as part of The USA Network’s “Night Flight” weekend programming block.

Do you want to write a “Drive-In Friday” featurette for the site? Hit us up on our Feedback form. We’d love to hear what movies you’d feature.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Arrangement (2020)

A James M. Cain-menagerie of spiritually flawed characters learn that reaching for the stars and realizing one’s dreams can have Faustian consequences in this twisty, paranoid crime-noir spiced with supernatural overtones.

Harry Frick, a nebbish, hypochondriac homicide detective right out of the ’70s giallo playbook (Danny Donnelly, reminding one of “’80s” Jeffrey Combs in terms of looks and jittery-acting style) is mismatched with Jessica Alvarez (Jennifer M. Kay), an eager, newly-promoted detective, to the case of a stockbroker who plunged to her death at the stroke of midnight—clutching a mysterious photograph. In the photo: the owner of an adult film studio, who later turns up dead—at midnight. Why would such a successful woman and a porn bottom feeder be photographed together? And was it murder or suicide? Has a serial killer with a “midnight” modus operandi from several years before returned for a new batch of six victims?

The sinister force behind the evil emulsion is The Pitchman (our favorite journeyman actor, Eric Roberts), a self-help shaman who offers the Garden of Eden to the greedy and the weak. As the photograph morphs to include new faces and the bodies pile up, the already emotionally fragile Frick begins to unravel once he realizes the woman of his dreams (the physically and emotional scarred Melissa) may soon become the next person to fall victim to The Pitchman.

The Arrangement is a family affair-inspired labor of love: a film that proves reaching for the stars and realizing one’s dreams doesn’t need a pitchman offering devilish contracts to achieve the desired result.

It began in 1983 when writer-producer-actor Andrew Hunsicker was accepted into the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts summer program (which is a nothing-to-sneeze-at accomplishment). He didn’t go and came to regret the decision; he returned to acting in 2013 and logged over a hundred projects in indie films, web series, and shorts, as well as writing several scripts.

It’s Hunsicker’s commitment to the “dream” that makes The Arrangement—like our recently reviewed, under-the-radar thriller indies of Prince Bagdasarian’s Abducted, Nick Leisure’s A Clear Shot, and Don Okolo’s Lone Star Deception (also starring Eric Roberts)—the debut film by the first-time father and son filmmaking team of writer-producer-actor Andrew Hunsicker (here as Captain Murray) and writer-director Jake Hunsicker worthy of hitting that big red streaming button.

Andrew wrote the script in 2000 when the project’s destined director, his son Jake, was only six years old. During the script’s twenty-year journey, Andrew experienced the frustration of selling the screenplay—only to see the option run out, twice: once with director Joel Zwick (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), then once again with Steve Bing (Stallone’s Get Carter). The script received a third chance courtesy of Jake, who grew into an award-winning filmmaker in his own right with Nod, a 2017 indie-short that received industry allocades across twenty film festivals.

In addition to Andrew stepping in front of the lens for The Arrangement, his daughters, Jessica and Melissa, and his other son, Nick, also have roles in a film that serves as Jake’s feature film debut (he’s directed four other shorts). Principal photography began in January 2019 and wrapped in three months—shooting over the weekends during the course of seventeen days in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If shot as a major studio film with an eight-figure budget and A-List actors, one would be left with the vibe of David Fincher’s noir-influenced horror-thriller Se7en crossed with Taylor Hackford’s Faustian-influenced The Devil’s Advocate. A little bit more blood, mixed with graphic sex and more elaborate kills, and you’d have an Americanized, neo-giallo*.

In the world of low-budget indie film, casting is the key. And as is the case with most of his films of late in his ever-expanding 570-plus resume, Roberts’s role is a small, albeit, pivotal role. Keen eyes will also recognize the always welcomed presence of Brian Anthony Wilson (Detective Vernon Holley on HBO’s The Wire) as a corrupt senator with his own set of noirish skeletons to hide. The affable supporting cast of adult film and social media star Britney Amber, Deborah Twiss (Kick-Ass, TV’s Blue Bloods), noted sports journalist and Philadelphia radio personality (WIP 610) Glen Macnow, Mike McFadden (TV’s Bull, Blindspot, Gotham), and Aaralyn Anderson (Netflix’s Maniac)—especially standout Dax Richardson, as a morally-corrupt detective (get this guy on a Blue Bloods or Law & Order, stat)—more than make up for the slight screen time of Roberts and Wilson.

While there is the occasional awkward moment that comes with an ambitions-over-budget indie production, and the proceedings could have benefited with a shorter, more palpable running time, neither point is a distraction. Considering its budgetary and scheduling restraints, the Hunsicker’s feature film debut is professionally consistent across all the disciplines; a well-shot film that knows its suspense-noir cues to hold one’s interest.

I particular enjoyed the subplot concerned with the concepts of reincarnation (that I interpreted). When one dies and is reborn, they forget their past life, only to remember all of their previous lives when they reach the afterlife; once reborn, all is forgotten once again. And The Pitchman preys upon that spiritual memory loss, only to relish man repeating his sins once again: for he is Hell’s Geppetto and knows what a man sees in the world is what he carries in his heart.

You’ll be able watch The Arrangement, which already won its first set of leaves as an “Official Selection” at the 2020 Golden State Film Festival, via Gravitas Ventures on VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray on July 7. You can keep abreast of the film’s developments on their official Facebook page.

* Be sure to join us for our recent “Exploring Giallo” featurette wrap-up of our weeklong, June 14 to June 20 blowout featuring classic gialli from the ’70s and the newer crop of neo-giallo films of today. We love our giallo and noir around this neck of the Allegheny County wilds, so there’s lots of links to our film reviews (along with streaming links to films) to enjoy.

You need more Pennsylvania-shot film? Then check out our recent review of Jon YonKondy and Mike Rutkoski’s Baby Frankenstein, shot in Wilkes-Barre.

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s PR company. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Baby Frankenstein (2020)

One read of the title. One look at the poster featuring the baby with a plexiglass skull cap. One watch of the trailer. . . .

I’m spider-sensing pure exploitation attitude of the ’80s home video variety: here comes the neon-wireframed VHS tape spinning on another Prism Video production (You Tube). I’ve just got Doc Brown’d to the wacked out worlds of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator, the Shapiro-Glickenhaus universe with the twist-fest thats are Ed Hunt’s The Brain and Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage and Frankenhooker (the final release from SG), and Fangoria Magazine’s “big studio move” with Severed Ties.

But wait . . . this is a Spielbergian family-friendly comedy-drama monster romp that reminds of Fred Dekker’s 1987 cult classic The Monster Squad (and Fred gave us the “required viewing” wack-fest that is Night of the Creeps) . . . and you know how we love the Dek around these B&S parts in the wilds of Allegheny County, PA.

Bottom line: Baby Frankenstein is pure ’80s VHS nostalgia. So let’s load that tape, the VCR won’t load itself.

Lance, a scruffy teen, develops an unlikely friendship with a pint-sized automated “robot monster” hiding in the attic of his family’s new duplex home. Helping Lance protect “Little Dude” from bounty hunters—including his mom’s sleazy boyfriend clamoring for that $50,000 reward—and Dauvin Lundquist, the evil scientist who created Lil’ Frank, is John (a fine job by screenwriter Mike Rutkoski), his socially awkward landlord and neighbor—who has a crush on Lance’s mom, Kim—and the sassy girl next door, Truth. It all leads to a final showdown where Lance must decide between the safety of his family and friends and the freedom of Baby Frankenstein.

While Baby Frankenstein brings on the analog-memories, this is a film born in the digital world: In the summer of 2015, actor-screenwriter Mike Rutkoski was searching for a director to bring his retro-unconventional script to the big screen (well, in today’s digital epoch: streaming platforms). So he reached out to director Jon YonKondy (the family-adventure Don Quixote and the Pennsylvania-shot Susquehanna) via Facebook. Fourteen months later, the duo finished a film that blazed through its principal photography in seven days in the Wyoming Valley area of Northeastern, Pennsylvania, around the cities of Wilkes-Barre and West Pittston (YonKondy is a West Pittston native; Rutkoski hails from Plains Township; actress Cora Savage is a native of Shickshinny).

Actor Rance Nix as Baby Frankenstein on set at Boscov’s Department Store in Wilkes-Barre, courtesy of Clark Van Orden/Times Leader Wilkes-Barre.

As with the recently reviewed “mature actor” comedy Nana’s Secret Recipe penned by first-time screenwriter Yolanda Avery, Baby Frankenstein is a stellar writing debut for Mike Rutkoski who, like Yolanda Avery, is buoyed by an excellent, under-the-radar cast—headed by Ian Barling (Lance) and Cora Savage (Truth), along with Patrick McCartney (Ken, the boyfriend), Eileen Rosen (Kim, the mom), and Rance Nix, who brings compassion and depth on equal with cinema’s original “big green dude,” Boris Karloff—in a stellar showcase for their talents. And it’s great to see child-teen actor Andre Gower—Sean from The Monster Squad (!)—return to the screen (he left in the late ’80s; returned in 2006) showing his adult thespin’ chops as the evil Dauvin Lundquist.

On top of being an enjoyable horror-comedy, Baby Frankenstein—like the new indie-horror favs we’ve recently reviewed, Evil River and The Invisible Mother, and the introspective-drama The In-Between—exposes us to a great alt-rock soundtrack by Family Animals (Facebook) and Death Valley Dreams (Facebook). And being ol’ band and radio dogs here at B&S, we’re always up for discovering new tuneage. I don’t know about you, but the Animals’ “Metal in the Microwave” and DVD’s “Turn out Those Eyes” are as good as any tunes airing on today’s alternative rock stations.

Making the festival rounds and racking up over a dozen awards, the fine folks at Wild Eye Releasing have made this Summer Hill Entertainment and Tomcat Films co-production available on all the usual VOD streaming platforms starting June 30. You can “pick your platform” by visiting the official Baby Frankenstein website and learn more about the film at their official Instragram, You Tube, and Facebook pages.

You need more Pennsylvania-shot film? Check out our recent review of Jake and Andrew Hunsicker’s The Arrangement, shot outside of Philadelphia.

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s PR company. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Repost: One Minute Before Death (1972)

Author’s Note: This review of Rogelio A. Gonzàlez’s Mexican-shot Poe-adapted horror originally ran as part of our “Pure Terror Month” (recap) of reviews on November 19, 2019, for Mill Creek’s Pure Terror box set. We’re reposting it for “Mexican Horror (two) Week.”

Leading lady Wanda Hendrix, a contract player in the ‘40s and ‘50s with Warner Bros. and Paramount, is best known to film historians for her marriage to WWII war hero-turned-actor Audie Murphy. The storybook marriage—on which the ‘50s gossip sheets thrived—was over in seven months; the controversy surrounding the marriage—Audie’s wartime PDST issues caused outbreaks of marital violence—instigated irreparable harm to Hendrix’s career from which she never recovered.

As did ‘40s starlet Veronica Lake, Hendrix made guest appearance on television series during the ‘60s, and then moved into horror films. While Lake made her final bow with Flesh Feast (1970) and Joan Crawford appeared in Trog (1970), Hendrix closed out her career at the age of 44 with this Gothic, Civil War tale originally released as The Oval Portrait.

Based on the Edgar Allen Poe short-story, this minor “old dark house” flick concerns a woman, Lisa Buckingham (Hendrix), who attends the reading of a will at her uncle’s home. She soon becomes “possessed” by the soul her cousin Rebecca, depicted—and trapped—inside an oil portrait.

While it meanders with a slowly unfolding plot awash in muddy cinematography (Are the prints bad or was the director attempting to achieve an “atmosphere”?), this Mexican shot and directed tale by Rogelio A. Gonzàlez has a José Mojica Marins-influence crossed with Mario Bava-styled horrors (Bava’s Lisa and the Devil comes to mind with its aristocrats dealing with the supernatural and necrophilia) as Lisa’s newfound behaviors—such as finding and wearing Rebecca’s old clothes—cause her cousin, Rebecca’s widow, Joseph, to go off the deep end and dig up Rebecca’s crumbly corpse for a little ballroom dance n’ romance.

Is Rebecca back from the dead for revenge? Is Lisa caught in a Let’s Scare Jessica to Death-inspired drive-her-crazy-for-the-money plot? Is the creepy, Paul Naschy-esque red-herring housekeeper giving Joseph the ol’ Henry James screw turn?

Released in the wake George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead—when horror was “hot” again—Wanda Hendrix was hoping for a big horror hit to revitalize her career. It wasn’t meant to be: three times divorced and childless, she died of double pneumonia at the age of 52 in 1981.

The film’s beautiful score is by Les Baxter, who also scored The Dunwich Horror, Cry of the Banshee, Frogs, and the Quentin Tarantino favorite, Switchblade Sisters.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Suzi Q (2020)

If you’re a fan of Detroit rock ‘n’ roll of the late ’60s (Louder Than Love)—amid all the crazy fandom for all things Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, Iggy Pop, Bob Seger, and Ted Nugent—you might have heard of Suzi Quatro with her bands The Pleasure Seekers (You Tube) and Cradle (You Tube).

Then she hooked up with British music impresario Micky Most and RAK Records to become one of the U.K.’s biggest glam stars. And that success grew when she began working with Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, best known for their work behind the scenes in making Sweet (“Fox on the Run,” “Love Is Like Oxygen”) into international glam stars.

Achieving only minor Top 200 chart placings in the U.S with her Top 10 Euro-hits “Can the Can,” “48 Crash,” and “Devil Gate Drive,” Suzi eventually found notice in America courtesy of her recurring appearances as Leather Tuscadero during the 1977 to 1978 season of the ABC-TV U.S sitcom, Happy Days (you can watch a compilation of all her music appearances on the show in the video below).

Unfortunately, the show failed to consolidate her success on U.S radio, but she did score her lone Top 10 hit, “Stumblin’ In,” a 1978 duet with British singer Chris Norman. Eventually, with the Knack-inspired new wave in full swing, she scored her final two, U.S Top 100 hits with “Lipstick” and “Rock Hard” from her 1980 album, Rock Hard.

Then along came an artist that Suzi inspired: one who achieved that number one single and album in America that eluded her: Joan Jett.

However, while the Detroit-born bassist never found mainstream success in her homeland, she kept on rocking, scoring an international hit with “Strict Machine” from her 2011 album, In the Spotlight, co-produced with Andy Scott of Sweet.

What elevates this Australian made documentary heads and shoulders above other pedestrian “talking head” rock documentaries is that director Liam Firmager chose not to travel the “feel good” promo route and create a puff piece on his subject; he eliminated all of the usual docu-candy coating. Suzi Q isn’t a cookie cutter journal that inserts a talking head here, an old photo there, and a rare film clip here; Firmager chose to tell a story—through over 400 rare archival film clips—that gives Suzi Q the feel of a musical biographical drama. However, unlike other rock bioflicks (The Doors, Ray, Walk the Line) this chronicle on the life of Suzi Quatro has no filtering; there’s no compression or compositing of characters and fabrication of pseudo events for “dramatic effect.”

Firmager not only researched his subject, he spoke to his subject; he got inside his subject. So, while Suzi Q is for the fans of an artist who sold 55 million records around the world, it’s also a film for Suzi Quatro. This is a film that shows rock ‘n’ roll fans that, at the end of the day, a rock star is just a musician. And a musician is just a job. And behind that job is a person. And that person has hopes and dreams, success and regrets, joys and pain. Firmager makes us, the fans, realize that those people behind those records on our turntables and posters on the walls sacrifice life’s normalcies that we take for granted. Through this film, Firmager provided Suzi Quatro a cathartis; a spiritual cleansing and life resolution that most of us will never be blessed; a realization that our lives were worth the journey. And that, maybe, we didn’t end up where we wanted to be or expected to be, but we ended up exactly where we need to be. And Suzi needed to rock ‘n’ roll and be the trailblazer and harbinger for the lives of others.

Suzi Q will launch on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD on July 3, while the film had a planned theatrical release at select U.S cinemas on July 1. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic closing theatres, Utopia Distribution will host a “SUZI Q” virtual event on July 1st featuring the film and an exclusive Q&A featuring Suzi Quatro and a Special Guest (available for 24 hours only) in advance of the film’s traditional release on VOD and DVD on July 3rd. The Q&A will be conducted by Cherie Currie of the Runaways and Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s. A portion of the proceeds from the event will support MusiCares, the Recording Academy’s™ charity, to raise funds in support of the organization’s COVID relief fund for music artists in need.

To buy your ticket for the July 1st event powered by Altavod, visit:

Suzi Q had its U.S. premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival on March 29, where Quatro made an appearance; it made its theatrical debut last fall in the UK and Australia, where Quatro had her biggest chart successes. You can learn more about the film at its official website.

Oh, and since B&S About Movies is a movie review site . . . there’s a “video fringe” connection to Suzi: her sister Arlene, also an ex-The Pleasure Seekers/Cradle member, is the mother of actress Sherilyn Fenn (Crime Zone, The Wraith, Outside Ozona). And here’s a tune from her uber-talented, underated brother, Mike Quatro.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Disclaimer: This was sent to us by the film’s PA firm and has no bearing on our review.

Exploring Giallo

Most horror film aficionados believe the American slasher film cycle of the early eighties birthed with John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic Halloween*. In reality: slasher films got their start in Italy with a literary format known as Giallo or “Yellow” in the Italian vernacular.

Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 126-paged novella horror classic (The Strange Case of) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, small literary houses in Italy churned out their Giallo variant: a cost-effective format of reading entertainment intended for male readers—considering most of the psychologically damaged antagonist’s victims were female—who eschewed cheaply-produced romance novels with splashy, sexy-gaudy covers enamored by the women in their lives. These Italian paperbacks were produced by small literary houses that kept their printing costs down by binding the books in universal, unadorned yellow covers with simple, black-lettered titles that readers could easily stuff the ironically blood red-soaked tales in their jeans’ back pocket for easy, portable reading.

While the names of Dario Argento and Mario Bava are bantered about as the fathers of giallo, the true father—well, grandfather—is Edgar Wallace. Huh? The British-born writer who wrote the screenplay for 1933’s King Kong?

It’s true. The ex-army press corps and London’s Daily Mail scribe moved into novels and became the “King of the Thrillers” by grinding out 957 short stories, 170 novels, and 18 stage plays—many of which he riffed as a secretary dictated them. Many times, he worked on as many as three books at once.

Sadly, as with the prolific Phillip K. Dick, Wallace’s greatest fame was posthumous (he died in 1932). While alive, his first film adaptation was The Man Who Bought London (1916), and those adaptations hit fever pitch in the ‘60s with the forty-seven films of the Edgar Wallace Mysteries series.

Wallace’s new found fame—and on his way to becoming a Giallo inspiration—began when the Danish production company Rialto Film co-produced with the German film market, 1959’s Der Frosch mit der Maske (aka The Face of the Frog) which started the krimi genre (abbreviation for the German term “Kriminalfilm”). Krimis—like the later Giallo films they inspired, were hyper-noir films, replete with zooming cameras and lurid, masked supervillains. And many of Wallace’s novels sported those cheap yellow covers that gave our beloved, pre-slasher ‘80s films their name—giallo.

What are some of the Wallace novel-to-screen giallo adaptations you might have seen? Well, there’s Massimo Dallamono’s What Have You Done to Solange? (1972), Jess Franco’s Night of the Skull (1974), Riccardo Freda’s Double Face (1969), Umberto Lenzi’s Seven Blood Stained Orchids (1971), and Duccio Tessari’s The Blood Stained Butterfly—all are Wallace novel adaptations.

Courtesy of GaiusMarius157BC/Reddit

Giallos offered European readers sexually-inspired gore stories that caused the fans of the suggestive, atmospheric horror films produced by Britain’s Amicus and Hammer Studios to flinch—and Stevenson, along with noted Gothic horror authors Sheridan Le Fanu, Gaston LeRoux, and Guy de Mausspaunt to roll over in their graves. Giallos—filled with quaint, occasional reader-acceptable typos by way of underpaid and overworked editors and proof readers—were well-written, suspenseful and engaging tales (the “content” is the key) that Sheridan Le Fanu probably wanted to include in his influential, short-story collection In a Glass, Darkly (featuring the vampire classic “Carmella”) and realized he had to rein his imagination or be judged by a puritanical, elitist lynch mob for writing “filth.”

It was those yellow-bound books that inspired the spaghetti-horror (pasta-horror) cycle spearheaded by Mario Bava** with 1971’s Twitch of the Death Nerve (aka Bay of Blood) and Dario Argento+, who became the maestro of Italian Giallo films with 1970’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. (Watch Carpenter’s Halloween, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, and Brian DePalma’s Dressed to Kill—and compare to Bava’s and Argento’s work: especially look for the similarities of Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve vs. Friday the 13th).

Produced for a reported $350,000 John Carpenter’s classic grossed an estimated $80 million dollars in worldwide box office during its initial release. Initially dumped into the U.S drive-in market to make a quick buck, the fluke blockbuster status of the film inspired mainstream Hollywood to jump on the yellow-painted bandwagon with 1980’s Friday the 13th and 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street++.

As fate would have it, the John Carpenter-inspired slasher film cycle coincided with the introduction of a contraption known as a VCR that played something called a VHS tape—and that hunk of analog electronics transitioned the slasher film genre from America’s outdoor drive-ins and onto the shelves of the burgeoning U.S home video market. Slasher films—affectionately referred to as “boobs and blades” for their concentrations on well-endowed, giggly women and the shiny, sharp objects that stabbed them—were cheap and easy to produce and the worldwide film markets were hot for product. Returns on a film’s investment produced under the “boobs and blades” banner were guaranteed. The films became the number one way for a newbie actor or writer, budding director or producer to get into the film business.

Courtesy of heliosphan/

At the same time those direct-to-video “boobs and blades” knock offs started flying off the video store shelves, a new form of heavy metal birthed in Britain in the late seventies—dubbed by Sounds magazine as “The New Wave of British Heavy Metal” (NWOBHM). Featuring the violent, religious mania and bloody lyrics composed by the likes of Venom and Iron Maiden, complete with the requisite Satanic imagery on the album covers, slasher films and heavy metal music were a match made in hell: the music coming out of England was, in fact, Giallo musicals. This music-inspired slasher sub-genre even got its own name: metalsploitation*+, which featured other beloved so-bad-they’re-good bloody analog tales showcasing the exploitive titles of Black Roses, Shock ’em Dead, Terror on Tour, Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare, Hard Rock Zombies, and Rocktober Blood. The genre peaked—and quickly burnt out—when the major studios took a slice of the metalsploitation pie with 1986’s big-budgeted Trick or Treat.

However, before the glut of heavy-metal horror films hit the video store shelves, Paul Williams and Brian DePalma composed a campy, 1974 rock ’n’ roll giallo-inspired reboot of Hammer Studios’ 1962 film version of The Phantom of the Opera (based on Gaston LeRoux’s novel). Somewhat similar to 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the camp ’n’ rock department, Phantom of the Paradise featured an emotionally damaged musician, Winslow Leech, who rains vengeance on the narrow-minded fools who stole his music and ruined his career. An emotionally damaged antagonist out for revenge who wears a mask? It’s pure giallo. The only difference is that poor Winslow isn’t concealed behind POV black gloves.

Giallo pulp novels image courtesy of Casey Broadwater/Flickr with banner by R.D Francis/PicFont

Needless to say, the giallo cycle was misunderstood by mainstream America, with the genre’s mixtures of murder and the supernatural rated as “style over substance” and “lacking in narrative logic.”

Well, that’s was always the point, Mr. Mainstream critic. (That and if the friggin’ puritanical U.S. distributors didn’t chop and slice the Italian and Spanish imports into incomprehensible messes.)

Italian Giallos—or any of the Spanish variants—of the ‘70s always eschewed “realism” and “substance” over what were always the main priorities of the giallo genre: art and surrealism rooted in Impressionism and Renaissance art.

The giallo resume of Dario Argento, the leader of the genre, is the cinematic equivalent of Salvador Dali’s melting clocks and M.C Esher’s impossible objects and staircases to nowhere. Giallo is all about the utilization of oozing color palates and oddball light sources, nonsensical supernatural red-herrings to nowhere, psychic links to killers hidden in POV, whispered poetic passages, hypersexual oddball red-herring characters, rape and murdered moms, junk science (about sunspots, Y chromosomes, eye-memories, love-chemicals), pedophile fathers, doctors and detectives riddled with kinks and ulterior motives, and a general, overall incoherency (even before U.S. distributors got their hands on ’em) set to a soundtrack of jazz-rock noodling and chanting choirs.

The whole point of Paolo Cavara’s Black Belly of the Tarantula and Sergio Martino’s The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale—and every bloody tale concerned with insects and animals—is for you, the viewer, to have a series of “WTF” moments. Giallos are crime capers, that is, film noirs+* (see the classics A Double Life, Black Angel, Double Indemity, Fairwell, My Lovely, My Name is Julia Ross, The Possessed, So Dark the Night, Sorry, Wrong Number) with the violence in full living-dead color, along with a dash of the supernatural tossed in for good measure.

Noir/detective paperbacks image courtesy of rubysresaleofrhodeisland/eBay

In Double Indemnity, when Fred MacMurray pops up from behind the car’s backseat and strangles the husband of Phyliss Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), the camera pulls back and frames on her satisfied face as her husband gags to death off frame (and we can imagine what expression is across MacMurray’s face). That’s film noir. In a giallo, the eye-buldging strangulation is in full frame. In film noir, the sex—via editing and cinematography—is implied. In a giallo, it’s on camera—and, in most cases, only one person walks away unslashed from the encounter.

Actor Tony Musante’s vacationing American writer Sam Dalmas and Michael Brandon’s rock drummer Roberto Tobias, in the respective films The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Four Files on Grey Velvet, have everything in common with William Holden’s Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd., Fred MacMurray’s pasty of Walter Neff in Double Indemnity, and John Garfield’s Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Each are somewhat well-intentioned, yet flawed individuals. The only difference is the film noir schlubs of the latter films don’t end up in a Dario Argento what-the-fuck giallo plot twist of an intelligent chimp wielding a straight razor and having to rescue a cute girl with psychic links to insects (Phenomena, for those of you wondering what in-the-hell am I talking about).

Of course, as Sam, the bossman at B&S About Movies pointed out, we have Mario Bava to thank with his black-and-white, 1963 neo-noir The Girl Who Knew Too Much and its introductions of giallo conventions serving as the progenitor for the genre. Then Bava sealed the deal with his next film, the 1964 color-shot Blood and Black Lace, which introduced all the high fashion, shocking color-palate gore, and psychosexual encounters missing from the likes of the black and white film noir classics, such as Double Indemnity and Sorry, Wrong Number, which inspired Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

So the next time you fire up The Conjuring or Happy Death Day, or any of the endless cycle of sequel-prequels-sidequels of the Blumhouse universe variety, just remember those are the digital copies of the original celluloids by Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria), Mario Bava (Hatchet for the Honeymoon), Paolo Cavara, Ruggero Deodato (Phantom of Death), Riccardo Freda (The Ghost, The Iguana with the Tounge of Fire), Lucio Fulci (Don’t Torture a Duckling), Umberto Lenzi (Seven Blood Stained Orchids), and Sergio Martino (The Case of the Bloody Iris, All the Colors of the Dark, The Strange Case of Mrs. Wardh, Torso, Your Vice is a Locked Door and Only I Have the Key)—the Italian forefathers that birthed the jump-scares oeuvre of today’s digital divide in the first place.

But even I have to admit that no matter how much I enjoy the films of those Italian filmmakers, I am burnt out on them. But I love the era and adore the genre and I want more . . . but my yellow has turned to brown.

Thankfully, there’s a new crop of young turks keeping the genre alive, birthing a new genre: neo-giallo—or what I like to call “giallo impressionism.”

Now I inhale the new, yellow hues of Amer (and Let the Corpses Tan, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears) by Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, The App by Elisa Fuksas, Mitzi Peirone’s Braid, Sam Bennett’s Dark Sister, The Editor by Adam Brooks, Marco Rosson’s Evil River, the Argentinian Onetti Brothers with Francesca (and Abrakadabra, Deep SleepWhat the Waters Left Behind), Graham Denham’s Greenlight, Matthew Diebler and Jacob Gillman’s The Invisible Mother, Mandy (and Beyond the Black Rainbow) by Panos Cosmatos, Tommy Faircloth’s A Nun’s Curse, Under the Silver Lake by David Robert Mitchell, and Vahagn Karapetyan’s Greek-twist, Wicca Book.

So, embrace the yellow leaking out of Kevin V. Jones across the marbled floors of Morningside, ye children of the night! Fill your goblets, for tonight, we dine by the plasma’s streaming glow. And it forever glows yellow and in all the primary colors of the dark. “Die Hard!”

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Here’s the complete list of all the film’s we reviewed for our week of Giallo films from June 14 to June 20:

Arabella The Black Angel
A Black Veil for Lisa
The Bloodstained Butterfly
Blue Steel
The Cauldron of Death
Damned in Venice
Death Knocks Twice
Death Steps in the Dark
Deep Sleep
Double Face
Eyes of Crystal
Fashion Crimes
Fatal Frames
The French Sex Murders
A Girl in Room 2A
The House of Good Returns
An Ideal Place to Kill
The Killer is One of 13
The Killer Is Still Among Us
Killing of the Flesh
Knife of Ice
Knife Under the Throat
Nothing Underneath
Nude, She Dies
A Quiet Place to Kill
Red Nights
Reflections in Black
Screaming Mimi
Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye
Seven Notes of Terror
Slaughter Hotel
So Sweet . . . So Perverse
To Agistri
Weekend Murders
What the Waters Left Behind

And here’s some more reviews from the past:
The Blood Stained Shadow
Body Count
Death Smiles on a Murderer
Die Screaming, Marianne
The Embalmer
Five Dolls for an August Moon
Footprints on the Moon
Lizard in a Woman Skin
Maniac Mansion
Murder Obsession
My Dear Killer
The Night Child
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
The Perfume of the Lady in Black

Perversion Story
Pensione Paura

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times
Short Night of Glass Dolls
Strip Nude for Your Killer
Who Saw Her Die

And if our written documents of the giallo era isn’t enough to quench your psychosexual bloodlust, then be sure to check out the 2019 giallo documentary All the Colors of Giallo.

* Be sure to read our explorations of the Halloween franchise with “Watch the Series: Halloween” and “Ten Slashers to Watch Instead of Halloween.”

** Be sure to read our exploration on The Maestro Bava with our “Ten Bava Films” and and “Bava Week.”

+ Be sure to read ourexplorationn of The Maestro Argento with our “Ten Dario Argento Films.”

++ Be sure to read our exploration of the ongoing influence of Freddy with “Ten Movies that Totally Ripped Off A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

*+ Be sure to examine our “No False Metal” week of films.

+* We go a bit deeper on the film noir cycle with our recent reviews of Don Okolo’s neo-noir Lone Star Deception, along with the radio romps Dead Air and Power 98.

Oh, and finally: Be sure to visit with our Giallo Drive In Friday featurette, “Black Gloves Required.”

Slaughter Hotel (1968)

How can you pass up an Italian Giallo written and directed by the man whose pen ignited the spaghetti western genre with his screenplays for Clint Eastwood’s A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More?

How about if that film starred Klaus Kinski?

Yeah, I knew that get your attention. But we’re all horny here, so you also get Margaret Lee from Double Face, Dick Smart 2.007 and Special Agent Super Dragon, and Lady Frankenstein herself, Rosabla Neri. (Huba-huba! Schwing!)

Fernando Di Leo’s original goal was to transition out of westerns into his preferred genre of film noir. But as the black-and-white film noir of old already gave way to the yellow blood of new, Di Leo ended up writing and directing this giallo about a cowl and caped murder stalking the wealthy female inmates of a sanitarium.

Of course, all of the women are diagnosed as nymphomaniacs (and in need of a triangle-of-death shave . . . if you know what I mean), so they’re seducing the staff—everyone from the isolated villa’s gardener to the doctors. And since we’re in a remote medieval villa converted into a hospital, the joint is well-stocked with weapons of mass giallo on the walls and along the hallways. And the heads fly by scythe, bodies are impaled by iron maiden, and nurses are hacked to pieces by axe, by mace, by bow-and-arrow, and bye-bye in quick succession.

In between the blood baths, there’s plenty o’ soft core red herrings of the lesbian interracial variety flipping and flopping; the women—as with all giallos—would turn a gay man straight and leave a straight man shriveled. Are they all attired in designer sun dresses, pant suits and chunky heels—running around in the grass? Of course they are! (Hey, Paul Naschy!) And did you know any variety of phobias can be cured with a nude massage of one’s butt cheeks? That a nurse bubble-bathing a female patient is just what the doctor ordered?

This was known in its homeland as The Beast Kills in Cold Blood, aka Cold Blooded Beast. But once the U.S distributors Hallmark Releasing and American International Pictures took their puritanical scissors to it, it was retitled as Asylum Erotica and Slaughter Hotel to play as the undercard on numerous Drive-In triple bills until the late-70s. The most explicit and obscure cut—The Dissatisfied Erotic Dolls of Dr. Hitchcock—was a bogus attempt to market it as a sequel to Riccardo Freda’s 1962 burgeoning giallo The Horrible Doctor Hitchcock—and features even more sexually explicit scenes added after the fact (as if it need more?).

If Di Leo stuck to the genre, today he’d be revered as Argento and Bava: the cinematography is lush, the shots are imaginative, and the soundtrack is acid trip, nausea-inducing top notch. And Di Leo certainly knows how to put the “sleaze” in Eurosleaze with those multiple, long and lingering triangle of death shots. And the “artsy” Richard Speck-style slaughter at the end has to be seen to be believed. Yikies.

If you want this on DVD for your collection, your best bet is to go with the uncut, Italian subtitled (or dubbed; it’s well done) version that runs at 97 minutes—and avoid the 74-minute U.S. versions at all costs. The even dirtier “Dr. Hitchcock” version is all but lost. You can watch a really clean print of the 97-minute version for free as an age-restricted stream (you’ll have to sign in) on You Tube. To say it’s X-Rated is an understatement. But the Italians made this—so it’s “art.”

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Double Face (1968)

Klaus Kinski starring in a Riccardo Freda movie: I’m all in. I picked this one up in a ravenous impulse-buying frenzy from the now defunct, and sorely missed, grey market auteur VSOM (Video Search of Miami), as it was the only way to get most of these Euro-Giallo gems.

German Krimi films, a crime thriller sub-genre of film popular in the 1960s, gets an Italian giallo makeover with Riccardo Freda (1962’s The Horrible Doctor Hitchcock and 1963’s The Ghost) directing a script by Lucio Fulci (1971’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, 1972’s Don’t Torture a Duckling), which he adapted from one of several of Britain’s Edgar Wallace novels (Massimo Dallamono’s What Have You Done to Solange? and Umberto Lenzi’s Seven Blood Stained Orchids are Wallace novel adaptations). Being Euro co-production, this carried two titles: in Germany as Das Gesicht im Dunkeln, aka The Face in the Dark, and A doppia faccia, aka Double Face in Italy and the rest of Europe, with the Italian title adopted for its U.S Drive-In undercard release.

This is one of those films where everyone is sleeping with everybody else. In this case, Klaus Kinski’s rich industrialist is carrying on an affair with his secretary; meanwhile, his wife Helen (British actress Margaret Lee; they both starred in 1971’s Slaughter Hotel) openly flaunts her lesbian affair with Liz (the heart stopping Annabella Incontrera (the Matt Helm entry The Ambushers, Black Belly of the Tarantula, The Case of the Bloody Iris).

Then the ubiquitous POV black gloves tinkers with Helen’s car—and she dies in a fiery accident. And as in the Freda’s The Horrible Doctor Hitchcock: Kinksi comes to discover his wife may not be dead.

But how?

Well, his new fling, a pretty, mod-swingin’ chick (Christiane Krüger; 1969’s De Sade with Keir Dullea) takes him to porn theatre showing a film starring herself and Kinski’s dead wife—and the film was made after her death. Together they search for the answers surrounding his wife’s death—and the evidence points to Kinski’s industrialist. Did he do it?

Arrow did this film right with a Blu-ray released in June last year, which is easily available in the online marketplace.

You can watch this for free on You Tube.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

A Black Veil For Lisa (1968)

And it’s back to the spaghetti western lands once again, as we visit Massimo Dallamona, the cinematographer from for Clint Eastwood’s A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More—which were scripted by Fernando Di Leo, who wrote and directed his own giallo flick, Slaughter Hotel (1971).

However, unlike Di Leo, Dallamona stuck with the genre, also bringing us Venus in Furs (1969), What Have You Done to Done to Solange? (1972), What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974; a poliziottesco-giallo hybrid), and The Cursed Medallion (1975; which rips The Exorcist, as well). At that point, Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson ignited the Italy’s burgeoning poliziottesco genre, and Dallamona brought us Super Bitch (1973) and Colt 38 Special Squad (1976). His final film was the Italian-German-Spanish giallo co-production, Rings of Fear (1978), posthumously released after his 1976 death.

As with Rings of Fear, A Black Veil for Lisa was also a West German co-production (German cinema was attempting, like Spain, to get in on the giallo craze as the krimi genre was fading away; so they imported Italian directors to Hamburg). Esteemed British actor John Mills—who was far beyond his prime in the ‘30s and ‘40s and, like most older and forgotten actors, moved into giallo—was imported as well.

He’s Franz Bulon, a jealous, controlling German narcotics detective who married one of his previous collars (Va-va-voom! It’s flame-maned Luciana Paluzzi, aka SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe from Thunderball). When he collars Max Lindt (Robert Hoffman from 1974’s Spasmo and the 1978 “sci-fi” giallo, Eyes Behind the Stars), an assassin hired by a drug-lord behind the serial murders of rival drug dealers, instead of arresting Max, the old bastard blackmails him to kill his philandering, young wife.

Yeah, this plan’s going to work just find, Inspector Gadget.

This one has it all. It puts the “trash” in Eurotrash. It’s morbid. It’s erotic. But it’s not as graphic or sexual as we might prefer in our gialli. Thus, this is a bit more to the side of film-noir, as the giallo genre was not yet fully realized with Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood. And everyone is screwin’ everybody—figurative and literally, which we like in our gialli and film noir. And, since Dallamona came out the cinematograph realm, this film looks sharper than shard of glass, with lots of stylized, colorful angles. The acting across all fronts is excellent.

Known by Euro-audiences as La morte non ha sesso, aka Death Has No Sex, this is out in the U.S. marketplace as a legit Blu-ray/DVD via Olive Films, whose catalog deals mostly in rare and deep Euro-obscurities. Olive’s valiant efforts to retain obscure gems like this for posterity—giving us something beyond worn out VHS tapes and hazy-streaming rips made from VHS-taped UHF-TV (and severely edited, natch) showings—is greatly appreciated.

You can find the DVD and Blus at Best Buy and Walmart and a wide variety of online market outlets. But we found two, okay free VHS rips on You Tube HERE and HERE.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye (1973)

The divine Mr. Anthony M. Dawson, aka Antonio Margheriti, is back with his third giallo flick (this one’s an Italian-French-West German co-production), the others being (the previously reviewed) Nude, She Dies, and 1971’s Web of the Spider (but discriminating gialli connoisseurs will argue that’s more of a straight horror film because it’s color remake of Tony’s own film, 1964’s Castle of Blood. But that’s another review-debate for another time).

Jane Birken (be still my beating heart) (of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up, Jack Smight’s (Damnation Alley) Kaleidoscope, and the 1973 Christopher Lee-starring British horror Dark Places) stars as Corringa MacGrieff . . . in a film you’d swore was made by Dario Argento, as we’ve got a POV murderer with a straight razor, we’ve got a secluded castle in the Scottish highlands, we’ve got a dungeon, we’ve got a cat, and . . . an orangutan (it’s all about the seclusion, and the animals and insects in gialli).

(And are we plot-spoiling by telling you that seven people die . . . and the ginger cat creeping around the dank castle sees it all? Yeah, and the orangutan gets around—but Seven Death’s in the Orangutan’s Eye sounds stupid.)

So Birken is the ubiquitous bad girl expelled from another Catholic school. And she returns to Dragonstone Castle where she used to spend her summers. At the castle she reunites with her mother Alicia (Dana Ghia of Massimo Dallamona’s The Night Child) who’s doting over her sister, Corringa’s Aunt Mary, the penniless owner of Dragonstone. And like any Agatha Christie novel, we have a full house, with headshrinker Dr. Franz (Anton Diffring of The Beast Must Die and Circus of Horrors) and Father Robinson, the live-in priest (Venantino Venantini of City of the Living Dead), Suzanne, the French teacher (bisexual, natch) (Doris Kunstmann of 1997’s Austrian-made Funny Games), and Corringa’s nutty cousin Lord James MacGrieff (Hiram Keller of Fellini Satyricon) and the Lord’s pet orangutan.

Hey, shouldn’t there be a creepy gardener/groundkeeper? Yep, there is: Angus (Luciano Pigozzi of Blood and Black Lace).

Of course, the Doc is there to take care of crazy James, but also to boink Aunt Mary, and Suzanne—who, in turn, has eyes for Corringa. So while the sisters argue over the family’s money and estate, Alicia is murdered. Then there’s another murder. And the local townsfolk fear a vampire is on the loose: for when a MacGrieff kills another MacGrieff, that victim turns into a vampire—so says the “legend.”

If you’ve watched a lot of Italian horror films—and you know the frugalness of the Italian film industry, where nothing goes wasted—you’ll notice the castle exteriors are the same exteriors from Mario Bava’s Black Sunday and the lush castle interiors from The Whip and the Body. And if it all sounds plot recycling from Margheriti’s own Castle of Blood and The Virgin on Nuremberg, it probably is.

One may argue Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye is more British gothic than Italian giallo because it lacks spectacular kills, but the lush cinematography and stylized shots we love in our gialli, is there in spades.

You can (if you’re a member) watch a pristine, ad free and uncut stream on Shudder. The DVDs and Blus (on the Blue Underground and 88 Films labels) are all over the brick-and-mortar and online marketplace, easily picked up at your local Best Buy and Walmart. But, hey, times are tight in these virus days, so we found a two, free rips to enjoy for free on You Tube HERE and HERE. You can purchase the uncut, uncensored and fully restored film from original European vault materials at Blue Underground.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.