CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Panic (1982)

Also known as Bakterion, Nightmare Killing and even Zombie 4 in Greece, this film was directed by Tonino Ricci, Fulci’s assistant director on White Fang and Challenge to White Fang.

It all starts with lab rats going nuts and killing one another, which was not what I was planning on watching while I ate my breakfast while watching this. What was I thinking?

Professor Adams has gone missing — maybe it was a fishing trip — but we all know that he’s behind all of the random killings. The government literally sends Captain Kirk (David Warbeck from The Beyond) to figure out what’s going on. He starts working with Jane (Janet Agren, Eaten Alive!Hands of Steel) to figure out how to stop the infection and save not just the town, but soon the entire world. Yep, there’s plenty of talk about how this mutant virus could end life as we know it, yet all we see is one rotting meatloaf looking doctor.

Will the military nuke the town? Can Captain Kirk stop the worst special effect you’ve ever seen this side of Curse of Bigfoot? Will Jane feel bad for the professor, whose face looks like the inside of a stuffed pepper? Did I laugh out loud at this end credit copy?

Ugh, this movie. It’s pretty painful. That said, you can get an uncut version on Cult Action, watch it on Amazon Prime or just grab the Chilling Classics box set.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Hey guys! Paul Andolina is in charge for this review. I met Paul at a wrestling show and we discovered a mutual love of film. Check out his writing at Wrestling with Film.

I love holiday themed horror movies. I probably spend too much time scouring the internet and books to look for more films with a holiday bent to add to my watchlist. Just this October I participated in a friendly movie watching competition. Its theme was holiday-centric horror. When I picked up Chilling Classics I had completely glanced over the fact it contained the film Silent Night, Bloody Night. I already owned it separately on DVD. I finally got around to watching it for this review and I was not expecting what I got. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised.

Silent Night, Bloody Night is a horror thriller released in 1972. It was directed and partly written by Theodore Gershuny. You may be familiar with his work unknowingly as he worked on both anthology television series, Tales from the Darkside and Monsters as both director and writer. Silent, Night Deadly Night is about the Butler house, a one-time asylum with an interesting past. Wilfred Butler the man who restored the house to its current state dies when he set himself on fire on Christmas of 1950. His only surviving relative, his grandson, Jeffrey Butler, is selling the house. He’s in town to settle affairs but his lawyer and other people go missing. What is it about this house? Why does Jeffrey want to sell it and why do the townsfolk seem so eager to acquire it all costs?

The film stars James Patterson, a Derry, Pennsylvania native, as Jeffrey Butler. He died during post-production of the film and his lines were apparently dubbed by someone else. It also stars the director’s then-wife Mary Woronov as Diane Adams, the mayor’s daughter. It largely centers around these two characters. Someone is calling the townsfolk and in whispered tones is asking them to come to the Butler house. The calls sort of reminded me of those placed by Billy in 1974’s Black Christmas. However, the caller is able to convey a creepiness without the crassness of the calls in Black Christmas. There is something deeply unsettling about the hush toned calls from the mystery caller, who says she is Marianne. The movie is deliberately paced and has substantial payoffs both in terms of plot and the kills depicted. Even though there are only two or three kills depicted outright, there is one that will catch you off guard and change the tone of the film drastically. 

The movie takes place around Christmas but it isn’t played up much, apart from some Christmas tunes on the radio, some decorations, and sparse snow. It still has the dreariness one would want in a holiday horror flick and would go well with some spiked eggnog or whiskey laden hot chocolate on a snowy day. There is a particularly interesting use of the church hymn In the Garden as well. It is a recurring theme throughout the movie’s soundtrack and adds an extra dose of oddness to the proceedings. If you enjoy low budget films or holiday centered horror or just enjoy proto-slasher films you’ll find much to enjoy in Silent Night, Bloody Night. I should also point out that not only is this Cannon’s first released film it is also co-produced by Lloyd Kaufman of Troma. I hope you consider watching this film during the upcoming holiday season but must warn that most cuts of the film released on DVD are not the best looking prints.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Lady Frankenstein (1971)

Imagine a Hammer movie where instead of implied nudity and strange sexuality, everything is laid, well, bare. It’s not hardcore, but compared to where horror was pre-1971, Lady Frankenstein is a somewhat audacious concept: the man is no longer in charge and it turns out that the heroine (or villain, there’s no real hero in this movie though) is even more warped and insatiable than those that have come before. If you listen to Rob Zombie, you may know the sample from the trailer for this film: “Who is this irresistible creature who has an insatiable love for the dead?”

Three graverobbers deliver a body to Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten!) and his assistant Dr. Marshall (Paul Muller, Barbed Wire Dolls) to bring back to life. The twist is that Tania Frankenstein (Rosalba Neri, Lucifera: Demon Lover, Amuck!) has completed her studies in medicine and is eager to help her father with his secret work.

The next day, the Frankensteins and Marshall watch a criminal be hung and run into Captain Harris (Mickey Hargitay, the former husband of Jayne Mansfield and father of actress Mariska Hargitay, who was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980 made for TV movie The Jayne Mansfield Story), who already suspects them of graverobbing.

That night, Frankenstein brings the man back to life — a scarred, weird headed, giant-eyed beast — who pretty much instantly hugs the Baron to death. Tania and Marshall report the murder as a burglar, but Harris calls their facts into question.

If you thought that killers going after people as they have sex was something that was invented in 1980’s slashers, the creature in Lady Frankenstein is here to show you the error of your ways as he comes upon (no, not like that, get your mind out of the gutter) numerous frolicking couples and eviscerates them.

Meanwhile, Tania makes Marshall confess that he’s always loved her, but his old body can’t satisfy her. This is a polite way to say that the dude has erectile dysfunction and if Viagra had existed in the 1800’s, there would be no need for the movie to continue the way that it does. Tania does find the mildly mentally challenged servant Thomas (Marino Masé, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) attractive, so she has sex with him while Marshall watches. Thus cuckolded, he snuffs the young man out with a pillow.

Things get better for him, as she puts his brain in the young man’s body, making him superhumanly strong for some reason. While all that’s going on, the creature keeps on terrorizing people until they remember that they’re supposed to pick up pitchforks and torches and take him out.

The monster makes its way back to the castle, where it attacks Marshall, who rips off its arm, allowing Tania to stab it before he smashes its head open. As the castle burns down around them, Marshall and Tania make love as Harris and Thomas’ sister Julia (Renate Kasché, Devil in the Flesh) watch. The flames consume them as Marshall begins to choke out Tania.

Lady Frankenstein isn’t a great movie, but has a great lead who can do anything a man can do, if a man wants to bring the dead back to life and have sex with their reanimated corpses. It’s progress. And if you want, you can watch it on Amazon Prime.

CHILLING CLASSICS: Funeral Home (1980)

After my review of Funeral Home, I was hoping that someone else would write about it as part of our Chilling Classics month. Luckily, Becca, the B of B and S About Movies volunteered. She agreed to be interviewed about her feelings on this movie.

Sam: So did you like Funeral Home? 

Becca: It’s been on for about 40 minutes and no one has any idea what it’s about. Not even the people who are making it. This is really dumb.

Sam: Eventually, stuff happens.

Becca: There’s no real story yet. It’s like they just filmed some people who lived in what was a former funeral home and decided to shoot the whole thing day for night.

Sam: What do you think it’s about?

Becca: Secrets.

Sam: Secrets?

Becca: Secrets.

Sam: And…

Becca: Well, the black cat that keeps showing represents the dark. And more secrets.And whatchamacallit…superstition.

Sam: So a lot of people are getting killed.

Becca: Yes.

Sam: Do you have any idea who the killer is?

Becca: Not yet. But it seems like bad things happen in the quarry, which would have been a better title than Funeral Home. Bad Things Happen in the Quarry.

Sam: Do you have a better title than that?

Becca: Sleepytime Favorites. Or…Good Night!

Sam: Is there a message in this movie?

Becca: Cops are silly.

Sam: Would you stay in the funeral home?

Becca: No, It’s creepy and little kids don’t like it. And you know, Cubby (our dog) is unnerved by this place. He’s saying to me, “I don’t think dogs are welcome here. And that’s not cool, dogs are people too. We deserve a nice place to stay.”

Not a fan of Funeral Home.

Sam: Would you feel safe?

Becca: That goofball cop? No. I don’t feel safe around him.

Sam: So are you enjoying this movie?

Becca: Not at all. Who likes movies like this?

Sam: Bill.

Becca: Of course he does. Nothing happens. It’s his perfect movie.

With that, Becca went upstairs with Cubby to watch Halloween 3, leaving me to finish watching Funeral Home again. I think she made the right decision.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Devil Times Five (1974)

I’ve been obsessed for years with the trailer and artwork for this movie. Throw in the fact that it has 70’s teen idol Leif Garrett amongst its cast of pint-sized psychopaths and it seems like a recipe for my kind of movie insanity. However, I just never found the time to sit down and watch it. With so many movies on our shelves and streaming online, my to watch list is constantly bulging with films all screaming to be enjoyed. Thanks to Chilling Classics Month, I finally got the chance to spend some time with this film and it lives up to what I hoped it would be.

Five children have survived a van accident on a snowy road and unbeknownst to everyone they encounter for the rest of the film, they were on their way to a mental institution for criminally insane young folks. They make their way to the secluded mountain home of Papa Doc, a rich businessman, who has all manner of guests staying with him, like his sex-starved wife Lovely (Carolyn Stellar, who beyond being Leif Garrett and Dawn Lynn’s mother, would go on to design the costumes for the 1978’s utterly brutal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band), his daughter and her boyfriend, plus Dr. Harvey Beckman (Sorrell Booke, Boss Hogg from TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard) and his wife, Ruth (Shelley Morrison, Rosario from TV’s Will and Grace). Oh yeah, there’s also the dim witted handyman, Ralph (original screenwriter John Durren).

Soon, the power is out, the phones are cut and the kids are killing people left and right. Little actor and budding crossdresser David (Garrett), army lover Brian, Susan the pyro, Moe (Dawn Lynn, who played Dawna in the Walking Tall films) with her plush fish and usage of piranha and last but not least, albino nun Sister Hannah will find their way into your heart, then cut it out and show it to you. Imagine The Bad Seed times five, with none of the great story or acting.

This movie is also known as Peopletoys, Tantrums and The Horrible House on the Hill. Of course, that last title has a Last House on the Left ripoff poster to go along with the similar title.

Devil Times Five was distributed by Jerry Gross’ Cinemation Industries, which also brought Son of DraculaTeenage Mother (“She’s nine months of trouble!”), The Black Six and Idaho Transfer to audiences that had to be absolutely bewildered by their level of pure strangeness.

Original director Sean MacGregor was fired from the production after his footage was unusable and David Sheldon finished the film (you can tell that they switched interior locations because there’s no continuity in the backgrounds). By the time those reshoots happened, Leif Garrett had cut his hair, so he wears a wig that you can easily point out several times.

Even stranger, MacGregor was in a psychiatric ward after leaving this movie and also was dating Gail Smale, who played Sister Hannah. That last bit doesn’t seem all that interesting, until you realize that she was underage and that she was given a nun costume and rose-colored glasses to hide the fact that she was so young and a legitimate albino.

Seriously — how crazy is a movie where Leif Garrett watches as his real-life mom is nude and being murdered by carnivorous fish in the bathtub? This had to be a strange thing for people to watch, as Garrett was already well-known as Oscar’s son on TV’s Odd Couple and his sister was on My Three Sons.

If you’re looking for a movie where children annihilate adults that isn’t The ChlldrenVillage of the Damned or Who Can Kill a Child?, then I guess you should watch Devil Times Five. Actually, I kid. This is a goofy little film that is pretty much the horror version of Home Alone. I enjoyed it, but you know, I also have no taste whatsoever.

You can find this on the Chilling Classics set — obviously! — and you can also watch it on Amazon Prime. Want a much better looking version Code Red.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: A Passenger to Bali (1950)

Why would Mill Creek include this on their Chilling Classics set — a made for TV production for CBS’ Westinghouse Studio One that originally aired on March 27, 1950? Who knows — Mill Creek does what Mill Creek wants.

This tale began as a novel, published in 1936 and written by Ellis St. Joseph. It was adapted into a radio play by Orson Welles’ on his Mercury Theater On Air, airing on November 13, 1938, as well as a stage play in 1940 that was directed by John Huston.

The story starts in Shanghai, where the Roundabout freighter picks up a man named <r. Walkes, who claims to be a Dutch missionary headed toward Bali, looking to deliver Bibles and religion. Soon, the truth is discovered — Walkes is a drunken lout, given to speeches and starting fights between the British officers on board and the crew of the ship. And even worse, no port will allow the man off the ship. Now, the Roustabout has become a Flying Dutchman, complete with an evil passenger who can never leave as they endlessly travel from port to port.

Mr. Walkes is played by Berry Kroeger, who was a veteran of numerous genre films like Demon SeedThe Mephisto WaltzThe Incredible 2-Headed Transplant and Raphael Nussbaum’s piece of 1973 strangeness Pets. He’s doing his best Orson Welles here.

The best part of this being on the set is that they didn’t edit out any of the Westinghouse commercials, so you get a great idea of what 1950 TV looked like. Again, I have no idea why this was included, but I still watched it. I’m a completist. And hey — we have an entire month to cover this set.

If you want to see what this movie is like for yourself, it’s streaming for free on the Internet Archive.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Land of the Minotaur (1976)

I watch a lot of bad movies. Often, you have to take a part of the movie that you like and use it to get through a film. This one is a case in point. There’s a lot of this movie that would kill the spirit of an average movie watcher. Not me. Not when there are so many hilarious and amazing parts. It’s like giving feedback to an employee: let’s start with a little sugar, some things we like before we really start hammering them with everything they’ve done wrong.

Otherwise known as The Devil’s Men, the first two things you’ll notice good about this film are its two stars; Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing. This is yet another in the long list of roles that Mr. Pleasence did not turn down. In fact, I wonder what it would have taken for him to refuse to act in a film. True fact: he didn’t even turn down acting roles when he was a prisoner of war in the German camp Stalag Luft I. The longer the film went on, the more things I yelled out at the screen in Pleasence’s trademark shout.

Peter Cushing is so far above this film that it makes you sad to watch his dignified face as he conducts a rather ridiculous ritual to a concrete bull god/minotaur. I can only imagine that his stiff upper lip was sorely tested and he could not wait to get back home to paint his wargaming miniatures and sit at his table at the Tudor Team Rooms in Whitstable. He would never complain, however. It would be beneath him.

The actual movie itself is just a trifle — a cult led by Cushing is kidnapping hippie tourists as they work on a Greek archeological site and Pleasence is an Irish priest who is a friend to the youngsters that joins forces with a private detective to save the kids, growing more and more irritated as time goes on.

Perhaps the most mindblowing thing about Land of the Minotaur is that Brian Eno, of all people. Maybe that, as well as Cushing exploding when Pleasence holds up a glowing crucifix, is enough to say that this movie isn’t a complete waste of time.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Bad Taste (1987)

Today’s Chilling Classics entry comes from Blake Lynch, who not only knows plenty about movies, but knows plenty of people connected with creating them. I’m really happy that he chose to talk the early career of Peter Jackson. We share a love of Meet the Feebles.

Bad Taste (1987) by Blake Lynch

Preface

Out of all the winners of the Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Peter Jackson may very well be able to claim the strangest directorial debut. The man who would go on to direct greatly nuanced films like Heavenly Creatures in 1994, The Lovely Bones in 2009, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, began his career by directing the x-rated puppet film Meet the Feebles in 1989 and Bad Taste in 1987.

What’s Bad Taste about? Well, it’s a low budget film set in New Zealand about aliens who want to kill humans for their fast food franchise. It’s the sort of film that isn’t that terribly compelling based on the tagline alone. The film, though, is a wonderfully experimental, bizarre, at times grotesque independent picture that reveals Peter Jackson’s love of trying out new things with the special effects budget.

Production History

Bad Taste began as a 20-minute short film. Eventually, the film turned into a feature and was shot on weekends over a period of four years in Jackson’s home of Pukerua Bay, New Zealand.

The production lasted so long that one of the film’s characters died and another actor’s voice had to be dubbed in during post-production. Another character got married during the production of the film and had to be written out of Bad Taste because of his religious wife’s objections.

There are only four actors visible in the entire film with many other actors hiding behind alien costumes, which were made in Peter Jackson’s mother’s oven. Peter Jackson plays one of the roles and three others roles are played by Jackson’s friends.

Jackson funded the film by himself until the very end when the New Zealand Film Commission awarded Jackson money. The budget was so tight that the production couldn’t afford guns for the characters, camera mounts, a steady-cam device, and many other film essentials.

Drive-In Totals

  • 68 total deaths or .74 kills a minute

  • 1 death by mallet

  • 2 alien kills while a gun is lodged in another person

  • 1 disemboweled seagull

  • 1 alien who has his brain eaten out of his head

  • 1 alien who has his head pulled off and used like a soccer ball

  • 1 death from a balcony fall

  • 1 alien cut in half due to a car collision

  • 5 aliens, 1 house, and 1 sheep destroyed by rocket launcher

  • 2 aliens split in half by a chainsaw

  • 1 house that turns into a spaceship

Plot

There are some ways in which it isn’t very helpful to approach Bad Taste. For one, viewers shouldn’t read much into the dialogue in Bad Taste. There are great stretches of the film that don’t have many words spoken, while other scenes spend way too much time on exposition and unimportant details.

Likewise, it’s not helpful to look for a meaningful story in the film. There isn’t one. The only momentum between the film are changes in location: the cliffs, the house, the car, the spaceship.

I’m not saying Bad Taste is a bad film because it lacks these details. The film is definitely worth watching, if nothing for the glimpse of the genius that would become Peter Jackson. Instead, I’m trying to say that Bad Taste has all of the trappings of a no-budget independent film.

The film begins with the Astro Investigation and Defence Services sending Derek, Frank, Ozzy, and Barry to determine why a whole New Zealand town is now empty. While the streetwise Barry (Peter O’Herne) fends off alien attacks, Derek (Peter Jackson) attempts to look for signs of life in the town.

Immediately after contacting Frank (Minke Minett) and Ozzy (Terry Potter), we encounter by far the strangest scene in the film. Derek tortures an alien named Robert. That’s a neat scene, you might think. It might even remind you a bit about a similar sequence in George Romero’s Day of the Dead. But, what’s completely baffling about this bit of the film is that Peter Jackson plays both the alien who is being tortured as well as the person who is doing the tortured. You wouldn’t be wrong in saying the scene depicts Peter Jackson torturing himself.

Ever the masochist, Peter Jackson then films another character injury scene when Derek falls down a cliff while being chased by aliens. When he wakes up in a seagull’s nest, Derek discovers that his brain is leaking from his head. To keep his brain from leaking out of the back of his head, Derek throughout the film relies on hats and belts. I am fairly certain that this is not appropriate medical treatment to be followed in the case of such an event. I watched Bad Taste over a decade ago and this is visual of strapping your brains into your head with a belt is the only thing that I remembered about Bad Taste.

Around this time in the film, we encounter Giles (Craig Smith), a charity collector who ends up trying to run from aliens but ends up stuck in a pot for alien stew. Giles turns out to not be the only one that the aliens have attempted to turn into food. Instead, the aliens turn out to have turned all of the residents from the now empty town into alien fast food. In what is probably the second most viscerally disturbing thing in the film, Robert vomits into a bowl that is eaten by the aliens. Legend has it the vomit was actually just a combination of yogurt and muesli, but one glimpse at the greenish blue concoction is enough to make most people sick to their stomach.

At this point, the film turns into an effort by Frank, Ozzy, and Derek to rescue Giles from Lord Crumb (acted by Doug Wren, voiced by Peter Vere-Jones) and the aliens. It’s at this point, we enter into an action-filled sequence that leads to the conclusion of the film. I won’t discuss what happens here for several reasons. For one, there’s not really any type of plot development. Instead, this sequence is all about a series of action sequence after sequence. Two, I’ve already hinted at what you’ll see in my drive-in totals. And three, there’s actually a bit of a surprise with how Bad Taste ends that I won’t reveal.

Do I like this film? I struggle alot with independent films like this. I know the legacy. I know it has a huge cult following. I know that Peter Jackson went on to win Academy Awards, work with Spielberg, and do all sorts of wonderful creative projects. There’s glimpses of a creative mind in this film that are worth watching. If it comes to early Peter Jackson, though, I’m a Feebles man through and through.

Legacy

Bad Taste was approved by the New Zealand Film Commission, but was later banned by the Queensland Film Board in Australia. Because the Australian Film Commission viewed the Queensland Board’s decision to break up the film as unprofessional, the Queensland Film Board was broken up as a result of Bad Taste.

After a screening of the film in 1988 at the Cannes Film Festival, Jackson managed to sell the picture. Jackson’s subsequent film, Meet the Feebles, was filmed with financial support from Japanese investors as well as assistance from the New Zealand Film Commission.  The film did not, however, receive much recognition at the 1989 New Zealand Film and Television awards.

The film has a devout cult following. While the band Flesh Grinder named an album after the film, the band Kaihoro took its name from the town in the movie and the band Skinny Puppy used clips from Bad Taste in one of the band’s music videos.

In 1993, Peter Jackson approached the New Zealand Film Commission with plans to make a Bad Taste 2 and 3 for $7 million in which Derek would be rescued from the alien planet and the aliens seek revenge. As of November 2018, these films have still not entered production.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Deep Red (1975)

Deep Red is one of the few Argento movies that I’ve seen in a theater. I’m not sure what the audience expected, as it was on what was presented as a grindhouse night. I think they wanted something like the modern interpretation of the term, all fast moving action and laughs. I don’t think that many of them were happy with what they got from this film — a movie that started with a 500-page script that even Dario Argento’s family felt was too cryptic and continues with not just one, but two references to American painter Edward Hopper. This isn’t just a movie about murder. This is a movie that transforms murder into art.

The movie begins at Christmas, as two shadowy figures battle until one of them stabs the other. Screams ring out as a knife drops at the feer of a child.

Fast forward to Rome, as a medium named Helga Ulmann is conducting a lecture about her psychic powers. Within moments, she senses that one of the people in the theater is a killer. Later that night, that killer kicks in her front door and murders her with a meat cleaver (which is probably why this movie got the boring American title of The Hatchet Murders).

British musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings, BarbarellaBlowup, Harlequin), who fits the giallo mold of the stranger in a strange land thrust into the middle of a series of murders that he must solve, is returning home from drinking with his gay best friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia, Beyond the DoorInferno) when he sees the murder that we’ve just witnessed from the street. He runs to save Helga, but she’s thrust through the window and her neck is pierced by the broken glass of her window in a kill that has become Argento’s trademark.

As he tells the police what has happened, he notices that a painting on Helga’s wall is gone. That’s when Gianna Brezzzi (Argento’s wife at the time, Dario Nicolodi, who met him during the filming of this movie) takes his photo, which ends up on the cover of the newspaper the very next day.

Unlike most giallo women, Gianna is presented as more competent and even stronger than our hero — she sits high above him in her Fiat 500 and continually bests Marcus every time they arm wrestle.

Marcus isn’t your typical hero, though. When the killer attacks him, he doesn’t stop them by daring or skill. He locks himself in his study to escape them. He does remember the song the killer played — we also have heard it when Helga is murdered — that psychiatrist (and Helga’s boyfriend) Professor Giordani believes is related to some trauma that motivates the killer.

Feeling guilty that she’s caused the killer to come after Marcus, Gianna relates an urban legend of a haunted house where the sounds of a singing child and screams of murder can be heard. The truth lies in House of the Screaming Child, a book written by Amanda Righetti, which tells the truth of the long-forgotten murder. Marcus and Gianna would learn even more, but the killer beats them to her house and drowns her in a bathtub of scalding hot water (directly influencing the murder of Karen Bailey in Halloween 2). As she dies, the writer leaves a message behind on the wall, which our heroes find. They’ve already assumed the investigation — again, in the giallo tradition — and think the police will assume that Marcus is the murderer, so they don’t report the crime.

Marcus follows the trail of the killer from a picture in the book to the real house, which has been abandoned since 1963. As he searches the home, he uncovers a child’s drawing of a murdered man and a Christmas tree, echoing the flashback that starts the film. Yet when he leaves the room, we see more plaster fall away, revealing a third figure.

Marcus tells his friend Carlos all that he’s learned, but his friend reacts in anger, telling him to stop questioning things and to just leave town with his new girlfriend. At this point, you can start to question Marcus’ ability as a hero — he misses vital clues, he hides instead of fighting and he can’t even tell that someone is in love with him.

Professor Giordani steams up the Righetti murder scene and sees part of the message that she left on the wall. That night, a mechanical doll is set loose in his office as the killer breaks in, smashing his teeth on the mantle and stabbing him in the neck.

Meanwhile, Marcus and Gianna realize that the house has a secret room, with Marcus using a pickaxe to knock down the walls, only to discover a skeleton and Christmas tree. An unseen person knocks our hero out and sets the house on fire, but Gianna is able to save him. As they wait for the police, Marcus sees that the caretaker’s daughter has drawn the little boy with the bloody knife. The little girl explains that she had seen this before at her school.

Marcus finds the painting at the young girl’s school and learns that Carlo painted it. Within moments, his friend turns up, stabs Gianna and holds him at gunpoint. The police arrive and Carlo flees, only to be dragged down the street and his head messily run over by a car.

With Gianna in the hospital and his best friend obviously the murder, Marcus then has the Argento-esque moment of remembering critical evidence: there’s no way Carlo could have killed the psychic, as they were together when they heard her screams. The portrait that he thought was missing from the apartment was a mirror and the image was the killer — who now appears in front of him.

The real killer is Martha (Clara Calamai, who came out of retirement for this role, an actress famous for her telefoni bianchi comedy roles), who killed Carlo’s father in the flashback we’ve seen numerous times after he tried to commit her. She chases Marcus with a meat cleaver, striking him in the shoulder, but he kicks her and her long necklace becomes caught in an elevator which beheads her. The film ends with the reflection of Marcus in the pool of the killer’s blood.

While this film feels long, it has moments of great shock and surprise, such as the two graphic murders that end the film and the clockwork doll. The original cut was even longer, as most US versions remove 22 minutes of footage, including the most graphic violence, any attempts at humor, any romantic scenes between David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi, and some of the screaming child investigation.

This is also the first film where Argento would work with Goblin. After having scored Argento’s The Five Days — a rare comedy —  Giorgio Gaslini was to provide music for the film. Argento didn’t like what he did and attempted to convince Pink Floyd to be part of the soundtrack. After failing to get them to be part of Deep Red, Goblin leader Claudio Simonetti impressed the director by producing two songs in one night. They’d go on to not only write the music for this film, but also for plenty of future Argento projects.

A trivia note: Argento’s horror film museum and gift shop, Profondo Rosso, is named after the Italian title to this movie.

Deep Red is the bridge between Argento’s animal-themed giallo and supernatural based films. While its pace may seem glacial to modern audiences, it still packs plenty of moments of mayhem that approaches high art.

Want to see it for yourself? Sure, it’s on the Chilling Classics set, but for the best possible home experience, get the Arrow Video blu ray. You can also stream Deep Red on Shudder and Amazon Prime for free with your membership.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: The Witches Mountain (1972)

Known in Spain as El Monte de las Brujas, this 1972 effort comes to us from director Raúl Artigot, who was the cinematographer on The Ghost Galleon (released in the U.S. as Horror of the Zombies) and The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein.

The opening of this movie is Cathy’s Curse level insanity: Carla walks around her house and finds a knife stuck in a wig, a voodoo doll and finally, a bloody cat in her bed. That’s when a little girl appears and tells her that she took care of the stupid cat before running away to look for another animal. Carla follows her to the garage, throws gasoline all over the place and sets everything — including the little girl — on fire.

That’s just the start of this movie. The next scene has nothing to do with any of that, as photojournalist Mario (Cihangir Gaffari, Jess Franco’s The Demons) breaks up with Carla and decides to not go on vacation with her, instead calling his office and begging for an assignment. Soon, he’s on his way to the Pyrenees Mountains in northern Spain. Soon, he meets freelance writer Delia (Patty Shepard, who not only appeared in numerous Paul Naschy movies like La Noche de Walpurgis (The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman) and Los Monstruos del Terror (Assignment: Terror) as well as Hannah, Queen of the Vampires and Slugs), who joins him on his trip.

They decide to stop at an ancient hotel that’s staffed by a man who sounds like every bad Igor impression. And then they learn of a mountain that’s haunted by a coven of witches, so they decide to go check it out.

Keep in mind that the beginning of this movie has nothing to do with things until the end, that Mario is a horrible hero and that you will hear chanting ala The Exorcist and The Omen for the entire running time of this movie. Do you want a shock ending, too? Of course, we can get that for you!

Avco Embassy included this movie as part of their Nightmare Theater package that was syndicated for television in 1975. The others are Marta, Death Smiles on a Murderer, A Bell from HellManiac MansionNight of the SorcerersFury of the Wolfman, Hatchet for the HoneymooonHorror Rises from the TombDear Dead DelilahDoomwatch, Mummy’s Revenge and The Witch.