Vinegar Syndrome has a few Forgotten Gialli set out and each of these keeps adding some great movies to my collection in the best possible format with so many extras. Here’s what’s in the new one, which is now available for order.
A White Dress for Marialé (1972): Going by the names Un bianco vestito per Marialé, Spirits of Death and Exorcisme Tragique (Tragic Exorcism), this giallo was directed by Romano Scavolini, who would one day make Nightmares in a Damaged Brain.
When she was quite young, Marialè (Ida Galli) watched as her father killed her mother, her lover and himself. She’s grown up a depressive recluse married to the controlling Paolo (Luigi Pistilli) who keeps her sedated. But she still has enough friends to invite over to her mansion for a costume party orgy, which goes well until this film remembers that it’s not an art film but instead a giallo and people start dying.
Let’s take a look at the guest list.
There’s her ex-lover Massimo (Ivan Rassimov) and when we see Rassimov in a giallo, he is never up to any good.
If you’re having a wild 70s sex party, always invite a love triangle. That’s how Mercedes (Pilar Velasquez), Joe (Giancarlo Bonuglia) and Sebastiano (Ezio Marano) all got to the party.
There’s also Semy (Shawn Robinson, who sang the theme for Two Males for Alexa; this is her only acting role) and her husband Gustavo (Edilio Kim).
Just about every one of them are horrible people given to attacking — for good or bad — one another, while Marialè stays in her bedroom and wears the same dress that her mother was in when she died, bullet holes over the heart, covered in blood.
A gothic and stylish film, this made me reconsider Scavolini and see him as much better than a hack who was making a slasher when that was how people made money. I wish that he’d stayed more experimental like this movie. Then again, in the book Spaghetti Nightmares, he said that was a movie “which only deserves to be forgotten.”
Tropic of Cancer (1972): Anita Strindberg is in Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, Who Saw Her Die?, The Two Faces of Fear, L’uomo Senza Memoria and Murder Obsession, but is never mentioned with the same devotion as Edwige Fenech or Barbara Bouchet. Well, she’s great in this and in nearly everything else I’ve seen her in.
In this film, she plays Grace, the wife of Fred (Gabriele Tinti, Endgame) and their vacation has led them to Haiti and Dr. Williams (Anthony Steffen, who mostly is known for Italian westerns, but also appeared in The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her Grave, Evil Eye and An Angel for Satan), who has invented a new drug that can change the world. It’s so astounding that everyone from drug cartels to drug companies — which are really close to one another, when you really think about it — will kill for its formula.
There’s also a scene where the doctor takes our heroes to watch a voodoo ritual, all so this movie can have a bit of mondo* within it. Because it’s an Italian film, that means we’re about to watch a real bull really get killed and then lose its scrotum in gorgeous living color. The film then tops this with actual cows being slaughtered, so if you’re upset by the side of Italian cinema that doesn’t shy away from putting animal butchery right in your face, make a mark to avoid.
This movie leaves me with so many questions. What kind of doctor is Williams? He says he’s a veterinarian, then he makes a magical anti-venom drug and oh yeah, he’s also a meat packing inspector. And just what kind of wonder drug has he made? And did the filmmakers realize that the Tropic of Cancer is nowhere near Haiti?**
So yeah — most of the movie is spent wondering whether or not Grace is going to succumb to the lure of the native men***. And the best character in it is Peacock (Alfio Nicolosi, who was also in Goodbye Uncle Tom), who pretty much runs the island. Also, the murders in this go from high tech to voodoo-based death and faces getting melted right off, which is different for a giallo****.
And hey — that Piero Umiliani (Orgasmo, Baba Yaga) score is perfect!
It’s not a great giallo, but it certainly is weird, and sometimes, that’s good enough.
*One of the directors of this film, Giampaolo Lomi, was the production manager for perhaps one of the most notorious mondo films, Goodbye Uncle Tom. The other, Edoardo Mulargia, directed Escape from Hell, which was edited into the Linda Blair movie Savage Island. So with backgrounds like those, the scummy mondo nature of this film makes a bit more sense.
*Of course, we can assume that with the Henry Miller novel being such a big deal getting banned and causing controversy that the title itself seemed like a good idea to get curious folks into the theater. Better than Death In Haiti, Peacock’s Place or Inferno Under the Hot Sun.
***The flower that poisons her takes her on an insane erotic fever dream that we all get to watch and the movie is better for this scene.
****There’s just as much — if not more — male than female nudity, too.
Nine Deaths for a Crime (1977): I get it — 1977 is late for the category and Ferdinando Baldi is better known for making weird westerns — like Get Mean and Blindman with Tony Anthony, not to mention two 3D movies with the very same actor, Comin’ At Ya! and Treasure of the Four Crowns — than giallo. But hey. when you’re trying to watch every one of them made, you watch them all.
Known in Italy as A Scream in the Night, in Spain as Death Comes From the Pastand Nine Guests for a Crime in other markets, this movie follows the Agatha Christie model of nine people — wow the title actually is logical — showing up on an island that has a killer stalking about.
Well, get this. There are thirteen murders in a movie with nine guests, so how about that?
A wealthy family has departed for a two-week break at their private island estate, which primarily involves plenty of balling, as The Pink Angels trailer would say. Ubaldo (Arthur Kennedy, who won a Best Supporting Actor Tony for Death of a Salesman and was nominated for five Oscars before making movies like The Humanoid, The Sentinel, Cyclone and being one of the worst cops ever in The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) has taken his new wife Giulia (Caroline Laurente, who played three different roles in Emmanuelle 2, 3 and 7) along with his sister Elizabeth (Dania Ghia, Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye), his sons Michele (Massimo Foschi, Holocaust 2000) and his wife Carla (Sofia Dionisio, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man), Walter (Venantino Venantini, Beast in Space) and his bride Patrizia (Loretta Persichetti) and Lorenzo (John Richardson, Black Sunday) and Greta (Rita Silva, Gunan, King of the Barbarians).
Michele has been doing two-person pushups with his stepmother. Walter has been threading the needle with Greta. But then Baldi goes from ripping off Bava’s Five Dolls for an August Moon — which yes, is also a Christie pastiche — into full A Bay of Blood and even the supernatural theory that Elizabeth’s dead lover Carlo is back from the dead (and the Tarot reading sequence, which gets stolen even better in Antropophagus).
This movie has reminded me that I want nothing to do with rich people or island vacations. Nothing ever works out and I’d rather stay alive and undramatic for the short period I do have left in this dimension.
This set features all three movies, newly scanned & restored in 4K from their 35mm original camera negative. You get so much more — interviews with directors Romano Scavolini, writer/director Giampaolo Lomi, actress Ida Galli and actor Massimo Foschi; audio essays by Rachael Nisbet, deleted scenes, trailers, image galleries and so much more. Order it now from Vinegar Syndrome.