The Black Report (1963)

This is the second Yasuzô Masumura movie I’ve watched this week, a director whose work that until now I’d never explored.

The next case of Akira Kido (Ken Utsui) will determine whether or not he has earned a promotion. In this film, unlike American movies, the case within court is all that matters.

With elements of noir, this movie shows the inside of a Japanese court room, where catching the murderer is only part of the tale. The rest is actually getting them convicted.

I love getting Arrow blu rays because I’m so often exposed to films that I would never otherwise watch. Japanese courtroom drama was not on my radar until I watched this.

You can get this blu ray from Diabolik DVD. It comes complete with another Masumura film, Black Test Car.

DISCLAIMER: This film was sent to us by Arrow Video.

The Atomic Brain (1963)

Also known as Monstrosity, this is one of the first movies where decay is given as the reason for the diminished intelligence of zombies. It also features plenty of people better known for other things, like narrator Bradford Dillman, Commerical pitchman Frank Gerstle and Marjorie Eaton, who played the original Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back before the special edition re-imagining.

In just 72 minutes, we learn an old woman who gets her pick of three servants to insert her brain into, thus getting a young body that will extend her lifespan.

This was directed by Jack Pollexfen, who also made Indestructible Man, and Joseph Mascelli, who was the director of photography on The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?The Thrill Killers and Wild Guitar.

This is the last film of Judy Bamber, who is also in A Bucket of Blood and Dragstrip Girl. The budget was so low that she provided Xerxes the cat, who was her housecat.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi or download it from the Internet Archive.

Promises! Promises! (1963)

This 1963 movie — released betweeb the end of the Hays Code and the start of the MPAA rating system — was the first Hollywood motion picture release in decades to feature a mainstream star nude. And that star was Jayne Mansfield, bearing Marilyn Monroe in the buff in 1962’s uncompleted Something’s Got to Give.

In case anyone asks you, the first mainstream star to go fully nude was Annette Kellerman in 1916’s A Daughter of the Gods.

The three nude scenes by Mansfield were scandalous. Even more so was the July 1963 issue of Playboy, which was the only obscenity charge every brought against Hugh Hefner. In that issue a pictorial entitled “The Nudest Jayne Mansfield” showed Mansfield topless alongside T.C. Jones, a hairstylist, actor and one of the most famous female impersonators under his stage name Babette.

All the press made the movie a big deal, despite the horrible reviews. Sadly, Mansfield only got offers for more sex comedies. While you could buy stag loops of her scenes in the 60’s, the same scenes would show up in the posthumous The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield, which also has scenes from Too Hot to Handle, The Loves of Hercules and Primitive Love.

Mansfield was voted one of the top ten box office attractions that year, but Roger Ebert took her to task: “Finally, in Promises, Promises she did what no Hollywood actress ever does except in desperation: she made a nudie. By 1963, that kind of box office appeal was about all she had left.” Of course, this practice is commonplace today.

So what’s it all about? Jayne plays Sandy Brooks, a woman dying to get knocked up yet with a husband played by Tommy Noonan, who produced this and warred with his co-star. In the movie, he’s too stressed out to make love to her, which sounds like a problem no man ever had next to Ms. Mansfield. Meanwhile, after meeting another couple, Claire and King Banner. Claire is played by Marie “The Body” McDonald, who had perhaps an even crazier life than Mansfield, starting as winning the title of The Queen of Coney Island before adding up six marriages, an alleged kidnapping that was never proved to have taken place and a death from an “active drug intoxication due to multiple drugs.” In the aftermath,   her husband and father would commit suicide and her children would be raised by third husband (they were married twice, too) Harry Karl and his wife, Debbie Reynolds, who knew something about infamous divorces. She took over the role from Mamie Van Doren. King is played by Mansfield’s husband at the time, Mickey Hargitay.

The couples end up swapping — this had to be scandalous for 1963 — ends up with both women pregnant and unsure who the daddy (or daddies, I guess) are. In between that, Mansfeld sings two songs, “Lullaby of Love” and “Promise Her Anything.”

This movie wasn’t an adult film. It was a major studio picture, directed by King Donovan (husband of Imogene Coca), who beyond acting in Invasion of the Body Snatchers also directed this movie and four episodes of Grind! and one of That Girl. Vidor shows up in plenty of things, with his last role in the 1984 cult movie Nothing Lasts Forever.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime. You won’t get arrested.

The Whip and the Body (1963)

Directed by Mario Bava under the name John M. Old, this film — known as What! and Night Is the Phantom in the U.S. — was removed from Italian theaters due to its BDSM themes, with censors claiming “several sequences refer to degenerations and anomalies of sexual life.”

It was written by Ernesto Gastaldi (billed as Julian Berry), Ugo Guerra (Robert Hugo) and Luciano Martino (Martin Hardy), after Gastaldi was shown The Pit and the Pendulum.

Within an isolated castle, the prodigal son Kurt (Christopher Lee) has returned. He once pledged to marry Nevenka (Daliah Lavi, Some Girls Do), but had an affair with Tania, the daughter of their servant which ended in her suicide. He left in disgrace while his fiancee instead married Cristiano (Tony Kendall, who was in the Kommissar X movies), the younger son of the Menliff family.

Supposedly, Kurt is back to celebrate their marriage, but really he’s just here to take Nevenka to the beach where he whips her. And here’s the part that upset people. She loves it.

Kurt is soon killed by the same knife that his illicit lover used to take her own life. But then his ghost remains, ready to ruin the lives of everyone in the crumbling manor.

Ida Galli (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail), Harriet White Medin (Thomasina Payne in Death Race 2000) and Luciano Pigozzi (who was also in Bava’s Baron Blood) all appear.

Lee had hoped to work with Bava on another movie, but their busy schedules kept them from ever working together again. Upon seeing A Bay of Blood, he was so upset by its gore that he left the theater.

La Invasion de los Vampiros (1963)

Invasion of the Vampires is directed by Miguel Morayta, who also made one of my favorite strange south of the border films, Dr. Satan.

Finally, a vampire who has it all figured out. If anyone kills Count Frankenhausen, all of his dead victims rise from the grave in his place. That’s way better than the way it usually goes, with the brides of Dracula going up in smoke as soon as he gets staked.

If not for the American dubbing, this would be a pretty atmospheric throwback. So do what I do: turn off the sound, watch the subtitles and make your own soundtrack inside your brain.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Mondo Cane 2 (1963)

New Guinea, Germany, Singapore, Portugal, Australia, America and beyond, no country is safe when Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi have their cameras rolling. Paolo Cavara, who helped make Mondo Cane, had moved on to make other films, including Black Belly of the Tarantula and Plot of Fear.

This time around, their journey takes us through vivisections, lynchings, tranvestitites, sex clubs, alligator hunts and a trip to a mortician’s school. Everything in this consists of cutting room footage of the first film, including a scene where a monk sets himself ablaze that was totally faked with the help of special effects wizard Carlo Rambaldi.

As the mondo had grown beyond their film, this time Jacopetti and Prosperi go abti-establishment, even laughing about how the dog scenes in the original movie kept them off screens in England. They’re increduous and probably desensitized over all that they have seen.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Women of the World (1963)

La Donna nel Mondo hustled its way into theaters months after the success of Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara and Franco Prosperi’s Mondo Cane. Where the first film was unfocused and just shows, quite literaly, a dog’s life, the sequel lives up to its name: you are going to see women all of the world.

We start in Israel, where we see women start training for their military service, which is soon juxtaposed with the island of Roger Hopkins, who has 84 wives and 52 children.

That difference bwteen women is the highlight of much of the footage, showing women longing for statues and their mates, who instead parade about in full regalia in New Guinea ritual.

There’s a trip to Cannes — this happens in so many mondos that I’ve lost track by this point — as well as a camera club (that’s where Bettie Page got her start, allowing men to pay her to take photos of her as she posed; incel weirdos did not get their start via the internet, dear friends), dude ranches where divorcees get the marital bliss they were missing, prostitution, Japanese women diving for pearls and getting their eyes more Westernized, plastic surgery, forced tattoos, Thalidomine babies and women screaming at God in Lourdes. There’s all that and so much more, all concentrating on, yes, the women of the world, but mostly wanting to show you plenty of flesh along the way.

This movie is dedicated to Italian exploitation films Belinda Lee, who died in a car crash that also injured her boyfriend Jacopetti: “To Belinda Lee, who throughout this long journey accompanied and helped us with love” appears on screen with ten seconds of silence. Jacopetti would be buried next to her thirty years later, never falling out of love with her, despite a lifetime mired in the sheer muck and grime of the mondo.

You can watch it on Amazon Prime or right here:

Ecco (1963)

Offsetting the globetrotting shock of this film — watch a woman bite off a reindeer’s scrotum with her bare teeth! — is the voice of George Sanders, perhaps way too sophisticated a man for such an endeavor. That said, money is money, and it’s time for Gianni Proia to take us all around This Shocking World (the other title for this mondo).

Beyond the expected lesbians and strippers — show me a mondo that doesn’t have those and it’s amazing that I am seeing them as commonplace at this point — you also get a trip to the original Grand Guignol and get to watch a man repeatedly impale himself.

The US version — re-edited with a new commentary by absolute maniac Bob Cresse and with an Italian title that means “look here” — adds scenes from World by Night No. 2, another Proia mondo, with bodybuilding showgirls, Roller Derby and some vacation footage. Consider it like watching snaps from holiday, except the vacation goers have no compunction showing you absolute filth.

You can get this on a double blu ray — along with The Forbidden — from Severin.

Santo en el Museo de Cera (1963)

You have to hand it to the people who made Santo movies, this time Alfonso Corona Blake (who made Santo vs. Las Mujeres Vampiro) and Manuel San Fernando (who made three Santa Claus movies and the American version of Johnny Socko).

Santo is an obsession for me, as he perfectly finds himself in nearly every genre through his long career. He’s a detective. He fights monsters. He becomes a spy. He appears in a gothic horror occult exploitation film. He battles aliens. He goes to the Bermuda Triangle. And then he’s in a karate movie. Santo can be all of these things and so much more.

This time, I can only assume someone watched House of Wax and thought, “This movie would be better with lengthy wrestling scenes and a masked hero.”

The evil Dr. Karol looks the same as he did when he came to Mexico twenty years ago as the survivor of the Dachau concentration camp. He runs a haunted house packed with some of your favorite monsters that come to life, because have you ever seen a horror movie set in a wax museum where things go well?

By the end of the movie, this gets all Dr. Moreau with animal men get whipped. But you have to love a movie where Santo tells the police he’ll get back to crimefighting just as soon as he finishes his next match.

You can watch the American version of this on YouTube:

Santo en el Hotel de la Muerte (1963)

Federico Curiel had no idea how to make a Santo film. Instead of putting the Man in the Silver Mask front and center, he was a side character as normal people became the heroes. Nobody wanted that. However, this one does have a great poster and some atmosphere.

The real stars of the movie are Fernando Casanova, Ana Bertha Lepe and Beto el Boticario, while Santo just shows up as needed to stop evil from attacking the people Curiel really saw as the stars.

There’s a decent match with Santo and Black Shadow, some fun jazz and a great hotel. It’s not anywhere near where our hero would soon go, but it’s not a bad time.

You can watch this on YouTube: