CANNON MONTH 2: The Love Rebellion (1967)

The thing about so much of early erotic films — particularly the work of Joe Sarno, who directed and wrote this — is how so many of the stories end in sheer despair. Is that the square-up reel hanging like the Sword of Damocles hung by a thread over the lovemaking so that we feel morally superior by the end of our voyeurism?

Inside a New York apartment building lives divorced rich mother Fletcher (Melissa Ford, The Roommate) and her shy daughter Wendy (Gretchen Rudolph, My Body Hungers), who ends up at one of those swinging free love parties that I am certain only exist in Joe Sarno movies, one where Barbara introduces her to a sordid world of sin, all to somehow steal money from Pam’s mom, thanks to the schemes of Billy, who says that he’s an artist, but I think he’s some kind of asshole. Yet Billy falls for mom, while Hank, a sadist who Wendy keeps blowing off, starts to grow enraged.

Angelique Pettyjohn, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island) is also in this black and white film, a movie that seems where everyone wants something — love, sex, money — and everyone fails at finding it.

This is another example of films that Cannon would bring to America, get into art theaters and make a quick buck. More than a few years later, it would become the Cannon we know and love, but everyone starts somewhere.

CANNON MONTH 2: Take Her By Surprise (1967)

Also known as Violent Love, this is the first movie ever produced by Cannon.

Directed by Rudi Dorn and an uncredited John Gaisford, this movie finds drug dealer Walter Dorland (Paul Negri) fighting with his wife Margaret (Joan Armstrong) over her threatening to turn him itnto the police, so he visits a hypnotist named Korba (Peter Adamson), who hypnotizes Miklos (Noel Beckett) to assault and kill his wife while she stays at the couple’s cabin for the weekend.

I list this here for its historical importance, seeing as how this is an example of how Cannon took European exploitation, released it in the U.S. and made money. At this time in our history, a roughie like this was the absolute height of decadence. One imagines it could play on TV today.

VINEGAR SYNDROME BLU RAY RELEASE: Two Undercover Angels / Kiss Me Monster (1967, 1968)

EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of Jess Franco Month, these movies were on the site on February 15 of this year. Now, Vinegar Syndrome is releasing them as only they can, newly scanned and restored in 4K from their 35mm original camera negatives. Beyond English and German langauge tracks, there;s also an alternate feature-length extended Spanish versions for both films (sourced from tape with newly translated English subtitles). Plus, Franco expert Stephen Thrower is interviewed about both movies, there are two archival Franco interviews and trailers and still galleries for both movies.

Also known as Sadist Erotica, The Case of the Two BeautiesTwo Avenging Angels and Red Lips Sadisterotica, this mindblast from Jess Franco is kinda sorta a Eurospy movie, but you get the feeling that Mr. Franco just wants to get to the choking and nudity and whipping and forget whatever minor plot there is.

Basically: two lesbian detectives are trying to find criminals, so they themselves pose as a supercriminal named Red Lips (this goes back to Franco’s 1960 movie, Red Lips, which was before Bondmania). The police have no idea and the tone of the films go from swinging fun and humor to outright brutality with no warning whatsoever.

I have no idea if I can explain what happens in this movie, which starts with an attractive brunette — Franco loved his brunettes, so get ready — being ripped to shreds by a werewolf man while a rich guy named Klaus Thiller watches and paints it all.

Then Red Lips steals a painting and we learn that the two lesbians, the blonde Regina (Rosanna Yanni, Count Dracula’s Great Love) and redhead Diana (Janine Reynaud, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) wear the mask and outfit when it suits them.

So yeah. The girls get hired to find someone that Thiller probably killed, they sleep with every man around them and yet still wind up with one another. Also: every few minutes, just when things threaten to get boring, there’s a go go dancing scene filled with nudity and blaring music.

This movie made no sense and I loved it for that reason.

Regina (Rosanna Yanni, Count Dracula’s Great Love) and Diana (Janine Reynaud, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) are back again for the third Red Lips movie from Jess Franco.

If the last film — Two Undercover Angels — made no sense, guess what? This one doubles down, almost a stream of consciousness film made up of murders, jazz clubs, stripteases, our girls play saxophones and near-escapes.

The sell copy for this claims, “Stiffs, Satanists and Sapphic sadists all after a secret formula for human clones!”

Maybe it’s the fact that I watched Jess Franco movies one after another and pounded what’s left of my brain into putty, but I loved every single minute of this movie.

Also known as Castle of the Doomed, it feels like Franco ran out of ideas here and just decided to have more things happen to the point that continuity and plot became the contrivances that lesser people try to bring up as necessary elements for a movie.

Nope. Not to Jess Franco.

Knife throwing clones? Evil lesbians? Good lesbians? Satanic murderers? Yeah. It’s got all that and an ending that doesn’t solve anything.

The failure of this movie would bring an end to the girls’ adventures until 1999’s Red Silk, although you can perhaps consider Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties a spiritual side quest.

But I think you should only watch a few Jess Franco movies in a row if you want to survive. And my head is already throbbing.

Also note: Two Undercover Angels had a monster in it. Kiss Me Monster has no monster.

Somewhere in there is a koan that will change your life.

Black Tigress (1967)

AKA Lola ColtLola Baby and Mean and Black, this Italian western — directed by Siro Marcellini, who also wrote the script with Luigi Angelo (The Pumaman) and Lamberto Antonelli (who directed the mondo Vietnam, guerra e pace) — has Lola Falana as Lola, a saloon dancer who came to Santa Ana to dance and ends up saving it from the outlaw El Diablo.

In addition to being one of the few — actually only — movies in which a black woman is a hero in the west, Lola gets to sing “Why Did You Go?,” “You’re the One I Love” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” in musical numbers that seem to be from 1967 and the time when the movie is supposed to be taking place. It also has a white medical student named Rod (Peter Martell, The French Sex Murders) fall in love with Lola and not a single mention is made of her blackness. In 1967. Yes, I’m as surprised as you.

It’s more a curiosity than a movie you need to seek out, but yes. Lola Falana in an Italian western.

 

L’uomo, l’orgoglio, la vendetta (1967)

An Italian western based on an actual work of classic literature, CarmenMan, Pride and Vengeance (which was sold as Mit Django kam der Tod (With Django Came Death) in Germany due to Franco Nero being the star) is actually set in Europe instead of the American west.

Don José (Nero) is bewitched by Carmen (Tina Aumont, Arcana), even allowing her to escape an arrest which finds him demoted. He soon learns that she’s also slept with Lt. Pepe (Franco Ressel, Blood and Black Lace) which makes him insane, so he kills the man and runs from the city. He’s injured and barely makes it before being rescued by Carmen’s family, which surprisingly has her husband Garcia (Klaus Kinski!) amongst them.

He wants to run to America with her. She says they need gold, gold that can only come from robbing a stagecoach with Garcia’s gang. Of course, everyone — including the woman that got him to this ebb — is out to destroy Don José. But if you know Carmen, you already knew that.

One should expect such a strange western to come from a creative force like Luigi Bazzoni, who also made two of the best giallo — The Possessed and The Fifth Cord — as well as one of the strangest, Footprints on the Moon

You can watch this on Tubi.

Da uomo a uomo (1967)

The Italian title of this movie may mean As Man to Man, but in the U.S. it got the great title of Death Rides a Horse. The original title of the film was Duel in the Wind, but star Lee Van Cleef came up with the Italian title while he was discussing the movie with John Phillip Law, as he saw the movie as having a “man to man” story. Van Cleef remarked, “Why don’t they call it From Man to Man?” The Italian producers liked how it sounded in Italian and used it.

Directed by Giulio Petroni, who made Tepepa, an Italian western with Orson Welles and written by Luciano Vincenzoni (For a Few Dollars More, OrcaRaw Deal), it’s the story of Bill (John Phillip Law), a man who once watched his entire family defiled and murdered before his eyes and their home set on fire.

Now, 15 years later, he’s finally gunning for vengeance. He remembers one thing about each of the five men: a tattoo of four aces, a scar, an earring, a skull necklace and only one face. As he tracks them down, he runs into Ryan (Van Cleef), a man out of jail and hunting the same men after they framed him for armed robbery. While Bill manages to kill the first, played by Anthony Dawson, Ryan wants the rest all to himself.

Bill tries, but it doesn’t go well. He’s captured by the outlaws and buried alive with just his head emerging into the hot sun. He’s rescued by Ryan, who ends up being the man with the skull necklace. While he was present during the murders, but he claims that he arrived late and did not participate. He’s also the one who rescued Bill from the fire.

Ryan gives a pledge to the younger man. Once the gang has been dealt with, he will face whatever justice Bill wants to dish out.

An excellent film with a great Morricone soundtrack, this film saw writer Vincenzoni break away from Sergio Leone just as the director was starting The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

You can watch this on Tubi.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Grand Slam (1967)

Professor James Anders (Edward G. Robinson) is an American teacher in Rio de Janeiro who grows tired of working every day, so he retires and puts together a team to pull off a diamond heist during the Rio Carnival: Gregg (George Rigaud) the safecracker, Jean Paul (Robert Hoffman) the playboy, Agostino (Riccardo Cucciolla) the electronics expert and Erich (Klaus Kinski) the military man.

Standing in their way is the Grand Slam 70 security system, an alarm that uses microphones to detect any sound. Can they successfully seduce the girl (Janet Leigh), get the key, rob the safe and get out alive? And what if one of them isn’t willing to share the loot? How does Adolfo Celi fit in?

The only other film by director Giuliano Montaldo I’d seen before was the Closed Circuit. This caper film moves quickly and has a great closing scene. It was written by Mino Roli, Augusto Caminito and Paolo Bianchini along with Marcello Fondato, José Antonio de la Loma and Marcello Coscia. It took more writers to do the script for a caper movie than crooks to pull the caper!

The Kino Lorber blu ray release of Grand Slam has commentary by Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson and a trailer. 

Flashman (1967)

Ernesto Gastaldi has written so many movies that we love, from The Whip and the BodyThe Possessed and Day of Anger to All the Colors of the DarkCasablanca ExpressYour Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key and Death Walks On High Heels. Oh man! I feel like with his resume I’m leaving so many out, so please, look up all of his films and don’t judge him by this one. You won’t be sorry.

Mino Loy directed Fury in Marrakesh and lots of mondo like Sexy MagicoSupersexy ’64 and Mondo Sexuality before this movie, which is between Adam West Batman and Eurospy, with a funky costumed hero and lots of guitar on the soundtrack.

Will his flashing power be enough to battle a group of models led by Claudie Lange and the thugs with invisibility abilities and lvano Staccioli as the boss? Sure. I mean, you have to love a movie where Italians make Batman and decide that he should be a dandy Englishman named Lord Alex Burman.

That said, in no way is this a good movie. I want it to be, the poster tells me that it will be, but it isn’t.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: The Weird World of LSD (1967)

I thought LSD was going to make me see the gods that live beyond the wall of sleep and wait for us to notice us and then drive man mad, but instead this movie taught me that I’ll just think I’m a chicken, play with cats or eat a ham sandwich, which are all things I do just about every day without needing to take any drugs.

Fog, so much fog. Chocolate blood. So many stripteases. Are acid trips really in black and white? Rubber masks. Mannequins. How is this made in Tampa — I think — and no one from a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie shows up?

This is under an hour and feels like four and I think that should tell you what LSD is all about.

Nice poster, though.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: Psychedelic Sex Kicks (1967)

“No two trips are alike. Even if you can’t fly now and pay later, you don’t need to book a round-trip fare because you never come back the same way. It’s the leaving and going that counts.”

I hope the next trip I am on does not have people body painting each other while a man drones on, but you have to take the journey where the journey takes you. I mean, you meet a guy with a pan flute, you know what you’re getting into.

I’ve never been to a drug party cool enough to have Cara Peters from Suburban PagansSpace Things (during which she used the name Legs Benedict) and Massacre Mafia Style (a movie that she appeared in using the very Italian name Cara Salerno). She’s the best part of that last movie, by the way.