El Escapulario (1968)

As María Pérez (Ofelia Guilmáin) receives last rites, she tells Father Andrés (Enrique Aguilar) about the influence that a religious medal — The Scalpular — had on her sons’ — Julián (Carlos Cardán) and Pedro (Enrique Lizalde) — lives. Meanwhile, two robbers wait outside to attack and rob the priest.

Julián is a soldier who soon deserts the army to join the rebels — the film takes place on during the Mexican Revolution — blowing up a train before he’s arrested. A sympathetic soldier helps him escape, yet Julián denies the power of the medal — denying God — and is shot and badly wounded.

Pedro falls for a woman well above his social status, Rosario (Alicia Bonnet’s), and narrowly avoids being killed thanks to the power of the medal. It turns out her uncle wants their relationship stopped at all costs, so he sends a letter about an evening rendezvous from Rosario while hiring bandits to kill him.

Andrés and Federico, the other two sons, have been lost since being kidnapped by a gang, but perhaps the priest will soon meet them and they will all learn how the power of the scapular binds them all. And that strangely, the old woman has been dead for seven years.

Director Servando González makes a whimsical yet melancholy fantastic film here, powered by a script by Jorge Durán Chavez and Rafael García Travesi, who wrote 94 movies, including several Santo films and The Mummies of Guanajuato.

This movie looks beyond gorgeous, even as it shows scenes of condemned and hung men swinging after their deaths. Somehow uniting multiple genre and countries of cinema, as well as being folk horror by way of Mexican Catholicism, this movie finds death everywhere and still finds a reason to smile (and by frightened at the same time).

You can watch this on Tubi.

Chattanooga Film Festival: The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (1968

Take Noriaki Yuasa, the director of the original eight Gamera movies, and pair him with Kazuo Umezu, who created The Drifting Classroom, and have them make a movie that should be for kids but is the type of motion picture that destroys minds and reaps souls (and is filled with nightmarish visions and brutal murders).

Sayuri has returned to her family after years in an orphanage but trouble has followed her. Before she even arrives, a maid dies of a heart attack, her mother has amnesia from a car wreck and her sister won’t leave the attic, all while her father ignores them to study poisonous snakes and a fanged figure haunts her dreams.

Soon, our heroine is staying up in that attic with her scarred sister who tells her that she just wants to taste her hands and who breaks her dolls and oh yeah, rips a frog in half and throws it in her face. Yes, a kid-friendly movie.

And an amazing one at that.

If you can’t make the fest — you can get a pass NOW at the official site — The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch recently made its worldwide blu ray debut and home video premiere outside Japan thanks to Arrow. This release also has commentary by film historian David Kalat, an interview with manga and folklore scholar Zack Davisson, a trailer and an image gallery. You can order the blu from MVD.

It’s also available on the ARROW player. Head over to ARROW to start your 30 day free trial (subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly). ARROW is available in the US, Canada and the UK on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

Joe… cercati un posto per morire! (1968)

Find a Place to Die is a remake of the American western Garden of Evil. After a long fight with a gang of killers led by Chanto (Mario Dardanelli), Lisa (Pascale Petit) escapes with her life while her husband does not. She hires a former Confederate officer named Joe Collins (Jeffrey Hunter) and another gang to gain revenge. But all that gold that Lisa and her husband had found — plus her beauty — put everyone against each other.

There’s also the crazy character of Reverend Riley, a man of the cloth who doesn’t deny himself the pleasures of the flesh. Played by Alfredo Lastretti, he’s the best part of this movie.

Director Giuliano Carnimeo made Light the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming, Have a Nice Funeral on Me, Amigo… Sartana, Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin and I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death under the name Anthony Ascott, as well as They Call Him CemeteryThe Case of the Bloody Iris and Ratman. He co-wrote the film with Lamberto Benvenuti, who made The Legacy of Caine.

Sadly, a year after this movie, Hunter was injured in an explosion gone wrong making the crime movie Cry Chicago (¡Viva América!). On his way back to the U.S., he went into shock and couldn’t speak or move. Doctors could only find a displaced vertebra and a concussion, yet within seven months, he would suffer an intracranial hemorrhage while walking down the stairs at his home, crack his skull and die after brain surgery was not successful. He was only 42.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Due volte Giuda (1968)

Luke Barrett (Antonio Sabato) wakes up next to a dead man and no memory of how he arrived at this point. The bullet meant to kill him just grazed him, giving him a concussion and amnesia. He rides into town and learns that he and his partner Donovan were just about to kill his brother Victor (Klaus Kinski) for cash. How did he get here? And what happens after?

Twice a Judas was shot by Aristide Massaccesi, who we all know and love, and features Claudia Rivelli as Luke’s wife. She’s Ornella Muti’s sister in real life.

The strangest thing about this movie is that the bank that is trying to remove Victor is presented as being for the people, which we all know in no way can be true. Maybe they’re just a little less horrible than Victor, a land owner who wants his land, he wants it farmed and then he wants everyone else’s land too.

Director Nando Cicero mostly made comedies, while writer Jaime Jesús Balcázar wrote The Devil’s Honey, Jess Franco’s The Castle of Fu Manchu and Goldface, the Fantastic Superman.

You can read another take on this movie as part of Drive-In Friday: Kinski Spaghetti Westerns.

Between God, the Devil and a Winchester (1968)

Between Between God, the Devil and a Winchester and the Italian title of this movie, Anche nel west c’era una volta Dio (God Was In the West, Too, At One Time), I think that it has my favorite Italian western title. And despite a tagline promising “A orgy of bloodletting that very few will survive,” it’s actually an adaption of Treasure Island but with horses and cowboys.

Directed by Marino Girolami (Zombie Holocaust) and written by Tito Carpi (MartaTentacles), Manuel Martínez Remís and Amedeo Sollazzo (Primitive LoveTwo MafiosI Against Goldginger), this movie works, with the desert sands being the seas and outlaws taking over for pirates. Treasure remains treasure.

Future Godfrey Ho victim Richard Harrison plays Father Pat Jordan, who recognizes that the stolen gold belongs to a mission and makes the mission his. Gilbert Roland plays the Long John Silver — he has an iron arm instead of a wooden leg — as Juan Chasquisdo. There are even eyepatches and hooks for hands out here in the west.

Sadly, the movie doesn’t ever really get exciting despite the two titles that it has. It’s a boy’s adventure when you need Italian westerns to be filled with blood.

You can watch this on Tubi.

I lunghi giorni dell’odio (1968)

Known as This Man Can’t Die and Long Day of Hate, this Italian Western stars Guy Madison, who had been the title character in the TV series The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickock, as Martin Benson, a Civil War veteran and former outlaw who is trying to clean up his act by working as an undercover agent for the U.S. Army.

He’s already helped capture and execute three members of the gang he’s snuck into — he sends the reward and guns home to his father, a man who still looks at him as a criminal — but he’s tired of this life. Yet his hard work will get his captain promoted and he’s forced to stay working.

The gang learns that Benson was the man who has done them wrong, so they find out where his family lives and murder his parents and assault his sister, leaving her mute. When his brother Daniel finds one of the gang members near death, he decides to nurse him back to health so he and his brother can get revenge.

Maybe Benson’s life isn’t going so well. That said, Rosalba Neri is his girlfriend. There are worse things, right?

Director Gianfranco Baldanello — who often worked as Frank G. Carroll — also directed Colt In the Hand of the DevilDanger!! Death Ray, Man with the Golden Winchester and Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind. He also wrote the giallo The Girl In Room 2A but mostly worked as an assistant director. He also co-directed The Uranium Conspiracy with future Cannon Pictures boss Menahem Golan.

This movie has more nudity than several Italian westerns put together. That’s really all it has to make it stand out, other than the two great titles.

Al di là della legge (1968)

Billy Joe Cudlip (Lee Van Cleef) is not a good man. But he’s conflicted. Sure, he’s just robbed a stagecoach of $12,000, but he feels like he owes something to the man his crimes have hurt the most, a Czech immigrant named Ben Novack (Antonio Sabàto) who was supposed to deliver that money to hard working miners.

When another gang attacks the next shipment of money — led by Gordon Mitchell — and the sherrif is killed, things change for Cudlip. He’s offered the job of lawman, which his partners Preacher (an astounding Lionel Stander, trapped in Europe thanks to the blacklist) and freed slave Al (Al Hoosman, an amateur heavyweight boxer who fought in World War II and then settled in Germany, where he became an actor in thirty films) think will be quite helpful when it comes to taking all the town’s silver.

Except that the gangs that come to town are way worse people than Cudlip. He now feels compelled to protect the men, women and children of Silvertown, which goes against everything he believes in. Sooner or later, he’s going to have to choose between Ben and the town or Preacher and Al.

In a genre made up of loners who disappear after they get their bloody revenge or save a town, this is a rare Italian western with a hero who finds that he belongs. As the film closes, with his star cast aside, Ben stops him and says, You are not alone, Cud. You have us — you always did. You are our friend. And our sheriff.”

Director Giorgio Stegani only made nine movies, but he wrote one that made a major impact: Cannibal Holocaust.

This is also worth watching just to see Bud Spencer without his beard.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Kaidan hebi-onna (1968)

When a poor farmer named Yasuke dies, all of his fields are taken — legally if not ethically — by landlord Chobei Onuma. That man now takes Yasuke’s wife Sue and daughter Asa as servants to work off his debt, an action that introduces Chobei to the ghost of the farmer. He orders their home destroyed and a gigantic snake appears before being killed — a bad omen in Japanese culture and but the start of the curse.

Asa and Sue are abused not only by Chobei but also by his Masae and son Takeo. Sue tries to protect another snake but pays for that act with her life, leaving her mother alone to deal with the sexual advances of her new master’s son. Yet the ghosts haven’t left and while rich men may rule the physical world, they have no say over the supernatural one.

Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa (Jigoku) and written by Fumi Konami (Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion), this may not be the all-out shock that later Japanese horror would spray all over the screen, but it has moments of eerie calm amongst the otherworldly.

Nude… si muore (1968)

Naked…You Die (AKA The Young, the Evil and the Savage) is a pretty fun early giallo with good direction by Antonio Margheriti.

Yet it was very nearly was a Mario Bava movie.

According to Tim Lucas’ Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, Bava was hired by Lawrence Woolner — the distributor of Hercules in the Haunted World and Blood and Black Lace in America — to direct a movie about a killer stalking a school. Cry Nightmare was going to be the title and Bava wrote the script with Brian Degas and Tudor Gates (BarbarellaDanger: Diabolik).

Lamberto Bava told Lucas that “Just a short time before the filming was to begin, Mario Bava had an argument with the producers and he abandoned the film.” As for Margheriti, who met Woolner when he distributed Castle of Blood, he said “I think Mario was busy at that time, working on Diabolik or something.”

Either way, locations were already secured, cast and crew had been hired and a theme song had already been recorded.

The drowned body of a woman is placed in a truck going to St. Hilda College. There, only seven students, two teachers — Mrs. Clay (Ludmilla Lvova) and Mr. Barrett (Mark Damon — Headmistress Transfield (Vivian Stapleton) and gardener La Foret (Luciano Pigozzi) are present.

Soon, the killing begins with Betty Ann being strangled and found by Lucille (Eleonora Brown in her last film until coming out of retirement in 2018), who is having an affair with Barrett. When she tells him to come see the body, it’s already gone, so they decide to leave the school.

The killings kick into gear with Cynthia (Malisa Longo, Ricco the Mean Machine) being killed in front of the gardener, who is soon killed as well and Denise (Patrizia Valturri) too. There’s also amateur detective Gillie (Sally Smith) on the case and Inspector Durand (Michael Renne from The Day the Earth Stood Still) trying to stop the killings.

All the girls wear similar uniforms — and outfits that change scene by scene — and nobody wonders why an older teacher can play Big Bad Wolf with Little Red Riding Hood and get away with it.

The aforementioned theme song “Nightmare” by Powell and Savina (Don Powell, who played Emanuelle’s father in Black Emanuelle 2 and did that film’s soundtrack, along with Carlo Savina, who composed the music for The Killer Reserved Nine SeatsLisa and the DevilFangs of the Living Dead and so many more) and performed by Rose Brennan owes royalties to Neal Hefti.

Perhaps even wilder is the fact that the movie informs us that Gillie may be the daughter of James Bond.

Giallo would change in a few years to be bloody, sleazier and stranger. That said, this is a great example of an early version of this style of movie.

Phenomenal and the Treasure of Tutankhamen (1968)

Directed by “Monsieur Cannibal” Ruggero Deodato under the name of Roger Rockfeller, this is a movie that even its director admits that he “didn’t give a shit about the film.” Deodato went on to claim that the producer and star of this film, Nicola Mauro Parenti, was “too stiff, a dog of an actor; I treated him like shit on the set, but then he called me again for Zenabel.” This was also his first directing job.

This is a fumetti movie not based on any existing character, but obviously in the same world as Kriminal and Danger: Diabolik. Unlike those movies, Phenomenal is the hero and he’s going up against Gordon Mitchell and his gang to keep the treasures of Egypt — the title does not lie — safe. There’s a lot of sitting around and talking where there should be action, but one look at the hero’s costume — a turtleneck and a stocking mask — shows you how inspired this was. Look — not everyone can do Eurospy or comic book action adventure.

That said, the Bruno Nicoli score is quite nice and it’s never a bad thing to spend 90 minutes with Lucretia Love, who was also in The Killer Reserved Nine SeatsDr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype and Enter the Devil.