2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 18: Witchhammer (1970)

Day 18: Resurrectionist: Watch something that came out on a reissues label

Courtesy of AIP Studios’ Witchfinder General (1968), everyone knows of the exploits of British witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins (as portrayed by Vincent Price) and his fictionalized counterparts in Count Christian von Meruh and Lord Cumberland (as portrayed by Udo Keir and Herbert Lom) in Mark of the Devil (1970) and Mark of the Devil II (1973). And now you’ll learn of the even bloodier exploits of Witchfinder Inquisitor Boblig von Edelstat.

Witchcraft was born during Europe’s transition from the Dark to the Middle Ages. For over five hundred years, fueled by ignorance and religious paranoia, governments decreed their countries be cleansed of evil and immorality. Thus, through armies funded by churches, soldiers hunted down the witches who carried the pestilence. Entire villages were laid waste, in acts analogous to the social cleansings committed by the third world countries of modern society. In fact, the acts committed by Witch Hunters in the name of the Lord surpassed the body count of modern day serial killers. Thus, the witch hunts led by General Cromwell and Matthew Hopkins begat McCarthy’s Red Scare in the nineteen-fifties. And the witch hunts begat the gathering of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the Nazi regime shipping Jews, Pols, and Slavs on trains to their deaths. And the burning of witches at the stake begat African-Americans tormented with religious symbols wrapped in gas soak rags. The brutal truth of the world’s current sociopolitical system: these same hunts and killings, based in ignorance, continue. In today’s world of light and knowledge, men continue to invest in fear, ignorance, and greed. Will man ever be capable of conquering the delusions, the urges, and the ugliness? When will witchcraft disappear from our society?

Born in Austria-Hungary, Czech Republic filmmaker Otakar Vavra ranks alongside Denmark’s Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928’s The Passion of Joan of Arc and 1932’s Vampyr) as a first-rate director with a career that is, sadly, outside of their respective homelands (and the most discriminating, international film aficionadi), fading from our celluloid memories. Vavra’s IMDb page, while cataloging his oeuvre in full, the individual pages for those films are barren; not only are no plots or synopses offered, there’s no user or critic reviews.

Vavra is the cinematic equivalent of Polish futurologist and sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem (Solaris, The Astronauts, The Magellan Nebula*): for as many of Lem’s books that have seen English adaptation, many never will—and many of us will never experience all—if any at all—of Vavra’s films. Across his 53 directing and 56 writing credits from the early ’30s up until his 2011 death, less than twenty of his films have expanded outside of Europe into the English-domestic marketplace. Some made the transition to the VHS format and later DVD format, but most have not been honored with digital preservation.

After three shorts, Vavra made his feature film debut as a director with the comedy Camel Through the Eye of the Needle (1937) and followed with the drama Virginity (1937). He closed out the 1930s with his two best-known and revered films: the historical dramas The Merry Wives (1938; hailed by the U.S. film trade Variety) and the working class-morality tale The Magic House (1939). Prior to those directing efforts, he wrote seven screenplays: the most notable of those is the comedy Three Men in the Snow (1936); the film’s homeland success initiated his directing career. His career culminated with a teaching position at Prague’s Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts, a position he held since the 1950s. He was awarded the Czech Lion in 2001 and a presidential Metal of Merit in 2004 for his contributions to Czech cinema.

His other widely-distributed, directorial works include:

  • The Masked Lover (1940) — a romantic comedy concerning a Czech General
  • Enchanted (1942) — a romantic comedy
  • I’ll Be Right Over (1942) — a slapstick comedy
  • Happy Journey (1943) — a romantic comedy
  • Rozina, the Love Child (1945) — a historical drama
  • Against All (1957) — a historical war drama; part of the “Hussite Trilogy,” which are three of the most expensive Czech films ever made, with Against All as the most expensive at 25 million Czech Koruna (1.2 million U.S.)
  • August Sunday (1961) — a comedy
  • Night Guest (1961) — a drama
  • Golden Queen (1965) — a psychological drama
  • Romance for Bugle (1967) — a drama that won the Special Silver Prize at the 5th Moscow International Film Festival
  • Days of Betrayal (1973) — a historical war drama that won a honorary diploma at the 8th Moscow International Film Festival
  • Sokolovo (1974) — A Soviet co-production about the ’43 Battle of Sokolovo
  • The Liberation of Prague (1977) — a historical war drama; the third of a trilogy that began with Days of Betrayal and preceded by Sokolovo
  • Dark Sun (1980) — a crime drama that serves as Vavra’s rare foray into sci-fi that serves as a remake of his own 1948 film Krakatit
  • The Wanderings of Jan Amos (1983) — a biographical drama about 17th century Christian crusader Jan Amos Comenius

And that brings us to Vavra’s lone foray into the horror genre, a historical-drama concerned with the brutal inquisition of witches during the medieval era—a film that is heralded as Vara’s chef-d’œuvre and won several awards at Argentina’s Mar del Plata International Film Festival in 1970. One of those wins was for cinematographer Josef Illik who, after watching Witchhammer, you’ll wonder why Illik’s name is not as revered in international film circles as Hungarian-American cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

Based on the best-selling Czech history novel Kladivo na čarodějnice (1963) by Vaclav Kaplicky, the 17th century tale chronicles the real-life, human rights atrocities of the North Moravia Witch Trails of the 1670s by Witchfinder Inquisitor Boblig von Edelstat in which 100 people were murdered. The book’s main protagonist, Priest Josef Lautner (Kryštof Lautner in the film), is a cleric who tries to help his people, but soon falls victim to the trails for opposing “God’s Law.” The book is heralded as an important to literary lesson of man’s ills in political-based paranoia and political prosecution on-level with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953) (required high school reading; at least it was for me).

The resulting film adapted by Vavra was banned, ironically, not for its graphic nature, but for Vavra adapting the film as an acidic allegory to the Communist show trails that rocked Czechoslovakia in the 1950s. While the film was banned from showing by the Czechoslovakian government, it was accepted by the international marketplace as a cinematic masterpiece.

The atrocities began with an altar boy observing and reporting a destitute old woman hiding the bread given out during Holy Communion—a theft that she admits to, with the intend to feed it to her barren cow to re-enable its milk production. The indiscretion of hoarding holy bread, according to Witchfinder Inquistor Edelstadt, smacks of “witchcraft,” as based on his interpretation of the Catholic treatise The Malleus Maleficarum, aka Hammer of Witches (thus, the film’s title). The thumbscrews and other torture devices are dispatched in quick succession—and a young priest who opposes the trails soon finds himself among the wrongly executed.

Even if you’ve watched the admittedly more sensationalistic, West German-produced Mark of the Devil, aka Witches Tortured til They Bleed (1970), its sequel Mark of the Devil II, aka Witches Are Violated and Tortured to Death (1973), and the more reserved, Gothic-slanted AIP film that inspired its production: Michael Reeves’s Witchfinder General, aka The Conqueror Worm (1968), you’re not going to be prepared for this horrifying lesson in the absolute corruption of power. We won’t sugarcoat: Witchhammer, as was Pier Pasolini’s Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, isn’t pleasant (Pasolini’s film even more so), but it is an exquisite example of perfection in cinema.

You can watch Witchhammer on You Tube, but there’s a far superior, superb DVD rip available on the European F Share TV free-with-ads VOD platform. There’s an account sign-in viewable trailer on You Tube (due to graphic content). DVDs are readily available in the online marketplace at a wide variety of eRetailers or you can buy direct from Arrow Video.

Other classic witchcraft films to supplement your viewing of Witchhamer are the Sweden-Denmark co-production Haxen (1922) and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s own forgotten classic, Day of Wrath (1943).  We also examine the life of another Middle Ages’ serial killer of the von Edelstat variety, Gilles de Rais, and his inspiration behind two films by Spain’s Paul Naschy: Panic Beats and Horror Rises from the Tomb.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

The Phynx (1970)

The Warner Archive is the gift that keeps on giving, because before it started making burn on demand DVDs, this movie has such a limited release that few people had seen it. I know I’d been hunting for it for years, as it perfectly hits on so many of the things that I adore. It has elements of the Eurospy genre, an overwhelming amount of cameos and as it was a lost film for some time, the feel of being a cult film.

The Phynx are a manufactured band — kind of like The Monkees — made up of A. “Michael” Miller, Ray Chipperway, Dennis Larden and Lonny Stevens. They’re trained in all manner of espionage and rock ‘n roll, including meeting Dick Clark, record industry emissary James Brown and being taught how to have soul by Richard Pryor.

At once an indictment of the system and the product of the very hand that it is biting, The Phynx occupies the same weird space as Skidoo, i.e. big budget Hollywood films trying desperately to reach out to the long-haired hippy audience, yet fairly to understand them on a near monumental level. Much like that film — or the beach films of just a half-decade hence, which seems like several lifetimes ago — this stars plenty of Old Hollywood former A-listers. Why this would reach “the kids” is beyond me, but this film has more of them than any movie this side of Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood.

All of those celebs of the past have been kidnapped by the Albanian government to make some kind of message to capitalist swine. Amongst their number, you’ll discover Patty of the Andrews Sisters (one wonders where Laverne and Maxene were), Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller and his Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan), Cheyenne star Clint Walker (who we love for Killdozer!Scream of the Wolf and Snowbeast), Rudy Vallee, gossip queen Rona Barett, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Busby Berkeley, Xavier Cugat (with chihuahua), Cass Daley, Roy Rogers’ sidekick Andy, Devine Fritz Feld (whose claim to fame was the popping sound he could make with his mouth; he also shows up in the aforementioned Michael Winner canine opus), Leo Gorcey, John Hart (who replaced Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger, here in character) and Jay Silverheels (also in Tonto character), Huntz Hall, Louis Hayward, George Jessel, Ruby Keeler, Patsy Kelly (one of Hollywood’s first out lesbians), Dorothy Lamour, Guy Lombardo, Trini “If I Had a Hammer” Lopez, boxer Joe Louis, Marilyn Maxwell (who “dated” Rock Hudson), Butterfly McQueen (Prissy from Gone with the Wind), Pat O’Brien and Colonel Sanders (!).

Harold “Oddjob” Sakata is also on hand, as well as Lou Antonio (Cool Hand Luke), Mike Kellin (Mel from Sleepaway Camp), Michael Ansara (It’s Alive), George Tobias (Abner from Bewitched), Joan Blondell, Martha Raye, Pat McCormick (Big Enos from Smokey and the Bandit), Warhol superstar Ultra Violet, Susan Bernard (December 1966 Playboy Playmate of the Month and one of the stars of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!; she’s also the mother of Near Dark‘s Joshua John Miller), Sally Struthers as the band’s number one fan and Rich Little as the voice of Richard Nixon.

Lee H. Katzin (who mostly worked in TV, including the made for TV film What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?) directed this, working with Robert McKimson for the animated portions. It was written by Bob Booker (who produced and wrote The Paul Lynde Halloween Special) and George Foster with a screenplay by Stan Cornyn. It’s the only script he’d ever write, as he was better known as the head of the Creative Services department of Warner Brothers Records, where he wrote Grammy-winning liner notes (for two Sinatra albums, “Strangers In the Night” and “Sinatra at the Sands”; he also wrote the song “The Meaning of Christmas” and was an innovator when it comes to what would one day be known as the DVD format).

This is the only film where Johnny Weismiller says, “Me Tarzan; You Jane.” So there’s some more trivia for you, which is — sadly — more interesting than this film. Yet it’s worth a watch to see the transition between the La-La Land of old and the new movement of art that would last just a few years before the blockbuster made itself known. I know someone that brought up to me how fortunate we were that Star Wars kicked all these old Catskills and vaudeville-era people out of films and into TV, because what they made was so hacky. The gall of this person upset me to a degree where it has since colored every interaction that I have had with them. I have a warm place in my heart for these bloated failures as the Man tried to reach the youth culture. They may be a mess, but they’re my mess.

ANOTHER TAKE ON: The Vampire Doll (1970)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Rochester is a librarian. Mad about movies and books and film soundtracks. His favorite film is The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Released by Toho (the Japanese Studio that brought us Godzilla!), The Vampire Doll (1970), or to give the film its full title, Legacy of Dracula: The Vampire Doll,  was the first of a three-part series of Japanese vampire movies (known as the Bloodthirsty Trilogy) which was followed by Lake of Dracula (1971) and Evil of Dracula (1974).  Director of all three of the otherwise unrelated films was Michio Yamamoto, who before taking up directing in 1969, was the Assistant Director on films such as Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957) and Samurai Assassin (1965), starring Toshirô Mifune.

Set in modern-day Japan, The Vampire Doll follows Keiko (Kayo Matsuo) and her fiancé, Hiroshi (Akira Nakao), trying to unravel the mystery behind Keiko’s missing brother,  Kazuhiko (Atsuo Nakamura) and the recent death of Kazuhiko’s girlfriend, Yuko Nonomura (Yukiko Kobayashi). Western audiences may not recognize most of the cast, with only Kayo Matsuo (the supreme Ninja in Shogun Assassin (1980)), Atsuo Nakamura (Lin Chung in the 70’s TV series The Water Margin) and Jun Usami (Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)) providing the likely exceptions, but they will recognize many of its tropes and distinct plot influences from Gothic British and Italian horror movies and its touches of Mario Bava, Psycho (1960) and the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations from the 60’s made by Roger Corman. For this reason, the Bloodthirsty Trilogy is often held up as Toho’s answer to the horror films made by the British Hammer studio (1957-).

The setting for much of The Vampire Doll is the fabulous Nonomura mansion  – an old, huge Western-style home with a spiral staircase (the scene where Yuko’s mother descends the staircase is straight out of many a Hammer vampire movie), creepy, dark basement, secret doorways, strange cries in the night and even a mute butler called Genzo (who attacks all the guests whenever he gets a chance). The interior design of the house is superb and it is atmospherically, beautifully lit, with some rooms disarmingly bright and welcoming and others so dark with only the characters within lit at all. Some of the interior shots (by Kazutami Hara), especially the ornate shadows cast by flashes of lightning on the brown walls are among the things I enjoyed most about this film. Also impressive is the genuinely scary make-up and look of Yuko Nonomura, who with her green-yellow eyes, long dark hair and pale blue-white dress is more like an Onryō (“vengeful spirit”), a vindictive ghost from Japanese folklore (and movies), instead of one of Hammer’s busty vamps. Horror fans will also appreciate that this film is scarier and a bit less melodramatic than most Hammer films – the blood looks like blood, not like red paint, with the blood-letting scene at the end as realistic as it is spectacular. It is also eerie and atmospheric in places, has a number of genuinely creepy characters, a couple of good jump scares and a disconcerting jump cut out of a (?) dream sequence.

On my list of not so good things about the film are the performances, some of which are a little uneven, and the soundtrack which at times is overbearing and jarring to no positive effect. The middle section of the film, which focuses on the sleuthing and snooping of Keiko and Hiroshi, is a little slow and some of the plot devices (e.g. Hiroshi letting Keiko go back to the Nonomura mansion alone) are unbelievable. It is also very obvious where their snooping is leading. Or so we think !   More intriguing and unusual are the twists and plot lines in the last third of the movie involving the mysterious Dr. Yamaguchi (Jun Usami), Yukio being hypnotized, and maybe not even being dead at all, and her ’empty’ grave –  ok, they may be a bit confusing, and you may want to rewind and watch that last section again to take it all in, but you won’t mind, as many of the best moments are in the last quarter of the movie where Yamamoto takes the story away from traditional Western vampire themes and into the realms of the Japanese supernatural.  And what makes this film worth watching, regardless of its flaws, is that despite its obvious Western influences it still has its own distinct and vivid style.  As such I found it to be an interesting and entertaining Japanese take on the vampire movie.

The Vampire Doll (1970)

Michio Yamamoto was the assistant director on Throne of Blood and second unit on the Mifune film Shogun Assassin before creating a trilogy of bloodsucker thrills for Toho*, the same studio that gifted us with Godzilla. It comes in the wake of Hammer’s Technicolor remakes of classic horror films like Horror of Dracula, a movie which was a big deal in Japan. In fact, the original ending — complete with a much grislier ending for Christopher Lee — was found in the Land of the Rising Son.

According to this article by Michael Crandol, “Although there appears to be no truth to the rumour that Hammer routinely prepared a “Japanese cut” of each film that included extra bits of gore, the filmmakers were likely aware that scenes which would not make it past the United Kingdom censors would be able to be retained in the Japanese release.”

He goes on to explain how the gothic Hammer mood is incredibly similar to the kaiki eiga, which some take to mean horror films but which truly means strange films. Yamamoto takes the feel of these movies and translates them to a Japanese sensibility, but fans of British horror need not fret: there is much to love here beyond simple pastiche.

After a six month business trip, Kazuhiko goes to visit his girlfriend Yuko (Yukiko Kobayashi, Destroy All Monsters) at her lonely country home. However, her mother later tells everyone that her daughter has already died in a car accident. That makes sense, because the last time we saw Kazuhiko, he was following Yuko to a grave with her name on it.

Why did Kazuhiko go there? That’s what his sister Keiko (Kayo Matsuo, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx) and her fiancee Hiroshi (Akira Nakao, Commander Takaki Aso in the 1990’s Godzilla films and Premier Hayato Igarashi in Godzilla Tokyo S.O.S.want to know.

The truth? Spoilers, but Yuko’s family history is beyond insane, with her father murdering numerous people, impregnating her mother against her will and refusing to just let his daughter die.

This is a brightly hued masterpiece that would be the perfect side dish between a serving of some Lee and Cushing films.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime or buy the entire Bloodthirsty Trilogy from Arrow Video.

*Postscript: Toho and Hammer almost worked together to make a movie called Nessie in 1976 before Hammer pulled out to make To the Devil a Daughter.

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

If the past Hammer films seem bloody but chaste to you, by 1970 these films made the leap to the Karnestein Trilogy, replete nudity, sex and lesbianism. Offshoots — outright rip-offs is too mean — of the story of Carmilla, blame American-International Pictures, who wanted more explicit content to take advantage of the relaxed morals of the time.

We start in Styria, where a gorgeous blonde in just a nightgown (Kristen Lindholm, who is in all three of the trilogy) shows up in a graveyard where she’s decapitated by Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer, Nayland Smith in the British Fu Manchu movies), a vampire destroying man out to kill every bloodsucker for what they did to his sister.

Years later, Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt!) comes to stay in the home of distant relative General Spielsdor (Peter Cushing). She soon causes nightmares for his niece Laura (Pippa Steel, who sadly died from cancer way too young at 44) and a gradual illness that claims her life.

Now known as Carmilla, Pitt continues seducing women like Madeline Smith from Theatre of Blood and sucking blood directly from their hearts. She’s helped by Governess Mademoiselle Perrodot (Kate O’Mara, who played Joan Collins’ sister on Dynasty, which is casting I approve of) and kills everyone who suspects them as an unexplained man in black watches.

Finally, the General and Baron trap her in her castle and lop off her head, because all this murder — and probably the fact that she was stealing so many wives — is too much for them to take. That’s when they learn that her true name is Countess Mircalla Karnstein and the portrait on the wall is no longer a gorgeous woman, but a fanged skull.

Look for vampire actor Ferdy Mayne as a doctor. He played Count von Krolock in The Fearless Vampire Killers, Dracula in Freddie Francis’ The Vampire Happening and, of course, God in Night Train to Terror.

This film — that dares you to taste the deadly passion of the blood-nymphs — was directed by Roy Ward Baker, who Scars of DraculaDr. Jekyll & Sister HydeAsylumThe Vault of Horror and The Monster Club.

You can watch this on YouTube and Shudder.

Los Monstruos del Terror (1970)

This movie goes by many names. Beyond the translation of the title we used — The Monsters of Terror, it is known as Dracula vs. Frankenstein in the UK, Reincarnator in France, Assignment Terror in the U.S. and was almost titled El Hombre que Vino de Ummo (The Man Who Came From Ummo), in reference to Michael Rennie’s alien character.

Count Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy forever!) has been revived from his death at the end of The Mark of the Wolfman as aliens remove the silver bullets from his body — yes, really! — as part of their plan to use a carnival as the cover to control Tao-Tet the mummy, Frankenstein’s — err, I mean Farancksalan’s — monster and a vampire named Count De Meirhoff. Their plan is to learn why humans fear these monsters and use them to attack humans. I mean, I guess that’s a good plan. They have plenty of technology and it really feels like the kind of scam that an 80’s TV cartoon villain would come up with. But hey — that’s the plan they have and they’re going with it. If you had access to the book Anthology of the Monsters by Professor Ulrich von Farancksalan, you might do the very same thing.

In a bit of irony, these evil aliens are led by Dr. Odo Warnoff. I say that because Michael Rennie also played Klaatu, the good alien that came to warn us all in The Day The Earth Stood Still.  He’s helped by Maleva Kerstein, another dead scientist (Karin Dor, who was Helga Brandt from You Only Live Twice) ready to destroy the world.

Can our werewolf hero save humanity from aliens and their monsters through hand-to-claw combat? Will Inspector Tobermann (Craig Hill, The Blood Stained Shadow) be an effective policeman? Will our Daninsky need to be shot by the woman who loves him, Ilsa (Patty Shephard, who would go on to be Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy in The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman and also show up in Edge of the Axe)?

I’ve seen plenty of reviews make fun of this movie. Look, life kind of is horrible. You’d do well to watch this and shut off your brain and experience the wonder of a movie that pits a furry Spanish lothario against every Universal monster minus the budget. Live a little. Remember what fun is like.

You can watch this on YouTube. Or grab the RoninFlix blu ray and do yourself a wonderful kindness.

ANOTHER TAKE ON: And God Said to Cain (1970)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phil Bailey is a long time photographer and film writer, who doesn’t actually hate everything, but has no fear of being a contrarian.  Follow at Twitter at @stroke_midnight or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/philbaileyphoto

Like so many of his contemporaries in Italian cinema, Antonio Margheriti worked in numerous film genres including science fiction, peplum, and spy adventures, but he is mostly fondly remembered as one of the greats of creating atmospheric gothic horror movies. Castle of Blood, The Long Hair of Death and The Virgin of Nuremberg are some of the horrors directed by Margheriti who was frequently Americanized as Anthony Dawson.  And God Said to Cain was not the director’s only Euro-Western but it is his best-known thanks in no small part to its star Klaus Kinski and the unusual gothic atmosphere Margheriti surrounds his simple tale of revenge.

The film opens in a rock quarry where a number of prisoners swelter in the blazing sun turning large rocks into small ones  One of the prisoners, Gary Hamilton has just been granted clemency and wastes no time in returning home with a new rifle and a thirst for revenge against the men who framed him and stole his house, gold, and even his wife.  After a few brief expository scenes, the film gets down to business.  Hamilton sends word to Acombar (Peter Carsten) that he is coming for him. To complicate matters Acombar’s son has just arrived home and a storm is moving in.  During this storm, Hamilton moves through the town taking out Acombar’s men.  The sandstorm, howling winds, and constant clang of the church bell creates a huge amount of tension in Acombar and his men, as well as members of the audience.  

The film is obviously made on a minuscule budget with Margheriti using the storm set-piece as an excuse to hide all the townspeople not vital to the plot.  Margheriti knows what he has to work with and uses it to full advantage. It doesn’t hurt to have Klaus Kinski’s chiseled features and deep blue eyes who was most likely part of the package to secure financing and distribution as “Italian” movies were rarely solely funded with just Italian Lira and several countries would pool resources to make these films which is why you have a German star, making an Italian western, in Spain.  Margheriti leans heavily on his horror director’s bag of tricks to keep a plot of one-man murder spree going without side plots, characterization, or much in the way of dialogue.  As the film unfolds Kinski becomes increasingly spectral, utilizing his surroundings including the aforementioned church bell as a weapon in the film’s most memorable scene. Margheriti’s taste for the gothic also shines in numerous touches that would be right at home in any of Margheriti’s standard gothic horrors, most notably the gorgeous mirrored parlor set complete with candelabra adorned grand piano.  Any cult film fan knows where the final showdown is going to take place once they see all those mirrors.   The often spectral figure of Klaus Kinski weaving effortlessly through light and shadow, including through catacomb-like tunnels beneath the town.  In these tunnels, Kinski and Margheriti evoke the spirit of Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera more than a standard cowboy hero/anti-hero as he dispatches all who stand in his way of a showdown with the man who wronged him.   

The mix of horror and western in And God Said to Cain is not going to be to everyone’s taste as neither genre is fully satisfied, but in a sea of forgettable copycat Euro-Westerns, and hell this one is nothing original in the plot and is essentially a remake of Salvatore Rosso’s A Stranger in Paso Bravo, but Margheriti brings his own weirdness to the film giving it lift over the endless disposable films being cranked out of the Italian studios before they abandoned the old west and went all-in on gialli in the wake of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

And God Said to Cain (1970)

Gary Hamilton (Klaus Kinski!) is released from ten years of hard labor with a pardon for a crime he didn’t commit, so he does what any insane character played by Kinski would do. He sets out to kill everyone who ever did him wrong.

This movie comes from director Antonio Margheriti, who we all know from films like War of the PlanetsDeath Rage and oh yes, there it is, Yor Hunter from the Future.

Kinski wants Acombar, his former friend who set him up, dead. He has to go through the man’s son (Antonio Cantafora, Baron Blood) to do it, as well as the Acombar’s wife Maria, who was once his lover. He’s helped by the people of the town who hate his enemy, as well as his knowledge of the Native American burial grounds.

This is less Western than horror film, with Kinski’s character nearly a ghost, continually followed by gusts of winds and tolling bells as he returns to get his bloody vengeance.

While there are similarities to another Margheriti film Vengeance, this is very nearly a remake of Salvatore Rosso’s A Stranger in Paso Bravo, which was made just a year before. This one, however, is unafraid to let the gruesome side of violence be seen.

The original story for both was written by Eduardo Manzanos Brochero, but the screenwriter for this was Giovanni Addessi, who also produced the movie.

You can watch this on Tubi, but I’d like to warn you that the quality of the print is pretty bad.

Adios Sabata (1970)

Known in Italy as Indio Black, sai che ti dico: Sei un gran figlio di (Indio Black, you know what I’m going to tell you… You’re a big son of a…), this is the second Sabata entry for director Gianfranco Parolini but switches out the lead role of Sabata.

This time, Yul Brynner is the man in black, taking over for Lee Van Cleef.

Set in Mexico under the rule of Emperor Maximilian I, Sabata/Indio Black is hired by the Señor Ocaño (Franco Fantasia, Zombi) to steal some gold, but our hero and his partners Escudo (Ignazio Spalla, who is in every Sabata movie) and Ballantine (Dean “Red Elvis” Reed, who defected to East Germanty a few years after this movie and continued his singing and acting career) soon learn that they’ve only got sand. Colonel Skimmel has the gold and their money, so they set out for revenge.

It’s not bad, but nowhere near as good as the original. That said, it wasn’t intended to be a sequel, but the name change was because Sabata did so well in the U.S.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Musical Mutiny (1970)

Barry Mahon is magic. And madness, too.

After volunteering for the Canadian Royal Air Force before America entered World War II, then getting shot down, imprisoned and escaping Stalag Luft III before getting captured again, then being saved by Patton’s 3rd Army and then becoming Errol Flynn’s personal pilot and manager, Mahon’s life was already crazy. Then he started making movies like Rocket Attack U.S.A.Cuban Rebel Girls and Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico

That’s all before Barry set up shop at Dania, Florida’s Pirates World theme park and started throwing concerts when he wasn’t making some of the most ludicrous movies — and I mean that as a compliment — ever made, like The Wonderful Land of Oz and perhaps his finest world, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.

I’ve been hunting for this movie, where a pirate’s ghost convinces the staff of the park to put on a free concert, for literally years and years. I found it. And it pleases me to no end. In fact, it is my happening and it freaks me out.

Local bands Grit, New Society and the Fantasy are happy to play for free, but Iron Butterfly is mad that this is a free show and because they aren’t getting paid, they storm off. Luckily, a rich hippy pays them to play “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida.” I have no idea what we’re supposed to learn from this.

Facts: There are more dune buggies in this than a Filipino post-apocalyptic film. There’s a garbage truck that says, “You are what you eat.” “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is sixteen minutes long and was probably better with a fistful of narcotics. The pirate also disappears when this show is over.

I have no idea why this was made or who it was made for. I can only dream that I could have gone to Pirates World because everyone —  Bowie, Sabbath, Alice Cooper, The Doors, Led Zep and Frank Zappa to name a few — played there. I hate theme parks but I love this place. Other than dying at Action Park in a blaze of blood, guts and thunder, it’s the only place of its ilk that I will ever be able to stomach.

You can watch this on YouTube.