ARROW BOX SET RELEASE: Giallo Essentials: Blue Edition

Arrow Video continues its exploration of giallo with its fourth box set after the Black, RedYellow and White editions of Giallo Essentials.

In the early 1970s, when the giallo boom was at its peak, producer-turned-director Luciano Ercoli made  three standalone — but thematically linked — giallo films all starring his wife Nieves Navarro under the name Susan Scott. This set shares those movies in one convenient and well-priced edition.

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970): Minou (Dagmar Lassander, The House by the Cemetery) loves her husband, Peter. But Peter is cold and only really seems to care about work. All she does all day is pine for her husband and take care of a turtle. Yep. You just read that correctly.

One night, a mysterious stranger attacks her, cuts open her clothes and then warns her: her husband is a killer.

The mysterious man is proven correct when a man who owed Peter money shows up dead. He demands that she come to his home, where he blackmails her into sleeping with him. Seeing as how he has recorded their tryst, he now has more material on her.

Even her friend Dominique (Nieves Navarro, All the Colors of the Dark, who was married to the director, Luciano Ercoli) can’t be trusted, as Minou finds photos of the blackmailer in provocative poses in her possession. When she finally gets the police to investigate, the man’s home is empty and Dominique tells the police he never even existed. Oh yeah. Dominique was once Peter’s woman before Minou. So there’s that.

Minou has a nervous breakdown and overdoses on tranquilizers before sobering up and learning that it’s all been a plot against her from the beginning. But come on — if you’ve watched any giallo, you knew that going in.

Despite its lurid title, Forbidden Photos of a Woman Above Suspicion isn’t filled with sex or even all that much violence. It’s more about alcoholism and how women were taught that they had to have the skills to land a man, but not what to do with their lives to make them fulfilled beyond just a relationship.

Director Luciano Ercoli has some gorgeous shots in here that really take advantage of the space age 1960’s aesthetic. And a bossa nova score by Ennio Morricone keeps this film bouncing. It wouldn’t be the first giallo I’d recommend, but it’s not the last, either.

Extras include commentary by Kat Ellinger; Private Pictures, a documentary featuring interviews with Navarro, Ercoli and Gastaldi; an appreciation of the music of  70s Italian cult cinema by musician and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon; a Q&A with Lassander; the Italian and English trailers and an image gallery.

Death Walks On High Heels (1970): 

A man is stabbed on a train, leading the police to question Nicole (giallo queen Nieves Navarro) about diamonds that are missing. Her life turns upside down, as she begins to receive disguised phone calls asking about the diamonds and a blue-eyed masked man attacks her in her boudoir. She then remembers that her jealous lover Michel owns contact lenses in that color, so she runs away with an older eye surgeon to the coast of England. But Michel isn’t far behind…

The first of three giallo directed by Navarro’s husband, Luciano Ercoli, this is what the genre should be: shocking, lurid, bloody and oh so fashionable. It also makes a deft turn from what we expect from the form into an actual mystery film.

There’s a plot twist here that honestly shocked me, so I won’t spoil it. While the other two films in the Ercoli giallo trilogy are much better, this is still a quality film worthy of your time. Some critics decry them as Ercoli making movies just to feature his wife, but if you had a quality woman like Navarro in your life, I bet you’d do the same.

This comes with audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas, an introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, an interview with Ercoli and actress Navarro, Gastaldi explaining how to write a successful giallo, an interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani and Italian and English trailers. These extras are a sheer joy for giallo lovers and what an opportunity to hear from Ercoli, Navarro and Gastaldi.

Death Walks At Midnight (1972): Nieves Navarro is a true queen of giallo, appearing in All the Colors of the Dark, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, So Sweet, So Dead and Death Walks on High Heels. Here, she makes her third film with her husband, Luciano Ercoli.

In this one, she plays a fashion model named Valentina who agrees to help her journalist beau study LSD. But while she’s dosed and in the middle of a photo shoot, she watches a man brutally murder a woman with a spiked gauntlet. He thinks she’s just hallucinating and publishes her account, but she believes it’s real. And when the killer starts stalking her, she really starts to worry.

The entire opening of the film is one big acid freakout and everything that follows is the bad trip, the comedown and reality brutally intruding into drugged out bliss. This is a film packed with brutal violence and plenty of gore, but it makes sense. The movie demands it.

The end, when everything is wrapped up by the killer (killers?) is pretty great, as the many red herrings are discussed and the entire plot is finally explained to us. If everything before felt like a nightmare, this is bracingly cold water directly to the face.

Even better, Navarro portrays a heroine who doesn’t faint at the first sign of danger. She deals with the ineffectual police and indifference of her boyfriend with aplomb.

And yes — this film is packed with bonkers crazy fashion — a metal/glass silver wig and a strange sculpted wall feature prominently — so if that’s why you love giallo, you’ll be quite happy here. Me? I loved every minute.

This release comes with audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas, an introduction by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, an extended TV version, a reflection by Gastaldi reflects on his career in the crime film-writing business and Desperately Seeking Susan, a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the distinctive giallo collaborations between director Luciano Ercoli and star Nieves Navarro. If you love giallo — or are just getting into it — all of these extras will open deepen your love for the form; Lucas is one of the best commentary track experts there is.

This limited edition Arrow Video box set comes in rigid packaging with the original poster artwork in a windowed Giallo Essentials Collection slipcover. You’ll enjoy 2K restorations for all three films as well as reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil and Gilles Vranckx.

You can get this from MVD.

VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: The Hospital (1971)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the April 25, 2023 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Directed by Arthur Hiller and written by Paddy Chayefsky — the winner of the 1972 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, as well as the narrator and the man who had control over the casting and content of this movie — The Hospital concerns a New York City medical center — Metropolitan Hospital Center, which is called Manhattan Medical Center — that is just as damaged as one of its lead medical experts, Dr. Herbert Bock (George C. Scott). His marriage is over, his children hate him and he’s been impotent for several years. And oh yeah, several doctors and a nurse have been murdered on his watch while the hospital takes over an apartment building so that it can expand, pushing citizens into the streets. Nobody comes here to be healed, just patched up and shoved back out. It’s enough to make Bock want to commit suicide, which is just what he was doing when Barbara Drummond (Diana Rigg) barges into his office, engaging him in a spirited discussion that ends up with him roughly taking her.

This changes his life — one can argue, as Quentin Tarantino did on the Video Archives episode, whether she actually exists — but he can’t leave behind the hospital or stop solving problems, like how his new lover’s father (Barnard Hughes) is either on his death bed, the killer or both. I mean, it’s a spoiler but if you watch this, it’s so obvious that in no way is it hard to see coming.

The film makes a wild swing in the middle from a black comedy about the American medical system into a murder mystery mixed with a romance that starts with pretty much an assault. Luckily, it has strong acting from Scott — as always — and Rigg answers the challenge of playing against him in her first American movie.

It’s also the first movie of Tracey Walter, who may be one of the few people in this movie to have an action figure, as he was Bob the Goon, a short-lived but long-beloved character in Tim Burton’s Batman.

You can watch this on Tubi.

VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: Straw Dogs (1971)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the February 13, 2023 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

I know they made a remake of Straw Dogs in 2011, but there’s no way I can imagine people not being beyond upset with this movie. The violence probably wouldn’t upset all that many people, but the two graphic assaults of Susan George — much less the quick flash that she may not have been all that upset by the first — would be greeted by a procession of anger the likes of which no movie made today would be able to create. I mean, would director Sam Peckinpah have been able to make movies in today’s world? One could argue that he struggled to do it in the 70s.

Based on The Siege of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon M. Williams and written by David Zelag Goodman and Peckinpah, the story begins with David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) moving his wife Amy (George) back to her hometown of Wakely. Her ex, Charlie Venner (Del Henney), has a gang of horrible townsfolk like Norman Scutt (Ken Hutchison), Chris Cawsey (Jim Norton) and Phil Riddawa (Donald Webster) and each of them resents the meek academic American making love to one of their own.

David and Amy have moved into her father’s house, Trenchers Farm, and hired the four men to fix it up. As the house improves, their marriage falls apart, as she claims he left America because he was a coward afraid of conflict and that he treats her in a condescending manner. He withdraws into his study of stellar structures while she teases the workmen with her body.

Despite the men killing their cat, David still goes hunting with them. They pull the snipe hunting trick and abandon him, heading back to his home so that Venner can attack his wife. That coupling seems a bit too much like lovemaking by the end and as she holds her ex-lover, Scutt comes in with a gun and forces Venner to hold her down. By the time David returns, Amy says nothing.

The next day, David fires the men and Amy has a breakdown in church when she sees them. Things get worse — a local boy named Henry Niles (David Warner) ends up being seduced by a relative of Venner named Janice Hedden (Sally Thomsett). When the men chase them down, he accidentally kills her and goes on the run. After David accidentally hits him with his car, he takes the boy home, which brings the foursome back to begin invading the home.

Then David says, “I will not allow violence against this house.”

What follows is a Hoffman descending into the kind of barbaric behavior one expects in a Stanley Peckinpah movie.

Straw Dogs is older than I am and still packs such infernal power. We see ourselves cheering for David to finally rise up, but is too much well, too much? I guess not from the same man who made The Wild Bunch. I’ve been thinking this film over and over in my head and trying to figure out how I feel about it. It’s not ambivalence. I’m just seeking an answer.

VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: The Last Run (1971)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the March 14, 2023 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here. You can read another take here.

Harry Garmes (George C. Scott) has left the world behind. His wife has left him after the death of their son. And after a life in organized crime, he’s content to be a nobody in a little fishing village somewhere in Portugal.

Then Harry gets a job.

It’s been nine years, but he still gets a job. Bring escaped killer Paul Rickard (Tony Musante) and his girlfriend Claudie Scherrer (Trish Van Devere) to France. Rickard is to kill French President DeGaulle under orders of the OAS.

Harry knows this will end bad.

He takes the job anyway.

Even the prostitute he sleeps with and gives all his money to, Monique (Colleen Dewhurst) turns on him.

Because Harry’s been dead a long time.

He just doesn’t know it.

Directed by Richard Fleischer (20,000 Leagues Under the SeaFantastic VoyageSee No EvilMr. MajestykMandingoConan the Destroyer and like, ten or more other movies I could mention) and written by Alan Sharp (The Osterman WeekendUlzana’s RaidDamnation Alley), this was originally directed by John Huston, who went to war with a drunken Scott on set. Then again, Huston and his son Tony were rewriting the script over and over — Sharp also rewrote it six times — but after all that messing with the script, it wasn’t a movie anyone wanted to make. Huston left, Tina Aumont went with him and Fleischer was called in. He hated the script. That’s because it wasn’t the movie Sharp and Scott wanted to make.

The Last Run finished with a cost of a little over $2 million, only one week and $30,000 over the original schedule. Flesicher said, with no small pride, “I think it’s a miracle it got made. I’m the miracle.”

As for Scott, once his wife Dewhurst flew out with his kids, he fell in love with Van Devere, who he would later marry. So yeah. Scott is in this movie with two of his wives from three of his marriages (he was married to Dewhurst twice). In all, he was married five times, but he was with Van Devere from 1972 until his death in 1999.

Scott had just finished Patton, so he had some power on this film, and wanted to make a movie that reminded him of the ones he loved when he was young. I always liked that it seemed like he made every film personal.

VIDEO ARCHIVES WEEK: The Light at the Edge of the World (1971)

VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the December 6, 2022 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Kevin Billington was the son of a factory worker who ended up marrying Lady Rachel Billington. He was also a director of plenty of TV movies, like a well-considered BBC version of Henry VIII. He ended up directing this international collaboration of French, Spanish and Italian producers. They paid Kirk Douglas an estimated $1 million dollars to star, which is about $7.2 million in today’s money.

Will Denton (Kirk Douglas) runs an isolated lighthouse to hide from a failed romance and the fact that he killed a man in self-defense. The only people he ever speaks to are the crew, Captain Moriz (Fernando Rey) and assistant Felipe (Massimo Ranieri). They watch over a very strategic trade route near the Tierra del Fuego archipelago at the southern tip of South America.

Yet in one horrible moment, it all changes, as Captain Jonathan Kongre (Yul Brynner) and his pirates — they include actors from Sergio Leone’s films, such as Luis Barboo, Víctor Israel and Aldo Sambrell — kill Moriz and Felipe, smash the lighthouse signal and start to loot everything they can. Surviving their attack along with an Italian sailor named Montefiore (Renato Salvatori), they begin to fight back.

Kongre has also made a change in his life. He always kills everyone on the ships that he takes over, but he’s fallen for one of the women on board, Arabella (Samantha Eggar). Denton tries to save her, but when Montefiore is caught and slowly killed, he puts his friend out of his misery, just as Kongre angrily gives the woman to his crew. Denton sinks the ship and it ends up with just the two men, battling each other to the death inside the lighthouse.

If you’re expecting a light hearted Jules Verne adventure, well, this is as rough as it gets. It’s about a broken man trying to just live out his days coming up against a sophisticated villain who loves murder and carnage. I mean, they kill Douglas’ monkey. That’s how horrible the bad guys are. They deserve everything they get.

SALEM HORROR FEST: The Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie was watched as part of Salem Horror Fest. You can still get a weekend pass for weekend two. Single tickets are also available. Here’s the program of what’s playing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Originally on the site on January 19, 2020, this folk horror film was brought to America by Cannon Releasing Corporation.

In Mark Gatiss’ BBC documentary series A History of Horror, he referred to this film as the prime example of a short-lived subgenre he called folk horror, along with Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man.

It’s directed by Piers Haggard, who also was behind The Quatermass ConclusionThe Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu and Venom. He’s also the great-great-nephew of H. Rider Haggard, the creator of Allan Quartermain.

Robert Wynne-Simmons was hired to write the story, which was inspired by the modern day Manson Family and Mary Bell child murders.

Back in the early 18th-century, Ralph Gower (Barry Andrews, Dracula Has Risen from His Grave) uncovers a one-eyed skill covered with fur while plowing his fields. He asks the judge (Patrick Wymark, Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow) to look at it, but it’s gone missing and his fears are seen as ridiculous.

Peter Edmonton brings his fiancee, Rosalind Barton (Tamara Ustinov, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb) to meet his aunt, Mistress Banham, Banham disapproves of the coupling and demands that Rosalind sleeps in an attic room. After screaming throughout the night, she soon takes ill and the judge commits her. As she’s led away, Peter discovers that she now has a claw instead of a hand.

Claws show up all over this — hidden in fields to be found by children and attacking Peter inside the cursed room, causing him to sever his own hand. The judge leaves behind the town for London, but promises to return. He places Squire Middleton (James Hayter, The 39 Steps) in charge.

One of the children who found the claw, Mark, is lured out by his classmates and killed in a ritual game by the leader of a new cult, Angel Blake (Linda Hayden, MadhouseQueen Kong). She even tries to seduce Fallowfield (Anthony Ainley, the Master from Dr. Who) and tells him that Mark had the devil inside him, which needed to be cut out. Her group also has a Black Mass inside a ruined church where they attack Mark’s sister Cathy (Wendy Padbury, companion Zoe on Dr. Who). They ritualistically assault and murder her before tearing the fur from her skin.

Of course, it’s not long before all hell quite literally breaks loose, with insane children raising Satan himself from the Great Beyond and Ralph growing fur on his leg, marking him for death. This movie is…well, there’s nothing else quite like it. I can see why it had a limited audience for years, because it’s so dark and unforgiving.

“It never made much money,” said Haggard. “It wasn’t a hit. From the very beginning it had minority appeal. A few people absolutely loved it but the audiences didn’t turn out for it.”

While the original title was Satan’s Skin, you have to give it to American International Pictures’ Samuel Z. Arkoff, who came up with the film’s title.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Four Times That Night (1971)

April 25: Bava Forever — Bava died on this day 43 years ago. Let’s watch his movies.

Often, we put Italian genre directors into buckets. Fulci was only the godfather of gore, which ignores his contributions to giallo, westerns and decades of comedy films in favor of the last fifteen years of his life. Similarly, Bava is often thought of for his contributtons to horror film when the truth is he did everything from peplum and Eurospy films to crime and science fiction movies.

By 1971, Bava had been through his successful mid 60s run of having American-International Pictures bring his movies to America, as well as his attempt at making a western, Roy Colt & Winchester Jack, and was a year from pretty much kickstarting so many of the themes of the slasher in A Bay of Blood and then having a small career resurgenace and reaching America again with Baron Blood.

Bava had a lack of confidence and when that was combined with his shyness, he rarely took advantage of opportunities which would have made his name more internationally known, including working in Hollywood. In interviews — which appear in Troy Howarth’s The Haunted World of Mario Bava — he comes across as pretty rough on himself, saying things like “I accept anything they give to me. I am too willing to accomodate any difficulty. This is not the way one creates masterpieces. Also, I’m too cheerful and the producers don’t like that: they want people who take things very seriously, and above all who take them seriously. But how can I?” and “I think of myself as one who manages to get along. I don’t care about being successful, I just want to go on and on.”

So when Bava needed another movie to make, this commedia sexy all’italiana was what it would be, the first of three collaborations between Bava and American producer Alfredo Leone. Instead of the simple titilation and dated jokes you expect from the form, instead Bava creates a racy Rashomon of a date gone wrong, which we learn has led to Tina Bryant (Daniela Giordano, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) having her dress torn and John Price (Brett Halsey, The Devil’s Honey) with a cut on his forehead.

The first version of the story is Tina telling her mother (Valeria Sabel) that she was like Joan of Arc and John was the devil. After dancing at a disco, she went into his jet set swinger’s flat and when he offered to change into something more comfortable, he came out nearly nude and tried to assault her. She barely escaped and her expensive dress paid the price.

Or maybe John is right. He’s an innocent man who was trapped in the spider’s web, a woman who was more sexually voracious than him, someone who literally lives up to the film’s title, demanding four rounds of sexual congress and still being unsatisfied to the point that she injured him. For an Italian man, this is quite an admission.

But the real story? The perverted doorman (Dick Randall, who may be living up to his role; he made so many exploitation movies that he was involved in are to be worshipped including The Wild, Wild World of Jayne MansfieldThe French Sex MurdersPieces and Slaughter High) thinks that the couple who keeps showing up in these stories — George (Robert H. Oliver) and Esmerelda (Pascale Petit) — are both gay and that John has been dating George and needs to bring a woman home to satisfy Esmerelda, who drugs poor Tina and takes advantage of her and then John does the same. This story is written through binoculars, as if someone was writing their own fan fiction of this movie and is shown to not be true.

What may be is what the scientist sees. John and Tina have fallen in love and decide to wait to sleep together. He tries to take her home but the front gate of his apartment building is stuck. The doorman is drunk and looking at a dirty magazine, so when John tries to lift his date over the gate, her dress is torn and she accidentally scratches him. He tells her to tell her mom that he tried to attack her so that she doesn’t get in trouble for ruining the dress. She tells him to tell his friends that she was insatiable. The scientist says that the truth is in there somewhere, but he does know that before John took her home, they went and watched the sun rise together.

For someone known for horror and murder, the truth is that nobody shoots a gorgeous woman quite like Mario Bava. He is approaching them not as objects or things to be exploited, but instead from his place of shyness. They are perfect creations to be placed upon a pedestal and fawned over, explored and shown to others for their glory. Giordano, Petit and Brigette Skay (Zeta OneIsabella, Duchess of the Devil) have never looked more irrestiable.

He’s also less interested in the sexy parts of this movie — not that they’re skipped, mind you — and more the foibles of modern society and how women and men are supposed to play the games of love and sex. Every man wants a Tina who is a lady in the street and a tigress in the sheets, but every man is also worried that when the fantasy arrives that they have been roleplaying their whole lives in solo acts that they will be able to measure up. And when the woman wants more than them — four times that night — it can hurt them more than any words or physical attack could.

There’s also a different look at the characters and nearly a different film in each segment. Tina’s is chaste and John’s is slightly saucy, while the doorman is pretty much a Dick Randall movie, which makes him playing the character an intriguing bit of meta commentary.

Written by Charles Ross (Caught In the Act!Nympho: A Woman’s Urge) and Mario Moroni, this would be a lesser film in anyone else’s hands. But when you see the way that Bava frames the scenes, how the colors threaten to explode out of the screen and even the minor moment when Esmerelda uses a swing to attempt to seduce Tina — and the camera gets closer and closer to her through the scene itself and a repeating POV shot — that makes you realize that you’re getting what is a master class in how to really make a sex comedy.

Bava probably shrugged, realized he did too much and wasn’t paid enough, and started looking for his next job.

10TH OLD SCHOOL KUNG FU FEST: A Touch of Zen (1971)

Until the three-hour cut played at the Cannes Film Festival three years after thsi movie was released and received the Technical Grand Prize and almost took home the Palme d’Or, this has been considered one of the greatest Chinese movies ever made.

Director and written by King Hu, A Touch of Zen was based on the classic Chinese story “Xianü” and comes from the book Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling.

Gu Sheng-tsai (Shih Chn) is a painter who has never really done much, nor has he wanted to, in his life. But when he meets Yang (Hsu Feng), a female fugitive scheduled for execution, he discovers that he can do more and joins her in the battle against Eunuch Wei and his army.

This movie is perhaps most famous for its sword fight in the bamboo forest sword fight. It lasts ten minutes on screen, but took twenty-five days to film. It was choreographed by Han Yingjie, a former Beijing opera actor and the action director of A Touch of Zen.

King Hu is the kind of creative that would spend a large part of this movie’s budget to build a village set and then he left it unused for nine months so it would be weathered. There are also no fights until an hour into the movie. This builds on the magic he created with Come Drink With Me and Dragon Gate Inn.

One example of how he was a different director lies in the aftermath of the ghost trap sequence. At first, Gu is overjoyed that he has become a hero and that his plan has led to the destruction of the evil forces. Yet as he walks through their bodies, he realizes that there is a human cost. These aren’t faceless video game characters, but instead actual people that he has killed. He begins to cry and then scream, as every footstep shows him one more person dead because of him.

What a gorgeous movie.

Want to see it for yourself?

You can watch A Touch of Zen on April 30 at 1:00 PM in Theater 1 at Metrograph and Subway Cinema in New York City. It’s part of the 10th Old School Kung Fu Fest: Sword Fighting Heroes Edition from April 21-30, 2023!

Tickets are on sale right here!

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Duel (1971)

April 18: Vroom — A movie mostly about cars.

Man, no matter who Dennis Weaver is battling — a Manson-like family against his RV-using vacationing clan (Terror on the Beach), the ghost of his dead daughter (Don’t Go to Sleep) or straight-up Peruvian snow (Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction) — I’m always on his side. He has an everyman quality that is so endearing. no matter how rough TV movies make his existence.

In Duel, the ABC Movie of the Week series for November 13, 1971 — and later an international release in theaters — he’s just a businessman in a Plymouth Valient who upsets the driver — never seen — of a 1955 Peterbilt 281 18-wheeler. It sounds so simple, but that’s what makes it work. There’s little dialogue in the movie with the car and truck pretty much speaking for themselves, as was the intention of its director, a young Steven Spielberg, making his first full-length film after working in series television on shows like Night GalleryThe Name of the Game, Marcus Welby, M.D.Columbo, Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law and The Psychiatrist. Universal signed him to several TV movies, which include Savage and Something Evil before he left TV behind and made The Sugarland Express and the film that would cement his status, Jaws.

Spielberg requested Weaver, as he loved him in Touch of Evil, and even has him use a line from that Orson Welles movie, as he tells the truck driver that he has “another thing coming.”

If you see a version with swearing and more talking, that’s because Universal paid the director to pad it for theatrical release. As for that sound — it seems like a dinosaur — that the truck makes when it dies, it’s the same sound as the shark at the end of the blockbuster Spielberg would later make. He’s said that there is a kinship between the two movies, which are about monsters threatening normal people and the sound effect being used again was “my way of thanking Duel for giving me a career.” It comes from the 1957 movie The Land Unknown.

The other reason this works so well is because of the script by Richard Matheson. He based it on a real story from his life, as a truck tried to run him off the road after a round of golf with Jerry Sohl on the day that JFK was killed. He tried to sell it as a movie for eight years before selling it as a short story to Playboy, where it was published in April 1971. Spielberg said of him, “Richard Matheson’s ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break when he wrote the short story and screenplay for Duel. For me, he is in the same category as Bradbury and Asimov.”

If you liked this story, so many other Matheson tales have been made into movies: Icy Breasts is his story Someone Is Bleeding, plus there’s The Incredible Shrinking ManA Stir of Echoes, Ride the Nightmare (filmed as Cold Sweat), The Beardless Warriors (filmed as The Young Warriors), The Comedy of Terrors, The Legend of Hell HouseBid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time), What Dreams May Come, “Prey” which is the “Amelia story in Trilogy of Terror, numerous episodes of Night Gallery and The Twilight Zone, “Steel” (filmed as Real Steel), the “No Such Thing as a Vampire” chapter in Dead of Night, plus the scripts for The Beat Generation, House of Usher, Master of the World, The Pit and the Pendulum, Burn Witch Burn, Tales of Terror, The Raven, The Devil Rides Out, Jaws 3-DThe Night StalkerThe Night StranglerDying Room OnlyScream of the WolfThe Box and so many more. His most filmed story is I Am Legend, which was made as The Last Man on EarthThe Omga ManI Am Aomega and I Am Legend. He really made his mark in the world with stories that will last forever.

I would dare say that Duel is in the top three of all made for TV movies of all time.

10TH OLD SCHOOL KUNG FU FEST: The Ghost Hill (1971)

Directed by Ting Shan-hsi, this is the final installment in The Swordsman of All Swordsmen trilogy, but you can go into it without needing to see the other two movies.

Flying Swallow (Polly Shang-kuan) and Tsai ying-jie (Tien Peng) — joined once again with Black Dragon (this time played by David Wei Tang) — have decided to go into Hell itself to get revenge for the death of her father Yen (Chan Bo Leung) by battling Lord Chin (Sit Hon) and his army, which includes the Left & Right Judges, the Ox Head Demon, the Black & White Wuchangs, the Murdering Wonder Child, and Soul Hunter Yaksha.

Woah, right?

It’s going to take an army of beggars and a million fights inside the Dante’s Inferno-like world of this movie to right these wrongs. But when you’re fighting a demonic king who bathes in boiling oil. Yes, you read that right. That’s what he does in his fun time. He also has taken the Purple Light Sword, which was meant to be given to the winner of a battle between Tsai ying-jie and Black Dragon.

This movie is all neon, seriously. It looks like drugs, the best drugs, the ones that never addict you and never have a bad trip. I can’t get enough of these films. And if I’m off on names or the idea, let me know, because wuxia is a genre I’m just trying to learn and get into, the same way I felt like there was a huge world of giallo that would take me years to comprehend and fully enjoy.

Want to see it for yourself?

You can watch The Ghost Hill on April 23 at 3:00 PM in Theater 2 at Metrograph and Subway Cinema in New York City. It’s part of the 10th Old School Kung Fu Fest: Sword Fighting Heroes Edition from April 21-30, 2023!

Tickets are on sale right here!