La Muerte Viviente (1971)

Also known as Isle of the Snake People, the original title of this movie translates as  Living Death. It was directed by Juan Ibanez, who also directed star Boris Karloff in The Incredible InvasionHouse of Evil and Fear Chamber.

Karloff’s box office value led to these movies being financed by Columbia Pictures, which would then distribute them. Karloff received $100,000 per film, which is about $641,000 in today’s money. He rejected the scripts for all four movies, but agreed to make them when Jack Hill — yes, the maker of Spider Baby — rewrote the stories.

Filming was to take place in Mexico City, but Karloff’s emphysema (as well as the fact that he’d already lost a lung to cancer and had pneumonia in the other) would not allow him to work in the city’s altitude. He shot his scenes — with Hill directing — at the Dored Studios in Los Angeles, with additional scenes shot in Mexico with a Karloff stand-in named Jerry Petty.

Captain Labesch has arrived at a far-flung island to stop the voodoo rites being carried out by Damballah (Karloff). He’s warned by local rich white man Carl van Molder (also Karloff) to leave well enough alone. There’s a temperance subplot too, but who cares when Kalea the snake dancer is turning women into zombies that eat policemen?

She is played by Yolanda Montes, who used the stage name Tongolele and was known as The Queen of Tahitian Dances. A vedette in the Mexican cabaret, Tongolele is a potent mix of Swedish and Spanish who was born in Spokane, Washington and continues to be a star in Mexico to this day. She even released an album at one point. I have to say, she looks like she stepped straight out of 2020, with her shaved head and fierce makeup. She’s seriously volcanic, taking over the film from the moment she appears,

Human sacrifice. Dance numbers. Near-psychedelic images. Zombies. Well, as to that latter part of this movie, Night of the Living Dead came out in the years between when this movie was made and when it was released. By that point, this seemed dated. No matter. Watching it today, I was beyond entertained by it.

You can watch this on YouTube.

An Ideal Place to Kill (1971)

Dick Butler (Ray Lovelock, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) and Ingrid Sjorman (Ornella Muti, Flash Gordon) are trying to enjoy their own summer of love, travelling through Italy and paying for it with porn magazines and nudes of Ingrid. Then they get busted by the cops. Then they get robbed by a biker gang. Then they get mistaken for crooks. They’re on the run, out of gas and running out of options.

Also known as Oasis of FearDeadly TrapDirty Pictures and Love Stress in Japan, this Umberto Lenzi giallo is all about what happens next.

Soon, our hapless couple has found their way to the home of bored middle-class housewife Barbara Slater (Irene Papas, Don’t Torture a Duckling). She’s up for some sexual shenigans, potentially with both of them, but she’s also way smarter than either of our teenagers realize.

In the book Blood and Black Lace: The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex and Horror Movies, Lenzi claimed that he had trouble getting Papas to participate in the threesome scene. What he had no trouble with was getting Lovelock’s help in capturing the free spirit of 1971, as he sings the theme “How Can You Live Your Life?” and rocks out some amazing clothes, including the Union Jack jacket that appears on the poster for the Oasis of Fear release of this movie.

Beyond a brand new 2k restoration in English and Italian, the new Mondo Macabro release of this film features roy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson commentary, an archival interview with Umberto Lenzi, deleted x-rated scenes (they’re basically photos inside the magazines that Dick and Ingrid sell) and the original Italian trailer.

This movie was shot in the same home as Fulci’s Perversion Story and Argento’s The Cat O’Nine Tails. I have no idea where they got the matching white bellbottom outfits or the yellow old school car that they covered in flower stickers.

While not a top tier giallo, this is still a quick watch packed with plenty of twists. Don’t get it confused with A Quiet Place to Kill. We’ll be getting to that one soon enough.

You can get this from Mondo Macabro, who were kind enough to send us a copy.

The Bloodstained Butterfly (1971)

EDITOR’S NOTE: I met Mitchell L. Hillman on the Gialloholics Facebook group and loved reading his review of movies. I’m so excited that he’s joining us for Giallo Week!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mitchell Hillman is a freelance writer who has spent most of his time in print writing about music, movies, art, and pop culture. He is also a professional artist, occasional pop-up chef, and suffers an addiction to curiosity and discovery. Over the last year he has watched over 300 Giallo and Giallo related movies, finding that they influence not only how he thinks about film, but also art.

The Bloodstained Butterfly (1971)
‘Una farfalla con le ali insanguinate’
Directed by Duccio Tessari

Long before I became a raving fan of Giallo, I was awestruck by Italian auteurs like Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini, and long before I found that kind of art-house bliss, I was enamored with “Spaghetti Westerns” since I was a child. While I’m fairly late to the game in appreciating the Giallo genre, I have always held Italian films in the highest esteem, but for me it all began with those Westerns where everyone had great outfits and the violence was a bit outrageous by typical American standards.

Duccio Tessari wrote and directed two of my favorite Spaghetti Westerns, two back to back explosions of brilliance starring Giuliano Gemma, A Pistol For Ringo (1965) and the comparable if not better sequel The Return of Ringo (1965). When I started watching Gialli obsessively, I was thrilled to discover he had directed three of these of peculiar murder mysteries. Arguably, his second The Bloodstained Butterfly (1971) is not only the best of the bunch, but it may be the finest movie of his entire career.  I first watched it shortly after going down the Gialli rabbit hole, after a quick education in Argento, Martino, Fulci, Bava, Lenzi, Ercoli and a few more. This movie stood up to those high standards and in some cases surpassed them, because The Bloodstained Butterfly isn’t just a great Giallo, it’s a great film in its own right beyond the context of the genre.

Most Gialli come in three discernible acts, but Tessari more or less presents The Bloodstained Butterfly in four. The first act starts by introducing each character after the credits roll with title cards as they go about their lives. This is notable and important as we see Marta, an alcoholic party girl who pours the first glass of J&B in the first three minutes of the movie; two schoolgirls Françoise and Sarah, Sarah’s mother Maria, her father Alessandro a TV sportscaster, their lawyer Giulio, a young pianist named Giorgio, and his mother and father. It’s an odd start, but as the movie unfolds you realize this movie is less about the violent acts that take place and more how these individuals’ lives are entwined.

The first act builds through the off-camera murder of Françoise in the park, presumably by a man in a beige overcoat with a houndstooth fedora, seen by several witnesses fleeing the scene, who we watch escape the clutches of the police in the pouring rain. Tessari immediately lets you know that he’s going to start messing with your head when we see Inspector Berardi at the murder scene wearing an identical outfit. The police procedural that follows shows off the fairly advanced forensic science of the early 1970s as they build evidence that put’s Sarah’s father on trial for the murder of her friend Françoise.  It’s a tension-filled start that doesn’t let up until Maria admits to the police that she had to send Alessandro’s beige overcoat to the dry cleaners since it was covered in mud.

Act Two is a wild courtroom drama that is filled with flashbacks and re-enactments of the crime. The evidence seems almost too perfect against Alessandro and everyone seems suspicious at this point, if you’ve watched enough Gialli or mystery films in general, Tessari gives you serious “wrong man” vibe as the defendant is tried and sentenced to life. In the meantime, Giorgio has taken to dating Sarah, with more than a few hints that he was previously dating Françoise. He also seems to become more and more unhinged as the film continues.

The third act, almost seems like a bridge in a song, but it is an act unto itself in which Tessari makes you suspicious of nearly everyone, all the while assuring you that Alessandro is innocent. Another murder takes place and you suspect the lawyer Giulio, a third murder takes place and Giorgio is in the right place to be suspected.  For a Giallo there is very little gore, and only aftermath, but it doesn’t make it less chilling. The horror is psychological as you question who is responsible for the murders since Alessandro is in prison.  He is finally released when Marta, revealed to be his mistress, confirms his alibi.

The finale is one of my favorites and I’m not about to spoil it for anyone, it’s beautiful, a bit heart wrenching, and we understand the title in the last few moments. By the time the last act arrives you have no idea who the murderer is and you have reasons to be suspicious of everyone. Tessari’s direction is wonderful, the score by Gianni Ferrio is brilliant, and while it’s not the bloodiest or most colorful Giallo around, it’s one of the more intellectually and psychologically satisfying entries in the genre. Tessari’s “doorway transitions” are amazing and he even adds some humor with Inspector Berardi’s routine with being continually dissatisfied with every cup of coffee handed to him. I’d say it’s criminally underrated but, I’ve heard nothing but applause from fellow Giallo aficionados on this one. Even outside of the genre, the way Tessari plays with memory, space, time and perception makes for a great cinematic experience.

Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971)

Five years after Africa Blood and Guts, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi returned with this movie, which is pretty much one of the roughest films I’ve ever made it through.

This was shot primarily in Haiti, where the directors were the guests of Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier, who gave them diplomatic cars, clearance to film anywhere on the island and as many extras as they required to be used as slaves being treated exactly as slaves were. They were also invited to a nightly dinner with Duvalier himself.

If your mind isn’t already blown, stick around.

Goodbye Uncle Tom is based on true events in which the filmmakers explore America in slavery times, using published documents and materials from the public record to make what they consider a documentary, even claiming to go back in time to achieve this level of realism.

This movie was made in opposition to the claims that Africa Blood and Guts was racist. It didn’t work, as Roger Ebert would say, “They have finally done it: Made the most disgusting, contemptuous insult to decency ever to masquerade as a documentary.” He also stated that “This movie itself humiliates its actors in the way the slaves were humiliated 200 years ago.”

The movie was originally released in Italy in a 119-minute version and was immediately withdrawn. I’ve read that the directors were sued for plagiarism by writer Joseph Chamberlain Furnas. It was then re-released with 17 more minutes of footage.

The directors’ cut shows a comparison between the horrors of slavery and the rise of the Black Power Movement, ending with an unidentified black man’s fantasy of living out William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner. In that book, Turned is divinely inspired and given a mission from God to lead a slave uprising and destroy the white race.

This ending upset American distributors so much that they forced Jacopetti and Prosperi to cut more than thirteen minutes of racial politics that would upset their audiences. Pauline Kael still said that the movie was “the most specific and rabid incitement to race war,” a view shared with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who said that Goodbye Uncle Tom was a Jewish conspiracy to incite blacks on white violence.

This movie is not for everyone. But I feel that it needs to be seen. I rarely get political on this site, but in truth, I feel that we as a country have not done enough to understand the roots of the black experience. While an Italian exploitation film isn’t the best way to learn more, it’s a start.

It’s no accident that Cannibal Holocaust would eventually use the music of Riz Ortolani to juxtapose the horrific images on screen with the beauty of his compositions. The composer had been working with the duo since Mondo Cane, where his song “More” nearly won an Oscar.

But make no mistake that this movie, while intending to be educational and anti-racist, still employs the tools of the mondo and exploitation. How else do you describe the conceit that these filmmakers have gone back in time, taking a helicopter with them that they use to fly away from the terrors of the plantation at the end?

In 2010, Dr. David Pilgrim, the curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, said that when he showed this film to a class, it led to some major traumas. “On the day that we watched Goodbye Uncle Tom three students had unexcused absences, several cried while watching, one almost vomited; most sat, sad and disgusted. I taught for another fifteen years but I never showed that movie again.”

He went on to say that the film “is a more truthful portrayal of the brutality and obscenity of slave life than was Roots; however, I have some major problems with the film. I find it ironic that a movie that explored the exploitation and degradation of Black people was filmed in a way that exploited and degraded Black people. In some ways Goodbye Uncle Tom was just a XXX movie set against the backdrop of slavery; the “peculiar institution” served as an excuse to show sexual and violent gore. Jacopetti and Prosperi told a great many painful truths about slavery but they debased hundreds of Blacks to make the film.”

“I said all of that to say this: Jacopetti and Prosperi were not the messengers that I would have selected, and their implied assumptions about Blacks are troubling, but they made a movie that accurately portrayed the horrors of slavery. Of course, it is the case that a realistic depiction of the savagery of slavery would be difficult to watch no matter who made it. This is why when you finish watching Roots you may feel that a family has overcome great oppression and a nation has become more democratic; whereas when you finish watching Goodbye Uncle Tom you just feel sick to your stomach.”

That says a lot about this movie in a better way than I can, but I’m still going to try to sum it up: this is a well-made movie that may have been made with the best of intentions, but was made by two people who only had the experience to make exactly what they made. It is a movie made about slavery that used slave labor. It is a movie that offended both liberals and conservatives, those that believed in tolerance and those that were racist, those that were black and people who were white. This is a message movie that had its message taken away by American producers, leaving two hours of shock with none of the moral it so desperately needed.

If this movie upsets you, perhaps you needed to be upset. You should be less upset about a movie made nearly fifty years ago and more upset about our nation’s history of racism and intolerance. And you should definitely be upset about the lack of civil rights in our country today. I’m writing this after a day of nationwide protest, with police cars ablaze and crowds of protesters and the press teargassed.

If you choose, you can watch this on Tubi.

Secret Rites (1971)

When you say, “Sam, would you like to watch a movie about 1970’s witchcraft from the director of I Am a GroupieThe Girl from Starship Venus and Blood Tracks?” the answer is always going to be yes.

This 47-minute movie is packed with narration from the women about to enter witchcraft and appearances by Alex Sanders, the English occultist responsible for founding the tradition of Alexandrian Wicca during the 1960s.

Sanders was known as the “King of the Witches,” with his skyclad female followers — naked to the unoccult leaning — getting plenty of attention in the era of this film.

Watch as Penny — the girl who thinks she might make a good witch — joins Sanders’ coven! Come now! Into my coven! To become Lucifer’s child! And you also get to see a Wiccan wedding, which is notable for the amount of full frontal male nudity that it has. Flaccid dong, will you take this magickal childe?

This movie is absolutely awesome. I mean, it’s no Witchcraft ’70 — and what is, really? — but it’s one of the more entertaining things I’ve watched as of late.

Blood and Lace (1971)

If you’re wondering, “How did a movie about a teenage girl whose prostitute mother was killed with a hammer and now lives in an orphanage where people getting their hands cut off get a PG rating,” you’re not alone. This is one of the roughest, scummiest movies I’ve watched, no matter the rating.

Ellie (Melody Patterson, F Troop) is that girl, now stuck in the orphanage of Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame), which she runs like a sweatshop with the help of the sweaty, swarthy Kredge (Len Lesser, Uncle Leo from Seinfeld).

Beyond that trauma, they’re also keeping dead kids in a giant freezer along with Mrs. Deere’s husband, who she refuses to believe is deceased. There’s also a dirty cop named Carruthers (Vic Tayback) who pursues Ellie in a way that it’s obvious that he has no good intentions in mind.

The only innocent seems to be Pete (Dennis Christopher), but once he falls for another girl named Bunch, Ellie has no one. Well, no one but that killer who keeps showing up staring at her while she sleeps as he clutches a hammer.

Stick around. Things get even sicker from there between those two, as if that were possible.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

John Hancock had Jaws 2 taken from him, but did the same with Wolfen. What really amazes me is that the same director who did Prancer also made this movie.

Inspired by The Haunting, Hancock turned a basic monster movie script into a psychological exploration of whether or not the main character is really being stalked by a vampire. That original script was titled It Drinks Hippie Blood.

Jessica has just been placed in the care of her husband after some time in a psychiatric ward. He’s given up his job with the New York Philharmonic to care for her, moving upstate to an old farmhouse. When they arrive, a girl named Emily is already there. She offers to leave. Jessica invites her to stay. Suffice to say, things get worse from here.

This movie is less about the narrative story than it is about Jessica slowly losing her mind. That said, she might not be. The movie doesn’t really tip its hand in either direction, instead slowly growing darker and stranger like some proto-Lynch film with a wild synthesizer soundtrack.

I’m not certain today’s audience would like this film. I could really care less what they think, however.

You can get the blu ray from Shout! Factory.

The art for this article comes from robrtarmstrong on Deviant Art.

Earth II (1971)

You wanna see a movie directed by Uncle Rico’s dad, you know from Napoleon Dynamite . . . well, since we just finished off “James Bond Month,” Lazlo Hollyfeld from Real Genius?

Then this is your movie.

Earth II is directed by Jon Gries’s pop, Tom, whose bat-shite crazy TV series resume lead him to directing Jim Brown and Burt Reynolds in 100 Rifles, Charlton Heston in Will Penny, Charles Bronson in Breakout and Breakheart Pass, along with with the ultimate Charles Manson document, 1976 Helter Skelter. Tom Gries died on January 3, 1977, shortly after — and amazingly, somehow, making Muhammad Ali not look completely incompetent — completeing 1977’s The Greatest (but it’s still pretty bad, even with Ernest Borgnine of Marty in it).

But let’s get back to Earth II.

As we all know, 2001: A Space Odyssey was a game changer and everyone wanted back in the sci-fi game. So here we have Gary Lockwood — Frank Poole from Kubrick’s classic — as well as Mariette Hartley from Gene Roddenberry’s endless cycle of post-Star Trek endeavors, mainly Genesis II. Yep, that’ s Anthony Franciosa (Tenebre), Lew Ayres (Battle for the Planet of the Apes), and Hari Rhodes (Malcolm MacDonald from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) along for the interstellar intrique.

As with most all U.S. TV movies, Earth II was an overseas theatrical feature, known as Killer Satellites, and it pushed its 2001, Apes, and Star Trek connections (Mariette Hartley was in one of that series’ popular episodes as Spock’s love interest) in its marketing materials. And it worked. But the foreign box office was better than the U.S. TV ratings; as result, Earth II wasn’t picked up for a weekly series as intended. But Gary Lockwood didn’t mind; he’s on record as saying he hated working on the production, eschewing it overly complex, sociopolitcal plotting.

Since this is very easily obtained as a still-in-print DVD and VOD stream, the reviews on this (rife with plot spoilers) are many. The basic gist of the story, if you haven’t guessed, is about a “second Earth,” that is, an orbital international space station. When things go amiss in Communist Red China and a nuclear missile comes to threaten the station’s 2000-strong pacifist inhabitants, they search for a way to solve the problem — without violence.

So, is Lockwood right?

Yeah. This is a bit slow to the point of boring. And it is complex, way too much for the young minds sci-fi-on-TV was geared for. And that complexity also resulted in the cancellation of the Planet of the Apes TV series and for Roddenberry’s Genesis II (and its reboots as Planet Earth and Strange New World) not going to series. Natch for Rodenberry’s The Questor Tapes.

But in terms of science accuracy, Earth II is stunning and the special effects are effective — just remember: in 1970 years. One can’t help but wonder if the creators behind TV’s Babylon 5 and the later SyFy Channel Battlestar Galactica reboot pinched from this classic TV movie (and we all know the debates regarding Babylon 5 vs. Star Trek: Deep Space 9). If you enjoy your sci-fi with intelligence, without the Lucasian Flash Gordon trimmings, then this “Before Star Wars”* romp is for you.

This one is widely availabe on DVD and all the usual VOD platforms, but we found a free version — a really clean rip — over on You Tube.

Earth II was one of the many films we didn’t get around to reviewing during our month-long Star Wars ripoffs and galactic droppings month. You can catch up on those films with our Before and After Star Wars explorations. And since there’s a little bit o’ post-apoc in Earth II, be sure to check out our two-part post-apoc blowout with our Atomic Dustbins, Part 1 and Part 2. And since were on the subject of both Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey, be sure to check out our “Exploring (Before “Star Wars”): The Russian Antecedents of 2001: A Space Odyssey” featurette.

There are more TV movies to be had with our “Week of Made for TV Movies,” “Lost TV Week,” “Son of Made for TV Movie Week” and “Grandson of Made for TV Movie Week” tribute spotlights to those films that, in many cases, are even better than the movies that played in theatres.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Sweet, Sweet Rachel (1971)

Originally airing on October 2, 1971 on ABC, this movie is a hidden pilot for the series The Sixth Sense. The role of Dr. Lucas Darrow would be replaced by the younger, handsomer Gary Collins and then, in syndication, that series would be spliced into Night Gallery, infuriating a young Sam who only wanted to see Rod Serling stories.

Here, Darrow is played by Alex Dreier, who is in The Boston Strangler and was well-known for his voice. He’s backed up by a blind man whose ESP voice connected him to the other world, as he’s left his surgical life behind to investigate the unknown.

Rachel Stanton (Stefanie Powers) comes home just in time to watch her husband crash through a window like Oliver Reed in Burnt Offerings. He soon recieves a phone call that has a woman’s voice that matches the ESP cards on the table in front of him. What an awesome open!

On a slight TV budget and with the morals of the time, this is as close as a made for TV movie is going to feel to a giallo. That’s a good thing. This has so many red herrings and people who could have killed Stanton’s husband. It could be Rachel. It could be cousin Nora (Brenda Scott, Simon King of the Witches), who claims that he loved her and wanted out of the marriage. Is it psychic Aunt Lillian (Louise Latham, Marnie). Or is it Uncle Arthur (Pay Hingle, who would one day be Commissioner Gordon)?

71 minutes worth of seventies occult psychobabble. You should be so lucky to watch this. Actually, you can do that on YouTube:

Los Campeones Justicieros (1971)

Blue Demon! Mil Mascaras! El Medico Asesino! La Sombra Vengadora! Tinieblas! Sure, Santo isn’t around, but the rest of these guys are! And they’re here to battle the evil Dr. Marius Zarkoff, who is better known as Mano Negra, the Black Hand! He’s played by David Silva, who also shows up in El Topo and Alucarda, somehow uniting every part of the Ven Diagram that makes up this site.

Also: the evil doctor has an army of little people and he isn’t afraid to use them.

This movie is like a Stefon sketch. It has it all: miniature assassins in a station wagon, double agent girlfriends, masked wrestlers fighting evil SCUBA divers, kidnapped girls stuffed into wooden crates, pills that make you invisible, little people bursting into flames, beauty contest winners and goddaughters being taken by the evil Black Hand and finally, a machine that makes tiny folks into super strong.

Even without Santo, this movie loses nothing. It is everything that every other movie should aspire to be. If only Julia Roberts would throw on a mask and battle cute lil’ ninjas from a speedboat!

NOTE: I love that I already reviewed this under its U.S. title. So nice I reviewed it twice!