Translated as Abuse of Power and released internationally under the vastly improved title Shadows Unseen, this movie has an awesome poster and a great title that both say giallo, but the movie says poliziotteschi.
It all starts with a journalist who forks over a ton of cash for a ring, then leaves a bar with a mysterious woman before getting jumped and eventually shot. The cops assign Commissioner Luca Miceli (Frederick Stafford, Special Killers, Werewolf Woman and, if he hadn’t been tied up making the movie Topaz, perhaps a James Bond) to solve the mystery.
Marilù Tolo plays Simona, who falls for Luca and gets caught between him and the underworld. She was also in Django Kill, Bava’s Roy Colt and Winchester Jack and My Dear Killer. Spoilers — her death is really upsetting, even for the man who orders it.
Everything from that moment on is as tense as it gets, with a car chase that’s absolutely white hot in its intensity. The downer ending is totally expected as well, as I don’t think any film ended happily in 1972.
Director Camillo Bazzoni didn’t make many movies (the last Steve Reeves movie I Live for Your Death, the Aldo Ray war movie Suicide Commandos and Those Who Kill are a few others), but this is filled with enough twists and turns to make it interesting. The slight giallo elements help get it there, as does the score by Riz Ortolani.
Smile Before Death* was a revelation to me. I came in expecting nothing and was rewarded with a film that has multiple antagonists and a continually twisting close, a near race to the finish to see who will end up on top.
Is it any surprise that Dorothy gets killed and it looks like a suicide and that Marco did it? Soon, he’s in charge of her estate until her daughter Nancy (Jenny Tamburi**, The Psychic, The Suspicious Death of a Minor) turns twenty. So Marco retires and lives a life of leisure with his mistress until Nancy returns home.
That’s when everyone starts playing each other, with Gianna trying to get Marco to kill his stepdaughter, Nancy seducing him and — spoiler warning — Gianna falling for her as well.
Silvio Amadio only made one other giallo and that would be Amuck! Much like that film, this one also proves that Silvio was perhaps more interested in filming gorgeous women misbehaving as he was showing the kills when it came to giallo. No matter. This movie has plenty of plot to go around and I was genuinely surprised by the conclusion of this caper.
Roberto Predagio’s theme song — with plenty of scat singing by Edda Dell’Orso — will be burned into your mind by the end of this.
I’d be shocked if this didn’t end up on Forgotten Gialli Volume 3.
*The translation for the Italian title is The Smile of the Hyena. I have no idea what that means in relation to the film’s story and blame the animal-themed demand for post-The Bird with the Crystal Plumagegiallo titles.
**Tamburi won the femme fatale role of Graziella in La Seduzione because Ornella Muti, the original actress, was considered too attractive.
Cristina (Paola Senatore*, Emanuelle in America, Ricco the Mean Machine) is a call girl and for that, every man that has ever partaken of her services must pay, in some sort of role reversal for every other giallo and slasher.
Much like how his leading lady was known for westerns, so was director Demofilo Fidani, who made movies like Coffin Full of Dollars (how’s that for a title?), Django and Sartana Are Coming… It’s the End, One Damned Day at Dawn…Django Meets Sartana!, His Name Was Pot… But They Called Him Allegria and His Name Was Sam Walbash, But They Call Him Amen. As you can tell, many of his films were titled and treated like either sequels or — let’s be fair — ripoffs of better-known characters and movies.
So when everyone else started making giallo, Fidani was sure to follow.
You know how people on Twitter like to use the term problematic? Well, they’d lose their brains all over those, which presents leaving home to enter the sex industry to be a loveable lark, even when your clients get their throats slit the minute they leave her flat. It’s also a film that wants its cake — Vitelli is gorgeous and frequently involved in increasingly kinkier situations — and eat it too, as the whole moral of the story is that the world is falling into decay because of all this sex. So let’s show some more sex! And violence!
Also known as Caresses à domicile (Caresses at Home), the funny thing is that her life gets better when she leaves her father’s house — well, despite the fact that her daddy gave her everything that she ever wanted — to live with a friend, Paola (Simonetta Vitelli, who is the daughter of the director). So there’s not really any drama here, other than you know, all the murder.
*Sadly, she became addicted to heroin late in her career. After making two softcore films for Joe D’Amato, she made her one and only hardcore film, Non stop… sempre buio in sala. She was then arrested for drug smuggling, went to prison and disappeared.
Man, two Alberto De Martino giallo movies in one week? You know it.
I’ll be honest right off the bat. I’d watch a movie where Telly Savalas just sat there and read a menu for two hours, so I’m not going to be objective about this movie at all.
Telly plays Ranko Drasovic, a silent knife-wielding assassin dispatched to kill a UN ambassador trying to stop the oil crisis, which is pretty forward thinking way back in 1972. He also is trying to fulfill another assignment, because one of the few people who has ever seen his face is actress Eleonor Loraine (Anne Heywood, The Fox), as Ranko had killed her lover five years before.
Now, she’s a mess, her head filled with flashbacks which might not be true and lovers she may have never slept with. All she sees is the face of Ranko, a man constantly in the shadows, always one step away from taking her life.
I actually liked this movie more than most critics, as unlike many giallo, it ends with the female lead taking agency over her fragmented life, destroying her many enemies and reclaiming her sanity. It’s a rare positive ending for a giallo heroine, you know?
That said, the direction is just good where it could be great, but any time women appear on screen, the camera seems to perk up and the shots end up getting more inventive. That’s because Aristide Massaccesi is the cinematographer, the man who would one day be Joe D’Amato. And David Hills. And Michael Wotruba. And Raf Donato. And Robert Yip. And…
The alternate title, Scenes from a Murder, isn’t as evocative, but makes plenty more sense. Ranko never calls anyone. He does spend plenty of time buying tin soldiers, which also makes no sense.
Hey — giallo aren’t supposed to make sense. Remember that, love every scene Telly is in and you’ll be fine. Who loves you baby?
Threshold of the Void is all about an artist named Wanda Leibovitz who comes to Paris to escape heartbreak, only to find a room for rent — once kept for the dead sister of her landlord, now containing a forbidden door — that will dominate her life.
Of course, Wanda is told that she can’t ever open that door, but she does, and once she experiences the exquisite unending blackness of that room, she learns that she can paint better than she ever has in her life. That said, she now feels like she’s dying and that all of the people in her life — like her landlady and her brother’s friend Dr. Liancourt — are not what they seem.
When Michel Lemoine (he directed and starred in Seven Women for Satan and also appears in Castle of the Creeping Flesh) is in a movie, nothing normal is about to happen. This is kind of 70’s slow creeping burn — think Rosemary’s Baby and Don’t Look Now — and proves to me that that decade was the most downer ten years of all time.
Director Jean-François Davy’s career is mostly in adult, with movies like Wife Swapping: French Style and Infidélités to his credit. But this one, well, he’s making an art film that I guess you could call a giallo just because it really doesn’t fit any other category.
Based on an André Ruellan’s novel — the author also wrote the script — this is the kind of forgotten movie that once it comes out on blu ray will blow people’s minds.
In this film, she plays Grace, the wife of Fred (Gabriele Tinti, Endgame) and their vacation has led them to Haiti and Dr. Williams (Anthony Steffen, who mostly is known for Italian westerns, but also appeared in The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her Grave, Evil Eye and An Angel for Satan), who has invented a new drug that can change the world. It’s so astounding that everyone from drug cartels to drug companies — which are really close to one another, when you really think about it — will kill for its formula.
There’s also a scene where the doctor takes our heroes to watch a voodoo ritual, all so this movie can have a bit of mondo* within it. Because it’s an Italian film, that means we’re about to watch a real bull really get killed and then lose its scrotum in gorgeous living color. The film then tops this with actual cows being slaughtered, so if you’re upset by the side of Italian cinema that doesn’t shy away from putting animal butchery right in your face, make a mark to avoid.
This movie leaves me with so many questions. What kind of doctor is Williams? He says he’s a veterinarian, then he makes a magical anti-venom drug and oh yeah, he’s also a meat packing inspector. And just what kind of wonder drug has he made? And did the filmmakers realize that the Tropic of Cancer is nowhere near Haiti?**
So yeah — most of the movie is spent wondering whether or not Grace is going to succumb to the lure of the native men***. And the best character in it is Peacock (Alfio Nicolosi, who was also in Goodbye Uncle Tom), who pretty much runs the island. Also, the murders in this go from high tech to voodoo-based death and faces getting melted right off, which is different for a giallo****.
It’s not a great giallo, but it certainly is weird, and sometimes, that’s good enough.
*One of the directors of this film, Giampaolo Lomi, was the production manager for perhaps one of the most notorious mondo films, Goodbye Uncle Tom. The other, Edoardo Mulargia, directed Escape from Hell, which was edited into the Linda Blair movie Savage Island. So with backgrounds like those, the scummy mondo nature of this film makes a bit more sense.
*Of course, we can assume that with the Henry Miller novel being such a big deal getting banned and causing controversy that the title itself seemed like a good idea to get curious folks into the theater. Better than Death In Haiti, Peacock’s Place or Inferno Under the Hot Sun.
***The flower that poisons her takes her on an insane erotic fever dream that we all get to watch and the movie is better for this scene.
****There’s just as much — if not more — male than female nudity, too.
Jack Smight did some great directing, with his films No Way to Treat a Lady, Airport 1975 and Damnation Alley being favorites of the B&S About Movies household. Here, he’s working from a short story by Ray Bradbury* and delivers a quick and suspenseful reminder that in 1972, TV movies could really get under your skin.
Olivia De Havilland plays Laura Wynant, a wealthy former mental patient who has gone to the country to continue healing. That’d be easier if she didn’t keep hearing the pleas of a woman who has been buried alive on her property. Arthritis has robbed her hands of the ability to save the woman and as she brings others in to help her, her family starts to think that she is losing her control over her sanity again.
Beyond scoring De Havilland, Joseph Cotten and Walter Pidgeon show up.
This is a movie that builds and builds its suspense and doesn’t let up. I may have said it before this week — and certainly will again — but they don’t make them like this any more.
Back in the pre-Internet and pre-cable analog days of the “Big Three” networks, it seemed as if it was a weekly occurrence, as we watch the nightly news on ABC, CBS, and NBC, that yet another airline skyjacking, aka hijacking, occurred. It was ’70s de rigueur for criminals to make buck or advance their political-personal causes. As a June 2013 Wired investigative article written by Brendan I. Koerner tells us, between 1961 and 1973, nearly 160 of hijacks occurred in American airspace.
As this week’s reviews of “airline disaster” TV movies has shown, the “Big Three” TV networks, along with cable channels like USA and HBO — as well as the film studios — knew plot fodder when they saw it. And when Universal discovered box office gold with Airport — and ignited the ’70s disaster movie genre — with their 1970 adaption of Arthur Hailey’s 1968 novel of the same name, you’d knew there be more of the same.
While Paramount Studios’ television division was first out of the gate with their 1971 CBS-TV broadcast movie Terror in the Sky (which is a cousin to Airport by way of Arthur Hailey’s airline-plotted tales), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios wasted no time getting into business with producer Walter Seltzer; Seltzer optioned David Harper’s late-’60s best-seller Hijacked and began working the material under the titles Hijacked and Airborne.
At the time, Seltzer made four movies with Charlton Heston: The War Lord (1965), Will Penny (1967), Number One (1969), and The Omega Man (1971), so Seltzer had his leading man. (The duo would also make Soylent Green and The Last Hard Men in 1973 and 1976, respectively.) For Heston’s leading lady-lead stewardess, Seltzer brought on three-time lifetime Golden Globe-nominee (also of The Neptune Factor and Jackson County Jail) Yvette Mimieux, who co-starred with Heston in Diamond Head (1962).
During a routine Global Airways Minneapolis-bound flight, a passenger (Susan Dey of The Partridge Family) discovers a lipsticked-scrawl bomb threat on a first-class bathroom mirror urging the flight divert to Anchorage, Alaska. A jazz cellist (ex-NFL’er Rosey Grier) believes his jittery military seatmate (James Brolin of The Amityville Horror) is responsible. The rest of the cast of passengers features Walter Pidgeon as a U.S. Senator and Mariette Hartley as a pregnant woman in crisis-induced labor (Earth II), along with Ken Swofford (Black Roses) and Claude Akins (General Aldo from Battle for the Planet of the Apes). And a suspenseful, Murphy’s Law-thriller mix of failed hijacker subduing, radio and radar snafus, fuel loss, near air collisions, and violation of Soviet airspace — as we say around the Allegheny wilds of B&S’ offices — ensues.
Say what you will about these old, ’70s airline disaster flicks, but Skyjacked cleaned up at the box office, becoming one of MGM’s biggest hits of 1972 alongside Shaft and Kansas City Bomber. And Heston knew a hit genre when he saw one: he jumped back in the cockpit for Airport 1975. And he stuck with the disaster-thriller genre with Earthquake (1974) and Two-Minute Warning (1976) — and they also cleaned up at the box office. Oh, and Chuck hit the cockpit for a one-more-third time with ABC-TV’s Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232 (1992).
You can watch the trailer for Skyjacked and watch the film on You Tube HERE and HERE.
Man, if you’re looking for a British seance movie — and really who isn’t — there’s not a better film for you than this 1972 bit of craziness. Sir Hugo Cunningham’s (Robert Stephens) idea of fun is to film the last moments of peoples’ lives and seeing if a smudge in the images are the soul of the body trying to escape. Man, Victorian England was daffy.
Things get crazier, because when he uses a camera at the party for his engagement, his new fiancée and son are killed in a boating accident. When he watches the movie he made of the tragedy — because why not, right? — he sees that not only has he captured the blur, but that it is moving towards his son. That’s when he starts to believe that these smudges and blurs are something he calls the asphyx, the grim reaper from Greek myth that individually comes for each of us.
Now here’s where things get even more interesting. Because our hero figures that the asphyx must deal with the rules of the physical world. So he invents a special light that uses phosphorus stones beneath a drip irrigation valve that can briefly capture that smudgy black angel, making anyone who keeps asphyx remained imprisoned into an immortal.
Cunningham tasks his ward — how rich and British and Batman do you have to be to get a ward — Giles (Robert Powell) with capturing his asphyx and burying it deep in a family tomb. Because after all, Cunningham’s contributions to science are just too important for him to ever die. They need to bring in another person, Giles’ stepsister (and fiancee, because this is high society England) Christina for help. If they help him become an immortal, he will consent to them getting married.
Nothing works out well for anyone, save perhaps the guinea pig that can’t die. He’s doomed to wander the Earth with an immortal Cunningham, all the way to modern London as seen at the end of this movie.
The Asphyx is a movie that feels like a hard sell to an American crowd. It’s kind of staid and nuanced, but the effects are pretty wild and the idea is definitely high concept.
This is the only movie directed by Peter Newbrook, who also wrote Gonks Go Beat, produced Corruption (which no woman will dare go home alone after watching) and worked on the second unit on Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai.
If you watch this in the U.S., know that as of now, you can’t see a high quality version. Every version of this movie — so far — has footage mastered from the 35mm negative mixed with footage mastered from a print of inferior quality, which means that the movie’s quality is constantly shifting. That said, the asphyx itself looks awesome and the story is enough to keep you watching.
“(A) versatile and underrated B-movie Renaissance man.” — IMDb, about actor-director John “Bud” Cardos.
That’s the understatement of the century, ye IMDb database scribe. Look at that short — but hit-packed director’s resume: Kingdom of the Spiders (we need to review that one!), The Dark! The Day Time Ended! Mutant! Gor II: Outlaw of Gor! (well, they’re hits for the B&S About Movies crowd). Then there’s Bud’s cable and VHS potboilers that star friggin’ Ernest Borginine, Robert Vaughn, Oliver Reed, and Herbert Lom in the sam friggin’ movie: Skeleton Coast (1988), and Act of Piracy (1988) with Gary Busey and Ray Sharkey kicking ass. Then there’s Bud’s acting resume with Al Adamson and the films Hells Angels on Wheels (1967), Psych-Out (1968), The Road Hustlers (1968), The Savage Seven (1968), Killers Three (1968; starring Merle Haggard and a very young Lane Caudell of 2020’s Getaway), Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969), Satan’s Sadists (1969), Five Bloody Graves (1969), and Hell’s Bloody Devils (1970).
After entering the annals of Bikerdom with his third acting gig in Hells Angels on Wheels (he had support roles in 1965’s Deadwood ’76 and Run Home, Slow), and paying attention on all of those Al Adamson sets and Roger Corman AIP productions, Bud Cardos transitioned behind the lens for the blaxploitation-spaghetti western (Uh, oh. Here we go again with the genre mixin’: Hey! Harry Hope and Harry Tampa of Smokey and the Judge and Nocturna fame, hiya!) with The Red, White, and the Blue, aka Soul Soldier (1970).
And the burgeoning, becoming “hot” and “trendy” drag racing genre was next on Bud’s resume with the youth-oriented (as were all of the ’60s racin’ flicks that simply substituted asphalt for sand) action-drama starring John Davis Chandler?
Seriously? The dude is iconic in a Richard Lynch-amazing kind of way.
Now do you know him?
Let’s not even get into his extensive ’60s and ’70s television resume . . . just look at the movies: John Frankeheimer’s The Young Savages (1961; a more violent The Blackboard Jungle, if you will) with Burt Lancaster. Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) with Kris Kristofferson, James Coburn, and Richard Jaeckel. Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josie Wales (1976). Across 100-plus credits, JDC was everywhere, and he was nowhere. No truer “dark man” actor was he.
Here, John Davis Chandler stars alongside Jeremy Slate (Do we really need to get into is resume?) and beach-snow flick bunny mainstay Deborah Walley in this not-a-Frankie-Avalon-Fabian racing flick that stars Mark Slade alongside (as you can see by the drive-in flyer, above) the nation’s top drag racers. (Mark has too many ’60s and ’70s TV series to mention, but by 1967, starred for three years on The High Chaparral; before that, the McHale’s Navy rip, The Wackiest Ship in the Army; he got his start as co-star on Gomer Pyle: USMC.)
Drag Racer is simple tale: Mark Slade is a young man who dreams of tearin’ down the quarter mile with the big dogs that, while it has (it must have) romance, there very little of that dramatic yakity-yak that bogged down the likes of Red Line 7000, Thunder Alley, and The Wild Racers. As with David Cronenberg’s lone non-horror film, Fast Company, Drag Racer is about gritty realism that puts the actors into the pits to mix it up with the real racers (Bill Schultz, John Lombardo, Norm Wilcox, and Larry Dixon) at famed West Coast racetracks Irwindale Raceway, Lions Drag Strip, and Orange County Int’l Raceway.
Is the acting a bit rough in spots? Is the editing and cinematography amateurish? Sure. (It adds to the film’s realistic, documentary quality.) This is one of those films that was once embraced by UHF-TV in the early ’70s (watched it twice), temporarily embraced on VHS (watched it once), then jettisoned. Considering Bud Cardos’s pedigree, this one — is in desperate need — of a full restoration (and not just a rip n’ burn) to DVD. Hint! Kino Lorber, Arrow Video?
This is a classic must-watch for racing fans — even with a muddy, washed-out blurred print. It really is one of the best drag flicks out there. And whadda ya’ know: You Tube comes through again — and with a VHS and not a TV rip! Sweet!