VINEGAR SYNDROME BLU RAY RELEASE: Forgotten Gialli: Volume Five

Vinegar Syndrome has a few Forgotten Gialli set out and each of these keeps adding some great movies to my collection in the best possible format with so many extras. Here’s what’s in the new one, which is now available for order.

A White Dress for Marialé (1972): Going by the names Un bianco vestito per MarialéSpirits of Death and Exorcisme Tragique (Tragic Exorcism), this giallo was directed by Romano Scavolini, who would one day make Nightmares in a Damaged Brain.

When she was quite young, Marialè (Ida Galli) watched as her father killed her mother, her lover and himself. She’s grown up a depressive recluse married to the controlling Paolo (Luigi Pistilli) who keeps her sedated. But she still has enough friends to invite over to her mansion for a costume party orgy, which goes well until this film remembers that it’s not an art film but instead a giallo and people start dying.

Let’s take a look at the guest list.

There’s her ex-lover Massimo (Ivan Rassimov) and when we see Rassimov in a giallo, he is never up to any good.

If you’re having a wild 70s sex party, always invite a love triangle. That’s how Mercedes (Pilar Velasquez), Joe (Giancarlo Bonuglia) and Sebastiano (Ezio Marano) all got to the party.

There’s also Semy (Shawn Robinson, who sang the theme for Two Males for Alexa; this is her only acting role) and her husband Gustavo (Edilio Kim).

Just about every one of them are horrible people given to attacking — for good or bad — one another, while Marialè stays in her bedroom and wears the same dress that her mother was in when she died, bullet holes over the heart, covered in blood.

A gothic and stylish film, this made me reconsider Scavolini and see him as much better than a hack who was making a slasher when that was how people made money. I wish that he’d stayed more experimental like this movie. Then again, in the book Spaghetti Nightmares, he said that was a movie “which only deserves to be forgotten.”

Tropic of Cancer (1972): Anita Strindberg is in Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the KeyA Lizard in a Woman’s SkinThe Case of the Scorpion’s TailWho Saw Her Die?, The Two Faces of Fear, L’uomo Senza Memoria and Murder Obsession, but is never mentioned with the same devotion as Edwige Fenech or Barbara Bouchet. Well, she’s great in this and in nearly everything else I’ve seen her in.

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 GraveEvil 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****.

And hey — that Piero Umiliani (Orgasmo, Baba Yaga) score is perfect!

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 HaitiPeacock’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.

Nine Deaths for a Crime (1977): I get it — 1977 is late for the category and Ferdinando Baldi is better known for making weird westerns — like Get Mean and Blindman with Tony Anthony, not to mention two 3D movies with the very same actor, Comin’ At Ya! and Treasure of the Four Crowns — than giallo. But hey. when you’re trying to watch every one of them made, you watch them all.

Known in Italy as A Scream in the Night, in Spain as Death Comes From the Pastand Nine Guests for a Crime in other markets, this movie follows the Agatha Christie model of nine people — wow the title actually is logical — showing up on an island that has a killer stalking about.

Well, get this. There are thirteen murders in a movie with nine guests, so how about that?

A wealthy family has departed for a two-week break at their private island estate, which primarily involves plenty of balling, as The Pink Angels trailer would say. Ubaldo (Arthur Kennedy, who won a Best Supporting Actor Tony for Death of a Salesman and was nominated for five Oscars before making movies like The HumanoidThe SentinelCyclone and being one of the worst cops ever in The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) has taken his new wife Giulia (Caroline Laurente, who played three different roles in Emmanuelle 2, 3 and 7) along with his sister Elizabeth (Dania Ghia, Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye), his sons Michele (Massimo Foschi, Holocaust 2000) and his wife Carla (Sofia Dionisio, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man), Walter (Venantino Venantini, Beast in Space) and his bride Patrizia (Loretta Persichetti) and Lorenzo (John Richardson, Black Sunday) and Greta (Rita Silva, Gunan, King of the Barbarians).

Michele has been doing two-person pushups with his stepmother. Walter has been threading the needle with Greta. But then Baldi goes from ripping off Bava’s Five Dolls for an August Moon — which yes, is also a Christie pastiche — into full A Bay of Blood and even the supernatural theory that Elizabeth’s dead lover Carlo is back from the dead (and the Tarot reading sequence, which gets stolen even better in Antropophagus).

This movie has reminded me that I want nothing to do with rich people or island vacations. Nothing ever works out and I’d rather stay alive and undramatic for the short period I do have left in this dimension.

This set features all three movies, newly scanned & restored in 4K from their 35mm original camera negative. You get so much more — interviews with directors Romano Scavolini, writer/director Giampaolo Lomi, actress Ida Galli and actor Massimo Foschi; audio essays by Rachael Nisbet, deleted scenes, trailers, image galleries and so much more. Order it now from Vinegar Syndrome.

VINEGAR SYNDROME BLU RAY RELEASE: Forgotten Gialli: Volume Three

Autopsy (1975): Armando Crispino really only did two horror films, 1972’s The Dead Are Alive and this 1975 giallo, which is a shame, as this is a pretty decent entry in the genre. Known in Italy as Macchie Solari (Sunspots), it does indeed feature sunspot footage from space before we see any major murders. And if you’re looking for a movie packed with autopsy footage, good news. It totally lives up to its title.

Simona Sana (Mimsy Farmer, who is also in Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet and The Perfume of the Lady in Black) is a pathology student who is trying to work on a theory about suicides, one that’s disputed by a young priest, Father Paul, whose sister — Simona’s dad’s latest fling — has recently killed herself. It turns out there’s been a whole series of self-killings which are being blamed on, you guessed it, sunspots.

I mean, what can you say about a movie that starts with several of said suicides, like sliced wrists, a self-induced car explosion and a man machine gunning his kids before turning the gun on himself? Obviously, this is a rather grisly affair, with real corpse photos spread — quite literally — throughout the film.

In between all of the gore, corpse penises, two bodies falling to their deaths and crime museums, there’s also Ray Lovelock (The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) as Simona’s boyfriend, an out there Morricone score and a heroine who hallucinates that the dead are coming back to life.

The plot gets pretty convoluted, but if you’re on this site, you obviously appreciate films like this and will get past it. This is an Italian 70’s murder movie, though, so if you get easily upset about the way men behave, well, be forewarned.

Murder Mansion (1972): Originally released as La Mansion de la Niebla (The Mansion in the Fog) and also known as Murder Mansion, this Spanish/Italian film fuses old school haunted house horror with the then new school form of the giallo.

The plot concerns a variety of people drawn to a house in the fog, so the original title was pretty much correct. There are plenty of European stars to enjoy, like Ida Galli, who also uses the name Evelyn Stewart and appeared in Fulci’s The Psychic as well as The Sweet Body of Deborah. And hey, there’s Analía Gadé from The Fox with the Velvet Tail. Hello, George Rigaud, from All the Colors of the Dark and The Case of the Bloody Iris! They’re all here in a movie that seems to make little or no sense and then gets even more bonkers as time goes on.

This was one of the 13 titles included in Avco Embassy’s Nightmare Theater package syndicated in 1975 (the others were MartaDeath Smiles on a MurdererNight of the SorcerersFury of the Wolfman, Hatchet for the HoneymoonHorror Rises from the TombDear Dead DelilahDoomwatchBell from HellWitches MountainMummy’s Revenge and The Witch). How did these movies play on regular TV?

There’s a history of vampires in the house, the previous owner was a witch and hey — this is starting to feel like an adult version of Scooby Doo with better-looking ladies. That’s not a bad thing. But if you’ve never watched a badly dubbed giallo-esque film before, don’t expect any of this to make a lick of sense.

Crazy Desires of a Murderer (1977): Sure, that’s a pretty lurid title — the Italian title I vizi morbosi di una governante translates as Morbid Vices of a Housekeeper — and trust me, this lives up to it, what with an older woman using a mentally challenged man and a teenager sexually — not at the same time! — and then a game of charades which is mostly people yelling out the names of films while everyone else gropes one another.

There are more than a lot of camera zooms in here, as well as bad sartorial choices and even worse life ones. When Ileana and her bunch of hip friends — their words not mine — gather at a gothic castle owned by a wheelchair-bound older relative of one of the girls, things get pervy, weird and murder, just as you’d expect.

If you are a hip friend or have hip friends (at which point that makes you a hip friend), then you should take this warning: do not go to hang out in gothic castles. Nothing, in my movie — not life — experience says that things will go well.

Meanwhile, two of these with it pals are using Chinese treasures to smuggle heroin — as you do — while Elsa the party girl ends up with both of her eyes torn out, just like Ileana’s mother had done to her by a relative who has lost his mind and is possibly prowling the catacombs of the castle.

This would be the last film that Filippo Walter Ratti would direct. You may have seen his other movies, including Mondo EroticoOperation White Shark and Night of the Damned. Screenwriter Ambrogio Molteni also wrote the two Black Emanuelle movies, as well as Yellow EmanuelleSister Emanuelle and Violence in a Women’s Prison.

Speaking of Emanuelle, you may recognize Annie Carol Edel from Emanuelle and Francoise or perhaps from Almost Human or even The True Story of the Nun of Monza. No? How about Isabelle Marchall from Black Emanuelle? Or Patrizia Gori from Cry of a ProstituteThe Return of the Exorcist or as Francoise in Emanuelle and Francoise?

All of the movies in this set have been newly scanned and restored in 2k from their 35mm original camera negative. Plus, you get extras like a theatrical introduction with director Armando Crispino and a feature on his career, as well as interviews with actresses Ida Galli and actor Giuseppe Colombo. As always, there are also trailers and image galleries. Get it from Vinegar Syndrome.

ARROW BOX SET RELEASE: Giallo Essentials: Black Edition

Arrow Video has restored three giallo films and provided their usual impressive range of in-depth bonus features with this new box set, featuring Smile Before DeathThe Killer Reserved 9 Seats and The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive.

Smile Before Death (1972): 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.

Marco (Silvano Tranquilli, Black Belly of the TarantulaSo Sweet, So Dead) and Dorothy are trapped in an open marriage that feels incredibly confining. To make things worse, her best friend Gianna (Rosalba Neri, Lady FrankensteinThe French Sex Murders) is his mistress.

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 PsychicThe 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.

*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 Plumage giallo titles.

**Tamburi won the femme fatale role of Graziella in La Seduzione because Ornella Muti, the original actress, was considered too attractive.

The Killer Reserved 9 Seats (1974): To celebrate his birthday, wealthy Patrick Davenant (Chris Avram, The Eerie Midnight Horror ShowEmanuelle in Bangkok) brings his friends to his family’s unused theater — empty for a century, which is how long his family has been cursed, which in no way is taken from The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.

There’s his sister Rebecca (Eva Czemerys, Escape from the Bronx) and her lover — look how ahead of its time Italian giallo in 1974 was — Doris (Lucretia Love, who was in The Arena and the astoundingly titled When Men Carried Clubs and Women Played Ding-Dong). And he’s also decided to bring his ex Vivian (Rosana Schiaffino, once called the Italian Hedy Lamarr) and her new husband Albert (Andrea Scotti, Horror Express), along with Patrick’s daughter Lynn (Paola Senatore, Ricco the Mean MachineEmanuelle in America (1977) and Eaten Alive!; due to an unplanned pregnancy and being hooked on drugs, she ended her career by appearing in an adult film, Non Stop… Sempre Buio in Sala before being arrested for possession and trafficking of drugs) and her boyfriend Duncan (Gaetano Russo, Crazy Blood), as well as Patrick’s fiancee Kim (Janet Agren, City of the Living Dead), her ex-boyfriend Russell (Howard Ross, otherwise known as Renato Rossini, The New York Ripper) and finally, to finish off this cast of gorgeous people who all hate one another, some dude no one can really figure out where he belongs (Eduardo Filpone, Flavia the Heretic).

Oh yeah — there’s also a caretaker played by Luigi Antonio Guerra from Spasmo.

Before you know it, everyone starts getting killed, including one death via stabs to the lady business and their cranium being nailed to a board. You’d think with all this mayhem, the movie would be pretty interesting, but sadly, it drags.

The mysterious stranger — when he’s not looking funky fresh in blue blazer and fancy medallion — is given to saying things like, “You know what I like about you people? … You’re so civil to each other as you tear each other apart.” and “I spent a night here a hundred years ago” and “The actors are present and now the play may start…”

Janet Agren gets to act out a scene from Romeo and Juliet before she dies at least.

You know how people decry American slashers because they punish anyone who enjoys sex or drugs or any behavior deemed aberrant? This movie takes that notion and delivers it in spades. Of course, it also presents sin in all its glory but uses violent death as the square-up reel.

This is the last movie that Giuseppe Bennati made. It fits in with post-Argento giallo, but doesn’t add much to the form other than a great title and poster.

The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive (1972): The Weapon, the Hour & the Motive examines not only murder but the idea that a Catholic priest — Don Giorgio — is having an affair with two different women — Orchidea (Bedy Moratti,  — Women in Cell Block 7) and Giulia Pisani (Eva Czemerys, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats) — and tries to break things off with both of them before he’s killed. Since Inspector Boito (Renzo Montagnani) has already fallen for Orchidea — whose husband has just committed suicide — what’s the hope for a fair inspection of who the killer could be?

The only person who may know is a young orphan who lives in the church named Ferruccio, who once watched while Don Giorgio self-flagellated, and who now is kept drugged and quiet. There’s also the matter of a skeleton-filled catacomb under the church in addition to nuns taking baths fully clothed and whipping one another fully nude.

This is the only film that Francesco Mazzei directed, while he also wrote This Shocking WorldSergeant KremsConvoy of Women and A Girl Called Jules. He co-wrote the story with Marcello Aliprandi, who would direct a similar movie, Vatican Conspiracy, in 1982. Mazzi also wrote the screenplay along with Mario Bianchi, The Murder Secret), Bruno Di Geronimo (who wrote A Quiet Place to KillWhat Have You Done to Solange? and Puzzle) and Vinicio Marinucci (SS Experiment Love Camp). 

I can’t even imagine the reaction this movie had when it came out. Fulci had been abused by the way audiences, critics and social critics treated him after Don’t Torture a Duckling.

The Giallo Essentials: Black Edition from Arrow Video has new 2K restorations from the original camera negatives of Smile Before Death and The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive exclusive to Arrow and a 2K restoration from the original camera negative of The Killer Reserved Nine Seats.

The packaging has a rigid box with original artwork in a windowed Giallo Essentials Collection slipcover and reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais, Peter Strain and Haunt Love.

Smile Before Death has new commentary by authors and critics Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, the original Italian and English front and end titles, an image gallery, a new interview with Stefano Amadio, film journalist and son of director Silvio Amadio and never-before-seen extended nude scenes not used in the final film.

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats has new commentary by author and critic Kat Ellinger, interviews with Howard Ross and screenwriter Biagio Proietti, the Italian theatrical trailer and an image gallery.

The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive has new commentary by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, a new interview with actor Salvatore Puntillo, an image gallery,  and front and end titles for the lost English-language dub.

You can order this set from MVD.

Judas… ¡toma tus monedas! (1972)

Also known as Watch Out Gringo! Sabata Will Return, this Italian Western was actually made in Spain by Pedro L. Ramírez (School of DeathThe Fish with the Eyes of Gold) and Alfonso Balcázar from a script by Giovanni Simonelli (The Ark of the Sun God, Jungle Raiders) and José Ramón Larraz, who had already made Whirlpool and Deviation.

There’s no Sabata in this movie, but you’d be forgiven if you think there is a Trinity, as this movie feels a lot like that Italian Western. Rayo (Jorge Martin, e così divennero i 3 supermen del WestElectra One) and Texas (Vittorio Richelmy) must work together to find the hidden gold of Carrancho (Fernando Sancho), a thief who is being hunted by Luke (Daniel Martin, A Fistful of Dollars).

I have no idea how you can make a movie and have Rosalba Neri and barely feature her, but somehow these filmmakers did exactly that. I was waiting for her to show up and do something  but no, she’s basically silent and barely in this.

A very basic Eurowestern, neither all that good not all that bad. Instead, it does nothing to bring anything unique or say anything of merit.

La casa de las muertas vivientes (1972)

Whether you call this La casa de las muertas vivientes (The House of the Living Dead), Night of the Scorpion, the Italian title Il cadavere di Helen non mi dava pace (Helen’s Corpse Gives Me No Peace or Helen Is Not Resting In Peace) or An Open Tomb… An Empty Coffin, this is a giallo made in Spain and Italy during the height of the genre. It’s directed by Alfonso Balcázar (Sartana Does Not Forgive, A Noose Is Waiting for You Trinity) from a script that he wrote with Giovanni Simonelli and José Ramón Larraz, the same team that made Watch Out Gringo! Sabata Will Return.

Oliver Bromfield (José Antonio Amor) has lost his father and wife Helen (Gioia Desideri), which causes him to move back to the gigantic ancestral home in the mountains far from the closest village. Despite the fact that they are isolated from anyone else, he makes a point to tell his new wife Ruth (Daniela Giordano) to not listen to what anyone says about his family. If that isn’t enough to freak her out, perhaps the way that Oliver’s stepmother Sarah (Nuria Torray) kisses him will do it. Or maybe it’s the maid (Alicia Tomás) who doesn’t answer questions or the sister who refuses to speak to her. Look, if you marry into a rich family in a giallo, your chances of encountering weirdness and death are absolute.

So yes, Sarah keeps trying to seduce her stepson as well as spying on him as he consummates his new marriage. His sister Jenny angrily stabs butterflies — oh post-Argento giallo and its obsession with animals — as she laments the loss of Helen, who she definitely had an affair with and when Oliver found out, Helen took a dive over the railing. Maybe. Who can say?

Ruth slowly starts going insane, what with being trapped in this house of depression. Wouldn’t you be worried if you watch a kitten die after drinking the poisoned milk that you were about to drink — yes, this movie makes a The Cat O’Nine Tails ripoff while having a cat figured into said theft — and then come back to life?

Everybody in this family wants someone they can’t have and Ruth starts to realize that maybe she shouldn’t have said yes to this marriage deal. She even brings in a private detective (Osvaldo Genazzani) who she says is her Uncle Edgar to figure out what’s happening.

That’s when a killer with black gloves and a blade remembers that we’re in a giallo and not a soap opera and starts stabbing people with just twenty minutes left.

This may not rank in the best of all giallo, but there is that awesome clock that the voyeur stepmother uses to peep through which gives the opportunity for some great shots. And once it picks up, it picks up.

Muñeca Reina (1972)

Queen Doll is a film about the dangers of nostalgia. When Carlos (Enrique Rocha) comes back to his hometown, he starts to remember moments of his past that he’s long forgotten. A copy of Tom Sawyer — the movie even has scenes from the book filmed and presented almost as flashbacks — has a map inside it which shows him where the home of a girl he knew named Amilamia.

Despite his somewhat normal life, Carlos has grown obsessed about the girl and what happened to her. Any woman that he sees that’s his age could be her, yet he thinks that she might have not ever had the chance to grow up. He follows the map to the home of an old couple and invents a way to get into the house to learn more. The couple admits that she’s dead and shows him a room with a life sized doll of her in a glass coffin, surrounded by the things she cared about most.

Now, her spirit follows Carlos and he finds her becoming part of his life, a life that he begins to ignore, even becoming distant from his fiancee Laura. Obviously, he’s going down a path that won’t have a happy ending. The scariest part is that he no longer is concerned.

Director Sergio Olhovich is still making movies today, fifty years after making this, his first full-length movie. He also co-wrote the script with Carlos Fuentes and Eduardo Luján. This is one strange and wonderful movie. It’s one that I want more people to track down and watch.

You can watch this on YouTube.

 

Una Ragione Per Vivere E Una Per Morire (1972)

A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die is also known as Massacre at Fort Holman. At the time that it was made, Italian westerns had begun to copy themselves, as this was shot on the same set as The Deserter, in the same Almería, Spain locations as Leone’s films — you can see the homestead from Once Upon a Time In the West and the fort in this film was also used in El Condor — and even takes songs directly from Day of Anger.

It goes even further into Xerox territory by doing what several other Italian westerns had done: take an existing property and make it a cowboy film. This time, that movie is The Dirty Dozen.

Is it any wonder this was released by K-Tel?

What it has over most of its competitors is star power with James Coburn, Telly Savalas and Bud Spencer in the cast.

Disgraced Union Colonel Pembroke (Coburn) — reduced to looting a church — is arrested and tries to commute his sentence by saying that he has a plan to recapture Fort Holman, which he had previously surrendered to Major Ward (Savalas) and the Confederate army without firing a shot. He assembles the army which will help him take it back out of prisoners, including a deserter named McIver (Guy Mairesse, a murderer — of his commanding officer — and rapist — of his commanding officer’s wife — named Pickett (Benito Stefanelli), Fred the horse thief Fred (Ugo Fangareggi), medicine thief and black marketeer Will (Adolfo Lastretti), half Native American — and killer of his fellow soldiers for selling alcohol to the Apache — Jeremy (Joe Pollini, who was also the assistant director), Sergeant Brent (Reinhard Kolldehoff) — who somehow is wearing the cross of Pembroke’s dead wife — and a looter named Eli Sampson (Spencer). Only one of the group refuses, a religious pacifist agitator, who doesn’t want this strange opportunity for freedom and would rather the certainty of the gallows.

Pembroke tells them that there’s gold inside and that he’s a convict just like them. The truth is that he only gave up the fort because Ward had taken his son and promised he’d be returned if he complied. He did and his son was killed.

By the end, everyone — save Pembroke and Sampson — is dead. War is bloody and ruthless and unforgiving, but so is revenge. Blake lies dead, killed with his own sword. Probably the same sword that killed Pembroke’s son. But even if he has vengeance, he’ll never have his boy back.

Director Tonino Valerii also made Day of AngerMy Dear KillerMy Name Is Nobody and the JFK assassination in the west film Price of Power. He’s pretty good, even if his name doesn’t come up much in the conversation on Italian directors. This was written by Rafael Azcona and Ernesto Gastadi, whose list of credits could fill our entire site.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Junesploitation 2022: Nonostante le apparenze… e purchè la nazione non lo sappia… all’onorevole piacciono le donne (1972)

June 17: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is Lucio Fulci! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next. 

As you watch the films of Lucio Fulci, it’s important to realize that made comedies, peplum and westerns long before he became known as the Godfather of Gore. Even his first forays into giallo, both before Argento (Perversion Story) and after (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Don’t Torture a Duckling) may have bursts of violence and disquieting bloodshed, but Fulci was primarily a journeyman when Enzo G. Castellari dropped out of directing Zombi and Fulci stepped in.

An example of commedia sexy all’italiana, or sex comedy Italian style, this film remembers to include the requisite nudity and sexual situations while keeping the social criticism front and center, unlike other films in this subgenre of commedia all’italiana. Sure, so many of those movies are about the rich, but this film takes aim at those in power and how they still have very basic sexual lusts. Or, in the instance of this film’s lead, Senator Gianni Puppis (Lando Buzzanca, who was in a lot of movies much the same as this), abundant and near-insane levels of libido-enraged fervor.

Puppis is next in line to be President of the Senate, yet he starts the film by grasping the rear end of the female president of the Republic of Urania. No one notices, as they were inside a huge crowd, but he’s devastated by the fact that he can’t control his need to touch her.

Someone did notice. Father Lucian (Renzo Palmer) somehow gets photographic evidence and begins to blackmail Puppis, yet he refuses to pay as there’s no way that he could have done this. And then, that night, he dreams of a nude woman (Eva Czamerys, who between this, Our Lady of Lust and The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive had to have really upset the Roman Catholic church)  beckoning him from the circular plaza of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican.

But wait — isn’t Puppis gay — an editor at a TV station confirms this — and dating his personal chauffeur Carmelino (Aldo Puglisi)? Then why is he blacking out and getting back to reality just in time to learn that he has his hands on a keister?

After paying off Father Lucian, Puppis is sent to a German psychologist and a spiritual retreat that will keep his Roman hands away from the culo of the assembled ladies who not vote for him if they know what’s going on inside his head. After an encounter where Puppis rubs the bahootie of a Scottish man in a kilt, he gets so drunk that he must be waited on at the monastery by a series of nurses who are nuns, which trust me as an Italian male is the absolute double whammy of fantasy.

Meanwhile, the other senators are trying to learn just where Puppis has gone off to and the Italian Army is planning a coup because the Days of Lead don’t stop for sex comedies. The Senate is bugging Puppis, but the army is bugging the senate and a secret Vatican cabal — the Masonic P2? — led by Cardinal Maravigili (Lionel Stander) — is bugging everyone.

Puppis owes any political success to he has made deals with both the Vatican and the army and Maravigili has been manipulating him to the most powerful office in the country, tolerating his homosexuality as that is less of a scandal than what’s happening now. The sociopathic holy man then decides that Puppis must be killed.

That night, Puppis has a dream about the nuns and the Garden of Eden where he goes wild, like  Howard Stern in the 1980s or John Stagliano in Brazil. He then tries to assault Father Schirer (Francis Blanche) in his sleep, yet when he awakes he claims he’s cured. He’s not: he really did get to know all of those nuns as Biblically as he could.

All Hell has broken loose. Father Schirer has a heart attack when he’s convinced Maravigili knows that he’s failed. Puppis goes to a party with that very same holy leader and ends up s‘envoyer en l’air — I apologize for my conjugation, I never took the language — with the French ambassador’s wife (Anita Strindberg, who was also in Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key amongst many others) and engaging in an erotic mutual flagellation session with the only nun that he hasn’t yet gone heels to Jesus with, Sister Hildergardt (Laura Antonelli). As the secret church police arrive, they high tail it the hell out of there.

Finally, in a moment much like I imagine all U.S. Presidents go through when they show them who really committed every assassination and get to see inside the real Area 51, Don Gesualdo (Corrado Gaipa) shows Puppis statues of all the future saints — all people who have been killed to get him into a position of power given the kind of treatment that Vincent Price did when he played Professor Henry Jarrod. As the new President kneels in front of a statue of Sister Hildegarde and accepts his new role — his closest competitor dies in a plane crash — someone turns the channel to a game show.

That long title translates to The Senator Likes Women… Despite Appearances and Provided the Nation Doesn’t Know and that’s why The Eroticist was also called The Senator Likes Women. It’s a wild movie — not all of the comedy may translate, but Fulci’s bile against religion sure does. He came up with the story with Sandro Continenza (The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) and the script was by Ottavio Jemma. Plus, it looks pretty great — Sergio D’Offizi who did Cannibal Holocaust and House at the Edge of the Park, not to mention The Washing Machine and Thunder 2 and 3 was the cinematographer.

Obviously, this movie was banned and censored beyond belief.

Want to see more Fulci? Check out my Ten Fulci films article or the Fulci Letterboxd list.

Si può fare… amigo (1972)

A Spanish, French and Italian co-production, It Can Be Done Amigo was also called Saddle Tramps, which is a wonderful nom de plume for a movie. It also was called Bulldozer is Back AmigoHallelujah Amigo and The Big and the Bad.

Bud Spencer is Hiram Coburn and he’s very similar to the Bambino character that he became known for in the Trinity series. He’s being pursued by Sonny (Jack Palance), a gunfighter and procurer of women of ill repute who is upset that Coburn took his sister Mary’s (Davy Saval, Moon Pilot) virginity without marrying her. As part of their constant battles, the two meet an orphan named Chip who is soon fighting off the offers to buy the house he inherited from his uncle by a priest called Franciscus (Francisco Rabal), who soon brings in Sonny and Mary, then marries off Coburn to the pregnant young girl. Sonny tells Coburn that when his son becomes 21, he will finally shoot him. Hijinks, as they say, ensue.

How self-referential had Italian westerns become by 1972? This movie was shot on McBain ranch set from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West. Bud Spencer’s character says, “So this is the famous well” in reference to the well that caused the railroad to be built so close to that farm.

This is a movie that has a farm with mud people like to eat and where Bud Spencer puts on glasses every time he has to fight someone. If you haven’t gotten into the silly side of Italian westerns, your enjoyment of this may or may not occur.

It Can Be Done, Amigo was directed by Maurizio Lucidi (The Designated Victim) and written by Rafael Azcona from a story by Ernesto Gastaldi.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Condenados a vivir (1972)

Cut-Throats Nine arrives at a time when Italian westerns were struggling to stand out. This film does so by being as mean as it gets and filled with shocking levels of blood and gore. There was even a William Castle-style promo item, a Terror Mask, made so audiences could hide their eyes during the bloodshed and mayhem.

A remake of the original posted on The Daily Grindhouse.

Sergeant Brown (Robert Hundar) and his daughter Sarah (Emma Cohen) are taking a chain gang of seven convicts to the other side of a mountain range and the prison of Fort Green. Bandits attacks, looking for gold, not realizing that the chains that hold the men are made from it. Then, things get worse. Much worse.

A throat is slashed, the daughter is assaulted, a man is stabbed so many times that his entrails are visible, someone is shot through the eye and a man is burned alive. Brown is also convinced that one of the men killed his wife, so perhaps he doesn’t see the need to get them to their destination alive. But who knows if anyone will get there.

Director Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent made movies until 1995 but the main films of his career were made in the early 70s and the western cycle. It’s also bleak beyond hope, as even the one character that cares for Sarah beyond her father, Dean, may be the absolute worst of all of the convicts who are being used simply to transport wealth, their lives meaningless.

You can watch this on Tubi.