Circle of Fear episode 20: Spare Parts

Dr. Phillip Pritchard has died and his widow Ellen (Susan Oliver, Zita from the Star Trek episode “The Menagerie”) has given away his larnyx, eyes and hands to three people who he will lead from the beyond to force a confession from his wife, a woman who finally snapped from years of being trapped in a loveless marriage.

Directed by Charles S. Dubin (Death In Space) and written by Seeleg Lester (who wrote episodes of The Outer LimitsPerry Mason, Hawaii Five-O and many more shows), Paul Mason (who produced Better Off DeadTeen Witch and Killer Klowns from Outer Space) and Jimmy Sangster, this episode plays off that old horror tale of body parts having a life of their own.

Look for Christopher Connelley (Atlantis Interceptors1990: The Bronx WarriorsManhattan Baby), Meg Foster (Masters of the Universe) and Alex Rocco, which is pretty much what I call a great cast.

You can watch this on YouTube.

A Cold Night’s Death (1973)

Airing on January 30, 1973 on ABC, A Cold Night’s Death has a great if small cast — Robert Culp, Michael C. Gwynne and Eli Wallach — and a voiceover by Vic Perrin, the Control Voice from The Outer Limits.

Culp is Robert Jones and Wallach is Frank Enari, two scientists who have been assigned to the Tower Mountain Research Station as replacements for Dr. Vogel, who hasn’t been heard from in five days, with his final messages being near manic. Taking along a chimpanzee named Geronimo, the two only find a destroyed research station and no doctor.

As much The Lighthouse as The ThingA Cold Night’s Death reminds us that in the early 70s, TV movies rivaled drive-ins for frightening films made on a budget.

Director Jerrold Freedman also made Kansas City Bomber and The Boy Who Drank Too Much. The story comes from 20 Million Miles to Earth writer Christopher Knopf.

Il fiore dai petali d’acciaio (1973)

Carroll Baker got to be in plenty of giallo films — Knife of IceA Quiet Place to Kill, Orgasmo, So Sweet, So Perverse — and it reminds me of a conversation that I had with Mike Justice about how the globalization of mass media has led to a world where out of favor actresses could go to Italy and make some horror or giallo movies. Sharon Stone? You would be perfect right now instead of being a weird head on the end of a finger in a gambling app commercial.

Dr. Andrea Valenti (Gianni Garko, who was in a ton of films, like several Sartana sequels, as well as The Psychic, Devilfish and so many others ) is a surgeon who everyone loves, other than his lover Daniella (Paola Senatore, Emanuelle in AmericaRicco the Mean Machine). After a fight, we’re led to believe that Andrea has killed her, cut her up and dumped the remains in a sewage plant. That’s when Baker, playing Evelyn, who is not only one of Andrea’s past lovers, but also the current lesbian love of Daniella as well as her half-sister because this is an Italy movie.

She goes to the police and tries to convince Detective Garrano (Ivano Staccioli, So Sweet, So Dead) that Valenti killed her sister, which seems like it could be true. After all, didn’t Valenti put his rich wife into a mental hospital after they had sex on their wedding night? What the hell is that about? Is he that amazing in bed? Is she so innocent that she was shocked by his member? Really, this is amazing.

But I digress.

The first wife is now sane and has left the asylum, yet no one knows where she is. As for the doctor, he’s already moved on to his secretary Elaina (Pilar Velázquez, A White Dress for Marialé). And then he starts getting blackmailed as someone has the photos of the murder. Or maybe accident is more the term, as whomever it was tripped and fell on the metal flower artwork in his house.

While Argento wouldn’t have art outright murder someone until Tenebre, this movie borrows a lot from him. The metal flower seems like something out of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and the tunnel of baby doll heads with a body at the end is straight out of Dario.

Director Gianfranco Piccioli produced lots of movies but only directed two other films: The Hokey-Pokey Gang and Double by Half.

By 1973, the giallo was starting to not be as popular as it once was. Then again, rumors of its demise were the same as disco, as the name of the genre may have shifted — erotic thriller — but the stories are the same. They’re still getting made today. Yet when this was made, it was definitely created to fit the exact format that everyone expected with a gloved and masked scalpal slashing killer.

All things being said, I have never seen another giallo that has an underwater scuba lesbian scene, so that’s perhaps one audacious reason to watch The Flower With the Petals of Steel.

Circle of Fear episode 19: “Graveyard Shift”

Fred Colby (John Astin) used to be a star but now he’s just a security guard at the same studio that he used to perform at, which is set to close in a few weeks. However, he seems pretty happy and he and his wife Linda (Astin’s wife at the time, Patty Duke) are expecting a child. The only problem he seems to have is the gang of kids that keeps breaking in.

Well, that seems to be it until a dark force within the studio threatens everything that he loves about his life.

There are plenty of horror film references here — the monsters don’t want the studio to close — and Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, the wolfman and the ape man are all characters that Fred once was on screen. And finally, after nineteen episodes, producer William Castle shows up.

I always associate Astin with Night Gallery — he directed “The House,” “A Fear of Spiders” and “The Dark Boy” episodes — so it was kind of interesting to see him show up within another horror anthology.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Mia moglie, un corpo per l’amore (1973)

My Wife, A Body to Love gets at one of the major issues of the May and September romance. Paolo (Silvano Tranquilli, Castle of Blood) is married to the much younger Simona (Antonella Murgia) and when his stamina isn’t enough, she’s cheating on him with Marco (Peter Lee Lawrence, who was mostly in Italian westerns). The strange thing is, Paolo thinks life is a game and decides to just let this one act itself out. In fact, he even permits her to have sex with Marco but not fall in love.

Or does he? As all three go on a beach vacation, he suddenly starts thinking differently about his wife. He keeps telling her how he’ll stay in control of her and allow her to have sex with men of his choice. You get the idea that — look, the sex scenes are pretty chaste, so don’t get too excited — that he savors making love with his wife after the men she sleeps with and gets off when she tells him how much better they were than him.

But he’s in control, he keeps telling her.

Maybe he’s telling himself.

Go figure — the fantasies of men are impotent when faced with the reality of a woman who finds agency and discovers she can do well enough by making her own way.

Mario Imperoli died young — he was only 46 when he expired in 1977 — and he made a great crime movie, Like Rabid Dogs, as well as the sex comedies Blue JeansThe Sweet Aunts and Monika, the crime films Canne mozze (written by George Eastman) and Sawed Off Shotgun, as well as the incest drama Quella strana voglia d’amare (also written by Eastman).

La muerte incierta (1973)

José Ramón Larraz may be best known for SymptomsVampyresThe House That VanishedThe Coming of SinBlack CandlesRest In PiecesEdge of the Axe and Deadly Manor, but he also made this giallo.

Clive Dawson (Antonio Molino Rojo) returns to India with his new bride Brenda (Mary Maude, who also is in The House That Screamed and Terror) which upsets his old lover Shaheen (Rosalba Neri, Lady FrankensteinAmuckThe Devil’s Wedding NightThe Girl in Room 2A99 Women) to the point that she kills herself, but not before placing a curse on the new marriage. This being the 70s — not the 30s as the flashbacks claim — incest rears its head as Brenda and Clive’s son Rupert soon find themselves realizing that they’re young, Clive is old and that he thinks he’s being chased by his ghost ex in the form of a tiger, so they should just have rough sex.

“I’ve satisfied all your desires. You’ve taken advantage of me,” says Shaheen, but the real mystery of this movie is why would any man leave Rosalba Neri. Outside of perhaps only Edwige Fenech, no one in this genre — maybe this world in 1973 — offers such a smoldering presence that is as much frightening in its intensity as it is arousing.

Il prato macchiato di rosso (1973)

The Red-Stained Lawn or The Bloodstained Lawn was originally called Vampiro 2000 and infuses science fiction, Gothic horror and giallo all in one wacky package with a bloodsucking robotic cherry on top.

The film takes place in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. There, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization agent find a bottle of wine with blood in it. How could this happen to such a well-known vintage from Michelino Croci? What if the winery is a front for a blood smuggling scheme? And how would blood stay good in bottles? So many mysteries!

Dr. Antonio Genovese (Enzo Tarascio), his wife Nina (Marina Malfatti, All the Colors of the Dark, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids) and her brother Alfiero (Claudio Biava) look for people with no ties — hippies, drifters, prostitutes and literally gypsies, tramps and thieves — to lure to an all expenses paid getaway at their castle. Folks like freewheeling musician Max (George Willing, Who Saw Her Die?) and his lover (Daniela Caroli), who have accepted an invitation to spend some time in the Genovese estate, along with the alcoholic tramp (Lucio Dalla, who would become a major singing star in the 80s), a gypsy (Barbara Marzano, The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance) and a sex worker (Dominique Boschero, Argoman the Fantastic Superman).

The bloodsucking machine is literally right out in the open, treated like a piece of pop art. You have to admire that level of out in the open when it comes to an Italian film killer. You also have to love that the killers have a shower that sprays wine and this doesn’t bother Max nor his never named girlfriend, nor does the hall of mirrors bedroom seem strange to anyone else. There’s also a curtain between rooms that totally looks like female anatomy and even more so a scene taking right out of The Laughing Woman.

Director and writer Riccardo Ghione only made four movies: this one, a documentary called Il Limbo, the hippy drama A cuore freddo and La rivoluzione sessuale, a movie in which 7 men and 7 women perform an experiment inspired by the sexual orgone energy theories of Wilhelm Reich. If that was crazy enough, it was co-written by Dario Argento. He would go on to write several other films, including the Joe D’Amato film Delizia.

I love that this movie stands on the line between arthouse and grindhouse with every decision it makes leaning away from the artistic and toward the prurient and bloody. Sure, there’s a message about how the rich subjugate the lower classes, but it’s also a film where Malfatti gives speeches about Wagner and how meaningless her victims are, all while a gigantic cartoony machine literally sucks young blood.

Circle of Fear episode 18: “Legion of Demons”

Directed by Paul Stanley, who had more than 110 directing credits, and written by Anthony Lawrence (who created The Phoenix and The Sixth Sense) and Richard Matheson, is all about Betty (Shirley Knight, Paul Blart’s mom), whose friend Janet (Kathryn Hays, As the World Turns)  has invited to leave small town life behind and enjoy the big city.

Except the big city is filled with devil worshippers.

Janet disappears and the office where she worked suggests that Betty take her place. But as she works more and more around these drones, she wonders if they have lost their souls.

Because they have.

Starring Jon Cypher (Man-At-Arms from Masters of the Universe), John Ventantonio (George Atwood in Private Parts), Neva Patterson, Paul Karr, James Luisi and Bridget Hanley, this episode may take a fair amount from Rosemary’s Baby, but when William Castle is your producer, you can do that.

This is one of the better episodes, filled with inventive camera angles, arresting dream sequences and plenty of Satanic imagery. Consider this my recommendation.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Tetsujin Tiger Seven (1973)

Iron Man Tiger Seven was a Japanese tokusatsu series that aired from October 6, 1973 to March 30, 1974 with a total of 26 episodes. It’s pretty much trying to be Kamen Rider without being Kamen Rider and has a hero born of tragedy, as several Mu monsters — yes, the same Mu that sung under the ocean and is also the home of the KLF — attack a dig that our hero’s human alter ego — Takigawa Go — is part of with his father, who is leading it. He’s stabbed in the heart and his father gives him an ancient heart that he has found in the ruins and a magic pendant that activates his powers when he says, “Tiger Spark.”

I say tragic because moments later, everyone but Takigawa Go gets killed and then a few episodes later, his girlfriend gets killed to, giving him the trademark scarf he wears when in Iron Man Tiger Seven mode.

Then again, he does get a somewhat intelligent motorcycle with rocket boosters and transformative powers that comes to his aid when he roars.

The bad guys in this are astounding with each monster of the week being called “something” Genjin, so we have Kappa Genjin, Merman Genjin, Flying Dragon Genjin, Rat Genjin and the incredible Wolf Genjin, who is a white wolf riding a motorcycle.

The same company that made this also created Kaiketsu Lion Maru, which has three kids in the samurai era who can transform into a human/lion hybrid.

You can watch the first episode on YouTube. There are also episodes with English subtitles on the Internet Archive.

Circle of Fear episode 17 “Doorway to Death”

Directed by Daryl Duke and written by Richard Matheson and Jimmy Sangster, this episode is all about a family moving into a new apartment in San Francisco. When young Robert (Leif Garrett) starts to explore, he finds an empty apartment with a door into the woods inside. He also meets a man inside those woods who asks to meet his sisters Jane (Garrett’s sister Dawn Lyn, Walking Tall) and Peggy (Susan Dey). Yet when the girls visit the room themselves, they only find a closet.

And then she learns that the ghost — the man in the woods killed his wife with an axe and then was executed — wants her for his next wife.

“Doorway to Death” may not be the best episode of the show, but the scene where Peggy wakes up to find wet footprints around her bed, as if someone was walking her room and watching her all night? That’s the kind of weird I keep watching this show for.

You can watch this on YouTube.