Puzzle (1974)

Released in Italy as L’uomo senza memoria (The Man Without a Memory), Puzzle was directed by Duccio Tessari, who like many Italy exploitation directors had a career that went from genre to genre: peplum (he wrote several, including Goliath and the Vampires and Mario Bava’s Hercules in the Haunted World),  westerns (he wrote and directed A Pistol for Ringo and The Return of Ringo), Eurospy (Kiss Kiss…Bang Bang), blacksploitation (Three Tough Guys) and the giallo with The Bloodstained Butterfly and this film.

Eight months ago, Ted Walden woke up from a car crash and has been trying to piece together his past. And when he meets anyone from it, they often pull guns on him and then get killed or they’re his ex-wife who has moved on after his death. Well, if he can’t find the million dollars he stole from the syndicate, he’s going to die again and his ex-wife will as well.

I kind of love that Ted slowly learns what a horrible person he used to be and how he can use it to remain the better person he has become. Also, for an amnesiac, he has not forgotten how to dress well.

Less of a murder-based giallo and more of a discovery of identity — with a crowd-pleasing ending that was made the very same year as a certain film from Texas — this one surprised me.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Death Will Have Your Eyes (1974)

With a title that makes it sound like EyeballDeath Will Have Your Eyes was released in Italy with a much simpler name: La moglie giovane or The Young Wife.

Marisa Mell — who always ends up being the best part of the many unknown giallo I’ve been watching — has come to Rome and slid into the world’s oldest profession. She soon marries a poetic doctor named  Armando (Farley Granger) yet is really in love with Steffano (Riccardo Salvino, Colt 38 Special Squad). Murder is the only way out, but then there’s the matter of someone who has seen too much and begins blackmailing our heroine financially and sexually to keep the secret.

Seriously, the majority of Mell’s movies have her being blackmailed for sex. Is this a genre of its own? Because this movie may seem like it has all the elements of the giallo but is closer to a drama with crime elements. I do like that the blackmailer hates Mell’s character Louisa as he sees her as one of the entitled upper class without knowing where she came from.

Helga Line (The Killer of DollsSo Sweet…So Perverse) also is in this as one of the working girls that Mell is friends with. There’s also some great Stelvio Cipriani (The Lickerish QuartetA Bay of BloodBaron BloodPieces) music in this, too.

Writer and co-director Giovanni d’Eramo only directed one other movie and I would have liked to have seen more of his work. His co-scriptwriter, Antonio Fos, has a much bigger list of credits, including writing Naked Girl Murdered in the ParkIt Happened at Nightmare InnThe Frenchman’s GardenPanic Beats and plenty of other fine works.

What Have They Done with Your Daughters? aka La polizia chiede aiuto (1974)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sean Mitus grew up watching Chiller Theater & Pittsburgh UHF channels and has been a drive-in enthusiast for the last seven years. Sean enjoys all genres but has recently become interested in Italian Giallo and Poliziotteschi genres. 

After screening many giallo and poliziotteschi films, a few have stuck for their gritty settings and pulsing plots. What Have They Done with Your Daughters? is a grubby, nasty film that blends both genres with some entertaining set pieces.  It’s an angry film that reflects the socio-political turmoil raging in Italy at the time it was released.  Best of all,  tt’s a great film to introduce someone to get them interested in seeing more giallos or poliziotteschi!

Massimo Dallamano deftly directs the film whose central theme is of the exploitation of corruption of teenage schoolgirls who are treated as disposable chattel by the powerful and wealthy elite.  Our heroes are the trio of Mario Adorf (my favorite supporting actor in poliziotteschi) as the gruff Police Commissioner, Giovanna Ralli as the strong, independent female Assistant District Attorney and Claudio Cassinelli as the relentless police Commissioner.  Cassinelli edgy performance brilliantly anchors the film.  The cast is rounded out by many familiar genre actors.

Some welcome elements to the drive-in mutants in the audience include salacious crime scenes, autopsy reports, secret tape recordings, tense chases, surprise mutilations, and two thrilling motorcycle chases.  An early killer is decked out in an all-black motorcycle outfit trope present in many giallo/slashers like Strip Nude for Your Killer, Night School and Nightmare Beach.  

What you won’t see are the gunfights ore senseless killing found in other contemporary poliziotteschi of the time.  What you will see is an intelligent Eurocrime thriller with a social message accompanied by a great score by Stelvio Cipriani.  In the end you really appreciate how the schoolgirls are used and consumed and discarded.  Even the masked (helmeted) killer proves to be just another tool of his elite masters.  Ultimately, you’ll root for the trio as they refuse to stop investigating into the higher levels of society and government!

If you like this film and would like to see more like it, I recommend checking out these giallo/poliziotteschi hybrids previously reviewed on the site:

What Have You Done to Solange aka Cosa avete fatto a Solange? (1972) by Massimo Dallamano, first in the girls in peril trilogy and a classic of the giallo genre.

Enigma Rosso aka Red Rings of Fear (1978) by Alberto Negrin, the loose third in girls in peril trilogy

Suspicious Death of a Minor aka  Morte sospetta di una minorenne (1975) by Sergio Martino, cracking good crime yarn starring Claudio Cassinelli 

Short Night of Glass Dolls aka La corta notte delle bambole di vetro  (1971) by Aldo Lado, a prime example of a man versus the elite

All the Colors of the Dark aka Tutti i colori del buio (1972) by Sergio Martino, a classic starring Edwige Fenech and George Hilton

References 

So Deadly, So Perverse, Vol. 2 – Troy Howarth; Midnight Marquee Press, Inc; 2015, pg. 27-30.

Italian Crime Filmography – Roberto Curti; McFarland & Company; 2013, pg. 124-126.

“What Have They Done to Society?” Michael Mackenzie – Arrow Video; 2018, pgs. 4-18. 

 

Golden Needles (1974)

Golden Needles begins with an elderly asian man being treated to various needles that literaly rise both him — and his member — back from the dead, at which point his grinning harem guides him out of the room just in time for a group of flamethrower-spraying masked troopers to kill every single person with fire.

That’s how you start a movie.

As for the actual film, well, various groups are fighting amongst themselves to gain possession of a very special statue that has golden needles within it. If they inserted in the right areas on a man, he will gain super sexual skills. Or die, if things are done wrong.

Director Robert Clouse made Enter the Dragon and this finds him teaming up again with Jim Kelly, along with 70s sex symbol — I mean, I guess — Joe Don Baker. God bless American-International Pictures for making this movie and getting the cast they did, which includes Elizabeth Ashley (Windows) as Baker’s love interest and one of the people who wants the statue, Burgess Meredith as the nude man painting bad guy and Ann Sothern as a brothel owner.

You have to love a movie that has the credit “Jim Kelly’s Fight Sequence Choreographed By Himself” and then realize that that fight is filled with nude men trying to take a shower and their rear ends being used for comedy.

This movie is just the way I like them: filled with Joe Don Baker love scenes, karate and a PG rating for a film that starts with fire murders in a massage parlor.

Kino Lorber has a new blu ray release of this movie that has a brand new 2K master, along with radio and TV ads, a trailer and new commentary by Howard S. Berger and Chris Poggiali.

Five Women for the Killer (1974)

Stelvio Massi is best known for his cop films like Highway RacerConvoy BustersMagnum CopSpeed CrossBlack Cobra and Speed Driver, but he also was the cinematographer of The Case of the Bloody Iris and made the berserk Angel: Black Angel, which kind of sort of fits into the world of black-gloved killers, right? It’s more than sleazy enough.

This movie lives up to that level of depravity.

Reporter Giorgio is hurrying home to see his son’s birth, only to discover that his wife and child have died in childbirth and that his child was not his, because he’s sterile. He’s learned that fact from Dr. Lydia Franz who soon becomes his lover as he gets over all this tragedy.

But is he getting over it? There’s a gloved killer whose victims are all pregnant women and he could be the killer. Even he isn’t sure.

With a title that totally references Blood and Black Lace — 6 donne per l’assassino is the original Italian title — this film introduces a victim, allows you to learn she’s pregnant and then she dies. The film does its best to take from Bava and Argento but doesn’t live up to their magic. Such is the world of repeat cinema, when every director around rushed out a giallo in the early years of the 70s.

There are plenty of pregnant stomachs slashed apart though, as well as more J&B placement than you may see in five gialli.

The Fish with the Eyes of Gold (1974)

You know you’re in a giallo when you wake up next to the bloody body of the woman you just slept with and your first thought is, “I need to solve this.”

That said, unlike so many giallo, the killer isn’t revealed until the end. What is revealed is that he or she is obsessed with fish.

Derek (Wal Davis) is an Englishman new in town, enjoying his run at the Spanish ladies when said murderer starts killing everyone he asks to help him bring an al dente noodle to the spaghetti house, if you know what I’m getting at. This means that Derek ends up being the main suspect in a small town where he’s the outsider.

Director Pedro L. Ramírez also made School of Death and writer Juan Gallardo Muñoz also was behind Sexy Cat. This isn’t the kind of black gloved mystery that is going to knock your socks off, but it’s also competently made and has some good mystery leading up to the fish-filled end.

Santo y Mantequilla en la Venganza de la Llorona (1974)

Of course Santo should fight La Llorona. And why shouldn’t Mantequilla Nápoles — born José Ángel Nápoles — who was a real-life boxer who went undefeated for forty years also be in this? Plus, who better than René Cardona Sr. to play the crime boss Severo Segovia?

All of this starts when a professor — the learned elders who populate every Santo movie — asks our hero to help him take a medallion from the corpse of Eugenia Esparza, which is really a map to a treasure in gold coins. Santo wisely says no and the professor explains the story of La Llorona, in which Eugenia learned that Gonzaga, the father of her children, was about to marry another man. She makes a deal with Satan that if she poisons her kids and kills herself that the man will be convicted and executed. And if not, she will come back from the dead to torment him, which is exactly what happens as she fills all of the first born children of his family after he is acquitted and the gold — which was stolen from the queen, so this would doom the man — is never discovered.

The next descendent to die will be the professor’s nephew Carlitos. The older man promises Santo that he will give the money to a children’s charity and together, they will break the curse of the crying woman.

Santo and the boxing champ never really fight La Llorona, as it would not be seen as noble to have them battle a woman mano y mano.

Herbie Rides Again (1974)

Those obsessed with the meta nature of Disney films will be happy to know that Herbie Rides Again connects this series of films with the Medfield films, as Keenan Wynn brings his villainous Alonzo Hawk against our beloved VW bug (Hawk also appears in The Absent-Minded Professor and Son of Flubber, which take place at Medfield College, as do all of the Dexter Reilly films (The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes; Now You See Him, Now You Don’t and The Strongest Man in the World) and The Shaggy D.A.

Hawk is both a real estate magnate and demolition baron, which is a pretty amazing career path, and he wants to build a mall but “Grandma” Steinmetz (Helen Hayes**!) is standing in his way, as she owns a historical firehouse. She’s also the aunt of Buddy Hackett’s Tennessee Steinmetz*, who doesn’t appear in this movie, so the heroes become Willoughby Whitfield (Ken Berry) and Nicole Harris (Stefanie Powers).

Willoughby is really Hawk’s nephew, but once he learns how horrible the man is — and the chance to get with Stefanie Powers*** as the result will sour anyone on any relative — he helps her save the firehouse, which also has a sentient train car living there.

There’s a lot of comedy made at the bad guy’s expense for being irrationally afraid of Herbie. Look, no one laughs at everyone Christine menaces. I’d like to think that we’re all the heroes of our own stories, so I imagine that Hawk has no idea why this possessed German automobile wants to get him so badly. You can imagine how terrifying a little car constantly honking at you can be. Then again, Hawk did build a parking garage on the field where Joe DiMaggio and his brothers learned how to play ball.

The real evil here may be the Disney publicity department. They worked with Volkswagen to promote the sequel, as every dealer was given posters and a Herbie Bug to display. Even weirder, if a customer wanted to turn their new Beetle into a Herbie, they could buy a custom graphics kit from the VW parts department. Who were these maniacs?

*Tennessee is in Tibet helping his sick philosophy teacher, while Herbie’s former owner Jim Douglas has proved what we knew all along. He didn’t care about the Love Bug at all and has gone to Europe to race other cars.

**She’s also in Disney’s Candleshoe and One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing.

**I would murder most of my extended family up until third cousins for the opportunity to sip sweet tea with 1974 Stefanie Powers.

Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974)

In a better world, there would be way more than just one movie with Captain Kronos (Horst Janson, dubbed by Julian Holloway) in it. Along with his partner Professor Hieronymus Grost (John Cater), he’s come to town to investigate a series of vampire-style murders, but while he’s there, why not romance Carla (Caroline Munro), a gypsy girl in jail for dancing on the Sabbath?

The only movie directed by Brian Clemens, who also wrote for the Avengers as well as the movies Dr. Jekyll and Sister HydeAnd Soon the Darkness and — I’m sorry — Highlander 2: The Quickening, this really has everything I want in a movie. A tough hero. A gorgeous girl. Evil incarnate. And enough fighting and swashbuckling to keep me invested for 91 minutes.

You have to love a movie that posits that different vampires need to be killed in different ways, then has a scene where the heroes try every method to kill one of the undead until it stays dead.

For everyone that says that this movie is kind of boring, it’s a movie that has a sword with a mirror on it that kills bloodsuckers and Caroline Munro is in it. I mean, are you that greedy that you want any more than that?

Also, in my perfect world, there would have totally been a Kronos and Christopher Lee face-off. I’m not one for remakes, but this is one that should happen.

Junesploitation 2021: Andy Warhol’s Dracula (1974)

June 30: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is vampires.

I’ve had the Criterion version of this movie on my shelf for a while, so when Severin re-released this film for their summer sale, I decided that it was the vampire movie that would close out my first ever Junesploitation.

Also known as Blood for Dracula, this was written and directed by Paul Morrissey, despite the fact that some prints had director Antonio Margheriti listed.

A day after the principal shooting for Flesh for Frankenstein ended, Morrissey had Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro and Arno Juerging get shorter hair cut and start filming. You can spot several directors in this film, like Vittorio De Sica (Bicycle Thieves) and Roman Polanski.

The Dracula in this film (Udo Keir) is not the romantic master of women. Instead, he’s sick for most of the film, whining about his lot in life and the fact that there just aren’t many virgin women left. His familiar, Anton (Arno Juerging), has brought him to Italy in the hopes that a more religious country will have more virgins, as they are the only food that vampires can eat outside of a vegetarian diet.

Il Marchese di Fiore (de Sica) believes that one of his four daughters would be perfect to marry Dracula, but he doesn’t realize that two of them, Saphiria (Dominique Darel) and Rubinia (Stefania Casini, Suspiria), have been deflowered by the Marxist handyman Mario (Dallesandro). Dracula soon learns that they are not pure by drinking their blood. While he is weakened, he is able to make them into his slaves.

Dracula does succeed in drinking. the virginal plasma of the plain eldest daughter Esmerelda (Milena Vukotic) but not the youngest, Perla (Silvia Dionisio, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man).

hat’s because Mario assaults her to destroy her virginity, which is somehow trying to be protective.

Throughout this film, the noble traditions of the past are undone by the common man, much less the modern man. You can ascribe artifice to that or just realize that Dallesandro was not doing an accent, no matter what, and you got what you got. Which is kind of like how this movie has Andy Warhol’s name on it, leading people to wonder what he had to do with the making of it.

He answered, “I go to the parties.”