Return of the Blind Dead (1974)

From Tombs of the Blind Dead to The Ghost Galleon and Night of the Seagulls — let’s not mention Curse of the Blind Dead — few images of Eurohorror are as striking as the Satanic and zombiefied Knights Templar riding out to their strange theme.

I kind of love that Spanish horror doesn’t seem to care all that much about continuity. How many ways did Waldemar Daninsky become a werewolf? Well, Amando de Ossorio tweaked the way the Knights came to be in nearly every movie, adjusting how they arrived and what they wanted, but the main idea is the same: they worshipped Satan, they were burned, they’ve come back to drink virgin blood.

As a village prepares for a festival celebrating the 500th anniversary of the defeat of the Templars — what a dumb idea — the village idiot Murdo sacrifices a young girl and brings them back from the dead. Any of the romantic drama between fireworks man Jack Marlowe (Tony Kendall) and his Vivian (Esperanza Roy), his ex-lover and now fiancee of the town’s mayor, will have to wait until the Knights kill everyone.

De Ossorio wrote, directed and designed the Templar make-up for this. The Spanish version, El ataque de los muertos sin ojos, has more gore, like the Templars straight up devouring a human heart. That’s how you do it!

If you’re someone that complains that this movie has day for night errors and has a slow pace that seems glacial, I’m going to hate you forever. This is doom metal on film. Tune in, drop down, drink blood, smoke up.

The Mutations (1974)

We all have dreams but Professor Nolter’s (Donald Pleasence) is to get to the next level of evolution by crossbreeding Venus flytraps with students from his class, which seems like the worst of ideas but hey, I don’t have tenure. When he’s done with them, he sells them as freaks to Mr. Lynch (a pre-Dr. Who Tom Baker) who has quite the collection in his sideshow, including real acts Willie “Popeye” Ingram, “Pretzel Boy” Hugh Baily, Félix Duarte the frog boy, Alligator Girl Esther Blackmon and Wild Wild West star Michael Dunn.

Jack Cardiff was mostly known for his work as a cinematogapher but as a directed he was nominated for Best Director for 1960s Sons and Lovers and also made Girl On a Motorcycle. Here, he combines strange time lapse sequences, stop motion, interesting practical effects and a fantastic color scheme to great effect, taking what could be a one-note rehash of Freaks and making something if not good then definitely interesting.

Brad Harris, the star of this movie, mostly worked in Italian movies, such as playing Capt. Tom Rowland in the Kommisar X series, as well as appearing as King Augeias in Luigi Cozzi’s Hercules. Former Penthouse Pet Julie Ege was in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Finally, Jill Haworth was in Tower of Evil and the TV movie freakout Home for the Holidays.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Working Girls (1974)

Stephanie Rothman studied film at USC, was the first woman to be awarded the Directors Guild of America fellowship and wanted to make “highly thoughtful, European-like small films” that were inspired by Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. After her first movie for Roger Corman, who hired her as his assistant, she got to make her first movie, It’s a Bikini World.

It wasn’t really what she wanted to make.

“I had very ambivalent feelings about continuing to be a director if that was all I was going to be able to do. So I literally went into a kind of retirement for several years until more than anything in the world, I wanted to make films,” Rothman said to Film Comment.

She return to making movies on Corman’s Gas-s-s-s and then directed The Student Nurses for Corman’s New World Picture. That’s when she kind of figured it out, telling Interview about how she came to some level of peace — or at least understanding — with making an exploitation movie: “”I had never heard that term before. Roger never used it. So that’s how I learned that I had made an exploitation film. Then I went and did some research to find out exactly what exploitation films were, their history and so forth, and then I knew that’s what I was doing, because I was making low-budget films that were transgressive in that they showed more extreme things than what would be shown in a studio film, and whose success depended on their advertising, because they had no stars in them. It was dismaying to me, but at the same time I decided to make the best exploitation films I could. If that was going to be my lot, then that’s what I was going to try and do with it.”

The Working Girls was one of three movies — along with Terminal Island and Group Marriage — that Rothman would make for Dimension Pictures. While she never got to make the movie she wanted in her career, she did infuse her films with female desire which broke from what was on most drive-in and grindhouse screens at the time.

It’s about Honey (Sarah Kennedy, who was also in The Telephone Book), Denise (Laurie Rose) and Jill (Lynne Guthrie), three young women who have to escape the traps that men put them into — and women, what with a rich woman trying to pay off Honey to kill her husband — and emerging smarter and better off through their own intelligence. The men are almost universally users and get their comeuppance, which is so different than anything else on the screen at the time.

I could tell you all that or I could also let you know that Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson is nude in this movie, which may destroy all of the good will this has built. That said, perhaps sometimes guys needed a spoonful of sugar to take all this medicine.

CANNON MONTH 2: Stone (1974)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a Cannon movie, but as I finish out the month, I’m posting the pre-Golan 21st Century movies. 

When Toad (Hugh Keays-Byrne, Immortan Joe!), a member of the GraveDiggers outlaw motorcycle club, watches an environmentalist get killed by a hitman and several of the members of the club get killed, Detective Stone (Ken Shorter, Dragonslayer) gets assigned to the case. The gang allows Stone to join them and as you can imagine, seeing as how this is a biker movie, he soon begins to leave behind the normal world with his high class girlfriend Amanda (Helen Morse, Picnic At Hanging Rock) and embrace the nomadic motorcycle lifestyle along with the leader of the GraveDiggers Undertaker (Sandy Harbutt, who directed and wrote this movie, which was a huge success and he never made another; he was also married to Morse at the time), Hooks (Roger Ward, Mad Max), Vanessa (Rebecca Gilling), Dr. Death (Vincent Gil, Nightrider from Mad Max!), Captain Midnight (Bindi Williams) and Septic (Dewey Hungerford).

Meanwhile, the GraveDiggers battle their rivals, The Blackhawks and their leader Birdman (Tony Allyn, The Stud). And that hitman has an idea: a mass murder of The GraveDiggers under the cover of intergang violence. Stone has to solve the case or all of the gang will be in coffins standing up, as that’s how they get buried because this gang rides for Satan.

If you couldn’t guess, I absolutely love this movie. It takes everything great about American biker movies and applies it to the wide-open country of Australia. Real life bikies and bikers were paid with beer for participation as actors and extras in this picture and four hundred of them are in the biker funeral scene. This movie seems as much a Western in theme as it is a biker film. Between that idea, the fuzzed guitars and the slow-motion scenes, there’s so much to love here.

Producer David Hannay said that the most “negative experience” he had as a filmmaker was not being able to get finance for Harbutt to make another film, stating: “Why have I failed? What is wrong with me? I have failed this person who is such an important part of my life, this person with enormous talent, this extraordinary human being, and I have failed him totally and absolutely. It really is the major low point in my life; if I really dwell on it, I get very angry. I should have made a difference. Because I should have been able to make it happen. He is far more talented than 999 of the 1000 other people I know.”

If you get the Severin blu ray, you also get Stone Forever, a doc made in 1999 and a soundtrack on CD. I mean, you should totally be buying that right now.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Tormented (1974)

EDITOR’S NOTES: 21st Century imported this Italian movie which you may know as Sexorcist, The Tormented, Devil ObsessionL’OssessaEnter the Devil or its post Rocky Horror title, The Eerie Midnight Horror Show. It’s one of my favorite movies — it’s also total junk in the best of ways — and I originally wrote about it on October 20, 2017.

This movie is literally the center of the Venn Diagram that would be made of the movies that I love the most.

Italian ripoff of a successful film — This movie is obviously trying to be The Exorcist.

Satanism — This film has some of the goofiest and most awesome devil tricks of any of I’ve seen.

Exploitation — No one in this film acts like a normal human being and reality has been supplanted by insanity before the demons even get involved.

Multiple titles — This film is also known as SexorcistThe Tormented, Devil ObsessionL’Ossessa and was later re-released post-Rocky Horror midnight movie success in 1977 as The Eerie Midnight Horror Show.

And the title card that comes up before the movie begins: THIS FILM IS BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Daniela is an art student in Italy who is so respected by her teachers that she gets to join them as they acquire religious sculptures from a church due to be torn down. That church was deconsecrated way back in the 1700’s because the priests and nuns decided that they would turn against God and start having orgies in the church. And one of the statues, an incredibly lifelike display of one of the thieves crucified next to Jesus, catches Daniela’s eye. She is told that it was pulled directly from a tree, that it was already inside the wood and all the sculptor had to do was bring out the details. However, many tourists have had mental breakdowns just looking at this sculpture.

Daniela’s life is weird even before the crazy gets started. Her rich parents throw a party and we learn that her mother isn’t just cheating on her husband, she’s doing it pretty much in public. Yep — Daniela catches her mother getting whipped by the thorns of a rose — a scene that Becca just randomly walked into and asked, “What are you watching?!?”

Our heroine leaves for her studio at the university. As she paints, the sculpture comes off the cross in a scene that can only come from the deranged mind of Italian exploitation filmmaking (director Mario Gariazzo wrote Sister Emanuelle and directed Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind). Of course, that revived religious icon then has sex with her, sex that appears to be a dream as she runs from the studio.

Later that night, as Daniela climbs the stairs to her family’s apartment, she keeps thinking she is alone, but the sounds of her footsteps don’t match up. She hears a demon whisper her name and she runs in fear before the demon overcomes her, forcing her into a state of sexual mania and a dream where she is crucified. She spends the rest of the movie trying to get anyone to have sex with her while stigmata appears on her hands and she does all of the tropes of exorcism rip-offs.

And then Ivan Rassimov (All the Colors of the Dark, Shock/Beyond the Door IIYour Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key ) shows up as Satan, giving Daniela her beauty back so that she can work with him to tempt all of the priests, like Father Xeno (Luigi Pistilli, Oliviero from Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key). She tries to seduce him, so to forget that she has tempted him he self-flagellates.

The priest dies and the girl is saved, after she pukes out the demon. But you knew that, right? You’ve seen this film repeated before. But that doesn’t mean that this film isn’t great. And by great, I mean the scummiest version of everything you love about films like this. No matter title you refer to it by, it is everything you want to see.

You can watch this on Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: S*P*Y*S (1974)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cannon didn’t produce this movie but did release it on video in Germany as Cannon Screen Entertainment.

Ah, the Cold War.

Well, it never really ended, but let’s look back on when it was really being fought in 1974.

An accident causes two KGB agents to be mistakenly killed during a failed attempt to help a Russian athlete named Sevitsky (Michael Petrovich) defect to the West. That means the U.S. has to have two agents killed to settle the scales of political justice with Bruland (Donald Sutherland) and Griff (Elliot Gould) picked as the patsies. They aren’t friends but must learn to work together if they want to survive.

S*P*Y*S* was directed by Irvin Kershner, who made way better movies than this like The Empire Strikes BackThe Eyes of Laura Mars, Never Say Never Again and RoboCop 2. I kind of love that he played a waiter in Steven Seagal’s only directorial effort, On Deadly Ground.

This was written by Lawrence J. Cohen and Fred Freeman, who wrote Start the Revolution Without Me together, as well as Malcolm Marmorstein, who along with writing Pete’s Dragon was also a writer on Dark Shadows.

Originally called Wet Stuff, this was changed to have those stars in the title to attempt to get back the magic of Gould and Sutherland in M*A*S*H*. Kershner wasn’t happy and said, “I started to make a film that was a little black comedy, and I empathized that it had no relationship to Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H*, in which, of course, they’d been teamed so brilliantly. The original title was Wet Stuff meaning blood, and the studio promised that there would be no attempt to compare it to M*A*S*H* in the publicity. Because it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t that kind of freewheeling film. There was no time, nor the budget to do that sort of film anyway. Now, there were many places where they hadn’t seen M*A*S*H*, like parts of South America, Scandinavia, or Germany. In those areas they lovedS*PY*S*. Actually, the film made a lot of money, and it got some great reviews in countries where it wasn’t compared to M*A*S*H*.”

I mean, they even used the same voice over artist in the trailer!

I also love that Variety cut to the chase with what this was all about: “a series of bomb explosions, lavatory homicide, police torture, kinky sex, a car chase, a search through canine feces and a disrupted church wedding ceremony.”

It is, however, the only movie that Joss Ackland and his daughter Melanie appeared in together. And hey — Zouzou is in it, a style icon, a friend of rock stars, a relentless nightclubber and the female Marlon Brando whose career was derailed by heroin.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Godfather Squad (1974)

Xiangang xiao jiao fu was released in the U.S. by Cannon as The Godfather Squad.

Cops and Interpol agents are being killed all over the world by the Carrol crime family. Wang Liu  (Bruce Leung) saves one of them in Hong Kong and gets targeted by the Carrols, who decide to make a kung fu movie in Italy and cast Wang Liu in what they hope is a snuff film.

The best part of this movie? Gordon Mitchell showing up as Carrol’s adopted son Duke, a man who still has his German army uniform. It’s wild seeing someone I knew from giallo and westerns fighting in a kung fu movie.

Shirley Corrigan (The Crimes of the Black Cat, Dr. Jekyll vs. The Werewolf) shows up, as does Maria D’Incoronato (Concorde Affaire ’79).

Big exploitation points for having the Pope appear by way of shooting him outside of a Vatican office and then using stock footage and editing to get him into the film. Also: someone gets kicked into a fireplace and I am all for that.

You can watch this on Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: Challenge of the Dragon (1974)

Oh man, sometimes life is confusing. Like how 21st Century put out Challenge the Dragon in 1973 (Kuan-Chang Li’s  Meng hu chuang guan) and Cannon released Challenge the Dragon (Hai-Feng Wei’s Long hu tan) in 1973. To compound trivia here, Menahem Golen, while known for his time at Cannon would also later be the head of 21st Century.

That company was founded by Tom Ward and Art Schweitzer who would later purchase the films of Dimension Pictures — not the Weinsteins — and release several movies for the VCR market on Planet Video and Continental Video. When they eventually filed for bankruptcy, 21st Century was purchased by Giancarlo Parretti, the new owner of The Cannon Group, which was renamed Pathé Communications. As part of Menahem’s agreement to leave, he was given 21st Century Film Corporation, along with the rights to Spider-Man and Captain America.

But that was years from now.

As China battles the invading armies of Japan, Chinese secret agent Huan (Michael Wai-Man Chan) attempts to discover who killed his uncle while fighting everyone he can find. This was directed by Hai-Feng Wei (Snake Fist Fighter) and written by Wai-Ming Cheng. They also call Huan the Dragon, so if you like Bruce Lee…

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.

ARROW BOX SET RELEASE: Giallo Essentials: Yellow Edition

Arrow Video continues its exploration of Italian cult cinema with a second volume of Giallo Essentials that has three fashion, murder and psychosexual madness-filled films.

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974): By 1974, the giallo was waning and the poliziottesco was starting to win over the Italian box office. This offering is a hybrid of both — unlike many giallo, the police are not presented as ineffectual or non-essential. Instead, they’re followed for most of the film.

Massimo Dallamano (The Night Child) made What Have You Done to Solange?, a giallo that exists outside of the Argento archetype. He’d follow it with this rougher and much darker — somehow that’s possible! — semi-sequel.

Deputy Attorney Vittoria Stori (Giovanna Ralli, The MercenarySex with a Smile) is a rarity in giallo. She’s a woman in command of the police and never presented as a victim. She’s in charge of the murder investigation of Sylvia Polvesi (Sherry Buchanan, Dr. Butcher M.D.).

Found hanging in an attic, her suicide is anything but, as Inspectors Silvestri (Claudio Casinelli, Murder RockHercules) and Valentini (Mario Adorf, Short Night of Glass Dolls) soon discover. And oh yeah — there’s soon a leather jacketed biker using a meat cleaver to gorily off his or her victims. And a peeping tom, too! And teenage prostitution! And Farley Granger, showing up to class up the proceedings!

Obviously, the look of the killer in this movie would influence a movie that has no interest in classing up the giallo — Strip Nude for Your Killer — and an American movie that gets so close to a giallo but is missing the murderous set pieces — Night School.

It’s a shame that Dallamano died in a car accident at the somewhat young age of 59. As the cinematographer for Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, he certainly had an eye for action and movement, as evidenced by the hallway chase scene in this film that seems as steady as, well, a Steadi-Cam shot (it isn’t!).

The Giallo Files site compared this movie to an episode of Law and Order. That’s an apt comparison. It’s a good movie to introduce someone to the genre with, as while it has some twists and turns, it doesn’t descend into plot hole jumping or an abundance of red herrings as some films of this genre.

Torso (1973): Torso is such a simple title. I’d rather call this film by its Italian name: I Corpi Presentano Tracce di Violenza Carnale, or The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence. Either way, it was directed by Sergio Martino and features none of the cast that he had come to use in his past films like George Hilton, Ivan Rassimov or Edwige Fenech.

It does, however, star Brtish actress Suzy Kendall, who played the lead role of Julia in Dario Argento’s seminal The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. She’s so associated with giallo that she appeared as the main character’s mother in 2012’s ode to the genre, Berberian Sound Studio.

This is a film that wastes no time being strange. Or salacious. A photographer is shooting a soft focus lovemaking session between three women amongst creepy, eyeless baby dolls. By the time we register what is happening, we’re now in a classroom, where swooping pans and zooms refer us to the main cast of the film as we overhear a lecture and later a discussion about Pietro Perugino’s painting of Saint Sebastian. Did he believe in God? Or was he just trying to sell sentimentality? Could an atheist find himself able to translate religion to those with faith?

We cut to a couple making out in a car as a figure stalks them through the eye of the camera, making us complicit in the act of the killer. Quick cuts reveal the white-masked face of this maniac. The man runs after him while the girl doesn’t even care that they had a voyeur watching. As she waits for him to return to the car, but grows impatient. The headlights of the car cast her shadow large across the columns of a bridge. And their light is quickly extinguished by black-gloved hands. The camerawork here is really striking, keeping us watching for the killer, as we’re no longer behind his eyes. His attack is swift and ruthless, juxtaposed against the images of fingers penetrating the eyes of a doll.

The art professor (John Richardson, Black Sunday, The Church) and Jane (Kendall) meet by chance at a church where she challenges him to change his views on Perugino. As she returns from their somewhat romantic afternoon, Jane spies her friend Carol arguing in the car with a man who she believes is married.

Meanwhile, ladies of the evening walk the street, ending up with Stefano, a student who has been stalking Julie. He has trouble performing and the prostitute he’s with tells him that all the men with hang-ups always come her way. That said — even if he’s queer, he better pay the money. He flips out and attacks her, but she makes her escape.

We’re then taken to a hippy party that looks like it’s taking place inside Edward Lionheart’s Theater of Blood. There’s weed, there are acoustic guitars, there are bongos, there are dudes with neckerchiefs, there are motorcycles. Truly, there’s something for everyone. But after leading on two men, Carol just walks out into the mud. They try and chase her, but she makes her escape into the foggy night. We hear her footsteps through the swamp as she walks, exhausted and covered in mud. What better time for our white-masked killer to return? We see glimpses of him through the fog and then he is gone. Whereas in past films Martino ignored the murder scenes instead of story, here the violence is extended, placing the killer and his actions in full view. After killing the girl, he rubs mud all over her body before stabbing her eyes — again intercut with the baby doll imagery. Her blood leaks into the mud as the score dies down.

This scene really feels like what the first two Friday the 13th movies were trying to achieve, but of course several years before they were made.

A police detective is in front of the art class, showing images not of art, but of the crime scene. A piece of cloth has been found under the fingernails of one of the murdered students, Flo. And that same scarf was found on Carol’s body. It’s their duty to report seeing anyone who wore this scarf to the police, who want to cooperate with the students who normally riot and throw rocks at them.

Two of the men in the class — Peter and George — were the last two people to be seen with Carol, the ones who she turned down at the party. Meanwhile, Stefano continues to stalk Jane. The music in this film is so forward-leaning — tones play when the killer shows or during moments of tension.

A man calls Daniela and tells her that if she ever tells where she saw the red and black scarf, she’s dead. Fearing for her life, she tells her uncle, who lends his country home to her and her friends so that they can get away from the city while the killer is at large.

Oh yeah — I forgot the pervy scarf salesman, who the police are leaning on. Right after talking to the police inspector, he calls someone and asks for money to buy his silence. Whoever it is, they bought the scarf from him and wouldn’t want anyone else to know. They’ll also get out of town and head to the country. Coincidence? I think not!

Stefano is all over Dani, telling her that he needs her. She wants nothing to do with him. When she stares at him, she remembers seeing him wear the red scarf. She escapes — slamming the door in his face. She tells Jane that she remembers seeing him wear the scarf — and never again — the day Flo died. The whole time, the creepy uncle is watching the two girls. Jane offers to speak to Stefano, then meet the girls at the vacation home.

The street vendor is flush with cash, creeping along in the dark. A car starts to follow him. We see the black-gloved hands again as the car hits its victim again and again, bright red gore pouring all over the screen.

Jane goes to speak to Stefano, finding only strange baby dolls and letters to Dani asking her to love him and remember the promise that she made as a little girl. Jane is surprised by Stefano’s grandmother, who tells her that he left town.

The other girls are asleep on the train as someone watches them. A strange man enters their train car and sits down.

The camerawork in this movie feels as predatory as the perverts and killers that exist within it. Speaking of pervs, when the girls arrive in the countryside, the local men pretty much lose their minds, particularly over Ursula (Carla Brait, the man wrestling dancer from The Case of the Bloody Iris). She and Katia make out as a peeping tom watches, only for the killer to show up and off the leering man. There’s an amazing scene of the killer dumping the pervert into a well, shot underwater and staring upward as the body falls toward the lens.

Man, every man in this movie is scum. They’re either frightened boys or perverts wanting one chance to knock up a woman or scarred from past sexual encounters. None of them are positive, as even the uncle who gives Dani the villa seems way too interested in her. Every man is a predator at worst and a leering pervert at best.

Jane hurts her ankle when she gets overly excited about breakfast. A doctor arrives — the mysterious man from the train — and he gives her a pill, which knocks her out.

The girls go sunbathing while Jane recovers. Dani thinks she sees Stefano — complete with the red scarf — watching them. They return home and drink champagne, which Jane uses to wash down her sleeping pills.

A few minutes later, the door rings. It’s Stefano — the girls all scream — but he’s dead — the girls scream again — and the killer is behind him, holding the red scarf — now scream even louder! Instead of showing us the murders, Martino switches form, cutting to a ringing bell and Stefano being buried.

Jane wakes up, asking where her breakfast is. She’s obviously slept late as a result of the pills. She walks around the apartment, looking for Dani, Ursula and Katia, only to find a mess. Tossed chairs, bottles of beer and every single one of her friends murdered. Suzy Kendall is amazing in this scene, caught between fear and nausea. Unlike so many wooden giallo performances, she’s actually believable.

She hides as the killer comes back, forced to stay quiet and watch as he saws her friends into pieces. Even the ordinary world routine of the milkman arriving cannot stop the butchering of her friends, with her trapped just feet away.

This final act is completely unexpected, as up until now, the film had played by the rules of the giallo, the large number of victims versus a large number of red herrings.

In fact, this film is so packed with red herrings, even the cast had no idea who the killer was. Martino wouldn’t tell them who it was, so each of the actresses had her own theory as to who the killer was. And in the original script, the killer survived.

Now, instead of that traditional giallo structure as I mentioned above, it is the last survivor — a near prototype for the final girl — against a killer. Throw in that Julie can’t move well due to her leg and Martino has set up quite the suspenseful coda.

Trapped in the house, Julie tries to signal with a mirror, using Morse code. But it totally misses the heroic doctor’s sight. He places a call, but it doesn’t seem like it’s to Julie. She looks out the window and sees the killer coming back.

It turns out that the killer was the professor, who saw a childhood friend die trying to reach for a doll. He compares the other kills to dolls, with only Julie as a flesh and blood person. Everyone else was a bitch or played games with him or blackmailed him. He hacked Ursula and Katia to pieces like dolls as a result. Dani saw him. Carol may have seen him. And he killed Stefano when he saw him in the village. Death, he says, is the best keeper of secrets and then he sees Julie as a doll and tries to hang her. She’s saved at the last second by the doctor.

They battle into a farmhouse, across the yard and to a similar rock where we saw the younger professor watch his friend die. We hear a screen and have no idea who has been killed — but luckily for Jane, the doctor survives.  He discusses that whether fate or providence had kept him in town, where he could save her. Perhaps it was written in the stars. Julie replies that Franz, the professor, would have been a realist and called it a necessity. Franz is dead and the dreamers live on.

The more times that I’ve watched this film, the more that I appreciate it and how it flips the genre conventions on their head and moves toward more of a slasher, with many of the giallo elements feeling tacked on somewhat to stay within the expected pieces of the form. A real clue that it’s really a slasher? The killings are more important than who the killer is.

Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975): When a movie starts with a fashion model dying during a back alley abortion and it being covered up as a drowning, all before the opening credits, you know that you’re in for something demented. When you realize that the film was written and directed by Andrea Bianchi, who brought us Burial Ground, then you’re either going to run screaming or sit down and pay attention.

The doctor who performed the operation is killed by a motorcycle suit wearing maniac, but nobody at the Albatross Modeling Agency cares. All Carlo, the head photographer, cares about is using his modeling connections to pick up women. That’s how he meets Lucia (Femi Benussi, Hatchet for the Honeymoon), who he takes from the steam room to the modeling agency.

Magda (Edwige Fenech looking better than I’ve ever seen her look in any movie ever) is jealous, so she surprises Carlo with some black lace and they begin an affair. We then see a photo of the main agency members, like Mario, Magda, Carlo, Stefano, Dorris, Maurizio and his wife, and the owner of the studio Gisella. There’s one other person in the photo — Evelyn, who we saw die in the beginning.

Mario heads home and the killer shows up. When their helmet is removed, Mario knows the killer. But it’s too late. He’s dead now. The killer takes the photo so that he or she has a checklist of who to kill.

So then there’s Mauirizio, who is cheating on his wife with a prostitute. He takes her on a crazy ride through the streets and then takes her back to his place, when he begs and threatens her life before she suddenly wants to have sex with him — because you know, that’s how things worked in the 1970s — before he lasts all of a minute and starts embracing his blow up doll. Honestly, what the fuck? Of course, he’s killed right afterward. Good riddance.

Carlo later witnesses Gisella being murdered and even photographs the attack, but he’s hurt in a hit and run accident. While he’s recovering, Magda develops the film but the killer ruins the negatives.

After killing Doris and Stefano, the murder tries to kill Carlo and Magda, but the killer is knocked down the stairs. So who is it? New model Patrizia — Evelyn’s sister — who blames him for her sister’s death. However, she dies before she can tell the police of his involvement.

The movie ends with Carlo playing around by mock choking Magda before initiating anal sex with her, as she tells him not to, in a scene meant as comedy but lost in translation and the fact that forty plus-year-old giallo could never anticipate the #metoo movement.

Seriously, the title of this film pretty much says it all. It’s the most nudity I’ve ever seen in a movie. And it’s pretty much one of the most lurid I’ve seen, too. I have no idea if Bianchi intended this as a comedy, but it certainly feels like one.

It’s almost amazing that a movie with this much nudity and mayhem moves at such a glacial pace. It felt like the first hour of the film was the entire running time! Even worse, this movie is pretty much wall to wall misogyny. I know, I know, that’s the majority of giallo, but here it feels so overwhelming and so alien when seen with today’s eyes. I mean, should I be shocked that a movie called Strip Nude for Your Killer is so sexist?

Arrow Video’s Giallo Essentials: Yellow Edition has 2K restorations from the original negatives for all three films, as well as rigid box packaging with new artwork by Haunt Love in windowed Giallo Essentials slipcover.

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? has commentary by giallo expert Troy Howarth, a video essay by Kat Ellinger, interviews with Stelvio Cipriani and Antonio Siciliano, unused footage, alternate English opening titles, the Italian theatrical trailer and an image gallery.

Torso has two versions of the film, the original 94-minute Italian cut and the 90-minute English cut. It also has commentary critic by Kat Ellinger, interviews with Sergio Martino, Luc Merenda, Mikel J. Koven, Ernesto Gastaldi and Federica Martino, daughter of Sergio Martino. There’s also an option to view the film with the alternate US opening title sequence, as well as the Italian and English theatrical trailers.

Strip Nude for Your Killer has commentary by Adrian J. Smith and David Flint, a video essay by Kat Ellinger on Edwige Fenech, interviews with Nino Castelnuevo, Erna Schurer, Daniele Sangiorgi and Tino Polenghi, two versions of the opening scene, the original Italian and English theatrical trailers and an image gallery.

You can order this set from MVD.