Stelvio Massi is best known for his cop films like Highway Racer, Convoy Busters, Magnum Cop, Speed Cross, Black Cobra and Speed Driver, but he also was the cinematographer of The Case of the Bloody Irisand made the berserkAngel: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Hyde, And 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.
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.
June 28: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is free.
Il cittadino si ribella (The Citizen Rebels) finds Franco Nero getting beaten down by muggers, so he goes looking for his own justice, only to get beat down even worse until he finally learns how to get revenge. This was the first vigilante film in the poliziotteschi genre, as this made it to Italian theaters before Death Wish.
Once Franco makes friends with a thug named Tommy (Giancarlo Prete), he finally gets to take out the people who done him dirty in spectacular fashion. I mean, there are absolutely no permits in this movie and tons of stuntmen — including Franco doing all of his own stunts — defying death just to entertain you.
Plus, you get music by Guido and Maurizio DeAngelis (AKA Oliver Onions), which makes any movie better. And yeah! A pre-Ringo Barbara Bach!
Strangely enough, while this movie inspired Vigilante, it was released in the UK as Vigilante 2.
There’s nothing quite like Mill Creek’s multiple box set reissues of the epic Death Machines to inspire this first review in our two-day celebration of the eleven films of Ron Marchini.
Yeah, we love yah, Leo Fong and Ron Marchini. And it’s great to revisit with you after all these VHS-years in your dual-feature film debuts. But wow. There’s a reason why we don’t speak of Filipino writer-director Manuel Songco with the same fervor as his Pacific Rim brethren of Cirio H. Santiago (Vampire Hookers), Jun Gallardo (Desert Warrior), or Godfrey Ho (Robo Vampire). While Songco directed four more Philippines-only quickies in 1975 before retiring, there’s a reason why this was the final film in his 23-film producing career that began in 1956: The sound on Murder in the Orient is awful. The dubbing-for-U.S. audiences (remember, this is post-Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon and Tom Laughlin Billy Jack) is dreadful. The jump-cuts and editing faux pas would give Alfonzo Brescia (Star Odyssey) pause. And the accents: so think that you couldn’t cut through them with machete and a samurai sword.
Did I mention I love this movie? It’s movies like this serving as the cornerstones to the video store-Eighties that made that post-high school-dreading-college life worth living.
Okay. Let’s get this out of the way: Fong and Marchini are enemies. They kick each other’s asses in a fight scene: they decide to joint forces for the common good.
Their fight — and ensuing bromance — is the result of present-day, rival karate gangs coveting two samurai swords engraved with a treasure map to a Philippines-buried cache of Japanese World War II gold. One of the swords is already in the possession of the Golden Cobra, and the head boss, King Cobra, wants that other sword. So Gustavo, his second-in-command, calls in the infamous assassin Kang the Butcher — and during the acquisition, the sister of peaceful Hong Kong martial arts instructor Lao Tsu (Leo Fong, of the Frank Harris two-fer Killpoint and Low Blow) is killed. Once in Manila, Lao meets Paul Martelli, his dead sister’s American boyfriend, who’s also looking for answers and revenge. Now they must fight an endless supply of Golden Cobra warriors and stop the sacred treasure swords from falling into the wrong hands.
Leo Fong is still going strong at the incredible age of 91. He starred in three films in 2018: Hidden Peaks, Dragon to Dragon, and the most recent film: Challenge of 5 Gauntlets. And he has four more films in various stations of filming and pre/post production: Pact of Vengeance (with Jon-Mikl Thor!), Asian Cowboys, Runaway Killer, Hard Way Heroes, and Junkers. You catch up with Leo at his website, LeoTFong.com. And good news: you can watch Challenge of 5 Gauntlets as a free-with-ads-stream on TubiTV.
Born in California and rising through the U.S. Army’s ranks to become a drill sergeant, in his civilian life, Ron Marchini earned the distinction as the best defensive fighter in the U.S., and, by 1972, was ranked the third best fighter in the country. Upon winning several worldwide tournaments, and with Robert Clouse’s directing success igniting a worldwide martial arts film craze with Enter the Dragon (1973), the South Asian film industry beckoned. After making his debut in Murder in the Orient, Marchini began a long friendship with filmmaker Paul Kyriazi, who directed Ron in his next film, the epic Death Machines, then later, in the first of Ron’s two appearances as post-apoc law officer John Travis, Omega Cop (so good, we reviewed it twice).
You can learn more about Ron Marchini with his biography at USAdojo.com. An interview at The Action Elite with Ron’s friend and Death Machines director Paul Kyriazi also offers deeper insights.
Sadly, there are no online trailers or streams of Murder in the Orient to share.
You know how Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups old commercials used to go? Well, the makers of this movie got a real smart idea. They took the two big trends of the early 70s — blacksploitation and martial arts — and made one movie with both of them.
Stud Brown (Timothy Brown, a former NFL player who was also on M*A*S*H*) and Larry Chin (Alan Tang) unite to battle drug dealers and find Chin’s brother Wei (James Hong). They’re up against a corrupt cop named Detective Burke (Aldo Ray!) and the disappearance of our hero’s brother may not be as tragic as it seems.
What makes this movie worth watching is the dream team of director Al Adamson and producer Cirio H. Santiago. Lovers of truly bottom basement movies see these two names and feel a certain twinge, the kind you get when you remember young love or holidays gone by.
This Spanish film has no ravens — its title translates as The Swamp of the Ravens — but instead black vultures. It’s about Dr. Frosta, who believes that life can continue after death and will do anything to take that hypothesis and transform it into a theory. There’s also a guy singing to mannequins and the doctor trying to use blood to keep his girlfriend alive but he continues to take her to 6th base, as they say.
Thanks to Mandrakegrey on Letterboxd, I can share those lyrics:
“Never, never will you fly from me
Lifeless heart that doesn’t beat after all
I have such feelings for a dead robot
Wherever you may find yourself
I wish you were dead
My own robot, my own, my lady”
It seems like every time the scientist kills people and brings them back from the dead and gets rid of the results, they come back from the dead again. There’s some strange imagery here and the story never really adds up, but you know, I was kind of really entertained by all of this. So I guess it’s a zombie film, but it could also be an attempt at art.