Bugie rosse (1993)

A ruthless serial killer is murdering male prostitutes and Marco (Tomas Arana, Body Puzzle) is the journalist trying to figure out the case, investigating — some may say Cruising as this movie is the giallo remake remix ripoff of that film — the gay bars and dealing with his worries about all the male attention he’s getting. Luckily he’s married to a stewardess named Adria (Gioia Scola, who is in another late 80s/early 90s giallo that needs more people talking about it, Obsession: A Taste for Fear) just in case you think he’s going to get converted, which would make this a much more interesting movie — even if one of the suspects, Andrea (Lorenzo Flaherty) makes him feel rather funny.

You have to admit that a 1993 movie that uses an internet chat room for men to find men is years ahead of the curve, much less a film in which there’s no judgment for the male characters finding the sex they dare not speak in the straight world. That’s a big leap for the giallo genre, which in the past has only had gay characters appear as red herrings or used as comedy.

Plus, I’m always happy to see Natasha Hovey (Cheryl from Demons) in a movie, as well as Alida Valli (SuspiriaEyes Without a FaceThe Killer NunFatal Frames). Directed and written by Pierfrancesco Campanella, who also made the 2003 giallo Bad Inclination and the shorts La goccia maledettaL’idea malvagia and L’amante perfetta.

The end of this movie — spoiler mode — is incredible because Gioia Scola dresses up like a boy and allows her husband to pick her up.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 17: The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)

I kind of love that this movie answers all of my meta needs, from reuniting Dolly Parton with Dabney Coleman and Lily Tomlin to having Buddy Ebsen show up as Barnaby Jones. And I realize that every critic wanted more out of director Penelope Spheeris. But look, I’m a simple man and I like seeing Jim Varney play Uncle Jed and do you have any clue how many hours and hours I’ve watched of the original show?

So yeah, Erika Eleniak is no Donan Douglas, Diedrich Bader can never touch Max Baer Jr. and while I love Cloris Leachman, she’s not anywhere close to Irene Ryan. But isn’t it cool to get one more episode, in fact, multiple episodes? And yeah, Rob Schenider and Lea Thompson are just alright bad guys, but this is a movie silly enough to have Zsa Zsa Gabor show up as herself and not smart enough for Jed to say, “That’s that Oliver Douglas feller’s sister’s wife.”

Seriously, grade school Sam watched Leave It to BeaverPlease Don’t Eat the DaisiesThe Ghost and Mrs. Muir and The Beverly Hillbillies every single day for hours. If anybody wants to reboot any of those shows, please reach out to me. I’m ready to share my wasted life with the world.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 12: Midnight 2: Sex, Death and Videotape (1993)

I’m so on record for my love of John Russo’s Midnight that my words appear on the back cover of Severin’s new blu ray release of the film. So imagine my surprise that there’s a sequel to it and even better, it’s a lo-fi video exploration of the only survivor of the cult from the first film, Abraham Barnes (not John Amplas, but instead Matthew Jason Walsh, who has gone on to write 45 of his own movies at the time of this review).

The SRS DVD of this film (available on their site) has two versions, the released version and the unrated “first cut” of the film, and they complement each other well.

Taking place ten years after the events of the first film — don’t worry, a good portion of the running time of this film has clips of that movie, which juxtaposes the film and video media, which is strange but for some reason, I was totally fine with. I think if these movies were made anywhere other than Pittsburgh — and Akron, but we’ll get to that in a minute — I wouldn’t treat them with the love that I do.

What works for me is that Abraham stalks his prey in places I’ve been, mainly Point State Park (did he cross paths with Santa Claws in Market Square?) and PPG Plaza. He wanders the city with his video camera — at a time when such a thing was a huge burden and not the cinema-ready iPhone you carry now — and interviews subjects, looking for both victims and a mate so he can settle down and stop killing.

The first of those victims — in the released cut — is Jane (Lori Scarlett, a Cleveland-born actress who was Jane in Killer Nerd and Return of the Killer Nerd). She has the kind of haircut that bedeviled me in 1993, that asymmetrical blonde wave with shaved sides, which is what passes for punk rock in the Three Rivers (and Burning River, too). Abraham mentions that he can feel it deep inside his, well, member if a woman is true or not. She isn’t, she’s choked into oblivion and he moves on to stalking her roommate Rebecca (Jo Norcia, Zombie Cop).

Rebecca is caught between two men — or at least the movie asks us to believe this — Abraham and L.T. David Morgan (Chuck Pierce Jr., who is, you guessed it, the son of Charles B. Pierce), the cop who is trying to solve the disappearance of Jane.

This is one talky movie, but I kind of liked that about it. It realizes that it’s a low, low, low budget remake of an already low budget movie and therefore leans into it. Everyone was beyond excited in town when Silence of the Lambs was made here, so I don’t even mind that it’s referenced as the end all, be all of serial killer cinema. The only real issue I have is that the action moves from dahntahn to Akron without informing the viewer, but just about everyone who wants to see this lives in the area, so they’re going to cry foul. Then again, it originally came out from J.R. Bookwalter’s Tempe Video and that’s where the Ohio comes in.

The chair from the original comes back. This is more than just ninety minutes of trash, it’s ninety minutes of good trash because it’s nihilistic and mean spirited and has a scene where the female lead gets a biggie soft drink from Wendy’s, which I assume came from the one down on Liberty and she walked herself to get it and I’m a fan of slasher/giallo movies with Wendy’s food in them, which is all of this movie and Nothing Underneath, a movie in which Donald Pleasence takes full advantage of Dave Thomas’ salad bar offerings.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 6: City Hunter (1993)

Ryo Saeba (Jackie Chan) is a detective who fights crime in Tokyo along with his partner Hideyuki Makimura (Michael Wong) under the business name of City Hunter. When Hideyuki is murdered, Ryo agrees to watch out for his sister Kaori (Joey Wong), who is secretly in love with the man who has helped to raise her.

Ryo and Kaori are hired to locate the daughter of a CEO, Shizuko Imamura (Kumiko Goto), which creates a chase through a skatepark and finds everyone on a cruise ship that is being taken over by Col. Donald “Don Mac” MacDonald (Richard Norton) and his operatives.

What follows is utter lunacy, with Ryo fighting in front of a screen showing Game of Death and basically becoming Bruce Lee, a card-throwing gambler called Kao Ta (Leon Lai), Chan being thrown into a Street Fighter game and a fight turning into multiple characters from the game being turned into real fighters and, of course, Kaori getting sick of Ryo picking up women and knocking him into orbit with a giant cartoon hammer.

While one of Chan’s least favorite movies, I found it wacky and the action moves quickly. This is a film that totally entertained me, particularly the arcade fight.

There have also been three animated films, .357 Magnum, Bay City Wars and Million Dollar Conspiracy, as well as Saviour of the Soul, which takes the main story of City Hunter and changes the names. There’s also a French film based on City Hunter, Nicky Larson et le Parfum de Cupidon (Nicky Larson and Cupid’s Perfume).

Sonatine (1993)

This Japanese yakuza gangster-noir written, directed and edited by Takeshi Kitano was his response to Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Courtesy of Quentin Tarantino’s fandom, the film found its way to U.S. theater — art house — screens in 1998 via his Rollling Thunder-imprint, which subsequently released it to home video in 2000.

Of Kitano’s 18-film writing-directing career, it remains his best-known international film, although his action-revenge thrillers Violent Crime (1989), which served as his feature film debut, and the follow up, Boiling Point (1990), were sought out by Tarantino fans and came to find an audience on post-’90s home video imprints.

Kitano got his start as an actor in the late ’60s, making his debut in Go, Go, Second Time Virgin (1969), but he’s best known to U.S. audiences in that discipline, courtesy of Senjō no Merī Kurisumasu, aka Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), co-starring David Bowie — Kitano starred as “Sgt. Gengo Hara.” You may also know Kitano for his work as a ruthless yakuza in William Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic (1995), as well as the imported Battle Royale (2000) and Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003).

As for Sonatine — a play on the musical term sonatina — was a critically appreciated but a commercial failure in its homeland. Its commercial acceptance in the west was courtesy of Tarantino touting the film; it didn’t hurt that America’s leading critic at the time, Roger Ebert, gave it a “thumbs up” and three and a half out of four stars. The film’s failure in Kitano’s homeland is attributed to the fact he was, at the time, primarily known as a television comedic actor.

Kitano stars as Murakawa, a burnt-out yakuza enforcer who discovers his newfound, lackadaisical attitude towards his profession has led to his bosses wanting to get rid of him. As with Scorsese’s gangster opus, Sonatine is a film of not of dumb-down, trite action-driven dialog of no substance, but an introspective intelligence — that revels in its silent moments — that pulls back the reigns on the ultra-violence to use the violence as — to carry through with the musical imagery of the title — punctuating crescendos across its celluloid measures.

This is a film that is disserviced by the usual rat-a-tat-tat reviews scoring every “beat” of the film for you to decide to watch it. It’s a film where you simply need to stream it, sit back, and enjoy Takeshi Kitano’s sonata.

You can watch the trailer and this seven-minute vignette of Quentin Tarantino speaking of the film and the works of Takeshi Kitano on You Tube.

You can stream Sonatine on Amazon Prime and Vudu.

You can learn more about Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder-imprint with our “The 8 Films of Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures” featurette.

— R.D Francis writes for B&S About Movies.

Sonatine (1993)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxld

In Sonatine (1993), Takeshi Kitano plays Murakawa, a tired Yakuza who is sent to Okinawa with his cohorts to calm a gang feud, which turns out to be a ruse for his boss to take over his territory in Tokyo. The movement of the group of men from the city to a rural location moves the violent gangsters into a state of regressive childhood, allowing for Kitano to explore the theme of identity via travel and humour. Their journey begins with a group shot of the men sitting on a bus waiting to leave the airport in Naha. Not only do they resemble school boys on a field trip with blank, bored expressions on their faces, seated geometrically, but their Yakuza connection who greets them goes so far as to offer them drinks and ice cream, looking very much like a school trip chaperone in his T-shirt and baseball cap. 

Symbolically, this is the beginning of the journey into the final stage of life for the men, which at once is signified by their being represented as children. It’s a theme Kitano would explore again in 1999’s far warmer Kikujiro. 

Once they arrive at the beach house, which serves as the primary location for the rest of the film, the men engage in child’s play acting out Sumo tournaments and having pretend gunfights with fireworks. In this location, at least temporarily, the men are free from the violence of their urban lives as gangsters and in what is effectively a holding pattern, waiting for something to happen between their superiors (the symbolic parents), free to play at their leisure. Unlike Kikujiro, which has a happy ending, Sonatine ends with violent acts of revenge and death. Kitano is a hell of a director, having more than earned the international awards won for this film. 

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Mirror Images 2 (1993)

You know what works every time? The idea that one twin is uninhibited and has a life like you’d read about in Penthouse Forum and another who has a loveless marriage in the lost world of the suburbs. It’s worked so many times and so well that Gregory Dark did it twice, with the first being Mirror Images, which is quite logical.

But if you’ve watched any of his films — his mainstream ones — Shannon Whirry seems like his muse. And so any film with her in it just fires on all cylinders so much better. This time around, she’s both Carrie and Terrie, who were separated when their dad murdered their mother and was in turn killed by the bad twin. But the good twin, well, she’s in an abusive relationship now, much less a sexless one, and all she has is a therapist, Dr. Erika Rubin, who wants her to lie down on something more than just the couch.

Yet when the evil twin comes back, well, what if she wants revenge? And what if she’s willing to hook up with the abusive husband? What if indeed? Beneath the surface gloss and fox and neon and imagery that looks like it stepped out of a 1980s issue of Oui, there’s a dramatic battle for the mind and soul, the line that is drawn between the virgin and the experienced, good and evil and what that really means. Dark’s always throwing psychological games into his films, even when he was shooting movies where Vanessa Del Rio was a brainwashed agent of the KGB and this was supposed to be her Deep Inside greatest hits and ended up being something way, way different. And better.

When I was a kid watching these movies on Cinemax, this is how I thought people actually made love. In my life, I have never heard a saxophone while getting biblical, nor have I ever just touched someone’s upper body for ten minutes at a time while fog billowed out from under the bed.

Honestly, life can’t match up to a Gregory Dark love scene.

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Body of Influence (1993)

Jonathan Brooks (Nick Cassavetes) is a successful psychiatrist whose life gets all screwed up because, well look — women will screw you up. I’m not being sexist. Far from it, in praise of women, no man will ever make me do the things that a woman can.

That mystery woman is Laura (Shannon Wirry) and yes, she has two personalities.

Cue the saxophones.

Cue the soft-focus sex.

Richard Roundtree shows up as Detective Harry Reems, which should remind you that hey, Gregory Dark directed this, like how Tiffany MIllion is in the cast.

I’m also always so happy to see Sandahl Bergman in any movie.

So — after a week of these movies, I can tell you that this isn’t Dark’s best, but it definitely has style. His movies look like Patrick Nagel come alive, with neon hues, marble columns and smoke.

Dark’s Animal Instincts had been a success and seeing as how Dark and Wirry both made this, it was released in England as Animal Instincts 2, which had to be confusing when Animal Instincts 2 came out. So in the UK, you may know this as Animal Instincts 3. I mean, you may be confused, but you may also be watching this with one hand.


GREGORY DARK WEEK: Sins of the Night (1993)

Jack Nietsche (Nick Cassavetes) is an ex-con insurance investigator for Anaconda Casualty Company. He meets his boss Ted Quincy’s ex-lover Roxie (Deborah Shelton, who before she became a star on Dallas made Dangerous Cargo, a movie even rougher than this), who wants his help to kill his boss and her abusive husband Tony Falcone (Miles O’Keefe, Ator himself!).

Richard Roundtree shows up, but perhaps the real stars are the saxophone-rich music on the soundtrack, the foggy nights, the neon-lit streets burning into your eyes across VHS dubs from decades ago.

Gregory Dark started by telling us porn was dead, then created his own genre, the erotic direct to video and cable thriller, which owes a lot to giallo, but still…even the movies that he makes that aren’t perfect have some strange angle to them in some way that’s worth exploring. He claimed on an episode of The Rialto Report that he had an early memory of his mother and her friends in Las Vegas wearing heels at a hotel pool, wondering why they would do that without realizing that she was looking for a new husband. That informs so much of his work, when you think about it.

Born Too Soon (1993)

You know, I try and watch TV movies to ease the strain of the outside world, so what explains why I spent all this time watching a movie about Emily Butterfield, a little girl who only lived 53 days and the toll it took on the relationship of Fox Butterfield and Elizabeth Mehren?

Is it the crush that I have on Pamela Reed, who plays the mother? Or perhaps the fact that I will watch anything that Michael Moriarty does? Or did seeing Terry O’Quinn’s name in the credits make me stay?

Noel Nosseck also directed the much more prurient films Best FriendsLas Vegas LadyYoungblood and Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal. He moved on to some level of prestige TV fare like No One Would Tell.

But man, this movie is just a non-stop punch to the heart and soul. I’d advise you not to watch it, unless you’re some kind of monster who likes watching people experience the worst pain of their lives.