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The Italians Try Grimm Fairy Tales

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #5)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the Original Italian Language version)

Amazon.com: Queens of Evil [Blu-ray] : Haydee Politoff, Silvia Monti,  Evelyn Stewart, Ray Lovelock, Gianni Santuccio, Geraldine Hooper, Tonino  Cervi: Movies & TV

Original Poster (from Amazon)

Le Regine (Queens of Evil/The Queens) (1970) ****1/2 R

Ida Gialli: Bibiana (as Ewelyn Stuart)

Silvia Monti: Samantha

Haydee Politoff: Liv

Ray Lovelock: David the Hippie (as Raymond Lovelock)

Gianni Santuccio: The Mysterious Man/The Devil

Guido Alberti: The Priest

Written by: Benedetto Benedetti, Tonino Cervi, and Raoul Katz

Directed by: Tonino Cervi

Synopsis: A wandering Hippie stops to help a stranded older gentlemen on the road, only for the man to betray the Hippie’s act of generosity. When the man dies during the Hippie’s attempt to confront him on the act, the Hippie flees, thinking the cops saw him. He ends up in an isolated farmhouse owned by three sisters who welcome him warmly. Soon, the Hippie begins to experience a drastic change in his personality, and the sisters seem to exhort more control over him.

Queens of Evil (1970) | MUBI
The Foursome at a Party (from Mubi)

Lesser known Italian filmmaker Tonino Cervi brought the Fairy Tale back to its dark origins with the film Le Regine. Instead of doing a spin on one of the known tales, Cervi, along with his co-writers, crafted a totally original story that not only compliments on the stories that came before it, but adds new life to the age old concepts of magics. The three protagonists are sisters who share some kind of power, left open if it be natural power gifted from nature, or powers from otherworldly sources. When a Hippie fleeing from the police for a crime he didn’t commit stumbles upon what he believes is their home, they offer him shelter and protection, with the secret intent of playing a game with him as the prey. Cervi also weaves in subtext of the nature of relationships between men and women, particularly in regards to sex, as during the film’s progression the main male character slowly begins to lose his independent will while the seemingly shy women also begin to exhibit stronger signs of dominance and power over him, all while playing with his mind in ever increasing surreal moments. Each sister also shows her strong sexual prowess as they each at one point lure the unsuspecting young men into their beds for a night of passion.

Queens of evil 1970 Le regine | free downloand| Download movie
The Surreal Bibiana (from Wipfilms)
Blu Review – Queens of Evil (Mondo Macabro) - Horror Society
The Surreal Samantha (from Horror Society)
Queens of Evil
The Surreal Liv (from Mondo-Digital)

The notion of magics are taken to a new level with Le Regine, reminding viewers that there’s more to those arts than meets the eye, and the power behind them something that can’t be fully understood. At varying moments of the film, the character David experiences what can only be described as lucid nightmares, seeing things that are out of the ordinary world that can’t possibly be real, but are very vivid and lifelike at the same time. The question that arises for viewers is whether these visions are the result of David’s own psyche as he’s out in the middle of nowhere with three eccentric sisters who he assumes practice Pagan Earth rites, or are the sisters manipulating his mind with whatever kind of power they’ve learned or have been gifted. The camera and lighting of these scenes are very well done and are atmospheric, reminding audiences of pop art images.

Queens Of Evil (1970) — The Movie Database (TMDB)
The Sisters as They Are (from The Movie Database)
The Sisters When They Practice Magicks (from Amazon)

Italian actresses Ida Galli (credited under her Anglo stage name Ewelyn Stuart) and Silvia Monti, and French actress Haydee Politoff give mesmerizing and sultry performances as the three sisters. While they share bonds over many things, the sisters are unique in their own ways. Galli as Bibiana is the oldest of the sisters. Bibiana is the mature, quiet, and matronly sibling, preferring to keep to her hobbies and the practices she and her sister engage in. Like any woman though, Bibiana has her sexual desires, and as the trio become more and more powerful over their prey David, she uses her sensitive and motherly wiles to lure the young man to her bed as her sisters listen from their rooms, a little jealous, but also respecting each other’s wants and needs.. Monti as Samantha is the most adventurous of the siblings. Samantha doesn’t have Bibiana’s experiences, but she has a lust and zest for life, those passions exhilerated by the presence of David. She is in fact the fist sister to seduce David, impressing him and frightening him simultaneously while riding on his motorcycle, and then luring him to a secluded beach where she chases him into delirium before letting letting him caress her. Politoff plays the youngest sister Liv. Liv appears to be entering into the final stages of womanhood. She has the quietness and sensitivity of Bibiana and the curiousness of Samantha, but has her own down to earth personality. She is the first to meet David, but the last to seduce him, and in fact develops the kind of infatuation that first loves tend to produce. While jealous that her sisters can take David at will, Liv realizes it’s an element of the game, and she’ll have him soon enough.

Blu Review – Queens of Evil (Mondo Macabro) - Horror Society
The Unsuspecting David (from Horror Society)

British Italian actor Ray Lovelock (credited as Raymond Lovelock) gives a very interesting performance as David. A Wandering Hippie who believes in free love and freedom without constraint, David travels the world searching for his paradise. When he shows some good will to a stranded motorist, he gets an unusual lecture about the dangers of too many women lovers, and that settling into a proper marriage is the way to go. After the motorist betrays his kindness, David tries to find out why, only to watch in horror as the man crashes his car into a tree, dying on impact. Fearing he’ll be accused of murder, David flees, ending up in an isolated barn in the woods. Initially, he suspects nothing amiss with the sisters he soon decides to live with, believing they practice a form of Pagan faith system that focuses on giving thanks to Nature in varied ways. It isn’t too long before David notices a change to both his physical health and mental state. At the start he seems very viral and full of passions but as time passes, he begins to lose confidence in himself, becoming more and more dependent on the women in some way or another. When each sister takes him sexually is when he seems most alive, sharing carnal passions with each woman in different fashions. David has no idea what kind of change has come over him, but knows there’s something not right in his well being, feeling free, but yet somehow at a kind of mercy to the sisters, alternating between periods of bliss and periods of near psychedelic visions/nightmares that may or may not be warnings should he continue to stay where he is.

Queens of Evil
David Explores Eerie Woods (from Mondo Digital)

Rarely seen outside of Europe and Japan until recently, Le Regine is fine rare gem of a film, boasting a fine mix of horror, fantasy, and trippy psychedelia. Concepts of sexual relations between men and women get tested, as well as the concept of what true freedom may very well entail, and what anyone is really willing to give up or compromise on in the name of life and love.

(I highly recommend this to anyone looking for something different in the Horror genre. While it does play more to the realm of Dark Fantasy than Horror, the film still offers the occasional creepy moment and atmosphere as the unwitting David is drawn deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. Tonino Cervi succeeds ten times over in keeping audiences in the dark as to what’s really going on, mixing eyepopping colors, and clever cinematography tricks. The Blu Ray from Mondo-Macabro, marking the film’s debut in US Home Media, looks fabulous, the visuals very immaculate and gorgeous and the audio clear and crisp. I haven’t watched the English dub, but did find the Italian original very even and clear, and superb English subtitle translation. Well worth a purchase)

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066980/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

buying options

https://mondomacabro.bigcartel.com/product/queens-of-evil-standard-edition

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

When the Sins of the Ancestors…..Come to Their Kin

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #4)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the original French language version)

Michel Lemoine – Homepopcorn.fr
French Poster (from Home Popcorn)

 Les Week-ends Maléfiques du Comte Zaroff (7 Femmes Pour un Sadique/The Malicious Weekend of Count Zaroff/7 Women for the Sadist/7 Women for Satan) (1976) **** 1/2 NC-17

Michel Lemoine: Count Boris Zaroff

Howard Vernon: Karl, the Butler/Karl’s Father

Joelle Coeur: Anne de Baoisryvault

Sophie Grynholc: Zaroff’s Secretary

Martine Azencot: Joelle

Nathalie Zeiger: Muriel

Robert de Laroche: Francis (as Robert Icaret)

Patricia Mionett: Jeanne

Maria Mancini: Stephane/Stephanie

Written & Directed by: Michel Lemoine (loosely inspired by The Most Dangerous Game [1932] and the novelette by Richard Connell)

Synopsis: Aristocratic businessman Boris Zaroff is haunted by hallucinations of himself torturing and killing young women. His father, the original Count Zaroff, had 40 years previously hunted people for sport until he was killed by his own hunting dogs. Boris has inherited his father’s debauched interests, and the son of his father’s servant will do whatever it takes to see that Boris embraces his evil lineage.

Seven Women for Satan (1976) | MUBI
A Beautiful Victim (from Mubi)

Actor/Filmmaker Michel Lemoine, at the height of his independent career, decided to tackle the Horror genre in a new and different way. In keeping with his desire to highlight people’s erotic tendencies, Lemoine employs sex and romance as a catalyst for the tragedies to befall his characters. Inspired by the Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack film The Most Dangerous Game (and the 1920’s short story by Richard Connell), Lemoine devised an unofficial sequel that focused on the son of the villainous Count Zaroff, and the man’s struggle to avoid continuing his father’s trail of terror. What soon follows is a bizarre game of human morality vs. base instincts and human and otherworldly forces fight for control of Boris’ soul and mind. While scenes of extended nudity and simulated sensual acts are abundant within the film, Lemoine in no way uses them for the simple shock value, though some sequences even now might still have that effect on some. Lemoine didn’t make the film as Softcore Porn with a Horror theme/background, but instead chose to tell a Horror story where the Erotic plays a necessary and, in some cases, important function of the outcome of said story.

Seven Women for Satan
The Tortured and Tragic Boris (from Mondo Digital)

Lemoine offers a compelling, sympathetic, and sadly tragic performance of the title character Zaroff. Lemoine expresses this beautifully and perfectly in that Boris is a genuinely good man who is forever haunted by the misdeeds of his brutal father, and by the sinister and human forces that try to make him embrace that brutality. This also has the Lovecraftian feel of Inherited Guilt in which fiction characters can’t escape or find redemption from the crimes committed by those that came before them. Audience realize this from the very instant Boris is introduced after his first onscreen hallucination as he is clearly bewildered and shocked at the thoughts always going through his mind. When he tries to stop himself from doing any harm to a female hitchhiker he fantasized making love to, he accidently runs her over with his car. Fearing his teeth marks on her breast will lead to suspicions he tried to rape her, he dumps her body in a deep lake by his estate. This act traumatizes him, and forces him to remember the night the woman he loved was murdered right in front of him, but also keeps him from doing anymore harm to others. Temptation continues to fly for Boris when he interviews a woman interested in the job of house secretary, and while he prefers to make love to her, ends up powerless when his servant orders the Doberman guard dog to attack her. Images of both the woman he ran over and his beloved haunt his mind, relieving him of doing any evil, but unable to prevent it. The last straw finally breaks when Boris realizes a prank he intended to play on a stranded couple he offered overnight shelter to was made into vicious crime by his servant, sending him over the edge. The question then becomes will the humanity still within him be able to break free of his family’s horrible curse. per

Amazon.com: Seven Women for Satan [Blu-ray] : Michel Lemoine, Joëlle Coeur,  Nathalie Zeiger, Howard Vernon, Robert de Laroche, Martine Azencot, Michel  Lemoine: Movies & TV
The Evil and Wicked Karl (from Amazon)

-Swiss-German French actor Howard Vernon, a staple of European genre cinema, and cult icon Jess Franco’s favorite actor, gives one of his most menacing and villainous performances in the role of Karl the Butler. Karl’s father, also a butler, served the original Count Zaroff as his son now serves the Count’s son Boris, revealing a hint of intertwined destiny. Karl vowed to keep a promise to his dying father that he would ensure Boris would continue the Zaroff legacy of cruelty and debauchery by whatever means available to him. Vernon gives Karl an air of remorselessness, willingly putting innocent people at risk, even killing them himself to make certain his master will come to see the delights of the darkness, all with an unflinching gaze. Karl is the true villain of the film as he willingly, and even at times with a sense of pride, does all sorts of horrible things to keep his word to his father. Little does Karl know that his master’s conscious is very strong, and other forces will fight him with equal intensity to save Boris.

LES WEEK-ENDS MALÉFIQUES DU COMTE ZAROFF : belles, blondes et clamsées – LA  FOUTOIROTHÈQUE
Love From Beyond the Grave (from LA FOUTOIROTHÈQUE)

Joelle Coeur, the French Erotic film icon, gives a hauntingly wonderful performance as Anne de Baoisryvault. Anne plays an uber important role in that she’s the good against the evil that is Karl. Anne would be the only woman Boris Zaroff really and truly loved, Boris being Anne’s light while trapped in a loveless marriage. Their happiness was cut short when during a secret rendezvous, Anne was shot in the back while dancing with Boris, (while her jealous husband was most likely the culprit, some believe it was Karl to ensure Boris remained alone) poor Boris unaware his beloved Anne was dying in his arms. Her death would shatter Boris, who himself went into sexual repression and isolation. When Karl makes plans to ensure his master embraces his father’s wicked traits, Anne returns from the afterlife to save the man she loves. Placing her image in mirrors and such in place of the women meant to be the targets of the diabolical plot, Anne works to keep Boris’ humanity and conscious alive to fight against the evil trying to turn him. Anne appears to Boris on several occasions to remind him of the good man she knows he is, beckoning him to return to the light with her. When Boris realizes the horrible betrayal of Karl involving an innocent couple he offered overnight shelter to, his grip on reality breaks, forcing Anne to resort to one last method to save him and his soul, a method she’d hoped to not have to use. This was to be Joelle Coeur’s final film, retiring not long after as she didn’t care for French cinema’s ever increasing move towards XXX Hardcore Porn over the usual Softcore she enjoyed making.

Tumblr
The Beautifully Haunting Zaroff Castle (from Tumblr)

Mixing the Gothic Ghost Story with Frano-esque violence and high Erotica, Lemoine paints an artistic grindhouse piece that is both shocking and beautiful at the same time. Lemoine employs some unique camera angles and shots, mainly in the halucinatory moments that work very well to show Zaroff’s ever teetering balance between the world he wants to live in, and the world the more evil forces around want him to submit to. The lead character is surprisingly sympathetic despite his weakness at the forces vying for his final destiny. Good vs Evil has never been done so eloquently as this film, the power on the side of good unrelenting in battling its sadistic enemy to save a man.

(I’ll leave it up to whoever reads this write-up as to whether to watch the film or not. While the erotic moments aren’t over done and bordering on the poor taste/disgusting element, some people may find the heightened use of them a little too much to handle, and that is those folks’ right to believe. There’s definitely more to like than hate with the film as Lemoine proves himself a very good and effective director who’s style is very overlooked. Many of his choices are solid, some that went further than necessary, and only one or two he didn’t need at all solidifying his abilities. The Blu Ray done in conjunction between France’s Le Chat Qui Fume [The Smoking Cat] and the US’s Mondo Macabro is a solid restoration that brings the film back to life, keeping the dream-like atmosphere Lemoine intended. Either release is highly recommended, though I’ll mention now the special features on the French edition aren’t English subtitle friendly. I admit this is odd as the English subtitle translation of the film itself is solid, a little better than the US edition, but both editions are good in their own ways.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0316886/

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Week-ends_mal%C3%A9fiques_du_Comte_Zaroff

Buying Options

https://mondomacabro.bigcartel.com/product/seven-women-for-satan-standard-edition

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

The Gothic, Euro Erotica, Pre-Ordained Revenge, & Bizarre Science

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #3)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the original German version)

IM SCHLOß DER BLUTIGEN BEGIERDE | SPLATTERTRASH
Original Poster (from SPLATTERTRASH)

Im Schloß der Blutigen Begierde (Castle of the Creeping Flesh/In the Castle of Bloody Desire) (1968) **** NC-17

Janine Reynaud: Vera Lagrange

Howard Vernon: Der Graf von Saxon

Michel Lemoine: Baron Brack

Elvira Berndorff: Elena Lagrange

Jan Hendriks: George von Kassell

Pier A. Caminnecci: Roger de la Valiere

Claudia Butenuth: Marion von Kassell / Katharina von Saxon

Vladimir Medar: Alecos, Diener

Written by: Adrian Hoven (as Percy G. Parker) & Eric Martin Schinitzler (with uncredited contributions from Jess Franco)

Directed by: Adrian Hoven (as Percy G. Parker)

Synopsis: A debauched Baron asks five of his party guests to sneak away with him to his hunting lodge for more fun. When the Baron rapes one of the women and she takes off, the group soon find themselves at the mysterious estate of a reclusive Earl. The Earl and the Baron seem to know each other, and it isn’t long before the Baron’s guests discover they’ve inadvertently been put in the middle of a centuries old curse.

Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde - italo-cinema.de
An Eerie, Mysterious Castle (from Italo-Cinema)

Veteran German character actor Adrian Hoven, sensing the changing tide in German cinema in the late 1960’s, decided to start his own production company with a group of friends to make self-financed genre films to compete with the burgeoning New German Cinema movement. The first result of this new company was the Gothic Horror film In the Castle of Bloody Desire, in which Hoven mixed the classic Horror of the early 60’s and the contemporary Jazz music fueled Thrillers that were just gaining steam in Italy at the time. Having done a couple of the Edgar Wallace Krimi in the early to mid-1960’s, Hoven already had an idea of how to mix suspense and horror overtones/undertones together, and thus was able to get financing without much difficulty as the Krimi’s hadn’t become clichéd yet. When filming was complete, Hoven chose to use the pseudonym Percy G. Parker while editing and postproduction as he was still a very respected film and stage actor, uncertain if his contemporaries would deride him for doing a film filled with so much violent imagery and bizarre sexual behavior, some sequences in the film still maintaining the shock value felt in the period in which it was made.

Castle of the Creeping Flesh
The Enticing Valerie (from Mondo-Digital)

Janine Reynaud, a French model and actress known for her participation in Euro Erotic and Exploitation cinema, is an alluring delight in the role of Vera Lagrange. Vera is an aristocratic woman with cravings for the hedonistic in sex and adventure, always on the lookout for the next lurid good time. Her newest fascination is the Baron Brack, who shares similar interests as herself. Unbeknownst to Vera, Brack is also interested her equally lovely sister Elena. Vera and the others are soon on a quest for Elena after Brack forcibly has his way with her, and she flees the Baron’s hunting lodge in a delirious state. After the group find themselves in the castle of the Earl of Saxon where Elena has been kept safe, Vera begins noticing some strange happenings. The Earl tells her she bears a striking resemblance to his ancestor’s 2nd wife, who brought about the rape/defilement and death of his daughter. The Earl further explains that it was his ancestor’s murdering of his 2nd wife that led to his own execution as he attempted to use the woman’s blood to resurrect his daughter. Afterwards, Vera begins having bizarre hallucination dreams, dreading something sinister will happen.

In the Castle of Bloody Lust (1968) — The Movie Database (TMDB)
The Earl Recalls the Painful Past (from The Movie Database)

Howard Vernon, the German-Swiss/French actor who became one of Jess Franco’s main collaborators, gives a subtly chilling role (in one of his rare non-Franco films) as the Earl of Saxon. A nobleman who’s family has suffered a bloody and tragic history, the Earl had made the decision to cut himself and his family from the outside world so they can eventually be free of the dark past hovering over them. A chance at fixing this tragic line comes almost by destiny in the form of Baron Brack, and his innocent guests. The Earl and Brack appear to know each other well in spite of the fact the Earl is a total recluse who never goes beyond his estate. Having assured Brack’s friends the young lady they’ve been looking for has only suffered a mild shock and will be able to go with them by morning, the Earl tells them the history of his family. He says history repeated itself when his own daughter was attacked by an unidentified assailant, and died of internal injuries. Almost everyone in the party, save for three of the characters, bear strong resemblances to the parties involved in the first Earl’s daughter’s death, and the question quicky becomes if history continually repeats itself, or if a new tragedy can be prevented. That the Earl demands his guests wear clothing from the period the atrocity was committed in strongly implies this.

 

Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde - italo-cinema.de
The Damned Baron (from Italo-Cinema)

Michel Lemoine, a French actor who began in important art films and later become an icon in genre cinema, is at his slimy best in the role of Baron Brack. Brack brings the 19th century debauched nobleman to the 20th century, and is just as, if not more so, depraved as his predecessors. When the vivacious and flirty Lagrange sisters catch his eye, the Baron plots how to bed both of them. When the younger sister admits to flirting all in fun, the Baron becomes enraged and proceeds to savagely and remorselessly rape the young woman. After she flees in a hysterical state, the Baron’s lifestyle is soon to catch up with him. When he and his party end up on the estate of the Earl of Saxon, Brack’s paranoia in regard to the Earl and the history of the Saxon family becomes ever increasing, hinting that he somehow has played a part before.   

𝕰 𝖟 𝖊 𝖖 𝖚 𝖎 𝖊 𝖑 . 🐩🤍 on Twitter: "IM SCHLOSS DER BLUTIGEN BEGIERDE  — CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH (Adrian Hoven, 1968)… "

A Twisted Elegy to a Disturbing Crime (from Twitter)

Jess Franco, the unofficial King of Shlock/Shock Exploitation cinema, provided some uncredited assistance in Hoven’s screenplay. The high dose of Erotica, surreal/bizarre imagery, and unusual special effects all scream Franco’s MO and style, and all are used to good effect within the film. Hoven doesn’t use these in abundance the way Franco usually did, instead intersplicing them when needed, the only extensive uses of these are during Valerie’s nightmare as she sees the vicious act against the Earl’s daughter through the eyes of the devious mistress. Why Franco isn’t credited in any known print of the film is never made clear in any film site, but as Franco was a really busy independent filmmaker, working on as many as ten features a year, it’s possible at least one contract prevented his credit for legal reasons.

  

Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde - italo-cinema.de
Two People Discussing Bizarre Fantasies (from Italo-Cinema)

Again, going for a more psychological approach to Horror, Adrian Hoven does very well with Castle of Bloody Desire, near flawlessly mixing contemporary and historical settings, having rich yet not overtly complex characters, and of course a nice range of atmosphere and vibes.

(This is one of the films I have to recommend with caution to many people. While the film doesn’t glorify the act done to the Earl’s daughter and much of the other bizarre behavior of characters, some sequences in the film can be seen by some as quite intense, which is perfectly understandable. The film does draw the viewer in, and much of it is as much a curiosity as it is entertaining to an extent. Again, this is another example of a film not being everyone’s cup of tea, and only appeals to a certain type of viewer. Like with a few other films I’ve talked about on this level, I don’t make a claim to fully understand what Adrian Hoven wanted to accomplish with his film, but I feel I was open minded enough to see what his attempts were aiming at. There are two Blu Ray releases of the film, one from Germany, the other from Severin Films in the US. Both releases are pretty good, many fans might being preferable to the US release as the subtitle translation of the German track may be more exact than the German release. and the extras on the German release may or may not be subtitled in English. Fans can’t go wrong with either release though as both have their strong points, especially the audio and visual transfers.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061806/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Im_Schlo%C3%9F_der_blutigen_Begierde

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

When the Quest for Everlasting Beauty Goes Too Far

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #2)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the French language original)

Shock Treatment (1973) - IMDb
Original French Poster (from the IMDb)

Traitement de Choc (Shock Treatment) (1973) R ****1/2

Alain Delon: Docteur Devilers

Annie Giradot: Helene Masson

Robert Hirsch: Gerome Savignat

Michel Duchaussoy: Docteur Bernard

Gabriel Cattand: Procureur de Boissiere

Jeanne Colletin: Camille Giovanelli

Robert Party: Colonel de Riberolles

Jean Roquel: Marcel Lussac

Roger Muni: Paul Giovanelli

Lucienne Legrand: Lise de Riberolles

Anne-Maria Deschodt: Henriette Lussac

Jean Leuvrais: Le Commissaire

Written by: Alain Jessua, Roger Curel, & Enrico Vanzina

Directed by: Alain Jessua

Synopsis: After a startling revelation on her life, businesswoman Helene Masson accepts an invitation from a longtime friend to spend two weeks at a rejuvenation spa run by the prominent Dr. Devilers. While the treatments do work and everyone sees nothing amiss, Helene begins to suspect something sinister when her friend commits suicide after a financial crisis and the imported Portuguese staff begin suffering what appears to be extreme altitude sickness.

Traitement de choc (1973) | Cinema of the World
The First Examination (from World Cinema)

French genre auteur Alain Jessua took the lore of vampirism and translated it into an allegory on the obsession with youthful beauty and the horrors of addiction. Instead of transfigured human beings who live nocturnally with fangs to consume the blood of their victims, Jessua has his culprits be unorthodox doctors of medicine who’ve channeled the destructive methods of the primitive African, Latin/South/Central, and Native American tribes that involved the consumption of the flesh and blood of their enemies. The recipients of this dark and twisted elixir love the effect of the serum, and their fear of old age makes them compliant in the methods of their ‘saviors’, thus leading to a kind of dependency that has a small, motely band of prominent French citizens returning to the little oasis every year to maintain their little secret on how to maintain their youthful appearance. The whole inhuman affair has its first bout of exposure when a regular client kills himself after bad financial tips force him to give up his treatments, the only example of someone feeling the effects of withdrawal, both literally from not getting the serum, and figuratively in that he already feels his true age coming to the surface, and the paralyzing fear of being shunned for no longer being handsome and young.

Shock Treatment (1973) image
The First Treatment (from Listal)

Jessua gives a surprising clue early on in the film as to what is going on by revealing the spa’s waiters and caretakers are young men ranging from their late teens to mid-20’s. and are of Hispanic or Latino – via the South and Central American countries, descent. One of the spa regular’s comments that up until recently the staff was made up of young Spanish men who needed work to support their destitute families, and now the head doctor is strictly hiring Portuguese workers. The young men are shown to be on a very unusual protein diet, and are kept working almost constantly, and seem to not be able to adjust to the lower altitude climate. That one of the characters states the spa hires mainly men of Hispanic or South/Central American heritage sets off a signal that this is important to what’s happening in the story, and how it ends up important is fairly shocking.

Shock Treatment
The Mysterious Benevolent Doc (from Mondo Digital)

Alain Delon, one of France’s finest genre & art house actors, delivers an excellent performance as Dr. Devilers. A college educated doctor going back to the roots of natural medicine, Devilers is certain he has discovered a safe and holistic serum to slow down the aging process. While the aristocratic crowd seems to be his primary cliental to his rejuvenation therapy, Devilers accepts any patient that can afford the price who feels they could benefit from his discovery. Delon portrays Devilers as a charming and gracious man who puts the patients at top priority over everything else, but it’s after one of his regular patients dies tragically that Devilers façade seems to crack. His charm conceals an intimidating menace that has everyone afraid to reveal what exactly goes on behind the scenes in his research for fear of being held as accessories to what very well could be criminal actions. While his aims at helping people maintain their youth a little longer are noble, how he managed to achieve that goal possibly meant going against the laws of men and the laws of a higher power, and an even more frightening aspect is a very real possibility he willingly gave up his own humanity and soul to succeed.

Traitement de choc - Alain Jessua - Critique - Tortillapolis
A Worried Helene (from Tortillapolis)

Annie Giradot, a lesser internationally known French actress, gives a mini powerhouse performance as Helene Masson. A simple independent businesswoman who felt her beauty would age gracefully, Helene had no allusions of what would occur in life as she reached middle age and seemed initially content with how she lived. When the man she was certain she would spend the rest of her life with abandoned her to be with a much prettier, and younger, woman, Helene soon found her world upside down, and certain realities flooding in that she’d been previously oblivious to, or had admittingly turned a blind eye to, forced her to rethink how she was aging, and maybe the youthful treatment recommended by a longtime friend might be in order to save herself from ending up alone. Ironically, some of the patients and Dr. Devilers himself tell her she looks radiant already and doesn’t ‘need’ the treatment the way others do, but are sympathetic to her reasons for wanting to give the treatment a try. At first happy with the result, Helene’s mind begins to go erratic after learning her good friend killed himself, and realizing he was telling the truth that the treatment is like being addicted to any drug.

Traitement de choc - Alain Jessua - Critique - Tortillapolis
A Not so Discreet Doctor/Patient Relationship (from Tortillpolis)

Delon and Giradot had worked together a decade earlier as would be lovers in Luchino Visconti’s tragic family drama Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers), but this film wouldn’t prove to be a happy reunion. During the production of Rocco, Giradot fell in love with Renato Salvatori, one of the other actors in the cast, and after encouragement from Delon, the two married and seemingly had the quaint life most married people hope for. Not long before production on Choc, Giradot left and divorced Salvatori for another man, and upon seeing her on the first day of shooting, Delon slapped Giradot hard in the face. Salvatori was a close friend of Delon, and because he encouraged the couple’s romance, felt just as responsible for their break-up and Giradot’s infidelity, and was thus trying to relieve himself of the guilt he was bearing. Whether Delon was eventually able to reconcile with Giradot has never been documented.

Richard🔥Wells on Twitter: "Film time! Revisited Alain Jessua's SHOCK  TREATMENT (1973). Alain Delon is the Bond villain like head of an exclusive  health spa with *a dark secret*. Enjoyable schlock with social
A Day to Rejoice (from Twitter)

A scene that well highlights the hedonistic choices made by staff and patients alike comes in the form of a beach scene, not long after the first day’s injection treatment. All the patients, including Helene and Dr. Devilers himself, all get naked and frolic along the waves of the water’s edge. Initially this is to indicate the rejuvenation in youth everyone feels from benefiting from the treatment, this scene also hints at the radical truths revealed as the film progresses, and crimes against both man and nature come to light. The scene also is notable for one of the rare occasions Alain Delon went completely nude for a scene in a film, baring all for audiences to see in a very daring, and to a degree, courageous, moment.

Shock Treatment
Conversing in the Spa (from Mondo Digital)

While it plays out as more of a psychological Thriller, Traitement de Choc really is at heart an allegorical Horror film that plays up vampirism in a way that could probably happen, if someone did indeed put their mind to it. The story, acting, the cinematography, etc, are all top notch, and help to really establish the mood and pace Alain Jessua intended the film to have.

(I highly recommend giving this film a look; especially to women over forty who may have concerns over aging, trust me, this film will most likely ‘scare’ those fears right out of you when the big reveal near the end comes up. Metaphorical Horror has never looked better or been done as good as this film. Some might think the method is a little over the top, but it does have roots in reality, so don’t dismiss the film as wishful thinking, or fantastic Sci-Fi Horror. Annie Giradot’s acting may get a little over the top/melodramatic, at certain points, but it serves the film well, and adds to the effective tension director Jessua intended. Severin Films did a great job with the restoration of the audio and visuals, giving the film itself a rejuvenation of sorts.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070827/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_2

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shock_Treatment_(1973_film)

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traitement_de_choc_(film,_1973)

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

A Mix of Poe Horror, Wallace Krimi, and Modern Jazz

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror #1)

(Mild Spoilers Ahead)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Review is of the original German language version)

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) German movie poster
German Poster (from CineMaterial)

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (The Snake Pit and the Pendulum/The Blood Demon/The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism) (1967) **** PG-13

Lex Barker: Roger Mont Elise / Reinhold von Marienberg

Karin Dor: Baroness Lillian von Brabant / Baroness von Brabant

Christopher Lee: Count Frederic Regula of Andomai

Carl Lange: Anatol, the Butler (as Karl Lange)

Vladimir Medar: Peter Fabian

Christiane Rucker: Babette

Dieter Eppler: The Coachman

Horst Naumann: Voice Dubbing – Lex Barker

Herbert Weicker: Voice Dubbing – Christopher Lee

Klaus W. Krause: Voice Dubbing – Vladimir Medar

Written by: Manfred R. Kohler (loosely based on The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe, and inspired by the fiction of Edgar Wallace)

Directed by: Harald Reinl

Synopsis: After he is sentenced to death for the murder of 12 virgin women and practicing Satanism, Count Regula swears revenge on the descendants of those who brought about his demise. 35 years later, the son of the Crown Prosecutor and the daughter of the Baroness Brabant are lured to Regula’s castle.

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) von Harald Reinl | M-Square  Classics
Regula’s Chamber of Horrors (from UCM.ONE)

1967 saw German cinema at a crossroads, newcomers Rainer W. Fassbender and Volker Schlondorff were beginning the age of New German Cinema, where more personal stories were being told that audiences seemed to empathize with, and the once successful genre films of directors like Harald Reinl and Alfred Vohrer were beginning to lose steam. While the Krimi films based on the novels of British crime fiction writer Edgar Wallace had helped bring a boom to the German film industry, the ever-rising popularity of the Giallos and Spaghetti Westerns in Italy were making it tougher and tougher for German writers and directors to keep up. Some co-productions with Italy did help the industry move along, but the popularity of import films dubbed into German were making the studios less and less keen on continuing making their own versions that were seemingly being made better elsewhere. Ideas were needed to keep the industry going, but the attempt to infuse Horror overtones to the Wallace Mystery Thrillers, only aided in the genre’s demise quicker, as critics and fans alike saw them as weak cash-ins on the Giallo craze.

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) von Harald Reinl | M-Square  Classics
Regula Receives His Sentence (from UCM.ONE)

To combat the ever-encroaching Art-House movement that would mean many solid genre actors and actresses would be forced to return to the stage or go to television to keep working, Constantin Films greenlit a project that combined the Wallace Krimi, the Italian Giallo, the Gothic Horror of Poe, Corman, & Bava, and a strange blend of contemporary and period music, the result being The Snake Pit and the Pendulum aka The Blood Demon. Taking the very basics from the Poe classic The Pit and the Pendulum, the film begins with the aristocratic Count Regula being sentenced to death for murdering 12 virgin women after making a pact with the devil. Before being led to the place of execution, Regula vows to destroy the family of the Prosecutor for the Crown, and avenge himself on the woman who was to be his next victim. On the 35th anniversary of Regula’s demise, his last henchmen help to lure the surviving son of the Prosecutor and the daughter of the last victim to his castle to finish what he started a quarter of a century ago.

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) von Harald Reinl | M-Square  Classics
The Haunted Forest of Andomai (from UCM.ONE

Director Harald Reinl takes some inspirations from both Roger Corman and Mario Bava when doing exterior scenes. As the film goes into night time, audiences are first greeted to a lush yellow/brown sunset that seems to fly across the screen in a psychedelic fashion that Bava and Croman used so frequently in their early color efforts. When night hits and the terrors of Regula’s Forest come to life, Reinl’s use of lighting, mood, music, and color is very reminiscent of Bava’s Gothic Horror films that lends a very effective feeling of the dangers the cast are soon to be introduced to.

The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
Some Bizarre Religious Iconography (from The Bloody Pit of Horror)

Religious imagery and rights play a pretty important part in the film. Regula’s crimes are judged as not only an offence against his country, but an offence against the Holy Church as well. This is portrayed through a special ceremony performed every year on the day Regula was executed as to prevent his evil spirit from wreaking havoc on the surrounding towns that border his castle. That neither the Church or the Crown took possession of Regula’s estate confirms this wasn’t the usual political scheme to gain lands, but to genuinely rid the community of what they saw as evil incarnate as the castle is shown to be highly dilapidated and in disrepair. Statuary of the varied saints and even of Christ himself are shown sporadically in the early scenes, showing that strong forces from beyond are protecting the protagonists as they meet their destinies. Regula’s castle is filled with the polar opposite: wall paintings showcase tormented souls and demons engaging in the torture of said souls, while statuary of bestial demons guard and light the abode.

The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
The Hero Works His Way Out of Danger (from The Bloody Pit of Horror)

Lex Barker, one of the many American actors who went to Europe after their careers in Hollywood dried up – later becoming a Superstar in Germany, plays the protagonist Roger Mont Elise, and his father Reinhold von Marienberg in the opening. A lawyer traveling through the countryside going over the many cases of his firm, Mont Elise is also trying to discover his past after learning he was left in a foundling home with only a nice sized dowery and a medallion as clues to who he really was. Feeling he’ll learn answers after a mysterious man gives him a letter saying a Count Regula can help him, Mont Elise will soon learn he’s the son of Crown Prosecutor von Marienberg, and that he’s been lured to the castle so Regula can fulfill his promise to eradicate the Marienberg family forever. Little is said about Reinhold von Marienberg as he’s only in the film for 15 minutes, but it’s clear he’s devoted to the country, the people, the Crown, and the Church that have made him defender of the realm and faith. He manages to ensure at least one relative will survive to keep Regula from succeeding in his plans.  Barker does very well in both roles, and while not the usual action hero type character he was used to playing in the German Westerns and Italian Adventure films of the early to mid-1960’s, Barker proved that not only was he still leading man material, but also an underrated performer.

The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
A Villain in Life….
The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
….And Death (from The Bloody Pit of Horror)

Christopher Lee, one of Britain’s finest character actors, and an icon of World Horror cinema, gets to play a very different type of villain in the role of Count Frederic Regula. An aristocrat taking the motif of the debauched wealthy and going to levels of extremity, Regula goes to horrid lengths to gain the power of immortality by brutally killing young virgins while also taking their fear to the highest point. When a would-be victim foils his plans and he’s condemned to death by the violent act of quartering by horses, Regula swears to avenge himself from beyond the grave. Through very elaborate means that are a mixture of science and black magic, Regula and his followers spend the next 35 years scheming and waiting for the right moment to complete their revenge. Lee is still playing the villain of course, albeit this go around playing a very human villain who has flaws, weaknesses, and limitations. While he is aided by forces that are both supernatural and scientific, Lee’s Regula has a precise time in which he must complete his task once awakened from his death like state, and Lee shows him as a confidant, but at the same time cautious individual. Lee offers a fairly restrained performance as Regula, keeping the character in the world of realism, only going into theatrics toward the very end of the film.

(Author’s note: Lee provides his voice for the English dubbing of the film, a rarity for Lee’s foreign language appearances. It’s difficult to tell though if Lee looped his dialogue not long after filming wrapped, or if it was some years before Lee was asked to dub himself as his voice sounds very deep, which it did become by the 1990’s.)

The Bloody Pit of Horror: Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967)
One of Germany’s Great Actresses (from The Bloody Pit of Horror)

Karin Dor, a popular German actress of the stage and screen, takes on the leading lady role of Baroness Lillian von Brabant. The daughter of the original Baroness von Brabant, Lillian arrives toward Count Regula’s castle under the false claim her mother had willed her some land around the area. Her mother had been an intended victim of the Count, but by luck and fate was able to escape and inform the authorities of the Count’s actions, earning her his wrath as well. Regula plans to have Lillian take her mother’s place, thus completing the process of eternal life. Dor mainly acts as the damsel in distress of the film, spending a good chunk of it screaming and in fear of her and her companions’ safety, but Dor doesn’t go into the complete cliché’s of the damsel role, showing courage in the face of danger, and a willing to risk her life for those she cares about. The film also marked her 2nd to last time working with occasional romantic love interest Lex Barker, whom she did 4 (one time uncredited) of Barker’s 7 Winnetou film roles with, the final time released a year after The Snake Pit and the Pendulum and a segment of an Espionage Anthology film. Dor and Barker enjoyed a nice chemistry together that was oddly not capitalized on enough as they clearly played well off each other, aided in that they understood some of the other’s native language.

Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (1967) von Harald Reinl | M-Square  Classics
The Mad Henchman (from UCM.ONE)
Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel | film.at
The Heroic Thief (from Film.at)

German actor Carl Lange (credited as Karl Lange) and Slavic actor Vladimir Medar make up the main supporting cast of characters. Lange, putting on his best Lon Chaney Jr. and Dwight Frye impersonations, plays Anatol, Regula’s last faithful servant. Anatol carried out the majority of Regula’s plan of revenge against Prosecutor Marienberg by not only killing him, but most of the family as well. Before he could get to the infant son, Anatol was caught and hung by the neck, but Regula’s imperfect potion saved his life. Lange subtly mixes calm loyalty and raving mania as Anatol has a fanatical devotion to his master. Medar acts primarily as comic relief in the role of Peter Fabian, a small-time thief impersonating a Catholic priest. Initially trying to escape the bizarre situation he unintentionally found himself in, Fabian shows he has some sense of honor and loyalty as he chooses to stay behind and help Mont Elise save Lillian and her scared maid from the evil Regula and his equally demented servant Anatol.   

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967) by Harald Reinl | M-Square Classics
The Ancestors of the Hero and Heroine Look on at Regula’s Execution (from UCM.ONE)

The only odd part about the film is the score by Peter Thomas. The music is an unusual mix of modern Jazz and Rock, which was very popular with Edgar Wallace films, and more classical style scoring associated to Gothic Horror. The Jazzy style Rock seems very out of place for a period piece, though it is still interesting to hear. When the film gets into the more sinister and supernatural parts, the score becomes more ambient and effective to strengthen the mood. The modern scoring still pops up here and there, but it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t take away from the intended atmosphere.

Amazon.com: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism ( Die Schlangengrube und das  Pendel ) (Blu-Ray & DVD Combo) [ Blu-Ray, Reg.A/B/C Import - Germany ] :  Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Christopher Lee,
Title Card (from Amazon.com)

While some musical cues don’t fit the atmosphere, The Snake Pit and the Pendulum is an effective slice of Gothic Horror that also made for the genre’s fine farewells. Mixing both Expressionistic and psychedelic visuals, and very good acting, the film might not be one of the best ever made, but is definitely entertaining and worthy of being in the upper echelons of the Horror genre.

(I highly recommend giving this film a look, as while the score can sometimes leave viewers confused, the film’s mood and atmosphere make up for it. It’s hard to tell at times if Christopher Lee enjoyed doing the film, or his character’s neutral feel was how the director asked him to play it, but Lee is still very effective in whatever role he played. The German company UCM.ONE did an excellent job with the restoration of the film, cleaning up the visuals and audio to a nice crispness. Unfortunately, the English subtitles on the disc are dubtitles of the English dubbing, and not translated from the German audio track. The UCM.ONE restoration also appears on the Severin Films release of the film for their The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Box Set, again the subtitles being based on the English dubbing and not a translation of the German track. The film is definitely better in the original German audio, so not having translated subtitles is a bummer, but the film is still worth checking out either way.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blood_Demontion

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062235/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_17

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Schlangengrube_und_das_Pendel

Buying options

https://www.jpc.de/jpcng/movie/detail/-/art/die-schlangengrube-und-das-pendel-limited-mediabook-edition/hnum/10308346

https://www.jpc.de/jpcng/movie/detail/-/art/die-schlangengrube-und-das-pendel/hnum/10419789

https://severin-films.com/shop/eurocrypt-christopher-lee/

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

A Play Within a Play, Or How Shakespeare Saves a Marriage

by Tony Nash

(WordPress Follower Appreciation #4: Master Mix Movies)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

Image result for kiss me kate movie
Original Poster (from the IMDb)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) ***** PG

Kathryn Grayson: Lilli Vanessi/”Katherine ‘Kate'”

Howard Keel: Fred Graham/”Petruchio”

Anne Miller: Lois Lane/”Bianca”

Keenan Wynn: Lippy, Mob Collector

James Whitmore: Slug, Mob Collector

Tommy Rall: Bill Calhoun/”Lucentio”

Kurt Kasznar: “Baptista”

Bobby Van: “Gremio”

Bob Fosse: “Hortensio”

Ron Randell: Cole Porter

Written by: Dorothy Kingsley, adapted from the stage play by Sam Spewack (as Samuel Spewack) & Bella Spewack, freely based on The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Directed by: George Sidney

Synopsis: A divorced acting couple put aside personal animosity to put on a production of Cole Porter’s musical take on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy The Taming of the Shrew. The film mixes both the production itself, and the backstage antics of the couple, and two of the other cast members as they figure out their romantic feelings, all while the lead actor does whatever it takes to keep his ex on the stage.

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Lois Showing Fred, Lilli, and Cole Porter Her Tap Dancing Skills (from NZIFF)

While the 3D craze was still the fashion of the early to mid 1950’s, the Musical genre got its taste of the fad with the film Kiss Me Kate. The film within a film, which explores both a theater company’s performance of a production and the backstage antics of the cast, and others associated to them, is a fine setting for the 3D process as it allows actors to punt items to the camera in a believable fashion that doesn’t feel as if they’re entirely playing to the camera for the sake of the effect, whether it be the throwing of a prop or the extended in focus view of an object. The film’s main comic element is the two leads constant bickering that finally has the leading lady having enough of her ex husband/male lead’s manipulations and ego, and the man’s zany efforts to keep her from leaving, and to keep the show from ending up a financial and critical disaster. Destiny or luck seems to be on his side when a member of the cast signs an IOU with the lead’s name for a gambling debt that has two Mob enforcers coming to collect, prompting the “hero” to play the mix up to his advantage, stating he won’t be able to “pay” if his leading lady walks out on the show, leading to very funny and outlandish events and situations. A solid side plot has an aspiring acting/dancing couple who’s budding romance is on the skids because of the woman’s flirtatious nature and the man’s bad luck in games of chance, which ignites the chaotic events of the night.

(Author’s Note: Cole Porter, who wrote the songs and music for the original stage version and the film, is given a small cameo played by Ron Randall in the film, isn’t a character in the original stage performances, only mentioned as being the author of the play.)

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The first big number of the play (from the IMDb)

Kiss Me Kate was one of the many successful modern takes on a Shakespeare classic, and one of the few Hollywood efforts to show what possibly might go on backstage before and in between the acts of a play/musical, including the tensions between big name stars who can’t seem to coexist in the same production. A lot of changes had to be made before MGM gave the film the greenlight to begin filming. The original script by married couple Sam and Bella Spewack had quite a bit of colorful language, swear words, and a lot of sexual innuendo. “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”, sung by the two hoods, had them performing the number during the Broadway version in a more comical manner that hinted the duo may have been homosexuals, which was a major no-no in the then still enforced Hayes Code, moved as a diversion by the hoods while Fred and Lilli had their big spat about Fred’s deception to keep her from quitting acting to right before the ending as a means of cheering Fred up after he believes he’s lost Lilli for good. There’s quite a bit else changed for the sake of cleanliness, but that’s the main bit everybody talks about.

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Lilli Being Swept off Her Feet (from Pinterest)
Image result for kiss me kate movie
Lilli as Kate the Shrew Singing “I Hate Men” (from Pinterest)

Kathryn Grayson, the Opera Soprano trained singer who went to Hollywood, is a sheer delight as both Lilli Vanessi and the title character of Shakespeare’s famous Shrew. Grayson’s voice and style is perfect for the nearly always frustrated Lilli who has a love/hate relationship with both her ex-husband and the acting profession, her voice going deep Alto every time someone gets her mad. While it’s clear she loves performing, the tough time she had with ex Fred Graham has soured her to the calling, and wanting to start afresh by marrying a wealthy and doting Texas Cattle Baron. The mix of the film going from the performance to the backstage shows Lilli is very much like the character of Kate in that the she’s quick temper, isn’t afraid to get physical, and would gladly punch the lights out of her would be suitor, but unlike Kate, Lilli loves to be romanced and dotted upon, just wanting the man she marries to treat her like an equal and a partner, rather than just a cog in the theater machine to success. Her ire really gets up when Fred stoops to a new low and cons two hoods into making her stay with the production, falsely believing Fred owes their boss money for a gambling loss, making the hoods wish they hadn’t taken the job when, during a scene in the play, she begins throwing very real dishes, pots, and vases at them. Her emotions eventually become conflicted upon realizing that Fred truly does care about her, but at the same time feels he did her wrong so many times when they were married the first time that she wonders if she can honestly trust him.

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Fred Trying to Remind Lilli of the Good Times They Shared (from TCM)
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The Wiley and Cunning Petruchio Making Plans With Father-in-Law Baptista (from The Blonde at the Film)

Howard Keel, with his Tenor-Baritone pipes and rascally persona, does a fine job in the roles of Fred Graham and Petruchio. A Poster Boy example of what a hammy ego-maniac star usually is like, Fred Graham is the kind of guy who may very well make a struggling actor or actress a name in the business, the main question really being how long will it take before the performer wants to strangle him for being too demanding and difficult. Fred is an actor/director who knows what he wants and knows what will make a show a success, but his methods for getting the job done are fairly questionable. Not above using jealousies and professional competition as a means to coercing hard to get actors and actresses to accept roles in his productions, Fred may have bit off more than he could chew when he goes too far in trying to match ex wife Lilli’s verbal barbs and she finally has enough and decides to quit show business. Panicking over the failure of the show, in both money and within the theater community, and what it’ll mean for his reputation, Fred once again gets far too desperate in his actions to save the show. After a co-star, who’s jealous of the swoons his girlfriend gives Fred, signs his gambling IOU debt with Fred’s name, Fred equally deceives the hoodlums who intend to break the debt holder’s body parts unless the money’s coughed up, by making them think Lilli’s performance is the only way the show will make money to pay them off, thus using force to make her stay. The plan goes awry in the end when Lilli manages to scare the hoods and Fred into letting her go by threatening kidnapping charges to the police. Realizing Lilli’s on to all his tricks, Fred tries being honest with her, saying theater, and he himself, are nothing without her talent and gracefulness, and admitting that it was his ego that fouled up their marriage. He then must wait and see what happens.

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Lilli is Unimpressed as Lois Shows Her Range (from SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER – California Film Institute)
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The Lovely Bianca Laments Her Marriage Woes (from Ultimate Movie Rankings)
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The Comic Hoodlums Lippy and Slug (from YouTube)
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The Duo in Disguise as Extras (from NZIFF)
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Bianca’s Vying Suitors (from Pinterest)
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The Frustrated Poppa Baptista (from Aveleyman)

Ms. Grayson and Mr. Keel are joined by a bevy of talented theater and film performers.

Anne Miller, the Queen of Tap Dance, is a hit as the other woman Lois Lane (no pun on Superman here) and the late casted Bianca for the Graham production. Lois is an aspiring performer actress/dancer who innocently flirts with Fred Graham to help move her career along. Her problem is that her boyfriend Bill Calhoun is content with being just another nameless hoofer in the chorus, and prefers the thrill of gambling over the excitement of applause and performing. His frustration over Lois and his bad luck is what leads to the crazy events later on, but in the end things work out for them. Keenan Wynn (Disney Legend Ed Wynn’s son) and James Whitmore, two of Hollywood’s more reliable heavies and antagonists, are blasts in the respective roles of Lippy and Slug, Mob debt collectors. When Bill’s losses at gambling round up to $2000, the duo’s boss sends them to either get the money owed to him, or to break the welching gambler’s arms and legs. Because they didn’t see Bill at the gaming joint, and only know the IOU bears the signature Fred Graham, the duo immediately head for the known Broadway star’s dressing room. Eventually they come to like Graham, and don’t relish the idea of beating him to a pulp for not paying, never finding out they’ve been given a bum steer by Bill. Oddly enough, both Wynn and Whitmore come off as more comical than menacing, as per script, and audiences can’t help but like them. Broadway fans will like that icon Bob Fosse made his first film appearance in Kate as one of Bianca’s suitors, Hortensio to be exact, and even in this small role, his song and dance talent can be clearly seen. Kurt Kasznar, known to most people as the bumbling and shifty Mr. Fitzhugh in Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants, plays another unnamed actor playing the role of Kate and Bianca’s father Baptista. This guy clearly has no clue Fred and Lilli are at the breaking point of civility to each other, and shows the professionalism of actor’s by trying to keep the show going in spite of the mayhem.

Image result for kiss me kate movie
All The World’s A Stage (from The Blonde at the Movies)

The film is a highlight of the Golden Age of Musicals, along with Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon, and Easter Parade, and while some of the film’s content can be seen as dated, old fashion, and borderline sexist/chauvinistic, the music and performances make up for the flaws, and the flaws of course can also be overlooked as an object of the time it was made in. It’s surprising the Musical didn’t do more in the 3D realm as 3D was perfect for the genre, allowing for the gimmicks to used in believable ways that didn’t look like playing to the camera.

(I do highly recommend this very well done Musical for anyone who likes the genre, and for those looking for a good place to start with it. There are some clichés involved with it, and some material that is dated, or hasn’t translated well for future viewers, but the film overall can still speak to many generations about the pratfalls of being in the theater, and how temperament amongst actors can make or break both personal and professional relationships. I do this one in honor of one of my more recent Followers Master Mix Movies, who loves all sorts of genre cinema, and seems to really like films that mix genres together, so I hope he takes a liking to this one. There is a Blu Ray available from the Warner Archives label, and while the transfer of the film is immaculate, only the original 3D print is used for the release that requires the specialized 3D TV and 3D capable Blu Ray player. The original release Blu Ray had both the 2D and 3D versions, but has long been out of print. The DVD is still a great option as it has the same transfer of the Blu Ray, but is the 2D version.)

all images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045963/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiss_Me_Kate_(film)

buying options

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Murder by the Clock

by Tony Nash

(WordPress Follower Appreciation #3: Debbi-IFatM)

(All Opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

The Big Clock (1948) - IMDb
Original Poster

The Big Clock (1948) ***** PG-13

Ray Milland: George Stroud

Charles Laughton: Earl Janoth

Maureen O’Sullivan: Georgette Stroud

George Macready: Steve Hagen

Elsa Lanchester: Louise Patterson

Harold Vermilyea: Don Klausmeyer

Dan Tobin: Ray Cordette

Rita Johnson: Pauline York

Harry Morgan: Bill Womack (as Henry Morgan)

Richard Webb: Nate Sperling

Elaine Riley: Lily Gold

Written by: Johnathan Latimer, based on the novel by Kenneth Fearing

Directed by: John Farrow

Synopsis: George Stroud is struggling to save his marriage when his wife accuses him of fooling around and being a yes man for his megalomaniac newspaper boss Earl Janoth. When Janoth’s mistress reveals she’s been fooling around on him, he kills her in a rage. Wrongly believing Stroud is the other man, Janoth has evidence planted to incriminate him, and goes so far as having Stroud look for “the killer”. When Stroud discovers the truth, a race ensues to prove his innocence.

Blu-ray: The Big Clock review - brilliantly constructed comedy noir, ripe  for rediscovery
Stroud on the Case (from The Arts Desk)

The Post WWII Years are considered the beginning of pure Film Noir, the mix of light and shadows, and peoples uncertainty of who could be trusted as trust and loyalty were shattered by war time actions becoming the forefront of the genre. The Big Clock was a unique piece in the Post War era as it mixed the unease of the time with the classic procedural detective stories of the 1930’s and early 1940’s, making for a concoction that’s both thrilling and immersive. A talented writer’s gotten stuck in a lingering funk as he’s torn between continuing a well paying but overwhelming job, and saving his loving but strife’ d marriage. His life takes a whirlwind shock turn when his boss murders his two-timing mistress and, believing the writer is the other man, frames him for the crime. To make matters even stranger, the tyrant killer sets it up so the writer will discover he’s been framed by giving him the job of “finding the killer”. The entire film becomes of a mix of detective style investigative drama and mystery suspense as the boss and his henchman look to prevent the reporter from finding out he was framed and exposes his boss for the crazed tyrant he is.

Blu-Ray Review | The Big Clock (Blu-ray) | Blu-ray Authority
Stroud in Hot Water After a Bender (from Blu Ray Authority)

Ray Milland offers up a solid and nuanced performance as George Stroud. While a good guy for the most part, Stroud lacks the ability to decide between what is right and what is necessary for his personal ethics and life. He’s a talented writer wasting his time in a “yellow journalism” paper that also acts as a gossip column While his newspaper reporter’s job offers a nice salary to keep a roof over his and his wife’s head, the ridiculous hours and assignments he’s often given, leave him little opportunity and time to be the devoted and loving husband he desires to be. His wife, while supportive and sympathetic, constantly harangues him for thinking more of his job than of her, even though his job is what keeps them in house, food, and clothing. That Stroud can’t seem to reconcile both worlds makes things a lot tougher, and the strain of being unable to prove his devotion to the woman he loves, almost leads him astray. When he innocently flirts with a woman who ends up being the newspaper boss’s mistress, and who is later murdered by the magnate, Stroud inadvertently gets mistaken for the “other man”, and must use his wits and ability as a reporter to prevent his boss from successfully making him look guilty of murder and infidelity.

OZU TEAPOT — The Big Clock | John Farrow | 1948 Charles...
Janoth Is Calmed by Hagen (from OZU TEAPOT Tumblr)

Charles Laughton, one of Hollywood’s most prolific and versatile character actors, gets his magnum opus of slimy villainy as Earl Janoth. Janoth is a Hearst style newspaper magnate in that he’s ruthless, cunning, and will make his employees do whatever it takes to get a story out. He makes a huge mistake however when he falls for an equally devious woman who manages to put one over on him and makes him look like a fool. Enraged, Janoth coldly murders her and, thinking his ace reporter is the other man and saw what had happened, uses his power and influence to make the man the patsy in the woman’s death. Letting the reporter believe he has to solve the murder because of how close to home it hits the paper, Janoth sets up a wave of planted evidence, false leads and witnesses, and a false suspect to be found, all in hopes the police will be led to the reporter. Unbeknownst to Janoth, the reporter has figured out his scheme, and soon plans are unraveling as Janoth tries to stay two steps ahead.

THE BIG CLOCK (1948) - Comic Book and Movie Reviews
An Eccentric Artist Helps Stroud (from Comic Book and Movie Reviews)
The Big Clock - The Big Clock (1948) - Film - CineMagia.ro
Hagen, Janoth’s Right Hand (from Cinemagia)
Test DVD - La Grande Horloge (The Big Clock) 1948 - Carlotta Films * Film  Noir CineFaniac - Tout sur les films noirs
Stroud and His Wife (from Cinefanatic)
The Big Clock (1948) Film Noir. Harry Morgan, John Farrow | Film noir,  Noir, Film
Janoth’s Silent Henchman (from Pinterest)

A slew of Golden Age actors and actresses join Milland and Laughton in the whirlwind mystery Thriller. Maureen O’Sullivan, known to many as the mother of actress Mia Farrow, came out of retirement at director/husband John Farrow’s (Mia’s Dad) request to play Stroud’s loving and supportive, but frazzled wife Georgette (what a pun there huh?). Sullivan mainly plays the typical loyal wife who has her reserves, but Sullivan always played whatever part she got with believability. George Macready, who could play both good guys and bad guys, does a fantastic job as Janoth’s secretary and partner in crime Steve Hagen. Hagen, who at times feels he’ll forever be in Janoth’s shadow, ends up being the weak link in Janoth’s scheme when jealousy and betrayal circle into bigger problems. Elsa Lanchester, one of the quintessential British character actresses, whose fame was cemented as The Bride in 1936’s Bride of Frankenstein and later in 1964 as Katie Nanna in Disney’s Mary Poppins, gets to ham it up well as the bohemian artist Louise Patterson. A painting of Patterson’s proves vital in helping Stroud prove his innocence, and she tags along in the investigation to not only help Stroud, but get his aid in locating her long runnoft husband. MASH fans will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Harry Morgan, credited as Henry Morgan, plays a fairly big part in the film as Janoth’s brutish enforcer Mr. Womack. Morgan doesn’t speak at all in the film, but his facial features give away a ruthless tough who’ll do what he’s told, and do it well.

The Big Clock (1948) - John Farrow - RoweReviews
Stroud Stays a Step Ahead (from RoweReviews)

The film for a time was in a limbo before actually starting production. Author and poet Kenneth Fearing wrote the main villain of the book, Earl Janoth, as a blatant caricature ripoff to Time Magazine publisher Henry Luce, who had given Fearing loads of grief when Fearing’s financial troubles forced him to take a job with the magazine. Paramount Pictures bought the rights to the book before it even hit stores, but had to wait to greenlight it until critic reviews came out, and were fearful of the project going down in flames should Henry Luce decide to sue Fearing for slander and defamation of character. To everyone’s sigh of relief amazement, Luce didn’t make the connection between Janoth and himself, and Paramount greenlight the film.

The Big Clock (1948) - John Farrow - RoweReviews
A Night View of the Outside of the Janoth Publication (from RoweReviews)

In spite of fears of the author being sued, the creative issues between director Farrow and Paramount Producers, and usual on set antics of the cast, The Big Clock is still one of the best Post WWII era Noirs, and showcases the uncertainty of that trying period.

(A great Noir Thriller that movie fans should check out at least once, and another high recommendation from this author. Anyone new to Noir will find this film a good starting point to begin, and long term fans of the genre will find it the perfect film to frequently revisit. The plot and action have the hallmarks of an Agatha Christie story, but the cinematography definitely makes it a proper Noir. The Blu Ray from Arrow Video’s Arrow Academy Line offers up a solid transfer in the both the video and audio of the film, making it look exactly as it did in 1948. I dedicate this one to the lovely and wonderful Debbi, who runs the blog I Found It at the Movies. Her Blog does a varied amount of content, but her main interest seems to be Noir and Gangster movies, and I figured this film would be the perfect compliment to show my appreciation for her following my blog.)

all images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Clock_(film)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040160/

buying options

https://arrowfilms.com/product-detail/the-big-clock-blu-ray/FCD1880

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, TV: Analysis/Overview

An Alternate Take on the Musical Fairy Tale

by Tony Nash

(WordPress Followers Appreciation #1 Yolanda)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoilers)

Donkey Skin (1970) – Ticklish Business
French Poster

Peau d’Ane (Donkey Skin) (1970) ***** PG-13

Catherine Deneuve: The Princess/The Blue Queen I (the Mother)

Jean Marias: The Blue King

Jacques Perrin: Prince Charming/The Red Prince

Delphine Seyrig: The Lilac Fairy

Jean Servais: The Narrator (Voice)

Micheline Presle: The Red Queen/The Blue Queen II

Fernand Ledoux: The Red King

Henri Cremieux: The Blue King’s Physician

Sacha Pitoeff: The Minister

Written & Directed by Jacques Demy, based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault

Synopsis: A beautiful princess, with the aid of her fairy godmother, flees via disguise from her father the king, whom has been wrongly advised to marry to marry. The fairy godmother then secretly guides a prince to save the princess and restore harmony to the land.

Donkey Skin Blu-ray (DigiPack)
The Princess incognito (from Blu Ray.com)

Jacques Demy, a Nouvelle Vague Français era filmmaker who rejected the movement in favor of his love of Classic Hollywood, briefy tried his hand at fairy tales in the early to mid 1970’s. His first outing in this trial was Peau d’Ane, a lesser known fairy tale from his home country. For about 40 to 50 years at the time, many fairy tales that were made into films were often sanitized as the key audience for them were children, but Demy broke this mold by taking on the darker elements these classic tales had lurking beneath, and confounded both viewers and critics alike by making his adaption with the lightheartedness and whimsy accepted for the kinds of films sold to children. Demy’s heroine is a beautiful princess caught in a difficult situation when, after her equally beautiful mother dies of an unnamed illness, her distraught father the king is falsely led to believe his promise to marry someone as beautiful as his wife can only be kept if he marries his own child. Loving her father dearly, but also knowing what she’ll be asked of is wrong, the princess flees her kingdom, helped by the Lilac Fairy, under the guise of a scullery worker called Donkey Skin (because of the donkey hide used to conceal herself). What follows is carefully executed plan by both Demy and his intelligent Fairy Godmother to weave a classic story, and take it in a new direction.

Donkey-Skin
Drawing from an early story collection (from Castel Volante)

Charles Perrault, the classic age French writer who penned the classics Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Puss in Boots also wrote Peau d’Ane. While fairy tales are indeed spun for the young and the young at heart, Perrault, much like his successor Hans Christian Andresen, delved into pretty frightening, dark, and taboo material that today surprises many people. While it’s still debated whether Perrault hid these details through creative wording or that such material was seen as necessary to aiding children in their adult years, he, like his contemporaries and successors, gave the world many memorable and beloved tales that not only sent many or magical and whimsical journeys, but also gave others thought provoking items to consider.

Donkey Skin (1970) directed by Jacques Demy • Reviews, film + cast •  Letterboxd
The Princess Making Herself Pretty (from Letterboxd)
Review: Donkey Skin - Slant Magazine
The Princess Hiding Out as Donkey Skin (from Slant Magazine)

Catherine Deneuve, an icon of French Cinema, gives one of her most unique performances as The Princess, her Mother the First Queen, and Donkey Skin. Deneuve distinguishes her Princess from the ones commonly showcased in fairy tales and legends by having her be intelligent, resourceful, and selfless. Her willingness to live a life incognito, working hard like the peasants of the land to avoid a wedding that would do more harm than good for herself, her father, and the kingdom makes her a heroine that has earned audience sympathy and support. She’s not arrogant like other princesses, has no issues dressing in commoner garb, and accepts orders from the various homes she asks for work in like any other servant. In a way this is a sort of martyrdom, as she’s convinced her father can’t be dissuaded from the act of incest. When she meets her true love the Red Prince after having gotten a job in his father’s stables, he begins to fall in love with the person she is, seeing all her remarkable qualities, thus paving the way for a happy return.

Donkey Skin (1970) – Midnight Only
The King top a Giant Cat (from Midnight Only)

Jean Marias, a French cinema leading man who began his career with the legendary auteur Jean Cocteau, returns to his fantasy roots with the role of the Blue King. A good man who treats his subjects well and keeps harmony and peace within his kingdom, the Blue King so far fits the profile of the kind of ruler every monarch based country should have. When his beloved Queen dies suddenly, he becomes depressed and lost in his grief. Promising his beloved he would only marry a woman who matched her beauty, the King gets some very bizarre and not at all helpful advice from his astrologer doctor that the only way to keep his promise is to marry his own daughter. So lost in his sadness he somehow agrees to this, and his kingdom ends up in a kind of turmoil as the Princess’ self exile to avoid such blasphemy causes much sadness. With the aid of a neighboring monarchy and the Lilac Fairy, the King slowly begins to realize his error, and slowly all begins to become right again.

Donkey Skin (1970) - IMDb
Films on the Lake Presents Donkey Skin (Peau d'âne) | French Culture

Top: The Red Prince (from the IMDb) Bottom: The Lilac Fairy (from French Culture.org)

Jacques Perrin and Delphine Seyrig offer nice supporting roles as Prince Charming and the Lilac Fairy respectively. A Fairy Tale isn’t complete without Prince Charming, and Perrin gives audiences a nice mixture of a classic Fairy Tale princes and modern thinking prince. A recurring dream has the Prince taking his trusty stead out daily in search of the beauty who he believes is destined to be his bride, and while he comes up short each time, delights in sharing his dreams with the local animals in the forest, whom help when they can in the Prince’s searching. He at first is bewildered by his attraction to the new stable maid Donkey Skin, but after spending time speaking with her, comes to admire her, and soon is made aware of her real identity and helps her restore the balance and harmony to the land. Miss Seyrig’s Fairy Godmother is an absolutely brilliant character by Demy, offering up both the motherly qualities of the classic fairy protector, and the resourcefulness of New Age Women. Seyrig enchants with both whimsy and beauty as she works behind the scenes to ensure all the characters happiness, while also teaching the Blue King some very valuable and humbling lessons.

Ecstatic: Donkey Skin
The Court of the Red Royal Family (from Ecstatic-Blogger)

Jacques Demy once again proves to audiences that just because certain stories are from long ago, doesn’t mean that freshness can’t be brought to them, and gives them one part classic nostalgia from their youth, and one part current vibe to fit the era he makes his films in. Near flawlessly mixing the classic with the contemporary, Demy reminds his viewers why he is the master of the modern fantasy, the modern musical, and the modern Fairy Tale.

( I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for nostalgia with a hint of reinvention, anyone who loves French Cinema, lovers of Catherine Deneuve (like myself), and anyone just looking for something unique. The Criterion Collection Blu Ray, via their Essential Jacques Demy Box Set, offers their usual amazing work in the audio and visual department, Demy’s use of color looking as vibrant and crisp as ever. This write up is done in honor of one of my more recent Followers, Yolanda – Aspergers syndrome – Poetry – Alternative female – Mental illness, specifically the Alternative end of her blog. From what I’ve seen so far of her posts so far, she seems to go for anything recognizable to folks, but in a new and different approach. I think and hope that she’ll appreciate this different flavor to a take on the classic genres of film.)

All images courtesy og Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066207/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donkey_Skin_(film)

https://www.criterion.com/films/28605-donkey-skin

Buying Options

https://www.criterion.com/boxsets/1055-the-essential-jacques-demy

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

The Maestro of Horror’s Grand Opus

by Tony Nash

(Halloween Potpourri 5)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Major Spoilers)

(Review is of the uncut Italian language version)

(Author’s Note: This review will be a little different, as I feel to relate the film is to speak of personal viewpoint, so here I’ll be speaking in the first person for much of the review)

Lisa and the Devil (1973) Preview - Color / 3:05 mins - YouTube
A US Poster (from YouTube)

Lisa e il Diavolo (Lisa and the Devil) (1972/73) ****1/2 R

Telly Savalas: Leandro, the Butler/A Demon

Elke Sommer: Lisa Reiner/Elena, Max’s Wife

Alessio Orano: Max, the Countess’ Son

Alida Valli: The Countess

Sylva Koscina: Sophie Leher

Eduardo Fajardo: Francis Leher

Espartaco Santoni: Carlo, Countess’ Husband

Gabriele Tinti: George, the Leher Chauffer

Franz von Treuberg: The Shopkeeper

Kathleen Leone: Lisa’s Friend (as Kathy Leone)

Written by: Mario Bava & Alfredo Leone (as Alfred Leone)

Directed by: Mario Bava

Synopsis: A woman finds herself put through a night of bizarre terror and the supernatural while spending the night at a decrepit villa of a creepy Spanish noble family

Lisa and the Devil (1973)
The Countess recalls the Past (from the IMDb)

After years of having his films compromised by Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson for American distribution, Mario Bava finally achieved complete creative freedom for exhibition in both Europe and the States with his newest film Lisa e il Diavolo. Bava had the concept for the film in his head for years, having jotted down notes and a treatment throughout the years, but couldn’t convince anyone to back the film due to its artistic and experimental nature. The picture finally got greenlight after Bava had a string of successes and one of the Italian studios offered him the opportunity to make any film he wished. What audiences of the time were treated to was a series of surreal imagery and story that had them struggling to comprehend what they were seeing. This botch at the box office caused Producer and co-writer Alfredo Leone to make changes to the film without contacting Bava and the subsequent mess that resulted from the changes led to the first of Bava’s descent into poor health and a heart attack. Not until Bava’s passing was the original film praised.

lisa e il diavolo | Tumblr
The Weeds of Time (from Tumbler)

The film is very hard to explain, Bava employing the painterly qualities he learned from his father to the overall look to the piece. This makes the film seem much more akin to a puzzle that even I your humble reviewer had trouble deciphering. This doesn’t take away from the films’ beauty at all, and it is indeed very much a painting brought to life the way only a mind like Bava’s could achieve. What we the audience end up seeing on screen is a version of Hell in its most devilish form, the realization all of these characters are being forced to relive their horrific deaths night after night as punishment for their sins in life. Whether they try every night to escape their fates isn’t determined, but what we do know is that at least two of the characters are aware of what is really happening, with the littlest of hope they can change history.

Lisa and the Devil (1973)
Devilish Hands at Work (from the IMDb)

Telly Savalas, one of the most iconic character actors of several decades, gets to play in his one and only avant-garde artistic style role with the part of Leandro the Butler. Whether he is Satan himself (as the fresco in the film’s opening suggests) or A demon sent by Satan to ensure history is repeated daily is unknown, but it is clear he holds permanent dominion over this disturbed family and the unfortunate guests who happened to become ensnared in events, and is loving it. Amazingly, Leandro in no way manipulates the events to ensure the Horror of these poor souls continues, and seems to only be a presence that moves in and out of the scenes, interacting with the others when necessary.

(Author’s Note: The lollipop that would become Savalas’ trademark as the character of Kojack originated in this film. Savalas was having difficulties giving up smoking, and Bava recommended he suck on lollipops as a substitute.)

Lisa and the Devil (1973)
Going Deeper into the Madness (from the IMDb)

Elke Sommer, the Austrian beauty, reunites with Bava a year after working with him on Gli Orrori del Castello di Norimberga (The Horror of Nuremburg Castle/Baron Blood) in the role of Lisa. Very little is known about Lisa, other than that she decided to spend her vacation in Spain, which makes her ending up at the villa and her subsequent connection to the other participants even stranger as there’s no way to figure out how this is all happening. Sommer has very little to almost no dialogue in the film, making her like Leandro in that everything seems to happen around her, making her the central figure.

Lisa and the Devil (1973)
The Blind Countess (from the IMDb)
Film Review: Lisa and the Devil (1974) | HNN
The Unstable Max (from Horromews)
Lisa and the Devil (1973)
The Lovely Sophie (from the IMDb)
Lisa e il diavolo (1973) - il Davinotti
Francis and Leandro (from il Davinotti)

The two leads are joined by such performers as Alida Valli, Eduardo Fajardo, Sylva Koscina, and Alessio Orano. These players at one time or another engaged acts of infidelity, betrayal, and murder, and are forced by the power of the Devil to relive those sins, and the deaths they suffered because of them in an immortal loop, dying only to return to life not long after to begin the tragic cycle all over again.

Lisa and the Devil (1973)
House of Puppets (from the IMDb)

Mannequins play an important role in the film as since the majority of the characters are long dead, the life size figures act as recreations of the deceased, fixed and brought back to life by Leandro, once every murder has been committed. How Leandro does thins is never explained, only that each figure is created by a local shopkeeper to fit the likeness of the participants, and then animated by unknown forces.

lisa e il diavolo Tumblr posts - Tumbral.com
Tragedy Lies Behind this Beautiful Facade (from Tumbral)

Like I said in the past , how each viewer interprets a film is based on their own experience, and Lisa e il Diavolo is the ultimate example of this. It can be really difficult to explain this one without giving your own opinion as the imagery Bava goes with is very visceral and is nearly impossible to be objective when discussing it. Since Bava made the film with no audience in mind and truly did make something he himself wanted to see, it makes pinpointing something exact hard. If Bava truly intended for this to be the type of film that every viewer would have a different perspective on after seeing it, then he succeeded a 100 times over since his death in 1980 as the film does continue to fascinate, unnerve, and confound people.

(This film isn’t for everyone, but those who do see it, while bewildered, do come away with interesting experience that leaves them thinking about the film for a long while after seeing it. The Blu Ray from Arrow Video is fairly immaculate, only small hints of age and wear present.)

all images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068863/?ref_=hm_rvi_tt

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_and_the_Devil

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_e_il_diavolo

buying options

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

When Horror Met Trippy Art Cinema

by Tony Nash

(Halloween Potpourri 4)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

Vampyros Lesbos (1971) - Posters — The Movie Database (TMDb)
US Poster (from the Movie Database)

Vampyros Lesbos (Las Vampiras) (1971) ****1/2 NC-17

Soledad Miranda: Countess Nadine Corday (as Susann Korda)

Ewa Stromberg: Linda Westinghouse (as Ewa Stroemberg)

Dennis Price: Dr. Alwin Seward

Paul Muller: Dr. Steiner

Heidrun Kussin: Agra, Nadine’s Mad Lover

Andrea Montchal: Omar, Linda’s Boyfriend (as Viktor Feldmann)

Jose Martinez Blanco: Morpho, Nadine’s Servant (as J. Martinez Blanco)

Jesus Franco: Memmet, the Mad Caretaker

Written by: Jaime Chavarri, Jesus Franco (as Franco Manera), and Anne Settimo, from a stroy by Chavarri and loosely adapted from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and J. Sheridan le Farnu’s Carmilla

Directed by: Jesus Franco (as Franco Manera)

Synopsis: Real Estate agent Linda Westinghouse is sent by her company to arrange the selling of a property owned by Countess Nadine Corday. The two quickly become romantically involved, only for Linda to discover Nadine is a vampire, turned by the late Count Dracula himself, and is now under her hypnotic influence. Complications arise when Nadine finds herself genuinely falling in love with Linda, while Linda’s boyfriend and a local doctor attempt to free her.

American Genre Film Archive VAMPYROS LESBOS
Hiding from Religion (from American Genre Film Archive)

Jess Franco’s first full on attempt at mixing avant-garde cinema with exploitation cinema is an amazing achievement which showed what Franco was capable of when given the right amount of time and freedom, and offered a pen-ultimate showcase of the talent that Soledad Miranda was fleshing out prior to her tragic death in a car accident. Taking elements from both Stoker’s Dracula and Le Farnu’s Carmilla, Franco and his co writers create a story that, while very basic in both subject and execution, offer up quite a bit of subtext, and deep emotion underneath the surface that while doesn’t seem to show itself as the film is being viewed, becomes clear to the viewer after thinking about the film for some time afterwards.

Vampyros Lesbos (1970) – Midnight Only
Countess Nadine Corday played by the ravishing Soledad Miranda (from Midnight Only)

Soledad Miranda, using the stage name Susann Korda, offers up one of her most subtle, compelling, thought provoking, and finest performance as Nadine Corday. A Countess by birth and once a human, Nadine was turned sometime in the 18th or 19th century by the infamous bloodsucker Count Dracula, and has since seduced and fed on mainly female lovers, having grown to hate men after Dracula betrayed her. Miranda’s soulful and hypnotic look serves the character of Nadine well, and while the actress shows very little emotion, half her choice and half Franco’s choice, there are still many moments where Nadine is clearly in conflict with herself over many of her choices since becoming a vampire, and hasn’t completely lost her humanity in how she feels about certain characters, particularly with Linda and the man servant Morpho. Possibly the only contradiction to her character concerns a woman named Agra, one of Nadine’s former lovers. Like Dracula had done to Nadine, so had Nadine done to Agra and abandoned her, leaving her to be caged in a mental institution. Whether she regrets this entirely is unknown.

Vampyros Lesbos
A Spiritual Ritual….with Blood (from Mondo Digital)

The first in a brief cycle of Franco themes in his experimental age is a female vampire existing in both daylight and night. Whether it began as budget constraints based upon the time frame he had to shoot on location with, or if it really was an artistic decision, Nadine Corday seems to be the first Franco vampire to have transcended the majority of limitations with the species and is able to function as a normal woman within society. That she still needs blood as her sustenance and both religious iconography and prayers repel her maintain the flaws of the vampiric people.

Vampyros Lesbos Blu-ray Review | High Def Digest
Linda Becoming Nadine’s Lover (from High Def Digest)

Ewa Stromberg, a Swedish actress who briefly acted in the 60’s and 70’s get one of her rare major roles in the part of Linda Westinghouse. Little is known of Linda’s life prior to the events of the film, but from all accounts she appears to have led a normal, uneventful, and maybe even boring life with her boyfriend Omar, and it all changes in an instant when she meets Nadine. What makes Linda different to most objects of a vampire’s desires is that she appears to be a fairly willing participant after a brief period of time. Like Nadine, Linda too begins developing real and genuine romantic feelings, but because she isn’t completely under Nadine’s thrall, is able to overcome the influence while recovering from blood loss and exhaustion. Unfortunately, Nadine won her heart fairly and now Linda must decide if she can muster the courage to free herself from damnation, and maybe give Nadine the freedom she felt lost to.

Vampyros Lesbos
The Dubious Dr. Seward (from Mondo Digital)
Vampyros Lesbos
The Mistress and Her Servant (from Mondo Digital)

The two lovely female leads are joined by an eclectic cast of characters including British expat actor Dennis Price, Swiss-German actor Paul Muller, Spanish actors Andres Montchal and Jose Martinez Blanco, two trying desperately to save Linda, one trying to aid Nadine in her plans, and another out for himself. Price is particularly effective as a play to the Dracula character Dr. Seward, this go around called Alwin Seward. Unlike the literary counterpart, this Seward isn’t entirely what he seems, and his methods are equally strange in getting to the bottom of things. The remaining cast seem to have little to do, but are still good at their respective parts.

Vampyros Lesbos / She Killed in Ecstasy - Psycho Drive-In
Vampyros Lesbos – [FILMGRAB]

The color red plays a very pivotal role in the film. Often used as the lighting in a room, the color of clothing, or in the form of liquid, red is ever present in the world Nadine Corday. Red showcases the always lurking aspects of life, death, love, blood, sex, death, immortality, and the erotic, acting as a symbol of what human life can never truly break away from, and that in spite of humanity’s evolvement in morality and behavior, is always there, waiting and watching in silence.

Vampyros Lesbos BD Review (originally published 2015)
A Tragic Love Story (from Genre Grinder)

While aspects of Homoerotic and Lesbian romances have always had a thin veiled presence in the cinema, usually subtly hinted at, Jess Franco broke a major boundary by having the Nadine and Linda characters openly, and very explicitly, engage in a sexual relationship. A sometimes forgotten aspect of Horror films is that occasionally at the heart of them is a tragic, dark, and twisted love story, and the one between Nadine and Linda is no different. What begins as a simple seduction to quench an everlasting need for blood to survive turns into a love that likely can never be for Nadine, as for her to do so would mean killing the woman she loves, thus losing the innocence and purity that made said love possible. For Linda, her unintentional falling in love presents a major complication: does she want to be free to be with her boyfriend, or will she want to succumb to most forbidden temptation to be one of the damned to live forever.

Vampyros Lesbos Blu-ray Review | High Def Digest
A Symbolic Representation of Light and Darkness (from High Def Digest)

One of Jess Franco’s more hypnotic films, and one that keeps a coherent narrative floating in the midst of varying symbolism and surrealistic imagery, VL proves to be a somewhat lesser feat of artistic achievement and showcases what Franco could’ve achieved had events not taken a tragic turn.

(This is another occasion where I feel I can’t recommend a film to everyone in spite of its fine quality and quantity, only because Franco’s latter period is clearly not to everyone tastes, even with higher production values and the feeling that though there’s an exploitive feel to the film, the film doesn’t showcase it for its own sake. Again, it’s one of those films that what you’re supposed to be looking for isn’t present as you’re watching it, but will start to become clearer as you go through everything you’ve witnessed afterwards. This is another example of sometimes having to really make your own choice, even if the majority says it is a film to start with regarding Franco.)

all images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066380/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampyros_Lesbos

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Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics