Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

Birthday Wishes to My Favorite Actress

from Tony Nash

Today is the birthday of my all time favorite actress ever, Miss Catherine Deneuve, who is 77 years young.

The 8th Best Actress of All-Time: Catherine Deneuve - The Cinema Archives
(from the Cinema Archive)
Indie Sales to Show New Film with Catherine Deneuve at UniFrance RDV -  Variety
(from Variety)

I first saw Catherine Deneuve in a film when I was 19 and watched my first ever French language film Un Flic (A Cop) from French Noir master Jean-Pierre Melville. Granted Melville had difficulty in writing parts for film actresses, she was still a graceful and wonderful presence to behold on screen.

I first came to really appreciate her after watching Le Parapluies du Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) about a year later, and was completely under her spell. There’s just something completely enrapturing about her, that soulful, and sometimes mournful, gaze just implores you not to look away from her. Few actresses have left this type of impression on me, the others being Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly, so this naturally makes Catherine Deneuve pretty special, to me at least. I’ve seen a good amount of her films, have always been impressed with her, even when the film itself is a little clunky, which again shows just how much of a fine actress she is.

Another item that makes Catherine Deneuve great is that she’s one of a handful of actresses who’s never felt the need to always “bare all” for the camera to achieve desirability. Not that she wasn’t willing by any means, but she had this knack to give off the illusion of being au natural and that gave her an even more enigmatic feel as even her body remained an intriguing mystery.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mademoiselle Deneuve, you’re a first class lady

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

Here’s some English friendly interviews with the grand actress

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

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.)

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

HorrorBabble Theater Presents: The Temple of Memory

by Tony Nash

(Halloween Potpurri 3)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

Original Artwork by MG Keller Meyer (from HorrorBabble)

The Temple of Memory (2018) R *****

Ian Gordon: John Braxton, Beta Team Leader

Roslyn Hicks: Anna Channing, Beta Team Technician

Jennifer Gill: Lucy Davies, Beta Team Navigator

KINGSPOOK: David Hunter, Alpha Team Leader

Morgan Scorpion: Olivia Davies, Alpha Team Navigator

G.M. Danielson: Thomas Moore, Alpha Team Technician

Written & Produced by: Ian Gordon

Synopsis: A team from a government special agency encounters more than they bargained for as they search the Brazilian jungles for missing colleagues and look to apprehend a dangerous cult worshipping an evil sea goddess.

horrorbabble hashtag on Twitter
The Classic HorrorBabble Logo (from HorrorBabble)

HorrorBabble’s first foray into the world of Audio Drama is both a nod to the Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos and co-founder Ian Gordon’s first entry in his recurring series on the modern entity Nokuth. That the story and new Mythos is set in the current era offers quite a bit of interest, intrigue, and horror as even with all the current technology available, it seems unable to detect the presence of something most certainly alive, but beyond worldly comprehension.

Ian Gordon: Actor, Extra and Band Member - Bolton, UK - StarNow
A Voice for the Ages: the Fabulous Ian Gordon (from StarNow UK)

Ian once again shows off his amazing skills as a writer by the pacing of the piece. While the majority of the story plays out like a typical Mystery Adventure, subtle sounds and atmospheric ambience slowly lead to a crescendo of utter terror and cosmic oblivion. What begins as a simple rescue, recovery, and detain mission soon turns into a fight for survival as two separate teams of government agents uncover an evil as old as the stars, and the hideous mutations that willingly serve it. That it all seems so simple is what adds to the horror of the situation.

This is Ian Gordon, the voice behind HorrorBabble. AMA about producing  weird fiction audiobooks. : Lovecraft
The retired original HB Mascot (from Reddit)

In addition to Ian and Jennifer’s voice talents, joining in the collaboration are Australian Roslyn Hicks, fellow Britons Morgan Scorpion and G.M. Danielson, and Canadian KINGSPOOK. All the case does great jobs in lulling the listener into a sense of security, and then slowly building the fear as more and more unusual and clearly out of the ordinary things begin to happen that turn an adventure that was to be so return into something of the thing of nightmares.

Harking back to the days of British radio plays and serials, The Temple of Memory offers up a very well done mix of Horror, Adventure, Anthropology, Archeology, and even a little peudo History, all equaling to a very intriguing ride.

(Lovers of Horror, weird fiction, and anyone openly curious to varied subjects will be completely enthralled by this totally original and different piece by Ian Gordon and company. Quite a bit has already been said of the piece on the HorrorBabble YouTube page and elsewhere, so I don’t really need to rehash all the positivity its received, only to check it out, even if Horror isn’t your main thing as its very well crafted.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

For more information

to listen to the drama

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri

HorrorBabble Theater Presents: Tentacles

by Tony Nash

(Halloween Potpourri Special 2)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

Original Artwork (from HorrorBabble/Bandcamp)

Tentacles (2020) R *****

Miles Gordon/Amphibian Beasts: Ian Gordon

Lana Thompson: Jennifer Gill

Music and Produced by: Ian Gordon & Jennifer Gill

Written by: Ian Gordon, inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft

Synopsis: A Podcaster specializing in proving or disproving the paranormal presents her audience with what can only be described as the strangest case of the show’s history: what might very well be the recorded final hours of a noted paranormal investigator.

No photo description available.
Thomas, the HorrorBabble Mascot (from HorrorBabble/Facebook/ YouTube/Twitter)

Ian Gordon and Jennifer Gill once again deliver in the audio play/Drama realm with this completely original presentation. Deciding to take the approach that Cthulhu, and most likely the entirety of The Old Ones, weren’t the creations of writer H.P. Lovecraft, but are in fact real, and unknown to the general public, Ian takes listeners on a frightful journey of one man’s attempt at proving or debunking something he witnessed as a boy, and possibly risking his sanity and his life by doing so. A little of the soap opera Dark Shadows comes into play as listeners must go into suspension of belief and put themselves into the realm of a world where Lovecraftian monsters aren’t the thing of literature and pop culture, but are indeed living and breathing, and lurking and waiting at the threshold of the Earth. Body Horror also comes into play as the investigator, through not knowing anything about the forces behind the house he’s in, slowly finds himself an unwitting guinea pig for the sport of beings from beyond who may or may not have dastardly plans.

Sollasina cthulhu – Nix Illustration
A Possible Fate for Those Who Worship Great Cthulhu (from Nix Illustration)

Ian Gordon once again shows both his ability as a writer and a voice actor by not only crafting a fine story, but also offering up a fine tragic and sympathetic performance as the ill fated Miles Gordon (interesting nod). Nodding to the entirety of Lovecraft’s themes, Ian presents Miles as a man seeking to learn and discover, unaware of the consequences that could very well befall him for going into areas he needn’t go in his search for answers, the typical Lovecraftian tragedy of suffering for the sake of education. Miles isn’t shown as a skeptic looking to prove or disprove something, he’s shown as genuinely curious seeking to discover what could or couldn’t be around folks, trying to tread as lightly as a can just in case what he’s looking for happens to be around the corner.

Podcast Networks Provide Much-Needed Comfort During Pandemic – Deadline
An example of Podcasting (from Deadline)

Jennifer Gill, more of a behind the scenes figure at HorrorBabble, gets to show off her voice acting skills in the role of Lana Thompson. Lana is more of a traditional paranormal expert, not taking anything at face value, looking to see if someone is acting out a hoax before she’ll confirm something truly out of the ordinary is happening. The possible fate of Miles Gordon does seem to have her unnerved, but at the same time given that the evidence before her is strictly audio recordings, she has to take into consideration that it could be edited together.

The Legend of Cthulhu (The Birdbox Monster) | by Mukesh Solanki | Medium
Cthulhu and His Minions (from Medium)

Ian and Jennifer mix Horror and Comedy well here, and put a unique and clever spin on the Lovecraft universe that is both modern, and still maintains a tie to the past.

(This is another HorrorBabble Audio Play I recommend as while it does have ties to the Cthulhu Mythos, Ian and Jennifer take such an interesting interpretation on it that it feels like Cthulhu is more of a traditional demonic deity than something completely from the outside who doesn’t care a thing about humanity or its worshippers. Granted only scraps of information are given on the High Priest of Ryl’eah, Ian has us the viewer believing Cthulhu in the real world is another in a long line of pagan gods that simply may be more powerful than his contemporaries, which is still pretty interesting, especially since he can mutate those in his presence into his form.)

all images courtesy of Images, their respective owners, and HorrorBabble

for more information

to listen to the recording

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri

HorrorBabble Theater Presents: H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon

by Tony Nash

(Halloween Potpourri 1)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

Original Artwork (from HorrorBabble/Bandcamp)

Dagon (1917/2018) ***** PG-13

The Narrator/Turner, a Guard/Phipps, an Inmate/A Deep One: Ian Gordon

Music, Sound Effects, and Produced by: Ian Gordon

Adapted for the Airwaves by Ian Gordon from the short story by H.P. Lovecraft

Synopsis: While awaiting a decision on his mental capacity to stand trial for assault on a sailor, a man recounts to a doctor the strange, bizarre, and mind shattering events that led to an addiction to morphine.

Dagon | The H.P. Lovecraft Wiki | Fandom
Mind Shattering Eldritch Horror (from the HP Lovecraft-Wiki Fandom)

Ian Gordon and Jennifer Gill, co-founders of the website and YouTube channel HorrorBabble, bring public domain Horror Classics back to life for new audiences to appreciate, and offer old fans unique renderings of the tales. Two years ago, Ian began the process of turning some of the stories into dramatic adaptations, like the old radio plays of the 20th century, and the first two were of the author who inspired HorrorBabble: H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft, who most people know and are aware, was most famous for his grim and nihilistic Supernatural and Cosmic Horror, but his earliest efforts were quite different, as was the case with Dagon. Dagon is, by all accounts, about a man who’s world view has shattered beyond repair upon discovering something that is much older than humanity, but because Lovecraft had yet to give the basics for what would become the Cthulhu Mythos or The Lovecraftian Cycle and Yogsothoth -ary , this story can be interpreted in many different ways.

H.P. Lovecraft - Dagon | Lovecraft art, Lovecraft, Lovecraftian horror
Artist Depiction of What is on the Dagon Monolith (from Pinterest)

Ian took Lovecraft’s initial concept of a man recounting his horrific mental collapse through a diary in his home before taking his own life, and transferred it into a prison where the unnamed narrator recounts his tale to a visiting psychiatrist who may doubt the man, with a fellow inmate interjecting at interludes. Doing the adaptation as an audio drama, the mind comes into play, viewers encouraged to picture the murky dingy cell, the storm rattling outside, grungy looking prisoners, and a fancy looking guard & doctor. Ian’s use of music and sound effects are perfectly in tune with the atmosphere Lovecraft intended for the piece to invoke, recreating it through performance in fine harmony with the author’s words. The tempo slowly reaches the necessary crescendo as the audience and narrator go deeper and deeper into the vast unknown island, the terror, uncertainty, and awe bubbling to the surface. When the original Deep One first appears, the sound of wet scaley flesh smacking the ground and a gurgle like voice signify its horridness and menace.

Exploring Lovecraft: 1. Dagon – Setting the foundations - GeekChocolate
Artist Representation of Dagon the God (from GeekChocolate)

Ian is an excellent voice artist as well as author and adapter, giving enough distinction with each voice to make him the quintessential one man cast. He uses his own voice for the protagonist narrator, a deep Cockney style accent for the guard, a hoarse raspy voice for the protagonist’s cell mate, and sound effects to make up the noises of a Deep One. The Narrator in Ian’s adaptation is quite rebellious and seems to be very welcoming of death even by his own hands, his reason for wanting to tell his story is so he won’t be written off as just another kook who succumbed to drug abuse, and to let others know what’s out there waiting to rise up again. His cell mate seems very simple, but believes his story, encouraging the doctor to not dismiss the man’s story as a form of hallucination. While Ian’s voice is distinctive enough to know it is him doing all the voices, he is so good at giving each character a different feel that once audiences become acquainted with them, it no longer feels like the same person doing all the talking.  

(The COVID Pandemic, and mine not working my normal summer job has left me unable to get new titles to look into for my blog, so I decided to try something different that feels like Old Time Radio. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is purely experimental and something I always wanted to see of I could do justice to for reviews. I’m not the hugest fan of H.P. Lovecraft, but this story and The Nameless City are very good tales that, while are a part of the Cthulhu Mythos, were done early enough in Lovecraft’s lifetime and career that they can be taken as stand alone tales that aren’t too bleak or nihilistic. I’m a huge fan of Ian Gordon and feel he’s a highly talented individual who should certainly be famous worldwide, but still does very well with a large league of followers on the HorrorBabble YouTube channel. If anyone hasn’t already, please check out the channel, and I’ll be leaving links to both the video and the website.

all images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

for more information

to read the actual story

to listen to the recording

please check out the website

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri

Take a Film Dare: My Take

by Tony Nash

(A Blog Extra Special)

(All opinions are of the author alone)


Maria Falconetti and Eugene Silvain in La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)
US Poster re-release (from IMDb)

La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc/Jeanne d’Arcs Lidelse og Dod) (1928) ***** PG-13

Renee (Maria) Falconetti: Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) (as Melle Falconetti)

Eugene Silvain: Eveque (Bishop) Pierre Cauchon

Andre Berley: Jean d’Estivet

Maurice Schutz: Nicolas Loyseleur

Antonin Artaud: Jean Massieu

Michel Simon: Jean Lemaitre

Jean d’Yd: Guillaume Evrad

Louis Ravet: Jean Beaupere (as Ravet

Armand Lurville: Un Juge (A Judge) (as Andre Lurville)

Written by: Joseph Delteil & Carl Theodor Dreyer (transcribed from the real court documents)

Directed by: Carl Theodor Dreyer (as Carl Th. Dreyer)

Synopsis: Faithfully reconstructed from the real court documents, the trial, sentencing, and execution of French heroine and saint Joan of Arc is subtly re-enacted.

260 Film Screenings: La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc | Denise Likomeno
Joan Preparing to Give Her Testimony (from Denise Likomeno’s WordPress Page)

This take on my Take a Film Dare Challenge will be a little bit different in that I’m going into the past and speak about a film I wasn’t sure I’d have liked even after quite a few years.

La passion de Jeanne d'Arc / The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Carl Theodor  Dreyer, Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley, Biography, Drama,  History | RareFilm
Jean Massieu, the Only One on Joan’s Side (from RareFilm)

I had first seen Danish film icon Carl Th. Dreyer’s masterpiece late one night when I was in grade school on Turner Classic Movies with my Dad. I knew about Jeanne d’Arc from school and of course the History Channel (back when it actually showed good History programs), so I had a fairly good idea about what I was going to see. I was really struck by the use of close-ups of the faces, particularly that of Ms. Falconetti, but after about 20 minutes or so, I didn’t think the film was going anywhere and I ended up going to bed a little later.

La Passion et la Mort de Jeanne d'Arc - Posts | Facebook
Massieu Attempts to Comfort Jeanne (from Facebook)

As I was finishing High School and going into college, I started reading a little more about Dreyer and his film about Jeanne, and was starting to reassess my original thoughts of it, and it was in 2012 while taking a Women in History course I became re-immersed in the story. Our main grade was going to be based on a paper we did on famous female figure in history, and I ended up picking Jeanne. Making a mention of Jeanne in the world of TV and Film, I finally decided it was time to give that Silent film another try.

La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc: film - Students | Britannica Kids | Homework  Help
A Guard and Inquistor Look on as Jeanne Prays with the Monks (from Kids Britannica)

For the Christmas of 2012, one of my gifts was the Criterion Collection DVD of The Passion of Joan of Arc and the day after the holiday while my parents were out to the theater seeing the film musical Les Miserables I spent the evening watching the DVD. The second go around was a much more pleasurable experience than all those years ago, partly because I was older now and became more knowledgeable when it came to cinema, and cause I was more open to the experience of Dreyer’s style of filmmaking. The one thing that didn’t change for me was how horrible the score that was used for the film was, and I spent my re-watch listening to the audio commentary from historian and Dreyer biographer Casper Tybjerg.

Still Of Maria Falconetti In La Passion De Jeanne Dx Arc Photo Shared By  Frayda14 | Fans Share Images
Jeanne’s Ring is Stolen by the Inquisitors (from fansshare)
La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc). 1928. Directed by  Carl Theodor Dreyer | MoMA
Renee Falconetti perfectly embodied the spirit of Jeanne (from

The use of close-ups held more of an impact the second viewing, coming to realize Dreyer was recreating the tension, claustrophobia, and suspense that Jeanne must have felt during her trial and execution. Renee Falconetti’s performance as Jeanne is breathtaking, near perfectly identifying with the courage, fear, despair, hope, and resoluteness that was the Maid of Orleans. Never before had an actress been able to draw audiences so close to a real life figure and be able to identify with her on a real intimate level. Only Albert Dieudonne’s performance as Napoleon comes close to what Falconetti achieved with her body language and facial expressions.

La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc | Philharmonie de Paris
The end draws near for Jeanne (from Philharmonie de Paris)

I can definitely my opinion changed on the film, and for the better, as I came to understand for the most part what Dreyer wanted to achieve with the film and how he pulled it off so seamlessly. This certainly isn’t the first time a film I wasn’t sure of previously had come to work for me, but this one was the first to have a great impact on me. I highly recommend anyone to check this one out, and to definitely either the Criterion Blu Ray or Eureka! Blu Ray as they offer multiple score options over the Voices of Light that, while impressive, takes away from the film.

Please feel free to list your own experiences in the comment section, or leave a link in the comment section if you wish to take the Film Dare Challenge

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from the Masters of Cinema Eureka!
From Amazon
From Amazon UK

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Special Topics

Silence is the Greatest Terror

by Tony Nash

(The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli: The Lenzi/Baker Edition 4)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild to Spoiler Free)

(Review is of the Italian language version)

Il coltello di ghiaccio (1972) - IMDb
Original Italian Poster (from the IMDb)

Il Coltello di Ghiaccio (Knife of Ice) (1972) ****1/2 PG-13

Carroll Baker: Martha Caldwell

Alan Scott: Doctor Laurent

Ida Galli: Jenny Ascot (as Evelyn Stewart)

Eduardo Fajardo: Marcos, the Chauffer

Franco Fantasia: Inspector Duran

George Rigaud: Sir Ralph Caldwell, the Uncle  

Silvia Monelli: Anna Britton, the Maid

Lorenzo Robledo: Assistant Inspector Maler

Mario Pardo: Randy Mason

Jose Marco: Farther Martin

Rosa Maria Rodriguez: Christina Martin (as Rosa M. Rodriguez)

Written by: Umberto Lenzi, Antonio Troiso, & Luis G. de Blain

Directed by: Umberto Lenzi

Synopsis: Left mute for 15 years after witnessing her parents die in a train fire, Martha Caldwell has lived a secluded life. After her cousin, a popular singer, is murdered while visiting her, both Martha’s uncle and a local police chief initially believe a Hippie Satanist is to blame, but the truth may be far more shocking.

Knife of Ice Subtitles - Subtitle Live
On the Trail of the Killer (from Subtitle Live)

Umberto Lenzi’s last collaboration with Carroll Baker, Il Coltello di Ghiaccio combines all the methods and style Lenzi used in their previous films together to create a truly intricate and baffling case worthy of the efforts of Agatha Christie. This time taking the story to Spain, Lenzi decided to have the McGuffin scapegoat be that the culprits were Satanists trying to form a cult in the area, a real risky move as dictator Gen. Franco saw such items as defamatory to his “perfect” country. Another nod to Agatha Christie, Lenzi uses a successful series of red herring’s, essentially making every character, save the police and two or three secondary/minor characters, a plausible suspect, having them engage in behavior that is clearly odd and incriminating. The investigation turns into a frantic chase against the clock as two more women are reported dead, and evidence a drug addict Satanist is roaming the area becomes clear, leaving Martha and a young girl she cares for in danger.

Trailer: THE COMPLETE LENZI BAKER GIALLO COLLECTION Coming from Severin  Films - Dread Central
Are These the Eyes of a Killer, or of a Druggie? (from Dread Central)

Interesting enough, about a third of the cast with speaking parts are Spanish speakers. By the time the Giallo sub-genre really began taking off, the casts were made up primarily of Italians and two to four Americans, though the years between 1968 to about 1972-73 did sport 1 to 2 Spanish speakers in the cast. Co-productions between Italy, Spain, and Germany were waning a little at this time mainly due to financial reasons, and what was in vogue for audiences, so multiple countries coming together for a production didn’t seem as necessary by the mid-seventies.

Review: Knife of Ice (1972) | BMANIA – B-movies (and beer) mania
Martha Blasts a Car Horn in Leu of Screaming (from BMANIA)

Carroll Baker, in her final collaboration with Lenzi, gives one of her finest and most nuanced performances in the role of Martha Caldwell. Lenzi and Baker even give subtle hints that this was the end of their initial partnership by having her not utter a word of dialogue until the very end of the film, her playing the majority of the part as a mute. Baker playing Martha as a trauma induced mute allots her the ability to put her full range of Actor’s Studio training to complete effect, communicating to others with hand & facial gestures, the use of objects against telephone receivers and other surfaces, and of course pen and paper for responses she can’t gesture or movement mimic. Haunted by a tragedy that was unpreventable, Martha goes through life unable to speak, forced to be silent in a speaking world, only wishing to be able to use her gracious voice again. She keeps her spirits up with charity work and taking small steps to get well. What seems like an entirely peaceful weekend with her famous singer cousin, soon becomes a race to stop a maniac when the cousin is found dead, and Satanic symbols found nearby, evil rituals are believed occurring. Why Martha becomes a victim of an unknown killer is left ambiguous until the very end, and even then the reasons are very dark.

(Author’s Note: This is the only film in Lenzi & Baker’s collaborations where Baker doesn’t get nude)

The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection (Blu-ray Review) | Zombies DON'T  Run
A Much Needed Family Reunion

Another key element to show that the film would be the last of Lenzi and Baker’s initial collaborations was Baker’s dubber. Her voice was normally dubbed by Rita Savagnone, who on this occasion dubs Ida Galli, hinting both clear departures from the norm and a fond farewell. Maria Pia Di Meo, another iconic Italian actress and voice dubber takes the duties of looping the few lines of dialogue Baker does get to speak towards the end, having an equally enriching voice like Savagnone, which also does justice to Baker’s fire and passion.

the_films_in_my_life on Twitter: "KNIFE OF ICE (Italian: Il coltello di  ghiaccio) Dir: Umberto Lenzi Year: 1972 🇮🇹 #KnifeofIce  #Ilcoltellodighiaccio #UmbertoLenzi #CarrollBaker #EvelynStewart  #GeorgeRigaud…"
At the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time (from Twitter)
Knife of Ice 1972 -
An Eccentric Employee, or a Cold Blooded Fiend? (from RaresMovies/Over-Blog)
Knife of Ice / Il coltello di ghiaccio (1972) / AvaxHome
A Concerned Uncle Argues with the Investigator (from AvaxHome)
il coltello di ghiaccio | Tumblr
An Honest Doctor Must Clear Himself with Aid from the Police (from Tumblr)

Baker is joined by a stellar cast including Ida Galli, Eduardo Fajardo, George Rigaud, Alan Scott, Franco Fantasia, and Lorenzo Robledo. Galli (under her Anglo stage name Evelyn Stewart) plays Jenny Ascot, Martha’s cousin. A singer of both religious and popular melodies who travels all over for concerts, Jenny is a model of what all people aspire for in talent. When she takes a vacation to visit her cousin and uncle, she is killed, seemingly the victim of a robbery/home invasion gone wrong, but soon it seems she’s one of many victims. Her death spurs the investigation that follows. Fajardo, a well-known and loved Spanish character player is a mysterious menace as Marcos, the Caldwell chauffer. His constantly leery look leaves everyone wondering what exactly is going on in that mind of his. George Rigaud, another of the many Argentinian actors who found fame abroad plays Uncle Ralph. An amateur Occult historian, he soon begins to wonder what connection is afoot in the string of killings, worried about his nieces and a small girl at the church. Alan Scott, an American expiate who had a 20 year acting career in France, plays the local Doctor, determined to restore Martha’s ability to speak, and also has romantic feelings toward her. Why he seems flustered under certain events is unusual.

Knife of Ice 1972 -
The Inspector and His Assistant Looking Over all Angles (from RaresMovies/Over-Blog)

Franco Fantasia, an Italian actor, and Lorenzo Robledo, a Spanish actor, normally known for stock player secondary and cameo roles, get to shine as supporting players as the inspector leading the serial investigation and his assistant respectively. Completely stumped at the randomness of the killings, both the inspectors find themselves having to remain one step ahead of whoever the mysterious maniac is going around killing the women around the village. The only clue is that the deaths have something to do with being next to a cemetery and somehow revolving around the Caldwell clan.  

jade_vine: 2014 - Page 7 - The Corrierino
Going Over All Evidence (from The Corrierino)

Unlike the mess that resulted in the ending of Cosi Dolce…Cosi Perversa, Lenzi and his co-writers make these red herrings stick, and the ending, while simple, still packs a punch and leaves viewers wondering what they missed while following the cast around to figure out what’s going on.

(The last hurrah between Umberto Lenzi and Carroll Baker is indeed bittersweet, but is still very much recommended as they keep the audience in the dark and wondering until the very end. While the ending is considered a little too simple in comparison with the red herrings roaming around, it still comes out of left field and leaves anyone who views it completely speechless and its not what’s expected at all. That the killer is able to take advantage of the hysteria and do what’s needed to keep the police off of the trail makes the ending all the more interesting. The Blu Rays from Severin Films and Le Chat Qui Fume [The Smoking Cat] both offer quality video and audio transfers of the film, and nice extras. One of the special features of the French Blu Ray is the mini documentary on Umberto Lenzi’s career that is also available on the Grindhouse Releasing disc of Rome Armed to the Teeth, but is only subtitled in French. The Severin Blu Ray wins out mainly by being English subtitle friendly on the feature film and Lenzi’s interview regarding the feature. The French Blu Ray is still worth getting as the entire film soundtrack is available on CD.)

All images courtesy of Images and thei respective owners

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Sadly the French Blu Ray is sold out and out of print

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

The Original Murder Club

by Tony Nash

(The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli: The Lenzi/Baker Edition 3)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

(Review is of the Italian language version)

Paranoia (1970) - Filmaffinity
Italian Film Poster (from Film Affinity)

Paranoia (A Quiet Place to Kill) (1970) ***** R

Carroll Baker: Helene Sauvage

Jean Sorel: Maurice Sauvage

Luis Davila: Judge Albert Duchamps

Alberto Dalbes: Dr. Harry Webb

Anna Proclemer: Constance Sauvage

Marina Coffa: Susan Sauvage

Lisa Halvorsen: Solange Duchamps (as Liz Halvorsen)

Hugo Blanco: Miguel

Jacques Stany: James

Written by: Marcello Coscia, Rafael Romero Marchent, Bruno Di Geronimo, and Marie Claire Solleville, from a story by Coscia & Marchent

Directed by: Umberto Lenzi

Synopsis: While recovering from an accident during practice, a lady racecar driver is offered a large sum of money by the woman currently married to her ex-husband to kill him. When the wife is killed instead, the ex-lovers resume their affair, only for the dead woman’s vivacious daughter to make a surprise visit. 

Paranoia (A Quiet Place to Kill)
Marital Discourse at the Extreme (from Mondo Digital)

Paranoia is a really unique film in that it not only reunites Umberto Lenzi and his favorite leading lady Carroll Baker for the third time, but also reunites Baker with her Dolce Corpo di Deborah (Sweet Body of Deborah) leading man Jean Sorel for a second time. Lenzi once again takes the film to France, this time in the luscious countryside somewhere in the South, where seclusion can lead to all sorts of surprises and intrigue. The film takes the familiar Mystery Suspense concept of marital infidelity, revenge, deception, and greed to a whole new level as a woman cheated out of her savings scraps by doing varied jobs, including professional racing, finally hits rock bottom when an accident prevents her from returning to the sport. At first curious when she receives an invitation to relax at her ex-husband’s private villa, the woman soon finds herself in a strange triangle wherein the trophy wife wants her husband dead for reasons known only to her, while the husband would very much like to enjoy both his ex, his current wife, and the wife’s Lolita like daughter. The wife decides to offer money to the struggling woman as she had once before tried to kill the husband for his varied infidelities, but events take an unusual turn and suddenly unexpected complications happen. What follows is an intricate plot that has many twists.

Dawn of The Discs on Twitter: "Now Watching: A Quiet Place to Kill AKA  Paranoia (1970) Dir: Umberto Lenzi - from the @SeverinFilms Complete  Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection #AQuietPlaceToKill #Paranoia #UmbertoLenzi  #SeverinFilms…"
Opening Title Sequence (from Twitter)

Even more interesting in the film’s history, is thar its being made came virtually by accident. Lenzi’s first collaboration with Baker, Orgasmo, was originally titled Paranoia during the writing stage, and was released in the US under said working title. For some reason the Italian producer changed the title during post production, and the ensuing confusion over what title was used by which country lead the producers to commission a film titled Paranoia with a completely different script.

Picture of A Quiet Place to Kill
The Time to Decide: Life or Death (from Listal)

Lenzi once again makes incredible use of the locale of France, this time in its equally exotic countryside, beautifully capturing the amazing mountain landscapes, lush plant life, the varied homes, and the bright blue sea surrounding it. Some of the mountain roads look very similar to the roads seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief from 1955, which offered both beauty and suspense.

Carroll Baker's gialli – Movies List on MUBI
Wrong Way to Forget (with the Italian Favorite Drink: J&B) (from Diabolique Magazone)

Carroll Baker, in another fine performance for Lenzi, once again dons the garb of a lovely and alluring woman in the role of Helene. Once a woman of means, Helene’s former husband Maurice blew almost all the money on his extravagant lifestyle and womanizing ways, forcing her to do everything from model to engaging in the hazardous sport of car racing. Memories of her ex help to cause a crash that indefinitely pauses her racing career, and she soon finds herself back at Maurice’s country home, duped by the current wife to coming to stay while she heals. The current Mrs. Sauvage is tired of Maurice using her only to keep up his fast lifestyle, and believes having the ex-lovers remember their past will lead Helene to try to kill him again. With a sum of nearly a million dollars being offered to kill the lecherous Maurice, Helene finds herself in a precarious position that takes wild and constantly crossing turns.

Paranoia (A Quiet Place to Kill)
The Ultimate Rascal (from Mondo Digital)

Jean Sorel, a kind of poor man’s Alain Delon, provides his usual style of playing men of mystery and deception in the role of Maurice. A gigolo in every sense of the word, Maurice tends to always lure the loveliest and wealthy of women with his charm and smooth voice into his clutches. Preferring the jet set lifestyle of parties, rich food, boats, mistresses etc., Maurice will do anything to keep up appearances. He briefly gets a reality check when ex-wife Helene tries to shoot upon learning he lost all of her money in his fast lifestyle, but again marries wealthy because he has no intentions of giving up living on the high. Little does he seem know his current heiress wife has had enough of him playing her for a fool, and his may very well be numbered. That he truly still has an attraction to Helene, even though bad blood still exists between them makes for another complication as he could very well be planning something himself.

A Quiet Place to Kill (1970) Review – Blood Sucking Geek
Two Women with a Plan (from Blood Sucking Geeks)
A Quiet Place to Kill (1970)
Everyone Wants the Truth (from IMDB)
A Quiet Place to Kill (1970)
Concerned Daughter, or Scheming Lady Oedipus? (from IMDb)

The two leads are backed by a stellar cast of character performers including Luis Davila, Alberto Dalbes, Anna Proclemer, and Marina Coffa. Anna Proclemer, an Italian stage actress who occasionally dabbled in films and TV, plays Constance, the scorned wife of Maurice who finally decides he’s hurt too many other women, and tempts the broke Helene with a large payoff is she’ll agree to murder Maurice. Her plan seems fool proof, but nothing is ever easy. Luis Davila & Alberto Dalbes, Argentinian actors who migrated to Europe for successful careers, play Maurice’s closest friends, a judge and doctor respectively, who become concerned when both Maurice and Helene experience and health and mental stress. Only the judge becomes intrigued when Maurice makes hints he’s concerned for both their safety and the doctor presumably catches footage of a murder taking place.  Marina Coff, an Italian beauty who very briefly dabbled in acting, is quite an underestimated in the role of Susan, Constance’s daughter. On the outs with her mom due to her sexual awakening, Susan initially comes to the mansion to make peace, but finds her mom has died under mysterious circumstances, and wants to find out why.    

Paranoia.1970.BDRip.x264-GHOULS Torrent download
Film Collage (from Rarbg)

While lacking the ultimate twist and turns of Orgasmo, Paranoia still offers the intrigue, mystery, suspense, and intricacy that a Thriller needs to be successful. All the cast, particularly Carroll Baker and Jean Sorel do a fine job with a well written script.

(I highly recommend this film to fans of films in general, and Mystery Thrillers alike. It’s equal with Orgasmo in its construction and misleads to the ultimate revelation and hits the mark 10 times over to what Cosi Dolce, Cosi Perversa seemed to overshoot. While not as mysterious in plot line as its predecessors, Lenzi and his writers are still able to make the audiences wonder what will ultimately happen in the end. The Blu Rays from 88 Films and Severin Films are both equal in presentation in audio and visual quality, as well as extras. 88 Films get a slight leg up in price, the offering of a mini booklet with info on the film and notes by Giallo historian Rachel Nisbet, and the retaining of the original Italian title.)

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for more information

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

Who Put the Hit Out on the Playboy?

by Tony Nash

(The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli: The Lenzi/Baker Edition 2)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

(Review is of the original Italian language version)

Così dolce... così perversa (1969) - IMDb
Italian Poster (from the IMDb)

Cosi Dolce….Cosi Perversa (So Sweet, So Perverse) (1969) R ****

Carroll Baker: Nicole Perrier

Jean-Louis Trintignant: Jean Reynaud

Erika Blanc: Danielle Reynaud

Horst Frank: Klaus, the Hitman

Helga Line: Helene Valmont

Gianni De Benedetto: M. Valmont

Beryl Cunningham: Exotic Model Dancer

Written by: Luciano Martino, Massimo D’Avack, & Ernesto Gastaldi

Directed by: Umberto Lenzi

Synopsis: Wealthy industrialist Jean Reynaud finds himself in a peculiar adventure when he offers to aid a frightened and abused woman named Nicole. Nicole later confesses to Jean that her running to him was a ruse so her sadist ex-lover could earn a fee for the playboy’s death. Soon, it becomes apparent that someone clearly wants to inherit Jean’s assists and his company.

31 Days of Gialloween: So Sweet... So Perverse (1969) - Diabolique Magazine
An Intense Love Affair (from Diabolique Magazine)

Filmmaker Umberto Lenzi and actress Carroll Baker team up for the second time in a homage and unique take on French auteur Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic psychological Thriller Diabolique. Keeping the story within the country of France, Lenzi and the screenwriting team have story move up from the secluded countryside to the bustling capital of Paris, where the wealthy enjoy luxuries with less than honest approaches to business and marriage is treated as an arrangement while extra marital affairs run rampant. While Clouzot’s story was centered on the type of suspense that bordered on the fringes of Horror, Lenzi’s version keeps the suspense tied to the realm of Mystery and Thriller, keeping the audience in the dark and uncertainty of what is really going on until the reveal time is right. The film centers on an arrogant and philandering industrialist in a marriage both he and the wife have regrets committing to, who soon finds his rather complacent lifestyle upended when he begins hearing arguments and crashing sounds from the apartment above his own. Upon discovering a clearly frightened woman trying to break away from a vicious lover, the man decides to try to help her escape. When she admits she’s a pawn in a scheme to have him killed, things turn even stranger as a series of double crosses, twists, and revelations begin a domino effect of crazy proportions. The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection [Blu-ray]: Carroll  Baker, Jean Sorel, Evelyn Stewart, Lou Castel, Jean-Louis Trintignant,  Umberto Lenzi: Movies & TV
Clandestine or Choreographed? (from Amazon)
The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection (Blu-ray Review) | Zombies DON'T  Run
The Beginning….of the End (from Zombies DON’T Run)

Carroll Baker, fresh off her success with fans in Orgasmo, gets to play a completely different kind of Femme Fatale in the role of Nicole. At first a recovering abuse victim, Nicole soon proves to be a woman who has two distinct faces: one of a manipulative con artist, the other a beautiful but tragic woman. Baker moves seamlessly between being for and against Jean, seamlessly moving him closer and closer to a very deadly outcome. The question soon becomes how much of a victim she really is, and who is pulling the strings. Baker’s Actor Studio training serves her very well for the duplicitous role. Jean-Louis Trintignant, a French actor who also did Italian films for about 12 years is his usual enigmatic self in the role of Jean, the rich playboy. From initial looks, Jean is the typical Bourgeoisie who rotates between his office, the varied clubs, and home, but in fact is in loveless marriage, and goes from mistress to mistress, spending most of his flings with a turkey-shoot partner’s wife. In spite of the lifestyle he lives, Jean is actually bored with his current situation, and suddenly finds himself in a unique situation when he believes spouse abuse is occurring in the apartment above his. Little does he know a sinister plot is being hatched against him, and even the woman he feels he can trust he keeps to a certain distance. While Jean has his shady side, even he doesn’t deserve that kind of end.

So Sweet, So Perverse: The Giallo Films of Umberto Lenzi, Part 1 -  Diabolique Magazine
Driven to the Breaking Point (from Diabolique Magazine)
Severin Films Reveals The Complete Lenzi Baker Giallo Collection
The Face of a Madman (from

Erika Blanc, an Italian model and actress who excelled at many genre roles, gets to do something different with the role of Danielle. Normally known for playing women who were strong enough to handle most tough situations thrown at them, Blanc’s Danielle is the complete opposite as a worrier and frail woman who’s afraid of her own shadow. While initially attracted to Jean because of his charisma and willingness to take chances, she soon becomes distant to him, not even caring when he fools around with other women, including a few of their friends. Somehow Jean’s dalliance with Nicole is the final straw for Danielle, especially when a sultry party game at their home results in Jean and Nicole kissing. How willing she’ll be to be rid of her husband will most assuredly be surprising to everyone. Horst Frank, a German actor who enjoyed success in both his native land and abroad, plays a very Kinski esque type in the role of Klaus (ironic isn’t it). Little is known about Klaus save his penchant for violent S&M style fantasies in the bedroom, and his knack for unique ways to kill. Exactly what sort of role he plays in the whole strange affair with himself, Nicole, Jean, and Danielle is left ambiguous until the final reveal.

Bobby Castro on Twitter: "'Così dolce... così perversa' / So Sweet, So  Perverse (1969) Umberto Lenzi… "
A (for the Period) Forbidden Affair (from Twitter)

While Lenzi’s previous hit Orgasmo had very frank depictions of bi-sexuality, lesbianism, and BDSM style trysts, this go around he is very subtle the sexual preferences of his characters. While there’s no secret in how said characters behave when it comes to love and lust, Lenzi’s writers go a little more in the heavily hinted innuendo route, particularly Sapphic undertones involving the two female leads around the middle mark of the film.

31 Days of Gialloween: So Sweet... So Perverse (1969) - Diabolique Magazine
One of Many Lovers (from Diabolique Magazine)

A Thriller that keeps its audiences in the dark until the very last minutes, the film offers quite the bevy of twists and turns, leaving the almost always unanswered questions of who is playing who, who’s really the victim.

(I can only partially recommend this film myself as while the majority of it is very well made, and does indeed keep you guessing, writers Ernesto Gastaldi, Luciano Martino, & Massimo D’Avack miss the mark on the final reveal/ending by almost a mile. This is very unusual for a writer of Gastaldi’s caliber, as he was one of the best when it came to the Giallo genre. Lenzi himself had admitted it was his not being involved in the script that killed the film’s ending really delivering the goods as he felt it was Martino and D’Avack’s attempts at keeping red herring after red herring going along with Gastaldi’s fine work made trying to come up with a suitable finish really difficult. Other than that, the film is well crafted an offers plenty of good early to mid twists. Severin Films audio and visual transfer of the film is pretty solid, along with extras including a Kat Ellinger audio commentary, and interviews with Umberto Lenzi and Ernesto Gastaldi. )

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

Swingers, Drugs, Booze, & Greed:

Many Twists at the Villa

by Tony Nash

(Cycle of the Melodic Gialli: The Lenzi/Baker Edition 1)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

(Review is of the Uncut Italian language version)

Paranoia (1969) - IMDb
(Italian Poster)

Orgasmo (Paranoia) (1969) R ****1/2

Carroll Baker: Catherine West (Kathryn in US version)

Lou Castel: Peter Donovan

Collette Descombes: Eva Donovan-Stuart

Lilla Brignone: Theresa, the Maid

Tino Carraro: Attorney Brian Sanders

Franco Pesce: Martino, the Gardner

Jacques Stany: Det. Arthur Frank

Joseph Guilty: Arnold Cleever

Written by: Umberto Lenzi, Ugo Moretti, & Marie Claire Solleville

Directed by: Umberto Lenzi

Synopsis: A wealthy American widow rents out a spacious Italian Villa to recover from the tragic death of her husband. She becomes smitten with an expate and his sister, and invites them to stay with her for a week. Soon, she begins to wonder if a scheme is a foot to steal her money.

Trailer: THE COMPLETE LENZI BAKER GIALLO COLLECTION Coming from Severin  Films - Dread Central
The Threesome That Began the Tragedy (From Dread Central)

Umberto Lenzi, one of Italy’s more prolific, but underestimated (thanks to Gore Horror buffs) filmmakers, tackles one of his earliest Giallo successes with Orgasmo. Inspired by a short story in a Mystery/Thriller anthology book about a young man who terrorizes a wealthy lady painter for her money, Lenzi took this concept and built a more complex, and visually stunning, story of greed and deception. The film plays a little more to the psychological end of the Thriller genre, where a battle of wills is soon to be waged, one with several surprising outcomes. 1969 was considered the height of the Swinging 60’s, and the fashion, music, and atmosphere reflect that generation that was on its way  Giallos at this period were made sporadically here and there, and were at times a little on the lurid end, but with Orgasmo, Lenzi took the Mystery Suspense film back to the classy boudoir, and mixed in enough erotica to give the piece spice without going into territory that would be deemed classless. The film also began a lifelong friendship between star Carroll Baker and Lenzi, whom he would work with three more times, citing her as one of his favorite actresses to work with.

So Sweet, So Perverse: The Giallo Films of Umberto Lenzi, Part 1 -  Diabolique Magazine
One of Catherine’s Hallucinations (From Diabolique Magazine)

Lenzi got help in making this film very akin to American Thrillers of the 30’s and 40’s he loved with the aid of novelist and occasional screenwriter Ugo Moretti. Moretti, having done a series of detective fiction himself, (often under a pseudonym to maintain his standing among the more serious literary circles) had a keen eye to what were good motifs and themes for the Mystery/Suspense genre, and was able to help Lenzi constrict a script that was very similar to works of such authors as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond, Chandler, and James M. Cain. Moretti was also sympathetic to the mod youth of that period, and a good chunk of his time writing before meeting with Lenzi finalize things was spent fleshing out the devious couple played by Lou Castel and Collette Descombes. The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection [Blu-ray]: Carroll  Baker, Jean Sorel, Evelyn Stewart, Lou Castel, Jean-Louis Trintignant,  Umberto Lenzi: Movies & TV
Catherine Close to the Breaking Point (from Amazon)

Carroll Baker, an American actress who found a second wave of success in Italy, is fascinating and compelling as Catherine (Kathryn) West. Baker ended up in Italy after she rebelled against the demeaning parts being offered to her by Hollywood producers, and ended up having some of her best work in those early days of exile. Seemingly shook over the sudden and tragic death of her wealthy husband, Catherine looks forward to a period of rest and relaxation in a secluded Italian villa before getting on with her life. At first content to be by herself with only a loyal maid and deaf gardener as company, Catherine’s life seems to get a new spark when she meets the young and handsome Peter. At first happy with a hide n’ seek liaison with him, she eventually offers to let Peter stay with her at the villa until the lease is up, and ends up with both Peter and his sister Eva. After a time, Catherine discovers Peter and Eva aren’t blood related, and that they’re beginning to play with her mind, Baker soon has the Catherine character going through fits of paranoia, fear, and desperation, thanks to both Baker’s physical personification and the voice of actress/dubber Rita Savagnone, as there seems to be no way out of her situation without the fear of a scandal via her menage a troi with the couple.

Paranoia (1969) a.k.a. Orgasmo
French Film Poster Card (From Critical Condition)

A real boost for Baker in her Italian period, was her willingness to go totally nude for some of the scenes in the film. Initially Eleanor Powell was up for the lead of Catherine, but Lenzi managed to convince the producers to cast Baker instead, and the film ended up being much better because of Lenzi’s insistence on Baker. Not too many American actresses, whether at the twilight of their careers or in their prime, were willing to do anything that even hinted they were stark naked in a scene, but Baker was still young enough in her career that she had no qualms about “baring” all if need be. This was a combination of her wanting to take risks with parts and that she had an immediate rapport with Lenzi who was known to be very flexible with his casts. Lenzi has gone on record saying they liked each other so much Baker knew he would never ask her to get nude for no reason.  

The Italian Horror Blogathon: Orgasmo (1969) • She Blogged By Night
Catherine Offering Peter a Place to Sleep (From She Blogged by Night)
Picture of Colette Descombes
Eva as the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (from Listal)

Lou Castel, a Swedish actor born in South America who made his career in Italy, is a scum infested pleasure as Peter Donovan. Having made a career of playing slimeballs, perverts, psychos, and all-around unlikable characters, Castel doesn’t have to dig too deep in his acting training to pull off the character of Peter. At first coming off as a ne’er-do-well living a bohemian existence in the Italian countryside, Peter slowly reveals himself to be a money hungry gigolo and lady killer, as he calculatingly and methodically leads his fireball lover into a state of madness and fear. Collette Descombes, a little-known French actress recommended by Lenzi, is the feminine opposite of Castel in the role of Eva (Stuart) Donovan. At first masquerading as Peter’s stepsister, Eva soon reveals she and Peter have had a sexual relationship since early adulthood, and admits to Catherine she wants to be her lover along with Peter. More conniving in her actions than her brutish male companion, Eva is no less deadly.

The Italian Horror Blogathon: Orgasmo (1969) • She Blogged By Night
Theresa the Maid Knows Something’s Amiss, but Can’t Prove It (From She Blogged by Night)
Orgasmo | Trailers From Hell
Sanders the Attorney Seems too Confident (from Trailers From Hell)

Noted Italian character performers Lilla Brignone, Tanio Carraro, & Franco Pesce play the supporting roles of Theresa the maid, lawyer Brian, and Martino the gardener respectively. All are oblivious to the deadly games going on, and that Mrs. West is in grave danger from people who want her inheritance, and for one, the truth of the situation that eventually reveals itself, will be far too shocking.

Orgasmo (1969) - SpookyFlix
The Key to Freedom? (from SpookyFlix)

Lenzi and Baker keep the tension and suspense at an all time high in the film: Lenzi keeping the motives of his antagonists a mystery until the very end, and Baker’s fine performance as a woman slowly teetering the fine line between sanity and utter despair paranoia. That the characters are very rarely seen outdoors, save for the garden/patio of the villa adds to the slowly increasing tension, the claustrophobic and confined space making the situation all the more dangerous and frightening. The frank sexual innuendos and dialogue between the characters was very tantalizing for the time and soon became a source of liberation for the youth of the era.

(I highly recommend giving this film a look at when the opportunity presents itself as Lenzi paints one of the most original forms of Murder/Mystery in the early stages in the Giallo period. It does get a little tedious in the middle and early parts of the end, but the finale is very well worth the pay off and it totally comes out of left field and the viewer never sees the revelation coming. The US Cut of the film, which is the only film of the early MPAA system to retain the “X” rating (though it is really R rated even by the standards of the 80’s onward) removes key essential story and character points, making it far too straightforward and losing the intrigue Lenzi and his co writer Moretti intended. The Blu Ray from Severin Films offers a pristine restoration in audio and visual quality of Lenzi’s original cut of the film along with well translated English subtitles of the Italian audio track [I highly recommend watching the film in the original Italian, as the uncut version has scenes that were never dubbed into English, and do sporadically go from English to Italian when viewed in the dubbed track]. Two audio commentaries are offered: the uncut version with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, the US cut with Giallo historian titans Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson. Also available is a nice interview with Umberto Lenzi, focusing mainly on his inspiration for the film, his relationship with actress Carroll Baker, and how Film-Noir influenced his golden age period with his Giallos and Poliziotteschi.)

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