Archive for category New Reviews

Bollywood Giallo Dance-Off

The latest action.

GUMNAAM
The Bollywood thriller Gumnaam isn’t shy about the sort of films that have influenced it. Adopting the sort of jet set internationality of the 1960s, it becomes an amalgamation of old-fashioned “old dark house” murder mysteries and pop-art modernism filtered through the lens of films like Arabesque, the James Bond franchise, and Charade starring Cary Grant, the title theme of which (by Bobby Darin) is adapted into “Gumnaam Hai Koi” (sung by Lata Mangeshkar), which in turn becomes the primary musical motif running through film.
UNDERWORLD BEAUTY
Ever since his rediscovery, it seems like Seijun Suzuki has had the term “Maverick Director” permanently affixed to his name like some kind of mandatory honorific. However, given the rigidity of the Japanese studio system within which he spent his peak years, Suzuki never would have had the opportunity to achieve that maverick status had he not at some point been able to tow the line and deliver the straightforward genre pictures that he had been hired to create. That he was capable of doing that and then some is more than amply demonstrated by Underworld Beauty, an outstanding little noir programmer that he directed during his early years at Nikkatsu.
EYE IN THE LABYRINTH
Rosemary Dexter is perhaps best known, though never talked about, for her role as Colonel Mortimer’s sister in 1965’s For a Few Dollars More. While uncredited, and with nary a line of dialogue, she provides the film and the Lee van Cleef character with a personal, forceful motivation other than bounty killing. Dexter had a natural charm and talent for acting, and it doesn’t hurt any that she was a breathtaking beauty who was willing to doff her clothes onscreen. The slyly wounded quality she brings to Mario Caiano’s Eye in the Labyrinth elevates the film beyond the more arch portrayals that are given by (and expected from) her co-stars, which include Adolfo Celi and Alida Valli. In fact, the film is more measured and understated on the whole than a great many of the films that can be classified as gialli.
DO ANKHEN BARAH HAATH
At the time of making 1957’s Do Ankhen Barah Haath (Two Eyes, Twelve Hands), Shantaram, while by no means in artistic decline, was a good few years beyond his most acclaimed works — those being a trilogy of social realist dramas Kunku, Manoos, and Shevari — that the director made while a partner in the Prabhat Film Company between 1937 and 1941. His previous film, 1955’s Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, had been an uncharacteristic bid for commercial success, as would be the film that followed Do Ankhen Barah Haath, 1959’s NavrangDo Ankhen Barah Haath, on the other hand, was a clear return to form for him: a serious drama, shot in sober black and white, that dealt with a serious social issue.

Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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High class horror

SocietyAlthough Society isn’t a perfect movie, it is almost certainly quite unlike any movie you’ve seen before. Especially its unforgettable ending.

Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.

It crashes

WindowsNormally I applaud when any movie gets released on Blu-ray, but the recent announcement that Windows will be released on that format leaves me utterly bewildered. Is there really an audience for this?

Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.

Xtro, Xtro! Read all about it!

XtroThough it contains plenty of weirdness like a woman giving birth to a fully grown man, Xtro ultimately fails due to a script that contains both little story and little believable behavior by its characters.

Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.

Fish ‘n’ Boots

Giallo month has been fun enough that we’re keepin’ the sleaze going.

DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS

Ercoli made the scene in 1970 with his slick debut film, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion and followed it up in 1971 with Death Walks On High Heels. These two films, along with Ercoli’s Death Walks at Midnight (1972), form a trilogy that, while unconnected narratively, share an overarching sense of style, set of obsessions, and an infatuation with Nieves Navarro (aka Susan Scott, one of the greats of the giallo) that binds them together in a way that is more important than a shared narrative. It’s likely that no matter how much you search, you’ll not find a film in the genre more adept than the aptly named Death Walks on High Heels at lingering lovingly over sexy go-go boots, nor will you find one that so sensuously films two people cramming oily hunks of fish into their mouths accompanied by sexy lounge music. Rarely has a giallo film taken “red herring” quite so literally.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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A Hatchet for Fantomas

HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON

Guest writer Carol Borden delves into the psyche of Mario Bava’s bizarre supernatural giallo about a man who is haunted by the ghost of the wife he murdered. The problem, however, is that everyone but him can see her. Well, that’s one problem. Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not the kind of film to watch for a kill count or ingenuous murders. It is the kind of film to watch for paranormal and sartorial phenomena, ghosts, discotheques, mysterious deaths, horrifying old toys, and the narration of a “paranoiac.”

FANTOMAS

A reprint from Teleport City, reformatted and edited and presented as a bonus round in Mezzanotte’s Il Fait PEUR! series. Teleport City/Mezzanotte regular Todd Stadtman takes a look at the swinging James Bondified update of Fantomas.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Kids’ stuff

Kid ColterThere are enough reasons to explain why you’ve probably never heard of Kid Colter, a family movie that lacks enough spark to engage kids or their parents.

Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.

I Forgot Fantomas and Irma Vep

Somehow, that somehow being my own lack of concentration, I neglected to post parts three and five of IL FAIT PEUR here. No big deal. They only cover the two main reasons I wrote the entire series, so…

An Ungentlemanly Thief

Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas was an adaptation of a series of novel that took the concept of the “gentleman thief” pioneered by the likes of Arsene Lupin and Raffles and dropped the “gentleman” part. The result was a series of controversial films in which a hooded maniac sows anarchy and death across Paris with seemingly no regard at all for whether the scheme is ultimately successful, as long as he creates fear and death in pursuit of his mad goals. Pursuing him every step of the way is policeman Juve, who in many ways is just as crazy as his arch nemesis.

Paris After Midnight

From vamps to Les Vampires, Louis Feuillade followed up Fantômaswith a spectacular and surreal crime series that gave the early silent era one of it’s most famous characters: the vamp of the Vampires, clad in an alluring black silk catsuit: Musidora. This penultimate chapter of our series looks at Feuillade’s masterpiece Les Vampires, the woman at the center of it, and the birth of horror on stage at Paris’ macabre Theatre Grand-Guignol.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Back Into the Shadows

The final installment of Mezzanotte’s IL FAIT PEUR! series. All six episodes are archived here.

BACK INTO THE SHADOWS

Immediately after completing Les Vampires, Feuillade threw himself into his next feature, another original crime serial called Judex, using most of the same cast as Les Vampires. The slow move toward domestic melodrama that crept into the end of Les Vampires was front and center in Judex, partly because Feuillade was under heavy fire from critics who felt Les Vampires was simply too ghoulish, too in love with its criminals, too subversive. But largely it was because as 1914 wound down, it was becoming clearer and clearer that this skirmish between France and Germany – and subsequently Great Britain, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Turkey, so on and so forth – wasn’t going to be a quick and clean affair.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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A movie that gives you (Ed) wood

Fugitive GirlsIf you can find the rare uncut version, Fugitive Girls will prove to be a perfect mix of soft-core material and unintentional silliness.

Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.