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.


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      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.


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            Stunt Vamps in Venice

            The machine keeps chugging.

            WHO SAW HER DIE?

            When one does encounter a giallo that not only tugs at the emotional heart strings, but actually succeeds in connecting with the viewer on a more affecting level, the effect can seem amplified. Aldo Lado’s moody 1972 thriller Who Saw Her Die? is the rare giallo that attempts this, and the rare that succeeds, and it is thanks primarily to a committed performance from former James Bond George Lazenby in a role that puts him through an emotional ringer.

             IL FAIT PEUR, PT. 4: LIGHTNESS AND DARK

            If Pearl White was the blond haired, vivacious face of a new, can-do America, Theda Bara was its shadow. Dark, mysterious, dangerous. If Pearl could pluck you out of the jaws of death, Theda was the woman who would sacrifice you to it. Her dark, kohl-smeared eyes enticed you, and she laughed as you willingly destroyed yourself for her. America loved her as much as they feared her. Pearl White bucked traditional notions of feminine helplessness and subservience, but Theda actively attacked it, preyed on male weakness and exploited it, never with the altruistic sense of adventure and do-goodism as Pearl. For a young film industry that needed a foil, and a way to capitalize on the popular interest in Spiritualism, the Orient, and in particular Egypt, Theda Bara was perfect. There was only one problem: it was all bullshit.


            Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.


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              Killers and Thrillers

              A couple things going on over at Mezzanotte. First, our giallo theme continues with a film that is the gold standard for stupid, hateful, callous characters. In addition, we hit 100 likes on Facebook, so we’re celebrating with a second series looking at the early days of silent serial cinema, focusing (as much as I ever “focus”) on 1910’s Frankenstein and Louis Feuillade’s Fantomas and Les Vampires. Parts 1 and 2 of that are up now.

              THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS

              The joke is often made (or it has been here, at any rate) that giallo are populated by people who are, to put it mildly, not of the best quality. The kind of people who will make love and then roll over and engage pillow talk like, “I can’t believe my sister was raped and murdered by a sex maniac on this bed just yesterday.” The kind of people who will say to someone who just suffered through a terrible trauma, “Well really, I don’t understand why you’re so upset. Your daughter was murdered, so what?” When it comes to truly loathsome characters in giallo, few can match Giuliano Carnimeo’s The Case of the Bloody Iris, a film in which pretty much everyone is hateful or stupid; or more often, hateful and stupid.

              IL FAIT PEUR, PT. 1: AN EXERCISE IN PUERILE BARBARITY

              Night falls, bringing with it a hush as the good people of Paris scurry home to the warmth of family and dinner and an evening spent with a snifter of Cognac and the evening paper. A lone figure – thin, lank, almost a wraith – skulks across a rooftop, a black shadow in a black hood creeping through a black night. A woman undresses, – safe, she assumes, in the sanctum of her bedroom, with the warmth of incandescent light to chase away the night. She does not see the black-gloved hand emerging slowly from behind the curtain, holding a slim dagger poised to be plunged into her exposed back. Strange things were happening on the streets of Paris in 1913.

              IL FAIT PEUR, PT. 2: MARY AND THE MONSTER

              At first, the 1910 Frankenstein plays coy with the doctor’s abomination. After the phantasmagorical creation scene, which stops short of showing the fully-formed creature, we see the monster first only as a horrifying, dead-looking, clawed arm slowly reaching out toward Frankenstein from behind a heavy metal door. Once again, any Edison company claims that this isn’t a horror film become ridiculous. This is horror, pure and simple, and one can only imagine how audiences reacted to that hideous, withered arm groping out from its alchemist’s furnace. Dr. Frankenstein himself certainly reacts poorly to it, throwing up his arms in unholy terror and fleeing to his bedroom, where he promptly faints for the first of what will prove to be a surprising number of times for a film so short.


              Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.


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                Bloodstained Butterfly

                Continuing our journey through the stylish, sleazy world of giallo.

                THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY

                Like many early-cycle giallo, the film’s title is a riff on the trend started by Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage of including animals that usually end up playing a minor role, at best, in the plot itself. The Bloodstained Butterfly also follows Argento’s lead in making the limits of human perception central to the plot. Eye witnesses and circumstantial evidence that seems to result in a slam dunk case for the prosecution are revealed via a non-linear narrative to be more deceptive than they might initially appear. In the case of the two main eye witnesses, it is literally their ability to see that is called into question. For the forensic scientists, it’s not the results of their tests that are questionable, but rather the way those results are interpreted and the way the preconceptions of investigators lead them to certain conclusions that, while seeming reasonable and perhaps even likely, are not explicitly confirmed.


                Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.


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                  Take a bow, Dolph

                  Command PerformanceThe Dolph Lundgren actioner Command Performance is without doubt a rip-off of Die Hard, but it’s one of the better imitations out there.

                  Keith Bailey is the proprietor of The Unknown Movies Page.


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                    The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly

                    Wrapping up our look at the Japanese Invisible Man “trilogy.”

                    The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly

                    Daiei had no history of werewolf, vampire, or mummy movies, and while it might have been cool to watch the invisible man square off against a traditional Japanese spirit or yokai the likes of which had been appearing in the studio’s ghost films, in the end it was obvious that the only fitting opponent for an invisible man is the invisible man’s natural enemy: a really tiny flying hitman. Thus was born Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly.


                    Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.


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