Posts Tagged Giallo

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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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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Forbidden Photos of Evelyn Rising from a Suspicious Grave

It’s a one-two punch of eye-searing giallo fashion and decor, so prepare yourself for shag carpet, silk cravats, long titles, and MURDER.

THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE

Giallo trade in awful characters doing awful things to one another, and rarely do they serve up much in the way of sympathetic protagonists. But usually, no matter how big a creep, the nominal hero of the story has on his or her side, at the least, the fact that they aren’t slitting anyone’s throat, which makes them a little more acceptable than whatever black-gloved and raincoated killer us running amok. Not so in The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, where the hero of the story murders about the same number of people as the murderer. In fact, the film’s only decent and sympathetic character is the hooker Alan assaults in the beginning of the film, so he might even be marginally worse than the mysterious murderous ghost.

THE FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION

Forbidden Photos concerns itself with only one murder, rather than a series of them, which might, for some, put it at a distance from the giallo genre as a whole. If you are someone who comes to giallo cinema primarily for its stylized violence that will likely be the case. However, if you are someone who, like me, is content just to bask in the film’s pervading atmosphere of slinky European licentiousness, it should be considered a pleasure not forbidden but prescribed.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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All the Colors of the Dark

Continuing our tour through the weird world of giallo…

ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK

Martino’s 1972 giallo All the Colors of the Dark works within the confines of the genre (which was still relatively new in 1972 but, given the fecundity of the Italian film market, already contained quite a few films, established tropes, and expectations), but it takes the genre further afield than had previously been explored, resulting in a dizzying psychedelic combination of straight-forward stalker/murder mystery (the giallo’s stock in trade), hallucinogenic psycho-sexual experiment, and occult horror.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Happy Valentine’s Day: Strip Nude for Your Killer

Nothing says romance quite like the sleaziest giallo of the 1970s:

STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER

Signature murders include the stabbing of a woman who, upon realizing a prowler may be in the house and all her co-workers are getting murdered, investigates while completely nude except for a pair of clunky platform clogs; and then there’s the one where, after charmingly attempting to rape a co-worker before going impotent, we get ample shots of an enormously fat man in his sagging tighty whities and black dress socks, clutching a deflated blow-up doll in one hand and a kitchen knife in the other while he cries uncontrollably. Tasteful!


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Giallo Prime Time: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

We covered some of the early proto-giallo. Now it’s time to get into the full swing of things.

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE

Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, is the Goldfinger of giallo. Goldfinger wasn’t the first James Bond movie, but it was the one that synthesized all the elements into what was recognizable as the iconic “James Bond film.” It became and, in fact, remains, the template for subsequent Bond adventures and for what people stereotypically think of when they think of a James Bond film. In much the same way, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is the film in which all of the raw material pioneered during the 1960s was forged into the finished formula that would define giallo throughout the 1970s and beyond.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Tinto Brass Meets Antonioni in Swinging London

DEADLY SWEET

Before Salon Kitty redirected his career toward sex films and before Caligula became the most infamous movie in the world, Tinto Brass was just another idealistic young director looking to capture the zeitgeist of the 1960s. His 1967 film Deadly Sweet was inspired and influenced by Antonioni’s Blow-Up but also markedly different. For one, it lacks that film’s sense of disillusionment. It also lacks that film’s self-control. Deadly Sweet is experimental but still commercial. Bleak but still bubbly and colorful. Tinto Brass seems to think that Swinging London is still, you know, swinging.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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