Posts Tagged Giallo

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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Blow-Up

The next in our two-month long spotlight on giallo…

BLOW-UP

On the surface, Blow-Up is a simple enough film about a fashion photographer popular among London’s hip Soho crowd. David Hemmings stars as the photographer, Thomas. Though successful, his life is directionless and shallow. Similar people, artists who seem to have no meaning or desire for meaning in what they do, surround him. When he’s not earning a living shooting waifs for fashion spreads, he wanders the streets of London in search of art with some sort of meaning. He never finds it, or really, seems to look particularly hard. While wandering through a park snapping candid shots of people, he accidentally photographs a murder. He doesn’t realize this until later, when a frantic woman (Vanessa Redgrave) shows up demanding he turn the film over. This is the plot that serves as the basic description for the film, but anyone who goes in expecting a thriller is going to be either pleasantly surprised or severely disappointed.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Blood & Black Lace

Revised and revived on Mezzanotte for the two-month long giallo spotlight:

BLOOD & BLACK LACE

When it came time for Mario Bava to turn in his version of a Hitchcock movie, he picked up on that underlying current of malicious giddiness and ratcheted it up. In Blood and Black Lace, Bava is a peasant let loose to demolish a nobleman’s home during the Russian Revolution. There is unbridled celebration in the carnage, but there’s also unsettling tragedy. Bava employs a subtle absurdity, taking delight not just in demolishing the vacant aristocrats in his cast of characters but also in wreaking havoc with the language of cinema and expectations of what was, then and now, acceptable. Blood and Black Lace gave giallo the element that made it so much different from the early whodunits from which it evolved: the snarl.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Out with the Old

There’s a new wind blowing, and it smells exactly like the stale old wind. As Teleport City counts down to its 20th anniversary (good gravy, Charlie Brown), it’s become a little burdensome and full of writing I did in my 20s and am not entirely excited about. So in the service of staying in the game as Teleport City shifts into archival mode (it will remain online), a new site is being launched that will take its place and do mostly the same thing, though with a little more structure. The site, called MEZZANOTTE, is based around themes that run for two months (all of which will be compiled into an ebook/print book at the end of the year). For our inaugural theme, which officially launches in February, we’re tackling giallo movies and soundtracks.

The new site doesn’t officially launch until Feb. 1, but you can get a sneak peek now, since the B-Masters has been Teleport City’s home since that fateful day a madman named Dr. Freex said to the council, “What about Teleport City?” And where better to start an exploration of giallo than with the film most often referred to as “the first”?

THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1963)

Judging Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much from its first scene, it would be reasonable to assume one was watching a Fellini movie, or at least a reasonable imitation of Fellini. The opening shot of a TWA plane in flight toward Rome, the bustling capital of high style, suggests the dawn of the age of the jet set, as does the introduction of the film’s main character, stylish but somewhat naive American Nora Davis (Leticia Román, in Russ Meyer’s version of Fanny Hill as well as the Elvis film G.I. Blues) who is being pestered by her Lothario seat-mate (while she is trying to read a giallo novel, no less).

You can read the soundtrack reviews here.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Czech Madness and Argentine Giallo

Teleport City continues its unannounced transfer to Jet Set Cinema with one of the best and one of the worst

MARKETA LAZAROVAml11

Marketa Lazarová – the tale of warring clans in the 12th century – has been heralded as perhaps the greatest Czech film of all time. Stark landscapes, inventive cinematography, and a fractured, experimental narrative certainly make for an unforgettable experience.

SONNO PROFONDOsp1

A shot on digital video POV take on giallo from Argentina that makes too many mistakes to be regarded as anything other than “better luck next time” despite the promising high concept of a giallo style killer being stalked by another giallo style killer.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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