Posts Tagged Mezzanotte

When Nikkatsu Met the Shaw Brothers

ASIA-POL

We have Jimmy Wang Yu, woefully outclassed by his co-stars from Nikkatsu. Scenes between Wang Yu and Shishido play less like a battle of wits between super villain and super spy and more like a world-class talent struggling to work with a petulant upstart, or the cool older kid trying to school the spoiled young brat on how to be suave. Everything Jô Shishido does can’t help but expose Wang Yu’s limitations. Ditto Ruriko Asaoka, who does her best to spark some chemistry between her and Wang Yu but can’t draw much blood from the stone.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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I Love This Dirty Town

A look at the history of the two bars that serve as primary locations in the 1960 showbiz noir SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS.

I LOVE THIS DIRTY TOWN

Much of the film’s action takes place in two locations. One, like many iconic spots of the city’s middle of the century, is now a Duane Reade. The other soldiers on, one of the last of these places still standing in a city that always moves forward. Sidney Falco throws himself into the sweaty, drunken crowd of the rowdy night spot Toots Shor’s while JJ, impeccably dressed, holds court like a king with contempt for his subjects in the estimable 21 Club.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Giallo, Fulci Style

My WTF entry is finished. I just need to do screencaps. And the film I’m doing offers so, so many choices. In the meantime, please enjoy Lucio Fulci flexing his hatred of humanity.

DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING

There is a deep vein of cynicism running through the center of Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling (aka Non Si Sevizia un Paperino). The same can be said for the vast majority of the man’s work. His filmography is littered with the bodies of people snuffed out in manners most gruesome, and their virtues are no ward against the brutalities (realistic or fantastic) of the world. Hell, in literal and metaphoric fashion, awaits us all in Fulci’s cinema. Rather than focusing on the supernatural, Don’t Torture a Duckling sets its sights on the innate evil in humanity


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Top Sensation

TOP SENSATION
To call a film “explosive” which stars Edwige Fenech is one thing. To call a film “explosive” which stars Rosalba Neri is another, albeit similar, thing. To call a film “explosive” which opens with Neri flinging dynamite around with all the glee and gesticulating of a silent film actor is a bad pun. To call a film “explosive” which stars both Fenech and Neri and features the aforementioned opening is the come-on of the century.

Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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The Devilish Sister of the Jazzy Queen has Been Robbed

Or something to that effect. I will eventually et to the Peter Cushing roundtable of now nearly two months ago, but until then…

THE SISTER OF URSULA
The Sister of Ursula is like watching a Jess Franco film without that director’s flare. Contemplate that one on the Tree of Woe. Sex scenes, the Italian coast, outlandish murders — everything about The Sister of Ursula seems to operate under the directive of “Well, this should be good, but we’re going to mess it up.”
JAZZ ON FILM: FILM NOIR
Jazz on Film: Film Noir is a five-disc box set collecting together some of the seminal jazz soundtracks from noir cinema from the 1950s, exploring the evolution of the musical style from its presence as a scene in a movie to its integration into the scores themselves.
THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIME
As with his previous film, Miraglia takes the modern setting integral to the spirit of gialli and dresses it up in a bit of old-fashioned Gothic spookiness by, once again, setting a portion of it in a moody Gothic estate full of dark secret passages and dungeon chambers.
JEWEL ROBBERY
Now that’s the life — where, during a mild bit of cat burglary, you sneak into a lavish hotel room via the window and find Kay Francis in a low-cut evening dress, relaxing languidly across the foot of the bed, waiting for you with a glass of champagne in her hand.
DEVIL IN THE BRAIN
Sergio Sollima didn’t direct very many films. His career is split fairly evenly between theatrical and televised fare. Devil in the Brain is not what anyone would consider a technically outstanding movie, but it is solid in its craftsmanship.

Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Gangsters, Dinosaurs, and Naked Girls

A trio of updates.

NAKED GIRL KILLED IN THE PARK
Guest writer Miguel Rodriguez says, “After some scenes of seduction and intrigue, Chris manages to get invited to a quiet weekend at the family villa in the country. It becomes clear that the set pieces of the amusement park and now the Spanish villa are the reasons for making this film. The locations are beautiful and ripe for filming and populating with gorgeous people. Add to the cast two servants and a voyeuristic mute stable boy and you start to have the eccentric group needed for an honest-to-god Giallo. Unfortunately, Brescia’s film neglects the base titillation and stylishly surreal nihilism of proper Gialli in favor of absurd family soap opera dramatics.”
KING KONG
A little late for “No, Not THAT One,” but still…Little time is wasted before the thrills commence, and with the entrance of an agitated group of soldiers we learn of a fearsome creature that is terrorizing the countryside. Hingoo dispatches King Kong, his personal strongman, to deal with the beast, and with that we cut to what will probably be the biggest surprise for any seasoned Bollywood viewer having his or her first introduction to the stunt film genre. It’s an honest-to-goodness man-in-a-suit giant monster, in this case looking like a cross between a dinosaur, a giant cow and a wild boar and which breathes steam out of its giant, flaring nostrils for good measure.
CRUEL GUN STORY
Cruel Gun Story tells the story of Togawa, a con who is sprung from prison early via the machinations of a mysterious underworld kingpin who communicates with him through an emissary, a former mob lawyer named Ito. Ito and his boss want Togawa to carry out a robbery that they’ve planned, involving an armored car shipment of racetrack receipts worth 120 million yen, and have hand selected a crew of four men to assist him in the task.

Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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Dark Purpose

One more!

DARK PURPOSE

George Sanders (who seems to just be playing Noel Coward) and Shirley Jones are an art assessor and his assistant who have come to the villa of Italian nobleman Count Paolo Barbarelli to take stock of his art collection. While at his secluded estate outside of Salerno, they discover that aside from the count and his housekeeper, who speaks no English, there’s an excessively aggressive German Shepard and a damaged young woman named Cora. Karen also discovers that Paolo lives an odd life, mostly secluded, disinterested in people who know him, and prone to fits of fiery temperament. But he’s also kind and interesting, so Karen chalks up his peculiarities to his Italian-ness and decides to fall in love. This being a thriller, the romance goes poorly.


Keith Allison is the chief bacchanologist at MEZZANOTTE.

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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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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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