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Archive for the ‘EuroTrash’ Category

DoubleAgentDanger

 Lobby Card for Il Mondo Misterioso Di Pericolo Double Agent

The Mysterious World of Double Agent Danger (1966) or Il Mondo Misterioso Di Pericolo Double Agent was director Vincent Puceli’s entry into the EuroSpy/Spy-Fi genre of the sixties. Previously Vincent Puceli had done mostly Giallo-type thrillers and a few comedies, but The Mysterious World of Double Agent Danger  was his first big success in Italy. This piece of Technicolor eye-candy was one of the most spectacular of this crowded genre. Full of gorgeous, flamboyant music and meticulous art direction, Double Agent Danger made its way to the international market quickly, becoming a huge hit in Japan and America.

Isabella Vitti played Daphne Danger, a super-spy who was it it for the glory of playing one side against the other in a sinister game of international cat and mouse. Daphne Danger is a rogue agent battling bizarre evil-doers like the Hypno-Skull and secret government agencies such as the Council of Cardinals. This Cinestat Films release spawned a series of movies as well as a bevy of paperback novels. The film was first released in Italy in 1966, then was dubbed in English in 1968.

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EdwigeFenechPerUnaLunaD'agosto

Over at the film blog groove-machine that is Cinebeats, Kimberly Lindbergs has been making horror-themed music compilations all month long (part of The Countdown to Halloween) and her latest, Giallo Note, might just be the most inspired installment. Gathering music from a wide spectrum of Giallo films, you’ll hear pieces from Morricone to Goblin and dive deep into all manner of lounge music, Italian style.

And in light of the inclusion of music from Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), I thought I would re-post my illustration of Edwige Fenech based upon a scene from the latter film (seen above).

And be sure to check the other blogs participating in this year’s Countdown to Halloween! There’s plenty of thrills and chills to be had.

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TwiceAsDeadly

Newspaper ad for Twice As Deadly or Danger, Danger, Bang, Bang (1966).

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PericoloDolls

Theatrical poster for Pericolo Dolls (Italy, 1966). Released in the United States as Double Dare and Twice As Deadly or Danger, Danger, Bang, Bang. This would be renowned action/thriller director Mario Poli’s final picture. Two months after the release of Pericolo Dolls, Poli was killed when—while driving down an empty desert highway in a Ferrari containing four of Italy’s most famous supermodels—the car spun out of control, sped off a cliff and crashed at the bottom of jagged ravine, exploding into a giant ball of fire.

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Purveyors of the sinister. Raconteurs of the strange. Crawling, twisting music that threatens to make its way into my nightmares, lying in wait for me each time I return. The Italian prog-rock band, Goblin made a name for themselves scoring many Italian movies, but it was Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and George Romero’s international version of Dawn of the Dead, Zombi  (1978) that accounted for some of their most inspired work.

The soundtrack to Suspiria was as much a part of that film’s utter feeling of dread as Argento’s colorfully decadent visuals. It  is delirious and bizarre and wonderful and baffling and endlessly listenable. From the opening track, Suspiria—which sets the mood brilliantly—using music box chimes that underpin creepy vocals, a staccato rhythm section and period keyboard flourishes (John Carpenter had to be influenced musically by Goblin), Goblin lays the foundation for a score that is so linked to the film, that one cannot exist without the other. It’s King Crimson gone the way of Ennio Morricone, the wide variety of experimination within this one soundtrack is staggering. The track Blind Concert sounds as if it would fit in nicely with some Grindhouse gem, while Black Forest is haunted by early 70s Bowie. Sighs, in comparison is so brazen in its dissimilarity to the other material on the soundtrack, that I’m not sure what to make if of it; it’s lurid and infectious all at once.

The soundtrack to Zombi develops some of the same musical cues, but reaches even further into other genres than the latter album. The FilmWorks series by composer John Zorn comes to mind, with its sheer variety of genres and its willingness to take chances. The track Zombi is great 70’s chase music, almost clichéd decades later, the undercurrent of stinging keyboards and disturbed layered vocals elevates it beyond the standard. In comparison, Torte in Faccia with it’s Ragtime musical tropes, is so silly so deceptively out-of-place, one can only think of Zombies in fast motion, Keystone Cops style, bashing one another on the heads with brooms, while Zombi (Sexy) is smoky and seductive, music that lingers in the air as you drain a watered-down martini in some crummy 80s lounge. There is less of the creep and more of the camp with Zombi, but the experience is fascinating nonetheless.

Goblin creates ominous mood music to be sure, the stuff of dreams and nightmares.

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Lady Frankenstein (1971)

Director: Mel Welles

I don’t know anything about this Lady Gaga all the kids are talking about, but I can tell you that the Italian entry into the Eurotrash/horror category, Lady Frankenstein (La Figlia di Frankenstein), is worth some attention in the canon of Frankenstein-themed movies. Not the typical B-movie version of the original Universal run, Lady Frankenstein indulges in scenes and characters that manage to subvert past attempts at pure repetition. Case in point: the choice of a woman as the stand-in for the mad scientist role of Dr. Frankenstein. Some writing on this movie has pointed toward the emergence of feminism in the late sixties, early seventies as the catalyst for this decision. True, the Dr. Frankenstein of this film is posited as a strong, ambitious woman, but more anything the notion of Dr. Frankenstein as a woman seems to be a rather transparent excuse for nude scenes rather than a caculated illumination of a political movement such as feminism.

Directed by Mel Welles with a script by cult writer Edward di Lorenzo, this film stars the sultry Rosalba Neri (listed as Sara Bey in America), an Edwige Fenech look-alike who made the rounds of European horror films, spaghetti westerns and euro sleaze in the 60s and 70s and esteemed character actor, Joseph Cotton, who, by this time, was at the end of an eventful career (he is quoted as saying, “Orson Welles lists Citizen Kane as his best film, Alfred Hitchcock opts for Shadow of a Doubt and Sir Carol Reed chose The Third Man – and I’m in all of them”). The production is surprisingly high-end, Welles seemingly making a stab at the quality and look of Hammer Films, with specific Italian touches.  The results are notable indeed; Lady Frankenstein feels and looks different than what was current at the time in most Italian horror/Giallo films (in fact it looks like an early Mario Bava production). Imagine a gothic Jane Austen film but with body snatching, and a Frankenstein monster that looks like the Elephant Man on a good day, and Joseph Cotton. 

As Lady Frankenstein opens, Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten) and his assistant Dr. Marshall (Paul Muller) are in the process of receiving a corpse for their re-animation experiments from the local grave-digger. The next morning the Baron’s daughter, Tania (Rosalba Neri) arrives at the Baron’s castle having completed her University course in medicine. She wants to join the family business, but the Baron is resistant to this notion.

The Baron and Dr. Marshall eventually complete their crazy experiments, the culmination of which is implanting the brain of a criminal into a giant Neanderthal. Of course, re-animation is never as easy as it looks, and the newly-minted creature kills his creator, the Baron, by hugging him to death. Perhaps the monster just wanted someone to love. 

With her father dead, Tiana decides to take the mantel of local nut job and create her own monster, one that can kill the first which is now ambling across the countryside in search of locals to squeeze. Her ultimate motivation for this decision is convoluted at best: to save the good name of Frankenstein by creating a monster that will stop the other monster who is killing villagers, which was created by the Baron in the first place. (Well, no one ever said the storyline had to make sense. Throw in a good bit of nudity and plot holes are forgotten.)

Soon a plan is hatched to place the brain of Dr. Marshall into the body of the Baron’s slightly retarded man-servant, Thomas. In one of the weirder scenes in the film, Tiana seduces Thomas with her wares, and, during love-making, Marshall smothers the man-child with a pillow. Tiana soon completes her insane plan to recover the good name of Frankenstein, but everything backfires when an angry mob with torches and pitchforks show up at the castle (it wouldn’t be a Frankenstein movie without an angry mob). The film quickly comes to an abrupt and bizarre end when, amid the fire set by the mob, the new Thomas-Marshall hybrid monster kills Tiana in the throes of passion. It’s an awkward ending, but seems to fit with the somewhat clumsy pacing of the rest of the movie.

As with any B-movie/exploitation outing, the dialogue and acting can be questionable at best, but Lady Frankenstein emerges above other standard Frankenstein-themed schlock like Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966) mostly due to its production value and the casting of Rosalba NeriIn addition to the more obvious merits, there are some truly strange moments in Lady Frankenstein that save it from being condemned as typical B-Movie faire (the EuroTrash angle at least helps it from being too run of the mill). Most of these moments have to do with Tiana plotting some fiendishly pseudo-sexual manipulation of the weaker sex, which, it would seem, leads to her ultimate downfall.

Now that Lady Frankenstein has been relinquished into the arms of “public domain”, there are several places online to see the film in its entirety for free, which, really, is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

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