30 May, 2007


Here's the cover of the new Severin Films DVD presentation of the Franco-Italian Ovidio Assonitis (BEYOND THE DOOR) production, LAURE. Below is a picture of the writer-director of the film. Well, not really. It's the legendary Eurasian novelist-actress Emmanuelle Arsan. She didn't actually write or direct this nor did she even pen the first EMMANUELLE novel, which became the 1974 French film featuring Sylvia Kristel. Aka Marayat Andriane, EA can not only be seen in this film but also had roles in the Steve McQueen film THE SAND PEBBLES and the US TV western show, THE BIG VALLEY [!].

LAURE is Assonitis' exploitation of the EMMANUELLE subgenre. Andriane/Arsan appears in the film in a supporting role, dispensing 70s "free love" philosophy "What will you do with your newfound freedom?" Her acting talents are a toss-up and Annie Belle [Brilland] is pretty much the whole show, turning the deficiencies in the script to her favor. This is harmless erotica of the silliest kind, but may provide a blast of nostalgia for fans of that genre in that era.

Laure is a free spirited young woman, the daughter of a Manila based minister-anthropologist, who meets an equally free spirited young filmmaker (Al Cliver/Pierluigi Conti) on a local bus. She sits on his lap and the rest in anthropology. He likes to "watch" via his 16mm camera mounted with a telephoto lens. It's all very Freudian, I guess. Or it's meant to be. After roaming the more photogenic attractions of the city they of course end up in bed together. He's not really much of a performer and she desires further erotic adventures with men, women and remote tribe (the Mara are up to the task here). There are the requisite lovemaking sessions in swimming pools, helicopters, wherever and whenever. They finally end up on an expidition into Mara territory and I was hoping for the sudden appearance of a cannibal tribe! No such luck. Laure ends up getting down with as many tribe members who can fit into a viewfinder and getting painted silver (kinda recalling Alexandra Delli Colli 's antics in the last scenes of ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST, but still no cannibals appear, frustrating my admittedly unrealistic expectations).
LAURE was actually known as EMMANUELLE FOREVER in some cases and it's basically a superior entry in that series under a different name. I certainly prefer it to EMMANUELLE, which I found boring when I saw it and reviewed it way back in 1974. It's a very glossy, well appointed production and has a classy look throughout.
Annie Belle was a talented actress who faced down David Hess in Ruggero Deodato's THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK and brought a sense of mystery to her early role as the female vampire in Jean Rollin's excellent LEVRES DES SANG (1974). I didn't find her particularly compelling here and her short cropped white [?!] hair is more distracting than appealing. It's a kinder, gentler softcore fantasy adventure with style to spare. It could have been a lost worse and is probably the best film I can think of which was directed by a French diplomat!

In the David Gregory directed EMMANULLE REVEALED producer Assonitis amusingly reveals that the film was actually written and directed by Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane, a French diplomat who was married to Emmanuelle Arsan. He penned the original Emmanuelle novels and credited them and this film to his wife to avoid a scandal. Given his occupation that was probably a wise move and an outstanding business decision. Ossonitis also talks about how he had to fire his original choice for role of Laure, Linda Lovelace, because of her drug habit and unprofessional behavior. That may have been a wise move at the time.

Cliver and Belle (in an audio only interview) talk about their offscreen love affair in LAURE-A LOVE STORY, ported from another presentation. Belle speaks frankly of her drinking during the production and terms herself an alcoholic, regretting that her character wasn't written with more depth. Belle did appear in BLACK EMMANUELLE, WHITE EMMANUELLE (which also included Cliver in the cast), and I must admit that the Italian Black Emanuelle series remains a preference in that universe because they tend to have an edgier, grittier texture, incorporate horror and although the dreamy Micalizzi cues for LAURE are perfectably acceptable I was waiting for the show to be suddenly energized by an infusion from a quirkier, ruder Nico Fidenco.

Nonetheless, it's another very fastidious transfer from Severin Films. The print [taken from vividly colorful French elements] and soundtrack are spotless.

1.78:1/16:9 widescreen transfer
Audio: Mono DD; English language only, no subtitles.
Extras: EMMANUELLE REVEALED--Interview with Producer Ovidio Assonitis[15m]
LAURE--A Love Story: Interviews with Al Cliver [video] and Annie Belle {audio only} [15m]
Not Rated.

I can report I did enjoy this presentation (along with the twisting backstories on the extras menu). The film itself is an oddity from my favorite decade and collectors of all things related to the "Emmanuelle" mythos are probably going to want to a look.

Street date is June 12th.
*My favorite film featuring Annie Belle and Al Cliver is Joe D'Amato's THE ALCOVE (1984), in which they both are excellent, arguably their best. Also featured is Laura BLACK EMANUELLE Gemser. It's a softcore melodrama with a superior script and really deserves a deluxe R1 DVD presentation with Italian and English language options [hopefully Severin is listening].


From Severin Films:

"We're also diligently working on the second volume of Black Emanuelle's Box which will feature D'Amato's rarest entry EMANUELLE & THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE,BLACK EMMANUELLE/WHITE EMMANUELLE aka VELLUTO NERO (the Alien Vs. Predatorof erotica starring both Laura Gemser AND Annie Belle) and BLACK EMANUELLE No. 2, Bitto Albertini's rarely seen follow-up to his classic EMANUELLE NERA. A second soundtrack compilation featuring the Nico Fidenco scores fromEMANUELLE IN AMERICA, EMANUELLE & THE LAST CANNIBALS and EMANUELLE & THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE will also be included along with a whole host of excitingnew extras."

Sounds tantalizing! I'm especially fond of EMANUELLE & THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE, a particularly wacky wonderment from the late, great Joe D'Amato. And another Nico Fidenco soundtrack compilation is always good news.

29 May, 2007

More Info on German COUNT DRACULA SE

Here's the cover and some more information from Ewe Huber on Kinowelt's 2 Disc SE of Jess Franco's COUNT DRACULA. The language options are English and German. No English subtitles are available for the German language option.
-Extras on the first disc:
-Audio commentary with Fred Williams (in German, no subs)
- Beloved Count (the featurette from the Dark Sky disc)
- Interview with Jack Taylor (English, with German subs)
-Stills galleries (German Lobby Set etc.)
- several text pages (in German)
Thanks again to Ewe.

26 May, 2007


Thanks to Magnus for these screengrabs from the new German DVD of Jess Franco's COUNT DRACULA issued by Kinowelt.
Top: the atmospheric opening image of the forest near Dracula's castle. This image is missing from the 2007 R1 Dark Sky COUNT DRACULA DVD, which begins a number of seconds later. The scene of the gypsy woman pleading for her child to be returned (MIA from the DS DVD) is also present on this disc.
Here is a list of the extras:
Interview with Jess Franco (audio only, in English with german subs).
Christopher Lee reads Bram Stoker's Dracula (english audio only, with stills)
Nachts Wenn Dracula Erwacht Super 8-print (german audio only, approx. 33 mins*) Super 8 cover artwork + info (german only). *[This is a shortened version of the film].
Trailers: Das Rätsel des silbernen DreiecksDracula - Nächte des EntsetzensSchulmädchen Report - Teil 2: Was Eltern den Schlaf raubt

Magnus also reports that the color is noticeably washed out and the blue tinting seen in some of the night scenes in the Dark Sky presentation is missing. Although I haven't yet decided if I will acquire this I'm grateful that it is more complete than the DS print, although I did appreciate the rich colors and High Definition quality of that presentation. The Super 8mm version also makes this an attractive purchase for me.
Thanks again to Magnus for the images and information.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007

22 May, 2007

Bruno Mattei: 1931-2007

aka Michael Cardoso / Norman Dawn / Vincent Dawn / David Graham / David Hunt / Bob Hunter / Frank Klox / Werner Knox / Pierre Le Blanc / Jimmy B. Matheus / Jimmy Matheus / B. Mattei / J.B. Matthews / Jordan B. Matthews / J. Metheus / Martin Miller / Erik Montgomery / Herik Montgomery / Stefan Oblowsky / Gilbert Roussel / George Smith / William Snyder

Before getting to the Jess Franco connections I would like to salute the late Bruno Mattei for his work ethic if nothing else. The fact that he continued to work while ill before his tumor caused him to go into a coma is indicative of someone for whom life was work and vice versa, not unlike JF. He wasn't as prolific as Franco, of course, but he had been in the Italian film industry for 5 decades and was very productive.

He worked an editor and then a director in many popular genres. An early example of his work as Sound Effects editor can be seen in Guido Malatesta's action packed peplum adventure, MACISTE CONTRO I MOSTRI/FIRE MONSTERS AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1962). I ran that last night along with a typical example of his later work as a director, ROBOWAR (1988), made in the Philippines when Mattei and his writing partner Claudio Fragasso were busy working on a series of low budget horror-sci fi projects lensed there, including their salvage job on Lucio Fulci's dire ZOMBIE 3.

ROBOWAR is a highly entertaining mixture of such mid 1980s Hollywood hits as PREDATOR and ROBOCOP. It's probably as well crafted as both. Given the fact that it was probably produced on a fraction of the budget and shooting schedules of those A-list features perhaps make it more impressive. It's certainly less pretentious and as fast paced. It's wall to wall firefights, explosions and macho posturing by Reb Brown backed by a supporting cast of Italian action regulars such as Romano Puppo and "Alex McBride." Antonio Margheriti mascot is listed in the credits but I couldn't find him in the film. The tropical locations are well rendered and the frenetic pacing is evidence of Mattei's roots as a skilled editor.

He began working in film the same year as Jess Franco, 1952. Besides editing the Italian versions of 99 WOMEN and EL CONDE DRACULA (both 1969), Mattei is listed by the imbd as the director of the hardcore scenes in the French version of 99 WOMEN. One wonders if Mattei was responsible for the cuts seen on the recent DARK SKY print of EL CONDE ... which some speculated was from an Italian source. Of course, the imbd is often incorrect concerning the career details of obscure Euro B filmmakers like Mattei. I assume this is the hard version out on the Blue Underground DVD. Can anyone confirm or deny this credit? Also, the Italian runtime of 99 WOMEN is listed in OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO and other sources as 108m. Is this spurios? This is presumably the Mattei edited version. If anyone has seen this and wishes to comment please do so below. I've never seen but sure would like to...

(C) Robert Monell, 2007

19 May, 2007

Jess Franco Cannibal Collection: LA COMTESSE PERVERSE

One title I always include on my ever-changing JF 10 Best list is his LA COMTESEE PERVERSE/THE PERVERSE COUNTESS. Actually, I have never seen the film under that title in its original 1973 incarnation. Alain Petit recently wrote to me that he fears Franco's original version may be lost since it altered was rereleased in 1974 under the alternate title: LES CROQUEUSES (THE MUNCHERS[!]).

Produced the prolific French exploitation magnate Robert de Nesle, LA COMTESSE PERVERSE is Jess Franco's predictably iconoclastic take on Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" which has been the basis for a number of Hollywood versions since it was first filmed in 1932. Franco performer Michel Lemoine (SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON) also adapted anddirected his own elegant version in 1974, LES WEEKEND MALEFIQUES DU COMTE ZAROFF (SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN), with himself in the role Howard Vernon plays in the Franco version (Vernon also appears in SEVEN WOMEN...).

Producer de Nesle was distressed when Franco turned in the first French cannibal/gore/exploitation film and ordered it to be lightened up by adding "comedy" scenes featuring Lina Romay and Caroline Riviere (only Romay was a participant in the original shoot). These turned out to be mood shattering inserts wherein the actresses joke about going out to the island of the Zaroff's. This version even has a "happy ending" of sorts. The original had an "optical" allusion to the first shot after restaging the grim climax of Val Lewton's I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. Sometime later more inserts were added of the hardcore sex variety featuring Lina Romay performing oral sex on Pierre Taylou. According to Alain Petit, this scene was filmed in Paris, whereas the original footage was lensed mostly in Spain. This much altered version was then released in 1975 on the French "X" circuit. LES CROQUEUSES has since surfaced on French video and subsequently on bootlegs (sometimes subtitled in English) distributed by several North American companies. It's an outrageous curiosity and something of a blunted sword.

The original began with Robert Woods (featured in numerous Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s) scanning the beach for a victim to deliver to the cannibalistic Zaroff's. What follows is a deadpan, jet black comedy of manners. Kali Hansa and then Lina Romay are subjected to an extended "woman hunt" after which they are dissected, cooked and consumed at dinners presided over by Rader Zaroff's world weary charm.

The unhinged, delirious cinematography of the perilous landscapes, presided over by the Bofill structure XANADU, the frenetic prog-rock/avant garde guitar, organ and percussion improvisations of Jean-Bernard Raiteux and Olivier Bernard (some of these outre cues can be heard on the soundtracks of the 1972 JF titles THE DEMONS and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and really need to be released on a newly remastered CD), excellent peformances by Woods (who recently told me all he remembers about the film is that Jess was constantly trying to get him to do hardcore), Romay, Vernon and especially Alice Arno whose extraordinary appearance, nude with bow and arrow, during the climactic woman hunt, is unforgettable, all merge into a heady synthesis which looks, plays and feels unlike any other JF film or any other film version of this story. There's also a hardcore Italian version SEXY NATURE, which includes other extremely ugly hardcore inserts not filmed by Jess Franco, and should be avoided at all costs!

Will Franco's original version ever be discovered? Will there ever be a decent R1 DVD in OAR with proper English language subtitles? Actually, if one could just remove the "comedy" and hardcore inserts one could reconstruct Jess' original version. But rights and access to the materials would have to be secured as a first step.

With a promised Blue Underground DVD of Franco's very inferior MONDO CANNIBALE/CANNIBALS (1980) and the wretched Video Asia "Terror Tales" disc of the equally bad THE DEVIL HUNTER one wishes that at least one version of Jess Franco's one really great cannibal film could finally surface in a high definition format(the 1998 remake TENDER FLESH is already out on a nice "Collector's Edition" DVD).


(C) Robert Monell, 2007

16 May, 2007

Jess Franco's Torture Clinic

Jess Franco uses "enhanced interrogation" techniques to persuade Princess Arminda (Lina Romay) to reveal her involvement in a plot to extort ransom from his criminal boss Amos Radeck (Victor Mendes) in the minimalist crime film, DIE SKLAVINNEN (1977).

Jess' favorite instrument of torture is a [what else?] cigarette!

The look of this film is fascinating: exteriors shot in Lisbon (including the white castle from SUCCUBUS) while the sleazy sex/drug/crime activities take place in filthy hotel rooms which suggest late 60s/early 70s Andy Warhol productions like TRASH.

Note the "Nighclub Scene" without a Nightclub--only a few chairs, a potted tropical plant, a lamp, a talkative parrot in a cage, all set off against bottomless black wallpaper. It's all cued to funky mid 70s dance music and is bascially harmless fun considering that there are powerful people in real life who think that torture is no problem.

In his mid 1970s Eurocrime universe Victor Mendes was Franco's Sydney Greenstreet and Martine Stedil his Catwoman. They provide solid support to Jess and his probing cigarette in this short, nasty and recommended little thriller.

(C)Robert Monell, 2007

12 May, 2007


At 77 years young he is still making [digital] films which sometimes continue to surprise and delight with his iconoclastic vision. I want to personally thank Jess Franco for the compelling oeuvre he has created over the last 50 years and hope he takes a well deserved rest on his 77th birthday [but I doubt that he will]. He still has numerous surprises and projects up his sleeve!

I'll be rotating some images of our favorite auteur and some adding brief thoughts about some of his films.

Can anyone guess which film the above image of Jess comes from?

09 May, 2007

Films I Want on DVD:

DEATH LAID AN EGG was released in 1968 and has been amazing those fortunate enough to stumble across it ever since. Was there ever a US theatrical release? There is a R2 DVD which can be ordered but I would like a R1 SE of this wild giallo, if you want to call it a giallo. Such an imaginatively directed films begs for a commentary by Guilio Questi who codirected and coscripted with the late Franco "Kim" Arcalli, known for his nonlinear editing style in Bertolucci's THE CONFORMIST and 1900. They previously co-created the equally iconoclastic Spaghetti Western known as DJANGO, KILL...If You Live, Shoot! (1967), released by BLUE UNDERGROUND as part of their 2002 THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN COLLECTIION and later as a single. That film was a violent allegory on fascism and greed which turned even the nihilistic Spaghetti Western formula upside down (literally, in some shots). DEATH LAID AN EGG is even more extreme...

It's rather like watching a series of Mondrians staccato edited into a science fiction tinged sex and murder mystery set in a futurist chicken plant. You'll never look at factory farming the same way again (if you've considered it at all) or perhaps never want to partake of what is produced there. It makes its point with absolutely no preaching and at breakneck speed. If you've never seen it you'll NEVER put it together upon a first viewing. It all seems lighter than air and it's a hair trigger pitched jet black comedy of bad manners in which everyone gets exactly what they deserve.

Bruno Maderna's score is akin to the sound of chalk screeching across a blackboard while Dario de Palma's images seem to speed toward us at breakneck speed. I was reminded of a long forgotten horror comic book I read as a child where giant chickens took over the world and got even. Some could be driven mad by this film! Watch it on a double bill with Godard's WEEKEND (also 1967) if you dare. Jean Louis Trintignant made all the right choices for the roles he choose during this period (THE GREAT SILENCE, Robbe Grillet's THE MAN WHO LIES, THE CONFORMIST).

I've only seen it via the pretty wretched Venezuelan DVD. So an OAR SE with the original Italian soundtrack would be nice along with the aforementioned Questi commentary. Questi went on to make the totally inscrutable ARCANA...

I had heard that BU was thinking of releasing this in the future. I hope that's still in the works and that the original Italian language track is included with English subtitles.

I'll be adding some more gialli I'd like to see on R1 DVD in the future.

(c) Robert Monell 2007

07 May, 2007


Three faces of Paul Naschy...

It may be unintentional, involuntary or unconscious but veteran director Leon Klimovsky achieved a kind of surrealism in the midst of the quotidian of stock footage, tacky black magic rites and low tech gore effects which is VEGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1972).

Taking a break from his Waldemar Daninsky roles Paul Naschy plays the yogi Krishna, his tormented and tormenting evil twin Kantaka, and Satan. This was made for next to nothing and really looks like it. But I find it a delightfully delirious programmer. A true Guilty Pleasure. And bring on that jaw dropping Juan Carlos Calderon score. It's addictive!

All the positives I pointed out about THE NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF DVD also apply to this presentation, which is a nonanamorphic 4:3 fullscreen transfer. The colors are spectacular and the razor sharp image reveals an unimaginable amount of detail for someone like myself who has only expereinced this movie through the 1980s ALL SEASONS VHS. The Great Man's introduction brought a smile to my face and there are three audio options to choose from: the vintage English Mono track; the original Castilian track (which sounds the cleanest and sharpest to me) and an English track in 5.1 which is annoyingly out of synch.

Uncut, mastered in HD from the original vault negative, this movie is a world of fun and I'll be revisiting this definitive presentation whenever I need to turn my mind off and get a strong dose of female zombie madness...

Thanks to Eric Cotenas for the images.

04 May, 2007


Thanks to Eric Cotenas for the screenshots from the BCI SE DVD
* * * *

I must admit that watching EL RETORNO DEL HOMBRE LOBO (1980) via the excellent new transfer from BCI, mastered in High Definiton from the original negative, adjusted my long standing opinion of the film. I especially found the Castilian language track gave the film a dignity and gravity which the rather hollow English dub lacks. Of course I'm talking about THE CRAVING, the US version, which played here theatrically and later surfaced as a murky looking and sounding VHS.

Rather than just deliver a conventional DVD review here (there are plenty to be found in various corners of cyberspace) I'll phase in and out giving my own impressions of this presentation and reflecting on my own history with this film. I'll also rotate some images from the disc and box artwork. Given my fondness for the films and vision of Paul Naschy I want to give my own perspective in a prismatic format which will be unbound from a normal review structure.

This is Paul Naschy's deluxe remake of Leon Klimovksy's LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (1970) and a testament to his emotional investment in the role and his epic four decade werewolf cycle. It commands respectful attention. It certainly gets it with this DVD.

I had some difficulty getting my hands on this (along with the new BCI disc of Leon Klimovsky's 1972 programmer VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES). I do hope they will both soon be widely and easily available to Naschy's fanbase and horror/fantasy collectors everywhere who have already discovered or perhaps will be initiated into Naschy's intricately detailed universe.

The official release date is May 8. Some online distributors have already sold out their stock and the set is popping up in scattered Best Buys nationwide. If anyone has any corrections and/or further information on wider release and availablity please feel free to comment below.

I must admit that when I first saw this, as THE CRAVING via the US VHS, I was thrown off by the rather risible English language voice casting. The dubbing of Julia Saly's Countess Bathory seemed especially annoying. It was like somebody in a high school play trying too hard to act the wicked witch. Heard in Castilian Spanish (although the action is set in Hungary) she is far more menacing and the entire film loses any air it had of schlock.

Naschy really worked hard on its viusal style, collaborating with the great DP Alejandro Ulloa (COMPANEROS; MISS MUERTE) to emphasize, as he writes in his autobiography, "...Gothic imagery, blended with both real historical detail and unbridled flight of fancy." They fully succeeded and a true measure of the film is fully available on this DVD. Designed in varying shades of gold and crimson it's a somber looking production with strong undertows of sexual anxiety and looming violence. Naschy looks terrific in black clothing and bearded while his performance is more layered than earlier appearances as Waldemar. He has grown as an actor.

By 1980 Naschy had already directed two masterworks, EL HUERTO DEL FRANCES (1977) and EL CAMINANTE (1979), after his acceptable if uneven directorial debut, INQUISITION (1976).

EL RETORNO DEL HOMBRE LOBO builds on his strengths as a visual storyteller with a highly sophisticated sense of atmosphere and composition. I only hope that EL HUERTO... and EL CAMINANTE can someday find a way to quality DVD presentations like this one. These works move away from the exploitation arena into the realm of poetic fantasy similar to best of Kurosawa and Bunuel. What the film lacks in pace and script originality it compensates with a kind of visionary elaboration. For instance, the deaths of Saly and Aguilar are staged like extended arias in a bloody opera whereas Leon Klimovsky's handling of the climax in the 1970 template LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS seems rather perfunctory in comparison. Unlike so many of today's one dimensional, dumbed down, CGI packed gorefests Naschy's film never seems rushed, obvious or intelligence insulting.

Some of the shots evoke Rembrandt, Goya and Bosch with the metaphysical horrors often thrusting themselves out of bottomless blacks. One script improvement over LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS is that this time the beloved of Waldemar doesn't get to walk away from the carnage. She suffers her own grim fate before a last embrace. It's a powerful image which evokes the ending of Leon Klimovsky's DR JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN (1971). This was a very personal project for Naschy and the first time he had directed a Waldemar Dananisky saga. It's a densely referential combination of the best of the Universal Classics, Fisher's CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, the Italian Golden Age (a cue from the Rustichelli score of Bava's KILL, BABY, KILL! is used again and again at pivotal moments), his aforementioned earlier werewolf films and is as impressively lit as Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON while ending up as nihilistically downbeat as Fulci's THE BEYOND, which was made the same year.

The anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer allows all these elements to be seen and heard as if for the first time with the added advantage of restoring footage missing from the previous US video release, THE CRAVING. I don't think I'll ever be able to watch it in English language again but it's really nice to have both that and the superior Castilian Spanish tracks available. A passionate introduction by the Great Man himself, deleted scenes, the US theatrical trailer, the Spanish credits sequence (which finally explains the clueless US opening credits), packed photo and still galleries make this as fully loaded as I wanted considering that it's going for well under twenty dollars along with its companion release, VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES.

Mirek Lipinski's excellent liner notes introduce the film for the Naschy newcomer, perceptively evaluate the film itself, place it in a historical perspective and detail the careers of key cast and crew members. I've debated this particular film with him before and know that he combines the passion of a fan with the skills of a film historian, translator, author and webmaster of his essential site, THE MARK OF NASCHY. The fact that he takes time to speculate on the mysterious fate of Julia Saly and the tragic one of Azucena Hernandez is very much appreciated and proof that his interest in the film is much deeper than in just rattling off a list of facts. I was also very taken with the rather witty and appropriate menu design in which we are thrust toward a Necronomicon style book which blows open to reveal the menu options in Gothic lettering.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007

01 May, 2007


Gordon Scott and his 19 inch biceps from Riccardo Freda's stylish SAMSON AND THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF THE WORLD (1961)*, in which he actually played Maciste before it was dubbed, retitled and imported to the US by AIP.

It was sad news that Gordon passed away on April 30th in a Baltimore hospital after lingering complications from heart surgery. Born Gordon W. Werschul in 1927 he lived nearly 80 years. From his days as an Army Drill Instructor and MP to his appearances in six Hollywood Tarzan films after being discovered working as a life guard in Las Vegas, to his 19 films made in Italy between 1961 to 1967, Gordon kept busy but lived a hard and long goodbye for the final 40 years of his life. Director Freda admired his strength but complained about his drinking. Stories like how he wrecked his sports car and just walked away leaving it in a Roman alleyway abounded. Given his alcoholism, a terminal disease, it seems a miracle he lasted as long as he did.

He doesn't have much dialogue in SAMSON AND THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF THE WORLD (and damned if I can count "7" miracles) but he has "presence" and his unique physique, not as pumped up as Steve Reeves (his costar in Sergio Corbucci's DUEL OF THE TITANS), and it's the kind of charismatic physical presence that extraordinary athletes and stuntpeople have (it looks like he actually performed many of the dangerous stunts in SAMSON... himself). He seems perfectly scuplted for Freda's near perfect peplum and you easily suspend belief at the climax when he breaks out of his tomb beneath the foundations of ancient Peking, toppling the city (a highpoint in both his and Freda's careers).

His final film was Gianfranco Baldanello's LE RAYON INFERNAL (DANGER!! DEATH RAY), a delightfully inconsequential Eurospy entry in which he plays an agent named Bart Fargo who must secure the return of a kidnapped scientist. He looks like he's having a good time walking around in a tuxedo and bow tie in various Spanish gambling casinos. Still trim and fit, he's no match for Sean Connery in the acting department but you kind of enjoy watching him enjoying himself. And there's an interesting supporting peformance by "Max Dean" (BLOOD AND BLACK LACE's Massimo Righi) as an inept enemy agent befriended by Scott. Other villains include Jess Franco regular Alberto Dalbes (TENDER AND PERVERSE EMANUELLE) and Sylvia Solar (NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST). A terrific CAM jazz score is a value added extra. This is the kind of compelling obscurity which we may never see on US DVD. But who knows?

I certainly hope to someday see R1 HD transfers of such Gordon Scott classics as GOLIATH AND THE VAMPIRES, DUEL OF THE TITANS, and a correctly letterboxed SAMSON AND THE SEVEN MIRACLES (forget the cheap Alpha DVD!) from quality elements.


(C) Robert Monell