28 February, 2008

Claude Chabrol's LA RUPTURE (1970)

The balloon man at the site of the psychedelic climax of LA RUPTURE.

"What an utter darkness suddenly surrounds me!" from PHAEDRA by Jean Racine

Darkness is not only visible in Claude Chabrol's LA RUPTURE, it's the seemingly normal state of being in the land of the European bourgeoisie... yes, it's the bourgeoisie again.

The camera is pressed up against the bark of a tree in a middle class area of Brussels, a quick movement to the right reveals the modest house in which Helene (Stephane Audran) and her family live. A scene of appalling domestic violence which develops with very disturbing rapidity leaves Helene's young son with a severe head trauma. She proceeds to beat the child's assailant, her troubled husband, senseless with an iron skillet. A sudden bloodbath in a neat kitchen. As Helene rushes the boy to the hospital, the camera is directed out the car's window recording the quiet, ordered streets and tranquil vistas of Brussels, a quaint, elegant city which is cleverly used as the ironic stage for this increasingly unhinged melodrama.

Ludovic Reigner, the wealthy and powerful father of Helene's husband, hires a sleazy agent (Jean-Pierre Cassel) to prevent Helene from taking the boy away from her husband's family. Michel Bouquet delivers one of his subtly menacing performances (cf LA FEMME INFIDELE) as Reigner, who seems to want to destroy his daughter-in-law as much for her past as a stripper on top of the fact that she's from a "lower" social class. The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie. In fact, this pitch black comedy of manners very much anticipates that Luis Bunuel film as well as certain aspects of Kubrick's THE SHINING.

It's really tempting to describe what happens in terms of outrageous plot points throughout but in the end the fascination which LA RUPTURE manages to exert is due to its style, which is is unnervingly unpredictable, bordering on surrealism at times, theatre of cruelty, subtle, poetic and finally completely over the top in the final reel in which Helene is given a psychedelic drug for breakfast by the ruthless agent who wants to prove to the world she's a drug addict as well as sexually dangerous woman. She goes out and re-images the world while her reality is brutally exterminated. Paul, the amoral fixer, seems to redefine evil as a laugh riot in which his level of fun is as important as the incredibly complicated web he spins for Helene. He and his girlfriend just want to have fun as they move on up into the next social class. The fact that he destroys lives doesn't seem to be a problem for him. It's just something he does remarkably well.

Paul's incrementally revealed evil makes us reconsider the husband's madness and violence which is demonstrated in the precredits sequence. LA RUPTURE is about, among other things, the dangers of moral relativism in the modern world, specifically in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And the perhaps equal dangers of moral rigidity. There are only victims and predators in Chabrol's worldview and a possibility of redemption which nevertheless is often undone by cowardice, brain chemistry and that most clever card player, Fate.

In the end LA RUPTURE is not really about Helene's personal hell as much as it is about the negative capacity of the desperate souls who desire her destruction. Helene is destroyed but so is Ludovic, who has generated the action against her. The final horrifying (is it a horror film?) tableau redefines the meaning of "family." All that's left are the balloons hovering in the sky, a pastel canvas over hell on earth. There's even a classical chorus of well dressed crones to witness the descent. The fixer Paul evokes Macbeth in his final bloody fury and seems to disappear into a mirror at the end (cf Chabrol's elusive 1977 ALICE). Transgressive (one scene cannot be described here), pitiless, brutal, unpredictable and finally moving, LA RUPTURE is worth seeking out for adventurous viewers. Be warned, it's not a pleasant film to watch.

Chabrol had directed three masterful thrillers which made his name in the late 60s, LES BICHES (1968), LA FEMME INFIDELE (1969) and LE BOUCHER (1969), the last is, in my opinion, a masterwork. Even Pauline Kael, who rejected Chabrol's subtly finessed style, acknowledged him as a master. The director of LE BEAU SERBE (1958), the first feature film of the French Nouvelle Vague, he had been a film critic for Cahiers du Cinema and was one of the founders of the auteur theory (along with Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut) and published a study of Hitchcock nearly a decade before Truffaut's book on the great director. But one doesn't want to take the Chabrol-Hitchcock connection too far. His career has been quite uneven and he's probably made too many ill-considered films. Besides the above mentioned titles, I would also recommend NADA (1974), the early A DOUBLE TOUR (1960) and would love to locate ALICE. He also made several Eurospy romps with titles like MARIE CHANTAL CONTRA DR. KHA!

Adapted from Charlotte Armstrong's THE BALLOON MAN, the Chabrol who directed LA RUPTURE was near the top of his form. It's pulp fiction reborn as tragedy amidst Eurotrash. The most memorable sequence is perhaps Helene's tram ride through Brussels, a sad, beautiful journey which is exquisitely defined by Jean Rabier's delicate palette and sensitive film editing. Pierre Jansen's score evokes certain Bartok and Schoenberg string quartets and provides an uneasy, somewhat atonal sound environment. Stephane Audran (although probably miscast) gives a courageous performance as the prey while Cassel seems to perfectly understand the nature of the beast he is playing, a force who cuts through all social classes; an amused, self satisfied agent of destruction who thoroughly enjoys blackmail, kidnapping, slander, sexual perversion and getting well paid for conceiving nasty plots.

Fans of the 1971 Belgian vampire film DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS will notice the director of that film, Harry Kumel, in the small role of a suspicious taxi driver.

[Note that the 2003 PATHFINDER DVD has some minor print damage, doesn't really adequately reproduce the film's unique color schemes and appears to be nearly 5 minutes shorter than the reported uncut run time of 125m-. I've seen the film in 35mm and it's a much more eye-drugging experience than suggested by the DVD.]

(C) Robert Monell, 2008

25 February, 2008

The Stone Killers

The original stone killer...*

Javier Bardem as the stone killer in the multiple Academy Award winning NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I didn't watch the show, haven't since the turn of the 21st century. I just don't go to see that many mainstream movies anymore. But I was a regular watcher of the broadcast from 1968 until about 1998. So I can't comment on the field since I only saw one nominated movie. Maybe if they brought Bob Hope back from the dead I'd appreciate the show more...

Still, I was pleased Bardem won. He was just perfectly menacing, and not in a way you'd expect, in the role. And he knew how to carry that air cylinder in a way that made it seem like a natural thing to do. I like the Coen brothers approach to genre films, and I like it when they defy gravity as in BARTON FINK and THE BIG LEBOWSKI.

Incidentally, Bardem recently mentioned a Jess Franco related title when he listed among his favorite Spanish films the 1955 MUERTE DU UN CICLISTA, a film which Franco worked as assistant to Bardem's uncle, the late Juan Antonio Bardem. He praised it in a national newspaper for illustrating the underside of daily life during that era.

On the subject of stone killers: Does anyone remember the 1973 Charles Bronson vehicle seen at the top of the blog? I remember when I saw it at a downtown grindhouse back then it seemed to really kick butt. I'd like to see it again sometime soon. Anyone know of a good DVD presentation? Thanks.

*http://youtube.com/watch?v=pxv-kgJ_DOI [THE STONE KILLER video on YouTube]

(C) Robert Monell, 2008

24 February, 2008


The colorful array of images seen above are from Jean Rollin's JEUNES FILLES IMPUDIQUES (1973), a pseudonymous "roughie" crime film he directed under the name Michel Gentil appeared on US DVD last year as part of THE GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE 20 movie-multiple DVD set. Images from more Rollin films can be see on our new sidebar slideshow. [Thanks to Adam Williams]

New Videos: Please go to our sidebar at left and page down to view four new videos from You Tube re Alain Robbe-Grillet: 3 interviews and a short film. Our special coverage of the legacy of Robbe-Grillet in the wake of his Feb. 18th passing will continue with more reviews and information on his films, videos and literary works both here and on my CINEMADROME message board [see link at top left of sidebar].

Also added, two new slideshows: the aforementioned tribute to Jean Rollin and an homage to the late actor-director Ray Danton, with images from his 1973 Spanish-Turkish lensed vampire movie CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD and the Jess Franco-directed LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE...

Robert Monell

22 February, 2008

Who is this actress?

And in what Alain Robbe-Grillet film did she appear? And where is she now?

21 February, 2008


The Angel of Death and her minions confront the protagonist of LA BELLE CAPTIVE, the first Alain Robbe-Grillet directed film to make it onto US DVD. Hopefully, the rest will follow sooner than later.

GRADIVA is an erotic/archaeological thriller featuring an elusive woman in white. Alain Robbe-Grillet's 2006 film was not well received by French critics and audiences.

The heroine (Catherine Jourdan) of EDEN AND AFTER (1970) is guided on a journey into the land of the Unconscious by a mysterious stranger. Filmed in a Mondrian labyrinth and Tunisia this was ARG's first color film. I was lucky enough to see this via a pristine 35mm print in a New York City cinema with Alain Robbe-Grillet in attendance.

The New Wave meets the Nouveau Roman. Alan Resnais' LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD was a glossy, funereal evocation of Alain Robbe-Grillet's film script, which was nominated for an Academy Award. If you're lucky you may be able to see the new 35mm scope print. Perhaps the quintessential 1960's Art Film.

18 February, 2008


The film he could never live down, or up to, in some critic's eyes; Alain Robbe-Grillet was still angry with director Alain Resnais in recent interviews. The critically praised LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD was one of the iconic films of the 1960s; it confounded mainstream critics and audiences at the time, and still does. This famous image will create a sense of deja vu even if you've never seen the film.

He was also a painter and worked images of other painters into both his novels and films; the novel and film LA BELLE CAPTIVE were generated by a series of Rene Magritte canvases...

At work on his most recent film, the much criticized GRADIVA. In a recent interview he struck out at French audiences, critics and his old colleague Alain Resnais..

Rather than write a smug, reductive obit I'll present some impressions upon learning of the death today in France of Alain Robbe-Grillet (from cardiac failure according to reports), who may have been the most important writer of the second half of the 20th century and one of its most radical, innovative filmmakers. Still producing new films and literature into his mid 80's he was restless, angry, intellectually stimulating, artistically courageous and uncompromising.

"In the dimness of the cafe', the manager is arranging the table and chairs, the ashtrays, the siphons of soda water; it is six in the morning."
In the first sentence of his first novel LES GOMMES (1953) the former agronomist calmly, obsessively presents his revolution. Present tense, unadorned description of seemingly banal actions which will define the modern world as a quoditian myth cycle without clear meanings or direction.

"I must return to that delicate girl who is still languishing in her cage, for M, The Vampire, and Doctor Morgan are now returning to the little white room in order to continue the interrogation, after having gone out for a sandwich to the drugstore in the nearby station."
When was the last time you read Sade, or saw a Jean Rollin vampire film? Just two names which come to mind when reading this (writing professors would say run-on) sentence from his 1972 novel PROJECT FOR A REVOLUTION IN NEW YORK.

Given his novels, filmscripts, stories, films, paintings, acting appearances, lectures, essays (his most important text may prove to be the 1964 POUR UN NOUVEAU ROMAN) he was omnipresent in academia and film culture of the 1960s and continued on with ever more difficult novels, films, collaborations with visual artists and several volumes of autobiography.*

One of his films (GLISSEMENTS PROGRESSIFS DU PLAISIR) was once ordered burned in public. One of the books which most influenced him was Michelet's "La Sorciere" and the many images of sadomasochism found in his novels and films caused him to be compared to another French rebel, Sade. His films influenced many other filmmakers including Sam Peckinpah, Jess Franco, Monte Hellman, Dario Argento and Paul Schrader. Novelist-screenwriter Richard Matheson (I AM LEGEND) once said he wrote the script for DE SADE (1969) deliberately in the nonlinear style of LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD.

His first film L'IMMORTELLE (1963) was filmed at the same time Alain Resnais was shooting Robbe-Grillet's script for MARIENBAD. It was shot under protest by its cinematographer who disagreed with all of Robbe-Grillet's aesthetic choices. I'll be reviewing L'IMMORTELLE and other ARG titles in coming blogs and I'm considering pushing all other planned blog events of the next week or so back to cover his film legacy.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today that Robbe-Grillet was the most "rebellious" members of the presitgious and highly exclusive Academie Francaise. That he was.

LA BELLE CAPTIVE was finally released on a welcome, if basic, US DVD presentation last year. Let's hope that his other films follow in the Criterion style editions they deserve.

I feel grateful to have been able to meet him at a 1976 showing of EDEN AND AFTER and SLOW SLIDINGS INTO PLEASURE in New York City. He was a disarmingly humble, gentle and witty individual. A unique figure who will be impossible to replace.

To read my other posts on the works and career of Alain Robbe-Grillet just type his name into the search engine at the top of the blog.

I recommend the excellent chapter on the films of Alain Robbe-Grillet in Pete Tombs' and Cahtal Tohill's essential "Immoral Tales."

Thanks to Kimberly Lindbergs.

*Recommended books and films by Alain Robbe-Grillet:
L'HOMME QUI MENT/THE MAN WHO LIES (1968): this 1968 war film was his last b&w feature and discerning critics consider it one of his best.
TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS (1966): a director (Alain Robbe-Grillet) constructs the life and death of a drug smuggler (Jean Louis Trintignant) during a train-ride between Antwerp and Paris.
REFLECTIONS OF THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE: An intricate fantasy about an international crime cartel. One of his most accessible and entertaining novels.
L'IMMORTELLE: a cine-novel.
[You'll have to go gray-market for the films]

(C) Robert Monell, 2008

17 February, 2008


Maverick director George A. Romero

A zombie holocaust is uploaded onto the internet in DIARY OF THE DEAD...

the topic of my WEEKEND MOVIE DIARY on ROBERT MONELL'S CINEMADROME. Click on the link at the top of the sidebar at left to read about my four decades of personal history with George A. Romero's horror films and reflections on his career in anticipation of his newest zombie epic.

16 February, 2008


production according to reports coming out of Tokyo, Japan today. This should bring an end to the format war of the last several years if this indeed plays out. I've always preferred Blu-ray, which will obviously get a huge boost from this and the fact that Netflix is also going Blu-ray along with Time-Warner and Wal Mart, nobody wants the cost and hassle of stocking the present two HD formats along with regular DVDs. NHK broadcasting reports Toshiba will lose hundreds of millions of dollars on its investment in the format.

But will consumers during a possibly protracted world wide recession want to pay the extra cost for the enhanced video quality of Blu-ray? Could Blu-ray also eventually go the way of Laser Discs? Stay tuned and check out reuters.com for details.

13 February, 2008


Producer Kike Mesa (left) has made a documentary on the life of Jess Franco [MANERA DE VIVIR-2007] and will produce his next film.

The Latarnia Forum's Franco Lounge and the Spanish Bloody Planet site have both published information and provided this link www.malagahoy.es/article/...langa.html concerning a film project which Jess Franco will reportedly be directing later this year, LOS CASPOSOS. The article brings up a number of questions. Will this be shot on film or will it be another shot on Hi-Def video project? This is being described as a comedy and will feature SNAKEWOMAN's Fata Morgana. Shooting is planned to commence this September in Malaga, Spain. A release is planned for sometime in 2009. The story is about of group of "losers" and it is planned to be in the style of former Jess Franco colleague, Luis Garcia Berlanga, who produced Franco's debut feature TENEMOS 18 ANOS in 1959 and was a popular director of Spanish comedies.

The site also states that Franco has completed LA CRIPTA DE LA MUJERES MALDITAS. It sounds like a horror film. Could this be LA CASA ENCIMA DEL CEMENTERIO which he apparently shot back-to-back with SNAKEWOMAN and was supposed to be based on a Nathaniel Hawthorne story? Or is it a different project? If it isn't, then what happened to LA CASA...? I spoke with Jess just before he began filming it and he was very enthusiastic, describing it as a "surreal" tale which would move freely through time and space. So, we seem to have at least three (and maybe four) new Jess Franco-related films in the pipeline.

Exactly when MANERA DE VIVIR and these other two titles will be available on Spanish or US home video is another question.

11 February, 2008


Riccardo Freda's penultimate film is a fascinating mess... but where's Dr. Hichcock?!

It begins with a group of outcasts from society taking a boat trip in the Mediterranean. On shore and out of provisions they are directed to the forbidding castle of a witch whom is slain by the group's troubled leader who only wants to get back home. This causes the stranded mariners to be pursued by a curse which threatens to destroy them. That's the basic plot of Riccardo Freda's TRAGICA CEREMONIA EN VILLA ALEXANDER (Spanish title), right? Technically correct. But I was thinking about a much superior Freda directed title, the 1960 mythological fantasy GIANTS OF THESSALY (see the image above).

In one of the film's most memorable scenes the heroine, about to stumble into a chamber of horrors, explores a darkened passage. I'm describing the scene in TRAGIC CEREMONY (the title of the new DARK SKY FILMS DVD preseentation of the 1972 film) where Camille Keaton walks down that atmospherically photographed staircase toward the satanic ceremony, right? Actually, I was thinking of the scene where Barbara Steele explores the tunnels below the manse of the horrible Dr. Hichcock in L'ORRIBLE SEGRETO DEL DR HICHCOCK (seen in the above image) Freda's 1962 classic horror film. Now let's have deluxe North American DVD presentations of those films!

All the above is a way of admitting that my mind kept drifting away from the very predictable action of ESTRATTO DAGLI ARCHIVI SEGRETI DELLA POLIZIA DI UNA CAPITALE EUROPEA (the title of the Italian version which is presented on the DVD), toward the far more compelling treatments and images of these two earlier films. Of course, there is no film entitled TRAGIC CEREMONY, but the English language contraction of the Spanish title is an obviously useful handle when it comes to presenting and discussing the film itself. Given that it was a Spanish-Italian coproduction and in such enterprises it was common that cast and crew members were often assigned for tax shelter/quota reasons (Carla Mancini CSC, credited on the Italian print, never materializes) the entire thing looks like it may have been a write-off intended for limited playoff. The Spanish version was finally released in 1974.

Released in Italy at the end of 1972, it's instructive to look at the Italian version first. The story and screenplay are credited to the happy hack Mario Bianchi, whose 1982 directorial effort LA BIMBA DI SATANA has some similar thematic and visual elements and is a lot more fun. As a scenarist ten years earlier he seems to have bypassed screenwriting 101. It's bascially a compilation of ideas and situations from previous horror films including Edgar G. Ulmer's 1934 THE BLACK CAT (the black mass as Rotary Club function), the 1944 Bela Lugosi Monogram programmer THE VOODOO MAN (never trust a gas station attendant to give you directions), Jacques Tourneur's NIGHT OF THE DEMON (don't accept gifts from anyone!), Mario Bava's TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (worthless hippies in dune buggies had better not stray off the main road), the aforementioned Riccardo Freda titles and the Manson gang's massacre of actress Sharon Tate and her friends in 1969 (the writer even has the bad taste to mention Ms. Tate by name).

The first act of the film is bloated with banal dialogue between the youthful protagonists and introduces an awkward flashback to telegraph the dysfunctional relationship (possibly undermined with a twisted sexual dynamic) between Bill (Tony Isbert) a withdrawn young man and his wealthy, manipulative mother (Irina Demick). What connects this opening with the remainder is the cursed neclace given to Jane (Camille Keaton) after it has been rejected by the mother. It seems that the object has been contamined by the evil force exorcised from its original owner. Whoever holds it will suffer the fate of the exorcist. There's a lot more plot, including the appearance of a man the local police suggest is the devil himself or at least a reasonable facsimile. This character is played by Pepe Calvo, most recognizable as Clint Eastwood's only friend in the hostile village from FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. You see, Satan is operating undercover in this region as the local gas station owner. And that's about as far as I'm willing to go in describing the increasingly ridiculous plot.

The "tragic ceremony" ends with the wealthy and powerful participants (they arrive in Rolls Royces) suddenly turning on each other with swords, pistols and medieval implements. The subsequent impalings, head splittings and other Fulci-esque spurtings are courtesy of the great Carlo Rambaldi, who is only credited on the present Italian print. This is where the variances between the two versions becomes interesting. Spanish makeup technicians are credited on the TRAGICA CEREMONIA... print, whom are left off, along with most of the other Spanish production personnel, from the Italian credits seen here, as are the names of the Spanish coproducer, Tecisa Executive Jose G. Maesso and Leonardo Martin, whom are credited as co-writers, along with Bianchi. The Spanish version's final credit roll is simply eliminated on the Italian print when it fades to black after crediting the haunting theme song to Stelvio Ciprian (music) and Freda (lyrics) along with the vocalist.

Seen for the first time on this DVD presentation are several images of topless nudity from Ms. Keaton and a final scene where a clinical psychiatrist (Paul Muller) didactically, and implausibly, explains that the events of the film's second half were the result of the soul migration (metempsychosis) of the cult leader Lady Alexander (Luciana Paluzzi). How did he figure it all out since everyone who was there is dead?! Jose Maesso wisely cut this scene for the Spanish version but it's nice to have it here for the sake of comparison. Muller and Fulvio Mingozzi (as the local police official) are always reliable Eurogenre character actors but they are totally wasted here as are Luigi Pistilli and the stunningly beautiful Ms. Paluzzi.

Freda would later disown this film and it's easy to see why. There have even been persistent unverified reports that parts of the film were directed by Gianna Maria Canale (Freda's wife) or the director's daughter! It wouldn't be the first time that the volatile titan walked and left someone else holding the bag (cf Mario Bava having to complete the Freda initiated I VAMPIRI and CALTIKI... in the late 1950s), and one can't really blame him if he did. The film's main defects, the lack of a coherent script and the inability of his lead actress to deliver an acceptable performance, were beyond his control. Tony Isbert, a good actor, is left without any playable scenes or any support from his colleagues.

Rambaldi's visual effects (I assume he designed the bloodbath) are graphic but unimpressive when considering the arrestingly gruesome make-up work Mario Bava provided for Freda's CALTIKI and his own TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE. The massacre is repeatedly intercut into the final third of the film, in what seems a rather desperate attempt to ramp up the downward spiral. It doesn't work.

The proceedings may have an edge if you are an auteurist steeped in the works of Riccardo Freda. As in the director's previous project, the underrated 1971 giallo THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE (how I wish they had dug up an equally good print of THAT and gave it a much needed US DVD presentation), both the contemporary counterculture of long haired, lazy young people who spend their elder's money on Carnaby Street fashions, and the older, conservative generation, are equally depraved. In TRAGIC CEREMONY the young protagonists are pathetic victims of an degenerate order which hides behind wealth and appearances. Perhaps that element is what drew the director to the project.

Freda improves upon Francisco Friale's bascially mediocre cinematography by setting up a few interestingly lit compositions, deploying some stylish dolly shots and applying an extreme wide angle lens to the aforementioned scenes with Ms. Keaton and the satanists. But it's not enough. The real value of this film is a historical record of the attempts of a prodigiously talented director to stay afloat in a rapidly changing industry where the demand for graphic violence and explicit sex overshadowed any artistic considerations. Freda would return with a vengeance with the excellent and similarly themed MURDER OBSESSION in 1980, yet another film long overdue for a decent North Amercian digital presentation.

Deservedly obscure, TRAGIC CEREMONY, can best be appreciated as an interesting, unintentionally amusing example of Le Bad Cinema. Or as a party film to be enjoyed with friends for a good laugh with the proper refreshments. That's if you have the money and time to expend and absolutely need to see each and every Riccardo Freda effort no matter how dire. This nice DVD presentation also contains an interview with Camille Keaton, who seems a rather pleasant lady and a trouper who speaks in more detail about her other 1970's exploitation films than TRAGIC CERMEMONY. But this rare, complete Italian language print, presented in Anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1aspect ratio, from decent elements, is a welcome R1 transfer, especially if one has only been able to access the film via the inferior Spanish language bootleg which has been circulating for years. The original Italian trailer is also included.

Finally, one is left wondering about the typically long winded Italian title, which evokes a mid-1970's Maurizio Merli action vehicle. Another signal that times had changed. The stylish, bloody gialli of Fulci and Argento were the rage of the day and the kind of gothic horror which ruled over the Italian Golden Age of horror was a thing of the past.

Thanks to Kit Gavin for providing information and discussion about this film.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008

08 February, 2008


The painter at his canvas. He also created 12 very strange, singular Italian westerns, the most prolific contributor to that genre.

The Spiritualist....

On Feb. 8, 1914 Demofilo Fidani*, writer, actor, set designer, medium, friend of Gordon Mitchell, film director and one of my spiritual Godfathers, was born in in Caligari, Sardinia. He is now immortal.

We all know a true artist never dies.

Some favorite Fidani scenes:
STRANIERO...FATTI IL SEGNO DELLA CROCE: Future director Joe D'Amato appearing as the bandit who enjoys throwing eggs up in the air and letting them smash on his face!

GIU LA TESTA...HOMBRE: The tribute to Shakespeare's MACBERTH before the final shootout.

Era Sam Wallach... lo chiamavano 'così sia': the delirious flashback to the childhood trauma which provoked the protagonist's fear of doors swinging open.

ONE DAMN DAY AT DAWN...DJANGO MEETS SARTANA!: The fact that Sartana (Fabio Testi) acts and is costumed like Franco Nero in Sergio Corbucci's original DJANGO while Django (Hunt Powers) acts and is costumed exactly like Gianni Garko's Sartana in that series.

I've never encountered anyone who has seen all of Fidani's Spaghetti Westerns, it would probably be too much for one lifetime...

*aka Slim Alone / Danilo Dani / Nedo De Fida / Miles Deem / Lucky Dickinson / Dino Fidani / Nedo Fidano / Dennis Ford / Sean O'Neal / Demos Philos / Dick Spitfire / Nedo de Fida

(C) Robert Monell, 2008

07 February, 2008


Read my upcoming review to find out why director Riccardo Freda was not a happy camper on the set of TRAGICA CEREMONIA EN VILLA ALEXANDER, his unfortunate but not uninteresting 1972 Italian-Spanish coproduction now out on R1 DVD under the title TRAGIC CEREMONY. I've just seen the DARK SKY FILMS disc and it's a good DVD presentation of the great director's worst horror film. It's the rare Italian version, which is very welcome, but that doesn't mean the film itself is any better (hey, it was written by the notorious hack Mario Bianchi!).

I'll try to have an in-depth look at this up within a few days.

05 February, 2008

CARLOS AURED: 1937-2008

Born Carlos Aured Alonso in Los Alcazares, Murcia on 22 January 1937, the Spanish director of some 14 films, including four Paul Naschy titles, died last Sunday, Feb. 3 in Denia Spain of unspecified causes, according to a post on the Spanish Bloody Planet site. Thanks to the Spanish blog QUE NO SE CULPE A NADIE for the still of Aured at work earlier this year with Naschy on the fantasy film EMPUSA. Aured reportedly left the production and Naschy finished directing the film, which also features Jess Franco regular Antonio Mayans.

Aured's last feature before that was Atrapados en el miedo (1985). He also directed the hardcore feature APOCALIPSIS SEXUAL (1981), with Lina Romay and Ajita Wilson.

Other notable films include:

Noche de la furia, La (1974) Espanto surge de la tumba, El (1972); Ojos azules de la muñeca rota, Los (1973); Retorno de Walpurgis, El (1973); Venganza de la momia, La (1973).

My favorite of his films will remain OJOS AZULES DE LA MUNECA ROTA (1973) and HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1972), which was released in 2007 on US DVD by BCI with a commentary by Aured and Paul Naschy, that commentary should be worth revisiting in light of this news.. BLUE EYES OF BROKEN DOLLS will be released this year on DVD, also with an Aured commentary.

All the Aured films I've seen are notable for their highly atmospheric visual style and macabre details.

He was kind enough to take time to help me out with a project I was working on a few years ago. I exchanged a few communications with him and wished I had the time to get to know him better. Unlike some other film directors I've encountered he seemed like a generous, unpretentious individual.

EMPUSA should be interesting both as the return of Paul Naschy to the director's chair and as Aured's last collaboration with the writer-actor.

For information on EMPUSA visit www.empusafilm.blogspot.com/

Thanks to The Latarnia Forums, Que No Se Culpe a Nadie and Bloody Planet.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007

04 February, 2008


Read About The Tranquilizing Female Vampires!

We begin with my weekend movie diary where I finally get a chance to explain why I always fall asleep when I attempt to watch Joseph Sarno's arty, ridiculous 1973 VEIL OF BLOOD!
[use link on top of the sidebar at left]

03 February, 2008


Would I rather watch the Superbowl or William Beaudine's 1944 B masterwork VOODOO MAN? Bring back the 1970's Steelers and I might reconsider but I'll take "One Shot" Bill's delightful Bela-makes-female-somnambulists-for-Monogram item, thank you. The mere sight of John Carradine's voodoo drum playing delirium seals it for me, not to mention Bela Lugosi's voodoo ceremony get-up and the truly out of this world dialogue, "Emotion to Emotion!" Don't let the postage stamp budget fool you, I would even praise Beaudine's always dismissed abilities as a director. Some of the shots of the zombie girls walking about the Marlowe estate are nicely atmospheric. It's not on any home video or DVD presentation I know of outside of that CREEPY CLASSICS DVD R. It would be nice to have it on a good quality DVD. Not that it's an IMPORTANT discovery, but I like it. Beaudine also directed the pioneer sexploitation epic MOM AND DAD and the non expliotation LASSIE TV series! Not to mention hundreds of other B movies and TV shows, he's even more prolific than Jess Franco! I'll be doing a longer blog on "One Shot" in the future...

I made a call.... but couldn't get any answers! Maybe Ramboona will hear me: Where's my VOODOO MAN?! Or is it THE VOODOO MAN? Or does it really matter?

01 February, 2008


The ultra bizarre music for LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE was composed by Jazz Bach guitarist Andre Benichou. It really gets under your skin. Once you hear you won't forget it...

Rare advert for English language version....

The results of our most recent reader's poll, asking which Jess Franco films were the most wanted on DVD, and LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE (LORNA, THE EXORCIST) wins by a landslide with 64% of the vote. That doesn't really surprise me since it's one of the director's most sought after films, especially in its elusive complete form. This 1974 Robert de Nesle production has never surfaced complete on any video format as far as I know.

Video Distributors: C.V.D.; VIP; MPM Production [Here are some French distributors whom may figure in the right's chain, according to one site]

The last I heard was that a rights holder had been located in Europe and that a DVD company was in negotiations. That was last year. If quality, complete elements are discovered we could all be in for the most important discovery since EUGENIE...HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION and NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT surfaced several years ago. They had been MIA for decades, so anything is possible. This hypnotic, transgressive (see the still on p. 110 of OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO) Faustian tale certainly deserves the deluxe treatment. It always makes my often changing Jess Franco 10 Best list.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR;-34 votes: The Spanish version of this Robert de Nesle/Spanish coproduction. The French version is THE OBSCENE MIRROR, which has a different soundtrack by Andre Benichou. It also has more explicit sexual inserts acted out by Lina Romay and Ramon Ardid among others. It's much less interesting than the Spanish version which was released by Q video.
PLAISIR A TROIS-32 votes: Yet another version of PHILOSOPHY IN THE BEDROOM which is envlined by Alain Petit's sharp dialogue, a bizarre music score and a cubist mise en scene. Some hardcore moments may make this a difficult DVD release.
GEMIDOS DE PLACER-26 votes: A 1980s remake of PLAISIR A TROIS filmed in long plan- sequences. One of Franco's most structurally interesting films. Write to Severin Films if you want this on DVD. They have already released several other Golden Films Internacional titles.
THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME-25 votes: A composite of 1974's EXORCISM with 1979 footage. A Spanish-Eurocine coproduction. A key Franco title.
THE SINISTER DR ORLOFF-22 votes: Jess Franco's fourth Dr. Orloff feature and my favorite of the series. Very sadistic and visually interesting Golden Films production.
THE MIDNIGHT PARTY-17 votes: A minor, amusing sexy spy-comedy with Jess Franco as a torture specialist.

We'll have a follow up poll soon in which a number of other Jess Franco titles will be presented as DVD candidates.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008