Archive for Evelyn Stewart

Favourite Five Series: LUCIO FULCI

Posted in Favourite Five Series, horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2013 by goregirl

The road to good intentions was paved with one too many social events this October. I really would have liked to have done more Favourite Five lists in honor of Halloween. Since I could not accommodate as many lists as I would have liked I will at least close the month out with a mighty duo. Two of the horror genres heaviest hitters (in my world anyway) and two of my personal faves. Lucio Fulci directed a few comedies and westerns but it is the horror entries that made me a fan for life. I adore both his beautiful, sexy, surreal and intriguing Giallos as well as his spectacularly gory gag-fests! As seems to be the case with the Favourite Five series thus far, there is always 3 or 4 that are easy choices with one or two that tear me up inside choosing. The more I love the director the more challenging this is. It was particularly difficult to leave Massacre Time, New York Ripper and Perversion Story off the list. Not to mention City of the Living Dead, House by the Cemetery and even the much maligned but near and dear to my heart Cat in the Brain starring Fulci as himself! I have seen all of the below films multiple times and four of the five are on my top 100 favourite horror films of all time. Fulci is a God and should be worshipped accordingly.

DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING (1972)

The original Italian title translated as “Don’t Torture Donald Duck”. For legal reasons Fulci was unable to use the name Internationally. The reference is to a Donald Duck doll; one of the main clues in the film. If South Park has taught me anything (and it has taught me plenty) you do not fuck with Disney.

Dont_Torture_a_Duckling

A killer is murdering young boys in a remote Italian village. A young woman laying low after a recent drug scandal is recognized by a reporter and the two work together to attempt to solve the crime. Don’t Torture A Duckling lacks the gore of Fulci’s later work but it is definitely gritty, bleak and nasty. When young boys are killed in a small village the ugliness, cruelty and hatred of small town, small-minded folks is left behind. There is plenty of Anti-Catholic sentiment here which may have been the reason the film was blacklisted when it was released in 1972. There are several suspects among the group of eccentric locals. Their distrust of outsiders and their superstitious beliefs presents many challenges. The atmosphere is unsettling and the remote village is eerie and cloying. There are several twists, turns and a few shocks. The most shocking of which is an unforgettable mob scene that leaves me aghast no matter how many times I watch it. The performances are brilliant particularly from Barbara Bouchet who plays the smart and feisty Patrizia, Tomas Milian who plays the determined and handsome Andrea Martelli and Florinda Bolkan whose fierce and fearless turn as Maciara is truly memorable. Fulci uses some particularly wild and woolly zooms; the man does love his closeups. Compelling, smart, beautiful, well acted; Don’t Torture a Duclking is one of the best Giallo’s ever made.

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THE BEYOND (1981)

The Beyond is the second in a trio of Hell on Earth premised flicks directed by Fulci in the 80s; all three starring Catriona MacColl. Besides the Hell on Earth premise and Ms. MacColl’s appearance the films have little connection to one another and were never officially released as a trilogy. The Beyond’s predecessor City of the Living Dead is about psychic Mary Woodhouse who sees the death of a priest in a vision. The priest’s death causes the gates of Hell to open. In The Beyond MacColl plays Liza Merril who inherits a hotel built on top of one of the seven gates of Hell.

The Beyond

An artist accused of being a warlock is murdered by a lynch mob and his death opens one of the seven doors of Hell below a Louisiana hotel. Decades later Liza Merrill inherits the doomed hotel and unknowingly re-opens a door to hell while renovating. Liza and her acquaintance Dr. John McCabe are soon fending off the living dead, ghosts, and the possessed in a tour de force of supernatural mayhem! Fulci throws a little bit of everything into this unholy masterpiece! People are nailed to walls, eaten by tarantulas, melted by acid, and of course there is classic Fulci eye trauma! And lest we not forget the undead! Beautiful, rotted wonderfully vial zombies! The zombies come in various states of grossness. In fact, a few look like old men who just need a nap. Don’t expect an explanation for everything; some of the action is bordering on illogical. Don’t look at that as a bad thing. The Beyond has such a creepy, moody, electric atmosphere and is oh so fan-fucking-tastic to look at it that it is easy as one-two-three to just get lost in the ultimate nightmare! The Beyond is beautiful, classic Fulci at his gory best!

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ZOMBIE (1979)

Another Fulci film title meets controversy. Fulci’s film shared a moniker with the Italian release of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Zombie became known as Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombi 2 and Island of the Living Dead. I give both men’s films a 5/5 but one area that Fulci surpasses Romero is the vileness and pure rottenness of his zombies. No one has topped these zombies in my opinion not to this day. They are the most disgusting zombies to grace a genre film. Rotten flesh covered in maggots and worms. REAL maggots and worms too. I am sure the extras were not paid nearly enough for their roles in Fulci’s film. What a delightfully dreck treat it is to see someone fight for their life and end up with a chunk of rotten flesh in their hands! Freaking beautiful!

Zombi 2

Anne Bowles sets out to find her father after his ship turns up abandoned in New York’s harbor. Anne hooks up with journalist Peter West and together they travel to the Antilles with couple Brian and Susan. Once on the Island they meet the curious Dr. Menard, who tells them about the infection spreading that brings the dead back to life. Zombie is one of the few genre films to feature the undead under water. Why the hell not? They don’t breath…they are dead! Fulci throws in the pièce de résistance with a zombie attacking a shark. Zombie’s awesome opening sequence sees one man shoot another and then say to someone off-screen “The boat can leave now. Tell the crew”. The next shot is a seemingly abandoned boat floating in the New York harbour. Two coast guards board the ship and one of them gets an ugly surprise when a large nasty looking zombie rips his throat out with its teeth. One must appreciate getting both a zombie and a kill in the first few minutes of a genre film! There is entrail eating, throat ripping, eye gouging and unnecessary nudity. From its quiet and haunting opening to the final frame there is more gorgeous graphic goodness than one zombie film deserves to have. Fulci delivers the gory goods! The breathtaking scenery of the Island is the perfect backdrop to the zombie mayhem to come and the brilliant score by Fabio Frizzi is the perfect accompaniment to the dread. Zombie is absolutely one of the finest zombie films ever made. Period.

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A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN (1971)

A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is Fulci’s most surreal and esthetically pleasing of his resume; it is also the film with the most significant controversy. The film contains a graphic scene of sliced open dogs whose hearts are still beating. The dogs looked so realistic that Fulci was allegedly charged and threatened with a two-year prison sentence. Special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi was called into court to prove his dogs were fake. Can a special effects person get any better compliment than that?

Lizard in a Womans Skin

Carol Hammond; the daughter of wealthy politician Edmund Brighton has been seeing a psychoanalyst about some disturbing dreams. The dreams features her neighbor Julia who often throws noisy parties which both irritate and titillate Carol. Carol’s dreams continue and escalate in severity. After Carol has a dream she has killed Julia she awakes to learn that Julia has been found dead. Has fantasy become reality? Inspector Corvin intends to find out. A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin is a well crafted and engaging mystery. The film contains little graphic violence and is more of a surreal, psychedelic trip laced with sex and drugs. The visuals are fabulous especially Carol’s numerous dream sequences. Sexy, beautiful, dreamy and warped; just the way I like my dream sequences. The film kept me guessing and has an outstanding reveal and finale. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is loaded with great performances from some of my favourite actor and actresses from the period like Jean Sorel who plays Julia’s husband Frank, Stanley Baker who plays the Scotland Yard Inspector, Anita Strindberg who plays Julia and Edy Gall who plays Frank’s teenage daughter Joan. But first and foremost there is Florinda Bolkan who plays central character Carol Hammond. This role is one of the main reasons I have an immense respect and adoration for this extraordinarily talented actress. She is also a striking woman visually. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is a hypnotic, fascinating and sexy Giallo that thrills and rewards.

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THE PSYCHIC (1977)

I had little use for The Psychic when I seen it the first time around. I was all about the gore in my teens and early twenties and if it didn’t have gore I was not very interested. When I re-watched The Psychic for my 1977 top ten list I was suitably impressed with the film and gave it the number seven spot in the top ten for a very strong year in the decade. However it was when I re-watched The Psychic to compile pictures for a slideshow featuring music from the film that I realized what a particularly solid horror thriller it really was.

the psychic

When psychic Virginia Ducci sees a murder in one of her visions it results in the arrest of her husband. Virginia sets out to clear her husband of the crime. Obviously that is the extremely truncated plot summary; there is much more going on in The Psychic than that. Virginia has several visions through the film that include the death of her mother among other traumas. Virginia intends to renovate a mansion her rich husband bought and recognizes it from one of her visions. She tears open a wall and finds some skeletal remains and immediately calls the police. This is how hubby gets arrested. The Psychic’s intriguing story is full of suspense and mystery. While the reveal isn’t a terrible shock it is well-executed and the finale is a memorable treat. Jennifer O’Neill is well cast as Virginia Ducci and is a strong and likable lead. The performances by all the cast are quite decent. A nice unsettling mood and atmosphere is established and the setting is perfect and suitably eerie. It is all complimented beautifully by the fabulous soundtrack from Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi and Vince Tempera. The Psychic is an ever so sweet horror thriller that I think is rather under-appreciated in Fulci’s library.

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KNIFE OF ICE (1972) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2012 by goregirl

I mentioned recently Umberto Lenzi’s 60s and 70s giallo so I figured I owed you a review. I probably should have picked one I rated more highly but Knife of Ice is something quite unique in Lenzi’s library. Knife of Ice is completely sexless and contains no graphic violence! I’m not going to beat around the bush here; the lack of both of these elements did lose Knife of Ice some points. Does a giallo need sex and violence to win my heart? I can live with no graphic violence when there is an abundance of sexuality regardless of what form that may take. I can also live with no sex if the violence is beautifully staged, artful and/or nasty. Not that sex and violence is the only appealing aspect of giallo; there is of course, the puzzles, red herrings, attractive and inventive cinematography and the wicked performances from a stable of sexy and/or macho leads! To be perfectly honest however, without the sexual and violent elements the Italian thriller seems…well…less thrilling. So does a giallo need sex and violence to win my heart? Generally speaking I would have to answer yes. And now back to our regularly scheduled program…while Knife of Ice is a flawed giallo it definitely has elements worth noting!

Martha witnessed a train accident when she was younger that took the life of both of her parents and left her mute. Martha has been living with her uncle and cousin since the traumatic incident. The story begins with Martha picking up her cousin Jenny at the train station. A big step for Martha, who has an understandable aversion to trains. Faster than you can say ‘welcome home Jenny’, Martha finds her dead body in the garage. Will Martha be next? With a line-up of suspects and an alleged Satan-worshipping sex maniac on the loose the prospects are plentiful.

American actress Carroll Baker was in a string of Umberto Lenzi films including Orgasmo, So Sweet…So Perverse and Paranoia with Knife of ice being the final entry. Baker was also in a bunch of non-Lenzi giallo which included Baba Yaga, The Devil with Seven Faces, The Sweet Body of Deborah, The Flower with the Deadly Sting and The Body. Ms. Baker had a very busy few years in Italy! I actually really liked Baker in Knife of Ice. I would even go so far as to say it is one of my favourite performances from the actress. As Martha she is given a very conservative wardrobe and a bobbed cut with a barrette shoved into it that made her appear younger than her actual age. She plays a mute in Knife of Ice and does not utter a word. We often see things from her perspective throughout the film and share her frustration with communicating. She is sweet and likable and is a well thought out character who effortlessly elicits empathy. Sadly, I was only able to find this film dubbed and the dubbing was particularly troublesome in Knife of Ice. I can not deny that Baker’s performance is further illuminated by the fact that she is the only character that is not dubbed. Unfortunately the story at times doesn’t always support Ms. Baker’s efforts.

The plot of Knife of Ice is rather unspectacular. I have to admit, I was surprised that they killed Evelyn Stewart’s character Jenny so early in the film. Too bad actually. The interaction between Martha and Jenny could have added an interesting layer to the story. We get some background on the cousin’s history, specifically a day at the bull-fights. Martha’s flashbacks reveal the two women at a bull-fight and Martha is repulsed by the events while Jenny seems to be overcome by bloodlust. The film could have used more angles of this sort. They do introduce a devil worship sub-plot which is a much welcomed addition to any giallo. There are very few giallo that feature the supernatural. Granted, right off the bat it felt like a massive red herring, but it was interesting just the same. There is a focus on a particularly gnarly set of eyes that is also nicely realized. Anyone who has watched more than a handful of giallo are likely to identify the culprit before the finale. Knife of Ice stages potential suspects rather grandly making them far too obvious to be legitimate options.

Umberto Lenzi boldly shoots much of Knife of Ice in the daylight, although there is a nice gothic tone that illuminates the villa once the sun sets. It is a lovely looking film, quite flawless actually. The sets are fantastic and Lenzi uses the landscape to great effect. There are some decent moments of suspense at times although there are not nearly enough of them. Not only is the violence not graphic, there is a very small body count, and as it turns out, one of the deaths is nothing more than a coincidence.

I actually enjoyed Knife of Ice, however compared to most of its peers; particularly those that came out in 1972; (the mother of all giallo years) it ranks pretty low. I definitely would have preferred seeing this film in its original language and I make no apologies for wishing that Knife of Ice had used more trashy elements in its plot. Like I said, I did enjoy Knife of Ice, but it is definitely flawed. Recommended with warning.

Dungeon Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Carroll Baker, Alan Scott, Evelyn Stewart, Eduardo Fajardo, Silvia Monelli, George Rigaud, Franco Fantasia, Dada Gallotti, Lorenzo Robledo, Mario Pardo, Olga Gherardi, Consalvo Dell’Arti, José Marco

THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY (1971) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by goregirl

The Bloodstained Butterfly like so many films, has been in my queue for quite a while. I have tended to seek out the more horror-oriented giallo first. I’ve gone on a couple hard-core binges over the last couple of years. What is left on my list has been more difficult to find. My excellent new video store has a decent little selection of giallo and had two titles I had not seen which included this little nugget; The Bloodstained Butterfly.

Françoise Pigaut is found murdered in a local park. A knife left by her body is covered in fingerprints and along with other clues the police quickly discern the woman knew her killer. Alessandro Marchi is arrested and charged with the crimes. The evidence against Marchi is mounting but is he guilty of the crime? His adulteress wife Maria, his sleazy lawyer Giulio Cordaro, his teenage daughter Sarah and her lover; the handsome and troubled pianist Giorgio could all be potential suspects.

The Bloodstained Butterfly has a whodunnitesque intro where they throw titles up on the screen to introduce each of the central characters. This ain’t your mama’s Agatha Christie though, this is 100% pure giallo. Sex, nudity, a convoluted plot, red herrings, a black-gloved killer; you know the deal! I have long sung the praises of 1970s giallo; to which I am addicted to like crack. The Bloodstained Butterfly is missing the elaborately staged death scenes of some of its peers instead focusing more on its puzzle and eclectic mix of characters.

Alessandro Marchi is a somewhat empathetic character; I say “somewhat” because you don’t exactly trust the guy even if you do feel a smidge bad for him. Giancarlo Sbragia is excellent in the role. Maria Marchi is a beautiful but severe looking woman who I do not think smiled once. Evelyn Stewart is no stranger to giallo and plays Maria like a pro. Both halves of the married couple are cheating and Alessandro’s much younger alcoholic lover is one of the films wackier characters; I would not have minded seeing more of her. I almost don’t want to admit I kind of liked attorney Giulio Cordaro early in the film as he turns out to be such a sleazy douchebag! I mean this in the most positive way possible; Günther Stoll plays a douchebag perfectly. Teenage daughter Sarah has two cheating parents and her father was accused of her best friend’s murder. She was surprisingly normal considering. Perhaps a little too normal? She begins a relationship with a pianist who we learn was dating Françoise our dead girl. The plot thickens! Wendy D’Olive was a decent choice; she is pretty and likable enough. Sarah is the least likely suspect, but on the other hand, this is giallo and I’ve seen my share of wackadoodle twists. Rule number one of giallo should be never rule anyone out! Finally we have a young handsome Helmut Berger who plays Giorgio. He is not hard on the eyes, but man he has got issues! Ugly adult issues. I probably could have summed this up by saying the characters and performances are great, but I thought the solid cast was worth mentioning!

The Bloodstained Butterfly is stylishly filmed in various locations with a wonderful array of interesting set pieces. Various sequences in the film are seen through the eyes of different characters and help to keep the visuals lively. The Bloodstained Butterfly is the only Gialli I am aware of where a chunky portion of the film takes place in court. It does not drag the film down by any means as director Duccio Tessari constantly keeps things moving giving us plenty of insight on the films characters. The ever important twist is outstanding and even as a well-seasoned giallo watcher took me by surprise. Gianni Ferrio’s excellent score effortlessly weaves in a classical piece of music and adds to the mood wonderfully.

Despite a lack of violence, I thoroughly enjoyed The Bloodstained Butterfly. I am shocked this film had ratings from only 300 users on IMDB!! The Bloodstained Butterfly is an extremely well-executed and satisfying gialli. I highly recommend seeking this one out!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Duccio Tessari

Starring: Helmut Berger, Giancarlo Sbragia, Evelyn Stewart, Silvano Tranquilli, Wendy D’Olive, Günther Stoll, Carole André, Anna Zinnemann, Lorella De Luca, Stefano Oppedisano, Dana Ghia, Wolfgang Preiss, Federica Tessari, Peter Shepherd, Gabriella Venditti