Archive for John Saxon

Favourite Five Series: DARIO ARGENTO

Posted in Favourite Five Series, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2013 by goregirl

My Favourite Five Series continues with director Dario Argento. Argento has 23 director credits on IMDB. I have seen all of Argento’s directorial efforts with the exception of the 2012 film Dracula 3D. It has been getting more and more difficult to be enthusiastic about Argento’s films as the years go by. The 70s and 80s were his high years, but he did produce a few intriguing efforts in the 90s also. Just the same, Argento’s name is still one of the first that comes to mind when I think of genre favourites. The following five films have endured multiple viewings and still shine with the lustre of a million jewel-filled treasure chests. Argento’s stylish visuals are what makes his unique, surreal, violent, sexy, dreamy-nightmarish and horrifying world so bloody special.

**********

DEEP RED (1975)

Deep Red has long been not only a favourite Argento film but an all time favourite horror film period. It has had a place on my top 100 favourites of all time for as long as that list has existed. As a matter of fact the same can be said for the next two Argento films listed here. Deep Red boasts Argento’s unique and stylish visuals; prolonged shots of inanimate objects like windows, shots around corners and weird angles. The man can make the most mundane of objects eerie. It is packed with interesting and unique set pieces; especially appealing is a collection of odd toys. Love the faceless yarn Wicker Man-esque doll with pins in its chest and of course this guy…

Deep Red2

The score for Deep Red is fantastic. The performances are great. David Hemmings plays a pianist who lives below the film’s first murder victim and witnesses her death. He is a pianist not a detective and he trips and bumbles his way to the end with a likable and natural turn. Daria Nicolodi does a solid job as an aggressive liberated journalist/reporter who works with Hemmings to solve the mystery. The twist and finale are one of Argento’s finest. Argento offers plenty of variety with the death, from hatchet, to scalding, to decapitation. Argento’s flawless Gialli is a Classic!

**********

TENEBRE (1982)

While all of Argento’s films feature creative death sequences Tenebre is one of his most graphic entries containing more violence and nudity than his previous offerings. Author Peter Neal has travelled to Italy to promote his latest book Tenebre. When he arrives at his temporary lodgings he is greeted by two police detectives. A local woman has been found slashed to death by a straight razor with several pages of his new book shoved into her mouth. This is only the beginning in a string of Tenebre inspired murders. As the bodies continue to pile up around him, Neal unwillingly becomes involved in the case and even does a little detective work of his own. Tenebre boasts plenty of twists and turns in what may be Argento’s most plot-driven offering. The Giallo features are firmly intact with red-herrings, black leather gloves and death most beautiful. There are several well-executed death sequences including a particularly impressive crane shot of the outside of a house that follows a busty woman in various states of undress whose life inevitably comes to a brutal end. There is also a dog attack, strangulation, stabbing, axing and razor slashing. There is also an outstanding reoccurring dream/flashback sequence of a woman in a white dress wearing red pumps. The viewer doesn’t know which character is having the vision, but the woman in the white dress clearly torments them and is central to the plot.

Tenebre

Anthony Franciosa is excellent as Peter Neal and Daria Nicolodi gives an amiable performances as his assistant. The two have great chemistry. The supporting cast give sweet support; John Saxon who plays Neal’s sleazy agent, Lara Wendel who plays Maria, the landlord’s jailbait daughter and Christian Borromeo who plays errand boy Gianni. Tenebre is a well-filmed, suspenseful and gory horror-thriller complimented by a brilliant score composed by ex-Goblin members Morante, Pignatelli and Simonetti. Tenebre is top drawer horror entertainment.

**********

SUSPIRIA (1977)

Suspiria is Dario Argento’s best known film and for good reason. It is without a doubt his most impressive film visually; particularly his epic use of color. Suspiria is the first installment in Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy. The plot revolves around Suzy a new student at a prestigious dance academy run by a coven of witches. Inventive camera work, beautiful colors, impressively staged death scenes, an excellent cast and epic soundtrack are the icing on the cake.

Suspiria

Suspiria Without a doubt is one of the most beautiful horror films ever made; a truly stunning nightmare! There is pitch-perfect mood and a feeling of unease established from the moment Suzy Bannion arrives at the Ballet school that doesn’t let up until the final Credits. Its beauty is quite remarkable but is only one of its impressive qualities. Suspiria is claustrophobic, intense, suspenseful and thrilling. Suspiria is a bona fide horror masterpiece.

**********

INFERNO (1980)

Inferno, Dario Argento’s second installment in the “Three Mothers” trilogy is one of his best and most under-appreciated flicks. The story moves from a prestigious dance school in Germany to an apartment building in the USA. An architect named Varelli built separate dwellings for the three mothers in Rome, Freiberg and New York. Writer Rose Elliot acquires a tome entitled The “Three Mothers”; a trio of sisters who ruled the world with darkness and sorrow. Rose believes her current dwelling to be the former home of one of the sisters. An investigation of the building reveals horrors that appear to inspire a chain of violent events. Easily one of Argento’s most gorgeous films it does not let down in the horror category either. Anyone who appreciates Argento’s style should rank Inferno high among their favorites. The colors, shadows, hidden passages, black gloved-killers, amazing sets and especially the superb underwater sequence are just a few of its notable assets.

Inferno

Inferno is a visual extravaganza; the cinematography, lighting, fantastic surreal sets and beautifully bizarre and nasty images linger in the mind for days on end. Inferno is truly a feast for the eyes; sit back and let it wash over you with its dream logic.

**********

The above four films have long been favourite Argento flicks but choosing a fifth was rather a bitch. I re-watched The Stendhal Syndrome, Opera, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Phenomena before making this list as I gave all four of these Argento entries a 4/5 rating. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was the nicest looking film visually, The Stendhal Syndrome had the most intriguing story and Phenomena had the best effects but in the end it was Opera and its gore that won my heart and a spot on this list.

**********

OPERA (1987)

Performing Macbeth is believed to bring bad luck. The urban legend appears to be true after the lead of a modern operatic version of the play is hit by a car. The dead diva’s reluctant understudy Betty is brought in to replace her. The bad luck continues into opening night when a huge lighting fixtures falls from a balcony and a stagehand is killed. Alas the show must go on but at what price? Betty soon finds out after being assaulted. Betty is tied to a column, her mouth is taped shut and her eyes are forced open with needles. She has no choice but to watch the brutal killing of her boyfriend and is then freed. This sets the stage for a gory whodunnit featuring a masked killer, ravens, weird dream sequences, pulsing brains and memorable death scenes. The film’s ravens are used to great effect throughout and are pivotal to exposing the identity of the killer.

opera

The death scenes are all creative, bloody and grandly staged affairs. Specially notable and memorable is the perfectly executed bullet to the eye and a beautifully excessive stabbing death. The stunning opera house where most of the film takes place really is spectacular as are Argento’s countless trademark extended shots down hallways, up staircases not to mention a monumental dizzying birds-eye view. Opera has style in spades, but it does flounder just a touch in the substance category. Cristina Marsillach does a pretty good job with the wishy-washy character of Betty. Betty is downright useless for most of the film and really doesn’t do much of anything to help herself. I would have liked her character to have had a little more strength and depth. With the exception of Betty’s boyfriend who is as wishy-washy as she is, most of the supporting characters are actually far more interesting than Betty. Admittedly the killer’s identity isn’t much of a surprise although his motivation certainly was, and it left me sated nonetheless. The dream sequences are crazy cool and relevant to the plot so pay attention. I found the mix of opera and rock music interesting although the rock pieces do date the film; there is no mistaking this is a film from the late 1980s. Opera is perfectly paced and felt much shorter than its runtime and its visuals alone are easily worth the price of admission. A beautifully filmed, entertaining and energetic entry worthy of accolades.

**********

THE CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST (1977) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2013 by goregirl

The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist, among other Umberto Lenzi non-horror titles has been on my to see list for quite a while. Apparently the film is a sequel to Rome Armed to the Teeth, which I have not seen, but I sure the hell will be making a priority now! I like a lot of Lenzi’s 70s stuff so I was pretty psyched about this Eurocrime entry. The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist is an ass-kicking, fast-paced, action-packed crime thriller full of macho male bravado; 70s style! There is a crazy amount of beatings in this film! There are beatings and then more beatings. There is some shootings and torture too! Three brutal dudes each with their own unique modus operandi; and the cop character is the one called “The Fist“! The Cynic, the Rat and The Fist is one of the most entertaining Eurocrime flicks I’ve seen yet!

The Cynic The Rat and the Fist1

Detective Leonardo Tanzi is on sabbatical when Luigi “The Chinaman” Maietto escapes from prison. It was Tanzi’s testimony that landed “The Chinaman” in the slammer. Maietto is not out of prison long before Tanzi is shot. Tanzi was hit in the shoulder but the police tell the media that Tanzi died from his gun wound. Tanzi intends on going undercover and unleashing his own special kind of justice.

The Cynic The Rat and the Fist2

Detective Leonardo Tanzi is retired or on vacation or something, I am not sure it is ever quite explained. In any case, Tanzi is still involved with the police department. His superior suggests he leave town for a while until things “cool down“. Of course Tanzi has no intention of leaving town. Needless to say, he is making all kinds of trouble and beating the snot out of guys right, left and center. He is a cop that is more than happy to bend the rules! There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Leonardo Tanzi represents “The Fist” in this story. He pummels a record amount of guys! Luigi “The Chinaman” Maietto is a small time crook but he is looking to get in on the big deal. He has a reputation for being efficient, brutal and not ratting out his cohorts. “The Chinaman” gets a visit from big crime boss Frank Di Maggio and the two make a deal. Strength in numbers man! It is hard to say whether or not Maietto is “The Rat” or “The Cynic“. I am going with “The Cynic” for this guy; he was definitely cynical (but he is also a bit of a rat). Finally we have Frank Di Maggio who has the least amount of screen time of the trio. Too bad, this guy is a treat! He has a penchant for torture and letting his two big dogs maul his victims to death! Three strong personalities made for some compelling and entertaining viewing!

The Cynic The Rat and the Fist3

Leonardo Tanzi is sweetly 70s with his classic stache, the poses, and the rocking ensembles. Maurizio Merli plays the cop with a serious grudge to the tee. Luigi “The Chinaman” Maietto made me laugh often with his smart-ass come backs but does he really have enough clout to take over Rome’s criminal underworld? Tomas Milian is perfect as the cynical and fearless criminal, I always enjoy Milian’s nasty characters and here he steals every scene he is in! I would have liked to have seen more Frank Di Maggio. As mentioned previously, Di Maggio does not get much screen time really. He is a consummate professional and only mildly psychotic; I am not at all convinced that he was a bigger rat than “The Chinaman” but cynicism wasn’t really his thing, so I have to give him “The Rat” moniker. John Saxon is as great as ever and completely convinces as Di Maggio! Umberto Lenzi does a nice job with the photography and the copious fight scenes are all pretty well choreographed as far as I was concerned. It has a bullet pace and a ridiculous amount of action sequences. The violence is not overly graphic but there is an absolute shitload of it! Kicking, punching, slapping, shooting, leg-breaking, maulings; you name it! The language is largely bombastic but that is all part of the fun! The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist also has a great score from Franco Micalizzi that I hope to add to my collection! There is only one scene that overstays its welcome just a little. Tanzi and an elderly surveillance/gadget expert go all James Bond to get into a building to disarm the security system. It wasn’t a bad scene by any means, it just felt a little longer than necessary and the fact it is crammed in between loads of action sequences does not help.

The Cynic The Rat and the Fist4

The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist is an exciting, violent Eurocrime flick with top notch performances, an insane amount of action and a great score. One of my favourite Eurocrime flicks yet!! Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Maurizio Merli, John Saxon, Tomas Milian, Renzo Palmer, Gabriella Lepori, Claudio Undari, Bruno Corazzari, Marco Guglielmi, Gabriella Giorgelli, Guido Alberti, Aldo Massasso, Brigitte Petronio, Gianni Musy, Gianfilippo Carcano, Dante Cleri

BLOOD SALVAGE (1990) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2012 by goregirl

Blood Salvage doesn’t exactly turn the redneck killer shtick on its head, but it does offer a few unique tidbits. Jake Pruitt, the film’s central baddie, is somewhat of an evil mastermind. Okay, mastermind is a bit strong, but he ain’t stupid and he is quite congenial. Blood Salvage is a peculiar mix of nasty, cruel, bizarrely funny, and completely ridiculous. I am surprised I never heard of Blood Salvage before this viewing. It clearly didn’t have a huge budget but they managed to lure John Saxon and Ray Walston. There is also an odd little cameo featuring boxer Evander Holyfield, who I noticed was also listed as executive producer.

A car is run off the road and as luck would have it a tow truck is right behind. It is no accident of course. Hiram runs them off the road and his dad Jake tows them back to the family salvage yard. Jake has a particular obsession with a wheelchair-bound beauty pageant contestant by the name of April Evans. His muse is travelling with her family in a motorhome on her way to a nearby town to attend a pageant. Jake Pruitt has had all manner of “guests” at the old salvage yard but wheelchair-bound April will prove to be more of a challenge than he could have imagined. If she only understood he just wants to help her!

blood salvage1This is April Evans; the feisty handicapped beauty pageant contestant. She is giving a speech on how nothing should hold you back from achieving your dreams. April does not win this beauty pageant.

blood salvage2This is Clifford, April’s dad. What a stroke of luck that this tow truck happens to be passing by. Jake offers to tow them to his yard and get them fixed right up.

blood salvage6This is Bobby, April’s little brother. Dad had a little accident and lost a tire. Bobby is pretty psyched they were in an accident and he can not wait to ride in that tow truck!

blood salvage3This is Pat, April’s mother. Here she is chatting with Jake who has convinced her she is needed inside the house. April is not pleased. “Mother can’t you see that stupid redneck is lying?”

bloodsalvageAfter being left alone for a spell April decides it might be a good idea to arm herself. Jake does eventually come out and attempts to convince her to come out of the motorhome. “Send my mom out!” She starts shooting at the place to let them know she is serious. They do get her out of the motorhome…eventually.

blood salvage11This is Jake. A religious man, a single father of two and a crazy mother-fucker.

blood salvage5This is Jake’s son Hiram. He is a mean, sneaky bastard who believes all women are whores and takes a little too much joy from helping pop with his “work” especially the part where he runs folks off the road. He is not the sharpest tool in the box but he is Einstein compared to his brother.

blood salvage7This is Jake’s son Roy. He is like a large child. He likes to cut the heads off of dolls which he carries around and speaks to. He does help with dad’s “work” but he is pretty docile otherwise.

blood salvage12This is Jake Pruitt’s pet gator.

blood salvage4This is Mr. Stone. He sells human organs on the black market.

What is it that Jake does with the people Hiram runs off the road? A little amateur surgery! There is even a story behind why he took up the lucrative hobby. He is a god-fearing, preaching pseudo-surgeon! You better hope they need your brain or heart because if they remove something you can live without, he keeps you alive! Furthermore, when Jake asks for an AMEN! You best give him an AMEN Sisters and brothers! There is an awkward mix of violence and humour and although some of it definitely gave me a laugh it was a bit sporadic. Pacing is the film’s more significant issue. They could have easily shaved 15 minutes from the runtime. That alone would have made the pace jauntier. This sucker really did drag at times. Some scenes are painfully long. I am sure they were going for suspense but I would have traded the suspense for laughs and gore. They are selling it as a horror-comedy after all. I’ll give them this; they sure do make Lori Birdsong who played April earn her paycheck! She has many scenes where she is forced to drag her body along the floor for extended periods of time.

There is nasty business going on in this salvage yard and that surgical area did not look very hygienic to me. The scenes in the surgery garage were a lot darker than the rest of the film but there wasn’t much for graphic violence really. Most of the organ removals are done off screen. The surgery garage was still pretty creepy just the same. There were a couple moments that surprised me and one in particular was kind of nasty! As grim as the surgery garage was this is also where the best laughs came from. It was amusing seeing these horribly abused patients answering Jake’s Amens! Well, I suppose that might depend on your sense of humour. Would it sweeten the deal if I told you one of them was an Elvis impersonator?

Blood Salvage had an outrageous premise that was ripe for a horror-comedy. A good horror-comedy really should have a spicier pace which was hurt by the film’s unnecessarily long suspense segments. Just the same there were laughs to be had. The performances are actually not bad. I was particularly fond of Danny Nelson who played Jake Pruitt or Mad Jake as he is called in the film’s alternate title. He is definitely mad! John Saxon was also good as Clifford Evans. I have to admit I found the April character bitchy and not terribly likable but she grew on me by the end of the film. Lori Birdsong does a good job; and as I mentioned previously she certainly earns her paycheck with all that dragging herself around business. The finale is coo-coo and the trio of twists at the end was dumb but mildly amusing. The rousing Soul-Cleansing Blood of the Lamb sung by Jake and his two sons over the final credits is practically worth watching Blood Salvage for! I kind of gotta kick out of Blood Salvage, some serious tightening up in editing would have benefitted the film greatly, but it is certainly not without its memorable moments. Blood Salvage is lightly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Tucker Johnston

Starring: Danny Nelson, Lori Birdsong, Christian Hesler, Ralph Pruitt Vaughn, John Saxon, Laura Whyte, Ray Walston, Andy Greenway, Dan Albright

TENEBRE (1982) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by goregirl

Dario Argento has been one of my favourite horror film directors for as long as I can remember. I have watched several of his films multiple times and in my opinion ‘Tenebre’ is one of his best. It is one of Argento’s most graphic entries, containing more violence and nudity than his previous offerings. It also has one of the best finales EVER!

Author Peter Neal travels to Italy to promote Tenebre, his latest book. When he arrives at his temporary lodgings he is greeted by two police detectives. A local woman has been found slashed to death by a straight razor with several pages of his new book shoved into her mouth. This is only the beginning in a string of Tenebre-inspired murders. As the bodies continue to pile up around him, Neal unwillingly becomes involved in the case and even does a little detective work of his own.

‘Tenebre’ has a classic Giallo setup and is one of Argento’s most plot-driven films that offers twists and turns around every corner. Story is not sacrificed for style but certainly the trademark Argento is present. The most obvious example of this is a lengthy crane shot of the outside of a house that travels up and over the roof and then finally down to where we see the killer breaking in. There are several memorable death sequences, among them, a curvy, large-breasted woman running naked from her killer who dies in grand style with her head crashing through glass. There’s a dog attack, strangulation, and death by knife, axe and razor. Another aspect of ‘Tenebre’ I find fascinating is the bizarre, dreamy flashback sequence revealed to us in snippets throughout the film. The focal point is a woman in a white dress wearing red pumps. The viewer doesn’t know which character is having the vision, but the woman in the white dress clearly torments them. She teases relentlessly; showing her breasts to a random group of men. Later in the segment she is seen repeatedly kicking the unknown person and then shoving the heel of her red pump into their mouth.

The performances are great across the board. Anthony Franciosa is excellent as Peter Neal and Daria Nicolodi gives one of her best performances as his assistant. The two have great chemistry together. The supporting cast are also excellent, particularly John Saxon who plays Neal’s sleazy agent. Lara Wendel who plays Maria, the landlord’s jailbait daughter and Christian Borromeo who plays errand boy Gianni are both solid and memorable in their roles. A bevy of beautiful woman, including transsexual Eva Robins also leaves a lasting impression.

‘Tenebre’ is a well-filmed, suspenseful and gory horror-thriller complimented by a score composed by ex-Goblin members Morante, Pignatelli and Simonetti. I’ve seen this film multiple times and even though I know how it all turns out, the finale is never any less thrilling. ‘Tenebre’ is a rock solid horror film and one of my all time favourite Gialli. Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Dario Argento

Starring: Anthony Franciosa, Christian Borromeo, Mirella D’Angelo, Veronica Lario, Ania Pieroni, Eva Robins, Carola Stagnaro, John Steiner, Lara Wendel, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma