Archive for renato romano

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by goregirl

Argento has long been one of my favourite Italian directors. Having seen several other Giallo from the early 70’s this month I decided it was high time I gave ‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ a re-watch. As a bonus, I was able to rent the 2-disc Blue Underground DVD, which has more awesome extras, then you can shake a stick at! Seriously, if you buy DVD’s you need to have this one in your collection!

Sam Dalmas, an American writer visiting Italy witnesses a struggle in an art gallery on his way home one evening. He approaches the huge glass doors to get a better look and sees a woman has been stabbed. Another set of glass doors traps him inside and he is unable to help the pleading woman. Eventually someone passes by and the police are sent freeing Dalmas and saving the woman’s life. Dalmas plans of going back to America are cut short when the police detective takes away his passport, insisting he stay for questioning. Dalmas becomes obsessed with the idea he seen something that night he can’t recall. He begins his own investigation but when his life is threatened he begins to work more closely with the police. Together they race to find out the killers identity before another woman turns up dead.

‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ is an early Giallo that became the blueprint for many that came after it. It is a tightly written story with an excellent climax/reveal and you won’t be left scratching your head at the end. It’s finale is one of the most logical I’ve seen, and the facts of the story actually support the conclusion. The story is light on horror leaning heavily towards the thriller-suspense. There are some remarkable moments throughout that are reminiscent of Hitchcock. But Argento worries too little about dialog. Chat in almost all his films is flat and his leads and supporting characters are often iffy. This has always been Argento’s weakness. Some of his films can rise above the weak dialog, where others end up being slightly lesser for it. Argento brings a bit of humour in to this one through some quirky and bizarre characterizations. The players are a real mixed bag of nuts. Tony Musante plays the main character Sam Dalmas and Suzy Kendall plays his girlfriend Julia. These two characters aren’t exactly unlikeable but didn’t have particularly good chemistry together. It is the supporting characters that end up leaving more of an impression. Certainly the killer in the delightfully diabolical finale is memorably psychotic! It’s only too bad the scene wasn’t longer! Other supports include a stuttering pimp, his wacky associate who “knows nothing” but can find you answers for a price, and a cat-eating artist. Overall, the performances are fine but it is really the story and the visuals that impress.

One of the most appealing aspects of ‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ is its voyeurism. The viewer is made to feel complicit in the crimes they’re watching. There are countless images that would impress even the most cynical. One of the coolest bits takes place in an Art Gallery. A sterile white cavernous room with massive colourless sculptures. Argento has even outfitted the victim in a chic white outfit making the blood more brilliant. We see what Sam Dalmas sees as he is trapped between two massive glass doors and the bleeding victim is reaching out begging for help. I could literally watch an early Argento film without the sound and enjoy it. The cinematographer on the film was Vittorio Storaro who also worked on the film I reviewed yesterday ‘The Fifth Cord’. It was completely a fluke, but both discs had an interview with Storaro. I must admit to not knowing my cinematographers, but when I looked up Storaro on IMDB I couldn’t believe the impressive resume! You would have to expect this level of beautiful imagery and fantastic set pieces from the duo of Vittorio and Argento! Its beauty is well complimented by an amazing soundtrack from Ennio Morricone that uses lots of human voices in a really creepy and effective way. This is definitely one of my favourite Morricone soundtracks!

‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ is a tightly crafted film with memorable images and amazing suspense that was slightly marred by ho-hum leads that don’t have much chemistry. There is far more to admire then criticize here and the perfect finale will leave you mucho satisfied. If you are a collector this two-Disc Blue Underground set is the one to buy! For starters the transfer looked perfect and the sound was flawless. There were a few different audio options including the original Italian with subtitles. There are interviews with Dario Argento, Vittorio Storaro, the great Ennio Morricone and late actress Eva Renzi (who was pretty bitter and may have been liquored up for this interview). There’s also commentary from author Alan Jones (Profondo Argento) and cult film scribe Kim Newman who give some interesting and detailed insight on the ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Dario Argento

Starring: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho, Renato Romano

THE FIFTH CORD (1971) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2010 by goregirl

In my search to add names to my Women and Men of Italian horror photo gallery I happened upon a few films I had never seen. I found ‘The Fifth Cord’ after adding Franco Nero. Since I had never seen a film directed by Luigi Bazzoni or one featuring the acting talents of Mr. Nero I figured it was a must see. ‘The Fifth Cord’ brings together all the things I love about 70’s Giallo and then puts a cherry on top.

On his way home from a party, John Lubbock is attacked by a man wielding a pipe. A couple making out nearby hear the commotion and come running and the attacker takes off leaving Lubbock alive. Andrea Bild is assigned by his publisher to investigate the story. As Bild digs deeper, the violence begins to escalate. Soon others who attended the same party as Lubbock start turning up dead, and Bild himself becomes a suspect. With each murder, a black glove with a finger missing is found near the body. Bild attempts playing detective while battling alcoholism and balancing a relationship with a new lover and another one from his past.

Sounds like a pretty typical Giallo setup, and admittedly this one does start out pretty much by the book. The panning of the camera over the party guest suggests we will see these folks again as both victims and important players in the story. The story itself offers up a convoluted plot with multiple suspects and a hardy helping of murder, sex, and a little bit of sleaze. But the presentation puts ‘The Fifth Cord’ into a category all its own. The film is stylishly shot, capturing weird angles that compliment the setting perfectly, fascinating views from the killers perspective or more subtle shots like a characters image reflected in sunglasses. These are all complimented by effective use of shadows and light and colouring that is bright and gaudy. The murder scenes in ‘The Fifth Cord’ really embrace the chase. These scenes build tension to the max drawing the scene out to the point of explosion and then ending it with a quick, clean kill. One particularly lengthy and intense scene sees the crippled Sophia Bini (played by Rossella Falk) desperately dragging herself around her home. This scene is shot from her perspective and we see her wincing and struggling as she attempts to pull her dead legs behind her. Although the victim’s deaths are mostly bloodless, they manage to be quite magnificent! A little bit of nudity and a touch of sleaze in the form of live sex shows and child pornography help spice things up. But what really spices things up is the ultra-macho Franco Nero who plays Andrea Bild.

The tough as nails Andrea Bild is a slaphappy boozer with a bad temper and an eye for the ladies. He sports a bushy 70’s moustache, loves his J&B and drives a Volkswagen Beetle. Bild needs no muscle car to prove he’s a man! The guy practically sweats bullets! He slaps one guy around so severely during questioning it leaves him red-faced and blubbering like a child. He isn’t afraid to slap his women around either! Nights of hard drinking and hard loving leave him looking intensely dishevelled. At times he looks like he might fall on his face and then he suddenly looks as though he could go completely psychotic. Franco Nero plays the character with strength and conviction but with enough eccentricity to really sell it. Andrea Bild may be one of my favourite macho Giallo characters of all time!

The films final balls to the wall climax is fantastic! Although I did find it a little disappointing the killers motivation is explained with a brief voiceover. ‘The Fifth Cord’ is a bit formulaic but Bazzoni brings so much more to the table. Impeccable pacing, beautiful and inventive cinematography, great performances (particularly from Nero), intensely suspenseful murder sequences, a great trashy soundtrack from Ennio Morricone and a wee bit of sex and sleaze make ‘The Fifth Cord’ an extremely satisfying and entertaining film. The Blue Underground version I rented had an interview with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and actor Franco Nero and a trippy trailer for the film. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Luigi Bazzoni

Starring: Franco Nero, Silvia Monti, Wolfgang Preiss, Ira von Fürstenberg, Edmund Purdom, Rossella Falk, Renato Romano, Guido Alberti, Pamela Tiffin, Maurizio Bonuglia

Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso – SEVEN BLOOD STAINED ORCHIDS – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , on April 24, 2009 by goregirl

seven-blood-stained-orchids-2I had only seen a few Lenzi titles and they were all pretty gory. Two cannibal films and a zombie film that were really violent for violence sake. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy these films on some level but they are not what I think of when I think classic giallo. This film is definitely classic giallo. If you were put off by Cannibal Ferox don’t let that scare you away from seeing this one.

The film is about a serial killer that is offing young women. The killer leaves a silver half-moon pendant at each crime scene as a calling card. One woman who is attacked, survives. The police stage the woman’s death, going as far as having a funeral. The surviving victim along with her boyfriend decide to do their own investigation.

It follows a fairly typical formula with the regular string of suspicious characters and inept cops and a glove wearing killer who leaves a signature at the crime scenes. Although Lenzi doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, his film definitely leaves a lasting impression. He offers up a couple pretty brilliant death scenes. There is one particularly lovely scene when an artist is killed and her blood mixes with some paint. Very nice! The violence, gore and nudity is nicely
delivered with some imaginative filming style and above average performances from the actors. As mentioned, there is some serious kick ass imagery here that is not to be missed. A bizarre and brilliant soundtrack compliments it all quite nicely. The only negatives here is the plot is shot at you like a machine gun. If you blink you might miss something. I also had some issue with the films final scenes and a climax that ends much too suddenly. That said, there are thrills, chills and kills here that are not to be missed! A fun fast pace Giallo! I think this is my favourite Lenzi to date! Highly Recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Antonio Sabato, Uschi Glas, Pier Paolo Capponi, Rossella Falk, Marina Malfatti, Renato Romano, Claudio Gora, Gabriella Giorgelli, Aldo Barberito, Bruno Corazzari, Franco Fantasia and Petra Schürmann