Archive for umberto lenzi

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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


Posted in horror, Italian, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by goregirl

I love Giallo. The red herrings, the black-gloved killers, the stylish photography, the amazing set pieces, the sex and violence, the actors and actresses, the cool film posters, and especially the soundtracks. The murderous melodies that help set the mood so bloody beautifully. Giallo has been on my mind a lot lately. I have seen a hell of a lot of the titles that are available, but I have not seen them all. I will not rest until I do! Below are just a few of the sexy, psychotic, sweet, scary and sublime sounds of Giallo I have posted on my YouTube channel thus far.

Music and images from Umberto Lenzi’s Spasmo composed by Ennio Morricone (Bambole).

Music from Umberto Lenzi’s 1974 film Spasmo composed by Ennio Morricone (Liricamente) with an Ivan Rassimov slideshow.

Music from Alberto De Martino’s 1974 film The Antichrist. composed by Bruno Nicolai and Ennio Morricone.

Music and images from Flavio Mogherini’s 1977 film The Pyjama Girl Case composed by Riz Ortolani (Corpo Di Linda).

Music and images from Roberto Bianchi Montero’s 1972 film So Sweet, So Dead, composed by Giorgio Gaslini.

Music from Dario Argento’s 1982 film Tenebre, composed by Goblin. Featuring the films Of Dario Argento.

SPASMO (1974) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 25, 2010 by goregirl

Before Lenzi got gory, he directed a handful of Giallo’s in the 1970’s that were pretty entertaining. Lenzi’s films ‘Seven Bloodstained Orchids’ and ‘Eyeball’ follow a classic Giallo formula but he refuses to play by the rules with ‘Spasmo’. ‘Spasmo’ has no gore, little nudity and a low body count. There isn’t even a maniac/stalker in black gloves attacking women! Not only is ‘Spasmo’ lacking the blood, gore and sex, it has glaring flaws in other areas. Despite this, it still managed to snare me in its trippy web.

Christian Bauman has a bizarre random encounter on the beach with a woman named Barbara who suddenly disappears. Later that evening he tracks her down and the two go back to Barbara’s motel room. Barbara insists he shave off his beard and Christian obeys. While in the bathroom an armed man breaks in and attacks him. A struggle occurs and Christian ends up shooting his attacker. This is the beginning of a strange and unsettling journey down a twisted path of mannequins in death poses, questionable sanity, disappearing corpses and of course, murder!

Clearly Lenzi was trying to make a horror film of a more psychological nature. However, if you are going for the cerebral, give your characters some intelligent things to say! The dialog in this film is pretty damn bad! My husband and I laughed a few times at the idiotic things the characters say to one another. And what is with Lenzi and the word whore anyway?!? The dialog is definitely the films weakest element. ‘Spasmo’ starts out a little too slowly and I was left shaking my head at the bizarre series of information I had been fed during the films first 30 minutes. It seemed like Lenzi was going to leave me numerous plot holes to step in but by the time the films reaches its most satisfying conclusion the mystery is solved.

The mannequin is one my all-time favourite props! This isn’t the first Giallo to use mannequins but very few use them as prominently as ‘Spasmo’. Mannequins are found hanging from nooses, lying on the ground bloodied, occasionally with a knife stuck in it, and always in varied states of undress. You will wonder often what the hell the relevance of the mannequins is and you will be rewarded…eventually. The films final scene ties it all up beautifully. The mannequins were the real stars in ‘Spasmo’ but there are some decent performances among the human cast also. Suzy Kendall attempts sex kitten somewhat awkwardly but isn’t unlikeable. Robert Hoffmann does a lot of fussing, fretting and rubbing his head as Christian Bauman but he’s a likeable enough sort. The two have good chemistry together and are quite watchable. I usually enjoy Giallo regular Ivan Rassimov and he is good in this as Fritz Bauman, but has way too little dialog and screen time. There is a peculiar parade of characters that come and go but don’t leave all that much of an impression. The only exception being the striking Monica Monet who plays Clorinda; but it’s more the visual of Monet you’ll remember rather than her dialog or acting.

Visuals in the film are rather toned down and outside of the aforementioned lack of nudity and gore, even set pieces and locations are mostly unmemorable. At times ‘Spasmo’ is like a car accident you can’t look away from. But it also has moments of brilliance. The last quarter of the film is fantastic! A great reveal an exciting finale and there are a couple of awesome surprise twists. If you don’t take the film too seriously it is actually a lot of fun. You have to kick back and enjoy the ride on this one, accept the bad dialog and move on. It really does come together in the end!

Sadly, the Shriek Show version I rented was dubbed. With the exception of Godzilla films I detest dubbing. I don’t feel like I’m getting the full experience if I can’t watch the film in its original language. There is also a bit of ambient noise on the dubbing, it never drowns out the dialog and you stop noticing it after a while. While Morricone’s score is a bit on the conservative side it is still quite effective and the sound for the music is crystal clear. The transfer of the film itself looked pretty much flawless as far as I was concerned. There is a short interview with Umberto Lenzi, a poster/still gallery and trailers for other Lenzi films and one Dallamano film. An interesting fact from the Lenzi interview; Lucio Fulci was originally set to be the director on Spasmo. Hardcore Giallo fans will probably not be overly impressed with this one, and gorehounds will certainly be disappointed. But if you like off the wall flicks that march to the beat of their own drummer, this weird little mess of a film has some highly entertaining moments and a great finale worth sticking around for. Recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Robert Hoffmann, Suzy Kendall, Ivan Rassimov, Adolfo Lastretti, Monica Monet, Guido Alberti, Mario Erpichini, Franco Silva, Maria Pia Conte

Guest Review: CANNIBAL FEROX (1981)

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags on March 16, 2010 by goregirl

Reviewed By:
Scott Shoyer @
Anything Horror

Some people are softies for kittens whiles others are softies for orphans. Me; I’m a softie for Italian Cannibal flicks. I love ‘em (you could say I eat them up)!! What do you think about this sub-sub-genre? If you have one, what’s your favorite from this genre? I wanna know!!

What “Italian Horror Films of the 1980’s” theme month would be complete without at least one review representing the Italian cannibal genre? No self-respecting lover of horror could look themselves in the mirror if they haven’t seen the films that make up this crazy, fun, gory genre. And though it may not be the best Italian cannibal flick made, Cannibal Ferox is perhaps the most fun. Even diehard Italian horror fans like myself think of the sub-sub-genre of the Italian cannibal flick as the creepy uncle you see only once a year at the annual family reunion; you know the one … he’s not allowed to be alone with the kids!! But goddamn these are fun movies.

I saw this for the first time when I was 11 years old. Blockbuster stores had yet to take over the rental scene so I would get my videos from this little ma & pa store around the corner from my house. My dear old mom told the owner that I was allowed to rent anything I wanted as long as it wasn’t a porn or ‘X’-rated. Sweeeet. At 11 I was already a bona-fide horror fan; earlier that year I saw City of the Living Dead and that only whet my appetite to see more excessively gory movies. A friend’s older brother told me to get Ferox and after watching it I quickly hunted down all the other juicy Italian Cannibal flicks. Aahhh; if only my mom knew what I was watching in the basement (but I guess she will now because she visits this blog).

Ferox is a gritty, raw, extreme flick folks. As with all the movies in the cannibal genre, Ferox has a washed out look to it which makes it feel kinda like a documentary, thereby making the experience all the more gritty and effective. Written and directed by Umberto Lenzi (who has dabbled in many genres from his sword and sorcery flicks in the 60’s to the giallo flicks in the 70’s to the more hardcore, gory flicks in the 80’s), this is not his first foray into the cannibal genre. He also wrote and directed the notorious Mangiati vivi! and the rather dull and disappointing zombie flick Nightmare City (both in 1980). But Ferox is definitely the one I’ll remember Lenzi for.

Pretty simple story: A New York City grad student and anthropologist, Gloria (Lorraine De Selle, who has an uncredited role in 1977’s Emanuelle in America) and her posse visit the jungles in the Amazon to prove her theory that cannibalism doesn’t exist in the world anymore. Great theory Gloria; how’d that work out for ya? In the jungle they run into a sadistic drug dealer (I know what you’re thinking, but drug dealers often take vacations to cannibal-infested jungles and make the natives mine for emeralds and harvest coca; it’s common knowledge) played by genre fav Giovanni Lombardo Radice; better known as John Morghen, the name he uses to try and “Americanize” his movies. Let’s take a second and talk about Mr. Radice. Giovanni has a great genre resume. He was responsible for spreading the zombie virus in Cannibal Apocalypse; he got his brains fucked in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead’s famous “drill scene”; and he plays one of the brutal thugs in Ruggero Deodato’s House on the Edge of the Park (all three of these movies were made in 1980 making him the hardest working man in Italian expoitation!!). Radice brings a really special kind of energy to all of his roles. I don’t think he cared that he was making exploitation cheese (albeit classic exploitation cheese), because he gives a 100% in all his roles. He can be brutal and sadistic (his role as Ricky in House) and he can be kinda creepy but harmless (his role as Bob in City). But one thing’s for sure; when you see Radice in a movie the blood and gore ain’t far behind!!

Radice and his whacked out buddies, who are just as sadistic as he is, torture and kill some of the natives just for the pure sadistic fun of it all. When he kills the daughter of the native’s Chief they finally turn on their tormentors. But by this time our stupid, trusting anthropology group is with them and are therefore deemed “guilty by association”. Oh yeah; did I mention the natives are cannibals? The worm turns and the cannibals get their tasty “Law of the Jungle” revenge on our very obnoxious “New Yorkers”. What follows are scenes of very graphic and gory deaths. I love it!! I just wanna make one little request from Lenzi: Dude; lay off the genitals already. Geez. We all know about the infamous genital mutilation scene. Buddy boy is tied up to a tree and a native, in juicy explicit detail, goes all Lorena Bobbitt on his junk. This leads Radice to yell out one of the movie’s best lines: “…and then … then THEY ATE HIS GENITALS!!”

We are then witness to some other great scenes of explicit violence: A woman having huge hooks thrust through her boobs as she’s then hanged by her boobs to die; a man placed in a contraption that exposes just the top of his head where it’s sliced off like a melon so the natives can feast on the brain goo; and there’s many scenes of actual animal mutilation and killings. It’s this last point that people really seem to have the most trouble with. Lenzi used actual footage and supported the actual on-screen killing of live animals. Radice objected to the animal killings and absolutely refused to participate in them (a double stood in and performed the animal killings). Lenzi tried to convince Radice to do the killings by telling him, “[Robert] De Niro would do it,” to which Radice responded, “De Niro would kick your ass all the way back to Rome.”

But among all this gory and explicit violence the movie is also hilarious (though most of the humor is unintentional). How can you not love a movie with dialogue like this:
Rudy: There’s something I can’t figure out…
Gloria Davis: What’s that?
Rudy: I don’t know.
Mike Logan: Wanna know something? I had you nailed down the minute I saw you.
Pat: Oh you did? What, that I’m a little whore?
Mike Logan: All the way. A hot-pussied little whore, who arrived down here looking for freedom; a victim of Puritanical breeding, seeking release from strange new feelings.
Alrighty Mike. Don’t hold back; tell us what you really think!! And my personal favorite quote from the movie is when the starving Pat is about to eat a piece of meat and Gloria yells at her, “No; stop! That might be Rudy.” Classic stuff people.

If ya haven’t seen this one yet ya gotta check it out. The sound quality is bad, the acting is questionable, and it’s full of stock travel footage. You’ll hate yourself for watching it, but you’ll love the fact that you hated it!! For me this flick takes me back to a time when I use to have trouble watching graphic, disturbing movies. Oh to be 11 and innocent again; those good-old-days before I became the desensitized-to-violence madman you see before you. Check this one out!!

Director: Umberto Lenzi (and writer)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains