Sunday, February 19, 2012

Orgasmo (1969)

Those who may only know him from his terribly cheesy ‘80s outings like NIGHTMARE CITY and GHOSTHOUSE or his violent cannibal jungle adventures, should know that director Umberto Lenzi also directed a number of crime, Eurospy, and giallo films that are considered to be very respectable and accomplished. What I like best are his giallo films from the late ‘60s and early ’70s, and so, if you thought the cannibal movies were too distasteful or that NIGHTMARE CITY was ultra-sucky (not me) and crime films just aren’t your thing, then perhaps what you may’ve been missing all along are some of his terrific gialli, like SEVEN BLOOD STAINED ORCHIDS, KNIFE OF ICE, SPASMO or one I recently enjoyed for the first time, ORGASMO, which sadly, unlike SPASMO, doesn’t include paranoid cries of the enigmatic movie title in its trailer. It was actually released as PARANOIA in America, which adds a good deal of confusion because following the success of the film in America, Lenzi made another movie called PARANOIA in Italy that was released as A QUIET PLACE TO KILL in the US, resulting in two movies called PARANOIA made roughly around the same time. Adding further confusion is the fact that both films star the flamboyant sex icon Carroll Baker as the leading actress. Ah, title confusion… What better way to nerd out on films?
  
Recently widowed and wealthy Kathryn West (Carroll Baker) has moved from America to a lonely villa in Italy. Detached from her past and looking to live a quiet life of peace and isolation, her only form of contact and company now is her lawyer, a stern housemaid, and a deaf gardener. Kathryn finds herself attracted to a young stranger whose motor happens to breakdown in front of her house one day and is seduced and charmed into letting the young man and his sister stay with her. Once she is hooked in, both brother and sister, and surely some other outside influence, mess with her sanity in cruel and evil ways that drive her mad.
   
So, she was alright as a witch in BABA YAGA and a distressed dame in SO SWEET… SO PERVERSE, she displayed fairly interesting acting in KNIFE OF ICE without delivering any lines on account of playing a mute character, and she had an Academy Award nominated role in BABY DOLL, but for a while now I’ve usually wondered: what’s so great about Carroll Baker? Well, read on to find out.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

Even with the gory movie poster and the seductively macabre title, movie theaters thought this film could use a little extra hype during its premiere, by serving red popcorn, otherwise known as bloodcorn. Moviegoers were then probably expecting a gratuitously bloody show of a female zombie getting vengeance with some of the craziest and most terrifying scenes of which the world had never seen before on the big screen. What they got instead was a slow burning mystery and a lot of time spent with a mentally ill mind. Oh how they must’ve been disappointed….   

Similar to Emilio Miraglia’s own THE RED QUEEN KILLS 7 TIMES, THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE establishes itself as a giallo just as much as it does a modern Gothic horror piece. It contains all of the conventional trappings of Gothic horror, such as the creepy mansion, supernatural themes, a séance, and a promise that something will rise from the grave, a promise that the movie admirably keeps. But, it also has a fair share of that addictive ‘70s modern look; with the European nightclubs, swinging parties, sexy divas, and a brutal faceless killer, giving it an undeniable giallo feel. Fans of both genres that haven’t checked this out yet, really should, and anyone that has already seen it, should take the coming analysis as an attempt to make you want to watch this again.   

Experiencing grief for the loss of his deceased wife, Evelyn, formerly institutionalized nobleman, Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen), finds solace by frequenting the London night scene, in search of something or someone new. However, there is an added facet to his inner-torment and that is the reoccurring and haunting memories of when his once precious Evelyn was disloyal to him. 
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