Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blind Dead Movie Night # 2 - Return of the Evil Dead 1973

"Tonight They Will Return !"

   The second of Amando De Ossorio's Blind Dead films 1973's Return of the Evil Dead is pretty much regarded as the best one in the series (it’s my favorite) and its success along with the first one led to the rush release of the rather lake luster 3rd entry The Ghost Galleon in 1974. Unlike Tombs of the Blind Dead which has a slow build-up to the first appearance of the Templars, Return starts off with bang and never lets up as the Blind Dead make their first appearance 15 minutes in. As with the next two movies in the series Return changes the mythos & origin of the zombie Templers are changed (in fact each movie can almost be viewed as re-imaging of the first one).

   Starting again with a flashback sequence showing the torture & sacrifice of a young woman by the knights, this time around locals from the nearby village of Berzano storm the monastery and burn out the knights eyes out before putting everything to torch with the leader of the Templars swearing revenge from the grave. Flash forward 500 years and the citizens of Berzano are getting ready to celebrate the anniversary of the knight’s destruction (complete with fireworks & a burning puppet show for the kiddies). Jack Marlow (Tony Kendall) shows up to supervise the fireworks display and meets up with an old flame of his Vivian (Esther Roy) which incurs the suspicion of the corrupt town mayor (Fernando Sancho) as he’s got designs on her also and rules over the town like a little fiefdom.

  Stealing off to the ruins of the mortuary Jack & Vivian start to re-kindle their relationship when they’re surprised by Murdo a halfwit cripple who’s the caretaker of the mortuary who warns them of the old Templar curse - “Tonight they will return!” Later the town commences with the celebration and the embittered Murdo (who earlier had been taunted by of some of the local kids) kidnaps a village girl and sacrifices her over the burial ground of the Templars and they began to rise of their tombs. Mounting their “zombie” horses the Blind Dead set off for the town.
   Meanwhile Jack has talked Vivian to run away with him but on the way they meet up with a survivor from the Templar’s initial attack on her house who warns them of the oncoming terror. Heading back to town they a arrive just as The Templar's descend upon the partying townsfolk slashing & hacking their way thru the festivities. Jack and Vivian along with the mayor and some other townsfolk barricade themselves in a church with the mayor showing himself to be a real low level scum as he sacrifices various people in attempt to escape (including a terrifying sequence with a small girl that ranks as one of the series best moments of horror).

   For the most part Ossorio keeps the whole thing moving at a terrific pace not allowing it to get bogged down with extra plot devices that sometimes saddle the other films in the series. By keeping the focus on the Blind Dead the movie succeeds in keeping the horror & atmosphere front center and while it does tone down the nudity a bit (of course this being a Blind Dead film there has to be a rape - but only attempted here) while amping up the blood (especially in the Spanish version - both this and the somewhat tamer U.S. version are on the Blue underground DVD). A wonderful slice of terror from the golden age of Spanish horror.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sorceress Is Coming !! (Roger Corman Babes, Boobs n' Beasts Sword & Sorcery Epic)

    Scorpion Releasing has recently up dated their Facebook page with a peek of the Sorceress one sheet which is kinda exciting news if your into great cheesy 80's sword & sorcery movies (and who isn't ??). This was one (of the first) of the many low budget sword & sorcery films (many produced by New World) that came out after the success of Conan the Barbarian and the gigantic box office returns of Albert Pyun's Sword and the Sorcerer.
    Directed by Jack Hill & written by Jim Wynorski this 1982 New World film had a rather troubled production as Roger reportedly slashed the budget during production and re-edited it without Hill's participation where upon Hill had his name removed from the director credit upon release. Not Jack Hill's best work (this was sadly his last movie) but makes a wonderfully entertaining movie night none the less.
  Starring twins Leigh & Lynette Harris as Mira & Mara who've been prophesied to kill their evil sorcerer father. He orders them killed upon birth but their mother spirits them away before dying herself and has them raised as warriors, so that they can come back to avenge themselves against their father. Filled with inept swordplay, nudity (complete with skinny dipping twin sorceresses), gorilla warriors, flying lions and low budget gore & special effects. Never given a release since the days of VHS its had several false DVD starts in the past, so this is something to really look forward to (with hopefully more releases down the road).

    Scorpion have recently signed a deal with Roger Corman to release some of his New World catalog and hopefully this will help fill in some gaps left by Shout Factory with their New World deal of a couple of years ago. Shout did an excellent job with their fully packed special editions & multi-packs but there was also some really glaring omissions. In addition to Sorceress we never got the first New World movie Student Nurses (plus you gotta have Summer School Teachers & Student Teachers), a bunch of the biker stuff and most importantly (to me at least) the remainder of the Filipino action & horror movies including Woman Hunt, Savage and The Hot Box among others. Speaking of Filipino stuff Scorpion have also annouched Eddie Romero's great 1972 horror/snake pocessed classic Night of the Cobra Woman starring Joy Bang (Yeh !!) & Marlene Clark. Good news indeed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rosalba Neri Friday # 13 - Arizona Colt 1966

   Michele Lupo's Arizona Colt is one of the better spaghetti westerns that Rosalba appeared in. I gotta admit - I love westerns & Italian cinema, but find many spaghetti westerns an endurance test. The well regarded classic ones are great and even some of the lesser ones have some moments but on the whole I've never really gone crazy over the genre. In addition being a Rosalba fan (and as pointed out to me by my fellow blogger venoms5 ), she always seems to appear at some point in the second reel & dies somewhere in the third reel in these.
  Giuliano Gemma plays the title role, a bounty hunter who escapes from jail thanks to bandit Gordo (Fernando Sancho) who's instigating mass jailbreaks to raise recruits for his gang. Later one of Gordo's men Kay (Nello Pazzafini) shows up in the town of Blackstone Hill casing the bank for a future robbery. There he meets saloon girl Dolores (Rosalba) and after a roll in the hay with her mistakenly spills the beans about the robbery necessitating him killing her. Later Arizona offers to track down Kay for $500.00 and the chance to sleep with (?!) Dolores's sister Jane (Corinne Marchand) which ends up incurring the wrath of Gordo and putting the entire town in danger.

    Made in 1966 the film has several similarities to Sergio Leone's For A Few Dollars More and features some pretty extreme violence which is juxtaposed by comic relief (mostly by Roberto Camardiel playing a character named Whiskey) and the sometimes feel of a Sat. matinee American western . As Arizona Gemma plays one of  the more clean cut characters in spaghetti western history (with his youngish looks, clean face and & toothy smile he looks like he stepped out of an A.I.P beach movie), but he's also a truly amoral western hero. He only looks out for himself, not giving a dam about his consequences or the fate of the town. At the time he was one of the bigger stars in the genre having just come off the successful Ringo films. Sancho is excellent in a larger the life performance as the bandit and although the film does drag a bit at nearly two hours it contains some excellent action set pieces and shoot-outs. It was followed up by a "sequel" titled Arizona Colt Hired Gun in 1970 which starred Anthony Steffen (and once again featured Rosalba - in one of her last western roles).
  As per the norm Rosalba shows up about 15 mins in and dies at about the thirty min mark. As saloon girl Dolores she really doesn't get to do a whole lot but looks great in her cleavage bearing red dress.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Cry of The Banshee - 1970


"A Corpse On Horseback rides before it
A mad dog runs behind it
When the banshee cries
the sidhe answers
And someone else will die
A tale of the Old Religon
and the scream that kills"

   Although most time regulated below Price's better known portrayal as an Elizabethan England witchfinder in Michael Reeves admittedly superior Witchfinder General (1968), Cry of The Banshee in some respects is a far grimer movie with a very grubby and exploitative feel to it. The big difference is there being an actual monster here while Reeve's movie is more ground in reality with Price's Matthew Hopkins being the central "monster" (as it were). Director Gordon Hessler made four movies for A.I.P. during this period - The Oblong Box (1969), Scream and Scream Again & Cry of the Banshee (both from 1970 and all three starring Price), plus 1971's Murders in the Rue Morgue.
   While not as well known as A.I.P's earlier Corman "Poe" films (not to mention A.I.P's other horror films) his work is will worth a  look, plus MGM did restoration work on all these for DVD (now sadly OOP) that restores Hessler's original version of each (all of which were tampered with to varying degrees including cuts for violence & nudity, running time, sequencing & music). Banshee had instances of female nudity (with some fairly uncomfortable groping & man-handling of some of the actresses) removed, along with some bloody violence. A major sequence was edited forward as a prologue (which causes some confusion as characters are shown who aren't introduced until later in the plot) and Wilfred Joseph's score was replaced by Les Baxter.

   Opening with animated credit sequence designed by Terry Gilliam which brings to mind Monty Python (you keep waiting for a giant foot to come down) and a portion of Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Bells in an attempt to continue the association back to the successful run of Corman's Poe films in the previous decade. Price (channeling his Matthew Hopkins from Witchfinder General) plays Lord Edward Whitman, a magistrate in a small village who wields tyrannical power over his subjects by prosecuting alleged witches as he and his sons Sean (Stephen Chase) and the more understanding & educated Harry (Carl Rigg) run roughshod over the countryside along with a couple of henchmen. Also there's Price's youngish new wife Lady Patricia (soft core sex star Eddy Perreson) and not so innocent daughter Maureen (the very beautiful Hilary Heath - who co-starred in Witchfinder General).

   Starting with Lord Whitman presiding over the trial of an alleged witch that ends with her being branded ("H for Heretic !"), dragged thru the streets and placed in the stocks. Later while celebrating with a feast at his home Whitman kills a couple of witch kids (including Sally Geeson - sister of Judy) which seems to push Lady Patricia over the edge sanity wise which is only compounded by being raped by stepson Sean. Daughter Maureen is having some rolls in hay with her father's stable hand Roderick (Patrick Mower), who also seems to have a calming effect on the increasingly mentally unstable Lady Patricia. Plus he has a controlling effect on animals which is used to save a child from a rabid dog which raises the suspicions of a priest (Marshall Jones).
    The Whitman clan incurs the wrath of local sorceress Oona (German silent film star Elisabeth Bergner) after killing her followers whilst engaged in pagan ceremony. She places a curse upon them & summons a demon (or a sidhe  - which as shown here seems to have a lot in common with a werewolf.)  "The flesh, the blood, the wife, the children and the house of Whitman" - to which Price answers in one the more quotable lines from the movie "We're cursed from hell to Christmas, we Whitmans !"

   The creature (probably wisely in the shadows) begins tearing thru the Whitman family tree in very bloody fashion with some fairly shocking for the time violence (with bloody close-ups including a blunderbuss to the face). The cast all approaches the subject matter seriously (although we do get some the famous Price "arched eyebrow evil" looks) with Hilary Heath doing an especially fine job as the outward appearing angelic (but sexy) daughter. Hopefully with Shout Factory's deal with MGM (and with their recent Vincent Price blu-ray box) Gordon Hessler's work will once again be available.