Friday, January 31, 2014

Rosalba Neri Friday # 16 - DUE MASCHI PER ALEXA (AKA TWO MEN FOR ALEXA) 1970


    Following her role in the delirious & fun LADY FRANKENSTEIN Rosalba appeared in this very interesting Italian/Spanish thriller from 1971. As she was really heading into pinnacle of her movie career, this was one of 5 movies she would appear in during 1971, followed by 11 (!!) in 1972 ! 

        Here (as with Joseph Cotton in LADY FRANKENSTEIN) she's seemingly embodied by working with an established actor (as here being Curt Jurgens), plus combined with a literate script and a character that has some real depth all add up to a role that really allows her to display her acting talents (which is something she’s not often given credit for). It’s a real shame this has never been given a proper release, as everything floating around out there is derived from a couple of somewhat iffy quality European VHS sources, with a fan made (Thanks !) subtitled composite print being available on Cinemageddon. 

    Although most often categorized as a giallo, it’s actually more of a psychological thriller along with some film noir elements (in particular “the doomed illicit lovers" plot point) mixed in. Seeming on the surface to be straight out of a 1950’s EC comic book, the plot is actually fairly intricate with multiple interwoven flashbacks & voiceovers, along well developed characters and in a change of pace is very dialogue heavy. Some oddball color filtering and off kilter editing give off a weirdly psychedelic atmosphere that slowly descends into its surreal nightmare of an ending. 

    Jurgens (taking time out from playing German officers in WWII epics such as BATTLE OF BRITAIN) is Ronald Marveling, a wealthy widower who falls in love with one if his daughter Catherine’s (Emma Cohen CROSS OF THE DEVIL) school friends in the form of Alexa (played by Rosalba). As to be expected Alexa soon hooks up with a younger man and begins an illicit affair (along with the expected comeuppance). However even as both these and the basic ending can probably be guessed with just a perfunctory reading of the plot, there is some interesting stuff lurking both below & above the surface here (including some gothic overtones)- in particular the jilted husbands form of a very claustrophobic & creepy revenge. 

    Fans of retro 70’s fashion will have a field day here as Rosalba changes outfits about every 10 minutes including a pretty wild and colorful miniskirt outfit and has a nude romp on the beach which includes some weird “what the hell is this…?!” red & purple filtering, plus the whole thing is set to trippy score by Peiro Piccioni (portions of which have tuned up on various Italian soundtrack comp CD’s).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


    Taking a break from The Blind Dead between the 3rd and 4th movies director Amando de Ossorio unleashed this highly entertaining slice of Spanish horror that has the gorgeous Helga Liné as a mythical German river siren who periodically turns into a scaly rubber-suited monster and devours the heart out of her victims.

    LORELEY’S GRASP is (somewhat loosely) based upon some smatterings of German folklore and a bit of plot from Richard Wagner’s Der Ring Nibelungen, both of which are mixed in with the Spanish horror genre’s penchant for beautiful imagery combined with WTF moments of lunacy. Although my knowledge of Wagner is pretty much limited to Bugs Bunny’s WHAT’S OPERA DOC, I’m pretty sure that his vision didn’t include a fringed bikini wearing siren that turns into a reptilian monster (which in the form of Helga Liné is a very welcome addition here none the less). Plus to help provide a smorgasbord of scantily clad victims, we’ve even got a handily located girls school nearby.

    Opening with a pre-credit sequence that has a young bride to be being bloodily ravaged by a mostly unseen monster (lots of close-ups of a scaly hand), which in turn upsets the locals mightily – including head professor Elke Ackerman (Silvia Tortosa from HORROR EXPRESS) of the local girls boarding school (where their entire study load seems to consist of hanging out poolside in bikinis). For protection she hires motorcycle riding hunter Sirgurd (Tony Kendall) to guard the school & patrol the grounds at night with his rifle (and leisure suit). Down near the river one day Sigurd spies a red-haired Helga in a her green fringed bikini bounding thru the marsh (in one of 70’s Euro horror’s more delirious scenes) and begins the investigation of the Loreley’s legend, which unfortunately has the ramification in that he falls in love with her (!?).

    Along the way he talks to a hippie street musician/storyteller who’s been bending everyone’s ear concerning the legend of the Loreley and hooks up with a local professor who's been preforming some pretty weird experiments concerning turning a dead human hand into a scaly reptile thing by way of artificial moonlight ! Coincidentally each of these people wind up dead - the hippie via the Loreley and professor is whipped by her henchman Alberic (while she watches). This gets the local villagers pretty riled up and in a nod to their forefathers they break out the torches and pitchforks, before being calmed down by the mayor.
   It slowly begins to dawn on the slightly dim bulb Sirgurd that his new girlfriend and the Loreley are somehow connected which leads to the truly mind-bending climax in Loreley's hidden grotto (which includes scuba diving & dynamite !). The grotto contains her accumulated treasures and a trio of leopard skin bikini clad sirens (looking like the vampire women in Ossorio's NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS) who end up in pretty wild cat-fight over Sirgurd.

   A wonderful example of 70's Spanish non Blind Dead horror, as Ossorio throws a little bit of everything (including the kitchen sink) into the script and manages some truly dream-like sequences that alternate with some really whacked out crazy ones. The monster is mostly hidden (likely for the better) in shadows and a black cape and when it does briefly appear looks to be a cousin of IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE.

Pretty cool to see the villagers going old school by breaking out the ol' torches & pitchforks.

  THE LORELEY'S GRASP is helped immensely by the presence of Liné. One of the most beautiful women to appear in euro-horror and although she never seems to get quite the credit as some of her contemporaries, she was an amazing presence in her films. Her other work includes NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965 with Barbara Steel), THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY (1974 & probably the ultimate Helga Line experience), the very twisted & creepy/sexy  BLACK CANDLES from 1980, HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1973 with Paul Naschy) and she had a small role in Monte Hellman's off-beat western CHINA 9 LIBERTY 37.
  This was released in the U.S. as WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS with a flashing red light inserted into the prints to warn of upcoming blood & gore and some lucky patrons even got a vomit bag as in MARK OF THE DEVIL and Fulci's ZOMBIE. The now OOP (but still easily found) Demos BCI disc is absolutely beautiful looking and in March a blu-ray is coming out in Germany by way of ELEA-Media.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

70's T.V. Terror - SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS 1973

  Pre-Charlie's Angels Kate Jackson & Cheryl Ladd channel some Aleister Crowley in 70's made for T.V. terror with demonic horror & mayhem at a girl's school (and it's got Pamela Franklin) !!

"Evil is What They Teach at Satan's School For Girls"

     More 70’s TV fun where you’ve got the cute as heck Pamela Franklin (THE INNOCENTS & just a short time from THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE) investigating some network approved “G” rated devil worshiping at a creepy girls school located in Salem (!) Mass. where future CHARLIE’S ANGELS Kate Jackson (bringing along her horror cred from DARK SHADOWS) & Cheryl Ladd are among the (maybe?) satanically immersed students, along with headmistress Jo Van Fleet. Sign me up!!

   One of the many post ROSEMARY’S BABY devil themed projects that perpetrated both theatre & T.V screens in the early 70’s, 1973’s SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS while being saddled with a lurid title that it (obviously) can’t live up to still manages to create some T.V. friendly creepiness & atmosphere. Plus anytime you’ve got Pamela Franklin, Kate Jackson, and Cheryl Ladd together in the same 70’s T.V. horror project the question becomes not if it should be watched – but WHEN! If this weren’t all enough everybody’s favorite red herring, the always reliable Lloyd Bochner, is lurking around as a creepy psych teacher.

    Premiering as an ABC Movie of the Week on Sept. 19 1973, we begin with frightened young Martha Sayers (Terry Lumley) being pursued by an unseen presence before she runs into a house and seemingly commits suicide. Not buying the police explanation of an “unmotivated suicide” Martha’s sister Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin) enrolls under a false name in The Salem (“Satan…”) Academy for Women, the private school Martha was attending and once there goes into full Nancy Drew mode (complete with Pamela sneaking around darkened hallways in her nightgown with an oil lamp).

   At the school she’s befriend by the seemingly helpful Roberta (Kate Jackson) and meets the very weird Debbie (Jamie-Smith Jackson), who has a creepy portrait she made of Martha (posing in the VERY creepy basement of the school) and refuses to talk about it. Also hanging around is fellow student Jody, played by Cheryl Ladd (here still going by Cheryl Stoppelmore) and Van Fleet’s somewhat nervous headmistress. The entire school curriculum seems to contain only two classes, with one being Dr. Delacroix’s (Bochner) bizzaro psychology class that consists of endless studies related to driving rats insane in a maze and an art class (taught by Roy Thinnes from THE INVADERS) where the students paint bad modernistic knock –offs (and attend after school wine tasting parties !).

    In her investigation Elizabeth discovers that as legend as it, eight witches were hung in the (very) creepy basement during the puritan days and when Debbie is discovered to have committed "suicide", along with a slowly going insane Jo Van Fleet and an oddball murder/drowning in a pond (perpetrated with large sticks !) - well, these all add up to some pretty nifty 70's T.V. horror. In addition there's a nice claustrophobic feel to the film along with a feeling of isolation (and Pamela does a good job with the whole "wondering dark halls with a lamp" thing).
   One of the fascinating things about 70's T.V. horror is that they all have such a deathly serious tone to them, with no humor or comic relief as all of the cast in SATAN'S SCHOOL read their lines with all the somber tones of a Shakespearean drama. Loyd Bochner does some of his patented scenery chewing and the rest of the cast does a surprisingly good job. Aaron Spelling produced this and I guess he remembered Cheryl and Kate down the road for CHARLIE'S ANGELS.
    This was remade in 2000 with Shannen Doherty, along with Kate Jackson as the headmistress.