All posts by Jonny

Almost Human

 

 

aka Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare

Cinema trends in early 70s Italy saw to it that director Umberto Lenzi moved into the ‘Euro Crime’ or ‘Poliziotteschi’ genre and away from the once highly successful ‘giallo’ features. With 1973s GANG WAR IN MILAN (Milano rovente) considered a flawed but adequate first foray into the genre Lenzi sought out writer for hire extraordinaire Ernesto Gastadli who put together a simple but highly effective story for the director’s second ‘Euro Crime’ outing.  A simple tale of a small time crook who has delusions of grandeur and a kidnap plot involving a wealthy heiress. One slight problem is that he’s a pill popping loon with a manic personality disorder and a chronic facial tick.

Embracing the role of the nasty sociopath Giulio Sacchi is method actor Tomas Milian whose staple roles in many a spaghetti western had dried up at the start of the 70s, possibly one of the reasons he took on a role that many other leading men would probably pass by for fear of tarnishing their reputation. Imploring to his director that he needed to add realism to the role of Sacchi, Milian would stay true to his method training and get drunk on set where he saw it appropriate, in one of the films standout scenes he even went so far as to ply his fellow actor, and long time real life friend, Ray Lovelock, with copious amounts of whisky – (First time viewers: See if you can guess which scene that might be…)

Highly regarded as Lenzi’s finest venture in the genre, ALMOST HUMAN certainly lives up to its reputation with pretty much something for everyone, high speed car chases, violent machine gun shoot outs, naked ladies and some seriously fucked up moments – A male hostage forced at gun point to suck Sacchi’s dick anyone? The potent mix of Lenzi and a berserk Tomas Milian creates a true ‘Poliziotteschi’ classic; it really couldn’t have been done without either person’s input. Milian’s method acting sensibilities matched with Lenzi’s penchant for in your face, no nonsense, violence created a true classic that also makes a great starting point for anyone just discovering these films. Shameless made a wise decision testing the UK market out with this one.

Shameless has put together a great package that will suit established genre fans and newcomers alike. The transfer is solid with an anamorphically enhanced transfer in the original aspect ratio that’s sharp, detailed and full of colour, with barely any damage at all. In the audio department we get optional English or Italian audio tracks with English subtitles provided for the Italian option. There’s an excellent half hour interview with Tomas Milian who’s more than happy to talk about his ‘70s output and his films with Lenzi. Although the interview is ported over from the previous NoShame DVD release it makes a welcome return on this Shameless release because of the former release now being OOP and difficult to obtain for those without deep pockets. Also on board is a feature long ‘fact track’ by some fly by night character who provides a well researched set of subtitled factoids that appear along the bottom of the screen as the film plays. This track is perfect for the newcomers to this particular genre and comes highly recommended as it points out many films for the uninitiated to track down and should certainly see a lot of people coming away with a nice list of films that they will be itching to watch next. I have to stress though that the fact track shouldn’t be attempted on first viewing as you’ll miss key action scenes and plot points as you read the subtitles. Rounding the whole package off are two trailers, the original theatrical one plus the US ‘Grindhouse’ version, the usual Shameless trailer reel and ‘coming soon’ clips. Last but not least a PDF essay by the ‘Fact Track’ guy introducing the ‘Poliziotteschi’ genre (to be accessed via PC DVD drives). The usual yellow Amary case with double sided cover art is housed in an extremely novel lenticular ‘insert’ cover featuring some imagery I’d never dreamed of seeing on the shelves of HMV! DVD collectors do be aware that this special lenticular sleeved version is strictly limited to 1,000 units, so pick this one up fast before they go.

For what must be the first legitimate ‘Poliziotteschi’ DVD here in the UK Shameless has put together a great little package that is hopefully the first of many. With such a wealth of back catalogue titles in this genre to go at there’s certainly no shortage of films to choose from, it will certainly be very interesting to see where we go from here…  (Jonny Redman)

Grindhouse Trailer Classics volume 3

Grindhouse Trailer Classics volume 3 

Kim Newman introduces Nucleus Films’ third GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS volume, which still manages to surprise viewers with quite a few rarities among the fifty-five trailers that make up this roughly one-hundred minute collection.

A cool trailer for Luigi Scattini’s SWEDEN: HEAVEN AND HELL (“the sex capitol of the world”) is the only thing in the collection remotely mondo, but it ends up falling comfortably in with the “sexual exposé” sub-genre of trailers for SWEDISH FLY GIRLS, SWEDISH WIFE EXCHANGE CLUB, the American THE FEMALE RESPONSE (“one moment that makes all women sisters under the skin”), the British THE SWAPPERS (“the new version of the good neighbor policy”), and THE HARRAD EXPERIMENT (which, shockingly, features no nudity and is long on dialogue scenes).  The narration for the trailer of Stephanie Rothman’s film THE WORKING GIRLS also gives the impression of an expose (and is misleadingly suggestive of the type of work they do), which can also be said of THE CLASS OF ’74 (“they’d rather teach than learn”).

Giallo trailers are pretty scarce here, offering up a nice AIP trailer for Lucio Fulci’s A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN with wavy opticals and a colorful rendition of the film’s alternate US release title SCHIZOID – which also sports the hyperbole “torn apart by terror-madness” as well as the warning for viewers with schizophrenic tendencies – National General’s R-rated release of Armando Crispino’s THE DEAD ARE ALIVE (“there’s no place to hide when the dead are alive!”), a rare and entertaining one for Umberto Lenzi’s PARANOIA (ORGASMO) with Carroll Baker and Lou Castel, and an atmospheric one Phase One trailer for THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE that sells it as a ghost story.  Antonio Margheriti’s CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE pops up as INVASION OF THE FLESH HUNTERS, Almi Cinema’s recut R-rated version (following their original X release as CANNIBALS IN THE STREETS), which thoroughly fails to highlight Giannetto de Rossi’s gut-blasting of Giovanni Lombardo Radice spoiled in the Italian and export trailers (and also the sole bit of footage used in the to-the-point Japanese promo).  The AIP trailer for Ivan Reitman’s CANNIBAL GIRLS is also here to help represent the cannibal genre.

Blaxploitation is scantly represented here with THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR – about the CIA’s first black agent – the Civil War-era SOUL SOLDIERS, and the Columbia Pictures pick-up BLACK GUNN.  SLASH: BLADE OF DEATH (“the mighty weapon that put the force of an army in the hands of a girl”) and the MGM pick-up DEADLY CHINA DOLL (“She’s on a manhunt, and she’s a man-eater!”) represent the martial arts along with the later Cannon release REVENGE OF THE NINJA, but they also fall into the tough gals territory along with the “super-bad, super-bodied” SUPER CHICK and POLICE WOMEN (“Tough enough for any man!”).  BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA occupies the “tough chick” and WIP categories, as does Stephanie Rothman’s TERMINAL ISLAND to an extent.  The latter also fits into the rape/revenge category, although less so than ACT OF VENGENACE, a slick R-rated AIP entry directed by Robert Keljchan, who had previously essayed the COUNT YORGA films and SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM.

Rape-revenge elements also figure into Peter Collinson’s OPEN SEASON, in which Peter Fonda, John Phillip Law, and Richard Lynch hunt Alberto de Mendoza and Cornelia Sharpe for sport out in the wilderness (although the film also has some rape revenge elements as well).  In MOONSHINE COUNTY EXPRESS Susan Howard, Claudia Jennings, and Maureen “Marsha” McCormick inherit a cache of moonshine and battle their father’s killers; however, the presence of John Saxon’s as a hot rodder running ‘shine for the gals ties the film into to the “good ol’ boy” films included here like MACON COUNTY LINE and its follow-up BLACK OAK CONSPIRACY, A SMALL TOWN IN TEXAS, as well as the NORTHVILLE CEMETERY MASSACRE (which also fits into the biker genre) which pits a gang of bikers against a corrupt cop.

Drugs are scantly represented here with PANAMA RED (“the perfect smoke”), Jeff Leiberman’s bizarre BLUE SUNSHINE, and Jack Harris’ MOTHER GOOSE A GO-GO in which former Mickey Mouse Clubber Tommy Kirk needs LSD to consummate his marriage.  The exorcism craze is covered not with one of the many Italian or fewer Spanish EXORCIST rip-offs, but with a cool English-dubbed trailer for Jess Franco’s LINDA (aka LORNA THE EXORCIST) – which features full-frontal nudity and the ballyhoo “behind the erotic beauty of a woman hides the rotten stench of hell” over a shot of one of the crabs emerging from Jacqueline Laurent’s pubic hair – and the American west coast oddity THE TOUCH OF SATAN (currently only available on DVD with the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” treatment).

Euro-westerns were slim pickings in the grindhouse era, and the Spanish A TOWN CALLED HELL with Telly Savalas, Martin Landau, Robert Shaw, and Stella Stevens is the only representative (even rarer at this time – outside of softcore parodies – was the jungle epic, specifically TARZANA – WILD GIRL, which appears to be a very low point for Italian exploitation hottie Beryl Cunningham).  Slashers did not come along until the early eighties, but body count films anticipated the genre here with AIP’s brutal BLOOD AND LACE and CENTERFOLD GIRLS – in which exploitation stalwart Andrew Prine stalks and slashes calendar girls – and the British BEWARE THE BRETHREN (aka THE FIEND or BEWARE MY BRETHREN).

The grueling THE CANDY SNATCHERS is the epitome of the grindhouse, but hard to group as far as this collection goes, as is Greydon Clark’s “star-studded” alien predator pic IT CAME WITHOUT WARNING! (“and now it’s coming for you!”).  The Spanish VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY and the Chinese SUCCUBARE can at least be grouped together as foreign monster movies, and their somewhat similar themes of strangers wandering into mysterious villages peopled by different types of ghouls.  LADY IN THE CAR WITH GLASSES AND A GUN – a French/British adaptation of the Sebastian Japrisot novel with Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed – and Nelson Lyon’s THE TELEPHONE BOOK about a girl “who falls in love with the world’s greatest obscene phone call!” are the unclassifiably arty stragglers in the collection.  Lastly, what would a seventies trailer comp be without something from Michael Findlay (SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED, directed by Ed Adlum), Andy Milligan (THE RATS ARE COMING! THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE!), Al Adamson (THE FEMALE BUNCH), S.F. Brownrigg’s DON’T OPEN THE DOOR as one of the line of unrelated “Don’t” films.

As can be expected, image quality on this dual-layer trailer comp varies from trailer to trailer (as do aspect ratios and audio quality).  Most surprising are the trailers for Stephanie Rothman’s TERMINAL ISLAND and THE WORKING GIRLS, which were only available in worn VHS-sourced versions to Code Red for their DVD releases.  Since the discs in the GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS collection are intended as party discs, Nucleus has also included optional English subtitles for the films (spoken dialogue is differentiated from the trailer narration by italicization).  It’s a nice touch for general viewing as well, but I did not notice any trailers in which the audio quality might actually required subtitles to be intelligible.

  

The disc’s major extra is a fifteen-minute “guide to the Grindhouse” by critic Kim Newman.  Newman hastens to remind viewers that Britain did indeed have grindhouses, although he can only allude to some of the unsavory rumors about the London ones since he did not experience them until the eighties before video usurped the viewing medium for such films.  His talk does a fair job of finding encompassing themes to bring together the trailers in this more varied third volume, attributing the label of “whitesploitation” to the string of chick power and good ol’ boy (in that young white viewers envied the oppressed protagonists overthrowing the man in blaxploitation flicks – represented in this collection by THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR about the CIA’s first “negro” agent, the Columbia Pictures pick-up BLACK GUNN, and Civil War-set SOUL SOLDIER).  Newman muses that the trailers are often better than the features, whether thoroughly misrepresenting the film (for instance, the Etruscan zombies viewers may have been anticipating of THE DEAD ARE ALIVE, or the skull-faced ghoul of THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE) or the deliberately censored trailer for NAZI LOVE CAMP 27, in which the narrator promises that the actual screening will be fully uncut (this film and Veronica Lake’s unfortunate swan song FLESH FEAST represent Nazisploitation on this set).  Newman does, however, cite THE DOBERMAN GANG as a film in which the trailer makes the most of its high concept of “clockwork canines.”  The three “Also Available” menu screens of trailers encompass all of Nucleus’ releases thus far (as well as three upcoming surprises: THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE, DEAD OF NIGHT [DEATH DREAM], and CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS), as well as their “Naughty” line, which includes CRUEL PASSION/JUSTINE with Koo Stark as an upcoming release (the Naughty trailers were not viewable on my check disc, however).  A poster gallery rounds out the package.

(Eric Cotenas)

Cinema X Talks to Edwige Fenech

Cinema X Talks to Edwige Fenech

Interview by Luigi Cozzi

This interview was first published in Cinema X (Vol.3 number 3) circa 1970 and re-printed in Cinema X ‘Super-X Special’ No. 4. It is reproduced here as published.

It’s not everyone’s luck to be born on Christmas Eve. But it happened to actress Edwige Fenech. The date which appears on her passport is December 24 th , 1948, and that makes her twenty-two years of age.

Twenty-two gorgeous years, may I add. Edwige Fenech is tall and slender, moves with grace and elegance and exudes class and culture to a remarkable degree. She lives in Rome , where a short time ago she moved.

“It was a talent scout who invited me to Rome ”, Edwige Fenech tells me, speaking Italian easily and correctly in a sweet, melodious French accent. “I took part in a Miss Universe contest as the representative from France and attracted some attention. I was asked to come to Italy to live and try to get somewhere in movies, and I accepted. At this point I’m very happy I came”

Luigi Cozzi: “But hadn’t you already done some work in the French cinema?”

Edwige Fenech: “No. I had just had a few jobs as a photographer’s model and had also done some bits in the theatre. The theatre has always been my passion, and I hoped to be successful at it one day. But the cinema came along instead, and I ended up here… I’m happy about it, however, because a whole new world has opened up to me – much vaster than the theatre. After all, that’s what films are all about, isn’t it?

LC: “Have you been in Italy long?”

EF: “Three years. It’s a very beautiful country – in fact, I would say that Rome is the most beautiful city in the world”

LC: “Where is your family from?”

EF: “I come from Nice, just like my parents. I often go there to visit them, but when I can’t get away, my mother comes down to see me. Mama is often here in Rome with me. She helps me, keeps me company and has a good time, because Rome is a wonderful city”

LC: “What do your parents think of the career you have chosen to follow? You have made ‘For Adults Only’ type pictures for the most part. Wearing just the bear essentials”

EF: “They are happy at the present time and satisfied with what I have been able to do. They know it has been a hard, uphill road for me, and what success I have had has been gotten the hard way. You know, acting with almost all your clothes off doesn’t shorten the road to the top. All actresses take their clothes off nowadays, but only a few get there and stay there. I feel I have arrived, and my mother is very happy about it”

LC: “But don’t you feel embarrassed about getting undressed on the set?”

EF: “Oh, it’s terrible. Especially the first times on the early films… I didn’t know how to behave and I was frightfully ashamed. Then I resigned myself to it, rather I got used to it… after all these are things you have to do in the movies whether you like it or not. The public demands it. Certainly it’s never pleasant to disrobe in front of so many technicians and fellow actors. I always have the feeling, when I get dressed again, that they are still looking at me as if I had nothing on. And I don’t even want to talk about what happens in the theatres where they show my pictures… I went to see MADAME BOVARY again in a first run film theatre, and I turned as red as a beet when I saw myself naked on the screen. Meanwhile the audience began to get noisy and exchange unprintable remarks”

LC: “However, this always happens, in all movies, whenever an actress undresses. Italians as an audience are warm and expressive”

EF: “Yes, but it’s not always like that. That picture (MADAME BOVARY) really upset me, but when I saw the scene with the nude buttocks in SOLDIER BLUE, I noticed that the public remained perfectly calm, wasn’t noisy and made no remarks”

LC: “Well, excuse me, but that’s not a very appropriate example. Candice Bergen didn’t have much to do, erotically speaking, in that scene… if that pair of buttocks was really hers. It was a touch of humour more than anything else, with the wagon jolting along and the couple plastered together like slices of salami… in 500 MILLION HIT ON THE NATIONAL BANK, Ursula Andress is nude from beginning to end, but everything is done with such grace and finesse that the picture has not even been prohibited for minors of fourteen years of age. MADAME BOVARY is, on the other hand, more obvious, laying the emphasis on physical eroticism. When the leading lady emerges topless, I think the explosion on the part of the audience is quite understandable”

“Perhaps”, agrees Edwige Fenech with an embarrassed smile. Just talking about this scene makes her blush spontaneously. “I realise it’s not a good film, but I also know that doing the role helped me a great deal in that it introduced me to the public by exploiting what I had to offer physically. All in all, I owe a lot of my present success to it”

LC: “Will you continue to accept these sex-kitten roles?”

EF: “If possible, no. At least, if the sex sequences are motivated and justified by the demands of the plot and aesthetic considerations, then I would say yes. But I shall say no absolutely to a picture which presents sex for sex’s sake with no other justifications”

LC: “How many pictures have you made so far?”

EF: “Eighteen I believe. Yes, I’m not very satisfied with them, but I must admit they have all been important for getting me before the public and catapulting me up to where I am now. Now I am preparing myself to enter the second stage of my career, and I really would like to make a success with my talent and acting gifts rather than just with my beauty. I’m counting a great deal on a film I’ve just finished making, THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARD, directed by Sergio Martino on the scenario of a thriller by Ernest Gastaldi. I adore suspense films and think this one in particular is very beautiful, full of chills and special effects.

LC: “What films are your favourites?”

EF: “SOLDIER BLUE, CROMWELL and THEY SHOOT HORSES DON’T THEY? Are the first ones which come to my mind. I adore Richard Harris as an actor as well as a man. I think he’s great, magnificent – he makes me dream with my eyes open”

LC: “Leaving the cinema aside for a moment, what are your preferences in life?”

EF: “I lead a tranquil, sheltered life. I have a few friends – boys who go to university – solid citizens. I like music too and almost always listen to pop records – Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding. However, when I’m alone and sad, I prefer to listen to classical music: it’s more relaxing”

LC: “Do you live alone?”

EF: “I live in an apartment… which I must change, because I’m alone when my mother’s not here. Do you know that thieves have tried to break in here twice? Now I’m looking for a new apartment in a safer area. It’s the only thing to do, don’t you think?”