Archives May 2012

Killer’s Moon

Killer’s Moon (Alan Birkinshaw, 1978)

“Of course it’s a dream! And stuffed full of jailbait!”

High on a hillside road a coach rattles along carrying a small group of schoolgirls, all happily singing ‘Greensleeves’ and clutching their teddy bears. Turning a corner towards a small stone bridge, the coach lumbers to a halt, as black smoke pours from the radiator. There’s trouble ahead! The tubby driver (Chubby Oates, a big name comedian in the 70s, apparently) waddles around to the front of the conked out vehicle and takes off his hat and scratches his head. As luck would have it visiting camper Pete (Anthony Forrest) is out on a jog and is refreshing himself in the nearby stream, up he steps to lend a hand but apart from eyeing-up the girls, he can’t do much to help and so he jogs on, leaving the defenceless creatures to walk to a nearby hotel, in the dark. Cheers Pete!

Back at Pete’s tent, his chum Mike (Tom Marshall)— the world’s smuggest man– has just had a fondle with the hotel owners’ daughter, Julie (Jane Hayden, sister of Linda). Julie flashes her ample bosoms for all to see, whilst Mike reclines in the background, showing off his manly torso and asking whether his performance was up to scratch. Before being given the chance to answer, but chance enough to get her top on, a Rottweiler limps into the tent wearing what appears to be a bandana around its neck. Closer examination reveals that one of the dog’s legs is missing and blood is a-flowing. “That cut’s too clean for a trap!” mutters smug Mike, wondering where his axe has disappeared to…

Having arrived safely at the hotel, the girls are welcomed by the owner, Mrs May (Hilda Braid, Nana Moon from EASTENDERS) and it’s not long before the girls are in their ankle-long nighties and gathered around the hotel’s piano, singing harmoniously. But all is not well and the local gamekeeper senses that “things aren’t right!” and worriedly looks into the distance; you almost expect him to stare into the camera and proclaim “You’re all doomed! DOOMED, I tell you!” To be honest, the craggy faced merchant of doom is right, as four mental patients are on the loose out in the woods, dosed-up on LSD and assured by their Doctors that nothing is real, they’re experiences are just hallucinations and they are free to act out their fantasies. Not only that, but the supposedly secure facility these murderers were being experimented on was nothing more than a ‘cottage hospital’, whatever the hell that means; which leads us to believe that 1970s experimental psychiatry was carried out on dangerous mentalists in rural cottages that were run by LSD administering bumpkins. No wonder the NHS has been in such a state ever since.

Decked out in stolen doctors’ outfits and sweating like drug fuelled ravers at a warehouse all-nighter, the four loons approach the isolated hotel leaving a trail of bloodshed in their wake. With the gamekeeper, his wife and the coach driver all dead who will be the next participant in the dream world fantasies of these escaped nutbags?

Fans of trashy cinema have long since cherished this obscure and quite rare slice of British exploitation, much to the surprise of the film’s Director, who expresses his amazement at being accosted by fans with requests for signatures on prized pieces of KILLER’S MOON memorabilia—such as quad posters and VHS boxes–in an onscreen interview that is featured on Redemption’s new DVD release. Finally, after years of old VHS transfers, it hits DVD with a stellar presentation and afforded extras that include onscreen interviews with director Alan Birkinshaw and star Joanne Good, two theatrical trailers and best of all, a feature length audio commentary from both Birkinshaw and Good.

Refreshingly, both share an enthusiasm for the film and look back on the making of it with pleasure, giving us the impression that they really do enjoy the fact that this 30-year-old movie has garnered a great cult following. Both remain animated for the duration of the track, sharing many insightful snippets of trivia. Birkinshaw fills us in on the details of budgetary restrictions and the logistics of feeding and housing a cast and crew on location in the Lake District for an entire week. Joanne talks about the trials and tribulations of shooting her first feature film; the novelty of dressing as a schoolgirl–even though she and the rest of the girls were all in their mid-twenties–and almost with a little regret mentions how she was one of the only girls not to go topless; giving the impression that she feels a bit left out!

Redemption’s long anticipated DVD comes with an excellent, 16:9 enhanced widescreen transfer, presenting the film in a condition that is the best it has looked since its premiere in 1978. The original mono audio mix is the only track provided and is nice and clear, and free of any noise or distortion. With the only criticism being that some of the points covered in the commentary track are repeated again in the interviews, this DVD comes highly recommended and stands as an essential purchase for fans of trash cinema and British horror.

(Jonny Redman)


The Skull

The Skull (Freddie Francis, 1965)


Amicus Productions–the infamous Hammer rival and nicknamed the “studio that dripped blood”–churned out a raft of above-average horror films during the sixties and seventies, hitting their stride with DOCTOR TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. An enormously entertaining portmanteau film, DOCTOR TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS would serve as a blueprint to what would become a successful formula for Amicus, with many other anthology films following in the decade to come.


Though synonymous with the portmanteau film, Amicus were also responsible for making many a conventional horror film and it must be said, most are lacking the punch of their anthology counterparts, and this is certainly the case with Freddie Francis’ 1965 effort, THE SKULL, which has just been released on Region 1 DVD by Legend Films.

THE SKULL—based on the novel by PSYCHO author Robert Bloch—concerns one Christopher Maitland, collector of all things sinister and macabre who, through an unscrupulous dealer, is offered the skull of the Marquis de Sade. Though declining a potential purchase, Maitland becomes obsessed with infamous Frenchman’s former brain vessel and it’s not long before he is becoming consumed by it, despite being warned by its previous owner, Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee). Phillips had been overcome by the skull’s otherworldly power but managed to escape its hold after realising evil spirits were harnessing its energy on the first two nights of each new moon. But is it too late for Maitland? Will he manage to resist the heinous artefact once and for all, or will he—like many others before him—succumb to it completely?

So begins THE SKULL, which starts promisingly enough but is soon diluted into a whole that is ultimately unsatisfying. Watching the film, one cannot help but think the film would have worked so much better as a component of one of Amicus’ anthology films, rather than a full length feature. Even though it clocks in at a brisk 83 minutes, the film feels very protracted and padded, with the writers merely going through the motions to sustain a feature running time.

If you can overcome any initial disappointment—and let’s face it, some of Amicus’ other forays into horror are a high benchmark for comparison—there’s still plenty to enjoy and admire. Cushing is wonderful and Christopher Lee adds plenty of prestige to a role that is little more than a cameo. Though Francis’ direction is a little more languid than it is at best—and again this adds yet more weight to my argument—he certainly gets the most out of his cinematographer, John Wilcox, who manages to achieve some truly remarkable and visually arresting compositions. The interior of Maitland’s home, particularly his mauve hallway, and a set-piece involving a death and some stained glass serves as a glimpse to the future world of Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA, a film that would be made some eleven years later.

Legend Films has done a stellar job of creating a pleasing transfer for THE SKULL’s worldwide premiere outing on DVD. The film is framed in anamorphic widescreen, preserving the original 2.35:1 Techniscope ratio. The image is very solid, though there is some grain evident in darker scenes. The films mono soundtrack is also solid and the package comes complete with the film’s original theatrical trailer.


Gripes aside, THE SKULL is a pleasing enough addition to the British horror canon but should be judged on its own merits, rather being compared to the genre’s best. This is the first of the discs from a catalogue of titles Legend Films has licenced from Paramount Pictures and it must be said that its presentation bodes well for the rest of them.

(Paul Alaoui)


Papaya, Love Goddess of the Cannibals

Papaya, Love Goddess of the Cannibals (Joe D’Amato, 1978)

aka Papaya dei Caraibi / Caribbean Papaya

Industrialist Vincent (Maurice Poli, RABID DOGS), in the Caribbean to erect a power plant, runs into reporter Sarah (Sirpa Lane, THE BEAST) at a cockfight. Their hotel tryst is interrupted by the discovery of the charred body of one of Vincent’s associates left for them to find in his hotel room. Vincent and Sarah decide to get away for a couple days and explore the area where the plant is supposed to be built. They pick up sultry Papaya (Melissa Chimenti, REVELATIONS OF A PSYCHIATRIST) who, unbeknownst to them, was the lover of the dead man (we, of course, are privy to this thanks to the opening Stelvio Cipriani-scored bump-and-grind session capped off by the sort of mutilation one comes across often in cannibal-themed films) who asks them to take her to her village where the “Feast of the Round Stone” is supposed to take place.

They spy her again in the midst of a parade and surmise that she wishes them to follow her to the secret location of the ceremony (which they do despite revealing to us that the village they are in is populated by those who had to leave the site of the future power plant). Vincent and Sarah are given a hallucinogenic drink (director/cinematographer D’Amato catches their reflections in the red liquid as they raise it to their mouths) and participate in the ceremony which includes the gutting of two already (thankfully) dead pigs, followed by the subsequent gutting of a white male.

The ceremony then segues into what has been described elsewhere as the “disco blood orgy” and, having seen it, there really is no other way to describe it; Cipriani’s score is disco as are the not-particularly-tribal gyrations (the only thing missing is a mirrorball). Vincent and Sarah wake up to the bedside manner of Papaya who even bathes them. While Papaya makes love to Vincent, Sarah is abducted by the other islanders (whose numbers include the police) who are much more strategically organised than Vincent and Sarah (and the audience) had realised. Sarah escapes but is unable to convince Vincent that Papaya has similar plans for him as she did for her previous lover.

With PAPAYA, D’Amato provides an interesting twist on not only the voodoo/cannibal genre in general but also his own Caribbean films. Although both opposing sides in the film make the tradition versus progress argument, the white characters are slaves to their primal desires and the natives are well organised like an action committee that one wonders how much of the Feast of the Round Stone is tradition and how much of it is for the benefit of their exotica-seeking targets. As such, it plays more like a thriller than D’Amato’s other voodoo-flavoured erotica. While there is copious nudity, the sex scenes linger only long enough to spice up the scenario and the cannibal element is even more peripheral (seeming like a concession to make it saleable as both erotica and as an Italian cannibal film). D’Amato’s style as cinematographer in conjunction with editor Vincenzo Tomassi–who was just as much a D’Amato regular as he was a collaborator with Fulci–provide us with the type of dynamically-edited sex scenes regular viewers of D’Amato’s films are familiar with from his BLACK EMANUELLE films.

Severin’s DVD seems to be the first time the English language version of PAPAYA (bearing the title CARIBBEAN PAPAYA) has been available (legitimate or grey market); even the scarce English dub of D’Amato’s PORNO ESOTIC LOVE scored a Greek tape release. The usual suspects of English dubbing are here: Lane is dubbed by Carolyn de Fonseca and Poli by Ted Rusoff (who was still dubbing lead roles as recently as Bruno Mattei’s DV movies). The previous DVD from X-Rated Kult Video presented the film in with German audio only and lacked the title sequence (Video Search of Miami’s tape/DVD-R release added English subtitles to the German version). The English titles seem to have been overlayed a few minutes too late. After two minutes of Chimenti sunning herself on the sand to Cipriani’s score, as soon as the title card appears the score fades and the rest of the credits appear over the first scene. Since the titles sequence itself runs 2 minutes, I’m led to believe that the titles were meant to be overlayed at the start of the film.

The anamorphic 1.78:1 image probably looks as good as it can as the quality seems to vary depending on the likely amount of control D’Amato as cinematographer had on the lighting (i.e., the Italian soundstage interiors and sunny Caribbean exteriors look sharp and colourful but grain pops up as soon as the camera pans into the shadows cast by the palm trees). The back cover has a Dolby Surround logo and a diagram suggesting 2.1 audio but the audio reads as 2.0 audio. Other reviews refer to it as mono audio but the reviewers might have missed those details on the cover (I didn’t really notice much directional effects but the audio is full-bodied). The only extra is a theatrical trailer.

(Eric Cotenas)


The Deadly Bees

The Deadly Bees (Freddie Francis, 1967)

After collapsing with exhaustion during a music promo shoot, comely pop star Vicki Robbins (the gorgeous Suzanna Leigh) is advised by her doctor to take time out to relax, recommending she spend some recovery time on the secluded Seagull Island, with his friend, Ralph Hargrove (Guy Doleman), a local beekeeper. Arriving on the island, Vicki soon settles in and it isn’t long before she strikes up a friendship with another beekeeper, H.W. Manfred (Frank Finlay) whose calm demeanour is the antithesis of that of the uptight and edgy Hargrove, who spends much of his time verbally sparring with his overbearing Wife, Mary (Catherine Finn). However, the serenity of Vicki’s break is suddenly superseded by anarchy when a swarm of genetically-enhanced bees begin to claim victims; the first of which is Mary’s beloved pet dog; a nosey pooch with “he’ll be the first” written all over him, and it’s not long before the insane insects are stalking human prey…

Directed by Genre veteran Freddie Francis, written by Robert Bloch and hailing from Britain’s “studio that dripped blood”, Amicus Productions (the three of which had previously collaborated on THE SKULL and the excellent portmanteau flick TORTURE GARDEN), THE DEADLY BEES certainly has a pedigree of what would be considered by most genre fans to be sterling credentials, and the former cinematographer certainly orchestrates some nice visuals, fully utilising the secluded island for all its cinematic worth. However, the film suffers from poor writing and characterisation, and it really doesn’t take the brain of Britain to deduce where its surprises are coming from. That said, most genre fans don’t watch horror films for heartfelt performances and Dylan Thomasesque prose; at the end of the day it’s all about the set-pieces, and it is here that the film falls down further. Considering the premise plants the film firmly into the “creature feature” subgenre, one would expect an emphasis on the fear and dread that said creatures create. What we witness is something more akin to comedy than that of horror, with poorly superimposed bees hovering over the surface of the print. The bees were clearly added in post production, and Francis and co made no effort to marry the footage of the actors with the fake foes.

For all its bad points, THE DEADLY BEES remains eminently watchable, probably because it ventures straight into the middle of “so bad it’s actually rather good” territory. Once you come to terms with the fact that the film cannot be read as a serious attempt at fright filmmaking, there’s a lot of fun to be had from its woefully misconceived elements, not least from the hilarity that the bees inspire. With all said and done, most genre fans will want to revisit Francis’ film as it is a thoroughly enjoyable piece, even if it isn’t for the reasons that its makers intended.

The DVD itself is excellent and represents another in a line of releases issued by Legend Films in a licencing deal with Paramount Pictures (which also includes THE SKULL). The film is presented in its original ratio: 1.85:1 and is enhanced for widescreen televisions. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting great things from this disc, as it was the first of Legend’s releases that I viewed upscaled to 1080p on my 46″ TV, but I can categorically state that the image is excellent throughout. Though lacking the depth of field found on HD releases, this standard definition disc does an amazing job, with detail consistently sharp throughout. The close-ups on actors’ faces are marvellous, revealing a level of detail that is exemplary. The colour palette is a little muted, though this is to be expected of a film shot in the sixties and is not a fault of the DVD transfer. The original mono soundtrack is served well by the disc, with dialogue, sound effects and music score clear throughout.

While THE DEADLY BEES falls massively short of ‘horror classic’ status, it’s camp enough to sustain multiple viewings and probably best seen with a bunch of like-minded folk and plenty of beer. The disc itself is another fine example of Legend Film’s commitment providing the highest quality transfers for their catalogue releases. If you’re a fan of the film or goofy sixties’ kitsch, buying this disc is a definite no-brainer.               (Paul Alaoui)

THE DEADLY BEES is sold exclusively through Best Buy’s website and is unattainable to those outside the US. It is recommended that those looking to purchase the disc should keep an eye on eBay and Amazon Marketplace.

Quadrophenia heading to Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion this August

Franc Roddam’s perennial cult classic QUADROPHENIA will be issued on Blu-ray in the US this August by the Criterion Collection. Based on the concept album by the Who, QUADROPHENIA stars Phil Daniels as Jimmy, a disaffected youth who embraces Mod culture in 1960s Britain. The film co-stars Sting, Ray Winstone, Toyah Wilcox and Leslie Ash.

Made in 1979, QUADROPHENIA marked the second of three films commissioned by The Who Films, following the documentary THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT from the same year and prison drama MCVICAR in 1980. Of all the films with which the band was involved (also including Ken Russell’s TOMMY), it’s safe to say that QUADROPHENIA is probably the most popular and is director Roddam’s best-known film (he would go on to make THE BRIDE and K2).

The specs for Criterion’s disc have appeared on

  • New high-definition digital restoration of the uncut version
  • Original 2.0 stereo soundtrack as well as an all-new 5.1 surround mix, supervised by the Who and presented in DTS-HD Master Audio
  • New audio commentary featuring director Franc Roddam and director of photography Brian Tufano
  • New interview with Bill Curbishley, the film’s co-producer and the Who’s co-manager
  • New interview with the Who’s sound engineer, Bob Pridden, discussing the new mix, featuring a restoration demonstration
  • On-set and archival footage
  • Behind-the-scenes photographs

  • A booklet featuring an essay by critic Nick James, a reprinted personal history by original mod Irish Jack, and Pete Townshend’s liner notes from the album

Bloodbath at the House of Death

Bloodbath at the House of Death (Ray Cameron, 1984)

Eight years after a night of multiple murders, in which all 18 occupants of an isolated business man’s retreat – and girls summer camp – are brutally dispatched in a variety of inventive ways, Dr. Lukas Mandeville (Kenny Everett) and his comely assistant Dr. Barbara Coyle (Pamela Stephenson) assemble a group of paranormal investigators at the ‘House of Death’ in the hope of finding the truth behind the mysterious goings on that have become the stuff of local legend.

Ably assisted by a motley crew of well known faces from British TV, including Gareth Hunt (‘The New Avengers’) and Don Warrington (‘Rising Damp’) camping it up and sending out all manner of homoerotic signals to each other, Dr Mandeville’s team set up base in the house and plan their approach to the investigation over a night time dinner in the cobweb strewn kitchen, feasting on the sole piece of food they could find in the house – a giant meat pie that glows in the dark…

Scripted by TV comedy writer extraordinaire Barry Cryer, who also wrote for Kenny Everett’s TV shows and video specials, the perceived aim of the game was to take a leaf out of the Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker book of filmic comedy, with the jokes and sight gags flying fast and furious throughout the films 90 minute running time. But as is usually the norm with these kinds of films, there’s a lot of humour that falls flat on its face eliciting groans and cringes rather than guffaws of laughter. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy and it’s an especially entertaining treat to see Vincent Price having a whale of a time as The Sinster Man. In fact, the best laughs of the entire film are to be had when Vincent’s onscreen, superb stuff and almost worth the price of admission alone.

Though the script’s a bit of a let down and a lot of the gags don’t work, the film is really well made on the whole, and at times has the look and feel of an Amicus or Hammer film. Slow tracking shots through the cobwebbed house look really atmospheric and all credit must go to the cinematographers Brian West and Dusty Miller whose previous work was on the immensely successful TV shows ‘The Professionals’ and ‘The Sweeney’.

Nucleus Films has pulled out all the stops in terms of finding the best elements for their DVD release and has utilised the vault negatives to create an absolutely pristine 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) transfer. The original mono soundtrack is included plus an all-new 5.1 digital surround mix. A bumper selection of extra features comes with the package too, with a couple of trailers – English and US versions – an image gallery, featuring behind the scenes stills, a pdf of the full shooting script and a very informative 20 minute featurette entitled ‘Running The Bloodbath’

Consisting mainly of recent interview footage of executive producers Stuart Donaldson and Laurence Myers, peppered with vintage footage of Kenny Everett on a promotional junket for the film’s Australian release, this short but welcome feature covers all the bases as regards the behind the scenes goings on and the limitations of shooting on such a small budget. Everett is pretty forthcoming when asked about the disastrous British theatrical run, openly admitting it was but taking it all in his stride whilst doing so, not letting the chance to send the whole situation up slip by. All in all you come away with a deeper sense of appreciation for the film after hearing about the effort that went into producing it on such a shoestring and it’s also great to see that none of the guys interviewed seem to really regret making a film that bombed so hard at the box office on it’s initial release, they’re just so pleased to have made a movie, especially one that has Vincent Price in it!

The Nucleus release is sure to become a big seller since the films army of adoring fans have been screaming for a DVD release for years, but the film’s camp and kitsch sensibility will also endear it to the majority of cult fans. All in all, Nucleus has pulled out all the stops to create a stellar package for this minor cult favourite.

(Jonny Redman)


More Hammer Horror Bowing on Blu-ray This Autumn from Studiocanal

Studiocanal is set to unleash more Hammer goodness in the UK this autumn when it issues RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK as a Blu-ray + DVD combo. Considered one of the British studio’s most enduring classics, RASPUTIN stars Hammer stalwart Christopher Lee as the Russian mystic and was directed by Don Sharp (THE VIOLENT ENEMY). Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Suzan Farmer and Joss Ackland co-star.

RASPUTIN will street on 10th September along THE MUMMY’S SHROUD which will also be released as a combo pack. Directed by John Gilling (THE REPTILE, PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES), THE MUMMY’S SHROUD was the third of four Egyptology horrors from Hammer, following THE MUMMY and CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB, and followed by BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB. The film stars André Morell, David Buck and John Phillips.

News source:

Image source: Hammer Films

La Polizia ha le mani legate

La Polizia ha le mani legate (Luciano Ercoli, 1975)

aka Killer Cop

Massimo Dallamano’s superlative cop thriller WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? (1974) was the film that first made a star out of Claudio Cassinelli, one of the most recognizable and dependable Italian genre stars of the 1970s and 80s. Cassinelli’s next crime thriller was KILLER COP, which is regrettably a much less appreciated film. Cassinelli stars as Commissioner Matteo Rolandi, a narcotics cop who is tailing an Algerian drug runner as part of a routine surveillance job. Rolandi follows the man to a hotel, where a big international conference is currently being held. To his horror, Rolandi witnesses the hotel being bombed. Several of the important international diplomats who were present at the hotel are killed as a result of the bombing, which leads to some strong political pressure being applied to the case and finding the guilty party an urgent priority. The job of investigating judge is assigned to Armando Di Federico (Arthur Kennedy), a procurator who is widely known for his great honesty and sense of justice.

The only notable clue in the case is the amateurish, short-sighted bomber (Bruno Zanin) who managed to lose his glasses while struggling to escape after planting the bomb. Rolandi’s partner, Balsamo (Franco Fabrizi), happens across the nervous, myopic man but manages to let him escape. This makes Balsamo an important witness since he is the only one who knows what the bomber looks like. Unfortunately, he is murdered by a ruthless assassin (Giovanni Cianfriglia) shortly afterwards– as is everyone else with any kind of connection to the case. With a strong personal involvement, Rolandi starts doing some unauthorized investigating of his own and gradually closes in on a conspiracy that extends to the highest levels of politics. With everyone else dropping like flies, Rolandi’s only hope is to track down the increasingly paranoid bomber, but he must work quickly if he is to find him before the assassin does…

Throughout his rather short career, director Luciano Ercoli only made eight films, of which the best known are his three gialli FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION (1970), DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS (1971) and DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT (1972), all starring his sexy, Spanish actress wife, Susan Scott (aka Nieves Navarro). Ercoli’s next film, THE MAGNIFICENT DARE DEVIL (1973), marked his first brush with the then increasingly popular crime thriller genre (though Ercoli combined both giallo and crime movie elements) but, unfortunately, it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable film. KILLER COP was Ercoli’s second crime thriller, and a vast improvement on the director’s previous entry into the genre. Unfortunately, the KILLER COP title is highly inappropriate, alluding to a type of film that this is most certainly not. This is not a brutal Italo-cop thriller in the DIRTY HARRY vein, as it the action scenes are virtually non-existent; we only get the assassinations, an explosion and a climatic face-off with the assassin. Instead, this is a more character-driven political thriller; pitting a lowly cop against corrupt government forces à la Steno’s EXECUTION SQUAD (1972). The Italian title, LA POLIZA HA LE MANI LEGATE (which translates to ‘The police have their hands tied’), is far better at conveying the film’s themes.

If KILLER COP is more political and lower on action than your average Maurizio Merli flick, it still makes for a solid thriller and this is thanks largely to the two lead characters, both of whom are interesting, well-written and fleshed out. For example, Commissioner Rolandi is impressively developed, not only as a smart, dedicated cop but also as a human being. We get a relatively good look into his private life; including his peculiar wake-up routine, his friendship with his partner, not to mention his reading habits, which includes an almost obsessive fascination with ‘Moby Dick’. Clearly relishing the opportunity to play such a well-written character, Claudio Cassinelli gives everything here – delivering a terrific portrayal of the determined cop, thus making him an extremely likeable lead.

We are also treated to an excellent performance from Arthur Kennedy as the honest, mint-chewing procurator. A former A-list Hollywood actor with no less than five Oscar nominations behind him, Kennedy was just one of many faded Hollywood stars who went to Italy to find a steady flow of work in film. While some of these former stars would ham it up because they seemed to think Italian B movies were beneath them, Kennedy actually turned in some quality performances in his Italian films, and his enjoyable performance as the likable, quirky judge ranks among his finest European work – alongside his outstanding part as the diabolical police inspector in Jorge Grau’s excellent zombie film THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974).

Furthermore, Cassinelli and Kennedy also interact very well with each other, and it is intriguing to see that even the characters they play are good men trying to solve the case, circumstances have them working against each other instead of together. With well-developed characters that project an emotive quality to which the audience can relate, KILLER COP quickly becomes an engaging and very exciting little thriller with a compelling storyline and several good plot twists. That said, the plot–like many Italian political thrillers of the time—is more convoluted and complicated than it needs to be, and somewhat hampering the film in doing so.

Technical credits are top-notch, however, with excellent production values, good locations and stylish cinematography by Marcello Gatti. Another great asset is the musical score by Stelvio Cipriani, even though he is, for all intents and purposes, recycling cues from WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? with some slight alterations here and there. But there are more musical treats than just the main theme. Most notably, Commissioner Rolandi’s girlfriend, Papaya, has her own theme – an upbeat, jazzy tune simply called ‘Papaya’, which is an excellent, catchy piece. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming this tune to yourself for days afterwards.

Much credit for the film’s success must also be attributed to the first-rate supporting cast which is made up of numerous dependable Italian actors. Franco Fabrizi (a regular face in 1970s cop thrillers) is both likeable and charming as Cassinelli’s partner; a man more fond of using his brain than his gun; ubiquitous stuntman/actor Giovanni Cianfriglia is chillingly effective as the brutal, stone-faced assassin; and Bruno Zanin really holds his own as the rather pathetic, short-sighted bomber. Mention must also go to lovable supporting players such as the bespectacled, nerdy-looking Francesco D’Adda, here enjoying a bigger role than usual as Kennedy’s assistant; Franco Moraldi as the chief of police; and Elio Jotta–best remembered for his sinister turn as Barbara Steele’s husband in Riccardo Freda’s THE GHOST (1963)–as a shady minister.

The only substantial female role is that of Rolandi’s girlfriend, Papaya; played by the attractive Sara Sperati. Sperati started her career in 1973 as the July playmate in Italian men’s magazine Playmen, before graduating to film roles, following KILLER COP with MARK THE NARC (1975) and roles in some Nazisploitation flicks. She ought to have gone on to a long, fruitful career in Italian genre cinema but, unfortunately, Sperati completely dropped out of sight in 1976 after only seven film appearances, which is a great shame considering what an appealing and characteristic screen presence she had. In this film, Sperati is particularly charming and sexy – her short hair giving her a look that is different from that of her subsequent films.

The English fandub uses the Italian Cecchi Gori DVD (which was without English options) as the image source; combining it with an English audio track from a Swedish VHS release. The final result is highly satisfying; with the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer from the Italian disc looking splendid. Picture is sharp and clear with solid colours. Some very mild grain and a couple of scratches and dirt show up on occasion but on the whole the transfer looks very good. The English audio has been synced up perfectly with the image and sounds very clear and nice and is without any hiss or background noise. The English dub track also has the advantage of featuring Arthur Kennedy’s own voice, which is a great plus, and the dubbing of the Italian actors is quite more than adequate. My only gripe with the fandub stems from the fact that the print is taken from an Italian source and there are no translations given for the native text that appears during the film. This includes some newspaper headlines, a message the bomber scribes to the police, some notes exchanged between two characters in a bugged room, and the coda at the end of the film, all highly annoying as these examples are important to the plot.

While not in the Top Ten Euro crime films, KILLER COP is an excellent and engaging thriller that benefits tremendously from its excellent cast and well-developed characters. It’s too bad that Luciano Ercoli never made another cop thriller because this is one of the finest films he made in a career that was all too short. The wonderful English fandub is a joy to behold and without doubt the best way to appreciate this underrated gem. Very highly recommended.

(Johan Melle)

Hercules In The Haunted World

Hercules In The Haunted World (Mario Bava, 1961)


After thwarting an assassination attempt on his life and that of his best friend, Theseus, Hercules returns to Ecalia. Upon his arrival to see his beloved, Deianira, Hercules learns that Uriteis, the king of Ecalia has died under mysterious circumstances. Deianira, the king’s daughter, has suddenly taken a strange illness, rendering her incapable of ascending to the throne. Her uncle, Lyco, has taken over in her place as a great evil descends upon the city. Hercules learns the only way to cure Deianira is to traverse the horrors of Hades and retrieve a magical stone. But first, to be able to enter and leave the Land of the Dead alive, a Golden Apple, a treasure of the evil God Pluto in the marshes of Hesperides must be obtained. Meanwhile, the vile Lyco plans to sacrifice Deianira to Pluto during an eclipse; drinking her blood and gaining immortality in the process, and plunging Ecalia into eternal darkness forever.

An exquisitely stylish and visually impressive film from Mario Bava–who is like a little kid in a candy store with his new toy: Technicolor film stock–this is hands down, one of the most gorgeous 81 minutes of film you are ever likely to see; a macabre painting brought lovingly to life by Mario Bava’s gleefully inventive approach to the material. Anyone familiar with his techniques showcased in such films as THE MASK OF SATAN (1960) or BLACK SABBATH (1963) will know what to expect here, as Bava’s trademark style is present in abundance. With what was reportedly a minuscule budget compared to that usually afforded these films, Bava of course, used his ingenuity to cover up budgetary shortcomings, making use of limited sets by simply rearranging or combining existing sets to make them appear different. Also, the use of mirrors is employed to give the illusion you are seeing more than what is actually there and painted backdrops being utilised to great effect, complimenting the nightmarish world of Hades. This also lends the proceedings a cadaverously opulent, operatic feel. Bava also goes the full mile by incorporating opaque colours and gels and milky black shadows to drive home his fantastic vision.

Not content with just the films direction, Bava also handles the cinematography as well as the effects work which in itself saved some valuable production money. What is immediately noticeable upon seeing this film is that Bava creates some interesting ways to shoot action sequences. Numerous shots display some wonderfully varied angles within which the action takes place. Bava utilizes wide shots from afar to allow the viewer to see the scope of the scene at hand. There are also some striking composite shots during the lengthy Hades sequence including one in which Hercules and Theseus are atop a massive precipice looking down into an enormous sea of flame. Whereas directors both before and after Bava’s entry were content with “playing it safe” when it came to shooting the action scenes. This is taking nothing away from the number of true artisans that laboured away in the genre, it’s just refreshing to see it done with as much vigour and love for creating something special. Bava not only loved movies, but loved making them, too.

Reg Park was a former Mr. Universe, having won the title in 1951, 1958 and 1965 and had even attained second place against Steve Reeves in 1950. Park didn’t partake in Italian cinema for the fame but for a stepping stone for his future business ventures in body building and fitness. He starred in five films in the genre with the remaining four being HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961), HERCULES, PRISONER OF EVIL (1964), MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON’S MINES (1964) and HERCULES THE AVENGER (1965). Each of Park’s torch and toga movies diminished wildly in quality, with HERCULES, PRISONER OF EVIL (1964) being an especially limp and lazy effort from Antonio Margheriti; one that returned to the horror elements that made Bava’s movie so enduring. One of the most famous men inspired by Park is none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger who held great reverence for Park, plastering his walls with posters and articles about the distinguished British muscleman. Reg Park would die on 22nd November 2007 after losing his battle with skin cancer.

Christopher Lee is an odd but easily gratifying choice to play the lead villain, Lyco. What is disappointing here and really the only negative I can levy at the film is that Lee did not dub his own voice. So much more depth of character and malice would have been evoked had Lee dubbed his dialogue in his patented deep, commanding tone. Lee was a great admirer of Bava and I’m sure was delighted at the chance of working with the grand old man of Euro horror. Lee was, of course, famous for his portrayal as Dracula in the Hammer films series and whether the role was advantageous or detrimental to his career is a matter of opinion, though vampire lore does seep its way into the narrative of HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD. Although Lyco bears no fangs, he intends to drink the blood of Deianira “when the dragon devours the moon” gaining him eternal life and transforming Deianira into the undead. While it’s not shown on screen, Lyco kills a beautiful woman in vampiric fashion; her blood running out onto the marble floor and Lyco’s visage suddenly appearing in the pool of plasma.

The set design is stupendous and Bava clearly shows his knack for making so little appear to be so much more. Other than a clunky rock monster, the effects are incredibly imaginative and innovative with what little the director had to work with. The gloriously spooky score by composer Armando Trovajoli is suitably fantastical and even includes a nicely bombastic Hercules Theme. This version of the film utilizes the original HERCULES IN THE CENTER OF THE EARTH moniker. Bava’s sole directorial effort in the fusto arena would be distributed in America by the Woolner Brothers as HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD, re-edited and cut, eliminating some important exposition. The Woolner Brothers version was released to VHS back in the late 80s from Rhino with terrible sound quality. However, the anamorphic DVD from Fantoma is a glorious presentation with the 2:35:1 framing allowing even more appreciation of Bava’s visionary and visual accomplishment. Colours are strong and the many blues and reds jump off the screen, complimenting the exemplary mise en scene of the world Bava has created. Liner notes by Tim Lucas are provided but a commentary from the man would have been the icing on the cake though nonetheless, is a welcome extra. The US trailer–under the HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD title–is on hand as is a photo gallery of stills and poster artwork. English and Italian language soundtracks are available options as well as English subtitles, which give a slightly different interpretation of the storyline. The mono sound quality is also strong throughout.

Enough cannot be said about Mario Bava’s commendable journey into this misunderstood genre. An auspicious start for Bava entering the world of colour photography; his stamp hovers and engulfs every frame of this picture. One of the finest achievements of Bava’s distinguished career and easily one of the best and best-loved muscleman movies to ever come out of the fabled Cinecitta Studios of Italy.

(Brian Bankston)


Cinema X Talks to Oswalt Kolle

Cinema X Talks to Oswalt Kolle

This interview was first published in Cinema X vol.1 no9 circa 1968. It is reproduced here as published.


An Area-Winston production for S.F. Film Distribution release

Camera: Werner Lenz

Music: Johannes Rediske

Producer: Karin Wecker-Jacobsen

Director: F.J. Gottlieb

Executive Producer: Oswalt Kolle

Technical consultants: Prof. Dr. Hans Giese, Institute of Sexology, Hamburg University; Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hochheimer, Institute of Pedagogic Psychology

Berlin Cast:

Pauline: Biggie Freyer

Thomas: Wilfried Gossler

Claudia: Katarina Haertei

Martin: Regis Vallee

Oswalt Kolle is a good-looking German journalist. With a good-looking bank account. He is, at last count, a multi-millionaire. At 39. Because of… sex! About a year ago, Kolle shifted his newspaper, magazine and book love-life guidance to the cinema. He joined the non-stop sex-eduation genre of films currently being ground out in Germany with all the speed, repetition and uniformity of the Volkswagen.

Such films have long been a tradition in the Teuton cinema. Going right back, for example, to a feature-length look at venereal disease called LET THERE BE LIGHT soon after the 14-18 holocaust. Apparently, it is time for more light to be shed in the bedroom. And handsome Kolle — married with three children; one daughter and two sons — is succeeding where HELGA trod so recently and, to mix metaphors, as hamfistedly. We have already previewed Kolle’s THE WONDER OF LOVE colour film; the inevitable big-budget sequel born out of the triumphant success of this, his first entry into the cinema. Following the first public unveiling of his screen debut in London, Oswalt Kolle discussed certain aspects of his work with us.

Cinema X: What do your films say that HELGA and the others have not already discussed — indeed rammed down our throats like so much statistical propaganda?

Kolle: My films derive from a wholly different standpoint from HELGA and the other productions. They are purely and simply films of sex-education; strictly biological works. I deal with love more than sex. Therefore I look upon my works as being sociological.

Cinema X: The end result seems a hairsbreadth’s difference. Your main message, your moral if you like, is not exactly new and is concerned with both sex and love.

Kolle: Yes, to say that tenderness is essential in love and in love-making may not be new. But I do not cloud this message with statistics and diagrams of the human body and all its organs. I deal with people, with human problems based on the various letters I receive in reply to my books and articles. And I feel my films are making this message more readily understood. By sheer example.

Cinema X: Have you proof of such success?

Kolle: In my letters from the public; I get about 500 a week. They come from all sorts of people. Couples both young and old. Single people too. They all voice their sympathy with my work, their unqualified approval of my articles and now my films — and many, many, write to say how much they have learned, and by learning changed their love-lives… Furthermore, I have seen couples leaving my films and saying to each other: « We should try and behave like that… ». That alone, for me, is reason enough to make these films.

Cinema X: And to make so much money out of them? Obviously education in sex and love is a boon to mankind, but the strictly commercial aspects of these films — yours in particular — the use of such attractive players and so on — surely some couples somewhere with problems of this nature are fat, old, ugly; and the way in which such huge profitable returns are brought in from the initial promise of solving other people’s miseries… well it seems abhorrent to us.

Kolle: I understand your feelings. But, really, you cannot blame me for making money… That is the world today, believe me. If these films — mine or anyone else’s — were shown completely free of charge to the general public, do you think they would come? Of course not! That is not my fault. That is not theirs. That is simply how the world reacts these days. Anything free is immediately distrusted. However, please let me add, that of course, we do make all possible arrangements in all countries for my films to be shown freely to schools, youth groups and so on — as and when requested by leaders.

Cinema X: How did you start in this sphere of journalism?

Kolle: My father is a Professor of Psychiatry in Munich. Therefore I have always taken a keen interest in all areas of psychology, medicine and sexual behaviour. I also believe in passing on to the public the results of such scientific research. Naturally, newspapers and magazines were the best medium for such publicity. Hence my articles. Then three books. Then Area Productions asked to film my latest, indeed my most successful survey, THE WONDER OF LOVE… under my general supervision.

Cinema X: What was the attitude of the censor in Europe?

Kolle: Mixed: To say the least… At home, the West German Film Censorship Board have a good reputation for passing sexually explicit features. Notable examples being the famous Swedish films of recent years: Bergman’s The Silence and Sjoman’s I AM CURIOUS – YELLOW. Such deliberations as proved necessary, I gathered, did not take very long. But they spent nine full hours deciding the fate of my first film! Finally they passed it. Completely uncut. But for over 18-years-olds.

France and Italy, however, although allowing HELGA and its sequel to be screened, banned my film out of hand. The Dutch, being as free as the Scandinavians these days, classified it as being « especially outstanding » — and excerpts were shown on TV, as in Germany. The Swiss seemed to have different rules and therefore differing decisions in various regions.

Cinema X: And Britain?

Kolle: We had a slight fight here. No, rather discussions, with your Censor before it was passed with a few slight amendments.

Cinema X: What of the film’s success?

Kolle: Greater than I ever anticipated. In Germany alone no fewer than five million people saw that first film inside four months! Now it has been seen in 19 countries.

Cinema X: Hence the sequel. And, no doubt, more films to come?

Kolle: Definitely. I am currently engaged on two more productions now. In Rome. They are to be called: YOUR WIFE, THE UNKNOWN and BY EXAMPLE: ADULTERY. As before. I tell what I have to tell. Consequently ail the other sex-education films are now following me…

Cinema X: Meanwhile your books sell better than ever, I suppose.

Kolle: Yes indeed. And we have just started a new departure — LP discs featuring selections from the books. The film medium is still the most powerful force in this area of guidance, I think.

Cinema X: Would you now outline THE WONDER OF LOVE (No. 1) for

our readers?

Kolle: Certainly. My subject is sexuality in marriage. The film was made in collaboration with several well known German doctors — two of whom take part in a short discussion with me at the beginning of the feature. We deal with typical sexual problems in a very young marriage and another which is seven years old. In this way we also delve into the background of our society in which sexuality is taboo and we suggest methods of solving marital crises caused by such sexual maladjustments.

In the case of the young couple, the wife, Pauline, finally admits to her husband, Thomas, that his love-making arouses no satisfaction for her. Like any man, I suppose, Thomas is shocked, very angry at this declaration. Gradually, however, they find the courage to discuss their problem together, searching for a way to help one another in their sexual unity. Once worries are brought out into the open like this, two people can begin to increase the joy of their marital relationship. Claudia and Martin are slightly older; married for seven years with two children. Their problem is, perhaps, the oldest of all: familiarity breeding something akin to contempt… He is continually busy, carving a career for himself and thereby a future for his family. But forgetting his wife sexually. She, therefore is left alone with no-one to answer her longings and her desires until one day out of sheer frustration she almost gives herself to another man. This shocks Claudia so much that she, too, finally brings matters into the open. Martin realises how close he has come to killing his marriage… and takes time for once to prove that he can still be a passionate and tender lover.