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The Best Films I Saw in 2017   Leave a comment

franc

2017 was a great year for film watching. I got to see a bunch of new movies in the theatre and at home. Seventy-three ‘new to me’ films made it onto my list, ten of those in the theatre. Here are the top 20 films I saw this year. Well, 22. After I started this, I remembered two more. They’re not all new. In fact, here’s the breakdown.

2010s-9 films
2000s-2
1980s-2
1970s-7
1960s-1
1950s-1

These are in alphabetical order.

100 Bloody Acres (2012)

bloody-acres

100 Bloody Acres is a nifty Australian horror/comedy about a trio of friends stranded in the Australian countryside, who hitch a ride from the wrong guy. It has enough weird little eccentricities and twists to keep you engaged. I like Australian horror in general. I think it’s the accents. This is a gory one, but I was laughing all through it.

68 Kill (2017)

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A couple with the most dysfunctional relationship ever, rob a rich guy and then everything goes pear-shaped. Part After Hours, part Midnight Run, part every Tarantino, Rodriguez, Ritchie film ever made, 68 Kill moves fast. The breakneck pace, fun characters,and unexpected turns make it a terrific watch, and the sexual role rehearsal adds a nice twist. AnnaLynne McCord and Matthew Gray Gubler are excellent in the leads. A nice surprise.

And Soon the Darkness (1970)

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Two young British women, bicycling through the French countryside, become separated. It doesn’t go well. Is one friend lost or has she fallen victim to an unseen killer? Pamela Franklin, Michele Dotrice, and Sandor Elès star in this fun British thriller. I love these smaller British films. I’m happy I found this one.

Baby Driver (2017)

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What a fun movie! Ansel Elgort stars as a sad young guy with a tragic past who is forced by criminal boss Kevin Spacey to work as a getaway driver to pay off a debt. It’s a stylized sort of heist fantasy and the direction by Edgar Wright, cool stunt driving, and performances by Jon Hamm and Eiza González make it an edge-of-your-seat winner. I know people have a love/hate relationship with this one, but I enjoyed it.

 

Deadly Strangers (1976)

_Deadly_Strangers__(1974)

Hitchhiker, Hayley Mills gets a ride from Simon Ward. Pretty soon, a friendship with possible romantic undertones develops. As they motor along the M-5 to Prudenham-on-Twee or whatever, they have a row and get separated. Oh, there’s also a killer on the loose and Sterling Hayden! This is another terrific British thriller.

Deadpool (2016)

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A wisecracking mercenary finds out he’s terminally ill. He signs up for a treatment program which may be a bit off the grid. What’s great about this superhero film is that the superhero, Ryan Reynolds, is a funny, sharp, smartass who truly loves Morena Baccarin. I’m not sure who wouldn’t love her, but that’s not important right now. This and The Nice Guys are the two funniest films I’ve seen this year.

Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

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A child killer in a small Italian village brings police and a reporter from the big city. Everyone is a suspect. This is a terrific crime film that doesn’t belittle the villagers or the police. Really well done.

Free Fire (2017)

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Two groups meet in an abandoned warehouse in a town which may or may not be Boston. Oddly, since these folks are criminals, a fight breaks out. Since the deal they were doing involves a large number of firearms and it’s set in the 1970s, a major gunfight ensues. Ben Wheatley, who also directed the amazing Sightseers and High-Rise, actually choreographed this film in Minecraft, which I think is way cool. It seems like a simple plot line and it is. That simplicity allows Wheatley to develop the characters and enable them to smart off with impunity. I had a blast with this film and seeing it in the theatre with Wheatley introducing it and a gang of weirdo cinephiles in attendance made it even better.

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

Satanic hippies, led by the nasty Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, mess with some folks in a small town. To retaliate, a young boy doses their food with rabies. Yeah, not a great plan. The gang runs amok, killing and maiming the townsfolk and each other. I know this sounds less than stellar, but the film is actually pretty good. Chowdhury and friends can act. There’s character development and a score and everything. Seriously, check this one out.

The Last Shark (1981)

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This is a weird one. It’s an Italian Jaws knockoff set in the United States, during a windsurfing contest. “Close the beaches?” It’s kind of nutty how much this film rips off Jaws and Jaws 2, but the acting, by James Franciscus and Vic Morrow, makes up for it. This film is so much fun because of scenes like this.


“Ouch!”

Latitude Zero (1969)

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Joseph Cotten and Cesar Romero earned their house payments in this Japanese 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea kinda deal. Cotten is trying to solve problems and save the world and junk while Romero just wants to make his own griffins by cutting the wings off condors and sewing them onto lions in his weird-ass Dr. Mengele/Moreau lab. The fashion alone makes this film worth watching. Thanks, #DriveInMob !

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Just look at this guy!

Layer Cake (2004)

layer

A smart, experienced lieutenant (Daniel Craig) in a British criminal organization is forced into an impossible situation by his double-crossing boss. Will he be able to extricate himself and leave the business with his fortune and his health intact? Craig is excellent as are Kenneth Cranham, Colm Meaney, Sienna Miller, and Michael Gambon. This is a terrific entry in the London crime film category. Highly entertaining.

The Nice Guys (2016)

nice

Fast-paced, clever, and surprisingly warm, The Nice Guys pits Ryan Gosling, a grieving, mostly drunk, private detective and Russell Crowe, a thug-for-hire, against major players in government and the automotive industry. The two unlikely partners join forces to solve a few murders and redeem themselves. Angourie Rice, as Gosling’s daughter, is impressive. I hope to see her in a lot more. Also, Gosling and Crowe need to make about 600 more movies together.

Night of the Demon (1957)

Nightofthedemonposter

Niall MacGinnis, an occultist who doesn’t like scientists telling the world that he’s peddling bunk, battles Dana Andrews, who believes none of his scary monster crap. Jacques Tourneur directed this atmospheric and beautifully-shot film and it’s terrific. There are some great smoke effects, a scary soundtrack, and effective cinematography. Critics have argued about showing the monster vs implying the monster since 1957. While I love me some Cat People-type subtle effects, I also love this creature. It’s incredibly scary and the sound accompanying him is perfection. You should probably watch this right away.

Phantasm (1979)

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Phantasm is a legitimately frightening film. A metric shit ton of evil centers around a funeral parlor and the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) who works there. Terrific practical effects, a scary, heart-pounding score, and characters who aren’t stupid, make this horror film stand out. I enjoyed the hell out of this film. I can’t believe it took me so long to see it. Don Cascarelli made this for $300,000 and it looks like he spent 20 times that. So good.

Prevenge (2017)

prevenge

Alice Lowe wrote, directed, and starred in this black comedy about a very pregnant woman listening to the voice of her unborn baby, who tells her to kill. This film is full of sick, British humor and I loved it. Grief is a bitch.

Rolling Thunder (1977)

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William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones return from a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp to a world they don’t recognize. As they sink into an abyss of depression and loneliness, a brutal, senseless murder wakes them up and gives them purpose. Yay, revenge! Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould wrote this and the dialogue, though spare, works. The action scenes are well done too and the 95-minute running time seems to fly by. Rolling Thunder is great 70s grit.

Surveillance (2008)

surv

A violent highway killer strikes in a remote town. FBI agents Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman arrive at the police station to interrogate the witnesses. What unfolds is a Rashomon-like thriller that keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. Jennifer Lynch directed this fun little gem. Another nice surprise.

The Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975)

Mortesospettapost

Sergio Martino directs this crime thriller about an undercover police detective, the excellent Claudio Cassinelli, investigating the death of a prostitute. His search leads to a human trafficking ring involving a number of powerful people. I love police procedurals and the giallo addition makes it even more fun.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

3 bill

Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson are all fantastic in this surprisingly warm black comedy from the mind of writer/director Martin McDonagh. After seeing In Bruges (one of my favorite films of all time) and Seven Psychopaths, I couldn’t wait to see this. It was worth it. There’s so much going on in this film, I feel like I need to see it a few more times to do it justice. McDonagh is a huge talent. I look forward to seeing what he does next.

Turkey Shoot (1982)

turk

I have a thing for The Most Dangerous Game story and films with people hunts. This one is set in post-apocalyptic Australia and stars Steve Railsback and Olivia Hussey as prisoners in a concentration camp for social deviants. It has an evil prison warden, two kinky jet-setters, a score by Brian May, and a werewolf. Seriously. You owe it to yourself.

The Void (2017)

Void

The Astron-6 guys make funny horror films. I really liked this. I don’t love the ending, but directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski build the tension and characters so well during the first four-fifths, I don’t care. I liked The Editor more, but I’m always happy to see whatever weird films these guys make.

2018, here I come!

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31 Days of Horror: 2017   Leave a comment


Scary!

Here’s my list! I watched a bunch of stuff. 20 new films and 6 in the theatre. Huzzah!

  1. Kill Baby, Kill (1966) *+
  2. Black Sabbath (1963) *+
  3. Dracula (1931)
  4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  5. Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) *+
  6. Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) *+
  7. Theatre of Blood (1973)
  8. The Legend of Hell House (1973)+
  9. Ban the Sadist Videos (2005)+
  10. 100 Bloody Acres (2012)+
  11. And Soon the Darkness (1970)+
  12. Grabbers (2012)
  13. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)
  14. Friday the 13th: Part II (1981)&
  15. Friday the 13th: Part VII (1988)&+
  16. Suspiria (1977)*
  17. Inferno (1980)*+
  18. Psycho-Circus (1966)+
  19. Die Screaming Marianne (1971)+
  20. Surveillance (2008)+
  21. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  22. Cube²: Hypercube (2002)+
  23. The Asphyx (1972)+
  24. Frightmare (1974)+
  25. Night of the Demon (1957)+
  26. The Wicker Man (1973)
  27. Hell House LLC (2015)+
  28. What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)+
  29. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
  30. Hannibal (2001)
  31. The Old Dark House (1932)+
  32. The Haunting (1963)

    *watched in the theatre
    &watched outside in the woods with a machete-wielding guy running around
    +watched for the first time

Patrick Magee: Food? All Right?   7 comments

A Clockwork Orange

Perenially vexed and menacing with a gravelly voice that retained just a hint of his Irish roots, Patrick Magee played doctors, policemen, military officers, and the occasional psycho in films and television starting in the late 1950s. Though he worked most often on the British stage, Magee alternated theatrical roles with TV and film appearances, working with directors like Joseph Losey, Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stanley Kubrick.

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Kubrick films Magee and Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

Born in Armagh in Northern Ireland in 1922, Patrick George McGee, who changed his name to Magee, began performing Shakespeare and other classics in Ireland in the early 1950s. After coming to London for a series of Irish plays, he met Samuel Beckett and recorded some of Beckett’s plays for BBC Radio. Beckett and Harold Pinter, who Magee acted with in Ireland, remained close to him throughout his career and the two writers often requested Magee for pivotal roles in their plays and film adaptations. Beckett even wrote Krapp’s Last Tape with him in mind and said, while writing the play, Magee’s “voice was the one which I heard in my head.”

NPG x127341; Patrick Magee as Krapp in 'Krapp's Last Tape' by Ida Kar
These whale songs aren’t as calming as I had hoped.

After a handful of appearances in British television shows including Dial 999 and the BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Magee started working in small, British crime films like Concrete Jungle (1960), directed by Joseph Losey. Stanley Baker stars in the film about the brutal lives of small-time criminals both in and out of prison. Magee has a small, but memorable part as a sadistic warder.

baker-prison
Magee sizes up Baker.

Magee married another Armagh native, Belle Sherry about this time and later had twins, Mark and Caroline. Despite Magee’s bouts with alcoholism, the couple stayed married until his death in 1982.

His stoic, aristocratic manner often tinged with cruelty and/or wisdom worked well in his roles in Roger Corman’s The Young Racers and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13. In the modern gothic horror, Dementia 13, Magee is Dr. Caleb, a creepy physician who seems to live on the estate of the wacky Haloran clan during a series of grisly murders. Until the end of the film, we’re never sure whether Magee is good or evil, but he plays the part like he has a locked room in his house where he keeps his collection of femurs.

08-1
“That’s right, little mouse. Just one more step and you’re in a sandwich.”

Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death (1964) came next. Magee’s evil in this one. Then, in Bryan Forbes’ phenomenal Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), he’s a police detective tasked with finding a kidnapped child. In Zulu (1964) Cy Endfield’s vivid retelling of the massacre at Rorke’s Drift, he plays a military surgeon. Sensing a pattern here?

Patrick Magee Seance on a Wet Afternoon
“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV. I’m a detective? Oh. Nevermind.”

The wonderful Amicus film, The Skull, which, by the way, is awesome, has Magee as a police medical examiner and stars a couple nobodies named Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It also features a malicious floating skull, so you should probably run out and watch it right now.

theskull-still
The skull in question

In the 1965 film, Die, Monster, Die! Magee and Boris Karloff do Lovecraft and again, he plays a doctor. The film isn’t as good as the title, but it does involve radiation and large plants.

XUpGDoc
Not the plant in question

The skull I mentioned earlier belongs or belonged, depending how you look at it, to the Marquis de Sade, who Magee played later in Marat/Sade (1967). The film takes place in an insane asylum in France and has the famous sadist directing a play about good and evil set during the French Revolution. Magee won a Tony for playing the role on Broadway.

marat1
“You’re rushing it. Relax and follow through.”

William Friedkin directed the disturbing Harold Pinter play, The Birthday Party (1968) in which evil torturers, Magee and Sydney Tafler, team up against a vulnerable Robert Shaw. I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen this one yet, but after reading the description, it jumped to the top of my watch list.

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“THAT BOOK WAS DUE ON THE 14th!”

Magee got a chance to do some serious emoting in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film. A Clockwork Orange. He plays the writer, Mr. Alexander, victimized by Alex (Malcolm McDowell) who exacts revenge using a little Ludwig van, big speakers, and a plate of pasta. Kubrick cast Magee in Barry Lyndon too. In the sprawling epic, he plays sympathetic gambler, the Chevalier du Balibari, who takes young Lyndon under his wing.

Patrick-Magee=Barry-Lyndon-1975
I love Barry Lyndon, but hahahahahahaha.

My favorite Magee performances are in the Amicus films The Skull, Tales From the Crypt, Asylum, and And Now the Screaming Starts!. I’m a big fan of the Amicus portmanteau films and Tales From the Crypt and Asylum, in which he plays a blind man pushed a bit too far, and a doctor in a mental institution, are two of my favorites. All of the films here were directed by Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker and they’re terrific.

asylummagee
“I sat on my keys.”

Magee even shows up in a Charles Bronson classic, Telefon as a Russian KGB officer and in The Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, as Lord Cadogan, head of the British Olympic committee. His last film roles were in Roy Ward Baker’s The Monster Club with Vincent Price and Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat in 1981. In the Fulci film based on the Edgar Allen Poe story, Magee plays a psychic who converses with the dead and has a cat. When he has a bad day, Magee employs his cat as a hitman hitcat.

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Patrick Magee in disguise

Between the films in this article, Magee also acted in Antigone, King Lear, many television series, and a host of stage plays. He appeared in Krapp’s Last Tape, the play Beckett wrote with him in mind, in the theatre and on TV as a part of the British anthology series, Thirty-Minute Theatre in 1972.

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“I’ll divide my kingdom up and give it away. It’ll be great. Trust me.”

Earlier this year (July 2017), the Ulster History Circle honored the life of Patrick Magee by placing a blue plaque in Edward Street, Armagh, Ireland where he was born. Fellow Irish actor, Stephen Rea unveiled the memorial.

Patrick Magee had a long, successful career in both stage and screen. Though he tended to play authority figures on the edge of sanity, he had the talent to play a wide range of characters. He’s even in two films with exclamation points in the titles, which can’t be bad. Next time you serve your family dinner, remember his patented method to stop unwanted chatter.

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I wrote this piece as a part of the What a Character blogathon run by Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Thank you, ladies, for organizing this for the sixth time!

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Coup de Torchon (1981): Once Upon a Time in West Africa   Leave a comment

Lucien Cordier doesn’t have much of a home life. He sleepwalks through his days and sleeps alone at night, while his wife bunks with her “brother” in the next room. His work life is no better. Cordier serves as police chief in the nondescript town of Bourkassa, Senegal. He heads up the force, but we get the idea it’s not because he’s such a crackerjack cop, but because his superiors figured he’d be in nobody’s way out there. Oh, by the way, Bourkassa’s finest is also its only.


Cordier, fighting crime

Bullied by a couple of local pimps, cuckolded by his wife, and ridiculed by the white townspeople, Cordier begins to get headaches and nightmares so he seeks help from his superior stationed nearby, in a larger city. When a fellow policeman abuses him too, all bets are off.


“You’re under arrest.”

Philippe Noiret, who would later play the fatherly projectionist in Cinema Paradiso, does a great job in a part full of subtle changes. Without making any big dramatic noises, Noiret shows despair, longing, innocence, slyness, and more depth than we expect. He’s surrounded by a cast of solid character actors too. Stéphan Audan plays Cordier’s unfaithful wife, Huguette and Isabelle Huppert, his mistress, Rose. Eddy Mitchell is the weakest link, but even he’s appropriately sleazy as Huguette’s wimpy layabout lover, Nono. My favorites are Guy Marchand as Marcel, Cordier’s boss, and Irène Skobline as the teacher, Anne, who may be the only person in Cordier’s life who isn’t morally bankrupt. The fictional town of Bourkassa, Senegal is a character, too. With its streets of yellow dirt and indolent citizens, the village screams dead end. Director, Bertrand Tavernier and cinematographer, Pierre-William Glenn highlight the bleakness and searing heat of Bourkassa by letting the camera linger on the sweat-stained locals and the barren landscape.


“This’ll look great in the brochure.”

Coup de Torchon means something akin to clean slate, and refers to Cordier’s decision to eliminate any impediments to his own happiness and start fresh. Based on Jim Thompson’s 1964 novel, Pop. 1280, the film shifts the story’s location from the American South to West Africa. In the film, Cordier starts out like the Anthony Quinn character at the beginning of The Secret of Santa Vittoria—lazy and beaten down by life, and, like Quinn, becomes a kind of con man, giving his enemies just enough rope to hang themselves. He goes a bit farther than Quinn though and becomes less of a savior and more of an avenging angel by the end of the film. With aspects of the 1970 film, Le Boucher, which also stars Audan, thrown in as well, Coup de Torchon reminded me of quite a few films made before and after. I was picturing Michael Douglas in Falling Down the whole time because of Cordier’s disenchantment with life, along with his ‘taking out the trash’ mentality.


“If I kill everyone, who will make my lunch?”

I enjoyed Coup de Torchon. It’s not easy to find, but if you have access to the out-of-print Criterion version, watch it. Fun flick.

I recently had the chance to talk about Coup de Torchon and films in general with the folks from the Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema podcast. They have a neat system, so I’ve included the following ratings. Pssst, here’s the link to the GGtMC podcast.

Make or break: The scene at the police station when Cordier recites his litany of complaints and we see Fête Nat, the poor black servant, mouth the words Cordier speaks as if to say, “I listen to this crap every day.”

MVT: The bleak village had ‘no future’ written all over it.

Score: 7.5/10

Inferno (1980)   1 comment

Location, location, location.


“I wonder where Steven Marcato lives.”

A beautiful woman, Rose (Irene Miracle) buys a book from an antiques dealer. She’s irresistibly drawn to the basement, as one is, and she searches for something (?) in the the surrealistic cellar, only to lose her keys in a flooded sub floor full of dead bodies.


“No way this place passes inspection.”

Cut to Rose’s brother, Mark (Leigh McCloskey), a music student living in Rome, who sees a sexy spirit petting a cat in class.


This is the most normal thing that happens in the film.

All through the film, people keep looking for, finding, and stealing The Three Mothers, a book dealing with witches living in cursed houses in Freiburg, Rome, and New York. I have no idea why. Apparently, having the book gives the reader some kind of power—like a Necronomicon Ex-Mortis or something. I can’t be sure. All I know is the search for the books led characters into some sketchy digs. First, there’s Rose in the cellar lagoon. Then, there’s Mark’s girlfriend who lives in the Rome house, who climbs down into the basement of a library and walks, voluntarily, into a dank room full of cauldrons boiling over high flames lorded over by a wizard-y guy. She manages to make it out of there without getting a face burn, but things don’t end well for her.


“Is this where you return the overdue books?”

Mark ends up traveling to New York to help his sister, who lives in the Big Apple branch of the coven’s real estate holdings. It’s a large building with about four gigantic apartments in it. Alida Valli runs the place and it’s clear she hired the same decorator who did the school in Suspiria. In the building, Mark meets the countess and separately, they search the bowels of the building because walking around in a scary place alone, unarmed, and wearing your best outfit is always a good plan. Also, it’s totally normal for a New York City apartment building to have a completely empty wing.


“It’s probably rent-controlled.”

Bad things happen to pretty much everyone in this film, but no one gets a worse deal than the antiques dealer, who sets out to drown some cats in a bag. He has a bad leg and walks with crutches so carrying the burlap sack full of cats is tough for him. *sad violin* Anyway, he trips on an animal he was attempting to kill and…I won’t spoil it, but it’s ghastly. I watched this in the theatre and oddly, the crowd was not on his side.


Anti-cat shop.

A scary witchlike individual who could use some moisturizer and a manicure, cruises around grabbing people and closing windows on their necks.


“You couldn’t have used a little Jergens?”

I’m all for that, but it was hard to discern a meaning from any of these goings-on. It might have helped if I spoke Italian or if the subtitles, apparently written by a drunk person unfamiliar with horror films, English, or words in general, made any sense at all. In fact, they became so convoluted, the theatre chose to skip the whole thing and just play the film without them. They told us about it beforehand, so we knew what we were in for. The film continues, people run away from the evil being, things catch fire, and before you know it, the film is over. Huzzah!


“Some paint and a light dusting and it’ll be fine.”

Dario Argento meant Inferno as a sequel to Suspiria, but he forgot he needed a story and just ran with it anyway.  Despite the shambolic plot, Inferno entertains. It’s nowhere near as good as Suspiria, but there are some original kills and the sets are gorgeous. Maurizio Garrone was part of the set decoration team on both films. I liked the crazy Dali-esque basements with precariously-balanced chairs and stuffed lizards strewn about. I half-expected to see a melting clock.


Nice gator.

Though not a fantastic film, Inferno is a good time. See it on the big screen if you can.


The Three Mothers: Mater Suspiriorum (Mother of Sorrows), Mater Lachrymarum (Mother of Tears), and Mater Tenebrarum (Mother of Darkness).

Thus endeth the lesson.

Cube²: Hypercube (2002)   1 comment

A handful of strangers awaken in a cube. They have no idea how they got there. The cube is attached to other cubes and they climb from one to the other in a vain attempt to figure out who put them there and how to get out.


“We’ll call the cubes Tom, Dick, and Harry. No, wait.”

Ok. I’ll admit it. I saw Cube and thought it was an interesting concept. It was more interesting when Pirandello, Sartre, and Serling thought of it, but no matter. The film had some bright spots, but it didn’t quite gel. I thought maybe they’d nail it down in Cube²: Hypercube. My hopes were dashed about four minutes into the film.


“What’s my motivation?”

In the first film, I cared somewhat about a couple of the characters and was drawn into their struggle to find the key to their Rubik’s Cube prison. In the second film, I just wanted it to end. The characters, all connected in different ways to the company, Izon, which is obviously evil because they produce armaments and their employees know math, are so completely underdeveloped, it’s tough to care about them. Then, there’s the dialogue. Cribbed from any number of ‘scenes for actors’ type books and probably workshopped in an improv studio somewhere in Toronto, the conversations reeked of cheesy experimental community theatre and the acting, from much of the cast, carried the same stench. Kari Matchett and Geraint Wyn Davies, both familiar faces, were the exceptions. They’re both solid character actors who must have felt hoodwinked after reading the script.


“I found the stage directions. The characters climb into another cube and talk some more.”
“Terrific.”

Anyway, the cube denizens move from cube to cube trying to avoid the evil, and sharp tesseracts that appear and expand and oh I don’t care. Mean computer-generated shapes attack people we don’t care about and then the same characters reappear because parallel universes! Yep. The gang bandy about terms like quantum and gravity shift and draw pictures of cubes and all I thought about was how smart it was for the filmmakers to choose a big cube for the set because they’d only have to make one.


“I knew I hated geometry for a reason.”

There was a twist at the end which didn’t make sense and served no purpose and I didn’t care about anyway. Something something evil corporation experimental cube? I have no idea. I get when a film purposely withholds closure to make a point. I feel like in this case, the lack of a satisfying ending was less by design and more by “Hey, I know! We’ll make the whole thing a conspiracy and junk.”
“Great idea, Tad.”


“Mrs. Paley, you’re smudging the prism.”

No one connected to the film is called Tad, but it fit. The trouble with a conspiracy film without a well-defined conspiracy is you at least need Elliott Gould or Mel Gibson to liven things up and they need something lucid to say. Cube 2: Electric Boogaloo fails on both counts.


“She’s right, you know.”

Cube²: Hypercube lasts an hour and thirty-four minutes. You’re better off spending an extra twenty-one minutes and watching Con Air.


“Turn the channel or the bunny gets it.”

 

Don’t Torture a Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino) (1972)   3 comments

Don’t Torture a Duckling ticks a lot of boxes for me.


It’s an Italian giallo!


It’s a police procedural!


It’s an ‘evil lurks beneath a façade of goodness’ melodrama!


It’s a witch hunt!

Don’t fight, guys. It’s all that and a cautionary tale about kids hanging out with naked women and watching murders and junk. It’s also a cool mystery that has more red herrings than King Oscar.

Don’t Torture a Duckling is Lucio Fulci’s country giallo and it’s glorious. The film is set in the backward, yet picturesque mountain town of Accendura, Italy, accessible only by an impressive raised highway bridge used mostly by visiting prostitutes and tourists heading somewhere else.


Isn’t that cool?

In this quiet town where everyone knows everyone’s business and the people don’t worry about crime, a series of brutal child killings alters the chemistry of the town and force the residents’ baser instincts to bubble to the surface.


Bubbling

The film starts out a bit Leopold and Loeb-ish. After the first boy goes missing, his parents get a ransom demand. It turns out the boy is already dead and the plot takes a different turn.


“Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Fulci?”

A psychopath continues to kill little boys until one by one, pretty much every person in town is either killed or implicated in the murder. That includes the sexy sorceress, Florinda Bolkan and spoiled rich girl, Barbara Bouchet, who ends up helping a visiting journalist look for clues. This is the procedural part and it’s well done. The police aren’t backwoods brutes. They’re smart and they really want to catch the killer. We don’t see them worrying about appearances or trying to make an easy bust. They’re genuinely concerned for the safety of the townspeople. That’s a smart choice on Fulci’s part. It keeps the focus on the real murderer.


“Maybe I should send for more guys.”

I loved this film. The characters were real people with flaws and hang-ups and the kids weren’t obnoxious. They were even childlike. They weren’t acting like short adults. The entire situation was genuine right down to the pitchfork-y vigilantism of the locals when they think they know the killer.


“Do you know whodunnit?”

The setting, full of stucco houses carved into a mountain, contributes to the sense of isolation.

The remoteness of the village means all the action takes place without much outside influence. Even the big city reporter, Tomas Milian, doesn’t come off like a pushy urbanite who complains because he’s in the boondocks and there are only two channels. He thinks logically and treats the townspeople with respect. The more cosmopolitan policeman and the commissioner, played by Ugo D’Alessio and Virgilio Gazzolo, don’t abuse the local constable and he doesn’t roll his eyes at them because they’re not dumb. They’re intelligent, experienced, and motivated to solve the crime.


“This is a no smoking village.”

Don’t Torture a Duckling is sensational, and violent, but it’s also thoughtful and well made. Written by Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, and Gianfranco Clerici and shot by Sergio D’Offizi, the film grabs you right from the start and maintains that suspense throughout. It also keeps you in the dark and I like that sense of mystery. This is a thinking person’s giallo. Gore fiends, take heart. There’s a pack of mayhem and blood too. Worth seeing. I might have to buy this one.

 

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