Archive for the Italian Films Category

STARCRASH/1978/CAROLINE MUNRO/JOE SPINELL

Posted in Camp-Cheese, Caroline Munro, David Hasselhoff, Italian Films, Joe Spinell, Luigi Cozz, Marjoe Gortner, Science Fiction-Fantasy on September 11, 2011 by Bill Courtney
STARCRASH

1978/Director: Luigi Cozzi/Writers: Luigi Cozzi, Nat Wachsberger

Cast: Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, Joe Spinell, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff

Starcrash is one of those movies that has long on my extensive list of films to see before I die. I tend to not rush into seeing most of these films I doubt that on my death bed when I reflect on my life’s regrets that at the top of the list will be not seeing all of the films by Eddie Romero. But I enjoyed the pairing of Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro in Maniac (1980) and The Last Horror Movie (1982) and figured I could not go too wrong with this 1978 Italian made Stars Wars clone. And I was right, this is a fun albeit totally campy joy ride for fans of 60’s styled Italian sci-fi as well as fans of generally bad cinema in general and of Star Wars rip-off films in particular. And while I would certainly call Starcrash a bad movie it is a ‘good’ bad movie that even people who normally shy away from trash films may enjoy to some degree. There are plenty of reviews on line that bash the film and I was a bit stunned to see such negative diatribe coming out of Tokyo Stomp of all places about the movie. I thought TS was a site somewhat like The Uranium Café that pandered bad movies and treated them gently in their reviews. Not so with Starcrash but do not let phrases there like “…nearly unwatchable for many reasons” deter you. This is a watchable and enjoyable little film even if it does feature David Hasselhoff in one of the leading roles (the Princess Leia role from Star Wars actually.) Along with Spinell, Munro and the ‘multi-talented’ Hasselhoff the film also stars Christopher Plummer in the obligatory ‘established British actor who needs to pay the mortgage somehow’ category and 70’s cult figure Marjoe Gortner who plays a character that is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and C-3PO all rolled into one.

Director Luigi Cozzi –who worked as assistant director and special effects artists for Dario Argento but lets not hold that against him- does a fine job of capturing the spirit of some of the earlier Italian sci-fi films of the 60’s and early 70’s and I can’t help but feel some of the effects and sets in Starcrash are deliberately cheesy though that would sheer speculation on my part. Even using someone like the always annoying Hasselhoff in a lead role seems like a bit of a joke in retrospect but at the time the guy was a hot item and his hit TV series Knight Rider was right around the corner in 1982. While most of the actors in the film appear to have tongue firmly planted in cheek pretty little Hasselhoff is acting for dear life in all his scenes and his exquisitely blow-dried coiffure is never a follicle out of place. The plot is totally derivative of Star Wars but it was hardly the only Star Wars clone to come along after the mega-success of the George Lucas space epic. While utterly corny places and with schlocky effects that wile lave you flabbergasted at best the film is till ore watchable than some of the other Lucas rip-offs such as the Battle Star Galactica TV series. The movie has rightfully earned itself a place among the great midnight-cult movies and was recently released on the Shout! Factory DVD label as part of the Roger Corman Cult Classic series. I have the nice looking Shout Blu-ray version but I got it here in China and all the cool extras were left off the pirated DVD here. Hate when they do that. All I got was the film trailer.
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The story is, as I said, a total retelling of the Star wars stories with minimal changes in the actual characters and plot. Munro plays Stella Star (the film is aka The Adventures of Stella Star) a space smuggler and greatest pilot in the galaxy. Her partner, or sidekick actually, is an alien named Akton (Gortner) who kills time levitating little orbs of light in the palm of his hand. They soon cross paths with the Imperial Space Police led by Thor (shaved head screen heavy Robert Tessier) and his robot Elle, who speaks with an out of place hillbilly accent that is never as funny as it was probably intended to be. There is a subsequent star fight with weirdly lit and placed stars in the background and a boost in hyper-speed or something that is nothing short of a Millennium Falcon homage or rip-off depending on how you look at life. This proves totally fruitless as the moment they appear out of hyper-space they are caught and sentenced to life on a prison planet. That proves to be nothing for the always scantily clad in leather Stella Star and she escapes easily but is recaptured just as easily but offered the chance for clemency if she and Akton will rescue the Emperor of the Universe –or it may just be of the galaxy, I forget right now- (Christopher Plummer) son from the evil Count Zarth Arn, played over the top with perfection by Joe Spinell. The emperor’s son is prissy Hasselhoff of course.

As Stella Star and crew soar through the galaxy looking for the kidnapped son of the Emperor they meet up with various adventures, strange creatures and perilous situations on various alien landscapes. There is treachery and loyalty and cleavage galore as they continue on their epic quest that will, hopefully, restore good to the galaxy and banish evil… for the time being anyway. The references to Stars Wars are fun look for and are often impossible to miss such as when Akton uses a light saber. Some reviewers have attacked Munro’s space garb as sexist and thank God they are right. You just don’t see space heroines like this any more. Some scenes even show inspiration in the stop action animation department from Ray Harryhausen and in particular a couple scenes from the classic Jason and the Argonauts. If you’re a fan of grade Z camp then this one’s for you, and even if you’re not you My like to kill ninety or so minutes with it. If a person was not a fan of fine trash cinema and I had to pick one film as an introduction I think I could only do worse than recommend Starcrash.
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THE URANIUM CAFE MATINEE: BLOODY PIT OF HORROR

Posted in Camp-Cheese, Eurohorror, Italian Films, Matinee, Mickey Hargitay on August 19, 2011 by Bill Courtney
He was a homicidal maniac who LIVED TO KILL! 


SEE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR HERE >>

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf
BLOODY PIT OF HORROR

THE URANIUM CAFE NECROFILES: STRANGE BEHAVIOR/EQUINOX/BRIDE OF THE GORILLA/HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY

Posted in Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Italian Films, Lon Chaney Jr., Lucio Fulci, Necrofiles, Raymond Burr on June 17, 2011 by Bill Courtney

 This is a new category I have meaning to launch for sometime now. I simply watch way more films than I can write an in depth article on. I like to explore information on a film from several sources and, along with my own personal opinion and anecdotes, make it available here in one place. But I cannot do that with every film. I have already forgotten a lot of films I have seen over the summer. The Necrofiles category will present about four films with short summaries, basic credits and no images other than a poster. This not mean that some of these films will not wind up with a more in depth post with more images one day but this way at least some of these jewels will be commented on and made known to the public.

STRANGE BEHAVIOR
1981/Director: Michael Laughlin/Writers: Bill Condon, Michael Laughlin/Cast: Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Dan Shor, Fiona Lewis, Arthur Dignam  

A mad scientist long thought dead by the local citizens of a small Illinois town exacts his demented revenge on the towns’ leaders by controlling the minds of some of the teenagers through experiments in his laboratory. The kids are turned into homicidal maniacs with no recollection of their deeds later. Over all well filmed and acted. The violence and death scenes are effective. Nice soundtrack by Tangerine Dream that is, as far as I know, unreleased. The action unfolds in rural Illinois but was filmed in Auckland New Zealand.

EQUINOX
1970/Director: Jack Woods/Writers: Mark Thomas McGee, Jack Woods/Cast: Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner, Robin Christopher, Jack Woods

The thing a lot of people enjoy about this odd little film is the stop-action animation sequences by Dennis Muren and David Allen. While not perfect the sequences are pretty interesting. The rest of the story could be forgettable expect for the fact the dialog, acting and camera work is so bad that it makes the film unbelievably fun to watch.  A group of college kids looking for the cabin of their professor are given an evil book of curses and charms by an old man in a cave. They are soon fighting off monsters and demonic possessions. Original tagline was “Begins Where Rosemary’s Baby Left Off”. Forrest J. Ackerman was helpful in bringing the project together and promoting it. A Jack H. Harris and director/writer Jack Woods is classic as park ranger Asmodius.

BRIDE OF THE GORILLA
1951/Director: Durt Siodmak/Writer: Curt Siodmak/Cast: Barbara Payton, Lon Chaney Jr., Raymond Burr, Tom Conway, Paul Cavanagh

Produced by RKO horror film producer Val Lewton with assistance from Herman Cohen this is a man-in-an-ape suit film that actually does not have a man-in-an-ape suit. Raymond Burr is put under a spell after he kills a plantation owner, Paul Cavnaugh,  who has become jealous of Burr’s feeling toward his wife, the shapely Barbara Payton. Lon Chaney, Jr. is supposed to a local member of an Amazon Indian tribe who is now the police chief, but he still looks and sounds like Lon Chaney, Jr.. George Sanders’ brother Tom Conway is a doctor who has romantic interests in Payton as well. A pretty watchable movie but it would have been much better had there been a real ape rather than hallucinations. Originally to be titled The Face in the Water and you will understand why if you check it out, which you should.

HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY
1981/Director: Lucio Fulci/Writers: Elisa Briganti/Lucio Fulci/Cast: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina

Also known as Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero, House by the Cemetery is one of the new style films Fucli began making in the United States after the Giallo-Horror genre lost steam in Italy in the late 70’s. While I tend to like Fulci’s work overall it is rather confusing at times as is most Italian horror-suspense cinema. I watched a few Luci films back to back with this one andto honest I have the stories all mixed in my mind now and had to put House by the Cemetery back in to remember exactly what the hell happened in it. The films he made in the States lost some of the visual quality his Italian productions had such as Perversion Story and Don’t Torture a Duckling. They simply became average exploitation and gore fare. In House By the Cemetery supernatural goings-ons in a small New England have plenty of people dying off in less than typical grisly Fulcian fashion with way too much dialog in between the action. The deaths are not nearly as gory as The New York Ripper or The Beyond. There is also some pesky kid who seems to have a power like the boy in The Shining and communicates with the spirit world. Probably for die hard Fulci enthusiasts only. Did a earn a Video Nasty from the British censors.

I CRIMINALI DELLA GLASSIS (WILD WILD PLANET) /1965/ANTONIO MARGHERITI

Posted in Italian Films, Science Fiction-Fantasy on May 19, 2011 by Bill Courtney

 I CRIMINALI DELLA GLASSIS (WILD WILD PLANET)

965/Director: / Antonio Margheriti/Writers: Renato Moretti, Ivan Reiner

Cast: Tony Russel, Lisa Gastoni, Massimo Serato, Carlo Giustini, Franco Nero   

I will be honest and say that of all the countries whose films I watch regularly the one I struggle with the most and still have the most ambiguity about is Italy. Yet I also watch Italian films the most of all European cinema. Certainly more than French or Scandinavian films. While there have been some masterpieces like Vittorio de Sica’s The Bicycle Thief and Shoeshine and Fellini’s La Strada most of the stuff coming out of Italy leaves me a little confused and disoriented. For example some people find it amazing that I as a horror fan cannot really stand almost all of Dario Argento’s output. The are incoherent stories and all the ranting about his prowess with camera work and lighting is exaggerated. Then again Mario Bava ranks as one of my all time favorite directors and I have a folder on my hard drive full of Italian horror and giallo films just waiting for me. Now one area that I know basically zip about is Italian science fiction and in particular the genre films of the 1960’s. Other than Bava’s excellent Planet of the Vampires I know virtually nothing of Italian cinema’s visions of the future, until watching Wild Wild Planet, or I Crimialli della Gallassia (maybe Galaxy of Criminals). It was directed by Antonio Margheriti (who usually directed as Anthony Dawson and did films like Cannibal Apocalypse and Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein) and co-scripted by the man who brought The Green Slime to life Ivan Reiner. Spaghetti western star Franco Nero has a role as Commander Halstead’s second in command.

What compels me to not throw in he towel on Italian science fiction and horror cinema is not that I expect to get a comprehensible plot or witness deep character development, but rather I watch them for the visuals, interesting music, corny dubbings and the fun time I know I will have. This movie delivers the fun and schlock and has some finely designed sets and nice visuals. While the miniatures cannot be compared to the ones that Eiji Tsuburaya designed (then destroyed) at Toho they are actually nice looking. The sets are lit in that way that a lot of horror and sci-fi out of Europe was lit in the 60’s, with blue or red lights enhancing a room or even exterior shot with warm color even though there is no reason for that light to happen. It was solely for effect. There is a lot of fun online concerning some of the miniatures in this film and look that cannot be denied. In one scene a helicopter (they decided not to use the hover cars they normally use) spins around and around in a circle is obviously a prop on a string a stage hand is twirling. But at the same time it is great. It is surrealistic and Dadaesque since the actors in this film play it so serious and straight that the contrast is lighthearted and comical but in a way I recommend. Either you like the props in a film like this or you compare them to everything that came after 2001: A Space Odyssey and scoff at how ignorant and pathetic filmmakers used to be. I hear people scoff now at film effects show some imperfections and flaws so how can these same cynics ever accept a space ship on a string with a blow torch for exhaust. And speaking of blow torches, that is exactly what seems to be used for ray guns here. Rather than having lasers or even armor piercing bullets these space men use guns that shoot a flame that seems to have a range of two or three feet. I could never gather that it could damage anything that did not walk right up to the barrel. I will have to check this out closer in a new watching, as this is certainly a film I will see again eventually.
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The future as seen by filmmakers of the 60’s did not seem like a bad place. Life was made simple and easy by the most sophisticated and lavish of appliances. There was no pollution or traffic congestion. Food was plentiful and quick and easy to prepare. And women all wore Go Go Boots and people liked to party and still did all the campy dances they were doing in the 60’s. And in this film there are plenty of sexy, Italian gals in Go Go Boots. In films the only nationality of women that appeared uniformly more sexy and groovy than hip Japanese girls were in Italian girls, and usually they had bigger boobs and bigger hair to match. There are plenty of judo flipping, sexy Italian girls in this romp.

Now the story (what I can make of it) focuses on testosterone driven Commander Mike Halstead’s (Tony Russel) suspicions with the organ harvesting operations being conducted by The Company. The man in charge of the operation is Dr. Nurmi (Massimo Serato) who is the stereotypical evil scientist of the period with dreams and visions of how to better mankind (and increase the power The Company), even if he must destroy most of mankind in the process of realizing those dreams. The conflict between Halstead and Nurmi is the classic formula of two fisted but dull witted hero with a credo vs. the supremely intelligent but blinded by greed, power and twisted vision villain. Ultimately in this films the bad guy comes off much more entertaining than the good guy. Nurmi does not help to bridge the conflict that he and Halstead develop on their first meeting when he blatantly starts making the moves on Halstead’s girlfriend the luscious Connie Gomez (Lisa Gastoni). When Connie is not beating guys up on the judo mat she is binge drinking and having a good time making hot headed Halstead jealous by reciprocating to Nurmi’s creepy advances.

Halstead is put in charge of an investigation into the disappearances of thousands of people on Earth and various space colonies. The reason for the disappearances, abductions we find out, is for the organ harvesting operation ran by The Company. People are captured by a Go Go Boot girl and a eerie looking clone with four arms nd are reduced in size and put into a little suitcase. One guy’s abduction, a leader of the military or something, is interrupted and he is turned a dwarf. The scenes involving the baldheaded, sun glasses wearing clone are pretty good. The plot gets a little confusing sometimes but the hammy, dead serious acting and visuals keep you hooked. We are treated to a performance art presentation of the future that looks strangely like the performance art presentations of the 60’s. There is even a car chase in futuristic, bubble domed cars that travel at about fifteen miles per hour.

The action winds up on the planet Delphus where the harvesting operation is carried out unobserved. As in all movies of the time the balance of the situation leans not in the direction not of the man with the biggest brains but in the direction of the guy who can win an old school fist fight. And in a fist fight between Nurmi and hot blooded Halstead who do you think will get the ass whooping? There are certainly problems with this film and if you cannot handle absurdity and unbelievable dialog and people in the future doing the twist and watuse then maybe pass up on this one. But if you like nicely lit studio sets, hammy acting and comic book dialog, women in Go Go Boots and hip 60’s hair styles, true he-man heroes and soulless sinister mad scientists then I think you will enjoy this one.