Giallo | Varied Celluloid - Page 2


Posted by Josh Samford On October - 8 - 2011

Eyeball (1975)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writers: Umberto Lenzi and Félix Tusell
Starring: Martine Brochard, John Richardson and Ines Pellegrini.

The Plot: While on a trip to Spain, a bus full of tourists stop off to have a quick look-see around the city. However, when one of these tourists turns up stabbed multiple times and with one eyeball missing, the entire group is forced to hang around while the mystery is sorted out. As members of the group start to die one by one, the tourists become distrustful of one another and they begin to search for the killer. Could it be the priest who suspiciously went to the hospital in order to visit one of the victims? Maybe its the woman with mud on her shoes who was caught washing them off after a murder took place in a similar mudpit? Could it be Mark’s ex-wife, who is supposed to be back at home due to a violent mental breakdown? Only time will tell. As the violence escalates, our killer, who dons a red raincoat that covers his/her body, remains on the prowl for fresh new eyeballs.

The Review
Director Umberto Lenzi is a filmmaker whose work I have been relatively hesitant to dig through in the past. My original viewing of Cannibal Ferox, roughly ten years ago, turned me off on his abilities as a director. If you’ve never seen the film, it is an unfortunately weak attempt to duplicate the cannibal genre and all of its greatest hits. Although Lenzi had helped in creating the genre himself, his largest attempt would turn out as one of the most over the top bits of hypocritical finger-waving that the genre ever produced. Eventually, I heard about how great his crime films and thrillers were and although I still haven’t splurged through his entire catalog, I have slowly been making some headroom in this area. Eyeball is one of Lenzi’s few giallo titles and although it isn’t one of the all-time-classics from the genre, it certainly finds ways for it to stand out. Between the excessive violence and the tight use of tension, Lenzi takes a rather ordinary giallo and makes as unique of an experience as possible.

While the movie overcompensates for its rather bland script with scene after scene of plot-complications, the violence is what immediately grabs the audience. While Lenzi is well known for making one of the most violent films of all time (Cannibal Ferox), the majority of his work has been far less graphic. Eyeball may not come close enough to the castration-madness presented in Ferox, but it does show Lenzi crafting a story around some rather disgusting ocular damage. The opening piece of violence within the film proves to be everything you could possibly hope for from Lenzi. The sequence features the first of several brutal stabbings that punctuate the film and provide all of the onscreen carnage. This first stabbing shown is probably the most ferocious of the whole bunch though. Similar to the cruelty shown in Lamberto Bava’s infamous “bathroom-stabbing” from A Blade in the Dark, the indifference shown by the killer is what makes the sequence so shocking. Lenzi shows us a killer who repeatedly stabs some poor woman and the camera never cuts away. Even when the killer plucks out the first eyeball, this is shown as if it were a vital part of the story for whatever reason. It is through this rather macabre fascination with eyeball-carnage that the movie inevitably crafts its own vision. Pardon the pun.

The film most assuredly does not stand out in terms of its plot, which is far from the most original of stories. While the killer’s obsession with eyeballs is certainly different and presents a unique twist on the generic masked killer motif, it still doesn’t remain all that original. We’ve seen killers take trophies before and the general plot for the movie has been done to death. This sort of production was so common at the time that the only thing that would usually set these movies apart were their locales. This time around we have the same Agatha Christie (Ten Little Indians) inspired storyline that features rich socialites being picked off one by one, only instead of being set within Italy or England, the film is set in Spain. The beats remain the same, however, and one by one we will see eyeballs plucked out by a deranged killer of the bourgeois. If you have seen more than a few giallo titles, you know that at some point one of our rich protagonists will fill in for the role of a amateur detective and help solve the mystery just as everything starts to tie together. The conventions are rife within this picture and although it tries to differentiate itself from similar films, there’s only so much that it can really do.

Although this one doesn’t feature the star power of the many other giallo titles reviewed here on Varied Celluloid, the majority of the cast fit into their roles well. Each cast member seems to play a “type” rather than a fully fleshed out three dimensional character, but these “types” can certainly be fun. The token “lesbian couple”, also seen in The Killer Reserved Nine Seats and Slaughter Motel, make a return in the film. Although it is highly probable that one or both characters could survive the duration of the film, it is very unlikely. Considering the red herrings that are thrown out during the movie, either one of the women could just as easily be the killer as well. However, if you’re familiar with the giallo format you know that red herrings or even “clues” usually mean nothing. Within this genre, there’s really no way to discern just who the killer may turn out to be. Although I did make an informed guess about who the killer would turn out to be, and I was correct in my assumption, these movies never play by the rules. Logical thought usually means nothing with these movies and the big twist finale with Eyeball is no exception.

The Conclusion
Eyeball is not a fantastic giallo, but neither is it the worst. The main problem viewers will have with it is how reminiscent it is to nearly every other film within the genre. The violence and the few standout pieces that make up this puzzle are what will draw you in and attract most viewers. I give it a solid three out of five. It’s worth a rental for any giallo film fanboy, that goes without question.

Cold Eyes of Fear

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 4 - 2011

Cold Eyes of Fear (1971)
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Writers: Leo Anchóriz, Tito Carpi and Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: Gianni Garko, Giovanna Railli, Frank Wolff and Fernando Rey

The Plot: Peter Flower (Gianni Garko) is a young lawyer having a fun night out on the town. He meets up with the sultry Anna (Giovanna Ralli) who agrees to accompany him to bed, but first he must procure somewhere nice and quiet before so that they can enjoy their rendezvous. He decides that his uncle’s place, Judge Juez Flower (Fernando Rey), would be perfect, so he calls up the Judge’s butler and convinces him to leave for a couple of hours. Unknown to Peter, the butler is murdered almost immediately after their phone conversation ends. His murderer is a young dark haired man named Quill (Julián Mateos) who has hidden intentions. When Peter and Anna show up at the house, they eventually find the butler… as well as Quill. Now they must discover both what Quill is hiding from them as well as what Peter’s own uncle might be hiding as well.

The Review
To start any discussion of Enzo G. Castellari’s Cold Eyes of Fear, I think an important element that should be taken on up-front is just where this film sits on the genre-scale. Although the title and promotion of the film seems to hint that it will be a giallo thriller, in reality it turns out to be something quite distant from that. In fact, it more closely resembles the “home invasion” style of thriller that was popularized during the seventies with titles such as Last House on the Left and House on the Edge of the Park, but even within that genre the film seems like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. The answer for Cold Eyes of Fear is not a simple one, but the reality is that it floats between several genre-film areas. This refusal to adapt to genre actually turns out to be one of the film’s main strengths. Cold Eyes of Fear is, in short, an Italian thriller, but it is actually one of the more clever examples of a master genre-film director firing on all cylinders and living up to his potential. That may be a bit strong, and no doubt about it Castellari has made better films, but the lack of hype surrounding this movie is nearly criminal and really helps this project.

Cold Eyes of Fear is such a fantastic sounding title, is it not? It’s the perfect kind of name one expects from a giallo, and this rings back to the discussion of genre that I mentioned before. Castellari’s film establishes itself as the perfect interpretation of the giallo genre during its earliest moments. Without having any previous knowledge of the film, I honestly believed I was in for your everyday run of the mill “black gloves”/”mysterious assassin” type of thriller. The opening for the film, which features a young woman being stalked by a hidden assailant, shows a love for experimentation that is very reminiscent of the better giallo titles you might find. A favorite shot of mine shows the young woman spinning around to react to a noise made by her hidden would-be-assassin, but when she spins the scene plays the same shot repeatedly from multiple angles and at different shutter speeds. The shot defies reality and seems to promise the viewer a sort of nightmare-logic that many films of the “giallo” genre were known for. The set that this sequence takes place upon is also vintage “giallo”, with doorways and walls that are painted in pastel pinks which clash with the lightning-blue carpets. However, all pre-conceived genre expectations are then shattered when we discover that this killing that we have seen on-screen was nothing more than a theatrical play that our lead characters are currently watching. Castellari plays with his audience and their expectations during these opening moments, but his toying with the audience is far from over.

The film is actually far more clever than your average run-of-the-mill piece of 70s exploitation. These games that it plays with the audience are very well handled, and surprisingly they do not come across as being cheap. The “giallo” illusion during the introduction is shattered, but then Castellari once again initiates his audience and their expectations by creating another perfect mechanism for a murder-mystery to take place. He introduces Gianni Garko’s character who quickly converses with his butler over the phone, but we watch as the butler is then killed by a shapeless assassin. All signs point to murder-mystery! That is until Castellari defies expectations yet again by actually showing us who the killer is, and it is at this point that the film seems to try and squeeze into the “home invasion” genre. Castellari continues to fool us though, because this isn’t simply a film about a mad-man holding innocent people hostage. This is also about, believe it or not, a heist. Layer after layer is built upon within the first thirty minutes and the further the movie diverges from the well-traveled paths the better it seems to get.

If you had any questions about whether or not to see this movie, the cast and crew should really sell it for any potential viewer. Although these may not be “big” names to some, for those who enjoy Euro-cult cinema the credits read like a “who’s who” of genre cinema. Enzo G. Castellari’s credits as a director are exemplary and he is certainly one of the most revered filmmakers within the realm of Euro-action. Although this finds him stretching out into seemingly uncomfortable territory, he shows that he knows a great deal about many facets of genre cinema. The score for the film is a postmodernist piece of semi-industrial electornica that seems far ahead of its time, and the musician behind it is none other than Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West). Then we have the cast, which features Sartana himself Gianni Garko, Edward Wolff (remember the rancher who was gunned down at the beginning of Once Upon a Time in the West? “Maurrrreeeeen!“) and the incomparable Fernando Rey. I honestly had no idea that so many talented people were involved in this project until the opening credits started to roll. When I saw these names all listed next to one another, I knew that no matter what direction the film went in I would be able to trust those in charge.

The Conclusion
I don’t want to fill the reader up with too many false hopes, but I must confess that I am genuine in my enjoyment of the film. It exceeded all of my hopes for the film and delivered something very engaging and original. It is a title that takes all of the things I love about Euro-cult cinema and takes it in a direction I never expected it to. Definitely check this one out if the opportunity comes your way. I give it a solid four out of five.

Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 7 - 2011

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971)
Director: Sergio Martino
Writers: Vittorio Caronia, Ernesto Gastaldi, Eduardo Manzanos Brochero
Starring: Edwige Fenech, George Hilton and Ivan Rassimov

The Plot: Our film begins with a prostitute being picked up from the side of the road and eventually being murdered with a straight razor, by an unknown assailant. We skip forward and meet Julie Wardh (Edwige Fenech), who is being utterly ignored by her businessman husband. He’s more interested in stocks than her, which has led to some disillusionment within their marriage. When Mrs. Wardh first hears about this murder, which happened very close by to her home, a slight amount of paranoia begins to creep into her mind. She finds that her former boyfriend, Jean, is still hanging around town after her long departure for America and he hasn’t let go of the past. Jean and Julie had a torrid love affair at one point, and Jean is well known for his enjoyment of kinky and rough sexual activities. Soon, George (George Hilton) enters into the picture as well and the young man seems to understand where Julie is coming from and desperately wants to protect her. Now, with this murderer on a rampage and Julie’s own sexual desires going unfulfilled she will find herself wrapped up in a torrid wind of violence, sexual awakening and mystery.

The Review
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, on paper, is a total Eurocult wet dream. Any self proclaimed fan of genre film would be hard pressed not to salivate upon first reading up on the film. Directed by genre great Sergio Martino, who brought us the Giallo favorite Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key amongst a litany of other works, and also starring the number one Giallo vixen of all time: Edwige Fenech. How could you not be excited? Throw in George Hilton as well as Ivan Rassimov (the creepy blonde haired guy from another Martino/Fenech teamup, All the Colors of the Dark) and you have an all-star cast with a brilliant director and a script that dares to compile more than just your basic top-layer content. The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is actually a surprisingly psycho-sexual piece of Giallo cinema that delves heavily into the words of sado-masochism while also delivering the expected doses of mystery and suspense that we have come to expect. While the very end product may not be the very best the genre has ever produced, Martino displays all of his best traits with this film and we are ultimately left with a very strong genre-bending thriller that is sure to please the fans.
This film, as with much of the entire Giallo film genre, is comprised of both visually impressive properties and a strong linear-narrative focus. A all too common problem with Giallo pictures however is when filmmakers have dared to be wittier than their audience, and in the process craft stories that are near impossible to decipher. So often in these films you’ll find a murder mystery that the audience has no ability to solve, due to the handicap that the filmmakers take advantage of by proudly using their ability to manipulate the entire plot to service their purpose. Martino’s film may not have the most fair twists and turns, as he also takes advantage of his position as master puppeteer, but at the very least you can say that the red herrings aren’t entirely without purpose and the general plot moves along with a sense of purpose and thus we, the audience, are able to keep up with these narrative tropes. It’s an easy enough film to keep up with as a viewer, and being as linear as it is we are able to absorb so much more than just the pretty shades of red.

There’s no question about it however, the visual flare is part of what makes the entire experience so magical. The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is easily one of Martino’s most visually impressive films, which is interesting since it is hist first foray into the world of Giallo cinema. This young effort displays a brilliant exhibition of everything that made the Giallo such an amazing genre, and solidified Sergio Martino as one of the most prominate filmmakers within the Eurocult film world. There are little bursts of creativity throughout Mrs. Wardh… that simply left me, as a viewer and lover of the genre, with a wide grin across my face. Martino is let loose here, and completely decorates the screen with as many wild and unnaturally vibrant primary colors as one could possibly find. Martino frames shots without any care for blase film school techniques. He is a filmmaker that creates what he feels will look best, and if that makes him a style over substance director then so be it. In example, during a tense moment where a female character is being stalked, Martino uses a low angle that looks up toward the female as she walks around an absolutely gorgeous park setting. While the normal frame of mind would tell you this is a shot used to show superiority and strength, Martino manages to get quite the opposite effect by his use of audio cues and the simple narrative formula up until this point. We know that this is a woman in trouble, our soundtrack reinforces this and Martino manages to use whatever angles and techniques are at his disposal in order to get his point across.
A sexual travelogue, what vices may have been considered “strange” by the standards of the 1970’s are seen in a different light by today’s standards. The “strange vice” from our title refers to the S&M relationship that the titular Mrs. Wardh had with Jean (Rassimov) before leaving and restarting her life. Sex dominates the world that our characters live within, but rarely does the film seem to simply feature sex for the sake of titilation. There are moments such as a bathing sequence where Fenech displays her skin, as well as the party scene where two women rip the clothes off of one another for no real reason, but this enters the audience into this strange fantasy world of heightened sexuality. Dreamlike in its eroticism, the flashbacks that Fenech’s character has are some of the most beautiful and exquisite shots of their type that I have ever seen. Played entirely in slow motion, with the beautiful score provided by Nora Orlandi () playing along gently in the background, we watch as Mrs. Wardh is slapped around and made love to by the dangerous and violent Jean. These sequences, where we also see Jean playing around with sharp objects, go far beyond what these sequences probably call for but are spectacular for delving so far into cinematic style.

The Conclusion
A tremendous piece of Giallo cinema. While it may not top the very pillars of what the genre is capable of, it certainly establishes everything that makes these films so though provoking and fun. A taboo pushing piece of mystery storytelling, with a brilliant cast and visual style for days, I have to say I definitely recommend it. If you’re in the mood for something interest in the world of the Giallo, you can’t go wrong with this title. I give it a four out of five!

The Sister of Ursula

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 29 - 2010

The Plot: Ursula Beyne and her sister Dagmar are two Austrian women on a trip through Italy to find their mother who abandoned them as children, so that they can give her news of their father’s recent passing. Ursula has really taken the news of her father’s passing to heart and is reeling from the loss. So much that she has even developed slight psychic intuition. The two sisters wind up at an incredibly fancy hotel that is run by a man named Roberto Delleri, who is in the process of his own internal power dispute with his wife. Once there, they take in a showing of Stella Shining who is a beautiful singer within the lounge area of the hotel. Stella is in a relationship of sorts with Filippo Andrei, a young and troubled man who is addicted to heroin. At the same time that we meet these characters, a psychopath tracks down a prostitute and then pays her to have sex with a young man while he hides behind a curtain and watches. After the couple finish and the young woman sends the man on his way (as he had no idea anyone was watching), the psycho murders the young woman with a phallic-like object. This however is only the start of his rampage, who will be next and who could possibly stop this murdering beast?

The Review
As with so many Giallo films (Italian thrillers that were the precursor to the slasher film; the direct translation means “yellow” which is taken from yellow pulp paperbacks that many of these films were based upon) I tend to watch, I walked into The Sisters of Ursula with no previous knowledge whatsoever. There were three things that ultimately sealed the deal for me: cover artwork looked interesting, it is a Giallo and it has been released by Severin Films… what more does one need? Those elements alone were enough to grab my interest, but unfortunately they do not add up to a tremendous piece of work over all. After watching I decided to look into what others had said about the movie, and while I did find some valid criticism I also found a great deal of hyperbole being thrown around. I suppose I should refrain from insulting writers for hyperbole, as I am usually the king of exaggeration, but I actually think there is a really solid thriller somewhere down in the base of The Sister of Ursula. It is just unfortunate that it is never unleashed upon the world.

Directed by Enzo Milioni, a director I had never heard of, and featuring a cast of actors I was not entirely familiar with (not by face and certainly not by name, but some have had parts in far bigger films), this one was definitely going to turn out a unique experience. I had rather low hopes going into it after reading that the cinematography was going to be weak, and I forget where I read that, but as soon as the film opened up I knew that wasn’t going to be the case. Featuring a lot of really beautiful scenery shot in very interesting ways, The Sister of Ursula is far from the dry and visually plain piece of cinema I had been lead to believe it was. The visual presence of the film is quite dominant and impressive at nearly every turn in the 90 minute run-time. Rome always has a lovely look to it in the hands of a capable crew, but the mountain landscapes that are showcased in the opening moments here are almost impossible in their beauty. Although you could make a case and argue that the natural beauty is really more of a factor for this than anything done by the crew, there are a lot of really interesting angles and camera set-ups throughout that prove that the filmmakers knew what they were doing.

As for the content of the movie and not just the process of making things appear beautiful… I’ll just say that sexy Gialli usually are not what I am looking for when I go digging up a Giallo. These movies more often than not seem to serve their purpose as a means of titillation rather than straight-laced entertainment. Unfortunately, that is precisely the case with The Sister of Ursula and despite it having a massive amount of really nice qualities going on within it, for the most part everything gets bogged down in the sexuality. The sex here is exploitative and not usually that attractive, to be honest. Sure, the women look beautiful, but the artistry simply isn’t there to make it work in the context of the movie. So instead we’re left with seemingly endless love scenes that are as graphic as they come and stick out like a sore thumb.

Within minutes of starting the movie we watch as Dagmar undresses until she is completely nude while a very funky porn groove plays over the soundtrack. If you didn’t know what you were in for up until this point, you can pick up on things very quickly! Going back to the sex itself, the actual logistics of the sex are as goofy as any late night cable softcore romp you are going to find with the only real difference being how far these filmmakers are willing to take it. We have a fairly graphic scene of fellatio that goes just maybe half of an inch from showing full on penetration. There is another scene of cunnilingus that takes the softcore label to its very limits. The final scene of graphic sexuality would probably be the masturbation sequence featuring Dagmar rubbing herself down with a golden necklace. Very bizarre and in your face, this movie is bold in its approach to grabbing a audience.

I have went this far into the review and I haven’t even mentioned our killer’s weapon of choice, have I? It is certainly a change of pace for most Giallo films, that is for sure. You see, our killer only goes after very naughty girls who are in the process of having sexual relations or have just finished a session. That in itself isn’t the surprising part mind you, it is just that the killer doesn’t use a straight razor for these special girls. Instead he uses… well, there’s no easy way to put this, but he uses a dildo. Since genital mutilation was apparently all the craze within the Giallo genre (The Killer Has Returned, Torso), the filmmakers didn’t want to lose out on a growing market I am sure! Some of the most unintentionally hilarious moments pop up when we see a silhouette shadow on the wall of our killer and his phallic symbol slowly rising to the occasion. This is where the movie goes into ridiculous territory and actually makes a name for itself. Honestly, how many movies have the nerve to do this straight faced?

The Conclusion
The Sister of Ursula has some good qualities going for it, there is no question. It is a beautiful looking picture, the killer is memorable to say the least and the writing is actually clever (unfortunately there is no English dub though). These aspects don’t really overshadow the pacing issues due to the boring sex scenes or the incredibly convoluted plot that really takes a sharp mind to keep track of. Convoluted plots are the norm within the Giallo, to be sure, but The Sister of Ursula is on a plain all to itself. Generally, I like the movie but I have a lot of reservations. If you’ve ever been curious what Hanzo the Razor might be like if it were set in a Giallo, definitely pick this one up! I give it a three out of five.

Seven Deaths in the Cats Eye

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 23 - 2010

The Plot: Our film begins with an anonymous killer murdering a member of the MacGrieff family, a very wealthy family who have a massive castle located in Scotland. Our story then introduces us to Corringa, the beautiful and youngest of the MacGrieff family who is on vacation from school. We watch as she arrives home to visit her mother and aunt Mary, but soon finds herself wrapped up in a very dark mystery. Within the house is Suzanne, the bisexual and incredibly beautiful French teacher who tutors the black sheep of the family James. James is Corringa’s cousin and is generally considered a mad man by the majority of those around him. The story is that he killed his baby sister when he was but a boy! As bodies start to pile up, Corringa is caught up in a whirlwind of questions. What is that gorilla doing staring at her through the window? Who is the killer and does the slightly crazy James have something to do with this? Also, what is going on with Corringa’s uncle and the slutty Suzanne? As she digs into these mysteries she finds that the MacGrief family has a curse upon it. It is said that any time a MacGrieff is killed by another blood relative, they are allowed to come back as a vampire and be avenged by themselves or another member of the family! Is this all just hocus pocus/mumbo jumbo, or is that precisely what is going on in the MacGrieff household right now?

The Review
I think a lot of cult film geeks out there can agree with me on this, as I know that I am not alone, sometimes you pick a film to watch based solely on its title. Although I have a few Giallo guides lying around, Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye did not immediately jump out to me in terms of familiarity so when i saw it was released through Blue Underground and was available on Netflix: I took the plunge. I would just like to go on record and say that Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye is certainly one of the more evocative and interesting Giallo “titles” out there. Like always, it is also somewhat descriptive of the plot at hand and as is often the case with these types of movies, their grandiose and spectacular titles are simply a way to grab at your interest. It is a marketing ploy of sorts that gets someone like me out there to shell out money for a ticket. Although Seven Deaths… is not the worst Giallo I have seen by far, it is unfortunately quite rudimentary and not something that all audiences are going to grab onto. While there isn’t a whole lot of spectacular elements within Seven Deaths… it features a solid enough cast to give it some credit and has a decent series of twists and turns that make it an engaging watch. It won’t blow your mind, but for giallo fans it might be worth a watch.

The definition of a Giallo tends to be relatively disputed amongst its most hardcore of fans. Considering Seven Deaths in the Cats Eye doesn’t take place in Rome, is centered around a castle and generally has very little amateur-sleuthing to it, I am sure there are a few fans out there who would questions its authenticity within the genre. Although I wouldn’t count myself as an expert on the subgenre, I will say that during my quest through these films I have noticed that the genre can be fairly expansive to say the least. Films such as Death Laid an Egg (with its utter bizarre non-linear storytelling) and The House WIth the Laughing Windows (which is a much more gothic and cerebral piece of horror) both show how difficult it can be to really define what it is that makes these films part of a unit. If you want to get right down to the basics of what a Giallo is, they are nothing more than detective stories told in rather lurid form. With that context in mind, and with all of our preconceived notions of black gloved killers, straight razors, writers on vacations solving crimes and floating red curtains, all sitting firmly in the back seat, I feel totally confident in Seven Deaths in the Cats Eye‘s place within Giallo film history.

Seven Deaths… ultimately seems like a case of the filmmakers doing anything slightly odd that will distinguish themselves from the pack. The change of atmosphere and location is simply the starting point for the strange twists that this movie has in store for you. During the course of the film it throws a very strong supernatural atmosphere in the mix and even has us questioning whether a cat or giant gorilla might actually be involved in these murders. The supernatural element isn’t an entirely new concept for this genre, the previously reviewed The Killer Reserved Nine Seats was definitely successful in mixing both atmospheres together. I think the idea, confounding the audience as to whether this is a mortal tale or something more supernatural, is exotic and generally works well when done with all of the right elements. I think Margheriti does a good job in setting the atmosphere and the major dream sequence of the film where we first come in contact with an actual ghost is very eerie to say the least. However, the addition of the gorilla during the first quarter of the movie just sends my eyebrows from a furrow to standing at full attention. For one, I call this animal a gorilla but the movie does not. It is actually referred to as an orangutan during the movie, but in my eyes it is much more in line with a gorilla. Now, as for the cat, I have mixed feelings on its inclusion. While I think the cat remains an interesting visual motif throughout the film, the way the movie sort of hurls this concept at you gets rather tired over time. It’s a mix of good and bad, much like the majority of the picture.

The movie looks absolutely fantastic, I can’t deny that. Shot in glorious widescreen, every inch of the frame is filled with amazing color and set design. The castle location turns out to be a brilliant move as it becomes a new character within the picture. We have many of the classical ideas of hidden passages that are revisited for “modern” audiences and this setting really becomes integral for the atmosphere of the story. Mysterious and strange, it really works. The music provided by Riz Ortolani also works very well in this regard. The booming, but always beautiful, score adds another layer of class on what could have very easily been a rather ridiculous piece of genre cinema. In fact, it may still be considered that by most audiences, but even they must admit that Ortolani did his best to class up this piece. Best known for his work with Ruggero Deodato and Lucio Fulci, Ortolani is sometimes overshadowed amongst the great Italian composers but he has always remained of interest to me. Speaking of the Godfather of Gore (Lucio Fulci), there are a couple of other elements that tie this movie with his work. For one, there is of course the actual “gore” on display. To be honest there is only one gory sequence throughout and it is the examination of a rotting corpse. The actual murders are all relatively tame and feature razors being dragged across the neck of a victim followed by their red-paint covered hands covering up their supposed wounds. We also have Venantino Venantini in the cast, best known for his work in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, playing the part of a priest and getting to mix things up quite a bit. He is an actor who has a great face that allows him to play generally any role. Venantini may be the most well known actor in the credits for Eurocult fans, although Jane Birkin apparently has her own devoted set of followers (primarily for her work in Antonioni’s Blow Up) as well.

The Conclusion
I have to admit, my thoughts are rather muddy on Seven Deaths…, while I appreciate its personality and attempts at being different I find that the majority of the movie is rather elementary and just plain slow moving. If the concept of a Giallo set in Scotland and features a giant ape like creature staring a beautiful women through windows entices you (and why wouldn’t it?), then I would say its worth checking out for curiosity’s sake. I give the movie a solid three out of five. There’s enough good and bad in here to swing in either direction, but I’m standing on the middle ground of saying it is worth checking out for Giallo fans.





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