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Dinner With A Vampire

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 26 - 2010

Dinner With A Vampire (1987)
Director: Lamberto Bava
Writers: Lamberto Bava, Luciano Martino, Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: George Hilton, Patrizia Pellegrino and Riccardo Rossi

The Plot: When a local talent agency puts on an audition, several young people show up in order to grab a piece of the pie. Apparently the audition is for any and all entertainers, as we see an actress, a dancer, a singer and a comedian all show up to perform in order to gain access to a role in the famed Jurek’s (George Hilton) next feature film. Jurek is a rather creepy gentleman who has his own castle out in the far hills of Italy, where the four lucky winners (three young women and a young man) are invited to come stay. When they arrive, it turns out this might be a bit more than they expected. First they are shown a gruesome vampire film, and when Jurek finally arrives he seems more creepy than suave. As it turns out, Jurek is an immortal creature of the night! A vampire! Tired of his immortality, Jurek wants to die and he asks for this group of young people to attempt to kill him at some point during the night. Will they succeed or will they simply turn into another platter on Jurek’s dining table?

The Review
Although this may be a tad bit on the conceded side of things, but from what I have found on the internet with firsthand experience, I may be the most forefront Lamberto Bava apologist in all of the internet. Boastful? Hardly. I am unfortunately the one guy who apparently has a serious affection towards the man’s work, whether good or bad. Why do I like his films so much? That is a good question. I give this a lot of thought, but rarely come to a solid conclusion. Lamberto Bava is simply my kind of workman director. His projects look good, have flashes of brilliance and can really surprise you when they reach their very best moments. He, unlike Bruno Mattei or Claudio Fragrasso, has never seemed like an entirely talentless slob. Unfortunately in many of his very worst pictures it seems as if he folds over and gives in to budgetary or time restraints. Some of these films seem as if Bava had something bigger to say, but just didn’t have the time or money to do so. Dinner With A Vampire shares some of these elements to be sure, but this project was ostensibly doomed from the very beginning.

Part of a TV project from Lamberto Bava called “Brivido giallo”, there were four features made for television and Dinner With A Vampire was one of the final entries. Made on a low budget, even in eighties Italian exploitation terms, the movie does do a good job in hiding its limitations. Taking place within this castle, which I am sure was not cheap, really helps give the film some atmosphere. The very first thing you’ll notice when watching is how beautiful this castle really is. Every wall throughout is decorated in a different fashion, from textures carved in stone to the massive number of colors that make up the wallpaper. With sets like this, the movie can’t help but look good! Bava himself does a good job in handling the tension and keeps his camera movement fluid amidst all of this beautiful scenery. However, where the failures begin isn’t in the visual flow of the movie, instead it is the narrative. With any foreign film dubbed into English, you have to give a degree of leniency towards possible mistakes but I highly doubt those responsible for the dub could have helped in creating as infuriatingly stupid of characters as this film portrays.

I’ll start from the beginning. When we first meet Monica and Rita, they are introducing themselves to one another before going in for an audition. During this audition we get to see how dreadfully untalented our lead cast are, with Monica’s “dancing” really taking the cake for most pointless talent. Afterward we skip forward a week and apparently Monica and Rita have moved in together! Not only that, but after making the move in just one week they have their phone line established and have already given their new phone number to the talent agency because they soon receive a phone call on behalf of Jurek who wants both girls to come stay at his castle. Right off the bat, this logic hit me as being “wrong” and from there on out I found the film more and more difficult to really get into. Bava seems to try and manage camp comedy and serious bloody horror, but the mix never seems exactly right. Instead the comedy comes off as forced and annoying, especially due to the character of Gianni who is essentially your run of the mill Friday the 13th “smart-alec” type of character. This time around though, the smart alec doesn’t receive a quick death but instead has to become one of our strongest heroes.

George Hilton would probably be the strongest member of the cast. Although many of us are used to him playing the stoic cowboy in many of his Westerns, here he gets to cut loose and provides easily the most interesting role I have ever seen him play. He chews scenery at every given turn, and consistently remains over the top in the role. His being the most interesting part about the cast isn’t really the compliment that it could be, considering the caliber of players he is cast opposite to, but Hilton did manage to provide a good number of the laughs that I had with the picture. His second in command, a reluctant helper who dreams of escaping the castle, also provides a memorable turn. However, I think the only reason I even mention the character is due to the poor Transylvanian accent that he puts on. This could have been a dubbing choice, but I have to side with whoever made that decision because it is easily the funniest aspect of the movie.

There are moments of decent gore, more than one would expect from a made for TV project, but it isn’t enough to really save the project from its own genre-film dependency on cliche material. The FX work ranges, from very good to utterly atrocious. The creature FX for Jurek when he is fully transformed, it is quite phenomenal for a low budget project like this. I was almost blown away by how good the Jurek monster looked. However, in every other way the creature makeup is very plain. I am not usually one to complain about how terrible vampire fangs are in any given movie, but there are some really bad fang-effects in this one. You can get a slight taste of it in the above picture of Hilton exposing his fangs.

The Conclusion
Although I am a big fan of Lamberto Bava, this was one that even I could not defend all that much. Bland in every facet that doesn’t revolve around George Hilton, I was left quite bored throughout the majority of the picture. For a Lamberto Bava completest, this is probably worth tracking down but if you’re simply a vampire movie fanatic you can avoid this one. I give the film a two out of five.

Cosmos 2000: War of the Planets

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 22 - 2010

Written for Varied Celluloid by Prof. Aglaophotis!

The Plot: Taking place in the future of space travel and computer technology, a spaceship and its crew are following the orders of the recently built super computer known as Wiz. However, after sending the ship on a false collision course, Captain Alex Hamilton (John Richardson) of the MK31 space cruiser disapproves of taking orders from a machine. Despite his disapproval, his Commander keeps him on board the MK31, thinking he’s too valuable to their space endeavors. After fixing an old satellite, Hamilton’s crew are attacked by two unmanned UFOs who send them spiraling into outer space. Once the MK31 is stabilized, the crew find themselves being drawn towards a mysterious planet where the UFOs came from. What will the MK31 crew discover once they land? Furthermore, what is in store for the Earth once they discover the magnitude of the situation they’re about to face?

The Review
Think about all of the silly American Sci-Fi movies you or any MST3K host ever joked about that came from the 1960’s: all of the cheesy sets, science jargon that even a kindergartner could call-out, bad special effects and goofy costumes. Now apply all of those to an Italian Sci-Fi production. No commentary could protect you from the horror that is the low budget Italian Sci-Fi movie. Now I do love me some Italian Sci-Fi movies such as Barbarella and Star Crash, but those were some genuinely fun and silly movies with a lot of style. Cosmos is The Creeping Terror of Italian Sci-Fi films: it’s poor in everything but plot.
Part of what makes this movie hard to watch is the amount of stock footage in it. Whenever there’s a big explosion or exterior shot, they show a scene of a volcano erupting or exterior shots of buildings and space imagery. I’m not too sure if I can even comment on the spaceship footage: sometimes it looks a little authentic because they have tiny still images of specific characters flying by it for exterior space shots. Then there are other times where the ship won’t be doing anything congruous with what’s going on.

The editing deserves a particular mention because it always manages to disorient the Hell out of the pace and setting. One minute, during a briefing, the scene will just cut to the mission at hand and that mission will cut to a shot of the ship flying through space, all the while the music begins and ends throughout the cuts. Halfway through the movie the editing gets worse. The crew returns to the ship after learning some pretty important information about the planet they’ve landed on and how they intend on acting about it, but then we see the crew relaxing in the psychedelic love-making room to which they relax in for what appears to be ten minutes. There’s a sub plot about one of the alien space fighters crash-landing on Earth in the Arctic that’s unimportant because it gets resolved almost immediately after the main threat is finished. Some of the plot points just happen out of no where, for no reason at all, too. Characters will be murdered by unknown means aboard the ship and their fellow crew members won’t elucidate on it or make any lead-up to it; to them it just… happened.

It’s hard to identify with the characters in this movie. I know that doesn’t seem like an important aspect, but it’s impossible to identify with them because most of them are hard to identify in general. We have Capt. Hamilton, Oko (the woman with the big cleavage), Meela (Hamilton’s poetry reading squeeze), Max (the black guy), the bearded Marseille (who spends most of the movie eating peanuts [huh?]) and Charles Borromel. Every other crew member, regardless of name, just kind of blends in with each other. Most of this is due to the fact that everyone wears the same dopey red cap and skin tight uniform, but it’s also due to the fact that when they die, no one seems to make a big deal about it.

The outer space scenes in this movie are hilarious. Early in the movie when the crew are repairing the satellite, the actors are gliding around via string in front of a still-shot of stars that never moves. There’s even a huge laminated photograph of their ship in the background of the satellite! It doesn’t stop there at all, though. Not only do the astronaut hats look stupid, but all of the uniforms are skin-tight (especially around the chest… probably intended for the ladies). Upon landing on the nameless planet, the crew encounters a few killer robots (or really, one) and the robot’s limbs are clearly the leggings and forearms to a suit of armor. Then again, the robots in this movie are unintentionally charming because they all look like giant versions of old wind-up toy robots.

Most of the alien planet sets consist of either cave entrances, gravel or slag heaps. The movie never tries to pull our leg or use any forced perception shots though, it’s all just wide shot sets of characters running around a quarry in what looks to be the dead of night. Judging by the looks of the planet they land on, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the outdoor sets were shot in a parking lot. Hell, I think the only good effects are of the silver, half naked alien elves encountered on the planet. Then again, between the alien’s appearance and the rocky setting they live in, I thought the crew had landed on the Shikima Realm from La Blue Girl… and honestly, I think some horny muscle-bound elven dudes and tentacle monsters would’ve made this movie a bit more enjoyable.

There isn’t a moment in the movie where the music sounds original, it all sounds like it was lifted from every Sci-Fi movie/Science Documentary soundtrack from the 1960’s. There are some tracks that actually work, however. In the opening, sometime after the credits, we get plenty of shots of the Wiz super computer (as well as some NASA stock footage) and the music playing is this ambient metallic clashing that makes the computer system and its surroundings appear archaic; for awhile it made me think of Koyaanisqatsi. None of this lasts until the end credits though, especially when this weird lyrical piece pops up when a character is about to go into space. It reminded me of the weird edits I heard in the 3D VHS release of Robot Monster. They even use a Bach song several times in the movie, as if this is Phantom of the Opera… or The Unearthly, or SS Girls, or Sho’s level in Battle Arena Toshinden or any given media that uses that song!!

There are a few moments in the movie that are surprisingly well done, though, and by ‘well done’ I mean attention grabbing. One in particular is the part where the MK31 first encounters the alien space fighters and when headquarters finds that the press has leaked information about the alien ships to the public. The panic and urgency in the scene is actually a little intense, forgiving the fact they never tell us how the press found out about it. It was certainly a lot more gripping and coherent than the the first encounter with the Natal in the opening to Battle in Outer Space (but then again, Battle in Outer Space was pretty cool).
The acting is okay for the most part. John Richardson is pretty good in the movie as the rogue captain who mistrusts the orders of the Wiz super computer, but really it just comes down to him flashing his good looks. He barely even gets into a fist fight! What little fist fighting there is was left to late stuntman/actor Aldo Canti who is actually kind of cool in the movie, but his character just doesn’t get enough to do. As I mentioned earlier, Charles Borromel – the Actor who played Kronos in Cave Dwellers and the Police Captain in Horrible – is in this movie and it’s interesting to note that this may be one of the better roles I’ve seen him in so far. His character starts off pretty standard, but near the end of the movie he actually starts to show some really good physical acting that is a little convincing.

Still, I have to give credit to the plot. The villain in Cosmos is something you generally don’t see in movies any more… or comic books, or novels, or even video games. I know this was made back in the seventies, probably as a belated cash-in on the popularity of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the thought put into the story and its antagonist shows a little care regardless of the shoe string budget. It could’ve been a tad bit better I guess, especially in the guy’s motivations and reasoning, but for what it is, I appreciated it.

What gets to me the most about the movie though is how inconsistent the ending is. At first it’s all happy, but then one of our heroes dies and it gets depressing. Then the movie tries to lighten things up by saying one of our heroes is now a proud father… and then it gets depressing again out of nowhere. The depressing plot inconveniences seem really out of place and the first one is completely incongruous to the whole story, mostly because there was nothing about the antagonist that would’ve caused that stuff to happen! If it weren’t for the evil voice that shows up during that twist, I would’ve just assumed the movie turned into a pre-Pandorum in the end.

The Conclusion
Seeing how I’m a huge nerd, a part of me really wants to like this movie: it’s got a plot about space-borne robots, aliens, super computers, a despondent theme and an actor from Cave Dwellers. Unfortunately, the movie is so poorly shot, edited and acted it makes for a borderline miserable viewing experience. The goofy, skin-tight space uniforms, crappy special effects, stock footage, the half naked silver space elves and the clunky giant robots in shining armor just barely make this a movie worth watching for sheer hilarity, but there’s just not enough of either. On the lighter side, it’s not really the worst Sci-Fi movie about space exploration I’ve seen; I think MST3K covered a vast majority of the more wretched ones like Fire Maidens From Outer Space and 12 to The Moon… but it still hurts.

Raiders of Atlantis

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 20 - 2010

The Plot: Our film opens in the distant future of 1994, where we follow mercenaries Mike (Christopher Connelly) and Mohammed (Tony King) as they are paid by a colonel to kill a man for $50,000. After pulling this job successfully, the two plan on getting away and heading to Trinidad until the heat blows over. At the same time, we follow Dr. Cathy Rollins (Gioia Scola), a expert in pre-Colombian dialects, who is brought aboard a rig located in the Atlantic ocean. She is brought in by the US government who has placed Dr. Saunders (George Hilton) responsible for her. Saunders asks Rollins to decipher a tablet that is dated over 12,000 years old and was recently found on the ocean’s floor. After some quick research, Dr. Rollins decides that this tablet could very well prove the existence of Atlantis itself! When the scientists begin diving for more research and using a submarine to possibly lift Atlantis, the great underwater paradise rises from the ocean’s floor. When it rises, the rig is destroyed and leaves Dr. Rollins and a select few stranded. Mike and Mohammed, on their way to Trinidad, find them floating and soon this group is off and traveling. They stumble upon San Pedro island where Manuel, Mike’s friend and guide, goes insane and tries to kill them. On San Pedro, the island has been turned into a war zone, bodies are strung up on buildings, and the streets are empty. A gang known as The Interceptors are killing off the entire population. Now Mike, Mohammed and the two doctors have to find a way to survive and put an end to this curse from Atlantis!

The Review
Ruggero Deodato is a filmmaker of special interest to me. He seems to be a filmmaker who always wanted to do more and make films that were better than his particular staple of genre cinema, but failed more often than not. With that said, his films are almost always genuine in their entertainment value and he has never delved completely into hack territory from what I have seen (and I have seen more than your common fan). Deodato’s main calling card has always been and always will be his greatest success: Cannibal Holocaust, but his filmography is littered with works of interest for fans of Italian trash cinema. With even his worst films, such as the dreadful Body Count, his work had a viable atmosphere that retained at least some level of respectability. Between the years 1980-1985, Deodato made his greatest and most consistent string of films. With Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park, Raiders of Atlantis and Cut & Run Deodato ostensibly solidified his name in the pantheon of great Italian genre filmmakers. Looking at this list of films, I absolutely see that with each successive film his work was becoming more and more diluted, but Raiders of Atlantis catches Deodato before the well had gone completely dry.

While Cut & Run is likely my least favorite of this impressive run, I give it credit for its rather clear narrative comportment. With Raiders of Atlantis, a film I find infinitely more entertaining, I can not deny how utterly ridiculous this whole project is. From a critical standpoint, no this is not a “good” movie. The special effects are laughable, some of the acting is atrocious and the general plot is made up entirely of head scratching moments that deny probability. Yet, when this movie finally decides to get up and start moving, it does so with a unabashed sense of urgency that can’t be denied. The first half of Raiders of Atlantis is comprised of establishing information primarily, but it still comes off entirely as fluff. We know next to nothing about the characters of Mike Hall or his companion Mohammed/Washington, despite their being our leads. So, it becomes rather difficult to say that the first half is dedicated to character exposition when we aren’t entirely sure what it is that our lead characters do for a living. It is obvious that we watch Mohammed and Mike commit murder and we see them collect money for doing so, apparently from a colonel, but how did they get wrapped up in this business? Are they mercenaries? What has happened with these men to have lead them to this? Do they have families? How long have they been doing this? Are they cruel? There is very little time spent explaining who these men are, despite it being crucial in understanding the characters.

Raiders of Atlantis is a rare combination of post-apocalyptic stereotypes, some jungle survival and science fiction mystery. Taking place eleven years in the future (why 1994?), the film attempts to grab the audience with its science fiction angle early on. This ultimately fails because setting your movie in such a near-future doesn’t show much change in the landscape. Maybe military killings, such as the one Mike and Mohammed commit, are the usual in this near-future? Well, if that were true I suppose our two heroes would have no need to run off into hiding. It is interesting that we ultimately get to “see” the process of this apocalypse, as opposed to a film being set in the distant future where gangs already traverse the landscape. That unfortunately doesn’t make up for this bizarre version of 1994 that looks a LOT like 1983. No, I’m afraid there isn’t much special about this future world, other than Atlantis being dug up. Mentioning the inevitable rise of Atlantis brings up another inconsistency in the movie that becomes apparent early on, because now I have to mention the special FX work.

Deodato reveals his lack of technique in the world of science fiction as we see Atlantis raised from the bed of the ocean. A director more experienced in this form of special FX may have been able to save some of these scenes, but as it is Raiders… features some of the absolute worst miniature FX on record. You begin to understand how brilliant a filmmaker Ishiro Honda was, that his Godzilla movies and giant monster flicks could still look so good fifty years later, when a movie made recently in comparison could look so awful. In the book Cannibal Holocaust and the Savage Cinema of Ruggero Deodato, the writers correctly described the FX work as “boat in a bath tub stuff”. The “waves” that come rushing towards the camera have no frothy edge to them like you would expect in such a mammoth tidal wave, the props are lacking in detail and the sequences overall come across as embarrassing. Still, for b-movie fans looking for a laugh, there are plenty to be had here.

In completely opposite fashion however, Deodato delivers some of the best action set pieces I have ever seen in an Italian film. There is a great chase sequence that takes place on a bus as our leading man tries to evade a helicopter, but it enters into the realm of ridiculous Jackie Chan style stunt work as we see the character of Mike having to climb on top of the speeding bus in order to shoot down the helicopter. We also see an assassin jumping FROM the helicopter on to the speeding bus in courageous fashion. If that was not daring enough, Mike also has to climb aboard a moving helicopter from atop the parked bus just a few short minutes later. This is simply one sequence in a second half that is filled to the brim with shootouts and various moments of gore thrown in to spruce things up. The gore shouldn’t be overhyped, this being a film from Mr. Cannibal Holocaust himself, but there are a few choice moments throughout; including a excellent decapitation as well as an arrow through the throat.

The Conclusion
There are other interesting aspects I should probably cover. The film features George Hilton in a supporting role, and despite the fact that he doesn’t get to do a whole lot he still manages to be his charismatic self. The backdrops that Deodato shoots in are also pretty amazing and he does a swell job in making San Pedro appear as a nightmarish post-war landscape using very few sets. The bits that ultimately take place on Atlantis, a landscape that deeply resembles the Amazon, are equally as amazing to look at. The general plot for this one might not make sense from even the most basic of points, but all of the tiny little things add up to an entertaining ninety minutes that really shouldn’t be passed up by Eurocult fans. I give it a solid three out of five that teeters on the edge of a four. Definitely check this one out!

Disco Godfather

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 17 - 2010

The Plot: In the height of the disco age, our story focuses on a man named Tucker Williams who is best known by his alias, “The Disco Godfather” (played by Rudy Ray Moore). When the Godfather’s nephew, young Buckie, has his basketball scholarship dreams dashed by a friend who gives him a hot dose of the brand new drug called PCP… the Disco Godfather swears vengeance! The Disco Godfather, who is an ex-police officer, has all of the connections to convincingly hunt down the drug dealers who have poisoned his community with this new plague. He visits the local hospital, which is packed full to the brim with young kids who are suffering PCP induced comas, and he sets his mind to bigger things. He helps establish programs in order to “attack the whack” and put an end to this nightmare of drug horrors. However, as the Disco Godfather digs deeper and deeper into this assorted mess, he begins to discover that these drug cartels go up further than anyone could have ever imagined!

The Review
Rudy Ray Moore is a celebrity within the blaxploitation genre that draws some very different reactions. Depending on who you ask, you’ll either hear him revered as a saint or as a blasphemous curse on the entire genre. He is beloved within hip-hop and African American culture for his party albums during the seventies which were very popular. They were groundbreaking in their taboo subject matter, and pushed the limits of vulgarity as an art form. However, when it came to the cinematic scale, his movies were by no means “good”. His catalog has become the fodder of B-Movie fans who love the consistent continuity errors and dreadful acting.

To be completely honest, I am not a big fan of Moore’s comedy recordings. Although they most certainly have their audience, as a totally square cracker, the comedy simply alludes my own understanding. Despite it being slightly mean spirited, and lacking in compassion, I tend to enjoy Moore’s filmography as a connoisseur of really bad movies. That might make me a bad person, that might make me a less cultured hooligan, but it doesn’t make me wrong. Disco Godfather is a bad movie. Poor conception, poor execution and generally bad in almost every way except that one area that tends to matter most: entertainment. Disco Godfather, despite everything I may have to say about it, is ridiculous in its levels of entertainment.
Disco Godfather is a movie that you really CAN judge based entirely on its name. Do not feel bad about judging this book by its sequin-laden cover folks, because chances are you KNOW what this movie has in store for you. Simply from knowing Rudy Ray Moore’s involvement, as well as the title of the film, Disco Godfather more or less played out exactly as I had it built up inside of my head. My expectations were that the film would take place in a bizarre fantasy disco world that would be inhabited by caricatures. I expected some kind of conflict would take place, and it would ultimately draw the Disco Godfather from his discotheque, and then he would have to use poorly choreographed martial arts in order to destroy some kind of nefarious scheme that was, more than likely, concocted by the white man. As it turns out, I was right.

That really is Disco Godfather in a nutshell. As with any great piece of literature though, it isn’t ultimately about the destination of the story, but the follies along the way. Similar to Great Expectations or Moby Dick, while we are discussing literary works, Disco Godfather squarely places itself in a very certain time and a very certain place. That place is of course the tail end of the seventies disco subculture! If you have seen Dolemite!, chances are the last thing you ever expected to see was Rudy Ray Moore sporting a skin tight, baby blue, sequin covered jump-suit. Well, if you watch Disco Godfather… prepare yourself, because you’re treated to just such a sight within the opening minutes of the film. Rudy Ray Moore, sporting the biggest grin in cinematic history, pops and locks his way down the electric slide line in true seventies fashion. The moment is very surreal to say the very least, but never lacking in humor. Intentional or not.
Rudy Ray Moore is the MVP for this picture, without question. Although Disco Godfather is a step up in most technical regards in comparison to Dolemite!, the one consistency from both pictures is Moore’s performance. Equally intimidating and hilarious, Moore is the glue that holds the film together. His performance is generally poor in all fashions, but its the astounding manner in which he delivers his performance that makes the movie so unique in its entertainment value. Moore enters into scenes with a grin upon his face, despite there being no reason to be so upbeat and he generally fluctuates between two modes: suave and mad-as-all-get-out. He defines the two-dimensional performance here and yet remains so incredibly likable in his performance that it is hard to imagine any audience member walking away with any ill-feelings toward him. He may win over audiences in the most simplistic of manners, but he absolutely does win them over.

Despite Rudy Ray Moore’s awful/brilliant line delivery (“Bucky! What have you HAY-AD!?”), the rest of the cast are generally decent. There are a few spotty moments here and there, but for the most part the cast does a good job in supporting this far fetched, PCP ridden, story. Carol Speed (Abby, The Mack) is good here but her role might as well have been billed as a cameo. At the end of the day, this is Rudy Ray Moore’s show and it is as ridiculous as the man himself ever thought of being. A favorite moment of mine came towards the end of the film and shows Rudy Ray Moore hunting down the PCP traffickers in a alleyway, and this of course proceeds to escalate into a kung fu battle. The choreography is honestly a vast improvement for Moore, but what makes the sequence memorable is when a jogger stumbles upon the brawl and asks “Hey, what’s going on here?,” to which Moore replies “These guys are selling PCP!,” which causes our jogger to throw off the towel from around his neck and join in saying “PCP? Well then, let’s kick some ass!“. If that doesn’t define this movie, what does?

The Conclusion
Ridiculous. Stupid. Hilarious. Brilliant. All are words that describe Disco Godfather adequately. You, as a film fan, should know whether this is a movie you want to track down. I will say that it at times has pacing issues during the first half, where Rudy Ray Moore seems to spend more time at the disco than he does tracking down any PCP dealers. When the movie picks up, the silliness rarely lets up. Part of me wants to sway anyone from ever seeing this movie and then another part of me wants to implore everyone to search it out. For my rating, I have to sway towards the side of entertainment. I give the movie a three out of five. It was a close vote and almost made it to a four, but those previously mentioned pacing issues really slow things down during the first half. Regardless, check out this ridiculous piece of fluff as soon as possible!

SS Girls

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 15 - 2010

Written for Varied Celluloid by Prof. Aglaophotis!

The Plot: It’s war in the 1940’s. The efforts of the Third Reich are being threatened by traitors amongst their ranks. Nazi General Berger is ordered to assign the eccentric Count Hans Schellenberg to assemble a crack team of prostitutes, trained to have sex under any condition and convert his manor into the private brothel Blumenstrauss. It is here in Blumenstrauss that the conspirators are treated to countless delights, to lure them into admitting their turn-coat ways prompting their immediate execution. However, the love blossoming between the hostess and Schellenberg is starting to rub Schellenberg’s ex-flame Frau Inge the wrong way. Will Blumenstrauss continue to stand against the love triangle inside or will it collapse at the end of the war?

The Review
Of what few Nazisploitation movies I’ve seen, I can honestly say SS Girls is one of the most unique. That may sound awkward considering that the premise behind SS Girls has been done before (Nazis rooting traitors out through sex), but its presentation is unlike any other I’ve seen. It isn’t dark and cruel, it isn’t straight forward and serious. No, SS Girls is actually… kind of funny.

SS Girls is the kind of movie that you can imagine being adapted from a comic book because its so zany, over-acted and sexual that it almost mocks the theme of the sub-genre it’s in. Hans Schellenberg is a thoroughly funny and cartoonish character brought to life by Gabrielle Carrara’s attention to physical acting, his enormous Scicilian grin and wild, beady eyes (as well as an almost Joker-esque dub actor). Despite this, he has his intense moments too, particularly when he’s confronted by Frau Inge about their past relationship. Every character in the movie is very much like Hans, though; everyone has either a very humorous or light attribute about them that adds to the movie’s overall theme of silliness and seriousness. There’s one character who is known for mutilating people indiscriminately and mixing women’s blood with his cognac, but rather than coming across as scary he’s just plain nutty. That’s not even getting to his sidekicks, which consists of Crazy Kurt from Women’s Camp 119 and a Japanese Imperial soldier with a Sharpie Swastika on his head band named Wang!

Being a B-Movie lover, I feel the need to point out a familiar face in this movie. If your a fan of Strike Commando, Exterminators of the Year 3000 or Yor: Hunter from the Future, then the character of Prof. Jurgen will look awfully familiar. Just picture him with a scruffy beard and he’ll look just like Le Due/Papillion/Pag. Yep, Luciano Pigozzi is in this movie! He’s actually not too bad in the movie, though it’s probably the most serious role I’ve seen him in so far.

I think the only character who isn’t light or humorous in the movie is Ivano Staccioli who is once again playing a straight-laced high-ranking Nazi officer. He is a lot more animated and shows a lot more range in this than in Women’s Camp 119, so there’s still some fun to him. Plus, I think Bruno Mattei realized how classy this guy looks playing piano because he has Ivano doing the same here as he did in Women’s Camp… although here he’s smoking a cigarette while a drunk Flapper in a sheer dress dances on top of it. Funny enough a lot of actors and actresses showed up here from Women’s Camp: Gota Gobert, probably the only German performer in the whole movie, shows up again though she doesn’t get the best line in the movie this time… in fact, I don’t think she has any lines. She doesn’t even beat anyone up! Marina Daunia is really good in this movie as she brings a lot of intensity and power to the role and still manages to come across as being a longing and sexual person. Yet in Women’s Camp 119 Daunia’s role amassed to a Jewish prisoner who had maybe one line, a few staring shots and some lip syncing… before her character got shot in the head. Even the random Nazi Doctor in the poison bullet scene from Women’s Camp showed up in this as a groping butler. This use of actors reminds me of when I was doing High School plays and the class would be split into two groups performing the same play, but no one played the same character.

The movie is pretty well shot; it has its signature Mattei extreme close-ups and overall smooth camera work to it. Granted, the cinematography isn’t on the same level as say, Andrezej Zulawski; there’s nothing really impressive and the camera tends to go over a few rough pans, but the man knew where to point the camera and that shows here. I think the only time the lighting and shots don’t match up is when Magal is strip teasing in a room lit by red light, but once we get a close-up of her the red light is barely there. The setting is also very good, there’s a lot of fairly impressive architecture, almost like the crew traveled to Loire Valley, found and furnished one of its many lost castles and filmed Nazi Porn there.

The props in this movie are pretty neat, especially the ones made specifically for the film. Ever seen a Nazi Pope? You will if you see this movie! There’s even this ridiculous sexual Training Montage (guest starring Salvatore Baccaro again) where a woman is having sex with a… uh… I actually have no idea what she’s having sex with. It looks like a starved prisoner of war who is literally just skin and bones making him look like a huge special effect… but its head is moving perfectly and actually looks like a human head attached to the skin and bones body! Speaking of which… there is some bestiality in the movie. Nothing overt mind you, just a bunch of very happy looking dogs laying on top of naked women as they caress their coats. Sadly, the sex can get a little tedious here and there, like one scene where Magall and Daunia are making out during a thunder storm and the scene feels like it goes on for ten minutes. The girls are VERY sexy, though. They found some very lovely looking ladies to be nude in the movie, though if you’re not a fan of overgrown bush… be prepared to see several small forests.

Typical of Bruno Mattei there is a fair share of stock footage, although it’s actually fairly seamless. The stock footage soldiers, complying to their Captain’s orders against on-coming tanks, matches pretty well. For a moment I was actually under the impression that this movie had a budget beyond Nazi uniforms! The stock footage soldiers and action started to bust open when the soldiers attack the Russians in the ruins of a village and the only authentic footage is of the Captain shooting wildly at the camera (in front of a chain link fence that looks like someone’s backyard).

Once again, this being a Mattei film, this movie has a great soundtrack. The score – composed by Gianni Marchetti – mostly consists of saucy Italian Jazz with just a hint of Bossa. The soundtrack makes every scene sexy, intense and overall delicious with its combination of playful female vocals, harmonicas, piano tunes and guitar strings.

Sadly, as much fun as I had watching this movie, I can’t bring myself to give it full credit. I’ve watched enough Nazisploitation films to get the idea that many clichés were required, seeing how most Italian exploitation movies were knock-offs and unofficial sequels anyway. Also, considering this is WWII we’re talking about, most of the time the movie won’t have a happy ending and I get that. However, did THIS Nazisploitation movie need such a depressing ending? Halfway through, the zany sexiness just peters out; it’s like the movie suddenly remembered it was taking place in WWII and realized it needed to be more realistic. Suddenly, characters who seemed so confident or comical break down and become so overly serious and remorseful that they simultaneously become irrational. Hell, even the hookers hop aboard the Irrationally Depressed Nonsense Train when they have no real reason to be depressed in the first place!!

I keep getting the feeling that Bruno needed to give Ivano Staccioli’s characters more back story; it’s like Bruno kept looking at the guy and saying ‘your character will change EVERYTHING in the end’ and Ivano just quirked an eyebrow and shrugged as if to say ‘Sure thing, boss.’ Ivano’s character does have more reason for his actions here than Women’s Camp 119, but it’s still abrupt and hollow. Besides, in Women’s Camp 119 it was thematically appropriate because the movie was dark and depressing to begin with, but this one was the exact opposite. Not that I really wanted a completely upbeat ending – I know not all stories about WWII ended lightly – all I’m asking for is a little consistency.

This review covers the release done by Exploitation Digital. The transfer is pretty good and viewable, although the other source material used to present the movie as it was meant to be seen is a little off. There’s a scene near the end where Ivano’s character shoots an injured soldier and the only line he says is muted much like the deleted scenes in Red Nights of the Gestapo. I’m assuming the line was muted to cover up the original Italian dialogue, yet the ending of the movie leaves the original Italian dialogue in place. It’s too bad they never dubbed it, the last lines would’ve been perfect if they were dubbed… glad I know a little Italian.

I’m going to check out the Shriek Show release of SS Girls, though, because apparently this one is missing a few scenes: much like the DVD releases for Trick or Treat and The Serpent and the Rainbow, the back of the box features two screen shots that aren’t shown in the movie, one of the executioner laughing his head off and the other of the Crazy Kurt guy pointing a revolver at Gabrielle Carrara. There is a pretty good interview with Bruno Mattei on it though, most of which he spends talking about his inspiration for SS Girls and how the Nazisploitation craze sprung up in the first place.

The Conclusion
Well, as much as I practically despise the padding and out-of-place ending of this movie, I honestly can’t help but recommend SS Girls because let’s face it: with movies like Women’s Camp 119 and The Gestapo’s Last Orgy, a sub-genre of exploitation this cruel NEEDS a movie as fun as SS Girls. It’s a well shot, funny, sexy romp into Exploitation. Trust me, it’s the most fun you’ll have in this sub-genre.





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