Monthly Archives: November 2012

ROMADROME 2

This week I take a look at more films I’ve covered in detail in my book ‘Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classics to Cult’. The first five Italian cult movies I recommended as essential were ‘The Trojan War’, ‘Maciste in Hell’, ‘Sons of Thunder’, ‘Blood and Black Lace’ and ‘The Castle of the Living Dead’. Here are five more essentials no collection should be without.

The Last Man on Earth (Salkow/Ragona, 1964)
This Italian-US co-production starred Vincent Price as Dr Robert Morgan, the lone survivor of a worldwide plague. Apparently immune, he lives in his barricaded house by night, as hordes of vampirised undead attack his stronghold. During the day Morgan travels the city in his hearse-like station wagon, staking the vampires and throwing their bodies in a perpetually burning mass grave, the Pit. This is an ultra-bleak adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel ‘I Am Legend’. It was shot on location in Rome, including the steps of the grand Palazzo Della Civilta and the distinctive mushroom tower of Il Fungo, in the E.U.R. district. The shambling vampires resemble zombies and some scenes look to have inspired George Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968).

The old AIP TV print of this is available in many multi-movie sets, such as Mill Creek’s 50 movie ‘Horror Classics’ pack, but to see it in 2.35:1 Alpha Video put out a pretty good letterboxed edition
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Man-Earth-Region-NTSC/dp/B0002HODU4/ref=sr_1_15?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1354122299&sr=1-15

Cornerstone Media release
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Man-Earth-DVD/dp/B000YNS2US/ref=sr_1_5?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1354122114&sr=1-5

It’s also available in a colourised version
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Earth-Digitally-remastered-colour/dp/B002DFE0E2/ref=sr_1_3?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1354122114&sr=1-3

The Wild Wild Planet (Antonio Margheriti, 1966)
Even including Mario Bava’s ‘Planet of the Vampires’ (1965), this is my favourite Italian sci-fi movie. In fact, ‘The Wild, Wild Planet’ is a combination of futuristic crime film, horror and fantasy. On space station Gamma One, Commander Halstead is suspicious of the macabre experiments in organ miniaturisation by Professor Nurmi (Massimo Serato). On Earth, people are disappearing mysteriously. When Mike’s girlfriend, Lieutenant Connie Gomez (Lisa Gastoni), accepts Nurmi’s offer to take a vacation on Delphos at Nurmi’s research facility, Mike ends up amid some of the wackiest footage in the sci-fi genre. The supporting cast includes Carlo Giustini, Franco Ressel, Goffredo Unger and a young Franco Nero. The kidnappings are perpetrated by Nurmi’s karate-kicking, robotic women who are accompanied by inflatable henchmen – mysterious anaemic bald zombies, wearing caps, shades and long grey macs – and the finale sees the Delphos space station flooded with blood plasma.

The very good news is that the Warner Archive has released this film on DVD
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Planet-DVD-Region-NTSC/dp/B0049IHWT6/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1354122343&sr=1-1

The film’s prequel ‘War of the Planets’ and another of Margheriti’s sci-fi movies, ‘The Snow Devils’, are also available
http://www.amazon.co.uk/War-Planets-DVD-Region-NTSC/dp/B0049IHX36/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1354122382&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Snow-Devils-DVD-Region-NTSC/dp/B005OT829S/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1354122414&sr=1-1

Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
Like ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, this was another in a long line of spaghettis that used Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Yojimbo’ as inspiration, Corbucci’s ‘Django’ was as influential in Italy as Leone’s ‘Dollars’ trilogy. Franco Nero played gunrunner Django, who drags an example of his wares around with him in a coffin. This violent, muddy anti-western has inspired many ‘Django’ movies, from 1966 through to Quentin Tarantino’s forthcoming western ‘Django Unchained’. In Corbucci’s original, Django mows down the vermin of a ramshackle frontier town teetering on the brink of collapse – the two warring gangs here are red-hooded Confederate zealots and Mexican would-be revolutionaries. A great spaghetti western, however the English dubbing is appalling. Try and track down the Italian language version, with English subtitles from BU
http://www.amazon.com/Django-Franco-Nero/dp/B000PC6Z48/ref=pd_vtp_b_34

This is the English dubbed release from Argent
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Django-DVD-Franco-Nero/dp/B0002VF4OY/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1354122773&sr=1-1

Argent are also re-releasing it in the UK on Blu-ray in January 2013. No word on extras, options etc yet. Let’s hope it has an Italian with English translated subs version
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Django-Blu-ray-Franco-Nero/dp/B009ZWJSLG/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1354122773&sr=1-2

Special Mission Lady Chaplin (Alberto De Martino, 1966)
Ken Clark played Dick Malloy – C.I.A. Agent 077 – in three entertaining spy movies aping the James Bond films, of which this is the best. The other two are ‘Mission Bloody Mary’ (1965) and ‘From the Orient With Fury’ (1965 – rather than ‘From Russia With Love’). ‘Lady Chaplin’ was directed by De Martino, but has action sequences staged by Giorgio Ubaldi (later of the ‘Trinity’ films) and future director Enzo G. Castellari. Malloy’s on the trail of 16 Polaris nuclear missiles which have been stolen from the wreck of USS Thresher, an atomic submarine. In Spain Malloy investigates wealthy salvager Ken ‘Kobre’ Zoltan (Jacques Bergerac) and encounters sexy French assassin Lady Arabella Chaplin (Daniela Bianchi, from ‘From Russia With Love’). Arabella, a master of disguise, is introduced as a machinegun-toting nun, shooting it out with two industrial spies (posing as monks). Her partner-in-crime is Constance Day (‘Evelyn Stewart’/Ida Galli), until she falls for Malloy’s invisible charms and works as a double agent, scuppering Zoltan’s scheme. This globetrotting instalment was filmed on location in Spain, the UK, the US and France. Bruno Nicolai’s soundtrack is a brassy spy score, and the dramatic title song ‘Lady Chaplin’ is sung by Bobby Solo, who is presumably U.N.C.L.E. agent Napoleon’s brother.

Previously available on DVD from Dorado Films, this seems to be currently unavailable
http://www.amazon.com/Special-Mission-Lady-Chaplin/dp/B000JEPUB6/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1354123097&sr=1-1&keywords=special+mission+lady+chaplin

Django Kill! (If You Live Shoot!) (Giulio Questi, 1967)
Made under the shooting title ‘Oro Hondo’, Questi’s ‘Se Sei Vivo, Spara!’ (‘‘If You Live, Shoot!’) was retitled ‘Django, Kill! (If You Live Shoot!)’ for international release. Tomas Milian’s stranger in town is nameless in the English language print. This is another ‘Yojimbo’ reworking, but this time things get stranger and stranger for the stranger. He is double-crossed by his gringo robber friends, then finds himself in a vicious frontier town (the same Spanish town set used as Fistful’s San Miguel) where he is pitted against a band of sadistic rancheros led by landowner Zorro (Roberto Camardiel) and the lynch-simple yokels, led by religious zealot Hagerman (Paco Sanz) and saloonkeeper Tembler (Milo Quesada), for ownership of a cache of stolen gold. The film ends up veering from a spaghetti western and into the gothic territories of Bava and Poe, as the tragedy culminates in a ‘Fall of the House of Hagerman’ finale, when a house burns to the ground. The fully restored version of ‘Django, Kill!’ (rated 15 in the UK) runs 112 minutes and includes much more violence and plot, but my favourite version of this film is the long-deleted UK home video version, which races along at a pacy 94-minutes and was distributed in UK cinemas by Golden Era in 1969.

This is the 112 minute version, in a very fine 2.35:1 ratio print
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Django-Kill-DVD-Tomas-Milian/dp/B000646798/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1354123405&sr=1-1

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ROVERS, ESCORTS AND ISPETTORE CLIFF

New out this month in the UK on DVD ‘Region 0’ is Massimo Dallamano’s 1973 cop thriller ‘Super Bitch’, starring Ivan Rassimov and Stephanie Beacham. ‘Super Bitch’ was the title given to the film for UK videotape release in 1987 in the wake of Beacham’s success as catty Sable Colby on TV in ‘The Colbys’ and later ‘Dynasty’. The original Italian title was ‘Si può essere più bastardi dell’ispettore Cliff?’ (‘Could Anyone Be Possibly more of a Bastard than Inspector Cliff?’) and the film was also known as ‘Blue Movie Blackmail’ for its UK X-rated release in 1973. Beacham features prominently in the newly-commissioned DVD cover artwork by Graham Humphreys, with the original Italian poster artwork (foregrounding Rassimov) on the reverse.

In ‘Super Bitch’, Rassimov plays Cliff Hoyst, a US agent for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, who infiltrates a London escort agency being used as a front for drug smuggling. Visually he looks like Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry Callahan and Cliff is similarly expert in the use of firearms and playing dirty. Don Siegel’s ‘Dirty Harry’ (1971) was one of the key influences on Italian ‘poliziotteschi’ cop films, when it was released in Italy as ‘Ispettore Callaghan: il caso Scorpio è tuo’ (‘Inspector Callaghan: the Scorpio Case is yours’). Beacham plays Joann, one of the escorts who becomes involved with Cliff, and much of the film’s continued cult popularity is due to her occasional nude scenes.

Dallamano’s was a consummate cinematographer who later became a director. He worked on some of the earliest spaghetti westerns, including ‘Gunfight at Red Sands’, ‘Buffalo Bill, Hero of the Far West’ and ‘Pistols Don’t Argue’, and Sergio Leone’s ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘For a Few Dollars More’, sometimes under the pseudonym ‘Jack Dalmas’. His directorial debut (billed as ‘Max Dillman’), the revenge western ‘Bandidos’ (1967), is rightly celebrated for its impressive cinematography. He made two great gialli – ‘What Have You Done to Solange?’ (his masterpiece, which was set in London) and ‘What Have they Done to Your Daughters?’ – and the erotic, strange ‘Venus in Furs’ (1969), with Laura Antonelli. He also directed an ‘Exorcist’/’Death in Venice’ derivative, ‘The Night Child’ (1974), which has also been released by Arrow Films.

In ‘Super Bitch’, Inspector Cliff initially appears to be an assassin – during a well-shot episode at the ruins of the Roman temples to Jupiter, Mercury and Venus at Baalbek, in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon. The plot shifts from Beirut, to Paris and New York, but is mostly set in London (though interiors were lensed at SAFA Palatino in Rome). The film depicts the seedy underbelly of London life, with blue movies and blackmail laced with drug smuggling, threats, thefts and murder. As with so many 1970s Italian cop movies, the film’s biggest crimes are against fashion – with colourful costumery and décor on display – though whatever she wears, Beacham looks beautiful. The score is catchy, with Riz Ortolani’s strutting brass at its funkiest on the theme music. The film was largely shot in and around London, with touristy scenes filmed in Kensington and Chelsea, the Café Royale, Cumberland Gate, Trafalgar Square, Charring Cross Station, the Zella 9 gallery, Newbury Park station, outside a theatre in the Haymarket, Camera Place and Hyde Park (look out for Speaker’s Corner), while the International Escort Agency is quartered at 47A Belgrave Square, in the heart of Belgravia, SW1 – just up the road from what is now the Italian Cultural Institute.

‘Super Bitch’ was photographed by Jack Hildeyard, who also shot ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’. The London locales ensure that this cop thriller includes the distinctive dark blue Rover police cars, which were synonymous with 1970s British crime films and the popular TV series ‘The Sweeney’. As ‘Super Bitch’ is an Italian-UK co-production, the film offers an oddly exotic, slightly surreal view of London. There’s an appearance by that Italian B-movie staple J&B Whisky and also a less-usual cameo by bottles of Heineken. The Anglo-Italo origins are reinforced by an eclectic cast. Ettore Manni played Morrel, the head of the escort agency, Luciano Catenacci was vicious New York gangster Louis Gamble, and Cec Linder was blackmail victim Paul Lansin, who is snapped eating carrots whilst wearing furry rabbit ears. The supporting cast includes Gareth Thomas, Michael Sheard, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Verna Harvey and toothsome Tutte Lemkow. The latter plays Banco, a guitar-strumming gangster who is one of the sons of the film’s most memorable character – crazy matriarch Mamma the Turk, played with cackling abandon by well-known British actress Patricia Hayes. About nine minutes into the movie, when Mamma the Turk takes off across the Lebanese desert in a convertible (with Mario Novelli in hot pursuit in a Citroen) and a car chase ensues, you know you’re in for an eye-opening ride.

Arrow Film’s DVD release is an excellent, colourful transfer in 1.85:1 ratio, running 94 minutes. The sound is good and available audio tracks are the English dub or the Italian language dub, with translated English subtitles. Though the English dubbing is well done – with Beacham dubbing herself and Rassimov voiced by the same unknown voice actor who dubbed Terence Hill in ‘My Name is Nobody’ and Sam J. Jones in Dino De Laurentiis’ redo of ‘Flash Gordon’ – the film plays even better in Italian, with several plot points more clearly delineated. DVD extras include ‘Bullets, Babes and Blood’ (a short documentary on Italian crime movies) and a collector’s booklet written by author and critic Calum Waddell on the Italo crime movie explosion.

You can order the DVD from Amazon UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Super-Bitch-DVD-Massimo-Dallamano/dp/B008RLY97E/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1352151983&sr=1-1

Or Sendit
http://www.sendit.com/dvd/super-bitch/10630275.html

Or direct from Arrow Films
http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/index.php?tle_id=683

There’s more about Dallamano, his gialli and the key Italian crime films in my book ‘Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classics to Cult’, published by I.B. Tauris
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cinema-Italiano-Complete-Guide-Classics/dp/1848856083/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1352152388&sr=1-1