Monthly Archives: June 2013


The last part of my RomaDrome Top 20 Italian cult movies thread features 5 films from the tail-end of the Italian popular cinema boom. As in many cases with Italian genre movies, the genres are inspired by the popularity of a big international hit – the obvious inspirations for the following films include Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’ (1975), George A. Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978), Walter Hill’s ‘The Warriors’ (1979) and John Carpenter’s ‘Escape from New York’ (1981).

tentacles‘Tentacles’ (‘Oliver Hellman’ aka Ovidio G. Assonitis, 1976)
This fishy offering gets such a slating from film critics, but it’s really an entertaining ride with an unusual and surprising big-name cast for a film about a giant octopus – this speaks volumes of how loud money can talk in the film industry. That’s Henry Fonda as Mr. Whitehead, the head of the Trojan Tunnel Company, which is responsible for using radio waves that irritate the octopus. All aboard for the seafaring adventure were Shelley Winters, Bo Hopkins, Claude Akins, Delia Boccardo and film director John Huston. These star names are almost upstaged by the octopus, by the colourful 2.35:1 cinematography and by Stelvio Cipriani’s score, parts of which had already been heard in Massimo Dallamano’s giallo thriller ‘What Have They Done to Your Daughters?’ (1974). The cue used in the regatta scene here reappeared in Quentin Taratino’s ‘Grindhouse’ offering ‘Death Proof’ (2007). Tentacles was presented by Samuel Z. Arkoff of AIP fame in the US, with the tagline ‘It’s turning the beach into a buffet’.

It’s available on a DVD double-bill with ‘Empire of the Ants’ starring Joan Collins.

‘The Inglorious Bastards’ (Enzo G. Castellari, 1977)
Another Tarantino influencer, this lively World War II movie is ‘The Dirty Dozen’ turned up to 11. Five in-transit US army convicts escape into the wartorn French countryside, circa 1944. They become embroiled in a partisan mission by the French Resistance to waylay a train carrying a V-2 rocket warhead prototype to steal its gyroscopic guidance system. The escapees are memorably played by Peter Hooten, Fred Williamson, Michael Perglani, Jackie Constantin and Bo Svenson, while the supporting cast includes Ian Bannen, Raimund Harmstorf and Debra Berger. The best scene sees hippy Perglani riding a motorbike like Steve McQueen and when a bullet punctures his gas tank, he seals the hole with chewing gum. Castellari – who has a cameo as the commander of a German mortar battery – shot the movie in Italy, including on the Capranica-Viterbo railroad also seen in the western ‘The Five Man Army’.

It’s out on DVD with various different covers


‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’ (Lucio Fulci, 1979)
Has there ever been a better example of ‘truth-in-advertising’ film titling than this? Fulci’s gore classic has zombies and once they are up and about, they eat flesh. Fulci’s film has a great putrid, exotic atmosphere in the vein of Bela Lugosi’s ‘White Zombie’. It’s mostly set on an island in the Caribbean Antilles and Fabio Frizzi and Giorgio Tucci’s score sets the scene menacingly. Variety Film producers Ugo Tucci and Fabrizio De Angelis approached Castellari to direct a sequel to George A. Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’, but he wasn’t interested, so Fulci took the gig. From the moment the mysterious sailboat drifts into New York harbour, the tension mounts. When the ‘earth spits out the dead’, an ancient graveyard unleashes its present tenants: the long-dead cadavers of Spanish Conquistadors. The zombies’ grotesque makeup was created by Giannetto De Rossi, who also worked on ‘Cleopatra’, ‘The Leopard’, ‘Once upon a Time in the West’ and ‘1900’.

Arrow Films has released this on Blu-Ray and DVD

‘Puma Man’ (Alberto De Martino, 1980)
De Martino’s ‘Puma Man’ (aka ‘The Pumaman’) is a notoriously bad-but-good superhero movie that has been ridiculed in a particularly entertaining episode of cult cable TV show ‘Mystery Science Theatre 3000’. Walter George Alton plays London-based American dinosaur expert Professor Tony Farms. He meets Aztec Vadinho (Miguelangel Fuentes, from ‘Fitzcarraldo’!)) who is ‘High Priest of the Temple of the God who Came from Other Worlds’. When he dons a magic belt, Tony becomes Puma Man, a hero with a host of cat-inspired special abilities. Sydne Rome played Tony’s love interest and Donald Pleasence (his name misspelt ‘Pleasance’ in the titles), Benito Stefanelli, Nello Pazzafini, Giovanni Cianfriglia and Guido Lollobrigida play the bad guys. Everyone except Pleasence pronounces the hero name as ‘Poo-ma Man’. There’s more than a whiff of the litter tray about this turkey, which has some of the worst ‘flying superhero’ footage you will ever see. Only recommended for those of you with a good sense of ‘hoo-ma’.

‘Puma Man’ isn’t out there on DVD at present, but versions (including the MSTK skit) show up on YouTube.


‘1990: The Bronx Warriors’ (Enzo G. Castellari, 1982)
By 1990, the Bronx has been declared a ‘no man’s land’ and is ruled by biker gang the Riders, led by Trash (Mark Gregory). Wealthy heiress Ann Fisher (Stefania Girolami, Castellari’s daughter), flees Manhattan and ends up with the Riders. As Ann is approaching her 18th birthday, she is about to inherit the Manhattan Corporation, a global arms manufacturer. Her father Samuel Fisher (Enio Girolami, Castellari’s brother) and Farley, the company’s vice-president (Castellari himself), dispatch rogue cop Hammer (Vic Morrow) into the Bronx to get her back. The quality cult cast includes Gianni Loffredo, George Eastman, Fred Williamson, Rocco Lerro, Massimo Vanni, Angelo Ragusa, Betty Dessy and Carla Brait. Equal parts ‘Escape from New York’ and ‘The Warriors’, this is the best of Castellari’s futuristic action movies that include ‘Escape from the Bronx’ (aka ‘Bronx Warriors 2’) and ‘The New Barbarians’ (‘Warriors of the Wasteland’).  Gregory and Morrow make worthy adversaries. The finale has Hammer leading New York’s Special Vigilante Force in Operation Burnt Earth – the cops attack in helicopters and vans, and mounted police in crash helmets use flamethrowers to flush out the gangs. Gregory also starred in an interesting Arizona-set reworking of ‘First Blood’ (1982) called ‘Thunder Warrior’, which was directed by Fabrizio De Angelis (the producer of ‘Bronx Warriors’).

UK videotapes were a shorter 79-minute version, but it’s now available uncut on DVD

That completes my Top 20 essential Italian cult movies:

The Trojan War, Maciste in Hell, Sons of Thunder, Blood and Black Lace, The Castle of the Living Dead, The Last Man on Earth, The Wild Wild Planet, Django, Special Mission Lady Chaplin, Django Kill!, Fellini Satyricon, They Call Me Trinity, Milan Calibre 9, Deep Red, Get Mean, Tentacles, The Inglorious Bastards, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Puma Man, 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

piranha 2


This Friday night (21/06/13) UK readers may be interested to know that MovieMix, on Freeview channel 32, is bravely screening James Cameron’s directorial debut, the magnificently daft ‘Piranha II – the Spawning’. Inspired by Joe Dante’s ‘Piranha’ (1978), this US-Italian co-production was shot on location in Jamaica and is also known as ‘Piranha 2: Flying Killers’. Specially-bred flying piranha fish – which are genetic experiments by the US Army destined for the rivers of Vietnam – escape and wreak havoc at the ‘Annual Fish Fry Beach Festival’. The film was produced by ‘Tentacles’ supremo Ovidio G. Assonitis and stars Tricia O’Neil, Steve Marachuck, Ted Richert, Carole Davis, Connie Lynn Hadden and Cameron regular Lance Henriksen. Giannetto De Rossi provided the gory special effects.

To read more about the varied wonders of Italian cinema, check out my book ‘Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classics to Cult’, which is available now, in paperback and on Kindle.



Sorry that I haven’t been posting much lately, but the second quarter of this year has been a bit busy. A couple of writing projects I had undertaken at the outset of the year needed finishing and since then, more have materialised. And I’ve been on holiday to Polperro in Cornwall.


I’ve been continuing to contribute features to film magazine ‘Cinema Retro’. The January edition, Issue 25, includes ‘MISSION ACCOMPLISHED’, a new series of articles on Oakmont’s WWII productions in the 1960s. Part One discusses ‘Attack on the Iron Coast’, starring two Lloyds – Lloyd Bridges and Sue Lloyd. The issue also includes Robert Sellers’ article on wild man Oliver Reed, the Restoration of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and an in-depth feature on Hammer horror, including interesting ‘then and now’ locations. It can be ordered here:


In the latest issue of ‘Cinema Retro’ (Volume 9: No. 26), Part Two of the Oakmont Story looks at the making of ‘Mosquito Squadron’ (1970) – a film notorious for its reuse of stock footage from ‘633 Squadron’. The issue includes new interviews with stars David McCallum and Nicky Henson, and many colour posters and stills, including behind the scenes special effects shots of Les Bowie’s team at work. The issue also includes Mike Siegel’s 12-page retrospective in Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Straw Dogs’ and Lee Pfeiffer’s interview with Mel Brooks.

Issue 26 also contains my 9-page feature on Don Taylor’s Hollywood-backed spaghetti western, ‘The Five Man Army’ (1969), starring Peter Graves, Bud Spencer and Tetsuro Tamba. I’ve researched the background to the making of this entertaining western, set during the Mexican Revolution and there’s extensive notes on the film’s locations, stars and Ennio Morricone’s score. It’s available to order here:

Five_Man_ArmyThis one has been released by the Warner Archive on DVD in an uncut version and is well worth a look. It’s available on Amazon UK and US.

I’ve a new series of e-books on cinema launching, more of which soon, and also after taking part in the writing and researching of ‘The James Bond Archives’ last year, I’ve been invited to work on another exciting project with publishers Taschen, that I’ll be posting about in the future. My 2008 book on westerns, ‘Stagecoach to Tombstone’, is being reprinted in a second edition by I.B. Tauris. This is simply a reprint of the original book, though I may look at updating future reprints if the opportunity arises, to include such recent westerns as the remakes of ‘3:10 to Yuma’ and ‘True Grit’, and Brad Pitt’s Jesse James movie. The book focuses on the making of 27 great westerns: Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, High Noon, Shane, Johnny Guitar, Vera Cruz, The Man from Laramie, The Searchers, Gunfight at the OK Corral, Forty Guns, Ride Lonesome, Rio Bravo, The Magnificent Seven, One-Eyed Jacks, Ride the High Country, The Sons of Katie Elder, Once Upon a Time in the West, Support Your Local Sheriff, The Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, McCabe & Mrs Miller, Ulzana’s Raid, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven and Tombstone.


Arrow Films has also released the Django movie ‘Django, Prepare a Coffin’ (1968) on blu-ray this week, which includes an alternative version of the booklet I wrote for the DVD edition in January, with a different layout but the same essay, ‘The Dead are in their Graves’. Over on Arrow’s Video Deck blog, I’ve guest-written a post with a run-down of my top 10+1 spaghetti westerns.