Sunday, November 27, 2011

Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975)

When it comes to the exploitation and grindhouse movies that horror filmmakers are trying to emulate currently, Italy really was the world leader. Sure, there are some amazing exploitation movies from Indonesia and the US and I'm just now discovering Canadian exploitation, but goddamn did the Italians do it sleazier, bloodier, and nudier than anyone else.

Take, for example, Strip Nude for Your Killer, a movie that ups the gore and nudity way over the usual giallo level. The story begins with a botched abortion leaving a pretty young woman dead and the doctor and an accomplice leaving her body in her home to make it look like an accident. This is followed, after the credits, with said doctor getting stabbed to death by a killer in black leather and a motorcycle helmet, and the black riding gloves that no giallo killer would be without.

Next we’re in a luxury hotel where Carlo, the world’s most obnoxious fashion photographer, played by Castel Nuovo, picks up the gorgeous Lucia (Femi Benussi) from the pool by following her around, taking pictures of her ass, and telling her he can get her in Vogue before screwing her in the sauna. Soon this charmer of a man pulls her into the dreamy, soft-lit 70s world of the Milan fashion industry, where everyone seems to be sleeping together or stabbing each other in the back. Also, there’s a killer in a black motorcycle suit stabbing everyone to death. It's not the old home on the farm to be sure.

Much of the film plays as a soap opera. The editor Giselle (Amanda) is a bitchy lesbian who wants Lucia all to herself. Her husband Maurizio is a fat virgin who tries to seduce the models because she won't sleep with him. The lovely Edwige Fenech plays Madga, a photographer who wants to break into modeling and, improbably, has been unsuccessful so far. The model Patricia, , seems to be in her own world. Someone is trying to blackmail Giselle, Carlo is sleeping with Magda in spite of being ridiculously chauvinistic, even for an Italian flick, and again there's that killer. So high drama here.

Strip Nude for Your Killer is both sleazier than the average giallo and a lot more fun than normal. Whenever the plot starts to drag, a character takes her clothes off; whenever you get tired of the female flesh, someone gets killed in gruesome red tempera paint F/X. The mystery isn't that hard to solve and Fenech pretty much saves the film by being more likable than anyone else, and the horror scenes don't induce much fear. But, the film delivers enough skin, sleaze, and splatter to satisfy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Burrowers (2008)

Basically The Searchers with monsters, The Burrowers brings horror to the old West. Set in the Dakotas, 1879, the film begins with a Terrence Mallick style flashback and then an effective sequence in which a frontier family being assailed by something from the outside hides, unsuccessfully, in the root cellar. The next morning, Fergus Coffey (Karl Geary), who has been courting the daughter with plans to marry, arrives to discover his girl missing with half the family gone and the other half halved. So, the prairie folk form a posse to track down the Indians they reckon are doing terrible things to their Christian womenfolk. But, they soon find that what they’re tracking is a lot worse than Indians and most likely tracking them as well.

Setting off with a Confederate army regiment, Fergus befriends a freed slave named Walnut (Sean Patrick Thomas) who he can relate to on some level we’re to understand, as an Irish immigrant. The two break off with William (William Mapother), Dobie (Galen Hutchison), and John Clay (Clancy Brown) after the General tortures an Indian, making this subplot a bit desultory, but adding a sense of the evils that men can do to one another before we get to the evils that monsters do. It all pays off with a sardonic, bitter ending.

The monsters themselves, called “burrowers”, are pretty great. Living underground and coming out at night to feed, they inject their victims with a tranquilizing poison, bury them, and come back to dine on them later. As created by Robert Hall, they look a bit like crabwalking mole people. Horror fans will really appreciate how much of this is done with girls in rubber suits instead of cartoony CGI. These monsters have weight and solidity to them and seem like they could fuck you up.

J.T. Petty has done an excellent job of creating something genre fans haven’t seen before and pulling off a tense third act. The photography by Phil Parmet should be given special notice for making a low budget film look gorgeous, although obviously the New Mexico locations helped. If there’s any weakness in the movie, it’s the dialogue, which veers frequently towards the cliché (“He took everything this country could throw at him”) and seldom sounds historically accurate. That’s the only problem I had with the thing though. Horror fans are recommended to dig this one up. (Get it?! Wow, that's a good one!)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sexy Nights of the Living Dead (1980)

It’s probably not a big surprise that Joe D’Amato eventually went into hardcore porn. We all saw it coming and, yes, it's a bit weird to see a movie that combines hardcore fucking with zombies and splatter, but it's not like a bad weird, just a weird weird.

Okay, our story (what there is of it) begins in a psychiatric hospital where a patient played by Italian stalwart George Eastman stares blankly into space, but apparently not so blankly as to discourage a hot young nurse from tearing open her gown and impaling herself on his schlong. This scene is shot soft core, but it’s pretty vigorous and totally irrelevant to the plot. For those of you who were wondering, Eastman doesn't do hardcore in the film. He was in Anthropophagus; he doesn't have to.

Anyway, we flash back to the nutbar Larry’s previous life, taking rich men fishing on his boat and fooling around with their hot young wives. Into the picture strides John Wilson (), a land developer who has come into an island to purchase cheap. Something’s fishy though as the government official who’s signed the lease has a voodoo idol on his desk (cue scary synthesizer music here)! Also, he feels that people are following him and spying on him, so he's a bit uncomfortable.

Not so uncomfortable as to avoid fucking. Shannon was apparently willing to do the porno sex scenes that Eastman was not, and there’s a pointless interlude in which he screws two girls that he met at the hotel, or something. Wilson’s wart encrusted balls were a fairly disgusting non-FX touch. This is intercut with a scene in which a local’s voodoo ritual brings out a hooded zombie who bites out his throat. It possibly says something about me that I found the gore scene more interesting than the sex.

Unfortunately, the hotel sluts won’t come with Wilson to Cat Island, but Wilson hooks up with a hot, spoiled slut played by Dirce Funari, who is more than willing to come along and cocktease Larry, who naturally charters the ship. Trouble is clearly afoot- after screwing another local girl, a zombie tries to climb aboard the ship, so Larry brains it in the head with the anchor before actually checking to make sure it was a zombie. Clearing up any confusion, the zombie gets up and bites the neck of the doctor doing the autopsy.

Things go on like this until they get to the island, which has some sort of supernatural force protecting it. Larry's a capitalist prick who wants to plow over the local cemetery, get the old man and his daughter living there forced out, and put up a Planet Hollywood or some such shit. The daughter is played by Laura Gemser, who also doesn't do hardcore, but gets naked a lot, fools around with the three interlopers, and then disappears regularly. There's also an evil cat wandering around yowling.

And, thank fucking goodness, there are some goddamn zombies in the last reel. The scenes of zombies wandering around the beach in shrouds are right out of Zombi and the suspense is not that suspenseful. I do think it's possible to do a scary horror film with sex in it, but not this one. This one is only really suited for zombie completists or warty ball completists.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Emanuelle on Taboo Island (1976)

At this point, does it come as any surprise to hear that this movie has nothing to do with the Italian Emanuelle character, but just happens to star Laura Gemser? I suspect if Laura Gemser had appeared in Star Wars, the exploitation distributors would have called it "Emanuelle in Space". The alternative title for this one was "A Beach Called Desire", which is pretty bland, but has the advantage of not being false advertising. After all, this is just a Blue Lagoon rip off, not an Emanuelle rip off.

Okay, here's our story: Daniel (Paolo Giusti) is a member of a heroin addicted biker gang who gets freaked out when he sees his comrade screwing a strung out (maybe dead) girl on the beach and takes off in a motorboat (a motorboat called desire, no doubt), promptly knocking himself out while swerving to miss a large ship and waking up lost at sea after his boat has run out of gas. Luckily, he comes upon a seemingly deserted island with plenty of sun, surf, and food supplies, but sadly no heroin. You can't win 'em all.

When someone screws up Daniel's S.O.S. sign for the small planes that fly overhead regularly, he realizes that the deserted island is not so deserted after all, and soon he discovers a hut with a brother and sister, Juan (Nicola Paguone) and Heydee (Laura Gemser) living there. They’re the children of Antonio (Arthur Kennedy), who escaped from a prison years ago, apparently by swimming like a motherfucker, since he made it to this island. Even though “they say this island is damned, here I found salvation”. Antonio’s kind of a jerk and the brother and sister are having sex, which makes perfect sense, given that she’s played by Laura Gemser and walks around frequently wearing nothing but a loincloth.

Soon, Juan is teaching Daniel how to spearfish and he’s teaching Haydee how to screw someone other than her brother. Understandably, he falls in love with her and she develops feelings for him, but can this dope addict and this brotherfucker find happiness together? Clearly, the island idyll has been disrupted by this outsider who Antonio considers a, “prisoner! Of dope! Money! Cars! Wars! The whole rotten mess!” He’s clearly the king of the kingdom and wants Daniel out of the picture. He’s hoping Daniel will leave with some fishermen who stop by the island regularly in spite of the supposed curse- this plus the planes going overhead regularly suggests that Antonio is really shitty at picking hideouts. Juan, meanwhile, wants to screw Heide, who doesn’t want him now that she has love. And Daniel is turning his life around and screwing Laura Gemser, so he’d really rather stay. Since this is an Italian sexploitation flick, you sort of figure it’s going to end violently- with these movies, you come for the sex and stay for the violence.

Basically, this is an Italian sexploitation rip off of the Blue Lagoon. The direction is workmanlike, but never particularly imaginative. There’s minimal plot and a boring low-speed chase at the end; and Laura Gemser is topless a lot. There’s an attempt at seriousness about the noble savage and the corrupting influence of civilization. But, mainly, it’s about the tits. Since Gemser is naked in a number of movies that are better (sort of), this one’s worth skipping.