I often forget that, for a little while, I worked at Atlantic Records. It was such a bizarre position that every day I was there, I wasn’t sure I still worked there. Even today, some fifteen years later, I’m not sure I ever actually quit, like maybe I could just show up tomorrow and everyone would shrug and go on with their business.
If The Black Pirate isn’t the biggest, most lavish of pirate adventures from the silent era, it’s only because the technical aspects of making it were so demanding that other aspects of the film had to be scaled down a bit. Still, the film leaves plenty of room for Douglas Fairbanks to pose atop rigging, laugh a manly laugh while standing with arms akimbo, and pull off a parade of signature stunts and derring-do.
Best known for his gritty crime films and, for better or worse, cannibal movies, Italian director Umberto Lenzi spent his early career making fun swashbuckling adventures. Queen of the Seas was the first of them, and it’s a fun tale of high seas adventures and a sassy pirate queen.
Back in the day, I used to do a lot more and write a lot more about it. Well, I figured rather than collapse into a state of middle-age ennui about how my day-to-day life used to be more fun, I should just shake off the cobwebs and get my ass back in gear. Among other things, that means dusting off an element of the old ‘zine and Teleport City site that has been dormant: random, ridiculous, stream-of-conscious posts.
Slaughter Hotel is a deeply, satisfyingly absurd film on almost level. Produced in the glory year of 1972, it reflects both the burgeoning popularity of the stylish giallo film and the relaxing of censorship laws across Europe and the United States. One of those two things was much more important to Slaughter Hotel than the other.
In the 1980s, Shaw Brothers was running out of gas. They responded by letting directors go totally insane. Amid the maelstrom are the delirious martial arts fantasies Bastard Swordsman and Return of the Bastard Swordsman
At the end of Beyond the Black Rainbow, directed by Panos Cosmatos, a period of quiet contemplation is required to begin unpacking everything one has seen during the preceding 110 minutes.
Kriminal was one of many Italian comic book anti-heroes that rose to fame in the 1960s, inspiring a host of imitators all wearing skeleton bodystockings. But only one Kriminal cash-in made it to the big screen: Turkey’s Kilink.
Twists are heaped upon perversions until the whole thing threatens to collapse into one giddily irredeemable pile of filth that happily violates any taboo of which it could think, and then finds a way to make it all weirder still.
As with his previous film, Miraglia takes the modern setting integral to the spirit of gialli and dresses it up in a bit of old-fashioned Gothic spookiness by, once again, setting a portion of it in a moody Gothic estate full of dark secret passages and dungeon chambers.
The Sister of Ursula is like watching a Jess Franco film without that director’s flare. Contemplate that one on the Tree of Woe. Sex scenes, the Italian coast, outlandish murders — everything about The Sister of Ursula seems to operate under the directive of “Well, this should be good, but we’re going to mess it up.”
Had Dark Purpose been an hour long episode of a TV show, it would have delivered. But forced to come up with, roughly, three half-hour acts, it can’t sustain the momentum and Shirley Jones, while perfectly acceptable, just isn’t dynamic enough to make us forget nothing much is going on.
Gumnaam isn’t shy about the sort of films that have influenced it. Adopting the sort of jet set internationality of the 1960s, it becomes an amalgamation of old dark house mysteries and pop-art modernism filtered through the lens of Arabesque, Mario Bava, and Charade.
Few giallo directors were as adept at melding the sundry fetishes that defined the movement as Luciano Ercoli. Nudity, violence, cabaret numbers, quirky camera work, exquisite living rooms, and flash clothing all hit their crescendo under the steady guidance of a man who seems to treat every film as a fashion shoot.
Deep End is a film about the awkwardness of transition and the disillusionment that inevitably follows a time of idealism. It was released in 1970, when the dying days of the Summer of Love were giving way to the cynicism of the 1970s; when people swept up in the promise of revolution finally had to face the reality of promises not kept.
Creating an emotional attachment to the characters and a sympathetic reaction to the violence against them isn’t a giallo priority. Who Saw Her Die? is the rare giallo that attempts and succeeds this, thanks to a committed performance by former James Bond, George Lazenby.