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.”
In fairness, there does seem to be a genuine attempt to create an actual film here. Take the word “attempt” literally in this case. Moments of suspense and dread, though presented with apparent sincerity, are nonetheless clumsily presented few and far between.
Cruel Gun Story is based on a book by hardboiled crime novelist Haruhiko Oyabu. It tells the story of Togawa, a con who is sprung from prison early via the machinations of a mysterious underworld kingpin who wants Togawa to carry out a robbery that they’ve planned.
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.
Seijun Suzuki has had the term “Maverick Director” affixed to his name like some kind of mandatory honorific. He never would have had the opportunity to achieve maverick status had he not also been able to deliver the straightforward genre pictures that he had been hired to create.
With Eye in the Labyrinth, Caiano demonstrates a sure hand in orchestrating his players, staging the action in striking tableaux, and allowing his creative muscles to stretch.
Adinath, a saintly jailer, undertakes an experiment involving six of his prison’s most hardened criminals. Under this arrangement, the prisoners will be freed under his care and taken to a barren stretch of land where they will set up a communal farm.
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.
Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not the kind of film to watch for a kill count or ingenuous murders. It is the kind of film to watch for paranormal and sartorial phenomena, ghosts, discotheques, mysterious deaths, horrifying old toys, and the narration of a “paranoiac.”
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.
When it comes to truly loathsome characters in a giallo, few can match Giuliano Carnimeo’s The Case of the Bloody Iris, a film in which pretty much everyone is hateful, stupid, or more often, hateful and stupid.
The Bloodstained Butterfly is the odd giallo where the police seem dedicated to their job. Although it boasts the elaborate murders and cast of red herrings one expects from the genre, it also surprises by spending at least as much time on police procedure, forensic science, and courtroom maneuvering.
While it might have been cool to watch the invisible man square off against a traditional Japanese ghost or yokai, in the end it was obvious that the only fitting opponent for an invisible man is the invisible man’s natural enemy: a tiny flying hitman.
Forbidden Photos concerns itself with only one murder, rather than a series of them, which might, for some, put it at a distance from the giallo genre as a whole. If you are someone who comes to giallo cinema primarily for its stylized violence that will likely be the case.