Category Archives: Giallo

The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971) | Dario Argento’s purr-fectly stylish whodunit

The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971)

Following the success of his film debut The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Dario Argento directed another puzzling-titled whodunit, The Cat O’ Nine Tails, starring Karl Malden (The Streets of San Francisco) and James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes), which had its debut in West German cinemas on 15 July 1971.

The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971)

Malden plays blind crossword puzzle expert Cookie, while Franciscus is wily reporter Carlo Giordani. The unlikely pair becomes amateur sleuths following a break-in at a pharmaceutical institute in Rome.

When doctors attached to the development of a revolutionary new drug start getting bumped off, Cookie and Giordani must solve nine leads (hence the film’s title) in order to unmask the killer. But their nosing around turns personal for Cookie, when the killer kidnaps his young niece.

The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971)

While not one of Argento’s personal favourites, there’s much to enjoy thanks to Arrow’s new HD transfer. Retro fans will swoon over the production design (the marble hall of the lab and the rooftop bar are big highlights, and Franciscus’ wardrobe is so cool); while the colour and lighting is trademark Argento, all deep rich tones – like a chiaroscuro painting brought to life. Meanwhile, Ennio Morricone supplies another superb score, this time featuring a catchy discordant melody.

The story is classic murder mystery – but with a modern (read 1970s) twist. Instead of the beautiful blonde being fought over (although there is a beauty present in the shapely form of French star Catherine Spaak), it’s a male gigolo who takes centre stage when one of the doctors becomes a suspect. And it’s this gay storyline as much as the violence (the strangulation scene is particularly nasty) that originally got 20-minutes cut from earlier versions of the film. But here it is uncut and ready for a new audience, and you really don’t have to be dedicated to Argento to love this Cat.

Arrow Video released the film in 2012 on DVD and on Limited Edition Blu-ray featuring a new HD transfer of the film in 2013.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Brand new High Definition transfer of the film (1080p)
  • Optional English & Italian Audio
  • Original uncompressed Mono Audio
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Dario’s Murderous Moggy: Dario Argento Remembers The Cat O’ Nine Tails (1080p)
  • Luigi Cozzi: Cat O’ Nine Tails in Reflection (1080p)
  • Sergio Martino: The Art and Arteries of the Giallo (1080p)
  • Original Italian Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve with original Artwork by Rick Melton

NOTE: If you want to hear the English audio, select it first as the release defaults to the original Italian audio. Also, don’t watch the special features until you have seen the movie, as they give away the surprise ending (actually so does the cover art, but its still the coolest scene of the movie).

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Madhouse (1981) | Ovidio G Assonitis’ bloody revenge tale is a LOL delight

From the man who gave us Tentacles, The Visitor, Beyond the Door and Piranha II: The Spawning, Ovidio G Assonitis, comes Madhouse (aka And When She Was Bad/There Was a Little Girl), an Italian-made/Savannah, Georgia-shot slasher that was once on the UK’s video nasty list – and its a genuine find, courtesy of Arrow who have dusted it off and given it a 2k-restored release.

Madhouse (1981)

Julia (Trish Everly), a teacher in a school for the deaf, has spent her entire adult life trying to forget the torment she suffered at the hands of her twisted twin Mary (Alison Biggers)… but Mary hasn’t forgotten. Escaping hospital, where she’s recently been admitted with a disfiguring illness, Julia’s sadistic sister vows to exact a particularly cruel revenge on her sibling – promising a birthday surprise she’ll never forget…

Madhouse (1981)

While nothing as gut-wrenching violent as the British authorities felt necessary to outlaw, Madhouse is a curious concoction of serial killer thriller, giallo whodunit and gothic histrionics. Think Happy Birthday to Me (also made in 1981) meets Rebecca, but with added camp – courtesy of character actor Dennis Robertson doing his best Roddy McDowall impression as the overly-friendly and rather odd Father James.

Indeed, director Assonitis told his cast to go over the top with their characterisations and indeed they did – which makes for some wonderful LOL moments (especially Alison Biggers as the bonkers mad Mary). And true to his honorific title as the ‘Rip-Off King’, Assonitis also chucks in a purely Omen-esque element – a Rottweiler trained to attack on command. It’s grisly demise – a power drill to the head – will most undoubtedly upset dog lovers everywhere, but the special effects will have you howling…

Madhouse (1981)

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations
• Original Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
• Interviews with cast and crew (my favourite is Edith Ivey – who knew she was Indian Princess Summerfall Winterspring on The Howdy Doody Show?)
• Alternate Opening Titles
• Theatrical Trailer, newly transferred in HD
• Reversible sleeve featuring artwork by Marc Schoenbach
• Booklet featuring new writing on the film (first pressing only)

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Dario Argento’s genre-busting psycho-thriller The Bird With the Crystal Plumage gets a 4k-restored release from Arrow

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Back in 1970 Dario Argento’s directorial debut The Bird With The Crystal Plumage paved the way for a new wave of cinematic terror when the then 29-year-old auteur fused the traditional thriller and whodunit with shock and spectacle for the first time.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

In this landmark giallo, Tony Musante (who would later find fame as Nino in TV’s Oz) plays Sam, an American writer living in Rome who witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery. After a series of other attacks and attempts on the lives of Musante and his lover Julia (played by British scream queen Suzy Kendall), Sam suddenly finds himself the prime suspect. In a bid to clear his name, he sets out to track down the killer  – who turns out to be… Well, that’s for you to find out.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

It was actually Bernardo Bertolucci who started the ball rolling on this production when he originally thought to adapt Fredric Brown’s classic thriller The Screaming Mimi for the big screen. But he ended up handing the reins over to Argento who, along with the celebrated editor Franco Fraticelli, made it his own. The film’s success would cement Argento’s reputation as the Italian Hitchcock, as well as usher in a wave of blood and black lace genre films with crazier and crazier titles.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

What makes Argento’s thriller so groundbreaking is the way he makes clever use of suspense devices, such as a screaming Kendall trapped in a room while the killer hacks away at the door (much copied in films like The Shining and Halloween). Vital to Argento’s vision is Franco Fraticelli’s sharp editing skills and the impressive visuals of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (who would go on to win an Oscar for Apocalypse Now). Plus, there’s Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable score.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Back in 2011, Arrow released a High Definition restoration of Bird on Blu-ray (that was slightly grainier than Arrow’s previous releases, but still stunning) presented in the original Univisium aspect ratio, and had the audio defaulted to the original Italian (which I prefer over the English mono). It also included contributions from directors Luigi Cozzi and Sergio Martino, and a booklet written by Alan Jones.

For their stunning 4k-restored limited edition dual format release, Arrow have really gone to town. So pull on some leather gloves, pour yourself a J&B on the rocks and let the deadly games begin…

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

• Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the camera negative in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
• The Power of Perception, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil s Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study
• New analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger
• New interview with writer/director Dario Argento (this 30-minute monologue is a real treat and very instructive)
• New interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp)
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
• Double-sided fold-out poster
• 6 Lobby Card reproductions
• Limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook

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The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) | The Gothic giallo cult gets a definitive re-release

The Night That Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

A cacophony of crazed, cruel, camp characters, cockamamie plot, killer soundtrack, kaleidoscopic visuals and cool 70s fashions and furniture, Emilio Miraglia’s 1971 Italian giallo horror thriller, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, is one helluva ride.

For decades, the only way to see the film was in dreadful pan and scan VHS and DVD releases or in butchered TV edits, which denied fans the chance of witnessing Miraglia’s visual treat in all its eye-popping splendor. But Arrow’s restored 2K release has gore-geously redressed this, bringing genre fans the definitive version of the compelling Eurotrash cult favourite.

The Night That Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

 

The scenario (co-written by Massimo Felisatti, Strip Nude for Your Killer) is typical giallo, filled with planet-sized plot-holes and ridiculous red-herrings, but Miraglia fuses it with Gothic horror devices that turn the whodunit into a dark fairytale: like an S&M version of Roger Corman’s Tomb of Ligeia meets Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Béte on an acid trip.

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Set in an England that looks like Veneto, Italy (basically because that’s where the film was shot), La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba (to give it’s Italian title) centres on wealthy aristocrat Alan (Anthony Steffen), who has turned into a psychotic killer of redheaded prostitutes and strippers as a result of his late wife Evelyn cheating on him. In a bid to control his urges, his doctor convinces him to remarry another redhead (go figure), called Gladys (Marina Malfatti – who passed away aged 76 this week). But Alan’s mental state unravels when Gladys raises his suspicions that Evelyn faked her death to elope with her mystery lover.

The Night That Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

What happens next is either inspired lunacy or just outright crazy… depending on how you like you giallo. But it does involve Evelyn’s ghoulish return (as promised in the original film posters), a cage of foxes chewing on intestines, someone being bitten by a deadly snake, and lots of nipple shots.

However Miraglia’s pièce de résistance is a real doozy of a climax involving a white-tiled modernist pad smeared in the blood of two knife-wielding redheads – oh, and a pool of sulphuric acid. And bringing all of this together is Bruno Nicolai’s evocative soundtrack which is so lush and hypnotic, you’ll be searching the internet for a copy as soon as the end credits roll.

Killer DamesTHE ARROW FEATURES
When it comes to these heavily dubbed Euro thrillers, it is always a challenge deciding which audio track to choose. The Arrow Video 2k release has both Italian and English soundtracks as options, with new English subtitles on both. I tried the English first, but frankly hated the fake posh accents, so went back to Italian, which is way more preferable.

Giallo specialist Troy Howarth supplies an informative audio commentary, while writer Stephen Thrower shines a light on the film’s production history. There’s also a new interview with Erika Blanc, who elaborates (quite theatrically) about her big scene in which she rises from a coffin bum first; and an archival interview with Blanc (in which she says basically the same things). But my favourite extra is an archival interview with Lorenzo Baraldi, the art director responsible for the film’s fab 70s stylings. In my book, he’s the film’s real hero.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is a dual format release available from Arrow Video as part of their Killer Dames box-set.

She’s So Giallo | London’s Barbican to showcase the Women of 1970s Italian Thrillers

She's So Giallo

From 7th-28th June at the Barbican Centre in London, Cigarette Burns is celebrating the women of 1970s Italian thrillers with four classic and under-screened examples of the giallo genre, presented on rare 16mm and 35mm prints.

195824fliesleadeventFirst up will be Dario Argento’s third feature, 1971’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet starring Mimsy Farmer as the partner of a musician who’s being harassed by an unknown murderer. Featuring a knock-out Morricone score, the screening (on 7 June at 8.30pm) will be introduced by Argento biographer, Alan Jones.
TICKETS HERE

 

19583oneontopleadeventOn 14 June, comes Lucio Fulci’s little-seen 1969 giallo debut, One On Top of the Other (aka Perversion Story) starring Marisa Mell as a stripper who causes a doctor to question his sanity. Set to a funky Riz Ortolani groove, the film will be introduced by Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower.
TICKETS HERE

 

19584frightenedwomanleadeventOn 22 June, Virginie Sélavy, editor of Electric Sheep magazine, will introduce Piero Schivazappa’s 1969 thriller The Frightened Woman starring Dagmar Lassander as a journalist who becomes the victim of a doctor’s his unpleasant and degrading games.
TICKETS HERE

 

 

19585coloursofthedarkeventAnd the season concludes on 29 June with Sergio Martino’s psychedelic giallo masterpiece All the Colors of the Dark starring genre favourite Edwige Fenech as a woman who falls prey to a satanic cult in Swinging London.
TICKETS HERE

Killer Dames | A double-bill of Emilio Miraglia’s demented 1970s giallo

Killer Dames

Emilio P Miraglia’s The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972) get the Arrow Video treatment on Blu-ray and DVD in a restored, limited edition collection out now.

At the height of the 1970s Italian giallo boom in the early 1970s, scores of filmmakers turned their hand to crafting their own unique takes on these lurid murder-mystery thrillers. One of those was Emilio P Miraglia, who conceived two twisty whodunit narratives with gothic chills.

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In The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, troubled aristocrat Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen), haunted by the death of his first wife Evelyn, tries to move on by marrying the seductive Gladys (Marina Malfatti). Marital bliss is short-lived, however, as various relatives meet untimely and gruesome deaths, prompting speculation that a vengeful Evelyn has risen from the grave…

In The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, an age-old family curse hits sisters Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) and Franziska (Marina Malfatti) following the death of their grandfather Tobias (Rudolf Schündler). Every hundred years, so the legend goes, the bloodthirsty Red Queen returns and claims seven fresh victims. Was Tobias just the first… and are Kitty and Franziska next?

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The Arrow Video limited edition box set (3000 copies) features 2K restorations of both films from the original camera negatives in High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD; Italian and English soundtracks; newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks; and optional English subtitles for the English soundtracks. Plus, a 60-page collector’s booklet, reversible sleeves featuring artwork by Gilles Vranckx, and a host of extras (check them out below).

killer dames

THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE
• Audio commentary by Troy Howarth
• Exclusive introduction by actress Erika Blanc
• Writer Stephen Thrower on The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
The Night Erika Came Out of the Grave – exclusive interview with Erika Blanc
The Whip and the Body – archival interview with Erika Blanc
Still Rising from the Grave – archival interview with production designer Lorenzo Baraldi
• Original Italian theatrical trailer

THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES
• Audio commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman
• Exclusive new interview with actress Sybil Danning
• Writer Stephen Thrower on The Red Queen Kills Seven Times
• Archival introduction by production/costume designer Lorenzo Baraldi
Dead à Porter – archival interview with Lorenzo Baraldi
Rounding Up the Usual Suspects – archival interview with actor Marino Masé
If I Met Emilio Miraglia Today – archival featurette with Erika Blanc, Lorenzo Baraldi and Marino Masé
My Favorite… Films – archival interview with actress Barbara Bouchet
• Alternative opening
• Original Italian theatrical trailer

Luciano Ercoli’s 1970s Death Walks Twice gialli are a camp cult scream

Death Walks…

From Arrow Video comes the restored, limited edition release on Blu-ray and DVD of Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight starring giallo icon Nieves Navarro (aka Susan Scott).

In 1971’s Death Walks on High Heels (La morte cammina con i tacchi alti), Navarro plays Parisian nightclub dancer Nicole, the daughter of a murdered jewel thief, who encounters a black-clad assailant with piercing blue eyes demanding to know the location of her father’s stolen diamonds. Suspecting her jealous lover Michel (Simón Andreu) is her assailant, Nicole leaves for London with her wealthy admirer, Dr Robert Matthews (Frank Wolff). But death stalks her at every turn…

In 1972’s Death Walks at Midnight (La morte accarezza a mezzanotte), Navarro takes on the role of glamour model Valentina, who asks her photographer and on/off lover Gio (again played by Simón Andreu) to film her whilst under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. In the midst of the high she witnesses a murder, which turns out to have taken place six months earlier. When Valentina sees the killer again, she turns sleuth to solve the mystery…

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Coming out of the giallo boom in the early 1970s and owing a debt to Dario Argento’s Bird With a Crystal Plumage, Ercoli’s Death Walks psycho-thrillers are a camp cult treat serving up twisted and perverse plots which verge on spoofs of Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Wallace, dressed in the most seductive of 1970s stylings imaginable and set to some stirring Stelvio Cipriani soundtrack scores.

While giallo fans can’t praise High Heels high enough, I found it way too convoluted, poorly structured, and deeply sexist. And when you finally get to the well-executed finale (after one WTF twist a la Psycho), you wonder why it took so many sideways paths to get to the bleeding obvious.

Midnight, on the other hand, is an über stylish treat and a real hoot to boot. I can watch this one over and over just for Navarro’s captivating performance as the resilient heroine (she should have got her own TV crime series), the gorgeous palette and production design, and the inventive camerawork. For me, this was Rear Window meets Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

The limited edition Arrow Video release (3000 copies) feature new 2K restorations of both films from the original film elements, presented on Blu-ray and standard DVD, with the original Italian and English soundtracks to choose from, and new English subtitles. A 60-page book is included along with an array of special features on each disc.

Death Walks in High Heels_coverDEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS
• Audio commentary from Tim Lucas
• Introduction by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
From Spain with Love: Archive interview with director Luciano Ercoli and actress/wife Nieves Navarro
Master of Giallo: screenwriter Gastaldi on how to write a successful giallo
Death Walks to the Beat: Interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani
• Original Italian and English trailers

Death Walks at Midnight_coverDEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT
• Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
• Introduction by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
• Extended TV version of the feature
Crime Does Pay: screenwriter Gastaldi on crime film writing
Desperately Seeking Susan: an academic visual essay by Michael Mackenzie

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