Food and water may sustain a man, but it's revenge that really fills the belly.
In Inferno, a boorish millionaire played by Robert Ryan breaks his leg falling off a horse during a desert vacation and is left to die by his two-timing wife and her boy toy. While the lovers cover their tracks and try to confuse the police and search parties, Ryan has to figure out a way to escape the desert. We were surprised a movie like this was made back in 1953. There have been a lot of nature horror and survival thrillers in recent years and we had no idea the genre had roots so far back. The movie is solid, though we thought Robert Ryan's voiceover was often unneeded—maybe he should have had a volleyball to talk to like Tom Hanks in Castaway. But it's a minor issue. We gather that this had a 3-D release, which of course we didn't see, but it's obvious, especially during a truly tremendous fight scene where assorted and sundry items fly at the camera. But even watching in two dimensions you still get a nice piece of entertainment, shot in crisp Technicolor, well-paced and acted, as the desert provides assorted challenges and Ryan must come up with the needed answers or die. Inferno premiered in the U.S. today in 1953.
For some directors pushing the envelope comes naturally.
Picture the scene: It’s 1978 and sexploitation director Jesús Franco, who has redefined sleaze cinema for the masses with fifty movies, including several in the women-in-prison genre for the West German market, is chilling on his terrace in Malaga, Spain soaking up the sun. He’s chatting with his frequent collaborator, producer Erwin Dietrich, about the next project, which they’re calling Frauen für Zellenblock 9.
Jesús: "We can probably save money by using the old costumes from Frauen im Liebeslager. Same idea, right? Women all sweaty in some godforsaken prison."
Erwin: "We left those in Cyprus. Did I mention there’s a Frauen im Liebeslager theme restaurant where the old set used to be? I hear it’s real classy. Anyway, it would’ve cost too much to have that clothing shipped out here."
Jesús: "What about the things from Das Frauenhaus or Frauengefängnis? Where’s all that? And Frauen ohne Unschuld. That stuff too."
Erwin: "Warehouse fire. Suspicious circumstances. Insurance paid off, though. But shit, Jesús, why give the girls costumes at all? Just have them be naked the whole movie."
Jesús: "What? Are you nuts?"
Erwin: "I’m just saying—why bother? Audience wants skin, give them skin. Keep the girls chained up naked the whole time. And that escape scene of yours? Just have them do it naked."
Jesús: "They all get shot in the end. I can’t have them shot naked. That’s… I don’t know… eew."
Erwin: "They can be shot naked, trust me. We make it sexy. They get shot, lay them out like centerfolds."
Jesús: "Erwin, cut it out. I mean, I admit I’m intrigued by the idea artistically, but I don’t think the girls would go for it. It’s a little too crude."
Erwin: "Oh, and I suppose all the muff-diving scenes are Shakespeare? What are these girls—aspiring Catherine Denueves or something? Isn’t one of them a porn actress?"
Jesús: "Karine? Sure, but she’s hoping to go mainstream. Anyway, it’s the fucking jungle, Erwin. There are all kinds of thorns and sharp rocks out there. Spiders. Ticks. I can’t have them running around in all that with their great big bushes out. I mean…lice…you know? Although I am intrigued. Artistically, I mean."
Erwin: "Exactly. It’s art. Last Tango in Paris, right? Bertolucci has Brando shove butter up a girl’s poop chute and the critics go bananas."
Jesús: "That’s funny." *sigh* "But I’m no Bertolucci."
Erwin: "You’re right. You’re better. One day you’ll get a lifetime achievement award for all this filth, trust me. You’ll be remembered. The crazy risks you and the girls took will seem amazing to later generations."
Jesús: "You think so?"
Erwin: "I know so. In your own twisted way you’re a genius. So anyway—naked the whole movie, okay? Or at least the entire second half. Oh, and lots of sweat. And a shower orgy. And some torture. And some pee."
Giovanni Simonelli was a virtual one-man industry in Italian cinema.
It’s been too long, so today we’re back to the incomprable Benedetto Caroselli, with a cover he painted for L’incubo scarlatto, aka “The Scarlet Nightmare,” by Simon O’Neil for EPI’s I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell’Orrore, 1970. O’Neil would have been an Italian writer working under a pseudonym, and in this case it was Giovanni Simonelli, who wrote about seventy-five screenplays between 1958 and 1998. Some of those gems include L’uomo dalla pistola d’oro, released in English as Doc Hands of Steel, Dos pistolas gemelas, aka Sharp Shooting Twin Sisters, and Agente 3S3: Passaporto per l’inferno.
L’incubo scarlatto is set in London and involves a woman who thinks she might be a vampire because men around her keep turning up violently killed. Considering one was her potential rapist and another was a sadistic drug lord, they both deserved it, but she needs to know the truth and pairs up with a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of the mystery. Simonelli did more than write macabre books and scripts. He also directed, composed music, and even acted in two movies, appearing in 1966’s Kommissar X - Jagd auf Unbekannt, aka Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill, under the name Sim O’Neill. Quite a career. We wouldn’t be surprised to run across his work again. Meantime, you can see plenty more art from Benedetto Caroselli here.
It’s got tough spies, fast cars, big boats, dangerous women and great scenery. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s amazing how awful and ineffectual 1960s anti-drug movies were. Massimo Mida’s spy caper LSD—Una atomica nel cervello, aka LSD—Inferno per pochi dollari, aka LSD—Flesh of the Devil, falls into that category. It isn’t quite Reefer Madness silly, but it comes close, with an unintentionally hilarious opener featuring a child blowing up two men with a toy car, then using a blowgun to take down a third who runs so slowly he might as well have canoes for feet. That bit is followed later in the film by giggly, spastic, tearful acid trip sequences put together by someone who maybe listened to Surrealistic Pillow but never actually tried drugs. Mida created the moniker Mike Middleton for his directorial credit, and we have to wonder if he was afraid having his real name attached to the film would shame his family. What saves the movie is that it’s got a touch of that ineffable Italian style, numerous location set-ups along the Lake Como shoreline, and plenty of the beautiful Franca Polesello, who you see below. There are worse ways to spend ninety minutes, but this feature is mainly for Italophiles and those with Mystery Science Theater 3000 wit. Others may want to steer clear. At least the poster art, by Moroni (first), and Diovano (second) is great. LSD—Una atomica nel cervello premiered in Italy today in 1967.