What's mostly style and virtually no logic? A typical giallo.
Giallo films occasionally take on taboo subject matter. In western cinema little is more taboo than child murder. Non si sevizia un paperino, aka Don't Torture a Duckling unabashedly uses this premise, as police in rural Italy try to solve the murder of a 12-year-old named Bruno. “The guy's obviously going to be a mental case,” one cop says. “The killer's a maniac,” says another. But cops are notoriously obtuse in these films. Was the killer really some nut job? Bruno was one of a trio of close friends who spent a lot of time together playing in the hills. When a second member of the group turns up dead it seems clear that the three boys saw something they shouldn't have and are now being targeted.
As usual in giallo there are extraneous moments littered throughout the plot. Why does creepy ass Florinda Bolkan play in the muck with three voodoo dolls that seem to represent the three boys? Why does a local farmer wander the woods during a late night thunderstorm chopping down foliage with a machete? Why does Barbara Bouchet lounge in her room nude under a sun lamp? Actually, we know the answer to that last question—the filmmakers had one of cinema's great beauties on their hands and weren't about to let the opportunity to show her pass. We couldn't let it pass either. See the promo images below.
Getting back to the positives, we enjoyed watching sex symbol Bolkan dirty herself up to play a mountain witch, loved Bouchet's assortment of ultra cool outfits and cars, and thought the filmmakers used the Basilicata countryside to good effect. But who did the killing? Was it Bolkan the witch? The big city drug addict? The handsome local priest? The mentally disabled man-boy? The priest's strange mother? Giallo mysteries are not usually written in such a way as to be solvable, so in truth it's hard to care. But even if Non si sevizia un paperino isn't an involving puzzle, it's great eye candy with a bizarrely graphic ending that must be seen to be believed. It premiered in Italy today in 1972.
You can't have him. He's the only reliable source of heat in this place.
Above is a poster for Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave, aka Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. The movie premiered in Italy today in 1970, but we're showing you the U.S. poster because its imagery of co-star Edwige Fenech and a devil cat is better, in our opinion, than the Italian one, which you see at bottom. The title is ridiculous, obviously, but how is the film? It's a typically labyrinthine giallo. Anita Strindberg, she of the glorious mouth and astonishing hair, is being tormented by her impotent writer husband Oliviero. When murders begin to occur in the crumbling mansion where they live he begs Strindberg to supply his alibi, claiming he had nothing to do with the crimes. Enter the husband's niece, Fenech. She arrives for a visit and forms an immediate sexual bond with Strindberg. They both think Oliviero is a killer and set out to prove it. The film is interesting, but it's always a problem when a mystery's solution has to be explained at the end because nobody in the film—nor in the audience—could figure it out. Still though, giallo completists will find something here to like. Below are some production photos, as well as a promo shot made for the film of Fenech in a tub. And you thought she'd never let go of that cat.
She can barely contain herself.
We have a second calendar page for you today. Above you see German actress Uschi Glas in a May 1968 feature from the West German magazine Bravo called Star de Monats, or “star of the month.” We watched her recently in the Italian giallo flick Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso, aka Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, and she was by far the best performer in it. We'll be seeing more of her later.
I can see how excited I've made you. Pour this bowl of cold water on it and see if that helps.
In the promo photo above Femi Benussi appears in costume—in amazing costume—as Lola in the film Il domestico. Benussi was born in Rovigno, Italy, which is now Rovnij, Croatia, and debuted in 1965's Il boia scarlatto, aka Bloody Pit of Horror. She went on to appear more than eighty films, including the giallo Nude per l'assassino, aka Strip Nude for Your Killer and the actioner Storia di sangue, aka Blood Story. The above image is from 1974, and just to make Benussi's outfit complete it also came with a hat, shoes, and a bruise courtesy of the makeup department, below. As we continue to work our way through various 1970s schlock classics you can be sure that Benussi will show up here again
________ murdered me, that shithead. Apprehend and imprison. Hopefully for life. And I prefer cremation over burial.
Above is a blood splattered poster for Dario Argento's giallo thriller Profondo rosso, aka Deep Red, which is the story of a British musician in Italy who sees the murder of his neighbor, thus catching a glimpse of the killer. David Hemmings of Blow Up fame stars, and the maniac comes for him next when police for some reason announce to the world that they have a witness. In order to avoid becoming a crime statistic Hemmings needs to unmask the killer. Daria Nicolodi plays the cute-but-not-hot Girl Friday reporter who helps out between trying to get the disinterested Hemmings in bed.
Argento directs Profondo rosso with great style and deliberation, drawing viewers into various set-ups with a roving, nervous camera. This came two years before his tour de force Suspiria, but he's already in full mastery of the extensive giallo toolbox. As usual in the genre, realism is of minor importance, such as when a dying woman wants to write her killer's identity using her finger on bathroom tile and starts with the words, “It was...” Here's a lifehack for you. When mortally wounded write the crucial info like Yoda would: “________, it was.” Afterward, if you have time, you can add any other material you consider important.
Despite the movie's quirks Argento manages to make a winner, at one point even recreating Edward Hopper's famous Nighthawks painting just for the sheer visual fun of it. Hemmings is a big plus too, sleuthing and channeling his inner jazz hepcat. Often in giallo overly convoluted clues make the identity of the killer impossible to guess. In this case the villain is revealed almost immediately—but only for those with sharp eyes. Others will have to wait for the usual climactic unveiling. Then rewind and watch the first murder again. Argento is a sneaky devil. Profondo rosso premiered in Italy today in 1975. See a truly brilliant poster for the film here.
Seven ways to die in Rome.
We mentioned a while back we were taking a closer look at vintage giallo flicks, and today you see a Renato Casaro poster for Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso, aka Seven Blood-Stained Orchids. During a train trip a serial killer who's been dispatching women in various diabolical ways tries to make a victim of Uschi Glas. Uschi's man Antonio Sabato is the police's number one suspect, and the only way he can disprove their suspicions is by finding the killer. Uschi plays sidekick for him, which is good, because he looks terribly confused most of the time. This falsely-accused-must-find-real-killer gimmick had already reached perennial status when Antonio arrived on the scene, so you'd hope for a fresh take on it—and be disappointed. This isn't a bad movie, but it's undistinguished, a giallo without the high style of the best entries in the genre. Umberto Lenzi, who had directed numerous films but was making his first giallo here, would do a bit better later. Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso premiered in Italy today in 1972.
It's a self portrait. I don't know why I painted myself bloody and mutilated. Just a weird inspiration.
These are my new strangling gloves. 100% lambskin. Nice, right?
My last victim didn't like gloves so this time I'm going bareback!
Not cutting him down.
Wait, what? That's not fair. I didn't even see him until just now.
This mystery is probably far less complicated than we think.
The world of professional ballet is absolute murder.
Suspiria is a legendary giallo, praised by horror fans and mainstream critics alike, and slated for a splashy 2018 remake. The fact that it's being remade is understandable—from Hollywood's perspective it fits with action and horror movies such as Turistas, Hostel, A Lonely Place To Die, Land of Smiles, Taken, et al that over the last decade or so have warned Americans that horrific things will happen to them if they travel overseas. In Suspiria an American dancer gains admittance to a prestigious West German ballet academy, but arrives just in time for a nightmarish series of murders. Jessica Harper stars as the ingenue trapped in this mostly blood red dance academy, a stranger in the strangest land, beset by unexplained illnesses, hallucinatory events, and vicious nocturnal terrors.
Suspiria piles the horror stylings on—from Dario Argento and his surreal direction, to Luciano Tovoli with his baroque lighting schemes and supersaturated colors, to the maggot wrangler who produced many more maggots than could have been reasonably expected, to the scorers (Argento among them) who came up with a percussive and discordant soundtrack that could rattle a bomb disposal robot. The first murder is nothing short of operatic, complete with a shot of a knife piercing the victim's exposed heart. The only real question going forward is whether Argento can possibly keep reaching such heights. And the answer is Suspiria, its brilliance outshining its flaws, is a classic for a reason. The poster above is a classic too. It was painted by Mario de Berardinis to promote the film's premiere in Italy today in 1977.
Florinda Bolkan is a textbook case of multiple epidermal disorder.
Una lucertola con la pelle di donna premiered in Italy in 1971 and in the U.S. as Lizard in a Woman's Skin today in 1973. It's a giallo—i.e. a thriller with mystery, slasher, detective, and psychological horror elements. Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan stars, and she has a problem—she's having erotic dreams about her beautiful neighbor Anita Strindberg. The dreams disturb and arouse Bolkan, but she's working out her concerns in therapy. All well and good, until matters take a turn for the worse when she dreams about dispatching Strindberg with a knife, and later wakes to find that Strindberg has indeed been murdered in the exact fashion as in her nightmare.
The cops arrest her for the killing and send her to a mental hospital to await trial. But the case is hardly airtight. Loose ends include Bolkan's dream diary, an illicit affair, and a blackmail plot. The mental hospital is hardly airtight either. A stalker shows up intent on putting Bolkan out of commission. Eventually doubts arise in the case and Bolkan is sprung from the booby hatch, but who committed the murder? Well, below we have some production shots, and at bottom is a poster for the film's re-issue as Schizoid—a title that's a blatant spoiler. Actually, considering lizards change their skin by molting, the original title is a spoiler as well. Too clever by half, these Italian filmmakers, but the movie is still fun.
A killer in black stalks Rome's fashionista set.
In Nude per l'assassino, aka Strip Nude for Your Killer there's a motorcycle helmeted serial killer on the loose and police have no idea who he is. The murderer first slaughtered a gynecologist whose most recent patient died of cardiac arrest during an abortion, but now the maniac is working his way through staff and talent at the Albatross Modeling Agency, killing women and men, catching many at their most vulnerable—i.e. naked. Suspects and clues are minimal. But hmm, let's see, how does a botched abortion tie into the other killings? Could it be.... revenge? Very likely. And what often happens in giallo when killers wear face-obscuring motorcycle helmets? Could it be... Well, we won't give it away, except to say the twist of who's under that helmet isn't a twist at all.
Near the end of the film there's a radio broadcast during which an announcer talks about the most recent murder. But first he reports on the government's “drastic new austerity measures.” We were fascinated to learn this was going on in Italy forty years ago. It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now. We can say the same about the movie. But while you won't find Nude per l'assassino on any list of top giallo films, it has some charms: Edwige Fenech, Femi Benussi, Solvi Stubing, and Erna Schurer. We've been pretty lazy about the giallo genre over the years, but watching this movie made us decide to remedy that. We're going to check out some of the better giallo flicks and report back. Nude per l'assassino premiered in Italy today in 1975.
Jack the Ripper, with an Italian twist.
Above, the original Italian poster for Dario Argento's horror thriller L’uccello dale piume de cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which premiered in Rome today in 1970 and has since become an iconic example of the giallo genre. We talked about the film, and shared the Spanish posters back in 2010. You can see those here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1916—First Battle of the Somme Ends
In France, British Expeditionary Force commander Douglas Haig calls off a battle against entrenched German troops which had begun on July 1, 1916. Known as the Battle of the Somme, this action resulted in one of the greatest losses of life in modern history—over three-hundred thousand dead for a net gain of about seven miles of land.
1978—Jonestown Cult Commits Mass Suicide
In the South American country of Guyana, Jim Jones leads his Peoples Temple cult in a mass suicide that claims 918 lives, including over 270 children. Congressman Leo J. Ryan, who had been visiting the makeshift cult complex known as Jonestown to investigate claims of abuse, is shot by members of the Peoples Temple as he tries to escape from a nearby airfield with several cult members who asked for his protection.
1973—Nixon Proclaims His Innocence
While in Orlando, Florida, U.S. President Richard Nixon tells four-hundred Associated Press managing editors, "I am not a crook." The false statement comes to symbolize Nixon's presidency when facts are uncovered that prove he is, indeed, a crook.
1938—Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Created
In Basel, Switzerland, at the Sandoz Laboratories, chemist Albert Hofmann creates the psychedelic compound Lysergic acid diethylamide, aka LSD, from a grain fungus.
1945—German Scientists Secretly Brought to U.S.
In a secret program codenamed Operation Paperclip, the United States Army admits 88 German scientists and engineers into the U.S. to help with the development of rocket technology. President Harry Truman ordered that Paperclip exclude members of the Nazi party, but in practice many Nazis who had been officially classified as dangerous were also brought to the U.S. after their backgrounds were whitewashed by Army officials.
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