A city with no exit.
Milano Calibro 9, for which you see a promo poster painted by Renato Casaro, is a fun entry in the ranks of Italian crime cinema. Derived from a book of twenty-two short stories by Giorgio Scerbanenco, the plot follows a career thief played by a deadpan Gastone Moschin who's suspected by a crime kingpin of stealing $300,000 of his money. When Moschin is released from prison he's dogged by the kingpin and the local cops, who both want him to produce the cash. But he says he doesn't have it. The fact that the money is missing is what's keeping him alive for the moment, but if he doesn't come up with it the kingpin will kill him.
This trapped ex-con scenario runs along classic lines familiar to fans of vintage noirs, which works to the movie's benefit and disadvantage simultaneously. On the negative side, the plot offers little new in the gangster genre, and contemporary reviews pointed that out, but on the positive the movie has gritty Milan exteriors (shot when air pollution was still a major problem throughout the industrialized West), a cold-as-ice mood, a set of great character actors as various brutal criminals, and the presence of Barbara Bouchet as the world's least rhythmic but most beautiful go-go dancer.
What really sets Milano Calibro 9 apart, though, is its political undertones. The police investigation is hampered by a bitter division between classic rightwing commissioner Frank Wolff and far left head inspector Luigi Pistilli. Their ideological conflict and its implicaition of widespread class struggle in Italy gives the movie's fight over loose money a significance that still resonates today. In our era characterized by (among other serious problems) a yawning financial inequality gap, Milano Calibro 9 is a reminder that cinematic thrillers weren't always politically mindless. We recommend it. It premiered in Italy today in 1972.
Haiti gets hit by hurricane Anita.
These two posters for Al tropico del cancro, aka Tropic of Cancer, were painted by Italian master Renato Casaro, and really demonstrate his artistic range, as they're stylistically different from the other poster he painted for the film. We have plenty of Casaro in the website, so if you want to see more just click his keywords below, or if you're pressed for time, you can see what we think is his best work here and here. He isn't the only person we want to highlight today. The movie stars Anita Strindberg, yet another luminous actress to come out of Sweden, and she plays a wife who travels to Haiti and is soon caught up in tropical sensuality, hallucinogenic drugs, and voodoo. It's unabashed exploitation ranging from the sexual to the cultural, and Strindberg is the main reason it's watchable, as you see below. Al tropico del cancro premiered in Italy today in 1972.
An American con man in London.
Above: a nice Italian poster for Jules Dassin's 1950 film noir Night and the City. The city is London, which proves to have numerous hazards for shady Richard Widmark. In Italy the movie was called I trafficanti della notte, then retitled Nella citta la notte scotta. You see both on the poster. Earlier promos exist that have only the first title, but we like this later one painted by Renato Casaro the most. It has a beautiful glowing cityscape in the background. Amazing work. We don't know why the title was changed, but the original translates as “the traffickers of the night," while the second is, “in the city the night is hot,” so maybe the distributors simply preferred the more poetic second title. We certainly do. We haven't talked about this movie yet, but we'll get to it a little later. It opened in Italy today in 1951.
The fallout from this situation will be lethal.
Above, an Italian poster painted by Renato Casaro for the Japanese macabre sci-fi flick Matango, which in Italy was called Matango il mostro and in the U.S. Attack of the Mushroom People. We shared the excellent Japanese posters back during the summer and you can see those here. The film opened in Italy at the Festival della Fantascienza di Trieste today in 1964.
A film noir of a different color.
Above, two Italian posters for Operazione Lotus bleu, better known as The Scarlet Hour. Funny that the color in the title changed. Why not call it “operazione lotus rosso”? Actually, “bleu” isn't evan an Italian word, as far as we know, which makes this poster even weirder. Italian for blue is “blu.” The movie also played under a title translated literally from the English original—L'ora scarlatta—and we'd show you those posters but they don't compare to these. No surprise, since these were painted by the great Renato Casaro. As for the color change, that will likely remain a mystery. There's no known Italian release date for the film, but it premiered nearly everywhere in Europe between September and November of 1956. More here.
Murder is in the eye of the beholder.
Above are three beautiful posters for L'occhio che uccide, or “the eye that kills,” which premiered in Italy today in 1961. The movie was originally called Peeping Tom when released in Britain in 1960. The second and third posters are signed by Renato Casaro, while the top one is unsigned. But it resembles his work, so what the heck—let's say he painted all three until someone corrects us. This movie was a career killer, a bizarre and confounding thriller that irreparably damaged the ambitions of director Michael Powell, but which today has ardent advocates. In the mood for a voyeur mass murderer who tries to turn his killings into art? See our write-up here, and check out a Japanese poster for the flick here.
Il dolce corpo di Deborah is pretty but inside it has issues.
Renato Casaro does solid work as always on this poster he painted to promote the Italian giallo flick Il dolce corpo di Deborah. We've featured him often, and you can see some of his best work here, here, and here. If you were translating the title Il dolce corpo di Deborah into English normally, it would be the linguistically economical “Deborah's Sweet Body,” but instead the distributors went literal with The Sweet Body of Deborah. Going with something clunkier than needed is a good metaphor for the film.
The story involves a newly married American woman played by Carroll Baker who honeymoons with her Italian husband in Geneva, where he runs into a former friend who accuses him of murder. The death in question was of the husband's ex-girlfriend. It was ruled suicide, but the acquaintance claims it was murder. He spends a lot of time and effort trying to convince Baker her husband is a killer, but is he telling the truth, or is there something even more sinister going on? That's a rhetorical question. This is giallo.
Normally we'd suggest watching the film to find out what happens, but we won't do that because this is a limp and disjointed thriller made watchable only thanks to good cinematography, interesting Geneva exteriors, and Baker pushing the envelope of allowable skin. Bad scripting and bad acting really hurt here, and the double twist ending feels perfunctory. We won't go so far as to say Body blows, but it could be plenty better. Il dolce corpo di Deborah premiered in Italy today in 1969.
Ahh-ahh! He'll save every one of us!
Back to the Japan bin today with a colorful poster painted by Renato Casaro for Flash Gordon—’80s version—with Sam J. Jones as Flash, Max von Sydow as Ming, Ornella Muti as Princess Aura, and Queen on the theme music. Flash! Ahhh-ahhh! He's a miracle! We liked Muti so much we featured her in costume not once, but twice. Muti! Ahh-ahh! She's even more miraculous than Flash! Often the Japanese titles of western flicks are wild digressions from the originals but this one seems to be literal—Furasshu gōdon. After opening in the U.S. at the end of 1980 it landed in Japan today in 1981.
A dirty picture is worth a thousand words.
As long as we're on Italy today we might as well highlight this Renato Casaro poster for the giallo flick Le foto proibite di una signora per bene, aka The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. We've dubbed the pose you see here the alpha, for both its theme of dominance and the A shape made by the legs of the foreground figure. Typically the figure is male, but not always. We put together a collection of paperbacks using this pose while ago.
In the film a bored housewife played by Dagmar Lassander is convinced by a sadistic stranger that her husband is a killer. In her desperation to protect her spouse she's manipulated into the stranger's bed, which results in him having explicit photographs with which to blackmail her. When Dagmar finally tells her husband and the police what's happening the evidence disappears, which makes Dagmar look mentally unstable. This seems to have been the plan all along, but who's behind it? Is the stranger working alone? Is Dagmar's husband or best friend involved?
With its leisurely pace and unconvoluted plot, the film lacks some giallo characteristics, but it's officially considered part of the genre. Because of its relative simplicity it avoids serious logical missteps, which is a worthy achievement considering how wacky these movies get. But while it's sure handed and reasonably entertaining, you can expend ninety minutes of life in better ways, which is why we don't recommend this except for giallo completists. Le foto proibite di una signora per bene premiered in Italy today in 1970.
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