My dream is actually to be a singer, so I interrupt this striptease to perform Verdi's aria, “Stride la vampa.”
This entry in Editions ERP's I Gialli dello Schedario's FBI series is a late one. It was number 259 and came in 1980, which is surprsing because we didn't realize ERP was still using painted cover art then. This one was the work of Mario Carìa, and Norman Forrest the author was actually—you guessed it—Renato Carocci, the guy who you could be forgiven for thinking wrote every Italian crime novel ever. You can check his output by clicking his keywords below, and you can see a small collection of FBI covers here.
Anonymous Italian cover artist hits the target.
Above: a pretty nice cover with a bullseye motif for Angeli neri di Brooklyn by Thomas Wright, from Editions ERP, entry fifty-four in their I Gialli dello Schedario series, published in 1959. Wright was a pseudonym often used by author Aldo Crudo, who wrote more than four hundred books beginning in 1957. The cover artist is unknown to us. We thought it could be Mario Ferrari. Alternate option, there's a possible artist signature in red ink but we can't read it and it doesn't correspond to any we could find. It might be from the person who owned the book. We've run into book signers before. Anyway, we like the art.
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.
Something in Mimsy Farmer's creepy old apartment building definitely doesn't smell right.
It's been a year, so we're retruring to giallo cinema today with Il profumo della signora in nero, known in English as The Perfume of the Lady in Black. The waifish Mimsy Farmer plays a chemical engineer working in Italy who begins experiencing macabre visions or hallucinations. Are these hauntings due to emerging psychological trauma triggered by the suicide of her mother years earlier? Are they somehow related to her university professor friend Andy, an expert on African religious rituals? Or maybe they're being staged by her pervy neighbor, or dissatisfied boyfriend, or weirdo girlfriend Francesca. An eerie psychic reading set up by her friends certainly doesn't help Farmer's mental stability. Shortly after that fiasco a little girl shows up at her door. Is she a manifestation of Farmer's younger self? What the hell is going on?
Well, it's giallo, so you just can't know. The genre typically involves an intersection of horror and mystery sprinkled with visual non sequiturs, indecipherable clues, and incomprehensible behavior. Mixed in are the usual details: garish lighting, rain and thunder, a disconcerting music box, unexplained disappearances, random cats, bug-eyed strangers, discordant violins, and so forth. In addition, the endings of giallos are usually meant to surprise, and in most cases you'll say to yourself, “Wait—wasn't there an easier way to get all that accomplished?” This one, which has a big reveal in more ways than one, brings up that question. But don't think about it too deeply. It's giallo. We can't say this example is good, but we will say Mimsy Farmer is extremely appealing. You might even call her... appetizing. You'll see what we mean if you watch the film. Il profumo della signora in nero premiered in Italy today in 1974
With warmth and tender loving care you can grow anything.
Above are two photos of actress Monica Strebel, who was born in Switzerland but mostly appeared in Italian films. She also, like many actresses of her era, appeared in photo novels and posed nude in magazines, such as the French publication Io, which is where the above shots originated in 1969. Several of Strebel's films had amusingly unwieldy titles, among them 1970's La lunga notte dei disertori - I 7 di Marsa Matruh, aka Operation Over Run, and the 1971 giallo La bestia uccide a sangue freddo, aka Cold Blooded Beast. Perhaps her most notable role was in 1972's Racconti proibiti... di niente vestiti, aka Master of Love. We have a promo shot from it below. Strebel plays Death in the form of a naked woman, and she and star Rossano Brazzi run away together across an open field. They don't make 'em like that anymore.
*smack* *smooch* You're so beautiful. I'll follow you anywhere. What's your name again? Did you say Lady Death? That's weird but whatever... *nuzzle* *smooch*
In giallo it's not the final destination that matters. It's the endless journey in circles.
Spasmo is what you used to call your little brother, but amazingly it's also the name of an Italian giallo flick, and like other giallos, this one comes with sly looks, loaded dialogue, appearing mannequins, disappearing bodies, creepy bit players, coincidences that aren't really coincidences, and baffling extraneous events. The plot here here is set into motion when Robert Hoffman shoots an intruder. The body disappears and he spends the rest of the film trying to figure out what happened. Which is impossible, of course, because in giallo the plots are often nonsensical and the characters behave irrationally in ways both minor and major. At one point co-star Suzy Kendall, who needed a long soak in a tub after this torturous journey, says, “I don't understand. I don't understand anything!” And that neatly sums up the film. But giallos (or gialli for you purists) aren't usually meant to be understood. They're puzzles with no solutions. Extremely self-conscious and stylish mindfucks. Some are better than others, but for us, everything about this one falls short except the three excellent, creepy promo posters you see above. Spasmo premiered in Italy today in 1974 I am a normal... and well adjusted... adult female... human being. Hide? Heh-heh. What makes you think I have anything to hide? I just pop up and scare the shit out of people when they least expect it. I'm really good at it, too. I'm like the Hendrix of that. Giuseppe said my plaid leisure suit was ugly and now he must die.
Annabella is molto bella from every angle.
Every side is Italian actress Annabella Incontrera's good side, as you can in the four shots above. We should all be so lucky. Despite a name that comes off the tongue like poetry, Incontrera sometimes acted as Pam Stevenson, and well, no offense to any Pams or Stevensons out there, but that pseudonym surely had to be the idea of an unimaginative agent or studio head. In the end it was as Incontrera that she made her mark, appearing in several notable Italian giallo and horror films, including La tarantola dal ventre nero, aka Black Belly of the Tarantula, Sette scialli di seta gialla, aka Crimes of the Black Cat, and Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer?, aka These Italian Movie Titles are Purely Nuts. She also popped up for a moment in Dean Martin's tongue-in-cheek caper flick The Ambushers as a slaymate. Well, she slays us. These photos are undated but from around 1968.
Look what the cat dragged in.
Cats get a bad rap in ’70s horror films. They're always shown lurking, staring, yowling, hissing, flying into frame from some elevated position off-camera, and standing sentinel over murdered bodies. Felines come to the fore once again in the Italian giallo-horror flick La morte negli occhi del gatto, aka Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye, as beautiful young Jane Birkin ventures into the Scottish countryside for a stay at creepy old Castle Dragonstone, which seems cursed or haunted by a feline or felines. Shortly after her arrival bodies start appearing. Who's doing the killing? Is there really a curse? Why does that darn cat keep turning up?
All of the answers and more are revealed, as is the reason behind the carnage, and guess what? It isn't the cat's doing at all. The problem is entirely human and has to do with coveting the castle. Seems everyone wants their own pile of rocks in windblown bumfuck Scotland. Yes, the plot is as blah as we made it sound, but at least the poster art is excellent. There's a another poster, an even better one, with Birkin on it. We digitally restored it to hi-rez perfection, then Photoshop corrupted the file right when we were putting the final touches on it. We aren't going to repeat all that work, so you'll never see what we did. Maybe there's a curse after all. La morte negli occhi del gatto premiered in Italy today in 1973.
Who needs sunscreen when you have imagination?
This photo of Italian actress Carla Brait using the local flora to improvise a little shade was made when she was appearing in the 1973 giallo flick I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale. Translated literally that means, “The bodies show traces of carnal violence.” For its U.S. release it was retitled Torso, which we think was a good move. Brait appeared in fifteen movies during her career, and speaking of torsos and good moves, she often played dancers, since that was her other profession. When she eventually retired from cinema she became a dance instructor. We've been watching a lot of giallos the last year or so, which means we may see her in Torso later.
When you're rich you're never insane. You're just a little eccentric.
La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba, aka The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, premiered in Italy today in 1971, and is an Italian made, set-in-England, gothic giallo flick for which we shared an unusual Greek poster some years ago. The art on that was retasked from the original poster, which was painted by Sandro Symeoni, a genius we've featured often. If you don't know his work, click his keywords below and have a look. He's worth your time.
In the movie a British lord violently obsessed with his deceased redheaded wife goes nuts and is committed to a mental institution. When he gets out he immediately brings disrepute to the entire psychiatric profession's notion of “cured” by going on a redhead killing spree. While he's busy reducing rural England's carrottop population one pale person at a time, his headshrinker, who knows nothing of the murders, is encouraging him to remarry in order to get over his dead wife.
That doesn't strike us as responsible psychiatric advice, but as we mentioned, there are lousy doctors in this film, so the Lord indeed picks out a suitable spouse, who's blonde, importantly. Things go fine until Mrs. Lord notices a redheaded maid in the manor. This is impossible, you see, because the Lord hates (and kills) redheads. So it goes without saying he'd never hire one. Who was this woman, and why was she there? Soon we're treated to the reliable giallo staples of imposters, unknown people creeping through the woods at night, disappearing corpses, and the question of whether what's happening is real, or is an attempt to induce insanity.
What might induce insanity for you is the screenwriting of the female characters in this flick. They're pure murder magnets. For example, whenever the Lord meets a redhead he yanks painfully on her hair to see if it's real. “Ouch! That hurt!” “Sorry, I thought it might be a wig.” “Oh.” Here's some advice: kick him in the gonads and run like Flo-Jo. Yet the women instead decide painful hair-pulling is just a cute quirk, and later meet their bloody ends.
There's also an incredible scene where the Lord slaps his wife around until she's bloody-mouthed, only to finally be stopped by the appearance of a friend, who asks, “Why were you fighting?” Why were you fighting? A more appropriate line might be, “Why were you beating the fuck out of your beloved?” But with this latter incident there may actually be a plotworthy reason the Lord is forgiven. We could reveal it, but that would be a spoiler. Of course, saying it would be a spoiler is a spoiler too. Oh no! Everything is spoiled! We have to murder a redhead now. Is that a non-sequitur? No, it's just giallo.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
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