Saturday, February 12, 2011

THE END OF WORLDWEIRD CINEMA?!? And the latest from Mondo Macabro!!

So I'm sure most of you have noticed that there hasn't been much going on here of late. In fact, it's been more than four months since my last post. My thanks to anyone who's still been checking in to see if there's anything new, my apologies to all who might be disappointed that there hasn't been. Truth is, my heart just hasn't been in it. From a personal life in turmoil to a wide range of interests other than movies to often just wanting to sit back and enjoy a film and not have to think about how I'd write about it, the reasons for my absence are many and varied. I'd love to say that this is a temporary hiatus, but I'm not sure. Anyway, this might be my last post for awhile. I need to figure out what my priorities are and get some things straightened out in my head before I can devote my time and concentration to writing about cinema again. But I still love movies, and I love the whole 'Worldweird Cinema' concept and feel there is still great work to be done in this field so I imagine I can’t stay away forever. But before I go off into self-imposed exile, I'd like to whole-heartedly recommended to all of you (however many of you might be left) the two most recent releases by our fave DVD label of all time Mondo Macabro. I speak of course of their two Jess Franco blockbusters SINNER and LORNA THE EXORCIST!

Of course the troubles that have plagued these discs have become the stuff of legend, particularly in the case of LORNA. I will not repeat the litany of obstacles that nearly derailed this release; you can find those at your nearest Google search. I will only praise the immense effort that MM has put into both discs. They are among the best ever presentations of Jess Franco’s work available. The movies are incredible too. SINNER is as solid and foursquare a movie as Franco ever made, but still washes over you with degenerate sex and heady, psychedelic music. The acting is surprisingly good for an early 70s soft sex epic and while a few plot points are muddled, the story is absorbing and solid. LORNA on the other hand, is just completely off its rocker. It is perhaps Franco’s most bizarre and unsettling movie, trading in the uncanny and unhealthy atmosphere that have always pervaded the wayward autuer’s best movies, but here cranked it up to full blast. The cut on this DVD is almost 20 minutes longer than any version ever released on video, with the most important revelation being the long-written-of but-rarely seen dildo initiation scene between starlets Pamela Stanford and Lina Romay. It’s transgressive, disgusting and highly erotic all at once. The United Nations should consider giving Pete Tombs and Andy Starke some sort of medal for unearthing this scene and several others which have fleshed out this morbid and disquieting film. Another key trait to note about both films are their incredible scores. SINNER’s is wild and psychedelic, LORNA’s hypnotic and melancholy, both hold the films together, lending a linear thread to hang the degeneracy and weirdness on.

The DVDs themselves are nearly flawless. SINNER looks as just about as perfect as one could hope for and while the quality of LORNA varies with the different prints used to re-construct this uncut version, it’s practically a miracle that it exists at all. There are great extras as well. Steven Thrower contributes an overview of Franco’s films as well as introductions for each movie. As Thrower is perhaps the most insightful of all cult film critic/historians, these interviews are absolutely must-views for fans of Jess. You will come away with some new perspectives on his bizarre, labyrinth filmography, I promise. Also featured is an exclusive interview with editor Gerard Kikoine, who worked on many of Franco’s pictures during his time making movies for producer Robert De Nesle. He’s quite charming in a very Gallic sort of way and there’s plenty of insight to be gleaned from him about early 70s French exploitation cinema scene. Great stuff. These extras are featured on both discs. Basically, you NEED both of these amazing DVDs, surely among the best and most significant cult releases currently to reach the market in quite awhile.

Next up from Mondo Macabro: STRIP TEASE! Starring Nico! With music by Serge Gainsbourg! Coming May 17th!

So, this probably WON'T be the End Of Worldweird Cinema. Just the last for awhile. I will probably be back after I figure some stuff out about myself. My thanks to the guys at Mondo Macabro and Onar Films for being supportive of what I do and allowing me to review their wonderful product. Thanks to all who've read and offered vocal support. Thanks to all who've read and just enjoyed in silence. Special thanks to Jack J of Denmark for occasionally kicking me in the ass to get back and do something here. If I return it will be in large part due to his unyeilding support. Special thanks also to Lindsey P who supported me and this blog through it's formative years. More Special Thanks to Rebecca S for pushing me to at least finish this entry and inspiring me to do more. Keep checking back, weird-movie fans, who knows what you may come across!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Onar DVD coming soon?


Long thought lost, but now found, Onar is unleashing this comic book-based Turkish western on an unsuspecting world in October (maybe). That is, if everything goes fine between now and then. This title is a dream release for Onar Mastermind Bill Barounis and for all we know might be the last Onar disc ever, considering all the trouble his previous releases have caused him. But gosh, I sure hope not - so everyone HAS to buy this thing and line Bill's pockets with gold coins so he can continue his extrodinary streak of amazing DVDs. Details of the package below.

ULTRA-LIMITED EDITION OF 500 numbered copies
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Levent Cakir (Zagor)
Poster Insert
Aspect ratio: 16:9 - 1.78 Full Frame
Turkish audio with English & Greek subs
Dolby Digital 2.0


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Korean Horror! At Unkown Kino! WWC says check it out!

In the interest of keeping the barest of pulses still moving here at Worldweird Cinema, let me point you to a spate of recent reviews by my friend Mathieu St-Pierre. He lives in The Republic of Korea (that's South Korea to most of us in the English speaking world), and the lucky bastard has easy (or at least, easier) access to the incredibly obscure world of pre-millennium Korean horror flicks. His blog Unknown Kino is just about the only place other than yers troolies where the so-inclined can read about this almost entirely unknown region of international exploitation cinema. So soak it up. Unless Mondo Macabro or some other brave entrepreneurs strikes a deal with the Korean Film Archive to remaster and unleash some of these on DVD, our two sites are just about the only English language options for finding out about these things. There are a few Korean DVDs out there. I leave it to you to do your own digging.
On to the reviews! Take it away Monsieur St. Pierre!




Monday, August 23, 2010

Impulse/Synapse unveils the initial disc in their Nikkatsu Roman Porno line!

Out November 9th of this very year. Looks freaking awesome, aye? Synapse aren't sure which actual R.P. film will be the first to roll out but speculates that it may be DEBAUCHERY aka BEAST COLOR. We know nothing about this film and can find noting about it under that title. Nonetheless - SOLD! We love this stuff 'round here and so will you!
More updates will be forthcoming, including a roundup of recent sexy Severin DVDs! We swear! Stay tuned!

Monday, July 19, 2010

FREE MAIDEN (South Korea, 1982)

Released: October 29, 1982
Republic of Korea
Shin Han Films Co., Ltd.

Directed by Kim Ki-young
Written by Lee Mun-wung
Producted by Jeong Do-hwan
Cinamatography by Jeong Pil-si
Art Direction by Lee Myoung-soo
Editing by Hyun Dong-choon
Lighting by Seo Byoung-Su
Music by Han Sang-ki

Ahn So-young
Shin Seong-il
Kim Won-seob
Cho Ju-mi
Han Woo-ri

The stirringly lovely Ahn So-young, star of the (very) soft-core hit film AEMA BUIN, plays a free-spirited young graduate student whose casual affairs with impressionable young men causes consternation among her colleagues. Motivated by a pursuit of commitment free-pleasure, So-young feels little guilt about bedding and forgetting a string of handsome beaus. Like the AEMA series, the model here would seem to be the European EMANUELLE films, with their schmaltzy, discofied ambience and (often hypocritical) free-love ethos. But FREE MAIDEN was directed by South Korea’s premier eccentric auteur Kim Ki-young and he takes this formula and curdles it, making a film that is riddled with his own bizarre obsessions.

So-young’s commitment-phobia is seriously tested for the first time by an older professor whom she feels sympathy for after learning of his recent suicide attempt. It seems the old doc can’t get it up anymore and has fallen prey to the depths of despair. His loving wife tries in vain to alleviate his impotency by all manner of oddball cures in an extended sequence that’s pure Kim. A bitter herbal broth chased by an assortment of multi-colored hard candies, pornography, dressing in a middle-eastern-y looking veil, hypnosis and finally standing him on his head and shaking his legs around vigorously. None of this works of course. If you’ve seen any of Kim’s other films like INSECT WOMAN or WOMAN OF FIRE I’m sure you can guess what eventually does cure his chronic erectile dysfunction. A chance encounter with So-young provides the opportunity for the professor to loosen (and stiffen) up but his despair seems too great and an initial seduction ends in failure. But while wandering an empty field at night our loveless doc (an entomologist obsessed by butterflies) is entranced when So-young hoists up the sides of her dress and flaps them around like an insect. The professor chases her with his butterfly net, catches her, tosses her to the ground, flings her legs apart and re-discovers his manhood. It’s another memorable scene that could only have sprung from the cracked imagination of Kim Ki-young.

An intense affair begins, despite the abject disapproval of So-young’s fellow students. So-young has finally learned how to feel real love. But soon enough it becomes apparent to the professor’s suffering wife what is going on. She takes legal recourse (it seems as though adultery is a serious civil offense in the Republic of Korea, or at least it was at this time), threatening suit and forcing So-young to sign papers forbidding her illicit affair with the older woman’s husband. Though crushed, she agrees, but attempts suicide by taking an overdose of pills. She survives, perhaps because the bottle of pills she swallows clearly states that they’re “Vitamin E” tablets (?!?!?). But passion cannot be denied and the professor seeks her out for one last rendezvous, which makes up the films climatic and best love scene, an intense and emotional love-making swathed in vibrant and cartoonish crimson lighting. It’s the only such scene the escapes either faux-Europorn cheesiness or the loopy almost by-the-numbers eccentricity of director Kim. It’s also the only time in this film or in any other South Korean movie I’ve seen of any sensual nature that comes close to matching the vivid intensity of the contemporaneous Japanese “Roman Pornos”. It’s a wonderful, galvanizing and even emotional sequence that should linger long in your memory. The movie just sort of winds down after that, having blown its stack, so to speak. There isn’t much to say about the conclusion, really. Everyone is back to square one and no-one gets a happy ending.

FREE MAIDEN was one of a number of cheap films Kim made during the late 70s through the middle-to-late 1980s which were intended to meet quota requirements imposed by the government on studios importing foreign films. Although intending to pump fresh blood into the increasingly moribund Korean film industry, the actual outcome were scores of zero-budgeted melodramas that for the most part did no favors to the often negative view that the international film scene held about movies made in the ROK. But there were some fascinating pictures that pulled through and are ripe for cult rediscovery, for example: oddball z-grade horrors like THE WHITE WOLF or VENGEFUL VAMPIRE GIRL, deranged gothics so cheap and bizarre they remind one of early 90s Pakistani horror/sleaze. Kim’s pictures from this era are also on the rise in cult circles, although they were first rediscovered by the iconoclastic Korean cinephiles that would eventually breed world class film-makers like Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook. Movies like this one or HUNTING FOR IDIOTS or the bizarre INSECT WOMAN redux CARNIVORE are captivating in a wayward, off-the-cuff manner that deftly showcase Kim’s truly original and obsessive style. He himself was highly dismissive of these films, noting “Those are sort of jokes in a way. I made them with no intention of creating a real piece of work … I made them hastily in a mood of self-mockery”. And while they are not nearly as “well-made” as his 1960s classics like THE HOUSEMAID or GORYEOJANG or as psychedelic and powerful as the 1970s efforts PROMISE OF THE FLESH or I-EO ISLAND, they are nonetheless fascinating examples of peculiar world exploitation cinema. They are easily comparable to wonderfully idiosyncratic works from Jess Franco or Jean Rollin from this same period in Europe or demented no-budget US horror flicks like BOARDINGHOUSE or THE JAR. Films that have sidestepped any normal mainstream mode of film-making and seem instead to have been shot straight out of the wild, fevered imaginations of the irresponsible auteur crafting them. MAIDEN, like any of the films mentioned above, is a very imperfect cinematic artifact but which is nonetheless deeply engrossing anyway, precisely because of these imperfections and not despite them.

The principal selling point of FREE MAIDEN is the wonderfully sultry presence of Ahn So-young. So-young was born in 1959 and made her first film, MU-RIM BATTLE, in 1978. But it was her title role in the “ero-movie” classic AEMA BUIN, released in early February 1982, which made her a star. That picture was an immediate hit and ushered in a brief golden era of softcore sex productions in the faltering South Korean film industry. It spawned no less than 10 sequels making it the longest lasting film series in Korean film history to this point, although only the first featured Ms. Ahn. Although ostensibly erotic, both AEMA and MAIDEN are rather chaste when compared to European or Japanese softcore movies from this same time, not to mention the increasingly profane hardcore productions from all over the decadent west. The nudity in AEMA was teasing only, no full frontal anything. The same can be said of MAIDEN although there are a few more instances of tit-flash than in its more successful predecessor. According to the Korean Film Database (more reliable by far than IMDB) So-young made 23 films between 1978 and 1995 when her filmography then goes mysteriously blank. It is unknown to me why So-young retired but one may gather that perhaps she married at this time and settled down into a traditional Korean lifestyle, which probably forbids a woman from working period, much less working in sexy movies. There is a rumor that at one time she lived in the US and had opened a restaurant but I could find no substantiation for this story. However So-young returned to film in 2007 with THE SUN TOLD ME TO …, a romantic drama.

To be fair, FREE MAIDEN is not as good as AEMA BUIN or any of the other Kim Ki-young films I have seen. Kim’s disinterest shows through in the movie’s many plodding dialog and expositionary scenes, which are shot with none of the passion and verve that highlights even the most trivial scenes in his 60s and 70s work. And excepting the gorgeous force of nature that is Ahn So-young, there are no other great performances here, only perfunctory ones. Still, there is enough of Kim’s eccentric stylistic tics and enough sensual allure to hold one’s interest throughout. And as Kim only made 34 films during his long career (several of his contemporaries made as many as twice that number) and as a significant number of those are now partially or wholly lost, any entry in his filmography is a must-view for his acolytes, for whom even the most lackluster film contributes an important piece of the puzzle to the understanding of this most obscure and uncanny auteur.

Special thanks to my friend Mathieu St-Pierre for his help researching this review. Check out his great review of AEMA BUIN here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NEW TENANT (Hong Kong, 1995)

NEW TENANT (Hong Kong, 1995)
San fong haak (Cantonese)/ Xin fang ke (Mandarin)
“New Neighbor”
Universe Film Productions/Galaxy Films
Directed by Anthony Wong Chau-sang
Produced by Leung Hung-wah
Written by Lau Wing-kin, Leung Hung-wah, Anthony Wong Chau-sang
Cinematography by Tsang Chun-chung
Art Direction by Danny Yuen
Music by Raymond Wong Ying-wah
Anthony Wong Chau-sang
Dolphin Chan Hoi-hang
Lawrence Ng Kai-wah
Dayo Wong Chi-wah
Parkman Wong Pak-man
Yip Wing-cho

With stomping Canto-metal blasting away on the soundtrack, the movie begins with actor/director Anthony Wong getting a haircut from UNTOLD STORY director Herman Yau made up like Paul Stanley from Kiss. It just gets weirder from there. It’s 1994 in Hong Kong and Wong is being discharged from a mental hospital. He claims he can no longer remember why he was originally admitted and therefore must be fully recovered. His doctor approves and, seemingly a bit of a Jesus freak, prays with him, and seems more mentally unstable than Wong does. Out on his own, our hero rents a flat in a building scheduled to be condemned in three months. Although he is the only current tenant he occasionally sees neighbors going in and out, only to later find their respective apartments empty, apparently for years. On his first night, he dreams (or does he?!?) that his face has become grotesquely disfigured and his hands have begun to stigmata. Rushing in a panic out his front door, he is confronted with the oppressive image of the hospital again, beckoning him to return. The following day, while sitting down to defecate, he is intruded upon by a rotund, mustachioed gentleman who, unable to see Wong already using the facilities, promptly whips it out and starts pissing directly on him. Blessedly, he disappears, but Wong is understandably upset and confused by this odd plot twist. Rushing into his living room he is astonished to find several people having a get-together in his apartment. They can neither see nor hear him. Anthony Wong, unsurprisingly, freaks out. These flashes continue and eventually he finds that one member of the household can at least hear him, a cute teenager improbably named Dolphin (also improbably the name of the actress playing the part and Wong’s girlfriend at the time). While in her room he happens to notice a calendar on the wall. He has suddenly found himself in 1984. Anthony Wong has become unstuck in time.

This brings us to the second act of the film, wherein Wong and Dolphin became acquainted and even sort of romantically involved. But soon enough the sinister strains of the first act begin to creep back in. Dolphin’s sister Whale (no really, that’s her name) goes missing soon after becoming engaged to the odd duck Anthropologist who lives downstairs (played by ubiquitous Category III leading man Lawrence Ng). Dolphin suspects that he has done something unspeakable to her, but really only because he makes weird noised at night that she hears through the ancient piping in their building. Dolphin and Wong sneak into his apartment one night to investigate and spy him opening a brief case and carefully inspect a mutilated canine inside. Convinced of his culpability, Wong checks in on the nutty professor back in 1994. He audits a class of his on the anthropology of human sacrifice. He speaks with unreserved passion about the cannibalization of loved ones in some “savage” societies, proclaiming the act to be the ultimate in intimacy. Confronting him afterwards the creep confesses to ritual murder and cannibalism of Whale and gives him a knowing look, perhaps somehow aware of Wong’s cross-time continuity. NEW TENANT spirals down from here into its unabashedly weird and incoherent climax. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I will tell you this about the end of the movie: It makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

Which is OK with me, really. This is a most unusual HK flick to be sure. There aren’t many pulp films from the former British colony that are so damned confounding, save perhaps for Wong Kar-wai’s ASHES OF TIME, although NEW TENANT is nowhere near in the league of that masterpiece. There’s an odd, unsettling tone to parts of the film that are genuinely creepy as well as hints that there is something more complex going on in the narrative, although it never really leads anywhere. I suppose there is something here about the anxiety over the ’97 handover to mainland China, but that’s not all that clear to me. Despite these failures in plot and theme, NEW TENANT is compulsively watchable and fairly bewitching. It’s a unique beast for its time and place, with an arty and austere mood, blanketed with a dissonant unease that rubs against the grain of the more commonplace commercial HK fare. It also features one of the oddest soundtracks I’ve ever heard, with the aforementioned metal opening, a bizarre assortment of what sounds like Russian folk songs and one of the most improperly scored love scenes in recent memory. As Wong and Dolphin are finally able to see and feel each other and therefore get it on, a tinny, jaunty Casio keyboard ragtime ditty tinkles merrily and mysteriously in the background. Many scenes are attractively eerie, and the narrative confusion adds to the incipient mystery of the production, adding a layer of pleasing weirdness even as the story stumbles. But just as often jarring bathroom humor and a sappy romantic streak undercuts this uncanny ambiance, reminding you that no matter how weird it may be, this is still ostensibly a mainstream Hong Kong pop cinema artifact. NEW TENANT never really finds the correct balance for these disparate strains. Still, it’s well worth the effort to track it down.

Acclaimed character actor Anthony Wong is the complete auteur of NEW TENANT. As star, co-writer, and director, Wong is responsible for both its successes and failures. According to an article by Lisa Odham Stokes and Michael Hoover in the Fear Without Frontiers book he also contributed music to the film, but I can find no other references to this credit. Perhaps he is composer of the metal theme at the start of the picture? Born in 1961 to a Chinese mother and an absentee gweilo father, Wong grew up an outsider and this perspective has informed his work throughout his long career. He has starred in upwards of 160 films, many of them as unrepentant heavies in horror flicks and gangster movies. He is perhaps the former colony’s best actor of such roles, always almost scarily believable as he chews up the scenery and occasionally the other actors. NEW TENANT was his debut as writer and director with only one other film, TOP BANNANA CLUB, a romantic comedy of all things, in that capacity. NEW TENANT was made for pennies sometime in 1994/95, and took some time to actually be released. As befuddling as this film is to a western audience, the average HK ticket-buyer must have been even more confounded by the ambiguous plot. Ambiguity not being a common attribute of 80s/90s commercial films, it is not surprising that TENANT struggled to find an audience. It is reputed to be one of the lowest grossing movies made during that decade. It has even struggled to find a recent cult fan base in the west, despite the exploito fame of Wong, star of underground faves EBOLA SYNDROME and EROTIC GHOST STORY 2. Despite its many faults it deserves a wider audience than it has thus far received.

Texts consultated for this review:

Charles, John, The Hong Kong Filmography 1977-1997, McFarland & Co., 2000

Stokes, Lisa Odham and Hoover, Michael, "Enfant Terrible: the Terrible, Wonderful World of Anthony Wong", Fear Without Frontiers, FAB Press, 2003

Dannen, Fredric and Long, Barry, Hong Kong Babylon: An Insider's Guide to the Hollywood of the East, Hyperion/Miramax Books, 1997

Friday, June 11, 2010

"This film is cursed!" LORNA disc to be delayed.

Mondo Macabro have announced that their highly anticipated DVD of Jess Franco's amazing LORNA THE EXORCIST will be delayed.

To quote from their blog:

"Due at the end of this month, it will now be a month or so late. This is due to circumstances GENUINELY beyond our control. Trust us, if you knew how hard we’ve worked to get round this, you’d be minting us medals rather than hurling epithets. In our defence, we’d like to point out that in nearly 50 MM releases, this is the first time this has happened….so…apologies..."

Sad, so sad. Pete Tombs was nice enough to share with us what exactly had gone wrong with the materials they had received from the licensor:

"LORNA had been turned into a porno movie in Italy. They removed more or less all the plot and replaced it with hideous porn inserts. The ending was almost completely gone. It was a disaster. The english soundtrack did not match either. The worst fuck up I have so far encountered in nearly 15 years of doing this!"

The good news? They seem to have been able to fix the probs and it will still be published. The even better news? The legendary "power transference by dildo" scene exists and will be on this disc for all to behold! The following screengrab confirms this beyond all doubt.

While it may not be on time, and it may have nearly ruined the sanity of the Mondo Macabro brain trust, LORNA THE EXORCIST will surely be one of the DVDs of the year.
If you so desire, you may put your faith where your wallet is and pre-order this masterpiece here.

Here are some other screengrabs from MM's blog. For those of us who've only experienced this movie from 7th generation bootlegs sourced from ancient SECAM VHS tapes, these are a true revelation!

Monday, May 24, 2010

THE THIRD EYE (Italy, 1966)

Production Company: Panda Societa per L’Industria Cinematographica
Released June 11, 1966

Directed by Mino Guerrini (as “James Warren”)
Screenplay by Piero Regnoli
Produced by Ermanno Donati and Luigi Carpentieri
Cinematography by Alessandro D’Eva
Music by Francesco De Masi
Editing by Ornella Michelli
Assistant Director Ruggero Deodato

Franco Nero
Erica Blanc
Gioia Pascal
Olga Solbelli

Franco Nero is constantly on the verge of insanity as Mino, an heir to a wealthy estate. He is hemmed in by the overwhelming feminine forces in this life: his mother (Solbelli), his fiancée, Laura (Blanc) and his maid (Pascal). Each seeks to possess him, despite his obvious instability. And each seeks to remove the others in the process of possessing him. The maid, Marta, eventually wins this battle of wills by murdering both the mother and the fiancée. The loss of these two important figures in his life tips Mino into full-blown crazy as he embalms his dead fiancée’s body (he is an expert taxidermy hobbyist) and begins to randomly murder local floozies he is easily able to seduce. Of course Marta is there to enable this murderous grief as a means of weaseling her way into his life more officially, essentially blackmailing him into making him his bride. Her devious plan is then complicated by the untimely arrival of Laura’s sister Daniela (Blanc, again), a plot twist that doesn’t do Mino’s state of mind any favors. He sees Daniela as his once dead, now apparently living bride-to-be and intends to make her his for eternity. Marta attempts one last stab at his heart by attempting to kill her, only to become Mino’s final victim in his series of ritualized murders. This bloody act done, Mino abducts/elopes with Daniela to achieve his defiance of death, hurdling both of these doomed souls towards the film’s tragic conclusion.

This synopsis should ring familiar to fans of Joe D’Amato’s gore masterpiece BEYOND THE DARKNESS. In fact, that film is almost a scene for scene remake, despite the almost total lack of acknowledgement in literature devoted to the D’Amato version. BEYOND makes explicit that which is mostly implicit in THE THIRD EYE. Made in the mid-sixties, EYE skirts around the necropliliac assumptions as well as shying away from the viciousness of murder that is the D’Amato film’s stock in trade. Which is not to say there is not a pervasive sickness in the atmosphere of this film, like many 60s Italian gothics, which often seemed more like sex films in a horror drag. The movie actually has more in common with the giallo genre, with its lack of an overt supernatural element and its preoccupation with murderous intrigue. But the shadowy, monolithic mansion with its menagerie of looming taxidermied animal corpses and the crisp chiaroscuro photography lend a decidedly gothic feel to the production, sorting it out from the candy-coated proto-slasher antics of the later thriller trend. This odd genre-resistant strain marks THE THIRD EYE out as a unique film in the heyday of Italian popular cinema.

But why THE THIRD EYE? What does this title mean and what does it indicate about the themes of the film? At one point in the film, after murdering his second victim Mino says, cryptically, “It’s as though I suddenly had a third eye … it always stares in the same direction”. In most esoteric philosophical systems, both eastern and western, “the third eye” is a reference to metaphysical or spiritual sight, the ability to see beyond the mundane world of ordinary physical existence, or beyond life itself into the realms of death. Mino is preoccupied with overcoming the towering presence of death in his life, his taxidermy and murders are an alchemical attempt at defying and transmuting its omnipresence. He can see beyond death’s veil – “always … in the same direction” - and in doing so thinks that he can summon his beloved from the shadow world into the light, like a modern Orpheus. When his fiancée's twin sister appears, Mino obviously takes this as a victory over death’s finality. Her fate and his are then sealed.

Whether or not this represents the film-makers’ actual intention is unknown to me. Much of this production is shrouded in mystery. Despite its wonderful cinematic qualities and exploito delirium, THE THIRD EYE has remained unjustly obscure for many years. As far as I can tell it never played theatrically or on video in the English speaking world. Director Mino Guerrini (December 16, 1927 – January 10, 1990) has never reached any sort of level of cult acclaim. This is not surprising as he spent the majority of his career dishing out the kind of sexy historical comedies which followed in the successful wake of Pasolini’s THE DECAMERON, a genre which has not found a wide audience in the home video cults of the last two decades. He started out as a journalist and painter before embarking on a career in cinema as a screenwriter in the 50s and early 60s. His most famous credit in this capacity is as one of six who signed Mario Bava’s classic LA RAGGAZZA CHE SAPEVA TROPPO aka THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH or EVIL EYE, considered the first real ‘giallo’ film. As a director he made at least one other true cult classic, albeit, like THIRD EYE, a very obscure one, called DATE WITH A MURDER described to me by European Trash Cinema’s Craig Ledbetter as being like “a spy/giallo (film) directed by Giulio Questi”. Guerini seems to have been a film-maker of some talent. THE THIRD EYE’s best moments have a dreamy, feverish quality that makes wonderful use of the black and white gothic cinematography. He expertly balances the poetic and perverse elements, letting neither dominate to the detriment of the other. It’s a shame neither he nor his film are better known.

A name perhaps more familiar to fans of Italian horror cinema is screenwriter Piero Regnoli, who as a screenwriter had a career that lasted from the early 50s into the 1990s, seeing the Italian cinema from it glory days well into its long, sad decline. He was also a director is his own right, making his debut in 1960 with the first successful Italian horror film THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE. But even before that he wrote the first ever spaghetti chiller, Freda and Bava’s classic I VAMPIRI. Although his career encompassed every genre that wove in and out of public favor, his contributions to horror are his most memorable. In addition to the above films he also penned such cult faves as BURIAL GROUND, NIGHTMARE CITY, and Lucio Fulci’s ridiculous but underrated DEMONIA. His work here is perverse and esoteric, laying the proper foundation for THIRD EYE’s unusual and demented take on the horror genre.

Franco Nero gives a wonderful, typically intense performance as Mino. This film was made immediately after what would turn out to be his starmaking role in DJANGO. Though he looks a bit younger here than he does in Corbucci’s masterpiece, which may be one of the reasons why this film is often reported as being made somewhat earlier than it actually was. This may also be why it is sometimes erroneously reported to be Euro-trash diva Erica Blanc’s first major role. As this film was made and released in 1966, this cannot be. Blanc gives two performances here of course, with the first and more brief role being the juicier of the two. As Laura, Blanc gives hints of being just as scheming and self-serving as the murderous Marta. But the sister role is a little too pure and rosy, a perfunctory part written only to fulfill the characters’ destiny and the plot’s climax, and does not allow Blanc to show off her formidable chops. Nevertheless she is nothing less than a fiery and memorable presence throughout the film.

If ever there was a film deserving of being rediscovered by a wider audience, THIRD EYE is it. Accomplished, eerie, brutal, erotic and esoteric this mostly unknown Italian production is well deserving of a lavish digital home video presentation. The version I watched is a gray market composite “taken mainly from the German (anamorphic DVD) and re-dubbed (into) Italian and adding missing scenes from (an) Italian print” as stated by the builders of this DVD-R. The German DVD quality was great with only about four minutes from the Italian version suffering in the visual department. As far as I know this is the longest and most complete version ever available. But a proper, legal version published with the cooperation of all surviving cast and crew would be most welcome, even by those out there who may never have even heard of this gem. For them perhaps most of all.

Special Thanks to Keith Brown and his great Giallo Fever blog for use of the excellent screengrabs used in this review.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The uncensored cover for Mondo Macabro's SINNER!

No date yet but here's the uncencored version of the cover. Hot Stuff!

We'll post more info on this release as we get it. Sorry for the lack of updates lately, but for those interested a new review will be posted by the end of the week!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

If you see only one movie in a theater this year ...

for God's sake make it GONE WITH THE POPE. I just witnessed this resurrected masterpiece at the Grand Illusion Theater here in Seattle and it is nothing short of spectacular. Can't wait for the DVD, or hopefully, the Blu-ray. Seriously, if you get the chance to see it in a theater, with a crowd that's game, you owe it to yourself to do so. It will be the best decision you make all year. I mean really, would you rather see that CLASH OF THE TITANS remake in 3D? Or goddamned HOT TUB TIME MACHINE? I fucking Think Not! Here's the ultra-rad poster, the ultra-rad trailer and the ultra-rad remaining theatrical dates for this incredible piece of American Trash Cinema.

April 23 & 25 - CPH PIX Festival, Copenhagen

May 6 - George Eastman House, Rochester, NY

May 10 - Doc Films, Chicago

May 21 & 22 - E Street Theatre, Washington, D.C.

June 4 & 5 - Landmark's Sunshine Cinemas, NYC

June 11 & 12 - Uptown Theatre, Minneapolis

June 18 & 19 Main Art Theatre, Detroit

June 25 & 26 River Oaks, Houston

July 2 & 3 Inwood Theatre, Dallas

Friday, March 19, 2010

Movie Review: SABIK ... KASALANAN BA? (Philippines, 1986)

RJR Films International/Fantasy Films International
Release date 1st May 1986
Directed by Lito J. de Guzman
Produced by Soledad Nequinto
Story by Danny Rivero
Screenplay by Armando de Guzman, Jr.
Cinematography by Joe Tutanes
Music by Jeny Lee
Editing by Rene Tala

George Estregan
Joy Sumilang
Maureen Mauricio
Tani Cinco
Gino Antonio
Daria Ramirez

Ubiquitous Filipino sexfilm actor Estregan sets in motion a sleazy chain of events when he successfully seduces his stepdaughter (Mauricio). While her mother, his wife (Ramirez), is none the wiser the younger daughter (Sumilang) spies on their heated couplings with guilty excitement. Inevitably his attentions turn to this curious virgin. Although at first she resists his affection, it’s only a matter of time before she relents, in surprising hardcore fashion. This being a rather typical erotic melodrama, she soon finds herself in a family way. Wanting to hide her and her Stepdad’s shame, she agrees to marry the young good looking suitor (Cinco) she had previously found little time for. But while young love blossoms between the two, his dedication to getting ahead at his job soon frustrates our young heroines escalating sex drives. She finds sweet relief in the arms of her husband’s best friend (Antonio), in another extended hardcore sequence. But even he cannot give her all she needs. So she begins to entertain most of the single men in her neighborhood, as the local busybodies whisper in earnest. Unavoidably, her husband walks in on her rigorously boffing his closest friend. Slipping away unnoticed, he plots his revenge, poisoning a dinner he skips out on, killing his pal and framing his wife. Overpowered by the guilt of her unscrupulous actions Sumilang takes the rap and resolves herself to a life in prison. But her husband is crushed by his own guilt and soon confesses to the crime. In a parallel tragedy, the karmic wheel set in motion by Estregan’s transgressions turns back onto him. His wife catches him passionately screwing her eldest daughter. Turning his own gun on him (is he a cop?) his wife murders them both. But somehow we get a happy ending. Years later, Sumilang’s husband is released from jail and is reunited with his wife and daughter, back to a karmic square one.

Although hardly the most original or clever plot, SABIK keeps the sleazy melodrama coming at a pleasing pace. It never flags, consistently tossing a soft or hard sex scene at you every ten minutes or so. The film-making is proficient but uninspired, never reaching the delirious quasi-art film highs of other Filipino sex productions like SILIP or HUBO SA DALIM. But it does manage to keep its drama just enough on the boil to hold one’s interest. The tone is deadly serious throughout, blessedly never copping out to a superfluous comedy subplot like so many Southeast Asian movies. In fact the only concession to lightness comes at the end of the film and it feels phony. The downward spiral of the story is too neatly resolved, running against the grain of the film’s direction. But that said, the plot is never very complex or rich so it’s not much of a betrayal. The only real point of the movie is the fucking, which it provides in a number of soft scenes and two extended hard scenes. But the hard stuff is rather unimaginative and unarousing, consisting mostly of George Estregan and/or Gino Antonio’s wrinkly balls slapping mercilessly against poor Joy Sumilang’s anus. Rather it’s the sleazy incestual undertones which mark out SABIK as unusual and interesting, and the way these taboos lead to the eventual disintegration of the Sumilang’s moral character. Not that her performance carries any of this dramatic weight. In fact all the performances are rather flat, with only Filipino b-movie vet Estregan providing any charisma, although entirely of a sleazy, reptilian bent.

SABIK was one of a number of hardcore sex films made in the tumultuous mid 1980s in the Philippines. During the year of SABIK’s production and release, 1986, perhaps as many as 30 of these “pene” movies (because they featured scenes of “penetration”) were released, although this is one of the most famous and controversial. Star Sumilang provided some real “Pinoy Babylon” infamy to the film for her disputed claims to be the illegitimate daughter of famous Filipino actor Romeo Vasquez. Her career only lasted a few films, not unusual for this period or this genre. The list of actress casualties of the ‘Bold’ and ‘Pene’ era is startling. It was apparently not a good time or place to be a sex film performer. That many of these girls were rumored to be legally underage at the time of many of these productions only adds to the unhealthy veneer of the industry and the films themselves. This was one of only a handful of films director Lito de Guzman made during this time (NAGAAPOY NA GABI being another), and was his last until 2000 when he began to making a series of contemporary sex dramas. Why Guzman suffered this long drought is unknown, although the infamy of the movie in the Philippines may have something to do with it. Previously an assistant director on low-budget action epics, he seems to have carried little of the auteurial weight that Peque Gallaga or Celso ad Castillo threw around in acclaimed hits like SCORPIO NIGHTS or VIRGIN PEOPLE and so could not rise above his porn director stigma. Although no great work of art, it’s wonderful that SABIK is still around to view as so many of these fascinating films now seem to be lost forever. If you can find it, check it out, it’s a rare view into a cinematic world now largely forgotten.

Special thanks to:

Simon Santos and his excellent
Video 48 blog for use of the above image and his remarks on the 'pene' films of 1986.

Jojo Devara and his great
Sari-Saring Sineng Pinoy blog for background info on cast and crew and for clearing up obscure plot points to this non-Tagolog-speaking audience member.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Wild Turkish Erotica!

From the mid 70s until the military coup in 1980, erotic films made up the bulk of the cinematic output in Turkey. Here's a selection of clips and (where applicable) ad art of some of these raw and mostly forgotten artifacts. The good news is: all the films below are available in English subtitled versions from our friends at CIKO. Just check out their ebay page here.

1978; Directed by Yucel Ucanoglu
Starring Unsal Emre and Zerrin Egeliler

1976; Directed by Cetin Inanc
Starring Yalcin Gulhan, Figen Han and Erol Tas


CIKO MySpace Video

1976; Directed by Yucel Ucanoglu
Starring Unsal Emre and Aynur Akarsu


CIKO MySpace Video

1976; Directed by Cetin Inanc
Starring Unsal Emre, Ceyda Karahan and Alev Altin


CIKO MySpace Video

1978; Directed by Cetin Inanc
Starring Tarik Simsek and Zerrin Egeliler

1974; Directed by Cetin Inanc
Starring Arzu Okay and Tugay Tuksoz


CIKO MySpace Video

1977; Directed by Cetin Inanc
Starring Yalcin Gulhan and Necla Fine

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Incredible cover! June 29th, 2010! More info to follow when we get it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


When MM first made their announcement that they’d be releasing SADIST WITH RED TEETH on DVD, there were several cult-film pundits crowing about the utter awfulness of this French vampire opus. And indeed by anyone’s standards of what constitutes a “normal” film, SADIST is mind-bogglingly terrible. Its plot is hopelessly confused, its script sounds made-up on the spot, the performances practically define the description “wooden” and the special effects are totally unrealistic. Your average self-respecting horror fan might look on these meager works and despair. But the open-minded cult film fan, the lover of the eccentric and the bizarre in world cinema will look upon SADIST with nothing but wide-eyed affection. For me it was love at first sight. SADIST is pure weirdo entertainment, more psychedelic than terrifying, mesmerizing in its total commitment to its own oddness.

A man thinks he is becoming a vampire following his release from a hospital. His doctors attempt to continue and foster this belief to further some obscure occult conspiracy. Eventually of course he ends up murdering some people and the police are soon hot on his trail. Except that that in no way sums up what is actually going on in this movie. SADIST is confoundingly weird, separating you from any sensible interpretation of the gothic events unfolding willy-nilly. Grainy stock footage of natural disasters regularly intercedes on the action ostensibly illustrating the main character’s violent state of mind, along with arty polarization effects and random shots of snakes and spiders, but these wayward avant-garde effects do more to interrupt the viewer’s frame of mind than reveal anything of value about the characters. Oddball characters waft in and out of the story with little rhyme and certainly no reason. My advice? Just give up and go with the flow. If you like weird movies, and you probably do, this is seriously one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. It has a weirdness that is beyond words. SADIST WITH RED TEETH comes with Worldweird Cinema’s highest recommendation possible. If you don’t like this movie, it’s possible that bizarre foreign cult movies are just not for you.

I wish I could say the same about FORBIDDEN PARIS. Oh, it’s pretty weird, and has some wonderfully odd images and moments, but it just barely held my attention throughout. Director Van Belle’s first feature film, it’s a “mondo” style documentary depicting a swath of oddballs and nutjobs in the Paris of the late 60s. It starts off strong with a slow motion shot of a woman walking through the streets in the buff, and then heading into a vignette showing a family of three preparing for a post-nuclear future. But overall there’s a little too much drag in the episodes, with the usual fakirs and animal deaths and whatnot. I am not much of fan of this type of cult movie, and PARIS did not covert me. It does have a great droney pop-jazz score and it looks good, but I doubt I’ll be returning to it anytime soon, unlike SADIST, which is already demanding an encore viewing.

Mondo Macabro’s digital video presentation of each of these rare and almost lost films is nigh perfect. A wee-bit of damage on the negative for SADIST comes through, but otherwise it’s astonishingly beautiful, colorful and sharp. PARIS fares even better, looking as though it could have been filmed last year and not 40 years ago. There’s a great French language documentary about Van Belle, which centers on this enigmatic directors propensity for storytelling and obscuring the truth of his own biography. Liner notes from Christophe Bier, who is also interviewed in the docu, do their best to separate fact from fiction but ends up emphasizing the unknowability of this unique figure in European low budget cinema. JLVB himself does little video introductions to each film, talking a bit about his reasons for casting mega-cutie British actress Jane Clayton in SADIST. Mostly it was because she was mega-cute, and had nothing to do with her acting. Which, after you watch the movie, will make perfect sense. She’s not very good, but she’s totally hot. His intro for PARIS emphasizes the verite of each scene, claiming nothing was staged. I think I may have to call bullshit on that one, but judge for yourself. While we are only two months into 2010, Mondo Macabro has unleashed a likely contender for the best DVD of the year. SADIST is amazing and the extras all worthwhile (even PARIS though I didn’t much care for it). Do yourself a favor and inject some much-needed weirdness into your life with this astonishing double-bill release.

Friday, February 12, 2010

DVD Review: ALTIN COCUK (Onar Films)

International spy films have often used Istanbul as a stock location to give a feeling of mystery and intrigue. Its unique architecture and deep history lend this easily, and it doesn’t hurt that during the 60s and 70s there was a film industry based there which actively sought out international co-productions. Istanbul was cheap and exotic, two very big plusses when it comes to the b-movie industry. So why wouldn’t the Turks want to take advantage of this themselves and not just leave it to the Italians or the Brits? They did so starting in ‘66 with a series of amiable James Bond knockoffs filmed under the banner ALTIN COCUK. Onar’s latest DVD is a presentation of the first film in that series, and while it probably isn’t going to blow your mind or change your life it is terrific fun nonetheless. Featuring romantic leading man Goksel Arsoy as the Bondish Altin Cocuck (or “Golden Boy”) a super-suave, super-deadly superagent out to protect Turkey from Cold War-era nogoodniks and to get as many lovely and scantily clad Anatolian chicks into bed as possible. There are a lot of double crossings, disguises, torture, gunfights, near-naked girls, underwater hi-jinks and love on the sly as our hero prevents mega-Turk-baddie Altan Gunbay from blowing up all Istanbul in an event which Gunbay predicts will be “more fun than Hiroshima”. One girl is whipped nearly out of her dress and another is strung up while in a bikini and slowly hung as the ice she’s made to stand on melts away under a heat lamp and the diabolical glare of Gunbay. The movie spits out one fast-paced scene after the next in the best Yesilcam cheap-but-entertaining tradition and is never, ever boring. But if you’re looking for the weirdest or wackiest or bloodiest or sexiest Turkish film, this one ain’t it. Not by a long shot. But it’s wild enough and rare enough to hold a bright spot in your heart and your DVD collection if you’re just willing to let it in and do its thing.

More in the movie’s favor than its plot or action are its relatively great cinematic qualities. Director Memduh Un enriches each frame with a wonderfully expressionist, almost noir-ish eye. Dutch angles and moody lighting give it an atmosphere beyond the simple and action and poverty of plot. ALTIN COCUK looks great, better than it should, and is a shining testament to the often unheralded talents that were behind these disposable pop films. The acting isn’t anything that you wouldn’t find in any other Turkish film (or Spanish or Greek or Egyptian for that matter), but the cheap charisma of Goksel Arsoy holds things together nicely for the brief duration of the flick. And of course Altan Gunbay, in one of his earliest roles is typically great as the bald bad-ass out to betray his brethren. But really, it’s the endless parade of beautiful ladies that keeps your attention in scenes not featuring gunfire or torture. Sevda Nur plays the main girl, and while she hasn’t much to do, her dark and ethereal beauty are mesmerizing and after awhile you don’t really remember that she not really all that great as an actor. There’s quite a bit to be excited about in this movie, especially if you enjoy 60s spy flicks. Honestly, it’s never really been my cup of tea, I don’t even care for the Bond movies, but one thing I do like is Turkish pop cinema, in any shape or genre, and so ATLIN COCUK gives me just enough of that thrill that it will keep me coming back as long as it remains in on my DVD shelf.

Onar’s discs just keep getting better. This is one of the best looking yet. On par with many of Something Weird Video’s transfers of American 60s low budgets epics, you get a lovely, clear b&w 4:3 fullscreen image. Considering the sometimes awful state of the prints Onar often has to deal with, ALTIN’s fine presentation is a minor miracle. Extras soar as well. The best is the first ever filmed interview with longtime Turkfilm villain Altan Gunbay. It’s full of great and illuminating info concerning his career and the Turkish film industry in general. On the downside, the video is appallingly edited, with no rhyme or reason to the structure of the interview. Valuable stuff, nonetheless. The usual, terrific and informed bios and filmographies are here as well as some trailers for other Onar things. The exciting bits here concern two mysterious upcoming releases. One is a formerly lost KILINK movie, whose title is still unknown at press time: the scene included is wonderfully sadistic and certainly whets the appetite for more. Perhaps even more mindblowing is RINGO GESTAPO’YA KARSI, a feverish looking adventure pitting cowboys against Nazis in the wilds of Anatolia. I need this one as soon as possible, OK Bill? All in all, another great time provided by Onar Films of Athens, Greece. Fans of 60s international spy films will want to waste no time in picking this one up and the usual Worldweirders, if they don’t already have it, are heartily recommended to pick it up at their earliest convenience.