Monday, September 29, 2008
Imagine my unearthly delight upon learning that there was a recent DVD reissue of this film by the marvy folks at Deimos! And that this movie whose title I had so admired starred none other than that most recent inductee into my Idols List, Paul Naschy! It was to swoon when a copy of "Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll" appeared in the Tenebrous Mailbox.
The Vicar of VHS, Grand Vizier of the Tenebrous Empire and Official Paul Naschy Scientist, has stated that even bad Paul Naschy is still damn entertaining, and I'm inclined to agree with him. While "Blue Eyes" doesn't have the same wild-and-wooly, kitchen sink approach of my favorite films from the Naschy canon, it's still an entertaining thriller that's dominated by its star's charisma and commitment to his character.
The film tells the story of Gilles, an ex-con who is looking for a fresh start in the French countryside, who is hired to do odd (read: manly and frequently shirtless) jobs at the estate of three eccentric sisters. And by "eccentric," I mean "krazee." Sis Claude, whose hand has been maimed in an accident, picks Gilles up on the side of the road (as you do), and immediately upon his arrival at the Chateau, nymphomaniac sis Nicole is all over the beefy new handyman. Add in wheelchair-bound Ivette (whose mysterious-accident-related condition may or may not be psychosomatic), and our man Gilles is smelling easy prey all over the place. Nicole gets all seducey on Gilles, who takes her for a (very) brief tumble, after which he details the merits of her sisters. Note to all men: Never do this. Seriously. Add in the semi-sketchy new nurse who is taking care of Ivette and PRESTO--the chateau is a simmering cauldron of repressed lust.
Things take a turn for the darker when blonde-haired, blue-eyed ladies begin showing up murdered and disoculated. Gilles has a series of flashbacks (portrayed in what look to be interpretive dance scenes on a blank, red-lit stage) and it becomes clear that there are skeletons in this pectorally-impressive he-man's closet. Since handymen are known for their murderous tendencies, Gilles and the sisters' former handyman Jean are quickly ID'ed as prime suspects.
In the mean time, Gilles has taken the opportunity to fall in love with Claude and in what's actually kind of a sweet love scene, he shows her that her hand makes her no less of a woman in his eyes (IYKWIMAITYD).
The pacing of the movie is pretty snappy, with the final reveal of the killer coming as a genuine surprise and ending on a genuinely creepy note. This isn't fresh, new territory, but the material is handled very well by director Carlos Aured and each cast member puts in a creditable performance.
One of the things I enjoy about Naschy's movies is that his leading ladies are never cookie-cutter babes--make no mistake that these women are beautiful, but they're frequently mature and have unusual features. Eva León's Nicole is a smokin'-hott Eurobabe, while there's a certain delicate vulnerability to Maria Perschy's Ivette, and Diana Lorys' portrayal of Claude's sexual awakening is compelling.
Interiors range from the eye-gouging battling patterns as shown above to subtly-handled black-background shots. There's an effective use of this matte-background technique during intense scenes (particularly during love scenes and murders), and the high-contrast lighting during the murder sequences is pure shuddery, old-school, black-and-white creature feature stuff. Heartily APPROVED by this reviewer!
In a way, I'm glad it took me this long to get into "the House of Psychotic Women," since it's not the rip-roaring exploitorama that the VHS cover had led me to believe. Its alternate title, "Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll," is far more evocative of the actual contents of the film, even if it would've made for a much poorer name for my dorm room in art school.
Visit the House of Psychotic Film Stills from "Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll" on Flickr.
ETA: Enjoy Arbogast's musings on youth and salad bars as they relate to the opening sequence of "Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll." I know I did, and I'm pretty clued in with regards to enjoyable stuff :)
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Series 4 starts... I dunno when. Sometime well after October (I've got a Very Important Zero Ending Birthday coming up and then it's right on to the most important holiday of the year). Trades shall be Taken Under Consideration!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
"Amazons and Supermen" is another movie that should have been quarter-past-fantastic but just fizzled for me. I mean--I like Amazons, and I like the idea of a magician, a strongman and a martial arts expert working as a team together but the comedy was just way too broad for this Ice Person's brain to handle. I'd caught the trailer on a Something Weird compilation several moons ago, and when I saw a DVD of this film I couldn't NOT pick it up. I really should've known better--the slide-whistle and El Kabong sound effects present in the trailer are sprinkled--nay, splattered all over the film. It's not so much a kung-fu peplum (as I'd kinda hoped-against-hope for, what with the Shaw Brothers involvement) as it is a zany, lowbrow comedy with copious empty-coconut headbutting and pidgin English. Why is it that I love dark lowbrow entertainment, and yet I get the douche-chills when I'm exposed to lowbrow comedy? It seems unfair. And likely indicative of some pathologically dangerous streak in my personality... Yet I digress. Why don't you just enjoy the trailer for "Amazons vs. Supermen" and skip the other eighty-eight minutes of film?
I found "Deathwatch" to be a grim and ultimately confusing foray into the trenches of WWI. I appreciate the fact that the sets and costuming were painstakingly crafted, but astonishingly accurate mud is still mud. Maybe I'm a sensitive soul, but I also find it really, really easy to believe that War Is In Fact Hell, and don't need to have my face ground into this theory for ninety minutes. Watching the deteriorating relationship between the group of soldiers that is trapped in a trench with an unseen, probably-supernatural enemy was unrelentingly depressing. I appreciate the actors' performances (all of which were very fine!) and the skill with which the story was directed and filmed, but there was no sense of fun or wonder to be found. Essentially, this was a war film with supernatural elements, exploring man's inhumanity to man by employing a supernatural metaphor.
Monday, September 22, 2008
A spare, strange film, "Blind Beast" tells the story of a blind sculptor whose quest to find the perfect model to embody his "art of touching" leads him to commit an escalating series of crimes. Living alone with his mother in an isolated warehouse, Michio kidnaps a young model, Aki, who has been featured in a controversial series of nude photographs. Declaring her to be the ideal subject for his artwork, he keeps her trapped in his studio, a psychedelic nightmare of female anatomy in which disembodied limbs populate the walls and the floor consists of two enormous, headless female figures. This story doesn't exist in any world of logic--let's face it, if it did, Aki would've easily beat up Michio's elderly mom and escaped within the first five minutes of her captivity. Instead, Aki's repeated escape attempts are foiled, and through some sort of oddball Stockholm Syndrome, she bends under the force of Michio's desire, leading the couple to sightlessly explore their escalating sensual fixations. The film is almost bloodless but the events depicted onscreen have the power to disturb and the residual effect of the film lasts long after the last frame.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I'll confess, this most recent rewatch of "TotBD" reminded me that I kinda love the Virgina-Beth hookup flashback sequence. It's uncharacteristically adorable in the otherwise bleak and mean-spirited world of the film. The girls are in their nightgowns, preparing for bed, as Virginia dreams about being a blushing bride someday. Beth, seizing the opportunity in a truly admirable fashion that I may or may not have jotted into a notebook for future use, tucks her hair under her nose to look like a moustache and dances with Virginia. It's all fun and games until--BAM!--Beth goes in for the smooch, and before you can say "no, I'm too shy," the camera is panning away from their prone, lip-locked forms. Niiiiice!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
On the electro tip, Dirty Sanchez's "Rich Italian Satanists" is the best song about wealthy European devil worshippers you'll hear today, by the my favorite band named after a vile sex act:
Check out Schaffer the Darklord's "Attack of the Clonefucker"--tis a lousy video, but you can visit his MySpace and listen to an MP3 of what I'm going to promise is the best song about fucking one's clones you'll hear today:
Perhaps you prefer ridiculous costumes and heavy metal? in that case, Death SS is the best band with a member dressed as a mummy that you'll listen to today:
ETA: If you'd like to pledge your allegiance to the Tenebrous Empire, please take a peek to your right and... yes, down a little... right there. You'll see the Followers gadget. You like to keep appraised of goings-on here, don't you? You like keeping me happy, yes? Aber natürlich...! Click it, use it, put a smile on my face, won't you?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
In lieu of naughty movie content, here's some naughty art content. This is one of my recent watercolor-on-paper pieces, measuring 10" wide by 15" high. It's pretty much NSFW-and-therefore-awesome all the time inside my brain.
Click here to see more sizes on Flickr.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
At this point in the film, I've got to note that the performances are excellent. Naschy sinks his teeth into the role and works the hell out of every scene he's in--it's wonderful to watch. There's a real bitterness underlying Naschy's performance, as if this is his statement on the industry and the way it throws away yesterday's stars.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Inspired by Arbogast's recent post and enabled by a gracious gift from Absinthe of Gloomy Sunday, I dimmed the lights in the Apartment of Erotic Horror and curled up in front of "Torso" last night. What can I say except that this Italothriller stole my heart during the nudity-filled credits montage and held my interest right through to the unveiling of the murderer's ridiculous motivation. Striking a balance between style and sleaze, this nasty bit of business delivers. I think my love for director Sergio Martino blossoms upon each exposure to his work.
Set in the picturesque squares and Renaissance halls of Perugia, Italy (known as a center of the arts), the film's backdrops are steeped in history. Granted, this isn't really capitalized on as in other gialli I've seen with similar settings (see "House with the Laughing Windows" for a movie that takes its countryside setting and runs with it), but it's easy on the eyes and lends a visual texture to the proceedings.
Within the context of the plot, setting the film in this city makes sense--the main players are art students at a campus that is being terrorized by a "psychosexual" killer. After two of their friends are murdered, a group of girls takes a vacation at a countryside villa, but they are followed by the murderer. One of the things that sets this movie apart from other thrillers of its sort is the structure--there's a Hard Left at the sixty-minute mark that turns the movie from a simple "body count" picture into a "home invasion" story arc. The tension mounts and there are some really great thrill moments leading up to the eventual unmasking of the killer.
In addition to the unexpected plot development, there's a real misanthropy present in this film that coats everything on screen with a thin layer of ick. Virtually every character is a creep, a slut, an idiot or otherwise all messed up. Pegging the Final Girl is simple from the first frame in which she appears; identifying the killer is a tougher bit of business because, if this movie is to be believed, Italy is a country populated entirely by leering men. Every man is a suspect, regardless of age, profession, and social status. It's quite a downbeat view on the male gender--almost Dworkinian, in fact! This review almost got the rapey half-mans-half-monkeys tag as a result of all the lip-smacking, goggle-eyed, mumbling, gropey dudes in this flick. From the untrustworthy, blackmailing scarf seller in the town square (really, what village would be complete without one?) to the art history professor love interest who has the Garfunkel all over him to the creepy, to the lecherous uncle who peers in on the girls as they bathe, every man is a exudes sliminess.
Moving on to the ladies--with the exception of the one Chaste And Pure Paragon Of Womanhood (and even she can't help but give her pal a post-shower backrub), these are chicks cast in the Girls Gone Wild mold. Illicit smoking! Hanging out in mixed-gender company! Riding motorcycles! Reckless necking! Hott backseat action! Surely this is signing one's death warrant in a stalk 'n' slash film.
I'm awarding this film bonus points for the inclusion of a hippie party, which kinda implies the participation of KILLER HIPPIES in the murder of one of the victims. The murder that follows is a really creepy, almost over-extended assault in the thick of a misty swamp. Violent hippies + eerie swamp = horror movie excellence. The coda to all this is a gory-yet-beautiful shot of blood seeping along the victim's arm into the mud. Yikes!
The film has a strong theme of voyeurism--many shots are framed through open doors and windows. When the girls go to chateau, they just hang around skinny dipping and sunbathing (AS YOU DO), and much of the action is framed in such a way that the viewer is peering through curtains or branches. The effect is a bit uncomfortable! Of course, this viewer found herself shaking her tiny fist when the uber-hott lesbian kiss got cut off by the WORST PLACED NEWEL POST IN HISTORY.
All told, "Torso" is a ghoulish thriller with nice pacing and some unexpected twists to accompany its over-the-top moments of ridiculousness. Click here for the Flickr gallery of stills from "Torso."
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I've heard "The Image" described as cruel, erotic, and--perhaps most notably--evil. Just as many commentators (in many cases the same commentators) have dubbed the film director Radley Metzger's masterpiece. I'm inclined to agree with all of these assessments. This should be a fairly easy movie to dismiss as a phallic fantasy of dominance and submission in which the man's unflinching will ultimately rules over all womanhood. The careful craftsmanship and loving attention paid to sheer viciousness in this film marks it as a valentine to the psychology of BDSM.
"The Image" is a lush screen adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jean de Berg. Interestingly, "Jean de Berg" is a pen name used by Catherine Robbe-Grillet (wife of author and filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet, who wrote a pseudonymous introduction to the first edition of the novel), marking this tale as something other than a product of a misogynistic male imagination.
The film nods to its literary roots from the very beginning, using intertitle cards announcing each "chapter" of the story. We begin with "Dinner at the X's," spelled out in silent-film style, and the narrator begins his recounting...
Let's discuss that narration. Simply put--it's problematic. The voice of the speaker sounds distractingly similar to the voice of the gent on those old "advance the filmstrip when you hear this sound" jobbies. Except, instead of detailing the specifics of truck farming, the narrator is elaborating on his efforts to bed a beautiful model. This distracting narration takes some getting used to and if one can manage to lessen its impact, the film is otherwise hypnotically, almost dangerously, engaging.
At the dinner announced in the first title card, narrator Jean meets his acquaintance Claire and her younger companion Anne. Over cocktails, Jean learns that lovely, doe-eyed Anne "belongs" to Claire and receives a firsthand demonstration of this strange relationship the next day at a Parisian rose garden.
Things take a turn for the kinky when Anne is subjected to a series of tests by her cruel mistress, beginning with forced nudity and progressing to bloodletting via rose thorns and a bit of public urination-on-command. And by "kinky," I actually mean "explicit." I was surprised to see these acts unflinchingly depicted on-screen. There's no cutaway at a strategic moment--the "little fountain" and its product are shown in deliberate, eroticized close-up. The juxtaposition is a little startling, really--the film manages to be thoughtfully-structured and expensive-looking while still being unrepentantly sexual.
There's a great little montage where Jean is contemplating pursuing a sexual rendezvous with Claire in which gushing fountains and the penises of statues are intercut with shots of Jean grinning evilly and remembering his rose garden interlude. It's a moment when the director seems to declare "Fuck Subtlety" and just goes for it in a sleazetastic fashion. I kinda commend this, really.
To what degree the movie becomes sexual is demonstrated in a later scene in which Anne is punished by Claire and Jean for rebuffing Jean. A crazy porntastic soundtrack brimming with wawa pedal and driving bass throbs in the background while Anne is flogged and fellates Jean. Cut-away? You BET there isn't! In fact, there are several more scenes of graphic oral sex later in the film. The film is so full of nudity and graphic sex that it was actively difficult to select screen captures that were of a less-than-X nature! Almost every frame of the film is so lovingly crafted, however, that the entire thing begs to be seen in still frame.
The full range of kink is on display in this movie--foot worship, watersports, beatings, bondage, cutting, temporary piercing, blood-drawing, hiding hors d'ouevres in Anne's vagina (!!!), and a range of psychological tortures including forced sexual encounters with strangers are depicted. No penetrative sex is on tap until the climactic scene. Claire and Jean have abused Anne in a scene that's almost difficult to watch due to its intensity. Anne's cries of anguish are almost too real, and the sadism of the two dominant figures is portrayed with a true sense of nastiness. Overcome by desire, Jean takes Anne sexually, after which Claire cracks and beats Jean. Anne, sensing the weakness in Claire's display, walks out of the relationship after this episode. In a role reversal that's far-from-startling given some of the hints dropped early in the film, Claire then offers herself as a submissive to Jean. And so it goes...
The movie is marked by an amazing performance by Mary Mendum as Anne--her trepidation, fear, erotic tension, and ultimate sexual release just vibrate on-screen. In the scene where Claire and Jean first conspire to abuse her for her impudence to Jean at the booksellers, there is a closeup shot where Anne goes from anguish to eagerness. Her complicity in the goings-on is unmistakable. This is a woman who wants to be dominated. Speaking the line "forgive me, for I know what I do," Anne throws herself to the vicious sport of her chosen captors.
My previous exposure to Metzger's work was via "Camille 2000," which I found to be a little empty and lacking in chemistry. Metzger seems not to know what to do with his male leads--he feels they're integral to the story and yet they languish in cartoon-character limbo.
Carl Parker's Jean is no exception. He plays his role with a sleazy, leering quality that is kind of uncomfortable to watch. In the context of this story, this creeposity serves a purpose, but I couldn't help feeling that a more three-dimensional male lead would've added another layer to the pervy puzzle that is this film.
This is not a movie for everyone's tastes--it's graphic and mean-spirited and utterly unrepentant. Notably, it eats the lunch of the Just Jaeckin adaptation of "The Story of O" and benefits rather than suffers from its embrace of hardcore sexual elements. By depicting the sadomasochism of the characters in such an explicit manner, Metzger allows the viewer to come to his own conclusions regarding the nuances of this relationship.