The latest in a continuing series of posts concerning “Obscure Scream Queens”, which started a few years ago with Italian Giallo star Erika Blanc, moved on to Isabelle Adjani, and last year, the spotlight was on 80s B-movie star Linnea Quigley. This past weekend, I returned to Italian Giallos (the cinema of my people!) to watch a trio of movies starring Edwige Fenech. Best known for her work in commedia sexy all’italiana (Italian Sex Comedies) and Giallo films released in the 1970s, she became a sex symbol and television personality. Quentin Tarantino seems to be a fan, suggesting her for a role in Hostel II (which he produced) and naming a character in Inglorious Basterds after her. In the US, she’s not particularly well known, except perhaps for horror nerds who have gobbled up all her Giallo movies, particularly those directed by Sergio Martino. Indeed, two of the three movies we’re covering today are directed by Martino, and actually now that I think about it, all three also co-star George Hilton (but he clearly doesn’t stand out much when next to the stunning Fenech). So let’s dive in:
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning
- How Scream Should Have Ended (short)
- The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (trailer)
- The Case of the Bloody Iris – A supermodel (played by Fenech, natch) and her goofy friend move into an apartment whose previous tenant was brutally murdered in the elevator (in a sequence that would be recalled in later films). Naturally, the criminal is now after Fenech. Pretty standard Giallo setup here: some dude murdering women, cue the final girl and loads of red herrings. And boy, are there a lot of red herrings here. There’s the architect who is terrified of blood, the elderly neighbor who’s hiding her deformed and mentally unstable son, and of course, the aggressive lesbian neighbor, amongst others.
This one sets itself apart from a lot of other Giallos by incorporating a bubbly silliness into the proceedings, particularly with the performance of Paola Quattrini, Fenech’s wacky roommate, and Franco Agostini as the police assistant. Fenech is great, as always, but the role is comparatively straight, so she doesn’t stand out as much when compared to some of the supporting roles. The swanky 70s music also helps things along. It’s not as bloody or visually stunning as some other Giallos, but it has its charms and ranks well amongst mid-tier Giallos. **1/2
- Rosemary’s Baby (trailer)
- The Netherbeast of Berm-Tech Industries, Inc. (Short)
- The House of the Devil (trailer)
- All the Colors of the Dark – Beautiful Jane (played by Fenech) is suffering from grief. Her mother died when she was young and she recently lost her baby in a car crash. Now she’s being tormented by dreams of a terrifying killer. Her boyfriend (George Hilton) thinks the solution is vitamin supplements(!?) Her sister thinks she just needs to see a psychiatrist. So naturally, Jane ends up siding with her neighbor, who is a satanist and who promises to solve all of Jane’s problems if she’ll just participate in a black mass or two.
Now this is the stuff. Trippy, psychadelic paranoia abounds, and director Sergio Martino fills the thing with gorgeous visuals. His compositions and camera movement really set this apart from, for example, The Case of the Bloody Iris (which looks fine, to be sure, but does not hold up well in comparison to something like this). The soundtrack here is also fantastic, and sometimes reminded me a bit of Goblin’s great scores for Argento. The story itself is typically convoluted, with a lot of what we see being a sorta unreliable narrative. This sort of thing is difficult to pull off, but Martino and Fenech sell it hard, and it’s calibrated just right. The satanic cult and particularly its leader, with his creepy claws, are suitably menacing, and it makes for a pretty tense affair. Fenech is really fantastic here, and while the supporting cast is also strong, it’s really all Fenech (with Martino) carrying the movie. I really enjoyed this one, my favorite of the weekend. ***
- Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (trailer)
- Don’t (fake trailer)
- The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave (trailer)
- The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh – Newly married Julie movies back to Vienna, where there’s a sex criminal on the loose who’s murdering women. Soon, it feels like the murderer is after her. Could it be her husband? Maybe her sadistic ex-boyfriend? Or perhaps her current lover plays some role?
Again, pretty standard Giallo setup here, sex murderer and lots of apparent red herrings. It drags a little in the middle and doesn’t have the more exciting “satanic cult” angle, but it comports itself well, especially once you get to the finale, which I won’t spoil here, but which is quite byzantine, unexpected, a little bonkers, and pretty fun too. Fenech is great, as always, and the supporting cast does well too. This was also directed by Sergio Martino, and he infuses the film with suitable visual flair (though again, not quite as great as the previously mentioned film). More melodramatic than the previous two films, but quite entertaining for what it is. Another middle tier Giallo elevated a bit by Martino’s direction and Fenech’s performance. **1/2
I can’t believe we’re already at the sixth week and the big day is nearly upon us. Stay tuned for the usual speed round, wherein we cover all the other junk I’ve been watching throughout the season. I’ll probably also have a season’s readings to cover next week too, so we should really just call this the seven weeks of Halloween or something…