Euro Horror

Lucio Fulci as director "Lucio Fulci" going mad in Lucio Fulci's Cat in the Brain (1990)

Minor Euro-horror gets the deluxe treatment in several releases from Blue Underground, Grindhouse Films and Severin; three features by Dutch director Dick Maas – De Lift (1983), Amsterdamned (1988) and Down (2001) – and three from Lucio Fulci – Cat in the Brain (1990), Aenigma (1987) and Demonia (1990) – along with Simone Scafidi’s Fulci for Fake (2019), an illuminating documentary about Fulci.

Carroll Baker and Umberto Lenzi on Blu-ray

Carroll Baker is seduced by brother and sister Lou Castel and Colette Descombes in Umberto Lenzi's Orgasmo (1969)
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Unhappy with her career in Hollywood, actress Carroll Baker moved to Italy in the mid-’60s where she starred in a number of genre movies, including four erotic thrillers by Umberto Lenzi which bridge the gap between classic women-in-peril mysteries and the giallo. All four are collected together by Severin in their lavish The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection Blu-ray box set.

Cannibal feast

The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) offers Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers)' daughters an unexpected form of liberation in Lucky McKee's The Woman (2011)

In popular culture, and exploitation movies, cannibals are the disreputable cousins of the zombie; they have the embarrassing habit of eating unsuspecting people without any supernatural justification. There’s a distinct difference, though, between American and Italian cannibal movies – the former adhering to tropes related to serial killer stories, while the latter draw on anthropological ideas to provide a gloss of realism to graphic exploitation imagery. The contrast can be seen clearly between Andrew van den Houten’s Offspring (2009), Lucky McKee’s The Woman (2011) and Pollyanna McIntosh’s Darlin’ (2019) and Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (1981).

Francesco Rosi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli (1979):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Painter Carlo Levi is escorted by police to exile in a remote village in Francesco Rosi's Christ Stopped at Eboli (1979)

Francesco Rosi’s most emotionally resonant film, a four-part adaptation of the memoir of painter Carlo Levi, who was exiled by the Fascist government in 1935 to a remote corner of Italy, is a rich, contemplative study of a Leftist intellectual who comes to empathize with the harsh lives of peasants left behind by the modernization of Italy. Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition serves the striking imagery well and provides substantial supportive supplements which provide historical context and situate the film in Rosi’s politically informed filmography.

John Saxon 1936-2020

John Saxon as martial arts expert Roper in Robert Clouse's Enter the Dragon (1973)

Actor John Saxon died last week. With almost two-hundred roles over six decades, he was a distinctive presence on screen though never a star. In the 1970s and “80s, he worked regularly in Italian genre movies, doing much of the work that his fans most appreciated.

Shameless exploitation

Family retainer Isidro (Giuseppe Carbone) plays with the contents of the crypt in Mario Bianchi's Satan's Baby Doll (1982)

Shameless is a British label dedicated to exploitation movies (with a mission statement emphasizing sleaze and outrage) which has been issuing mostly Italian genre titles for more than a decade with mixed results in terms of quality; thanks to a recent on-line sale, I just binged some of their releases which cover the spectrum in terms of quality (both technical and creative).

New disk label Cauldron gets impressive launch

Cult henchman Francis (Daniel Green) gets mad in Sergio Martino's genre hybrid American Rickshaw (1989)

New disk label Cauldron has launched with a pair of impressive Blu-rays which firmly declare the company’s devotion to exploitation and genre cinema: the Onetti Brother’s knowing tribute to the classic giallo, Abrakadabra (12018) and Italian genre master Sergio Martino’s unexpected genre blend of giallo, poliziotteschi and supernatural horror American Rickshaw (1989).

Hi-def Italian mayhem

A writhing pile of victims rise from the pit beneath Michele Soavi's The Church (1989)

I just got hold of three Scorpion Releasing special editions of Italian horror movies from the beginning of the genre’s decline in the late 1980s. Despite their flaws, Michele Soavi’s The Church (1979) and The Sect (1991) and Dario Argento’s Opera (1987) are packed with style and Scorpion have made them shine with 2K restorations and hours of informative extras (two disks each for the Soavi titles, and three disks for the Argento) in beautifully designed packages.

Another mixed bag …

Emily (Mariclare Costello) haunts a Connecticut idyll in John Hancock's Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
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Another seemingly random collection of movies, this time including some cheap exploitation, cheesy fantasy, horror and noir. I revisit an old favourite, re-evaluate a low-budget Canadian film from the ’70s, and finally catch up with a couple of movies I’ve wanted to see for decades.