Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Endangered Species (1982)

While on vacation in Colorado, New York City cop Reuben Castle begins a romance with sheriff Harriet Perdue amidst a wave of inexplicable cattle mutilations that is sweeping the area. Great atmosphere and location photography throughout this environmental conspiracy theory thriller.

The Night of the Hunted (La Nuit des Traquées) (1980)

The Night of the Hunted begins, as many of Jean Rollin's films do, in the forest. A young woman is wandering in a nightgown without memory of how she got there. A man gives her a ride back to the city, and it is here that the film takes a different turn for Rollin. A victim of amnesia, she resides in a modernist high-rise building populated by others similar affected by memory loss. As the young woman's memory problems increase, she begins to question whether she and the rest of the building's inhabitants are suffering from the same disease or whether they are victims of some experiment.


Like The Grapes of Death, The Night of the Hunted uses the zombie narrative to explore the potential impact of science and modernization on the human body.  Unlike Rollin's typical dichotomy between a timeless natural environment and more gothic, castle/dungeon-ish interiors, Rollin here explores a more modern, urban setting. There is a dehumanizing and sterile emptiness to the interior shots.

So many of Rollin's characters are lost in their environments. In the case of The Grapes of Death and Lost in New York, they are searching for their companions. The need for a partner, someone with whom they can complete the journey, is a recurring motif. Here, in The Night of the Hunted, there is some particularly poignant about its expression. As the characters lose their memory, not only of themselves but of others, they still exhibit an emotional need for human companionship, as though it is a deeply rooted need that cannot be erased.

The Grapes of Death (Les Raisins de La Mort) (1978)

In The Grapes of Death (Les Raisins de La Mort) (1978), a pesticide is turning people into zombies. They are not Romero-style zombies; instead, their flesh is slowly melting, it almost pours off of their frame. Elizabeth is riding a train en route to her fiance, who works at a vineyard. She is chased off the train by a zombie. She flees into the woods and encounters many persons, some infected and some not, as she struggles to get back to her fiance.

Jean Rollin's films, to me, more closely resemble fairy tales than horror movies. There's a magical quality to his work, and his camera is attuned to the wonder of the world. Even the grotesque has an element of beauty and fascination to it. Rollin's films are not scary, because he is not frightened by the world; he is enchanted by both the dream-like and nightmarish qualities.

Beautiful photography and natural settings. Sparse cast of characters, isolated and lonely as only a Rollin film could be. Once Elizabeth leaves the train, she enters a forested environment that is almost timeless. Unlike Rollin's vampire films, this one is largely devoid of sexuality. An environmental and humanist fable, The Grapes of Death is unique in Rollin's body of work. It is one of my favorite films of his.

Delirium (Delirio caldo) (1972)

Renato Polselli's Delirium (Delirio caldo) (1972) is absolute perverse pandemonium. Mickey Hargitay is an impotent doctor by day, and psycho sex maniac by night. His wife has dreams of Mickey being a dungeon sex master who tortures women. Their maid is so infatuated by Mickey that she sucks her shoulder to get off. And then Mickey is assigned to help the police find the killer of his own victims.

Polselli's opulent and obscene direction, as well as his surreal editing patterns, are the strongest parts of the movie. His vision was unique, disturbing in its perversity, but fascinating in the way it merges both the pleasure of dreams and the horror nightmares often within the same image.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Reincarnation of Isabel (Black Magic Rites) (Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel trecento ...) (1973)

Renato Polselli's The Reincarnation of Isabel (also known as Black Magic Rites) (Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel trecento ...) (1973) is a nearly incomprehensible fever dream of cinematic imagination. Mickey Hargitay purchases a castle that is occupied by a group of vampires waiting for enough virgin blood to bring back to life the queen witch, Isabel. He throws a housewarming (castle-warming?) party, and the film begins its descent into lunacy. Alternating between past and present, we're shown glimpses of Isabel's torture and execution. For the rest of the movie, Polselli offers a nightmarish montage of abduction, torture, and ritual as the vampires accumulate enough virgins to complete their ceremony.

Polselli's story might not make much narrative sense, but visually he offers an overwhelmingly awesome display of style. He is a truly erotic director, one who transforms space and narrative through the aesthetics of eroticism. Cuts are dictated by ecstasy, body movement, impulse, and are assembled not for narrative cohesion but visual sensation. The whole movie is edited like a sex montage. Time doesn't pass literally. The collision of bodies and space between shots moves the story forward without concern for logic or clarity. Polselli is an inebriated , one driven by pleasure, pain, fear, orgasm, fantasy, desire, and a whole onslaught of other vividly rendered emotions.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bloody Pit of Horror (Il Boia Scarlatto) (1965)

Bloody Pit of Horror (Il Boia Scarlatto) (1965) stars Mickey Hargitay, one-time Mr. Universe. It was made one year after his divorce from Jayne Mansfield. Here, he plays Travis Anderson, an actor who has retired from movies for a life of solitude and moral purity, and now lives as a recluse in a castle previously owned by The Crimson Executioner, a Medieval madman whose body and spirit were entombed in the basement of the castle. When a group of sleaze publishers show up at the castle looking to take some lurid photographs for the cover of their books, they accidentally open the tomb and unleash the wrath of The Crimson Executioner who is none too happy with their perverse and sordid ways.

Directed by Massimo Pupillo, it was written by Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale and supposedly based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade. It is campier than Corman's Poe movies, but also far sleazier and more violent. Where Corman suggested perversity, director Massimo Pupillo revels in graphic depictions of devious pleasures. Plenty of gothic torture chambers and scenes of lurid violence. Great set design (the whole movie takes place in the castle). Occasional moments of goofiness, such as the killer monster spider who makes even Sam Katzman's monsters look realistic, but even that has its charm and is enjoyable. The highlight, of course, is Hargitay and his monomaniacal zeal. Every scene he is in is brimming with batshit psychosis. Overall, a good, sleazy, low-budget, sick, fun movie.