Posts Tagged ‘Dario Argento’

Movie Reviews 300 – Demons (1985)

May 26, 2017

This being my 300th movie review post, the number three has been on my mind of late. I have often referred to members of the triumvirate of Italian horror divinity, namely Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and last but not least Lucio Fulci, in some of my past reviews. They not only defined the slasher genre before Hollywood jumped on that bandwagon, but also resurrected the “giallo” style of murder mysteries. But their far reaching influence not only inspired others, but also fostered projects among themselves and their extended family of collaborators and relatives.

Demons, directed and co-written by Lamberto Bava – Mario’s son and horror meister in his own right – and produced and also co-written by Dario is a cult favorite of the 80’s salvo of European flavoured horror and appropriately begins with a young girl (Natasha Hovey) travelling within Berlin’s marbled foyer subways. Believing she is being followed by a youth sporting a half-face mirror mask, he surprisingly hands Cheryl an invitation card to a free movie event that very evening for which she convinces her friend to accompany her.

The “Metropol” movie venue is an old gothic cathedral whose interiors have been converted into a quasi-museum with neo art sculptures and art pieces woven between the traditional movie posters. The clientele for the evening’s movie is just as eclectic. A boisterous, pimpish dude with his two disco divas (one even sporting a ‘Rick James’ corn row braided coif), a teen couple more interested in making out that viewing anything that will appear on the screen, the blind and spectacled Verner with his lascivious looking wife Liz, Liz’s maistre who is just as interested in making out with Liz as the teens, and two young boys who immediately take a shine to Cheryl and her friend.

As the night’s film reel begins to be projected onto the theater screen ‘this’ film alternates its point of view from the cinema goers to being the film they are seeing themselves which is a horror movie featuring teens in a graveyard and tomb. As the teens discuss Nostradamus’ foretelling of events and find a mask just like that worn by the ticket dispenser Cheryl encountered, the ‘on screen’ movie soon becomes a creature infested slaughter. At that same time one of ‘real world’ the disco divas is having a bit of a problem of her own in the bathroom and is soon screeching, fanged and oozing pulsating puss which is the beginning a infestation that will soon have the entire movie audience scrambling and avoiding one another as the malediction spreads.

Before long theater seats are flying, bodies are piling up and there seems to be endless chases within the stairways, hidden rooms and passageways. To spice things up a bunch of drugged up punks roaming the city also end up breaking into the Metropol in order to avoid some polizei hot on their tails after some late night hijinx.

The action comes to a crescendo with an in-theater, limb slashing, Samurai sword swirling motorcycle chase that would make The Great Escape’s Steve McQueen proud. And that’s before the helicopter drops in! If that does not categorize this as ‘must watch’ I don’t know what will.

While not featuring Goblin music it does include some notable 80’s heavyweight bands and songs while Claudio Simonetti’s score hits elevates the energy.  The masked ticket man was played by Michele Soavi who was assistant director and a frequent collaborator of Argento’s. While Argento’s daughter Asia later became a scream queen (debuting in Demons 2 no less), here his lesser known daughter Fiore has a small role.

Argento and Bava would reprise their production roles for the sequel Demons 2 a year later and while I have yet to track down that movie to assess it myself, based on the Demons 2 trailer on this disk I take it to be much of the same madness.


Movie Reviews 227 – Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971)

July 18, 2015

The Cat O Nine TailsDario Argento practically created the Italian Giallo thriller film movie genre single handedly with his first film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and this his second feature, Cat O’ Nine Tails, uses all the contrivances that define ‘Giallo’. A murder mystery in which the audience experiences part of the film through the eyes of the murderer’s leather gloved perspective,  an accidental witness that becomes entangled in the solving of the crime, one or more Hollywood borderline B-rated actors, all presented in a cut-rate Italo-Euro production. That’s Giallo!

In this case the Hollywood imports recruited were James Franciscus and Karl Malden. Malden having just completed Patton and would go on to fame and acclaim the following year with the television cop drama The Streets of San Francisco while Franciscus had just recently gained star billing in Beneath the Planet of the Apes the year before.

Blind retired newspaper reporter Franco Arnò (Malden) is walking along the streets one night with the little niece under his custody. As they walk beside a parked car, Franco’s sensitized hearing pickups up an odd conversation from the car’s occupants. He stops slightly ahead of the car and asks his granddaughter to get a closer look at the car.

The next day Franco learns of a break-in a the nearby medical complex and joins the throng of curious onlookers in front of the complex. As the police begin their investigation he makes the acquaintance of Carlo Giodano (Franciscus) who is a reporter. When he gets back home his niece tells him that the front page of the news paper has a picture of the man that was in the car the night before. Franco then joins Carlo to put all their pieces together to find out exactly what is going in since the break-in curiously enough did not result in any theft.

This slowly developing puzzle which is concentrated on the many doctors and administrators of the medical complex slowly starts to untangle, but as it does so, personnel start dying at an alarming rate. There is the enigmatic complex owner who wishes to quash any investigation. His strikingly beautiful daughter who soon joins Carlo and Franco. And the many doctors and researchers, some involved in the plot and others innocently dragged in.

But what exactly is the mystery? That, my friends is the Cat O’ Nine Tails of the title. It has nothing to to do with a multi-tip whip per se, but a reference to the nine leads the reporter duo have and that need to be sorted out in order to answer all their questions, and get to the bottom of the murders.

While the characters aren’t very deep, there are nice touches like the fact that by day the blind Franco works on putting together newspaper crossword puzzles. Not solving them, but creating them with a blind-friendly alphabetic tile contraption.

There is very little sleuthing and while the ending isn’t very satisfying, it’s the trip their that’s part of the fun. Enjoy the stylized garish 70’s furniture, the incessant smoking and the mandatory car chase with sub-compact cars as you enjoy this vestige of a bygone era in cinema.