K is for Kilink, and Coincidentally, Also Kate

In the Alphabet of Horror at Head Injury Theater, K is for Kilink. Having just enjoyed watching “Kilink: Strip and Kill” last night, I can vouch for his abilities to score unlimited numbers of hott Turkish chicks, as implied in the artwork shown here. [Special aside to P8–I think you’ll particularly enjoy the artist’s depiction of letter T]
This post will also mark a placeholder for having finished Movie Number Lucky Thirteen as I work on the article on Turkish exploitation movies for Issue 10 of Ultra Violent. Teaser: Turkish movies are at least 60% less soul-destroying than Nazi smut. Stay tuned to this space for further details on publication dates.

The College Girl Murders [1967]

Like a lot of folks who are reading this, I grew up on “Scooby Doo” reruns and a large portion of my personal aesthetic is informed by the spooky, acid-colored grooviness of these cartoons. I’m inclined to think that my fondness for thrillers where deliberate weirdness outweighs internal logic comes from early and frequent exposure to the world of Shaggy and company.

“The College Girl Murders” (the German title of which is *way* superior, translating to “The Monk with the Whip”) brought great glee to my black little heart by hearkening back to the days of eating sugary (and, ideally, monster-themed) cereal in front of Hanna Barbera mysteries. Set in contemporary-at-the-time-of-filming England, the plot revolves around a pair of detectives tracking down a mysterious murderer who is using poison gas to knock off pretty young students at an all-girls’ college. At the same time that these murders are occuring, a spectral monk in a peaked red hood is roaming the moors, snapping the necks of hapless victims with a long bullwhip. You’re feeling the cozy bliss of pure genre convention goodness here already, but I’ll sweeten the pot by telling you that alligator pits, murderous lechers, and circus performers figure in the plot as well.

The film is part of the German krimi cycle based on the novels of Edgar Wallace. Characterized by an English setting, outrageous plot devices and traditional motives (revenge, money, greed, inheritance, etc.), the movies tread territory that is familiar to audiences of serial mystery stories. There is a strong sense of the Gothic in these tales, with castles, fog, suspected supernatural influence and women in distress present throughout. There are surface similarities with gialli, but the mood and tone are lighter and the film techniques far more conventional. Also, what sexuality exists is superficial at most–there are bikini-clad college students and allusions to parties with drink, dancing and perhaps necking, but the steamy and kinky aspects that define a giallo are absent.

Director Alfred Vohrer creates a creepy atmosphere throughout, employing strong shadows and saturated colors in a manner that evokes Mario Bava. Nighttime and dramatic scenes are lit strongly with blocked-out shadows, and the lair of the mysterious mind behind the crimes is a world of monster-green foreboding.
Performances are creditable if stylized–but within a logical universe where the above-described elements come into play, a touch of stylization is more than permissable! The detectives running the investigation, Joachim Fuchsberger’s Inspector Higgins and Siegfried Schurenberg’s Sir John, have an entertaining on-screen chemistry with not-insignificant humor derived in the conflict between Higgins’ logical approach and Sir John’s “psychological” one.

The UFA PAL print is gorgeously presented, with saturated colors and a wonderful crispness. I can’t testify to the quality of the NTSC print available from Dark Sky that is Netflix’able, but the movie is a ton of fun and highly recommended for Euro-thriller fans.

New York Comic Con April 2008

This weekend, I ventured out on a very exciting anthropological excursion to the New York Comic Con. There were far fewer Juggaloes and skinheads than there were at Cinema Wasteland, but if you substituted Spiderman for Juggaloes and “Star Wars” Storm Troopers for skinheads, and then multiplied the scale by about a hundred, you’d… well, you’d be almost entirely off the mark, so scratch that comparison. This thing was about six times larger than any other convention I’ve been to, and way more “upscale.” I felt a mighty need for a costume, too.

Comic book fans drink a lot less than horror fans, even though there was a giant bottle of Wild Turkey displayed at “Yaoi Land.” Sobriety issues aside, I got to see some pretty nifty previews of upcoming plastic action figure joy. I think I’m going to have to own “The Warriors” figures from Mezco Toys. Stuntman Mike would be able to keep Snake Plissken company, so I should probably buy that as well. A little judicious planning would make room for two “Conan the Barbarian” figures.

The panels were extremely well-attended–I waited in line for an hour and a quarter to ensure a seat in the “Venture Brothers” panel. It was well worth the time and effort, though, as we were treated to this preview of Season Three (posted to YouTube by another attendee):

I really think the love for “Venture Brothers” was underestimated–there were probably at least 1,000 people in that particular panel, which had to be moved to a larger room. The panel was not moderated, which led to some rather dumbtarded questions and one request for hugs (plenty of eyerolling from the Tenebrous Posse ensued, trust me–if you want the full effect you can find the clips on YouTube), with the main skinny being that Season Four is currently being written, there are no current plans for a feature length movie or a video game, and there will be a soundtrack CD being released soon.

Today I am really feeling the absence of Storm Troopers. It’s kind of sad, actually.

To be filed under DO WANT

OK, internet, check out this amazing “Diabolik” poster , shown at right, by artist Jesse Philips. Looks like these are available to have, hold, own and love forever on the Black Cat Bones webshop. See more of Jesse Philips’ art (including some badass monster and tattoo-inspired pieces) at JessePhilips.com.

Do yourselves a favor and check out the rest of the posters at the Black Cat Bones webshop for some seriously hott reimaginings of 60s and 70s genre film posters, including “Suspiria” and “Thriller: A Cruel Picture” by other artists.

Now I just need to figure out how I’m going to quadruple my free wall space in order to fit all these things in the Apartment of Erotic Horror…

"Satanik" [1968]

Released in 1968, the same year as Mario Bava’s wonderful “Diabolik,” “Satanik” is an adaptation of another masked supercriminal comic. Much as I wanted to adore “Satanik,” with its super-evil and super-hot arch-villainess, the film simply doesn’t measure up to others of its ilk.
Polish model Magda Konopka stars as Dr. Marnie Bannister, a disfigured old woman who is working with another scientist to develop a youth serum. The serum comes with the dubious side effect of turning whoever takes it into a cruel monster, but judging from the fact that Dr. Bannister stabs her colleague to death in order to keep the secret of the youth serum all to herself, there wasn’t too slippery of a slope for her to fall down. After taking the serum and trasforming into a supervixen of appropriately Euro-groovy proportions, Dr. Bannister sets out on a life of crime. Hot on her trail are a detective from Scotland Yard and a Spanish investigator who smoke in every scene, including when they are investigating a crime scene. With cops like these pursuing the devious dame, it’s no surprise that Dr. Bannister leaves a trail of theft, bodies, and general chaos in her wake. There are jewel smugglers, crooked casino owners, gangster molls, and assorted other underworld figures that Dr. Bannister encounters as she strip-teases her way around Europe.
The movie had ample opportunity to be glamorous and over-the-top, but never quite mustered the steam to go that extra mile. Truly outrageous outfits are paired with set design that is largely lackluster (an affinity for powder blue and mid-century Versailles retro-ism dominate), and although the film is set in various swanky locales across Europe including Madrid and Lake Geneva, the local flavor is ultimately unconvincing. There are moments when one can catch a glimpse of what *could have been*–a couple of scenes shot inside a flamenco nightclub are very lively, and Dr. Bannister’s masked strip-tease is a hoot. While an attempt is made at energetic cinematography, the hand-held shots have a “Blair Witch” feel to them which feels out of place. The DVD transfer from Retro Media left a lot to be desired–the print quality was fair at best, and the lack of letterboxing led to hacked-off shot framing in many scenes. The performances throughout are entirely within appropriateness for a comic book adaptation, and Konopka is extremely easy on the eyes.
What’s frustrating about the movie is that the ingredients for a really fun actioner are all present–capable actors, beautiful women, funky costumes, an outrageous concept, and colorful settings. The final product just doesn’t gel, sadly.
Enjoy the masked strip-tease from the film:

For your still-picture pleasure, here’s the Flickr still gallery.

"Dorian Gray" [1970]

I am basking in a serious far-out post-hippie glamour afterglow right now, having just watched Massimo Dallamano’s 1970 “Dorian Gray.” The film follows Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray” in many details, adding copious nudity and outrageous fashion statements and taking away virtually all subtelties of plot and characterization. It’s a one-dimensional film that mirrors the vanity of its title character, serving as a showcase for elegant European actors and little else.

Helmut Berger’s Dorian begins as an almost aggravatingly sweet and naive young Londoner, whose “male beauty and virility” has been identified by his artist friend Basil Hallward (Richard Todd), who is painting a portrait of Dorian. Dorian meets doe-eyed actress Sybil Vane (Marie Liljedahl) and they begin a whirlwind romance, confirming their love for one another over hot dogs, shared car rides and (naturally) nude love scenes. Things take a Hard Left when Dorian is introduced to Henry Wotton (Herbert Lom) and his sister, who are avowed hedonists. Soon, Dorian is deeply involved in their world of cocktail parties (sadly, not of the Hott Nazi Cocktail Party variety noted in my Sadiconazista article–these are rather more subdued and entirely-sans-uniform). His relationship with Sybil ends very badly, and she commits suicide, leaving Dorian free to pursue all life’s pleasures. And the film does, indeed, show ALL of life’s pleasures–hetero couplings, threesomes, gay couplings, LOTS more cocktail parties. As Dorian becomes more and more depraved, the appearance of his portrait deteriorates while he stays forever young. The movie implies the passage of many years, as other actors age on-screen, but never fear, things stay hella-groovy throughout. Of course, Dorian’s bad behavior and evil influence do not go unpunished, leading to his eventual suicide.

My love of Mr. Berger is no secret, and I have seen him put in a great-if-melodramatic performance, but–let’s be honest–he doesn’t play a convincing innocent. There is no transition between Good Dorian and Naughty Dorian, effectively eradicating the dramatic arc of the film. Sure, the man looks amazing in (and out of) outfits, but since the film is structured as a character-driven drama, the lack of a believable main character is problematic. The film is very fun as a dated document of its time, and so long as one looks at it as a psychedelic soap opera, it’s a blast.

I’m less inclined to want to discuss the merits of this movie than I am to start figuring out some way I can get my Domestic Partner into this outfit. The Baron claims that zebra is “the tackiest of the animal prints,” but I claim this outfit is totally awesome and completely fashionably sound.

Enjoy this gallery of super-hip film stills from “Dorian Gray” on Flickr.

A big thank you to Kim at Cinebeats for sending me a copy of this movie! I suspect I have to fly out to the West Coast to wash her car and clean her home for a month to make up for this kind gesture.

Women’s Prison Massacre [1983]

I always feel like I’m leaping onto a cinematic grenade when I watch a Bruno Mattei film. I know it’s going to be painful and gory but ultimately I will have done my fellow man (or at least my reading audience) a great good by saving them from having to live through the horrors that I will have endured. There’s no doubt that Mattei was a sleaze-lord of epic proportions. During the three decades of his filmmaking career, the man explored all the major facets of exploitation cinema, directing such cringe-classics as “The Other Hell” (nunsploitation), “KZ9 Extermination Camp” (which has the dubious honor of being THE most depressing nazisploitationer I’ve ever seen) and “Zombi 3.” Would it be feasible that a man who directed a film titled “Terminator II” (in 1990, before Arnie returned to the role) and even dredged the bottom of the Caligular barrel with “Caligula and Messalina” would leave the time-honored tradition of women in prison films untouched?

Unpossible.

Mattei’s “Women’s Prison Massacre,” an entry into the Black Emanuelle series and a follow-up to his own “Violence in a Women’s Prison,” is a wild piece of exploitation cinema, as oily as any WiP film but far less boring than most. Perhaps this is damning with faint praise, but this is the best Mattei film I’ve seen (although, admittedly, I have not seen “Cruel Jaws [aka ‘Jaws 5’]” and I might be surprised–but I doubt it).

“Women’s Prison Massacre” opens with Emanuelle (played by exotic beauty Laura Gemser) staging a conceptual theater piece with two fellow prisoners exposing the psychological pain of females behind bars. Prison bully Albina interrupts the performance–apparently there is a limited audience for feminist stage plays in prison–and a catfight ensues. It comes to light that Emanuelle has been wrongfully imprisoned because she threatened to publish an article exposing a District Attorney of his involvement in drug dealing. Emanuelle is reprimanded by the prison warden for her upstart ways and comes to learn that Albina is in cahoots with the prison management, serving as an informant-slash-enforcer. Water torture is very popular at this particular prison, along with the expected girl-on-girl wrestling.
The movie continues on the typical trajectory until about twenty minutes in, when a group of four male convicts is brought to the prison as a stop-over on their way to death row. It only takes a couple of dumb choices on the part of the prison warden and the sheriff for the inmates to take hostages and attempt their escape. Note to all wardens: DON’T unlock the handcuffs of the four crazed death-row killers. Just don’t. Better safe than sorry, you know? But yes–back to the escape attempt. Rather than make a run for it, the convicts decide to take advantage of the fact that they are locked in a women’s prison and set to raping (as you do). The convicts are absolute caricatures–they spend the majority of their screen time mugging and cackling and generally carrying on. Pierangelo Pozzato’s character “Blade” is particularly ridiculous–his performance elevates (plunges?) the film into surreal black comedy. These guys are more like vaudeville stooges than seasoned criminals! A litany of violent acts ensues–we’re treated to razor slashings, Russian Roulette, and good old-fashioned bitch-slappings as the story ramps up to its finale.
This is a very, very nasty movie, even for the WiP genre–most of its just-over-80-minute run time is taken up with violent, misanthropic action. There’s not a lot of talking, and what dialog exists mainly consists of cursing, snarling and ridiculous proclamations. By no means a good film, and in no way an artistic, well-crafted film, “Women’s Prison Massacre” is still undoubtedly a fine example of the twisted filth the right kind of demented mind can produce.

The Sister of Ursula [1978]

“The Sister of Ursula” is an unapologetically trashy entry into the giallo cycle that serves up a mixed bag of nudity, exploitation, and a killer who offs female victims with an oversized dildo. Lead actress Barbara Magnolfi’s portrayal of the troubled young Ursula is surprisingly nuanced in what is ultimately a cult-sleaze tossaway.

Dagmar (Stefania D’Amario) has brought her psychologically scarred sister Ursula to an Italian shore resort after their father’s death. Shortly after the women arrive at the hotel, a series of ghoulish murders begins, with women of loose morals turning up eviscerated (but only after each has engaged in a softcore sex scene).

The film is not one of the more stylish gialli, and substitutes plentiful nudity for the erotic chills and creepy S&M undertones of others of its genre. Frequent segues into “Skinemax” territory make this feel like an underacheiving Jess Franco film. The sex scenes are patently unerotic, with an emphasis on cringe-worthy humping and startlingly icky tongue-kissing. The inelegant camerawork during these scenes doesn’t help matters–it seems as if the cinematographer was as reluctant to focus on these goings-on as I was.

It’s hard to dismiss the movie entirely, however, largely due to Magnolfi’s on-screen presence. Known to Italo-horror fans as the witchy Olga in “Suspiria,” Magnolfi exudes a special kind of crazy girl sexiness in this film. She is clearly damaged goods from the opening scene, with her sulky demeanor and claims of psychic foreknowledge. Her facial expressions convey a deeply wounded psyche and her verbal outbursts are unpredictable and stormy. In a way, the film is more disappointing, seeing that the director was able to elicit a fine performance from Magnolfi and middling-at-best performances from the rest of the cast.

There are also moments of beauty elicited from the setting. Outdoor vistas such as a tracking crane shot of the exterior of the hotel where Dagmar and Ursula are staying show some promise, but sloppily outfitted interiors and some silly costume choices outweigh the better visual choices. A porn-pop soundtrack rounds out the effort, including a theme song “Eyes” which brings to mind unfortunate comparisons with the far superior “Eyes of Laura Mars,” also released in 1978.

View a full set of stills from “Sister of Ursula” on my Flickr account.

Cinema Wasteland, April 2008 – Post-Mortem

I have been to the Wasteland, and have returned intact! My first trip to Cinema Wasteland this past weekend was truly remarkable–I got to catch up with old friends, meet some new folks, work a table for the first time (no, that’s not a euphamism, internet), and get flogged by Dyanne Thorne.

Above: Team Ultra Violent Magazine Represents – photo by Don Edmonds (we look THIS GOOD on Sunday morning–scary, right?)

Convention highlights will be bulleted for ease of perusal:

  • Panels were well-run by Art of UV Magazine. I really enjoyed the “Ilsa” panel with stars Dyanne Thorne and Howard Maurer and director Don Edmonds. Edmonds has a real passion for movie-making that carries over to young filmmakers. He was incredibly encouraging to folks who spoke with him over the weekend regarding their own film efforts, and I give him a lot of props for being so supportive.
  • I got a photo of me being flogged by Dyanne Thorne! This evidence of my horrible abuse at the hands of “Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S.” will be forthcoming once I get it scanned in. Ms. Thorne is just about the sweetest, most fun human being you’d want to meet–I just adored her all to pieces. AND she liked my outfit. I endorse an Ilsa/Tenebrous Empress team-up.
  • Sadly, I missed the Jack Hill “Spider Baby” panel because I was being a dutiful employee of UVMag, but I *did* get to meet a man with FOUR tattoos dedicated to “Last House on Dead End Street.” Now *that*, meine freunde, defines “Special Needs.”
  • I got to see Juggaloes in their native habitat! As you might imagine, we’re light on Juggaloes in the New York City area, so this was something of rather anthropological import to me. Seriously, dudes, they had the jackets and the weird hair and everything. Fascinating.
  • On the “little bit scary” tip, there were Actual Skinheads at the convention as well. I had never seen a Skrewdriver t-shirt on an in-person human being until this past weekend. Yikes.
  • I saw Beer Pong in person for the first time, too. The second-floor hallway was co-opted into a Beer Pong arena on Saturday night. Saw someone get denied an opportunity to play beer pong because she was “too drunk.” Dude–who gets to decide a woman is “too drunk” for beer pong? I call shenanigans.
  • There were on-con-floor whiskey-drinking hijinks on Saturday, but I did not participate. Sorry to disappoint, but nothing good would have come of that! To the Guilty Parties, I have pictures of all of your WhiskeyFaces. Adventures in sobriety for the win.
  • Got to see most of “Green Slime” on the projection screen–it was a hoot! I agree with Ms. Joan Arkham who identified that the sexual tension was way stronger between the two male leads than between either of them and the Ursula Andress character. Also–bonus points for the groovy-ass soundtrack.
  • For those of you who doubted the veracity of the hobo documentary, you can BUY yourself a copy of “Murder on the Tracks” here. Do not doubt any of my future hobo-related nuggets of trivia, you bastards.
  • My own purchases for the weekend included a GIANT stack of DVDs (including the silent “Fantomas” serials and a couple of Turkish “Kilink” movies) and two lino-cut prints from an artist whose card I lost (DRAT). They’re very hott, though–I selected the Frankenstein Monster print (to go with other Frankenstein Monster art in my home) and the Aleister Crowley print (which just has a general creepy coolness about it of which I heartily approved).
  • Finalmente, my giant Eurotrash sunglasses received the approval of my horror peers. The Tenebrous knows how to dress herself, in spite of her Domestic Partner the Baron’s suspicions.

I’m undecided as to whether I have the fortitude to make the October convention, but I had an extremely memorable time. Thanks to my friends and the con organizers for making this a fantastic weekend!

Art – What I’ve Been Looking At Lately

I’ve been working on An Actual Article of Substance for an upcoming issue of Ultra Violent, which has prevented me from devoting as much time to recreational movie-watching as I’d like. Since I’m heading out for a long weekend out of town, I figured I would leave you with something to enjoy looking at, internet. You’re welcome!

JindÅ™ich Ulrich Oil Miniatures – Tiny, beautifully-detailed paintings by an artist in Prague, using weird historical and pseudo-religious imagery.

Neuromantic – Expressionist portraits of groovy film dandies, giallo girls, and Japanese pop icons. I’m obsessed with that Helmut-Berger-as-Dorian-Gray painting. OBSESSED, people.

Surreal Fusion Gallery – Dark fantastic paintings and cross-stitch reproductions of genre movie posters by two artists.

Vincent Price Embroidered Portrait

Fashions Past – Best & Worst – Vintage photos of models and everyday folks sporting some amazing styles from days gone by. Who wants to join me for a group disco shot?