The Wonderful World of Marquis Magazine

Marquis Magazine

One of the things I like about the fetish world is when severity and seriousness verges on artfulness and ultimately gives way to what can only be called batshit insanity. English/German magazine Marquis (formerly «O») is a glossy production in every way imaginable, from the paper stock to the layout to the latex and leather fashions it showcases. In the Id Unleashed universe of fetish publications, there’s a mish-mash of cultural references, such as the rubber-clad Louise Brooks lookalike above, created by artist Marcus Gray. Gray is described in the pages of Marquis as a retro-futurist–thanks, I’ll take THIS flavor of retro-futurism over the busted up clock parts favored by the current Steampunk trend.

Marquis Magazine
Speaking of retro-futurism, I can’t help but think that this mid-70s ad showcasing designs from latex atelier Sealwear is making pal of the Empire Yum Yum‘s eyes turn into big cartoon hearts. THIS is some Radioactive Lingerie right here!
Marquis Magazine
Then there’s the stuff I’m not even going to try to explain, like this Spiderman girl catsuit and hood created by a designer who goes by the single name of Gosha. He’s pretty clearly some sort of twisted genius, and whether or not this is truly meant to tickle the nethers is irrelevant–there’s no denying its awesome weirdness and wonderfulness.
Marquis Magazine

What Have You Done to Solange? [1972]

I’ll state for the record that I didn’t have very high hopes for Massimo Dallamano’s Italo-thriller “What Have You Done to Solange?” The girls’ school setting was a turn-off–I didn’t enjoy being a teenager, and I try to minimize the amount of Entertainment Hours I spend with pretend teenagers. In a similar vein, while Dallamano’s “Dorian Gray” is a marvel of groovy excess, “Solange”‘s setting didn’t seem to have much to offer in the way of crazy fashions and jet-setting locales. Add to this the fact that “Solange” is frequently mentioned as a giallo for those who don’t ordinarily enjoy Eurotrash films, and let’s face it–on a “Relevancy to My Interests” scale from one to ten, this ranks about a five.

All this may be true, but I’m here to tell you that “What Have You Done to Solange?” is a thoroughly rewarding thriller that I have no problem recommending to any fan of suspense films.

"What Have You Done to Solange?"
This twisty mystery begins with Italian-born Catholic school professor Enrico (nee Henry, to his English colleagues) Rosseni engaged in a romantic boat ride in a London park with his student, Elizabeth. Sexually innocent and frightened by Rosseni’s physical advances, Elizabeth claims to witness a murder on the shore. Frustrated, Rosseni chides the girl for her constant excuse-making, yet when he returns to the park later, he finds it has been the scene of a savage murder and that the victim was a student of his. Everyone at the girls’ school is a suspect, from Rosseni’s spurned wife Herta to the leering Mr. Newton to Father Webber (we all know about the uniquely giallo tradition of “THE PRIEST DID IT!”). As the murders continue and the pattern seems to focus on Elizabeth’s friends, Rosseni invests himself in the investigation and ultimately uncovers the terrible motive behind the killings.
"What Have You Done to Solange?"
I love thrillers of all flavors, and I don’t demand a solution that I can figure out prior to the climax of the story. This is quite fortunate, since most Italo-thrillers don’t provide a figure-out-able–or even terribly reasonable–solution. “What Have You Done to Solange?” is an exception to this rule, as it weaves its intricate tale by linking numerous suspense scenes into a snappily-paced story. Many gialli are characterized by long periods of exposition and dialogue punctuated by bravura setpieces–fans and detractors alike can agree that most of these films are really Setpiece Life Support Systems. “Solange” is more akin to Dario Argento’s “The Bird with the Crystal Plumge,” which has a structure likened to Hitchcock’s thrillers with lots of suspense, plentiful red herrings, and surprising narrative turns.

"What Have You Done to Solange?"
Now, I know that a number of you are probably hung up on the idea of the protagonist of the piece having an adulterous relationship with a teenaged girl. To our sensibilities, this is little better than casting the protagonist as an unhinged prostitute killer. It’s important to put on our Cultural Relativist Eyeglasses and understand that the prohibitions on extramarital affairs are different outside of the US, so while the 2010 Sensibility here might have us drawing and quartering Professor Rosseni as an unfaithful pedophile, his affair in the context of an Italian film from 1972 is simply a symptom of his failing marriage. To many international audiences, the fact that Rosseni is at all patient with Elizabeth’s reluctance to sacrifice her virginity is evidence of his being a decent sort of bloke.
"What Have You Done to Solange?"
The theme of girls’–and by extension women’s–secret social structures pervades the film and provides a large measure of the tension. When it comes to light that the students are experimenting with sex and drugs, the professors’ responses range from shock to disparaging cynicism, mirroring cultural responses to the process of female maturation. The problem of Western culture’s inability to accept anything between–or other than–the transformation of the untouched young female to the doting mother informs this film. Viewing “What Have You Done to Solange?” as a movie about adolescent women told from a sexualized male perspective gives it a sociological texture–and a moral ambiguity–that electrifies the story.
"What Have You Done to Solange?"
Visually, “Solange” is an interesting movie to discuss. Much of its stylistic appeal comes from the constant movement of the camera, rather than from brightly colored sets and costume designs or exotic locations. Joe D’Amato (yes, THAT Joe D’Amato) lenses the film skillfully undoubtedly guided by Dallamano, an accomplished cinematographer in his own right. There’s very nice use of POV shots, extreme close-ups and fisheye lenses that provide off-kilter perspectives throughout the film. While the costuming and design are distinctly English, with tweeds, dark wood and stone informing much of the look and feel, the camera is the best kind of Italianate.
Thriller fans should seek out “What Have You Done to Solange?” whether they’re pro-giallo or not. It’s an expertly-paced, well-acted suspense film that satisfies from beginning to end.

The Demon Lover (aka "Lucifera: Demonlover") [1972]

Have you ever wondered just how dull a movie about a woman who experiences past-life flashbacks about her career as a Satan-fucking, mariticidal bar wench could be? Well, wonder no more, because “The Demon Lover,” recently released on DVD under the title “Lucifera: Demonlover,” is here to provide you with eighty of the most frontal-cortex-numbingly boring minutes you’ll spend watching a movie about demonic possession.

“The Demon Lover” finds lovely young lady Helga (Rosalba Neri) and her two gal-pals stopping for the evening at what I’m guessing is a German castle, judging by the fact that all of the characters bear super-duper Teutonic names like “Helmut,” “Gunther,” “Hans” and “Johan.” Helga inquires about the castle’s Satanic history and then grifts a meal and a free night’s stay out of the castle’s owner. Wandering the halls by candelabra (like you do), Helga stumbles upon a portrait that resembles her visage and, after hearing some creepy sounds from the depths of the dungeon, falls into a faint only to relive the tragic experiences of another, different Helga from… uhm… the Ren Faire Period of history. Ye Olde Helga is about to get married to her beau Gunther, but is cursed after a mysterious male figure spies her wedding gown before her marriage takes place. It’s all down hill from there, with Helga getting armpit-deep in Satanic nonsensery that incorporates midnight rituals at the gallows, weird orgiastic rapeyness, and an affair with the Devil.
The Demon Lover
Except it’s really, really, REALLY boring.
I’ve seen several films that take the concept of a sexual pact with the Devil and go somewhere interesting with it. The Mexican nunsploiter “Satanico Pandemonium” adopts a tone of moral commentary, cautioning against the dangers of suppressed desires, while Jean Rollin’s “The Demoniacs” blends the “sex with the devil” theme with one of revenge. “The Demon Lover,” on the other hand, is one of the most literal-minded movies I’ve seen in a long while. There’s no character development, no subtext, no artfulness–just the telling of a story. Period.
The Demon Lover
Seriously–is this one of the greatest “Bitch, PLEASE” faces in cinema, or what?
It would be very easy for me to forgive this lack of depth if the visual style of the movie compensated for it in any way. It’s more than just a lack of style that’s working against this movie. Much as it pains me to say this, given some of the budgetarily-impaired films I have enjoyed, there’s an air of cheapness that overwhelms the movie. It’s challenging to create an immersive period atmosphere, but it feels like this movie isn’t even really trying. Sure, there are some wench outfits, and cute white caps, and ladies sewing, and drinking from tankards, but it all looks very lousy. The first interior scene takes place in a tavern that by all appearances is someone’s bachelor uncle’s rumpus room with a couple of garlic bunches tacked to the wall for period ambience.
The Demon Lover
Is there anything redeeming about this film? Sure. And it comes in the person of Rosalba Neri, who is rightly enthroned in the pantheon of Euro-Sleaze Uber-Babedom. Ms. Neri distinguishes herself from many equally-beautiful actresses due to a certain domina-like haughtiness that, when combined with her curvaceous femininity, is magnetic. This is a woman who always seems in control and on top–she’s entirely believable as a superwoman, which is why she’s so much fun to watch in roles like the gender-bending hitwoman in “Castle of Fu Manchu” or the second-generation female mad scientist in “Lady Frankenstein.” This firey screen presence makes it all the more shameful that there’s nothing much of Ms. Neri to admire in “The Demon Lover” than her Callipygian Cleft. I can save most of you the eighty minutes by posting these two images:
The Demon Lover
The Demon Lover
I think I’m particularly frustrated by this movie because the title of the recent US DVD release is shared by an actually-rather-awesome fumetti series. The “Lucifera” fumetti character is an ass-kicking demon-babe–just check out some of her adventures here at The Groovy Age of Horror. Now THAT is the movie I would like to watch!
It’s a shame that I have to thumbs-down this particular entry into the Eurotrash canon so thoroughly. Ms. Neri’s charms aside, there’s just nothing going on to recommend “The Demon Lover” to any but the most dedicated Eurotrash fans.
The Demon Lover

Nerd Weekend Post-Mortem: Kevin Geeks Out and Chiller Theatre Spring 2010

Well. My weekend was extraordinarily nerdy. How was yours?

One of the great pleasures of working as hard as I do at my day job* is that it provides me with the means to indulge in all of the ridiculous, juvenile, base delights that fuel the Tenebrous Soul. I am full to brimming with dorkery from this past weekend, and I cannot contain my glee–please share in my delight, won’t you, interpals?
*Being a grown-up sucks, but it pays well.
Friday’s entry into the ongoing saga of Kevin Geeks Out presentations at 92YTribeca featured several “All Stars” who have contributed to past shows, and as such, it was a terrific blend of thought-provoking academia and intense fanboy (fan-person, really) love. One of the highlights of the evening was Heather Hendershot’s essay on “Don Knotts: Reluctant Sex Object.” It sounds silly, perhaps even (dare-I-say-it) “hipster”-ish, but Ms. Hendershot’s presentation was filled with a genuine affection for her subject, and her thesis was quite insightful. The presentation was quirky and funny, but she managed to get across something very incisive about the way Knotts’ comedy worked. I encourage everyone to hop over to FlowTV to read Ms. Hendershot’s essay when you have a free moment–I guarantee it’ll make you smile *and* think. Imagine that! Another high point found the inimitable Geoff Klock presenting a hilariously rapid-fire talk on superhero films and the odd connections between the actors in these beloved genre flicks. I never knew Gorilla Grodd campaigned for John McCain before hearing this presentation, but lo and behold–actor Powers Booth voiced both a megalomaniacal ape as well as television ads for a… no, I won’t make that joke, but you can.
I approach the Chiller Theatre convention with what I’ll politely call “a sense of trepidation.” There have been some Significant Fuck-Ups in the way that con has run in the past that have left me not-so-much wanting to return. And yet, being a Jersey Girl with lots of horror-nerd friends, I get sucked back in year after year. I can honestly say that, for the second time in a row, I attended a totally-not-fucked-up* Chiller Theatre convention–on a Saturday afternoon no less!
*”Totally-not-fucked-up” in terms of logistics. One does not go to Chiller Theatre expecting anything less than a brainfuckling social and aesthetic experience–that’s part of the glee.
Me with Sergio Martino
One of the reasons I was pulled into the lurid orbit of Chiller again was the fact that the Italian Invasion Panel was making a return, which also meant that several of my nerds would be in attendance. Socializing AND shaking hands with Sergio Martino? SIGN ME UP. For the record, it seemed like Mr. Martino was more than a bit puzzled at the depth of my fan-love. I really do derive an extraordinary amount of joy from his thrillers–I think they’ve become my fave Italo-thrillers in point o’ fact-o.
Ladies of Italian Horror Panel - Chiller Theatre Spring 2010
L to R: Unkown Panel Host (please ID yourself if you’re reading!), Irene Miracle, Art Ettinger from UV, Geretta Geretta, Francesca Ciardi, Camille Keaton, Barbara Magnolfi
The Italian Actresses Panel was fascinating, and I was glad that the women weren’t hesitant to address issues of feminism and politics in the films they’d starred in. Francesca Ciardi was adamant in her defense of “Cannibal Holocaust” and supported Ruggero Deodato’s controversial film whole-heartedly. Irene Miracle (“Inferno”) and Barbara Magnolfi (“Suspiria”) spoke fondly of Dario Argento, and Geretta Geretta (“Demons” and “Murder Rock”) displayed an almost-overwhelming love of genre films. Camille Keaton was charming and soft-spoken, even when talking about her iconic role as a revenge-seeking woman in “I Spit on Your Grave.” While there was a general sense that these actresses enjoyed working in genre films, the consensus was that they were horrified by insert scenes. It’s one thing to be a party to weird exploitive on-screen action, but it’s another to have one’s face co-opted into scenes that weren’t even in the original script. I know I’ve joked (as have many fans of Eurotrash cinema) about the spliced-in scenes of explicit sex that appear in these movies, but hearing Magnlofi talk about the disgust she felt about the inserts in “Sister of Ursula” gave me pause. There’s a whole lot that happens in these movies between concept, filming, editing, and marketing, and while I do derive no small measure of delight from their sometimes-literally balls-out madness, it was interesting to hear about the movie-making process from the perspective of women.
Me with Geretta Geretta
Me with Barbara Magnolfi
And can I just have a moment to gush over how universally bright, insightful, passionate and creative these women are? Because–yeah. It’s refreshing to hear from women who have first-hand knowledge with the more–shall we say–outre avenues of the genre film world who own and celebrate the majority of their experiences. It doesn’t hurt matters that Geretta Geretta is one of the coolest women I’ve ever met, and that Barbara Magnolfi lit up when Baron XIII and I told her how we always favored Olga in “Suspiria” and were rooting for her character throughout.
I’m taking a moment to shout-out (as the kids call it) to Art from Ultra Violent (who strong-armed me into writing another article for him), Mark from Film Fanaddict (who also has a Diabolik tattoo, as well as a Devo tattoo, thus making him the one person in the building with better ink than me–damn you, Mark), B-Sol from The Vault of Horror (whose kids are BEYOND charming, and whose daughter has more fiction-writing chops than *I* do), and the Abominable Dr. Gregg and his crew (a finer bunch of tiki companions, I’d be hard-pressed to identify). I’m very much looking forward to seeing what weirdness the October entry into the Chiller Theatre saga will have in store…!

On Monocles & Eyepatches: the Potential Virtues of Monocular Vision

This may shock you, but I’m given to flights of melacholic hyperbole. I like to think of it as part of that nebulous whole that makes up My Charm. One of the genius things about having this kind of temperament combined with what is cruelly known as The Natural Aging Process is that I start thinking about the inevitability of my physiological deterioration.

It’s going to fucking suck, pals.
I’ve decided that I’m going to be chill with losing some of my eyesight, so long as I have *one* usable eye. And hell, even if my world becomes glazed like the lens in a Just Jaeckin movie, I think I might enjoy that kind of erotic soft focus. Things might look even better!
But back to that single-eye vision thing: Having vision in only one eye opens up a world of fashion possibilities. Well–ok–only *two* fashion possibilities, but I like them both.
F’reals–eyepatches are kind of awesome. And if anyone said anything snide about my appearance, I could be all like “fuck you–I’m blind in one eye; don’t mock my handicap!” Thus making that person feel “shame” and “embarrassment,” either or both of which that person would richly deserve.
Besides, there’s something about an eyepatch that says “Watch out–I might be dangerously unhinged. I am not afraid to cut a bitch, even though my aim might be a *smidge* to the left, but I’m counting on your reflexes being not-so-great.”
The down-side to the Eyepatch Plan is that I’d have to wear some kind of single corrective lens, and contacts are an ass-pain. Which leaves me with the option of wearing a monocle–not that I’m opposed to that. I could make the monocle MY OWN, because right now, people seem to associate the monocle with Old Timey Capitalists. And peanut spokes-characters. Neither of which is as sinister or awesome as I’d like.
Berlin Lesbian Bar
I think I’d definitely need to affect a new accent if I were to wear a monocle, however, because this Jersey thing will *not* work.
Seriously. People do not appreciate the full range of issues that people with disabilities have to cope with.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave [1971]

I admire the skill it takes to craft an intricately-plotted, tightly-paced mystery story. I also appreciate the sight of hella-groovy, mostly-nude redheads in thigh-high leather boots fleeing from a madman with a whip. I have no difficulty in reconciling these two elements of my taste, even if a movie like “The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave” caters to only one of them. I’ve grappled with how best to present “Evelyn” to an audience that’s justly wary of wasting *another* ninety minutes on *another* clumsily Frankensteined-together Italo-thriller, and I’ve concluded that the best way to pique the appropriate kind of interest is to say that this flick plays out like a Gothic Horror pictorial from “Oui” magazine. Which is to say: there’s a hastily-sketched story, a loving eye for cutting-edge fashion, and a whole heaping load of excellent boobage. If you’re willing to contextualize the movie in this manner, you’ll dig it–trust me.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
As I set out to describe the plot, I find myself flummoxed by the sloppiness of this film. Lord Alan Cunningham has recently been discharged from a mental hospital where he was recovering from a breakdown following the untimely death of his wife Evelyn. We find that this release was what I’ll daintily dub “Significantly Premature,” since the second scene finds Alan abducting, torturing and killing a mightily-foxy prostitute. As it shakes down, Alan uncovered Evelyn’s infidelity and is repeatedly Venting His Spleen on other nubile redheads. Now, if you think you’re starting to understand the plot and how it’ll be about Alan having murdered Evelyn and the fact that he’ll get his eventual satisfying come-uppance, you’re much like me, and you’re also totally wrong. While this movie could be seen as the less-intelligent spiritual cousin to “Rebecca” or “Gaslight,” “Evelyn” doesn’t seem to concern itself at all with concocting a compelling narrative. Shit goes supremely off the rails as early on as fifteen minutes into our story, after Alan’s psychologist, Dr. Timberlane, recommends that Alan get married again in order to stop his homicidal urges. Then there’s a seance, and Evelyn’s spirit starts manifesting the fuck out of itself, and Alan murders another mightily-foxy prostitute, and then Alan goes to a radical hippie party thrown by his alarmingly Paul-Lynde-ish cousin and gets married to a character named Gladys for no reason that I could discern other than the fact that she’s blonde, and then Gladys is investigating Evelyn’s ghost and…
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
Yeah, I’m not going to get anywhere selling you guys on the virtues of this movie’s plot, because there’s no disguising the fact that it’s a DISASTER. However, without thinking too hard at all, I can name several elements surrounding the story that I loved all to crazy.
  • Alan’s Aunt Agatha is an attenuated, black-clad figure whose wheelchair confinement doesn’t hamper her spying ways
  • Flashbacks of Evelyn’s infidelity feature both a diaphanous gown and slow-motion, nude running
  • Grave-robbing figures prominently in the plot
  • A character gets gruesomely eaten by foxes in an extended and unexpected gore sequence. SIDEBAR: How friggin’ cute are foxes? F’reals–this was almost as good as the similarly adorable Death By Cats inNight of a 1,000 Cats.”
  • There’s a hilariously-awkward funeral-themed striptease that had me giggling while simultaneously hoping for a glimpse of bush–that’s no mean feat, friends
  • A key encounter takes place at a groovy hippie party-slash-orgy with live music by one of the cringe-worthiest psychedelic bands I’ve heard. A Top Forty future was never in the cards for Pandora’s Box, I’m afraid.
  • Gothic elements are pervasive throughout the movie, from Alan’s ancestral castle–which ranges from run-down to uber-groovy to torture-chamber-tastic to stately over the course of the film–to not one but two family tombs to the aforementioned seance scene
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

That’s all great goddamn stuff, friends, and if you don’t worry too much about the story “making sense,” then you’ll be able to enjoy the glorious ridiculosity of what this movie has to offer. It’s as if the filmmakers just piled a bunch of freaky ideas into a bucket and didn’t concern themselves with anything more than stringing them together in the most tenuous, “Mad Libs” manner possible.
As a grooviness delivery device, “The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave” is an incredibly successful effort. I really can’t emphasize how much I LOVED the look and feel of this movie–the combination of colorful Bava-esque Gothickry with jet-setting Euro-fashions made the Tenebrous Heart sing. Every scene has some sort of stylish highlight–here are a few:
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
  • Alan makes his unwitting hooker-victims wear the hottest thigh-high black leather boots in the world
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
  • Alan’s bedroom is a fantasy of interior design that combines white plastic, Baroque murals, a bubble television and flokati rugs (to make no mention of the prerequisite J&B cameo)
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
  • Gladys has an astonishing array of cleavage-bearing nightgowns (also: WIGS!)
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
  • When Alan takes Gladys back to retarded-groovy Manderley–erm, the Cunningham Estate, they meet the newly-hired staff of maids. Which is to say, five identically-blonde-afro’ed maids in black-and-white livery. THAT, friends, is “showing class.”
Some movies can be called “morally ambiguous”–take “The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh” as an example of this sort of grayness. “The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave” is downright “morally reprehensible,” though, since I’m pretty sure this movie has terrible, terrible things to say about women. It becomes apparent about halfway through the film that the viewer is meant to empathize with Alan, who is–to put it politely–WAY more rapey-murderey than I like my protagonists. This kind of balls-out misanthropy characterizes the entire movie. There’s nobody for us to latch on to and root for in the cavalcade of hedonists, blackmailers, conspirators, gold diggers and criminals that populates this movie. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t actually kinda respect that decision by the end.
Or perhaps I was just sufficiently distracted by the parade of awesome nekkidity and awesomer-still style.
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
Whichever way I slice it, I can’t not love “The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave.” It’s fantastically un-boring, unashamedly over-the-top and thoroughly entertaining. Check your higher brain functions at the door and put this one on your to-watch list if you, like me, are an aficionado of sleaze cinema.

Upcoming Geeky, Freaky Screenings in NYC: LARPing and Erotic Don Knotts and Pope Kidnapping OH MY!

Don’t think it doesn’t pain me that I’m not going to get a chance to attend the NYC premiere of “The Wild Hunt” in Manhattan this Sunday, April 11. The 15th Annual Gen Art Film Festival, which celebrates the work of emerging filmmakers, will be screening the Canadian action/thriller “The Wild Hunt,” which is set against the background of a medieval-themed LARP event. My interest was piqued after watching a trailer some number of weeks ago, and upon learning that this won the Audience Award at Slamdance, well… suffice to say that sealed the deal for me. If your calendar is aligned in a more fortuitous manner than my own, you can get tickets right here on the Gen Art Website. Check out the trailer below:

Next Friday, April 16th, it’s once again time for Kevin Maher‘s Kevin Geeks Out at 92YTribeca. After missing last month’s show, which by all accounts was an AMAZING presentation on sharks in cinema, due to an all-weekend D&D fest (I’ll have you know that my dwarf acrobat kicked a not-insignificant amount of ass, friends), there’s no way I’m missing out on the April All-Stars show. I mean, who am *I* to resist the allure of a presentation on an evening that will include such presentations as “Don Knotts: Reluctant Sex Object” and “Jesus versus Magneto?” This event DOES sell out, so be sure to grab your advance tickets on the 92YTribeca website ahead of time.

Rumor has it that there will be another Tenebrous Presentation at an upcoming Geek Out–watch this space for more info!
Lastly, but by no means leastly, Grindhouse Releasing has announced more screening dates for Duke Mitchell’s amazing-looking crime opus “Gone with the Pope.” New Yorkers should rejoice with me that the film will be screening at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street on June 4th and 5th. Be there or miss out on overwhelming awesome. Witness the trailer once again:
For more info on other screenings in parts of the country that don’t really matter to me because I don’t live there, check out

Missed Opportunities: Eurotrash Art & Party Edition

As a rule, I try to keep a positive frame of mind regarding the many events and opportunities that I’ve been able to take part in. I won’t lie and say it’s not hard to gnash my teeth just a little bit at some of the stuff I’ve missed out on, however.

Vampyros Lesbos Party Invitation
What you’re looking at here is an invitation to a “Vampyros Lesbos” party that took place in NYC in the late 90s. And what you’re gleaning from my curt tone is the fact that I didn’t get to attend said party–I did hang on to the flyer, which in the past was pinned to my wall in my workspace. Apparently the party has a rather legendary reputation among… you know… people who are cooler than I am–or at least better than I am at making nightclub-going decisions. I’d like to believe that someone reading this right now got to check out Vampyros Lesbos and has fond (if Chemically Altered) memories of his or her time there.
Vampyros Lesbos Party Invitation

DJ Franc O–wherever you are, I salute you and your sexadelic excellence.
Italian Pulp Art Catalog
While rummaging through some boxes of paper ephemera, I stumbled on this catalog of “Italian Pulp Art Offerings from a Private Collection,” advertising original gouache-on-board cover paintings from fumetti neri like “Zora,” “Cimiteria,” and “Sukia.” Now, I’d feel a LOT worse about this if I didn’t receive the catalog secondhand from a pal, because, upon looking at the price sheet, it appears that these beauties were priced between $500 and $800. Anyone who is interested in collecting art should be scraping his or her jaw off the floor right now at the sheer affordability of such insane pieces.
Scans of the rest of the catalog are posted below. Click on the image to see larger-scale versions on Flickr:
Italian Pulp Art Catalog
Italian Pulp Art Catalog
The look on the face of the gal in the back of the bottom-center piece is priceless. “Holy crap–he’s PULLING OFF her leg!” Apparently the victim is hinged like a GI Joe figure.
Italian Pulp Art Catalog
I like the fact that “Ululua” appears to be the love child of Vampirella and Wolverine.
Italian Pulp Art Catalog
Italian Pulp Art Catalog
Italian Pulp Art Catalog

The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus [1962]

Jess Franco’s 1962 film “The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus” is another one of those frustrating movies from the ultra-prolific director that has a whole heckuva lot of potential that never really crystallizes into the excellent film that could have been. This thriller in the gothic mold has a lot going for it, but overall, the film shares the aesthetic strength of Franco’s “The Awful Dr. Orloff” though it lacks that film’s compelling narrative and more aggressive pace.

A horrible legacy hovers over a picturesque Tyrolean town: once every generation, a series of fiendish murders of young women takes place that echo the deeds of a centuries-old Baron. There seems to be a curse on the male heirs of the Von Klaus estate that causes a simmering obsession with rape and torture. With two Von Klaus heirs present in the form of Max (played by Franco regular Howard Vernon) and Ludwig, it’s not long before a battered female body turns up near the familial abode. When the murders begin again, it’s up to crime reporter Karl Steiner (of the doubtless-respectable publication “Maidens and Murders”) and police investigator Borowsky to unravel the true identity of the killer and put an end to the legacy of evil.
"The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus"
If all this sounds a lot like Mario Bava’s “Baron Blood,” well–you’d be spot on in making that comparison. In fact, comparing the two movies makes for an interesting study in the shadowy, nebulous stuff that makes one genre effort an engaging bit of entertainment while the lack of similar qualities leaves another film feeling… well, less-than-satisfying. “Baron Blood” is an altogether more fantastical story, embracing its supernatural roots to become a grisly modern-day fairy tale, while “Sadistic Baron Von Klaus” lingers on issues of morality, inheritance and compulsion. This is certainly an interesting avenue to pursue, but unfortunately for this film, the character development just isn’t there. Interestingly enough, the most vividly-drawn characters are actually the protagonists in “Sadistic Baron Von Klaus”–the quirky relationship between Steiner and Borowsky, along with the offbeat characters they encounter while pursuing the murderer, are far more interesting than the icy Teutonic reserve of the Von Klaus family.
"The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus"
That’s not to say that “Sadistic Baron Von Klaus” is a dud, because it’s not. It’s certainly a beautiful film to look at, skillfully employing crystal-clear cinematography along with moody use of darks and lights. About twenty minutes into the film, I realized how very much I was enjoying the style of the black-and-white and how evocative this type of film stock can be. There’s some clever and expertly-executed depth-of-field work throughout the film that allows the viewer to see multiple character exchanges and reactions in a single frame. This evokes the work of Franco’s early-career mentor Orson Welles. I swear to you I won’t make a “Citizen Kane” comparison here, but if you’ve seen that movie, then you can dig what I’d be getting at if I did make that comparison. The stalk-and-slash setpieces feel like they’re plucked from a grayscale reimagining of the aforementioned Bava film, with the black-gloved, be-hatted villain lurking in the shadows, sinister curved blade at the ready.
The sequence that gets the most attention–and understandably so–is a late-in-the-film murder sequence in the Von Klaus torture dungeon. Buxom barmaid Margaret (played by the awesomely-named Gogo Robins) winds up stripped, flogged, and bound in chains in a scene scientifically engineered by an evil genius to titillate the darker portions of the viewer’s eros-brain. This direct and explicit link between sex acts and violence is something that would become popular over a decade later, but was rarely committed to celluloid prior to the 1970s.
"The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus"
There are several quieter moments early in the film that are equally striking, and my “Best In Show Moment” money’s on the funeral of the Von Klaus matriarch. The way in which this almost dialogue-free scene is lit and photographed is so full of tension and eerieness that it shows the potential of how great this film could have been with a little assistance on the “pacing” end of things.
"The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus"
A skillfully-lensed, aesthetically-pleasing chiller, “Sadistic Baron Von Klaus” has enough to recommend it to fans of Franco as well as fans of gothic tales to make it worth a watch. Just be patient, and allow the mood and tone to work its spell. And then go catch some Bava flicks to get your full dose of high gothickry!

Caligula and Messalina [1981]

“Caligula and Messalina” is one of those movies that makes me wonder if I need a special “Movies I Am Retarded For Liking” tag, because… goddammit, I enjoyed this super-sleazy Tinto-Brass-tailcoat-rider of a history-bender WAY more than I should have. Several years after crafting the uglier, stupider sister to Brass’ “Salon Kitty” in the form of “SS Girls,” trash auteur Bruno Mattei would craft an uglier, stupider sister to Brass’ “Caligula” in the form of “Caligula and Messalina.” Properly speaking, only *half* of the movie is about Caligula’s fictional relationship with notorious uber-whore Messalina–the rest charts the ambitious dame’s marriage to Claudius, who inherited Rome’s throne after Caligula’s assassination. A better name for the movie might be “Special Ed ‘I, Claudius,'” but a better BETTER name (if a significantly less pithy one) would be “Messalina versus Agrippina,” because the central conflict in the story surrounds the political machinations of these two women.

"Caligula and Messalina"
Rather than attempt to give a history lesson that I’m uniquely unqualified to dole out, I’ll summarize thusly: Caligula was a Roman emperor who may or may not have started out mad, but certainly got there with great haste. His flamboyance became colored with extreme narcissism and paranoia, which led him down a path of violence and general acting-out that raised eyebrows even in Ancient Rome.* Claudius, the probably-sickly, maybe mentally-handicapped uncle** of Caligula, assumed the throne after his death and married Messalina, a member of the court notorious for her promiscuity.*** Messalina wound up at the wrong end of an execution after being implicated in an assassination plot against her husband. After Messalina’s death, Claudius married Caligula’s sister Agrippina, who was rumored to be her brother’s lover.****
*This may be an understatement.
**This may be an over-statement.
***This may be an ancient world slut-shaming lie, or it might not. Who knows. Messalina’s name may also be the source of the colloquialism “A Hot Mess.” Or I might’ve just made that up.
****I know, your heads are spinning, but we’re done now.
"Caligula and Messalina"
So yes. “Caligula and Messalina” takes all of this as its plot, and adds the wrinkle that Caligula and Messalina were Romantically Entangled too, as a part of Messalina’s plot to seize power. The two meet after Messalina defeats a gladiator in hand-to-hand combat in the Coliseum. No–really.
"Caligula and Messalina"
Does all this sounds a little boring to you? Well, it sounded kinda boring to Bruno Mattei anyway, which is why he crammed this movie full of boobs, orgies, boobs, horse-fucking, boobs, and gladiatorial combat as he could. And where Mattei couldn’t film footage of his own, he just lifted sequences wholesale from such classic films as the 1961 peplum “Colossus of Rhodes,” the 1962 Biblical epic “Pontius Pilate,” and Walerian Borowczyk’s 1975 shocker “The Beast” (and yes, I AM embarrassed that I recognized the *specific* horse-fucking footage from “The Beast” when it appeared on screen). Unsolicited pro-tip: if you’re going to appropriate footage to pad out your buck-ninety-nine historical sexploiter, make sure it’s not from a movie made twenty years ago for about two-hundred times as much money. Or–on second though, DEFINITELY do that, because the unintentional giggles that this choice elicited made the movie-watching experience even better! There are some excellent moments where the film stock changes from frame to frame and characters are clearly addressing people who are not present.
"Caligula and Messalina"
Mattei’s vision for “Caligula and Messalina” involved a lot of metallic lame fabrics, breasts, and factoid-spouting expository dialogue–uttered at breakneck speed lest anyone get too bored between orgy sequences. Where an orgy sequence just won’t do, there’s an awkward, topless interpretive dance sequence or a squicky sex scene. How squicky, you may ask? Well, there’s a threesome involving an elderly man and a midget, there’s a mother-daughter lesbian encounter, and there’s also a scene in which Salvatore Baccaro, “The Beast In Heat” himself, appears in typically brutish fashion (but does not gobble any pubic hair–sorry). There is always someone watching the action go down through a window or doorway. I can only assume this is Mattei’s commentary on the audience’s own voyeurism–either that, or it’s a convenient way to show how characters know everything that other characters are up to.
"Caligula and Messalina"
Moving on to the acting… well, to say it’s wooden would be an affront to furniture everywhere. You’d think a movie with a Caligula who can’t properly rant would be lousy, and this probably is lousy, but it’s also so chock-full of dumb stuff happening all the time that I can’t hate it. I’m pretty sure the female leads spent much of their time keeping their respective gorges down during some skanky sex scenes, so Betty Roland (Messalina) and Françoise Blanchard (Agrippina) can’t be held responsible for their mediocre performances. Besides, they’re so very frequently so very nude that I, for one, am willing to let their lack of emotive chops slide. And hey–while I’m at it–can anyone answer the question of how Françoise Blanchard put in such an unforgettable performance in Jean Rollin’s “Living Dead Girl” only to be so meh in everything else I’ve seen her in? It’s one of cinema’s great mysteries, I think.
The cherry on the sundae here is a sweeping “love theme” that plays throughout the movie’s erotic sequences.
"Caligula and Messalina"
As one might expect, this movie exists under a bunch of different names in a bunch of different cuts. I’ve watched the glorious hour-and-forty-eight-minute uncut version, a film whose weirdness is only intensified by having the excised footage cut back in but not re-dubbed, so characters will begin speaking in German, seemingly for no reason. I can attest to the fact that several cuts seem to exist for grindhouse run-time needs, but the lesbian pool scene between Agrippina and Messalina appears to’ve wound up on the cutting room floor, criminally enough. Oh yeah–and some major plot point exposition. But I think we can all agree on this sentiment when it comes to our trashfilms: “Fuck plot points.”
"Caligula and Messalina"
How to sum all this up? Well, if you didn’t dig Brass’ “Caligula,” you’ll want to steer clear of Mattei’s “Caligula and Messalina,” since it strikes a similar balance between historical setting and slimy exploitation. If, however, you have a craving for togas, uncomfortable simulated sex, and a general air of ridiculosity, THIS is your movie.