Monday, 9 December 2013

'VHS Resurrection' - Melbourne's first public VHS Swapmeet

Had a great time at the ‘VHS Resurrection’ event that was part of this year’s Monsterfest on November 30th. The proceedings kicked off at Cinema Nova in Carlton with a VHS Swapmeet, which I believe is the first one of its kind held to the public in Melbourne. My only issue here is that this part of the event really needed to be held in a more suitable venue, as there was no proper room for people to display their tapes, so videos ended up being dumped randomly everywhere on the cinema seats, creating confusion as to who they actually belonged to. Otherwise, I had lots of fun zipping around the piles of tapes, checking out rarities such as the rare hologram edition of THE VIDEO DEAD (which I haven’t seen since 1988!), THIS VIOLENT WORLD, CARNIVAL OF BLOOD and the ever-popular ISLAND OF PERVERSION.
 
Soon after the audience settled in to watch the superlative documentary VIDEO NASTIES: MORAL PANIC, CENSORSHIP & VIDEOTAPE (its director, Jake West, was meant to be in attendance, but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute). If you haven’t seen the doco yet about this sorry chapter in censorship history, do so now!!!! The DVD has just been officially released in Australia for a measly $25 (consisting of a triple-disc set and free ‘Video Nasties’ poster). Next up was a very welcome surprise screening of the shot-on-video laugh riot BOARDINGHOUSE. I’m truly glad that I finally got to see THIS masterpiece, the very studly Warwick Capper-esque director/leading man resplendent in his seXXXy leopard skin speedos and gold jewellery won't fail to give me nightmares for weeks on end.
 
 


The director/star of Boardinghouse, Warwick Capper...oops, John Wintergate


 
 
 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

‘Animal Farm’ and the tragedy of Bodil Joensen

 
The 2006 documentary THE DARK SIDE OF PORN: THE REAL ANIMAL FARM provides an intriguing look at the background of one of the most infamous pornographic videotapes of all time, ‘Animal Farm’, as well as the tragic life of its star performer, Bodil Joensen. Due to its bestiality content I have no interest in seeing the actual film, but I’ve long been fascinated by the shroud of notoriety surrounding the film as well as the troubled story of Joensen (in the various photographs I’ve seen of her, I always noticed a sad, almost haunted, look in her eyes) and why and what exactly led her to perform in these sorts of productions.
Featuring many interviews with collaborators and friends of Joensen such as filmmakers Ole Ege and Shinkichi  Tajiri, as well as a variety of others providing their opinion on the film such as Germaine Greer and ‘Headpress’ editor David Kerekes (“There’s only so much filth you can wallow in – I think ‘Animal Farm’’s pretty much at the bottom of the pit”), not to mention many non-explicit excerpts from Joensen’s films, plenty of rare stills, and a non-judgmental voice-over, THE REAL ANIMAL FARM provides a wealth of information for anyone interested in the story behind the tape.
The documentary begins with a look at the home video revolution that took off in the early 1980’s in England. For the first time in history, consumers were able to borrow or purchase programmes of their choice and watch them as many times as they liked in the comfort of their own home. Naturally the success of the VCR led to a massive demand for pornographic titles, especially illegal hardcore material – one in four VHS tapes on the market was a porno. With the demand for ever more sensational films growing (including the lurid horror and sexploitation titles soon to be known as ‘The Video Nasties’), bootlegging and piracy became rife. Seizing the lucrative money-making opportunity, dupers took to smuggling in more extreme XXX material into the UK from more sexually permissive countries such as Denmark and Holland. In mid-1981, four zoophilia tapes, collectively known as ‘Animal Farm’, were snuck past British customs into the country (it should be noted that the ‘films’ have no official title; the tapes became universally known as ‘Animal Farm’ due to underground dealers, traders and collectors always referring to it by that name).
 'Animal Farm’s’ content itself was a compilation of clips from various films Bodil Joensen had starred in, and assorted Color Climax Corporation bestiality loops (the original source of the tape was in fact from Color Climax, a hugely successful Danish porn production/distribution outfit catering to more ‘specialised’ tastes). The narrator explains “’Animal Farm’ has no plot, but shows countless indecent acts including penetrative, anal and oral sex with every conceivable animal”. Indeed the grimy-looing snippets shown of randy, elderly ‘backwoods’ looking farmers and grubby, unwashed farm girls about to engage in copulations was more than enough for me.  The first wave of video dupers sold copies of ‘Animal Farm’ to Soho sex shop dealers for up to 70 pounds each, and subsequently the ‘under-the-counter’ tapes sold to customers like hotcakes. Police raids in Soho did uncover the ‘Animal Farm’ tapes, however they were too late to stop the film from being widely distributed.  It was a matter of time before the film became nationally, then internationally, known as an underground legend, often viewed as a gross-out curio rather than a masturbatory aid. Even during my years at high school in the 90’s, it was still being sniggered about by knowing teenage boys upon the mention of George Orwell’s novel of the same title in classes. I’ve also had it verified that at a certain Victorian country football club in the 1980’s, ‘Animal Farm’ was screened to adolescent boys (along with other highly dubious material) during their infamous ‘piss, pies and porn’ fundraiser nights. Even more disturbingly, these films were supplied to the football club by the local police (!!!) Coincidentally, in his book Hip Pocket Sleaze, John Harrison mentions a similar story he was told when purchasing an old collection of 8mm stag loops from regional Victoria. Only difference being one of the particular films shown at the particular football club he was told about was THE ANAL DWARF (!!!!)

But what of Bodil Joensen, the first ever widely recognisable person to appear in a bestialily porn video? During her heyday, the unkempt but pretty, voluptuous blonde with striking blue eyes appeared to be a vivacious, free-spirited ‘child of nature’; a vanguard of free love. Few were aware of the horrifically abusive childhood Joensen suffered and of one particular traumatic event which was to change the course of the scarred young girl’s life forever.
 
 
Born in 1944, Joensen was brought up by a devoutly Christian mother in Hundige, a small provincial village near Copenhagen. Her father, a military officer, was absent for most of her childhood, and her sexually repressed mother was extremely physically and emotionally abusive. If the young Bodil was seen simply chatting to a boy after school, she was whipped brutally. Her mother’s abuse caused her to withdraw from other children. At the age of 12, when walking home from school Joensen was violently raped by a man who forced her into a deserted train station waiting room. Bodil told her unsympathetic mother, who viciously beat her and said she was to blame for the rape. The traumatised, confused and resentful girl made a promise that would haunt her for the rest of her days. In spite to shock her mother, she made a pledge that she would have sex with boars. As Bodil grew older, her oath to her mother slowly began to manifest itself. Lonely and isolated from human affection, Bodil sought solace from the animals she loved. Her first sexual encounter with an animal was with her beloved German Shepard, her only friend and closest companion and soon after at 15, she left her mother’s farm, never to return. Both to flee the abuse she had endured and as a backlash against the traditional, religious lifestyle her mother wished for her to follow.
Alienated from her family and homeless in the Danish countryside, Joensen found work as a farmhand and eventually set up her own animal husbandry business, ‘Insemination Central’. However, malicious rumours soon were spread by the conservative farmer’s wives who were jealous of the attractive, outgoing young girl and prevented their husbands from associating with her, subsequently leading to a major loss of funds. Desperate to keep her pigs, failing business and home, Bodil saw a money-making opportunity in zoophilia pornography. Initially appearing in ‘light fetish’ porn produced by Ole Ege, she then contacted Color Climax Corporation with the proposal of appearing in bestiality loops for them. A venture that was to make the company millions. Within a few months after this transition, she had earned enough to keep her business afloat. From 1969 to 1972, Joensen appeared in over 40 feature films and 8mm loops of this nature.




A key film from this period was the documentary short BODIL JOESEN: A SUMMERDAY by Japanese-American underground filmmaker Shinkichi Tariji. Tariji, intrigued by Joensen and her way of life, shot four days of footage of at her farmhouse, intending to show the ‘real’ Bodil to the public, not just the anonymous sex performer. The documentary shows Bodil living with her animals on her farm (“two rabbits, seven dogs, a dozen pigs, some cats, a guinea pig, a mare and a beautiful black stallion named Dreamlight”), including their care, her affection for them, and her sexual life. This footage is intercut with numerous photographs of Joensen and her family and magazine articles.

A SUMMERDAY was the surprise winner of Amsterdam’s 1970 Wet Dream Film Festival (attended by a combination of the mackintosh brigade and the free-love hippie crowd) This turned Joensen into an underground superstar overnight and a symbol of the ‘permissiveness’ and open-mindness of the era. Other documentary crews from around the world captured the young farm girl’s exploits on film.

Much of the footage compiled in ‘Animal Farm’ is said to have been culled from  A SUMMERDAY as well as San Francisco roughie auteur Alex de Renzy’s ANIMAL LOVER. Jack Stevenson in Shock Xpress Book 2 notes “...to appreciate the accomplishments of A SUMMERDAY, it should be seen alongside its brain-damaged twin, ANIMAL LOVER, perhaps the crudest and rudest exploitation film ever.” A clumsily shot, inept and relentlessly ugly ‘pseudo-documentary’, it is narrated by a inarticulate, rambling ‘distinguished’ looking type ala Dr. Francis B. Gross from FACES OF DEATH wearing thick glasses and a red polka dot tie. According to Stevenson, “Bodil’s stock repertoire of sex acts is almost identical to those shown in the other films, but here there are more close-ups and zoom shots, and the scenes last longer, with little camera movement.” One particular staged segment manages to hit a new low point, even for shockumentaries. A young woman claims to have been kidnapped by a group of sadistic Arab men when holidaying in Marrakesh and held as a sex slave for months, including being forced to have sex with dogs. Stevensen states “...this section of ANIMAL LOVER must rank as one of the misguided, ghastly and hideous attempts at titillation ever.”


Joensen happily allowed the documentary makers to film her as well as visiting sex tourists who arrived at her farm by the busloads. She enjoyed both the media attention as well as the financial reapings, which allowed her to achieve her dream goal; purchasing her own farm. As the 1970’s drew to a close Joensen’s life was almost settling down into a ‘regular’ domestic existence, living with her partner Knud Andersen and their daughter (born in 1972). Amongst her pornographic activities, Bodil was still running Insemination Central with the assistance of Andersen. To subsidise the upkeep of the animals, Joensen was still allowing sex tourists access to the farm in order to make their own private bestiality movies. By this time, financially lucrative pornographers were looking elsewhere for new moneymaking hardcore action kicks, and the Danish porn industry turned its back on her. Bodil was now in her mid-30’s and unable to secure any more movie contracts, and only amateur filmmakers were still interested in her. Unfortunately the dawn of a new decade would mark the beginning of a rapid decline for the “Boar Girl”.
By 1980, the only income Joensen could bring in was from  performing live sex acts with her dog in a number of small clubs in Copenhagen. In order to survive, she was having to perform a gruelling 3 shows a night for 7 days a week. To her friends Joensen presented a facade of happiness, however the reality was that her personal life was rapidly spirally out of control. Suffering from severe depression, she was smoking up to 100 cigarettes a day, overeating (leading to a weight gain of 30 kilos/65 pounds) and drinking heavily.  Her partner Knud was also an alcoholic and their addiction rendered them incapable of looking after the animals on the farm. In 1981, police and animal welfare officers raided their farm after a tip-off from locals. The officials were astounded and horrified by what they discovered - the farm was in an extreme state of decay. Pigs were drowning in a metre and a half of their own excrement. A decomposing carcass of a pig was found, half eaten by the other starving pigs. Sadly, not one of the animals survived as it was necessary for all to be euthanised. Joensen was charged with severe neglect and animal abuse and sentenced to 30 days jail. Upon her release from prison and having lost her business and beloved animals, the devastated Joensen reluctantly resorted to prostitution to support her partner and daughter, hiring a seedy room in Copenhagen’s red-light district. Desperate to fuel her alcohol addiction, she willingly exchanged sex for cheap liquor. Joensen openly loathed the sex work she was forced to undertake, as she stated in her final interview in the early 1980’s: “In my situation it’s very hard to turn down the most disgusting propositions. For me, staying alive in the hooking business is hell.” Ironically, at the same time as Bodil was struggling to survive, she was being screened in homes all over Britain, then subsequently the world, as bootlegs of ‘Animal Farm’ became widely circulated.
Towards the end of her life, Bodil was drinking a bottle and a half of schnapps a day as well as being hooked on out-of-date tranquilizers supplied by a back-street doctor. Her friends had deserted her and she had no one to turn to, save from her equally alcohol dependent partner. A broken woman, she was prematurely aged, obese, and having abandoned her ‘cheerful’ front, often appeared worn, tired and sad. A far cry from the lively “Queen of the Boars” seen in countless documentaries only a decade previously. Bodil Joensen passed away on 3 January 1985 of cirrhosis of the liver, aged just forty. Her partner Knud Andersen died in 1997 aged sixty seven and was buried with Joensen in a cemetery in Copenhagen.
THE DARK SIDE OF PORN: THE REAL ANIMAL FARM concludes by noting the explosion of extreme, specialised pornography readily available since Joensen’s heyday. “What started as a trickle of illegal hardcore tapes is now a torrent of the most extreme material imaginable, easily accessible within a few clicks. The porno industry is constantly on the lookout for any new fetish to capture and sell to a global market.”
The multi-million dollar industry of pornography will continue to grow and women like Bodil Joensen will seemily be always attracted to it and of achieving fame and fortune. After almost thirty years after her death, the woman dubbed “The Queen of Bestiality” still remains a cult figure. Some claim her to be a pioneer of sexual freedom and expression, but others see an abused, naive woman ruthlessly exploited by the industry she represented.





  


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Goblin 2013 Melbourne Concert Review

Seeing as the legendary Italian prog-rock/soundtrack masters Goblin have just landed on U.S. shores as part of their triumphant international tour, I thought I'd include a belated link here to my review at the Cinemadrome forums of their 5-star show in July this year in Melbourne.

The review can be read here:

http://cinemadrome.yuku.com/topic/1463/GOBLIN-Billboard-The-Venue-2013-Melbourne-Concert-Review#.Uke9flp-8u4


Audience shot of the full-to-capacity Melbourne Billboard gig:


Another audience shot of the again sell-out Melbourne town hall show, November 2012:


RETURN OF THE BLOODSUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES - Jess Franco fans take note!


COMING SOON...THE FEATURE FILM!!!!!
An extension of the original 2010 web video series RETURN OF THE BLOODSUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES, created and written by Robert Monell and directed by ‘Mathis Vogel’ aka highly innovative and talented up-and-coming genre filmmaker Alex Bakshaev. A no-budget ($50!!! Yes you read that right) semi-sequel to Jess Franco’s OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES. “Evil genius Dr. Orloff dispatches Andros, a murderous android, to Earth on a mission to start a global zombie outbreak. See the mad Dr. Mabuse, the sinister Dr. Orloff and crazed cultist Howard Vernon battle for the control of humanity!” Great use of location shots, lighting effects and music in the series shows just how much you can achieve even with a micro-budget and I’m really looking forward to the full-length feature.
Watch the original series here:
http://vimeo.com/37328729

Some teaser stills from the feature film...coming soon!
 


 

 
 
 
 
 

    





 
 
 

 

Friday, 13 September 2013

A 'mystery' Jess Franco title - 'He's Dead Because of the Burglars'


A filmography of Jess Franco films in an old issue of the UK horror magazine Samhain (Issue 5, Sept/Oct 1987) has something called 'He's Dead Because of the Burglars' listed as one of his films from 1979, though in my years of reading Franco articles/information I’ve never seen any other reference to this extremely bizarre ‘mystery’ title. Neither have renowned Franco experts Robert Monell and Francesco Cesari. This could be either (a) an obscure retitling (b) a never-filmed project (c) an error by the authors of the filmography (d) a fictitious title made up by someone (e) a long-lost film (unlikely). Note that The Hot Death aka 99 Women has been erroneously included here.

Book Review: THE JOURNAL OF PROFESSOR ABRAHAM VAN HELSING by Allen Kupfer

I highly recommend writer and fellow genre expert Allen Kupfer's very entertaining and original spin on the Dracula legend, The Journal of Professor Abraham Van Helsing. An addictively spooky and atmospheric novel written in ‘diary’ style, the plot entails the author Kupfer unearthing an old journal in his grandmother’s attic which turns out to have belonged to the legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing (who was a close friend of Kupfer’s grandfather). The diary traces Van Helsing’s journey to Hungary where at the residence of vampire specialist Dr.Borescu, he first encounters the beautiful, hypnotically seductive female vampire Malia and witnesses the devastation the plague of the undead is causing across Eastern Europe. Van Helsing flees home to Amsterdam by the skin of his teeth, but soon discovers that nothing will stop Malia from capturing her prey upon realising his beloved wife has been infected. Realising that he may never escape the vampires, Van Helsing delves into research to try and find a way to stop their evil reign and discovers the possibility that it was in fact Malia who transformed Vlad the Impaler into a vampire, and that Malia and her ilk originated from the Middle East centuries ago. Thus continues Van Helsing’s grisly quest as he ventures to the exotic locales of Transylvania and Mosul where the ghastly creatures continue to wreak bloody, brutal mayhem...
 
Fluid and action-packed, the ‘journal’ format doesn’t distract from the reading experience at all and really enhances it, particularly with the addition of footnotes, annotations and eerie pencil ‘sketches’. An excellent addition to the vampire literature genre and a must-read for all vampire and horror fans.
 
Available at Amazon:
 
 
 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Alien Terror (1980) - review


Alien Terror

1980

Starring: Belinda Mayne, Marc Bodin, ‘Michael Shaw’ (Michele Soavi)

 


Cave explorer Thelma (Mayne) has been invited to appear on a TV talk show to discuss her experiences. At the same time, a space shuttle is due to return to Earth. Thelma is asked about the most recent cave she and her friends have visited, but as she begins to speak, she receives a telepathic warning to stop her from revealing the location of the cave. The space shuttle lands in the ocean, but there is no trace of the astronauts who should have been on board. Thelma meets up with her friends (who, in a laughable attempt to appeal to the American market, have names such as ‘Jill’, ‘Cliff’ ‘Bert’ and ‘Roy’, are hanging out at the local bowling alley, drinking sodas and prone to using such sayings as “far out!”), who are planning to return to the cave which Thelma was prevented from discussing. On a beach nearby, a little girl wanders away from her babysitter and finds a weird blue pulsating rock. She picks it up and soon after, the babysitter finds her with a bloody, mutilated face. En route to the cave, the explorers find a similar blue stone, and decide to take it with them.
 
They arrive at their destination, an immense network of tunnels, and split into small groups. The stone, which Thelma has been carrying in her backpack begin pulsating; it explodes and a red gooey thing flies onto Jill’s face. She falls into a pit and one of the guys goes to help her. When he is doing so, the ‘thing’ breaks out from under Jill’s face (a great gooey effect) and attaches itself to the guy’s neck, gorily decapitating him. The film then goes into body count mode as the others try to escape; the splattery highlights including Bert’s face being eaten off and Cliff’s entire body exploding. Thelma and Roy manage to find the exit and they head back into town, however it is entirely deserted. In the film’s one genuinely eerie scene, they return to the empty bowling alley to find the equipment operating by itself. Roy disappears and Thelma soon encounters the mother alien – rendered by a shot of the creature’s gaping mouth). Thelma, the town’s only survivor, runs out onto the street, and the film ends with the el cheapo caption ‘You may be next!’

This unashamed Alien rip-off (released as Alien 2 in some territories – this is actually the title that appeared at the beginning of the Australian VHS release!) is as corny and cliched as hell but it’s also a lot of fun. The gore effects are surprisingly good, and the caves, though not visually outstanding, are quite effective, full of stalagmites and stalactites. The film has a generally more upbeat atmosphere than most Italian horror films, with its use of bright sunshine, dumb humor and pleasant Guido and Maurizio De Angelis (under the pseudo ‘Oliver Onions’) title track. On the downside, Ippolito wastes far too much time on unimportant shots, padding out the movie’s running time with endless scenes of people driving around in cars. Ippolito’s direction is routine, with his main intention (in the Italian tradition) to cash in on the latest Hollywood blockbuster quickly and cheaply. Switch your brain off and enjoy!   




 
 

 

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (1971) - review


The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio
1971
Director: Eric Jeffrey Haims
Starring: Sebastian Brook, Mady Maguire, Rene Bond


The pre-cert Intervision VHS release of THE JEKYLL AND HYDE PORTFOLIO is well-known amongst collectors to be one of the rarest Australian tapes around and even back in the golden age of video this was never an easy title to find, due to an extremely limited release. A near-mint copy showed up on Ebay a couple of years ago, pocketing a cool $2000 for its lucky owner. Unfortunately that, and the fact that it’s evidence of the dumping ground Australia was in the early 80s for obscure trash rarities, is the most interesting thing about this exercise in tedium. In the 19th century, a professor, under the influence of ever-changing multiple personalities and the zodiac sign he was born under, goes on a murderous rampage. Filled with headache-inducing Milliganesque bad camerawork, bad editing, bad lighting, bad acting, bad plot, bad effects, bad sex scenes. And no, none of this is in the 'so bad it's good category'. Somehow I don’t see a Blu-Ray or DVD release in the near or distant future, thank Christ...

Blood Bath (1976) - review


Blood Bath
1976
Director: Joel M.Reed
Starring: Harve Pressnell, Jack Somack, Curt Dawson


Acclaimed horror producer and actor Peter Brown is holding a dinner party in his “New York horror film studio” for the cast of his latest movie. The table conversation revolves around superstition, the occult and Satanism, and each guest tells a “true” story of how someone they know has come to a bad end, with no other explanation apart from  supernatural forces. The first is about a hitman getting a taste of his own medicine via a series of uncanny coincidences; the second a meek husband escaping his domineering wife via a magical talisman which transports him back in time into one of Napoleon’s wars; the third a money-hungry loan shark being trapped in a safe with the vengeful ghost of a man he’d ruthlessly stood over for money years before; and the forth a hedonistic kung-fu student who betrays the masters he studied under by selling secret martial arts techniques he learned there for cash. However the student pays the ultimate price when the masters seek revenge.  And finally Peter has his own tale involving a pact with Satan’s daughter and a murderous Devil’s spawn but that won’t be told until after his guests have left...
Before directing the notorious BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, Joel M.Reed helmed this comparatively tame horror anthology (mild enough for the MPAA to rate it a PG). The segments move along at a decent pace and the amateur cast doesn’t take itself too seriously, which allows for a few funny and engaging moments. However, the postage stamp-sized budget stifles any further potential BLOOD BATH could have had. Much of the movie seems to have been filmed in dank, dark, cluttered New York basements, the effects consist of stock footage and mannequin limbs, and the music score sounds like it was cobbled together on a toy keyboard. A fitfully entertaining curio, BLOOD BATH is definitely not the worst no-budget film I’ve seen, but certainly not the best.


 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

My Reviews column at Cinefear Video

Recently I've began reviewing product for Keith Crocker's Cinefear Video (a legendary mail-order outfit mentioned in an earlier blog post). All my reviews can be found at the Cinefear Blog - my column is also called 'Chelle's Inferno', as a 'companion' to this blog. So far there's write-ups for GUYANA: CULT OF THE DAMNED, GIALLO IN VENICE, SHADOW OF ILLUSION, ABBY and SEXORCISMS and coming soon detailed reviews on Crocker's own memorable contributions to horror/exploitation - THE BLOODY APE and BLITZKREIG: ESCAPE FROM STALAG 69. And while you're there do yourself a favour and check out my fellow reviewer, author Allen Kupfer's column 'Cupfuls of Kupfer', who enlightens us on everything from CARNIVAL OF BLOOD to BLACK EMANUELLE, WHITE EMANUELLE.

http://cinefear.blogspot.com.au/p/chelles-inferno.html

 




 

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Crisanti Connection


The late 1970’s-early 1980’s was a golden era in Italian horror cinema as directors such as Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Ruggero Deodato were setting box offices on fire with the most famous/infamous movies of their careers. At the same time, producer Gabriele Crisanti, noting the success of his fellow countryman, sensed an opportunity and jumped on the bandwagon.  Along with a small stable of regular collaborators, Crisanti quickly churned out almost a dozen low-grade potboilers which gave the target audience exactly what they wanted – blood, boobs and bush in spades. His works from the period – MALABIMBA, GIALLO IN VENICE, PATRICK STILL LIVES, BURIAL GROUND and SATAN’S BABY DOLL – all share a number of common factors. Plots take a back seat in favour of cheaply executed but bloody and graphic jack-in-the-box gore scenes, gratuitous sex and nudity  (often juxtaposed with sexually violent deaths), and an all-round grimy, sleazy atmosphere. The characters are often unlikable bickering oddballs who are hacked up off one by one – set to occasionally recycled locations and music. Crisanti’s productions are also notorious for going where even seasoned genre practitioners wouldn’t go – incest, female masturbation and genital violence are all filmed in lingering close-ups.  Now for a closer look at Crisanti and his key collaborators Mario Landi and Mariangela Giordano.
Gabriele Crisanti began his career as a production designer before turning to producing in the late 1960’s. Always astute of the marketability of his product, Crisanti rapidly turned out film after film of whatever what was in vogue with audiences at the time, hoping to Xerox the profit of the trend’s pioneer titles.  Beginning the 1970’s with decameroticons, he then veered to erotic comedies in the mid 70’s, before winding up the decade by venturing into the horror market.
Crisanti’s first production in this field was an exorcism/nunsploitation cash-in, MALABIMBA (1979), the sordid tale of an innocent young girl becoming possessed by evil spirits after a séance gone wrong and embarking on a sex-fuelled rampage, with her father, uncle and the family nun amongst her depraved targets. Crisanti’s girlfriend at the time, Mariangela Giordano, played the role of the nun, and subsequently went on to act in all of Crisanti’s horror projects.

 

An elegant looking but uninhibited actress with classic Mediterranean features, Mariangela Giordano participated in some of the most unforgettably shocking scenes in Eurohorror history throughout her filmography with Crisanti (a poker entering her vagina in close-up and exiting via her mouth in Patrick Still Lives; her nipple being bitten off by her zombified, incestuous son in Burial Ground, to name just a few...) Unlike other Italian exploitation starlets, Giordano was a capable actress, often injecting a wide range of expressions and emotions into one-dimensional characters initially solely written in as eye candy and/or cannon fodder. Her obvious dedication to her craft and willingness to appear in such extreme scenes has a simple reason – because of her devotion to Crisanti. “Looking back, I shouldn’t have done them. But I was in love with Gabriele. I would have done anything for him. Now I can see how the increasingly gruesome ways in which he had me killed in them was a reflection of the breakdown of our relationship. PATRICK STILL LIVES is the worst instance of how shocked I was in retrospect by something I’d done on film. That poker scene is so disgusting, so terrible, only Gabriele could have sweet talked me into actually doing it! It took two days to film that scene, and because the poker had to keep thrusting between my legs before it came out the top of my head, it got more and more painful as we kept going. And it was cold and freezing. I don’t know why Gabriele always insisted on making these movies during winter.”
 
Giordano was also not exempt from a ultra-gruesome demise in Crisanti’s next venture, GIALLO IN VENICE (1979), a grubby, brutal giallo choosing to up the ante on explicit sex and violence rather then the stylish flourishes that usually punctuate the genre. The plot involves the murder of a young couple, a subsequent investigation uncovering the kinky sex-and-drug fuelled lifestyle of the pair, and a killer on a bloody rampage, thus providing the filmmaker to pack in its 91 minutes masturbation, buggery, voyeurism, prostitution, rape, whipping, double rape...and Giordano the victim of the most sadistic killing – having her leg messily sawed off after being tied nude to a kitchen table.
 
GIALLO IN VENICE was directed by Mario Landi, a former television director who had filmed a number of successful dramas for that medium in the 1960’s. Keen to return to feature filmmaking (he had helmed a couple of low-budget melodramas in the early 1950’s), Landi approached Gabriele Crisanti with treatments of GIALLO and his next effort, PATRICK STILL LIVES (1980). Recognising that the projects had moneymaking potential and could easily be shot in his quick, economical trademark style, Crisanti signed on Landi, who’s functional, workmanlike static direction is all too obviously much more suited to a TV studio; this is painfully obvious in the endless unprepossessing close-up shots of the title character’s zombie-like face (and flaring nostrils) in PATRICK STILL LIVES.   
 

PATRICK STILL LIVES, an unauthorised ‘sequel’ to the much more sedate genre sleeper PATRICK (1978), bears little resemblance to its predecessor. Aside from the title and the titular character possessing psychic powers, any similarities end there. Using their tried and tested formula, Landi and Crisanti instead chose to push the exploitative angle to the limit and tack the threadbare plot together with bloody creative kills and extraneous nudity. A blink and you’ll miss it pre-credit sequence shows Patrick and his father, Dr.Herschell, waiting for help on a roadside as their car has broken down. A liquor bottle thrown from a passing vehicle hits Patrick in the head, resulting in him being left in a permanently bedridden, comatose state. Three years later, Dr.Herschell, the head of “Herschell Wellness Resort” invites a handful of seemingly random people to stay there as all-expenses paid guests – a politician and his wife, a prostitute and her drug-dealing pimp, and an athlete. It soon transpires that the doctor is hell-bent on getting revenge on whoever was responsible for ruining his son’s life, and he has narrowed down the list of suspects to the group he’s invited to his retreat (not exactly the most sympathetic bunch – they spend much of their time bitching, griping and slapping each other around). In addition, Dr.Herschell has been cultivating Patrick’s psychic abilities to assist with his murderous vengeance. Patrick’s brain has been wired to those of a trio of hardened criminals, and the criminals’ evil ‘energies’ are sent through to Patrick. The doctor commands Patrick use these energies to kill off each guest one by one – everything from boiling water to decapitating car windows to crotch-grawing German Shepards comes into play here. And as mentioned earlier, a highlight/lowlight is the long suffering Mariangela Giordano having a self-levitating poker rammed up a certain orifice – a scene which was not in the original script. Gabiele Crisanti included it after a particularly bad argument with Giordano to teach her a lesson apparently (!!!) However Patrick has something other than murder on his mind when tended to by his father’s stunning assistant Lydia, He wills her to strip, hump a bedpost and masturbate (in a lengthy and graphic sequence). The film concludes abruptly (i.e. Landi and co CBF’ed including a proper ending) with Patrick suffering a crisis of conscience as to his actions as he is in love with Lydia, and after more murder and mayhem, Patrick and Lydia are the sole survivors, presumably to live happily ever after. Yes, PATRICK STILL LIVES is as stupid and ridiculous as it sounds – and the oft-repeated 1950’s standard effect of Patrick’s bulging eyes superimposed on the screen as a “warning” of impending danger and corny theremin ‘sci-fi’- sounding music just add to the ludicrousness, but if you’re in the mood for ultra sleazy, ultra cheesy fun, you can’t go wrong.

 

Crisanti’s next production is his most well-known – BURIAL GROUND (1981). Quick to catch on the massive success of zombie films at the time such as DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE, Crisanti wasted no time in securing another low-budget sleazemeister, Andrea Bianchi.  Via utilising the apocalyptic nihilism of the zombie genre and blending it in with their own misanthropic, perverse filmmaking universe, the pair created a derivative but watchably strange undead saga. Professor Ayres discovers an ancient Etruscan tomb beneath his sprawling villa and in doing so, unleashes a horde of rotten, worm-infested and bloodthirsty zombies who immediately chow down on the professor. Meanwhile, three couples arrive at the villa who have been invited as Professor Ayres’ guests so he could show them the tomb. However they have no idea of his demise and settle in, awaiting his arrival. One of the couples, George and Evelyn (Mariangela Giordano), have brought their son Michael (the legendary Peter Bark) with them. Michael is not only extremely odd in appearance (the character is meant to be about 12 years old but looks like a 40-year old dwarf with a bad toupee) but also in manner – he has a very disturbing Oedipedial fixation towards his mother, spying on her during sex and trying to feel her up all which culminates in...I’ll save this for later. The main characters frolic around the villa, completely oblivious that the living dead are creeping up all around them. Before long though the guests discover the reason for Professor Ayres’ ‘disappearance’ and are having to have to fend off the zombies, who, interestingly enough, have the ability to operate power tools, throw knives, and use battering rams to bash through doors. One by one the guests are zombified, entrails are ripped out and consumed and the body count piles up – until we get to THAT notorious scene which I guarantee will stay burned in your mind forever.  Featuring guess who? You’re right, poor Mariangela Giordano. Evelyn, one of the last survivors, is thrilled to see Michael is still apparently alive. In her delirium she fails to see he is well and truly a zombie, and when she sees him eyeing her breasts she has no qualms about offering him one to suckle “Just like when you were a baby...” But Evelyn’s ecstasy quickly turns to agony when Michael chops down on her tit, ripping the whole thing off (hmm the aftermath of another Crisanti/Giordano row perhaps?) While on paper BURIAL GROUND would sound like a unimaginative pointless, by-the-numbers zombie quickie, Crisanti’s team have worked their dubious ‘magic’ yet again.

 
The combination of truly rancid-looking, wormy zombies, the incest subplot, and buckets of queasy gore create a unforgettably fetid atmosphere with an effective sense of doom from the beginning, even managing to override the typically atrocious dubbing, sub-porno standard acting (with the exception of Giordano), and – again – the absolute minimum in terms of plot and characterisation).




For his final genre effort SATAN’S BABY DOLL (1982), Crisanti decided to remake his earlier production MALABIMBA, hiring XXX director Mario Bianchi (no relation to Andrea Bianchi) this time around. It’s clearly obvious by this time Cristiani had tired of the horror genre by not even bothering to imitate the latest box-office smash, but instead commissioning a uninspired reboot of a not particularly classic film released only three years previously. Bianchi himself isn’t particularly proud of the film, citing a miniscule budget as the main hindrance: “When Crisanti, the producer, called me I was enthusiastic. I never had done anything like it. But, as I said, the problem was that we were working on a very low budget. In Rome we call them ‘pizza e fichi’. We had very little time to do the shooting. You judge the results for yourself. The budget was so small that it was impossible for Crisanti to lose money on the film.”
In an ancient castle owned by the Aguilar family, young Miria Aguliar, the virginal 16 year old daughter of Antonio, a violent, jealous bully and the late, promiscuous Maria, is possessed by the restless spirit of her recently deceased mother (who’s body is kept in the castle’s crypt). Other residents of the castle are Antonio’s mute, voyeuristic wheelchair-bound brother Ignazio, Sol (Mariangelo Giordano) a comely nun who also acts as Ignazio’s caretaker (and the object of his voyeurism), and Isidoro, a strange manservant who regularly conducts black magic rituals in the basement. Maria’s death was caused by Antonio murdering her in a jealous rage after discovering Maria had been sleeping around with most of the castle’s occupants including Sol (cue pondering lesbian sex scene flashback). Maria also dabbled in Satanism when she was alive, and has the ability to channel her vengeful spirit into her daughter in order to eliminate those who were both directly or indirectly involved in her death. Under her mother’s evil command, Miria goes about seducing and killing all those around her.


Probably the least memorable title in Crisanti’s filmography, SATAN’S BABY DOLL is somewhat dull and plodding, pretty much a uninvolving supernatural soap opera, but it has enough sick/weird touches and decaying, morbid Gothic atmosphere to keep the viewer watching for its brief 73 minute running time. The usual Crisanti trademarks of odd, dysfunctional characters and incest themes still works to some extent. And for those inclined, there’s the usual extraneous female nudity and masturbation scenes. Last but not least is the killer psychedelic rock score by Nico Catanese (surprisingly his sole composing credit).
Though often poorly acted and executed, with style, characterisation and logic conveniently bypassed, the genre films of Gabriele Crisanti and his collaborators never pretend to be anything that they aren’t  - derivative trash – but at least Crisanti and co have gone out of their way to ensure that their output was entertaining derivative trash, with a shock factor that still packs a punch today. Unashamedly outrageous and audacious, utilising a simple formula (‘So THE EXORCIST and DAWN OF THE DEAD had blood and gore in them? Well we can do better that that – we’ll put ten times the amount of blood and gore in. And put in lots of hot naked women too!’), combined with typically Italianesque gothic settings and music, these films have their own unique appeal. Depending on the viewer’s sensibilities they’ll either love or hate the films. Best watched with a six pack, a willingness to forgive massive plot holes and NO politically correct expectations whatsoever!



 
 


Sunday, 16 June 2013

Human Animals (1983) - review


Human Animals

1983

Director: Eligio Herrero
Starring: Carole Kirkham, Jose Yepes, Geir Indvard, ‘Larry the dog’

 

A little-known and long-forgotten ultra-low budget softcore sex/’arthouse’/post-apocalyptic oddity, HUMAN ANIMALS somehow received international distribution in the mid 1980’s, including much to my surprise an Australian video release via K-Tel - now a scarce tape owned by very few collectors. In my years of haunting video stores I never once saw a copy of it. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was placed in the ‘Adult’ section of those outlets that did stock it (ala ISLAND OF PERVERSION).  A couple of popular genre writers (the late Chas Balun and Joe Bob Briggs) drew attention to the film with very contrasting reviews, Balun giving it a ‘double dog’ rating (I believe the only movie he reviewed apart from DEATH FACES IV to receive this ‘honour’), whilst a more generous Briggs rated it 3 out of 4 stars. Since then HUMAN ANIMALS has almost disappeared without a trace, save the very occasional, usually negative review, popping up on the world wide web. Despite reading the countless bad reviews and warnings about how mind-numbingly dull its meant to be (the film is completely dialogue-free), the premise and also the Australian video trailer always kept me intrigued enough to want to see it, and finally I’ve been able to (big thanks to Nzoog Wahrlfhehen of the Cinemadrome forums).

Two men and a woman, the only survivors left on Earth following a nuclear apocalypse (rendered by use of stock footage) find each other stranded on a remote island. After a long search, the three eventually discover a part of the island where fruit trees and wild animals have somehow miraculously escaped the apocalypse. They also discover a friendly German Shepherd, build shelter and are happy for a little while with their ‘utopian’ existence. The woman becomes the lover of both men but eventually tires of their constant sexual demands. Things sour between the trio and they regress further and further into a state of primal savagery, with the woman accosted by the dog (!!), and the two men embroiled in a grunting ‘survival of the fittest’ battle.       

Admittedly HUMAN ANIMALS didn’t turn out to be the irredeemable disaster I was expecting. Though by no means a classic and with a beyond simplistic story, the overall ‘bizarre’ factor kept me watching to the end, as well as the striking Lanzarote location scenery and landscape photography, and I found the music library culled soundtrack to be oddly effective, veering wildly from classical to synth to overblown wind machine effects. Out of the three thespians, Jose Yepes (a prolific screen and dubbing actor in his native Spain) is the standout, obviously attempting his best in an extremely limited role consisting of grunting, miming, fighting and simulated sex. Worth seeing as a curio to make up your own mind...