Author Archives: Mat

Review: Wake Up and Kill

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She just wants a man without a criminal record!

WAKE UP AND KILL, directed by Carlo Lizzani, is an Italian crime thriller involving a small time thief named Luciano Lutring who dreams of being a big time gangster/criminal.  He meets a beautiful singer named Yvonne and, much to her chagrin, takes her on his wild ride to play King of the Italian robbery mountain.  As his exploits get more and more brazen, the media sensationalizes him to such a degree that he believes himself to be unstoppable, setting him up for his inevitable fall.

The version of the film I watched on the Arrow blu-ray disc was the uncut 2 hour version. There is also a shortened English version of the film included that has around 20-25 minutes cut out, which, in all reality, is probably the better of the two versions. I mention this because, while watching the Italian version, I was struck by multiple moments in which I said to myself “None of this needs to be in this movie to accurately tell this story.” WAKE UP is decidedly 60’s in terms of style, aesthetic, and atmosphere.  Push zooms, a grimy, almost neorealistic approach, and a film just out of time in terms of not quite giving audiences the sex and violence they would come to expect from similar films of the 70’s.  It exists in a strange place between the conservative films of the early 60’s and the full embrace of mature content in the 70’s. In those terms, it’s interesting to view as a gateway film, showing how the crime film would ultimately be taken from it post film noir “classiness” (films such as RIFIFI and TOUCH OF EVIL) to the rough and tumble explicit grittiness of the Scorsese’s of the world.

The film itself works best early on when Luciano and Yvonne are becoming a couple. There’s a bit of Bonnie and Clyde-ness to the proceedings, with the main difference being that Yvonne is extremely vocal that she disapproves of Luciano’s lifestyle. It was refreshing to see a female character in a film like this vocalizing her opposition, even if Lizzani’s portrayal of her is, oh, what would my friend Rachel use here….problematic? Luciano repeatedly beats Yvonne throughout the film and the film does a poor job of conveying the reasons as to why Yvonne loves this guy and wants to stay with him.  Nobody comes off as good in the film, though. In one scene, the police literally walk in on a guy attempting to rape Yvonne and they completely ignore her when she wants to file a report.  Though I wouldn’t call WAKE UP AND KILL a sleazy film (there’s no nudity and barely any violence), it certainly has those sorts of elements in terms of how the characters treat and view each other.

The main problem with the film is that the middle hour just drags and drags. Luciano eventually has to split up with Yvonne because the police are on his tail and the film takes a nose dive in terms of interest and excitement once the two of them aren’t on screen together. There are a number of subplots that go nowhere and there’s a decided lack of cinematicness to the robberies (dude just breaks windows, grabs jewels, and runs away) that makes it hard to really find Luciano all that impressive of a criminal.  I was also disappointed in the lack of extras on the disc.  There are no featurettes or audio commentary tracks. In fact, had I not gone out of my way to look up some info about this film, I would have never known that it is based on a true story. Yes, Luciano Lutring was a real guy who did hundreds of robberies and became a folk hero. Learning that sort of information really changes your perception of the film and it’s a shame that Arrow didn’t put any features discussing this or showing what in the film was based on “truth” and what is good old fashioned moviemaking exaggeration.

Ultimately, I can’t really recommend this film. The lack of special features and a film that, ultimately, drags and wastes its solid set up and interesting anti-hero, make for a somewhat disappointing viewing experience. However, cinephiles who are genuinely interested in the genesis of the post-noir European crime film, would find stuff of interest in here.  Just be prepared to do a little digging on your own after the fact.

Review: What Have You Done To Solange?

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Synopsis: While on a secret tryst with her school instructor, a young girl witnesses a violent murder.  Soon, her teacher becomes the prime suspect in a series of grisly sex crimes as a black gloved killer begins offing his students. Is he the sexual deviant the cops have been looking for, or is something way sleazier going on? Yep, sounds like a giallo!

Thoughts:  This past week I was sent a bunch of screeners of upcoming releases from Arrow Films , a U.K. outfit that is sort of a poor man’s Criterion (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible) for cult and niche cinema. I’m slowly working my way through all of them and plan to post more reviews here over the coming weeks. First up, the quasi-infamous giallo WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? (1972) starring Fabio Testi, Karen Baal, and, in her first film, Camille Keaton as the titular Solange. Keaton would go on a few years later to cement her place in exploitation lore with I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and after seeing this film, I’m only half-joking when I say I’m not sure which is the sleazier piece of cinema.

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Directed by Massimo Dallamano (cinematographer on Sergio Leone’s classic films A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) with cinematography by Joe D’Amato, himself a legend in the sexploitation and schlock horror market, SOLANGE looks like a bizarre amalgamation of the unbelievably framed and lit Leone films and the gross grindhouse crass of D’Amato. What shouldn’t work when you think about it, somehow, miraculously does and I was pretty impressed by how well the picture looks. Even with all the ugly things going on, the framing, cinematography, classic 70’s zooms, pulls, and pans are all on wonderful display. Hollywood would eventually clean all these films up, throw bigger budgets at them, and call them Slashers, but there is a certain charm to Giallo that Slashers can’t pull off in terms of sheer sleaze. These films deal in similar subject matter but are generally far more graphic and throw taste out the window. SOLANGE is no different. From the opening shots, we’re shown a dead nude woman with a foot long knife sticking into her vagina. If that wasn’t enough, the filmmakers have to throw in an X-ray to show the poor girl’s father how far the knife was buried. As the story progresses, we’re treated to voyeurism, subjective camera drownings, and, in one of the most tasteless sequences I’ve seen in one of these films, a forced abortion on a kitchen table while the characters’ friends hold her down in order to preserve their sex club.  Throw in a suspected killer priest, every character lying to each other, and adultery, and you’ve got yourself a sufficiently shower inducing giallo.

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That’s not to say the film is bad. In fact, even though this just totally ain’t my thing, I can recognize that the film does hold a certain power. It does its disturbing stuff really well for its genre. I’d say it’s one of the best giallo I’ve ever seen even though I have no desire to ever see it again, if that makes sense. These sorts of horror films, that trade in shock and are blatantly sexist just don’t appeal to me as an older, wiser horror fan. When I was younger, watching women get stripped naked and stabbed by a hidden killer in an overtly sexual way would have garnered a reaction more akin to a badge of honor. “Hey man, you think that’s disturbing? Did you see the movie where the killer stabs the women to death in their vaginas??!!!!” Now, it just seems unseemly and I wonder why one would go out of their way to go to bat for a film like this? One of the extras on the disc has a great interview with Karen Baal, who plays the wife of Fabio Testi’s character. In it, she describes how Dallamano was basically a creep on set and treated Camille Keaton awfully, especially during the abortion scene where he literally made her spread eagle in front of all the other actor’s without her underwear. In another tidbit, she recalls how Dallamano screamed at her when her arm inadvertently covered up one of the actress’s breasts during a kill scene. As I watched her tell these sorts of stories from the set, it created this strange dichotomy between the undeniable artistic flair that the film showcases, and a director who, at least according to her, seemed more interested in flesh and shock than attempting to craft anything meaningful. It’s definitely an interesting film and one that each viewer will probably have their own reaction to. Maybe I can sum it up as a great example of giallo, but one that makes you question the entire sub-genre’s philosophy towards women, violence, and sexuality.

There’s no denying a certain subset of horror fans will dig this movie, and indeed, it does have a lot of positives (almost all dealing with the cinematography). Arrow Films has done a fantastic job on the blu-ray. It’s packed with a bunch of extras, including a really good, 30 minute video essay by Michael Mackenzie that explores the giallo genre as well as all three films in the “Schoolgirls in Peril” trilogy and interviews with Fabio Testi and Karen Baal.  The image is near flawless and other than some grain, I didn’t notice any scratches. Love was definitely put into a high quality release, so if you are someone who loves this grimy, sleazetastic giallo films, this is one disc not to miss. DVD and Bluray goes on sale here in America on December 15th.

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STEVE CAST

STEVECASTOur good buddy Steve, star of such Dead Lantern productions such as THE GRAND HORROR, OUTPOST DOOM, THE EYES OF ISABELLE, and SHIVERS DOWN YOUR SPINE left the Splattercast many moons ago when we gave up caring about quality and every episode sounded like a clogged toilet after a hard fat shit (which continues unabated, and unclogged to this day).  But once in a while he returns for “Stevecast”.  What is this special Splattercast?

Well, Steve came up with an interesting format wherein we watch 10 minutes of a movie we’ve never seen, break to discuss it, and then keep doing that over and over until the end of the film. There are several “rules” that we must follow which you can parse out as you listen to the show. Throw in some nifty music, some sound fx, and snazz up the overall quality and voila, you have Stevecast.  Recently, it has been decided that we shall get progressively more drunk as we do it. And we thought he cared about quality.

Stevecast happens on the last Friday of each month and is rotatingly hosted by Rachel, Mat, and Steve depending on who selected the film. We invite you to listen to these podcasts either as running commentary tracks as you watch the films yourselves, or play along every 10 minutes. Maybe, if you are a cool person, we’ll let you on if you contact us through the Splattercast Facebook Page. Or maybe we won’t. Never can tell. We’re extremely fickle.

 

Next Stevecast episode, Friday, October 30th!

Splattercast #450

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Splattercast #450 is up: Download mp3 | Subscribe via RSS | Subscribe via iTunes

We’re joined this week by Julie of 19 Nocturne Boulevard as well as Dorothy Booraem and Chad Haufschild of Unfiltered Entertainment as they discuss the creation of their new short film NO EXIT, which is world premiering at the Prairie Lights Film Festival next month.

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