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Giallo

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MichiganJ
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Re: Giallo

Postby MichiganJ » February 25th, 2012, 4:57 pm

Mr. Arkadin wrote:Let me be clear: I personally don't care for either movie. There are a lot of reasons, I could give for this, but I guess the number one aspect is lack of character depth and a killer who takes on indestructible abilities, which further isolates any humanity from the story.


For me, Halloween, in terms of launching the first "golden age" of slasher films, is really not a member of the genre. From Friday the 13th on, most slasher films consisted of elaborate deaths for their, mainly teenaged, victims. Halloween doesn't rely on this at all (it's been awhile, but I think there are two stabbings and two strangulations), and instead takes its time to build characters. I think Curtis, in her debut film I think, is perfect as the teenaged babysitter. While painted with broad strokes, Curtis still brings an intimacy that is recognizable. I mean, I had baby-sitters like her. PJ Soles, while great, is one of those "in her late 20s" high school students that make up many films featuring "teenagers." (Of course PJ remains "in her later 20s" in Rock and Roll High School, too, and is still great).

I think Carpenter achieves an enormous amount of dread throughout Halloween, and doesn't simply rely on surprise attacks, which is what Friday the 13th and later slasher films almost entirely depend on for their scares. (Just thinking about this, Alfred Hitchcock, who was the proponent of suspense, "showing the bomb under the table," has, arguably, as his most famous sequence, a surprise attack in the shower scene in Psycho). While I'm not sure I believe that Halloween implies that premarital relations will get you killed, if so, it applies equally, and more powerfully in Psycho. In fact, in Halloween both Soles and the other girl (can't remember who she is) are strangled, whereas Leigh is intimately and rather phallically stabbed.

Throughout the film, Myers is referred to as the "boogie man," and that is exactly what he is; he's our worst nightmare. As such, he must be indestructible. Unlike Jason and the Myers in the sequels, this Myers is a direct reflection of the times, aka, the late 70s. No matter how one tries to fight off the boogie man, he's always just around the corner (or under the bed) pretty much sums up the era. (At least for me. Of course, I was the typical "angry" teenager, so the late 70s may actually have been peaches and cream).

I think one can actually follow the general attitude of the times by the slasher film (superficially, of course). The late 70s films were extremely pessimistic, but by the mid 80s the pessimism morphed into a wry humor (with lots of hair), and soon the genre became a parody of itself, tolling its death knell. The genre was resurrected, and actually accepted by the masses--including the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science-- by the slasher film, The Silence of the Lambs--Itself, reflective of the early 90s. The self-aware 90s also brought the Scream series and the turbulent and endless waring 2000s has seen the remakes of the originals, but are far more violent, bleak and violent again. Or so I'm told. I have no desire to see any of them.

But that's kind of the point of the slasher film: they aren't meant for me (anymore). The first batch came around at the perfect age for my friends and me. Almost every week we would go see one of these nonsense films, along with a sold-out theater filled with other wacky teens, and have a blast. Nobody took them seriously. The scares came fast, but never lasted (because they were all surprise attacks) and the film's success was measured by how gruesome the murders were. (Savini in the credits of a slasher film was almost like seeing Scorsese's name on serious film). Everyone knew that the films were "scripted" around the various "set-pieces" (murders) and that the plot was built around them. For the most part, who the killer was, was incidental. (Hence the insane amount of Jason, Freddie and Michael sequels; the killer is part of the title). It helped if the denouement made some sense, but, unlike giallo, the slasher film generally offers no clues, so following the mystery is impossible. But, again, that's the point; the mystery doesn't matter. While comparing giallo with slasher films is understandable, the two are really quite different and are after different audiences. For me, there's no question that slasher films are a subset of the horror genre, where as giallo, having horror elements, is much more concerned with mystery. That's how you can separate Bava and Argento films into the two camps: giallo and horror. (Although the lines are often blurred).

By the way, this lack of mystery with the focus on the various murders is how I can still see Truffaut's The Bride Wore Black as something of a precursor to the slasher film. By revealing why Moreau is murdering the men, taking away any mystery, the film simply becomes a "how will she kill him " exercise, which is almost the definition of slasher. It's much better directed, acted and executed, and while at first one identifies with Moreau, the sympathy changes to her victims when the mystery is revealed to be an accident. With no "why" anymore, it's all "how," with Moreau becoming a deadly psycho with lots of elaborate deaths to concoct: aka, slasher film. (There is a lot more to it, of course, but the basic plotting would easily make a good slasher film. It's something like how The Virgin Spring leads to The Last House on the Left).

I can't imagine watching a slasher film now, even those from the first wave (which are violent, but really in a cartoony sort of way). And I really can't imagine anyone, teenagers included, watching them on home video; at least by themselves. Slasher films don't aspire to be anything but scary, primarily using, what Stephen King lovingly refers to as "the gross out," and if they've succeeded in making you jump, they've achieved their only goal. Teenagers want and like to be scared, the grosser the better. It just is. There's no question that for modern teenaged audiences, the original Friday the 13th et al, are at best quaint but most certainly antiquated. They almost have to be; it's the fate of most exploitation films (in the best sense): short shelf life.

But for me, Halloween rises above being a mere exploitation film, and is one that I still revisit on occasion.

P.S. I like a lot of early Carpenter films. It scared me to death when little Prudence from Nanny and the Professor got shot in the chest in Assault on Precinct 13; Escape from New York is great and I also really like the remake of The Thing. But I think Starman might be my favorite.
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Re: Giallo

Postby MikeBSG » February 25th, 2012, 9:02 pm

I agree that "Halloween" has very good characterization, and Jamie Leigh Curtis is wonderful. Still, sometimes, it is almost impossible to separate a movie from all the hoopla it engenders and the baggage it picks up. (I try to, I really do, but I don't always make it.)

I think what has always soured me on "Halloween," (and I'm the first to admit that it is not Carpenter's "fault") is the argument that it was a new departure for the horror film, an argument usually expressed as "Halloween is the first horror movie that was actually scary." (When it came out, I was in my senior year at high school, but I have heard this said by people well past the age of high school) I see "Halloween" as very indebted to both "The Spiral Staircase" and "Deep Red."

I also think that Carpenter really has problems with narrative structure in his films. Both "Halloween" and "The Fog" have great moments, but when it comes time to pull the threads together, the films shift in (what are to me) disastrous directions. "The Thing" is about 4/5ths of a great movie, and then it just falls apart at the end. I do like "Starman" a lot. I also like "They Live" and "In the Mouth of Madness." Still, I'd say I far prefer Carpenter and Wes Craven to George Romero and David Cronenberg.

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Re: Giallo

Postby Mr. Arkadin » February 26th, 2012, 12:05 am

MichiganJ wrote:I can't imagine watching a slasher film now, even those from the first wave (which are violent, but really in a cartoony sort of way). And I really can't imagine anyone, teenagers included, watching them on home video; at least by themselves. Slasher films don't aspire to be anything but scary, primarily using, what Stephen King lovingly refers to as "the gross out," and if they've succeeded in making you jump, they've achieved their only goal.


Very true. My first horror films were those of the 30's, where you had great actors playing complex characters, while the subject matter dealt with interesting moral and social issues. None of these things are present in most of the modern slasher films and are therefore rather dull for my taste.

Of the few I find connection with, I like Fulci's House by the Cemetery (1981), which also plays on the "boogie man" idea, but the film deals with a mystery (although not a Giallo) that has you thinking and asking questions throughout and when the big reveal comes, there's no "last girl". I'm also partial to Nightmare AKA Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (1981), which seems based on Halloween (although Scavolini claims he saw Carpenter's film afterwards), but has a sympathetic killer, giving the film a tragic element that many of these movies don't have.

I don't know that I'd call Manhunter, Silence of the Lambs, or Seven slashers, although they deal with serial killers. They don't really use set pieces and instead deal more with detection and motive. Now as for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer...
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Re: Giallo

Postby Mr. Arkadin » February 26th, 2012, 12:36 am

MikeBSG wrote: I see "Halloween" as very indebted to both "The Spiral Staircase" and "Deep Red."


Umberto Lenzi actually made a giallo based on The Spiral Staircase called Knife of Ice (1972). It's pretty good for most of the film, but cheats the ending (as in it provides an ending that was impossible to decipher because the director provided no foreshadowing clues, much like Hitchcock's Stagefright [1950]). Unfortunately, a lot of his films seem amazing, only to unravel in the last ten minutes, which is actually more frustrating than watching a boring movie that you're likely to turn off after 20 minutes or so. Nevertheless, Lenzi has made at least three great Gialli:

Orgasmo AKA Paranoia (1969)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usOfLlpF_wg[/youtube]

Seven Bloodstained Orchids (1972) You can watch this one on youtube. Here's part one:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBxK9hcc2gs[/youtube]

Spasmo (1974)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyiLMz0xM5I[/youtube]

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Re: Giallo

Postby Mr. Arkadin » March 2nd, 2012, 11:59 pm

Image

TCM is celebrating the films of Karl Malden this month, but have unfortunately disregarded one of his more interesting roles. With the international acclaim of his debut feature, Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1969), Dario Argento had a slightly bigger budget and decided to once again cast Americans for his follow up film, The Cat O' Nine Tails (1971). Argento was looking for stars that would pull in the crowds, which he found in James Franciscus and Malden who play newspaper reporters. The pair investigate a break in at genetic research center, unleashing a string of murders with as many leads and dead ends as "a cat with nine tails."

A fan made trailer which shows the early parts of the film:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fNatf5qO7I


The German trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcgQD6MUDqk

As the second installment of Argento's "Animal Trilogy" (bookended by Bird and Four Flies on Grey Velvet [1972]), The Cat O' Nine Tails might not be groundbreaking as Bird, but it provided many new ideas and techniques that Argento would incorporate in later films, most notably his masterpiece Deep Red (1975). Like the previous film, the narrative is fragmented and we are given limited pieces of the puzzle to work with. This was the first time Argento presented the murders from the killer's point of view--a new idea that he (and many other directors) would exploit more fully in future productions, while offering homage to Sidomak's Spiral Staircase (1945), by revealing a close up of the murderer's iris viewing potential prey. Cat also records the killings as they happen, whereas Bird uses offscreen violence, or just views the carnage afterwards.

Unlike most of the other works in Argento's cannon, Cat is unique in the fact that it is character driven and the film uses this aspect to enhance the mystery. After having his career cut short by blindness, Malden's "Franco" lives alone with his orphaned niece "Lori", reduced to creating crossword puzzles until he overhears a suspicious partial conversation on an evening walk and connects it with the break in the next day. Malden actually spent a week at a school for the blind to get a feel for the role, resulting in one of the better performances of his career, where he creates a sympathetic character who is not a helpless man. Indeed, it is perhaps his lack of sight that sharpens his perceptions. If Bird, Four Flies, and Deep Red are visionary films, Cat O' Nine Tails deals with other senses where Malden first detects the murderer with his ears and will later uncover him by feeling for a wound he has inflicted with a sword cane. There's also the sound of the killers tool of choice, a garrote, cutting through the air to lay hold of its victims. Composer Ennio Morricone uses different musical cues to differentiate the characters, further underpinning and deepening their roles. Lori and Franco's melodic flute theme is shared only during the lovemaking of Carlo and Anna, as it deals with the idea of a personal bond, while the killer's funk cue suggests investigative exploration, leaving the actual set piece murders mostly silent.

For most giallo fans (and even Argento, who professes no love for this movie) The Cat O' Nine Tails is a minor work that has little sex or gore and is therefore a movie to be avoided. However, it is very much a human film with a good deal of warmth, unlike The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which is more distant in viewpoint (and at times seems somewhat like a film exercise) and holds a truly ironic ending in its final frames. In other words, it's a great place for the uninitiated to begin their journey into the twisted world of giallo.
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Re: Giallo

Postby MikeBSG » March 3rd, 2012, 9:34 am

I've never seen "Cat o' Nine Tails," but I remember it because it actually played at the Southgate cinema in my Cleveland suburb. A friend of mine lived across the street from the suburb, and he was very taken with the poster, so much so that he had me walk across the street to look at it.

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Re: Giallo

Postby Mr. Arkadin » March 3rd, 2012, 3:02 pm

MikeBSG wrote:I've never seen "Cat o' Nine Tails," but I remember it because it actually played at the Southgate cinema in my Cleveland suburb. A friend of mine lived across the street from the suburb, and he was very taken with the poster, so much so that he had me walk across the street to look at it.


It's available from Blue Underground and is a nice little movie. Not as hard hitting as Bird or Deep Red, but enjoyable and Malden is great in it (but when did he ever give a bad performance?). It also has hardly any explicit gore or sexuality in it, which would make it more accessible to classic film fans. Malden and Franciscus give weight to their characters and add more dimension to the movie. It's hard to imagine how the complex themes and undercurrents of the interpersonal relationships of Deep Red would have developed without this film or the one that followed, Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972):

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8feDiUALvjw[/youtube]

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Re: Giallo

Postby MichiganJ » March 6th, 2012, 4:22 pm

Here is an hour long video of Q & A with Argento after a screening of Suspiria at USC last month.

http://pronountrouble2.wordpress.com/20 ... to-at-usc/
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Re: Giallo

Postby Mr. Arkadin » March 7th, 2012, 10:57 am

MichiganJ wrote:Here is an hour long video of Q & A with Argento after a screening of Suspiria at USC last month.

http://pronountrouble2.wordpress.com/20 ... to-at-usc/


Interesting. The Q&A from that audience was pretty revealing, with the best question coming from the guy who'd seen Five Days in Milan (1973), which wasn't really a question! I found the discussion about his working with Leone on Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) fascinating. I knew that he wrote for this film, but not to the extent he described. It also makes sense when you see how he had Ennio Morricone sync themes for The Cat O' Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet with people and events, much like he did earlier in Leone's film, although I had heard that Morricone originally began to work on Argento's debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage as a personal favor to his father, who was a well known producer.


Since we've covered two of the big three so far, here's an interview with Lucio Fulci. In this segment, he discusses Giallo and the fundamental difference between the thriller and horror. The rest of the interview is equally entertaining, as the man is never at a loss for words:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fEaz7-__PQ[/youtube]


[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JToRsltCMIU[/youtube]

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Re: Giallo

Postby Mr. Arkadin » March 8th, 2012, 10:49 am

Apparently, someone has released a new version of Francesco Barilli's Pensione Paura (1977). I don't know if this is a legit release or a fandub, where someone has assembled various prints to make a watchable film. The images are sharp and clear and the color composition is breathtaking:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MZ2Fz-l4LU[/youtube]

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Re: Giallo

Postby srowley75 » March 8th, 2012, 12:22 pm

I'll be back to post more when I have time, but I did appreciate your list at the beginning of the thread. I thought I'd seen most of these, but I guess I still have quite a few to work through...

and then some I probably should check out again. The problem with these films is that they're so similar, they tend to run together in my head - particularly when actors appear in more than one film (e.g., Barbara Bouchet, Edwige Fenech, George Hilton etc.)

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Re: Giallo

Postby Mr. Arkadin » March 8th, 2012, 6:25 pm

srowley75 wrote:The problem with these films is that they're so similar, they tend to run together in my head - particularly when actors appear in more than one film (e.g., Barbara Bouchet, Edwige Fenech, George Hilton etc.)


I would say part of that is because the directors were influenced by many of the same things. As I told another poster, The best way to think of giallo is to take a mixture of Agatha Christie, Edgar Allen Poe, and Alfred Hitchcock and think of what kind of film you would make without the Code restrictions that Hitchcock was under (Hitchcock's own Frenzy [1972] is a good example). What I like about the good films is that they really make you think and they give you all the clues, just like any great mystery novel. There are also several that have little or no explicit violence or sexual content (which are usually the better movies).


There's also the Italian perspective that once a product was successful, a copy, or sequel would also generate money. We see this with all the Italian genres, from sword & sandal films, to westerns, giallo, sex comedies, and poliziotto (police-driven crime films). The giallo heyday was actually very short with the highest numbers in the 1971-72 era and many of these actors were working on several films simultaneously, so it's very common to see them together in multiple productions. Fenech in particular, made her early reputation in sex comedy and giallo, which is surprising when you realize how few she has actually participated in (my count is six at this writing), unlike Carrol Baker who made dozens of films. Of her giallo output, I find her best work to be her collaborations with Sergio Martino:

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971)
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lumO1hxKtkU[/youtube]

All the Colors of the Dark (1972)
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOh-kNkS4mc[/youtube]

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I have the Key (1972)
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hW1eqPgAk7Q[/youtube]

Note that Hilton is in two of these productions and Ivan Rassimov scores a hat trick. All three films deal with perception of reality--the line between madness and sanity, with Strange Vice and All the Colors using elements of surrealism, whereas, Your Vice is a Locked Room plays the joker card, turning everything on its head.

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Re: Giallo

Postby Mr. Arkadin » March 17th, 2012, 2:29 pm

I recorded A Quiet Place in the Country (1969) off TCM last year for a couple of reasons:

1) Anything with Franco Nero is usually worth seeing and Vanessa Redgrave was his main squeeze at this time.

2) Ennio Morricone did the score and I like his work.

3) Italian thriller--hmm, this sounds like a Giallo!

Upon finally getting around to viewing the film last weekend, I'm happy to report all of the above is true. The story deals with a painter and his lover/agent who rent an isolated old villa, which holds its own share of inspiration. Visually stunning with an avant-garde score, Elio Petri's work seems to have connections with pop art gialli such as Death Laid an Egg (1968), The Double (1971), and Deadly Sweet (1967), but perhaps pushes the envelope by linking the physical, mental, and spiritual to create something more like Bergman's Persona (1966) in giallo format--a heady mix indeed.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLa5CpDaswM[/youtube]

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Re: Giallo

Postby Mr. Arkadin » April 3rd, 2012, 11:51 am

While perusing TCM's Morlock section I came across a review of Femina Ridens (1969). Never seen this one, but it sounds intriguing:

http://moviemorlocks.com/2012/03/25/femina-ridens/

Other cool entries from the Morlock gang:

Death Laid an Egg (1968)

http://moviemorlocks.com/2008/01/05/are ... is-giallo/

Night Train Murders (1974)

http://moviemorlocks.com/2006/12/08/a-c ... ders-1974/

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972)

http://moviemorlocks.com/2008/11/18/eye-confess/

The Designated Victim (1971)

http://moviemorlocks.com/2010/06/19/str ... a-gondola/

A short bio on Edgar Wallace, whose stories were often used for the basis of many gialli, and an introduction to its close cousin, the German Krimi film:

http://moviemorlocks.com/2007/01/02/ich ... -krimifan/

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Re: Giallo

Postby MichiganJ » April 3rd, 2012, 2:25 pm

The region free Shameless DVD is available at Amazon.uk for a song: (Except those by the Bee Gees for reasons unknown.)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Frightened- ... B000X6R8XI

I have the Shameless disc, and while the reviewer is a bit worried about the DVD length compared to that at IMDB, the film feels complete.

The film is certainly intriguing, but decidedly not for all tastes.
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