Over the last couple of weeks I watched some films that fall into my 999 category. Been meaning to write up more about those, but can’t seem to find the time. Those productions aren’t all that important from a Hammer point of view anyway, so here are just a few short summaries about them. If any of you feel like discussing those more in depth, fire ahead in the comment section. Would love to chat more about any of these.
Knives of the Avenger
While gradually reading through my copy of hernia breaking, absolutely superb, megalomaniac super film book All the Colors of the Dark by Bava Fan Extraordinaire and Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas (there’s something deliciously decadent about blowing a few days wages on one single book) I am also working my way through the excellent Bava movie box sets that were recently released (plus the cheapo Warriors 50 Movie Pack Collection
that also includes a number of productions Bava was involved in in various capacities).
Knives of the Avenger is Bava’s interpretation of the classic Western Shane, this time set amongst the backdrop of a Viking action movie. Cameron Mitchell is as always highly watchable even though he has to sport some of the most unfashionably dyed piss yellow hair ever. The film is excellently staged, maybe a little bit too talkative at times, but some of the action scenes are quite drastic for a film of that age. One particular “shoot out” with knives instead of guns is particularly involving.
This is a coloured production regardless of the b/w trailer.
The Perfume of the Lady in Black
Excellent very atmospheric giallo. Something is clearly not right when Mimsy Farmer’s character starts losing track of time, has visions of the eponymous lady in black and gets confronted with very lifelike memories of some childhood trauma. Is she really losing the plot or is someone trying to drive her mad? Perfume is beautifully filmed with an amazing score. True, nothing much seems to happen throughout most of the film and the murders (as few as there are) may initially not be quite as harrowing as those of better known gialli, but the film is a beauty to look at and has a shocking conclusion that comes out of nowhere.
Does any of that truly make sense? Probably not. Then again there aren’t a lot of gialli that can claim logic as their strongest point. It often is style over substance, and Perfume sure oozes enough style to keep me happy.
It also features Nike Arrighi (The Devil Rides Out, Countess Dracula) in a small part as a clairvoyant.
Empire of the Ants
For the longest time this H.G. Wells adaptation featuring Joan Collins and scores of overblown ants had escaped me. I heard that this was meant to be one of the worst movies of all times. Maybe I have become jaded, but I found this to be a lot of silly and enjoyable fun. Definitely a film I’d love to revisit again some time.
Oasis of Fear/Dirty Pictures
This is by the wackiest of those four films and possibly the revelation of the year for me so far. A very young Ornella Muti in one of her first films travels around Europe with her boyfriend Ray Lovelock and sells pornography bought in Sweden to finance her vacation (as one does). They soon get the attention of the law and become involved with Irene Papas as a middle aged lady who initially seems to be frightened of them, but soon starts to play her own kind of cat and mouse game with them.
Umberto Lenzi is a director who can be very much hit and miss, though here he is at his most entertainingly best. I challenge you not to keep humming some of the truly outrageous soundtrack tunes for days on end. And you know that times have changed when selling sleazy pornography involved hawking off records (!) with just the sounds of people having sex.
Ah, happy days…..
From Manchester to Cinecitta - *( lire la version française )* I was one of the guests of the 25th Manchester fantastic film festival last fall. It is always a renewed pleasure to meet my...
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