I love Lenzi's gialli offerings, or at least the one's I have experiences! I still need to see KNIFE OF ICE and A QUIET PLACE TO KILL. SPASMO and EYEBALL are some of my more favorite gialli viewings. Two very stylish yet, odd in nature but still very effective in the payoff!
It's been a long time since I first seen his SO SWEET... SO PERVERSE (1969), was that not just recently issued on DVD again??
I absolutely loved Freda's brilliant I VAMPRI! Now, what was the deal with Bava being uncredited for with this again? I know he had something to do with the overall direction, but what's the full story on that again?
Any opinions about this more recent giallo? I've heard some bad things but when I found it dirt cheap on eBay, I couldn't resist the temptation of picking it up. Figured I need to give some of the more recent horrer/thriller stuff a chance too. Still waiting for it to arrive and I'm not quite sure what to expect of it but at least it has a pretty good cast that includes famous transsexual Eva Robins from TENEBRAE (1982) and the good-looking Elisabetta Rocchietti, who has been cropping up in a lot of horror stuff like THE THREE FACES OF TERROR (2004), DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? (2005) and THE LAST HOUSE IN THE WOODS (2006). Not to mention supporting roles by Florinda Bolkan and Franco Nero! Anyone here seen it?
Interesting looking film out of Italy with Irish/Spanish co-financiers. Directed by Italian SFX man Stefano Bessoni.
In the 1600s, long before the invention of photography, a scientist named Girolamo Fumagalli was obsessed with the idea of reproducing images. He discovered that by killing a victim and removing the victim's eyeballs, it was possible to reproduce on paper the last image imprinted on that person's retinas. He named this technique 'thanatography'. Today, the same kind of gruesome ritual and abominable crime recurs within the walls of an international school of cinema. -imdb.com
Also stars the daughter of Charlie Chapman, Geraldine Chaplin as well as her daughter Oona.
Well, it seems this is yet another Argento flick that is taking a beating in the review department. Even die hard fans are not too pleased with this outing. Anyhow, the PAL R2 DVD is now out via a Polish company that found it important to force the Polish subs!
Looks like this will be getting a UK release first via Arrow Films! I still haven't seen this, it was on my radar during last year's Midnight Madness during the Toronto Film Fest. The disc will be released March 15th..
BLOODY MOON aka Die Säge des Todes [“The Saw of Death”]
BLOODY MOON aka Die Säge des Todes [“The Saw of Death”]
Review by: Kit Nygåard-Gavin Written by: Rayo Casablanca [Erich Tomek] Directed by: Jess Franco Cast: Olivia Pascal, Christopher Brugger [Christophe Moosbrugger], Nadja Gerganoff, Jasmin Losensky, Ann-Beate Engelke, Jess Franco and Alexander Waechter. Source: Severin Films [United States / United Kingdom, NTSC Region 0 ]
Before the [German language] credits role, a fancy dress party is taking place on what appears to be a holiday camp complete with dreadful 1970’s music and clothes. Mingling amongst the party guests is the disfigured but cunningly Miguel [Waechter] has hidden his face behind a Mickey Mouse mask (somehow I suspect that the Disney Corporation wasn’t paid copyright fees for the usage of this mask). Miguel takes her back to one of the chalets (number 13), for some petting, however the girl freaks out and spurns his advances, when she sees his scarred face beneath Mickey’s smile (as she believed him to be someone else). Not unsurprisingly Miguel takes this rejection rather badly and decides to stab the girl in the guts with a conveniently placed nearby pair of scissors, again and again. Roll credits.
A few years later, Manuela [Gerganoff], Miguel’s sister picks up Miguel from the asylum from where he has been cured as is discharged by the doctor in charge [Jess Franco]. Brother and sister return home to the home of their wheelchair bound yet wealthy aunt, a Countess no less, lives. Soon after Miguel’s return, the Contessa is murdered, burned to death in her bed. Close by the villa is a Spanish language school “The International Youth School of Languages”, the scene of the original crime, plentifully populated by nubile, attractive, desirable college girls.
Soon after Miguel’s return to the villa, college girls on the campus go missing or are murdered. And of course Miguel is the lead suspect. Or is it Antonio the hunky tennis pro who seems intent on bedding all the college girls whilst there? However, despite the fact that Miguel has just been discharged from an asylum for cold blooded murder, neither his sister nor any of the dim-witted bimbos who are attending the language classes think to call the police following the murder of the Contessa or fellow students, so bloody mayhem ensues with college girls being despatched here and there. One of the girls, Angela [Pascal], who witnessed the murder and the body (which vanishes soon after). Angela occupies the “ominous” bungalow 13, is now in constant fear of her life, feeling that she is being threatened and pursued by the killer.
Performances in this film are uniformly bad without a redeeming performance given by any cast member. Performances are wooden by most all concerned and the only sparks of emotion seem to be shown when one or another of the female characters are screaming on screen. The most memorable role, interestingly enough, is that of Manuela, Miguel’s sister, but even then, her role is not especially memorable afterwards. Olivia Pascal is also pretty, fresh faced and cute, but her performance is flat and requires little other than to look alternately frightened or pretty, or both.
Dubbing and dialogue in this film, without question are truly horrid. The dialogue is nothing short of horrendous, so horrendous it’s actually funny, and this is (depending on the sensibility of the viewer) further boosted or hindered by the dubbing of the characters. To help drown out the awful dialogue is a contemporary disco soundtrack, which actually, rather than proving a relief to the ears, only makes matters worse. Ugly disco at its worst plays over when “music” is required and couldn’t even be termed a guilty pleasure.
This film shouldn’t work, it really shouldn’t, as it is lousy and tacky on every front, the actors being bereft of talent or ability (though admittedly the girls are quite pretty in an 80s sort of way), the direction is shoddy and makeshift, the aforementioned soundtrack, and nothing short of horrendously badly executed special effects and make-up. Horrid 80s fashion design can only add to this, and indeed it does. Not to mention that the identity of the killer is blatantly obvious from the outside and only the brain-dead (or possibly one of the girls at this language school) wouldn’t be able to work it out within minutes. Viewers expecting art or fine performances, or dare I say it, atmosphere are sure to disappointed. In short, it’s crap.
But, and this is a major but, despite all of the above the film somehow manages to work, in the way that the movies by the likes of say, Herschel Gordon Lewis work. Indeed, this film employs similar techniques (and probably a similar budget to Lewis’ seminal classic Blood Feast, except Lewis had Playboy Playmate Connie Mason in the cast and by the time Bloody Moon was being made, special effects and techniques had been improved dramatically. Not so in this case clearly. To it’s credit, the film is not too badly paced and could never be accused of being boring and is populated with plenty of silly murders every ten minutes – which given the movie runs for less than an hour and half means that the picture qualifies as a bona fide bodycount movie. There are nods as well to other films, and possibly Franco saw Bava’s highly influential Bay of Blood and borrowed the theme of the wheelchair bound countess for his own feature. This is not as ridiculous as it may sound, as the Bava film won various awards at Sitges in 1971, and Franco may well have attended when it won.
Halloween and Friday the 13th were huge box office successes upon their original releases, in the United States and overseas and subsequent incarnation on home video. And as a result of this success, the films each spawned a highly successful franchise of sequels (continuing to this day). In addition, there were copies and rip-offs made soon after in North America (titles such as The Burning, He Knows You’re Alone, etc spring immediately to mind), and this success spread across the ocean and around the world. The Italians, who had been making “body count” movies for years, disguised cleverly as convoluted murder mysteries (called “gialli”) saw no need to re-invent the wheel and continued to turn out a number of gialli until the mid 1980s. However Jess Franco and his German producers decided to take this formula, and the end result was the film under review.
Interestingly enough, the film is not as exploitative as it could be. As noted above, special effects are cheap and miserable to say the least, not just in the murders but with the make-up applied to Miguel’s face and a very unconvincing boulder, yet the murders are nasty and generally mean-spirited. The German release title (translates as “The Saw of Death”) makes the most of the impressive murder “set-piece”. This murder which was also highlighted on the UK video sleeve in the early 80s (before, unbelievably it was banned as being a “video nasty”!) who’s artwork has been transferred to the release stateside, under review here, by Severin Films, even though the “saw” in the title only crops up the once during the film. Spanish audiences going to see this film might have been even more disappointed, given that the Spanish title translates as “Raped College Girls” and there is very little nudity in the picture at all, barring Gerganoff who bears her breasts every time there is a full moon. This lack of nudity is surprising given it’s lead, the pretty German starlet Olivia Pascal (then newly married), had appeared only a few years previously as the eponymous heroine of the softcore sexploitation romp Vanessa, which required plentiful nudity in the role. In addition, behind the production of Bloody Moon was Wolf C. Hartwig, who was responsible for producing the celebrated Schulmadchen and St Pauli films to come out of Germany in the 1970s. And saddled with a director such as Jess Franco, no stranger to female nudity, not least zoom in close up of his long term companion Lina Romay’s vagina and pudenda, the film itself pulls off very few punches in the exploitation department that viewers might be hoping for given who was sitting behind the cameras.
In addition the film itself is so camp (no pun intended) that it actually is probably best enjoyed as a pitch black humor comedy, almost a take on the genre of both exploitation movies and slasher films (similar to the contribution Plan 9 from Outer Space made to the science fiction genre in the 1950s), where hardly anyone has sex and there is relatively little nudity involved. A classic moment involving splatter and bad dialogue is the infamous scene with the victim and the buzz saw blade who just will not shut up, despite being tied down, despite the prospect of sex with a masked stranger, despite the discomfort to her bottom she rabbits on and on – and only when the killer turns on the saw blade does she say “Hey… wait a minute”.
The presentation by Severin Films is simply staggering, and it is unlikely that the film has ever looked this good in any of it’s incarnations. The film has been presented widescreen and in a beautiful anamorphic print with bright, strong zinging colors, well rendered flesh tones and detail is perfect and crystal clear pretty much throughout the entire picture A most impressive accomplishment given that the film was probably shot very quickly, cheaply and probably on not the best stock but it looks amazing here. There are a couple of inserts of gory scenes (presumably cut and lost from the elements) which have been taken from a slightly inferior source – but they are blended into the picture seamlessly and don’t distract from the enjoyment. An excellent job in restoring this release without a doubt.
Audio is good crisp and clear and presented in Dolby Digital mono. Given my opinions on the dialogue above it might have been fun and interesting to hear the film in one of it’s other incarnations (such as the original German track) given that the film is a German production, and to see if the Germans were spared in inflicted with the same horrendous dialogue that English language audiences have had to suffer when watching this film. It might have been an interesting curio, if not an essential to add to the… errrrm… appreciation of this film.
Extras for the film are another entertaining lengthy interview with Jess Franco (entitled “Franco’s Moon”) which runs just shy of 20 minutes with Franco discussing the various aspects of the making of this film, his relationship with the producers and his claims that he was promised the opportunity to work with Pink Floyd who would be scoring this film (!!). Franco is always an entertaining speaker with his anecdotes and tales about the films with which he created, many of which he dismisses to this day, yet he always seems to have colourful tales and an extensive memory of those he worked with. It might have been interesting to see an interview with Olivia Pascal who is still very active in German cinema and television, but maybe she declined the opportunity to discuss her memories of the slasher she made with Jess Franco. Also included with the interview is an English language trailer for the film.
It is difficult to recommend a film such as this, but the film is, without falling into the excessive use of clichés is true “guilty pleasure” that qualifies for the “so bad it’s good”. However one can be forgiven for the use of clichés as Bloody Moon itself is certainly not short of a few (!). In some ways the film is better than a significant number of Franco’s other movies, not least due to the non-casting of Lina (an acquired taste at best) and the director nor resorting to excessive zooms into the actresses private parts. That’s not to say that Franco shies away from using his zoom lens, as will become apparent as the film progresses.
One curiosity is that clips from the film (the most bloody murder) turned up in the opening scenes of Pedro Almadovar’s cult film Matador, made some 7 years later, which starred a very young Antonio Banderas. The scenes from the film are coupled with scenes from Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, seen by many as the first body count film. The film is schlocky entertainment, but none the less Severin have pulled most all the stops and brought out an excellent release, possibly far more effort than most companies would have put into the release of a film of this standard, but for that we should be grateful. Entertaining and amusing fun, and an interesting if atypical film for Jess Franco, and more entertainment than his more expensive, more polished vehicle (again a slasher movie – but with a star cast and infinitely higher production values) Les predateurs de la nuit/Faceless. At least here, with Bloody Moon, there is no pretence at art, just solid trashy unwholesome 80s entertainment.