Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Italian Horror Blogathon: Links

Use the comments section of this post to link to your entries; I will then update the best I can throughout the day. However, the full update will show up each morning around 7 (Pacific), so if you send me your link and don't see it up here right away, it probably just means I'm at work. So, check this post throughout the blogathon for all of the latest links. I'm excited to get this thing started and read people's submissions. My own contributions will go up on the blog at the same time as the updates and will appear beneath the daily links post. All links will appear after the jump...

(Updated 10/31): Happy Halloween, everyone! Final update is posted. Thanks for your contributions, everyone! I will throw up a postscript to this thing tomorrow.

Italian Horror Blogathon: Opera (aka Terror at the Opera)

Dario Argento’s Opera is aptly titled. Operatic in its aesthetics, this is the Italian maestro’s most gruesomely violent aria. A swan song of sorts for an aging diva; a final showcase for a once great entertainer (with hindsight we say this) to remind us one last time just why we rushed out to see whatever their name was attached to. This is Argento at his most gloriously indulgent; visually and aurally throughout, the viewer is bombarded with an excessiveness that can only be compared to the onslaught of neon and shadows and Goblin found in his 1977 masterpiece Suspria (and in some cases Inferno). Don’t get me wrong, Opera isn’t even close to being the stone-cold masterpiece that Suspiria is (a swap of Goblin for shitty ‘80s metal is the first thing that will tip you off); however, they both share that they’re utterly, truly trying to be art films that masquerade as horror films. Much like Suspiria, Argento is being really showy here with his camera. Of course we could say that about a lot of Italian horror films, but Opera in particular feels like something people could get behind as a transcendent art-house horror film.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Italian Horror Blogathon: The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (aka La dama rossa uccide sette volte, Blood Feast)

The previous two years I’ve done this blogathon I’ve always wanted to make sure that I had time to see something that I haven’t seen or heard of before. The first year I did this blogathon it was Pupi Avati’s The House with the Laughing Windows; the second year it was Francesco Barilli’s The Perfume of the Lady in Black. This year I wanted to make sure I had time for Emilio Miraglia’s The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. Boy, am I glad I made time for this gem. Miraglia’s film is a masterpiece of the genre; something akin to the best of Bava. A hybrid Gothic horror picture/giallo, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is a prime example of why I love this subgenre so much: there’s always some kind of gem like this unearth.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Italian Horror Blogathon: Aenigma

To watch a Lucio Fulci film post-1981 is to see a film by a once visionary genre director totally devoid of effort or care. It is with much sadness that I write this review for the Italian horror blogathon. I always try to get in one film from a major contributor to the subgenre that I haven’t seen, and this year I picked a late(r) era Fulci. Aenigma is the most clich├ęd kind of Euro-horror flick: shamelessly ripping off other movies (most blatantly Carrie and Patrick), straining to appeal to American audiences (for example, Fulci finds a way to get images of Snoopy, Sylvester Stallone, and Tom Cruise in his movie), and even lazily reverting to famous gore setpieces from his own films (the spider scene from The Beyond is used here, only this time with snails). I don’t know if Fulci’s health was declining by this point or if he was just disillusioned with the whole lot of it, but Aenigma is a depressingly pointless movie that is uninspired, boring, and just plain hack filmmaking.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Italian Horror Blogathon: Anthropophagus (aka Antropophagus, Anthropophagous: The Beast, The Grim Reaper, Man Eater, The Savage Island)

Directed by the infamous Aristide Massaccesi (better known as Joe D’Amato, which is the name I will refer to throughout the rest of this piece) and containing a gleefully maniacal performance from Luigi Montefiori (better known as George Eastman; again, the name I will use throughout this piece), Anthropophagus is one of the most notorious Italian horror films. Unfortunately, it’s not very good. When one sees “Directed by Joe D’Amato” at the beginning of the film, the expectations drop, and everything from that point on becomes, “okay, that’s not so bad…I mean, it is Joe D’Amato.” Anthropophagus is no different. The film is excruciatingly boring, but for a Joe D’Amato film it’s nice that the film isn’t littered with awful sex scenes. There’s a lot of wandering around by the characters, but for a Joe D’Amato film, it’s nice that the characters are walking around surrounded by a moody atmosphere instead of spouting off horrid dialogue. Anthropophagus – despite its reputation as being one of the nastiest of the “Video Nasty” films – is quite tame throughout save for two scenes as it is more about tone than visceral gore. If there’s one thing I can say about Anthropophagus, it’s that at least old Joe is trying here. But even when the man is trying, his films are still chores to get through.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Italian Horror Blogathon: Contamination (aka Alien Contamination, Contamination: Alien on Earth, Toxic Spawn)

One of the more entertaining and endearing aspects of Italian genre cinema is its proclivity for piggy-backing off of the successes of better films. They would do this by either doing a straight copy of the film or by using their titles to suggest that their film is a sequel to the more successful American film. Whether it was Fulci claiming his Zombi 2 was a sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead; Great White being nothing more than a Jaws rip-off; Beyond the Door as the Italian version of The Exorcist. And lest you think the Italians only ripped-off American horror films, let’s not forget 1980’s Patrick Still Lives – the unauthorized sequel to the Australian film Patrick. One of the most notable amongst these copies/unauthorized sequels was Luigi Cozzi’s 1979 Star Wars rip-off, Starcrash. This quickie cash-in came just a year after Lucas’ film and did pretty well at the Italian box-office; it’s also considered one of the best so-bad-it’s-good cult movies alongside films like Troll 2 and The Room. Just one year after Starcrash, Cozzi turned his attention towards another wildly popular Science-Fiction film: Ridley Scott’s Alien. Hoping to repeat the success of one shameless rip-off, Cozzi was at it again with Contamination. Now, depending on your mileage for these types of movie experiences (specifically Italian genre movie experiences like those of Nightmare City and Hell of the Living Dead), you will either find much to abhor about Contamination or much to love. I, as I’m sure you’ve guess by now, am of the latter mindset.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Italian Horror Blogathon: A Blade in the Dark (aka La casa con la scala nel buio)

After working as an assistant on Dario Argento’s Tenebre, Lamberto Bava (Mario’s son) made this boring giallo/slasher hybrid, A Blade in the Dark. Unlike his debut film, Macabre, Bava the younger doesn’t show much in terms of originality, here, as he seems too content just making a lower-rent copy of the film he just left the set of. Bava gives us a film that essentially shows us that he paid enough attention as Argento’s AD to make a serviceable film that looks and feels like someone doing their best Argento impersonation.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Italian Horror Blogathon: Seven Bloodstained Orchids (aka Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso, Puzzle of the Silver Half Moons)

Before he made his infamous cannibal films The Man from Deep River, Eaten Alive, and Cannibal Ferox, Umberto Lenzi was more known for his gialli. A Euro-Horror cult figure known more for the aforementioned cannibal films and for his wacky atomic zombie flick Nightmare City, Lenzi was actually pretty adept at the classic giallo film, and one of his best and most competent film is 1972’s Seven Bloodstained Orchids. Considered a lesser giallo by some, Lenzi’s film is one of the better entries into the subgenre that was oh-so-popular in ‘70s Italian cinema.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Italian Horror Blogathon: Blood and Black Lace (aka Sei donne per l'assassino, Six Women for the Murderer, Fashion House of Death)

A painter and cinematographer turned director, a craftsman turned celluloid dreamer, an industry veteran who created, almost single-handedly, the uniquely Italian genre of baroque horror known as “giallo,” he directed the most graceful and deliriously mad horror films of the 1960s and early 1970s. Always better at imagery than explanation, at set piece than story, Bava’s films are at their best dream worlds and nightmare visions. Check your logic at the door
                                                                                                      --- Sean Axmaker

It felt appropriate to kick this whole thing off with a Bava flick. The reason is simple enough: just read that great paragraph above from Sean Axmaker; it says it all. Everything we associate with Bava we associate with all of Italian horror. It is in Bava’s films that we come to an understanding of how to approach the later entries in the subgenre. You want to leave your logic at the door and just enjoy the fever dream of a Fulci movie? Look to Bava. You want to enjoy the beautifully choreographed gore scenes and baroque aesthetics of an Argento film? Look to Bava. You want plot and character development to take a back seat to a heavily stylized, ethereal tone a la the films of Soavi? Look to Bava. What’s most interesting about the maestro is that no matter what your fancy may be – cannibals, zombies, or witches – he pretty much laid the foundation for it all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Italian Horror Blogathon is tomorrow!

We're just one day away from a third year of Italian horror goodness. I'll put up a post tomorrow around 7am Pacific for you all to comment on with links to your posts. I'll keep the links post at the top of the page every day and update it every morning at 7. My own posts will be going up at the same time and are going to be underneath the links post. If you're wanting to still contribute something, it's not too late. Here are the details.

I'm really looking forward to this year's entries. See you all tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Italian Horror: A Primer

Now that I’m on my third year of hosting this-here blogathon, I figured now would be as good a time as any to write up a proper introduction to the subgenre I love so much. I have invited many people to participate in this humble project the last couple of years, and one of the things I love hearing most is that people were introduce to Italian horror through this blogathon. I hear quite often that people were always apprehensive to try out Italian horror because they knew so little about it (aside from the fact that narrative structure was meaningless). Inevitably, whenever I hear from or read something by someone that encounters Italian horror for the first time, it’s almost always in the vein of, “Wow, that looked really great – it was illogical and frustrating at times – but it sure was nice to look at.” So, on the week before the blogathon, I thought I would throw up on the blog this little primer about the history of Italian horror, where one might want to start, what one should expect from an Italian horror film, and some of its major contributors. Remember, the blogathon begins next week on October 24, so if you’re still on the fence about contributing or what to write about, maybe this will help.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Blog Announcement

I know I have more banners to use than the one above (which I already used in my initial announcement of the blogathon and have on the side of my blog), but I just can't get enough of those crazy Bruno Mattei zombies from Virus. Anyway, I figured I should let you all know that posting will be slowing down -- if not completely stopped -- in prep for the Italian Horror Blogathon coming up in a couple of weeks. When October is over, I will resume the Pollack retrospective (covering the second half of his career). I will try to continue my countdown of my favorite episodes of The Office, but expect that to resume in November as well. For now, I'm in full Italian horror mode. See you all in a couple of weeks! And don't forget, details (and more banners) for the blogathon are here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Office: #22 -- "The Surplus"

22) The Surplus
Season 5, Episode 10

Every Thursday during the final season of The Office, I'll be counting down the best episodes of the series' previous eight seasons. Follow me on Twitter @StiglitzMovies to see my thoughts on the ninth and final season. Below are links to previous entries in this retrospective.

Pre-Title Sequence:

In the cold open – which ties in with the A-story –Oscar tries to explain to Michael about an office surplus that must be spent at the end of the day or it will be deducted from next year’s budget. Michael, not sure how this actually works (Carell does a great job of looking totally confused), asks Oscar to explain it to him as if he were eight years old. When Michael still doesn’t get it, he asks Oscar to explain it to him as if he were five. Oscar tries to convince Michael that the office needs a new copy machine, but Michael remains confused about the surplus.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Announcing the 3rd Annual Italian Horror Blogathon

The Italian Horror Blogathon returns! Many people have helped in making this a success in the past. I hope you'll all return this year. As you may know, I have no set criteria for what you need to write about. It could be a film about cannibals, zombies, or black-gloved killers. Some people like to focus on the giallo and the films of the ‘60s and ’70s – specifically Bava, Martino, Deodato, and Argento; while others prefer the ‘80s/early '90s era of Italian horror focusing on films by the likes of Argento, Michele Soavi, Lamberto Bava and Lucio Fulci. Whatever it is that you want to cover, it’s okay by me as long as it follows this simple criteria: it’s horror, and it’s from Italy.  All I ask is that you link to the blogathon in your post; I’ll keep a running links post at the top of the page every day during the blogathon.

If you can please let me know what you’re interested in writing about in the comments, it may get others to think about an alternative route if too many people are covering the same film. Below, you'll find details on how to participate and banners (located after the jump) to help promote the blogathon. Thanks again, everyone! I'm really looking forward to this year.

Here are the details for you to copy and paste on your blog if you'd like:

When: October 24-31
Where: Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies
What to do: Write about Italian horror and promote the blogathon on your blog
How to participate: Simply think of something you want to review and send it to me via email or comments section with a link to your piece.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sydney Pollack: Absence of Malice

Pollack described how he came to make Absence of Malice as a “screenplay my agents gave me; it’s as simple as that.” This kind of rare, personal detachment from the project is evident throughout the film and makes for one of the most painful viewing experiences of Pollack’s oeuvre. Oh, not because the movie is bad or even boring, there’s just something missing here (I think it’s primarily conviction and energy in its subject matter) that makes it quite the lacking experience when held up to other famous procedural films. But it’s also lacking in the conviction found in almost all of Pollack’s previous films. In Jeremiah Johnson, The Yakuza, and Bobby Deerfield, that personal attachment is evident as Pollack often stated that those films were a labor of love. Here, Pollack may have thought Absence of Malice was a good film – the commercial success of the film makes a case that something worked in the movie – but there’s also a sense that the film was a stopgap for Pollack before he begin production on his two most critically successful films that rounded out the ‘80s, Tootsie and Out of Africa.