Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino...." I'll say! Remember Dressed to Kill? Now, that's giallo done right. You get all the good stuff -- atmospherics, scares and blood, coupled to crackerjack acting, writing and directing. And a simply wonderful story, jam-packed with shock, surprise, scares and delight. (Yes, that's John Saxton, above, right, in the one black-and-white film in the series, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, aka The Evil Eye.)
Pupi Avati's THE HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS (above) and Lucio Fulci's DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING (second photo from top) were never theatrically released in the U.S. Fulci's film, in fact, is said to have had only a limited release, even in Europe at the time, due to its its criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. Avati's film, too, is heavy on the imagery of the sadomasochistic rituals of the Catholic Church. And both, as the AFA press materials point out, are set in provincial towns rather than the urban settings of most giallo films.
Vanessa Redgrave, above left, and Franco Nero -- who appear in the one real bomb in this series, A Quiet Place in the Country (see below). Following is the program schedule, according to the AFA, along with its own remarks about the films in question. After the listed screening times, if TrustMovies has seen this particular film, he'll offer his comments, too, which will appear after the words TM's view....
THE BIRD WITH CRYSTAL PLUMAGE / L’UCCELLO DALLE PIUME DI CRISTALLO 1970, 98 minutes, 35mm. Print courtesy of Cineteca Nazionale.
Vittorio Storaro and scored by Ennio Morricone. See first-hand why Hitchcock himself is said to have declared that, “that Italian fellow is starting to make me nervous,” upon seeing this film.
–Thursday, September 20 at 7:00 and Monday, September 24 at 9:15. Special note; The star of this film, Tony Musante, will make a personal appearance at the Sept. 20, 7pm screening.
TM's view: I don't know why Hitch got nervous. The master had depth of content and theme to go along with his amazing style. Argento simply had the style. If you've never seen this one, it's apt to disappoint. If you have, maybe there's more to find on a third or fourth viewing. (I found little, other than some fun visuals, on my second viewing, a couple of decades after the film was released.)
BLOOD AND BLACK LACE / SEI DONNE PER L’ASSASSINO 1964, 88 minutes, 35mm.
–Tuesday, September 25 at 7:00,
and Sunday, September 30 at 8:45.
TM's view: This is maybe the grand-daddy of all giallos, and it delivers the expected (both the good stuff and the bad) in spades. It also delivers that fine actor Cameron Mitchell in what might have been his swan-song, but simply became an odd mid-career move into something different, before the fellow went on to three more decades of film and TV (236 roles in all!).
THE HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS / LA CASA DALLE FINESTRE CHE RIDONO 1976, 110 minutes, 35mm.
–Friday, September 21 at 7:00, Monday, September 24 at 6:45, and Saturday, September 29 at 4:45.
TM's view: For me, so far at least, this has been the surprise of the series. I'd always imagined Pupi Avati as a director of so-so rom-coms, so to see his work here came as a shock. Beginning with the mutilation and murder of a hunky young man (this alone is a big change from the usual girls-get-offed giallo routine), with someone -- the victim? the murderer? -- going on at length about colors and paint, the movie brings a young art restorer to a small Italian town (where the population behaves very weirdly; of course this is standard for most giallo) to work on a church fresco of Saint (who else?!) Sebastian. Avati gets his smoke and shadows, his lighting and camera angles on target, the pacing is pretty good, and the locales are aces. And the movie wins the award -- and then some -- for the best use of a visible breast.
DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING / NON SI SEVIZIA UN PAPERINO 1972, 102 minutes, 35mm.
–Friday, September 21 at 9:30 and Thursday, Septem-ber 27 at 7:00.
TM's view: This giallo is indeed unusual, and unusually dark, with a cast that includes Florinda Bolkan and Irene Papas. The human behavior is, as usual, a little too off-the-wall, and the whole thing doesn't quite jell properly. But it's still one of the better examples of this genre included in the series.
THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH aka THE NEXT VICTIM / LO STRANO VIZIO DELLA SIGNORA WARDH 1971, 98 minutes, 35mm.
Edwige Fenech, harbors a secret vice that she keeps hidden from her older, diplomat husband. When a string of murders by a black-glovedkiller terrorizes the city, her sadistic former lover Jean reappears, intending to blackmail her. To make matters worse, she takes up with a new lover who convinces her to go off to Spain with him for her safety. But is she out of the woods yet? Of course not. The mysterious killer seems to have followed her there….
–Saturday, September 22 at 4:15
and Friday, September 28 at 9:30.
TM's view: This particularly loony movie has a ridiculous plot and even more ridiculous character behavior from its leading lady that appears, in retrospect, utterly baffling. Of course, those are two of the seemingly necessary delights of this genre. As to that "strange vice" of Mrs. Wardh (with an "h" yet? Well, that's classy!), whatever the movie might imagine this vice to be, it turns out that this poor woman has absolutely the worst -- and I do mean rock bottom -- taste in men.
DEEP RED / PROFONDO ROSSO 1975, 98 minutes, 35mm.
David Hemmings (BLOW-UP) plays a British pianist who witnesses this killing from afar and launches a solo investigation, putting his own life in peril. The music by Goblin completes this stylish masterpiece by Dario Argento.
–Saturday, September 22 at 6:30 and Friday, September 28 at 7:00.
TM's view: This is my favorite of all of Dario Argento's work because it succeeds on so many more levels than the usual giallo -- particularly that of Argento's own oeuvre. The cast is better than average (Mr. Hemmings and Clara Calamai, for starters), the mystery is much more interesting and more intelligently resolved, and the set pieces are simply terrific -- plus there are all the usual atmosphere, gore and bizarre music we expect from this practitioner of the yellow.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? aka THE SCHOOL THAT COULDN'T SCREAM / COSA AVETE FATTO A SOLANGE? 1972, 103 minutes, 35mm.
A teacher and a student having an affair are on a clandestine outing on a boat when they witness the stabbing of another coed. Other gruesome murders follow, and the teacher becomes the main suspect. Dallamano’s complex plot and the shocking climax make this one of the smartest Gialli ever made.
–Saturday, September 22 at 9:30 and Tuesday, September 25 at 9:00.
TM's view: This is one I have not yet seen but have heard very good things about. I'll report back as soon as I have viewed it. OK: Just rented it from Netflix, and its reputation is quite deserved. This is, hands-down, one of the most consistently interesting gialli I've seen. It offers everything the genre is noted for, including a particularly nasty means of death (but one that makes unnerving sense once we know the reason for it). What makes the movie so interesting is how the plot opens up and changes (and our reactions to the characters do, too), as the film progresses. The London locations are fun for a change, and lead actor Fabio Testi was one of the sexiest and most handsome males on the Italian film scene for awhile, so seeing him again -- and at his peak -- is quite a treat, as well. (This one plays one more time at AFA, but there is alwasy Netflix, if you miss it.)
A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY / UN TRANQUILLO POSTO DI CAMPAGNA 1968, 106 minutes, 35mm.
–Sunday, September 23 at 4:30, Thursday, September 27 at 9:15, and Sunday, September 30 at 6:30.
TM's view: Mr. Thompson of the Times to the contrary, as noted in my introduction above, this film is the turkey of the series. It's not even properly giallo, as the AFA admits. Instead it's three artists -- Redgrave, Nero and Petri (well, 2-1/2, as Nero is not up to the level of the others) -- gone slumming on a project better left to their lessers. Never much of an actor, Nero embarrasses badly, with little to offer except his pretty looks and a dumb, dense stare meant to represent fear, shock, incomprehension, desire or what have you. The budget is big and the sets are nice, but the story's from hunger. While the film makes use of a lot of the then-current visual pyrotechnics of the time (the late 60s), this one doesn't come near giallo's requisite atmospherics and "creepery."
THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH aka THE EVIL EYE / LA RAGAZZA CHE SAPEVA TROPPO 1963, 86 minutes, 35mm, b&w.
–Thursday, September 20 at 9:30, Sunday, September 23 at 6:45 and Saturday, September 29 at 7:15.
TM's view: Here's another film I have not yet seen, but hope to (and report on) before the festival is finished.
PERVERSION STORY aka ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER / UNA SULL’ALTRA 1969, 97 minutes, 16mm.
VERTIGO, capturing the mood of late-60s San Francisco. Sexual obsession, depravity, and deception converge in its surprising climax.
–Sunday, September 23 at 8:45 and Saturday, September 29 at 9:15.
TM's view: Just as the "daring 60s" turned into the "silly 70s," this giallo's sense of perversion comes a little too close to borderline camp. The actors -- Maria Mell, Elsa Martinelli, and the Frenchman who was prettier than both his co-stars, Jean Sorel -- give the movie some beauty but the story is generally tiresome, though the San Francisco locations are fun, as are the clothes, cars and hairstyles of the time.
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