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Un libro costituito da un insieme di fogli, stampati oppure manoscritti, delle stesse dimensioni, rilegati insieme in un certo ordine e racchiusi da una copertina.


ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (1972) - Right off the bat, I could see that this Italy/Spain co-production was going to be a very interesting giallo flick. It stars a cast of giallo pros, it's directed by the man who made my favorite giallo film of all time (TORSO - 1973; the majority of his films have never let me down) and it begins with one of the most surreal dream sequences I have seen in quite a while.
     The dream consists of a dentally challenged ugly woman (Vera Drudi; LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE - 1974) in a Baby Jane wig showing off her blackened teeth, while a pregnant woman on a hospital gurney is in the position to drop her baby, holding her stomach. We also see a clock with no hands lying on the floor, as well as a close-up of a man's haunting and unusual deep-blue eyes. We then see Jane (the beautiful Edwige Fenech; STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER - 1975) screaming, while the ugly woman is taunting her. The dream ends with Jane dead, her stomach cut open and bloody, the ugly woman turning into a mannequin, as we then see a car's POV as it slams into a tree. Jane then wakes up and takes a shower in her bedclothes (Giving us a great wet t-shirt shot of Fenech. Damn, she is beautiful!). Her fiancé, Richard (George Hilton; THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN - 1973), a London pharmaceutical salesman, comes home, finding Jane in the shower (he knows what is wrong with her or, he thinks he does) and puts her back in bed, making her take her pills (which turns the glass of water a bright blue color), telling her that they are "vitamins", but they make her sick. We then see Richard making love to Jane (did I mention how beautiful Fenech is?), but she starts screaming. She tells Richard that her sister Barbara (Nieves Navarro, as "Susan Scott"; TORMENTOR - 1972) said she should see her psychiatrist boss, Dr. Burton (George Rigaud; EYEBALL - 1975), because he could probably make the nightmares stop. Richard says no, she should keep psychiatry away from her "problem". We then find out what is causing the nightmares. Jane recently lost her unborn baby in a car accident and Richard thinks she doesn't need her head shrunk, she just needs time to recover. Richard reminds her not to forget, it was his baby, too. Richard leaves for work, walking outside and seeing two young lovers hugging each other, the look on Richard's face telling us he wishes Jane wouldn't be so afraid of a little affection like that. Who is the woman in the apartment across from Jane's, who looks out her window at Richard with lust in her eyes? Jane, who is looking out her window, sees the woman, who then closes her curtains. That woman is Mary Weil (Marina Malfatti; SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS - 1972) and very soon she will be involved in Jane's life, with deadly results.
     Jane tells Barbara that she knows Richard loves her, but he doesn't understand her, Barbara saying she knows that and has set up an appointment with her with Dr. Burton, fully aware that it is against Richard's wishes. While sitting in Dr. Burton's waiting room, Jane sees the man with the blue eyes (Ivan Rassimov; SPASMO - 1974) from her nightmares sitting on the other side of the room, staring at her. When talking to Dr. Burton, Jane explains that the pregnant woman in her nightmare is her mother, describing to him how she saw her mother murdered by a man with piercing blue eyes when she was five years old. When the doctor asks Jane if she has told her husband the details of her nightmare, she tells him no, she and Richard are not married and she's afraid he will not understand. She also tells the doctor that ever since the car accident, she is not "comfortable" with sex, but she does not believe the accident is the cause, she believes the image of the blue-eyed man is the cause, but she can't tell Richard because she's afraid that he will leave her ("I already make his life so difficult."). She tells the doctor about the blue-eyed man in the waiting room and he says she must be mistaken, he never has his patients wait together. He takes her to the waiting room and, sure enough, no one is there. Jane asks Barbara if she saw a man in the waiting room and she says yes, he wasn't a patient, but he wanted to talk to the doctor. He suddenly got up and left without saying a word. The doctor apologizes to Jane, also telling her that at their appointment they will talk about why she is so frightened of the blue-eyed man and to stop taking the "vitamins" Richard is giving her, telling Jane, "Your worst enemy is loneliness." Jane then takes the subway home and at the next stop, everyone else get off, leaving Jane alone with a solitary figure at the other end of the subway car. It's the blue-eyed man and he approaches Jane (the subway car goes from darkness to light and every time it goes to light, the man is closer to her), but she is able to get out of the car at the next stop. The man meets her on the street, causing Jane to run home screaming, "Why are you following me?!?" She meets Mary at her front door and she invites Jane over for some tea. Over tea, Mary invites Jane to have lunch at her place tomorrow, telling Jane that she knows she is alone all day and could use some company. Jane agrees and goes home, where she gets a phone call from a lawyer named Francis Clay (Luciano Pigozzi, as "Alan Collins"; LIBIDO - 1965), who tells her to come to his office tomorrow at 3:30 PM because he has something important to tell her. When Jane asks him what it is about, he hangs up the phone.
     When Jane looks out her window that night, she sees the blue-eyed man walking down the street, so she goes outside to investigate, accidentally locking herself out of her apartment building. Jane begins to get very nervous and begins knocking on Mary's door, but no one answers. Just when Jane is about to lose it, Richard shows up and unlocks the door. She tells him about her day and, the next morning, Richard is at Barbara's apartment, chewing her out for taking Jane to a psychiatrist (and ogling her while she is getting changed!). Barbara tells him, like it or not, Jane will continue to see Dr. Burton, saying "Jane is a slave to her childhood, but I bet you blame that on me!" What did she mean by that and is there something romantic going on between Richard and Barbara? We then discover that Richard was driving the car that hit the tree, killing Jane's baby.  Barbara asks Richard if he wonders if that's the reason Jane won't marry him and he storms out of her apartment. Yes, this film is full of little surprises, but the best is yet to come.
     Mary and Jane are walking in the park, where Jane begins talking in strange ways, first saying, "Listen to the birds. They are complaining that we are here." Jane asks Mary if she would believe that a killer from her childhood is following her. Mary turns to her and says, "I believe in a lot more." What does she mean by that?  Mary tells her that she, too, had major problems when she was a child, but she found a way to destroy those memories. She then asks Jane if she knows what a "Black Mass" is (Uh, oh!) and Jane says that Mary is scaring her. Mary says don't be frightened, you, too, can put all your bad memories behind you. Jane then says, "But...what do you want from me?" Mary tells her to stop going to a psychiatrist, she has a "friend" who can cure her of her troubles. Jane asks who is this person, Mary replying, "My friends don't like questions. They just want trust. They're waiting for you."  Jane wants to meet her friends, so Mary tells her to meet her at her apartment at exactly a 5:30 this afternoon. If she is not on time, she will leave without her. Jane then drives to go see lawyer Francis Clay and begins to walk up several flights of stairs to get to his office. Suddenly, an animal skull comes rolling down the stairs, followed by the blue-eyed man, who tries to kill Jane with a hand axe. Jane runs down the stairs, out the building and into her car, where, after a few false starts (her car won't turn over), she drives to go meet Mary. She tells Mary that the blue-eyed man tried to kill her, so Mary drives her to a mansion, where they witness (and participate in) a Black Mass. Jane sees the cult's leader, J.P. McBrian (Julian Ugarte; FANGS OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1969), slit the throat of a live fox (!) and drain its blood in a ceremonial goblet, which the cult members and Jane drink, culminating in an orgy, where Jane is passed around, naked, to the cult members and, finally, to their leader (who sports enormous black metal fingernails on all his fingers). That night, Jane is able to make love to Richard without being repulsed, for the first time since she lost the baby. So, is witchcraft the answer to Jane's problems? Jane thinks so, but if we know one thing about the supernatural, it is this: No matter how good the results, you always have to pay the Devil. What does this cult want from Jane? Could it be her soul or something more dastardly?
     Richard is so happy with Jane's lovemaking that he takes a rare day off of work so he and Jane can have lunch at a restaurant. Richard leaves the table to make a phone call and Jane sees Mr. Blue Eyes skulking outside. Jane runs out of the restaurant's back door, hails a cab and goes home, not thinking about Richard. Jane finds a book on magic and the supernatural among Richard's things and when Richard comes home, demanding an explanation on why she left him in the restaurant, she demands to know why Richard has this book.  He tells her he bought it at a used bookstore, but doesn't tell her why he bought it (looking guilty about something). The next time we see Jane, she is back at the mansion in the middle of another Black Mass, where she stabs and kills Mary with a ceremonial dagger (Mary welcomes it). Jane believes she is finally free, but when she is in the park, the blue-eyed man, whose name is Mark Cogan, grabs Jane by the arm and says, "Now you're one of us. You can't turn your back on us any more. Come, he is waiting for us!", leading her into the mansion and the blood-filled Black Mass room. J.P. McBrian appears and says to Jane, "With us you won't be alone any more! You belong to us forever, Jane!" She asks where Mary is, demanding to see her and McBrian says, "As you wish. Mary wanted to be free. Anyone who wants to go free has to bring a new adept (replacement)." Guess who that is? What has Jane gotten herself in to? If you want to find out, you'll have to watch the film, because most of the grisly thrills and surprises come after what I have just described to you. I will tell you this: The harder Jane tries to get away from the cult, the more painful it becomes for her (physically and emotionally), until she cannot trust those closest to her.
     Director Sergio Martino hasn't let me down yet when it comes to the giallo films he has directed (THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH - 1971; YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM... - 1972; the aforementioned TORSO - 1973; and even THE SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS - 1982 to some extant) and he certainly doesn't disappoint with this film (the only Martino giallo film I haven't seen is THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TAIL - 1971, but that will be rectified soon). Filmed much in the same way as his other giallo flicks (cinematography by Miguel Fernandez Mila [THE LORELEY'S GRASP - 1973; THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK - 1975] and Giancarlo Ferrando [who shot many of Martino's other genre films, including THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS - 1973; THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A MINOR - 1975; and MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD - 1978]) and loaded with his patented flourishes, such as using a fisheye lens to film the Black Mass and orgy scenes, giving them an otherworldly feel, as well as implying that psychiatry is a cure for witchcraft (!), this film is never boring. Weird? Yes, but boring? Never. Besides those flourishes, there is plentiful nudity by Edwige Fenech, who I consider to be one of the most beautiful and talented women in Italian film history (and not just genre films). Most of the other actresses also have nude scenes, making this film easy on the eyes. If I do have one complaint (and it's minor), it's that this film is missing the graphic violence we expect in a giallo film, but when it does happen (the fox being killed, seeing Mary's dead body for the first time, the bloody finale), it is shocking. When it comes to mixing giallo and supernatural horror elements together, this film would be hard-pressed to be beaten, mainly because Martino is at the helm. He knows what makes these films work and he doesn't disappoint here. The screenplay for this film was written by his longstanding collaborator, Ernesto Gastaldi, who also knows what makes a giallo film work, as he has written some of the best of them, including A...FOR ASSASSIN (1966); THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH (1968); DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT (1972) and many, many more. So sit back, try to relax (it won't be easy here) and enjoy a film from one of the best giallo directors. And, oh, that ending! It certainly surprised me and I hazard to guess it will you, too.
     Shot as TUTTI I COLORI DEL BUIO (a literal translation of the review title), this film was released to U.S. theaters as THEY'RE COMING TO GET YOU (distributed by Independent-International Pictures) in edited form, shortening the orgy and nudity sequences. Super Video then released it on VHS under the title DAY OF THE MANIAC, shorn of even more footage. It was then released uncut and in widescreen on DVD by Mondo Macabro (long OOP). If you have an all-region Blu-Ray player, British outfit Shameless Films offer it in that format. I saw it on in a nice, uncut widescreen print, in Italian with English subtitles, the way it should be seen. This is a film screaming for a U.S. Blu release. I wish some enterprising stateside company would jump on this ASAP! Also starring Maria Cumani Quasimodo (RIOT IN A WOMEN'S PRISON - 1974), Dominique Boschero (WHO SAW HER DIE? - 1972), Renato Chiantoni (GANG WAR IN MILAN - 1972), Tom Felleghy (THE NIGHT CHILD - 1975), Gianni Pulone (THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS - 1971) and the prolific Carla Mancini (DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER - 1973). Although the U.S. Theatrical version was Rated R, this version is obviously Not Rated.

AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (1981) - I've always considered this film a sleazier low-budget Canadian version of director/writer Paul Schrader's HARDCORE (1979) and once you watch it, I think you will see the similarities, too. Just like Schrader's film, this one is about a man completely out of his element, who makes some surprising choices along the way in search of someone he loves. The film opens with stripper/hooker Isabelle (Alexandra Paul; SPECTRE - 1996) in a cheap motel room, naked in bed and smoking a joint. She is talking to a man in the bathroom (we never see his face or hear his voice), who is washing his hands and putting on a pair of surgical latex gloves. Isabelle is apologizing about some videotapes being made and swears she didn't know anything about it. The man comes out of the bathroom dressed in nothing but a towel, mounts Isabelle and then graphically slits her throat with a straight-razor. We are then introduced to Isabelle's brother Eric (Lawrence S. Day), a Classically-trained pianist and best-selling recording artist (he has the gold records hanging on his walls to prove it!), as he knocks on Isabelle's apartment door (he hasn't talked to Isabelle in quite a while, but she sent him a letter saying that she was in big trouble and needs his help), but gets no answer. Her cross-dressing across-the-hall neighbor Dolly (Larry Aubrey; THE VINDICATOR - 1986) informs Eric that Isabelle is a stripper that uses the name "Tanya" ("They always change their names when they do it.") and that he hasn't seen her in a couple of days. This leads Eric on an odyssey of the seedier side of life, where the streets are full of strip clubs, porno stores, porno theaters and prostitutes. He is truly a stranger in a strange land. When Isabelle, a.k.a. "Tanya", doesn't show up for her normal stripping gig, club manager Wally (Peter Lavender) asks the off-duty Tina (Lenore Zann; HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME - 1980) to fill in for her (Wally says about "Tanya": "Shit, she's probably so spaced out on 'ludes, she can't dial a phone!"). Tina agrees because Tanya is a friend and doesn't want her to be fired, so she goes on stage (she wears a Devil costume and dances provocatively with a pitchfork), much to the dismay of her boyfriend Mark (Page Fletcher; HUMONGOUS - 1981), who would rather Tina come home with him. Eric confronts his estranged father, Hamilton Blake (Tom Harvey), the owner of the huge corporation Blake Industries (who are holding some kind of telethon called "UNI Saves" in the very near future), with the note Isabelle sent him and asks for help in finding her, but Hamilton says it was her and Eric's choice to leave the family and he wants nothing more to do with her. When Eric leaves, Hamilton pulls a photo of Isabelle out of his desk and fondles it, so we know there is more to the story. Eric starts interviewing "Tanya's" friends: strippers Louise (Lora Staley; THIEF - 1981) and Andrea (Claudia Udy; NIGHTFORCE - 1986), but comes away with little information. He then goes to the police, where he talks to Sgt. Skylar (Michael Ironside; SCANNERS - 1980; here billed as "Mike Ironside"), who tells Eric that he doesn't have much faith in what strippers say, but he will look into it. Meanwhile, the faceless killer murders Andrea by slitting her wrists and drowning her in the bathtub, making it look like a suicide. As the killer is exiting the building, he bumps into the cross-dressing Dolly and he gets a good look at the killer's face. Louise doesn't believe that Andrea committed suicide and Eric asks her for help at Andrea's funeral. At first she turns him down ("You're asking me for help at a funeral?!?"), but when the killer tries to murder her and fails, she forms an uneasy alliance with Eric to discover the truth. Hamilton's right-hand man, Tony Shaw (Neil Dainard), asks Eric to play the piano at his father's telethon, but Eric tells Tony to tell his father to go to hell (clue alert!). Eric thinks he can trace Isabelle/Tanya's whereabouts by finding out what telephone calls she received from her answering service (the same service Louise uses). Eric and Louise get a list of numbers after bribing the lady at the answering service and notice there were several calls made by someone known as "The Fixer" at a cheap hotel. Dolly decides he is better off leaving town for good, but he chooses too late, as the killer grabs him in an alley and stabs him in the heart. Eric and Louise are nearly mugged, until Eric intervenes and turns the table on the mugger (I guess playing the piano gives you strong hands!). After Louise witnesses Eric saving her life, they become lovers and have sex at Eric's palatial apartment. While Louise is sleeping, Eric sneaks out and heads to the cheap hotel and strong-arms the hotel manager (Paul Bradley). The manager tells him that The Fixer videotapes all the girls having sex with their tricks, but only The Fixer has the videotapes and he has no idea where he is. Eric and Louise look through the slimier streets of town (where we see a theater marquee advertising the porn film THE SECOND COMING OF EVA - 1974) looking for The Fixer (this is after Louise goes through an embarrassing "audition" for a role in the UNI Saves telethon, but she has a callback) and when Louise goes home because she is tired, Eric finds The Fixer (Mike Copeman) in a porno theater and uses The Fixer's own gun to force him to tell Eric where the videotapes are (at a bus station locker). While Mark is being sweated by Sgt. Skylar as the possible killer, the real one shows up after hours at the strip club and slices Tina's throat with a knife. When Eric watches the videotapes, he sees a familiar face on one of the tapes and it ain't his sister's (well, half of it is)! It's Hamilton fucking his own daughter and when Eric confronts him with the evidence (Hamilton says he been screwing his own daughter since their mother died!) and says he is going to turn it over to the Press and the police, Hamilton commits suicide by shooting himself in the head. As you can guess by now, Hamilton is not the killer; it was Tony (Eric also discovers it is him when he finds Dolly's body and he is holding a key piece of evidence in his dead, clenched hand), who was trying to keep his boss squeaky clean by burying the evidence and the people involved. Eric must race to the UNI Saves auditions, where Louise is "rehearsing" for Tony. Can Eric save Louise in time before Tony takes her life?  This is a cheap, tawdry look at a slice of life that most of us never see and, therefore, is must viewing for people interested in the subject matter. It is full of tits and ass (but no bush) and has enough bloody violence to satisfy early-80's gorehounds, too. Director Don McBrearty is better known for directing episodes of Canadian TV series and TV movies (such as THE HAUNTING OF LISA - 1996), which he is still doing at the time this review was written. Screenwriter John Sheppard (BULLIES - 1986; Dolph Lundgren's DETENTION - 2003) definitely got the impetus for this film from Schrader's movie, except it is much more down and dirty than the George C. Scott-starrer. I actually prefer AMERICAN NIGHTMARE over Schrader's film because it is able to go places and show things not acceptable in a big-budget film. Producer Ray Sager got his start as an actor in a few films by goremaster H.G. Lewis (eventually appearing in the title role in Lewis' WIZARD OF GORE - 1970), before becoming a respected Producer of Canadian genre films, including all three sequels to PROM NIGHT (1980), as well as many Canadian TV movies and television series up to this day. This film was his first as a Producer. One of the Executive Producers was Paul Lynch, who also has a healthy career as a director, making the aforementioned PROM NIGHT, HUMONGOUS and BULLIES, as well as one of my favorite 90's action films NO CONTEST (1994). He is still very active today, especially on Canadian TV. Both Michael Ironside (who is given very little to do here) and Lenore Zann would appear together in the horror film VISITING HOURS, made the same year as this film. Lead actor Lawrence S. Day (who is not bad here) did one more film in 1992 before retiring from acting. Keep your eyes peeled for a juggling stripper and a poster for SCORCHY (1976) in one scene. Originally released on fullscreen VHS by Media Home Entertainment that was much too dark, with a budget VHS from Interglobal Home Video to follow (which was even worse to watch). Be aware that the DVD offered by Scorpion Releasing is also a fullscreen print and was taken from a less-than-pristine negative. There is a disclaimer before the film starts that says this was the only element of the film that could be found and is not up to Scorpion's usually great quality, but it is still better than the VHS print because you can see what is going on in some of the darker scenes. It is full of grain, dirt and emulsion scratches, but I think it adds just the right amount of ambiance to the film's subject matter. Also starring Bunty Webb, Nancy Oliver, Martin Doyle and Don MacQuarrie as the mugger. A Scorpion Releasing DVD Release. Rated R.

AN AMERICAN TERROR (2012) - You would think that a film that begins with a quote by Charles Manson would be complete trash, but this film turns into a socially relevant tale of bullying and school shootings. First off, here's the Manson quote:
"Look down at me and you see a fool -
Look up at me and you see a god -
Look straight at me and you see...yourself."
We then see high school punker Josh (Graham Emmons) get out of bed at 6:56 AM and then look at himself in the cracked bathroom mirror (a not so subtle way of saying this boy has some problems; we also hear his thoughts telling him to stay in bed and not go to school). He then has some breakfast while his mother and father totally ignore him and gets picked up by friends (and fellow punkers) Ray (Joseph Abplanalp, in a terrific performance) and Sammy (Taylor Hulett) in Roy's van and head off to another day of school punishment. Brandon (Nathan Green) and his usual bunch of superior-thinking jocks make comments like "Cheerleader pussy rocks" and Brandon's cheerleader girlfriend Tasha (Louise MacDonald) hears him and remarks that he will be lucky if he gets any. Brandon and the jocks do their daily bullying routine of the three punkers, telling them they need Brandon's permission to cross the football field and Brandon hauls off and punches and spits on Ray for talking back to him. We then see the three punkers in a basement watching a revenge movie on TV that night and when they get out of school the next day, someone has spray-painted "FAGS" across the passenger side of Ray's van. The cheerleaders laugh hysterically and take pictures of the van with their camera phones. The punkers are tired of being bullied because they dress and act differently from everyone else (this goes on daily in reality in almost every school in America), so Ray blurts out "We need guns!" (He wants to pull off a Columbine on the jocks and cheerleaders). The best they can do is come up with a 50 year-old handgun from Sammy's stepfather, but Ray sees a redneck (an unrecognizable Brian Thompson [COBRA - 1986; NIGHTWISH - 1988]) hauling a refrigerator away from Tasha's house (she needed to get rid of it and offered it free on an internet site saying "first come, first served") and makes Josh write down the company's phone number down. Ray says to the other two that the best place to get guns is from a redneck, so they do a reverse phone search of the number and find that the redneck's location (the end credits list Thompson's character name as "The Junker", but I'll stick with "redneck" since that is what the punkers call him) is 40 miles away from Denver (this film was lensed in Denver, Colorado). Ray and Josh plan to drive the 40 miles to the redneck's junkyard, while Sammy goes to the hardware store to get the components he needs to make pipe bombs. Ray tells Sammy if they don't return on time, he is to go through with the act of revenge, but make sure it is during Homecoming Night, when the jocks and their cheerleader girlfriends will be there. Ray and Josh drive to the junkyard, where Josh makes a phone call to the redneck saying there are some antiques that need to picked up immediately in Denver (Josh give him Brandon's address!). The wait for the redneck to leave in his truck and the two punkers break into the redneck's trailer, but find no guns. They do find a secret passageway in the trailer that leads to a huge underground bunker and they will need to use it when the redneck makes an unexpected return. They see that the bunker is full of automatic weapons and they suddenly hear loud gunshots, thinking that the redneck is shooting at them, so they run further down the bunker until they find what looks to be some type of torture room. They still hear the gunshots, so they hide in the room. The sounds they hear are not shots at all, but the sound of the redneck tipping the refrigerator ass-over-tea kettle until he gets it to the torture room. When he opens the refrigerator, Ray and Josh see that Tasha is inside, still alive but has duct tape over her mouth (it really does have many uses in films!) and is tied-up. The redneck puts Tasha in a special torture chair, but Ray talks Josh out of saving her, because she was going to be one of the targets on Homecoming Night anyway. The redneck hears Ray talking and grabs him (he doesn't see Josh), while Josh hides for his life.
HOMECOMING DAY 11:27 AM: The redneck has Tasha and Ray prisoner. The redneck straps some strange gear on his body (including a mask with a huge beak on it, not unlike the one Nivek Ogre wore in SCREAM PARK - 2012) and begins to videotape what is about to happen. The redneck pulls off Ray's eyebrows with a pair of pliers (ouch!) while Ray prattles on about how they could work together to kill their enemies. The redneck has heard enough and puts a bullet in Ray's head, killing him, and then leaves the room. Tasha is still alive and Josh tries to save her. The first thing he does is pull the duct tape off her mouth and she screams (the stupid bitch), so Josh puts the duct tape back over her mouth. The redneck returns to the room carrying the corpse of another woman and he screws the corpse on top of a table while watching Woody Woodpecker cartoons (which could explain the mask). The redneck then falls asleep and Josh frees Tasha (who seems to be drugged) and they try to escape the underground bunker, while a groggy Tasha hampers their speed and keeps passing out.
HOMECOMING DAY 3:42 PM: We watch Sammy making some pipe bombs, totally unaware of what has happened to Roy or what Josh is going through. The redneck wakes up and notices that Tasha is missing, so he grabs his pistol and goes looking for her. Josh and Tasha are still in the bunker thanks to Tasha's drugged-out state, but the more they get through the many corridors, the more dead bodies they find, which means that the redneck has been doing this for a very long time. The redneck soon finds the pair and chokes Josh unconscious, while Tasha grabs the redneck's pistol from its holster, but she misses the redneck with her first shot and drops the gun (We could blame the drugs for making her miss, but she was no more than three feet away from him, so even a blind man could have hit him. And she drops the gun because it makes a big bang, proving that it takes a special breed of idiot to become a cheerleader). The redneck knocks her out with one punch. When Josh wakes up, he is tied-up and in an empty hot tub with the redneck. The redneck (who is smarter than you think) has created a machine that will slowly burn Josh's body away as acid fills the tub and he whispers into Josh's ear (the first time we really get a good look at Thompson's face) that he knows what Josh was going to do that night (thanks to Ray telling him), but it looks like he is not going to be there. The redneck flips the switch that turns on the acid machine and Josh can see the acid traveling down some clear tubes. Tasha suddenly appears and hits the redneck over the head several times with a sledgehammer and tries to free Josh, but she's too stupid to figure it out in time and just pumps bullets into the hot tub, so the acid flows out. The redneck wakes up with what is probably Excedrin Headache #1, but Josh and Tasha have booby-trapped the room and the redneck trips it, causing a big metal gate to come flying at the redneck, hitting him hard. Josh and Tasha make it outside by crawling through a window in the trailer, but the redneck grabs Tasha's leg and Josh chains his arm to a pole. Josh and Tasha use a bulldozer to drop a bunch of junked cars on the trailer, killing the redneck. Suddenly, Josh says, "Fuck, it's not over!"
HOMECOMING NIGHT 7:15 PM: Josh has to stop Sammy from going through with the massacre, but he doesn't have the keys to the car, so he has to go down to the bunker and get the keys out of Ray's pants pocket (he also leaves a sign in the torture room as a tribute to his two friends). He gets the keys and he and Tasha race back to Denver, but it is 40 miles away and time is coming close to the massacre. Sammy walks into a convenience store, where he asks the nerdy teen behind the counter why he is not at the Homecoming Dance. The teen says "Are you kidding me? Just look at me!" and Sammy shakes his hand (It's a telling moment.). While Sammy is walking down the road, he gets hassled by a cop, who wants to know where he is going ("The Homecoming Dance.") and why he is dressed that way ("This is the way I always dress."), but the officer makes his life a living hell, just like the jocks, so he blows up the police car and the officer with a pipe bomb. Josh makes it to the high school just in time and tries to talk Sammy out of the massacre, but then suddenly Josh is woken up by his alarm clock at 6:56 AM, goes to the bathroom and looks at his reflection in the cracked mirror and has breakfast while his parents ignore him. Is Josh caught in a time loop? Turns out that Josh actually talked Sammy out of the massacre and he has become the hero of the school. Donald and the rest of the jocks still treat him like shit, but Josh has a new outlook on life and puts Brandon in his place, something he has never experienced before. Tasha (who is now Josh's girlfriend) yells to Brandon: "Cheerleader does rock!" and kisses Josh. Make sure you stay through the end credits, because the final stinger is very important (I'm not going to spoil it for you, except to say that the redneck is not alive), as the title of the film changes to AN AMERICAN TERROR 2.
What looks like a film that is going to turn into a tale of violent revenge and retribution (Something we have seen much too often in our schools the past few years, turning our educational system into a virtual prison with "zero tolerance", such as a fourth grader who drew a gun in art class and was suspended from school. For drawing a gun!!!! Another younger kid took a two week rip for making his thumb and forefinger in the shape of a gun!!!!! That is not "zero tolerance", that is adult ignorance.) actually turns into a parable about redemption and forgiveness. Everyone, including Josh, can change the future (and sometimes become a hero in the process), but you have to apply yourself and sometimes turn the other cheek. Director/screenwriter/editor/sound designer Haylar Garcia (this was his first feature-length fictional film), was actually an acclaimed musician/songwriter/music producer before he decided to go into filmmaking (I must confess that some of the thrash metal songs playing during some scenes were a distraction to me, but I get the feeling that Garcia was actually speaking to teenagers with this film and not old fogies like myself) and I sincerely hope he sticks with filmmaking, because he actually pulls great performances out of the young cast (This is the first feature film for the actors who play Josh, Ray and Sammy) and holds you in suspense in some scenes. This film is basically serious stuff (but a hand gesture Thompson's character makes sure gave me a good laugh) and teaches both young and old what effect bullying has on people (I know some people who still have emotional scars from being bullied in school and that was over 40 years ago. These are emotional wounds that are hard to heal.) This film may not be for all tastes because, at times, it can be a little "torture porny", but people looking for some social significance to go along with the thriller elements should appreciate this film. It may have cliched portrayals of cheerleaders (Tasha does some really stupid things in this film, but not all cheerleaders are as ditsy as her), but Tasha has one of the best final comeback lines I have heard in quite a while. An enjoyable low-budget film that is as inventive as it is relevant. Besides, any film that makes Charles Manson look like an ass is OK in my book. We are all individuals. We just have to remember that. Also starring James Miller, Michael Haskins, T. Alex Demos, Jennifer Wilde, Kathryn Gould and Troy Alan. An Uncork'd Entertainment DVD Release. It is actually a DVD-R, since Amazon (the exclusive distributor of disc) only produces them MOD (made on demand). It is available on many streaming services, though.  Not Rated.

AUTOPSY (1973) - Downright weird Italian thriller that mixes elements of giallo with horror. The film opens with close-ups of sun flares (the film's Italian title is MACCHIE SOLARI, which translates to "Sun Spots"), as we watch several people in Rome commit suicide. A topless woman slits her wrists with a razor blade. A businessman puts a plastic bag over his head, tightens the drawstring and jumps into a river. Another man lights a match inside his car, which is doused in gasoline, and blows himself up (we see a shot shot of him burning to death). A father kills his two young children with a machine-gun before turning it on himself. Just what is the cause of these suicides? Is it a case of mass hysteria (Rome is going through a sweltering heatwave) or are there more sinister causes at work?
     The job of finding answers falls on pathologist Simona Sanna (Mimsy Farmer; FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET - 1971; THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK - 1974), who is interning at a teaching hospital until she finishes her college thesis on "simulated and authentic suicides" (try not to think too hard about this!). Simona, who is over-worked and over-heated, has a freak-out scene where she imagines all the dead bodies in the morgue come to life and have sex with each other (it must be seen to be believed!). Simona is a new resident at an apartment complex, where she meets her upstairs neighbor, red-headed Betty Lenox (Gaby Wagner), who knocks on Simona's door to borrow an envelope. Betty hears her phone ring, runs upstairs and we can tell by the look on her face that the phone call is trouble. She runs out of the apartment complex, nearly gets raped by two drunk pedestrians, goes to church and then is picked up by someone she knows (but we don't see) . The mystery begins.
     The next day, Simona is in the morgue when the newest "suicide" is brought to her. It is the body of a young woman who stuck a pistol under her chin and pulled the trigger (We see her face which is missing teeth and one eyeball is hanging out of the socket!). We then watch as demented morgue assistant Ivo (Ernesto Colli; THE TEMPTER - 1974) fixes her face with putty so the police can take a picture of her for the newspaper (Ivo makes sure that his hand brushes against her cold naked breast). It turns out that this female stiff is the body of Betty Lenox without her red wig. A priest named Father Paul (Barry Primus; THE DION BROTHERS - 1974) shows up at the morgue and insists that Betty was murdered and could not have possibly committed suicide because he gave her absolution from her sins the night before. You see, Father Paul's last name is Lenox and Betty was his sister. Simona's photographer/race car driver boyfriend, Riccardo (the late Ray Lovelock; LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH - 1978), recalls that Father Paul was once a famous race car driver that was committed to a mental institution after causing a major accident at a racetrack where people were killed (Riccardo tells Simona that it is not such a far leap from a loony bin to a man of the cloth!). Right away, we see that Father Paul is a sandwich short of a picnic, as he yells to Simona, "Show me some respect! Show me some respect!" when she questions his sanity after seeing him punch out the apartment complex's caretaker (Leonardo Severini) for calling Betty a prostitute. Making matter worse, someone is stalking Simona, trying to kill her. But why?
     There are many people who could be the stalker, as they are also hiding secrets of their own. Besides Father Paul and the caretaker (whom we see beating his dog for barking), there's Riccardo, who seems to know more than he is telling; Simona's father, Lello (Carlo Cataneo), who buys a pistol from the caretaker for reasons not yet made clear; Lello's former lover Danielle (Angela Goodwin), who is an artist of grotesque paintings of death (she works at a "criminal museum" that is full of photos of real-life death and wax figures of murderers); Simona's Uncle Gianni (Massimo Serato; DON'T LOOK NOW - 1973), who lies to Simona on when he arrived in Rome. Even Simona herself is a strange bird, as she cannot make love to Riccardo without seeing the bodies of corpses coming to life. It seems that everyone in this film has secrets they would kill for.
     Simona and Father Paul find the caretaker hanging by his neck in his bathroom (he used his belt as a noose). Father Paul tries to revive him (in one of the strangest resuscitation methods that I have ever seen, moving his arms up and down like some air pump!), only to witness him take a final breath before he foams at the mouth and dies. Then Lello jumps (or is pushed out) a window in Betty's apartment and he fractures his back, causing him to become a paraplegic, unable to talk. Just moments before, Lello and Gianni discover a letter written by Betty where she says she wishes she could become Lello's wife, but since she can't, she has taken the only action that makes sense. Yes, this could be looked at as a suicide note, but an important document (a revised will) is missing, which could prove Betty was murdered. Simona and Father Paul decide to hook up Lello with an experimental machine that will enable him to answer questions with his eye movements. Once hooked up to the machine, they ask him if he tried to commit suicide, but all he is able to communicate are the letters "SIMONASEI" before he convulses and dies, foaming at the mouth just like the caretaker did (The letters are part of a quotation in Italian, but it is not translated for English speaking audiences. It really doesn't matter, though.).
     The reveal of the killer is a cheat on the audience, as we are never clued-in on the killer's motivations until the film's final minutes. It seems that Riccardo was injecting people with a deadly paralytic agent to cover up the fact that he killed his father years earlier so he could inherit his father's fortune. Betty had his father's revised will, which disinherited Riccardo (which is why Betty wanted to borrow an envelope from Simona). He killed everyone to get his hands on that will to destroy it. His last act is to inject Simona and Father Paul with the agent, strip them nude, put them in Simona's bathroom and turn on the gas to make it look like a double suicide. Only God is on the side of Father Paul and Simona. They miraculously revive and ruin Riccardo's plans. He dies by falling off scaffolding on top of an old church after getting into a scuffle with Father Paul. Riccardo's final image is of tourists crowding around his crushed body.
     While we are never given a valid reason why some people are committing mass suicide, Simona theorizes that it has something to do with the solar flares that are causing the heatwave (It's a throw-away line that is the only part of the film that is in Italian with English subtitles). Every time someone kills themselves, we are shown close-ups of solar flares shooting off the Sun. Besides the sudden reveal of the killer and his motivations, this is an atmospheric and creepy delight. It has wall-to-wall full frontal male and female nudity and the music score, by Oscar®-winning composer Ennio Morricone (who wrote the my favorite score of all time, the soundtrack to DUCK, YOU SUCKER - 1971) adds immensely to the proceedings. Director Armando Crispino (THE DEAD ARE ALIVE - 1972; FRANKENSTEIN ITALIAN STYLE - 1975), who co-wrote the screenplay with Lucio Battistrada (RIPPED-OFF - 1972), fills the film with weird visuals which will get your mind off of some of the story's gaping plot holes. But that by no means distracts you from the fact that this is an enjoyable, twisted flick from those crazy Italians, whose country is shaped like a boot.
     This was one of a long line of Italian genre films that was released theatrically during the 1970's & 80's. AUTOPSY was released in 1975 (by Joseph Brenner Associates) in a severely-edited R-Rated print, shorn of 15 minutes of footage (Mostly nudity, including an attempted rape of Simona by Ivo, whom she stabs in the cheek with a fork. Which brings up the big question: What in the hell is a fork doing in a morgue?). The edited print was then released on VHS by Prism Entertainment in the mid-'80s, with an uncut widescreen VHS & DVD to follow from Anchor Bay Entertainment early in the New Millennium (long OOP). The only way to go now is the beautiful DVD from Blue Underground (No Blu-Ray at the time of this review). The DVD is short on extras (just a U.S. Trailer and an International trailer where it was known as THE VICTIM), but if your interests run towards strange, nudity-filled Italian thrillers, you won't be disappointed. Also starring Eleonora Morana, Giovanni Di Benedetto, Pier Giovanni Anchisi and Antonio Casale as clueless Police Inspector Silvestri. Not Rated.

BAD ASS (2011) - I love Danny Trejo. Love him. And while this film may be considered a geriatric version of DEATH WISH (1974, Charles Bronson even gets a shout-out in this film), there is so much more going on here than vigilante justice. Trejo has what is probably the biggest role of his career (even bigger than his role in MACHETE - 2010, as he appears in nearly every scene) as Frank Vega, an elderly gent who is about to become a sensation. Frank has had a hard life. After meeting his true love as a teenager, he enlists in the military and fought in the Vietnam War for seven years, the last year as a POW. He is shot in the leg while escaping the POW camp and is honorably discharged by the military, returning home to his true love (who promised to wait for him), only to find her married with two kids. He applies to the police department to become a cop, but is turned down due to his war injury. For the rest of his life, he has supported himself (and his elderly mother) by selling hotdogs from a cart, until one of those "boutique" food truck takes up residence across the street from him, stealing most of his customers. While taking the bus on the way home, two punks hop on board and start harassing the passengers, so Frank takes care of business and knocks the two punks out. People on-board the bus take footage of Frank's fighting on their camera phones on and post it on (called "YouSee" here, probably because wouldn't give them permission to use their name), making Frank an instant Internet sensation, who everyone dubs "Bad Ass". Frank is lacking knowledge in the technical department, as he doesn't even own a cell phone or a computer and wouldn't know how to use either even if he did have them. When Frank's elderly mother dies, she leaves her house to Frank, so he invites best friend Klondike (Harrison Page; LIONHEART - 1990), who saved his life during the war, to come live with him. While they are getting drunk at the house, Klondike throws Frank an envelope and tells him it contains a USB drive (Frank has no idea what that is), explaining that if anything happens to him, he should turn it over to someone he trusts. When Klondike leaves the house to pick up a pack of Camels, he is shot dead by two guys looking for the USB drive. They work for Panther (Charles S. Dutton; MIMIC - 1997), a man who is in cahoots with the town's corrupt Mayor Williams (Ron Perlman; TV's SONS OF ANARCHY) to buy up property in the area and regentrify it illegally. When Frank is notified of Klondike's death, he goes to the police precinct to see what progress they are making. After being assured everything is being done and then watching the detectives playing a game of foam basketball in the precinct's break room, Frank decides to take the law into his own hands. He becomes friends with foul-mouthed kid Martin (John Duffy), who lives next door with his physically abused mother Amber (Joyful Drake), who gets beat-up by her boyfriend nearly every night. When Frank steps in and stops one of those beatings, it becomes apparent that Frank and Amber will become much more than friends (even though he is old enough to be her father, but Trejo pulls it off magnificently). Martin shows Frank how to use the USB drive that Klondike gave him and discovers Panther and the Mayor's plan for their neighborhood. Frank gives the USB drive to the only cop he trusts, Patrol Officer Malark (Patrick Fabian), who Frank has gone on many "ride-alongs" with and have built-up a friendship and then he begins to hunt down the people who killed his friend, starting with the two people who actually killed Klondike. He follows one of the goon's girlfriend to her home (he is caught trying to break in by her diminutive neighbor, played by SEINFELD's Danny Woodburn, but he gives him a pass because he recognizes Frank as "Bad Ass"!) and finds the guy who actually pulled the trigger, killing Klondike. Frank sticks the goon's left hand into the garbage disposal until he gives up the location of Panther (As he is walking out of the house, he says to the goon, "I hope you're a righty!", one of the film's many little jokes that make this film a joy to watch). Trouble is, Panther is waiting for him at the warehouse and some more goons knock Frank out. When Frank wakes up, he is connected to an electrical torture device (shades of LETHAL WEAPON - 1987) and is shocked to give up the location of the USB drive, Panther not knowing that Frank was tortured the same way during his time as a POW and was never broken. Frank breaks free and blows up the warehouse, which leads to Panther and Frank stealing busses (Well, Panther really only steals a bus, as Frank is happily offered another bus because the driver recognizes him as "Bad Ass"!). A bus chase ensues (the only disappointing part of the film, because it is obvious that this footage was cribbed from the Schwarzenegger film RED HEAT - 1988 and digitally altered to substitute Los Angeles for Chicago), both of them crashing the busses. Panther heads to Frank's home to kill Amber, but Franks stops him in the nick of time, beating the crap out of Panther. The next day the Mayor is arrested, thanks to Officer Malark turning over the USB drive to the right people, everyone else is brought to justice and Frank becomes an honorary police officer.  Not just a revenge film, but also an essay on how we are so dependent on "instant access" in the Internet Age, this thriller/action/comedy, directed and written by Craig Moss (BREAKING WIND - 2012, also featuring Trejo), depends on the charisma of Danny Trejo and I'm glad to report, he pulls it off with the aplomb that he was never offered before. This may be the best role of his career, as it does show what a full range Trejo is capable of. He can be tough, tender, funny and romantic, sometimes all in the same scene. As of this review, director Moss has finished a sequel, BAD ASS 2: BAD ASSES (2013), which pairs Trejo with Danny Glover and will be released sometime in 2014 (This film is hilarious and full of action scenes. Trejo and Glover make a great team. See my review in the DTV Section.) and BAD ASS 3: BAD ASSES ON THE BAYOU (also with Glover) to be released sometime in 2015. It's great to see Trejo get such big roles and recognition he so richly deserves so late in his acting career, as he has been appearing in bit roles and secondary characters in nearly 250 films since 1985. Between this series and MACHETE KILLS (2013), it is my hope that Danny Trejo stay on top for years to come (It's hard to believe that Trejo will be 70 years-young in 2014!). Also starring Richard Riehle (HATCHET - 2007) as a priest, Duane Whitaker (TRAILER PARK OF TERROR - 2008) as a pawn shop owner, Norma Michaels (THE ZODIAC KILLER - 1971) as an elderly woman (she has one of the film's funniest lines when Frank saves her from a drive-by shooting) and a cameo by Craig Sheffer (NIGHTBREED - 1990) as a lawyer. A Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

BARRACUDA (THE LUCIFER PROJECT) (1977) - Here's a regional (Florida-lensed) conspiracy thriller that tried to pull the wool over audiences' eyes by making them think they were going to see a JAWS (1975)-inspired tale about killer barracudas, thanks to a misleading ad campaign. It didn't work. A chemical plant in the small coastal town of Palm Cove is dumping some unknown substance into the ocean via an underground runoff valve. Environmental professor Mike Canfield (Wayne Crawford; SOMETIMES AUNT MARTHA DOES DREADFUL THINGS - 1971) tries to find proof of the illegal dumping, only to be arrested by the town's friendly sheriff, Ben Williams (William Kerwin; BLOOD FEAST - 1963), on orders from the chemical plant's megalomaniac owner Papa Jack (Bert Freed). Mike becomes friendly with the sheriff's daughter, Eliza (Roberta Leighton), and together they begin to uncover a deadly secret conspiracy that may reach to top members of our nation's government. When swimmers and scuba divers end up missing or dead (one girl and her dog discover a human head on the beach), thanks to attacks by bloodthirsty barracudas, and thousands of half-eaten fish are discovered washed ashore, Papa Jack tries to cover it up with the help of some shady looking characters wearing dark suits and sunglasses, but things take a turn for the worse when the townspeople begin to get sick and act out violently, like they have lost control of their emotions (something that was covered more thoroughly in the similarly-themed film IMPULSE [1984]). As more people end up dead at the beach, Mike is now getting help from the Sheriff when the water samples Mike collected turn out to have an unknown trace element that seems to change the behavior of anyone or anything that ingests it (and it is in the town's water supply). Mike takes his findings to seemingly kindly local doctor Elliot Snow (Jason Evers; THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE - 1962), who has been treating far more sick patients than normal, only to discover that Dr. Snow may just be the driving force behind all this secrecy. Mike, Eliza and the Sheriff try to get outside help, but the subversive powers-that-be do a pretty good job of covering it up, killing Mike and the Sheriff in a typical nihilistic ending that the 70's so loved to give audiences.  This slow-moving thriller, directed by Harry Kerwin, who co-wrote and produced with star Wayne Crawford (Crawford is also credited with directing the underwater scenes), really doesn't have much to recommend and seems to suffer from severe edits to achieve a PG rating. As usual, Crawford sleepwalks throughout the entire film and looks bored (or stoned) whenever he is on-screen. Both Harry Kerwin, brother William (who also acted using the name "Thomas Wood") and Crawford (who occasionally acted using the name "Scott Lawrence") have worked together several times before, most notably in Harry's two underrated films, GOD'S BLOODY ACRE (1975) and TOMCATS (1976), which makes BARRACUDA a bitter disappointment in comparison. The violence here, unlike the previous two films, is sparse and uninspired (the barracuda attacks consists of someone shaking the camera while fake blood is released into the water, followed by close-ups of obviously fake barracuda's open mouths) and notable edits (even the music soundtrack jumps, which seems to indicate that the films PG rating was decided after post-production) robs the viewers of any carnage. The 70's turned out a lot of "They Are Us" conspiracy thrillers thanks to Watergate and it's aftermath, but BARRACUDA is one of the weakest of the lot. One funny scene shows Mike turning down a roll in the hay with Eliza because he doesn't want to disrespect her father by screwing her in his house. Now I've heard everything! Harry Kerwin puts in a cameo as an assassin who guns-down three people in a local newspaper office when they get too close to the truth. Also starring Cliff Emmich, Scott Avery, Bob J. Shields and Bobbie-Ellyne Kosstrin. Originally released on VHS by VidAmerica Inc. and available on DVD from Dark Sky Films as part of a double feature with ISLAND FURY (1983/89). Rated PG.

BECAUSE OF THE CATS (1973) - Compelling thriller about a gang of well-dressed young men who rob and rape wealthy people and the police inspector who is determined to catch them. When the film opens, we watch as the six youths break into the home of a wealthy couple and gang-rape the woman while forcing the husband to watch. As the wife tells her story to Amsterdam Police Inspector van der Valk (Bryan Marshall; THE PUNISHER - 1989), she remembers something unusual that one of the masked youths said when he refused to take part in her rape: "The cats won't like it." The Inspector, who believes the youths are well-bred and perform the robberies and rapes strictly for kicks (they especially seem to find joy in destroying property more than stealing it), begins his unorthodox investigation, first sleeping with an expensive call girl named Feodora (Alexandra Stewart) to get clues as to who these spoiled youths may be. It turns out that the Inspector's suspicions were correct. Each one of these youths comes from a well-to-do family and they have bonded together, calling themselves "The Ravens". The only problem the Inspector has is getting proof, since he runs into brick walls when trying to get anyone to spill the beans, since the kids' influential families can ruin them for life. The newest recruit to The Ravens, Kees van Sonneveld (Nicholas Hoye), may be the one person that breaks under the Inspector's questioning, but first the Inspector must navigate the unfamiliar world of society's rich, where the parents of the youths are just as corrupt (if not more so) as their children. The parents put pressure on the Inspector's superiors to get him to back off, but he keeps chugging ahead trying to find out the meaning of "The cats won't like it." The rest of The Ravens mistakenly believe that Kees has spilled his guts to the Inspector, so they try to kill him by running his scooter off the road, but he manages to escape. When Kees is eventually found dead on the beach dressed in scuba gear, the Inspector knows The Ravens are responsible, but will have a hard time proving it, so he begins his own intimidation campaign against them. Eric (Anthony Allen), the leader of The Ravens, begins an intimidation campaign of his own, threatening Feodora for talking to (and sleeping with) the Inspector. She finds her pet cats graphically slaughtered in her apartment, a warning to keep her mouth shut or she will be next. The truth is eventually exposed and the Inspector arrests The Ravens for murder, but he also discovers just who the "Cats" are (I won't spoil it for you) and that The Ravens weren't acting on their own. They also have a Manson-like leader who was guiding their every move. Can the Inspector find enough evidence to bring this monster down?  This slow, methodical thriller, directed and produced by Fons Rademakers (whose 1986 film, THE ASSAULT, won the Academy Award for best foreign film in 1987), begins with a graphically unpleasant and hard-to-watch gang rape (which is edited out of some prints) and then proceeds to give the viewers clues as to why these spoiled, privileged brats do what they do. The screenplay, by Hugo Claus (based on a novel by Nicolas Freeling), is not only an indictment against the wealthy and the influence they hold over the common people, it's also an indictment against parental neglect. Some parents, like Kees' father, are never around (he's not even available to the police when his son is found dead), some are protective only because they don't want their family name sullied and some just don't give a shit. While the violence (besides the rape) is fairly restrained (the shots of Feodora's slaughtered cats is the bloodiest this film gets), the nudity, including both full-frontal male and female, is graphic and borders on pornography in some scenes (It was originally Rated X when submitted to the MPAA and had to be shorn of some footage to receive an R-rating). The final thirty minutes, where The Ravens' Svengali-like leader is exposed and we witness a flashback involving Kees' murder, an orgy and a ritualistic cat sacrifice, is about as sexually graphic as a film can get without being covered in a plain brown wrapper. While some of the ideals and morality (not to mention the fashions) may seem dated today, BECAUSE OF THE CATS is still an entertaining mix of heady themes that makes for a satisfying thriller. The mod, brassy score, by Ruud Bos, is also a highlight. Also starring Edward Judd, Sebastian Graham Jones, Derek Hart, Christopher Blake, Delia Lindsay, Roger Hammond, George Baker and Sylvia Kristel, who plays an important role in the film's conclusion, besides being completely nude for the majority of her screen time. Originally available on VHS from Prism Entertainment in the compromised R-rated edit. The version I viewed was an uncut, widescreen version that I downloaded from a torrent site. Not Rated.

BLACK ANGEL (1989) - Really bad late-'80s Italian giallo flick, full of too many coincidences to be believable, a horrendous performance by the lead actress and dubbing that could be politely be described as amateurish. In other words, it's bad enough to be attention getting, like watching a train wreck where you think your closest friend has died. You don't want to see it, yet you can't take your eyes off of it, hoping it will get better, but you just know the result will be disastrous.
     Arabella (model Tini Cansino; who is called "Deborah" in the English dub, so I will call her that in this review) is married to novelist Francesco Veronese (Francesco Casale), who is permanently in a wheelchair, put there when Deborah decided to give him oral sex while he is driving away from the church they just got married in, causing him to get into a bad car wreck and losing the use of his legs. Francesco hasn't made love to Deborah since the accident, causing her to look for sexual thrills on her own in the middle of the night. On one of those nights, Deborah visits an S&M whorehouse and she watches, spellbound, people performing degrading acts on each other (A woman shoving a baton up a male client's ass; two gay men wrestling with each other; a two man, one woman ménage a trois). Two men then walk up to Deborah and begin to feel her up. She likes it, but when she is slapped by one of the men, she tells him to stop (it is an S&M whorehouse, after all) and he pulls out a switchblade, pressing it up against he neck. Luckily for Deborah, the police raid the joint. Deborah hides and when she thinks it is safe, she sneaks back to her car, only to get collared by a cop. As the cop slaps the handcuffs on her, putting her hands behind her back, she pleads with him, saying she is not a prostitute, she just came to pick up a friend. The cop then rapes her (standing up, the Italian's favorite way of having sex, at least in films of this type) and when he is done, he removes the handcuffs and says, "You were right, you are not a whore!", telling her to go home. The whole time this is happening, a Private Detective (Giose Davi) is snapping away with his camera, taking photos of Deborah, but who hired him?
     The next morning, Deborah makes breakfast for Francesco and brings it to his home office, where he sits by a typewriter, suffering from a severe case of writer's block. He screams at Deborah, telling her to get out of the room ("Look at my wife. She's in love with a cripple!"). She runs out of the room in tears and Francesco's mother, Marta (Evelyn Stewart; THE NIGHT CHILD - 1975), comforts her, saying her son will apologize to her because he's a good boy at heart. The buzzer to the front gate of their home goes off and Deborah can see by the security camera that it is the cop who raped her the night before (she dropped her purse when he raped her, which is how he knew where she lived). Deborah runs to the front gate and offers the cop money to go away. He's not interested in money, he just wants more of Deborah's sweet body. Deborah tells him not here, as her husband might see them and leads him to a nearby shed, where they begin to do the nasty. Meanwhile, Francesco has come to apologize and when he can't find his wife, he wheels himself outside, even though his mother tells him not to. Francesco spies on his wife making love to the cop, but what he doesn't expect is what Deborah will do next. Just as the cop is about to climax, Deborah hits him over the head with a mallet, killing him. This act of violence snaps Francesco out of his writer's block, creating a character called the "Black Angel", about a female vigilante who kills men who deserves to be killed, but he needs more material to finish the novel, so he sends his wife out in the night and when she comes back home, she tells him what she did and saw that night, which Francesco "fictionalizes", giving his novel an air of realism.
     About the time this is all going on, a serial killer, who the press have dubbed the "Scissors Murderer", is killing men at night cutting off their penises (!), beginning with the Private Detective we saw back at the S&M whorehouse. Female Police Inspector Gina Fowler (Valentina Visconti) is put in charge of finding the Scissors Murderer, but she has a secret that she only tells to her lesbian lover and police partner, Agnese (Rena Niehaus; DAMNED IN VENICE - 1978): When she was a young girl, she saw her mother cut off her father's penis for being a serial adulterer. Not one to keep a secret and looking to advance her career, Agnese betrays her lesbian partner and tells her secret to the press, where it makes the front page on all the newspapers the following morning, calling Gina the Scissors Murderer. Sure enough, Gina is pulled off the case and Agnese is now in charge, but something happens which makes Gina look like the serial killer that even the police can't ignore. The real Scissors Murderer calls Gina's phone, not knowing she has been discharged from the force, and talks to Agnese, who pretends to be Gina. She agrees to meet the killer that night, as he has something he wants to give to Gina. Stupid dyke. Agnese is viciously murdered that night and guess who's the prime suspect? That's right, it's Gina and the police have issued an all points bulletin for her arrest. Gina, who is hiding and trying to find the serial killer on her own to prove her innocence, has a friend on the force, a male detective named De Rosa (Carlo Mucari; BRIDGE TO HELL - 1986). She asks him to give her 24 hours to find the real killer and if she doesn't, she will turn herself in. So what does this have to do with Deborah and Francesco? This is where the believability-straining coincidences come into play (besides the big one I have just described).
     About two-thirds into the movie, we find out that Gina is Francesco's sister (!). Think about that for a moment (I'll wait)...... But, wait! It turns out that Francesco was never crippled, he can walk! It turns out that he wasn't hurt in the accident, he was pretending because, as he tells Deborah, it gave him ideas for a book. Think about that for a moment (I'll wait)...... Yes, he purposely didn't make love to his wife all for the sake of his book! So why did he have writer's block??? So who is the killer? It's not that hard to figure out (Gina's Mother + Dad's Penis = Francesco's Mother). About the only surprise this film offers is when Francesco makes love to Deborah outside at night and Marta, who was following Deborah every night and doesn't know her son can walk, stabs Francesco in the back, killing him, thinking he was a rapist attacking Deborah! The next time we see Deborah, she is back at the S&M whorehouse, only this time she is a changed woman, much different than she was when she first walked into the joint. Is it possible she inherited her mother-in-law's penchant for cutting off penises? Is she the new Scissors Murderer?
     This sleazy Italian giallo doesn't have one good thing going for it, but it has plenty of bad, enough to make you watch it from beginning to end. Director Stelvio Massi (FIVE WOMEN FOR THE KILLER - 1974; MAGNUM COP - 1978; BLACK COBRA - 1987; HELL'S HEROES - 1987), using his pseudonym "Max Steel", loves to fill this film with pubic hair, allowing the camera (he was also this film's cinematographer) to linger on vaginas as much as humanly possible. That may sound like a good idea to some people, but not in this film. It's extraneous, put there to cover up the fact that the story is weak. Every time you begin to realize that the plot is nothing but puked-up giallo clichés, Massi throws in a vagina. How did she die, it wasn't clear? Vagina! What, he can walk? Vagina! This isn't a mystery, it's softcore bordering on hardcore porn. Vagina! Add to that the acting "talents" of model Tini Cansino. As an actress, she is a great model. Vagina! Even poor Evelyn Stewart (real name: Ida Galli), who did her share of classic giallo films (THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH - 1968; WEEKEND MURDERS - 1970; THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY - 1971; and Lucio Fulci's THE PSYCHIC - 1977, just to mention a few), looks embarrassed appearing in this dreck. Films like this give giallo a bad name.
     Shot as ARABELLA L'ANGELO NERO ("Arabella The Black Angel"), this film never received a U.S theatrical release and was released severely edited on VHS under the review title by Imperial Entertainment (cutting out the majority of vagina scenes). An outfit called Cinema De Bizarre then released an uncut, badly English-dubbed fullscreen print on DVD under the ARABELLA title, which I saw on streaming channel B-Movie TV (Only available through Roku). Even though it was free, after watching it, I thought I deserved to be paid for doing so. Avoid at all costs unless you are a masochist (Hey, I've been called worse!). Also featuring Renato D'Amore, David D'Ingeo, and Vinicio Diamanti (TO BE TWENTY - 1978). Not Rated. Vagina!

BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA (1971) - You gotta love a film that opens with a nude Barbara Bouchet getting a full body massage from a blind man (and getting aroused by it!). Bouchet portrays Maria Zani, who we next see getting slapped around by her husband, Paolo (Silvano Tranquili), after he receives nude photographs of her with another man. After accusing her of being a nymphomaniac and telling her he is being blackmailed, he demands to know the man's name, but she refuses to tell him. We then see some unknown person, wearing a trench coat, a big floppy hat and flesh-colored latex gloves, preparing a long needle, then creeping into Maria's house and inserting it into the back of her neck, paralyzing her. As she lays motionless on her bed, she can only watch (she can't even scream) as the killer slowly stabs her in the stomach and moves the blade upwards, killing her. Police Inspector Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) interviews Paolo and finds out he and Maria were separated for three months. Tellini also finds a torn half of the blackmail photo, showing only a nude Maria and the mystery gentleman's hands, but Tellini finds a smudge in the upper right hand of the photo, which turns out to be a clue. Paolo has the other half of the photo and hires a private investigator to find out the man's name and where he lives. The killer then murders another female victim, using the same method that was used on Maria: A paralyzing needle to the neck followed by a knife to the stomach. Tellini can find no connection between the latest victim (a cocaine trafficker) and Maria. Paolo is considered the main suspect, but after professing his innocence to Tellini, he goes on the lam and swears to find the real killer. Tellini breaks one case (cocaine being transported in containers of tarantulas!), but it brings him no closer to unmasking the killer (he does learn about the symbiotic relationship between tarantulas and wasps, though, which he will learn later is also an important clue). Paolo, with the help of the private investigator, finds his wife's lover in the photo, but a series of mishaps results in Paolo falling off the roof of a highrise building and dying, while the lover is run over by the killer (who's driving a red sportscar) as Tellini is chasing him. Tellini discovers that all the killings may be tied to a blackmail ring, but the killer keeps knocking-off any potential witnesses. When the killer tries to take Tellini's life (with a runaway pipe truck), Tellini must find a way to stop the killer before it becomes even more personal.  This early 70's Itallian/French giallo, directed by Paolo Cavara (MONDO CANE - 1962; DEAF SMITH & JOHNNY EARS - 1972; PLOT OF FEAR - 1976) is a pretty tight little murder mystery that contains all the giallo staples: A mysterious gloved killer, some brutal murders, plenty of red herrings and lots of nudity. Scripter Lucile Laks also puts us deep into Inspector Tellini's personal life, introducing us to his flaky wife, Anna (Stefania Sandrelli), who, at one point, sells all the furniture in their apartment, leaving them only with a bed (!), but it proves to be an integral part of the film. When Tellini discovers homemade movies the dead blackmailer had in his apartment, the whole detective squad watch them and discover footage of Tellini making love to his wife, which results in laughter  from the squad and embarassment and anger from Tellini. Throughout the film, Tellini tells his wife that he's going to quit the force because he feels that he's not "up to it", but time and time again he proves to us that he is probably the smartest man in the department. The murders, while not particularly gory, are still brutal in their execution; the beautiful Barbara Bouchet's (CRY OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974) being the most memorable. This would make the perfect companion piece with HANNIBAL (2001), if only to imagine star Giancarlo Giannini playing an older version of his Tellini character in that film (Their characters are strikingly similar in both films, right down to having wives needing money and wanting to leave the police force). BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA was released theatrically in the U.S. by MGM in a severely-edited 89 minute version as part of a double feature with WEEKEND MURDERS (1970). For a lot of American audiences, this was their first taste of giallo. Not a bad way to be introduced to the genre, if you ask me. As with a lot of giallo films, the opening scenes are an important clue to the killer's identity. Also, the use of primary colors play a role in telling the story. Here, red is the dominate color. Try to spot how many scenes director Cavara uses red in the background or on objects and clothing. Ennio Morricone once again provides an evocative and powerful music score to compliment the murder and action set-pieces. A young Barbara Bach (THE HUMANOID - 1979; THE UNSEEN - 1981) appears briefly as Jenny, who does a striptease and then ends up with a needle in her neck. Even though Claudine Auger (BAY OF BLOOD - 1971) is given second billing, she's on-screen for less than five minutes. Also starring Rossella Falk, Giancarlo Prete and Ezio Marano. Blue Underground offers the fully-uncut 98 minute version in a nice, but not perfect, widescreen print on DVD. Not Rated.

BLADE (1972) - For the first time on U.S. home video, thanks to DVD label Code Red, we are now able to see this TV staple in its unedited glory (well, maybe glory is going too far). The version shown on TV and VHS for all those years was heavily edited, removing all instances of violence and nudity and new footage was shot in 1979 (including the opening, in which we can plainly see a theater marquee advertising the film APOCALYPSE NOW) to pad out the film to 79 minutes so it could be shown in a 90-minute time slot. This is the full 90-minute theatrical version (lensed in New York City) and even though it was directed by Ernest Pintoff (DEATH OF A HOOKER - 1971; JAGUAR LIVES - 1979) and co-written by Pintoff and Jeff Lieberman (the director of such cult films as SQUIRM - 1976, JUST BEFORE DAWN - 1980 and SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER - 2004), the film itself is a mixed bag. The movie opens with well-dressed woman-hating psycho Frederic Peterson (Jon Cypher; THE FOOD OF THE GODS - 1976) watching white girl Melinda (Jeanne Lange) making out with black man Henry (Ted Lange; THE LOVE BOAT - 1977-1987) in his car. When Henry leaves, Frederic follows Melinda into her apartment complex, where he brutally kills her using karate moves and slamming her head over-and-over on a stair bannister. High-price call girl Karen (Raina Barrett; STIGMA - 1972) descends the stairs after her weekly meeting in the penthouse with her wealthy john and spots Frederic in the complex entrance (but she doesn't see the murder), even offering to make a date with him in the future (Frederic follows her home to find out where she lives). It turns out that Melinda was the daughter of crooked Congressman Powers (William Prince; THE GAUNTLET - 1977), who is now running for President on an anti-drug and anti-pornography platform (The speech he gives about the Middle Class is as relevant today as it was back then). When it is discovered that Melinda was a drug addict and Henry was not only her boyfriend, but also her supplier, Powers' spin doctor, Steiner (Keene Curtis; a popular TV series guest star, probably best known for his recurring role as millionaire "John Allen Hill" on CHEERS from 1990 to 1993), calls up Police Chief Rearson (John Schuck; who would soon become Rock Hudson's sidekick on TV's MCMILLAN AND WIFE [1971-1977] and previously appeared as suicidal Captain "Painless" Waldowski in the movie MASH - 1970) and tells him to keep the drug aspect of the murder case out of the newspapers. Since Rearson is as crooked as a corkscrew, he agrees, but he has to contend with Lieutenant Tommy Blade (John Marley; THE CAR - 1977), a no-nonsense honest cop (practically the only one in this film) who decides to investigate Melinda's murder his own way after arresting Henry and knowing he is not the killer (Reardon threatens to put in Blade's retirement papers if he doesn't listen to him). Blade is a divorced cop who lives with much younger novelist Maggie (Kathryn Walker) and doesn't see his young son as much as he should (He confiscates a .22 caliber zip gun off his son, which will prove handy later on). Blade gets a call and pays a visit to Black Panther-type leader Chris (an early role for Morgan Freeman), who tells him that he better release Henry, otherwise there will be a black militant uprising. Blade treats everyone the same: He says what he means and doesn't care what the consequences are. When Frederic murders Karen (he gives her a few katate chops and kicks, then strangles her with a telephone cord) so she can't identify him to the police, only Blade notices the similarities between Melinda and Karen's deaths. Another crooked cop, also on Congressman Powers' payroll, steals Karen's red appointment book (which could sink the Congressman's presidential aspirations) and locks it in his car's glove compartment (but he doesn't even bother locking his car doors!). Blade picks the glove compartment lock and steals the appointment book, which is a treasure trove of important information. Meanwhile, female secretary Jill Connors (Karen Machon) knows something is hinky with new hire Frederic Peterson and does some investigation into his background with the help of ex-CIA operative Gail (a cameo by Rue McClanahan) and discovers that Frederic Peterson's name is actually Frederic Powers and he was dishonorably discharged from the Marines during the Korean War for the brutal beating death of a Korean girl. Yes, Frederic is actually Congressman Powers' brother and the Congressman has been covering-up Frederic's murderous ways ever since he was released from a mental institution after the war. Frederic was sent to live with his elderly Aunt Cynthia (Katherine Squire), who makes sure he stays out of trouble (she doesn't do such a good job). When Frederic kills Jill and then Aunt Cynthia (for ratting on him to his brother), he sets up Blade (who quits the police force in disgust) for a final showdown in a wooded park with Maggie as bait, where he beats the snot out of Blade before Blade shoots him dead with the zip gun. A final on-screen scrawl tells us that Congressman Powers won the election by only 1,800 votes and Blade was found not guilty of murdering Frederic (after Reardon and several cops were convicted of corruption), being reinstated to the police force.  First of all, the print used by Code Red, although shown in its proper aspect ratio, is a total mess (They did much better with their uncut DVD version of director Bert I. Gordon's THE MAD BOMBER - 1972 [under its alternate title THE POLICE CONNECTION], which was butchered for U.S. TV and VHS). It is full of emulsion scratches and dirt (even a hair or two), is missing some frames (which makes us miss some dialogue here and there) and even shows us the reel change dots in the upper right hand of the screen (Code Red founder Bill Olsen wants us to believe this is a grindhouse experience, as it is apparent that no restoration at all was even applied to the film's less-than-stellar celluloid elements). There's not much action in the film and even less violence, just Frederic kicking the shit out of women and Blade (it is brutal, but not as bloody as it could have been). There is plenty of nudity, though, including Karen's ditzy porn actress roommate, Claudell (Geri Miller), who is topless in all her scenes (Steve Landesberg puts in a comedic appearance as Claudell's porn director). The film looks like it was edited with a trowel, as one scene jumps to the next, many of them without any connective tissue at all (The majority of the film also looks to have been lensed with hand-held cameras). John Marley is good in the role (much of his dialogue seems improvised), but his attire, including wearing a hankerchief around his neck like it was a tie, definitely shows the film's early-70's roots. BLADE doesn't quite deliver as a thriller, action or exploitation film. It feels more like a 70's TV cop movie with added nudity and curse words. It's good as a time capsule (many of the actors here have since passed away), but not much else. Also starring Michael McGuire, Joe Santos (who is wasted in a nothing role as Blade's partner), Peter White and Marshall Efron. Originally available on VHS in the TV edit by Video Gems and then as a budget VHS (recorded in the lousy EP mode) by Star Classics. Code Red has released the theatrical version as part of a double feature DVD, the other film being the Franco Nero-starrer RING OF DEATH (1969). Rated R.

A BLADE IN THE DARK (1983) - The career of director Lamberto Bava is a very erratic one. It seems for evey good film we got (MACABRE a.k.a. FROZEN TERROR - 1980), we also got a terrible one (DEVIL FISH - 1984). He gave us the superbly twisted DEMONS (1985) and the fair-to-middling DEMONS 2 (1986), but then also gave us the supremely bad DEMONS III: THE OGRE (1988; but, to be fair, that was an Italian TV movie). In other words, Bava's output was a little schizophrenic, but there was always one thing you could count on in both his bad and good films: you would get plenty of gory violence. Personally, I think he has more hits than misses, but some of his films defy description, such as DELIRIUM: PHOTO OF GIOIA (1987), and even his minor films, such as BLASTFIGHTER (1984) and BODY PUZZLE (1992), gave us the over-the-top violence we craved in the 80's & early-90's (He would usually use the pseudonym "John Old Jr." on his minor or bad films as a tribute to his father, genre maestro Mario Bava, who used the pseudonym "John Old" on some of his older films, before he became an established name of quality entertainment). Which brings us to A BLADE IN THE DARK, which was a late entry in the giallo genre with a little of Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) and Brian De Palma's BLOW OUT (1981) mixed in for good measure. It's not the greatest mystery thriller, but it is an entertaining one that gives us more than enough nudity and violence to make up for some huge holes in Dardano Sacchetti (THE PSYCHIC - 1977; THE BEYOND - 1981) and Elisa Briganti's (MANHATTAN BABY - 1982; HANDS OF STEEL - 1986) screenplay. The film opens up with two young boys pressuring another young boy to enter the basement of what is probably a haunted house. They tease him by repeating. "You're a female! You're a female!..." and throw a tennis ball down the stairs, telling him if he doesn't want to be called a female, he will go down the stairs and get the ball. The young boy slowly walks down the stairs, while we hear the sound of a heartbeat on the soundtrack. When the boy disappears in the shadows and then screams, the heartbeats stop and someone (or something) throws the tennis ball up the stairs, it hitting a wall and leaving a round bloodstain where it impacts. The two young boys flee as if their lives depended on it (and probably crapping their pants in the process). We are then introduced to film composer Bruno (Andrea Occhipinti; Lucio Fulci's THE NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982, which he acted in using the pseudonym "Andrew Painter"), who is about to compose music for his first horror film. His agent, Tony Rendina (future director Michele Soavi; STAGE FRIGHT - 1987; THE CHURCH - 1989; he's an Assistant Director on this film and is badly dubbed), has rented Bruno a secluded villa where he can concentrate on creating music without distractions, but as we will soon find out, that is not going to happen. The director of the horror film, Sandra (Anny Papa; THE GREAT ALLIGATOR - 1979), will not give Bruno the final reel of the film, rather letting Bruno's seclusion and imagination take over in composing the soundtrack. She believes her horror film needs a music soundtrack from a composer that has never done a horror film before (Actually, the music we hear Bruno composing comes from the outstanding de Angelis brothers, Guido and Maurizio, who have done the soundtracks to such genre films as THE MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD [1978]; ALIEN 2: ON EARTH [1980] and many others, sometimes using the name "Oliver Onions") The only other person around, who lives in a guest house next to the villa, is caretaker Giovanni (Stanko Molnar; Bava's MACABRE - 1980), who basically keeps to himself, even though he looks sinister. When Bruno goes to sit at his piano and record his first session to the soundtrack, he notices that a nude photo of one of the women in his girly magazines has been sliced-up (We earlier see an unknown person with one of those retractable X-Acto knives [the kind that "clicks" when you move the blade up or down], slicing up that picture while Bruno is not present), but Bruno thinks it was Giovanni and one of his quirks and continues composing. Bruno think that Giovanni is the only other person around. That is, until he finds Katia (Valeria Cavalli; MOTHER OF TEARS - 2007) hiding in one of his closets (She is a neighbor from down the road and wanted to meet her new neighbor). Before they can talk, Tony calls on the phone and Katia goes to use the bathroom, but when Bruno is done talking to Tony, Katia has disappeared. He discovers Katia's diary in the closet and begins reading it, where she says that she is about to reveal a big secret to someone very soon. Bruno continues to record the soundtrack, while a killer with the same X-Acto knife attacks Katia outside, slicing her face and her hand, but she gets away, only to get caught behind some chicken wire fencing where the killer graphically cuts Katia's stomach and slices her throat through the openings in the chicken wire. Bruno can't hear her screams because he is playing the piano and recording it. He plays back his recording while the killer is dragging the dead corpse of Katia away, where he hears a strange abnormality on the tape. It sounds like a woman's voice, but he can only make out "Secret...yes, one must know" and writes it down on a piece of paper (It seems to be almost the same thing Katia wrote in her diary). Bruno steps outside to smoke a cigarette and nearly catches the killer dragging Katia's body away, but when he steps back inside to find droplets of blood on his pants, he goes outside again to discover even more blood, but no body. He once again returns to the inside of the villa, only to find his recording destroyed and pages from Katia's diary burning in the fireplace. Someone is trying to cover up their tracks. Bruno's actress girlfriend, Julia (Lara Naszinski; Lucio Fulci's AENIGMA - 1987), pays him a surprise visit, and when he mentions that Katia payed him a visit and he thinks she now may be dead, she acts like a jealous bitch and  leaves (not even caring that Katia, whom she thinks Bruno believes is more beautiful than her, may have been murdered). Bruno does some research and discovers that a woman named Linda rented the villa before him and Tony tells him that he put some of her stuff in a locked room in the cellar. Tony tells him to forget about the room and finish his music soundtrack when Bruno asks for the key. Katia's friend Angela (Fabiola Toledo; Bava's DEMONS - 1985) stops at the villa to talk to Bruno and ask if she can use the pool. Bruno has no objections and we then see the killer watching Angela strip naked in the pool-house to get into her bathing suit. While Angela is swimming in the pool, she discovers the X-Acto knife at the bottom and places it at the edge of the pool. Bruno has made a trip to the film studio, where both we and Bruno discover that the scene we saw at the beginning of the film with the three boys is actually part of the final reel of Sandra's horror film, while Bruno plays the scene in forward and reverse to get a sense on how to score it (What the two mean boys call the other boy turns out to be a major clue as to who the killer is). The killer, who we now discover has hands with red nail polish and wears a nice pair of black pumps, plunges a knife into Angela's hand while she is washing her hair in a sink, pinning her hand to the counter. The killer murders Angela by putting a clear plastic bag over her head and banging her cranium over and over on the porcelain sink until the plastic bag fills with her blood (there's a particularly nasty scene of the knife that is pinning Angela's hand slicing it until her hand is free). The killer pulls the knife out of the counter and cuts Angela's throat for good measure. Eerily, the killer seems to be disturbed by all the blood that is scattered throught the bathroom (and it is a lot!) and takes the time to clean it up before leaving. Now is the time I ask readers a few questions, because I never give away the ending of a giallo film in my reviews. Here are the questions: Is the mysterious Linda involved because she is hiding something (or someone) in that locked room in the basement? Is Julia so jealous that she will kill any woman who gets close to her boyfriend (she shows up during the final third of the film holding a big knife)? Is Sandra using Bruno as a pawn to come up with a good final act to her film? Could Bruno actually be the killer since we never see him and the killer in the same shot (not even when he discovers the blood on his pants)? What about Giovanni, as we never see him leave the property or even have a girlfriend? And what does a cedar chest full of tennis balls have to do with it all? I've given you more than enough clues. Now you need to figure it out.  Actually, the killer's identity is rather easy to figure out since there are precious too few red herrings. I'm not going to tell you who it is, but it all makes sense in the end. Lamberto Bava borrows many themes from other giallo and slasher films, but he gives us some wince-inducing moments here, especially Angela's pinned hand slowly being sliced open between her fingers as the killer is bashing her head in, putting pressure on her hand to move backwards, as the camera lovingly stays on the hand as it is being sliced open. As a giallo film, this is just average and full of holes (The villa that Bruno is living in is supposed to be secluded, but he sure gets a lot of visitors and it seems to be a short car ride to the film studio), but it is still entertaining nonetheless. The trick here is that every person in the film holds some type of bladed weapon at one time or another in the film, so any of them could be the killer but, as the film progresses and the small cast begins getting killed, it is obvious at the halfway point that only one person could be the killer. There's a quite surprising death in the finale, but I will not spoil it for you, other than to say I thought that person would survive. The film made its premiere in edited form on VHS from Lightning Video and then was released supposedly uncut on VHS and DVD early in the New Millennium by Anchor Bay Entertainment in a 104-minute version. Blue Underground then gained home video rights and delivered a beautiful fully uncut 109-minute version in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) from original vault materials. If you are a giallo completist (and what genre fan isn't?), then A BLADE IN THE DARK should be part of your library. Also featuring Giovanni Frezza and Marco Vivio. A Blue Underground DVD Release. Not Rated.

BLOOD AND LACE (1970) - This is probably the sleaziest and bloodiest film to ever receive a PG (or GP) rating. As I was watching it, all I could do is think about how the MPAA must have been napping when this film was submitted for a rating. The film open with an unseen killer murdering a women sleeping in bed with the claw end of a hammer (the imaginative POV shots are taken from the perspective of the hand holding the hammer) and then setting fire to the room. Ellie (Melody Patterson), the dead woman's wise-ass daughter, looks to find out who killed her mother, even though she knows her mother was the town slut. Since Ellie is underage, she gets put in the orphanage run by Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame; THE NESTING - 1980), who receives a 0 a month stipend for every orphan she houses. That's all fine and dandy, until we find out that Mrs. Deere likes to spend the money on herself and leaves the orphans hungry most of the time and is not above killing those who try to run away. She simply puts their bodies in the basement freezer and puts them in the infirmary when the clueless Dr. Mullins (Milton Selzer) comes to visit to take his monthly head count. When Ellie arrives there, she almost immediately knows something wrong is going on (it doesn't help that she finds one poor girl chained up in the attic, dying of thirst). Ellie strikes up a friendship with fellow orphan Walter (Ronald Taft) and makes an enemy in female orphan Bunch (Terri Messina), who has a crush on Walter. Meanwhile, Tom (Len Lesser), the orphanage handyman, has just chopped-off the hand of a runaway orphan with a meat cleaver, which upsets Mrs. Deere. Not because he chopped-off the hand, but because the orphan got away! Mrs. Deere will do anything to keep collecting 0 per orphan. It doesn't matter if they are dead or alive, but she must have a body. As Ellie investigates further, she becomes aware of Mrs. Deere's evil doings and finds out that when the orphan supply becomes low, parents turn up dead in town. Is it possible that Mrs. Deere is responsible for Ellie's mother's death? If you think you have it figured out, think again.  The subject matter of this film is so slimy, you'll need to towel-off after watching it. Every adult in this film, including the film's part-time detective Calvin (Vic Tayback), who considers Ellie "good breeding stock", are portrayed as sleazy, conniving individuals who only care about their own satisfactions. When the killings begin, it plays like a mystery film with enough blood and guts to keep you asking yourself, "Is this really rated PG or did someone fuck-up royally?" There's hammer and cleaver violence, attempted rape, catfighting teens in their underwear, partial teen nudity, kids being tortured, implied incest, shots of open wounds bleeding and other politically incorrect doings going on. By the time the killer is unmasked (literally) in the film's finale, you'll be shaking your head in disbelief at some of the things you'll see and hear. This is the closest thing to PG-rated porn that you will ever see. In other words, if you haven't seen this, you should as soon as possible. Be on the lookout for a very young Dennis Christopher (FADE TO BLACK - 1980) as Pete, one of the unlucky orphans. Directed by one-hit wonder Philip S. Gilbert, who disappeared after making this. Maybe the orphans got him. Scripter Gil Lasky also wrote the screenplays for THE NIGHT GOD SCREAMED (1971), THE MANHANDLERS (1973) and MAMA'S DIRTY GIRLS (1974) and produced them all with then-partner Ed Carlin. Also starring Peter Armstrong and Maggie Corey. Future PSYCHO FROM TEXAS director Jim Feazell was an electrician on this. I got this off eBay on a DVD-R which was copied from and English language, Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Rated PG. UPDATE: This film was finally released on home video for the first time in the United States by Scream Factory in a beautiful DVD/Blu-Ray Combo Pack. One caveat: Scream Factory slapped their own R-Rating on the packaging (there is no MPAA logo to be found anywhere), taking away one of the film's biggest pieces of notoriety. Since there is no extra footage (the film is in anamorphic widescreen), just commentary from film historian Richard Harland Smith, an alternate opening title card and a theatrical trailer, Scream Factory blew the chance of advertising this film as the bloodiest PG-Rated film ever made. Whomever decided to make this blunder should be fired immediately or face the person holding the bloody hammer.

BLOODRAGE (1979) - This film, also known as NEVER PICK UP A STRANGER, oozes the atmosphere of the sleazy 70's and is bound to upset even the steadiest of stomachs, not because it is overly bloody (it's not) but because of the matter-of-fact way that director Joseph Bigwood (actually Joseph Zito using a pseudonym) treats the material and characters. While the storyline is of the basic "serial killer murders prostitutes" formula, the acting and situations seem so natural and unhampered by not having a big budget (this is an extremely low budget effort) that it makes the killings all the more horrendous. A young peeping tom named Richard (Ian Scott) graduates from watching prostitutes doing their business to killing them. After his first kill (he finds it enjoyable) he moves to a room in the seedy Times Square area to be closer to his prey. As his killing spree continues, he becomes facinated with a prostitute (Judith-Marie Bergan) who lives across the alley. He watches her undress through the window and we hear his innermost thoughts via voice-over monologues. This proves to be his undoing. He is dogged by a vigilante cop (James Johnston) who would like to see him pay for the death of his hooker girlfriend. When Richard finally makes contact with the prostitute across the alley, she rebuffs his advances and he tries to kill her. She proves to be quite a fighter though and attacks Richard with a razor while two pimps (one being B-movie staple Irwin Keyes) hold him. The cop comes in the nick of time to save Richard. Without saying a word, the cop grabs hold of Richard and throws him out the window, sending him to his death. End of film. BLOODRAGE, the precursor to HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986) contains the same gut-grabbing intensity as John McNaughton's classic and should be on everyone's list as a must-see. I doubt that you'll find a more disturbing foray into the mind of a mass murderer. Also starring Lawrence Tierney (RESERVOIR DOGS - 1992). Joseph Zito also directed Judith-Marie Bergan in ABDUCTION (1975), as well as making THE PROWLER (1981), INVASION U.S.A. (1985) and many others. A Marquis Video Corp. Release. Originally released on VHS by Best Film & Video. Unrated for pure sleaziness.

BODY PUZZLE (1992) - Another late entry in the giallo genre by director Lamberto Bava (A BLADE IN THE DARK - 1983; BLASTFIGHTER - 1984; DEVIL FISH - 1984). Just like his DELIRIUM: PHOTO OF GIOIA (1987). it doesn't quite work, even though he throws in some bloody set-pieces and actors (in supporting roles) who have appeared in a few of Italy's more memorable '70s genre films. Still, the story is maddening, offering very little logic for people (like myself) who demand a good mystery to go along with the killings. Also, there is absolutely no nudity, another thing giallo fans (like myself) expect from this type of film. It is an interesting failure, though, if only for what it doesn't show.
     We see a young man (François Montagut) sitting in front of a piano, listening to classical music on his Walkman (remember them?) while thinking about a motorcycle accident, where he apparently died. He then goes to a confectionery store and stabs the clerk over and over with a large knife, all the while listening to classical music through his earbuds. He then goes to the home of book editor Tracy (Joanna Pacula; THE KISS - 1988), sneaks in (almost getting caught by Tracy's saint bernard, Beau) and leaves something in her refrigerator. We don't see what it is (at this moment), but police detective Michael (Tomas Arana; THE SECT - 1991) arrives at the confectionery store and discovers the killer cut off one of the clerk's ears. The next morning, when Tracy goes to the cemetery to visit the grave of her dead husband Abe, the cemetery director (Gianni Giuliano) tells her someone stole her dead husband's body out of his grave. To make matters worse, when Tracy goes home and grabs something to drink out of the refrigerator, she discovers the ear in a plastic bag, her name written on a piece of paper in what turns out to be in her dead husband's handwriting. Michael questions Tracy and discovers a clue under her refrigerator, a piece of cloth from her husband's coffin. Why is the killer obsessed with Tracy and why does classical music turn him in to such a vicious killer?
     The next time we see the killer, he is in a womens bathroom in a mall. He grabs a woman's right hand from under a stall and cuts it off, the hand falling into a toilet. When Michael and his team arrive at the mall, he discovers the woman's chest was also cut open. He has a couple of officers watch Tracy's home in hopes the "homicidal maniac" will return. Michael pays another visit to Tracy and tells her there has been another murder. He checks her home to make sure it is secure and tells her to lock her windows and doors as he leaves. A short time later, Beau begins whimpering at the front door and Tracy stupidly takes him for a walk outside. She gets the feeling that she is not alone and turns around, finding the severed right hand hanging from her front door. Once again, Michael comes to her house and asks Tracy to tell him about her dead husband. She tells Michael that Abe was well-liked by her family and friends and, oh, he was a concert pianist! Michael then goes to the home of Abe's best friend, Morangi (Giovanni Lombardo Radice; THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK - 1979), who tells him that he identified Abe's dead body after his motorcycle accident (Tracy never did see his dead body). He then shows Michael a photo of Abe (with another man). It comes as no surprise that the photo of Abe is also the killer we have been seeing.  Morangi lets Michael search Abe's work desk and he finds an address book hidden in one of the drawers. One of the officers protecting Tracy discover a case in her refrigerator that is dripping blood. He calls Michael to tell him what he found, when Abe appears (a stocking pulled over his head) and he throws the officer in Tracy's indoor pool and makes a hasty retreat.
     The only name that pans out in the address book is that of a female psychiatrist named Dr. Jennifer Corti (Erika Blanc; THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE - 1971). She tells Michael that Tracy was her patient and that she changed her last name when her brother died, She also tells him that she had a patient named Timothy Bell, who was obsessed with Tracy. Dr. Corti knew Timothy could be very violent, so she had him committed to a psychiatric facility for Tracy's well-being and safety. She also tells Michael that she never met Tracy's husband. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that all this has something to do with the killings, but what comes next is truly mind-boggling (and not in a good way!). Michael and Tracy soon have romantic feelings for each other, putting his life in danger. Abe then kills a lifeguard swimming in a pool and cuts off his penis and, yes, mails it to Tracy. Michael intercepts it before Tracy can see the lifeguard's package in the package. The coroner (Guido Quintozzi) tells Michael that he discovered something he didn't notice before: all three victims had some of their internal organs removed, as if the killer were a skilled surgeon. The Police Chief (Gianni Garko; NIGHT OF THE DEVILS - 1972) warns Michael to act professional and not to have feelings for Tracy, but he can't help himself, as he and Tracy make love that night. Michael discovers that Timothy Bell escaped from the loony bin fifteen months ago, but what is his connection to Abe? I have no idea, because this film is all over the place! The coroner tells Michael that all three murder victims received transplanted organs, the same organs the killer removed. The coroner also tells him that all the victims received their transplanted organs from the same donor: Abe. OK, now I'm really confused. Is Abe alive or what?!?
     Morangi tells Michael that he just saw Abe and he must have misidentified his body when he "died" in the motorcycle accident. Michael notices that Morangi is drunk and scared, but is he lying? Michael discovers that two other people are still alive with transplanted organs from Abe. Both of them are women. One is a teacher of young children and the other one is pregnant and in the hospital. Can Michael save them in time? Michael also discovers (He does a lot of discovering in this film!) that the photo Morangi showed him of Abe also contains the image of Timothy Bell. That's right, the person we (and Michael) thought was Abe is actually Timothy Bell, who worshiped Abe and is collecting Abe's organs to make him whole again (remember, he stole Abe's body from the cemetery). Or so I thought...
     In a series of coincidences that would even make God blush, we discover the killer is actually Abe (I know, I know!) and he kills the school teacher in front of her young charges (her blood splashes on a young boy sitting in the front row). Since only the pregnant lady is left, can Michael save her and solve this extremely confusing mystery? Let's hope so, because I can't think straight!
     While this film has plenty of violence, all I could think about is that the camera pulls away just as it is about to get interesting. We never see the killer remove the organs, or even the ear and the penis. We only see them after the deed is done (As for the penis, we never see it at all, as the camera gets close to showing us the lifeguard without his pecker, but just as the camera moves down his body, it switches to another scene). Since this film is considered a giallo, the mystery is at the forefront, yet it is so confusing and senseless (screenplay by Bruce Martin, his only film credit and it's easy to see why, from a story by Domenico Paolella, director of STUNT SQUAD - 1977), that I got a migraine headache trying to unravel it. It is obvious that Lamberto Bava saw BODY PARTS (1991) before making this film because the plot of this film follows that film very closely, almost to the point of plagiarism. There is also no nudity here (just like the organ removal, when Tracy removes her clothes to make love to Michael, it switches to another scene) to keep our minds off the amazing coincidences that happen, which is a major sin for a giallo film. Director Bava has delivered a polished film which, unfortunately, goes nowhere, especially the super-quick finale which tries to wrap things up, but delivers more questions than answers. Films like this are why giallo flicks went out of fashion. People didn't grow tired of them, they grew tired of all the cliches filling the later films, such as this one. This film doesn't conclude, it just ends.
     Released to Italian theaters in severely truncated form as MISTERIA, missing most of the violence, which was a flop. It was released on fullscreen VHS by Triboro Entertainment in the U.S., uncut for the very first time. This edition also was released on DVD by many budget labels, such as Madacy Entertainment and EastWest Entertainment. If you must watch this film, please go for the uncut, anamorphic widescreen DVD from Raro Video (It does not have "New and Improved" English subtitles or is it in its original Italian language, as it states on the back of the DVD sleeve, a rare mistake from Raro). Unlike most Raro releases, the disc contains no extras, not even a trailer. It does come with a booklet (scanned HERE), where ex-Fangoria editor Chris Alexander praises this film. I don't know what film he was watching, but it definitely wasn't this one! The DVD is cheap, at .99 (on Amazon), so you won't feel cheated. As far as I'm concerned, Lamberto Bava has made more less-than-satisfying films and only a few good ones (MACABRE - 1980; DEMONS - 1985). Also starring Matteo Gazzolo (SPECTERS - 1987), Susanna Javicoli (SUSPIRIA - 1977), Bruno Corazzari (SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS - 1972), Ursula von Baechler, Sebastiano Lo Monaco, Giuseppe Marini and Francesco Romano as the lifeguard without his manhood. Not Rated.

THE BOSTON STRANGLER: THE UNTOLD STORY (2006) - It's time once again for another one of director/producer/screenwriter Michael Feifer's wildly inaccurate accounts of a well-known serial killer. This time it is Albert De Salvo, a.k.a. "The Boston Strangler", and like most of Feifer's serial killer flicks (see my review of B.T.K. - 2007), this one is more about stunt casting rather than actual facts (although there are a few truths in this film here and there). David Faustino ("Bud Bundy" on TV's MARRIED WITH CHILDREN [1987 - 1997]) plays the vertically-challenged Albert (with a piss-poor Boston accent) who, during the 1960's, supposedly strangled and raped thirteen women, sending Boston into a serial killer panic. The film opens in 1973, with an already incarcerated Albert agreeing to tell his life story to a psychiatrist. We then flashback to the early 60's, during the middle of the Boston Strangler panic, as we witness the Strangler killing Jennifer Mitchum (Jen Nikolaisen) in her home. Police detective John Marsden (Andrew Divoff; THE RAGE - 2007) is assigned to the Strangler case, but he is handcuffed by a police captain (Timothy Oman), who keeps supplying the newspapers with vital information that should be kept secret. Marsden believes that there are two stranglers at work here (he's right), but Mayor Arthur Winfield (Joe Torry, in a wince-inducing performance) doesn't want to hear it and threatens Marsden's job if he makes that fact public (Marsden dreams of a future when forensic evidence, like DNA, will help nab killers, but the police chief shakes his head and says, "Not in my lifetime."). Albert fools one young woman into believing he works for a modeling agency and talks her into going back to her place so he can take her "measurements". As soon as he tries to guess her breast cup size (by putting his hands on her tits!), the young woman realizes he is a fake, so Albert rapes and strangles her with a stocking tied in a bow, based on evidence he read in the newspapers. This film purports that the real Boston Strangler was an unknown criminal and that Albert De Salvo was merely a copycat killer, raping and killing because his mail-order Russian bride, Claudia (Tara Shayne), won't have sex with him. In 1964, Mayor Winfield creates a "Strangler Squad" and appoints a clueless paper-pusher to head it, insulting Marsden even more because he has to report to him, which turns his job into nothing but an unfunny and political joke. Albert is arrested and put in a cell with violent criminal Frank Asarian (Kostas Sommer; Feifer's DRIFTER: HENRY LEE LUCAS - 2009) and, before long, Frank has scammed Albert into confessing that he's the Boston Strangler to shyster lawyer Stuart Whitmore (Corin Nemec; Feifer's CHICAGO MASSACRE: RICHARD SPECK - 2007), who agrees to take the case for a third of the reward money. Marsden doesn't believe it for a second, but the case is a political hot potato and the rest, as they say, is history (at least revisionist history).  Triple-threat Michael Feifer, who is also responsible for the serial killer films ED GEIN: THE BUTCHER OF PLAINFIELD (2007) and BUNDY: A LEGACY OF EVIL (2008), manages to coax pretty good performances out of David Faustino (phony accent not withstanding) and Andrew Divoff (who doesn't even attempt an accent), but the film is so flat and uninvolving, it's hard to get worked-up over the proceedings. The violence level in this film is bloodless, since most of the killings are stranglings and the instant comraderie between Albert and Frank when they meet in their cell seems forced and unreal. The film's implication that Frank may have been the real Boston Strangler may be this film's biggest conceit has to offer (not to mention the HUGE coincidence that Albert is thrown into the same cell with him!), not to mention that the flick also suggests that Albert was killed in prison in 1973 because he was about to expose Frank as the real Strangler. It's not only a jump in logic, it's a giant leap of faith. The film ends with a disclaimer that in 2001, the Strangler's last victim was exhumed for DNA evidence under her fingernails and undergarments (You mean to tell me she was buried in the same panties she was raped in?) and the evidence came up with two different individuals. Neither of those individuals was Albert De Salvo. Read into that what you want, but as far as movies go, rent or buy the DVD of the 1968 film, THE BOSTON STRANGLER, with Tony Curtis as Albert. The facts may also be extremely fudged in that film, but it is much more entertaining than this version. Also starring Johnny Liska, Caia Coley, Sonia Curtis, Jack Stehlin, Jay Pickett and Sal Catalano. A Weinstein Company Home Entertainment/Genius Products LLC DVD Release. Rated R.

BUNDY: A LEGACY OF EVIL (2008) - Another "true-life" serial killer flick from director/producer/screenwriter Michael Feifer, who also gave us other serial killer films such as THE BOSTON STRANGLER: THE UNTOLD STORY (2006), ED GEIN: THE BUTCHER OF PLAINFIELD (2007) and B.T.K. (2007). In this film, which mixes some facts with mostly fiction, Ted Bundy (Corin Nemec; MANSQUITO - 2005) is first seen drunk around a campfire, pulling a tied-up girl out of his Volkswagen Beetle (the real Bundy did drive a Beetle) and telling her in no uncertain terms that she is about to die ("After I kill you, I'm going to burn you. I'm going to burn your head in the fucking fire and I'm gonna watch your pretty face melt and your eyeballs fall out of your fucking head! Look at the sky. I want you to see the stars while you die!"). He then kills the poor girl by pummelling her with a shovel and then challenges God to strike him dead. The next time we see Bundy, he's in a prison cell awaiting execution. The Warden (Kane Hodder; who played both Ed Gein and the B.T.K. killer in Feifer's other films) informs Bundy that his latest appeal has failed and his "luck" has run out. Bundy would rather think of it as "fate", since he has found religion in prison (don't they all?) and the Warden hands him a tape recorder so he can record all his sins before he does the dead man walking routine. The film then flashes back to when Bundy was a young boy, reading violent comic books (yeah, they turns us all into killers!), while the adults in his life argue about telling Teddy "the truth" (his sister is actually his mother; a true fact). We then switch to the University of Washington in 1966, where handsome student Bundy woos pretty co-ed Stephanie (Jen Nikolaisen, a regular player in Feifer's films) by quoting Shakespeare and eventually moving in with her (It's really the only stable relationship he's had with anyone in his entire life before it all turns to shit). Bundy has a problem with premature ejaculation when he tries to make love to Stephanie, which causes all kinds of problems in their personal life (She callously says to him: "I can have better sex with a damn retard!" Yee-ouch!). Stephanie breaks-off the relationship and Bundy begins his killing spree, leaving school and traveling to Burlington, Vermont, where he was born (another true fact). He goes to the county hall of records, where he finally learns the truth about his sister/mother and the next time we see him, he has just raped an unfortunate hitch-hiker (no premature ejaculation here), tied her up like a dog and then kills her in the basement of a burned-out home in the middle of the desert. Now it's 1971 and Bundy is working at a suicide hotline in Seattle, Washington, where he proves to be a natural (many sociopaths are good at adapting to their surroundings, especially when they can relate to the subject). At the same time, he is luring a series of girls into his red Beetle and then raping and killing them (at one point, we watch as he throws the severed head of one of his victims into a fireplace and he gets-off watching it burn!). It's now 1973 and Bundy is working on Washington State's gubernatorial election. Bundy reconnects with Stephanie while on a trip to San Francisco. He proposes marriage to her in a crowded restaurant and she accepts, but when he goes to the mens room, he doesn't return, leaving Stephanie to look like a fool (Maybe she should go fuck a damn retard!). Meanwhile, Bundy continues his cross-country killing spree (we will never know the exact number of his victims), until he is captured by a cop while sleeping in his car. Bundy escapes from a Colorado jail (his first of two jail breaks) and continues his killing spree until he is eventually caught again and sentenced to the electric chair, which we see carried out.  As with most of Michael Feifer's serial killer films, there are germs of truth to Bundy's life story, but there is more "artistic license" than fact. Corin Nemec (who also had a role on Feifer's Boston Strangler film and also portrayed Richard Speck in Feifer's CHICAGO MASSACRE: RICHARD SPECK - 2007) is quite good as Ted Bundy, who is appropriately charming when he needs to be and then creepy as hell the next moment. While there are a couple of gory killings, most of Bundy's murders are kept off-screen, as director/writer Feifer seems more interested in Bundy's internal demons (he keeps flashing back to when Bundy was a little boy in a cowboy hat). Don't get me wrong, there are some graphic scenes of violence on display, especially during the final third (including Bundy killing two sleeping co-eds with a baseball bat and then breaking into another girl's apartment, where he brutally beats her with his fists and a telephone), but this film is more of a psychological piece, showing how Bundy used his good looks and high intelligence to nearly get away with all his killings, but like all narcissists, his own inflated ego gets the best of him (especially when he acts as his own defense attorney in his trial for killing the two sleeping co-eds). As far as Feifer's serial killer films go, this one rates better than most, so if you are hesitant about which one of Feifer's serial killer films to start out with, try BUNDY: A LEGACY OF EVIL first. Also starring David DeLuise, Shannon Pierce Wilkins, Kristen Clement, Molly Fix, Alyson Hope, Rachael Kollman, Tim Oman (another Feifer regular player), Jay Pickett and Angela Padilla. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TAIL (1971) - "There's a crime behind every great fortune." When it comes to giallo flicks, it's very hard to beat those directed by Sergio Martino. This is his second giallo film, following THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (1971) and preceding ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (1972), YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY (1972) and TORSO (1973), my favorite giallo film of all time. This film is right up there when it comes to an involving mystery, plenty of red herrings, lots of nudity, graphic violence and some exotic locales, but, most of all, it holds your attention for the entire 95-minute running time. Thanks to Arrow Video and their marvelous Blu-Ray, we can see the film the way it was meant to be seen, as well as offering a plethora of informative extras.
     The film opens with Lisa Baumer (Evelyn Stewart; THE PSYCHIC - 1977) walking down a busy London street, wearing a bright red hat (making her stand out from the crowd). When she gets home, she calls her nameless lover, telling him that her husband, Kurt (Fulvio Mingozzi; SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS - 1972, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo, but his photo is prominently displayed throughout the film), has left for Tokyo and she really needs to see him, so come over right away. When he comes over they make love (look for a bottle of J&B Scotch next to the record player, one of many appearances it makes in this film), which is juxtaposed with footage of Kurt's plane in the air, headed for Tokyo. Just as they finish making love, we then see the plane explode, giving a whole new meaning to the word "climax"! A short time later, Lisa (who is sleeping in bed with her lover) gets a phone call telling her that her husband is dead, one of thirty-five people killed when the plane exploded. The question becomes: Did Lisa or her lover have anything to do with the plane exploding or is it something even more sinister? (Martino keeps the viewer off-balance, zooming the camera in tight on Lisa and her lover's eyes and even zooming in on a photo of Kurt that resides on Lisa's nightstand, so we can't decide who the killer actually is, making them all look guilty. It's an often-used giallo trope, but it works here.).
     A short time later, an insurance executive named Mr. Brenton (cameo king Tom Felleghy; EYEBALL - 1975) contacts Lisa and tells her to come to his office. When she arrives, he tells Lisa that her husband took a life insurance policy on himself while he was in Greece, naming her as the beneficiary. Lisa tells Mr. Brenton she had no idea her husband took out the policy, explaining that she and Kurt led independent lives. His business was located in Greece, where he spent most of his time and every once in a while he would come to London, staying no longer than a couple of days (Where can I get a marriage like that!?!), Mr. Brenton then tells Lisa that the policy was for one million pounds, payable to her, but only after the "necessary formalities" are completed. When Lisa walks out of the room, Mr. Brenton tells his secretary to contact "Peter Lynch", he need to talk to him. I wonder if Peter Lynch is part of those necessary formalities?
     When Lisa leaves Mr. Brenton's office, it is obvious she is being followed by a man with blond hair. He follows her taxi and watches her exit the cab and go into a phone booth, where she calls her lover and tells him everything went smoothly, she will travel to Greece to cash-in the life insurance policy and then they can be together all of the time, revealing to the viewer that she knew about the policy well before Mr. Brenton told her, but did she have anything to do with her husband's death (making her a mass murderess)? When Lisa exits the phone booth, she notices that the blond-haired man is following her. It turns out he is an ex-lover of Lisa's named Philip (actor unknown, but familiar), who tells her he has a certain letter she wrote that will implicate her in her husband's murder.  It turns out Lisa left Philip because he became a hopeless drug addict, so she asks him how much he wants for the letter (he knows about the insurance policy). He tells her it is going to cost her a large sum of money, because his drug habit has become bad. He needs five hits a day and that is an expensive habit. Lisa agrees to pay him and gives him a hundred pounds to start him off, promising to give him more money later that night, neither of them noticing that another man in sunglasses is watching them. A short time later, Lisa sneaks into Philip's apartment to look for the letter, but she finds the place ransacked, the letter missing. She then notices Philip stabbed in the stomach, his dying words are Lisa's name (Just before Lisa entered the apartment, we see a man in a hat and a trenchcoat walking away, putting a letter in his coat pocket. Could it be the letter Lisa is looking for? Count on it!).
     Lisa then flies to Greece and checks into a hotel, a strange handsome man following her (Lisa seems to attract strangers!). When the man approaches Lisa at the dinner table, she tells him she knows who he is. He's Peter Lynch (George Hilton; THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS - 1971) and Lisa knows he is an insurance investigator for the company that her husband insured his life with, telling Peter that she, too, has informants. Peter is not surprised, telling her that nothing is really private these days (He should see what it's like today!) and admits defeat. Lisa tells him to quit wasting his time, confessing that she cheated on her husband and then excuses herself, saying that she must leave, she has another appointment. She gets up from the table and walks away, but we see another man, John Stanley (Alberto De Mendoza; A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN - 1971), is watching Lisa and Peter from another table, giving Peter a knowing glance. So who is John Stanley? (I wouldn't be giving anything away by saying he's an Interpol Agent.).
     We then see Liza take a taxi to her next appointment and goes to an empty theater, where she meets Lara Florakis (the late Janine Reynaud; BLINDMAN - 1971) and her lawyer Sharif (Luis Barboo; THE LORELEY'S GRASP - 1973), the man in the sunglasses who was watching Lisa in London and who may be responsible for Philip's murder. Lara accuses Lisa of killing Kurt, telling her that her husband was going to divorce Lisa and marry her. Kurt was going to change the life insurance policy and name Lara as the beneficiary, accusing Lisa of finding that out and killing Kurt before he could make the changes. Lara says the million pounds belong to her, but Lisa tells her that no court in the world would recognize that Lara had any right to that money (she has a point). Lara tells her (actually, she threatens her) that Sharif is not much of a lawyer, but he has a special talent for making people disappear without a trace (Sharif doesn't say a word, he just stands there looking extremely dangerous). Lara once again accuses Lisa of killing Kurt and tells her she is going to pay for what she lost. Lisa says she didn't kill anyone, so Lara says she can tell that to the inquest commission who are investigating the plane crash. If Lara reports her to the commission, the insurance company will block payment of the million pounds. She then tries to make a deal with Lisa. If she were to sign a document giving Lara half the money, Lisa could count on her showing her "gratitude", otherwise she will get revenge on Lisa for killing Kurt. Sharif slowly approaches Lisa, so she runs away, Lara telling Sharif to stop her. As Sharif and Lara chase Lisa down a long metal spiral staircase (there are two spiral staircases in this film), Peter is waiting at the bottom, saving Lisa from certain harm.
     The next morning, Lisa goes to the bank to cash her million pound check, the bank manager telling Lisa that it would be safer to transfer the money to her London bank, but Lisa says no, she wants it in cash, so they give it to her in a black leather case (it looks like a woman's makeup case), She then goes to a travel agency and books a first class plane ticket to Tokyo, which leaves at 9:00p.m. that night. Why in the world does she want to go to Toyko? Think you know? You may be right in your assumption, but there are many more surprises to be had in this twisty mystery, which is like a crossbreed of giallo and Eurocrime genres. What I have described in this review happens in the first thirty minutes of the film and if I tell you any more, it would deprive you of discovering why Sergio Martino is a master of the giallo genre. The screenplay was also written by three masters of the giallo genre, namely Ernesto Gastaldi (DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS - 1971), Eduardo M. Brochero (HUMAN COBRAS - 1971) and Sauro Scavolini (director/writer of LOVE AND DEATH IN THE GARDEN OF THE GODS - 1972), who supply a very intriguing mystery as well as offering a nice dose of police work, courtesy of Inspector Stavros (Luigi Pistilli; THE KILLERS ARE OUR GUESTS - 1974), an Athens Police detective who becomes involved in the case when people end up murdered. One memorable gag shows an unfinished jigsaw puzzle on Inspector Stavros' office desk. We see the puzzle being slowly pieced together to completion the closer he gets to solving the murders (Pay close attention to who completes the puzzle). I can't tell you who ends up dead because I need to leave you, my dear readers, with something to discover on your own. Needless to say, the people killed in this film are important to cracking the case, so if you want to know if Lisa murdered Kurt (or if there is some other explanation), you are just going to have to watch the film. I can promise you one thing: If you are a giallo fan (and who isn't?), I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. There is violence (some of it quite graphic for its time), female nudity, especially by the lovely Evelyn Stewart and Anita Strindberg (WHO SAW HER DIE? - 1972), who portrays female reporter Cleo Dupont, a character I haven't mentioned in this review, who teams up with Peter to try and solve the case (and becoming his lover), as well as some unusual camera angles (check out the scene where Inspector Stavros asks to check Peter's hands) and unusual locations (including the Parthenon and an underwater cavern). I can't tell you much about Cleo without giving away the core of the story, but I will tell you this: She is important to getting to the bottom of the murders, but, please, don't make me tell you any more. Believe me when I say I want to, but I can't in good conscience (Okay, just one slight hint: The killer wears a wetsuit.). So what does a scorpion have to do with anything, since it is mentioned in the title? It seems the killer lost a cufflink during one of his murder attempts and it is, yes, a scorpion cufflink. Tracking down the Turkish jeweler who made it leads to the killer's identity (Now I've said too much!).
     Shot as LA CODA DELLO SCORPIONE ("The Tail Of The Scorpion"), this film had neither a theatrical or VHS release in the United States, making its first appearance here as an uncut, widescreen DVD from NoShame Films. This review is based on the wonderful Blu-Ray released by Arrow Video. It's a tad expensive, but well worth the money, as it is chock-full of extras, including new 2018 interviews with Sergio Martino and George Hilton (both interviews are very entertaining and full of information I never heard before, especially what Hilton says about Anita Strindberg's breasts!), as well as an informative 40-page booklet on the making of the film (which I have scanned HERE). The disc offers the film in two versions, English dubbed or in Italian with easy to read English subtitles (my preferred way of watching these films). I may go broke purchasing the many Arrow Blu-Rays of Italian genre films, but I can't think of a better way of losing all my money. Just leave me enough money for food and I'll be a happy man. Also featuring Annalisa Nardi (THE MURDER MANSION - 1972), Franco Caracciolo (KILLER NUN - 1978) and Tomas Pico (THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK - 1975) as George Barnet, an air steward who the killer graphically stabs in the eye with a broken bottle before finishing him off with a switchblade to his heart (He is someone we saw much earlier in the film, but he didn't have a name then. Hint!). Not Rated.

CAT IN THE CAGE (1978) - Unbelievably bad thriller that involves a man (Behrouz Wossoughi, the only dubbed voice in the entire cast) returning home after a short stay in a mental institution. His father (Frank De Kova, Chief Wild Eagle on TV's F TROOP) has married his dead wife's nurse (Sybil Danning [PANTHER SQUAD - 1984], spelled "Cybil" in the credits). Together with the chauffeur (Mel Novak), she plans to bump off De Kova, and inherit his vast fortune and estate. She runs into problems with Behrouz (he can't stand her) and his cat, Samson, who attacks her at every available moment. The first problem with this film is the cat. Samson is as about as vicious as a toothless frog (having two cats myself, I know what I'm talking about). The film's idea of showing his viciousness is by dangling a piece of string in front of him and photographing him swatting at it. In one flub, the cat is shown rubbing against Danning, showing her affection. Another detraction is the presence of Wossoughi (who is given an English name "Tony Bova" in the end credits), a Pakistani (?) actor (?) who looks out of place among the other players. He looks as much like De Kova's son as Eddie Murphy would look like David Duke's. It looks like someone owed somebody a big favor. Even though Colleen Camp (DEATH GAME - 1977; DEADLY GAMES - 1980) is top-billed, she has very little to do except to play Wossoughi's girlfriend (she's a great actress) and sing the title song. Technical gaffes, flubbed lines and some of the worst canned music to bleed my ears in quite a while flesh out the film. Speaking of flesh, Danning exposes a lot of it here (the only saving grace). Recommended for Danning completists only. Genesis Home Video offers this tape for .99 and can be found at finer (?) video stores and retail outlets. Director Tony Zarin Dast (a.k.a. Zarindast) went on to make the action thriller HARDCASE AND FIST (1989) and the ungodly howler WEREWOLF (1995). Unrated.

THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (1974) - Psychopath Andrew Prine disposes of various naked centerfold girls with his trusty straight razor because he thinks the girls are corrupting the minds of the people who view their photos. That's basically the whole story except for the way it is told. This film is in three parts, each part focusing on a particular centerfold girl that Prine stalks. The first part is about a nurse who travels to a camp to apply for a job. Her home is invaded by hippies, who force her to drink alcohol and nearly rape her. She escapes and runs to the camp where owner Aldo Ray saves her. Ray then attempts to rape her, but gives up, saying she's not worth the trouble. Prine, who has been tracking her, enters the house and slits her throat. The second part concerns a model who travels to a secluded island with an entourage for a photo shoot. Prine follows the model onto the island and kills everyone one by one. The third part is about a stewardess (Tiffany Bolling; KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS - 1977) who realizes that Prine is after her after finding her look-alike friend dead in her apartment. She moves out and tries to hide, but Prine finds her. She escapes in her car, has a flat and gets picked-up by a couple of Marines who drug and rape her in a motel room. Prine finds her, they struggle and she stabs him repeatedly with a hunting knife. As he lies dying, Prine moans, "All I wanted to do was help you!" The End. If you like nudity (who doesn't?), you won't be disappointed with this film. Most of the actresses are naked the majority of the time. There's not much else to recommend here. The acting is sub-standard, the editing is terrible and the blood quotient is rather low. Andrew Prine (GRIZZLY - 1976) walks around in a daze, wearing black pants that are way too short with saddle shoes (quite a fashion statement!). Director John Peyser also made FOUR RODE OUT and KASHMIRI RUN (both 1969). The executive producer was Arthur Marks, who directed BONNIE'S KIDS (1972) and others. For nudity fans only. THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS also stars Ray Danton (who directed the American inserts for the abysmal CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1973; and also directed the much better DEATHMASTER - 1972 and the strangely satisfying PSYCHIC KILLER - 1974), Francine York, Jeremy Slate and Mike Mazurki. A Media Home Entertainment Video Release. Also available on DVD from Dark Sky Films. Rated R.

CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974) - A group of diverse people are drugged and helicoptered to a top secret underground government base, where a female government official with the name of Mary Louise Borden (Kelly Lange) pops-up on a giant computer screen to inform them that a global nuclear war has broken out and they were picked to "continue the human race". Ms. Borden also informs them that there are twelve other installations just like theirs scattered throughout the United States and that they have enough food and provisions to live underground for the next five years. Ms. Borden also tells them that when radiation levels on the surface reach the point that allows human life again, the elevator doors will open and let them return above ground. Major Gordon Ellis (Richard Jaeckel) then appears in person and shows them satellite footage of a nuclear-ravaged Earth. We are then introduced to all the characters and their idiosyncracies: Ray Couzins (Jackie Cooper), a corporation genius who doesn't buy into the nuclear war scenario and is looking for a way out; Peter Macomber (Bradford Dillman), a psychologist who studies the group and makes observations into a tape recorder; Kristen Lerner (Christina Moreno), a nutritionist who doesn't want to live; Alana Fitzgerald (Diana Muldaur), a Congresswoman; Woody Russo (Lincoln Kilpatrick), an Olympic gold medal winner; Steven Mayes (Alex Cord), a novelist; Luis Cabral (Pedro Armendariz Jr.), an oceanographer; Carrie Draper (Gwenn Mitchell), an ecology expert; Dr. Lenore Chrisman (Barbara Babcock), a Nobel Prize-winning medical researcher; and Claire Farraday (Nancy Rodman), a biologist. Before this group has a chance to worry about the predicament that they are in, they are attacked by a hungry swarm of rabid vampire bats. That's right, vampire bats. The bats have disrupted the lighting system (they only attack in the dark), so Major Ellis sets up an alarm system to warn them when the lights go out (the first attack happens when everyone is sleeping). Ray starts getting drunk and begins telling everyone how he feels (He tells Woody, "You're nothing but a goddamn stud!"), thinks this is all a conspiracy (he just may be right) and tries to rape Dr. Chrisman (turns out she likes it!). When Luis is killed by the bats, one of the members reveals that this was all an experiment (not much of a surprise), but when he tries to contact his superiors, he finds the bats have destroyed the rescue signal. He also makes it known that the government planned to kill them once the experiment was over. They have five more days of avoiding the bats (there's a failsafe involved) before troops come down to the base. Will anyone make it out alive?  This study in paranoia and isolation went virtually unseen after it's 1974 theatrical release (It did play on Canada's Scream channel, but how many people actually have that channel?) until it was released on DVD in 2007 as part of 20th Century Fox's Midnight Movies series. This is a rare bad guy role for Jackie Cooper and he's pretty good here, boozing it up and spouting vitriolic dialogue. He goes around pitting people against each other, bribing some with money and blackmailing others and does it with glee, making his character just as dangerous (if not moreso) as the bats. Even though he's the bad guy, it's his actions which gets everyone saved (even if they were strictly self-serving). The rest of the cast are pretty dreary (to be fair, their roles are underwritten) and take backstage to the bat attacks, which are filmed with a blue filter, probably to hide the more bloody attacks (since this is rated PG). The novel approach with how the group handle the bats (everyone gives a pint of blood, which they smear on a homemade electrified fence) is very well done, even if it doesn't work. I also liked how the daily pre-programmed videotaped announcements by Ms. Borden still played every morning, even after the ruse was exposed. Ms. Borden would tell them in different ways every day how important they were and how they should get on with repopulating humanity, making everything after the expose quite sarcastic. The film reminded me of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971), with it's themes of isolation and both contain outside forces beyond their control (deadly germs vs. deadly bats) and a long, dangerous climb up a shaft to safety. CHOSEN SURVIVORS does contain some bloody scenes that belie it's PG rating (Kristin & Woody's deaths), but this was the 70's after all. Directed by Sutton Roley, who mainly directed episodic TV (he died in 2007), but he did direct one other theatrical film, THE LONERS (1972), as well as the MFTV films SWEET, SWEET RACHEL (1971) and SATAN'S TRIANGLE (1975). Filmed in Mexico City's Churubusco Studios. A 20th Century Fox DVD release as part of a double bill with THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING (1964). Rated PG. Other 70's films concerning bats include THE BAT PEOPLE (1974) and NIGHTWING (1979).

THE COMEBACK (1977) - Director Pete Walker makes a bloody good thriller here as retired pop singer Nick Cooper (Jack Jones) decides to come out of retirement after divoricing his wife (Holly Palance) of six years. In the beginning we witness the bloody slaughter of his wife with a sickle (her hand is chopped off and face and body brutally slashed) by someone wearing a rubber witch mask. Nick's manager Webster Jones (David Doyle) sets him up in an old mansion in England to settle down and write and record some new songs. Pretty soon he begins hearing the cries and screams of a woman at night and views a rotting body in a wheelchair and then the maggot-filled head of his ex-wife (who he doesn't know is dead) in a hatbox in the basement.  He cracks up and is committed to an institution as no one else, including housekeeper Mrs. B (Sheila Keith) can see or hear the body and noises. He is then set free and sets out to solve the mystery of who is trying to drive him mad. Could it be his manager? His new girlfriend (Pamela Stephenson)? Mrs. and Mr. B (Bill Owen)? Or is he just mad, like everyone thinks? Needless to say, the denouement is outrageous (you would never guess why in a million years) and the outcome bloody and inconclusive (as the final freeze-frame accentuates). Real-life singer Jones makes a better singer than actor, but he begins to get into a groove here that makes the proceedings seem more realistic than if a professional actor were to have taken the role. There are exactly three murders here and they are bloody and shocking (especially Holly Palance's). The blood is extremely red and flows freely. Sheila Keith is no stranger to Pete Walker films, appearing in his HOUSE OF WHIPCORD and FRIGHTMARE (a.k.a. FRIGHTMARE II - both 1974), THE CONFESSIONAL (1975) and HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983). Her looks could melt cement and her acting ability always induced goosebumps. This is one old lady you would not want to have as a babysitter! THE COMEBACK, also known as THE DAY THE SCREAMING STOPPED, HALLUCINATIONS and ENCORE, is one of Pete Walker's best films and I, for one, wish he would get back in the directorial chair and make the kind of films that made England famous in the 70's: namely, blood-soaked psycho-thrillers that keep you guessing and make you jump. A Karl Lorimar Video VHS Release. Also available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Redemption Films/Kino Lorber. Not Rated.

CROSS CURRENT (1971) - This giallo film opens with some unknown person reading a letter, crumpling it up, grabbing a gun out of a desk drawer and then kicking a door in, the gun ready to fire. The film then switches to a cigarette boat race on the ocean. Someone has tampered with the pin of the steering column of a boat piloted by Marco Breda (Philippe Leroy; MILANO CALIBRO 9 - 1972), causing the boat to crash while traveling at a high rate of speed and putting Marco in the hospital with serious head trauma. The doctor explains to Marco's wife, Monica (Elga Andersen) and his brother, Burt (Ivan Rassimov; SPASMO - 1974), that the only way to save Marco's life is with a risky brain operation. Monica tells the doctor to perform the operation and Marco survives, only he has lost his memory. Marco returns home (he insists that he drives home, even though he has a chauffeur, something he never did pre-memory loss) and is surrounded by people that are his friends, although he doesn't remember any of them (he does have quick flashes of the boating "accident"). At a dinner party at his home, Marco receives a phonecall by someone claiming to be Sante, Marco's former gardener. He tells Marco that he "must remember" and to meet him at the cemetery alone at midnight, which seems to visibly upset both Monica and Burt. That night, while Marco waits at the cemetery, someone wearing black gloves strangles Sante and then runs over him with a car. Police Inspector Baldini (Julio Pena), who is already investigating Marco's boating mishap (he hints that he thinks it was sabotage), arrives at the villa to inform everyone that Sante is dead and he believes the last phonecall made to him came from a phone booth located just outside the villa gates. Both Monica and friend (and fellow boat pilot) Tommy Brown (Franco Ressel; EYE IN THE LABRYINTH - 1972) let Marco believe that they saw him sneak out of the villa the night before, but Marco denies it. That night, someone stabs Tommy at the boatyard, killing him. As the plot becomes much too complicated to describe here, Marco begins to get his memory back little pieces at a time. As he tries to fit the puzzle pieces of his life back together, a few questions rise to the forefront: Why won't Monica make love to Marco? Just what was Terry's (Rosanna Yanni; HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE - 1973) relationship with Marco before his accident? Is it possible that Marco is actually the killer or is someone setting him up? When Marco seemingly kills himself trying to get away from the police in a car chase, the antagonists turn on and then kill each other until only one is left. If you haven't already guessed, there's a surprise ending that explains everything.  This fairly standard giallo film, directed by Tonino Ricci (PANIC - 1982; RAIDERS OF THE MAGIC IVORY - 1988), is pretty rough going for seasoned giallo fans, but casual viewers will probably be more entertained. The fact that it took five people (including Ricci) to write this film's screenplay, a routine "lets frame the brother/husband for murder since our attempt on his life failed and another attempt to murder him would throw up too many red flags", makes the viewer wish there were more meat to the plot. Setting the film in the realm of cigarette boat culture (where the speedboats spend more time in the air than the water as they zip across the surface of the ocean) is a unique idea, but it's unfortunately underused. Toss in a severe lack of nudity (only one scene) and bloody violence and all the viewer has to occupy their time is the mystery itself and it's not a hard mystery to solve. The use of amnesia as a major plot element is nothing new, especially in mystery films, and it's woefully mishandled here. As with most 70's giallo films, there's a scene at a disco (miniskirt alert), POV shots by the killer (always wearing black gloves, of course) and a short car chase. I really can't recommend this film (just because it's rare doesn't mean it's good) unless you're a gialli completist or newbie. The only true highlight is Giorgio Gaslini's infectious music score, including the unusual opening tune, which has a hook that will take days to leave your head. Future director Flavio Mogherini (THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE - 1977) was the Art Director here. Also starring Franco Fantasia, Rina Franchetti, Giorgio Cerioni, Liana Del Balzo, Carla Mancini, Franco Balducci and a cameo from Italian speedboat champion Vincenzo Balestrieri. Never legally available on U.S. home video, the print I viewed was taken from an English-dubbed, Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

DARK FORCES (1980) - When magician/clown Gregory Wolfe (Robert Powell) cures terminally ill child Alex Rast (Mark Spain) at his birthday party, it brings him to the attention of Alex's father, Nick Rast (David Hemmings), a prominent politician who is the unknowing puppet of spinmaster Doc Wheelan (Broderick Crawford). Wolfe also brings out the interest in Alex's mother, Sandra (Carmen Duncan), who begins to fall in love with him. The whole premise of this film is if Wolfe is the real deal; a healer who can perform miracles or a con man with ulterior motives. No one is able to dig up any information on his past, so Doc Wheelan fabricates some incriminating information on Wolfe to turn Nick and Sandra against him. Wolfe performs some feats of magic at a dinner party (including cutting a dove in half with a flying cymbal and moving an absess from the mouth of a wealthy dowager down to her fingertip). Is Wolfe real or a fake? Is he just a hypnotist and magician or something beyond the natural? You'll have to watch the film to get the answers because to say any more would be revealing too much. Director Simon Wincer, who made such films as THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN (a.k.a. NIGHT AFTER HALLOWEEN, a.k.a. SNAPSHOT, a.k.a. ONE MORE MINUTE - 1979), HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN (1991) and TV's miniseries LONESOME DOVE (1989) and other TV Westerns as of late, has crafted a sly political thriller with supernatural overtones. Robert Powell (THE ASPHYX - 1973) is simply astounding as Wolfe (as in sheep's clothing), keeping the viewer off-balance as to who, or what, he really is. This film, also known as HARLEQUIN (due to the costume Powell wears at the film's conclusion) throws the viewer subtle clues to Wolfe's real identity, but you'll probably have to watch it several times to get it all (HINT: Video cameras don't lie.). This is an excellent way to spend 96 minutes, especially if you don't mind using your brain instead of witnessing mindless violence. A Media Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on a beautiful widescreen Blu-Ray from Scorpion Entertainment. Rated PG due to the dove incident and several gunshot wounds. This is for fans of cerebral thrillers and should not be missed!

DARK SANITY (1978) - Technically inept but strangely intriguing psychological thriller. Ex-alcoholic wife and workaholic husband move into a house where a brutal murder occurred a year before. A woman  was chopped to pieces with an axe and her head was never found. As soon as the wife steps through the door she begins to have visions of the murder much to the disapproval of her husband. She had a nervous breakdown due to alcoholism years before and her husband does not want it to happen again. This self-serving bastard cares more about making a good impression with his boss than with the welfare of his wife.She meets some strange people in her neighborhood: Her next door neighbor, a woman with a cheat