Thursday, November 29, 2012

Al cinema!

Subtlety, thy name is "giallo"...
For this review, I felt the need to return to both my and the internet's roots with some cinematic esoterica. Like so many of my fellow cinephiles, I too would roam from video store to video store collecting both the classics and the dregs of the cinematic experience.  As the internet first began to develop it saw not only the development of community around the motion picture arcane, but rapidly became a valued source for building up a lengthy checklist of sought after obscurity. Naturally, Italian genre films of the 60's and 70's were one of the most well-mined of these, and so it was to Italia that I ventured.

How many killers were merely attempting bad tracheotomies?
I kicked things off with the 1971 giallo The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (L'inguana dalla lingua di fuoco). The story concerns a series of murders surrounding a Swiss diplomat stationed in Dublin. The rather bizarre title (and what great giallo doesn't have a bizarre title?) refers to the killer's enjoyment of throwing acid in the face of victims before slitting their throats. The Inspector in charge of the case calls in disgraced Inspector Norton with the playful nickname "The Brute", played by Euro-genre movie favorite Luigi Pistilli, to get in close to the family to solve the murders despite the difficulties of diplomatic immunity.

The "Brute"..."Groggy"...was Luigi's character ever called "Friendly"?
Like most giallos, as the bodies pile up, everyone becomes a suspect at some point or another, although usually it's mostly the male cast. However, in Iguana the ladies get a fair few visual clue nods. Blending in intrigue with the diplomat's family and the gloomy settings around Dublin gives the film a Gothic feel; however, like too many gialli, atmosphere and a steadily mounting body count take precedence over a coherent story.  Pistilli, who I always revert back to thinking of as Indio's trusted man Groggy in For a Few Dollars More, plays a good part...but it's especially disconcerting to hear an Irish brogue coming out of this Italian character actor.

This poster should have Spoiler Alert stamped on it...and maybe this caption should too.
For my second feature I switched to the Wild European West with 1972's Fast Hand is Still My Name ( Mi chiamavano 'Requiescat' avevano sbagliato which actually translates to something more like They called me "Rest In Peace"...But They Were Wrong). After the American Civil War, Union soldiers scour the West for a band of terrorizing southern rebels led by Machedo. When soldier Jeff Madison returns to the Union fort, Machedo's men capture him, and after massacring the other soldiers, they torture Madison before shooting holes in his gun hand and leaving him for dead. Madison returns to foil a bank heist pulled by Machedo in order to exact his revenge as they look for their ill-gotten loot.  

Alan Steel stars in Tom of Finland's Zorro!
Fast Hand is a late entry and I wasn't expecting much...and, well, it didn't deliver much. It had the opposite problem of Iguana, in that, it was pretty straight forward but kept throwing in moments and plot elements to make it seem more complex.  William Berger, who is a particular favorite spaghetti staple of mine, lapses well into Klaus Kinski level histrionics as Machedo. Alan Steel, far better known for playing in a number of Hercules films (including my favorite, Hercules Versus The Moon Men), makes for one of spaghetti's blandest heroes. Not too mention, he frequently looks like he over did it with the eye make-up. Equally out of place was the movie's oddly moody, jazzy score.

I can't bring myself to mock William Berger...Sorry.
Now, would I recommend either of these movies? Well, that depends. To the general movie-going To those who love the good and the gloriously bad...a bit more.  There's far worse things to waste your time on than this aged genre most of the awful, expensive new trash opening at the cinema each week.