Mario Bava!

Written by Joe D on July 10th, 2012


Mario and Lucio Fulci
Here is a great documentary about the great Mario Bava. Parts are in Italian with no subtitles but a lot of it is in English(with Italian subtitles) but I really enjoyed it!  Plus they used super cool Italian film music from classic scores of the 60’s and 70’s.It’s wonderful, check it out below.

Italian Crime Double Bill at The Egyptian!

Written by Joe D on July 21st, 2008

Come one, come all to the Egyptian Theater this Thursday July 24th at 7:30 pm. It’s the Grand Finale of their Italian Grindhouse Festival. First up Sergio Sollima’ Citta Violenta ( USA Violent City). starring Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland and Kojack himself, Telly Savalas! A great score by Maestro Morricone and incredible stunt driving in tiny Fiats by the master of all Euro stunt drivers, Rémy Julienne, also editing by the great Nino Baragli! Then they’re showing, Fernando DiLeo’s masterpiece Milano Calibro 9. Great Score by Luis Bacalov and the rock band Osanna! Check them out , I’ll try to make it if I can. Here’s the trailer for Citta Violenta!

P.S. Here’s the wonderful Barbara Bouchet dance scene from Blood and Diamonds but she does a very similar dance in Milano Calibro 9!

Il Mafioso- Alberto Lattuada- Alberto Sordi

Written by Joe D on April 9th, 2008


The Great Alberto Sordi takes aim in Il Mafioso

This is an incredible film, it languished in obscurity until the geniuses at Rialto brought it back from the dead, just like they did with Jean Pierre Melville’s Army Of Shadows. All I can say about this film is that it accomplishes something that is very hard to do and does it better than any other film I can think of. It changes from a comedy to a tragedy in the blink of an eye and it works perfectly, seamlessly, in an exciting effortless way. Maybe because the comedy is understated, not stupid, real situations that reveal something about human beings, in this case the Sicilian clan of our main character, Nino. Sordi is a great actor, compare Nino with the Sordi’s portrayal of The White Sheik in Fellini’s film of the same name, they seem like two entirely different people. Speaking of Fellini, it was Lattuada who gave Federico his directing break, sharing credit on Variety Lights. The end of Il Mafioso is incredible as well, an off the cuff remark that teeters you on the edge of the Abyss. The incredible music is by the Genius Pierro Piccone, you can hear some of it in the trailer I’ve linked to. It’s magnificent.

2nd Night Of Bava

Written by Joe D on March 17th, 2008


Here they are in the Car!

I just got back from The American Cinematheque where I watched Mario Bava’s Kidnapped and Shock. Kidnapped is a clever script about a heist that goes bad. The criminals, after killing a few people (including a female hostage) commandeer a car being driven by a man with an unconcious young boy wrapped in a blanket on the seat next to him. “I’ve got to take my son to the hospital!” the anguished man yells but the cruel bandits force him to drive them to their destination. The majority of the movie takes place in this car yet it is never boring! And it looks like it was done in the car on locations around Rome, not in a studio. It’s different from all other Bava films, the maestro did it again.

Il Maestro, Mario Bava!

The story about this film is interesting. Right after filming, the producer died in an auto wreck. Due to the exegenicies of Italian law the film languished in a vault for about 20 years. Bava was unable to edit the film and finish it. He left detailed instructions for the editing but before the film was liberated from legal limbo, he died. A few years ago a version was produced and released on DVD called Rabid Dogs. There are a few differences that I noticed the biggest one being the score for the film. Stelvio Cipriani did both versions but I vastly prefer the Rabid Dogs score. It sounds like synths but it worked so well, maybe it was only meant as a temp score, who knows. Also Kidnapped ends with a song over the end titles that is so wrong for the film. There are some other differences but my overall impression is that I thought Rabid Dogs much more impressive. It could be that I saw that version first and was taken along for the ride, not knowing what was coming next but I think it’s just more tense, more claustrophobic, more insane than Kidnapped. I really believe the music has a lot to do with it as well. I think Anchor Bay has released a DVD with both versions so you can check them out for yourself and make your own decision. Let me know what you think!
Shock or Beyond The Door is billed as Bava’s last film, sometimes as co-directed by Lamberto Bava, Mario’s son. I guess Bava wanted to give his son a start at directing, kind of the way Riccardo Freda did with him on Caltiki, The Immortal Monster. It’s an interesting film, not on a level with Bava’s early horror, but for me a great example of creating horror with minimal special effects, with imagination and creative use of the camera. Also the Bava archtypal haunted child. And a rat that steals the show.
The Bava Fest continues, I’m going on Saturday to see The Whip And The Body and Kill Baby Kill!. See You all there!

Rabid Dogs Trailer featuring the Cool Music!

Un Posto Ideale per Uccidere- Dirty Pictures, Oasis of Fear

Written by Joe D on February 17th, 2008

I just watched Umberto Lenzi’s Un Posto Ideale Per Uccidere AKA Dirty Pictures or the english title I prefer Oasis Of Fear. This is a great film! The cast is superb, Ray Lovelock, in perhaps his greatest role, Ornella Muti, so young, so beautiful, so innocent and so sexy, Irene Papas, so dark, so severe, so attractive, like a sexy Greek witch.

This movie is a little like Hansel and Gretel with a sexy witch enticing our two innocent children into her gingerbread house, although the house isn’t made of gingerbread, candy canes, gumdrops, spun sugar. It’s made of champagne, caviar, exotic, erotic clothes, cigarettes, psychedelic music, and sex. Our story begins in Denmark where our two hippie love children are on holiday. They see the sights, run around Copenhagen and cavort like extras in a Dava Clark Five movie. But suddenly the Italian genre sensibility kicks in. They go into a Sex Shoppe, buy a ton of porno mags and bring them back to Italy to sell so they can pay for their vacation.
This works out great, they’re rich, they live like hippie Gods in Italy, eating at fancy restaurants, feeding champagne to cats, releasing doves at stuffy establishments, dancing at psychedelic discos, just having fun. There’s a scene that I find fascinating. At one point Ray sells a 45 record of people having sex to a foppish rich guy on a yacht.
vlcsnap-2469968.png Is That Moana Climax and the Heavy Breathers?

I’ve heard of “porno records” but I’ve never seen one. Frank Zappa was once busted for producing a “pornographic recording” and selling it to an undercover cop. Did people actually sit around at a stag party and listen to a record of people having sex? I heard Mickey Cohen bugged Johnny Stompanto’s bedroom and recorded Johnny and Lana Turner going at it.
You wanna go listen to a record?
johnny-stomp.pngJohnny Stomp
20070712044439lana_turner_in_the_postman_always_rings_twice_trailer_2.jpgOooooh Johnny, You Bug Me!
The Mickster made a ton of money selling pressings to Hollywood hipsters to play at Tinseltown shindigs. But back to Oasis of Fear, our two heroic hippies run out of cash and decide to produce their own dirty pictures starring themselves,
they do but they get busted in Pisa trying to sell their wares and are told to leave the country,
vlcsnap-2474541.pngIs that the leaning tower of Pisa or are you just happy to see me?

they hit the road in their old MG and run out of gas out in the country. They spy the beautiful estate of the wicked witch and push their car in hoping to get some gas.
At first Ms. Pappas tries to run them off, but then mysteriously she switches gears and invites them in. She offers them refreshments of all sorts, access to her copious closets of exotic outfits. Ornella dons an Eastern sari, she looks incredible, a vision from the Orient and she dances to a sitar record like a shimmering jewel.
at one point Irene looks at her through a cut crystal goblet and we get a telidoscopic view of Ornella’s bare breasts spinning psychedelically before our eyes.
A bare chested Ray assumes various Yogic poses at the command of Ms. Muti, The Lion, The Cobra, ” We are each other’s total slaves” he says to a bemused Irene.
A heady brew of sexual intrigue is bubbling furiously on the stove when murder and treachery rear their ugly heads. I’m not going to reveal what happens, YOU must seek out this film to find out for yourself. One of the aspects of this film I find so appealing is the summoning up of a bygone time. The 60’s, the Age Of Aquarius, the Innocence of these two young beautiful people perfectly captures that time and let’s us re-expieience it, like a fly in amber or Ruth Gordon’s scent collection in Harold and Maude. There is a dance scene with a rock band playing and our heroes frugging and watusiying their hearts out. It captures the energy of that time perfectly.
You can feel what it was like to be alive then. To feel like the world was yours, sex and music were a magic carpet to fly you around the globe.
This is the birthright of every person, an ideal we’ve lost touch with today. This is one reson why films like this are important. They’re the Dead Sea Scrolls of the hippie era. We can all learn a lot about the Spirit of that Age. This is also a reason why I feel Lenzi is a great filmmaker. His film resonates with truth, true senasations, what a real person would feel, not some corporate crap selected by a demographic computer print out. There’s a dance scene in Mike Hodges’ great Get Carter that rings true with the same soul transporting realism. He also is a great filmmaker and you can tell from details like this. But for me the stars of this film are the stars. Lovelock and Muti are so captivating, so charming, you really care about them. And Irene Pappas is so evil, she’s great! The score is by Bruno Lauzi, a pop star singer. It’s great, melodic, moody, jazzy. Even the pop song that’s used in the film is excellent. It works , it’s got a hook, it grabs you and you dig it. I think the Marc 4 played on this song because the bassline is so ass kickingly funky and hip, it must be the incomparable Maurizio Maiorana.
Looky here I just found the opening credits on YouTube!

Fernado Di Leo, Il Boss

Written by Joe D on January 10th, 2008


Maestro Fernado Di Leo between the two babes from Avere Vent’anni

I just watched an Italian language version of Fernando Di Leo’s great poliziotto Il Boss (Wipeout USA). A very cool film, I had the good fortune to see it on a double bill with Montaldo’s MachineGun McCain at Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse Film Festival. The Italian version is a bit different, for one thing a lot of subtlety is lost in translation, at least it seemed that way to me, the Italian language version created an overall impression of more political corruption and intrigue. It seemed more real in a way. commissario Torri (Gianni Garko) is in bed with local Mafiosi,

Gianni Garko, commissario Torri, Order in the Mob!

informing them of police action, he has a house and bank accounts given to him by the Mob but he justifies his activities by saying he’s all about “Order”, and only the Big Bosses can maintain order among the Underworld. Is this a rationalization? does he really believe he’s helping Society with his proto Fascist philosophy? The film doesn’t give any definite answers but it’s the questions I find fascinating. Lanzetta (Henry Silva in one of his most iconic performances) is a ruthless, cold blooded killer.

Henry Silva, looking like an Incan head carved from Stone

A monster raised by a Mafia don, almost like Frankenstien, except this monster succeeds in destroying his creator. The dialog between Lanzetta and Rina Daniello (Antonia Santilli) has more dimension in the Italian version.

Have a shot of the Italian Gangster’s Favorite, J&B!

She keeps calling him “Larry” which pisses off Lanzetta to no end. Their conversations seem almost improvised, very natural. The sequence where they shack up in Lanzetta’s apartment is one of the strangest in all Crime Cinema! A full blown Mob War is raging in Palermo and right at the height of it, the guy who started it all is locked away screwing his brains out with the daughter of his ex-boss! He even complains to her that he’s spending too much time in bed with her. It’s like it’s the first time this monster has had sex. Another point that struck me more forcefully in this version is this: the film opens with one of the greatest hits in all Mafia Films, Lanzetta fires a grenade launcher from the projection booth into a theater full of Mafia dons about to watch a Swedish porno film. It’s as if the projector literally becomes a Death Ray! The Power Of Cinema!

Coldest Killer in Cinema!

But my point is this, in the aftermath of the killing, at the morgue, one guy is hysterical, screaming for revenge, nothing will satisfy him but blood!

First To Rat!

This is Attardi (Gianni Musi), later when the gang has kidnapped the daughter of the Don responsible for killing half their family, Attardi wants to kill her with his bare hands, he has to be restrained by his brothers. But Attardi is the guy who rats out the family! He tells Lanzetta where they’re holding the girl! This strikes me as so true, the over dramatic guy, screaming for revenge is the one who rats out his family! Di Leo’s crazy characters really ring true! I also noticed a funny thing, when Lanzetta is in the projection booth preparing to send the audience to Hell, the projector is running but there is no film in it! The reels are empty! Check it out.

The Boss Never Sleeps

Richard Conti is great as the insomniac Boss of Bosses and Pier Paolo Capponi is excellent as Cocchi, the rival hitman, he is like a tough Italian John Casale.

Cocchi, Casale’s Cousin From Palermo

And here’s another strange thing, at the end of the film in the Ameriacan version it ends with Lanzetta walking off down a road, in the Italian version it cuts to the lawyers office where he gets a phone call and a title appears, Coninua, to be continued. What ever happened to Part Two? I guess it never got made, too bad, I’d love for this film to keep on going!

I Wish!

I had dinner with the lovely, eternally young Barbara Bouchet during the Grindhouse festival. I asked her about working with Di Leo, she said she loved it, that when they made a film it was like one big happy family, a joy to be involved with. I was happy to hear that. As I watched Wipeout at the New Beverly Cinema Quentin was sitting next to me, he leaned over and told me that Di Leo is one of his, maybe his favorite director of all time. He also said he heard an interview where Di Leo was asked ” Are there any directors working today that you admire, or that remind you of your own filmmaking?” Di Leo replied, ” Yes, Quentin Tarantino!” It made Mr. Tarantino very happy.

Forty Deuce Spotting

Written by Joe D on January 9th, 2008

I was watching Umberto Lenzi’s From Corleone To Brooklyn when I spotted this shot of 42nd street. The film advertised on the marquee, The Brinks Job was edited by my old pal Bud Smith. Jere Huggins, another friend once told me that while they were working on it, on location in Boston, a group of Mafia thugs came into the cutting room. It seems that while filming in downtown Boston the previous day Mr. Friedkin had trained his camera on a crowded street. Somewhere on that street was a wanted Mafia capo who took umbrage at being filmed. So he sent a group of soldiers to the editing rooms where they tied up the editing crew and pistol whipped one of the unfortunate cutters. They seized the film shot the previous day and left with it. One of the trussed up assistant editors, I believe it was Ned Humphries, dialed a phone with his nose and called for help. The police came and freed them. Later a ransom demand was made for the purloined film, unfortunately for the filmnappers, the editors just ordered a new print of the missing dailies from the lab where the original negative was stored. Bud Smith was not in the editing room during this ordeal, the Mafiosi struck early in the morning while the assistants were syncing dailies and Bud was having his coffee at his hotel.

R.I.P. Reg Park, Fernando Fernan Gomez

Written by Joe D on November 24th, 2007

Two more luminaries have dimmed. Reg Park, muscle man, peplum star, bodybuilder, amigo & mentor to Arnold Schwartzennegar died Nov. 22.


Fernando Fernan Gomez actor, director, writer shuffled off this mortal coil as well. Reg played Hercules, Ursus and Maciste, the big three Italian Peplum characters. My favorite of course is Ercole al centro della terra ( Hercules at the Center Of The Earth or Hercules in the Haunted World) by the sublime Mario Bava.
The most atmospheric of all Hercules movies ( although Bava was the special effects cameraman on the popular Steve Reeves Hercules Unchained), the trip to Hades is very cool and the Oracle scenes are outstanding. Reg had to do battle with a Vampiric Christopher Lee and rescue his babe Princess Deianira, the luscious Leonora Ruffo.

If you’re a fan of this genre and haven’t seen this one, do yourself a favor and check it out. Or if you’re an aspiring fantasy filmmaker with a small budget, sit at the feet of Maestro Bava and be amazed at what he did with almost nothing in the bygone pre-digital days.
Spain and the rest of the world have lost a gigantic talent with the passing of Fernando Fernan Gomez.
He’s probably best remembered by Americans as the worldly father in the excellent Belle Epoque. He plays the delectable Penolpe Cruz’s father and host to the deserter Jorge Sanz ( who looks just like Robert Downey, Jr.). A great movie!
He also starred in an incredible film about childhood. El Espíritu de la colmena ( The Spirit Of The Beehive). Please see this film! It’s about a very young girl in a rural Spanish village and her reaction to seeing the film Frankenstein projected in the town square by an itinerant film shower. It’s an incredible film!
Senor Gomez appeared in over 200 films! He directed 30 films! Plus he wrote and directed many plays! What a great career! I’m an ardent admirer of the picaresque novel Lazarillo de Tormes . Gomez wrote and directed a film version in 2001. I will have to track this down and post on it in the future.
So Bon Voyage to a giant (physical) of the Silver Screen and a creative force that whirled around Spain and world Cinema for many years.

Alessandro Alessandroni, Super Genius

Written by Joe D on November 4th, 2007



Here’s a clip of Alessandro Alessandroni performing in Italy. Once you hear the music you’ll know who he is. One of the Unsung Heroes Of Italian Soundtracks. He plays that great gigantic Electric guitar on the Leone/Morricone Westerns. He also whistles, plays ocarina, sitar, mandolin, etc. etc. He had a vocal group called I Cantori Moderni and they did all the chorus singing on these soundtracks as well. Thanks to Daniele Luppi I was fortunate enough to meet this great man, so humble and unassuming, and get him to perform on the soundtrack of my film One Night With You. I can never thank him enough.

And here’s the opening credits to Sette uomini d’oro(Seven Golden Men), check out I Cantori Moderni’s super jazzy singing!

Mina, Piero Picconi, Gianni Ferrio

Written by Joe D on September 8th, 2007



Here’s a clip of the wonderful Mina singing Amore, Amore. That’s the writer of the song Pierro Picconi at the pipe organ. Picconi wrote a myriad of scores for great italian films, (like The 10th Victim). And that’s the super genius composer Gianni Ferrio conducting. Gianni is one of the best arrangers of italian pop music and soundtracks from the Golden Age of italian Cinema. I met Gianni at his villa outside Roma when Daniele Luppi and I interviewed him. He’s an incredible person, so cool, so brilliant.
p.s. If this song doesn’t move you, jump in a hole, pull your dirt blanket up under your chin and sleep the Big Sleep.

Kill, Baby… Kill!

Written by Joe D on September 3rd, 2007


I bought a few videos at Jerry’s since he’s closing up shop. One of them was Mario Bava’s Operazione Paura (USA Title: Kill, Baby… Kill!). What an amazingly cool movie. This is the first time I’ve seen it and it ranks up there with Black Sunday.

Excellent Locations

Bava was a supreme visual artist as the screenshots will attest. He studied to be a fine artist but followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Cinema Artist instead. His father Eugenio was a sculptor and the father of Italian Cinematographic Special Effects, in fact according to the excellent commentary by Bava expert Tim Lucas, Eugenio invented the so-called Schufftan Process on Cabiria years before Schufftan used it on Metropolis!

Bava’s father gave him the ripple glass used in this shot

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree as Mario uses many incredible in camera effects in his films. Effects that he designed and executed himself! The only person around today that does this kind of thing is Michel Gondry. But back to our movie. There are so many painterly compositions in this film. I’ve selected a few paintings I was reminded of.
Mario studied Art History and he grew up in Roma, surrounded by great art and it’s evident here. Some of the artists brought to mind by Kill, Baby… Kill are Peter Breughel the elder, Piranesi, di Cherico, and Salvador Dali.

An etching by Piranesi


A CinePainting By Bava

Existential town squares, surreal crumbling landscapes, strange scenes of medieval village life are all brought to mind.

Here’s one in the Studio

This film was made for next to nothing but looks so incredible, Bava was a true “painter with light” as a cameraman and director.

All The Colors Of The Dark

His use of colored gels in composing a scene is unequaled, as well as his beautiful camera moves, always in the service of telling the story, never drawing attention to themselves. He would use ripple glass in front of the camera, or a distorting mirror, or shoot through a painting on glass, or as I mentioned earlier use colored lights to create an effect. All done In camera! Nowadays it’s all put together on a computer after the shoot is over and at much greater expense.

Child’s Play

The music is by Carlo Rustichelli, an old school Italian composer, he scored many peplums (Muscle man films, Machiste, Hercules, Samson). But according to Lucas he only wrote one piece expressly for this film. A beautiful piece that works perfectly. The instruments are Celeste, Vibraphone, Harp, and Fender Bass, and usually there’s a child’s laughter playing over it. Great! There is also some pipe organ pedal music used. My friend Danieli Luppi ( a great Italian composer) told me that many of these film scores were done at a studio in Rome called Forum. It’s in the basement of a church and when the church was empty they would use it’s pipe organ! It gives an even more chilling aspect to horror movie music to know it was recorded in an old church. The rest of the score is cobbled together from other Bava films and other uncredited composers. Tim Lucas says the producers ran out of money halfway through the shoot. People had to work for free and Bava was never paid! So when it came time to score the movie there was no dough! Bava had to call in some favors and get whatever music his friends could give him. I’d like to talk about the Italian method of film scoring vs. the american way. The Italian composer would read the script and write themes, sometimes he’d record the music before the film was shot! The american on the other hand has a stopwatch and some idiot director yelling at him” OK on this frame I want a sting! When her eyes move I want a change in the music!” It’s so micro managed you lose the musical flow! When you edit a movie you are creating a visual music out of the shots, there’s a rhythm, a pace, a heartbeat, it’s musical. So when you put a piece of music against a scene magic happens, things coincide, sync up, play as one. I personally like the Italian way better.

The Haunted Villa

The Inn

Visions Of Hell

The locations chosen for this film are so great, they convey the atmosphere perfectly, also this is a period piece set in 1907, today that means $100 million dollars! The budget for this film was about $50,000! Fog machines and fake cobwebs add a lot of creepiness, but they have to be lit right or else they look bad.

The Kill Baby at the Window


A Daliesque composition

There is an amazing sequence in the film where the hero Dr. Eswai is confronted by the ghost of a little girl in her mother’s haunted villa. The female lead Monica Schuftan disappears, he hears her cry from another room and rushes to save her, he enters a Moebius strip of time and space rushing from room to room, trying to reach Monica but always entering the room he just left. He sees someone exiting just as he enters, he runs faster finally catching up to the fleeing phantom, he grabs the guys shoulder and turns him around only to discover, himself! Super Cool!

Moebius Chase Scene

Also a dream sequence made of distorted shots that works really well.

In Dreams

After this Bava was picked by Dino DeLaurentis to direct Diabolik. Dino wanted to give him a large budget but Bava refused. He knew if he accepted a lot of money he’d have to accept the control that went with it and that was not for him. He enjoyed making films his way, he evolved a technique of special effects so he could create anything his imagination came up with and for very little money. Lamberto Bava, Mario’s son said all the Italian intellectuals and big time filmmakers would go to see Bava’s films. Luchino Viscounti gave Operatzione Paura a standing ovation when he saw it.

Have a Ball, Baby

And Federico Fellini lifted the figure of the little girl and her ball symbolizing evil and dropped it into his film Toby Dammit a year later. Bava a super talented creator worked in genres looked down upon by the critics of his day, he worked with miniscule budgets and a lot of unknown actors, that’s why he was able to accomplish so much. Like another of my favorite artists, Chester Himes, who wrote genre detective stories brought out in cheap paperback editions but enabling him to give free reign to his creative spirit. If you like horror, if you’re interested in seeing pure creativity splashed across the silver screen, if you love film, see Kill, Baby… Kill!

Napoli Spara, Leonard Mann

Written by Joe D on July 22nd, 2007

Hey Guess What! It’s a small world! I went up to a birthday party this weekend, about 200 miles up the coast, central california, my wife was talking to a couple and naturally I butted in and one thing led to another, we were talking about tomatoes, then Italy, how he lived there for 15 years, how he went there in 1968 with just a backpack, how he starred in over 30 films!! His name is Leonard Manzella, but he acted under Leonard Mann. Some of his films are: Napoli Spara, one of my all time favorite polizotos, a couple spaghetti westerns,La Vendetta è un piatto che si serve freddo (Revenge Is A Dish Served Cold), Il Pistolero dell’Ave Maria (The Last Pistolero),a scifi L’Umanoide, (The Humanoid),and many others. Anyway we talked about Italian films and how they made them back in the 70’s. Something I’m very interested in, the atmosphere, the milleau of Roma 1968. A super creative time in world Cinema, a flowering of creativity, a new Renaisannce. I am going to interview Leonard soon and post it as a podcast so you all can hear it for yourselves. I also want to do a posting on the techniques of Italian film production (1960’s/70’s) style. So anybody that wants to can make a film Italian Style. So uncork a bottle of Nebbiolo, kick back and check out a film starring Leonard Mann, Napoli Spara is unavailable right now but I’m going to do everything I can to get it released here! In the meantime here’s a lobby card I found over at Stephen Grimes site-