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.

Albert S. D’Agostino

Written by Joe D on September 7th, 2007

This post is about the super talented Art Director Albert S. D’Agostino. He designed the sets for some great Universal horror films of the 30’s, like The Raven with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and The Invisible Ray also with Karloff and Lugosi.

We’ll put the embalming machine right there.


Then he moved over to my favorite studio, the crazy house RKO. Here he worked on some more masterpieces of supernatural atmosphere, all of Val Lewton’s classics- The Cat People, The Leopard Man, I Walked With A Zombie, Curse Of The Cat People.

The Cat People


Who ordered The Zombie?

While at RKO he was made head of the Art Department and he is credited on hundreds of films including some incredible noirs like Out Of The Past, The Spiral Staircase andClash By Night.

One Of My All Time Favorites

And Howard Hawk’s The Thing From Another World! His credits are mind boggling. I’m attaching a scan of an article from the summer 1971 issue of Cinefantastique by Gary D. Dorst written at the time of D’Agostino’s death. If anyone has any more information about him or knew him please let me know, I’d love to get more information on Mr. D’Agostino.
Here’s a link to a great article about him:http://www.filmreference.com/Writers-and-Production-Artists-Ch-De/D-Agostino-Albert-S.html
And here is the scan of the CineFantastique article

Albert D’Agostino – CineFantastique

p.s. Our last names are very similar, I always wondered if we might be related.

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!

All Things Must Pass – Jerry’s Video Reruns

Written by Joe D on September 2nd, 2007

What a bummer! My favorite video store is closing down! I just found out that they will close their doors for good on Tuesday after 20 years of operation.


Now What was it I was going to rent?

This is a place where you could find really obscure stuff, a lot of things only available on VHS. Tapes with stickers that said “$400 if lost or damaged”. Jerry and his wife are being forced out, victims of escalating rent and other expenses.


Jerry & Mary

Some corporate crap house will no doubt take over his space. Yuck! Many’s the night a small crowd would be gathered by the counter talking film, watching a bizarre clip Jerry would be playing on a monitor by the door. “Hey Jerry can you show my friend the opening of Cemetary Without Crosses?”


Wait a minute, I reserved Showgirls! Give it back!

I would recommend movies to people if they showed an interest. When an actor died news people would call Jerry for a clip. Writers and directors would rent reference films , researching projects, ripping off, I mean getting inspired by old films. Jerry was interviewed about William Castle, Ed Wood, his favorite movie-King Kong, Wah Chang, etc., etc. He always knew the name of every obscure character actor, he was always talking about particular episodes of long forgotten TV shows. He’s a great source of Hollywood history.


Filmed in Percepto! You are the clerk!

I’d see lots of Celebrities in there. One Time Leonardo DiCaprio was shining a laser pointer at passing cars from the parking lot!


Hey Mister! Are you a Celebrity?

Maybe Jerry will offer a phone in information service. ” Hello, Jerry’s video info!” ” Yeah, umm, who was the guy that played Gort in The Day The Earth Stood Still?” I guess running a video store can get to be a grind, when I asked Jerry “What are you going to do now?” he replied” As little as possible!” So lift up a stein of Belgian Beer and toast the passing of a movie oasis, an island of cool films that’s sinking beneath the waves of corporate media.


So Long Old Friend