Archive for October, 2019

The Lone Granger

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on October 22, 2019 by dcairns
No, YOU’RE the idiot. No YOU are. No YOU are.

Poor Farley Granger! In SO SWEET, SO DEAD, he’s a disgruntled detective tracking a serial killer, and no wonder he’s so miserable: he’s a policeman trapped in a film where nobody ever calls the police. A murder victim’s secret lover consults his lawyer: should I contact the police so they can eliminate me from their list of suspects? No no no, advises the professional. A teenager witnesses her neighbour being stabbed to death. She waits until next morning to tell her boyfriend, then says she’ll mention it to her dad later. Her dad the lawyer.

One of the lovers (all the victims are adulteresses) visits his mistress and finds the bath overflowing and the woman dead, and has a tussle with the killer, and then we never hear about him again. Did he call the police? Or did he just have a bath, since it was already run and it would be a shame to waste it?

Even when Farley Granger gets a call from the killer saying who the next victim will be, HE doesn’t call the police. And he IS the police.

In fact, the only people to call the police in this film are a lunatic pretending to be the killer, and the killer.

Argh no what

A lot of gialli seem to be about anomie — it’s a practically an unspoken genre convention to have unsympathetic characters, maybe so we won’t mind seeing them killed? This sordid and inept little film heightens the disaffection until it almost seems meaningful. Everyone is cheating, nobody is a solid citizen. But it might equally be that the film just didn’t have the imagination to come up with anyone other than love rats, cuckolds, a necrophile mortician, and poor Farley Granger.

This is the sort of considerate coroner who will not only examine your murder victim, he will reconstruct the crime right in the operating theatre using his glamorous assistant as victim.

A general’s wife has been murdered, you say? Round up the usual suspects.

“STAY CALM? With that wallpaper?”

There’s no trace of Dario Argento artistic design in this movie. Only Georgio Gaslini’s music impresses — mostly swooning love themes, highly inappropriate, but that’s the giallo for you. Violence being sexualised is basically what it’s for. Gaslini is gaslighting us.

I guessed the ending in this one, but only because the movie kept showing us closeups of the killer’s face, and his stocking mask didn’t disguise his unusual chin cleft. Still, usually the more misogynistic the violence, the more likely the killer will turn out to be a woman — a kind of projection.

Who is murdering the unfaithful wives of the rich? Farley Granger considers a startling new theory. He is shocked – SHOCKED! – at such a possibility.

What, indeed?

I was originally watching this for PROJECT FEAR but it cemented my view that gialli are not horror movies, for all the violence. They might not even be thriller.

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It’s All Happening

Posted in FILM with tags on October 21, 2019 by dcairns

Well, here we are. I had hoped that by the time mid-October rolled around, our Project Fear mini-quasi-blogathon would be a sort of relic, the October 31st Brexit deadline having been abandoned as unworkable, rendering the festivities at Shadowplay a mere nostalgic reverberation from a canceled timeline, but that has not yet happened.

With everything to play for, we shuffle forth.

(The phrase “project fear,” by the way, is one beloved of the Tory right, who have used it to dismiss all well-founded warnings about the negative effects of Brexit as being part of a disinformation campaign to put the shits up the Great British Public. What with Boris (Johnson, not Karloff) focussing all his shambling zombie energies on Halloween as death day for EU membership, I thought somebody ought to do something with the words Project Fear. So I’m celebrating European horror movies, especially those with a tiny British component.)

Festivities start on the 27th.

John Phillip Law West of the Pecos

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2019 by dcairns

DEATH RIDES A HORSE. Also dismounts, walks about, drinks whisky-and-water, smokes a pipe. Death leads an active, outdoorsy kind of life.

This movie is Pure Cinema — pure cinema is a pretty violent place, it sometimes seems. The spaghetti western version amps everything up to eleven and reduces the script to something that could be scrawled in a matchbook. The plot is mythic, the characters iconic, which is another way of saying childish, maybe.

The movie begins with a gang of outlaws performing what Slim Pickens in BLAZING SADDLES calls a “number six” — killing the men and raping the women. Then, since it’s important that we realize these are the bad guys, they shoot some bottles, some jugs and some assorted carrots and parsnips.

No, not the vegetables!

One of the rapists is called Burt Kavanaugh which seems a bit on the nose.

So, a nasty beginning, though it manages to avoid fetishising the sexual assault, and is brief to the point of implausibility. Beginning with this violent primal scene — witnessed by the youngest child — the movie establishes an almost giallo-like tone, before turning into an episodic revenge narrative Cornell Woolrich might have approved of. Sort of The Dude Wore Black.

There’s a loophole in the “number six,” you see — a small boy, not covered in the articles of war. He survives, and through the miracle of editing grows up to be John Phillip Law, next seen shooting some objects of his own. But he does his target practice in the open air, like a civilised person.

Next, we meet Lee Van Cleef, being freed from a chain gang to the tune of one of Ennio Morricone’s finest western scores, a kind of shitkicker Carmina Burana with a male chorus that seems to have been recorded in a bathroom, in a cavern. Words cannot express.

The lyrics are pretty indecipherable but seem to include neat-o phrases like “Wiiiiild Women of Woo-gow!” though I may be mondegreening a little.

Screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni also worked on defensible films like THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY and DUCK, YOU SUCKER! (but Leone employed whole swing-gangs of writers on each film) but also on less dignified-sounding ones like MEAN FRANK AND CRAZY TONY and MR. HERCULES AGAINST KARATE.

Some great fractured compositions in the obligatory musical duel, timed to three strikes of the piano keyboard. Director Giulio Petroni worked almost exclusively in this genre, and delivers striking set-pieces as well as possibly the best landscape stuff I’ve ever seen in an Italian western.

Van Cleef is his dependable bad-ass self. Law is pretty good — the character is meant to be more callow than Eastwood’s grizzled stranger, so his lack of authority isn’t a major problem. But if the film is slightly less than the sum of its excellent/ridiculous parts, it may be because the pretty and sunny young fellow at its centre does not compellingly suggest a vengeance-driven nemesis eaten up by Hate.

DEATH RIDES A HORSE stars Angel Eyes; Pygar; Father Pablo Ramirez: Dial M for Me; Capannelle: and Boogulroo.