Archive for January 8, 2022

Of bannisters and beer

Posted in Comics, FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2022 by dcairns

“The time has come,” Satanik said / “To speak of hope and fear / Of spies alive and spies quite dead / Of bannisters and beer.”

SATANIK (1968) is a kind of crossbreed of DIABOLIK and A WOMAN’S FACE, or maybe THE WASP WOMAN. Like the Bava film, it’s based on a fumetti, like the Cukor and Corman, it deals with a disfigured woman whose beauty is restored, but in a manner that thrusts her into CRIME!

In fact, Dr. Marnie Bannister (yes, we kept calling her “Minnie,” and spoke to each other in Goon Show voices throughout) is already evil, stabbing the discoverer of the youth-and-beauty formula just because he wants to do more tests before allowing her to munch his magic crystals. Probably her really dreadful monster makeup has driven her crazy.

The film is really a crime movie, but it has a spy movie vibe — DIABOLIK, after all, is just a crime movie with a supercool espionage flavour. Unfortunately, SATANIK isn’t supercool, despite varied locations in Spain and Switzerland and a reasonably snazzy credits sequence. Our girl only dons the catsuit and mask to do a striptease; she’s not a likable or even clever protag; the cops chasing her are bores.

But it’s amusing the way director Piero Vivarelli (also a songwriter!) keeps framing her with or through bannisters, as if to remind us of her name. Even when the cops are discussing her crimes, there’s a bannister. The organized crime guy she takes up with has a totally weird horizontal bannister dividing his room in two. Can you call it a bannister when it has no stairs and doesn’t go at an angle? Wouldn’t that be a fence? But who has a fence in their lounge?

Slightly better, but only slightly, is LIGHTNING BOLT, aka OPERAZIONE GOLDMAN. Directed by Antonio Margheritti, with extra cheese, it’s at least a proper spy film, with some terrific sets including a really impressive control room, it has lots of people in black catsuits (but no red one: the poster lied), rocket ships, cryogenic freezing (not QUITE women in tubes, but near as makes no difference) and hilarious model shots — you can spot a tiny paper cutout of a man folding over as the red paint “lava” bursts in, with a dubbed “Aargh!” to make us believe in him. It’s extremely touching.

One of the main action sequences consists entirely of NASA stock footage, a tiny model car wobbling across a diorama, and rear-projection shot of the hero jerking his steering wheel: a kind of holy trinity of cheapniz.

The English dub shows signs of trying for laconic hardboiled wit, but on the other hand they spell the composer’s name wrong (“Ritz” Ortolani). Margheriti hides behind his Anthony M. Dawson pseudonym as usual.

Anyway, the villain owns a brewery, and his product forms a kind of light beer leitmotif throughout, established far earlier in the film than in needs to be, proving that somebody, maybe talented screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, actually thought about this. Which was arguably a waste of his time and talent, but nevertheless I salute him, if it was him.

When the redheaded villain falls to his death, the redheaded hero quips, “I didn’t like your beer either.”

SATANIK and LIGHTNING BOLT star nobody at all.