Archive for Franco Nero

Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on September 25, 2020 by dcairns

Elio Petri’s A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY is quite… a thing. I feel like, as it’s a ghost story, I ought to deduct points for it not really being scary, but it’s incredible IMPRESSIVE. Especially Ennio Morricone’s wildly experimental, improvised score, which is cacophonous and pandemonic and absolutely nuts. Like the sound of an orchestra smashed together in a tombola, going round and round, madly playing as they fall over one another. It’s a collaboration with “the composers performers of gruppo di improvvisazione NUOVA CONSONANZA.” A unique event. Maybe there’s just not enough actual quiet for the supernatural angle to chill us.

Does it matter, though, when the film is one long setpiece from start to finish, with politics and a sense of humour and action painting and all manner of mod thrills? And it takes you somewhere quite unexpected.

I feel like Petri saw BLOW UP and thought he’d do something similar but with a lot of opposites — a rural setting instead of an urban one, a jerk of an action painter (Franco Nero) instead of a jerk of a photographer, a ghost story instead of a murder mystery. But still with Vanessa Redgrave.

This Is Proteo Theater

Posted in FILM with tags , , on August 18, 2020 by dcairns

WILD, WILD PLANET (Antonio Margheriti, 1966) is a weird, trippy kind of thing. The sci-fi world presented is fairly familiar, at first glance — the rockets, the domes, the rotating space station — but all the narrative and character beats are either wrong, or absent, or hideously effed up. Impossible to work out who it’s meant to be about — whenever a character is introduced, they either get shrunk into a suitcase and are never seen again, or make so little impression you don’t recognise them next time they turn up.

Why did the plot seem a jumbled abstraction, a succession of unrelated and incomprehensible incidents? Is it possible we only thought we were watching the film and were merely facing in its direction?


Who needs drugs? The sterile dubbing, stiff performances, ludicrous futuristic dancing (a favourite sf movie trope), preposterous props, costumes and makeup (the girl with the coordinated eyeshadow and binoculars was a nice touch) induce all the confusion, alienation and gnawing anxiety you could ever hope to achieve with the ill-advised ingestion of petroleum byproducts or poisonous berries.

I can’t really show you the funny stuff in framegrabs because much of it requires motion to bring out its humour, like the space disco and the sleek jetcars that trundle along at 4.3 mph. I must say, it’s somewhat ambitious — instead of the usual limited supply of cheap, unconvincing stuff, this sixties scifi movie offers up a VAST ARRAY of cheap, unconvincing stuff.

As in PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, all the people appearing on TV monitors are actually standing behind TV-shaped windows, causing extra amusement. In what might be a clever touch, the conversations characters have using vid-call technology have all the stilted hesitancy you’d expect if one half of the conversation were prerecorded. How did they get them to do that? Just hired awful actors, I suppose. (Yet Franco Nero is among them.)

It’s really something. Terry Southern once said something about it taking a particular mixture of talents, non-talents and anti-talents to make a notably bad picture. Here we have something that’s at least as alien as FELLINI SATYRICON — a dismal, inhuman, unrecognizable and incomprehensible experience — while still giving every impression that what everyone wanted (I know, the intentional fallacy and all that) was to make an exciting sci-fi romp, a pop James Bond / Flash Gordon mash-up. But Jesus, it’s nightmarish.

One of the people the baddies try to put in their evil suitcase doesn’t go small enough, and is left a dwarf at the end of the picture, and the goodies laugh at him because he is a small man and therefore funny.

“It’s remarkable how much of this has come true,” I said to Fiona, “just while we’ve been watching.”


Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2020 by dcairns

An old Dutch master.

As a film, SABATA aka EHI AMICO… C’È SABATA. HAI CHIUSO! (1969) by Frank Kramer aka Gianfranco Parolini, may not be that special. but for me it was the answer to a forty-five year question that I had never troubled myself to ask.

(Sabata means “Saturday” so the original title is a pun — HEY FRIEND… IT’S SABATA/SATURDAY, YOU’RE CLOSED!)

The BBC used to show seasons of films — more a BBC2 thing — and as a kid I saw both Barboni’s Corbucci’s TRINITY films and Leone’s DOLLAR trilogy — and this. Only I never knew what film this was. But the question was hardly pressing, and in the age of the internet it probably wouldn’t have been hard to get the list of films shown back in the seventies, or to search for a spaghetti western featuring a drunken Civil war veteran (inexplicably dubbed with a pseudo-Mexican accent — or am I ignorant of some role played by Mexico in that conflict?) who’s continually cursing the uselessness of his medal for bravery. (Cue ironic pay-off when it proves useful after all.)

It’s fun, childish stuff, and Marcello Giombini’s Morricone rip-off score is catchy and likeable. MG also scored films under the pen-name Pluto Kennedy, which delights me strangely. Lee Van Cleef is Sabata and the character who lodged in my brain is played by one Ignazio Spalla, whose career was mostly confined to Italian oaters and was often billed as Pedro Sanchez, fooling no one.

I could do a piece proving that the spaghetti western gunman has as convoluted a history as that of the gentleman sleuth, but I’m not going to. I’ll only note that director Kramer’s middle film in the SABATA trilogy, ADIOS, SABATA aka INDIO BLACK, SAI CHE TI DICO: SEI UN GRAN FIGLIO DI… is actually about a character called Indio Black, or maybe Black Indio, played not as here by Lee Van Cleef but by Yul Brunner aka Yuli Borisovich Bryner. That must have made for a real sloppy dubbing job, since the lip movements required to say “Sabata” are in no wise similar to those that go into “Indio” or “Indio Black” or “Black Indio.” Another fake Sabata is Vittorio Richelmi in Spanish knock-off JUDAS… ¡TOMA TUS MONEDAS! aka WATCH OUT, GRINGO! SABATA WILL RETURN, where the character was originally called Texas (good luck dubbing that one, too)… then there’s Anthony Steffen in SABATA THE KILLER aka ARRIVA SABATA! which at least seems to have been conceived as a Sabata film, though made by other hands; Brad Harris in WANTED SABATA aka SABATA VIVO OU MORTO; Raf Baldassare in DIG YOUR GRAVE FRIEND… SABATA’S COMING aka ABRE TU FOSA AMIGO… ILEGA SABATA.Mind you, when you get into the DJANGO series, things get lunatic, with whole companies of lip-flapping C-listers dragooned in to fill Franco Nero’s capacious boots, and some entries being released as Sartana films or Django films in different territories, with different degrees of lip-flap. Still, the Hercules “series” makes even this chaos seem orderly.

The only “proper” SABATA sequel is È TORNATO SABATA… HAI CHIUSO UN’ALTRA VOLTA! (SABATA IS BACK… YOU’RE CLOSED AGAIN!) aka RETURN OF SABATA — same director and stars, and it’s also good childish, violent fun. I will address it more fully soon.

SABATA stars Angel Eyes; King Minos; Sergeant Garcia; Frank Bimble; King Lotar; Countess Grabowsky; and Lotte Krayendorf.