Archive for Lucio Fulci

Murder Most Fowl

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 17, 2016 by dcairns

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This is more like it! Possibly. (Like what?)

Lucio Fulci’s DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING is at least kind of interesting, which makes it an improvement on his CAT IN THE BRAIN. Unfortunately, what makes it interesting is partly wrapped up in the solution to its whodunnit aspect, so it’s impossible to discuss without spoilers. See you on the other side if you want to keep this one a mystery.

The setting is Sicily, with a backwards town, the bone-dry hills, and also a giant motorway flyover as settings. Florinda Bolkan is largely reprising her role in IL DEMONIO, with a side order of voodoo doll hexing. Someone starts murdering little boys, and she’s a suspect as she’s been sticking pins in their effigies. I mean, that kind of thing never looks good. In the manner of gialli, hardly anybody emerges from this with credit — some of the suspect child-killers are more appealing than the cops. The kids are PARTICULARLY horrible. I felt, on the whole, pretty good about them getting killed. And that’s not, you know, my regular stance.

Best kid death is the one who turns up in a water trough, transformed by some kind of reverse-Pinocchio magic into an unconvincing mannequin (shades of EVENING PRIMROSE). Well, said Fiona, dead bodies DO look unconvincing…

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As the movie goes on, surprising sympathies do start to emerge. The journalist hero (Tomas Milian) is at least somewhat capable and cool, and the heroine (Barbara Bouchet), a former drug addict and all-round minx who teases one little boy by lolling around nude, doesn’t get killed for it. Which is refreshing. People who are not cops or rustic villagers are allowed to be somewhat OK, if weird. Sex, on the other hand, is consistently gross.

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The most problematic scene is midway, when a group of villagers viciously beat Bolkan to death. This is one of Fulci’s trademark nasty, prolonged set-pieces, more pornographic than suspenseful. On the one hand, he scores it with a love song playing from a transistor radio, for disturbing counterpoint, and stages it in a churchyard. The victim has become quite sympathetic and we know now she’s innocent. Also, in a clear violation of standard gialli rules, the killers are an anonymous mob and they’re never punished for this murder. Bolkan doesn’t even die at the scene, but crawls off and expires by the roadside.

But the attempts at making this killing upsetting and meaningful, a condemnation of the vigilante impulse and of primitive rural communities, are somewhat undercut by Fulci’s typically gloating visualisation of violence. Maybe it’s because he was a doctor, or maybe because he felt the need to compete with the mayhem of Argento et al, or maybe he was just a sick sonofabitch, but Fulci always feels the need to go that extra mile, usually straight through someone’s aorta.

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Fulci’s restless visual mucking-about is in evidence here, but not as manic as in LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN (a great stylistic smorgasbord, the one film where he competes with Bava for baroque invention). Mainly he uses the wide screen for diopter shots to create impossible deep focus, or does the opposite, racking focus between giant foreground forms and tiny background people. He likes this trick so much he spends ten minutes in the middle of the film literally doing nothing else.

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Then the killer turns out to be a pedophile priest, which isn’t surprising in plot terms because his apparent NICENESS made him very suspicious in Fulci’s vespiary of a dramatis personae, but IS surprising sociologically. Sure, there’s the KILLER NUN, but I haven’t seen a giallo with a killer priest before. There was one godawful dull thing in which he SEEMED to be a priest but turned out to be an impostor, thus rubbing the movie of its one point of interest. What was that called? Maybe best forgotten, slightly unfair to spring another spoiler on you about a random different film.

Anyhow, the film admitting that there are homosexual and pedophile priests seems kind of radical, and using a priest as killer, well, that’s anti-clerical if anything is, right? And exposing this via a soccer montage is, uh, interesting.

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The title is explained by a mutilated Donald Duck doll, which ties this in with THE NEW YORK RIPPER in some strange way, for in that unpleasant movie, Fulci gives his killer the voice of Donald. This is not amusing, as you might think — it is very, very disturbing. Something must have happened to old Lucio some time way back when, involving the anthropomorphic, bottomless sailor Duck, and his mental associations with Disney’s Number Two character are a bit unpleasant.

Also: Georges Wilson, Irene Papas. Rated R for Rancorous.

 

Director’s Cut

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on December 10, 2016 by dcairns

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When I first heard about Lucio Fulci’s CAT IN THE BRAIN it was something to do with it having been banned in Britain, which always makes things sound enticing. The description suggested that the movie, in which Fulci plays himself, a director of horror movies undergoing a breakdown in which he’s losing the ability to distinguish between fact and bloody fiction, used highlights from many of Fulci’s previous movies in order to ramp up the gore quotient. This sounded both cheap and nasty, but also oddly meta. It sounded like the last gasp of the giallo, and it was pretty close to being Fulci’s last film (but the tireless Dr. F. managed a couple more, and was set to make WAX MASK when he died).

But the movie doesn’t actually cannibalize the Fulci back catalogue for its gratuitous bloodletting — to give credit where it’s due, pretty much all the unnecessary bloodletting has been staged especially for this movie. Still, by casting himself as stocky, nervous leading man, Fulci is attempting some kind of career summation, making this his TESTAMENT OF ORPHEUS, only with considerably more arterial spurt (when Cocteau gets a spear through his nice V-neck sweater, there’s no leakage of the Blood of a Poet).

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Much of the time, Fulci seems to be playing Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME game — “If violent movies made us violent, THIS is what the world would be like.” But Fulci is not smart like Cronenberg. It’s interesting that he was a doctor, because (a) “Dr. Fulci will see you now” is not reassuring and (b) his films are routinely preposterous about psychology, behaviour, basic cause and effect — they seem to have made by an idiot who’s good with the camera. Now, you can be smart enough to get a degree and still be an idiot when it comes to creating believable characters. Fulci seems to be one of those smart-dumb guys. I don’t accept that the people in his films are ridiculous because he doesn’t care — if you’re able to appreciate good characterisation at all, it would just KILL you to write such crappy dialogue and action for the people in your movie.

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I really hate this asshole.

The neurotic Fulci on-camera seeks the help of a shrink, who hypnotises him and sets about framing him for some murders he’s committing, just because. So this is an unusual giallo where we know the killer but we don’t quite know how serious our director’s derangement is. Now, Fulci was a comedy director before he got into horror, and maybe the stupid, ugly way he portrays the world has something to do with the lowbrow world of Italian sex comedy (I haven’t much of this genre, but I’m imagining it to be a bit like British sex comedy but with slightly more attractive photography and girls — Edwige Fenech trumps Sue Lloyd — in other worlds, depressing). All the women seem to have stepped out of bad pornos. Fulci sexualises them without bothering to cast particularly attractive girls, get performances out of them, or photograph them in a flattering way.

Some earlier Fulci gialli might muster a passable misogyny defense by virtue of their all-pervasive misanthropy, something the genre seems to thrive on (I would love a good theory as to why this element seems so central). Here, the violence towards women, not so much gleeful as laborious and plodding (“Don’t enjoy it anymore. Bad for me,” narrates Fulci, talking about smoking but probably meaning cinema), served up to us with a disapproving scowl, seems to have no meaning at all.

We’re left with the stocky, ill-at-ease director (more dyspeptic than psychotic) trudging from bloodbath to bloodbath, depressed by his own films and this metafictional take on them, and enthused only by his white Mercedes, which he films parking at Cinecitta with great care and attention, for what feels like minutes on end. I think he must have been very fond of that car.

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The ending is almost quite good. But as Fulci, saved from madness, evil hypnotists, the long arm of the law, and movie-making, sails off into the sunset, he still doesn’t look very happy.

 

 

Things I read off the screen in City of the Living Dead

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , on February 4, 2014 by dcairns

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If you’re in America and you want to make a convenient purchase, why not visit a Package Shop? You can buy anything you like there, as long as it comes in a package.

The film is Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, which includes a few scenes in new York but is mainly set in the small town of Dunwich, which we eventually learn was built on the remains of Salem and is subject to a zombie plague as predicted in the book of Enoch. The whole film is similarly nonsensical. Dunwich, outside of HP Lovecraft, was a real burrough borough  in England, but by the time of the Restoration it had mostly fallen into the sea (which didn’t stop it from returning two members of parliament). Whereas Salem is still intact and therefore does not have “remains” to build on.

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For a while, handsomely shot and with Fulci’s typically restless camerawork, this was looking pretty fine, with a bizarre plot that keeps shifting gear and throwing in rogue elements. Once it settles down, it’s unfortunately a simple zombie attack flick — the illusion of a weirdly convoluted narrative was created by the miracle of sloppy storytelling.

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Wait, an intermission? In a 98 minute films? These Italian horror fans are such lightweights.

Lots of gore, of course — as in a Peter Jackson film, all the characters “come part easy” — lots of shots of people being grabbed by the scalp until their brains come out. Yuck, and also huh?

Catriona MacColl is very attractive, Christopher George really, really isn’t, and Fulci himself turns up playing a doctor, as was his wont (and as was his real-life training, it seems. I’m not sure I’d want Dr. Fulci as my GP). And there’s future gialli director Michele Soavi* as the village idiot/paedophile/all-purpose pervert, who has a self-inflating blow-up which I at first took to be a supernatural manifestation. Did the filmmakers really think blow-up dolls inflate themselves, like dinghies? What a waste of heavy breathing that would be.

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Moriarity (sic) and Sons Funeral Home.

*Not true. See comments below.