Archive for Lucio Fulci

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


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.


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.


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.


Moriarity (sic) and Sons Funeral Home.

*Not true. See comments below.

The Monday Intertitle: Scream, Blakulla, Scream!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on November 4, 2013 by dcairns


Amused to discover, at an Edinburgh Filmhouse screening of Benjamin Christensen’s nutty HAXAN (WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES) that in Swedish, the Brocken, the place where witches gather for their midnight sabbats, is known as “Blakulla.”


Other aspects of the film are amusing too, deliberately so — Christensen’s sardonic wit emerges in the strangest places, but most often to pour scorn on the absurdities of the holy witch-hunters’ beliefs and actions (it’s a seriously anti-clerical film!). Interesting to hear the audience’s laughter dry up as the realistic horror of the witch trials emerges to swamp the surreal-mythological-grotesque elements of the cavorting demons and sorcerers.

There’s so much in this film! It was strange to have seen the Chaney HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME the previous night (more on this later) and thus to have encountered to silent films in two nights featuring darting tongues, church stabbings, and molten lead.


Fiona and I were both very impressed with the demonic makeup, even when it’s deliberately absurd. One reason was perhaps having just seen HUNCHBACK, where Chaney’s body make-up is so peculiar and over-the-top — Quasimodo has an actual MANE of body hair around his neck, presumably to conceal the join between the actor’s putty-covered face and his nude-effect upper body costume — a wave of discomfort seemed to sweep across the Usher Hall as the feeling that what we were looking at was no longer in any way good enough settled over us like a pall. “Well, I guess almost nobody had ever done body makeup before,” I assured myself. But one year earlier, here’s Christensen doing it with scores of supernatural characters, all of whom look completely convincing within the heightened reality of the movie.

No information seems to be available about who designed or executed the remarkable makeup and costuming for the creatures, or who animated the brief stop-motion sequences, including a scary bit when a tiny demon is glimpsed through a disintegrating door. He’s coming for you! Who were the Swedish animators at this time?

It’s interesting and suggestive that Christensen’s SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN (still disgracefully unavailable in any decent form) also features some disturbing/goody makeups. He’s like the Lucio Fulci of Sweden — able to conjure disturbing deformities at will.

Oh, the striking musical score at our screening was performed by Verity Susman. Perhaps I could have done without the recognizable snatches of English-language speech used as samples. Spoken words, or decipherable ones, seem to add a critical/intellectual commentary onto the film. This is sort of OK for music to do, but only sort of. In a sense, the score was engaging in a dialogue with the film… interesting.  If I can formulate any objection it’s merely that Christensen’s film is already so rich and open to interpretation that to include a kind of critique in the soundtrack presupposes that one has fully processed everything he’s on about. There was a slight sense in Susman’s program notes that she intended to add a layer of modern sophistication. I actually think the film is more sophisticated than anything that’s been said about it.

But the soundtrack was beautiful and disturbing in its own right and it didn’t stop me engaging with the movie, so no harm was done.


I feel I ought to start promoting the annual Shadowplay blogathon — The Late Show: The Late Movies Blogathon. So here is a short, tantalizing mention.

Shark Treatment

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , on March 18, 2013 by dcairns

I was always rather impressed by this startling scene from Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBI 2. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

Had a look at World’s Greatest Stuntman, the modestly-titled autobiography from Vic Armstrong, who has doubled as both James Bond and Indiana Jones, and thus probably deserves the title. More than I do, anyway.

An interesting side-note is Armstrong’s explanation of how sharks are used in movies (outside the legal department) — there is a particular technique deployed to make the sharks safe to work with, a technique Armstrong finds rather cruel — and he’s a man who once road a horse off a gigantic tower ~

The horse was unharmed, but seems to have found the experience disagreeable. It certainly hasn’t pursued the high dive as an Olympic specialty.

With sharks, however, film crews have exploited that old adage about how a shark has to keep swimming or else it will die. It won’t die immediately, in fact — but without oxygen moving through its gills it will become drowsy and effectively drunk. And apparently drunken sharks are safer than sober ones: just the opposite of human beings. So you cage the shark, get it all dopey, then release it and your zombie can swim right up to it and bite it on the fin and it’ll be too woozy to object. At most, it’ll mutter something like, “Hey — quit it, buddy. Lemme alone.” And you can edit that bit out afterwards.


I don’t suggest that you try this at home, mind you. Not for a moment.