42nd Street Cinema

Mascara (1983) - Title Card Tuesday

The title card for Mascara is actually a pretty slick animation and I thought it would be great to try and make a .gif, but time & technical prowess were not on my side, nevermind, eh!

A torrid affair from Henri Pachard & Roberta Findlay; Lisa De Leeuw is stunning as the inexperienced, though soon-to-be very experienced, Harriet, also backed by a cast full of NYC regulars: Lisa Cintrice, George Payne, Robert Kerman, Ron Jeremy and Bobby Astyr.

Beyond Terror / Más allá del terror (1980) - Title Card Tuesday

Slightly obscure Spanish exploitation-horror about a group of merciless bikers that run afoul of supernatural forces in a creepy monastery.

The Bloodstained Shadow / Solamente Nero (1978)

Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?

It's a fair question when it comes to Antonio Bido's second feature which is also his second giallo, the first being the thoroughly entertaining Watch Me When I Kill / Il gatto dagli occhi di giada (1977). The Bloodstained Shadow, or Solamente Nero as it's known by native tongue, is a giallo that's heavy on atmosphere with a kinda lowkey drip-fed plot; enough is teased out every so often as to keep one's interest firmly piqued, and eschews excessive gore, shock tactics, and sex/nuditiy that's frequently employed by other directors in order to pull the viewer into a murky world of brooding peril and confusion. I say that in spite of some unfortunate sod who winds-up going head first into a roaring fire.

Starring: Lino Capolicchio, Stefania Casini, Craig Hill, Massimo Serato and Juliette Mayniel.

I wrote about this all the way back in 2007 when I started Bloody Italiana with a chap called Herman (if you know, you know), it may have been the second or third film I ever wrote about as I struggle to remember if the first was Aldo Lado's debut Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971) or Armando Crispino's Autopsy / Macchie solari (1975). In any event, both got copy & pasted over to 42nd Street Cinema in March 2010, prior to the abolition of Bloody Italiana. I revisited The Bloodstained Shadow this weekend after not seeing it for at least 17 years and figured I'd update my review for it. Similarly, many other reviews that were ported over from Bloody Italiana from that period are arguably in dire need of being revisited and updated.

As is the case with most gialli The Bloodstained Shadow kicks off with the murder of a teenage girl, shot in agonisingly-slow motion, in a sequence which contains our first major clue and by major clue, I mean one can guess the killer straight-away if one only pays attention to what they see. Not unlike the hidden, so quick and you'll miss it, reveal at the beginning of Argento's Deep Red / Profondo Rosso (1975). Don't worry though, there’s plenty of giallo playbook moments of intrigue and mystery such as the quick rundown from Stefano’s brother of the duplicitous denizens of the town, which immediately sets-up a shortlist of potential suspects, all relatively prominent members of the town, and all of whom later wind-up deceased.

The plot sees tormented college professor Stefano (Lino Capolicchio) return to his childhood hometown to visit his brother Don Paolo (Craig Hill), hoping to relax and chase a bit of skirt in the form of the alluring Sandra Sellani (Stefania Casini), a girl he meets on the journey home and then again into town. Instead, Stefano arrives right on time to get wrapped up in a string of murders plaguing the town with an apparent link to the unsolved murder of a teenage girl 20 years prior. Shortly after Stefano's arrival, Don Paolo witnesses a murder from his window during a torrential rainstorm, as a consequence he begins to receive letters and death threats from the killer. Stefano and his bit of skirt try to help Paolo uncover the killer and their motives - all pretty standard giallo stuff, right?

There’s a lengthy stalking sequence in which Sandra (Casini) is tailed by an unseen individual; lots of POV shots with Sandra being spied from afar and not so far. The sequence begins on a boat and gradually moves through claustrophobia-inducing passageways. Humorously and with an air of relief, the whole sequence culminates in a brief accordion jump-scare!

The Bloodstained Shadow is gorgeous to look at. The cinematography is stunning, the locations are fabulous, and there’s a whole lotta chiaroscuro and given that the English translation of Solamente Nero is Only Blackness, and that art & paintings in-particular play an essential part in the development of the plot, it’s an ingenious way of weaving all those components together. The momentary shots of misty Venetian canals and graveyards are to die for, bravo Mario Vulpiani graze!

Stelvio Cipriani's soundtrack is fantastic too, not to mention the fact it's performed by legendary Italian prog-rockers Goblin. It's equal parts Italio-funk and menacing synth, personally, I think the synth stuff works the best given the subject matter as at times the more upbeat funk stuff feels a tad out-of-place, but by no means is it bad.

The finale comes together quite well with all the brief fragments scattered throughout out the narrative linking together without any of it feeling forced or clumsy. The cast are great, believable, though I have to opine that Craig Hill steals the show as Don Paolo. The murders, though far from extravagant or special effects masterclasses in bodily destruction, offer a sense of realism, grounding the piece as something believable, I could imagine reading about a story like this in a true crime mag. A truly great piece of Italian filmmaking and an outstanding entry into the giallo cycle.

Four Stars

Torso / I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (1973)

Torso (1973)Sergio Martino's fifth gialli is a violent and sexually-charged thriller, co-written by Martino and Italian screenwriting legend, Ernesto GastaldiTorso / I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale is arguably far removed from what would be considered a purists idea of a giallo film. Instead, it sort of acts as a precursor to the soon-to-be slasher boom - I'm desperately trying to avoid that now all too common phrase of 'proto-slasher', but the point I'm trying to make is that while other gialli from this period still, for the most part, pushed a tightly woven plot with an air of sensuality, scenes of verbose exposition, peppered with brutal, yet brief murders, in Torso the focus has shifted from an attempt at telling an intricate story of deceit and murder to becoming a Grand Guignol-style bodycount movie.

Starring: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda, John Richardson, Roberto Bisacco, Angela Covello, Conchita Airoldi and Carla Brait.

With that being said, I've fond memories of watching this as an impressionable teenager beginning my backwards journey through the ages of horror cinema, looking to broaden my horizons and delving for sights less seen, I took a trip down the winding path of Italian genre cinema.

Deftly lensed by regular Martino collaborator, Giancarlo Ferrando - All the Colors of the Dark (1972) and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972), the mixed locations are brought to life, ranging from the busy bustling of city/town streets to the relaxed and sumptuous atmosphere of an isolated villa.

Torso relishes in bodily destruction, the lingering shots and closeups on acts of violence really show that Martino set out to shock the audience and to boldly breakaway from what had been previously seen in giallo film. There's a little humour injected into the events, maybe to take the edge off the viciousness of the attacks and the hateful misogynistic motive of the killer. An example being the scene immediately after the first young couple are murdered and an old trap is being interviewed by police after discovering their mangled remains. He admits to police that he found the bodies of the couple while "littering" and by littering he means taking a shit.

There's a haunting, yet beautiful sequence of Carol (Conchita Airoldi, christ isn't she stunning?) walking through a misty marshland, the scene is extremely well photographed and bathed in the blue light of morning. A tense and languidly paced stalking scene follows; Carol notices a silhouette off in the distance which swiftly disappears into the fog like a spiritual apparition, this short sequence sets-up a decidedly ruthless execution of her character, including a shocking moment of Fulci-like ocular violence, as poor Carol's orbs are ruptured by the killer's black gloved fingers after a muddy strangulation and drowning. The sequence ends in closeup with a profusion of crimson running down Carol's forearm and mingling with the mud, still bathed in a cool blue hue, the camera then jerks upwards to the sky ushering in a brief moment of calm after the frenzied attack.

The killer's look, so to speak, is more akin to that from a typical slasher; eschewing the fedora and overcoat in favour of a ski mask and black & red scarf, while still retaining the black leather gloves, Torso's faceless sadist is altogether menacing, brutalist, and unforgettable.

For the last act there's an almost-complete tonal shift with the film now taking a different approach to the pace and narrative to what the previous 40 minutes were. It begins when Jane (Suzy Kendall) wakes up from a nap, she finds that the quaint villa has become a total bloodbath. While asleep, all 3 of her friends have been eviscerated, Torso now becomes a single location thriller; a battle of wits and survival between Jane and the killer. Martino chooses to actively skip the on-screen murder of the three girls, however he manages to uphold the severe tone and deliver on the gruesome goods with glimpses of bodily mutilation via hacksaw.

All is not lost, however, for our plucky final girl Jane, as fortunate would have it local doctor, Roberto (Luc Merenda - gosh isn't he handsome?), has taken more than a shine to our Jane and is on-call to save the day. Go Roberto!

Remaining true to gialli contemporaries, Torso has a scattering of red herrings and potential suspects spread over its runtime and I think it's a pity that every time I watch this I still remember who the killer is. I wish I could experience the excitement of the killer's reveal over and over again. This becomes the case with most gialli on repeat viewing, but the moment of unmasking on a first time watch is one of the most thrilling and unique aspects of the genre. The rush of excitement from either complete surprise or confirmation, if your suspicion or intuition is on the money, is a point of engagement for the audience and in a subtle way allows the viewer, in some respects, to participate in the films events.

Even after all these years and repeated viewings, Torso still manages to shock, surprise, and keep you on the edge of your seat with the numerous kills, red herrings and near-misses, and the change in pace for the final act manages to bring the whole piece together for an ever increasingly dramatic climax.

Four Stars

Fear City (1984) - Title Card Tuesday

After a few weeks off, I'm back again for another round of Title Card Tuesday. This week, it's Abel Ferrara's neon cesspool, Fear City. I don't think I'll ever grow tired of watching Tom Berenger beat the living piss out of the sadistic scumbag in that grungy alley.

Joe Davian - 5 films from one of NYC's most outrageous adult filmmakers

I'm back with more wild XXX action from the smutty heyday of 42nd Street and this article is a small selection of movies from Avon Production's most enigmatic filmmaker, Joe Davian. There's no rhyme or reason to any of these and I'm kind of keeping the possibility open of a potential follow-up at some point, so stay tuned.

Assault of Innocence (1975) Assault of Innocence (1975)

Starring: Marc Stevens, Anna Liva Plurabella, Sandi Foxx, Rican Devel and Todd Davis.

I wasn't able to find a poster, or any advertising material for Assault of Innocence, but it's a very early effort from Joe Davian and the first he helmed for NYC's grungy porno-purveyors, Avon. It's as unique as it is amateurish, a super cheap one day wonder that is kinda-maybe in roughie territory - given the plot, but is utterly lacking when it comes to style or flair, or even a glimmer of any real sense of talent. On top of that, the movie appears badly edited, whether or not that's down to the cut I'm watching, which appears to be sourced from VHS, but having said that if I did watch this in 4K, it wouldn't improve the quality of the work one iota.

The plot is a mere sketch and a pretty devious concoction at that; Mr. 10½ himself, Marc Stevens, has taken to cross-dressing and posing as an elderly woman on the mean streets of NYC, and preying upon the younger women who come to his aid. The majority of the runtime is filled with a series of vignettes, strung together, in-part, by a narration from "Todd Davis" - a self-proclaimed friend of the rapist, via a phone call he's having with the police, all the while being on the receiving end of a blowjob. Nice.

Assault of Innocence is not only the weakest in this selection but in Davian's career too, and to be honest it's only worth checkin' out for the sheer absurdity factor, as well as the Davian & Avon related film history.

The Night of Submission (1976) The Night of Submission (1976)

Starring: Carter Stevens, Vanessa del Rio, Annie Sprinkle, C.J. Laing and Red Baron.

Kickings things off with the occult themed The Night of Submission and I must admit this one I dig quite a bit. The exotic sounds of tribal drums accompanying occult sexual rites performed by an underground voodoo cult, it ticks so many boxes for fans of offbeat cinema.

Though originally cast in the leading role, C.J. Laing had a falling out with Davian during the production of The Night of Submission resulting in her being replaced by Carter Stevens. As a result of the gender-switching of the main character the plot seems a smidge ham-fisted and awkward, you can kind of tell that the leading role wasn't meant for a man, so the on-screen events don't always make a whole lot of sense. One can only imagine how the film might have played out with C.J. remaining in the role and being at the forefront of the action, and one could argue further that it would certainly make the story a whole lot more interesting.

In any event, the movie opens with Stevens and Sprinkle engaging in an almost romantic fire-side bonk session on the floor, artfully reaching a climax just as a phone rings. For those of you still paying attention, the person on the other end of the phone is none other than C.J. Laing, and she's got the scoop on a voodoo sex cult, she wants the go-ahead to continue to investigate, Stevens obliges and unfortunately that's the last we see of Laing and arguably where any semblance of story ends. Granted, there is a brief wrap-up when the film draws to a close, but narrative wise, it isn't much of a cohesive story.

The fuck scenes have an eerily claustrophobic feel to them, I guess the injection of occult horror/black magic juices into a hardcore fuck film just hit differently in The Night of Submission. All hyperbole aside, I really dig this one.

Domination Blue (1976) Domination Blue (1976)

Starring: Vanessa del Rio, Sharon Mitchell, John Bush, Red Baron and Roger Caine.

I'm finally scratching the itch of wanting write-up some thoughts about Domination Blue, although it's no standout gem, it's nothing short of a thoroughly grim, yet enjoyable outing from Joe Davian and Vanessa del Rio, though precisely what Vanessa's involvement behind the camera is/was remains a mystery to me.

No doubt inspired by the deluge of W.I.P. movies that were doing the rounds (not to mention raking in plenty of dough), Domination Blue is an entertaining roughie scuzzfest, so long as one accepts the complete lack of plot and can happily go-along with the rampant demented sexual shenanigans. The atrocious quality of the transfer, it looks as though it's sourced from a VHS (cheers Alpha Blue Archives!), actually helps to give the flick a filthier, uglier, more depressing, and even meaner aesthetic than if it was sourced from a camera negative. Shot almost entirely indoors and utilising what appears to be the same set/location, the film achieves and maintains an intense and claustrophobic atmosphere, Oz (1997 - 2003) eat your heart out!

It's rare that I'm affected by things I see in movies, but there's one scene in Domination Blue that for some bizarre reason came close to making my stomach flip. In it, a prison guard brings dinner for the inmates, arriving at Sharon Mitchell 's cell, instead of giving her a plate, he ladles what appears to be Heinz Baked Beans across the length of his member and forces Sharon to eat it, she resits at first, but then begins to devour the beans, and his member, with a starved fervour. Grub up!

There's almost no end to the depravity in Domination Blue, including such sights as an inmate masturbating with a Barbie doll, routine beatings & whippings, a golden shower. Mitch blows and fucks two dudes next to a row of urinals and then mainlines heroin. Even the supervisor of the joint fucks a blowup doll, then gets abused by one of his own employees. Roger Caine hams it up in a rather unpleasant incest vignette, as a drunk and belligerent father. This is one has to be seen to be believed, a downright nasty flick folks and it comes thoroughly recommended!

House of de Sade (1977) House of de Sade (1977)

Starring: Vanessa del Rio, David Williams, Peter Andrews, Iris St. Denis and Crystal Sync (credited as Cara Mogul).

Another one I couldn't find a poster or ad for, bummer. House of de Sade is a kinda goofy, have-a-go-horror one day wonder, brimming with kink and sleaze.

So the premise, I say premise because let's face it there's not enough proverbial meat on the proverbial bones to call it a plot, concerns Lucille McLain (Vanessa del Rio) and her cohorts attending a seance at a haunted house. Things go awry and a dizzying event of carnal madness ensues for the group when they willingly summon the sexually-malevolent spirit of Marquis de Sade. There's a minor twist in the final moments, though nothing of any real intrigue or much value.

Scenes are frequently punctuated by several Pink Floyd tracks, namely 'Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict'. It's an utterly bizarro racket, a mix of Casio keyboard noodling, blown-out psych-rock-ish stuff and moments of eerie repetitive whispering with almost tribal wailing.

There's little time wasted on exposition and we're straight back into the fucking which honestly feels like it goes on forever, and that's kinda because it does. There's a mind-bending bondage and cucumber play session with Vanessa del Rio and a guy who looks like Peter Sutcliffe - the Yorkshire Ripper, which includes a hilarious and somewhat questionable creative choice to start peeling the cucumber while it's still poking out of Vanessa, then using a switchblade to slice off a piece and feed it to her. Nom-nom-nom.

When the folks finally arrive at the haunted house, they shown around by a creepy degenerate-looking butler, portrayed by Peter Andrews, who carries a lamp and lacks the ability to form coherent words, so instead grunts and drools. Vanessa and her mates are shown to their rooms, the couple begin to get fresh while Vanessa is apparently haunted by the ghost of a mad Scotsman, given the ethereal Scottish accent warbling away on the soundtrack. She starts seeing things in the mirror, but when she turns around there's no one there; inquisitive, she opens a closet door and gets a faceful of sticky ectoplasm (phantom jit) from a ghostly pud. I must profess my innocence and admit to never having witnessed a spectral money shot before, but boy am I glad I have now.

Once the cast have finally finished (literally) fucking about and get around to performing the seance, what they neglected to mention is that it must be some kind of 'swinging' seance as certain individuals show up to the candlelit table in bondage gear and/or are half-naked. Final 8 minutes devolve into acts of abject debauchery, though I don't think any of it, at least for me, outshines the earlier sequence of del Rio and the co-starring cucumber.

Yeah, this one is pretty decent, funny, and utterly absurd. Worthy of checkin' for the BDSM sleazoids and casual fans of phantasmal splooge.

Manhattan Mistress (1981) Manhattan Mistress (1981)

Starring: Juliet Anderson (credited as Judy Carr), Erica Boyer, Dave Ruby (credited as David Ruby), Robert Kerman (credited as Richard Bollo) and George Payne (credited as John Lance).

I think this is the last movie made by Davian and it's easily one of his most accessible. See, it's all a tad classier in Manhattan Mistress, or at least it is until the enema scene that comes slap-bang out of nowhere during the final stretch of the runtime. Guess Mr. Davian couldn't help himself and just had add something a "aberrant" into the mix.
Kidding aside, most of the fuck scenes in Mistress are pretty hot and do have a classier slant when it comes to depicting the goods, and I gotta add that this might be the most relaxed performance from George Payne I've ever seen - the guy appears to be sleep-walking.

Angel (Boyer) finds out her mother Georgia (Anderson) is a prostitute, distraught she leaves town for the Big Apple, where she meets Cash (Kerman) and becomes a prostitute herself.

The cast is fucking great with the likes of Aunt Peg herself (Juliet Anderson), the stunning Erica Boyer, and Merle Michaels. On the boys team there's the Avon regulars: Dave Ruby, George Payne and Ron Jeremy, along Robert Kerman and a young, 22 year old, ;Jerry Butler.

I think the problem with Manhattan Mistress is that it's too refined, it's almost too much like a real attempt at making a good fuck film. Gone, is the nasty shit that's prevalent in, or even the draw with other movies from Joe Davian, and to a larger extent anything from Avon Productions, and that's kind of a bummer. But, on the other hand, this is a fairly well crafted and put together, almost glitzy, effort from a director who started out making some of the cheapest, grungiest, and roughest pornography from the so-called Golden Age. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Joe Davian finally made a movie that even folks who aren't into the rough (or weird) stuff can thoroughly enjoy.

Mad Foxes (1981) - Title Card Tuesday

How does one adequately describe the madness that is, Mad Foxes, a.k.a. Los Violadores (The Violators). A Spanish & Swiss co-production, produced by Swiss exploitation guru Erwin C. Dietrich & directed by Paul Grau. Everything you've ever read by people when they talk about this film is likely true, it must be seen to be believed.