The Giant Spider Invasion (Japan). Based on the low-budget 1975 film produced by Transcentury Pictures, directed by Bill Rebane
As a huge fan of horror films, especially those of the vintage variety, I really enjoyed pulling together this post that features foreign-made film posters advertising various horror films from the 1960s and 1970s.
Suspiria (1977) movie poster (Italy)
The best thing about movie posters made for consumption outside the U.S. is that they are so much more adventurous. Few of these posters would have ever seen the light of day in a U.S. theater lobby due to their their liberal use of unorthodox imagery and nudity. Some of what follows may be considered NSFW—which is precisely why you MUST see them!
The Exorcist (1973) movie poster (Turkey)
Dracula A.D. (1972, Hammer Films) movie poster (Italy)
More of these marvelous posters after the jump…...
By now, it’s safe to say that those who really dig horror films recognize the brilliance that is Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). Critics frequently include it in “best-of” lists in the horror genre, and the Italian production has also been cited as one of the greatest films of all time, period. There are many reasons Suspiria is revered, but one sequence in particular has been singled out for its noteworthiness: it’s the most brutal murder scene in the history of cinema.
Argento integrated a diverse set of influences into the making of Suspiria, including German Expressionism, the Technicolor vibrancy of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (he saw the protagonist of Suspiria, Jessica Harper, as his Snow White), as well as psychoanalysis. He also played the music of the Italian group Goblin on set to create the necessary mood. The band had scored his previous picture, Profondo Rosso (a/k/a Deep Red), and they would also create, in collaboration with Argento, the unforgettable music for Suspiria. The director’s ultimate goal was to create a dream-like, unreality for the film.
Set in a prominent dance academy in Germany, Suspiria stars Harper as an American student who transfers to the school and soon begins to suspect something within those hallowed walls is not quite right. She has only just arrived at the academy when another student is murdered. This is the killing Entertainment Weekly has called “the most vicious murder scene ever filmed.” Though cinemaphiles could debate this distinction endlessly, it is difficult to think of one more graphic. The imagery is so intense it had to be significantly edited before it could be released in US theaters. And it’s not just the on-screen violence that renders the sequence notable; like the rest of the film, it’s beautifully shot and fantastic, yet completely engaging, and with Goblin’s beyond unnerving score in place, totally terrifying.
Solid scarlet coats the outer walls of this house of blood [the dance academy], spreading inside via wallpaper and drapes in an expressive series: décor, wine, nail varnish, lipstick as well as its most potent source, human blood. Arterial red is complimented by venous blue with which it alternates by means of velvet curtains and wallpaper as well as lighting. Blue shades range from indigo to purple, at times shifting to sickly green. This Technicolor palette vibrates in us intensively, oppressing but at the same time arousing us.
Sound techniques with an exaggerated, hyper-real echo are deployed as affective devices. The electronic chords and discords of the rock band Goblin create a rich sound texture in Suspiria. Whirring, sawing and hollow booming without any diegetic source [sound whose source is visible on the screen] grate on the spectator’s hearing mechanisms and stimulate anxiety, as in the jarring electronic chords before the first murder we witness that sound like the twittering of bats.
In Argento’s films, elaborate pursuit, torture and murder produce tactisigns [virtual sensations; i.e., we feel what the characters feel] to excruciating degrees. Inflicted by mostly invisible torturers, their affective potency is increased by the lack of any distancing subject/object split. This is further intensified by extreme close-up. Knife blades dominate the screen as they gash into flesh, and internal organs are torn loose and exposed.
Okay, are you ready? If you’re a wine drinker, I suggest pouring yourself a glass of your favorite Italian red to have on hand to calm your nerves—trust me, you’re gonna need it.
According to the master of Giallo himself, Dario Argento’s upcoming release will be a Christmas movie called The Sandman. The film is a tribute to Argento’s vast film career and will star everybody’s favorite punk, Iggy Pop. Based on a short story written in 1816 by German author E.T.A Hoffmann, Iggy is set to play a serial killer who takes pleasure in murdering his victims with a melon spoon, scoops their eyes out with with said melon spoon then, saves the unfortunate peepers as trophies.
Says Argento about the premise and inspiration for The Sandman:
On this Christmas a child witnesses his mother murdered by a serial killer. I am tired of these Christmas movies showing goodness. Beauty, snowflakes, sleds being pulled by reindeer. I’d rather have a Christmas movie where there is also violence, strength, and horror. And this is what I’m going to do. Christmas is coming and so is The Sandman!
Argento is using funding site Indie Go Go to raise $250,000 to make The Sandman. Below is the highly amusing teaser for the film that features Iggy who confesses that making this film with Argento would be a “dream come true” for him. A pretty tall order coming from a man who’s pretty much done it all.
And speaking of dreams that could come true, the reward for a $15,000 donation will not only get you a role in the film, it will also give you bragging rights to saying you’ve been killed killed by Iggy Pop while under the watchful direction of Dario Argento. Wow!
When it came to contemporary pop culture, New York’s king of nostalgia Joe Franklin was clueless. So whenever he had a guest on that created art after the 1950s, Franklin pretty much had to wing it, which resulted in some funny and awkward interviews. Watch as a graceful Dario Argento attempts to respond to a series of mostly irrelevant and outright goofy questions from the perpetually grinning Lucky Buddha of late night Manhattan TV.
Then you’ll probably love this stop-motion, Lego version of Dario Argento’s Tenebre.
Often considered the “finest film that Argento has ever made,” Tenebre (or Tenebrae) was (surprisingly) branded a “Video Nasty” upon its initial release in the U.K. In America the film it had a delayed release and was eventually allowed to escape in a badly cut version as Unsane.
Tenebre/Tenebrae proved to be a highly influential film and contains many of Argento’s signature themes and visual set-pieces. Thankfully, it was restored to its proper g(l)ory in the late-1990s and has since been re-evaluated by Tim Lucas at Video Watchdog, and Ed Gonzalez at Slant, who described Argento’s masterpiece as “a riveting defense of auteur theory, ripe with self-reflexive discourse and various moral conflicts. It’s both a riveting horror film and an architect’s worst nightmare.”
Famed Italian progrockers Goblin, best known for their work with horror auteur Dario Argento—Goblin did the soundtracks for Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebrae and more of his films—will be launching their first ever North American tour this October.
The tour begins in Atlanta on October 1 and ends in Austin where Goblin will perform for two evenings as part of the Housecore Horror Film Festival on Oct 25th and 27th. VIP tickets allow fans to meet the band and see the soundcheck. A new Goblin EP featuring recently recorded versions of some of their favorite numbers will be pressed on blood red 180g vinyl and be available on the tour at the merchandise table.
The line up will include the key original members Claudio Simonetti and Maurizio Guarini (keyboards) and Massimo Morante (guitar). Opening act for the tour is Secret Chiefs 3, the solo offering from Mr. Bungle’s Trey Spruance. Tour dates can be found at Ear Buddy.
Below, Goblin performing their theme from Dario Argento’s Suspiria in 1977 on Italian television:
You can run from Suspiria... You can hide from Suspiria... and now you can eat there, too?
Huh? That’s right, kids, Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic Suspiria, well-known for its sumptuous sets, innovative lighting and oh so Technicolor blood, has had its signature “look and feel” appropriated for a trendy new eaterie by the owners of Cambiare, an Italian bar & grill located in Tokyo’s Shinjuku nightclub district.
Most “theme” restaurants are tacky affairs with the sort of mediocre food that attracts tourists and never the locals, who’ll avoid them like the plague. Having said that, I think I’d simply have to eat at a Suspiria-themed restaurant at least once should one ever open in my backyard… if only to check out the lighting and the carpaccio (!)
I suppose Argento’s 1993 film Trauma was not in consideration for a theme restaurant? Probably not!
Well, I say in full, but this is actually the shorter US edit, which cuts out twenty odd minutes of the film. Gone are most of the scenes between David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi, which are actually quite sweet and charming, and add to whatever vague arc these characters are meant to have. This isn’t a great transfer (with a fair amount of color loss) but if you haven’t seen this before it’s worth a watch. The brutality is intact, and most importantly so is the soundtrack by Goblin. It’s one of those films that is worth watching just for the music.
The Profondo Rosso score is as good as any score that came out in the 70s. Yes, that’s saying a lot, as the mid-to-late 70s were a golden age of soundtracks—from Blaxploitation to John Williams to big commercial hits like The Exorcist/Tubular Bells, Grease and Saturday Night Fever—but with its combination of horror-atmospherics and tightly woven sleuth-funk it’s truly brilliant.
If Dario Argento is anything, he’s a master of atmosphere, and it seems obvious to say that he was at his zenith when he worked with Goblin. Profondo Rosso is the first fruits of that collaboration, and while they may have topped it with their work together on Suspiria, this is still a filmic landmark.
Goblin’s Profondo Rosso - The Complete Edition is available to buy on CD.
Set in the cultish world of ballet and revolving around a performance of Swan Lake, Darren Aronofksy’s The Black Swan may be the best Dario Argento movie that Argento didn’t direct. It’s a psychological horror/thriller that recalls the finest of the Italian giallo films. Or imagine The Red Shoes directed by Hitchcock at his most demented and you’ll get a sense of the spinetingling creepiness and ravishing visuals served up by Aronofky’s wonderfully warped cinematic mindfucker.
It’s rare for a film these days to actually be scary. Most contemporary horror flicks are repulsive rather than frightening, assaulting the viewer instead of seducing them. The Black Swan is jump-out-of-your-seat scary and it achieves its scares honestly, through evocative storytelling and crafty film making. In addition, it’s sexy as hell, full of gothic atmosphere and genuine eroticism - a fairytale for adults.
Natalie Portman, Barbara Hershey, Wynona Ryder and the perpetually intriguing Vincent Cassel deliver terrific performances. Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is inverts the technicolor opulence of The Red Shoes, the dread shoes. The art direction by David Stein ( Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) evokes the German expressionism of The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari.
Aronofsky, who directed one of the worst films ever made, the loathsome Requiem For A Dream, has now redeemed himself with two extraordinary films in a row: The Black Swan and 2008’s The Wrestler.
I’m rather certain my Argento comparison will hold up to careful scrutiny. I need to see Swan again but on a first viewing many of Argento’s stylistic flourishes, both psychological and visual, permeate The Black Swan like a cloud of intoxicating opium smoke: surrealistic dreamscapes, the lethal eroticism of sharp-edged objects, a virginal heroine in the thrall of suppressed sexuality, setting the action in a theater, windows and mirrors as portals into the subconscious, mother love, lesbianism, Catholic guilt, secret societies, occultism, the id on fire, blood, blood, blood….The Black Swan would make a great companion to Suspiria and Opera.
At the end of tonight’s screening of The Black Swan at the Austin Film Festival the audience cheered loudly in a spontaneous eruption of delight. We all felt the kind of giddiness one feels after being manhandled by a master filmmaker. Aronofsy may not quite be a master yet, but he’s getting there.
The LA Times recently noted the 30th birthday of Phantasm, the first entry in director Don Coscarelli‘s quartet of Phantasm horror films. Scraped together from a meager budget, and shot and edited over a period of roughly 20 months, Phantasm and its sequels continue to suck me in with a frequency that I’m sure wreaks havoc with whatever Netflix algorithm crunches out the recommendations linking those films to L’Eclisse.
For Phantasm newbies here’s the story (the bare bones, so to speak), per its official film site:
Michael Baldwin and Bill Thornbury star as two brothers who discover that their local mortuary hides a legion of hooded killer dwarf-creatures, a flying silver sphere of death, and is home to the sinister mortician known only as the Tall Man. This nefarious undertaker (with an iconic performance by Angus Scrimm) enslaves the souls of the damned and in the process his character has entered the pantheon of classic horror villains.
Sounds kicky, right? What the synopsis leaves out, though—and what no synopsis could possibly accommodate—is precisely that elusive, unquantifiable element that makes the Phantasm films, in my eyes, so haunting. Whether due to exigencies of budget or imagination, the logic these films operate under is so far out and unpredictable, the effect is like watching a 6-hour nightmare unspool before your eyeballs.
How is one supposed to reconcile, exactly, hooded dwarves, funeral homes, and flying, eyeball-gouging orbs? Um, I’m not sure you can, really (believe me, I’ve tried!). And as the quartet progresses, the entire Phantasm mythology assumes ever-more grand and baroque dimensions. For example…
SPOILER ALERT: About those dwarves? Oh, they’re ultimately destined for another planet. Those flying silver balls? They’re storage containers for the souls of the recently departed. END SPOILERS.
Contrast that inability to reconcile so many dreamy, disparate elements with the boringly formulaic, teenage-slashing rhythms of Freddy and Jason, and you can begin to understand how I consider Don Coscarelli more in league with Suspiria-meister Dario Argento, than the Wes Craven of Scream and Elm Street.
And, much like Argento, whose capacity for creative bloodletting seems undiminshed by time, Coscarelli continues to direct. His last film, the cult-fave Bubba Ho-Tep, starred the always great Ossie Davis and Bruce Campbell. The trailer for the original Phantasm follows below:
For those of you who’ve yet to see it (queue it up, already!), Phantom’s an updating of the Faust tale, where composer Winslow Leach (played by early De Palma muse William Finley), seeking to have his great “cantata” realized, sells his soul to a devil-in-disguise Swan (played, with Sterling Holloway slipperiness, by the film’s composer Paul Williams).
Typical for De Palma, the film offers up an art-versus-commerce parable that’s as bleak as it is unsparing. But beyond its easy, showbiz cynicism, it’s Harper’s wonderfully committed performance that elevates Phantom into the realms of tragedy and heartbreak.
Harper plays muse and soulmate to Leach. But then, as these things happen (though less so, these days), Leach is horribly disfigured in a “record pressing mishap.” Newly reborn as “The Phantom,” he makes an agreement with Swan to audition singers for his cantata. This is where Harper slips in, and pretty much runs—or struts, really—off with the movie.
Beyond the forgettable Inserts, Phantom was Harper’s first feature role. And in this clip here (newly added, raw footage outtakes—the actual clip has been scrubbed from YouTube), you get a definite sense that she’s not just auditioning for Swan, she’s auditioning for the rest of her life.
In fact, as the song goes along, you can actually see Harper finding her voice, as an actress, a person. Maybe that’s why I keep coming back to this film—this clip. It doesn’t seem like Harper’s acting at all.
Fortunately, after Phantom, Harper found her way to not just Allen and Argento, but into the relatively secure (by Hollywood standards) arms of Tom Rothman (co-chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment), where she’s now a wife, mother, children’s book author, occasional actress, and, of course, still special to me.