We might be living in an issue-length dystopian future-shock satire entitled “President Trump,” from a 1988 SPY magazine—with a Logan’s Run-style poster-cover featuring Peter Gabriel and Bananarama’s Siobhan Fahey as The Donald and First Lady Ivana (he was married to her at the time, and after all SPY hired hilarious, razor-sharp comic journalists, not psychics) and an Absolut ad on the back—from which there’s no possible escape, but on the plus side, it’s never been easier than it is today to fall under the lurid spell of the Giallo, the mostly Italian—and mostly fucking awesome—brand of blood-splattered mystery-suspense cinema. Its foundation the sturdy, osteoporosis-free bones of Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie, the Giallo genre was erected by a stylish team of Europe’s wildest movie mavericks. At a dizzying pace, directors like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci constructed, designed and decorated one wickedly inviting, deliciously decadent celluloid playroom on top of another, awash in Freudian pathology, visual bravura, and all the nudity, sex, perversion and disturbing graphic violence that production codes, censor boards and the Legion of Decency (aka the National Catholic Office of Motion Pictures) had been fighting so valiantly (and hypocritically) to keep off the silver screen.
’Amuck, original Italian movie poster now on sale for 40% off at Westgate Gallery.com
So much of the Giallo‘s allure is visual, those of you who didn’t spend a chunk of your formative years in Europe during its theatrical epoch (1963 to 1990-ish), risking molestation in the restrooms of formerly grand movie palaces to catch What Have You Done To Solange? on the same big-screen triple-bill as New York Ripper and With Panties In Hand, must offer queasy thanks to the same home-theater technology that began destroying the viability of repertory, grindhouse and drive-in cinemas the moment top-loading Betamax VCRs and projection-TVs hit the market at the height of the disco boom. It was a trade-off no one knew they were making at the time, and today independent genre filmmaking is all but extinct, but at least the average consumer can program their own private rep cinema, grindhouse or porno chic pleasure-pit with far superior A/V quality, comfortable seating, and only a slightly smaller screen, not to mention a fairly exhaustive and constantly growing choice of salacious, macabre films that probably look better restored on Blu-ray than they did even on the night of their premieres thirty to fifty years ago. Yes, it sucks not to see something as corrupt and gleefully transgressive as Eli Roth’s Green Inferno on a huge screen with a packed house of happy masochists losing their shit every fifteen minutes—but now, after a brief intermission, you can immediately bludgeon your delighted pals with Cannibal Ferox too, one of the deluxe Italo gross-outs than inspired Roth’s more-than-worthy homage, courtesy of Grindhouse Releasing’s Criterion-level volume of the 1981 splatter classic.
A 65-inch flatscreen, all-region BD player (OPPO’s still the best) and the 5.1 surround sound system of your choice finally allows virtually everyone to appreciate Giallo gems close to their intended presentation. And this level of visible detail, accurate repro of those luscious 60s/70s/80s colors, and groovy scores enable a viewer’s own massive luxury overdose mirroring the hedonistic, jet-setty, blood-soaked mayhem seen onscreen. For some reason, we’re in the middle of the best year ever for definitive, remastered HD releases of Giallo essentials. There are still plenty of titles on the missing list, but the more of these editions you buy on BD, legally download, promote on social media (and if you’re especially cool, clever and/or depraved, on your walls with original vintage poster art from my store. Did I mention that there’s a 40% off sale?), and force your friends, family and fuck-buddies to watch, the more sordid specimens will soon be on the way, too, from companies like Synapse, Severin, Arrow, Vinegar Syndrome, Shameless, Code Red and Camera Obscura, to name just a few of them that Satan told me he loves best.
Dario Argento, best known in the US for his eyeball-and-eardrum-pureeing operatic 1977 splatter epic Suspiria, reinvented the Giallo for the 70s in his directorial debut The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970), which today seems a lot more like top-tier Brian DePalma than Mario Bava (the actual inventor of the genre with 1963’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much and 1964’s Blood & Black Lace). It’s still so captivating and cunningly crafted that you’re pulled right in without registering all the soon-to-be-iconic tropes Argento effortlessly assembles to prove just how unreliable perception can be, especially for a chauvinist, writer’s-blocked American (Tony Musante) who witnesses a bloody attack on a tawny redhead (Eva Renzi) through the glass wall of a deserted sculpture gallery, and becomes obsessed with cracking the mystery of a dangerously unhinged serial slasher, even if it means putting his long-suffering model girlfriend (adorable blonde Suzy Kendall) in deadly jeopardy! The new all-region BD/DVD combo pack from Arrow features the best transfer ever, complete and uncut, stuffed with extras new and old, and beautiful packaging highlighting the titular frou-frou MacGuffin.
’Tenebrae,’ original Japanese movie poster now on sale for 40% off at Westgate Gallery.com
Synapse Films has recently prepared the definitive Region A Blu-ray deluxe special editions of Argento’s two outrageous 80s Gialli. In 1982’s Tenebrae, set in a bright and gleaming, thoroughly modern Rome of the very near future, wildly popular horror novelist Tony Franciosa stands in for the by-now insanely worshipped cult director, who finds the Italian publicity tour for his latest ultra-violent bestseller marred by brutal razor slayings of victims increasingly more closely connected to him… in perhaps the most graphically bloody, most spectacularly shot slasher movie ever made. The only slightly less sadistic but much more bizarre Phenomena (1985) is Argento at his most eccentric—they just don’t make them like this anymore. Thirteen-year-old Jennifer Connelly (in a wardrobe prominently credited to Giorgio Armani) stars as an American girl with the psychic ability to communicate with insects. Dumped at a Swiss boarding school by her movie-star dad, she joins forces with entomologist Donald Pleasence and his not-be-fucked-with chimp assistant to unmask the dangerously unhinged maniac on a local killing spree. The cram-packed 2-disc edition includes three cuts of the film, including New Line’s notoriously abbreviated US release version entitled Creepers, which should only be watched after you’ve seen either Euro-cut at least 17 times.
Widely considered to be Argento’s final “classic,” 1996’s The Stendhal Syndrome not only features a detective protagonist afflicted with the titular mental condition, in which sufferers are overwhelmed to the point of catatonia when they encounter great works of art, which leads to her rape and torment by the dangerously unhinged maniac she’s trying to nab, she’s played by the director’s own daughter, Asia Argento. A brutal onscreen sexual assault is surely one way to silence those bitchy whispers of nepotism. This riveting and unsettling suspense-ride full of ravishing imagery (that’s not a rape joke—grow up) is finally getting the HD treatment it deserves on July 25, with Blue Underground’s 3-disc limited edition, including a gorgeous 2K restoration from the original camera negative, plus copious bonus features.
’All the Colors of the Dark,’ original Italian movie poster now on sale for 40% off at Westgate Gallery.com
Although they never worked together, Argento’s cult is easily rivaled by that of Giallo queen Edwige Fenech, the beautiful, charismatic French-Algerian-Italian actress whose thriller-cred was galvanized with two leading roles in 1971 for the underrated Sergio Martino, both receiving Region B releases this summer from UK label Shameless Screen Entertainment. In The Strange Vice of Mrs Ward, her leisurely days as a shopping, swinging, super-hot-ass diplomat’s wife in Vienna hit a snag when she realizes one of the three men in her sultry, saucy life is probably a dangerously unhinged serial sex murderer! All the Colors of the Dark gives Rosemary’s Baby a Giallo spin, casting Fenech as Jane, a troubled London housewife whose miscarriage has her in a nightmare-plagued funk, until her chic neighbor (Marina Malfatti) suggests she join her Satanic coven. Not surprisingly, Jane’s problems only intensify as she’s stalked by a glowering homicidal thug (the always intense Ivan Rassimov), forced to drink fox-blood and can only leave the devil-cult by committing ritualistic sacrificial murder. Soon, Jane can’t trust anyone, much less her own mind!
’Amuck,’ original 1 sheet movie poster now on sale for 40% off at Westgate Gallery.com
If you do own a multi-region player (again, you can’t go wrong with a fab OPPO multi-region player), and a taste for this stuff, the feverishly anticipated Giallo classic Amuck is finally available uncut in delectable 2.35:1 from a new 2K transfer struck from the original negative. This lurid and lovely 1972 nudity-rich treasure simply oozes decadent hothouse atmosphere as a perky blonde beauty (Eurocult fan-fave the gorgeous blonde German-American actress Barbara Bouchet) arrives at an isolated villa on an island near Venice for a new job as secretary to creepy mystery writer Farley Granger and his stunning, pervy wife (another fanboy favorite, Rosalba Neri) who quickly seduce the new employee into their hedonistic lifestyle of steamy girl-on-girl action, sexy parties, homemade porn films, and maybe… cold-blooded murder! Simultaneous releases from 88 Films in the UK (all-region) and Germany’s Camera Obscura (Region B) utilize the same transfer and both look lush and sparkling. They both feature the Italian and English dialogue tracks, with optional subtitles, but if you can, go for the Camera Obscura release as it has a higher bit-rate and somewhat better fine detail, great packaging and—the clincher—a newly produced 24-track CD soundtrack, featuring the loungey, ultra-hip score of Teo Usuelli. The theme song “Sexually” is the highlight and the film’s most famous asset, next to Babs and Rosie’s sexy sapphic scissor sister show, of course. It’s available from DiabolikDVD.com, an independent webstore with a comprehensive selection of Eurocult, horror and sleaze on BD and DVD.
HD trailer for Argento’s ‘Phenomena’
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘REAL ACTUAL FILTH!’: Finally some John Waters movies in high def
‘The Lonely Lady’: Worst film of all time or filthy masterpiece of trash cinema? You decide!
Psycho Killer: Johnny Cash plays a ‘door-to-door maniac’ in ‘Five Minutes to Live’