RETRO REVIEW: Giallo Magnifique: Dario Argento’s DEEP RED in Rare Italian Cut Screens Saturday at Buried Alive Film Festival

Posted on: Nov 13th, 2015 By:

Profondo_Rosso_posterBuried Alive Film Festival and Splatter Cinema Presents the rare Italian original cut of DEEP RED (1975); Dir. Dario Argento; Starring David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi; Saturday, November 14 @ 10:00 p.m.; Synchronicity Theater; Tickets $10 (or included with a $50 festival pass) here; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

As part of the Buried Alive Film Festival, Splatter Cinema will be hosting a 40th anniversary screening at Synchronicity Theater of what is, quite simply, one of the greatest thrillers ever made: Dario Argento’s groundbreaking giallo DEEP RED. To miss this in its rare Italian original cut (22 minutes longer than the US version), would be to offend the very gods of cinema, so it would be best to play it safe and plan to attend.

From the late 1920s forward in Italy, a series of cheap paperback editions of murder mysteries featuring eye-catching artwork was issued by the publishing group Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. The success of these editions led to other publshers to also release mysteries under their own banners while imitating Mondadori’s cover designs. The common design element? The color yellow used as a background. As a result, over time all murder mysteries in Italy would come to be called “yellow.” Or, in Italian, giallo.

Mario Bava set in stone the tropes and archetypes of the cinematic giallo in the early 1960s with films such as THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. The wild success of these films—and their blending of brutal violence with stylish camerawork and set design, all set to equally stylish musical scores—led to a whole host of other filmmakers jumping on the giallo bandwagon and establishing themselves as forces to be reckoned with in the Italian film industry. Antonio Margheriti, Umberto Lenzi, Riccardo Freda…all dipped their toes into the waters of the giallo and built careers off their early successes. But none of them took the genre to new extremes like one particular filmmaker: Dario Argento.

schultz-figueroa-web2Beginning with his “Animal Trilogy” (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, CAT O’ NINE TAILS and FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET), Argento took Bava’s sense of visual style to a whole other level. Deep focus, graceful camera movements, exquisitely detailed set design and carefully crafted compositions were the hallmarks of his aesthetic. His impossibly twisty plots and outstanding soundtracks worked hand-in-hand with his visual style and led him to be regarded as the Italian Hitchcock. But his work on the Animal Trilogy was merely a prelude to his masterpiece: DEEP RED (aka PROFONDO ROSSO).

Jazz pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) witnesses a woman’s murder, and decides to investigate the case himself after realizing that a painting he saw in her apartment is now missing. Accompanied by reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), he tries to tie together the loose clues he has assembled and the one detail he cannot quite remember, while other women across the city are being murdered and he himself is targeted.

All of the elements are in play here. The black-gloved killer. The half-remembered detail. The outsider protagonist dismissed by the police as a troublemaker. The meddling reporter. The brutal violence. But Argento assembles these key tropes into something wholly new and original. Visually, Argento uses art in general, and painting in particular, as a recurring thematic element. Beyond a painting holding a key detail that is needed to solve the mystery, key plot points are revealed via artwork. Argento even gives us a life-size, live-action depiction of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks early on to establish the importance of the visual arts and their accompanying artifice in the film’s world. In a word, the visual style is audacious.

But not as audacious, perhaps, as the film’s musical score. After having worked with the celebrated Italian film composer Ennio Morricone on the Animal Trilogy, Argento wanted something contemporary. He initially turned to jazz musician Giorgio Gaslini for the film’s music, but was unhappy with the results. Instead, he decided to go in a progressive rock direction and eventually found kindred spirits in local band Goblin. Their remarkable score winds up being incredibly catchy, complex, sinister, subtle and bombastic—somehow all at the same time. Their music ended up being the perfect complement to Argento’s visuals, managing to capture the essence of one medium in another. The reception to their breakthrough work was so intense, and the pairing of group and filmmaker so perfect, that Goblin (or the band’s leader, Claudio Simonetti) would continue to work on-and-off with Argento through the decades up to his latest film, DRACULA 3D.

Argento would return to the giallo again several times over the course of his career, most notably in films like TENEBRE and OPERA, but none of his work within the genre comes close to this masterpiece. It’s nearly flawless. The only complaint that I have with it is that the humorous and romantic scenes between Hemmings and Nicolodi tend to dissipate the building tension felt throughout the film. But that is such a slight complaint in comparison to the riches on offer in this brutal but beautiful movie. To see it at all is a rare treat. To see it in its original Italian cut on the big screen is a thing that should not be missed by anyone interested in seeing a director firing on all cylinders, at the top of his game, regardless of genre.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com.

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AFF Retro: GIALLO FANTASTIC: THE EDITOR Slashes Into the Notorious Italian Horror Genre With Blood and Humor

Posted on: Mar 26th, 2015 By:

EditorPosterTHE EDITOR (2014); Dirs. Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy; Starring Paz de la Huerta, Udo Kier, Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy; Trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Giallo is a firecracker of a word. Sure, for most people, it doesn’t mean anything at all. If you speak Italian, you know giallo means “yellow,” but beyond that it’s just a word. It lies there on the page, dormant. But for the initiated—mostly cinephiles and lovers of pulp (including our ATLRetro editor)—giallo absolutely explodes with meaning. The word doesn’t just deliver a definition, but an entire state of mind. It’s music and color. It’s operatic and sleazy. Giallo is a complete reality, flung forward from a skuzzier past.

THE EDITOR, a new horror-comedy screened at the Atlanta Film Festival and presented by Buried Alive Film Festival, is drunk on giallo. The movie takes pains to replicate the peculiar charms of a 1970s Italian slasher film, hilariously sending up the genre’s goofier tendencies. It’s all here—the bad dubbing, the hilariously on-the-nose exposition, improbable moustaches. But multi-hyphenate creators Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy (who wrote, produced, directed and starred in the film) aren’t satisfied with an easy genre spoof. Beneath the corny riffs on Italian machismo and candy-red blood lies a vein of deep strangeness in THE EDITOR. Any homemade fan film can walk and talk giallo, but THE EDITOR’s beating heart pumps pure yellow.

Editor-740x493Our moustachioed protagonist is Rey Ciso (Brooks), the titular editor who once had a promising career in prestige cinema before a freak accident cost him his fingers. Now Ciso, sporting a set of wooden replacement fingers, toils in the mucky world of low-budget slashers, searching for sublime truth in the jump cuts between a swinging axe and its doomed target. As fate would have it, life soon begins to imitate art, actors start dropping to a serial murderer, and Ciso finds himself living inside the type of film that he so thanklessly cuts. Even worse, missing fingers on the victims lead the presiding detective (Kennedy) to suspect that Ciso is cutting much more than film.

THE EDITOR is the latest genre exercise from ASTRON-6, a Winnipeg-based outfit who’ve staked claim on film festival midnight slots with romps like MANBORG (2011, which screened at Buried Alive) and FATHER’S DAY (2011). Over this cycle, Astron-6 perfected the art of taking a genre apart and reassembling it to suit their needs; with a bit more grain on their image, there would be little to distinguish THE EDITOR from the kinds of movies that it’s aping. Their style of meticulous homage jives with a larger trend in the indie scene that includes movies like BLACK DYNAMITE (2009) and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (2011), films use camera tricks and careful craftsmanship to copy the cheapo feel of yesterday’s trash cinema. The irony, of course, is that those old movies looked crappy on accident. Bargain filmmakers of the 70s and 80s would have flipped for today’s clean and easy digital technology, but guys like Brooks and Kennedy are working harder to look worse, rejecting the digital sameness often found in the independent scene in favor of styles that made even the worst films teem with an inner life.

the-editor-toronto-film-festivalNot everything lands perfectly with THE EDITOR. An actress’s hysterical blindness gets easy laughs; a running gag showing the male characters slapping their girlfriends does not. The movie also loses its narrative momentum somewhere in the middle, lingering perhaps a bit too long for audiences who get tired of the surface-level spoof. But a shorter run time would rob THE EDITOR of its best idea. Simply pointing at giallo’s singular tics would have made the film an empty execution of style—basically, an extended sketch. Where THE EDITOR earns its credentials is the sheer insanity it gets up to in its late stages as Ciso—who may very well be going insane—begins to question his own innocence, existence, and role in the murders. Haunted by the loss of a colleague, Ciso takes a bizarre inward journey through the cinema he loves, crawling into his editing machine, wandering through the landscapes of celluloid and peering out through the screen at those who would edit him. I

t turns out that there are real existential ideas at the heart of THE EDITOR, and the movie’s abject weirdness that elevates it to the surreal terrain that the best of the old giallo films sometimes played in. I’m not certain these sequences make sense, or that an already too-long movie absolutely needed them, but I do have the distinct feeling that I liked them, and that’s always the first rule of giallo—give the people what they want.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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Kool Kat of the Week: David Richardson, a.k.a. “Baby Doll Schultz,” Glams and Hams it up with Chris Buxbaum during Their “Schizophrenic Photogenic” Opening Party at Luckie Street Gallery!

Posted on: Jun 25th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/
Contributing Writer

Get dolled up in your sleaziest glam get-ups because David Richardson, a.k.a. “Baby Doll Schultz” and Kool Kat Chris (Beat) Buxbaum [December 2012; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Chris Buxbaum, here] have a phantasmagoric ballyhoo of sizzlin’ sights, sounds and tastes awaiting your deviant little hearts at their “Schizophrenic Photogenic” opening event invading Luckie Street Gallary this Saturday, June 28, from 7 to 11 pm! So, get scandalous and strut your stuff down to the Luckie Street Gallary for a night of mischief and mayhem!

David has been rockin’ the glammed up club scene since the early ‘80s, donning provocative style and inventive transformative creations, birthing the evolution of his stage persona, “Baby Doll Schultz”!  In the late ‘80s to mid ‘90s, he was a member of Elaganza, a comedic drag troupe that performed at Atlanta hot spots: the White Dot, Blake’s, Backstreet, the Metro and various other clubs that have since closed. He’s performed with ATLRetro’s sci-fi vaudeville Burly-Q faves, Blast-Off Burlesque, was a member of The Anatomy Theatre, a band that combined electronica with performance art and even had the opportunity to portray his idol, Divine during performances at The Plaza Theatre’s screenings of John WatersFEMALE TROUBLE (1974) and PINK FLAMINGOS (1972)!

ATLRetro caught up with David for a quick interview about his love of dramatic costuming, his stimulating past performances, his love of John Waters and his upcoming rockin’ art show, “Schizophrenic Photogenic,” with Chris Buxbaum . And while you’re gettin’ voyeuristic with our little Q&A with David, experience Baby Doll Schultz in action with his former drag comedy troupe, Eleganza at the Metro, performing a parody of Tammy Faye Bakker, here.

ATLRetro: Your taste for the glamorous drag scene erupted in the early ’80s when you began getting dolled up while clubbing and performing at some infamous ATL hot spots, such as the White Dot, Blake’s, Backstreet and the Metro. What drew you to this energetic sub-culture of erotic and phantasmal proportions?

David Richardson: The fantasy and possibility that is inherent in nightlife has always had a lot of appeal for me. You can be anything or anyone you wish to be, if only for one night. You’re not required to be real or politically correct or anything. You can be a different person every night if that is your desire. The donning of makeup and dramatic attire is freeing in the sense that it allows one to play a character and inhibitions are lowered, thus allowing you to be more yourself and more the way you would like yourself to be.

Having rocked the glam club scene of the early ’80s to the ’90s, would you say the scene has changed? Any nostalgia for the old days? What would you say has improved?

The scene is definitely different now. There aren’t as many large clubs and 24-hour clubs are extinct. The average club-goer doesn’t put as much effort into their look now as back then, when everyone seemingly strived to be a fashion plate. That’s not to say it isn’t vibrant and fun today, because it is! The thing I miss most about the old days is the music; maybe because it was all new to me, but I prefer older music. Somehow it seems more meaningful. What I really dig about clubbing now is the young drag queens. They are really great. The makeup is more extreme, the looks are more fashion forward and they seem totally prepared when they hit the stage. I can’t tell you how many times I stumbled onto a stage, not knowing the words to my song and not having worked out a routine of any kind. Luckily my improvisational skills and the spontaneity of the moment saved me on more than one occasion!

You’ve shared the stage with our sci-fi punk vaudeville pals, Blast-Off Burlesque.  What was your favorite performance with them, and why?

My favorite was when we performed BARBARELLA (1968) at Dragon Con 2013 in the Glamour Geek Revue [See performance here]. It was my first time at Dragon Con and I loved it! There was such a sense of wonder and joy at Dragon Con; the dedication to costuming and achieving perfection in a look was completely evident. I got to play the “Great Tyrant”, complete with a golden unicorn horn. I made the costume for that show, which was covered with hundreds of hand-sewn feathers and took a full month to make. I am very proud of that look! I have loved every performance with Blast-Off Burlesque, but our show at Dragon Con 2013 was extra special!

Can you tell our readers a little about your glory days as a drag performer with the troupe, Eleganza?

We (Eleganza) lampooned the ‘70s and ‘80s, with our best shows being thematic. For example, we had a “Fashionquake,” where each member made a mini-collection with two models sporting fashions made of trash and disposable materials. All of our fabulous fashions were destroyed in the finale when an “earthquake” hit the club. We also had a STAR WARS night where all of the numbers were of a sci-fi nature. That night culminated in me wrestling a heckler, who was a collaborating performer planted in the audience, in a kiddie pool full of pork and beans, no less. We also had “The Joey Heatherton Bleach Marathon”, a new-wave night, a show that was a homage to the LOVE BOAT and our “Beautify America” night, where we did makeovers on audience members who we then attacked with cans of shaving cream. The troupe even created a feature length video, directed by David A. Moore, called HAVE YOU SEEN KRYSTLE LITE?, which premiered at Backstreet. The other members of Eleganza were Trina Saxxon, Clive Jackson, Superchic, Krystle Lite, Lurleen and Judy La Grange. We even had Lady Bunny as a special guest one night. Our performances were all pretty irreverent and unpolished, but we had a blast and did it with enthusiasm.

What can you tell our readers about your ’90s band, “The Anatomy Theatre”? And your rock opera play, “The Asylum” that you’d perform at the Masquerade?

The Anatomy Theatre was the brain child of my friend Myron, blending electronic music with performance-art theater. “The Asylum was an electronic rock opera of sorts set in an insane asylum. Myron was “Dr. Boris” and another friend, Carla, was “Nurse Needles”. They cured the patients by killing them. I played “Harold”, a psychosexual. My cure was electro shock therapy in an electric chair. Stacy, another friend, got a lobotomy with a power drill in the show while our friend Scott was given a scalpel to eviscerate himself. It was replete with gore and black humor. We performed the play three times at the Masquerade. Myron released two self-produced cassettes and performed numerous times, even opening for The Legendary Pink Dots and Frontline Assembly.

You’ve stated that you had the opportunity to play your favorite idol, “Divine”, on a few occasions during The Plaza’s screenings of FEMALE TROUBLE and PINK FLAMINGOS. What about her do you admire? Are there other drag queens you’d like to impersonate?

When I was a kid, I remember reading a review of PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) in the newspaper and it really fascinated me. I didn’t get to see the film until a decade later, on home video, and it got me hooked on John Waters and Divine. What inspires me most about Divine is the absolute fearlessness and ferocity she projected. She also showed me that big girls don’t have to hide in the shadows but can shake it up there with the best of them. I was really honored to play “Dawn Davenport” and “Babs Johnson” with Blast-Off Burlesque. It would be fun to impersonate Lady Bunny because her look is so iconic and recognizable.

You stated that in the late ’90s you withdrew from the rowdy nightlife and became ‘domesticated’.  It seems you’re back, and better than ever! What was the catalyst that drew you back into the fabulously raucous flame of female impersonation?

(It was a) Midlife crisis, I guess. I was wondering if my best years were behind me and decided not to withdraw quietly into seclusion. I returned to my passion, dressing up. I believe that my looks now are more accomplished and thoughtful, and I find inspiration everywhere. I even dream of outfits and concepts to hybridize into my collection of characters.

How did you and Chris (Beat) Buxbaum meet? You two seem to have a vibrant artistic relationship; one that screams out in the wicked art you two create. How did you become Chris’ saucy and sinister subject?

I met Chris Buxbaum back in the late 1980s. We had a ton of mutual friends. We didn’t actually start working together until about three years ago when he was photographing the fabulous performers of “Sukeban, a very creative group of individuals performing at My Sisters Room in East Atlanta Village [FENUXE, November 2010]. His photographs at “Sukeban eventually became his “Transformers show. From there, he approached me with the “Schizophrenic Photogenic project and naturally, I was intrigued. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a big old camera hog and a ham! It all seemed so natural and easy.

I also participated in a MODA (Museum of Design Atlanta) event with Chris and Kool Kat Caryn Grossman titled, “The South’s Next Wave: Design Challenge” [December 2012; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Chris Buxbaum and Caryn Grossman, here]. During this event, an interior designer was paired with an object-maker and given a color theme to produce a vignette installation. They (Chris and Caryn) were paired with a fabulous cake-maker and given the color blue. The vignette was inspired by Marie Antoinette in a futuristic rococo boudoir setting. Our team went on to win the challenge, which was decided by patron’s votes for their favorite vignette.

What can our readers expect when they come to ‘Schizophrenic Photogenic’ at the LUCKIE STREET GALLERY?

A Happening! A Warhol Factory-style event is the goal of our opening. I’m very pleased and proud of what we have accomplished. The photos are stunning and hopefully each character depicted tells a story. We are encouraging patrons to attend decked out in the most extreme glamour-sleaze looks they can get their hands on. The best look will win a prize!

Do you have anything special planned for ‘Schizophrenic Photogenic’? A little rockin’ hell-raising and deviant shenanigans, maybe? Give our readers a little taste of what mischief and mahhh-velous mayhem they may find themselves mixed up in!

I will be getting into face for the bulk of the opening at a pink satin vanity, adding and layering more and more until my face is completely covered. I plan to be a cross between Liz Taylor in the film BOOM (1968) and Incan Princess Yma Sumac. A silent film, LA BOITE DE BIJOUTERIE, shot by Milford Earl Thomas, will be playing on loop for the duration of the night. There will also be live music performed by Weary Heads, featuring Chris’ son Henry Buxbaum on vocals and bass along with his band mate Andrew Boehnlein. Usually a very feedback noisy band, they are doing a special unplugged set that may include some glamorous and sexy covers. Drinks will be provided by Jennifer Betowt and Deep Eddy Vodka will be featuring four different flavored vodka cocktails!

What’s next for Baby Doll Schultz?

I fully expect the world to entertain me with experiences not yet anticipated! Foregoing such, I will create my own experiences, continuing to explore the magic of transformational costuming. There are many upcoming events which I will attend in order to support the creative efforts of others, but, as of now (for me) I am in the hands of vagabond winds and will set sail to whatever destination they take me.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you? And what’s the answer?

I wish someone would ask, “Are you bringing Disco back?” to which I would reply, “I’m bringing sexy back!”, but really, just kidding (I am bringing Disco back)! But seriously, to answer the question, I wish someone would ask me if I enjoy what I do. Too often I get asked where my ideas come from and how I come up with what I do. The answer is innate to who I am, so my looks and outfits come out of my experiences and what I want to portray. And the answer to whether if I enjoy what I do is a resounding, “Yes, yes, yes!”

Can you tell folks something about you that they don’t know already?

I am a big time movie buff; my favorites are the Italian Giallos of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Anything by Dario Argento of course, and there are also some wonderful offerings from Mario Bava. Any of the Giallos starring Edwige Fenech are stand outs for me!

All photos courtesy of Chris Buxbaum and used with permission.

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RETRO REVIEW: Splatter Cinema and the Plaza Theatre Unearth a Blood-Soaked Valentine With CEMETERY MAN!

Posted on: Feb 9th, 2014 By:

CEMETERY MAN (1994); Dir. Michele Soavi; Starring Rupert Everett, Anna Falchi and François Hadji-Lazaro; Tuesday, February 18 @ 9:30 p.m. (photos and merch table open @ 9:00 p.m.); Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Bringing classic gore flicks back to life is the mission of Splatter Cinema, and this Tuesday’s engagement at the Plaza Theatre is a special one indeed: Michele Soavi’s brilliant CEMETERY MAN!

Along with his compatriot, Lamberto Bava (son of the legendary filmmaker Mario Bava), director Michele Soavi breathed a bit of life into the twitching corpse of the Italian horror renaissance kicked off by Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Both worked under Argento as assistant/second unit directors, while Soavi took on acting roles in a number of Italian horror films as well (that’s him as the metal-faced mystery guy in DEMONS and as the boyfriend forced to watch his girlfriend puke up her intestines in CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD). And while Bava’s films typically went for the blunt, straight-ahead shocks of DEMONS and gialli like DELIRIUM, Soavi typically gravitated toward the surrealistic and fantastic elements of SUSPIRIA and THE BEYOND. 1989’s THE CHURCH and 1991’s THE SECT—both made under the auspices of Dario Argento’s production—both showed the kind of promise that he held as a filmmaker, but were hindered by scripts that drew too freely from highly influential works (THE CHURCH hews closely to Argento’s SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, while THE SECT is ROSEMARY’S BABY redux).

But once out from under his mentor’s wing, Soavi soared with perhaps the last great film of the Italian new wave of horror, CEMETERY MAN (released in Italy with the much better title, DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE, a pun on the main character’s name which translates as either “about death and about love” or “about the death of love”).

Francesco Dellamorte is the caretaker of the Buffalora cemetery, assisted by his mentally handicapped assistant Gnaghi, who can only speak the syllable “gna.” Dellamorte’s humdrum life consists of maintaining the grounds, crossing out the names of the dead from phone books and killing the reanimated corpses that rise after seven days of interment…all of which he undertakes with the same bored stoicism. It’s a job, after all, and shooting the zombies is easier than going through the paperwork needed to get any help. When he becomes infatuated with a young widow and Gnaghi falls for the mayor’s daughter, however, things take a turn for the worse.

Soavi’s film is full of delightfully dark comedy and the kind of atmosphere the Italian horror scene hadn’t witnessed in years, comparable to the best of Bava, Fulci and Argento. The tone and visuals not only echo the best of Italo-horror, but also the best of Terry Gilliam’s works—no surprise, as Gillaim devotee Soavi was second unit director on 1988’s THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN and reportedly shot about a quarter of that film. Rupert Everett is especially effective as Dellamorte, bringing the right amount of pathos and longing to his dour role, while still delivering believable doses of sarcasm, wit and violence. And while the film isn’t quite as graphically violent as many of its Italian zombie counterparts, its effects (by maestro Sergio Stivaletti) are expertly pulled off.

It’s a rare film that can combine detailed character study, an exploration of the joys and pain of love and romance, rollicking comedy, explosive violence and the inevitable reanimation of the dead. But CEMETERY MAN is it. If just about anyone else tried to do it, it would likely come out as pretentious and scattershot, but Michele Soavi is the man who proved it could be done and done successfully.

Unfortunately for the Italian horror film scene and its fans, Soavi retired from feature film work after CEMETERY MAN to care for his ailing son, though he took on some television work in the years following. And while rumors of a return to horror have been suggested (with news of a potential sequel to CEMETERY MAN floated over the past two years), Soavi’s resurrection remains something the faithful still anticipate with bated breath.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Kool Kat of the Week: Goddess, Giallo & Gorezone: Jeremy Morris Conjures Up a Twisted Fears Weekend to Kick Off a Hellacious Halloween Season for Atlanta Horror Fans

Posted on: Sep 25th, 2013 By:

Ruggero Deodato and Jeremy Morris. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Morris.

Ultimate Scream Queen Barbara Steele! Italian giallo director Lamberto Bava (DEMONS), son of Mario Bava! Ruggero Deodato, as in the original DJANGO (1966) and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979)! These names are simply legend among cult cinephiles, and they all will be in Atlanta for Twisted Fears Weekend, a three-day horror convention Sept. 27-29 at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center. And that’s just the terrifying tip of a Retro-tastic guest line-up that also includes Linnea Quigley (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), a SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE  (1982) cast reunion, Tony Todd (CANDYMAN ), Fred “The Hammer” Williamson  (BLACK CAESAR , FROM DUSK TILL DAWN ), Geretta Geretta  (DEMONS ), Lynn Lowry (original THE CRAZIES ), and more.

The eerie event also will celebrate the worldwide re-launch of Gorezone, the even more splattery sister magazine of Fangoria . Needless to say, ATLRetro couldn’t help but declare con organizer Jeremy Morris Kool Kat of the Week to find out all the deadly details.

ATLRetro: I’ve heard so many local horror fans express absolute surprise and delight about Twisted Fears. Did it get started with the Gorezone anniversary or was something else the catalyst?

Jeremy Morris: Twisted Fears was formed a year ago by my twisted imagination. I have been in the convention scene nearly 20 years. I have met a lot of great people along the way. The true reasoning of the creation of Twisted Fears was a part of my true love of the horror genre. I have lived in Atlanta all of my life and I felt it was time to do a show with a twist, something different than what fans may be accustomed too.

Twisted Fears has an amazing guest line-up, including a lot of celebrities known for their European horror work, making it very different from Days of the Dead, Dragoncon, or even most horror cons around the country. Why take that the con in that direction?

This question is very easy to answer. As a long-time fan of this convention scene, I have always wished to see more international guests at shows because there are a lot of films [that are] forgotten. I chose to bring in guests that you may have not seen in a long time or possibly never, which gives the fans a fresh new roster of celebrities.

GOBLIN’s playing a few days later on Tuesday Oct. 1. Their shows are selling out across the country, and Fabio Frizzi  also is doing a Halloween concert  in London. AMERICAN HORROR STORY  has a clear giallo influence, which many think will be even more so this fall with its “Coven” storyline. Why do you think there’s such a resurgence of interest in giallo right now?

In my opinion, some of the greatest horror films originated from the Italian genre. People are craving fresh, new ideas while sometimes new ideas consist of rejuvenating past genres of films and the Italians are one of them.

Fangoria ad for Twisted Fears. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Morris.

We are just privileged and honored that Barbara and Lamberto have chosen to join us for the inaugural year of Twisted Fears. I consider them legends in their own right. They have influenced some of the greatest films that we know of to date.They will be participating in a Q&A panel on Saturday.

I am sure you don’t want to play favorites, but is there anyone you are particularly excited you were able to book?

I am truly excited for all of my guests I was able to book because I took great pride in the guest selection as a fan first. If I had to choose one that made me giggle it would be Ruggero Deodato because he is so rarely seen, but I consider him the master of Italian horror.

Jeremy Morris. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Morris.

Did you grow up reading Fango and Gorezone? What impact did these two magazines have on you?

Yes, I grew up reading Fango, I actually own the first issue. I have considered it the Godfather of all horror publications. I am truly honored that we were hand chosen to re-launch Gorezone after so many years of absence. It makes me giddy inside to think Fangoria wanted to be a part of this show.

One of the anniversary treats is a virtual interview with Fango Editor Chris Alexander, who’s based in Toronto. Can you talk a little about that

It is an anniversary treat so you need to be there to find out!!!

A lot of folks might think about just coming on Saturday. Why should they buy a full weekend pass instead? Or kick in the extra bucks for a VIP pass?

We have a lot of panels, events, night-time parties scheduled. The signature event is the first of it’s kind, our own Twisted Feast Dinner Party, with a very intimate setting for all fans to have a quiet dinner with all of the guests in attendance. This is a chance to truly have an experience of meeting the guests like no other.

What else do you want horror fans to know about Twisted Fears Weekend?

I want the fans to know that Twisted Fears will continue to be a show of firsts on every level as we continue to grow. Most importantly I am a fan and always will be a fan first. And I will see you in May 2014 for the sequel.

Hours for Twisted Fears Weekend are Friday Sept. 27, 4-10 p.m., Sat. Sept. 28, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sun. Sept. 29, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more info and to purchase advance VIP and general admission tickets, visit http://www.twistedfears.com/.

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Get Set for a Swinging Time with Vincent Price at THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM! A New Digital Restoration at Atlanta’s Historic Plaza Theatre!

Posted on: Jan 30th, 2013 By:

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961); Dir. Roger Corman; Starring Vincent Price, Barbara Steele and John Kerr; Premiere Friday, Feb. 1 @ 8:00 p.m. with giveaways; then nightly at 8 p.m. Feb. 2- 7; Plaza Theatre (visit website for times and ticket prices); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Finally, after years of waiting, it is now possible to see PIT AND THE PENDULUM on the big screen once again in a newly-restored, high-definition digital presentation. For far too long, the movie has been hard to see in optimal condition (even the most recent MGM Midnite Movies DVD of the title isn’t anamorphically enhanced for widescreen presentation). This is something that’s always struck me as odd since it’s one of the best-remembered films of American International PicturesEdgar Allan Poe cycle, was a huge box-office smash at the time and contains some of the most defining scenes in post-1960 horror. Be that as it may, as far as securing prints go, it has been one of the more obscure films of Roger Corman. Thankfully, that’s changing now, and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM can be seen in all of its glory and grandeur at Atlanta’s historic Plaza Theatre from Friday, February 1 through Thursday, February 7. Friday night’s showing will feature a special giveaway of two free tickets to all nine days of the Atlanta Film Festival: a $600 value! It promises to be an event big enough to befit the legendary teaming of Corman, Price and Poe.

Roger Corman. The name means many things to many people. To some, it primarily conjures up images of cheaply-made and quickly-shot horror/sci-fi fare from the 1950s and ‘60s. Flicks like CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, A BUCKET OF BLOOD and THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. For others, it is chiefly and inextricably linked with the development of the “New Hollywood” of the late 1960s and ‘70s. Movies from American International Pictures and New World Pictures that helped launch the careers of talents like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Robert De Niro, Barbara Hershey, Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda. For a former co-worker of mine, it means “that aloof guy who would stroll into the New Horizons office and ask if Jim Wynorski had called.”

But for a certain set of the man’s fans, the first things that come to mind are two names: Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent Price.

In 1960, American International Pictures was seeing the market for their low-budget, black-and-white output shrink. Roger Corman had been their most prolific filmmaker, churning out low-budget schlock in 10 days or less (mind you, it’s some great schlock, and never without a sense of wit and intelligence behind it all), and convinced studio heads Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson to take a risk on shooting a full-color widescreen film with a larger budget (a full $300,000!) and a longer production schedule (a full 15 days!). The success of this film, HOUSE OF USHER, pushed AIP to demand more of the same: another Poe adaptation, made by the same team and starring the same lead, Vincent Price.

Corman complied and assembled his USHER team: cinematographer (Floyd Crosby), set designer (Daniel Haller), score composer (Les Baxter) and screenwriter, the now-legendary horror author Richard Matheson. Matheson had seen a good deal of success as a writer in the decade previous to his teaming with Corman. He had adapted his novel THE SHRINKING MAN into the smash sci-fi/horror film THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, and his novels and short stories were in high demand. He had just been added to the stable of writers employed by THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and was also selling scripts to western- and war-themed TV shows. In short, Corman (in a typical move for him) had spotted an up-and-coming talent that he could grab for relatively cheap: someone who might be willing to trade some of the money he could get from a higher-paying gig for the relative liberty of a Corman screenwriting job. The pairing worked so well on USHER that Matheson returned for this, and several of the films following this in Corman’s Poe series.

The film is set in 1th Century Spain, and follows Francis Barnard (John Kerr) as he visits the castle of his brother-in-law Nicholas (Vincent Price) to investigate the death of his sister Catherine (Barbara Steele). Nicholas recounts that Catherine had been driven mad by the castle’s history and atmosphere, had committed suicide and now walks the castle halls as a ghost. When it is uncovered that Catherine had been interred alive, Nicholas is sent into paroxysms of fear and plunged into madness as he has visions of the traumatic events of his childhood. It all culminates in Nicholas’ break with sanity as he tortures his household in the dungeon beneath the castle’s floors.

Because of the slightness of narrative material in Poe’s short story, which is set nearly entirely within a prison cell over the course of a few nights, Matheson was encouraged to devise a way to shoehorn Poe’s tale into just the film’s climactic scene. In doing so, he created a psychologically rich screenplay centered on the main character’s neuroses, all of which seem to stem from a terrifying event witnessed in his youth. This psychological approach to gothic horror would prove to be incredibly influential in the years to come, as reverberations of its themes (along with their visual depiction by the team of Corman, Crosby and Haller) would be seen in many of the great Italian gothic horrors of the 1960s and ’70s, as Tim Lucas uncovered in his 1997 interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi in VIDEO WATCHDOG #39. Gastaldi admitted that the film had inspired his screenplays for Mario Bava’s THE WHIP AND THE BODY and Antonio Margheriti’s THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH: “Yes, of course! THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM had a big influence on Italian horror films. Everybody borrowed from it.”

Vincent Price, too, returned to the AIP fold. Price had starred to great effect in HOUSE OF USHER, and brought equal parts menace, dignity and emotional complexity to what could have been a flatly-played character in lesser hands. In THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, he would be given even more to chew on as Nicholas Medina (and, in flashback, his crazed Inquisitor father, Sebastian Medina). Some have argued that perhaps Price sank his teeth a bit too deeply into the role, which required him to shift from a refined-but-fragile gentleman persona to that of a raving madman at a second’s notice. And it’s true that Price seems to be having the time of his life, relishing every utterance and mannerism, and basically being Vincent Price at his Priciest. But in a film that demands a tone that almost tips into the surreal, his nearly over-the-top performance works perfectly as a piece with every other element in the production.

Barbara Steele, fresh from starring in Mario Bava’s international gothic horror success, BLACK SUNDAY, is also incredibly memorable as Catherine, delivering an impressively expressive performance. However, it’s hard to objectively discuss her work in this film beyond the physical aspect of it: thinking that her natural British accent didn’t mesh with the other actors’ performances, AIP had her part dubbed in post-production by another actress.

Visually, Corman and his team work wonders with what little budget and time they were given, using impressive sets borrowed from other studios, violently active camera work and dream/fantasy/flashback sequences warped and twisted optically and displayed using a blue and red color palette. Corman’s direction is—as usual—tight and effective, providing impressive and perfectly-timed jolts while steadily building an atmosphere of oppression and madness. For pure horror, it is the highlight of the entire Corman/Poe series, and artistically tied only with THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (MASQUE may be more thematically and symbolically rich and more daring in its approach, but PIT beats it on pure fright value).

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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30 Days of The Plaza, Day 30: Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA Provides a Grand Guignol/Giallo Finale to the 2012 Buried Alive Film Festival, Courtesy of Splatter Cinema

Posted on: Nov 8th, 2012 By:

SUSPIRIA (1977); Dir: Dario Argento; Starring Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Joan Bennett; Sat. Nov. 10 9:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Presented by Splatter Cinema for the Buried Alive Film Fest; trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

The fine folks over at Splatter Cinema are offering gorehounds and the gore-curious a chance to see SUSPIRIA on the screen this coming weekend as the grand finale of the Buried Alive Film Fest (Read our full festival preview here). They’re advertising this screening as a “Special Restored Edition” which suggests that this beautiful film will be presented without all the marks, scratches and chemical bleeds that might get in the way of the full SUSPIRIA experience. If you’re going, be sure to arrive on time, as SUSPIRIA also sports one of the best taglines in movie history: “The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes are the first 92.”

For hardcore horror fans, SUSPIRIA hardly needs an introduction. For many, just the first few notes of the main musical theme are enough to send them into vivid memories of their favorite scene, the most gruesome death, or the way they felt when they finally saw that famous last reel. “Cult” is a term that gets thrown around too easily with genre flicks, but SUSPIRIA is one of those movies that earns the title. There’s a church of the converted for this film. Critics overwhelmingly support the movie, and some (such as The Village Voice) even say it’s one of the greatest movies of the entire 20th century. That’s quite a lofty position for a film that’s more about mood than plot, lives on extraordinary violence and willingly, gleefully makes little sense.

What story there is revolves around Suzy (Jessica Harper), an American ballet student who arrives in Germany to attend a prestigious dance academy, only to gradually discover that the school is infested with a coven of witches. And while “a school full of witches” might invoke pleasant thoughts of Potions Class and mail-by-owl, Hogwarts this ain’t. These witches, led by headmistress Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett, DARK SHADOWS), conjure dark forces and engage in sadistic rituals, pursuing bloody, prolonged murder for anyone who gets in the way of their sinister, yet oddly vague schemes.

Jessica Harper in SUSPIRIA (1977).

SUSPIRIA (the title translates loosely into “Sigh”) is one of the best-known titles from Italian horror maestro Dario Argento and helped to cap the short, intense heyday of the Italian giallo picture. The history of Italian cinema is built around trends, with hordes of opportunistic producers chasing any large success by flooding the cinemas with lookalike content. Just as the smash hits A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) and DJANGO (1966) launched a tidal wave of violent, sweaty  (spaghetti) Italian westerns in the 1960s, the 1970s belonged to the Italian thrillers and early slasher films. Originally spinning off from the works of Alfred Hitchcock—the movie usually considered the first giallo, Mario Bava’s THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1963), was an obvious and unlicensed Hitchcock homage—the giallo genre increased the intensity and cheapness of the thrills, placing their usually-female protagonists in the path of knife-crazed killers, and combining the elements of a whodunit mystery with murder scenes extended beyond belief and buckets upon buckets of blood. Argento made his international name in the genre, and the artistic ambition and style of his films, such as THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970), inspired a rash of imitators and launched giallo’s peak in the early 1970s, when it extended into all areas of Italian culture, from film to music and literature. In fact, the term giallo itself means “yellow” and refers to the cheap, yellow covers of the typical Italian pulp slasher novel.

By the time Argento made SUSPIRIA, the giallo picture’s moment was nearly over, and the genre had drifted into some very weird territory by embracing the supernatural. Giallo had always favored style over story. Directors like Argento and Bava realized that the plots of their films were usually too silly or too convoluted to hold an audience, and so they treated the films as exercises in image and technique. For SUSPIRIA, Argento took this philosophy to its logical end, drenching the movie in vivid, saturated colors and horrific, grotesque gore. These elements, combined with the odd twists and turns of its story, give SUSPIRIA a dreamlike quality, like a nightmare you’re only half-aware isn’t real. These elements steer SUSPIRIA away from its exploitation roots and into a cinema of the surreal, a deeply affecting and harrowing journey through a landscape that should make sense, but doesn’t.

Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc in SUSPIRIA (1977)

Backing up this feeling is the film’s famous score, created by the prog rock group Goblin. The infectious, haunting music is as inseparable from the mood and effect of SUSPIRIA as “Tubular Bells” is from THE EXORCIST (1973) or John Carpenter’s main theme from HALLOWEEN (1978), itself heavily inspired by Argento’s work.

SUSPIRIA is an entertaining film, but it’s also an experiment into the effects of extreme cinema on something as primal as the horror movie. Unlike the blunt, mostly artless slasher films it inspired in the states, SUSPIRIA remains one of the prime examples—perhaps THE prime example—of the horror movie as art. There’s been talk of a Hollywood remake for the last several years, but it seems to stall at least in part because the act of remaking a film is largely about the story and the premise, and what makes SUSPIRIA so noteworthy is everything else.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Retro Review: Splatter Cinema Opens the Gory Gates of Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD

Posted on: Aug 8th, 2011 By:

US poster for CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, released here as THE GATES OF HELL.

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Blogger

Splatter Cinema Presents CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (Paura nella città dei morti viventi) (aka THE GATES OF HELL) (1980); Dir: Lucio Fulci; Screenplay by Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti; Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl; Tues. Aug. 9; 9:30 PM; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Regurgitated guts. A drill bit to the head. A pick axe in the eye…

Welcome to Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, one of the most memorable – and shocking – “gore” films of the 1980s, presented in all its uncut, gruesome glory this Tuesday night at The Plaza Theatre, brought to you by those celluloid-lovin’ maniacs known to Atlanta residents as Splatter Cinema.

This may look like Christopher Lee, but it's actually the suicidal priest in THE CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, now available also on Bluray DVD from Blue Underground.

For this month’s gut-wrenching, retro bloodbath, it’s spaghetti splatter with lots of weirdness on top. The late Italian director has been variously reviled by film fans as either one of the worst movie-makers of all time (he’s definitely not) or hailed a horror visionary and unique director. Honestly, there was no one quite like Lucio, but he would never have won an Oscar or its Italian equivalent. A distinctive director, yes; talentless, exploitive hack, NO!

For ATL Retro readers who only know his name in regards to his pasta horror flicks of the late ‘70s through the mid-‘90s (Fulci died of a heart attack in 1996), it should be noted that he made dozens of films over a 30-plus year career, which spanned comedies, costume dramas, spaghetti westerns, giallo thrillers and many more. Like acclaimed director Roman Polanski, who started out making absurdist dramas, weird thrillers (KNIFE IN THE WATER [1960]), became known as a “horror” director because of REPULSION (1965), THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967) and ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) before making one of the greatest movies of all time, the retro noir CHINATOWN (1974), Fulci escapes classification; he is sui generis.

One of the LIVING DEAD in Fulcio's zombie classic.

But splatter and zombies, and madness and more zombies and splatter (and the disgusting THE NEW YORK RIPPER [1982]) are what have seemingly become Fulci’s legacy. That said, he made two of my favorite Italian movies, the sprawling, hysterical historical costume drama, BEATRICE CENCI [1969]) and the insane psycho-thriller, DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING [1972].

The story, with a vague nod to H.P. Lovecraft, starts in the small New England town of Dunwich, where a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in the church cemetery which somehow opens the gates of hell, allowing the dead to rise. Peter (Christopher George), a New York City reporter, teams up with a young psychic, Mary (Catriona MacColl), to travel to the town where they team up with another couple, psychiatrist Jerry and patient Sandra, to find a way to close the gates before All Saints Day or the dead all over the world will rise up and kill the living.

Bleeding eyes were the tamest effect in Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD>

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD was Fulci’s second foray into “undead” territory after 1979’s ZOMBI 2, a quick cash-in on the success of Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). The first of his unofficial “undead” trilogy (CITY was followed by THE BEYOND and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY in 1981), this is one of the director’s best horror films. According to the fine folks at The Plaza, the print also is one of the most complete, good quality prints you’ll see on the big screen at this time – uncut, with all the infamous scenes intact. A must-see for all lovers of ‘80s horror and spaghetti splatter, and a primer for would-be filmmakers, CITY is loaded with atmosphere, shocking moments and typical Italian weirdness which unfolds like a fever dream. In other words,  park your left, logical brain hemisphere at the door and just go with the demented flow…You have been warned!

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