Laura Gemser bites off more than she can chew in z-grade zombie epic.
Finally! We've learned that the Italian poster artist who signed his work Aller was a man named Carlo Alessandrini, and we owe that information to a new book by Roberto Curti called Italian Gothic Horror Films 1970-1979. Above you see Alessandrini's work for the Laura Gemser sexploitation flick Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi, aka Sexy Nights of the Living Dead. Gemser started in erotica in 1974, and as the years wore on she basically traded on her name and did less and less actual performing, appearing in several films in little more than cameo roles. In this one she secures top billing for not showing up until the thirty-three minute mark, and not uttering a line of dialogue until probably forty minutes in.
Plotwise, a sailor takes a greedy gringo developer and his prostie companion to a deserted island where the American wants to build the finest resort in the Caribbean. The place is called Cat Island and whenever anyone mentions it to the locals who live on nearby islands they run out of the room. To normal people this would be a strong non-endorsement concerning travel to Cat Island, but such blatant hints are lost on lunkheads in horror movies. So a-boating they go. When the developer announces his plan to pave over the old island cemetery to build a heliport you just know he's sticking his dick somewhere he's likely to lose it—Gemser's mouth (see below). Her army of zombies are equally opposed to gentrification, and lodge their protests by chasing the living all over the place. But all is not lost. As the hero explains at one point: “The advantage we have is that they move at a snail's pace.”
So does the movie. One plus is that it was made primarily on beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic, and several scenes were shot in Santo Domingo, which is interesting to see pre-tourist era. Another plus is that there's wall to wall sex featuring such beauties as Dirce Funari, who's the real star of the movie, and Lucia Ramirez. The unrated version goes all the way, and even treats viewers to a Tijuana donkey show-worthy routine involving a stripper and a Champagne bottle. None of the X action includes Gemser, who was strictly softcore her entire career, though her nudity is more explicit than usual here. Basically, it's all just as dumb as it sounds, but we'll admit it's accidentally funny in parts, which helps. Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi premiered in Italy today in 1980.
Ever watch a movie that really makes your skin crawl?
The above poster was made to promote the Italian release of the sci-fi movie L'allucinante fine dell'umanità, which was originally made in Japan and called 昆虫大戦争, or Konchû daisensô. The chaotic Japanese poster appears just below. It's a mutant bug movie obviously, an angry bug movie, a swarming bug movie, a planes-crashing-because-of-bugs-ganging-up-on-jet-engines movie. Basically, these insects get into everything, including your sinus cavities. If you know the film at all, it's probably as War of the Insects or possibly Genocide, which were its two English titles. It is, amazingly, part of the Criterion DVD Collection, which consists of “important classic and contemporary films,” but we can't call it anything better than adequate.
It's interesting on one level, though. Japanese creations such as Godzilla are often called a reaction to being the victims of two nuclear bombs. If so, then Konchû daisensô fits that category too, as the rogue insects that turn on humans can only be defeated with a lost but undetonated American atomic bomb. Germany is worked into the plot as well, so with three major World War II powers involved there may be war psychology at work. Entomopohobia is at work too, so if you hate or fear insects, definitely give this one a pass. Konchû daisensô premiered in Japan today in 1968, and began its run in Italy as L'allucinante fine dell'umanità at some unknown date afterward.
Singer elopes with girlfriend and everything falls apartheid.
We'd never heard of African Story, aka The Manipulator, before seeing this Italian promo poster painted by Renato Casaro. We were hoping for another semi-comical romp in the vein of Black Emmanuelle or The African Deal (i.e. lily white visitors are magically driven to get freaky in the bush with locals), but this film goes in a different direction. A famous singer named Rex Maynard runs away to South Africa with a powerful music producer's daughter, prompting the producer to set up a fake kidnapping to scare the crooner and simultaneously generate publicity for his career. Somehow or other a group of actual kidnappers decide to put the bag on Rexie, and mayhem soon follows. Rex may be a soft jazz kind of singer, but he's hard rock with his fists. He even uses judo to whip ass on several of his assailants. Luckily one of them packs a gun or they'd all have ended up in intensive care. Rex is also slippery as an eel, with his escapability aided by the kidnappers' generally lax security.
We'd file this movie in the terrible-but-fun category, with Stephen Boyd, who played the rugged Messala in Bur Hur, here putting on his evil capitalist pants, beautiful Sylva Koscina playing the femme fatale, and Michael Kirner expending far more physical energy in the role of the pursued singer than you'd think possible for a guy with his body fat. African Story has virtually no Africans of the black variety in it, but then again this is the apartheid era we're talking about. Blacks need not apply—particularly for speaking roles (except for those two fisherman guys who you'll miss if you blink). In fact, you see very few blacks even in the backgrounds of shots. With sequences set in offices, hotels, nightclubs, pools, and at a *ahem* race track, their conspicuous absence reveals the reality of how all good things in South Africa were reserved for whites. And some bad things too, if you count the movie. African Story premiered today in 1971.
Florinda Bolkan is a textbook case of multiple epidermal disorder.
Una lucertola con la pelle di donna premiered in Italy in 1971 and in the U.S. as Lizard in a Woman's Skin today in 1973. It's a giallo—i.e. a thriller with mystery, slasher, detective, and psychological horror elements. Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan stars, and she has a problem—she's having erotic dreams about her beautiful neighbor Anita Strindberg. The dreams disturb and arouse Bolkan, but she's working out her concerns in therapy. All well and good, until matters take a turn for the worse when she dreams about dispatching Strindberg with a knife, and later wakes to find that Strindberg has indeed been murdered in the exact fashion as in her nightmare.
The cops arrest her for the killing and send her to a mental hospital to await trial. But the case is hardly airtight. Loose ends include Bolkan's dream diary, an illicit affair, and a blackmail plot. The mental hospital is hardly airtight either. A stalker shows up intent on putting Bolkan out of commission. Eventually doubts arise in the case and Bolkan is sprung from the booby hatch, but who committed the murder? Well, below we have some production shots, and at bottom is a poster for the film's re-issue as Schizoid—a title that's a blatant spoiler. Actually, considering lizards change their skin by molting, the original title is a spoiler as well. Too clever by half, these Italian filmmakers, but the movie is still fun.
Land of the free—except for the slaves.
First daddy, and now uncle. But the family theme is purely coincidental. Addio Zio Tom, aka Goodbye Uncle Tom, premiered today, so we're discussing it today. The last time we shared a poster for this Italian epic the art gave absolutely zero idea what the movie is about. The above poster is a bit more faithful to the subject matter. You can probably look at it and guess you're dealing with a film about slavery. We discussed it in great detail back in 2013, and concluded that it's a daring but flawed piece of cinema. You can read what we wrote at our earlier write-up, but even if you aren't interested in the movie go to see that first poster anyway. It's one of the most amazing promos we've ever shared.
If you think armed robbery is tough try surviving as a poster artist.
Rapina a mano armata is a title that would translate as “armored rampage,” but the movie being promoted by these spectacular Italian posters is actually none other than Stanley Kubrick's famed thriller The Killing. After debuting in the U.S. and Britain in early 1956, it opened in Italy today that same year. We discussed the film in detail a while ago. If you take a look at that post you'll immediately notice that once again the foreign promo art destroys the U.S. version. This is consistently true for most movies made after the mid-1960s because the studios began to jettison top notch promo artists in favor of simpler—and we assume cheaper—visual approaches. The foreign companies would follow suit, but not until later. European posters began to lose their pizzazz by the 1970s, and Japanese promos went the same direction by the early 1980s. Which leaves us where we are today—besieged by Photoshop jobs, all of which seem to feature a couple of large heads against some uninspiring background.
But we're here at least partly to celebrate the glories of vintage art, which means what you really want to know is who painted these particular masterpieces, right? It was Renato Casaro, whose work is consistently amazing. In fact he was so good that he survived as an illustrator well into the 1980s, painting iconic promos for the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicles Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, and somewhat less iconic but no less brilliant posters for Sylvester Stallone's Cliffhanger and Over the Top. The Rapina a mano armata poster you see below is unsigned but we can be reasonably sure it was also a product of Casaro's hand, as it was common practice in Italy's movie industry for the commissioned artist to produce more than one version. If the above pieces aren't the best we've seen from Casaro they're sure close. You can see several more of his efforts by clicking his keywords below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1963—John F. Kennedy Is Assassinated
In Dallas, Texas, U.S. President John F. Kennedy is killed and Texas Governor John B. Connally is seriously wounded as they ride in a motorcade through Dealy Plaza. Lee Harvey Oswald
, an employee of the schoolbook depository from which the shots were suspected to have been fired, was arrested on charges of the murder of a local police officer and was subsequently charged with the Kennedy killing. He denied shooting anyone, claiming he was a patsy, but was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24, before he could be indicted or tried. Today, Americans who believe JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy are routinely dismissed
in the press, yet the vast majority of them believe Oswald did not act alone.
1959—Max Baer Dies
Former heavyweight boxing champ Max Baer dies of a heart attack in Hollywood, California. Baer had a turbulent career. He lost to Joe Louis in 1935, but two years earlier, in his prime, he defeated German champ and Nazi hero Max Schmeling while wearing a Star of David on his trunks. The victory was his legacy, making him a symbol to Jews, and also to all who hated Nazis.
1945—Nuremberg Trials Begin
In Nuremberg, Germany, in the Palace of Justice, the trials of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany begin. Among the men tried were Martin Bormann (in absentia), Hermann Göring, Rudolph Hess, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
1984—SETI Institute Founded
The SETI Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, the discovery of extrasolar planets, and the habitability of the galaxy, is founded in California by Thomas Pierson and Dr. Jill Tarter.
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