Wake-up calls at the Hiltons' are murder.
We were drawn to Il sesso della strega, aka Sex of the Witch, because of its excellent posters painted by Lamberto Forni, an artist whose work you've seen here before. But as often happens, the movie didn't live up to the promo imagery. The strange tale begins with Sir Thomas Hilton, a wealthy wine grower, who dies of old age. His family gets a surprise when the will is read: all those closest to Hilton, including his secretary, benefit from the profits of his holdings, but nothing can be broken up or sold, his sister gets nothing, some heirs don't benefit immediately, and if anyone dies their share is distributed among the others. Basically, the will is a blueprint for the Hiltons to start murdering each other. When that happens, the spurned sister is suspected of being a witch. But is she?
None of it matters. The movie is an merely excuse for a lot of overlong softcore sex scenes of the worst kind. You know the ones we mean—interminable slow wriggling devoid of even a hint of erotic heat. You have to really drop the ball to make naked people boring—especially naked Italian women from the ’70s, with their enormous bushes*—but director Angelo Pannacciò, aka Elo Pannacciò, accomplishes that here, in his debut. It's impossible to care about the movie's central mystery, and despite Pannacciò somewhat giallo visual stylings there's just nothing to get enthusiastic about. Except those posters. Nice work, Forni. Il sesso della strega premiered in Italy today in 1974.
*We love enormous Italian bushes, both tactilely and visually. This one is large, but not stupendous. You know when a bush is really big? When the moment it's revealed you think there's suddenly been a citywide blackout.
Hello? Is anybody there? Santa? Is that you?
Our sprint through movies this December continues today with the Italian Christmas favorite—Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea, for which you see a festive yule themed poster above. It was painted by Mario Piovano and just oozes holiday spirit. Right. Well, obviously not. This couldn't be a Christmas movie unless Christmas makes you want to kill everyone around you. But it qualifies as a gift from us to you, because we're going to save you the time you might have spent watching it.
The title translates as, “extract from the secret police archives of a European capital,” but was shortened to Tragic Ceremony for its English language release. The Italian title would seem to indicate that this is a giallo flick, but it's actually more in the realm of gothic horror. Basically, a quartet of carefree hippies stumble upon and must survive assorted evils, including a black mass, a phantom gas station, and spurts of megaviolence, all loosely related somehow to a string of possibly cursed pearls.
The movie stars Camille Keaton, who's not well known today, but headlined perhaps the most infamous grindhouse offering of the 1970s—Day of the Woman, better known in some quarters as I Spit on Your Grave. Keaton appears here six years earlier, and is stranded with her hippie-hedonist friends in a creepy old manse where she's seized upon by the loony, aristocratic occupants as a potential sacrifice. She escapes, but the aftereffects of her close call are numerous and gory.
Critics hindered by their own knowledge of niche cinema to the extent that they can't see the forest for the trees tend to describe this movie as underrated, but it really isn't, even if you accept it as a sly commentary on the generational clash between the counterculture and the gentry. At one point a distressed Máximo Valverde asks, “What's happening? What's going on?” Well, you've ended up in a below average horror movie, Max. It happens. Revisionist critics can't help you. Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea premiered in Italy today in 1972. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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