Vintage shockumentary explores the evils of witchcraft.
The above promo was made for the mondo style occult documentary Angeli bianchi… angeli neri, known in English as Witchcraft ’70 and White Angel, Black Angel. It opened in Japan today in 1970 after premiering the previous year in Italy. In English “mondo” and “shockumentary” are synonymous terms, but foreign web pages sometimes say the latter is a misnomer. They don't explain how it's a misnomer, so until they do, this movie is both mondo and shockumentary. It was one of our first film write-ups, way back in 2008, before we decided PSGP's previous stint as an indie film reviewer gave us the excuse we needed to get all opinionated. Can you imagine us unopinionated at this point? You can experience it here.
Gemser travels to many distant cities, and meets the worst people in every one of them.
To say that Laura Gemser's Emanuelle films are hit and miss is an understatement of epic proportions. While early entries have the happy softcore feel needed for thought-free diversion and occasional boners, later offerings veer into dark territory. Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? is in the latter category. An Italian production, the title translates as “Emanuelle - Why violence against women?” Erotic cinema and social commentary don't usually mix well—not because they're mutually exclusive, but because the filmmakers never have the skill to pull it off. In the U.S. the movie was retitled Emanuelle Around the World, which sounds fine, but its international English title was changed to The Degradation of Emanuelle. Uh oh.
Gemser's adventures begin in San Francisco when her New York based photo-journalist character enjoys a satisfying boning in the back of a truck. But soon she's off on her next assignment, a titillating expose of a Kama Sutra commune in Asia. Once there she meets creepy guru George Eastman and uses her superior sexual skills to make his holiness transcendentally ejaculate too fast. Up to this point Perché violenza alle donne? is somewhat fun. But next Gemser meets up with pal Karin Schubert in Rome and joins an assignment to expose a sexual slavery ring. Wait—didn't she do that in Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade? Yup, but slavers never quit. This collection of bad men are unusually horrible. One is is a burn victim who rapes his captives. Another has a penchant for bestiality.
Obviously, during the 1970s filmmakers didn't really understand the idea of unintentionally minimizing serious subject matter the same way they do today. It was the “what-the-fuck-let's-give-it-a-try” era, and taking such risks produced some of the greatest cinema ever. But in this case writer/director Joe D'Amato and co-writers Maria Pia Fusco and Gianfranco Clerici failed. Badly. A movie on the subject of slavery and rape would be unpleasant but important if it were a Claire Denis drama or a Laura Poitras documentary. Mixing it into a flyweight sex film doesn't add dramatic weight—it adds discordance, embarrassment, and insult. It was a total miscalculation. You could potentially watch the film until Gemser departs the Kama Sutra commune, then turn it off. If you don't, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
However, we try to see the good in every movie we screen, so we should note that there are some high points. We'll list them. The Emanuelle films were typically shot in exotic locales, and in this case not only does D'Amato set scenes in New York City and San Francisco, but in Kathmandu, Rome, Hong Kong, and—for real—Teheran. Gemser is a limited actress, but one who always does her best with preposterous scripting. Schubert is a stolid co-star. Underutilized Don Powell is always a welcome sight. And lastly, many of the production photos, some of which appear below, are interesting. That's about all the good we can find. We'll just slide Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? into ye olde metaphorical trash bin and forget it ever happened. It premiered in Italy today in 1977.
If you were stuck in this movie you'd go mad too.
Today we've uplaoded an uncredited but striking poster—as well as a second one at bottom—for Mania, a low budget Italo horror movie directed by fright specialist Renato Polselli. It starred Eva Spadaro, Brad Euston, and Isarco Ravaioli, with Euston playing the double role of visionary madman Professor Brecht and his (not mad?) identical twin brother Germano. Professor Brecht has developed the ability to control living matter. While he's busy making honeybees stop flying in mid-air, his wife Spadaro is sharing her honey with Brecht 2. The discovery of this affair triggers violence, a murder attempt, and a lab fire that incinerates Brecht and severely burns 2.
Flash forward a year or so and Spadaro is convinced her husband has come back from the grave to haunt her. Her headshrinker recommends that she return to the house where the violence took place as a means of confronting her fears, and she takes this terrible advice and drives out there—harassed and pursued at one point by a driverless car. 2 still lives in the old house with his burns and bitterness, which is surprising considering the place suffers from numerous issues that for sure would kill its value in the Rome real estate market, from weird noises to spectral invaders to eels on the loose.
Whenever a pair of twins occur in an Italian giallo or horror movie, you can confidently assume there's a switcheroo involved, and that's the case here, as it was not Brecht who died in the fire, but 2. Spoiler alert. Damn—we keep reminding ourselves to put the warning before the spoiler but we screw it up every time. Anyway, we learn that Brecht is trying to drive Spadaro mad for cheating on him. You won't care, because the movie is a blisteringly bad, dirt cheap assault against all that is good and admirable about filmmaking.
The only real thrill in this rickety scaffolding of a movie is a nude wrestling match between Mirella Rossi and Ivana Giordan, followed by further gratuities, including multiple scenes of them both running around in only men's dress shirts. We understand that these days we aren't supposed to say nudity is the highlight of a film, but it's the gospel truth, because this shock-horror failure has virtually nothing else to offer—except laughs if you can get past the ineptitude on display. We absolutely, positively, can't recommend a disaster of this magnitude, but we do recommend Rossi and Giordan. Mania premiered today in 1974.
I decided to change my look with this blonde wig. Really brings out the claylike undertones in my skin, don't you think? I dream of having a claylike complexion. Instead I have this terribly painful infected burn. And this crunchy hand! Look at it! Just look!
Mmph... Gasp... Bacony... Mmph...
Aaaaand... casually exit stage right while this lunatic is losing his shit like a howler monkey.
I'm healing nicely, don't you think? Yeah. You look... uh... those skin creams have made you smooth as a baby's bottom. I have a sinking feeling this will be my only film role.
I adore this thing, but I need to get it repaired. Every time I try to shoot a photo some random bystander gets wounded.
We love this photo of Italian actress Luisa Rivelli handling the latest in spy gear. Her gun-camera is not quite Francisco Scaramanga's golden gun that doubles as a cigarette case and lighter, but it's pretty nice. Rivelli appeared in numerous films, including Jules Dassin's 1959 thriller La legge, aka The Law, 1965's Il tesoro della foresta pietrificata, aka Treasure of the Petrified Forest, and 1966's Operazione Goldman, aka Operation Lighting Bolt. This image came with a date on the reverse. It was made in 1965.
My dream is actually to be a singer, so I interrupt this striptease to perform Verdi's aria, “Stride la vampa.”
This entry in Editions ERP's I Gialli dello Schedario's FBI series is a late one. It was number 259 and came in 1980, which is surprsing because we didn't realize ERP was still using painted cover art then. This one was the work of Mario Carìa, and Norman Forrest the author was actually—you guessed it—Renato Carocci, the guy who you could be forgiven for thinking wrote every Italian crime novel ever. You can check his output by clicking his keywords below, and you can see a small collection of FBI covers here.
Life there is an ongoing domestic disturbance.
The posters you see here were made for the French thriller Les félins. While the French posters are fine, we thought these Italian promos were a bit more interesting. The first two were painted by Enzo Nistri, the second two by Sandro Symeoni. The movie was called Crisantemi per un delitto in Italy—“chrysanthemums for a crime.” No idea why. But fine, it's lyrical, which is never bad. It's based on the imaginative Day Keene novel Joy House, which is the title the movie retained for its U.S. run. In the book a derelict is plucked from a Chicago homeless shelter by a rich widow who needs a chauffeur, but her benevolence seems likely to backfire because her new driver was in the shelter only because it offered a perfect hiding place from mobsters seeking to kill him. But she has her own secret plans, and they're as sinister as they come.
Working from a screenplay co-written by director René Clément and crime author Charles Williams, the movie slightly alters the approach of Keene's book. With Lola Albright playing the widow and Alain Delon as the hunted man, the story is transplanted from urban Chicago to the Côte d'Azur. Pre-Barbarella Jane Fonda features in a co-starringrole as Albright's cousin and household helper. The two are soon in competition for Delon's affections, though he never forgets that his main goal is to escape the mobsters. While the general thrust of the plot remains a mystery as in Keene's novel, there's a heavy dose of action too, with excellent stunts. The ending differs as well. The result is good, but also an example of both the highs and lows of French cinema of the period. Delon, Fonda, and Albright are decent actors bestowed a good script, and are all gorgeous and charismatic, but the movie spends a lot of time being cute. Even so, Clément and company pull it all together. Make sure you appreciate the production design, especially the Rolls Royce that Delon drives, with its completely transparent roof, c-pillars all. It's something we never knew existed. To us it looked like a good way to get heatstroke, but we guess it was made for rich occupants to see and be seen. We think Joy House should be seen. It premiered in France in June 1964, then opened at the Taormina Film Fest in Italy today the same year.
When you go out can you pick me up some Visine or Blink-n-Clean? My eyes are killing me.
This is wonderful work from Italian illustrator Benedetto Caroselli, fronting Lucien Le Bossù's La zingara, which is number fifty-two in Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's series I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell’Orrore. “Zingara” is Italian for gypsy, and this one has red hair and red eyes, which is not the first time Caroselli went this route with one of his women. The author here, Le Bossù was actually Renato Carocci, who wrote scores of books under too many pseudonyms to list, with this one coming in 1965. Caroselli was prolific, as well. If he didn't paint more covers than anyone else in Italy during the 1960s, he certainly came close.
What was her real name? It's a Short story.
Above are three photos of British-Burmese actress Seyna Seyn, who in our view has one of the greatest names in show business history. But as we asked above, could such an exotic and alliterative handle be real? Sadly, no. She was born Sylvia Short, which strikes us as a perfectly serviceable show business name, but when you come up with something like Seyna Seyn you have to go with it. Seyn's filmography includes Casanova 70, I marziani hanno 12 mani, aka The Twelve-Handed Men of Mars, Agente segreto 777 - Operazione Mistero, and Se tutte le donne del mondo... (Operazione Paradiso), aka Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die. As those titles suggest, she mostly worked in Italy. We figure we'll get around to one or two of her movies pretty soon.
Sommer and Koscina add up to one great day.
We've looked at the output of Italian illustrator Jean Mascii a few times. Above you see his work again, this time on a poster for the James Bond-style adventure Plus féroces que les mâles, which first showed in France today in 1967 but had its global premiere months earlier in England as Deadlier Than the Male. Over four decades, working from the early ’50s until the late ’80s, Mascii painted almost 1,500 movie posters, hundreds of book covers, and a copious amount of print advertising. You can click his keywords at bottom to see a few more posters we've shared on our site, or click here to take the express lane to one of his very best. The “deadlier” in Deadlier Than the Male refers to co-stars Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina, two of the more beautiful products of the mid-century era, who play assassins. We've shared posters for the film from Japan—twice—and the former Yugoslavia. Returning to it yet again is mainly an excuse to share some of the many production photos we've found—to go along with this one, this one, and this one. Today we're restricting ourselves to only Sommer and Koscina's bikini shots, because the skin and smiles say summertime to us. There are drawbacks to movie stardom, so we hear, but some days surely must be just fine.
This version is not for kids.
This unusual photo shows Italian star Gina Lollobrigida paired with an aquatic foreground painting, and was made for a 1963 cover of the New York City based arts magazine Show. We took the liberty of removing the magazine's logo so you could enjoy 100% pure Lollo, and we think you'll agree it was worth the effort. This is a very cool idea for a promo image. We especially like the baffled expressions on all the fish. We're baffled too when it comes to mermaids. How in hell do they..? Well, never mind.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Warren Commission Issues Report
The Warren Commission, which had been convened to examine the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's assassination, releases its final report, which concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. Today, up to 81% of Americans are troubled
by the official account of the assassination.
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
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