Lucio Fulci is remembered today, when remembered at all, by a nuance lacking population for his lowest common denominator gore films such as THE BEYOND and ZOMBI.
But before Fulci, by his own estimation became a maker of z-grade garbage to pay the bills, he aspired to more. He aspired to be a filmmaker.
And I am here to say he was one. And I would go further to say he was a great director. An extremely versatile director, leaving his mark on everything from Comedies to Westerns. However, it was in the new Italian form of thriller, the Giallo that his skills would reach their zenith, and his star shine the brightest.
In his heyday creative period, when the muses of inspiration were upon him (approx from 1966 to 1977), he made seven influential, stylish, challenging and even ground breaking films.
Tempi di Massacro/Massacre Time (Would predate and arguably inspire the dove laden, blood ballets of John Woo)
Una Sull’altra/Perversion Story/One On Top Another (even hampered by a poor title, and an awkward, even clumsy soft-core opening, this reworking of Hitchcock’s Vertigo builds to something great. Beautifully filmed it is Fulci’s best looking film, and is a clinic in style. It is a film I consider even better than its inspiration, and that is saying a lot.)
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin
Don’t Torture a Duckling
Four of the Apocalypse
Sette Notte in Nero/Psychic
None of the above films were adequately appreciated upon release. However with the advent of DVD you have the chance to reevaluate Fulci’s largely pre-gore work (before he gave completely into his excesses and the lowest common denominator) and see these films for what they were and are, visually stunning landmarks of a time and a place.
— to be continued
AMER- I have been of late so disappointed by highly rated IMDB or AMAZON films (films such as TRIANGLE and A LONELY PLACE TO DIE), that the recently watched film AMER… comes like manna from heaven.
The first feature film of writing/directing duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, AMER (2009) is an almost impossibly sensual and sensualist film, that spends nearly all its initial running time in this elevated/heightened nearly psychotic state, that is equal parts arousal and sensory overload.
There’s a story here, but it’s a very thin one that follows our protagonist from childhood to womanhood, and one that becomes more thin as the film progresses, and ultimately takes backstage to a house of mystery, and a young woman who burns like the sun.
It is a very disturbing film, as it deals, under the skin, with themes of compulsion, predation (namely the predatory behavior of men to women), psycho-sexual behavior, and a degree of depravity and submission, all edited to a frenetic, insane, tension aching pitch.
Add to that the look and the soundtrack, which is a love-letter to the giallo, and you have something… that compels. Giallo being a distinctly Italian form of thriller, that traces its flowering most notably to the 70s and 80s films of Dario Argento.
A bastard child of the deconstructive American crime films and horror films of the late 60s and 70s (think PSYCHO meets DIRTY HARRY) and a precursor to the later American slasher films, Giallo is set apart by its preeminence of style, both in terms of visuals and soundtrack, over substance.
Much as film-noir is characterized by daring use of style and visuals and camera angles, to speak on the dysfunction and disillusionment, and moral abyss of a post World War II America, Giallo equally was a filmic response to turbulent political, class, generational and societal fears and concerns in the wake of an age of assassinations, wars, mass murders, and revelations and revolutions of the age of Aquarius, not to mention the conflict of a new sexual frankness in conflict with a still pervasive sexual repression.
In many ways giallo as a genre, was a bunch of kid filmmakers pushing the boundaries of film, and in many ways tapping into their own demons, and a world’s demons. So if you are a fan of films like SUSPIRIA and THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS WARDH you will find much to enthuse over in AMER, a film that is evocative of the giallo, from the soundtrack to the use of primary colors, while being a very unique and singular viewing experience.
Possibly a frustrating viewing experience if your taste does not run to the aforementioned giallo tenet of style over substance. If a movie has to ‘get to the point’ AMER is not the film for you, but if it is the journey well told that entrances…then AMER, will entrance you to the end.
Indeed for me the least interesting part of the film is the black-gloved razor wielding killer in the final act, and moments of blood and gore and the film trying to hew too closely to Argento’s template, but even that, thankfully, gives way to something… unique, and yes both irrational and sensuous.
I can see many people hating this film for its fever dream approach, however it is that approach that ultimately wins me over. I don’t like slasher films, and find gore and torture porn films uninteresting and without merit, not far from true pornography. Yet I find in the giallo, when done well, something that manages to transcend simple exploitation and pandering, and be not unlike art.
AMER is giallo, done well.
I adore, a well composed shot, and being a devotee of the schools of both sensualism and surrealism, I adore the stylistic extremes of this film… and see it being one that is often on rotation in my DVD player. If the filmmakers can resist the easy indulgences of gore and splatter, such weaknesses a little on display in the third act of AMER, and quite pervasive in most of their short films (also included on the DVD), they will be filmmakers to watch. When they don’t rely on the crutch of gore, as in most of AMER, they are mind blowingly good. Grade: B+.
Courtesy of Diane C who runs the Marc Olden website comes the pretty great news, for all of us fans of Marc Olden, as well as fans of just great books, that all of Marc Olden’s long out of print Men’s Adventure novels are back in print courtesy of Mysterious Press.
Comprised of his HARKER, NARC, and BLACK SAMURAI series of books, these are in many ways the holy grail of pulp 70s men’s adventure thrillers and paved the way for such writers as James Patterson and Hugh Holton.
Now these long out of print books are finally available in affordable editions. I must admit to largely being a paper guy myself, but for those of you Ebook/Kindle converts than, this is the deal for you!
Here’s the link to Mysterious Press also:
I have to say, I think the MYSTERIOUS PRESS E-book covers are a bit artless (particularly when compared to the beautiful paperback originals), but my cover critique aside, having the content available again is what counts.
So go support and tell them HT sent ya!
Completing (Yay! Finally!!) the list of 15 favorite DVD commentaries!! Here are selections 11-15.
THE LION IN WINTER- A seminal film, the finest performances of all involved and commentary by the director, Anthony Harvey. The Lion in Winter
T-MEN/RAW DEAL- Not a commentary per se, the excellent 2 part DARK REFLECTIONS audio/video essay by mystery writer Max Allen Collins is a must listen as it examines two of the best films by the legendary team of director Anthony Mann and Director of Photography John Alton. Very, very informative covering film noir, Dick Tracy, Eisner’s Spirit and more.Anthony Mann Film Noir Double Feature: Raw Deal/T-Men
DESCENT- 2 director commentaries, one with cast, one with crew. The crew commentary is more than a bit bland, the cast commentary is definitely more lively with a bunch of giggling, possibly tipsy, actresses, and it takes a bit to determine who is who, but still an enjoyable insight into this fantastic film. The Descent (Original Unrated Widescreen Edition)
SEVEN- no less than 4 great commentaries to choose from! Seven (New Line Platinum Series)-this is the only version that has all four commentaries
KING OF NEW YORK- great commentary by maverick director Abel Ferrara.King of New York (Special Edition)
Well that’s it! The wrap up of the 15 Favorite Commentaries!! The links to previous sections are below, and feel free to suggest your own favorite commentary!
Thanks for viewing and if you like this post, take the time to give a ‘like’ and also take the time to purchase using the links provided.
Like everyone else I was a huge fan of the first few James Patterson ALEX CROSS novels. Most notably KISS THE GIRLS. But I fell off the Patterson train relatively early (back when he was still writing his own novels), no slight against him… just other interests came up, and so I have not read anything by Patterson in probably a decade or more. But I still remember fondly those first few ALEX CROSS novels.
However film adaptations have been less than kind to Alex Cross, and this latest film, titled simply enough… ALEX CROSS, on paper does nothing to alleviate this concern. In fact, on every front it looks to be a step down from previous films, and a trainwreck in the making.
First the casting… Tyler Perry as Alex Cross. Now I give you that Morgan Freeman was possibly not the right choice for Cross, but in Freeman you have an award winning powerhouse actor, who basically can make any role work. And he did so with the character of Cross. But Tyler Perry?
He’s a decent actor. He has physically the imposing size. However it would be easier to take him seriously in a dramatic role if he hadn’t spent the last decade or so in women’s clothes. I saw the trailer, I just have a hard time seeing him as anything but Tyler Perry, about to reach for his wig. . At no point in the trailer, do I say… this is Alex Cross. They would have been far better off with Idris Elba.
Next is the director, Rob Cohen. Nothing in his filmography (FAST AND FURIOUS I, DAYLIGHT,XXX) really interests me. And the trailer looks okay, but nothing we haven’t seen a million times before.
Which brings us to the third red flag, the writers. A pair of relatively untried writers, Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson, and all they have to their credit is another lackluster Patterson adaptation, ALONG CAME A SPIDER.
From A to Z, nothing about this project screams top-notch. It screams retread, made for cable movie… at best. I mean, serial killer movies… not really my thing, and police procedurals are a dime a dozen, so to get me interested in paying theater prices you need to bring something special to the table.
Something where the film is not about the crime but the solution (because call me strange and un-American, but I have no interest in watching people suffer, or torture porn, or serial killers… my interest in such movies is about the hero. It’s about the people who make the wrong things right. And right off looking at the poster, you see where this film’s agenda lies. In glorifying and romanticizing the sociopath. Yet another thing that puts me off the movie.)
You need to be the next MANHUNTER or SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and I think it’s a pretty safe bet ALEX CROSS is nowhere near either of those. However, all that said, I give the benefit of the doubt to action/thriller/genre films with more than two characters of color, simply because Hollywood releases so few of them, and I like to support the ones it does. So I will see this if it hits a theater near me, and hopefully like RED TAILS it can exceed my low expectations.
I hope I’m wrong. It has been known to happen, though rarely. . As I alluded to, I was very pessimistic about RED TAILS and much to my surprise that turned out to be a GREAT film, that I’m glad I saw in the theater.
Here’s hoping that watching ALEX CROSS is not my… cross to bear. Heh, heh, heh! See what I did there? That’s a pun, son!
“We’ll make them get out.” Jenny said. “Whatever you do, don’t get out. Do just what I say. There’s only two of them, I think.”
As the car stopped, Jenny reached into the glove compartment. She took out the two knives, and gave one to Peg. The other, she slipped inside her blouse.’
Okay guess what book the above quote is from, and win the book. Pretty simple.
Here’s a clue, it is a book that has been mentioned on this blog. Umm, that may be a bit vague. Okay here’s another one, the writer is primarily a horror writer.
Any guesses? Send them in the comments (include your email address), they’ll come right to me without getting posted. The winner, wins the book.
Movies on my to Rent and/or to Purchase List!
Proof positive I do this blog to educate myself as much as entertain anyone else, is this post on Hugh Holton.
I knew Hugh Holton was a high ranking, highly decorated Chicago Police Officer.
I knew he was a fantastic writer from owning and reading three of his books.
I knew he had passed in 2001.
I did not know he had as many books, above and beyond the ones I own. Given his responsibilities as one of Chicago’s Top Cops, that he was able to be as prolific (and going by the novels I’ve read, as consistently good) as he was, is quite amazing.
So without further ado, today’s Recommended Writer is HUGH HOLTON:
Police Lieutenant Hugh Holton was a twenty-nine year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He authored several bestselling novels, including, Time of the Assassins, The Left Hand of God, and Violent Crimes. At the time of his death, at the age of only 54, Hugh Holton was the highest ranking active police officer writing novels in America.
1994. Presumed Dead
1995. Windy City
1996. Chicago Blues
1997. Violent Crimes
1998. Red Lightning
1999. Left Hand of God, The
2000. Time of the Assassins
2001. Devils Shadow, The
The following three titles were published posthumously, which is why they came as a surprise to me when researching this post. I’ve heard REVENGE was an early discarded rough draft of his, so it’s not up to Hugh Holton’s high standards. It’s something he would have tweaked/perfected had he known it was being published. So take that into consideration when reading it. It’s basically just an early draft, the publisher decided to put out there, so judge it as such, and not as representative of Hugh Holton’s usual great work.
I was turned onto Hugh Holton’s fantastic Larry Cole mystery series a while ago, and they are pulse-pounding procedurals and thrillers, grounded by the experience of someone who knows intimately the facts behind the fictions… he writes about.. My personal favorite of the three novels I’ve read so far is the juggernaut-like TIME OF THE ASSASSINS. In terms of pacing, and just keeping you racing till the end, it’s the strongest [the others I own are WINDY CITY, and VIOLENT CRIMES].
It was a great starting point for me to the excellent body of work Hugh Holton left us with, but I think I’ll now go back, pick up all the books I’m missing and read them all chronologically.
REVENGE, by all reports should not be considered part of the chronology, it’s something that (again according to reports) was not ready for publication, and was put out as a cash grab by the family and the publisher. It’s a curio, at best, and I would have less problem with it if the family had put their name on the novel(his Daughter I believe signed off on this version), rather than just Hugh Holton’s.
Being a writer, the idea of assigning sole responsibility to me, for something I didn’t have the chance to proof/edit… well that would bug me even in the grave. A writer’s books are his reputation.
And Hugh Holton has a well earned, and well deserved reputation as a great writer. Try the books for yourself at the links below! And tell’em HT sent ya!!!
WEDNESDAYS WORDS is a new weekly installment that ranks the most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.
Robert S. Duncanson, 19th century Black romantic painter (The Sigma Pi Phi series)
Parks, James Dallas.
ROBERT S. DUNCANSON: 19th Century Black Romantic Painter.
Washington, DC: Associated Publishers, Inc., A Division of the Association For The Study of Afro-American Life and History, Inc., 1980.
x, 60 pp., 25 b&w illus., chronol., catalogue of works. Appendices include letters from Duncanson and note from Mrs. Ruth E. Showes, “A Relative”; letter concerning Duncanson’s illness from his wife Phoebe. 8vo (24 cm.), cloth.
When the Death-Bat Flies: The Detective Stories of Norvell Page- Best known for his Spider pulp stories, scribe Norvell Page was a master mystery writer as well. This 800-page book collects over 30 of Page’s detective stories from the pages of DETECTIVE TALES, THE SPIDER, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY and STRANGE DETECTIVE MYSTERIES, most of which have never been reprinted before. Includes an all-new introduction by Will Murray.
Three short thrillers that offer variations on the theme of the innocent person caught up in murderous events. Dead Dolls Don t Talk (1959) allows a juror to find out what it s like to be on the other side of the law. Hunt the Killer (1951) is the story of a man just out from prison who is newly framed for a killing he didn t commit. And Too Hot to Hold (1959) is a case of mistaken identity that escalates when greed takes the place of common sense.
“Reading Page is like grabbing a live electrical wire. . . . Once you take hold, you can’t let go until the story comes to an end. Page paced his stories at one speed only-runaway locomotive.
“When it comes to writing grab-your-throat and hurtle-you-along at a hundred miles an hour fiction, there’s nobody better.”
—Robert Weinberg, from his introduction
From the author of The Spider, here are seven tales of weird mystery and strange crime. Follow Ken Carter as he unravels seven strange cases.
Bonus: Also included is a 1935 article by Norvell Page explaining his approach to writing.
With an introduction by Robert Weinberg.
Cover art by Walter M. Baumhofer.
City of Corpses
Statues of Horror
The Devil’s Hoof
The Sinister Embrace
“How I Write” by Norvell Page
In steamy Shreveport, Louisiana, two musical legends-in-the-making come together: a whiskey-soaked country singer named Hank Williams and blues artist Muddy Waters. What they’ve got in common over several hectic days of drinking, singing and whoring is an interest in staying alive despite local mobsters, bent cops, and a truckload of Ku Klux Klansmen. Then there’s the bankrobber’s daughter.
The Spider VS. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy [Paperback]
Norvell Page – THEY SAID IT COULDN’T HAPPEN HERE. THEN THEY SAID ONE MAN COULDN’T STOP IT! Richard Wentworth spent his vigilante career as The Spider always in the shadows. Now evil acted in broad daylight. The Party of Justice swept into office, rewriting the laws of New York state overnight to benefit their criminal backers and make slaves of its people. This American Reichstag gave itself sweeping powers and raised a private army to exert its malevolent will. How could The Spider hope to stop a criminal conspiracy as big as the state itself? This time The Master of Men would go beyond taking the lives of evildoers… by bringing Hope to the tyrannized citizens of the Empire State! The “Black Police Trilogy” is author Norvell Page’s classic pulp fiction Nazi allegory from 1938. Originally published in three consecutive months of The Spider Magazine, the novels “The City That Paid To Die”, “The Spider at Bay”, and “Scourge of the Black Legions” are collected in book form for the first time! The Spider VS. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy
The WEDNESDAYS WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list!
If you’re a publisher, writer, or other creative representative looking to submit items for WEDNESDAYS WORDS, just leave a comment on this post with your email/contact info, comments don’t get posted they come right to me, and I’ll reach out to you with the snail mail details.
And as far as readers, if you see items on WEDNESDAYS WORDS you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links.
Your helpful purchases through those links, generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!
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