Blu-Ray Review: Don’t Torture a Duckling

Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenplay: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, Gianfranco Clerici
Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, Marc Porel
Country: Italy
Running Time: 105min
Year: 1972
BBFC Certificate: 18


The Italian genre movie writer/director Lucio Fulci is probably best known for his ultra-gory horror movies, such as Zombie Flesh Eaters (a.k.a. Zombie), The Beyond and City of the Living Dead, so he’s often considered a rather trashy director by more mainstream critics. However, he actually wrote and directed a range of material over his long and prolific career (largely earlier on in it), including a number of comedies. His most well respected films touch on the horror genre, but fall more accurately into that of the giallo (Italian murder mystery thrillers, basically). The most acclaimed of these, and the one Fulci named as his personal favourite, is 1972’s Don’t Torture a Duckling, which Arrow Video have brought out on Blu-Ray in the UK.

Don’t Torture a Duckling is set in the rural Italian town of Accendura (which is fictional as far as I know) where young boys are being killed off one by one. After the first murder, a local ‘simpleton’ known as Barra (Vito Passeri) is arrested and thought to be the killer after he is caught trying to ask for a ransom from the boy’s parents, pretending he is alive and hiding the body. The police aren’t too sure he’s the right man though, despite this evidence, and after the second child is killed they know for certain they’re barking up the wrong tree. From then on a couple of oddball characters are suspected, including a local ‘witch’, Maciara (Florinda Bolkan), and a young attractive woman, Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet), who is believed to have moved here to recover from a drug problem. Whilst the police struggle to find the culprit, a journalist from the city, Andrea Martelli (Tomas Milian), makes his own investigation. As each new suspect is made public, the locals react in vicious outrage before the truth eventually comes out.

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Blu-Ray Review: What Have You Done to Solange?

What Have You Done to Solange? Blu-RayDirector: Massimo Dallamano
Screenplay: Massimo Dallamano, Bruno Di Geronimo, Peter M. Thouet (uncredited)
Based on a Novel by: Edgar Wallace (uncredited)
Starring: Fabio Testi, Cristina Galbó, Karin Baal, Joachim Fuchsberger
Country: Italy, West Germany
Running Time: 102 min
Year: 1972
BBFC Certificate: 18


I‘m not hugely knowledgable about the giallo subgenre (in a nutshell – Italian murder mystery thrillers), but I’ve been slowly working my way through some of the more famous titles over the last few years. I usually quite enjoy them, being a fan of thrillers in general and a great appreciator of stylish cinematic technique (which the subgenre often displays). However, I rarely find them perfect, with either style over substance coming into play or the complex plots getting tangled in a mess of red herrings and side-stories. The infamously ropey Italian ADR (or dubbing) can be a turn off too. So I approached What Have You Done to Solange? (a.k.a. Cosa avete fatto a Solange? or Terror in the Woods) with a little apprehension, but enough interest to have me take up the offer of a screener.

The film sees students picked off one by one at an all girls school in London. The crimes seem to be sexually motivated, with death coming from a knife through the victims’ genitalia. The first of the murders is briefly glimpsed by Elizabeth (Cristina Galbó), a fellow student. However, she didn’t quite see the killer and at the time she was cavorting with one of her teachers, Enrico (Fabio Testi), who doesn’t want her to tell anyone about it, in fear of losing his job and reputation (she’s just about old enough for him to avoid arrest). The leading inspector (Joachim Fuchsberger) cottons on to their relationship soon though and tries his best to get Enrico to talk. When Elizabeth herself is killed half way through the film, Enrico then becomes the prime suspect. He’s cleared, but becomes fixed on solving the mystery himself, teaming up with his semi-estranged wife Herta (Karin Baal) who takes solace in the fact that Elizabeth died a virgin. Together they unravel a disturbing plot involving sex and dark secrets.

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Trailer: The Strange Color of Your Bodies Tears

Perhaps the most polarizing film on the film festival circuit last year, not so much for content, but entirely for form. You see this hyper-Giallo from Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani (the folks behind Amer and O is for Orgasm) is so assaulting of the senses and image-dense that it does indeed tend to melt the brain after about 20 minutes of its unrelenting 102 minute run time.

The Strange Color Of Your Bodies Tears is certainly not for everyone (our own David Brook liked it a lot) the trailer does a very accurate job of selling what the film is. Turn up the volume and give it a look.

Trailer: The Strange Color of Your Bodies Tears

Suitably dense, suitably loud and most suitably esoteric, the trailer for Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet’s über-Giallo, The Strange Color of Your Bodies Tears is a cinematic endurance test to be sure. Judging by the sheer number of walk-outs when it played at TIFF this year, many may be best served with just this this bite-sized sampler. Those who are aware of what they are getting into and want the full eye-melting, ear-boiling, brain crushing package will have to wait a while however, as the film only has distribution in Europe at the moment, and much like their excellent debut film Amer , it may never see much more than a VOD/DVD/BLU here in North America.

I am not going to explain what the film is about or even drop in a plot blurb, because this film is far more interested in visual sensation than prosaic sense. As you will see below.

Blu-Ray Review: Berberian Sound Studio

Director: Peter Strickland
Screenplay: Peter Strickland
Starring: Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Susanna Cappellaro
Producers: Mary Burke, Keith Griffiths
Country: UK
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 2012
BBFC Certificate: 15


Strangely, even though I’m not sure I ever watched the trailer for Berberian Sound Studio or read a description of its plot, I found myself massively excited about watching this ever since I heard it announced about a year ago. I think it was just the way it was described as a stylish homage to Italian giallo, a genre I’m really getting into these days which often suffers from dated production techniques and lazy writing. With a talented young director and modern know-how in its favour, this modern re-working sounded like my sort of thing. Plus the early buzz was very positive and Toby Jones is generally worth watching.

What is especially impressive then is that the film not only exceeded my expectations, but turned out to be more than just a flashy rip-off of Italian thrillers from the 60’s and 70’s.

Berberian Sound Studio opens in 1976 with Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a British sound engineer, arriving in Italy to work on “The Equestrian Vortex”, the latest ultra-violent horror movie from the maestro Giancarlo Santini (Antonio Mancino). The director is rarely on set though, with Gilderoy largely working with Francesco (Cosimo Fusco), the film’s producer. Although he and the rest of the crew seem full of admiration for Gilderoy and his unmistakable talents, relationships begin to fray and the Brit struggles to stay sane as the horrors on screen get too much for him and the cultural differences and insensitive behaviour of Santini turns Gilderoy’s time in Italy into a living nightmare. Wrapped up in his work at all times, the line between fiction and reality begin to blur for him and the film grows more surreal as it moves towards its twisted climax.

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TIFF 2012: Berberian Sound Studio Review

There is a key to unlocking Peter Strickland’s dense and puzzling Berberian Sound Studio. A line of dialogue that comes from the director of the film within the film. A slip of the tongue. In movies about sound, or more specifically about processing sound, there are no slips of the tongue. Everything you hear is important, and everything you see is misleading. We put too much faith in what we see, oft times, and not enough faith in the other senses. Films like Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, and and now this one, force us to listen to the process, wallow in it, even if we do not necessarily know what we are listening for.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let us rewind.

Quiet and Introverted sound engineer Guilderoy, played by the chameleon and consummate character actor Tobey Jones, travels out of his comfort zone doing sound design for nature documentaries in Surrey, England, into the seething passions of the eponymous rundown Italian studio, to do the complete sound mix for a Giallo film: dialogue dubbing, foley, music. The movie has a curious title, Equestrian Vortex, which may mean that Guilderoy is on this foreign assignment by a complete misunderstand of the films content – It could have been a documentary on horses. Instead it is about the murdering of a sect of witches and their beyond the grave revenge. The clash of cultures that goes beyond the simple language barrier upon his arrival or the fact that the film has severe misogynist undertones and extreme violence which is alien and unsettling to the english engineer. The ladies of the film show up to do a lot of screaming, and the local sound engineer, Francesco, spends his time bullying and berating them: “You co-operate and you do not question!” The environment is toxic, and Guilderoy seems instantly mired there by virtue of his own English politeness.

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Trailer for Meta-Giallo film, Berberian Sound Studio

Also in the Vanguard section at this years edition of TIFF, is the Giallo-esque Berberian Sound Studio from director Peter Strickland. Berberian Sound Studio follows a sound mixer and foley artist, played by the wonderful Tobey Jones, who has some moral issues with the horror film he is working on. It sounds like a more meta-version of the Francis Ford Coppola classic, The Conversation, and considering how damn much I love that film (and it’s meticulous sound design) I cannot be more excited for this one.

Cinecast Episode 205 – See Thomas Howell

 
 
Welcome one, welcome all! The latest episode of The Cinecast sees the destruction of four things: Los Angeles (or a back-lot set) from invading aliens, in Battle: LA; Dartmouth Nova Scotia gets bloody and graffitied up, exploitation style, from gangs going to war with a Hobo With A Shotgun; Catherine Hardwicke’s career with the flirts-with-camp-total failure of Red Riding Hood (Gamble took one for the team on this); and finally the end of Robert Zemekis’s Mo-Cap technology with the Disney mega-bomb Mars Needs Moms. Furthermore, while it was more of a mild pummeling by release circumstances than the complete destruction of what is a very solid film, the unfair treatment of I Love You Phillip Morris is discussed. Then we dig deep into what we have been watching. On the menu are political British Gangster dramas, Nazi propaganda films, Art-Giallo hommages, silent comedies, a knuckle-biter suspense spectacular, the Bard with music ‘n guns, more 80s nostalgia and TVs Party Down. We are back to our usual tangents, in particular on a certain actor that has Matt losing it, in tears, mid-show, and an angry ranting-slash-bit-o’-tomfoolery regarding Robert Redford’s baseball movie to close things out. We cram a lot into this show. I hope you enjoy it in all of its shaggy glory.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_205.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Neo-Giallo goodness: Trailer for AMER

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I have been following the goodness of Belgian neo-giallo, Amer, over at Twitch for some time now, it is one of my most anticipated films of 2010 (more on that later). The recent (and apparently final) trailer just makes me hungrier for it to leave the festival circuit and hit theatres (or at least import-able DVD), as it could be this years House of the Devil for its ability to evoke another era of filmmaking and take itself very seriously in the process.

Desire has always been linked to one’s look. And cinema too. Luis Buñuel knew that very well when he filmed the short of a razor over an eye with a detail shot. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani recover this image in an experimental film with immaculate style. Someone watches a girl through a keyhole. The wind lightly lifts a woman’s skirt as a group of men look on. The fantasy of a dress tearing. Composed of fragments -of eyes, lights, shadows, gestures– and without dialogues, Amer delves into the life of Ana, always halfway between the real and the imaginary. A film of sensations, always shot skin-deep.

Trailer is tucked under the seat.

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Toronto After Dark: THE CHILDREN

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“You brought them into this world. Now … They will take you out” is the, frankly, pretty awesome marketing hook on the British juvenile-slasher film The Children. I choose my words carefully because the film is on the whole rather immature; being more giddy for set-piece kills over storytelling and characterization. I am quite amazed how it is earned a reputation for being “scary.” Tom Shankland and company have a eye for technical detail yet one too many establishing shots expose the episodic, plotted around kill ‘money shots’ nature of the piece. The film is so eager to please in a 1980s Freddy/Jason kinda way that it squanders a really good idea on the cheapest form of horror-thrills. Nevertheless the picture is shot with a talented eye and for the most part the acting and setting is well established.
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The Films of John Carpenter: Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, Halloween, is a rare mix of old and new, a film that pays homage to the Italian Giallo movies of the 60’s and 70’s while at the same time being credited with launching an entirely new horror sub-genre, the slasher film, which would reach the zenith of its popularity in the 1980’s.

On Halloween night, 1963, nine-year-old Michael Myers (Will Sandin) of Haddonfield, Illinois, murdered his teenage sister for no apparent reason. Since that time, Michael has been living in an institution for the criminally insane. His psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), believes that Michael is evil incarnate, and hopes he will stay locked up forever, but the day before Halloween, 1978, Michael escapes. Dr. Loomis is convinced Michael will return home to Haddonfield to kill again, and plans to apprehend him before he has the chance to do so. Unfortunately, Michael is already in town, and has even selected his next target; teenage babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

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