Monday, May 16, 2016

Sunday Night Movie Corner #1

Films viewed the week of April 10: three-fourths of this week's offerings are prime examples of those racy Italian movies we used to sneak downstairs to watch on Saturday nights at 2AM on CFMT Channel 47, for all their biological delights, even if they weren't dubbed in English. And since we've still exploring the deep well of British genre films after being inspired by the amazing book Offbeat! two years ago, we also checked out a trademark horror anthology film from Amicus.



From Beyond the Grave
(1974; Kevin Connor) The final horror anthology from Amicus Productions (The House That Dripped Blood; Tales From The Crypt; Vault of Horror) features tales of terror revolving around items found in Peter Cushing's antique shop (appropriately entitled Temptations) and is great fun for a Saturday night. In "The Gatecrasher", a man holds a seance after purchasing a mirror, which summons an evil spirit who appears in the mirror reflection and demands that the man "feeds" the apparition by killing for it. David Warner is very good as the man torn between good and evil, carrying out the spirit's bidding. And what an ending! In "The Elemental" Margaret Leighton is great fun as an eccentric medium (aren't they all?) named Madame Orloff (a nod to Franco?) who is called upon by a stuffy businessman (Ian Carmichael) who purchases a snuff box and now has an Elemental in his home, wreaking havoc for him and his wife (Nyree Dawn Porter).  When a writer (Ian Ogilvy) purchases a door in (guess) "The Door", and props it up in his home, he and his wife (Lesley-Anne Down) discover that it opens to another room occupied by an occultist who attempts to get into the outside world and trap the couple in this other dimension. Intriguingly, the resolution of these tales (including the wraparound story of a hapless individual who attempts to rob the old curiosity shop) depends on whether or not the storekeeper has somehow been cheated in the purchase of the goods. I've saved the second tale ("An Act of Kindness") for the last, because it's the best: an elaborate, deliberately paced story of just desserts, as a man (Ian Bannen) regales fabricated tales of his own military (experiences behind a service medal from the shop) to a war veteran (Donald Pleasence, excellent in a subtle role) now selling matches on the street. His relationship with the veteran (and his daughter, played by the actor's real-life daughter, the eerily beautiful, perfectly cast Angela Pleasence) becomes more complex and bizarre, resulting in a revenge plot against the man's nagging wife (Diana Dors, who scores with little screen time) and ingrate son... but not without a price. Although he is perhaps best remembered today for the Amicus Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations, The People That Time Forgot, At The Earth's Core; The Land That Time Forgot, and for the Rory Calhoun cult classic Motel Hell, former editor Kevin Connor acquits himself very well in his directorial debut, in the exceptionally well-edited climax of "The Door", and with clever use of cinematic space and depth in marvellous mirror effects in "The Gatecrasher". (Warner DVD)

Lover Boy
(1975; Franco Martinelli AKA- Marino Girolami) Other than the attribute of the delightful Edwige Fenech in very low-cut dresses (when wearing anything at all, that is), there's not much to say about this bland sex comedy. When a businessman learns that his father's new wife is flying in for a visit, he dismissively sends his dorky ten-year-old son to attend to her. Upon learning that grandpa's new bride is the much younger, and scintillating, Ms. Fenech, the kid has suddenly forgotten about his tomboy girlfriend, and before long his mopey guitar-playing older brother, and their horny dad are also vying for her attention. This is a typical middle 70s racy Italian comedy, with cartoonish acting (no doubt aided by the dubbing) and questionable attempt to make adultery look like so much fun, indifferently directed hack work by Marino Girolami (best remembered for Zombie Holocaust, and for conceiving fellow filmmaker Enzo Castellari). Of some novelty value is the score by Enrico Simonetti, which belongs in a better movie. Edwige is lovely to look at, as always, but this affair (with endless shots of these goons ogling her cleavage) gets tiresome really fast. (Shoarma Digital)

The Cricket
(1980; Alberto Lattuada) The title refers to the nickname given the waif-like character played by Clio Goldsmith, whose entrance into and departure from these debauched relationships bookends this fascinating drama, but the story arc is really about the hapless chanteuse Wilma (played by Virna Lisi) who befriends Cricket (her one fan), acting as a chambermaid in a hotel she is performing at. In about ten minutes of screen time, they are ejected from the hotel, and hit the road together. Soon they meet a man (Tony Franciosa) and turn his rundown gas station-restaurant-hotel complex into a lucrative business. When he and Wilma marry, the former singer sends for her daughter, in the hopes that they can have a normal family life. But happiness proves elusive in this neon-lit morality play, as sexual curiosity and repression leads to tragedy. As with Stay As You Are, a previous film by Alberto Lattuada (whose six-year career includes Variety Lights, co-directed with Federico Fellini), this straddles between an arthouse aesthetic and exploitation film elements, but has a uniquely bluesy poetry. Even when it veers into melodrama in the final half hour, this remains a thoroughly compelling, complex study of good people who screw up; characters whose sexual liberation leads to doom. Highly recommended! Check it out! (Mya Communications)

Perversion Story
(1969; Lucio Fulci) This sensational title (admittedly no better than its alternate, One on Top of the Other) masks a pretty good giallo inspired by Vertigo (with its San Francisco setting a potential nod to its source), yet set amongst a swinging 60s milieu. A fledgling doctor (Jean Sorel), who is married to an ailing asthmatic (Marisa Mell), and has a mistress on the side (Elsa Martinelli), finds himself in more twisted situations after his wife dies, and encounters an exotic dancer who resembles her. Despite the different coloured eyes and hair, he is convinced she is his late wife. While Lucio Fulci's direction is somewhat ham-fisted, the bright cinematography and jazzy soundtrack by Riz Ortolani (featured on a bonus CD in the Severin Films DVD release) uplift a sometimes plodding narrative. The climax is genuinely suspenseful as our hero is sentenced to die in the gas chamber for murder. John Ireland is good in a small role as the detective investigating this bizarre puzzle. (Severin Films)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Late Night Files: Snicker Theater


Snicker Theater was a syndicated program that aired in 1987 on WNBC (Channel 4) in New York City, as well as other markets. In a formula that anticipated Mystery Science Theater 3000 by a couple of years (albeit with much more low-rent production values), hosts Barry Kilbrick and Pat Mulligan (playing, respectively, Barry and Pat) would poke fun at cheesy movies, hence the title Snicker Theater



Saul Fischer by way of E-gor's Chamber of TV Horror Hosts, continues: 

No horror make-up, just a low-rent living room/basement set with an AWFULLY cheap-looking sofa, upon which "Barry" & "Pat" sat and watched cheesy videos, pausing every few minutes before and after the commercial breaks to make fun of the flicks... and make fun of each other, too. These two guys hosted as well as co-produced and co-wrote the show, and, as I recall, most of it was amusing. The character of "Barry" ran a bowling alley while poor "Pat" worked "down at the toxic dump" (shades of The Simpsons). 


In a typical episode, they got up and literally hopped off the set to eat at (the offscreen) Bernie's All-You-Can-Eat Frog Leg Emporium, as the movie continued playing. They returned several minutes later, gastrointestinally-challenged, and saw their mistake -- but wisely decided not to bother rewinding the video to see what they had missed (but the audience had endured). 

In the same episode, they had pizza delivered by a well-endowed blonde (another cast member), and ended up dancing with her around the set. It ended with them trying to leave the set for a much-needed "case" of cold beers, then Barry's too-short microphone cord that was trailing behind him got hopelessly caught in the closing door, as Pat cracks up with the offscreen crew, all of this visible under the closing credits. Lydia Finzi played the girl who delivered the pizza (Domino's!). The films they showed were low budgeters like Superargo vs. Diabolicus, Trinity and Sartana, etc. It was filmed in Hollywood, CA.


++++

Later, the show's producer, Dan Brenner, took over hosting duties for the rest of its brief run. (And because this show was produced in the same studio as The People's Court, Brenner apparently used the same dressing room as Judge Wapner!)

Once again, in my hobby of perusing old TV listings, I have the reaction of: "The things I know now that I wish I knew then." Talk about missed opportunities. Snicker Theater was also picked up locally. CFPL (former CBC affiliate Channel 10 from London, Ontario) aired it on Sunday nights at midnight, from September, 1988 to August, 1989. The roster consisted of low-budget Italian genre films that remain hard to find today, even for Euro-genre enthusiasts like yours truly.  And yet, at the time I was completely oblivious to the program. Why? Because this nerd would instead be spending late night Sunday nights watching or taping French and silent films on CBLFT! 



Here is a listing of the films seen on Snicker Theater, as shown on CFPL, Sunday nights at midnight, in 1988-89 (as listed in Starweek):

09-18-88  title not listed
09-25-88 Who Killed the Prosecutor and Why? (1972) Lou Castel
10-02-88 The Trojan War (1962) Steve Reeves, John Drew Barrymore
10-09-88 title not listed
10-16-88 Night of Hate (1973) Anita Ekberg, Tomas Milian
10-23-88 Mafia Vs. Ninja (1984) Alexander Lou, Silvio Azzolini
10-30-88 The Red Sheik (1973) Channing Pollock
11-06-88 Robin Hood, Arrow, Beans and Karate (1976) Alan Steel
11-13-88 title not listed
11-20-88 Jesse and Lester, Two Brothers (1975) Richard Harrison
11-27-88 No Graves on Boot Hill (1969) K. Wood, P. White, C. Hill
12-04-88 Shoot Joe and Shoot Again (1972) Richard Harrison
12-11-88 Io Semiramide (1962) Yvonne Furneaux, John Ericson
12-18-88 How To Win a Billion and Get Away With It (1966) Ray Danton, Edmond Purdom
12-25-88 Seven Golden Women Against 2-07 (1967) Mickey Hargitay, Luciana Paoli
01-01-89 28 Minutes for 3 Million Dollars (1967) Richard Harrison, Claudio Biava
01-08-89 Crime Story (1968) Stan Cooper, Helga Line
01-15-89 Who Killed the Prosecutor and Why? (1972) Lou Castel
01-22-89 The Trojan War (1962) Steve Reeves, John Drew Barrymore
01-29-89 Eyes Behind The Stars (1978) Martin Balsam, Nathalie Delon
02-05-89 Night of Hate (1973) Anita Ekberg, Tomas Milian
02-12-89 Mafia Vs. Ninja (1984) Alexander Lou, Silvio Azzolini
02-19-89 The Red Sheik (1973) Channing Pollock
02-26-89 Robin Hood, Arrow, Beans and Karate (1976) Alan Steel
03-05-89 For a Book of Dollars (1973) Lincoln Tate
03-12-89 Caesar the Conqueror (1960) Cameron Mitchell, Rik Battaglia
03-19-89 Gun Shy Piluk (1968) Edmond Purdom
03-26-89 Hot Diamonds in Cold Blood (1968) Richard Harrison
04-02-89 Electra One (1968) George Martin, Vivi Bach
04-09-89 Trinity and Sartana (1972) Robert Widmark
04-16-89 Beautiful But Dangerous (1955) Gina Lollobrigida, Vittorio Gassman
04-23-89 Superargo Vs. Diabolicus (1968) Ken Wood, Gerard Tichy
04-30-89 No Graves on Boot Hill (1969) Ken Wood, Craig Hill
05-07-89 Eyes Behind The Stars (1978) Martin Balsam, Nathalie Delon
05-14-89 The Red Sheik (1973) Channing Pollock
05-21-89 The Trojan War (1962) Steve Reeves, John Drew Barrymore
05-28-89 Mafia Vs. Ninja (1984) Alexander Lou, Silvio Azzolini
06-04-89 Jesse and Lester, Two Brothers (1975) Richard Harrison
06-11-89 No Graves on Boot Hill (1969) Ken Wood, Craig Hill
06-18-89 Shoot Joe and Shoot Again (1972) Richard Harrison
06-25-89 How To Win a Billion and Get Away With It (1966) Ray Danton, Edmond Purdom
07-02-89 28 Minutes for 3 Million Dollars (1967) Richard Harrison, Claudio Biava
07-09-89 Crime Story (1968) Stan Cooper, Helga Line
07-16-89 Who Killed the Prosecutor and Why? (1972) Lou Castel
07-23-89 The Trojan War (1962) Steve Reeves, John Drew Barrymore
07-30-89 Seven Golden Women Against 2-07 (1967) Mickey Hargitay, Luciana Paoli
08-06-89 The Red Sheik (1973) Channing Pollock
08-13-89 Robin Hood, Arrow, Beans and Karate (1976) Alan Steel
08-20-89 Hot Diamonds in Cold Blood (1968) Richard Harrison
08-27-89 Electra One (1968) George Martin, Vivi Bach