VHS Memories XVII: A taste of Italy plus some other goodies
I thought I'd tackle some actual quality (though for me that is a relative term) films today so here are some of the better Italian horror flicks out there along with some other morsels.
This is one of the last films from Italian horror master Dario Argento that can actually be considered a really good movie. Made in 1987, it concerns a lunatic obsessed with an opera singer to the point where he willing to kill for her. There are some nicely nasty moments throughout though the ending comes off as a bit odd due to a rather large time lapse that hurts the flow somewhat.
Argento's wildest picture, this one (released everywhere but here as Phenomena in the full 110 minute cut as opposed to the horribly edited 82 minute version shown above) this stars Jennifer Connelly as a young woman who can telepathically control insects and ends up tangling with a deranged killer in a Swiss boarding school. The gore is plentiful, Donald Pleasence is on hand with a Scottish accent to provide some class and Argento gives us some of his grossest images with maggots, deformed mutant kids and gore galore. It may not be Argento's best movie, but it damn sure is his most over the top in terms of creativity.
From an Italian master we go to a Belgian muscle head as we get double the Van Damme in this pretty damn good action flick about twins out to avenge their parent's deaths. The performances are not rally good, the action is just fine and unless you find Jean-Claude to be an insufferable bore, this is a fine movie for a Saturday night to go with the beer and pizza.
Up next is a good Burt Reynolds 70's action flick...and it's less than great sequel.
This is probably my favorite Reynolds flick simply because it has some of the best car stunts I have ever seen. Burt plays "Gator" McKluskey, a good ole boy out of jail and out for vengeance after his brother is killed by a corrupt lawman played by Ned Beatty. Car stuns are the main course here as Hal Needham puts together some truly awesome bits of action. Beatty is fine as a nasty piece of work and Burt is his usual self back when that meant you were in for something good.
The sequel is more of the same only not as good as Burt is in the director's chair and while the action is fine and Jerry Reed makes for a decent bad guy, the rest of the movie is just lifeless.
We swing back to Italy now with maybe Argento's best movie, an elegant shocker about a pianist who becomes involved in a string of brutal slayings and ends up looking into the case. David Hemmings is good as the lead and Argento puts on some of his best, scariest set pieces here. It's a real knockout.
Argento steps onto the producer's chair for the next two movies which showcase Lamberto Bava, son of Mario Bava.
This is a wild, insane gore fest about a bunch of people trapped in an old movie theater who end up having to fight off horrific demons/zombies. That's about as deep as the plot gets as linear storytelling takes a back seat to gore and wild plot developments. It's a real kick, as long as you're not too picky about coherent plots.
More of the same, though it's still a pretty damn good movies. You can pretty much take anything I said about the first movie and apply it to this one as the films are nearly identical.
I think we'll end things with my favorite Argento film, the fantastic Suspiria, a tale of witchcraft, bloody murder and wild imagery. Argento is at his operatic best here, weaving a colorful tale of terror as only he can. It's a real showstopper with an interesting plot, good gore and some nice surreal moments.