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Monday, June 28, 2010

DVD and Blu-Ray News: Inferno

Coming on August 2nd from Arrow Video in the UK is Dario Argento's Inferno on both DVD and Blu-Ray. Once again, my colleagues and I from High Rising Productions have had a hand in the plentiful extras so take a look at what to expect:


- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned art work

- Double-sided fold out Poster

- Collector’s Booklet featuring brand new writing on Inferno by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento

- High Definition Presentation of the film (1080p)

- Optional 7.1 DTS-HD/2.0 Stereo Audio


- Introduction to Inferno by star Daria Nicolodi

- Dario's Inferno (16 mins interview with Dario Argento)

- Acting in Hot Water: An Interview with Daria Nicolodi (18 mins interview)

- The Other Mother: Making the Black Cat (16 mins) In 1989 director Luigi Cozzi (a long time friend and collaborator of Dario Argento) decided to make the unofficial follow-up to Inferno and 'complete' the Three Mothers legacy. This feature looks at the torrid history of The Black Cat, with plenty of clips too!

- Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror (57 mins) Mark Kermode narrates this documentary on Argento’s career including interviews with George A. Romero and John Carpenter

- The Complete Dario Argento Trailer Gallery [18 films]

- Easter Egg (5 mins of Dario Argento in English, with random memories of Inferno)

Pre-Order the Blu-Ray or DVD now from Amazon

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

DVD Review: Without Trace

Without Trace (aka ...A Tutte Le Auto Della Polizia)

Italy 1975
Director: Mario Caiano
Writers: Fabio Pittorru & Massimo Felisatti
Starring: Antonio Sabato, Luciana Paluzzi, Enrico Maria Salerno, Gabriele Ferzetti, Elio Zamuto.
DVD Released: April 27th 2010
Cert: NR
Running Time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono Italian
Subtitles: English
Distributor: Mya Communication
Region: 0 NTSC

The Film:

A bunch of filthy rich snobs relax around the massive swimming pool at the palatial estate of Professore Andrea Icardi as his precocious teenage daughter Carla strips down to her undies and takes a dip, to the delight of quite a few of the male onlookers. Yup she's a bit of a Lolita this one, no sooner has she finished teasing her father's friends than she's sneaking off after school for an illicit hook up with...well who knows? Coming home late Professore Icardi finds that his daughter still hasn't returned home and after checking around it's soon apparent she's missing 'Without Trace'. Better call in the local coppers then, led by 70's Italian Burt-Reynolds-a-like Antonio Sabato as Commissario Fernando Solmi; a loose cannon cop who lives on the edge and doesn't play by the rules. As you'd imagine Solmi isn't particularly fond of the upper class and especially doesn't like the inequality shown by the massive police mobilisation to find the (probably just runaway) daughter of a rich bloke. However when Carla's body is discovered in a lake, weighted down with her Vespa (nice!) it's not long before Solmi's getting too close to the case (probably because of his wife's unexplained briefly mentioned death) and verbally showering his contempt for perverts and hustlers at anyone within earshot. Especially that bloke running the skeezy bordello full of underage girls where Carla's schoolfriends all seem to work! With the evidence building via tyre tracks, bullet casings, a suspicious packet of Benson & Hedges and the testimony of a sweaty peeping tom that witnessed Carla's final moments the cops get ever closer to nailing their target which leads the diabolical villain to start killing all those that know anything about him in a desperate and bloody attempt to evade capture.

For it's first hour or so this is a steadily entertaining Italian police procedural flick (or poliziotteschi as this particular sub-genre might be classified). Despite it's 70's trappings and obligatory occasional flashes of full frontal female nudity it's held up well over the years. It even features an eerily familiar forensics lab scene; funky music plays as various white-coated geeks look through microscopes and process evidence - CSI Lazio anyone? Seemingly unable to hold this dramatic tension any longer however the film reverts to Giallo-tinged black gloved throat slitting's and garroting in it's final act which pretty much spurts arterial blood all over it's carefully built up storyline and rushes things to an action packed car chase of a conclusion that leaves you feeling somewhat let-down. The reveal of the killer is well handled however and surprisingly (for this genre) he turns out not to be a complete nut job but an almost sympathetic character. Another in the line of "schoolgirl gialli" then that were so popular round about this time (thanks to Massimo Dallamano and the likes of What Have You Done To Solange and What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, etc) - films that usually managed to be hypocritically moralistic as well as sexually exploitative. To be fair though this one is far less sleazy than it could be and all the better for it. The film also benefits greatly from an excellent turn by Sabato as the hard-nosed cop and the criminally underused ex-Bond girl Gabriele Ferzetti as his partner! Oh and the film's original Italian title A Tutte Le Auto Della Polizi (Calling All Police Cars) is a far more fitting one than Without Trace really given the nature of the plot.

The Disc:

Very nice anamorphic transfer, colours look well saturated and the image is clean and well detailed overall. Audio is the original Italian mono with optional English subtitles, it's a clean and clear track. More like this please Mya!

An odd but entertaining combination of Italian 70's hard-boiled cop flick and serial killer slasher movie!

Review by Giuseppe Rijitano

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

DVD Review: Crime of Passion

Crime of Passion (aka Delitto Passionale)

Italy 1994
Director: Flavio Mogherini
Writers: Flavio Mogherini & Daniele Stroppa
Starring: Serena Grandi, Florinda Bolkan, Fabio Testi, Paul Martignetti, Vesela Dimitrova.
DVD Released: April 27th 2010
Cert: NR
Running Time: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Full Frame NTSC
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo Italian, Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: N/A
Distributor: Mya Communication
Region: 0 NTSC

The Film:

Peter Doncev (the fabulous Fabio Testi) has a slag for a wife. She may be a famous writer and a bit posh but she has a tendency to sneak out for a spot of after hours extra-marital rumpy pumpy with the English Ambassador whenever she gets the chance and not even her wheelchair bound daughter Anna can guilt mommy into staying at home when she's got the horn. On her latest carnal excursion however she is brutally (luckily post-coitally) murdered in her cheap hotel room. Enter young rookie detective Ivan Zanova (Paul Martignetti) and his crinkly beret wearing Wilford-Brimley-moustached partner/mentor to investigate. There are plenty of suspects to go around, including Peter's randy sister-in-law Tania (Serena 'bad boob job' Grandi), his secretary Milena (Anna Maria Petrova), his wife's professional rival alcoholic aging bint Giulia (Florinda Balkan), the list goes on and on. The aforementioned cops spend most of the film chatting leisurely to these people, in no great hurry to find the killer. Hell Inspector Ivan even finds time to take crippled Anna out on the town, well to a local gypsy encampment anyway, for an impromptu jam session (he plays saxophone) with the creepy gypos. While his partner Brimley-tache spends most of the film hairy stark bollock naked in a bath house/spa where Ivan also has to shed his clothes and grab his limp member to report in on a regular basis. Eventually the killer strikes again and is almost immediately caught...THE END!

It's a 90's giallo apparently, not the genre's best decade it seems. Featuring quite a few familiar genre faces but none of the charm, mystery or style of it's predecessors. Why the director/writer's thought it would be a good idea to have this Italian production set in Russia (presumably) is something of a mystery in itself - I kept having Nam-style flashbacks to Police Academy 7: Mission To Moscow, spookily also filmed in 1994, and wishing occasionally that I was watching that movie instead. Martignetti is the films protagonist, the main copper, the performance that really does make or break a film like this and he is a truly irritating screen presence unfortunately; the weediest, wettest, woefully inept screen detective ever. Even the lure of Serena Grandi's criminally underutilized dirty pillows couldn't save this film.

The Disc:

1.33:1 Full frame transfer looks a bit soft but is generally OK for a VHS transfer. Audio options include; a dubbed English stereo track that sounds fine (the accents are all over the place though from Russian to English to American) and an original Italian stereo track with no optional English subtitles, that's right NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES, what's the point in that? Another disappointing Mya presentation.

Ultimately this plays like a low budget Italian TV thriller.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

DVD Review: Sweet Teen

Sweet Teen (aka L’adolescente)

Italy 1976
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Writers: Alfonso Brescia (writer), Aldo Crudo (screenplay & story), Piero Regnoli (writer)
Starring: Tuccio Musumeci, Daniela Giordano, Sonia Viviani, Raffaele Sparanero, Malisa Longo, Dagmar Lassander DVD Released: April 27th 2010
Cert: NR
Running Time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Full Frame NTSC
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo Italian
Subtitles: English
Distributor: Mya Communication
Region: 0 NTSC

The Film

Welcome to scenic Sicily in the politically incorrect mid-1970s. Hapless little weasel Vito Gnaula (Tuccio Musumeci) has made the big move down from Northern Italy and spends his days sitting around al fresco with his best buds ogling the passing totty over an espresso and a well trimmed pencil moustache. When he spots the gorgeous Grazia Serritella (Daniela Giordano) wiggling her way through the market the middle-aged horndog is smitten and heads off in pursuit. Turns out she works at her father's pharmacy and is heiress to her grandfather's fortune (and company), which will be legally hers when she finally gets married. Trouble is she's a bit of a puritan so Vito has to make do with getting a sly peek at her knickers by requesting the medicine bottle from the top shelf and sending her up the ladder to fetch. Not one to give up so easily however, Vito throws himself into courting Grazia and his efforts eventually pay off somewhat with a furtive if violently frustrating sexual encounter in a cheap hotel room that ends in a shotgun wedding.

Cut to one year later and Vito's suffering from a serious case of blueballs, his marriage hasn't yet been consummated. Grazia however is fully satisfied as she's sneaking off to meet her secret lover Antonio. It seems she only married poor Vito so she could get her hands on the inheritance. But let's not cry too hard for Vito seeing as he's now living in luxury, director of a big company and has a red-headed secretary called Katia (Dagmar Lassander) who just can't get enough of the diminutive ferret, although she is a bit high maintenance to the extent that Vito's now ducking her calls and heading off for a break in the countryside. But with the introduction of his wife's niece, 19 year old Serenella (Sonia Viviani, the titular Sweet Teen) he's soon walking funny again as she parades around his house in her skimpies playing with her pussy - that's a wee kitten you dirty minded perverts! Will Uncle Vito succumb to temptation? Will he ever discover Grazia's infidelity? Will there be a Carry On style bedroom swapping runaround that ends in two naked men sharing a bed? You'll just have to watch it and see won't you!

These are low-end Italian sex farce shenanigans. Minimal budget, maximum sleaze. Not all that different from the UK output of the same period - think Confessions Of A Window Cleaner and the like. Tuccio Musumeci comes across like a human cartoon character with his excessive gurning, eye-popping and rapidly bobbing adam's apple. That's not to say it doesn't have it's funny moments though - for example Malisa Longo's all too brief appearance as a rug munching nutjob sex therapist is great but unfortunately these moments are few and far between. The interim made up of copious amounts of bare flesh may assuage your funny bone to some extent but if it doesn't stiffen your other bone then you're probably in for a long night here.

The Disc:

1.33:1 Full frame transfer looks a bit dodgy with faces sometimes being halved off screen suggesting that it really should be a slightly wider ratio. Image is a little fuzzy due to this obviously being a VHS based transfer, colours are fine if a little muted. Audio is Italian (there is quite a bit of background noise throughout) with optional English subtitles (there are quite a few little errors in the track). Bit of a disappointing presentation really.

There are better Italian sex comedies of this period but then if you're a fan you've probably seen them all, if not best start with them and leave this one for later!

Review by Giuseppe Rijitano