søndag 14. november 2010

Grand Hotel gallery #4: Ingrid Schoeller

Finally! The Grand Hotel gallery returns - this time with an autographed photo of sexy German starlet Ingrid Schoeller. It was originally printed in Grand Hotel issue No. 1046 (published July 9, 1966).

A considerable star in her time, Ingrid Schoeller is one of all too many 1960s starlets who have since faded into obscurity. I haven't been able to find out too much about Ingrid's background, other than the fact that she was born in Munich in 1942. At some point she went to Italy to persue a career in acting, and she started appearing in films in the early 1960s. She made her debut with a supporting role in Duccio Tessari's adventure film The Titans (1962), and went on to appear in several comedies, including Lucio Fulci's spy spoof 002 - Those Most Secret Agents (1964), in which she appears alongside the legendary Italian comedic duo of Franco and Ciccio.

Ingrid's big breakthrough came in late 1964 - thanks to a stint on the TV show Napoli contro tutti (translation: Naples Against Everybody), a hugely successful music show in which a group of Neapolitan singers challenge famous singers from various world capitals. Originally, Elke Sommer was set to appear in an episode as both emcee and musical competitor but she fell ill at the last minute and had to be replaced. Her replacement was none other than Ingrid Schoeller, who stepped in on very short notice and really won over Italian television audiences with her charming personality and impressive singing. After this performance, everybody wanted a piece of Ingrid. She was quickly signed with Italian record company Durium and would go on to release several singles, such as "Ieri, domani", "Se passerai di qui" and "Se cerchi amore". Ingrid was also photographed for the "Girls of Germany" spread in the November 1964 issue of Playboy, and the following month she was chosen to guest star in an episode of the highly popular British spy series The Saint, starring Roger Moore.

With this newfound stardom, Ingrid's cinematic career blossomed and she was given the starring role in Umberto Lenzi's excellent Euro Spy adventure 008: Operation Exterminate (1965), in which Ingrid plays Agent 008, a sort of female James Bond. The film is notable for being the first to portray a female variant of James Bond and is a real starring vehicle for Ingrid, who not only plays the lead but also gets to perform the song "Good Bye to Cairo", which she co-wrote with the film's composer, Angelo Francesco Lavagnino.

Ingrid's popularity continued throughout the rest of the 1960s and her face graced the covers of countless magazines as she kept herself busy with singing, appearing in films and on television. She proved herself a versatile actress and managed to avoided being typecast as she swithced between playing sympathetic and unsympathetic characters - in both leading and supporting capacity. It's also impressive that she nearly always appeared in different kinds of genres: the comedy Ischia Love Operation (1966), the spaghetti western Son of Django (1967), the caper movie Mission Phantom (1967), the costume adventure The Son of the Black Eagle (1968), the gangster movie They Paid with Bullets (1969) etc.

Unfortunately, Ingrid's film career came to a very sudden end in 1969, and I have not been able to come up with any information about what became of her. According to reports in Variety magazine, she was supposed to appear in Demofilo Fidani's crime flick The Electric Chair (1969) but she dropped out of the project for reasons unknown. While Ingrid's cinematic career ended in 1969, it is very possible that her singing career continued into the 1970s. If anyone has any more concrete information about what happened to Ingrid, I'd love to hear it.

And, finally, here are some pictures to remember the beautiful and talented Ingrid by:

A funny picture of Ingrid and legendary comedian Franco Franchi

Ingrid as a female James Bond in 008: Operation Exterminate

Another gorgeous shot from 008: Operation Exterminate

Ingrid together with a very young Edwige Fenech in the enjoyable adventure movie The Son of the Black Eagle

søndag 24. oktober 2010

School of Fear/Il gioko

Italy, 1989

Directed by Lamberto Bava

Alessandra Acciai, Jean Hebert, Daria Nicolodi, Viola Simoncioni, Stefano De Sando, Fabio Iellini, Morena Turchi, Giuseppe Pianviti

In 1987, when the Italian horror movie industry was dying a slow death, director Lamberto Bava struck a deal with production company Reteitalia to produce a quartet of horror movies for Italian television. The four movies were: Graveyard Disturbance (1987), Until Death (1987), Dinner With a Vampire (1988) and The Ogre (1988), and the package went under the series title Brivido Giallo. Although most of these films are fairly toothless "kiddie horror" efforts aimed at younger audiences, they nevertheless did very well in Italy and were also successfully distributed in English-speaking territories. In fact, the whole project was so successful for Reteitalia that in 1989, Bava was assigned the task of directing another quartet of TV horror movies – this time under the series title Alta Tensione (or High Tension in English). The four movies in this package are: The Prince of Terror, The Man Who Didn’t Want to Die, Eyewitness and School of Fear. Interestingly, this second quartet of tele-thrillers is quite different from the first. One of the more noticeable characteristics of the High Tension films is that unlike their predecessors they seem to have been aimed at a more mature audience – and this is particularly true of School of Fear.

The plot takes place at the renowned Giacomo Stuz private school, and begins with a creepy scene set during a stormy night with heavy rain and lightning. A terrified young girl is lurking through the dark basement of the school – looking for a way out. She tries climbing her way out through a shaft but her escape is blocked by a solid iron grid and her desperate cries for help are drowned by the pouring rain and crashing lightning.

A chilling opening sequence

Cut to sometime later when the beautiful, young schoolteacher Diana Berti (Alessandra Acciai) arrives at the Giacomo Stuz school for her first day of teaching. Unfortunately, Diana gets a rougher time than expected at the school: she is frightened by the hostile caretaker’s deformed son, who lurks around and spies from shadowy corners, and gets reprimanded by the headmistress (Daria Nicolodi), who disapproves of Diana’s mini-skirt and advises her to dress more conservatively.

Diana arrives at the school of fear...

...and meets the schoolchildren

It also turns out that the schoolchildren are playing a mysterious “game” that they keep hidden from the adults. Diana soon starts to get concerned about this secretive game – especially when she reads an essay in which one of the schoolgirls, Roberta (Viola Simoncioni), writes about being afraid of the game. The essay was written to the children’s previous teacher, a certain Mrs. Curiel, and Diana decides to have a little chat with her. But when she asks about how to reach her predecessor, the headmistress reluctantly tells Diana that Mrs. Curiel is dead. In fact, she died rather mysteriously one night at the school when she apparently fell out the classroom window and was impaled on the spiked iron gate below. What she was doing at the school in the middle of the night and how she managed to fall remains a mystery. And this isn’t the only dark cloud from the school’s past – there’s also the matter of one of the schoolgirls who was kidnapped and never recovered. “Naturally, it had nothing to do with our school”, the headmistress is awfully quick to point out.

A strange essay upsets Diana

The headmistress tries to put Diana's worries to rest

Things become even more sinister when Diana turns on the TV and sees herself on the screen getting killed – impaled on the school’s iron gate just like poor Mrs. Curiel! The next day at school, a student named Anna (Morena Turchi) is inexplicably missing. Everyone seems to assume she has gone on holiday with her parents, and no one except Diana finds it strange that the school hasn’t been notified about this. Diana is convinced that the children and their mysterious “game” are responsible for the death of Mrs. Curiel and the disappearance of Anna, and she fears that she might be next on their list. But neither the headmistress nor Diana’s new love interest, Mark Anselmi (Jean Hebert) – who is conveniently a police inspector – seem to believe in her suspicions...

Diana starts to get paranoid

With School of Fear, Lamberto Bava has come up with an odd little chiller that goes for a different approach than expected. The opening sequence where a frightened young girl tries to escape from the school effectively establishes a chilling atmosphere, and the subsequent introduction of Daria Nicolodi as the headmistress who suspiciously avoids all talk of mysterious deaths and kidnappings raises expectations of a Suspiria-style plot with villainous teachers bumping off unfortunate students. But in a very welcome twist, famed horror movie screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti and co-writers Roberto Gandus and Giorgio Stegani skew our expectations and head in a completely different direction – making the young schoolchildren the villains of the piece. Fortunately, the writers avoid drawing upon the bland Children of the Corn (1984) for inspiration, and instead approach the subject matter as a psychological thriller in the spirit of Polanski’s excellent The Tenant (1976). The viewers are never completely sure about whether or not Diana’s suspicions towards the children are actually justified, and this is one of the film’s greatest strengths.

Luckily, Lamberto Bava compliments the script’s maturity and directs with surprising restraint – dropping the expected bloodshed and instead focusing his efforts on the psychological thrills and chills. That’s not to say that School of Fear doesn’t have its share of more classic horror moments, though, because it certainly does. The opening sequence with the frightened young girl is particularly creepy and very atmospherically shot, and various scenes of Diana exploring the large and seemingly empty school building are quite well-handled too. Not to mention the freaky flashbacks to Diana’s childhood trauma, which are definitely memorable. Gianfranco Transunto (who shot most of Bava’s TV movies) delivers some very stylish cinematography and he photographs the large, old and sinister-looking school to eerie effect. Aiding the visuals is a solid musical score by Simon Boswell, which is quite chilling and very fitting for the atmosphere of the film.

The sinister school building

Gianfranco Trasunto's stylish cinematography is a great asset to the film

The only really familiar face in the cast is horror legend Daria Nicolodi in the role of the conservative headmistress whose only concern is to maintain the good name and reputation of the school. While I wish that her role had been a tad more substantial, Nicolodi is an accomplished actress who is capable of delivering the goods in both big and small roles and she does not disappoint this time either. She’s very believable in the part and brings a touch of class and elegance to the proceedings. Leading lady Alessandra Acciai (who played a supporting role in Luigi Cozzi’s god-awful The Black Cat the same year) may not be the world’s most brilliant actress but she acquits herself well and is both sweet and likable. None of the other actors are given too much to do but they all deliver adequate work – including the child actors.

School of Fear is not without its flaws, however, as there are a couple of disruptive elements that don’t serve much purpose in the film, such as the deformed child of the school’s caretaker. The film is also quite generously paced – perhaps a tad too much at times. Normally I don’t have any problems with films that are deliberately slow-paced as long as the denouement it carefully builds up to pays off. Unfortunately, School of Fear fails to deliver a fully satisfactory pay-off, and this is without doubt its most serious flaw. It’s not that the ending is downright terrible, mind you; but it does fall somewhat short of delivering the necessary punch that the film has slowly been building towards for 90 minutes – especially on the first viewing.

The deformed child

In short, School of Fear isn’t entirely successful but it’s an interesting little psychological thriller with some inspired ideas. It’s not a film for everyone’s taste and if you’re looking for another A Blade in the Dark (1983) or Demons (1985), you might be disappointed. But if, on the other hand, you are among those who consider Macabre (1980) to be one of Bava’s better films, you might want to give this one a chance as you may very well come to like it.

A note about the availability of the High Tension films

Unfortunately, School of Fear (as well as the other three films in the High Tension series) is fairly tricky to get hold of. Whereas Bava’s first quartet of TV horror movies were very successful and sold well abroad, the High Tension movies did not fare as well. None of them were given TV screenings in Italy until in 1999 – ten years after they were first made. All four of them were dubbed into English but failed to attract buyers and have not received any sort of English-friendly release on either VHS or DVD. English-dubbed screener tapes with a non-removable ‘Not for commercial use’ text at the bottom of the screen were sent to potential buyers, though, and poor-quality bootlegs of these tapes are doing the rounds among collectors. This is not a very ideal way to watch the films, though.

As you can see from this random screenshot, the screener version ain't too hot-looking

Recordings from Italian television broadcasts are also out there and they look a lot nicer but, alas, they’re in Italian only. Let’s hope someone decides to put out an English-friendly High Tension box-set someday. In the meantime, I have made due with watching a rip of an Italian TV broadcast with the soundtrack from the English screener tape. It worked well enough for my needs.

© 2010 Johan Melle

The cast:

Alessandra Acciai as Diana Berti

Jean Hebert as Inspector Mark Anselmi

Daria Nicolodi as The Headmistress

Viola Simoncioni as Roberta Sassi

Stefano De Sando as Mauro Lamberti, the Headmistress's assistant

??? as Giorgio Musy

Morena Turchi as Anna Giusti

??? as Claudia Testi

??? as Alberto, the caretaker

Thanks to my friend Emiliano for helping to identify Viola Simoncioni and Morena Turchi.

søndag 26. september 2010

Grand Hotel gallery #3: Leonora Ruffo

The above autographed photo of actress Leonora Ruffo was originally printed in Grand Hotel issue No. 1101 (published July 29, 1967).

The strikingly beautiful Leonora Ruffo was born in Rome on January 13, 1935 as Bruna Bovi, and would go on to enjoy a very successful film career in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Leonora was only 16 years old when she began her acting career in 1951. She first started out appearing in fotoromanzi (photo-novels) under the Swedish-sounding pseudonym Ingrid Swenson, and experienced notable success with her leading role in the photo-novel Il giardino di Allah (published in the magazine Cine Illustrato), which was a photo-novel-remake of the Hollywood film The Garden of Allah (1936) with Marlene Dietrich. Soon afterwards, Leonora was discovered by peplum and adventure movie specialist Pietro Francisci (best known as the director of the original Hercules), who cast her in the female lead in his adventure film Wonderful Adventures of Guerrin Mescino (1951). Impressed by her performance, Francisci awarded Leonora the title role his the next film, the Biblical costume spectacle The Queen of Sheba (1952).

Throughout the rest of the 1950s, Leonora Ruffo's career blossomed and she worked with some of Italy's most important directors - appearing for Federico Fellini in I vitelloni (1953), and for Dino Risi in The Widower (1959). But she also appeared in genre cinema, and during the early 1960s, Leonora was the leading lady in three excellent sword and sandal adventures: Vittorio Cottafavi's Goliath and the Dragon (1960), Sergio Corbucci's Goliath and the Vampires (1961) and Mario Bava's Hercules at the Center of the Earth (1961).

But after 1961, Leonora Ruffo abruptly stopped making movies. She did not retire completely, however, as she continued to play occasional leading roles in photo-novels published in Grand Hotel. This part of her career appears to be completely forgotten today, even though several of the photo-novels she starred in are quite interesting. Most notably, she played historical figures such as Catherine the Great in La grande Caterina (published in Grand Hotel during 1964) and Queen Christina of Sweden in La regina Cristina (published from 1965 to 1966 in Grand Hotel).

After a five year break from cinema, Leonora's old friend Pietro Francisci helped her make a comeback by casting her in his cheesy science fiction film Star Pilot (1966). Leonora plays the starring role of a wicked alien woman and she does a superb job - managing to really make this weird space opera enjoyable to watch. But, sadly, her comeback was to be short-lived. Her next film, the spaghetti western Tequila Joe (1968), would offer Leonora the last substantial role of her career. After that she made one final film appearance - an uncredited cameo in Fernando Di Leo's erotic drama Burn, Boy, Burn! (1969). Leonora then abandoned the limelight for good, and was not written about in media again until her death on May 28, 2007 - at the age of 72.

I've always thought it was a great shame that Leonora chose to retire so prematurely, because she was a very good actress and a radiant beauty whose eyes were absolutely mesmerizing. One wonders what direction her career had taken had she stuck around during the 1970s...

Anyway, here are a few pictures to remember the lovely Leonora Ruffo by:

Leonora together with Broderick Crawford in the highly enjoyable Goliath and the Dragon

Leonora in the role of Catherine the Great in the photo-novel La grande Caterina

Leonora in top form as an alien villainess in Star Pilot

Leonora - still at the hight of her beauty - in Tequila Joe

søndag 19. september 2010

Grand Hotel gallery #2: Robert Hundar

The above autographed photo of actor Robert Hundar was originally printed in Grand Hotel issue No. 1030 (published March 19, 1966).

Italian actor Robert Hundar was born in Sicily on January 12, 1935 as Claudio Undari, and is fondly remembered as one of Italian cinema's most memorable bad guy actors of the 1960s and 70s.

Claudio Undari made his film debut with a supporting role as an evil centaur in the peplum adventure Goliath and the Dragon (1960) starring American muscleman Mark Forest as Goliath. Soon afterwards, Undari changed his name to the more American-sounding Robert Hundar, and stuck to this pseudonym for most of his long-running career.

The genre with which Hundar is most closely identified is no doubt the western. He got his first leading role in Antonio Del Amo's fairly obscure western Son of Jesse James (1965), and would go on to star in three further westerns: Maurizio Pradeaux's Ramon the Mexican (1966), Joaquin Romero Marchent's 100.000 Dollars for Lassiter (1966) and Tulio Demicheli's Dakota Joe (1967) - playing the title characters in each of them.

But it was first and foremost as a villain that the tall and menacing-looking Hundar would make lasting impact in the spaghetti western genre - appearing in such memorable efforts as Gianfranco Parolini's Sabata (1969), Mario Caiano's The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe (1972), Joaquin Romero Marchent's Cut Throats Nine (1972), Joe D'Amato's Cormack of the Mounties (1975) and Michele Lupo's California (1977). As the western fad gradually died out, Hundar switched to playing bad guys in other genres - popping up in crime/police thrillers such as Free Hand for a Tough Cop (1976) and The Cynic, the Rat & and the Fist (1977), both directed by Umberto Lenzi, and in two of Alfonso Brescia's wacky but enjoyable space operas: Star Odyssey and The Beast in Space (both 1978).

After 1980, Robert Hundar's career slowed down and he only made sporadic film appearances - his final role being a supporting part in the drama Ponte Milvio (2000). He died in Rome on May 12th, 2008, at age 73.

To round off, here are a few screenshots to demonstrate the many different roles played by this excellent actor:

Hundar in the ultra-violent western Cut Throats Nine

Another bad guy role in Umberto Lenzi's awesome The Cynic, the Rat & the Fist

Hundar in alien make-up in the hilarious low-budget space opera Star Odyssey

Naturally, a new installment in the Grand Hotel gallery will follow next week!

Evil Eye/Malocchio

Italy/Spain/Mexico, 1975

Directed by Mario Siciliano

Jorge Rivero, Pilar Velazquez, Anthony Steffen, Richard Conte, Maria Pia Giancaro, Eduardo Fajardo, Luis La Torre, Lone Fleming, Daniela Giordano, Luciano Pigozzi, Terele Pavez, Eva Vanicek, Flora Marrone

I’ve previously covered the fluffy porno comedy My Swedish Aunt (1980), directed by former western and war movie specialist Mario Siciliano (1925-1987). Siciliano is not someone who is typically associated with horror movies but he did take two stabs at the genre. One was the genuinely bizarre porno-horror flick Orgasmo esotico (1982) but his first attempt was the stylish and supernaturally themed Evil Eye.

Evil Eye is about Peter Crane (Jorge Rivero), a hunky American millionaire playboy living in Rome. Peter is suffering from bizarre and unsettling nightmares, in which creepy, naked Satanists are compelling him to do bad things. Soon, things take a stranger turn when Peter’s girlfriend Tanya (Maria Pia Giancaro) drags him along to a fashion show, where he meets an attractive French widow named Yvonne (Lone Fleming). On hearing the name Peter Crane, Yvonne is visibly startled, and she reveals to Peter that she has had a strange dream in which her late husband appeared before her and told her she would be murdered by a man named – you guessed it – Peter Crane. At first, Peter suspects the whole thing of being a practical joke orchestrated by his party-loving pal Robert (Luis La Torre) but it quickly transpires that Yvonne is being completely serious. Intrigued and attracted, Peter ends up bringing Yvonne back to his big villa for some hanky panky.

Peter encounters the mysterious Yvonne

However, they don’t get very far before Peter is suddenly struck with an intense headache. A powerful storm sets in and blows the windows open, a sculpture starts to inexplicably move, a painting falls down and shatters a floral vase, and Peter’s eyes turn dark and sinister as he appears to go into some kind of trance. He menacingly approaches Yvonne and starts to strangle her...
Cut to a confused Peter waking up the next morning. Yvonne is gone and everything is back in order. The painting that fell down is back up on the wall, and the no-longer-shattered flower vase is back in its place. It’s as if none of the events from last night ever took place. Was it all just a bad dream?

Peter murders Yvonne. Or does he...?

Unable to distinguish nightmares from reality, a concerned Peter contacts psychiatrist Dr. Stone (Richard Conte), an old friend of his father, and confides his concerns to Stone and his sexy colleague Dr. Sarah Turner (Pilar Velazquez). But while Peter is talking to the shrinks, Yvonne’s bloody corpse is fished out of the water. A seasoned police inspector (Anthony Steffen) is assigned the case and starts snooping around.

Peter's shrinks

Yvonne is discovered dead

In the meantime, Peter is being subjected to all kinds of strange tests at Dr. Stone’s clinic, and it doesn’t take long for the sexy Dr. Sarah to lose sight off all professionalism and jump into bed with the hunky Peter. Which might not be such a great idea, because Peter continues to have disturbing nightmares. He also continues to get headaches, attack people and then black out – only to have the people he attacked show up dead shortly afterwards. Is Peter a deranged killer? Or is someone or something taking control over his mind and using him as a killing machine? Or is someone else doing all the killing?

This strange potpourri of giallo and supernatural horror is a real head-scratcher. It’s not the first giallo to employ supernatural elements, of course, as this had already been tried and tested by Emilio G. Miraglia in both The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972), as well as in Armando Crispino’s The Etruscan Kills Again (1972), but in all these examples a naturalistic force is revealed to be at work. As such, Evil Eye is – along with Giuseppe Bennato’s underrated The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (1974) – one of the very few gialli to uphold its supernatural angle throughout the entire running time. And that’s a fresh spin that actually works – at least for a while.

In one of the film’s most intriguing plot twists, it’s implied that all of the victims may at one time have gotten away with murder, and that the people they murdered are now channeling Peter from beyond the grave – taking control of his mind and using him as a vessel to exact vengeance on their murderers. Unfortunately, this plot point is rather clumsily handled and is never fully elaborated on, which is a great shame.

The revenge of the dead?

Sadly, the squandering of the above plot point is just one out of many serious flaws the script is saddled with. Several plot elements are never explained and the narrative is often fairly confusing – resulting in a viewing experience that is at times incoherent and frustrating. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of ambiguity if that is the intention but I have a lingering suspicion that the indecipherable nature of the plot is a result of sloppy and careless screenwriting rather than artistic ambitions. To be fair, neither writer-director Mario Siciliano nor Spanish co-writers Julio Buchs and Federico De Urrutia had any prior experience working within the horror or thriller format, so one should perhaps not judge them too harshly. That’s easier said than done, however, since they foolishly chose to cap the whole thing off with a truly pathetic ending that completely undermines the rest of the film.

But in spite of these serious flaws, Evil Eye also offers a load of redeeming qualities. The film is very well-shot by Vicente Minaya, who in great 1970s tradition employs a lot of stylish shots and odd camera angles, as well as frequent use of Lucio Fulci-style close-ups of the actors’ eyes. Even better is the marvelous Stelvio Cipriani score, which is both catchy and eerie – channeling just the right mood for a supernatural chiller and lending a lot of atmosphere to the proceedings. And Mario Siciliano proves that he has a certain eye for memorable horror movie imagery, with some of the stand-out moments including an opening black mass with a sinister red monk, Peter’s creepy nightmares featuring pale, naked Satanists, and a freakish scene where Eduardo Fajardo vomits up a toad. Plus the kitschy décor, Peter’s funky disco-style wardrobe, the obligatory product placement of J&B bottles, and the impressive roundup of sultry Euro-beauties certainly don’t hurt the proceedings either.

The red monk

Peter's freaky nightmares


Being a co-production between Italy, Spain and Mexico, the film boasts a highly interesting assembly of actors. Mexican muscle hunk Jorge Rivero – whose interesting career includes everything from the Hollywood western Rio Lobo (1970) with John Wayne, to Lucio Fulci’s brainless sword and sorcery flick Conquest (1983) – is a slightly odd choice for the leading role of Peter but he makes a pretty convincing playboy and is quite quick to take his shirt off. Rivero looks really good here and he also does a good job of portraying the character’s bewildered confusion, although it’s hard to say whether or not this is due to great acting skills or because Rivero himself was downright confused by the screenplay.

Jorge Rivero freaking out - and looking like he's about to transform into the incredible Hulk

Richard Conte – best known from The Godfather (1972) – acts completely on autopilot as Peter’s psychiatrist. He no doubt signed on only to earn a quick paycheck but at least he doesn’t look as embarrassed here as he did in Cries and Shadows (1975). In the role of the police inspector, stone-faced Anthony Steffen is fairly inexpressive – just like he was in most of the spaghetti westerns he starred in. The great Eduardo Fajardo, however, puts in some real effort and is quite fun as Peter’s polite majordomo.

But the real stars of the show are the delectable female cast members, of which there are many. Spanish spitfire Pilar Velazquez looks absolutely ravishing as Peter’s seductive psychiatrist (she is perhaps too hot be convincing as a shrink but never mind), Maria Pia Giancaro drops her clothes at frequent intervals, and the elegant Lone Fleming (best known as the heroine in the Spanish horror classic Tombs of the Blind Dead) really makes the most of her limited part as the mysterious Yvonne. Only Daniela Giordano (who is almost unrecognizable in an unflattering, short wig) seems wasted in a small role as a woman who insists she has met Peter before. Another interesting actress in the cast is Spanish actress Terele Pavez, who plays the wife of Eduardo Fajardo’s character. Two decades later, Pavez would became a favorite of Spanish cult director Alex de la Iglesia, who cast her in several of his films – including the much celebrated horror film The Day of the Beast (1995).

There's certainly no shortage of babes trying to use their charm on Mr. Rivero

Dubbing fans may want to take note of the fact that dubbing hero Ted Rusoff (whose voice will be familiar to most fans of Italian genre cinema) was in charge of translating and dubbing the film’s dialogue into English, and he also receives an onscreen credit for “additional dialogue”. Rusoff also performs the task of dubbing Jorge Rivero, and, as expected, his real-life wife Carolynn De Fonseca is also onboard – lending her breathy, feminine voice to the sexy Pilar Velazquez (a perfect match). You’ll probably also recognize most of the other dubbing voices (which include Edmund Purdom, Edward Mannix, Christopher Cruise and Silvia Faver), and that may be a good or a bad thing – depending on your point of view. Personally, I've grown very fond of the familiar English dubbing voices that recur in all these great films, and their amazing voice acting is an integral part of this whole 'Euro cult' experience.

Bottom line: There’s some really good stuff and great actors in Evil Eye but, unfortunately, the film isn’t as good as it could have been. Had the script been stronger and more emphasis been put on the plot point about Peter being used as a vessel for revenge by the dead, then it could have been a real winner. As it is, Evil Eye only gets a partial recommendation but it can still be a lot of fun if you're in the right frame of mind.

© 2010 Johan Melle

The cast:

Jorge Rivero as Peter Crane

Pilar Velazquez as Dr. Sarah Turner

Anthony Steffen as The Police Inspector

Richard Conte as Dr. Stone

Maria Pia Giancaro as Tanya

Eduardo Fajardo as Walter, the majordomo

Luis La Torre as Robert Gifford

Lone Fleming as Yvonne Chevrel

Daniela Giordano as Elizabeth Stevens

Luciano Pigozzi as Derek Stevens

Terele Pavez as Walter's wife

??? as Martha, the inspector's wife

Eva Vanicek as Robert's girlfriend