søndag 11. desember 2011

Elizabeth Turner, actress and... FASHION MODEL!

Elizabeth Turner is without a doubt one of the most obscure and mysterious actresses to have appeared in Italian films. The above screenshot of Elizabeth is taken from Ruggero Deodato's erotic thriller Waves of Lust (1975), where she plays a very prominent role and has lots of steamy scenes together with the film's other three stars Silvia Dionisio, Al Cliver and John Steiner. Elizabeth played her only real leading role in Jean-Marie Pallardy's sexually explicit Truck Stop (1978), but she is probably best known for her substantial role as John Saxon's wife in Antonio Margheriti's gory horror hit Cannibal Apocalypse (1980), which also appears to be Elizabeth's final film.

Additionally, Elizabeth played supporting roles in a couple of other notable films, including the popular Exorcist rip-off Beyond the Door (1974), where she plays Juliet Mills' good friend, and Lucio Fulci's compelling giallo The Psychic (1977), where she has a small but memorable part at the start of the film - as Jennifer O'Neill's mother, who commits suicide by throwing herself off a cliff.

However, nothing is known about Elizabeth herself. Absolutely nothing! Based on her name and her looks, I'm assuming she's either British or American but that's it. I have never found any information about her background and nobody seems to know what became of her either.

The only thing I have been able to find out about Elizabeth is that she worked as a fashion model in the early 1970s. Indeed, I've been fortunate enough to lay my hands on some Italian magazines that feature some pretty cool fashion shoots with her. I'd bet modelling is what brought her to Italy in the first place, and then she was presumably discovered and put in movies.

Anyway, I've scanned a bunch of fashion photos of Elizabeth and thought I'd share them here. They are all quite cool but also slightly bizarre due to the inclusion of some rather absurd props.

First up is a shoot from 1971 where Elizabeth is posing in trench coats for photographer Franco Grillo. I have no idea what the deal with the steering wheels is, though!

Up next is another 1971 shoot, and once again photographed by Franco Grillo. Again, I don't get what the deal with the Christmas stars (at least I think that's what they are) is but I guess Grillo just likes to use weird props in his shoots.

Finally, we have a fashion shoot from 1972 where Elizabeth is posing in outfits that are labelled as "men's style with femininity" in the article text. Once again the photographer is Franco Grillo, which explains the appearance of lots of animal statues.

On a final note it is worth mentioning that in all of these fashion spreads, the model is credited simply as "Joan" - not as Elizabeth. Which raises the question of whether or not Elizabeth Turner actually is her real name. The mystery deepens...

Is there anyone out there who knows anything about Elizabeth Turner? If so then do come forward!

onsdag 30. november 2011

Grand Hotel gallery #6: Carroll Baker

This autographed photo of Carroll Baker was originally published Grand Hotel issue No. 1078 from February 18, 1967.

Hollywood actress and later giallo staple Carroll Baker should be quite a familiar face to fans of Italian genre cinema. She was born on May 28, 1931 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in the United States, and started her acting career in Hollywood in the early 1950s. Baker's breakthrough role was as the lead in Elia Kazan's controversial Baby Doll (1956), which earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress. Subsequently she appeared in a series of well-regarded Hollywood films including The Big Country (1958), How the West Was Won (1962), The Carpetbaggers (1964) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).

In 1965, Baker starred in the film Harlow (1965), a biographical film about the life of 1930s movie star Jean Harlow which ended up being a critical and commercial failure. After this, Baker had a falling out with her studio, Paramount Pictures, who apparently had her blacklisted. Unable to get work in Hollywood, Baker relocated to Europe - more precisely to Italy, where she enjoyed great success as a leading lady for more than 10 years.

Her first big Italian hit was Romolo Guerrieri's classic giallo The Sweet Body of Deborah (1968), in which she starred alongside French hearttrob Jean Sorel. This highly successful film spawned several imitations and was considered somewhat of a succès de scandale due to several explicit (for its time) sex scenes between Baker and Sorel.

Carroll Baker and Jean Sorel as a very affectionate, newly wed couple in The Sweet Body of Deborah

The shower scene between Baker and Sorel in The Sweet Body of Deborah was considered very risqué at the time and Playboy magazine ran a pictorial with stills from the scene

After the great success with Deborah, Carroll Baker found herself being cast in a string of similarly twistful and sexy gialli - most notably four gialli directed by the great Umberto Lenzi: Paranoia (1969), So Sweet, So Perverse (1969), A Quiet Place to Kill (1970) and Knife of Ice (1972). But she also appeared in other gialli, including Osvaldo Civirani's The Devil With Seven Faces (1971), Eugenio Martin's The Fourth Victim (1971) and Gianfranco Piccioli's The Flower with the Deadly Sting (1973). Baker also dabbled in other genres - appearing the western Captain Apache (1971), the artsy horror film Baba Yaga (1973), and sex dramas such as The Body (1974), The Private Lesson (1975) and My Father's Wife (1976).

Umberto Lenzi's excellent giallo A Quiet Place to Kill reunited Baker with Jean Sorel, her co-star from The Sweet Body of Deborah

Carroll Baker together with giallo favorite George Hilton in The Devil with Seven Faces

Carroll in peril in Umberto Lenzi's classy giallo Knife of Ice

Carroll Baker eventually returned to America in the late 1970s and resumed her Hollywood career. Most of Baker's so-called serious fans tend to harshly dismiss her European films as "euro trash" but that just goes to show how clueless they are. Personally, I love the wonderful films Carroll Baker made in Italy - specially the gialli. They are a lot better than they are given credit for and will always have a special place in my heart.

torsdag 9. juni 2011

Orgasmo esotico

Italy, 1982

Directed by Mario Siciliano

Sonia Bennett, Marina Lotar [Marina Frajese], Mimì Losy [Fernando Arcangeli], Guia Lauri Filzi, Joe Mignano [Paolo Gramignano], Sabrina Mastrolorenzi, Michel Curiè [Giuseppe Curia], Luigi Tripodi, Sandy Samuel, Peter Brown [Bruno Romagnoli], Alfonso Gaita

We all have a lot to be thankful to Lucio Fulci’s landmark horror movie Zombie (1979) for. It was such a huge international hit that it immediately led to a real boom for gory Italian horror movies. Many of these were zombie movies of course but even the ones that weren’t still owe a lot to Zombie because it was the huge success of Fulci’s film that made Italian producers cough up the cash that made it possible for all these great films to be made. But if there’s ever an undeniable sign of a film’s big commercial success then it is no doubt the appearance of a porn movie that references the film’s title. You know, titles like Edward Penishands, Good Will Humping, Saving Ryan’s Privates etc. Mario Siciliano’s Orgasmo esotico obviously isn’t a pun on the title of Zombie, nor is it really any sort of parody of Fulci’s film. But I am nevertheless confident that without the enormous success of Zombie, this bizarre zombie-porn oddity would never have been made.

Through the years I have seen a lot of strange films but I must say that I don’t think I have ever seen anything as crazy as Orgasmo esotico. This film is demented to the point where I don’t even know how to properly review it, so rather than writing a regular review, this will be more of a long plot summary accompanied by some reactions and comments along the way. I think that is the best way to do it as a summation of the deranged plotline is going to say a lot more than what any sort of traditional critique can ever hope to.

It's a dark, stormy night. A horny housewife named Marina (Marina Frajese) is at home in her big villa and getting it on with her husband (Paolo Gramignano) by the fireplace. They go about doing their naughty business to the strains of some C.A.M. library music but they’ve barely finished up before Marina discovers that a sinister-looking black woman (Sonia Bennett) is standing outside the window looking in.

Love by the fireplace

Scary lady in the window

Now, a voyeur usually isn’t seen as something bad in a porn movie but the filmmakers make sure we know this is dangerous stuff by firing up the frenetic main theme from Joe D’Amato’s gory horror film Absurd (1981) – as well as having Marina act all hysterical. Paolo hurries out to investigate but just as he opens the door, Sonia plunges at him and stabs him to death with a knife. She quickly enters the villa and attacks a hysterical Marina, who tries to escape but faints from the horror of it all when she discovers Paolo's corpse in the doorway.

Sonia goes after Marina

Sonia drags the unconscious Marina into the bedroom and puts her on the bed. Out of the blue, Sonia's very feminine and obviously homosexual assistant (Fernando Arcangeli) appears and they inject Marina with a syringe to wake her up again. Apparently, the injection has also removed Marina's fright and made her horny, and she quickly gets into some lesbian action with Sonia, as the recycled suspense score from Absurd finally disappears to give way to some dreadful porn muzak.

Marina gets a syringe...

...and suddenly she's very... hmm... playful

For whatever strange reason, Fernando wants in on the fun so he strips and tries to jerk off but seriously struggles to get an erection from watching the two women. Well, duh! He finally succeeds (more or less anyway) and joins in – getting a blowjob from Marina while Sonia fingers his ass. Yikes! This scene was seriously awkward and nasty. No doubt Fernando’s erection problem will have rubbed off on anyone unfortunate enough to be watching.

Fernando decides to join in. Just be grateful I didn't include any more graphic screenshots

Cut to the next day, when Sonia and Marina dispose of Paolo's body by dumping it into an old well on the estate. Both women cackle and laugh when the body plunges to the bottom.

Sonia and Marina dispose of Paolo's body and cackle like a pair of crazy hens

Sonia then takes Marina with her to the home of a doctor-friend (Alfonso Gaita), and the two women engage in some threesome action with him. As soon as the women’s needs have been satisfied, though, they murder the doc by shooting him. They then wrap his corpse in a hideous-looking blanket, drag it outside and cover it (very half-heartedly) with some hey.

Some fun at the doc's place

Your services are no longer needed, doctor

Later back at the villa, Marina has fun watching Fernando dance around to awful disco music but then all of a sudden her dead husband Paolo reappears as a zombie! The so-called zombie make-up on Paolo is beyond amateurish and basically consists of some green and purple face paint but Marina nevertheless flips out with fright.

The night Paolo came out of the grave (or, actually, the well)

Apparently, Marina’s reaction angers Sonia and Fernando, who decide to punish her. They tie up Marina on the kitchen table and Sonia tortures her by burning her with a lit cigarette. Fernando then whips out a dildo and rams into Marina’s nether regions, while Sonia forces another dildo down Marina's throat. Okay, what the hell kinda movie is this!? It just keeps getting more and more psycho!

Dildo torture!

Anyway, the insane and totally unpredictable plot continues as we suddenly jump ahead to the evening. A couple (Bruno Romagnoli and Guia Lauri Filzi) who are friends of Marina arrive to visit her and are surprised to find that no one is at home. However, they are not about to let the opportunity of having some naughty fun in an empty house pass them by, so they quickly rip off their clothes and treat us to yet another coarsely executed sex scene. When Bruno and Guia have finally finished, they are scared shitless by the sight of a ghoulish Marina in freaky punk make-up standing outside the window.

Marina in punk... erm, sorry... zombie make-up

Guia freaks out

I guess this means that Marina too is a zombie now, although we never actually got to see what Sonia and Fernando did to her. In any case, Sonia suddenly appears and apparently uses magic powers to gain control over Guia and Bruno’s minds. At least I think that’s what she does – it’s not as if anything is actually explained in this flick.

Anyway, the plot makes a big jump to the next day, where we see that Guia and Bruno are now completely mind-controlled by Sonia. They willingly participate in a threesome with her, which Fernando takes delight in spying on.

Sonia gets a new pair of best friends

Afterwards, Sonia and Guia play around cheerfully in the garden while Bruno sits on top of the well and watches them. Suddenly, Guia lunges at him and pushes him down into the well while Sonia grins in approval.

Up next, a woman named Sabrina (Sabrina Mastrolorenzi) shows up at Marina's villa for some sort of errand, along with her boyfriend Pino (Giuseppe "Pino" Curia). Pino waits at the outside gate while Sabrina enters the villa, where she is overpowered by Guia and Fernando. They hold Sabrina down and Sonia injects her with another one of her mysterious syringes to make her more cooperative. Soon, Sabrina willingly engages in a rather icky lesbian session with Sonia in the bedroom while some tedious music stolen from D’Amato’s Porno Holocaust (1981) plays. Sonia even dons a strap-on at one point. Meanwhile, Pino senses that something is wrong and comes looking for Sabrina but he is met by Guia, who brings him into the living room and distracts him by giving him a blowjob.

Sabrina and Sonia have fun...

...while the trusty Guia distracts Pino

Having finished with their lesbian lovemaking, Sonia and Sabrina then enter the living room, and Sabrina gets furious when she sees Pino getting blown by Guia. She furiously chases after him but after a few seconds of bickering, they have made up and cheerfully stroll away together. You gotta love how all problems have such simple solutions in porn movies!

Back at the villa, however, Guia isn’t feeling well. It looks as if Sonia's magical spell over her is wearing off and she begins to cry and bitch. As we’ve already seen, Sonia doesn’t take too kindly to this kind of behavior, so it’s a pretty safe bet that Guia isn’t going to stick around for much longer. And true enough – in another one of those big jumps between scenes we cut to Guia lying dead on the ground while Sonia is firing up the oven. A little later, what used to be Guia is served to Fernando as a big roast for him to eat!! Again I have to ask: what the hell kinda movie is this? Were they seriously attempting to turn people on with this stuff!?

A touch of cannibalism!

Later, at a different place, a sleeping blonde woman named Sandy (Sandy Samuel) is woken up by a phone call telling her to come to Marina's villa. Sandy does as instructed but upon her arrival she is shocked to discover Marina's corpse. She doesn't take it too hard, though, because a little later she and Fernando are seen dancing cheerfully to some cheesy disco music. I have absolutely no idea of why that happens but at this point I’ve long given up on trying to make any sort of sense from this mess.

Sandy discovers Marina's corpse...

...but you can't let such trivialities stop you from enjoying some bad disco music!

I should perhaps mention that Sandy Samuel was no stranger to disco at this point. In between doing porn she actually found the time to release a really bizarre S&M/disco vinyl called “I Like Sado-Music” in 1980! And thanks to the wonders of YouTube you can all enjoy this wonderful track here:

But back to the plot! The next thing to happen is that we are introduced to Sandy’s boyfriend (Luigi Tripodi). He’s clearly older than Sandy and not very fit-looking either but he does, however, have a really cool and massive moustache, so that earns him some points in my book.

Luigi's awesome porn moustache

Anyway, Luigi shows up at the villa to look for Sandy but instead he is met by a zombiefied Marina and by Sonia, who uses her magic powers to get Luigi to undress and let Zombie-Marina give him a blowjob. Sandy is watching the action from the sofa and gets excited so she whips out a dildo and starts pleasuring herself. Zombie-Marina continues to blow Luigi until he shoots his load all over her breasts, which greatly disappointed me. I mean, come on! What on earth is the point of throwing in a zombie blow job if it’s not going to end with the guy’s dick being gorily chomped off and eaten? Seriously lame!

Zombie blow job!!

Apparently, this is what women do when they become witnesses to zombie-sex

Sandy, Sonia and Luigi then retreat to the bedroom and participate in a threesome. After they've finished, Sandy leaves and Sonia takes out an axe and attempts to kill Luigi. However, Luigi is able to overpower her and pins her to the bed. Then we hear a knock on the door and suddenly Luigi has vanished. It turns out that the one knocking on the door is the no longer zombiefied Marina. Yup, that’s right! Just when you thought that the film couldn’t possibly get any lamer than it already is, a bewildered Sonia sits up and tells Marina that she’s just had the most terrible nightmare. Everything has just been a bad dream!! Uuughhh!

It was all just a dream!

The film still isn’t over, though. We now learn that in real life, Sonia is actually Marina and Paolo's maid. After getting into her maid's uniform, Sonia serves a drink to Paolo but he is very mean to her and calls her names. Oooh... Poor Sonia! No wonder she has to resort to dreaming about turning her employers into zombies. She runs sobbing into the kitchen, where she comforted by Fernando, who is also a servant to Marina and Paolo in real life it seems.

In the evening, Marina and Paolo are getting it on in the living room next to the fireplace – just like they did at the start of the film. You can probably guess where this is going, can’t you? And sure enough, after the lovemaking is done, Marina discovers a sinister-looking Sonia outside their window and freaks out. The End! The only thing missing here is an onscreen text reading “The nightmare becomes reality...?” à la Umberto Lenzi’s amazing Nightmare City (1980).

The nightmare becomes reality

Although Orgasmo esotico is frequently said to be a Joe D’Amato film, it was in fact directed by Mario Siciliano under his frequent porno pseudonym Lee Castle. One might be forgiven for mistaking this for a D'Amato film, though, since mixing zombie/horror elements together with hardcore porn is a practice more closely identified with D'Amato and his Caribbean-lensed pornos than with Mario Siciliano, whose previous pornos (such as My Swedish Aunt, 1980) fall into the category of more traditional smut. The D'Amato connection is further strengthened by the constant recycling of Carlo Maria Cordio’s frenetic score from D'Amato's gory horror hit Absurd as well as the brief inclusion of a track from Porno Holocaust - itself somewhat of a horror/porn hybrid.

Regardless of director, though, Orgasmo esotico is a terrible mess, and it’s hard to believe it was actually released in theaters. I can’t stop wondering what kind of audience Siciliano had in mind when he made this. Surely, the weird zombie stuff will put off most of the raincoat crowd, while the ugly bumping and grinding on display is unlikely to find much appreciation among horror movie fans. That only leaves fans of genuinely bizarre WTF-movies, and in this regard I suppose the film can be considered a success. Aside from the unforgivably lame cop-out ending, the film’s plotline is completely unpredictable and full of crazy ideas, so I will give it some due credit for its warped creativeness. I also got somewhat of a kick out of watching such hardcore favorites as Marina Frajese, Guia Lauri Filzi and Ferdinando Arcangeli acting completely crazy. Nevertheless, the film is still fairly repetitious, poorly put together and full of tedious and ugly hardcore activity.

All in all, Orgasmo esotico is an absolutely insane and woefully trashy film. It’s thoroughly incompetent and laughable but I must admit that it is truly one of the weirdest films I have ever seen, and that sort of makes it worth seeing. It’s definitely not easy on the eyes, though, so seek out this demented piece of celluloid at your own risk!

© 2011 Johan Melle

The cast:

Sonia Bennett as Sonia

Marina Frajese as Marina

Fernando Arcangeli as Sonia's assistant

Guia Lauri Filzi as Marina's friend

Paolo Gramignano as Marina's husband

Sabrina Mastrolorenzi as Sabrina

Giuseppe Curia as Pino

Sandy Samuel as Sandy

Luigi Tripodi as Sandy's boyfriend

Bruno Romagnoli as Marina's friend

Alfonso Gaita as The doctor