torsdag 28. februar 2013

Newspaper clippings of sexy Euro actresses

One of Italy's best known and most influential newspapers is La Stampa, published since 1867 and still going strong. The paper launched its own website in 1999 and they have since made their historical archives available - free of charge. So everyone with an inclination to do so can browse through scanned versions of old La Stampa issues dating all the way back to the beginning in 1867. So if you're interested in finding old pictures and articles about Italian actors, this is a nice place to start. Of course, La Stampa is a serious newspaper and primarily deals with "real" news, but there's usually a page or two dedicated to entertainment news, and in this section you can find pictures and interesting info about popular actors. The articles are usually not too long, though. In fact, there's often just a picture of an actress and a brief notice that she is currently starring in this or that film. These notices are nevertheless of great interest because they frequently announce films under different titles than the ones they were eventually released under, and also because they sometimes mention films which were apparently never finished or released. And it's also great because of the wonderful pictures. So if you have a lot of free time on your hands, you can have fun browsing through thousands upon thousands of pages of old La Stampa issues. And if you don't have the patience, you can find some pretty cool clippings of sexy Euro actress from 1971-73 issues right here:

"An orchid for Edwige" reads the headline for this notice from March 1972. The text informs us that Edwige Fenech is shooting the film Una strana orchidea - i.e. A Strange Orchid - togeher with Paola Quattrini and Annabella Incontrera. The title of this film would later be changed to Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer? and it was released in English as The Case of the Bloody Iris. It is strange to see that this earlier title makes reference to an orchid instead of an iris but it's possible that the flower was changed in order to avoid confusion with Umberto Lenzi's giallo Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, which was made around the same time.

This great picture of the lovely Evelyn Stewart was published in May 1972. According to the text, Evelyn is relaxing in her Roman home after shooting the thriller Uccidi tre volte - meaning Kill Three Times in English - which is close to being finished. No film by that title was ever released but Evelyn was appearing a lot of gialli around that time, so I am assuming that Uccidi tre volte was the shooting title for one of them.

This notice from August 1971 features the gorgeous Barbara Bouchet in a scene from a film titled Dove fa male? which translates to Where Does it Hurt? in English. I recognize the scene, however, and it is from the great giallo La tarantola dal ventre nero, a.k.a. The Black Belly of the Tarantula, which is a far more intriguing title.

Barbara Bouchet also features in this clipping from January 1973, which bears the headline "Accused of corruption". According to the text, she was accused of corrupting of a minor because of the infamous scene in Lucio Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling, in which a buck naked Barbara attempts to seduce an adolescent boy. Apparently, Barbara had to go before a tribunal, where she defended herself by saying that an adult man of very small stature was used for the scene. And I believe she was telling the truth. If you look at the scene you'll notice that the only time the boy is in the same shot as the naked Barbara is when he's seen from behind, so it does indeed appear as though he was doubled by a dwarf. I'm sure it was a very enjoyable day's work for the double!

According to the text, this photo published in May 1972 shows the beautiful actress Erika Blanc on holiday in Fregene but it's quite obviously a publicity shot, and a lovely one at that.

This notice from August 1971 announces that the beautiful Swedish actress Ewa Aulin is starring in the film La controfigura, released in English as The Double.

Ewa Aulin is also the subject of this notice from April 1972, which announces that she is playing the leading role in a giallo named Un uomo da uccidere (A Man to Kill if translated to English), directed by a certain Sala. Unfortunately, no such film appears to have been made. The director Sala is presumably either Vittorio Sala or Adimaro Sala but Ewa Aulin never made any films for any of them, so it appears that Un uomo da uccidere is an unmade or unfinished production.

We're still not quite done with Ewa Aulin, though. This clipping from April 1973 - marked as Eva vs. Ewa - features the sexy Eva Czemerys, and the text announces that she and Ewa Aulin are playing rivals in a romantic film with Mino Reitano. Although no title is mentioned, the film in question is Ferdinando Baldi's Una vita lunga un giorno, known in English as Long Lasting Days.

Up next is a notice from February 1972 featuring the irresistable Rosalba Neri. The brief text tells us that Rosalba is a young actress who loves thrillers, and that she is appearing in the giallo Il sorriso della jena. The title translates to The Smile of the Hyena but the film was released in English as Smile Before Death.

Striking, blonde German actress Solvi Stubing is the focus of this clipping from February 1972. According to the text, Solvi is in Bermuda to shoot a film labelled as a 'giallo-rosa', a termed used for describing crime films with a strong romantic content.

Swedish-born giallo queen Anita Strindberg strikes a pose in this picture published in May 1971. The short text informs us that this is Anita with a new bikini. Not what I'd call news worthy but a definitely a terrific excuse to print a revealing picture of the statuesque, blonde actress.

Here's another wonderful shot of Anita Strindberg - published in July 1972. It shows the actress on a beach in picturesque San Felice Circeo, where she is shooting a 'giallo-rosa'.

"A western for everyone" reads the headline to this notice from July 1972, featuring the stunning Marisa Mell in a scene from an Italian western. I'm not really into westerns so I'm not sure which film the picture is taken from but I'm assuming it's from Tutti fratelli nel west... per parte di padre, a.k.a. Lady Dynamite.

Here is a lovely shot of British actress Shirley Corrigan, printed in July 1972, and promoting her appearance in Sergio Pastore's giallo Sette scialli di seta gialla, which was released in English as The Crimes of the Black Cat.

A striking headshot of beautiful giallo regular Marina Malfatti (published in June 1972) announcing her participation in the giallo La dama rossa uccide 7 volte. The title translates to The Red Queen Kills Seven Times in English, and while it is often referred to by this title, the original English export title is actually The Lady in Red Kills Seven Times.

This clipping from June 1971 features an interesting photo of the gorgeous American actress Pamela Tiffin. According to the text, the picture shows Pamela in a scene from Luigi Bazzoni's film La giornata dell'Ariete - i.e. The Day of the Aries - which was released two months later under the slightly modified title Giornata nera per l'Ariete (i.e. Black Day for the Aries) and in English-speaking territories as The Fifth Cord. But, clearly, this is not an actual scene from the film but rather an on-set photo showing Pamela getting her hair fixed before shooting a scene.

This terrific photo of American actress Camille Keaton was published in November 1972. The text stresses Camille's relation to the legendary American comedian Buster Keaton, and announces that she is shooting the film Il gatto di Brooklyn, i.e. The Cat of Brooklyn.

Here we have a really nice picture of the wonderful Italian actress Anna Maria Pierangeli, known during her Hollywood years simply as Pier Angeli. "It's not too late" reads the headline of this notice from May 1971, which tells us that the actress - at age 38 - is about to embark on a new acting career. After being neglected and given poor roles in Italy, Anna Maria has received interesting offers from Hollywood, the text reveals. Knowing what was in store for Anna Maria undeniably makes it rather sad to read a notice that is so optimistic about her future. She did indeed land a role in a new American production but it was in Octaman, a terrible piece of low budget schlock, and Anna Maria died of a barbiturate overdose in September 1971 - less than four months after the publication of this notice.

Here's a smashing picture of the ravishing Yugoslavian actress Beba Loncar, a big European star throughout the 1960s and 70s. This notice from January 1973, announces that Beba is in Naples shooting a giallo with Hollywood actor Richard Widmark. The title of the film is not mentioned but it is said to take place in the slums of the port of Naples. Beba had appeared alongside Richard Widmark ten years earlier in the British adventure film The Long Ships (1963) but I have been unable to find any information about a film from 1973 featuring the two of them. Presumably, the project never got off the ground, or it was never finished.

This notice from June 1971 announces that American actress Jean Seberg, who was working exclusively in Europe during the 1970s, is starring alongside James Mason and Curd Jürgens in the film La piovra dai 7 tentacoli, which translates to The Octopus with Seven Tentacles. Ultimately, the film was released under the much more simplistic title Kill.

Beautiful British actress Rosemarie Dexter is the focus of this notice from June 1972. According to the text, Rosemarie is back in Rome after the shooting of her third western in Spain.

Up next is this terrific shot of Austrian actress Senta Berger. Published in April 1973, this notice announces Senta's participation in the comedy Amore e ginnastica, known in English as Love and Gymnastics.

Sexy Cuban spitfire Chelo Alonso was one of the greatest female stars of Italian peplum and swashbuckler movies during the late 1950s and early 1960s but when the popularity of such films started to wane, Chelo more or less disappeared from films. Her final film appearance was a supporting role in the western Night of the Serpent in 1969, but although she abandoned films, she did not withdraw from public life. In fact, Chelo turned her attention to television, and this notice from June 1972 - which shows that the Cuban actress was still spectacularly sexy - announces her new music show E perche no?, which she hosted, and also featured in song and dance numbers.

Blonde, beatiful German starlet Karin Schubert strikes a sexy pose in this clipping from August 1972, which show Karin in a shot from a film called Le bellissime donzelle - i.e. The Beautiful Damsels. I can't find any film by that title, so this is yet another case of a film that changed titles. My guess is that this film eventually became Quel gran pezzo della Ubalda tutta nuda e tutta calda, a.k.a. Ubalda, All Naked and Warm, which I haven't seen.

This notice from February 1972 features the very sexy Rita Calderoni, who according to the text has signed on to star in the film La reincarnazione. This film - directed by Renato Polselli - was released nearly a year later under the delirious title Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel trecento, translating to Rites, Black Magic and Secret Orgies in the 14th Century, and is known in English as both The Reincarnation of Isabel and Black Magic Rites.

This fantastic shot of the very attractive Paola Tedesco was published in April 1972, and the text informs us that the actress is in Morocco making a film about the mafia. Paola did make a mafia picture in 1972, Alberto De Martino's Crime Boss, in which she starred alongside Telly Savalas and Antonio Sabatò. However, this film was neither shot or set in Morocco.

Texas-born Penny Brown was a very successful singer and musical theater actress in Italy in the 1960s and 70s but she also did occasional acting in films - most notably as a hippie in Lucio Fulci's giallo A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971). This notice from January 1973 announces Penny as a cast member in the film Tecnicamente dolce (translation: Technically Sweet), directed by the renowned Michelangelo Antonioni. Unfortunately for Penny, Tecnicamente dolce would never be made. Antonioni had written the screenplay in the 1960s and the film was to be shot in Sardinia, Rome, New York and in the Amazonian jungle, with Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider as the stars. But just as all the preparation for the film was ready, producer Dino De Laurentiis pulled the funding because he feared the production would become too expensive. Instead, Antonioni was offered to direct The Passenger (1975) with the same lead actors, and Tecnicamente dolce was never made. The screenplay, however, was published in 1976.

mandag 18. februar 2013

The House of Lost Souls/La casa delle anime erranti

Italy, 1989

Directed by Umberto Lenzi

Stefania Orsola Garello, Joseph Alan Johnson, Matteo Gazzolo, Laurentina Guidotti, Gianluigi Fogacci, Costantino Meloni, Licia Colò, Charles Borromel, Hal Yamanouchi, Dino Jaksic, Beni Cardoso, Massimo Sarchielli, Giulio Massimini, Fabio Branchini, Vincenzo Menniti, Fortunato Arena, Marina Reiner

Umberto Lenzi has long been one of my favorite Italian directors. His films range from excellent to utter nonsense but they’re always fun to watch. For my money’s worth, though, Lenzi was always better at making thrillers and cop movies than he was at making straight horror. Nevertheless, he’s made his share of horror, and after his haunted house flick Ghosthouse (1987) became a surprise hit and garnered a series of semi-sequels, Lenzi was approached to make two haunted house movies for television in 1989. The films would be part of a 4-movie package named ‘Houses of Doom’, with the other two films in the series being made by Lucio Fulci. Fulci made The House of Clocks and The Sweet House of Horrors, while Lenzi made The House of Witchcraft and The House of Lost Souls but ultimately the films were deemed too violent for television and were distributed on VHS instead.

Nice-looking sales sheet courtesy of Mediaset Distribution

The House of Lost Souls was both written and directed by Lenzi, and it tells the story of a group of young geologists studying fossils up in some Italian mountains. As the film starts they’re in the process of wrapping up and plan on heading back home the next morning. But one of the geologists, Carla (Stefania Orsola Garello), is having trouble sleeping because she is plagued by strange and disturbing visions. Flashing before her eyes are images of a ghoulish-looking Buddhist monk (Hal Yamanouchi) swinging an axe, a Buddha statue getting its head gorily smashed with an axe, a skeleton in a wheelchair, tarantulas crawling over someone’s face, and a little boy with blood on his hands.

Carla has freaky visions

Carla screams in horror, and her boyfriend Kevin (Joseph Alan Johnson) comes rushing to her aide. “The doctors gave you a reasonable explanation. They said that you have psychic powers. You’re a medium!” he soothingly tells her. Mmmkay! I’d like to know just what kind of doctor told her that! But Carla won’t let herself be calmed down easily. “I don’t wanna be a medium! I don’t!” she complains.

Anyway, the next morning the group embark on their long drive home, and we get acquainted with the rest of the gang, which consists of Carla’s handsome older brother Massimo (Matteo Gazzolo – dubbed by the ubiquitous Ted Rusoff), the wise-assed Guido (Gianluigi Fogacci), Guido’s girlfriend Mary (Laurentina Guidotti), and Carla and Massimo’s extremely annoying and badly dubbed kid brother Gianluca (Costantino Meloni). Unfortunately for the group, they discover that the roads are closed due to some landslides, and they’re forced to find somewhere to spend the night. Gianluca notices a sign pointing to the Hotel dell’Eremita – i.e. the hermit hotel – but when they get there, they find the desolate hotel looking crumbled and abandoned, with a sign reading ‘closed’. But as luck would have it, the lights suddenly come on and the hotel’s sinister-looking proprietor (Charles Borromel) appears. After a bit of consideration he reluctantly allows the youngsters to spend the night. Everybody’s thrilled – except Carla, who feels uneasy around the creepy hotel proprietor.

The group meets the scary-looking hotel proprietor

Later that night, Carla experiences another one of her strange psychic visions. This time the visions manifest themselves through an old, unplugged television set – showing a scary-looking old guy killing a woman and her little son with an axe – and as Carla screams in terror, the TV explodes.

More weird visions

But Carla isn’t the only one to experience strange things. Little Gianluca is frightened when blood starts dripping from the lamp, and tarantulas come crawling into his bed. But did it really happen, or was it just a dream?

However, the worst fate befalls Mary when she decides to peek inside the cold storage. What looks like a rotting zombie hand pushes her inside and quickly locks the door. Inside, there are two frozen corpses hanging from hooks, and poor Mary completely freaks out but none of the others are able to hear her desperate screams for help.

Frozen Terror

Fortunately, Mary is discovered and rescued just in time but there’s no sight of the two corpses. Did Mary just imagine seeing them? As a new day dawns, the groups finds that the roads are still closed – forcing them to remain at the spooky hotel. The mysterious hotel proprietor is nowhere to be found, the telephone cord has been cut, and there’s dust and cobwebs everywhere. It doesn’t look as if the hotel has been in use for a very long time, and indeed, all of the calendars on the walls are from 1969.

Somebody's cut the telephone cord...

Kevin and Massimo decide to drive into the small town to learn more about the history of the hotel, and discover that it’s been closed for 20 years, when it was revealed that the owner had a bad habit of beheading his guests with an axe. Apparently, the souls of his victims still reside in the hotel – ready to exact their revenge on anyone unfortunate enough to set foot there. And, naturally, the ghosts’ preferred method of disposing of the living is to cut their heads off...

The lost souls exact their revenge on the living

As far as haunted house movies go, The House of Lost Souls brings nothing new to the table. A stranded group seeking refuge in a creepy house with a macabre history, and undead souls haunting the place is stuff we've seen a thousand times before and Lenzi’s lazy rehashing of these tired clichés feels rather uninspired. The only fresh spin on the tale is Carla's psychic powers and her ability to see events from the past but, unfortunately, this plot point eventually turns out to be moot and inconsequential since all the other characters end up having visions too. It's a shame to waste a good idea like that but at least it gives Lenzi an excuse to throw in a couple of psychic visions, which are quite stylish and atmospheric.

The characters are for the most part poorly written, and laced with dialogue and English dubbing which is every bit as silly as you’d expect from an Italian late 1980s horror movie. Unfortunately, the characters are also annoyingly stupid, and they constantly put themselves at risk by wandering off on their own as if they were actively looking for trouble. I suppose I can forgive that, seeing as such behavior is pretty much a given in horror films of this type. But what I cannot forgive is the fact that Lenzi is too damn lazy to properly trap his characters at the hotel. Yeah, the road leading back home is closed, but the road to the small friendly town they just passed through is not. It is clearly established that the ghosts are strictly confined to the hotel itself, so why on earth does the group choose to stick around and get murdered when they could hang out safely in the town while waiting for the roads to open!? This sort of cringe-worthy stupidity is detrimental to the film and makes it hard to care too much about any of the characters. Then again, it does make it all the more fun to see them get what’s coming to them, and Lenzi has fun chopping their heads off in various inventive ways.

Amazingly enough, the first one to get killed is actually the annoying little kid brother! Yup, you read right: The kid gets killed – and in a pretty gruesome way too! In the film’s coolest scene by far, the ghosts’ supernatural powers cause him to get sucked into a washing machine, which slices his head right off! A decapitation by washing machine must surely be some kind of cinematic first and this is just the kind of inspired craziness we’ve come to admire Italian horror films for. In the late 1980s, Italian horror movie directors were apparently eager to kill annoying children in rather gruesome ways (see also Mario Bianchi’s The Murder Secret, 1988), and while it may sound a little awful to say so, unpolitically correct scenes like this work like an invigorating jolt of adrenaline.

This scene alone is worth the price of admission

Luckily, there’s more head slicing in store, because let’s face it, gory deaths are the bread and butter of film’s like this – weighing up for the predictable story and boring characters. And, thankfully, Lenzi gives us heads being lopped off by axe, knife, chainsaw and guillotine. None of it is as gory as one might expect, though, and the severed heads do not look entirely realistic but the beheadings nevertheless provide some much needed visceral thrills.

Ghostly mayhem

The score credited to Claudio Simonetti (under the anglicized name Claude King) consists entirely of music cribbed from earlier films scored by Simonetti – most notably Demons (1985) and Bodycount (1986) but there's also some stuff from Opera (1987) and Dial: Help (1988). The use of recycled music is a bit of a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the music is very good and atmospheric, but on the other hand, it serves as a constant reminder of how it was originally utilized to better effect in superior films.

On a technical level, the production values are slightly lacking but the film is slickly shot and the cobwebbed, old hotel makes for a suitably atmospheric backdrop to the spooky going-ons. Lenzi also adds to the mood by throwing in a shower dripping blood, tarantulas, bear traps and lots of exploding bottles.

The film boasts a fair share of stylish imagery

The acting isn’t really that great but to be fair to the actors, the script leaves them little to work with and saddles them with some pretty stupid dialogue (and dubbing), so it’s hard to properly evaluate them. Female lead Stefania Orsola Garello clearly tries the best she can, though, and delivers an adequate performance given the circumstances. Unfortunately, the film suffers somewhat from a lack of familiar faces. Some may recognize the male lead, American actor Joseph Alan Johnson, from Lucio Fulci’s infamous The Ghosts of Sodom (1988), but the rest of the main players will be largely unknown to most Euro cult viewers. A couple of familiar faces might have made the characters a bit more engaging. We do, however, get treated to appearances by Italian cinema’s most prolific Asian actor Hal Yamanouchi, bug-eyed character actor Charles Borromel and Jess Franco regular Beni Cardoso as some of the menacing ghosts. None of them have any dialogue and their limited screen time pretty much sees them putting on scary faces and waving knives or axes, but it’s still nice to have them around and they do look effectively sinister.

The best acting is done by the walking dead

In the end, The House of Lost Souls is a pretty unoriginal affair – marred by an uninspired script and characters who behave annoyingly stupid. It does have its cheesy charms, however, and the creepy ghosts, stylish visions and inventive decapitations keep it interesting. If you liked Ghosthouse and the rest of Lenzi’s late 80s efforts you’ll probably enjoy this one too.

© 2013 Johan Melle

The cast:

Stefania Orsola Garello as Carla

Joseph Alan Johnson as Kevin

Matteo Gazzolo as Massimo

Laurentina Guidotti as Mary

Gianluigi Fogacci as Guido

Costantino Meloni as Gianluca

Licia Colò as Daria

Charles Borromel as Eraldo Covatta, a lost soul

Hal Yamanouchi as Asha Krisna, a lost soul

Dino Jaksic as Isacco Levi, a lost soul

Beni Cardoso as Rebecca Levi, a lost soul

Massimo Sarchielli as Cemetery Caretaker

??? as Daria’s Cameraman

??? as Gas Station Attendant

Giulio Massimini as Librarian

??? as Maresciallo

Fortunato Arena as Alcide Nardi

Marina Reiner as Gina Brandini, a lost soul