Thursday, December 29, 2011

Short Film: Muzorama (France, 2008)

The horror hidden in the mundanity of suburban France, where women are romanced and men lose more than just their heads. This candy-colored 3D animation short is loosely based on the illustrations of the French graphic artist Muzo (aka Jean-Philippe Masson), the examples of which seen here are from publications from the end of the last century (left: Des Gens by Placid & Muzo [Paris, France, 1984]; and right: Chacal Puant #8, edited by Blanquet, with Placid, Y5/P5, Muzo, El Rotringo, H. Valium, Julie Doucet et al. [Conflans, France, 1994]).On the web, information about the artist is scant (in English, at least). The man, pictured below, was born in Rennes, France, in 1960. While at art school in Caen, he used the pseudonym Muzo for a fanzine he published with his friend Placid and the name stuck. Since then, he published work in numerous magazines, including the legendary comic art publication RAW. Aside from his illustration work, he is active as a painter and engraver and as the writer/illustrator of children's books.
Muzorama, directed by Elsa Brehin, Raphaël Calamote, Mauro Carraro, Maxime Cazaux, Emilien Davaud, Laurent Monneron and Axel Tillement and written by Emilien Davaud and Raphäel Calamote took six weeks to produce using Autodesk 3D Studio Max, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects.Since its initial release, Muzorama has gained extraordinary popularity on the web and has been seen at numerous short film festivals – but we just discovered it the other week and were so blown away by its excellent craftsmanship and total surrealistic scurrility that we just had to make it the Short Film of the Month for December 2011. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Night Flier (USA, 1997)

"Never believe what you publish, and never publish what you believe."
Richard Dees (Miguel Ferrer)

A rarity twofold: a Stephen King horror film without a cameo by the author, and a Stephen King horror film that doesn't completely suck.
OK, we admit it, not all Stephen King horror films suck — we rather liked Thinner (1996 / trailer), for example — but most of them seem to; as good as some of his horror books are — generally the shorter ones, the few in which he doesn't come across as if he is paid by word — they have, as a whole, translated poorly to the big screen. (We ain't even gonna bother talking about the little screen, where we've yet to see a project that didn't put us to sleep, no matter how well they were received by the masses.) Part of the problem is that so many things in his books that might work scary in the mind's eye look stupid on screen — a good example in The Night Flier being, assuming that the appearance was taken from the original description in the short story, the cloak the titular character wears, which comes straight from a Bela Lugosi film circa his Ed Wood days. Sorry, not scary: an anachronism that verges less on being iconic than simply being ludicrous — even after the film started to work, the cloak still got giggles from the group we saw the film with.
The Night Flier was the directorial début of one-spurt wonder Mark Pavia, who hasn't made a film since he helmed this one, which has his main squeeze Julie Entwistle in the lead female role. Why he's never done another flick is a bit of a mystery, for even if he is partial to that 80s' trope of spotlights in the fog to infer a scary location, he does a pretty good job at keeping the tension growing despite the occasional illogical inanities of the script, which he also wrote. True, he lets the boom mike slip into the image thrice too often, and it is odd that he didn't notice that "Miguel Ferrer" sports an obvious but disappearing Castro-Clone moustache the first time he lands his plane, but the film is never boring, something even practiced filmmakers cannot always claim when they film a King adaptation. (By the way, Julie Entwistle has also seemingly fallen off the face of the earth since this film: her only other film job was as a "student" in the really fun comedy In & Out [1997 / trailer].)
The tale of The Night Flier concerns Richard Dees (George Clooney's cousin Miguel Ferrer, of RoboCop [1987 / trailer], DeepStar Six [1989 / trailer], Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me [1992 / trailer] and Hot Shots! Part Deux [1993 / trailer]), a hardened, whiskey-swilling and extremely unlikeable reporter for a sleazy tabloid called The National Enquirer — I mean, The Inside View — who's investigating a story on a serial killer he dubs the Night Flier, an under-the-radar serial killer that flies between small, remote airports in a Cessna Skymaster killing people. Dees is convinced that the murderer is just some nutcase that thinks he's a vampire, and Dee is out to get the story before his new rival at the rag does, a young woman named Katherine Barr that he dismissively nicknames "Jimmy" (as in "Jimmy Olsen"). Despite visions and warnings, Dee can't let go and finally confronts his quarry (Michael H. Moss) at Wilmington International Airport, where he is met with a scene of blood and carnage...
The Night Flier is not exactly an action-heavy film; in fact, it relies more on occasional fake scares and growing tension to keep the viewer interested. And that it does so, considering what a dislikeable asshole Dee is, is not a small feat. Unlike so many of King's tales, The Night Flier is not one of a burnout on the path to redemption; much more, it is about a sleazeball barrelling towards self-destruction. If the Night Flier himself feeds upon the blood of humans, Dee mirrors him in that he feeds upon the miseries of mankind, a point that comes to fore again and again as Dees tracks down his next headlining story. And blind to his own rot and the misery of others, Dees literally flies straight into death's arms with only a camera as his weapon; despite all the warnings — as visions and as blood-smeared messages — he never stops to reconsider his actions. The big show down, in addition to all the severed latex and cow's blood, literally has one of the all time best pissing scenes ever caught on film (though the one in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance [2012 / trailer] is sorta cool, too).
Needless to say, the film has some glaring plot holes (like the Night Flier's apparent ability to show up places at will to write bloody warnings on windows) and unresolved dangling threads, but for that the film does manage to overcome its selected flaws and keep the viewer intrigued. It might have been nice if the tale had left fewer questions unanswered, but as a straight and simple horror film, The Night Flier does its job without insulting the viewer's intelligence or patience. That, and some noticeable visual verve and gobs of red stuff and body parts helps make for a more than passable 93 minutes — something that is still a rarity for a horror film based on a Stephen King source.

R.I.P.: Donald Sharp

19 April 1921 – 18 December 2011

Born in Hobart, Tasmania, Sharp began his career in Australia as an actor. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 7 April 1941, and after the war and following his discharge as a corporal on 17 March 1944 he moved to England. After a few insignificant film parts in unimportant films like 1950's Ha'penny Breeze (which he also co-wrote) and the forgotten pro-Colonialist Claudette Colbert film Outpost in Malaysia aka The Planter's Wife (1952), he turned to scriptwriting and direction. In the mid-1960s, he gained a reputation as a man who could work well with limited budgets and thus became a popular genre-film director, in particular for Hammer. For most of his career, he specialized in thrillers, horror films and comedies – as well as some TV work for such notable English cult programs as The Avengers and Ghost Squad – but spent the twilight years doing uninteresting mini-series, including a few based on the best selling trash novels of Barbara Taylor Bradford. At the time of his death he had not made a film in 22 years. Here is review of his films of note and lesser note.

The Cruel Sea
(1953, dir. Charles Frend)
Donald Sharp has a miniscule part as a Lt. Commander somewhere in this classic British war film. It was his last job as an actor. Find him if you can.

The Golden Disc
Aka The In-between Age. This is the second film that Sharp directed, and the seventh that he wrote. The Guardian, in their superciliously condescending obituary about the director, says "The Golden Disc [is] packed with forgotten British skiffle and rock'n'roll stars performing mainly in a faddish coffee bar." Wikipedia, on the other hand, prefers to talk about the film's historical aspects: it is the first British rock 'n' roll movie, was released a year before Val Guest's Expresso Bongo (1959 / full film) and two ahead of Beat Girl (1960 / full film), and features Christopher Lee as a strip-joint owner. says "The acting is wooden and awkward – and Mary Steele is delightfully bad, in a particularly 1950s way."
Scene from the Film:

Two years later, Sharp directed this teen film, which was screened as co-feature with Tony Richardson's "kitchen sink drama" Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (trailer). It's now considered a lost film, and is on the British Film Institute's "75 Most Wanted" list of missing British feature films. The BFI gives the plot as follows: "Bored with life, Phil (Alan Rothwell) joins the Chief's gang, but when he meets Linda (Carol White) tottering on her high heels, his interest re-focuses on her. He takes her to Brighton on his scooter, but on the way back he makes a pass and she puts him in his place. When the gang want to defend 'their' territory, the local café, they need to call on all their number, and the reluctant Phil is tricked into believing Linda is going out with someone else, and agrees to join in. Phil does discover the truth and quits the gang for good, and others follow his lead, urged by the local 'trendy' vicar, leaving the Chief to fight his own battles. Phil and Linda contemplate marriage."
Doesn't sound exciting, but Carol White does look nifty in white.

Theme to the film:

The Dream Maker

Aka It's All Happening. After directing Two Guys Abroad (1962), a movie/TV pilot (starring George Raft) that never got released (another lost film) and a number of episodes for the first year of the highly popular English television series Ghost Squad, Sharp made another teen music film, The Dream Maker. A feel-good film, it tells the tale of Billy Bowles (Tommy Steele), a musician working in a recording studio who arranges a charity concert to raise capital to purchase the building of the orphanage where he grew up. Lots of music.
Tommy Steele singing The Dream Maker:

The Kiss of the Vampire

In need of a director who could handle low budgets well, Hammer pulled in Don Sharp to do this film, which was originally intended to be the third installment of their Dracula franchise as well as the second not to feature Dracula himself (like the film that it follows, The Brides of Dracula [1960 / trailer]); it ended up being a stand-alone vampire film. (The ending of the film was even supposedly originally intended for The Brides of Dracula and was scrapped due to Peter Cushing's objections; it does, however, appear in the paperback novelization of The Brides of Dracula.) In the US, the film was cut and then re-titled Kiss of Evil for TV, resulting in a much less bloody movie that often doesn't make sense and is totally anti-woman empowerment. The plot: Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne Harcourt (Jennifer Daniel) are a honeymooning couple in driving through 20th-century Bavaria when their car breaks down. They become caught up in a cult led by the vampire Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman) and his two blood-sucking children Carl (Barry Warren) and Sabena (Jacquie Wallis). Dr. Ravna has the hots for Marianne and wants her for his own...

Heiss weht der Wind
(1964, dir. Rolf Olsen)

Aka Legend of a Gunfighter. It is open to question just to what extent "Donald Sharp" was truly involved with this Euro-western, an early film from one of Germany's shamefully overlooked B-film, exploitation and Eurotrash directors Rolf Olsen – among his many films of note, Olsen made Playgirls of Frankfurt (1966 / opening credits), Bloody Friday (1972 / trailer), Ekstase (1979 / trailer) and both Shocking Asia I (1972 / trailer) & II (1985) – but imdb and few other sites have Sharp listed as coauthor (along with Paul "This-is-the-only-film-I-ever-wrote" Clydeburn). According to the Spaghetti Western Database, this forgotten and seldom seen German-Austrian production tells of a young man who, "after his parents are killed in a stagecoach holdup [...] learns to be an expert gunman and with his dog Shorty, sets out to avenge their deaths."


Sharp returns to low-budget horror with this generally overlooked but universally praised B&W horror film that features Lon Chaney Jr. in one of his last roles – as Chaney could only slur after noon, his presence is kept to a minimum despite his star credit. At the time of its release, Witchcraft was part of a double feature with Terence Fisher's horror comedy The Horror of It All (1964). Arborgast on Film says: "Witchcraft is a visually stunning little chiller that seems to have taken its cues from John Llewellyn-Moxey's City of the Dead / Horror Hotel (1960 / trailer) and Mario Bava's Black Sunday (1960 / trailer). [...] For all its faults, Witchcraft at least never looks less than grand in all its high contrast black-and-white glory." The plot, edited down from Wikipedia: "In the 17th Century the Lanier family buried a Whitlock woman alive as a witch and took over the Whitlock estate. A bitter hatred of the Lanier family continues into the present. However two descendants, Amy Whitlock (Diane Clare) and Todd Lanier (David Weston), fall in love and plan to marry regardless of the families objections. [When] a bulldozer overturns headstones and churns up graves in the old Whitlock Cemetery [...] an exhumed grave opens and Vanessa Whitlock (Yvette Rees), the witch buried centuries ago, rises from the grave. Together with Morgan Whitlock (Lon Chaney Jr.), they use their witchcraft and one-by-one, the Laniers meet with various fatal accidents...."

The Devil-Ship Pirates

This film is also spoken about in A Wasted Life's career review of Jimmy Sangster, who died on 19 August 2011. To simply crib the paragraph there: Hammer's second pirate film, a smidgen less land-locked than the first one (John Gilling's The Pirates of Blood River [1962 / trailer]), and once again starring Christopher Lee. At imdb, dinky-4 of Minneapolis says: "A pirate ship, fighting in 1588 on the side of the Spanish Armada, suffers damage and must put into a village on the British coast for repairs. The village is small and isolated and the Spanish convince the villagers that the English fleet has been defeated and that they, the Spanish, are now their masters. This results in the villagers' sullen cooperation, but rumors and unrest begin to spread and soon the Spanish pirates find themselves facing a revolt."

Curse of the Fly
For years, this film was best known from stills found in books about horror films, for it was seldom seen on television and wasn't even released on video; it finally made it onto DVD in 2007 as part of a box set with the two original precursing films, The Fly (1958 / trailer) and Return of the Fly (1959 / trailer). By the time Curse of the Fly was made, Vincent Price (the lead in the first two films) was under contract with AIP and thus unavailable; he was replaced by a somewhat over-the-hill and toupee-wearing Brian Donlevy (The Quatermass Xperiment [1955 / trailer] and Quatermass II [1957 / trailer]). The film, scripted by "prolific and spotty" genre-scribe Harry Spalding (The Watcher in the Woods [1980 / trailer], The Earth Dies Screaming [1964 / trailer], The Day Mars Invaded Earth [1963 / trailer] and Witchcraft [1964, see above]), oddly enough does not feature a fly monster; rather, "the curse" refers – one must assume – to either the fly DNA in the family genes since Return of the Fly which cause the son Martin (George Baker) to age at an accelerated pace or the general bad luck the whole family seems to have with teleporters. The film, which does not end happily, features a lot of freaky-looking victims of teleporter accidents and opens with a great slow motion scene (go here) of Carole Gray escaping a funny farm in bra and panties....

The Face of Fu Manchu

Sharp's involvement with the 1964 German western Legend of a Gunfighter / Heiss weht der Wind seems to have paid off career-wise, for when Harry Alan Towers joined the German production company Constantin Film to create a new franchise of thrillers ala the popular Dr Mabuse and Edgar Wallace films, Sharp was pulled in to direct the first of what ended up being five Fu Manchu films. (Sharp only directed this and the first follow up film, The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), but the headlining star Christopher Lee appeared as Fu Manchu in all the films; Fu Manchu is second only to Dracula as the film character he played most often.) For the West German version, the German actors – the ever-popular Joachim Fuchsberger (The Hand of Power [1968 / trailer]) and Karin Dor (The White Spider [1963 / scene]) – received top-billing alongside Lee, though Fu Manchu's constant nemesis Nayland Smith was actually played by Nigel Green (The Masque of the Red Death [1964 / trailer]). The plot, as supplied by Jeremy Perkins at imdb: "Grisly strangulations in London alert Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard to the possibility that fiendish Fu Manchu may not after all be dead, even though Smith witnessed his execution. A killer spray made from Tibetan berries seems to be involved and clues keep leading back to the Thames."

Rasputin: The Mad Monk

Shot back-to-back with Terence Fisher's excellent Dracula: Prince of Darkness (trailer) using the same sets and many of the same actors, Rasputin: The Mad Monk is a typically sumptuous (for Hammer) but less than historically accurate retelling of the final years of the Mad Monk's life. His legendary mesmerizing appeal to women – as Nigel Cawthorne put it in his entertaining sleazy volume Sordid Sex Lives, "Grigory Yefimovich Novykh (that's Rasputin to you and me) was one of Russia's greatest lovers" – and appetite for sex and power receives great attention in this version of his infiltration into the life of the Russian Tsars and resulting influence. For some odd reason, the final assassination scene does not include either his legendary rape by Prince Felix Yussupov or the castration of his legendarily 13-inch member* – but then, neither aspect is included in Yussupov's version of the kill upon which this film is loosely based. Mondo Digital summarizes the plot as: "Rasputin (Christopher Lee), a monk living in Czarist Russia, leads an outward life of religious devotion which masks his true nature: a bestial, murdering lout who uses his mysterious powers of hypnotism and his gift for healing as tools of manipulation. In St. Petersburg, he uses the lovely Sonia (Barbara Shelley) to infiltrate the royal family of Nicholas II and exercise his wicked control over Russia itself. However, political forces begin to brew and conspire to bring an end to the monk's subversive reign."
*Looking like "a blackened, overripe banana, about a foot long," the amputated phallus was last seen in 1968 in Paris.

Our Man in Marrakesh
Retitled Bang! Bang! You're Dead! for its US release. The New York Times says "Films like Bang, Bang, You're Dead helped kill the movie career of Tony Randall in the mid-1960s" – but who ever believes The New York Times? This euro-spy persiflage possesses a must-see relevance best summed up simply with: "Tony Randall versus Klaus Kinski." Web of Mystery calls it "One of the best of the 60s Euro-Spy cycle," pointing out its great cast which, aside from Randall and Kinski, also includes Herbert Lom (99 Women [1969 / trailer]), Wilfrid Hyde-White (The Third Man [1949 / trailer]), Terry-Thomas (The Abominable Dr Phibes [1971 / trailer]), Margaret Lee (Venus in Furs [1969 / trailer]) and a delectable Senta Berger (Sherlock Holmes & the Deadly Necklace [1962]). Bang! Bang! You're Dead! is basically a low budget riff on North by Northwest (1959 / trailer) but set in Marrakesh, with Randall playing an innocent oil company rep (verses Cary Grant's ad executive) who gets caught up in a plot involving 2 million bucks bribe money to fix UN votes.

The Brides of Fu Manchu
A year after The Face of Fu Manchu, Harry Alan Towers rejoined the German production company Constantin Film to bring the second installment of their Fu Manchu franchise, The Brides of Fu Manchu, once again directed by Sharp (who supposedly also did unaccredited script work). Christopher Lee is still there as Sax Rohmer's villain – he played the part in all installments – but this time around Nayland Smith is played by Douglas Wilmer (The Vampire Lovers [1970 / trailer]), who also returned in 1967 for the 3rd installment The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (German trailer), while the German audience had to be satisfied with Heinz Drache (Hypnosis [1962]), Harald Leipnitz (Die blaue Hand [1967 / trailer]) and the eye candy that was French actress Marie Versini. The literal German title of the film is "The 13 Slaves of Dr Fu Man Chu" – revealing a slightly Teutonic obsession with titles and bondage. Plot: Fu Manchu kidnaps the daughters of scientists to force them to help him build a death ray with which to take over the world – can Nayland Smith stop him and save the world? What do you think?
German Trailer:

Rocket to the Moon

Aka Those Fantastic Flying Fools and/or Blast Off; a slap-stick comedy inspired as much by Jules Verne's novel From the Earth to the Moon as by Ken Annakin's 1965 movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (trailer), for which Don Sharp had been the second unit director. And, as in Annakin's film, the lead scoundrel, Captain Sir Harry Washington-Smyth, is played by Terry-Thomas and his moustache. Plot: P.T. Barnum (Burl Ives) decides to become the first person to reach the moon, but has problems with spies and saboteurs and other problems. If you liked Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963 / trailer) or The Great Race (1965 / trailer) or Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) or even The Cannonball Run (1981 / trailer), then you might find this film entertaining. Aside from Ives – playing a part supposedly originally intended for Bing Crosby – the "all star cast" here includes Troy Donahue (The Chilling [1989 / trailer]), Gert Fröbe (The Green Archer [1961 / German trailer]), Dennis Price (Vampyros Lesbos [1971 / German trailer]), Daliah Lavi (The Whip and the Body [1963 / Italian trailer]), Stratford Johns (Salome's Last Dance [1988 / full film]) and Graham Stark (Bloodbath and the House of Death [1983 / trailer]).
Opening credits:

The Violent Enemy

In an odd career choice, Sharp followed the highly commercial comedy Rocket to the Moon with this independent film, an IRA drama based on a book by Jack Higgins; the book, entitled A Candle for the Dead, was originally published under the pseudonym Hugh Marlowe. The film promptly fell into obscurity and presently only seems to be available online as an illegal download. Depending on which online source you believe – no one we know has ever seen it – The Violent Enemy either tells the tale of an IRA bomber (Tom Bell) who escapes from prison and wants nothing more than to live a quiet life in Ireland but is pressured by the IRA to blow up an electronics factory, or it tells of how an IRA bomb expert (Tom Bell) who escapes from prison to stop a plot to blow up a British power station. Online reviews seem to be nonexistent.
First ten minutes:

A Taste of Excitement

Aka (on US TV) Why Would Anyone Want to Kill a Nice Girl Like You? Based on Ben Healey's novel Waiting for a Tiger. In the identical review of the film which appears on both (credited to David Walker) and (uncredited), the writer says "[...] A Taste Of Excitement [is] not a bad film – far from it – but it is a tough one to follow. On the plus side, it plays out like an Italian Giallo, without the blood and the sensationalism [...] (although there is a bit of nudity squeezed in)." says: "Americans in 1968 seemed to prefer long, campy film titles. Thus it was that the British A Taste of Excitement was rechristened Why Would Anyone Want to Kill a Nice Girl Like You? The girl in question is Jane Kerrell (Eva Renzi [The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970 / trailer)]), who is somehow involved in an assassination plot. The hero, artist Paul Hedley (David Buck), agrees to help Jane when he's told that the intended victim is a traitor. But who's telling the truth here?"
First eight minutes:

Puppet on a Chain
(1971, dir. Geoffrey Reeve)
Don Sharp didn't direct this movie, but he did do additional (credited) work on Alistair MacLean's screenplay, which was based on Alistair MacLean's book of the same title. The blog BlackHoleReviews thinks the film is grand: "A brutal blond-haired tough guy (Sven-Bertil Taube) using any means necessary to bring down heroin smugglers in Amsterdam. With a pistol, and brute force, he's actually an undercover agent working for the good guys, despite his destructive murderous methods. This is a personal favorite of mine for the spectacular, verging-on-reckless, speedboat chase through the canals of Amsterdam that pre-dates many of the stunts used as the centerpiece of James Bond classic Live And Let Die (1973 / trailer)."

Dark Places

Sharp returns to horror in this film starring Christopher Lee and Joan Collins as Dr and Sarah Mandeville and featuring Jane Birkin (Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye [1973 / trailer]). When the Manderville's catch wind of a hidden stash of money hidden in a house with a nasty past, they decide to get the money for themselves. The problem is, the house is haunted... Sharp adapted the tale from a script written by Ed Brennan and Joseph Van Winkle; the latter went on to write and direct Joan Blondell's last film, The Woman Inside (seven minutes of the film). The Spider Must Eat You To Survive says Dark Places is "English Gothic at its best."
Full film:

Aka (in the US) The Death Wheelers. This cult film has the added distinction of featuring the final film appearance of George Sanders, who killed himself shortly thereafter, leaving behind a suicide note that read: "Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck." The Guardian calls Psychomania "the weirdest of Sharp's pictures." It was written by Arnaud d'Usseau and Julian Zimet, who had previously joined forces to pen the screenplay to the classic Horror Express (1972 / full film). At imdb, Guillaume Robieux offers the following plot description: "A gang of young people call themselves the Living Dead. They terrorize the population from their small town. After an agreement with the devil, if they kill themselves firmly believing in it, they will survive and gain eternal life. Following their leader, they commit suicide one after the other, but things don't necessarily turn out as expected..." Nicky Henson, who plays the lead psychopath of the film, considers it to be one of his worst projects, but the film enjoys great cult popularity.

Don Sharp helms the feature-length film version of a 43-episode English TV series which started in 1967 with the episode A Magnum for Schneider; the film is basically an extended version of that original episode, which was in turn based on James Mitchell's novel A Red File for Callan. Callan (Edward Woodward) is a former assassin for the SIS (M16 for Bond fans) who was retired after he lost his nerve; he's given a second chance and called back into service to kill Schneider (Carl Möhner of Rififi [1955 / trailer]), a German businessman. Taking on the mission, he soon finds that there is more to his job than he has been told...
Full film:

Sharp returns to the IRA – sorta. The BFI gives the plot as follows: "During a street riot in Belfast, the wife and daughter of Hennessy are accidentally killed by a British soldier. Normally opposed to violence, Hennessy decides to destroy the British Parliament during the State Opening the following week." Hennessy – which, by the way, is the feature-film debut of Patrick Stewart – had problems getting shown in England because it was edited in such a way that it looked as if Queen Elizabeth were acting in the movie; even after getting approval by the film board (by adding a disclaimer at the movie's start stating that the Royal Family had not participated in the film and the footage of Queen Elizabeth was all from newsreels), an English distributor was difficult to find. The screenplay, written by John Gay, was based on the original story by Richard Johnson, who appears in the film as Insp. Hollis; we prefer him as Dr. David Menard in the 1979 classic Zombie (trailer). Roger Ebert, in his review of the film on January 1, 1975, says Hennessy is victim of the "idiot plot," or a movie plot "so constructed that everyone in the movie has to be a complete idiot or the story will be resolved in 10 minutes flat." The non-embeddable trailer can be watched here, while the soundtrack can be heard below.
Title melody:

The Thirty-Nine Steps
One must pay the rent. Sharp followed his rather uninteresting 1977 TV movie remake of The Four Feathers (TV commercial) with this equally unnecessary but far superior remake of Hitchcock's 1939 film (full film), which had already been remade in 1959 and would be remade yet again (for TV) in 2008. says Sharp's version "adheres more faithfully to the source material but fails to reach the suspenseful heights of Alfred Hitchcock's". Plot, as supplied by Anonymous at imdb: "The year is 1914 and Richard Hannay (Robert Powell [Mahler (1974)]), a mining Engineer who is visiting Britain for a short time before returning to South Africa, is shocked when one of his neighbors, Colonel Scudder (John Mills), bursts into his rooms one night and tells him a story that Prussian 'sleeper' agents are planning to pre-start World War I by murdering a visiting foreign minister. However, Scudder is murdered and Hannay is framed for the death by the 'sleepers'. Fleeing to Scotland Hannay attempts to clear his name and to stop the agents with the aid of Alex Mackenzie (Karen Dotrice) but not only is he is chased by Chief Supt Lomas (Eric Porter) for Scudder's death but by the agents who is headed by Appleton (David Warner) who has managed to hide himself in a high-placed position in the British Government..."

Bear Island

A Canadian-British production based on the book of the same name by Alistair MacLean; the Medved book The Hollywood Hall of Shame says that at the time of its release it was the most expensive film ever made in Canada. BritMovie is 100% right when they call Bear Island "dismal." Despite an illustrious cast including Donald Sutherland, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark and Christopher Lee (as well as the less-illustrious Barbara Parkins and Lloyd Bridges), Bear Island is a total snooze – we actually fell asleep watching it, something we seldom do. The film was originally intended to be the first of a series of Alistair MacLean adaptations – the end credits even include the line "Coming Soon - Alistair Maclean's Goodbye California" – but the film bombed, thus scuttling the franchise concept. The basic plot has researcher Frank Lansing (Donald Sutherland) joining a United Nations expedition on a remote, frozen research station on a North Atlantic island (with big mountains to ski on), but then some mysterious accidents and murders occur. Could it all have something to do with that WWII German submarine loaded with Nazi gold? Never trust pure-bred Aryans... in any event, by the end of the movie Lansing discovers that his dead daddy – who was the commander of the submarine – was a Good Nazi, which helps him sleep as soundly as the viewer of the film.
TV Trailer:

What Waits Below
Other than the episode Guardian of the Abyss (1980) for the TV series Hammer House of Horror, Sharp's last feature-film project, What Waits Below, is also his last project worth noting – if for all the wrong reasons. After this film, which is also known as Secrets of the Phantom Caverns and went straight to video in the US, Sharp disappeared into the land of TV miniseries and multi-episode adaptations of best selling women's books. What Waits Below's tagline was "inspired" by that of Alien (1979 / trailer): "Underground, no-one can hear you die." Starring Robert Powell, Timothy Bottoms (Uncle Sam [1997 / trailer]) and Lisa Blount (The Prince of Darkness [1987 / trailer]), What Waits Below is legendary for how Blount's character gets hot to get her twat licked just from watching Powell's character lick his self-rolled cigarettes – needless to say, as any real man would be, Powell does not seem adverse to the idea. The plot, accord to Aunt Violet's Book Museum, is about "an albino race, remnant of Lemuria, [...] discovered deep within subterranean caverns in South America." In the end, What Waits Below is simply another riff on the old story about man-killing underground dwellers; for much better takes on this basic story, watch The Mole People (1956 / trailer) or The Descent (2005 / trailer). Which is not to say that Sharp's film isn't worth watching, for it is: What Waits Below is one of those so bad it's good car-wreck-of-a-movie that we here at A Wasted Life so love, which is why we give it a hearty recommendation....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

R.I.P.: Walter Giller

Walter Giller
23 August 1927 – 15 December 2011

In all truth, much like the German character actor Heinz Reincke, the recently deceased Walter Giller is not a name that one would immediately assume worthy of a career review on A Wasted Life (assuming you, as a non-German-speaking person, even know the name). As an actor, Giller's career was much more mainstream than it was mondo, and most of the films he made – comedies and Heimatfilms – are of the kind that make us gag. But the man had a long career, and as such he also made a lot of films, and amongst and aside from all the mainstream pap he made in his life there are also a number of interesting projects – particularly during the 60s, when he, like all German actors, suddenly found themselves participating in films they would never have made in the prime of their careers. And it is these films, along with a select number of other projects, are the films that we want to honor.
Outside of the German-speaking nations, Giller is an unknown name, but there where they eat wurst, potatoes and sauerkraut and drink beer for breakfast and schnapps for dinner he was a very popular actor in his day. In fact, in 1956, when he married his regular costar, the equally popular Austrian actress Nadja Tiller, the match was big news – and a good one, it seems, for they were still married at the time of his death from lung cancer on 15 December 2011. Back in the days when they got married, the focus of the press and public may have been a bit more subdued than now, but due to their respective popularity, they could well be called the Brad and Angelina of their time and country. (Perhaps Romy Schneider and Hans Buchholz were more in the headlines, but they never got married, thus making them more the Ben Affleck and J.Lo of their day.) Throughout the 55 years of the Giller & Tiller marriage, they took part in untold films and TV projects together, a happy couple until the end.
Giller was born on 23 August 1927 in Recklinghausen and grew up in Hamburg. In 1942, at the age of 15, he was made a "Flakhelfer" – an anti-aircraft helper – and two years later he was a war prisoner. Released early (due to health problems), he began to medicinal studies but dropped out to do voluntary work at a Hamburg theater; he eventually began to study acting and worked as an extra and director's assistant. His first role of note was a small part in Artistenblut (1949), followed by Kein Engel ist so rein (1950). From there, it was a quick and continuous uphill ride for the actor, who initially specialized in playing the shy young lover but soon moved into more demanding comedy roles. As Germany's leading weekly news magazine Der Spiegel wrote on 16 December 2011, "[With] American lightness and frivolous humor Walter Giller refined the uptight German cinema of the post-war period." He appeared in the many of the biggest German films of the fifties and sixties years, as well as a number of less respectable projects in the sixties and seventies.
Walter Giller died on Thursday, 15 December 2011 in Hamburg. Herewith, A Wasted Life would like to pay our respects with this review of the projects we find noteworthy.

Falschmünzer am Werk
(1951, dir. Louis Agotay)
Aka Fall 7:9 ("Case 7:9"). No undiscovered classic, this film is included primarily because it is the first crime film that Giller took part in, playing a young reporter named Conny Heuser that is described in one online critique as imitation Jimmy Olsen – the same critique described the film as "ZZZzzzzzzz". The film is the only feature-length directorial credit of Louis Agotay, who also wrote the script; he ended his career as a scriptwriter of such non-classics as Untamable Angelique (1967 / trailer) and Angelique and the Sultan (1968 / trailer). The plot involves a police inspector (Paul Klinger) and his French colleague (Paul Dahlke) trying to take down a band of car smugglers and counterfeiters between reminiscing about the good old days – the war – and a love interest named Madame Winter (Lenore Aubert).

Charleys Tante
(1956, dir. Hans Quest)
Aka Charley's Aunt. A German classic, of sorts, it is the second of to-date four German adaptations of the famous English play by Brandon Thomas, which originally debuted over 100 years ago (February 1892) at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds. This version, starring one of Germany's most popular actors (Heinz Rühmann) as the titular aunt, has enjoyed inexplicable eternal popularity despite a mediocrity that is only elevated by the wonderfully garish Technicolor, an occasional verbal zinger and one fun, campy mambo number. Taking place in a society in which good girls still only meet single boys in the company of a chaperon, Giller plays one of the two youths (the "Charley" of the title) who invite two dishy Swedes, Ulla (Elisa Loti) and Britta (Ina Peters), to their bachelor pad for some fun; once the girls realize they are alone with the lads, the decide to leave, but Ralf's older brother Dr. Dernburg (Rühmann) saves the day by showing up in drag to chaperon as Charley's aunt... Some Like It Hot (1959, trailer) it's not, but Granny and the kids might enjoy it.

Der Hauptmann von Köpenick
(1956, dir. Director: Helmut Käutner)
Aka The Captain from Köpenick; it is the second of three films that Giller made with Heinz Rühmann (the third being the uninteresting comedy Das Sonntagskind). The previous year, in 1956, the director Helmut Käutner made The Devil's General, an early co-production of Richard Gordon. Käutner's Der Hauptmann von Köpenick is the second German production based on the play of the same name by Carl Zuckmayer – the first version was made in 1931 by Richard Oswald, who made dozens of German exploitation films during the Silent Age but fled Hitler for Hollywood, where his son Gerd Oswald became a successful B-movie director (his films include A Kiss Before Dying [1956 / trailer], Screaming Mimi [1958 / trailer], Agent for H.A.R.M. [1966 / trailer] and more). Der Hauptmann von Köpenick, which was nominated for an Academy Awards as Best Foreign Language Film (losing to Federico Fellini's La Strada [trailer]), is considered a classic of post-war German film. The tale is based on the true story of Wilhelm Voigt: landing behind bars as a youth, Voigt decides to go straight once released, but his past prevents him from getting papers. By chance he finds an old captain uniform in a junk shop and masquerades as a captain. Entering the town hall of Köpenick (now a borough of Berlin), he has the mayor and treasurer arrested and once again tries to obtain his papers – and once again fails. So he takes the city treasury and flees...

Spion für Deutschland
(1956, dir. Werner Klingler)
Werner Klingler is a relatively forgotten director, even in his own homeland, but he made a number of entertaining films in his life, including The Terror of Doctor Mabuse (1962 / trailer). Spion für Deutschland, entitled Spy for Germany for its English-language release, is based on the fact-based novel ghost-written by Will Berthold (other films of note based on Berthold's writings include Richard Siodmak's The Devil Strikes at Night [1957 / title sequence] and Klingler's 1961 Nazi love camp exploiter, Ordered to Love [1961 / trailer]). In Spion für Deutschland Giller costars (as the second male lead) with his wife-to-be, former Miss Austria Nadja Tiller – in the film, however, she is the romantic interest of the main character, Erich Gimpel (Martin Held). The movie is based on the true story of the WWII German spy Erich Gimpel, whose eventual planned execution for spying in the US was delayed due to the death of FDR and then commuted to life imprisonment on Alcatraz; he was released ten years later in 1956, eventually settling in South America. Plot: Gimpel arrives in the US in 1944 to find out everything about the Manhattan Project, with Billy Cole (Giller), an expert on US customs and ways, in tow. When Cole is caught, it's Gimpel alone against the CIA and FBI...

Blaue Jungs
(1957,dir. Wolfgang Schleif)
Aka Seamen. Actually, there is virtually no justifiable reason to include this film in this review – we here at A Wasted Life hate this kind of German mainstream Romantic comedy crap from the 50s. BUT: we do have a weakness for bad music. The title song of this film, Seeman (deine Heimat ist das Meer), sung in German by Lolita, was the first German-language single to reach the US Top Ten, reaching #5 in 1960. It remained the most successful German-language song in the US until Nena's 99 Luftballons in 1984. Below, you can see Lolita singing the song in the film – yes, your grandparents liked the song. Petula Clark's English-language version of the song, Seaman, was her first number one hit in England.
Seeman (deine Heimat ist das Meer):

Peter Voss, der Millionendieb
(1958, dir. Wolfgang Becker)
This film is not about Peter Voss, the SS-Oberscharführer commander of the crematoria and gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau. No, this is a comedy about an anti-hero thief along the lines of Arène Lupin, but unlike Lupin, Voss has never been heard off outside his home country. Becker's film was the fourth German version of the story (the other three being from 1921, 1932 and 1946, respectively), and was rather a hit – not only was it followed by a sequel Peter Voss, der Held des Tages (poster below) the following year, but the character Walter Giller played, the detective Bobby Dodd, was given his own film in 1959 as well (more on the latter below). The original novel of the same name was written by Ewald Gerhard Seeliger. Giller narrates the rather dull and dated trailer embedded here for your viewing pleasure. O.W. Fischer, by the way, played the title character.
German trailer of Peter Voss, der Millionendieb:

Bobby Dodd greift ein
(1959, dir. Géza von Cziffra)
As a director, Géza von Cziffra preferred making light entertainment, so this sequel to Peter Voss, der Millionendieb starring Giller in the title role was right up his alley. (We here at A Wasted Life don't like von Cziffra's films at all, though we would like to see his last one, Lolita aka Josefine – das liebestolle Kätzchen (1969) and we do have a partiality to the title melody of his 1960 success, Kriminaltango (1960) – here's a version by Die Toten Hosen from 1984 and here's the version sung by Peter Alexander for the film. The following plot description for Bobby Dodd greift ein is loosely translated from the German website Due to a lack of success, the private detective Bobby Dodd has no work, so he takes a job as a double for a dodgy arms dealer whom he resembles. But three crooks who work for his employer kill the man and put the blame on Dodd. Now he's busy dodging the police, catching the gangsters and clearing his name. He succeeds in the end, and thus regains his old job at the PI agency.

Rosen für den Staatsanwalt
(1959, dir. Wolfgang Staudte)
This is the first of three films Giller made with director Wolfgang Staudte over a period of 11 years, none of which could be said as being one of Staudte's better films. (Among his best are Der Untertan [1951 / scene], which after its release was banned in West Germany until 1956 and was first shown uncut [on TV] in 1971, and Murderers Among Us [1946].) Still, (almost) no film by Staudte is a total loss, and this one isn't either – in fact, it is rather good. Giller plays Rudi Kleinschmidt, a Wehrmacht soldier condemned to death in the last days of the war by military judge Dr. Schramm for stealing two bars of chocolate. By pure luck, he is able to escape, but ten years later he meets the judge again: the ex-Nazi is now a senior prosecutor and respected citizen, and the last thing he wants is that his past is revealed. According to the German website, Wolfgang Staudte was taken to task by some for this film as being a "denigrator of his own country".
First 13 minutes:

L'affaire Nina B.
(1961, dir. Robert Siodmak)
Richard Siodmark, a director of many a great film (including The Phantom Lady [1944]) who is seen as a major influence in the development of film noir, was one of the first émigré directors to return to Europe after the war. L'affaire Nina B. is not viewed as one of his better films. More than one on-line source claims that the then-controversial topic of German officials being exposed as former / hidden war criminals is one of the reasons the film ended up being made in France and not Deutschland, but that statement fails to take into account the same topic was popular with Wolfgang Staudte and other German filmmakers who made their films within Germany – although, perhaps by 1961, times had begun to change. The events of L'affaire Nina B. are told in flashback from a funeral; Giller plays Holden, the film's narrator, a former jailbird hired as chauffer by a shady businessman who gets murdered for blackmailing the wrong war criminals...

La chambre ardente
(1962, dir. Julien Duvivier)
Giller and Tiller are among the stars of this supernatural mystery film based on John Dickson Carr's most controversial novel, The Burning Court, which is seen as being one of his best – and most puzzling – pieces of fiction. (Recognize the beautiful blonde? It's Edith Scob, of the classic horror film Eyes Without a Face [1960 / trailer].) La chambre ardente (like the book it is based on) is an arty cross between an old dark house and locked-room murder mystery. Michel Boissard (Giller) and his wife Marie (Scob) arrive at château of Mathias Desgrez (Frédéric Duvallès), who soon dies. Mathias is interred in the crypt, but when suspicions arise that he was poisoned, his body disappears. Where has the body gone? And more important, who killed him?
The decidedly surreal funeral of the murdered man:

Die Dreigroschenoper
(1962, dir. Wolfgang Staudte)
The Three Penny Opera. Another version of the famous German musical by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, this time around starring Curd Jürgens, Gert Fröbe, and Hildegard Knef. Giller appears as Beggar Filch – and Lino Ventura (!) as Tiger Brown. The scenes with Sammy Davis, Jr. were added for its US release. The film is not considered prime Staudte.
Sammy Davis Jr sings Mack the Knife:

Liebling – Ich muß Dich erschießen

(1962, dir. Jürgen Goslar)
When one looks at Giller's film projects as of 1959, it would seem that he was trying to break out of his sunny-boy image. This forgotten krimi is the first film in which he played a 100% bad guy. The title of the film translates into Darling – I Have to Shoot You to Death; it is based on the play Double Cross by John O'Hara and co-stars Marianne Koch, best known to the English-speaking world as the woman the Man With No Name helps in A Fistful of Dollars (1964 / trailer). The plot: The poetess Jeannine (Koch) has inherited a considerable fortune from her aunt, but the lonely lass is less interested in material possessions than love and security. She appears to find both in the American Tom Fleming (Giller). Within ten days of meeting they marry, and off they go on their honeymoon to a lonely and distant hut in the hills – only then does she learn that Tom is not the man she thinks he is, and his interests do not include her well-being...

L'ape regina
(1963, dir. Marco Ferreri)
Aka The Conjugal Bed and The Queen Bee. An early film from one of Italy's most unique talents, the man behind such great films as, among others, The Ape Woman (1964) and The Big Feast (1973 / trailer). Walter Giller appears as Father Mariano in this film about a man, Alfonso (Ugo Tognazzi) who marries a virgin, Regina (Marina Vlady), who basically fucks him to death. The film was entered into the 1963 Cannes Film Festival where Marina Vlady was awarded Best Actress.
Italian opening credits:

Der Würger von Schloß Blackmoor
(1963, dir. Harald Reinl)
Aka The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle – a Bryan Edgar Wallace krimi from director Harald Reinl, who was knifed to death by his third wife, actress Daniela Delis, in 1986 on the island of Tenerife. This film stars his first wife, the beautiful Karin Dor (of Hotel der Toten Gäste [1965]). Reinl made a lot of excellent films in his day, including the krimis The Forger of London (1961) and Die weiße Spinne (1963). For an English-language review of The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle, go here to the blogspot Hallo, hier spricht.... Like many a krimi, Der Würger von Schloß Blackmoor is an amalgam of horror, comic and crime elements filmed in expressionistic B&W. Plot: In a properly Gothic castle a masked murderer is on the loose who beheads his victims and brands their foreheads with an "M".
Trailer for the Bryan Edgar Wallace DVD Collection:

Der letzte Ritt nach Santa Cruz
(1964, dir. Rolf Olsen)
Aka The Last Ride to Santa Cruz. The cast of this western by the unjustly forgotten director Rolf Olsen includes Giller, Klaus Kinski, Marianne Koch, Marisa Mell (Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee [1961 / trailer] and Danger: Diabolik [1968 / trailer]), Mario Adorf (The Tin Drum [1979 / trailer] and Deadlock [1970 / trailer]) and Edmund Purdom (Don't Open Till Christmas [1984 / German trailer], Absurd [1981 / trailer], Pieces [1982/ trailer] and Dr Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks [1974 / trailer]). Plot: After sitting in jail for ten years, Pedro (Adorf) wants to get the gold he stole and go south, but first he helps Carlos (Thomas Fritsch) escape from jail. The two, along with José (Kinski) and Fernando (Sieghardt Rupp of Mädchen für die Mambo-Bar [1959]) and Juanita (Mell), then go their way to the mountain Santa Cruz, where he has hidden the gold, dragging Woody (Giller) along 'cause he could spill the beans. But before Pedro gets his gold, he wants to kill Kelly (Purdom), the man who put him behind bars... everyone who should, dies.
First 10 minutes in German in B&W:

Die Tote von Beverly Hills

(1964, dir. Michael Pfleghar)
Aka Dead Woman from Beverly Hills, based on the book by Curt Goetz, the film was entered into the 1964 Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Palme d'Or. Giller has a very small part in the film – he wasn't even listed on the poster (as if often the case in his film projects as of now) – but the poster is so nice we had to include it. The film was the first feature-length cinematic release of director Michael Pfleghar, who killed himself in the bathtub of a friend on 23 June 1991 after going bankrupt due to badly timed investments in HD TV. The plot of the "satire": 17-year-old Lu (Heidelinde Weis) is found murdered; her diary reveals that she lived a lively life dotted with lovers, including altar servers, judges and scientists. As Det. Ben (Wolfgang Neuss) investigates to find out who killed her, the trail leads him to pair of twin entertainers (Ellen and Alice Kessler) in Las Vegas. The clip below is not from the film, but it does feature the Kessler Twins.
The Kessler Twins representing Germany at the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest:

Tonio Kröger
(1964, dir. Rolf Thiele)
Tonio Kröger was the fourth of six films Giller made with Rolf Thiele, a "mainstream" director who drifted into exploitation by the late 60s and thus made some fun films. Giller has a relatively small part in this film, which is based on the Thomas Mann novel of the same name and needless to say is one of Thiele's serious productions. Tonio Kröger was nominated for awards both at the 1964 Berlinale and Venice Film Festival but came away empty-handed. To loosely translate the plot as given by a German website: Tonio Kröger (Jean-Claude Brialy of The Bride Wore Black [1968 / trailer]), who comes from a patrician family of Lübeck, is in search of himself and the meaning of life. During his search, he travels across Europe, from Florence through Munich to Denmark and, among other things, visits his great love Lisaweta Ivanovna (Nadja Tiller).

Fanny Hill
(1964, dir. Russ Meyer)
Walter Giller plays "Hemingway" in this European movie version of John Cleland's novel, which may be one of the weakest and least distinctive of all Russ Meyer films, but is still a Russ Meyer film – so let's put the blame on his co-scriptwriter Robert Hill, who scripted a number of early psychotronic films such as, among others: Dog Eat Dog (1964 / trailer), Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962 / trailer), Sex Kittens Go to College (1960 / trailer), She Gods of Shark Reef (1958 / full film), The Girl in the Kremlin (1957 / hair-shaving scene) and Female on the Beach (1955 / full film). The delicious Letícia Román (The Evil Eye [1964 / trailer]) plays the titular female, while the film legend Miriam Hopkins (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1931 / full film), Becky Sharp [1935 / trailer / full film] and The Heiress [1949 / trailer]) plays Mrs. Maude Brown, the bordello mother. Others notable members of the cast include Alexander D'Arcy (of Horrors of Spider Island [1960 / trailer]) and future trash-film director Ulli Lommel, who shows up in the end dressed in drag to save the virtuous damsel. The plot, according to Eduardo Casais at imdb: "Young, pretty and innocent Fanny Hill has lost her parents and must find her way in life amidst the perils of turbulent 18th century London. She is fortunate enough to find rapidly a place as chambermaid of the effusive Mrs. Brown. Mrs. Brown lives in a large house teeming with female 'relatives' in négligée and with very relaxed manners. She also insists that Fanny meets alone various gentlemen who show an ardent interest in Fanny."

Heiss weht der Wind
(1964, dir. Rolf Olsen)
Aka Legend of a Gunfighter. This western, the second that Giller made with director Rolf Olsen, was co-scripted by the English genre film director Don Sharp. According to the Spaghetti Western Database, this forgotten and seldom-seen German-Austrian production tells of a young man who, "after his parents are killed in a stagecoach holdup [...], learns to be an expert gunman and, with his dog Shorty, sets out to avenge their deaths." Other on-line sources indicate that an added conflict arises when the killer ends up saving the life of the young man. Giller plays Spike Sunday; in Kevin Heffernan's book Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold, the author says the film was never released theatrically in the US, and indeed, no one who writes English seems ever to have seen it – or, if anyone has, they have yet to write about it on the web.

(1965, dir. Rolf Thiele)
Giller shares star billing on the poster with Curd Jürgens and Charles Renier (The Black Abbot [1963 / trailer]) in this, his fifth film with director Thiele. The movie is based on the novel Ehrlich fährt am längsten by Peter Norden, who also wrote the book upon which Tinto Brass based his 1976 movie Salon Kitty (trailer). Other cast members of note include Daliah Lavi and Elisabeth Flickenschildt, the latter who starred in some of the best Edgar Wallace krimis. According to what one "Dan Pavlides" says on numerous websites, the film is about: "A trio of crooks just out of prison plan their next scheme to strike it rich in this amusing crime comedy. Kurt (Jurgens) is a handsome ladies man, with Charly (Giller) as a dim-witted dolt and Roland (Regnier) as the criminal mastermind. Their scheme is to ship Volkswagens to the United States, sell them for a profit, and eliminate the nearly 18-months waiting time the car buyers normally had to endure." Aside from Pavlidas, no one seems to have seen this film in a long, long time.

Schüsse im Dreivierteltakt
(1965, dir. Alfred Weidenmann)
This is the second of three films Giller did with Weidenmann – the first being the extremely dated comedy Das große Liebesspiel (1963) – but Giller has such a small part in this spy flick that he isn't even on the poster. Later releases added the credit of Terrence Hill, who appears in the film somewhere (credited as Mario Girotti). Schüsse im Dreivierteltakt has been given many names over the years, but the most common one seems to be Spy Hunt in Vienna. Director Weidenmann began his directorial career doing Nazi propaganda films, including the 1942 feature film about the Hitler Youth, Hände hoch (full film in German); following the war, once he was released from prison, he was allowed back into the industry and came to specialize in dull crime films and TV series, though he did a rare exploiter such as The Bordello (1971) or Unter den Dächern von St. Pauli (1970). Over at imdb, gridoon2012 says: "Although Schüsse im Dreivierteltakt is fairly well-produced and shot in beautiful European locations (Paris, Vienna), this film [...] is a generally dull example of its genre (the Euro-spy thriller). For one thing, there is little action, as the main character / agent simply walks through the various locations and engages in some form of action not more often than once every 20 minutes. The people he is searching for may or may not be hiding within a traveling circus, which results in some overlong circus numbers. [...] The film even disappoints in the women department, as the two best lookers (Senta Berger and Paola Pitagora) have VERY limited screen time."
The opening credits:

Das Vermächtnis des Inka
(1965, dir. Georg Marischka)
Aka Legacy of the Incas. This is the last theatrically released film of the director Georg Marischka, who then moved on to do TV films for a few years before becoming a character actor to be found in such films as The Odessa File (1974 / trailer) or The Boys from Brazil (1978 / trailer). This film is yet another Eurowestern (of sorts) based on a Karl May novel; Giller might get special notice in the film credits, but his name is obviously not considered a big enough draw to be on the poster. The real star of the show is 50s western heartthrob Guy Madison (of The Beast of Hollow Mountain [1956 / trailer]) and some of the locations: although much of the film was shot in Bulgaria (standing in for South America), some scenes were shot on location in Peru, including at Machu Picchu. To loosely translate what the German book Das größte Filmlexikon der Welt Film says: "A very free and low-brow film version of a lesser known Karl May novel that tells a confusing and fantastic adventure story set in Peru. The search for a legendary Incan treasure leads to numerous bloody confrontations before the Incan prince decides to sacrifice himself for peace." Legacy of the Incas was a flop and helped hasten the end of the popularity of Karl May films.
Opening credits:

Ich suche einen Mann

(1966, dir. Alfred Weidenmann)
Aka I Am Looking for a Man – needless to say, the character Giller plays, Dr. Pleskau, is not the one seeking a man. The plot, as the description found most often on the web describes it: "The ambitious Barbara (Ghita Nørby) isn't satisfied with the men she dates – she's got the impression they all want her just for her body, not her mind. Hence she decides to try a marriage broker... oblivious that there's already a nice guy (Giller) who really loves her." The tagline of the poster translates into: "Experiences and adventures of a woman who wants to marry." To quote the book Von Jean Gabin bis Walter Huston, the comedy is "inhibited." We include it here only because we find the whole concept of the film so, well, embarrassing and prudish – it could really be an American film, couldn't it? As for the German-language Petula Clark song below, we don't know if it has anything to do with the film, but since it shares the same title, we thought we would share it you. Here at A Wasted Life, we love it when Petula sings in German...
Petula Clark singing Ich suche einen Mann:

Gern hab' ich die Frauen gekillt
(1966, dir. Alberto Cardone [as Albert Cardiff])
Aka Killer's Carnival. Alberto Cardone worked as assistant director on many a fine film, but of his eleven-odd solo projects, none are particularly well known; Gern hab' ich die Frauen gekillt is basically the only non-western among his own films – and a forgotten film, at that, though we do admit to having a DVD of it in our "To Watch" pile. Giller (along with Karin Dor, Klaus Kinski and Margaret Lee) appears somewhere in this mess starring Stewart Granger, Lex Barker and Pierre Brice, the plot of which is given at imdb by gridoon2012 as follows: "A man wanted by the police for multiple murders breaks into the house of a professor [...]. The professor tries to convince him to give himself up by telling him three stories about how criminals always get caught in the end. In the first story, set in Vienna, Stewart Granger [...] is a suave and shady character investigating the death of a reporter who was tracing a drug ring around the world; in the second story, set in Rome and, unlike the other two, played mostly as a slapstick comedy, Pierre Brice is a secret agent trying to deliver some important documents to his boss while being chased by a gang led by a woman with a whip; in the third story, set in San Francisco and Rio, Lex Barker is a private detective trying to stop a political assassination plot by posing as the assassin himself. In the end, there is a major plot twist that tries to tie everything together, but the film ends up making even less sense than before! [...] For 60s spy-movie completists only."

Le soleil des voyous
(1967, dir. Jean Delannoy)
Aka Action Man. By this film, Walter Giller was long past being a name found on the poster; instead, he was one of those familiar names (and faces) that normally gets special, separate listing in the film credits. By the time director Jean Delannoy made this film, his long career – he entered the field as an actor in the 1920s and was respected director by the mid-30s – was already on the wan; he was a popular punching bag for the young critics of Cahiers du cinema, and "drivel" like this film didn't help his reputation any. Action Man stars Jean Gabin (Port of Shadows [1938]), Robert Stack and Margaret Lee, with Walter Giller hanging out somewhere. Based on a novel by J.M. Flynn, the film tells of Denis Farrand (Gabin), a former hood who now owns a restaurant but decides to do one last big "job" when an old friend of his, Jim Beckley (Stack) suddenly reappears. They make off with 500 million francs, but then things begin to go wrong... At James Travers calls the film "plodding" but say that the two stars "work together surprisingly well in this film, which should appeal to devotees of the American B movie as well as die-hard fans of the French film policier."
See Gabin slap Margaret Lee & Robert Stack speak French:

Johnny Banco
(1967, dir. Yves Allégret)
French director Yves Allégret, who was once married to Simone Signoret (Diabolique [1955 / trailer / full film), was, according to TCM, a "leading figure of post-World War II French cinema" who gained renown as a director of depressing French films such as Dédée d'Anvers (1948), Une si jolie petite plage (1949), Manèges (1950) and Les orgueilleux (1953 / trailer)... Johnny Banco is not considered one of his better films, if anyone considers it at all. This vehicle for pre-gay Horst Buchholz (One, Two, Three [1961 / opening scene]) and the delicious Sylva Koscina (Lisa and the Devil [1973 / trailer] and Deadlier Than the Male [1967 / trailer]) is a French crime caper movie so lightweight that everyone seems to have forgotten it. Based on the novel Le flamenco des assassins by Frédéric Valmain, for production reasons this French/German/Italian coproduction had a core cast seven French, three German and three Italian actors. Buchholz is the titular Johnny Banco, who steals a bunch of money from the gangster Sebastiani (Michel de Ré) and hustles to Monte Carlo to live the good life, where he marries the rich widow Laureen Moore (Koscina); Sebastiani and Banco's ex-mistress Nati (Elisabeth Wiener) show up to get revenge. Moore gets murdered and Banco gets framed for the death; Inspector Jakubowski (Walter Giller) is the man on the case. TV Guide says: "Rambling and ultimately boring, the film is further hampered by Buchholz's weak performance; he tries to play his role for laughs..."

Elsk... din næste!
(1967, dir. Egil Kolstø)
Aka Love Thy Neighbor and Vergiß nicht deine Frau zu küssen – this directorial debut, a Danish-German coproduction, is a totally forgotten sex comedy by a totally forgotten Danish director. Though lacking any hardcore sex scenes – Vilgot Sjöman's groundbreaking, sexually explicit Danish film I am Curious Yellow (1967 / trailer) came out the same year as this film, but hardcore films only became legal in Denmark (and the Netherlands) two years later in 1969 – Elsk... din næste! still officially has a rating (in Germany, at least) of "18 and above". Walter Giller stars as the sex-book author Sven who tries to escape the limelight in Copenhagen by retreating to a Norwegian fjord with his neglected wife Brit (Ghita Nörby) and his over-sized bed, in which he gets his best ideas but otherwise uses mostly just to sleep in. Initially rejected by the village, they become tourist attractions. Lots of unfunny stuff happens and a lot of sweet, lithe and attractive young ladies show bare skin. In the end, everyone finds out it is better to be old-fashioned. The book Das größte Filmlexikon der Welt says: "A satire on the hoopla about sex in the 1960s that fails both thematically and directorially."
Seven boring minutes of the film in Danish:

Grimms Märchen von lüsternen Pärchen
(1969, dir. Rolf Thiele)
Aka Grimm's Fairy Tales for Adults and The New Adventures of Snow White. Director Rolf Thiele finally jumps on the exploitation bandwagon with this "adult" version of some of the best-known fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, including Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, "Clarke Fountain" writes: "Gore and sexual acts are features of this German retelling of several well-known fairy tales [...]. In one of the movie's scenes, what takes place with a cow, frogs and snakes cannot properly be described here. Much of the film's imagery involves explicit depictions of the dismemberment of toes, fingers and entire bodies. This movie is not for the young or the faint-hearted." The movie was not the first "adult" fairytale film – that was, perhaps, Loel Minardi's Sinderella and the Golden Bra (1964 / trailer)* – but it does seem to be one the earliest of the movie sub-genre of adult fairytale that includes such films as The Erotic Adventures of Hansel and Gretel (1970), The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio (1971 / trailer), Alice in Wonderland (1976 / full film), Al Adamson's Cinderella 2000 (1977 / trailer), Fairy Tales (1979 / full NSFW film at a Russian website), the porno Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs (1995 / full NSFW film), Walerian Borowczyk's The Beast (1975 / trailer) and more. Though Grimm's Fairy Tales for Adults is relatively unknown – and innocent, when compared to at least one of the just named films – it has a reputation of being extremely weird; one on-line fan of cult movies describes the "psychedelic" film as being "a true great moment of German cinema!" Giller stars as Hans (of the Grimm's fairytale Hans in Luck), but the true eye candy of the film is naturally the stunning Swedish actress Marie Liljedahl as Snow White; during her short career in exploitation – she inexplicitly retired at the ancient age of 21 – she participated in such exceptional projects as Ann and Eve [1970 / trailer], Joseph W. Sarno's Inga [1968 / trailer] and his The Seduction of Inga [1971 / trailer] and Jess Franco's Eugenie... the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion [1970 / article & trailer]. The Evil Queen in Grimm's Fairy Tales for Adults, by the way, is played by the German actress Ingrid van Bergen (Der Rächer [1960 / trailer] and The Devil's Daffodil [1961 / trailer]), who was convicted in February 2, 1977 of manslaughter for the death of husband Klaus Knath; sentenced to seven years in prison in Bavaria, she was released in 1982 for good behavior. (One assumes their match was not as good as that of Giller and Tiller.) Other eye candy in the film includes Miss World 1969 Eva Reuber-Staier as Cinderella and, as Sleeping Beauty, Gaby Fuchs of Mark of the Devil (1972 / trailer) and The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971 / trailer / full film).
*The title of H.G. Lewis's nudie-cutie Goldilock's and the Three Bares (1963 / trailer) might make the film seem like a fairytale-based film, but it was about a singer who's a nudist.

Die Herren mit der weißen Weste
(1970, dir. Wolfgang Staudte)
Aka Gentlemen in White Vests. In 1968 Wolfgang Staudte formed Cineforum, his own film production company in Berlin, so as to enjoy greater artistic freedom in regard to his themes and films. Regrettably, the firm's first (and only) production Heimlichkeiten / Little Secrets (1968) – with Ewa Strömberg (Vampiros lesbos [1971 / trailer] and Der Teufel kam aus Akasava [1971 / trailer]) in a tiny role – was such a financial disaster that henceforth Staudte was pretty much forced to do anything he was offered, which was television work; most of his work after Little Secrets, as puts it, "[was] based on external material ...[and] rarely resembled the social dedication of his earlier films." Die Herren mit der weißen Weste, which also lacked any true social commentary, was his first theatrical film following the collapse of Cineforum; it was a relative success and is still screened regularly on TV in Germany. describes it as "an amusing and lighthearted crime story in which a number of robberies take place executed by a group of older and respectable gentlemen much to the dismay of a rival group of real gangsters. [...] There is good company acting and everybody obviously enjoyed doing this film." The plot actually has a bit more going to it: the gents are doing the crimes so as to frame the real gangsters, who always managed to escape the law while the main gent sat on the judge's bench. Walter Giller plays one of the men with "white vests"; in German slang, when you have a "white vest", you are basically innocent or have done nothing wrong. Agitating on the sidelines of the film is no one other than Sir John himself, Siegfried Schürenberg (The Hand of Power [1968 / trailer]) playing Kommissar Berg.

Die Feuerzangenbowle
(1970, dir. Helmut Käutner)
Aka The Fire Tongue Bowl. And if you thought all those 20-plus-year-olds that play teens in the average dead-teenager film are unconvincing, watch Giller play a high-school student in this flick – like, take a look at his picture on the DVD cover above! This is the third film that Walter Giller made with director Käutner beginning with Der Hauptmann von Köpenick (1956), which is considered the first post-war German film to be a financial success in the US; their second shared project was an uninteresting trifle entitled The Dream of Lieschen Mueller (1961 / 13 seconds). Helmut Käutner, by the way, entered the directorial biz under the National Socialists, but his 1939 debut film Kitty und die Weltkonferenz ended up being banned for its supposed pro-British tendencies when the war broke out shortly after its premiere. Die Feuerzangenbowle is a remake of the Helmut Weiss film of the same name from 1944 starring Heinz Rühmann (the English title being The Punch Bowl), which in turn was a remake of Robert A. Stemmle's 1934 film starring Heinz Rühmann entitled So ein Flegel (the English title being Such A Boor); all three films are based on the Heinrich Spoerl novel entitled Die Feuerzangenbowle. We here at A Wasted Life have seen the 1944 version and managed to stay awake until the end, but it is doubtful we shall ever bother with the other two versions – including this one, although Nadja Tiller (as Marion Xylander) looks a total MILF in it. For a change, Walter Giller is the headlining star – and he romances no one other than Uschi Glas (Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso [1972 / trailer], Angels of Terror [1971 / trailer] and Der Mönch mit der Peitsche [1967 / trailer]). (The year before Die Feuerzangenbowle, in an extremely forgettable film entitled Spanking at School [1969], Giller played her teacher!) Plot: Over a bowl of punch, Dr Johannes Pfeiffer (Giller) reminisces with old friends over their youth, whereby his friends' tales of their days at school makes Pfeiffer realize that he missed out on a lot due to his private schooling. It is decided that Pfeiffer must return to school to enjoy such fun – and as is said, is done: Dr Johannes Pfeiffer becomes Hans Pfeiffer at the highest class at a provincial high school, where the award-winning doctor of literature becomes one of the most popular students and the problem child of the entire school...

Ein Käfer auf Extratour
(1973, dir. Rudolf Zehetgruber)


Das verrückteste Auto der Welt
(1975, dir. Rudolf Zehetgruber)
Director Rudolf Zehetgruber began his film career as a second-unit director in the 50s before finally directing his first film, Das Dorf ohne Moral in 1960. For the next decade, he specialized in krimis and thrillers, most of which he both wrote and directed. With titles such as The Black Cobra (1963), The Nylon Noose (1963), Piccadilly null Uhr zwölf (1963) The Inn on Dartmoor (1964), Secret of the Chinese Carnation (1964), Girls Behind Bars (1965), the western Seven Vengeful Women (1966) and Ich spreng' euch alle in die Luft (1968), they were for the most part unexceptional and usually somewhat slow, but most have some entertainment value and have aged well in a tacky sort of way. During this time, Zehetgruber also directed two entries of the seven movies of the popular Kommissar X Euro-thriller series, Kommissar X – Drei gelbe Katzen (1966 / bar scene) and Kommissar X – Drei grüne Hunde (1967). But his biggest success came in 1971, when he lifted the core concept of Walt Disney's Herbie the Love Bug (who debuted in 1968 in The Love Bug [trailer]) for his own film series based around a super VW Beetle called "DuDu". Beginning with The Love Bug Rally (1971 / trailer) and ending with Return of the Superbug (1980 / trailer), Rudolf Zehetgruber wrote, directed and played the lead (under a variety of names) in five films which can basically be described as a super-childish – retarded? – version of The Night Rider in which the car is a VW Beetle. Walter Giller could be found in Ein Käfer auf Extratour / Superbug, the Wild One (1973), the third installment of the series, as well as the fourth film, Das verrückteste Auto der Welt / Superbug, the Craziest Car in the World (1975), playing a different character each time. The two films were perhaps financially successful, but they are also arguably the lowest point of his cinematic career – and prime examples of just how stupid films can be. (In fact, in their current DVD re-release, they are sold for their trash factor – to quote the cover of the Ein Käfer auf Extratour DVD: "Dudu makes the trash barometer burst!") It is not surprising that but for a rare exception thereafter, Giller concentrated on TV and stage productions. Rudolf Zehetgruber, in turn, hasn't made a film since the 1985 kiddy film, Nessie, das Monster von Loch Ness.
Trailer for Ein Käfer auf Extratour:

German Trailer for Das verrückteste Auto der Welt:

Lady Dracula
(1978, dir. Franz Josef Gottlieb)
As far as A Wasted Life is concerned, this is Walter Giller's last film of note. Director Gottlieb, from Austria, had a long and versatile career in which he made films of almost every genre. A Wasted Life definitely prefers his early krimis – he first gained notice doing krimis such as Der Fluch der gelben Schlange (1963), The Black Abbot (1963 / trailer) Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Witwe (1963 / full film), Das Phantom von Soho (1964 / trailer), Die Gruft mit dem Rätselschloß (1964 / trailer) and Das siebente Opfer (1964) – or his later, more trashy films such as 1970's The Naked Wytche (aka The Erotic Adventures of Hansel and Gretel) or Joy of Flying (1977 / all the nude scenes in 16 minutes) or this tacky horror comedy, Lady Dracula. Stephen Boyd (of Kill! [1971 / opening credits], Slaves [1969 / trailer] and Carter's Army [1970 / full film]) makes his last film appearance in this film as Count Dracula – he died of a heart attack soon afterwards in California. Lady Dracula is played by the delectable (and since 2009, likewise dead) Evelyne Kraft of The Mighty Peking Man (1977 / trailer). Walter Giller is there somewhere as Herr Oskar – he at least has more screen time than the uncredited Heinz Reincke. Vampyres Online gives the plot as follows: "In 1876, the countess Barbara Von Weidenborn (Marion Kracht) is abducted from her young ladies' boarding school by Count Dracula (Stephen Boyd). He puts the bite on her and turns her into a vampire, but Dracula is killed by the angry villagers. Barbara is interred in a coffin, but accidentally exhumed one hundred years later, in modern day Germany. Although she is a vampire, she doesn't want to kill people. So Barbara (now played by Evelyne Kraft) tries to be a nice little vampire who only gets her food from the blood bank... She also works in a funeral home where she feeds on supplies. But when she kills her boss's fiancée and falls in love with the investigating police officer (Brad Harris), the problems start." In all truth, the intentional humor of the film is less funny than the unintentional comedy of the film – Lady Dracula is a bad film in every way (but the babes) and low on sleaze, but it's silly and fun enough to watch on a rainy day.

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