Tuesday, May 8, 2018

R.I.P.: Umberto Lenzi, Part VI – 1991-2017 & Addendum

6 August 1931 – 19 October 2017

"A mostly unsung titan has passed." The great Umberto Lenzi has left us! In a career that spanned over 30 years, the Italian director churned out fine quality as well as crappy Eurotrash in all genres: comedy, peplum, Eurospy, spaghetti westerns and macaroni combat, poliziotteschi, cannibal and giallo."

Go here for Part I: 1958-63
Go here for Part II: 1964-68
Go here for Part III: 1969-75
Go here for Part IV: 1976-82
Go here for Part V: 1983-90

Black Demons
(1991, writ. & dir. Umberto Lenzi)
Aka Black Zombies, a title perhaps related most closely to the events of the narrative, and, of course, Demoni 3, although everyone knows it really has nothing to do with the fun trash that is Lamberto Bava's Demons I (1985 / trailer) and Demons 2 (1986 / trailer) — and, likewise, shouldn't be mistaken for Lamberto Bava's 1988 TV horror The Ogre aka Demons III: The Ogre (trailer).

Shot in Brazil, the movie was co-written with his [possibly second]* wife, Olga Pehar (8 Feb 1938 – 20 Nov 2015). Black Demons has the distinction of being Lenzi's last horror movie. It was also one his favorites — Ouch! — as he officially said it is "a horror film which I consider my masterpiece." (See: Winick, Margot; Spaghetti Nightmares: Italian Fantasy-horrors as Seen through the Eyes of Their Protagonists, Fantasma Books, 1996) 
* See his first directorial effort in Part I for the explanation of "possibly second".
Trailer to
Black Demons:
Ninja Dixon, an admitted Lenzi fan, gushes "I like Black Demons, even if it has problems. The gore is fine, the music is atmospheric, the zombies are brutal and Lenzi's directing is inspired." He also has the plot: "The story is simple but effective: three students [Jessica (Sonia Curtis of The Boston Strangler [2008 / trailer] and Soulmates [1992 / trailer]), her boyfriend Kevin (Keith Van Hoven of Fulci's House of Clocks [1989 / trailer]) and her half-brother Dick (Joe Balogh)] go to Brazil to research about black magic. Dick gets right into a black mass and somehow gets possessed by the power of black magic and brings it with him when they travel into Brazil. During the trip they meet to hikers [Jose (Philip Murray) and his girlfriend Sonia (Juliana Texeira)] who live nearby, and they visits their old house out in the jungle. Not far away is a funeral place with the graves of six black slaves that where killed by their white masters many years ago. The legend says that they want revenge. When Dick starts to play the music he recorded during the black mass he resurrects the slaves and they starts to take their bloody, gruesome revenge!"
At the imdb, way back in 2006, EVOL666 from St. John's Abortion Clinic — Hey! We were born there! — said "Kill Whitey...", and then added: "Completely ridiculous and totally fun, Black Demons is a semi un-PC zombie romp that will probably be of interest to Italian horror fans. Don't expect much in the way of a sensible or coherent storyline, and I was also disappointed by the lack of nudity — but the gore is decent, with two (count 'em...TWO!!!) wonderfully cheezy Fulci-style eye gougings, a throat puncture, and a few other 'choice' scenes... But be warned — the 'action' doesn't come till after the half-way point of the film. The zombies themselves are suitably creepy looking as well. Fun Italian trash — Black Demons is a no-brainer good time..."
Talk of Horrors finds the movie a bit more than merely "un-PC": "Here, three college kids, a couple and housekeeper (Maria Alves [7 Nov 1947 – 8 May 2008]) are menaced by zombies. So, what are these zombies after? Well, they want revenge. You see, they were slaves that were killed, and after being resurrected via a voodoo curse, they decide to kill six white people. Also, they still have nooses around their necks, and... My God, this movie is fucking racist. Like, even by the standards of exploitation movies, this shit is offensive, and I am a man who isn't offended easily." ("The lady doth protest too much methinks." — William Shakespeare)
Monster Hunter, on the other hand, thinks that "Black Demons is notable because it's a zombie movie where even the zombies can't act. When you think about it, that's really a hard thing to accomplish. I mean, how hard is it to shamble around with glop dripping off your face while some ugly, no-name starlet is tripping over some imaginary tree stump in the front yard of her isolated Brazilian villa? For the six guys they pulled out of the mission and dressed up in fake eyeballs, it turned out to be nigh impossible. [...] Jessica is far and away the single worst performer in the movie (or in any movie for that matter) and utters her lines with all the nuance of a Speak-N-Spell."
Dr Gore, which gives the movie a rating of "1 out of 4 eye-poppingly bad movies" sees flaws elsewhere: "Basically, Black Demons problems can be summed up in two words: NO MONEY. No money for pretty girls to run from demons. No money for nudity although I'm not sad about that since the cast was uniformly unattractive. No money for excessive zombie gore effects. In conclusion, no money for a movie yet they went ahead and made one anyway."
Lenzi himself on
Black Demons:
Death Ensemble, however, is the camel whose back has been broken, and they spit with anger: "Perhaps the most damning factor is the massive amount of unanswered questions the film poses. Is there tension between Dick and Kevin because Kevin's having sex with his sister? Is Dick really acting against his will throughout the movie, or is he just a dick? Why does Jessica worry so much for her brother throughout the film, yet seems fine upon his final fate? And greatest of all, how does a car with four slashed tires suddenly have four functional tires at movie's end, so the protagonists can escape? My answer: Lenzi and screenwriter Mrs. Lenzi Olga Pehar don't care, so why should I or anybody else? And therein lies the problem with Lenzi's catalogue. Lenzi doesn't direct, so much as he pisses all over his audience. Logic, decent dialogue, acting that's above the Quality Equator and overall quality of the final product don't mean a damn to him. He's contemptuous and arrogant, and has no right to be either, given how sloppy a director he is."
Here at A Wasted Life, we have Black Demons on our list of films to see, or course.

Hunt for the Golden Scorpion
(1991, writ. & dir. Umberto Lenzi)

Aka Caccia allo scorpione d'oro, this movie was co-written with his [possibly second]* wife, Olga Pehar (8 Feb 1938 – 20 Nov 2015). Online description, somewhere: "In the deepest, most remote part of the Amazon, a treasure is hidden! A treasure so valuable that men would kill for it, women would undress for it, and entire armies would fight for it!" Wow. That description says it all, or?
* See his first directorial effort in Part I for the explanation of "possibly second".
Kult Eye Bleeder is one of the few, the brave, to have caught this super-obscure, no budget, late-career Lenzi action flick, which they say has "lots of action scenes and explosions" and is a "a nice surprise", though "a far cry from Lenzi's giallo and crime classics". They also say a bit more about the plot: "Mary Maitland (Christine Leigh) gets a message that her brother (David Brandon of Michele Soavi's Stage Fright [1987 / trailer], Lamberto Bava's Delirium [1987 / trailer] and Joe D'Amato's Caligula II: The Untold Story [1982 / trailer]) has died in the Amazon. She doesn't believe it and goes to embassy to sort the things out. She learns that the man who delivered the message about her brother's death is not even working in the embassy. She returns home. Someone has broken into her house looking for something. She gets a letter from her brother written after his supposed death. 'There are too many things that don't gel.' Mary travels to Brazil to find her brother."
Credit sequence: 
Monster Hunter, on the other hand, was less impressed with the movie, saying, "Made at the tail end of Lenzi's career and sandwiched in between two gloriously goofy cop movies (Cop Target [1990, see Part V] and Mean Tricks [1991]), Hunt for the Golden Scorpion appears as if it solely exists because Lenzi had some footage in Miami left over from Cop Target and some time in South America to kill before Mean Tricks got going. It also seems as if he rounded up whatever actors were hanging around the Bad Italian Movie union hall with passports and empty bank accounts at the ready."
Nevertheless, they also note, "Finally, when all three of our heroes run happily through the airport at the end of the movie, you can't help but note that it is a bittersweet moment. Bitter because the entertainingly prolific Lenzi would only make two more films, but sweet because Hunt for the Golden Scorpion marked the last role for both Andy J. Forest* and Christine Leigh."
* Not quite true: he made one more obscure Italo action flick, Ready to Kill (1994 / complete film in Italian), and now, as a musician in New Orleans, has appeared in a few short films and the regional feature production Laundry Day (2015 / trailer).

Mean Tricks
(1992, dir. Umberto Lenzi)
Possibly the last movie Lenzi ever directed. Italian title: Hornsby e Rodriguez - Sfida criminale. This time around, Charles Napier (12 April 1936 – 5 Oct 2011) plays one of the lead roles, "Brian Hornsby"; Rodriguez is played by someone named Stefano Sabelli, who's also found in Lamberto Bava's Dinner with a Vampire (1988 / trailer). 

Over at the imdb, way back in 2004 django-1 from south Texas (that's somewhere in the USA) wrote what we might've written, had we but ever seen this obscure movie: "I've been a fan of Charles Napier ever since seeing Russ Meyer's Cherry Harry and Raquel (1970 / trailer) at a drive-in circa 1973. After appearing in Cop Target with Robert Ginty for director Umberto Lenzi, Napier got a chance to star in HIS OWN euro-crime film for Lenzi, and this film, Mean Tricks, is it. What a treat it is to see Napier beat the crap out of various punks and mouth great B-movie crime dialogue that sounds like it could have come from one of the later Mike Shayne novels. No one can get as many syllables out of the word 'Bullshit' as Napier can. This has the flat, euro-TV-movie look of many later Lenzi films, but the man knows how to make an unpretentious genre film that delivers the goods. If the idea of Charles Napier as a hard-drinking, tough-talking crimebuster with a bad attitude is appealing to you, DO seek out this gem of a film. It's Napier at his best!"
Italian stuff:
Monster Hunter would seem to agree: "From the absurdly spectacular slow motion shoot out on the docks that opens the film all the way until star Charles Napier (Hornsby) banters with his local partner Rodriguez and their sexy sidekick about Rodriguez marrying her despite him having heard Hornsby screw her while she was wearing a wire earlier in the movie, Umberto Lenzi's Mean Tricks is an appallingly proficient bad-ass cop movie that not only delivers every cliché you freaking demand from such films (Rodriguez's gruff captain is nicknamed Iron Balls!), but in the best Italian movie tradition invents its own along the way!"
To simply use the plot as given at Wikipedia: "Hornsby, a recently retired FBI agent (Charles Napier) goes to South America to find his old partner because rumor has it that his old partner has become a criminal. When the former partner is killed, Hornsby alters the crime scene to make it appear that his ex-partner killed the gunman himself. The rest of the movie follows Hornsby as he tries to discover who killed his partner and why. " 
Also on hand for a few scenes is another cult actor extraordinaire, David Warbeck (born David Mitchell; 17 November 1941 – 23 July 1997), of such great stuff like Trog (1970 / trailer), Twins of Evil (1971 / trailer), Russ Meyer's Black Snake (1973 / trailer), The Beyond (1981 / trailer) — image above, Pervirella (1997 / trailer) and much more.

Detective Malone
(1991, dir. "Bob Collins")
In general, Mean Tricks is considered Umberto Lenzi's last directorial job, but as can probably be expected of a gun for hire like him, there are a few subsequent films out there that are rumored to have been by his hand, if not proven by now as his. This is one of them. Aka Black Cobra 4, it is — as one might surmise — the fourth (and so far last) entry in the Italo Blaxploitation Black Cobra series starring Fred Williamson, which also comprises Black Cobra (1987 / trailer), Black Cobra 2 (1989 / trailer) and Black Cobra 3 (1990). BC4 aka Detective Malone is soooo rare that as of the date of writing this (10 Dec 2017), there is not one "External Review" given at the imdb. 

Tough to Kill explains why Lenzi probably prefers to have people think that Mean Tricks is his last movie: "They don't come much rarer than this when searching out movies from the collectors market, but once discovered it becomes apparently clear why director Umberto Lenzi chose to hide behind the pseudonym of Bob Collins! Fred Williamson may still be blissfully unaware that he actually stars in the movie, and with good reason as in reality he does not! What the production company have done is worked a short rehash of a lame story around actual scenes that do star Fred Williamson, but 'borrowed' from the original, 1987-made Black Cobra movie." 

The German website Zelluloid has the plot: "Robert Malone, die 'Black Cobra', macht sich zusammen mit einem Kollegen auf die Suche nach einem entführten Wissenschaftler, der von arabischen Terroristen entführt wurde." For those of you who don't speak German, the translation: "Robert Malone [Williamson & his unnamed stand-in], the 'Black Cobra', joins a colleague (Bobby Rhodes, of Demons [1985]) in the search for a scientist (Gaetano Russo) kidnapped by Arabian terrorists. Little does he suspect that it isn't Arabs behind everything, but Donald "Dotard" Trump, who wants to use the scientist's stupidity serum to destroy all common sense in the United States. Trump succeeds, wins the election, makes Black Cobra his personal Uncle Tom at the White House, and then starts a war with the rest of the world." 

That's the great Fred Williamson above, by the way, from back when Playgirl was a print magazine and didn't show vein. In fact, sometimes they didn't show much more than a black man with a white pussy. (Uh... was that joke racist?)

Gaetano Russo, the scientist, can also be seen somewhere in Bruno Mattei's Island of the Living Dead (2007) and Gianni Martucci's The Red Monks (1988).
Full "movie"
in a foreign language:

Graffiante desiderio
(1993, dir. Sergio Martino)
Supposedly this Italian movie even has an English title: Craving Desire. After his cut & paste job Detective Malone aka Black Cobra 4 as "Bob Collins", Umberto Lenzi waited another two years before his next known un-credited participation in a movie: as one of those working on the script to this late-career Sergio Martino movie. (As we all know, the rent — or, as the case may be, the mortgage — must be paid.) 
Martino, of course, is a familiar genre-filmmaker name due to diverse projects such as Slave of the Cannibal God (1978), Torso (1973 / trailer), After the Fall of New York (1983 / trailer) — hard to believe that we actually caught that one in a San Diego grindhouse — Something Waits in the Dark (1979 / Italian trailer), and so much more. With the blockbuster-induced decline of the Italian movie industry, he went into TV movies, but he seems to have retired after 2012.
A few scenes from
Graffiante desiderio:
Film Affinity has a super-short plotline that reads like a poorly written DVD text: "Luigi (Ron Nummi) is engaged to Cinzia (Simona Borioni), he has a good job and his life runs quietly. But unexpectedly his cousin Sonia (Vittoria Belvedere, on the cover of Playboy below) knocks at his door. She lived in Venezuela with her parents but they have disappeared and she came back to Italy. She is very young and beautiful and once she loved Luigi. What is he to do?" 

What sounds like an Italian take of a typical Woody Allen andropause movie is actually "drama/thriller" with breasts. And according to some sites, unlike most of Allen's recent movies, it ain't all that bad. As Cinemaretro explains, "Although more of an erotic horror/drama hybrid than a pure giallo, Craving Desire still contains enough hallmarks to somewhat qualify as one. Overall, it is a truly dark film that leaves viewers with a distinct sense of unease. For horror fans, this undercurrent of dread has the potential to hook you up until the very final seconds." They qualify that statement later by adding, "From a creative and technical standpoint, Craving Desire isn't a very good film. At times, it struggles just to be watchable, let alone enjoyable. [...] Evidently, Martino and his producers realized all this and decided to follow an age old tradition that has helped visual media thrive for generations. Vis-a-vis: sex and nudity. Lots of it." ("Nudity = Yummy," say we here at A Wasted Life.) But Cinemaretro also has an addendum: "All in all, the film was not this reviewer's cup of tea. So why the recommendation? Although falling short, the movie does represent something that makes it special. It's bad but different; a quality often lacking these days."

For being "different", however, the move sound suspiciously like a Fatal Attraction (1988 / trailer) retread. That said, over 10K Bullets, Michael Den Boer is likewise enamored by the movie, but sees none of the flaws that Cinemaretro does: "Is Craving Desire a thriller, is it an erotic film or is it melodrama? The answer is it is all of the above. One of the most fascinating things about Craving Desire is its chameleon-like plot that never fully allows the viewer to relax. At the core of this torrid thriller is a young man named Luigi who has a dream job and a fiancé. To stir things up a bit, the plot introduces us to his cousin Sonia who quickly injects herself into his life. Like an incurable disease Sonia slowly infects Luigi until he becomes paralyzed without her. Just like most Italian thrillers, the film's unbelievable ending features a monologue from Sonia, who explains her motive. All around the acting is very good, especially from its two leads Vittoria Belvedere in the role of Sonia and Ron Nummi in the role of Luigi. While Ron Nummi is convincing as Sonia's lap dog Luigi, the real attraction in this film is a spellbinding performance from Vittoria Belvedere. Another performance of note is Italian sex icon Serena 'Bush' Grandi [of Antropophagus (1980 / trailer)], who [as 'Marcella Fabbri'] is even given a scene to show off her more than ample assets. Ultimately Craving Desire is a tense psychological thriller that seductively lures you into its web of deceit."

Death Proof
(2007, writ. & dir. Quentin Tarantino)

Quentin Tarantino is known to be a fan of Umberto Lenzi. Here, in the worst and most boring of all Tarantino movies, the great American director — yes, he is one of that nation's best — gives "Special Thanks" to the director in the credits. One can only assume Tarantino used some music from some Lenzi film or something. What a fucking dud Death Proof is. Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror is so much better. Both movies, you might remember, were first released as a double bill entitled Grindhouse.
Trailer to

Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered - Volume 1
(2008, dir. Mike Baronas & [uncredited] Kit Gavin)

Lenzi enters the talking heads phase: no longer making movies himself, he still had decades of filmmaking history behind him, thus he was a perfect candidate for documentary films. And where better to start than in a video documentary on the Italian Godfather of Gore, Lucio Fulci (17 June 1927 – 13 March 1996)? 

Amazon has the product description: "Who was Lucio Fulci, director of such horror classics as Zombi 2 (1979), City of the Living Dead (1980) and The Beyond (1981 / trailer) — an eccentric? A misogynist? A genius? Much speculation surrounded the life of this revered Italian director since his untimely death in 1996. Divided into three categories — Accomplices (Crew), Peers (Directors) and Victims (Actors) — the acquaintances Fulci engaged with throughout his long and diverse moviemaking career recall good, bad and sometimes ugly anecdotes by revealing the answer to one question: 'What is your fondest memory of Lucio Fulci?' Seven years in the making, nearly 90 interviews and almost 4 hours of footage a must for any fan of EuroHorror cinema, limited to only 2,500 copies!"
Trailer to
Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered – Vol. 1:
According to the Video Graveyard, "Mike Baronas and Kit Gavin […] spent a number of years amassing this impressive collection of interviews contained in Paura that paint a relatively positive picture of Fulci and combined end up being a fitting eulogy to the man and his work. As this is a tribute piece, most of the interviews focus on how Fulci was misunderstood and how did not receive the proper respect for his work while he was alive. This ends up being quite touching in moments where people bid their farewells to the man and reflect on how he impacted their lives and careers. In the process, we get a picture of a man who was quite brilliant but who suffered greatly from the personal pain endured by his failing health as well as the emotional distress of dealing with the suicide of his wife and a series of failed relationships. […] Overall, however, we get the sense that although he may have not have been pleasant to everyone all of the time, he was an intelligent human being who had great talents in the medium of cinema." 

The documentary, however, might be stifled by its core question, "What is your fondest memory of Lucio Fulci?" As Final Girl says, "Paura is indeed a noble undertaking, and Fulci fans will find much to love. With seven years of filming and more than 100 of the director's colleagues interviewed, the mountains of footage surely comprise an unwieldy, intimidating beast for Paura director Mike Baronas. Unfortunately, I don't [like] that this beast was wrangled in the most effective manner. I don't feel I know Lucio Fulci much better than I did before I gave the DVD a whirl. Sure, some of the anecdotes are interesting and on more than one occasion it's said that Fulci should have been more recognized as a filmmaker, but his lack of diplomacy stifled his career. I wanted to dive into that idea. I wanted to get a real idea of this curious man. The limitations presented by the format simply don't allow for this. I imagine that Volume Two may feature everyone's 'least favorite' memory of Fulci, and that will probably provide more insight into his nature. Still, the material would have been best served as a straight-up biography of the man, or perhaps a walk through his work in horror where more questions are asked and answered at once. As a companion to other, more in-depth works about Fulci, Paura is undoubtedly invaluable; as an ignoramus taking in the film on its own, however, I feel like I'm standing at a party where I don't know anyone. Like maybe they're all speaking Italian and laughing at inside jokes while I nervously sip my Riunite on ice and blankly smile. When oh when will I belong?"

German Grusel
Die Edgar Wallace-Serie
(2011, writ. & dir. Oliver Schwehm)

In English, German Horror: The Edgar Wallace Series. Lenzi in his talking heads phase: no longer making movies himself, he still had decades of filmmaking history behind him, thus he was a perfect candidate for documentary films. And so he appears as himself in this roughly one-hour-long Arte documentary on the great series of 32 (!) German Edgar Wallace krimis, which spanned from 1959, beginning with The Fellowship of the Frog, to 1972, with Umberto Lenzi's Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (see Part III). Also among the talking heads, of course, Joachim Fuchsberger (11 March 1927 – 11 Sept 2014) and the beautiful Karin Dor (22 Feb 1938 – 6 Nov 2017). 

Among the Wallace films we here at A Wasted Life have seen are: The Hand of Power (1968), the non-Rialto Wallace The Avenger (1960), The Coast of Skeletons (1964), the imitation Wallace krimi The White Spider (1963), The Forger of London (1961), The Inn on the River (1962), The Indian Scarf (1963), The Devil's Daffodil (1961) and The Black Abbot (1963). 

Director Oliver Schwehm later also shot an entertaining Arte documentary on the history of the German train station cinemas entitled Pervy Cinema (2015); originally intended as places where travelers could waste their time while waiting to transfer trains, they eventually evolved into the German version of the grindhouse. We couldn't find a trailer online for Oliver Schwehm's documentary, but we could for "the Krimi class led by Jim Harper at the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies - London, Nov 12th 2015."
Trailer to
The Forgotten History of the German Edgar Wallace Krimi Film:

The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the '70s
(2012, writ. & dir. Mike Malloy)

Lenzi in his talking heads phase: no longer making movies himself, he still had decades of filmmaking history behind him, thus he was a perfect candidate for documentary films. And so he appears as himself in this documentary on the Italian poliziotteschi films, alongside other fine names ranging from Richard Harrison to Joe Dallesandro (shown below from his pre-film years), Enzo G. Castellari to Claudio Fragasso, and many more. Diector Malloy, an "expert" on the subject, has also appeared in a few films himself, most notably the contemporary Italo western The Scarlet Worm (2011 / trailer) and Gregory Hatanaka's indi Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance (2015 / trailer), which features no one else than Tommy Wiseau — somewhere. 

Daily Grindhouse says, "Malloy is helped greatly by an array of candid interviews with many of the living stars of poliziotteschi, including such genre stalwarts as Fred Williamson, John Saxon, Franco Nero and Henry Silva. The subjects are all engaged and enthusiastic to be talking about these films, and speak quite frankly about the positive and negative aspects of working with foreign crews, the increased violence throughout Italy in the decade, and the legacy of these films. I was particularly impressed with Silva,* the cold-eyed actor who has played countless villains comes off much younger than his 80+ years, and seems to be having a whale of a time reeling off anecdotes of his 70s heyday. Some of the interview subjects are less forthcoming (or, in the case of Antonio Sabato, a tad irritating), but some judicious editing keeps the pace moving."
* We here at A Wasted Life wait for the day he finally gets his appearance in a Tarantino project.

Agents of Geek adds, "The enthusiasm that Mr. Malloy displays for the subject close to his heart becomes contagious in the way Trailers From Hell can instantly make you reconsider titles that you might have previously dismissed. The original music that underscores the proceedings packs a nice authentic punch and really captures the sleaze to put you in the moment. Everything is broken into chapters and we can only hope to get a companion book to further expand on everything, after all there's only so much information you can squeeze into a feature length film." 

And, lastly, Cinapse, which calls the documentary "A love serenade […] celebrating one of the more obscure film genres on the international map of movies", says: "Originally seen as little more than second-rate imitations, these movies are gaining in respect and an ever-rowing audience appreciation. One reason, perhaps, that these movies have a new lease on life, is that they act as an alternative to Hollywood movies, both classic and current. […] Italian crime movies proved popular, in part thanks to their extreme violence, creative stunts and chases and overtly macho and chauvinistic attitudes. These pictures were primarily targeted to a male audience, and Malloy's documentary even addresses the plausible fear that these movies may have a hard time resonating with certain contemporary audiences because of the levels of violence and misogyny. […] As should be the case with any documentary about movies, this one will make you want to search out and see some of these films. After such in-depth discussions you will have to see some of these movies for yourself. In many regards, this is the highest compliment a film like this can receive." 

Interesting to note, considering Cinapse's mentioning of the genre's misogyny, despite the number of Eurotrash cult babes to be found in these films, few have anything to say in the documentary. Could it really be that Nicoletta Machiavelli (8 Sept 1944 – 15 Nov 2015), of Necropolis (1970 / scene) and Lenzi's Tough Cop (1976, see Part IV) was the only one willing to talk?
Trailer to
the doc: 

Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman
(2012, writ. & dir. Ernesto Díaz Espinoza)

Ernesto Díaz Espinoza is an up-and-coming genre director from way, way, way south of the border, as they say in the USo'A, where he took part in 2012 the omnibus The ABCs of Death (trailer), filming the segment C is for Cycle. As for this movie here, the original title is Tráiganme la Cabeza de la Mujer Metralleta. In the very long list of acknowledgements, Umberto Lenzi gets a his name mentioned — as does Jess Franco, Fulci, Paul Thomas Anderson, Roger Corman, Sam Peckinpah (of course), and countless other filmmakers of the kind we like here at A Wasted Life. The Chilean director was obviously simply acknowledging the roots of his taste and style. 

A blood-drenched, high-action, comic bullet ballet with a hot Fernanda Urrejola (also found in Baby Shower [2011 / trailer) and Whispers of the Forest [2014 / trailer]) as the titular Machine Gun Woman, aka "La Mujer Metralleta", Tráiganme la Cabeza de la Mujer Metralleta has been pretty well received by almost everyone who's seen it. We haven't, yet, but we expect we would like it: the scene in the trailer, in which during the middle of a big shoot out, the Machine Gun Woman takes the time to put her empty pistols carefully on the ground before shooting further, has definitely won our hearts — as if her outfit hadn't already.

The plot, as supplied by the movie's website: "Santiago Fernandez (Matías Oviedo) is an aimless young man content with spending hours on the couch playing violent video games and fantasizing about an exciting life of crime and gun fights. By night he DJ's at a club owned by a ruthless Argentinian kingpin Che Longana (Jorge Alís). One evening, Santiago finds himself trapped in a bathroom stall as Longana holds a secret meeting to make known his offer of $300 million pesos for the head of the Machine Gun Woman (Urrejola), an ex-girlfriend turned hit woman who has it out for him. When he is discovered eavesdropping on the conversation, Santiago's only choice to avoid being executed is to lie. He claims he knows the Machine Gun Woman and offers to bring her in. When he is given 24 hours to make good on his claim, Santiago's life turns into a violent video game of its own complete with missions, guns, sexy women and brutal violence. "
5 Second Review gets straight to the meat and potatoes: "You have to be somewhat of a film lover to like this movie. It's an old school exploitation film: the images are grainy, the scenes are quick, the cuts hard... With one enormous bonus: a very sexy killer dressed in a very sexy outfit. The middle of the film is maybe a tad too slow, but the rest is just fantastic fun."
Horror Honeys might add: "Machine Gun Woman is purely grindhouse: full of film scratches and kinetic camera work. The blood flows bright and it flows plentifully. But Espinoza also frames the movie in the context of a video game, where Santiago must complete missions, and every assassin's appearance is accompanied by information about his value. At its basest level, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010 / trailer) + The Professional (1994 / trailer) = Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman."

Santiago Violenta
(2014, writ. & dir Ernesto Díaz Espinoza)

Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, the Chilean Tarantino, makes another grandhouse homage, the title of which is a direct reference to poliziottesco films like Lenzi's Napoli Violenta / Violent Naples (1976, see Part IV), so it is hardly surprising that Umberto Lenzi is among the many names give "inspirational thanks" — a list including Matt Groening and Ed Wood, Jr?
English-language commentary on the two movies are lacking: aside from the fact that Spanish genre films have always tended to be neglected, in this modern age of the blockbuster and the blockbuster sensibility, non-English foreign films are simply too small to truly make themselves noticed outside of the occasional film festival. 

Over at Ain't It Cool News, however, Papa Vinyard saw the movie and wrote that Santiago Violenta is "[…] in the same vein as Shion Sono's Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013 / trailer). […] This one focuses on a group of three amateur filmmakers who get involved with some actual crimes involving actual criminals, and have to pose and bluff their way out of it. You may know Espinosa from his films like Kiltro (2006 / trailer) and Mandrill (2009 / trailer) […] and his energetic, tongue-in-cheek style is on full display here. The three leads have a strong dynamic, and the references to American and Italian gangster films come fast and heavy. The central director quite literally worships at the altar of Quentin Tarantino, and the film does a great job of unironically professing its love for that lurid, violent flavor of cinema. When real blood starts to get shed, and real bodies start to drop, the movie takes on a sort of anarchic, oh-shit-what's-going-to-happen vibe that goes a long way in making the whole experience an adrenaline-heavy, yet thoroughly sincere love letter to attitude-heavy filmmaking." 

Screen Anarchy might add, "It is an entertaining and many times funny romp with friends and not much more, and it doesn't need to be anything else than that, even as it comes to a closure and the film becomes weirder and even hard to understand, one can't help but laugh at the plot and how they end up being so involved in crime that even them can't believe how deep in the water they truly are. […] It is not a perfect film, as if at any time you start to analyze the plot itself, it makes little sense where they end up and how they started the whole ordeal, but it finally doesn't matter, it's a great time at the movies, and I guess, when it's all said and done, that's what counts.

Banned Alive!
The Rise and Fall of Italian Cannibal Movies
(2015, writ. & dir. Eugenio Ercolani)

(Co-directed by Giuliano Emanuele.) Which came first? In 2015, not one but two documentaries came out with virtually the same title on "The Rise and Fall of Italian Cannibal Movies" — this one has the main heading of Banned Alive! And, as is of course fitting for a documentary on the topic, Umberto Lenzi pops up as a talking head, not just because his presence is indispensible for a documentary on the topic, but because the documentary was made to be included in the then-new (January 2016) Blue Release of Eaten Alive! which, among other things, also featured three different versions of the main film.
Trailer to
Banned Alive:

Eaten Alive!
The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film
(2015, writ. & dir. Calum Waddell)

Which came first? In 2015, not one but two documentaries came out with virtually the same title on "The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film" — this one has the main heading Eaten Alive! And as is of course fitting for a documentary on the topic, Umberto Lenzi pops up as a talking head. Like most such docs, it first appeared as an extra on some DVD re-release of some cannibal movie. Director Calum Waddell also made the documentary Slice and Dice: The Slasher Film Forever (2012 / trailer), which we took a quick look at in our career review of Tobe Hooper (25 Jan 1943 – 26 Aug 2017), who appeared in that film as a talking head. 
At indiegogo, they explain, as expected, that the "focus [is] on spaghetti splatter's most controversial movie genre. Instigated by Umberto Lenzi's Thai-set The Man from Deep River (1972, see Part III), and reaching a notorious peak with Ruggero Deodato's horrifying Cannibal Holocaust (1980), the form would eventually fade from view with such lesser known romps as Amazonia (1985 / trailer) and Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985 / trailer). More recently, with the Hollywood-made Welcome to the Jungle (2007 / trailer), and Eli Roth's The Green Inferno (2015 / trailer), terrifying tales of meat-munching tribes have made their return to the big screen. As such, the time is ripe to share some of the true stories behind the making of some of shock cinema's most stomach turning shockers." 
At the imdb, Michael Elliott gave the documentary ***1/2 (out of 4 [amputated penises]): "If you're familiar or unfamiliar with the Italian cannibal cycle then this documentary will certainly be a must see. If you're not familiar with these controversial movies then you're going to understand why they're still popular today while at the same time being hated. If you're familiar with these films and are fans of them then you're going to get a kick out of seeing the clips as well as hearing from the movie directors. Sergio Martini, Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato and actors like Giovanni Lombardo Radice and Me Me Lai are also interviewed. Critics including Kim Newman and Shelagh Rowan-Legg are also on hand to share their thoughts on the films. […] It's interesting to hear the directors discuss and defend their work. It seems Lenzi and Deodato wants to fight one another in regards to which one of them started the genre. There are some hilarious stories told by Giovanni Lombardo Radice and he doesn't hide his hatred for Cannibel Ferox (1981, see Part IV). Some of the most fascinating stories come from Me Me Lai, who appeared in three of these movies and talks about the rough shootings, being naked, and the dangers in the jungles. […] Of course, the film's racist nature is discussed and there's also plenty of talk about the real animal violence."

Yellow Fever
The Rise and Fall of the Giallo
(2016, writ. & dir. Calum Waddell)
Another documentary by Calum Waddell, and once again Umberto Lenzi pops up as a talking head. We believe this doc showed up as an extra on a DVD rerelease of Dario Argento's classic giallo, Tenebre (1982).
Trailer to
Dario Argento's Tenebre:
Description found online at movieo: "Feature-length in-depth documentary by High Rising Productions chronicling the Giallo film genre from its beginnings as early 20th century crime fiction, to its later influences on the modern slasher film genre. Featuring interviews with Dario Argento, Umberto Lenzi, Luigi Cozzi, Richard Stanley, and more." 
Over at Letterboxd, Chris Kirby says: "The documentary is […] definitely more bonus-feature material than an actual standalone film. There's a ton of great insight and information and it's just enjoyable listening to all of these individuals speak. […] Seeing as it is a bonus feature for Argento's Tenebrae it is no surprise that the discussion is very heavily focused on Argento's work. However, it is called The Rise and Fall of the Giallo, so it would have been nice if that was what they talked about... and not just Argento with a few asides." 
Other talking heads aside from Umberto Lenzi include Dario Argento himself, Luigi Cozzi (the man behind Starcrash [1978 / trailer], Contamination [1980 / trailer], Paganini Horror [1989 / trailer] and more fun trash), Richard Stanley (Hardware [1990 / trailer] and Dust Devil [1992 / trailer]), Maitland McDonagh (founder of 120 Days Books), and Ruggero Deodato (The Washing Machine [1993 / French trailer], Dial: Help [1988], Cannibal Holocaust  [1980] and so much more).

Nightmare City
(Release Date Unknown)

One of Lenzi's most contentious movies, Nightmare City from 1980 (poster below, see Part IV), is — possibly now "was" — set for a remake! Lenzi was an "associate producer", but his position as such is doubtful now. And though names have been announced, the when is unknown — hell, we're not even sure if shooting has started, or ever will. But Tom Savini is the announced director AND "special effects supervisor", so the project definitely sounds interesting to us.

The cast is rumored to include: Ray Wise, Judith O'Dea (of the original Night of the Living Dead [1968]), Gary Weeks (of Zombie Apocalypse [2011]), porn star Diana "100% silicone" Prince and, at one point, Lou Ferrigno. A low budget and self-financed production, it looks to be one more for the fans than the mass market.
Way back in 2015 — which says something about whether you should hold your breath for the project — Daily Dread published the Press Release, which reveals some updates to the story: "When a mutated Ebola & Leprosy virus spreads from Haiti to Miami starts turning people into terrifying, bloodthirsty creatures, a small group of survivors must escape from the City Of The Walking Dead. Just like George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978 / trailer), Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City is a milestone of the zombie genre and 1980's horror cinema. Lenzi's work has had a big influence upon modern horror movies such as the 2004 Dawn of the Dead (trailer), 28 Days Later (2002 / trailer) and World War Z (2013 / trailer), and filmmakers such as Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino, who confess to being big fans of Lenzi and Nightmare City (1980).

The remake will be directed by the King of Splatter & Gore TOM SAVINI who already proved with the critically acclaimed remake of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1990 / trailer) that he knows how to create a dignified, thrilling remake of a cult classic. [...] Together with the best creative talents from his Special FX academy in Pittsburgh he will guarantee stunning makeup and special effects and will give horror fans what they desperately demand and miss in current horror movies — impressive practical effects and gallons of blood instead of cheap CGI effects. [...] Nightmare City won't be a simple horror movie or remake, it will be a movie with a social message, based on real life events and threats, this will make the movie more intense and more terrifying. [...] Parts of the profits will be donated to the Ebola response work of Doctors Without Borders and to The Leprosy Mission international." 
IHorror has the plot as it was at that point of development: "After the outbreak of an unknown virus in the Caribbean the Miami Port Authority receives an SOS from an international aid ship returning from Haiti. TV reporter Dean Miller and his cameraman Charlie are sent to the port where rescue teams are awaiting the arriving ship. At first the ship appears to be deserted, but suddenly the rescue teams are attacked by dozens of deformed people. Infected by a new hybrid of two of the most deadly viruses of our time — Ebola and leprosy; their faces and bodies are covered with welts and sores and they are hungry for blood. Dean and his colleague witness a brutal massacre and return to the TV station to inform the public about the horrifying events, but the government and military prohibit the broadcasting of the news in order to avoid a panic. With the public in the dark, the virus and the number of infected people start to spread over the city, while Dean, his wife Anna and a small group are trying to escape from the 'City Of The Walking Dead'…"
Nightmare City
Indiegogo Promo:


Raw Wind in Eden
(1958, dir. Richard Wilson)
In the course of putting together our 6-part R.I.P. Career Review, we stumbled upon "The Extremely Grumpy Umberto Lenzi Interview" at House of Freudstein, where Lenzi lets it drop that he started his career on an Esther Williams (8 Aug 1921 – 6 June 2013) movie as "assistant director" to Richard Wilson (25 Dec 1915 – 22 Aug 1991). This is the movie. 
First 44 Minutes:
Wikipedia has the plot: "Frustrated while having a fling with a married man, fashion model Laura (Esther Williams) is persuaded to fly in playboy Wally Drucker's private plane to a party aboard a yacht. The plane crashes near a small Mediterranean island, where a man named Moore (Jeff Chandler [15 Dec 1918 17 June 1961]), his daughter Costanza (Rossana Podestá [20 Aug 1934 – 10 Dec 2013]) and a couple others seem to be the only people there. Laura is unhurt but Wally's injuries are treated by Moore, a former World War II medic. Moore is vague about his past or why he is living in this solitary fashion. Laura's interest in him makes Drucker (Carlos Thompson [7 June 1923 – 10 Oct 1990]) jealous and irritates Costanza, who is herself desired by an older man from a nearby island who wishes to marry her. A beached yacht belonging to Moore is found. It turns out he was a wealthy man from North Carolina suspected of murdering his wife, who drunkenly fell from the boat and drowned. Moore gave his millions to charity and dropped out of sight. Moore must fight the other men for Laura, who then persuades him to sail back to America and begin a new life."
Rossana Podestá, seen above from a 1978 Italian Playboy pictorial, is also found in Antonio Margheriti's great Horror Castle (1963), aka The Virgin of Nuremberg, which is perhaps the first Eurotrash flick we ever saw as a wee child, and thus an eternal favorite. Carlos Thompson's death was suicide by gunshot to his head.
Trailer to
Horror Castle:
Back in 1958, over at The NY Times, Bosley Crowther wrote "It looks as if halfway through the shooting of Raw Wind in Eden the producers lost the script and went right on shooting without it, making it up as they went along. For it is hard to believe that any story could otherwise go as haywire and obscure as does this drama from Universal […]."

Finally, as an extra:
"Umberto Lenzi, The Last Interview"

Umberto Lenzi — R.I.P.

No comments: