Monday, September 17, 2018

R.I.P. Maria Rohm, Part III: 1970-75

13 August 1945 – 18 June 2018

Vienna-born Maria Rohm (nee Helga Grohmann), talented cult actress and wife of British independent film producer and screenwriter Harry Alan Towers (19 Oct 1920 – 31 July 2009), went the way of the wind in June at the age of 72 in Toronto, Canada, the home of Bruce McArthur. Rohm, who began her acting career as a child stage actress, seems to have begun her film career at the age of twenty playing a prostitute in a 1964 film. Soon after she married producer Towers, also in 1964, he began putting her in many of his projects, including nine different movies directed by Jess Franco (12 May 1930 – 2 April 2013). She retired from acting in 1976, at the young milfy age of 31, but like her 25-year-older husband remained active as a producer. 

Go here for Part I: 1964–67 
Go here for Part II: 1968–69

Count Dracula
(1970, dir. Jess Franco)

"The children of the night... what music they make."
Count Dracula (Christopher Lee)

We took a quick look at Count Dracula way back in 2012, in They Died in September 2012, Part VII: Herbert Lom, where we more or less wrote: "Aka Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht. Hebert Lom as Prof. Helsing in his second (and last) Jess Franco film — alongside no lesser names than Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski (who never actually speaks throughout the whole film), and Soledad Miranda — not to mention Fred Williams and Jack Taylor. This is perhaps the only movie version of Dracula that maintains the premise of the book that Dracula is an old man who gets younger each time he feeds.
"Digitally Obsessed tells a plot we all already know: 'Young solicitor Jonathan Harker (Fred Williams) journeys to Transylvania to deliver a deed to an English abbey to Count Dracula (Christopher Lee). But before long he begins to suspect that the count may be something more than human, and he works with Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Herbert Lom), Dr. John Seward (Paul Muller) and Quincy Morris (Jack Taylor) to rescue his fiancée Mina Murray (Maria Rohm) after her friend Lucy Westenra (Soledad Miranda [9 July 1943 – 18 Aug 1970]) falls victim to the vampire's bite.'
"The general consensus with this film is that it is both one of Franco's more subdued and successful films, despite the ragged edges of the low budget."
"For those who think Jess Franco's movies contain too much nudity and gore — this one has no nudity at all, and virtually no gore. [Cult Movie Reviews]"
Yep, neither Soledad nor Maria Rohm show nary a nipple in the movie. As that fat idiot in the White House is apt to say: "Sad. Another liberal plot to undermine the American democracy."
German trailer to
Count Dracula:
Ignoring Soledad Miranda's supposed un-credited appearance somewhere in the early Jess Franco movie La reina del Tabarín aka Queen of the Tabarin Club (1960), Count Dracula is probably the first of her feature-film Franco projects to get a general release. Unknown to many non-Spanish fans of her films, Soledad Miranda already had a successful career in Spain as a pop singer prior to becoming Franco's most famous "discovery". 
Not from the film —
Soledad Miranda sings:
Trivia: Though they share scenes, supposedly Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom never shot a scene together. And although Christopher Lee famously hated his iconic role of Dracula, and was won over for the movie with great difficulty, he appeared as Count Dracula in three other movies in that same year, 1970: a cameo in Jerry Lewis' unfunny One More Time (trailer), and in the two Hammer productions, Peter Sasdy's Taste the Blood of Dracula (trailer) and Roy Ward Baker's Scars of Dracula (trailer). Lastly, Franco's version of Dracula is the first screen version of the novel to include the character of Quincey Morris (Jack Taylor).
Finally, it should perhaps be said that while "the general consensus with this film is that it is both one of Franco's more subdued and successful films", the emphasis should be on "one of Franco's more subdued and successful films" — particularly if you are not a fan of his "outsider-art" directorial eye. As a mainstream film, the general attitude is that "though certainly literate, the film nevertheless fails as both horror and drama". But then, should you ever read the plodding and disorganized "epistolary-style" original novel by Abraham "Bram" Stoker (8 Nov 1847 – 20 April 1912), you'll find that by modern standards, the book likewise fails as both horror and drama.

Dorian Gray
(1970, dir. Massimo Dallamano)

We took a quick look at Dorian Gray way back in 2012, in They Died in September 2012, Part VII: Herbert Lom, where we more or less wrote: "Director Dallamano, who died of a car accident in Rome on 14 November 1976, was a cinematographer (for A Fistful of Dollars [1964], among others) who moved into the director's chair; among his more enjoyable Eurotrash projects are Devil in the Flesh (1969 / trailer), What Have You Done to Solange? (1972 / trailer*), The Night Child (1975 / trailer) and, of course, this flick here. Herbert Lom plays Wotton, a gallerist who has the hots for Dorian (played by Helmut Berger, seen here below with his big hands).
* We looked at this movie in 2014 in R.I.P.: Joachim Fuchsberger.
"As Rock! Shock! Pop! says, 'Set to a great fuzz guitar score buried under some heavy effects pedal work and well paced and beautifully shot, The Secret Of Dorian Gray might not appeal to those looking for a straight (pun intended) adaptation of Wilde's original story as it periodically descends head first into camp, but it's well shot and well acted and never short on weird.'
"The plot? Really — don't you ever read books? Handsome young narcissist gives himself over to a lascivious lifestyle and his portrait ages instead of himself. Tragedy for everyone involved."
It should be mentioned that this version of the tale moves the action from Victorian England to the Swinging London of, dunno, Blow Up (1966 / trailer) and/or the opening scenes of Austin Powers (1997 / trailer). It is "a film that stands head and shoulders above the rest for its appealingly tawdry Eurotrash aesthetics, its flawless evocation of Swinging '60s mod, and its flagrant, unabashed sleaze factor. […] Director Dallamano hits pay dirt with the casting of Helmut Berger. A man so staggeringly beautiful that he makes personal fave Joe Dallesandro (certainly one of the most gorgeous men to have ever walked the planet) look like Ernest Borgnine. [Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For...]"
Trailer to
Dorian Gray:
The movie was a Towers and Samuel Z. Arkoff   (12 June 1918 – 16 Sept 2001) coproduction. Maria Rohm has a minor role as Alice Campbell, a character not found in the book; Marie Liljedahl, however, plays the tragic Sibyl Vane, who is in the book and is the first true victim of Dorian moral decay. Unlike in the novel, Dorian does not inadvertently kill himself, but makes a conscious decision to do so — a narrative decision that rather undermines the entire tale. Anyone who knows what the bisexual actor Helmut Berger, the man playing Dorian Gray, looks like today might be tempted to say he is a living picture of Dorian Gray… but then, he is over 70 years old.
The painting of Dorian Gray below, by the way, was painted by the American painter Ivan Le Lorraine Albright (20 Feb 1897 – 18 Nov 1983) for the 1945 film version of the tale (trailer). The painting now hangs in the Whitney.

Cuadecuc, vampir
(1971, dir. Pere Portabella)
The documentary as experimental film. In this case, a documentary on the making of Jess Franco's Count Dracula (1970). All the stars, Maria Rohm inclusive, are found in this project.
Over at Letterboxd, some dude calling himself Disgustipated says, "It is almost as though a movie director has taken one of his kids on set and given him a camera to go play with while the grown-ups go about making a real movie. Except in this case the kid is an exceptionally talented experimental film-maker with a nose for creepy atmospherics, experimental filmic flourishes and meta-cinematic inserts, all used to great effect to create an indelible experience that will imprint itself on your amygdala in an inexplicable way that a more conventional film cannot. Imagine if 'the making of' documentary for a horror movie was a darkly foreboding silent horror movie, which has taken on a remarkable life of its own. Probably one of the more interesting credits for Christopher Lee and his final scene in the film is a fitting send off. I dare you to check this one out." 
Trailer to 
Cuadecuc, vampire:
On his own website, Pere Portabella explains his film as follows: "Vampir-Cuadecuc is possibly a key film in understanding the transition in the Spanish filmworld from the period of the 'new cinema' (permitted by the Franco government) towards the illegal, clandestine or openly antagonistic practices against the Franco regime. It consists of shooting the filming of a commercial film El conde Drácula by Jesús Franco. Portabella practices two types of violence on the standard narrative: he totally eliminates color and substitutes the soundtrack with a landscape of image-sound collisions by Carles Santos (1 July 1940 – 4 Dec 2017). Filmed provocatively in 16mm and with sound negative, the tensions between black and white favor the strange 'fantasmatic materialism' of this revealing analysis of the construction mechanism for the magic in dominant narrative cinema, which at the same time constitutes a radical intervention in the Spanish cinematographic institution."
Jonathan Rosenbaum, who saw an original screening of the film, has some interesting info about the event: "It was showing […] at a now-defunct cinema called Le Français. It's worth adding that the name of the filmmaker and the title of his film were both slightly different from the way we know them today, for reasons that are historically significant. The name of this Barcelona-based filmmaker was listed as Pedro Portabella and his film was called simply Vampir. Why?  Because he was Catalan, a language forbidden in Franco's Spain, making both the name 'Pere' and the word 'Cuadacuc' (which I'm told is an obscure Catalan term meaning both a worm's tail and the end of a reel of unexposed film stock) equally impermissible. Furthermore, Portabella wasn't present at the screening because, as I later discovered, he was one of the two Spanish producers of Luis Buñuel's Viridiana (trailer) one decade earlier, and the Franco government was punishing him for having helped to engineer this subterfuge by confiscating his passport, making it impossible for him to travel outside of Spain. And for those like myself who wondered how a film as unorthodox as this could play in Franco Spain at all, it eventually became clear that it survived, like the Catalan language itself (not to mention Dracula), clandestinely, via secret nourishment."
Rosenbaum, like so many who have seen this mesmerizing exercise in avant-garde filmmaking, makes positive reference to both Murnau's Nosferatu (1922 / full film) and Dreyer's Vampyr (1932 / a trailer), two early classics of art house horror. 

Black Beauty
(1971, dir. James Hill)
Possibly the first G-rated movie Maria Rohm ever appeared in — thus signaling the end of her cult career. This family friendly movie is not found on our list of films to see. It is based, of course, on the novel by Anna Sewell (20 March 1820 – 25 April 1878), with a screenplay by Wolf Mankowitz (7 Nov 1924 – 20 May 1998), a man who had written screenplays for more entertaining films, including The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961 / trailer) and The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960 / trailer). Director James Hill (1 Aug 1919 – 7 Oct 1994) is perhaps best known as the director of Born Free (1966 / trailer), but we personally prefer some of his other movies, namely: A Study in Terror (1965 / trailer) and The Man from O.R.G.Y. (1970), the last of which is the only screen adaptation (that we know of) of any of the paperback pulp novels by that great, productive, mostly forgotten, and highly dated sleaze satirist "Ted Mark", aka Theodore Gottfried (19 Oct 1928 – 7 March 2004).
The tale, of course, is told from the viewpoint of the horse prior to being sent to the glue factory (just kidding about the last bit), so it is perhaps not surprising that the Movie Scene says that the movie "is beautiful and director James Hill […] has created a nice-looking movie but the actual story ends up bland and uninteresting, coming across as little more than a collection of stories with different characters and just Black Beauty tenuously linking them." (Sounds like the book, actually.)
Roger Ebert, on the other hand, once gave the movie three stars and explained the whole plot: "All things considered, Black Beauty leads quite a life, for a horse. She grows up as the best pal of a boy named Joe (Mark Lester of What the Peeper Saw [1972 / trailer]) and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? [1971 / trailer]). She's taken away by a drunken young squire (Patrick Mower of The Devil Rides Out [1968], Cry of the Banshee [1970 / trailer] and Incense for the Damned aka The Bloodsuckers [1971 / trailer]), but he is killed one night and she escapes into the hands of gypsies. Then a horse trader sells her to a circus in Spain, and after learning lots of tricks she is given by the circus owner (Walter Slezak [3 May 1902 – 21 April 1983]) to kindly Sir William (John Nettleton of And Soon the Darkness [1971 / trailer]), who gives the horse to his daughter (Maria Rohm), who gives Black Beauty to her fiancé (Peter Lee Lawrence [21 Feb 1944 – 20 April 1974] of Love and Death in the Garden of the Gods / Liebe und Tod im Garten der Götter [1972 / trailer]), which is how Black Beauty winds up fighting for the British in India. The fiancé is killed in India, but his lifeless hands cling gallantly to his spear and Black Beauty charges anyway. This makes her a war hero and earns her passage back to England, where fame is brief and she is sold by a drunken lieutenant (Daniel Martín [12 May 1935 – 28 Sept 2009] of A Fistful of Dollars [1964], Crypt of the Living Dead [1973 / trailer], Devil's Kiss [1976 / fashion show] and Especto [1978 / Spanish trailer]) for five pounds. Then she gets pneumonia, and is put to work hauling a coal wagon. When things look their bleakest, Black Beauty is rescued by a kindly old lady and her young footman (who, wouldn't you know, is Beauty's old pal Joe)."
Trailer to
Black Beauty:
The young lady seen most in the trailer above is the young Uschi Glas, also of Umberto Lenzi's Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972), The Sinister Monk (1965 / trailer), The College Girl Murders (1967) and Gorilla Gang (1968 / trailer) and Die Tote aus der Themse (1971 / German trailer) — Edgar Wallace films, one and all — and the unjustly unknown Eurotrash disasterpiece Die Weibchen aka Feminine Carnivores (1970). 
Trailer to
Feminine Carnivores (1970):
Mark Lester, in case you've forgotten, was last in the headlines when he claimed that he thinks that Paris Jackson might actually be his daughter. (Sorry, Mark, but like you totally have the wrong skin color.) 

Call of the Wild
(1972, dir. Kenneth Cooper "Ken" Annakin)
Among the movies Charlton "I'm dead, so take my gun" Heston (4 Oct 1923 – 5 April 2008) made around the time of his classics Omega Man (1971 / trailer) and Soylent Green (1973) is this movie based on one of Jack London's most famous works, the novella The Call of the Wild. Considering the commercial viability of Heston's name at the time, one could well say that his casting was the closest a Towers film ever came to having a current Hollywood A-list actor in its cast.
The director, Kenneth Cooper "Ken" Annakin (10 Aug 1914 – 22 April 2009), though hardly known for originality or breaking ground, and possibly already forgotten in general, was likewise a reliable feature-film director known at the time (1972) for "all-star, splashy, big-budget European/American co-productions".
Call of the Wild was shot on location in Spain, Norway and possibly Finland, the last of which is a country in northern Europe now famous as the location where, in July 2018, Donald Trump, after labeling Europe a foe of the US, satisfied his penchant for golden showers with Putin in a toilet stall. And it was good.
DVD Talk points out that "[…] The Call of the Wild (1972) is a real anomaly, downright bizarre even. It improbably brought together A-list Hollywood star Charlton Heston, still near the peak of his fame, with shady Harry Alan Towers, a one-time procurer, bail-jumper, and possible Soviet spy-turned-movie producer, best known for his cheapo Fu Manchu movies and long association with schlockmeisters like director Jesus Franco. Typical of Towers's productions, The Call of the Wild is a multinational patchwork filmed in Norway and Spain, with American, French, German, Austrian, and Spanish actors, whose salaries were shakily financed with money coming from all over Europe. Though the direction is credited to Ken Annakin, a veteran British filmmaker who knew his way around big league pictures, The Call of the Wild is itself only marginally professional, looking not at all like Heston's other movies but typical of Towers's oeuvre."
Depending on which plot description one reads, Heston's character, John Thornton, is either a government mail carrier or a prospector. Regardless of which, the basic plot remains the same: a domestic dog named Buck is sold off to the Klondike where, after initial difficulties, it becomes the alpha leader of the dogsled team. The reoccurring character with whom Buck bonds most is Thornton, but Buck also falls into the hands of other characters at various points throughout the film, including the wealthy trio of Charles (Friedhelm Lehmann), Mercedes (Maria Rohm), and Charles's brother Hal (Horst Heuck). They die…. In fact, all humans die in the tale, which is why Buck can finally answer "the call of the wild" at the end.
As The Movie Scene points out, when  "watching [The Call of the Wild] now, the acts of violence towards dogs, the dubious dubbing thanks to it being a European movie and the almost obvious storyline of a dog having an adventure is seriously off putting. It makes me glad that movies like this are no longer made and the acts of animal cruelty would most definitely not be allowed let alone in one called a family adventure. But behind these dubious scenes and a middle section which seems to drift along there is also a remarkably charming storyline which wins you over." (Charming? Aside from the violence and animal cruelty, again: everyone dies.)
Distributed by some minor firm called Intercontinental Releasing Corp. (IRC), they screwed up on the copyright so at least one version of The Call of the Wild has entered the public domain.
The full film —
The Call of the Wild:
The movie was not well received when it was originally released. Indeed, at one point in his life Charlton Heston supposedly called it "the worst movie I ever made". In his autobiography The Actor's Life — Journals 1956-1976, Heston also wrote: "We're faced with the endless problems of organization, personnel, dogs, publicity . . . I fear I've fallen in with amateurs and con men. This had not been a picture really but a production deal, patched together with incredible adroitness and negotiating skill — and no filmmaking talent whatsoever."
Somewhere along the way in the movie, as DVD Talk puts it, "Thornton searches for his missing team while resolving his sort-of love triangle between an ambitious saloon owner (Michèle Mercier) and his beloved Buck." We mention this primarily because of DVD Talk's picturesque wording — visions of bestial three-ways cross our minds — and because it gives us reason to include the photograph below, not from the movie, of Michèle Mercier (of Women of Devil's Island [1962 / trailer], Black Sabbath [1963 / trailer], Cemetery Without Crosses [1969 / trailer], and Web of the Spider [1971 / German trailer]) in her prime.

Treasure Island
(1972, dir. John Hough & others)

Maria Rohm appears as the extremely MILFy Mrs. Hawkins, the owner of Hawkins' Tavern, the pub where the tale begins. (She's in the clip directly below.)
Scene from
Treasure Island:
This time around, Harry Alan Towers snared no one less than Orson Welles (6 May 1915 – 10 Oct 1985) to play Long John Silver. Welles himself, however, was less than thrilled to participate as his commitment was due to an almost ten-year-old contractual commitment: "Welles only offered to direct and star as Long John Silver in 1964 in order to secure funding for his cherished Falstaff project Falstaff – Chimes at Midnight (1965 / trailer), but he made only a cursory effort to make that version, dispatching Jess Franco to film some second-unit material, before abandoning the pretence entirely. However, he was still legally obliged to make the movie if new funding was ever obtained, which it duly was in 1972. The only problem with that was that it was prolific British schlockmeister Harry Alan Towers into whose hands the resurrected project fell. Towers was a poor moviemaker but a shrewd businessman, and he had three versions of the movie made — English, Italian and Spanish — by three different directors. He also had the screenplay Welles had prepared for the 1964 version re-written — a fact that prompted the actor to request that his name be removed from the credits (he's credited under the pseudonym O. W. Jeeves). [2020 Movie Reviews]" 
To what extent the two other directors — Andrea Bianchi (31March 1925 – 4 Nov 2013) and Antonio Margheriti (19 Sept 1930 – 4 Nov 1972) — actually directed complete, different versions is up to question. In an interview, John Hough claimed to have directed the whole movie, with Andrea Bianchi (credited, as often, as "Andrew White"), the second-unit director, listed on the European release for tax reasons.
John Hough, by the way, in his day directed many a much more entertaining and trashy film for mature audiences than this: Hammer's Twins of Evil (1971 / trailer), The Legend of Hell House (1973 / trailer), Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974 / trailer), The Watcher of the Woods (1980 / trailer), The Incubus (1982 / trailer), and the trash classic American Gothic (1987 / trailer below). Oh, and he also directed the turd that is the D-2-V Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988 / trailer). In all truth, however, alone or combined, Andrea Bianchi and Antonio Margheriti directed more entertaining movies than Hough.
Trailer to
American Gothic (1987):
Treasure Island, of course, is based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel of the same name; Harry Alan Towers was to return to the tale again 17 years later in 1999 when he coproduced a version of the tale starring Jack Palance (trailer).
But when in comes to this version here, The Movie Scene has the plot: "One day Billy Bones (Lionel Stander [11 Jan 1908 – 30 Nov 1994]) comes to stay at a pub run by Mrs. Hawkins (Maria Rohm) and where her young son Jim (Kim Burfield) works. But Billy has a love of the sauce and when he dies it is Jim who ends up in possession of a map showing the location of Captain Flint's treasure. Jim along with Squire Trelawney (Walter Slezak [in his final film appearance]) and Dr. Livesey (Angel DelPozo) decide to follow the map which leads them on a sea journey with Captain Smollett (Rik Battaglia [18 Feb 1927 – 27 March 2015]) who agrees to take them to the island. But everyone aboard including former pirate turned ship's cook, Long John Silver (Orson Welles) learns of the treasure map and that makes it a dangerous place to be especially with Silver willing to do anything to get his hands on the treasure."

Derek Winnert says that "This rumbustious, undervalued 1972 Spanish-shot version of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1883 classic young adults' novel about a boy's life with pirates on the high seas proves a pleasant, enjoyable surprise. It's good that, this time, much of the plot and the linking narrative, spoken by the actor playing Jim Hawkins, is faithful to the original book. […] Walter Slezak, Lionel Stander, Rik Battaglia and Ángel del Pozo are also flamboyant assets to liven up the movie as Squire Trelawney, Billy Bones, Captain Smollett and Doctor Livesey. And young Kim Burfield is more than adequate as cabin lad Jim Hawkins."
An opinion countered by the writer at Mystery File, who says: "I had somewhat high hopes for Treasure Island, but I probably should have known better. It's probably one of Orson Welles' least-known films and it's most certainty [sic] that way for a reason. Produced by Harry Alan Towers, this somewhat genial, but ultimately unsatisfying adventure yarn …."
More-interesting films by the various names involved: Rik Battaglia is found in the minor classic Nightmare Castle (1965 / trailer) and non-classic White Slave (1985 / trailer); Ángel del Pozo is in the classic Horror Express (1972 / trailer), the forgotten — for a Bunel film — Leonor (1975 / music) and the trashy Assignment Terror (1970 / German trailer)*; and character actor Lionel Stander is found in any of the following: Cul-De-Sac (1966 / trailer), Pulp (1972 / trailer), Wicked Stepmother (1989 / trailer), The Loved One (1965 / trailer), Blast of Silence (1961 / trailer), and so much more.
* A film high on our "to see" list.
Not to be mistaken for Towers's film —
Scott King's Treasure Island (1999):

Sex Charade
(1972, writ. & dir. Jess Franco)
The last film that Maria Rohm made with Franco was this movie, Sex Charade, which is considered by most a lost film — which would mean that the poster below is "fake". Anyone know?
In any event, Rohm is not the star: instead, the babe of focus is Franco's muse of the time, the beautiful Soledad Miranda (9 July 1943 – 18 August 1970).
The plot can be found at the imdb, where "Anonymous" says, "The story revolves around Anne (Miranda) who is held hostage by an escaped maniac from an insane asylum. The fugitive forces her to tell stories to prevent her from getting help. Anne then spins a fanciful tale about a girl's escape from her imprisonment by savages and her longing to return to captivity."
Fan-made music video to
a song of Soledad's:
The imdb and other sites list the film as from 1972, but most sites claim the movie was released in 1970 — as does Lost Media Archive, whence most of the photos here come. The LMA further claim, "Sex Charade […] was one of three films Franco shot in Liechtenstein (the other two being Nightmares Come at Night [1970 / scene] and Eugenie de Sade [1973]). […] The film apparently had a short theatrical run in France and was partially released in Belgium as a bizarre collage featuring footage from other films."
The starring cast consisted of Soledad Miranda, Jack Taylor, Howard Vernon, Maria Rohm, Diana Lorys and Paul Muller — Franco regulars, one all. The underappreciated Diana Lorys also starred in one of our favorite movies, Armando de Ossorio's oft-maligned gothic, vampire comedy flick Malenka aka Fangs of the Living Dead (1969).
Trailer to
Fangs of the Living Dead:

And Then There Were None
(1974, dir. Peter Collinson [1 April 1936 – 16 Dec 1980])

"Same script, different locations. You always kill off the most expensive stars first!" 
– Harry Alan Towers on his three versions of Ten Little Indians

The first to go, Charles Aznavour, performs
The Old Fashioned Way (Les Plaisirs Démodés)
in And Then There Were None:
We took a quick look at And Then There Were None aka Ten Little Indians way back in 2012, in They Died in September 2012, Part VII: Herbert Lom, where we more or less wrote:
"Peter Collinson's career was already on the slide when he made this, the umpteenth film version of the famous Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None (originally entitled Ten Little Niggers), the best-selling book of all books she ever wrote (in fact, it is the 7th best-selling book of all time). This version here, the first one to made in color, is also the second of three versions that producer Harry Alan Towers brought to the screen (the first being from 1965 [trailer]; the third, 1989 [trailer]).
"This version has a highly enjoyable international cast, to say the least, and unlike the original story, which is set on an island, the events here take place in a hotel deep in the Iranian desert. Herbert Rom appears here as Dr Edward Armstrong, who had been accused of causing a woman's death by operating on her while drunk. (Lom is also present in Towers' 1989 production, directed by Alan Birkinshaw, but as the General, who had caused the death of his wife's lover by sending the soldier on a suicide mission.)
"The plot, according to Wikipedia: 'A group of 10 people, strangers to one another, have all travelled to a hotel located deep in the deserts of Iran. Upon arrival they discover that their host is mysteriously absent. They are accused by a tape recording of having committed various crimes in the past which went unpunished by the law. As guests start to die, the remainder deduce that their unseen host is determined to murder them. Since a search of the hotel proves that there is no one hiding among them, they realize that the murderer is one of them'."

Trailer to
And Then There Were None:
"Peter Welbeck" (aka Harry Alan Towers) is the credited screenwriter, but then the script is almost the same as the 1965 version of And Then There Were None, for which he received co-writing credit. Maria Lohm has a relatively unglamorous part in this version of the tale, that of Elsa Martino, the housekeeper and cook. She, along with her husband Otto (Alberto de Mendoza [21 Jan 23 – 12 Dec 11] of Horror Express [1972 / trailer]), "maliciously and brutally caused the death of [their] invalid employer for [their] own financial gain". The film's final girl heroine, now named Vera Clyde, is played by a young Elke Sommer, of Flashback — Morderische Ferien (2000) and Hotel der toten Gäste (1965).
Ninja Dixon says, "To be honest, if you want to see a brilliant version of Ten Little Indians watch the Soviet version from 1987, Desyat Negrityat (Ninja's review / full film in Russian). That's a very faithful adaptation, maybe the only version 100% true to Christie's original vision. But until then, this one delivers cozy entertainment for Saturday mornings and that day you need to stay home because of a nasty cold."
We here at a wasted life, on the other hand, would recommend the less-than-faithful Bollywood version from 1965, Gumnaam. 
Dance scene in Gumnaam (1965),
the Bollywood version of Ten Little Indians:
As of recent, it has come to light that Christie may have purloined her basic plot from another book turned into a play turned into a film in which eight guests are brought together to a dinner party and killed one by one. The book, The Invisible Host, by Bruce Manning (15 July 1902 – 3 Aug 1965) and Gwen Bristow (16 Sept 1903 – 17 Aug 1980) was published in 1930, nine years before Christie's racistly titled novel. The play, The Ninth Guest by Owen Davis (29 Jan 1874 – 14 Oct 1956), was first performed in 1934, 13 years before Christie's play. The movie version of The Ninth Guest, directed by Roy William Neill (4 Sept 1887 – 14 Dec 1946), came out in 1934, 11 years before And Then There Were None (1945 / film). Roy William Neill's The Ninth Guest is now in public domain. 
Full film — Roy William Neill's
The Ninth Guest:

Closed Up-Tight
(1975, dir. Cliff Owen [22 April 1919 – Nov 1993])

OK, since this flick is listed in the imdb and various other online sources, we're including it here. One might assume it to be an obscure and forgotten British comedy, produced by Harry Alan Towers, which could well be a lost film and in someone's attic. But before you start searching, some things need to be considered.
The Internet is strangely uninformative about Closed Up-Tight, for example. No one has written about it, despite its intriguing cast (Maria Rohm, Marty Feldman, Robin Askwith, Terry Thomas, Ron Moody, Mark "I fathered Paris Jackson" Lester, and minor cult babe Annie Belle), and the same "poster" image is seen everywhere. But the "poster" usually found isn't even a poster: it is a page ripped from a magazine on which is written, at the bottom, "Shooting Start: June 1976" — a full year after the release date commonly given for Closed Up-Tight.

Personally, we don't think the movie was ever made (perhaps the shoot never even began).  Closed Up-Tight, odd spelling and all, is not found on most filmographies of any the actors outside of the imdb. And the French blogspot Chez Roubi's (Annie Belle Fan Blog) lends credence to the concept that film was never made by simply claiming that the film was a "Projet abandonné".
Of the names involved in the cast that never was, the most interesting to fans of cult flotsam are (outside of Maria Rohm) without doubt Robin Askwith and Annie Bell/Belle. In theory, Closed Up-Tight would have been the debut film of "Annie Belle". True, she had participated in four previous films, but in all her prior movies — including Jean Rollon's Lips of Blood (1975 / trailer) — she was credited either under her birth name, "Annie Brilland", or as "Annie Briand". 
As Annie Belle, she is the lead in the last film Maria Rohm acted, Annie aka Blue Bell (1976), which we look at in Part IV of this career review. Annie Belle, found in Laura (1976 / trailer), Velluto nero (1976), House on the Edge of the Park (1980 / trailer, with David Hess), and Absurd (1981 / trailer), retired after the decidedly unexciting bad film Escape from Death aka Luna di sangue (1989) to become a social worker. 
Trailer to
Velluto nero (1976):
Robin Askwith might no longer be a household name (and perhaps never was outside of Great Britain), but his recognizable face is found in numerous badly dated sex comedies as well as watchable movies (mostly in the 70s), the latter including Lindsay Anderson's If.... (1968 / trailer) & Britannia Hospital (1982 / trailer), Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Canterbury Tales (1972 / trailer), the non-classic Queen Kong (1976, with Rula "VO5" Lenska [!]), Peter Walker's The Flesh and Blood Show (1972 / trailer), Horror on Snape Island (1972 / trailer, with Jill Haworth) and Horror Hospital (1973 / trailer, with Michael Gough). 
Trailer to
Queen Kong (1976):

El asesino no está solo
(1975, dir. Jesús García de Dueñas)

Aka The Killer Is Not Alone. Contrary to popular opinion, this Spanish thriller is not Maria Rohm's last movie, but it is close. A Spanish production, it doesn't seem to have been released in any other country. One of the producers, Andrés Vicente Gómez, co-produced some earlier Towers productions — for example, both Black Beauty (1971) and Treasure Island (1972) — which might explain how Maria Rohm came to get cast in one of her few non-Towers produced films. Among other later projects, Andrés Vicente Gómez produced such fun stuff like El día de la bestia (1995) and Killer Tongue (1996). 
Trailer to
Killer Tongue (1996):
The plot, more or less as found online: "Julio (David 'Tarzan' Carpenter), an only child of a wealthy family, murders a prostitute who tries to seduce him. He, in childhood, suffered severe trauma and this has caused serious problems with women. Because of this, he runs away and stays at a boarding house in Madrid, where he meets Monica (Teresa Rabal), the daughter of the owner (Lola Flores [21 Jan 1923 – 16 May 1995]). Monica finds him attractive … even as his obsession for killing is increases."
Not many people have written about the movie in English, but The Bloody Pit of Horror did and points out that "All of the actors do a decent job in their respective parts. Co-star Maria Rohm is interestingly cast playing three different characters; the opening murder victim, the prostitute living at the boarding house and Julio's childhood babysitter (and sports a different hair color in each role; red, blonde and mousy brunette, respectively)."
Over at the imdb, Red-Barracuda says that "It's not the most original concept in the world", but also says: "But this Spanish production still registers. It has decent performances and a story that essentially holds up. But more importantly it has a good sense of style. The killer's inner turmoil is shown by flashbacks, close-ups of eyes and eerie music. In the murder scenes, all of these elements kick in together and are well-executed. Generally speaking, it's a well-photographed film, with nice exterior shots of various Spanish locales and great detail of a religious festival incorporated into the story, which adds good additional atmosphere. The killer's obsession with women's shoes also adds a further fetishistic detail; similarly, images and sounds of trains add additional material that recalls his past trauma. The music varies from cheesy Spanish pop to atmospheric glockenspiel and piano driven pieces. […] Definitely a movie that deserves to be more widely seen."

Clip with Maria Rohm from
El asesino no está solo (1975):

No comments: