Halloween season continues with a “colorfully international” type of horror film for you to enjoy!
As you know, I love exploitation films, especially those from the bygone era of grindhouse – sleazy exploitation films that grind out on low-rent movie screens all day long – JUST the kind of movie that should air during Halloween season!
If you aren’t aware of the classic genre of italian grindhouse films, they are called “GIALLO”!
Here is how wikipedia describes the genre: “Giallo” is an Italian 20th century genre of literature and film, which in Italian indicates crime fiction and mystery. In the English language it refers to a genre similar to the French fantastique genre and includes elements of horror fiction and eroticism.
The word giallo is Italian for “yellow” and stems from the origin of the genre as a series of cheap paperback mystery novels with trademark yellow covers, like this:
THIS is what you call “pulp fiction!” The grimy nature of the work was perfect for exploitation, where sex and violence lived side-by-side on movie screens all across Italy, and then the world!
I previously posted about such giallo classics as “Strip Nude For Your Killer”, and here are two more, from classic Italian Directors Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci!
The Cat O’ Nine Tails
Legendary Italian Director Dario Argento is probably the best-known “Giallo” Director – I previously posted about his classic “Four Flies On Gray Velvet” – but here is another classic Giallo – just in time for Halloween! Take a look at this trailer:
Argento’s The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972), along with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), are frequently referred to as Argento’s “animal trilogy”. Let’s dig in!
Ready for this? “Streets Of San Francisco” star Karl Malden stars as a blind man that lives with his young niece and makes a living writing crossword puzzles. One night, while walking on the street, he overhears a weird conversation between two man sitting in a car parked in front of a medical institute where genetic experiments are performed.
The same night someone breaks in the institute and kills a guard. Arno decides to investigate with the help of reporter Carlo Giordani, played by James Franciscus.
Italian “giallos” always had a murder mystery interspersed with lots of nudity and sex. This movie was no exception.
Look at this great dialogue:
Carlo Giordani: Do you know how many people are together right now making love this very second?
Anna Terzi: No.
Carlo Giordani: 780 on the average. Really.
Carlo Giordani: I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but that was an invitation.
Yes it certainly WAS an invitation! But of course, there are more deaths, always gruesome yet with an interesting visual flair and imagination…
And while there is plentiful nudity, these films are equal opportunity killers, because just as many men get murdered as women…
Dario Argento is still making movies, and his daughter Asia Argento is an Actress/filmmaker as well…these early 70’s efforts are a great way to learn about this Italian Master!
Another great Italian Director is Lucio Fulci – he has a career far beyond “giallos”, but let’s focus on his best, with a very unique title!
Don’t Torture A Duckling!
Great title for a straightforward murder mystery: A reporter and a promiscuous young woman try to solve a series of child killings in a remote southern Italian town that’s rife with superstition and distrust of outsiders.
Lucio Fulci is perhaps best known for his gore films, including Zombi 2 (1979) and The Beyond (1981), but he had a flair for giallo as well, especially this controversial one.
“Don’t Torture A Duckling” has been called a hallucionatory whodunit, concerning a spate of child murders in a small Italian village. Duckling’s creepy, insular and superstitious depiction of rural Italian life won Fulci no fans at home; his vitriolic swipes at the Catholic church compounded his problems.
Fulci claims he was blacklisted for a short time following the release of Duckling and the odd title was the result of Fulci’s fear of a lawsuit from Disney (the original Italian title translates as Don’t Torture Donald Duck which makes a lot more sense in the context of the movie).
Because of the film’s controversial storyline, which criticized the Catholic Church, the movie was blacklisted and received a limited theatrical run throughout Europe and was never released in theaters in the United States.
It is now, of course, on DVD and is worth checking out – especially if you want to walk on the giallo wild side this Halloween season!