Thursday, June 19, 2014

HATE THY NEIGHBOR - DVD REVIEW


Review by Steve Fenton.

Dramatic voiceover to the Anglo export trailer: “You’re alone now… alone with your fear and your secrets… Then… TERROR possesses you! [gunshots] And this is your fate… Spilled blood calls for more spilled blood… Brutality and violence lead to crime! And in the heart of Man, brutality and violence breed hate! HATE… HATE… ‘HATE THY NEIGHBOR’!A film in which men abandon their moral principles and become slaves of uncontrollable passions – This is a film which poses the anguishing question: Should a wild and primitive society take the commandment which all religions have rejected? NO! NO! NO! …(COMING SOON).

Translated French vid blurb: “Gold Attracts Lowlifes… A fabulous goldmine provokes desire, jealously, murder, kidnapping of a child, blackmail, vengeance and hatred…

Hence, most of the necessary ingredients for one hearty dish of spaghetti – just like Mamma used to make!  Credits are accompanied by yet another virtually unintelligible – not to mention irrelevant – Anglo theme song (sample lyrics” “Two friends / Who together have spent most of life…”).  On Wild East’s unfortunately full-frame DVD, window-boxed action highlights rendered in sepiatone and slow-motion afford the viewer a fine foretaste of the top-notch actioner to follow.  Baldi made some way decent actioners, and this one ranks right up there close to the top of his canon.

Apart from his broader nose, which makes him resemble spaghetti character actor Paolo Gozlino (from “Nick Howard”/Nick Nostro’s ONE AFTER THE OTHER [1968], among others), Greek leading man Spyros Focás – would later play Zorro and was here billed under the Anglo alias of “Clyde Garner” – somehow also possesses a recognizable Terence Hill quality (circa Giuseppe Colizzi’s GOD FORGIVES – I DON’T [1967]).  This resemblance was undoubtedly no coincidence, as director Ferdinando Baldi had recently triple-barrelled Hill, Horst Frank and “George Eastman”/Luigi Montefiori in the highly profitable VIVA DJANGO! (1967), the first official sequel to Sergio Corbucci’s and Franco Nero’s seminal DJANGO (1966).  Frank and Montefiori share similar billing and onscreen relationship here (main difference is that Frank abstains from all dirty work…until things get personal, that is).  Both actors smile a lot with their mouths but never their eyes, oozing verminous hidden agendas from their every pore, and Frank owns more customized recreational torture devices than a Vatican-appointed Grand Inquisitor.  For example, (as per the film’s snazzy original locandina poster illustration, reproduced nearby) his henchmen hang Montefiori by his feet from a gibbet above a roiling snake-pit, while caged rats gnaw at the honey-glazed rope which suspends him.  Montefiori plays such a vile pig of a man that his by no means upstanding ‘colleague’ – played by Paolo Magalotti – seems like a comparative nice guy; who rescues heroine Nicoletta Machiavelli from imminent sexual molestation under Montefiori’s sweaty palms.  Overshadowing Focás as the antihero, the vilely villainous Montefiori (himself simply anti) is given a much more prominent part, amounting to one of the actor’s meatiest, meanest and most memorable.  Even though – and quite possibly because – it takes Horst Frank a full .45 cylinder to drop him, Montefiori still goes down laughing.

As Focás’s string-pulling nemesis, megalomaniacal master puppeteer Frank plays his patented decadent, filthy-rich dirtbag (“I don’t like jokes, if the jokes’s on me”); a cold, calculating prick who gets his kicks from watching corralled Mexican peons fight to the death using huge steel claws and tiny wicker shields (not much protection there!).  A definite triple-zero dressed up as a 13, femme fatale Ivy Holzer becomes openly turned-on at the mere sight of blood.  When the vanquished have fallen, Frank forces the victor to mercy-kill his opponent, prolonging the psychological anguish by only placing one bullet in the cylinder.  In this way both the ‘victor’ and the vanquished are forced to endure the suspenseful click-click-click of empty chambers counting down until finally the gun goes off, ending both their suspense and very existence simultaneously.  Hence, the film’s title carries double relevance, jointly standing for Focás’s animosity towards his cowardly hometowners and Frank’s forced pitting of peon against peon for his personal entertainment.

Eccentric crapulent coffinmaker Roberto Rizzo – who plays the accordion at funerals – sneaks sips from a whiskey bottle, which he stashes inside a miniature casket.  Although self-described as “a peaceful man,” Rizzo lugs a big hunting rifle and is not averse to the occasional vendetta to fill both his coffers…and his coffins.

Focás, his lovely leading lady Nicoletta Machiavelli and onscreen nemesis Frank all read their lines in English, though all were evidently redubbed for the occasion by different mouths.  Action sequences are both dynamic and well-edited, with fight scenes (arranged by old gun and sword-hand Franco Fantasia) staged with relish and conviction.  And for all its gutsy violence, the film is unafraid to end on an upbeat note (“You’ve finally met a man who doesn’t know how to hate!”).  HATE THY NEIGHBOR is memorable “B”-grade spaghetti all the way, ranking right up there with Romolo Guerrieri’s 10,000 DOLLARS BLOOD MONEY (1967), “Edward G. Muller”/Edoardo Mulargia’s SAY YOUR PRAYERS AND DIG YOUR GRAVE (1968), and Sergio Garrone’s NO ROOM TO DIE (1969), top-notch ‘no-frills’ titles all.  You’ll be back for seconds, neighbour!

Note: Assistanr director was Mario Bianchi.  The serpentine “Eastman”/Montefiori takes a pitchfork to Focás herein at the same farmhouse set seen in Alfonso Balcázar’s FOUR DOLLARS OF REVENGE (1966), Roberto Mauri’s SHOTGUN (1968), and many others.  On Wild East’s Region 1 DVD, the title presently under discussion is paired with a nice widescreen print of “Joseph Warren”/Giuseppe Vari’s DJANGO, THE LAST KILLER (1967), also co-starring Eastman, albeit playing a far less reptilian character than he does here.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

BRACCIANO'S CASTELLO DI ODESCALCHI


Following Mr. Luigi Cozzi’s recommendations to visit Bracciano, my wife Liz and I decided to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Rome and headed to this beautiful lakeside town.  Located just an hour outside of Rome, Lake Bracciano is one of Italy’s largest lakes and I can only imagine how crowded this place must be in the middle of summer.  It’s an absolutely beautiful spot.  Bracciano is also well known for the Odescalchi Castle, a vast “feudal European” castle built in the second half of the XV century.  It’s certainly an impressive and extremely well preserved castle, which for anyone that has seen numerous Italian films will instantly recognize.  There are tours, but unfortunately, they are only in Italian and no pictures are allowed of either the grounds or the interior, which is a shame.  

Some of the many films of interest that utilized this magnificent castle include Riccardo Freda’s MACISTE IN HELL (1962) and The MAGNIFICENT ADVENTURER (1963); Luciano Ricci’s and Michael Reeves’ CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964); Louis Malle’s “William Wilson” episode from SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (1968); Ruggero Deodato’s ZENABEL (1969), Giorgio Ferroni’s The NIGHT OF THE DEVILS (1972); Armando Crispino’s La BADESSA DI CASTRO (1974), Rino Di Silvestro’s DEPORTED WOMEN OF THE SS SPECIAL SECTION (1977); Enzo G. Castellari’s The INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1977) and Michele Soavi’s The CHURCH (1988).  Of course, many more films also utilized this terrific location and, if you ever get the chance to visit, check out the souvenir shop at the castle gates and grab a copy of CIAK AL CASTELLO, a terrific Italian-language only book dedicated to “50 years of cinema at Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano” or you can order it online here.
Bracciano's main street via Principe di Napoli.
Hangin' out at the castle's tourist entrance.  Photo: Liz Gardner.
B&W shot of the castle today. Photo: Liz Gardner.
As seen in Luciano Ricci's & Michael Reeves' The CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964).

Saturday, June 7, 2014

PROFONDO ROSSO DI ROMA


Luigi Cozzi (left) and myself.
I just got back from an epic, month-long visit to Italy with my wife Liz and, during our week in Rome, I was fortunate enough to finally visit the PROFONSO ROSSO store.  During my initial visit, Luigi Cozzi (who currently operates it) was not at the store, but I was told he is there everyday after 5pm.  Thankfully, we had plans to visit The Vatican a couple of days later (the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica are breathtaking to say the least) and since it’s only a 15 minute walk from there, we decided to meet Mr. Cozzi and say hello.  Very accommodating and happy to talk, he asked how I enjoyed Italy so far and after talking a little about famous filming locations like the Cascate di Montegelato (need a car rental out of Rome) or the Villa Parisi in Frascati (unfortunately owned by a real estate company and not open to the public), he suggested that I visit Bracciano (a small town located about an hour outside of Rome on Lake Bracciano – more on this in a future post), which was the site of numerous film productions.  He also had some great anecdotes about stealing shots during the filming of CONTAMINATION (1980) in NYC with a small six-person crew posing as “television journalists” and how he cast Brett Halsey in The BLACK CAT (1989) because he loved his role in Edward Bernds’ The RETURN OF THE FLY (1959) so much.  This eventually led to further discussions about Don Sharp’s terrific and underrated The CURSE OF THE FLY (1965). 

Of course, I didn’t leave empty-handed either, snagging up the definitive German Blu-Ray of FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1972) and a couple of books. When in Rome, visit the store on Via dei Gracchi, 260 Roma 00192, which is located a mere 10 minute walk from the Ottaviano Metro (red line) and say hello to Mr. Cozzi or visit online at www.profondorossostore.com
Lots of toys, masks and costumes populate the store.
They also stock numerous film books (many in English too!).