Sunday, April 28, 2019


Sometimes, it takes the demise of a great exploitation filmmaker to raise a dormant movie blog from the ashes.

After my last (repeat: LAST) Best/Worst List at the end of 2018, I had zero intention of film blogging for the first half of 2019. Possibly, the entirety of 2019. Between cross-country (and cross-city) moves, final edits on a second novel, and enough winter-spring release garbage at the multiplexes to choke an Equisapien, who has the time? But then, don't you just know it, one of my favorite old writer-director-raconteurs up and dies at the end of March, leaving me with a partial filmography to finish watching. 

Since catching the very enjoyable director retrospective documentary King Cohen at Fantastic Fest in the fall of 2017, I've been slowly (very slowly) catching up on the wonderfully wild and woolly career of Larry Cohen. Prior to that doc, I'd only seen the very New Yawk creature feature Q: The Winged Serpent (reviewed here years ago on this blog), the Biblical assassin horror-thriller God Told Me To, and the delightfully creamy frozen yogurt horror-satire The Stuff. I'd enjoyed all three films and their loopy DIY trash aesthetics but had never gotten around to digging further into Larry's resume. 

Between the end of 2017 and the end of 2018, I decided to fill in some of the gaps. There was Cohen's fantastic Yaphet Kotto-starring dark comedy debut, Bone. His back-to-back Fred Williamson blaxploitation classics, Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem. All three It's Alive prosthetic mutant baby entries. A Stephen King adaptation (A Return To Salem's Lot) and an Eric Bogosian-Zoe Lund sex thriller thrown in for good measure (Special Effects). I had fun. I thought I was done. Until Larry kicked the bucket on March 23rd of this year, and I realized I owed the man who'd given me so much sleazy joy another 12 or so hours of my life.

And so, while every other person on the planet was forking over more $$$ to the Disney-Marvel monolith to watch countless superheroes in CGI spandex crack-wise and hurl glowing Infinity Turds at each other for three-plus hours, I was sitting at home, catching up with the last of Larry Cohen's "leftovers" for free on my laptop at about 90 minutes a pop. Who had more fun? I'll let you be the judge. Other than one very hard-to-find TV movie starring Esther Rolle from Good Times, my Larry Cohen feature-length filmography box ticking is now complete...


Cohen's first foray into the serious biopic racket is a swiftly moving and, perhaps, slightly too sympathetic portrait of one of history's most infamous federally mandated paranoiacs. Old Hollywood stalwart Broderick Crawford plays the famous FBI Director in question and, regrettably, is a bit too stiff for such a plum role. He almost had me pining for latex-and-spirit gum slathered DiCaprio in J. Edgar, or Bob Hoskins in Nixon at the very least. Luckily, there are a bunch of other great character actors around him to pick up the slack -- Rip Torn, Ronee Blakley, Jose Ferrer and, most notably, a career-best Michael Parks absolutely nailing Robert F. Kennedy. I'm not sure that I learned much new about Hoover, but I probably picked up a few extra Meisner techniques. In the King Cohen doc, film nerd royalty Marty Scorsese effuses greatly about this movie and its effect on him as a young filmmaker. Perhaps that's a touch too much collegial hyperbole, but, nonetheless, this interesting film deserves a proper Blu-ray release. The streaming copy that I watched had all the quality of a muffled 1960s wiretap recording.


Though this droll early '80s high school werewolf comedy plays like the sad-sack Borscht Belt version of the more spirited Michael J. Fox starrer Teen Wolf a few years later, I am loath to cast aspersions on any film that provides me with not one but TWO Arkins! Adam Arkin plays a teen who gets bitten by a werewolf on a summer trip to Transylvania and, upon returning to high school, must habitually avoid sacking down with his girlfriend because it's "his time of the month." Never has a teenager in an '80s comedy gone to such lengths to avoid biting girls on the buttocks. Cohen keeps the lycanthropic laughs coming pretty regularly and pretty agreeably, but the movie kicks into higher gear when daddy Arkin (Alan) shows up toward the end as a doctor not all that concerned with his patient's predatory prognosis. Add to that a few spirited cameos from old TV pros Ed McMahon, Pat Morita and Jim J. Bullock, and you've got yourself a perfectly diverting 90+ minutes.


After three It's Alive movies, it's obvious Larry C has a knack for enlivening stale horror-thriller tropes by using babies (mutant or otherwise) in prominent roles. Perfect Strangers flips the script on his Alive trilogy by, this time, making an impressionable young tyke the prey instead of the predator. In fact, you could argue that Cohen has made ultimate "child in danger" movie here, and Perfect Strangers is often as gleefully tasteless and exploitative as that designation implies. When a cute two-year-old moppet witnesses a contract knifing in an alleyway, the mafia puts out a hit on the kid, or else the hit man who did the knifing will get whacked himself. Though reluctant to snuff out a toddler, the pretty boy hit man (Brad Rijn) must cozy up to his young mother (Anne Carlisle) to see just how much the kid understands about what he saw. Much highly diffused soft-core sex and kindertrauma ensues. While not quite as good as Special Effects the same year, Perfect Strangers does get a lot of mileage out of a surprisingly solid, believable young child actor. Plus, the always welcome Anne Magnuson shows up now and again as an early era "feminazi" who basically wants to snip off the pecker of every man she sees. Good times!


Am I more excited or less to see Billy Dee return as Lando Calrissian in the next Star Wars, now that I've seen him play a sleazy, trigger-happy private eye named Hamberger in a Larry Cohen film? Well, let's just say that I seriously doubt Williams will get as much tongue action from an older Nien Nunb as he does from Morgan Fairchild and Vanity here. Billy Dee is in top Colt 45 form (the beer, not the firearm) as a private dick hired to take out a millionaire's wife (Fairchild) but who ends up warning her off (after much deep French kissing) instead. Big mistake, because this is Larry Cohen with his foot rooted firmly in Film Noir Land. The wife winds up "dead," and Hamberger is fingered for the crime. With a little help (and a lot of snogging) from Vanity, he must untangle a very convoluted murder-blackmail-extortion-heroin distribution plot to clear his name and, SPOILER ALERT, not change it to "Haht Dogg." Although Deadly Illusion has the perfect straight-to-video title (the only copy I could find is ripped from VHS), it appears to have miraculously achieved some kind of theatrical release. It's not nearly as good as Billy Dee's Lethal Weapon style team-up with Robert Carradine the same year (Number One With A Bullet), but it's not a bad hour and change watching Billy Dee do Billy Dee either.


A lot of foofaraw was made in the King Cohen doc about Larry saving this PG-13 spookfest from the wreckage of a difficult shoot and a very elderly leading lady (Bette Davis) who bowed out early in production reportedly due to "the way she was being photographed." Cohen claims it was because Davis was literally at death's door, and, admittedly, it's hard to make a chain-smoking skeleton in a red wig and heavy pancake makeup look like she did in Now, Voyager. That said, the resultant movie is a somewhat fascinating Franken-mess, wherein Davis' witchy presence is later substituted not only by a hot Nicaraguan supermodel but also by a Claymation black cat that puffs Pall Malls. You've got to give Cohen credit for his creativity, as well as some more wicked '80s TV-refugee casting. There's Max from Hart to Hart (Lionel Stander), Sledgehammer from Sledgehammer! (David Rasche), Bull from Night Court (Richard Moll), not to mention Colleen Camp and Seymour Cassel (R.I.P.) from many a great indie comedy. Although this film is a giant narrative clusterfuck, it does reach some near-Beetlejuice levels of inspiration in terms of wacky supernatural dark comedy. I didn't even mind that I had to watch it pulled from YouTube in eight separate parts.


Larry Cohen's laughable medical conspiracy thriller The Ambulance is the closest I came to seeing Avengers: Endgame this weekend, perhaps the closest I will ever come, and that is absolutely fine with me. In the film, Eric Roberts (sporting the mother of all mullets) plays a comic book artist at a pre-MCU Marvel Studios where he draws a character called "Doctor Strong." He likes to accost pretty, uninterested women in the streets of NYC and wow them with his lame jokes, eventually browbeating and mansplaining them into very reluctant first dates. Sounds like the perfect Marvel fanboy to me. There's even a Stan Lee cameo! When his latest Columbus Circle crush (Janine Turner) collapses and is a carted off by a very outdated old model ambulance, Roberts starts to smell a rat (or, at least, someone else's rattail) and stumbles onto a very preposterous conspiracy involving diabetics being pulled off the streets to be part of underground medical experiments. "Don't ask me, I just work here." The movie is patently ludicrous, but everybody seems to be having a lot of fun, from Roberts to Red Buttons to a gum-smacking police lieutenant played James Earl Jones.


Cohen goes the made-for-TV route with this not-as-bad-as-you-might-think USA Network identity swap thriller starring Traci Lords, Judge Reinhold and-- hey!-- that southern chick from Wings (Crystal Bernard). The production values might be sorely lacking, but Larry brings out his old TV writing chops for a script that moves pretty briskly in ways you can't always guess from a mile away. It's even got one or two things to say about the sad state of the medical insurance industry lights years before Obamacare. Plus, Judge Reinhold as a bad guy! Keep your expectations as good as zero, and you may just be pleasantly surprised by this one.


Unfortunately, I don't have too many glowing things to say about Larry Cohen's last feature-length film. And, somehow, I managed to see it twice in the span of a month, first haphazardly cruising around Starz on cable one night and, later, on 35mm as part of a five-film Pam Grier marathon at an Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers. Basically, it's an all-star game on film, the let's-get-the-gang-back-together of blaxploitation movies. Once the novelty of seeing all these '70s icons together in the same film 20 years later wears off, you're left with a kinda lackluster, post-Boyz N The Hood let's-clean-up-the-neighborhood message movie that also trafficks in a lot of cool for the sake of cool gunplay. Perhaps the most notable thing that can be said about the film is the fact that it beat out Jackie Brown by a year in putting Pam Grier and Robert Forster in the same movie. That said, it's nice to see Cohen working alongside his cigar-chomping "muse" Fred Williamson again. After as many years and as many films as those two guys cranked out in the exploitation game, they both certainly deserved the mantle of "O.G."

R.I.P. Larry C (Rest In Prosthetics)

Monday, December 31, 2018


Last year, I made the bold claim that my Best & Worst of 2017 was 99.9% sure to be my last best/worst movie list ever. Well, it seems that, against all conceivable odds, that meager 00.1% chance somehow managed to win out.

But not by much! In 14 years of doing these damnable, needlessly time-consuming lists, this year's is without a doubt Cashiers De Cinema's most half-assed. No pithy, snark-filled descriptions of the movies selected. No accompanying images from the films. Fewer Superlatives entries. There are probably even a few spelling errors tuckked away in here that I didn't bother to correct.

"Why so lazy, blogger dude?" you surely ask. Because, to me, 2018 seemed an exceptionally snooze-inducing year at the cinema...when I made it into the cinema. At this point, much of the good stuff could be beamed directly into my brain via Netflix or delayed an additional two to three months until it popped up for free (or nearly free) elsewhere on the internet or Delta Airlines' in-flight entertainment. There are actually only two films on my Worst List I paid hard currency to see. Go ahead: Guess which two!

Good or bad, I don't have strong feelings about the majority of the movies I saw this year. Worse than 2018 being a political/cultural nightmare, its cinematic byproducts were mostly just BLAH. Yet, I somehow managed to see more than 100 of these miserable suckers...114 in total by current half-assed estimates. My 2019 movie resolution is to cut that number in half. And then cut that number in half. And, even if I don't, you, dear reader, will never know that I failed. Why?


Enjoy it before this blog completely disappears...


10. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
9. Hereditary (first hour only)
8. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
7. The Sisters Brothers
6. Leave No Trace
5. Mandy
4. Double Lover
3. Annihilation
2. Cold War
1. First Reformed


A Quiet Place
Hold the Dark
Sorry to Bother You
The Favourite


10. Vice
9. The Con Is On
8. The Hurricane Heist
7. Revenge
6. Gotti
5. Isle of Dogs
4. Arizona
3. The Devil and Father Amorth
2. Vox Lux
1. A Star Is Born


Bad Times at the El Royale
Death Wish
The Commuter


Best Mediocre Heist Movie in a Year Of Disappointing Heist Movies
Den of Thieves (narrowly beating American Animals, Widows, Ocean's 8)

Best Straight-to-VOD Nic Cage Movie
Between Worlds (barely edging out Mom and Dad and Looking Glass)

Most Overly Praised Movie of the Year
Black Panther

Most Overly Condemned Movie of the Year
The House That Jack Built (rated or unrated version)

Best Bone-Crunching Good Time
The Night Comes For Us

Best Meandering Los Angeles Noir
Under The Silver Lake

Most Solid Sequels/Sidequels/Reboots/Remakes/Retcons, Etc.
Halloween, Suspiria, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Creed II

Least Solid Sequels/Sidequels/Reboots/Remakes/Retcons, Etc.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Solo: A Star Wars Story,
The Predator

Two Best Reasons Not To Cancel Your Netflix Plan
The Other Side of the Wind / They'll Love Me When I'm Dead

Most Anticipated Movies of 2019
The Beach Bum (Harmony Korine...again), Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Tarantino),
Ad Astra (James Gray), Knives Out (Rian Johnson), The Irishman (Scorsese)

Happy fuckin' 2019, ya mamalukes!!

Friday, December 21, 2018


Roughly seven years ago, I watched a foursome of crime films by director Fernando Di Leo. Generally speaking, I liked what I saw and vowed to finish out his filmography sometime in the future.

Roughly eleven months ago, I vowed to reinvigorate this ailing film blog and watch 100 Italian exploitation movies by the end of the year. Generally speaking, I do not regret this decision. Whether or not anything was reinvigorated in the process, I'll leave that up to you, the unseen jury of my peers.

Either way, I'm finished on both counts. I am finally Di Leo and Done!!!

What awaits in the future for Cashiers De Cinema? Is there a future for Cashiers De Cinema? As usual, it's anybody's guess. You know, I never did get around to those Tinto Brass flicks...

Fernando Di Leo

Behold, Fernando's first sole directorial credit after an impressive run as a spaghetti western screenwriter (A Fistful of Dollars, Navajo Joe & Massacre Time, to name a few). This rather run-of-the-mill World War II picture involves an American army major (James Daly) who teams up with a Russian spy, some French partisans and potential double agent Pier Angeli to steal an important memorandum from the Nazis. Red Roses is not entirely wilted, just routine if you've seen any other war/spy films of that time period. Di Leo was still getting his sea legs behind the camera, so, in that sense, not entirely disappointing.


#90 - NAKED VIOLENCE (1969)
Fernando Di Leo

"Enhanced interrogation" is the name of the game in this provocatively titled crime/juvenile delinquent flick about a police commissioner (Pier Paolo Capponi) investigating the rape and murder of a school teacher by an assorted pack of street hooligans whacked out on super-alcohol (90 proof aniseed liqueur). Commissioner Lamberti will use every method in his "Political Correctness? Never Heard Of It" playbook to determine which urchin is most responsible. This includes intimidating suspects, slapping them, dousing them and his office in booze, or inviting them over to a nice pasta dinner. But mostly he just yells at everyone at top volume. From what I gather browsing online, this is one of Di Leo's more respected early efforts pre-Milieu Trilogy. It's a decent procedural with one nice atonally scored montage sequence near the end. Other than that, nothing you haven't seen already on your average Law and Order episode. Dun dun!


#91 - SLAUGHTER HOTEL (1971)
Fernando Di Leo

A women's "relaxation clinic" (read: Italian villa loony bin) is the setting for monotonous masked murder, casual Sapphic lovemaking and lazy filmmaking in this pre-poliziotteschi Di Leo joint perched somewhere between giallo and outright porno. Don't let the titillating title (or its alternate moniker Cold-Blooded Beast) fool you. It's pretty dull stuff by Italian exploitation standards (and Di Leo standards). Even the hardcore inserts and inclusion of madman Klaus Kinski in what amounts to an extended cameo can't save this roach motel of a movie.


#92 - SEDUCTION (1973)
Fernando Di Leo

This mildly diverting spin on Lolita concerns a middle-aged bachelor (Maurice Ronet) who returns home to Catania to reconnect with an old flame (Lisa Gastoni) and ends up bedding her coquettish teenage daughter (Jenny Tamburi) to boot. While it's interesting to see a director mostly known for his tough guy yarns try his hand at romantic melodrama, it's safe to say Di Leo's less than delicate touch with this soap opera-adjacent material didn't entirely seduce me.


Fernando Di Leo

The first of Di Leo's three dalliances with French faceman/'70s action star Luc Merenda finds Merenda playing a celebrity cop, Domenico, who's secretly on the take from local mobsters. When the mob decides to boost sales by switching from smuggling cigarettes to guns/drugs, Domenico wants out. When a local oddball with a needy kitten and a grudge against the Milanese discovers the mob's car parked in his driveway and reports to it to Domenico's police sergeant father (Salvo Randone), he REALLY wants out. Soon, the plastic asphyxiation bags are brought in and the bodies start piling up. It seems Domenico's in over his head with this whole police corruption biz. If he's not careful, he might lose his own handsome noodle! Though not quite the one-two punch of Fernando's superior Caliber 9 and The Italian Connection in the two years prior, Shoot First is a worthy enough crime-doesn't-pay morality play, even if the title suggests a more action-packed affair than what's on the screen (a few decent car chases, some routine gunplay). The real MVP here is not Merenda but comic relief Vittorio Caprioli as Esposito, the kooky chap with the cat whose constant griping sets the whole plot spinning.


Fernando Di Leo

The second Di Leo/Merenda collaboration puts Luc on the right side of the law this time (at least for the first 45 minutes) as a modest motorcycle mechanic whose son is accidentally kidnapped along the spoiled brat of a rich tycoon (James Mason, horrifically dubbed). But, much like Danny DeVito in Ruthless People, old man Mason just don't want to pay! In the game of Rich Kid, Poor Kid, guess which tyke is getting a bullet in his pretty li'l head? This, of course, gives grieving father Luc license to go all Charles Bronson/Bruce Willis/Liam Neeson on the shadowy kidnap syndicate, picking them off with his sawed-off shotgun and souped-up motorbike one by one by one. Dour subject matter aside, it's a pretty fun ride, like a pulpier version of Kurosawa's High and Low with Akira's refined soba noodle style switched out for some messier Italian spaghetti.


#95 - NICK THE STING (1976)
Fernando Di Leo

Di Leo's last and most lively team-up with Luc Merenda might be my favorite of the trio. This time, Merenda plays a low-level con man named Nick Hezard who has hot diamonds from a recent jewelry heist/insurance scam placed on his person by crooked businessman Clarke (Lee J. Cobb) in an attempted frame-up. Nick eludes authorities and an attempted murder by Clarke's goons, but his pickpocket best bud is not so lucky. In order to get payback, he will have to organize The Ultimate Swindle with Clarke as his mark and some of Rome's finest fellow con artists as his more than willing accomplices. Though the alternative title for this film ("The Friends of Nick Hezard") suggests a somber George V. Higgins style character study, make no mistake—this is Di Leo in light-hearted caper mode and pulling it off successfully! Though he cribs a bit heavily from the Newman-Redford classic The Sting and uses one too many split screens, he manages to a wrangle a pretty convoluted long-con plot into an enjoyably brisk 90-some minutes.


#96 - LOADED GUNS (1975)
Fernando Di Leo

After agreeing to deliver a letter for a mysterious passenger, a sexy stewardess (Ursula Andress) gets mixed up with a mobster (Woody Strode), a circus acrobat (Marc Porel) and the Napoli polizia. While I must appreciate any film that provides the opportunity to see Ursula in her birthday suit for nearly half its run time, the broad crime comedy Loaded Guns is firing blanks on just about every other front. The zany ragtime music that plays heavily throughout certainly didn't help.


Fernando Di Leo

Di Leo wisely ditches the amusement park antics in favor of a small-scale but satisfying crime drama about an ex-con diamond thief, Guido (Claudio Cassinelli), who gets pulled back into the life after his wife dies under questionable circumstances and the local crime boss (Martin Balsam) gives him three days to get out of town. Fulci fave and Caliber 9 alum Barbara Bouchet is also on hand as the playing-both-sides-against-the-middle femme fatale. Vittorio Caprioli is back (sans cat) as a wily police commissioner. And Henry Silva stand-in Pier Paolo Capponi plays a pretty entertaining hothead henchman. The plot doesn't bring anything new to the table but gets brownie points for coming together nicely. My only quibble might be with the main actor who gives a rather dull performance, really putting the lead (as in rhymes with "bread") in leading man. But then I just read on Wikipedia that he died in a freak helicopter accident during the filming of a Sergio Martino film, so I kinda feel bad saying that. Pretend that I didn't.


#98 - TO BE TWENTY (1978) 
Fernando Di Leo

Free-spirited Italian gals Lia (Gloria Guida) and Tina (Lilli Carati) are, in their own words, "young, hot and little pissed off." They cavort nude on the beach, hitchhike freely, shoplift exuberantly and occasionally joke that they will offer blow jobs in exchange for a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. Tina really wants to get laid, but the urban commune where they crash is filled with doper dudes too zonked on LSD to give her a good bonk. So they get resourceful, try out lesbianism, experimental documentary filmmaking, Valerie Solanas's "SCUM Manifesto" and disco dancing in the town square. They even sell encyclopedias at one point. But, wouldn't you know it, the '70s are almost over, the commune has just gotten busted by the pigs, and their freewheelin' feminist lifestyle is about to come to a very disturbing end. Why? Well, it probably has a little something to do with the fact that this movie was directed by an Italian male in his late 40s at the time, one not necessarily known for playfully erotic cultural barometer comedies. To Be Twenty is definitely a departure for Di Leo, and, if it hadn't detoured so suddenly into "they must be punished for their promiscuity" horror movie territory in the last 10 minutes, I might have called it a pleasantly enjoyable one. As is, however, it's pretty Di Lousy and kinda despicable.


#99 - THE VIOLENT BREED (1984)
Fernando Di Leo

Fernando attempts to get in on the mid-80s Vietnamsploitation Missing in Action action and misfires completely. The asinine plot is not worth recounting, something to do with the CIA, KGB, mafia and assorted other goons running drugs in Thailand. Di Leo stalwarts Woody Strode and Henry Silva are there to collect a paycheck and, sadly, have little scenery chewing to do. Unfortunately, all the heavy lifting is done by some guy named Harrison Muller playing "Mike," a dime store Rambo in Izod and Reeboks prone to delivering lines such as "Can I have a beer?" when strung up by his wrists or "Hey, God wants to see you" when before machine gunning a bad guy. Mike Danton in Deadly Prey could definitely teach this lame-o Mike Martin a thing or two.


#100 - KILLER VS. KILLERS (1985)
Fernando Di Leo

The final film in Fernando Di Leo's 20-year filmography (and in my Year of Italian Exploitation) is a predictable but perfectly entertaining little heist number about a group of disparate "professionals" hired by a shady oil tycoon (Edmund Purdom) to steal secret plans from a militarized chemical plant. There's the old safecracker (Fernando Cerulli) who likes to spend his earnings on look-but-don't-touch nude escort shows. There's the lady con artist (Dalila Di Lazzaro) who's a lousy lounge singer on the side. There's a guy named Ferrari (Labert Janni) who you might not be surprised to learn is a getaway driver. And then, of course, there's "the killer" Sterling (Henry Silva), a no-nonsense hitman. For the most part, the heist goes off without a hitch, but the aftermath…well, if you've seen The Asphalt Jungle or any of its double-crossing progeny, you may have a good idea where this is headed. That said, any movie that concludes with Henry Silva getting payback by way of a bazooka and a cheetah…count me in!


Or is it? Stay tuned to see if Cashiers De Cinema
drops a 2018 Best/Worst List before New Year's this year...

Friday, November 30, 2018

DIAL 911 D-E-O-D-A-T-O

Hello, Operator? Yes, I'd like to report a crime. A cinematic crime perpetrated against a filmmaker who himself could be considered a criminal. Or an unrepentant sadist. At the very least, the top entry on PETA's Director Shit List. His name is Ruggero Deodato, although he sometimes goes by the name "Roger Rockefeller" or "Roger Deodato" or "Roger Franklin." The crime in question? Neglect, With Intent To Revisit. 

You see, I watched his classic gore-fest Cannibal Holocaust many years ago and even blogged about a second viewing of it on this very site. In fact, it's still far and away the most visited post on this poorly attended blog (for specious pictorial reasons, no doubt). Then, I watched his massively entertaining (and massively problematic) poliziotteschi film and proceeded to collect a number of his other flicks on disc. 

Cut to seven years later, and I still haven't done my Deodato DVD due diligence! Time is running out for the man (he's almost 80) and for My Year of Italian Exploitation (it's almost December!). I would hereby like to surrender myself to the proper authorities. Or at least the improper Ruggero. Please come and arrest me. I'm at the phone booth on the eastern corner of the Roman Colosseum, near Via Labicana, wearing a cornflower blue sweater, lightly tinted aviator shades and a wide, gregarious smile. Goodbye...

(click, dial tone)

Ruggero Deodato

Deodato, directing under his Clark Kent alias "Roger Rockefeller," delivers a mildly diverting addition to the superhero/supercriminal trend of late '60s Italian cinema. A rich count (Nicola Parenti) occasionally dons a full-length black body stocking and becomes "Phenomenal," foiling robberies Batman-style to bubbly lounge music. This time, he's after a King Tut mask that's gone missing from a Parisian museum. It's not nearly the delirious fun of Bava's supercriminal offering Danger: Diabolik the same year. But, if I HAVE to watch superhero shit, I'd rather sit through a swift 90 minutes of this than the equivalent, bloated dreck of 50 years later (Venom, Avengers, the entire DC universe, etc.).


#77 - ZENABEL (1969)
Ruggero Deodato

This swashbuckling sex farce landed like a wet thud in the Summer of Love and, more appropriately, the same week as the Piazza Fontana bombing. Producer's wife Lucretia Love plays a lusty 1600s heroine, Zenabel, who discovers she's of noble blood and gathers an army of virgins to help her take revenge on the Spanish baron (John Ireland) who killed her Duke father. Some critics cite this film as the first one in which Deodato displayed an identifiable directorial style. You could argue from the opening slo-mo, tracking shots of Zenabel and her comely crew of maidens disrobing before a waterfall that, yes, they might be right. But what could've been a spirited celebration of take-charge feminine empowerment soon gets undermined by some seriously misguided male directorial choices. Zany slapstick music played during a gang rape? A fox and hound hunting chase where the foxes are nude ladies and the hounds very hungry looking pit bulls? This type of stuff obviously would not wash in 2018, but I doubt it even went down as successful satire in the free-spirited '60s.


#78 - WAVES OF PLEASURE (1975)
Ruggero Deodato

Take the tense three-way in Polanski's Knife in the Water, add another beautiful woman in far less clothing, then crank the horniness volume past 11, and you might have a pretty good idea what you're in for with Deodato's seafaring sex-thriller Waves of Pleasure. Silvia Dionisio and Al Cliver play a vacationing couple who "befriend" a rich asshole playboy (John Steiner) and his subservient girlfriend (Elizabeth Turner), then get themselves invited on his yacht with nefarious intentions. It's a great set-up for some naughty maritime noir, but Deodato and Co. seem a bit more concerned with clothes-shedding scenes and wife-swapping intrigue than any kind of labyrinthine plot. Waves is a lot closer to softcore than noir, but who can complain when there's four gorgeous people swapping spit and being shitty to each other against such lovely oceanic scenery?


Ruggero Deodato

They say we're in the midst of  "horror renaissance." But I'd be hard pressed to find any scene in the current CGI-scares landscape more terrifying than the one in LCW where Massimo Foschi wakes up after a dose of bad jungle mushrooms to find himself stripped naked and chained to rock, his very real genitals being poked and prodded by a pack of hungry cannibals. Deodato's first bite into the mondo cannibal genre is still as stomach-churning as it was when I first saw it at least a decade ago. And even more #problematic. There's the bat that gets squeezed to death and eaten whole by the anaconda. The toucon that gets pelted with rocks. The crocodile that gets bonked on the head, then gutted and skinned alive by hungry natives. The dead eagle that gets pulled from its belly. Oh yes, and let's not forget the humans! Those fearless thespians who Deodato puts through the Philippines jungle ringer nearly as much as their animal kin. Maybe Massimo and Me Me Lai aren't the best actors out there, but I can say with certainty they are among the bravest in film history.


#80 - CONCORDE AFFAIRE '79 (1979)
Roger Deodato

Director "Roger" Deodato definitely rides coach on this second class attempt to milk the lucrative American Airport franchise of as much filthy lira as possible. A greedy businessman (Joseph Cotten, coasting on Geritol highballs) is sabotaging Concordes and crashing them mid-flight in order to drive up the stock on his own South American airline. Investigative journalist (James Franciscus) stumbles on the plot and, eventually, the underwater wreckage. Can he get the story out before baddie Cotten tanks a second jet? Who cares? I mostly fly Delta! I've never seen any of the legit Airport franchise films, so I can't weigh in on how this one stacks up. But I can "Shirley" say it's nowhere near as good as the Zucker Bros spoofs of same. Over Macho Grande? No, I don't think I'll get over Macho Grande…


Ruggero Deodato

🎵Sweetly oh sweetly
Sweeter than a rosebud
Love and hope you bring me
Sweetly oh sweetly
Summertime is coming
Happy and carefree
Waiting just for you🎵


Ruggero Deodato

A trigger-happy mash-up of The Road Warrior, Escape from New York, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Zardoz with maybe a quarter of the directorial finesse displayed in any of those aforementioned classics. When a Russian submarine somehow raises the lost island of Atlantis from the sea along with a bunch of mohawked, leather-clad "Interceptors" on motorbikes, two thieves and a group of scientists must ban together to…oh, never mind. Just listen to this delightful OliverOnions theme song and check your brain at the door  for 90 minutes.


#83 - CUT AND RUN (1985)
Ruggero Deodato

The last entry in Deodato's unofficial "cannibal trilogy" is a decidedly mixed bag. It basically slaps the storylines of Last Cannibal and Holocaust together like mismatched skin grafts, adds a few extended cameos (Richard Lynch, Karen Black and the Hills Have Eyes bald guy), throws in some cocaine smuggling, a weak kidnapping plot, a few Jonestown references, along with the usual savage hordes of bloodthirsty third world cannibals who, truth be told, do a lot more dart gun blowing than intestine munching in this one. The intrepid film journalists (Lisa Blount and Leonard Mann) this time are a video crew with clunkier Betacam equipment. Now it's John Steiner who gets ripped in half between two trees instead of some complete unknown. It feels like Deodato got a fatter budget than usual and blew it all on casting and helicopters, leaving only $2.50 for the afterthought script. My hope is that he spent even less on Zapped! and Charles In Charge star Willie Aames, who is truly terrible here, despite playing a role so close to home…an out of his element California rich kid. 


#84 - THE LONE RUNNER (1986)
Ruggero Deodato

Tarzan/Ator star Miles O'Keefe trades in his loincloth for a cowboy duster and a crossbow as Garrett, "The Lone Runner," a desert desperado who's part Lone Ranger, part Rambo and not much for small talk. He materializes out of a Middle Eastern sandstorm to dispatch Bedouin bad guys and help a local king retrieve his pricey diamonds and lovely blonde daughter from the clutches of rapacious thieves (vamping John Steiner again). The plot is entirely disposable and updated/lifted from many a better western, but there's some minor fun to be had watching Miles execute half-assed martial arts moves, fire explosive grenade arrows and twirl the occasional double-sided spear. If nothing else, it's proof that Deodato can deliver decent straight-to-video action.


#85 - BODY COUNT (1987)
Ruggero Deodato

Deodato gets into '80s slasher game too late in the decade, bringing little new blood to the table. The set-up is your basic cabin in the woods, horny/disposable teens on vacation scenario. Exploitation vets Charles Napier, David Hess and Mimsy Farmer are on hand to provide adult supervision and a mostly superfluous three-way love triangle/adultery plot. Other than one or two mildly interesting kills, Ruggero does nothing to advance the Jason Voorhees' playbook. The problem lies mostly in the film's goofy masked antagonist, an "Indian shaman" who stalks the woods lugging a backstory that's never really explained. By the time the inevitable unmasking/twist comes at the end, you've long since stopped counting bodies and started tallying the "Time Left On Video" minutes.


#86 - DIAL: HELP (1988)
Ruggero Deodato

I hate my phone. It's a piece of shit Android with terrible AT&T service that exists merely to field daily telemarketing calls and unsolicited phishing texts. I hate it even more now that AT&T's Time Warner merger has effectively killed FilmStruck. But, after seeing what poor Charlotte Lewis (of The Golden Child fame) goes through in this movie, I feel that perhaps I should complain a bit less. British fashion model Jenny contends with a phone that not only kills all the goldfish in her aquarium with a high-pitched dialtone, but also strangles her, seduces her in the bathtub, nearly goads her into suicide, shoots quarters like bullets into people's faces, and somehow manages to tie her down with magnetic tape in a room full of docile pigeons and out of control ceiling fans. I'm still not exactly sure how all this occurs—something to do with excess electricity bursts and "psychic energy." Needless to say, I won't be purchasing one of her '80s Giorgio Armani brand landlines anytime soon. But I may be committing this delightfully cuckoo Deodato phone horror joint to my permanent DVD collection.


#87 - PHANTOM OF DEATH (1988)
Ruggero Deodato

Even a top-shelf cast (Michael York, Donald Pleasance, Edwige Fenech) can't do much to save this boilerplate neo-giallo with a progeria syndrome twist from Deodato's deo-dismal direction. York plays a talented concert pianist who goes on a murder spree after contracting a rare, rapid-aging disease which eventually turns him into a cross between Brundlefly and Benjamin Button. but with clunkier makeup. While it's nice to see Pleasance get a break from chasing Michael Myers to pursue Michael York for a spell and fabulous to see Fenech doing just about anything (despite her impossible to parse French accent), this Phantom of the Opera knockoff sadly suffers from a terminal case of Severely Squandered Potential.



An oddly intriguing neo-giallo/softcore sleazefest about a very gullible Budapest police investigator who gets involved with three wackadoo sisters after one of them reports finding a dead gangster named Yuri in her washing machine. The supposed Maytag murder turns out to be a hallucination (or is it?!!), an elaborate excuse for the three siblings to collectively fuck with the inspector's head (and literally fuck him individually). There's also a nifty twist involving Yuri, blackmail and some counterfeit money which I promise not to spoil 25 years after the fact. The Washing Machine feels a bit like Deodato remade The Witches of Eastwick for late night cable—not necessarily a bad thing. He seems to do his best non-cannibal work when paired with inanimate objects/appliances (first telephones, now laundry machines). He hasn't been that active on the big screen recently, but I think he's still got one more gem in him. Someone get him a FitBit-focused horror script, before it's too late!


You're not watching Ruggero unless Ruggero is watching you!