Sunday, October 28, 2018

ITALIAN EXPLOITATION EXPLOSION VOL. 7: FULCI FINALE


It's only a few days till 🎃 All Hallows' Eve 🎃. What better time than now to finish out Lucio Fulci's viscera-soaked filmography?

The following ten films are the horror "stragglers" on his resume I never got around to during my initial Fulci binge years ago, either because I'd heard bad things or had yet to dig up decent digital copies. Most of these films are from his late '80s, early '90s "declining years" when illness, age and industry fluctuations began to sap his output. That said--trick or treat!--I was pleased to find that there are still a few yummy Kit Kat bar caliber flicks in the mix. It's not ALL rotten caramel apples stuffed with razor blades (though there are a few of those too). 

At this point, I've seen every Lucio Fulci film that is readily available out there. Or at least all his horror stuff. All that's left (according to Wikipedia) is a handful of comedies and musicals that haven't received any kind of DVD/U.S. release. Maybe someday some benevolent media conglomerate will release an all-inclusive 57-film box set or start a streaming Fulci channel. Obviously, it won't be FilmStruck (R.I.P./F-U AT&T!). But, hey, a horror fan can always dream.

Until then, let's dig into the last of the Lucio candy bag, shall we?


#66 - MANHATTAN BABY (1982)
Lucio Fulci

An Egyptian "evil eye" amulet wreaks havoc upon archaeologist George (Christopher Connelly) and his family back in Manhattan, temporarily blinding him with blue lasers and vanishing his daughter through a time-space portal somewhere in her bedroom. Cobras appear without warning in high-rise apartments, as do mounds of inexplicably imported Nile River sand. Manhattan Baby is an unholy mess of a movie, nowhere near the grindhouse pedigree of Fulci's similarly NYC-set slasher masterwork, The New York Ripper, released the same year. The script plays like a hastily slapped together horror mash-up of Raiders of The Lost Ark and Poltergeist but with all narrative coherence stripped away. That said, there are a few fun-size Fulci trademarks to enjoy here: the continued obsession with eyes/eye trauma, everybody's favorite blonde moppet Giovanni Frezza as the foul-mouthed little brother, and what might be the nastiest taxidermy bird attack ever committed to film.

Grade: 


#67 - THE DEVIL'S HONEY (1986)
Lucio Fulci

The Godfather of Gore goes softcore (with a touch of early torture porn). When a woman's concussed musician lover dies on the operating table thanks to a distracted doctor with marital woes (Brett Halsey), she takes the sleaziest S&M tinged revenge this side of Takashi Miike's Audition. There are upskirt saxophone seductions, handjobs on motorbikes, brain surgeons with prostitute addictions, and movie theatre three-ways gone terrifyingly wrong. While uncommonly light on the signature bloodshed, The Devil's Honey may be Lucio at his most nakedly romantic. It's syrupy and lurid in equal measures, like some mad combo of Love Story, Red Shoe Diaries and Lynch's Wild at Heart. Supposedly, this was Fulci's comeback film after a year of sick leave due to hepatitis. Judging from the content, I think that malady's biggest side effect was that it made him even more of a perv. Best Line: "My name is fear…but you can call me Jessica."

Grade: 


#68 - ZOMBI 3 (1988)
Lucio Fulci / Bruno Mattei

Revolving door protagonists. Wall-to-wall action and gore. Cut-rate Filipino zombies. A slo-mo end death scene straight out of Platoon. This is Fulci's scattered, confused version of Day of the Dead (i.e., militarized zombies) handed off to Bruno Mattei after a liver tumor or second bout of hepatitis (there are conflicting reports) made him unable to complete it. As expected, it's not nearly the caliber of its Romero rip-off predecessor Zombi 2. But I'd rather watch this on repeat than even the best episode of The Walking Dead. Scotch-taped together by two directors though it may be, Zombi 3 at least knows how to skip the bland, overly earnest dialogue and cut to the chase.

Grade: 


#69 - TOUCH OF DEATH (1988)
Lucio Fulci

Aging Lothario Lester Parson (Brett Halsey, again) spends his days wooing rich, homely widows, turning them into hamburger meat, then disposing their bodies and taking their jewels/cash to pay off his gambling debts. He spends his evenings watching the nightly news to make sure he's not the top story. He occasionally hears his own voice taunting him on dual cassette recorders and suspects he has a double trying to foul his schemes. But his foil eventually comes in the form of a younger widow, a real looker except for the fact that she possesses the crustiest harelip/herpes sore in all of cinema history. This made-for-Italian TV quickie is Fulci in his late career gore n' gags dark comedy mode. It's fun in spots, a bit tedious in others, like an extended, explicit Twilight Zone episode or a hastily lensed knock-off of Bava's Hatchet for the Honeymoon. Touch this flick (and that lip) at your own risk!

Grade: 


#70 - SODOMA'S GHOST (1988)
Lucio Fulci

Another made-for-TV Fulci quickie. This one begins promisingly, smack dab in the middle of Visconti Land during a cocaine-fueled Nazi sex orgy at a country house in the 1940s. The lurid proceedings are even being recorded for posterity in grainy 16mm. But it's all downhill 40+ years later when a group of teens stumble upon the same house, only to find themselves trapped in a hellscape of less-than-threatening SS "ghosts" tempting them with bedroom seductions, ancient stag films and Russian roulette poker games. It's all rather ho-hum and '80s Skinamax dull. The "Haunting of Heil House" this is not! Don DeLillo wrote a entire novel based on the same subject (the search for a lost Nazi porn film) called Running Dog. That I'd recommend.

Grade: 


#71 - THE HOUSE OF CLOCKS (1989)
Lucio Fulci

A trio of teen thieves (two dudes and a lady) get more than they bargained for when they rob and accidentally kill a strange old couple at a secluded estate filled with antique clocks and a couple of hidden corpses. When the clocks start ticking furiously backward, time pops out of joint and the old fogies arise from the dead to seek revenge. Fulci directs this routine home invasion thriller with a time travel twist as if he himself is counting down the seconds to retirement. It's light on the gore by his theatrical film standards, but apparently still too bloody for Italian TV producers who released it straight to video. The best thing about this movie has nothing to do with clocks but a black cat suffocated in a plastic bag (the same gato from 1981's The Black Cat perhaps?) who get his own Toonces-worthy revenge in the final reel.

Grade: 


#72 - THE SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS (1989)
Lucio Fulci

A strong contender for the worst of Fulci's made-for-Italian-TV horror efforts. Sweet House begins with yet another botched home invasion resulting in the brutal death of the married homeowners. This time, it's an inside job (spoiler: it's not Michael Myers behind that flimsy mask but Guido the Gardener). The house is left to the couple's two bratty kids who eventually conjure the spirits of their dead parents, much to the chagrin of their aunt and uncle, various real estate agents and ghost whisperers. If you ever imagined what it would be like if Lucio directed a third-rate Spielberg flick, SHOH has got you covered. A bad fit for Goremeister's skill set. It seems the old sourpuss couldn't pull off whimsical and sweet.

Grade: 


#73 - DEMONIA (1990)
Lucio Fulci

A group of international archaeologists on a dig in Sicily unearth a gaggle of crucified nuns from the 1400s, upsetting the locals as well as some demonic spirits. Fulci's first '90s era effort was set to be his big return to theatrical films after several years toiling on the boob tube. Sadly, Demonia turned out drabber than a nun's habit and never made it past the straight-to-video bin, failing to excavate his career. The plot unfolds at a snail's pace, and the marginally interesting backstory (verboten nun orgies instead of Nazi orgies, this time) doesn't come until more than halfway in. For gore hounds, there are scant few reasons to stick around, other than one hilarious pack of cats attack and some poor fella getting ripped in half between two trees.

Grade: 


#74 - VOICES FROM BEYOND (1991)
Lucio Fulci

When rich prick patriarch Giorgio Mainardi dies of explosive hemorrhaging under dubious circumstances, he visits his favorite daughter Rosie from the afterlife (i.e., spooky voice-overs, hazy super-impositions) and enlists her aid in unraveling the mystery of his death. There are lots of suspects to choose from—cheating wife, duplicitous business partner, angry maid, angrier mistress, illegitimate brat kid who likes to crush up glass light bulbs. There are also plenty of juicy dream sequences shared among the cast—eyeballs floating in poached eggs, a sex scene that nearly turns into a child homicide, a cryptic callback to the days of Zombi 2. It's hard to watch this movie and not think it's Fulci simultaneously imagining his own death and attempting a summary of his career, though this turned out to be his penultimate film. Voices is perhaps the most narratively coherent/compelling of Lucio's later efforts and arguably contains his cleverest cameo (he plays an autopsy doctor). I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Reminded me a bit of Hitchcock's career-capping Family Plot. Best Line: "Your stupid face is putting me off my breakfast."

Grade: 


#75 - DOOR TO SILENCE (1991)
Lucio Fulci

If your idea of a good time at the movies is watching John Savage drive around rural Louisiana for 90 minutes in a mud-spattered Caprice with a bottle of Cutty Sark, have I got the snooze-fest for you! This barest of bare bones premises finds Melvin Devereaux (Savage) leaving his father's funeral and running into all manner of detours on the way home—road closures, rickety bridges, strange women who claim to know him, a hearse that may or may not be transporting his own dead body. A better title might have been "Road to Nowhere," because that's where this curiously uneventful, amateurishly lensed flick ultimately leads. The whole endeavor feels like an elongated student film that somehow managed to snag an name actor. Fulci's name is nowhere to be seen in the credits, the "Directed By" on the version I watched attributed to one "H. Simon Kittay." It's a crying shame Lucio went out on such a low note, never making it to his planned collaboration with Argento on The Wax Mask. But, hey, the Gorefather gave us plenty of innovative scares in his prime, and it's Lucio (more than Dario) I'll have in mind when I catch the new Suspiria in a couple days.

Grade: 

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
But how many is a bird in the head worth?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

ITALIAN EXPLOITATION EXPLOSION VOL. 6: FULCI FIRSTS


Although known primarily as the "Godfather of Gore," a legendary provocateur of '70s and '80s Italian exploitation horror cinema, Lucio Fulci earned his early directorial chops largely in the comedy genre. Crime capers, sex comedies, slapstick spy stuff. There were even a few uncharacteristically chaste historical costume dramas and family adventure films nestled in his pre-'80s filmography. They say horror and comedy are closely related, pratfalls and jump scares two sides of the same coin. Therefore, it should probably come as no surprise that Fulci had considerable facility in both of these "low arts."

Up until this past month, I was pretty well-versed in his horror and western output from the early '70s onward, but light on the earlier, sillier parts of his filmic resume. Partly because many of these films never made it to the States in any digitally watchable form and partly because...well, sloth, I guess. September was the month I decided to correct my slothful ways and watch a bunch of Fulci "firsts." 

Felonious gangs, funny fangs, and fetching Fenechs. Here's some early Lucio for you, nitrous oxide not included...



#57 - I LADRI (1959)
Lucio Fulci

Fulci's first bona fide feature directorial effort, a crime comedy starring Italy's then "Prince of Laughter" Totò. Italian-American gangster Castagnato (Armando Calvo) gets kicked out of the States for stealing and stashes his loot in jars of pineapple jam (yum!) bound for Naples. A family of bumbling Italian thieves working the docks stumble onto his stolen cache and broker a deal to help him get it out after he arrives. Meanwhile, wily Commissioner Gennaro (Totò) has his eagle-eye trained on Castagnato's condiment-intensive movements. The prerequisite caper movie double-crosses and vault safe switcheroos ensue. It's all good-natured and uncharacteristically benign, but then this is the earliest of early Fulci. A breezy 70-minute sit, despite the fact that the bootleg copy I watched was missing half the subtitles. Maybe somebody stashed those in jam jars too?

Grade: 


#58 - I MANIACI (1964)
Lucio Fulci

In case you ever wondered what a Fulci-directed version of The Groove Tube or Kentucky Fried Movie might look like, I present to you The Maniacs. This loosely connected series of broadly comedic sketches (most of them very dated) has more misses than hits. There's a kinda funny skit about an office boss making a bad bet which requires him to accidentally pimp out his stuffy wife to one of his employees. Then another amusing one about a bourgeoisie couple that go antiquing in a monk's abbey. At the very least, there's the lovely Barbara Steele (eating spaghetti no less) to ogle in one or two scenes.

Grade: 


#59 - OH, THOSE MOST SECRET AGENTS (1964)
Lucio Fulci

An oversexed government robot accidentally implants a secret formula into the teeth of two Italian dolts who everyone (the Russians, the Chinese, etc.) mistakes for master spies vacationing in the French Riviera. Cue the sunburn jokes, the early waterboarding techniques, more invasive dentistry than in all of Marathon Man. This is one of many screwball joints Fulci did with legendary Italian comedy duo Franco and Ciccio but the first to get U.S. distribution. Think Dumb and Dumber meets Spikes Like Us but several decades earlier. Side Note: I watched Oh, Those Most Secret Agents while nibbling on an "O, That's Good" frozen Oprah pizza. So, yep, I kept it "on brand" with this one. Incidentally, the movie was much better than the Winfrey's cardboard-flavored Italian munchies.

Grade: 


#60 - OPERATION ST. PETER'S (1967)
Lucio Fulci

Spirited Catholic caper comedy starring Lando Buzzanca as a low-level thief who all too easily steals a giant Michelangelo statue from St. Peter's Basilica only to have shell-shocked American crime capo Edward G. Robinson nick it out from under him. Little does Robinson realize, the Vatican has a veritable army of regional priests on motorcycles ready to hunt them down. There's even a parade float Jesus who hops off the cross to steal a kid's bike and join in on the pursuit! This unofficial sequel to Dino Risi's Operation San Gennaro is solid Saturday afternoon holy heist comedy fun. Some confessional booth truth for you: I enjoyed this more than Ocean's 8.

Grade: 


#61 - BEATRICE CENCI (1969)
Lucio Fulci

A dull but intermittently bloody historical patricide drama that affords Fulci an early opportunity to work on his future "Godfather of Gore" sobriquet. The U.S. title for this release was Conspiracy of Torture, and, true to its name, there is both conspiracy and torture to be had, much of it enacted upon poor Tomas Milian. I'm kinda surprised Lucio skipped out on the titular heroine's legendary beheading, instead choosing to fade out before she met her dome-toppling demise. I'm guessing the Fulci of '79 or '89 wouldn't have exercised nearly so much tasteful restraint.

Grade: 


#62 - WHITE FANG (1973) 
Lucio Fulci

About the time Fulci was starting to hit his early '70s animal-themed giallo stride with Lizard in a Woman's Skin and Don't Torture A Duckling, he threw his talents to the wolves with two back-to-back, kid-friendly Jack London adaptations. It's a better fit than you might suspect, and he gets a solid assist from writer/adventurer Franco Nero, drunken priest Fernando Rey, devoted nun Virna Lisi, and the wonderfully corrupt Yukon robber baron John Steiner (who I hear can put you in a lovely Beverly Hills duplex for the right price). But the real star of the show is the courageous canine himself, played by one very brave German Shepherd (or multiple German Shepherds, most likely). Not only does this pooch survive frostbite and dog fights, but he tangles with a bear and manages to escape raging river rapids in scenes that look a little too real for comfort (do PETA violations have a statute of limitations?) All that, and the poor pooch doesn't even get a name check in the credits! Fulci, you heartless bastard, what the fudge?!

Grade: 


#63 - CHALLENGE TO WHITE FANG (1974)
Lucio Fulci

This shotgun sequel to the wildly successful Zanna Bianca the year before finds Fulci back to his old kinda-sorta-but-not-really kid-friendly tricks. This time, White Fang has a shared adoption sitch going with an annoying white kid and Franco Nero, all while being forced to endure bar brawls, angry mobs with wooden sticks, an eagle attack that temporarily blinds him, an avalanche, and a vicious dogsled race. Once again, our ready-for-whateva German Shepherd(s) gets absolutely no love in the credits. Can someone get this poor pup in touch with Old Yeller's manager?! He is seriously the Tom Cruise of canines.

Grade: 


#64 - DRACULA IN THE PROVINCES (1975)
Lucio Fulci

A superstitious toothpaste tycoon travels to Romania for some business/pleasure. After a night of drunken debauchery at the castle of the mysterious Count Dragulescu (John Steiner, again), he awakens to find he has a taste for blood…and men's buttocks! Panicked that he may now be a homosexual—not so much that he may be a vampire—he visits a psychologist, crackpot mystics, conniving family members, angry employees, and leather-clad prostitutes, hoping to find explanations as well as sanguinary release. Italian sex comedy star Lando Buzzanca may not reach the same levels of cockroach-eating mania that Nic Cage achieved in the similarly-themed Vampire's Kiss, but D in the P is still pretty fun with a solid punch line ending. Fulci may have gotten more mileage out of Buzzanca's talents a few years earlier as a handsy politician in The Eroticist

Grade: 
 

#65 - LA PRETORA (1976)
Lucio Fulci

Imagine Judge Judy but 50 years younger with French Vogue cheekbones and an identical twin who does porn on the side. That's the gist of this randy courtroom sex comedy starring the exceptionally easy-on-the-eyes Edwige Fenech as a stern small town Italian magistrate who gives a con artist a sentence so stiff that he is compelled to track down her free-spirited sister in order to pull a bedroom blackmail scheme that will permanently oust her from the bench. Fenech does fantastic double duty (and then some) in the dual sister roles, but it's dirty old man Fulci who's obviously having the most fun here. If this movie were made today, Lucio's perpetually leering long lens would be immediately jailed for extreme contempt of court.

Grade: 

***Stay tuned for more gore in the month October, as I finish out Fulci's '80s/'90s horror resume just in time for Halloween!!! 🎃 🎃 🎃

Sunday, August 26, 2018

ITALIAN EXPLOITATION EXPLOSION VOL. 5:
CARBONARA COWBOYS (Bava, Baldi, Fulci, Corbucci)


It's been a bit of a spell since the last post, but rest assured, dear Cashiers readers, I've still been eating my spaghetti. July and August found me occasionally ducking out of the 100+ degree heat to catch up on some overlooked westerns by the likes of Mario Bava, Ferdinando Baldi, Lucio Fulci and Sergio Corbucci. Six-shooters, sweaty Stetsons, stolen loot, sassy saloon prostitutes...you know the drill.

With eight months vanished and 56 films under my belt buckle so far, it's going to be a race to the finish to hit the 100 Italian exploitation flicks by the end of 2018 that I originally promised. Four months left, 44 films to go. Can this tired old movie blogger do it?

Pull up a three-legged bar stool, pour yerself a sarsaparilla and find out...


#47 - THE ROAD TO FORT ALAMO (1964)
Mario Bava

A decent Italian oater about an outlaw (Ken Clark) who goes undercover as a Union soldier in order to grab a money shipment bound for the Alamo. He develops a conscience when he meets a saucy redhead (Jany Clair) on the Union wagon train, later attacked by "savage" Ozark Indians who turn the cash into little origami sailboats. Not bad for Bava's first western, a genre for which he's not exactly known (he's listed as "John Old" in the credits). The copy I watched was a Frankenstein assemblage of English/Italian prints with some of the soundtrack seemingly sourced from a cam-style movie theatre recording. Oh, the things a Bava completist will endure...

Grade: 


#48 - A GUNMAN CALLED NEBRASKA (1966)
Mario Bava

Another run-of-the-mill Bava horse opera again starring Ken Clark, this time as a wooden cowboy named Nebraska who drinks milk instead of whiskey and helps out a husband and wife beset by bandits. Once hubby's conveniently maimed and out of the picture, Clark falls for the brassy, redheaded wife (Yvonne Bastien), the only reason to stay awake in what could otherwise be a feature-length Gunsmoke episode. What is it with Bava and all these feisty gingers? I thinks me detects a fetish.

Grade: 


#49 - ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK (1970)
Mario Bava

Bandito frenemies Roy Colt and Winchester Jack have a begrudging respect for each another…when they aren't playing desert grabass and scrapping over who stole whose hat. When a map to a hidden cache of gold and a fetching young Indian woman comes between them, their love-hate bromance is put to the test. This is a much livelier affair than Bava's previous two westerns and all the better for it. More of a freewheelin' cowboy romantic comedy than a stiff wooden shoot 'em up. Brett Halsey and Charles Southwood are quite good as the titular desperado dudes. But the real keeper is Marilu Tolo as the wily "squaw" Manila who's always finding ingenious ways to scam these two cowpokes out of their stolen money.

Grade: 


#50 - DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN (1968)
Ferdinando Baldi

Terrence "Superfuzz" Hill plays the eponymous bounty hunter/coffin dragger who, in this iteration, doubles as a freelance hangman with a knack for helping wrongly accused men escape the noose. His scheme involves a pre-made vest with a hook atop which the condemn men wear under their clothes, a nifty idea although Baldi is a little elusive with the details of the vest's up-close operation. Django also tangles with a crooked politician responsible for killing his wife in a gold robbing scheme as well as the always game-for-evildoing George Eastman. The ending will please fans of the official, original Django. Probably some Rambo devotees too. Not quite as good as Questi's Django Kill...If You Live, Shoot! but surely a solid entry in the crowded annals of unofficial Django films.

Grade: 


#51 - BLINDMAN (1971)
Ferdinando Baldi

Baldi stalwart Tony Anthony stars as a visually-impaired gunman who just wants his 50 women back (mail order brides stolen from him in transit). His blind tunnel vision will lead him to do battle with various bandits, the most prominent being Ringo Starr's lovelorn "Candy." For what is basically a spaghetti western twist on the classic blind samurai Zatoichi legend, Blindman is an enjoyably offbeat offering. It was produced by ABKO, the same lovely folks who brought us Jodorowsky's El Topo. While it's nowhere as inventive as that surrealist masterwork, I can say with certainty that Blindman is my second favorite Starr performance of all time. After his career pinnacle, Caveman, of course.

Grade: 





#52 - COMIN' AT YA! (1981)
Ferdinando Baldi

The title couldn't be more accurate. This goofy, made-for-3D western is all about projectiles flying into the camera lens. Bats, rats, snakes, bullets, arrows, red hot pokers, playing cards, yo-yo's, gold coins, falling corn. If you can chuck it, it will come...right at ya! Though I didn't see Comin' At Ya in its ideal format (old school "SuperVision" 3D), it's still pretty fun in a nice, flat 2D blu-ray transfer. The plot is a recycled throwaway: Tony Anthony has to save a bunch of women from baddies again, the most important damsel being his wife (lovely Victoria Abril of many a fine Almodovar movie). There are also a lot of black and white shots interspersed throughout for reasons inexplicable to this viewer. A purposeful directorial choice or leftover remnants of the old 3-D process? Don't ask me. While not as much of a hoot as Baldi/Anthony's 3D Raiders rip extravaganza, Treasure of the Four Crowns, it will definitely keep you awake...in that there's always some kinda shit flying right at your face.

Grade: 


#53 - MASSACRE TIME (1966)
Lucio Fulci

A bloodthirsty, early Fulci western that begins with a death by dog mauling and ends with a neck-snap plummet from semi-high heights. Peppered amid the many gunfights are bar brawls with blowguns and one honey of a bullwhip match. Franco Nero, fresh off his first Django success, plays a gold prospector called back home by a family friend to help his alcoholic brother (a capably soused George Hilton) and elderly mother who've been swindled out of their home by a wealthy fat-cat and his sadistic son. Long story short, a whole bunch of people are gonna get massacred. There are so many corpses that the town's Confucius-quoting Chinese undertaker can't keep up, shrugging off each new body with the line: "Confucius says (fill-in-the-blank wisdom), but then Confucius never lived in this town!" The script by a young Fernando Di Leo isn't Shakespeare or even Sergio Leone, but it gets the job done. And Fulci does not disappoint on the bloody action, despite not being on his home turf (i.e., the horror genre).

Grade: 


#54 - SILVER SADDLE (1978)
Lucio Fulci

The last and, IMHO, least of Fulci's western efforts. A bounty hunter named Roy Blood (Giuliano Gemma) who made his first revenge kill when only a tyke later hooks up with a scavenger (Geoffrey Lewis) and little blonde moppet due for an inheritance. Together, they intend to take down the same family of thugs that originally killed his Roy's pop. Toss in some kindly assorted saloon prostitutes and occasional routine gunplay, and you got yourself what could almost be called a Fulci "family western." It's not the best fit for the godfather of gore's talents, and as soon as the kid in the frilly frock comes along it's mostly downhill from there. Add to that a syrupy '70 softrock ballad by this guy who speaks-sings the entire plot in needle drops every five minutes and--oy vey!--somebody whack me in the head with a silver mallet!!

Grade: 


#55 - NAVAJO JOE (1966)
Sergio Corbucci

Burt Reynolds, in one of his first starring (and earliest wig-wearing) roles, plays a pissed-off Navajo intent on taking down a gang of bandits who've been scalping innocent Native Americans for sport, including his own squaw. When said bandits set their eyes on a small town's cash money cache, Joe lends a hand and a ferocious tomahawk to head them off, though the town of lily-livered white folks really don't deserve his help. Burt is in peak early form here, channeling his own Cherokee roots and doing more leaping than I've seen him do in any other movie. Corbucci doesn't shy away from the bloodshed and delivers a righteous "redskin" revenge tale from otherwise boilerplate script. Tarantino is said to be a major fan of this one, so keep an ear out for one very familiar "dum dum dum dum dum!" Morricone music sting.

Grade: 


#56 - COMPANEROS (1970)
Sergio Corbucci

A dapper Swede (Franco Nero) and a dirty Mexican revolutionary (Tomas Milian) team up to track down a pacifist professor (Fernando Rey) with the combination to a safe full of loot. Meanwhile, they are pursued by an opportunistic general named Mongo and oddball bounty hunter (Jack Palance) with a wooden hand and a pet falcon named "Marsha." If that description didn't tip you off, rest assured that Compañeros is a character-rich, spirited "Zapata western," more good-natured than Corbucci's grim The Grand Silence though not quite the yuckfest that is his later (and arguably greater) cop comedy SuperFuzz. It also contains perhaps the first instance of torture by prairie dog I've ever seen captured on film (hiding under basket in above pic). If raucous Zapata westerns are your bag, you may want to check out Corbucci's other fine kissing cousin western, The Mercenary (1968). In that one, Nero plays a crafty Pole, Milian is replaced by Tony Musante, and Palance is a baddie in a wavy black wig named Curly (but not the one from City Slickers).

Grade: 

Now that's what I call "eye-talian exploitation"!!! (rimshot)