Friday, August 24, 2012

Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi (1980)

... aka: Demonia
... aka: Erotic Nights of the Living Dead
... aka: Gewalt der Zombies, Der
... aka: Island of the Zombies, The
... aka: Nite of the Zombies
... aka: Queen of the Zombies
... aka: Sexy Nights of the Living Dead

Directed by:
Joe D'Amato

Not released in America until many years after it was made (guess there just wasn't much of a market for a zombie porn flick at the time), back in the day this was often confused with D'Amato's PORNO HOLOCAUST (1981), which was shot around the time on some of the same locations and used much of the same cast. It was written by "Tom Salina," an alias for its star - George Eastman (real name: Luigi Montefiori). Eastman was an imposing, 6'6" actor and writer who made many genre appearances over the years in such films as the fumeti (adult comic) adaptation KISS ME, KISS ME (1973) and Mario Bava's exceptional thriller RABID DOGS (1974). He was at his best playing intense psychos, which probably explains why his best-known role was playing a hulking cannibalistic killer in THE GRIM REAPER (1980) and its equally gory follow-up MONSTER HUNTER (1981), both of which were also made by D'Amato. Indonesian-born beauty Laura Gemser (born: Moira Chen), who'd become internationally famous because of her starring role in D'Amato's Black Emanuelle series, was brought on board to give this a name draw. Eastman later stated in interviews that he and Gemser agreed to take part in this sleaze-fest simply because they wanted a free vacation. Though Erotic Nights has a generous helping of nudity, the hardcore sex isn't as pronounced as some might think going in. There is only one graphic sex scene with a man and two women as well as some graphic solo stuff. That's it. And only one of the billed male stars actually participate in any of it. Neither of the two females do.

At a nuthouse, a patient who can't stop scratching his arm follows a female down into the basement and watches her have sex with another patient. That other patient is Larry O'Hara (Eastman) and the film zips back to a time when Larry was a little more sane and shows us exactly what drove him bonkers in the first place. Mustachioed sleazebag businessman John Wilson (played by Mark Shannon; born: Manlio Cersosimo) shows up somewhere in the Caribbean hoping to open a hotel resort there. But first he decides to sample the, uh, hospitality of the country's women. The two prostitutes he does find are willing to overlook the warts (nasty!) on his balls during their shower / bed sex scene but aren't willing to go along with him as he scouts a certain island as a potential location for his hotel. In fact, they are so freaked out by even the mere suggest that they flee the room in horror and don't even take their very hard-earned money with them. That's because the island is rumored to be bad, bad news. And by the way, the above scene is actually the only X-rated man-woman sex scene in this film, but I doubt most viewers will mind that after seeing what the lead actor has to work with.

Sailor Larry and his girlfriend Liz (Lucia Ramirez) exit their boat and catch a maggot-infested zombie coming toward them in the water. Larry bashes it over the head and it's taken to a hospital for an autopsy, where it quickly comes to life and chews a chunk out of the doctor's neck. After going to a nightclub to watch a stripper fuck a wine bottle, Larry is hired by John to take him to the cursed island. Fiona (Dirce Funari), a woman from the hotel John's been shagging, also decides to come along for the ride. There's more (soft) sex on the boat and then they finally arrive. Looking around they run across a graveyard, as well as the island's only two inhabitants: a old black man with a knot on his head and the alluring and mysterious Luna (Gemser). Neither turn out to be very friendly and seem upset by the intruders. John snaps pictures of the two and when he returns to the boat to develop the film, Luna isn't in any of them. She turns up to seduce Fiona, seduce Larry and behaves rather strangely the entire time. A black cat keeps popping up, the old man gives Larry a charm to help ward off evil and some hooded zombies finally make their presence known during the last 20 or so minutes.

John wanders into a shack and a charm surrounded by candles transforms into the black cat and it attacks him. Then zombies (who bleed green or brown) start filing in one at a time. John rips one's face off, spears another and decapitates one with a machete. When he wanders out to the beach, Luna is waiting for him and bites his dick off. What would compel anyone to whip out their dick out for a strange-acting chick immediately after being almost killed by zombies is something the world may never know, but perhaps the mother who decided it was a good idea to breastfeed her zombie "kid" in BURIAL GROUND (1980) can relate. Luna then lets her zombie followers feast on his corpse. She and the old guy pretty much disappear from the finale as Larry and Fiona run around the island trying to avoid zombies rising up out of the ground and water. They eventually make it to the shack and fight off zombies with a rifle, a torch and the charm. The whole experience turns both into sex-crazed loonies.

Known to let down many viewers, this isn't quite the wall-to-wall mixture of hardcore and gore some people seem to want. While there's a little of both, neither are in abundance. It's slow-moving, overlong, the acting is pretty bad, it drags big time in the middle and the makeups are highly uneven, though sometimes fun. Most of the movie takes place during the day and the cinematography (also by D'Amato), picturesque location work in the Dominican Republic and "Pluto Kennedy" / Marcello Giombini's music score elevate it somewhat. The DVD version (which is now long out of print) was through Shriek Show / Media Blasters.


Killing Kind, The (1973)

... aka: Are You a Good Boy?

Directed by:
Curtis Harrington

As a teenager, Terry Lambert (John Savage) was hanging out on the beach with some friends when they decided to gang rape the neighborhood "loose" girl. After a few of them have their turn with ther, they throw Terry on top but he's unable to go through with it. Guess who ends up being the only one to serve time for the crime? A combination of the "victim" lying in court and inept representation meant that Terry was convicted and spent two years behind bars. Now released, Terry returns to his hometown understandably angry and bitter about the whole incident. He goes to stay with his flighty, doting, lonely, overbearing mother Thelma (Ann Sothern), who owns a boarding house and has about 50 cats running around. Thelma is the very smothering, overprotective type of mother. She detests younger women, says they're "tacky whore sleeping around with everybody." Because of that, Thelma's boarding house is filled with elderly women. A younger woman, aspiring model Lori Davis (a pre-Laverne and Shirley Cindy Williams), shows up looking for a room and Thelma decides to go ahead and rent to her only because she finds her gangly and unattractive.

Living next door are sexually-repressed librarian Louise (Luana Anders) and her uppity, elderly, wheelchair-bound father (Peter Brocco). He finds it "unnatural" that a mother and son behave like Terry and his mother do - laughing and carrying on at all hours of the night - and calls them "low class idiots." He also labels Terry a psychopath because when he was younger he tried to burn down the house. He's pretty much right. While spying on the younger female boarder, Terry snaps a cat's neck and later gets a little rough with her in the swimming pool. He calls up Tina (Playboy Playmate Sue Bernard), the girl who got him thrown in jail, and gives her a veiled threat, then runs her off the road into a canyon and kills her. He catches a rat and smashes it in a trap in front of an elderly tenant (Marjorie Eaton), making her faint. Louise has been watching much of this from next door with binoculars. One evening while watching Terry swim, Louise gets drunk and heads over to talk to him. She confesses being bored with life and having fantasies about burning books and putting ground glass into her miserable father's food. She also comes on to him, telling him, "It must have been wonderful being raped. I wouldn't have told on you." Terry refuses to reciprocate and she ends up leaving in tears thinking she's too old for him... but will try to get her revenge later.

Terry continues to lose his mind. He questions Thelma about his upbringing. According to her, he died before Terry was born, but considering the amount "uncles" who came and went during his childhood, it's probably closer to the truth that Thelma has no clue who is his real father. Terry blames the incident on the beach years ago for his inability to perform with women (something the perceptive Louise calls him out on), so he grabs a bottle of wine and decides to pay his attorney, Rhea Benson (Ruth Roman) a visit. At knife-point, he forces her to suck down glass after glass of wine and booze until she's falling-down drunk. He then coats her with lighter fluid and torches her alive. Upon returning home, Lori makes the unwise decision of coming on to Terry in her bathroom and ends up strangled in her tub. When Thelma finds out what's happened, she decides to take Terry to a landfill to dispose of the body. But what's a mother ultimately to do with the monster she inadvertently helped create?

Originally titled Are You a Good Boy?, this low-budget film (made for a little over 200 thousand dollars) was barely released back in its day. Apparently the investors took control of the film and handed it over to a wannabe distributor who had no clue what he was doing. As a result, the film wasn't promoted and played just a few big city theaters and Midwestern drive-ins before disappearing. It wouldn't be until the video age that the film would be more widely seen.

The psychology of the killer seems fairly well thought-out by the director, writers (Tony Crechales and producer George Edwards) and actors. Terry has been betrayed, confused, emasculated and/or belittled by nearly every woman he's come across, from his attention-starved mommy to his beach dalliance to both his careless attorney and the judge who put him away. Upon returning to the real world, he has no clue how to behave when women come on to him, and most aren't very patient or compassionate towards him. The pitifully lonely Thelma seems well-intentioned, but her relationship with her son is icky to put it mildly. She's constantly hugging him, playing with his hair and taking his picture... even while he's in the shower. When he tries to kiss her on the cheek she demands a "real" kiss on the lips. It's not really incestuous per se, it's more like she has groomed her son since birth to take the place of a husband or boyfriend; the dependable man by her side she could never snag in life. In the process she's seriously messed up her son. One feels real pity for both Terry and Thelma and both lead actors do a superb job making their characters seem like real people. The supporting cast is also very good.

In addition, it's nicely-photographed by Mario Tosi (who'd go on to shoot CARRIE) and movingly scored by Andrew Belling. Edwards later recycled the repressed librarian and her bitter father characters for 1979's THE ATTIC, which starred Carrie Snodgress and Ray Walston in the roles. Paragon originally released the VHS and Dark Sky handled the DVD release (which features a good interview with the director) in 2007.

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