Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Brivido giallo" - Per sempre (1987)

... aka: Changeling 2: The Return, The
... aka: Changeling 2: The Revenge
... aka: Fino alla morte
... aka: Per sempre (Forever)
... aka: Until Death

Directed by:
Lamberto Bava

Brivido Giallo was a 1986 cable TV series featuring four movies; all running about 90 minutes, all directed by Lamberto Bava, all co-written by the prolific Dardano Sacchetti and all boasting a score by Simon Boswell. Per sempre / "Forever" was the second of these aired; following right behind the so-so Una notte al cimitero / "A Night in the Cemetery" (U.S. title = GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE). The third and fourth entries were La casa dell'orco / "The House of the Ogre" (U.S. title = The Ogre) and "A cena col vampio" / Dinner with a Vampire. Of these four, The Ogre was the only one to receive decent distribution here in America after it was misleadingly re-titled Demons III to be sold as the third entry in Bava's extremely popular Demons series. Per sempre itself was also the subject of a bogus re-titling and was released on VHS in some countries (though not America) as either The Changeling 2: The Return or Changeling 2: The Revenge as a fake follow-up to the very good 1980 Canadian ghost story starring George C. Scott.

Lovers Carlo (David Brandon) and Linda (Gioia Scola) murder her husband Luca (Roberto Pedicini) and bury his body in a shallow grave in the woods. Six years pass and the duo now run a restaurant in the small fishing village of Carabinieri where the customers seem more interested in checking out the sexy Linda than eating the food. Linda's lonely, neglected young son Alex (Marco Vivio), whom she conceived with her deceased former husband, is scared of the dark and plagued by nightmares of his dead father emerging from his grave. Carlo has since turned bitter and angry over the years and not only detests the little boy but is also abusive in numerous ways toward Linda. Late one night during a thunderstorm, a mysterious, hunky drifter named Marco (Demons star Urbano Barberini) appears at the doorstep looking for food, clothing, lodging and a job. Since Marco is kind to Alex and Linda needs a hand around the restaurant anyway, they hire him on and soon come to realize that he may be more than he seems.

Marco is amiable, charming, friendly and good-looking, but he also seems to know a lot of things he shouldn't know, like secret ingredients that go into Linda's food and where clothing that belonged to Luca is stored. Once he starts cooking in the restaurant, business picks up and customers begin commenting about the food tasting as good as it did before Luca vanished. Carlo quickly becomes jealous and paranoid of the new man in town. He wonders why Marco disappears for hours each day, whether or not Linda is sleeping with him and how he seems to know his way around the establishment so well. He then begins to fear that he's actually an undercover policeman investigating the dead husband's disappearance after he catches him having a discussion with the town's marshal (Stefano De Sando). Soon, things buried in the husband's grave - including a wedding ring with "Per sempre" inscribed inside - begin turning up inside the home. The son continues to have nightmares, dead pigeons fill the attic, fresh meat spoils and maggots show up all over the place. Just who or what is Marco and what does he want to accomplish?

Though unoriginal and somewhat predictable, this is a passable and fairly well-made thriller with some colorful visual style; particularly striking during various red-filtered shots of the lake and handsomely shot blue-tinted night scenes. However, it also clearly owes a huge debt of gratitude to Tay Garnett's torrid 1946 crime melodrama The Postman Always Rings Twice (an adaptation of James M. Cain's novel, which was remade in 1981 starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange), and lifts its basic plot and three main characters from that film. Given the overheated story line and sexy leads, this actually would have benefited from being steamier and more (sexually) graphic than it actually is and seems a little too chaste in a PG-13 kind of way. Adding a horror twist to the premise are the possibility of Marco being either a ghost or possessed by the wrong husband's spirit and the child's frequent nightmares about his dead, zombie-like father being fished out of the lake, reaching his hand out of the ground and grabbing his leg and busting through the plaster walls of his bedroom.

As an interesting footnote, Lucio Fulci claimed in interviews to have actually written the original story this was based upon and also said he was originally supposed to direct it, but it was taken from him and copyrighted behind his back by credited writer Sacchetti. Sacchetti, on the other hand, claimed in interviews to have actually written the story (for the record, his wife - Elisa Briganti - is credited as co-writer) and says Fulci was lying about all that; sour grapes over the project going to Lamberto Bava instead. Either way, the film effectively ended future collaborations between the two men.

In 2009, MYA Communications released this and the other two previously-unseen-in-America Brivido Giallo titles. (The Ogre had already been issued in 2003 by Shriek Show.)


Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)

... aka: Godmonster, The
... aka: Secret of Silverdale, The

Directed by:
Fredric Hobbs

Well now here's something a little different. Naive small town sheep rancher Eduardo "Eddie" Etchavaria (Richard Marion) arrives in "The biggest little city in the world;" Reno, Nevada, wins a few hundred bucks on a slot machine and decides to accompany a few people (including Erica "Vixen" Gavin) to the small town of Virginia City for a party. He gets in a minor scuffle at a bar after a hooker steals his money and ends up broke and in a jeep with Dr. Cyrus Clemens (E. Kerrigan Prescott), head of a local university's anthropology department, who drops Eddie off on a farm so he can spend the night in a pen full of sheep. The following day when Dr. Clemens and his research assistant Mariposa DeQuill (Karen Ingenthron) show up to check in on him they find Eddie in a state of shock and a bizarre, bloody half-formed sheep's embryo lying next to him. Clemens grabs his tape recorder and notes, "I think we all stumbled onto an amazing event, almost incredible from a scientific standpoint" and adds their findings are "possibly the result of chromosomic breakdown and cross fertilization." They transfer both the embryo and Eddie to their private test laboratory at Indian Flats for observation.

Meanwhile, Virginia City Mayor Charles Silverdale (Stuart Lancaster), who helped revive the historic Comstock area and restored it to resemble an 1800s Wild West town, runs the local "601" secret society. Christopher Barnstable (Christopher Brooks), working for a billionaire in the tool and mining industry trades, shows up wanting to buy up all the mine leases in the country, and the locals bound together to stop him. The Mayor's right hand man, Phillip Maldove (Steven Kent Browne), whorehouse madam and fake medium Madame Alta (Peggy Browne) and the local authorities, led by the slovenly Sheriff Gordon (Robert Hirschfeld), all get to work on trying to drive the corporate invader out of their town. They set him up to make him think he shot the sheriff's dog and then hold a mock church funeral (!) for it ("He was only a dog, but he filled us with joy and gayety until a bullet struck him down.") When that doesn't work, Phillip invites him over to his home, cracks a bottle over his head and shoots himself so that Christopher's thrown in the slammer and charged with attempted murder.

Back at the lab, Dr. Clemens, Mariposa and Eddie all tend to the embryo, which has rapidly grown into a large-sized monster that they keep docile with steady injections of tranquilizer. Yes folks, it's a giant, mutant, bipedal sheep monster. While most viewers will look upon it as a laughable creation, it's definitely different (it walks on its hind legs) and even somewhat abstract (one arm is a lot longer than the other). Two things it is decidedly not are scary or threatening. Opting for martial law to cover their tracks, Mayor Silverdale and his cronies drag Christopher out into the desert to hang him, but he's rescued by Madame Alta, who's recently taken a liking to him. They end up at the lab, a shoot-out ensues and the creature kills a guy and escapes into the desert. When Dr. Clemens (who wants the monster kept alive) theorizes about the creature's smarts, the Mayor, who wants the creature captured and put in their museum, tells him, "This is ridiculous. I can't accept this concept of intelligence. I say it's a damaged mongoloid beast!" The pitiful, slow, awkward creature doesn't get to do much aside from scaring children having a picnic and blowing up a gas station, before a bunch of cowboys lasso it. Things ends with a small scale revolutionary ending and some out-of-left-field profundity.

This one's gone down as a minor footnote in film history books as an obscure, insignificant, inept monster movie, and in many ways it is, though there are clearly ecological and sociopolitical objectives at play in here. I'm not saying these aspects are necessarily well-executed (for the most part they're not), but they still make this somewhat more interesting than other cheapie monster / schlock flicks of the day. It's quirky, sometimes amusing and the western town setting gives it a fun and unique backdrop. Prior to making this, Hobbs (a military vet, graduate of Cornell and renowned artist, teacher and writer) was on the fast track to art film success with the well-received surrealist comedy Troika (1969). Godmonster, which was filmed on a budget of 135,000 dollars and only booked a couple of showings upon completion before being shelved for decades, completely derailed his further film plans after a promising start.

It went unseen for years until Something Weird unearthed it for a DVD release. Extras on the set include the nudie horror PASSION IN THE SUN (1964; aka The Girl and the Geek) and a truncated 'soft' edit of the awful Bigfoot porno the THE GEEK (1971). Hobbs' other genre offering - Alabama's Ghost (also 1973) - had already long been available on VHS on the ThrillerVideo label in the 1980s (with Elvira commentary) but now it's the more difficult of the two to track down.

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