Sunday, November 3, 2013

Delirio di sangue (1988)

... aka: Blood Delirium
... aka: Delírio Sangrento
... aka: Delirium aimatos

Directed by:
Sergio Bergonzelli

Parisian concert pianist Sybille LeClercq (Brigitte Christensen) comes home and does what most women do after a long day's work: whips off her top and starts straightening up around the house while topless. While setting the table, a message comes over her answering machine from a woman claiming to be her sister, though she doesn't actually have a sister. The voice tells her "I'm speaking to you from the future as if I'm already dead." and tries to reassure her that no matter what she has her back. The voice instructs her to put two candles together so she can see that two small flames combined make one large one. Lights flash from outside the window, chairs and tables move, wind blows stuff around, the piano plays by itself and Christine is left understandably confused and rattled. Her annoying boyfriend, Gerard Dufraisse (Marco Di Stefano), then shows up to save the day. Gerard, who wears an ascot and has a braided ponytail and is thus just begging to be punched in the face, proves to have a personality to match his douchey looks when he laughs at his terrified girlfriend, immediately asks "Hey, what have you been smoking?" and demands his dinner. Elsewhere, the fatally ill Christine (also played by Christensen) tells her distraught husband Charles Saint-Simon (John Phillip Law), a famous painter, that they'll never be apart before she passes away.

Now feeling "emptiness... overflowing emptiness..." and unable to work on his art, Charles begins to lose his mind. Already one step ahead of him is his loyal butler Hermann (Gordon Mitchell), who's also in love with Christine... so much so that he can't help but to mount her corpse while it's in the casket at the church (!!) A year passes, and a frustrated Charles decides that he can't live without his muse, so he and Hermann go to the cemetery, remove the (now skeletal and maggoty) body from its tomb, bring it home and dress it up with a latex face mask. Even this does nothing to inspire the tortured painter. Meanwhile, at Sybille's flat, a gust of wind blows open a window and an invitation for one of Charles' exhibits flies in. She decides to go, meets Charles, notices the similarity between her and the late Christine (who also had a talent for playing the piano) and then decides to go visit Charles at his home; a large, crumbling, ancestral castle located deep in the country. Charles has a deep belief in reincarnation. In fact, he believes himself to be the reincarnation of Vincent Van Gogh. He also believes that one soul can be split into two bodies, which is what he believes has happened between Sybille and Christine.

Upon arrival, things start getting weird and horrifying. Charles is temperamental, angry, bitter and nothing Sybille does, whether it be playing Charles' favorite piece ("Delirium") on the piano or posing for his paintings, seems to inspire him. Sybille catches Hermann trying to dry hump and then sexually assault busty village girl Yvonne (Lucia Prato), but doesn't think much of it. Hermann later drags Yvonne to the grounds, tries to rape her in the horse stables, stabs her to death and then tries to molest the corpse. Charles stumbles upon the scene and finds himself drawn to the blood. Next thing you know, Yvonne's hanging upside and having her blood drained out. Charles starts painting with it Color Me Blood Red -style, while Hermann dismembers the body with a circular saw and feeds the scraps to their Doberman pinschers. Sybille discovers what's going on, tries to escape but is captured and dragged back to the castle, where Hermann drugs and rapes her while she has visions of lizards and maggots swarming over her face. Needing more blood, Charles sends Hermann to Paris to kidnap Sybille's friend Corinne (French porn actress Olinka Hardiman), but then Gerard gets suspicious and comes to the castle.

I wasn't expecting this one to be as sick as it actually is, and it's all the better for it really. Law's eyes get a workout as he bugs them out of his skull; going way over the top in his role as the deranged painter. Mitchell, though, has the most memorable part as the extremely horny and degenerate servant. He has his own little morbid museum of skulls, body parts and animals in the basement and toward the end even gets to give our heroine sedative shots directly into her vagina (!) to keep her in check. There's plenty of female nudity (though the scrawny lead actress looks like she could use a few protein bars) and some gore, and the ending gets pretty crazy with the castle being visited by bright ghost orbs which end up tearing the place down. Bergonzelli also made the extremely odd In the Folds of the Flesh (1970).

Blood Delirium was never released in the United States, though it was English dubbed. The only VHS I'm aware of was released in Greece under the title Delirium aimatos.


Le moine (1972)

... aka: I Satans Vold
... aka: Monaco, Il
... aka: Monje, El
... aka: Monk, The

Directed by:
Adonis Kyrou

Repressed (ain't they all) priest Father Ambrosio (Franco Nero) rules over a 16th French monastery with an iron fist and expects the others there to live with the same level of strict discipline he does. He's so charismatic that he's attained a sort of local celebrity status, with some people believing he's the reincarnation of an apostle and others coming from many miles away just to see one of his impassioned sermons. But every man - no matter how devout - has their weakness as we will soon see. Late one night, a young fellow monk-in-training, Brother John, comes to see him and to confess two little secrets he's been struggling with. The first is that he's fallen in love with Father Ambrosio and the second is that he's not really a he at all, but an attractive woman named Mathilde (Nathalie Delon), who's only posing as a teen boy to get close to the priest. After revealing her true self to Ambrosio, showing some persistence and proving her love and dedication to him by attempting to kill herself if he won't be with her, Mathilde manages to successfully seduce him. Afterward, she promises their love as well as her true identity will just be between them; assuring him that "the vow of chastity is unnatural."

Ambrosio struggles briefly with paranoia and the fear his soul is going to be damned but finds he cannot resist his new lover's hold over him. The affair carries on in secret for awhile, but it soon becomes clear that Mathilde isn't what she seems; she's actually an emissary of the devil who's on earth to facilitate temptation, sin and destruction, as well as gather souls for her dark lord down below. She first encourages the priest to seek other lovers. In fact, she says she quite likes the idea. Ambrosio finds himself drawn to the very young Antonia (Eliana De Santis), the barely-teenage daughter of an ill woman (Nadja Tiller) he's been praying for. When Antonia's mother catches him trying to molest her girl, she banishes him from her home and asks him never to return. But Ambrosio must have her and Mathilde is aware of another way he may be able to get the virginal young beauty...

Nicol Williamson has an entertaining supporting role as the evil, devil-worshipping Duke of Talamur to help liven the dreary proceedings up a little. He's in cohorts with Mathilde (who bides her time between the monastery and the Duke's castle) and seems to have an unnatural interest in young peasant girls; whom we later learn the duo have actually been killing and eating. A pregnant nun (Elisabette Wiener) is taken off to be tortured as per the priest's orders. Ambrosio rolls around in thickets to punish himself, imagines a horned sheep roaming the aisles while he's in the middle of a sermon and gives another monk a heart attack by confessing he's recently indulged in fornication, sorcery and murder. Denis Manuel shows up at the very end in a great bit as head of the Holy Inquisition, who explains in graphic detail one of their favorite torture techniques. Satan himself also makes a rather unmemorable special appearance during a black mass scene set in a cemetery crypt.

Le moine was one of many films made in the wake of Ken Russell's controversial The Devils (1971) and covers most of the same bases, just on a smaller and less visually impressive scale. The budget is lower (made quite evident by the inclusion of some stock shots at the end, poorly executed special effect jump cuts and cheap-o day glow green lighting effects), the acting isn't as good and the film isn't as visionary, shocking, thoughtful, gutsy or powerful as Russell's movie. Thematically, it also has nothing new to add to this subgenre of films, with the well-worn themes of sexual repression, religious hypocrisy and class stature all getting the spotlight. Not to say this is a terrible film by any means. It's simply been done better elsewhere.

One thing this does boast is a screenplay co-written by none other than Luis Buñuel and frequent writing partner Jean-Claude Carrière, which was based on the novel by Matthew Gregory LewisBuñuel was once slated to direct as well, and it undoubtedly would have been far more memorable if he had. Instead, the project was passed on to novice director Adonis Kyrou, a film critic who'd authored a book on Buñuel and had previously made just a few short films. Sadly, the Greek-born Kyrou completely fails to distinguish the material. But all ended happily for Buñuel either way: he ended up making The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) the same year, which netted the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.

Pretty much written off by critics of its day (rightfully so for the most part), this didn't merit much of a release here in America despite being shot in English. The version I viewed was in decent shape aside from being a little too dark, which makes it difficult to appreciate talented cinematographer Sacha Vierny's work. It's neither scary nor dramatically affecting, and not in any way innovative, but it's fairly watchable if you're no expecting too much and the ending is pretty amusing. There's been no VHS or DVD release in America, though a DVD has been released in Spain.

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