Monday, February 23, 2009

A new profound love for Italian cinema: Part 1: Poliziotteschi

After a year or two or so without any Italian movies, I went back to the country that gave me my love for cinema, and was a huge part, among many others, in shaping me into the Bearded Movie Aficionado I am today. And the movies I went back to weren’t so much horror, but Spaghetti Westerns and Euro Crime. This will, hopefully, be a two-part project, which will give you, the reader; information about these genres, movies and directors. Hope you enjoy.

Do you love breathtaking car chases, police brutality, blazing shootouts, neck breaking stunts and brutal violence? Have you ever seen Italian police movies? If your first answer is yes, and your second is no - you'll better get off your ass and see one!

Poliziotteschi movies, or Euro Crime, had its glory days in the 70’s. The Italian directors were very influenced by American action movies, and they wanted their own set of cop/action/mob movies, but what they probably didn’t know at that time is that they would overthrow the American action movies and create their own genre with a tremendous cult following.

Most Italian directors have gone through every genre you can imagine: Horror, Crime, Comedy, Romance, and Drama. Directors like Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava and Umberto Lenzi, to name a few, are mostly known for their horror movies, but these directors has also made some of the best Euro Crime movies to date. But the popularity of Euro Crime descended when these directors got into the Horror genre. Italian Horror was a huge hit, and the genres that so many of the directors triumphed in, Spaghetti Westerns and Euro Crime, didn’t get as much attention after the 70’s. Contraband by Lucio Fulci was one of the last Euro Crime masterpieces to achieve this attention after the 70’s. But it was very close to the 70’s, since it was made in 1980. You could say that Euro Crime was born in 1967 with the heist movie Grand Slam, and died with Contraband in 1980. Well, the genre didn’t die. But those years were the decade for glorious Euro Crime.

Readers should not be confused by another crime genre from Italia - Giallo. Giallo is 'murder-mystery' crime films, and the genre title comes from the Italian word Giallo which means Orange. This term comes from old Italian 'murder-mystery' crime novels, which mostly had Orange covers. A lot of people, often new to the genres, get confused about these two “terms”, even though there are little to be confused about.

Umberto Lenzi is one of the masters of Italian Crime film, with movies that truly pack a punch: Almost Human is one of them. With Tomas Milian, the star of many Spaghetti Westerns and Euro Crime films, portraying a cynical thief, with a chip on his shoulder and who’s leaving a slew of dead bodies all over Milan. Almost Human is a one of a kind Euro Crime film. It is a Euro Crime/Exploitation hybrid. Most Euro Crime movies have a very violent element to them, but Almost Human is one of the most brutal. Umberto Lenzi is still alive, but hasn’t released a movie since 1996.

Another director that should be mentioned are Enzo G. Castellari, who had the most action filled Euro Crime films like The Big Racket and The Heroin Busters, both starring Fabio Testi. These movies are packed with action, and it is rare to see a Enzo G. Castellari movie without fullblown shoot-outs, explosions and incredible stunts. But he also has a humorous side to his movies. You always chuckle a bit when watching his movies. And I see it as very tentional. His humour in these films are very slapstick inspired. Castellari did some TV episodes, until 2001. After this we never heard much from the director, but there was talk about a movie with Franco Nero and maybe even Quentin Tarantino.

So, the genre may not be as productive as it used to be, but the spirit still lives on in all fans of the genre.

Here are some movie titles, directors and actors you should check out if this is something for you:

Grand Slam (Ad ogni costo, 1967)
Milano calibro 9 (1972)
Violent Professionals (Milano trema - la polizia vuole giustizia, 1973)
Revolver (1973)
Gang War in Milan (Milano rovente, 1973)
Rabid Dogs (Cani arrabbiati, 1974)
Street Law (Il cittadino si ribella, 1974)
Almost Human (Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare, 1974)
Syndicate Sadists (Il giustiziere sfida la città, 1975)
The Big Racket (Il grande racket, 1976)
Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (Uomini si nasce poliziotti si muore, 1976)
Rome Armed to the Teeth (Roma a mano armata, 1976)
The Heroin Busters (La via della droga, 1977)
Contraband (Luca il contrabbandiere, 1980)

Mario Bava
Lucio Fulci
Umberto Lenzi
Enzo G. Castellari

Franco Nero
Fabio Testi
Tomas Milian
Maurizio Merli

Hope you enjoyed this and also have a craving for some Spaghetti Western.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

War Gore Galore

Recently I have discovered what you may call Pilipino Vietnam War movies. It’s Vietnam War movies played out in the Philippines by Pilipino actors, most of the time. My first ever experience of this delightful “genre” was through the movie PHANTOM SOLDIERS. But lately I have gained more interest for these movies, and actually, my purchases this month has been 90% Pilipino war movies or other types of war movies. I have always been fond of WW2 movies and always hated Vietnam War movies. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. But when I found out that you could watch trashy Vietnam War movies, I was there!

I will probably write a little piece on these movies as soon as I get to see through a bunch of them. I have to thank Jack J at When The Vietnam War Raged …. In the Philippines for also giving me some influence. So I had to buy a bunch of Greek, Dutch, Japanese and Australian ex-rentals to get these movies.

Have a look:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Werewolves on Wheels: A Bearded movie for a Bearded Movie Aficionado

As a group of bikers moves across the desert, they come
across an old church that a satanic cult has taken over. The cultists give them drugged food, and the bikers soon fall asleep. That night the cultists cast a curse on the biker leader's girlfriend, that makes her turn into a werewolf after nightfall.

Werewolves on Wheels is a fun crossover. Biker flicks aren’t really a huge sub genre in the exploitation genre. And the “Werewolf biker” genre is even smaller, to say the least, but it would be a fun genre to have more movies in.

There was more Wheels then Werewolves, but it was a fun 70’s exploitation flick that takes you on a fun ride through the world of The Devils Advocates, an already hairy gang of boozed up, drug addicted bikers, and top it all of with a funky twist, which kind of makes me think back to the Universal Monster flicks. But keep in mind; this is not a movie you should take serious - At all! It’s the only way one should watch these types of drive-in B movies

I’m not saying that werewolves on wheels, was a genius movie. It had its moments and had some surprising elements to it. And this may be a spoiler to some, but I don’t see it as one – That you never really see the werewolves until the end of the movie. But it made a good atmosphere and set a surreal and paranoid tone amongst the biker gang. The only sad thing is that it made me want to see more. The movie was too short. I would have wanted at least 30 more minutes of fun and bizarre exploitation weirdness.

The acting is the one of the few issues I have with the movie. In these kinds of movies you obviously need someone who can ride a motorcycle, so many of them may not have acting skills or experience at all. Like in the Ozploitation movie STONE – It was a good movie, but a lot of the atmosphere was stolen by bad actors. In STONE they had real Hells Angels bikers, and it made some of the acting pretty overdone and kind of painful to watch. In many scenes (WOW), footage was used of real bikers with no experience or training in acting going about their lives as normal. But I don’t know if these where the actors in the movie, or if it was footage the directors shot of other bikers.

It may have been slow at times, but there was one line that set the tone for the whole movie, and actually made you rethink the first part a bit – “That was no accident – it was heavy. Somebody’s controllin’ the vibes”. It was surreal, bizarre and fun, all at the same time. And it was never boring. Character development was actually a part of this movie, which you don’t expect from a 70’s drive-in flick.

But keep in mind that this is true exploitation trash. Most likely, you won’t enjoy this movie. The title is actually a little to cool for the movie itself, and makes you expect a whole lot of werewolves, but as I said; there was more Wheels then Werewolves. The movie isn’t what you would expect. It has more a surreal, trippy and artistic tone to it. But kick it with the Devils Advocates, and have a groovy time, like I did!
70's explo-feel & groove, baby!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Great find equals nostalgia overload

May contain spoilers for those who haven’t seen John Carpenters THEY LIVE.

At the age of 10 or 11 I went over to two friends of mine, who are brothers, and we did our usual thing – we played some Playstation, played soccer and raked havoc in the neighborhood. After a while we went down to the basement where they had a TV and a VCR, a ping pong table and other fun filled related stuff. Then one of the brothers pulled out a VHS tape. “Hey, let’s watch the movie we taped last night!” I asked what kind of movie it was. They said that they didn’t know, and that they only had seen the title. I then followed up my first question with the obvious – “What’s the name of the movie?” The reply I got was: “They Live” – I hadn’t heard about it, but it was fine with me, I was always up for watching new things. And what we saw was a sci-fi horror hybrid that would blow my mind.

At first I didn’t really understand the movie, but under the whole viewing process I was amazed. I sat in the beanbag in the basement watching, at that time, the best movie I had ever seen! It was creepy and entertaining as hell. It is of course one of my favorite movies to date. But for some years it was one of the “Can’t-remember-the-title-nostalgia-movies”. Until I managed to find it again many years ago, it was maybe 5 or 6 years. And I have seen it many times since then. I have been searching for a poster for many years, and the most decent I have found is a poster from Thailand. It isn’t expensive, so the price isn’t what’s kept me from buying it, but the fact that the sunglasses and hands are so badly proportioned:

Just look at those big suckers!

But today I couldn’t believe my eyes – I found 6, yes 6 posters of They Live! And they aren’t bad looking. The posters are photobusta posters, which basically are big lobby cards. I usually don’t like photobusta posters. They just look bad, and I can’t really tell you why. But I love lobby cards, so I can’t understand what my deal with photobusta posters are. Anyways, enough rambling - Here they are - Original Photobusta posters from the Italian cinema release in 1989:

These bad boys aren’t small either. They measure 18x26 inches. Which isn’t huge. But for something that looks like a lobby card, it’s pretty big.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Matthew Allison: The bringer of awesome art!

You are wondering about the headliner? It was done by a fella named Matthew Allison, and it is amazing! Instead of doing a whole speech about how good it is, I'll say it in the deepest of words; It's rad!

Matthew Allison can be found HERE

Once again, thank you very much Matthew. I love it!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Al Cliver: The bringer of ice cold beer

What do you think when you hear the words beard and movies? The Bearded Movie Aficionado, of course, but there is also one more thing you should think of. Well, not a thing, but a person. And that person is no other then Al Cliver!

I always drink beer from a bottle. I mean, who pours themselves a glass of beer? That sounds weird to me. You have to keep the delicious beer flavour inside the bottle, and contaminate it with as little oxygen as possible.

But this is not weird: I actually got myself a beer glass. It’s freakin’ awesome. It’s my very own Al Cliver beer glass!

It only exists three of these suckers in the world! And one is mine! All mine!
I don’t know if it’s such a huge collector’s item, it’s from a horror convention, but its badass.

The bearded Movie aficionado has to have a beer glass with the man who is not only known for the great films he has acted in, and the acting itself, but his beard! Yes, Al Cliver is also known for his beard.

I almost forgot that it’s also my Whiskey glass. The only two beverages’ I drink.

The cool thing is that he is one of my favourite actors; and the picture is from one of my favourite movies by one of my favourite directors. It is from Lucio Fulci’s Zombie 2.