Optimistic after Argento’s Four Flies, I jumped ahead a decade to a film that I supposedly watched back in the 90’s but don’t remember at all except for the doberman scene. Editing and dialogue and acting all bad (I switched a couple times, settled on the English version), but lighting good, and that’s all you need.

Black-gloved killer vs. the lighting:

Anthony Franciosa plays an American in Italy (in Across 110th Street he played an Italian in America), a famous author on a book tour, whose acquaintances keep ending up dead. It’s a nonsensical murder mystery with at least three black-gloved killers, including the author, who then dies in a freak modern art accident. Fortunately, John Saxon is here (with a hat on!) to save the movie, the only guy onscreen having any fun. Saxon eventually gets stabbed, the sole survivor being the author’s secretary Daria Nicolodi. Other victims include the detectives, combative audience member Mirella D’Angelo (Caligula), the author’s ex, and Lara Wendel of Ghosthouse as the girl chased by dobermans.

Saxon, with hat:

Some cool camerawork, including a scene where the camera climbs the walls of an apartment building, a precursor to that Massive Attack video. The cool 1970’s synth soundtracks have devolved into 1980’s synth-rock by the Suspiria gang. Commentary guys Jones & Newman say it’s Argento’s most 80’s movie, and influenced by Possession. They supposedly love the film, and spend half their time making fun of it… I switched to McDonagh’s commentary, which was immediately better, but has too much narration. Didn’t stick around for an explanation of why Argento has his stand-in author draw attention to the sexism in his own movies.

Incredible scene:

Adrienne Barbeau visits swamp scientist Ray Wise, when bad guys attack, wanting the secret formula. I saw Barbeau last week in The Fog, and saw this plot last week in Five Dolls for an August Moon… but in Five Dolls the scientist got dispatched with a rifle, and in this one Ray’s plant-animal-hybrid concoction turns him into Swamp Thing.

S.T. uses his E.T. healing powers on the cool kid who assists Barbeau:

I guess it’s nice how the wide shots emulate photos of bigfoot sightings. Everyone seems to have done the best they could, given low budget and talent. Shapeshifting baddie Arcane also starred in a 1977 Dracula and a haunted mirror movie. His strongman Bruno returned to the swamp for Hell Comes to Frogtown, and the guy in the monster suit would be back in Return of Swamp Thing.

Bruno gets turned into a little beastie, just for fun:

Dry run for Prince of Darkness, both movies kicking off with a priest finding a hidden book. It’s said that when the fog returns, ghost sailors will rise up in revenge for some lighthouse-related incident that sunk them. This is of particular concern for Adrienne Barbeau, a radio DJ who broadcasts from the old lighthouse, and for drunk priest Hal Holbrook whose grandfather stole the dead sailors’ gold.

DJ Barbeau:

It’s all nice looking, but feels almost British in gathering a gaggle of actors for a pretty okay ghost story, or like a “John Carpenter for Kids” TV movie since its framing device is ol’ ship captain John Houseman telling stories around a campfire. Who else we got: Jamie Lee Curtis, typecast as a hitchhiker, picked up by good guy Tom Atkins. Janet Leigh is celebrating the town’s anniversary with Halloween regular Nancy Kyes organizing. The weatherman is named Dan O’Bannon, heh.

Curtis and Atkins:

Leigh and Holbrook:

Rewatching some barely-remembered Carpenter movies this month, and this one turned out much better than The Fog. Science vs. Satan as priest Donald Pleasence unlocks an ancient chamber with a swirling green portal inside, and calls in a team of professors (who bring along their grad students) to attempt to halt the apocalypse. We know that’s at stake since they all have the same night visions (“you are receiving this broadcast as a dream”). As the church starts to attract worms, insects, and dirty weirdo humans seemingly led by Alice Cooper, the teams inside get to work analyzing and translating.

When the ancient texts of mysterious origin say that Jesus was a humanoid alien, evil is a real physical substance, and the son of satan is locked in the chamber, lifelong priest Pleasence is quick to discount all Christianity and believe this new thing. The green chamber shoots foul liquid at Meg-Ryanish Susan, who becomes evil and starts to kill people or drive them outside using plagues of beetles. Translator Lisa also gets juiced, oh no, then Kelly with a cross-shaped bruise absorbs the remaining liquid and becomes very evil indeed, looking for a mirror through which she can pull Satan into the world. Pleasence and student Catherine team up to stop this, but Cath falls through the mirror, in one of Carpenter’s most astounding scenes. Apocalypse not averted, now the dream transmissions show a possessed Cath standing menacingly in the “Saint Godard” church doorway.

Great music, of course. Our university group includes Victor Wong and Dennis Dun, both of Big Trouble in Little China. Doomed redhead Cath is Lisa Blount of Dead & Buried and Radioactive Dreams, her sad mustache boyfriend is Jameson Parker of White Dog. The first girl to get juiced is Anne Marie Howard of identical twin thriller Twinsanity, the girl who becomes very evil is Susan Blanchard of Russkies, and the Black Guy Who Does Not Die First is Jessie Lawrence Ferguson of Darkman.

“Mass Murderer Escapes” headlines in the local paper, yessssss. Girls start getting nude and/or massacred when the credits are barely over.

New girl in school Valerie is reluctantly invited to Trish’s slumber party, says no and stays home with little sister Courtney, right next door, all “we don’t need friends to have fun.” The maniac is revealed early, drilling all the girls he can. It’s not worth keeping track of all Trish’s murdered friends, but Trish was in a couple of Charles Bronson movies, Valerie in the classic Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, and the killer in an Amazing Stories episode from the director of Kazaam.

Some boys attempt to come over, a neighbor is hunting snails in the yard, a coach from school randomly wanders in – all drilled. Finally Valerie sneaks over to investigate, finds a machete in the basement and chops off the guy’s hand and his symbolically long and penetrative drill. At least it was better than Fascination, but this sent me off the Criterion Channel and back into my own collection.

Coach Speedo vs. Driller Killer:

So soon after watching Stacy Keach play ugly in Fat City, I get this extremely appealing starring role. As a solo trucker with a dog/dingo he drives across Australia keeping himself amused, until he finds a couple new interests: hitchhiker Jamie Lee Curtis and a possible mass murderer. Not even horror despite Criterion’s classification, but a loose bag of semi-genre delights. Echoing Kenji Fujishima: “After seeing this, I’m actually a bit more curious to see Franklin’s follow-up to this, Psycho II.”

We’re in structural a-g territory here, a tennis player woking on his serve, over and over with precise editing. But then it’s twin true-crime re-enactments, actors playing murderers in interrogation.

A California teen girl is stabbed to death in 1984. The sound of typing throughout, cuts to black between her responses, ties to the novel Devil House, landscapes and artifacts. We have to listen to an entire song from Cats while watching a girl with perfect 80s hair talk on the phone. I don’t wanna have to think about the cost of music royalties when watching a movie, but putting a song from Thriller in your experimental documentary is okay?

Another girl is found dead at a Wisconsin farm in 1957. Static composition takes from around town, same as we just did in other town, listening to a radio preacher. Woman dancing alone to the worst version I’ve ever heard of “Tennessee Waltz.” This time no typing on the interview scenes, some ambient industrial sound.

It’s some pretty cool work by Benning, but I feel like I was tricked into watching a serial-killer movie, and I should’ve put on that four-hour George Harrison documentary instead. As far as my relative interest in musicians/murders go, I’ve skimmed the wiki on Ed Gein and though “oh no, that pretty much sucks” then moved on and never thought about him again. But I’ve considered George Harrison every day this year, and maybe that’s because I think I could pretty easily be a serial killer, but could never play guitar in a good group.

This movie must work, because even though I moaned about the family, and at the end wished their house would sink into the sea with all of them inside it, I also made a note to catch up with Pialat’s other 1980’s movies: Loulou / Police / Under the Sun of Satan. Sandrine Bonnaire is very pretty in this – talks about suicide over a Klaus Nomi song, leaves all the boys brokenhearted.

For not having seen this in 20 years, I recalled some scenes very well. Funny to watch a 4k restoration of a movie with so many SD-video elements (three long TV newscasts, Robo’s POV screen). Not so many people in the theater on a weeknight, which bodes well for tomorrow’s screening of The Conversation.

Since I’ve recently rewatched Peter Weller in Naked Lunch, it’s time to complete the trilogy and rewatch Screamers. Our other cop hero is Brian De Palma muse Nancy Allen, whose rocket attack on Ray Wise is a comic highlight. Robert DoQui of Coffy gets a good role as the sarge; other cops are incidental, disgruntled and trigger-happy.

As the invincible druglord crimewave baddies, That 70’s Dad and Laura Palmer’s Dad are joined by a Shawshank guard, a Greatest American Hero regular, and a doctor in The Day After.

At the Company that controls the cops, RoboCop project lead Miguel Ferrer is killed by corrupt ED-209 project lead Ronny Cox (he’d play another evil authority figure in Total Recall), who is fired to death by bossman Dan O’Herlihy (Twin Peaks sawmill owner who dies twice).