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Cinema Enigmatico #3 - Corruption (1967) by Rico Forlani

Cinema Enigmatico...Italian for Obscure Cinema! I find the films that are either forgotten or little known, and let you know about them! This week's installment is a fun, horrifying foray into the swinging sixties, baby, yeah!

Corruption (1967)

I have to admit, while there is a copious amount of obscure knowledge and trivia in my head, I hadn't heard of Corruption before discovering the Blu Ray. What makes that matter so profound is that it stars one of my favorite genre actors, Peter Cushing! In my travels and searches for obscure movies, I saw this offering from Grindhouse Releasing last year and just HAD to have it! The cover art alone sold me on it...Peter Cushing pinning a woman to the ground, grasping her hair with one hand and a knife at her throat with the other. I thought the ordinarily nice and mild-mannered man was pretty ruthless in some of his other roles, but this one cried out for me to see for myself what new depths of character acting the great Mr. Cushing could unleash upon us.

Fast paced from beginning to end, Corruption makes you feel uncomfortable throughout. Peter Cushing plays Sir John Rowan, a renowned and brilliant surgeon. His beautiful wife Lynn (Sue Lloyd) is a model who drags her proper, polite, and well-dressed husband to a trendy party in the heart of Swinging Sixties London. As the party rolls on, and Sir John becomes increasingly uncomfortable, Lynn's photographer starts snapping photos of her and encourages her to strip for the camera. Having had enough, Sir John rages and a fight ensues causing one of the hot lighting lamps to come crashing down and burn Lynn's face, ruining her modeling career. Sir John, being the brilliant surgeon that he is, eventually figures out a way to restore Lynn's beauty with a treatment that is a mixture of a human gland found in the brain, and a laser machine. As often happens in stories of this type, the effects eventually wear off and her scars return. Sir John must then go out and retrieve more glands for his wife...even if that means killing young women to acquire them! As much as he wants to help his wife, he doesn't really want to murder people, but Lynn manages to goad him into doing it, acting as the devil on his shoulder encouraging him to do bad things. As they get deeper and deeper into a situation that will probably never resolve itself well, they retreat to a cabin in the quiet town of Seaford. There, the idyllic setting is interrupted by more murder and a home invasion by maniacal hippies, all leading to a crazy, trippy finale.

As far as the story goes, you've seen this before a la “The Brain that Wouldn't Die” - a guy has to resort to murder in order to keep his wife safe/happy/alive. However, what sets this film apart is the frenetic pacing and camera work, the brilliant and vibrant colors bringing the Swinging Sixties to life, and the groovy music setting the acid trip tone of the film. As the hero Abraham Van Helsing in Hammer's Dracula films and Doctor Who in two BBC films, Cushing showed a great strength of character and heroism. As the villain in such films as Star Wars (Grand Moff Tarkin) and Hammer Studios' Twins of Evil and the Frankenstein Series to name a few, Cushing pushed the boundaries of being a villain. As Dr. Frankenstein, it was a mad scientific curiosity that drove him. As Gustav Weil in Twins of Evil, he was motivated by a desire to defeat true evil, but didn't realize his actions themselves weren't the best.  Here, his character exudes passion, moving from rage to love to angst, exuding pathos as he is forced onto this dark roller coaster ride that he created and cannot exit. In the same way, the film grabs you from the beginning and won't let go until the dreamy, wild ending.  He doesn't want to kill for his wife, but he doesn't really fight it much either.... sort of like an addict battling the addiction but keeps justifying the reason for continued usage.

The colors, styles and music alone were enough to get me watching. Lampooned in the Austin Powers movie, this film's styling acts as a time capsule for the era in which it was made. If you crave a trip back to Swinging Sixties London, look no further than Corruption!  Groovy colors, patterns and music, as well as clothing and hair styles, this takes me back to the days of yore that I wish I could travel back to!

The Blu Ray from Grindhouse Releasing contains quite a few things including both the US Theatrical release and the International release containing more gore and nudity not seen in the American version. Also, interviews with stars Billy Murray, Wendy Varnals and Peter Cushing as well as a tons of trailers, script documents, liner notes and commentary by English Gothic author Jonathan Rigby and Peter Cushing biographer David Miller.

Ultimately, what adds the total tongue-in-cheek flavor to this movie is the poster and TV & Radio ads that say: “Corruption is not a woman's picture! Therefore: No woman will be admitted alone to see this Super-Shock film!” This flick is by no means Cushing's best, but is definitely worth a look and essential for completists.

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Cinema Enigmatico #2 - The Chooper aka Blood Shack

Dumpster diving in the dollar bin at second hand shops, you never know what gems you might find at Cinema Enigmatico - Italian for Obscure Cinema! This week's installment is a horrible mess of a film that makes Manos, The Hands of Fate look like Treasure of the Sierra Madre!

The Chooper (1971 – aka Blood Shack)

Okay gang, yes for my second review I'm really going to slum it here. I feel like I watched this film so that you don't have to, so I should be honored as a hero. Or a masochist. Like many of the ones you'll find in this column, I found this one on a rare DVD in a dollar bin at a second hand store. And boy is it a stinker!

There's this shack (for lack of a better term) in the middle of nowhere in the American desert. There's a dude who holds a shovel and stands near it, but never seems to work. It seems that his only job is to keep the kids away from it. Particularly two little girls who keep running to the house, driving him crazy as he keeps screaming at them to keep away from that house because “bad things happen there”. No sooner has he shooed them away, a car pulls up with three college kids. Two guys and a girl, arguing about the shack. The girl is convinced that it's haunted and wants to spend the night. The guys don't and dump her off, speeding away. The girl is left with only her sleeping bag.

Daniel, the dude with the shovel, warns her about the bad things in the house, but the girl insists that she'll be fine. She goes in and, in perhaps what I thought was the scariest part of the film, she strips down to her undies and lays on a NASTY OLD MATTRESS while UNDER her sleeping bag, not even IN IT to avoid touching the mattress!!! Ewwww!!!! The mattress even has bloodstains!! Needless to say, a masked killer with a sword called “The Chooper” enters, chases her around the house for a while and kills her. The next day, Daniel finds her body and flips out, muttering to himself that he warned her that she'd be killed! For unknown reasons, he takes the body and buries it, stealing what little cash she had.

Soon, we see Carol, played by director Ray Dennis Steckler's wife Carolyn Brandt. She's just flown in, and we learn through narration that she inherited the ranch upon which the shack is situated, and that Daniel is the caretaker. Upon arriving at the ranch, she is immediately accosted by local real estate mogul, Charlie, who insists that she sell him the ranch. To the point of obnoxiousness. Most of the film is told through her narration, and we are treated to long, boring scenes of a local rodeo intended to pad out the film from a painful 60 minutes to a nauseating 70 minutes so the film could be distributed.

While, I know that I need to watch these films in there entirety in order to provide a proper review, I have to say that it did hold me throughout because I wanted to see what would happen. I will admit to fast forwarding through the final rodeo installment. Sue me. It's got that sort of 70s creepy low budget feel that makes you feel uncomfortable during the whole thing, and you want to take a shower when it's over. If watched in the dark at night (not TOO late, or you'll fall asleep), this stinker is a fun pot boiler. The art on the opening sequences and end credits are far better than the film, and harken back to the EC Comic book days.

Chock full of bad dialogue, bad camera work (rumor has it that Steckler only had two lights to use on this film), and just all around baddy badness, the Chooper or Blood Shack should only be viewed by a seasoned B-Movie watcher, and even then you should have a hand held video game on standby for the rodeo scenes. Or you could just fast forward through them like I did. It's truly 70 minutes that you'll never get back. Despite being directed by the legendary Steckler, who achieved fame through the marginally better film “The Incredibly Strange Creatures who Stopped Living and Became Mixed up Zombies”, you are warned to watch this film at your own peril!

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Cinema Enigmatico #1 - New Zealand Double Feature

Cinema Enigmatico

 Greetings all! Welcome to the first installment of my review blog, Cinema Enigmatico. I am Rico Forlani, and I will be presenting to you reviews of little known films that you may or may not have heard of! I scour the DVD sections of second hand stores and internet sites to find the most obscure, the most bizarre, and often the most fun films! You never know what I might find, so sit back and enjoy what you've been missing out on! The review column title is Italian for “Enigmatic Cinema” or “Obscure Movies”. Ordinarily, I try to go into a movie knowing as little about it as possible, to achieve maximum enjoyment. No expectations = no disappointment. So, in my reviews I will try to only give away a little bit of the story...just enough to entice you to seek it out, if I feel it's worth watching. If it stinks, I may give away most of the story.

Today, I've got a New Zealand double Feature. While these films are rather popular in their native country, they are not very well known here, but worth a look.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Housebound (2014) 

  What We Do In the Shadows (2014) 

A mockumentary that spoofs “Big Brother”-type reality shows, What We Do in the Shadows concerns four vampires that live together in a flat in Wellington, New Zealand, and the hilarious modern-day problems that they encounter. This movie is a surprise on so many levels, and not what you'd expect. You've got Viago the foppish 18th century vampire, Vladislav the cool Dracula-type, Deacon the more modern vampire who thinks he's sexier than he is, and Petyr the Nosferatu vampire who is so old he simply cannot be expected to attend the weekly apartment meetings.

This story manages to lampoon many different cinematic vampires down through history, while also telling a fun fish-out-of-water story as they try to adapt to modern life. There are NO sparkly vampires here; these guys play by the old-school, tried and true vampire rules: they cast no reflection, must feed on human blood to survive, are afraid of crucifixes, must be invited in to places, and can be killed by sunlight. In the same vein (pun firmly intended) as Monty Python, while most comedy concerns ordinary people in extraordinary situations, these are extraordinary people in ordinary situations, and hilarity ensues. One great scene that you could almost miss if you're not paying attention, is the gang out for an evening looking for victims decide to go clubbing, but they must convince the bouncers to invite them in or they can't enter the club.

This dry sense of NZ humor is prevalent throughout the entire film, which is adeptly written and directed by the co-stars, Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi who play Vladislav and Viago respectively. Both are known for their comedy chops, Jermaine most notable for the series Flight of the Conchords about two New Zealand musicians who head to New York to seek their fortune. I have not seen this series, but when I mentioned the film to someone recently, they knew exactly what I was talking about and kept raving about Flight of the Conchords.

Deacon has his own ghoul, a lady named Jackie, who is hoping to cash in on her servitude to him by getting the eternal life she was promised. But, every time she inquires he gets nervous and uses his “mind whammy” on her to make her go away. Viago has difficulty extracting blood from his victims, and Petyr is so far removed from humanity that it makes living in a city even more uncomfortable. Lots of cool vampire gags abound, and things get really uncomfortable for the gang when another vampire tries to join their ranks and allow a human friend to tag along with them. This makes it very difficult for those who feed on human blood to contain themselves around this person!

This film is a gem and should really be sought out by vampire fans, comedy fans, and fans of just good independent cinema that manages to use it's budget well. All of the money is on the screen, and all of the talent is in the writing and acting! Check it out if you can!

  Housebound (2014) 

This is another film that I had only heard recommended by someone on a podcast. I knew almost nothing about the film going in, and thoroughly enjoyed it! It stars Morgana O'Reilly as Kylie Bucknell, a young lady prone to getting into trouble with the law. As the film opens, she is invovled in a minor heist that goes horribly wrong and is nabbed by the police. Her sentence is to be houesbound at her mother's home, with an ankle bracelet that will alert the authorities if she goes beyond a certain distance from her house.

As she approaches the house, we can see the trepidation in her eyes; clearly she doesn't have a very good relationship with her mother, and as we learn she's got a non-existent relationship with her mother's boyfriend, Graeme. She is escorted by her probation officer, Amos, and the parameters are quickly set-up for Kylie's home imprisonment. Mom is played perfectly by Rima Te Wiata, as a suburban mom of a troubled child who is more interested in gossip and can't seem to ever stop talking, much to Kylie's chagrin.

O'Reilly embodies the role of a troubled young woman perfectly: she's easily irritated by her mother and Graeme, could care less about anybody other than herself, and is so rooted in her “real world” problems that she doesn't really think much about things beyond our ken. When she accidentally overhears her mother calling in to a paranormal radio show, she's just further irritated by the world she is stuck in. That is...until she starts to hear weird things in the house! Kylie also has to have regular meetings with her social worker, Dennis, whom she loathes from the moment she meets him. From scary neighbors to the lackadaisical police, we've stumbled into an interesting, yet very familiar world here, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the film.

I don't want to say too much further about this movie except that it takes unexpected turns  from here and is not what you'd expect. There were many moments where I audibly announced, “That's cool!” Many little touches to the film make this one stand out from the crowd. While there are a couple of moments where you can predict what's going to happen next, it's only because that would be the most logical thing to happen at that moment, and speaks well to the writing and the pacing of the story.

Director Gerard Johnstone only has a few TV Series under his belt, but if Housebound is any example of his theatrical directing chops, I'd say he's got a bright career ahead of him!

I believe that both of these films have been available on Netflix, so do what you can to check them out! Both are worth a look!