wtf-film.com is no longer active, and is archived here for posterity. check ExploderButton.com for our latest dubious pop-culture ruminations.

New at ExploderButton, an NSFW look at The Vixens of Kung-Fu

Producer / director Bill Milling’s porno cash-in on the mid-70s kung-fu craze may hail from the adult industry’s golden age, but it’s no classic by a long-shot. Reviewed from the DVD by VinegarSyndrome, with plenty of pics to offend those with prudish sensibilities. Read the review here!

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In less scandalous review news, I take a fresh look at the lamentably lovable Yeti – Giant of the 20th Century while Denis shares his thoughts on some pre-SyFy camp and a Lindsay Lohan flop that may be worth a second look.

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A Black Veil for Lisa

a.k.a. La Morte non ha Sesso
directed by
 Silvio Amadio
1968 | Filmes Cinematografica | 92′ 

Warning: there will be spoilers

Hamburg’s drug scene is hit by a series of professional killings. All victims are enemies of drug kingpin Schürmann (that’s the way you’d actually spell it in German, not the way the film spells it), so the police seems to have their work cut out for them.

Unfortunately, whatever investigating Inspector Franz Bulon (John Mills) does leads him nowhere. Witnesses disappear, or are murdered just after Bulon first hears of them. Why, one could think there’s a mole in the police force very professionally delivering vital information about the investigation to Schürmann. But that’s not the only problem with Bulon and his investigation. The aged cop is driven to distraction by outbursts of insane jealousy for his much younger wife Lisa (Luciana Paluzzi), whom he met during a criminal investigation where she was suspected of being involved in the drug trade somehow. Lisa is understandably dissatisfied with the way her husband treats her. But then, she’s acting in ways to not only make a paranoid old cop wonder, so the way Bulon treats Lisa is still quite insane but also not very surprising. Later developments will even make it clear that Bulon isn’t actually wrong about Lisa. This doesn’t make the cop’s behaviour any more sane, though.

After many a false trace and despite all jealous fuming, Bulon – who must have been a ruthless yet effective cop once – finds the professional killer who does Schürmann’s dirty work. Max Lindt (Robert Hoffmann), as he is called, is just about to leave Hamburg forever when Bulon catches up to him, having his own troubles with his boss. And that would surely be that for the case, if Bulon didn’t see something that convinces him absolutely of Lisa’s cheating ways right when he is hauling Max in. Why not offer the killer freedom in exchange for murdering Lisa?

Bulon’s insane idea results in further complications. Lindt, beginning to enjoy himself, decides to first make contact with Lisa before killing him. Making contact with Lisa and falling madly in lust with her is (and I won’t say that I blame the man) a question of minutes. From here on out, things proceed rather a lot like anybody not one of the film’s characters would expect.

 
 
 

Massimo Dallamano’s A Black Veil For Lisa starts out as that most curious of things, a police procedural I actually enjoy watching, spiced up with at first little yet ever more frequent occurrences of giallo elements. Once Bulon decides – if you can call something based on pure irrational rage a decision – to have his wife killed and betray everything he must have believed in once in the process, the police procedural completely transforms into a very noir-ish giallo, the orderly, sober-minded world of the police procedural turns crazy and emotional.

I particularly love how Dallamano and his four co-writers decide not to use a sudden turn from police procedural to giallo here but show the film’s style slowly turning from police procedural to giallo, as Bulon’s state of mind and morals slowly deteriorate further (he’s already deeply compromised in the film’s beginning) until he reaches a breaking point that finishes the transformation. It’s not difficult to interpret this approach as a political statement that also tells the audience something about the central character (or the other way around): chaos and disorder are living especially under the veneer of pronounced orderliness and discipline, and are all the more explosive in the proponents of order because they repress and deny them. Even though order – such as it is – is restored in the end of the film, it’s an ending that comes with a heavy price, leaving questions unanswered and the world only set right again in the most superficial interpretation.

One of the most interesting questions is how calculating a woman Lisa truly is. The film never really makes clear if she only married Bulon to milk him for information from the very beginning, or if it was Bulon’s inability to have any faith in her that drove her to it. I’m glad the film leaves this aspect to open, because it also leaves room for Lisa being an actual human being instead of the mythical femme fatale. The film’s ending really suggests the more human interpretation, too, but it leaves enough of what happened between Lisa and Bulon in the past untold to make this question unanswerable for any outsider.

This might have something to do with the next interesting aspect of Dallamano’s film: unlike many mysteries – be it giallos, police procedurals, cozies – the film is not at all interested in judging its three central characters. Bulon, Lisa and Max are all three capable of committing – and are in fact committing – various amoral, illegal and horrible acts, yet the film just isn’t willing to judge them for these acts at all. Instead, there’s a feeling of unsentimental sympathy for all of them running through the film, as far from the cynical sneer the giallo often loves as it is from staunch moralizing or singing hymns to vigilantism. In that sense, this is as humanist a giallo as I can remember seeing, which might be what happens to a film that is as carefully concentrated on understanding its characters as A Black Veil is.

In his project of keeping his characters human, Dallamano is helped along by very strong performances from Mills, Paluzzi and Hoffmann. On one hand, the actors manage to fulfil the expectations an audience will have for the mystery archetypes they embody, yet on the other they give them a subtle and believable humanity and complexity that makes them more than mere archetypes.

Dallamano’s visual treatment of the film is often equally winning as the acting and the script are. The director gives even the rather talking head bound early phases of the film a high degree of dynamism, as if to demonstrate that yes, you can film even a brown and bland office that is quite believably German, and therefore particularly brown and bland, in interesting yet not distracting ways. Dallamano actually uses quite a few flashy techniques, but he puts them so organically in service of the film’s plot and characters you have to watch out for them to realize what he’s doing. It’s pretty fantastic.

Which also turns out to be a fitting description of the film as a whole. Where else will you find a humanist, elegant, and subtle noir-influenced giallo than here?


The Horror!? is a regular cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

The Green Slime on Blu-ray, No. 1: Because we owe it to the Future

You don’t have to take Commander Rankin’s concerned face for it – the outlook for our future is grim. Disregarding the interstellar threats of astral collision, gamma ray bursts and the Sun’s imminent demise a few billion years from now, there’s still plenty on terra firma to worry about. Rising debt, global warming, international tension and on and on and on – the only certainty in such uncertain times is that it’s the future generations of leaders and rabble-rousers that will likely have to sort it all out, and isn’t that a cheerful thought.

And so, with all the problems we’ll be handing down to our children, do you really want be responsible for leaving them a world in which The Green Slime is not available on Blu-ray?

I know I don’t, and if you feel the same way then please sign our petition. It’s completely unofficial and there’s every chance it’ll lead nowhere at all, but if enough people sign the Warner Archive Collection just might listen. Bringing The Green Slime to Blu-ray is change I think we can all believe in, and isn’t that what democracy is all about?

Minotaur, the Wild Beast of Crete

a.k.a. Teseo Contro il Minotauro
directed by
 Silvio Amadio
1960 | Gino Mordini | 92′ 

Life isn’t pleasant in Ancient Crete. For a generation or so the Cretans have made yearly human sacrifices to the Minotaur, whom its priesthood sees as a protective godhood rather than a monster with a tragic backstory roaming a labyrinth. Crete’s king Minos (Carlo Tamberlani) changes his mind about the whole human sacrifice thing when his wife begs him on her deathbed to abolish the practice. After all, she even has proof the god’s don’t care about these sacrifices, seeing as she secretly hid away one of their twin daughters with foreign peasants to protect her from being sacrificed as the later born of every twin pair in Crete should be, and was not punished by the gods for it.

That argument is enough to convince Minos, and while he’s planning on breaking with traditions, he also decides to bring that twin daughter, Ariadne (Rosanna Schiaffino) to court. Alas, his other daughter Phaedra is not very happy with another claimant on a throne he already sees at hers, and the man Minos sends out to find Ariadne, Chiron (Alberto Lupo), is all too willing to fulfil her wish to see her sister dead rather than rescued.

Chiron’s tactics as a political assassin are bad, though, for instead of locating Ariadne and then silently letting her disappear, he hires a horde of bandits to snuff out the whole village where she lives. Fortunately for the forces of justice, hero and prince-of-Athens Theseus (Bob Mathias) and his best buddy, the Cretan noble Demetrius (Rik Battaglia), are in the area. As Greek heroes, they are quite willing and able to push back a mere horde of bandits, even though Ariadne’s adoptive parents and a lot of villagers die in the attack before the duo can get in on the action.

Since Ariadne is a bit of a stunner, and Theseus really a nice guy, he takes the now orphaned girl to Athens to be taken into his father’s house and romanced. Demetrius’s confused reaction to the girl looking exactly like his princess our hero just laughs off.

Of course, this won’t be the last attempt on Ariadne’s life, and of course Theseus and Demetrius will sooner or later have to set out to set things right in Crete. However, things will become more dangerous and complicated than anyone could have expected, with Phaedra falling in love with Theseus, the involvement of the Cretan resistance of people who sit around drinking wine instead of acting, and war and doom coming for Athens.

 
 
 
 

Silvio Amadio’s Teseo came as a bit of a positive surprise to me. I do love my peplums, but I generally don’t expect too much of them, so when a film delivers so much more of interest as this one does, I tend to get a little giddy. It’s only fair, too, for there is much to be giddy about here.

Some of the film’s positive aspects are easily explained by the fact that it came relatively early in the peplum cycle, when the budgets for films of the genre often were a bit higher, and the productions could afford to hire extras for mass scenes and put more effort into their production design, which is always helpful in films as soundstage based yet in need of spectacle as these tend to be. Consequently, there are often more people on screen here when the script needs it than one would expect, giving the handful of battle scenes and the obligatory storming of the bad guys’ throne room (though it’s the sacrifice chamber here) a bit more weight and believability through the sheer number of participants. Compared to classical Hollywood monumental epics, there aren’t still all that many participants, but when you have seen enough of these films, you get rather thankful when an army consists of more than ten people. Depending on your taste in historians, you may even see the not quite as large armies as more realistic, though I doubt anyone involved here was interested in historical authenticity as much as in producing as much of a visual spectacle as the budget allowed.

Weight and a bit more believability seem to have been important when it came to the production design too, for every set and every costume is created with a love for telling details, from the walls of the houses of nobles actually being adorned with pictures and wall hangings, to the ubiquitous minotaur and bull depictions in Crete. This extra effort helps make the film’s Mythical Greece feel more like a world with its own coherence and its own rules than a series of sets.

Yet even an army of extras and the most beautiful production design in the world need a director equal to the task of using them properly. Amadio is more than equal to the task, with a sometimes painterly eye for the staging of scenes to the greatest visual effect, and a wonderful sense for the use of vivid colours. Amadio’s Mythical Greece may not be as dream-like and magical as that of Mario Bava, but it never is bland or colourless, and always vivid and larger than life.

The word “bland” unfortunately does lead me to the film’s greatest weakness, Bob Mathias as Theseus. His performance isn’t bad at all, but rather painfully neutral, as if that awesome (in the classic sense of the word) hero Theseus the other characters are speaking of had just stepped out for a moment only leaving his body there. Mathias’s blandness isn’t enough to ruin the film or even to annoy me much, yet it may be a stumbling stone for some.

The rest of the cast is much stronger, with Schiaffino able to play her double role well enough to keep Phaedra and Ariadne believable as two distinctively different persons; even though the script tends to make Ariadne a bit too virtuous and Phaedra a bit too evil for my tastes. But that sort of thing is part of the genre, and on the other hand, Ariadne is a bit spunkier than peplum heroines usually are. It’s probably not necessary to mention that Alberto Lupo could play the type of heel he’s playing here in his sleep; he’s clearly not asleep here.

On the script side, the film underplays the mythological elements of the story for most of its running time, making this a very entertaining and melodramatic story of Mythical Greek palace intrigues with an influx of swashbuckling, that just happens to include a surprise rescue by Amphitrite, and the battle against a not very threatening but rather lovely Minotaur with a very mobile but also very confused looking face. I also have to applaud the writers for their use of interesting and not always the most obvious parts of Greek myth here. They take their freedoms with it, but they sure do seem to know what they are doing and why.


The Horror!? is a regular cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

More H.G. Lewis to Blu-ray in January from Vinegar Syndrome

Another day, another new cult video label, though I dare say this one has me excited. Vinegar Syndrome (a subsidiary of the Process Blue restoration lab) take their name from that horrid destructive condition that has thankfully ignored my own meager 8-and-16mm library, and their aim is to rescue as many exploitation obscurities as they can manage from that same undignified and smelly fate. They’ve taken as their debut project a triple feature (in Blu-ray / DVD combo pack) of rare Herschell Gordon Lewis sexploiters, and by virtue of the HGL pedigree alone I can’t very well not support that. They’ve got a few other tasty morsels lined up for DVD and Blu-ray release as well, like Massage Parlor MurdersSavage Water and Death by Invitation, but what really has me excited for VinSyn’s future is this tidbit from their “About” page:

Film restoration can easily become a tricky subject especially with a lack of general consensus on how to do it ‘right.’ Our goal is to as accurately as possible recreate a theatrical viewing experience. We never employ any noise/grain reduction and use digital restoration tools only to remove or reduce severe image damage.

What’s that, you say? A label that just wishes to bring their properties to home video in as authentic-to-source a manner as possible while avoiding the digital pitfalls suffered by majors and minors alike? VinSyn are pushing all sorts of the right buttons with me, and here’s hoping it translates into plenty of groovy grindhouse video releases in the process.

As for The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis triple feature Blu-ray / DVD combo pack, it streets January 8th and can be pre-ordered either directly through Vinegar Syndrome (free US shipping!) or through standard outlets like Amazon.com. The details, copied from the press release, are quoted below:

The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis
Three previously thought lost sexploitation features from Herschell Gordon Lewis, the acclaimed master of exploitation cinema.

ECSTASIES OF WOMEN (1969) is a torrid comedy/drama set in the swinging world of late 60s Los Angeles.
LINDA AND ABILENE (1969) combines the savagery of a classic Hollywood western with sequences of intense eroticism.
BLACK LOVE (1971) exposes the lovemaking habits of the contemporary black couple through a series of amusing and creative vignettes.

All three films have been restored in 2K from their original camera negatives and are being released on home video for the first time anywhere in the world!

Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack Bonus Features:
– Original theatrical trailers for each film
– Extensive historical liner notes
– Special edition lab cards for each film

For samples from the 2k restorations of each film check VinSyn’s blog post here. They look damn good to me, so good that I’ve already pre-ordered a copy for the Wtf-Film video shelf. After the relative disappointment of Image / Something Weird’s HGL treatments I can’t wait to get my paws on this…

The Pact

directed by Nicholas McCarthy
2012 | Preferred Content | 89′ 

The death of her abusive mother brings Nichole (Agnes Bruckner) back to the family home she and her sister Annie (Caity Lotz) thought to have left behind for good. Annie’s even less happy with going back than Nichole, and only some fine sisterly pressure convinces her to return at all, and much later than Nichole does.

When Annie arrives “home”, Nichole has disappeared into thin air after – as the audience knows – some rather disquieting things happening there. Annie assumes Nichole, with her history of drug use and disappearing acts, has just fallen back into old habits, leaving her sister alone to deal with a house and a funeral she only thought of going to for her sister’s sake, and her cousin Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins) to take care of her little daughter Eva (Dakota Bright).

But when Annie meets her Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins) and Eva (Dakota Bright), at her mother’s funeral. she isn’t quite as convinced of Nichole’s disappearance having a comparatively harmless explanation anymore. Liz argues Nichole would never have left her daughter alone this way; after all she has turned her life around for her.

Because Annie is more than a bit freaked out about staying at her mother’s place another night, she invites Liz and Eva to stay the night with her. At night, everyone is woken by strange noises, and now it is Liz’s turn to disappear while Annie has an encounter with an invisible force that can only be explained by supernatural agency. She barely manages to get out of the house with Eva before whatever happened to Nichole and Liz can happen to her too.

When Annie goes to the police with her story, the part about poltergeist phenomena does not exactly improve her chance for being taken seriously about anything else she says. Only Bill Creek (Casper Van Dien), a cop who knew Nichole – and one suspects also knows something about the family history – is willing to actually listen to her. Creek isn’t willing to believe in any of that spooky stuff, but at least he’s still taking Annie seriously enough to help her in the few ways actually in his power. However, if Annie wants to find out where her sister and her cousin went, and what is haunting her mother’s house, she will have to do most of the investigating alone and with a messed-up sensitive named Stevie (Haley Hudson) she knows from her high school pointing the way. Annie might just find some terrible family secret hidden nearly in plain sight.

 
 
 

Say what you will about (or against) the last decade in horror movies, but it has – probably via the successes of Japanese cinema in this regard – brought about a minor renaissance in movies about hauntings and ghosts, some of which, like Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact, can stand their ground next to any movie in that particular sub-genre you’d care to mention.

The Pact is a brilliant example of a movie closely concentrated on creating a mood of dread and fear very close to the kind of fears I remember too well from my childhood. The movie manages to create a feeling of tension even though it isn’t a permanent barrage of Completely Shocking Things™. There are some truly shocking and some truly creepy things happening throughout the movie, but there’s never the feeling any of them are in the movie because it needs to include a shock every ten minutes. Rather, everything here happens for a reason closely related to the film’s plot and the film’s mood, two elements as organically entwined as possible.

McCarthy’s direction is very stylish (the Internet tells me of Argento but also Val Lewton productions as an influence, and I believe her in this case), yet he never gets too flashy. McCarthy instead opts to put his stylistic abilities exclusively into the service of creating the film’s particular brand of tension. For most of the time, the camera glides through the cramped and claustrophobic spaces of Annie’s mother’s house, looking over Annie’s shoulder, lingering on blackness and the place’s quotidian and bleak interior until they become threatening in their near normality.

I also love how willing McCarthy (also responsible for the script) is to not outright state a lot of what is going on with his characters and their lives but to subtly show it through details of the interiors they move through and Caity Lotz’s body language (insert gushing praise about Lotz’s performance here). It’s not that the film is vague about anything, The Pact is just not the kind of film feeling the need to spell everything out an attentive audience will understand in other ways.

It’s all part of the film’s overall spirit of tightness and concentration, virtues it doesn’t even leave behind when its plot later on takes a turn towards a somewhat different type of horror film than it initially seemed to be, fortunately without doing the boring “look at this surprising twist!” routine. What could have been flabby and digressive in less capable hands feels organic and logical here.

Finally, it’s also worth mentioning – seeing as this is a horror movie – how creepy the film is throughout, how successful The Pact is at combining Annie’s struggle with her past (her own childhood fears), the idea that however horrible one’s past was, there might always have been something more horrible lurking unseen just a (literally and metaphorically) thin wall apart, and the more general images of childhood fears it conjures up in pictures that seem archetypally effective – and willing to be strange if it suits the film – to me.

That, dear reader, means I was freaked out more than once during the course of The Pact, which is the sort of compliment I can’t give many horror films.


The Horror!? is a regular cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

Music Monday: Don’t take my man, man.

Yeah, I know. It’s technically Tuesday, but I figured I needed to get back in the swing of this weekly mini-column (and regular posting in general). By my count my last music bit was way back in September, when MOSS alum Permission To Kill was kind enough to publish my dubious top-five soundtrack piece as part of their excellent Liner Notes series.

Anyway, onward and upward. The track today is actually new (gasp!), hailing from ZZ Ward’s tremendous debut album Til the Casket Drops from October 16th. Amazon has the mp3 edition set at just $5, but better yet, the song featured here – Put the Gun Down - is at present free to download as part of their Artists on the Rise deals. The official video is below. Watch, listen, and obey!