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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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Woman Despiser  (1967)  Turkey/Dir: Ilhan Engin  -  Turkish version of a giallo, with a masked killer targeting women whose first names start with the same letter as the street they live on. The police work hard to solve the case while the bodies continue to pile up. 

I'm not as familiar with Turkish cinema as with many other countries, so I'm not sure how far from the norm this one is. It's more violent and more overtly sexual than I expected. The killer wears a different mask for each kill, including a devil, Frankenstein's monster, and a skull, among others, which I thought was a nice touch. The stalking and killing scenes are well done, and foreshadow those from later Italian giallo films, and even later American slasher flicks. The film falls flat elsewhere, though, with bland characterizations, and a sluggish pace in the non-horror scenes.   (6/10)

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The Batwoman  (1968)  Mexico/Dir: Rene Cardona  -  The evil Dr. Williams (Roberto Canedo) is determined to create a new race of supermen by combining a fish with a  Ken doll and injecting them with the juices of the pineal gland. These fluids can only be harvested from "perfect men", so naturally the Doctor chooses pro wrestlers. After several of the valiant athletes turn up dead, the police enlist the aid of Batwoman (Maura Monti), a costumed lady wrestler and crime fighter. Also featuring Hector Godoy, David Silva, Crox Alvarado, and Armando Silvestre. 

This incredible movie features a ridiculous fish-man, a fair bit of wrestling, a lab/yacht named "Reptilicus", and great costumes for Batwoman. In the ring she wears a full-body gray and blue suit that looks like the Adam West Batman outfit without the cape. Outside the ring, she wears a blue bikini, mask, elbow length gloves, and a cape. Very practical attire for an investigator.   (6/10)

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Deadly Inheritance  (1968)  Italy/Dir: Vittorio Sindoni  -  When a railroad laborer dies, his extended family is surprised to learn that he had a small fortune hidden away. Now the heirs find themselves being murdered one by one, seemingly by someone that wants a bigger share of the loot. With Tom Drake as the detective on the case; Femi Benussi, Valeria Ciangottini, and Giovanna Lenzi as the dead man's daughters and the main inheritors; Virgilio Gazzolo, Ernesto Colli, Isarco Ravaioli, and Andrea Fantasia. This is a fairly routine outing in the Euro-murder-mystery sub-genre of the late 60's. Former Hollywood leading man Tom Drake sports an unfortunate toupee.   (5/10)

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Hellish Spiders  (1968)  Mexico/Dir: Federico Curiel  -  Stunningly ridiculous movie starring masked wrestler Blue Demon as himself. He must prevent aliens from the planet Arachnea from harvesting human brains to feed to their queen. When Blue Demon becomes an obstacle too big to ignore, the aliens send their own wrestling champion to battle him in the ring. Also featuring Blanca Sanchez, Martha Elena Cervantes, Ramon Bugarini, Sergio Virel,  Fernando Oses, and "Frankenstein".

My favorite scene comes early in the film, when Blue Demon calmly explains to his sidekick that a skeleton they found was probably a victim of spontaneous combustion caused by an imbalance in his neutrinos. Blue Demon is a molecular physicist!   (5/10)

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Killer Without a Face  (1968)  Italy/Dir: Angelo Dorigo  -  Soon after an architect (Gianni Medici) arrives at a castle to supervise renovations, a mysterious murderer begins killing off people. Could it be the homeowner (Giuliano Raffaelli)? His unstable wife (Mara Berni)? The wife's friend (Janine Reynaud)? The sweaty business manager (Luigi Batzella)? The hulking mute groundskeeper (hulking mute Lawrence Tierney)? Watch, and try to care (or stay awake)! There's a subtitled, very-poor-quality-picture print of this rarity on YT at the moment.    (4/10)

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The Snow Woman  (1968)  Japan/Dir: Tokuzo Tanaka  -  Effective supernatural drama about a young sculptor (Akira Yoshihama) who is spared an icy death at the hands of the title ghost, as long as he swears to never mention the incident to anyone. Later, the sculptor is tasked with making a statue for the new temple, and at the same time he meets a beautiful young woman (Shiho Fujimura) who becomes his wife. A crooked local official wants his friend to secure the sculpture job, and he also wants the young woman for himself. 

Despite the lack of surprise in the story (I've seen several variations of the same tale over the years), I enjoyed this movie. The acting is fine, particularly from Fujimura. The cinematography is very good, and the score sets a great mood.   (7/10)

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The Strange World of Coffin Joe  (1968)  Brazil/Dir: Jose Mojica Marins  -  Writer/director/star Marins returns for the third time as his character Coffin Joe. Here he introduces three unrelated stories. In the first ("The Dollmaker"), a group of thugs decide to try and rob a dollmaker's house, and then have their way with his beautiful daughters, only to learn a sinister lesson. In the second ("Tara") a lonely balloon-seller seeks romance with the corpse of a recently-murdered bride. And in the third tale ("Ideology"), one Professor Odez (Marins) is interviewed on a TV show, after which he invites the host and his wife back to his creepy mansion where he tries to illustrate that "love is dead".

I was a big fan of Marins' previous Coffin Joe films, 1964's At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, and 1967's This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse. This film has the same low budget, low-fi charm, but with an additional nasty sleaze, and a distinct paucity of ideas. The middle story was apparently filmed without live sound, and all music and sound effects are post-dubbed. The last tale is the most shocking and outrageous, and it may entice viewers of extreme cinema.   (6/10)

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Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters  (1968)  Japan/Dir: Kimiyoshi Yasuda  -  Fantasy/horror period piece about a poor village that's being subjugated by a crooked magistrate. He wants to tear down a tenement house and a shrine in order to build a brothel. The locals find unexpected assistance from a variety of unusual and terrifying creatures (referred to as yokai). With Shinobu Araki, Jun Fujimaki, Ryutaro Gomi, and Shozo Hayashiya.

The creatures are uniquely designed (one looks like a closed umbrella with a single eye, a protruding tongue, and a leg sticking out underneath), and the effects are achieved in clever fashion. This was quickly followed by two sequels.   (7/10)

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Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare  (1968)  Japan/Dir: Yoshiyuki Kuroda  -  After grave robbers unwittingly release the demon Daimon (Chikara Hashimoto) from its captivity in ancient ruins in Ur, the villain travels to Japan and takes the place of a local samurai magistrate. Its vampiric ways upset the local spirits, or yokai, who team up to defeat the evil interloper. Also featuring Yoshihiko Aoyama, Hideki Hanamura, Hiromi Inoue, Mari Kanda, and Takashi Kanda.

This sequel has little to do with the previous film, other than a few of the creatures are the same. The tone is much more juvenile, and the friendly, goofy yokai seem ready-made for children's television. The effects are still good, and there are some unexpected moments. This film is also known as The Great Yokai War, which is also the title of the remake from 2005 by Takashi Miike.   (6/10)

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The Young, the Evil and the Savage  (1968)  Italy/Dir: Antonio Margheriti  -  Murders occur at an exclusive all-girls private school. With Michael Rennie as the investigating policeman, Mark Damon as the hunky new instructor, Luciano Pigozzi as the creepy gardener, Eleanora Brown, Sally Smith, Patrizia Valturri, Ludmila Lvova, and Vivian Stapleton. The widescreen cinematography looks nice, as do the ladies, but there's not a lot of inspiration or innovation on display. Also released as Naked You DieThe Miniskirt MurdersCry Nightmare, and Schoolgirl Killer. There's a high quality print on YT at the moment, but the subtitles are partially obscured.    (6/10)

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The Zombie Walks  (1968)  West Germany/Dir: Alfred Vohrer  -  Mystery based on an Edgar Wallace story. Someone in a skull mask is murdering people with a poisoned ring. The superstitious think it may be the zombie of the man whose funeral opens the film. With Joachim Fuchsberger as the police inspector on the case, Siw Mattson as a plucky reporter, Hubert von Meyerinck, Wolfgang Kieling, Pinkas Braun, Claude Farell, Peter Mosbacher, and Siegfried Rauch.

The tone is all over the place, with some moments played as horror and the next for laughs. The cinematography is good, and I liked the green lighting used for the killer. There's a very good subtitled print on YT at the moment.   (6/10)

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Django the Bastard  (1969)  Italy/Dir: Sergio Garrone  -  Mysterious gunslinger Django (Anthony Steffen) shows up in a dusty western town and proceeds to cause mayhem, all in the name of vengeance over a Civil War massacre. Also featuring Paolo Gozlino, Luciano Rossi, Teodoro Corra, Jean Louis, Carlo Gaddi, and Rada Rassimov. I thought this was fairly routine for a spaghetti western of the period, very indebted to Leone's Man with No Name trilogy. The one unusual aspect is the question of whether Django is another standard movie tough guy, or actually a spirit of vengeance or angel of death. I won't spoil it. The heavily edited American release was re-titled The Stranger's Gundown.   (6/10)

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The 2020 Toronto Film Critics Association Best Foreign Film Award …

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Bacurau (2019) Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles, Brazil ****

 

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Beanpole (2019) Kantemir Balagov, Russia

 

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Another Round (2020) Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark

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The Doll of Satan  (1969)  Italy/Dir: Ferruccio Casapinta  -  After her uncle dies, a woman (Erna Schurer) finds herself the sole inheritor of his castle estate. However, when she and her boyfriend (Roland Carey) arrive at the castle, she finds herself the victim of strange dreams and odd occurrences, said to be caused by a ghost believed to haunt the place. Also featuring Aurora Bautista, Ettore Ribotta, Lucia Bomez, Manlio Salvatori, Franco Daddi, and Beverly Fuller.

Dull and uninspired rehash of the kind of film that was popular in the US in the 30's and 40's, although without the required humor or wit. The cinematography is often poor, with bad lighting, and none of the performances are noteworthy. There is one memorable moment early on with a group of young people very awkwardly dancing to a jukebox, though.   (5/10)

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Horrors of Malformed Men  (1969)  Japan/Dir: Teruo Ishii  -  Completely bonkers horror?/mystery?/thriller? based on a book by Edogawa Rampo. A medical student (Teruo Yashida) in an insane asylum escapes, is framed for murder, and then decides to take the place of a recently deceased guy who he looks exactly like. He soon learns that his identity comes with some strange obligations, like searching out his long-missing scientist father (Tatsumi Hijikata) who disappeared on a island filled with deformed murderers. Also featuring Yukie Kagawa, Teruko Yumi, Mitsuko Aoi, Michiko Kobata, Kei Kiyama, and Mie Hanabusa. 

This notorious oddity was banned in Japan for many years due to its unkind depiction of people with physical deformities. In the film's defense, all of the "deformed" characters were actors in make-up, and no actual handicapped people appear to have been exploited, like say was the case with Freaks (1932). The plot is incoherent at times, but the cinematography is good, and there are several truly bizarre moments that won't be easy to forget.    (6/10)

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Killed the Family and Went to the Movies  (1969)  Brazil/Dir: Julio Bressane  -  Arthouse nonsense told in a series of unrelated vignettes. A young man commits the title deeds. A pair of young women begin an illicit affair. Authority figures torture a prisoner. The cinematography and acting are amateurish and off-putting. I'm not sure what the director was trying to say with all of this (I've read it was something about the government in Brazil at the time), and I don't really care, either. As usual with this sort of film, the critical consensus is much higher than my own take away.   (5/10)

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Murder By Music  (1969)  Spain/Dir: Julio Buchs  -  Dull giallo-esque murder mystery starring Brett Halsey as a former Navy man who goes to London to visit his sister, only to learn that she's dead. He doesn't believe the police ruling that it was suicide, so he decides to investigate. Also with Marilu Tolo, Fabrizio Moroni, Alberto Dalbes, Romina Power, Oscar Pellicer, Gerard Tichy, and Lili Murati. An uninspired slog. Also released as Trumpet of the Apocalypse and Perversion Story.  (4/10)

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Psychout for Murder  (1969)  Italy/Dir: Rossano Brazzi - After a young woman (Adrienne Larussa) is released from a mental asylum, she methodically tracks down the people she blames for putting her there. Also featuring Nino Castelnuovo, Paola Pitagora, Alberto de Mendoza, Idelma Carlo, and Rossano Brazzi. Brazzi co-wrote the film as well as directing and acting in it. The performance by Larussa, an American actress, is good. I'm surprised her career wasn't bigger.   (6/10)

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The Wrestling Women vs. the Killer Robot  (1969)  Mexico/Dir: Rene Cardona  -  Those battling wrestling women are back, following the cult classic Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy (1964). The evil scientist Dr. Orlak (Carlos Agosti) is determined to master mind control, and to do so he utilizes his invulnerable killer robot to kidnap other leading scientists in the area. Unfortunately for the mad Doctor, one of those scientists is the uncle of wrestling sensation Gaby (Regina Torne), who teams up with her other warriors of the ring to defeat the evildoers! Also with Joaquin Cordero, Hector Lechuga, Malu Reyes, Genaro Moreno, Pascual Garcia Pena, Gloria Chavez, and Gerardo Zepeda as Carfax the Monster.

This movie is just as ridiculous as it sounds, but I found it very entertaining, despite the many production inconsistencies. My favorite moment may be when the evil Dr. Orlak commands his minion Carfax ("he's half man, half zombie!") to kidnap one of the wrestling women. The shot shows Carfax lumbering toward the camera before cutting to the woman's bedroom, where the monster lumbers over and picks her up, then calmly walks back towards the camera. Besides the fact that she never wakes up (He picks her up! And how did he get in her room? break the door down? Did he have a key?), what was it like for him to walk to her place? Was it a house or an apartment? If the latter, did he have to go through a lobby? How about walking down the street? Did no one react to a giant shirtless muscle-bound guy with a monster face? Is that commonplace in their town? These things keep me up at night.    (5/10)

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Yokai Monsters: Along with Ghosts  (1969)  -  Japan/Dir: Yoshiyuki Koroda & Kimiyoshi Yasuda  -  Third and final film in the series. A group of criminals try and hunt down a little girl (Masami Burukido) who they believe has a document that implicates them. The bandits run afoul of vengeful spirits and yokai (monsters) in the surrounding forest. None of the Yokai Monsters films are really related, although they use some of the same creature designs/costumes. This outing returns to the more horror oriented tone of the first film, with the supernatural creatures appearing less.   (6/10)

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The Book of Stone  (1969)  Mexico/Dir: Carlos Enrique Taboada  -  A governess (Marga Lopez) is hired to look after strange little girl Silvia (Lucy Buj), who spends her time with her imaginary friend Hugo. While exploring the large surrounding forest estate grounds, the governess discovers a strange stone statue of a boy holding a book, and Silvia tells her that the boy is Hugo. And that's just the beginning of the strange occurrences.... Also featuring Joaquin Cordero, Norma Lazareno, Aldo Monti, Rafael Llamas, Ada Carrasco, and Lilia Castillo.

The tone is a little more similar to The Innocents than the more outrageous stuff generally associated with Mexican horror. Moody, atmospheric, and well-acted.   (7/10)

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Madame Death  (1969)  Mexico/Dir: Jaime Salvador  -  After her lover has a heart attack, a desperate woman (Regina Torne) takes him to mad scientist Dr. Favel (John Carradine) who has a new procedure that provides "eternal life". Unfortunately, Dr. Favel requires prodigious amounts of "young blood", so the woman begins murdering people to procure it. Also featuring Carlos Incira as the Igor-like assistant, Elsa Cardenas, Miguel Angel Alvarez, Isela Vega, and Victor Junco. This is a pretty goofy flick, with the Spanish-dubbed Carradine hamming it up in a bigger role than he was getting the U.S. at the time.   (5/10)

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Or(gies) of Edo  (1969)  Japan/Dir: Teruo Ishii  -  Anthology film comprised of three unrelated stories. In the first, a naïve woman is manipulated into becoming a prostitute to support her deadbeat boyfriend. In the second, a woman develops a fetish for sexual partners that have some sort of grotesque physical peculiarity. And in the third, a cruel nobleman kidnaps women and forces them to run for their lives from stampeding bulls. Writer-director Ishii (Horrors of Malformed Men) apparently was trying to say something about the mistreatment of women during the Edo period, but all I saw was trashy exploitation.   (4/10)

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A Thousand Year-Old Fox  (1969)  South Korea/Dir: Shin Sang-ok  -  Period-piece fantasy in which a lascivious young queen becomes upset when a heroic general spurns her advances, due to his being married and the father of a young child. The queen has the wife and child exiled, and tragedy soon befalls them. The wife joins forces with an ancient spirit that also wants vengeance against the queen and her bloodline. 

I enjoyed getting to see a South Korean film of this era, as I've seen few from there pre-2000's. While the influence of Hong Kong and Japanese cinema is apparent, it's still it's own thing, with a unique way of presenting the otherworldly storyline. I just which it hadn't been such a mess plot-wise.   (6/10)

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The Vampire Girls  (1969)  Mexico/Dir: Federico Curiel  -  The evil vampire Count Branus Alucard (John Carradine) hopes to marry the widow of Count Dracula and then rule the night for eternity. Unfortunately for him, heroic masked wrestler Mils Mascaras (Mils Mascaras) is determined to thwart his fiendish plot. Also featuring Pedro Armendariz Jr., Maria Duval, Marta Romero, Maura Monti, Dagoberto Rodriguez, and Elsa Maria Tako.

While familiar with Santo and Blue Demon, this was the first I'd heard of Mils Mascaras (The Man of 1000 Masks), although I understand that he's just as famous in masked wrestler circles. Carradine looks goofy and enfeebled.   (5/10)

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