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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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On 10/23/2021 at 1:33 PM, LawrenceA said:

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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)

Very good movie. Together with Even The Wind Is Afraid, it's one of my favorite of his films.

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On 10/24/2021 at 4:35 PM, LawrenceA said:

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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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Ok, say no more. This coming Sunday I'm watching either Mexican wrestlers or giallo beauties.

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the 1920’s

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5.  The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927) G.W. Pabst, Germany

We did the entire decade in one go when we covered the 1920’s (near the start of this thread).  I liked this film so much I ranked it number 5.  A young girl flees to Paris from Russia when her father is assassinated during the revolution.  Her true love follows but so does an unscrupulous con artist.  Brigitte Helm plays her blind cousin and the scene where the con artist is holding her hand while making advances on Jeanne is a creepy standout.  Recommended.

 

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The Saga of Gosta Berling (1924) Mauritz Stiller, Sweden

I caught the TCM broadcast of this film that really launched the career of Greta Garbo and quite enjoyed it.  The societal relationships are a bit alien and hard to follow.  The fire sequence is especially well done.

 

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I Kiss Your Hand, Madame (1929) Robert Land, Germany

The main interest in this film has to be Marlene Dietrich just prior to her breakout role in The Blue Angel.  She is already perfecting the creation of the femme fatale persona some attribute to Joef von Sternberg.  There is a good supporting performance by Hungarian, Karoly Huszar who had a brief stint in Hollywood before returning to Europe.  An unfortunate move if you read his biography on the imdb.

 

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The Wonderful Lies of Nina Petrovna (1929) Hanns Schwarz, Germany

The tale of a kept woman (Brigitte Helm) who falls for a penniless Cadet (Francis Lederer).  The stars do very well but the pace of the film is decidedly slow.

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The Pact  (2018)  Spain/Dir: David Victori  -  A desperate mother (Belen Rueda) makes a pact with sinister forces in order to save the life of her ailing daughter (Mireia Oriol). However, the pact comes with consequences, as the mother must now kill certain people or face her own destruction. Also with Dario Grandinetti, Antonio Duran Morris, and Jordi Recasens. This is competently made and acted, but the story is too rote and the suspense negligible.   (5/10)

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Blind Woman's Curse  (1970)  Japan/Dir: Teruo Ishii  -  Unusual period crime-drama about an ambitious female yakuza underboss (Meiko Kaji) who accidentally blinds a woman with an errant sword swipe during a gang fight. Some time later, members of her gang start to get murdered by mysterious assailants. 

I see this movie listed as horror on multiple sites, but I didn't really see the connection. It is a good crime thriller, with some oddball humor, good cinematography, and unexpected plot turns. Star Meiko Kaji would go on to be one of the biggest Japanese cult-film stars of the 1970's.  (7/10)

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Jonathan  (1970)  West Germany/Dir: Hans W. Geissendorfer  -  Arthouse horror set in a 19th-century Germany that's ruled by vampires. A group of young people plot to overthrow the undead tyrants, and they send Jonathan (Jurgen Jung) to kill the vampire leader Count Orlak (Paul Albert Krumm). Also with Hans-Dieter Dendryko, Oskar von Schab, and Ilona Grubel. It's meant to be a clash-of-generations political allegory, but it doesn't work too well on that level. It's is modestly entertaining in a weird, euro-horror kind of way, though.   (6/10)

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Moon and Midnight  (1970)  France/Dir:  Pierre Philippe  -  A woman (Sylvie Fennec) marries into a family of weirdos whose depraved behavior escalates day to day. Also featuring Daniel Emilfork, Beatrice Arnac, Jacques Portet, Patrick Jouane, Laurent Vergez, and Kosta as Milos. This is another arthouse-style drama with little plot. The performances are decent (the odd-looking Daniel Emilfork is as good at being weird as usual), but there's not much else to recommend.   (5/10)

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The Dead Don't Talk  (1970)  Turkey/Dir: Yavuz Yalinkilic  -  Mind-blowing nonsense about a large house where a cackling ghost lures couples in order to kill them. The near-incoherent plot isn't helped by absurd performances, particularly by the guy playing the ghost, as well as the score that's filled with tracks lifted from other movies. The cheap B&W cinematography is also a "high" light. This film was thought lost for decades before being rediscovered in the 2000's. It's so terrible, and I loved it.   (3/10)

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Paranoia  (1969)  Italy/Dir: Umberto Lenzi  -  Carroll Baker stars as a New York artist and alcoholic who moves to Italy after her wealthy Italian husband dies. She's lonely in his old family's manor, so she begins an affair with a young drifter (Lou Castel), who soon brings his sister (Colette Descombes) to live at the house, too. Things soon turn ugly.

Baker was in the middle of a long string of European films, and this was the first of 3 she made for director Lenzi, later infamous for making several extreme horror films, Eaten Alive and Cannibal Ferox among them. The emphasis for the first half of this film is decidedly on sex and skin - all 3 leads appear nude several times. The latter half becomes a reasonably taut suspense thriller, with Castel using the creepy characterizations that worked for him in Fists in the Pocket. This film was originally released as Orgasmo, and to confuse matters, the third film Baker and Lenzi collaborated on, A Quiet Place to Kill (1970), was also released as Paranoia.    (6/10)

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So Sweet... So Perverse  (1969)  Italy/Dir: Umberto Lenzi  -  Jean-Louis Trintignant stars as a philandering husband to wife Erika Blanc. When a sexy American (Carroll Baker) moves in upstairs, he sets his sights on her, but soon learns that she may be a more dangerous conquest than most. Also featuring Helga Line, Horst Frank, and Giovanni Di Benedetto.

The second of Baker's "Lenzi Trilogy" shows the same predilection for naked skin as the previous Paranoia. The film turns into a variation of Diabolique about halfway through, but it's not very inspired. The score by Riz Ortolani is fun.   (6/10) 

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Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight 2  (2021)  Poland/Dir: Bartosz M. Kowalski  -  Sequel to the Netflix-produced surprise hit about mutant killers in the woods around a no-tech-allowed youth camp. This follow-up takes place the next day and night after the events of the first, with that film's "final girl" (Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz) now the one infected by alien black goo that seeps out from an old meteorite. It's up to some undertrained, underequipped local cops (Mateusz Wieclawek & Zofia Wichlacz) and some bumbling civilian militia guys to stop the murderous threat.

I enjoyed parts of the first film, but this sequel was terrible. The filmmakers lean more heavily on broad comedy, and the second half of the film takes a turn that could have been clever if well executed, but instead becomes ponderous and dumb. A distinct step down from the first film, another sequel is naturally set up at the end.   (3/10)

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A Quiet Place to Kill  (1970)  Italy/Dir: Umberto Lenzi  -  Carroll Baker stars as a down-on-her-luck model/racecar driver (!!!) who gets involved with her ex (Jean Sorel) and his new wife (Anna Proclemer) and their plots to do away with each other. Also featuring Luis Davila, Alberto Dalbes, Hugo Blanco, Lisa Halvorsen, and Marina Coffa.

The third in the Baker/Lenzi Trilogy, this one has less emphasis on sex and nudity, although there still is a bit of that. Sorel is a bit of a bore, but the other performances are fine. This is also the least outrageous of the three films, but it's still a decent suspense/thriller. As previously mentioned, this was also released as Paranoia.  (6/10)

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Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters  (1970)  Mexico/Dir: Gilberto Martinez Solares  -  This incredible mash-up teams veteran masked wrestler Santo (Santo) with Blue Demon (Blue Demon) as they face an unholy alliance of supernatural horror-meets-science run amok! After noted evil scientist Dr. Bruno Halder (Carlos Ancira) dies, he is revived by his dwarf brother Otto (Ivan J. Rado). They use their squad of revived, green-skinned henchmen to assemble a rogue's gallery of fiendish horror: Frankenstein's Monster, The Vampire, The Vampire Woman, The Mummy, The Cyclops, and the Wolf Man. This epic clash between the forces of darkness and the masters of the squared circle is one of the greatest spectacles in screen history.

This movie is amazing. Nonsense plot, oddball characters, ridiculous special effects, lengthy diversions into musical stage performances and wrestling matches. Some of the creatures use costumes from The Ship of Monsters (1961). During the lengthy opening credits, where each character is introduced, Frankenstein is listed on screen as "Franquestain". Needless to say, this is a must-see for fans of bizarre cinema.   (7/10)

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Shadow of Illusion  (1970)  Italy/Dir: Mario Caiano  -  Gail Bland (Daniela Giordano) is a model and the face of a new cosmetics company called Isis. When she is sent to Egypt on a promotional assignment, she gets entangled with a cult that wants to reestablish the worship of the ancient Egyptian gods. Also featuring William Berger, Krista Nell, Antonio Cantafora, Mirella Pamphili, and Enzo Maggio. The only highlight here is the Egyptian location shooting, with many fine vistas on display. The story and acting are both bland, like the last name of Giordano's character.    (5/10)

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The Bloodstained Butterfly  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Duccio Tessari  -  Giallo thriller concerning the brutal murder of a young woman in a park. A TV sportscaster (Giancarlo Sbragia) is accused of the crime, but his lengthy trial brings up questions of his guilt. Helmut Berger stars as a temperamental musician who gets drawn into the case. Also featuring Evelyn Stewart, Silvano Tranquilli, Wendy D'Olive, Gunther Stoll, Lorella De Luca, Carole Andre, and Wolfgang Preiss.

After the smash success of Dario Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, the giallo craze swept Europe and dominated Italian genre film for the next several years. Dozens were turned out in 1971-1974. Most are of dubious quality. This film stands out a bit for being a little more serious in tone, with less outlandish violence, sex or stylistic flourishes. The emphasis on the courtroom drama aspect is also unusual.   (6/10)

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The Case of the Scorpion's Tail  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Sergio Martino  -  A mystery about a series of murders connected to an inheritance after a man dies in an aviation accident. An insurance investigator (George Hilton) and his girlfriend (Anita Strindberg) look into the case. Also with Evelyn Stewart, Luigi Pistilli, Alberto de Mendoza, Janice Reynaud, Luis Barboo, Tom Felleghy, Tomas Pico, and Lisa Leonardi. Classic giallo with beautiful women, lush locations (Greece is heavily featured), and bloody violence.   (7/10)

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Cuadecuc, Vampir  (1971)  Spain/Dir: Pere Portabella  -  What was initially planned as a simple behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of Jess Franco's Count Dracula (1970) is instead presented as an arthouse exercise. The cinematography is very grainy B&W and there is no live sound, the soundtrack consisting instead of various classic music snippets and atonal sound effects. The footage ranges from actual shots from Franco's film to backstage prep work and rehearsals of the actors. Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Maria Rohm, Soledad Miranda, and Jack Taylor all appear. I honestly didn't get the point of the whole thing, but maybe if I was really high i would have found it profound.   (5/10)

 

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Death Walks on High Heels  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Luciano Ercoli  -  After a notorious thief is killed, his stripper daughter (Susan Scott) becomes a target of person or persons unknown searching for a stash of diamonds. Also featuring Simon Andreu, Frank Wolff, Carlo Gentili, George Rigaud, Jose Manuel Martin, Luciano Rossi, Fabrizio Moresco, and Claudie Lange. Yet another mid-range-quality giallo with less gore but some cringeworthy dance scenes, like one with Scott in blackface.   (6/10)

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Demons  (1971)  Japan/Dir: Toshio Matsumoto  -  A ronin (Katsuo Nakamura) vows vengeance against the geisha who robbed him. This highly stylized adaptation of a stage play is shot in B&W, in the old 4:3 ratio, on darkened, cramped sets, all to elicit an oppressive, claustrophobic sense of dread. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for it, but I found myself bored through most of the 2-hour-15-minute runtime. This film seems to be a critical favorite, and most viewer reviews that I saw were ecstatic.  (6/10)

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Do Not Deliver Us from Evil  (1971)  France/Dir: Joel Seria  -  Two Catholic school girls (Jeanne Goupil and Catherine Wagener) decide to "devote themselves to Satan", and so begin committing increasingly depraved and violent acts on first, animals, and then men. Things reach a terrible fever pitch during an unsupervised summer vacation.

A very controversial film upon its release (it was severely censored and then outright banned for awhile in its home country), this is disturbing, although not as brazenly sleazy or exploitative as one would expect given its reputation. The acting by the two leads is very good, and I was relieved to see that they were 19 and 20 at the time of filming, since they appear much younger, and are often in less-than-savory situations. The ending is memorable.   (7/10)

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The Fourth Victim  (1971)  Spain/Italy/Dir: Eugenio Martin  -  An Englishman (Michael Craig) has bad marital luck - all 3 of his previous wives died under suspicious circumstances. Now he has his eyes set on wife #4 (Carroll Baker), but this time he may be in for more than he bargained for. Also with Miranda Campa, Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez, Enzo Garinei, and Marina Malfatti. This giallo-esque thriller is rather routine, but the story takes some mildly surprising turns. Also released as The Last Mrs. Anderson and Death at the Deep End of the Swimming Pool.   (6/10)

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The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Riccardo Freda  -  Another giallo, this time with a mystery man/woman murdering people connected to the Swiss ambassador (Anton Diffring) to Ireland. With Luigi Pistilli as the investigator, Dagmar Lassander, Arthur O'Sullivan, Werner Pochath, Dominique Boschero, Renato Romano, Sergio Doria, and Valentina Cortese. 

This one stands out for being set and shot in Ireland. The murders are grisly, although the special effects are primitive enough to elicit chuckles rather than gasps. I included this movie here to be a completist, but I'm not sure if there's an Italian language print. The one I watched was in English, although with everything done post-dub. Luigi Pistilli with an Irish accent was amusing.   (6/10)

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A Lizard in a Woman's Skin  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Lucio Fulci  -  A troubled woman (Florinda Bolkan) has vivid, horrifying dreams that include murder. When an actual murder occurs that seems to directly mirror that of her dreams, she wonders if she's the culprit. Also starring Stanley Baker as the police inspector on the case, Jean Sorel as Bolkan's philandering husband, Leo Genn as her father, Silvia Monti, Alberto de Mendoza, Penny Brown, Mike Kennedy, Ely Galleani, George Rigaud, and Anita Strindberg.

Writer-director Fulci crafts an interesting, if not wholly coherent tale of paranoia, debauchery and madness. There are multiple hallucinatory dream sequences, drug and sex parties, lots of nonsense psychobabble, and gruesome special effects so effective that there was literally a trial after the film's release where the filmmakers had to prove that they hadn't actually harmed some dogs (they didn't, and in the hi-def Blu-ray that I watched, they were clearly props). Bolkan, from Brazil, was one of the more interesting beauties in Euro-film circles of the late-60's and 70's. She followed this up with another film for Fulci, Don't Torture a Duckling (1972). Meanwhile, this one was also released as Schizoid.   (7/10)

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The 2020 Washington DC Film Critics Association Best Foreign Film …

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Another Round (2020) Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark ****

 

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

 

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La Llorona (2019) Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala

 

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The Mole Agent (2020) Maite Alberdi, Chile

 

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Night of the Kings (2020) Philippe Lacote, Ivory Coast

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Madness - The Eyes of the Moon  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Cesare Rau  -  A group of pretty young people go out to an isolated manor to have a drug-fueled sex party, but they run into unexpected danger when an escaped lunatic shows up. With Thomas Hunter, Benjamin Lev, Francesca Romana Coluzzi, Merlene Mayer, **** Mannari, Pietro Zardini, Marzia Damon, and Wanda Manzionna. This justly-forgotten, low-budget obscurity is a sleazy waste of time. The title song, performed by a rock group called the Black Sunday Flowers who appear in a nightclub at the beginning of the film, is repeated enough times to make the viewer want to take an icepick in the ears.   (3/10)

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