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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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Malpertuis  (1971)  Belgium/Dir: Harry Kumel  -  Bizarre dark fantasy about a young sailor (Matthieu Carriere) who is brought to a huge mansion called Malpertuis. The place is filled with oddball characters presided over by the dying, bedridden Cassavius (Orson Welles). As the sailor struggles to figure what is going on, a curse that states anyone who tries to leave Malpertuis will die begins to take effect. Also starring Susan Hampshire, Michel Bouquet, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Daniel Pilon, Dora van der Groen, Sylvie Vartan, and Walter Rilla. This strange, elusive film has good production values and decent performances. The story is a bit too obscure, but I never lost interest. The silly American title was The Legend of Doom House.  (7/10)

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The Man with Icy Eyes  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Alberto De Martino  -  When a powerful state senator is assassinated, a man is quickly arrested for the crime. Reporter Eddie Mills (Antonio Sabato) decides to look further into the case, unveiling a complicated scheme of treachery and murder. Also featuring Barbara Bouchet, Faith Domergue, Keenan Wynn, Corrado Gaipa, Giovanni Petrucci, and Victor Buono. 

Shot on location in New Mexico, the setting is about the only thing that stands out in this uninspired mystery-thriller. Buono was unavailable to dub his lines, so his performance is unusual.   (5/10)

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Night of the Damned  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Filippo Walter Ratti  -  Famous investigative journalist Jean Duprey (Pierre Brice) receives a letter from an old friend, prompting him to visit the latter at his estate. There Jean learns that his friend is ill, as are others in the vicinity, and it may all be linked to a curse from a long-dead witch. Also featuring Patrizia Viotti, Angela De Leo, Antonio Pavan, Alessandro Tedeschi, Mario Carra, Carla Mancini, and Daniela D'Agostino. 

A throwback to the kind of neo-gothic horror that Italy was producing a decade earlier, this entry lacks much of the charm, skill and inspiration of those. There are still some occasionally memorable moments, but not enough to go out of your way to seek this one out.   (5/10)

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Pastel de Sangre  (1971)  Spain/Dir: Francesc Bellmunt & Jaime Chavarri & Emilio Martinez Lazaro & Jose Maria Valles  -  Anthology film comprised of four short tales. The first is set during the Crusades circa 1000 AD, with a roaming knight encountering madness on his travels. The second is variation of Frankenstein with the scientist's monster (this time with a completely normal appearance) wandering the 19th century countryside and attempting to mimic the behavior of those he encounters. The second tale is set during the Roman persecution of the Christians, as soldiers hunt the new religion's followers among the Celts, only to encounter a vampire. And the final tale is a modern-set ghostly love story.

The production qualities are meager, although I don't know if things would have appeared better with a nicer print: the one on rarefilmm.com that I watched was murky and washed out. The first and last stories were a waste of time for me, while the third was a bit livelier, and the Frankenstein one was mildly interesting if only as a unique take on the material. The title translates to either Blood Pie (the onscreen subtitle version) or Cake of Blood (under which it's listed on Letterboxd).  (5/10)

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Madchen in Uniform  (1931)  Germany/Dir: Leontine Sagan & Carl Froelich  -  A newly arrived student (Hertha Thiele) at an all-girls school falls in love with one of her teachers (Dorothea Wieck). This drama of loneliness, institutional suppression, and the confusion of adolescence is told in a clear and powerful manner. The performances are all very good, but Thiele is outstanding, with some of the most moving close-ups that I've ever seen. This film well deserves its sterling reputation among Feminist and Queer Cinema circles.   (9/10)

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1930

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4.  Anna Christie (1930) Jacques Feyder, USA

I thought that the film itself was on par with the English language version and Garbo is just as good performing in German.  Salka Viertel is no match for Marie Dressler as Marthy but Theo Shall gives a little softer and slightly more sympathetic interpretation of Matt than Charles Bickford did even though he is essentially delivering the same lines.

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Slaughter Hotel  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Fernando Di Leo  -  Giallo sleaze about an isolated health sanatorium where a mysterious killer is targeting the patients and staff. Klaus Kinski is top-billed as the nervous-looking head doctor. Also featuring Rosalba Neri, Margaret Lee, Jane Garret, Gioia Desideri, John Karlsen, Giangiacomo Elia, Fernando Cerulli, and Monica Strebel.

This film is more interested in naked skin than bloodshed, with many lengthy sex scenes that border on the hardcore. Rosalba Neri in particular spends much her screen time completely nude, although I read that a double was used for her most (extremely) intimate scene. The filmmakers use a visual gimmick that I won't go into to that's intended to cast suspicion in a certain direction, but I just found it contrived, as well as the ultimate reasoning for the killing spree. The final frames are memorably gruesome. Also released as The Cold Blooded Beast and Asylum Erotica.   (5/10)

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Something Creeping in the Dark  (1971)  Italy/Dir: Mario Colucci  -  On a dark and stormy night, several motorists find themselves stranded when a bridge washes out. They all decide to go to the nearby spooky mansions to wait until the floodwaters subside. As they each confront their various dramas, they also become convinced that sinister supernatural forces are at play. Starring Lucia Bose and Giacomo Rossi Stuart as a bickering married couple, Farley Granger as a leather-jacket-clad career criminal named "Spike", Stelvio Rosi, Mia Genberg, Gianni Medici, Giulia Rovai, Franco Beltramme, Angelo Francisco Lavagnino, and Dino Fazio. This forgettable outing suffers from a leaden pace and a lack of suspense, as well as some miscast roles.   (5/10)

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Funeral Parade of Roses  (1969)  Japan/Dir: Toshio Matsumoto  -  A frenzied glimpse into the underground gay-and-trans community of Tokyo. Blending a fictional tale with documentary segments and interviews, the film vaguely focuses on Eddie (Pita aka Peter aka Shinnosuke Ikehata), a gay transvestite entertainer and model. Various romantic conflicts are interspersed with the volatile political climate of the time. Artfully stylish, with several sequences of rapid-cut edits and near-subliminal imagery, some of the techniques on screen are said to have influenced Kubrick's style on A Clockwork Orange. A minor critical success at the time of its original release, this film has gained enormous popularity in the past few years for its ahead-of-the-curve presentation of marginalized society.   (7/10)

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The Crimes of the Black Cat  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Sergio Pastore  -  Another giallo, this time with a blind pianist (Anthony Steffen) as the protagonist, assisting the authorities in tracking down a mysterious killer of women. Also featuring Sylva Koscina, Giovanna Lenzi, Renato De Carmine, Umberto Raho, Annabella Incontrera, Isabelle Marchall, Shirley Corrign, and Giacomo Rossi Stuart. There are a couple of unusual aspects to this thriller which lifts a lot from Dario Argento's The Cat O' Nine Tails. One is the primary method of killing: using a cat whose claws were dipped in poison! The identity of the culprit is also unexpected, and there's a particularly grisly shower murder. Also released as Seven Shawls of Yellow Silk!   (6/10)

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Daughter of Dracula  (1972)  France/Portugal/Dir: Jess Franco  -  Another near-incoherent exercise in softcore boredom from the master of the form, Jess Franco. After the death of her mother, Luisa Karlstein (Carmen Yazalde) learns that she's descended from a line of vampires, and that her ancestor, the ancient Count Karlstein (Howard Vernon) resides in the crypt of the family castle. Also featuring Anne Libert, Alberto Dalbes, Daniel White, Fernando Bilbao, Yelena Samarina, and Jess Franco.

There are the usual long takes, clumsy sex scenes, and abundant nudity that never quite becomes erotic thanks to the ineptitude of Franco's direction. Also like most of his films, it's a real international affair, as the film is considered French, yet the version I watched was in Portuguese, while the credits were in German. For Franco fanatics (masochists) only, all others avoid.   (3/10)

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Death Walks at Midnight  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Luciano Ercoli  -  Thriller starring Susan Scott (aka Nieves Navarro) as a model who witnesses a murder across the street in the adjacent high-rise during a photoshoot. The only problem is she was high on drugs at the time, and no one believes her story, nor can they find any evidence. When she keeps seeing the killer, she decides to solve the case herself. Also featuring Simon Andreu, Peter Martell, Carlo Gentili,  Ivano Staccioli, Claudio Pellegrini, Fabrizio Moresco, Claudie Lange, Roberto Cifarelli, and Luciano Rossi. 

This one isn't a giallo exactly, as the identity of the murderer is never a mystery. It's more of a "why" than a "whodunit". The method of murder is a bit odd, with the killer using a spiked metal glove. Otherwise, this is routine stuff, with adequate filmmaking and acting.   (6/10)

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The Devil  (1972)  Poland/Dir: Andrzej Zulawski  -  In war-torn 19th century Poland, a political prisoner (Leszek Teleszynski) is freed from captivity by the Devil (Wojciech Pszoniak). The latter then leads the former on a hallucinatory journey across the countryside, encountering various characters, all leading the prisoner into madness. 

Here's another one that's beloved by the arthouse crowd, but which did little for me. It was too long, too plotless, and none of the characters behaved in any sort of manner comparable with actual people. If one enjoys weirdness for weirdness sake, or obtuse political allegory, then they may enjoy this more than I did.   (6/10)

 

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Malnazidos . 2020. Directed by Javier Ruiz Caldera. Spain. Comedy Horror.

I haven't seen this movie yet for a couple of reasons. For those who are not familiar with his work, Caldera makes movies that pay tribute to or are parodies of well-known movies. I am not a big fan of his, but he made three movies that I really like; they're my guilty pleasures, so to speak.

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Caldera's first movie is Spanish Movie. It's a parody that borrows heavily , about every 5 minutes, from dozens of horror movies. I thought it was over-saturated and not very funny. I kept watching only to spot the cameos of famous directors and actors in the movie.

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Then I saw Three Many Weddings, in which Bridget Jones goes to three weddings but no funeral. It's a harmless romantic comedy with a restroom scene that gave a bad aftertaste. Still, I kept trying.

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Ghost Graduation. The Breakfast Club + The Sixth Sense.  A high school teacher can see the ghosts of 5 students who died during detention years ago. There's even a scene in which the ghosts dance all of a sudden. The ending reminded me a lot of In&Out. To my surprise, I liked, and I've watched a couple of times more.

Then came two movies that have become favorites of mine. Each movie is based on two Spanish comic books that parodied spies and superheroes:

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Spy Time                                                                                                                                                                        Superlopez

Ruiz Caldera shows maturity as a director and writer with these two movies. He has perfected his style and finds the right tone  to actually pay tribute the original sources while updating the material.  The result is enjoyable, even hilarious at times.

So, what about Malnazidos? It was released a year ago and i still haven't seen it. I've been avoiding it, to be honest. I'm not a fan of Zombie Horror to begin with, so I'm not going to get all the references that Ruiz Caldera is going to throw in the movie. But since Caldera has grown on me as a director, I know I'm going to watch it eventually.

 

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Eye in the Labyrinth  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Mario Caiano  -  Rosemary Dexter stars as the concerned girlfriend of a doctor (Horst Frank) who has gone missing. She tracks his last location to a resort spa, and soon after her arrival, the bodies begin piling up. With Adolfo Celi, Sybil Danning, Franco Ressel, Michael Maien, Benjamin Lev, Gigi Rizzi, Peter Kranz, and Alida Valli. Dexter is a less-than-compelling lead, and the identity of the killer is fairly obvious, but I liked some aspects of this Euro-mystery-thriller. Celi and Valli have fun with their roles as a ceaselessly-battling couple, I always like seeing Sybil Danning, and some of the other supporting characters are interesting. The version I watched seemed to have cartoonishly exaggerated sound effects.   (6/10) 

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A Game for Eveline  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Marcello Avallone  -  After a car accident, a young couple (Erna Schurer & Wolfgang Hillinger) find hospitality in the nearby home of another couple (Adriana Bogdan & Marco Guglielmi). The newcomers soon learn that something strange is going at the house - namely, that the residents once had a daughter named Eveline who continues to make appearances despite being dead. Also featuring Rita Calderoni. This obscurity, co-written by star Marco Guglielmi, has some nice location shots but otherwise not much to recommend.  (5/10)

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The 2020 Broadcast Critics Best Picture and Best Foreign Film ….

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Minari (2020) Lee Isaac Chung, South Korea ****

 

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Another Round (2020) Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark

 

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Collective (2019) Alexander Nanau, Romania

 

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La Llorona (2019) Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala

 

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The Life Ahead (2020) Edoardo Ponti, Italy

 

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Two of Us (2019) Filippo Meneghetti, France

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Insect Woman  (1972)  South Korea/Dir: Kim Ki-young  -  The director of The Housemaid (1960) returns with another psychosexual tale of warped love. Yuh-Jung Youn stars as a troubled teen who is kicked out of school. Her mother sends her to work as a bar hostess, which leads to her becoming the mistress of an abusive suitor (Won Namkung). Also featuring Gye-hyeon Jeon. The main point of interest for me was seeing future Oscar winner Youn (Minari) in the beginning of her career, starring in her second film. She's good in a difficult role. I would like to see this movie again in a better quality print. The copy I watched on rarefilmm was heavily scratched up, faded and washed out, and had blocky English subtitles superimposed over Spanish subtitles.    (6/10)

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Knife of Ice  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Umberto Lenzi  -  Carroll Baker stars as a woman who was left mute in childhood after a traumatic incident. She's lived with her uncle (George Rigaud) in the years since, but when her cousin (Evelyn Stewart) arrives, a mysterious murderer begins a killing spree. Also featuring Alan Scott, Eduardo Fajardo, Silvia Monelli, Franco Fantasia, Mario Pardo, and Jose Marco. Baker's fourth teaming with director Lenzi is perhaps the least interesting, although I'm sure she enjoyed the challenge of a completely mute lead performance.    (6/10)

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The Possession of Virginia  (1972)  Canada/Dir: Jean Beaudin  -  After a man's suicide, a journalist (Daniel Pilon) looks into his life, leading the reporter to the dead man's girlfriend (Danielle Ouimet) and a satanic cult. Also featuring Louise Marleau and Rose-Rey Duzil. I haven't seen too many French Canadian movies, and even fewer FC horror films, so this one was interesting to me for that reason alone. The performances were decent, but the story was sluggish, and things didn't get weird until the final reel. Also released as The Sensual Sorceress and Satan's Sabbath.   (5/10)

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The Red Headed Corpse  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Renzo Russo  -  An aging, struggling painter (Farley Granger) is on the brink of giving up on his art and life when his mannequin (Erika Blanc) comes to life. She initially revives his career and his zest for life, but she soon begins having affairs and demanding more money. Also featuring Krista Nell, Ivana Novak, Venantino Venantini, and Erol Keskin. This is sort of a mash-up of Mannequin and The Blue Angel mixed with supernatural spices. It's also pretty dumb, although fans of Erika Blanc should enjoy it. Also released as The Sensuous Doll and Sweet Spirits.  (5/10)

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Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter  (1972)  Mexico/Dir: Miguel M. Delgado  -  Santo the masked wrestler (Santo the masked wrestler) returns, this time battling Frankenstein's daughter Freda (Gina Romand), who has a formula that reverses the aging process. The only problem is her formula require more and more blood. She realizes that the ultra-powerful blood of Santo will make her formula even more effective, so she sends her goons, including a squad of red-shirt-clad revived crooks, as well as a "half-man/half-beast" that is usually kept locked in a cage, out to kidnap Santo and those he loves. Also featuring Roberto Canedo, Carlos Agosti, Anel, Sonia Fuentes, Carlos Suarez, and Gerardo Zepeda. These films are starting to repeat themselves, and this one borrows heavily from the earlier Wrestling Women vs the Robot Assassin. Santo was in his mid-50's by this point, but still full of energy, apparently. The movie is still a bit fun in that Saturday-morning matinee sort of way, even if it's not too memorable.  (5/10)

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1931

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6.  Marius (1931) Alexander Korda, France

The first in Marcel Pagnol’s Fanny trilogy.  The thing I liked best about this film were the performances by the supporting characters.  Notably, Fernand Charpin, Paul Dullac and Alida Rouffe.

 

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2.  Fanny (1932) Marc Allegret, France

The second part of Marcel Pagnol’s trilogy on par with the first episode.

 

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7.  Cesar (1936) Marcel Pagnol, France

This was my favourite of the trilogy and directed by the author himself.  I thought both Orane Demazis and Pierre Fresnay were more effective playing the couple in their later years.

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Seven Blood-Stained Orchids  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Umberto Lenzi  -  Minor giallo concerning a series of murders committed by the "Half-Moon Killer". When one of his intended victims (Uschi Glas) manages to survive, she and her fiancé (Antonio Sabato) decide to try and find the culprit before more women are killed. Also featuring Pier Paolo Capponi, Rossella Falk, Marina Malfatti, Renato Romano, Claudio Gora, Gabriella Giorgelli, and Marisa Mell. There's a good  score courtesy of Riz Ortolani, and a lot of pretty ladies, but the script (a mash-up of ideas from scripters Lenzi and Roberto Gianviti, based on works by Edgar Wallace and Cornell Woolrich) is jumbled and uneven.   (6/10)

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Seven Murders for Scotland Yard  (1972)  Spain/Dir: Jose Luis Madrid  -  Spanish-Italian co-production set in the UK about a series of contemporary murders that seem to emulate the M.O. of Jack the Ripper. Two detectives (Andres Resino & Renzo Marignano, made up like groovy then-modern versions of Holmes & Watson) are on the case, and their chief suspect is crippled former-acrobat Bruno (Spanish horror star Paul Naschy). Also featuring Patricia Loran, Orchidea De Santis, Irene Mir, and Franco Borelli. A dull, muddled misfire, with some of the worst indoor lighting that I've ever seen in a professional film.   (4/10)

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