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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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Shadows Unseen  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Camillo Bazzoni  -  A violent cop (Frederick Stafford) is put on the case when a journalist is murdered. Also featuring Marilu Tolo, Franco Fabrizi, Reinhard Kolldehoff, Corrado Gaipa, Claudio Gora, Ninetto Davoli, Rosita Torosh, and Judy Winter. The film's first act seems a bit like a giallo in tone, but things soon turn more toward political corruption and underworld shenanigans rather than bloody sex crimes. Stafford, best known for Hitchcock's Topaz, is bit dull here for my tastes.   (5/10)

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Siege of Terror  (1972)  Spain/Dir: Luis Marquina  -  Love triangle that leads to betrayal and murder, starring Riccardo Garrone, Libertad Leblanc and Tony Kendall. Also featuring Carlos Pinar, Francisco Piquer, Loredana Giustini, Lorenzo Robledo, and Maria Mune. Boring and clumsy, and the location shooting adds little. Also released as Corruption.   (4/10)

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Smile Before Death  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Silvio Amadio  -  Teenager Nancy (Jenny Tamburi) arrives at her family estate soon after the death of her mother. She doesn't trust her stepfather (Silvano Tranquilli), or his photographer friend (Rosalba Neri), and senses something sinister is afoot. Also featuring Hiram Keller, Dana Ghia, Luigi Antonio Guerra, and Zora Gheorgieva. Typical Euro-sleaze thriller with a lot of naked flesh. I always like seeing Rosalba Neri, and Jenny Tamburi (aka Luciana Della Robbia aka Luciana Tamburini) wasn't bad, either.   (6/10)

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So Sweet, So Dead  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Roberto Bianchi Montero  -  Giallo starring Farley Granger as a police detective investigating a series of murders targeting unfaithful wives. Also featuring Sylva Koscina, Silvano Tranquilli, Annabella Incontrera, Chris Avram, Sandro Pizzochero, Krista Nell, Angela Covello, Jessica Dublin, and Susan Scott.

This sordid, bloody mystery-thriller features a lot of naked ladies, gory killings, and clunky dialogue. However, the sleaziest aspect of this film is what happened after its release. After a brief US distribution under the above title, as well as Bad Girls, Confessions of a Sex Maniac, and The Slasher...Is the Sex Maniac!, in 1976 the film was re-edited, with hardcore sex scenes inserted (under the pretense that Granger's character discovered film proof of the victims' infidelities), and was released again under the title Penetration. When Granger was asked about appearing in a XXX-rated film, he was aghast, and planned to sue to have the film suppressed. He was successful in America, but the newer version did play in Europe. That's showbiz, kids!    (6/10)

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Just recently I purchased M, a German film, and Peter Lorre's first film as well. It's so realistic for 1931. 

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I'm a big Peter Lorre fan anyway, but this may be his best performance. The director (Fritz Lang) manages to make ordinary criminals look like the good guys compared to the child killer. The criminal underworld and police are in a race with each other to catch him. In the end, I can't help but feel sorry for him.  It's obvious he needs to be in a hospital or at least be given a fair trial, not ripped apart by gangsters at a mock trial. Definitely worth a watch!

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Tragic Ceremony  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Riccardo Freda  -  Murky horror drama about a quartet of young tourists in the English countryside who end up at a large estate on the same night that the Lord and Lady (Luigi Pistilli and Luciana Paluzzi) of the manor are holding a satanic ritual. Starring Camille Keaton, Tony Isbert, Maximo Valverde, Jose Calvo, Giovanni Petrucci, Paul Muller, and Irina Demick. This is a rather low-key affair, although there are a couple of cartoonish gory moments. Camille Keaton was in the midst of her Italian film phase before coming back to the US a few years later and finding cult infamy as the star of I Spit on Your Grave. The English translation of the film's length Italian title is Extracts from the Files of the Secret Police of a European Capital. The version I watched was in Spanish.  (5/10)

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Tropic of Cancer  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Giampaolo Lomi & Edoardo Mulargia  -  Bizarre horror/mystery/erotic thriller hybrid about a bickering married couple (Gabriele Tinti & Anita Strindberg) who travel to Haiti to visit the husband's doctor friend (Anthony Steffen, who co-wrote the bonkers screenplay). The doctor has recently concocted a new drug that's like a mix of LSD and Viagra, and sinister forces want to control it, so the doctor and the couple are swept up in a whirlwind of sex and violence. Also featuring Umberto Raho, Stelio Candelli, Gordon Felio, and Richard Osborne.

Not to be confused with the 1970 adaptation of the Henry Miller novel, this crazed, sleazy obscurity (also known as Peacock's Place and Death in Haiti) has a confused script, odd direction (perhaps due to multiple directors), and off-kilter performances. There's a lot of nudity, both male and female, and a lot of poorly-dated race and sexuality attitudes. Fans of far-out cinema may find something of interest, but otherwise steer clear.   (5/10)

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Misterio (aka Studio Q). 1980.  Directed by Marcela Fernández Violante. México. With Juan Ferrara, Helena Rojo, Víctor Junco, Beatriz Sheridan, Armando Silvestre.

A television director convinces an actor to accept the lead in his next soap opera. From the very first day he realizes that even his private moments are not only filmed but already scripted.

Very good movie about reality and fantasy. Fernández Violante keeps the story credible and fast-paced.  Vicente Leñero adapted the screenplay from his own novel.

There are two scenes that seem like too much and out of place, but this is a minor quibble.

Juan Ferrara and Helena Rojo are excellent as the actor and his wife/costar. He shows the confusion, frustration, and finally the determination of an actor ready to deal with the unusual situation; she is perfect as the woman who one moment is his wife and the next his costar. When they are together, they switch from realistic, everyday talk to cheesy soap-opera dialog effortlessly.  Víctor Junco, as the domineering, Machiavellian director is also outstanding.

This the second time I've seen this movie. The first time I saw when it ran for only a few days in a small movie theater.

 

 

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The 2020 Danish Bodil Award for Best Picture went to …

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Another Round (2020) Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark

 

The 2020 Danish Bodil Award for Best Non-American Picture went to …

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) Celine Sciamma, France

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Byleth: The Demon of Incest  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Leopoldo Savona  -  Gothic horror period piece with Mark Damon as an Italian nobleman who is shocked when his sister (Claudia Gravy) returns with a husband (Aldo Bufi Landi) after a long trip. Damon grows more and more jealous, while the nearby area sees a series of murders occur. Can there be a connection? Also featuring Franco Jamonte, Alessandro Perrella, Fernando Cerulli, Silvana Panfili, and Marzia Damon. The handsome production design elevates this tawdry thriller, replete with copious nudity and a handful of murders.   (5/10)

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The French Sex Murders  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Ferdinando Merighi  -  Giallo thriller about a mystery killer targeting people connected to a high-class brothel run by Madame Colette (Anita Ekberg). Robert Sacchi (in full Bogart mode) stars as the police investigator looking into the case. Also featuring Evelyne Kraft, Rosalba Neri, Peter Martell, Eva Astor, Renato Romano, Rolf Eden, Piera Viotti, Gordon Mitchell, Howard Vernon, and Barbara Bouchet. This ridiculous Eurotrash exercise is highlighted by a once-in-a-lifetime cast, an incoherent script, and bizarre cinematic techniques, such as showing each killing over and over in rapid succession, each seen through a different colored filter. Silly, kinda dumb, and mildly entertaining.   (6/10)

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My Dear Killer  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Tonino Valerii  -  When a decapitated body is found, police inspector Luca Peretti (George Hilton) is put on the case. He unravels a complicated web of corruption and criminality, while more bodies begin to pile up. Also featuring Marilu Tolo, Salvo Randone, William Berger, Patty Shepard, Manuel Zarzo, Piero Lulli, and Helga Line. This passable police thriller is sometimes called a horror film, but it isn't, although a couple of the killings are bloody. The score is by Ennio Morricone.  (6/10)

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Naked Girl Murdered in the Park  (1972)  Italy/Dir: Alfonso Brescia  -  When a wealthy old man is murdered in a Madrid amusement park the day after getting a large life insurance policy, an investigator (Robert Hoffmann) is assigned to look into it. He encounters the late man's eccentric family, and soon more bodies turn up, including the title one. Featuring Pilar Velazquez, Irina Demick, Howard Ross, Patrizia Adiutori, Philippe Leroy, Teresa Gimpera, and Adolfo Celi. This Italian-Spanish co-production is slow and largely uninteresting, although there's the requisite nudity and minor violence for those easily amused.   (5/10)

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The Ghostly Face  (1971)  Hong Kong/Dir: Sai King Yang & Shih-Ching Yang  -  Energetic if terminally silly martial arts revenge tale set in Indonesia. Ghostly Face (Deddy Sutomo) is a bandit and folk hero who wears a monstrous fright mask. While stealing a sacred spear from a temple, he kills the resident hero. The dead man's daughter (Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan) vows revenge and sets out to track down Ghostly Face. This Hong Kong-Indonesian-Taiwan co-production features a lot of travelogue footage of strange local festivals and ceremonies that pad out the running time between exaggerated martial arts duels. Polly Ling-Feng Shang-Kuan makes for an unusual leading lady in this sort of film, but unfortunately the script is so bad that I couldn't really judge her performance. The Mandarin-language copy I watched was lousy looking, with terrible burned-in English subtitles.   (5/10)

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Crimson, the Color of Blood  (1973)  Spain/Dir: Juan Fortuny  -  After a jewel thief (Paul Naschy) is shot in the head during a heist, his cohorts enlist a mad doctor to operate on his brain using his new technique that requires sections of another person's brain. Unfortunately, the gang use the brain of a sadistic psychopath, and the expected complications ensue. Also featuring Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot, Evelyne Scott, Claude Boisson, Gilda Arancio, Pierre Biet, and Victor Israel. This Spanish-French co-production is slow, poorly written, and badly directed. Spanish horror star Naschy spends much of the film in a coma off-screen, and none of the other performers are interesting. The version I watched was in French. Also released as The Man with the Severed Head.  (3/10)

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Death Carries a Cane  (1973)  Italy/Dir: Maurizio Pradeaux  -  Kitty (Susan Scott aka Nieves Navarro) happens to witness a murder while looking through a telescope. The killer was wearing a disguise, but when the story makes newspaper headlines, the murderer begins picking off people associated with the case. Also starring Robert Hoffmann as Kitty's fiance, George Martin as the lead police investigator, Simon Andreu, Anuska Borova, Serafino Profumo, Anna Liberati, Rosita Torosh, Cristina Tamborra, Nerina Montagnini, and Sal Borgese. More typical giallo stuff, with busy actress Scott making for an able lead. Also released as Maniac at LargeTormentor, and Trauma (one of a dozen or more to use that title).   (6/10)

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Devil Woman  (1973)  Hong Kong/Dir: Felix Villar & Chi-Lien Yu  -  Fantasy/action/horror hybrid set and filmed in the Philippines. After Manda (Rosemarie Gil) witnesses her family's death, she is taught black magic by a snake woman. Manda sets out to avenge the injustices of her life, but her evil magic corrupts her, and it's up to wandering martial artist Shu Wen (Alex Tzi-Fei Lung) to stop her. This cheap, ridiculous movie features evil dwarves, rock men, and a tree creature. Manda has snakes for hair, and the old snake woman, with the head and frizzy white hair of a person atop a very long snake body, is a sight to behold. The copy I watched was very poor quality. Also released as Bruka: Queen of Evil, and not to be confused with the 1970 Filipino movie also called Devil Woman and based on the same folklore.   (5/10) 

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The Dracula Saga  (1973)  Spain/Dir: Leon Klimovsky  -  Here's a real weird one from the director of many Spanish oddities. Berta (Tina Sainz) and her husband Hans (Tony Isbert) travel to the castle of Berta's extended family, the Draculas. Her grandfather is the Dracula (Narciso Ibanez Menta), and he's hoping that Berta's pregnancy will result in a suitable heir to the family lineage. Meanwhile, the other vampiric residents of the castle enjoy feeding on the locals and unwary passersby. Also featuring Helga Line, Maria Kosty, J.J. Paladino, Heinrich Starhemberg, Mimi Munoz, Betsabe Ruiz, Luis Ciges, and Jose Riesgo. All of the female vampires have to take their shirts off before feeding, there's a one-eyed mutant in the attic, and characters dream about a man with a bat face. The women all look good, especially Helga Line, who has rarely looked better. Also released as The Saga of the DraculasDracula: The Bloodline Continues, and my favorite, Death, Death, Death.   (6/10)

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The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein  (1973)  Spain/Dir: Jess Franco  -  More incoherent nonsense from Franco. Dr. Frankenstein (Dennis Price in a cameo) is killed by the mutant bird woman Melisa (Anne Libert), who works for the dastardly alchemist Dr. Cagliostro (Howard Vernon). Cagliostro hopes to use Frankenstein's Monster (Fernando Bilbao) to sire a race of new super beings. Also featuring Alberto Dalbes as the hero Dr. Seward, Beatriz Savon as Vera Frankenstein, Carmen Yalzade, Luis Barboo, Daniel White, Doris Thomas, Jess Franco himself as Frankenstein's assistant, and longtime Franco muse Lina Romay, here making her film debut.

Franco made a lot, and I do mean a lot, of weird movies, but this is one of the most outrageous. It was made back-to-back with Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein, aka The Screaming Dead, using much of the same cast, although many in different roles. Frankenstein's Monster has silver skin for some reason; the bird woman Melisa, who is also a psychic (?!?), has green feathers glued in patches around her nude body, and that's her whole costume; Cagliostro (played by Vernon, another Franco regular, and the actor that played Dracula in this film's companion piece) has a goatee that changes shape and color from scene to scene; and there's also a coven of skull-faced naked women devil worshipers in the dungeon. The closest this movie has to a hero is Dr. Seward, who was a supporting character in Bram Stoker's Dracula. None of it makes a lick of sense. There's another version simply titled The Rites of Frankenstein that cuts out a lot of the clumsy sex scenes, although the edited version still features a lot of nudity.    (4/10)

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Expulsion of the Devil  (1973)  France/Dir: Juan Luis Bunuel  -  A family of four move into a country house, and soon after strange, supernatural occurrences begin. Is it a poltergeist, or something more? Featuring Francoise Fabian, Jean-Marc Bory, Jean-Pierre Darras, Claude Dauphin, Michel Creton, Gerard Depardieu, Andre Weber, and Yasmine Dahm. This debut feature from the son of Luis Bunuel is both more straightforward and yet more pretentious than most of his father's work. The notable cast give mediocre performances, some playing it a bit too broadly, and I could never get into the story or the characters. The original title was At the Meeting of Joyous Death, while the above listed title was undoubtedly used to try to drum up American box office by implying something like The Exorcist. The original poster is decidedly NSFW.   (5/10)

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The Hanging Woman  (1973)  Spain/Dir: Jose Luis Marino  -  Here's another "throw everything at the screen" Spanish gothic horror mash-up. After a woman is found hanging from a tree, a young man (Stelvio Rosi) gets involved with graverobbers, a mad noblewoman (Maria Pia Conte) who dabbles in black magic, and the corpse-loving maniac (Paul Naschy) who works for her. Also featuring Dyanik Zurakowska, Pasquale Basile, Gerard Tichy, Aurora de Alba, and Eleanora Vargas. Along with all the stuff mentioned already, this movie also features terrible mummies, revived corpses, and a bit of nudity. It was odd seeing Naschy, then at the height of his horror career, in a mere supporting role. This film was also released under a slew of others titles, including Terror of the Living DeadBeyond the Living DeadBeyond the Evil DeadThe (O)rgy of the Dead, and Zombie 3: Return of the Living Dead. In some countries it was even released as being a Dracula movie!   (5/10)

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The Legend of Blood Castle  (1973)  Spain/Dir: Jorge Grau  -  Another version of the Elizabeth Bathory story with Lucia Bose as the wicked noblewoman who bathes in the blood of young women to retain her youthful appearance. Co-starring Espartaco Santoni as her co-conspirator and lover, and Ewa Aulin as the main virginal victim. Also featuring Ana Farra, Silvano Tranquilli, Lola Gaos, Enrique Vivo, and Maria Vico. While this has a more serious and sinister tone, I prefer the camp silliness of Countess Dracula with Ingrid Pitt. This one was also released as The Female ButcherThe Bloody Countess, and Blood Ceremony.   (5/10)

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Mark of the Devil Part 2  (1973)  West Germany/Dir: Adrian Hoven  -  Sequel to the sleazy yet very successful 1970 original that helped kickstart a minor trend in period-piece torture and sadism films. This is more of the same, with Erika Blanc getting top billing as a woman targeted for torture after her husband is murdered by one of the chief inquisitors (Reggie Nalder, also in the original). Also featuring Anton Diffring as the head inquisitor, Percy Hoven (the director's kid) as Blanc's son, Lukas Ammann, Jean-Pierre Zola, Astrid Kilian, Ellen Umlauf, and Joachim Hackethal. The bad guys target some nuns this time, as well, to make things extra unsavory. There's also an assault scene that's one of the most repugnant things I've seen. The original German title translates as Witches: Violated and Tortured to Death. That says it all.   (3/10)

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El Extraño Viaje (Strange Voyage). 1964. Spain. Directed by Fernando Fernán Gómez. With Lina Canalejas, Carlos Larrañaga, Tota Alba, Rafaela Aparicio, Jesús Franco (later known as Jess Franco), Sara Lezana.

Life in a small village. A young woman (Lina Canalejas)  is more that ready to get married to her musician boyfriend (Carlos Larrañaga), who keeps coming up with excuses not to do it; a domineering spinster (Tota Alba) bosses her younger and childlike siblings (Rafaela Aparicio, Jesús Franco) around, a spirited girl wants to become a model, and a group of old men get together to drink wine an comment on the daily events. With the discovery of two bodies, greed and kinky secrets are revealed.

Excellent movie. Fernán Gómez allows to story to develop in a slow and compelling way to its dramatic conclusion. Carlos Larrañaga and María Luisa Ponte overact a bit, but the rest of the cast gives very fine performances; Rafaela Aparicio and Jesús Franco are compelling as the bullied siblings, infusing their characters with innocence and horror with chilling results.

Fernán Gómez, Luis G.  Berlanga, and Pedro Beltrán wrote the screenplay loosely based on real events.

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