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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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No One Heard the Scream  (1973)  Spain/Dir: Eloy de la Iglesia  -  The mistress (Carmen Sevilla) of a rich man witnesses her neighbor (Vicente Parra) murder his wife. The desperate man forces the mistress to help him dispose of the body, which leads to the two developing an unexpected relationship. This modest thriller features good performances and a couple of well-executed suspense scenes.   (6/10)

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Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eyes  (1973)  Italy/Dir: Antonio Margheriti  -  Muddled mash-up of giallo and Old Dark House stories, with Jane Birkin starring as a woman visiting eccentric relatives in a Scottish castle. Soon people start turning up dead. Also featuring Hiram Keller, Anton Diffring, Francoise Christophe, Venantino Venantini, Doris Kunstmann, Dana Ghia, Konrad Georg, Luciano Pigozzi, and Serge Gainsbourg. The unusual cast isn't enough to elevate this above mediocrity.  (5/10)

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Sex of the Witch  (1973)  Italy/Dir: Angelo Pannaccio  -  Another giallo/Old-Dark-House mash-up, with a group of greedy young people assembling at the castle estate of their wealthy uncle. They each hope to inherit some of his fortune, but someone starts whittling down the potential heirs, one murder at a time. Featuring Susanna Levi, Jessica Dublin, Sergio Ferrero, Camille Keaton, Franco Garofalo, Donald O'Brien, Gianni Dei, and Augusto Nobile. This confused mess of a movie has ridiculous sex scenes, amateurish death scenes, and bad performances.   (4/10)

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Sexy Cat  (1973)  Spain/Dir: Julio Perez Tabernero  -  A television company hopes to produce a series based on a popular comic book character named "Sexy Cat", a female superspy and assassin. However, people involved with the production keep getting murdered by someone dressed as the title character. Featuring German Cobos, Dyanik Zurakowska, Lone Fleming, Maria Villa, Mariano Vidal Molina, Beni Deus, Fabian Conde, and Monika Kolpek. I liked the premise of this Spanish take on a giallo, but the execution was lacking.  (5/10)

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The She-Butterfly  (1973)  Yugoslavia/Dir: Djordje Kadijevic  -  In a small  village, a young man (Petar Bozovic) yearns to marry beautiful maiden Radojka (Mirjana Nikolic), but her father forbids it as the boy is too poor. To prove his worth, he agrees to work in a mill that's rumored to be cursed with vampires. This short (63 minutes) feature was originally made for TV, and is based on a Serbian folktale. It's well made considering the constraints, and it's considered the first Serbian horror film. The characters are amusing and the atmosphere excellent. Also known as Leptirica.  (7/10)

 

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1932

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4.  The Countess of Monte Cristo (1932) Karl Hartl, Germany

Two young women are hired as movie extras to simply drive a car to the front door of a hotel and then enter.  Instead they steal the car, drive to Monte Carlo and check into a posh hotel as a Countess and her maid intending to live the high life until discovered.  Brigitte Helm plays the Countess rather robotically, pardon the pun.  But Lucie Englisch is a revelation as her chatty sidekick/maid, a role she apparently specialized in.  The film was remade two years later with Fay Wray.

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Tenderness of the Wolves  (1973)  West Germany/Dir: Ulli Lommel  -  Grim crime drama with horror undertones, based on the real-life crimes of Fritz Haarmann (Kurt Raab), a serial murderer of men and children. Also featuring Jeff Roden, Margit Carstensen, Ingrid Caven, Wolfgang Schenck, Brigitte Mira, El Hedi ben Salem, Irm Hermann, Jurgen Prochnow, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Fassbinder also served as producer, and Lommel, a frequent collaborator, directs from a script by star Raab. Several Fassbinder regulars show up in smaller roles, as well. This felt like a Fassbinder movie, so if you're a fan, you may like it more than I did. I thought it was passable, and I'm sure the homosexual aspects, coupled with the graphic male nudity, would have made the movie quite controversial at the time of release. Lommel later made some of the worst regarded films ever made.   (6/10)

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The Uncertain Death  (1973)  Spain/Dir: Jose Ramon Larraz  -  A wealthy Englishman (Antonio Molino Rojo) has an affair with an Indian woman (Rosalba Neri) while he's staying on his plantation. He abandons her, and she commits suicide. Her goes to England, remarries, and brings his new wife and adult son back to India, where the wealthy man's karma begins to catch up to him. With Yelena Samarina, Mary Maude, Raffaelle Curi, Giuseppe Pertile, and Fernando Ulloa. I found this to be a dull slog, despite the (too brief) appearance of Neri, one of my favorite Euro actresses of the era.   (4/10)

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Italy’s Nastro d’Argento Film Journalists 2020 Best Picture …

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Hammamet (2020) Gianni Amelio, Italy

 

Italy’s Nastro d’Argento Film Journalists 2021 Best Picture …

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The Macaluso Sisters (2020) Emma Dante, Italy

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All in the Dim Cold Night  (1974)  Taiwan/Dir: Feng-Pan Yao  -  An unscrupulous land baron (Yang Yueh) forces himself on a peasant woman (Meng Chin). She becomes pregnant, but the baron refuses to acknowledge her, and when she and the baby die, her spirit exacts supernatural vengeance. This decent ghost revenge tale is hampered a bit by a limited budget and a few over-the-top performances. However, there is some good atmosphere and Meng Chin is excellent as the scorned woman.   (6/10)

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The Bloody Exorcism of Coffin Joe  (1974)  Brazil/Dir: Jose Mojica Marins  -  More outlandish meta-horror from Marins, who this time stars as himself. After the release of his latest movie, Marins goes on vacation over the Christmas holidays, staying at the secluded farmhouse of some friends. However, strange things start happening to his friends and Marins is convinced that something truly supernatural is afoot.

Many of Marins' films at this time had this same weird meta-narrative, with the fictional Coffin Joe and the real-life filmmaker Marins interacting with one another or within the same "universe". This outing is fairly straightforward for a Marins film, although things get outrageous in the final act. The filmmaking itself has improved and looks more polished and professional, although I'm not certain that adds much to the proceedings.   (6/10)

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Clap, You're Dead  (1974)  Italy/Dir: Mario Moroni  -  Very minor giallo about a mysterious killer targeting the cast and crew of a low-budget thriller under production. Featuring George Ardisson, Annabella Incontrera, Ivano Staccioli, Belinda Bron, Antonio Pierfederici, Renzo Ozzano, and Thea Fleming. The paucity of well-known international stars helps to explain why this thriller is even more obscure than others of its ilk. Well, that and a lack of an interesting story or engaging filmmaking.   (4/10)

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1933.

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1.  Quatorze Juliet (1933) Rene Clair, France

I watched this again after seeing it for the first time in almost 30 years and moved it up to my best FF of 1933.  I loved its style and ability to juggle the stories of many characters.  A little gem.

 

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6.  The Burning Secret (1933) Robert Siodmak, Germany

A mother (Hlide Wagener) and her son (Hans Joachim Schaufuss) vacation in the Alps while her husband is hard at work.  Enter an adventurer (Alfred Abel) who takes a fancy to her.  As the mother’s interest in the adventurer’s flirtation grows the son’s hero worship of the man begins to wane.  Unfortunately I found this all rather dull and chain smoking Abel and Hilde Wagener are very flat.  The best performance comes from the Page Boy played by Hans Richter of Emil and the Detectives (1931) fame.

 

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7.  Mirages de Paris (1933) Fyodor Otsep, France

A young girl runs away from school in Provence and goes to Paris with the aim of becoming a big star on the stage.  This is a silly romantic comedy with the usual mistaken identity premise but it is still fun.

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Ghost of the Mirror  (1974)  Hong Kong/Dir: Tsun-Shou Sung  -  A pious young man (Chun Shih) seeks seclusion in order to transcribe Buddhist scriptures. He chooses an abandoned villa in the woods, and soon encounters a mysterious young woman (Brigitte Lin) who turns out to be a ghost cursed by a dragon to haunt the villa's well. The young man and the ghost fall in love and plot how to thwart the dragon. This is a romantic fable, heavy on the folkloric fantasy of the region, rather than a horror, comedy or martial arts film, the latter of which most of the films of this type are. That makes things a bit more serious, yet less entertaining. A lot of my issues with it may be due to the copy I watched, which had a poor picture and terrible subtitles. Still I enjoyed seeing future superstar Brigitte Lin in an early role.   (6/10)

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The Girl in Room 2A  (1974)  Italy/Dir: William Rose & Dick Randall  -  After a young woman (Daniela Giordana) is paroled from prison, she rents a room in a boarding house where another girl recently went missing. That former tenant's brother (Angelo Infanti) shows up to investigate, and teams up with the parolee, as others begin turning up murdered. Featuring Raf Vallone, John Scanlon, Brad Harris, Frank Latimore, Giovanna Galletti, Karin Schubert, and Rosalba Neri. This was a real strange one, a mix of a giallo with a devil worshiper movie, featuring really jarring musical cues, odd action sequences, and hilariously uneven performances. Not good, but entertaining.   (6/10)

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The Hand That Feeds the Dead  (1974)  Italy/Dir: Yilmaz Duru & Sergio Garrone  -  In another variation on Eyes without a Face, Klaus Kinski stars as a scientist who uses the flesh of kidnapped women in an effort to restore the beauty of a burned noblewoman. Also featuring Katia Christine, Marzia Damon, Carmen Silva, Ayhan Isik, Erol Tas, Stella Calderoni, and Carla Mancini. This Turkish-Italian co-production is like something that should be hosted by Count Floyd. There's a big dark castle, a shuffling mentally-deficient manservant, women in various states of undress, and Klaus Kinski with his bulging forehead veins. Also released as Evil Face, which I'm sure Kinski appreciated. Not to be confused with Lover of the Monster, also from 1974, and featuring much of the same cast.   (6/10)

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The Killer Reserved Nine Seats  (1974)  Italy/Dir: Giuseppe Bennati  -  Nine acquaintances are invited to visit the luxury villa of one of their friends, where they are to see a performance in his private theater. However, everyone soon realizes that they are trapped inside, and a masked killer is picking them off one by one. Featuring Rosanna Schiaffino, Chris Avram, Eva Czemerys, Lucretia Love, Paola Senatore, Gaetano Russo, Andrea Scotti, Eduardo Filipone, Luigi Antonio Guerra, Howard Ross, and Janet Agren. Typical giallo fare, although I found myself bored.   (5/10)

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Lover of the Monster  (1974)  Italy/Dir: Sergio Garrone  -  An heiress (Katia Christine) moves with her scientist husband (Klaus Kinski) to her ancestral estate. Once there, the scientist discovers the hidden journals of her mad doctor ancestor, and he uses the formula therein to transform into a murderous beast. Also featuring Marzia Damon, Stella Calderoni, Romano De Gironcoli, Alessandro Perrella, Carla Mancini, and Osiride Pevarello as "Polanski".

I can see why this causes confusion with the above reviewed The Hand That Feeds the Dead. Not only are they by the same director and both star Kinski, but much of the rest of the cast is the same, they appear to have used the same sets and costumes, and even many of the character names are similar if not exactly the same - Kinski plays "Dr. Nijinski" in both films, and the noble family name is "Rassimov". However, the plots are different, as this is a poorly done retread of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. For Kinski completists only.   (4/10)

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Macabre Legends of the Colony  (1974)  Mexico/Dir: Arturo Martinez  -  Here's a really far out one. Masked wrestler Tinieblas ("Darkness") buys a cursed painting from an antique store. After a very lengthy wrestling match, he and his pals Mils Mascaras ("The Man of a Thousand Masks") and El Fantasma Blanco ("The White Ghost") go to a party at his apartment, where they get teleported into the painting and sent back to colonial times, where they battle conquistadors, Aztec warriors, the undead, and an evil witch (Lorena Velazquez). This was weird even for a Mexican luchador movie, although it still lagged a bit in the pacing, and the plot was barely there, merely an excuse for one fight scene after another. Still, points for swinging for the fences.   (5/10)

 

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Magdalena - Possessed by the Devil  (1974)  West Germany/Dir: Walter Boos  -  A teenage girl (Dagmar Hedrich) begins acting erratically after her father is gruesomely murdered. It soon becomes clear that she has been possessed by some sort of evil spirit, leaving death and destruction in her wake. Also featuring Werner Bruhns, Michael Hinz, Peter Martin Urtel, Rudolf Schundler, Karl Walter Diess, and Elisabeth Volkmann. One of countless European rip-offs of The Exorcist that flooded the market over a several-year period after that film's release, this one ratchets up the sexual element. Hedrich, who, despite playing a teenage boarding school student. was apparently 38 or 39 when this was made, spends much of the film completely nude and spouting obscenities, attempting to seduce and murder every man she sees. Sleazy and outrageous. Also released as Beyond the Darkness and more commonly as The Devil's Female.   (5/10)

 

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Mania  (1974)  Italy/Dir: Renato Polselli  -  Respected scientist Professor Brecht (Brad Euston) is believed killed in a fire after confronting his adulterous wife Lisa (Eva Spadaro). However, he's still alive, albeit severely burned and confined to a wheelchair. That doesn't stop him from attempting to drive Lisa mad, though. Also featuring Ivana Giordan, Mirella Rossi, Isarco Ravaioli, and Max Dorian. Overheated performances featuring lots of yelling and screaming, ludicrous and gratuitous nude catfights, disembodied heads in silver facepaint, nets dropping from ceilings, and torture by eel are among the dubious highlights of this whacked-out psycho thriller.   (5/10)

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The Perfume of the Lady in Black  (1974)  Italy/Dir: Francesco Barilli  -  Silvia (Mimsy Farmer) is a successful industrial scientist. However, her quiet and stable life starts to unravel when she begins to see visions, possibly from her past, depicting violent, traumatic events. As she struggles to maintain her grip on reality, she sets out to learn the truth. Also featuring Maurizio Bonuglia, Mario Scaccia, Jho Jhenkins, Nike Arrighi, Lara Wendel, Orazio Orlando, and Carla Mancini.

I thought this was going to be yet another giallo, but instead it's closer to Repulsion, with a mystery attached. It's a showcase for Farmer, a pretty-yet-bland presence in a handful of Italian genre pictures around this time. Here she gets to really stretch her acting chops, to modestly positive results. The film looks good, and the soundtrack is effectively disorienting, and the last act goes all out, but I wish there had been more of note in the earlier 3/4ths of the film.   (6/10)

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Puzzle  (1974)  Italy/Dir: Duccio Tessari  -  Edward (Luc Merenda) suffers from amnesia and has no memory of his past. However, he's also being pursued by several people who are intent on doing him harm for his past deeds, as well as to find out the location of something valuable that Edward is said to have hidden before his amnesia. He may gets the answers he needs when he's directed toward Sara (Senta Berger), who he's told is his wife. Also featuring Umberto Orsini, Bruno Corazzari, Manfred Freyberger, Tom Felleghy, Carla Mancini, and Anita Strindberg. Less a giallo and more of a Charade-style mystery-thriller, this adequate feature has good performances and some nice location scenery. Also released as Man Without a Memory.   (6/10)

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Spasmo  (1974)  Italy/Dir: Umberto Lenzi  -  Giallo thriller with Robert Hoffmann, who discovers a woman (Suzy Kendall) on a beach, thinking she's a corpse. She's still alive, and they soon begin a romance, but more mysterious things occur, including attacks, murders, and weirdos (Monica Monet & **** Alberti) living in a strange house. Also featuring Ivan Rassimov, Adolfo Lastretti, Franco Silva, Mario Erpichini, and Maria Pia Conte. The script is a bit of a mess, probably due to too many cooks (4 are credited), but the pacing is good, and the twists are unexpected. Ennio Morricone did the score, and George Romero shot some inserts added to the American release version.  (6/10)

 

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