Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973)
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Starring Ewa Aulin, Klaus Kinski, Angela Bo, Sergio Doria, Attilio Dottesio, Luciano Rossi
Italian icon Aristide Massaccesi, used so many different pseudonyms throughout his career, it’s tough to keep track of them. But the one name that he is most commonly known under is Joe D’Amato. This film here is his first real horror film as director, as well as co-writing it and being the cinematographer. It really does show his style, because he usually didn’t go for anything really flashy or outrageous, but still packed a punch.
Lake of Dracula (1971)
Directed by Michio Yamamoto
Starring Midori Fujita, Chôei Takahashi, Sanae Emi, Shin Kishida
Director Yamamoto returns a year after The Vampire Doll with another vampire tale, this one a little more traditional when it comes to the Western influence. As a small child, little Akiko is chasing after her dog that wanders into an old house. Once she goes in, she comes face to face with a vampire, with yellow glowing eyes and wide mouth with fangs. Years later, Akiko is still feeling the trauma from that point in her childhood, and was convinced it was all a dream, even though she’s not too sure about it. Living by the lake with her sister, trouble starts again when a large white coffin is delivered to her neighbor who runs the boat house.
The Vampire Doll (1970)
Director Michio Yamamoto
Starring Kayo Matsuo, Akira Nakao, Atsuo Nakamura, Yukiko Kobayashi, Yôko Minakaze
In 1970, director Michio Yamamoto released the first film in what is now called the Blood Thirsty Trilogy, which has recently been released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video. They all have somewhat of a vampire theme to them, using the feeling of traditional gothic horror and the usual vampire trappings that was being made famous by Hammer studios in the UK, as well as in America. But these are kept in a modern day Japan setting and still putting their own little touches in there.
Directed by John Grissmer
Starring Robert Lansing, Judith Chapman, Arlen Dean Snyder, David Scarroll
Nothing like the ’70s to have a movie with some creepy father lusting after his daughter! And Robert Lansing does a stellar job in the role too! Not sure if that’s a compliment or not.
Lansing stars as a plastic surgeon who has a daughter that has been missing for over a year. She just took off and nobody seems to know where she went. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she witnessed him killer her boyfriend after he was watching them have a little sexual romp. So right off the bat, we see how seedy this guy is. After his father-in-law dies, leaving his estate to the missing daughter, he comes up with a plan, right after coming across a stripper who’d been beaten beyond recognition. Good thing he’s a plastic surgeon, huh? After a skillful operation, he has changed the face of this poor girl to look just like his daughter. Of course, when the real daughter shows up, things get even more weird.
Basket Case (1982)
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel, Diana Browne, Lloyd Pace, Bill Freeman, Joe Clarke
Something amazing seems to happen when Arrow Video and Frank Henenlotter come together for a release of one of his films. When I got their release of Brain Damage (which happens to be my personal favorite of his films), there were so many great extras that those alone make it worth picking it up. And this release of his first feature film is just the same.
Basket Case is the simple story of a two brothers who seek revenge on the doctors that separated them. Okay, so one of them, Belial, is a deformed Siamese twin that never fully developed that was growing out of the side of the ‘normal’ brother, Duane. Belial is kept in a large wicker basket that Duane carries around. They arrive in New York to find the last of the medical team on their list. But of course, everyone reading this already knows the story because you’ve already seen this flick, most likely more than a couple of times, right? If not, then this is one title that is a necessary requirement in your horror education.
The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971)
Directed Dario Argento
Starring James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak, Pier Paolo Capponi, Horst Frank, Tino Carraro, Rada Rassimov, Aldo Reggiani, Carlo Alighiero
This has always been my favorite of Argento’s Animal Trilogy. Even though the reveal at the end of the film doesn’t have the big “It’s You!” payoff that a good thriller might have, this is a giallo after all so it comes down to many other things. But having a blind puzzle maker as one of the main protagonists is something that I’ve always thought was a cool idea, and Malden does an excellent job here.
Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975)
Directed by Sergio Martino
Starring Claudio Cassinelli, Mel Ferrer, Lia Tanzi, Barbara Magnolfi, Gianfranco Barra, Patrizia Castaldi, Adolfo Caruso, Roberto Posses
There were a few things that got my attention right away when this disc came in the mail. First and foremost, it is directed by Sergio Martino, who has made more than a few films that I have really enjoyed over the years. I mean, let’s face it…the man is a god when it comes to the giallo! Secondly, it would be the first of five times that Claudio Cassinelli would appear in one of Martino’s films, before dying in a tragic helicopter accident. My first introduction to Cassinelli’s work was in Martino’s Island of the Fishmen (1979), co-starring Richard Johnson and Barbara Bach. He always seemed to have fun playing the good guy and did it well. So he’s always a welcome site for me when he appears on screen.
If you are a die-hard fan of the work of George Romero, then you will need to add this new 6-disc box set from Arrow Video to your collection. No, most of the films in this set are not his famous horror flicks, but at least they give you a great insight to this iconic director.
The George Romero “Between Night and Dawn” box set contains the three films that he made between his famous zombie films, which are There’s Always Vanilla (1971), Season of the Witch (1972), and The Crazies (1973), which comes out in October.
Each film is presented from a brand new restoration, with Vanilla from a 2K restoration from an original negative, and Season and The Crazies from a 4K restoration from original film elements. One can only assume that these are going to look better than they ever have! All three films also contain brand new audio commentary from Travis Crawford, as well as other features, such as new interviews with Judith Ridley, Richard Ricci, Russ Streiner, and Gary Streiner.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
Directed Dario Argento
Starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salemo, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho, Renato Romano, Giuseppe Castellano
This is a very important title to Italian horror fans. It is, of course, the directorial debut of Dario Argento, and what would be the first film in his ‘animal trilogy’. It was this picture that would start Argento down his path as one of the most popular Italian directors, whose career has spanned more than five decades. Sure, some might frown upon some of Argento’s later films, even from the last couple of decades. But no matter how bad you might consider those films, that doesn’t change the fact that the titles in the early part of his career still are stunning classics and, more importantly, still effective today. As Troy Howarth points out in his commentary that is featured on this new disc from Arrow Video, “His reputation as one of the most influential and imaginative of genre filmmakers can never be taken away from him.” So there you go.
Evil Ed (1995)
Directed by Anders Jacobson
Starring Johan Rudebeck, Per Löfberg, Olof Rhodin, Camela Leierth, Gert Fylking, Cecilia Ljung, Michael Kallaanvaara, Hans Wilhelmsson
Back in the ’90s, when the video market was still in full swing, every gorehound was always on the prowl for a film to give them the bloody goods within the 90 minutes or so of the particular movie title. Evil Ed delivered it to those that happened upon the video box, which showed a man with his head being split open with an axe. I mean, with a box like that, how could you go wrong? Granted, it was a cheesy graphic image and not something from the actual movie, but it did get the attention of the aforementioned horror fan. It also shows what could be allowed on box art back then, something that could be seen by any youngster that might be walking down the horror aisle. Ah yes…those were the days.