Hey everyone! Just wanted to let you all know that my new book, Collins' Crypt: Remastered is now available HERE at Amazon. As the title suggests, it's a collection of many of my Crypt articles from Birth.Movies.Death (RIP) from over the past decade, but with a few nips and tucks to improve grammar, correct the odd typo, etc, while also adding notes/updates where appropriate. I always tried to make sure my pieces were still of value weeks/months/years later (unlike the casting news stories that make up the majority of movie sites' content), and when going through the pieces and curating which ones to include, I was happy to see that most of them were indeed just as relevant now as they were when they were written.

But the real draw (I hope!) is that the book contains eight brand-new Crypt essays that were written exclusively for this collection. So yes, while the majority of the book is something you can - and may already have - read for free (albeit with ads and broken images), you're getting a decent amount of new material, for around the usual cost of a monthly Patreon subscription. Except you'll only have to "subscribe" once, and you already know you're getting plenty in return! Show of hands: who else has signed up for a friend's Patreon only to see them let it basically lapse while still collecting your monthly fee? It sucks, right? Well, this avoids the potential ripoff you endure out of loyalty! Some of the new pieces include a comparison of the two versions of Exorcist 4, an apology of sorts for being excited for a Wes-free new Scream film, and a celebration of the insanity that is Hausu. Plus: a new installment of the much loved Minute by Minute series - the first one in over eight years!

If you enjoy it, please take a moment to submit a rating and/or review to help get it on more eyeballs. I'd love to do more volumes (a second one is already partially planned out) but only if it sells enough to warrant all the work it takes (not to mention paying an editor and cover artist). And of course, plug on your socials if you feel so inclined; it's just so hard to get something on anyone's radar these days, so every bit helps. Thank you in advance, and Happy Holidays to you all!


Mill Of The Stone Women (1960)

DECEMBER 14, 2021


One fun thing about diving so deep into older films is that I (and I assume most others) can usually tell more or less when a film was made just by looking at the film stock; I can usually get within a five year period after looking at a single shot in motion, regardless of the fashions or the age of any recognizable actors. It was a skill that threw me for a loop when watching Mill of the Stone Women, because for some reason I thought it was from 1972 but could tell just by looking at it that it had to be at least a decade older. And I was right - it was produced in 1960, and is in fact the first Italian horror movie made in color. I love seeing the firsts!

Ironically, if my eyes (and looking at the back of the damn Blu case, which noted the year) hadn't told me otherwise, I'd be convinced the film was a response to not only the Corman/Poe/Price films, but later Hammer Frankenstein entries that made Peter Cushing into more of a villain than the 1958 original. But no, it (obviously) came before those, being produced more or less at the same time as Corman's first Poe film (House of Usher) and having only the first two Hammer Frankensteins to draw from. The real influence (besides the Frankensteins and other Hammer films from the late '50s) were the two wax movies: House of Wax and Mysteries of the Wax Museum, as the titular Mill is actually a museum of sorts where historical women made of "stone" can be gawked at by townsfolk and tourists.

Being that it's a horror movie, there's no real surprise to learn that they're not stone, but the plot is still more interesting than you'd think. Turns out it's kind of a two birds with one stone (heh) kinda deal, as the resident mad scientist is indeed killing women and using them for his attraction, but he's doing it for a noble (to him) reason: his daughter Elfie (Scilla Gabel, an absolute stunner - thank you, remastered Blu-ray) has a rare blood disease that kills her whenever she gets excited or distraught, so he and his assistant find women with the right blood type, drain them out to revive his daughter, and use their corpses to keep his museum going instead of using actual stone or whatever earthly materials. It's a very environmentally friendly horror plot, I must say.

But being that this is a genre film from the olden days (61 years old! They didn't even have feature movies that old when this came out!), it takes a while to get to that stuff. It can be a bit "slow" at times, even when you consider its age, but then again, being that it was their first attempt at something like this (in full lurid color - there's even a brief nipple shot, which kind of stunned me) it shouldn't be a surprise that it wasn't exactly roller-coaster paced. Luckily, the hero, Hans (Pierre Brice) isn't as dull as a lot of the guys in those Corman movies it resembles - in fact, the plot kicks into gear because he cheats on his girlfriend with Elfie on the day he meets her, the dog. And it's his "I shouldn't have done that, sorry" dismissal that leaves her emotional enough to instantly drop dead, so he's feeling justifiably guilty on two levels for the rest of the movie - it's one thing to cheat on your girl, but to basically cause the other woman's death as a result? Damn.

Most of it takes place inside the mill or their homes, but there are a few exteriors that were lensed in gloomy Holland, giving it that proper foggy atmosphere that will make this an easy recommendation for the Halloween season. But even the interiors are quite nice to look at; both DP Pier Ludovico Pavoni and director Giorgio Ferroni have a lot of "sword and sandal" type movies on their resumes and are thus accustomed to having bigger areas to shoot in, but they clearly didn't let themselves be hamstrung by the confines of relatively small sets - the mill in particular is top-notch work, at least inside (the exterior miniature isn't very convincing, alas). The colors are also all vivid and lush; apparently they wanted to assure the money men that color film was worth the extra dough. I can't say the movie wouldn't work in black and white, but when coupled with its occasionally sluggish pace, it'd certainly be less memorable.

Arrow's deluxe set for the film includes a whopping four versions, but alas I did not have time to go through them all. The one to go with is, naturally, the Italian version, as it is the most complete, but it should be noted that the film has an international cast all of whom are speaking their native tongues, so you're still going to encounter some dubbing. You can just go with the English version (the content of the film is the same, I believe?) if reading the subtitles is an issue, but as is often the case the dub track and the subtitle track offer varations on nearly every line, so basically no matter what you're dealing with compromise. On the second disc there's a French version, which has a scene that was added at the insistence of its French producers (a conversation that clarifies some of the character's histories with one another), but is missing a few others, so it wouldn't be the best place to start. And the other version is of no use to any newcomer, as it removes those scenes AND the added French one, from what I understand. But I like that they went out of their way to include it; I'm sure it's someone's preferred version due to having it on VHS or whatever, so hey, now they can have their hacked up take looking all lovely on the remastered high def transfer.

There are also some bonus features, including a video essay by Kat Ellinger (I am a big fan of these; they're like Cliff's Note commentaries) and an interview with Liana Orfei, who plays one of the unwilling eventual Stone Women. There's also a commentary by Tim Lucas, who is the go to guy for Bava and thus it wasn't much of a surprise that the conversation turned to him a few times (he launches a convincing argument that Bava actually ghost-directed a couple of key scenes), though I was cerrtainly not expecting a history of LSD to be included. Overall it's not a bad track but one of the ones where I wish he was paired with someone to bounce off of and keep it a little more lively, as Lucas always sounds like he's reading from a report and thus it can be a bit dry to listen to even when the information is sound. The deluxe edition also includes a book that has two essays (one on the film's overall legacy, the other tracking its multiple versions) as well as some review excerpts from the time, which is interesting as not all of them are exactly glowing.

It's definitely a "not for everyone" kind of film, as its horror elements are relatively muted and it will probably remind any seasoned viewer of more exicting films, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. The pre-giallo era of Italian horror is one area I am definitely not as well versed in (as I've noted, I "appreciate" Bava more than I "enjoy" his films, for the most part), so I'm always happy to fill that gap in a little more, and anything that might have helped influence my beloved Tourist Trap is obviously something I'm going to admire. And I love seeing so much care for it on Arrow's part; it's not exactly a film that people are beating down their doors for them to release, and yet they offer it this deluxe release with a book, a poster, four cuts of the film... basically, everything a fan could want, even if there aren't a lot of them out there. Every movie deserves this kind of treatment!

What say you?


Giallo Essentials Vol. 1

DECEMBER 7, 2021


Vinegar Syndrome has released a few volumes of "Forgotten Gialli", with obscure entries in the sub-genre that are, as can be expected, pretty hit or miss (otherwise they wouldn't be forgotten), but it's been a while since they put one out. Luckily, Arrow has picked up the slack and gone in the opposite with a collection they have dubbed Giallo Essentials, collecting a trio of previous releases at a lower price point than buying them individually. As far as I can tell the discs are identical to their standalone counterparts, and the boxed set doesn't save you any space either, so if you already own them there's no reason to pick this up. However, if you haven't already been blessed by The Fifth Cord, The Possessed, and The Pyjama Girl Case, then it's a no brainer to pick this up.

The only one I had actually seen before was The Fifth Cord (Italian: Giornata nera per l'ariete), and you can read my full review HERE (feel free to chuckle at the "source" - remember when we called it that? Or when they actually had obscure films like this on the service? Memories...). No sense of repeating myself too much, except to say that it's just as good a second time around (possibly better, since I got to watch it in Italian this time), especially since it had been so long that I forgot who the killer was anyway. I also forgot how people apparently found it hard to follow, which baffles me as much now as it did then - this is one of the most coherent entries in the entire genre! I always try to be optimistic, but ultimately I may have to just accept that a lot of people are simply very stupid.

The disc has a lot of bonus features I obviously wouldn't have had access to on "Netflix Instant" even if they existed then (looks like the majority were created in 2018). It's a solid mix of recollections from people involved, including star Franco Nero and editor Eugenio Alabiso, as well as the historian efforts like a commentary from Travis Crawford and a terrific video essay from Rachael Nisbet that highlights underappreciated director Luigi Bazzoni's visual style, particularly his penchant for filming characters in front of or behind blinds or glass (sometimes both!), embellishing their feelings of being trapped or whatever. Gialli critics like to assume it's all just a bunch of zooms and "male gaze" kind of stuff, and there certainly is a lot of it across the genre, but things like this really help illustrate that these filmmakers aren't just a bunch of horny hacks.

Bazzoni codirected the earlier The Possessed (Italian: La donna del lago) with Franco Rossellini, which is sort of a "proto-giallo" that is not only shot in black & white (not unlike Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much, widely considered the real origin of the genre) but is also based on a true story. One that, according to the historian commentary by Tim Lucas, actually had more murders than the film offers! It's more of a sad drama with some thriller elements than anything one might conjure when thinking of a giallo - for starters, I don't think the hero of the film is ever in any real danger until the final moments. He's a struggling author who has returned to a hotel where he once stayed, hoping to get his creative juices flowing but really hoping to get reacquainted with one of their employees, who he had a brief fling with on his last visit. Alas, the girl (Tilde) is nowhere to be found, and since we're technically in giallo territory it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that she has in fact died. The reports say suicide, but...

So, yeah, the movie is about a guy trying to solve a months-old murder, but it doesn't seem like the killer is active and ready to strike again, which is why it feels more like a drama about a lost love. The thriller elements are enjoyable, but I think anyone expecting Deep Red or Don't Torture A Duckling style excess will be disappointed, to the extent that it might be even doing the film a disservice to include it on a GIALLO ESSENTIALS set - it'd be like putting Peeping Tom in a set with The Burning and Silent Night Deadly Night or something. Not that I didn't enjoy the film - on the contrary, I found it quite engaging and enjoyed the change of pace, but some viewers may not adjust as quickly and feel bored. Just a warning! Enjoy it for what it is, don't dismiss it for what it isn't!

The third film on the set is also kind of light on the violence, but it too is based on a true story so you can't really blame them for having some tact. The Pyjama Girl Case (Italian: La ragazza dal pigiama giallo) is based on a real life mystery involving an unidentified body, and uses the names and more or less the same motive as the person ultimately convicted of the crime, although many believe the case was never truly solved (for starters, the victim had different color eyes than the woman the murderer claimed he killed!). At any rate, it's an engaging film that splits its time between the detectives (including a hilarious Ray Milland as a grouchy old-school cop that scoffs at psychoanalysis) and a woman named Linda who is desperate to find love. She is currently dividing her time between at least three men, each having something the other lacks, presumably trying to feel out which one would be best in the long run.

One might assume she is the killer's next victim, but (spoiler for 45 year old movie ahead) after a while it shouldn't take too many brain cells to realize that the film has a split timeline, and she is in fact the dead woman that the other characters are trying to identify. It's an unusual approach to this sort of thing, and director Flavio Mogherini treats it as a twist of sorts, neglecting to note that half of the scenes are essentially flashbacks by coloring them differently or doing on-screen "Six months earlier" kind of text. Saw fans will be accustomed to this sort of thing (given that it's set in Australia, I'd be very curious if the Aussie directors of Jigsaw are fans, as it did the same thing albeit more overtly in service of a twist), but a casual viewer might just be puzzled why the two sets of characters aren't interacting and - perhaps more importantly if they sat down for a giallo - why no one else was being killed.

That said, as with Possessed I found it quite involving, aided greatly by both Milland's delightful performance (wait til you see his final send off to a pervert suspect) but also the lovely Riz Ortolani score, which also includes a pretty haunting/amazing theme song sung by Amanda Lear (listen here if you've never been blessed). Ortolani is on hand for an interview along with actor Howard Ross and editor Alberto Tagliavia, but for my money the highlight of the video extras is a lengthy interview/essay by Michael Mackenzie, who speaks about the "globalization" of giallo, i.e. how many of them feature plots of visiting Americans (or any non-Italian really) being caught up in a murder mystery in Italy, or an Italian going somewhere and, yes, being caught up in a murder mystery. To his knowledge (so I'll believe him) this is the only one set in Australia, which certainly gave it some new flavoring even if Mogherini seemed a bit obsessed with showing the Opera House in Sydney. There's also a Troy Howarth commentary, but it's a little icky at times - he is clearly quite infatuated with the actress playing Linda (who is indeed beautiful), laments at the brevity of a lesbian scene, and at one point basically admits to masturbating. I know I complain about them running off the filmographies of the actors, but I'd rather listen to that, I must say.

A second volume is already on the way, including Torso, What Have They Done To Your Daughters, and Strip Nude For Your Killer, all of which definitely fall in "your mental image of a giallo" territory. And I've seen them all (in fact I think I have the original Arrow releases!), which is a bummer because I was hoping to discover more, but I like that they're being released so close together. A new fan to the genre can get both and enjoy a trio of traditional entries, and then another group of more offbeat, dare I say classier (or at least, less sleazy) titles that, when you group all six together, really shows off the range and potential of this somewhat underappreciated genre. Add in all of the bonus features and you can basically go from newbie to halfway decent scholar for the price of two boxed sets!

What say you?


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget