In the near future (from 1965 so, now..?), people are given an outlet for violent tendencies and aggression through “The Big Hunt” – a game in which each participant gets five rounds as hunter and five as victim. The idea is that this will stop people from going to war. You’re licensed to kill your victim and your hunter, and if you win ten rounds there’s a big prize waiting for you!
One of the greatest hunters is Caroline Meredith (Andress) – a woman with deadly boobs and the wits to go with them. But when she’s pitted against Italian pro Marcello Poletti (Mastroianni) she meets her match. In every sense.
This thing was insane and we loved it! The ’60s-inspired futuristic fashion is amazing, and the entire movie is sexy, stylish, campy fun. We loved the dancing, the cow print dress, the insanity of Marcello’s sun worshipping cult (what the h*** was that all about?), Caroline’s deadly boobs, the random people killing each other in the background, and Marcello’s wife and girlfriend going off on their own spree.
This is one of the most entertaining episodes of Spy vs. Spy you’ll ever see, and an interesting take on a futuristic dystopia. But a stylish, sexy dystopia. With excellent fashion (and government controlled culling of the elderly, but we’re not supposed to focus on that..).
We would love to watch this on the big screen at some point as a normal TV could never do it justice. And we encourage everyone to do the same if you ever get the chance once social distancing and quarantines are over. We’re also wondering just how many drugs were involved in the making of it…
Back to civilization after winter break, we dive into the magical and stylish world of Mario Bava with Planet of the Vampires (pronounced vampyres, like Andrew’s documentary in the Buffy episode “Storyteller“. At least in our minds).
Argos, a spaceship filled with beautiful people in fabulous leather outfits, approaches an unexplored planet together with its sister ship Galliott. Both ships are sucked into the planet’s atmosphere and go in for a rough landing, and then the crew members try to kill each other once they wake up from the crash.
A knock on the head is enough to bring them back to themselves, and the Argonauts go out onto the new planet to see if they can find and rescue the crew of the Galliott. However, strange things start to happen – voices are heard, dead and living bodies both disappear, and massive skeletons are discovered. What is going on?
Bava always hits the spot for us, although we have never seen this particular movie before. The costumes are amazing, the concept is great (and clearly an influence on later works in the genre), the sets are awesome and there are some very cool shots and visual effects.
The Man with No Name (Eastwood), a.k.a. Manco or Monco (so… The Man with Potentially Several Names then..?) is now a professional bounty killer, roaming the wild west looking for bad guys to kill. For money, obviously. He’s not a complete psycho. He is not alone in this noble pursuit though – The Man in Black (van Cleef), a.k.a. Colonel Douglas Mortimer is a formidable rival.
Notorious criminal El Indio (Volontè) escapes from jail and reunites with his followers whom he preaches to about carpenters from a pulpit… Seems like an oddly familiar pastime. Manco/Monco/TMWPSN and Mortimer alpha off and then join forces to stop El Indio’s evil bank robbing plans.
The Man with No Name goes undercover in the gang, and then gets into hot water – quite literally as they ride to Agua Caliente, the unfriendliest town in the west. But who will outwit whom? What is the significance of El Indio’s pocketwatch and his flashbacks? And who will eventually Über-Alpha the other Alphas and become the one Alpha to rule them all?
The sequel to A Fistful of Dollars, later followed by The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), For a Few Dollars More has everything you could possibly want in a western. Strong, silent men, lots of pregnant pauses and tense silences, a fantastic soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, saloons with easily distracted piano players (is there a union rule that they all have to stop every time a new person enters the room?), hat shooting duels, and lots of violence and horses. What’s not to love?
Giuliana (Vitti) is not doing too well. After a car accident she has not been herself, according to her husband Ugo (Chionetti). But was it the accident that changed her? Her conversations with her hubby’s business partner Corrado Zeller (Harris) reveal that all may not have been peachy even before the incident.
Whatever the reason might be, she is clearly not completely stable, and Ugo is incapable of helping – or even understanding his wife. Corrado seems more sympathetic but he cannot help her either. Even the prospect of group sex cannot cheer her up, so you know it’s serious!
All around Giuliana, nature is being ruined by industry and she is falling apart with it. She is utterly diconnected from her husband and most other people – even (or perhaps particularly?) her son. The only one she does connect with is Corrado, but it is a relationship which can’t save her.
Red Desert is beautiful, fragile and mesmerizing. The bleak environment feels a bit alien in many ways and the film is strangely hypnotic. As often before, we weren’t overly keen to start it (two hours of Italian drama is a lot on a Wednesday night after work) but we were drawn in from the beginning and we really loved it.
Black Sabbath consists of three separate stories, all tied together by host Boris Karloff, which are freely adapted from classic tales by Tolstoy, Maupassant and Chekhov. The order they appear in depends on which version of the movie you watch (there are at least two), so we will present them according to the version we watched.
The first story, “The Drop of Water,” is by Anton Chekhov. An elderly medium has died while in a trance during a seance, and when preparing her body for burial, nurse Helen Chester (Pierreux) steals a ring from the deceased. Big mistake.
Guy de Maupassant’s contribution is “The Telephone” (or is it? There is some debate as to whether Maupassant ever wrote anything like this). Rosy (Mercier) is at home in her apartment (another place we’re moving into as soon as the payment goes through) when she starts receiving strange phone calls from her former pimp. Instead of calling the police (who she probably doesn’t trust given her profession), she calls old friend Mary (Alfonsi) for help. Big mistake.
The third and final story, “The Wurdulak,” is credited to Aleksei Tolstoy (not Leo, mind you). In 19th century Russia, rider Vladimir D’Urfe (Damon) finds a backstabbed body on a horse. He brings him to the nearest house to find that the body belongs to a Turkish bandit believed to be a Wurdulak. A Wurdulak, the farmers explain, is a vampire who feeds on his or her loved ones.
The father of the family, Gorca (Karloff), has been in pursuit of the Wurdulak and has given strict orders not to let him in the house if he is gone for too long as he will have been turned. When he returns too late, with a significant personality change, the family naturally lock him out and take every precaution to stay safe while plotting how to kill him.
Just kidding! They let him in, let him play with his grandchild, follow his commands, go to bed without locking any doors and are then flabbergasted when it turns out he tries to drink their blood. Then again, this is a family who implicitly trusts an unknown Eastern European Count called Vlad while in the middle of a vampire crisis.
We’re suckers for horror anthologies and Mario Bava, so there’s really nothing here we didn’t love. The humour between segments is silly and fun, and the entire film is very aesthetically pleasing, as giallo movies tend to be. A lot of this also feels oddly modern, as if it could have been made today but by someone trying to make it look older (think Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace or “The Devil of Christmas” episode of Inside No. 9). We loved all the apartments (as stated, we’re moving into all of them), the colours, the creepy child and the ghost. Love, love, love this!
Between balancing his mistress (Milo), wife (Aimée), producers, set designers, and potential starring actors, the director is buckling and cannot get himself to make any decisions about his next movie.
When confronted by the reality of his life (and his affair), he dreams himself away to a fantasy land where every woman he’s ever met worships the ground he walks on, get along with each other, and (more or less) voluntarily remove themselves from his view when they reach an undesirable age.
Can religion help? The cardinal in the sauna? The dream woman he’s seen as the star of his movie? His (patient) wife, Luisa? Barbara Steele? The memory of his first sexually charged encounter as a child? In short, will Guido get his groove back?
81⁄2 is gorgeous to look at, and very deservedly won an Oscar for best costume design. The architecture is also outstanding, and there are loads of shots of small people in huge structures throughout the film.
We’re still in love with Barbara Steele and her face, and we were intrigued by the opening (which reminded us of Bergman – our doggo would have loved it!), especially the arms on the bus and the frozen people. We loved the voice-over, the dream/memory-sequences, the sauna, and the dance in the end, which also brought us back to Bergman.
In addition to the failed seduction of Sylvia, Marcello hangs out with intellectuals at a party, sleeps with an aristocrat in a prostitute’s bed, and saves his girlfriend’s life when she tries to kill herself (because of his philandering).
Among his other adventures are reporting on children who see the virgin Mary (and others killed in stampedes brought on by this), partying with daddy and some showgirls, kicking it with aristocrats and film stars, ghost hunting, lover’s quarrels, murder/suicide, drag queens and growing into a proper douchebag.
There’s been so much said about La Dolce Vita by people much smarter than us that there’s really very little we can add. We loved Iris and the costumes, and while the movie is almost 3 hour long, it never gets boring. Marcello is somewhat hard to read, but the society falling apart all around him is oh so easy to see.
It’s a fantastic movie and you can see its influence in numerous other films and other works of art. It’s one of those classics where even if you haven’t seen it, you still sort of have. However, if you really haven’t, it’s well worth your time.
What we learned: If your man is a serial adulterer, don’t try to kill yourself. Just leave him. You’re better than that. Live your life! Also, fucking paparazzi, man. Oh, and also modern society and stuff, etc.
In 17th century Moldavia, Princess Asa Vajda (Steele) is sentenced as a witch by her brother and executed after having the “mask of Satan” nailed to her face. But before she dies, she curses her brother and all his descendants.
Fast forward 200 years and two travelling doctors stumble upon her grave. One of them, Kruvajan (Checchi), is attacked by a bat which he kills over Asa’s tomb smashing the cross guarding it in the process. He then proceeds to remove her mask and spill blood on her.
After the meddling with the dead witch’s grave, the surviving members of the Vajda family start to experience strange phenomena, and it becomes clear that Asa and her companion Javuto (Dominici) are back for revenge.
We’re back in our favourite genre with this horror film, and we have a bit of a thing for Mario Bava (especially Sister the Oldest), so naturally we loved Black Sunday. It’s an unsettling and atmospheric Gothic horror with gorgeous lighting and some very good effects. We loved Asa’s resurrection and Katia’s transformation, Barbara Steele’s eyes (emphasized by intense make-up) and the creepy castle.
Sure, there are some issues with this movie, such as the slightly iffy dialogue and the fact that everyone keeps treating Katia like an idiot child (even with everything going on and several corpses piled up, the men don’t really believe her when she claims to have seen someone in her room), but we still love it.
In a small village somewhere in South America, men of various nationalities are looking for work and a ticket out of extreme poverty and to more civilized places. After a horrible accident at a nearby oil field, the American owned “Southern Oil Company” needs to transport huge quantities of nitroglycerin to the field, but have no inclination to spend time and money putting security measures in place.
Not prepared to sacrifice proper American lives on this suicide mission, the company recruits drivers among the unemployed village vagabonds – desperate men ready to do anything for the $2000 offered as payment.
The lucky(?) selected drivers (after some light corruption and implied violence) are Mario (Montand) and Señor Jo (Vanel) in one truck, and Luigi (Lulli) and Bimba (van Eyck) in the other. They are informed of what they are transporting as well as warned by another potential driver that even if they survive the impossible task, they will be mentally scarred for life. However, desperate people are willing to do desperate things, and the chosen men go on their way.
The ensuing road trip is one of the tensest we’ve ever seen. Every tiny obstacle, of which there are many, is potentially fatal, and the relationships between the characters grow very strained. It is a good film that can get us to care about characters who are intrinsically unlikable, and Clouzot manages that difficult task.
This is another film which we did not expect to enjoy as much as we did. It is excruciating to watch the four men attempt to get their deadly cargo to their destination, and the tension manages to stay high all the way to the final scene. Despite a slightly slow start, the 147 minutes fly by and leaves you a nervous wreck. We’d really love to see this on the big screen one day, so if the local film club ever does a screening, we’re first in line.
In post-war Rome, Antonio Ricci (Maggiorani) is experiencing the Poverty Catch-22: he is (finally) offered a good job, but the job requires a bicycle which he has pawned to provide for his family and cannot reclaim until his first paycheck. Which he won’t get without his bike. Luckily for Antonio he has a good wife, Maria (Carell), who sells their sheets to retrieve his bicycle. With his mode of transportation back, Antonio is set to start his new job, putting up posters of glamorous stars around the city.
As promising as the beginning is – the tale of a man who works his way out of poverty after someone gave a break – we just know that something terrible will happen. And of course, as the title implies, the bicycle is stolen. On Antonio’s first day, no less. He gives chase, but the thief’s cohorts distract him and send him down the wrong path. He reports the theft to the police, but they do not consider this case a priority. All Antonio can do to keep his job and make a living for himself and his family is to go look for the bike himself.
He takes his young son Bruno (Staiola) with him to a market to look for his stolen property, whole or in parts, and they spend the entire day roaming around Rome on their quest. The day puts a strain on Antonio’s relationship with his young son, especially as he, in his desperation, makes some bad choices and cannot live up to the heroic view Bruno has had of him up until now.
This was a rewatch for (one of) us and not a particularly happy one. Not because we didn’t like the film – it’s amazing, but it is also thoroughly depressing. Antonio and Bruno have a few good moments during their quest such as the restaurant scene (which made us kind of hungry, we must admit), but there is a mood of hopelessness and desperation throughout Bicycle Thieves (the plural noun in the title implies more than we’re prepared to reveal) which stays with you for a while.
Antonio is not a bad man, but he is not really a particularly good one either. He is human and desperate and he acts as such. Which is understandable. The film is an interesting (and beautiful) insight into post-war Italy and the effects poverty has on people. While it is sadder and more depressing than anything we’d willingly expose ourselves to (we prefer to live on fluffy clouds), it is not by far the worst one from De Sica in terms of sob factor. Seriously, if anyone tries to make us watch Umberto D. (1952) again, we might have to resort to violence. That shit is brutal.