Instant Gratification Quick Takes: August 2, 2011 – GIALLOMANIA

Highlighting odd and off-beat new releases to watch instantly on Netflix

Sleazy Italian crime movies from the 1970s — that’s the theme of today’s new acquisitions. And although not all of these films are technically giallo films to genre purists, they all involve crime and mayhem, they’re all Italian and — after watching some of these — you’ll probably want to take a shower afterwards.

New for August 2, 2011

Beast with a Gun aka The Mad Dog Killer (La belva col mitra) aka Mad Dog aka Mad Dog Killer aka Human Beast (1977), directed by Sergio Greico, with Helmut Berger, Marisa Mell and Richard Harrison – A psychopathic murderer and his cronies escape from prison and proceed to take revenge on the people who sent them there. Helmut Berger gives an absolutely unhinged performance as the sadistic Nanni Vitali, portraying one of the nastiest villains I’ve ever seen in an Italian crime film to date. Beast with a Gun will never be confused for a true Giallo, but what it lacks in suspense and moodiness it makes up for in attitude and grit and pure, unadulterated skeeviness. (Available until August 2, 2012)

The Big Racket (1976), directed by Enzo G. Castellari, with Fabio Testi, Vincent Gardenia and Renzo Palmer –  (Available until August 2, 2012)

The Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971), directed by Paolo Cavara, with Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger and Barbara Bouchet – A sadistic serial killer offs beautiful ladies in a unique way — injecting them first with paralyzing venom before slashing them up, letting the killer take his or her time doing the cutting and forcing the victim to lie still and feel every last slice of the blade. An above-average giallo from the co-director of Mondo Cane, one of my personal favorites. The kill scenes are remarkably violent and artistically shot; the story isn’t overly convoluted as some of these Italian thrillers can be, yet still provides plenty of the requisite curveballs for which the genre is known. My biggest complaints are that Barbara Bouchet isn’t in the film nearly enough and that I didn’t find Giancarlo Giannini, despite his resume, that impressive as a leading man. Still, pretty enjoyable.  (Available until August 2, 2012)

Caliber 9 aka The Contract (1972), directed by Fernando Di Leo, with Gastone Moschin, Barbara Bouchet and Mario Adorf – Apparently, Netflix is a big tease since this is not “available” although you can add it to your queue. (Available until August 2, 2012)

Deep Red (1975), directed by Dario Argento, with David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi and Gabriele Lavia – Beautiful women are being murdered and, when police fail to nab a suspect, it’s up to a pensive musician and a plucky news reporter to solve the crime. Best giallo film I’ve seen, so far, although I’ve yet to see many of the classics. The murders are elaborately thought out works of art, the likes of which are Argento’s trademark. The music is fantastic, as is the case in most of Argento’s films. David Hemmings (Blow Up) is a fantastic lead and Daria Nicolodi is a great sidekick. I would’ve liked to see the romance a bit more developed (as apparently it is in the Italian version of the film), but really that’s just nitpicking. As for what I didn’t like, I did not care for the ending in terms of who the killer wound up being — although it would be impossible to discuss that without spoilers. Also, in time it makes more sense. All in all, without a doubt this is a must see, along with…  (Available until August 2, 2012)

Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), directed by Lucio Fulci, with Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet and Tomas Milian – …this film — because you can’t have Argento without a little Fulci to spice things up. Police investigate child murders in a cloistered Italian village. Fans and detractors of Lucio Fulci’s gore-soaked spectacles are advised to check out what many consider to be one of his most polished works. (And don’t worry — although Don’t Torture a Duckling might be considered a tad more sophisticated than the zombie films that Fulci is best known for, it’s still quite violent.) (Available until August 2, 2012)

The Fifth Cord (1971), directed by Luigi Bazzoni, with Franco Nero, Silvia Monti and Wolfgang Preiss – An alcoholic detective investigates a series of murders, in which one of his biggest obstacles is trying to keep straight the clues he stores away in his gin-soaked head. Franco Nero gives a great performance as the boozing investigator. Bazzoni’s visually-striking direction is complimented well by Ennio Morricone’s score. This one’s a winner. (Available until August 2, 2012)

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1971), directed by Luciano Ercoli, with Dagmar Lassander, Pier Paolo Capponi and Simón Andreu – A housewife, molested by an apparent sexual predator, finds herself obsessing over her assailant and the insinuations he made to her that her husband is a murderer. Luciano Ercoli isn’t as well known as Dario Argento or Mario Bava, but Giallo fans shouldn’t let that keep them from seeking out (or queuing up, as it may) Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. It’s got a compelling story with plenty of interesting twists and turns, a strong performance by Dagmar Lassander, unexpected and pleasing bits of humor spattered throughout (both intended and unintended) and a groovy soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. (Available until August 2, 2012)

Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971), directed by Aldo Lado, with Ingrid Thulin, Jean Sorel and Mario Adorf – (Available until August 2, 2012)

The Bloodstained Shadow (1978), directed by Antonio Bido, with Lino Capolicchio, Stefania Casini and Craig Hill – (Available until August 2, 2012)

Who Saw Her Die? (1972), directed by Aldo Lado, with George Lazenby, Anita Strindberg and Adolfo Celi – Distraught parents look for the killer of their daughter when police fail to turn up a suspect. George Lazenby is incredible as the grief-striken father. Who Saw Her Die? works better than most giallo films because of the personal connection between the victim and the person attempting to solve the case. (Available until August 2, 2012)

How to Kill a Judge (1974), directed by Damiano Damiani, with Franco Nero, Françoise Fabian and Pierluigi Aprà – (Available until August 2, 2012)

Inferno (1980), directed by Dario Argento, with Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle and Eleonora Giorgi – (Available until August 2, 2012)

Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976), directed by Ruggero Deodato, with Marc Porel, Ray Lovelock and Adolfo Celi – A pair of renegade cops fight crime on the streets of Rome and attempt to bring down a crime boss the only way they know how — by shooting first and asking questions later. This ridiculously over-the-top poliziotteschi is notable for being the debut film from the director of the infamous Cannibal Holocaust, one of my all-time favorite films. It’s too bad that Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man is a pretty uneven ride. Just when you’re getting into any one of the film’s violent action scenes, the film brings you down with its terrible, cringe-worthy dialogue in scenes intended to move along the film’s fairly mundane story. We get it. They play by their own rules. Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man has some jaw-dropping scenes and as a Dirty Harry knock-off, it has some extremely entertaining moments; but ultimately, there are better places to spend your time. It’s just not a very good movie. (Available until August 2, 2012) 

The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974), directed by Francesco Barilli, with Mimsy Farmer, Maurizio Bonuglia and Mario Scaccia  – (Available until August 2, 2012)

The Pyjama Girl Case (1977), directed by Flavio Mogherini, with Ray Milland, Dalila Di Lazzaro and Michele Placido – A girl in yellow pajamas is discovered in a burned out car on a beach. An interesting film in that it quickly becomes more of a “howdunnit” and “whydunnit”, rather than a “whodunnit.” It’s structured uniquely, with two seemingly unrelated stories playing out at the same time — although anyone with half-a-brain will quickly figure out the connection. Ray Milland (Academy Award winner Ray Milland) is great here, playing the role of “the guy who is a better detective than the actual detectives” which, by now, I’ve discovered is a common motif in these types of films. Certainly, not your typical giallo film — if it even is a giallo — but worth seeing just the same if only for its hilariously campy theme song. (Available until August 2, 2012)

The Italian Connection (1972), directed by Fernando Di Leo, with Mario Adorf, Henry Silva and Woody Strode – Also not available a la Caliber 9. (Available until August 2, 2012)

Street Law (1974), directed by Enzo G. Castellari, with Franco Nero, Giancarlo Prete and Barbara Bach – (Available until August 2, 2012)

Hey! Follow Matt on Twitter at @CM_MattDunn!

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