The Sister of Ursula a/k/a La Sorella di Ursula

Canker upon canker upon one million tiny punctures

What starts out as a wonderful sister’s holiday, ends with a hotel held hostage to a sex manic pyschokiller!

Or something.

Because there is clearly maybe a ghost story, a double cross drug plot, and  a romantic love triangle/story! All subplots that, ultimately, go no where. But the seaside hotel it all happens at provides some wonderful outdoor shots, especially when the wind kicks up and all the actors start to shiver.

THE SISTER OF URSULA is more soft core skin flix than a giallo gore. The killer, who disembowels the victims through their vaginas after she has paid to watch them all have various kinds of sex. Or skulked in the corners, voyeuristically shadow draped, with only the ominous giallo eyes revealed! The killer’s identity is never in question, really, and there are some rather laughable sex scenes – like the diddling with the gold chain – but then some other rather implied hardcore moves. The religious icon as murder weapon is not credible, considering the damage it was supposed to have inflicted.

This is some particularly horrible dialogue as the two sisters quibble over a dead father and absent mother, made all the more absurd by the nudity of D’Amario as they are arguing. Magnolfi plays the proto-goth with all the bed sheet grabbing angst of a spoiled loony. The scene in the stone side chapel where she caresses the carved Christ before fainting dead away must be seen to be believed. It is beyond campy. And do not get me started on the silver shimmer of a nightclub act, the dubbing of which made it look like a sketch from SCTV. Love it.

Still, the great locations, a drug narc subplot, and a lot nude females kinda make this clunker a watchable dud. Not to mention the fact that Stefania D’Amario, the titular Ursula, goes on to star in Fulci’s ZOMBI! As Barbara Magnolfi, with her dangerous puppy dog eyes, makes a fated appearance in Argento’s SUSPERIA.

Slaughter Hotel a/k/a Asylum Erotica a/k/a La Bestia uccide a sangue freddo

I just want to make love.

This is a filthy little movie. Part naked lady soft core Eurotrash porno and part inexplicable giallo. The movie really reveals in the Freudian “hysterics of overly sexed ladies.” In fact, its whole conceit is based on it.

The movie begins after naked Mararet Lee is wracked in sex spasms of sleep, watched by the creepy shadow killer. Clearly, she has problems! Then we are cut to a frantic car ride where a blonde woman suddenly loses control of herself and attempt to steer the car into a terrible crash. Wanting to kill her husband is understandable, according to the dialogue, but killing herself, this does not make any sense. Thus the necessity of her going to treatment at the titular Hotel! Her psychopathic desires manifest so quickly, as she attempts to smack a doctor with a two by four. Great stuff.

By the time we are introduced to the other patients at the asylum, it is obvious that all of them are going to spend a lot of the movie scantily clad. There is the nymphomaniac played by Rosalba Neri, there are the lesbians (a morose Jane Garet and her nursey massage lover Monica Strabel), the wealthy heiress kept against her will, and the brilliantly posed Klaus Kinski, as some sort of revolutionary psychologist.

His methods are strange. They involve cold showers, getting high, nightly cocktail parties, chain smoking, seducing the patients, and croquet. And a lot of nudity. Oh so much nudity.

There is a lesbian massage and bath scene which culminates in the silliest dance scene this side of THE WICKER MAN. There is a lot of rolling around on beds with suggestions of masturbation.  And there is at least one sex scene in a green house, no gardener can resist the nudity of Neri!

The killer sulking around is rather stupid and almost inept. His heavy breathing prefigures Jason and the giallo dark mask and black gloves are in full plumage. Though, I suppose, it is rather apparent why the killer chose this asylum to  undertake his spree, the whole place is rife with medieval weaponry – even a working iron maiden!  There is a cross bow through the neck, there are stabbings, beheadings, broad swords, hatchets, and scythes.

The ending feels tacked on, as if when the production realized they ordered too much ketchup for the catering, someone came up with a bloodbath rampage. The unmasked killer rampages through the nurses dorm stabbing and hacking at a group of poor ladies huddled in the corner. Silly and surprisingly out of place.

Ultimately, this is a great Kinski piece of acting. His whole persona is a slightly fey brush of his hair as he smokes and poses in every scene. Basically, collecting a paycheck for his name and his reputation as a bad guy to throw a red herring into the mix. Because, he is not the killer. Unfortunately.

My idea of psychotherapy!

Screamers a/k/a Island of the Fishman a/k/a L’ Isola degli Uomini Pesce


This is a strange movie, unstuck in time, really. It should have been a late 1960s/early 1970s production. The story is borrowed from the Jules Verniverse – there is a shipwreck, nefarious goings on, the rich and paranoid horse galloping gentry, the locked room loony, and more voodoo secrets than any fantastist would dare shake a stick at!

The story is basically very, very silly. The fishmen are eugenic experiments of a mad scientist, held hostage by a greedy and murderous moustachio baddie who is using the army of genetic fishmen to bring up the gold treasures of a sunken civilization, that the fishmen are supposed to have been the original inhabitants of, even though Joseph Cotton is making them as he goes? Who knows. There is Barbara Bach feeding the sea emerging fishmen a soupy milk that is meant to be highly sexual, but comes off as highly dubious. There is a native priestess who might save the day as she makes the island erupt in revenge. Maybe?

Aside form all that, the dubbing in this one is excellent. The baddie snarls and curls around every syllable. The fishmen, themselves, are pretty effectively done. At least they could pass for pre-reboot Dr. Who villains, and navigate in the water pretty well. Its not as clunky as it could have been, but then is was 1979, so yeah, on second thought it should have been better. But the whole movie has a Hammer House feel to it, Mysterious Island of Dr. Monroe sorta vibe. Still by the time Joseph Cotton falls out, things really get moving. And by moving I just mean toward the burning model volcano thing…

Overall, I was really surprised by the conventionalism of this movie, considering it directly followed Martino’s MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD.


They got me!

Whoa. This one plays fast a loose with things like plot, continuity, and sense. It is in fact, horrible with no schlocky irony intended. It is just baaaaaad. Almost a waste of time, but not unwatchable. Which, I guess, means something. Because there are truly unwatchable movies, that even I have turned off in disgust or frustration.

There is some back story about a voodoo priest performing a silly ritual in the basement with a dancing over-bite drooling dead woman, a cancer research team that shoots the place up, then flees into the jungle. A little girl somehow escapes with the help of some talisman her mother gives her.

Then something else happens. A team of idiots venture into a jungle cave that is clearly a set of demonic activity, candles flicker on by themselves. Etc. They, of course, find book that emits a green light when it is opened. Clearly, this means that the book should be read aloud. A hole to hell appears and everyone gets munched. Which is fine, those three were highly annoying.

A boat filled with squishy muscle and toothless mercenaries zooms down a river. The blonde woman who is with them, clearly, is the little girl who somehow survived. She knows somethings for some reason – such as a room full of candles needs to stay lit, which it doesn’t.

Then the zombies are everywhere. Mostly flying through the air and dropping out of the rafters. The mercenaries last longer than they should really, being a bunch of terrible losers. There is something about zombies shooting guns at one point, maybe, too? I can’t remember.

The ending is silly and ultimately everyone gets eaten. Which is something of a relief considering how annoying and bad all the actors were in this movie. Its really bottom of the barrel zombie movie making here. In fact, the majority of the zombies do not even have to have makeup or masks on since they are covered in funeral scarves. Convenient for a no budget z-grade movie.


Gang War in Milan a/k/a Milano rovente


I had to ask myself, since no one else would even think to, how a movie with Antonio Sabata and Marissa Mell under the direction of Umberto Lenzi could not be a sleazefest of great things?

Unfortunately, I answered that question by watching GANG WAR IN MILAN. Instead of a great piece of fantastic revolting-ness, well, we get a snoozefest full of wide lapels and silly macho posturing instead of a full fledged gang war!

Drugs. the future of gangsterland commerce destroy another honest to god pimp in this predictable, triple-cross flick. The plot is pushed along by the silly idea that the pimp, Toto, wants a bigger percentage of the French’s drug pushing cartel. They have a little war – which is probably too realistic for modern post-scarface shoot em up sensibilities (ie boring). Some goons are offed, some tires shot out, and if you don’t see the double cross Marisa Mell coming from the first scene, then you got meatballs where your brains should be!

The final twist, only works if you accept that the police would let a known pimp, just arrested with massive amounts of heroin out of jail, on his own reconnaissance. Again, if you did not see the triple cross coming, well, then you probably dozed off during the scene where Billy Barone was introduced.

Can I recommend this one? No. Not really. Its pretty high camp at this point in cinematic history. Though seeing the “vintage” outfits and roaring 70s behavior is fantastic in its own right!

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man is one of the more problematic Marvel superheroes.

First, the character was intentionally designed, in the 1960s, as a character to challenge the young, liberal readership of Marvel comics. Conceived as a wealthy capitalist, brilliant womanizer, and lynchpin in the military-industrial complex, Iron Man was meant to embody ‘The Establishment.’ Second, the character’s origin story, gives pause, since it reads more like one of a bad guy, a villain, turned insane by the wiles and pitfalls of his own genius. How many tropes in the villain-verse are convoluted contrapassos designed to expose and punish the dark heart of the impure and improper? Iron Man falling prey to his own genius and weaponry fits this Marvel cliché like a well worn glove.

The fact that the character was an immediate hit for the publisher should surprise no one who understands the conflict raging inside adolescent boys. “The Guns and Snoopy Clause” – so named by the phenomenon that I observed, time and time again, while working in a public library helping boys, roughly aged nine to sixteen, navigate the book stacks. The conversation of the Guns and Snoopy Clause usually went like, “Mister, where are the books on guns? (pause) and Snoopy?” Such is the conflicted mind of the young adolescent boy.

The two movies, so far, dealing with the Iron Man character have done a lot to extend and expand upon the idea of reactionary, macho salvation. It’s not surprising, given they were both directed by Jon Favreau, the creator of such macho tripe as SWINGERS, MADE, and the writer of COUPLE’S RETREAT. His bare knuckle approach to manhood is combative sensitivity encased in tough designer suits and skid along, navigating at hyperspeeds, toward loud moments of introspection and vapid revelation.

IRON MAN I dispatched the origin of the superhero as a transformative event in the life of a crass celebrity playboy. Aside from the invention of the Arc Reactor, the most implausible element of the movie is the idea that a sexy weapons designer, a glorified war mongering arms dealer, would enjoy magazine cover superstardom. Even in this voyeuristic reality tv culture, this seems highly unlikely. His magnetism is ferocious; the angry Vogue interviewer who’s righteous challenge is only foreplay, while his ability to confront his sexual conquests remains timid – hiding in the lab the next morning.

Only after he is captured and kept alive by the benevolent Yinsen, who’s necessary sacrifice superficially challenges Stark’s worldview. This idea of the crass becoming the compassionate, powers the hero engine like so much enhanced Palladium.  The whole first movie exists in service of this idea, that evil can be used to produce the counterweight to itself.

The sequel does much to expand upon these ideas. First by adding, the frailty and mortality to the seemingly invincible – the hero is being poisoned by the mechanics of his heroics. In addition, to the obviousness that weapons technology remains deadly, no matter its use, the poisoning remains a surface tension. A reason for Stark to play at confronting his mortality, which he does by racing a car and handing the reins of Stark International over to his love interest assistant/handler. His bravado is not dulled. His ‘live life to the fullest’ cowboy-ism remains unchanged. His drunken dancing in the Iron Man suit is ridiculous. But the captain of industry, this self-styled superhero, needs some touch of humanity for the audience to identify with him. Since Batman has the market cornered on “brooding,” Stark is left with “dying.” Until he isn’t.

Next, IRON MAN 2 introduces the concept of Stark International still bucking the trends and fighting the uphill battle. First, against the government – an arrogant senator who wants the Iron Man suit for the military. This should surprise none. Government exists to stand in the way and hinder the capitalist businessman’s interest. As an audience, we have been subjected to this motif, time and time again (remember X-Men’s Sen. Kelly?), to the point of disinterest. Aside from the subtle digs at the imposed censors and hearings that swirled around and almost killed the comic book industry in America, this anti-government sentiment plays into the general disgust all political affiliations subscribe to, in one manner or other. It is a safe wicker man upon which the hero can singe with great contempt and long self-serving monologues.

Then there is the corporate intrigue, represented by the horribly incompetent, Justin Hammer. Hammer’s impotence is immediately made manifest – he is seen failing to enthrall that little Vogue reporter, who Stark bedded and tossed away in the first movie. Hammer can’t even keep her interest by relaying stories ABOUT Tony Stark. Hammer exists as a foil for Stark. For all of Stark’s egoism and self-absorption, while potentially unattractive, exists in direct contrast with Hammer’s ineptitude. Stark’s genius and skill emerges as Hammer fails.

Hammer’s ambition to BE Tony Stark turns into a vendetta, which blinds him to all the consequences of his employing the marginally defeated Vanko. By unleashing Vanko, who he sorely underestimates, Hammer unwittingly funds a more deadly project than the one he conceived. Hammer’s ambition to beat Stark in the market is trumped by Vanko’s vendetta to kill Stark, literally.

Before diving right into the daddy issues, this idea of “privatized peace” begs to be addressed. As another of the prime movers of the narrative, this de-escalation of world conflict at the hands of Iron Man, seems to fulfill the contract of the weapons manufacturer. Peace through superior fire power, or the concept of the Cold War’s Mutually Assured Destruction Deterrent.  It’s a wonderful notion that one single weapon, utilized solely to stop conflict and interfere with war, could not only bring an end to war, but, also, a profit to its manufacturer/inventor.

But the whole notion that a single person, no matter what moral code they act upon, could successfully curtail armed conflict, borders upon the tyrannically absurd. Even if it is assumed that Iron Man was only disposing of Stark International guns, missiles and other weapons systems, there would come a point of miscalculation and “collateral damage.” The state of peace would be tenuous, at best, and probably, built around a boogieman-like fear of the wrath of the Iron King.

Further, by extension, “privatized peace” assumes that a single person could operate on the world theater unbridled from constituent politics, fear of all out war or retaliation, and with the precision that large scale military endeavors seem to lack. A private individual, a vigilante if you will, could stabilize the geo-political landscape? If Iron Man is to work as a hero, one must take him at his word. Much like we must take Blackwater Inc. at their word about Iraq.

IRON MAN 2 is riddled with enough daddy issues to make any Freudian blush. Poor Tony never got enough attention from his brilliant, wealthy father. This conflict is an easy motivation for a lot of the Marvel heroes. It is part of the cosmology that the hero must forge his own path, assume the responsibility without any direct guidance. They must learn to be the “man” after the superpower. This ‘lack of daddy’ adds the illusion of depth, of some larger emotional framework to boys’ soap opera with punches. Tony Stark’s daddy issues are easily resolved by a few well timed newsreels handed over by Nick Fury.  Tony, not only gets to hear his daddy say he has faith and love in him, but also, gets to resolve the issue of what sort of man his father really was – a good one, duh!

Contrast that with Vanko Sr. – an old partner of Stark Sr., who made the unforgivable error of wanting to sell the new power source they were on the verge of creating. Dangerous, foolish, and worthy of deportation. The sort of thing they were working on, which Whiplash and Iron Man invent at the same time, was much too powerful to entrust to a government. No, this was the sort of thing that could save the world, save it from itself, and needed to be entrusted to only the best and brightest. The independently wealthy, the genius, capitalist upper class. A new elite? Of course. A bit creepy? You betcha.

Of course, Whiplash grew up caring for his bitter, broken and vengeful father. A man destroyed by Stark’s father. Whiplash’s fury was justifiable to the point he started working for Hammer. His plan was brilliant in its slow burn take down of Stark. Open the floodgates, show the world that the Iron Man technology was already loose in the world. The artificial peace powered by the energy blasts was suddenly cast in a shadow of doubt. But this subtly cannot be sustained. So, Whiplash suddenly comes to fulfill all the Marvel heavies. His vendetta gets the best of him, instead of destroying a single man, Whiplash sets upon destroying the world that worships him. Obvious bad guy territory.

While I can’t say much good about the movie, I can say that it does remain faithful to the tenor, tone, and intent of the source material.

VENUS IN FURS a/k/a Paroxismus

Don't ask me why I buried my horn or why I dug it up.

This movie.

Having nothing in common with the Sacher-Masoch novel, other than the title, I was slightly disappointed in the lack of depravity. This is a convoluted tale of revenge haunting.


I think that Wanda is a ghost. I think she was murdered by perverts. And I think she returns to kill them all with sex. I think.

As near as I can tell the three perverts are as follows – a sadist, a lesbian, and a guy who likes feet and cunnilingus. After a night of wanton free love, Wanda ends up dead. Trumpter, and Wanda lover (?), finds her washed up on the shore. Only after he finds his horn. Which he buried on the beach. Because he is a loser of some sort. The movie veers through time and space like a drunk eurotrash hipster in a seedy disco. Mainly, because everything is so pretty to look at and vapid to listen to…

Then years later, dead Wanda starts cock blocking Barbara McNair. Is she a ghost? Is she a succubus? It would have been awesome, and a real giallo tweest, if she had been trumpet boy dressed up on a killing spree. But no, there is a lot of slow motion and wavy special effects for dreamlike scenes. There are some great shots of Wanda in a wig and garters posing about on a bed. But her methods of killing are stupid. She provides one last night of pleasure before the men have heart attacks and the lesbo slices up her wrists in the bath. Horrible melodramatic soundtrack and stupid manferd man theme song round out this sometimes painful display of kinky sleaze.

There are a couple outstanding images. Mainly centered around Klaus Kinski in a turban. But there is, also, the last red room scene where all the victims are brought together, low in their best dinner party tuxes, to watch Wanda expire, over and over again.Its a striking image ripped out of the Sartre’s NO EXIT or the end of BLAIR WITCH I. Still the movie was soooooo slow and draining of life at points, even the nudity and pretty Maria Rohm – keeping her arm over her bosoms.

Barbara McNair, though, WOWZERS!