Friday, January 25, 2013

Giallo IQ Test


Find out if you are a brilliant, stealthy, killer or a brain-dead, hapless dupe by taking my giallo IQ test. The grade scale is at the end of the quiz with the answers below that in fine print. Score 1 point for each correctly answered question. Use of alternate titles is acceptable.

1. Name 5 giallo titles that contain the color black.

2. In what giallo was the setting partially lunar?

3. Name 5 creatures that appear in giallo titles other than Argento's animals (bird, cat and fly).

4. Name 3 gialli with Mimsy Farmer.

5. Name 3 "bloodstained" objects in giallo titles.

6. Which of the following countries has not been the setting for a giallo - Australia, Iceland or Haiti?

7. Name 3 gialli with Suzy Kendall.

8. In what giallo was a phallus used as the murder weapon?

9. What giallo was set in New Orleans?

10. What three giallo films were based on Edgar Wallace stories?

11. Name 3 gialli with Florinda Bolkan.

12. In what giallo was a portable power saw used as the murder weapon?

13. Name 5 gialli with numbers in the title. 

14. What giallo featured "God" as a character?

15. Name 3 fashion accessories that appear in giallo titles.

16. Name three Lenzi/Baker collaborations.

17. What giallo was set in San Francisco?

18. In which giallo did Nicoletta Elmi not appear - Deep Red, Footprints on the Moon, Who Saw Her Die?, Short Night of Glass Dolls?

19. In which giallo were crows employed to find the killer?

20. What giallo was set in Ireland?

18-20 points - Black Gloved Assassin   Way too much knowledge, you must be the culprit!

15-17 points - Accessory to the Crime  Knowledge implicates you in the conspiracy.
12-14 points - Red Herring                    Appear knowledgable but are actually an innocent.
  9-11 points - Innocent Victim              You obviously don't know enough to be dangerous.
  6-8   points - Super model                     Run for your life stupid!
  5<    points - School Girl in Peril          Nice knowing you, Solange.


 1. The Perfume of the Lady in Black, A Black Veil for Lisa, 7 Notes in Black, Vice Wears Black Hose, Black Belly of the Tarantula.
 2. Footprints on the Moon.
 3. Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Iguana with the Tongue of Fire, The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, Don't Torture a Duckling, The  Bloodstained Butterfly and A Dragonfly for Each Corpse
 4. Four Flies on Grey Velvet, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, Autopsy
 5. Shadow, Butterfly, Orchids
 6. Iceland. Australia was the setting for The Pyjama Girl Case and Haiti the setting for Tropic of Cancer.
 7. Spasmo, Torso and Bird with the Crystal Plumage. In the Devil's Garden (1971) is also acceptable although not technically a giallo.
 8. The Sister of Ursula
 9. Dario Argento's Trauma
10. What Have You Done to Solange, Seven Bloodstained Orchids and Double Face (1969)
11. Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Footprints on the Moon, Don't Torture a Duckling
12. My Dear Killer
13. 5 Dolls for an August Moon, Seven Bloodstained Orchids, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, The Fourth Victim, The Fifth Cord, 2 Masks for Alexa, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, 7 Murders for Scotland Yard, The Two Faces of Fear, Seven Deaths in a Cat's Eye, Seven Notes in Black
14. Four Flies on Grey Velvet - Bud Spencer played the character Godfrey or "God" for short.
15. Vice Wears Black Hose, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, A Black Veil for Lisa
16. Paranoia (1969), So Sweet, So Perverse, A Quiet Place to Kill
17. One on top of the Other (Perversion Story)
18. Short Night of Glass Dolls
19. Opera (1987)
20. Iguana with the Tongue of Fire

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Serbian (Train) Film

Warning: minor spoilers on the tracks ahead...
Cruising through Netflix Instant Watch a few weeks ago, I came across this horror movie featuring a satan-possessed, runaway, Serbian train. For some reason, I can't resist movies set on trains or about ridiculous satanic cults, so I dove on this one immediately. As expected, it was cheesy and over-the-top horror from the late 80's, but it was also a whole lot of fun and surprisingly well edited and photographed given the premise and small budget. The film was originally titled Beyond the Door III but is a sequel in name only. It is its own complete story unrelated to any of its namesakes that have come before. Whoever retitled the movie actually did it a service, although I would have come up with something more fitting like 'Satan's Serbian Box Cars' or 'The Devil's Virgin Caboose' or maybe just 'Hot Soup for Your Soul'. What the film ultimately amounts to is a slasher in goat's clothing. The satanic cult stuff comes primarily at the beginning and end of the movie, and exists mostly to provide an excuse for the heroine to be chased, the train to do impossible stuff and Bo Svenson to look devilishly suave (and get a paycheck). The middle of the film is pure slasher with people getting whacked in a variety of gory ways, usually involving some supernatural component, a train and a mannequin.

The plot centers around a college girl named Beverly Putnic who, along with six of her classmates, get an opportunity to travel to Belgrade on some kind of anthropological field trip. What's hilarious (intentionally?) is how everyone from her college professor to her mother keep telling Beverly how lucky she is to be going to Serbia. I don't remember Serbia being a vacation hotspot, but Beverly's mother must have at least suspected satan hangs out there as she gives Beverly an ancient religious tome as she's leaving. Beverly herself seems to have no inkling of what's happening despite the humongous, devil horns birthmark that cover her midsection.

This is the first of many none-too-subtle clues that beelzebub may somehow be connected to Beverly. Later, at a dinner, she receives a welcome present in the form of a devil horn charm identical to her birthmark which is called "the sign of the pagan virgin". As far as her character goes, Beverly is pretty taciturn, grumpy and thin-skinned, especially when it comes to being teased about her virginity. Character-wise, this is one of the big flaws of the film in that none of the kids' personalities are developed any more than absolutely necessary. Granted, many of them will become cannon fodder, and the lack of character building does keep the film moving quickly, but at least in Beverly's case, it would have been beneficial to make her more of a sympathetic person. As written, she seems like she's having a bad case of PMS, and the actress who plays her, Mary Kohnert, doesn't have much else with which to work so there's a lot of moody glaring.

Once the kids make it to Belgrade, they are met by their hosting professor, Buford Pusser - I mean, Professor Andromolek, played by a bearded Bo Svenson. He rocks a black overcoat, red scarf and tie better than the dark lord himself and his acting is wonderfully atrocious. It sounds like he made the conscious decision to pause every four words to either illustrate that English is his second language or to be menacing, I can't figure out which. Despite this (or because of it), he's still a hoot to watch and chews the scenery up nicely especially when his character tries to foist drugged, hot soup on Beverly.

This scene occurs after Bo has taken the kids to a rural Serbian village where they are to spend the night. The village looks like something straight out of the Resident Evil 4 video game and has (you guessed it) a devil horns logo near the entrance. The kids are then taken to their hovels, given "hot soup" at which point the villagers start playing a strange game of tick-tac-toe involving goat's blood and two by fours. Bo's sidekick/crone and maker of hot soup, Vesna, does a virginity check on Beverly (don't ask) and then fires spontaneously combust inside the houses of the kids who are inadequately trapped inside. All of them bust out save for one (who really didn't seem to mind burning up, at least, his mannequin didn't) and run from the villagers who are standing around clacking rocks together.

It was about this point, I was starting to wonder where the titular crazy train was. I needn't have worried as the kids run directly to it and attempt to flag it down. Failing to make it stop, they jump on board and are helped by a friendly conductor named, Bosco. Bosco travels with a flute player who is not the least bit suspicious looking so you just know he won't be turning up again in the story - OK, he does, in the oddest way possible.

From this point on, the train switches tracks and heads straight to Slasherville with the crew and kids getting bumped off in rapid succession. The kills were somewhere between Fulci and comic book gory and were more darkly humorous than frightening with obvious mannequins taking the brunt of the punishment twice in the form of decapitation.
Besides the fast pace and kills, there are two more aspects that kick Amok Train up a notch. One is the stowaway thief, Sava, who carries a switchblade, wears a WWI pilot's leather helmet, smokes Man With No Name cigars and refers to herself in the third person. After being nabbed by the kids sneaking around in the mail car, Sava exclaims quite haughtily "Sava is thief, not keeller!". Talk about a potential character, Sava should have been the focus of the film as she is wonderfully overdrawn and exceedingly colorful. After being told the train is a runaway, Sava swings into action and starts constructing a bomb from shotgun shells in an attempt to blow the engine off the rest of the train.

The second aspect that boosts the picture beyond the ordinary is that the runaway train itself which is absolutely unstoppable. Even a pesky lack of railroad tracks can't stop it as the train derails no less than three times but then 'rerails' slipping effortlessly back onto the tracks. Even giving credit to that ol' black magic that satan does so well, it's still a ludicrous notion that a locomotive could un-derail. Ludicrous, and insanely fun.

Ultimately though, the train ride has to end and Professor Bo comes to get Beverly in a black, horse drawn carriage - because that's just how satan's minion rolls, I guess, or maybe Serbia was just out of cars that day. And so that there can be no doubt that Bo is truly in thrall to the dark one (as if his red pocket kerchief wasn't a dead giveaway), he has little eyebrow devil horns to tip the fact. In any event, Bo picks up Beverly and informs her she's to wed "The Master" (shades of Manos, I kept looking for oversized elbows on Bo in addition to his satan brows). 

Surprisingly, Beverly seems OK with her upcoming nuptials and there is a big twist at the end involving the aforementioned flute player which actually fooled me as obvious as it was. It's a final bit of goofiness that puts a cherry on this cheesecake and makes the film transcend other trash of its ilk by playing the joke out in a completely straight-faced manner.
In terms of the filmmaking, the strongest technical element is Claudio Cutry's editing which keeps the movie coherent and moving at a pace a story about a satan-possessed, runaway train should. The acting, while not great, is passable enough for a movie of this kind although Mary Kohnert perpetually looks like someone is stepping on her toe, but as I said, part of the problem is her underwritten character. The director, Jeff Kwitny, who's only credited with three other films (including one called White Cobra Express which sports a very interesting cast indeed) did a decent enough job grabbing all the requisite shots including the cheesy train model and mannequin takes. The cinematographer, Adolfo Bartoli, who has done a great deal of work, primarily with Full Moon Pictures, makes this film look better than it has any right to appear.

I have the distinct feeling the filmmakers were stifling laughter just off camera while making this movie, but I appreciate the fact that they never acknowledged it on screen and play it straight despite its unbelievable goofy premise. It makes a train ride through Serbia actually enjoyable.

Score 6.75/10