Friday, July 29, 2022

Faceless – Severin Films (4k UHD/Blu-ray Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: France/Spain, 1987
Director: Jesús Franco
Writers: Pierre Ripert, René Chateau, Jean Mazarin, Michel Lebrun, Jesús Franco, Dominique Eudes
Cast: Helmut Berger, Brigitte Lahaie, Telly Savalas, Christopher Mitchum, Stéphane Audran, Caroline Munro, Christiane Jean, Anton Diffring, Tilda Thamar, Howard Vernon, Florence Guérin, Gérard Zalcberg, Lina Romay

Release Date: June 10th, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 99 Minutes 13 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 2160 Progressive / HEVC / H.265 / HDR10
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono French
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $49.95

"a glossily depraved tale of disfigurement, dismemberment, libidinous brutes, Nazi surgeons, Paris discos, face-ripping, throat-stabbing, eyeball-piercing and what may be Uncle Jess’ most rewardingly ambiguous ending ever." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (4K UHD), 4/5 (Blu-ray)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "now scanned for the first time in 4K from the original negative ."

Faceless comes on a 66 GB dual layer 4K UHD.

Disc Size: 59.8 GB

Feature: 57.1 GB

Faceless comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.9 GB

Feature: 29 GB

The source used for this transfer looks great, and it is easily a marked improvement over Shriek Show’s 2004 DVD release. That said, colors are vivid and nicely saturated, flesh tones look correct, image clarity and black levels are solid, and there does not appear to be any digital noise reduction.

The Blu-ray that comes with this release also looks great. That said, the 4K UHD transfer looks stronger in every way when compared to the Blu-ray’s transfer.

Audio: 4.5/5 (DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options: a DTS-HD mono mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in French. For this review, I only listened to the English language track since the French language track does not come with subtitles. The English language track is in great shape; dialog comes through clearly; everything sounds balanced and robust when it should. Included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles for the English language track.

Extras:

Extras on the 4K UHD disc include a French language theatrical trailer (1 minute 49 seconds, LPCM mono French with removable English subtitles), a English language theatrical trailer (1 minute 50 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), and an archival audio commentary with director Jess Franco and actress Lina Romay, in French with removable English subtitles.

Extras on the Blu-ray disc include a French language theatrical trailer (1 minute 49 seconds, LPCM mono French with removable English subtitles), a English language theatrical trailer (1 minute 50 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), a parody short starring Brigitte Lahaie titled Therese II: The Mission (3 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital mono French with removable English subtitles), an archival scene select audio commentary with actor Chris Mitchum (27 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actor Chris Mitchum (14 minutes 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with Jess Franco and Lina Romay (18 minutes 15 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), archival EPK interviews with actors Helmut Berger, Chris Mitchum And Telly Savalas (8 minutes 34 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actress Brigitte Lahaie titled The Female Predator (16 minutes 7 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an interview with actress Caroline Munro titled Parisian Encounters (25 minutes 55 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Kim Newman, author of Nightmare Movies titled Facial Recognition (20 minutes 27 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco titled Predators of The Night (26 minutes 8 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), and an archival audio commentary with Jess Franco and Lina Romay, in French with removable English subtitles.

Other extras include a limited-edition slipcover.

Summary:

Jess Franco is the type of filmmaker whose films have to be watched when in the right frame of mind. And though he would have been the first to criticize his own work, there’s no denying that when he was on, he was able to deliver memorable cinema that continues to lure in the uninitiated into the addictive world of Jess Franco.

Despite working on a wide range of film genres, his most notable films fall into the horror and erotica genres. With an emphasis on the latter, he started his film career working primarily in the horror genre, and though many of these films are widely regarded as some of his best, he would only return to the horror genre sporadically after the mid-1960’s. Faceless was his most notable foray into the horror genre after the 1960s.

With a film like Faceless, Jess Franco would return to his horror roots, albeit with a more modern twist that was clearly inspired by the slasher film genre, which rose to prominence in the 1980’s. Besides the Slasher film, another clear influence is Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face.

Faceless differs from the films Jess Franco made from 1971 to 1987 in that it has a large budget, at least for a Jess Franco film. With Faceless Jess Franco, he would be given the type of resources he had not had since working with Harry Alan Towers.

Throughout his career, though, Jess Franco was able to attract recognizable actors to appear in his films. The cast for Faceless is arguably the most notable cast he has ever worked with. The cast features Helmut Berger (The Damned) in the role of a plastic surgeon named Dr. Flamand; Brigitte Lahaie (The Night of the Hunted) in the role of a psychotic nurse named Nathalie; Anton Diffring (Circus of Horrors) in the role of a Nazi doctor named Moser; Stéphane Audran (The Champagne Murders) in the role of a woman in a wheelchair who blackmails Dr. Flamand; Caroline Munro (Maniac) in the role of a missing model named Barbara Hallen; Christopher Mitchum (Murder in a Blue World), a private investigator hired to find Barbara; and Jes Franco regular; Howard Vernon (The Blood Rose) in the role of Orloff’s wife).

From a production standpoint, Jess Franco takes full advantage of the resources at his disposal. Though the visuals don’t have his usual hallmarks, like an overuse of zooms, he is still able to create some arresting moments visually. The special effects, though dated by today's standards, actually hold up well. Also, the kill scenes have an ample amount of gore. A few of the kills include a needle in the eye, skin removal during the operation scenes, and a power drill in the head. The weakest link in Faceless is its 1980’s pop music score. The main theme sounds like a Wham! clone. Ultimately, Faceless is a well-made horror film that far exceeds the sum of its parts.

Faceless gets an excellent release from Severin Films that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and an abundance of insightful extras, highly recommended.

                                                        4K UHD screenshots.












4K UHD screenshots.

Libido – Severin Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1965
Directors: Ernesto Gastaldi, Vittorio Salerno
Writers: Mara Maryl, Ernesto Gastaldi, Vittorio Salerno
Cast: Dominique Boschero, Mara Maryl, Giancarlo Giannini, Luciano Pigozzi

Release Date: June 10th, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 89 Minutes 32 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $34.95

"When a small boy witnesses his father kill a woman during an S&M session, he’ll grow into a disturbed young man (Oscar® nominee Giancarlo Giannini in his film debut) tormented by images of violence, perversion, madness and murder." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "a 2K scan from the dupe negative."

Here's additional information about the transfer, "Libido was scanned from the only known film element: a dupe negative. There are some occasional minor imperfections printed into the element which are unfixable and hopefully not too distracting."

Libido comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 35.2 GB

Feature: 25.7 GB

The disclaimer before the film gives a fair assessment of the source used for this transfer. Though there are instances of source-related imperfections, most of these are minor and not too distracting. That said, there are a few moments that are noticeable. Image clarity, contrast, and black levels are strong throughout, and the image retains an organic look.

Audio: 3.75/5 (DTS-HD Mono Italian), 4/5 (DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both tracks sound clean, clear, and balanced. The English language track sounds more robust than the Italian language track. Included with this release are removable English subtitles for the Italian language track, removable English SDH subtitles for the English language track, and a second English subtitle track for Italian text when watching with the English language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 55 seconds, DTS-HD mono English with removable English subtitles for Italian text), an interview with screenwriter/co-director Ernesto Gastaldi titled I've Got You Under My Skin (57 minutes 7 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with  Kat Ellinger, author of Daughters of Darkness, and a slipcover.

Summary:

When one discusses Italian thrillers, Ernesto Gastaldi is one of the most prominent screenwriters to excel in this genre. Notable Italian thrillers he wrote include The Sweet Body of Deborah, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Death Walks at Midnight, and Torso. Though most remembered for his work as a screenwriter, he directed five films and one short film. His directorial debut was Libido, a film which he co-directed with Vittorio Salerno (No, the Case Is Happily Resolved, Savage Three).

Libido contains elements that are commonly associated with giallo cinema. The result is a film that actually owes more to Gothic horror than it does to the Giallo genre. That said, Libido is a perfect fusion of these two film genres.

Libido’s narrative revolves around a protagonist who, as a child, witnessed his father's erotic sexual acts, which on that night led to a woman's death. This childhood trauma serves as the foundation for the subsequent events. From there, the protagonist and three other characters revisit the home where the trauma occurred, and from there a series of events unfold that make the protagonist question their sanity.

As mentioned before, Libido’s connection to Gothic horror can be linked to its striking use of black and white cinematography, which is stylish and overflowing with a foreboding atmosphere. And though there have been gialli that were shot in black and white, this genre is most remembered for its use of color.

The cast is limited to four actors, though they are all great in their respective roles. The play is essentially a showcase for Ernesto Gastaldi’s wife, Mara Maryl, who portrays Brigitte, the wife of the man who’s in charge of the protagonist's inheritance until his twenty-fifth birthday. The other three cast members are Dominique Boschero (Who Saw Her Die?) in the role of the protagonist's wife; Peter Lorre's lookalike Luciano Pigozzi (Blood and Black Lace) in the role of Brigitte’s husband; and Giancarlo Giannini (Black Belly of the Tarantula) in the role of Christian, the troubled protagonist who is only three months away from collecting his inheritance.

From a production standpoint, Libido does an amazing job with its modest resources. A protagonist who doubts his sanity while everyone around him has motives that arouse suspicion is a brilliantly realized premise. Also a well-executed narrative that does a great job of building momentum and a very satisfying finale that perfectly ties everything together that preceded it. Another strength is Carlo Rustichelli’s (The Whip and the Body) solid score that reinforces the mood. Ultimately, Libido is a solid film that fans of psychological thrillers are sure to enjoy.

Libido gets a first-rate release from Severin Films that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and a pair of informative extras, highly recommended.








A screenshot example of source related damage.

Written by Michael Den Boer

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Flying Guillotine 2 – 88 Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1978
Directors: Kang Cheng, Shan Hua
Writers: Kang Cheng, Yung-Chang Li, Kuang Ni
Cast: Feng Ku, Chung Wang, Hung Wei, Locke Hua Liu, Nancy Yen, Mei Sheng Fan, Chung-Tien Shih, Szu Shih, Lung Ti, Lieh Lo, Szu-Chia Chen

Release Date: August 9th, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 92 Minutes 11 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Mandarin, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: $29.95

"To fight against the evil emperor's reign of terror outlaw rebel Ma Teng joins a group of female freedom fighters, however, she soon finds herself embroiled not just in a battle with enemy forces but also in with group leader's torn family loyalties." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "HD transfer from the original negative."

Flying Guillotine 2 comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 28.5 GB

Feature: 27.3 GB

The source used for this transfer looks great. Colors and flesh tones look correct, the image looks crisp, and though black levels look very good, there are a few moments where they are not as strong.

Audio: 4.25/5 (DTS-HD Mono Mandarin, DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Mandarin and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both audio mixes are in great shape. There are no issues with background hiss or distortion; dialog comes through clearly; everything sounds balanced; and fight scenes are robust. There are two subtitle options: English for the Mandarin language track, and a second English track for Mandarin signs and text.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a stills gallery (17 images-stills/poster), a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 33 seconds, LPCM mono with Mandarin text and removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Asian cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema, reversible cover art, a double-sided foldout poster, a limited edition slipcover and a twenty-four page booklet with an essay titled Watch Out for the Flying Guillotines! written by Barry Forshaw.

Summary:

The Flying Guillotine 2 is a sequel to The Flying Guillotine. These two films' only connection to Master of the Flying Guillotine is that all three films feature the same weapon.

Despite the fact that the content of Flying Guillotine 2 and The Flying Guillotine is very similar, like most sequels, Flying Guillotine 2 is a more supersized take on its predecessor with its new and improved, more deadly flying guillotine.

Flying Guillotine 2 is a fast-moving narrative that jumps right into the action set pieces. But though the narrative does spend a decent amount of time building up characters via exposition moments, Flying Guillotine 2’s bread and butter are its action set pieces. And nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to the star of this film, the flying guillotine weapon.

Most of the cast are very good in their roles, especially Szu Shih (Shaolin Temple) in the role of Na Lan, one of the fighters who infiltrates the emperor's inner circle by gaining his trust. Notable cast members include Lung Ti (A Better Tomorrow) in the role of Ma Teng, who’s come up with a way to combat the flying guillotine, and Lieh Lo (King Boxer) in the role of the emperor's henchman.

From a production standpoint, there is not an area where Flying Guillotine 2 disappoints. The inventive fight sequences are thrilling, and at times gory, when it comes to decapitations. And, while the action set pieces tend to overshadow the more expositional moments, that is not to say that there are not an ample number of twists and double crosses. Ultimately, Flying Guillotine 2 is a solid martial arts film.

Flying Guillotine 2 gets a strong release from 88 Films that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and an insightful audio commentary, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Giallo Essentials Collection (Black Edition) – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1972 (Smile Before Death, The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive), Italy, 1974 (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats)
Directors: Silvio Amadio (Smile Before Death), Francesco Mazzei (The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive), Giuseppe Bennati (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats)
Cast: Jenny Tamburi, Silvano Tranquilli, Rosalba Neri, Hiram Keller, Dana Ghia, Barbara Bouchet (Smile Before Death), Renzo Montagnani, Bedy Moratti, Eva Czemerys, Salvatore Puntillo, Claudia Gravy (The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive), Rosanna Schiaffino, Chris Avram, Eva Czemerys, Lucretia Love, Paola Senatore, Howard Ross, Janet Agren (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats)

Release Date: August 1st, 2022 (UK), August 30th, 2022 (USA)
Approximate Running Times: 88 Minutes 20 Seconds (Smile Before Death), 103 Minutes 51 Seconds (The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive), 103 Minutes 32 Seconds (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats), 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Smile Before Death)
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian (All Films), LPCM Mono English (Smile Before Death, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats)
Subtitles: English, English SDH (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £59.99 (UK), $99.95 (USA)

"While the release of Dario Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage gave rise to a glut of imitators, there was more to the giallo than just shameless copycats setting out to ape a rigid formula. This volume of Giallo Essentials celebrates the range and breadth of the genre with three lesser-seen films from its early 1970s heyday. In Silvio Amadio's Smile Before Death, familicide with a sprinkling of Oedipal love is the order of the day when teenager Nancy returns home to discover the apparent suicide of her mother, and quickly comes to suspect that her stepfather and his mistress are to blame. Next, Horny priests and self-flagellating nuns abound in Francesco Mazzei's The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive, as police commissioner Franco Boito investigates the brutal murder of a young clergyman, only to enter into an affair with the dead man's lover. Finally, in Giuseppe Bennati's The Killer Reserved Nine Seats, an assortment of wealthy degenerates - including Italian cult mainstays Andrea Scotti and Howard Ross - answer the summons of an eccentric nobleman and assemble in the theatre attached to his ancestral home, only to find themselves trapped in the decaying building while a savage killer picks them off Agatha Christie-style! With gory murders, wanton debauchery and left-field plot twists a-plenty." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5 (Smile Before Death), 4/5 (The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive), 4.5/5 (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats)

Here’s the information provided about Smile Before Death's transfer, "The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 2K resolution at Cinema Communications Services, Rome. Restoration and grading were completed at R3Store Studios, London.

All original materials usde for the restoration were made available from Minerva Pictures."

Smile Before Death comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 34.3 GB

Feature: 28 GB

The source used for this transfer is in excellent shape. Colors are nicely saturated, flesh tones look correct, the image looks crisp, black levels are solid, and grain remains intact.

Here’s the information provided about The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive's transfer, "The original 35mm camera negative was scanned and restored in 2K resolution at L'Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. The film was graded at R3Store Studios, London.

All original materials usde for the restoration were made available from Movietime."

The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 34.6 GB

Feature: 28 GB

The source used for this transfer looks great. Colors, image clarity, and black levels are solid, and the image retains an organic look.

Here’s the information provided about The Killer Reserved Nine Seats' transfer, "The film was restored in 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative by Movietime and Camera Obscura/Uber Productions. Additional grading and restoration work was completed by Arrow Films at R3Store Studios, London.

All original materials usde for the restoration were made available from Movietime."

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43 GB

Feature: 28 GB

The source used for The Killer Reserved Nine Seats’ transfer is comparable to Camera Obscura’s transfer for their 2014 Blu-ray release. The source looks excellent. Colors are nicely saturated, image clarity and black levels are solid, and grain remains intact.

Audio: 4.25/5 (LPCM Mono Italian - Smile Before Death, The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats), 4.25/5 (LPCM Mono English - The Killer Reserved Nine Seats), 3.75/5 (LPCM Mono English - Smile Before Death)

Smile Before Death comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Italian and a LPCM mono mix in English. Compared to the Italian language track, the English language track sounds flat, and there are some minor silabance issues. That said, dialog always comes through clearly, and ambient sounds and the score are well-represented. Smile Before Death comes with two subtitle options, removable English subtitles for the Italian language track and removable English SDH subtitles for the English language track.

The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Italian and removable English subtitles. The audio is in great shape; dialog comes through clearly; everything sounds balanced and robust when it should.

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats comes with two audio options: a LPCM mono mix in Italian and a LPCM mono mix in English. Both audio tracks sound great; dialog comes through clearly; everything sounds balanced and robust when it should. The Killer Reserved Nine Seats comes with two subtitle options, removable English subtitles for the Italian language track and removable English SDH subtitles for the English language track. It should be noted that there is a second English subtitle track when watching the film in English because this track translates some Italian dialog for moments that were never dubbed into English.

Extras:

Extras for Smile Before Death include an image gallery (11 images-poster/stills), never-before-seen extended nude scenes, not used in the final film (3 minutes 15 seconds, no sound), an interview with Stefano Amadio, film journalist and son of director Silvio Amadio titled Smile of the Hyena (23 minutes 25 seconds, LPCM stereo Italian, no subtitles), an audio commentary with film critics Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, reversible cover art, and a twenty-four page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled The Artifice of Image: Distorted Realities in Silvio Amadio’s Smile Before Death written by Rachael Nisbet, and information about the restoration.

It should be noted that the interview with Stefano Amadio is missing English subtitles. Though Arrow Video has not made any comment about this yet, they have delayed the street date by a few weeks, presumably to address this issue.

Extras for The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive include an image gallery (10 images-poster/lobby cards), front and end titles for the lost English-language dub (3 minutes 26 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), an interview with actor Salvatore Puntillo titled A Man in Giallo (13 minutes 32 seconds, LPCM stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with author and film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, reversible cover art, and twenty-four page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled Illuminating the Obscure: The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive written by Barry Fotshaw, and information about the restoration.

Extras for The Killer Reserved Nine Seats include an image gallery (23 images-posters/lobby cards), a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 14 seconds, LPCM mono English and LPCM mono Italian with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with screenwriter Biagio Proietti titled Writing with Biagio (28 minutes 38 seconds, LPCM stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Howard Ross titled Hanging with Howard (8 minutes 23 seconds, LPCM stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with  author and film critic Kat Ellinger, reversible cover art, and twenty-four page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled And Then There Were Nine: The Gothic Stylings of Giuseppe Bennati written by Peter Jilmstad, and information about the restoration.

Other extras include a rigid box packaging with original artwork in a windowed Giallo Essentials Collection slipcover.

Summary:

Smile Before Death: After an opening murder sequence, which lays the foundation for the events that follow, the narrative does a great job of focusing on who the killer is and why they are trying to find the daughter of the woman murdered in the opening sequence. Though the narrative gives an indication of who the killer is, it is not only through a series of flashbacks late in the narrative that their identity is fully revealed.

Smile Before Death was directed by Silvio Amadio, whose other notable films include Amuck, So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious..., and That Malicious Age. He does a superb job directing Smile Before Death; he allows key moments to resonate and delivers several stylish visual set pieces. That said, Smile Before Death is a beautifully photographed film, especially when it comes to its two leading ladies, Jenny Tamburi (The Psychic) and Rosalba Neri (The Girl in Room 2A).

Performance wise, the three leads, Jenny Tamburi in the role of Dorothy, Rosalba Neri in the role of Marco’s mistress, and Silvano Tranquilli (The Bloodstained Butterfly) in the roles of Marco, the murder woman’s husband, and Dorothy’s stepfather, were excellent. Silvano Tranquilli gave the best performance of the three. Another notable cast member includes Barbara Bouchet (Don't Torture a Duckling), who makes an uncredited appearance as a party guest.

Content-wise, Smile Before Death has all the elements that you would want and expect from a Giallo. The premise is well-executed, the narrative does a great job of maintaining tension, and there is a twist finale that puts an exclamation mark on the events that preceded. Another strength is Roberto Pregadio’s (The Last House on the Beach) score, which is anchored by a playful main theme that's the opposite of what's going on on screen, and yet it somehow works. Ultimately, though Smile Before Death is not a top-tier giallo, it is a mid-tier giallo that's not too far behind.

The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive: However, there are only so many scenarios and suspects for any Giallo to choose from. The bulk of Gialli seems to gravitate towards a handful of scenarios and suspects. That said, the best giallos still have the ability to keep you guessing until their moment of truth arrives. A case in point: The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive is a film that revolves around one of Giallo cinema’s most notable suspects, the priest, who this time around is the victim.

The narrative revolves around a pernicious priest whose many affairs lead to his murder. Along the way, blackmail rears its ugly head. Unfortunately for the blackmailers, things do not turn out well for them. As the bodies pile up and the killer tries to keep their identity secret,

The Weapon, the Hour, the Motive was directed by Francesco Mazzei, a film producer and occasional screenwriter who never directed another film. Even the cinematographer, Giovanni Ciarlo, has limited experience, having only worked as a cinematographer on Eye in the Labyrinth. That said, when it comes to the visuals, do not expect anything flashy, or any stylized murder set pieces.

Though Giallo’s is known for assembling casts of recognizable faces, this is not the case with The Weapon, the Hour, and the Motive, whose most notable cast members are Eva Czemerys (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats), and Claudia Gravy (Marquis de Sade's Justine). That said, the performances work well within the story at hand.

From a production standpoint, The Weapon, the Hour, and the Motive is a film that maximizes its resources. Though it features a familiar premise, it is well-executed, and the finale provides a perfect coda. Unfortunately, The Weapon, the Hour, and the Motive has some flaws, including a slow-moving narrative and a lack of onscreen killings (the first onscreen killing occurs around the 58-minute mark). Ultimately, The Weapon, the Hour, and the Motive is a film that die-hard Giallo fans are sure to enjoy, while those just getting into Gialli should start with somewhere else.

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats: Despite not receiving credit, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats is yet another film that was clearly inspired by Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians (aka The There was none).

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats has all the ingredients that one would expect and want out of a Giallo. It has stylish murder set pieces and a few really nasty kills, most notably a scene where the killer repeatedly knives a lesbian character in her genitals. And the nastiness does not end there, as that same character later reappears with her lesbian lover as she is in a crucifixion pose.

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats keeps things simple and to the point from a narrative standpoint, as each death is spaced out for maximum effect. Also, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats does a very good job of filling in who everyone is and what their motivations are. And this establishing of a character's backstory helps reinforce the notion that the killer can be anyone, thus making all the red herrings all the more tangible.

At the center of this murder and mayhem is a wealthy man who is the killers' main target. And after a failed attempt on this man's life, the killer shifts gears to throw suspicion and cause more confusion amongst the guests. This objective is easy to execute since everyone at this party would benefit in some way if its host passed away.

Besides the traditional staples of the Giallo genre, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats also dabbles heavily in the world of the supernatural. A few more notable moments in this regard include everyone's inability to escape once they enter the theater and a mysterious character who comes and goes throughout, only to be seen by a select few.

Though the cast features a few recognizable faces like Janet Agren (Eaten Alive!) and Howard Ross (The New York Ripper), their characters quickly become an afterthought in the grand scheme of things. The strongest performance comes from Rosanna Schiaffino (La Mandragola) in the role of Vivian, the former lover of the wealthy man throwing the party. Another performance of note is Paola Senatore (Salon Kitty) in the role of the wealthy man's daughter. This unhealthy father-daughter relationship proves to be the key behind the events that are unfolding. The most memorable moment revolves around her character as she dances nude in front of a mirror before shifting gears and trying to seduce her father. Ultimately, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats is a highly entertaining supernatural thriller that delivers the goods and then some.

Whereas Arrow Video’s two previous Giallo Essentials Collections, the Yellow and Red Editions, were just repacks of films that they had previously released. This new collection, titled Giallo Essentials Collection Black Edition, contains three films never released before by Arrow Video. That said, all three films come with solid audio and video presentations and a wealth of extra content. Giallo Essentials Collection Black Edition is another solid release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.



























Written by Michael Den Boer

Yes, Madam! – Eureka Video (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1985 Director: Corey Yuen Writers: James Clouse, Barry Wong Cast: M...