Review: The Fifth Cord (Blu-Ray)

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Looks like a fine day for a murder, no? Pamela Tiffin as the “lucky that the killer isn’t targeting her here” sometimes girlfriend in The Fifth Cord.

THE_FIFTH_CORD_BDMurder most stylish, one would have to say about Luigi Bazonni’s (The Possessed) beautiful-looking giallo (brilliantly shot by Vittorio Storaro), The Fifth Cord from 1971. While the plot may be pedestrian, this is certainly one of the most fanciful-looking and visually well-conceived murder mysteries of the era if you’re into the artsy stuff and don’t mind a few plot clichés. The film has the basics you’d expect: a black-gloved killer with issues, a man who’s a suspect even though he’s got an alibi that’s more than solid, and a few suspenseful murders that have very nice scares (the ending is particularly frightening without being gory). There’s even a bit of tasteful nudity for the heck of it (also artistically shot and lit). I found myself captivated by the film’s visual style and way in which space is utilized throughout. This one’s a grabber from start to finish and yes, worth a watch for the art direction alone.

When boozy journalist Andrea Bild (Franco Nero) gets the call from his boss to investigate a man’s assault, he gets caught up in a series of serial murders after the killer promises to dispatch five victims before he’s done. All of the victims happen to be close to Bild in one way or another, so he’s a suspect (despite being drunk most of the time and out of place of the murders as the crimes continue). Speaking of out of place, the film does an outstanding job of presenting Bild as a man who seems to be lost in his surroundings but also angry at the powers that be who force him off the story at one point.

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Grabbing Walter White is kind of a bad idea, heh.

This one tosses a few suspects at you from the get-go, but the true killer is a slight surprise if you’re not paying attention. Fortunately, this is one flick you can’t look away from thanks to how awesome it looks (you still might not figure out who the killer is until the end, though). The film has enough twisty mystery, some odd sexual content as a plot point (hey, it’s important to the story!) and a bit of violence that’s nicely handled throughout (you can watch this without hiding behind that trusty blanket you tend to whip out in some cases. What, you don’t have a Horror Blanket yet? Shame on you!).

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Burt Reynolds: Last Train Out For The 1970’s Man’s Man

I’d (way too) old enough to still remember seeing Burt Reynolds appear on Dan August way back in 1970-71 and liking the show just for the rather dynamic opening of Burt doing all those stunts (and that catchy title theme):

 

(Thanks, The Rap Sheet!)

 

Amusingly enough, I was also watching Mannix over on CBS back then and yep, both shows were cut from the same (and literal) rough and tumble Quinn Martin cloth. meaning they were reliably action-packed and very guy focused (although both Mike Connors and Burt clearly had appeal to anyone hooked into those shows). I still recall in school one day some fearless (but none to bright) kid tried to copy that floor slide Burt did in the opening only to find out the laws of physics and a non-waxed floor made for a painful-looking science lesson. Hey, I got a laugh out of that foolishness, so it was all good.

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I read Burt said this was his favorite film. I heartily agree. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth the watch.

I didn’t see any of Burt’s movies until John Boorman’s brutal, brilliant Deliverance popped up in heavily edited form (I think on ABC) and yes, I was creeped out big time by it, but it also became a favorite flick whenever it aired. Now, I wasn’t one to follow all of his work, but much of everything I saw was well made and Burt always came off as a pretty cool cat. Even in his more dramatic work up to a point, he did quite okay portraying an interesting variety of characters. I liked his work on Sharky’s Machine a lot because the film works as both cop drama and intentionally amusing dark comedy. yeah, Burt was a pretty decent director, too. Foo. I hate writing these posts because it’s hard to put words into proper sentences when one’s mind is racing like a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am about to clear a huge jump. Go watch a Burt flick at some point, I say. Pick a good one.

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: The Zodiac Killer

Zodiac Killer BR Ha. Way back in 1970 or so, someone should have told newbie director and pizza shop maven Tom Hanson that the Zodiac Killer has a far better chance to be caught alive during a screening of Dirty Harry than dead asleep at Hanson’s eyeball-rolling (yet pretty potent on occasion) The Zodiac Killer. While the film has some genuinely scary moments in replicating some of the more infamous murders, it’s also loaded with chuckle-worthy performances and a couple of hilarious made-up deaths that might have you choking on your popcorn.

Make no mistake, ladies and gents. This isn’t a “great” film by any means. But thanks to AGFA and Something Weird Video, we have a nice 4K restoration that still retains a certain grainy, grimy charm. Well, about as “charming” as you can get in a film explicitly meant to taunt and catch a notorious serial killer.

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Dirty Harry Gets Lucky: Writers, Here’s How To Introduce Your Hero (#6 Of A Bunch)…

(thanks, elinokiprios13!) 

Yeah, this one still works quite well, as does the entire film. Sure, Dirty Harry rubbed (and still rubs) some the wrong way for a few reasons, but there’s NO denying director Don Siegel and star Clint Eastwood knocked it out of the park. Before the series descended into self-parody and too many one-liners and dopey situations (see The Dead Pool… or please don’t unless you love to cringe and laugh at the same time), we got a deadly serious Harry delivering one of the all-time best zingers in any film ever. Granted, Harry’s response to the injured would-be bank robber IS a bit over the top (Any cop doing that crap and getting seen doing it would be off the force, I’d bet), but that Scorpio killer is completely off his rocker and the film shows you clearly that despite Harry’s rather rude behavior, that old-time justice has its way with that creep. Still, I wonder how that would be played now? And NO, I don’t want a remake.

Amusingly enough, I wrote up a joke plot outline for a FINAL Harry flick many years back that had an aged and very retired Callahan out camping and fishing somewhere in the woods and a few people with grudges against him (for stuff he’d done in previous films) trying very hard to kill him (and failing miserably for a few reasons). It got wiped in a hard drive crash with a bunch of other ideas and I don’t want to even attempt to recreate it now. Still, back them I thought it made sense and the ending was pretty funny and final for the character and the few people that get to read it seemed to agree in a “too bad NO one will ever turn this into an actual script” manner…

Shaft “Let The Music Do (Most Of) The Talking” Intro: Writers, Here’s How To Introduce Your Hero (#5 Of A Bunch)…

(thanks, FarOutFunky!) 

Issac Hayes won a very well-deserved Academy Award for this funky theme to Gordon Parks’ still impressive action film that’s about as far from “blaxploitation” as it gets because the material is played seriously and every actor on screen was committed to make the project work as an action film and a still solid crime drama. I’ve seen this way too many times to count as well as some making-of features on that explosive main theme and the film that show how tight the production was and how the end result still stands up as a killer flick for the ages. I also love this intro because it’s got those actual grimy Times Square locations that are ALL gone these days. I can remember too many movie theaters lining both sides of Broadway and those side streets and while MANY were porn houses, a lot were playing first-run to oldies in single to multiple features in a SINGLE theater! Yes, there were no megaplexes back then running twenty plus flicks – unless you knew what you wanted to see, half the thrill of going to the movies was strolling up and down looking at marquees. Granted, the chances were good if you dress like a mark and acted like a total tourist, you’d be tailed around by creeps. But hey, those were the days of thrills nearly every step in that seedy area, kids…

Random Film of the Week(end), Too: The Night Digger (The Road Builder)

(Thanks, Night of the Trailers!) 

the night diggerI used to get The Night Digger and The Night Visitor confused when I was younger, but that’s since been rectified (and nope, I’ve been fortunate enough to NOT confuse any of them with The Night Porter). Both films are from 1971 and bother are psychological thrillers, with the former film being the more “horror” oriented one on a few fronts. However, neither is a straight up slasher flick and both have elements that make them superior to typical genre entries.

Here, Patricia Neal gives a powerful performance as Maura Prince, a woman living with and caring for her blind mother Edith (Pamela Brown), with both women falling prey to the charms of the handsome young Billy (Nicholas Clay) who rides up one day on his sleek motorbike and asks for a job. He’s not just good with his tools, folks… he’s also a violent sex criminal and murderer who has a handy way of disposing of his victims. In a bizarre twist (one of a few the film socks you with), the film turns into a very strange love story where you may find yourself rooting for that emotion to take hold and win over all, but there’s that air of inevitability and gloom thanks to the plot turning as it does and a beautiful and haunting Bernard Herrmann score that will raise a few hackles (if you haven’t gone and shaved them off like the kids do with their hair in certain spots, ewww)…
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Random Film of the Week(end): The Night Visitor

(Thanks, vivendientertainment!) 

the night visitorAs a child, the poster to Laslo Benedek’s The Night Visitor used to scare the heck out of me, but when I finally saw the film after it popped up on TV a few years later, I wasn’t frightened all that much. Granted, it took a few more viewings as I got older to really appreciate what’s here and it’s a nifty little thriller worth tracking down (it’s been out of print for years on DVD). While it’s not the best nor most coherent suspense flick out there (calling it a “horror” movie is a bit of a mistake), the casting is solid (Liv Ullman, Max von Sydow, Trevor Howard, Per Oscarsson), the script has its moments and you may even get a surprise or three as this creepy little tale plays out.

Von Sydow plays Salem, a rather crafty resident of a supposed “escape proof” mental asylum who escapes a few times in order to exact some extended revenge on his sister (Ullman) and her husband (Oscarsson). Why? Well, not just because he’s nuts plus tax, kids. Salem was set up for a brutal murder by his brother-in-law and he’s not having the time of his life in that freezing hellhole. Of course, the fact that each time he escapes he’s in his underwear (Why? You’ll see, you’ll see) and he manages to make it back before its noticed he’s missing keeps the film going for a while as a local inspector (Howard) tries to find out what’s going on when some new murders start happening…
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Random Film of the Week(end): Death By Invitation

(Thanks, Vinegar Syndrome Films!) 

death by invitation_MPI’ve sat through no fewer than four films featuring witches and demons as a central theme over the past week and not all of them were good times, no siree, ma’am. Granted, 1971’s slow-moving sort of creepy Death By Invitation isn’t the best of the bunch and for modern horror fans with short attention spans or those looking for non-stop scares and CG blood gushing everywhere (blech!) this one may be Death By A Thousand Cuts.

That said, while it’s going to be more bore than gore to the younger ADD set, those who like slow-burning slightly cryptic fires should check this one out if only for Shelby Leverington, the sassy young thing playing the lead. Director David Friedman drags out this revenge tale that may only interest those who appreciate thinking a bit as they watch a film that pretty much sets up its entire plot during the opening moments and slowly gets to the point as it crawls along to the finish line…

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READS: Anyone Want A Big Deal, Big-Ass Movie Criticism Book from 1971?

NYTDOTF (1) Merry Christmas and all that stuff like that there! Okay,unlike the previous giveaway post this isn’t quite a freebie, but more of a trade of sorts. I’m clearing out a closet full of assorted things here and figure someone who loves movies might want this rather thick and heavy old tome. As you can see, it’s the 1971 volume of The New York Times Directory of The Film, which is 1243 pages thick and packed with reviews of the papers top ten films from the years 1924 to 1969 (but I think a few 1970 films get mentioned). Read on for more info!…

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The Four Horsemen Have Been Busy @ The Movies For Ages. You Should Be Very Pleased About That.

Four_HorsemenSo, Nick Powell over at The Cinematic Katzenjammer asked for contributors this month to write up a post or do something creative using The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as a starting point and any horror-themed movies that happened to fit one or more of their particular talents. I decided to have a bit of fun picking four films (one for each rider) and pointing to moments in each that to me, define the essence of their namesakes. They’re not all horror films, but if you’re in the right mood you’ll see the horror in parts of them.

Amusingly enough, the devil has gotten his due here as well. ALL of these were done up as Random Film of the Week entries at one point, but three were lost when I misplaced a USB thumb stick with a ton of other fresh content I’d done for the site a few years back when it was on Blogger. One good reason for me doing this post was to kick myself in the butt hard and get on to full rewrites soon of those three.

In addition, I’ll warn you now that the Fifth Horseman (Spoilage!) is on board. So if you haven’t seen any of the four flicks listed here… you’ve been warned in advance. Which is unusual in this day and age, as spoilers usually just spill out and all over you in the oddest of places. Hell, I heard the end of Gravity from you yakky lady babbling like a jerk on her cell phone in a grocery store a few days ago. I wanted to throw a large can of low-sodium black beans at her head, but I’d be typing this from a jail cell and it was the last can of that brand on the shelf and I needed it more than her head needed a two-pound can-sized impression in it.

Anyway, saddle up and get ready to ride (or duck behind something and hope you’re unseen)… we’re off! Continue reading