Monday, December 14, 2009


The early 1970s were banner years for Paul Naschy. In less than half a decade, ever since LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO (THE MARK OF THE WOLFMAN) introduced Paul Naschy as a horror film star in 1968, Naschy had made a name for himself as the premier exponent of Spanish fantastique. Impressively, not only was he an actor in these films, but their scriptwriter as well. His 1970 LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (English title: WEREWOLF SHADOW) became a surprise hit in Spain, inspiring Spanish producers to fund domestic horror films. The Spanish horror boom of the 1970s arose primarily because of one man: Paul Naschy.

By 1972 the thirty-seven year old Naschy had made six Waldemar Daninsky wolfman films and the first Spanish giallo film, JACK EL DESTRIPADOR DE LONDRES (JACK THE RIPPER OF LONDON). 1972 was destined to be Naschy’s most productive and luminescent year. A total of eight movies filled his filmography for that year: DISCO ROJO (RED LIGHT), EL GRAN AMOR DEL CONDE DRACULA (COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE), LOS CRIMENES DE PETIOT (THE CRIMES OF PETIOT), LA REBELION DE LAS MUERTAS (English title: VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES), LA ORGIA DE LOS MUERTOS (English title: THE HANGING WOMAN), EL ESPANTO SURGE DE LA TUMBA (English title: HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB), EL RETORNO DE WALPURGIS (English title: THE CURSE OF THE DEVIL)—and EL JOROBADO DE LA MORGUE (THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE). At least four of these films, including the hunchback film, were to become key titles in Naschy’s oeuvre to be spoken about with reverence and enthusiasm among fans of Naschy and Spanish horror.

Sharing a similar mood of decay and a baroque/grotesque sensibility, EL JOROBADO DE LA MORGUE could be considered a follow-up to the earlier EL GRAN AMOR DEL CONDE DRACULA. Both films were produced by writer/journalist Manuel Leguineche and directed by Javier Aguirre, two intellectuals who employed the horror genre for subterfuge against the decades-long fascistic government of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Leguineche, a friend of Naschy’s father, had solicited the actor/scriptwriter for two horror films treatments, and within a month Naschy provided both the Dracula and hunchback stories. Leguineche also brought in experimental filmmaker Aguirre to direct, an inspired choice as these two Aguirre films would become landmarks in Spanish horror cinema. (Naschy would also appear in another Aguirre film a year later, EL ASESINO ESTA ENTRE LOS TRECE [THE KILLER IS ONE OF THE THIRTEEN], but his role was minor and the film not a success.) Joining in as producer on the hunchback film was Francisco Lara Polop, a scriptwriter who would direct his own horror film that year, the luxuriantly atmospheric LA MANSION DE LA NIEBLA (English title: MURDER MANSION).

Critical to the film would be its visual look. Cameraman Raul Perez Cubero, whose future would hold three nominations for Spain’s version of the Oscar, the Goya, and a win for his cinematography on YOU'RE THE ONE (2000), handled the photography, as he had done in EL GRAN AMORE DEL CONDE DRACULA. In both films he evoked a memorable texture of morbidity and the other-worldliness inhabited by the damned and the forgotten.

For Naschy his role would be one more addition to his ever-growing roster of portraying classic monster parts. He had already played a wolfman (numerous times), Mr. Hyde and Count Dracula, so it seemed natural for him to appear as a hunchback, this one named Wolfgang Gotho in tribute to Mozart and the wolf in Naschy.

Most of the cast assembled had been already initiated into fantastique. Maria Elena Arpon, who played Gotho’s primary love interest, is otherwise best remembered by euro-cult film fans as the first cinematic victim of the Blind Dead in Amando de Ossorio’s LA NOCHE DEL TERROR NOCHE (English title: TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD, 1971). The Austrian actress Maria Perschy had a substantial resume by 1972, with credits that included Jess Franco’s THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU (1969) and Gordon Hessler’s MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1971).

The role of the scientist, Dr. Orla, was handled with flavorful efficiency by the sympathetic-looking Alberto Dalbes, who was on his way to becoming a frequently employed actor in Jess Franco movies. Born in Argentina in 1922, Dalbes studied Philosophy and Literature for a teaching profession, but dropped that ambition to embrace acting. Before moving to Spain in the 1960s, Dalbes had a successful theatrical and film career in his native Argentina during the 1940s and 50s.

Another Argentinean, Rosanna Yanni, essayed the curious role of Elke who, through either perverse inclination or romantic idealism, falls in love with the hunchbacked simpleton. Born Marta Susana Yanni Paxot in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1938, Yanni began her entertainment career at twenty-two as a chorus girl at the Buenos Aires National Theater and later modeled in Italy, to finally settle in Spain in 1963, where she found regular work in comedies, adventure films and horror films. Her first horror film was, in fact, Naschy’s first--LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO. Her four films with Naschy, two with Jess Franco, and one with Blind Dead creator Amando de Ossorio have yearned her the affection and admiration of euro-cult film fans.

Vic Winner (Victor Alcazar) had already appeared with Naschy in EL GRAN AMOR DEL CONDE DRACULA and now took on his typical middling leading man role. Like Yanni, he would star in four Naschy films and is considered part of a beloved-by-fans Naschy troupe. Despite his calm, even lethargic looks, Winner energized himself in the future with scriptwriting and directing (non-horror) films under his real name and as Victor Barrera.

Antonio Pica’s solid and handsome presence typecast him as a police inspector in four Naschy films, while his crime-investigating partner in the hunchback film, Manuel de Blas, had played the Dracula role in Naschy’s, LOS MONSTRUOS DEL TERROR (English title: ASSIGNMENT TERROR, 1970). At the time Blas was married to Spanish cult-film icon Patty Shepard (another Naschy co-star!). He has remained a busy actor to this day.

Splendid locales were employed. The impressive Bavaria-like town of Viella in the Pyrenees Mountains substituted for Feldkirch, Austria, while the expansive cellars of Spain’s first king, Philip II, became the eerie subterranean hell in which Gotho hides and Dr. Orla sets up his laboratory. Madrid’s Hospital Provincial morgue provided a most suitable location for the shuffling midnight footsteps and barbarity of the hunchback.

The palpable gruesome atmosphere of the morgue scenes was easily inspired by the actual doings of the morgue staff. Naschy details one such moment in his autobiography, MEMOIRS OF A WOLFMAN (Midnight Marquee Press, 2000; translated by Mike Hodges): “On one occasion a dead man’s head was left poking out of the casket, and when one of the attendants pushed down on the rotten corpse, it sprang up and spewed a green vicious liquid over him.”

Permission was given to use a real corpse for a head-severing scene. Naschy took two swigs of whiskey but couldn’t get past the first cut into the throat. A dummy head was used thereafter.

In the film’s most talked about sequence, Naschy was set upon by real rats. Naschy had to be inoculated against possible rabies, and one would have expected Maria Elena Arpon to have been afforded the same precaution, as that was her, not a mannequin, lying on a slab with the rodents nestling and nibbling all over her.

“It was as terrifying as it was real,” Naschy commented about his rat scene in his autobiography. “The Ibys Institute caught a load of rats in the sewers and left them without food for some time. Once loosed on the set the filthy little beasts proved able to leap up to a meter high, sinking their needle sharp teeth into anything at hand. I felt their bites on several parts of my anatomy and wondered what would have happened to me if I hadn’t been wearing protection. It wasn’t a nice scene to shoot.”

As payment for their furious cameo roles, some of the rats were burned alive on camera. It was as terrifying as it was real.

On a deeper level of significance, Dr. Orla symbolized authority, while Gotho represented the subdued working class, striving for a ludicrous goal manufactured by leaders who know that the goal can never be attained but use it anyway to secure cheap labor and subservience. At one point, Dr, Orla makes it clear: “You see, Gotho, how the most insignificant person can be of use to science and to humanity. All you have to do is let yourself be led by a real leader.”

The film’s evolving outrageousness and grotesqueness, issuing from the pit of Spain’s monarchist and inquisitorial past, even from mankind’s primordial past, could not help but subliminally shake the principles of faith and tradition propping Spanish society. What better ruse than to use a horror film, which had been traditionally thought of as trash by many critics, as a release of political and social commentary (and sexual imagery) forbidden by the regime of Generalissimo Franco?

Unlike EL GRAN AMOR DEL CONDE DRACULA, Naschy’s hunchback film lacked the frequent nudity of the other film’s export version, however. A promotional still of a bare-chested Naschy with an equally bare-chested Rosanna Yanni exists, but such a scene never made it to the finished product, though Yanni’s breasts are very briefly on display in the uncensored international cut. Otherwise, in terms of nudity, the film is chaste at this point, probably having been pruned significantly when the script was sent to Spain’s censorship board and then when handed in for review.

And there are several moments that would have easily lent themselves to generous displays of female flesh: a whipping scene at a reformatory and Gotho’s kidnappings of women, one taking place while a woman is showering. There may have been good reason not to shoot, or promote, a “double version” for these scenes. With the censorship that EL GRAN AMOR DEL CONDE DRACULA suffered (in one interview Naschy mentioned 36 cuts!), the producers would have been justified in not having this new film go through excisions that could have hollowed out portions of their film around the world.

For his performance as Wolfgang Gotho, Naschy won the Georges Melies Award for best actor at the Second International Festival of Fantastic Cinema in Paris in 1973, beating out such established figures as Christopher Lee, Jason Robards and Herbert Lom. At the festival where he received his award, he met director Terence Fisher, who complimented him on his role and showed enthusiasm in making a Jekyll and Hyde picture with the Spanish actor/scriptwriter. (Dare we note some similarity between EL JOROBADO DE LA MORGUE and Fisher’s 1974 FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL?)

For Naschy the award had particular significance. It meant that his name and the Spanish horror film had entered the ranks of actors and films recognized and applauded on an international scale. EL JOROBADO DE LA MORGUE would validate what LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS had begun. The Spanish horror film had come into its own.

Now, weeks after the death of Paul Naschy on November 30, 2009, the first appearance on NTSC DVD of this Naschy classic comes from Mya to street in January. From what I can tell the source is the Spanish version (released by Spain's TriPictures several years ago) with the brief nude scene involving Rossana Yanni replacing the Spanish clothed edit. Pluses include English subtitles for all three audio track--Spanish, Italian and English. It has been Mya's policy not to have English subtitles when English audio is present, but thankfully here the company has gone the extra mile to supply English subs. There's also a photo/pressbook gallery (borrowing from Anolis' German DVD release of this title), a comparison between the nude scene and the non-nude one, the American trailer, and the Italian credits sequences (the beginning credits have different music replacing the familiar accordion um-pa-pa, and are white lettering over a black background). Colors are quite good, with blacks being very solid. Picture quality is a bit on the soft side. There's some slight aliasing and shifting to the picture at times, which will probably be more apparent on better systems will larger monitors. I also noticed two quick, minor horizontal breakups during a fight scene between Gotho and the Vic Winner character. The DVD can be ordered from

German trailer for the Anolis DVD edition:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shake-ups at ADA

Variety is reporting that the sales staff of ADA (Alternative Distribution Alliance) is being merged into Warner Brothers' distributing arm, WEA. The article continues:

"A source said that 17 staffers are exiting the company. Among those departing is former ADA president Andy Allen, who had acted as a consultant to the firm for the past couple of years. WMG is also reportedly closing ADA's video arm, Filmworks; VPs Jay Douglas and Rob McDonald are ankling as a result."

Why does this concern us? Well, ADA (which used to be Ryko until April) distributes Mya in the United States, as well as other indie DVD labels such as Blue Underground, Synapse and Mondo Macabro!

At the moment this news doesn't appear to affect these DVD labels and their distribution, but one wonders if this is not a bad sign in that direction.

BTW, Warners owns 95% of ADA.

UNTIL DEATH - review

Lucio Fulci thought he was going to direct this film, but instead the helming chores eventually went to Lamberto Bava, son of Mario Bava and a fine filmmaker in his own right. PER SEMPRE (UNTIL DEATH) was a feature for Italian television, part of the 4-film series, Brivido Giallo (literally, Yellow Shiver). The other films in this series: UNA NOTTE AL CIMITERO (GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE), LA CASA DELL'ORCO (THE OGRE) and A CENA COL VAMPIRO (DINNER WITH A VAMPIRE). The now-defunct Italian NoShame division released a box set in 2006 with all four films, subtitled "Gli Incubi di Lamerto Bava/The Nightmares of Lamberto Bava." Of these, only THE OGRE has yet to be released by Mya.

I've not seen a significant amount of Lamberto Bava's output, but UNTIL DEATH makes me take special notice as this film is a splendid chiller that starts slowly, builds up its mystery, then, in the last 15 minutes or so, unleashes some terrifying sequences and images--not gross-out horror, but horror of incident, with some subtle, but impacting special effects and makeup.

Italy's master of cult screenplays, Dardano Sacchetti, had a hand in the story and script of lovers, Linda (Gioia Scola) and Carlo (David Brandon), who do away with and bury Linda's husband. They proceed to lead quasi-normal lives thereafter as restaurateurs, until the appearance several years later of a mysterious, handsome and intense young man, Marco (Urbano Barberini), who begins a simmering seduction of Linda. But along with Marco arrive occurrences that Linda's husband may still be alive. Are these occurrences the work of a noisy cop who dines at their restaurant, a squeeze play upon the couple's guilt? Or is something else, something more frightening happening?

All three actors are spot-on in their performances, and Simon Boswell's electronic score is sure to provide a nostagic fix to euro-cult fans who remember the Italian age of horror of the 1980s when Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci were kings. Lamberto Bava handles everything with smooth discipline and focus, injecting eerie suspense and touches of fantasy when necessary, before letting nightmares attain full expression at the end.

As with other films from the Dania catalog, UNTIL DEATH is very good pictorially. The English audio suffers later in the film from some minor ticking; unfortunately the superior Italian audio, which contains more pronounced incidental sounds (like water lapping when the characters are by a lake) is not subtitled in English, as is the norm for Mya titles that have an English audio track.

The Mya DVD is available at


The start of a splendidly chilling sequence from UNTIL DEATH:

See you later....!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Coming in March 2010

"The Films of Antonio Bonifacio." Or at least two of them: APPUNTAMENTO EN NERO (1990, aka, SCANDAL IN BLACK, NAKED RAGE, BLIND DATE--Mya's title) and KREOLA (1993).

BLIND DATE is supposed to be a nasty and sleazy later-day giallo. There's a review of the film on the Euro Fever blog--but, warning, a lot of spoilers there. KREOLA stars the Valentina woman, Demetra Hampton, who was actually born in Philadelphia! The one review of this film on the IMDB is not positive, but it does imply a slight supernatural element.

Now it will be for us to evaluate the work of director Antonio Bonifacio!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Coming in February 2010

Only one film is on Mya's schedule to come out in February of next year: ANNA - THE PLEASURE, THE TORMENT, with Edwige Fenech. This had been released by NoShame in the United States in 2005 as SECRETS OF A CALL GIRL. The original Italian title is ANNA, QUEL PARTICOLARE PIACERE (ANNA, THAT PARTICULAR PLEASURE.)

Mya's promo copy reads:

International sex symbol Edwige Fenech stars as Anna, a girl as beautiful as she is naïve, who falls into an abusive relationship with international crime boss Guido. He soon forces Anna deep into the abyss of depravity, violence and prostitution and, looking to start a new life, she escapes from Guido and seeks the help of Lorenzo, a sensitive doctor. But Guido finds her and wants revenge on the woman whose life he has so ruthlessly controlled for so long. In the end, Anna has no choice left but to face her wicked tormenter and fight him with all her strength.

This will be the 44th release from Mya.

Cover of the CD soundtrack release from Hexacord (limited to 500 copies):

Originally RCA put out the score on LP, with far less cues:

The score featured the vocals of Edda dell'Orso.

Friday, October 30, 2009

EVIL FACE - review

As the director of what were to become a couple of "video nasties" in Britain (SS: EXPERIMENT CAMP, SS CAMP 55: WOMEN'S HELL), Sergio Garrone is certainly an institution in euro-cult films. While his Nazi-exploitation films are notoriously known, his work in the horror genre, limited as director to two films, is rarely seen. Mya's release of LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE (THE HAND THAT FEEDS THE DEAD; on the Mya DVD as EVIL FACE) now provides one half of Garrone's horror output, the other half being LE AMANTI DEL MOSTRO (LOVER OF THE MONSTER), a film that shares much of the same cast, crew and locations. Both films are distinguished by their placement in a late 19th century East Europe or Russia, a world seemingly separated from humanity, where passions and bizarre weirdness can flourish, unseen by society or any national authorities. It helps enormously that Klaus Kinski is at the head of these two productions, and that the music by Elio Maestosi and Stefano Liberati provides an emotional handle on the stories and passions of the characters.

LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE takes its cues from surgery horror films like EYES WITHOUT A FACE and THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF. Here Professor Nijinsky (Klaus Kinski) attempts to surgically reclaim the beauty of his burn-scared wife Tanja (Katia Christine), the daughter of the late Baron Ivan Rassimov (yes, "Ivan Rassimov"!), who died tragically in a laboratory fire. Professor Nijinsky, a devoted assistant of Rassimov, needs the skins of beautiful women for his work. With the unexpected but welcome arrival of a newly married couple, Nijinsky finds his most suitable source of flesh in the bride (also played by Katia Christine).

Garrone builds up his suspense through a stately, not flashy, progression of incidents. It's not art, but it does have eventual impact, providing several memorable frissions in the last fifteen minutes or so of LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE. (Btw, the original title makes no sense in the context of the film; Mya's new title--EVIL FACE--is suitable, however much it lacks in finesse.)

Klaus Kinski performs with his usual mixture of somberness and intensity, though his presence on the shoot must have been limited, as in most of the lab scenes a stand-in, mask covering face to hide the duplicity, takes his place. Kinski's most amazing moment comes when he talks to a doll, Anjuska, about his love for his wife and his dejection over her betrayal. Though the set-up may seem completely ridiculous, Kinski manages to searingly impress us with his character's suffering sincerity. It's a dazzling lesson in acting.

Special effects are handled with gruesome expertness by Carlo Rambaldi, and the set decoration and costume design by co-producer Amedeo Mellone are precise and fine. Though obviously done on a limited budget, the film has a suitably rich veneer for its intentions.

As with their presentation of L'AMANTE DEL DEMONIO (LUCIFERA, DEMONLOVER), Mya uses an obvious video element for its source. This time, though, the presentation is in the film's proper aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (non-anamorphic) and the colors are bolder and the picture sharper. If it weren't for the numerous video imperfections that streak throughout the play of the film, and the noticeable aliasing that comes from using analog video, the quality would have been quite good.

Mya's presentation is in the original Italian language, with optional English subtitles. (The film probably never had English dubbing.) Included is a picture gallery, mainly of Italian photobustas. There are a couple of cover shots of recent CD releases from the score, one cue from which is obviously used for the menu screen, as it has a fuller and cleaner timbre than what comes across in the film itself.

EVIL FACE is available on

Friday, October 16, 2009


L'AMANTE DEL DEMONIO, the original title of the film now released by Mya as LUCIFERA, DEMONLOVER, was chiefly known by euro-horror enthusiasts for a couple of lascivious stills that have appeared in magazines and books since the film's production date of 1971. Otherwise, the film, which apparently has never had English dubbing, was little seen, except by those who chose to order a video or DVD-R from bootleggers. Even then, the film was not available with English subtitling. At the very least its appearance on the Mya DVD is welcome, because now, with optional English subtitles, the Anglo-speaking viewer can understand what the hell is going on. Other aspects of this release are problematic, as will be discussed later in this review.

It's understandable why L'AMANTE DEL DEMONIO never had a theatrical release in the United States. Despite those hot stills, the film contains little exploitative elements and drive. A cave scene with nude women and a nude blonde vampire seems tacked in and provides little eros, only a smattering of ridiculousness; an end torture scene, though it promises much, is demur even by 1970s standards. L'AMANTE DEL DEMONIO doesn't even rely on atmosphere that much, but rather on incident, plot. These are presented in a pleasing old-fashioned, matter-of-fact way, a tale for a campfire or beside a cozy hearth on a cold windy night.

[Spoilers in the paragraph below.]

At its heart L'AMANTE DEL DEMONIO is a fairytale of a woman and the Devil. Three women in contemporary Europe, impelled by one--the adventurous Helga (Rosalba Neri)--arrive to visit a castle that is rumored for housing the Devil. They spend the night at the castle, with Helga falling into a night-long dream of a past life in another century in which she became the bride of the village's prime young and handsome bachelor, Hans. The Devil (Edmund Purdom) intrudes, however, seducing Helga, who craves more than what a traditional life can offer--and torrid passion from a lover, which the gentile and boyishly clumsy Hans cannot provide. The Devil is never to be trusted, of course, and he lays a trap for Helga that will see her caught by the townspeople as a witch. Yet the film doesn't end with a mere Faustian warning, for not only does the Devil win, but the woman does, too. We find out that, contrary to the records of her trial, she did not repent her sins and dealings with the Devil, and has now turned up, reincarnated, to relive her frightful yet pleasurably consuming experiences in a dream. The night and the dream over, the contemporary Helga's last expressions are of wistful, if not bemused, contentment. She is pleased. The Devil is pleased, as well. Both share a common knowledge and satisfaction of their passionate connection in another life. It is this no-regrets, anti-religious stance, subtly underlined, that raises L'AMANTE DEL DEMONIO above many other Devil stories, which tend to be moralistic warnings about dealings with demons and evil.

Composer Elvio Monti's catchy music helps the picture establish the proper euro mood, and the Italian countryside breathes with the spaciousness of a different, more tranquil time. Occasionally, cinematographer Antonio Midica's compositions attempt to recall Dutch paintings, but there's a periodic clunky element to Francesco Bertuccioli's editing that reveals the low-budget nature of the film--and the possible cuts made to it.

Shamefully, Paolo Lombardo, the scriptwriter and director, almost hides Rosabla Neri's body from us, shooting any nude scenes with her in a coy manner. What was he thinking? (Or did Neri insist on such prudish tactics?) He also duplicates a lovers-beyond-fire scene from LADY FRANKENSTEIN, though it's unlikely he was familiar with this film during his helming of L'AMANTE DEL DEMONIO.

It is not Rosalba Neri who makes a strong impression, however, but Edmund Purdom, who has only minutes in the film, yet steals every second with a reptilian seductiveness and charm. When he was briefly a major Hollywood player in the early part of his career (THE EGYPTIAN, THE PRODIGAL, etc.), the Jesuit and Benedictine-educated Purdom seemed a stiff presence, but here he's loosened up completely and enjoying himself. A delightful devil.

It's unfortunate that Edmund Purdom passed away in January 2009, so that we are denied having an opportunity ask him about his euro product that's now seeing more light of day on DVD. I've a feeling that Purdom would probably have forgotten much about this film, though, as would Neri, but it would have been interesting to trek with him his Italian journey and impressions after his Hollywood days.

Mention should also be made of Robert Woods, who, as Helmuth, provides an inflamed sincerity to his role as Hans' rival and an anchor to the more serious elements of the story.

For the DVD presentation, Mya uses a noticeable video element that will look the poorer the better one's player system. In darker scenes tinges of muddiness compromise the picture and, just as reminder of the source material, stark video glitches momentarily pop up now and then. Furthermore, the presentation is full-frame, slicing off the film's more generous original widescreen framing. There are glaring day for night errors that no one seems to have had any concern to correct, probably even when the film was being theatrically exhibited around the world in the 1970s. Curiously, the opening credits are played over a black screen, unlike the drive to the castle that shows up in another version. (Check this blog page.) Despite these disappointments (which some will rightfully howl about), enough comes across, so that one can enjoy film on its own merits. Remember: it's the story that counts. Engaging the viewer through incidents and a fairytale's innate appeal, L'AMANTE DE DEMONIO is ultimately haunting, at least for me, and will leave a positive impression behind that so many other films, louder and with far heftier budgets, cannot produce.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Two Reviews

Here are reviews of Mya's ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN and ITALIAN SEX, with screen captures, by Eric Cotenas over at DVD Beaver. The good news with FISHMEN is that it's correctly audio pitched, unlike the PAL NoShame DVD.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mya's January 2010 Releases

Mya's January 2010 releases have been announced: BLADE OF THE RIPPER (previously available in a now OOP NoShame release as THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH), DESIRABLE TEACHER, SEX ADVICE and SATAN'S WIFE. I'm particularly looking forward to SATAN'S WIFE, otherwise known as RING OF DARKNESS. A Pier Carpi film, it stars Anne Heywood, John Phillip Law, Marisa Mell, with music by Stelvio Cipriani. Satanism and nudity Italian style. The cover art for this is most suggestive...with that phallic-looking thumb placement.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Fishmen Are Coming!

The Mya release of ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN, delayed for a while, is around the corner. Rights issues related to Roger Corman's acquisition of the film (that would be re-edited and released as SOMETHING WAITS IN THE DARK and, later, SCREAMERS) have been resolved.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

An Avalanche of November Releases!

Mya is projecting street dates of six releases on November 24: HUMAN COBRAS (L'UOMO PIU VELENOSO DEL COBRA), Laura Gemser's film debut THE REAL EMANUELLE (AMORE LIBRO), THE CRICKET (LA CICALA), LADY MEDIC (LA SOLDATESSA ALLA VISITA MILITARE; Edwige Fenech stars), Joe D'Amato's THE LAST DECAMERON, and THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (EL JOROBADO DE LA MORGUE; Paul Naschy stars). I'll be discussing each film in the weeks to come.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I've confirmed with Mya that the October release of the Klaus Kinski horror film EVIL FACE is actually LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE (THE HAND THAT FEEDS THE DEAD) and not LE AMANTI DEL MOSTRO, as previously noted. Ironically, I had earlier mentioned how both films, shot concurrently or back-to-back, get mixed up by many.

Here's a locandina from LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE:

And an early video release:

Someone on the Italian eBay is auctioning a book of over 160 photos from this film. A sample:

Hmm, our kind of film!

Just as it would have been good to have LE AMANTI DEL MOSTRO on DVD, so it will be good to have LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE in that format. Hopefully, the companion film will also be released by Mya in the future.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mya's October Releases

There's no stopping Mya! Scheduled to street October 27 are the following titles: EVIL FACE (LE AMANTI DEL MOSTRO, 1974), FAMILY SCANDAL (PECCATO ORIGINALE, 1980)and GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE (UNA NOTTE AL CIMITERO, 1987).

Let's take a look at the first of these future releases--EVIL FACE.

The DVD artwork is a combination of an Italian locandina for LADY FRANKENSTEIN and poster work for the Jess Franco film, JACK THE RIPPER. Below is the original locandina for the film, which certainly would have been effective:

The Italian poster looked like this:

The English translation of the Italian title is LOVER OF THE MONSTER. I'm not aware of it ever being titled EVIL FACE. The film is directed by Serigo Garrone, the infamous director of S.S. EXPERIMENT CAMP, and was shot back-to-back or concurrently with THE HAND THAT FEEDS THE DEAD (LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE), with which it is sometimes confused. Amusingly, several of the names of the characters--"Polanski," "Ivan Rassimov"--are in-jokes.

The website Santo & Friends states:

"A beautifully shot gothic horror film starring Kinski who gives a excellent and sympathetic performance. The cinematography and music do much to enhance a captivating story. Dutch actress Katia Christine is exceptionally gorgeous as Alex’s unloving wife."

Monday, July 6, 2009

You are a Great Read Award

I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that this blog has just received a "You are a Great Read!" award from the Marisa Mell Blog run by Mirko di Wallenberg. This is an award that a blog gives three blogs that they feel stand out from the many others out there, and then those blogs give the award to other blogs, and so on. Mirko (good name!) said of this blog:

"First, there is the always entertaining "MYA"-blog "" solely dedicated to a relatively new DVD label publishing Italian movies that have never been published before on DVD or making some older movies again available for a new generation. In these harsh times I find it very courageous to start a new DVD label while a lot of the other companies are quiting the once blooming market. Mya offers each month several new releases and that should be supported by all the fans of Italian genre movies!"

Thank you, Mirko, and now I'll have to select three blogs myself!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I'm preparing a major review of THE LEGEND OF BLOOD CASTLE, the latest DVD from Mya, which seems to be doing well, having sold out at least in the renowned Kim's Video Store, here in Manhattan. Meanwhile, below is the American trailer for the film, which was released in the States as THE FEMALE BUTCHER.

Regarding the music experiment I placed on the blog, and the poll asking readers' opinion of it, 40% liked it very much, 20% weren't bothered by the music, while the remaining 40% nixed the idea in some form. I myself was having troubles, going in and out of posts, updating them, and having the same song replayed whenever I would move away from the main page. And the music conflicted with any YouTube clip. I still may do something with euro-music, but have it as a separate blog that people could listen to at their wish and convenience.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mya's September Releases - UNTIL DEATH

The third release coming from Mya in September is Lamberto Bava's UNTIL DEATH (FINO ALLA MORTE, 1987). Shot for Italian DVD, this film has a good reputation, with a reviewer on the IMDB remarking: "The film that this one takes most of its influence from is undoubtedly the 1946 masterpiece The Postman Always Rings Twice (which coincidently (or not) was remade six years before this film), and this is shown by the central plot and characters; all of which are clearly reminiscent of the earlier film. However, this is an Italian movie - so you can count on a few over the top surprises!" And: "...the film features some brilliantly atmospheric music along with a quality cast of actors, most of which have worked with big names such as Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento."

Another reviewer: "When it comes to atmosphere and horrific mood-setting, this definitely is one of Lamberto Bava's best accomplishments. The music is also good and the acting is far above Italian standards, with Gioia Scola (Lucio Fulci's 'Conquest'), Urbano Barberini (Dario Argento's 'Opera') and especially David Brandon, the mean-looking actor from 'Delirium' and 'Caligola – the Untold Story'. Recommended!"

This film was released on DVD in Italy by NoShame in 2006.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mya's September Releases - NAKED AND VIOLENT

Before he became a master of the giallo form, director Sergio Martino was responsible for a few "mondo" movies. One of these, NAKED AND VIOLENT (AMERICA COSI NUDA, COSI VIOLENTA, 1970) is forthcoming from Mya in September and not on the Mya master list I provided a couple of months ago. So, another surprise.

This is a very rare film, with almost nothing written about it that I could find. According to a listing for the film in a couple of Italian websites, NAKED AND VIOLENT is a look behind the facade of then contemporary America, showing the moral and spiritual poverty of the country, and underlying this by exploring such mondo subjects as bourgeoisie orgies, crime, racial persecution, etc. Edmund Purdom does the narration, and Bruno Nicolai handles the music. Purdom also narrated Martino's first mondo (which was Martino's first film), MONDO SEX (MILLE PECCATI... NESSUNA VIRTU, 1969), of which author Mark Goodall wrote in SWEET & SAVAGE (Headpress, 2006): "... well-executed, colourful, crisply edited and entertaining.... One can see from this film why Purdom was favoured so much as the voice of English mondo. His narration is hugely varied, expressive and like Ustinov, Purdom delights in 'admiring' pretty young girls and aping the accents of foreigners...." One expects something similar with NAKED AND VIOLENT, though taking place in the United States, obviously. Should prove interesting.

Italian poster:

Belgian poster:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mya's September releases - LUCIFERA, DEMON LOVER

Good stuff coming up from Mya in September--all horror/exploitation related. First up is LUCIFERA, DEMON LOVER. This 1972 film, directed by Paolo Lombardi, stars Edmund Purdom and Rosalba Neri. The original Italian title is L'AMANTE DEL DEMONIO. The single review on the IMDB acclaims: "Wonderful Pop-realistic masterpiece, with one of the best Rosalba Neri's performance." The trivia comment is: "Rosalba Neri was really scared shooting this horror movie." Midnight Video's promo reads: "Rosalba and two girlfriends visit a remote mansion where she comes across a portrait of a woman who looks much like her. While sleeping, she has dreams of this woman's (her) past which include: cave dwelling rapists, sadistic vampires, inquisition and a mysterious red-hooded, cloaked, disappearing swordsman. An extremely obscure, haunting and hypnotic film with beautiful scenery and photography that is a must for Rosalba Neri fans. An excellent film in original Italian dialog (never available in English spoken)."

As noted by Rogerio Ferraz over at (hat tip to "bdc"), the artwork is taken from a Lucifera fumetti (with additional breast covering), which may be the first time a fumetti cover has been employed for a DVD cover. (Fumetti artists were notorious for taking images from films and other artwork, so that's why you see the familiar face from Freda's THE GHOST in there.) The connection with the fumetti is unclear at this point.

And here's a clip from this film:

Later addition: Below is the opening credit sequence. Nice euro-music from Elvio Monti. What's interesting is there's no mention of the film being based on the Lucifera fumetti (in fact, the source is given as a Grand Guignol tale), indicating to me that there's no connection between the two, aside from the title given this DVD release. What I think happened is that the Lucifera fumetti was apparently subtitled "L'amante del demonio," hence the confusion. The Lucifera adults-only comic began in 1971 and ended in 1980. The character was created by Giorgio Cavedon; the illustrations were done by Leone Frollo, Edoardo Morricone, and others.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Originally titled in English THREE GIANTS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, the Italian title--IL RITORNO DEL GLADIATORE PIU FORTE DEL MONDO (THE RETURN OF THE STRONGEST GLADIATOR IN THE WORLD)--has been simplified for the Mya DVD release as RETURN OF THE GLADIATOR. The film's theatrical Italian release occurred in the summer of 1971. By that time, the sword-and-sandal (or peplum) film had long disappeared as being a viable genre, though occasionally an attempt was made to pump some life back into it, particularly after the success of John Milius' CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982).

Brad Harris (who, for you youngsters, looks a bit like Daniel Craig, but with genuine toughness) stars as Marcus, a former gladiator from the border of the Roman Empire, who now holds a high position in the Roman army. He is sent on a secret mission to a rebellious part of the Empire, which just happens to be that area he once called home. Joining him are two companions, one of whom, a habitual thief, The Fox (played by Raf Baldassarre), is the comedic presence in the film. There's a lot of potential in such a plot, but the problem is that the script doesn't take advantage of this intriguing idea at all, meandering instead into a series of ho-hum escapes and fights.

Brad Harris was born July 16, 1933, and was one of a group of American strong types who went to Italy to initiate careers in the Italian film industry after Steve Reeves made such an international impact with HERCULES (1958). Harris' first role in Italy was GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS (GOLIATH CONTRO I GIGANTI, 1961), and he followed that with two more peplums, SAMSON (SANSONE) and THE FURY OF HERCULES (LA FURIA DI ERCOLE), both shot back to back by Gianfranco Parolini in 1961. These films, and similar ones like THE DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM (ANNO 79: LA DISTRUZIONE DE EROLANO, 1962), made Harris a well-known peplum B-star, but he didn't limit himself to the genre when the signs started coming that the genre was passing its golden period. With the James Bond spy craze abooming, Harris found employment in copycat films, many produced by the West Germans, such as the Kommissar X series with Tony Kendell as his partner.

Harris was also a part of the adventure comedy THE THREE SUPERMEN IN TOKYO (TRE SUPERMEN A TOKIO, 1967), directed by RETURN OF THE GLADIATOR's Bitto Albertini. One gathers that the original English title of RETURN OF GLADIATOR--THREE GIANTS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (which is seen on the print Mya has used for the DVD)--is purposefully patterned after the titles of the Supermen film and its follow-up, also directed by Albertini and also starring Harris, THE THREE SUPERMEN IN THE JUNGLE (CHE FANNI I NOSTRI SUPERMEN TRA LE VERGINI DELLA GIUNGLA, 1968). Who knew that the Supermen films were so successful as to initiate imitations.

In his career Brad Harris was active behind the camera, too, executive producing KING OF KONG ISLAND, THE MUTATIONS, and other films. His long and varied filmography makes Harris leader of the peplum pack of actors, in terms of staying power in the film business. He's still active out there with AbOriginals (part of his Modern Body Design business), which, as the name suggests, deals with developing exceptional abs, a Harris physique trademark. Now in his mid-70s, Harris maintains a splendid physique, exercising daily, seven days a week, from 40 to 45 minutes and watching his diet. (Check out his routines and nutritional program in this IRON MAN MAGAZINE online article.) He appears to live very well by his motto: “Stay Fit, Have Fun, Harm No One, Inspire Everyone.”

Though he's around a lot in RETURN OF THE GLADIATOR, Harris seems underused, relying chiefly on acting skills that none of the strongmen peplum actors were particularly favored with. What they were favored with, and cultivated, were well-muscled bodies, and here the film just briefly shows off Harris' attributes in the film's best segment--the test of strength where two teams of horses, at opposite ends, attempt to pull apart the hero.

The legendary Massimo Serato (working under the name of "John Barracuda"!) is okay here as the villain of the piece, but obviously no match for Harris when the two have their final confrontation. Michel Lemoine (NECRONOMICON and CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH) fares better in a slimy second-tier villain role, but like Harris, his talents are underused.

Considering the low-budget on pained display, the scenes of armies marching and the final battle show surprising merit, including the use of a cast of several hundreds. These scenes, however, seem to be borrowed from another film or outtakes from another film. I’d like to know which film, as they promise the potential of a decent historical movie.

There are a couple of comedic segments in RETURN OF THE GLADIATOR that seem odd, given the more rigorous tone of the script. The worst one is a post-eating burping contest that follows a sped-up film segment of the heroic threesome ravishing a cooked chicken. And then there’s the amazing "golden shower" scene, when The Fox, hiding away from soldiers, gets a steady downpour of pee on his face--and into his open mouth! I wonder if the Supermen films had this type of broad slapstick.

I remember watching films like RETURN OF THE GLADIATOR when I was in the Army and stationed in Panama. There, I would adventurously go to Panama City's poorer neighborhoods to catch odd euro-films that were never exhibited in the United States. The print quality of these films was typically mediocre, diluted of freshness and vibrancy of color, and the projection was equally subpar, but one came away with an appreciation at experiencing the underbelly of Italian cinema in a non-deluxe environment found in a poor country. (In an online interview, Harris refers to himself as being a star in third-world countries.)

Mya's release is acceptable, though certainly not taken from vault elements. (I doubt anyone has really saved the negative of this film under exacting condition, but who knows?) The action behind the beginning credits suffers from some digital effects, but the rest of the film seems to play out fairly smoothly, with a possible exception or two. Though listed in some places online as having an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, the film is presented in scope (ca. 2.23:1), non-anamorphic, with an Italian audio option, but no English subtitles for that option, something that appears standard on all Mya releases in which an English audio track exists. A pity here, because the English dubbing is fairly drab while the Italian dubbing actors are much more lively and secure in their performances.

The Mya DVD is available at

Rare Italian poster for this film: