East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Folk horror: Eye of the Devil (1966)

Sharon Tate was so beautiful it hurts.
Which is stating the obvious, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Her fame rests on her beauty, on a handful of movies and on her tragic death at the hands of Charles Manson’s cultists.

Tate’s screen debut was slated to be Eye of the Devil, a small black and white occult/folk horror with a stellar cast: Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Donald Pleasence, David Hemmings. The lead female role should have been covered by Kim Novak, but the actress had a riding accident early on in the filming, and was replaced. Or maybe she was replaced because she fought with director J. Lee Thompson, and/or because she had had an on-set affair with Hemmings.

It was, all things considered, a very troubled production: change of leading lady, three directors stepping in and then out, at least a major rewrite of the script, a change of title (the movie was originally to be called 13) then the movie shelved for over one year.

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Egyptomania goes to the movies, a review

Last year I was paid 50 bucks by an Italian magazine to review books not available on the Italian market and related to the Horror genre1. I did it, and the reviews were so successful that my 50 bucks gig was not renewed for the second year – it was not worth the investment.

Now, my contract having been dead for over six months, I thought I’ll reprise here some of those reviews, expanding and revising the text.
Screenshot from 2018-08-22 13-13-12If you like them, you might consider buying me a coffee or supporting me on Patreon. Unless you did already, in which case, thank you.
Should there be any interest, I will go on with new reviews using the same format.
Let me know what you think in the comments, please.

For starters, here’s a bit about a very interesting non fiction book, called Egyptomania goes to the Movies . Continue reading


Wasting time at the bottom of the sea: Deepstar Six

movieposterBetween 1989 and 1990 a number of movies were released that had to do with people underwater facing monsters.
The most popular was of course Jim Cameron’s The Abyss, a big-budget production with state of the art special effects. George P. Cosmatos’ lower budget flick, Leviathan featured a good cast but made a smaller splash (ah!)
The others disappeared – but can still be found, and for a while were on rotation on local TV networks.
So two nights ago I went and checked out (again) Deepstar Six, a movie I had completely forgotten.
I am writing this now because I feel the plot might vanish from my memory again soon. Continue reading


Other people’s pulps: Adèle Blanc-Sec

I knew about Adèle well before I saw the movie.
The Jacques Tardi series of comics called The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec had been one of the many I had discovered when, in my early years as a university student, I used to spend a lot of time in the bookstores scattered in the center of town.
With its rough, sometimes unpleasant style and its alternating light and dark plots, the series about an early 20th century adventure fiction writer and adventuress featured dinosaurs, Egyptian mysteries, strange conspiracies and retro-technology.
It was great fun, winking and gently mocking a lot of classics, from Verne to Conan Doyle to Leblanc.


And yet, when finally the Adèle Blanc-Sec movie was released in 2010, the first of a proposed trilogy, I caught it on the big screen, and I did not like it.
Or, better, I liked it, but not as much as I had anticipated.

Re-watching the film in the silence and heat of the Astigianistan hills, I finally saw what peeved me all those years ago, and I was sort of reconciled with the movie. Continue reading


Wild West Spooks

Selection_614I took some time with a good book this weekend – Undead in the West, that with the subtitle Vampires, Zombies, Mummies, and Ghosts on the Cinematic Frontier is exactly what the doctor ordered to lighten up my current black mood.

Published in 2012 by Scarecrow Press, the 300+ pages volume edited by Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper is a collection of essays on supernatural horror movies and TV series set in the West, and/or using western movie elements or tropes such as John Carpenter’s Vampire$. Indeed, the films set in modern times covered in the book are just as many as those set in classical western age. Continue reading

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Not just another shark movie

forty_seven_meters_down_ver3Nothing better than a good thriller on a hot summer night.
Thanks to my friend Lucy I discovered In the Deep, which is most certainly not just another shark movie.

It’s been long debated how much damage the success of Jaws has done to the marine ecosystem, reinforcing the myht of the evil shark and basically providing justification for people that wanted to kill the evil shark to make soup of its fins.
For certain, Spielberg’s movie established a standard “monster” of modern cinema.
There’s dozens of shark movies out there, some very good, some ok, a lot of then simply horrible.
In the Deep – also known as 47 meters down – is one of the very good ones. Continue reading

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Tarzan as superhero?

0514_tarzanThere’s a new Tarzan movie doing the rounds – I haven’t seen it yet because here in the sticks where I live it will be distributed at some later date, but I plan on seeing it.

Now, one thing that’s leaving me a little bit peeved is, there’s a lot of people out there that go on about Tarzan being a superhero… he is a superhero, he should be treated as a superhero, the franchise should go the whole superhero way…

I am always wary when a movie critic tries to tell me a movie sucks based on the fact that

they should have made it differently

I love science fiction and what-ifs, but if the movie sucks, please tell me why it sucks, not how it would have sucked less in your opinion had you been the director.
And you see, I’m not so sure about this whole superhero business. Continue reading