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Forgotten Gialli Volume Six (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Forgotten Gialli Volume Six (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: February 27th, 2024.
    Director: Maurizio Pradeaux, Antonio Margheriti, Antonio Bido
    Cast: Robert Hoffmann, Nieves Navarro, Mark Damon, Eleonora Brown, Lino Capolicchio, Stefania Casini
    Year: 1973/1968/1978
    Purchase From Amazon

    Forgotten Gialli Volume Six – Movie Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome delivers another trio of 'forgotten gialli' in their latest three-film boxed set collection.

    Death Carries A Cane:

    First up, Maurizio Pradeaux’s 1973 picture stars Nieves Navarro (credited as Susan Scott) as a woman named Kitty who makes a good living for herself as a photographer. While vacationing in Italy with her family and visiting her boyfriend Alberto, (Robert Hoffmann), she drops a coin into a set of binoculars at a tourist spot and, while scanning Rome’s cityscape, stops when she sees a nude woman getting murdered by someone in a black trench coat. Unable to make out the assailant’s face, her time runs out. She drops in another coin and realizes that the killer has escaped, though she does note the address where the murder occurred.

    Kitty tells Alberto, who seems to have hurt his leg, what she saw and together they go to the police where Inspector Merugh (Jorge Martin, credited as George Martin) is less than impressed with the fact that Kitty really can’t offer up a lot in the way of details. The couple leaves but later that night, Merugh stops by and lets them know that they did indeed find a body in the hopes that maybe Kitty will be able to offer more clues as to the killing. She does recall that the killer used a cane, immediately making Albert a suspect, though he’s cleared of any wrongdoing fairly quickly.

    At this point, however, it becomes clear that the killer is still very active and as a few more murders take place, it seems that anyone who might have any information as to their identity and motivations is being knocked off. Kitty, no fool, realizes that this puts her in mortal danger so she and Alberto decide to try and uncover the murderer’s identity on their own.

    As stylish as it is sleazy, Death Carries A Cane does a lot of things right. It’s a well-paced picture with some pretty grisly murder set pieces that benefits from some excellent and unusual cinematography (some of the camera angles employed in the movie, especially in the second half, are genuinely unorthodox but no less effective!) and a pretty strong score courtesy of Roberto Pregadio. Production values are solid across the board, with the backdrop of Rome proving to be a great place to stage all of this. Never lacking in nudity or carnage, the storyline might be a tad pedestrian and this isn’t the most original giallo you’ve ever seen and there are a few moments in the movie that might leaving you scratching your head, but it hits all the right notes at all the right moments.

    Nieves Navarro, no stranger to the genre having starred in Death Walks On High Heels, The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion, All The Colors Of The Dark, Death Walks At Midnight and So Sweet, So Dead before starring in Death Carries A Cane, proves to be as reliable a leading lady in this picture as in any of her other efforts. She’s good here, she looks great and has the acting chops to back it all up. Robert Hoffmann is decent enough as the boyfriend, if not especially memorable, while Jorge Martin is entertaining to watch as the cop working the case.

    Naked You Die:

    Originally devised by Mario Bava and Tudor Gates, Nude... Si Muore (in English, Naked You Die) started life as Cry Nightmare. Bava didn't see eye to eye with the producers and so he was yanked from the production and the reins were handed over to Antonio Margheriti (who directed the film under the alias of Anthony Dawson). The script was re-written, and Bava's name was removed from the picture and the film found American distribution through drive-in specialists American International Pictures who chopped fifteen minutes out of the movie so that it could fit on a double bill, re-titled The Young, The Evil And The Savage. The film was also known under the alternate titles Schoolgirl Killer and The Mini Skirt Murders to play up on the primary location and to exploit the titillating possibilities inherent in a murder mystery set in an all-girls school. Dark Sky's welcome DVD release presents the in its original ninety-eight minute running time, the AIP cut ran roughly eight-two minutes in length.

    The film is based around a string of murders begins at an all-girls school. After a few girls are killed off, Inspector Durand (Michael Rennie) is called in to investigate. He carries out his investigation while at the same time one of the students, Jill (Sally Smith), is also trying to figure out who the killer is and why he or she is doing this in the first place. That's really all that there is to it.

    The film sets up a few different characters as potential suspects. The riding instructor, Richard Barrett (Mark Damon), is quite popular with the female students and has ties to some of the victims. The swimming instructor, Di Brazzi (Giovanni Di Benedetto) could also be the culprit, as could the creepy guy who periodically spies on the girls, La Floret (Luciano Pigozzi). Durand will have to put a few clues together before he can prove who did it though, and that's not going to be easy.

    Naked You Die is not a particularly great film – in fact, it's fairly pedestrian and not particularly compelling. Rennie sort of walks through the picture without much enthusiasm and the rest of the cast are rarely more inspired than he. The story meanders and the recurring comedic bits aren't particularly funny nor do they add much to the plot, instead they stand out as inappropriate and awkward. The movie definitely builds to a decent ending and there is some suspense to be found in the last half hour of the picture, but getting there doesn't exactly keep you on the edge of your seat.

    That being said, Naked You Die is far from a write-off and fans of giallos will find enough that works about the movie to want to give it a look. The opening murder, which is quite reminiscent of a famous kill scene from Bava's earlier giallo, Blood And Black Lace, is stylish and eerie as a black gloved killer strangles a woman in her bathtub then dunks her head under water until she can breathe no more. The location shooting at the school gives the movie an interesting setting the film makes the most of this by accentuating some of the more unusual aspects of the academy such as the insect house and Dario Argento might have had this idea in mind while writing Suspiria. While the film isn't as colorful or quirky as many giallos that came afterwards it is a good-looking picture with some nice color work and some interesting compositions on display. Those looking for the sex and violence that the giallo is so often associated with will no doubt walk away from this one with some disappointment as the movie is very light on sex or gore, but this is never the less a very attractive film with a couple of effective set pieces that make it worth a look for seasoned fans of the genre, such as the kill scenes in the basement and the shower. A few of the subplots feel unnecessary and at times they almost feel like padding but the film remains marginally entertaining in spite of this.

    Note that this disc includes both the Italian cut of the movie, running 1:37:33 as well as the English version that runs 1:17:44. The English version was conformed to the U.S. video version titled School Girl Killer. There were no original English language credits able to be sourced to it is presented "as is" (without a title card and with Italian language opening credits).

    The Bloodstained Shadow:

    The third and final film in the set was directed by Antonio Bido after the success of his earlier giallo, Watch Me When I Kill. The movie opens with a prologue set in 1950 where, in the Italian countryside, a teenaged girl is strangled just outside of a small town. Her killer is never round.

    More than two decades later, a young man named Stefano D'Arcangelo (Lino Capolicchio) takes a break from college in Rome and returns to his small home town to spend some time with his older brother, Don Paolo (Craig Hill), a Catholic priest upset by the turning tide of social mores, which he sees as immoral. A short time after Stefano arrives in town, Paolo sees the town’s medium strangled in front of the church but is unable to identify the murderer. When Stefano visits the scene of the crime, he experiences strange flashbacks and becomes strangely dizzy.

    From here, Paolo starts receiving threatening letters that tie into the murder that took place years back while Stefano meets a pretty young woman named Sandra Sellani (Stefania Casini) who works as a writer. When she decides to go back to her hometown of Venice and visit her mother, he goes with her and, upon seeing an odd painting in her apartment, again has a strange dizzy spell.

    As the story plays out, any of the recent murder victim’s associates are killed off, leading Stefano to believe that the killer from the opening scene is still at work.

    The cast handle things really well here. Craig Hill (who appears to be the only actor speaking English, which makes sense as he’s American and all the other cast members are Italian) is quite good as the surly priest upset with the direction that some of the people in his town have taken as they’ve strayed from the flock. He and Lino Capolicchio are interesting to watch together, their characters are very different from one another but at the same time, we have no problem believing that they’re brothers. Capolicchio does solid work here as well, he’s very believable in the part and handles the dramatic aspects of his character arc pretty effortlessly. The beautiful and talented Stefania Casini steals the show, however. She’s excellent in her role and she and Capolicchio have an interesting chemistry even if we never really believe that their romance is going to set the world on fire.

    A very well-made and well-written thriller, The Bloodstained Shadow benefits from some strong cinematography and a genuinely great score from Stelvio Cippriani and Goblin that helps to propel the film’s narrative and keep its pacing tight. The story unfolds in interesting ways and does a great job of exploiting Venice as its main backdrop, capturing the city’s interesting architecture and waterways in plenty of detail.

    Forgotten Gialli Volume Six – Blu-ray Review:

    Death Carries A Cane arrives “newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative” in AVC encoded 1080p and framed at 1.85.1. There is some minor damage here and there throughout the presentation but it’s minor indeed, just small white specks that pop up. Otherwise, the image is nice and clean and boasts strong color reproduction and nice, deep black levels. There’s plenty of detail, depth and texture to take in and no problems to note with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression issues.

    Naked You Die is also presented “newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative” and presented in AVC encoded 1080p framed at 1.85.1 and it looks excellent. The image is pretty much spotless and the colors look fantastic. Skin tones are nice and natural and black levels are inky black. Detail is frequently very impressive, especially in close up shots, but even medium and long distance shots fare very well here. Again, no problems with the encoding or with any noise reduction to note. This looks great.

    The Bloodstained Shadow, like the other two films in the set, is “newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative” and presented in AVC encoded 1080p framed at 1.85.1. It’s a bit softer looking than the other two movies but quite a bit improved over the previous DVD edition, with strong detail and good depth to the image. Colors look good, though this isn’t always an especially colorful movie, and black levels are fine as are skin tones. The picture always looks like a proper film source and overall, it looks very good.

    Death Carries A Can is presented in its original Italian mono soundtrack with optional English subtitles as well as its English mono dub soundtrack, both tracks in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono. The English dub seems to work better on this one, but both tracks sound fine and are properly balanced.

    As far as the audio for Naked You Die goes, the Italian Cut gets a 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track in Italian with newly translated English subtitles while the English "School Girl Killer" cut gets a 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track in English with optional English subtitles. Again, audio quality is quite good, the dialogue is easy to understand and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion.

    The Bloodstained Shadow also gets DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks in Italian or English subtitles with optional English subtitles. The film’s excellent score sounds quite nice here, while dialogue is never hard to understand or follow. The levels are balanced well and the audio is problem-free.

    Extras are spread out across the three discs in the set as follows:

    Death Carries A Cane:

    A Commentary track with film historians Eugenio Ercolani, Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson kicks things off with a discussion that covers Maurizio Pradeaux's work in the giallo cannon as well as his professional and biographical details, how the film compares to other giallo films, the grubby and earthier look of the film, the film's home video release history, quirks in the storyline, plenty of details on the cast and crew members that worked on the picture, what defines a 'real' giallo, how the Vinegar Syndrome boxed set releases cultivate the 'cult of giallo,' some of the more awkward moments of dialogue despite the generally solid quality of the English dub and how Susan Scott steals the show as a true giallo scream queen.

    A Life In The Suite is an interview with editor Eugenio Alabiso that runs twenty-one minutes and covers how he got his start in the film industry through his brother, getting his start as an editor, working on a lot of 'sexy documentary' movies, what he learned from collaborating with different editors, working on various spaghetti westerns, his relationship with Sergio Martino, creating different cuts of various films for international releases, getting along with Umberto Lenzi and how Italian cinema changed over the course of his decades long career.

    A still gallery, menus and chapter selection options are also included.

    Naked You Die:

    Once again, we get a commentary track with Eugenio Ercolani, Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson over the Italian version of the movie. They go over the different titles that the movie has gone under over the years, how the opening scene mirrors Blood Feast a bit, the script, cast and crew details, who did what behind the camera, the score and theme song, the connections to Mario Bava, whether or not Bava cast the film before he walked away from the project, why they feel that the movie is sometimes too brightly lit, Margheriti's tendency to place speed over creating atmosphere, how the movie works as a slightly less offensive giallo compared to many of the other entries, thoughts on the performances in the movie, how the production was made with an eye for the international market and plenty more.

    Young, Evil & Savage interviews actress Sally Smith for eleven minutes. She starts off by noting that she'd forgotten about the movie until being asked to talk about it, what Margheriti was like to work with and how she came to be appear in the movie, playing a seventeen year old as a twenty-five year old, language barrier problems that arose on set, what it was like filming her scene in the swimming pool, memories of her co-stars, a traffic problem caused by her mini-skirt and other memories from the shoot.
    School Girl Killer - an interview with actress Eleonora Brown

    School Girl Killer is an interview with actress Eleonora Brown where, over the course of sixteen minutes, how she got into the film industry, landing her part in the movie, working with Margheriti and how nice he was as a person, her wardrobe in the movie, details on some of the shooting locations, memories of some of her co-stars and how everyone got along, filming her death scene, the influence of the sexual liberation movement and loosening censorship restrictions at the time and why she feels she was lucky to have worked on the movie.

    Actress Malisa Longo is up next in an interview titled Last Shower. This sixteen minute talk covers where her life and career was at, her work as a model, how she got into acting, working with Margheriti and how he dealt with actors, trying to give the director what he wanted for the movie, the importance of being able to get into character, interacting with her co-stars and how she feels about the movie all these years since it was made.

    Hello Giallo: Death Finds Its Feet is a video essay by Mike Foster on Naked You Die and the early days of the giallo film. This fourteen minute piece talks about how Bava's early giallo pictures set the stage for what was to come, the importance of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and the imitators that followed in its wake, films that kinda-sorta qualify as giallo pictures like The Murder Clinic, where Naked You Die fits into all of this, how the rise of the slasher films mirrored the rise of the giallo and films that influenced these early giallo pictures.

    Giallo Dawson is a video essay by Pier Maria Bocchi on the lesser-known films of Antonio Margheriti (a.k.a. Anthony Dawson) that runs twelve minutes. It covers how he came to some fame for his gothic horror films and science fiction movies and his eighties action movies before going on to make the case that his lesser known films from the late sixties and early seventies deserve to be looked at, some of his career highlights from this period, whether or not he was an auteur and his work on various giallo pictures.

    A still gallery, menus and chapter selection options are also included.

    The Bloodstained Shadow:

    Again, a commentary track with Ercolani, Howarth and Thompson kicks off the extra features. It covers where giallo cinema was during the time that the movie was made, details on the film's soundtrack and its importance to the movie's effectiveness, thoughts on Bido's career and directorial abilities, insight on the different performances and the actors who gave them, how the cultural divide in Italy between the country and the cities at the time affected giallos, similarities in spots to Don't Torture A Duckling, how the movie depicts the Catholic church, the cinematography on display in the movie, Bido's thoughts on being labelled a genre director and other details.

    There are also a few featurettes here, this first of which is Deep Black, an interview with director Antonio Bido. Running fifty-four minutes, it's a pretty lengthy chat in which the director talks about his love of giallo films, his influences like Hitchcock and Argento, wanting to make his debut with an auteur film rather than a genre picture, collaborating on the script, having to make compromises while getting the movie made, coming to the project after having made some experimental films, how The Bloodstained Shadow was received by critics, auditioning actors for the movie, how The Bloodstained Shadow is an evolution of what he was doing in the earlier Watch Me When I Kill, choosing locations for the film, getting along with his cast, getting Claudio Simonetti involved in scoring the movie, wanting to become the next Sergio Leone rather than the next Dario Argento and more.

    Inkstained Shadow is an interview with screenwriter Marisa Andalò running twenty-five minutes and detailing how she got into the business and came to collaborate with Bido, why she preferred to remain behind the scenes, how Bido's politics gave depth to his films, why they chose provincial locations for the story, how she feels about the script years after working on it, how close the final version of the movie is to the script, her thoughts on the performances in the movie, her personal interest in psychoanalysis, her work as a novelist and why she remains glad to have been a part of the movie.

    Beauty in the Darkness sees actress Stefania Casini interviewed by Antonio Bido. This seventeen minute piece sees the two of them in great spirits and keen to discuss what it was like working together. They talk about where their respective careers were at the time, spending time in Venice, working with Peter Greenaway, the care that Bido afforded his cast as well as when and where he felt the need to assert himself, recollections of shooting specific scenes, films that Casini has made since The Bloodstained Shadow and filming the boat sequence.

    Rural Horror Hero features actor Lino Capolicchio interviewed by Antonio Bido. Again, these two are enjoying themselves as they spend sixteen minutes looking back on how Capolicchio was already a well-established actor when the movie was made, how honored Bido was to have him in the lead role, why he took the part in the first place, preconceived notions of what it's like to work with a director who specializes in making thrillers, how well they got along on set, working with and getting along with Pupi Avati, the importance of nuance in film, working in Venice, developing a friendship together even after the movie was finished and the difficulties involved in making a genuinely good thriller.

    The Bloodstained Set is an interview with production assistant Luciano Lucchi that runs twenty-four minutes. This piece covers his work with PAC and their importance as a distributor in Italy, how he got into the film business at an early age, connections that his father had in the business, early projects that he was involved with such as Apassionista, interacting with and getting along with many of the cast members he worked with, the impact of politics on seventies Italian cinema, getting along with Bido and the constant harassment by the police that they dealt with, what he was responsible for on set and having to wear a lot of different hats while working on the movie, memories of shooting some of the more complex moments in the film, going on to work on French productions and where his career has gone since making the movie.

    A Bloodstained Sound is an interview with musician Claudio Simonetti running twenty-three minutes. He speaks about how a score can sometimes outlive the film it was made for, how music can characterize a film, the importance of only using music when a movie needs it, how films budgeted for music in the seventies and how it differs in Italy versus Hollywood, how The Bloodstained Shadow was supposed to be a collaboration with Goblin and Stelvio Cippriani, why he feels the soundtrack is more in Cippriani's style than Goblin's, what went into scoring the movie, working with a Mini-Moog, how the work on this movie differs from other scores he's done, how Argento changed the genre, making the move into the dance music realm in the eighties and then going back to film and his work with Ruggero Deodato.

    Finishing up the extras is a still gallery featuring behind-the-scenes photos and promotional images, alternate English titles and credits, an original Italian trailer, an original English trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    Special mention should also be made of the packaging for this release. All three films get their own clear plastic Blu-ray case and those cases in turn slip inside a beautiful, and sturdy, box that opens from the top to allow the cases to slide in. It's similar to how Vinegar Syndrome packaged their recent Angel and Amityville collections and it's one of those things that just make their releases that much nicer. It's also worth pointing out that each of the three films gets some nice reversible cover sleeve art as well.

    Forgotten Gialli Volume Six - The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome’ Blu-ray release of Forgotten Gialli Volume Six brings three solid examples of the genre to Blu-ray in very strong presentations and with a nice array of extra features documenting the films’ history and significance. All three of these movies are definitely worth seeing and this boxed set marks the perfect way to do just that. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Forgotten Gialli Volume Six Blu-ray screen caps!

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