The Legend of the Three Peplumators

January 19th, 2008

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If you hadn’t guessed, we’ve got more Peplum reviews up today, this time from the Historical Peplum field. Read and enjoy:

The Colossus of Rhodes – Sergio Leone’s directoral debut starts slowly but provides some genuinely awesome spectacle and is certainly worth watching.

Messalina – Based, loosely, on real history this is a very unusual film, more akin to a Shakespeare play than a Peplum, with not much action and loads of court intrigue and murder. Worth checking out.

Gladiators 7 – a rather generic, but enjoyable adventure film set in Sparta, with Richard Harrison in the lead role. Genre fans should check this one out.

So, this takes us up to 11 Peplum reviews and there are plenty more to come, keep watching this blog! As usual, comments, corrections and suggestions are more than welcome, via e-mail or the comments form below.

Soledad Miranda sampler

January 12th, 2008

Jess Franco, you either love his films or hate his films and even his most ardent fans will admit that he is at best unpredictable in his output.

Often most highly spoken of was his tragically short lived union with the beautiful Spanish actress Soledad Miranda. Today we take a sampler of their work with one of the best and one of the worst of Franco’s films:

Vampyros Lesbos – undoubtedly on of Franco’s best, this genuinely erotic and mysterious Dracula riff is highly recommended.

Nightmares Come at Night – probably one of his worst there is nothing here to keep you interested and even the beautiful Soledad makes a mere cameo appearance.

I’ll be covering lots more Franco later on in the year with a particular look at his three favourite women…

The Yangtse Incident

January 5th, 2008

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Part 1 of the Mondo Esoterica Forgotten Wars selection.

The Yangtse Incident (1957) tells the true story of the British ship HMS Amethyst. In 1949, at the height of the Chinese Civil War that saw Communist rule come to China, the British ship was travelling, with full permission of the existing Chinese Government, to the city of Nanking, conveying essential supplies to the British and embassy aiming to relieve the existing British warship there that was standing by to evacuate British personnel from the city. Travelling up river the ship came under heavy fire from Chinese People’s Liberation Army gunners on the shore and was badly damaged, forcing it to ground. Another British ship attempted to provide aid but was beaten back by heavy fire. A cease-fire was arranged with the People’s Forces who offered to let the ship go, provided that the British admit that they were at fault. After the wounded were evacuated over land, a British naval attaché was brought to the ship and arranged to escape under cover of darkness…

Made less than a decade after the incident, The Yangtse Incident is very historically accurate, although as is mentioned in a note at the start of the film, time constraints have limited how much detail could be shown. However this does not excuse the rather piecemeal information that we, as the viewers, do get. We never find out how the men who evacuate the ship get to safety, or how two of the wounded become separated. Similarly, those without a detailed knowledge of the Chinese river network might well find the long list of place names and locations to be rather confusing in establishing what is going on. Fortunately the film holds its own on the storyline front and the good characterisation and strong pacing build up to a genuinely gripping climax as the ship makes a bid for freedom.

Director Michael Anderson had previously helmed iconic British war film The Dam Busters (1955) and brings a similar ‘documentary’ style approach to the production which gives a good sense of realism to the whole proceedings. The ship itself was used extensively during filming, although there are a couple of model shots later on.

Richard Todd takes the top credit here in another British military man role, as usual he suits the role very well. There are a good number of familiar faces in the rest of the cast including future Doctor Who William Hartnell and an uncredited debut role for a young Bernard Cribbins.

Refreshingly free of the unsubtle “anti-war” messages and political correctness that would doubtless plague any modern adaptation, The Yangtse Incident is a solid two hours of stiff upper lips and British pride and comes recommended to all 1950s war movie fans.

Sadly there is no DVD in any region at present although some VHS copies do circulate. A solid looking print on Film 4 in the UK was the source of this review.

2008

January 1st, 2008

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So as we pay our tributes the the ancient gods of cinema it is time for my annual ‘proper’ blog posting.

I won’t bore you with a traditional “best of 2007″ films list, for I realise that I simply have not watched any films that were released in 2007, my only cinematic expeditions were for classics showings (see my post on the Bradford Film Festival).

On the DVD front I didn’t get too many newly released discs this year but there was certainly a fine selection available. Severin excelled again with some lesser known Fulci titles finally hitting DVD and two superb Black Emanuelle boxsets. In the UK, Network did good work with some more classic television boxsets, while Optimum continued their rather hit-and-miss output with some real classics emerging, with superb prints, but a complete absence of any features, even trailers. On the mainstream front MGM‘s Midnite Movies collection returned with some great new releases but some real furore over the use of the US print on Vault of Horror.

Here at Mondo Esoterica we hit 200 reviews back in August and I now have over 30 fully featured actor/crew biographies and 8 highly detailed genre guides on the site, with many being further enhanced over the next few months. Throughout 2008 I will be adding a number of additional Guides with a few very exciting projects in the pipeline.

There have already been some changes this year – the ‘upcoming DVDs’ page is now gone – it was requiring a lot of time to update and was too often out-of-date. DVD News will now be posted directly to the blog. As for the films being reviewed, I am going to be contrasting the depths of Euro-sleaze with some rather more cultured productions.

So that was 2007, Happy New Year and let us see what 2008 brings….

Steve Reeves: Peplum Icon

December 30th, 2007

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Stunningly handsome, amazingly muscle-bound Steve Reeves is without a doubt the hero of the Peplum and our guide to the genre would be useless without a biography of the actor.

So, to round off 2007 in style, here is the all new Mondo Esoterica Guide to Steve Reeves.

We also have all brand reviews of three of Reeves’ best performances:

Throw away your PD discs, all three titles are available on great looking German DVDs and look out for even more Peplum entertainment in 2008!

A Spaghetti Western please, and make it a double…

December 26th, 2007

There really is no rest for the wicked. Mondo Esoterica is back in action with two all new reviews.

Sadly neither of these titles comes recommended, but for Spaghetti Western fans it makes another two to add to the list of English friendly DVDs, and both films are more than watchable:

W Django (1972) РAnthony Steffen is the star of this clich̩ genre entry, for years relegated to awful looking bootlegs, it now boasts a beautiful anamorphic 2.35:1 print.

Pistol for 100 Coffins (1968) – Peter Lee Lawrence is the star and Umberto Lenzi directs, but the film simply doesn’t gel with lots of missed opportunities. The print from X-rated is not the best, but at least there are no forced subs.

This takes our Spaghetti Western review count up to 42, and rest assured I have a shelf of genre titles awaiting review in 2008. Don’t forget to check out the Mondo Esoterica Guide to the Spaghetti Western for links to all the reviews and more.

Merry Christmas…!

December 25th, 2007

Well, it looks like a good haul for me this year. A Merry Christmas to all my readers new and old.

Check back before the New Year though for more top quality reviews, and a sneak preview of 2008…

Black Emanuelle’s Second Box…

December 22nd, 2007

The stunning Laura Gemser with the incomparable smouldering beauty of Ely Galleani in Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade (1978) the last of the Joe D’Amato Black Emanuelle series, and with its recent release from Severin USA, the chance to complete the collection of all five titles.

For more information on this, and two other lesser seen erotic films from the 1970s, check out the all new full review of: Black Emanuelle’s Box Volume 2

Fear not, there will be more from the delectable Ms Gemser next year, with a full review of the ultra-sleazy duo of Emanuelle in America and Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals plus a detailed biography.

Stay tuned to Mondo-Esoterica for some more reviews to round off 2007…!

Lucio Fulci

December 9th, 2007

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Many people dismiss Fulci as a mere gore loving hack, but it is clear that they have not seen his early Giallo films. Between 1969 and 1977 he shot 4 of these murder mystery films.

Severin have recently obliged by releasing Seven Notes in Black (1977), while Blue Underground have recently re-released Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972). Read the all new full reviews. Nothing more to say about these films here, except that for Giallo and Fulci fans, they are both must haves.

If you want to learn more about Fucli himself, I have written an all new, and thoroughly exclusive 2,500 word biography of the director: Lucio Fulci

Watch out for more Fulci reviews, including the rest of his Gialli, his classic horror titles, and some of his lesser later work early next year.

Nuns and Guns – the early films of Lucio Fulci

December 2nd, 2007

We know him today for such gory excesses as Zombi 2 (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1981). However, Fulci was making films since the end of the 1950s, and covered many of the popular genres of the day. Most of his early works are comedies that were never released outside Italy, and are sadly unavailable on English language DVD. However, Severin USA in November did release his later comedy The Senator Likes Women (1972), part rude-comedy, part strong political satire, it is very enjoyable and a great looking DVD.

In between the comedies, Fulci directed a Spaghetti Western, Massacre Time (1966). Not boasting the most original plot, it does have some shocking brutality that teases of Fulcis’ later work, not to mention a solid pairing of Franco Nero and George Hilton. The Italian DVD is not great, but it is the best currently available.

Stay tuned next weekend for a Fulci Giallo double bill, with a look at Severin’s other recent release, The Psychic (1978) and the Blue Underground DVD of his grim Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972). I will also be presenting an all new and highly detailed biography of this notorious director.