Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Renato Polselli interruption

I can't believe it's been three months since the last post -- and I'd been doing so well! I've got the amazing-looking blu-ray of Franco's The Demons sitting on the buffet in my apartment -- still wrapped. This fall has been fully and more incomprehensibly busy than I'd imagined it would be. In the meantime, it's not that I've been doing without the watching of European cult cinema -- in fact, I'd just re-watched Italian director Renato Polselli's awesomely surreal giallo/experimental/exploitation flick Delerium (from the 1970s), which is actually pretty amazing in a low-brow arthouse-giallo way, doing away with the traditional murder-mystery narrative and instead playing the whole idea of the giallo sub-genre in a dreamy, surrealistic presentation that's filled with blood and nudity and general craziness. I remember when I first discovered Delirium, it was back in 2003 when a local Vancouver video store called Reel-Horror was moving locations and selling of part of their DVD stock in an effort to make the move slightly easier and more economical -- I purchased this Anchor Bay DVD with four or five other titles, and this was one of the first ones I put on later that week - and it always stuck in my mind. Recently, on this Delirium re-watch, I was reminded that not only did I have a copy of Redemption's Demons blu-ray sitting on the buffet waiting to be opened and watched, I also had a copy of Poleslli's Black Magic Rites -- aka The Reincarnation of Isabelle -- sitting there, purchased from Amazon a good month and a half before Franco's The Demons. High on the mind-bending and energetically colorful exploitative after-effects of Delirium,  I threw Black Magic Rites into the blu-ray player.

On Redemption's Black Magic Rites blu-ray packaging, there's a quote from TV Guide (of all places) -- "Demonic and sexually depraved... keeps one watching in dazed astonishment."  Okay, that doesn't even begin to cover it. Everything in that blurb is true -- but what TV Guide doesn't tell you is how absolutely crazy Black Magic Rites is. Formerly titled The Reincarnation of Isabelle, the films opens up with said reincarnation through a black-magic ritual involving the devil and several naked folks and a lot of chanting. As we watch the film and its many scenes of satanic rituals and witch-burnings and sexual encounters, we are forced to learn that the plot is not just about reincarnating a burned-at-the-stake witch -- oh, no, what the plot is actually trying to deliver is the superbly convoluted supernatural idea of an ever-occurring reincarnation of a witch who has, throughout hundreds of years, been tricked into vampirism and inadvertently mistaken as a witch, double-crossed and burned alive, and the man double-crossing her had also simultaneously been double-crossing another one of their friends, tricking that man into thinking he was insane, in one of his many re-incarnations over the same hundreds of years. At one point, in the last few minutes of the film, the villain, who is explaining all of this, tells the other characters (and us), "You will never understand this." No, of course we won't. The gleefully over-complicated plot drives full-speed ahead without any concern given to the plot whatsoever other than delivering us wicked twists, kaleidoscopic visuals, and as much genre-based exploitative elements as it can possibly contain in its surrealistic vision of erotic horror and witchcraft. In short, this movie is awesome. It is without a doubt one of the most hallucinogenic, insane concoctions of  Euro-horror that I've ever seen, and I can both recommend it while also advising that you might not exactly experience it in the same light -- but hell, I did not put on Black Magic Rites expecting to get any sane, traditional horror narrative out of it. Enjoy at your own risk. 

Merely one day after experiencing Polselli's Black Magic Rites (which I should note utilizes most of the same cast from Delirium), I came across a top-ten Jess Franco film list on the internet, written for an internet journal back in 2012. While I didn't particularly agree with most of the author's selection of top Jess Franco flicks, it did make me realise that I've been neglecting this blog for far too long. And in celebration of Jess Franco, here's my own current top-ten Franco Flick list (probably much different than the lists I myself have made over the last few years, but I like to think that I continue to watch these movies as I become a different person throughout my life. Mainly by drinking more beer). Here's to 2014:

Top Jess Franco Films:

1. She Killed in Ecstasy
2. Euginie De Sade
3. Succubus
4. Countess Perverse
5. How to Seduce a Virgin
6. Exorcism & Black Masses
7. Female Vampire
8. Eugine... The Story of Her Journey into Perversion
9. Justine
10. Vampyros Lesbos

Although I have to say I also quite enjoyed the recently-released Hot Nights of Linda. So that gets a special mention.