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#86 - OPERA (1987)

We've wanted to discuss the films of Dario Argento for a long time but have been stumped about the correct starting point. In a career spanning more than fifty years and over twenty films where do we jump in? Luckily, our occasional podcast guest Jason Spear helped us cut through the noise to focus on the director's amazing OPERA (1987). This was prompted by the recent Scorpion release of the film in an incredible three disc Blu-Ray set that provides probably the best way to see the movie since it's theatrical run. Packed with extras that allow fans to deep dive into details of the production it serves to fuel our rather rambling look at this stunning thriller.

To dig into what we love about this movie we do away with the idea of a linear discussion of the plot and just hop around talking about random scenes and sequences. We assume that the podcast audience is familiar with the film and plunge forward pulling apart our favorite elements and puzzling over the odd things that make this giallo such a strange and wonderful experience. That means there are certainly spoilers, so be aware! We discuss the madness induced by repressed sexual desires as well as the perceived age problem between the killer and the focus of his obsession. We spend a good deal of time on the fascinating possibility that Argento rotates his narrative inside the head of his main character much sooner than usually imagined. We debate the sanity of the central figure of the film for probably too long and then devolve into relating our individual favorite three Argento efforts. As you can tell, we swing all over the place in this one!

If you have any comments or just want to give us your own list of favorite Argento movies the show's email address is thebloodypit@gmail.com where we will be glad to hear what you have to say. I cap the episode with an old Hoodoo Guru's song but stick around afterwards for some bonus complaining from me about Argento's Dracula film. Ugh! And, as always, thank you for listening to the show.

HORROR ISLAND (1941) is one of the 1940's Universal horror films that gets very little attention. The main reason for this it that it does not feature any of the big horror stars the studio created in the 30's or even an actor from the 40's that went on to larger acclaim inside the genre. Although it reteams the male and female leads from THE MUMMY'S HAND (1940), playing essentially the same roles they enacted so well in that film, it seems that Universal didn't even bother to make note of the fact to ballyhoo this picture. Another thing working against it is the movie's lack of a monster of any kind. It sports a 'phantom' but beyond looking vaguely like The Shadow the character offers little in the way of classic chills to entice the thrill seeking crowd. So, what does HORROR ISLAND offer instead? A fog-bound castle off the coast of Florida, a cast of mildly interesting victims and a hunt for hidden pirate treasure are the ingredients tossed about by the script. It's all a bit light and silly but does this under seen film deliver the goods? 

 

Once I'm finished babbling about the DC Comics animated films for video Troy and I discuss the film's comedic tone, creepy setting and it's stalk & kill plotline while marveling at the cast. Where else are you going to see the classic western sidekick actor Fuzzy Knight running around a gothic castle? We talk about the production history, the sick day that cost the film it's final scene and the clever use of left over sets. There is some examination of the idea of how difficult it would be to quickly get in and out of a suit of medieval armor and we wonder about well timed crossbow bolts. This is a movie that throws a lot of things at the wall and not all of them stick.

 

We close the show with two excellent messages from listeners. If you would like to send us your thoughts the show can be reached at thebloodypit@gmail.com where we'd be thrilled to hear from you. Thank you for listening to the show. Please share it with others that might like what we do!

Monster Kid Derek Koch returns to The Bloody Pit to continue our series on the early western films of director William Castle. This time out we tackle two efforts Castle made for producer Sam Katzman in 1954 that focus on historical characters of the Old West. First up is JESSE JAMES VS THE DALTONS which, depending on your point of view, might be called criminally misnamed. The film tells the fictional tale of a man that believes two odd things - that he might be the son of Jesse James and that the famed outlaw is still alive years after his murder. It makes more sense than you might think but it still doesn't justify skipping the opportunity to claim the title THE SON OF JESSE JAMES. That certainly seems like a much more exploitable phrase to splash across a movie poster!  

 The second film is MASTERSON OF KANSAS which includes not just legendary lawman 'Bat' Masterson but also Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Hewing closer to reality than our first feature this one still concocts a fiery conflict between Holliday and Masterson that drives the two men from dislike to anger with the threat of violence always in the air. Only their respect for the wishes of mutual friend Earp keeps them from a classic Dodge City gunfight as the story begins but they seem destined to clash. Once both men become enmeshed in a complicated plot to frame an innocent man for murder they are forced to side with each other even if their private motivations are very different. Can these two enemies restrain their hostility long enough to stop a war between the army and a local Indian tribe?

We have a great time discussing these two colorful westerns with only a few digressions down unrelated paths. I apologize for my lengthy Six Million Dollar Man babble but there were just too many actors in these movies that guested on that show for me to ignore it! Derek can be heard every week over on Monster Kid Radio where you can find more information about his various creative projects. Check it out! And any comments about this episode can be sent to thebloodypit@gmail.com and Derek and I will be happy to address your questions next time we record. Thank you for downloading and listening to the show!  

John Hudson and I dive back into our years long look at the career of Italian director Antonio Margheriti with a show on one of his early 80's war films. Known under several titles but currently available to stream on Amazon under TORNADO (1983) this is a violent action picture modeled closely on the hit movies THE DEER HUNTER and APOCALYPSE NOW. Like those bigger budgeted affairs this film tries to make statements about the horrors of the Vietnam war while simultaneously bringing exciting action scenes to the big screen. This attempted balance doesn't always play well in any story and we find ourselves differing on the success of this effort. And both of us end up puzzled by TORNADO's odd ending leaving the two of us wondering what might have been the original intent.

Still, we enjoy quite a few things in the film including the regular appearance of the Alan Collins a.k.a. Luciano Pigozzi as an intrepid reporter trying to do his job in combat. He's one of our favorite Italian character actors even if I manage to get his first name wrong at least once in this episode!

 We discuss the details of this fast paced tale and spoil the entire film right to the final scene so, if you want to see this without knowing how it ends, you might want to listen to us after a viewing. Luckily this one isn't difficult to find online although, as a warning, Margheriti continues his streak of onscreen reptile deaths with this film. Of course, he dips his lead actor in a pit of pig feces as well so maybe things equal out in the end. Our conversation takes many barely related side roads (Eddie Dezeen?) but we do eventually wind our way back to the main topic each time. And, for the curious, the damned invisible chimp rears his unwanted head again. Why do I record shows with Hudson? 

Questions and comments can be sent to thebloodypit@gmail.com or left on the show's Facebook page. We'd love to hear from your thoughts about the films of Antonio Margheriti or any of the odd things we babble about in this one. Thank you for playing along with our lengthy trip through these films and we hope you enjoy this episode.

This episode sees the return of cult movie expert and long time film writer Robert Monell. He and I discuss four of the newest Blu-Ray releases from Severin Films with a few mostly related side roads along the way. We're both stunned by the continuing announcements from several small labels that focus on giving obscure genre movies the chance to shine in high definition. These are films that would probably never be part of the Criterion Collection but are still very well worth being seen in the best possible presentations. And now, because of the love of discerning fans running niche labels, we can have incredible multidisc releases of rare giallo films, strange horror epics shot in the Philippines, little seen Jack the Ripper cinema and even a tiny budgeted 1970's attempt at making a human sacrificing druid cult into a terrifying horror threat. It truly is a great time to be alive!

Please join Mr. Monell and I for this brief show about some highlighted new Blu-Rays worth the attention of cult film fanatics. We talk about the virtues (and vices) of these entertaining movies and also the copious extras lavished upon these often unseen pieces of genre history. The films we cover in the most detail are ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, the 1959 film JACK THE RIPPER and the insane INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS. We also excitedly chat about the awesome extras-packed set called All The Colors Of Giallo because it is such a fantastic primer on that fine genre and, surprisingly, the German Krimi films as well. These releases are worth their weight in gold!

If you have any questions or comments the show can be reached at thebloodpit@gmail.com or on the podcast's FaceBook page. Thanks for downloading and listening!

In this episode I welcome longtime podcaster Derek Koch to the show! Derek is the producer, writer and host of Monster Kid Radio which is one of the best shows out there focused on the monster films of the 1920's through the 1960's. I've been a guest on his podcast covering Antonio Margheriti science fiction and horror as well as Mario Bava peplum films. The two of us share many cinema fascinations ranging far from just our mutual love of horror, sci-fi and fantasy but on MKR Derek is somewhat restrained by the show's stated goal of talking about the 'Great and Not-So Great' movies of those specific genres. With that in mind, I invited him to start a series of shows here examining the recently released set of eight western films directed by the amazing William Castle. These are all early career efforts made while Castle was learning his craft at Columbia and gives us the chance to see him grow into the genre filmmaker who would go on to scare the pants off of audiences.

We begin our chronological trek through this set by tackling the first two of these oaters in this episode. First up is a female-centric tale from 1943 called KLONDIKE KATE. Based on the life of a real life Yukon stage performer the film tells a sanitized version of early 20th century Canadian frontier shenanigans. It boasts a strong cast lead by Ann Savage and the incomparable Glenda Farrell as ladies that have to find creative paths to make their way in a man's rough world. Savage's later DETOUR (1945) co-star Tom Neal play's her rival and possible lover in this short, entertaining barroom tale.

The second film we cover is 1953's CONQUEST OF COCHISE which is a colorful fictionalization of events around Tucson, Arizona right after the 1853 Gadsden Purchase. Robert Stack stars as the Army Major in charge of troops sent in to oversee the transition of the area from Mexican control. He runs into trouble from both Apache and Comanche tribes while also making an attempt to romance the lovely Mexican lady Consuelo de Cordova (Joy Page). Add to this the desire of Apache chief Cochise (John Hodiak) to end the fighting and the military complications escalate. And does Consuelo have feelings for the Army major or is she more interested in the honorable Cochise?

Derek and I have a great deal of fun digging into these movies. We actually spend the first twenty minutes of the show talking a bit about our favorite westerns as a place setting exercise. This allows listeners a chance to understand what kind of films in the genre we enjoy most and, of course, it lets us babble about even more movies we love! We hope you enjoy our conversation and we plan to cover the next two films in this fine DVD set in a couple of months. If you have any thoughts or comments on these movies or western sin general the email address is thebloodypit@gmail.com or the FaceBook page for The Bloody Pit is available as well. Thanks for downloading and listening!

I'm proud to welcome a new contributor to the show this month. Robert Monell is a writer I've admired for years for his smart and enthusiastic analysis of European Cult cinema. His byline in a fanzine always meant a level of quality in both the writing and the thought behind those words. His openness to different styles of cinema played a role in making me comfortable as my tastes in movies grew and changed over the decades. Also, Mr. Monell's excellent blog I'm In A Jess Franco State Of Mind pushed me to be less rigid in my view of Uncle Jess' work and, along with Tim Lucas' work in the field, opened my perceptions wider than I might have thought possible. Or wise!

I asked Mr. Monell to join me for an episode of the podcast and he surprised me by immediately saying yes. It turns out that he wanted to discuss the changing state of cult film collecting over the years and, since I have been of that tribe since I was a teenager, I thought it would be fun. We start with the heady days of VHS collecting and track our habits all the way through the exciting Blu-Ray announcements that seem to issue forth every other day. Along the way we end up admitting to illegally copying rented tapes to add to our home collections, baring to the world my Laser Disc shame and reminiscing about out first DVDs. Damn! We're old! Along the way we digress into talking about a number of films including Mr. Monell's favorites of last year and mysteries of the bizarre Euro-Cult effort WHITE FIRE (1985). Sometimes easy streaming availability is a curse!

If you have any comments or questions the show can be reached at thebloodypit@gmail.com of on the FaceBook page. I hope to be able to talk to Mr. Monell again later this year so feel free to quiz him on anything related to his writing and I'll pass things along. Thank you for downloading and listening!

We begin 2019 with the first new show in our Universal Horrors of the 1940's series.

MAN MADE MONSTER (1941) marks the first Universal horror staring role for Creighton Chaney a.k.a. Lon Chaney, Jr.  Given the part of a lovable lug misused by one of the screen's maddest mad scientists, Chaney establishes the perfect acting style for his character. With his hang-dog eyes, broad grin and furrowed brow he presents himself as a good natured, kind fellow without an unpleasant thought for anyone. This performance would serve as the template for his future roles in Universal horror films as the much put upon victim of a certain lunar curse. But this is the starting point for that 'doomed man' characterization and it's a good one for both the actor and the film.

Troy and I pull this one apart with the usual help of the fantastic Universal Horrors book by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas and John Brunas which provides a lot of background and contemporary reviews. We also heavily reference the excellent essay by Bryan Senn on this film from the Lon Chaney, Jr. Midnight Marquee Actors series book. His work is essential reading for fans of the actor and those looking for real insight into this underappreciated movie. We discuss the odd notion of having a good scientist and a bad scientist under the same roof; the strange case of the missing romantic subplot; the late blooming lust of the mad scientist for the film's lovely co-star; the 'master race' desires that drive the plot and the dividing line that keeps pets alive in a horror film. We talk about director George Waggoner's work before and after this effort as well as the years long trail the story took to finally reach the screen. We also spend a lot of time heaping praise on the great Lionel Atwill's amazing performance as the crazed man seeking knowledge to keep the lower classes in their places!

In the final segment of the show we read out a pair of emails from listeners and dive into the various topics they bring up. On what other podcast will you hear discussions of the Italian Filmirage production company's output (Ator!) paired with a critique of Hammer's four mummy films? If you'd like to let us know what you think on these subjects, or any others, we can be reached at thebloodypit@gmail.com or over on the show's FaceBook page. Thank you for downloading and listening!

Here's a post-Christmas treat!

Artist Mark Maddox has had a very busy year. He remains in high demand for book and magazine covers along with all his other work. 2018 saw him finally branch out into Blu-Ray art, doing the spectacular rendering of Christopher Lee for the cover of Scream Factory's new disc of DRACULA - PRNCE OF DARKNESS (1966). Hopefully the strong, positive response to that piece will get him the opportunity to do more in that vein and soon. Fingers crossed.

But, because Mark has been so busy, he and I haven't had the chance to record a show together all year - until now! HELL DRIVERS (1957) was a film I was totally unaware of before Mr. Maddox started talking about it a few months ago. I don't know how I missed it considering the talented people involved. There is a host of future British television and film stars packed into this tight little drama including a Doctor Who, a James Bond and at least two other soon-to-be small screen espionage agents. Oh! And the great Herbert Lom as an Italian expatriate working in England and romancing the lovely Peggy Cummins. Writer/director Cy Endfield shows his skill at crafting a strong script with believable characters but also knows how to stage exciting action scenes. We watch huge trucks barreling down roads that are clearly too small for that type of traffic while at the same time the complicated personal relationships become more deadly as well. But the film offers more than just bar fights and lustful quandaries. Just why would a company run these young drivers so hard?

As is the norm for a conversation between Mark and I, there comes a point where we go off track. In fact we went so far off track that it became difficult to know just how long we had been roaming around talking about something other than HELL DRIVERS! We drift into a discussion of toys including fan-made collectables, then move on to the British 'Carry On' film series and film humor in general with a surprising revelation or two from Mark. There are at least a dozen other topics that we charge right into with little reasonable concern for the fact that you folks might eventually be listening to us ramble. Sorry about that.

If you have any comments or if you'd like to correct either of us please write the show at thebloodypit@gmail.com where we'll be thrilled to answer all questions. Thank you for listening and we'll talk to you again soon.

For the fourth year in a row Troy Guinn, John Hudson and I dig into a festive themed film that fits the odd nature of this podcast. Holiday Horrors 2018 brings us to the often overlooked classic CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980). Written and directed by Lewis Jackson the film is available in a fine Blu-Ray release that shines a light on the a film that really should be better known. Kind of a cross between A Charlie Brown Christmas Special and Polanski's REPULSION it relates the sad tale of a man overly preoccupied with the holiday but seemingly unable reconcile himself to the realities of incorporating it into an adult life. Having spent years working for a toy manufacturing company he has wrapped himself in the warm message of December the 25th year round. But, this year, he begins to feel his sense of the season slipping away at the same time that his obsessive preoccupation with Christmas ramps up as the holiday approaches. The details of what might be real life and what could be fantasy become intertwined and often impossible to tease apart as our main character starts to act out his love of Christmas and his anger at the uncaring people that pervert it for selfish ends.

We discuss the film's production with a sleigh full of details straight from the Blu-Ray's three commentary tracks. The film's achievements and failings come under the microscope with each of us noting the moments that we love and the points we felt could have been better presented. We remark on the amazing cast of New York acting talent onscreen as well as a surprising connection to a certain New Jersey musical legend as well. The film's beautiful, glowing cinematography is discussed and the movie's fundamental similarity to another, much more famous New York set drama of the 1970's is noted. Anytime a way can be found to compare Travis Bickle to the Grinch you know you've hit on a supremely odd confluence of ideas!

So, join us for an accordion spiced Christmas episode with a few comedic surprises along the way. We rattle on a quite a while but we hope this year end show will put a smile on the faces of even the most curmudgeonly of the Christmas naysayers out there. The show can be reached at thebloodypit@gmail.com or over on Facebook where the Bloody Pit's page resides. Thanks for listening and have a Happy Holiday, whatever you might be celebrating. 

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