Monday, 23 July 2012

Illustrious Corpses (1976)


Cadaveri Eccelenti
The Context

Generally speaking the poliziotesschi/Euro-crime cycle can be divided into four distinct thematic and narrative strands. The first explores the power struggles, relationships, and group dynamics of organised crime mobs, and are best represented by the early formative crime flicks of Fernando Di Leo; most notably Milano Calibro 9 (1972), and The Boss (1973). The second explores the manner in which innocent members of society, frustrated by the inactivity of the police, take the law into their own hands, and seek retribution through violent means; a good example is Street Law (1974), which took as its inspiration Michael Winner’s defining statement on vigilantism Death Wish (1974). The third and most pervasive strand was inspired by the rule breaking rogue cop seen in Dirty Harry (1971), and these films are marked by themes of police brutality, sticky networks of bureaucratic red tape, and detectives frequently breaking the law in order to maintain their own sense of moral equilibrium; almost any Italian crime film of the 1970’s featuring the talents of Maurizio Merli fits this description. These three narrative types are united by high octane energy, stylised shoot outs and fistfights, dangerous chase sequences, and pulse pounding soundtracks.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Poll Results - July Film Reviews

The past two or three weeks have passed in a misty sneeze riddled blur of hay fever; my eyes as bloodshot as Count Dracula on one of his nocturnal hunts for fresh nubile victims. I’ve been suffering and unfortunately so has The Celluloid Highway! The only traffic on it in the last few weeks has been tumbleweed. I’ve even spotted a few weeds poking out of the crumbling asphalt. But help is on hand, and a road crew has been assigned to repair the damage. As a result of this there has been no film review poll for July, but never fear the poll will resume in August. However we still have unfinished business with June’s poll, and I shall do my very best to get the winners written up for publication before the end of the month. The effortless victor on this occasion was John Carpenter’s enjoyable dystopian adventure Escape from New York (1981). The battle for the all important second place was a tight nit affair between the carnivalesque surrealism of Santa Sangre (1989) and the irradiated giant ants of Them! (1954). In the end the latter prevailed and so we have a science-fiction double bill. Many thanks to all those who took the time to vote and it was once again an excellent turn out. Below are the full results for June, the bottom two as ever will be relegated from future consideration.

01 Escape From New York (1981) - 16 votes [50%]
02 Them! (1954) - 10 votes [31%]
03 Santa Sangre (1989) - 7 votes [21%]
04 Cat's Eye (1985) - 5 votes [15%]
05 Death Sentence (2007) - 4 votes [12%]
06 The Intruder (1962) - 4 votes [12%]
07 The Mist (2007) - 4 votes [12%]
08 The Lost Continent (1968) - 3 votes [9%] 

Monday, 16 July 2012

Cannibal Ferox (1981)

Country: ITALY

Make Them Die Slowly

If the Italian cycle of cannibal movies in the 1970’s and early 1980’s is the illegitimate bastard offspring of the Mondo film, then Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox is a stillborn foetus; an abortion that was shit out into the world by people who should have known better. The pride with which the promotional material boasted of its banning in thirty one countries (some DVD releases still assert it is banned in 31 countries!) is a key signifier of the feeble minds behind the project. Lenzi was no stranger to the debased faux-exoticism and casual racism of the cycle. He was there right at the start, helping to put in place a canvas of cruelty and sadism. However his first effort The Man from Deep River (aka Deep River Savages, 1972) was an intriguing, and a not altogether unsuccessful remake of A Man Called Horse (1970), and naturally had a far greater investment in themes of ‘going native’, the limitations of modern civilisation, and the rules and doctrines of a primitive and wild culture. In this example cannibalism is associated with villainy and evil, it is an antagonistic and oppositional force; a position which would be completely reversed by Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Cannibal Ferox. In these two films cannibalism is a reactionary behaviour, a response to external threats. Lenzi’s second cannibal film was Eaten Alive! (1980), despite its hysterical title, it emerges as one of the more placid entries in the sub-genre. The emphasis here is on adventure rather than flesh eating. Although Cannibal Ferox is vile and loathsome it does have a point-of-view, it does (believe it or not!) construct an argument, and (even more unbelievably) follows it through to a cynical and ironic conclusion. For this reason Cannibal Ferox is not the worthless celluloid offal many would have you believe.

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