Seven Murders For Scotland Yard/Jack the Ripper of London/Jack el destripador de Londres (1971)

‘The lady’s eyes were such a startling shade that I’m keeping them for myself.’

Two prostitutes are murdered in London and specific organs removed in a manner that recalls the crimes of Jack the Ripper almost a hundred years earlier. The police focus their investigations on an alcoholic ex-trapeze artist who was the husband of the second victim…

Euro-horror icon Paul Naschy steps into the world of the Giallo with this London-shot Spanish murder mystery directed by José Luis Madrid. Naschy co-wrote the script under his real name, Jacinto Molina, and he brings a straight horror vibe to the proceedings, assisted by some graphic makeup FX.

After an accident dismounting from the safety net finished his acrobatic career and ended their trapeze act, Bruno Doriani (Naschy) and his wife Belinda (Irene Mir) have moved to London. Naschy spends his days and nights limping from backstreet pub to backstreet pub while Mir keeps them afloat by bringing men back to their flat for sex. Unfortunately, one of her customers turns out to be homicidal, and she meets her end at the point of his blade. The removal of some of her organs matches an earlier killing, and Inspector Campbell of the Yard (Renzo Marignano, who is so tall that he threatens to disappear out the top of the frame at times!) gets handed the entire mess by his smug superior, Superintendent Chambers (Miguel Muniesa).

Naschy is immediately under suspicion, but this has less to do with his relationship with the second corpse as his status in town as a ‘foreigner.’ However, Marignano is not convinced of his guilt, especially after chatting things over with his old friend, schoolteacher Winston Darby Christian (Andrés Resino). Unexpectedly, the academic becomes directly involved in the investigation when the next victim turns out to be Rosemary (Teresita Castizio), a student at the girls’ school where he works. Meanwhile, the police are after Naschy after he kills two thugs in self-defence and starts hiding out on the fringes of the city’s criminal underworld.

All the ingredients are present and correct for a good, solid Giallo. Exteriors were shot on the streets of London, and Naschy wandering around a garish urban wasteland of peep shows and strip clubs provides a real sense of time and place, aided by the excellent, evocative music of composer Piero Piccioni. Updating Jack the Ripper from the smoky taverns and narrow alleyways of the Victorian capital to a modern setting is an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the different eras. The muted colour palette of photographer Diego Úbeda and the cluttered set decorations of Bruno Cesari and Juan Alberto Soler provides an excellent foundation for this theme. Although we see streets thronged with traffic, the shadow of the 19th Century still seems to hang over these gloomy boarding houses and dark courtyards.

Unfortunately, all that is as good as it gets for Madrid’s unsatisfying film. The story is very poorly structured and often develops clumsily. Considering that Naschy co-authored with Madrid, Juan Alberto Soler and Tito Carpi, he’s offscreen an awful lot of the time with prominence given to the underwhelming police procedures of Marignano and his men. Consequently, our leading man gets no time to delve deep into the character of the embittered acrobat, and he comes over as a dull, one-note miseryguts. The women in the cast are relegated to the roles of potential victims, with second-billed Patricia Loran barely making an appearance and Orchidea De Santis wasted as Resino’s trophy wife and the object of Inspector Marignano’s unspoken affections.

Logic also takes a back seat to plot convenience on a number of occasions, and the viewer is left with several nagging questions. Is it really acceptable police procedure to discuss the confidential details of a murder case with an old friend over a chess game? Why is the straight-laced policeman best friends with a younger, vaguely bohemian guy who teaches for a living? Why are the daggers that the killer uses all from different countries? This seems to be quite important when mentioned and a potential clue, but it never comes up again. Why does the killer take the human organs and store them in jars in a basement laboratory? Some plot summaries mention cannibalism, but I saw no evidence of it. The final nail in the coffin comes with the killer’s psychology and motivations, which are staggeringly simplistic and underdeveloped.

The athletic Naschy was a professional weightlifter who scored a few bits in films and some extra work before penning the screenplay to ‘La Marca del Hombre Lobo/The Mark of the Wolfman’ (1967). Having secured financial backing for the project, Naschy tried to obtain the services of Lon Chaney Jr to play the title role, but the star was too ill to participate. Naschy played the part himself, and the film’s financial success, particularly abroad, launched the actor as a horror star. Over the years, he played lycanthrope Waldemar Daninsky more than ten times and took the vampiric title role in ‘Count Dracula’s Great Love/El gran amor del conde Drácula’ (1974). There were many other horror roles and he also appeared in crime dramas and other mainstream features. He was also often on script duty, and returned to the Giallo for ‘Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll/Los ojos azules de la muñeca rota’ (1974) and ‘A Dragonfly for Each Corpse/Una libélula para cada muerto’ (1975). Despite personal and financial setbacks in later years, he was still appearing in movies at the time of his death in 2009.

Madrid went on to work with Naschy again on a couple of occasions, most notably on mystery-thriller ‘The Crimes of Petiot/Los crímenes de Petiot’ (1972) and fact-based terrorist drama ‘Comando Txikia: Muerte de un presidente’ (1978). His other credits in cult cinema are brief but include O.K. Yevtushenko/Somebody’s Stolen Our Russian Spy’ (1968), the final film in the weak Eurospy trilogy featuring Tom Adams as agent Charles Vine, and the poorly-received shocker ‘The Horrible Sexy Vampire/El vampiro de la autopista’ (1971).

A slapdash script and some poor pacing let down a project with some interesting potential.

They Have Changed Their Face/Hanno cambiato faccia (1971)

‘Can you show me the way to the Villa Nosferatu?’

An engineer working for a motor company gets an unexpected invitation to meet with the firm’s secret owner. Travelling to the remote mountain villa where he lives, the eager employee finds himself thrust into a strange adventure where he is forced to confront the true nature of the society in which he lives…

Unusual Italian update of the ‘Dracula’ story from director and co-writer Corrado Farina that uses vampirism as a platform for some surprisingly prescient social commentary. Some sources list this film as a Giallo, but it has nothing in common with that sub-genre of twisted horror thrillers beyond the country of origin and year of production.

Young engineer Alberto Valle (Giuliano Esperati) is doing good work for the M Motor A. He has his own office, a secretary and a busy work calendar. Still, he’s more than a little surprised when a series of meetings with the chain of senior management culminates with an invitation to visit the company’s owner, Giovanni Nosferatu (Adolfo Celi). Esperati didn’t even know he existed, let alone that he was a recluse living in a luxurious, isolated mountain chateau. Running out of petrol on the way, he finds the inhabitants of a local village predictably unfriendly to strangers but does pick up free-spirited hitchhiker Laura (Francesca Modigliani).

Arriving at the villa, he goes in alone and is met by Celi’s right-hand woman, Corinna (Geraldine Hooper). Despite her absence of eyebrows, she seems friendly enough and informs her that his host won’t be coming down for dinner (no surprise, there!) Yes, this is a modernised take on Jonathan Harker’s visit to Castle Dracula in the first few chapters of Bram Stoker’s world-famous novel, but this is far from a straight adaptation. Rather than live as a recluse content to snack on the occasional passing tourist, Celi has turned his wealth into a vast business empire.

To his profound shock, Esperati is offered the CEO position at his company and, with a burgeoning relationship with Hooper, everything couldn’t be better. The edge comes off a bit when she tells him that it’s her job to have sex with any guest but that she does like doing it with him more than anyone else. Further disappointment follows when he finds a nursery of babies in the depths of the building. It’s weird, and things get more bizarre when he opens the register of infants. There’s his name and his baby photographs, along with his life history so far.

The analogy of vampirism to capitalism, the consumer culture and the resulting abolition of free will is a very interesting idea. Given developments over the past half-century, the concept seems remarkably on point. It’s just a shame that a modern-day audience will probably find much of the material rather obvious now and lacking in subtlety. Naming Celi’s character ‘Nosferatu’ gives an idea of how ‘on the nose’ the film can be. Of course, it’s probable that recognition of the name would not have come so readily to the majority of viewers at the time, and the evil machinations of global corporations were not such common knowledge as they are now.

The corporate world provides the opportunity for some fine satire when Celi’s fellow conspirators assemble for his company board meeting. One team member gets in trouble because workers at his plant are reading books on the toilet during their breaks, and reading is banned. Another because two workers at his contraceptive factory have been filmed having sex. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but the woman has become pregnant as a result. Copulation is permissable, procreation is not. Finally, Celi’s solution to the poor sales of a detergent not popular with the public due to environmental concerns is not to rejig the ingredients as suggested but to repackage the exact same product with an eco-friendly design, name and marketing campaign.

So, the script by Farina and co-author Giulio Berruti is intelligent, witty and has something to say. Where the film falls a little short is with story development and structure. Unfortunately, very little happens after Esperati reaches the villa. Holding back revelations regarding Celi’s true nature is only effective if the audience is unaware of them. A halfway knowledgeable one will know what he is almost from the start. If it’s not the ‘Nosferatu’ name, then the sequences of Esperati asking for directions in the peasant village also reveal the secret. The villagers won’t speak, old women cross themselves, and a priest tells him to get out. Again, it’s not subtle.

The structure becomes a problem when almost the entire second act asks us to invest in the developing love affair between Esperati and Hooper. It’s just not very gripping, and there’s a sudden disconnect when Celi’s 10-minute board meeting arrives in one solid lump towards the end of the film. Hooper may be taking the minutes, but Esperati is absent, having apparently given his apologies. These issues are reflected to a lesser extent elsewhere and result in no consistent narrative flow or sense of escalating threat, and the conclusion when it comes, although smart, is a little too predictable.

However, there’s still a lot to enjoy. Rather than bathe the screen in the gaudy rainbow of colours favoured by Italian movies of the time, cinematographer Aiace Parolin casts everything in a pale, washed-out half-light. This is particularly effective in the brief scenes that take place in the fog-wreathed mountain village. Celi’s mansion is also pleasingly minimalist with spartan, sterile interiors and furniture and utilities that play audio advertisements when used. That might not make much sense, Celi explains that it’s for market research, but it’s undeniably clever and funny. The script also gives us a dialogue exchange when Esperati threatens to expose Celi’s secret, but the tycoon isn’t concerned. He owns all the newspapers and the government.

Neither Farina nor Berruti had a long career in movie making. The former directed mostly short subjects and documentaries, his only other feature being cult horror ‘Baba Yaga’ (1973) starring former Hollywood starlet Carrol Baker. Berruti worked as an editor more often than a writer but fulfilled both script and directing duties on two films, the second being the controversial ‘The Killer Nun’ (1979) with Anita Ekberg. Hooper also has less than ten credits, with her only featured roles apparently being in this film and as a supporting player in Dario Argento’s ‘Deep Red/Profondo Rosso (1975). Of course, Celi will always be celebrated for a long, starry career in European cinema, particularly as Bond villain Largo opposite Sean Connery in ‘Thunderball’ (1965).

An unusual slice of horror and social commentary that manages the neat trick of being strangely prescient and oddly dated. Worth seeking out if you fancy something a little different.

Marta/…dopo di che, uccide il maschio e lo divora (1971)

‘When you live alone in a house like this, even a visit from the police helps.’

A rich young man is haunted by nightmares of a night of sex and his mother’s fatal accident. Left alone on his estate over the weekend, he takes in a beautiful woman who is on the run from the police. She is unsure of his motives until she discovers her striking resemblance to his absent wife, who either left of her own free will or was murdered…

Understated Giallo mystery from co-writer and director José Antonio Nieves Conde, who focuses on suspense and intrigue rather than working his way through a long roster of murders. It was a Spanish-Italian co-production reuniting the co-stars of Conde’s previous film ‘The Great Swindle/Historia de una traición’ (1971), although this feature made it to the big screen first.

Wealthy landowner Don Miguel (Stephen Boyd) lives the quiet life on his rambling country estate with old married couple Arturo (George Rigaud) and Elena (Isa Miranda). Sure, he has his little eccentricities, such as having a telescope permanently set up so he can view the insane asylum down the road where his father died. There are also those strange, green-tinted dreams where the wife who suddenly left him and his stern, disapproving mother (Nélida Quiroga) seem oddly interchangeable. Perhaps it’s understandable when the one met her fatal interaction with the attic stairs so soon after the other departed.

When the faithful servants take a weekend break to visit their son, Marta (Marisa Mell) comes into his life, being chased halfway across his estate by his pack of guard dogs. He soon finds out that she’s fleeing a crime scene, leaving behind the seriously injured man who tried to assault her. Not only does Boyd put her up in one of the spare rooms for the night, but he also hides her when policemen Jesús Puente and Howard Ross come a-calling. The fugitive soon discovers that she bears a striking resemblance to Boyd’s wife, Pilar (Mell again, as a blonde), who left him two years before.

Boyd is initially reluctant to engage with his new guest, preferring instead to play the perfect host and watch her undress through a convenient peephole and then wander the dark passageways at night carrying a poker. However, Mell knows how to push his buttons, and the two soon tumble into bed. The following day marks Boyd’s annual pilgrimage to his mother’s grave, and Mell wants to go along for the ride. They dress her up as the missing Pilar to avoid official interest, using the missing woman’s old clothes and a blonde wig. Red flags all around, of course, but the fact that Mell cheerfully goes along with the masquerade only confirms something the audience has already begun to suspect; her arrival on the scene was much more than a lucky coincidence.

Conde’s drama poses two self-evident questions; what secret lurks in Boyd’s past, and what is Mell’s game? Given that this is basically a two-hander with no other characters being of much consequence, it’s pleasing to report that Mell and Boyd shoulder the responsibility well. Boyd is particularly eye-catching, alternating between a passive calm and occasional emotional outbursts which arrive unexpectedly. Mell also gets a role she can sink her teeth into, something she was rarely offered during her career. Yes, she has some of her usual ‘bad girl’ moments, but there’s more depth to Marta than that, and she presents a complete, rounded character with surprising vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, the performers are better than the script. It’s a slow burn for the most part but starts kicking into gear around the hour mark with some surprising revelations. These arrive a little earlier than might have been expected, but it’s excellent timing as it sets up some intriguing possibilities for the final act. Sadly, Conde fumbles the ball, discarding these opportunities in favour of a generic, all-too-predictable climax that lacks imagination and any true creative spark. On the plus side, however, the shifting dynamics of the Mell-Boyd relationship over the runtime are nicely handled. There are a couple of wonderful moments where an excited Mell confronts her new lover with a secret she has uncovered in the hope of provoking an unguarded response. Instead, he simply shrugs his shoulders, reveals he knew about it all the time and off-handedly throws her another crumb of new information.

Considering that the film has little action and what does happen is almost exclusively confined to the rambling house, Conde does an excellent job of maintaining a level of suspense and audience interest. The drama could easily come across as a small scale, made for television production, but it’s to his credit that it never does. The principal cast is an immense help in this regard, of course, and there is also solid, professional work from cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri. He was a camera assistant on Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ (1960) and received full credit on the director’s ‘Ginger and Fred’ (1986). By then, he’d worked many times for Franco Zeffirelli, including celebrated films such as ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ (1972) and ‘La Traviata’ (1982). He finished his career with over 120 feature film credits, including Vittorio de Sica’s ‘The Garden of the Finzi-Continis’ (1972), which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Having starred in two films together, Boyd and Mell began a real-life tumultuous love affair which culminated in an (unofficial) gipsy marriage shortly after filming wrapped, the union being sealed with blood! The couple even attended an exorcism ritual, and Mell reflected in later years that they had been lovers in several previous lives. However, the relationship didn’t last, with Boyd deciding to leave and never see the actress again. He’d made his mark on the big screen as Messala in William Wyler’s epic ‘Ben Hur’ (1959) and featured in other notable big-budget projects in the 1960s. There was the musical ‘Billy Rose’s Jumbo’ (1962) with Doris Day, a starring role alongside Sophia Loren, Alec Guinness and James Mason in ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ (1964) and as the lead in science-fiction favourite ‘Fantastic Voyage’ (1966). He died of a heart attack in 1977 at the age of just 45.

A promising Giallo, which unfortunately turns out to be much less than the sum of its parts. Worth watching for the leading performances, however.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet/4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971)

‘My dear, I’d like you to meet Jerkoff.’

A young rock musician confronts a mysterious man who has been following him. During the confrontation, they struggle and the stalker is killed. The musician flees the scene and doesn’t tell the police, but a strange masked figure has witnessed the event…

The final part of young Italian director Dario Argento’s so-called ‘Animal’ trilogy that kickstarted the Giallo phenomenon of the early 1970s. ‘The Bird With the Crystal Plumage’ (1969) had received international acclaim, and follow up ‘The Cat O’Nine Tails (1972) also enjoyed a positive critical and commercial reception. He gets a sole screenplay credit this time around, although fellow directors Luigi Cozzi and Mario Foglietti share an original story nod.

After a studio session pounding the drum kit with his progressive-rock combo, Roberto Tobias (Michael Brandon) is followed on the way home by a man in black wearing sunglasses. It’s not the first time, either; Brandon has been noticing this shadow for about a week and decides to put an end to the not-so-covert surveillance. Chasing the figure into an abandoned theatre, the two struggle, a knife flashes, and the man falls dead into the orchestra pit. What’s worse is that when Brandon looks up, he sees a masked figure in the gallery taking photographs.

Convinced he will be jailed for the killing, Brandon keeps his mouth shut. However, it’s soon clear that the eyewitness intends blackmail when one of the incriminating photographs turns up in the drummer’s record collection during a house party. He employs failed private eye, Arrosio (Jean-Pierre Marielle), to help unravel the mystery on the advice of his friend God(frey), played by Bud Spencer. After a break-in at their home, Brandon sends his wife Nina (Mimsy Farmer) out of town for her protection, and it’s not long before her cousin Dalia (Francine Racette) is sharing his bed instead. Unknown to everyone, family maid Amelia (Marisa Fabbri) has discovered Brandon’s secret and plans to blackmail the blackmailer.

After Argento’s unhappy experience with producers on ‘The Cat O’Nine Tails’ (1972), this project found the young filmmaker firmly in the driving seat and able to indulge his flair for experimental editing and filmmaking. These choices result in some truly outstanding set pieces that build extraordinary levels of fear and suspense. The sequence where Fabbri waits for her blackmail payoff in the park is a particular tour-de-force. Argento uses skilful edits that both convey the slow crawl of the hours and express how the boredom of the long wait lulls the maid into completely losing track of time until it’s too late.

The other murder setups are striking and memorable, with some stunning shots from the killer’s POV and there’s also a superbly orchestrated dream sequence. Argento also exhibits his usual flair for identifying interesting locations and using exterior and interior space in fresh and original ways. He also employs the highest-speed camera then available to capture the outstanding slow-motion of the film’s final moments.

If this sounds like a recipe for a true Giallo classic, it would be, if not for some major flaws. The first problem is with the flat performances of Brandon and Farmer, who fail to invoke any emotional investment from the audience. This could have been Argento’s intention, however. Italian cinema of the period was highly critical of the young and idle rich, and our golden couple here are living off an inheritance Farmer has received from a relative. Their house parties tend to be typically indolent, lacklustre affairs. The uncomfortable Brandon thumbs through his record collection, dodging glances from the lovelorn Maria (Laura Troschel) and trying to ignore the crass and mean anecdotes of smug boor Andrea (Stefano Satta Flores).

In contrast, Brandon’s interactions with his friends and bandmates are far more animated and natural. He grooves with keyboard player Mirko (Fabrizio Moroni) in the studio and jokes with the demonstrative Spencer and the Professor (Oreste Lionello), who share a shack down by the river. Apparently, the duo exist off Spencer’s fishing and sometimes eat the results raw! The contrast between their earthy existence and that of his wife’s arrogant smart set is hardly subtle, but it gets the point across. However, it’s rather a high price to pay if Brandon’s rather dour performance was the result.

The only character engaging audience empathy is useless private detective Marielle who cheerfully admits that he’s never solved a case. The character is saddled with some tiresome gay stereotyping, however. On arriving at the investigator’s office, Brandon finds him painting the walls, which is apparently enough to type him as gay and probably useless as a detective. Those facts may be true, but it seems a baffling conclusion to draw from a bit of home decorating. Pleasingly, Marielle proves a good deal sharper than his professional record would suggest.

Some Argento humour arrives in the person of Gildo Di Marco, who was so memorable as the stuttering pimp in ‘The Bird With the Crystal Plumage’ (1969). However, his appearance this time is little more than a cameo as a harrassed mailman. There’s also a scene set at a trade show where coffin makers peddle their new models, which could have been very funny if developed further but would have been out of place in the overall story if allowed too much screen time.

Unfortunately, there are some fundamental issues with Argento’s screenplay. Although the resolution to the mystery doesn’t create any glaring plot holes, it’s still wildly implausible and takes a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. Additionally, there’s a significant problem with the way the killer is unmasked. This involves something called Optography, taking a photograph of a victim’s eye after death to capture the last image it saw from the retina. This outlandish idea originated with physiologist Wilhelm Kühne in the 1870s and was actually used to help convict a mass murderer in Germany as late as 1924, despite the lack of scientific evidence that the technique has any credibility whatsoever. The notion did become popular in fiction, if not in real life, and had been thoroughly debunked by the time of Argento’s film. The fact that a modern-day police force would employ it as an investigative tool in 1971 is plainly ridiculous, but what’s worse is that, in the film, it actually works!

One unfortunate outcome of the project was a falling out between Argento and famous composer Ennio Morricone. The great man’s music had graced both of the director’s previous films, but they violently disagreed over his contribution here. The argument led to Morricone walking out, and the two didn’t work together again until ‘The Stendahl Syndrome’ (1996), a quarter of a century later. The good news is that this led to Argento’s introduction to experimental rock group Goblin, who provided memorable scores for his films’ Deep Red’ (1975), ‘Phenomona’ (1985) and ‘Sleepless’ (2001). Sought out by other filmmakers, the band also provided the music for films such as George A Romero’s classic ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978) and Lucio Fulci’s cult response ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’ (1979).

Brandon was overseas talent, an American actor a little short in screen experience, but one who had impressed in the Broadway show ‘Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? (1969), a production which is largely credited as launching the acting career of a certain Al Pacino. He is probably best remembered for the UK action series ‘Dempsey and Makepeace’ from the mid-1980s where he co-starred with wife-to-be Glynis Barber.

Farmer was also born in the United States and was of French extraction. Her career began in juvenile roles in the 1960s, including a featured supporting part in ‘Spencer’s Mountain’ (1963) with Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara. Choosing to place school and travel before her screen career, her next significant role wasn’t until Barbet Schroeder’s ‘More’ (1969), which featured a soundtrack by Pink Floyd. She came to Argento’s attention when she relocated to Italy after becoming disillusioned with the political scene in America. Subsequent appearances included the lead in Francesco Barilli’s Giallo ‘The Perfume of the Lady in Black/Il Profumo della signora in nero’ (1974), Lucio Fulci’s ‘Black Cat/Gatto Nero (1981) and mercenary action flick ‘Code Name: Wild Geese’ (1984) with Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine and Klaus Kinski. She left acting behind in the early 1990s to pursue a career as a sculptor.

A flawed film in many ways, it’s still a must-see for fans of Argento and the Giallo. The shortfalls in acting and story are easily compensated by some notable examples of the director’s dazzling technique.

The World of the Dead/Land of the Dead/El mundo del los muertos (1970)

‘Maybe the tarantula bit you and made you hallucinate, my son.’

In the late 17th Century, the Holy Inquisition burns four young men and a witch accused of making pacts with the devil. The sorceress vows revenge on the descendants of the Knight who accused her. Three hundred years later, she returns to fulfil the deadly curse…

Glorious cavalcade of straight-faced horror lunacy that finds Mexico’s legendary luchador El Santo facing off once more against the forces of evil. Raising the stakes is the presence of real-life rival the Blue Demon working on the side of Satan and a frenetic pace from director Gilberto Martínez Solares that was either the result of pre-release pruning or some kind of hyperactivity problem.

Once a hero, always a hero. Back in the 17th Century, the ancestor of silver-masked wrestler El Santo has allied himself with the church in a holy mission to rid the land of witchcraft and the minions of Satan. Top of the agenda is passing judgement on four acolytes of the local witch, who they believe to be the Lady Damiana Velazquez (Pilar Pellicer). The High Inquisitor (Antonio Raxel) and his clerical sidekick, the Bishop (Guillermo Álvarez Bianchi), order the men burnt at the stake.

Pellicer plots revenge against the Knight in the Silver Mask (Santo), who she holds responsible for the execution of her followers. Invoking Satan (played by VoiceOver Man), she conjures an emissary from Hell to help out. This is the Blue Knight (Blue Demon), who had been trapped in the netherworld but is now placed at her command. He fights with Santo, but the result is inconclusive and speeding up the footage in the editing suite was not a wise filmmaking choice.

As was often the case for any femme fatale interacting with the great man, the evil Pellicer is torn between seduction and assassination. Of course, Santo rejects her in favour of the church and his lady love, blonde beauty Aurora (Betty Nelson), who sleeps in full makeup, false eyelashes and a black negligee. Pellicer doesn’t take it well and attempts to kill him with a ceremonial dagger but is overpowered. Her failure displeases Satan, who commands Blue Demon to resurrect the dead to finish the job, courtesy of some tinted inserts from Mario Bava’s ‘Hercules In The Haunted World’ (1961).

These musclemen attack Santo in his home but, rather than engage in the usual grappling antics, a full-on sword fight develops instead. A swashbuckling Santo swings from the chandelier and thrusts and parries in the best Errol Flynn tradition. But it’s hard to hurt those who are already dead, and things are starting to look desperate until he realises they fear the cross, and at cock crow, they all vanish with the snip of an editor’s scissors. They don’t appear to be vampires, but the supernatural status of all Satan’s agents seems cheerfully vague here. Unfortunately, Pellicer is taking advantage of the diversion to pay Nelson a visit, and tea and scones are most definitely not on the menu.

If this all sounds like a rollicking period horror, then it is. Santo gets some nifty medieval threads, and the rest of the costuming and details look on point. Director Solares also opts to film all the devilish antics in broad daylight with the aid of only occasional swirls of fog and smoke. This approach works surprisingly well and helps emphasise the well-chosen locations; an old stone ruin and a neglected cemetery. But all this is just the first half-hour of the movie! Yes, at the conclusion of the first act, Pellicer is summarily apprehended, tried and burned, cursing the descendants of everyone involved. This concept of generational revenge is a highly familiar horror movie trope, of course, but it appears in so many Mexican films of this period that it seems to have reached the stage of a national filmmaking obsession. A movie where it fails to appear is usually a surprise.

Fast-forwarding three hundred years, we find the descendants of the original principals living in the same town, all acquainted and, of course, each bearing an uncanny resemblance to their forebears. Bishop Bianchi has been reincarnated as Father Francisco (he’s doing the same job in the same costume!), and a couple of the other supporting players from the early scenes appear as guests at a present-day party. The one notable exception is Nelson, who doesn’t appear.

Santo’s intended is now Alicia, the daughter of Don Alfonso (Antonio Rexel). As the same actor played the High Inquisitor in the first part of the film, the character is obviously supposed to be a direct descendant. This is a bit of a problem because Pellicer plays his daughter, and she is definitely from the witch’s bloodline. So exactly how did these two families converge? The film never addresses the question. Perhaps the idea of a high church official and a witch having a more than professional relationship would not have been acceptable to the audience of the time, and producers removed some explanatory scenes or dialogue.

Pellicer’s revenge is almost exclusively centred on Santo, though, and the story quickly dissolves into an almost endless series of attempts on his life. These usually feature the resurrected musclemen from earlier. One of whom appears against him in the square ring, cunningly disguised as a fellow wrestler by wearing a towel over his head. The bout doesn’t go well for our hero, who gets stabbed and rushed into the operating theatre for emergency surgery. This is an amazingly brief sequence with no apparent consequences, but it does allow director Solares to include some real-life footage of open-heart surgery (thanks, mate!)

Of course, it all ends with the great man travelling to Hell to bring back the soul of the dying Alicia. Most of these climatic sequences feature Santo and Pellicer running across ‘the bridge between life and death’ (it’s just an ordinary rope bridge in a wood somewhere) and more inserts from ‘Hercules In The Haunted World’ (1961). But Solares does stick a red lens on the camera, so everything looks appropriately apocalyptic.

Where to begin? This is one bat-shit crazy chapter in the cinematic adventures of Santo. On the one hand, it’s attempting a very sombre tone. The impressive musical soundtrack by veteran composer Gustavo César Carrión reinforces that this is supposed to be a serious horror picture. The early scenes of the cult members burning at the stake are surprisingly graphic for this vintage, with full-body makeup showing their skins beginning to blister.

But the screenplay by Rafael García Travis is so resolutely jam-packed with incidents that it quickly becomes both silly and hilarious. Santo also loses both of his separate bouts in the square ring – sacrilege! – although it’s unlikely that either result was allowed to stand. I know that wrestling rules can be flexible, but stabbing your opponent with a ceremonial dagger is probably a disqualification. Similarly, in the earlier match, Santo’s opponent did throw the referee out of the ring and then attempted to throttle him with a towel, which I’m guessing is not a move endorsed by the relevant wrestling commission.

Santo goes to Hell, thanks to his ‘sense of justice’ and a convenient camera dissolve. Truly, there wasn’t any type of problem that the great man couldn’t handle.

Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977)

‘We want live bodies for the Prince of Darkness, not shredded corpses.’

Four cheerleaders and their coach are on their way to a big high school game when their van breaks down. They accept a ride from the school janitor, but little do they know that he is a practising Satanist and responsible for their predicament in the first place…

Mismatched mash-up of high school comedy hi-jinks and devil worship from co-writer and director Greydon Clark. Some veteran Hollywood names stop by to help out and pick up a paycheque, while some fresh-faced young hopefuls take their first – and in most cases, last – steps towards stardom.

Sweet-tempered, naive cheerleading coach Ms Johnson (Jacqulin Cole) has her hands full with her squad of pom-pom pushers. They may only be a quartet, but Patti (Kelly Sherman), Chris (Hilary Horan), Debbie (Alisa Powell) and Sharon (Sherry Marks) like nothing better than to hang out with the local jocks and play pranks on a rival high school gang.

Hilarity ensues when the guys swap the signs on the playing field locker rooms and a touring dean and his wife walk in on our heroines in the shower! More tiresome PG shenanigans follow, including a fight with water balloons and the field covered in toilet rolls, all accompanied by a constant barrage of lightweight, funky workout music.

But, never fear; all is not what it seems. Bad-tempered, peeping tom janitor Billy (Jack Kruschen) is actually a card-carrying Satanist and member of a local cult. What’s more, he might be a bumbling figure of fun on campus, but he seems to have supernatural powers. Enough to make the girls’ van break down on the way to the big game, at least. Just happening by, of course, Kruschen gives them a lift, but their final destination turns out to be a Satanic altar in the middle of the woods, rather than the neighbouring town’s sporting facilities. Kruschen intends to have his way with the blonde Sherman before sacrificing her to his dark master, but things go south when he collapses amidst an onslaught of cheap camera FX.

Not sure exactly what happened, the women take off in Kruschen’s van and find old John Carradine picking up trash by the side of the highway. He sends them off to take refuge with local sheriff John Ireland and his wife, Yvonne de Carlo. Unsurprisingly, they turn out to be the leaders of the local devil cult, which includes everyone living roundabout, even a monk, played by Sydney’ son of Charlie’ Chaplin. Lucky then that Sharman turns out to be more powerful than the lot of them put together, although it’s never clear if she is a witch or possessed by the evil one himself. Whichever it is, we get a brilliantly ridiculous closing scene where Sharman delivers the best line in the picture with impeccable comic timing.

The real issue with the finished film is its wildly inconsistent tone. At times, it seems to be simply a lightweight comedy vehicle. It certainly starts that way; our pretty high school heroines thrown into a series of vaguely risque situations on campus, accompanied by well-signposted gags. There’s the inevitable mild nudity and sex thrown in for the trailer, and it’s all highly formulaic and predictable.

Then we get the Satanism. Clark’s script, co-written with Alvin L Fast, does poke similar fun at Ireland and his vaguely incompetent crew. This could have worked if the humour had been a little darker, but it’s about as far from black comedy as you can get. The other problem is that all this Satanism stuff is very real, and those sequences play entirely straight. There’s even a scene where Sherriff Ireland rapes coach Cole. We don’t see anything, of course, and, strangely enough, it is important to the plot, but it sits very uneasily with the movie’s earlier scenes.

On the other hand, it is surprisingly well made; the climactic horror scenes mainly well shot, making the audience wish that Clark had decided to cut the comedy and make a serious horror film. There’s also the pleasure of seeing some old Hollywood stalwarts on the screen again, particularly Carradine, who has a definite twinkle in his eye throughout his brief appearance. However, the no-name youngsters are not so successful, and only Sharman went onto a significant acting career. She played guest slots on hit network TV shows such as ‘Hawaii Five’O’, ‘Barnaby Jones’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ before grabbing a supporting role in hit cop comedy ’48 Hrs.’ (1982). Later on, she was a regular on the soap opera ‘Santa Barbara’ for three years.

Clark began his career as a screen actor in David L Hewitt’s infamous ‘The Mighty Gorga’ (1969), and he also appeared in films for exploitation filmmaker Al Adamson. He was quick to move behind the camera, though, directing ‘Mothers, Fathers and Lovers’ (1971), a film in which he acted alongside Cole, to whom he was married for many years. Hopping onto the science-fiction bandwagon in the late 1970s, he delivered probably his best film; ‘Without Warning’ (1980), which starred Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Cameron Mitchell and a pre-stardom David Caruso in a small role. The story of an alien on Earth for a hunting trip bears more than a slight resemblance to ‘Predator’ (1987), and giant actor Kevin Peter Hall plays the extraterrestrial in both films. Clark followed that with shabby ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977) rip-off ‘The Return’ (1980) with Landau, Cybill Shepherd and Raymond Burr, and he managed to continue to attract minor Hollywood’ names’ to subsequent projects. However, these films are poorly regarded.

If you can stick through the dreary first act, this horror-comedy has some fun moments, but the clash of tones is likely to promote general dissatisfaction.

The Sentinel (1977)

‘Believe it or not, I attended a birthday party here last night for a cat.’

A successful young fashion model with a troubled past takes a new apartment to get some perspective on a possible future with her long-term boyfriend. It’s not long, however, before she’s disturbed by strange noises in the night, weird dreams and the attentions of her new neighbours, who exhibit some decidedly odd behaviour…

Satan was big box office in Hollywood in the 1970s, particularly when his activities were transposed to a modern, urban setting. The trend had begun with Roman Polanski’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968) and continued primarily through movies made for television in the early 1970s. Then came the box-office juggernaut that was ‘The Exorcist’ (1973). Three years later, ‘The Omen’ (1976) was another smash and this dance with the devil from British director Michael Winner’s followed hard on its heels.

Young and beautiful Alison Parker (Cristina Raines) is the cover girl of her day, appearing in exclusive photoshoots from top fashion magazines and gracing prime time TV in shampoo commercials. On the surface, she’s living the American Dream, but a dark past contains a suicide attempt after breaking in on her elderly father cavorting with some naked prostitutes. Long term live-in boyfriend Michael (Chris Sarandon) wants marriage, but Raines needs some space to think things over. So she rents a big apartment in an exclusive building downtown and moves in. It looks like a steal, but when you’ve got a blind priest John Carradine staring out of the window of the flat on the top floor, it’s best to think twice before signing the lease agreement.

Things start going bump in the night pretty quickly, and that’s not all. Her neighbours are a rum bunch, to be sure. There’s the campy Burgess Meredith, who carries his cat around, and lesbian ballet fans Sylvia Miles and the wordless Beverley D’Angelo, who starts to masturbate in front of Raines as soon as Miles is out of the room. Later on, Meredith holds a birthday shindig for his cat, and Raines gets to meet some more of the residents, who act weird and start turning up in her dreams. When she complains to the local house agent about everything, she’s told that the building’s only other resident is Carradine. When she examines the other apartments with Sarandon, they are deserted and covered in dust.

Based on a novel by Jeffrey Konvitz, this occult mystery struggles to find a consistent tone and engage the audience. The story is very much a slow burn, without a great deal of action or incident, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but in Winner’s hands, the absence of tension and atmosphere is a serious problem. Raines and Sarandon have little chemistry together, and neither exhibits enough presence to overcome their underwritten characters. The script is credited as a collaboration between Konviotz and Winner, although Konvitz was unhappy with Winner’s involvement from the start and is not a fan of the finished film. It’s not hard to see why.

The main issue is Winner’s apparent determination to ‘gross out’ the audience. There is a memorable scene where Raines slices up what seems to be her dead father’s living corpse. It is quite shocking but comes so far out of left field and is so over the top that it’s borderline hilarious, which is obviously not the effect the director intended. However, it is worth pointing out that the film is over 40 years old. The contemporary audience was probably far more unfamiliar with such moments of sudden shock and gore than viewers today. Instead of carrying on along that line, however, the tale then seems to morph into a conspiracy thriller as Sarandon breaks into the offices of the local Catholic diocese, suspicious of their involvement with the building and a mysterious priest played by Arthur Kennedy. Then it’s on to the climax and the solution to the mystery, which is where things get very divisive.

In essence, the climax is just two of the characters shouting at each other in an attic, which is not very cinematic. Winner chose to deal with this problem by showing an army of demons rising from hell to surround the protagonists. Rather than employ practical makeup effects, the director decided to use real-life people with significant physical deformities. There was a precedent for this approach, of course, the most obvious example being Tod Browning’s ‘Freaks’ (1932). Jack Cardiff had also employed it for his dreadful mash-up of horror and science-fiction ‘The Mutations’ (1974). However, the crucial difference between the 1932 film and its 1970s counterparts is that Browning portrayed his unusual cast as human beings, giving them dialogue and characters. They were the centre of the drama. Winner in particular merely uses them as window dressing, inviting the audience to gawk at them and be horrified, much in the way of carnival sideshows of a bygone age. Yes, I’m sure everyone was paid for their participation and took part through choice, but it still leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

Elsewhere, it’s an unusual case of ‘spot the famous face’ as the cast is stocked with stars of yesteryear and some whose day was yet to come. Apart from veterans Kennedy, Carradine and Miles, we get Ava Gardner renting out apartment space in New York, Jose Ferrer with a walk-on as one of Kennedy’s ecclesiastical colleagues and Martin Balsam in a pointless scene as an absent-minded academic. As well as D’Angelo, we get future stars Jeff Goldblum as a fashion photographer and Tom Berenger doing a bit of flat hunting and billed as ‘Man at the end.’ There’s also a combination of the two eras with veteran cop Eli Wallach partnered with a young Christopher Walken. The older detective is convinced that Sarandon had his wife pushed from a bridge, a potentially interesting subplot that is never really developed. Finally, there’s a curious ‘blink, and you’ll miss it’ cameo from Richard Dreyfuss hanging out on a street corner, probably waiting for his next call from Steven Spielberg.

Winner is poorly regarded as a filmmaker in his homeland of the United Kingdom. This critical and popular backlash was rooted in the seemingly endless run of sequels to his original hit ‘Death Wish’ (1974), although, of course, such a practice would not raise much of an eyebrow in these more franchise-friendly times. Later on, however, when the film offers began to dry up, he re-invented himself as a food critic, parlaying that into a career as a television personality. Unfortunately, his personal charms failed to win over the public, who disliked him thoroughly, something probably accentuated by his frequent appearances in tv commercials for an insurance company.

The director died in 2013, and his name has come up during recent revelations about the mistreatment of women in the film industry. By all accounts, Raines, in particular, clashed with him frequently during the production, as did several other cast and crew members. In addition, Konvitz has been very vocal about his dissatisfaction with Winner and the whole experience of making the film.

All of which commentary tends to colour opinion on the man’s films, but it does have to be acknowledged when in possession of a decent script; he could deliver an acceptable end product. However, those examples tend to reside in the earlier part of his career when perhaps he possessed less creative control over the process.

An acceptable 1970s horror experience if you can disregard its flaws.

The Fall of the House of Usher (1979)

The Fall of the House of Usher (1979)‘Any obtrusive sound deeply affects the tranquillity of this house.’

When he visits an old friend, a young engineer is shocked to find the man seriously ill and his house on the verge of imminent collapse. Dark family secrets emerge as it becomes clear that the building is cursed and the bloodline doomed…

A film version of the famous Edgar Allan Poe tale made for television by producer-director by James L Conway. Martin Landau stars as Roderick Usher; the role made famous by Vincent Price almost twenty years before in Roger Corman’s ‘House of Usher’ (1960). Although this effort can’t match the quality of that film, it displays some surprisingly good production values and a smattering of interesting ideas.

Jonathan Cresswell (Robert Hays) is just settling into married life with new bride, Jennifer (Charlene Tilton) when he receives a strange letter from boyhood pal, Roderick Usher (Landau). It’s a strange cry for help that mentions the dangerous illness of his sister. Answering the call, the couple suffer a carriage mishap on their way to the house. This is convenient for budgetary purposes, but not so good for the audience as we don’t get to see see the dark lake or the dead forest from the story. The atmosphere on their midnight stroll is provided instead by a vicious Rottweiler which mysteriously drops dead after starting to tangle with Hays. The fact that it looks identical to the dog that Hays remembers as the family pet over 20 years earlier should be a red flag, but the couple carries on regardless.

The Fall of the House of Usher (1979)

‘This doesn’t look anything like an Oscar…’

When they reach the house, they are met at the door by faithful old retainer, Thaddeus (Ray Walston) who warns them against making any sudden noises. It’s here we get our first information about the strange malady which affects the Usher family. Hypersensitivity of all the senses leading to insanity. Apparently, Madeline (Dimitra Arliss) has already succumbed. She is confined to her chamber, although, in practice, she wanders around with an axe. Of course, the house is honeycombed with secret passages, and, of course, one of them is hidden behind a bookcase.

Landau has brought Hays to the house to try and save it because he’s an engineer, which is a nice touch, and the structure needs all the help it can get. The house is over 800 years old, having been brought over from Marseille and rebuilt, stone by stone, more than 200 years earlier. Now, it’s falling apart due to frequent earth tremors. The furniture is bolted to the floor to prevent it from flying about, although there’s a seemingly ever-present danger from falling chandeliers. These interiors are fairly well realised, and it’s nice to get a little of the building’s history, which is not usually addressed, although it was mentioned briefly in Corman’s film. It’s also nice to see that the relocation of the house included provision for the rest of the Usher line, the basement doubling as the family crypt!

The Fall of the House of Usher (1979)

‘Oh, no! The Secretary has disavowed my performance!’

There are some good points to this production, but it also has some flaws. On the credit side, there are some interesting ideas. The inclusion of Tilton’s character, not present in the original story, does provide an opportunity to open the story out, but her character is totally passive until the final moments. Interactions between her and Arliss’ doomed Madeline could have been interesting, but the latter is already batshit crazy before the young couple make the scene. There is a pleasing scene where Tilton visits the library, though, for some appropriate bedtime reading. Unfortunately, volumes on the history of Satanism and the folklore of Germany aren’t to her taste!

There’s also some nice business where Hays tries to shore up the fabric of the building with some dead trees, even if this does seem a big ask for just one man, even if the aged Walton is prepared to give a hand! The old servant also hangs the cooking knives on chains in the kitchen and secures them with padlocks, which is a striking little detail. On the debit side, the climax is very repetitive and over-stretched, and the television budget means there’s little of the lush design and visuals possible with a big-screen production.

The Fall of the House of Usher (1979)

‘I guess the foot’s on the other hand now, isn’t it, Kramer?’

The main issue is that the filmmakers felt the need to justify the horrors that occur, rather than leave things ambiguous as the original story did. Their explanation is not a bad one, but nor is it particularly original and it is provided at too much length. The flashbacks, which include a mob with flaming torches, seem unnecessary and there’s a suspicion that they exist just to pad the running time. It’s perfectly understandable why Stephen Lord’s script features this extra material; Poe’s story being long on atmosphere but short on events. However, it’s a pity that he couldn’t have come up with something a little more creative.

Predictably, the film suffers in comparison with both the classic French 1928 silent version directed by Jean Epstein and the 1960 film with Price. Performances are generally adequate, although Landau swings wildly between being quietly effective and chewing the scenery. It’s Wals
ton who comes out best, his family servant hinting at the horrors that plague the house without being too explicit. In retrospect, both Hays and Tilton might seem miscast, but neither looks out of place. Both were on the verge of brief stardom, Hays for comedy classic ‘Airplane!’ (1980) and Tilton for her role as Lucy Ewing on TV soap mega-hit ‘Dallas.’

Nothing special but, considering the almost complete absence of decent Poe adaptations in the 40 years since, quite a pleasant surprise.

The Vampires Night Orgy/La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

The Vampires Night Orgy:La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)‘In no other place can you find a roast like this.’

A group of domestic staff on their way to a job get sidetracked when their bus driver dies of a heart attack. They stop for the night in a remote town that seems to be empty but find it fully occupied the next day. However, they soon become suspicious of their hosts and, when they go to leave, their bus won’t start…

Disappointing Euro-Horror that combines cannibalism and the undead to little effect. Despite an impressive location, complete with cemetery, there is little in the way of atmosphere, suspense or chills in the final results with a lot of the blame resting at the door of the jumbled, poorly developed script by writers Gabriel Moreno Burgos and Antonion Fos.

Travelling by coach to their new jobs somewhere or other, a team of domestic staff are somewhat inconvenienced when their driver drops dead at the wheel. Wrapping him up and putting him on the backseat, they contemplate their next move. During this process, Raquel (Charo Soriano) is happy for her young daughter (Sarita Gil) to play outside, so she’s not traumatised by what’s happened. On the roadside, Gil meets a young boy (Fernando E. Romero) who says nothing and suddenly disappears when it’s time to get back on the bus. The group travel on with Chauffeur, Ernesto (Gaspar ‘Indio’ González) driving, but decide to stop at a nearer town that’s off the grid, rather than pushing on to their destination.

The Vampires Night Orgy:La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

‘I’ve been waiting for ages to get served too.’

Arriving at the old world mountain community of Tolnia, they find it apparently occupied, but empty of people, apart from Luis (Jack Taylor) who is just passing through. Romantic sparks fly immediately between him and ladies maid Alma (Dyanik Zurakowska), and they take rooms next to each other when the group decide to spend the night. This proximity is particularly handy for Taylor as it turns out there’s a spyhole in the back of his closet which he uses to perv on Zurakowska as she gets ready for bed. This doesn’t affect the plot in any way and provides no real insight into Taylor’s character (and, yes, he is our hero!), but it does provide an excuse from some casual nudity early in the film.

The next morning when they come down for breakfast, the tavern is jumping with a full complement of staff and customers. The explanation for their absence is entirely feasible: they were all at a funeral. I guess they take place in the middle of the night in this part of the world. Taylor and Zurakowska are introduced to the town Mayor (José Guardiola) who is only too keen to share the local cuisine. We have a pretty good idea what’s on the menu by now, and the grub doesn’t disappoint, particularly when Zurakowska finds a human finger on her plate at a later sitting.

The Vampires Night Orgy:La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

‘It’s all right, you’ve just got something on your neck…’

However, Guardiola isn’t running the town; that role’s taken by the beautiful Countess (Helga Liné), whose family have been the local aristocrats for many centuries. She’s happy to invite our role call of victims up to the big house for a spot of tea and buns and takes a particular fancy to tutor Cesar (David Aller). She invites him to stay behind for some Shakespeare recitation which naturally ends up with the two of them between the sheets before Aller ends up on the pointy ends of Liné’s dentalwork. Meanwhile, back down in the village, the residents are closing in on their supper. Understandably, Taylor and Zurakowska decide to get the hell out of dodge.

Ok, where to begin? Well, from a technical point of view, the film is perfectly adequate. The cast is fine, and the location is impressive, even if director Leòn Klimovsky doesn’t manage to conjure much suspense or atmosphere from the town’s narrow streets or the bleak mountain slopes that surround it. The soundtrack’s composer is uncredited, which may mean that the musical selections were lifted from a library, which would go some way to explaining why the cues often feel inappropriate and distracting. But the biggest problem here is the story. Boy, does it raise a lot of questions.

The Vampires Night Orgy:La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

‘Are we there yet?’

The concept of a ‘Vampire Brigadoon’ is not necessarily a bad one, but the film fails on its own terms due to a complete lack of logic and clarity. Are the entire population of the town supposed to be vampires, or are they merely cannibals serving Line’s undead queen? In both cases, why don’t they overwhelm our vastly outnumbered heroes as soon as they arrive? Why string them along? Is it because they like to play with their food? And if they are only cannibals, then aren’t they going to run out of food pretty quickly in a remote village with an infrequent tourist trade? After all, we see them cutting each other up so they can put something on the plate for the travellers at the tavern. Why would they do that? And who is the young boy supposed to be? Is he a ghost? Why does he try to protect the young girl, and what happens to him in the end? So many questions….

There are also other problems with the script that display a distinct lack of care and attention. As the film opens, the fact that someone needs an entire team of new domestic staff would seem to be highly significant. Who is this mystery new employer and do they have sinister reasons for replacing their complete household? Well, don’t worry about it, because we never get to find out. It’s just an excuse to put some people on a bus so they can get lost in the mountains and become food for the undead. There’s no character development for any of these individuals either; we never find out the first thing about any of them. They are only defined by their jobs: the gardener, the teacher, the cook, the chauffeur, etc. etc.

The Vampires Night Orgy/La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

One moustache to rule them all.

There are several possible explanations for all these shortcomings. The most likely is that the film was rushed into production and begun without a finished script. It’s also possible that the film ran out of money during filming or that it was poorly edited for a Stateside release, although there are none of the telltale signs of those kinds of issues. The story progresses logically enough; it just fails to tie anything up in a satisfactory way, the oh, so predictable ‘twist ending’ providing no significant closure at all. Of course, it could also be down to this being two separate scripts that were smashed together, one involving a town of vampires, the other a town of cannibals. That possibility makes the most sense when watching the finished film.

Taylor was a stalwart of the Euro-Horror scene for many years with an impressive resume of credits in the field. He began his career in the Mexican film industry under the name Grek Martin before moving to Europe in the mid-1960s and landing the title role in excruciating Eurospy adventure ‘Agente Sigma 3 – Missione Goldwather’ (1967). But it was his role in Jess Franco’s ‘Succubus’ (1968) that turned the tide in his favour. More work with Franco followed including ‘Count Dracula’ (1970) with Christopher Lee, and ‘Female Vampire/La Comtesse Noir’ (1973). He also took one of the title roles opposite Paul Naschy in ‘Dr Jekyll vs the Werewolf’ (1972). Other projects include Javier Aguirre’s Giallo thriller ‘The Killer Is One of 13’ (1973), Amando de Ossorio’s ‘Blind Dead’ episode ‘The Ghost Galleon’ (1974), further films with Naschy and titles such as ‘Exorcismo’ (1975) and ‘Swedish Nympho Slaves’ (1977). He even graced more mainstream projects such as ‘Conan the Barbarian’ (1981), Ridley Scott’s ‘1492: The Conquest of Paradise’ (1992) and ‘The Ninth Gate’ (1999) for director Roman Polanski.

Liné probably deserves the title of ‘the hardest working actress in Europe’ in the 1960s and 70s, appearing in almost too many cult titles to count. Although she could shine given the opportunity, her roles were often of the same kind of quality she gets in this film. There’s one dialogue scene when she chats with the travellers, one nude scene and a handful of others where she wanders around in fangs and old-age makeup. If her decision to take roles that were obviously beneath her abilities seems a little puzzling, then the explanation is simple. It was all about the paycheck. She was a single mother bringing up two children at the time, and she needed the money. She’s probably best remembered for her starring roles in the films featuring the evil mastermind ‘Kriminal’, and ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. She also took the title role in Armando de Ossorio’s ‘The Loreley’s Grasp’ (1972), even though, by her account, she did not enjoy that particular experience.

A weak and poorly developed Euro-Horror with a lot of story issues.

Dr Jekyll vs. The Werewolf/Doctor Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (1972)

Doctor Jekyll vs. The Werewolf (1972)‘I need pleasure… women… lots of women… different women!’

A new bride is saved from a fate worse than death by a man suffering from the curse of lycanthropy. She persuades him to consult family friend, Henry Jekyll, who may be able to come up with a cure for his deadly affliction…

Sixth in the series of the unconnected adventures of Paul Naschy in the role of reluctant werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. Unconnected? Yes, in what would be an unacceptable decision in today’s movie world, Naschy elected to make his 12 ‘Daninsky’ films as ‘stand alone’ stories with no significant continuity from project to project, except the character’s name and his lycanthropic tendencies. Also this is only the sixth chapter if you accept the existence of ‘Las Noches Del Hombre Lobo’ (1968), a film Naschy always insisted was shot, despite there being no other evidence of its existence or of the alleged director Rene Govar.

Life’s not much fun for scientist Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor). He can’t even attend a going away party for newlywed friends lmre (Jose Marco) and Justine (Shirley Corrigan) without someone making smart remarks about his infamous grandfather. He leaves in a huff and Marco and Corrigan depart for Transylvania, having decided it’s a perfect place for a honeymoon! Before long, they are attacked by some local thugs in an old cemetery and Marco is killed. Things look black for Corrigan until the intervention of a mysterious man in black (Naschy), who kills one of the villains and chases the rest away.

Doctor Jekyll vs. The Werewolf (1972)

Being a werewolf didn’t help with his social anxiety…

Naschy takes Corrigan back to his medieval castle where he usually spends his days scowling in the company of faithful old family retainer Uswika Bathory (Else Zabala), doing her best Maria Ouspenskaya impression. Of course, it’s no surprise when Naschy and Corrigan fall in love within the space of a couple of scenes and, when she discovers his hairy secret, she decides to enlist Taylor’s help. After all, who else would you call in such a case besides Henry Jekyll?!

Taylor ponders the problem for a couple of seconds and comes up with a sound, scientific solution. Inject Naschy with his grandfather’s infamous serum and turn him into Mr. Hyde. It makes perfect sense. Obviously, the Hyde personality will eradicate the werewolf persona. Taylor can then administer the antidote to the serum that he has developed and Naschy will be cured. Of course. It’s obvious, really. No need for any trials or experimental work at all.

But the real fly in the ointment turns out to be not Taylor’s reckless methods, but his sexy assistant (and mistress) Sandra (Mirta Miller). Not only is she jealous of Taylor’s unrequited love for Corrigan but she sees an opportunity for power in the use of the serum. l’m not really sure how Naschy running around Soho dressed as Mr Hyde (complete with cloak and walking cane) is going to serve her world-conquering ambitions, but it does provide an excuse for some gratuitous nudity and mild scenes of kinky torture. I just wonder where he managed to get hold of his Victorian threads. A local charity shop, perhaps?

Doctor Jekyll vs. The Werewolf (1972)

‘Sorry, but I thought you wanted me to change for dinner…’

If you are at all familiar with Naschy’s extensive filmography, you will know that he was plainly in love with the classic horrors produced by Universal Studios in the 1930s and 40s. His Waldemar Daninsky was straight out of the Lon Chaney Jr playbook; a tortured anti-hero whose shirt and trousers always stayed on even under the influence of the full moon. He often wrote his films (as he did here) under his real name of Jacinto Molina, and they rarely strayed from the spirit or the template of those monochrome classics. Apart from some naked female breasts, of course.

Some of Naschy’s films suffered from serious budgetary problems, with the final results being little more than a patchwork of incoherent bits and pieces roughly stapled together, but there’s no evidence of production problems here under the direction of León Klimovsky. lt’s actually possible that Naschy really wanted to do a straight ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ film, but was forced to include his werewolf persona to secure funding, or for general box office considerations. It is always good to see a werewolf in a suit, though, and, as a lot of the action is set in England’s capital, he can safely be labelled ‘A Spanish Werewolf in London’.

Taylor began his screen career appearing with Marilyn Monroe on an episode of the Jack Benny Show but, by the end of the 1950s, he had relocated to Mexico and was acting under the name of Grek Martin. His first notable roles in cult cinema were on a TV series featuring a vampire named Nostradamus, the episodes of which were later edited into three films. He also appeared on the big screen a couple of times with El Santo wannabe, the masked wrestler Neutron (Wolf Ruvinskis). An unbilled bit on location in the notorious money pit ‘Cleopatra’ (1963) prompted a relocation to mainland Europe where he spent the next couple of decades appearing mostly in Spanish and Italian films.

Doctor Jekyll vs. The Werewolf (1972)

‘I told him that tie wouldn’t go with that shirt…’

Taylor’s major role in Jess Franco’s ‘Succubus’ (1968) later led to a profitable career in horror cinema. He starred in ‘The Female Vampire’ (1973) for Franco again, ‘The Vampire’s Night Orgy’ (1973) for Klimovsky again, ‘The Ghost Galleon’ (1974), one of Armando de Ossirio’s ‘Blind Dead’ series, ‘The Mummy’s Revenge’ (1975) with Naschy again, ‘Exorcismo’ (1975), ‘The Devil’s Exorcist’ (1975) and many others. He even turned up in ‘Conan The Barbarian’ (1982) with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was still acting in his 80s, playing a cannibal surgeon in ‘Wax’ (2014), a film that also used an archive audio recording of Naschy to voice an automaton.

Director Klimovsky was a veteran whose career began in the 1940s and took in many different film genres, including costume drama: a version of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ (1953) and spaghetti western: ‘A Few Dollars for Django’ (1966). An assignment to direct Naschy in ‘The Werewolf Vs The Vampire Woman’ (1971) led to many similar projects, including ‘Vengeance of the Zombies’ (1973) with Naschy again, ‘The Vampires Night Orgy’ (1973), Giallo ‘A Dragonfly for Each Corpse’ (1975) and the unusual horror ‘The People Who Own The Dark’ (1976).

Corrigan’s fairly short career was mostly in the soft-core arena, with sex comedies such as ‘Housewives On‘ The Job’ (1973), ‘Campus Pussycats’ (1973) and the title role in ‘Around the World with Fanny Hill’ (1974). Early in her career she played a supporting role in Euro-Horror ‘The Devil’s Nightmare’ (1971).

A professionally crafted Euro-horror, but one that is entirely predictable from beginning to end.