Naked Girl Murdered in the Park/Ragazza tutta nuda assassinata nel parco (1972)

‘I couldn’t find my smoking dentures.’

A businessman is murdered at an amusement park in the afternoon. The police think it’s a robbery gone wrong, but the insurance company aren’t so convinced, especially considering the victim took out an expensive policy earlier the same day…

Rather curious Giallo from director Alfonso Brescia that often has the feel of an old-fashioned Agatha Christie murder-mystery. Austrian actor Robert Hoffmann leads the action with the reliable support of the ubiquitous Adolfo Cell.

Berlin 1945: in the retreat from the Allies, a Nazi officer flees with a teenage girl, leaving her mother and young brother to die. Twenty-seven years later, in Madrid, respected businessman Johannes Wallenberger is found dead in the ‘Tunnel of Horrors’, a fairground ride at a popular amusement park. Inspector Huber (Celi) favours the theory that it’s a robbery gone south. However, the dead man was carrying a considerable sum of money, and his visit to Luna Park in the middle of the day was out of character.

Insurance Company supremo Losel (Tomás Blanco) is even less inclined to believe a random robbery, given that the man had taken out a multi-million dollar life insurance policy a few hours earlier. He assigns his top investigator Chris Buyer (Hoffmann), to get close to the family over the objections of antagonistic colleague Martin (Philippe Leroy). Going undercover to romance pretty daughter Catherine (Pilar Velázquez), Hoffmann eventually gets invited to spend the weekend at the family mansion.

Brescia’s thriller begins promisingly with a pre-credit sequence set during the fall of Berlin at the end of the Second World War. A young mother and son watch helplessly as a Nazi soldier sets a bomb in their home and absconds with the family’s teenage daughter. This dialogue-free scene is shot in black and white and mixed with relevant stock footage, and it’s an intriguing way to kick things off. Some sources credit Giallo veteran Rosalba Neri playing the uncredited role of the mother, but although there is a physical resemblance, it’s likely to be a misidentification. The opening credits follow, scored with an impressive piano-based theme by Carlo Savina.

Flashing forward to Madrid in 1972, Brescia presents some surreal images of skeletons floating in darkness inside the ‘Tunnel of Horrors’ before the old man’s corpse emerges into the daylight, lying across one of the cars. All this is quite a striking way to open proceedings. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there, with neither the cast nor director able to strike any sparks from the rather listless, undeveloped story.

Hoffmann’s insurance agent is a big part of the problem. His fencing with old sparring partner Celi is half-heated at best, and the character is resolutely unsympathetic. He dallies with amusement park waitress Ursy (Teresa Gimpera) and even beds Velázquez’s promiscuous sister, Barbara (Patrizia Adiutori). At one stage, it even looks like he’s set his sights on her mother, Magda (Irina Demick). It’s all in the cause of his mission, of course, and his behaviour makes sense in the story’s broader context. However, the actor gives too bland a performance to sell the drama in an effective way.

Pacing is also an issue, with matter slowing to a crawl once Hoffmann joins the family for the weekend. The household has the usual roster of suspicious servants; sinister butler Bruno (Franco Ressel), curt maid Sybil (María Vico) and strapping stablehand Günther (Howard Ross), who’s lusting after Adiutori. Here, the film drifts into ‘Old Dark House’ territory, with such well-worn cliches as the ‘family portrait’, the ‘locked room’ and a sudden ‘lights out’ that prompts an unfortunate trip to the fusebox.

These shortcomings are mitigated somewhat by the big reveal of the killer’s identity. It’s a genuine surprise, even if it creates some plot holes better left unexamined. Unfortunately, Bresica also muffs it, tagging on an action climax featuring characters largely peripheral to that point. It clarifies some plot points, but it’s an odd choice, to say the least, and one that makes for an unsatisfying finish. It’s also a very flat visual experience, and Bresica fails to inject the drama with any real urgency. Savina also opts for the easy way out, favouring the kind of wordless girlie chorus that has graced many a sub-Ennio Morricone soundtrack.

The brightest elements are the performances of Demick and Adiutori. Neither character is precisely nuanced, but there’s some fun to be had from both, with Adiutori’s endless flirting and sarcasm providing the breezier moments that the film so desperately needs. Demick is also entertaining as the semi-unhinged Magda, whose odd behaviour seems initially triggered by grief until it becomes clear that she’s probably always been a few sandwiches short of a buffet.

Hoffmann was born in Salzburg and studied acting in Paris, getting his big break in the title role of the TV show ‘The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe’ in 1964. Filmed in French, it was dubbed into English and became a staple of children’s programming in the UK over the next ten years, usually shown in the mornings during holidays. Some leads in adventure and crime films followed before he starred alongside Edward G Robinson, Janet Leigh and Klaus Kinski in the multi-national caper movie ‘Grand Slam’ (1967). His first brush with Giallo was the excellent ‘A Black Veil For Lisa/La Morte Non Ha Sesso’ (1968), followed by the considerably less impressive ‘The Insatiables/Femmine insaziabili/Carnal Circuit’ (1969). Later, he starred in ‘Spasmo’ (1974) for director Umberto Lenzi and appeared in science-fiction disappointment ‘Eyes Behind the Stars/Occhi dalle stelle’ (1978). His workmate dropped off in the mid-1980s, but there was still time for a couple of appearances on US Network TV soap opera juggernaut ‘Dallas’. His last screen appearance was in 2004, and he passed away in 2022.

A somewhat sluggish and disappointing entry.

Il tuo dolce corpo da uccidere/Your Sweet Body to Kill/A Suitcase For A Corpse (1970)

Il tuo dolce corpo da uccidere/Your Sweet Body to Kill/A Suitcase For A Corpse (1970)‘I’ll take you so you can finish your wonderful story about the protozoans on the way.’

An unhappily married diplomat has dreams about killing his domineering wife. He can put up with finding out that she is having an affair with a family friend, but when she gets rid of his beloved aquarium, he is pushed dangerously close to the edge…

Sly, black comedy Giallo that features a low body count, but compensates with a subtle and witty script loaded with irony. The sub-genre hadn’t yet cleaved too closely to the ‘whodunnit’ serial killer format, and there was still room for an unexpected outing such as this, which should please those aficionados prepared to entertain something a little different.

Diplomat Clive (George (Giorgio) Ardisson) finds it hard to sleep. His dreams are filled with just one thing: killing his rich wife, Diana (Françoise Prévost). Theirs has been a marriage of convenience: his aristocratic status and her money, but now he’s had enough. She dictates his every move outside the office; even down to the clothes that he wears, so when he receives an anonymous note that she’s having an affair with neurologist Franz Adler (Eduardo Fajardo), he can’t be more pleased. His joy is short-lived, however, when he’s told in no uncertain terms that a scandalous divorce will ruin his career.

Il tuo dolce corpo da uccidere/Your Sweet Body to Kill/A Suitcase For A Corpse (1970)

The latest sequel in the Piranha franchise decided to go in a different direction…

Things get even worse for our henpecked hubby when Prévost has his beloved tropical fish tank removed, and it’s occupants flushed away down in a sink in the greenhouse. A lover he can accept, but not the death of little Nemo and his buddies. She’s got to go! Luckily, he has the dirt on Fajardo, who worked as a medical doctor under the Nazis in the Second World War, so a little blackmail as all that’s needed to get the deed done. Ardisson collects the two suitcases containing the evidence, and flies to Tangier, meaning to dispose of the corpse in the acid vats of the tannery that Prévost owns. It’s from there that his scheme, and psyche, begin to unravel as circumstances combine time and again to upset his plans.

The success, or not, of a project like this principally hangs on two elements: the script and our leading man. Fortunately, screenwriter Antonio Fos delivers a wry and intelligent plot, leading the audience astray with some imagination and skill. Even twists that the audience sees coming sometimes develop in different ways than expected. Director Alfonso Brescia lets events play out without trying to impose any distracting stylisation or attempts to reflect the pop culture of the time.

Il tuo dolce corpo da uccidere/Your Sweet Body to Kill/A Suitcase For A Corpse (1970)

‘Am I supposed to be able to see right through to the other side?’

None of it would work, however, if it weren’t for a superb performance by Ardisson, who is on screen almost throughout. At first, he’s almost robotic, beaten into a blank slate by Prévost’s constant verbal barrage. However, we’re already familiar with the nearly psychotic glee he demonstrates in his murderous dreams, one of which introduces the action. From there, he’s alternately, nervous, charming, distraught and then desperate and paranoid as it seems everything, and everyone is conspiring against him. Early on, he’s sitting on the plane to Tangier when the flight attendant announces that one of the passenger suitcases has been opened by mistake and quotes the number on the claim check. For a heart-stopping second, Ardisson thinks it’s one of his bags before he realises that he’s reading his number upside-down. It’s a wonderfully inventive moment and the first of several suspenseful sequences that have a faint echo of Hitchcock’s dry sense of fatalism. This is one of the reasons the film works; we start to want Ardisson to get away with it; not because of his wife’s obnoxious behaviour, but because the poor guy just can’t catch a break!

It’s a terrific showcase for Ardisson, who had begun his career in the sword and sandal arena in the late 1950s, first registering significant in work for director Mario Bava: the title role in ‘Erik The Conqueror’ (1961) and, as Theseus, in ‘Hercules In The Haunted World’ (1961). After the Peplum’s popularity waned, he transferred to playing James Bond wannabees in Eurospys ‘Agent 3S3: Passport to Hell’ (1965) and ‘Operation Counterspy’ (1965), and played leads in Spaghetti Westerns such as ‘May God Forgive You… But I Won’t’ (1968) and ‘Django Defies Sartana’ (1970) opposite Tony Kendall. He was very much an action star, so finding him playing totally against type, and doing it so well, is an added bonus for those familiar with his work.

Il tuo dolce corpo da uccidere/Your Sweet Body to Kill/A Suitcase For A Corpse (1970)

‘You can’t get down from the table until you finish it all.’

Elsewhere the rest of the cast also deliver, particularly the women. Prévost’s character may be one-dimensional, but she plays it to the hilt. Yes, it is exaggerated, but it’s undeniably funny when she strictly timetables her adulterous trysts with Fajardo. There’s also a brief, but surprisingly affecting performance from uncredited singer Enriqueta Serrano as a middle-aged woman Ardisson is obliged to seduce and additional good work from Orchidea de Santis playing fashion model Elena Saunders. It’s another of the quiet ironies built into the script that, despite the signs that she’s sending, Ardisson is entirely disinterested in this beautiful woman until he finds out that she shares his obsession with tropical fish!

If you’re familiar with director Brescia’s other work, you’ll likely be surprised at the quality of the finished film. To an English-speaking audience, he’s probably most familiar as Al Bradley, the bane under which he delivered a quartet of woeful ‘Star Wars’ (1977) rip-off’s, the last of which, ‘The Beast In Space’ (1980) would more accurately be described as a porno. Before that, he worked in many different genres, including Peplum, Westerns, Crime thrillers, comedies, sex movies, war dramas and family films. He also directed a pair of poorly-regarded Gialli ‘Naked Girl Murdered in the Park’ (1972) and ‘Murder In A Blue Light/Omicidio a luci blu’ (1992).

A change of pace for the Giallo but worth seeking out if your taste runs to the blackest of comedy.

Star Odyssey/Sette Uomini D’Oro Nello Spazio (1979)

Star Odyssey (1979)‘Sol 3 is better than I thought it was when I bought it.’

An alien slave trader wins the planet Earth at auction and launches an invasion in order to secure the raw materials of his business. The situation looks hopeless until a gang of swashbuckling mavericks with special skills step into the breach to try to save the day…

In the wake of the global explosion of ‘Star Wars’ (1977), many filmmakers rushed their own space operas into production in all corners of the world. Most of them only had one go at the genre, but some were markedly more enthusiastic. Take a bow, Alfonso Brescia. Under the name of Al Bradley, the Italian director delivered four such pictures in the space of a couple of years, five if you count ‘The Beast In Space’ (1980) (although we probably shouldn’t as it was a semi-porno.) Of course, he recycled the same sets, costumes and SFX, and even some of the same actors, most notably Yanti Somer, who was the female lead in most and appears here.

The last of Brescia’s quartet of space epics doesn’t waste any time in getting started (more on that later), with big bad Kess of Kol launching an immediate alien invasion that leaves the Earth at his mercy. The authorities simply can’t deal with him, even though his main weapons seem to be badly integrated library footage of big explosions and androids in silly blonde wigs prancing about in the woods. Mankind’s last, worst hope turns out to be freewheeling Professor Ennio Balbo and his ragtag bag of misfits who operate on both sides of the law (try not to yawn, Ladies and Gentlemen). These include dapper Gianni Garko, who sports black leather trousers and a nifty shirt with a glittery spider design. His hypnotic powers allow him to see through cards at the local casino (useful thing this hypnotism stuff!) and break scientists Chris Avram and Malisa Longo out of intergalactic prison (‘It’s a terrible bore being under the freeze ray for a warm-hearted girl’.)

Strangely enough when Garko’s well on his way to work the jailbreak via a cut-price Millennium Falcon, he finds himself right back at the card table in the casino, and the blonde he’d helped win earlier is still playing her numbers game across the room. Then we see Kess  of Kol buying the Earth at auction (which we kind of thought that he’d already done?!) So, what’s happening? Has the film a complex flashback structure? Or does it have a mind-bending timeline in the tradition of director Christopher Nolan? Um, probably neither. It’s far more likely that the editor simply got the reels of film mixed up and put some of the scenes together in the wrong order! l’m not even joking.

Star Odyssey (1979)

‘Don’t make it so…just don’t.’

Once we’ve passed this strange temporal anomaly, we’re treated to the scientists spending most of the running time trying to isolate something to counterattack the alien substance ‘lnderium’ (ln the end they call it ‘Anti-lnderium’ folks!) We also get ‘comedy’ (l use the term very loosely) provided by two bickering robots in love (the girl ‘bot has big eyelashes!) There’s also a pedal bin with flashing lights that stands in for R2D2.

After about an hour, our zeroes do finally manage to achieve something when they get their hands on some lnderium Swords (cough; lightsabers; cough). There are no big space battles, but we are treated to Norman (Roberto Dell’Acqua) taking part in the Android-Human World Championship where he squares off in the ring against an eight foot tall tin can called Hercules. And we also get uptight Nino Castelnuovo as Lt Oliver ‘Hollywood’ Carrera who has a ridiculously paint-on Errol Flynn moustache.

As 1970s Science Fiction goes, this is predictably dreadful stuff (which ‘Star Wars’ knock-offs weren’t?) but it’s actually worse than most due to its almost total lack of action and annoying ‘humorous’ elements. There’s a second (third?) hand feel to everything, and it’s no surprise that Brescia abandoned intergalactic exploration shortly afterward (if you forget the porno!) Unfortunately, he did return to the fantastical arena with dreadful ‘Ator The Invincible’ sword and sorcery fiasco ‘Iron Warrior’ (1987).

Rather brilliantly, in this film some of the supporting cast appear ‘in alphabetical order’ in the starting credits. It actually says that. Only it seems that a mighty strange alphabet was used. Because they don’t. Not even close.

Take my word for it; the whole thing’s best avoided.

La Bestia Nello Spazio/The Beast In Space (1980)

La Bestia Nello Spazio (1980)‘Strange…l feel a torpor inside me’

A military spaceship crew set out for a remote planet in search of a valuable mineral. However, a rival expedition is also looking for the element for purely commercial reasons and are determined to secure it at all costs. When the two teams make landfall, they soon find they have more to worry about than just each other, as strange forces living there have their own sinister agenda…

Alfonso Brescia was an Italian journeyman film director whose low budget output typically bore the name of ‘Al Bradley’ when released in the United States. He’s best remembered now for a series of generic ‘Star Wars’ (1977) knock-offs in the late 1970s, often featuring the same cast members, usually actress Yanti Somer and sometimes John Richardson, who had played second fiddle to Raquel Welch and a pterodactyl in Hammer’s ‘One Million B.C.’ (1966). Titles like ‘The War of the Robots’ (1978), ‘War of the Planets’ (1977) and ‘Battle of the Stars’ (1978) initially provided some useful box office but, by 1980, the market was over saturated and the law of diminishing returns was setting in. However, Brescia wasn’t ready to give up yet. After all, he had all those standing sets of rocket interiors, spaceship models, and silver uniforms with skull caps. All that was needed was a fresh, new ingredient to breathe new life into the space opera, and Brescia knew just what was required. Sex.

The film opens in a bar, or, more accurately, an empty set dressed with some comfortable seating and glittery curtains. Suave Larry Madison (Vaseli Karis), Captain of the Space Fleet, hooks up with blonde Sondra Richardson (Sirpa Lane) but matters are complicated by merchant Juan Cardosa (Venantino Venantini) who boasts of discovering rare metal Anatalium. A quick bout of fisticuffs later and Karis and Lane are busy gettin’ it on under glowing red lights. It’s a lengthy sequence with full frontal nudity (her, at least) and I guess it looked good in the trailer to a certain demographic. A few twists of the story later and it’s all aboard the U.S.S. Fizzing Firework for a trip to the distant planet of Lorigon in search of the Anatalium, which is apparently great for making ‘neutron weapons.’

Karis is in command of the Firework, of course, and is surprised to find that Lane is his new navigator, when he thought she was just a casual pickup over a glass of Uranus Milk, who told him about her recurring nightmares of a strange planet and being interfered with in the woods by a large, hairy bloke. The crew recite lots of meaningless ‘technical’ dialogue, such as ‘Alpha Angle 37 degrees, Alpha Angle’s Tangent 12’, ‘Main nozzle normal’ and ‘Insert Gyro-Stabiliser’ before our heroes reach ‘unexplored-space’ a mere minute and a half after take-off. A little while later, Karis prepares to blast two unknown spacecraft to atoms, solely on the basis that they are faster than the Fizzing Firework, but gets blasted instead. The Firework goes into a deadly spin, which is brilliantly conveyed by rotating the camera 360 degrees and having the actors pull stupid faces. But their drift coincides with Lorigon‘s axis (or something) so Karis chances his arm with some daring ‘technical’ commands that the crew keep insisting will result in their total destruction. They don’t, of course, because he’s the Captain and so brilliant at everything.

After planetfall, our intrepid crew wander about for ages, exchanging lots of banal dialogue. At first, their trusty Antalium Detector takes them through caves, then some woods, and, eventually, the corridors of a huge castle. Of course, all this is exactly what Lane saw in her nightmares, apart from the copulating horses which make all the female members of the crew touch themselves suggestively. This middle third of the film drags terribly, and it’s a little difficult to work out who were the intended audience. There’s been very little ‘action’ of any sort and, if it was aimed at the ‘adult’ market, then they would have been bored stiff, rather than anything else.

La Bestia Nello Spazio (1980)

Swivel on it!

It turns out the planet is run by the ‘mighty and unstoppable will of the great Zacor’, an ancient computer damaged centuries ago. This exposition is supplied by the planet’s ‘owner’ an 800 year old man called Onaph who, surprise surprise, is the big, hairy chap out of Lane’s nightmares.

Most of Brescia’s science fiction output consisted of cheap, generic ‘Star Wars’ (1977) replicas, so at least this film breaks that mould. Unfortunately, it’s a deadly dull offering with no fresh ideas whatsoever, other than to go full porno about 20 minutes from the end!

There is some enjoyment to be had from the repetition of tired, old space-faring clichés, I suppose, but the story develops so slowly that most audience members will understand exactly what Onaph means when, at one point, he insists that ‘time has no meaning here.’

No classic in any genre.

Iron Warrior (1987)

Iron Warrior (1987)‘Life is an illusion. Death is real.’

Brothers Ator and Trogar are being raised as protectors for the kingdom’s future Princess when wicked witch Phaedra kidnaps Trogar and turns him into a soulless beast. Exiled for her crimes, the witch returns 20 years later to complete her plans, but she has reckoned without the posing prowess of Ator, the Fighting Eagle!

In the early part of the 1980s, the U.S. and U.K. thrilled to the exploits of Conan the Librarian in the shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger. But audiences in continental Europe had their own warrior hero: the mighty mulleted Ator, The Fighting Eagle (1981); slayer of giant rubber spiders. Ator was Miles O’Keefe, whose stateside film career had begun – and pretty much ended – in the title role of Bo Derek’s ‘Tarzan, the Ape Man’ (1981); a film mercilessly crucified by critics and public alike. ‘Ator’ on the other hand, shifted enough box office tickets to prompt an almost immediate sequel: ‘Ator, the Invincible’ (1982). It was utterly dreadful, but actually not as bad as the first one. Both these epics were brought to us by director ‘David Hills’ (actually better known as Joe D’Amato, although both names were 2 of the 68 professional pseudonyms used by Aristide Massaccesi).

Hills/D’Amato/Massaccesi jumped ship for Ator’s belated third adventure; replaced in the director’s chair by ‘Al Bradley’(actually Alfonso Brescia). He was known for a series of cheap, interchangeable ‘Star Wars’ knock-offs from the late 1970s. But something far more important had happened in the intervening 5 years than just a change of director! Something that was the biggest cultural change-up since the Renaissance. What was it? Why, MTV, of course!  As a result this film resembles nothing so much as the ‘vague story bits between the performance footage’ of a hair metal music video. We get soft focus! Blue tinting! Low angles! Coloured smoke! Wind machines! And lots and lots of slow motion!

The plot? Well, O’Keefe and heroine Savina Gersack wander about a bit looking for something or other. She has one red eyebrow and a dress that never tears. Every now and then Trogar turns up. He wears a shiny metal skull mask and wants to kill Ator. He and Ator fight. O’Keefe and Gersack wander about a bit more. Some horsemen turn up and attack them. Halfway through there’s a strange ‘vision’ bit and her dress changes colour. Trogar turns up again. Ator fights him. There’s a couple of lines of dialogue. The horsemen ride right under O’Keefe and Gersack when they are hiding in plain sight on a rope bridge. Trogar turns up again. In a ruined city, Ator lets her go first into a dungeon. What a gent! Only she gets trapped underground and chased by exploding bowling balls. Way to go, Ator! O’Keefe and Gersack find a golden chest. But it’s not the real one. And, hang on, here comes Trogar…!

Iron Warrior (1987)

The Princess had some strange hobbies.

The film is very different from the first two movies in the series, but there’s absolutely nothing else to recommend it. O’Keefe and Gersack are possibly the least engaging screen couple ever; struggling to muster even one significant facial expression between them. The brief dialogue is pretty appalling too: ‘But what if they kill you?’ ‘Then I’ll be dead. But they won’t.’

The action scenes can’t save it either; the big fights mostly play out in slow motion and aren’t even remotely convincing. Elisabeth Kaza hams it up unmercifully as the evil witch, providing what entertainment value there is, but it’s not all that much!

Ator returned for one last hurrah in ‘Quest for the Mighty Sword’ (1990) but O’Keefe didn’t! It was sacrilege – how could they make an Ator movie without Ator!? But not to worry – Hills/D’Amato/ Massaccesi returned to the director’s chair to ensure that the legend stayed in a pair of ‘safe’ hands…

The War of the Robots (1977)

The_War_of_The_Robots_(1977)‘Yes, I understand. Thanks to this electronic translator.’

Alien robots kidnap a famous scientist and his assistant, who are on the verge of creating artificial life. The Earth Security Forces send a brave captain and his crew in pursuit but when they catch up with the miscreants on a remote planet, they find that things aren’t quite what they seem.

George Lucas is to blame for a lot of things. Not just those dreadful prequels but also the slew of cheap ‘Star Wars’ (1977) knock offs that emerged from continental Europe hot on the heels of his global success. Director Alfonso Brescia made 5 of them and proved that, although the concept had travelled, the technical expertise definitely had not.

Laydeez and gentlemen, the Human Lightbulb!

Laydeez and gentlemen, the Human Lightbulb!

Brescia’s 5 space operas were mostly interchangeable (apart from the one that was a porno!); Yanti Somer turned up in most of them, the spaceships are toys, the plots dull, the dubbing dreadful, there’s lots of over-explanatory dialogue, the girls wear black skullcaps or silly blonde wigs, there are low rent lightsabers, lots of running around in underground tunnels and underwhelming space battles that look like bad arcade games from the 1980s.

Apart from that, they’re great. This one isn’t even particularly coherent, with characters reveals having no credibility, either plot or performance wise. Yes, something may have been lost when the movie was translated into English but it’s hard to see exactly what that might have been.

This is simply a dire and cheap rip-off, a mechanical exercise in cashing in on the Science Fiction boom of the late 1970s.

Buy ‘The War of The Robots’ here. I would.