Slaughter Hotel/La Bestia Uccide A Sangue Freddo (1971)

Slaughter Hotel (1971)‘It’s just that your desire to make love is obsessive compulsive. Go and take a shower.’

A masked figure stalks the halls of a private hospital for wealthy young women with emotional problems. Making use of medieval weapons, he begins a killing spree by decapitating a nurse out in the grounds…

Softcore giallo from writer-director Fernando Di Leo, who was obviously far more interested in the former elements of his tale than the latter. The story takes place in an isolated, old manor house which is now home to Professor Osterman (John Karlsen), assistant Doctor Clay (Klaus Kinski), and their small team of orderlies and nurses. The clinic caters to patients with psychological problems, on condition that they are rich young women who look great with their clothes off.

But what a strange institution it is! Far be it from me to criticise the practices of a seasoned medical professional like Karlsen, but, for a start, he seems to have a slightly cavalier attitude towards health and safety. Rather unusually, one corridor boasts an actual real life iron maiden, this torture device being secured by a chain that looks inadequate to protect a tricycle. What’s it doing there? I have no idea. It is a creepy old house, I suppose. But I have to flag him for another minor code infraction because close by is an open display cabinet filled with medieval weapons! There’s a big sword, a dagger, a crossbow, a mace and a noose. The last item is a slight concern as the patients are allowed to roam freely and we’re told at least a couple of them have attempted suicide in the past.

Slaughter Hotel (1971)

The auditions for ‘Men In Black 4’ were not progressing as planned…

And then there’s the good Professor’s clinical practices. He doesn’t seem to have any. The only medical advice he offers throughout the entire film is to tell nymphomaniac Rosalba Neri to go take a shower! Predictably her issues are the only ones we find out anything about; all the other women have cheerfully vague problems, such as Margaret Lee’s overwrought nerves, and Gloria Desideri’s occasional homicidal urges.

Di Leo admitted than he did zero research into mental health issues or institutions before he penned his script, and it really shows. Because that’s not what we’re here for, is it? We’re here for naked babes in deadly peril! Both Lee and Neri are drop dead gorgeous and we see a lot of both of them; everything in Neri’s case, although a double may have been used for some shots. I’m certainly not complaining, but they get to do very little else, and it is frustrating to see two such talented actresses being exploited like this, although hopefully they understood the nature of the project when they signed on and were decently paid. We also get perky redhead Monica Strebel as a naughty nurse with a very ‘hands on’ approach to black patient Jane Garret (in her only film). They’re about to indulge in some distinctly unprofessional activity when they stop to dance to the radio in Garret’s room. For about five minutes. At this point, there’s not a lot of the movie left. Shouldn’t we be building up to some kind of a climax (pun intended)?

There are a few killings along the way in all this, of course, but there’s no creativity to the staging or execution and no real effort is made to bring the audience into the mystery. Two policeman turn up in the last quarter of an hour and, instead of waiting for the reinforcements that are on the way so the clinic can be thoroughly searched, they set Lee up as bait for the killer! She’s happy to agree to this ludicrous plan, probably because it finally gives her something to do and, considering she’s second billed in the cast, it’s about time. But even this is a seriously damp squib with the killer initially revealed to have a serious, legitimate motive, as in most giallos, but then just going on a demented rampage with the mace! Lucky, one of our lawmen has that gun with an inexhaustible supply of bullets, which is always handy in such situations.

Slaughter Hotel (1971)

The croquet match was about to get interesting…

Di Leo began his film career in westerns as an uncredited contributor to the script of Sergio Leone’s classic ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ (1964). He was involved with several of the spaghetti westerns that followed, including ‘Django’ (1966), and he wrote ‘Navajo Joe’ (1966), an early vehicle for Burt Reynolds. His career as a director was somewhat less distinguished and, if this example of his work is anything to go by, that’s no surprise.

The plotting is lazy, the musical soundtrack distracting, and the cast get nothing to work with at all. Kinski just hangs around looking vaguely odd and suspicious (pretty much his default setting!) and a lot of the supporting cast seem flat and disinterested. Even the usually excellent Lee seems unable to drum up much enthusiasm for once (and no wonder!) Only Neri seems to be really giving it her best, but her role is barely two-dimensional, and she can’t have been under any illusions as to the reasons that she’d been cast.

It’s quite an achievement to waste such a beautiful and talented cast so completely, but Di Leo takes up that challenge and succeeds effortlessly. For fans of the leading ladies only.

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Password: Uccidete Agente Gordon/Kill Agent Gordon (1966)

Password Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966)‘You’re very sweet and one day I want you to meet my twin brother.’

The Western intelligence community suspects that a mysterious criminal organisation are supplying the VietCong with illegal weapons. When an agent investigating in Paris is killed, a top spy is sent to take his place and bust the gun smuggling operation wide open…

This week’s ‘Bond on A Budget’ is American actor Roger Browne (again!), top lining this Italian-Spanish co-production directed by EuroSpy veteran Sergio Grieco under his usual alias of ‘Terence Hathaway’ (brilliantly misspelled in the credits as ’Therence’!) But let’s ignore the first two elements of the usual Eurospy formula of Guns, Gadgets and Girls and go straight to the main attractions: Roslba Neri and Helga Liné. Both actresses had bags of experience in the genre and, together with Browne, constitute what could almost be regarded as a EuroSpy dream team! And with a safe, experienced pair of hands behind the camera, this just has to be good, right? Um…no.

Browne arrives in Paris where he’s kidnapped from a taxi at gunpoint before he’s had a chance to even check in at his hotel. Fast work by the enemies of democracy you might think! But no, it turns out that it’s just his boss who wants to brief him on the mission (this agency seems to have a peculiar idea of ‘covert operations’!) ln no time, Browne has identified his ex-colleague’s important contact, played by Neri. She’s part of some kind of cabaret act that are referred to throughout the film as a Ballet company! Their dance instructor has ‘generic villain’ tattooed on his forehead and some business ensues involving a vital microfilm (or something?)

Password Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966)

Q Division always came up with the most sophisticated new spy gadgets…

Then is off to Tripoli for the next stop on the dance tour, and Browne tags along as it seems to be the thing to do (for some reason). There he teams up with Russian agent Liné and both are kidnapped and tortured after running around quite a bit. The villains attempt to double cross each other, a suitcase explodes, people actually fire guns at each other (eventually!), and there’s a final twist that will only surprise someone who has nodded off a couple of times during the film (most people, probably).

But the main problem here is the plot. It’s completely underdeveloped, and often seems to be little more than a series of excuses to get Browne from one punch up to the next. These are quite energetic, if not particularly convincing, the realism not assisted by the intermittent introduction of a fairly obvious stunt double. And far be it from me to question the presence of the always luminous Neri, but her dance moves seem to consist of just teasing her hair and strutting about for a few seconds. That’s not really ballet, love. Actually, her role is rather brief, although there is a scene where Browne ties her up and tickles her with a feather (for purposes of information gathering, of course). Liné is wasted even worse than Neri, with almost her entire contribution to proceedings being to lend her car to one of Browne’s colleagues! The two actresses never share a scene, which may have been down to the logistics of filming, but is a crying shame (or even ‘Kriminal’ if you will). Rather brilliantly, the villains favour the old Hollywood cowboy method of shooting; one handed, hold the gun low and don’t bother to aim properly. Surprisingly enough, they never manage to hit anything. It really highlights some serious shortcomings in our villain’s recruitment policy and henchman training program.

But all these doings prompt an important question. ls this even a EuroSpy film at all? Ok, so we do have a semi-mysterious villain. What is his plan for world domination? He doesn’t seem to have one. ls there a secret base that explodes when you shoot out a control panel? Err…no. ls there a super- scientific weapon ‘that must not fall into the wrong hands’? Nope. But there is lots of ‘Tourist Board’ footage showcasing the local colour of the glamorous locations, right? No. Any action set pieces or notable stunt work? Not really. Gadgets! There must be gadgets? Um…there’s a wristwatch that explodes, does that count? Are there any outlandish trappings at all? No. Well, to be fair, Liné is tied to a table at the climax and some sparks fly about. So there is that.

Password Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966)

The rehearsals for ‘Swan Lake’ were going particularly well…

Grieco began his directing career with costume and muscleman features, before jumping on the Bond bandwagon with ‘Agente 007: Missione Bloody Mary’ (1965) (also with Liné) and ‘From The Orient With Fury’ (1965), before following up with this effort, and the underwhelming ‘Special Mission Lady Chaplin’ (1966) (with Liné again!). He also reteamed with Browne for gloriously cheesy superhero flick ‘Argoman, The Fantastic Superman/Incident ln Paris’ (1967) for which the world must always be truly grateful.

Browne himself had already done the EuroSpy thing for real on several occasions; partnering up with Liné for ‘Operation Poker’ (1965) and with Neri for Umberto Lenzi’s ‘SuperSeven Calling Cairo’ (1965). As you may have gathered, Liné appeared in a truly heroic amount of films, especially in the 1970s, and, although her credits include a lot of comedies, notable cult films include ‘Kriminal’ (1966) and its sequel, ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, ‘The Vampire’s Night Orgy’ (1973), ‘Vengeance of the Mummy’ (1973) with Paul Naschy, and ‘The Lorelei’s Grasp’ (1973) for ‘Blind Dead’ director Amando de Ossorio. She also found the time to star opposite legendary silver-masked Mexican wrestler El Santo in ‘Santo Contra el Doctor Muerte’ (1973)!

Neri is perhaps best remembered as the rather naughty ‘Lady Frankenstein’ (1971) and was unlucky enough to star in Jess Franco’s hopeless ‘The Castle of Fu Manchu’ (1969) with Christopher Lee. Actually, the actress worked in lots of different genres; principally Westerns and comedies, although more horror roles followed in the 1970s after her turn as the Baron’s daughter. Usually, in films where there appeared to be a limited budget for clothes.

If I’ve seemed to focus a little too much on the career history of our three principal actors, it’s mainly to emphasise what a missed opportunity we have here. All in all, this film is more of an international spy thriller than anything else; too vaguely silly to bear the stamp of Cold War realism but far too mundane to even be called a James Bond knock-off.

And a complete waste of everyone’s time.

Lucky The Inscrutable/Agente Speciale L.K. (1967)

Lucky The Inscrutable (1967)‘Along with all my other talents, l happen to be a master of false bottoms.’

A suave, super spy is sent to less than exotic climes by his chief, Archangel, to break up a counterfeiting operation. On the way, he runs into a spot of bother with guns, girls and gadgets (without the gadgets) but a killer smirk and some half-arsed witticisms are just two of the weapons in his arsenal. Well, the only ones really…

Italian/Spanish spy spoof brought to us by cult director Jesus ‘Jess’ Franco, and starring Ray Danton as this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’. Unfortunately, as it turns out, he’s on a very small budget indeed. Yes, instead of the usual round of Paris, Lisbon and Casablanca, poor Danton gets brief stopovers in London and Rome, before he’s sent to Tirana in Albania. And he never gets to leave. It’s not exactly the French Riviera, is it?

Actually, the film opens well, with a scene that evokes nothing so much as ‘West Side Story’ (1963)! A gang of cool cats wait in the street for their mark, girls coo prettily on the soundtrack, and the photography is quite gorgeous. Not that any of this helps the operative who meets his Waterloo at the hands of the gang and sets the film’s plot in motion. Such as it is. Yes, it’s bad. Everything heads around the u-bend immediately. The fight choreography is lame for a start. Ah, it’s supposed to be a comedy. Only it isn’t remotely funny. Slight problem that.

Actually, the film gets increasingly bizarre, frantic and desperate as it goes, the running time unreeling at the rate of the rapidly expiring production budget. Most of the so-called plot developments are simply an excuse for another ‘madcap’ chase scene, and these are executed with very little stunt work and a complete absence of wit or flair. The addition of ‘comedy’ music also means there’s a distinct echo of old two-reelers from the silent movie days!

Lucky The Inscrutable (1967)

‘Have you heard of something called deodorant?’

Are there any girls? Well, yes, there’s plenty of eye candy for Danton to smarm over, but none stick around long enough to make any real impression apart from the lovely Rosalba Neri. Typically, she’s wasted in just a couple of scenes as a sexy Albanian policewoman.

Are there any guns?  Yes, plenty. Sometimes it even looks as if the cast are firing them. We also get scratchy, black and white artillery emplacements firing on Danton’s private plane! Shame it’s a colour movie. Are there any gadgets? Well…no. Not really. None at all, in fact.

Director Franco went onto become something of a cult figure in Euro-cinema with a prodigious output of 203 features! It’s inevitable that the quality is all over the place, of course, but there’s no denying the sense of visual style that he brought to such projects as ‘She Killed In Ecstasy’ (1971) and ‘Vampyros Lesbos’ (1972). Unfortunately, his skills as a storyteller were less well developed, and that was a problem as he scripted most of his pictures. And with his habit of regularly knocking out more than half a dozen projects a year, there are some truly wretched examples of his work, such as ‘Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein’ (1972) and ‘The Castle of Fu Manchu’ (1969). The latter was a collaboration with Christopher Lee and the two also worked together on other, better films such as ‘The’Bloody Judge’ (1970) and ‘Count Dracula’ (1970), although these also suffered from a lack of production values. And this film is one of Franco’s real bargain basement efforts. The cheapness is even acknowledged in the film’s ridiculous climax, which is about as useless as it gets.

Spy spoofs were ten a penny in the 1960s, but you’d be hard pressed to find a worse example than this. The best aspect of the film is its brief length, but this is small consolation to the audience, as the film overstays its welcome in the first quarter of an hour.

Not recommended. Even for hard core Eurospy freaks.

Electra One/Con La Muerte A La Espalda (1967)

Electra One (1967)‘I’m getting used to you and your briefcase.’

A supervillain demonstrates his new mind control drug by making an officer go mad on an army base and almost launch its nuclear missiles. An antidote does exist, but the Professor who created it is killed, and the only samples in existence are in a briefcase carried by his beautiful assistant…

Tired and flat Eurospy outing with this week’s ‘Bond On A Budget’ being George Martin, a Spanish actor whose real name was Francisco Martinez Celeiro. But it’s not quite a business as usual. He’s not a super-slick secret agent in a tuxedo, but a super-slick international jewel thief in a tuxedo instead. You won’t be surprised to learn that it doesn’t make a lot of difference.

After the inventor of the antidote (Georges Chamarat) is shot dead by Electra One’s minions at the jewellery showing where he’s meeting the U.S. authorities, his assistant is rescued by Martin who is luckily attempting a heist at the same time. Yes, it does seem a strange venue for a hand over of something that may save the free world, but then neither the Amercians or the Russian Intelligence Services seem overblessed with that quality in this film. Anyway, our felonious hero rescues the Prof’s pretty assistant (Vivi Bach) along with the briefcase and the two go on the run together. And, boy, do they run! All over the port of Hamburg! But that’s about it as far as story development goes, and the endless series of cross and double cross can do little to hide it.

Electra One (1967)

‘Look at my chest again, and I’ll squeeze even harder…’

There really isn’t a lot to get excited about in this Spanish-French-Italian co-production. Martin is handsome but forgettable and the scenes between him and Bach have little chemistry. Gadgets? Well, he’s not a secret agent so he doesn’t have any, but then neither does anyone else. Guns? There are a few being waved about, but Martin only picks one up in the last 20 minutes of the movie, just before the cable car climax and no, it’s not much like the one in ‘Moonraker’ (1979), being somewhat less ambitious.

Girls? Apart from Bach, there’s the gorgeous Rosalba Neri, but, despite her obvious star quality, she’s totally wasted in the role of the villain’s main killer, the humdrum script providing her with nothing on which to base a performance. There’s an attempt at satire with the Russian and American agents trying to outwit each other, but this subplot is repeatedly ditched in favour of another chase scene before it can develop into anything significant.

Director Alfonso Balázar teamed up with Martin again for ‘Clint el Solitario’ (1967), a Spaghetti Western that also starred Marianne Koch, who’d been the female lead of a little picture called ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ (1964), which also had a ‘Clint’ connection. Bach went on to marry and join her husband in presenting a TV game show before retiring from the screen entirely, due to chronic stage fright.

Dull and anonymous spy romp enlivened by some mildly entertaining stunt driving, but not by the bland, throwaway dialogue scenes in between.

Super Seven Calling Cairo/Superseven Chiama Cairo (1965)

Superseven Calling Cairo (1965)‘At the moment, Napoleon is the only one who can get us out of this mess…’

A foreign agent has stolen a brand new radioactive element, built it into a cine camera, and sent it to Cairo for collection by a Russian agent. But the camera is sold to a tourist by mistake and a British Special Agent is sent to recover it.

Above average 1960s Eurospy outing starring Roger Browne as this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ agent Martin Stevens. Predictably, the story is no great shakes, with most of the usual clichés of the genre making an early appearance. Browne finds the mysterious Rosalba Neri in his shower when he checks into his hotel room (lucky man!), there’s the usual tourist board footage (an agent is shot climbing the great pyramid!), and the plot takes our hero on a wild goose chase to other European cities, in this case Rome and Locarno in Switzerland.

Superseven Calling Cairo (1965)

‘Blimey! There’s a mysterious girl in my shower. Again.’

Having said that, it’s all good, breezy fun, and a notch above most of the other identikit spy thrillers of the period. Browne (an American who spent almost his entire career in Italian films) displays more charisma and screen presence than the vast majority of secret agents that were running around Europe in the mid-1960s and, of course went onto star in the title role of kitsch superhero classic ‘The Fantastic Argoman’/’The Incredible Paris Incident’ (1967).

The rest of the cast also helps, with Neri as gorgeous and exotic as ever, Fabienne Dali’ providing our hero with a pretty alternative and ex-Nazi villain Massimo Serato suitably suave and cruel. Although the budget doesn’t allow for any big set pieces, the story moves quickly and retains audience interest.

Italian director Umberto Lenzi knocked out a few of these pictures in the 1960s before his career swung into the horror genre with films like ‘Nightmare City’ (1980) and ‘Cannibal Ferox (1981), both of which got the British censors hot under the collar during the hysterical ‘Video Nasty’ scandal of the early 1980s.

Browne returned as Stevens the following year in ‘The Spy Who Loved Flowers’ (1966).