Saturday, August 1, 2009

Joe D'Amato's Horrible (Rosso sangue/Absurd/Monster Hunter/Anthropophagus 2) (1981)

While I've already awkwardly discussed Joe D'Amato before, I thought that I would begin by telling a story. Nearly twenty years ago, around the time when I would have been either thirteen or fourteen, I received Joe D'Amato's Horrible (aka Rosso sangue) (1981) on VHS, in a large, oversized box under the title, Monster Hunter. Here's a pic (still have it today):My old man purchased it late Christmas Eve out of the cheap bin at K-Mart. I don't know if he was lured by its over-sized box or its lurid (and misleading) cover, but I was happy to receive it the following day (along with a buncha other literally cheap and trashy flix). I remember opening the big box and watching it. My initial impression was that this was an American production and not an Italian one (all of the credits revealed mostly Anglicized names); spoken in English and out of synch with some of the characters' voices; set in America: there was a Rams/Steelers game on t.v., and the priest, who was Greek, was called a "foreigner;" and most of all, this was my bread and butter, Monster Hunter was low-budget horror (immediately apparent from the black-and-white opening credits to the opening shot of George Eastman jogging followed by the shuffling Edmond Purdom). I recently received the Mya release on DVD, under the title Horrible (although the credits title the film Rosso sangue) and gave it a spin. Joe D'Amato's Rosso sangue (aka Anthropophagus 2) is about a Greek killer (Eastman), Mikos Stenopolis, whose on the run from from a Greek priest (Purdom). At the Bennett villa, young Katia Bennett (Katya Berger) is confined to bed as a parapalegic, drawing circles with her compass. Ms. Bennett (Hanja Kochansky) sits at her side and offers Katia comforting words of hope of her getting better, while little brother and son, Willy (Kasimir Berger) hears a noise out in the yard. The door opens to reveal the noise as Eastman, who has disemboweled himself attempting to climb the rod-iron fence. Mikos passes out on the Bennett floor and is rushed to the hospital. As the doctors are stitching large Eastman up, the surgeon notes to nurse Emily (Annie Belle) that the patient has "remarkable recupertative powers." Emily exits, as Eastman recovers, to the Bennett villa to tend to young Katia. Meanwhile, Sgt. Ben Engleman (Charles Borromel) is exiting the Bennett villa after his police inquiry of the Mikos self-impalement en route to the hospital. Along the way, Engleman picks up a older man, walking alone in the evening, a "foreigner," whose car has broken down, and takes him to a mechanic. The Sargent arrives at the hospital and finds Greek coins in Eastman's large jeans and notes the coincidence that the older man whom he earlier picked up was Greek also. The older man is now at the hospital, and Eastman's Mikos wakes up, not happy to see the other Greek and in a psychotic frame of mind. Evocative of John Carpenter's classic Halloween (1978), from the music to the one-night setting to the plot line, Joe D'Amato delivers an effective low-budget slasher. However, Rosso sangue will more than likely alienate most horror fans and casual fans of the genre for its low-budget roots and familar plot, but it should be fried gold to Eurocult cinema enthusiasts and D'Amato afficionados, such as myself. To begin with, the cast of Rosso sangue is a roll call of familiar D'Amato actors and Eurocult stars (or participants linked to a Eurocult star). The Bennetts, save Papa Bennett, are real-life mother and children (Katya and Kasimir Berger are the daughter and son of Hanja Kochansky and genre stalwart, William Berger). The couple which appears on the television delivering soapy dialogue, who also light a flame of anger under young Willy, are D'Amato regulars, Mark Shannon (for example, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980)) and Lucia Ramirez (for example, Orgasmo nero (1980)). Edmund Purdom appeared previously in Tonino Ricci's excellent The Big Family (1973), Massimo Dallamano's The Night Child (1975), Fernando di Leo's off-the-wall and awesome Mr. Scarface (1976), and subsequently appeared in Sergio Martino's 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983) and Di Leo favorite, Killer vs. Killers (1985), for example. Ms. Annie Belle, as Emily, is a true titan of Eurcult cinema and she clashed with other Eurocult titans, Lili Carati, Al Cliver, and Laura Gemser, in favorite D'Amato's The Alcove (1984). Belle previously appeared in Jean Rollin's Fly Me the French Way (1974) and his poetic and haunting, Lips of Blood (1975), Brunello Rondi's Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle (1976), and Ruggero Deodato's House on the Edge of the Park (1980), for example. Also, look for frequent Eurocult small-role actor and future director, Michele Soavi amongst others. Last but not least is friend of and creative collaborator with director Joe D'Amato, George Eastman as Mikos Stenopolis. Tall and muscular Eastman spent the 60s and the early part of the 70s appearing primarily in Westerns before his role in Corrado Farina's excellent Baba Yaga (1973). Eastman would later, for example, appear in D'Amato's surreal Emanuelle's Revenge (1975), Alfonso Brescia's Knell, the Bloody Avenger (1976), and D'Amato's infamous Anthropophagus (1980) before Rosso sangue. Subsequent to his performance as Mikos, Eastman would appear in some seriously heavyweight Eurocult cinema: Enzo G. Castellari's The New Barbarians (1982) and 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), Umberto Lenzi's fantastic Ironmaster (1983), 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983), D'Amato's stellar Endgame (1983) alongside Al Cliver and Laura Gemser, Lamberto Bava's essential Blastfighter (1984), and Sergio Martino's Hands of Steel (1986), for example. Eastman is also a prolific screenwriter with numerous credits, including Rosso sangue, with my favorite being Michele's Soavi's Stagefright (1987). The script of Monster Hunter is perfunctory, like Halloween, and is a by-the-books formulaic slasher. All of the performances are good, especially Belle, Purdom, and Eastman.D'Amato's signature visuals and his strong atmosphere is spotty in Rosso Sangue. He attempts to mimic the cat-and-mouse chase of the priest and police after Mikos with a choppy, intercut story, from the Bennetts, to Eastman, to the priest and police. The final third is very good claustrophobic horror. The gore scenes are meaty and bloody, and like Anthropophagus, Eastman and D'Amato went out of their way to rack their "brains" for some creative (and if need be, unnecessary) kills. The score by Carlo Maria Cordio is fantastic and the synthy flourishes are nice. Overall, Horrible has that unique Eurocult "vibe," so familar and addictive to genre fans, such as myself. Long absent from DVD, the current Mya release is essential for the Eurocult cinema lover. Buy it here or here.

This post is dedicated to my old man. Deeply religious and politically conservative, he is also vehemently anti-authoritarian and a fierce opponent to censorship and an equally fierce proponent to artistic expression. Neither a hypocrite, the old man never censored anything which I wished to see, read, or view, and supported me, both spiritually and financially, to prevent me in my 20s from being a starving artist. Although I've long abandoned any artistic aspiration or ambition (primarily from lack of talent), blog-writing and my cinema tastes are to this day directly a result of the old man's fostering and love. It's not everyday that I get the opportunity to write about it and return it.


Mr.LargePackage said...

You forgot to mention your mother, Hans. She's like butter. Also, your always excellent and extensive catalogue of blog entries proves you have significant talent, which makes you large and in charge.

Hans A. said...

Thnk you for the v. kind words, again, Mr. LP. By the way, how do you know that my mother is like butter?