Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cross of the Seven Jewels (La croce dalle sette pietre) (1987)

A true obscurity and oddity.  Cross of the Seven Jewels (La croce dalle sette pietre) (1987) stars Marco Antonio Andolfi as Marco Sartori.  Andolfi also wrote, directed, edited, and contributed to the special effects of the film.  Cast alongside him are European cult cinema titans, Annie Belle, as Sartori’s love interest, and Gordon Mitchell, as the leader of a satanic cult.
I am fuzzy on the rendition of the facts of the plot of Cross of the Seven Jewels but I will attempt to be as accurate as possible:  the film begins with a red-lit orgy-cum-black mass over which Gordon Mitchell’s character presides.  He says some mumbo jumbo and apparently is successful in raising a demon.  Cut to the train station, in an ordinary daylight sequence, where our hero, Marco Sartori picks up who he thinks is his distant cousin, Elena.  He takes her for coffee and en route to his home, Sartori is robbed of his golden cross with seven inlaid jewels from around his neck by two thugs on motorbike.  He flags the police down; and the police find the thugs, but the necklace was not recovered.  Elena disappears when Marco gives chase.  The following morning, Marco visits Elena’s home; but a woman living there says she is Marco’s cousin and Elena was only staying with her.  Marco tracks Elena’s recent whereabouts to a disco; and when Marco begins asking questions about Elena, the local crime boss beats his ass.  Pretty working girl, Maria (Belle), takes Marco to her home to recuperate.  Marco learns of the fence who may hold his necklace.  He visits the man and Marco is particularly antsy as the clock grows close to midnight.  The fence says he sold the necklace to the local Don.  The clock strikes twelve and Holy Shit!  Marco turns into a werewolf and rips the man to shreds.
From this point in the film, Cross is immediately evident as the child of the werewolf cinema of Lon Chaney, Jr. and Paul Naschy:  a normal man with a fatal affliction destined for a tragic ending.  Werewolf cinema, in general, is fairly incredulous.  However, often the romanticism of the plot and the sympathy engendered in the viewer is enough to make most of the cinema worthwhile.  Andolfi’s script creates an extremely frenetic Marco whose chase to get his jewelry puts him some very bizarre situations.  When Marco confronts the local Don, he is honest and desires only his jewelry.  The local Don does not believe his story, so he allows his henchman to beat upon him for information.  The head of the syndicate even arrives from Sicily (portrayed by Giorgio Ardisson) to uncover whether Marco is a complete idiot or a very tough and savvy operative.  The crime crew keeps Marco until midnight to allow him to wolf out and slaughter the whole group.
Cross of the Seven Jewels has an overwhelming cheapness about it, even slipping into incompetency.  Andolfi attempts to recreate the famous werewolf transformation sequence, made famous with Chaney and replicated well by Naschy.  It is a memorable sequence and needs little description.  Chaney or Naschy would lay on his back while his make-up was applied in layers.  The camera would film the stages and edit them together with a series of quick dissolves.  Andolfi, unfortunately, really fucked up his transformation sequence.  He applied too little hair to his face during the stages, and, as he edited the film, Andolfi cut in his dissolves in too lengthy of sequences.  So the end result showed Marco grimacing quite a bit, like he was taking a shit, with a little bit of hair forming around his nose.  The cinematography of the entire film is almost all handheld with little sensitivity given to making interesting compositions.  The script moves mechanically from point to point in a sluggish manner (even at ninety or so minutes).  I have read reviews from the few who have seen the film:  most are negative but some go so far as to call it one of the worst Italian genre films ever.
The cheapness of Cross of Seven Jewels and its bizarre, quirky sensitivity are also its charms.  Two sequences stand out:  The first is a flashback sequence at the Black Mass where a very furry werewolf who looks like a wookie is boning away at a very hot and uninterested blonde woman.  She wants the werewolf to sire her child (who would grow up to be Marco).  Cut to a domestic scene where infant Marco sits in his crib while his blond mother paces the room with the werewolf father in her footsteps.  (He appears domesticated by this point.)  Marco’s mother is having regrets about the siring of her son and fears for his safety. She places the cross around his neck to prevent him from turning.  The werewolf father becomes suddenly perturbed but is unable to harm his child because of his new amulet.  This scene is presented as the essence of domesticity and appears like the typical family at home.  Simply amazing.  The other sequence of note is where Marco visits Madame Amnesia (Zaira Zoccheddu), a fortune teller and medium who is reputed to be little more than a prostitute by her neighbors.  Marco visits her as she is the apparently the final recipient of the cross.  Marco is not interested in a tarot reading nor is he interested in fucking Madame Amnesia.  However, they start fucking anyway much to the dismay of Marco.  About midway through their lovemaking, Marco turns into a werewolf and furiously begins banging away at the astonished and frightened woman!  It is appropriate to add now that Andolfi’s werewolf costume consists of himself, butt-ass naked with furry hands and head and a fuzzy bit covering his crotch. 
If any of the insanity that I covered in the previous paragraph entices you, then Cross of the Seven Jewels is an oddity well worth seeking out.  However, if it sounds too cheap and stupid, then avoid at all costs.  I do wish that Andolfi would have featured Belle in a bigger role:  she had the potential to steal this one.  Cross of the Seven Jewels is a true oddity for the curious.

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