Murder Rock

Murder Rock

"She's dead. It's no big deal. But we can't stop dancing."

The competition is fierce among the graduate students at a prestigious New York dance academy, but when only three parts open up on an upcoming Broadway show, someone turns to murder to narrow the field, stabbing the dancers through the heart with jeweled hat pins. Meanwhile, dance teacher Candice Norman (Olga Karlatos) is having nightmares of being murdered by a man – a man she has never seen before. When she finds him in real life, he turns out to be George Webb (Ray Lovelock), a sad, under-employed actor with a shady past. Could he be the killer? Or maybe it's Candice's estranged, jealous husband, Dick (Claudio Cassinelli) or frustrated choreographer Margie (Geretta Geretta). Corps du ballet? More like Corpse du ballet!

I can just imagine Lucio Fulci watching Flashdance and saying to himself "You know what this could use? About five or six murder scenes."  The result is Murder Rock, which brazenly copies not only Flashdance, but also Fame and When a Stranger Calls, among other movies. Who can blame him for wanting to capitalize on a phenomenon? The result is a crazy mishmash that could only have come from Lucio Fulci. The man was never known for restraint, after all.  But just because the movie is a derivative mess and doesn't make any sense doesn't mean that it isn't wildly entertaining.

  • Keith Emerson (of Emerson Lake & Palmer) composed the songs and the synth-based score.
  • Janice (Carla Buzzanca) must be a steel town girl on a Saturday night, because she performs a solo spotlight dance at a nightclub that copies directly from Flashdance. They spray her down with water. She does the trademark running-in-place move. She does the whipping-her-hair-back-and-forth move. I just wish the music were half as good as "Maniac."
  • Candice's nightmare sequence, where she is being chased in slow motion down the wide hallway of a modern building by a hat pin-wielding George is clearly an homage to the dream sequence from The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.
  • To rally the dancers after the first murder, Candice gives them a variation on Debbie Allen's famous "This is where you start paying" speech from Fame.
  • If you're a horror fan, you may recognize Olga Karlatos from Lucio Fulci's Zombie. Or if you're a child of the 80's you may recognize her as Prince's mother in Purple Rain, which was released the same year as Murder Rock.
  • Fulci appears in a cameo as Candice's agent.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Where to start? How about at the opening credits, when we see shots of the New York skyline inter-cut with some kids doing rhythmless disco-breakdance pop-and-lock moves. Enjoy it because we never see those kids again.

The choreography is simply awful and consists almost entirely of high kicks, squats, pelvic thrusts, and jazz hands. But everyone treats it like it's a work of genius. Rule number one: you gotta sell it.

Does anyone else think it's weird that Candice, an American who lives in New York, carries her American passport around with her wherever she goes?

What kind of Chinese restaurant fortune teller flat out calls someone a murderer to his face? And where did he get those fortune telling chopsticks that even have that as an option?

Newsflash: the human heart is not located in the left bewb. Aim that needle a little higher, murderer.

In my favorite scene, Margie tries to kill Candice in the same manner as the murderer, but doesn't have the guts to follow through. Dick stops her just in time... and then nothing happens. I mean, Margie had chloroformed Candice and was discovered by a credible witness, kneeling over her unconscious body with a needle to the chest. Margie clearly had intent to kill. That's attempted murder right there and she just gets to walk free.

Fashion Moment

Let's have a look at those dance costumes. Pure 1980's.

Also, let me just throw this out there...

What? Doesn't everyone wear a bulky ankle-length fur coat when they're bicycling down the streets of New York?

Deep Red

Deep Red

"You think you're telling the truth, but in fact you're telling only your version of the truth. 
It happens to me all the time."

Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is an English jazz pianist living in Torino. Late one night, he witnesses the murder of a renowned psychic (Helga Ulman) through an apartment window, but arrives too late to help, though he's sure that there's an important detail at the crime scene that he can't quite remember. Marcus joins forces with reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) to track down the clues, which lead them to an abandoned house, an elementary school, and back again to the scene of the crime. As the clues are revealed, the murderer continues to strike in grisly fashion. The killer could be anyone – and Marcus is closer than he thinks.

Dario Argento has said that Deep Red is his favorite among his own films and it's a really good choice. I'd say it's his Rubber Soul, bridging the divide between two distinct phases of his career; it has the classic giallo format of his early works while introducing more paranormal elements, indicative of his middle period of the late 1970's and 1980's. Deep Red meanders at times but it has a brilliant and cunning little story. After you see the big reveal at the end, go back and watch it again - the thing Marcus couldn't remember was, in fact, there from the beginning.

  • Deep Red is a cool title for a movie, but it doesn't really relate in any way to the story.
  • The scene where the psychic has a vision of the killer in a theater is beautifully bookended by the opening and closing of a red velvet curtain. It's an effect that Argento first tried out in Four Flies on Gray Velvet and later used in Opera.
  • In fact, the cinematography throughout the film is stunning. Check out the beautiful steady-cam work and macro lens shots.
  • The bar in the square was designed after Edward Hopper's painting "The Nighthawks."
  • Marcus and Gianna share an aggressive, competitive flirtation throughout the film. They're reminiscent of William Powell and Myrna Loy. I think this is Daria Nicolodi's best performance. David Hemmings reminds me of a young Michael Caine.
  • The Art Nuveau mansion that Marcus explores still stands and is a highlight of Torino's Dario Argento Location Tour, though you can only view it from outside the fence.
  • The two animal deaths are the bird suicide and the lizard with a pin in its neck. We only see the lizard thrashing around (which is very upsetting), but I think we can expect that it died of its injuries.
What the Hell am I Watching?

 That aggressive flirtation manifests itself in a weird, and completely superfluous co-ed arm wrestling scene.

Apparently, Torino has a Library of Folklore and Popular Traditions. Probably not a big tourist spot.

In the best scene in the movie, the psychic's manager, Bardi (Piero Mazzinghi) is in his study late one night after discovering an important clue. He hears a noise and suddenly a creepy-ass mechanical puppet wielding a knife runs at him from behind a curtain. He knocks it down and breathes a sigh of relief before the killer bashes his head from behind and stabs him in the back of the neck.  The appearance of the puppet is jolting and unexpected. The suspense is beautifully timed, the music cue is superb, and the payoff is fantastic.

Man, that little ginger psycho gives me the creeps. Nicoletta Elmi was the go-to child actress of the giallo era, also appearing in Bay of Blood and Who Saw her Die? She then grew into a stunningly beautiful woman and appeared in Lamberto Bava's horror movie Demons. She gave up acting in the 1980's to become a doctor.

Fashion Moment

Let's hear it for Carlo's boyfriend, Massimo, for bringing some casual fabulousness to the set.  Dude can rock a kimono.

It may surprise you to learn that Massimo is played by a woman – Geraldine Hooper – hence the androgynous look.

The Crimes of the Black Cat

The Crimes of the Black Cat

"But I can't just go to the police and accuse a shadow... a voice... a scent."

The models at a Copenhagen fashion house owned by Françiose Balla (Sylvia Koscina) are turning up dead one by one... apparently of natural causes. At each crime scene, Inspector Jansen (Renato De Carmine) finds a picnic basket, a yellow shawl, and strange scratches on the corpse's neck. But how does it add up? Blind composer Peter Oliver (Anthony Steffen), the boyfriend of the first victim, aims to find out and his investigation leads him on the trail of a mysterious woman in a white hooded cape named Susan (Giovanna Lenzi). But what connection does Susan have to these models? Why would she want them dead? And how can she kill without even entering the room? The answers will lead Peter into a dangerous world of drugs, money, and blackmail!

The Crimes of the Black Cat (which often goes by its rhyming Italian title, Sette Scialli Di Seta Gialla, or Seven Shawls of Yellow Silk) is a fantastic giallo in the classic mode, even if it borrows heavily from other films. The killer's method comes from the 1940 Bela Lugosi film The Devil Bat, The fashion house setting and most of the plot comes from Blood and Black Lace, the blind detective can be traced to Cat O'Nine Tails, a slow-motion shot of a woman going head-first through a window comes from every Argento movie ever, and the brutal and highly graphic shower murder is an obvious homage to Psycho.  But even though it appropriates all these elements, The Crimes of the Black Cat synthesizes them in a clever way and it turns out to be a very satisfying movie, highly indicative of the genre.
  • Check out the scene where Peter's assistant, Burton (Umberto Raho) is chasing Susan and she disappears when a rack of clothes passes in front of her. Yet another clever touch lifted from Blood and Black Lace.
  • There's not a lot of bad art in this movie. In fact, it looks like Peter owns a Mondrian.
  • There's a tense scene near the end where Peter is kidnapped and left alone in a closed glass factory. One false move and he'll fall into a pit of broken glass and the kidnapper uses the facility's machinery to try to knock him down. It's a great, suspenseful scene.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Model Paula Whitney (Isabelle Marchall) is the first victim. Before she dies, her only line in the movie is a nasty homophobic slur against a co-worker.

That shower scene really is the thing that sticks with you, as it doesn't pull any punches. Unlike Marion's murder in Psycho, we see a razor blade tear deep into the victim's body in visceral detail in The Crimes of the Black Cat.

 Fashion Moment

This movie has a giallo killer who wears the classic all-black coat and hat, but it also turns that tradition on its head with a villain in white. Check out Susan's trademark hooded cape.



"I was like you... before this friend of mine ripped out my eye playing doctor with me... 
leaving an empty socket!"

A group of American tourists from Burlington, Vermont is visiting Barcelona, but a mysterious killer dressed in red is murdering them one by one before gouging out the victims' eyes.  The tour group includes Paulette Stone (Martine Brocharad), whose married lover, Mark (John Richardson) has joined her. The murders bring back uneasy memories for Mark, who recalls similar killings back in Vermont and he suspects that his wife, Alma (Marta May) is responsible. Did she follow them to Spain? Or could the killer possibly be some other member of the tour? Maybe it's Reverend Bronson (George Rigaud), the minister with the creepy smile or the interracial lesbian couple. Inspector Tuleda (Andrés Mejuto) is on the case – and he's a hard-nosed old-school cop, a week away from retirement, who doesn't take any guff from his young partner or any American tourists. Can he solve the case before the killer strikes again?

Eyeball (not to be confused with Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll) is one of those gialli that goes by many different names. It's just as well-known under its Italian title, Gatti Rossi In un Labarinto di Vetro (literally, "Red Cats In a Maze of Glass") or as Wide-Eyed In the Dark or just The Eye. The film is really an old-fashioned drawing room murder mystery, but with a more glamorous setting. Director Umberto Lenzi usually has a gonzo, sensationalist sensibility, but this movie is unusually artful and relatively subdued.
  • Composer Bruno Nicolai is a superstar of giallo film scores, perhaps second only to Ennio Morricone.
  • Lenzi's use of color is brilliant in this film. The killer's signature color is red (using red gloves and a red rain poncho instead of the traditional all-black look) and sharp red accents are found everywhere in the film – clothes, lamps, the handrails at the pool, a tablecloth, a suitcase. It's never dominant, but always stands out in  the background as an omen.
  • The whole movie takes place in Barcelona and there isn't a single shot of Gaudí's Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, the most famous building in town.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

 Man, that Reverend Bronson just pops up out of nowhere.

When one of the tourists, Robby Alvarado (Daniele Vargas), is doing a crossword puzzle, notice that he crams the 6-letter word "muerte" into a four-square space.

Inspector Tuleda asks one of the tourists to try on a rain poncho left behind by the killer. Why? To see if it fits? It's a rain poncho – of course it's going to fit. In the meantime, it's a great way to smear fingerprints and blood samples and destroy valuable evidence.

The same framed abstract drawing appears in Reverend Bronson's hotel room and in Naiba's hospital room.

Fashion Moment


You work those Daisy Dukes.

Death Walks at Midnight

Death Walks At Midnight

"You told me a lot of facts. Too many facts."

Fashion model Valentina (Neves Navarro, credited as Susan Scott) agrees to take a new hallucinogenic drug called HDS so reporter Gio Baldi (Simón Andreu) can write an article about its effects. But her trip takes a dark turn when she has bloody visions of a man in a vacant apartment across the street murdering a woman with a spiked iron glove. At first, with no evidence, no one believes her, but Valentina later discovers that a woman really was murdered in that apartment, in the same manner she witnessed... six months ago!  And before long, she finds that the killer is stalking her and that she is right in the middle of a mystery involving murder, drugs, and revenge. Who can she trust? Why won't the police help her? And who is the mysterious killer in the sunglasses? It all leads to a devastating twist you won't expect!

Death Walks at Midnight (not to be confused with You'll Die at Midnight) is Luciano Ercoli's best giallo. It's certainly the most coherent, but is far less salacious than his other entries in the genre. It may be similarly titled, but this follow-up to Death Walks On High Heels isn't a sequel, even though it features most of the same cast filling similar archetypes: Susan Scott as a strong but victimized leading lady, Simón Andreu as the roguish love interest, Claudine Lange as the mysterious older woman, and Carlo Gentili as the police inspector, just to name a few. Ercoli has developed his own troupe of players, making him the Christopher Guest of giallo.
  • I have no way to substantiate this theory, but I suspect that Frank Wolf (an Ercoli player from High Heels) was meant to play Stefano but, after Wolf's tragic and untimely death in  December of 1971, the boyfriend role went to Pietro Martellanza.
  • It's a great title, but it doesn't really apply here. Most of the murders take place around mid-day.
  • Speaking of the title, the original Italian title is La Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte. But "accarezzare" doesn't mean "to walk" – it means ""to stroke" or "to enfold." A better translation would be Death Caresses You at Midnight.
  • References to Mario Bava's gialli abound in this film. The spiked iron glove is an obvious homage to the one used in Blood and Black Lace and Valentina apparently witness a murder that happened a long time ago – just like Nora in The Girl Who Knew Too Much.
  • Valentina's boyfriend, Stefano (Pietro Martellanza), is a sculptor and his work is really cool.
  • Ercoli did a good job of giving this movie balance. It has blood, a variety of kill scenes, some good action, and touches of humor from the supporting cast. The only thing it's lacking is a steamy love scene.
  • The film culminates in a well-choreographed rooftop brawl, which shows off Andreu's physicality particularly well.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

During the investigation, Valentina follows Verushka (Lange) to an insane asylum full of dangerous crazies and soon finds herself left alone, attacked, and then abandoned as Verushka speeds off in her Rolls. Super not-cool, Verushka.

For some reason, Stefano is taking care of his neighbor's toddlers while their mother is out of the country... and it doesn't take long before he leaves them home alone while he goes out and gets drunk. This is the first sign that he's not the nice guy he appears to be.

The crazy, giggling hit man dressed in a yellow plaid waistcoat doesn't get many lines, but he turns out to be one of the most memorable characters in the movie. When his face is covered in lye at the end and his eyeballs are bleeding, his resemblance to Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight in uncanny.

Fashion Moment

When Valentina goes clubbing, she wears this crazy aluminum wig.

Also, here's a shot of the spiked iron glove (just because). This one looks like it could do a lot more damage than the original one in Blood and Black Lace.