Portrait of Hell (1969)

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aka: Jigokuhen, 地獄変
Director: Shiro Toyoda
My Rating: 9.5/10

A tyrannical lord wants the walls of his temple to be painted with images of buddha and heaven. He is unable to assign the task to a korean painter who only “paints-what-he-sees” – seeing how the common man (or slave) is treated under the lords outspoken desire for glory – the painter  is only able to draw his nightmarish visions. The painter denies his daughter from seeing a japanese man, whom she truly loves, inevitably leading to the lord taking a liking to his daughter at first sight. Eventually the lord will assign the painter the task of painting a ‘portrait of hell’…

There is a progressive feel to how to the film is shot which reflects the story, starting of with beautiful rural landscape scenery, cherry blossoms and bright costumes.. eventually shifting to darkness, rivers of blood, sometimes pitch black scenery with an overhanging feeling of dread and doom. The  fantastical elements to the story allows for a “dimension” of fantasy/horror further enhancing the story!…

To me the partly theatrical acting works great (mainly the daughter, but also present in some longer dialogue scenes) as some scenes are more dialogue heavy but also working well with the period-setting. I can’t fault a thing about this movie, finding movies like this one is my reason for dedication – familiar, yet unique. I’m a sucker for “downbeat” ‘slowly unfolding’ progressive stories that is set to “explode” and this one goes highly recommended.

(As a headsup – there is a cut in the UK Artsmagic DVD. I grabbed this version regardless. INFO: http://bbfc.co.uk/releases/portrait-hellCompulsory cut required under the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act of 1937 to sight of cock fighting.“)

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Call from Darkness (1981)

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aka: Mayonaka no shôtaijô, 真夜中の招待状
Director: Yoshitaro Nomura
My Rating: 7.5/10

A woman visits a psychiatrist, not for herself but for her fiancee whose three brothers have mysteriously vanished. Without hesitation the psychiatrist starts the investigation and is early on lead to various clues (such as a common dream shared among the brothers, and seemingly coincidental dates of when they all disappeared)..

Well produced and well crafted mystery simply put. There’s a constant slowly unfolding development of the mystery early on. Many of the clues points towards the subconscious (Jung being cited etc) as well as a handful of characters are introduced along the way to keep things interesting. The only negative to me was when things are about to come together it gets sort of trailing and a bit repetitive, although the ending ties everything neatly together.

A first (and certainly not the last) for me from seemingly prolific director Yoshitaro Nomura. Mostly recommended.. slightly generous rating from me..

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Wrong (2012)

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Director: Quentin Dupieux
My Rating 6.0/10

A man wakes up a morning to find out that his dog is missing, he quickly gets approached by his neighbor who seems rather suspicious, mentioning that he is thinking about moving away. He soon hires a private detective and eventually gets contacted by a mysterious Master Chang. He em[barks] on a journey to find his lost companion.. will he be successful?

If Dupieux previous film, Rubber, was all about the magic of ‘no reason’ then this one is about the concept of breaking conventions and norms as we know them. Why not call to order a pizza and end up chatting about the logo on the commercial flyer instead. It’s always raining inside in the office where the man works, well he’s been fired 3 months ago but he’s still going there. People might die and the next day return without anyone within the film questioning it. Within this movie, these are all examples of the kind of logic that goes and there’s no reason to question this, it might have rained elephant turds and that would have worked aswell.

In the shell of a detective movie, except there not really anything to investigate, this absurdist comedy is to me fairly amusing. Of course I can’t help myself thinking about Lynch, Lost Highway would be good example,  when it comes to the concept of this movie but it’s simply not done as good – the dogturd-memory joke was hilarious but it came to late, for me it’s an alright movie that shows promise of a rather “green” director getting better.

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Obscene Desire (1978)

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aka: L’Osceno Desiderio
Director: Giulio Petroni
My Rating: 4.5/10

A newlywed middle-aged couple moves into the mans large mansion, it is soon known that there is a crooked-eye servant working at the mansion. During a romantic moment the man lets the woman know that perhaps she really don’t want to fully get to know him and soon we get to see the man (presumably – through point-of-view shots, it’s never established if it’s him or not – it might aswell be the servant) picking up hookers and killing them in some type of torture room within the mansion (again presumably him through POV). The woman starts meeting a local pastor.. as the pastor phones the mansion the servant who is picking up the call and attempts to deny any further contact by telling she is not there.. Now… – What is the reason for all this secrecy and what else is going on within the mansionwalls?

First I have to mention that i watched the ~90min version, supposedly there is a 100min version somewhere (according to imdb) but to no avail (afaik) – this might clear out some of what’s unclear – I mean fine things kinda make sense eventually, but it feels like a straightforward enough story to not have to have any confusion.

I like where things starts, there’s implications that something is going to happen, a certain mood is set with the haunting soundtrack, even some vouyerism going on (not just through POV but also through peeping and observatory shots) – This however is quickly left of and it is almost as if the man dissapears and the woman just ponders around in the mansion for the majority of the runtime.

There’s a certain degree of sleazyness and ventures into occult seances that makes the story interesting. But for me it just feels incomplete and lackluster. I can imagine appreciating this more on a second viewing.

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Fatal Blade (2000)

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aka Gedo
Director: Talun Hsu
My Rating: 6.0/10

A feud between the American Mafia and the Yakuza is initiated after a drugdeal gone wrong – wrong as in doublecross with bloody shootout. Gary Daniels is Richard Fox a dedicated policeman investigating Bronson, the leader of the mafia – during surveillance Bronson gets ambushed by a sword wielding yakuza veteran but the police intervenes and brings the veteran in for questioning. The questioning leads to escape and a policeman gets executed after a car crash. As things turn personal Fox is now set on bringing down both mobs. Added to the story is a sideplot with a japanese woman seeking vengeance on Bronson for her sisters death.

Can’t really say i’ve seen all that many Gary Daniels star vehicles but the ones i’ve seen ranks somewhere inbetween unfortunate garbage (Fist of the North Star) and fairly enjoyable (Recoil, Blood Moon). I would say this one goes in the later category, starting off with plenty of action in form of hard hitting martial arts, shootouts and even a car chase. However after the initial mayhem there is a lack of action to fill out the rather unpolished story.

Overall this movie delivers to my expectations, it’s fairly enjoyable and in that regard worth the time, but a bit of wasted potential starting off on high octane but kind of trailing and never quite reaching the level where it started.

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Reason to Die (1989)

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aka Våldets Gator (Swedish VHS – Jaguar Film)
Director: Tim Spring
My Rating: 4.0/10

Wings Hauser is Canner – A bountyhunter and ex-sergeant who is sent to South Africa to take care of one of his own kind, another ex-sergeant who just so happens to be on the other side of the law slashing local prostitutes.

A typical good guy vs bad guy scenario where the outcome is predicatable but the way to the finale hopefully ends up beeing interesting. On the VHS-cover Wings Houser is beeing sold with a Charles Bronson persona, which is kind of funny as that is not at all the case – sure the major vehicle to the story is this cat and mouse game between bountyhunter and killer where Wings resorts to gun violence but to me his persona doesn’t even come across as seasoned or the silent trigger type, it’s just not convincing in any way.

The scenery pretty much shift between ‘the red light district’, shabby joints, church and your everyday streetviews – no part of this presentation really brings any excitement. There’s even a lovestory thrown in between Wings and a local reporter as filler material. If i’m able to throw something positive towards this movie it would be that it’s not an amateurish production but it’s just bland and boring.

Blood Delirium (1988)

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aka Delirio di Sangue
Director: Sergio Bergonzelli
My Rating: 6.5/10

A woman gets a warning, from the future!, that her life might very well be in danger. Meanwhile, in a remote castle, the wife of a painter (looking exactly like this woman) dies on that very night. The painter now finds himself unable to paint anything but his darkest fantasies, as he was used to painting while his wife was playing the piano but that is no longer an option. One year later… In a desperate attempt to get his creative juices flowing he digs up the corpse of his wife but it doesn’t quite do the trick, however his path eventually eventually crosses, at one of his art exhibitions, with this woman who looks exactly like his wife and eventually he will find the way again…!

With a slightly confusing plot, things won’t end up making sense until halfway through. I initially though this first woman was the actual wife (as both are played by the same actress and this is pretty much happening in the first few scenes) and that the story would evolve around making sense to this but that’s not really the case. The continuation is all about the new relationship between the woman resembling the painters wife and how the painter after an incident where his frenzied servant ends up killing the stablemaid in a rapeattempt and how the aftermath of this event enables the painters creativity once again.

At the point of beeing within the odds and ends of italian horror cinema i’ve held of on this one for a while for no particular reason. This is indeed low-budget appearing to be a quick job (not necessarily a bad thing). What, atleast to me, makes it worthwhile is the couple of delirous scenes somewhere in the middle that feels kinda unmotivated. Employing more classic elements like the gothic setting which is more of a front for this seminal sleazepot – I won’t try to convince anyone to give this one a spin – but if you end up doing so it wouldn’t be a bad thing to watch it along with Herschell Gordon Lewis Color Me Blood Red as a doublebill of ‘delirous painters and the macabre’…

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