The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

Poor Evelyn has a history as ridiculous as it’s plot, and at times as hard to follow, but unfairly neglected and often resigned to the “50 Greatest Horror Films for a £1” DVD collections, with shoddy transfers, it’s overlooked and forgotten. A film that takes some time and appreciation to properly enjoy. You sip it slow and allow it’s insanity to take you where it wants to go.

When you are staring down the winding tale that is Evelyn, you require someone who can tackle a beast, and the captain of the good ship Satanic Pandemonium, kindly stepped up to the challenge. 

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The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

by Samm Deighan of Satanic Pandemonium

Emilio Miraglia, 1971

Starring: Anthony Steffen, Marina Malfatti, Erika Blanc

La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba aka The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is the first giallo film from director Emilio Miraglia. Though lesser known alongside giallo greats like Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, and Umberto Lenzi, Miraglia’s first film will likely delight giallo lovers but probably confuse the hell out of everyone else.

An English lord, Alan, was recently released from a mental hospital after a breakdown over his wife Evelyn’s death. His obsession with Evelyn has not abated and he spends his time trolling bars and clubs looking for red headed women that resemble his wife to come home to his isolated castle and spend the night. But these trysts all result in torture and murder. He has to pay off his wife’s brother, the groundskeeper, to keep silent and attempts a seance that summons Evelyn’s ghost but results in another minor collapse. His doctor convinces him he should marry again and he meets the blonde Gladys. For a time he is happy with her, but Evelyn’s ghost begins to appear around the castle and drives Alan back to the brink of insanity. Gladys finds Evelyn’s tomb empty and strange murders begin to occur around the castle. Is Evelyn back to take her revenge on Alan?

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The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is an entertaining blend of genres and presents a series of intertwining murder mysteries constantly folding and unfolding upon themselves. With that said, the winding plot is far from perfect and will likely confuse giallo newbies. While the genre in general isn’t known for its linear or rational plots, Evelyn is something else entirely. Some scenes drag on too long, where as others cut away without fully explaining events. Though there are many beautiful set pieces, the film is a little choppy and the plot doesn’t really care about making much sense. If you’ve seen a lot of giallo films, this isn’t going to interfere with your enjoyment of the film too much.

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Part of the confusion is due to the fact that Miraglia blends a number of genres together. This begins as a fairly routine Euro-horror serial killer film a la The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962), Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970), or even the ridiculous Night of a Thousand Cats (1972), where a series of beautiful women are whisked away to a castle or mansion to be murdered. It rapidly turns into a ghost story with the seance and sightings of Evelyn’s ghost around the castle. The plot eventually morphs into a more giallo-like construction and picks up some genre tropes along the way, including twist after twist after twist.

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If you have the patience for it, the bizarre story is actually in the film’s favor and there aren’t a lot of other gialli with the sheer number of fun twists. Though there are some murders early on, courtesy of Alan, things don’t really kick off till the second half of the film. Evelyn isn’t particularly gory, but includes such unexpected deaths as a woman being fed to a cage full of prized foxes. There are some lovely, surreal visuals with plenty of shots of semi-nude women running through graveyards and one great scene where a stripper, played by the lovely Erika Blanc, rises from a coffin to begin her macabre striptease act. And let’s not forget the wacky ending that involves a swimming pool full of acid.

Unlike other genre directors, Emilio Miraglia for some reason did not make a lot of giallo films even though he started fairly early – Evelyn came out the same year as one of Dario Argento’s earliest films, The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971). As with Mario Bava’s Baron Blood (1972), this is a mix of giallo tropes and Gothic horror, set in a menacing castle in the woods complete with a mouldering crypt and a torture chamber. It also borrows from Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon, as both films center around insane protagonists who murder women because of complicated relationship with their wives, who may or may not be dead and who possibly linger in the form of malignant spirits.

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The uneven cast makes it difficult to really sympathize with anyone and, unlike the films of Dario Argento or Sergio Martino, Evelyn lacks a charismatic protagonist. Part of the problem is that we are simply unsure who to trust. Spaghetti western regular Anthony Steffen does a decent job as Alan, though it’s difficult to rise above a character that is depicted as insane for much of the film. Marina Malfatti (All the Colors of the Dark, Miraglia’s other giallo The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, and more) is icy and reserved, but looks beautiful whether she is screaming in terror or plotting diabolically. She also wears increasingly racy lingerie and is barely clothed for much of the film. The cast is rounded out by Enzo Tarascio (The Conformist) as Alan’s conniving cousin, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (The Last Man on Earth) as his psychiatrist, and Erika Blanc (Kill Baby, Kill) as a particularly memorable victim.

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Overall The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is recommended for giallo lovers or at least seasoned Italian horror fans. The film is available uncut on DVD from Eclectic or in the Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen box set with The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.

It is also screening on Halloween at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave will conclude a day full of horror related talks with film historian Jonathan Rigby, film genre programmer Josh Saco, Professor Peter Hutchings, Associate Professor Ian Olney, and Dr Antonio Lázaro-Reboll.

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Creepshow (1982) Reviewed

Thirty years after it’s original release, George Romero‘s ‘Creepshow‘ is still a deliciously dark anthology full of macabre tales and comic dark humour. With a new Blu-Ray release thanks to Second Sight, the feature is as bright and bold as ever, with its comic book style aesthetics perfectly captured on screen.

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Written by Stephen King and starring a whole host of familiar names and faces from across cinema and genre film, ‘Creepshow‘ is one of those special films that transcends all ages. Whilst there are some rather dark moments, the film is essentially for both kids and adults, with the slapstick comedy and childlike escaping-reality-for-fantasy comic stories coming to like being the appeal for youngsters. Adults will no doubt like the, sometimes, very comedic touches that come out of the darkest parts of the stories. Revenge, monsters, murder, bad dancing (yes Ed Harris, you are most definitely guilty of this), it’s all there, with literally something for everyone in the form of fears, terror, phobias and characters like the excessive drunk, manipulative colleague, jilted lover and oppressive family members.

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If you’ve never seen the feature, or want to upgrade your DVD to high definition format, now is the time. The transfer looks positively stunning. Not only is the picture quality terrific but it enhances the entire experience. The colours of the comic style that the films homages are once again bright and sickly with Tom Savini‘s special effects looking devilishly beautiful. Whether it be your first time or a revisit, alone or with company, ‘Creepshow‘ is the way to go. They just don’t make anthology films like it anymore.

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Creepshow is out from Second Sight on 28th October, just in time for Hallowe’en, pre-order it here

Frightfest 2013 Round Up

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So, we come out of another 5 days, hungover, malnourished, and emptied wallets.

Flicking through our heads are a million stills grabbed from the frames that flashed across our eyes.

The boys behind the beast that is Film 4 Frightfest have delivered a bumper year, a solid mixed bag of genre cinema.

If Frightfest is as much about the films as the hanging out and chatting about them while you neck another pint at the often overwhelmed Imperial, it’s a wonderful thing when these films flow out, without causing a controversy.

Last years saw Frightfest get slammed for what some called “Rapefest” opening with a series of mean spirited and harsh films falling solidly into that ever dangerous sub-genre of Rape/Revenge. This year, it would appear that the team listened to and responded to last year’s angry voices and opened the festival with a string of films inhabited by strong female characters, both Curse of Chucky and You’re Next immediately corrected the slips of 2012, and in doing so, set a tone of easy enjoyment and lighthearted adventure from the dark heart of cinema.

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As for the films themselves, it was indeed a mixed bag. A dreadful opener, The Dead 2: India, offered no advancements in what you can only hope is a dead franchise. The first Dead, based in Africa, saw a British serviceman try to escape from hordes of African zombies, in what felt like Colonialist propaganda, about a century too late. Laying aside preconceived notions of what The Dead 2: India might hold, was a mistake, since the film was essentially identical, with the exception that it may have managed to be more dull than the first, which is an achievement, given it’s gorgeous locations, none of which highlighted the fact that we were in India. So it was just more brown zombies chasing a white person.

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Like it or not, the zombie genre is inherently a sociopolitical genre. Unless you are making Rapid Grannys or Cockneys vs Zombies, the infected, are always the Other. The baddies. And in today’s world, unless you are very very smart, it’s best to make the Others of mixed races and varied political or religious leanings…. Which leads us to the other terrible film of the weekend, unsurprisingly, another zombie film.

Cannon Fodder, a racist, pro IDF,  Birdemic quality CGI shitfest, which if picked up will swiftly end up in the 99p bin. A crack team of the Israeli Defense Force is put together to capture a suspected Hamas chemical warfare scientist, currently in zombie infested Lebanon. That synopsis alone should set off alarm bells, but it gets better when one of the members of the team is actually just an out and out racist, regularly calling his fellow soldier, who happens to be Ethiopian, every possible derogatory term he can come up with, while killing as many “terrorist” zombies as he can, culminating in a Muslim zombie beach massacre.

I’m pretty certain that the overt racism wasn’t actually intended, I suspect that it was a poorly realised attempt at social commentary. Whatever it was, it was shit.

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Fortunately for Israel, Big Bad Wolves came along to save their country’s reputation.  A sleek, wonderfully intelligent, deftly written film. It is in every way a tightly written Korean crime thriller about three men – a police detective, a father who has lost his child, and the man they suspect is a peadophile. Treading a very fine line of dark humour, which sees the film to break down into straight up comedy at times, Big Bad Wolves manages to maintain the tension and sharp social commentary, undermining racism, as well as pack mentality, delivering a hard hitting punch and a steady stream of laughs, which to the writers’ credit translates perfectly across cultures.

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Coming from Mummy director Stephen Sommers, Odd Thomas wasn’t the sort of film one expected very much from. But boiled down to a cheery little film, a network television version of Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, which could quite easily run like as a pilot for a TV series, a bit like the original Buffy. Odd Thomas, has some dialogue issues, but the general story, and execution is pleasant enough that all is forgiven as necroscope, Odd tries to prevent a small town massacre. It’s certainly the kind of film which you throw on for a chilled out Friday night. Sweet, kind hearted and I’d be surprised if 75% of the audience didn’t have a tear in their eye.

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One of the real surprises of the festival was The Curse of Chucky, helmed by Chucky creator Don Mancini himself, he intro’d the film saying that he had spent time listening to the fans, reading comments and forums and tried to make a film that the fans wanted. I have to say he succeeded. Curse of Chucky manages to capture the feel of the late 80s horror films, there is no updating it for a modern audience, there’s no filler here, it’s a timeless story of a possessed doll that is out to kill. Nothing is played for laughs, and Chucky’s wit is just wit, not for the sake of a cheap gag. Voiced by Brad Dourif, Chucky stalks and kills with efficiency, pitted against Fiona Dourif it adds that extra level as father tries to kill daughter. Low on the CGI and high on the practical, the lumbering doll is relentless in revenge.

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First time feature director Richard Raaphorst delivered one of the few creature features Frankenstein’s Army, a WWII found footage film, where a Russian squad of soldiers discover Frankenstein’s grandson has carried on the family’s work and crafted an army of mech monsters. A film of 3 parts, the first being the establishment of the team, the second being the discovery and interaction with the monsters the final being the part they needed to end the film, but couldn’t quite figure out how to do it right. Basically someone came up with Part 2 and sandwiched it in between the other parts. And Part 2 is pretty good, stellar creature design, you just wish they knew what to do with all the fantastic monsters.

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Without doubt one of the finest films of the festival was You’re Next, Adam Wingard’s home invasion film with a solid stalk and kill spin. Opening with some of the finest dialogue and family interaction/chaos you are likely to ever see on screen, it quickly turns into an unrelenting hour of unrelenting terror. Delivering modern horror’s most proficient final girl to date.

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For me, however, the stand out film was Demon’s Rook. Crammed on the teeny tiny Discovery 2 screen, 50 seats in total, I was lucky to get in on the first screening, hovering by the door waiting for an empty seat something made me want to see this film. And by god was it worth it!! A majestic tribute to an era of film that while much loved, was unlikely to ever be recaptured properly. Those late 80s VHS demon flicks were always a ride of practical effects and fog machines. Unlike recent attempts at homage, like Hobo With a Shotgun, or Tarantino’s efforts, Demon’s Rook, never winks or chuckles at it’s roots. It isn’t knowing, it’s honest and genuine with it’s love and passion. One look at the director’s IMDB page, here, will show you that this is a passion project of epic proportions. Demon’s Rook is the story of a young boy, Roscoe, who is lured away from his parents and trained in the ways of the good demons for some 15 years (yes, how awesome is that!?), before accidentally unleashing the evil demons on the world and being forced into battle before they turn his small town into hell on earth. Along the way we are treated to some of the finest examples of the undead since Zombie Flesh Eaters, a 6 tittied demoness sturring up an orgy, a mongoloid man-demon, more practial effects, dry ice machines and red, green, and blue colour gels than you could ever hope for. Think Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, I would expect to see more from James Sizemore, I just hope he keeps his heart in the right place.

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Demon’s Rook is exactly the reason I go to Frightfest and see films I have never heard of before. Purchasing a pass for £170 allows you to wander in and out of films with abandon. When you get the programme, you look over it and decide what you would like to see, if you purchase tickets based on that, you miss the adventure, the fun, the risk, the cinemadventures. While you are outside, you will run into me, and I will rave about a film you had not noticed or disregarded and you will have the freedom, to wander off and see it. Sometimes you make a mistake, and are eye raped by Cannon Fodder or put to sleep by The Dead 2, but like every search all of the backaches, blisters, callouses, and scraped knuckles are worth it when you accidentally stumble into a film like Demon’s Rook and spend the next 90 minutes with a shit eating grin and repeatedly saying “holy fuck!!!” under your breath.

Cinema is fun. It is required. It is not sitting at home, streaming, or watching something on your TV. It’s watching a film in a dark room full of people, clapping, cheering, crying, screaming, and discussing it afterwards over a pint. And that is exactly what Frightfest is.

Onto 2014. 

– Josh Saco

Creepozoids – A terror of apocalyptic proportions

 

 

 

 

Brendan Patterson has been condemned to life on Earth, taken away and  force fed video disasters. I’m not sure he’s liked anything he’s been given to watch, but his take downs are always amusing and once again he’s not disappointed. 

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Back in the olden days, in a time called the 1980’s, the then modern phenomena of direct to video movies and pre-Perestroika Cold War paranoia, resulted in some remarkably terrible films. Cheap and cheerful, post-nuclear dystopian hell flicks were plentiful for home rental fun and one of the very worst examples of the genre, as according to me, is Creepozoids – a film of truly staggering awfulness.

The decision to re-release Creepozoids on DVD in the 21st century is a curious decision at best. This particular effort ‘plopped out’ the creative crevice of Charles Band‘s Full Moon Productions in 1987, a movie house not exactly renowned for it’s consistent commitment to quality. Creepozoids intentionally does nothing to alter that reputation, cheerfully regurgitating as it does, most of what’s cliched and really horrid of its particular type and form.

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The classic VHS cover

Cue near apocalyptic future setting following East-West nuclear holocaust. Check!

Cue unlikely, ragtag gang of survivors. Check!

Cue discovery of a spooky, abandoned military complex. Check!

Cue contrived decision to set-up home there despite the presence of horribly mutilated corpses. Check!

Cue discovery of a secret military conspiracy. Check!

Cue cast being killed by genetically mutated but unconvincing creatures. Check!

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Ahhhhh! Terrifying!!!

For the sake of balance, it is worth mentioning that Creepozoids does bring its own creative flourishes to the threadbare narrative. Typically these include: a man in a large rubber alien suit with wobbly tusks, large rodent puppets, a character who spews black goo over the breakfast table while simultaneously wiggling a weird prosthetic hand and an unforgettable animatronic slimy mutant baby that goes toe to toe with fully grown man in the film’s finale. That’s not to suggest that any of this is actually any good though.

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Unquestionably the marketing hook of Creepozoids and dare I say it, realistically its only real reason to exist is the presence of scream queen Linnea Quigley‘s breasts. For connoisseurs of their work it must be said, however, that Creepozoids does not represent their greatest performance on the silver screen. In my book their career highlight is their unforgettable jiggling antics in Return of the Living Dead. Closely followed by their bravura, against type surrealist lipstick absorbing turn in Night of the Demons.

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The original VHS packaging of Creepozoids relied heavily on the presence of Ms Quigley and her exposed assists. In the film they’re on screen for approximately 54 seconds by my stopwatch (yes I timed it!) and are crowbarred into proceedings by the presence of a fully operational shower (surely a must for any spooky military complex), a love interest / fuck buddy with an Elvis quiff and the unforgettable line “you’re going to come and lather up my backside!”.

Creepozoids is intensely crusty entertainment. The latest release from 88 Films does a good job as far as is possible with the source material, reissuing it in a neatly presented package. In fact, I’d go so far to say that it’s probably the best ever version of Creepozoids that’s likely to ever have reason to exist. There’s also a fun trailer on the disk, which features an incredible and completely nonsensical boast: Creepozoids! Even if you kill them, they’re still deadly!

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You will not win!

For the record and in the interests of at least trying to do a good job, I watched Creepozoids three times in order to write this. Once sober. Again while drunk and then again while sober. I may have watched Creepozoids more times than anyone in London, possibly even the world and I can say hand on heart, it’s total shit.

In conclusion then, Creepozoids, a film so bad it’s very, very bad. I mean it’s really bad. Yes it’s really, really that awful. My recommendation? Go watch instead at least that has Klaus Kinksi in it for about five minutes sleepwalking his way to collecting a paycheck and despite him being a very evil man indeed. But that’s another story….

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A collection of various news bits wafting past us…. 

A trailer has finally dropped for the new Ben Wheatley film A Field In England, alongside a stunning new quad poster. Shot in beautiful black and white, it promises some stellar performances from its cast and a trippy journey into their psyche as they dig up an unknown treasure trove. If Wheatley’s track record is anything to go by, this has brilliance written all over it and is a strong contender for one of the best British films of the year. The Civil War feature stars Wheatley regular Michael Smiley (Down Terrace, Kill List), Reece Shearsmith (Psychoville, Burke & Hare, Him Indoors) and Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh, Nathan Barley) and is released on July 5th simultaneously in cinemas, on DVD, on free television and on VoD…

V/H/S/2 (aka S/V/H/S), the sequel to last year’s anthology film VHS, has also seen its latest red band trailer released. Featuring aliens, suicides, exploding bodies and unforseen forces, if the pace of the trailer is anything to go by than it should be better than its predecessor. With so much featured in the trailer, it does beg the question how much of it really is spoiler free? With an impressive list of directors at the helm (The Raid’s Gareth Evans, Blair Witch Project‘s Eduardo Sanchez and You’re Next‘s Adam Wingard), it looks like one picture worth checking out…

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Japanese director Takashi Miike is returning to the horror genre with his next feature, set to focus on the Japanese ghost story and play Yotsuya Kaiden. Miike, who was in Cannes promoting new film Wara No Tate, has yet to title his new project but it sounds like it will blur the lines of reality and nightmare, having a couple play the fictional lovers at the heart of the Yotsuya Kaiden story and seeing the effect it has on their relationship…

Meanwhile, Rob Zombie has announced his possible retirement from the horror genre. Speaking to The Phoenix New Times, Zombie is quoted as saying, ‘No. I’m not really thinking of doing anything . . . Lords of Salem is my last sort of horror-genre related film for a really long time’. Depending on the truth of this statement, it might not be a bad thing…

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A new one sheet has debuted for the latest James Wan (Saw, Insidious) flick The Conjuring. Based on a true story, The Conjuring tells the tale of two paranormal investigators helping a family troubled by a dark presence. Starring Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Vera Farmiga, the feature is released August 2nd…

A second trailer has dropped for Edgar Wright’s next feature The World’s End. Reuniting with regulars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (also co-writing), the film see’s five childhood friends get together to finally do the epic pub crawl they never completed years ago, only to find their home town might not be all it seems. With robots and a touch of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers  about it, the trailer does feel a little spoilerific but we’ll have to wait until July 19th to find out…

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Finally, word on the street is that the new Poltergeist remake might also be a reboot/sequel, a la the recent Evil Dead film. With Gil Kenan (Monster House) on board to direct, Sam Raimi producing and shooting due to start this September, the feature will apparently be set in the ‘same universe’ with another family after help when their daughter is abducted by spirits. No release date yet but casting calls are underway…

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Vampire Ecstasy and Joseph Sarno

 

 

 

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Within the walls of a remote castle writhe a coven of black magic worshipping vampiresses. Naked, save for the odd squiggle of body paint, they go-go the night away to the virtually non-stop, throbbing of mysterious bongo drums.

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Invited into this cabal, are the lost heirs to a fortune, confused, intrigued and female. They arrive to an out of time, 18th century world, overseen by the stern faced housekeeper, Wanda Krock. However when a pair of siblings arrive, seeking shelter from a thunderous storm, Fräulein Krock’s true intentions appear to be threatened.

Our German housekeeper, and the flock she commands, well the entire cast to be honest, aren’t masters of very much. While there are occasional moments where you think “that girl really believes she is go-going to Satan” on the whole, the performances are less than inspiring. None of which are helped by what appears to be something less than a complete understanding of the English language.

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This is because, the cast is primarily made up of Scandinavian and German porn stars. And hold on, the director is one Joseph Sarno, who is responsible for such gems as Inside Little Oral Annie, Tigresses and Other Man-eaters and my personal favourite, Screw the Right Thing.

Yes, friends, we have entered into the world of the low brow…

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Now, I make a habit of knowing as little as possible about a film before I see it, I rarely read synopsises, often going by recommendation, whether I like the cover, or just title alone. I like to think this allows me to view a film on whatever merits it has, or may not have. Just ride with it and take what it gives you.

So you can imagine my surprise as I watched Fräulein Krock raise what looked like a small stone pillar above her head as an offering, before handing it to one of her naked familiars to squat upon.

This was the point where Vampire Ecstasy grabbed my attention, which to be fair was a mere 3 minutes in.

From here it doesn’t really let up, cutting away sometimes at the very last possible moment leading me to believe that in all likelihood, there is a hardcore version of this insane little sleaze pit of a film.

At about 20 minutes in, so convinced was I that this was a UK cut, I stopped it, and did a bit of research. Landing upon a series of images of women sucking off rather realistic looking, multi-racial phallic candles, I decided that there was no way in hell that this shot was in the film currently swinging it’s titties across my screen.

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Lo and behold – PENIS CANDLES.

While it’s not often I encounter a prolific director I am completely unfamiliar with, I’ll admit a lack of knowledge in the area of sexploitation and softcore. I know my porno chic/golden age stuff well enough, but never really bothered much with sexploitation and Euro Sleaze. Turns out that Sarno was quite a busy man from the mid 60s to his retirement in the 90s, pumping out over 100 films, both in the US and in Europe, helping to make names for several women in the industry, and even working with droopy faced Christina Lindberg (the world’s fascination with her will always escape me. She was good in Thriller, and that was it. Honestly. I have a taxidermied badger that is more erotic than she is.) Sarno was a bit of a pioneer in the world of softcore sleaze, before settling into the more hardcore, straight to video realms of the ridiculously titled “behind the curtain” fodder. He’s been likened to Russ Meyer and Radley Metzger, celebrated with several retrospectives on recent years and noted for bringing an element of class and style to the genre, helping it to break the shackles of pure sleaze.


While I am throwing around words like “sleaze,” “low brow” and “porn” don’t think that any of that means bad.

Sarno‘s film is anything but “Good Bad.”

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Yes, it’s rough around the edges, but there’s flashes of Bava, the nudity is titillating, perhaps over the top, but by no means offensive or strictly there for a 15 year old to get his kicks. Though he absolutely would.

Vampire Ecstasy, is a particular film; strangely enjoyable, and far more watchable than it deserves.

Judging by the clips used in the interview extra, a fair bit of work has been put into this transfer and it shows. It’s grainy and scratchy, but only as it should be. The mud has been cleared, the colours are bright and while it’s not a top of the line Arrow release, who to be quite frank, spoil us rotten, it’s well worth your hard earned cash.

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Vampire Ecstasy is available now from Medium Rare