Thursday, April 6, 2017

Movies from Another Universe #2: Capsule Reviews

Here are some capsule reviews of films that do not exist in your universe. However, they do exist in my universe, Universe-Prime. For additional movies from another universe, check out Ed Wood's Bride of Peeping Tom (1960) and Frankenstein's Mobster (1964).


House of Bloody Limbs (1975)

Four British university students and their American exchange student friend take a road trip in a camper from London to Scotland. Once they cross the border, they run afoul of three aggressive men in a pub who object to their socializing with a young local woman. The young woman says her family will protect them he students, but the students misperceived the situation at the pub. The aggressive men were trying to warn them, and the young woman's family turn out to be cannibals squatting in a ruined castle and the tunnels beneath. Only one of the students is destined to escape and reach the closest farm, where the aggressive men from the pub, three brothers who live alone, reside. The film falls to disclose the final fate of the survivor.

A British response to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of Bloody Limbs is more energetic than most British films of the mid 1970s, but its bland color palette and predictability do it no favors. The house of the title, a ruined castle with tunnels filled with body parts, is memorable and the cannibal scenes are more grotesque than expected, with generous shots of the large cannibal family tearing into various body parts, but the overall effect is only mildly interesting. Noteworthy scenes include a chase through the tunnels that ends in a girl falling into a stone well full of lopped off hands, a seduction scene between the American student and the cannibal girl that occurs on a bed under which the bloody corpse of another student is barely hidden, and the atmospheric reveal of the cannibal clan in the fog-shrouded ruins.





Testament of the Living Organ (1959)

A black and white, low-budget ghost story from 1959, Testament of the Living Organ is haunting and almost entirely effective. The organ is a musical instrument haunted by the ghost of a sinister organist named LaGrange who murdered his rival years before falling to his own death from a church bell tower in the rain. When a new minister and his family move into the church, it soon becomes clear the church organ is haunted. The minister’s wife is the only person who can play beautiful music on the organ; everyone else who tries either produces a cacophony or is injured by the keys or pedals. The organ’s pipes begin to spew steam, which scalds a janitor’s face. In a graphic scene for 1959, a teenage boy’s hands are mauled by the organ’s keys when he tries to impress a girl.

After some investigation, the minister and his wife discover the identity of the sinister organist, but they are helpless until they find that the ghost of the man the organist killed is haunting a harp. The finale is a showdown between the haunted organ and the haunted harp, with the minister's wife in danger as the church collapses.

Testament of the Living Organ was unsuccessful not because of the quality of the film but because of its title, considered inappropriate for many newspapers. The filmmakers never realized the double entendre inherent in the title, and the film was doomed to failure.




The Body Had Three Eyes (1976) aka Three Eyes of the Murdered Corpse (Tre Occhi del Cadavere Insanguinato)

Giallo with a murderer who leaves the eyes of his victims on the next corpse

A woman walking a dog discovers a corpse in suburban Rome with another person's eye resting on its forehead. A police detective and his assistant are assigned to investigate not only the corpse but where the additional eyeball came from. The murder victim was the patriarch of a wealthy family that exerts pressure on the detective to cover everything up, including the victim's affair with a burlesque artist. In an extended chase sequence, a second murder is perpetrated by a figure in a white hat and raincoat; the victim, an elderly woman, is killed with a gardening fork and the killer places another eyeball on her forehead.

When the detective finds that the murder victims were members of a secret spiritualist club whose founder died nearly one year earlier, he investigates the other members of the club--a mute old man in a wheelchair, a young up-and-coming soccer player, a fashionable young woman with a sordid past, and a research scientist who lost his left eye in a boating accident. After two more members are murdered, the detective pieces together the story: The club's founder faked his own death but also stole the identity of the wheelchair-bound man. The eyes left at the crime scenes represented a psychic "third eye" that all the victims lacked, in the killer's estimation. In the end, the detective finds the killer in an abandoned mansion. About to apprehend the killer, the detective causes the killer's collection of eyeballs to spill onto the floor, forcing the hero to squish through the swamp of eyeballs to chase the man. The chase spills out onto the streets of Rome, where the killer causes a traffic accident and dies when he is smashed between two cars in a head-on collision.

Although derivative of earlier gialli, The Body Had Three Eyes shows off a colorful, fast-moving style and its eyeball imagery is frequently quite gruesome. The highlight of the film is a centerpiece murder in which the gadgets filling the successful soccer player's apartment are turned against him as he is strangled by electrical cords, slashed with an electric knife, and finally crushed by a huge television set, all accompanied by flashing lights and a pulsing disco score.

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