The B-Movie Isle (05/10/17)
The B-Movie Isle a small written (sometimes) weekly companion piece to the B-Movie Podcast.
Every B Movie is an Isle onto itself. The B-Movie Isle recommends a few films either being released or already released in theaters, VOD, streaming or on Blu-Ray/DVD. These are not going to be blockbusters but those movies you’ll probably find in the door buster clearance bin. Films that people told you weren’t worth your time or you may have not heard about. You and I know they’re just un-enlightened to the beauty of a killer B-Movie!!!
THE TOP SHELF TITLE AKA FEATURED TITLE OF THE WEEK
The Movie: Watching Caltiki, the Immortal Monster is like a fevered dream of what a 50’s sci-fi film should be. When one is told that the film is co-directed by Mario Bava, the above sentiment makes much more sense.
Heavily referencing The Quartermass Xperiment the film is the same basic setup of an Alien lifeform is discovered by a group of scientists. Said lifeform runs amuck and it’s up to the heroes/heroines to stop it. You have seen this even recently with the release of Life or classics of this subgenre like Alien. The fun of the picture is seeing the subgenre at its infancy and how they approach it. One cannot help but see this film and think of how much it influenced Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. In the film the caves that the scientists explore and, what the find within those caves feel like Scott had lifted and just inflated for his $200 million prequel.
Co-directors Bava and Ruccardi Freda understand the lured nature and conventions of the sci-fi film they are making and really lay into it. They push heavily on atmosphere and light on character. It works in the film’s favor. The acting is slightly better than the norm of this time and the genre. The biggest assets are the film’s lush photography and special effects. Entrancing and beautiful in a way that a low budget sci-fi film from the early 60’s never are. Bava who at this point was a cinematographer and effects supervisor understood what worked and didn’t work in special effects. The way he shoots the effects (as he directed all shots without actors speaking) already shows the stylish quality he would bring to his later work.
The gore effects are shockingly good even by today’s standards. Bava manages to create them with a sheen of goo and filament that makes them all the more real. The scenes of the surgical extraction of the lifeform from someone’s arm is delightfully gruesome and all the more shocking as one does not expect the effects work to be so effective. The “creature” itself is both lackluster and oddly watchable both at the same time. The movement and texture of it is so unique any criticism is almost subsided. One had wished they had found a way to make the entire creature more ‘gooey’ and less dry to hide the obvious bladder mechanisms of the creature.
The film does deliver in its final fifteen minutes as the third act has just about everything you have come to expect from an early 60’s era sci-fi film. A mad scientist attempting to woo then kill his prospective paramour. The creature through some coincidental plot science exposition because to revive. Our hero on the race to help the damsel in distress (and a child too boot). The semi-bad girl duped by the villain. Military involvement. Flamethrowers! Flamethrowers! Did we mention; FLAMETHROWERS! As we know it all ends well but caustically with a message of “DON’T MESS WITH SCIENCE THINGS!”
Special note: Those familiar with Italian genre cinema will be happy to note that this film’s quotient of Flamethrower destruction is off the charts and enough for two Italian genre films (eight non-Italian genre films).
The Transfer: Beautiful. The transfer procured by Arrow is in immaculate condition. The contrast levels are gorgeous with the definition of the blacks just being astounding. The fact that a sci-fi film from this era is as in good a condition as this one is shocking as it is delightful.
The Extra Features: The Special features include:
- Full Aperture version of the film
- New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
- New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bavaand So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
- From Quatermass to Caltiki, a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman on the influence of classic monster movies on Caltiki
- Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master, an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa
- The Genesis of Caltiki, an archival interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi
- Archival introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa
- Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
- Alternate opening titles for the US version
They’ve included a Full Aperture version of the film. I did sample this and found that the 1.66 version much more pleasing to my eye than the 1.33 (e.g. Full Aperture) version. The framing seems to be a bit off on the 1.33. It was not shocking to learn that it was designed to be show 1.66. A wonderful extra non-the-less which basically amounts to an entirely new version of the film!
The two commentaries give a great overview of Bava’s career and how Caltiki fits into that career. Both were only sampled but were filled with lively commentary discussing Italian genre cinema in general giving some context to Caltiki and some anecdotes from the film.
The Kim Newman and Lugi Cozzi interviews are the best of the featurettes. Though it should be noted that Newman actually talking about movie monsters and their evolution as a whole rather than just Caltiki. Cozzi is hilarious talking about Caltiki’s creation. Most Italian Rip Off Cinema geeks will know Cozzi from his nom de plur, Lewis Coates. The hilarity comes from Cozzi having ripped off Bava as Bava had ripped off Quartmass for his own film Contamination!
There is a cool feature that lets you see the alternate titles for the American version and trailers round out this surprisingly robust edition.
The Bottom Shelf: Caltiki, the Immortal Monster is not Bava at his best but the film is definitely interesting and well worth the investment for those that love Italian genre cinema. Recommended.
The Movie: What is so beautiful about early 1970’s giallo films is that they are still attempting to find the mold that they should adhere to. The troupes of the genre had not come full circle yet. Emilio Miragalia’s truly morally wacked out The Night that Evelyn Came out of the Grave fits that mold perfectly. The film has a sheen of grime and
The film is a mystery and essentially a gas lamping revenge thriller with a rich aristocrat serial killer as its central protagonist. Allow everything to sink in in that statement. Miragalia’s film is fascinating because of the lack of morality at play here and how he centralizes his main character as our “hero”. Allan (Anthony Steffen) is a true anti-hero. Miragalia does not sugar coat that this is some sort of Dexter style serial killer. Allan is as awful as Henry in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. It’s not that he has a morally gray compass; he has no moral compass whatsoever.
Miragalia is almost gleeful pushing the film to darker and darker territory until its final deranged Triple Crossing to Quadruple crossing finale. It’s not that good triumph over evil in this film. It’s more survival of the fittest. Miragalia makes it a point to show just how awful every single person is in this film. It’s only the strongest and smartest that will survive. More than a Giallo film, The Night that Evelyn Came out of the Grave feels like a bitter as vermouth film noir, a spiritual cousin to Jim Thompson’s bleak The Killer Inside Me.
The Transfer: It’s a solid transfer. No real issues. Like many of the Giallo Films that Arrow has released this film looks beautiful, keeping that specific look at that Italian genre films of the 1970’s had. It’s that rich colors and deep contrast levels.
The Extra Features: Special Features include:
- New audio commentary by Troy Howarth
- Exclusive introduction by Erika Blanc
- New interview with critic Stephen Thrower
- The Night Erika Came Out of the Grave– exclusive interview with Erika Blanc
- The Whip and the Body – archival interview with Erika Blanc
- Still Rising from the Grave– archival interview with production designer Lorenzo Baraldi
- Original Italian theatrical trailer
The best feature is the new interview with actress Erika Blanc who discusses the film at length and how she came to project and her thoughts on the film itself and its director. The other new feature is also worthwhile, critic Stephen Thorwer discussing the film.
The Bottom Shelf: This is brutal brilliance of bleak story telling. A worthy purchase for any Giallo Geek or fans of sleazy aesthetics, they will love Miragalia’s work here. Recommended (but only for those familiar with Giallo)