Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks / Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette (1974)

2.0 out of 5

By entering an Italian cinematic milieu that would produce the likes of Lado, Martino, Bava, Argento and Fulci, what American producer Dick Randall would direct here could never be considered anything more than a footnote. Nothing more than a curio for the completist.

Yet, with a story that involves Frankenstein's monster, a midget and a reanimated Neanderthal played by Sal Boris, Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks can hardly be faulted for imagination. Sadly, in execution, it really isn't that good a movie.

Nevertheless, as a producer, Randall would be something of a legend. He would be responsible for bringing the world the occasional Bruce Lee clone, a midget spy, Pieces, Invaders of the Lost Gold and The French Sex Murders.

Eyes of Crystal / Occhi di cristallo (2004)

4.0 out of 5

Despite being being born at the peak of the giallo film wave, director Eros Puglielli, here, manages to capture something that will certainly appeal to fans of the golden age classics. For, while Eyes of Crystal is stylistically, at least, very much a twenty-first century film, it is, at the same time, a giallo of the most traditional sort. This may well be, in part, due to the involvement of a genre veteran. Because, here, writing credits are shared with Rings of Fear writer and frequent Dario Argento collaborator, Franco Ferrini. Moving at a good clip, with psychoanalytical themes, creepy dolls and human taxidermy create an eerie and unsettling ambience that is punctuated by some fairly hefty gore sequences.

Lead Luigi Lo Cascio, star of Buongiorno, notte, occasionally chews scenery as he puts in a troubled cop performance which at times rivals the intensity of Tomas Milian's turn in Almost Human.

Blindman (1971)

3.0 out of 5

Amid wanton cruelty, mysogny, and vivid color photography of atrocities--including one of the most grotesque gangs of cackling primate bandidos--director Ferdinand Baldi celebrates all that is violent 70s spaghetti western, assisted by a strong soundtrack and Ringo Starr. Unusual elements supply the story its meager distractions, as a rather short, blind Tony Anthony fills a contract to deliver whores to Texas. There's heavy metal Gatling gun action, copious nudity, eyes burned out with cigars, and a very effective evil madam, Magda Konopka, who generates more onscreen menace, and sex appeal, than the movie's many hairy Spanish gorillas on horseback. Stellar locations include the Condor fortress and numerous, blighted townscapes both ominous in broad daylight, as well as able to contain some energetic massacres. Thankfully, it clocks in at 105 minutes.

Hellbenders / I crudeli (1967)

3.5 out of 5

Joseph Cotten dreams of reviving the confederacy and this is the premise for a western heist and road movie. With a black humour, and a complete eschewing of white hat conventions, there are only rogues where there are often anti-heroes. Also, as with Django, the much underrated Hellbenders has an incredibly imaginative use of a coffin.

By, on the whole, placing a single stagecoach and its occupants at the centre of the action, what director Sergio Corbucci seems to have manage is to presage Mario Bava's Rabid Dogs somewhat. Indeed, there is another, coincidental, Bava connection here: the use of Tor Caldara.

One scene, rich in religious iconography and set in a graveyard upon a stormy night, is a slice of pure, Gothic western, genius. Even alone, this would be worth the price of admission.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics