Last Year at Marienbad / L'année dernière à Marienbad (1961)

4.5 out of 5

If not for the unusual and oneiric experience the film provides, Last Year at Marienbad could’ve been an exhaustingly dull ordeal, but as it stands the overall product is a peerless work of art that manages to be interesting from seemingly nothing. The reality in the movie feels machine operated, where time starts and stops and automaton-like characters move in and out of spatial existence in an ethereal hotel setting.

A single conversational story runs through the myriad of images and cyclical themes that purposefully reaches no resolve between a nameless man, played by Giorgio Albertazzi, and woman, played by Delphine Seyrig of Daughters of Darkness, who have contradicting memories about intimately getting to know one another a year prior at the European hotel resort in question. Traditional narrative and objective reality are challenged, as it sometimes becomes uncertain as to whether events are happening in the present, the past, or even happening at all. Viewers are welcome to make of it what they will.

Terror Express / La ragazza del vagone letto (1979)

3.0 out of 5

If Aldo Lado's Night Train Murders ever required a companion piece for a double bill, then surely Fernando Baldi's Terror Express must be in with a good shout. With a near identical premise of three thugs terrorising passengers on a train, Baldi jettisons some of the more gruesome elements of Lado's film, in favour of more sleaze, nudity and general debauchery. And with the script being written by no less than George Eastman himself,it's a safe bet that this was, perhaps, originally intended for Eastman's regular directorial cohort, Joe D'Amato and not the more respectable Baldi.

With a great cast, Silvia Dionisio's prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold spends most of her screen time screwing anyone in trousers who pops by her carriage. A frequently topless Zora Kerova gets her customary comeuppance in a dingy train toilet, with only Venantino Venantini as Korova's henpecked husband bringing an air of respectability to proceedings in a pretty straight role. There's not much point trying to intellectualise this film. It's job is to titillate, and it does that extremely well.

Terror Express clearly knows the audience it's aiming for. This is pure exploitation, but one that's never short on entertainment. A claustrophobic setting, relatively decent performances from the cast, and enough sleaze and sex to disgrace even Jess Franco's oeuvre, Terror Express is a pretty decent slice of Friday night exploitation.

Innocence and Desire / Innocenza e turbamento (1974)

3.0 out of 5

Massimo Dallamano, before his death in 1976, excelled as a director in pretty much every genre he engaged with. He would, in the course of little over a decade, work as cinematographer on the excellent Leonne westerns A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More before going on to helm such gems as Devil in the Flesh, What Have You Done to Solange? and Dorian Gray. Here, however, he enters the disreputable milieu of the sexy Commedia All' Italiana.

With a premise not unlike that of the painfully creepy Lover Boy Dallamano manages to lend Innocenza e turbamento a certain touch of sweetness and style that is often lacking somewhat among the whole Sins Within the Family type film. As a result, the film feels closer, in quality, to the wonderful Malizia.

A typecast Edwige Fenech gets to take her clothes off as a seductive stepmum while veteran Eurocrime favourite Vittorio Caprioli is cuckolded. Lionel Stander supports as a sex mad grandfather. However, it is neophyte Roberto Cenci who is the real revelation in this. He is great as an Oedipal seminarian.

Fans of Tinto Brass comedies would probably find much to like in this.

Bridge to Hell, A / Un ponte per l'inferno (1986)

1.0 out of 5

Whilst his peers were busy making Vietnam tinted Macaroni Combat movies in the sweaty jungles of the Philippines, Umberto Lenzi was hoofing it over to Yugoslavia to ill-advisedly work on a film at least ten years out of sync with the filone it would seemingly belong to.

Focusing on the erstwhile fixation with ruthless, bridge obsessed Nazi's and the heroic partisans who want to blow said bridges up, Bridge to Hell is a poorly constructed and contrary WWII movie - pieced together from a bit of this and a bit of that, to apparently spite the faddish preoccupation elsewhere with explosive Rambo clones.

Besides the Nazi Bridge that needs blowing up and a multi national parade of heroes who are on hand to duly oblige, Lenzi throws in footage from other films, an irksome anachronistic synthesizer score better used in a Soap Opera, Nuns who conceal Third Reich treasure and a bunch of extras who flail around yelling schnell, achtung and ja wohl before performing rather lame death throes.

A sorry mess of a movie from beginning to head scratching end, Bridge to Hell is nothing more than an inadequate footnote in Lenzi's oeuvre.

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