Women's Prison Massacre / Blade Violent - I violenti (1983)

2.5 out of 5

While this house invasion style film occasionally goes under the name of Emanuelle in Prison, director Bruno Mattei and writer Claudio Fragasso seem to show little interest in making something that fits easily within the whole Black Emanuelle franchise. Despite Laura Gemser's high profile billing, it seems as though the Snuff Trap and Strike Commando director was more interested in the potential for action scenes than for the presence of Emanuelle herself. So, instead of the usual hose-downs, hair pulling and extended shower scenes, there's a Zombie Creeping Flesh style S.W.A.T siege, a blistering car chase and more gun-play than would be typically found within the genre.

Among a fairly generous helping of gore is an I Spit On Your Grave style razor castration and Iris from Beyond the Darkness, Franca Stoppi, gets her throat chomped. Carlo De Mejo, who had briefly become a fixture in Lucio Fulci splatter movies, gets shot.

Lorraine De Selle from Cannibal Ferox plays the warden. She gets to strip down to her standard, prison issue, stockings and suspenders. However it is all pretty tame compared to where Joe D'amato would take the series.

Kidnap Syndicate / La città sconvolta: caccia spietata ai rapitori (1975)

3.0 out of 5

Director Fernando Di Leo takes a surprising turn for the melodramatic in Kidnap Syndicate without skimping on the action that built his reputation. Luc Merenda plays Colella, a blue-collar widower raising his son Fabrizio on coffee and love. When kidnappers nab Fabrizio’s rich school chum Antonio, he tries to fight them off but gets abducted as well.

Because we don’t get acquainted with the kidnappers until 38 minutes into the film, the emotional crux is how rich dad and poor dad each handles the crisis. Antonio’s mega-developer father, a typecast role for James Mason, clearly relishes the art of the deal in securing the boys’ release. Although interest bogs down during the lengthy haggling over their freedom, we anticipate that Colella—seething at the low value placed on Fabrizio—will spring into action.

Sure enough, when the kidnappers turn up the heat, Colella goes full-on sadistic Billy Jack and all hell breaks loose. Car chases end as smash-up derbies to the funky fluttering of Luis Bacalov’s flute. But with most of the thrills pushed to the third act, action seekers may wonder if it was worth the wait.

His Name Was King / Lo chiamavano King (1971)

3.0 out of 5

Giancarlo Romitelli's revenge romp pairs and ultimately pits Richard Harrison and Klaus Kinski together as former friends turned sworn enemies.

With Luis Bacalov's phenomenal title theme, subsequently used in Tarantino's Django Unchained, to brilliantly compliment the plentiful camera sweeps across a surprisingly lush green vista, Harrison gallops back to town for the inevitable, well executed, final gun down.

At under 80 minutes, Romitelli barely has time to set up Kinski's despicable double cross, let alone add much in the way of meat to the bone and things move at such a clip that some may find the narrative somewhat underfed. Nonetheless, His Name Was King remains an enjoyably stylistic, if ever so slightly throwaway, late addition in the spaghetti cycle.

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.

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