Saturday, March 02, 2013

RIP Armando Trovajoli (1917-2013)

Armando Trovajoli, whose long career as a film composer encompassed more than 200 titles, has passed away at the age of 95. His death was announced only today though he died in late February.
He started out professionally as a successful songwriter and jazz pianist, and evolved from a jazz combo to a full jazz orchestra by 1960, during this period accompanying such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. During the great boom in Italian film production of the late '50s and early '60s, he found his skills increasingly in demand by the movie business. Among his most notable accomplishments as a film composer are the scores for such mainstream successes as TWO WOMEN, BOCCACCIO '70, YESTERDAY TODAY AND TOMORROW, MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE, BAMBOLE, THE LIBERTINE, DEADLY SWEET, LONG DAYS OF VENGEANCE, A BULLET FOR ROMMEL, IL COMMISSARIO PEPE, THE PRIEST'S WIFE, THE VALACHI PAPERS, WE ALL LOVED EACH OTHER SO MUCH, MAN OF THE YEAR, SCENT OF A WOMAN (the original), A SPECIAL DAY, WIFEMISTRESS, BLAZING MAGNUM, LA NUIT DES VERENNES, MACARONI and LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. 
His experience in jazz helped to make him particularly adept at creating atmospheric scores in the genres of horror and fantasy. Among his numerous scores of this kind -- sadly under-represented on CD -- are UNCLE WAS A VAMPIRE, ATOM AGE VAMPIRE, ALONE AGAINST ROME, THE GIANT OF THE METROPOLIS, MOLE MEN AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES, HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS, HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD, WEREWOLF IN A GIRL'S DORMITORY, TOTO VS. MACISTE, THE WORLD OF TOPO GIGIO, SEVEN GOLDEN MEN, PLANETS AROUND US, DR JEKYLL LIKES THEM HOT and FRANKENSTEIN 90.
Trovajoli also excelled at writing Italian popular canzone. Check out his work for Paul Anka, Jimmy Fontana, and this splendid medley of his work performed by Mina. Trovajoli continued to serve as a piano accompanist to Mina and also Johnny Dorrelli throughout the 1970s. His most famous composition in his own country is "Roma nun fa' stupida stasere" ("Rome, Don't Be Stupid Tonight"), made famous in the 1960s by opera great Gino Bechi working in a more popular form, which has since come to be regarded by many Italians as the great city's unofficial theme song.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's That Time Again!

Time to vote for the 11th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards!

I'm proud to say that VIDEO WATCHDOG has received 10 nominations in all:
Best Magazine;
Best Cover (Charlie Largent's MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE cover for VW 166);
three Best Article nominations:
Robert Guffey's "Charles Darwin and the Suppressed Science of Dr. Mirakle" (VW 166)
Paul Talbot's "The Unmaking of EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC" (VW 171),
and my DRACULA/FRANKENSTEIN Blu-ray coverage in VW 171; 
a Best Interview nomination for "Say Laví," my Daliah Laví interview in VW 170;
two Best Magazine Horror Column nominations:
Douglas E. Winter's "Audio Watchdog" and
Ramsey Campbell's "Ramsey's Rambles" respectively;
Best Themed Issue for our DARK SHADOWS round table (VW 169);
and one for Best Blog (my Pause. Rewind.Obsess., which you can read right here on the VW website)!

Furthermore, I'm honored to also be nominated for Best Audio Commentary (Mario Bava's HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON)!

Mind you, there are also "write-in" categories, such as Best Writer, Best Reviewer and so forth, so feel free to write our or my other efforts should you feel they are worthy.

This link will take you right to the ballot.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

First Franco

Fun stuff from J.L. Romero Marchent's pioneering paella western EL COYOTE (1954): Jesús Franco's very first screen credits as screenwriter and assistant director, followed by his second screen credit as songwriter (following COMICOS, 1953) and, best of all, what is likely his first-ever screen appearance. He is shown reading a decree of statehood as the American flag is raised in 1848 California.





Sunday, February 10, 2013

Add One More To The Franco Roster

Tonight, to my wonderment, I stumbled across what seems to be an otherwise forgotten Jess Franco screen credit. After watching an old VHS tape tonight, I discovered that the remainder of the tape contained the first 45-50 minutes or so of Marcel Ophuls' HAGAN JUEGO, SENORAS (1965; US: FIRE AT WILL), an Eddie Constantine thriller produced by Henri Baum, who also produced THE DIABOLICAL DR Z around this time. Jesús Franco is given an entire screen credit all to himself for writing the story and Spanish dialogues.

I remember Franco saying in an interview that he had been responsible for dubbing a number of Eddie Constantine films into Spanish in the 1950s, but this came much later, and it has generally been assumed that Franco stopped accepting work-for-hire jobs like this by this point in his directorial career. I don't recall seeing this film appear in any of his filmographies, not in books and certainly not on the IMDb. Now I wish I had the full feature! In fact, I do have the French version of this film in its entirety, but of course its credits make no mention of Franco. It would seem accurate, though, to credit him with writing the story (generally credited to Jacques Robert), as it's supposed to feature an all-girl gang led by a gypsy named Soledad! Franco had previously cast Soledad Miranda in her film debut LA REINA DEL TABARIN (1960) and, by this time, he may have taken notice that she was starting to play more prominent roles in films.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Get The Picture?

Seeing this simple but well-composed image from Hammer's LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971, which also appeared on the cover of its novelization) earlier today reminded me of a time when every new still to surface from an upcoming horror movie seemed to extend the genre's vocabulary. A new still of Christopher Lee as Dracula, or Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein added on to what was previously known about that series of films. I firmly believe this was one of the secrets of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND's success, and partly why it's so hard for similar magazines of today to equal the power of its zeitgeist. It could be something as simple as a new face screaming, a new slapdash makeup for Frankenstein's monster, a new actor portraying Count Dracula, or an incomprehensible shot from a Mexican monster rally I'd probably never see -- they all conspired to make the genre more vital and fascinating. For me, this sense of perpetually new discovery stopped sometime in the 1980s, but I don't take full responsibility for that. It's not that I lost my love for this stuff, or that horror movies themselves became redundant, but that the Art of the Movie Still itself began to suffer. Most collectors will tell you that lobby card sets from the 1980s are crap. It should be remembered by all filmmakers, active or aspiring, that the best way to generate some genuine excitement about your feature is to take some great still photos while you're in production. If a picture can be worth a thousand words, why can't it sell a thousand tickets?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Loving the Vampire

I watched Jess Franco's FEMALE VAMPIRE (1973) tonight via Netflix on my Kindle Fire HD. It turned out to be an unexpectedly wonderful way of watching it, making it a more intimate and book-like experience. It may be the first time I've seen it in French with subtitles, and the soundtrack is alive from beginning to end with the sounds of nature and people; there is a scene where Jack Taylor follows Lina Romay to a public place scattered with empty chairs though we hear a crowd of children and grown-ups milling about, talking and laughing -- but, you see, he only has eyes for her. This is remarkable stuff and something I've never gotten from the English dub.

FEMALE VAMPIRE, aka THE LOVES OF IRINA aka EROTIKILL, is basically the story of four lonely sexual encounters ending in death; it depicts the grief of solitude in the lives of three of its victims before dispatching them, and we are given glimpses in the aftermath assuring us these lost souls are no longer alone. There's very little script, so it unfolds remarkably slowly for a film whose cult only came about in the age of the short attention span. "Elegiac pacing," they call it.

But what is very obvious to me about the film now, seeing it again and knowing when in their story it was filmed chronologically, is that it's the marriage contract between Jess and Lina. This was Lina's first starring role. She knew that Jess was mourning Soledad Miranda, who had portrayed a premonition of this character in VAMPYROS LESBOS, made the same year (1970) she died in an automobile accident at the age of 27. And she literally gives him Soledad and more. She is not only declaring her love but demonstrating it, serving up all she has to give to his eye and camera. And he worships her in return, which is all she asks in order to give him everything. Which is, in effect, a vision of the remainder of his career. The film begins with them meeting, when he is only a camera; she steps out of the misty woods and he gives her a good look up and down, like one forest creature meeting another. She butts him away so the story can be told, and it only ends when the two characters they play, his (a forensic surgeon) searching for hers ("the mouth that kills") for most of the running time, finally meet on the same plane, in the the same room.

And Jess lives.

FEMALE VAMPIRE is also available on Blu-ray and DVD from Redemption Video.