Friday the 13th: Great Moments in Product Placement

debbie friday the 13th iii 3 fangoria steve miner

i am so getting one of these don post gorilla suits

Though product placement is no new addition to the annals of the Friday the 13th franchise, the blatant advertising–and for ill-suited luxury brands, at that–of the 2009 reboot elevates it to a level of avid consumerism foretold by John Carpenter’s They Live. The fervency with which horny college kids name-drop brands like Aquafina while under the influence of Maker’s Mark and Heineken–would warm the cockles of whatever it is that Carpenter’s fascist fiends from outer space have for hearts.

Advertising through product placement is by now a time-honored tradition in film and television. Not only does it grant opportunities for advertisers to exploit people young and old by encouraging them to equate consumption with identity, but it also allows for some quick and lazy storytelling and character development via brand identity, as it does in Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th, where a fondness for Moët et Chandon speaks volumes about a character’s proclivities. That isn’t to say that product placement doesn’t have its, er, place in the mise en scene of a film, which is how it was most often used in earlier franchise installments. Without further ado, let’s explore the greatest (and sometimes not so great) moments of product placement in the history of the Friday the 13th movies!

Friday the 13th

friday the 13th monopoly sean cunningham

community chest? not a chance, ’cause she’s a final girl

Ah, Friday the 13th (1980). A film from a simpler time, with flashback to an even simpler time. The counselors-to-be of Camp Crystal Lake circa 1980ish work and play under the auspices of The New Joy of Sex‘s Steve and his manly short shorts. When off duty, they kick back with Budweiser stubbies and grass (not weed, nor pot, not in that day and age), and a little premarital sex. It’s good for what ails ya. The other star of the placement show in this first installment is good ol’ Monopoly. The venerable Parker Bros game was–and still is–a familiar familial mainstay; in 1980 it demonstrates how ordinary and just like the audience these teens are, albeit a little bit sexy with the strip conversion. Looking back from 2015, land of Cards Against Humanity, it’s a signifier of the nostalgic innocence of the era.

Friday the 13th Part II

friday the 13th 2 ii steve miner paul bar kiss pinball

can you believe she seriously thought the lyric was “… and part of every day?”

Like its predecessor, Friday the 13th Part II is all beer and skittles. Well, beer and pinball. And handheld videogames, but those are seriously lacking in the glamour, the mystique, and the primal sexual dynamism of pinball–particularly pinball as manifested bymotherfuckin’ KISS. In 1981, pinball was no longer king, but arcades were. The 1978 Bally game featured in Part II is relegated to the background, a reminder of what youth was like in the halcyon days of the Seventies. Though the counselors of Part II are cleaner cut (not quite preppy, but close) than their predecessors, they grew up on pinball and KISS, and when they go home after a night of drinking, those pelvic thrusts immortalized in the likes of TILT and Pinball Summer will be replicated in the dark. Plus, beer. Being 1981, imports and premium beers are favored: Heineken and Löwenbräu. Plebeian domestics like Bud and Busch are on tap or not being consumed. But as a harbinger of things to come, it’s a Miller Light sign, the first and greatest of the light beers, that gazes benignly down like a cool, blue moon.

Friday the 13th Part III

friday the 13th 3 iii steve miner nick savage ali

made you flinch

3D. 3D. 3D. It’s 1982, and Hollywood is smack in the middle of another (all too brief) 3-D boom. Parasite would be the first horror release in twenty years, but hard on its heels was Friday the 13th Part III (sadly, not stylized Part 3-D as in 1983’s Jaws 3-D and Amityville 3-D). The eye-popping (haHA!) exuberance of 3-D augurs the juggernaut of Reagan’s Great Expansion just getting underway, leading to not only the end of stagflation and recession but an unprecedented bull market. It’s not a great installment, but the kids are dying alright, and everything’s gonna come up roses and yoyos in your face. It’s fitting then, that the product placement in Part III should be as unsubtle as a truck. And well, that’s exactly what you get. Sure, Ali comes out of the market cracking open an Oly tallboy (a sight to cherish in my PNW-transplant’s heart), but that fleeting glimpse is immediately eclipsed by an entire fucking Olympia truck front and center in the frame. Brb, getting some beer. Part III‘s second moment to shine comes with the death of Debbie, the horror fan’s victim, a regular girl who likes to get down and happens to read Fango–featuring an article on the franchise’s own effects whiz, Tom Savini. At the risk of being simplistic, it is here that the franchise develops a Proteus IV-like self-awareness. The tongue is planted firmly in the cheek on this one, and we’re not brownnosin.’

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

camilla carey more doublemint twins friday the 13th 4 the final chapter joseph zito

dibs on the hot one

In a world where daycare workers are accused of ritual Satanic abuse and a crazy new virus called AIDS makes its debut, windows are about to get broken. A child hero will rise, and an undead manifestation of a murderous mongoloid wild child will fall–forever? That’s right, into the fray of the anti-slasher backlash leapt The Final Chapter, bustin through like, five fucking windows (glass! it sucks!). Slammin’ Joe “Fuck Windows” Zito defenestrates everyone and everything, helming an “immoral and reprehensible piece of trash”  fans would love. It’s a film that’s “literally about stabbing”–and throwing shit through windows. Only the most exquisitely subtle product placement could grace such an delicately crafted confection of pastels and pleated pants, and Joe “Flagrante De” Zito takes it home with Camilla and Carey More, the fucking Doublemint Twins. I dare you to not pound gum into your face, hand over fist, while watching this film. The only thing harder would be not defenestrating oneself.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

friday the 13th 5 a new beginning candybar

wtf even is this munchies crap? vic’s actions … totally justified

What the fuck, A New Beginning? You had one fucking job, and that was to have Jason dispatch Fine Young Things with style and verve. And a product is only placed if it’s actually a legitimate fucking product that exists within this world, and what is this Munchies Bar shit? And what’s with the Greatest Hits-style replay of moments from previous installments? I don’t hate you, A New Beginning, because despite it all, you have a lot of charm, but damn did you fuck up. Oh, and coke makes its debut. No longer are we chill post-hippies; the party season is upon us.

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI

friday the 13th 6 vi jason lives amex american express

just don’t leave home

Let’s face it: when you think product placement in a Friday the 13th movie, you think Jason Lives. And if there’s anything less relevant to Jason, or to the lives of the teenagers both within the film and without, it’s a fucking American Express card. But that’s okay, because it’s the Eighties, Jason’s down with the ladies, and greed is better than good, it’s great! Don’t leave home without it… unless you want to survive the decade/movie, in which case you’re better off sporting Sartre’s No Exit. It’s a little more apt, ain’t it?

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

friday the 13th vii 7 new blood pepsi

ain’t no party like a pepsico party

1988’s The New Blood takes the Pepsi Challenge with its New Generation… of suck. Jettisoning quality (such as it may be) for novelty, the seventh (!) installment of Friday the 13th brings us Jason versus Carrie, the first truly unlikable cast, and Kane Hodder in his first appearance as the unsinkable Jason V. Hearkening back to the structure of The Final ChapterThe New Blood features two intertwining storylines: Final Girl et familias and Party Kids. About Tina, we needn’t say much, and about the Party Jerks Kids, well… they’re jerks. They’re real Clean Teens who’ve got a lot of coke, pot, and generic beer, and I’d rather die than spend twenty minutes with them. But hey, their fingerlicking good party is sponsored by PepsiCo! No longer a grotty little franchise that could, Friday the 13th had sold out, and no amount of blood would wash and cleanse it free from stain–a fitting cynicism in light of the Iran-Contra Affair, the CIA drug trafficking scandal, and the peaking of both the crack epidemic and high crime trends of the Eighties. We don’t need a Coke and a smile; now it’s time for a Slice and a dice.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

friday the 13th 8 jason takes manhattan viii times square

bright knives, big city

After an hour on a boat outside Vancouver, BC, Jason prances through a curiously empty “Gotham” for thirty minutes, and we’re treated to a few shots of Times Square in this paean to The Big Apple. If the only marquee we glimpse is for Black and Blue instead of New York Ripper or See You Next Wednesday, it’s okay because “New York” is still a pretty shitty ass place full of drug addict rapist muggers (all in one due to budgetary constraints) run amok. And they have syringes full of the Ooze. For something selling us on Old New Amsterdam, Jason Takes Manhattan is strangely lacking in that Melting Pot flava. At least Jason eventually punches a dude’s head off, which is kind of not shitty, in a mildly amusing sort of way. I Heart New York.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and Jason X

friday the 13th jason goes to hell

del monte sued to get that tape added digitally in post-production

There’s really nothing to say about Jason Goes to Hell, a movie so shitty that no one and nothing wanted to be associated with it.

Jason X, which ended up coming out before the Jason versus Freddy movie that we were promised at the end of JG2H, is understandably nearly devoid of recognizable products, since it takes place over 400 years in the future. In space. With Space Marines. But it does still have plenty of teens and a shady teacher and they go on a field trip, just like JTM. The movie includes a shout out to series creator Sean S. Cunningham using a space billboard advertising for Cunningham Realty’s Lunar Estates, but the only real world reference in the film comes as a brief mention of a historical Microsoft Conflict.

Freddy vs. Jason

friday the 13th freddy vs jason misfits

from kiss pinball to this?!

In a series notorious for being artistically-lacking money-grabs, Freddy vs. Jason is probably the worst money-grab of all. It’s apropos then, that the sadly abused Misfits logo makes an appearance, as a lazy form of character development. A Misfits air freshener hanging in a party van is nothing if not pathetic and shamelessly mercenary. Thanks, Jerry Only! Aside from that we’ve got Coke (machine and cans) Sprite and Cannabis Culture Magazine, Everclear, Chloraseptic Throat Spray and Pepto-Bismol, horrible CGI, and well, horrible everything. It’s all offensive: the racism and homophobia, the poor quality, and what the fuck is this hydrophobia bullshit? Jason’s new fear of water, contrived specifically for this film, is just one of the things in FvJ that seems made up on the spot and then explained poorly with ridiculous exposition. It is without a doubt the worst writing of every movie to feature Jason (or Pam or Roy) and that’s really saying something.  Ugh, fuck this movie and the corporate synergy it rode in on.

So are we going to eventually see Jason stalking the grounds of Progressive Insurance Lake? Will he massacre Chiquita Banana Fatties wearing Jansport backpacks while hitchhiking their way to counselors jobs at Apple’s iCamp for Lumpy-headed Kids That Don’t Swim Too Well? Where do you think product placement within the Friday the 13th series will go in the future?

The Screaming Minis: Exists

the blair sasquatch project

the blair sasquatch project

Director: Eduardo Sánchez
Starring: Samuel Davis, Dora Madison Burge, Roger Edwards
Running time: 86 minutes
Genre: Horror

I got a chance this past weekend to see a sneak pre-release showing of the new found footage Bigfoot flick by Eduardo ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ Sánchez. It was another one of those mystery showings, like last year, when I caught The Bay as part of a local event, but oh my god, was it so much more satisfying. Sánchez has a pretty good handle on this found footage stuff, unsurprisingly, him being a big part of why the sub-genre(?!–if that’s even what you’d call it) is as big as it is now. He uses a lot of GoPro footage in Exists, very similar to the way he used GoPros in the “A Ride in the Park” segment of V/H/S2 and while that’s probably my least favorite part of V/H/S2 that has more to do with it being a rehash of a zombie-outbreak type story, and zombie stories, as much as I love ’em, are currently in a state of heavy over-saturation. But Sasquatch … ! That’s a whole ‘nother story. And I love ‘squatches! That isn’t in my About Me, but it really should be. I’ve been a crypto-fiend since I was a tyke watching In Search Of… way back when. And I’ve already talked on here about being a big fan of found footage, so  I was all in with this flick.

Simple set-up: a group of five adventure seekers head out into the woods to visit the old cabin their uncle owns and has mysteriously decided he never wants to use again. On the way up there, driving late at night on a road in the middle of nowhere, they hit something with their car. They didn’t get a good look at what it was, but assumed it was some animal based on a little fur stuck on the car and went on their way. Spoiler: it was not a deer or a raccoon they hit and now something in the woods is feeling really, really pissy.

Now,  to get out of the way my one–well, not complaint, but I guess the one thing I can’t praise the film for–the protagonists in this movie, while not entirely unbelievable (except for a few really stupid decisions) or unlikeable, are mostly meh. They’re a couple of mostly generic pretty girls with little to do other than be pretty and be afraid, a pair of extreme dudes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Mountain Dew commercial, and one stoner than insists on filming everything for Youtube views. You may not passionately hate these people, but I doubt anyone is going to love them either.

That antagonist though! Look, in a Bigfoot flick, the character that really matters most is the critter himself and that’s where Exists really delivers.

I once saw a gorilla at the zoo get angry at and jealous of another gorilla being given Kool-Aid sips on the other side of the habitat. He launched himself from his sitting spot so fast that he kicked up a giant cloud of dirt behind him Roadrunner-style, traveled the whole length of the enclosure–maybe 60 to100 feet or more (I’m terrible at judging distances)–in a split second, and two-hand fist-smashed the other gorilla on the back so hard that you could feel the vibrations from the impact in the ground. That hit rocked the whole area. The Bigfoot in Exists reminds me of that gorilla. This is not the Bigfoot of Harry and the Hendersons. Boggy Creek, this ain’t. It isn’t even Night of the Demon. This thing is terrifying. It is not a slow, lumbering, idiot beast. It is fast, powerful, smart, and scary enough to make Jane Goodall pull a Cartman. “Screw you guys, I’m going home.” This monster makes you think of early man interacting with other apes and wonder how he ever managed to survive long enough for there to be an us now. Exists is like Orca in the woods with a Bigfoot (now that would be a bitchin’ game of Clue,) because killer whales are useless in forests. Even if you hate the kids in the movie, you will still feel for them when this angry creature comes running out of the woods at them, whooping and hollering, because you can’t see that thing charging toward the camera and not be aware of how you would just involuntarily flood the Earth with poo if it was coming after you.

Exists, as I’m posting this, has just been made available On Demand and in select theaters. You should be able to find info about screenings and where to find it On Demand over on the Exists Facebook page. If you’re only going to watch one Bigfoot movie this Halloween, this is the one that will make you plotz. Also, you’re a slacker. Really? Just one Bigfoot movie? I am scorning you so hard right now.

Oh, and there’s a very objectionable scene with a Burning of the Beard. It is not even cool. Not. Even. Cool. I’d have killed everyone before the ‘squatch ever could. Beard-o-philes, you will cringe. They need a trigger warning on the poster.

stevie wayne ain’t got nothin’ on fisty

The good folks over at The Six and a Half Feet Under Podcast invited Fisty and I (Bill) to join them (X and James Branscome) in a discussion of all things giallo in their latest episode, Giallo 201. So if you want to hear X rhapsodize eloquently about the massive wooden dildo murders of  The Sister of Ursula… If you’re dying to hear the sweet sound of Fisty’s auditory gushing for Femi Benussi… If you’re intrigued by the mystery of James’ mid-show disappearance and our Bewitched-like ability to just go on and pretend like it didn’t happen… Or if you want to hear me embarrass myself completely by crediting (or dissing, as the case may be) the wrong special effects guy… THEN HERE IS YOUR CHANCE!

We also manage to namecheck The Sweet Body of Deborah, Strip Nude for Your Killer, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, Trauma, Death in Venice, What Have You Done to Solange?, All the Colors of the Dark, Who Saw Her Die?, A Blade in the Dark, One on Top of the Other, Orgasmo/Paranoia, A Quiet Place to Kill/Orgasmo, So Sweet So Dead, Hatchet for the Honeymoon,
The Killer Must Kill Again, Tenebrae, Short Night of Glass Dolls, and maybe even a couple more!.

And be sure to swing on over to the 6.5 Feet Under page on podomatic HERE and give them a like and subscribe and take a listen to their other episodes. Even the ones without PB&G are good!

Comment and let us know if you liked the show and if this is something you’d enjoy more of.

And, lastly, WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOU! We have a few new reviews in the works and we promise not to make you wait months for them. Ciao!

A Quiet Place to Kill

2013 italian film culture blogathon

Yes, things look a little different here today. This review is part of The Nitrate Diva’s 2013 Italian Film Culture Blogathon, a celebration of all aspects of Italian film culture. And as such, we’re including a little background information for those readers not accustomed to giallo. Without further ado …

You know, there are directors who achieve fame or notoriety chiefly through a particular work (or even a couple), regardless of how representative it is of their oeuvre. To the general public, Umberto Lenzi likely means nothing, except perhaps, “What gibberish are you talking now?” but to horror fans, Lenzi means Cannibal FeroxNightmare City. Maybe even Eaten Alive! Which are all … decidedly not good. Some might go so far as to call them worthless trash. And that’s a damn shame, because Umberto Lenzi–and he will be the first to tell you this–has made a number of fine films, or at the least, far better ones over the course of his long career. I’d say the majority of his pre-1980 work is better by far, but it’s Lenzi’s curse to be known best as a purveyor of ultraviolent cannibal sleaze.

Lenzi’s strengths lie chiefly in action and exciting set pieces, and accordingly some of his finest work is in the poliziottesco filone–the “tough cop” crime and action flicks of the Seventies inspired by the likes of Dirty HarryLenzi’s poliziotteschi are easily comparable to the best of the filone by acknowledged masters like Di Leo, Dallamano, and Castellari. But before the rise of the poliziottesco, there was the giallo.

For those tyros tuning in Wikipedia can provide a quick background on the giallo; for our purposes, the essentials are that the giallo was a sort of crime thriller popular in the Sixties and Seventies; it was during the latter decade that the genre peaked (about 1972). In 1963’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much and 1966’s Blood and Black Lace Mario Bava laid out the general narrative structures and tropes of the filone (later playing with those same generic conventions in a string of ever more experimental gialli), while Dario Argento’s 1970 debut The Bird with the Crystal Plumage upped the ante with yet more violence and psychosexual drama–and was an international breakthrough hit. (Note that this film and Bird were released simultaneously, AQP2K coming out one day after Bird.) It is Argento’s work (in the vein of Bava) that is synonymous with the current popular conception of the giallo–complete with elaborate violence, kitschy style, and often impenetrable plotting. Most of the gialli popular today are from the “classic” period of 1970-1975, and therefore are considered direct descendants of Bird, and so the relentless discussion among fans and purists of just what does or does not constitute a “proper” giallo works from Bird’s example. And the Sixties gialli (saving Bava’s work, of course–in MOST instances) often fall victim to the “but really, what IS a giallo!?” nitpickers, particularly the type we’re discussing here, the sexy-thriller lenziani.

(Wait, what? That dude we just mentioned, the one largely reviled by anyone other than ardent gorehounds or fans of Eurocrime ? That guy has like, a film genre filone named after him? Yeah, pretty much. And it’s awesome!)

Differing from the Argento-type gialli in that they’re less mystery thrillers than suspense thrillers, i.e., the killer’s identity isn’t usually a mystery,  but rather the mystery lies in whether the killer will get away with their crime–and sometimes (always?) whether there is yet ANOTHER layer of duplicity. Less Agatha Christie than Hitchcock, these Sixties sexy-thrillers lenziani are also more Clouzot’s Les diaboliques than anything elseThink of the sexy-thriller lenziani as a gorgeous detour on the way from Bava to Argento, one that winds its way through sunny Mediterranean locales populated by the rich and glamorous. Carroll Baker and Jean Sorel will be there, looking fine, and there will be more of the beautiful people–and many of them will be nude! There will be scads of booze and pills, women and song, lies and videotape. We’re going to hop into a sporty little roadster and speed down treacherous serpentine roads until we reach the shocking conclusion of the sexy-thriller lenziani.

sex, lies, & super8

sex, lies, & super8

aka A Quiet Place to Kill
aka Os Ambiciosos Insaciáveis
aka Una droga llamada Helen
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Released: 1970
Starring: Carroll Baker, Jean Sorel, Anna Proclemer, Luis Dávila
Running time: 94 min
Genre: giallo

Women are sometimes silent, but never when there’s nothing to say. Lilian Terry, however, has plenty to say. She begins crooning “You,” the title track to Paranoia, over some Umiliani loungey jazz stylings. As the credits roll, we see  … I don’t even know what, but it sure is exciting! It’s all in Glorious Negativecolor, for one. There are zooms on women walking and staring, and cameras rolling–on us! There are reflections and distortions, rack focusing and women appearing, always staring. There’s a gun! And a crash! And a struggle! There’s running, and slapping, and ominous men in suits! And yet more staring, staring, staring! That dratted camera again! And it’s all tremendously exciting with the crooning the reversed colors and the THINGS HAPPENING. Finally, we see–who? Oh, it’s La Baker, and she’s ready for some Formula 1 fun.

And there we are, transported to a racetrack where Helen is a racecar driver, a veritable Maria Andretti. Only she sees (hallucinates? recalls? envisions? prophesies?) a handsome man (Jean Sorel) standing on the track–all we need now is Mary Weiss shrieking “Look out, look out look out!”–a swerve and a crash! The ambulance rushes the driver away, she goes into surgery, and then it’s … some time later, and Helen’s apparently recovered. Oh, all but her nerves, which are shot per the doctor, she’ll never race again. He also warns her against excitement, sex, smoking and drinking. Allowed to choose one but vice, Helen goes with whiskey, jettisoning playboys and fun. It’s not all so bad, however, as she’s also given a lifetime membership to the Valley of the Dolls–as long as she never takes one on an empty stomach!

Leaving the hospital with her erstwhile flunky/manager/paramour/hair model, Helen gets the bad news that she’s on the hook for MILLIONS (of lira, so who cares, it’s not like it’s real money anyways) for her hospital treatment and stay. Also for even more MILLIONS (see above) for the racecar she wrecked. On the plus side, she’s got a telegram from some well wisher! There’s always a silver lining. Turns out that the telegram is from Helen’s ex-husband Maurice, who’s got a villa in Mallorca, and suggests she visit. Playboy von Glamourhair makes a whiskey stop, and while he’s in the shop, Helen absconds with his sporty little car, headed for Mallorca.

helen was a racecar driver

helen was a racecar driver

you give love a bad name

you give love a bad name

when passion's a prison you can't break free

when passion’s a prison you can’t break free

In sunny Mallorca, however, Helen will find that it was actually Maurice’s WIFE (!!!) Constance who sent the telegram. And though she’s hesitant about joining Maurice and Constance for a little menage, their frolicsome fun in the sun life is just irresistible. As is Maurice. He’s just as deliciously seductive as he was when Helen married him (seriously, have you SEEN Jean Sorel!?), and Helen’s just as much under his spell as she ever was. Also under the influence of a drug called Maurice is Constance–but she yearns to break free. She enlists Helen in the founding chapter of Maurice Anonymous, and under her program the first step is murdering Maurice.

Murder is plotted and a murder occurs, but whose? Will the perpetrators convince the authorities of their story? Was the crime caught on tape? And just what is that untrustworthy nymphette Susan up to? It’s all J&B and jetsetters, women and Wess & the Airedales, upskirts and Umiliani until someone gets hurt–or dead.

A typical European male: selfish amoral, and corrupt. Between Bava and Aregnto there was a school of gialli rather unlike those with which we are more familiar. They are the psycho-sexy thrillers lenziani, and, well, guess who was the master? These gialli by way of Hitchcock and Clouzot–often with a noirish touch–are a breed apart from the post-Argento giallo, although their influence shouldn’t be underestimated.

your very first kiss was your first kiss goodbye

your very first kiss was your first kiss goodbye

psycho sexy

psycho sexy, qu’est-ce que c’est?

who's the hypotenuse now!?

who’s the hypotenuse now!?

Fisty: Let’s talk negatives first, specifically, that credits sequence. Maybe I suffer from short-term memory loss, but that was one of THE most exciting credit sequences I have ever seen. The first time I watched Paranoia, I remember being so jazzed within thirty seconds that I was jumping up and down, jizzing, texting, and tweeting. Then I tore my hair out. And started scream-crying, like footage of girls seeing The Beatles or Danny Bonaduce in person for the first time. I’m kind of getting the urge to start doing that again right now, actually. The music! The action! The cutaways! The crazy colors! SO. MUCH. EXCITEMENT.

You know, normally we wouldn’t spend so much time, either in the synopsis or the actual review, discussing a credit sequence, but in this case it’s absolutely warranted. The brilliant (yes, I am applying that adjective to Umberto Lenzi, more on that momentarily) thing about the sequence is not only how (incredibly) exciting it is, but the way it–well, I’ll let you take this one, Billy.

Bill: First, let me explain to the readers (as if we have those–HA!) what the hell you’re talking about, in case we aren’t being clear enough.

For anyone that hasn’t seen Paranoia (which I will now begin calling A Quiet Place to Kill or AQP2K for short–I’ll come back to that in a second,) the entire opening credit sequence is a montage of scenes from the movie with the colors reversed or, say it with me, “in NEG-UH-TIVE.” Now go back and read Fisty’s first sentence and laugh at her, because she’s funny. You can always trust her to bring the wits and class. She really was as excited as she claims about that opening sequence, too. That is not hyperbole. Her excitement was warranted though. It really is a kick ass way to open the movie … and kind of brilliant. You see all this struggle and violence and trippy, fun-looking stuff that foreshadows everything you’re about to see, while still keeping you clueless as to which things will be happening to what characters, since it’s so hard to recognize people in negative. Once you have seen the flick and re-watch that part, knowing exactly what you’re seeing in the intro makes it even cooler. One negative about the negative (I stole that from you, Fisty,) it does also tend to make everyone look a bit like poorly done CGI characters when they move. But there’s no way Lenzi could’ve have known that in 1970.

a quiet place to--oh, whatever

a quiet place to–oh, whatever

i play my part and you play your game

i play my part and you play your game

an ideal place to--oh, goddamnit, lenzi!

an ideal place to–oh, goddamnit, lenzi!

Getting back to the title thing … Umberto Lenzi’s Paranoia came out in 1969, starring Carroll Baker only to be followed by Umberto Lenzi’s Paranoia, which came out in 1970 starring Carroll Baker. SAY WHAT?! The ’69 film, known as Orgasmo in Italy, was retitled to Paranoia for international release. The ’70 film, Paranoia–that’s the one we’re doing now–was given the same name as the U.S. re-title of Orgasmo. So, to avoid confusion, they retitled Paranoia as A Quiet Place to Kill internationally. This attempt to avoid confusion has failed. I got confused just writing this. Seriously, what the hell, man? Is the “ridiculous” in our “ridiculous re-titles” tag even a strong enough word for this tomfoolery, Fisty? Do we need a new tag? Maybe something with curse words in it?

Fisty: Dude, it gets better! The title of Lenzi’s 1971 giallo Un posto ideale per uccidere translates to An Ideal Place to Kill, though it was released in the US as both Oasis of Fear and Dirty Pictures. So after releasing Paranoia with the international title A Quiet Place to Kill he released another film with a similar title. AND, his original intent was for Orgasmo to be titled Paranoia. What with the reuse of Wess & the Airedales’ “Just Tell Me” in both Orgasmo and A Quiet Place to Kill, I think Umberto Lenzi gets a wee bit fixated on motifs now and again.

Bill: You don’t say? Could you call filming with a glass of red liquid ruining your shot twenty-eight different times in one movie a motif he was stuck on? If so, then I agree. He is a better filmmaker than most people that know him only for cheap exploitative thrills would probably realize, but in this instance, I have to wonder what he was thinking. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why he would intentionally ruin his shot over and over with the glasses. There’s a few other scenes with, like, planters and vases in the foreground that throw you off, too. Is this some cultural thing that I’m not understanding? Just an eccentricity of Lenzi? Was this movie originally meant to be in 3D (with a funky disco cocaine theme song)?

you promise me heaven then put me through hell

you promise me heaven then put me through hell

quit being a bitch and fill one up

quit being a bitch and fill one up

bill is so pissed

bill is so pissed

Fisty: (Inasmuch as disco’s progenitors include funk, lounge, psychedelica, yes. Sort of.) But no. Those shots are hardly “ruin[ed],” Bill. Your use of “intentional” there should clue you in to what Lenzi was playing at with the different compositions –and AQP2K is indeed chockablock with funky yet elegant shots. Lenzi seems a bit experimental, like he’s playing more with different ways of telling the story visually rather than simply through the narrative, and that the tricks aren’t there just to to heighten dramatic impact. That showy rack focusing you find so distracting? Another way for Lenzi to show how the roles of victims and perpetrators become increasingly blurred and overlapping, the ways in which motives are obscured.

Lenzi also throws a lot of mirrored or double compositions and subjective camera shots into the mix, further playing with notions of just who’s doing what to whom here. Some of my favorites involve Helen and Constance, particularly their first scene (featuring a stunning gold crackle mirror tiled fireplace!), in which they’re both wearing green, establishing their jealous natures. Lenzi plays with color quite a bit, clothing Constance–and in one episode, Helen–literally in gold, symbolizing perhaps a deeper motive, and of course the film is practically awash in the red stuff. No, not blood (these Sixties gialli are rarely bloody), but myriad red libations–what are they, aperitifs? Campari or vermouth? I have no idea. Those little red glasses of SOMETHING potent–that’s important, Bill–are some of the worst offenders in those shots you hate. But Lenzi liberally splashes his film with red, the color of passion, anger, and blood.

Bill: I’m down with all the mirrors and the colors and characters dressing as one another and the flashes of memories and imaginings he uses to keep things twisty-turny and have the audience questioning everything. That’s all done very well. But whatever Lenzi was trying to get across by sticking a bunch of blurry crap in our faces, so we can’t even see the actors, he failed. Sure, you can say he hiding the actors behind a mask of colors that  represent their passions to show how those overpowering emotions are occluding their rational selves or whatever bunk you want throw out about it, but really, he could’ve done that in a much less annoying way. I think he did manage the same thing in other films without making me use my rage face. At least I don’t remember it being as jarring in Orgasmo or So Sweet…  So Perverse. I know Fulci has used similar ideas in, for instance, Perversion Story, but it wasn’t as frequent and it came off as cool, instead of … irritating. I don’t want to say this is because Lenzi is a bad filmmaker. Like I said earlier, he’s better than most give him credit for. I like him. But he is kind of eccentric and, I think, has a harder time pulling off ideas like that in a successful way. Or maybe he’s just a genius and he’s too smart for his own audiences. What do I know? I mostly watch these flicks for the sex and violence.

shot through the heart!

shot through the heart!

no one can save me; the damage is done

no one can save me

the damage is done

the damage is done

Mmmmm, violence. But only some! These lenziani tend to be fairly light on violence compared to other gialli, and that’s why they usually aren’t my favs. They do typically make up for it in other ways, however, like adding plenty of salacious kink,  bodacious style, beautiful locales, and vice vice vice! There’s booze and pills and T&A and sexual sadism, like Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion‘s Minou (who would totally be besties with Helen) in her sexy surrender scene in that movie, or the stylistic brilliance of Fulci filming a sex scene from the POV of a bed in Perversion Story. The pop culture hipness of The Sweet Body of Deborah is the big draw for me there, with a comic book themed nightclub and permanent Twister fixtures in the front yard. And Lenzi’s own Orgasmo keeps me rapt with the psycho-sexual torment a cute young couple put Carroll Baker through. AQP2K tries to make up for its lack of a body count by having Helen be naked pretty much every 10-15 minutes or so, which, believe me, I did appreciate. There’s also a fun club scene with a bitchin’ dancin’ girl upskirt (but, ugh, the song almost ruins it,) a fantastically bizarre cavern club, and some crazy, fun other stuff, like Hitchcock nods, Jean Sorel being ridiculously entertaining, and a scene with a stuffed fox monster … thing. And plenty of lovely decor, sets and artsy scenes, not counting those stupid drinking glass in the foreground ones. But, personally, I don’t think it was enough. I liked it and I certainly was never bored, but I don’t think it rises to the level of the other films I mentioned.

Fisty: I know some of his choices irritate you (though you’re TOTALLY wrong), but it’s important to note that Lenzi’s stylistic choices are used consistently and coherently; the style essentially delineates the text.

now part of this complete breakfast

now part of this complete breakfast

paint your smile on your lips

paint your smile on your lips

ohhhhhhh, you're a loaded gun!

ohhhhhhh, you’re a loaded gun!

For me, AQP2K has an elegance, a neatness, a … well, I’m just going to go ahead and quote Margaret Mitchell here: There was a glamor to it, a perfection and a completeness and a symmetry to it like Grecian art. Some–including Bill here–might argue my use of “perfection,” but when we take the concept of perfection back to it’s origins (sup, Aristotle!), we’re talking about something that is not only the best of its kind, but that is a whole, not missing any of its parts, and that it achieves its purpose. Though it might be argued (okay, is argued here) that AQP2K is not the best of its kind, it’s undoubtedly a consummate sexy thriller lenziano, made up of all the requisite parts. And most importantly for this argument, IT DOES WHAT IT SET OUT TO DO. Or rather, what Lenzi set out to do. To it. With it. Or something. Whatever. AQP2K is sexy, thrilling, and entertaining–and that’s exactly what we ask of gialli, be they in the style of Bava or Argento or Lenzi.

And lest we forget, AQP2K is technically excellent in every respect. The cast nails it; they don’t just hit their marks but inhabit their roles–Sorel and La Baker in particular playing signature character types. The psychology of the characters is credible, particularly Helen’s (and to a lesser degree, Constance’s) embodiment of Carlos Fuentes’ statement “Jealousy kills love, but leaves desire intact.” There’s a rococo look to it as well, from the sunny, golden exteriors in Mallorca to the literally glittering interiors–and costumes. And Piero Umiliani’s loungey score repeats the title theme when apropos, and otherwise provides a pleasantly snazzy background.

Bill: I also ask that they not obscure half of the screen with an out of focus drinking glass, but that’s just me.

Fisty: Boor. Swine. Uncultured lout.

ladies and gentlemen

ladies and gentlemen

home movies

home movies

there's something about maurice

there’s something about maurice

Bill: Snob. Are we finished here? Did we get back to how this is a giallo? Because there are a lot of arguments about that.

Fisty: Oh yeah. You’re right, I’ve seen these arguments come up for well, almost every non-classico giallo, it sometimes seems. We’ve touched on it previously with Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, Luciano Ercoli’s 1970 giallo  la femme (that’s not really a thing), and again with Massimo Dallamano’s 1972 schoolgirl giallo What Have You Done to Solange? Along different lines, Luigi Cozzi’s 1973 genre-bender The Killer Must Kill Again labors under the same accusation for different reasons. Shoots, even a prime example of the classico giallo like Sergio Martino’s All the Colors of the Dark has had such aspersions cast at it–seriously!–which just goes to show, not only are some people plumb crazy, but the definition of giallo is as nebulous, and ambiguous as the films themselves.

A generic definition that can (debatably) encompass such outliers as Argento’s Suspiria and Phenomena or Fulci’s The New York Ripper can certainly include films of a less fantastical or gruesome nature. But it’s not even about what we can stretch the definition to include, but what films make up an integral core of the filone. In that the Sixties gialli–lenziani or no–tend to be along the lines of the sexy inheritance thriller, referencing noir and Hitchcock and Clouzot, Lenzi’s thrillers absolutely typify this approach. While he did not necessarily innovate–Bill’s BFF Romolo Guerreri busted The Sweet Body of Deborah out in 1968, not to mention Bava’s previous contributions–Lenzi absolutely refined and realized the generic potential of these thrillers when he dominated the filone.

This type would flourish mainly in the Sixties, and the beginning of the Seventies, but would continue to affect the filone even after Bird’s excesses. Later gialli that place the emphasis on suspense as opposed to mystery, the inheritance thriller-type giallo, the gaslight giallo, the intimate giallo based on internal concerns–adultery, incest, etc–instead of the eyewitness, these are all related to the sexy thriller lenziani and its success. I dare say that virtually all of Sergio Martino’s classic gialli bear the imprint of the sexy thriller lenziani, and traces are found throughout many post-Argento films such as Forque’s In the Eye of the Hurricane or Picciolo’s The Flower with Petals of Steel.

probably an entire reel of blurry glass footage

probably an entire reel of blurry glass footage

ring ring ring ring ring ring ring giallo phone!

ring ring ring ring ring ring ring giallo phone!

party time, excellent

party time, excellent

Bill: I really did love The Sweet Body of Deborah. And going back to the cast “inhabit[ing] their roles,” you didn’t mention her, but Marina Coffa as Susan is just perfect. She embodies Susan so well that the second she’s on screen, before she’s even had a chance to act, I knew she was trouble. I’ve never seen her in anything else and I kind of wish she’d done more. Now, about the debt Martino owes Lenzi… Yeah. I can’t deny that. And I love Martino. Everything you’ve said about Lenzi and about this movie is true. I’ve been kind of critical of it and it isn’t my favorite lenziani, or even my favorite of the So Sweet… So Perverse/Orgasmo/Paranoia trilogy–I liked Orgasmo better–but I want to reiterate: I LIKE THIS MOVIE. My criticisms are minor, mostly adding up to, “I think this other movie is better,” and, “Blurry cups!” But just because I don’t consider it perfect, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. It would definitely surprise anyone that only knows Lenzi from his later films. But maybe it shouldn’t. He adapted to smaller budgets and changing audience desires and his later movies, while maybe not showing quite the technical proficiency he does here, are still precisely what he meant them to be and perfectly typify the times in which he made them. I can’t ever remember being bored while watching a Lenzi movie. Bottom line: He’s better than he gets credit for being.

Don’t worry about me, you’re the one sitting in the death seat. Ultimately, A Quiet Place to Kill is a fine film, a perfectly typical sexy thriller lenziani. With fine characterizations perfectly played by its cast, exotic and glamorous locales, a jazzy score, and a delightfully intricate yet tight storyline. While not as bloodily thrilling as later, post-Argento gialli, AQP2K–and others of its type–create a sensual atmosphere brimming with lasciviousness and intrigue. They are dependent upon not only the looks and attitudes of their characters, but also the psychology; instead of witnessing violent tableaux, we explore the ambiguous relations between the characters. The success of the sexy thrillers lenziani lies in the deliciously trashy spectacle of pretty people doing ugly things to one another in glamorous places.