Sunday, May 27, 2018

It Stains the Sands Red

It Stains the Sands Red
Dir: Colin Minihan
USA, 92 min.

Just revisited this one again, and I feel that I need to post some thoughts that I initially posted on Letterboxd about this one.

Well, not really spoilers, but sort of if you have seen other films by the same director that I'm gonna talk about...

I thought I had an idea of what I might be getting myself into as I started to watch this one, but to tell you the truth I was surprised to find a really good piece of apocalyptic storytelling here. A shot of freshness that brings back hope for a genre that’s overstayed it’s welcome and sunk into repeat mode making it stand out amongst zombie films.
Although despite bringing a bunch of zombie flick tropes which kind of are required of the genre with it, It Stains the Sands Red also brings a bunch of interesting things to the zombie-apocalypse-table that I’m surprised nobody ever did previously. Big fucking kudos to the filmmakers for doing so, as some will be put completely off the movie when it get’s into menstrual bleeding and lack of tampon panic and that what follows. It’s a slice of life as a woman in the zombie apocalypse that I’ve never seen before.

Basically the premise goes something like this, Molly (Brittany Allen), a Vegas stripper with an appetite for cocaine, finds herself stranded in the middle of the desert on her way to an airstrip that could be a possible escape from the budding apocalypse. Left with no other choice to but walk, she sets off right through the desert in direction of the airstrip... But a lone zombie targets her, and shuffles along right after her, through the sands.

Don’t expect a gun-toting female lead in the vein of Resident Evil; this is the anti-thesis of Alice. Think of it as a The Battery meets Swiss Army Man meets The Road kind of thing.
It’s a much more down to earth approach to classic zombie apocalyptic horror, you won’t get the classic bullet to head and squirty-squirty action. It get’s there, but it takes it’s time and trust me there are moments that will make you cringe and it’s not the menstruation thing. I realized I had my fingers stuck in my ears during the build up to one specific moment and with PlotDigger (that’s Meg and Ryan Nicholson) providing special effects, you know the red stuff is going to flow (no pun intended). But perhaps above all this this is all about making amends, changing one’s persona, becoming a better person. That’s basically the story here, but set in the apocalypse, with zombies - and it works like a charm. It’s amazing what a chunk of flashbacky-backstory and a bit of character development can do to elevate a movie from ok to brilliant.
Background riff; I quite enjoyed Colin Minihan’s cheap but cheery, Grave Encounters flicks (written/directed with his brother Stuart Ortiz, who co-wrote this one too, as The Vucious Brothers), but I totally hated Extraterrestrial. If you’ve seen that one then lets just leave it at shit ending, waste of characters, totally wrong kind of way to deceive the audience. Not my cup of tea at all. I like investing my time in characters and getting to know them, getting into their head and finding what makes the tick. Well, I’d say that Minihan and Ortiz fucking nail it this time. There’s a splendid character arc, character development and I’m left with a big fucking grin on my face as I, despite the open-ish ending, know that things are all going to be alright because Molly has got her shit together and is up for anything. So take my money and sign me up for a sequel right now.
I think this one just made my top ten of the year selection. Something about it just hit the right spot. I love horror that can make me laugh at its absurdity (without being knowingly comedic), be creepy, gross and also emotional. That’s when you get the real magic. Molly has a fantastic story arc and at the end of the movie I think I’m kinda in love with Molly and this flick.

I have to admit it, this is a fine little indie gem that I'm sure I'm gonna revisit even more times along the way, because you can't ever beat solid storytelling, fun characters and zombie a go-go.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


I know that I've seen at least two different version of this film and to be brutally honest I’m seriously
thinking that the first one is the superior cut, the one I watched at the Cinematek tonight isn’t that one. (Although the Cinematek screening a good half dozen Bava films is something you never can complain about, this is about the several version of Rabid Dogs, not their selection.)

Mario Bava’s magnificent chamber-piece thriller, that more or less all takes place inside a moving automobile full of people kidnapped after a bunch of bank robbers need to make a hasty escape. Sweaty, frustrated, dirty and grimey, it’s a masterpiece of tension building drama as the movie torments its characters in one way and another until the last moment twist that knocked me on my ass the first time I saw it back in the nineties… In the cut that I feel to be the better.

Believe it or not, there’s a whopping FIVE different edits of this film, and the story goes like this.

In 1973 Mario Bava looking to recoup his failing audiences shifted focus and set his sights on the Poliziotteschi genre in his own special way. But being super low budget the production hit trouble along the way. Amongst the tales told, leading man Riccardo Cucciolla was a last-minute replacement when the original leading man Al Lettieri kept turning up late and drunk to set. Running out of funds during the short three-week shoot, cinematographer Emillio Varriano was fired and Bava stepped in to shot the film to meet ends, and then producer Roberto Loyola went bankrupt seeing the movie being shelved as his company folded. BUT despite all that, Bava was basically wrapped. All that was missing was some footage of helicopters searching for the suspects in their getaway car, and a pre-credit sequence… I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Several years later Peter Blumenstock of Luccertola Media upped funding for leading lady Lea Lander’s company Spera Cinemtographica, and the first ever version was assembled (with the help of editor Carlo Reali’s rough cut) under the name Semaforo Rosso (Red Traffic Light) a version which had its initial screening at the Milan film market in ’95, and later at the 14th BIFF in ’96. This version had some video footage inserted to make up for the lost shots.

As a strictly limited 2000 pcs release, Blumenstock’s Luccertola Media released the film on DVD in 1998 without the video inserts of the Spera version but with an added new opening that teases with a crying woman as the credits roll, according to Bava’s notes on the film. (Supposedly Blumenstock’a at the time girlfriend). This version also has the original ending compete, an original ending that shows Cucciolla talking to Mrs Girotto, telling her that he has her son, and that he want’s three billion lire if they ever are to see him again. He hangs up and walks back to the car, opens the boot to reveal that the boy now locked in the boot of the car as the credits start roll. Perfection.

Then…  Five damned versions later* and in something I’m only guessing was to reclaim the rights to the project or something bullshity like that, Lamberto Bava and son Roy Bava shoot new footage and have that inserted into the film, rename it KIDNAPPED and that’s the version that everyone seems to prefer… but not me. This version has new credits, new footage – that certainly doesn’t match up the original footage it’s cut against – and  for some god only knows why reason, Bava/Leone decided that the superbly swanky Cirpirani score had to go and rescored the movie. I cannot understand that move at all, because the phenomenally well-fitting brooding score that fits like hand in glove to Rabid Dogs is gone and exchanged for a swanky piece of crap that’s honestly an embarrassment for Cipriani as it sounds like a late Sunday night TV-movie reject score. And don’t get me started on that god-awful song that crowns the defilement of Mario Bava’s masterpiece.

They also redubbed it whilst they were at it.

The Kidnapped version has several cutaways to the 2001 version of Mrs Girotto talking on the phone, asking about her kidnapped son. She has a couple of scenes of her shot, against a police investigator, who does F-all but sit behind his desk for a quick cut away, and later with Cucciolla when he calls in his demands during the final scene. That’s also where the Kidnapped version ends. On a conventional shot of her clasping her mouth in shock as the end credit roll. Its immensely annoying as neither her clothes or furnishing in her house match the time period, the footage painfully shows the time difference in 35mm in 1973 compared to 35mm in 2001. It Does Not Work! It takes from the movie and the whole surprise of the shock ending is diminished when we don’t get the profound nihilism of Cucciolla who despite all he’s been though has the we bairn shoved in the boot of his car. In a disturbing way he comes off as the dark anti-hero of Rabid Dogs, something that’s eradicated in the sad-mom ending of Kidnapped.

Look, IT DOES NOT MATCH: (Click and see)
classic grainy 35mm vs. new crisp 35mm. 

Of course taste is a matter of opinion, and everyone had the right to their own decision, but this is my take and choice on the many version of Mario Bava’s posthumous Rabid Dogs. Just for the sake on argument, the Luccertola version runs 1:36:38, the "arrow" Rabid Dogs version 1:31:55 and the Kidnapped version 1:31:35.

- original ending

- new ending

*Yes, five versions, counting the Spera verison of ’95, the Luccertola version of ’98, the German Astro release in 2001, Alberto Leone’s version and then the Leone/Bava version edited by Mauro Bonnani in 2001, the version Bava edited in the way he “felt” his father would have wanted it.

Now Listen to the score and how it changed.

The Original:

The New Version

Friday, February 16, 2018

In the Presence of a Clown

Larmar och gör sig till
(In the Presence of a Clown)
Dir: Ingmar Bergman
1996, 119 min.

Remember that Stephen King book about a creepy clown and references to sinking and floating... and a couple of fart jokes for good reference? Well this is Bergman’s version of that. Well not really, but I did think about IT as I watched and also found a nod to HP Lovecraft too but oh yeah, King never fucked Death in the ass in his version did he?
I’ve mentioned Bergman’s passion for screwing around with format and his meta use of media’s in his films, this is definitely no exception even though it’s a play shot for tv... a play shot for tv. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance that’s all about a musician. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character watched by characters from Nattvardsgästerna. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character watched by characters from Nattvardsgästerna and his own mother Karin Bergman...
Still keeping up? As you see it’s Bergman’s inception, a meta referent to practically all media’s as hand. And it’s spectacular one too as it tells its tale of Engineer Åkerblom (Börje Ahlstedt) and his dream of inventing and touring with the worlds first ever synchronized talking cinematograph. Along follow his fiancé Pauline Thibault (Marie Richardson) and his [asylum] friend Oswald Vogler (Erland Josephson).
As almost always it’s self referent too, and Bergman can be seen in the hallway of the mental institute. There’s a couple of detailed descriptions of grotesqueries and the metaphoric clown, or death I’d say, lurking in the shadows, teasingly summoned by Schubert’s "Der Leiermann".
Then as the film moves into its second half and one realizes what a hell of a cast he has here! A cast of almost all the big names of the Royal Dramaic Theatre... and they’re all here for a play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character watched by characters from Nattvardsgästerna and his own mother Karin Bergman.
If you’re lucky to be living in Schwedenland, well then you can check this out and the short “making of” on Svt’s open archive. Easily worth the three hours watch.