Category Archives: 30Hz Cinema

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31 Days of Horror: A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin

a lizard in a woman's skin 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Mondo Macabro LE Blu-ray. Regularly recommended Fulci.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1970’s
Country of Origin – Italy
Master Classers: Fulci


The Advance Word: Many claim this to be Fulci’s finest film. I knew nothing but the film’s elevated reputation.

#5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin
 a lizard in a woman's skin poster


Lucio Fulci has never connected with me. When I first dove into Italian horror I picked up The Beyond as a result of many enthusiastic recommendations. It would become my first impression of Fulci. I didn’t dislike it, per say, but I’ve not felt the need to toss it into the DVD player again. The Anchor Bay tin resides at the bottom of a pile consisting of many special iterations of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. I’ve seen some Fulci since, but not one of those so-called Fulci “essentials” has swayed my opinion that Lucio Fulci’s most popular films were exercises in tossing goop at the camera.

I know! Sacrilegious. Calling “the Godfather of Gore” a goop tosser. I oversimplify perhaps. I’ve found more value in his westerns and his oddball comedies like Four of the Apocalypse and The Eroticist. But I haven’t given up on you, Lucio.

When Mondo Macabro, my favorite boutique distributor of Euro-trash, announced a very special A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin Blu-ray releaseI decided to once again dabble in Fulci. A giallo, no less!

a lizard in a woman's skin 31 days of horror

A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin checks into that cozy little giallo sub-genre that merges the genre’s psychosexual elements with a poliziotteschi. Part slasher, part police procedural, Lizard dives into the damaged psyche of Carol (Florinda Bolkan), a respected daughter of an even more respected politician. Carol finds herself experiencing vivid, dreamlike hallucinations consisting or orgies, LSD use and, ultimately, a bit of bloodletting. These dreams feature the hedonistic neighbor woman (Anita Strindberg) whom she openly claims to despise. Nice respectable modern women do not condone such behavior! After one such dream, Carol wakes to find herself at the center of a homicide investigation for the murder of the woman in her dream. Trippy.

Without traveling too far down the rabbit hole that is A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, I’ll just say that it seems rather clear that Fulci hates hippies and psychoanalysis, perfectly understand the tenants of the giallo genre (even if he finds pleasure in undermining them) and loves exploring the cinematic art of unified atmosphere. It’s this constant, unsettled atmosphere — the cockeyed and unpredictable camera angles and movement, Ennio Morricone’s score, the way color palettes shift from the realm of fantasy to reality — that makes this movie a special slice of horror cinema. If indeed it could be called “horror” — A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin errs more toward Agatha Christie than Dario Argento.

In his giallo guide So Deadly So Perverse, Troy Howarth says that while Fulci considered Argento’s films “sloppy in their construction but brilliant in their execution,” he considered his own attempts at gialli to be too mechanical. While I agree with the “mechanical” criticism of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Fulci’s film does not lack style. Lizard benefitted from the balance between the luxurious, flesh-filled dream sequences and the real-world investigation of the crime. As a result Fulci created a baseline series of oppositions in the movie: style vs. substance, the fanciful vs. the grounded, the uninhibited vs. the repressed.

forinda bolkan a lizard in a woman's skin
Florinda Bolkan in A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. Her wardrobe in the film reinforces the character’s social and sexual repression that ultimately causes her psychological schism.

Bolkan’s performance anchors the film. Without her wildly vacillating but still stoic center (and perhaps her wardrobe), A Lizard doesn’t convey the necessary emotional and psychological fragility. The old Welsh thespian Stanley Baker holds down the skeptical investigator role without too much wasted energy. His appearance surprised me as I wasn’t aware he ever ventured into genre work or international productions.

Technical Notes:

I have no prior experience with A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, but Mondo Macabro’s release looks damn sharp. Nice contrast throughout, stable colors with expected grain levels. I noticed one minor instance of soundtrack hiss. The disc offers plenty of extras to dig through as well, including three documentaries, trailers, radio spots, an alternate opening, and an audio commentary from Fulci-doc filmmaker Kit Gavin.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, I appreciated A Lizard more than I enjoyed it, at least at first glance. Fulci’s packed this film with elements ripe for dissection. The constant opposition of clashing forces, his personal thoughts on psychoanalysis, the social and moral upheaval of the late 1960’s. As opposed to The Beyond or House by the Cemetery, however, I look forward to revisiting A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. It feels like one of those films that will improve with subsequent viewings. Also, I won’t tell you what the hell the title means — to do so would be the ultimate spoiler of spoilers.

30Hz Rating:


a lizard in a woman's skinBlu-ray Verdict:
 Mondo Macabro’s releases have all been keepers. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin deserves the same fate. Back on the shelf with you to await your next summons.

Availability: Mondo Macabro’s Region-Free Blu-ray release of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin can be purchased on Amazon or Mondo Macabro’s Big Cartel site.


Earlier 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972)


31 Days of Horror: The Haunting of Morella

the haunting of morella

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Blu-ray. David McCallum deserves my time.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1990’s
Ode to The Witch

The Advance Word: Picked up The Haunting of Morella on Blu-ray due to David McCallum. Also, the story was based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story “Morella.”

david mccallum the haunting of morella

The value of Jim Wynorski’s The Haunting of Morella — outside David McCallum clearly providing the inspiration for Bill Pullman’s character in Zero Effect — lies in the film’s earnest attempt to emulate the gothic vistas and pacing of the Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. Sub McCallum in for Vincent Price. Bingo bango.

Morella opens with the execution of woman condemned as a witch (Nicole Eggert). Her husband looks on, at peace with the mob’s decision to burn her at the stake. We’re conditioned as seasoned cinematic viewers of movies featuring these “witch roasts” to side with the ill-fated witch. As the executioner reads from her list of misdeeds however, one can’t help but think that this witchy witch is most surely an unholy abomination and probably deserves what’s coming to her.

Before she dies, Morella promises to return. I believed her, personally. It was something about her screechy tone and/or Nicole Eggert’s acting skills (lack thereof). The rest of the villagers seem skeptical, which confuses me. If you’re going as far as burning her alive, surely you believe she’s got powers to do stuff! Plus, if she doesn’t return this is a five-minute movie, you pitchfork wielding, shortsighted simpletons! Fast forward 17 years and Morella attempts to inhabit the body of her teenage daughter Lenora (also Nicole Eggert!). Morella consumes innocent bystanders and servants in order to regain her mojo.

The Poe short story “Morella” concerns a wife dying in childbirth who swaps her soul for that of the child. I’m simplifying, of course. Even as someone who reads the Poe collected works rather frequently, I had to check back in with “Morella” because it’s just not Grade-A Poe material. Corman adapted “Morella” for one segment of his anthology film Tales of Terror, and to be honest, I don’t remember that segment of Corman’s film either. The Haunting of Morella does an admirable job weaving elements of the Poe story into this material.

About two-thirds of the way through this talky melange of boobs, blood and David McCallum in full Bill Pullman/Zero Effect mode, The Haunting of Morella proves itself handi-capable of adapting Poe. Elements of a good B-movie popped up here and there, but it’s nearly impossible to overcome a full cast of stiffs and underachievers. Poor David McCallum must anchor this film alone despite Nicole Eggert’s best efforts to act herself out of a Target-brand paper bag.


Technical Notes:

Let’s not kid ourselves. This movie arrives on Blu-ray because of the bounty of boobage. Maybe David McCallum encouraged a few others like me to buy this movie, but I don’t know how many David McCallum fans were knocking on Scorpion’s door begging for The Haunting of Morella in 1080p. With that in mind, The Haunting of Morella is an early 1990’s low budget picture. Wynorski used a variety of soft focus and high contrast cinematography. Whites glow with an intentionally eerie haze and backdrops blend into shades of black. Scratches and scuffs from the print remain. The scratches keep it real. Regarding the audio, at a handful of points during the film I noticed the sound cut out prematurely. The soundtrack left no trace memories.

the haunting of morella skull

Final Thoughts:

For Edgar Allan Poe and David McCallum completists. I’m not going to address any Nicole Eggert completists who might be reading this. As someone fascinated by the ways that Edgar Allan Poe has been adapted into cinema, I found academic value in the viewing experience.

30Hz Rating:


the haunting of morella blu-rayBlu-ray Verdict: I can’t imagine revisiting this any time soon unless I decide to update that term paper I wrote in college about the impossibility of adapting Edgar Allan Poe for a visual medium. Sell pile. Sorry David ‘Zero Effect’ McCallum.

Availability: Scorpion’s The Haunting of Morella Limited Edition (1500 copies) is available at Screen Archives.


Earlier 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story







31 Days of Horror: A Chinese Ghost Story

31daysofhorror a chinese ghost story

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Blu-ray. Long overdue rewatch. Shame prep for A Chinese Ghost Story 2.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1980’s
Country of Origin – Hong Kong

The Advance Word: I remember being transfixed by Joey Wong and the amazing zombie-skeleton things in the basement of the haunted temple that clearly came from the same brand of undead as the ones from Army of Darkness, but gooier.

Wa Mu combats evil forces in A Chinese Ghost Story (1987). Later he raps.
Wa Mu combats evil forces in A Chinese Ghost Story (1987). Later he raps while training.

A Chinese Ghost Story remains one of those fine examples of Hong Kong cinema that refuses to be defined by any specific genre. Blending elements of horror, romance, slapstick, musical and wuxia, the film probably has more in common with the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera any specific genre. When you think director Ching Siu-Tung (best known perhaps as John Woo’s action choreographer/stunt director) has crammed everything imaginable into this tale of supernatural romance, his demon warrior played by Wa Mu, drops a rhyme while he trains for his final battle against the Tree Devil.

Beneath the pratfalls and hilariously ineffective gooey, undead basement zombies, lies an earnest supernatural romance. Leslie Cheung’s roving collection agent stumbles across a beautiful woman near an abandoned temple. She’s radiant. Flowing black hair. Sexy little anklet. Unfortunately she’s also quite dead… and a kept spirit who lures libidinous men to their demise. It seems the Tree Devil feeds on their souls. Further bad luck, she’s also been given to another malevolent spirit as his future bride. The deck’s stacked against our bumbling, good-intentioned hero.

The chaotic finale finds Leslie Cheung and Wa Mu battling demons and other various undead creatures to rescue the lovely (but still very dead) girl from her captors. More wuxia, magic, swordfighting and breaches of the ethereal plain in order to make her not quite so dead. Critics might fault A Chinese Ghost Story for working on so many different levels but only excelling at one — when it slows down the pace to explore the romance between Cheung and Wong.

I enjoyed rediscovering the absurdities all over again. Having not seen this film since college, the lingering memories were little more than individual images. When Wu Ma begins his rap, you’re either on board with the whole endeavor or checking out for good. The best comparison I can offer for this film is Army of Darkness with a heaping tablespoon of gooey romance.


Technical Notes:

Hong Kong cinema has never been known for taking especially good care of its film stock, but the Kam & Ronson Blu-ray looks rather sharp. The film always had a soft feel to it so it’ll likely never look better than this. A good amount of grain remains and there’s some nice contrast where the DVD looked uniformly dull. All of this is relative. If you’re familiar with Hong Kong cinema of the 1980’s you should already have reasonable expectations. The English subtitles are generally intelligible — only a few mental leaps of translation required. This is likely the best this film will ever look or sound.

a chinese ghost story

Final Thoughts:

Ever since I first viewed A Chinese Ghost Story as part of my college class in Hong Kong Cinema, I’ve considered a favorite. It even made an appearance in my Top 100 Films Ranking for a short time. At the time A Chinese Ghost Story blew me away due to the film’s total disregard for genre convention. Was it horror? Melodrama? Comedy? Clearly nobody makes movies like this over here. Now that I’ve taken off my Hong Kong cinema training wheels, I realize this method of genre-bending isn’t as unusual as I first thought. I still revere A Chinese Ghost Story for those moments where Ching Siu-Tung spits on narrative convention for the sake of pure entertainment.

30Hz Rating: Bloody Good


A chinese ghost story blu-rayBlu-ray Verdict: I was happy to replace that old DVD and long may A Chinese Ghost Story anchor my shelf of Hong Kong cinema.

Availability: The All-Region HK Blu-ray is now Out of Print. A Japanese box set of the three films is available at








31 Days of Horror: Vampyros Lesbos

vampyros lesbos

Nature of Shame:
Blind-bought Blu-ray upon release in 2013. It remained unwatched.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1970’s
Country of Origin – Germany

The Advance Word: Jess Franco does Euro-Sleaze Bram Stoker’s Dracula with lesbians, eye-popping color and a sunbleached modern estate. The score is legendary, though I’ve never heard it. Soledad Miranda.

Soledad Miranda makes a gorgeous Ersatz Dracula in Jess Franco's Vampyros Lesbos (1971)
Soledad Miranda makes for a different kind of Dracula in Jess Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos (1971).

A black background. Two women, barely clothed, embrace. Soledad Miranda as Countess Nadine, circles and manipulates the other as a silent crowd watches, enraptured. The nature of the theatrics is unknown. But we, the viewer, are inserted into the same seats as the gathered masses. The women perform for us, embracing each other and our gaze, but they do not return it. Nadine is outside this moment, she is above it. The women have bared their bodies and by doing so are in complete control of us. We like the audience will bend to the Countess’ will.

So begins Jess Franco’s version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Linda, a patron of this performance, becomes enraptured with Nadine, pursues her. Nadine entertains her advances. The Countess in this scenario is, of course, Dracula. Linda, our Jonathan Harker. Linda visits Nadine’s beachfront estate, a home draped in bold colors — yellows, reds. The two sunbathe nude. Franco’s twisted the Dracula myth — not only do his vampires enjoy the sun and the water, they embrace it. Linda is to become the next servant to Nadine’s power.

The gender reversal of Bram Stoker’s tale offers a significant twist on the genre. Honestly that would have been enough to hold my interest. Vampyros Lesbos offers much more than just a revisionist Dracula. Yes, even more than the inherent value of lesbian vampirism.

Technical Notes:

The much lauded score does not disappoint. It is disarming. Bright jazzy notes and intermittent discord. Funky until it deconstructs in order punctuate or often contrast the action on screen. Jess Franco composed the film with careful attention to color and striking contrast. Red on white. Red on black. It doesn’t hurt that the camera loves Soldedad Miranda. And Franco allows his camera to linger, allowing us uninterrupted voyeurism. Severin Films’ Blu-ray looks great, though it sometimes seems like elements have come from a lesser source. A solid lossless audio track foregrounds the psychedelic score. Some minor hiss remains, but it’s never distracting.

soledad miranda vampyros lesbos

Final Thoughts:

Certain expectations come with a title like Vampyros Lesbos. The name Jess (or Jesús) Franco likewise comes with some baggage. Franco treats sex and lust like another color on a already vibrant canvas. Vampyros Lesbos grows meditative when Linda and Nadine explore their carnal instincts. As the opening theatrical scene repeats later in the film, overlong, still abstract, the movements incite a kind of trance state. We begin to pick out the smaller details about the nature of want and desire. How sex shifts the power structure between couples, and between a vampire and its prey.

On the other hand maybe it is just one big excuse to have naked women bite each other… and what’s so wrong with that?

30Hz Rating: Bloody Good


Blu-ray Verdict: Easy call here. This stylish vampire tale has earned it’s place on the shelf. I still have to watch the “Bootleg” Spanish version, which comes on a 2nd DVD.

Availability: The Blu-ray from Severin Films is available at Amazon.



31 Days of Horror: 2016 Shame-a-thon

For the past few years, I’ve gathered the fearless masses during these pre-Halloween weeks, encouraging them to indulge in a horror movie shame-a-thon, sponsored by Cinema Shame. The notion was simple. List 31 unseen horror movies you feel obligated to watch and tackle as many as you can during the month of October.

It may seem impossible, but October’s creeping up on us all yet again. I know this, you see, because it’s my birthday tomorrow and my birthday is a harsh reminder. The whole end of summer, end of one more year of existence combo-malaise. Pumpkin picking, hay rides, apple cider, arguing about costumes with small people… and then Halloween.

This year, I’m again following my Cinema Shame method, but adding a new twist. Fellow Pittsburgher @ElCinemonster has been organizing his Hoop-Tober Challenge on for three years now. Each year he lays down some challenges to help guide the viewing of his monstrous minions. Anyway, that’s been a smashing success, and I’ve enjoyed watching the event from afar. This year I’ve decided to combine my Cinema Shame Horror Shame-a-thon with @ElCinemonster’s Hoop-Tober Challenge to create the most unwieldy title in the history of movie blogging and watching.

Welcome to the 2016 CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile 31 Days of Horror Shame-a-thon

31 days of horror 2016

So let’s lay down the laws, shall we?

Pick 31 never-before-seen (or forgotten) horror movies — “horror” is broadly defined as anything containing elements of the horror genre. So, for example, I’ve count the Abbott & Costello monster films in the past because of the classic movie monsters. Watch as many as you can stomach during your “month” of October.

I’m air-quoting “month” because I’m borrowing @ElCinemonster’s notion that we’re busy goddamn people and 31 days is just not a reasonable duration for busy goddamn people to watch 31 horror movies. He’s beginning his “month” on September 16th. I plan to do the same. I hit 31 last year, but I added about four days at the end of October to achieve said moral victory. An extra wrinkle this year is that I’m going to pluck as many movies as possible from my Watch Pile (any film I already own that hasn’t been watched). I’ve been making a more concerted effort to watch more movies than I buy. The worthy remain. The ones I don’t see myself watching again hit or eBay. I’ll note the outcome of each disc in my blurb.

And speaking of blurbs… after each movie, I’ll toss up a mini-review and a 30Hz rating that will correspond to my review on The review may or may not contain any actual insight. Don’t get greedy. And now for the more specific Hoop-Tober demonic hurdles, courtesy of @ElCinemonster. I’ve adjusted a couple to fit my agenda. I plan to watch at least one movie from every decade from the 1920’s – 2010’s.

7 films from franchises (mix-and-match, or the same)
6 different countries
5 different decades
5 films from before 1970
5 films from the following: Bava, Argento, Lenzi, Fulci, Henenlotter, Romero, Stuart Gordon (mix-and-match, or all one)
3 crazy animal movies
1 silent
1 original film and its remake (Evil Dead, Frankenstein, Halloween, etc…)
1 Classic Universal horror
1 Stephen King adaptation (in tribute to Stranger Things)
1 Film with a witch/witchcraft (in tribute to The Witch. Can’t be The Witch)
Aaaaaaaaaaand 1 Tobe Hooper Film (There must ALWAYS be a Hooper film)



I plan to call some audibles when spur-of-the-moment cravings strike, but here’s my blueprint for the 2016  31 Days Of Horror CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-Thon.

Past #31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thons: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 Part 1 | 2015 Part 2


*Hoop-Tober bonus points
**Rewatch of a forgotten favorite

  1. Bay of Blood (1971)
  2. A Chinese Ghost Story II (1990)
  3. A Nightmare on Elm Street II (1985)
  4. Bride of Re-Animator (1989)
  5. Christine (1983)
  6. Day of the Animals (1977)
  7. Dead and Buried* (1981)
  8. Deep Red** (1975)
  9. Delirium (1987)
  10. Delirium (1972)
  11. Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
  12. The Editor (2015)
  13. The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)**
  14. The Fly** (1958)
  15. The Fly (1986)
  16. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man** (1943)
  17. The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)
  18. The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)
  19. Inferno** (1980)
  20. Killerfish (1979)
  21. Komodo (1999)
  22. Medousa (1998)
  23. Messiah of Evil (1974)
  24. Nightbreed (1990)
  25. The Old Dark House* (1932)
  26. Onibaba (1964)
  27. Petey Wheatstraw (1977)
  28. The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
  29. Spasmo (1974)
  30. Tenebrae** (1982)
  31. Texas Chainsaw Massacre II (1986)
  32. Vampyros Lesbos (1970)
  33. Veerana (1988)


What’s your list? What’s your plan for horror movie watching this year? If you’re keeping a list or participating in the Hoop-Tober challenge, I’ll link you in the header for my posts. Just leave a note with a link in the comments. Together we shall overcome… or we’ll be the loser pumped off in the first act to establish indomitable menace.