Tag Archives: 1970s cinema



Format: DVD

Release date: 26 September 2005

Distributor: Filmgalerie 451

Director: Roland Klick

Writer: Roland Klick

Cast: Mario Adorf, Marquard Bohm, Anthony Dawson, Mascha Elm Rabben, Sigurd Fitzek, Betty Segal

West Germany 1970

85 mins

A young man named Kid, in a dusty two-piece suit and with a bullet wound in his arm, walks across an astoundingly stark and shimmering desert carrying a metal suitcase and a machine gun. After collapsing from exhaustion, his body is eventually discovered by Mr. Dump who opens the suitcase to find a vinyl 45-inch single and a pile of stolen money. His initial plan is to take the money and run, until Kid gains consciousness and forces Mr. Dump at gunpoint to take him with him and remove the bullet from his arm.

Mr. Dump reluctantly drives them back to his refuge, a desolate and squalid mining town whose only other occupants are Mr. Dump’s deranged and psychotic wife and their mute, feral daughter. Refusing to remove the bullet from Kid’s arm, a power struggle between the two men ensues as Mr. Dump desperately tries to exploit the situation for his own means. That is until the mysterious Mr. Sunshine arrives to split the cash and settle old scores. As night turns into day, the situation increasingly escalates towards unhinged paranoia and extreme violence, with any chance of hope obscured by blood, dust and the intrusion of bleak reality.

Although Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970) may have taken its cue from Spaghetti Westerns and classic American crime movies, it’s also fair to say – like the best cult movies of the 1970s – that it takes place within a universe of its own making. Much like Kaneto Shindō’s Onibaba (1964), its small cast of tormented and tormenting characters never leave the confines of their isolated location, with very little indication of an outside world. It’s almost as if a group of classic archetypes have broken free from their own movies and found themselves lost within the last film at the edge of the earth.

Klick uses the sparse surroundings of Israel’s Negev desert to great effect, creating a crumbling portrait of arid decay and brutal, unforgiving desperation. His inventive framing and overtly stylistic compositions give the film a dreamlike quality – with the occasional moment of controlled psychedelic surrealism – without bubbling over into nonsensical self-indulgence. Add to this the superb film score by Krautrock legends Can and you’ve got yourself an incredibly unique and unforgettable piece of German cinema. In fact, the way in which Klick lets the Can track ‘Tango Whiskey Man’ slowly imbed itself into the narrative (it’s the single hidden in the suitcase with the money) is one of the clever touches that gives the film a certain charm.

Despite Klick’s ambitious experimentalism, he never gets sidetracked and thankfully refuses to neglect certain genre expectations, with a plot and place that’s as firm and gritty as the landscape on which it takes place. A thrilling, entertaining and distinctive example of B-movie pragmatism delivered with artistic scope.

Robert Makin

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Zombie Flesh Eaters

Zombie Flesh Eaters

Format: Blu-ray/DVD/Limited edition steelbook

Release date: 3 December 2012

With live piano duet accompaniment by Robin Harris and Laura Anstee

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Lucio Fulci

Writers: Elisa Briganti, Dardano Sacchetti

Original title: Zombi 2

Cast: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay

Italy 1979

91 mins

Zombie Flesh Eaters, or ‘the one with the eyeball splinter’, as it was referred to at school. My family having arrived late to the VHS revolution, my main exposure to the video nasty boom of the early 80s was the playground descriptions of various unwholesome sequences relayed to me with relish by various classmates. By the time a VCR actually arrived in our house the hammer had come down and all those exotic goodies had disappeared from the shelves. It was the James Ferman era at the BBFC, and so it took me until well into my twenties to catch up with, say, ‘the one where the girl throws up all her guts’ (City of the Living Dead) and put it together that a good deal of the more outrageous moments of playground lore emerged from the oeuvre of one director, Lucio Fulci. Oddly enough, given the usual reliability of schoolyard chatter, the films that I finally saw were every bit as horrible as described, and a whole lot stranger.

Zombie Flesh Eaters is one of his more straightforward, pacier efforts. An unmanned ship drifts into New York harbour, bringing with it unpleasant surprises for the harbour patrol, and a mystery for Tisa Farrow. The boat belongs to her father, and the search for him leads her, a journalist (Ian McCulloch) and a couple of wary locals to a Caribbean island where Richard Johnson is the doctor understandably turning to the bottle as the night is filled with jungle drums and the dead are feeling restless. Much mayhem ensues.

ZFE was released in 1979 a couple of months after Dawn of the Dead (aka Zombi) as Zombi 2 and, while clearly indebted to the Romero film, it also harks back to the likes of White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie, in its island setting and its use of a voodoo curse as an undead motivator rather than any cod scientific explanations. Romero rules still apply, however, in the ‘shoot ’em in the head’ policy and the infectious nature of zombie bites. Anyone wondering if this makes much sense clearly hasn’t been exposed to enough Italian cinema.

Indeed, Fulci’s best horror films gain greatly from a feeling that they don’t quite make sense, that nobody on screen is acting like a human being would. As with City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, and House by the Cemetery, his people just seem to hang around waiting for the worst to happen, blind to the mounting evidence that they should flee. He has a tendency towards stately pacing, a contemptuous disregard for narrative cohesion and an eye for weird images. The net result of this is to give his films an authentic nightmare undertow, but at the cost of any human character or motivation. It remains an enigma to me how much of this oneiric freakiness is deliberate, and how much a result of the filmmaker’s shortcomings. Fulci in his pomp is several rungs above hacks like Umberto Lenzi or Astride/Aristide Massaccesi (aka Joe D’Amato): he can frame an arresting shot, create a memorable sequence and has a definite style, but seems to be indifferent to the pleasures of dialogue and performance, and often mixes effective set pieces with moments of alarming judgement, letting his camera linger endlessly over shoddy effects that any sane director would cut away from.* Zombi 2 was also known around my school as ‘the one where a zombie fights a shark’ and, indeed, that’s what happens here, witnessed by a topless Auretta Gay wearing a scuba tank. It’s a scene that seems to exemplify Fulci: it’s slow, exploitative, absolutely ridiculous and genuinely surreal. It’s also typical in that the ramifications of the moment are left murkily unexplored as the plot trundles on.**

Viewed from the 21st century, Zombie Flesh Eaters seems to come from an age before irony: there is no self-conscious playfulness here, and very little humour. Fabio Frizzi and Giorgio Tucci‘s score is perfect in its epic, cheesy, doom-laden portentousness. This is the 1970s. Nobody is ‘empowered’ by violence here, and it’s all going to end rather badly. I think I love this terrible film.

The soundtrack of Zombie Flesh Eaters is available on limited red vinyl with artwork by Graham Humphreys from Death Waltz Records.

Mark Stafford

*The rubber spiders in the library in The Beyond, I’m looking at you.
**Are the oceans of the world now crawling with waterlogged ghouls and infected sealife? Buggered if I know, and Lucio’s not telling.

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