Covering cinema from the highest of the highbrow to the lowest of the low-grade.
Friday, April 6, 2012
New from Warner Archive, Special Eurocult Edition: THE CATS (1968) and HATE FOR HATE (1967)
THE CATS aka THE BASTARD (1968/Italy-France-Germany)
THE CATS, an odd alternate title for what was originally released as THE BASTARD, is exactly the kind of bizarre cult item that makes Warner Archive and the manufactured-on-demand concept so appealing to fans of strange and forgotten cinema. This obscure heist flick from Italian director Duccio Tessari, shot mostly in Arizona and New Mexico, pits a dysfunctional family of criminals against each other when siblings Jason (Giuliano Gemma) and older brother Adam (Klaus Kinski) start feuding over a stash of diamonds. Adam not only steals Jason's girlfriend (Margaret Lee), but also has the tendons in his baby brother's right hand severed just to show him who's boss. Milk-drinking Jason plots his revenge while the brothers' boozehag mom Martha (Rita Hayworth) rants, raves, and feeds her cats Purina Cat Chow doused in whiskey. With an opening credits song sung in over-the-top fashion by Nicole Croiselle ("You knooooow he's a baaaaastard!"), a groovy score by Michel Magne, awesome fashions (Kinski's sunglasses are killer), an armored car heist pulled off with mannequins dressed in security uniforms, Gemma dubbed by the same guy who years later revoiced Lou Ferrigno in HERCULES, Hayworth chewing the scenery, often surrounded by old B&W glossy shots of herself in her Hollywood prime (was this her idea? How depressing is that?), an out-of-nowhere natural disaster, and Claudine Auger cast as an improbably sexy Arizona rancher, the often demented THE CATS is a real find. The climax seems a little abrupt and oddly-assembled, enough so that I can't tell if it was an artistic decision or something that was done out of unexpected necessity. Also with familiar Eurocult faces like Umberto Raho, Serge Marquand, Dan Van Husen (sporting some incredible facial hair), and Lorenzo Robledo, and effective use of Arizona/New Mexico desert highway location shooting. Warner Archive's DVD is 1.78:1 anamorphic (though the packaging lists it as 1.85:1), and looks quite nice after the somewhat battered opening credits, which are from the Italian print, with the title I BASTARDI and Gemma top-billed, with Hayworth listed at the end. The US prints rearrange the credits to give Hayworth top billing. The Italian print was probably the best source, though once the film starts, it is the English-dubbed version. IMDb lists this as 102 minutes, but this DVD runs 93, so it's possible there's a longer European version. Warner Archive's DVD is R-rated and doesn't appear to be missing any objectionable material, as there's violence, profanity, and nudity from both Gemma and Lee. (R, 93 mins)
HATE FOR HATE (1967/Italy)
Passable but rather ordinary spaghetti western lists Fernando Di Leo and Bruno Corbucci among its screenwriters, but journeyman director Domenico Paolella lacks the style and wit of a Sergio Leone or Sergio Corbucci. The overly-convoluted story centers on two men: bank robber Cooper (John Ireland) and scruffy aspiring artist Miguel (Antonio Sabato), whose paths keep crossing after a chance encounter at a bank Cooper is robbing. Miguel is erroneously named as an accomplice of Cooper, who was doing the proverbial One Last Job to take his wife and daughter and start a new life. The real villain is Moxon (Mirko Ellis), Cooper's murderous partner who unsuccessfully tries to kill Cooper and take his share. Moxon gets away, Cooper is imprisoned and contracts malaria, and Miguel is set free thanks to his friendship with rich one-legged bandito Coyote (Fernando Sancho). The dying Cooper escapes from prison and goes after Moxon, who's kidnapped his wife and daughter, and Moxon, meanwhile goes after Miguel because he thinks he has the loot. Eventually, Cooper and Miguel form the required Leone-esque "unholy alliance" to take on Moxon and his gang. Despite the film's Italian origins and its familiar dubbed voices (Ireland is dubbed by Ed Mannix, Sancho by Tony La Penna, and Robert Spafford and Carolynn De Fonseca are audible elsewhere), this feels more in line with a more traditional Hollywood western than a spaghetti western, which seems fitting as Ireland had worked with the likes of John Ford and Howard Hawks back in the 1940s. Even Willy Brezza's score lacks the Ennio Morricone eccentricity and sounds more like a network TV cowboy show. That's not to say it's bad, because it's a watchable time filler, but if you're looking for a forgotten spaghetti classic salvaged by Warner Archive, this isn't it. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer (listed as 1.85:1 on the packaging) shows some age but is in generally good condition. (Unrated, 92 mins)