Crimson (1976) Review

crimsonCrimson (The Man with the Severed Head) 1976

Las ratas no duermen de noche (original title)

Director: Juan Fortuny

Starring: Paul Naschy, Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot, Gilda Arancio, Claude Boissen, Carlos Otero

Out NOW on UK DVD from Black House Films

“Otherwise…understand.”

A gang of four criminals lead by Henry (Mathot) is attempting to rob a jewelry store when it all goes hilariously wrong. One of Henry’s flunkies (I don’t know which- the one with glasses) steals a pearl necklace, setting off the alarm. The robbers flee and end up in a shootout with police during which their safe cracker Surnett (Naschy) is shot in the head. Unable to take him to a hospital the thieves call on a local drunk ex-doctor who makes his living patching up the local criminals. Dr Ritter (Otero)doesn’t have the skills to operate so he suggests that his old friend a mad scientist can patch up Surnett. Well to fix Surnett all the mad scientist needs is- another brain! And whose brain do they get? Another gangster by the name of The Sadist. Well that sounds like a recipe for fun. After installing part of the Sadist’s brain in Surnett, he turns into a mad rapist what rapes three women.

rsz_crimson_2I’m not even sure where to start with Crimson. The jaunty 1970’s jazz flute that plays over the rape for titillation scenes? The fact that it has not one but FOUR rape for titillation scenes. The ridiculously incompetent criminals? The utter lack of even an attempt at science? The fact that apparently, Crimson is originally in Spanish but dubbed in French? Decisions, decisions…

Let’s start with the science and that word, in the context of this film requires sarcastic air quotes. First of all Surnett barely looks injured, as though the bullet only grazed his skull, or as if the film didn’t have money for fake blood. SECONDLY how on earth is a brain transplant EASIER than brain surgery to remove a bullet? THIRDLY the Mad Scientist says, after examining an x-ray, that the bullet didn’t penetrate the brain. SO WHY ARE WE DOING A BRAIN TRANSPLANT?! And why do I care? Believe me, I tried to let it go. But there is only so much suspension of disbelief one can take. Even films like The Brain that Wouldn’t Die make a vague stab in the general direction of science, but not Crimson, NO, it couldn’t be bothered with such pettiness as logic or even watching an episode of say M*A*S*H.

rsz_crimson_3Incompetent criminals. Stealing a necklace during a safe robbery and tripping a secondary alarm system is only the beginning for Henry’s boys. The real hilarity comes when they trap and kill The Sadist. They have been ordered to bring back The Sadist’s head. And they take that mission both seriously and literally. After attempt one at decapitation fails they try plan B which works. Hint– it involves a train. When The Sadist’s gang finds out their boss is dead they go on a rampage of poorly organized vengeance.

And finally, the rape. OK, this is a film from the 70s. This is a film from France (possibly Spain). I knew what I was in for. What was surprising was the amount of boobage and the amount of rape for titillation. Like wow…insert slow clap here. Not one female character escapes the film un-raped with the possible exception of The Sadist’s evil girlfriend Barabara (Evelyn Scott) who is molested by Surnett post brain transplant when he is basically half-Sadist and she seems to have feelings for him. Anyway, there aren’t just breasts on display there is full frontal female nudity, which is present in such quantity that it is an actual “Plot Keyword” on IMDb. There are also the mysterious disappearing-reappearing clothing. Because who want to spend valuable rape time getting women’s clothing off when you can just cut to full nudity. This also applies to getting clothing back on. Don’t think it’s just lady buttocks that appear. There are at least two flabby man-asses the audience is treated to.

rsz_crimson_1So, what actual language is this film in? Was it dubbed from Spanish into French? Was it just a Spanish production filmed in France? I don’t know. It was subtitled in English which was good enough for me.

Crimson pure 70s sleaze and cheeze. It’s easy to riff on and laugh at and impossible to take seriously. But watch with caution. Because, you know, rape.

Kudos for: Professor Teets

Lesson learned: It’s not brain surgery.

6/10

Zombie Lake (1981) Review

rsz_zlZombie Lake (1981) aka Le lac des morts vivants

Director: Jean Rollin

Starring: Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou, Anouchka

Out NOW on UK DVD from Black House Films!

Back in the 1980s there’s no denying that as a film genre Horror was at one of it’s highest peaks in terms of creativity, we saw the likes of Jason Voorhees slicing through our anxiety to Freddy Krueger making insomnia suffers blessed. Debuts by characters that are both highly regarded as the figureheads of the horror culture we live in today.

Amongst many classics during this period today we delve into Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake. Jean originating from France sadly left us back in 2010 however is remembered for his unique cinematography, off-kilter plot progression and poetic dialogue which showed us the likes of The Living Dead Girl and The Night of the Hunted.

Zombie Lake is no exception to these sentiments. Set in a quiet rural village somewhere in France post World War II. Zombie Lake opens in a very Jaws-esque manner. A young local girl decides to take a mid-afternoon stroll followed by a casual skinny dip, little does she know there’s something lurking in the depths. The soothing sound of what can only be described as elevator music provided by composer Daniel White accompanies the opening. One can only assume that it was Jean’s intention to make the audience feel at ease prior to all hell breaking loose.

zl2After a savage attack by what everyone’s expectations of a zombie should be, green, angry and ready to eat the terror off someone’s face, there is a slight difference as these aren’t your traditional Zombies these are Nazi Zombies. Word travels fast throughout the village and grabs the attention of the village Major portrayed by Swiss actor Howard Vernon, who makes a very convincing job of knowing something that the audience do not at this stage of the film.

Very much a slow burner, after a brief back story of how the terror came to fruition the film very quickly changes its pace when a group of teenagers decide to go for a refreshing dip in the now suitably named The Damned Lake. Very much like the lives of the teenagers sadly this change in pace is short lived.

Although at times Zombie Lake tends to be lacklustre, you can’t deny that when it gets to the point where it’s about to go bat shit it is executed in a brilliant way. I also feel that Zombie Lake could have benefited from having a lot more gore within certain scenes. I couldn’t help but think while watching this that George A Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead must have been a key influence on the making of this film overall.

zl3In 2017 Nazi Zombies are predominantly a lot more present in popular culture however in the 80s this was a completely new take on the zombie concept . It’s easy to see how Zombie Lake has influenced modern takes on this concept such as the Dead Snow films and even the Call of Duty Video game franchise.
Slow burner or not Zombie Lake is definitely worth the time of any zombie based film enthusiast.
This certainly won’t leave you wanting to go Skinny dipping, or will it? 😉

5/10