Screamers 1979-81 ***

Some explanation is required for Screamers, a US version of an Italian fantasy called Island of the Fish Men. The original film is a handsomely mounted piece by Sergio Martino, who pulled in an impressive cast including Barbara Bach, Richard Johnson and Joseph Cotton for an Island of Dr Moreau-type action adventure. The lack of exploitation elements here (no sex, little blood) seem to have inspired Roger Corman to buy the film, chop thirty minutes out and add in a specially-shot prologue which has more of a splatter/slasher movie vibe as a group of sailors led by Cameron Mitchell and Mel Ferrer are picked off by a much more homicidal branch of the fish-men team. The gore effects by Chris Walas are very 80’s, and both sections of the film are well-done, even if there’s not much connection in terms of story of theme. With exploding volcanoes, armies of fish-men and a diving-bell trip to Atlantis, this is much more of a Saturday matinee adventure than an adult horror, and the vigour of Martino’s story-telling is something to behold.

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Blood and Black Lace 1964 ***

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One of the less celebrated entries in Mario Bava’s canon, Blood and Black Lace is a sure-footed thriller that deserves to be compared to Hitchcock; the sequence involving a handbag containing a crucial clue to a murder, left unattended during a fashion show, is as tense and elegant as any of Hitchcock’s post-Psycho work. Contessa Cristina (Eva Bartok) and Max (Cameron Mitchell) are attempting to run a swanky fashion house when a serial killer strikes, and find themselves amongst the suspects. Light on violence but heavy with tension, Bava’s 1964 film is an ideal starting point for giallo fans; beautifully made, it’s an absorbing mystery with the director’s trademark flourishes all in evidence.