Friday, October 11, 2013

Halloween Hootenanny - First Impressions: Murder Mansion (Francisco Lara Polop, 1972)

We're turning back the clock ten years and travelling several thousand miles to Europe for today's movie. This is a Spanish/Italian co-production, and one that threw a hell of a lot of stuff into the proverbial pot, so much so that I'm sure some of it went past me during this first viewing. As always with these posts, what follows are merely my initial impressions...

Starting as it seemingly meant to go on, this movie threw me for a loop (and in a good way) from the opening frames, where we see some kind of motorcycle/car chase occurring... for a moment or two I thought maybe I'd put the wrong disc in and was watching some kind of Bond knock off... I would soon discover this was thankfully not to be the case (not knocking spy films, just never been my cup of tea really). To cut a pretty short story even shorter, the basic setup is that a bunch of strangers, who are all on their way to different locations, get lost and then stranded in the middle of nowhere due to some seriously thick fog. As they're pretty much stuck there until it clears, they take residence in an isolated house for the night... and, as you might imagine, no one gets much sleep, as some seriously weird shit starts occurring.

Like yesterday's movie, Next of Kin, this is another Old Dark House mystery with lots of other stuff thrown in for good measure, and especially giallo/slasher conventions (though it veers much closer to the former and is perhaps only marginally a proto-slasher). As pretty much everyone else who has commented on this movie has pointed out, it's also weirdly reminiscent of Scooby Doo, so as you might imagine, it isn't one to take tremendously seriously... but that's sort of besides the point really, as this is an unashamedly unpretentious bit of fun that was probably never trying for any awards anyway. 

There are a few familiar faces from the wonderful world of Italian horror here, such as Eduardo Fajardo from Lisa and the Devil  (just say his name a few times for me, ain't it addictive? don't worry though, I doubt he'll appear and kill you or anything), Ida Galli (or Evelin Stewart as she's credited here) from Footprints and The Night Child and George (or Jorge as I think he's listed) Rigaud from A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, All the Colours of the Dark, Horror Express (which I'll be watching for the first time tonight as it happens) and many more. Also, there's a dude with an awesome name here who I'm unfamiliar with but had to mention... playing Mr. Porter (and I'll confess I forget who he was, though I think he's the guy with the goatee who won't leave the ladies alone) and possessing a frankly fabulous moniker, is Franco Fantasia (!).

I really enjoyed this strange and sometimes silly movie. It's one of those wonderful films where you really have no idea what's happening half the time or where it's going, but you're completely on board for the ride anyway, probably because of that very fact of not knowing where you're headed next. And I'm a complete sucker for any film where the principals are isolated in a single location for most of the duration, especially when the elements are involved; it doesn't matter whether it's wind, rain, snow or (in this case) fog... throw any of these things into the mix and I'm instantly satisfied... and furthermore, it seems a sure fire way to turn up the atmosphere dial, which should always be up pretty high in a horror movie anyway. While probably not essential viewing for more general horror fans, I'd that say lovers of Euro horror, and especially gialli and gothic films (as this has elements of both) should definitely give this a shot as they'll probably get a big kick out of it.  

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