Sunday, November 6, 2011

HORROR HARVEST: Part Nine: Eurasian Horror, post-WWII

"Blood and Black Lace": the marriage of sex and death.
While American horror films were moving by and large into sci-fi territory after World War II, Europe and Asia began to see more possibilities for the horror film. Small genre streams began to flow and widen.

Germany did not have flat-out horror films (they seem to have lived enough real-life horror from 1933-1945 for that), but a series of “krimi” criminal thriller films, based on the works of English mystery novelist Edgar Wallace, were popular during the 1960s. These usually featured a masked killer, violence against scantily clad women, and a fogbound English atmosphere.
Klaus Kinski makes a special appearance as a severed head in the 1960 "krimi" film, "The Avenger."
In France, Pre-New Wave French directors such as Clouzot and Franju were able to summon the spirit of Feuillade, Lang and Murnau with their creations. Japan was mostly known for its kaiju (giant monster) and kaijin (supervillain) sci-fi/horror films. There studios such as Toho, Tsuburaya, P Productions and Toei created highly successful film and TV franchises based on those premises. However, moody, disturbing yokai (ghost) horror films began to appear – “Jigoku,” “Onibaba,” “Kwaidan,” and many elements in the hallucinatory output of Kinji Fukasaku. These pioneering efforts would lead to an explosion of Japanese horror in the 1990s and 2000s.

Italy produced the most distinctive and influential subgenre, the giallo. This bloody marriage of erotic and violent content was launched by Mario Bava and perfected by Dario Argento, with major contributions by directors such as Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino and Umberto Lenzi. The graphic horror/thrillers, often pessimistic, misogynistic and just plain nihilistic in plot and tone, would provide a template for the American slasher series of the 1980s.

Last but not least, several directors outside easy categorization brought increasingly bizarre mixtures of physical, psychological and sexual terror to the screen. Spain’s Jess Franco and France’s Jean Rollin freely intermixed horror and pornography, many times in the same films. Jose Mojica Marins of Brazil also tread heavily in the exploitation circuit, scoring most memorably in the horror genre with his “Coffin Joe” trilogy.
Jose Mojica Marins as "Coffin Joe"
The supreme figure from the era, unaccountably unknown outside Europe, is Paul Naschy. The Spanish actor created such a storm of adulation for his central role in “The Mark of the Wolf Man” in 1968 that he not only made 11 more werewolf films, but went on to play Dracula, the Mummy, Jack the Ripper, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Phantom of the Opera and many other macabre figures. 
Paul Naschy in his signature role, as the tormented antihero Waldemar Daninsky -- a werewolf.
Like his cinematic forbearer Lon Chaney, his sympathetic characterizations made him a true King of Horror. 

The keystone of almost all the films of this period is the reinforcement of the disturbing trend of violence against women. Peeled back by the relaxation of censorship laws, the identification with the female sex as a source of or inspiration for evil becomes more and more blatant. In keeping with Western horror traditions, women are either victims or love objects -- but now that love/hate relationship is explicit, and it seems that each film seeks to outdo all previous ones in shocking and transgressing. It's as though the collective unconscious needs a bigger jolt to stir it -- but each jolt makes it more numb. It's a self-reinforcing spiral, and soon it will populate American screens as well.


Les Diaboliques
Henri-Georges Clouzot
1955



Black Sunday
Mario Bava
1960




Eyes without a Face
Georges Franju
1960




Jigoku
Nobuo Nakagawa
1960




The Awful Dr. Orloff
Jess Franco
1961


The Whip and the Body
Mario Bava
1963




At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul
Jose Mojica Marins
1963



Blood and Black Lace
Mario Bava
1964



Kwaidan
Masaki Kobayashi
1964



Onibaba
Kaneto Shindo
1964



Planet of the Vampires
Mario Bava
1965



Wild, Wild Planet
Antonio Margheriti
1965



Spirit of Evil
Konstantin Yershov, Georgi Kropachov
1967



The Mark of the Werewolf
Enrique López Eguiluz
1968




Naked You Die
Antonio Margheriti
1968


The Rape of the Vampire
Jean Rollin
1968


The Green Slime
Kinju Fukasaku
1969


The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
Dario Argento
1970


Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
Jaromil Jires
1970



Vampyros Lesbos
Jess Franco
1970



Twitch of the Death Nerve
Mario Bava
1971



Black Belly of the Tarantula
Paolo Cavara
1971


Lizard in a Woman’s Skin
Lucio Fulci
1971

Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence aka Torso
Sergio Martino
1971


Spasmo
Umberto Lenzi
1974


Deep Red
Dario Argento
1975



The House with the Laughing Windows
Pupi Avati
1976


Suspiria
Dario Argento
1977


Tenebrae
Dario Argento
1982

NEXT UP: The three C’s – Craven, Cronenberg and Carpenter