Art Direction by Antonio Gaudi

La Sagrada Familia, the iconic masterpiece by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, is still a work in progress after more than a century.

Anyone who has seen a few movies filmed in Barcelona, Spain, has undoubtedly caught a glimpse or maybe even a close-up of one of the architectural wonders created by Antoni (aka Antonio) Gaudi or one of his contemporaries such as Lluis Domenech I Montaner or Josep Puig I Cadafalch in the “Modernisme” movement of 1888-1911. This brief period resulted in awe-inspiring buildings and structures with designs based on organic forms or taken directly from nature – beehives, mushrooms, stalactites – that broke away from conventional design and accented curves and rich ornamentation (broken pieces of colorful ceramic tile worked into wall mosaics). This unique architectural style is an art director’s dream and a natural for the screen, which is why it has been the co-star in countless movies filmed in Barcelona such as Susan Seidelman’s Gaudi Afternoon (2001) and L’Auberge espagnole (2002), in which Gaudi’s still-in-progress La Sagrada Familia (it was started in 1883) is prominently featured.

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…And You Thought Donald Pleasence Was Creepy?

Angela Pleasence stars in the 1974 psychodrama SYMPTOMS, directed by Jose Ramon Larraz.

Angela Pleasence, like her father, has a face made for the cinema though not in the realm of conventional leading ladies. Even as a young actress appearing in bit parts in movies like Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush (1968) and The Love Ban (1973), she was never a winsome ingénue or the lovable girl next store. Her uniquely peculiar beauty – especially those hungry eyes that bore holes right through you – must have somehow hindered her movie career because her film roles have been few and far between. She is mostly remembered for her television work, particularly her role as Catherine Howard in the 1970 TV mini-series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, but she should have had the film career her father had on the basis of Symptoms (1974) alone.  

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Turkish Delights

The Turkish film poster for THE DEATHLESS DEVIL (1972).

Adventurous film lovers can always rely on Mondo Macabro to expose them to something weird and wonderful like the nutty Indonesian fantasy adventure The Warrior (1981) starring Barry Prima or the diabolically creepy Queens of Evil (1970), an Italian supernatural thriller. Occasionally MM also releases some killer double features such as the twin pairing of the vampire tale Bandh Darwaza (1990) and Purana Mandir (1984) featuring a baby-eating fiend; both of which are featured in Volume 1 of their Bollywood Horror Collection. Still, my favorite double bill from the maverick DVD/Blu-ray outfit is a double dose of Turkish pop cinema that pairs Tarkan vs. the Vikings (1971, aka Tarkan Viking kani), with The Deathless Devil (1973, aka Yilmayan seytan).

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Freaking Out in Franco Era Spain

Not all film preservationists are focused on saving and restoring lost classics of silent and early cinema like Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927) or overlooked noir indies from Hollywood’s golden era such as Richard Fleischer’s Trapped (1949). Mondo Macabro, which has been around since 2003 or so, is dedicated to introducing movie lovers to fringe cinema from around the world – obscure genre films that run the gamut from horror to sexploitation to art house oddities from countries as far flung as Japan, Latvia and South Africa. Among some of their offbeat releases are Lady Terminator (1989), a cheesy Indonesian rip-off of James Cameron’s The Terminator, The Living Corpse (1967), a vampire thriller from Pakistan, and Strip Tease (1963), a melancholy French drama starring Nico (of The Velvet Underground) with music by Serge Gainsbourg and Alain Goraguer. The company’s most recent release on Blu-Ray, The Killer of Dolls (El asesino de manecas, 1975), is easily one of their most peculiar and transgressive acquisitions to date.  Continue reading