Any Given Sunday (1999, directed by Oliver Stone)


With Any Given Sunday, Oliver Stone set out to make the ultimate football movie and he succeeded.

Any Given Sunday is not just the story of aging coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino).  It’s also the story of how third-string quarterback Willie Beamon (Jamie Foxx) allows celebrity to go to his head while the injured starter, Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid), deals with his own mortality and how, at 38, he is now over-the-hill.  It’s also about how the team doctors (represented by James Woods and Matthew Modine) are complicit in pushing the players beyond their limits and how the owners (Cameron Diaz) view those players as a commodity to be traded and toyed with.  It’s about how the Sharks represent their home city of Miami and how cynical columnists (John C. McGinley plays a character that is obviously meant to be Jim Rome) deliberately set out to inflame the anger of the team’s fans.  It’s about how politicians (Clifton Davis plays Miami’s mayor and asks everyone to “give me some love”) use professional sports to further their own corrupt careers while the often immature men who play the game are elevated into role models by the press.  It’s a film that compares football players to ancient gladiators while also showing how the game has become big business.  In typical Oliver Stone fashion, it tries to take on every aspect of football while also saying something about America as well.

In the role on Tony D, Pacino famously describes football as being “a game of inches” but you wouldn’t always know it from the way that Oliver Stone directs Any Given Sunday.  As a director, Stone has never been one to only gain an inch when he could instead grab an entire mile.  (Stone is probably the type of Madden player who attempts to have his quarterback go back and throw a hail mary on every single play.)  Tony tells his players to be methodical but Stone directs in a fashion that is sloppy, self-indulgent, and always entertaining to watch.  One minute, Al Pacino and Jim Brown are talking about how much the game has changed and the next minute, LL Cool J is doing cocaine off of a groupie’s breast while images of turn-of-the-century football players flash on the screen.  No sooner has Jamie Foxx delivered an impassioned speech about the lack of black coaches in the league then he’s suddenly starring in his own music video and singing about how “Steamin’ Willie Beamon” leaves all the ladies “creamin’.”  (It rhymes, that’s the important thing.)  When Tony invites Willie over to his house, scenes of Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur are on TV.  Later in the movie, Heston shows up as the Commissioner and says, about Cameron Diaz, “she would eat her young.”

Any Given Sunday is Oliver Stone at both his best and his worst.  The script is overwritten and overstuffed with every possible sports cliché  but the football scenes are some of the most exciting that have ever been filmed.  Only Oliver Stone could get away with both opening the film with a quote from Vince Lombardi and then having a player literally lose an eye during the big game.  Stone himself appears in the commentator’s both, saying, “I think he may have hurt his eye,” while the doctor’s in the end zone scoop up the the torn out eyeball and put it into a plastic bag.  Only Stone could get away with Jamie Foxx vomiting on the field during every game and then making amazing plays while a combination of rap, heavy metal, and techno roars in the background.  Stone regulars like James Woods and John C. McGinely make valuable appearances and while Woods may be playing a villain, he’s the only person in the film willing to call out the coaches, the players, the owners, and the fans at home as being a bunch of hypocrites.  Stone’s direction is as hyper-kinetic as always but he still has no fear of stopping the action so that Foxx can see sepia-toned images of football’s past staring at him from the stands.  Stone directs like defensive lineman on steroids, barreling his way through every obstacle to take down his target.  No matter what, the game goes on.

Any Given Sunday is the ultimate football movie and more fun than the last ten super bowls combined.

The Visitors (1972, directed by Elia Kazan)


Haunted by his experiences in Vietnam, Bill Schmidt (James Woods) lives in an isolated farmhouse with his girlfriend, Martha (Patricia Joyce), their young son, and Martha’s tyrannical father, Harry Wayne (Patrick McVey).  Harry is a hard-drinking writer who is proud of his previous military experiences and who is frustrated by Bill’s reluctance to talk about his time in Vietnam.  Harry views Bill as being a wimp who lost a war that America should have won.

One wintry night, two visitors show up at the house.  Mike (Steve Railsback) and Tony (Chico Martinez) served in Bill’s platoon.  The three of them were once friends but then something happened in Vietnam that changed all that, something that Bill refuses to talk about.  Harry is happy to welcome Mike and Tony into the household and he enjoys hearing their war stories.  While the hapless Bill watches, Mike flirts with Martha.  However, as the night continues, it becomes obvious that Mike and Tony aren’t paying an innocent visit on a friend.  Instead, they’re looking for revenge.  Bill testified against Mike at a court-martial and, in the process, ruined both of their lives.

The idea of “bringing the war home” was a popular one in the late 60s and the early 70s.  Radical groups like the Weathermen justified their terroristic actions by saying that they were forcing complacent Americans to face what every day was like in Vietnam.  Books like David Morrell’s First Blood featured psychologically damaged vets waging war on an America that they felt had abandoned them while the new wave of counterculture filmmakers made films that were groundbreaking in their portrayal of death and violence.  The Visitors, which features one traumatized vet being victimized by two other angry vets, was one of those films that was meant to bring the war home.

Directed by Elia Kazan and written by Kazan’s son, Chris, The Visitors is a simple film that sometimes seems more like a stage play than a movie.  The script is talky and heavy-handed, the characters are thinly drawn, and the film’s portrayal of Martha comes close to being misogynistic.  Chris Kazan’s script is openly critical of the United States’s role in the Vietnam War but Elia Kazan is more concerned with presenting Bill as a martyr.  Elia was a former communist who infamously named names during the McCarthy era and, from On the Waterfront on, every film that he made was more or less an attempt to justify his actions.  Like Waterfront‘s Terry Malloy. Bill loses everything because he testifies.  Unlike Malloy, no one comes to Bill’s aid afterwards, which suggests Kazan’s bitterness only grew over the years following his testimony.

The Visitors is a lesser film in Kazan’s filmography but notably, it was the first film for both James Woods and Steve Railsback.  Railsback plays Mike as a charismatic brute, giving a performance that owes more than a little to Marlon Brando’s performance as Stanley Kowalski in Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire.  James Woods brings his nervous intensity to the role of Bill, making him a far more intelligent but no less victimized version of Brando’s Terry Malloy.  Though The Visitors was Kazan’s second-to-last film, both Woods and Railsback would go on to emerge as two of the most interesting character actors in Hollywood.

The Hard Way (1991, directed by John Badham)


Lt. John Moss (James Woods) is a cop with a problem.  A serial killer who calls himself the Party Crasher (Stephen Lang) is killing people all across New York and he has decided that he will be coming for Moss next.  However, Moss’s captain (Delroy Lindo) says that Moss is off of the Party Crasher case and, instead, he’s supposed to babysit a big time movie star named Nick Lang (Michael J. Fox)!

Nick is famous for playing “Smoking” Joe Gunn in a series of Indiana Jones-style action films.  However, Nick wants to be taken seriously.  He wants to play Hamlet, just like his rival Mel Gibson!  (That Hard Way came out a year after Mel Gibson played the melancholy Dame in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1990 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.)  Nick thinks that if he can land the lead role in a hard-boiled detective film, it will give him a chance to show that he actually can act.  To prepare for his audition, he’s asked to spend some time following Moss on the job.  Mayor David Dinkins, always eager to improve New York’s reputation, agrees.  (David Dinkins does not actually appear in The Hard Way, though his name is often mentioned with a derision that will be familiar to anyone who spent any time in New York in the 90s.)  Of course, Moss isn’t going to stop investigating the Party Crasher murders and, of course, Nick isn’t going to follow Moss’s orders to just stay in his apartment and not get in his way.

The Hard Way is a predictable mix of action and comedy but it’s also entertaining in its own sloppy way.  Director John Badham brings the same grit that he brought to his other action films but he also proves himself to have a deft comedic touch.  Most of the laughs come from the contrast between James Woods playing one of his typically hyperactive, edgy roles and Michael J. Fox doing an extended and surprisingly convincing impersonation of Tom Cruise.  Woods and Fox prove to be an unexpectedly effective comedic team.  One of the best running jokes in the film is Woods’s exasperation as he discovers that everyone, from his girlfriend (Annabella Sciorra) to his no-nonsense boss, are huge fans of Nick Lang.  Even with a serial killer running loose in the city, Moss’s captain is more concerned with getting Nick’s autograph.

Woods and Fox are the main attractions here but Stephen Lang is a good, unhinged villain and Annabella Sciorra brings some verve to her underwritten role as Moss’s girlfriend.  Viewers will also want to keep an eye out for familiar faces like Penny Marshall as Nick’s agent, a very young Christina Ricci as Sciorra’s daughter, and Luis Guzman as Moss’s partner.

With its references to David Dinkins, Mel Gibson’s superstardom, and Premiere Magazine, its LL Cool J-filled soundtrack, and a plot that was obviously influenced by Lethal Weapon, The Hard Way is very much a period piece but it’s an entertaining one.

Music Video of the Day: Take A Look At Me Now (Against All Odds) by Phil Collins (1984, dir by Taylor Hackford)


On the one hand, I know that the critics have never exactly embraced the songs of Phil Collins.  I mean, there’s a reason why it’s such a brilliant joke that, in American Psycho, the vacuous wannabe serial killer Patrick Bateman is a rabid Phil Collins fan.  On the one hand, Collins’s music is representative of an era.  On the other hand, it’s often used to illustrate everything that was supposedly wrong with that era.

But you know what?

Screw it.  I like this song.  It’s effective.  It works.  It’s fun to listen to and I’ll probably find myself singing it sometime tonight.  Earlier, I watched a 1984 film called Against All Odds and, when this song played over the final freeze frame, it was a perfect moment.

The video for Take A Look At Me Now was directed by the same guy who directed Against All Odds, Taylor Hackford.  Of course, the video itself is mostly made up of clips from the film.  In between Phil doing his thing, we get scenes of Jeff Bridges looking young and sexy, Rachel Ward looking sultry, and James Woods looking dangerous.

The song itself was nominated for an Oscar, though it lost to I Just Called To Say I Love You from The Woman In Red.

Enjoy!

Embracing The Melodrama Part III #8: The Boost (dir by Harold Becker)


Seven days ago, we started embracing the melodrama with my review of No Down Payment, a look at lies and betrayal in suburbia.  Today, we conclude things with 1988’s The Boost, a look at lies, betrayal, and cocaine in California, with the emphasis on cocaine.

From the first minute we meet Lenny Brown (James Woods, at his nerviest best), we assume that he has to be high on something.  He’s a real estate broker and he’s one of those guys who always looks a little bit sleazy no matter how hard he tries otherwise.  His smile is just a little too quick.  He laughs a little bit too eagerly at his own jokes.  He talks constantly, an endless patter of self-serving compliments, nervous jokes, and self-affirming platitudes.  He’s a bundle of nerves but he’s also a brilliant salesman.  We may assume that he’s on coke when we first see him but actually, he doesn’t touch the stuff.  He barely drinks.

Of course, that changes when he’s hired by Max Sherman (Steven Hill).  Max is a philosophical businessman, the type who makes sure that everyone who works for him gets a nice house, a nice car, and several lectures about what’s important in life.  When Max first shows up, it’s tempting to dismiss him as just a self-important businessman but he actually turns out to be a nice guy.  He gives Lenny a ton of good advice.  Unfortunately, Lenny ignores almost all of it.

At first, life is good for Lenny and his wife, Linda (Sean Young).  Lenny is making tons of money, selling houses that can used as a tax shelter or something like that.  (I never understand how any of that stuff works.)  Lenny is making all sorts of new friends, like Joel Miller (John Kapelos) and his wife, Rochelle (Kelle Kerr).  Joel owns four car washes and he’s made a fortune off of them.  All of that money means that he can throw extravagant parties and take nice trips.  It also means that Joel has a never-ending supply of cocaine.  At first, Lenny turns down Joel’s offer of cocaine but eventually he gives in.  At the time, he says that he just needs a little boost.  Soon both Lenny and Linda are addicts.

Of course, nothing goes on forever.  The tax laws change and Max suddenly finds himself out-of-business.  Lenny and Linda lose their house.  They lose their expensive car.  They even lose their private plane.  They end up staying in a tiny apartment.  Lenny says that he can still sell anything and that they’ll be back on top in just a few months.  Of course, even while Lenny is saying this, his main concern is getting more cocaine…

Though dated, The Boost is an effective anti-drug film.  The scene where Lenny overdoses is absolutely harrowing.  Wisely, the film doesn’t deny the fact that cocaine is a lot of fun before you end up losing all of your money and having to move into a cheap apartment with shag carpeting.  It’s a bit like a coke-fueled Days of Wine and Roses, right down to an ending that finds one partner clean and one partner still in the throes of addiction.  James Woods gives a great performance as the self-destructive Lenny, as does Sean Young as his wife and partner in addiction.  And then there’s Steven Hill, providing the voice of gruff wisdom as Max Sherman.  When Max says that he feels that he’s been betrayed, Hill makes you feel as if the entire world has ended.

Speaking of endings, that’s it for this latest installment of Embracing the Melodrama.  I hope you enjoyed this mini-series of reviews and that you will always be willing to embrace the … well, you know.

 

A Movie A Day #338: Raid on Entebbe (1977, directed by Irvin Kershner)


On June 27th, 1976, four terrorists hijacked an Air France flight and diverted it to Entebbe Airport in Uganda.  With the blessing of dictator Idi Amin and with the help of a deployment of Ugandan soldiers, the terrorists held all of the Israeli passengers hostage while allowing the non-Jewish passengers to leave.  The terrorists issued the usual set of demands.  The Israelis responded with Operation Thunderbolt, a daring July 4th raid on the airport that led to death of all the terrorists and the rescue of the hostages.  Three hostages were killed in the firefight and a fourth — Dora Bloch — was subsequently murdered in a Ugandan hospital by Idi Amin’s secret police.  Only one commando — Yonatan Netanyahu — was lost during the raid.  His younger brother, Benjamin, would later become Prime Minister of Israel.

Raid on Entebbe, a docudrama about the operation, was originally produced for NBC though it subsequently received an overseas theatrical release as well.  It’s an exciting tribute to the bravery of both the hostages and the commandos who rescued them.  Director Irvin Kershner directs in a documentary fashion and gets good performances from a cast full of familiar faces.  Charles Bronson, James Woods, Peter Finch, Martin Balsam, Stephen Macht, Horst Buchholz, Sylvia Sidney, Allan Arbus, Jack Warden, John Saxon, and Robert Loggia show up as politicians, commandos, terrorists, and hostages and all of them bring a sense of reality and humanity to their roles.

The film’s best performance comes from Yaphet Kotto, who plays Idi Amin as a strutting buffoon, quick to smile but always watching out for himself.  In the film, Amin often pays unannounced visits to the airport, where he lies and tells the hostages that he is doing his best to broker an agreement between the terrorists and Israel.  The hostages are forced to applaud Amin’s empty promises and Amin soaks it all up with a huge grin on his face.  Forest Whitaker may have won the Oscar for Last King of Scotland but, for me, Yaphet Kotto will always be the definitive Idi Amin.

The Films of Dario Argento: Inferno


I’ve been using this October’s horrorthon as an excuse to rewatch and review the films of Dario Argento!  Today we take a look at one of Argento’s best and most underrated films, 1980’s Inferno!

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“There are mysterious parts in that book, but the only true mystery is that our very lives are governed by dead people.”

— Kazanian (Sacha Pitoeff) in Inferno

When 20th Century Fox released Dario Argento’s Suspiria in 1977, they weren’t expecting this Italian horror film to be a huge box office success.  That it was caught them totally off guard.  Though the studio executives may not have understood Italian horror, they did know that Suspiria made them a lot of money and they definitely wanted to make more of it.

As for Dario Argento, he followed up Suspiria by producing George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  He also supervised the film’s European cut.  (In Europe, Dawn of the Dead was known as Zombi, which explains why Lucio Fulci’s fake sequel was called Zombi 2.)  When Dawn of the Dead, like Suspiria before it, proved to be an unexpected box office hit, it probably seemed as if the Argento name was guaranteed money in the bank.

Hence, when Argento started production on a semi-sequel to Suspiria, 20th Century Fox agreed to co-finance.  Though the majority of the film was shot on a sound stage in Rome, Argento was able to come to New York to do some location work, hence making this Argento’s first “American” film.  The name of the movie was Inferno.

Sadly, Inferno proved to be a troubled production.  Shortly after production began, Argento became seriously ill with hepatitis and reportedly, he had to direct some scenes while lying on his back while other sequences were done by the second unit.

As well, Argento had a strained relationship with 20th Century Fox.  Argento wanted James Woods to star in Inferno but, when it turned out that Woods was tied up with David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, the studio insisted that Argento cast an actor named Leigh McCloskey instead.  As a performer, James Woods is nervy, unpredictable, and compulsively watchable.  Leigh McCloskey was none of those things.

Worst of all, as a result of a sudden management change at 20th Century Fox, Inferno was abandoned by its own distributor.  The new studio executives didn’t know what to make of Inferno and, in America, the film only received an extremely limited release.  The few reviews that the film received were largely negative.  (Like most works of horror, Argento’s films are rarely critically appreciated when first released.)  It’s only been over the past decade that Inferno has started to receive the exposure and acclaim that it deserves.

Argento has said that he dislikes Inferno, largely because watching it remind him of a very difficult time in his life.  That’s unfortunate, because Inferno is one of his best films.

The Mother of Tears (Ania Pieroni) in Inferno

The Mother of Tears (Ania Pieroni) in Inferno

“Have you ever heard of the Three Sisters?”

“You mean those black singers?”

— Sara (Eleonora Giorgi) and Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) discuss mythology in Inferno

As I stated previously, Inferno is a semi-sequel to Suspiria.  Whereas Suspiria dealt with an ancient witch known as the Mother of Sighs, Inferno deals with her younger sister, the Mother of Darkness.  The Mother of Sighs lives underneath a German dance academy.  The Mother of Darkness lives underneath a New York apartment building.  The Mother of Sighs was a witch.  The Mother of Darkness is an alchemist.

Beyond that and the fact that Alida Valli is in both films (though apparently playing different characters), there aren’t many references to Suspiria in Inferno.  The tone of Inferno is very different from the tone of Suspiria.  If Suspiria was perhaps Argento’s most straight-forward films, Inferno is one of his most twisted.  It makes sense, of course.  Suspiria is about magic but Inferno is about science.  Suspiria casts a very Earthy spell while Inferno often feels like a scientific equation that cannot quite be solved.

The film deals with Mark Elliott (Leigh McCloskey), an American music student in Rome.  After he gets a disturbing letter from his sister, Rose (Irene Miracle), a poet who lives alone in New York City, Mark heads back to the U.S. to check in on her.  (That’s right — Mark and Rose are two more of Argento’s artistic protagonists.)  However, when Mark arrives, he discovers that his sister is missing and it’s obvious that strange inhabitants of the building are trying to cover something up.

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“May I ask a strange question?”

“How strange?”

— Sara (Eleonora Giorgi) and Mark Elliot (Leigh McCloskey) in Inferno

Even more than with some of Argento’s other films, the plot of Inferno isn’t particularly important.  One reason why it’s easy to get annoyed with Mark is because he spends the entire film demanding to know where his sister is, despite the fact that those of us in the audience already know that she’s dead.  Argento showed us her being murdered shortly before Mark’s arrival.  Argento makes sure that we know but he never bothers to reveal the truth to Mark and one of the more curious aspects of the film is that Mark never discovers that his sister is dead.  (By the end of the film, one assumes that he’s finally figured it out but even then, we don’t know for sure.)  The fact of the matter is that Mark and his search for his sister are never really that important.  Argento doesn’t particularly seem to care about Mark and he never really gives the viewer any reason to care either.  (Of course, it doesn’t help that Mark is rather stiffly played by Leigh McCloskey.)

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Instead, Argento approaches Inferno as a collection of increasingly surreal set pieces.  Much as in Lucio Fuci’s Beyond trilogy, narrative logic is less important than creating a dream-like atmosphere.  Often time, it’s left to the viewer to decide how everything fits together.

There are so many odd scenes that it’s hard to pick a favorite or to know where to even begin.  Daria Nicolodi shows up as Elise Stallone Van Adler, a neurotic, pill-popping aristocrat who briefly helps Mark look for his sister.  Eventually, she’s attacked by thousands of cats before being stabbed to death by one of Argento’s trademark black-gloved killers.  After Elise’s death, her greedy butler makes plans to steal her money.  Did the butler kill Elise?   We’re never quite sure.  Does the butler work for The Mother of Darkness or is he just being influenced by her evil aura?  Again, we’re never sure.  (By that same token, when the butler eventually turns up with eyes literally hanging out of their sockets, we’re never quite sure how he ended up in that condition.  And yet, somehow, it makes a strange sort of sense that he would.)

inferno-cats

Cats also feature into perhaps the film’s most famous scene.  When the crippled and bitter book seller Kazanian (Sacha Pitoeff) attempts to drown a bag of feral cars in a Central Park pond, he is suddenly attacked by a pack of a carnivorous rats.  A hot dog vendor hears Kazanian’s cries for help and rushes over.  At first, the vendor appears to be a good Samaritan but suddenly, he’s holding a knife and stabbing Kazanian to death.  Why did the rats attack in the first place?  Is the hot dog vendor (who only appears in that one scene) a servant of the Mother of Darkness or is he just some random crazy person?  And, in the end, does it matter?  At times, Inferno seems to suggest that the real world is so insane that the Mother of Darkness is almost unnecessary.

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Meanwhile, in Rome, Mark sits in class and reads a letter from his sister.  When he looks up, he immediately sees that a beautiful young woman is looking straight at him.  She’s petting a cat and staring at him with a piercing stare.  (She is played Ania Pieroni, who later achieved a certain cult immortality by appearing as the enigmatic housekeeper in Lucio Fulci’s The House By The Cemetery.)  The film later suggests that the woman is the third mother, the Mother of Tears, but why would she be in the classroom?  Why would she be staring at Mark?

When Mark’s girlfriend, Sara (Eleonora Giorgi), does some research in a library, she finds a copy of a book about The Three Mothers and is promptly attacked by a mysterious figure.  When she flees back to her apartment, she meets Carlo (Gabriele Lavia, who was also in Deep Red) who agrees to stay with her until Mark arrives.  Is Carlo sincere or is he evil?  Argento does eventually answer that question but he certainly keeps you guessing until he does.

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Finally, I have to mention the best  and most haunting scene in the film.  When Rose searches a cellar for a clue that she believes will lead her to the Mother of Darkness, she discovers a hole that leads to a flooded ballroom.  When Rose drops her keys into the hole, she plunges into water and swims through the room.  (The first time I saw this scene, I immediately said, “Don’t do that!  You’re going to ruin your clothes!”)  As Rose discovers, not only keys get lost in that flooded ballroom.  There’s a dead body as well, one which floats into the scene from out of nowhere and then seems to be intent on following Rose through the entire room.  It’s a sequence that is both beautiful and nightmarish.  (It certainly does nothing to help me with my fear of drowning.)

In the end, Inferno is a dream of dark and disturbing things.  Does the plot always make sense?  Not necessarily.  But that plot’s not important.  The film’s surreal imagery and atmosphere of doom and paranoia casts a hypnotic spell over the viewer.  Inferno is perhaps as close to a filmed nightmare as you’ll ever see.

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“She writes poetry.”

“A pastime especially suited for women.”

— Mark and the Nurse (Veronica Lazar) in Inferno 

Finally, no review of Inferno would be complete without discussing some of the people who worked behind-the-scenes.

Along with acting in the film, Daria Nicolodi also worked on the script.  As is so often the case with Daria and Dario’s collaborations, there are conflicting reports of just how involved Nicolodi was with the final script.  Daria has said that she would have demanded co-writing credit, if not for the fact that it had previously been such an ordeal to get credited for Suspiria.  Others have claimed that, while Nicolodi offered up some ideas, the final script was almost all Argento’s creation.

(Comparing the films that Argento made with Nicolodi to the ones that he made without her leads me to side with Nicolodi.)

Working on the film as a production assistant was William Lustig, the famed exploitation film producer and director who would later become the CEO of Blue Underground.  Reportedly, during filming, Lustig attempted to convince Nicolodi to star in a film that he was going to direct.  Nicolodi’s co-star would have been legendary character actor Joe Spinell.  Disgusted by the film’s script, Nicolodi refused the role and, as a result, Caroline Munro ended up playing the stalked fashion photographer in Lustig’s controversial Maniac.

Future director Michele Soavi worked on several of Argento’s films.  I’ve always been under the impression that Soavi was a production assistant on Inferno but, when I rewatched the film, he wasn’t listed in the credits.  Inferno is also not among his credits on the imdb.  I guess the idea that one of my favorite Italian horror directors worked on one of my favorite Italian horror films was just wishful thinking on my part.

However, you know who is listed in the credits?  Lamberto Bava!  Bava, who would later direct the Argento-produced Demons, worked as an assistant director on Inferno.  That leads us to perhaps the most famous member of Inferno’s crew…

Mario Bava!

Inferno was the final film for the father of Italian horror.  As so often happens, there are conflicting reports of just how involved Bava was with the production.  It is know that he worked on the special effects and that he directed some second unit work while Argento was bed ridden with hepatitis.  Irene Miracle has said that almost all of her scenes were directed by Mario Bava and that she rarely saw Argento on set.

Mario Bava is often erroneously described as being Dario Argento’s mentor.  That’s certainly what I tended to assume until I read Tim Lucas’s All The Colors of the Dark, the definitive biography on Mario Bava.  Bava was certainly an influence and it’s certainly true that Argento appears to have had a better relationship with him than he did with Lucio Fulci.  But the idea that a lot of Italian horror fans have — that Mario Bava was hanging out around the set of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and offering Argento fatherly advice — does not appear to be at all true.  (It’s a nice image, though.)  With all that in mind, it’s still feels somewhat appropriate that Bava’s final work was done on one of the best (if most underappreciated) Italian horror films of all time.

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“I do not know what price I shall have to pay for breaking what we alchemists call Silentium, the life experiences of our colleagues should warn us not to upset laymen by imposing our knowledge upon them.”

— The Three Mothers by E. Varelli, as quoted in Dario Argento’s Inferno