Sunday, 30 November 2014

Shadow of Illusion (1970) Mario Caiano

I was looking forward to Shadow of Illusion, I can scarce think of any Egyptian themed horrors other than a multitude of mouldering mummies and so an occult horror in the land of the Pharaohs with nary a bandage in sight seemed pretty interesting, especially when made by Italians (whose often lax approach to plot logic is quite ideal for such fare) in 1970 (almost bang in the middle of the perfect era for weird cinema). Sadly, there's just not enough to it. Gorgeous Daniela Giordano plays a fashion model summoned to Egypt by a mysterious perfume company but when she gets there there's no one to welcome her and it seems not to really exist. There is a handsome if eccentric charmer to show her a good time though, and a weird, vaguely incestuous brother and sister, and eventually some shenanigans. I get the impression that this was largely improvised around the location rather than a fully realised and intentional project, for much of the time meaningful stares are about the extent of any intrigue. It wouldn't matter too much to me if the local colour came through better, but although this makes some effort it lacks atmosphere. Sure, there are whirling street dancers, rainbow robes, crush of faces and bodies, insistent pedlars and esoteric trinkets. There's a market fight with a stall overturned and fruit tumbling down steps, there are camels, even the obligatory look at the Pyramids. But its all just there, it never really transports the mind. Part of the problem is that the soundtrack is heavy on the European jazz and lounge, rather less so on geographically fitting sounds, and another issue is the slightly beat up quality of the Midnight Video rip in which this does the rounds. But really its hard to exactly pinpoint why this doesn't all work. Disinterested filming perhaps, or laziness? Who knows? 

And when this does actually get into the expected plotting or weirdness, it isn't so great either. The plot isn't short of interesting potential but nothing is really developed. The weirdness is there but all quite pat. Dope smoking, lesbianism, faces shifting into two, three, four and more and back together, dancing, whirling and abrupt editing that frustrates rather than building worthy montages. Mild sadism, a fog machine, lengthy ritual (with more dancing of course) and then only in the last 15 minutes or so there's a bit of actual tension and excitement. I would probably have hated this if I weren't positively predisposed towards this kind of thing, I found it all basically watchable but others may want to steer clear. Mind you, quite a few other reviews of this are quite positive so I guess maybe I was having a bad day. I wasn't really having a bad day though. Take it if you must...

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