Call Me Stormy

Finding righteous currents in turbulent times

Archive for the tag “Italy”

Bye Bye Berlusconi

Three-time former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years and banned from public office for life for soliciting underaged prostitute Karima El Mahroug for romps at his bunga bunga parties. He was also convicted of abusing his office to help El Mahroug out of jail after she was arrested for theft.

That’s A Spicy Meatball

Crediting Italy with the creation of one of America’s favorite comfort foods, spaghetti and meatballs, seems logical enough. A deeper look into the dish’s history, though, shows it was a pure American invention.

Italy Busts Terror Cell

Italian police have arrested four Islamists they suspect belonged to a militant cell planning attacks in Israel, Italy and the United States. Police said the men, mostly from Tunisia, are suspected of conspiracy to commit international terrorism and inciting racial hatred.

Justice on Trial in Italy

The gruesome murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher shocked the world but has justice been served or has the notorious Italian justice system locked up the wrong person?

“The truth is elusive,” Barbie Nadeau, a Newsweek writer says. “We have no idea whether she’s guilty…we actually don’t know.” Nadeau is one of the Knox supporters who suggest that her  trial was anything but fair. Knox is now appealing her conviction and the prosecution’s case is looking shaky.

Project Genesis

This short, stop-motion animation conjures up an alternative universe in which computers are the supreme beings, and they fabricate a new invention to tend to their more basic and mundane needs — the Human. In an allegorical touch, the new creature is wearing a T-shirt adorned with an apple. Written, produced and directed by Italian filmmaker Alessio Fava, Project Genesis has one of the more entertaining promo websites you’ll ever see for a movie. Check it out at!//  H/T Kuriositas

The Human Kebab

Do you long for the days when heroes were so strong and invincible they could kill several bad guys with a single hurl of a spear? The Peplum Channel celebrates those days with three examples of “the human kebab” from vintage, Italian-made sword and sandal movies.

La Piscina

With the new Sim City game coming out this week, it seemed like the perfect time to revive this 1976 short by Italian animator Bruno Bozetto.  La Piscina, or The Swimming Pool, introduces the unlucky Mr. Rossi, whose attempts at urban renewal — adding a prefab home, tearing down a troublesome tree, digging out a swimming pool —  meet with disastrous results.

Bozetto is perhaps best known for his 1976 feature Allegro Non Troppo, his satirical parody of Fantasia, set to classical music. But he also created many short pieces, the most memorable of them revolving around the hapless Signor Rossi.

Slave Queen of Babylon

Today’s Trillion Dollar Movie, Slave Queen of Babylon, stars Yvonne Furneaux as Semiramis, queen of ancient Assyria. Reputed to be the world’s most beautiful woman, all manner of myths and legends have been ascribed to her over the ages. Some credited her with designing the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, although the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus noted they were built long after Semiramis reigned. It’s also been said she invented the chastity belt, while Protestant minister Alexander Hislop assailed her for fomenting deviltry by devising polytheism and “goddess worship.”

Her rare combination of beauty and power certainly made her a recurring figure in literature — ranging from works by John Milton to William Faulkner — and cinema, including this 1963 sword-and-sandal epic made in Italy but featuring an international cast. Born in France, but working primarily in Great Britain, Furneaux was always a stunning actress but this is perhaps her most alluring role. In some ways, she reprises her 1959 appearance in Hammer Films’ remake of The Mummy, where she played Princess Ananka, a High Priestess from ancient Egypt resurrected from her mausoleum. But Furneaux has more room to maneuver as Semiramis, plotting to seize the Assyrian throne by outfoxing all of the men around her, as well as defending the kingdom against a host of external enemies.

She’s devious, unscrupulous, manipulative, and also, ravishing enough to get away with it. Her one weakness: She falls in love with the rival King Kir of the Dardanians, played by German-born actor John Ericson, seen on scores of American TV shows including Rawhide, General Hospital, CHiPs and Fantasy Island. This costume adventure has largely been forgotten, which is a shame — because the action is fierce, the drama often sweeping and the costumes and sets quite opulent. Hope you enjoy, and do return again next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.

Hercules in the Haunted World

Today’s Trillion Dollar Movie is Hercules in the Haunted World, also sometimes known as Hercules in the Center of the Earth. This 1961 film, shot in Italy, is perhaps the most psychedelic Hercules movie ever made. That’s not surprising, considering it was directed by Mario Bava, Italy’s most accomplished horror filmmaker. Here, he places as much emphasis on sorcery as swordplay, mixing a healthy dosage of the macabre with the expected muscle-bound action.

Hercules’ mission: To journey to the underworld, Hades to be exact, to retrieve the Stone of Forgetfulness, so a curse can be lifted from the fair Princess Deianira. The diabolical sorcerer Lyco stands in Hercules’ way. He has placed the princess in a trance, so he could grab power and the throne. In a rarity for one of Bava’s low-budget features, he snared an A-list acting talent, Christopher Lee, to play the menacing villain. True, Lee’s voice is dubbed and he doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but when’s he on, he’s snarlingly good.

Otherwise, there are several exciting episodes associated with Hercules’ quest. He consults with oracles, battles a sadistic rock creature and braves hellish lakes of fire, as he descends deeper into Pluto’s lair. Reg Park, the British bodybuilder and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s closest mentor, plays the hero. Park only appeared in five movies, four times as Hercules. He’s no match for Steve Reeves, but he’s not entirely wooden, either.

In the end, what distinguishes this film are Bava’s haunting visuals. Besides directing, he also served as cinematographer and special effects maven, so the look of the picture is entirely his doing. Enjoy and do return again next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.

Flap Raised Over Skulls

Do criminals look different than everyone else?

Cesare Lombroso

That’s what Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso believed. He collected more than 400 skulls of 19th century criminals seeking to prove his theories that physiognomy shaped one’s tendencies to commit crimes or indulge in deviant behavior.  The skulls and related artifacts — including Lombroso’s full skeleton — are on display at the Museum of Criminal Anthropology in Turin, Italy. But descendants of the criminals are crying foul, saying the exhibit should be closed and their relatives’ skulls returned for proper burial.

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