Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)

Trauma (1993)

Today's screening marked the first time I've ever seen the "American Argento" movie, and I learned something from it. I had always assumed that the poor acting in Argento's movies was directly related to the absence of live sound during the recording process. I was wrong. Trauma, his only full-length American film, was recorded with live sound as per the standard American procedure, but the acting is just as bad as ever. Chris Rydell did a reasonably good job in the lead, and Brad Dourif provided a couple of good moments in an extended cameo, but the rest of the cast was either completely amateurish (Dario's young daughter, Asia), or gave performances inspired by the Shatner school of acting (Piper Laurie and Frederic Forrest). I suppose the sad fact of the matter is that Dario simply has no idea how to get realistic performances from his actors, either during filming or in post-production. I wonder if he has ever re-shot a scene because an actor misread a line or delivered the wrong interpretation. I would tend to doubt it. I don't think he would notice. Dario seems to be so absorbed with his camera movement that he considers the actors either part of the background or a necessary evil.

I do have to give Asia Argento some props for this film. She had almost no grasp of English at the time, and she couldn't act worth beans, but nobody can say her heart wasn't in it. She worked her ass off to get the part right. Literally! She pulled a Christian Bale. Playing the part of an anorexic, she starved herself for months to get the right look, according to a Dario Argento interview on the DVD. Her legs, in particular, make her look like a stick drawing. Have no fear, flesh lovers. Even when starved, she still had an impressive chest!

The script isn't a lot better than the acting. It is a classic Halloween-type slasher movie in which we follow some sympathetic character or characters through danger while a lunatic commits a series of murders around them, and the murders seem to be related to them somehow. It all leads up to the final revelation of the murderer and the motive. Unfortunately, once those announcements have been made, several story elements no longer fit. If the murders were committed because of the reason stipulated, then there is no reason why the crime spree began with the random murder of an amiable chiropractor who had absolutely nothing to do with the plot or the killer's alleged motive in any way. Even sillier is the fact that the investigators conclude that the murders only occur when it is raining - which seems like an accurate hypothesis until one of the intended victim's roommates is killed on a quiet night, and nobody seems to notice or to question the rain theory! Of course, those are just niggling points when you realize that the important question is this: why does Chris Rydell decide to get involved in investigating a serial homicide. He is an artist, a former junkie, and is completely without any skills at self-defense. (He gets beat up by a pharmacist. Imagine how he'd fare if he met the killer face-to-face.)

The logic of the film gets a lot stranger than that! In fact, it gets downright surreal. After one of the serial decapitations, Rydell is the first person to arrive on the murder scene. He sees the body. He sees the head. He then does what I think any of us would do in that situation - he gets down on the floor and starts to question the decapitated head. But that isn't even the weirdest part. The truly odd thing is that the head answers him!

Oh, yeah, and then there is the inept editing. The scene transitions are absolutely random. Some examples:

  • Chris Rydell comes up to Brad Dourif in the street, on a sunny day. Dourif rejects him, so Rydell walks away. Rydell spots a cop car, which makes sense because the cops have been just a half-step behind Rydell in the investigation. What does not make sense is that the scene cuts from the approaching cop car back to Dourif, and this time he's walking at night, in the rain! The whole angle with the cop car is dropped.
  • Here is my favorite scene transition. Rydell has just been punched by the pharmacist. He's obviously on a busy city street and many people pass him while he lies on the sidewalk with blurry vision. In his hazy attempts to regain his sight, he spots a bracelet which is important to the plot. He gets up, still in a daze, and walks in the same direction as the woman wearing the bracelet. CUT. Next scene, Rydell seems to be wandering aimlessly through a tree-lined suburban neighborhood, obviously far from the busy urban street where he collapsed. He sees a little kid. He asks the kid if he has seen a woman wearing a black dress and a bracelet. The kid says "no." Rydell says "are you sure?" The kid then points to the spooky house next door - the murderer's house! So I guess we are to assume that (1) the murderess just happened to walk by Rydell while he was lying on the sidewalk, and (2) she walked a great distance from there to her spooky mansion, with Rydell somehow following, but not closely enough to see where she was actually going (since he had to ask the kid).

When you get right down to it, the so-called plot and character motivations are basically as irrelevant to Argento as the actors. He doesn't really care if it all makes sense. His "gialli"1 movies basically consist of a vaguely connected but nearly random series of grisly murders, which eventually end at some random time. In the process of getting to that random time, Argento presents the murders in a highly stylized fashion, using wild camera movement, creative visuals, graphic splatter, strange atmospheric touches (like close ups of animals or their body parts), and odd points of view.

Argento frequently uses various tricks to disguise the identity of the criminal while actually showing the crimes explicitly. In this case the tricks include:

  • Showing the victims from the killer's point of view. "Oh, hi! I thought that was you. What do you have in that bag? No! No! Please don't!"
  • Showing the killer from the point of view of the boy next door, who peeps through the windows from house to house, and whose angle of observation always prevents him from seeing much above the criminal's waist.
  • Showing the criminal's hands in black gloves. (Of course, this also serves as a handy red herring in which we viewers suspect anyone wearing black gloves until we see the grand revelation.)

The film doesn't show much of Argento's usual sense for music. Neither Goblin nor Ennio Morricone did the score, and the final product sounds like folk songs rejected from an Enya album. The only real cool thing about the film is the murder method. The killer saws off the victims' heads with a custom-designed band saw that draws a sharp wire tighter and tighter around the neck until it produces the desired effect. These crimes are committed while the victim is still alive. (And, as noted in an example above, at least two of the heads continue consciousness even after being removed.) Even this has its problems, because I wasn't very impressed by Tom Savini's special gore effects. The close-ups on the severed necks clearly reveal that we are seeing something other than human flesh.

The good news is that the DVD restores some of the footage which has been deleted in previous R-rated releases. Some scenes are in English, but others are in Italian with English sub-titles - I suppose the original English footage has been lost. The deleted scenes do not include every one listed in this IMDb article. Of the eight scenes listed in the article, numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7 are still missing. According to the IMDb article, the regular foreign print (106 minutes) plus every deleted scene (7 minutes) would add back to 113 minutes. The DVD runs 106 minutes and the deleted scenes run 4:33. There is about thirty to sixty seconds of overlap between the two, so all the available DVD footage runs about 110 minutes, indicating that the total running length of the five missing scenes must be about three minutes.

Although this film is neither very good horror not good giallo, there is one scene in this film which is absolutely beautiful. Rydell comes home late at night to find a note from Asia Argento which says that she has gone to be with her mother. Since Asia has already tried to commit suicide by drowning, and since Rydell thinks the mother is dead, he assumes that Asia has tried to drown herself in the pond behind his house. He then dives into the pond and searches for her frantically, while the camera shoots in the exact direction of the full moon, catching Rydell floundering in the shadow of the moonlight. While Rydell continues his increasingly desperate search, the Enya impersonator (Laura Evans) sings a haunting song called Ruby Rain. That heartbreaking scene alone, although suited more to a tragedy than a giallo, makes the film worth renting ...

... Well, that, and seeing Asia Argento before she started to look like she'd been rid hard and put away wet. Despite the weight loss, she looks fresh-faced in this film, and no tats are visible.

1 Footnote for newcomers: I suppose I shouldn't toss around unfamiliar foreign terms like "gialli" without an explanation. Sorry. "Giallo" is basically the Italian equivalent of the American term "pulp fiction." "Gialli" is the plural, roughly translatable as "pulp murder stories." The sensationalist male-oriented pulp stories which were so popular in the pre-TV era, filled with as much sex and violence as the law would allow, appeared in the United States in a familiar paperback format with lurid covers painted by Frank Frazetta and others. The equivalent Italian stories, most typically murder mysteries, looked similar to their American counterparts, but the covers typically had a yellow background. Literally translated, "giallo" is just the Italian word for yellow. When referring to films, "giallo" means the genre of stylized, ultra-violent Italian movies inspired by the stories in those paperbacks. Here's the Wikipedia entry, which shows some sample covers from the publications and references many films inspired by the stories.


Asia Argento

Laura Johnson

Clips and comments by ICMS:

Today we continue our uncoverage, both terrestrial and aquatic, of Phoebe Cates in "Paradise" with clips 5 and 6.

Please beware of the flashing knob in clip six for which I had already warned a couple of days ago.

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'Caps and comments by Hankster:

Today we focus on one of my favorite actresses, Sharon Stone. We took the old Time Machine on a short trip back to 1994 to catch Stone in the action-adventure flick "The Specialist" with Sylvester Stallone. Not a great movie, but not a real bad one either. James Woods is the stand out in this one and gets the most out of his role.

Sharon, well she was just plain hot!. Lot's of great leg views (she really has a set of gams). Throw in some boobage and maybe a flash of bush. She really is easy on the eyes.

Sharon Stone

We wrap it today with some nice cleavage from Jennifer O'Dell in TV's "The Lost World"

Jennifer O'Dell

Crimson Ghost
Today's featured Skinemax babe is Susan Hale. Here she is gettin' it on in scenes from the late night cabel series, "Sex games Vegas."

Susan Hale

'Caps and comments by Dann:

"Hot Times at Montclair High"
1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a classic. 1989's Hot Times at Montclair High is a mess. In the list of teen "growing up and raising hell" movies, this one will appear very close to the bottom. At best, it is a totally typical high-school teen flick, complete with the prerequisite shower scene.

Absolutely the only thing going for this mess is a bevy of attractive young actresses (most of who can't act), and the shower scene (which is a Porky's rip-off put there simply for the skin). Get your fast forward buttons ready before you watch this thing.

Kim Anderson

Here is young, Mexican actress Ana Claudia Talancón going topless in scenes from "El Crimen del padre Amaro" aka "The Crime of Father Amaro" (2002).

Here is everyone's favorite kooky celebrity Anne Heche briefly topless while gettin' it on in scenes from "Pie in the Sky" (1996).

Here's Anne Heche again, this time showing off her very lovely goodies in "The Juror" (1996).

Ashley Judd, briefly baring breast and partial bum views in scenes from "Double Jeopardy" (1999).

Next up we have "Pirates of the Caribbean" star Keira Knightley flashing her a-cups in scenes from "The Hole" (2001).

Rosario Dawson nekkid! By far the single best thing about the Oliver Stone movie "Alexander".

Jordan Ladd wonderfully topless for the first time on screen in the Broken Lizard movie, "Club Dread".

Also from "Club Dread", here is Elena Lyons showing off her robo-chest.

One more from the comedy/slasher flick "Club Dread" is Canadian beauty Tanja Reichert.

Here is P.J. Soles in the 1981 comedy classic "Stripes".

Here are a few unknown-topless-hot-tub-babes in scenes from the low-budget Ski-comedy, "Frostbite" (2005). Thanks to Gman.

The Skin-man takes at look at the 1993 movie "Trauma". This movie's biggest claim to fame is that it features a barely legal Asia Argento in her first topless scene. Laura Johnson was also kind enough to remove some clothing for a love scene.

Asia Argento

Laura Johnson

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