[Junesploitation ’22] Mini Reviews: A Blade In The Dark (1983) and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975)

Mini Review
Day 13: Italian Horror!
A Blade In The Dark (1983)

A favourite genre of film of mine is Italian Horror, which happens to be the prompt for Day 13. Italian horror is known for some true classics and also some rather hilarious entries, names like Mario Bava and Dario Argento are some the greats and that does bring us to the film chosen for the day with A Blade In The Dark (1983), directed by Lamberto Bava (the son of Mario). The film has elements of the classic giallo and slasher, a striking (but overly repetitive) score and an intriguing set up, however despite having a lot going for it, it just doesn’t manage to come together.

A composer Bruno (Andrea Occhipinti) working on a film score is spending his time at a Tuscan Villa to focus on music he is creating. Strange things begin to happen at the Villa, strange women showing up and then disappearing and evidence of someone else being in the house with blood stains scattered around. Is this all related to the film he’s working on or perhaps something to do with the previous tenant?

The real problem A Blade In The Dark has is the pacing, setting up tension and atmosphere is a must, however it takes far too long and focuses on attempting scares whether it makes sense or not. The story itself is decent as well, with the main character working on a film and said film perhaps tying into a killer that is stalking the Villa. When there is a reveal, it leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth, it is some what predictable with some elements but still it just doesn’t work. Having watched this film with an English dub and not in Italian with English subtitles may have impacted the viewing negatively as the dubbed dialogue was horrendous and nonsensical. There was an effort put in with the film, it just doesn’t entirely click together and the dubbed version makes it a comedy rather than a horror.


Mini Review
Day 14: Blaxploitation!
Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975)

For Day 14 and ‘Blaxploitation’ the chosen film is Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975), having seen the original Cleopatra Jones (1973) for last years Junesploitation and enjoying the film. Tamara Dobson returns as the titular character for the sequel now set in Hong Kong as she sets out to save her missing friends from a Drug Organisation run by the mysterious Dragon Lady. Cleo is a Federal Agent who works solo and certainly doesn’t follow the traditional rules, in this outing she teams up with Private Investigator Mi Ling Fong (Tanny Tien-Ni).

From the get go the film is action packed, there’s lot’s of martial arts scenes and impressive stunts along the way as Cleo and Mi Ling try to track down the Dragon Lady. Tamara Dobson is once again fantastic as Cleo, bringing a lot of sass and charm to the role, along with a wardrobe that is constantly impressive and beautiful. Tanny Tien-Ni brings her own charm and attitude and the scenes between Mi Ling and Cleo are just wonderful, why was there not a TV series with these two fighting crime? The original film had the ever campy and glorious Shelley Winters as the villain, Stella Stevens as the Dragon Lady doesn’t have the same feel but she more than holds her own.

Cleopatra and the Casino of Gold is a great follow up to the original, the tone here is different but it works quite well for its story and location. Both films are a lot of fun with a wonderful lead, both are just as good as each other and I highly recommend people check both out as a double feature. It is a shame that Tamara Dobson was not a huge star after these two films, she is so enjoyable as Cleo and a powerful character overall.


Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea

Please check out FThisMovie.net, with many thanks to the crew for the concept of Junesploitation and some excellent prompts for 2022!


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