View Full Version : McChrist reviews BLACK PAST (1989)

07-26-2003, 12:21 AM
Dir. by Olaf Ittenbach

The movie begins with a haggard-looking man looking into a mirror and suddenly goes insane. Minutes later a little girl suddenly meets her demise at the business end of a very large meat cleaver to the face. This kind of set up is to be expected from Olaf Ittenbach, who is well known (liked or not) as being one of the pioneers of German splatter cinema. And the goods are delivered. The movie stars Olaf Ittenbach in the main role as a young teenager who likes heavy metal music, alcohol, and wears an eighties styled shag/mullet that makes him look like a homeless Ziggy-Stardust-era David Bowie. After rummaging through his attic, he finds an old chest held together by chains. Once opened, inside he finds an old diary and a mirror. The author has never seen an English language version of this film, but based off of the brooding music the author expects the diary contains some pretty heavy shit. Anyway, a little later his girlfriend looks into the mirror and suddenly she is prompted to jump in front of a moving vehicle, adding stress to a young man who is slowly going mad with hellish dreams and visions.

Black Past is the first outing by this gore-master. What can be said really? One would think that the first film from a very young man such as this would seem like it would have the backyard production values of a home movie. But instead, it appears that Ittenbach may have been a bit of a prodigy. Sure, the edits seem a bit sloppy, but I accredit that to the equipment he was probably stuck with. In any case, this film is very effective in creating what the director intended, a gore film.

One thing is immediatly clear, Ittenbach is a fan of the genre. The sequences of him battling his dead girlfriend reminds me very much of Evil Dead 2. There is a transformation sequence later on in the film that looks like a very gory cross between Toxic Avenger and Demons. Goodies like that just add a little gravy to the mix. The gore sequences are top notch for something so low budget, and the pacing is quite good. The secret behind Ittenbach's earlier work is that the story is just an excuse for gore sequences, there's very little fluff in that respect. I was reminded of the kind of fireworks display you would see in a city park, one firework at a time about every minute or so, then a grand finally where the rest of the stock is sent hurtling into the sky. Black Past is very much like that. Small gore sequences here or there that lead up to the last part of the film where every living thing is intended to become bodies.

Black Past is interesting in other respects as well, you can see the train of thought Ittenbach was following at the time. Black Past contains very similar themes that are found throughout his other gore films. The transformation sequence is just a cruder version of the one found in Premutos, and there's a dream sequence in Hell where the lead character is butchered in many ways, only to be outdone by the much gorier version in The Burning Moon. But this movie succeeds in a way, that the other films don't. This movie remains completely meanspirited throughout, you don't see human beings on the screen... You see property, you see targets.

Low budget and shot-on-video films in the past few decades have been looked upon with a bit of scorn by many of traditional horror fans. I don't know if because the movie was made recently they are expecting professional production qualities or the like, but at the same time (and sometimes in the same breath) hail pioneers like Herschell Gordon Lewis. What such fans fail to recognize is that movies such as this are in the same spirit as the old drive in classics, but maintaining a level of brutality that is rarely seen by better-funded filmmakers. The auther feels that Ittenbach has accomplished what he was out to do, and would state even further that Ittenbach has delievered what he intended with a level of talent that in many ways outshines some of the more institutional cult directors. Recommended.

- M.

07-26-2003, 11:04 AM
Great review! This film sounds kinda interesting even though I've never seen any Olaf flicks before .....

The Chaostar
07-26-2003, 04:31 PM
Burning Moon is still my favorite
You know that Olaf has spent some time in JAIL because of his gore movies?
Believe it or not!

07-26-2003, 04:41 PM
I believe it, the censorship laws are strict. Burning Moon is my favorite too, in fact one of my Top 20, but Black Past is quite impressive as a first film.

The Chaostar
07-26-2003, 05:03 PM
I must agree McChrist, for a first effort Black Past certainly delivers!

07-26-2003, 07:43 PM
Black Past is a cool title too (or would make a good band name also!)