Cross of Seven Jewels, The (1987)

Imagine you’re in Naples, a picturesque city along the cerulean Mediterranean Sea, a charming Old World city that dates back to the Bronze Age. There are centuries-old palazzos, piazzas, and villas surrounded by lush gardens and bubbling fountains. But who cares about all that shit because you’re trapped in a satanic sex torture dungeon. All around you, young, naked women are being whipped, smacked, spanked, and sexed upon by naked, middle-aged men with generous guts that loom over their jiggling wangs. The women writhe in ecstasy and pain, just like when you eat too much pizza, except now imagine you have no clothes on and someone’s overweight uncle is flogging you. But hey, you’re in Naples! Viva Italia!

“Let our Lord hear your pain!”

The Lord happens to be a moist, hairy, ape-like creature that looks like a budget-minded Chewbacca who, after losing a childish bet, has just taken a dip into a stagnant pond off the New Jersey Turnpike. The Lord grunts and growls and red fireballs shoot from his forehead.

Marco, a mysterious man with a mysterious past filled with mysterious mysteries comes into town. He sports a gold chain with a cross that’s encrusted in exactly seven jewels, no more, no less. It is, as we say in Italy, molto baller. The necklace gets snatched by some scamps on a scooter. Marco panics and his eyes go wild. But it’s his own damn fault. You shouldn’t wear flashy jewelry in a crowded city known for its satanic sex torture dungeons. I know kids who take off their nice kicks and put on busted ones when they walk through rough parts of Brooklyn. And we’re talking about shoes, which are placed on dank feet that harbor fungus. These kids wouldn’t even think about wearing a flashy necklace around Brownsville. Point is, Marco is a chump. His chain got snatched and now he’s bummed out.

Through a series of events that is confusing and ultimately unimportant, Marco finds a man who fences stolen goods. Unfortunately he has sold the necklace to someone else. Marco, in his anxious shakedown, explains that he really, really, really needs the cross and that it’s really, really, really important. He looks at a clock, which is ticking close to midnight. Then, at the stroke of twelve, a werewolf busts through the glass window. This werewolf is not the typical lycanthrope we’ve come to expect from Hollywood movies; it’s not overly hairy or hulking or even snaggletoothed. Quite the contrary. This one is impossibly hairless and pretty much naked, save for a hairpiece covering his junk. I believe technically it’s called a merkin, but I prefer to call it a crotch toupee. The werewolf’s hands are hairy and so is half his head, but the rest has been meticulously manscaped and waxed. He has a smooth sculpted chest and finely chiseled abs. What a hunk!

Marco’s hunt for the necklace leads him to a Mafioso named Rafello Esposito. It is easy to find a mob boss. All you do is go to a café and ask, and then you are taken to him. It’s as easy as ordering a cappuccino, which you should do because you’re in Italy. Now with the help of Maria, a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold, Marco must recover the necklace before it’s too late.

The Cross of Seven Jewels offers everything you love about werewolf movies—gore, gratuitous furniture smashing, more gore, close-ups on claws, and transitions from man to werewolf and back again. There aren’t a lot of twists or jump-scares, but the film makes up for it with its heavy dose of Italian seasoning. There’s S&M sleaze, flashes of peen, ineffectual polizia, henchmen who complain about—what else—their wives, aggressive lovemaking between a beast and a sexy fortuneteller, and, of course, mommy issues.

“Didn’t you say your mother practiced black magic?”

There’s plenty of confusing dialogue, giant plot holes, and extra scenes and characters that have absolutely no bearing on the narrative. Yet, this film is completely bewitching, even when you have no idea what’s going on or why. It’s entertaining and sleazy, and the plot keeps charging forward in a few different directions, all of which are fantastic. This is a movie that doesn’t flag, even in the quieter moments. The film’s star, Eddy Endolf (aka Marco Antonio Andolfini) is also the writer, director, editor, and special effects director—a true Renaissance man of filmmaking. The creature effects and make-up are dirt-cheap but highly ambitious, and it’s possible that The Cross of Seven Jewels may have the slowest transition from man to werewolf ever committed to film. But everything is completely magnetic. Andolfini clearly poured his soul into this beast of a film and it is worth every drop of sweat and every minute of your attention. Unfortunately this was the only thing he ever directed, wrote, and edited, so I can’t help thinking that we were robbed of his genius.

But, there is a lesson to be learned from this film and it is this: Protect your jewels.

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