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Italian Gothic Horror Films,

Also by RobeRto CuRtI
And FRom mCFARlAnd

Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works

of a Born Filmmaker (2017)
Tonino Valerii: The Films (2016)
Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957–1969 (2015)
Italian Crime Filmography, 1968–1980 (2013)
Italian Gothic Horror
Films, 1970–1979
RobeRto CuRtI

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers

Jefferson, North Carolina
ISBN (softcover) 978-1-4766-6469-9
ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4766-2960-5

lIbRARy oF ConGRess CAtAloGuInG dAtA ARe AvAIlAble

bRItIsH lIbRARy CAtAloGuInG dAtA ARe AvAIlAble

© 2017 Roberto Curti. All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form

or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying
or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publisher.

Front cover: Poster art featuring Ida Galli in

Un bianco vestito per Marialé (1972; illustration by tino Avelli)

Printed in the united states of America

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers

Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640
table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1
A Note on the Entries 5
Abbreviations 7

Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1970–1979

1970 9
Balsamus l’uomo di Satana 9 • Il delitto del diavolo—Favola thrilling a.k.a.
Le regine 14 • Ombre roventi 17 • Il rosso segno della follia 19 • Thomas …
gli indemoniati 23
1971 27
Un gioco per Eveline 27 • …Hanno cambiato faccia 29 • Lady
Frankenstein 32 • Nella stretta morsa del ragno 37 • La notte che Evelyn
uscì dalla tomba 40 • La notte dei dannati 43 • Qualcosa striscia nel
buio 45 • Il sesso del diavolo—Trittico 48
1972 50
L’amante del demonio 50 • Baron Blood a.k.a. Gli orrori del castello di
Norimberga 53 • Un bianco vestito per Marialé 57 • Byleth (il demone
dell’incesto) 60 • La dama rossa uccide sette volte 62 • Estratto dagli
archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea 65 • Frankenstein ’80 69 •
La morte scende leggera 71 • La notte dei diavoli 74 • Tutti i colori
del buio 77
1973 80
Flesh for Frankenstein a.k.a. Il mostro è in tavola, barone … Frankenstein 80 •
Lisa e il diavolo 84 • La morte ha sorriso all’assassino 90 • La morte negli
occhi del gatto 93 • Il plenilunio delle vergini 96 • Il prato macchiato
di rosso 99 • Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel Trecento… 102 • Il sesso
della strega 104
1974 106
Le amanti del mostro 106 • L’assassino ha riservato nove poltrone 109 •
Il bacio 113 • Blood for Dracula a.k.a. Dracula cerca sangue di vergine e …
morì di sete!!! 116 • Un fiocco nero per Deborah 119 • Mania 121 •
La mano che nutre la morte 124 • Nuda per Satana 126 • Il profumo
della signora in nero 129 • Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette 134

vi table of Contents

1975 138
Il cav. Costante Nicosia demoniaco ovvero: Dracula in Brianza 138 •
Frankenstein all’italiana—Prendimi, straziami, che brucio di passion! 141 •
Il medaglione insanguinato (Perché?!) 144 • Le orme 146 • La pelle sotto
gli artigli 150 • La sanguisuga conduce la danza 154
1976 157
La casa dalle finestre che ridono 157 • La lupa mannara 163 • Un sussurro
nel buio 166
1977 169
Anima persa 169 • Sette note in nero 172 • Shock 177 • Suspiria 180 •
Tutti defunti … tranne i morti 187
1978 190
Enfantasme 190 • L’osceno desiderio—Le pene nel ventre 192 • Pensione
paura 196
1979 201
Buio omega 201 • Dottor Jekyll e gentile signora 205 • Malabimba 208 •
Sensività 211 • Le strelle nel fosso 214

Appendix: Italian Gothic on the Small Screen 219

Bibliography 231
Index 235

my most sincere thanks go to the following, who in one way or another

contributed to the making of this book: mark thompson Ashworth, lucas
balbo, Francesco barilli, José Antonio diego bogajo, nigel à brassard, da-
vide Cavaciocchi, Francesco Cesari, Alessio di Rocco, Philip dittman,
steve Fenton, Ramón Freixas, ernesto Gastaldi, mario and Roderick Gauci,
troy Howarth, Peter Jilmstad, dorothy Koval, Frank lafond, tommaso la
selva, stefano lecchini, tom lisanti, Antonio mayans, Paolo mereghetti,
domenico monetti, Antonio José navarro, Kaya Özkaracalar, Alberto Pez-
zotta, Jonathan Rigby, bernard seray, luca servini, Carme tierz, Pete
tombs, donato totaro, david C. tucker, and Gary vanisian.
to my beloved Cri.

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the history of Italian Gothic horror cin- quences that had been partially tampered
ema in the 1970s is one of dissipation and con- with by the censors, highlighted the common
tamination. the main characteristics that practice of shooting more risqué material for
made the films produced in the early 1960s a the sex scenes.
tight and rigidly circumscribed subgenre were sexuality turned into the main attraction
diluted, hybridized and contaminated by out- in stories that reworked Gothic stereotypes
side influences, resulting in much looser in a patently erotic way. movies like La notte
boundaries and in a variety of approaches dei dannati (1971), Il plenilunio delle vergini
to the Gothic canon. As a consequence, the (1973), Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel Tre-
genre’s identity became much more volatile cento… (1973) and Nuda per Satana (1974)
and multi-faceted, a transformation that spiced their tales of witches and vampires with
somehow mirrored the increasingly chaotic ample sexuality. these sexploitation flicks
state of the national film industry as a whole. were mainly low-budget affairs, shot in real
the main factor was sex, which by then locations like the Piccolomini castle in balso-
had become a vital ingredient in popular cin- rano, and featured leading men from the pre-
ema. In the previous decade, Gothic had been vious decade, now burdened by the passing
characterized by the reliance on suggestive of time, such as Pierre brice and mark damon,
eroticism and mild nudity: think of the allu- as well as other has-beens (mickey Hargitay,
sions to lesbianism featured in La cripta e l’in- Joseph Cotten or Rossano brazzi…) and re-
cubo (1964, Camillo mastrocinque) and current character actors such as Paul muller,
Danza macabra (1964, Antonio margheriti), luciano Pigozzi, and Gordon mitchell. last
or barbara steele’s bubble bath in 5 tombe per but not least, the place of the genre’s diva par
un medium (1965, massimo Pupillo), just to excellence, barbara steele, was taken by a
name a few. After 1968, the relaxation of cen- plethora of starlets—from Rosalba neri to
sorship gave way to female nudity and simu- Patrizia viotti, from Camille Keaton to Rita
lated sex on the big screen, and not just there. Calderoni—who obliged the distributors’
In fact, one of the most consistent influences needs for exposed female flesh. the results
on 1970s Italian Gothic came in the form of were artistically forgettable and commercially
the adults-only comics that flooded the news- marginal at the time of their release: even
stands and pushed the limits of what could be more than in the previous decade, such prod-
shown to the general public in terms of ucts were often put together hastily, and in-
nudity, perversion and violence. the appear- tended for independent or regional distribu-
ance of film magazines and photonovels with tion; some, like Lady Frankenstein (1971),
an erotic content, such as Cinesex, which L’amante del demonio (1972) or Terror! Il
hosted more explicit photo versions of se- castello delle donne maledette (1974), were pro-

2 Introduction

duced and/or directed by American expatri- within the boundaries of Gothic were the pe-
ates, such as mel Welles and dick Randall, riod melodrama (see Il bacio, 1974) and the
and devised for foreign markets. their main spoof (Frankenstein all’italiana, 1975), the lat-
commercial attractive was the abundant erotic ter revived by the success of mel brooks’
component: evocative titles, provocative Young Frankenstein (1974).
posters and especially the “forbidden to mi- the 1970s saw the return to the genre of
nors” (v.m.18) rating, which became some such specialists as Riccardo Freda, mario bava
sort of a “quality mark” to boast for maximum and Antonio margheriti, with varied results.
effect. Freda’s only Gothic movie of the decade, the
Another concurring factor in the muta- disappointing Estratto dagli archivi segreti
tion of Italian Gothic was the rise of the giallo, della polizia di una capitale europea (1972),
resulting in a number of crossovers that bor- was followed by a long hiatus, even though
rowed the black-gloved killers and creative the director kept working on a number of un-
murder scenes from dario Argento’s films and filmed projects, some of them pertaining to
transplanted them into typical Gothic scenar- the genre; his return behind the camera took
ios, and even played on the alleged supernat- place after eight years, with his final film Mur-
ural nature of the murderer. As a consequence, der Obsession, shot in 1980 but released in
the line between giallo and Gothic is often 1981. bava’s output was more consistent and
blurred, as the hyperviolent thrillers made varied, from the ghost story-cum-thriller hy-
during the decade often encompassed brid Il rosso segno della follia (a.k.a. Un hacha
elements from the Gothic, and vice versa. para la luna de miel, filmed in 1969 but re-
other different threads that found their way leased in 1970) to the more conventional

Italian fotobusta for La notte dei dannati (1971), a Gothic film characterized by strong erotic elements.
Introduction 3

Baron Blood (1972) and the ambitious Lisa e (1975), actually a Gothic yarn in disguise, which
il diavolo (1973), the latter destined to a sad displayed another, offbeat influence: the tear-
fate which led to its release in a heavily ma- jerkers centered on unhappy child figures,
nipulated form as La casa dell’esorcismo which in turn hinted at another issue, the
(1975). margheriti opted to remake his best feared dissolution of bourgeois family, shaken
work in the genre, Danza macabra, in color by the disintegration of the Catholic moral
and with an international cast, with Nella and the violent rebellion of the sons against
stretta morsa del ragno (1971), and helmed a the fathers and society, from the 1968 student
Gothic/giallo hybrid, La morte negli occhi del protests to the rise of armed terrorism.
gatto (1973). His name was also associated to such a frantic agglomeration of diverse
a couple of grotesque horror films shot in Italy influences was a method common to other
by Paul morrissey, Flesh for Frankenstein short-lived threads that were born and took
(1973) and Blood for Dracula (1974): margher- turns frantically from the mid 1970s onward,
iti was credited as the sole director in the Ital- each more bizarre and daring than the other:
ian prints, under his a.k.a. Anthony m. daw- the nazi-erotic cycle, the cannibal movie, the
son. short-lived thread on bestiality inspired by
unlike in television, where the genre borowczyk’s La bête (a case in point is luigi
flourished thanks to such enormously suc- Russo’s La bella e la bestia, 1977) or the up-
cessful works as the mini-series Il segno del co- coming zombie movie (Zombi 2, 1979, lucio
mando (1971), the place for classical Gothic on Fulci). It was the consequence of the unstop-
the big screen was marginal. the success of The pable endogenous mutation of Italian popular
Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin) caused pro- cinema, caused by a number of factors that
ducers and filmmakers to jump on the band- involved production, distribution, even laws,
wagon. the sad destiny of Lisa e il diavolo, re- not forgetting a social and political tissue
edited and altered in order to become some which was undergoing shocking traumas,
sort of The Exorcist rip-off, illustrates the from the rise of the ultra-leftist “movement
mocking decadence of Italian Gothic, absorbed of 1977” to the kidnapping and killing of pre-
and overwhelmed by its smarter twin, the de- mier Aldo moro. but it was also a desperate
monic thread. Films such as L’anticristo (1974, attempt to squeeze as much profit as possible
Alberto de martino), L’ossessa (1974; mario from the ongoing crisis that plagued the na-
Gariazzo), Un urlo dalle tenebre (1975, elo Pan- tional movie industry.
nacciò, Franco lo Cascio) leapfrogged the im- Gothic films, like the other genre fare
agery that nourished Il plenilunio delle vergini produced in the country in the current and
and Nuda per Satana, further underlining its past decades, were mostly aimed at the so-
commercial obsolescence. the elements that called seconda visione (second-run) and terza
pertained to the Gothic, wherever they visione (third run) theaters. these were lower
emerged—such as the theme of the double, quality auditoriums, located in the provinces
which brings together the bedeviled Ippolita and in small towns, characterized by lower
(Carla Gravina) to her ancestress witch in ticket costs (even a fifth or the standard fare)
L’anticristo—were few and far between, and and frequented by unassuming male audi-
distorted by the context; the stories drew from ences. overall, the second and third-run ex-
contemporaneous American horror cinema, perience was quite different from that in a
and bastardized their sources, piling up the prima visione theater. Audiences came and
elements of excess, such as blasphemous sex- went during the projection, accompanied the
uality. A notable exception was massimo dal- scenes with comments and jokes, and filled
lamano’s Il medaglione insanguinato (Perché?!) the auditorium with clouds of smoke, since,
4 Introduction

unlike in first-run theaters, smoking was al- Riccardo Ghione) similarly employed vam-
lowed. they hardly cared about the movie it- pirism as a metaphor for the haute bour-
self, but went for the experience—whether it geoisie’s domination of the lower classes. even
be watching beautiful ladies take off their more surprising were several peculiar addi-
clothes, gunslingers shooting dead hordes of tions to the so-called “female Gothic” canon.
enemies, or masked killers dispatching their these latter works transported the Gothic
victims in gruesome ways. Seconda and terza staples to the present day and focused on the
visione theaters had been the recipient for the uneasiness of the female figure in contempo-
enduring success of genre cinema: they would rary society, by depicting mentally unstable
change the bill daily, and grant a longer com- women at the center of arcane conspiracies
mercial life to movies which would be still (either imagined or real). the results were
around years after their making. by the end among the most interesting approximations
of the decade these theaters were gradually to Gothic made during the decade: Il profumo
converting to hardcore, the safest choice to della signora in nero (1974, Francesco barilli)
face the continuing loss of moviegoers, most and Le orme (1975, luigi bazzoni). In a way,
of whom had found a much more satisfying this was also the case with such atypical works
alternative in television, after the rise of com- as Ombre roventi (1970, mario Caiano), Un
mercial broadcasters. fiocco nero per Deborah (1974, marcello An-
the non-stop quest for excess on screen, drei) and Sette note in nero (1977, lucio Fulci),
either violent or erotic (or both), drained the with their peculiar mixture of modern-day
Gothic of its primary function and meaning. Gothic and parapsychological thriller that ex-
two ways were open for producers and film- plored the period’s interest in the occult and
makers who kept investing in the genre: on the paranormal, a trait that hinted at the
the one hand the emphasis on blood and gore growing tendency toward disengagement
(see Buio omega, 1979, Aristide massaccesi), (also political) and escapism.
on the other, yielding to hardcore porn (see but the decade also spawned original ef-
Malabimba, 1979). In both cases, the recycling forts from other major talents. With his early
of the Gothic elements would lead to a com- films, Pupi Avati paved the way for a peculiar
pletely different terrain. the genre’s ambiguity brand of Gothic, deeply rooted in Italian
disappeared, replaced by the parade of attrac- folklore, which blossomed into one of the
tions that had become the films’ only reasons genre’s true masterpieces of the decade, La
for existence. Gothic in its primordial essence casa dalle finestre che ridono (1976). on the
could not survive, because it was still tied to other hand, dario Argento moved from the
formal and thematic elements that were by giallo to the supernatural horror story with
now outdated. Suspiria (1977), an extraordinary example of
still, during the 1970s there were also what can be called Italian neo-Gothic, fol-
works and filmmakers that reinvented the lowed three years later by Inferno (1980).
genre and its peculiarities in a stimulating However, by the end of the decade the
way. such were the political rereadings of the genre was gasping for air as audiences were
Gothic myths: Corrado Farina’s feature film rapidly diminishing, television being a pow-
debut …Hanno cambiato faccia (1971) was an erful competitor, and other subgenres were
original reinvention of Nosferatu set in the rapidly surfacing and declining. In the 1980s,
present and with an anti-capitalistic message; the face of Italian Gothic would change all
the bizarre Il prato macchiato di rosso (1973, over again, and dramatically so.
A note on the entries

this volume lists the films produced and situdes they underwent. last but not least, I
released in Italy between 1970 and 1979 that added an appendix that covers the Gothic
in my view can be defined as “Gothic.” (For made-for-tv films and mini-series produced
an analysis of the term and its implications, during the decade and up to the early 1980s.
see Roberto Curti, Italian Gothic Horror Films, I would like to stress my choice of dating
1957–1969, pages 3–9.) an entry according to its release date instead
I have included borderline examples of of its filming (which in a couple of occa-
gialli which feature a strong emphasis on the sions—namely bava’s Il rosso segno della follia
supernatural and other Gothic elements (such and Avati’s Balsamus l’uomo di Satana—
as emilio miraglia’s La notte che Evelyn uscì would have dated the movie back to the pre-
dalla tomba, 1971, and La dama rossa uccide vious decade) or its submission to the board
sette volte, 1972) as well as works that rein- of censors, because in my view a movie never
vented the genre’s staples such as those actually comes alive until it is received by an
mentioned in the introduction. on the other audience.
hand, I decided to leave out most of the Ex- each entry features as complete a crew
orcist-inspired films for the reasons explained and cast list as possible, based on the film’s
above. opening and closing credits. uncredited
entries include Italian co-productions extras are also listed, and whenever possible
with other european countries, such as enzo I tried to note when a cast member does not
G. Castellari’s Sensività (a.k.a. Diabla, 1979), actually appear in the movie: this was often
filmed in spain. on the other hand, I did not the case for C.s.C. graduates—one of the typ-
include films which featured an Italian par- ical scams of Italian productions, as a law in
ticipation but are actually majoritarian foreign force until 1975 granted tax benefits to those
co-productions helmed by foreign directors, Italian films that had two former C.s.C. stu-
such as Ivanna (1970, José luis merino), La dents among cast and crew members. Please
mansión de la niebla (1972, Francisco lara note that in some occasions the Italian crew
Polop) or Ceremonia sangrienta (1973, Jorge and cast members adopted english pseudo-
Grau): despite the presence of Italian cast and nyms: whenever possible, I included the par-
crew members, these cannot be considered as ticipants’ real names after their Anglo-saxon
proper “Italian Gothic films.” I opted to list aliases. Also featured are data regarding pro-
the two Italian/French co-productions Paul duction details, locations, running time, visa
morrissey shot in Italy, Flesh for Frankenstein number, release dates, box-office grosses, al-
and Blood for Dracula, because of the vexed ternate titles; a brief synopsis; and an essay on
question of Antonio margheriti’s actual con- the film, often with the inclusion of little-
tribution to both films and the peculiar vicis- known or never-before-seen data regarding

6 A note on the entries

production history and assorted trivia. Home makers and actors, newspaper articles and re-
video releases are also listed, with preference views, ministerial papers). Whenever possible,
given to english-friendly blu-Rays and I located and consulted the films’ original
dvds. scripts kept at the luigi Chiarini library of the
the entries are listed under their original Centro sperimentale di Cinematografia in
Italian title, followed by the english title in Rome, as well as the Public Cinematographic
brackets and italics (if there was no english Register at the sIAe offices in Rome, which
language release, a literal translation is in- provided the shooting dates for a number of
cluded, but not set in italics). the information titles. As for locations, a valuable resource
bits provided throughout the text are the was the website, which fea-
result of thorough research from a variety of tures remarkable investigation work on the
sources such as academic texts and essays and matter.
other assorted material (interviews with film-
The following abbreviations are used in the credits list for each entry

Crew director; sC: screenplay; sd: set decora-

tion; se: special effects; so: sound; soe:
AC: Assistant camera; ACo: Cos- special sound effects; sP: still photogra-
tume assistant; ACon: Assistant continu- pher; ss: script supervisor / script girl;
ity; Ad: Assistant director; Ae: Assistant W: Wardrobe / seamstress.
editor; Amu: Assistant makeup; APd:
Production design assistant; Artd: Art di-
rector; Asd: Assistant set designer; b: Production
boom man; C: Camera; Chel: Chief/Head
electrician; CHoR: Choreographer; Co: Adm: Administrator; AP: Associate
Costumes; Con: Continuity; d: directed producer; eP: executive producer; Gm:
by; diald: dialogue coach / dialogue di- General manager; PA: Production assis-
rector; doP: director of photography; tant; PAcc: Production Accountant; PCo:
dubd: dubbing director; e: editor; el: Production Coordinator; Pm: Produc-
electrician; GA: Gaffer; Hair: Hairdresser; tion manager; PRod: Produced by; Ps:
KG: Key grip; lt: lighting technician; m: Production supervisor; Pse: Production
music; mA: master of arms; mix: sound secretary; PseA: Production secretary
mixer; mu: makeup; oe: optical effects; assistant; um: unit manager; uP: unit
Pd: Production designer; Prm: Property publicist.
manager; s: story; 2ndAd: 2nd Assistant

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Italian Gothic Horror Films,
The films are listed alphabetically within each year.
Notes are given at the end of each entry.

Balsamus l’uomo di Satana (Balsamus Distribution: I.F.C. Domestic gross: 34,000,000 lire.
the Man of Satan) Also known as: Balsamus, l’homme de Satan
D: Pupi Avati. S: Pupi Avati; SC: Enzo (France).
Leonardo, Giorgio Celli, Pupi Avati; DOP: Franco Lots of people show up at a dilapidated villa
Delli Colli (Technicolor, Techniscope); M: in the hills, inhabited by the self-described healer
Amedeo Tommasi (Ed. S.P.A.); E: Enzo Micarelli; and “miracle man” Balsamus, and ask him to per-
CO: Silvana Bigi; SD: Claudio Giambanco; Col- form miracles. Balsamus, a dwarf who believes
laborator to direction: Enzo Leonardo; AD: he is the reincarnation of the Count of Cagliostro,
Alberto Bartolani; C: Roberto Brega; AC: Gianni is surrounded by a court of relatives and sycophants,
Modica Canfarelli; MU: Gianni Amadei; AMU: who exploit his delusions for their own profit and
Alfonso Cioffi; Hair: Italia Marini; AE: Carlo organize complicated collective rituals, which Bal-
Broglio, Massimiliano Cingola; SO: Franco Grop- samus enthusiastically performs. When a couple of
pioni; B: Giulio Viggiani; SS: Maria Luisa Merci. elderly parents ask Balsamus to deflower their
Cast: Bob Tonelli [Ariano Nanetti] (Balsamus), teenage daughter, it’s his right-hand man Ottavio
Greta Vaillant [Greta Vayan] (Lorenza), Giulio who performs the deed. In fact, Balsamus is impo-
Pizzirani (Ottavio), Gianni Cavina (Alliata), Pina tent, and his wife Lorenza (who lives in the villa
Borione (Pasqua), Antonio Avati (Dorillo), Lola with her retarded brother and her greedy mother
Bonora (Somnambulist), Andrea Matteuzzi (Mr. Pasqua) goes to bed with whoever is handy, includ-
Menopausa), Ines Ciaschetti (Mrs. Menopausa), ing Balsamus’ henchman Alliata, and writes their
Fanny Bertelli (Mrs. Rapisardi), Giacomo Vecchi names in a big “guest book.” The healer’s acolytes
(Mr. Rapisardi), Franca Alboni (Rapisardi’s plan an advertising campaign to improve upon
daughter), Libero Grandi (Publicist), Franco San- their earnings, but suddenly Balsamus starts mak-
giovanni (Publicist), Gilberto Fiorini (Truck ing real miracles. He magically causes a man to
Driver), Luciana Negrini (Virgin), Odoardo Bar- shoot himself, then summons Pasqua (whom he
toloni (The General), Marino Carpano, Mario De had inadvertedly poisoned) from the realm of the
Rosa, Valentino Macchi (Man without an arm); dead. But when Lorenza asks him to perform his
uncredited: Elsa Schiassi (Publicist). PROD: conjugal duties and reveals to him the existence
Marino Carpano for Magic Films (Bologna); of the “guest book,” Balsamus cannot stand the
PM: Umberto Borsato; PS: Giorgio Caputo; PSe: humiliation and kills himself in front of all his fol-
Steno Tonelli. Country: Italy. Filmed on location lowers.
near Bologna and at Incir-De Paolis (Rome). Run- Born in Bologna, on November 3, 138,
ning time: 8 minutes (m. 261). Visa n. 55382 Giuseppe “Pupi” Avati was always a dreamer. In
(1.24.170); Rating: V.M.14. Release date: 1.28.170; the difficult World War II years, living as an evac-

10 1970: Balsamus

uee in the mountain village of Sasso Marconi, novels), and had his brother Antonio play a role
dreaming was the only way to see a light amid the in the film. What is more, he surrounded
fear, pain and destruction that characterized his himself with acquaintances, assembling a group
childhood, whether it be listening to the fairytales of players who would become a sort of stock
and frightening stories told by villagers in the cold company on which he leant throughout his sub-
winter nights, or devising a bright future for him- sequent work in the 170s. Many familiar faces
self. of Avati’s cinema appear here for the first time,
Avati’s first true passion was jazz—the from the cross-eyed Giulio Pizzirani to the bum-
music of freedom, that accompanied the Allies’ bling Gianni Cavina (both stage actors in their
liberation of Northern Italy from the Nazis and film debut), whereas Balsamus’ ravenous and
the return to life, Pupi’s adolescence in post– vulgar mother-in-law is played by Pina Borione,
War Bologna, the first dates and blossoming ro- who would later portray Buono Legnani’s
mances. “My dream was to become a great jazz bedridden sister in La casa dalle finestre che ri-
clarinetist,” he recalled, and that dream seemed dono.
to come true in 15, when the 21-year-old Pupi To say that the film had an unlikely lead
joined the Doctor Dixie Jazz Band, a prestigious would be quite an understatement: the dimini-
jazz and Dixieland combo based in his home- tive Bob Tonelli (real name Ariano Nanetti,
town. For over three years he felt like walking 12–186) was not even a professional actor,
in the clouds. but a local entrepreneur. Avati met him through
One day, though, it was time for an abrupt his a.d. Alberto Bartolani, since the script fea-
awakening. “A new member joined our orchestra, tured a small role for a dwarf, but when Tonelli
a short balding guy named Lucio Dalla. At first I told him that he could raise one billion lire, Avati
wasn’t much worried, because he seemed quite a thought he was crazy. Then, one month later,
modest musician to me. But then he displayed a still unable to gather the money to finance his
flexibility, a predisposition, a brilliance that were film debut, the director decided to call Tonelli
totally unexpected: he silenced me, and pushed back. “Listen,” he said, “I had a dream. I dreamt
me in a corner. At one point I even thought of that you were the protagonist of my film, Bal-
killing him, throwing him down the Sagrada Fa- samus.”
milia in Barcelona, because he stepped between Actually, Avati’s first choice for the role was
me and my dream.”1 Lucio Dalla went on to be- the prestigious stage thesp Alberto Lionello, but
come one of Italy’s most famous and talented pop due to financial issues he had to abandon the idea.
singer/songwriters, and even pursued an idiosyn- His offer was a desperate move, in the hope that
cratic acting career. As for Pupi, he put his clarinet Tonelli be able to collect the money he had prom-
in the drawer and took a job at the local frozen ised. Forty-eight hours later, Tonelli showed up
foods factory, Findus. “Those were the worst four with a mysterious albino, a local entrepreneur
years of my life,” he later commented. whom he introduced as “Mister X”2: the albino
Eventually the dream resurfaced in another promptly signed cheques for 160 million lire,
form. In hindsight, it is just apt that Avati got without any contract. Avati had finally the money
bitten by the film bug when watching for the first to make the movie, and his lead too; the fact that
time Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ (163), a movie about as a result Balsamus would have to be turned into
a dreamer that begins with a dream. His first a dwarf was not an issue.3 Tonelli would become
steps in the motion picture business were not one of Avati’s regulars, playing in no less than
encouraging, though: the four weeks spent as twelve features between 168 and 184, and his
Piero Vivarelli’s assistant on the set of Satanik son Steno (who acted as production secretary on
(168) were so disappointing that Avati later Balsamus) would be a constant presence on
claimed that he had at least learned how not to Avati’s sets as well.
make a movie. The movie was shot in four or five weeks,
Balsamus l’uomo di Satana, which later the mostly around Bologna. Despite the conspicuous
director labeled as “proudly provincial,” was a budget, the debuting director’s lack of experience
family effort. Avati wrote the script with his resulted in a number of compromises during
friends Enzo Leonardo and Giorgio Celli (the shooting. “On the first day, when they saw me at
latter a well-known ethologist, entomologist and work, the crew members realized I simply could
writer who had been part of the neo-avantgardist not make the film on my own. In fact Franco Delli
Gruppo 63 and had written a number of mystery Colli told me: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll make the movie
1970: Balsamus 11

for ya!’ From that moment on, I felt limited by my film debut whose attempts at saying something
incompetence throughout the whole shooting, different often turn up awkward and obscure.
and even in check from a technical point of view: The choice of the 18th century adventurer
we always ended up doing the opposite of what I Giuseppe Balsamo, Count of Cagliostro, as the
would do.”4 The director would later evoke his first inspiration for the film’s story7 is in tune with
steps as a filmmaker in an ironic way, in the TV Avati’s interest in the occult, which formed the
mini-series Cinema!!! (17). basis of some of the director’s most inspired
Again, it is fitting that Avati’s first features work in the Fantastic genre, such as Zeder
were “written and filmed following the stream (183), L’arcano incantatore (16) and the TV
of consciousness, leaving cinematic rationality mini-series Voci notturne (15, Fabrizio Lau-
aside at the search of something more, perhaps renti) which he scripted. “At that time I was fas-
too much, but something new nonetheless.”5 cinated by books about the paranormal, the al-
The director has always been very severe toward chemical, that peculiar genre which was well
his early work: “I have never watched those explained in the book The Morning of the Ma-
movies again,” he once claimed. “However … gicians…. At the same time, there was a rural
back then I considered them my only opportu- matrix, which had a lot to do with the grotesque
nity of having the chance to say everything I and with a vision of life that resulted from my
wanted to say, do or imagine. As I was shooting first five years as an evacuee…. I thought of
a scene, in that scene there had to be all my cin- everything in terms of unreality and I thought
ema…. There was the fear of not being noticed, that the task of movies was to project on the
not challenging enough what cinema had been screen what has little to do with reality: to me,
so far, not having enough disruptive force.”6 And on-screen reality was everything that stood out
indeed, Balsamus has all the shortcomings of a of the borders of reason.”8

Pupi Avati (fourth from left) and Giulio Pizzirani (second from right) during the filming of Balsamus
l’uomo di Satana, in 1968. The film was released only in 1970 (courtesy Luca Servini).
12 1970: Balsamus

The script, according to the director, was a gests an uneasy blend of discomfort and pity,
painstaking effort, “with in-depth linguistic, lex- empathy and disgust. It is linked with satire and
ical and historical research. We put everything it often borders on the monstrous, conveying
we could in it and more, in the illusion of being opposite feelings in the viewer—all elements
appreciated by who knows who or where. Which that make it, in the words of Thomas Mann, a
did not happen.” As unripe and pretentious as “genuine antibourgeois style.”10
it may be, the result already encompasses all the The film’s approach to the grotesque is best
themes of Avati’s subsequent body of work: the exemplified by the depiction of the protagonist.
attraction toward the bizarre, the obsession with Bob Tonelli plays a figure of idiot savant that has
religion and superstition, the black humor, the few equals in cinema history: Avati’s sympathy
horrific undertones. toward his main character echoes Tod Brown-
Despite a subtitle that evokes the Prince ing’s depiction of circus freaks, and in addition
of Darkness, added in the attempt at making to that the director counterparts Balsamus’ bliss-
it more suitable to the general audience, Bal- ful obliviousness to reality with the intrigue and
samus l’uomo di Satana is not a horror movie. squalor that surrounds him. Even though he is
It embodies elements of comedy, with an insis- exploited and ridiculed, he remains the only
tence on regional types, but its main feature is pure figure in the movie. On the other hand, his
the grotesque. Originally referring to the extrav- family and acolytes—who take care of the “mir-
agant art found in Ancient Rome and later acles,” including the sexual duties he is called on
copied by the end of the 15th century, the term to perform on nubile girls, since Balsamus is im-
encompasses all things strange, ugly, unpleasant, potent—are portrayed as demented caricatures,
even disgusting, and in art and literature it sug- from their absurd make-up to their physical ap-
pearance and facial features.
Still, the movie retains a strong
Gothic mood, starting with the theme of
metempsychosis (although played in a
demystifying key) and the central char-
acter of the magician-wizard-healer,
surrounded by a coterie of sycophants
who dress in 18th century clothes, have
their faces painted in blue and green, and
live as if time had frozen. They all look
like ghosts, remnants from a distant past
who play their role for money, and one
of the most original things about such a
genre-defying work is the contrast be-
tween the timeless quality of the scenes
in Balsamus’ villa and the ordinariness
of the present day, embodied by the
people gathering at the healer’s manor—
a nod to the celebrated scene of the pil-
grimage to the sanctuary of “La Ma-
donna del Divino Amore” in Federico
Fellini’s Le notti di Cabiria (157). Fel-
lini’s cinema is the main source of inspi-
ration—think also of the “ghosts” in La
dolce vita (160) or the overall mood of
Giulietta degli spiriti (165)—for Avati’s
choice of unusual, sometimes weird-
looking bit part actors and extras, and his
reliance on the surreal and absurd,
dreamlike quality that imbues the film.
The Italian poster for Balsamus l’uomo di Satana tried to Here, the dream is focused on the
pass it off as a standard sexy horror film. duality between the past and the present,
1970: Balsamus 13

highlighted by the felicitous architectural choice horrific angle, Avati commented: “The explana-
of the imposing, Oriental-influenced country tion lies only in the desperation of a 30-year-old
villa 11 where the story takes place, and the im- kid who draws from all the movies he has seen
possible escape from an age seen as ugly and cor- and more than anything else wants to do what
rupt. Avati’s goal was to depict “the metaphor of has not been done before. Not something that
a world that is still influenced by such a blatant belongs to him, but something new. And to do
dishonesty,”12 and the relationship between man, this, he tries to stuff the movie with every type
faith and superstition would be the core of many of suggestion, and ends up weakening it, because
subsequent works, from the comedy La mazurka in doing so the final result is damaged.”13 To sum
del barone, della santa e del fico fiorone (175, it up, he pointed out: “Ours was a provocative
which reprised the scene of the virgins on a tree) cinema, we did not want to communicate some-
to the obscure Pagan rites performed by the thing, but first and foremost to destroy the ex-
“painter of agony” Buono Legnani in La casa isting…. And it was in that period, that the Ital-
dalle finestre che ridono and the experiments on ian audience started not to consider our
the afterlife conducted by the Vatican in Zeder. country’s movies, and distrust the auteurs, be-
The movie’s symbolic universe is filled with cause cinema had stopped being a means of
references to esoterism and freemasonry (the communication. It had become something dif-
“Grand Orient” is explicitly mentioned), and the ferent, almost an end in itself because of too
director openly flirts with the Fantastic, by much exuberance.”14
showing that Balsamus’ powers are ultimately Balsamus l’uomo di Satana was submitted
real: in a surreal moment, a publicist discussing to the board of censors only in January 170, al-
with Balsamus’ assistants (who inquire on how most two years after its making, and was
to portray the alleged “miracles” in TV ads) ex- released in a minimal number of theaters, with
plains that, thanks to the magic of cinema, disastrous commercial results. Given such a title,
everything is possible, and therefore even a fin- and a misleading poster that made moviegoers
ger can become a gun. He points his index finger believe they were going to watch a horror movie,
to the temple, makes the sound of a shot, and audiences responded in outrage, walking out of
falls dead on the floor. Balsamus looks at the theaters and demanding a ticket refund. But it
scene with a seraphic, knowing smile. Later on, was nothing compared to the disaster of Avati’s
in the movie’s eeriest scene, the dwarf sets out subsequent picture.
an obscure ritual in the hills near a hut, disap-
pears in the wild and returns with his revived NoTeS
mother-in-law—a mysterious, white-dressed
1. Pupi Avati, Sotto le stelle di un film (Trento: Il Margine,
revenante that predates those in Zeder. 2008).
Here and there Avati adds incongruous, 2. The mysterious businessman was actually Carmine
unexplained elements to the story, such as the Domenico Rizzo (116–2006), born in Calabria but a res-
stimulating booth where Balsamus’ wife Lorenza ident of Bologna. See Luca Servini, “Balsamus, l’uomo di
prepares herself in anticipation for a night of Satana: la grande avventura,” in Ruggero Abramovit, Clau-
dio Bartolini and Luca Servini, Nero Avati. Visioni dal set
pleasure with Alliata (Gianni Cavina), a mad (Genoa: Le Mani, 2011), 15.
concoction with human arms coming out of its 3. Avati’s director friend Mario Lanfranchi told a
walls and caressing the woman—a surreal mix- slightly different version: “The script was about a very tall
ture between the notorious corridor scene in Cagliostro, who towered over everyone. And Tonelli, who
was notoriously very short, told him: Pupi, I read the script
Polanski’s Repulsion (165) and Wilhelm Reich’s and I like it … and he changed the story, turning Balsamus
Orgone machine. It is a moment in tune with into a dwarf!” Renato Venturelli, “Eroi senza pietà. Inter-
the director’s trademark depiction of a bizarre vista a Mario Lanfranchi,” in Renato Venturelli (ed.), Cin-
and perturbing sexuality, which encompasses ema e generi 2010 (Genoa: Le Mani, 2010), 116.
elements of bisexuality as well (such as Alliata’s 4. Abramovit, Bartolini, and Servini, Nero Avati, 25.
5. Ruggero Abramovit, Claudio Bartolini, Il gotico
awkward femme fatale-like moves on Lorenza’s padano. Dialogo con Pupi Avati (Genoa: Le Mani, 2010), 114.
bed), and is never fully separated from the mon- 6. Ibid., 115.
strous. It is yet another theme that will cross 7. Already the subject of Alvin Rakoff ’s 14 adventure
deeply Avati’s cinema, from comedy (Bordella, film starring Orson Welles, Cagliostro would also inspire
another Italian filmmaker with a strong interest in the oc-
starring Al Lettieri, Cavina and Christian De cult, Pier Carpi, who wrote a biography of the adventurer
Sica) to horror (La casa dalle finestre che ridono). and the script for Daniele Pettinari’s Cagliostro (175) star-
Regarding the underplayed yet palpable ring Bekim Fehmiu.
14 1970: Il delitto

8. Servini, “Balsamus, l’uomo di Satana: la grande tion, he plays a trick on David, staging his own
avventura,” 17. death in an accident and causing the biker to take
9. Ibid., 20.
10. John R. Clar, The Modern Satiric Grotesque and its refuge in the woods to hide from the police. There,
Traditions (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, David meets three lovely sisters who live in a se-
11), 20–21. cluded house by a lake: Liv, Samantha and Bib-
11. The film was shot inside the so-called Rocchetta iana. Soon the young man is entangled by the
Mattei and in Villa Zambonelli, in the hills near Bologna.
The suggestive Rocchetta Mattei appeared again in the
three women: first he becomes Samantha’s lover,
opening scenes of Tutti defunti … tranne i morti (177) and then he is seduced by Bibiana. And yet he notices
in Cinema!!!, whereas Marco Bellocchio used it for his film that something strange is going on: the sisters per-
Enrico IV (184), based on Luigi Pirandello’s play. form nightly rituals in the woods, and meet a
12. Servini, “Balsamus, l’uomo di Satana: la grande mysterious man late at night. David accompanies
avventura,” 17.
13. Ibid. the ladies to a castle, where a high society party
14. Abramovit, Bartolini, Il gotico padano, 118. is being given to celebrate Liv’s birthday: there, he
makes love with her and decides to stay with the
Il delitto del diavolo—Favola thrilling three women forever. As soon as he announces his
a.k.a. Le regine (Queens of Evil)
D: Tonino Cervi. S: Tonino Cervi,
Benedetto Benedetti; SC: Antonio Troisio,
Raoul Katz, Tonino Cervi; DOP: Sergio
D’Offizi (Eastmancolor); M: Angelo
Francesco Lavagnino (Ed. C.A.M.); E:
Mario Morra; PD: Massimo De Rossi;
MU: Wayne A. Finkelman; CO: Jean
Bouquin; Hair: Rosetta Tommassello;
Wigs: Aldo Coppola; AD: Ilde Muscio; SO:
Alberto Salvatori; AC: Enrico Lucidi; AE:
Alessio Fabretti; W: Carmen Frasoli; SP:
Alberto Pizzi; SS: Marisa Agostini; Mix:
Alberto Bartolomei. Cast: Haydée Politoff
(Liv), Silvia Monti [Silvia Cornacchia]
(Samantha), Ewelyn Stuart [Ida Galli] (Bib-
iana), Raymond Lovelock (David), Gianni
Santuccio (The Devil), Guido Alberti
(Priest), Geraldine Hooper (Party Guest).
PROD: Tonino Cervi, Raoul Katz for Flavia
Cinematografica (Rome), Carlton Film Ex-
port (Paris), Labrador Film (Paris); EP:
Alessandro Jacovoni; PS: Eraclite Corbi;
PSe: Agostino Morbidelli. Country: Italy /
France. Filmed at Castello Chigi in Castel
Fusano. Running time: 5 minutes (m.
2604). Visa n. 57202 (11.14.170); Rating:
V.M.14. Release date: 12.11.170; Distribution:
Regional. Domestic gross: 73,88,000 lire.
Also known as: Les sorcières du bord du lac
(France; 7.26.172), Himon kuningattaret
(Finland; 8.18.172).
A young hippie named David travels
around the countryside on his motorbike.
One night he stops to help a wealthy elderly
gentleman with a flat tire. The man is ac-
tually the Devil: out of spite toward the
young man, whose ideals and lack of the Striking Italian locandina for Il delitto del diavolo (1970),
sense of sin make him oblivious to tempta- with the alternate release title Le regine. Art by De Rossi.
1970: Il delitto 15

intention to give up to his ideals, they viciously same, since he has “nothing to offer in place of
kill him. Then, the Devil sends the three witches the society” as his opponent spitefully observes.
away to lure new victims… In the end, the Devil and his acolytes bury him
“You look like a tramp!!” “That’s the way I and move on to lure other victims before the
wanna look!” goes a revealing dialogue exchange new ideals influence the whole world. “Persuade
in Il delitto del diavolo. The fact that it is the them, trap them, keep them thinking in your di-
Devil speaking, deploring a young man’s long rection, create useless necessities for them…”
hair, sets the tone for Tonino Cervi’s film, a po- As in Aldo Lado’s disturbing political thriller La
litical macabre fairytale (as the subtitle points corta notte delle bambole di vetro (171), the rul-
out) that imbues Gothic stereotypes with patent ing class is depicted as a horrific entity that
symbolical meanings, in the light of the gener- struggles to choke rebellion and individualism.
ational earthquake that was 168. Il delitto del diavolo was Tonino Cervi’s sec-
Once a revolutionary agent, an agitator of ond film after the successful Western Oggi a me
Creation’s equilibrium, here the Prince of Dark- … domani a te! (168, co-written by Dario Ar-
ness stands for the status quo: a reactionary gento). Born in 12, Cervi (the son of the
force—best exemplified by Gianni Santuccio’s renowned actor Gino Cervi) had started out as
incarnation, a cigar-chomping Commendatore a producer, including, among other things, an
figure complete with grey blazer jacket and Rolls aborted adaptation of Diabolik directed by Seth
Royce—that proselytizes for marriage (but not Holt, before pursuing an offbeat and interesting
monogamy: it is the façade that counts) and lust, career as a director, and Il delitto del diavolo is
in contrast with the revolutionary peace-and- no exception. The script—credited to Cervi,
love ideals (“So you too are one of those who are producer Raoul Katz and Antonio Troisio, the
against everything?” “I’m just a free man”) em- latter responsible for a number of gialli and hor-
bodied by the Christ-like hippie played by Ray ror films in the early 170s—is packed full of
Lovelock, whose purity and contempt for soci- overly didactic dialogue, just in case some in the
ety’s materialistic values make him the ideal audience did not get it. However, what makes
prey for the Devil’s work. “Nowadays is possible Cervi’s film fascinating is the way Gothic sta-
with a little effort to find yourself, let’s say, a ples—the Faustian pact, the lonely traveler
good position,” the Great Tempter nonchalantly (think of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story Young
insinuates: it is the same kind of attitude Com- Goodman Brown), the haunted castle, the seduc-
mendator Nosferatu has toward his employee in tive witch—are revisited in a pop-juvenile key.
Corrado Farina’s …Hanno cambiato faccia. Both The cobwebs, secret passages and old mansions
films ultimately deal with a corruption, which are replaced by a trendy ultramodern and col-
in Il delitto del diavolo is tinged with a reflection orful loft, filled with such details as trees trunks
on the end of the age of Aquarius: hence the Ital- in the middle of the living room, and decorated
ian title, literally “The Devil’s Murder,” where with design objects. On the other hand, the mys-
the victim is a whole generation’s hope. terious lady of the castle, the belle dame sans
A handful of years earlier, the story of a merci, is split into a trio of beautiful witches who
bargain with the Devil was the pretext for a dress fashionably and sport state-of-the-art wigs
bashing of the younger generations (Katarsis, and make-up. It is here, much more than in the
163, Nello Vegezzi), depicted as violent and standard direction (with the expected overre-
spineless punks. Here the view of youth culture liance on zooms) that lies the film’s fascination.
is openly sympathetic, but disenchanted: David Sergio D’Offizi’s cinematography and Massimo
is a survivor, a rare bird in a world that has De Rossi’s production design are outstanding,
quickly forgotten kindness and comprehension. and typical of the Pop Art aesthetics of the time:
He is the only one who stops to help a man on see the witches’ gigantic portraits on the walls
a lonely country road, and soon afterwards he of their abode.
is spitefully labeled as “lousy scum” by a couple The political approach to the subject matter
of passing-by truckers who are not too distant, influences the way the story is told: Il delitto del
sociologically speaking, from the anonymous diavolo does not attempt to scare the viewer, but,
gunner that shot down Captain America and like Farina’s film, it dwells on the suggestive and
Billy at the end of Easy Rider (16, Dennis Hop- fascinating aspects of the parable it tells. Cervi
per). piles on the fairy-tale like elements, such as with
David is pure, but doomed to defeat all the the scene of David and the witches having a Pan-
16 1970: Il delitto

tagruelian breakfast, which veers somewhat be- As David, Ray Lovelock—then enjoying a
tween an adult version of a Grimm fairytale (say, huge success after his role in Plagio (168, Sergio
Hansel and Gretel), and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and Capogna), one of Italy’s first films on male bi-
the Chocolate Factory, with an added sexual in- sexuality—played basically the same role as in
nuendo lifted from Tony Richardson’s famous Umberto Lenzi’s lukewarm thriller Un posto ide-
seduction scene in Tom Jones, as David and the ale per uccidere (171), and would reprise the
women gleefully devour multicolored cakes and part of the sympathetic longhair in Jorge Grau’s
juices, accompanied by circular camera move- harrowing zombie film No profanar el sueño
ments and the variations of Angelo Lavagnino’s de los muertos (174), before hardening his own
playfully dumb amusement park tune. angelic screen persona with his roles in such
The script even throws in some weird Bib- crime films as Milano odia: la polizia non può
lical references: if David is a Christ-like figure, sparare (174, Umberto Lenzi), Uomini si nasce
the trinity of witches perform such miracles as poliziotti si muore (176, Ruggero Deodato) and
the multiplication of the fish, in the “fishing Pronto ad uccidere (176, Franco Prosperi)—not
ceremony” scene, and even offer David an apple. forgetting Armando Crispino’s offbeat giallo,
The most bizarre moment is a symbol-ridden Macchie solari (175).
nightmare which climaxes in the sight of a hand Lovelock—who contributes to the score
holding a gun, protruding between Haydée with two of his trademark Dylan-esque folk
Politoff ’s open legs—an image almost as surreal songs—is portrayed as a sexual attraction, as
as the enormous vagina that engulfs Philippe much as the three “Queens of evil.” Haydée
Leroy’s character in Femina ridens (16, Piero Politoff (b. 146) was at the peak of her fame:
Schivazappa). launched by Eric Rohmer’s La collectionneuse
It is only at the end that the film suddenly (167), the Parisian actress started a brief but
turns into out-and-out horror, as David—who fruitful film career in Italy, appearing in a num-
has just happily abjured to all his ideals—is sur- ber of movies which played with her enticing
rounded and viciously slain by the witches, a ingénue image, such as Ugo Liberatore’s exotic
scene mostly told from the victim’s point of view Bora Bora (168), Pasquale Festa Campanile’s
in a variation of the climax in Riccardo Freda’s outstanding erotic drama Scacco alla regina
Lo spettro (163). Despite his rebellious attitude, (16) and Giuliano Biagetti’s Interrabang
ultimately David is as weak and doomed as most (16). Soon, however, her popularity waned:
of Italian Gothic’s male figures. Another thing Politoff ’s last screen role was in Gianni Manera’s
in common with 160s Gothic is the imposing low-budget mafia movie Il cappotto di legno, re-
castle featured in the party scenes: Castle Chigi leased in 181 but actually made in 177.
at Castel Fusano, seen in Massimo Pupillo’s 5 Silvia Monti and Ida Galli are equally se-
tombe per un medium and Fernando di Leo’s ductive as the other witches: Monti (b. 146),
gory Gothic giallo, La bestia uccide a sangue then the lover of FIAT’s president Gianni
freddo (171). Agnelli, had a similarly brief career, spanning
The discourse on sexuality as the élite’s way from Fraulein Doktor (16, Alberto Lattuada)
of manipulating the masses is spot-on. “They’re to Finché c’è guerra c’è speranza (174, Alberto
all losing the pleasure of sinning, I’m afraid,” the Sordi), in a filmography that included Lucio
Devil observes, and one of his “persuaders” Fulci’s Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (171)
adds: “Almost no one believes that sex is sinful.” and Luigi Bazzoni’s outstanding giallo, Giornata
Which was definitely not the case with Italian nera per l’ariete (171). Today she is married to
audiences, given the overwhelming amount of newspaper mogul Carlo De Benedetti. On the
nudity that was filling the screens, and the cru- other hand, Galli (b. 142), had debuted in La
sades of magistrates who kept seizing potentially dolce vita, and was a recurring presence in
“obscene” movies. Despite the story’s erotic po- Italian cinema for over two decades, usually
tential, Cervi was coherent with his purpose and adopting the a.k.a. Evelyn Stewart, here mis-
did not emphasize nudity and sex, and Il delitto spelled in the credits.
del diavolo underwent only minor cuts in Italy, The smartest move on the part of Cervi was
when submitted to the board of censors, in order the casting of the great stage actor Gianni San-
to get a V.M.14 rating: a detail of Bibiana’s hand tuccio (111–18), who occasionally lent his con-
entering David’s trousers was eliminated and the siderable talent and unmistakable voice to the big
final killing was shortened. and small screen alike. The androgynous, eerie-
1970: Ombre 17

looking Geraldine Hooper (also in …Hanno the film’s confused storyline as well as its subtle
cambiato faccia) briefly turns up as one of the fascination.
Devil’s agents: in one of Italian cinema’s most Although sometimes misleadingly de-
extravagant and gender-defying casting choices, scribed as a giallo, Caiano’s film features the typ-
she would play Massimo Ricci, Gabriele Lavia’s ical elements of the Gothic tale: a damsel in dis-
transvestite lover in Profondo rosso. tress who travels to a distant country; an obscure
menace which may or may not be of a supernat-
Ombre roventi (Shadow of Illusion) ural nature; a “return of the repressed” symbol-
D: Mario Caiano. S and SC: Enrico Rossetti, ized by the ruins of a mythical and distant past;
Frank [Farouk] Agrama, Mario Caiano; DOP: an ambiguous romantic hero. All this, though,
Enrico [Erico] Menczer (Technicolor, Technis- is transported to a middle-Eastern setting, in
cope); M: Carlo Savina (Ed. C.A.M.); E: Tatiana the luminous landscapes of Egypt, whose mil-
Casini Morigi; PD: Daniele Rizzo; C: Giovanni lenarian civilization acts as the backdrop for the
Ciarlo; MU: Giannetto De Rossi; Hair: Mirella misadventures of Gail, a modern-day version of
Sforza; AD: Furio Maglione; Mix: Gianni D’Am- the Gothic heroine, equally charming but de-
ico; SS: Bona Magrini. Cast: William Berger cidedly more uninhibited, as we learn from an
(Caleb), Daniela Giordano (Gail Bland), Krista early fantasy sequence featuring a lesbian en-
Nell [Doris Kristanel] (Sekhmet), Antonio counter between her and the alluring Sekhmet
Cantafora (Seth), Mirella Pamphili [Pompili], (Krista Nell).
Enzo Maggio, Giancarlo Bastianoni, Carol Lo- However, whereas it is pretty much clear to
bravico (The Witch), Debra Berger (Kidnapped everyone (except for Gail) that the charming
child). PROD: Nino Milano for Liger (Rome), and mysterious Caleb (William Berger) is the
with the participation of Cairo Film Dept. Int. reincarnation of the Egyptian God Osiris, it is
(Egypt); PM: Claudio Colisi Rossi. Coun-
try: Italy. Filmed at Cinecittà Studios
(Rome) and on location in Egypt. Run-
ning time: 5 minutes (m. 254); Visa n.
5583 (4.28.170); Rating: V.M.18. Release
date: 10..170 (?) (Italy); Distribution:
Icar. Domestic gross: 20,525,000 lire.
Fashion model Gail Bland is called
to Cairo by an elusive cosmetics company
named Isis to sign a deal, but upon her
arrival in Egypt she finds herself at the
center of weird events. Gail meets a mys-
terious man named Caleb, who keeps an
ambiguous behavior, and warns her off of
a pair of mysterious siblings. Unable to
leave Cairo, Gail falls prey to a cult of
crazed hippie worshipers of Osiris, who
perform human sacrifice rituals and have
chosen her as their victim…
“I saw the movie again three months
ago … and while I appreciated working
with Mario Caiano, who’s a very good
filmmaker, I have to say that I found the
story to be pretty incomprehensible—I
don’t know why, it must have been
Cairo’s atmosphere! Luckily, since the
film’s about the supernatural and has this
eerie atmosphere, one thinks: ‘Well, it’s
my fault, I just didn’t pay enough atten-
tion!’”1 Daniela Giordano’s thoughts on
Ombre roventi pretty much summarize Italian poster for Ombre roventi (1970). Art by Tino Avelli.
18 1970: Ombre

hard to fathom what is going on for much of the pers.”4 Berger’s wife, Living Theater actress Carol
running time. Ombre roventi is imbued with the Lobravico, joined the cast too, and gave the film’s
period’s flirtation with the occult and Eastern most convincing performance as a menacing
religion, and conveys a weird psychedelic feel sorceress.
throughout, whether it be for the mad hippie Former Miss Italy 166 Daniela Giordano
cult led by Antonio Cantafora and Krista Nell became the female protagonist in a similar man-
(an equally freaked out middle-Eastern version ner, replacing the leading actress, who was fired
of the Manson family) or the many references after only one day of shooting: according to Ca-
to drugs and altered states of mind. The “red- iano the original lead was to be Luciana Paluzzi,
hot shadows” of the original Italian title might whereas Giordano was adamant it was Gianna
as well refer to the Egyptian landscapes, or to Serra.5 Shooting was not a pleasant experience.
the ancient gods looming over the present day: Egypt was currently at war with Israel (the so-
the theme of the reincarnation of Isis and Osiris called “War of Attrition”) and when filming in
is lifted from the Egyptian book of the dead, and the desert the crew was escorted by soldiers who
years later would form the basis for an unfilmed would warn to turn off the lights in case of air
Riccardo Freda script, La dernière momie d’E- raids and wait until the planes were out of sight6;
gypte, written with the famed critic Jacques on one occasion the cast and crew had to flee
Lourcelles. the hotel because of the bombings.
Judging from the many scenes shot in some Caiano claimed he never even watched the
of Egypt’s more stunning locations, Ombre finished movie, and only completed a first rough
roventi looks like the kind of production that cut of it. At least, he managed to concoct a pro-
benefitted from economic deals aimed at pub- fessional-looking product, if a mess nonetheless,
licizing the African country’s image abroad. thanks also to Erico Menczer’s luscious Tech-
Among the names involved (officially as co- niscope cinematography and Carlo Savina’s
scriptwriter), one cannot help but notice Farouk Hammond-driven score. Some scenes—such as
Agrama, a notorious character that served as Giordano’s escape through a tropical garden,
producer and even as director on other obscure shot with a dynamic use of hand-held camera—
Italian co-productions, such as L’amico del are quite impressive, and make one regret that
padrino (172) and the gory horror Dawn of the the script was not up to the task. The throwaway,
Mummy (181).2 predictable climax is also a letdown, although the
Caiano embarked on the project right after ending has a pleasant sting in the tail that keeps
his most personal film, the ambitious drama the viewer unsure whether the supernatural angle
Love Birds—Una strana voglia d’amare (16), actually exists or is just part of Gail’s imagination.
had turned out a commercial and critical disas- The movie had a troubled commercial life.
ter, and had met with some troubles with the It was submitted to the board of censors in April
censors too. The director’s recollections shed 170 (with the title Le ombre roventi), and given
some light on this troubled production, origi- a V.M.18 rating after the producer refused to
nally to be called Le ombre. “A very mysterious perform cuts: the rating was justified mostly by
movie, an adventure from start to finish, a film the use of drugs, a taboo topic at the time (and
whose producers were very strange characters, one which had caused some trouble to another
never seen before or after, with a general organ- film starring Giordano, Mario Bava’s Quante
izer who was just as strange … they had prom- volte … quella notte, banned by the censors and
ised me that there would be a big international released only in 172) rather than by the female
actor in the movie, Stewart Granger I think, but nudity.
when we arrived in Cairo we found out that it A few months after the making of Ombre
wasn’t true at all, and that he didn’t know any- roventi, drugs were at the center of a scandal that
thing about the movie … by sheer chance, involved Berger and Lobravico, and which be-
shooting another film in Cairo 3 there was came one of the vilest and most shameful pages
William Berger, a good actor and a friend of in the annals of Italian justice. In the night be-
mine … and so this Neapolitan organizer got in tween August 5 and 6, 170, the police arrested
touch with him in half an hour and he became the two actors (plus seven more people) during
the protagonist of my film … then we came up a drug bust in the villa Berger had rented in Pra-
with a role for Berger’s daughter, who is the child iano, on the Amalfi coast: the police had discov-
who is kidnapped by the cult of Osiris worship- ered half a gram of hashish in a snuff box hidden
1970: Il rosso 1

in the villa (the actor claimed he did not know La Stampa) that the film was being screened in the
about it). Berger and his wife, who was suffering Ligurian town of Imperia on July 13, 171. However, pub-
licity material is dated October 170, hinting at a late 170
from viral hepatitis, were forcibly transferred to release. In the absence of certain data, I have chosen to list
Pozzuoli’s hospital for the criminally insane. Un- the film as a 170 release.
able to cure herself, Lobravico developed acute
peritonitis, but her increasingly critical condi-
tion was ignored by the place’s authorities, until Il rosso segno della follia (Hatchet for the
eventually she underwent a useless surgery, be- Honeymoon)
fore being moved to the “incurable disease” di- D: Mario Bava. S and SC: Santiago Mon-
vision, where she died on October 14. Berger was cada; DOP: Mario Bava (Eastmancolor); M:
eventually acquitted in March 171. There may Sante Maria Romitelli, conducted by Luigi Zito
be a chance that the Berger/Lobravico scandal (Ed. RCA); E: Soledad López; PD: Giulia Mafai;
endangered the movie’s commercial prospects, AsstArtD: Giuseppe Aldrovandi; SD: Jesus Maria
as Ombre roventi was released almost clandes- Herrero; AsstSD: Gianna Spirito; AD: Lamberto
tinely, and distributed regionally in the country, Bava, Ricardo Walker; 2nd AD: Mario Bianchi;
with no commercial success.7 Nowadays it is C: Jaime Deu Casas, Emilio Varriano; AC:
available in a badly panned-and-scanned English Marcello Anconetani, Gianlorenzo Battaglia,
language copy off a Japanese laserdisc, running Avelino Carla; AE: Liliana Serra; CO: Nadia Fab-
88 minutes, titled Shadow of Illusion. Giordano riani (Bridal Gowns: Montserrat Riba Vidal, José
is dubbed by Carolynn de Fonseca. María Tresserra); MU: Elisa Aspach [Aspachs],
Piero Mecacci; Hair: Hipólita López, Emilia Za-
NoTeS chini; SO: Pietro Ortolani; SP: José Adrian,
Giuseppe Parrabano; SS: Marisa Agostini, Pa-
1. Manlio Gomarasca and Davide Pulici, 99 donne. trizia Zulini; Titles: Luigi Biamonte, Miro
Stelle e stelline del cinema italiano (Milan: MediaWord Pro-
duction, 1), 11.
Grisanti. Cast: Stephen Forsyth (John Harring-
2. Agrama’s name popped up in the news in the early ton), Dagmar Lassander (Helen Wood), Laura
2000s because of his association with Italy’s media mogul Betti (Mildred Harrington), Jesús Puente (In-
and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for alleged spector Russell), Femi Benussi (Alice Norton),
tax frauds, embezzlements and false accountings on the Antonia Mas (Louise), Alan Collins [Luciano
sale of film rights on behalf of Berlusconi’s private broad-
caster Mediaset which resulted in a trial. Pigozzi] (Vences), Gérard Tichy (Dr. Kalleway),
3. La colomba non deve volare (170, Sergio Garrone). Verónica Llimerá (Betsy), Pasquale Fortunato
4. Stefano Ippoliti and Matteo Norcini, “Intervista esclu- (John Harrington as a boy), José Ignacio Abadaz
siva a Mario Caiano,” Cine70 e dintorni #2, Spring 2002, 22. [Ignasi Abadal] (Kane), Silvia Lienas (Vicky),
5. “The leading actress ought to have been Gianna
Serra, who quarreled with the producer on the very first
Montserrat Riva (Bride on Train); uncredited:
day of shooting and took the first plane to Rome; I had Guido Barlocci, Bruno Boschetti (Policeman),
only a small part, but they gave me Gianna’s wig and said Elena De Witt (Model). PROD: Manuel Caño
‘From now on, you are the protagonist!’” Gomarasca and Sanciriaco and Giuseppe Zaccariello for Pan
Pulici, 99 donne, 11. Latina Films (Madrid), Mercury Films (Rome),
6. “I remember I had a scene with Antonio Cantafora,
a nice guy who received one of my infamous slaps … we Películas Ibarra y Cía S.A. (Madrid); AP:
had to shoot a scene in the middle of the desert, sur- Enzo Ferla; PM: Jaime Fernández Cid; UPM:
rounded by soldiers…. As you can see, it wasn’t exactly a Enzo Ferla; APM: Graziano Fabiani, [José]
relaxed atmosphere; moreover, I was scantily dressed— Pedro Villanueva; PSe: Antonio Angrisano.
and this was another negative factor—and a group of
Egyptian dancers were running around me with burning
Country: Italy / Spain. Filmed at the Balcázar
torches with sparks falling all over my body and burning Studios (Barcelona) and at Villa Parisi, Frascati
my skin; furthermore, I was worried that my wig would (Rome). Running time: 88 minutes (m. 2401).
catch fire…. Antonio, who played my executioner, had to Visa n. 55164 (12.16.16); Rating: V.M.18.
come by my side, kiss me and then kill me…. Lights, cam- Release dates: 6.2.170 (Italy); .14.170 (Spain);
era, action … and he kissed me for real! ‘Hey, have you
gone crazy? With all the problems we’re having now…!?’ 2..174 (U.S.A.); Distribution: M.G.M. Domestic
and, pfaff, I slapped him in the face: ‘Are you nuts?’ ‘I might gross: 50,4,000 lire. Also known as: Un’accetta
be nuts, but if you’re not a professional, then…’ So we had per la luna di miele (Italy), Un hacha para la
to reshoot the scene, with all these 60 extras … and the di- luna de miel (Spain), Hatchet for a Honeymoon
rector … well, you can figure it out!” Ibid, 120.
7. To this day, the Italian release date is not certain. Even
(U.S.—Home video), Blood Brides (U.K.;
though the ANICA volumes date the first public screening 12.172); Une hache pour la lune de miel; La baie
in Italy to April 16, 172, there is record (in the newspaper sanglante 2 (France); Kalman hääyö (Finland);
20 1970: Il rosso

Hentesbárd (Hungary); Lua de Mel Sangrenta someone who, like Bava, looked at the present
(Portugal); As noivas da morte (Portugal-Home with sly disenchantment, it was the occasion to
video); O sadistis (Greece); Honeymoon (Swe- exercise that ironic vein that remarked his de-
den); Red Wedding Night (West Germany). tachment.
Haunted by the memory of the violent death A Spanish-Italian co-production shot be-
of his mother, mysteriously killed when he was tween Barcelona and Rome under the work-
a child, John Harrington, the young owner of a ing title Un’accetta per la luna di miele (the same
fashion house, feels the impulse to kill women as the Spanish one, Un hacha para la luna de
who are about to get married. The victims are ei- miel), it had a rather troubled shooting due to
ther customers or mannequins at his fashion financial issues. Filming was completed in
house, such as the young Alice Norton, whom October 16,1 and the movie was released in
John kills and burns in the hothouse incinerator. Italy in June 170, as Il rosso segno della follia
Harrington is in turn unhappily married to (The Red Sign of Madness), with modest grosses
Mildred, who does not want to give him a divorce: (only 50 million lire). The critics snubbed it
after the umpteenth argument, he kills her and too: one reviewer commented ironically, “Could
miraculously avoids being caught by Inspector it be that, after all, Mario Bava wanted to make
Russell, who suspects John but is not able to an anti-divorce film?”2 (Incidentally, the law
gather enough evidence to indict him. Harrington on divorce was introduced in Italy in Decem-
falls in love with a model, Helen, but in the mean- ber 170.) Foreign distribution was also mar-
time he is persecuted by Mildred’s ghost, who ginal: besides the predictably timely release
does not leave him alone. John escapes a trap set in Spain, the film came out in England only
by the police, and is given an alibi by Helen: pos- in 173, distributed by Tigon as Blood Brides.
sessed by an unstoppable killing urge, he realizes With the title Hatchet for the Honeymoon, it
that it was he who had killed his own mother, who reached the U.S. the following year through GG
was about to get remarried. The police, who had Productions and soon ended up in an Avco-
used Helen as bait, arrest him. John is taken to Embassy TV package; after the company went
an asylum, but Mildred’s ghost keeps haunting bankrupt, it entered the public domain in the
him… States. The glory days of La maschera del demo-
After his 166 masterpiece Operazione nio were long gone.
paura, a few years would pass before Mario Bava At first glance, Il rosso segno della follia is a
returned to the genre that was more congenial variation on the themes of Psycho (“The story
to him. Compared to the director’s early horror of the umpteenth loony,” as the director labeled
films, production conditions had changed, and it with his usual frankness3), with the addition
themes and settings were affected by that: in his of references to Bluebeard and its variations
Gothics of the late 160s and early 170s Bava (including Claude Chabrol’s Landru, 162).
leaned on Spanish or German co-productions, Scriptwriter Santiago Moncada likely modeled
and shot his movies abroad; the stories were set the traumatized, impotent necrophile John Har-
in the present day and attempted to convey a rington—played by the Canadian-born Stephen
feeling of actuality through various proceedings, Forsyth, already seen in Riccardo Freda’s Gen-
from the choice of music to the actresses’ dress- oveffa di Brabante (164) and La morte non conta
ing style. Gothic was no longer suspended in a i dollari (167)—upon Norman Bates. How-
vague and indefinite past; on the contrary, it was ever, in the film Harrington actually comes
heavily characterized geographically and there- closer to Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux (147) and
fore immediately recognizable: here, now, at just even more to the protagonist of Luis Buñuel’s
a few hours’ flight. Ensayo de un crimen (155), because of the ironic
The choice to drop ghosts and other typical self-awareness with which he analyzes his own
staples of the genre into the contemporary pathological state. In addition to that, Mon-
world, and color them with explicit psychoana- cada seems to draw from Bava’s earlier film-
lytic references, had practical reasons: the past ography: the setting in an atelier openly re-
was not an asset anymore, but a handicap at the calls 6 donne per l’assassino (164). On his part,
box-office. Period horror movies had lost their the director allowed himself an ironic self-
appeal after works such as Rosemary’s Baby reference in the scene where Harrington takes
(168, Roman Polanski) showed that anxiety and advantage of a TV broadcasting of the episode
evil could proliferate in modern cities. For I Wurdalak—from I tre volti della paura (163)—
1970: Il rosso 21

to justify to the police, who showed up unex- Bava drastically thinned down the not-so-
pectedly at his door, the female screams which exciting thriller plot (whereas the change of set-
actually belonged to his dying wife: the script ting, with Paris instead of London as described
refers generically to a horror movie in which a in the screenplay and despite the characters’
girl is chased by a monster. names, was decided by Caño during the film-
It is interesting to compare the movie with ing4). Compared with the script, for instance,
the script, titled Un’accetta per la luna di miele, the characters of Vences and Louise—John’s
kept at the Centro Sperimentale di Cine- collaborators in the atelier, who raised Harring-
matografia’s library in Rome. Credited solely to ton after his mothers’ death and who, Moncada
Santiago Moncada, it is debatable whether this implies, seem to know his secret—were drasti-
is an earlier draft or actually a new version with cally cut down; Luciano Pigozzi, who plays
Bava’s uncredited rewriting, which according to Vences, has only one line in the movie. Some
his son Lamberto was substantial. However, investigating sequences featuring Inspector Rus-
there are a number of important differences be- sell (Jesús Puente) were discarded as well,
tween script and film. The screenplay opens with namely the discovery of a dead body in a ware-
a bravura subjective sequence shot from protag- house, following an anonymous letter sent by
onist John Harrington’s point of view, as the man John himself.
explores the various rooms of the fashion house Rather than focus on the hatchet murders
in his workshop: an idea somehow similar to the and Harrington’s necrophilia (which the movie
incipit of Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. also tones down compared with the script), Bava
Hyde (131), and full of visual tricks (for instance, preferred to dwell on the relationship between
a character is seen through Harrington’s thumb John and his bitchy wife Mildred (Laura Betti).
and forefinger as he makes the O.K. sign). It was Surprisingly enough, then, halfway through, Il
likely cut out for practical and budgetary reasons, rosso segno della follia becomes an out-and-out
but on paper it looks like it was written specif- ghost story, albeit a rather peculiar one.
ically with the director in mind. Throughout the movie, Harrington is per-

Italian fotobusta for Il rosso segno della follia (1970), featuring Stephen Forsyth (left, credited as “Steve
Forsyth”) and Laura Betti.
22 1970: Il rosso

secuted by two ghosts. The first is his own self rable character of Juan’s—now John’s—shrewish
as a child, a psychoanalytic embodiment of guilt wife Mildred, and thus Moncada’s story was
connected to a revealing flashback borrowed transformed into a delicious comedia noir
from Marnie (164, Alfred Hitchcock), as with lamenting a murderer’s inability to escape his
every murder the protagonist comes closer to ‘better half.’”7
the source of his childhood trauma—a variation And yet, Harrington’s conjugal vicissitudes
on the “primary scene” with interesting similar- and the subsequent appearances/disappearances
ities to both Profondo rosso (175, Dario of Mildred’s ghost, including the one on the villa
Argento) and Murder Obsession (181, Riccardo steps where the spectre seems to materialize out
Freda).5 The second ghost is the spiritism- of thin air, are all included in the Rome screen-
obsessed Mildred, who won’t allow death to part play, and therefore cannot be considered the re-
her from her husband. “I will always be by your sult of last-minute rewritings. The main differ-
side, whether you like it or not,” the woman says, ence is that Mildred is described in the script as
and she will keep her promise. In a sardonic re- “very beautiful,” suggesting that Bava’s touch was
versal of ghost story conventions, John is the actually a brilliant, unconventional casting
only one who cannot see Mildred’s ghost, who move, and that Betti was wildly exaggerating
nevertheless appears and interacts with nearly when she claimed that “we would rewrite scenes
everybody else, as if she was still alive. together.”8 The Rome script also features John’s
In La frusta e il corpo (163) Bava had fo- revealing flashbacks, which Lucas hypothesized
cused on the alternating points of view of were devised and introduced by Bava later on
Nevenka (Daliah Lavi) and Christian (Tony during filming.
Kendall) to stress the inexplicability of the pres- Il rosso segno della follia’s avenging revenante
ence/absence of Kurt’s ghost—who is visible to manifests herself through objects (a book on
the former and invisible to the latter—and there- spiritism, a handbag), similarly to the ones in
fore emphasize its Fantastic essence, in the sense La goccia d’acqua (also from I tre volti della
codified by Tzvetan Todorov.6 Here the director paura) and Operazione paura; moreover, she im-
uses the same trick in reverse, first by showing poses her presence through the reaffirmation of
the bewildered John staring at an empty chair the marriage pledge that ties her to her husband
beside him, and then, from a peripheral char- (and murderer). The only power she has is based
acter’s point of view, Harrington sitting by his on a bond that not even death can terminate.
wife—a seemingly ordinary sight here taking on But there is no love, nor passion, in this embit-
a mocking supernatural tone. The Fantastic is tered and vengeful little woman—who never-
not the exception but the rule: ghosts are every- theless, right before her murder, Bava had
where among us and we never realized it. showed making herself up before a mirror,
Indeed, no one even cares about them. trying to look good and desirable for her hus-
The ghastly lady in black here does not band, and almost pathetic in her irreducible
have Barbara Steele’s seductive grace, but the hope to rekindle his desire—only a stubborn
plump features, pout and unpleasant laughter of obstinacy, a wry pique that somehow corre-
Laura Betti: an unusual presence in a genre film, sponds to the director’s attitude toward the
Betti—best known for her roles in Pier Paolo genre itself, almost a decade after La maschera
Pasolini’s films (most memorably as the servant- del demonio.
turned-saint in Teorema, 168)—is the film’s By juxtaposing two different kinds of
most surprising asset, and her affinity with ghosts (one from the Id, the other from the af-
Bava’s witty sense of humor would result in their terlife), Bava cleverly explores the common
teaming up again for the macabre ronde of ground that characterizes the crossroads be-
Reazione a catena (171). tween the Oedipal-driven giallo and the super-
Bava scholar Tim Lucas, reporting the ac- natural tale. To John’s subjective perception,
tress’ statements, suggests that the character of both are very real figures: he succeeds in getting
Mildred, absent in the script, was invented by rid of the former, but succumbs to the latter, and
Bava and Betti “to develop a suitable role for her the film’s last image shows the spirit of his lost
to play, and to restructure the existing story childhood looking sadly at his own adult self as
around her presence … in entirely new second the latter is driven away to (presumably) a men-
and third acts that owe something to Noël Cow- tal asylum.
ard’s Blithe Spirit… Thus was born the memo- Awareness, to the childlike John—who
1970: Thomas 23

plays with toy trains, and has a wife who behaves a visual gag he had tried already in Diabolik,
more like a mother, even cleaning up burnt toast and which further underlines the director’s de-
for him at breakfast, and with whom he has tached, playful attitude. The ending seems like
never made love—means realizing the impossi- a reference to Fellini’s episode Le tentazioni del
bility of living in the ordinary world, where he dottor Antonio in the omnibus comedy Boccaccio
had somehow managed to conceal himself ’70 (162), where Peppino De Filippo’s charac-
under a semblance of normality. In Operazione ter—obsessed with the image of Anita Ekberg
paura Giacomo Rossi Stuart’s character chased on a giant billboard to the point of going crazy—
a fleeing shadow, only to find himself facing his is taken away to a psychiatric hospital in an am-
own alter ego; here Harrington is his own dark bulance. Which, considering the vexed question
half, and that boy he sometimes glimpses in the of the little ghost in Operazione paura and the
distance is the remnant of an innocence that was devil taking on a similar appearance in Toby
lost too soon. Dammit, seems just appropriate.
Stylistically, Il rosso segno della follia does
not have the exquisiteness of Bava’s previous NoTeS
horror movies: there are perhaps a couple of 1. See Variety, 2 October 16.
zooms too many in the perfunctory scenes fea- 2. Vice, “Il rosso segno della follia,” L’Unità, 26 June,
turing inspector Russell, and the whole police 170.
subplot is filled with throwaway dialogue that 3. Luigi Cozzi, “Operaszione paura,” Horror #13, De-
the director did not care much about. But the cember 170/January 171, 101.
4. As Stephen Forsyth told Tim Lucas, the Paris exteri-
sequences focusing on Harrington and his mad- ors, shot by a second unit headed by Lamberto Bava, fea-
ness are often outstanding for their sheer inven- tured a double (filmed in long shots) instead of the Cana-
tion and strange poetic tone. An extraordinary dian actor, who refused to shoot and stayed in his hotel
moment comes early in the film when, during room, not having been paid for a couple of weeks. Tim
Lucas, Mario Bava—All the Colors of the Dark (Cincinnati
a circular panning shot, Bava makes a smooth OH: Video Watchdog, 2007), 785. However, very little of
transition from the killer’s private room, the Paris shooting survives in the movie, and Luc Moullet
populated with mannequins wearing wedding suggests that the inclusion of a newspaper’s headline
dresses, to a séance whose participants seem just riddled with misspellings was Bava’s revenge on Caño. Luc
as lifeless as the mannequins themselves—a mo- Moullet, “La peur et la stupeur,” Cahiers du Cinéma #486,
December 14, 71.
ment in tune with one of the director’s favorite 5. Both Profondo rosso and Murder Obsession actually
visual themes, the blurring between the animate had their origin from the same source, a story by Fabio
and inanimate. Piccioni which also provided the basis for Il grido del capri-
Harrington’s tribulations with Mildred’s corno, an issue of the adults-only comic Oltretomba gigante
(#, February 174, with drawings by José María Bellalta).
ashes culminate in a beautiful, equally memo- See Roberto Curti, Diabolika. Superheroes, Supercriminals
rable bit where John spreads the woman’s ashes and the Comic Book Universe in Italian Cinema (Parkville
from a balcony on his villa, with Bava’s camera MD: Midnight Marquee Press, 2016), 30.
designing an exquisite traveling shot from 6. See Curti, Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957–1969, 104.
7. Lucas, Mario Bava–All the Colors of the Dark, 780.
below, as the man is illuminated by an eerie sun-
Incidentally, according to the script kept in Rome, John
set gleam. The murders are inventively designed, was not called Juan in the first place.
with little bloodshed and a striking use of edit- 8. Ibid., 783.
ing, distorted visuals and surreal animation (in 9. Ibid., 784.
a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, Femi Be-
nussi’s face opens in half in an optical effect that Thomas … gli indemoniati (Thomas …
brings to mind 160s Eastern Europe anima- the Demoniacs)
tion). D: Pupi Avati. S: Pupi Avati, Giorgio
Bava (who acted as his own d.o.p., most Celli, Antonio Avati; SC: Giorgio Celli, Enzo
likely because of budgetary restraints) even in- Leonardo, Pupi Avati; DOP: Toni [Antonio] Sec-
dulges in one of his favorite tricks on the audi- chi (Kodak Eastmancolor); M: Amedeo Tom-
ence, by cutting from a real train in the opening masi (Ed. Sermi Film); E: Enzo Micarelli; PD:
murder to a model train, allowing us for a mo- Guidobaldo Grossi; CO: Silvana Bigi; ArtD:
ment the illusion that the budget was so low as Claudio Giambanco; Collaboration to direction:
to force the makers to use a cheap special effect Enzo Leonardo; AD: Franco Sangiovanni; C:
… and then revealing that the train is actually Giorgio Regis; AC: Marcello Gallinelli; SP: Paolo
one of the toys Harrington is playing with. It’s Ferrari; MU: Gianni Amadei, Alfonso Cioffi;
24 1970: Thomas

Mariangela Melato and little Daniele Samory, as the titular ghost child, during a surreal scene of Thomas
… gli indemoniati. Note the empty bottles in the background (courtesy Luca Servini).

Hair: Ettore Tarquini; KG: Vito Capone; ChEl: centering on an imaginary boy named Thomas.
Gino Marra; SO: Giancarlo Droghini; AE: Carlo A medium shows up, and the company sets up
Broglio; AsstArtD: Alberto Menghini; W: Giulia a séance to find out whether the play will be a
Ricchieri; Artistic collaboration: Guglielmo success or not. During the séance, a boy named
Volonterio. Cast: Edmund Purdom (Marcus), Thomas shows up. The company leaves to the
Anita Sanders (Giorgia), Bob Tonelli [Ariano city where they will debut, and during the journey
Nanetti] (Bob), Giulio Pizzirani (Pintus), Gianni on train they meet a weird man who tells them a
Cavina (Adam), Ines Ciaschetti (Laura), Lola horrific story about another company opening a
Bonora (Lola), Graziano Giusti (Medium), play in the same town. On arrival, it is agreed
Mariangela Melato (Zoe), Andrea Matteuzzi that each player will keep Thomas for one day,
(The Man on the Train), Pina Borione (Seam- and then the boy will decide with whom to
stress / Manageress), Daniele Samory (Thomas), stay. Thomas’s presence seems to bring to the
Gino Cassani, Fanny Bertelli, Torivio Travaglini, surface each member’s unconscious fears and
Vincenzo Busi, Gilberto Fiorini, Claudio Trionfi. desires. Eventually the child chooses the lead ac-
PROD: Cidierre Cinematografica S.A.S. (Bologna). tress Giorgia, whose unfortunate romance with
PM: Gianni Amadei; PS: Giorgio Caputo, Pierluigi Marcus had inspired the latter to write the
Ciriaci; PSe: Steno Tonelli. PSeA: Gianni De play, but in the end it all turns out to have been
Cesare. Country: Italy. Filmed on location in a collective hallucination, as the séance is still
Bologna, Italy. Running time: 2 minutes (m. 2540); going on…
Visa n. 5670 (11.7.170); Rating: all audiences; Re- Merely eight months after the commercial
lease date: .28.170 (Locarno Film Festival); Dis- débacle of Balsamus l’uomo di Satana, on Sep-
tribution: not released theatrically; Domestic gross: tember , 170, Pupi Avati submitted his second
none. film to the Italian board of censors. The movie—
A provincial stage company is rehearsing a written by the director, Giorgio Celli and Enzo
play written by the lead actor, Marcus, and Leonardo, and financed with 110 million lire gra-
1970: Thomas 25

ciously provided by their patron, Mister X— enigmatic Thomas is a key to the characters’
benefitted from the presence of two popular subconscious, and the movie takes on a route
leads, Edmund Purdom and Anita Sanders (the that is openly psychoanalytic.
star of Tinto Brass’ Nerosubianco, 16) and had Curiously, Avati develops themes—marital
been selected at the prestigious Swiss festival of crisis, the fear of parenthood, the presence/ab-
Locarno. sence of an elusive little child—very similar to
Reviewing Thomas … gli indemoniati another ghost story sui generis made around the
after its festival screening in the newspaper same time, Marcello Avallone’s Un gioco per Eve-
Corriere della Sera, critic Giovanni Grazzini line (171), but his approach to the matter openly
wrote: “The Bologna-born Pupi Avati, age 32, nods, as Grazzini noted, to Federico Fellini’s
confirms in this sophomore feature film that he universe. What is more, the script encompasses
has an unusual talent, addressed to celebrate varied influences, from Mark Twain’s short story
the glories of magic with picturesque visionary Cannibalism in the Cars (which appears to have
resources…. Beyond the many Fellini-esque been the blueprint for the eerie story told by the
digressions, Avati’s work is conducted like a mysterious man in the train in one of the film’s
witty fable; certainly less organized and charged best sequences, characterized by a blatant use of
with dramatic meanings than the author would miniatures; incidentally, Avati will make a mas-
want, but rich of anxious cues and scenographic terful use of a train as the setting for a suspense-
fervor.”1 Paired with the Festival award won by ful sequence in Zeder) to André Delvaux’s
Bob Tonelli as Best supporting actor, it sounded surreal masterpiece Un soir, un train (168) for
like a promising start for the movie, which ob- the intricate layers of symbols. The result
tained a visa in November of that year. But benefits greatly from Amedeo Tommasi’s score,
then, disaster struck: no distribution company which mixes lounge, jazz and Gothic themes,
picked up the film, which languished in limbo and is graced with vocals by Edda Dell’Orso.3 A
until the early 10s, when it was shown in ret- renowned jazz pianist and composer, Tommasi
rospectives on the author. As of today it survives wrote the music for all Avati’s films up to Cin-
only in bad-quality copies circulating among ema!!!
collectors and transferred from a private film li- That said, Thomas … gli indemoniati is
brary print. wildly uneven, and ultimately self-defeating.
Thomas … gli indemoniati takes a different The rehearsal scenes exude the kind of metalin-
approach than Balsamus l’uomo di Satana, leav- guistic conceit that was common to so many
ing comedy aside and opting for a dramatic nar- works based on (and reflecting upon) the duality
rative which is more properly rooted in the Fan- between stage and life, but Avati’s film does not
tastic and the macabre, from the effectively eerie have the brilliance of, say, The Balcony (163,
opening sequence set in a cemetery, where a Joseph Strick, from Jean Genet’s play). The
strange-looking man (whom we’ll find out is a director is more at ease with the surreal digres-
medium) wanders around the graves, looking sions that form the core of the story, and
for some unknown departed to mourn on the uncover the demons that haunt the main char-
Day of the Dead, so as to appease his own lone- acters—the title’s “demoniacs,” “possessed by
liness. their own ghosts and obsessed by the demons
Avati builds the film around one of the that don’t stop screaming inside their heads.”4
Gothic clichés par excellence, the séance—here Here, unlike in Balsamus, the director fully em-
conducted by the members of a shabby the- braces the Fantastic, as every character comes
atrical company who are about to stage a her- face to face with his or her own dreams, or fears,
metic avant-garde play and are understandably with the little boy acting as a catalyst and taking
worried about the audience’s response—whose out the monstrous from them, “with a procedure
participants end up summoning the ghastly tit- similar, in a symbolic way, to exorcism.”5 Still,
ular boy. From then on, it has been noted, “the these scenes give the movie an episodic, me-
narration takes place in a non-time, in which chanical quality that detracts from its effective-
echoes of deeply distant periods can naturally ness as a whole.
co-exist.”2 Still, even though the boundaries be- The elderly seamstress’ (Pina Borione)
tween the living and the dead are bound to dis- obsession with death leads to her visit to a hos-
solve during the course of the film, the director pice for old actresses, who lie in their white beds
is not interested in an ordinary ghost story: the in silence so that one cannot tell whether they
26 1970: Thomas

are alive or dead: it is an uncanny segment Eco’s essay Opera aperta (a.k.a. The Open Work,
that somehow predates the strength of such 162). It does indeed fall into the realm of the
images as the bedridden elderly lady in La casa Fantastic; but it comes off as frustrating, in a
dalle finestre che ridono. Then, in the movie’s movie that systematically defies any identifica-
most humorous sequence, Bob Tonelli (as tion or enjoyment on the part of the viewer, and
himself) is invited to speak at a conference of makes a point of being obscure and heavy with
“applied sexology” as an expert on the matter. symbols.
Here, Avati explores one of his favorite themes, As with Balsamus, Avati was critical to
grotesque orgiastic sexuality, like he had done the point of self-hatred when speaking of his
in Balsamus, as the diminutive Bob becomes a sophomore film: “Thomas coincided with a
sexual icon for his female audience, who implore very painful moment in my life. The fact that it
him to make love to them, prompting Tonelli was never distributed has probably a reason. My
to utter a memorable tongue-in-cheek line: brother Antonio did not collaborate on the
“After me the word ‘sadism’ will be replaced by script, as he was doing his military service. I
‘bobism’!” have never watched it again, nor am I tempted
Like many other Avati efforts, Thomas … to, since it does not raise any type of curiosity
gli indemoniati revolves around a world of in me. Balsamus, in some way, had its own
losers, who seemingly find a way to soothe their reason for being as a film debut, and in its
malaise only by embracing total withdrawal, and ramshackleness it showed our attempt to be
savoring it with an almost morbid languor: this there, to establish ourselves. Whereas Thomas
theme recurs throughout the director’s work, up is a parasitic work, and the fact that it disap-
to his most recent efforts such as Un ragazzo peared from circulation is a great advantage
d’oro (2014). Avati’s typical defeatist antiheroes in my opinion. To me, Thomas is a very foolish
are embodied by the stage company director, thing.”6
Pintus (Giulio Pizzirani) and the actor Adam At 32, after only two films, Pupi Avati
(Gianni Cavina). The former reveals his morbid seemed finished as a filmmaker. “I found
jealousy for Zoe (Mariangela Melato, in her film myself unemployed for four years because of
debut) in the movie’s most Fellini-esque bit, the those movies…. In those four years, somebody
sequence of the field littered with empty bottles told me, ‘Look, if you want to keep on doing
where Pintus digs up marble heads and busts of this job, you’d better change your name.’”7
Pagan deities. Adam, on the other hand, reveals Eventually he found work as a scriptwriter on
his hopeless love for Giorgia, and—the only the Gothic melodrama Il bacio and returned be-
one in the group—refuses to keep the boy with hind the camera with the biting comedy La
him for one day, thus giving up the chance of mazurka del barone, della santa e del fico fiorone,
fulfilling his own dreams. starring Ugo Tognazzi and Paolo Villaggio;
Despite the occasional surreal flashes, this movie resumed the grotesque quality and
Thomas … gli indemoniati gradually disinte- the surreal intuitions of his first films in a more
grates in heavy, self-reflective monologues char- accomplished, commercially apt way, and dis-
acterized by a pretentious literary quality, and played what would become Avati’s trademark
climaxes in the wild scene where the audience style.
assaults the stage before the play starts, followed
by the surreal moment where Giorgia (Anita NoTeS
Sanders) and Thomas seem to move from the 1. Giovanni Grazzini, “Gli Italiani a Locarno,” Corriere
stage play to an otherworldly, idyllic dimension della Sera, October 4, 170.
where they are alone and happy together—per- 2. Abramovit, Bartolini, Il gotico padano, 131.
3. The soundtrack, published by the label Gemelli
haps the afterlife, given the presence of a waiter (GG 10–004), bears the title Thomas, hinting at the possi-
whose face we saw on one of the graves in the bility that, just as with Balsamus, the subtitle was added
opening cemetery scene? The circular ending— subsequently in order to make the film commercially vi-
was it all a dream, a product of the main char- able.
acters’ imagination, or a circular time loop that 4. Abramovit, Bartolini, Il gotico padano, 12.
5. Ibid., 134.
has them trapped and experiencing the same 6. Ibid., 130.
events all over again?—does not solve the 7. Servini, “Balsamus, l’uomo di Satana: la grande
enigma, and appears to have been influenced by avventura,” 32.
the notion of “open text” discussed in Umberto
1971: Un gioco 27

Un gioco per Eveline (A Game for Eveline) Philippe kissing her. Increasingly obsessed by Eve-
D: Marcello Avallone. S: Marco Guglielmi line, and panicked by the sudden appearance of
[Augusto Guglielmi]; SC: Marco Guglielmi, Ste- the child, Pierre shoots at her. The four bury the
fano Calanchi, Marcello Avallone; DOP: Aldo little girl’s body, but are interrupted by a police
Scavarda [uncredited] (Eastmancolor); C: inspector: however, the grave turns out to be
Enrico Cortese; M: Marcello Giombini; E: Paolo empty…. At this point, Pierre and Nathalie wake
Lucignani; PD: Amedeo Fago; SD: Giorgio up in their wrecked car: it was only a dream.
Bertolini; MU: Giovanna Martino; AMU: Paolo Pierre, wandering around in search of help,
Franceschi; AD: Michele Brancato; AC: Enzo glimpses a villa…
Tosi; AE: Lorenzo Costantini; SO: Armando “I wanted to make a somewhat different
Nasca; SS: Valerio Monaco. Cast: Erna Schurer kind of cinema, closer to the Fantastic. I wrote
[Emma Costantino] (Nathalie Chateleau), Adri- a ‘noir,’ a genre which we did rarely in Italy,
ana Bogdan [Adriana Nicolescu] (Minou Gi- called Un gioco per Eveline. The movie got made,
raud), Marco Guglielmi (Philippe Giraud), but nobody believed in it. It was a difficult work,
Wolfgang Hillinger (Pierre Chateleau), Rita out of time, even naive by today’s standards.”1
Calderoni (School Teacher / Housekeeper), This is how Marcello Avallone recalled his sec-
Luisa Delli (German tourist), Stefano Oppedis- ond feature film as a director, following his be-
ano, Franco Jemma (Police Inspector), Angelo ginnings as a documentarist on TV and his di-
Tagliavia (Mechanic), Giorgio Libassi (German rectorial debut, L’altra faccia del peccato (16),
tourist), Simonetta Negri (Eveline). PROD: a mondo produced by Luciano Martino. Aval-
Ernesto Di Fresco for Diva Cinematografica; lone’s retrospective definition of Un gioco per
PM: Sergio Nasca; PS: Michele Macaluso; Eveline as a film noir is misleading: it is actually
PSe: Marisa Gerini. Country: Italy. Filmed in a ghost story, albeit a sui generis one, with a
Mondello (Sicily); Running time: 85 minutes number of nods and analogies to Italian Gothics
(m. 2322); Visa n. 5780 (3.18.171); Rating: all of the previous decade. The director himself,
audiences. Release date: 7.16.171; Distribution: when interviewed a few days before shooting
Panta Cinematografica. Domestic gross: 43,833,000 started, pointed out: “The picture’s real protag-
lire. onist is the fear of whatever escapes our senses,
A young couple on holiday, Pierre and our logic control, the reality that surrounds us
Nathalie, are having an argument while driving every day. In other words, the fear of the uncon-
along the Corsican coast. Pierre insists that they scious, the ghosts that each one of us carries in-
have a baby, and Nathalie, who is at the wheel, side and hides to the others, the fear of our own
gets so upset and restless that the car skids off the conscience.” 2
road. Since the woman has sprained her ankle, All this, however, is revisited according to
Pierre asks for help at a nearby villa, owned by the typical style and themes in vogue in Italian
another couple, Minou and Philippe Giraud. Dur- post-’68 cinema. At first, the story of a young
ing their stay, both guests are made the subject of couple undergoing a marital crisis seems to be-
explicit advances on the part of the owners, but long to some bourgeois drama on incommuni-
the strange foursome is frequently troubled by the cability, spiced with nudity and mild eroticism
appearance of a little girl—Minou and Philippe’s as was customary in the period. The beautiful
little daughter Eveline—whom only Pierre is ap- and sunny setting (the story is set in the
parently able to see and hear. As Philippe explains, Corsican coast, although the film was shot in
the girl died a year and a half prior in a fatal ac- Mondello, Sicily3) underlines the impression, as
cident, in an avalanche, with the housekeeper; yet do the luxurious villa where most of the story
Minou maintains that Eveline is alive and her takes place, the pretentious dialogue that the
husband keeps her hidden from her. The situation characters exchange while idling and wandering
becomes even weirder after the couple receives a around the premises, and the expected mutual
visit from a schoolteacher who asks news about games of seduction and betrayal.
the missing girl; Nathalie notices that the woman And yet, the plot is littered with the typical
is a dead ringer for the housekeeper, and then sees haunted house elements: a couple forced to stay
28 1971: Un giaco

for the night at a strange house whose enigmatic (168), and certainly not a casual choice on the
inhabitants seem to hold a terrible secret; weird director’s part. Having been Riccardo Freda’s as-
noises and cries in the night; a menacing shadow sistant director on L’orribile segreto del Dr. Hich-
projected on the outside walls; a ghastly pres- cock (162), Avallone deals with the genre para-
ence. Then Avallone introduces the ghost: a little phernalia with effectiveness: the sequence where
girl playing with her white ball who looks like a Nathalie uncovers a life-size doll under the bed’s
perfect mixture between Melissa Graps in Op- sheets actually replicates to the letter the mo-
erazione paura and the Devil in Fellini’s Toby ment in L’orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock when
Dammit episode in Histoires extraordinaires Barbara Steele found a human skull in her nup-
tial bed.
However, Un gioco per Eveline is more pre-
occupied with the message. The Gothic and su-
pernatural elements remain purely instrumental
and convey a heavy-handed psychoanalytical
significance, in tune with the film’s theme—fear
of parenthood, seen as an indication of the col-
lapse of traditional values. As Avallone ex-
plained, “The story revolves around the concept
that in today’s society family has deeply changed
its appearance compared with the traditional
meaning of the word. In the breakneck and
chaotic rhythm of life that conditions us all …
the place for children becomes more and more
scarce.”4 The four protagonists are specular to
each other, and have openly symbolic traits:
Pierre wants a child while Philippe underwent
vasectomy, Minou is obsessed with motherhood
whereas Nathalie rejects the idea. To them “chil-
dren represent a projection of their own respon-
sibilities, their inhibitions, the waivers they are
forced to make, the constant attempt to escape
reality.”5 The supernatural theme ultimately
doesn’t add up to much other than a general
sense of uneasiness and absurdity, underlined
by the final quotation from Samuel Beckett,
which tops a circular “dream” ending borrowed
straight from Dead of Night (145).
It would have taken a strong script and di-
alogue not to succumb to the story’s utter pre-
tentiousness (leaving aside its debatable per-
spective). Whereas the characters have to deliver
lines such as “Then, no children, it will only be
us two and our mucous membranes!” or “Dress
up, in a woman like you there’s nothing else to
disclose.” Avallone himself admitted that “per-
haps the screenplay was not as rich compared
to what it was trying to say, and the actors were
mediocre.”6 It is a pity, since the direction is wor-
thy of better material, as proven by the effective
bits featuring Eveline’s ghost as well as a number
of suitably stylish moments, with the intriguing
use of circular panning shots during the con-
frontation with the schoolteacher and plenty of
Italian locandina for Un gioco per Eveline (1971). effective camera angles.
1971: …Hanno 2

The screenplay was mainly the work of 3. Davide Pulici, “Erna Schurer (Emma Costantino) la
Marco Guglielmi (126–2005), a dignified sup- donna volitiva,” in Manlio Gomarasca and Davide Pulici,
Davide (eds.), Le sorelle di Venere 2. Nocturno Dossier #5,
porting actor who occasionally dabbled in script- June 2007, 32.
writing, and who nevertheless is miscast as the 4. Ceretto, “Protagonista la paura.”
would-be fascinating Philippe. The cast also in- 5. Ibid.
cluded the ravishing blonde Emma Costantino, 6. Ercolani, “Tra cinema e cavalli: Intervista a Marcello
a.k.a. Erna Schurer, quite popular after her role 7. Pulici, “Erna Schurer,” 32. According to the actress,
in Alberto Cavallone’s succes de scandàle Le sala- renowned cinematographer Aldo Scavarda (Antonioni’s
mandre (16). On the other hand, the Roman- L’Avventura) worked uncredited on the film: no director
ian Adriana Bogdan was enjoying a short-lived of photography is listed in the credits, and cameraman
notoriety after her appearance in the arthouse Ernesto Cortese was usually credited as d.o.p.
8. Ceretto, “Protagonista la paura.”
cult classic Une soir, un train: the wife of French 9. The board of censors demanded two bits to be cut,
director José Varela, and later a friend of Surre- in the love scene between Philippe and Nathalie.
alist poet Louis Aragon, Bogdan disappeared 10. It appears to have had a summer theatrical run in
into oblivion in the Seventies after only a mid–July 171. The vice film critic on the Turin newspaper
La Stampa called it “an obscure drama,” and wrote: “The
handful of movies. The German-born Wolfgang film does not hide its ambitions to stay out of the ordinary,
Hillinger had appeared in films by Bava (Dia- but it lacks dramatic inspiration and narrative breath.” Vice,
bolik), Fellini (Fellini—Satyricon), Visconti (La “Il miliardario e la provinciale,” La Stampa, July 18, 171.
caduta degli dei), mostly in very small roles: his
main claim to fame had been Silvio Amadio’s …Hanno cambiato faccia (They’ve
L’isola delle svedesi (168). After Avallone’s film Changed Faces)
he disappeared from the radar, briefly reemerg- D: Corrado Farina. S: Corrado Farina; SC:
ing with a small role in Roberto Benigni’s Award- Giulio Berruti, Corrado Farina; DOP: Aiace
winning La vita è bella (17). Renato Polselli’s Parolin (Eastmancolor, Telecolor); M: Amedeo
muse, Rita Calderoni, turns up in a small part, Tommasi; E: Giulio Berruti; PD, CO: Mimmo
donning a platinum blonde wig, as the Scavia; C: Maurizio Gennaro; AC: Franco Bour-
enigmatic schoolteacher. According to Schurer, sier; SO: Alessandro Di Carlo; MU: Manlio Roc-
the movie was financed by “a mafioso…. He chetti; W: Enrica Bronzi; AD: Giulio Berruti; SP:
used to pay us by putting the money inside a Antonio Casolini; AE: Massimo Latini, Edda
newspaper, I remember him coming over in Pascale. Cast: Adolfo Celi (Giovanni Nosferatu),
weekends, carrying these small packages…”7 Geraldine Hooper (Corinna), Giuliano Dis-
Filmed in the summer of 16,8 Un gioco perati (Alberto Valle), Francesca Modigliani
per Eveline was submitted to the board of (Laura), Rosalba Bongiovanni, Pio Buscaglione,
censors only two years later: it underwent some Salvatore Cantagalli, Giulio Flores Perasso,
cuts to be secured a “per tutti” (all audiences) Mariella Furgiuele, Luigi Garetto, Guglielmo
visa, and had a brief and disastrous theatrical Molasso, Wladimiro Nemo, Maria Randisi Sal-
run.10 Avallone was so disappointed that he gave ice, Lorenzo Rapazzini, Claudio Trionfi; uncred-
up movies and returned to television documen- ited: Amedeo Tommasi, Corrado Farina (Scien-
taries. He would return to directing with 176’s tist in commercial). PROD: Filmsettanta S.r.l.
Cugine mie, an erotic comedy which had lots of (Rome); PM: Carlo Chamblant; PS: Massimo
trouble with the Italian censors, and was banned Alberini, Guido Mattei. Country: Italy. Filmed
twice due to its supposedly “obscene” nature. In in Turin and at Incir-De Paolis Studios (Rome).
the Eighties he delivered a couple of slick, if not Running time: 5 minutes (m. 2605); Visa n.
too original, horror films, Spettri (187) and 5734 (03.27.171); Rating: V.M.18. Release date:
Maya (18). His last feature films were a thriller, 07.02.171; Distribution: Garigliano. Domestic
Last Cut (17), starring John Savage, and the gross: 28,010,000 lire. Also known as: Wettlauf
TV movie Indizio fatale (1). gegen der Tod (West Germany); Han cambiado
de cara (Spain); La rencarnación del mal
NoTeS (Spain—home video), Zmiana oblicza (Poland).
Alberto Valle, an employee of the Auto
1. Eugenio Ercolani, “Tra cinema e cavalli: Intervista a Avion Motor car factory, is unexpectedly sum-
Marcello Avallone,” Fascination Cinema, January 27, 2014.
( moned to the villa of the company’s owner, Engi-
2. Alberto Ceretto, “Protagonista la paura,” Corriere neer Giovanni Nosferatu. During the journey to
d’Informazione, August 1, 16. the mountains, where Nosferatu lives, Alberto
30 1971: …Hanno

meets a young hippie rebel woman, Laura, whom take shape 168 was over, and Italy was in full
he feels attracted to. At Nosferatu’s mansion, he turmoil: students protests, workers’ strikes, the
is welcomed by the enigmatic secretary Corinna, “Hot Autumn” that would lead to a new legal
who ends up in bed with him. Much to Valle’s sur- discipline of hired labor (the Workers’ Statute,
prise, Nosferatu offers him a chance to become in May 170). Farina’s idea was to adapt the con-
the company’s president, but Alberto notices that cept of vampirism to the times: if I vampiri cen-
weird things are going on in the villa: Nosferatu tered on a member of the élite, an aristocrat,
keeps a register of all newborn babies, whose fu- who drained young women’s blood to keep her
ture is programmed from birth. Valle then dis- beauty, here the vampire exploits the workers
covers a crypt in the park, with Nosferatu’s grave and enslaves the consumers through advertising
in it: the date of birth is 1801 and there is no date and occult persuasion. Moreover, Farina and
of death. Overhearing a meeting where Nosferatu co-scriptwriter Giulio Berruti were heavily in-
and his employees discuss the launch of a new fluenced by the writings of the German philoso-
product on the market—LSD—Valle discovers pher Herbert Marcuse, whose 164 book One-
that the Engineer rules his company with a ruth- Dimensional Man, a critic of both contemporary
less attention to profit. Alberto becomes convinced capitalism as well as Communist Russia, would
that Nosferatu is a vampire: he shoots him and provide the film’s thesis—consumerism as a
flees from the villa. Outside, he meets Laura, form of social control—and its final epigraph:
who—vampirized by Nosferatu—has turned into “Terror, today, is called technology.”
a bourgeois, eager to become part of the system. The script, at least in the first act, para-
Having lost all hope, Valle accepts his fate and re- phrases Dracula with a witty, clever spirit that
turns to the villa, where Nosferatu is waiting for results in the reinvention of the novel’s staples.
him. The story is set in present-day Turin, at a car
“In full 20th century, you still believe in factory which blatantly stands in for FIAT (then
vampires?” “Myths don’t die, they transform … owned by the Agnelli family and with Giovanni
you have changed face, but keep sucking people’s Agnelli as chairman), and follows the protago-
blood.” This dialogue exchange between Engi- nist’s journey (by car, of course) to the vampire’s
neer Giovanni Nosferatu (Adolfo Celi) and his castle, which here becomes a luxurious villa in
employee Alberto Valle (Giuliano Disperati) the Alps.
sums up the allegorical significance of Corrado Farina and Berruti inject some nice atmos-
Farina’s feature film debut, an original and pheric details (such as Alberto’s stop at a remote
thought-provoking variation on the Dracula mountain village whose inhabitants are scared
myth. Fresh from his experience as assistant di- by the mere pronunciation of the name Nosfer-
rector in Nardo Bonomi’s unreleased psycho- atu) and come up with plenty of visual and the-
logical oddity Sortilegio, starring Erna Schurer matic ideas. The opening scenes bring to mind
and Marco Ferreri, Farina drew from his love some of Dino Buzzati’s short stories (see Al-
for Gothic and vampire movies, as well as from berto’s ascension from his mediocre office on
his experience as copywriter at the prestigious the 10th floor to the president’s office on the 20th
Studio Testa, where he had worked from 163 to floor); once at Nosferatu’s mansion, Valle finds
168, shooting TV advertisements. himself surrounded by aural advertisements that
Farina (13–2016) had been struck as he keep popping up at every place and moment,
reached adulthood by a couple of horror films, even when he is taking a shower (an idea re-
Riccardo Freda’s I vampiri (157) and Terence cently explored in the Fifteen Million Merits
Fisher’s Horror of Dracula (158)—two radically episode of Charlie Brooker’s brilliant TV series
different interpretations of the vampire myth— Black Mirror); the dinner sequence stands out
which pushed him to make a Gothic movie on as a humorous variation on Harker’s dinner at
his own: the result was his second short film, the Dracula castle, as Alberto is served homog-
one of a number Farina directed between 158 enized, flavorless, decidedly unappetizing baby-
and 163, the 8mm horror parody Il figlio di like food, not dissimilar to the one eaten by the
Dracula (160), that amiably spoofed the genre. astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey (168). “The
After the end of his working experience with the stimulus provided by the taste and smell, like
Studio Testa, Farina moved to Rome and started the sexual ones, results in a pleasure for its own
working on his feature film debut. sake, that is a useless waste of energy,” Nosferatu
When …Hanno cambiato faccia started to explains, adding that “productive energy is too
1971: …Hanno 31

precious to run the risk of wasting

it.” The film’s most impressive in-
vention, however, is the sight of the
Fiat 500 cars patrolling the villa like
guard dogs, a modernized version
of the “children of the night” that
roar instead of howling.
Like I vampiri’s Duchess Du
Grand, Nosferatu has no fangs, but
his methods of vampirization go
way beyond sucking people’s blood.
Valle finds out not only that the En-
gineer actually has the whole élite
(the Church, the Police, the Army,
the Government) in his power, but
that his own life has been pro-
grammed since birth, like that of
every other worker/consumer.
In his unequal struggle against
the vampire, Alberto is confronted
with two female types, apparently
poles apart: the free-living, noncon-
formist Laura, a bare-breasted hip-
pie who claims to be against the sys-
tem, and Nosferatu’s enigmatic,
androgynous secretary Corinna,
whose professional attitude does
not exclude a willingness to engage
in sex with the guests as part of her
duties. Like many other male heroes
in Italian Gothic, Valle is ultimately
weak: he feebly tries to rebel, but Italian poster for …Hanno cambiato faccia (1971).
eventually discovers there is no use
to it. Revolution, and violent opposition—ex- Godard (a bearded man babbles slogans on Rev-
emplified by him shooting Nosferatu—result in olution), Fellini (an elderly clown plays a tuba
a brief, apparent victory, before Power takes on upon a hill and meets his parents), and erotic
a new shape and face. cinema (a debauched Sadean libertine tortures
For all its lively approach to the matter, and whips a couple of female slaves), even in-
…Hanno cambiato faccia stagnates and sags clude a cameo by Farina himself, as a scientist
halfway through: the overtly didactic discourse in white coat who explains the scientific benefits
on consumerism, media manipulation and the of the synthetic drug. The segment is occasion-
sheep-like tendencies of the public is a bit naive ally amusing, but ultimately overlong and
and predictable, and the film becomes repetitive overindulgent.
and verbose in its relentless socio-political The director was rather dismissive toward
agenda, at the expense of the plot. An example the result: “Had it been made with a bigger
is the scene of Nosferatu’s reunion with his em- budget and means, it might have been a cute
ployees—itself a nod to the vampire ball in The little thing … it is sad to see it today, as it is ba-
Fearless Vampire Killers (167)—which explores sically a conceptual movie.”1 The shoestring
Farina’s love/hate relationship with his own past budget is painfully obvious at times: according
as a copywriter, as the Engineer envisions a trio to Farina, the film—produced via a cooperative
of fake b&w commercial TV spots commis- by the director and some friends—cost only 50
sioned to a bespectacled, nervous-looking, million lire.2 It was shot in and around Turin
overly pretentious director, to advertise his new and in the Lanzo Valleys, in the Piedmont Alps,
product, LSD. The ads, spoofing respectively from December 170 to February 171, and
32 1971: Lady

Farina recalled that a line of dialogue was added mained his last film to date. Farina returned to
specifically to try and make up for the blatant television and advertising, before embarking in
contrast between the exterior of Nosferatu’s villa a career as a novelist in the 10s. He died in
and its interiors: “Since we did not have any June 2016.
money, we filmed the outdoor scenes at some
friends’ villa outside Turin, whereas the interiors NoTeS
were shot at another villa, always in Turin: they
1. Roberto Curti and Davide Pulici, Corrado Farina
have nothing to do with each other, since the in- (Milan: Nocturno Libri, 2000), 135.
side is modern whereas the outside is 18th cen- 2. Piero Perona, “I vampiri ‘girano’ sulla collina
tury! (laughs) At a certain point, there’s a line torinese,” La Stampa, December 2, 170. Per [Piero Per-
that we added just to save face, as Giuliano [Dis- ona], “Vampiri in cooperativa,” La Stampa, December 31,
perati] asks, ‘Why is this villa so old outside and 3. Curti and Pulici, Corrado Farina, 13.
so modern inside?’ and Geraldine [Hooper] 4. Ibid., 138.
replies, ‘We don’t make any difference between 5. Ibid., 13.
the present and the past!’ (laughs).”3 6. For an in-depth analysis of Baba Yaga, see Curti, Di-
The cast was assembled with similar crite- abolika, 136–141.
ria: Giuliano Disperati, the lead, had done a few
interesting films such as Piero Livi’s bandit yarn Lady Frankenstein (Lady Frankenstein)
Pelle di bandito (16), and the next year he D: Mel Welles [Ira Meltcher]. S: Dick Ran-
would even appear in Georges Lautner’s Il était dall; SC: Edward Di Lorenzo [and Mel Welles,
une fois un flic (172), alongside such popular uncredited] [Italian version: S and SC: Umberto
names as Alain Delon, Michel Constantin and Borsato, Egidio Celso, Aureliano Luppi]; DOP:
Mireille Darc. However, his following career was Richard Pallotin [Riccardo Pallottini] (Eastman-
hardly noteworthy: he later changed his sur- color, Metrocolor); M: Alessandro Alessandroni;
name to Esperati, since, according to Farina, E: Cleo Converse [Cleofe Conversi]; ArtD: Fran-
“the word Disperati [author’s note: meaning cis Mellon; CO: Maurice Nichols [Marisa
‘desperate’ in Italian] seemed a bit ominous…”4 Crimi]; MU: Timothy Parson; Hair: Cass Whyte;
The weird-looking Geraldine Hooper had ap- AD: Joseph Pollin [Giuseppe Pollini], Anthony
peared in Sortilegio and Il delitto del diavolo, Bishop [Antonio Casale]; C: Serge Martin [Ser-
whereas Francesca Modigliani (actually a pseu- gio Martinelli]; AC: Charles Taffan [Carlo
donym: the director did not recall her true Tafani]; SO: Francis Grappian [Francesco Grop-
name) was a friend of Disperati’s: “We needed pioni]; B: Corey Volpe; SE: Charles Ramboldt
an easy, nice person, someone who didn’t mind [Carlo Rambaldi]; SS: Farley Merrel. Cast:
displaying her breasts on film,” 5 Farina com- Joseph Cotten (Baron Frankenstein), Rosalba
mented ironically. Neri (Tania Frankenstein), Paul Muller (Dr.
…Hanno cambiato faccia was given a Charles Marshall), Peter Whiteman [Riccardo
V.M.18 rating, officially “for the scenes of sadism Pizzuti] (The Creature), Herbert Fux (Tom
and eroticism” but more likely for its anti–Cap- Lynch), Mickey Hargitay (Captain Harris), Re-
italist message; the rating was dropped to a nata Kashe [Renate Kasché] (Julia Stark), Lor-
V.M.14 only in 2011 after some minor cuts. It was enzo Terzon (Peter, Harris’ assistant), Ada Pom-
even selected at the Locarno Film Festival, and etti (Farmer’s wife), Andrea Aureli (Jim Turner),
was well-received by critics, but performed Gianni [John Louis] Loffredo (John), Pietro
poorly at the box-office; over the years, it gath- [Petar] Martinovitch (Jack Morgan), Herb An-
ered a growing cult following in its home coun- dress (Harry, the Hunchback), Gualtiero Rispoli
try. It was released on DVD in the States in 2014 (Simon Burke), Adam Welles (Child); uncred-
as They’ve Changed Faces, with a cover that made ited: Marino Masé (Thomas Stark), Romano
it look like a poliziottesco—an understandable Puppo (Zack). PROD: Mel Welles for Condor
attempt at commercializing such a unique film International Productions, Alexia Film (Rome);
to an unsuspecting audience. PM: Egidio Celso; EP: Harry C. Cushing, Hum-
Farina went on to make Baba Yaga (173), bert Case [Umberto Borsato], Jules Kenton
an adaptation of Guido Crepax’s comic Valen- [Gioele Centanni]; PM: Frank Fly [Ferruccio
tina starring Isabelle De Funès and Carroll Mosca]; PA: August Dolfis [Augusto Dolfi]; PSe:
Baker, which had a troubled development and Tony Pitt [Antonio Pittalis]. Country: Italy.
turned out a box-office disappointment.6 It re- Filmed at Incir-De Paolis (Rome). Running time:
1971: Lady 33

 minutes (m. 2700). Visa n. 5112 (10.18.171); cardo Freda pics. Occasionally Welles—who had
Rating: V.M.18. Release dates: 10.22.171 (Italy); directed his first film in 157—returned behind
10.173 (U.S.A.); Distribution: Alexia (Italy); the camera, though: Un affare tranquillo (164),
New World Pictures (U.S.A.). Domestic gross: a prudish comedy about a brothel based in a
13,683,000 lire. Also known as: A Filha de small fishing village, inspired by Maupassant’s
Frankenstein; A Mulher de Frankenstein (Brazil); story La Maison Tellier and featuring Frank
Furankenshutain: musume no fukushu (Japan). Wolff, was banned by Italian censors; La isla de
Baron Frankenstein and his assistant, Dr. la muerte (167), starring Cameron Mitchell and
Charles Marshall, are working on the creation of filmed in Spain, caused some confusion in fol-
an artificial man. With the help of a slimy body lowing years, as a number of sources kept iden-
snatcher named Lynch and his aides, they get hold tifying Welles as a pseudonym of the German
of the body of a hanged criminal, Jack Morgan. producer, Ernst Ritter von Theumer. Another
Meanwhile, Frankenstein’s daughter Tania—fresh such venture was Lady Frankenstein, a film
with a surgery degree and a fervent supporter of which—like Warren Kiefer’s Il castello dei morti
her father’s theories—has arrived at the castle. vivi (164)—took shape in Italy and was granted
The baron and Marshall transplant Morgan’s Italian nationality, but was actually the brain-
brain into the creature: the experiment succeeds, child of foreigners.
but the brain is damaged. The result
is a creature with criminal instincts
and extraordinary strength; after
murdering the baron, the monster
flees and runs amok across the
countryside. Tania convinces Mar-
shall, who is in love with her, that
the only way to stop the monster is
to create another creature able to de-
stroy it. To do so, Tania plans to
transplant Charles’ brain into the
body of a handsome and strong but
retarded servant named Thomas, to
whom she is attracted. Meanwhile,
Captain Harris, who leads the in-
vestigations and is in love with
Thomas’ sister Julia, becomes very
suspicious of what is going on at the
Frankenstein castle. Eventually,
Thomas faces the monster in a
deadly struggle, and gets the better
of him. Tania and her creature con-
summate their passion while an
angry mob sets fire to the castle…
Having relocated to Rome in
161, after his work with Roger
Corman on such AIP cult epics as
The Undead (157) and The Little
Shop of Horrors (160), actor/direc-
tor Mel Welles was one of the many
Americans who enjoyed a first-
hand taste of the Dolce Vita and
the Golden Age of Cinecittà. In
The outstanding Italian poster for Lady Frankenstein (1971),
Italy, he soon made himself a living enhanced the Gothic content, depicting Rosalba Neri’s character
as voice actor, dubbing foreign lan- as a typical damsel in distress. The manor in the background is
guage films into English, including clearly modeled upon Castle Chigi at Castel Fusano. Art by Lu-
a number of Mario Bava and Ric- ciano Crovato.
34 1971: Lady

As Welles himself recalled, he had been ap- other issues to take care of. “I came back and
proached by a rich American expatriate and made a deal with Skip Steloff of Heritage Films,
Vanderbilt scion by the name of Harry Cooke because Harry gave me only so much money;
Cushing IV (124–2000), who wanted to pro- the rest was to come in a letter of credit from
duce a movie starring Rosalba Neri, with whom Skip. I got the letter of credit and it had a few …
he was madly in love. A sight for sore eyes, Neri ‘tricky dicky’ things in it, so it wasn’t discount-
(born in 13) was one of Italy’s most glamorous able and I was stuck again. By this time, I had
starlets; she had appeared in a number of genre 126 people working and the studio booked.”4
films (mostly sword-and-sandal and spy flicks) Suddenly Welles was short $0,000. What to do
since the 160s, and her willingness to appear next? “I got on a plane, flew to California, and
nude had made her one of the country’s erotic went to see Roger Corman.”5
bombshells, after her roles in such works as Top It was Corman’s company New World Pic-
Sensation (168, Ottavio Alessi) and Jesús tures that secured the necessary money to make
Franco’s Marquis De Sade’s Justine (168) and 99 the movie, and Corman got the rights to the film
Women (168). According to Welles, Cushing in America, in perpetuity. Filming finally started
was literally pursuing the actress. “She was turn- on March 1, 171. However, the small budget—
ing him down, everywhere. She couldn’t actually under $200,000—was not enough to secure
stand him; Harry was actually quite good- Joseph Cotten’s services for a long time: as Dick
looking, but he was a pain in the neck because Randall told Variety, “we rewrote his part, cut-
he had never lived in the real world—and that’s ting it to two weeks. In the final version, the
what she resented about him. He never worked monster turns on his creator and crushes him
a day in his life. So here, in my lap, he dropped to death in the fifth reel. Either that or get a less
the script and the money to do it. What a wind- expensive star.”6
fall!” 1 Productively speaking, then, Lady Franken-
On his part, Welles jumped at the oppor- stein had little Italian to it, besides the location:
tunity. “In this business, when somebody comes a number of indoor scenes were filmed at the
and says, ‘Here’s the money, let’s go do a film,’ De Paolis Studios in Rome, which had all sorts
that is the greatest thing that can happen to you. of set pieces that would be re-used from film to
I said okay, and I worked for a few months film (the lab props would turn up again in Flesh
trying to put it together, and discovered he did for Frankenstein), whereas the castle scenes and
not own the script.”2 The person who owned all those featuring Mickey Hargitay (dubbed by
Lady Dracula—a story about a vampire who Rod Dana, in order to make up for the actor’s
worked in a funeral parlor—was former peplum thick Hungarian accent) were shot at the Pic-
actor Brad Harris, who wanted to produce the colomini castle in Balsorano, the home of so
movie by himself.3 So, Welles had to knock out many Gothic horror pics of the period. On top
an entirely new script with his friend Edward of that, the movie was listed on the Public Cin-
Di Lorenzo (better known for his work on tele- ematographic Register as directed by Aureliano
vision, on such series as The Wild Wild West, Luppi.
Space: 1999, and Miami Vice) in three weeks: Overall, the story is even more detached
Welles and Di Lorenzo possibly took inspiration from the canons of Italian Gothic, and under-
from the comic book story For the Love of standably so: the film was written by foreigners
Frankenstein, penned by Bill Warren with and devised for the overseas market, and its nar-
pencils and inks by Jack Sparling, and published rative models are sensibly different. Lady Frank-
in the issue #4 (April 16) of Vampirella mag- enstein takes inspiration from Hammer’s pro-
azine. ductions, with an encephalitic creature that
Welles then teamed up with the Rome- recalls the one seen in The Horror of Franken-
based producer Dick Randall to assemble a cast stein (170, Jimmy Sangster) and a major em-
that included Joseph Cotten and Jayne Mans- phasis on the surgical details of the experiments.
field’s widower Mickey Hargitay: around the What is more, it also draws from the most
same time the former “Crimson Executioner” shameful Victorian chronicles: the despicable
was to star in a pair of Renato Polselli’s wildest Tom Lynch (Herbert Fux, dubbed by Welles
concoctions, Delirio caldo and Riti, magie nere himself in the English language version) is mod-
e segrete orge nel Trecento…; after completing eled on the notorious Burke and Hare as seen
the script, Welles found out that there were in John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends (160),
1971: Lady 35

and on the “resurrection man” played by Boris logue exchanges as “But to create life …
Karloff in The Body Snatcher (145)—characters shouldn’t man leave that to God?” “Here on
that have little or nothing to do with Italian Earth man is God,” the Shelleyan theodicy be-
Gothic. For the rest, Welles and Di Lorenzo comes, more concretely, a matter of sexual ap-
threw in a little bit of mumbo jumbo (as the di- petite, and the transplant of a brain from one
rector stressed, “The film … satisfied a number body to another is a way to overcome impo-
of my own pet peeves about horror films as I tence: indeed, just a couple of years earlier Steno
was growing up. One was that those films never had directed Il trapianto (16), a satire of Pro-
showed you where the light came from when fessor Barnard’s surgical exploits, transplanted
they performed these very delicate brain oper- into the phallocentric universe of the Latin male.
ations. Secondly, they never told you where the No wonder, then, that the climax features not
electricity was coming from to make all those only the inevitable purifying fire of the scientist’s
little electric sparks and ladders going up and lab, but the cathartic and lethal coitus between
down in laboratories”7), and had some fun with Frankenstein’s daughter and her creature / part-
the characterizations. Frankenstein comes off as ner / sex object. The director claimed that “his-
a compassionate liberal who is against the death torically … it was the first Gothic horror film
penalty (which he labels “legalized murder”), with an explicit sex scene in it,”8which is debat-
whereas the investigator (a perpetually grinning able. However, the movie indeed predates Flesh
Hargitay) is a prudish type who is clearly dis- for Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein for its
gusted at Lynch’s lack of morals. concept of the monster as a sex object.
Nevertheless, Lady Frankenstein imple- When asked about Lady Frankenstein, Ros-
ments a reversal of gender, carving out a leading alba Neri recalled: “For a number of reasons—
role for the female presence, a fact that therefore not sentimental ones, anyway—I used to go
links the movie in some way to the typical around with the director, Mel Welles, his wife
themes of Italian horror. Welles later claimed and children. Frankly, I don’t think of him as a
that he wanted to develop feminist themes, a great director; on that film there was a talented
purpose which results in Neri delivering such cameraman, Riccardo Pallottini, who did every-
goofy lines as “I may be a woman, but I’m pri- thing by himself—those nice lightings, for in-
marily a doctor,” and in a scene between Tania stance … he used to place the camera, then he
and Tom Lynch, where she contemptuously re- waited for the director; he also solved technical
jects his proposal to spend the night together in problems and so forth.” Indeed, the lab scenes
payment for his services, which has Herbert Fux are suitably atmospheric, thanks also to Alessan-
utter a line that curiously recalls one by Claudia dro Alessandroni’s dramatic score.
Cardinale in Leone’s C’era una volta il West Welles was adamant that he wanted to
(168): “After you can take a bath and everything achieve realistic effects, even at the cost of taking
will be brand new again.” care of them himself, with a resourcefulness that
Tania comes out as the umpteenth figure had something Italian in it: “In Spain and Italy,
of woman/witch, dominating and lethal. Her at that time, you couldn’t find a good special ef-
mature and unmanly assistant Charles (Paul fects man anywhere. The guys I used on Lady
Muller) is so smitten by her (a relationship, one Frankenstein, there was one thing I wanted them
suspects, echoing the one between Harry Cush- to have ready…. So I kept after them about this
ing and Neri) that he willingly becomes her one shot, where Rosalba was supposed to put
guinea pig, allowing Tania to transplant his the probes into the large beaker with the brain
brain into the body of the retarded but hand- in it, causing all kinds of sparks to fly out. I kept
some and virile servant Thomas (“Except for the telling them, ‘We’re shooting it on Thursday
brain, he is completely normal,” she observes), morning. At 8:00 Thursday morning, I want
so as to finally love her carnally. Thomas is everything ready.’ On Wednesday night, they
smothered in bed during lovemaking, and in came to me and said, ‘You can’t shoot it tomor-
turn the creature strangles Tania while they are row morning.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Because we need
having sex—one presumes, since Thomas’ in- more time to get ready, and we need $300 more
stinct has prevailed over Charles’ infatuation. to get all the stuff.’ I said, ‘Forget about it.’ I went
Or perhaps it is just a punishment for Tania’s out to the government-controlled tobacco store
hubris? over there…. I bought half a dozen pinwheels
Ultimately, despite such predictable dia- and I came into the set and told them, ‘Here’s
36 1971: Lady

Baron Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten, left) and Dr. Marshall (Paul Muller) performing a gruesome oper-
ation in a scene from Lady Frankenstein.

what you do: you rig these on a bar across a October 171, to mediocre box-office, Welles had
beaker within the beaker, a smaller beaker inside already left Italy to South-East Asia and then to
the larger one … and you fix this with a spark- Australia. He would return to the U.S.A. only in
starter and a blip-switch.’ The effect cost $1.80 176. Lady Frankenstein came out in the States
and it worked fine!”10 in March 172, five months after its Italian re-
The gore effects by Carlo Rambaldi are lease: New World had come up with a truly
rather crude, and most of the outdoor sequences memorable tagline: “Only the monster could
run from poor to embarrassing; we follow the satisfy her strange desires!” accompanying a
monster (“Peter Whiteman” a.k.a. stuntman Ric- poster featuring a buxom (and blonde!) Lady
cardo Pizzuti, the bad guy in many Bud Spencer Frankenstein, in a tight yellow dress, standing
and Terence Hill flicks) wandering in the Lazio beside a semi-naked monster lying on the op-
countryside and stumbling on hapless victims— erating table, and apparently well-endowed be-
mostly lovemaking couples: a laughable moment neath the sheets.
has him throw a supposedly dead (and naked) For the U.S. version, Corman cut over ten
girl into a river, which results in the poor actress minutes, shortening or eliminating no less than
desperately trying not to drown for real. On top twenty scenes. The cuts affected not the nudity
of that, the subplot featuring Hargitay and Re- and gore, but the expository bits, mostly includ-
nate Kasché is merely filler. There is little doubt ing Captain Harris’ investigations, and a scene
that what Welles really cared about was the tit- between Tania and Charles where the latter ex-
ular lady. After all, that was why he was being plains to her how the laboratory equipment
paid for. works, and the names of pioneer experimentors
Predictably, the film was given a V.M.18 rat- with electromagnetics, Alessandro Volta and
ing by the board of censors, because of the Luigi Galvani. Commenting on Corman’s cuts,
“many erotic scenes.” When it was released, in Welles observed that “they never … seemed to
1971: Nella stretta 37

have any real logic. He never believed in taking (Alan Foster), Michèle Mercier (Elisabeth Black-
any time to develop insights, character traits, wood), Klaus Kinski (Edgar Allan Poe), Peter
subtleties. Since he bailed me out of a failed Carsten (Dr. Carmus), Silvano Tranquilli
deal with Skip Steloff, he had all rights to do (William Perkins), Karin Field (Julia), Raf Bal-
whatever he wanted. Most Cormanities suffered dassarre (Herbert), Irina Malewa [Maleeva]
the major frustration of Roger’s slashing of (Elsie Perkins), Enrico Osterman (Lord Thomas
pictures because they took ‘too much time to Blackwood), Marco Bonetti (Maurice), Vittorio
get to the action’ or were ‘too slow,’ or what- Fanfoni (Guest at the Inn), Carla Mancini.
ever.”11 PROD: Giovanni Addessi for Produzione D.C.7
Incidentally, the credits for the American (Rome), Paris-Cannes Production (Paris),
version have the Italian cast and crew members Terra-Filmkunst (Berlin); PM: Ennio Di Meo;
concealed under English pseudonyms: most real GM: Franco Caruso; PS: Salvatore Di Rosa; PA:
names are identified for the first time in this vol- Furio Addessi; PSe: Dino Di Dionisio; ADM: Sil-
ume. vestro De Rossi. Country: Italy / France / West
Germany. Filmed at De Laurentiis Studios
NoTeS (Rome). Running time: 110 minutes (m. 3005).
Visa n. 58787 (8.20.171); Rating: V.M.18/V.M.14.
1. Tim Lucas, “Father of Lady Frankenstein. Mel Welles Release date: 8.26.171; Distribution: Panta Cin-
interviewed,” Video Watchdog #78, December 2001, 3.
2. Louis Paul, Tales from the Cult Film Trenches (Jef-
ematografica. Domestic gross: 232,442,000 lire.
ferson, NC: McFarland, 2008) 272. Also known as: Dracula im Schloß des Schreckens
3. Lady Dracula was eventually made in West (West Germany, 3.16.172); La horrible noche del
Germany 177. It was directed by Franz Josef Gottlieb, and baile de los muertos (Spain); Vampyrernas slott
starring Harris and Evelyne Kraft, with Stephen Boyd in (Sweden, 8.7.172); Skrækuhyret slår til (Den-
his last film role.
4. Lucas, “Father of Lady Frankenstein,” 3. mark, 1.15.173); Dracula in het kasteel der ver-
5. Paul, Tales from the Cult Film Trenches, 272. schrikking (Netherlands, 7.8.173); Les fantômes
6. Christopher T. Koetting, Mind Warp: The Fantastic de Hurlevent (France, 2.8.178).
True Story of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures (Parkville, Alan Foster, an American journalist in En-
MD: Midnight Marquee Press, 2013), 33.
7. Ibid., 34.
gland, challenges Edgar Allan Poe on the authen-
8. Tom Weaver, Interviews with B Science Fiction and ticity of his stories, which leads to him accepting
Horror Movie Makers (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 188), a bet from Lord Blackwood to spend the night in
34. the family’s haunted castle on All Souls Eve.
9. Gomarasca and Pulici, 99 donne, 267. Ghosts of the murdered inhabitants appear to Fos-
10. Lucas, “Father of Lady Frankenstein,” 40–41.
11. Ibid., 41. ter throughout the night, re-enacting the events
that lead to their deaths. It transpires that they
feed on the blood of the living visitors in order to
Nella stretta morsa del ragno (Web of the maintain their existence. Blackwood’s sister Elis-
Spider) abeth is also one of the ghosts, as she had been
D: Anthony M. Dawson [Antonio Mar- murdered by her husband. Elisabeth and Alan
gheriti]. S: Bruno Corbucci, Giovanni Grimaldi; fall in love, and the woman tries to save his life
SC: Bruno Corbucci, Gianni Grimaldi, Antonio from the bloodthirsty undead…
Margheriti, Giovanni Addessi; DOP: Sandro What makes a film director remake his
Mancori, Memmo [Guglielmo] Mancori (Tech- own work? When asked by François Truffaut
nochrome, Techniscope); M: Riz Ortolani (Ed. about the difference between the 134 and the
R.C.A.); E: Otello Colangeli; PD: Ottavio Scotti; 156 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much,
CO: Mario Giorsi; SD: Camillo Del Signore; C: Alfred Hitchcock famously answered: “Let’s say
Mario Sbrenna, Emilio Varriano; AC: Renato that the first version is the work of a talented
Palmieri, Remo Crisanti; AD: Ignazio Dolce; amateur and the second was made by a profes-
MU: Maria Luisa Tilli; AMU: Angelo Malan- sional,”1 implicitly focusing on the technical as-
trucco; Hair: Nicla Pertosa Palombi; ACO: pects of the movie and on the more mature han-
Roberto Ranucci; W: Antonietta Maggi; AE: dling of storytelling. On the other hand, to
Giuliana Colangeli; SO: Pietro Spadoni; Mix: someone like Jess Franco, reworking the same
Sandro Occhetti, Fausto Achilli; SE: Cataldo story over and over again was primarily a way
Galliano; SP: Mauro Paravano; SS: Eva Koltay. of reinventing his own cinema, based on the
Cast: Anthony Franciosa [Anthony Papaleo] continual recombination of characters, stories
38 1971: Nella stretta

and events, but also, and quite often, an attempt end of the planned scene; in between there
at retrieving those ideas that had been dropped should have been a transformation with very
due to budgetary or censorship-related reasons, psychedelic effects and opticals. As it stands, he
or downright altered by producers’ cuts or reed- runs and he’s gone. Great, isn’t it—and very
its. As for Antonio Margheriti, he was adamant. spectacular for its time! (laughs) We had to cut
“I’m a slave for my producers. A prostitute. If it’s all the good stuff out. It was really painful for
for money, my answer is ‘yes’; and of course, for me to do that.”4
the fun of it all…. If the money’s there, I’m In addition to that, the director underlined
there.” 2 And this is what happened with Nella that color ultimately detracted from the overall
stretta morsa del ragno, a color remake of his mood and tension, pointing out that “even
164 black-and-white Gothic horror classic today, I’m still convinced that the only way of
Danza macabra (a.k.a. Castle of Blood) as he ex- making a really scary horror film, with that kind
plicitly acknowledged. “I did it for the money, of disturbing atmosphere and suspense, is to
and also because it was for the same producer shoot in B&W. The only other solution would
as Castle of Blood, who also did And God Said be to get a really outstanding director of pho-
to Cain… He mentioned what a pity it was that tography and make a color film with a mono-
Castle of Blood had not been a big success, be- chromatic look. Color is important for costume
cause he loved it so much. I agreed—it is a very pictures, but it easily distracts. It takes the at-
good film, but it didn’t do well at the box-office tention away and a film can easily drown in
at all—so he said, ‘Why don’t we try it again with wrongly chosen colors, which is the case with a
a bigger budget and some popular actors?’”3 lot of modern horror films.”5 A surprising state-
Nella stretta morsa del ragno was the direc- ment, given the exquisite use of color in Con-
tor’s fifth proper Gothic horror film, following tronatura. However, the issues with Nella stretta
The Unnaturals—Contronatura, even though morsa del ragno go way beyond the use of color.
Margheriti’s second Western, E Dio disse a Margheriti and Addessi added minimal
Caino… (170) had a distinct Gothic flair, and touches to the original screenplay: most events
was yet another German co-production, as his and dialogue from Danza macabra were re-
previous three works. The producer, Giovanni prised verbatim—from the “living” portrait to
Addessi, was probably aiming primarily at that Elisabeth’s infamous line “I am a woman, a real
market, given the presence of Klaus Kinski in a woman!” in response to Julia’s lesbian advance,
small but pivotal role, as none other but Edgar from the nude scene of the bride about to be
Allan Poe. The international cast featured An- vampirized by Julia up to the very same camera
thony Franciosa (who was enjoying a revamped movement that ends the film. Still, even though
popularity thanks to the TV series The Name of they are stylishly shot, the few additions—such
the Game) and Michèle Mercier, the star of five as the long ball scene, or Franciosa’s hallucinated
Angélique films from 164 to 168. Addessi in- solo in the graveyard—do not improve upon the
vested good money in building the sets, which, story, but only serve to push up the running
in addition to the use of color (with Tech- time to one hour and fifty minutes, almost half
nochrome cinematography by Sandro and an hour more than the original. As a conse-
Guglielmo Mancori) and to Riz Ortolani’s more quence, the movie drags down as it goes along.
contemporary-sounding score, gave the result a As expected, Margheriti emphasizes Poe’s
lush, rich look. role in the story, leaning on Kinski’s feverish and
And yet, Margheriti blamed the resulting charismatic take on the tormented writer, and
failure on the very use of color, which “created concocts a totally new opening sequence that
problems and ruined the whole film for me. At visualizes part of the short story Berenice, which
that time, Technicolor in Rome had abandoned Poe is narrating to his attentive audience in the
the three-strip printing process; they started tavern. The result, with Kinski wandering
printing directly from the negative, as all the around a damp, gloomy crypt among spider
other labs did. For that reason, most of the film’s webs and gravestones, and doing what he does
special effects were never used as we planned. best—conveying strong emotions with only his
Now, you can see only very simple tricks they body and face language, and the immense power
did with one reversal, and that’s it. You see some- of his magnetic stare—is admittedly impressive,
body walking and—Poof!—he has disappeared! but has a singular, self-sabotaging side effect.
What can be seen is only the beginning and the By staging and giving shape to Poe’s words,
1971: Nella stretta 3

the director whittles away at the previous film’s Foster and Elisabeth’s night of love (which in-
power—the suggestion of what was not shown cludes the same line from the first film, “You
(or was impossible to show)—and solves its am- give me back my life…. I live only when I love”)
biguity right from the start. In Danza macabra, is rendered via a circular panning shot that ends
Poe drew his evocative status by being the con- on a fireplace, as if Margheriti was paying hom-
scious witness of a trascendent reality whose age to a famous scene in Claude Autant-Lara’s
weight ended up crushing him, thus giving sig- Le Diable au corps (147). However, the sapphic
nificance to his line about not being a narrator, torments that drive Julia are not too convinc-
but a reporter. In Nella stretta morsa del ragno, ing, especially when compared with the tor-
the lunatic, incontrollable Kinski is no more a mented sexuality of Marianne Koch’s character
reporter, despite what he says of himself (“I did in Contronatura. What is more, Mercier—look-
not know whether I’d written another story or I ing quite older than her character and saddled
had really lived that hallucinating adventure”), with a bad copper-colored wig—does not have
but, once again, a narrator. This way, he becomes an ounce of Barbara Steele’s unsettling charm,
too strong a counterpoint to the ghosts of Black- and Karin Field (who would later appear in Jess
wood House.
Significantly, Poe is no longer a neutral wit-
ness of the bet between Lord Thomas Black-
wood and Foster, but the direct cause of the
journalist’s perdition: it is he who insists that
Foster spend the night in the haunted castle, be-
cause, he says, “each story needs its own protag-
onist,” and in doing so he marks the man’s des-
tiny. In short, in Danza macabra, Poe was
emotionally crushed by the stories he wrote, and
his torment came from the fact that his only way
to survive the horrors he had witnessed was
writing them down, but with the knowledge that
no one would ever believe him—like a Cas-
sandra of sorts. In Nella stretta morsa del ragno,
Poe creates the conditions for these horrors to
On the other hand, Lord Blackwood be-
comes a forgettable character—not the least be-
cause Enrico Osterman does not have an ounce
of Umberto Raho’s sinister aplomb in the role.
Margheriti and Addessi went so far in altering
the relationship between these two characters
that a line uttered by one of the spirits that in
the original film referred to Lord Thomas is
changed ad hoc: “Only Poe’s sick mind could
think of sending you here on the night of No-
vember 2.” The writer’s fame has spread among
the dead as well…
Surprisingly, given the fact that Margheriti
had already explored the blending of horror and
eroticism in his previous Gothic, Nella stretta
morsa del ragno is quite shy when it comes to
portraying the assorted passions that tie
together the living and the dead—which re-
sulted in a bad surprise for the makers when the
Italian board of censors initially gave the film a
V.M.18 rating (soon changed into a more apt Surrealist Italian locandina for Nella stretta morsa
V.M.14), as there is very little nudity in the film. del ragno (1971).
40 1971: La notte che Evelyn

Franco’s Les Démons) is singularly bland and ghosts, that is the deep and hidden (according
cold. to Freud) human reality … and for the very
The other cast members are a mixed same reason Poe-Kinski is condemned in the
bunch: Silvano Tranquilli (the only returning first part of the film—not to death (and the hope
cast member from Danza macabra, where he of redemption that comes with it) but to a limbo
was a fine Edgar Allan Poe) is good, but Raf Bal- of permanent horror.”8
dassarre is miscast as the hulking, passionate With its existence, Nella stretta morsa del
groom. The film’s best moments are those fea- ragno—a classically shot film, which administers
turing Carmus, who, as played by co-financer scarce scares and thrills, and is based essentially
Peter Carsten, is given a good deal of screen on atmosphere—showed that the original
time. The German version (fancifully titled season of Gothic had ended and could not be
Dracula im Schloß des Schreckens, “Dracula in repeated: such a product could not compete
the Castle of Secrets”) runs 12 minutes shorter with the new paths taken by the horror genre in
than the Italian one and features a different ed- the decade.
iting, including a scene where Julia seduces Her-
bert and convinces him to murder Elisabeth’s NoTeS
husband, the act that will give way to the
1. François Truffaut, Hitchcock/Truffaut (New York:
macabre ronde that Alan Foster will witness Simon and Schuster (166) 2015), 4.
years later. 2. Peter Blumenstock, “Margheriti—The Wild, Wild In-
If Nella stretta morsa del ragno is not quite terview,” Video Watchdog #28, May/June 15, 45.
convincing as a remake, its thematic links with 3. Ibid., 46.
4. Ibid.
Contronatura—which can be detected from the 5. Ibid., 45.
very opening image on a pool of water, the same 6. Teo Mora, “Per una definizione del film di fantasmi,”
as in the 16 film—prove definitely more inter- Il Falcone Maltese #2, luglio 174, 27.
esting. Which brings us again to the film’s raison 7. Ibid.
d’être. It is as if Margheriti returned to the same 8. Ibid., 28.
story to further investigate the central theme.
“Greed and the violence of passion are primitive La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba
and absolute, and there is no innocence opposed (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave)
to them (if not as a remote potential at most…),” D: Emilio P. Miraglia. S: Massimo Felisatti,
Gothic film scholar Teo Mora observed, adding Fabio Pittorru; SC: Massimo Felisatti, Fabio Pit-
that “their condemnation does not come from torru, Emilio P. Miraglia; DOP: Gastone Di Gio-
the outside (that is, from the Christians’ God or vanni (Technicolor, Techniscope); M: Bruno
from the main good character) but from them- Nicolai; E: Romeo Ciatti; ArtD, CO: Lorenzo
selves, and it is an immediate consequence of Baraldi; MU: Marcello Di Paolo; Hair: Giusep-
their existence and unwinding. What is more, pina Bovino; AD: Palmambrogio Molteni; C:
their strength is such that, far from being de- Fernando Gallandt; AE: Gabriele Ingafú; As-
feated … they overwhelm the innocent, or the stArtD: Marco Dentici; SO: Fiorenzo Magli; B:
least guilty.”6 Here, just like Joachim Fuchs- Armando Jamota; Mix: Mario Morigi; SS: Pa-
berger’s character in Contronatura, Foster is a trizia Zulini. Cast: Anthony Steffen [Antonio De
collateral damage of such a self-destructive fury. Teffé] (Lord Alan Cunningham), Marina Mal-
In both films, as Mora notes, the ghost “ei- fatti (Gladys Cunningham), Rod Murdock
ther does not act and limits itself to the role of [Enzo Tarascio] (George Harriman), Giacomo
catalyst (as in Contronatura), so that its potential Rossi Stuart (Dr. Richard Timberlane), Umberto
material nature is neither assumed nor denied, Raho (Farley), Roberto Maldera (Albert), Joan
but becomes a purely secondary matter, whereas C. Davies (Aunt Agatha), Erika Blanc [Enrica
its predominant quality is its providential nature; Bianchi Colombatto] (Susie), Ettore Bevilacqua
or it manifests itself openly, at least for the (Graveyard Caretaker), Brizio Montinaro, Maria
viewer, as an image, representing to our eyes a Teresa Tofano (Polly), Paola Natale. PROD: An-
returning past.”7 Speaking of Nella stretta morsa tonio Sarno for Phoenix Cinematografica
del ragno, Mora attributes a decidedly epistemo- (Rome), PSe: Alberto Passone. Country: Italy.
logical connotation to the ghost’s ethical inter- Filmed in Thiene, Sovizzo and Montegaldella
vention: “The protagonist (and the viewer) is (Vicenza). Running time: 103 minutes (m. 2807).
condemned for having witnessed the reality of Visa n. 58701 (8.12.171); Rating: V.M.18. Release
1971: La notte che Evelyn 41

dates: 8.18.171 (Italy); 7.26.172 (U.S.A.); Dis- scripts, but a series of interesting TV mini-
tribution: Cineriz. Domestic gross: 446,573,000 series, Qui squadra mobile, and several crime
lire. Also known as: L’appel de la chair; Holo- novels with heavy social and political under-
causte pour une vierge (France; 5.3.173); Die tones, such as Violenza a Roma (174) and La
Grotte der vergessenen Leichen; Stumme Schreie madama (175), which were adapted for the big
(West Germany; 12.5.175). screen, albeit with debatable results.
Note: Brizio Montinaro and Paola Natale, La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba was
although credited, do not appear in the film. Felisatti and Pittorru’s second giallo script after
England. Released from a mental hospital the excellent Concerto per pistola solista (170,
run by his friend Dr. Richard Timberlane, but still Michele Lupo), an amusing take—from a story
haunted by the memory of his deceased wife, the by Sergio Donati—on the typical English-style
redhead Evelyn, Lord Alan Cunningham picks up murder mystery, with clever references to Leo
prostitutes whom he tortures and (apparently) Bruce’s classic novel Case for Three Detectives
murders in the dungeons of his decaying castle. (Gastone Moschin played a bumbling country
Following a hint from his cousin George Harri- cop modeled upon Sergeant Beef ). With La
man, he visits a nightclub where a redheaded notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba, the duo moved
stripper named Susie performs a risqué number, on along the same tracks, and concocted a pas-
invites her home and kills her. The encounter with tiche of classical mystery motifs and Gothic el-
the lovely Gladys seems to cure Cun-
ningham: the two get married and
move to Alan’s castle. There, however,
a series of strange occurrences seem to
suggest that Evelyn’s ghost has come
back from the grave: a series of mur-
ders take place, before a horrible
scheme against Alan is revealed…
Even thought it owes part of its
notoriety among U.S. film fans to
being unfavorably mentioned (“One
imported Italian turkey”) in Stephen
King’s essay on the horror genre,
Danse Macabre,1 La notte che Evelyn
uscì dalla tomba is nevertheless an
interesting—if not really successful—
example of the hybridation between
the Gothic and the rising Argento-
esque giallo.
Scriptwriters Massimo Felisatti
and Fabio Pittorru were, together
with future film director Florestano
Vancini, among the leading figures
in the cultural life of the city of Fer-
rara in the 150s: their political com-
mitment resulted in the collaboration
to local left-wing newspapers and
magazines and, in the case of Pit-
torru, in the making of a documen-
tary (Uomini contro il Po) about the
frightening flood of the river Po,
which was adversely received by the
board of censors. In the 160s, both
writers moved to Rome, and started
working together: their output in- Lurid U.S. poster for the Gothic giallo, La notte che Evelyn uscì
cluded not only a good number of dalla tomba (1971).
42 1971: La notte che Evelyn

ements, this time amply imbibed with the in- (168), plus the thriller A qualsiasi prezzo (168),
gredients in fashion at the time—a black gloved- starring Klaus Kinski—does a rather ordinary
killer and ample doses of sex. job. The style features the usual overabundance
Overall, the result is not quite memorable, of zooms and the odd visual tricks (Steffen’s
but enjoyable all the same. The Argento connec- “veiled” point of view shots in the opening scene
tion is actually very thin, as the movie works are definitely awkward, though); but Miraglia
primarily as an old-style whodunit revolving fails to fully convey the expected Gothic atmos-
around the typical “drive someone crazy” phere. Still, Gastone Di Giovanni’s scope cine-
scheme, and in obedience with the spirit of the matography and Bruno Nicolai’s delightful
time the damsel in distress turns out to be not score—with themes lifted from his work for Jess
quite innocent as she seems. The ample resort Franco’s Eugenie … The Story of Her Journey Into
to Gothic staples (the castle, a crypt, a séance, a Perversion—give the movie a lush tone.
vengeful ghost evoked by a portrait that haunts The cast is an assembly of familiar actors
the protagonist) is spiced with nods to Edgar for fans of Italian genre movies: EuroWestern
Allan Poe (Evelyn’s red hair recalls Berenice), icon Anthony Steffen (wooden as always with
Hitchcock (primarily Rebecca and Vertigo, not his shortsighted look and unchanging expres-
to mention the umpteenth glass of milk lifted sion), Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Roberto Maldera
from Suspicion) and Boileau and Narcejac’s (who is given nothing to do but look menacing),
clever mixture of psychological Gothic and mys- and Enzo Tarascio (a.k.a. “Rod Murdock”),
tery. The story is packed full with plot holes, but easily the best actor in sight. Their female coun-
Felisatti and Pittorru come up with no less than terparts steal the show: the striking-looking Ma-
three consecutive endings in a row: the first cli- rina Malfatti displays a number of breath-taking
max reveals the patently bogus supernatural in- négligées and has a couple of risqué love scenes,
trigue; the second, and best, is a cynical sting in while Erika Blanc makes a brief but truly mem-
the tail as the accomplices turn one against the orable apparition, first performing a night-club
other as characters from a Mario Bava movie; act which wouldn’t be out of place in a Jess
the third and final one is the customary, and Franco movie, and then running away from
rather perfunctory, happy ending. Steffen’s character while wearing only panties
All this seamlessly conjugates with the and thigh-high leather boots. Due to the film’s
glamour aesthetics of the period, complete with insistence on eroticism, the board of censors de-
design objects and mind-blowing costumes: manded a number of cuts concerning the flash-
Lord Cunningham’s castle is a real joy for the backs with Evelyn and her lover—a scene similar
eyes, with its 17th century frescoes and gloomy to the prologue in Romano Scavolini’s Un bianco
dungeon rubbing shoulders with TV sets and vestito per Marialé (172)—as well as Alan’s love-
white leather furniture, but the film’s best visual making scenes with his wife. La notte che Evelyn
joke is provided by the five platinum-blonde uscì dalla tomba ultimately got a V.M.18 rating,
maids who speak in unison, and look like motivated also by the “terrifying, bloody and
refugees from a TV ballet show. Add to this the horrid scenes” such as the gory demise of the
patently Italian setting (the Cunningham castle character of Aunt Agatha, who ends up eaten by
is a Venetian villa) posing as British, with all the foxes that rip apart her intestines.
incongruences that follow, such as driver seats The movie was a reasonable success in
on the left, and the result is a bogus Gothic for Italy, and was even distributed overseas as The
the 170s jaded viewers, a bit rogue in its display Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, making it-
of luxury and wealth (see the high society party self a name in the U.S. grindhouse circuit in the
Cunningham and his cousin attend, with lob- 170s with the help of such gimmicks as theaters
sters and champagne aplenty), which plays with serving “Bloodcorn” (popcorn dyed red) instead
genre mechanisms in a suitably mocking way. of ordinary popcorn, as King recalled amusedly.2
It would have perhaps taken a better film- Several versions circulated, often heavily cut and
maker to make this shaky concoction work. Di- re-edited, including one shown late nights on
rector Emilio Miraglia—an ex assistant to Lu- TV under the title Evelyn Raises the Dead.
ciano Salce and Carlo Lizzani, and previously Miraglia and Pittorru would team again the
the helmer of a couple of passable gangster following year for another Gothic-whodunit hy-
movies starring Henry Silva, Assassination brid, La dama rossa uccide sette volte.
(167) and Quella carogna dell’ispettore Sterling
1971: La notte dei dannati 43

NoTeS stroys her, saving Danielle just before she is sac-

1. Stephen King, Danse Macabre (New York: Simon and rificed.
Schuster, (181), 2011), 17. The third-to-last film directed by the vet-
2. Ibid. eran Filippo Walter Maria Ratti (114–181) is
one of the most bizarre items in 170s Italian
La notte dei dannati (The Night of the Gothic. Active in the movie business since the
Damned) 130s, Ratti had debuted as a director in 146
D: Peter Rush [Filippo Ratti]. S and SC: with the drama Felicità perduta, and helmed a
Aldo Marcovecchio; DOP: Girolamo La Rosa; small number of films, mostly unpretentious
M: Carlo Savina; E: Rolando Salvatori; PD: Elio comedies (such as Non è mai troppo tardi, 153),
Balletti; CO: Virginio Ciarlo; SE: Rino Carboni. with the exception of the bleak drama Dieci ital-
Cast: Pierre Brice (Jean Duprey), Patrizia Viotti iani per un tedesco (162), about the infamous
(Danielle Duprey), Angela De Leo (Rita Ler- Fosse Ardeatine massacre, which featured Enzo
nod), Antonio Pavan, Alessandro Tedeschi G. Castellari as second unit director. By the end
(Prof. Berry), Mario Carra (Guillaume de Saint of the decade Ratti got involved with the short-
Lambert), Daniela D’Agostino, Irio Fantini, lived production company Primax and made
Carla Mancini. PROD: Nicola Addario, Lucio two movies written by Aldo Marcovecchio and
Carnemolla, Gianni Solitro for Primax (Rome). starring Pierre Brice and Patrizia Viotti: the
Country: Italy. Filmed in Ceri, Cerveteri (Rome) erotic drama Erika and La notte dei dannati,
and at Elios Studios (Rome); Running time: Ital- shot back-to-back on the same sets. Erika was
ian version: 86 minutes (m. 2335). Visa n. 58702 released in March 171 and met surprisingly
(8.26.171); Rating: V.M.18. Release date: .10. good box-office results, with over 300 million
171; Distribution: Panta Cinematografica. Do- lire grossed, but was seized because of its al-
mestic gross: 82,772,000 lire. Also known as: La legedly obscene content1; by the time the second
nuit des damnés; Les nuits sexuelles (France; film was submitted to the board of censors, Pri-
4.23.175); Sexuelle Gelüste triebhafter Mädchen max had already gone bankrupt.
(Germany; 5.25.173); Night of the Sexual Despite being a low-budget affair, La notte
Demons. dei dannati benefits from a script—originally ti-
The famed journalist and amateur detective tled Il castello dei Saint-Lambert—packed full of
Jean Duprey receives a strange letter from an old erudite references from the opening scene,
friend, Prince Guillaume de Saint Lambert, who where the protagonist solves a riddle whose key
asks him for help. Jean and his wife Danielle travel is hidden in an old edition of Charles Baude-
to the Saint Lambert castle, where they are wel- laire’s book of poetry Les Fleurs du mal. Later
comed by Guillaume’s enigmatic wife, Rita Ler- on, another vital plot point has a character using
nod. Jean discovers that the prince is suffering a fake name borrowed from 18th century phi-
from a mysterious disease, and is being cured by losopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s book The
the creepy Professor Berry. According to Guil- Confessions, and the screenplay also envisioned
laume, a terrible curse is over his family, whose an opening sequence inspired by Bruegel’s The
members are doomed to die upon reaching 35 Triumph of Death and Bosch’s Hell, which ulti-
years of age. Jean cannot save his friend, who dies mately remained on paper only. Even the hero,
a few days later. Other mysterious deaths ensue: the unfailing, brilliant, pipe-smoking amateur
the victims are young women related to Saint detective played by Brice, is depicted with an
Lambert, who are drained of their blood. Mean- eye to illustrious literary models, starting from
while, Danielle is having strange nightmares, and the name: Jean Duprey, a reference to Edgar
is falling under the influence of Rita. Jean finds Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin, the protagonist of
out that the woman is the reincarnation of a The Purloined Letter and The Murders in the Rue
witch, Tarin Drôle, who had been burnt to the Morgue. Like Poe’s character, Jean has to deal
stake 300 years earlier by one of Saint Lambert’s with cryptograms, anagrams and various riddles
ancestors. With her supernatural powers, Rita (including a locked room mystery)—and yet, in
performs ritual killings, abducting her victims an amusing visual joke, he is first seen intent on
and sacrificing them to the forces of evil. Jean— reading a Mickey Mouse comic.
immune to her powers thanks to an amethyst However, viewers cared little about all this:
ring given to him by Guillaume—locates the the film’s main selling point was the presence of
crypt where the witch had been buried, and de- sexy starlet Patrizia Viotti. The 21-year-old
44 1971: La notte dei dannati

model had first known notoriety as the heroine foreign markets: both Erika and La notte dei
of one of the first adults-only photonovels, the dannati were likely produced with the uncred-
sci-fi oriented Lunella, and as the ex-girlfriend ited financial aid of a French production com-
of teen pop idol Mal (Paul Bradley Courling), pany (a possibility underlined by the presence
the former lead singer of the band The Primi- of Brice) and shot in a double version. The one
tives, a love story that ended in a tempestuous distributed in France a few years later, under the
way, with ample coverage in newspapers. In title Les nuits sexuelles, featured decidedly more
Ratti’s films, Viotti willingly took her clothes off daring sequences, in tune with what was offered
before the camera and performed full frontal by the adults-only comics of the period: the
nude scenes and simulated sex with an enviable scenes that take place in the witch’s extradimen-
easiness: an extended sapphic interlude between sional reign mixed horror and eroticism, as the
her and Angela De Leo caused La notte dei dan- female victims are first tickled by naked hand-
nati some trouble with the board of censors, re- maidens, while heterosexual and lesbian cou-
sulting in cuts for slightly over one minute. The plings take place all around them, amidst dry
scene ended up in the October 171 issue of the ice and colored lighting, in a surreal set piece
erotic photonovel BigFilm. vaguely reminiscent of the nightmare footage in
The print submitted to the Italian censors Julian Roffman’s The Mask (161).
was quite different from the one aimed at A curious incident took place in a theater
in Genoa, where the “nude
version” was screened by mis-
take, as reported by an arti-
cle—significantly titled E
beato chi c’era! (And lucky who
was there!)—in the weekly
mag ABC (issue #13, January
7, 172), which included ade-
quate photographic documen-
tation of said scenes: “Satur-
day, December 18 … at the
Cinema Smeraldo in Genoa
… an unusual event hap-
pened: the screening of the
film La notte dei dannati was
interrupted by the projection-
ist himself, Lorenzo Mona-
chello, who apologized to the
audience and invited them to
show up at the box-office and
have their ticket money back.
Some had already anticipated
the projectionist’s invitation,
because the movie was being
screened in English and they
did not understand a thing.”
According to the article, the
true reason for the sudden in-
terruption was “the eloquence
of the images, of such an un-
leashed eroticism that was
never seen before on our
La notte dei dannati’s
fame as one of Italy’s first
Italian poster for La notte dei dannati (1971). Art by Renato Casaro. proto-hard movies risks ob-
1971: Qualcosa 45

scuring its qualities as a Gothic tale, which are notte dei dannati, one in Italian, censored for our screens,
quite superior to those of other sex-horror flicks and one in English, destined to foreign ones. The distrib-
utor made the mistake of switching the film scans.” Ag.
of the period. The story delves into the usual Italia, “Operatore sospende la proiezione perché il film è
clichés—the secular curse, the reincarnated ‘troppo erotico,’” La Stampa, December 1, 171; Anony-
witch, the old castle with secret passages—and mous, “Film proibito pr errore sullo schermo,” Corriere
captures the contrast between the present day d’Informazione, December 18–1, 171. However, an
English language version has not surfaced so far. Pics from
and a menacing past in a way akin to such works the French version were also featured in the magazines
as I vampiri. Moreover, the sparse special effects New Cinema (August 171, 28–31) and Cinema Erotico
have an old-style feel to them that makes them (172, 160–165.) Over the years, two different French ver-
endearing despite their primitiveness: see, for sions have surfaced to home video: a VHS released in Bel-
instance, the superimposition of a skull over the gium (La nuit des damnés, although the on-screen title is
Les nuits sexuelles) runs 73 minutes and cuts short a
bedridden Saint Lambert’s face when he con- number of dialogue scenes, and even the suggestive funeral
fesses that he has little time left to live, or the sequence, but retains the sex sequences. Another version,
flame that appears over the etching of a witch featuring an Italian audio track, runs 5 minutes, and can
burnt at the stake centuries earlier, much to be found only on bootlegs.
Danielle’s horror.
The result is strangely captivating, not the Qualcosa striscia nel buio (Something
least because of Carlo Savina’s score, abundantly Creeping in the Dark)
recycled from his work in Malenka, la sobrina D: Mario Colucci. S and SC: Mario Colucci;
del vampiro (16, Amando de Ossorio). Still, DOP: Giuseppe Aquari (Eastmancolor); M: An-
the movie would have benefitted from more ca- gelo Francesco Lavagnino (Ed. C.A.M.); E: Enzo
pable hands behind the camera: Ratti often fails Micarelli; ArtD: Silvano Pan; SD, CO: Massimo
to exploit the script’s potential, and despite the Bolongaro; MU: Telemaco Tilli; Hair: Nicla
odd intuition—such as the malevolent presence Palombi; AD: Marina Prodan; C: Emilio Gian-
on the loose across the corridors at night, por- nini; AC: Carlo Aquari; SO: Tonino Cacciuot-
trayed through a subjective shot reminiscent of tolo; SOE: Goffredo Salvatori; SS: Maria Pia Ster-
a similar moment in La maschera del demonio— licchio; SP: Gioacchino Cantone; AE: Carlo
his direction is often perfunctory. The acting Broglio; W: Elisabetta Costantini; KG: Sergio
is nondescript: Brice makes for a suitably sym- Profili; ChEl: Michele Pellegrini; SE: Ci.Pa. Cast:
pathetic hero, but De Leo is not nearly as fasci- Farley Granger (Spike), Lucia Bosé (Sylvia For-
nating as her role would require, whereas Viotti rest), Giacomo Rossi Stuart (Donald Forrest),
could not act to save her life as the ingénue Stan Cooper [Stelvio Rosi] (Dr. Williams), Mia
who is preyed upon by her vampire-like seduc- Genberg (Susan West), John Hamilton [Gianni
tress. Medici] (Joe), Giulia Rovai (Joe’s Girlfriend),
La notte dei dannati was far less successful Frank [Franco] Beltramme (Sam), [Angelo]
than its companion piece, grossing a modest Francesco Lavagnino (Prof. Lawrence), Dino
sum at the box-office. However, Ratti would not Fazio (Inspector Wright), Loredana Nusciak
stray from the path of eroticism, as proven by (Lady Sheila Marlowe). PROD: Dino Fazio for
his following films, the eloquently titled Mondo Akla Productions S.p.A. (Rome); PM: Mario
erotico—Inchiesta n. 8 (173) and the Gothic gi- Colambassi. Country: Italy. Filmed at Incir-De
allo, I vizi morbosi di una governante, shot in Paolis Studios (Rome). Running time: 6 min-
173 (with the title Gli occhi verdi della morte) utes (m. 2632); Visa n. 57580 (01.23.171): Rating:
but submitted to the censors only in 176, and V.M.18. Release date: 04.15.171; Distribution:
released in 177 after a few cuts. D.D.F. Domestic gross: 110,05,000 lire. Also
known as: Shadows in the Dark; Something
NoTeS Creeping in the Night (Ireland; promotional
title); Jigoku no Shainingu (Japan).
1. In May 172 Erika was judged obscene, and Ratti,
producer Marcovecchio, distributor Stefania Stracuzzi and Two cars are chasing wildly along a country
actors Viotti and Brice were condemned to pay a fee. road during a stormy night until they are blocked
Anonymous, “Autori e attori di ‘Erika’ condannati per by the fall of a bridge. Inspector Wright and his
oscenità,” Corriere della Sera, May 24, 172. right-hand man Sam arrest Spike, a maniac mur-
2. C.C. [Callisto Cosulich], “E beato chi c’era!,” ABC, 7
January 172, 66–67. The same agency news was reported
derer. Several other vehicles are forced to stop by
by other newspapers such as Corriere d’Informazione and the circumstances, and their occupants seek ac-
La Stampa, which specified: “There are two versions of La commodation at a nearby villa: the policemen
46 1971: Qualcosa

and their prisoner are joined by Dr. Williams and which allows each individual’s fears, obsessions
his assistant, a bourgeois couple formed by and desires to come to the surface. Whereas
Donald and Sylvia Forrest, and a Philosophy pro- Margheriti focused on a moral path that led the
fessor. Then someone has the unfortunate idea to protagonists to face their own dirty conscience
set a séance. Strange things start happening, as if and atone their past guilt, Colucci is content to
an evil spirit had taken possession of some of the throw into the fray a rather squalid array of
guests. Forrest kills his wife and then himself; types and allow their vices to come to the fore.
Spike eliminates Sam; more horrific events will Not unlike the despicable slice of mankind as
ensue before dawn… seen in Contronatura, the main characters look
Less than two years after The Unnaturals— like a concoction of sexually fixated types. In
Contronatura, Mario Colucci’s Qualcosa striscia addition to the bourgeois couple and the dan-
nel buio reprises the same basic plot as Margher- gerous sex offender, Colucci’s script throws in
iti’s film. However, the two movies actually share an inhibited female doctor (Mia Genberg), and
the same source of inspiration: in fact, Colucci’s a couple of proletarian servants (Gianni Medici
original script (initially titled La notte dei dan- and Giulia Rovai) with strong sexual appetites;
nati) dated back to 161 and was loosely based once it has become clear that she and her tem-
on Buzzati’s short story Eppure battono alla porary companions are stalled in the villa, Sylvia
porta, which also provided the inspiration for jokingly suggests that they all indulge in an orgy
Contronatura.1 The project was to be an Italian/ to kill time. Nineteen-sixty-eight has not passed
German co-production to be directed by Primo in vain.
Zeglio; the tentative cast featured Silvano Tran- Whereas in the original script the malevo-
quilli (Williams), Ingrid Stern (Susan) and Rob- lent spirit evoked during the séance turned the
ert Hundar (Spike). Scheduled for shooting in possessed guests into vampires, in the movie it
early 162, it eventually fell apart.2 In 164 Co- lets loose their erotic passions and frustrations,
lucci penned another unfilmed Gothic project: starting with Sylvia’s sadomasochistic fantasies.
L’ombra, a weird mystery about a seemingly su- Nevertheless, Qualcosa striscia nel buio fails to
pernatural murderer unleashed in an old dark go all the way and turn into a supernatural ver-
castle. It was only after the director’s debut, the sion of Pasolini’s Teorema. The ghost of the
violent Western Vendetta per vendetta (168, as promiscuous owner of the villa, the late lady
“Ray Calloway”), that La notte dei dannati was Sheila Marlowe (Loredana Nusciak, here ap-
exhumed from limbo and became Qualcosa pearing only in photo, in a modern-day
striscia nel buio. variation of the typical Gothic theme of the
Similarly to Contronatura, Colucci’s film haunted portrait), possesses the guests one by
deals with a heterogeneous group of characters one, but this results in a rather tame haunted
who are stranded in an old dark house during a house routine, with little or no frissons at all.
storm and take part in a séance which has lethal Colucci assembled a cast of rather presti-
consequences for a number of them. Here, gious, if fading, names. At that time Granger
though, the action is set in the present day, and was based in Italy, where he acted among others
the story starts like a crime film of sorts, with a in Lo chiamavano Trinità… (171), Rivelazioni
subplot about two detectives who have just cap- di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mo-
tured a maniac killer (Farley Granger, looking bile (172, Roberto Bianchi Montero) and Alla
rather lost in denim and leather jacket); what is ricerca del piacere (172, Silvio Amadio), while
more, the bickering upper class couple (Lucia former Miss Italy Bosé, once the star of such
Bosé and Giacomo Rossi Stuart) look and sound prestigious films as Antonioni’s Cronaca di un
like they have just stepped out of some Sixties amore (150) and La signora senza camelie
movie on incommunicability, as they keep on (153), had returned to acting by the end of the
teasing and tormenting each other with a bitter- 160s after over a decade away from the sets; a
ness that hints at a deep conjugal crisis and, on curious presence was Mia Genberg, one of the
the part of the husband, implies the inability to twin Genberg sisters (the other was Pia),
satisfy his wife. Swedish dancers at Paris’ Folies Bergères who
The storm which isolates the main charac- played together in a number of films in the early
ters in the haunted house, functions as a means 160s: Mia then acted alone in several more
to cut them away from the present and cause a films, including Fernando di Leo’s Rose rosse per
de facto regression to Gothic’s ancestral past, il Führer (168). However, the shoestring budget
1971: Qualcosa 47

is not only given away by the use of a crude itage of the old 123 Fascist law that listed
miniature for the outdoor shots of the villa, but séances as one of the reasons for banning a film
by the fact that two key acting roles—a police altogether.
inspector and a enigmatic professor who Qualcosa striscia nel buio was Colucci’s sec-
delivers such stilted lines as “Do you think death ond film as a director, and his last to be distrib-
is the end of everything?” and “Don’t knock on uted theatrically. In 172 he helmed a giallo
hell’s door: it might open”—are played respec- based on a true story and characterized by a
tively by producer Dino Fazio and composer complex flashback structure, L’altro piatto della
Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. bilancia (first announced as Tutta la verità sul
Still, Colucci manages to inject some at- caso Izoard) starring Philippe Leroy and Cather-
mosphere in the proceedings: the sequence ine Spaak, which was never released theatrically
where Giacomo Rossi Stuart speaks with Lady because of production problems and resurfaced
Sheila’s voice, with the actor’s face eerily pale via only recently, in 2012.
some white stage make-up, is rather effective, as
are the subjective shots of the spirit roaming NoTeS
across the corridor and the use of slow-motion
1. Alessio Di Rocco, “Da Dino Buzzati a Mario Colucci,”
during Bosé’s erotic nightmares. What is more, in Misteri d’Italia 5. Nocturno Cinema #131, July / August
the ubiquitous presence of clocks, whose ticking 2013.
at a certain point mysteriously 2. The cast also included Herbert Boehme (Wright),
stops in synch, is an unsettling
plot element which predates such
films as Evil Dead II and Lucio
Fulci’s La casa nel tempo (18).
All in all, Qualcosa striscia
nel buio keeps in tune with
several of 160s Gothic staples,
such as the indeterminacy of time
and the blending of past and pres-
ent (as in Danza macabra and
Contronatura). The denouement
is suitably abstract and ambigu-
ous, one would say philosophical.
Faced with puzzling events, the
viewer is left powerless just like
the characters, and must take
note, as Professor Lawrence puts
it, that “the past and the present
meet and intertwine, and leave
the unfolding of the truth to the
future,” so that “we are not al-
lowed to know, only to believe or
not believe.”3
Shot from May to July 170,4
the movie was submitted to the
board of censors in January 171
and passed with a V.M.18 rating
after a brief cut was performed in
a scene featuring the caretaker
and his girlfriend in bed. Curi-
ously, among the reasons that jus-
tified the rating was “the climate
of anxiety and fear that lingers in
the unfolding of the story because Italian poster for Qualcosa striscia nel buio (1971). Art by enrico
of spiritualistic practices,” a her- De Seta.
48 1971: Il sesso

Alfredo Censi (Donald), Edmea Lisi (Sylvia), Pier Ugo housekeeper Fatma. The previous owner, a French
Grignani (Lawrence), Gino Donato (Joe), Dina Ilam sculptress named Claudine, died mysteriously,
(Betty), Franco Santelli (Sam). La notte dei dannati was to
be financed by Giuseppe Sanna’s company Continentale hanging herself from a tree, and strange things
Compagnia Cinematografica, Bruno Bolognesi’s C.I.F.- begin to happen, of a seemingly supernatural ori-
Consorzio Italuano Film and the German company Film gin. The uneasy relationship between Andrea
Kontor. Colucci was to be Zeglio’s asistant director. Ibid. (who is impotent) and his wife collapses even
3. Similarities have been noticed between Colucci’s film
and an obscure novel written by journalist Franco Prattico
more; meanwhile Sylvia seems to be haunted by
under the a.k.a. Morton Sidney: Il messaggero bussa alla the spirit of Claudine, and she and Barbara start
porta (literally, “The Messenger Knocks at the Door,” al- an ambiguous liaison. Andrea survives attempts
though the phony original title is listed in the paperback on his life, and becomes obsessed with an elusive
as “Messager [sic] Is Waiting”), published in November art collector, Leonid Oblomov, who seems to know
170 in the series “I racconti di Dracula,” which pays ref-
erence to Buzzati’s story from the very title. Given the cir- more about Claudine’s death. But the key to the
cumstances surrounding the production of Colucci’s film, mystery is actually Fatma…
the analogies are merely coincidental, but significant to Shot in Istanbul in the summer of 170, Il
show the proximity between pulp literature and genre cin- sesso del diavolo is one of the most obscure
ema. Even more evident, in turn, is the influence of Qual-
cosa striscia nel buio on the adults only comic Possessione
Italian productions of the period, despite the
malefica (Oltretomba Gigante #28, September 175), which presence of such well-known actors as Rossano
reprises many elements from the movie, starting with the Brazzi and Sylva Koscina. Initially it should have
opening chase between the inspector and the serial killer. been directed by Renato Polselli, who eventually
See Davide Rosso, “I sintomi del gotico,” La Zona morta dropped out of the project to make La verità sec-
4. Al. Cer. [Alberto Ceretto], “La Bosé e la magia,” Cor- ondo Satana (170). Direction was taken over
riere della Sera, July 27, 170. by Brazzi’s younger brother Oscar, a longtime
friend of Polselli’s, whose company Chiara Films
Il sesso del diavolo—Trittico (Sex of the had just produced the successful made-for-TV
Devil—Triptych) mystery mini-series Coralba (170) written by
D: Oscar Brazzi. S and SC: Sergio Civinini, Biagio Proietti and directed by Daniele D’Anza.
Paolo Giordano; DOP: Luciano Trasatti (East- It was thanks to his starring roles in such tele-
mancolor); M: Stelvio Cipriani (Ed. C.A.M.); E: vision products as Coralba and Melissa (166,
Attilio Vincioni; PD: Giovanni Fratalocchi; AD: Daniele D’Anza) that the 54-year-old thesp was
Jak Şalom; CO: Simonetta Piselli; AC: Giorgio enjoying a renewed popularity in Italy.
Di Battista; AE: Massimo Rinchiusi; SS: Ornella The script for Il sesso del diavolo (originally
Marandola; SO: Bruno Borghi; MU: Renzo titled Avventura a Istanbul, and signed by the
Francioni; Hair: Walter Giangrasso. Cast: Ros- elusive Sergio Civinini and Paolo Giordano)
sano Brazzi (Andrea), Sylva Koscina (Sylvia), sought to recreate a mood similar to the made-
Maitena [Maïténa] Galli (Barbara), Fikret for-TV mysteries of the period, spiced with
Hakan (Omar), Güzin Özipek (Fatma), Aydin plenty of erotic footage and revolving around a
Tezel (Leonid Oblomov), Hülya Şengün, Ali morbid ménage à trois hidden in the past. The
Necati Çakus, Paola Natale, Brizio Montinaro, theme of sapphic love was no longer a taboo,
Domenico Stefanucci, Franco Romagnoli. after Alberto Cavallone’s Le salamandre as well
PROD: Chiara Films Internazionali (Rome), as other movies dealing with female homosex-
Tura Film Prodüksiyonlari (Istanbul); PM: uality, from Mark Rydell’s The Fox (167) to
Mario Maestrelli, Erdogan Türkün; GM Claude Chabrol’s Les biches (168)—which came
(Turkey): Ali Necati Çakus; PSe: Maisie Guakil. out in Italy with its title maliciously advertised
Country: Italy. Filmed on location in Istanbul. as Lesbiches, a wordplay on the word “lesbiche,”
Running time: 0 minutes (m. 2482), 3 minutes lesbians. In addition to that, the theme of
(m. 2560); Visa n. 57444, 57637 (12.2.170; middle-age male crisis was a common topic of
2.10.171); Rating: V.M.14; V.M.18. Release date: the period, and the stories of couples disinte-
1.26.171; Distribution: Regional. Domestic gross: grating in exotic settings (Bora Bora had been a
13,607,000 lire. huge hit in Italy) somehow represented a vul-
A surgeon, Andrea, goes on vacation in Is- garized drift of the dramas on bourgeois incom-
tanbul with his wife Barbara, in the hope of municability, complete with tourist footage,
saving their marriage. There they are joined by lounge music and female nudity. Another vari-
Andrea’s assistant, Sylvia, and settle down in a ation, akin to the genre, had been Mario
villa on the Bosphorus, now managed by the eerie Caiano’s pretentious Love Birds—Una strana
1971: Il sesso 4

Italian fotobusta for Il sesso del diavolo—Trittico (1971).

voglia d’amare, characterized by a symbolic, arrived it seems to me that anything can happen
dreamlike feel. … or has already happened” Andrea’s friend
What makes Il sesso del diavolo worth qual- Omar says), a Domus mortis (House of Death)
ifying as a Gothic, albeit quite a peculiar one, is where people’s destiny no longer depends on
the way the narrative is constructed, with a no- free will, but on the unfathomable ways of fate,
table emphasis on the occult and the esoteric. A according to the stars and their influence on hu-
vital element to the story is the villa where An- mans. Astrology is a recurring backdrop to the
drea (Brazzi) and his friends move, which is still story, which can only marginally be labeled as
imbued with the presence of its former dead in- a giallo: as in some of the Gothics made during
habitant: a mysterious sculptress, Claudine, the previous decade (Un angelo per Satana, 166,
whose memory is worshipped by the sinister Camillo Mastrocinque), the menace is revealed
housekeeper (the veteran Turkish actress Güzin to be a human conspiracy, but nevertheless the
Özipek) and whose works (in particular the characters end up fulfilling the destiny that has
stone triptych to which the film’s subtitle refers) been chosen for them, according to their zodiac
are scattered in the garden as a memento, a signs and the coffee grounds. In a neat ironic
tempting image of the character’s innermost de- touch, the movie ends not just with destiny re-
sires as well as an omen whose meaning they peating itself (like Claudine, another character
cannot grasp. In pure Gothic spirit, art becomes ends up hanged from the same tree), but also
a way to the transcendental, linked to “an with the blooming of a ménage à trois which, as
abstral, medianic conception of life,” as one it usually happens in these bourgeois slices of
character notes, and paves the way for the theme life, is mutually and silently accepted by all char-
of the doppelgänger, as Sylvia (Koscina) seems acters involved.
to be possessed by the spirit of Claudine, to the As expected, Il sesso del diavolo relishes
point that she not only dresses like her, but takes heavily on exotic tourist footage and pleasant
on her lesbian inclinations as well. female nudity, plays heavy with esoteric
The villa becomes a typical Gothic non- symbols, and doesn’t do much with its confused
place, where time seems to be frozen (“Since we mystery plot, but encompasses a campy feel
50 1972: L’amante

(including the expected distorted visuals and Il sesso del diavolo underwent quite a curi-
ominous camera angles) that makes it worth ous procedure in Italy: it was submitted to the
viewing for devotees of Italian bizarre cinema. board of censors in December 170, in a version
The somnolent pacing makes it difficult to watch running 0 minutes, and received a V.M.14 rat-
at times, and the unintentionally ridiculous is ing for the lesbian theme, the scene of Brazzi
often right around the corner: it is hard not to and Koscina making love on the beach and the
smile when the main theme of Stelvio Cipriani’s grisly surprise ending. Then, a few days after its
score, which shamelessly rips off Iron Butterfly’s release, a new version was submitted, running
In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida, pops up. But Brazzi is a 3 minutes and fleshed out with more erotic
slightly more competent director than Polselli, footage: it received a V.M.18 for the scene of
and sometimes he just touches the right note: Brazzi and Galli kissing in the nude under the
the opening sequence on the boat to Istanbul, shower and Andrea’s erotic dream of Barbara
which follows Andrea and Barbara’s efforts to and Sylvia having sex. It received limited distri-
revive their marriage, is suitably compelling. At bution in Italy, so much so that reviews turned
times, the result even touches the dreamlike up as late as mid–172: the newspaper Corriere
quality of the Jess Franco films shot in Istanbul, della Sera dedicated only a few scathing lines to
such as Venus in Furs (168) and Vampyros Les- the “Turkish abominations” of “the last photo-
bos (170). As the middle-aged Andrea, who novel signed by the Brazzi duo.”1
desperately tries to be manly but whose disas-
trous attempts at marital sex are met with laugh- NoTe
ter by his sensuous wife (the French-born 1. (not signed) “Il sesso del diavolo,” Corriere della Sera,
Maïténa Galli), Brazzi is less wooden than usual, June 23, 172.
and Koscina is ravishing. The cast also included
the Turkish star Fikret Hakan.

L’amante del demonio (The Devil’s Lover, sel). PROD: Dick Randall for Nova International
a.k.a. Lucifera: Demonlover) Films; EP: Harry Cushing; AP: Harold Vander;
D: Paolo Lombardo. SC: Paolo Lombardo; PM: Salvatore Miglio; GM: Cesare Seritti; UM:
DOP: Antonino Modica (Eastmancolor, Tele- Ugo Porcelli; PSe: Romeo Corpetti. Country:
color); M: Elvio Monti (Ed. Bixio Sam); E: Italy. Filmed at Castle Ruspoli in Vignanello
Francesco Bertuccioli; PD, ArtD: Giovanni Frat- (Viterbo) and at S.C.O. Studios (Rome). Running
alocchi; MU: Maria Mastrocinque, Lucia La time: 7 minutes (m. 2161). Visa n. 5307 (11.2.
Porta; Hair: Dora Bruno; AD: Marco Masi; APD: 171); Rating: V.M.18. Release date: 1.26.172; Dis-
Marco Kamm; SO: Remo Ugolinelli; SE: Sergio tribution: Regional. Domestic gross: 75,3,000
Chiusi, Basilio Patrizi; C: Aldo Ricci; AC: Aldo lire. Also known as: La amante del demonio
Marchiori; W: Renata Renzi; SS: Isabella Piga; (Spain).
SP: Sandro Borni. Cast: Edmund Purdom (Gun- The present. Helga and her two friends ar-
ther / The Devil), Rosalba Neri (Helga), Spar- rive at Castle Hornberg, a 16th century manor
taco Conversi (Johan), Francesca Lionti (Eva), which is believed to be inhabited by the Devil. The
Carla Mancini (Woman in tavern), Maria Teresa three girls are welcomed by a sinister butler and
Pietrangeli [Maria Teresa Pingitore] (Magda), spend the night at the castle. Helga falls into a
Massimiliano Roy (Christine’s beau), Maria deep sleep. She wakes up centuries earlier, on the
Vianello (Wilma), Bruna Olivieri (Christine), eve of her wedding with Hans. When donning her
Giovanna Di Vita [Bruna Antonia Di Vita] (1st wedding dress, Helga notices a red-hooded figure
cave inhabitant), Laura De Benedittis (2nd cave spying on her from behind a window, which ac-
inhabitant), Robert Wood [Robert Woods] (Hel- cording to tradition is bad luck. Meanwhile,
mut), Ferdinando Poggi (Knight), John Benedy Magda, a young girl in love with Hans, asks Hel-
[Giovanni Di Benedittis] (Butler), Lella Catta- mut to help her ruin Helga’s reputation: he obliges,
neo (Old Hag); uncredited: Veronica Sava (Dam- but demands to make love to Magda in return.
1972: L’amante 51

Helga’s damsels, Eva and Wilma,

are kidnapped by two demons,
raped and murdered by a female
vampire. Helga goes to an old
witch, in an attempt to escape
from bad luck, but the hag gives
her to the hooded figure, Gun-
ther, who turns out to be the
Devil. Helga, now in the devil’s
power, agrees to kill Hans on her
wedding night. Then she tortures
Magda, who has discovered the
murder, and rips out her tongue.
But the devil ultimately gives
Helga to the crowd and she is ex-
ecuted. Helga wakes up: it has all
been a dream. She and her friends
leave the castle, watched by the
butler and his master: the devil.
One of the most obscure
Italian Gothic horror films of
the decade, L’amante del demo-
nio is a blatant example of how
the Gothic clichés were re-
worked in the early-to-mid
170s with a copious amount of
eroticism to please the audience,
resulting in a work that is closer
in spirit to the adults-only pa-
perback comics of the period,
such as Ediperiodici’s Lucifera,
centered on a female succubus
whose aim is to practice evil and
fight good. Italian poster for L’amante del demonio (1972). Art by Aldo De Ami-
The film’s genesis is some- cis.
what obscure, as is the figure of
the director, Paolo Lombardo, whose filmogra- he revived the tradition of the French Grand-
phy adds up to three titles overall, the other Guignol—which had first arrived in Italy in
being Re Manfredi (162), an obscure adventure 108, thanks to the “Compagnia del Grand
film co-directed by Piero Regnoli and starring Guignol” led by Alfredo Sainati and Bella
Ken Clark and Moira Orfei, and the spy/crime Starace—with four one-act dramas staged at
hodgepodge Dagli archivi della polizia criminale Rome’s Piper Club, based on popular mystery
(173), itself a patchwork job consisting of scenes and horror stories: Qualcuno viene ad uccidermi
featuring Edmund Purdom added to footage (Sorry, Wrong Number, by Lucille Fletcher), L’al-
from Regnoli’s unfinished 167 spy film Carne lucinante party di Mr. Wu (inspired by the play
per l’inferno, featuring Sergio Ciani (a.k.a. Alan Mr. Wu by Harold Owen and Harry Vernon),
Steel) and Gordon Mitchell.1 The opening line La statua d’argilla (“The Clay Statue,” written by
of L’amante del demonio—which states “this Lombardo himself) and Lui! (based on Oscar
film’s story is based on the theatrical play of the Méténier’s famous one-act play, the first to be
‘Grand Guignol’”—helps shed some light on it. staged at the Paris Théâtre du Grand-Guignol
An ex-magistrate with a passion for script- in 187), starring Pippo Lauricella and Cleofe
writing (he co-wrote The Embalmer, a.k.a. Il Del Cile.
mostro di Venezia, 165) and directing, Lom- Lombardo’s intention—welcomed with
bardo gained a marginal notoriety in 16, when some irony by the press2—was to turn this
52 1972: L’amante

revival into a stable stage attraction in Rome, at At one point, Lombardo was even replaced
the Teatro Manzoni, where he planned to revisit by actor Robert Woods—on his first film direct-
old Grand Guignol staples and truculent ing experience. As Woods explained, “Harry
Neapolitan sceneggiate. The plan was ultimately Cushing felt the movie was incomplete and
unsuccessful, and led Lombardo to try his for- needed to be improved upon, and that is why I
tunes on the big screen, with the help of movie was hired to ‘finish it.’ Needless to say, it was
producer Dick Randall and executive producer without credit and I did a small part in it as well.
Harry Cushing IV, the latter looking for another The direction I did for Harry was all in and
vehicle for his beloved Rosalba Neri after Lady around Rome and I have to admit, other than
Frankenstein. On a personal level, one would say the dailies, I didn’t see the finished project.”5 The
that the movie was a triumph, as Neri eventually actor’s words seem to imply that his role was
agreed to marry Cushing in 172.3 Cinematically added later on in the film, and in fact he never
speaking, however, the result was not as success- interacts with Neri and her co-star Edmund
ful. Purdom. However, Woods could not do much
L’amante del demonio is a work of mind- to salvage such an utter disaster: his confronta-
boggling amateurishness. Technical errors tion with the red hooded devil, in a shack that
abound, and production values are cheap be- looks like a leftover from a Western village, is
yond belief: the two “demons” wearing cut-rate on a par with the rest.6
Halloween rubber masks are especially jaw- Another sequence which was likely filmed
dropping. Despite shooting the opening scenes separately (by Randall himself?) is totally unre-
at the Castle Ruspoli in Vignanello, near Viterbo lated to the rest. After the grotesque demons
(also seen in Umberto Lenzi’s Zorro contro have abducted Helga’s friends, the two women
Maciste, 163), Lombardo failed to come up with are taken to a cave and raped: there, a lesbian
any convincing Gothic atmosphere whatsoever: scene-cum-orgy follows, until at one point a
most of the film takes place in the countryside blonde, caped woman enters, reveals her spiked
and in a couple of shabby interior sets, with such fangs and vampirizes the girls, who turn up
incongruous details as cellophane windows and again vampirized, hand in hand like in a Jean
modern-day floors and furniture. What is more, Rollin film. The vampire woman never appears
surviving prints feature scenes meant to be set again in the story. Such a non sequitur recalls
at night that were not tinted in post-production, other Randall-produced films, like Terror! Il
which results in unintentionally comical mo- castello delle donne maledette, also featuring Pur-
ments of characters exclaiming “It’s so dark!” in dom and starlet Laura De Benedittis. An often
broad daylight. Ultimately the references to overlooked presence in the film is that of Mas-
Grand Guignol’s over-the-top violence are re- similiano Roy, who gained minor fame claiming
duced to a stabbing and a tongue ripped out to be Salvador Dalí’s secret son, and appeared in
(offscreen), while the director seems to be more a number of photonovels and films in the 160s
preoccupied with the erotic digressions, char- and the early 170s, including the leading role
acterized by such lines of dialogue as “You are in Il seme di Caino (172, directed by Marco
too much of a woman in every cell of your body. Masi), credited as “Roy Milian.”
Your blood flows too hot in your veins. Only a Shot in early 171 (a photonovel version ap-
lover such as I, free from any human law, could peared in issue #43 of Cinesex, in July 171), L’a-
give you that supreme ecstasy your femininity mante del demonio underwent some trouble
deserves!” with the censors, due to its blatant erotic
Not even the movie’s overall amateurish- content: the board demanded that several scenes
ness can undermine Rosalba Neri’s fulgid be cut,7 for a total of 181 metres (about 6 minutes
beauty. The actress’ recollection of Lombardo and 35 seconds), and gave it a V.M.18 rating. The
was curious to say the least: “The director, poor film had a marginal theatrical release in Italy in
man, just couldn’t stay awake for more than two early 172, but found some notoriety among
hours … a poor man with white hair…. Paolo genre fans during the glorious heyday of local
Lombardo looked as if he was near his end, from broadcast television and then in the home video
the way he walked and moved around. I think circuit, where it was distributed on the well-
he must have been very ill…”4 Which is puzzling known AVO Film label. It was released overseas
since the director was merely in his forties when to home video, in a terrible-looking, fullscreen
he made the movie. print, on the Mya label as Lucifera: Demon-
1972: Baron 53

lover—a misleading title that, willing or not, un- Hummel), Rolf Hädrich (Auctioner), Alfred
derlined its proximity to 170s adults-only comics. Leone (Man on the Aircraft), Kathy Leone
(Woman on the Aircraft), Maurice Poli (Land
NoTeS Surveyor), Valeria Sabel (Martha Hummel),
Franco Tocci (Baron Blood). PROD: Alfred
1. See Roberto Curti, Italian Crime Filmography 1968–
1980 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013), 80. Leone for Euro America Produzioni Cinema-
2. Enrico Morbelli, “Brutto, orripilante, militesente cer- tografiche (Rome), Dieter Geissler Filmproduk-
casi per il ‘Grand Guignol,’” La Stampa, December 2, 16. tion (Munich). EP: J. Arthur Elliot, Samuel Z.
3. Cushing and Neri got married in a hastily arranged Arkoff; PM: Bruno Frascà. Country: Italy / West
ceremony in Baltimore, but the marriage was just as hastily
ended by the actress in Haiti less than a month later. In his
Germany. Filmed in Vienna, Burg Kreuzenstein,
autobiography, Vanderbilt Scion–Memoirs of a Modern Korneuburg (Austria). Running time: 8 minutes
Knight-Errant, Cushing claims that he had not seen (m. 2672); U.S. version: 1 minutes; Visa n. 5720
Rosalba Neri since the fourth day of their marriage in 172, (2..172); Rating: V.M.14; Release dates: 2.25.
but Getty Images does have a photograph in their photo 172 (Italy), 10.27.172 (U.S.A.); Distribution:
library of Harry and Rosalba sitting in their swimming
costumes back to back under a sun umbrella at the very Jumbo Cinematografica (Italy), American In-
glamorous Il Pellicano Hotel in Porto Ercole, Tuscany, in ternational Pictures (U.S.A.); Domestic gross:
173. Cushing—who had already been married two times, 26,812,000 lire. Also known as: Baron Vampire
with Georgette Windsor and Ruth Dunbar Swift—got mar- (France); Orgía de sangre (Spain); A Câmara de
ried a fourth time, with Laura Alvarez, ending with yet an-
other divorce. A passionate polo player since youth, he
Torturas do Barão Sangrento (Portugal); Barão
founded the Rome Polo Club. After thirty years of living Sanguinário (Brazil); The Torture Chamber of
in Rome, in 185 he returned in America and spent his last Baron Blood (U.S.A.—home video).
years in Manhattan, where he died in 2000. Peter Von Kleist returns to Austria to re-
4. Gomarasca and Pulici, 99 donne, 178. search his ancestor, a sadistic baron who terror-
5. Email interview with the author, March 2015.
6. For his part, though, assistant director Marco Masi ized the area with his gruesome practices and
(who does not recall anything else about the shooting) is eventually met a horrible end at the hand of his
adamant that Woods did not do any directing on the film. victims. Peter owns a parchment which contains
Phone interview with Marco Masi, December 2016. a curse that is said to have the effect of reviving
7. Namely: “1) Helmut and Magda in bed, from the mo-
ment where she turns back to the end of the scene; 2) The
the baron. The young man, who is staying at his
cave scene from the close-ups of two witches to the uncle, professor Karl Hummer’s place, befriends
entrance of the female vampire; 3) Gunther and Helga at young architect Eva Arnold, and together they re-
the end of the sequence where they make love behind the cite the magic formula, at night, in one of the cas-
flame, to the end of the lovemaking scene…” tle’s rooms. The baron returns from the grave and
kills three men, including the castle’s current
Baron Blood, a.k.a Gli orrori del castello di owner, who was planning to turn the manor into
Norimberga a hotel. The castle is put on auction and bought
D: Mario Bava. S: Vincent G. Fotre; SC: by a mysterious paralytic, Alfred Becker. Eva is
Vincent G. Fotre, Willibald Eser, Mario Bava attacked by the disfigured baron but escapes.
[U.S. version: Vincent Fotre, William A. Bairn]; Hummer asks the help of a psychic, Christina
DOP: Antonio Rinaldi (Technicolor); M: Stelvio Hoffmann, to get rid of the malevolent ghost, but
Cipriani [U.S. version: Les Baxter]; E: Carlo to no avail, and the woman is killed too. Becker
Reali; ArtD: Enzo Bulgarelli; CO: uncredited; invites Peter, Eva and Karl to the inauguration of
MU: Silvana Petri; Hair: Rossana Gigante; the castle, which he just restored. There, he reveals
MUFX: Carlo Rambaldi; AD: Lamberto Bava; himself to be the baron reincarnated: he imprisons
C: Emilio Varriano. SE: Franco Tocci; C: Emilio and tortures his guests, but Eva manages to de-
Varriano. Cast: Joseph Cotten (Baron Otto von stroy him by way of an amulet that revives Von
Kleist / Alfred Becker), Elke Sommer (Eva Kleist’s victims…
Arnold), Massimo Girotti (Dr. Karl Hummel), Ninteen seventy-one had marked the re-
Antonio Cantafora (Peter Kleist), Alan Collins lease of one of Bava’s most extreme and personal
[Luciano Pigozzi] (Fritz), Humi [Umberto] films, Reazione a catena, a gory thriller whose
Raho (Inspector), Rada Rassimov (Christina plot structure would prove influential to the
Hoffmann), Dieter Tressler (Mayor Dort- American slasher film of the following decade.
mundt); uncredited: Pilar Castel (Madeleine, the Still, the movie’s surprising critical success did
Doctor’s Assistant), Gustavo De Nardo (Dr. not turn into encouraging box-office results with
Werner Hessler), Nicoletta Elmi (Gretchen a disappointing 88 million lire grossed in Italy.
54 1972: Baron

The director’s next work, Baron Blood, filmed in Quante volte … quella notte, Bava filmed a sim-
the fall of 171, was a return to safer territory: ple, down-to-earth horror story which relied on
teaming up with producer Alfred Leone, after well-tested Gothic clichés: a product easy to sell
the unfortunate experience of the yet-unreleased abroad (and in fact it was picked up by A.I.P. in
the U.S., and submitted to the usual
“treatment,” with Stelvio Cipriani’s
score replaced by a Les Baxter one
and a number of trimmings which
resulted in a version approximately
seven and a half minutes shorter
than the European cut1) and likely
to please everyone.
The script, by former tennis
player Vincent Fotre, has a preado-
lescent, almost Disney-like quality:
the supernatural is reduced to its
primordial core, in the story of the
cruel baron who returns from the
grave to resume his deeds, amid an-
cestral formulas and family curses.
Not coincidentally, Baron Blood—
released in Italy as Gli orrori del
castello di Norimberga, even though
the story takes place in Austria and
not in Germany: the title alluded to
the “Virgin of Nuremberg” which
appears among the Baron’s torture
instruments and was featured in the
posters—was one of the few Italian
horror movies of the decade to be
given a mild V.M.14 rating. Inciden-
tally, tamer versions of the murder
scenes were shot for television.
Baron Blood bears no trace of
the sinful and lethal females that
populate the Gothics of the period.
The menace is embodied by a male
figure, a senile villain who is
scarcely interested in the heroine’s
body, and even though the female
lead wears a miniskirt from begin-
ning to end, there are no erotic di-
gressions: the romance subplot be-
tween Eva (Elke Sommer) and Peter
(Antonio Cantafora) remains at the
level of the frivolous Hollywood
comedies of the past decades.
In his reincarnation as the
seemingly crippled Alfred Becker,
the baron has fun scaring his poten-
tial victims like a carnival barker
with the unlucky walking around in
Italian locandina for Mario Bava’s Gli orrori del castello di the funhouse: he presses a button
Norimberga (1972). Art by Piero ermanno Iaia. and has pre-recorded screams of
1972: Baron 55

terror and pain echo all over the castle,2 and dec- its primigenial essence, and Bava’s sardonic dis-
orates the battlements with corpses that look tance. On the one hand, the director rigorously
like macabre puppets. In a way, it is the same separates the good from the bad, and gives away
self-satisfied showman’s habit that Bava displays the villain’s “surprise” identity from his very first
behind the camera, playing with the audience appearance: even the most naive viewers will re-
with amiable nastiness. Baron Blood is the one alize that Baron Blood has reincarnated in the
among his works that is closer to William Cas- elderly, wheelchair-bound Alfred Becker long
tle’s jokey horror movies, such as The House on before the main characters do, and it takes a little
Haunted Hill (15), to the point that some gim- girl to point out the obvious to them. Leone
micks, like those Castle toyed with to sell a few originally got in touch with Vincent Price and
extra tickets, wouldn’t have been out of place Ray Milland for the title role, but Joseph Cotten
here. hams it up with gusto, and relishes his lines so
Such a pragmatic, literal approach to the much that he almost winks to the audience at
Fantastic conveys an irreverent attitude, which every scene he is in. On the other hand, Bava
never becomes an explicit, postmodernist nod. turns the ever-present Luciano Pigozzi in a gig-
Irony is mostly implied in the contemporary set- gling caricature as Fritz the guardian, who does
ting, because Bava allows the discrepancies and not have a single line in the movie, and whose
the perplexities to come to the fore, by juxtapos- performance consists merely in sneers and ro-
ing a legendary and truculent past on one hand, tating pupils: he is the typical stupid and de-
and a concrete and indifferent present on the mented servant, who in a scene even stages a
other, just like that Coca-Cola vending machine gag similar as Igor’s (Marty Feldman) in Young
that is incongruously placed in the manor’s Frankenstein, when Fritz’s grinning, plump face
stairs, and which becomes the background for pops up at the end of a row of skulls in a crypt,
a murder scene: incidentally, the victim is Dort- scaring the impressionable Eva.
mund (Dieter Tressler), the entrepreneur who The preteen mood with which Bava revisits
is planning to turn the castle into a hotel (shades the Gothic stereotypes is underlined by the role
of Tempi duri per i vampiri). In a sense, the of primary importance given to a little girl. Ital-
Baron is also protecting the environment from ian horror would soon follow the thread
the invasive shadow of modernity: in some launched by The Exorcist with a plethora of
ways, the castle in Baron Blood can be seen as a crazed, dirty-talking and sexually precocious
homologue to the bay in Reazione a catena— teenagers, whereas Baron Blood makes one step
whose original ending as devised in the script, back to the typical child figure. As Karl Hum-
incidentally, underlined the uncompromising mel’s (Massimo Girotti) little daughter Gretchen,
ecologist message.3 the only one able not just to perceive the menace
Bava’s view of the present is as detached as and identify the bloodthirsty Baron, but also to
it is disillusioned. It is an era of commodities understand the real meaning of cryptic prophe-
and superficiality, as colorful and fatuous as the cies, Nicoletta Elmi—soon to become one of the
people that inhabit it: the two protagonists laugh symbolic faces of Italian horror movies—brings
about past horrors, and when dealing with a for- the tale back to a fairytale dimension: see the
mula that must not be recited, they don’t resist scene where the Baron pursues Gretchen in the
and do exactly the opposite—not once, but woods, like a true fairytale ogre. Despite Elmi’s
twice—to see the effects. Like in La maschera subtly disturbing features, the result is as de-
del demonio, the new generations pale before the tached from Operazione paura’s nods to Henry
mythical image of their ancestors, but their at- James’ work as it is from Shock’s Oedipal under-
titude toward the past is very different: whereas tones. Similarly, the insistent use of wide-angle
Katia was oppressed by Asa’s memory, the hand- shots and extreme depth of field, which results
some but insignificant Peter, the last in the von in the characters looking dwarfed in the castle’s
Kleist family line, investigates his ancestor’s grim halls, seems to recreate the point of view of a
history with the hollow excitement of someone child, to whose eyes everything seems unrealis-
who does not care about the moral weight of tically huge.
family roots. The film is so down-to-earth that even the
The charm of Baron Blood lies in the con- sudden jumps from night to day no longer open
stant oscillation between the homage to a clas- those glimmers of uncertainty that characterized
sical Gothic that is now impossible to retain in its predecessors, and the story’s blatant incon-
56 1972: Baron

sistencies (how is the seemingly crippled Becker effect is no more of an alluring beauty being per-
supposed to move far and wide through the cas- versely disfigured, but only a grim comeuppance
tle with no one assisting him?) are accepted by for a minor, forgettable character.
the protagonists without posing too many prob- Similarly, the murder of the doctor (Gus-
lems. And for the most part of the movie, Bava tavo De Nardo) is another set piece filled with
seems content to draw from his own past, not black humor, as the evil Baron, soon after re-
in a bout of postmodernist whim, but as a way turning from the grave, knocks at the doctor’s
to do his job as efficiently as possible. Hence, door for a first aid intervention, and kills the
Baron Blood features some extraordinary cam- good Samaritan for a reward. Here, by recycling
erawork: the credited d.o.p. is Antonio Rinaldi, a key image in 6 donne per l’assassino (the phone
but according to Leone Bava supervised the cin- swinging off he hook in the film’s final scene) as
ematography. Cameraman Emilio Varriano re- an unimportant addition in the doctor’s demise,
called the extraordinary difficulty of several according to Bava scholar Alberto Pezzotta,
shots, where the use of the zoom lens (with Bava “Bava does not seem to celebrate himself, but
calculating the various distances) was nothing rather to diminish his own past. The self-
short of virtuosic. “There is a long shot, with the reference creates a familiar air, it plays things
zoom lens wide open, of two actors walking to- down.”5
ward the camera, and little by little the zoom However, there is a point where the story
closes in, and ends on a close up of a hand of falls apart, and Bava indulges in those abstract
somebody who is putting out a cigarette just a and anti-narrative temptations that had found
few feet away from the camera, as close as the ample outlet in 5 bambole per la luna d’agosto
zoom would allow. This person lifts his hand (170) as a reaction to an anodyne plot, and
and we see his face, and at that point we recog- which in Reazione a catena had admirably
nize who was the person watching the other two. welded to the narration instead. It is not, as
The difficulty was to determine the exact point some might think, the celebrated sequence
of arrival of the zoom, because if you start with where Eva is pursued by the Baron through the
a long shot and close in little by little on the ash- city’s deserted streets, amid multicolored fogs
tray, you have to create your landmark as you and bizarre camera angles, an amiable homage
go along, or else you’ll end up zooming in on to House of Wax whose abstractness is part of
the feet!”4 the above-mentioned funhouse attitude; but,
In addition to the homages to classic horror rather, the scene where the psychic Christina
cinema—from Jacques Tourneur’s The Leopard Hoffmann (Rada Rassimov) evokes the spirit of
Man to André De Toth’s House of Wax—Bava a witch who fell victim to the Baron. It takes
reworked a number of scenes from his previous place at sunset, in the woods, and Bava manages
films: the Baron’s resurrection is culled from Er- to capture the magic suggestions he already
cole al centro della terra (161), the detail of the touched in Operazione paura through the char-
oscillating phone in the doctor’s murder recalls acter played by Fabienne Dali. In this scene,
6 donne per l’assassino, and Fritz’s supplice is Baron Blood’s manneristic adherence to classical
culled from La maschera del demonio. Like other Gothic gives way to an original reinterpretation,
filmmakers who were treading water after a pe- entrusted exclusively to visual suggestion. The
riod of splendor—such as Riccardo Freda, to Fantastic manifests itself through a creative use
name one—Bava’s resort to his previous work of shots, with the passage from out-of-focus to
was some kind of pragmatic safety net; but by focus and vice versa, the objects’ definition or
doing what he knew best, revisiting tricks and their dissolution in abstract shapes, rather than
images of his own filmic past, the director also through camera movements or the use of light-
added his trademark ironic distance. Having ing. It is perhaps the only moment in the film
Fritz undergo the same horrible fate as Asa de- where Bava really attempts to escape from the
tracts any disturbing halo to the scene: instead routine of an enjoyable yet minor work. And it
of Barbara Steele’s beautiful features, it is the is telling that, after the good commercial foreign
grotesque-looking Luciano Pigozzi who has his sales of Baron Blood (which on the other hand
face punctured by the lethal needles, with the did mediocre business in Italy), he would work
same shot, counter shot routine as in the direc- again for Leone on a much more personal proj-
tor’s debut, with the POV shot of the victim ect, which, sad to say, became one of his most
watching the torture instrument approach. The bitter failures: Lisa e il diavolo.
1972: Un bianco 57

NoTeS (Rome). PM: Armando Bertuccioli; PS: Antonio

1. For a detailed list of the cuts in the U.S. version, see
Palumbo. Country: Italy. Filmed at Palazzo
Lucas, Mario Bava–All the Colors of the Dark, 885–86. Borghese, Artena (Rome) and Rizzoli Palatino
2. Alberto Pezzotta suggests that the idea of the Baron’s (Rome). Running time: 2 minutes (m. 2525).
peculiar son et lumière show might be taken from Georges Visa n. 61425 (11.17.172); Rating: V.M.18. Release
Franju’s Pleins feux sur l’assassin (161). Reportedly, Bava dates: 11.30.172 (Italy), 4.10.175 (France); Dis-
knew and admired Franju’s work. Alberto Pezzotta, Mario
Bava (Milan: Il Castoro Cinema (15) 2013), 115. Inciden- tribution: Regional. Domestic gross: 64,564,000
tally, the castle where Baron Blood was shot is the same as lire. Home video: Camera Obscura (Blu-ray, Ger-
in Adrian Hoven’s Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde
(168) and Freddie Francis’ Gebissen wird nur
nachts—das Happening der Vampire (171).
3. The script of Reazione a catena kept at
Rome’s CSC features an ending, never shot or ed-
ited, where the two kids add a line with fresh
paint to the sign “LA BAIA” (The Bay), which in
the end becomes “LA BAIA È DI TUTTI” (The
Bay Belongs to Everyone). See Pezzotta, Mario
Bava, 108.
4. Emilio Varriano, quoted in Manlio Go-
marasca and Davide Pulici, “Il talento di Mr.
Bava,” in Manlio Gomarasca and Davide Pulici
(eds.), Genealogia del delitto. Il cinema di Mario
e Lamberto Bava. Nocturno Dossier #24, July
2004, 15.
5. Pezzotta, Mario Bava, 115.

Un bianco vestito per Marialé

(Spirits of Death)
D: Romano Scavolini. S: Giuseppe
Mangione; SC: Giuseppe Mangione,
Remigio Del Grosso; DOP: Romano
Scavolini (Telecolor, Colorscope); M:
Fiorenzo Carpi, conducted by Bruno
Nicolai (Ed. Gemelli); E: Francesco
Bertuccioli; SD: Emiliano Tolve; CO:
Herta Schwarz Scavolini, Angelo Litrico
(Marialé’s white dress); MU: Carlo
Sindici; Hair: Ettore Tarquini, Anna-
maria Ginnoto; AD: Arduino Sacco; C:
Renato Mascagni; AC: Giovanni Can-
farelli Modica; SP: Ettore Papaleo; AE:
Adalberto Ceccarelli; SO: Emilio Pugli-
elli; SP: Ettore Papaleo, Gianni Tatti; KG:
Giulio Diamanti; ChEl: Otello Magalotti;
Mix: Bruno Moreal; Press attache:
Franco Brel. Cast: Evelyn Stewart [Ida
Galli] (Marialé Bellaria / Marialé’s
mother), Luigi Pistilli (Paolo), Ivan Ras-
simov (Massimo), Pilar Velázquez (Mer-
cedes), Edilio Kim (Gustavo), Gengher
Gatti (Osvaldo the butler), Giancarlo
Bonuglia (Jo), Gianni Dei (Marialé’s
mother’s lover), Ezio Marano (Sebas-
tiano), Shawn Robinson (Semy), Franco
Calogero (Marialé’s father), Carla
Mancini (Prostitute), Bruno Boschetti. Italian locandina for Un bianco vestito per Marialé (1972).
PROD: Franca Luciani for KMG Cinema Art by Tino Avelli.
58 1972: Un bianco

many). Also known as: Exorcisme tragique cieca announced, albeit in a purely instinctive
(France), La orgía de sangre (Spain). level, the great social and political upheaval that
Note: Although credited, Bruno Boschetti was soon to come in 168. The Italian board of
does not appear in the film. censors did not like it the least bit: the movie
Marialé, who as a child saw her father kill was banned outright for obscenity, a decision
her mother and her lover and then commit sui- that underlined the committee’s retrograde
cide, lives with her husband Paolo in a gloomy mentality. Scavolini fought against the verdict
castle. Paolo and the butler keep her segregated and even appealed to the Council of State, but
and sedated, and avoid allowing her any contact to no avail. He followed A mosca cieca with more
with the outside world. However, Marialé man- experimental, avantgardist works, often cen-
ages to invite several friends to the villa, including tered on political themes, such as the shorts Ecce
her former fiancé Massimo. Paolo is forced to re- Homo (167) and LSD (170) and the feature
ceive the guests, but maintains a detached atti- films Lo stato d’assedio (16) and La prova gen-
tude. The visitors find an assortment of bizarrely erale (170, starring Lou Castel and Frank
dressed mannequins in the castle’s basement, and Wolff). In 170 he left for Vietnam, as a freelance
set up a costume party which turns into a drunken photographer: he was wounded and reported
orgy. Then a mysterious murderer starts killing missing. His return to Italy marked Scavolini’s
them one by one, in many different ways—stran- descent in the realm of genre moviemaking.
gled, slaughtered with a hammer, drowned in the Un bianco vestito per Marialé was by no
pool, devoured by dogs, slashed by a razor. Even- means a personal project, but rather a forced
tually Paolo, Massimo and Marialé are left alive, move in order to survive: the director himself
and the mystery is unveiled… labeled it as “a film which deserves only to be
Although his name is known by English- forgotten.”2 Still, it is an interesting work, which
language film buffs mainly in association with helps understand how genre labels put on Italian
the infamous gory psycho thriller Nightmare (a. movies of the period are often approximations
k.a. Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, 181), Ro- that do not reflect the film’s core. Often de-
mano Scavolini’s career is much more varied and scribed as a giallo, Scavolini’s film does in fact
surprising than one would imagine. Born in turn into a violent murder mystery of sorts only
Fiume in 140, Scavolini was a self-taught film- around the hour’s mark, but the giallo aspects—
maker: at 17 he moved to Germany where he a few violent murders and a (not-so) surprise
shot his first 16mm film, I devastati, self- twist ending—are definitely marginal, and look
financed with the money he earned working at more like a bow to the audience, at a time when
the docks; back to Italy, he directed a number Argento-inspired gialli were the rule, than an
of short films and documentaries and made his organic aspect of the story. The script, by Giu-
feature film debut in 166, with A mosca cieca. seppe Mangione and Remigio Del Grosso, mixes
Influenced by such writers as André Gide and cultured and lowbrow elements, by throwing in
Albert Camus (The Stranger), shot in 16mm and assorted references and “creative borrowings,”
in black-and-white, it told a story of alienation so to speak, and is more akin to a perverse kam-
and existential anguish: a man named Carlo merspiel of sorts, liberally imbued with diverse
wanders aimlessly in the streets; he thinks about elements, which range from Gothic to avant-
his love story with a girl named Laura and his garde theater. The result is an uneasy mixture
conversation with friends; he steals a gun from which gives away the film’s compromise nature.
a parked car and fantasizes about committing Mangione and Del Grosso insert a number
crimes; eventually he shoots a passer-by. of Gothic elements into the story. The premise,
A mosca cieca was characterized by a free- with the main characters locking themselves in
wheeling, experimental style, which departed a microcosm isolated from the outside world
from traditional narrative coordinates: the plot where they unravel in decadence, brings to mind
was thin, with very little dialogue, and a contin- Poe’s short story The Masque of the Red Death
uous interspersing of “reality and unreality, of (but also Sade’s unfinished novel The 120 Days
fantasies and memories, of past and present”1 of Sodom). In typical Gothic fashion, the setting
which mirrored the psychological condition of is a timeless castle (actually Palazzo Borghese in
the protagonist, and followed the lesson of the Artena, also seen in Freda’s Murder Obsession,
French Nouvelle Vague (Godard openly ex- among others): with its crypts and old armors,
pressed his admiration for the movie). A mosca it becomes a key presence in the film. The hero-
1972: Un bianco 5

ine, Marialé, looks at first like the typical damsel thor Luigi Pirandello’s favorite themes is further
in distress, at the mercy of a possessive and proof of the script’s velleities, which make the
seemingly psychotic husband and a sinister but- first half look like some sort of off–Broadway
ler (Gengher Gatti, a fleeting presence in horror play with a Message (spelled with a capital M…)
films of the period). A portrait of Marialé’s to deliver. In addition to exploring a gallery of
mother, who looks exactly like her (both char- unpleasant types, the writers pay reference to
acters are played by the same actress, Ida Galli), contemporaneous issues, such as Third World
hints at the themes of the double and the “return emancipation. “But she learned to walk only yes-
of the past,” already introduced by the prologue. terday!” “Sure. Because people like you have cut
The film fleetingly touches other Gothic staples off her legs,” goes a dialogue exchange between
such as the uncanny indistinction between an- Jo (Giancarlo Bonuglia) and Massimo (Ivan
imate and inanimate, namely in the introduction Rassimov) regarding the former’s Afro-
of the butler played by Gengher Gatti, and in American lover Semy (singer Shawn Robinson,
the scene where Sebastiano (Ezio Marano) in her only film role), in a nod to one of the pe-
seemingly notices his own doppelgänger among riod’s most quoted literary works, Frantz Fanon’s
the mannequins in the basement of Marialé’s The Wretched of the Earth (the inspiration for
castle. What is more, even though the script Alberto Cavallone’s Afrika, 173).
never attempts to suggest a supernatural pres- In order to further expose this slice of hu-
ence at work, the ending—which bitterly closes manity’s misery, Scavolini even stages a de-
the narrative by way of a violent event that is the bauched, blasphemous rendition of the Last
exact repetition of a past tragedy we saw in the Supper, with the drunken guests mockingly
prologue—marks the inescapability of fate, and quoting lines from the Gospel (and using a roast
suggests a circular structure akin to that of other chicken as “the body of Christ”), which openly
Italian Gothic horror films of the past and cur- borrows—also visually—from Buñuel’s Viridi-
rent decade, from Danza macabra to L’assassino ana (161). The presence of various animals,
ha riservato nove poltrone. to which the characters are repeatedly com-
In blending the old-style Gothic parapher- pared in a symbolic way, is another Surrealist
nalia with a psychoanalytic exploration of a tor- touch that somehow recalls the work of Marco
tured, paranoic soul, the movie comes closer to Ferreri.
the “Female Gothic” pictures of the decade. Stylistically, the movie is more refined than
Marialé is the victim of a childhood trauma that most Gothic and gialli of the period. Despite the
left an indelible mark on her psyche, and, as film meagre budget, Scavolini (who acts also as di-
scholar Kai Naumann correctly points out, “the rector of photography) makes ample use of long
interior of the castle mutates into a map of Mar- takes and dolly shots, and tries to avoid the ex-
ialé’s soul.”3 The scene in the cellar, where the pected clichés as much as possible. The impres-
various guests discover extravagantly dressed sive opening scene features a number of power-
mannequins (whose costumes they will end up ful moments: the idyllic sight of the two lovers
wearing for a wild party where they let loose amid an Eden of sorts; the arrival of Marialé’s
their vices, neuroses and hidden desires) be- father, elegantly dressed in white, in an old lux-
comes a metaphorical descent into the subcon- ury car; the little girl watching from inside the
scious that leads to a dual meaning. To Marialé, vehicle, her hands pressing against the window
wearing the titular “white dress” has the effect like Melissa Graps in Operazione paura; the man
of bringing to the surface her childhood trauma; proceeding to the lovers’ romantic nest (with
to the others, the masquerade actually becomes the camera following his steps via a backward
an unmasking. It is in their ordinary life that tracking shot on the man’s feet through the
they wear masks of respectability, which they woods); and the ensuing slow-motion death
put on again after their true self has been tem- scene à la Sam Peckinpah (complete with full
porarily unleashed—a microcosm which is re- frontal male nudity by Gianni Dei as the unfor-
vealing of the human condition according to tunate lover).
Scavolini: “They’re pathetic, hypocritical, gut- Still, Scavolini’s direction (and Fiorenzo
less, jealous and crazy like everybody else,” as Carpi’s score) cannot overcome the script’s many
Marialé sums it up. shortcomings—namely, sketchily developed
The fact that Mangione and Del Grosso characters, pretentious dialogue, heavy-handed
openly hint at one of Nobel Prize–winning au- symbolism. The acting is mediocre overall, with
60 1972: Byleth

the partial exception of Luigi Pistilli as the three-part project still in progress, featuring
ambiguous, tormented husband, in a role very John Phillip Law’s last screen appearance.
close to the one he played that same year in Ser-
gio Martino’s Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e NoTeS
solo io ne ho la chiave; Italian genre film fans will
1. Luigi Quaglietti, Cinema 60 #58, April 166, 27–28.
recognize Carla Mancini in one of her rare 2. Luca M. Palmerini, Gaetano Mistretta, Spaghetti
speaking roles, as the girl in a miniskirt (possibly Nightmares (Rome: M&P edizioni, 16), 127. The page
a prostitute) to whom Ivan Rassimov’s character quote refers to the Italian edition of the book, the only in-
asks for direction early on in the film. On top of tegral version approved by the authors.
3. Kai Nauman, Blood on a White Dress, essay in the
that, the sudden turn into giallo territory, with German Blu-ray Un bianco vestito per Marialé.
the expected violent killings (including a
murder interspersed with a gratuitous lesbian
seduction scene and a razor slashing which re- Byleth (il demone dell’incesto) (Byleth—
calls Freda’s Lo spettro), is an ill-fated move, The Demon of Incest)
which undermines the makers’ ambitions and D: Leopoldo Savona. S and SC: Leopoldo
gives a fatal blow to the fragile balance that sus- Savona; DOP: Giovanni Crisci (Eastmancolor,
tains the film, one of those amazing oddities that Telestampa Italiana); M: Vasil Kojukaroff (Ed.
were not uncommon within the production sys- Nazionalmusic); E: Otello Colangeli; PD, SD:
tem of the period. Elio Balletti, Fabrizio Diotallevi; MU: Lucia La
With only 64 million lire grossed, Un Porta; AD: Roberto Giandalia; AC: Antonio
bianco vestito per Marialé did poor business in Minutolo; 2ndAC: Antonio Quattrone; CO:
Italy, although it surfaced in France a few years Tigano Lo Faro; AE: Dante Amatucci; Music ed-
later under the misleading title Exorcisme trag- itor: F. Achilli; SS: Clara Tamburini. Cast: Mark
ique, to cash in on the success of The Exorcist. Damon (Lionello Shandwell), Claudia Gravy
In 172 Scavolini also tried his hand at pro- [Marie-Claude Perin] (Barbara), Aldo Bufi
ducing with the offbeat mystery drama Amore Landi (Giordano), Franco Jamonte (Judge),
e morte nel giardino degli dei, directed by his Tony Denton (Lieutenant), Fernando Cerulli
brother Sauro and starring Erika Blanc, where (Doctor), Silvana Pompili (Floriana), Caterina
he was also the director of photography: it did Chiani (Gisella), Franco Marletta (Dario, the
even worse than Un bianco vestito per Marialé groom), Antonio Anelli (Don Clemente, the
at the box office, with around 38 million. Scav- priest), Carla Mancini, Alessandro Perrella,
olini’s following works were an odd bunch. Bruna Baini [Beani] (Dolores, the first victim),
Cuore (173) was an adaptation of the epony- Florian Endlicher (Dolores’s lover), Karin
mous, tearjerking novel by Edmondo De Amicis Lorson (Dolores—additional sex scene). PROD:
set during Italian unification and characterized Agata Films (Rome); PM: Marino Vaccà; PS: Ste-
by its reliance on patriotic themes, whereas fania Garratoni, Eolo Capritti; UM: Maurizio
Servo suo (173) was a weird thriller about a pro- Pastrovich. Country: Italy. Filmed in Borgo del
fessor (Chris Avram) who becomes a hitman for Sasso, Cerveteri (Rome), Manziana (Rome) and
the Mafia, which reprised one of the director’s at Elios Film Studios (Rome). Running time: 5
favorite themes, violence as an inescapable minutes (m. 255); Visa n. 60243 (4.26.172);
human condition. Rating: V.M.18. Release date: 5.31.172; Distribu-
After a period spent traveling in Central tion: Panta Cinematografica. Domestic gross: un-
and South America, Scavolini relocated to the known. Also known as: Les démons sexuels
United States in 176, where he took various jobs (France), Trio der Lust (West Germany, 81 min-
to make ends meet before returning to directing. utes; 10.7.175).
He helmed the action thriller Savage Hunt Italy, mid–19th century. The young duke Lio-
(180), the infamous Nightmare and the war nello welcomes to the family castle his sister Bar-
movie Dogtags (187), inspired by his own vi- bara, who has returned from England: the two
cissitudes in Vietnam, followed by a long inac- siblings share a morbid affection since they were
tivity. He returned behind the camera with Us- kids, and Lionello is devoured by jealousy when
tica: una spina nel cuore (2001), followed by the he learns that Barbara has married a mature no-
documentary Le ultime ore del Che (2004) and bleman, Giordano. Meanwhile, two mysterious
the gangster film Two Families (2007). In 2005 murders upset the area: a prostitute and Lionello’s
he started shooting L’apocalisse delle scimmie, a maid Gisella are viciously killed, stabbed in the
1972: Byleth 61

neck with a three-blade knife. After discovering L’ultima carica (164), the kind of old-style ad-
Lionello and Barbara intent on swearing mutual venture stories that audiences were quickly
fidelity with a blood ceremony, Giordano tries to growing tired of. Savona was also the man be-
cure the duke from his incestuous love by inviting hind the directorial chair for Helmut il solitario,
to the castle his young and beautiful cousin Flo- which was halted and eventually taken over by
riana. Unfortunately the woman is murdered as Mario Bava and became I coltelli del vendicatore
well. An elderly priest, expert in demonology, con- (166). The reminder of his nondescript career
firms Giordano’s suspicions of Lionello, and sug- saw him jump on the Spaghetti Western band-
gests that the man may be a succubus of the wagon, starting with the bizarre El rojo (166),
demon Byleth, who appears in the guise of a starring Richard Harrison.
black-dressed rider on a white horse and pushes After a handful of Westerns came Byleth,
his victims to murder and incest. Giordano pur- the first of two sui generis Gothic yarns which
sues his brother-in-law, who has taken refuge in were heavily influenced by the changing cur-
the ruins of an old village, and shoots him, but is rents in Italian cinema and popular culture. The
killed by Byleth. The wounded Lionello returns script (by the director and the elusive “Norbert
home, and he and Barbara
make love. Then Byleth com-
mands him to kill his sister,
but Lionello refuses, and the
demon kills him.
Although he had actu-
ally debuted behind the
camera with the swash-
buckler Il principe dalla
maschera rossa (155), star-
ring Frank Latimore and
Yvonne Furneaux, Leo-
poldo Savona (113–2000)
worked throughout the
Fifties and the early Sixties
mostly as assistant to such
renowned directors as Luigi
Zampa (Anni facili, 157),
Giuseppe De Santis (Uomini
e lupi, 157), Riccardo Freda
(Agi Murad—Il diavolo
bianco, 15), and Pier
Paolo Pasolini (on Accat-
tone, 161), besides occa-
sionally appearing as an
actor. His directorial career
was nowhere nearly as dis-
tinguished as those famous
names would make one
think, though: on I mongoli
(161) he was credited
alongside André De Toth,
but most of the film was ac-
tually shot by Riccardo
Freda, and Savona’s output
in the early-to-mid-’60s
comprised such nonde- Italian poster for Byleth (il demone dell’incesto) (1972). Art by Mario Pio-
script fare as La leggenda vano / Studio Paradiso. The same image was reused with slight alter-
di Fra Diavolo (162) and ations for the poster of Il sesso della strega (1973).
62 1972: La dama

Blake”) stitches together a number of heteroge- suit of Lionello on horseback in an abandoned

neous elements: despite Gustave Doré’s itchings village, where the director’s past in Westerns
for Dante’s Inferno under the opening credits, comes to the fore, whereas the climax—with
Savona borrows the figure of the demon Beleth Byleth appearing to Lionello in the house’s mir-
from the 16th century treaty Pseudomonarchia rors, riding his horse—is badly rushed. As the
Daemonum. Unlike the English setting of the obsessed Lionello, Mark Damon gives one of the
films made during the previous decade, the story worst performances in the history of Italian hor-
takes place in Italy, and recalls the popular ror, constantly wide-eyed, his forehead beaded
novels by Carolina Invernizio and the like rather with sweat and his shirt open to show his macho
than the British Gothic horror stories; for one hairy chest; in his incarnation as Byleth he is
thing, it has a heavy emphasis on melodrama constantly replaced by a double except in the
and peculiar period details: a police officer very last scene. The Belgian Congo–born (and
blames the Carbonari revolutionary society, naturalized Spanish) Claudia Gravy (seen in
which struggled for Italian independence, for Jorge Grau’s Acteon, 167, and Jess Franco’s 99
the murders. On the other hand, the incestuous Women, among others) fares no better, while the
relationship between the young duke Lionello veteran Neapolitan actor Aldo Bufi Landi is
and his sister possibly draws from John Ford’s sympathetic as the doomed Giordano, and even
tragedy ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, adapted just a gets to show his fencing skills in a duel scene
few months earlier by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi that seems one of the few moments that actually
(Addio fratello crudele, 171). On top of that, the benefitted from attentive direction on the part
sequences in which Lionello slaughters young of Savona. The cast also features Silvana Pompili,
naked women are shot through the killer’s sub- Mirella Pamphili’s sister and a recurring pres-
jective shots and look like something out of a ence in many TV movies and mini-series.
low-budget giallo, with plenty of hand-held The Italian board of censors gave Byleth a
camera shots, distorted wide angles and black- V.M.18 rating but demanded no cuts. However,
gloved hands. The result is closer in tone to the the film was distributed in Germany, as Trio der
adults-only comics of the period, which bor- Lust, in a significantly different version from the
rowed the horror and Gothic setting as an one released in Italian cinemas: apart from being
excuse to depict nudity and sadism. several minutes shorter, and doing away with
The most interesting aspect of the story is expository and dialogue scenes, it features a dif-
its ultimate ambiguity: is Lionello really pos- ferent editing in parts and more explicit sex
sessed by the demon Byleth, as a Catholic priest scenes, with plenty of full frontal female nudity:
claims, or is he just the victim of a schizophrenic among the actresses stripping off for the camera
split personality that has him identify with a su- is Caterina Chiani, later to be known as Marzia
pernatural entity in order to vent his violent in- Damon (an a.k.a. adopted as a homage to the
stincts—that is, the unhealthy love for his sister American actor), one of the more generous
and his impotence with other women? Sadly, the starlets of Italian softcore cinema of the 170s.
psychological element is confusingly developed, The German DVD on the X-rated label features
and apart from the emphasis on nudity (with all the shorter, German version, as does the Italian
the victims dispatched in bed, just after sex), one.
there is little to recommend in Byleth. The plot Savona’s next film was another Gothic/gi-
is muddled and slow-moving, and the low allo hybrid, the little-seen La morte scende leg-
budget is patent: most of the film takes place in gera.
and around Lionello’s castle (the baronal palace
in Borgo del Sasso, in Cerveteri1), but unlike the NoTe
black-and-white Gothics of the 160s the result
1. The palace can also be spotted in Mario Bianchi’s
is far from stylish, and a society ball sequence Biancaneve & Co. (182). Another prominent location in
ends up looking like a fourth-grade rip-off of the film is the Macchia Grande woods in Manziana, near
Visconti’s celebrated scenes in Senso (154) and Rome.
Il gattopardo (163).
Savona’s direction is characterized by per- La dama rossa uccide sette volte (The
functory, time-saving long takes ridden with Red Queen Kills 7 Times)
zooms, and rarely comes out with anything in- D: Emilio P. Miraglia. S: Fabio Pittorru; SC:
teresting. The best bit is possibly Giordano’s pur- Fabio Pittorru, Emilio P. Miraglia; DOP: Alberto
1972: La dama 63

Spagnoli (Technicolor, Cromoscope); M: Bruno comes involved in a series of horrible murders.

Nicolai, conducted by the author (Ed. C.A.M.- The perpetrator appears to be a young woman
CIDIAS); E: Romeo Ciatti; ArtD, CO: Lorenzo with a black cape who looks just like the “Red
Baraldi; MU: Giulio Natalucci; Hair: Iolanda Dame,” and all the victims are related to the fash-
Conti; C: Franco Bruni; AC: Cesare Venturini; ion house. Ketty, haunted by guilt for having
AE: Gabriele Ingafú; APD: Ignazio Sig-
noriello; SO: Fiorenzo Magli, Umberto
Picistrelli; SS: Graziella Marsetti. Cast:
Barbara Bouchet (Ketty Wildenbrück),
Ugo Pagliai (Martin Hoffmann), Ma-
rina Malfatti (Franziska Wildenbrück),
Marino Masé (Police Inspector Toller),
Maria Pia Giancaro (Rosemary
Müller), Sybil Danning (Lulu Palm),
Nino Korda (Herbert Zieler), Fabrizio
Moresco (Peter), Rudolf Schindler
[Schündler] (Tobias Wildenbrück),
Maria Antonietta Guido, Carla Man-
cini, Bruno Bertocci (Hans Meier,
Spring Director); uncredited: Sisto
Brunetti (Policeman), Dolores Calò
(Dress-Fitter at Fashion House), Ne-
store Cavaricci (Policeman), Alfonso
Giganti (Fashion Studio Boss). PROD:
Phoenix Cinematografica (Rome), Ro-
mano Film G.M.B.H. (Munich), Traian
Boeru (Munich); PM: Elio di Pietro;
PSe: Giuseppe Bruno Bossio; PSeA:
Michele Figazzaro, Sandro Testa. Coun-
try: Italy / West Germany. Filmed in
Rome and Würzburg (Germany) and
at Safa Palatino Studios (Rome), Run-
ning time: 8 minutes (m. 2668). Visa
n. 6077 (8.2.172); Rating: V.M.14. Re-
lease date: 8.18.172; Distribution:
Cineriz. Domestic gross: 513,725,000
lire. Also known as: The Corpse Which
Didn’t Want To Die; The Lady in Red
Kills Seven Times; Feast of Flesh
(U.S.A.); Die Rote Dame; Horror House
(Germany); La dama rosa mata siete
veces (Spain; 3.4.174); La dame rouge
tua 7 fois (France); La dama de la capa
roja (Mexico; 8.18.173).
Bavaria. The elderly Tobias Wil-
denbrück reveals to his granddaughters
Ketty and Eveline that their family holds
a terrible curse: every 100 years the ghost
of the “Red Dame” returns from the
grave and kills 7 people, to take revenge
on her rival sister (and murderer), the
“Black Dame,” who will be her final vic- Italian locandina for emilio Miraglia’s second giallo/Gothic
tim. Several years later, Ketty—now a hybrid, La dama rossa uccide sette volte (1972). Art by Man-
photographer at a fashion house—be- fredo Acerbo.
64 1972: La dama

unintentionally killed Eveline, believes that her The murders are suitably nasty, includ-
sister has returned from the grave to take her re- ing an unexpected stabbing (as the Red Queen
venge; despite her cousin Franziska’s help in con- pops up from the right edge of the screen in
cealing Eveline’s murder, Ketty is persecuted by the Hans’ murder) and a scene where a man is
latter’s drug addict boyfriend Peter. Ketty’s lover dragged to death by a car that predates Profondo
Martin—whose demented wife was one of the vic- rosso. Even better, however, is a nightmare se-
tims and who is consequently one of the prime quence which features the Red Queen running
suspects—investigates, and finds out that som- toward the sleepy Barbara Bouchet across an ap-
eone has put up a diabolical plan against Ketty… parently endless corridor, a truly unsettling mo-
Emilio Miraglia’s second giallo in a row, ment that provides the movie’s most memorable
again scripted by Fabio Pittorru, blends who- image. For over an hour, the story flows
dunit and the Gothic in a similar manner as La smoothly and endlessly enjoyable, thanks also
notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba, and with even to Bruno Nicolai’s first-rate score, but when the
more emphasis on the allegedly supernatural time comes to pull the strings of the plot, im-
angle. The prologue contains all the elements of plausibilities and incongruities pop up, once
the customary ghost story: an old castle, a again stressing that logic was not one of gialli’s
gloomy portrait, a centuries-old family curse main strengths.
which is doomed to repeat over and over. All Just like in La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla
this is then transferred into the colorful, swingin’ tomba, Miraglia gives plenty of room to the
170s Bavaria, amid photoshoots and fashion erotic factor. The cast features striking examples
houses, miniskirts and sexy outfits (courtesy of of pulchritude on the part of the likes of Barbara
stylist Mila Schön), astonishing wallpapers and Bouchet, Marina Malfatti, Sybil Danning and
enough J&B in sight to drown a whole city. It is Maria Pia Giancaro, most providing nude
a pop approach to the genre compared with the scenes: Bouchet’s rape is actually more risqué in
austere black-and-white of the previous decade, the film’s trailer, where the actress’ pubic hair is
and it employs (naked) bodies, lava lamps and briefly glimpsed. Danning—who in the same
design objects with the same relish as its pred- year appeared also in the giallo, L’occhio nel labir-
ecessors did with period clothes, chandeliers into (172, Mario Caiano) and in Bluebeard
and dusty crypts. (172, Edward Dmytryk)—has an especially
Fabio Pittorru’s script winks at the Gothic’s memorable sex encounter with Ugo Pagliai
contemporaneous TV renaissance—here certi- (looking slightly embarrassed in a fancy dressing
fied by the casting of Ugo Pagliai, the lead in the gown), during which she has a line that could
occult-themed mini-series Il segno del co- be delivered with a straight face only in an
mando—and throws in ghastly appearances, se- Italian giallo: “Even the police know I’m an in-
cret passages, night visions and a climax in a credible nymphomaniac.”
flooded crypt that recalls both La vergine di La dama rossa uccide sette volte2 did pretty
Norimberga (163) and Contronatura. On the good box-office in Italy and was distributed
other hand, the impressive “Red Dame” (or “Red abroad: as it often happened, the German ver-
Queen” in the English version) is a creation that sion was rather different than the Italian one,
somehow recalls the Edgar Wallace villains running fifteen minutes shorter. Despite its good
(think of the Monk with the Whip in Der Mönch commercial results, it was Miraglia’s last film as
mit der Peitsche, a.k.a. The College Girl Murders, a director.
167), here in a female incarnation—which
might partly be due to the coproduction deal NoTeS
with West Germany, in order to deliver a more
1. Namely Riccardo Freda’s A doppia faccia (16), L’uc-
krimi-oriented product, since some gialli were cello dalle piume di cristallo (170, Dario Argento), Sette
actually distributed in Germany as additions to orchidee macchiate di rosso (172, Umberto Lenzi), Cosa
the Wallace cycle.1 In fact the film was mostly avete fatto a Solange? (172, Massimo Dallamano).
shot on location in Germany, in Wurzburg and 2. According to Franco Bruni, who debuted as camera-
man in this film, the working title was Sette scialli di velluto
Weikersheim; the impressive Wildenbrück rosso (Seven Shawls of Red Velvet), possibly dropped so as
manor is a castle in Neuestein, in the Baden- to avoid confusion with Sergio Pastore’s Sette scialli di seta
Württemberg region; only some scenes, such as gialla (literally, Seven Shawls of Yellow Silk), released
those in and around Ugo Pagliai’s modern apart- around the same time as Miraglia’s film.
ment house, were shot in Rome.
1972: Estratto 65

Estratto dagli archivi segreti della po- sort of succubus. In the end we find Jane in a state
lizia di una capitale europea (Tragic of shock, locked in a cell at a mental home: she is
Ceremony) murdered by a supernatural presence that is re-
vealed to be Lady Alexander.
D: Robert Hampton [Riccardo Freda]. S Riccardo Freda’s penultimate film has long
and SC: Mario Bianchi [Spanish version: José been a mysterious object, not the least because
Gutiérrez Maesso, Leonardo Martín]; DOP: the director always carefully avoided mention-
Francisco Fraile; M: Stelvio Cipriani; E: Iolanda ing it in interviews, and even in his own memoir
Benvenuti; SD: Rafael Ferri, Amedeo Mellone; Divoratori di celluloide, published in 181. And
CO: Manolita Iglesias; MU: Cristobál Criado, yet, in recent years, after its reviviscence at the
Renzo Francioni; Hair: Ana Criado; AMU: Luis 2004 Venice Film Festival as part of the retro-
Criado; SE: Carlo Rambaldi; SO: Eugenio Ron- spective “Italian Kings of the Bs”—a screening
dani, Alberto Escobedo; C: Giorgio Di Battista, which ended with the audience booing, and
Teodoro Roa; AC: José Luis Criado, Miguel definitely not an apt choice to celebrate a master
Ángel Muñoz; AE: Alba Di Salvo, Felisa Rueda. filmmaker (and not a “King of the B,” whatever
Cast: Camille Keaton (Jane), Luciana Paluzzi this may mean) as Freda—and its release to
(Lady Alexander), Luigi Pistilli (Lord Alexan- home video, Estratto dagli archivi segreti della
der), Giovanni Petrucci (Fred), Tony Isbert [An- polizia di una capitale europea has become a
tonio Spitzer Ysbert] (Bill), Máximo Valverde rather popular item among genre fans, adding
(Joe), Pepe [José] Calvo (Sam David), Irina insult to injury, as there are so many better and
Demick (Bill’s mother), Paul Muller (Doctor), more representative films in the director’s fil-
Beni Deus (Ferguson), Milo Quesada (Cop), mography.
Alejandro de Enciso, Elsa Zabala (Devil wor- Despite the Italian title—literally, “Excerpt
shipper), Ambra Mascarello, Adriana Facchetti from the secret archives of the police of a Euro-
(Woman in Alexander’s house), Fulvio Mingozzi pean capital”—which seems to belong to some
(Police Inspector), Carla Mancini. PROD: José politically committed crime film à la Damiano
Gutiérrez Maesso for PIA—Produzioni Inter- Damiani, Estratto dagli archivi segreti della
nazionali Associate (Rome), Tecisa (Madrid). polizia di una capitale europea is actually a su-
PM: Sergio Merolle, Faustino Ocaña. Country: pernatural Gothic horror story with copious
Italy / Spain. Filmed in Costa Brava (Spain). amounts of gore: the umpteenth in a line of
Running time: 86 minutes (m. 2334). Visa n. work-for-hire projects which the director cared
61507 (12.4.172); Rating: V.M.18. Release date: little about. In that period, Freda was trying to
12.20.172; Distribution: Cineriz. Domestic gross: put together the project of a lifetime, on which
7,680,000 lire. Also known as: Trágica ceremonia he would work for two decades: Francesco
en villa Alexander (Spain; ..174). Baracca, about a famous Italian aviator who died
Bill, an introverted rich young man, invites in World War I, a major motion picture that
three acquaintances on his boat, including Jane, needed a conspicuous budget and production
whom he is attracted to. Bill gives her a necklace values which scared potential financers. And so,
that he has stolen from his mother, and which is Freda—once a major film director, working for
said to have once belonged to a woman possessed Italy’s most prestigious studio, Lux Film—had
by the devil. On the way home, the group’s dune to settle for B-pictures, jumping from one genre
buggy runs out of fuel: after an encounter with a to another in a thinly disguised way to keep his
weird gas station owner, the four take refuge in a name afloat in the stormy Italian film industry,
villa whose owners, Lord and Lady Alexander, which he had even briefly abandoned in the
turn out to be members of a satanic cult. Jane falls mid–160s, when he had moved to France to di-
into their hands and is about to be sacrificed dur- rect four pictures (a new version of the novel Les
ing a black mass, but the ceremony climaxes in a deux orphelines, two spy flicks in the Coplan se-
massacre: Bill accidentally kills Lady Alexander, ries and the excellent period drama Roger La
and the devil worshippers are driven to kill each Honte).
other by a mysterious force. The hippies flee the Following the disastrous Israeli experi-
villa and end up at Bill’s place, but they are chased ence of the Biblical-inspired erotic drama Tamar
away by his mother and take refuge at a country Wife of Er (170) and the grim giallo, L’iguana
house owned by Bill’s father. There they are dis- dalla lingua di fuoco (171), Freda accepted an
patched one by one by Jane, who has become some offer to direct a horror movie based on a script
66 1972: Estratto

entitled Quella maledetta sera (“That Doomed Freda’s participation in the filming was con-
Evening”), written by Mario Bianchi and co- firmed by Carlo Rambaldi, who took care of the
financed by the Spanish producer José Gutiérrez over-the-top gory effects and who would
Maesso. Maesso’s company Tecisa, based in become a good friend of the director,2 and by
Madrid and active since the early 160s, almost Freda’s eldest daughter Jacqueline, who accom-
exclusively dedicated to co-productions, espe- panied him in Spain with her mother Silvana
cially with Italy. Tecisa advanced the money Merli and served on the set as a factotum—or,
from Spanish distribution, and its participation in her own words, as “assistant slave”—despite
usually varied between 45% and 50%: it took being only eight and a half years old.3 Freda even
care of location shooting, transportation and wrote the lyrics for the title song, composed by
technical equipment, as well as hiring crews and Stelvio Cipriani and sung by Ernesto Brancucci,
extras. La vita, a macabre little number whose lyrics go
Shooting began in June 172: according to like this: “Questa è la vita / Un uomo ride felice
some sources, Freda left the set after a few days, / La bocca già piena di terra / Danza una donna
and was replaced by Filippo Ratti.1 However, / Brulicante di vermi” (This is life / A man laughs
happily / His mouth al-
ready filled with soil / A
woman dances / Teeming
with worms).
By comparing the
original screenplay (kept
at the C.S.C. library in
Rome4) with the finished
film, Ratti’s contribution
can perhaps be circum-
scribed to a couple of
scenes that are not in
Bianchi’s script: namely,
the flashback in which Bill
gives his mother the pearl
necklace and tells her the
legend that accompanies
it, and the epilogue in the
asylum, where a doctor
(Paul Muller) offers an
awkward explanation for
the baffling supernatural
events that have been
going on, disserting about
astral bodies with a raving,
demented look. This addi-
tion might have been ei-
ther the result of the need
on the part of the producer
to come up with enough
footage for a feature length
film, or a consequence of
the story’s awkwardness.
On the other hand,
Bianchi’s script encloses
the story within one long
flashback, after an opening
Italian poster for Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale set in the asylum where
europea (1972). Art by Mario Piovano / Studio Paradiso. Jane is being questioned by
1972: Estratto 67

a police inspector and a female doctor, a scene common in the period: see also Steno’s giallo
that in the finished film takes place near the end; spoof Il terrore con gli occhi storti, also made in
in addition to other minor differences, a few 172.
scenes were cut or possibly never filmed, such Overall, the mixture of reincarnation and
as one where Lord Alexander screens a 16mm black magic is fairly pointless, and the additional
film shot in India for his guests, which depicts scenes only make matters worse. From Bill’s
his first encounter with Lady Alexander, thus monologue about the doomed necklace, at first
hinting at the woman’s supernatural origins.5 we are supposed to think that the evil menace
The result is a wildly incoherent story, is unleashed by the jewel, which Jane seemingly
which at times bears to mind the delirious cir- cannot take off her neck, and which is paired
cular pattern of Lisa e il diavolo. The two films with a bracelet worn by Lady Alexander, that
have a number of elements in common, such as functions as a link between the two women (all
the travelers seeking shelter at a villa whose in- this is more clearly outlined in the script,
habitants are in league with evil forces, and an though). In the end, however, the diabolical
enigmatic Devil (played by the Spanish char- presence is revealed to be Lady Alexander her-
acter actor José “Pepe” Calvo) with a playful, self, with the help of her devilish factotum-
catty attitude who acts as a factotum-servant. driver (Calvo again), whereas Paul Muller’s in-
What is more, the way the gas station attendant coherent babblings fail to make any sense.
mocks the young hippies, coming up with every Freda did little to improve upon this mess.
sort of excuse not to fill their car’s tank, brings One can only guess that he simply did not care
to mind the spiteful attitude of the butler played about such a down-at-heel potboiler. There are
by Telly Savalas in Lisa e il diavolo, and Calvo some moments of undeniable suggestion,
adds some nice touches, such as his character though: the scenes set at the gas station, filmed
sniffing at the traveler’s checks book handed to with the director’s trademark panning shots, are
him by the wealthy Bill, in a fun variation of the suitably atmospheric, thanks also to Francisco
Latin saying pecunia non olet. However, both Fraile’s accomplished cinematography. At times
works ultimately met a similar fate, with little Freda resorts to his own cinematic past: the
distribution and more or less intrusive manip- image of Camille Keaton descending the villa’s
ulations. stairs, holding a candlestick, while the night
Whereas Bava’s film adopted a Surrealist, breeze eeriely raises the windows’ curtains by
poetic approach, Freda’s wavers uncomfortably her side, brings to mind a similar moment in
between pale reminiscences of 160s Italian Aquila nera (146) and especially the Du Grand
Gothic, frantic splatter scenes and ill-fated nods castle scenes in I vampiri; the moment where
to the present. The pairing of beauty and horror the pearls slip out of her necklace and bounce
was one of Italian Gothic horror’s staples since down the steps echoes not just Bava’s 5 bambole
I vampiri and La maschera del demonio: the di- per la luna d’agosto, but its earlier antecedent,
aphanous Jane, the object of desire of Bill and the scene of a little child’s ball bouncing down
his young hippie friends, becomes a ghastly the stairs in Freda’s own La leggenda del Piave
presence and the instrument of a vengeful force (152), a tearjerking melodrama set during
that seduces her unfortunate lovers, and at one World War I. Some themes are closer to the di-
point she displays a fleshless, putrescent skull rector’s sensibility, though. Bill’s morbid, vaguely
that is the equivalent of Barbara Steele’s rotting incestuous attraction toward his fascinating and
torso in Bava’s debut—and in itself unawarily promiscuous mother (Irina Demick) predates
reminiscent of the German silent film Von mor- Murder Obsession, and the story’s original cir-
gens bis mitternacht (120, Karlheinz Martin), cular narrative is in tune with Freda’s vision of
which first featured the image of a woman’s face a deterministic universe where events are
transforming into a skull. The same image doomed to repeat over and over.
would turn up in a much more convincing way On the other hand, Freda’s use of hand-
in Aristide Massaccesi’s La morte ha sorriso al- held camera and wide-angle shots shows that he
l’assassino (173). On the other hand, the script’s had put to good use the lesson of contempora-
biased view of the hippie movement is typical neous gialli, much more so than in the sub-par
of many films of the era, and includes a totally L’iguana dalla lingua di fuoco. Still, the climactic
gratuitous reference to the Bel Air massacre “tragic ceremony” is rendered with an overre-
and Sharon Tate’s murder, something not un- liance on weird camera angles and wild-eyed ex-
68 1972: Estratto

tras that recall the black mass scenes in Sergio Tony Isbert. Luigi Pistilli and Luciana Paluzzi,
Martino’s Tutti i colori del buio, released early although top-billed, have minimal roles.
that year, and soon become tiresome. At one Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di
point an on-set light and a cameraman can be una capitale europea was submitted to the Italian
seen popping up in the frame during a low-angle board of censors in December 172, and was
shot, underlining the director’s habitual use of given a V.M. 18 rating “in relation to the theme
several cameras to film a scene as well as the of the film, the seriously gruesome scenes of vi-
sloppiness with which the film was made. olence (such as the rite that ends up in a mas-
Nevertheless, the result is one of the most sacre), linked to drug use, as well as the foul lan-
bizarre and over-the-top gore scenes ever seen guage used in several sequences.” It performed
in an Italian 170s film, and one of the very first, very poorly in Italy, and was released in Spain
in a year when Rambaldi also concocted the only two years later. After completing the movie,
equally crude, but more restrained gory f/x for it looked like Freda was ready for more impres-
La notte dei diavoli. In Freda’s film gunshots to sive efforts, namely Crossroads, an Italian-
the belly give way to abundant blood spilling, a French suspense thriller to be filmed in Tunis,
man has his face bisected via a sword, Luigi Pis- and L’imperatore di New York, a.k.a. Emperor of
tilli’s character receives a bullet to the head New York (a script on real-life mobster Lucky
which results in a geyser-like stream of blood Luciano dating back to the mid-to-late 160s).6
from his forehead, a woman is decapitated, an- However, eight years would pass before
other one catches fire. For all its crudeness, it is Freda’s return behind the camera with Murder
a triumph of Grand-Guignol which tries hard Obsession, his final movie. In the meantime,
to cram as many creative deaths as possible in definitely less inspiring projects ended up in the
less than a minute. Regrettably, though, the drawer. One was Gli esorcisti (The Exorcists), an
black mass’ splattery climax is repeated several attempt at cashing in on the success of Friedkin’s
times throughout the picture, with the result of film (which was actually released in Italy in Oc-
drastically cutting down its impact. The film tober 174), like other similar titles such as
also features a couple of horrific scenes not in- L’ossessa and Un urlo dalle tenebre, from a script
cluded in the script: Bill ends up dead and blue- Freda developed from a story by Mario Righi,
faced inside a wardrobe—Tony Isbert’s make- who was to finance it with his company Alexan-
up recalls the otherwordly presences seen in yet der Cinematografica Internazionale. The cast
another awkward Italian/Spanish horror film, indicated in the working sheets featured Anto-
Mario Siciliano’s Malocchio (175)—whereas an- nia Santilli (seen in Il Boss, 173), Adolfo
other bizarre gory scene looks like a gruesome Lastretti and Claudio Cassinelli. Scheduled to
variation on Martin Scorsese’s famous short The be filmed starting on February 23, 174, it
Big Shave (168). stopped dead at pre-production stage. In the fol-
The movie stars the 25-year-old Camille lowing years Freda’s name was attached to some
Keaton, one of the many starlets in Italian horror horror-themed projects scripted by Piero Reg-
of the 170s. After her debut in Massimo Dalla- noli, such as the elusive Thanat 82 (178) which
mano’s Che cosa avete fatto a Solange? (172), was supposed to star Ursula Andress and Hardy
Keaton enjoyed a short-lived popularity: she was Krüger, and Satan’s Night, a.k.a. Qualcosa pene-
the centerfold of the November 172 issue of the tra in noi (Le notti di Satana), first announced
Italian Playmen, and went on to make a handful as Sensory in 178 and to be directed originally
of mostly bad films such as Il sesso della strega by Roberto Montero. The tentative cast featured
and the parapsychological drama Madeleine– Gabriele Tinti, Silvia Dionisio, Olga Karlatos,
Anatomia di un incubo (174, Roberto Mauri), Ettore Manni, Laura Gemser and the Swiss
before returning to the U.S. and starring in the François Simon, and the story was a rather drab
controversial I Spit on Your Grave, a.k.a. Day of mixture of horror and eroticism, with an em-
the Woman (178), directed by her then- phasis on the latter, set in a haunted house where
husband Meir Zarchi. Despite her none-too a number of characters unleash devilish forces
convincing acting skills, the pale, fragile-looking by way of a séance. Filming was scheduled to
actress makes for an unsettling presence, partly start in February 17, but eventually the movie
because of the visible scars on her face, the result was cancelled. Gemser and Dionisio would turn
of a car accident in her youth. She makes an un- up in Murder Obsession.7
easy pair with a very young, creepy-looking
1972: Frankenstein 6

NoTeS 6. See respectively Variety, 3 May 172, and 27

December 172.
1. Alessio Di Rocco, “Estratto dagli archivi segreti della 7. For more details on Freda’s unfilmed projects, see
polizia di una capitale europea,” in Riccardo Fassone (Ed.), Roberto Curti, Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a
“La stagione delle streghe. Guida al gotico italiano,” Noc- Born Filmmaker (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017).
turno Dossier #80, March 200, 65.
2. “I did a film in Spain with him. Very likeable. A mas-
ter at bypassing obstacles,” Rambaldi stated. Which con-
firms Freda’s presence on the set, and suggests that there
Frankenstein ’80 (Frankenstein ’80)
were obstacles during filming. Michele Giordano, Da Ercole D: Mario Mancini. S: Ferdinando De Le-
a Piedone (e oltre) il mito dell’uomo forte nel cinema italiano one; SC: Ferdinando De Leone, Mario Mancini;
(Rome: Gremese 18), 128. DOP: Emilio Varriano (Technicolor, Technis-
3. “Despite being a skinny little girl I woke up early in cope); M: Daniele Patucchi (Ed. C.A.M.); E:
the morning with dad, and he made me do any kind of job
on the set, in the most disparate ways. And when I didn’t Enzo Micarelli; AD: Renzo Girolami; AC: Ed-
know what to do, he would say, ‘Go help the electricians mondo Pisani; MU: Gianni Amadei; Hair: Lucia
mount the dolly!’ The things I remember the most about La Porta; SO: Paolo Esposito; SP: Alfio Quat-
the film are Rambaldi, the stuntmen, and my decision to trini; SD: Giuseppe Pappalardo; ChEl: Giovanni
become a stuntwoman myself. When I saw the action
scenes I went to my father and said, ‘Dad, when I grow up
Marini; KG: Ubaldo Di Curzio; DubD: Robert
I want to do this!’ And he: ‘Sure, sure, why not…’ Perhaps Oliver; English script: Frazier Rippy; SE: Carlo
he thought it was like that other time when I told him I Rambaldi; SS: Giuseppe Bruno Bossio. Cast:
wanted to be a CIA agent…!” Jacqueline Freda is adamant John Richardson (Karl Schein), Gordon Mitchell
in stating that her father stayed in Spain for the whole (Dr. Otto Frankenstein), Renato Romano (In-
shooting, and directed most of the film. “He directed all
the action scenes. But, you know, on practically every film spector Harald Schneider), Xiro Papas [Ciro
he left after finishing the action scenes, ’cause to him the Papa] (Mosaic), Dalila Parker [Dalila Di Laz-
film was over. He shot all the scenes in the villa, the action zaro] (Sonia), Bob Fiz [Roberto Fizz] (Prof.
scenes, all of Rambaldi’s splatter scenes, the black mass … Rudolf Schwartz), Dada Gallotti (Butcher),
but also the boring stuff, such as the girl in the bathtub….
He never talked about the movie? Of course—he thought
Marisa Traversi (Second prostitute), Lemmy
it was crap!” Jacqueline Freda, interview with the author, Carson (Head Nurse), Marco Mariani (Track
May 2015. Spectator), Fulvio Mingozzi (Second Investiga-
4. There are actually two scripts kept at the CSC library, tor), Enrico Rossi (First Investigator), Umberto
identical save for the title. One is titled Estratto dagli archivi Amambrini (Vice Straus), Luigi Antonio Guerra
segreti della polizia di una capitale europea, and the other
Quella maledetta sera (“That Doomed Evening”), which (Agent), Luigi Bonos (Hobo); uncredited: Eolo
echoes the Spanish title, Trágica ceremonia en villa Alexan- Capritti (Bystander at accident site with sun-
der (“Tragic Ceremony at Villa Alexander”) and was likely glasses). PROD: M.G.D. Film (Rome); PM:
the original title. Both are 166 pages long, and are dated Benedetto Graziani; PS: Eolo Capritti. Country:
June 6, 172.
5. The script also features the gory flashbacks from the
Italy. Filmed in Munich and Rome and at Cave
“tragic ceremony”—over-the-top, in slow-motion and very Film Studio (Rome). Running time: 8 minutes
similar to the ones in the film—from the very first scenes; (m. 2604). Visa n. 61258 (10.20.172); Rating:
Bill and friends do not travel on a dune buggy but (more V.M.18. Release dates: 12.12.172 (Italy); 6.26.174
realistically) on motorbikes, and their initial bet does not (France); 8.12.177 (West Germany); Distribu-
center on nautical terms, but on the non-existent “flying
fish” that Bill’s companions bet they can spot on the sea (a tion: Les Films 2R Roma. Domestic gross: un-
much more convincing idea, incidentally); during the mas- known. Also known as: Frankenstein ’80 / Les
sacre, the cultists—who are described as naked, save for orgies de Frankenstein 80 / Frankenstein 2000
their black cloaks and leather belts with Rosicrucian sym- (France); Frankenstein ’80 / Midnight Horror
bols that cover their pubic area—see each other as mon-
sters (“They cannot see the real, natural faces, but horrible
(West Germany), Frankenstein Sex (Belgium).
furry monsters, devilish, unreal-looking”), and the gory A girl dies after a heart transplant because
bits are slightly different: there is no mention of the bi- someone has stolen from the clinic an anti-
sected head, and Lord Alexander ends up impaled on a rejection medication perfected by the surgeon, Dr.
dagger “that almost cuts him in half.” Also missing is a Schwartz. The thief is Dr. Otto Frankenstein, who
brief scene set in a church, where a beat combo is rehears-
ing, and Bill seems to recognize the parish priest as Lord works at the same hospital and has secretly as-
Alexander. The deaths of the three hippies are also differ- sembled an artificial man named Mosaic with the
ent, and decidedly less gory: Bill is found in the bathroom, limbs of deceased people. The monstrous creature
a mask of terror, a green foam coming out from his mouth, preys on women whom he rapes and horribly
eyes wide open (but not that ugly blue-colored face); Fred
hangs himself; Joe runs away from a horrible sight (which
murders. The police, led by Inspector Schneider,
is implied to be Jane, whose monstrous alter ego is not grope in the dark. Meanwhile, the dead girl’s
mentioned in the script) and falls to his death into the sea. brother, journalist Karl Schein, is investigating on
70 1972: Frankenstein

his own: he meets Frankenstein’s beautiful niece stein myth produced in Italy after the female-
Sonia, and falls for her. Mosaic’s new victim is Dr. centered Lady Frankenstein. Whereas Mel
Schwartz, whose eyes Frankenstein transplants to Welles’ film attempted to retain the period feel
the monster: however, Schwartz’ serum is almost of Hammer Gothics, Frankenstein ’80 throws it
finished, and Mosaic’s sexual and bloody appetite in the drain with its very title, which openly
proves difficult to control. When the monster at- quotes Howard W. Koch’s Frankenstein 1970
tacks Sonia, Frankenstein tries to stop him, but (158), and sets its story in the present day.
is killed by the creature. Mosaic escapes just before Despite the liberal use of the name “Frank-
the police’s arrival, and goes on a killing spree. enstein” there is very little in common between
Forty-eight hours later the effects of the anti- the story and Mary Shelley’s character. Rather,
rejection drug stop, and Mosaic dies just as he is the inspiration for the script lies heavily in the
about to kill Karl and Sonia. adults-only comics, such as Oltretomba, Walle-
“You may have a limp when you walk, but stein and the like, which featured copious
I bet you don’t have one in bed!” says the pros- amounts of blood and gore in addition to pa-
titute to the eerie-looking scarred giant with a rades of female flesh. The Frankenstein monster,
hat and an overcoat that has approached her in aptly named Mosaic, is assembled with various
a park, and who is now following her to her body organs (mostly female) graphically ex-
place like a puppy dog. It is one of many cringe- tracted from the unwilling donors, courtesy of
inducing moments in Frankenstein ’80, the Carlo Rambaldi’s special effects—here slightly
decade’s second approximation to the Franken- above the level of Herschell Gordon Lewis’
blood feasts.
The murder scenes are gro-
tesque: the killing of a female
butcher in a cold room, by means of
a femur bone, sticks in the memory
for its sheer outrageousness. How-
ever, the director is just as interested
in providing a parade of nudity and
over-the-top sex, which climaxes in
the encounter between the above-
mentioned streetwalker and Mosaic,
who rapes the unfortunate woman
(the implication is that he is mon-
strously endowed as well) and mur-
ders her. Even though the gore is
crude, the result is an early hint of
the tendency toward excess that will
characterize Italian genre cinema of
the decade, and the mixture of hor-
ror and sex is as poor taste as the
soon-to-blossom Nazi-erotic cycle.
The story, revolving around a
miraculous healing serum which
prevents post-op rejection, hints at
contemporary issues in the wake of
Dr. Barnard’s exploits: Dr. Franken-
stein, not the least bit preoccupied
with the ethical implications of his
work, is mostly focused on solving
surgical issues, as the monster con-
tinually needs new organs to replace
the rejected ones, and suffers from
a neurological disease too. Not that
German poster for Frankenstein ’80 (1972). the script gives any resonance to this
1972: La morte 71

bland theme: the story moves confusingly from use of cheap low-angle close-ups in the scenes
one horrific moment to the other, with an awk- of Mosaic attacking the victims.
ward series of police procedural scenes and oth- In addition to Mancini, the name of Ciro
ers featuring the vapid hero (John Richardson) Papa stands out: the bald, hulking actor, usually
investigating on his own. In contrast to Richard- typecast as the monster (he was the “monster
son’s somnambulic acting, Gordon Mitchell is vampire” in Il plenilunio delle vergini, and played
awfully hamming his way throughout the movie “Lupo” in Luigi Batzella’s Nazi-erotic epic La bes-
as the unlikely, mustachoed and spirited Otto tia in calore) had served as production manager
Frankenstein, who sutures dead bodies as if he in a number of low-budget films of the period,
was darning socks, nonchalantly keeps severed and popped up in Casa d’appuntamento and Ter-
heads in the fridge, and extracts and manipu- ror! Il castello delle donne maledette as well. Ac-
lates various body organs with leering abandon. cording to Mitchell, Papa “originally worked in
After Dr. Frankenstein is mercilessly dispatched production. Unfortunately he then had an acci-
by his creature roughly around the hour mark, dent: during a car ride to Venice he fell asleep
the viewer must resign himself to a protracted driving and his car hit a tree. He was instantly
hodgepodge of badly shot gory scenes (with car dead.”3
race footage added for good measure in a scene Frankenstein ’80 passed almost unnoticed
where Mosaic pops up near a race track) until in Italy at the time of its release. It also came out
the none-too-exciting climax. in photonovel version in the Italian issue of
Despite the familiar faces in sight—note Cinesex #26 (May 173), and found marginal dis-
also the 1-year-old Dalila Di Lazzaro, soon to tribution abroad, namely in France and West
be involved in another Frankenstein movie, and Germany. It is currently in public domain in the
character actor Renato Romano, playing a car- United States.
icaturish cigar-chomping commissioner—
Frankenstein ’80 has very little in common with NoTeS
the Gothic films made in Italy in that period, 1. Christian Kessler, “Maciste und die Spaghetti aus
starting with its German setting and exteriors. dem Weltall,” The German lan-
When interviewed by Christian Kessler, Mitchell guage interview was published in a slightly different (and
recalled: “Parts of the movie were probably shot sometimes not completely faithful) English translation in
in Bavaria, but none of those in which I was in- the Video Watchdog magazine. Christian Kessler, “Gordon
Mitchell. Atlas in the Land of Cinema,” Video Watchdog
volved.”1 Other scenes, such as those at Franken- #48, 18, 47. Thanks to Gary Vanisian for the new trans-
stein’s clinic, were filmed in Rome. Lou Castel lation from the original German text.
was originally to star in the film, possibly in 2. Appealing against his client’s expulsion, Castel’s
Richardson’s role, but was forced to withdraw lawyer submitted to the authorities the contract for
Mancini’s film (referred to as Mosaico Frankenstein 80),
when he was expelled from Italy in late April which the actor was supposed to start shooting on May 2.
172: his working permit was not renewed be- Anonymous, “L’attore Lou Castel ha lasciato l’Italia,” Cor-
cause of the actor’s political views.2 riere della Sera, April 27, 172.
Obviously aimed at foreign markets, Frank- 3. Kessler, “Maciste und die Spaghetti aus dem Weltall.”
enstein ’80 has still many shady points, starting
with the presence of dubbing director Robert La morte scende leggera (Death Descends
Harrison Oliver, who owned a dubbing facility Lightly)
in Munich. Oliver was involved in various roles D: Leopoldo Savona. S: Luigi Russo; SC:
in a number of Dick Randall-produced flicks of Luigi Russo, Leopoldo Savona; DOP: Luciano
the period, such as Guido Zurli’s grotesque farce Trasatti (Eastmancolor, Telecolor); M: Lallo
Lo strangolatore di Vienna (171), the sleazy Casa [Coriolano] Gori (Ed. Nazionalmusic); the song
d’appuntamento (172), and the trashy Terror! Il Sunday in Neon Lights is played by Mack Sigis
castello delle donne maledette, which he signed Porter Ensemble; E: Otello Colangeli; ArtD, CO:
as director. The latter film has quite a few things Fabrizio Diotallevi; MU: Marcella Pelliccia; AD:
in common with Frankenstein ’80, starting with Luigi Russo; SO: Angelo D’Abruzzo; C: Giorgio
the presence of cinematographer Mario Man- Di Battista; AC: Antonio Quattrone; SS: Paola
cini, here credited in his only directorial effort, Tiezzi. Cast: Stelio Candelli (Giorgio Darica),
and considered by some to have had a hand on Patrizia Viotti (Liz), Veronica Korosec (Adele),
Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette. His di- Rossella Bergamonti (Marisa), Tom Felleghy
rection is flat and perfunctory, with an annoying (Savara, the Attorney), Antonio Anelli (Hotel
72 1972: La morte

Owner), Marcello Di Martire (Commissioner whom he was about to leave, has been murdered.
De Carmine), Maily [Mathily] Doria (Irina, He asks for help from shady politician Magrini,
Giorgio’s wife), Fernando Cerulli (Judge Ma- who in turn enlists his lawyer Savara to find Dar-
grini), Franco Marletta (Malvestiti, the stage di- ica a temporary hideout since he has no alibi.
rector / Man in stag film), Lella Cattaneo (Hotel Savara takes Darica and the latter’s lover Liz to
Owner’s Wife), Alessandro Perrella, Carla a deserted hotel, where they will stay for a couple
Mancini (Girl answering the phone); uncredited: of days. Meanwhile, Magrini gets in touch with a
Eros Buttaglieri (Cop at crime scene), Caterina stage company for a mysterious plan. At the hotel,
Chiani (Woman in stag film). PROD: Agata Darica and Liz get bored and restless. Soon, their
Films (Rome); PM: Gianni Solitro; PS: Nicola seclusion is interrupted by a series of strange
Addario, Stefania Garratoni, Sergio Bellanti; events. The hotel’s former owner turns up unex-
APSe: Franco Bartoli. Country: Italy. Filmed at pectedly, and a series of seemingly supernatural
Rizzoli Studios (Rome). Running time: 88 min- events and murders take place. Darica becomes
utes (m. 240). Visa n. 60782 (8.10.172); Rating: convinced that the hotel is populated with ghosts.
V.M.18. Release date: 8.16.174 (?)1; Distribution: However, it turns out it was all part of Magrini’s
Regional. Domestic gross: unknown. Home plan to make him confess his wife’s murder. But
video: Futurama (VHS, Italy). Darica is not the culprit…
Rome. Upon returning home from Milan, Made a short while after the period Gothic
gangster Giorgio Darica finds out that his wife, Byleth (Il demone dell’incesto), and again pro-
duced by Agata Film (the com-
pany also responsible for Luigi
Russo’s unfinished sex-horror
Paura, made that same year),
Leopoldo Savona’s penultimate
film (originally to be titled La
morte scende leggera come un
ragno) was a mixture of differ-
ent genres, with an emphasis
on eroticism. At first glance, La
morte scende leggera looks like
a standard giallo: it opens in
modern-day Italy, with a POV
shot of a murderer coming into
a sleeping woman’s room and
dispatching her (offscreen, at
least in circulating prints). As
the protagonist, the menacing
gangster Darica (Jack Palance
lookalike Stelio Candelli, re-
placing Robert Woods in the
lead) asks for help from Mafi-
oso politician Magrini, the
script even throws in some bla-
tant commentary on the coun-
try’s corrupt politicians. The
early scenes look a bit like
something out of a Mafia
movie, not the least because the
politician is played by one of
Fernando Di Leo’s recurring
actors, the slimy-looking Fer-
nando Cerulli: people ex-
change phone calls in a chain
Italian poster for La morte scende leggera (1972). of power that goes from the
1972: La morte 73

powerful MP to a corrupt lawyer, a Mafia pic- disfatta (“The Undone Skein”—a reference to
ciotto, and ultimately the obedient executors, Paolo Lombardo’s Grand Guignol company, per-
each asking a favor (i.e. demanding it, in a men- haps?). Incidentally, the stage director, Malves-
acingly mellifluous tone) to someone lower in titi, is played by Franco Marletta, the same man
grade. seen in the “porn” clip.
As with most genre films of the era, the When strange and seemingly supernatural
makers’ main preoccupation is eroticism, and events start to take place at the hotel, then, even
the presence of Patrizia Viotti as Darica’s lover, the most naive viewer realizes that the comedi-
Liz, alerts the viewer that soon there will be ans might have something to do with them. That
plenty of bare female flesh in sight—which soon is not the case, however, with Darica, possible
happens. Secluded in a deserted hotel in the out- the most gullible Mafia killer ever portrayed on
skirts of Rome (incidentally, the same location screen: like the journalist played by Georges Riv-
glimpsed in a few scenes of La notte dei dannati, ière in Danza macabra he is just a powerless wit-
also starring Viotti), Darica and Liz soon find a ness who does not move a finger to intervene or
way to kill time, watching an 8mm stag film stop the events he sees, an attitude that comes
(amazingly, even if on the run the gangster off as forced and ridiculous, as does the gang-
found the time to bring over some diversions) ster’s psychological breakdown.
and indulging in a torrid lovemaking session. If Candelli, a supporting actor here playing
“But this is Italian!” the bewildered Liz says one of his rare leading roles, is a weak presence,
while watching the loop; “Italy produces more Patrizia Viotti is slightly more convincing than
[porn] than Sweden and Denmark combined” in La notte dei dannati, perhaps since the role
is Darica’s ironic answer, much more so if we makes her darker side come to the fore, in ad-
consider that the supposed stag film is actually dition to her body. Even though 172 was a
a clip from Savona’s own Byleth (il demone del- rather busy year for the actress, who appeared
l’incesto) featuring Caterina Chiani and Franco also in a couple of “Decamerotics” (Beffe, licenze
Marletta. The scene—which does not feature ex- et amori del Decamerone segreto and Decamer-
plicit sex—caused some trouble when the film one proibito), La morte scende leggera was one
was submitted to the board of censors, and was of her last film roles. In 174 Viotti appeared in
slightly shortened (with cuts for a total of 23 sec- the German comedy Charlys Nichten (a.k.a.
onds) to obtain a V.M.18 rating. Confession of a Sexy Photographer) directed by
It is only halfway through that La morte Walter Boos and unreleased in Italy. It was a
scende leggera turns into a sort of modern-day nondescript end to an all-too-brief film career,
remake of Danza macabra, as the hotel appears with a sad coda. On June 25, 175, Patrizia Viotti
to be haunted by ghosts who revive bloody was arrested for possession of drugs. She re-
events from the past, and seem to be rather will- mained in jail for 27 days before release, but her
ing to indulge in the pleasure of the flesh: “Come drug addiction led to another arrest, and to
into my arms. I am alive to love you!” a woman eleven more days in the pen, in November 184.
says to Darica, paraphrasing Barbara Steele’s Patrizia died at only 44, on August 24, 14.
most famous line in Margheriti’s film. The best In a movie hardly noteworthy on the tech-
thing about Luigi Russo and Savona’s script is nical side (d.o.p. Luciano Trasatti, of I vitelloni
precisely the injection of Gothic elements into fame, had long fallen out of grace and mostly
a contemporary, ordinary tale: the squalid hotel, worked on cheap productions), the opening
abandoned after a bankruptcy, becomes a song stands out: the fuzzy, doomy Sunday in
modern-day version of the haunted manor, and Neon Lights, performed by Ghana singer Mack
a vague anticipation of the Overlook Hotel in “Sigis” Porter, features inspired, Hendrix-like
The Shining. guitar work and sticks in the memory long after
However, it would have taken a far better the end credits have rolled. A black African
script and direction to make the story work, artist, born in Ghana during the English colonial
whereas Russo and Savona practically give away occupation, Porter moved to the Netherlands
the twist early on, as one of Magrini’s men, a and then to Italy in the late 160s. He released
stereotypical Mafioso with a thick Sicilian four pop and soul-oriented singles for the small
accent, is seen calling a theatrical company, aptly Neapolitan label Fans, and in 16 he won the
named “I Feretri” (The Coffins), that is about to “Un disco per l’Europa” song contest in Lugano,
stage a macabre mystery play called La matassa Switzerland.
74 1972: La notte dei diavoli

In 172 Porter recorded the concept album Manziana, Mazzano Romano (Rome) and at
Peace on You, characterized by a psych and D.E.A.R. Studios (Rome). Running time: 8 min-
slightly progressive mood and featuring an Ital- utes (m. 241). Visa n. 60050 (3.28.172); Rating:
ian backing band that included keyboardist V.M.14. Release date: 4.2.172. Distribution:
Vince Tempera from the prog combo Il Volo. P.A.C. Domestic gross: 156,686,000 lire. Also
Tempera would become one of Italy’s leading known as: La noche de los diablos (Spain;
authors and arrangers for TV and film. After his 6.25.173), La nuit des diables (France; 4.10.173),
musical career Porter stayed in Italy and became Akuma no hohoemi (Japan), Demonen der Nacht
a stylist under the name Mack Squire.2 (Netherlands), Djävulens natt (Sweden).
An inmate at a mental hospital, Nicola, tells
NoTeS his strange and frightening story to a doctor. After
1. According to the ANICA reference volumes, La his car broke down in the woods, Nicola took shel-
morte scende leggera was given a marginal release only in ter at a farmhouse near the Slovenian border.
August 174, after a two-year oblivion, but this bit of in- Soon he noticed that a strange atmosphere sur-
formation is debated, and there is chance that the movie rounded the place and its inhabitants: the whole
circulated earlier. Therefore, as with Ombre roventi, in the
absence of certain data, I have chosen to list the film as a
family, led by the elderly Gorka, seemed to be
172 release. under the influence of superstitious beliefs, and
2. The album was reissued by the German label Shadoks its members were terrified by a powerful witch
Music in 2006, in a limited pressing of 400 copies in vinyl. who could turn people into undead vampires.
After witnessing what he thought to be a murder,
La notte dei diavoli (The Night of the Dev- Nicola fled to report it to the authorities, but a re-
ils) tired detective convinced him that the murderous
D: Giorgio Ferroni. S: Eduardo Manzanos spell was real, prompting him to run back and
Brochero, based on the novelette Sem’ya vurda- save the young Sdenka, with whom Nicola had
laka by Aleksey Tolstoy. SC: Romano Migliorini, fallen in love. Nicola eventually discovered that
Giambattista Mussetto; DOP: Manuel Ber- all the members of Gorka’s family had been in-
enguer (Eastmancolor, Techniscope); M: Gior- fected, and barely managed to escape. Back at the
gio Gaslini; E: Gianmaria Messeri; ArtD: José asylum, Nicola receives a visit from Sdenka, whom
Luis Galicia, Jaime Pérez Cubero; CO: Elio he believes has turned into a monster as well…
Micheli; SD: Eugenio Liverani; MU: A. [Pieran- Over a decade after Il mulino delle donne
tonio] Mecacci, Adolfo Ponte; Hair: Júlia Gon- di pietra (160), Giorgio Ferroni returned to the
zález; AD: Gianni Siragusa, Mariano Canales; Gothic genre with a new version of Aleksey
PropM: Ginés Blanco; SE: Carlo Rambaldi; As- Konstantinovich Tolstoy’s novella The Family of
stSE: Carlo De Marchis; C, 2ndUD: Nino [Se- the Vourdalak, already adapted by Mario Bava
bastiano] Celeste; SP: Antonio Ortas; SS: Monica as an episode of I tre volti della paura. An Italian-
Mercatelli, Isabel Mulá. Cast: Gianni Garko [Gi- Spanish co-production, La notte dei diavoli was
anni Garkovich] (Nicola), Agostina Belli co-financed by Eduardo Manzanos Brochero’s
(Sdenka), Mark Roberts [Roberto Maldera] Copercines together with two Italian companies,
(Jovan), Cinzia De Carolis (Irina), Teresa Gim- Filmes and Due Emme: the latter had been
pera (Elena), William Vanders (Gorka Ciu- founded in 171 by Luigi Mariani and Roberto
velak), Umberto Raho (Doctor Tosi), Luis Maldera, who also played one of the main roles
Suárez (Vlado), Sabrina Tamborra (Mira), Rosa in the film.
Toros [Rosita Torosh] (Nurse), Stefano Op- Even though they retained many elements
pedisano (Male Nurse), Maria Monti (The from the story, scriptwriters Romano Migliorini
Witch); uncredited: John Bartha (Saw-Mill and Giambattista Mussetto (although Brochero
Owner), Tom Felleghy (Police Commissioner), was credited as co-scriptwriter, his contribution
Renato Turi (Kovacic, the Retired Detective), to the script—as with most of his credits in Ital-
Giovanni Petrazzi. PROD: Luigi Mariani and ian movies—was likely only nominal)1 made a
Eduardo Manzanos Brochero for Filmes Cine- number of decisive changes. In addition to fram-
matografica, Due Emme Cinematografica ing the story as one long flashback told by the
(Rome), Copercines, Cooperativa Cinemá- protagonist, they changed the Wurdalak’s
tografica (Madrid); PM: Solly V. Bianco; PA: gender, turning it into a woman, and devised a
Eugenio Silverano, Julián García de la Vega. modern-day setting, at the border between Italy
Country: Italy / Spain. Filmed in Bracciano, and Slovenia.
1972: La notte dei diavoli 75

An Italian fotobusta for La notte dei diavoli (1972), emphasizing the film’s gory content.

The horrific clash between modernity and a propaganda key in the documentary Ai
a rural environment was a typical element in margini della città (154), where he tried to show
many horror films of the period, particularly the how along the precarious border between the
so-called “American Gothic” titles of the 170s countryside and the suburbs there was still room
(from Deliverance to The Texas Chain Saw Mas- for a poetic portrayal of everyday life; here, he
sacre) and can be found also in a number of immerses the Gothic theme in a realistic con-
Spanish horror films of the decade, despite their text, developing Tolstoy’s story in an environ-
foreign setting: a case in point is León Klimov- ment comparable to that of any rural depopu-
sky’s La orgía nocturna de los vampiros (173). lated Italian area, amid abandoned farmhouses
The main intuition of Ferroni’s film is that, even and poor families still characterized by a rigid
before they become undead, Gorka and his fam- patriarchy in which the woman is a passive and
ily are already ghosts from a world that does not silent presence. The result is not far in spirit
exist anymore, the remnants of a rural civiliza- from the harsh portrayal of Southern Italy as
tion wiped away by urbanization—the same sce- seen in Lucio Fulci’s Non si sevizia un paperino
nario evoked by realist dramas such as La grande (172). As in Fulci’s film, this world is seen
scrofa nera (172, Filippo Ottoni), here revised through the eyes of an outsider, a dealer whose
in a Fantastic key. rational, concrete vision is undermined by the
“Out here life is hard and the rewards are confrontation with such an unexplored, forgot-
small. In the city it’s the opposite. The younger ten reality.
generation likes money. They don’t want to Gorka and his family are the obstinate sur-
break their backs for practically nothing. They vivors of a rural world that keeps rejecting civ-
want the good life,” Jovan (Roberto Maldera) ex- ilization and its benefits, seen as an element of
plains to the protagonist, played by Gianni disruption and contagion. When he sarcastically
Garko, commenting on the ongoing exodus claims that the only good thing he learned dur-
from the countryside. A former documentarist, ing military service was how to fix cars, Jovan
Ferroni had depicted the same phenomenon in rejects the alleged social and educational value
76 1972: La notte dei diavoli

of conscription, that rips young people away delle donne di pietra: the budget does not allow
from their land and family; and when Sdenka for stylish embellishments, but the director
(Agostina Belli) confesses to the incredulous makes good use of the woods and the dilapi-
Nicola that she has never watched TV in her dated country farms and huts, with some strik-
whole life, the cultural hiatus between the two ing shots. One such is the first appearance of the
worlds becomes blatant. The germ that infects two kids, seen behind a window that frames
and corrodes this microcosm comes from the them like in a portrait, looking straight at the
outside, from the civilization that corrupts the camera: a truly Bava-esque moment. The gory
impermeability of the family and ultimately scenes are surprisingly savage: Ferroni embraces
turns its members against each other: just like graphic horror with plenty of gruesome gory ef-
the witch that seduced Gorka’s brother, turning fects—stakes driven through hearts and faces
him into a vampire, the city dealer played by Gi- that melt like wax—courtesy of Carlo Rambaldi.
anni Garko is not only the witness of a tragedy— The versions aimed at foreign markets included
the dissolution of Gorka’s family—but a factor additional splatter effects (an exploding head,
that accelerates its destruction. In a way, then, an eviscerated heart) and nude bits during the
Nicola is yet another version of the “visitor” em- opening sequence, as part of Nicola’s hallucina-
bodied by Terence Stamp in Teorema. tions.3 On the other hand, the apparitions of the
The implosion of family veered in a horror witch—filmed in slow-motion, pale and with
key in the climax of Ferroni’s film can be com- silent movie-like moves—recall certain Spanish
pared to the one showed by George A. Romero horror flicks of the period such as La noche de
in Night of the Living Dead (168): in the film’s Walpurgis (170, León Klimovsky), and are very
most atrocious and shocking scene, a little girl evocative: d.o.p. Manuel Berenguer used pe-
(Cinzia De Carolis) attacks her own mother culiar black-and-white filters for the night
(Teresa Gimpera), biting her and ripping her scenes, in order to obtain a suggestive atmos-
chest—a moment lifted from Tolstoy’s story, phere. Giorgio Gaslini’s score is another asset.
which nevertheless here acquires a savage The film was shot in five weeks, in late 171
power, after Romero’s film broke down the bar- and early 172, near the Bracciano lake in the
riers of what could be shown in a horror pic.2 Lazio region (which nevertheless makes for a
Similarly, Nicola’s desperate escape from the convincing Yugoslavian setting), at a hunting
monsters by car is another scene reinvented lodge owned by the proprietors of the Odescal-
from the literary source and fit to accommodate chi castle. It was assistant director Gianni Sira-
the taste for blood and gore, which also pays ref- gusa who suggested Agostina Belli, with whom
erence to Romero’s debut. he had worked on Lina Wertmüller’s Mimì Met-
Vampirism is never mentioned explicitly: allurgico ferito nell’onore (172), for the role of
in order to make the film more akin to the cur- Sdenka. Led by Gianni Garko, who was trying
rent trends, the victims of the contagion are to renew his image after his success in 160s
called “living dead,” and the vampire sorceress Westerns, the cast also featured the Spanish
herself is a hybrid, a chilling corruptor whose Teresa Gimpera (Craig Hill’s wife) and the child
nature is elusive. The umpteenth “witch” figure actress Cinzia De Carolis, very popular in Italy
in Italian Gothic, played by stage actress Maria after her roles in the TV movie Anna dei mira-
Monti, is devoid of the seductive allure of those coli (168) and Dario Argento’s Il gatto a nove
embodied by Barbara Steele but is nevertheless code (171). De Carolis would become an accom-
imbued with a sexual power that becomes the plished voice actress, and sporadically returned
key to erode the family core: she is a wild, lib- to the sets: one embarassing occasion was the
erating force which destroys the patriarchal fam- trashy erotic drama Libidine (17), in which she
ily values. On top of that, the narrative frame played alongside Marina Hedman, Ajita Wilson,
set in an asylum denotes an antipsychiatric and and a python.
anti-institutional vein that recalls the political At the time of the filming, the 63-year-old
horror movies of the period. Ferroni was almost completely deaf, and could
Despite some poor dialogue and perform- direct the movie only with the help of a hearing
ances, as well as the time-saving use of zooms, aid; cameraman Nino Celeste directed a second
the result is quite interesting, if not fully suc- unit for a number of night scenes, including part
cessful. Ferroni’s mise-en-scène is poles apart of Nicola’s escape by car. Even though around
from the languid charm displayed in Il mulino the time of La notte dei diavoli’s release news-
1972: Tutti i colori 77

papers announced another project with him be- Fenech (Jane Harrison), Ivan Rassimov (Mark
hind the camera, the evocatively titled E i mostri Cogan), Julián Ugarte (Jerome McBride),
uscirono dalle loro tane (And the Monsters Came George Rigaud (Dr. Burton), Maria Cumani
Out of Their Lair),4 Ferroni helmed only one Quasimodo (Elderly Neighbor), Susan Scott
more film—the comedy Antonio e Placido: at- [Nieves Navarro] (Barbara Harrison), Marina
tenti ragazzi … chi rompe paga, signed as “Calvin Malfatti (Mary Well), Alan Collins [Luciano
Jackson Padget” like his 160s Westerns—in Pigozzi] (Franciscus Clay), Dominique
175, before retiring. He died in 181. Boschero (Jane’s Mother), Lisa Leonardi (Girl
Tolstoy’s story was filmed again in 175, by with dog), Renato Chiantoni (Mr. Main), Tom
the Spanish film director José Antonio Paramo, Felleghy (Inspector Smith), Vera Drudi (Night-
as La familia Vourdalak, a 60-minute movie that mare Woman), Carla Mancini, Gianni Pulone;
was part of the TV series El quinto jinete, uncredited: Sergio Martino (Journalist/Police-
starring Charo López as Sdenka. Ferroni’s film man). PROD: Mino Loy and Luciano Martino
was also the inspiration for issue #21 of the for Lea Film, National Cinematografica (Rome),
adults-only comic Oltretomba gigante, La C.C. Astro (Madrid); PM: Fabio Diotallevi; UM:
maledizione dei Wurdalak, published in Feb- Franco Fogagnolo, Floriano Trenker. Country:
ruary 175 by Edifumetto. Italy/Spain. Filmed on location in London, West
Sussex (U.K.) and at Incir-De Paolis Studios
NoTeS (Rome); Running time: 4 minutes (m. 2570);
Visa n. 5784 (2.24.172); Rating: V.M.14. Release
1. Romano Migliorini had previously collaborated with
Roberto Natale on the script for a couple of Gothics di- date: 2.28.172; Distribution: Interfilm. Domestic
rected by Massimo Pupillo, 5 tombe per un medium and Il gross: 24,470,000 lire. Also known as: Day of
boia scarlatto (both 165), as well as on Bava’s Operazione the Maniac; Demons of the Dead; They’re Coming
paura; they would work again with Bava (uncredited) on to Get You! (U.S.A.; 8.13.176); Todos los colores
Lisa e il diavolo. Moreover, he and Mussetto penned a num-
ber of scripts together, such as Bandidos (168, Massimo
de la oscuridad (Spain; 8.27.173); Toutes les
Dallamano), Omicidio per vocazione (168, Vittorio Sin- couleurs du vice; L’alliance invisible (France;
doni), Freda’s A doppia faccia, and the ultra-violent rape- 1.3.174); Todas as Cores do Medo (Brazil); Todas
and-revenge flick La settima donna (178, Franco Pros- as Cores da Escuridão (Portugal).
peri). Note: Carla Mancini and Gianni Pulone,
2. The image was reprised, albeit in a grotesque way, in
a notorious scene of Andrea Bianchi’s Le notti del terrore although credited, do not appear in the film.
(181). Due to a childhood trauma (she witnessed
3. These gory and nude bits are retained in the copy the murder of her mother), exacerbated by a
presented in the Raro DVD and Blu-ray. recent car accident that caused her a miscarriage,
4. Anonymous, “‘Catturata’ dal cinema,” Corriere della
Sera, March , 172. The movie was slated to star Angela
Jane Harrison is plagued by nightmares which af-
Brambati, the singer from the pop band Ricchi e Poveri. fect her sex life with her partner, Richard. Her
fears seem to have materialized, assuming the ap-
pearance of an unknown blue-eyed assassin that
Tutti i colori del buio (All the Colors of the pursues her relentlessly, armed with a dagger. Fol-
Dark) lowing her sister Barbara’s advice, Jane turns to
D: Sergio Martino. S: Santiago Moncada; a psychiatrist, Dr. Burton, and starts a series of
SC: Ernesto Gastaldi, Sauro Scavolini; DOP: Gi- therapy sessions. Meanwhile, she makes the ac-
ancarlo Ferrando, Miguel Fernández Mila quaintance of Mary, a mysterious young woman
(Technochrome, Techniscope); M: Bruno Nico- who has recently moved into her own condo, and
lai (Ed. Gemelli); E: Eugenio Alabiso; PD: Jaime who introduces her to a cult of Satan worshipers.
Pérez Cubero, José Luís Galicia; SD: Giorgio The new experience upsets Jane’s mind even more,
Bertolini; CO: Giulia Mafai; MU: Giuseppe Fer- as she is apparently forced to kill Mary during a
rante; Hair: Iolanda Conti; AD: Francisco Ro- ritual. After Dr. Burton and an old couple to
driguez Fernández, Vittorio Caronia; C: Bruno whom the doctor had entrusted Jane are found
Pellegrini; AC: Adolfo Troiani; ACO: Silvio Lau- murdered, Richard and the police are able to iden-
renzi; SP: Francesco Narducci; AE: Amedeo Mo- tify the participants in the black masses and arrest
riani; SO: Bruno Zanoli; Mix: Bruno Moreal; SP: them. Jane’s nightmares were the result of a dia-
Francesco Narducci; SS: Mirella Roy [Mirella bolical conspiracy…
Malatesta]. English version: Lewis E. Ciannelli. Following the success of Lo strano vizio
Cast: George Hilton (Richard Steele), Edwige della signora Wardh and La coda dello scorpione
78 1972: Tutti i colori

(both 171), the third giallo written by Ernesto the typical female Gothic heroine, who is “si-
Gastaldi1 for Sergio Martino revolved again multaneously a victim and an investigator of a
around a typical whodunit mystery, but at the haunting that is caused by anxieties about trans-
same time it emphasized extraneous and irra- gressive sexuality,”2 Jane remains a thoroughly
tional elements, which turned the movie into an passive figure.
out-and-out Gothic hybrid. The writer intro- Gastaldi keeps the story firmly anchored
duced a Satanic conspiracy theme borrowed to a rational scheme: the plot against Jane is or-
from Rosemary’s Baby which pushed the story chestrated by the surprise villain for strictly
into “female Gothic” territory: Edwige Fenech monetary reasons, and the Satanic subplot turns
plays a modern-day damsel in distress, a weak- out to be a scam. “It was a film against paranor-
willed woman persecuted by her own sexual mal beliefs which was taken by many for a film
fears (embodied, similarly to Lo strano vizio in favor of those beliefs.”3 But the visuals plunge
della signora Wardh, by the character played by it into the realm of Gothic from the very
Ivan Rassimov)—even though, compared with opening shot, the image of a lake at sundown
where the sounds of na-
ture convey a subtle ee-
rieness that explodes into
a grotesque nightmarish
vision: in a rarefied, the-
atrical space, with sparse
white furniture standing
out on a black back-
ground, three different fe-
male figures—a pregnant
woman on a gynecology
table, another (Do-
minique Boschero) in a
bed and an elderly,
grotesque “living doll”—
are murdered by a blue-
eyed man; the scene is fol-
lowed by a breathless
camera car shot across a
desolate country road, in
negative, which ends
against a tree trunk. The
result is a tad dated and
definitely heavy-handed
in its use of Freudian
symbols paired with
weird wide-angle shots,
but quite effective
nonetheless. Similarly, the
satanic rituals—accompa-
nied by Bruno Nicolai’s
prog-influenced score,
spiced with sitars and fe-
male chants—feel more
than a bit kitschy (and
with a nod to contempo-
raneous adults-only
comics), with the system-
outstanding Spanish poster for Tutti i colori del buio (1972). Art by Fran- atic use of the wide-angle
cisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, a.k.a. “Jano.” lens to emphasize the dis-
1972: Tutti i colori 7

gusting menace, as the cultists’ leering faces ap- Ugarte as the sect’s high priest is felicitous,
proach poor Jane in eager anticipation of the whereas Luciano Pigozzi is given little to do ex-
orgy that will follow. cept looking menacing as usual. Given the pres-
Interestingly, in the final scenes Gastaldi ence of Fenech as well as other ravishing ladies
adds a genuine paranormal touch to the story such as Susan Scott and Marina Malfatti, the di-
that further enhances the Gothic angle and al- rector does not stint on eroticism either, and—
lows for an effective twist ending, as Jane has a a testimony to the makers’ shrewdness—one key
foresight of events to come via a premonitory clue to the solution is handed to the viewer dur-
dream (also characterized by extreme wide- ing a nude scene. Predictably, the board of cen-
angle shots that distort perspectives). It is yet sors asked for the erotic scenes between Hilton
another example of how the giallo’s rational core and Fenech to be trimmed before giving the
allowed for irrational elements, that would ul- movie a V.M.14 rating.
timately take the upper hand in works such as Gastaldi followed a similar route with his
Profondo rosso. next script for Martino, Il tuo vizio è una stanza
Tutti i colori del buio (a title Gastaldi took chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (172), by
from a sci-fi paperback in the Urania series4) is blending a typical family intrigue à la Les dia-
at its most effective when it plays with the con- boliques (155, Henri-Georges Clouzot) with a
trast between the heroine’s drab existence and subplot and an ending lifted from Edgar Allan
her escapist desires, which lead to her embracing Poe’s The Black Cat: however, unlike Tutti i colori
black magic as a way to leave behind the boring del buio, the Gothic elements played more as an
ordinariness of middle-class life, as opposed to embellishment to a story firmly rooted in giallo,
the rational path to explore the unconscious and and overall less convincingly handled.
its traumas through psychoanalysis. All this is Tutti i colori del buio circulated overseas in
underlined by the striking English locations, the a trimmed version, released by Sam Sherman’s
gloomy condo where Jane lives, and the decay- company Independent International under the
ing magnificence of the castle where the Satanic title They’re Coming to Get You!, featuring a new
sect performs its rituals.5 credit sequence designed by Bob Le Bar. It also
The best thing about Martino’s film is pre- surfaced on TV as Demons of the Dead. It was
cisely the ability to catch the irrational dissatis- finally released in the U.S. in its uncut version
faction that creeps under the façade of a rational to home video.
society, something that Polanski portrayed mas-
terfully, but which here becomes a trait d’union
with the many dramas about married couples
that are no longer able to communicate sexually: 1. Although the script is credited to Gastaldi and Sauro
within Italian cinema of the period, a theme Scavolini, from a story by Santiago Moncada, Gastaldi
such as marital unhappiness—a recurring topic claims to have written it on his own. “Moncada was only
a name for co-production reasons, and perhaps Scavolini
in Gastaldi’s work, as proven also by his own may have done a revision or a reading, I don’t know. But I
movies as a director, such as Libido (165) and never worked with him on the script.” Ernesto Gastaldi,
La lunga spiaggia fredda (171)—could turn up email interview with the author, September 2016.
either in an auteur film or a genre product, from 2. Misha Kavka, “The Gothic on Screen,” in Jerrold E.
Hogle (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction
Antonioni to giallo, without losing its edge. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 21.
Here, the heroine’s last line, “I’m afraid I’m not 3. Ernesto Gastaldi, email interview with the author,
myself anymore … help me…,” is both an ad- September 2016.
mission of her detachment from the rational 4. Tim Lucas, “What Are Those Strange Drops of Blood
world and a call for help to her man, in one of in the Scripts of Ernesto Gastaldi?,” Video Watchdog #3,
May/June 17, 46. The book Gastaldi mentions is Lloyd
the most problematic reconciliatory happy end- Biggle Jr.’s 163 novel All the Colors of Darkness, the first
ings seen in an Italian genre film of the period. in the Jan Darzek cycle, published as Tutti i colori del buio,
The paranoia mood is well-handled Urania #335, May 164.
throughout, and Martino employs convincingly 5. The condo is Kenilworth Court, in West Putney, Lon-
don, whereas the castle is Wykehurst Place, in West Sussex,
his leading man, George Hilton, in a role that a Gothic Revival mansion seen in a number of movies, in-
remains ambiguous almost until the end; what cluding Demons of the Mind (172, Peter Sykes) and Legend
is more, the casting of the eerie-looking Julián of Hell House (173, John Hough).
80 1973: Flesh

Flesh for Frankenstein, a.k.a. Il mostro è in misunderstanding, Frankenstein ends up decap-
tavola, barone … Frankenstein itating Sacha, a prospective monk who was taken
D: Paul Morrissey [Italian version: Anthony to the brothel by his friend, the sexually hyperac-
M. Dawson [Antonio Margheriti]]. S and SC: tive peasant Nicholas. The latter survives the at-
Paul Morrissey [Italian version: Tonino Guerra, tack and is summoned to the castle by Franken-
from an idea by Paul Morrissey]; DOP: Luigi stein’s wife (and sister) Katrin, who uses him to
Kuveiller (Space-Vision 3-D, Eastmancolor, LV- satisfy her carnal appetites. Nicholas discovers the
Luciano Vittori); M: Claudio Gizzi (Ed. R.C.A.); baron’s experiments and sneaks in the lab, but is
E: Jed Johnson [Italian version: Franca Silvi]; PD, captured by the doctor. Frankenstein’s plans are
CO: Enrico Job; ArtD: Gianni Giovagnoni; MU: destined to disaster, though: Katrin succumbs
Mario Di Salvio; SE: Carlo Rambaldi [and An- after intercourse with the monster, and Otto de-
tonio Margheriti]; Hair: Paolo Franceschi; AD: stroys the female creature while attempting to
Paolo Pietrangeli; 2ndUD: Antonio Margheriti; have sex with her. The baron kills his assistant,
C: Ubaldo Terzano; SO: Carlo Palmieri; B: Piero but when he orders the male creature to dispatch
Fondi; SOE: Roberto Arcangeli; Mix: Fausto An- Nicholas, the latter rebels and murders Franken-
cillai; 3-D consultant: Robert V. Bernier; SP: stein in gruesome fashion. The creature then com-
Paolo Pettini; ACO: Benito Persico; AE: Loretta mits suicide by disemboweling himself. But
Mattioli; SS: Silvia Petroni. Cast: Joe Dallesandro Nicholas is not safe yet: the baron’s children seem
(Nicholas), Monique Van Vooren (Katrin Frank- all too happy to follow their father’s experiments…
enstein), Udo Kier (Baron von Frankenstein), The names of Paul Morrissey and Joe
Arno Juerging (Otto), Dalila Di Lazzaro (Female Dallesandro gained notoriety in Italy in early
monster), Srdjan Zelenovic [Italian version: 172, when Trash (170) was released (Heat and
Aleksic Miomir] (Sacha), Nicoletta Elmi Flesh wuld follow a few years later, namely in
(Marika / Diastola), Marco Liofredi (Erik / Sis- 175 and 178). The Italian version, distributed
tolo). Liù Bosisio (Olga), Fiorella Masselli (Large by Alberto Grimaldi’s company P.E.A., was cu-
prostitute), Cristina Gaioni (Nicholas’ girl- rated by Dacia Maraini and Pier Paolo Pasolini,
friend), Rosita Torosh (Sonia, the prostitute), who supervised respectively the dubbing and
Carla Mancini (Farmer girl), Imelde Marani the dialogue, and employed unprofessional voice
(Blonde prostitute). PROD: Andrew Braunsberg actors with heavy dialectal accents. The board
and Carlo Ponti for Compagnia Cinemato- of censors banned the movie for obscenity due
grafica Champion (Rome); PM: Mara Blasetti; to the foul language, the bleak depiction of drug
PA: Vasco Mafera; PAcc: Maurizio Anticoli. use, and especially the abundant sex (including
Country: Italy / France. Filmed in Passerano Holly Woodlawn’s infamous masturbation with
(Rome) and at Cinecittà Studios (Rome). Run- a bottle) and nudity.
ning time: 5 minutes (Italian version: 8 min- Pasolini’s Il Decameron had broken the bar-
utes—m. 2448). Visa n. 64264 (3.28.174); Rat- rier of male genitals on screen in a mainstream
ing: V.M.18. Release dates: 11.30.173 (West picture, but Morrissey’s constant resort to Dalle-
Germany); 3.17.174 (U.S.A.); 3.15.175 (Italy); sandro’s apollonian body and the recurrent sight
Distribution: Gold Film (Italy); Bryanston Pic- of the actor’s pubic area were nothing short of
tures (U.S.A.). Domestic gross: 345,023,314 lire. scandalous in a country that was just getting
Also known as: Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein used to female nudity on screen. Undoubtedly,
(U.S.A.; Germany); Chair pour Frankenstein the presence of Pasolini as a supervisor of the
(France); Carne para Frankenstein (Spain, Ar- Italian version emphasized the transgressive
gentina). quality of Morrissey’s film to the eyes of the cen-
Baron von Frankenstein is obsessed with cre- sors, since the director of Accattone (161) was
ating a perfect Serbian race by assembling a pair the target of trials and controversy for his own
of perfect male and female creatures from parts work, and the controversial fame that preceded
of corpses and having them mate. To do so, he Andy Warhol’s Factory did the rest.
and his servant Otto seek a head donor with a The ban caused a sensation, with ample
powerful libido at the nearby brothel: due to a coverage in the media, and the intervention of
1973: Flesh 81

Baron Frankenstein (Udo Kier) contemplates his female creature (Dalila Di Lazzaro) in Paul Morrissey’s
Flesh for Frankenstein (1973).

eminent cultural personalities such as novelist most absurd offer I could ever imagine,” Mor-
Alberto Moravia. The controversy centered on rissey commented.3
the film’s artistic quality, and underlined the That such an anarchistic, commercially
backward-minded approach of the censors’ challenging project ever got made gives an idea
committees, at a time where the public’s taste of the adventurousness of the Italian movie in-
and sensibility were undergoing big changes. dustry of the period, where even the oft-quoted
Grimaldi resubmitted the movie in October 172 “fifteen minutes of fame” were sufficient to con-
with the new title 1 Trash i rifiuti di New York vince a producer to concoct a movie around
(Trash—New York’s garbage) and a number of something or somebody. But Morrissey actually
cuts and changes: Dallesandro’s nude scenes managed to persuade Ponti to make two movies,
were either cut or altered (and partly obscured) the second one being a Dracula spoof, for the
by way of optical reframings, and new footage cost of $350,000 each and a shooting schedule
was added in place of the missing scenes. The of three and a half weeks per film. Despite his
movie finally obtained a V.M.18 rating.2 name being amply featured on both films, Andy
The following year Morrissey and Dalle- Warhol did not put in a penny with his own
sandro came to Italy to shoot a movie with Carlo company, and had practically nothing to do with
Ponti and Andrew Braunsberg’s money and the concept, the filming and the final result.
Andy Warhol’s nominal aegis. The original idea To film the story (deposited at Rome’s SIAE
came through Roman Polanski, whom Morris- offices on January 24, 173, with the title La
sey met during a promotional tour in Europe, famiglia Frankenstein), Ponti and Braunsberg
and who was shooting his movie Che? (172) in gave the American filmmaker a first-rate tech-
Italy. Originally Polanski was to shoot it in 3-D nical crew to begin with. It included Luigi Ku-
but abandoned the idea; nevertheless he and the veiller as the d.o.p., Enrico Job as production
producers were toying with the idea of a 3-D designer (note the exquisite Klimt-like mosaics
horror spoof. “Polanski thought that I, for some on the wall of Frankenstein’s lab), pianist
reason, would be a natural person to make a 3- Claudio Gizzi (who provided an eerily romantic
D film about Frankenstein. I thought it was the score4) and Carlo Rambaldi, who took care of
82 1973: Flesh

the extra-gory special effects. The film was shot Margheriti’s recollections are often at odds
with the 3-D process Space-Vision, which Mor- with Morrissey’s, such as when he claimed that
rissey employed not only to highlight the gory his American colleague “was afraid that it all
excesses, exposing viscera to the camera and so would become too ‘gamey’ and not enough
on, but also for the sex scenes, giving ample ‘film-vérité,’”  a statement which clashes with
prominence to Joe Dallesandro’s buttocks: “I saw Morrissey’s irreverent intentions. “Paul offered
3-D as the ultimate of all absurdities,” the direc- a certain resistence because he perceived these
tor claimed. “Horror movies themselves are ab- things as artificial, because he was used at mak-
surd, but 3-D itself is totally absurd.”5 ing another kind of cinema … whereas, with
In addition to the Factory’s homemade su- great immediacy, Andy understood that this
perstar, the cast comprised a varied list of names, double game of … ironic fiction, would allow
including Udo Kier (“Udo always seemed like him to do all that the characters will do in the
he had a face from another planet,” Morrissey movie … the work I did has remained in the
noted), the debuting Arno Juerging, the stun- movie; in fact, maybe Andy felt a rush of regret
ning Dalila Di Lazzaro and the weird-looking for not having followed me in a couple more
Monique Van Vooren, a former Belgian night- ideas.”10
club artist and Warhol’s personal friend. At first The Italian filmmaker’s mention of War-
the director sought to rely on the improvisa- hol’s active participation in the movie (whereas
tional method of his earlier films, giving the cast it is a known fact that the artist only visited the
carte blanche for their dialogue; but after finding set once and briefly stopped by during the edit-
out that this would not work with non–Anglo- ing, and when asked about his contribution he
Saxon actors like Kier, Morrissey started prepar- simply answered: “I go to the parties”11) makes
ing the dialogue day by day, dictating it to Pat one suspect that Margheriti was somewhat ex-
Hackett on his way to the studio.6 aggerating his contribution. The core of the
Shooting began on March 20, 173. In movie—its approach to the story and characters,
order to obtain Italian nationality, and the en- its peculiar and idiosyncratic humor, its
suing benefits of law, in official papers the di- directing style (see the long dinner sequences,
rection was credited to Anthony M. Dawson, or Frankenstein’s monologues) are purely Mor-
a.k.a. Antonio Margheriti, with Morrissey as rissey, and Margheriti’s contribution can there-
“supervisor,” whereas the script figured as the fore be circumscribed to the opening sequence
work of the famed screenwriter Tonino Guerra, (similar to the one in La morte negli occhi del
“from an idea by Paul Morrissey.” Needless to gatto) and others featuring the kids, including
say, the American director never even met the one where they are scared by bats in the cas-
Guerra, whose contribution was limited to the tle’s cellar and another that appears in the Italian
Italian adaptation. version only, with Marika and Erik feeding the
Morrissey minimized Margheriti’s contri- fish in the tank with a severed hand (“That all
bution: “He did two second units, one day on came from me, 100%, and I shot them after prin-
each film.”7 On his part, the Italian director re- cipal photography was completed…” 12). The
called: Italian director went so far as considering the
parts with Nicoletta Elmi and Marco Liofredi
I really directed a lot. I got involved because, when the core of the movie. “The children are vital to
Paul Morrissey came to Rome to start with Andy the story; the things they see, how they move,
Warhol’s Frankenstein, they arrived with four pages the crystals, the surgical instruments hanging
of script and they wanted to shoot a 3-D picture the in the air … in my opinion they allow us to show
way they had done with movies like Flesh: with a other things that otherwise would have resulted
camera standing in one corner running for 10
… a bit ‘Deodato-like,’ very vulgar and violent,
minutes without a cut and that’s it! Not the best idea
and which this way become ironic, almost
when using a technique such as 3-D. Carlo Ponti in-
troduced me to Paul Morrissey because he didn’t
gamely, the ironic presentation of a story.”13 And
want to shoot a period film with costumes, good ac- yet, the ending (similar in tone to the epilogue
tors and rich sets with that technique. Ponti is a real of Bava’s Reazione a catena, where the children
producer and he wasn’t interested in backing an un- kept playing the gruesome games they had seen
derground film … a lot of the scenes had to be rewrit- adult people play…) seems the work of Morris-
ten for the script, or entirely invented, and that was sey.
all up to me.8 Margheriti also took care of the special ef-
1973: Flesh 83

fects, such as the “breathing lungs,” made with necrophiliac implications; considering that these
pig’s lungs, an idea that came from the director’s scenes are, in their inseparable whole, the means
own I diafanoidi vengono da Marte (166), as by which the author has accomplished his idea,
well as some of the gory bits, which too were it would be fair to say that without them the
shot after principal filming had been wrapped movie itself would become incomprehensible
and Morrissey was already busy making Blood and would have no reason for being, particularly
for Dracula. “I shot a lot of the special effect given the ambitious nature of the theme, treated
scenes with the blood and intestines bursting in with a renewed conception and vitality.”
the direction of the audience…. You can actually A month later the distributor submitted a
see me in Frankenstein: when the male zombie new version, entitled Il mostro è in tavola, barone
destroys himself at the end and rips his intes- … Frankenstein (The Monster Is Served, Baron
tines out, those are my hands. I prepared and … Frankenstein), which presented a number of
staged the effect. I have a stiff finger, which I cuts and alterations. Namely:
broke when I was young, which is kind of like a
signature.”14 • The scene in the brothel was almost completely
Contrary to what has been stated else- eliminated, leaving only the parts essential to the un-
where, Flesh for Frankenstein was not shown in- derstanding of the narrative developments;
tact in Italy. It was submitted to the board of cen- • The scene in which the baron operates on the
sors as Carne per Frankenstein in January 174. sutures of the “female monster” has been reduced to
a mere suggestion and replaced with new ambient
This version (running 2583 metres, that is ap-
proximately 4m0s) presented a number of im-
• The love scene between the baron and the “fe-
portant differences from the American cut, male monster” has been wholly excised; in a number
starting with the line “un film di Andy Warhol” of points various scenes featuring the children have
(a film by Andy Warhol) as a bait and switch. been added;
The sex scene between Nicholas and the baron- • A long dialogue scene between the baron and
ess while Frankenstein is spying on them behind his assistant has been added;
the mirror was shot in a tamer version for the • All the love scenes between the baroness and
Italian market, with Dallesandro and Van Vooren the butler have been considerably shortened and sim-
partially dressed in bed; on the other hand, plified;
Otto’s disemboweling of the maid featured a • All the most horrifying bits have been removed
gory shot of the woman’s open torso, with Otto from the scene of the killing of the housekeeper;
commenting “S’è rotta!” (“She’s broken!”) before • The love scene between the baroness and the
monster has been shortened;
she falls dead, which is absent in the U.S. ver-
• The whole final sequence (Otto’s death, the
baron’s mutilation and death, the monster’s death)
The movie met a similar fate as Trash. Mor- has been completely re-edited in order to remove
rissey’s mixture of grotesque humor, sex and whenever possible the horrific details, leaving only
gory effects prompted the committee to deny it what is essential to the understanding of the story.
a visa, since “the scenes of violence of a sexual • On top of that, there have been substantial
nature, the sadistic and severely insane coupling changes to all the dialogue, highlighting the film’s
between the baron and the ‘monster woman,’ the caricatural and grotesque tone.
prolonged erotic scenes between the baroness
and her servant Nicholas, the ugly and heavily The latter observation seems to imply that
erotic scenes in the brothel, and the gruesome the grating Italian dubbing, which featured de-
attempt at sexual coupling on the part of Otto batable “humorous” additions, was concocted
with the ‘monster woman,’ (all this in an inces- subsequently. For one thing, Frankenstein’s chil-
tuous family environment) constitute a grave of- dren Erik and Marika were renamed “Sistolo”
fense to morality.”15 and “Diastola” (after the heart valves, systole and
Despite the distributor’s willingness to per- diastole). On some occasions the dialogue is
form cuts, the committee banned the film in ap- completely different from the original: for in-
peal too. The motivation, however, for once stance, in the first dinner sequence, in the En-
aimed at safeguarding the movie’s artistic in- glish version Frankenstein and the baroness talk
tegrity, stating that “in its unitary conception it about their parents, from which we realize they
features scenes of eroticism interspersed with are brother and sister; in the Italian one they dis-
others of delusional and bloody sadism with cuss about their children’s sadistic habits, such
84 1973: Lisa

as torturing small animals. Needless to say, the 8. Peter Blumenstock, “Margheriti—The Wild, Wild
scene’s absurdist humor gets lost. Similarly, the Interview,” Video Watchdog #28, May / June 15, 57.
9. Marcello Garofalo, “La tecnica e gli effetti. Le inter-
film’s most famous line, Frankenstein’s oft- viste celibi: Antonio Margheriti 2,” Segnocinema #85, May
quoted “To know death, Otto, you have to fuck / June 17, .
life in the gall bladder”—a low blow to one of 10. Ibid.
Morrissey’s most hated movies, Bernardo Ber- 11. Talbot, “Monsters for Morrissey,” 23.
12. Blumenstock, “Margheriti—The Wild, Wild Inter-
tolucci’s Ultimo tango a Parigi (172) 16—be- view,” 57.
comes, in the Italian version, “Per vincere la par- 13. Garofalo, “La tecnica e gli effetti,” .
tita con la vita, giocala col morto!” (To win the 14. Blumenstock, “Margheriti—The Wild, Wild Inter-
game of cards with life, play it with the dead!”)17 view,” 57.
The Italian dubbing is also over the top, making 15. The censorship data are taken from Curti and Di
Rocco, Visioni proibite—I film vietati dalla censura italiana
Frankenstein’s lines often sound much more de- (dal 1969 a oggi), 240–245.
mented than in Kier’s quiet delivery; Otto, who 16. Marlon Brando’s original line in Bertolucci’s film
in the original version is totally submissive to was: “You don’t know death until you fuck life up the ass.”
the baron, becomes rather arrogant; Olga utters 17. Literally, “giocare col morto” means “to play with
the dummy player.”
guttural verses. The “various scenes featuring
the children” that were added actually amounted
to the “fish feeding” bit and a brief shot of the Lisa e il diavolo (Lisa and the Devil)
kids spying on the final massacre. D: Mario Bava. S and SC: Mario Bava, Al-
The new version was 2448 metres long (ap- fred Leone (international version); Giorgio
proximately 88m13s). The substantial amount Maulini, Romano Migliorini, Roberto Natale
of manipulations (including a new title devised [and Francesca Rusicka] (Italian version); DOP:
to emphasize the movie’s essence as a spoof ) Cecilio Paniagua (Technicolor); M: Carlo
granted Il mostro è in tavola, barone … Franken- Savina, conducted by the author; E: Carlo Reali;
stein a visa, albeit with a V.M.18 rating. PD, CO: Nedo Azzini; SD: Rafael Ferri; AD:
The movie was eventually released in Italy Lamberto Bava; C: Emilio Varriano; AC: Gianni
one year later, in March 175, to mediocre busi- Modica [Giovanni Canfarelli Modica]; MU:
ness. Italian posters misspelled Frankenstein as Franco Freda; Hair: Adalgisa Favella; SE: Franco
“Frankstein.” Tocci. Cast: Telly Savalas (Leandro), Elke Som-
mer (Lisa Reiner), Sylva Koscina (Sophia Lehar),
NoTeS Alessio Orano (Max), Gabriele Tinti (George,
the Chaffeur), Kathy Leone (Lisa’s Friend), Ed-
1. Italian censorship law demanded that a movie uardo Fajardo (Francis Lehar), Franz von Treu-
banned by the board after two sets of proceedings (first
degree and appeal) could be resubmitted again to the
berg (Shopkeeper), Espartaco Santoni (Carlo),
board only under a new title and with enough changes that Alida Valli (Countess); uncredited: Andrea Es-
would make it a “different movie” from the previous ver- terhazy (American Tourist). PROD: Alfred
sion. Leone for Euro America Produzioni Cinemato-
2. For a detailed report of the movie’s censorship vi- grafiche, Leone International Film (Rome),
cissitudes, see Roberto Curti and Alessio Di Rocco, Visioni
proibite—I film vietati dalla censura italiana (dal 1969 a Roxy Film (Munich), Tecisa (Madrid); PM:
oggi) (Turin: Lindau, 2015), 157–16. Fausto Lupi (La casa dell’esorcismo: Faustino
3. Paul Talbot, “Monsters for Morrissey. The Making Ocaña). Country: Italy/West Germany/Spain.
of Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein & Dracula,” Video Watchdog Filmed in Barcelona, Toledo and Madrid (Spain)
#28, May/June 15, 22.
4. Gizzi would later reach fame as an easy listening
and at Villa Frascati (Rome). Running time: 5
soloist with the pseudonym Jean-Pierre Posit. In 178 minutes (international version); 87 minutes (m.
he released an instrumental electronic record with 2370, Italian version), Visa n. 63474 (11.10.173).
Romano Musumarra under the moniker Automat, in Release date: 5..173 (Cannes Film Market),
which he played the MCS70 synthesizer created by Mario 11.25.174 (Spain). Also known as: El diablo se
5. Talbot, “Monsters for Morrissey,” 25. lleva los muertos / El diablo se lleva a los muertos
6. Ibid., 24. (Spain), Lisa och djävulen (Sweden), Besatt av
7. Ibid., 25. What is more, in the Italian titles Dalila djevelen (Norway).
Di Lazzaro is credited “for the first time on screen” which La casa dell’esorcismo, a.k.a. House of Ex-
was not true, having already appeared in some films, in-
cluding Frankenstein ’80 and Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa
orcism (Re-edited version) D: “Mickey Lion”
e solo io ne ho la chiave. On top of that, Srdjan Zelenovic [additional scenes: Alfred Leone, Lamberto
is credited as “Aleksic Miomir.” Bava]. SC: Alberto Cittini, Alfred Leone; Ad-
1973: Lisa 85

ditional cast: Robert Alda (Fa-

ther Michael), Carmen Silva
(Anna). Running time: 1
minutes (m. 2500); Visa n.
66007 (2.11.175); Rating:
V.M.14. Release date: 4.2.
175 (Italy); 7..176 (U.S.A).
Distribution: Transeuropa
(Italy); Peppercorn-Wormser
Film Enterprises (U.S.A.);
Domestic gross: 0,3,354
Note: Rodrigo’s “Con-
certo of Aranjuez” directed by
Paul Mauriat (Philips Record
L 6444–504).
Toledo, Spain. Struck by
an ancient fresco depicting the
devil, American tourist Lisa
Reiner leaves her group and
gets lost in the town’s narrow
alleys. After a meeting with a
man named Carlo, who seems
to recognize her, Lisa gets a lift
with the wealthy Francis Lehar
and his wife Sophia. However,
their car breaks down and
stops in front of an old villa.
While the driver George tries
to fix the vehicle, the trio is
hosted by the owners, a blind
Countess and her son Massi-
miliano, who invite them to
spend the night in the man-
sion. Lisa seems to be living a
strange nightmare, recalling Striking Spanish poster for Lisa e il diavolo (1973). Art by Francisco
her love from a past life. Soon Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, a.k.a. “Jano.”
the guests are killed one by
one, and the events seem orchestrated by the Migliorini, Roberto Natale and Maulini’s girl-
butler Leandro, who resembles the image of the friend Francesca “Chicca” Rusicka (who had the
devil in the painting. Eventually Lisa finds out original idea for the story but, being a non pro-
that she is a dead ringer for Elena, the woman fessional, preferred to remain uncredited), 1 the
loved by Massimiliano; he keeps her skeleton in director concocted an elaborate story that
his bedroom and even kills his mother in order to touched such themes as eternal return and the
keep Lisa with him. But the devilish Leandro circularity of destiny. The original story, La casa
manages to get rid of him too. The next morning del diavolo (House of the Devil) started with an
Lisa wakes up in the empty and dilapidated villa, American tourist feeling ill in front of a fresco
and returns to normal life. But on the plane home in a chapel, which portrays a devilish scene, and
a grim surprise awaits her… according to Natale the fresco was Bava’s idea.2
For his second movie in a row with Alfred Shooting for the film, provisionally titled
Leone, Mario Bava was given carte blanche by Il diavolo e i morti (The Devil and the Dead),
the Italian-American producer, and set to work took place mostly in Spain, from early Sep-
on a much more personal project than Baron tember to late November 172, with an impres-
Blood. Together with Giorgio Maulini, Romano sive cast that featured Elke Sommer, Telly
86 1973: Lisa

Savalas, Sylva Koscina, and Alida Valli, in addi- opera the recitative precedes the air or the en-
tion to the Spanish Eduardo Fajardo and the semble pieces, Bava pursues, without paying
Venezuelan Espartaco Santoni, plus a handsome much attention to what happens around him, a
young newcomer, Alessio Orano, who gained frenzied, accurate reverie on death….”4
fame after Damiano Damiani’s film La moglie But there are many more references, either
più bella (170), in which he co-starred with his relevant or simply possible, woven into the
future wife Ornella Muti. Leone’s dream cast was fabric of the film. According to Lamberto Bava,
even more ambitious, as the producer had ap- some lines of dialogue were lifted verbatim from
proached Louis Jourdan (for the role that went Dostoyevsky’s novel The Demons; Leandro’s
to Santoni) and Bette Davis and Anthony Perkins, monologue, with its reference to ancient history
respectively, to play the Countess and her son. and Greek mythology, brings the story into a
Born as a summation of Bava’s conception territory akin to Jean Ray’s Malpertuis, to which
of the Fantastic, Lisa e il diavolo encompassed Lisa e il diavolo can be compared for the theme
diverse themes, influences and references of the memory of an ancient status that rises in
throughout. The central theme was not new: characters that are only apparently human. Like
Italian Gothic had explored the boundaries be- Euryale the Gorgon in Ray’s novel, Lisa—whom
tween this world and the afterlife, and the tor- in the final shot we see dressed and coiffed in
ment of souls that are trapped in a limbo where ancient Greece style—is a detached, passive,
they are forced to live the same passions again enigmatic character. Once again in Bava’s cin-
and again had been the subject of such works as ema the theme of the double is the key to enter
Danza macabra and Nella stretta morsa del the story: Lisa is the doppelgänger (or the rein-
ragno, whose romantic intensity is akin to Bava’s carnation?) of Elena, the woman loved by Mas-
film. similiano (Alessio Orano), who had killed her
With brilliant, thought-provoking intui- after discovering her affair with his stepfather
tion, Bava scholar Alberto Pezzotta hypothe- Carlo (Espartaco Santoni), and preserved her
sized an affinity between Bava’s film and Pierre dead body on the nuptial bed. On top of that,
Klossowski’s 165 experimental novel The Bava draws again from his beloved Jean Coc-
Baphomet. 3 The paradoxical, nonlinear story teau: Lisa’s awakening in the villa immersed in
told by the French author, about the “eternal re- vegetation recalls a famous moment in La Belle
turn” experienced by the souls of Templar et la Bête (146).
knights devoted to a disturbing young idol (the More prosaically, Lisa e il diavolo is remi-
titular Baphomet), indeed has similarities with niscent also of a well-known episode of the TV
Lisa e il diavolo’s tangled plot. Whereas Klos- series The Twilight Zone, “The After Hours,”
sowski revisited Nietzsche and Sade in the light written by Rod Serling and directed by Douglas
of psychoanalysis, and focused on the Heyes. In the episode, a young woman named
dissolution of the self and the affirmation of sim- Marsha White (Anne Francis) experiences a dis-
ulacra, in Bava’s film each character has its own turbing misadventure at a department store and
simulacrum, a life-size puppet that will serve— finally remembers that she is not a person of
as the butler Leandro (Telly Savalas) explains— flesh and blood but a mannequin that has briefly
for a performance. come to life for a short holiday among humans.
In addition to that, Klossowski’s convo- Not a far-fetched source, incidentally, given that
luted, difficult prose can well be a written ho- the inspiration for the ending of Terrore nello
mologue to Bava’s style, which here is extremely spazio (165) came from another episode of Rod
calligraphic and self-conscious. Reviewing the Serling’s TV series, “Third from the Sun,” from a
movie in Positif, Emmanuel Carrère wrote: “By short story by Richard Matheson. The plot has the
deforming the visible—the horribly broken lines same mechanism, and the events that poor Lisa
and the blue-green colors make up a monstrous (Elke Sommer) experiences, with characters that
space, vaguely haunted, which is a signature in continually allude to her previous life and treat
itself—, by giving a mediocre piece of music (the her like a different person, serve as prelude to the
Concierto de Aranjuez) a tragic resonance, an final revelation: on an airplane piloted by the devil,
unexpected softness, by organizing a cyclo- Lisa meets the other protagonists of the story,
thimic mise-en-scène that moves constantly and eventually acquires the notion of herself. In
from a prosaicness charged with latent horror the film’s last image, she limps to the ground,
to the most disheveled poetic flights, like in the lifeless, as if she was a mannequin. Her time as
1973: Lisa 87

a tourist among the living is over, just like that father cared about more than the screenplay. As
of Anne Francis’ character in Serling’s story. for the story, it was fragile, with plot holes. Such
Whereas in Baron Blood Bava seemed con- an intricate story needed a good revision and
tent to rely on his own past as a safe way to deal some more ideas: there were things that did not
with a simple horror story, here he reprises his add up at all.” 7 What is more, some parts, like
main stylistic traits and visual tricks in an at- Massimiliano’s visits to Elena’s bedroom, are lazy
tempt to build a formally coherent universe: rehashes of the dialogue scenes between Nor-
ghosts sliding as if on ice as in La goccia d’acqua; man Bates and his “mother” in Psycho, and the
children playing with balls as in Operazione character is basically a reprise of the man-child
paura; faces appearing behind windows as in I psycho figure Bava had employed to better use
Wurdalak; the insistent use of zooms and focus- in Il rosso segno della follia.
out-of-focus shots; and, most of all, the contin- Despite the inconsistencies, the narrative
uous blurring between the animate and inani- confusion and the formalistic self-complacency,
mate, which characterized such works as 6 Lisa e il diavolo represents a key moment in
donne per l’assassino and Il rosso segno della follia Bava’s filmography and in the realm of Italian
and here becomes the film’s core. Gothic. Firstly, leaving aside the made-for-TV
However, compared with Bava’s master- La Venere d’Ille (co-directed with Lamberto,
pieces of the previous decade, Lisa e il diavolo— shot in 178 but broadcast in 181), it is the last
hailed by many as the director’s greatest achieve- movie the director conceived and filmed with
ment—is a singularly overindulgent work, an eye to the stylistic elements of Italian Gothic
characterized by a visual profligacy that ulti- films made during the previous decade. Else-
mately goes at the expense of elegance. As Pez- where these traits were inexorably harmed and
zotta notes, “the movie is marked by blatant hybridized, especially in the shabbier subprod-
signs of fatigue. The style is less controlled and ucts made around the same time, whereas in the
creative than in the past. The zooms, never so average genre products they gradually gave way
many as noted by Luc Moullet, accompany, with to other, extraneous sources, such as the upcom-
an obstinacy that has something masochistic in ing Exorcist-inspired thread.
it, not only the moments of terror, but almost For Lisa e il diavolo Bava—who in his fol-
every close-up, and each thing that appears on lowing works would fully immerse himself in a
screen for the first time: thus they engage a ten- contemporary setting, with Cani arrabbiati and
sion that ends up idling, depriving everything the middle-class ghost story Shock—chooses a
of its meaning. So much so that eventually one diametrally opposite approach to the Gothic
does not even perceive the zoom, unlike in the genre as he had done with Baron Blood, and
director’s previous films. The sloppy moments reprises the most typical elements of Italian
are countless: overly lengthy bits … shots that Gothic: the propensity for morbidness, from the
start or end with the camera framing meaning- implicitly Oedipal relationship between the
less objects … soft-focus and slow-motion flash- characters played by Alida Valli and Alessio
backs; blood (red paint) dropping on the lens…. Orano to the latter’s necrophile obsession; the
Even the bravura shots (the characters are reference to melodrama; the emphasis on the
always reflected in the most unexpected sur- haunted house setting and the baroque attention
faces…) are so emphasized, reiterated and nar- to the décor; the preponderance of weak male
ratively meaningless that they become cloying.”5 figures; the theme of the female double and the
Honestly, it is hard to disagree. Fellow di- femme fatale who leads her lovers to death, will-
rector Riccardo Freda, who had always been an ingly or not; the manipulation of space-time co-
admirer of Bava’s work, pointed out the abuse ordinates.
of the zoom on the part of his friend in the Not that Lisa e il diavolo is impervious to
movie. “The exorcist’s house [author’s note: the infiltration of the present, both in the eroti-
Freda, who had seen the reedited version of the cism and in the mise-en-scéne of violence that
film, La casa dell’esorcismo, is referring to the characterizes the murders in the second part.
Countess’ villa] was portrayed in every shot with The love scene between Sylva Koscina and
four or five zooms, and at that point the film lost Gabriele Tinti was filmed by Lamberto Bava:
its effectiveness because of the addiction to that “My father was very puritan, I a little less; but
effect.”6 Even Lamberto Bava admitted: “Lisa e there was a limit to decency. Moreover, that se-
il diavolo had a wonderful setting—which my quence has nothing to do with the movie.”8 The
88 1973: Lisa

scene also exists in a more risqué version, shot plays a playful, almost childlike attitude, like a
by Leone with two stand-ins, which can be kid who breaks his toys to see what is inside: the
found as an extra in the DVD release. Bava’s son sequence of Massimiliano’s death, as he sees his
also filmed Koscina’s death scene. revived mother (whom he had just killed) com-
Compared with his previous Gothic movies, ing at him, recoils in terror and falls headlong
Bava does not even bother to scare the audience, out of the window, is not the revenge of a
but he fully embraces restlessness as the privi- revenante a bit less scary than the one in La goc-
leged vehicle for the Fantastic. The core of the cia d’acqua (the director employs the same trick
film is memory, the surfacing of an awareness of having Alida Valli slide onward), but Lean-
of one’s own condition linked to the notion of a dro’s umpteenth mockery, as the butler maneu-
destiny that repeats itself cyclically, overcoming vered the dead woman’s boy like a puppeteer
the barriers of time; and the real horror is that from behind.
one’s self is revealed as illusory—a feeling only Ultimately, there is not a single innocent
fleetingly experienced by Dr. Eswai (Giacomo character in the movie. “They’ll pry into our
Rossi Stuart) in Operazione paura’s most cele- lives and we’ll all be guilty,” says Massimiliano
brated scene. to Francis (Eduardo Fajardo), and at a certain
The Fantastic imposes itself with the point the protagonists start killing each other
strength of evidence, against all appearances, like in Danza macabra, or, indeed, Reazione a
and Bava challenges the logic of the story by catena. But the latter film’s moralistic sarcasm
considering space and time as arbitrary notions, gives way to a disenchantment that arises from
destined to fall like shedded skin as soon as re- the confrontation with the volatility of existence,
ality as we know it displays the first cracks. After and a resigned helplessness in the face of the
stepping off the bus in Toledo, in the movie’s mockeries of an inescapable destiny. Like the
first scenes, Lisa enters a labyrinth of alleys that, characters in so many horror movies to come,
through the judicious use of the zoom lens and Lisa and her companions in misfortune are al-
the tracking shot, seem to appear and disappear ready dead, and they don’t know it. And yet the
behind her; Carlo is at the same time alive and awareness they ultimately achieve does not lead
dead, a real person and an inanimate puppet, as to an acceptance of their state or to inner peace,
Bava replaces Espartaco Santoni with a dummy but to a depletion. The soul, or whatever it is,
in the span of a shot / reverse shot; in the final flies away from the body like helium from a bal-
scenes, Lisa awakes in the villa’s bedroom, loon. The end.
magically invaded by greenery as if centuries Lisa e il diavolo looks like it was conceived
had passed, and recognizes a wax mannequin as a serious project, or at least more cultured
with Massimiliano’s features, submerged by veg- and self-conscious than it would be expected
etation like the busts and statues that dot the from its makers and its destination. Accordingly,
overgrown garden; then she finds herself in the Bava had his cast listen to Carlo Savina’s music
Toledo square she had left the previous day, get- on the set, in order to have them achieve a
ting lost; and the seemingly endless aircraft cor- sleepwalking-like acting—an unusual concern
ridors in the epilogue exude the same dread as for a director less known for his ability with ac-
the series of identical rooms in Operazione tors than for his visual tricks. The ending, where
paura. Lisa and the other simulacra are carried away
Gradually, each coherent explanation falls by the devil on a plane, seems an up-to-date ver-
apart, but above all it is the moral of the story sion of the final procession in Ingmar Bergman’s
that eludes the viewer. Unlike Danza macabra, Det sjunde inseglet (a.k.a. The Seventh Seal,
where the souls of Elisabeth and her misfortu- 157), and suggests cumbersome metaphysical
nate companions relived endlessly their own implications—and even bizarre ones: Satan con-
death as an otherwordly supplice, and despite trols the sky as well…?—for such an average
the sulphureous presence evoked by the title, in horror film with a commercial destination. But
Lisa e il diavolo there is no tangible sign of moral Lisa e il diavolo’s tormented souls are in turn the
path or punishment. Everything happens ac- victims of the director’s biting irony: notoriously
cording to the will and the whims of the devil, superstitious, accustomed to playing with his
who plays with the characters’ lives in his own own reputation as a fearful and mild fellow, Bava
liking just like he does with cards, like a magi- exorcises the metaphysical temptations, and
cian, during the opening credits. Bava’s devil dis- plays down the hubris by exposing the ridicule.
1973: Lisa 8

And so, he counterparts the eerie music box that to Father Michael, who has come to exorcise her,
portrays the totentanz of Death and the souls, and events from Lisa e il diavolo form the series
and from which Leandro is inseparable, with the of flashback at the film’s core. Needless to say,
amusing funeral procession with the butler car- the additional scenes are terrible, with Sommer
rying the body of the chaffeur (Gabriele Tinti) vomiting green soup and toads and uttering
on a wheelbarrow, like disposable waste: one of plenty of four-letter words. The ending was also
those moments where the movie seems to make changed, with Alda’s character sneaking into the
fun of itself. Bava’s simulacra-dummies, like the abandoned villa to exorcise Elena’s skeleton and
human insects of Reazione a catena, are not even facing hordes of snakes: eventually the demonic
granted post-mortem dignity. spirits are eradicated and a flash of light, wind
After its disastrous appearance at the 173 and an explosion suggest that the mansion has
Cannes Film Market, Lisa e il diavolo underwent been cleansed. The new cut also included some
vicissitudes as troubled and unhappy as those risqué footage featuring Sommer and a more
of its protagonists. It was submitted to the Italian gruesome version of the killings.
board of censors in November 173, and was The resulting hodgepodge, signed “Mickey
given a V.M.14 rating: interestingly, this copy al- Lion,” was at least commercially viable. Leone
legedly ran 2370 metres, that is approximately always maintained that he and Mario shot the
86 minutes and 25 seconds, several minutes less additional scenes, even though the director ab-
than the international version. It was released stained from filming the blasphemous parts. On
in Spain by Maesso, in a truncated form, as El the other hand, Lamberto Bava is adamant on
diablo se lleva los muertos, which premiered in the paternity of the new footage: “Some stuff in
Barcelona in November 174 and in Madrid in La casa dell’esorcismo was directed by Leone,
March 175: this cut contained a gorier version whereas other scenes, I taught him how to make
of Koscina’s death scene, but sex scenes were them, technically speaking.”10
heavily truncated, and part of the ending was La casa dell’esorcismo was submitted to the
cut out. Italian board of censors in January 175: the
The movie was never released in Italy in its committee, when asked for a new rating, com-
original form. On December 26, 173, The Ex- pared the new version with the old one and de-
orcist was unleashed overseas to a shocked au- cided that it was indeed “a different movie, in
dience, and the wave of its extraordinary success terms of the story, made using a number of clips
soon reached the Old World. Alfred Leone, well from the old film, with the addition of several
aware of Lisa e il diavolo’s shady commercial new sequences, interpolated with a new audio
perspectives, decided to jump on the band- track that is effectively descriptive of the new
wagon. “He came to my father and said, ‘Why narrative conception” and gave the film a V.M.18
don’t we add some exorcism scenes?’ and gave rating due to the “many and horrifying scenes
him three or four ideas,” Lamberto Bava re- of violence as well as other macabre and grue-
called. “My father didn’t know what to say at some ones, the exaggerated foul language and
first, and replied: ‘I don’t care about this thing. many scenes featuring female nudity in lascivi-
If you want to do it on your own, for the Amer- ous attitudes…”
ican market, it’s fine by me, I’m even sending When asked about La casa dell’esorcismo,
Lamberto to give you a hand…’ and so he sent in a scathing May 176 interview, Bava was
me to assist Leone—that is, to prevent him from adamant: “La casa dell’esorcismo is not my film,
fucking it all up.”  even though it bears my signature. It is the same
Leone’s intervention—with the uncredited situation, too long to explain, of a cuckolded fa-
contribution of art director Nedo Azzini and of ther who finds himself with a child that is not
a certain Alberto Cittini, credited as co- his own, and with his name, and cannot do any-
scriptwriter—basically destroyed the original thing about it.”11 To the director, the débacle of
movie and turned it into an Exorcist rip-off by Lisa e il diavolo was one of the most bitter dis-
concocting a new framing story featuring an ex- appointments in his career, but unfortunately
orcist (Robert Alda), and transforming the film’s not the last: his following film, Cani arrabbiati,
discourse on reincarnation and eternal return was to follow an even worse fate, ending up un-
into an out-and-out possession tale. In the new seen for two decades after the producer went
version, aptly titled La casa dell’esorcismo, Lisa bankrupt. Once again, the devil had put his tail
is possessed by Elena’s spirit and tells her story on it.
0 1973: La morte

NoTeS souri à l’assassin (France), Die Mörderbestien

1. Pezzotta, Mario Bava, 116.
(West Germany), A Máscara da Mulher Fan-
2. Roberto Natale, quoted in Manlio Gomarasca and tasma (Portugal).
Davide Pulici, “Il talento di Mr. Bava,” 15. Note: Although credited, Carla Mancini
3. Pezzotta, Mario Bava, 118. does not appear in the film.
4. Emmanuel Carrère, “La Maison de l’exorcisme,” Early 1900. Franz von Holstein mourns over
Positif #1, November 177, 72. Note how Carrère’s style
purportedly mimicks the film’s baroqueness. the body of his sister Greta, with whom he had
5. Pezzotta, Mario Bava, 118. an incestuous affair, until the day she met a ma-
6. Riccardo Freda, Divoratori di celluloide (Milan: Edi- ture stranger. Greta turns up again as the victim
zioni del Mystfest, Il Formichiere, 181), 100. In the book, of a carriage accident: she is assisted by a young
Freda mistakenly refers to the film as Operazione paura.
7. Lamberto Bava, quoted in Manlio Gomarasca and couple living nearby, Walter and Eva von Ravens-
Davide Pulici, “Il talento di Mr. Bava,” 15. brück, and is cured by Dr. Sturges, who is im-
8. Ibid. pressed by an amulet she carries on her neck.
9. Ibid. Sturges, who is carrying on experiments to revive
10. Ibid.
11. Mario Bava interviewed, in Giuseppe Lippi and
the dead, is dispatched by a mysterious killer, and
Lorenzo Codelli (eds.), Fant’italia. Emergenza, apoteosi e so is Gertrud, the Ravensbrücks’ maid. Greta se-
riflusso del fantastico nel cinema italiano (Trieste: Ed. Fes- duces both Walter and Eva, but when the latter
tival Internazionale del film di fantascienza, 176). finds out about Greta’s affair with her husband,
she walls her alive in the crypt. However, Greta
La morte ha sorriso all’assassino (Death returns from the dead and provokes Eva’s demise.
Smiles on a Murderer) Next are Walter’s father, who turns out to be
D: Aristide Massaccesi. S: Aristide Massac- Greta’s former lover, and Walter. Inspector Dan-
cesi; SC: Aristide Massaccesi, Romano Scandari- nick finds out that Franz von Holstein was a
ato, Claudio Bernabei; DOP: Aristide Massaccesi necromancer, and was perfecting a method to res-
(Telecolor); M: Berto Pisano, conducted by the urrect the dead, based on an ancient Inca ritual…
author (Ed. C.A.M.); E: Piera Bruni, Gianfranco Shot between November and December
Simoncelli; PD, CO: Claudio Bernabei [and Eve- 172,1 under the working title 7 strani cadaveri
lyn Melcherich, uncredited]; MU: Maria Grazia (Seven Strange Corpses),2 Aristide Massaccesi’s
Nardi; SO: Franco Rucci; C: Guglielmo Vincioni; La morte ha sorriso all’assassino is a weird
AD: Romano Scandariato; AC: Gianlorenzo hodgepodge of various themes and references
Battaglia. Cast: Ewa Aulin (Greta von Holstein), that stands out as one of the most bizarre exam-
Klaus Kinski (Dr. Sturges), Angela Bo (Eva von ples of the decade’s Gothic. It was produced by
Ravensbrück), Sergio Doria (Walter von Franco Gaudenzi, a business consultant who
Ravensbrück), Attilio Dottesio (Inspector Dan- worked in the film business and also dabbled
nick), Marco Mariani (Simeon, the Butler), Lu- with production. Massaccesi had met him
ciano Rossi (Franz, Greta’s Brother), Giacomo through a friend, production manager Oscar
Rossi Stuart (Dr. Von Ravensbrück, Walter’s Santaniello, and their collaboration resulted in
Father), Franco [Fernando] Cerulli (Prof. the Western flick Un bounty killer a Trinità
Kempte), Carla Mancini, Giorgio Dolfin (Maier, (172), directed by Massaccesi but signed by
Ballet Dancer); uncredited: Evelyn Melcherich Santaniello—one of several uncredited directing
(Gertrud, the Maid), Tony Askin [Antonio As- jobs Massaccesi took on before his official first
chini] (Reanimated Corpse), Oscar Sciamanna feature, often recycling unused footage—and the
(Party Guest), Pietro Torrisi (Dr. Sturges’ assis- bawdy Sollazzevoli storie di mogli gaudenti e
tant). PROD: Franco Gaudenzi for Dany Film mariti penitenti (172, signed as “Romano Gas-
(Rome); PM: Oscar Santaniello; PS: Massimo taldi”). Unlike his previous ventures with Gau-
Alberini, Sergio Rosa. Country: Italy. Filmed at denzi and Santaniello, this time Massaccesi
Palazzo Patrizi, Castel Giuliano (Rome), Villa chose to sign the movie with his own name—an
Parisi, Frascati (Rome) and at Elios Film una tantum occurrence in his career, before
(Rome). Running time: 2 minutes (m. 2520). adopting a number of pseudonyms, including
Visa n. 6262 (6.20.173); Rating: V.M.18. Release the notorious “Joe D’Amato”—as a sign of the
date: 7.11.173; Distribution: Florida Cine- confidence he had in the result.
matografica. Domestic gross: 70,0,000 lire. The story takes place in a period setting,
Also known as: Death Smiles at Murder (U.S.A.), and borrows the premise from Joseph Sheridan
La muerte sonríe al asesino (Spain), La mort a Le Fanu’s Carmilla: the mysterious Greta enters
1973: La morte ha sorriso 1

U.S. lobby still for La morte ha sorriso all’assassino (1973), featuring Klaus Kinski.

the home and the lives (not to mention the beds) and pleasure but ultimately gives them horrible
of the aristocrat von Ravensbrück spouses after deaths. Similarly, Greta’s face suddenly turning
a carriage accident. Then the script (by Massac- from beautiful to decaying before her victims is
cesi, Romano Scandariato and Claudio the umpteenth example of the duality of the fe-
Bernabei, the latter merely a typist according to male as both seductive and repulsive, since the
Scandariato 3) adds a number of elements taken early examples in I vampiri and La maschera del
from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, namely The demonio.
Black Cat (Greta is walled alive in the basement, The mixture of varied influences was not a
and a cat comes out of the tomb) and The novelty, but La morte ha sorriso all’assassino is
Masque of the Red Death (Greta appears as an nevertheless more audacious (if not more felic-
uninvited guest during a masked ball, just like itous) than many of its peers in mixing refer-
the Red Death in Prospero’s castle). Like with ences to literary masterworks with nods to con-
many Gothics of the previous decade, an elusive temporary trends and demands. First of all, and
literary source was brought up: an article in the similarly to what happened with Giorgio Fer-
January 173 issue of Playmen mentioned a nov- roni’s reprisal of I Wurdalak in La notte dei di-
elette by a “Herbert Peuckardt” which, according avoli, Greta is not a vampire, but a living dead;
to the article, had also been the basis for one of what is more, her character pays homage to the
Marlene Dietrich’s first films,4 but Scandariato period’s renewed interest in the occult and eso-
recalled: “I don’t think we took inspiration from terism, with the allusions to an ancient Central
anything in particular: the story came from American ritual and the mysterious amulet
Aristide, but it was more or less one page.”5 which Greta carries on her neck, and the subplot
In accordance with one of Italian Gothic’s about Dr. Sturges’ necromantic practices.
most significant characteristics, the male figures In addition to that, Massaccesi injected
are weak, submissive, scarcely virile, and all fall conspicuous doses of sex and violence to the
prey to a lethal woman, who promises them love recipe, while keeping in tune with Italian
2 1973: La morte ha sorriso

Gothic’s primary themes: Greta is a revenante puzzle just at the very end. Likely dictated by
who returns from the grave to kill those who the rush in filming rather than by the makers’
loved her in life, starting with her incestuous interest in experimenting, it is nonetheless an
brother; like many other fleshly ghosts that pre- effective move. Massaccesi (who also acted as
ceded her, she infiltrates into her victims’ sub- d.o.p. and cameraman) manages to keep the
conscious, by perturbing their sexuality and story lively with an abundant use of wide-angle
flaking off their defenses: in doing so, in homage shots, which, paired with Berto Pisano’s eerie,
to the central role of eroticism in Italian genre fuzz guitar-based score, suitably make up for the
cinema of the decade, she retaliates on both scarcity of means.
sexes. Whereas in Camillo Mastrocinque’s ver- According to Claudio Bernabei the movie
sion of Le Fanu’s novel, La cripta e l’incubo was shot in just seven or eight days, but a more
(164), the lesbian passion between the vampire likely figure would be two or three weeks. Some
and her victim was alluded to but not shown ex- scenes that were not in the script were impro-
plicitly, here it climaxes in a sapphic sex scene vised on the set, such as the one set in the
with full frontal female nudity.6 According to “changing room” with veils and cobwebs, mean-
Scandariato, the erotic element was not as em- ing that time has passed, as Scandariato recalled.
phasized in the script: “We had inserted the idea Others were achieved through decidedly prag-
of Ewa Aulin who identifies with Death, which matic means: for the one where Luciano Rossi
ended up teasing everybody. There was the is attacked by a cat, after a number of unsuccess-
scene in which he goes to bed with Aulin, who ful attempts, Massaccesi achieved the wanted ef-
turns into a skeleton in his arms. We also in- fect by literally throwing the feline against
serted what we called ‘the lesbian act,’ but it was Rossi’s face.
just a matter of looks, there was no ‘act.’ Whereas The film’s main asset is the casting of the
in the end they shot those risqué scenes.”7 then-23-year-old Ewa Aulin as Greta, in one of
The director did not spare the gore either: her last film roles. The days of A-grade pictures
in the carriage accident sequence the unfortu- such as Col cuore in gola (167, Tinto Brass) and
nate coachman ends up transfixed by a shaft and Candy (168, Christian Marquand) were gone,
with his intestines exposed; the maid receives a and after the divorce from the English writer
fatal gunshot to the face; a character has his face John Shadow, the Swedish actress was grow-
slashed open with a razor, while another one has ing so dissatisfied with her film career that she
his eye gouged out by a cat. The low-budget, soon retired and married a landowner, Cesare
merely 150 million lire, did not allow for con- Paladino, and had a daughter with him, Cris-
vincing special make-up effects, but even tiana.
though they are often crude-looking in an H. G. If Aulin’s ravishing looks and innocent air
Lewis way (with Massaccesi becoming familiar suit perfectly her enigmatic character, Klaus
with the baby veal intestines—the so-called pa- Kinski—saddled with one of his customary spe-
jata—he would use in one of Antropophagus’ cial appearances, inflated as a main role for the
most infamous bits), the gore scenes have the credits—does what he is usually required to,
same over-the-top quality as the ones in the sexy looking pensive, handling medical instruments,
horror comics of the period. In addition to that, scribbling numbers on a chalkboard, and barely
the subplot centered on the mysterious killer uttering a word. He is offed way too early in the
who dispatches several characters allows for picture, in a scene that is more chilling for its
hand-held POV scenes that blatantly pay refer- aftermath: one of Dr. Sturges’ experiments, a re-
ence to the profitable gialli thread. According to animated corpse, comes briefly to life before
Scandariato, “there was much more suspense in being terminated once and for good by the un-
what we had written, it was much more giallo, known murderer. As Massaccesi recalled, “Kin-
and until the end you didn’t realize who was ski did everything just for the money. You called
there behind the camera POV that approached him for two days, gave him lots of dough … a
during the murder scenes. Then, unfortunately, true prostitute, pure and simple. But I must say
many things were changed out of necessity.” 8 that he always gave you something more, be-
The most unusual aspect of Massaccesi’s cause he really got into the character, maybe be-
film is its almost abstract narrative construction, cause of an inner vein of madness, not even in
which liberally upsets the chronology and allows a lucid way. He was fascinated of playing a half-
the viewer to put together all the pieces of the lunatic in my film, and gratified by the idea of
1973: La morte negli occhi 3

acting over the top in a movie. So it was really scene) that the board of censors demanded be cut, for a
pleasant working with him.”10 total of 10 meters (approximately 21 seconds), before giving
the film a V.M.18 rating.
The rest of the cast comprises familiar faces 7. Gomarasca and Pulici, “La morte ha sorriso all’as-
such as Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Sergio Doria sassino,” 15.
(seen in L’iguana dalla lingua di fuoco and in Ro- 8. Ibid.
molo Guerrieri’s La controfigura) and recurring 9. Aulin and Shadow got married in Tijuana on March
21, 168. The couple had a son, Shawn, born on June 15,
character actors such as Fernando Cerulli, 16, and the following year Aulin starred in Shadow’s
Marco Mariani and the weird-looking Luciano debut as a director, the experimental Microscopic Liquid
Rossi, the latter in one of his typical demented- Subway to Oblivion (170). They divorced in 172.
looking appearances. Rossi’s career waned in the 10. Gomarasca and Pulici, “La morte ha sorriso all’as-
late Seventies: among his last roles were a couple sassino,” 13.
11. See Sorridere alla morte, extra on the Italian
of Lucio Fulci films—Luca il contrabbandiere Cinekult DVD of La morte ha sorriso all’assassino.
and Paura nella città dei morti viventi, both
180—and his final appearance was in Ermanno
Olmi’s Lunga vita alla signora (187). Plagued La morte negli occhi del gatto (Seven
by mental illness, he died in 2005. Angela Bo Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes)
was one of the many starlets of the “De- D: Anthony M. Dawson [Antonio Mar-
camerotics,” and her short career comprised gheriti]. S: based on the novelette Corringa by
such works as Canterbury proibito (172, Italo Peter Bryan; SC: Antonio Margheriti, Giovanni
Alfaro) and Quando i califfi avevano le corna Simonelli; DOP: Carlo Carlini (Technicolor,
(173, Amasi Damiani). Rossi’s agent, Tony Techniscope); M: Riz Ortolani (Ed. C.A.M.); E:
Askin, played a small role, the reanimated Giorgio Serralonga; ArtD: Ottavio Scotti; SD:
corpse that Dr. Sturges is operating on, a last- Roberto Granieri; CO: Mario Giorsi; MU:
minute choice on the part of Massaccesi, who Marisa Tilli; Hair: Giancarlo De Leonardis; AD,
was afraid that Kinski’s realistic acting style 2ndUD: Patrick Wachsberger; SO: Pietro
would have had dangerous consequences for the Spadoni; Mix: Fausto Achilli, Sandro Occhetti;
unfortunate extra.11 C: Sergio Martinelli; AE: Alessandro Ceran-
The movie did scarce business in Italy, tonio; Additional dialogue (English version): Ted
partly due to its regional distribution, as no im- Rusoff. Cast: Jane Birkin (Corringa), Hiram
portant distributor agreed to pick it up due to Keller (Lord James MacGrieff ), Françoise
its unknown director. Massaccesi would return Cristophe (Lady Mary MacGrieff), Venantino
to the horror genre six years later, with Buio Venantini (Father Robertson), Doris Kunts-
omega. mann (Suzanne), Anton Diffring (Dr. Franz),
Dana Ghia (Lady Alicia), George Korrade [Kon-
NoTeS rad Georg] (Campbell), Serge Gainsbourg (Po-
1. According to the Public Cinematographic Register, lice inspector), Alan Collins [Luciano Pigozzi]
shooting began on November 13, 172. Interestingly, Mas- (Angus), Bianca Doria (Janet Campbell), Franco
saccesi was to use the a.k.a Michael Wotruba. The outdoor Ressel (Priest), Alessandro Perrella (Policeman),
scenes were filmed at Palazzo Patrizi in Castel Giuliano,
near Bracciano, whereas the indoor scenes were shot at Bruno Boschetti (Policeman with mustache);
Villa Parisi in Frascati, one of Italian Gothic’s recurring lo- uncredited: Tom Felleghy (Man at Funeral), Sil-
cations. vio Klein (Undertaker). PROD: Luigi Nannerini
2. The working title 7 strani cadaveri was eventually for Starkiss s.r.l.; Falcon International Film
changed by the distributor, in order to follow the thread
of films with the word “death” in the title, such as Luciano
(Rome); Roxy Film (Munich); Capitol Films
Ercoli’s gialli La morte cammina coi tacchi alti (171) and (Paris); PM: Tommy [Thomas] Sagone; PSe:
La morte accarezza a mezzanotte (172). Scandariato would Maurizio Biasini, Giancarlo Nannerini. Country:
have preferred the more allusive L’angelo finisce dove com- Italy / West Germany / France. Filmed at Castle
incia il diavolo (The Angel Ends Where the Devil Begins), Massimo in Arsoli (Rome) and at Incir-De
a quote from Pope Paul VI.
3. Manlio Gomarasca and Davide Pulici, “La morte Paolis Studios (Rome). Running time: 5
ha sorriso all’assassino,” in Manlio Gomarasca and Davide minutes (m. 2585). Visa n. 61830 (2.6.173); Rat-
Pulici (eds.), Joe D’Amato. Guida al cinema estremo e del- ing: V.M.18. Release date: 4.12.173; Distribution:
l’orrore. Nocturno Dossier #78, January 200, 15. Jumbo. Domestic gross: 21,556,000 lire. Also
4. Ibid., 13.
5. Ibid., 15.
known as: Seven Dead in the Cat’s Eye (U.S.A.),
6. Ewa Aulin and Angela Bo’s sapphic interlude was Les diablesses (France); Sieben Tote in den Augen
one of the two (the other being Bo and Doria’s lovemaking der Katz (West Germany, 12.7.173); Siete muertos
4 1973: La morte negli occhi

en el ojo del gato; La muerte en los ojos del gato bed, and the faithful servant Angus is murdered
(Spain, 4.1.174); Sept morts dans les yeux d’un near the family chapel. The police investigate, but
chat (Canada); Sete Mortes nos Olhos do Gato Corringa begins to suspect that the culprit might
(Portugal); Sete Mortes nos Olhos de um Gato be her undead mother, who has turned into a
(Brazil); Kauhujen kappeli; Kauhujen verinen vampire, since her body has disappeared from the
kappeli; Kauhun verinen kappeli (Finland). coffin. Other deaths ensue, and Corringa eventu-
Scotland, early 1900. Corringa arrives at ally finds herself face to face with the murderer…
Dragstone castle, owned by Lady Mary MacGrieff Following the ill-fated Nella stretta morsa
and her son James, to stay with her mother Alicia, del ragno and an aborted thriller project written
Lady Mary’s sister. The manor is inhabited by a by Ernesto Gastaldi and to be produced by Carlo
series of weird characters, who seem to be at odds Ponti, Gli agghiaccianti suoni del silenzio (The
with one another: the eccentric James, who mur- Chilling Sounds of Silence), Antonio Margheriti
dered his little sister as a kid, keeps a gorilla; Dr. returned to the Gothic genre, albeit this time
Franz, Mary’s lover, has an affair with the young with quite a different attitude. The evocatively
bisexual housekeeper, Suzanne, who in turn is at- titled La morte negli occhi del gatto (Death in the
tracted by the newcomer; Father Robertson, a vis- Cat’s Eye), shot in February and March 172,1
iting priest, is understandably upset by the strange was not a ghost story but a period murder mys-
atmosphere of the place. Corringa is frightened tery with a supernatural red herring, that made
to hear that the family castle is plagued by a hor- it closer to the director’s own La vergine di
rible curse: if a MacGrieff is killed by a relative, Norimberga, as well as to other Gothic mysteries
he or she will turn into an undead vampire. Soon of the past decade, such as Horror (163, Alberto
after Corringa’s arrival, Alicia is smothered in De Martino) and La lama nel corpo (166, Elio

German lobby card for La morte negli occhi del gatto (1973), featuring Doris Kuntsmann (left) and Jane
1973: La morte negli occhi 5

Scardamaglia). Still, inevitably, the result accom- bit, in order to minimize the excessive macabre
modated elements of the Argento-esque giallo, and horror elements which would have dis-
resulting in an animal’s name in the title (even turbed people more than entertained them. This
more explicitly in the Anglo-saxon Seven Deaths was the kind of movies Antonio made. They
in the Cat’s Eyes, which adds a number as well were not meant to be artistic, they were just en-
in true Argento fashion) and in gory razorblade tertaining. With these movies what you see is
murders, with throats cut open and blood what you get.” 5
sprayed all over. In addition to that, as he had Not that the human cast was without its
done in Contranatura, the director gave reason- points of interest: Jane Birkin, in the lead, was
ably ample room to eroticism, which caused it still surrounded by the same aura of scandal that
a V.M. 18 rating in Italy. had accompanied the Italian release of Je t’aime
According to the credits, the film was … moi non plus, the hit single she sang together
scripted by the director and his friend Giovanni with her then-lover Serge Gainsbourg, charac-
Simonelli from the “novella” (novelette) Cor- terized by explicit sexual lyrics and published in
ringa by Peter Bryan, a fact that Margheriti Italy with the warning “vietato ai minori di 18
stressed in interviews. 2 Corringa was actually anni” (Forbidden to those under 18 years old).
the working title; however, as with other Italian The song was censored by the Italian national
Gothic films, the real existence of the alleged lit- broadcasting service Rai (Lelio Luttazzi, the host
erary source is debatable. Was this the same of the program “Hit Parade” was even forbidden
Peter Bryan who signed Hammer’s The Hound to mention the title and the spot it had reached
of the Baskervilles, The Brides of Dracula and in the charts), and on August 28, 16, the single
Plague of the Zombies, among others? However, was seized by order of the authorities because
there is no trace of the original novelette, which of obscenity. In a nice publicity stunt, Margheriti
makes one suspect that it was all a fabrication managed to cast Gainsbourg as well, in a bit role
on the part of Margheriti and Simonelli, also as the inspector on the case: the French singer
considering that the latter had been a prolific appears in less than a handful of scenes, carrying
pulp writer in the 150s, before he became a a stick, and his lines are often delivered off-
scriptwriter.3 The script kept at the CSC does screen, a sign that his scenes were shot in a rush.
not mention Bryan’s story and is credited to Margheriti even claimed in an interview that
Margheriti and Simonelli. Gainsbourg himself asked him to play a cameo
Whatever the truth, the writers concocted while visiting Birkin on the set: “He came to
a pastiche that benefits from extraneous ele- Rome and one evening at dinner he asked me,
ments which seem to hint at its spurious origin: ‘Why can’t I play a part too?’ and I said, ‘Sure,
the presence of a gorilla (an orangutan in the why not?’ and so I changed the role of the in-
script) as an unlikely red herring seems a self- spector for him, adding a few lines; I must say
conscious nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s short story he was rather good, short, believable as a pain
The Murders in the Rue Morgue or, even more in the ass type, a bit stiff….”6
fittingly, Ralph Spence’s play The Gorilla, Less inspired was the casting of the male
whereas the revelation of the murderer’s identity, lead, Hiram Keller, who was enjoying the last
without giving too much away, is in tune with a gleamings of the short-lived popularity brought
typical tendency in gialli of the period. Another to him by Fellini—Satyricon (16). Working
nod to Poe is the titular cat, a key presence in with a German co-production, Margheriti cast
the story, and the imperturbable witness of the the veteran Anton Diffring, in one of his usual
whole chain of murderous events: as Margher- stiff-upper-lipped scoundrel roles, and the beau-
iti’s son Edoardo recalled, “Another important tiful Doris Kuntsmann, who the same year
character in the film was Mushi, one of An- would play Eva Braun in Ennio De Concini’s
tonio’s cats, in a prominent and omnipresent Hitler: The Last Ten Days (173). Rounding up
role; at times he acted even better than many the cast were a number of Italian actors, such as
regularly credited actors.” 4 As the presence of Venantino Venantini, Dana Ghia and Margher-
the feline underlines, the movie is spiced with iti’s friend and regular Luciano Pigozzi, in his
irony, which gives it a somehow lighter tone usual turn as the designated victim.
than Margheriti’s earlier Gothics. As Simonelli If the plot is more than a bit silly, and the
recalled, “The irony was intentional, without al- murderer rather easy to spot, the director man-
lowing it to become too much, but just a little aged to make things look compelling, at least
6 1973: Il plenilunio

visually. The opening scene starts with the out- didn’t use any optical systems at that time, which
standing image of a spurt of blood over a spider’s would have made the whole atmosphere very
web as someone is being murdered off-screen, weird and dreamlike.”7 Margheriti was not sat-
and then proceeds, via an exquisite focus isfied with the gorilla either: “In my opinion the
change, with a long take from behind an iron orangutan, which was in the original story, was
gate, following the murderer’s actions—a Bible a mistake, and if we’d managed to replace it with
is picked up, a body is locked in a trunk—under something else, the film would have surely ben-
the cat’s attentive eyes. It is a really impressive efitted … on the other hand, if that is the story,
beginning, showing that—when he was not busy it is useless to try and make a different movie:
shooting a scene with three cameras at the same the only option is to improve upon it as far as
time—Margheriti was capable of a stylishness possible…”8
worthy of Bava. And, like Bava, he knew how to Simonelli and Margheriti collaborated
embellish a so-so script with enough eye candy again on a number of works, including the West-
to make it worth viewing, such as rooms and ern comedy Whiskey e fantasmi (174), the film
faces bathed in bright reds and greens, or scenes noir Controrapina, a.k.a. The Rip-Off (178) and
shot through veils, cobwebs or other semi- the adventure story La leggenda del rubino
transparent surfaces. In addition to that, a malese (185).
couple of moments—a Bible burning in extreme
close-up in a fireplace, a razor lifting a latch— NoTeS
blatantly predate as many moments in Tenebre
1. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
(182) and Suspiria, hinting that perhaps shooting began on February 7, 172.
Argento knew this movie well. 2. “It was born from an English story written by Peter
Besides paying homage to Bava (the scene Bryan, which I and my trusted Simonelli tried to make a
where the coffin is found ripped open from the little less dusty, a bit more modern and captivating; the
story was titled Corringa, which was the female protago-
inside, as if destroyed by the body buried inside nist’s name.” Garofalo, “La tecnica e gli effetti,” 11
it, recalls the aftermath of Barbara Steele’s res- 3. “I was writing crime novels with another guy, who
urrection in La maschera del demonio), Mar- is now a director too, Gianfranco Parolini. We’d write crime
gheriti managed to squeeze in his beloved minia- novels, print them ourselves, we’d do everything. I would
tures: the night scenes at the cemetery are shot write three, maybe four a month because we had two bi-
weekly publications.” Giovanni Simonelli, interviewed in
on a studio set, with the castle in the background Murder, He Wrote, extra in the Blue Underground DVD
being a miniature surrogate of the original. He of Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes.
even allowed himself a reference to his own I 4. Edoardo Margheriti, La morte negli occhi del gatto,
lunghi capelli della morte (164), also shot at the
5. Giovanni Simonelli, interviewed in Murder, He
castle Massimo in Arsoli, in the scene where Wrote.
Corringa and Suzanne take a walk in the park, 6. Garofalo, “La tecnica e gli effetti,” 11. In the Italian
a long take that recalls a similar moment in the version, Gainsbourg is dubbed by voice actor and
earlier film. In addition to Carlo Carlini’s scope comedian Oreste Lionello, the Italian voice of Woody
cinematography, La morte negli occhi del gatto Allen, with jarring effect.
7. Blumenstock, “Margheriti—The Wild, Wild Inter-
benefits from the décor (by Elio Micheli), which view,” 47.
becomes a character on its own. On the other 8. Garofalo, “La tecnica e gli effetti,” 11.
hand, Riz Ortolani’s score was not one of the 9. “You always had to keep up with Antonio and un-
composer’s best, and recycled a theme from Il derstand what he really had in mind. Otherwise he would
go off on a tangent and you’d lose him,” Simonelli recalled.
merlo maschio (171, Pasquale Festa Campanile). “Anyway, we got along quite well, and although we were
According to the director, the film under- close friends we didn’t make many movies together. We
went the same color issues that had determined argued, sometimes strongly for a whole day or half day.
the failure of the special effects in Nella stretta And then each of us would write by himself according to
morsa del ragno. “There was a really beautiful what we had decided. He would take care of the special ef-
fects scenes, because, of course, he knew how and where
scene, in which a cat visits Jane Birkin at night, to shoot a scene, but we never sat down and exchanged
one of the best moments in the film. The cat was opinions or ideas.” Simonelli, interviewed in Murder, He
some sort of vampire and it starts to drink blood Wrote.
from Birkin’s neck. Two or three scenes like that
suffered immensely. Two different scenes were Il plenilunio delle vergini (The Devil’s
supposed to be printed on top of each other with Wedding Night)
very unusual and vivid colors. Technicolor D: Paolo Solvay [Luigi Batzella] [and Aris-
1973: Il plenilunio 7

tide Massaccesi, uncredited]. S and

SC: Walter Bigari, Paolo Solvay;
DOP: Aristide Massaccesi (Tele-
color); M: Vasil Kojucharov [Ko-
jukaroff ] (Ed. C.A.M.); E: Piera
Bruni, Gianfranco Simoncelli; PD:
Carlo Gentili; AD: Romano Scan-
dariato; AC: Lorenzo Battaglia;
MU: Liliana Dulac; SO: Franco
Ricci, Manlio Urbani; W: Tigano
Lo Faro. Cast: Mark Damon (Franz
Schiller / Karl Schiller), Rosalba
Neri (Countess Dolingen de Vries),
Esmeralda Barros (Lara), Francesca
Romana Davila [Enza Sbordone]
(Tanya), Xiro Papas [Ciro Papa]
(The Vampire Monster), Sergio Pis-
lar (Mark Damon’s double), Gen-
gher Gatti (The Mysterious Man),
Giorgio Dolfin (First Villager at
Inn), Stefano Oppedisano (Second
Villager at Inn); uncredited: Carlo
Gentili (Innkeeper). PROD: Franco
Gaudenzi for Virginia Cine-
matografica (Rome); PM: Walter
Bigari; EP: Ralph Zucker; PS: Mas-
simo Alberini, Sergio Rosa; PSA:
Angelo Santaniello. Country: Italy.
Filmed at Piccolomini Castle, Bal-
sorano (L’Aquila) and at Elios Film
Studios (Rome). Running time: 4
minutes (m. 2264); Visa n. 62028 French poster for Il plenilunio delle vergini (1973). Art by Con-
(3.14.173); Rating: V.M.18. Release stantin Belinksy.
date: 3.14.173; Distribution: Florida
Cinematografica. Domestic gross: 117,150,000 lire. be sacrificed during a Satanic ritual. Tania, a
Also known as: The Devil’s Crypt; Les vierges de waitress at the inn, recovers the amulet, and man-
la pleine lune; Les vierges maudites de Dracula ages to save Karl, who kills the Countess and her
(France; 8.7.174); O Castelo de Drácula (Brazil) servants, and dispatches his twin brother. How-
Note: In the Italian end credits, Sergio Pis- ever, just as he is about to leave the castle with
lar is credited as “Franz Schiller,” and Rosalba Tania, a grim surprise awaits him…
Neri as “Countess Dracula.” “That was a movie Mark Damon wanted
Carrying an amulet that protects him from to do, it was a script he had, it was his creature.”1
evil, Franz Schiller travels to Dracula’s castle in That’s how producer Franco Gaudenzi recalled
Transylvania to seize a magic ring that gives do- the genesis of the evocatively titled Il plenilunio
minion over the world, as did the most powerful delle vergini (“Full Moon of the Virgins”). Gau-
figures of the past, such as Alexander the Great denzi adamantly acknowledged the film’s Gothic
and Caesar. He spends the night at an inn where core, adding: “It was a Dracula movie, but back
he forgets the amulet, and once at the castle he is then sexy titles worked.” This might explain why,
seduced and vampirized by the Countess compared with other Italian low-budget horror
Dolingen De Vries. Franz’s twin brother Karl ar- films of the period, including the Gaudenzi-
rives to the castle to search for his sibling. The produced La morte ha sorriso all’assassino, it
“full moon of the virgins,” which occurs every fifty sounds more conventional on paper.
years, is approaching: by way of her ring, Countess The premise basically revisits the classical
De Vries draws to the castle five virgins that will plot of Harker’s journey to Dracula’s castle, with
8 1973: Il plenilunio

a couple of important twists: the hero has a twin female servant (Esmeralda Barros) pours over
brother, and, in tune with the demand for eroti- her a pitcher of the substance, and then emerges
cism, Dracula is replaced by a ravishing female from the bathtub completely covered in scarlet
vampire (his widow, actually), thus giving to liquid, among dry ice smoke and ethereal lights.
Italian cinema one of its more sensual icons: It is truly one of Italian erotic cinema’s most
Countess De Vries, unforgettably embodied by iconic moments.
Rosalba Neri. According to Gaudenzi, Damon was plan-
By applying the theme of the double to a ning to sell the film to an American company
male character, the script relies on a more classic that was interested in distributing it in the States;
type of hero, split into two distinct halves, as the however, the Italian producer never met any as-
twin brothers Schiller (not by chance named sociate of the company, and suspects that
after the famous German poet, philosopher and Damon himself was willing to take the task of
playwright). On the one hand, we have Franz, releasing Il plenilunio delle vergini in his home
the rascal, Romantic type, an impulsive Byro- country. As for the choice of the director, Gau-
nian figure, a seducer and a reckless adventurer denzi claimed, “We hired Paolo Solvay, since he
who dreams of being a ubermensch and rule the was often in our office, and there he, Massaccesi
world; on the other hand, his bookworm brother and Mattei used to talk and come up with ideas
Karl, an intellectual who is interested in the oc- for movies.” 2 Still, Solvay (real name Luigi
cult, recites excerpts from The Raven, labels Poe Batzella, nicknamed “il tranviere,” the tram
as “the fashionable writer from the new world,” driver, among insiders) is credited as the the co-
passingly mentions a “Karnstein Museum” author of the screenplay with Walter Bigari
which winks at Le Fanu’s Carmilla, quotes (a.k.a. Walter Brandi, Italian cinema’s first home-
Eliphas Levi’s definition of the vampire in Latin made bloodsucker, in L’amante del vampiro),
(“Sine vita vivus, sine morte mortuus”) and even whereas the script kept at the CSC (which
name-drops the Greek Neoplatonic philosopher carries the unlikely subtitle Eros Vampiros and
Sinesius. is dated July 27, 1723) bears only Batzella’s
Last but not least, Countess De Vries (her- name. Incidentally, the screenplay—very pre-
self the namesake of a character in Bram Stoker’s cisely written, with many technical indications,
short story Dracula’s Guest, Countess Dolingen and otherwise quite close to the finished film—
of Gratz) is vaguely patterned over the real-life includes an over-the-top prologue that is not in
Countess Erzsébet Báthory, whose notorious the movie, in which the Countess summons the
deeds had been brought to the screen a number forces of evil with her ring while in the castle’s
of times in the previous years, most notably in halls a savage orgy climaxes in the ritual torture
Hammer’s Countess Dracula (171, Peter Sasdy), and throat slashing of a nude woman tied to a
starring Ingrid Pitt, and in a couple of Spanish column. What is more, in the script the Schiller
horror films, the Paul Naschy vehicle El retorno brothers are renamed Richard and William Ben-
de Walpurgis (173, with María Silva as the son.
Countess) and in the politically charged Cere- Born in 124 in San Sperate, Sardinia,
monia sangrienta (173, Jorge Grau), where Batzella had moved on to directing in 166 with
Báthory was played by Lucia Bosé. But the char- the war melodrama Tre franchi di pietà after a
acter was also evoked in Franco Brocani’s ex- nondescript career as an actor. Coming after a
perimental oddity Necropolis (170), where trio of cheap Westerns, Il plenilunio delle vergini
Báthory was played by Warhol superstar Viva, was his first horror movie, although he had
in Harry Kümel’s La rouge aux lévres (170), played the savant in an early Italian Gothic,
played by Delphine Seyrig, and most memorably Roberto Mauri’s La strage dei vampiri (162).
in an episode of Walerian Borowczyk’s Contes According to the producer, however, the movie
Immoraux (174), with Paloma Picasso. was co-directed by the director of photography
The tendency for literate references puts Aristide Massaccesi: “Actually they made it to-
the script in the same vein as La notte dei dan- gether, he [Batzella] made him reshoot some
nati. Both movies share the same mixture of things, not the least because Aristide had an im-
classical Gothic and lowbrow sexploitation: in portant role in the crew.”4 Damon was so im-
the most notorious scene—possibly influenced pressed by Massaccesi’s work that he recom-
by a similar sequence in Countess Dracula—the mended him to Roger Corman as the d.o.p. for
Countess takes a sensual bath in blood while her their next project, The Arena (174, Steve
1973: Il prato 

Carver), which Massaccesi partly directed as (real name Enza Sbordone), a refugee from the
well. “Decamerotics” of the period. On top of that,
The cinematography is indeed one of the the movie sported a tendency toward the
movie’s assets. Shooting in a real location, the grotesque in its parade of monstrous male char-
Piccolomini castle in Balsorano, Massaccesi acters: the wan-looking Gengher Gatti—who
makes impeccable use of hand-held camera collected a scarce number of appearances in a
shots, and gives the movie’s typical adults-only career that seemingly lasted the space of five
imagery an aesthetic quality that puts it one step years, including Batzella’s Anche per Django le
above the typical erotic fare of the period. The carogne hanno un prezzo (171) and Jorge Grau’s
direction is surprisingly witty at times, such as No profanar el sueño de los muertos—plays the
in the scene where Karl (whose wine has been “mysterious man” who pops up every now and
drugged by the Countess) and his hosts start then and has the last laugh in the cynical bad
laughing uncontrollably, and their madly cack- ending, while Ciro Papa (Frankenstein ’80; Ter-
ling faces, shot in extreme close-up, are visually ror! Il castello delle donne maledette) is a con-
compared to the grotesque stone faces carved in vincing “monster vampire” with minimal resort
the fireplace; then, in an almost psychedelic to make-up. The use of freakish-looking actors
crescendo, the sight of De Vries’ ruby ring and as monsters would reach its peak in the Nazi
a red wine glass dissolve into an abstract tunnel- subgenre, with Batzella distinguishing himself
like vision à la 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is one with the casting of Salvatore Baccaro as the tit-
of those priceless moments that make Italian ular “beast” in La bestia in calore (177).
Gothics of the period poles apart from their Due to its erotic content, the movie had
Anglo-Saxon counterparts. some trouble with the Italian censors, who de-
Some visual ideas were borrowed from manded that the sapphic lovemaking sequence
other sources: the Countess advancing toward be shortened and that “all scenes be eliminated
the camera as if she was fluctuating in the air where the man kisses the lower part of the
was lifted from Bava, the ceremonial with the woman’s body.” The photonovel published in the
five virgins comes straight out of Twins of Evil magazine Cinestop Attualità (issue #12, May
(171, John Hough), while the moment where 173) retained some additional frissons (full
De Vries discovers that Schiller is not a vampire frontal nudes, an emphasis on the Sapphic in-
since he is reflected in the hall’s huge mirror is terludes), whereas for once the French version
a nod to The Fearless Vampire Killers, a detail was identical to the Italian one.
which may also hint at the makers’ tongue-in-
cheek approach. The low budget resulted in NoTeS
some ludicrous special effects—such as the ex- 1. Manlio Gomarasca and Davide Pulici, Nude per
treme close-ups of real bats to suggest Neri’s Dracula, extra in the Italian DVD Il plenilunio delle vergini
transformation into a vampire, and the giant bat (Cinekult).
that appears at the climax—whereas the huge 2. Ibid.
3. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
red ruby ring which the Countess uses to sum- shooting began on July 31, 172.
mon her victims was another small miracle of 4. Gomarasca and Pulici, Nude per Dracula.
resourcefulness. As Neri recalled, “I had recently 5. Gomarasca and Pulici, 99 donne, 171.
bought a Pomellato ring, you know, those big 6. Ibid.
red stones … and I thought: ‘Why not put a light
bulb in it…?’ Because, you see, the ring we used Il prato macchiato di rosso
for that sequence had a bulb inside the stone: D: Riccardo Ghione. S and SC: Riccardo
there was a battery somewhere (laughs)…”5 Ghione; DOP: Romolo Garroni (Technicolor,
Neri (who had crossed Mark Damon’s path Techniscope); M: Teo Usuelli, conducted by the
on the set of Romolo Guerrieri’s Western Johnny author (Ed. R.C.A.), choirs by Nora Orlandi; the
Yuma, 166) did not have much to say, neither song Il prato macchiato di rosso (Ghione-Dalla-
about the film, nor about Batzella: “I never un- Baldazzi) is sung by Lucio Dalla; E: Cleofe Con-
derstood him. It was like there were two of them, versi; PD: Arrigo Equini; CO: Osanna Guardini;
going different directions … and rarely meeting AD: Luciano Palermo; SS: Rosanna Seregni; C:
(laughs). A bit schizophrenic, indeed.” 6 The cast Ruggero Radicchi; SO: Umberto Picistrelli; Mix:
also included Esmeralda Barros, Maurizio Fausto Ancillai; AE: Aloisa Camilli; MU: Cris-
Arena’s ex-lover, and Francesca Romana Davila tina Rocca; SE: Giuseppe Pagnotta, Arnaldo
100 1973: Il prato

Mangolini. Cast: Marina Malfatti (Nina Gen- enigmatic Alfiero picks up a number of misfits (a
ovese), Enzo Tarascio (Dr. Antonio Genovese), gypsy, a prostitute, a drunk, a pair of hitch-hiking
Daniela Caroli (Max’s Companion), Georg Will- hippies) and takes them to the villa of Antonio
ing (Max), Claudio Biava (Alfiero, Nina’s and Nina Genovese, a pair of upper class wine
Brother), Barbara Marzano (Gypsy girl), Do- merchants. Soon the guests notice that something
minique Boschero (Prostitute), Lucio Dalla is wrong with their apparently affable hosts: Al-
(Tramp), Nino Castelnuovo (UNESCO agent); berto is a crazed scientist, obsessed with the cre-
uncredited: Tiziana Inzani (Girl in the street), ation of an immortal being, whereas the greedy
Giovanni Zappieri (Waiter). PROD: Alfredo Nina runs the blood smuggling ring, draining
Chetta, Aldo Pascucci for Canguro Cinema- lowlives of their blood which is then shipped to
tografica (Rome); PS: Alfredo Sinatra; PSe: Gio- Third World countries. After a delirious orgy, dur-
vanni Bruno Bossio. Country: Italy. Filmed in ing which they are drugged, the guests are offed
Castell’Arquato and Fiorenzuola d’Arda and at by the trio, who employ a robot built by Alberto
Centro Dear Studios (Rome). Running time: to suck their blood. The two hippies are about to
0 minutes (m. 240); Visa n. 61372 (11.13. end up as their unfortunate companions, when
172); Rating: V.M.18. Release dates: 3.2.173 the UNESCO agent shows up and saves the day.
(Italy); Distribution: Drago Film. Domestic gross: A low-budget production filmed in the late
56,364,000 lire. spring and summer of 172, in the Northern re-
A UNESCO agent discovers that blood is gion of Emilia Romagna, in the villages of
being smuggled abroad, hidden in bottles of wine. Castell’Arquato and Fiorenzuola (in the province
Meanwhile, in a small Northern Italy village, the of Piacenza) under the working title Vampiro
2000, Il prato macchiato di rosso
(“The Red-Stained Lawn”) was Ric-
cardo Ghione’s fourth feature film.
The son of the famous orchestra
conductor Franco Ghione, he had
risen to notoriety in 150, when he
and his associate Marco Ferreri cre-
ated the short-lived newsreel Doc-
umento mensile, which the creators
conceived as “a new cinematic
‘genre.’ Like a cultural magazine, in
each issue it brings together critical
notes, documentation, short stories,
poetry. The contributors are the
best-known filmmakers, as well as
eminent personalities of the Italian
and foreign cultural world, who for
once express themselves through
the cinematic medium.”1
Despite a short and troubled
existence, due to many censorship
issues, Documento mensile was an
extraordinary accomplishment, and
featured contributions from Vit-
torio De Sica and Luchino Visconti
(the moving short documentary
Appunti su un fatto di cronaca, in-
spired by the killing of a 12-year-old
girl in a Roman suburban neighbor-
original Italian poster art for Il prato macchiato di rosso (1973). hood) as well as from novelists
The incongruous figure on the left, wielding a machine-gun, is Alberto Moravia and Carlo Levi.
recycled from the poster for Svegliati e uccidi (1966, Carlo Liz- Ghione, with the complicity of
zani). screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, tried
1973: Il prato 101

to revive the same formula of Documento device to drain their victims: a tin robot which
mensile for a feature film, provisionally titled Lo looks like it just stepped out of some bad 150s
spettatore n. 1, which was to be the first in a sci-fi flick.
series of anthologies based on real-life facts and Ghione adds a few references to Nosferatu
featuring non-professional actors. “These films (a scene where Daniela Caroli’s hippie girl cuts
can be compared to as many issues of a maga- her own finger like Harker does in Murnau’s
zine,” he and Zavattini pointed out. “Each article film, an eerie dinner in which the owners pro-
in each issue will be signed by this or that direc- claim they don’t eat meat, being vegetarians) and
tor.”2 The names involved were Carlo Lizzani, depicts Enzo Tarascio’s character as a demented
Michelangelo Antonioni, Dino Risi, Alberto Lat- mad doctor with a lab full of body parts and
tuada, Francesco Maselli, Zavattini himself and weird machinery, who delivers crazy mono-
Federico Fellini. Eventually the project for Lo logues and has a fixation with automatons and
spettatore fell apart, and the resulting film be- robots (a nod to the character of Coppelius in
came the anthology L’amore in città (153). Hoffmann’s The Sandman, perhaps?). In A cuore
It took over a decade before Ghione made freddo, Ghione portrayed the hippies and the
his film debut, and it was a one-of-a-kind effort: wily upper-class couple with the same nihilistic
Il limbo (167), written with Luigi Malerba, fea- contempt; here, in full post–168 mode (see Il
tured only two-year-old children, and aimed at delitto del diavolo), the joint smoking, guitar
portraying a view of life and the world as seen playing, free lovemaking young couple are the
through the eyes of a newborn baby. Regrettably good guys, whereas the villains are rich fascists
the film was never released theatrically, and to who listen to Wagner (“I love German music
this day it remains impossible to view. Then very much, it makes us feel bigger, more impor-
Ghione helmed La rivoluzione sessuale (168), tant … it is undoubtedly a music for a superior
an interesting if flawed apologue inspired by the race,” Nina comments), nurture perverted
theories of Wilhelm Reich and featuring among sexual whims and claim that “only money gives
others a young Laura Antonelli, and A cuore happiness.”
freddo (171), a grim “hippie vs bourgeoisie” Beneath the anticapitalistic discourse and
drama starring Enrico Maria Salerno and Rada the decadent vision of bourgeois family (Nina
Rassimov. despises her husband and has an incestuous re-
For Il prato macchiato di rosso Ghione re- lationship with Alfiero), there is a heavy satirical
sorted to a plot which mixed elements from the undercurrent at work. Tarascio’s character is
Gothic genre, the thriller and a little bit of openly caricaturish, starting with his outstand-
science fiction, spiced with ample doses of eroti- ing, gigantic, colorful bow-ties, neurotic behav-
cism and served as a political fable of sorts. As ior and incoherent monologues (“I have come
the working title implied, Ghione’s are modern to the conclusion that nature is imperfect. We
day vampires, who literally steal the blood from must provide to modify afterwards what nature
the lower classes (prostitutes, tramps, gypsies, has created, the dynamics of automatisms …
hippies) and sell it back to the Third World, this is perfection!”). He is a man-child who
where the ongoing state of war results in con- keeps playing with robots like a grown-up kid
tinuous demand for the vital fluid: as Nina (Ma- and keeps a doll house of sorts in the garden,
rina Malfatti) explains, “Blood is worth quite and his duets with the drunken tramp (Lucio
a lot, you know? More than oil, more than Dalla) are openly tongue-in-cheek.
gold….” The bare-bones plot, which in parts recalls
The concept of upper-class bloodsuckers, Alain Jessua’s Traitement de choc (a.k.a. Shock
which draws back to I vampiri, found fertile Treatment, 173), is fleshed out with ample doses
ground after the 168 turmoil, from the political of nudity, courtesy of Caroli, Dominque Bo-
allegory of …Hanno cambiato faccia to the biting schero (as a prostitute) and Barbara Marzano.
satire of Il cav. Costante Nicosia demoniaco Ghione even stages a psychedelic orgy scene in-
ovvero: Dracula in Brianza (175), but the way side a room covered with mirrors whose access
Ghione’s film deals with it is bizarre to say the is shaped like a gigantic vagina—a nod to Niki
least. The trio of wealthy “vampires”—Nina, her de Saint-Phalle’s notorious 166 sculpture “La
crazy husband Alberto and the former’s brother Hon” (and to Piero Schivazappa’s Femina Ri-
Alfiero—are wine dealers who smuggle blood dens)—to the sound of Teo Usuelli’s outstanding
inside wine bottles, and employ a very peculiar score. The out-and-out horrific moments are
102 1973: Riti

few and far between, namely a scene where the Tonino Valerii (Senza scrupoli, 186), although
hippies find blood-drained victims amassed in his best work was a collaboration on Marco Fer-
an underground cell (a moment vaguely remi- reri’s outstanding Diario di un vizio (13). He
niscent of Bava) and the robot’s gory blood- died in 2003.
draining practices by way of a mechanical suc-
tion pump. NoTeS
All this is interspersed with scenes showing 1. Riccardo Ghione, quoted in Lino Micciché (ed.), Sto-
a UNESCO agent (played by Nino Castelnuovo) ria del cinema italiano 1949/1953 (Rome: Edizioni di Bianco
investigating the blood smuggling ring, which & Nero, 2001), 8.
makes for a number of blatant plugs for a local 2. m.g., “Il balletto delle ombre,” La Stampa, March 26,
winemaker and assorted awkward dialogue bits 3. Alberto Ceretto, “‘Il male oscuro’ a Milano,” Corriere
featuring Castelnuovo with local non-actors in d’Informazione, March 10–11, 172. Il male oscuro was later
small roles, plus a scene in which a vital clue to turned to a movie in 10 by Mario Monicelli, starring Gi-
the solution of the mystery comes in the form ancarlo Giannini and Emmanuelle Seigner.
of a bottle of Chivas Regal whisky.
The most interesting aspect is the presence Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel Tre-
of Lucio Dalla, one of Italy’s most talented cento… (Black Magic Rites, a.k.a. The Rein-
singer-songwriters. His acting role in such a carnation of Isabel)
low-budget obscurity seems odd at first, given D: Ralph Brown [Renato Polselli]. S and
that in 172 he participated to the San Remo fes- SC: Renato Polselli; DOP: Ugo Brunelli (East-
tival with one of his best songs, Piazza Grande, mancolor); M: Gianfranco Reverberi, Romolo
and was already a household name. But Dalla’s Forlai, conducted by the author (Ed. Tickle); E:
sparse cinematic career (17 acting appearances Renato Polselli; ArtD: Giuseppe Ranieri; CO:
between 165 and 2008) is littered with such Wally Boni; MU: Marcello Di Paolo; Hair: Ag-
oddities, from Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s I nese Panarotto; AD: Raimondo Esposito; SO:
sovversivi (167) to Fernando di Leo’s Amarsi Maurizio Ferrari; Color technician: Pio Matassi.
male (16), not forgetting Avati’s La mazurka Cast: Mickey Hargitay (Jack Nelson), Rita
del barone, della santa e del fico fiorone. Here, as Calderoni (Isabella / Laureen), Raoul [Raoul
the ugly-looking, balding, bearded tramp who Lovecchio] (Trauker, the Occultist), Krysta Bar-
has always a bottle of wine at hand, Dalla (who rymore (Christa), Consolata Moschera, William
also sings the pleasant folk-rock titular number Darni (Richard Brenton), Max Dorian (Doctor),
under the opening credits) shows a talent for Marcello Bonini Olas (Gerg, the Servant),
comedy that comes to the fore in the scene Cristina Perrier (Glenda), Stefania Fassio
where Tarascio’s mad doctor illustrates to him (Stefy), Gabriele Bentivoglio (Priest), Vittorio
his vision of the übermensch: “Man is shit! From Fanfoni (Rocky), Anna Ardizzone (Raquel, the
tall, blond, rangy, you see, he became dark, first victim), Marisa Indice; uncredited: Dunca
short, fat, ugly, hairy … and he sweats too … Balsor, Carmen Young (Mabel). PROD: Renato
like you!” Polselli for G.R.P. Cinematografica; PM: Mario
Il prato macchiato di rosso was given a Maestrelli; PSe: Gianni Di Clemente, Giuseppe
V.M.18 rating “for the erotic and nude scenes, Bruno Bossio; ADM: Giuseppe Gargiulo. Coun-
those of violence to individuals and those con- try: Italy. Filmed at and at Castle Piccolomini,
cerning the use of drugs” (namely, a sequence Balsorano (L’Aquila) and at Elios Film Studios
where the hippies smoke hashish). After the pre- (Rome). Running time: 4 minutes (m. 2584);
miere in Fiorenzuola d’Arda, on March 2, 173, Visa n. 6075 (11.18.172); Rating: V.M.18. Release
it disappeared into oblivion and surfaced to date: 1.17.173; Distribution: Primula Cine-
home video only recently. It was Ghione’s last matografica. Domestic gross: 68,080,000 lire.
film as a director, as his project to adapt for the A man named Jack Nelson buys a castle with
screen Giuseppe Berto’s powerful novel Il male a dark history: 500 years earlier a woman named
oscuro, with Ugo Tognazzi in the lead and to be Isabella had been burnt there as a witch, being
filmed in September 172, ultimately sank.3 His the lover of Count Dracula. In the castle’s crypts
subsequent work was mainly as a scriptwriter in horrible rites are still taking place, though: a sect
the erotic genre, for Salvatore Samperi (Fo- of vampires perform sadistic tortures on their vic-
tografando Patrizia, 184; La bonne, 186), tims in order to revive Isabella, their high
Gabriele Lavia (Scandalosa Gilda, 185) and priestess. Several young women who are guests at
1973: Riti 103

the castle are sacrificed, and among the vampires manor, the return of the repressed past by way
there are an occultist named Trauker, the local of a curse, the doppelgänger, the premature bur-
doctor, a priest, the disfigured servant Gerg, and ial…) is purely instrumental, as means to delve
even Nelson himself. The last victim about to be into the director’s own erotic obsessions. Always
sacrificed is Laureen, Nelson’s daughter and a faithful to his philosophical and psychoanalytic
dead ringer for Isabella. Her fiancé, Richard Bren- ambitions, Polselli claimed in interviews that he
ton, eventually finds out the truth: Nelson is the wanted to “look for the reason behind the psy-
reincarnation of Count Dracula, and his body chosis that moved people toward this type of
must be destroyed for the curse to end… films. In fact, when you watch the movie, you’ll
Shot between December 171 and January see that the girl who has stayed at the doctor’s
1721 as La reincarnazione, and released only two house at night sees the vampire with his features.
years later under a title that tried to exploit the The one who was perturbed by the priest, sees
current vogue of the so-called “Decamerotics”— him again at night as a vampire. In fact, each
the sex comedies set in the Middle Ages, one sees the vampire with her own eyes.”2
launched by the success of Pasolini’s films Il De- Polselli would delve even deeper in the ex-
cameron (171) and I racconti di Canterbury ploration of sexual deviations with Rivelazioni
(172)—Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel Tre- di uno psichiatra sul mondo perverso del sesso
cento… marked Renato Polselli’s return to the (173), but compared with works like La verità
Gothic genre, after L’amante del vampiro (160) secondo Satana (shot in 170, but released in
and Il mostro dell’opera (shot in 161 but released 172), Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel Tre-
in 164). Once again Polselli built the story cento… looks like a “commercial” project for the
around an offbeat erotic variation on the theme director, starting with the presence of Mickey
of vampirism and metempsychosis: whereas L’a- Hargitay, who had also starred in Delirio caldo.
mante del vampiro focused on a female vampire The cast is filled with familiar Polselli faces, such
and her monstrous servant/lover, and Il mostro as Raoul Lovecchio (seen also in many Fernando
dell’opera depicted a misogynist bloodsucker di Leo films), Krysta Barrymore, Marcello
who wanted to take revenge on the reincarna- Bonini Olas, William Darni and Max Dorian.
tion of the woman who betrayed him, here a According to some sources, scenes featuring
whole sect of vampires, on the order of Count Tano Cimarosa were cut prior to release, but this
Dracula himself, perform magic rites on their is dubious. Production values are surprisingly
victims in an extra-dimensional torture cham- decent for a Polselli movie, even though on the
ber in order to revive Dracula’s lover, burnt at lower side of low budget: the film was shot at
the stake 500 years earlier. the Castle Piccolomini in Balsorano in 5 or 6
If Polselli’s earlier Gothics were merely sug- weeks (according to Calderoni), and it bene-
gestive in their eroticism, and were content with fitted from a score by Gianfranco Reverberi and
showing ample female décolletage and the like, Romolo Forlai, which mixed African percus-
here the director takes full advantage of the dif- sion, a groovy bass and female orgasmic cries;
ferent climate: the movie looks like a demented the main theme, aptly titled Orgiastic Ritual
adults-only comic book brought to life, with a (b/w Black Secret), even came out in a 7" vinyl,
gleeful insistence on all things sexual, from credited to South African Combo.3
weird sadistic torture scenes on women (where That said, the movie borders on the incom-
the victims seem to oddly enjoy their supplice, prehensible, as the basic plot is continually sab-
one of Polselli’s favorite leitmotivs) to enthusi- otaged by Polselli’s own script, which leaves
astic sapphic interludes, with full frontal female giant-sized plot holes at every turn. There is no
nudity and a whole range of starlets ready to take real storyline to speak of, but a series of barely
their clothes off, starting with the gorgeous Rita connected scenes: the vampires (who wear red
Calderoni. costumes and capes that make them look like
Despite the references to his previous work homologues of the titular characters in the
(the idea of an extra-dimensional torture cham- Three Supermen series) abducting and torturing
ber was recycled from Il mostro dell’opera), and their nubile victims during the cycle of the full
the resort to Gothic clichés such as the burning moon; the other characters wandering around
of the witch, the result does not quite feel as it the castle; and lots and lots of talk—all this be-
belongs to the genre. In fact, Polselli’s treatment tween one erotic scene and the next.
of Gothic staples (metempsychosis, the haunted Dialogue scenes go on forever, and the
104 1973: Il sesso

actors declaim their lines in an unlikely aulic Polselli appealed, agreeing to shorten the most
language that makes them even more jarring. audacious bits, and on November 11 the censors
Equally grating is the comic relief provided by overturned their judgment, stressing the film’s
the character of Stefy (Stefania Fassio), a dimwit belonging to the horror genre and giving it a
who claims “I always seem to fall on something V.M.18 rating.
hard,” and who ends up in bed with a female Released in January 173,4 it did poor busi-
friend and the idiotic caretaker Rocky (Vittorio ness and soon disappeared without a trace. A
Fanfoni), full of nervous twitches but apparently heavily shortened print running only 56 minutes
insatiable, in one of the worst threesome sex surfaced among collectors in the 10s; at the
scenes ever committed to celluloid. Polselli even turn of the millennium the film was unearthed
throws in the odd gore bit, such as a stake being to home video by the British label Redemption,
slowly driven into Rita Calderoni’s bare chest, under the titles The Reincarnation of Isabel and
or a heart ripped out of a victim, but fails to Black Magic Rites.
build any frissons; worse still, the attempts at
suspense, such as the scene where Krysta Bar- NoTeS
rymore is buried alive (Polselli’s own self-
1. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
homage to L’amante del vampiro), come out pre- shooting began on December 21, 171.
posterous if not utterly ridiculous. 2. Manlio Gomarasca and Daniele Aramu, “Renato
If that wasn’t enough, the direction is over Polselli: il mio cinema blasfemo,” Solamente giallo. Person-
the top from start to finish. Polselli employs aggi, luoghi e paure del giallo all’italiana 1950–1979. Noc-
turno Book #7, 61.
plenty of reds and greens in the torture scenes 3. Orgiastic Ritual was released by Tickle Records (TSP
and lights the actors’ faces with a vortex of col- 1308). The cover depicts the film’s most iconic image, the
ored lights: far from being the movie’s answer naked Rita Calderoni on the stake, tied to a St. Andrew’s
to Bava’s masterful use of color, it merely looks cross. The funk / afrobeat / psychedelic South African
like an assortment of cheap funhouse tricks. The Combo (featuring Antonio Bartoccetti from the band Jac-
ula on bass) had released another 7” the previous year:
editing is epileptic, with continuous cuts to the African Flute / Around the Stars, the main theme from the
rhythm of music, in a homemade attempt at psy- TV program “Viaggio tra le stelle.” The soundtrack LP, fea-
chedelic effects that soon becomes exhausting, turing 15 tracks with additional music by Massimo
since each scene goes on forever, such as the one Catalano and Mauro Chiari, has been released only in late
2016 by Cinedelic Records, in a limited edition of 666
where two women are chased by the villagers copies.
(with Polselli recruiting the local people from 4. That same month, the photonovel version appeared
Balsorano as extras, to grotesque effects). The in Cinesex mese #1, under the original title La reincar-
odd striking shot, such as two characters staring nazione.
at the camera at the opposite borders of the
frame, their faces cut in half to suggest their du- Il sesso della strega (Sex of the Witch)
ality, is repeated ad nauseam and soon loses ap- D: Elo Pannacciò [Angelo Pannaccio]. S:
peal. Lastly, the concept of continuity is some- Elo Pannacciò [and Franco Brocani, un-
thing to which the makers seem to be totally credited]; DOP: Maurizio Centini, Girolamo La
oblivious, as the story repeatedly jumps from Rosa; M: Daniele Patucchi; E: Marcello Mal-
day to night within the same scene and back vestito; ArtD: Egidio Spugnini; CO: Osanna
again, and incongruences abound: “I cannot Guardini; AD: Salvatore Sicurezza; SE: Luigi
stand electric light. I’m going to have a moon Gizzi; AE: Anna Bolli; SS: Marisa Muneratti.
bath,” a character says, leaving the castle’s hall: Cast: Susan Levi [Susanna Levi] (Susan), Jessica
but the room is lit by candles, and outside the Dublin (Evelin Hilthon), Sergio Ferrero (Ingrid-
sun is shining. Man), Camille Keaton (Ann), Christopher
Like most Polselli films, Riti, magie nere e Oakes [Franco Garofalo] (Tony), Donald
segrete orge nel Trecento… had trouble with the [Donal] O’Brien (Inspector), Gianni Dei (Simon
censors. It was submitted to the rating board on Dvoskin), Augusto Nobile (Edward), Maurizio
July 31, 172, and a couple of weeks later, on Au- Tanfani (Nath), Marzia Damon [Caterina Chi-
gust 11, the committee rejected it, motivating its ani] (Gloria), Irio Fantini (Markey, Assistant In-
decision as follows: “The movie consists of a spector), Ferruccio Viotti (Notary Thompson),
rambling series of sadistic sequences, meant to Giovanni Petti [Giovanni Petrucci] (Johnny),
urge, through extreme cruelty mixed with de- Annamaria Torello (Ingrid), Simone Santo
generate eroticism, the lowest sexual instincts.” (Thomas Hilthon), Lorenza Guerrieri (Lucy).
1973: Il sesso 105

PROD: Produzione Cinematografica Universa- lesbian-themed erotic drama La ragazza dalle

lia; UM: Sergio Rosa. Country: Italy. Filmed in mani di corallo (16) and Così … così … più
Sermoneta (Lazio). Running time: 81 minutes forte (170), before going bankrupt. After his
(m. 2202). Visa n. 61744 (1.24.173); Rating: debut as a director, the Western Lo ammazzò
V.M.18. Release date: 10.18.173 (France); 3.20. come un cane … ma lui rideva ancora (172),
174 (Italy); Distribution: Regional. Domestic Pannacciò founded another company, Univer-
gross: 72,16,000 lire. Also known as: Les Anges salia. Il sesso della strega came after an aborted
pervers (France). project, a weird parapsychological yarn titled
The elderly sir Thomas Hilthon gathers all Subliminal (Una splendida giornata per morire),
his descendants at his deathbed, and tells them starring Kay Fisher and Gordon Mitchell, about
he wants to take to the grave the family’s terrible a girl with telepathic powers who becomes the
secret: the power to transform human cells. After instrument of a vengeance against a former SS
the burial, the notary proceeds to the reading of acolyte. Subliminal was abandoned halfway
his will: the assets will be divided equally among through shooting due to lack of funds.2
all the heirs, including Hilthon’s secretary Simon, Il sesso della strega has vaguely Gothic un-
except for Evelin, the deceased’s daughter, who dertones. At first the story seems to move along
has been disinherited for her hatred towards her as a typical haunted house mystery, with a num-
relatives. But Evelin knows Thomas’ secret: a mys- ber of people gathered for the reading of a will
terious serum with which she injects her niece In- at a villa where weird, seemingly supernatural
grid to exact her revenge on the family. One of events take place; what is more, it features per-
the heirs, Johnny, is murdered, and a police in- haps the looniest case of transformation this side
spector shows up to investigate. Johnny’s cousin of Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (171, Roy Ward
Nath is arrested after the murder weapon (a Baker). Still, the script (co-authored, uncredited,
heavy mallet) is discovered in the basement. A by Franco Brocani, a painter and avant-garde
mysterious young man then shows up at the villa: filmmaker who helmed the obscure but inter-
he rapes and tortures two of Hilthon’s nieces, Ann esting Necropolis) throws in disparate elements,
and Lucy, and cuts Simon’s throat. The intruder including nods to the Argento-style gialli (the
is killed by the inspector’s assistant, and he is re- first murder via a mallet, which turns out to be
vealed to be none other but Ingrid, who has unrelated to the others) as well as to adults-only
turned into a man thanks to Evelin’s serum. The comics imagery, and even a weird sequence in
surviving heir, Susan, leaves the place, while the a disco featuring psychedelic visuals.
butler and the maid take possession of the Overall, the plot is so difficult to follow that
house… a lot of things are left unexplained long after the
When asked by an interviewer about Il end credits have rolled. What is the significance
sesso della strega, Camille Keaton commented: of the so-called “Javanese fingernails” worn by
“I don’t know what this film is about!” and re- the murderer? Why do the cops leave the villa
called an anecdote that happened during the without even noticing that there are still two
shooting, as the actor who was filming a scene bodies and one demented woman in the bed-
with her confessed the same feeling of bewilder- rooms? What is the role of Tony the butler
ment about the movie they were both in. 1 Those (played with his usual demented exuberance by
feelings are likely to be shared by most viewers. Franco Garofalo) and his lover, Gloria the maid
Indeed, describing Elo Pannacciò’s film is quite (Marzia Damon), on whose crotch the camera
a task, let alone put down a coherent synopsis. finally zooms, in an ending which literally par-
Not surprisingly, since it comes from one of aphrases the film’s title, in a reference to Gustave
Italy’s most singular filmmakers. Courbet’s painting L’origine du monde…?
Born in Foligno in 123, as Angelo Pannac- What the film lacks in coherence, it makes
cio, he moved at an early age in Rome, where he up in bare female flesh. Soon after the opening
was bitten by the film bug. He studied at Rome’s credits Tony and Gloria are seen indulging in
CSC, and during that period he collaborated on oral sex in the family chapel, next to the grave
a few scripts, including Duilio Coletti’s war where their master’s body will soon be buried.
drama Divisione Folgore (154), but never grad- Other sex scenes follow, lovingly accompanied
uated. He resurfaced in the movie business near by Daniele Patucchi’s postribular lounge score,
the end of the 160s, and teamed up with direc- including Tony masturbating Gloria by way of
tor Luigi Petrini for a couple of films, the an iron poker (“You push me directly toward the
106 1974: Le amanti

end … the agony has started,” she moans), the plicit eroticism: the Exorcist rip-off Un urlo dalle
gender bending murderer raping the characters tenebre (actually directed in large part by an un-
played by Lorenza Guerrieri and Camille Keaton credited Franco Lo Cascio); a remake of La
and torturing them with the above-mentioned ragazza dalle mani di corallo titled Comincerà
nails (shades of La notte dei dannati), and an tutto un mattino: io donna, tu donna (178); and
abruptly excised threesome. Speaking of which, Holocaust parte seconda: i ricordi, i deliri, la
Il sesso della strega had lots of trouble with the vendetta (filmed in 178 but released in 180),
board of censors, which requested a number of which recycled the footage from the unfinished
cuts in practically every sex sequence. Unfortu- Subliminal with additional scenes about an or-
nately, Pannacciò fails to make sex erotic, as he ganization of Nazi hunters as well as a new title,
shoots the ample nudity and carnal exuberance in the attempt to cash in on the success of the
in an indifferent, tedious manner. TV mini-series Holocaust (178, Marvin J.
Technically, the film is inept, with lots of Chomsky). Eventually, his creative output
awkwardly conceived shots featuring people drifted toward hardcore porn, with such titles
walking across the surroundings and talking of as the self-explanatory Luce rossa (17), Erotico
who-knows-what. The shoestring budget shows 2000 (181) and Fantasia erotica in concerto
at every turn: the villa where the story takes (185). Pannacciò died in 2001.
place is actually an old convent (as evident from
its typical inner courtyard), and despite the NoTeS
characters having Anglo-Saxon names, car
1. Un’americana a Roma, Camille Keaton interviewed
plates and locations are blatantly Italian (the by Manlio Gomarasca. Extra in the Italian DVD of Il sesso
movie was shot in Sermoneta, in the Lazio prov- della strega (Cinekult).
ince of Latina). On top of that, the acting ranges 2. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
from catatonic to caricatural: a case in point is shooting began on March 6, 172. Another unfinished Pan-
nacciò project, also starring Mitchell, was the obscure Il
Donal O’Brien3 as the cop on the case, complete mio demonio nel tuo corpo (My Demon in your Body),
with a Columbo-style overcoat. The Irish actor dated late 172 (unless it is yet another title for Sublimi-
recalled: “That was a down-at-heel production nal).
indeed. We filmed it near Rome and during the 3. By then O’Brien had changed his given name from
shooting I didn’t see two nickels to rub together. “Donal” to “Donald,” given his film contracts and credits
frequently misspelled his name: “On one occasion, I tried
In fact, the rumors circulating were alarming. to cash in the pay check, and they wouldn’t give me the
One night, at the restaurant, I dared to ask about money, ’cause the check was for one ‘Donald O’Brien.’ So
my wage, and the reply was: ‘Do you want the I had to go to the Embassy and have my passport corrected,
money? It’s already a lot if at the end of the day with ‘Donald’ in parentheses.” Christian Kessler, “Gun-
slingers, Cannibals, and More…: An Interview with Donal
you won’t have to pay for the hotel and the food.’ O’Brien,” European Trash Cinema #16, March 16.
I almost choked on my spaghetti!”4 4. Manlio Gomarasca, “Una vita da cattivo. Intervista
Pannacciò’s subsequent career was as a Donal O’Brian [sic],” in Manlio Gomarasca and Davide
bizarre and elusive as Il sesso della strega. Pulici (eds.), Eroi & antieroi del cinema italiano. Nocturno
Throughout the 170s he kept creating short- Dossier #10, April 2003, 50. O’Brien told a slighly different
version to Christian Kessler: “I remember that this pro-
lived production companies—such as Film duction was so cheap we were thrown out of the hotel we
Montecarlo Produzione Televisiva and Colos- were staying at. Believe it or not, we realized that each one
seum International—which usually lasted only of us would have to pay for himself! They sure had money
one movie, and helmed a handful of low-budget trouble.” Christian Kessler, “Gunslingers, Cannibals, and
films, which veered toward more and more ex-

Le amanti del mostro chini; PD, ArtD, CO: Amedeo Mellone; MU:
D: Sergio Garrone. SC: Sergio Garrone; Maia Arié; Hair: Ivana Bernardi; AD: Alessandro
DOP: Emore Galeassi (Eastmancolor, Telecolor); Frollano; AE: Bruna Abbatelli. SO: Armando
M: Elio Maestosi, Stefano Liberati, conducted Timpani; SOE: Enzo Diliberto, Roberto Arcan-
by Stefano Liberati (Ed. C.A.M.); E: Cesare Bian- geli; B: Amedeo Timpani; SE: Carlo Rambaldi;
1974: Le amanti 107

AC: Lino Galeassi; SP: Serto Giannini; SS: Paola In 172, after directing a string of Westerns
Fabiani. Cast: Klaus Kinski (Prof. Alex Nijinsky), and the war movie La colomba non deve volare,
Katia Christine (Anna Nijinsky), Ayhan Işık (Dr. Sergio Garrone decided to try his hand at an-
Igor Valewsky), Marzia Damon [Caterina Chi- other commercially viable genre, the horror
ani] (Farmer’s Wife), Erol Taş (Tramp), Romano film. He got in touch with an Italian distributor
De Gironcoli, Luigi Bevilacqua, Bruno Arié (In- named Sabatini, who introduced him to an ac-
spector), Osiride Pevarello (Feodor Polanski), quaintance, the Rome-based Turkish producer
Amedeo Timpani (The Judge), Pasquale Tos- Şakir V. Sözen, and suggested he co-produce the
cano, Roberto Messina (Farmer, Nijinsky’s first movie. Sözen—the producer of Farouk Agrama’s
victim), Carla Mancini, Alessandro Perrella, crime flick L’amico del padrino—offered the
Stella Calderoni. PROD: Amedeo Mellone for main location, a huge villa on the Bosphorus
Cinequipe (Rome) and Şakir V. Sözen; PM: channel, and proposed the casting of local star
Claudio Sinibaldi; PS: Vincenzo Iaccio. Country: Ayhan Işık, who also co-starred in Agrama’s film
Italy / Turkey. Filmed in Istanbul, Turkey and at and was concentrating on International co-
Elios Studios (Rome). Running time: 87 minutes productions. The project’s main selling point,
(m. 2384). Visa n. 64152 (3.22.174); Rating: however, would be the presence of Klaus Kinski.
V.M.18. Release date: 5.28.174; Distribution: According to Garrone, it was during the meeting
Morini. Domestic gross: unknown. Also known with Sözen that the director suggested that, in-
as: Canavarin Sevgilisi (Turkey). stead of making one movie in six weeks, they
Note: Although credited, Carla Mancini, could make two in eight weeks, for roughly the
Alessandro Perrella and Stella Cal-
deroni do not appear in the film.
Ayhan Işık, Erol Taş and Roberto
Messina are not credited in Italian
Anna, heiress of the Rassimov
fortune, returns to her family’s
sumptuous villa in the countryside
with her husband Alex Nijinsky,
whose impotence affects their un-
happy marriage. One day Alex
finds a diary in which the late Dr.
Ivan Rassimov noted his experi-
ments to discover the secret of life
and death and reanimate dead bod-
ies by way of electrical impulses. Ex-
asperated by jealousy of Dr. Valew-
sky, to whose courting Anna is not
insensitive, Alex further immerses
himself in his work: after being ex-
posed to an electric shock, he devel-
ops a split personality, and goes
around murdering villagers. His
crimes are pinned to someone else,
but Anna and Valewsky find out
that he is the culprit. Nijinsky furi-
ously attacks and kills Anna.
Finally, the conscience-stricken Alex
runs to the village to stop the exe-
cution of an innocent tramp who
has been sentenced to death for his
crimes, and is killed by soldiers as
he climbs the gallows where the
man has just been hanged. Italian poster for Le amanti del mostro (1974). Art by Morini.
108 1974: Le amanti

same budget. Thus were born Le amanti del along the same lines. Besides the aforemen-
mostro and La mano che nutre la morte, whose tioned dog autopsy, the gory scenes are limited
production history is singularly troubled and, to the sight of the victims’ bloody faces in the
to this day, uncertain.1 aftermath of Nijinsky’s murderous punches, and
During shooting in Turkey, problems arose the nudity is not up to the level of La mano che
and the production came to a halt: Garrone was nutre la morte, although Katia Christine has a
vague about the nature of the issues, labeling nude scene, unlike in the other movie. Interest-
them as “personal matters,”2 but it seems Sözen ingly, the scenes featuring nudity, with the ex-
seized the negatives for a while. Perhaps the deal ception of Christine’s, were all shot in Rome, as
for making two movies instead of one had not part of Nijinsky’s attacks. In spite of Garrone’s
really been made, and the producer discovered efforts at creating a suitably Gothic mood, the
what Garrone was aiming at only during the villa where the film takes place is a rather incon-
filming? Anyway, when the Italian director was gruous architectural element, and the clueless
finally able to resume shooting, Kinski had left, Turkish extras do little to make it believable. In
and some scenes—namely most of those in the addition, the sequences shot at Elios Village sink
lab—had to be filmed with a stand-in. Back to the film: the sight of a shabby Western setting
Italy, the director shot additional scenes at Elios passed off as 1800s Russia kills whatever mood
Film’s Western village (posing as a Russian vil- the director might have hoped for.
lage), again with Kinski’s double. Lastly, during That said, despite Le amanti del mostro and
the editing he came up with a number of tricks. La mano che nutre la morte’s utter mediocrity,
Like many other Italian Gothics, Le amanti their technical analysis underlines the director’s
del mostro features a weak, scarcely virile male ingenuity in their making. First of all, when
figure: Dr. Nijinsky’s impotence has mined the scripting the second movie, Garrone was careful
marriage with his beautiful wife Anna, and the to concoct a number of very similar scenes to
couple’s return to the woman’s family mansion the first one. During shooting, to save on the
is one last attempt at putting back together the time for lighting and camera placing, he shot
pieces. The recovery of a diary with Dr. Rassi- scenes for both films on one location, using the
mov’s studies on re-animation seems to take the same camera angles, then moved on to the next:
story to territories close to Frankenstein, but the compare, for instance, Kinski and Katia Chris-
first experiment (on his wife’s dead dog— tine visiting the basement where Ivan Rassi-
Frankenweenie this ain’t, and Garrone does not mov’s tomb is located, accompanied by a servant
spare the sight of the animal’s viscera) goes ter- (in Le amanti del mostro) and Kinski taking his
ribly wrong and Nijinsky falls victim of a per- guests on a guided tour of the crypt (in La mano
sonality split, Jekyll/Hyde type, that turns him che nutre la morte).
into a rapist and murderer. There is a supernat- In addition to recycling the same shots (like
ural angle, though, as it seems that he is actually those of Rassimov’s lab), Garrone used different
being possessed by the evil spirit of the late Dr. takes of the same scene on each film. An ex-
Rassimov—possibly an in-joke dedicated to ample is the second murder sequence in Le
actor Ivan Rassimov, the lead in Garrone’s debut, amanti del mostro, when Kinski attacks a love-
the Western Se vuoi vivere … spara! (168). The making couple in the woods: in La mano che
plot thickens, so to speak, when an innocent nutre la morte, it is Kinski’s servant who dis-
tramp is arrested and condemned for a double patches the couple near the film’s beginning and
murder committed by Nijinsky, who finally be- takes the woman to his master’s lab. Another
comes aware of his murderous deeds. similar scene occurs where a drunken Kinski
Compared with the gorier, nastier La mano picks up a volume which turns out to be Ivan
che nutre la morte, Le amanti del mostro has Rassimov’s diary in Le amanti del mostro: the
strong melodramatic elements, namely the beginning of the same scene is used in a differ-
scenes devoted to Nijinsky’s infelicitous marital ent context in La mano che nutre la morte. On
life and the subplot about the blossoming love other occasions, Garrone simply re-used the
between Anna and the sympathetic Dr. Valew- same sequence, either with a slightly different
sky, and the climax—Nijinsky raping and mur- edit or in its entirety—Kinski, Christine and Işık
dering his wife, then desperately running to the having breakfast on the terrace; the village dig-
village square where an innocent man is about nitaries discussing—and came up with totally
to be hanged for the crimes he committed—is different dialogue, based on the actors’ labials.
1974: L’assassino 10

Ultimately, he even used the same opening where anything is potentially transformable into
credit sequence (a montage of footage from a visual attraction.
both films veered in red-and-blue), save for the Both films were submitted to the board of
title—which explains why some credited actors censors in a very short period of time, but Le
don’t actually appear in Le amanti del mostro. amanti del mostro came out in Italy one month
On the other hand, the Turkish actors are not later. They sank without trace, also due to dis-
credited in Italian prints, and the film figures as tribution issues: Garrone explained that his as-
an Italian production, possibly because of the sociate broke the original deal with an inde-
financial trouble Garrone underwent with pendent distributor and offered the movies to a
Sözen.3 major company, that understandably refused.4
If La mano che nutre la morte is the more In Turkey the films were thought to be unfin-
tightly plotted of the duo, Le amanti del mostro ished and considered lost: Işık, who died in 17,
is often so shabbily stitched together that some- never saw them. Only in 186 actor-cum-
times its only feeble red thread is Klaus Kinski’s producer Yılmaz Duru unearthed La mano che
truly demented performance, Actually, he is on nutre la morte for the Turkish audience (see
the screen much less than he seems to be: Gar- entry for the film).
rone likely took precautions by storing a huge
number of close-ups of the actor, and in addition NoTeS
to the use of a stand-in (in long shots and/or
1. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
filmed from behind) he resorted to the use of shooting began on July 23, 173, whereas the filming for
POV shots in the scenes where Nijinsky stalks La mano che nutre la morte started on March 26. The dates
the countryside, looking for victims. But when- are debatable since the movies were shot together: it might
ever he is on screen, Kinski captures the audi- well be that the July date regarding Le amanti del mostro
refers to the shooting at the Elios Western village.
ence’s attention with his trademark intensity, all 2. Davide Pulici, Due mostri al prezzo di uno, extra fea-
spirited eyes, trembling lips and nervous ges- turette in the Italian Cinekult DVD of La mano che nutre
tures: Nijinsky’s ever-changing moods, with mo- la morte. It must be added that, according to Yılmaz Duru,
ments of languor and exhaustion alternated with the foreign cast and crew one day “disappeared,” i.e. they
murderous rampages, carry the weight of the left Turkey without notice to the Turks involved. However,
Duru’s testimony must be taken with a grain of salt as he
film. was not involved in the original film.
The result is almost hallucinatory, with 3. An interesting analysis of the different edits by inde-
whole scenes built on nothing: an exemplary pendent filmmaker Roger Fratter can be found in Double
moment is the seven-and-a-half-minute-long Target, extra featurette in the Italian Cinekult DVD of Le
amanti del mostro.
sequence where the drunken Nijinsky wanders 4. Pulici, Due mostri al prezzo di uno.
aimlessly throughout his mansion, discovers
Rassimov’s diary, plunges into reading it, ex-
plores the house’s basement and breaks into a L’assassino ha riservato nove poltrone
secret lab. Here the story halts, and the direction (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats)
totally clings to the actor’s performance, obses- D: Giuseppe Bennati. S and SC: Biagio
sively stalked by the camera and asked to fill the Proietti, Paolo Levi, Giuseppe Bennati; DOP:
running time with his sole presence—some- Giuseppe Aquari (Eastmancolor); M: Carlo Sav-
thing similar to what Jesús Franco had done ina; E: Luciano Anconetani; PD: Mario Chiari;
with him in the sequences of Count Dracula SD, CO: Enzo Eusepi; AD: Mario Garriba; AE:
(170) with Kinski playing Renfield. It is the tri- Rita Triunveri; APD: Alberto Luciani; C: Emilio
umph of atmosphere, based on the dilation of Giannini; AC: Carlo Aquari; PROP: Adriano
filmic pacing and on the interaction of the Tiberi; B: Giancarlo Laurenzi; SO: Manlio Ma-
actor’s body with the set pieces (a library, a gara; KG: Nello Adami; SP: Ermanno Serto; W:
cobweb-filled dungeon, an absurd-looking lab Anna Onori; SS: Renata Franceschi. Cast:
full of boiling stills and an abstruse instrumen- Rosanna Schiaffino (Vivian), Chris [Cristea]
tation inspected almost in real time), carried al- Avram (Patrick Davenant), Eva Czemerys (Re-
most to the point of abstraction. It would be becca Davenant), Lucretia Love (Doris), Paola
something unthinkable in British and U.S. low- Senatore (Lynn Davenant), Gaetano Russo
budget horror flicks, where the over-abundance (Duncan Foster), Andrea Scotti (Albert), Ed-
of dialogue advances the story in endless expos- oardo Filippone (Mystery Man), Howard Ross
itory sequences, and it is the sign of a cinema [Renato Rossini] (Russell), Janet Agren (Kim).
110 1974: L’assassino

Spanish lobby card for L’assassino ha riservato nove poltrone (1974), featuring Rosanna Schiaffino and
the grotesque-looking masked killer.

PROD: Cinenove (Rome); EP: Dario Rossini; the stage, and the guests are offed one by one by
PM: Domenico Bologna, Dino Di Dionisio. a mysterious figure in a grotesque mask that
Country: Italy. Filmed at the Gentile Theater prowls the theater. Every attempt at escaping
(Fabriano) and at the Orto Botanico (Rome). proves useless, as all the doors are locked, and the
Running time: 104 minutes (m. 2836); Visa n. chain of crimes and horrors seems to be related
64565 (5..174); Rating: V.M.18. Release date: to a centuries-old curse…
5.21.174; Distribution: Overseas Film Company. L’assassino ha riservato nove poltrone was
Domestic gross: 427,544,000 lire. Also known as: Giuseppe Bennati’s final work as a director. A
El asesino ha reservado nueve butacas (Spain); 9 former documentarist, Bennati (121–2006)
fores dolofonos (Greece—video title). achieved a remarkable critical success in Italy
Note: Luigi Antonio Guerra, although cred- with his second film Musoduro (153), starring
ited, does not appear in the film. Fausto Tozzi and Marina Vlady, a rural drama
On the evening of his birthday, Patrick Dav- about a poacher who is unjustly accused of mur-
enant invites a few friends to visit the old theater der, which displayed an influence of the Holly-
located in the family mansion, which has been wood Western in the use of rural landscapes.
closed for a hundred years since a massacre took The director’s following output in the 150s was
place in it. Patrick’s guests are his daughter Lynn mostly noteworthy, even if often little seen, from
with her boyfriend Duncan; his sister Rebecca and the drama Operazione notte (157) to the
her lesbian lover Doris; Davenant’s ex-wife Vivian comedy L’amico del giaguaro (15). In the 160s
and her husband, Albert; Patrick’s new fiancée Bennati helmed two more first-rate works: Lab-
Kim and a painter, Russell, who is actually her bra rosse (160, released in the States as Red Lips)
lover. Another mysterious character, whom no- was the thought-provoking story of a middle-
body seems to know, joins the party. As soon as aged man’s relationship with an underage girl,
Davenant and his guests enter the place, strange with surprising affinities with Nabokov’s novel
things start happening, and Patrick escapes an at- Lolita, published in Italy the previous year;
tempt on his life. Soon after Kim is murdered on Congo vivo (162) mixed melodrama and doc-
1974: L’assassino 111

umentary, and used the love story between an Town, 162; Roberto Rossellini’s Illibatezza in
Italian journalist (Gabriele Ferzetti) and a Bel- the omnibus Ra.Go.Pa.G., 163) to nondescript
gian woman (Jean Seberg) in Congo as a pretext genre fare, such as Giuseppe Rosati’s Il testimone
to analyze the social and political issues of the deve tacere (174); she would soon retire from
independent African states. acting, her last feature film being La ragazza
Coming twelve years after Congo vivo, and dalla pelle di corallo (176). Renato Rossini, a.k.a.
four after the six-part TV mini-series Marcov- Howard Ross, recalled Schiaffino’s disillusion-
aldo (170, based on Italo Calvino’s book), L’as- ment toward the movies,3 an attitude common
sassino ha riservato nove poltrone was poles apart to her co-star Cristea Avram (131–18), the
from the director’s favorite themes; even though handsome Romanian actor who had relocated
conceived as a commercial project, it was not a in Italy after fleeing from Romania to Paris in
work-for-hire job, as Bennati himself got in 166 with his friend Marina Vlady. On the other
touch with Paolo Levi and Biagio Proietti to con- hand, the Swedish Janet Agren was enjoying her
coct a script. The choice of Proietti was most sex symbol status after such works as Brunello
likely suggested by the latter’s work for the small Rondi’s Tecnica di un amore (173) and Ingrid
screen: after starting as assistant director to sulla strada (173), produced by her future hus-
Francesco Maselli (in the 162 film Gli indiffer- band Carlo Maietto, whereas the Bavarian Eva
enti, based on Alberto Moravia’s novel), he Czemerys was already falling back to supporting
found his way as a screenwriter, collaborating parts after a brief stint of starring roles in the
on Maselli’s black comedy Fai in fretta a ucci- early 170s; ditto for Lucretia Love, whose career
dermi … ho freddo! (167), starring Monica Vitti would soon fall into obscurity. As for Paola Sen-
and Jean Sorel. After adapting Giorgio Scerba- atore (“The most beautiful body in Rome,” ac-
nenco’s novel I milanesi ammazzano al sabato cording to Rossini4), she would mostly stick to
for Duccio Tessari’s La morte risale a ieri sera the erotic genre, and even briefly surrendered
(170), Proietti started working in television, and to hardcore porn in the final part of her career,
scripted several very successful mystery TV se- in the mid–180s.
ries such as Coralba, Un certo Harry Brent (170), Usually (mis)labeled as a giallo, L’assassino
Come un uragano (171) and Ho incontrato ha riservato nove poltrone is actually an inter-
un’ombra (174, with Proietti responsible for the esting, if not completely successful, rereading of
story, and co-scripted by the renowned film the Gothic genre as seen through the prism of
critic Enzo Ungari). Paolo Levi (with whom the decade’s most influential trend. The plot pays
Bennati had worked on Labbra rosse and Congo homage to the Golden Age of mystery, with its
vivo) was also an accomplished writer for tele- British setting and an archetypal situation (ten
vision and film, having penned Giorgio Alber- people trapped in a secluded place and dis-
tazzi’s outstanding Jekyll (16) 1 and Schiva- patched one by one) that draws from Agatha
zappa’s Femina Ridens, among others. Proietti Christie’s Ten Little Indians (as well as its lesser
recalls the marginal intervention of a fourth known inspiration, Gwen Bristow and Bruce
writer, who remained uncredited. Manning’s 130 novel The Mystery Host), and is
Bennati, Proietti and other financers formed liberally spiced with elements from the already
a cooperative called Cinenova to produce the declining protoslasher, Argento-style, whose
film, and since one of the associates was able to guidelines are spelled according to the rules: the
obtain permission to shoot inside the Gentile aestheticism in the staging of violent deaths, the
Theater in Fabriano, a fascinating 1th century misogynist and voyeuristic mood, the ambigu-
building, the script (originally titled Faccia di ous attitude toward female homosexuality, the
morte, “Face of Death”: the copy kept at Rome’s inclusion of a number in the title—which on the
CSC is dated September 25, 172) evolved with other hand, and possibly inadvertently, recalls
the idea of exploiting such a suggestive setting. the Italian title of Ellery Queen’s first novel, The
L’assassino ha riservato nove poltrone was Roman Hat Mystery, published by Mondadori
an average-budgeted production, shot in six as La poltrona n. 30 (Seat No. 30). And yet, the
weeks2 and with a cast that featured familiar Gothic’s typical elements emerge forcefully and
genre faces and ample female pulchritude, plus take over from the very opening, as the charac-
the odd has-been: Rosanna Schiaffino’s declin- ters arrive at the fascinating yet menacing
ing popularity had marked her transition from theater where the macabre roundabout of mur-
auteur films (Minnelli’s Two Weeks in Another ders will take place.
112 1974: L’assassino

Besides the nods to The Phantom of the mention Michele Soavi’s Deliria and Dario Ar-
Opera, such as the setting and the characteriza- gento’s Opera (both 187)—becomes a rarefied
tion of the mysterious killer who wears a cape metaphysical space, yet another variation of the
and a grotesque mask, Bennati, Levi and Proietti huis clos as well as a “restricted mirror of the
pay homage to another, surprising model: Luis human condition” which, as noted by Spanish
Buñuel’s El ángel exterminador (162). In Buñuel’s film historian Ramón Freixas, echoes the char-
film, the guests at an upper class dinner party acters’ moral decay hidden under a beautiful
find themselves unable to leave their host’s lavish and urban façade with its own decadence. 5 In a
house, and the forced confinement brings to the manner not dissimilar to Margheriti’s The Un-
surface their savage instincts and unspeakable naturals—Contronatura, each character meets
secrets. Similarly, in Bennati’s film the victims an end that functions as a retribution for his or
are a group of bored and debauched members her sins: betrayal, greed, sexual aberration, in-
of the ruling class, too intent on spitting their cest, murder.
mutual hatred against each other (“You have In pure Gothic fashion, the haunted house
been hating each other for so long that you don’t becomes a character itself, which speaks in its
even remember the reason why,” one of them own voice (the hisses that come out of tubes and
says) as well as indulging in their sexual appetite frighten Doris) and plays a cat-and-mouse game
to realize they are in danger until it is too late. with its inhabitants/prisoners. Its bowels host
Their inability to leave (not psychological as in secret passages and traps, its basement turns out
Buñuel’s film, but physical, and yet caused by in- to be endless and labyrinthine, and leads to a
explicable events) ultimately brings out their sort of extra-dimensional crypt that predates
vices, secrets, hypocrisy. In a way, the nine (plus Fulci’s …E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà, (181),
one) despicable protagonists recall the main in a paranormal ending devised by Proietti. And
characters of Luigi Pirandello’s 121 play Sei per- it may even happen that a door bashed in with
sonaggi in cerca d’autore, a.k.a. Six Characters in a hammer appears intact shortly after, or that
Search of an Author: like them, they show up in (in one of the film’s best scenes) the characters
a theater without really knowing why, as if sum- hear voices that a tape recorder cannot capture,
moned by a superior will, actually looking for which belong to people who lived and died a
the play they have to stage. hundred years earlier.
What sets apart L’assassino ha riservato Even time ceases to be an absolute and un-
nove poltrone from the Gothic-tinged gialli of equivocal value: the events happen during the
the early 170s is the decisive turn toward the course of an endless night, like in Danza maca-
supernatural, which becomes an integral part of bra, and here as well the protagonists are forced
the story. In doing so, the film touches a number to relive a tragedy that cyclically repeats itself
of themes that are typical of Italian Gothic. One with no variants, with Filippone’s “mystery man”
of the “ten characters in search of a death,” the playing a similar role as that of Dr. Carmus in
“mystery man” (Edoardo Filippone) dressed in Margheriti’s film, luring the victims to their des-
Oriental fashion with a Nehru jacket, is actually tiny. Interestingly, the only character left alive,
a ghost who drove the others in the place where Vivian, is an ex-prostitute: in an ironic reversal
the massacre is doomed to happen: he is like a of the stereotypical rule that only the young vir-
stage director who instructs the players and gin will survive, here the only survivor of the
pulls their strings throughout their perform- massacre is a declining beauty in her forties, a
ance—a theme that is only suggested, but nev- former hooker who is ultimately the purest of
ertheless enriches the story with fascinating un- all.
dertones; and if the murders have a rational Proietti recalled that, while dubbing the
explanation and are committed by a human movie, Bennati seemed a bit embarrassed about
hand, the killer is driven by an otherworldly the erotic interludes, and tried to justify himself:
force. such material was far from the director’s previ-
What is more, the laws of time and space ous works, even though Proietti was adamant
succumb to other rules, mysterious and unpre- that “the distributor always recommended the
dictable. The theater where the story unfolds— insertion of sex scenes, but in this case actually
not an unusual location for an Italian horror there was not much pressure…. It was our idea
film: think of Polselli’s Il mostro dell’opera and to focus very much on the theater and a bit on
Luigi Russo’s unfinished Paura (172), not to sex.”6 The need to spice up the proceedings with
1974: Il bacio 113

gratuitous nudity results in some awkward mo- by briefly replacing the dummy in the back-
ments, such as the scene where Lynn (Paola Sen- ground with a real actor. The murderer’s mask,
atore), stoned out of her mind, puts on some which portrays a smiling carrot-haired, balding
music, takes off her dress and starts dancing be- man—whereas in the script its features are de-
fore a mirror while wearing only a transparent scribed as those of a “laughing kid”—, is another
gown—all this while around her the bodies are unsettling detail (perhaps a nod to Pirandello’s
piling up. And yet the sequence is staged with play, where one of the characters is a fat woman
an undeniable taste, as Senatore’s image is re- with unlikely red hair) which explains the
flected and multiplied by the two opposing mir- script’s working title.
rors, with an almost psychedelic effect, to the Kim’s murder, on the other hand, plays
sound of Carlo Savina’s titillating lounge score. with the thin boundaries between reality and
Bennati seems also uncomfortable with appearance, as the woman recites Juliet’s suicide
brutality and gore, so much so that most mur- monologue from Romeo and Juliet and fakes her
ders take place offscreen, except for those of the own stabbing with a retractile blade, but ends
lesbian couple, Doris (Lucretia Love) and Re- up dead on stage with a knife in her back in front
becca (Eva Czemerys). Even though it plays on of her bewildered audience: “You never acted so
one of the leitmotivs in Italy’s horror and well,” one exclaims. The most outstanding mo-
thrillers of the decade—the violence directed to ment, however, is the mystery man’s surprising
female private parts, a recurring occurrence disappearance before Patrick’s eyes (and the au-
from Cosa avete fatto a Solange? to 5 donne per dience as well) as if by magic, a moment where
l’assassino (174), from L’ultimo treno della notte the Fantastic manifests itself unexpectedly and
(175) to Enigma rosso (178)—Rebecca’s de- without any editing cut, during a long take: here
mise, by way of a dagger repeatedly stuck in her Bennati’s use of depth of field and offscreen
vagina, is suggested but not graphically shown, space is not dissimilar to Bava’s trick of the child
and the most blatant bit of gore (the woman’s transforming into the father in Shock, but played
hand nailed to a girder) is rendered with an un- for wonder instead of scare value. It is moments
convincing special effect. It is a jarring moment, like that which grant this often overlooked little
one that feels like a compromise on the part of oddity a niche among the most interesting
the makers in order to give the audience the Gothic horror films of the decade.
expected quota of sadistic violence, in tune
with the punitive attitude toward “immoral” NoTeS
women that characterized so many gialli. And
1. See Curti, Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957–1969, 176.
yet the aftermath of the scene has a pictorial 2. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
quality, as the two dead women are discovered shooting began on January 7, 174.
positioned like two mannequins, in what is per- 3. Federico Caddeo, “Hanging with Howard,” featurette
haps a nod to 6 donne per l’assassino, where the included in the German BD of The Killer Reserved Nine
murderer played with dead bodies in a similar 4. Ibid.
way. 5. Ramón Freixas, El asesino ha reservado nueve
The overall mood is suggestive and often butacas, in Antonio José Navarro (ed.), El giallo italiano.
disquieting, and Bennati’s direction is much La oscuridad y la sangre (Nuer, Madrid 2001), 247.
more accomplished than the average genre 6. Federico Caddeo, “Writing with Biagio,” featurette
included in the German Blu-ray of The Killer Reserved Nine
products of the period, even more remarkable Seats.
in its rejection of the visual stereotypes in vogue,
such as the killer’s POV shots and the penchant
for crazy camera angles, in favor of fluid camera Il bacio (The Kiss)
movements and languid pacing. On the other D: Mario Lanfranchi. S: based on the novel
hand, the director adds subtle unnerving touches Il bacio di una morta by Carolina Invernizio; SC:
that display an interesting and cultured ap- Pupi Avati, Mario Lanfranchi; DOP: Claudio
proach to the fantastique. For instance, an early Collepiccolo; M: Piero Piccioni, conducted by
scene where Doris notices a storeroom man- the author; E: Luciano Anconetani; PD, CO:
nequin that seemingly comes to life recalls Lisa Giancarlo Bartolini Salimbeni; SD: Francesco
e il diavolo, as Bennati plays with the uncertainty D’Andria; MU: Franco Schioppa, Gianni Ama-
between animate and inanimate objects that dei; AMU: Alfonso Cioffi; Hair: Vittoria Silvi,
Freud emphasized in his study of the “uncanny,” Gerardo Raffaeli; AD: Lamberto Bava; 2ndAD:
114 1974: Il bacio

Antonio Avati; C: Roberto Gengarelli; AC: and accusing him of uxoricide. The trial would
Massimo Pau, Fabio Placido; SO: Franco De Ar- end badly for Guido if Elena did not appear in
cangelis; B: Tommaso Quattrini; SE: Guido Mas- court to unveil the mystery…
sari; KG: Angelo Tiberti; ChEl: Riccardo Car- One of the main literary progenitors of Ital-
alella; SP: Francesco Bellomo; W: Mina Manes; ian Gothic were the feuilletons, or serial novels,
AE: Gabriella Vitale; SS: Egle Guarino. CHOR: which between the late 1th and early 20th cen-
Alberto Testa. Press office: Lucherini, Rossetti, tury provided the audience with forbidden fris-
Spinola. Cast: Maurizio Bonuglia (Guido Ram- sons and complex intrigue, mixing romance,
baldi), Eleonora Giorgi (Elena Vergani, Guido’s melodrama, and horror. The most important
Wife), Martine Beswick (Nara Kotosky), Valen- writers in the field (called “romanzi d’appendice”
tina Cortese (Elizabeth Blixen), Massimo Girotti in Italy) were Luigi Natoli (the author of I Beati
(Eugenio Dazzi), Brian Deacon (Alfonso Ver- Paoli, a 10 novel about a mysterious secret sect
gani, Elena’s half-brother), Vladek Sheybal in Sicily), Francesco Mastriani, Emilio De
(Concierge), Antonio Pierfederici, Gianni Cav- Marchi, Guido Da Verona. But a couple of no-
ina (Gravedigger), Barbara Romana [Vittoria] table and very successful female novelists stood
Calori, Franca Maresa, Glauco Scarlini, Luigi out as well: Matilde Serao and Carolina Inv-
Zerbinati, Giovanni Vannini (Doctor), Vittorio ernizio. Born in 1851, Invernizio published her
Fanfoni (Nara’s Lawyer), Riccardo Berlingeri, first novelette in 1876, and wrote 123 books over
Gabriele Bentivoglio (Witness #1 at Duel), Ales- the course of a 40-year career, becoming one of
sandro Perrella, Corrado Annicelli, Edoardo To- Italy’s best selling authors of the early 20th cen-
niolo, Macia [Ines] Pellegrini (Myosotis); un- tury. Often leaning on intricate and far-fetched
credited: John Karlsen (Friedrich), Antonio plots, and peopled with clichéd characters, In-
Spaccatini (Jeweller). PROD: Sandro Bolchi and vernizio’s novels were characterized by a strong
Mario Lanfranchi for InterVision (Rome); PM: taste for the horrific and the macabre, as proven
Pierluigi Ciriaci; GM: Mario Davidde; PS: Pietro by some of her most popular works, Il bacio di
Nardi; Pse: Vittorio Fornasiero; ADM: Aureliano una morta (A Dead Woman’s Kiss, 188), La se-
Lalli Persiani. Country: Italy. Filmed in Venice, polta viva (Buried Alive, 186), L’albergo del
Frascati (Rome) and at Elios Film Studios delitto (Murder Inn, 105), Il cadavere accusatore
(Rome). Running time: 103 minutes (m. 2828). (The Accusing Corpse, 112).
Visa n. 64757 (6.25.174); Rating: V.M.14. Release Invernizio’s oeuvre had been brought to the
date: 8.22.174; Distribution: Euro International screen a number of times since the silent era.
Film. Domestic gross: 123,128,000 lire. One year after the novelist’s death, La vergine
Countess Elena Rambaldi has a natural dei veleni (117, Enrico Vidali) adapted the epon-
brother, Alfonso, hated by the old Count Ram- ymous novel, blatantly influenced by Nathaniel
baldi and banished from his home. The Count Hawthorne’s short story Rappaccini’s Daughter;
dies of a heart attack on the day he sees Alfonso others, like Satanella (11) and La vendetta di
and his sister tenderly embrace. Elena, heir to the una pazza (11) followed. More adaptations
family fortune, meets by chance Guido and falls took place during the heyday of melodrama in
in love with him. They get married and travel on the late 140s and early 150s, with Il bacio di
their honeymoon to Venice. There, Guido is se- una morta (14, Guido Brignone), La mano
duced and ensnared by the perfidious dancer della morta (14, Carlo Campogalliani) and La
Nara, eager to get her hands on the title and on vendetta di una pazza (151, Pino Mercanti).
the Rambaldi fortune. Nara has no difficulty in Paired with such present-day melodramas as
making Guido believe his wife is betraying him, Raffaello Matarazzo’s Catene (14), it was the
by passing for adultery a clandestine meeting be- kind of simple entertainment that audiences
tween Elena and Alfonso, who is leaving for were striving for to put the painful post–World
America. Then she tries to poison Elena under War II years behind them, and one which politi-
the eyes of her drugged and unconscious husband. cians and the Church approved, as it conveyed
But when Alfonso arrives at the cemetery to give positive values (faith, hope, marital love) as op-
one last kiss to his sister, already placed in the cof- posed to the often grim depiction of everyday
fin, he discovers that she is still alive and brings life in Neorealism.
her back to Venice. Guido starts to have glimpses Curiously, melodrama resurfaced in an un-
of his presumedly dead wife, repents and leaves likely period, the early 170s, at a time where the
Nara, who takes revenge by taking him to court public’s demand focused mainly on sex. The
1974: Il bacio 115

short-lived thread of films following the tradi- asked only 700 or 800 lire per person, it won’t
tion of melodrama or inspired by serial novels be a venture to drag the whole family to the
were perhaps one of the signs of the public’s movies…. The feuilletons’ fortune is not flashy.
withdrawal after the politically committed late It originates in the suburban areas, in the prov-
160s and the type of cinema they spawned; on inces where nothing happens. It takes shape in
the other hand, this return to the roots was char- the boredom of festive afternoons … there is no
acterized by a similar emphasis on eroticism and hurry to make profits. The tearjerkers are safe
nudity as most popular genre cinema, which investments.”2 This first wave of period dramas
gave way to odd hybrids that uneasily attempted would give way to tearjerking dramas about
to mix old style romanticism with modern-day children, which proved even more successful.
shrewdness. Lanfranchi and Sandro Bolchi’s company
These movies were released between 173 Intervision started working on the adaptation
and 174—interestingly, at a time when the Ital- of Invernizio’s novel around the same time as
ian government was forced to pursue economic Carlo Infascelli’s Infafilm: Intervision deposited
policies and measures in order to drastically the title at ANICA’s office (ANICA being the
contain energy consumption, after the 173 oil Italian association that represents movie com-
crisis. panies with the government and trade unions),
The first of the thread was Sepolta viva whereas Infascelli deposited it at the Ministry
(173, Aldo Lado), based on a novel by Marie of Spectacle and SIAE (the copyright collecting
Eugénie Saffray bearing the same title as Inv- agency), therefore Intervision was unable to use
ernizio’s, followed by Luciano Ercoli’s Il figlio the full title, and consequently was forced to de-
della sepolta viva (174, signed as “André Col- part from the original story in order to offer
bert”), Bruno Gaburro’s I figli di nessuno (174) something different to the audience.3 The result
and two adaptations of Invernizio’s novel, Il fully explored the dark and Gothic influences of
bacio di una morta (174, Carlo Infascelli and Invernizio’s novel.
Ferdinando Baldi) and Mario Lanfranchi’s Il Lanfranchi, a stage and opera director, was
bacio. Other projects were announced but not one of the first to work at Italy’s public broad-
filmed or completed: Satanella ovvero la mano casting company RAI when it finally became a
della morta (Primo Zeglio), La cieca di Sorrento regular television service in 154. Lanfranchi
(Ruggero Deodato), La vendetta di una pazza brought operas to the small screen, and his in-
(Carlo Infascelli), all slated to be filmed starting novative filming style led the way to many tech-
in March 174. nical innovations. He had debuted with the ex-
“Why do theater owners keep asking pro- cellent Western Sentenza di morte (168, starring
ducers for movies based on serial novels?” an Robin Clarke, Enrico Maria Salerno, Tomas Mil-
article on La Stampa asked rhetorically, conclud- ian, Richard Conte and Adolfo Celi), but it took
ing: “Because they understood that they could him six years to return behind the camera, right
have a new audience. In weekdays these movies after his divorce from soprano Anna Moffo. As
gross next to nothing, and explode on Sundays, the director explained,
because whole families get out of the house.
Nowadays parents are obsessed with the flood Due to my non-cinematic provenance and Milanese
of rubbish centered on sex and violence: the line origin, in order to make movies I had to come up
“forbidden to minors” compromises the choice with genre stories, and Il bacio was one of those serial
of common entertainment, and even risks un- novels that might seduce producers and distributors
dermining the unity of the family core, corroded alike. With the complicity of my friend Pupi Avati I
during the course of the week by work, school, tried to add a certain imprint to it, by taking from
Carolina Invernizio’s novel the cue that I needed so
TV. Then the old foxes of the cinema industry
as to seduce the producers, rather than a story to
thought cynically: ‘Crying is good.’”1 The thread
follow to the letter. I was especially interested in
was dictated by economic reasons: it did not re- the morbidity, which was quite evident in the novel
sult in box-office hits, but it marked a good in- itself, this morbid tension that had quite impressed
vestments for producers and distributors: “These me. To bring to the surface the perverted element in
releases are launched not in the traditional this female writer who was considered almost for
‘prima visione’ theaters, with tickets priced 1500 families … and also bring out something I felt living
lire, but in ‘terza visione’ venues, located in the in Venice, a certain indecency that circulates in the
suburbs and with wide capacity. If a father is city.4
116 1974: Blood

Avati, who in Lanfranchi’s words “floated her first film roles, is ravishing, while Maurizio
in Rome” after the débacle of his first two films Bonuglia is wooden as always as the weak-willed
as a director, brought to the adaptation a distinct Guido, but the supporting cast is top notch, in-
morbid and horrific mood. From the opening cluding Valentina Cortese as the ambiguous
sequence where Alfonso (Brian Deacon) reaches Madame Blixen, Massimo Girotti as a Duke, and
the cemetery where his half-sister Elena (Eleonora Avati regular Gianni Cavina as the gravedigger.
Giorgi) is about to be buried while in a cataleptic Lanfranchi directed two more feature films,
state, Il bacio fully embraces the genre trappings. the grotesque comedy La padrona è servita
It is indeed one of the few examples of a (176, also scripted by Avati and plagued by cen-
narrative that harks back to the standard Gothic sorship problems at its release) and the top-
novel, with its duality between the innocent notch crime action film Genova a mano armata
heroine and the belle dame sans merci, the em- (176, starring Tony Lo Bianco and Adolfo Celi).
phasis on romantic love (also declined in a mor- Lanfranchi then retired from cinema, and
bid way, with the almost incestuous relationship moved to London, where he directed operas and
between Elena and her half-brother, an element stage plays, but earned a living mostly as a
lifted from the novel), the occult subplot, the breeder and owner of race horses and grey-
far-fetched plot twists, the triumph of good over hounds. In England, one of his dogs was even
evil. nominated as one of the year’s sports figures.
Some elements, like the premature burial, “The news was even reported by the Corriere
were already in Invernizio’s novel, whereas della Sera, on the front page and with a photo
others (like the Satanic sect in which Elena’s hus- too. It was the one and only occasion when I had
band Guido is introduced) are developed or managed to be on the Corriere’s front page; not
made from scratch. Compared with the other because of my directing, but because of my dog.
adaptations of the period, Il bacio benefits from And when I met my publisher friend Franco
a more cultured approach. The insistence on the Maria Ricci at the restaurant, he introduced me
occult, which makes the story briefly slip into to the lady by his side saying: ‘This is the only
horror movie territory, likely came from Avati, case of a man maintained by a dog!’”5
and the sabbath scene is quite impressively ren-
dered in comparison with the cheap rites seen NoTeS
in exploitation movies from the same decade;
1. Piero Perona, “Al cinema si piange,” La Stampa, May
similarly, the film briefly flirts with the super- 7, 174.
natural, in the sequence where Guido spots what 2. Ibid.
looks like the “ghost” of his supposedly dead 3. Ibid.
wife and chases the elusive apparition amid the 4. Renato Venturelli, “Eroi senza pietà. Intervista a
Mario Lanfranchi,” in Renato Venturelli (ed.), Cinema e
Venetian alleys. generi 2010 (Genoa: Le Mani, 2010), 115.
In addition to that, Il bacio offers a fair 5. Ibid., 122.
share of eroticism, tastefully presented. The
script felicitously reinvents the character of the
femme fatale, Nara the dancer, who seduces and Blood for Dracula, a.k.a. Dracula cerca
dominates Guido: in Invernizio’s novel she has sangue di vergine e … morì di sete!!!
Javanese origin, whereas Avati and Lanfranchi D: Paul Morrissey [Italian version: Anthony
make her a Slavic “with something demoniac in M. Dawson]. S and SC: Paul Morrissey [Italian
her,” as one character observes. Played by the version: Tonino Guerra, from an idea by Paul
stunning Martine Beswick, Nara is one of the Morrissey] ; DOP: Luigi Kuveiller; M: Claudio
few real maneaters of 170s Italian Gothic, and Gizzi; E: Jed Johnson [Italian version: Franca
her obscene dance in a tiny costume whose bra Silvi]; PD, CO: Enrico Job; ArtD: Gianni Gio-
is shaped like demonic hands groping her vagnoni; MU: Mario Di Salvio; SE: Carlo Ram-
breasts is ample proof of the director’s ability in baldi; Hair: Paolo Franceschi; AD: Paolo Pie-
filming musical scenes. Lanfranchi also squeezes trangeli; 2ndUD: Antonio Margheriti; C: Ubaldo
the most out of the autumnal Venetian setting, Terzano; B: Piero Fondi; SOE: Roberto Arcan-
which recalls Chi l’ha vista morire? (172, Aldo geli; Mix: Carlo Palmieri; SP: Paolo Pettini; W:
Lado) and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (173) Benito Persico; AE: Loretta Mattioli; SS: Silvia
for its mysteriousness and eerieness. Petroni. Cast: Joe Dallesandro (Mario Balato),
The 21-year-old Eleonora Giorgi, in one of Udo Kier (Count Dracula), Vittorio De Sica
1974: Blood 117

(Marchese Di Fiore), Maxime McKendry (Mar- shoots him before dying. Mario dismembers Drac-
chesa Di Fiore), Arno Juerging (Anton), Milena ula with an axe, and kills him and Esmeralda
Vukotic (Esmeralda), Dominique Darel (Saphi- with a stake. Now he is the new master of the
ria), Stefania Casini (Rubinia), Silvia Dionisio house.
(Perla), Irina Alexeievna, Gil Cagné (Towns- On the same day principal shooting for
man), Emi Califri, Eleonora Zani; uncredited: Flesh for Frankenstein was wrapped, Paul Mor-
Giorgio Dolfin, Stefano Oppedisano, Roman rissey sent Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro and Arno
Polanski (Man in Tavern). Juerging to get shorter haircuts, and filming for
PROD: Andrew Braunsberg for Compa- Blood for Dracula began immediately. 1 It would
gnia Cinematografica Champion (Rome) [and last for three weeks as well. This time Morrissey
Carlo Ponti]; PM: Mara Blasetti; PA: Vasco abandoned 3-D because of technical issues
Mafera; PAcc: Maurizio Anticoli. Country: Italy raised by d.o.p. Luigi Kuveiller: the Spacevision
/ France. Filmed in Villa Parisi, Frascati (Rome), system required a very large lens in order to
Vulci (Viterbo) and at Cinecittà Studios (Rome). frame three people in the shot, and since the sec-
Running time: 103 minutes (Italian version: 8 ond film would not be shot in studio but on lo-
minutes—m. 268). Visa n. 644 (5.14.174); cation in Villa Parisi, in Frascati, due to the
Rating: V.M.18. Release dates: 3.1.174 (West Ger- smaller setting it would be practically impossible
many); 11.27.174 (U.S.A.); 8.14.175 (Italy); Dis- to dolly the camera back. Morrissey later partly
tribution: Euro International Film (Italy); regretted his decision, but Blood for Dracula is
Bryanston Pictures (U.S.A.). Domestic gross: undoubtedly the more stylish of the diptych, due
345,023,314 lire. Also known as: Andy Warhol’s to the director’s ample use of dolly and tracking
Dracula (West Germany, U.S.A.), Sangre para shots, which made the result closer to his
Drácula (Spain, Argentina); Du sang pour Drac- original idea.2
ula (France); Dracula vuole vivere:
cerca sangue di vergine! (Italy—al-
ternate title).
Early 1920s. Count Dracula,
who must drink virgins’ blood to
survive, moves from Transylvania
to Italy with his servant Anton, hop-
ing to find plenty of nourishment in
a Catholic country. In Italy, Dracula
befriends the impoverished Mar-
chese di Fiore, who is more than
happy to marry off one of his four
daughters to the wealthy aristocrat.
Two of Fiore’s daughters, Rubinia
and Saphiria, enjoy the sexual serv-
ices of the estate handyman, Mario,
a proud Marxist. Dracula, who
drinks their blood upon assurance
from Di Fiore that they are virgins,
becomes even weaker, but he is able
to turn the two girls into his tele-
pathic slaves. The youngest and eld-
est daughters, Perla and Esmeralda,
are virgins, but Mario, who has dis-
covered that Dracula is a vampire,
rapes the 14-year-old Perla in order
to save her. Meanwhile, though,
Dracula has drunk the blood of Es-
meralda, turning her into a vampire
and regaining strength. Anton stabs Paul Morrissey (left), Joe Dallesandro and Udo Kier (in the coffin)
the Marchese’s wife, who in turn on the set of Blood for Dracula (1974).
118 1974: Blood

Blood for Dracula is overall a more serious accordingly, the Italian director wrote his own
work despite the contamination of gore, humor lines on the set. It was his last appearance in a
and sex, possibly because Kier’s Count is a more theatrical feature: De Sica died in November
full-fledged character than Frankenstein, and 174. Roman Polanski also turned up in a brief
his desperate attempts to preserve himself be- cameo3 in the tavern scene, as a witty gambling
come the core of the film. In a way, Dracula is a peasant who outsmarts Dracula’s servant by
homologue to Von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) playing a trick that the Polish director will
in Luchino Visconti’s Morte a Venezia (171), reprise in a scene in Bitter Moon (11). The
one of Morrissey’s favorite films, and explicitly same sequence also featured an Italian celebrity
quoted, albeit humorously, in the opening scene, of sorts, make-up artist Gil Cagné (140–2003),
where the Count applies make-up on his face in nicknamed “il visagista delle dive” (the beauti-
front of a mirror that casts no reflection. Scenes cian of divas) for his work with Liza Minnelli,
like these convey a sympathy and a warmth that Lana Turner and Bette Davis. The female cast
Frankenstein’s absurd monologues on the included the gorgeous Stefania Casini (who
perfect Serbian race did not solicit, and truly would become Dallesandro’s partner in real life
make Morrissey’s interpretation of the character for a while), Silvia Dionisio and Dominique
one of the most original and effective, closer to Darel (seen in Giancarlo Santi’s Western Il
Herzog’s rereading of Nosferatu (17), or even grande duello, 172).
to the blood-addicted bloodsuckers in Abel Fer- Once again, the Italian version bore the
rara’s The Addiction (16) than to Hammer and name “Anthony M. Dawson” as director, with
Universal’s classics. Morrissey credited as supervisor. “I also did
The meditation on the changing of times, some stuff on Blood for Dracula, but that was
in tune with the director’s reactionary view of much more organized because, after Franken-
contemporary society, comes in the form of stein, Carlo Ponti convinced Morrissey to write
grim jokes: in Catholic Italy, supposedly a land a real screenplay and not just a treatment,”4
of “wirgins,” Dracula keeps vomiting the impure Margheriti explained, adding that he directed
blood he has sucked from nubile girls who have scenes with Vittorio De Sica and Silvia Dionisio.
already lost their virginity before marriage. Again, the Italian director’s words are at odds
“Vomiting looks so great if you have a tuxedo with Morrissey’s. But this time even Margheriti
on!” Kier commented mockingly in regard to admitted that his input on the movie was min-
Morrissey’s exquisite mise-en-scène of one of imal, not the least because while Morrissey and
the movie’s outrageous sight gags, with poor company were shooting in Frascati, he was busy
Dracula running to Villa Parisi’s exquisite taking care of the special effects scenes for Flesh
marble-covered bathroom and throwing up for Frankenstein. And Udo Kier was adamant
freshly sucked blood in the toilet (“The blood that he and the other cast members received di-
of these whores is killing me!” he’ll comment in rection only from Morrissey, and stated that he
despair, a line worthy of the previous’ film infa- never saw Margheriti on the set.5
mous “fuck life in the gall bladder”). Jokes aside, This time, Margheriti’s credit as director
the director caught the dissolution of family and was mainly a scam on the part of Ponti’s in order
patriarchal mores in quite an effective manner, to obtain the benefits provided by law for Italian
not to mention the notion of class struggle via films (which would be granted only by credit-
deflowering perpetrated by Joe Dallesandro’s ing an Italian director). Ponti and Margheriti
Marxist handyman, who eventually makes a rev- were later put to trial and accused of “continued
olution and becomes the new master of the and aggravated fraud against the State.”6 Accord-
house, in an ending that is more subtle and ing to the prosecution, between 173 and 176
ironic than Flesh for Frankenstein’s grim epi- the producer had unduly received over a billion
logue. and a half lire for movies produced by Cham-
The cast is, once again, pitch perfect: Dalle- pion, the French-based Les Films Concordia
sandro’s void acting style and Brooklyn accent and the Spanish Cipi (also owned by Ponti)
match Kier and Juerging’s over-the-top delivery, which did not have the necessary requirements
and Vittorio De Sica, in a special participation, in order to be classified of Italian nationality.
is delightful as the impoverished Marchese Di Blood for Dracula was one of such titles, together
Fiore, who would do anything to marry his with, among others, Mordi e fuggi (173, Dino
daughters to a weird-looking but wealthy stranger: Risi), Professione reporter (175, Michelangelo
1974: Un fiocco 11

Antonioni), and Margheriti’s Ming, ragazzi! part, Morrissey moved on to England for an-
(173) and Whiskey e fantasmi. Even though other spoof, The Hound of the Baskervilles
Ponti was finally acquitted, 7 this might finally (178), this time with far less brilliant results.
explain why Margheriti kept faithful to his ver-
sion over the years about his own role in Mor- NoTeS
rissey’s films. 1. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
Both Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for on April 11, 173.
Dracula were picked up for distribution overseas 2. Talbot, “Monsters for Morrissey,” 25.
by the New York–based company Bryanston 3. However, it is incorrect to state, as some sources do,
that Polanski was shooting Che? on a set nearby around
Pictures, owned by Louis Peraino, who adver- the same time, as Che? had been released in Italy in De-
tised the movies respectively as Andy Warhol’s cember 172, several months before shooting for Blood for
Frankenstein and Andy Warhol’s Dracula. Pre- Dracula took place.
dictably, both earned an X rating from the 4. Blumenstock, “Margheriti—The Wild, Wild Inter-
MPAA. Frankenstein was a hit, and Peraino also view,” 57.
5. Tim Lucas, “Udo Kier: Andy Warhol’s Horror Star,”
obtained an R-rated version that allowed him to Video Watchdog Special Edition #2, 15.
maximize profits, with a total of $5 million 6. Anonymous, “Nuovo rinvio a giudizio per il produt-
earned by the end of 174. Dracula was less suc- tore Carlo Ponti,” Corriere della Sera, February 16, 17.
cessful, despite Peraino’s attempts to cash in on The other accused were Luigi Tedeschi, Giancarlo Pettini
(Ponti’s fronts), Giorgio Odoardi and Paolo Ferrari.
the success of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, 7. The prosecutor asked for a three year sentence, but
by retitling it Young Dracula and re-releasing an Ponti and Margheriti were acquitted on first degree in Jan-
R-rated 4-minute version. In U.K. the movie uary 181 (Anonymous, “Truffa allo Stato—Assolto Carlo
was passed with cuts but did not end up listed Ponti,” Corriere della Sera, January 22, 181); the following
year the sentence was confirmed in appeal (Anonymous,
as a Video Nasty. The uncut version surfaced in
“Carlo Ponti assolto in Appello dall’accusa di truffa allo
England only in 15. Stato,” Corriere della Sera, May 16, 182), and in 183 by
Even though it did not have the same cen- the Supreme Court (P.L.F., “Carlo Ponti assolto dall’accusa
sorship troubles in Italy as Flesh for Franken- di truffa allo Stato,” Corriere della Sera, April 30, 183).
stein, Blood for Dracula had to be slightly trimmed
in order to obtain a visa: the board asked the Un fiocco nero per Deborah (A Black Rib-
scene where Dracula licks menstrual blood on bon for Deborah, a.k.a. Deborah, a.k.a. The
the floor (about 7 seconds) to be shortened be- Torment)
fore giving a V.M.18 rating. However, the length D: Marcello Andrei. S and SC: Piero Reg-
(268 metres, that is 8 minutes) reveals that noli, Marcello Andrei, Alvaro Fabrizio, Giu-
some cuts had already been made by the pro- seppe Pulieri; M: Albert [Alberto] Verrecchia,
ducer. conducted by Nicola Samale (Ed. La Galere);
Blood for Dracula was released theatrically DOP: Claudio Racca (Eastmancolor, Telecolor);
in Italy over one year later, in August 175. The E: Gianni Oppedisano; PD, SD: Elena Ricci Poc-
working title Sangue per Dracula (with which it cetto; CO: Silvio Laurenzi; AD: Alfredo Varelli;
was referred to just months before its release) 2ndAD: Orlando Pagliari; C: Giorgio Di Battista;
gave way to one as demented as the one reserved AC: Carlo Milani; SP: Mauro Paravano; MU:
to Morrissey’s other horror spoof: Dracula cerca Lamberto Marini; AMU: Cristina Rocca; Hair:
sangue di vergine e … morì di sete!!! (Dracula Is Anna Cristofani, Iolanda Conti; SO: Roberto Al-
Searching for Virgin’s Blood and … He Died of berghini, Benedetto Conversi; B: Antonino Pan-
Thirst!!!—note the weak temporal construction) tano, Giuliano Maielli; AE: Nadia Mazzoni,
to mediocre box-office. By then, Joe Dallesandro Alessio Mazzoni; SS: Luigina Lovari, Rita Ban-
had relocated to Rome and become a recurrent otti; ChEl: Gaetano Coniglio; KG: Teodorico
presence in Italian and European cinema, star- Meme; W: Margherita Mannelli; PM: Francesco
ring in such works as L’ambizioso (175, Pasquale Raffa; Stunt: Sergio Mioni. Cast: Bradford Dill-
Squitieri, co-starring Casini), Fango bollente man (Michel Lagrange), Marina Malfatti (Deb-
(175, Vittorio Salerno) and Black Moon (175, orah), Gig Young (Ofenbauer), Delia Boccardo
Louis Malle). Dallesandro’s European career en- (Mira Wener), Micaela Esdra (Elena), Lucretia
compassed such interesting works as Je t’aime Love (Ofenbauer’s wife), Adriano Amedei
moi non plus (176, Serge Gainsbourg), La Migliano (Albert Wener), Gigi [Luigi] Casellato
Marge (176, Walerian Borowczyk) and Vacanze (Psychiatrist), Vittorio Mangano, Mario Gar-
per un massacro (180, Fernando di Leo). On his riba, Luigi Antonio Guerra, Raffaele Di Mario,
120 1974: Un fiocco

Matilde Dell’Acqua, Rita Lo Verde, Giuseppe Visa n. 65205 (.26.174); Rating: none. Release
Castelli; uncredited: Antonio Anelli (Party dates: .26.174; Distribution: Alpherat. Domestic
Guest), Ulla Johannsen (Blonde Party Guest), gross: 118,687,000 lire. Also known as: The Tor-
Alba Maiolini (Ofenbauer’s friend), Giuseppe ment (U.K.); El lado oscuro de Deborah (Spain);
Marrocco (Party Guest). PROD: Paola Film s.r.l. Psycho Maniacs (Germany).
(Rome); EP: Paolo Prestano; PM: Diego Spataro; Deborah, the wife of nuclear physicist Michel
PS: Anselmo Parrinello; PSe: Giuseppe Cas- Lagrange, is unable to have children, and her in-
tagna; ADM: Sergio Rosa. Country: Italy. Filmed fertility looms over her marriage. After visiting
at Anguillara Sabazia (Rome) and on location some children’s homes, with the intention of
in Rome. Running time: 108 minutes (m. 264). adopting a child, she gives up because of the com-
plex paperwork. One day, after wit-
nessing a gruesome car accident that
involves a German man and his
pregnant wife, Deborah turns out to
be pregnant. From that moment, she
begins to be followed by a strange
woman named Mira. Michel does
not believe in Deborah and nobody
seems to have ever seen the elusive
woman she describes. As the days
pass Mira becomes more and more
present and, in the end, she and Deb-
orah become friends. Eventually,
though, it turns up that Mira ac-
tually died a few months earlier as a
result of the accident Deborah wit-
nessed. The child she was bearing
now lives in Deborah’s womb…
Often enclosed in the “de-
monic possession” cycle of the mid–
170s, mainly because of its passing
similarities to Rosemary’s Baby—
starting with the title, which openly
hints at Nastro rosso a New York, the
Italian subtitle of Polanski’s film—
Marcello Andrei’s Un fiocco nero per
Deborah1 is actually a subtle ghost
story disguised as a psychological
drama. Featuring no devil figure or
evil child, the movie leaves aside de-
monic possession and deals with
one of the decade’s main staples,
parapsychology. Like Jennifer
O’Neill’s character in Sette note in
nero, the titular heroine played by
Marina Malfatti is a medium, who
in the opening sequence foresees an
accident at the circus during a tra-
peze performance, and a key char-
acter is a parapsychologist, played
(in his only role in an Italian movie)
by Gig Young.
Similarly to other films of the
Italian poster for Un fiocco nero per Deborah (1974). period, such as Madeleine–Anatomia
1974: Mania 121

di un incubo and Un sussurro nel buio, Andrei’s drama to the Fantastic. Overlong and sluggishly
film delves with the anxieties of pregnancy and paced, with overly didactic dialogue (with the
the fear of losing a child, a common theme odd Luddite touch: “Automation has driven us
partly because of the growing importance of the to a future without alternatives. The day will
debate on abortion in Italy: in 174 a law pro- come when political, economic, and even emo-
posal was made to legalize it, but only in 178 tional decisions will be made for us by a ma-
the parliament passed a law that depenalized it. chine, even in love, and mankind would have
The movie revolves around Deborah’s mysteri- lost the most fascinating of all the qualities he’s
ous pregnancy, which the doctors label as hys- endowed with, the ability to make mistakes,”
terical as the woman cannot bear children: she Ofenbauer proclaims), the movie ultimately fails
tightens a bond with a mysterious young woman, to make the most of its grim, circular twist end-
Mira (Delia Boccardo), who lost her baby in a ing.
car accident, and who becomes some sort of a Malfatti, sporting a short hairdo very sim-
doppelgänger, with whom Deborah discusses her ilar to Mia Farrow’s in Polanski’s film, is quite
fears and delusions. The disturbing crescendo convincing, and her American co-stars fare bet-
is orchestrated in much the same way as the ter than expected: Young, in particular, delivers
other “female Gothics” of the period, with poor a good performance as the flamboyant psychic,
Deborah facing a reality that increasingly feels always half-drunk and playing malicious ditties
like a nightmare, as no one believes in her preg- on the piano. Despite Malfatti’s popularity in
nancy, and nobody else but her can see Mira. Italy (the actress had recently starred in a suc-
Andrei and co-scriptwriters move from a cessful 4-part TV version of Malombra), the
rather original idea, a dying woman “passing” movie passed almost unnoticed on its theatrical
the child she is bearing to another one. Giuseppe release, and disappeared from sight. It resur-
Pulieri, who wrote the original story, claimed faced to home video in the U.S. and U.K. in the
that it had been ruined by the producer’s attempt early 180s.
to exploit the “Demonic possession” thread. Andrei’s subsequent career was nonde-
“The script stayed ten years in the drawer, I even script, with less than a handful of movies in a
pestered Raymond Stross into making it, to no few years, incuding the crime film Il tempo degli
avail … they altered the story, threw in all the assassini (175) starring Joe Dallesandro.
usual bullshit: the witches, the sorcerer, the spe-
cial effects…”2 The attempts at building a per- NoTeS
turbing atmosphere include a psychic experi- 1. Pulieri’s original story was titled Quegli strani malori
ment which goes wrong—an idea scriptwriter di Eilen, deposited at SAIE’s registers on April 6, 173, but
Regnoli reprised in his unfilmed script Qualcosa according to the Public Cinematographic Register,
shooting began on May 13, 174. The script kept at CSC
penetra in noi (Le notti di Satana)—and an bears the title Un fiocco nero per Deborah (La quinta sta-
eerie sequence at the zoo, where animals go gione).
crazy at Deborah’s presence (a moment which 2. Franco Grattarola, “È arrivato il risolutore. Intervista
predates The Omen, 176). But the movie pri- a Giuseppe Pulieri,” Cine70 e dintorni #7, 2006, 1.
marily aims to be a character study, focusing on
Deborah’s conjugal crisis and her growing in- Mania
communicability with her estranged husband D: Ralph Brown [Renato Polselli]. SC:
(Bradford Dillman, also in his only role in an Ralph Brown; DOP: Ugo Brunelli (Telecolor,
Italian film), thus avoiding the typical excesses Eastmancolor); M: Umberto Cannone (Ed.
of the period, so much so that the board of cen- Tickle); E: Roberto Colangeli; AD: Claudio Fra-
sors gave it a “per tutti” (all audiences allowed) gasso; ArtD: Giuseppe Ranieri; CO: Maria Rosa
rating, something of a rare bird for a 170s Catinello; SS: Iolanda Mascitti; AE: Dante Am-
Italian movie. atucci; SO: Alberto Vani; MU: Marcello Di
Un fiocco nero per Deborah is pleasant to Paolo; C: Domenico Giannotti. Cast: Brad Eu-
watch, thanks also to Alberto Verrecchia’s eclec- ston [Ettore Elio Aricò] (Germano / Brecht),
tic score (very much reminiscent of Albinoni’s Ivana Giordan (Katia), Isarco Ravaioli (Lailo),
work in places, and echoing progressive rock in Mirella Rossi (Erina), Eva Spadaro (Lisa), Max
others), and Andrei’s direction is suitably stylish, Dorian (Dr. Lous), Filomena Desiato (Elderly
with an emphasis on slow-motion, but it fails to woman), Carla Mancini, Giorgio Dolfin. PROD:
be punchy when the story shifts from melo- Renato Polselli and Mushi Glam for G.R.P.
122 1974: Mania

Cinematografica (Rome); PM: Bruno Vani; PS: turns out that Brecht only faked his death, and
Francesco Francioso. Country: Italy. Filmed at took Germano’s place in order to drive his wife to
Cave Film Studio (Rome); Sound recording at madness. He succeeds: Lisa cuts Katia’s throat and
Otello Colangeli’s “Cinemontaggio” (SO: Sandro kills herself, in front of Lailo and Lous. The shock
Occhetti, Bruno Penzo). Running time: 84 min- has Erina miraculously recover her voice and
utes (m. 225). Visa n. 6362 (12.18.173); Rating: hearing.
V.M.18. Release date: 8.25.174; Distribution: “When the dark shadows of the night can-
RCR; Domestic gross: unknown. cel the world’s view, then from the mysterious
Note: Although credited, Carla Mancini depths of the subconscious the uncontrolled
and Giorgio Dolfin do not appear in the film. forces of the unconscious are unleashed, and no-
Lisa, the widow of the brilliant scientist Dr. body knows what the boundaries of reality are
Brecht, is still shocked by the traumatic death of anymore.” Thus begins Renato Polselli’s most
her husband, whom she betrayed with his twin obscure work of the 170s, Mania, which has
brother Germano. Brecht, who had discovered his been unavailable for over thirty years after its
wife’s infidelity, subsequently died in a fire in his marginal theatrical release, save for a May 2007
lab, before Lisa’s eyes, while Germano was left dis- screening of the print kept at the Cineteca
figured and on a wheelchair. Following the advice Nazionale that took place at the Trevi cinema in
of Dr. Lous, Lisa moves to the villa where she once Rome. In September 2016 it surfaced on YouTube,
lived with Brecht. There, she meets the embittered to a small but affectionate audience. Polselli fans
Germano, the housekeeper Katia, and Brecht’s for- labeled it as “an extraordinary film.” Beauty, as
mer assistant Erina, who has been left deaf after they say, is in the eye of the beholder.
a shock. Soon inexplicable and terrifying events Originally to be titled Terrore mania, the
occur, and it looks as though Brecht’s ghost is film borrowed a key plot point (a man fakes his
haunting Lisa from the afterlife. However, Lisa’s own death in order to take a contorted revenge
new lover, Lailo, is suspicious, and starts to in- over the woman who betrayed him) from
vestigate the house’s surrounding. Eventually, it Polselli’s own La verità secondo Satana, but

Italian fotobusta for Mania (1974).

1974: Mania 123

turned into a Gothic tale of sorts, which encom- a decomposed body, and so on—all this spiced
passes some of the genre’s staples: the mad doc- with the director’s beloved wild (and, in his own
tor, the haunted house, the döppelganger, the in- words, “marvelous”2) color effects, although not
decision between a rational and supernatural so over-the-top as in Riti, magie nere e segrete
explanation of the events. All this is concocted orge nel Trecento…
in the director’s inimitable manner. The basic revenge-from-the-dead plot
For one thing, Polselli’s Dr. Brecht is a turns out to have more than a passing analogy
bizarre modern-day variation of the mad doctor to Riccardo Freda’s Lo Spettro, to the point that
type, a brilliant scientist “always full of his own some moments are quite similar: the scene
enthusiasm” who is conducting weird experi- where Erina (Mirella Rossi) opens Brecht’s coffin
ments that he explains as follows: “With these (located in the basement, in spite of any attempt
radiations I can make a bee fly and stop it in at verisimilitude) and finds a maggot-infested,
mid-air … the important thing is to center the decaying body in it—an effect Polselli recalled
wavelength on which each individual’s nervous enthusiastically, boasting about his idea to spray
system works. In other words,” he adds, perhaps maggots over a human skeleton and claiming
sensing the viewers’ perplexity, “I can apply that he himself was scared by the result3—recalls
radio controls on living matter. This means that a similar passage in Freda’s film. Lisa’s descent
I can stop the course of any illness in the human into violence and madness, with her vicious as-
body,” he concludes, and who are we to object sault to Katia (Ivana Giordan), recalls Steele
to the compelling logic of a Polselli character? slashing poor Peter Baldwin with a razor. On
The fact that Brecht’s lab is placed in a base- the other hand, the sequence where Lisa finds
ment and consists of some bogus equipment mysterious footsteps on the terrace vaguely re-
props and a spinning device which looks suspi- calls Bava’s La frusta e il corpo.
ciously like a cement mixer pretty much gives Ultimately the apparently supernatural
away Polselli’s scant budget from the start. Com- events are explained (in a manner similar to
pared to Mania, Delirio caldo and Riti, magie William Castle’s The House on Haunted Hill,
nere e segrete orge nel Trecento… were big budget 15) as devices operated by Brecht through a
affairs: this time the director had no “name” makeshift keyboard panel, which makes the
actor to rely on and worked with a cast of only haunted house like a funhouse of sorts—not by
seven people led by “Brad Euston,” a.k.a. Ettore chance a reviewer of the time observed that “it
Elio Aricò, an aspiring actor who had previously looks like a ride through one of those ‘fun-
appeared in the director’s Quando l’amore è houses’ that amusement parks’ barkers suggest
oscenità, and provided most of the budget from to couples looking for Grand Guignol–style
his own pocket, on the condition of being the thrills.”4
protagonist. Polselli obliged.1 Yet, Polselli’s use of genre staples is idio-
Most of the film was shot in and around Is- syncratic to say the least, starting with the abun-
arco Ravaioli’s own house, a modest suburban dance of over-the-top, mind-boggling dialogue
villa (already employed by the director in some which sometimes borders dangerously on the
of his previous works, such as Delirio caldo unintentionally ridiculous, and frequently falls
and Rivelazioni di uno psichiatra sul mondo per- into it headfirst (“Stay away from this villa! Let
verso del sesso) which provided a surrogate for ghosts do the ghosts!”). On top of that, the
Gothic films’ typical haunted mansion; the viewer is treated with ample doses of the spe-
opening credits’ mention of Mania having been cialty of the house, those weird, over-the-top
shot at Gordon Mitchell’s Cave Film Studio was sadomasochistic bits that are Polselli’s trade-
simply a trick for bureaucratic reasons, as was mark. A scene juxtaposes a fight betwen Lisa
the mention of two C.S.C. actors (the ubiquitous and Irena (which evolves into a lesbian inter-
yet elusive Carla Mancini and Giorgio Dolfin) lude) with Germano groping and fondling Katia,
who do not appear in the film at all. who’s lying over his wheelchair in the garden;
Polselli piles on the typical Gothic para- later on, Irena spies on a lesbian tryst between
phernalia with wild abandon: the assorted phe- Lisa and Katia and masturbates with a bottle;
nomena that take place, driving poor Lisa (Eva and Germano takes every opportunity to punish
Spadaro) to madness, include the apparition of the poor deaf girl, preferably with a rope used
a madly cackling, silver-painted Brecht; a phan- as a whip and iron tongs. The most hilarious
tasmatic hand with seemingly hot-iron fingers; bit has to be the scene where Germano/Brecht
124 1974: La mano

gleefully tramples on the helpless Irena with his NoTeS

wheelchair, a moment worthy of Delirio caldo’s 1. In a 1 interview with Pete Tombs and Luca Rea,
murder-cum-masturbation in the bathtub, fol- Polselli claimed that Aricò later cashed checks for seven
lowed closely by the scene where the madly million lire that the director had advanced him as a war-
cackling Germano traps Lisa and Irena inside a ranty. Having to repay the millions to the bank, Polselli re-
sort of shrinking device (that is, a curved alu- lied on luck, and bet on horse races: he won seven million
four hundred thousand lire. (
minum sheet maneuvered by an unseen assis- watch?v=20lUv0tDYGg&
tant) and watches as the two women are slowly 2. Ibid.
squeezed by its embrace, a moment that recalls 3. Ibid.
the “invisible force” in Il mostro dell’opera. 4. S.c., “Nel tunnel dell’orrore si può anche sorridere,”
La Stampa, August 28, 174.
If Spadaro’s acting constantly borders on 5. The “Brad Euston” who appears in the Turkish crime
the hysterical, since her character is given little film Four for All directed by Yılmaz Atadeniz (retitled Quei
else to do but scream in despair, Aricò hams it paracul … pi di Jolando e Margherito by the Italian distrib-
up savagely in a dual role, in jarring contrast to utor Bruno Vani and credited to “Jerry Mason,” a.k.a.
Giulio Giuseppe Negri) is not Aricò, but Turkish actor
Isarco Ravaioli’s catatonic performance. A karate Kazım Kartal.
black belt, the Sicilian Aricò (born in 13) had 6. See Cinesex Mese #10, November 173.
debuted in the 166 Western Per una manciata
d’oro, and enjoyed a brief acting career before
leaving the cinema business for good.5 He went La mano che nutre la morte (The Hand
through rough times in his later life, sometimes That Feeds the Dead, a.k.a. Evil Face)
living by his wits. He died of a laryngeal cancer D: Sergio Garrone. SC: Sergio Garrone;
in 17. Polselli claimed that Mania’s invisibility DOP: Emore Galeassi (Eastmancolor, Telecolor);
was caused by Aricò’s dissatisfaction with the M: Elio Maestosi, Stefano Liberati, conducted
distribution: according to the director, he took by Stefano Liberati (Ed. C.A.M.); E: Cesare Bian-
the existing prints out of circulation and disap- chini; PD, ArtD, CO: Amedeo Mellone; MU:
peared. Maia Arié; Hair: Ivana Bernardi; AD: Alessandro
As the deaf, masochistic Irena, Rossi—a Frollano; AE: Bruna Abbatelli; SO: Armando
Polselli regular, having appeared also in Quando Timpani; SOE: Enzo Diliberto, Roberto Arcan-
l’amore è oscenità and Rivelazioni di uno psichi- geli; B: Amedeo Timpani; SE: Carlo Rambaldi;
atra sul mondo perverso del sesso, as well as in AC: Lino Galeassi; SP: Serto Giannini; SS: Paola
the Vani/Polselli hybrid Casa dell’amore … la Fabiani. Cast: Klaus Kinski (Prof. Nijinsky),
polizia interviene—spends most of the film Katia Christine (Masha / Tanja Nijinsky), Ayhan
wearing only slippers, panties and an unbut- Işık (Alex), Marzia Damon [Caterina Chiani]
toned shirt, and the other leading ladies have (Katja Olenov), Carmen Silvia, Stella Calderoni
their share of nude scenes as well. However, the (Sonia), Romano De Gironcoli, Alessandro Per-
only existing copy is devoid of all the erotic in- rella (Feodor), Erol Taş (Vanya, Prof. Nijinski’s
terludes, which nevertheless are featured in the Henchman), Luigi Bevilacqua, Bruno Arié (In-
photonovel of the film published in Cinesex spector), Osiride Pevarello (Inn-Keeper), Ame-
magazine.6 One has the feeling that the jaw- deo Timpani (The Judge), Pasquale Toscano.
dropping opening sequence in which Lisa and PROD: Amedeo Mellone for Cinequipe (Rome)
Lailo, driving on a lonely country road, are pur- and Şakir V. Sözen; PM: Claudio Sinibaldi; PS:
sued by a mysterious car with no driver on it— Vincenzo Iaccio. Country: Italy / Turkey. Filmed
a blatant rip-off of Steven Spielberg’s Duel in Istanbul, Turkey and at Elios Studios (Rome).
(171)—had no other purpose than to replace Running time: 88 minutes (m. 23); Visa n.
the abundant sex scenes in order to obtain a visa 6410 (3.22.174); Rating: V.M.18. Release date:
safely, with the director planning to restore the 4.2.174; Distribution: Regional. Domestic gross:
most risqué bits subsequently. unknown. Also known as: Ölümün Nefesi (Tur-
Polselli would not be so lucky with Quando key).
l’amore è oscenità, which was banned when first Note: Although credited, Carla Mancini
submitted to the Board of Censors in October does not appear in the film. Ayhan Işık and Erol
175: it was reedited with the addition of new Taş are not credited in Italian prints.
scenes and a totally new dialogue track, and re- Two newlyweds on their honeymoon, Masha
submitted to the board in 180 as Oscenità. and Alex, have a coach accident near the mansion
inhabited by Prof. Nijinsky, whose wife Tanja was
1974: La mano 125

horribly scarred ten years earlier in a fire which sue. The scenes also works as an unintended
also killed her father and Nijinsky’s mentor, Pro- metaphor on the making of the two pictures, in
fessor Ivan Rassimov. Nijinsky is attempting to re- turn assembled with bits and pieces of film
store Tanja’s beauty with a series of gruesome sur- transplanted and recycled from one to another,
gical experiments, inspired by Rassimov’s works: starting with the very opening credits (see the
he operates on young women, abducted by his entry on Le amanti del mostro for further de-
hulking servant, and attempts to graft their skin tails.)
onto Tanja. Other guests at Nijinsky’s house are That said, La mano che nutre la morte
a prostitute named Sonia, and a young woman, amply deals with recurring themes of Italian
Katja, who is actually investigating the disappear- Gothic, starting with its evil, Machiavellan cen-
ance of her sister, with the help of her fiancé Feo- tral female character opposed to a weak, feeble-
dor. As the guests start disappearing, Masha and willed male figure. In addition to controlling her
Alex suspect that something terrible is going on, surgeon husband, persuading him to murder
but the woman—who turns out to be a dead young women so as to regain her lost beauty, the
ringer for Tanja—is captured and subjected to a scheming Tanja has sex with her deformed and
gruesome surgery where her face is stitched onto retarded servant, whom she lures by way of a
Tanja’s disfigured one. As she recovers, Tanja stabs tuning fork, just like Barbara Steele’s character
Nijinsky and plans to leave with the unaware played a piano motif to alert her groom lover in
Alex, passing herself off as Masha. But Nijinsky’s Mario Caiano’s Amanti d’oltretomba (165).
revenge from beyond the grave awaits her… Eventually, she does not hesitate in dispatching
Of the two movies Sergio Garrone shot in her husband so as to start a new life, taking the
Turkey for the Rome-based Turkish producer place of the “twin” she has sacrificed. La mano
Şakir V. Sözen,1 La mano che nutre la morte was che nutre la morte features the umpteenth “black
the original story the director had in mind, veiled lady” of Italian horror, and liberally draws
while Le amanti del mostro was concocted from such themes as the doppelgänger (Katia
later—whether Sözen was aware or not of this Christine plays Nijinsky’s wife and a dead ringer
is anyone’s guess—to exploit the cast and loca- to her) and the partially disfigured face, half-
tion. beautiful and half-horrific, which Tanja exhibits
According to the director, the basic idea for just like Barbara Steele’s ghost character in
the film was some sort of “Frankenstein story,” Amanti d’oltretomba. On the other hand, poor
but La mano che nutre la morte actually owes Nijinsky is one of the most unfortunate mad
more to the surgical sub-genre inaugurated by doctors in Italian Gothic: not only he is totally
Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage (160) and submissive to his wife’s will, a closer relative to
Jesús Franco’s Gritos en la noche (161), and is Dr. Du Grand in I vampiri than to Franju’s
closer in spirit to the Italian Gothics made in Genessier, but he is also possibly impotent (as
the early 170s, with its emphasis on eroticism Kinski’s character in Garrone’s twin film) and
and its taste for the macabre and gore. As for the ends up deceived, betrayed and (literally)
sex factor, Garrone included the obligatory les- stabbed in the back.
bian scene between Stella Calderoni (Rita’s Like Le amanti del mostro, the film features
sister) and Marzia Damon (real name Caterina scenes shot at the Elios Western village in Rome,
Chiani, seen also in other sexy Gothic flicks of with Osiride Pevarello and other little-known
the early 170s, such as Byleth and Il sesso della Italian actors, such as Antonio Timpani and
strega), that was slightly shortened (by  meters, Bruno Arié. Alessandro Perrella, credited in
about 1 seconds) by the board of censors in both films, appears only here; on the other hand,
order to give the film a V.M.18 rating. it is likely that some of the cast names (such as
Carlo Rambaldi provided the effects for the Romano De Gironcoli and Pasquale Toscano)
surgical scenes, whose crudeness rivals Spanish were actually made up, as was the case with
horror films made around the same time, for the some Italian versions of Turkish co-productions.
morbidness and insistence on the details in spite La mano che nutre la morte was submitted
of the poverty of means. Garrone’s camera to the board of censors five days after its com-
lingers on the close-ups of Kinski (or, more fre- panion piece (on March 7) and obtained a visa
quently, his double) carving with his scalpel on on the same day, but was eventually released one
the victims’ thighs, lifting ample portions of skin month earlier. The Turkish version came out
and using them to replace gruesomely burnt tis- only in 186, seven years after Ayhan Işık’s pre-
126 1974: Nuda

mature death in 17, thanks to the efforts of Domestic gross: 56,364,000 lire. Also known as:
actor-cum-producer Yılmaz Duru (133–2010), Les Nuits perverses de Nuda (France).
who had bought the negatives from Sözen and While driving through the countryside late
released it for Tuğra Film with the title Ölümün at night, on his way to visit a patient, Dr. Benson
Nefesi (Breath of Death). Duru re-edited a 77- finds a crashed car with a young woman named
minute-long version (crediting himself as co- Susan hanging out of it. The doctor puts Susan
director in the process!) and added additional in his car and drives for help to the nearest house,
music by Arif Melikov. This version is cut with which turns out to be a mysterious castle. He is
some gore footage missing, and it is oddly, greeted at the door by a woman named Evelyn
slightly re-edited, with the lesbian scene shifted who looks exactly like Susan, and who invites
to a later point. Moreover, the characters’ names them both to stay for the night. Then it’s Susan
were anglicized in the dubbing (Nijinsky became who wakes up and enters the castle, where she
Marshall, Masha became Martha, Vanya became finds a man named Peter who is a dead ringer for
Johnson), except for Ayhan Işık’s, who was Benson. The two visitors are involved with mirror
turned into Turkish and renamed Han Bey (!). images of themselves, while time and space seem-
The actor was dubbed by Ersan Uysal while ingly cease to obey the ordinary rules. It turns out
Katia Christine’s voice was provided by Ayşin that their actions are driven by Satan himself…
Atav. If the title was not enough, the opening
Ölümün Nefesi was released on video in image of Nuda per Satana is emblematic of the
German for the Turkish community, and broad- evolution of Italian Gothic in the early 170s: a
cast on Turkish television. Local film historian slow-motion shot of Rita Calderoni running in
Kaya Özkaracalar organized a screening of the the woods at night toward the camera, amid
movie in 2001 during the Ankara Film Festival. eerie lights, and dressed only with a light night-
gown that leaves her body exposed to the cam-
NoTe era. It looks like an almost perfect reworking of
one of 160s Italian Gothic’s clichés—the hero-
1. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
shooting began on March 26, 173. Interestingly, La mano ine pursued by some menacing and invisible
che nutre la morte was registered only in November 178, force at night, in a hostile environment, an
five years after its making. image that had its archetypal antecedent in the
opening scene of Riccardo Freda’s masterpiece,
Nuda per Satana (Nude for Satan) Beatrice Cenci (156). All this with the addition
D: Paolo Solvay [Luigi Batzella]. S and SC: of full frontal nudity, a move that turns the sug-
Luigi Batzella; DOP: Antonio Maccoppi (Tech- gestive into explicit, the erotic into voyeuristic.
nicolor, Techniscope); M: Alberto Baldan The effect is strangely compelling: on the
Bembo (Ed. S.A.A.R.); E: Luigi Batzella; AD: one hand, the shot’s iconic power is sabotaged
Michelangelo Ricci; SO: Antonio Forrest; C: by the exploitative resort to nudity; on the other,
Giuliano Grasselli; AC: Luciano Ronconi; CO: the attention to light effects and formal presen-
Simone Chapoutier; MU: Ultimo Peruzzi. Cast: tation feels like a surplus, a justification for a
Rita Calderoni (Susan Smith / Evelyn), Stelio film that borders on hardcore porn but has still
Candelli (Dr. William Henry Benson / Peter), the need to present itself with a certain formal
James Harris [Giuseppe Mattei] (The Devil), Re- aplomb. By walking on the thin edge between
nato Lupi (Butler), Iolanda Mascitti (Servant erotic horror and pornography, Nuda per Satana
Girl), Luigi Antonio Guerra, Barbara Lay follows the same path as other horror films of
(Brown Coven Member), Augusto Boscardini the period, tempted to jump to the other side of
(Naked Man), Alfredo Pasti (Naked Man); un- the fence but still retaining some prudish reser-
credited: Gota Gobert (Blonde Coven Member). vation, and also recalls the adults-only comics
PROD: Remo Angioli for C.R.C. Produzioni of the era, which were still on the edge of (but
Cinematografiche e Televisive (Rome); PM: not yet) hardcore.
Michelangelo Ciafré; PSe: Mario Ciafré. Coun- Filmed in spring 174, 1 Nuda per Satana
try: Italy. Filmed at Castle of Monte San Gio- was Luigi Batzella’s second Gothic effort after Il
vanni Campano (Frosinone, Lazio). Running plenilunio delle vergini. The script is nothing but
time: 1 minutes (m. 243). Visa n. 64782 (7. a potpourri of Italian Gothic’s main themes and
28.174); Rating: V.M.18. Release dates: 10.23.174 narratives, which perhaps is the most evident
(Italy), 1.25.178 (France); Distribution: P.A.B. symptom of the creative impasse (or indiffer-
1974: Nuda 127

ence, if you please) that characterized most of of this time, and time is silence, here there is no
the genre’s efforts. The miles of naked flesh place for memories … please don’t think about
added to its Gothic cloth notwithstanding, the the past or the present, just think about now…,”
references are so pedantic as to border on philol- or “Time is no longer yours, time is suspended,
ogy. Despite the contemporary setting, the and you are eternal prisoners of your own
movie has its roots firmly in the circular theme selves.”
of the eternal return, so that the present Batzella throws in the odd optical effect,
becomes a necessary mirror of the past, similarly devises elaborate tracking shots and delights in
to L’amante del demonio. The plot revolves tilted camera angles, with sometimes amusing
around the Romantic theme of the doppelgänger results: during Susan’s exploration of the garden
with whom the two main characters are forced the frame keeps tilting on its axis as if the cam-
to confront, firstly via a variation on the theme eraman was sitting on a seesaw. Moreover, he
of the “living portrait” (in a crudely animated has d.o.p. Antonio Maccoppi light every se-
bit) and then in person: the encounters give way quence with a mixture of reds and greens that
to a peculiar ménage-à-quatre that is a wild im- look half–Bava and half–Polselli; Calderoni
provement over the black-and-white prudery of claimed that the director cast her after watching
the previous decade. Like the ghosts of Black- the latter’s Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel Tre-
wood castle depicted in Danza macabra, the cento…, which the film recalls in parts.
film’s supernatural presences, Evelyn and Peter, Overall, the visual and special effects have
live only when they (make) love; and, like Elis- an endearing amusement park quality to them,
abeth Blackwood and her lovers, they lure new and recall the so-called “cinema of attractions”
living flesh in order to perform their rituals. from Méliès onwards. Sometimes the director
Even the locations are the expression of this even comes up with the odd surreal touch: Ben-
“return of the past”: the “villa” (actually a castle) son’s initial discovery of the villa’s weird inhab-
where Dr. Benson (Stelio Candelli) ends up after itants, by opening various doors and discovering
a bizarre car accident is the same as in Roberto the occupants intent in bizarre lovemaking acts
Mauri’s La strage dei vampiri, and Rita Cal- and the bad-toothed, grotesque butler (Renato
deroni’s wandering in the villa’s park recalls Gra- Lupi), posing like a still-living corpse with a
ziella Granata’s night escapades in Mauri’s film. knife protruding from his neck, looks like a poor
What is more, Batzella’s approach to the Fan- man’s variation of the celebrated sequence of the
tastic is the same as its predecessors of the pre- “Hotel des Folies Dramatiques” in Jean Coc-
vious decade, with a circular narrative and teau’s Le Sang d’un poet (130); the following
whole sequences that look like they were devised image of a vertiginously whirling statue’s head
on the blueprint of a previous work: most no- might well prove that the Cocteau reference was
tably, the sequence where Dr. Benson pursues a not casual on Batzella’s part.
mysterious cloaked figure through the park, The eruption of Fantastic is first and fore-
only to find himself facing his own double, is an most at the service of nudity: in a scene Susan
explicit reference to Operazione paura’s most fa- is stripped naked before the Devil by an invisible
mous bit; on the other hand, the scene in which force, her clothes disappear instantly, and she is
Susan finds herself imprisoned in a huge web left like a modern version of Botticelli’s Venus,
and is menaced by a laughable rubber spider shyly covering her breast and pubic area, which
could have been taken from either L’amante del nevertheless is featured prominently throughout
vampiro or Il boia scarlatto. 2 the film. Her image is superimposed to Satan’s
Space and time prove equally malleable and eye, in a game of shot counter shots that reveal
misleading, as when Benson keeps walking away how this poor devil is less menacing than horny.
from the villa and finds himself directing toward All this considered, even though the result
it, and the sudden transitions from day to night is more enjoyable than such dreck as Riti, magie
draw from 160 Gothics’ liquid chronology. The nere e segrete orge nel Trecento… and La san-
discourse on time, and on “the illusion of living, guisuga conduce la danza (175), the direction
of loving, of dying” is at the film’s centre, and is as clueless as its heroine, because Batzella can-
characters keep referring to it in long, stilted di- not find a formal balance and keeps piling up
alogue passages such as “What is a memory? It’s whatever comes to his mind. As a result, the
just a fraction of time, a moment recovered from movie often slips into the ridiculous, and the
the vastness of the past, and the past is no longer inane dialogue does not help: while making love
128 74: Nuda

with Susan’s double Evelyn, the unaware Dr. Not that this really mattered to the audi-
Benson says to himself that his patient must still ence at whom the movie was aimed. The many
be in a shock after the accident. Which, inciden- sex scenes go as far as censorship would allow,
tally, is hilariously suggested by the absurd sight but are not particularly enticing in themselves:
of a single tire rolling into the frame, possibly a sequence starts with the camera zooming out
justified by the lack of budget: however, one is of Susan’s derrière while she is taking a bath,
puzzled by Calderoni’s recollections that it took whereas the heroine’s lesbian approach with a
Batzella all night to shoot it, as he was a very ac- servant girl (Iolanda Mascitti) takes place amid
curate director.3 The actress also complained to white veils and see-through curtains, and curi-
have been injured in the making of the accident ously brings to mind a notorious dream inter-
scene as well as during the filming of another lude in the anthology comedy Sessomatto (173,
side-splitting bit, the spider attack sequence.4 Dino Risi).
The appearances of the Devil (played by The board of censors initially rejected
Giuseppe Mattei, also seen in Alberto Caval- Nuda per Satana because of its “continuous ob-
lone’s Zelda) are no less grotesque than those in, scene sequences, some of them even portraying
say, L’esorciccio (175, Ciccio Ingrassia), and lesbian intercourses” (female and especially
worse still is the climax, with Satan sitting on a male homosexuality being an aggravating factor
throne and holding the naked Susan in his arms, as far as eroticism was concerned). The verdict
in a room decorated with two graves from which was partially changed in appeal: the commis-
a pair of naked women come out and start danc- sioners “invited” (a more pleasant way to say
ing, à la Orgy of the Dead (165, Stephen C. “demanded”) the producer to perform a number
Apostolof); soon they are joined by two men of cuts, as follows:
with their bodies colored in white and red (the
umpteenth nod to man’s dichotomy), in what 1. A considerable reduction of the scenes of sexual
looks like an adults-only version of some Italian intercourse between the doctor and the woman who
Saturday night TV show’s ballet, complete with represents Susan’s double, to prevent the description
zooms galore. of suckings and lickings.
All in all, Nuda per Satana is largely inco- 2. A significant reduction in Susan’s nightmare
herent when it comes to squeeze a sense out of scene, so that it gets to the attempted strangula-
tion avoiding the description of the lesbian inter-
its threadbare plot. At a certain point, the Devil
gives Benson a medallion whose sides should 3. A reduction of the final scene, before and af-
represent man’s two halves, which never get to ter the ballet around the chair, trying to avoid the
see one another: Plato’s myth of the androgy- sequences of the erotic acts of the man on the
nous comes to mind, although the philosopher chair with regard to the woman he has in his
employed it to explain heterosexual desire, arms.
whereas Batzella uses it to underline man’s
love/hate duality. Still, the Devil’s idea of “a The producer obliged and the movie was
world in which your loves and hates will be to- finally given a V.M.18 rating. It was released in
gether at the same time” is pretty hazy, and re- late 174, grossing little more than 50 million
sults in a loosened inhibition on the characters’ lire in the regional circuit. Even though the copy
part, in an eternal limbo where the quest for submitted to the board of censors was a little less
pleasure seems the only thing that matters. No than 1 minutes long, the current prints run
wonder that, in typical Catholic fashion, the about 82 minutes. However, a version with hard-
hero renounces the idea of such a sinful nether- core inserts circulated, and is currently available
world and defeats (at least apparently) the curse on a Dutch DVD.5
by destroying the Grimorium which gives Satan Nuda per Satana marked yet another step
its powers over time and people. And yet the down in Rita Calderoni’s career. Even though
spell appears to be undefeated, as Benson finds around the same time she appeared in a couple
himself again on the site of the car accident that of important productions, Roberto Rossellini’s
gave way to his outlandish adventure, and no- Anno uno (174) and Maximilian Schell’s Der
tices the same medallion on Susan’s neck. Like Richter und sein Henker (a.k.a. End of the Game,
Plato’s androgynous, men are doomed to look 175), her subsequent movie roles were mostly
for their hidden counterparts and lose them- confined to low-budget, obscure affairs such as
selves in amazement. Un attimo di vita (175, Dante Marraccini), Fate
1974: Il profumo 12

la nanna coscine di pollo (a.k.a. Amori morbosi Il profumo della signora in nero (The
di una contessina, 177, Amasi Damiani), Dolce Perfume of the Lady in Black)
pelle di donna (178, Alessandro Santini) and
Polselli’s own Torino centrale del vizio (17, D: Francesco Barilli. S and SC: Francesco
signed by Bruno Vani). Calderoni claimed that Barilli, Massimo D’Avack; DOP: Mario Masini
this last experience was so disheartening (the (Technicolor); M: Nicola Piovani (Ed. Eurofil-
budget was so scant that there wasn’t even an music); E: Enzo Micarelli; PD: Franco Velchi;
hairdresser on set) that she gave up acting alto- CO: Piero Cicoletti; MU: Manlio Rocchetti;
gether.6 AMU: Cesare Biseo; Hair: Renata Magnanti; AD:
As for Batzella, he moved on to a more pro- Giorgio Scotton; APD: Ezio Di Monte; AsstArtD:
fitable and ever sleazier genre, the nazi-erotic, Nello Giorgetti; C: Maurizio Scanzani; AC: Gior-
with Kaput Lager—Gli ultimi giorni delle S.S. and gio Urbinelli; AE: Aloisa Camilli; SO: Mario
the notorious La bestia in calore, both released Dallimonti; B: Giovanni Fratarcangeli; Mix: Al-
in 177 and signed as “Ivan Kathansky.” He then berto Bartolomei; SS: Bona Magrini; DubD: Re-
helmed the sex comedy Proibito erotico (178), nato Izzo; Press attache: Lucherini-Rossetti-
starring Ajita Wilson and signed “Paul Selvin”)7 Spinola-Giovannini. English version—DubD:
and an Eurociné-produced adventure film, Christopher Cruise; voices: Gene Luotto (Ros-
Strategia per una missione di morte (17), writ- setti), Ted Rusoff (Roberto), Edmund Purdom
ten by French film historian Alain Petit and star- (Andy). Cast: Mimsy Farmer (Silvia Hacher-
ring Richard Harrison and Gordon Mitchell, man), Maurizio Bonuglia (Roberto), Mario
also signed “Ivan Kathansky” (whereas the Scaccia (Mr. Rossetti), Orazio Orlando (Nicola),
French version is credited to “A.M. Frank,” that Jho Jenkins (Andy), Nike Arrighi (Orchidea),
is Marius Lesoeur), his last official screen credit. Daniela Barnes (Young Silvia), Alexandra Paizi
According to some sources, Batzella appears to (Miss Cardini), Renata Zamengo (Marta, Silvia’s
have had a hand in another Dick Randall pro- Mother), Ugo Carboni (Sect Member), Roberta
duction, Mie jue qi qi, a.k.a. Challenge of the Cadringher (Antique Dealer), Sergio Forcina,
Tiger (180, Bruce Le). He died in 2008, aged 84, Gabriele Bentivoglio (Shop Boy), Luigi Antonio
in his hometown of San Sperate, in Sardinia. Guerra (Chemical Worker), Carla Mancini
(Elisabetta), Donna Jordan (Francesca Vin-
cenzi); uncredited: Renato Chiantoni (Luigi, the
Porter), Margherita Horowitz (Mrs. Lovati),
1. According to the Public Cinematographic Register, Aldo Valletti (sect Member), Attilio Viti (Silvia’s
shooting began on March 25, 174. father in photograph). PROD: Giovanni Berto-
2. A variation of the same scene can be found also in
Riccardo Freda’s last film, Murder Obsession.
lucci for Euro International Film (Rome); GM:
3. Franco Grattarola, “Le occasioni di Rita,” Cine70 #11, Aldo U. Passalacqua; PS: Attilio Viti; PSe:
2008, 17. According to the actress the movie was shot in Francesco Vetrano; ADM: Rolando Pieri; As-
five or six weeks. stADM: Silvana Olasio. Country: Italy/France.
4. Rita Calderoni interviewed in the TV program Strac- Filmed at Incir-De Paolis (Rome). Running time:
ult, 200.
5. The first hardcore insert comes during Benson’s 101 minutes (m. 2777). Visa n. 64151 (3.22.174);
initial exploration of the castle: upon opening a door, in Rating: V.M.18. Release date: 3.2.174; Distribu-
the softcore edit he briefly glimpses a man fondling a tion: Euro International Film. Domestic gross:
woman’s breasts, while in the explicit version a small orgy 582,674,000 lire. Also known as: Le Parfum de
ensues, featuring two girls and a heterosexual couple (2:21
min.); later on, the shower and dream scene are expanded
la dame en noir (France); Das Parfüm der Dame
and Rita Calderoni and Iolanda Mascitti are replaced by in Schwarz (West Germany); Poseidas del demo-
two body doubles (1:08 min. and 3:06 min. respectively); nio (Mexico).
after the whipping scene, the black girl is penetrated with Silvia Hacherman, the young director of a
a candle (51 sec.); during the love scene between Benson chemistry lab in Rome, has been deeply marked
and Evelyn, brief hardcore footage is inserted (2:13 sec.);
lastly, during the final ballet/orgy the two naked girls that by a childhood trauma, having caused the death
came out from the coffins have a lesbian intercourse, then of her mother Marta. Even though she seems to
one of them turns to Peter and Susan (2:48 min.). Overall, be able to lead a peaceful life, she still feels sexu-
the Dutch hardcore cut runs nine minutes longer. ally inhibited with her boyfriend Roberto. One
6. Ibid.
7. Released on DVD in the U.S. on the Mya label as Eros
evening, during a dinner with Roberto’s friends,
Perversion (not to be confused with Ron Wertheim’s film Silvia is impressed by the words of a professor of
of the same name). African sociology, Andy, about black magic cults,
130 1974: Il profumo

which are still practiced in Africa by cannibal happen: a mysterious girl settles in Silvia’s house;
sects that lead their victims to suicide. Gradually, her neighbors, acquaintances, and even Roberto
Silvia’s memories come back to haunt her, like the seem to behave strangely; and Silvia starts to
image of her mother, dressed in black and intent think that she is being persecuted. Eventually she
on putting on perfume in front of the mirror. plunges into madness, and apparently kills her
From that moment on disturbing facts begin to mother’s lover Nicola, Roberto and her zealous
neighbor, Mr. Rossetti. Finally she
commits suicide by throwing herself
from the terrace. Her body is recovered
and placed in a secret tunnel under-
neath Rome. There, dozens of people—
including Andy, her neighbors, friends
and Roberto—gather around her body
and feed upon her. The secret sect
really exists…
Born in 143 and raised in a
family of artists (he is the nephew of
painter Cecrope Barilli) in his home-
town of Parma, Francesco Barilli took
his first steps in the movie business as
an actor, when he showed up in a
small role in Antonio Pietrangeli’s La
parmigiana (163). “Pietrangeli wanted
to shoot some scenes in my parents’
own house … but it was too small and
there was no room for the dolly, so
they eventually opted for another
villa,” he recalled. “But Pietrangeli
came over to dinner with my family,
and we talked and talked and
talked—I was crazy about John Hus-
ton, and just kept talking about his
films—until he eventually asked me
to be his assistant on set, and even
gave me a small part.”1
Then came Barilli’s big break:
the leading role in Bernardo Berto-
lucci’s sophomore effort Prima della
rivoluzione (164), a critical success
that made young Francesco one of the
most promising actors of his genera-
tion. Around the same time he also
starred in Camillo Bazzoni’s uncanny
experimental sci-fi short L’urlo (163).
But Barilli wanted to be a filmmaker
instead: he ended up in Cinecittà,
working as Bazzoni’s assistant in the
latter’s feature film debut, a Western
starring Steve Reeves titled Vivo per
la tua morte (168). Barilli recalled
the experience as follows: “That
Western was one of the most comical
movies ever made. It was like being
Italian locandina for Il profumo della signora in nero (1974). on the set of Blake Edwards’ The
1974: Il profumo 131

Party (168), believe me! I saw things I thought On a productive, stylistic and narrative
could not happen when you are making movies.” side, Il profumo della signora in nero distin-
After another film as Bazzoni’s assistant guishes itself from the typical horror genre re-
(Commando suicida, 168, starring Aldo Ray), leases: not only it was made by a director with
Barilli tried his hand at scriptwriting, and auteur ambitions, with a first-level cast and top-
penned a couple of screenplays with Massimo notch technical values, but it bends only par-
D’Avack. The author of an impressive volume tially to commercial conventions, and does not
on movies and literature and a talented young allow itself to be labeled within a particular
fiction writer, D’Avack had already co-authored trend. Over the years Barilli’s film has often been
a number of interesting scripts, including Al- misleadingly called a giallo, which it is not; even
berto De Martino’s Roma come Chicago (168), though its theme and mood are deeply imbued
Romolo Guerrieri’s Un detective (16) and Al- with the period when it was made, it falls into
fonso Brescia’s pseudo documentary Nel that category of the Gothic which David Punter
labirinto del sesso—Psichidion (16). He would called “paranoid texts.”
then embark on a career as a novelist, and ended According to Punter, this branch of the
up among the finalists at the prestigious Premio Gothic is characterized by three main elements:
Strega with Si sa dov’è il cuore (186), whose style “The shift towards the psychological, the in-
the renowned Fernanda Pivano favorably com- creasing complexity of verification, the emphasis
pared to such Postmodernist masters as Donald on the ambivalence of persecution.”2 The main
Barthelme and Kurt Vonnegut. characters, facing a world that progressively
Barilli and D’Avack had similar tastes in lit- takes the shape of a nightmare, feel like the vic-
erature and movies, and were an effective script- tims of a persecution whose ultimate goal eludes
writing pair. “We got along very well. I had the them, and carry out a detection that will bring
ideas, he put them on paper. Massimo wrote them to discover a truth hidden within them-
very well and had a wonderful ear for dialogue. selves. In a way, this “return of the past” is the
He had fun working with me, because I really same that characterizes classical Gothic, where
went over the top. I came up with such weird it takes the shape of vampires or revenants, but
ideas…. It was a perfect match.” Their efforts it brings to a different approach to the element
were made into two cult movies: the giallo, Chi of the “uncanny,” since the horrors that take
l’ha vista morire? and the violent adventure film form on the screen have an inner genesis. The
Il paese del sesso selvaggio (172, Umberto Lenzi), supernatural becomes merely an insinuating
born as a rip-off of A Man Called Horse and suggestion, an option that is briefly touched but
eventually the progenitor of one of Italy’s most never fully embraced, and which is born and
notorious subgenres of the decade, the Third dies within the protagonists’ tormented subjec-
World cannibal film. tivity.
Finally, for Barilli came the time of his di- That is the case with Silvia (Mimsy Farmer),
rectorial debut. Once again he co-wrote the the enigmatic protagonist of Barilli’s film, whose
script with D’Avack. The starting point was the descent into madness takes place in full daylight,
horror genre, a profitable venture at that period, in the hot summer, in sunny contemporary
and one that could grant him a safe distribution Rome.3 It seems the exact opposite of a Gothic
deal in Italy and perhaps abroad as well. How- ambience; and yet the ghosts and shadows that
ever, what became Il profumo della signora in lurk underneath the apparently calm surface of
nero started in a quite unique way: “You see, Silvia’s ordinary bourgeois life gradually take
there were these two scripts I’d written: one was shape, between a tennis match and a dinner with
the story of a schizophrenic woman, while the friends, while the streets and buildings take on
other was about a cannibal sect based in Geneva a menacing air, and even the smiling elderly
… there were these bankers who used to meet gentleman next door starts looking suspicious
in the city sewers at night and eat people. When and sinister.
I brought these two scripts to Euro Productions, In dealing with a female perspective, Il pro-
they told me: ‘OK, let’s make the movie. But fumo della signora in nero embraces the contem-
we’re going to stitch the two scripts together!’ porary evolution of the 1th century “female
… I really liked both stories, so I told myself: Gothic,” centered on heroines who, despite their
‘Well, that’s quite a challenge. Let’s see what I strong and independent surface, turn out as
can do with it!’” fragile and defenseless damsels in distress, just
132 1974: Il profumo

like their Romantic predecessors; what is more, ing. There is no trace of the stylistic sloppiness
they are afflicted by psychosexual taints: the “re- of the contemporaneous low-budget Gothic
turning past” that generates terror is a traumatic films, plagued with zooms and shaky mise-en-
event hidden in the subconscious, which comes scène. Each scene is very carefully designed:
to the surface in the moment when the heroine Barilli builds the suspense with patience, and
loses touch with her certainties and defenses, takes care of the set-pieces, props and costumes
and finds herself at the center of unexplicable with a painterly eye. An example is the nosy
events—unless they are read under the paranoid neighbor, Mr. Rossetti, played by Mario Scaccia,
perspective of a conspiracy against her. always impeccably dressed, with his bow-tie and
The hidden secret in Silvia’s past—her white shoes.
mother’s murder—returns to persecute her
through objects and apparitions that may be just Oh, those shoes! You wouldn’t believe how much
time it took me to find just the right shoes I wanted,
the product of her own imagination, or may be
chamoish leather, white, an English model! The cos-
the work of a sect that pushes its victims to sui-
tume designer probably ended up hating me, as I was
cide. In giving voice to its protagonist’s inner- such a pain in the ass … (laughs) … I literally drove
most self, Barilli’s film undermines a linear nar- them crazy! But, you see, if in the U.S. you write a
rative progression (which had already been script which says: “On a wall, we get to see a number
sabotaged in 160s Gothic: think of Danza of stuffed birds which ominously pop out of the dark
macabra, for instance) and turns it into an in- because of the light coming from a window. A crow’s
decipherable voyage to the center of the mind. eye shines in the dark etcetera,” or: “Outside, in the
The linear perception of reality is constantly rain, a pink Buick is parked…,” nobody changes a
broken by a chaotic, distressing coexistence of single word. The script is Gospel, period. Here in
past and present. Italy, when producers read the script, they say: “Gee,
Similarly, the male figures undergo a fur- that’s cool!,” then the day you are about to shoot the
ther mutation, compared with the previous scene with the rain and the pink Buick … there is no
Buick in sight! “What about that damn car?!?” “Hey,
decade’s counterparts, and the weak and inade-
who cares about the car, let’s get to work…” (laughs)
quate hero gives way to ambiguous, hostile
I mean, you are making a movie and you keep asking
figures: on the one hand we have Roberto (Mau- yourself why do you waste your time writing a script,
rizio Bonuglia), Silvia’s boyfriend, who frus- given that on the set everything has to be changed at
tratingly tries to have sex with her but clashes the very last minute!
against his fiancée’s frigidness; on the other we
have the brutish Nicola (Orazio Orlando), the Barilli’s visual talent shines in the choice of
substitute for an absent father figure who brings the story’s main setting, an elegant building in
to the surface Silvia’s Oedipal traumas by vio- piazza Mincio, in Rome’s Coppedé district, first
lating her amid the remnants of her old apart- seen in Mario Bava’s La ragazza che sapeva
ment, in one of Italian cinema’s most uncom- troppo (163) in the scene where Nora Davis
fortable and painful rape scenes, perhaps (Leticia Román) arrives by taxi at the deserted
horror’s answer to a famous moment in Rocco e apartment, and later re-used by Dario Argento:
i suoi fratelli (160, Luchino Visconti). it is the library where Eleonora Giorgi enters,
The “complexity of verification” mentioned again after a cab ride, in Inferno (180). In truly
by Punter refers to the formal structure of para- Gothic fashion, the building becomes a char-
noid texts, which are built so as to make as plau- acter in its own right from the exquisite opening
sible as possible an obviously unreal world. In sequence, in which the camera rises up from a
Il profumo della signora in nero, the dualism be- fountain in the middle of the square and pans
tween the unlikely story and the realistic context to a balcony where Silvia’s elderly and affable
in which it takes place gives birth to a complex, neighbor is watering flowers, in an idyllic and
faceted narrative, that moves along the tracks of yet illusory portrayal of Silvia’s quiet and soon-
a difficult, painful detection: viewers grope in to-be-shattered universe.
the dark just like Silvia, forced as they are to see Barilli never denied the enormous influ-
the world through the eyes of the heroine’s de- ence of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (165) and
viated subjectivity, and the pieces of the puzzle Rosemary’s Baby on his work. Il profumo della
make sense only at the end. signora in nero pays many references to the Pol-
The movie’s refined visual style has a vital ish filmmaker: for one thing, the photograph
part in creating a reality on the verge of collaps- that appears under the opening credits, depict-
1974: Il profumo 133

ing Silvia as a child with her father and hinting clichés by exaggerating them to the limit of
at her unresolved incestuous issues, recalls the grotesqueness.”6 And indeed Barilli highlights
one in the closing sequence of Repulsion, and in his character’s bizarre traits, from the nosy Mr.
fact there seems to be an ideal red thread be- Rossetti to the sinister street-sweeper who leafs
tween Polanski’s film and Barilli’s. Both deal through bodybuilding magazines, not to men-
with a fragile woman on the verge of madness, tion the well-dressed African professor who po-
and the characters played by Catherine Deneuve litely discusses black magic and cannibalism as
and Mimsy Farmer have many things in com- if it were just another mundane small talk. Sim-
mon, starting with an obscure childhood trauma ilarly, the director stages empty and frivolous
they removed from their memory and the fear society rituals that have a ridiculous and yet
of sexual contact with the opposite sex. “The frightening side to them, and range from sé-
reference to Repulsion was intentional,” as Barilli ances held by black psychics to mysterious col-
admitted; “I took that picture, by the way. The lective gatherings in Rome’s underground. Ul-
man you see in the photograph, playing the fa- timately, these rituals are all generated by the
ther, was Attilio Viti, an organizer who worked same ennui. Barilli’s sarcastic, detached look de-
with Bernardo Bertolucci, Anghelopoulos and picts with acute wit the spiritualist fashion of
so on.” Some claims point at Robert Altman’s the period as well as the bougeoisie’s politically
Images (172), another portrait of a woman (Su- correct façade of Third Worldism.
sannah York) succumbing to madness, as a pos- The main asset of Il profumo della signora
sible influence: however, Images was released in in nero is the ambiguity of the heroine’s perse-
Italy only in mid–175, over one year after Bar- cution. Unlike the orthodox Gothics, there is no
illi’s film. dialectic between the protagonist and the antag-
Barilli develops one of Gothic’s character- onist, but an overwhelming disproportion that
istic situations, in which “a suspicion of paranoia turns into a conspiracy—most likely a nod to
on the part of the protagonist is accompanied Rosemary’s Baby. In Silvia’s cloudy and unreli-
by a development in the expressionist charac- able vision anyone could be an enemy, and it is
teristics of the world through which [she] the continuous suspension of truth that holds
moves.”4 Hence, the palace where Silvia lives the narrative. Then, ultimately, Barilli ends the
turns into a haunted house that little by little is film with a twist that gives concrete form to the
peopled with presences from the past. A central heroine’s fears, after giving us the illusion that
leitmotif in the film is the doppelgänger, the ma- it was all the product of her paranoia. At the
terialization of the “return of the repressed” that same time, he broadens the perspective from the
haunts the brain. In Il profumo della signora in individual to the global. A conspiracy does in-
nero it is embodied in Silvia’s alter ego: a little deed exist, and Silvia has been pushed to suicide
girl, a bit like Alice (explicitly evoked in the by a sect devoted to ritual cannibalism, that cuts
scene where Silvia reads Lewis Carroll’s book), across all social classes and hides in the hum-
but primarily a nod to Truman Capote’s short drum, apparently mundane reality of today’s so-
story Miriam,5 who summons Silvia from the ciety.
other side of the mirror. The girl is played by the Besides its undeniable horrific power, the
8-year-old Daniela Rachele Barnes, the daughter extraordinary final scene—a blasphemous can-
of Britta and Walter Barnes, and soon to become nibalistic communion, celebrated in the mil-
popular in Italian cinema under the name Lara lenarian subterraneans of the Eternal City, at the
Wendel. “Oh, to find the right girl was a night- Caracalla thermae 7—suggests also a thought-
mare! Dear me, I may have screened hundreds provoking message. Civilized countries are
and hundreds of little girls! I visited all the Ger- plagued by a barbarism that has come from the
man schools in Rome because, you see, I wanted Third World (Africa is a recurrent theme in the
a girl who would not look Italian at all. Daniela film), a plague that can be read as a retaliation
Barnes had done a film with Di Leo, I think. on the part of the “Wretched of the Earth” (to
Anyway, then she ended up doing softcore flicks quote Frantz Fanon’s famous 161 book which
like Maladolescenza…” provided a psychologic analysis of the effects of
According to a famous definition by Leslie colonization) toward the post-colonial Western
Fiedler (in his pioneering tome Love and Death society, whose capitalistic “hunger” has turned,
in the American Novel), the Gothic mode is “es- literally, in hunger for human flesh—a political
sentially a form of parody, a way of assailing angle even more explicit in Barilli’s original
134 1974: Terror!

story, which took place in Geneva’s high finance 8. Written by Questi and Franco Arcalli, Arcana is the
environments. The “return of the past” at the surreal tale of a Southern woman (Lucia Bosé) who earns
her living as a modern day witch in Milan, exploiting peo-
core of Gothic here also conveys subtle political ple’s superstition for commercial purposes, with the help
and apocalyptic undertones: the satiated nor- of her son (Francesco Degli Esposti) who actually has su-
malcy of Western civilization is just an illusion, pernatural powers. While not a Gothic horror film per se—
and behind the façade madness has spread and and therefore not discussed in this volume—Arcana paints
an impressive portrait of the irrational roots beneath
taken power—a theme very similar to Giulio modern-day urban society, and the eruption of the irra-
Questi’s extraordinary, if unclassifiable, Arcana tional, removed or forgotten with the end of the rural cul-
(172).8 ture and the abandonment of traditions, but ready to
Coming at the end of a movie so languidly return to the surface with disturbing effects. Badly distrib-
paced and suggestive, the climactic cannibal uted at the time of its release, it quickly disappeared, badly
damaging Questi’s career as a director.
feast is a punch in the stomach, incredibly raw 9. “I have a story for you: there was a big calf liver, this
and intense: the woman’s trunk is pulled open big [mimes]. One of the extras was despised by the whole
and eviscerated, and the sect members (all wear- crew because he was a Fascist; anyway, he just wanted to
ing transparent raincoats: yet another of Barilli’s stay on shot whenever possible. I called him and said: ‘Lis-
ten, why don’t you eat this big liver right in front of the
surreal visual touches) take turn grabbing camera? I’m going to make a close-up of you!’ [laughs]
chunks of raw meat which they take away and And he did eat that raw liver, all of it! Just to have a close-
devour in a frenzy, like wild animals before a up in the movie! However, I had to cut that shot—it was
dead prey. After the cannibals’ fury has been just too gory.” Curti, “Francesco Barilli interview.”
satiated, the director dedicates the last shot to
Silvia’s desecrated, lifeless body—alone in a cold Terror! Il castello delle donne male-
silent crypt, forgotten by all, and yet still worthy dette (Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks)
of the filmmaker’s pity. D: Robert H. Oliver. SC: Mark Smith,
Il profumo della signora in nero had some William Rose, Roberto Spano [and Mario
trouble with the board of censors, which re- Francini, uncredited]; DOP: Mario Mancini
quested a number of cuts (for a total of 8 metres: (Technicolor); M: Marcello Gigante (Ed. MAS];
16 seconds overall) before granting a V.M.18 rat- E: Enzo Micarelli; PD: Mario Ciccarella; MU:
ing; however, one member voted against the Giovanni Amadei; Hair: Stefano Trani; AD:
granting of the visa to the film. The cuts per- Renzo Girolami; C: Emilio Varriano; AC: Gian-
tained to the love scene between Silvia and Ro- lorenzo Battaglia; PM: E. Rancati; SD: Giuseppe
berto, a sex encounter between Silvia’s mother Pappalardo; SOE: Tonino Cacciottolo; Mix: Re-
and her lover, and Nicola’s attempted rape of Sil- nato Cadueri; SS: Marina Grimaldi. Cast:
via. Interestingly, the board did not have any- Rossano Brazzi (Count Frankenstein), Michael
thing to object on the graphic gore of the can- Dunn (Genz), Edmund Purdom (Prefect), Gor-
nibalistic ending (passingly referred to as “rather don Mitchell (Igor), Loren [William Russell]
macabre”). As the director admitted, “it was the Ewing (Goliath), Alan Collins [Luciano Pigozzi]
ending that sold the film abroad.” (Hans), Xiro Papas [Ciro Papa] (Kreegin), Si-
mone Blondell [Simonetta Vitelli] (Maria), Eric
NoTeS Mann (Eric), Robert Marx (Koerner), Laura De
1. Roberto Curti, “Francesco Barilli Interview. Cinema Benedittis (Valda), Boris Lugosi [Salvatore Bac-
Between Brush Strokes,” Offscreen Vol. 15, issue 12, Decem- caro] (Ook), Christiane Royce [Christiane
ber 2011. ( Rücker] (Krista), Margaret Oliver (Paisan
interview.). Unless noted otherwise, Barilli’s statements
come from this interview. Woman), Alessandro Perrella (Doctor), Bob Fiz
2. David Punter, The Literature of Terror. Volume 1: The [Roberto Fizz] (Paisan), Annamaria Tornello
Gothic Tradition (London: Routledge, 16– 2014), 138. (Raped Girl), Aristide Caporale (Gravedigger),
3. According to he Public Cinematographic Register, Nicola Palumbo (Agent), Mike Monty (Paisan),
shooting began on July 16, 173.
Rossella Ferrero (Paisan Woman), Ozzie Raghet
4. Punter, The Literature of Terror. Volume 1, 123.
5. Miriam was adapted for the small screen by Biagio (Almut), Walter Saxer (Warner). PROD: Dick
Proietti, as part of the TV series Il fascino dell’insolito, and Randall and Oscar Brazzi for Classic Film In-
broadcast in 180. ternational; EP: G. Robert Straub; PM: Ciro
6. Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel Papa; PS: Sergio Merolle, Emilio Cannaroli; PSe:
(New York: Stein & Day, 160), 452.
7. The catacombs’ entrance shown in the film is actually Egidio Ippoliti, Rossella Ferrero. Country: Italy.
the train station at the central Piazzale Flaminio, yet an- Filmed at Borgo di Castello di Rota and Palazzo
other example of Barilli’s extraordinary eye for locations. Patrizi, Castel Giuliano, Bracciano (Rome). Run-
1974: Terror! 135

ning time: 8 minutes (m. 2468). Visa n. 63500 the details surrounding the making of Terror! Il
(11.17.173); Rating: V.M.18. Release dates: 2.1. castello delle donne maledette are shady if not
174 (Italy); January 175 (U.S.A.); Distribution: contradictory. For a long time the movie has
Nettunia Film (Italy); Aquarius Releasing / Box- been the object of an argument over the true
office International Pictures (U.S.A.). Domestic identity of the director, Robert H. Oliver, which
gross: 51,004,000 lire. Home video: Something is definitely more thrilling than the movie itself.
Weird (DVD, U.S.A). Also known as: Terror Cas- Over the years different conjectures have piled
tle; The House of Freaks; The Monsters of Dr. up. Some hypothesized it was a pseudonym for
Frankenstein; Dr. Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks the Spanish actor Ramiro Oliveros, whereas oth-
(U.S.A.); Frankenstein’s Castle (U.K.), Le château ers claimed that the name concealed the Italian
de l’horreur (France); El castillo de las mujeres co-producer Oscar Brazzi, or the director of
malditas (Spain); Die Leichenfabrik des Dr. photography Mario Mancini (who signed the
Frankenstein (West Germany); Frankensteinin equally obscure Frankenstein ’80). Another
hirviöt (Finland). school of thought credited the direction either
Note: In the English version, Mitchell, to Randall himself, or to co-scriptwriter William
Ewing, Collins and Papas are listed as “Franken- Rose, another American in Rome, and the di-
steins Monsters.” In the Italian version, Chris- rector of an elusive giallo-horror hybrid of un-
tiane Rücker is credited as “Krista Roker.” certain origin, La casa della paura (a.k.a. The
In the countryside near Count Frankenstein’s Girl in Room 2A, 174), also produced by Ran-
castle, a caveman who has survived from the pre- dall.
historic age is captured and killed by the villagers. The enigma seemed to be solved by a paper
Frankenstein uses the body to test his theories on from the Ministry of Spectacle, deposited at
re-animation: after conducting a brain transplant, SIAE (Italy’s copyright collecting agency) on
the scientist brings the creature (whom he rebap- April 21, 176, which certifies that “Robert H.
tizes Goliath) back to life and keeps it concealed Oliver” is a pseudonym of Mario Mancini, but
in a cell. But Frankenstein’s freakish assistants direct testimonials point otherwise. According
Igor, Genz and Hans, who provide the Count with to Gordon Mitchell, “The director was Robert
the dead bodies for his experiments, are jealous Oliver, an American, whose wife later married
of the new creature. Mary, Frankenstein’s niece, Sinatra!”1 Actress Simone Blondell recalls:
arrives at the castle with her boyfriend Eric and “What I remember is that the director spoke En-
her friend Krista for a brief stay. Genz discovers glish, he wasn’t Italian.”2 Assistant cameraman
Ook, another Neanderthal man who is mysteri- Gianlorenzo Battaglia flatly denies it was Man-
ously alive and well, and uses him to kidnap the cini directing, but adds: “I believe the American
beautiful and uninhibited Krista, who has a liai- director left the movie because of disagreements
son with the Count and has kindled a glimmer of with the producer, and so Mario finished it on
passion in Goliath’s brain. The creature escapes his own. I’m not 100% sure though!”3
and kills both the Count and Ook; the police guide The U.S. born Robert Harrison Oliver was
the furious farmers to the castle, and the crowd in fact the director of a dubbing facility in Mu-
sets the place on fire… nich, and had a past as a functionary of the Miss
One of the trashiest horror movies pro- Universe beauty contest. He was indeed the ex-
duced in Italy in the 170s, Terror! Il castello delle husband of Barbara Marx, who later became
donne maledette bears the mark of the notorious Frank Sinatra’s fourth and last wife, and he was
Dick Randall, real name Irving Reuben (126– a good friend of Randall’s. Oliver was also cred-
16), an extraordinary globetrotter producer ited as co-producer (together with Robert
responsible for such trashy low-budget exploita- Straub, Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette’s
tion flicks as The Wild, Wild World of Jayne executive producer) and co-scriptwriter (with
Mansfield (168, Charles W. Broun Jr., Joel Holt, Dag Solis) in the U.S. version of Lo strangolatore
Arthur Knight), Lo strangolatore di Vienna and di Vienna, The Mad Butcher.4 Which might pos-
Casa d’appuntamento. For about a decade, start- sibly mean that the document deposited at SIAE
ing from the late 160s, Randall was based in would be the umpteenth trick in order to obtain
Rome, where he produced such titles as Quante Italian nationality and law benefits, unless
volte … quella notte, L’amante del demonio, and Mancini’s role on the set was more like a co-
this bizarre variation on the Frankenstein story. director of sorts. Incidentally, Mancini was an-
As with many other Randall productions, other recurring presence in Randall productions,
136 1974: Terror!

and served as d.o.p. on Eva, la venere selvaggia produced by Harry Novak around the same
(168, Roberto Mauri), Casa d’appuntamento time. The proximity to Z-grade U.S. horror flicks
and The Girl in Room 2A. can be found in the predictable references to the
That said, the movie’s rowdy tone bears ever-present theme of Frankenstein as the mod-
Randall’s signature, and clearly differentiates the ern Prometheus (“Somehow it doesn’t seem to
result from Italian Gothic, past and contempo- be right to fool with the laws of God.” “No, my
raneous. The story (which moves from a prem- dear, I disagree: science gives privilege to a few
ise that brings to mind Freddie Francis’ Trog, … we must never stop learning. I am sure that
170) apes Universal Gothic, with a monster God meant it that way.”). Even the direction’s
mash not dissimilar from those found in Erle C. pragmatism is at odds with the style of the
Kenton’s films or, without moving too back- Gothic horror films made in Italy during the
wards in time, in certain adult horror comics of same period, which often border on the abstract
the decade. In fact, the horror icons are placed and are characterized by resorting to mood and
in a context that openly aims at sexploitation, camera movements.
not unlike the American homologous works On top of that, the excessive bawdiness
makes the result closer to
other Randall productions,
such as Lo strangolatore di Vi-
enna or even Casa d’appunta-
mento, which featured for no
apparent reason a Humphrey
Bogart lookalike (Robert Sac-
chi) in the lead. The examples
are countless: Frankenstein’s
constantly horny dwarf assis-
tant (Michael Dunn) gropes
a freshly exhumed female
corpse’s bosom, and shows
caveman Ook (Salvatore Bac-
caro) how to fornicate with an
abducted peasant girl (“Watch
me, I’m going to teach you the
pleasures in life!”); the hunch-
back chef (Ciro Papa) has an
affair with the butler’s (Luci-
ano Pigozzi) wife; and, last but
not least, Frankenstein’s castle
is full of secret peepholes
through which the servants
spy on the beautiful female
guests as they take a bath or
are in intimate conversations
with their boyfriends, just like
in the German sexy pochades
directed by the likes of Franz
That the movie was most
likely produced for exporta-
tion, is proven by some blatant
howlers and in-jokes, which
would pass unnoticed to an
American audience but not to
Italian poster for Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette (1974). Art an Italian one: in Franken-
by Carlo Alessandrini a.k.a. “Aller”. stein’s diary one can spot such
1974: Terror! 137

amusing notations as “salutame a soreta” (“Say was noticed by some casting director for his pe-
hello to your sister for me,” in Neapolitan dia- culiar appearance. His misshapen, almost animal-
lect, with a blatant double meaning) and “un like features, characterized by a heavy jaw,
toast al prosciutto, bacon e wodka (sic!!)” (“A jutting nose, low protruding brow and hands
toast with ham, bacon and vodka”). Someone in with big fingers, caused by acromegaly, made
the crew was clearly having lots of fun. What is him ideal for outlandish roles, such as the titular
more, incongruities abound: 1th century peas- character in La bestia in calore, where he used
ants sport blue jeans, and the Creature (Loren the pseudonym Sal Boris. Baccaro played in over
Ewing) wears an embarrassing rubber cap to 60 movies, the last being Dino Risi’s Dagobert
simulate the aftermath of cranial surgery. (184) before his untimely death in 184, after a
The cast is every trash connoisseur’s de- thyroid surgery. He was only 52.
light. Randall and Oscar Brazzi assembled a Filmed in late 172/early 173,7 Terror! Il
mixture of has-beens, exploitation regulars and castello delle donne maledette was submitted to
out-and-out freaks that must be seen to be be- the Italian board of censors in late 173: the Ital-
lieved. Brazzi managed to get his brother Ros- ian title (“Terror! The Castle of Cursed Women”)
sano, far away from the days where he was Italy’s was an infelicitous choice, since Don Weis’ Ghost
biggest movie star after Freda’s Aquila nera, to in the Invisible Bikini (166) had been released
play Frankenstein. Not the greatest of actors, in Italy as Il castello delle donne maledette merely
Brazzi (who dubs himself in English) defines ri- a couple of years earlier. It predictably earned a
diculous with his portrayal of the titular scien- V.M.18 “for the environment of terror and vio-
tist. Gordon Mitchell (as Frankenstein’s manser- lence, as well as for the macabre atmosphere in
vant Igor) was sneering toward his co-star: which the whole story takes place, and finally
“Brazzi produced the film. His brother Rossano because of the abnormality of the characters and
is the main lead, I had got to know him already the situation alike,” and was released in early
in Gariazzo’s Il giorno del giudizio. There he 174 to a well-deserved oblivion. On the con-
played a sheriff, but he resembled just as much trary, it found a minor cult status in the United
a sheriff as I resemble a pope!”5 Another survivor States (where it was distributed by Harry Novak)
of a past glory, Edmund Purdom (a Randall reg- when it aired on the “Elvira’s Movie Macabre”
ular, from L’amante del demonio to Juan Piquer series in the early 180s.
Simón’s Pieces, 182), is as wooden as ever as the
Prefect. NoTeS
Alongside the three male leads, Randall 1. Christian Kessler, “Maciste und die Spaghetti aus
and Brazzi gathered a number of lovely ladies, dem Weltall,” The German lan-
headed by the gorgeous blue-eyed Simonetta guage interview was published in a slightly different (and
Vitelli, a.k.a. Simone Blondell, and a quartet of sometimes not completely faithful) English translation in
supporting actors that justified the movie’s the Video Watchdog magazine. Christian Kessler, “Gordon
Mitchell. Atlas in the Land of Cinema,” Video Watchdog
American title, Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks: #48, 18, 46. Thanks to Gary Vanisian for the new trans-
the omnipresent face of Italian Gothic, Luciano lation from the original German text.
Pigozzi; the bald, hulking Ciro Papa (credited 2. Simone Blondell, private email with the author, Sep-
as the author of the script kept at the CSC library tember 2016.
3. Gianlorenzo Battaglia, private email with the author,
under the title Il castello della paura 6); the di- September 2016.
minutive Michael Dunn, who had moved from 4. In this regard, director Guido Zurli commented:
Off-Broadway stage plays and auteur cinema to “Who knows! Perhaps [Oliver and Straub] took over later
Z-grade exploitation; and the ace in the hole, on, and bought the movie … anything could happen with
“Boris Lugosi” a.k.a. Salvatore Baccaro as the Dick Randall (laughs)…. Actually, the story is mine and
the script was written by me and Gicca [author’s note: Enzo
neanderthal man Ook, complete with club and Gicca Palli].” Franco Grattarola, “Intervista a Guido Zurli—
fur coat à la Fred Flintstone. Il dissacratore dei generi,” Cine 70 #10, 2008, 34.
A hairy, rugged, Lombrosian extra who 5. Kessler, “Maciste und die Spaghetti aus dem Weltall.”
popped up in down-at-heel productions, Bac- 6. The 114-page long script is copyrighted Classic Film
International (Rome) and dated December 16, 172. Frank-
caro was born in 132 in the Molise village of enstein is misspelled “Frankestein” throughout the script.
Roccamandolfi. He was an ex-florist who worked 7. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
near the Incir-De Paolis studios in Rome and shooting began on December 18, 172.
138 1975: Il cav. Costante

Il cav. Costante Nicosia demoniaco Costante Nicosia, a Sicilian immigrant who
ovvero: Dracula in Brianza (Young made money in Brianza with his brand of tooth-
Dracula, a.k.a. Dracula in the Provinces) paste, leaves for a business trip to Romania.
D: Lucio Fulci. S: Lucio Fulci. SC: Pupi There, he is seduced and vampirized by Count
Avati, Bruno Corbucci, Mario Amendola, Lucio Dragulesku, a descendant of Count Dracula.
Fulci; Dial: Enzo Jannacci, Giuseppe Viola; Upon returning to Italy, Costante finds himself
DOP: Sergio Salvati (Eastmancolor, Staco Film); attracted to blood, and is afraid he has become a
M: Bixio-Frizzi-Tempera [Franco Bixio, Fabio homosexual. After unsuccessfully attempting to
Frizzi, Vince Tempera] (Ed. ZITA); E: Ornella get rid of the curse he believes his relatives have
Micheli; AE: Bruno Micheli; SS: Roberto Gian- put on him, Nicosia undergoes a series of sexual
dalia; ArtD: Pier Luigi Basile; CO: Massimo encounters, in the hope of finding a cure to his
Lentini; AD: Victor Tourjansky, Giuseppe Pol- state. Meanwhile he becomes more and more de-
lini; C: Franco Bruni, Enzo Tosi; AC: Maurizio manding toward his employees, and finally has a
Lucchini, Bernardo Valli; MU: Maria Luisa Tilli; brilliant idea to satisfy his thirst: he founds a
Hair: Luisa Piovesan; W: Bertilla Silvestrin; SO: blood bank and has his workers give their blood
Mario Ottavi; B: Marco Donati; SP: Gianfranco for money…
Massa; KG: Luciano Micheli: ChEl: Eugenio Rai- Right after wrapping principal shooting on
mondi; PM: Duilio Caltabellotta, Mario Gen- the Western I 4 dell’Apocalisse (175), Lucio Fulci
tilini. Cast: Lando Buzzanca (Costante Nicosia), started working on a new project, of a very dif-
Rossano Brazzi (Dr. Paluzzi), Sylva Koscina ferent genre: a return to comedy, mixed with a
(Marilù, Costante’s wife), Moira Orfei (Bestia demystifying approach to horror clichés, in the
Assatanata), Christa Linder (Liù Pederzoli), John vein of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. Shot in
Steiner (Count Dragulesku), Francesca Romana eight weeks between March and April 175, Il
Coluzzi (Wanda Torsello), Grazia Di Marzà cav. Costante Nicosia demoniaco ovvero: Dracula
(Prostitute), Antonio Allocca (Peppino the in Brianza1 (a nod to Lina Wertmüller’s habit of
Hunchback), Grazia Spadaro (Aunt Maria), using similarly endless titles) starred Lando Buz-
Franco Nebbia (Meniconi), Michele Cimarosa zanca, in his third and last collaboration with
(Salvatore Cannata), Giampaolo Rossi (Brother- the director.
in-Law), Ciccio Ingrassia (Salvatore, the Wizard The script sports an array of diverse names:
of Noto), Valentina Cortese (Olghina Franchetti), Bruno Corbucci and Mario Amendola were a
Franca Martelli (Gia), Mauro Vestri (TV Journal- well-oiled team of comedy scriptwriters, whereas
ist), Ugo Fangareggi (Battai, the Count’s servant), Pupi Avati was gradually finding his way as a
Carlo Bagno (Head Worker), Renato Malavasi filmmaker with such peculiar and grotesque
(Arnaldo), John Bartha (Concierge), Barbara comedies as La mazurka del barone, della santa
Musci (Georgia), Gianfranco Bocca (Colombo), e del fico fiorone and Bordella (shot in 175 but
Belsana Arfenone (Nicosia’s assistant); uncred- released in early 176). On top of that the dia-
ited: Dori Dorika (Night Club singer), Ilona logue was revised in order to make it more spon-
Staller (Janka), Aldo Valletti (Plane passenger). taneous, especially regarding the use of North-
PROD: Coralta Cinematografica (Rome); PM: ern lingo, by Enzo Jannacci and Giuseppe
Alfonso Donati; UM: Ennio Di Meo, Franco “Beppe” Viola, respectively a popular songwriter
Mancarella, Romualdo Buzzanca. Country: Italy. whose ironic demeanor had characterized his
Filmed in Brianza, Merano and at R.P.A. Elios acting stints, such as in Marco Ferreri’s out-
Studios (Rome). Running time: 101 minutes (m. standing absurdist drama L’udienza (172), and
2768). Visa n. 67018 (8.31.175); Rating: V.M.14. a sports journalist and humorist. In addition
Release dates: 8.31.175; Distribution: Titanus. to co-authoring a number of songs—includ-
Domestic gross: 40,484,803 lire. Also known as: ing Tira a campa,’ included in the score of
Muérdame Sr. Conde (Spain; 8.31.181). Lina Wertmüller’s Pasqualino settebellezze
Note: the songs Vampiro S.p.A. and Lady (176)—Jannacci and Viola had worked together
Pamela (Nebbia-Bixio-Frizzi-Tempera) are sung on a number of scripts, most notably Mario
by Franco Nebbia. Monicelli’s Romanzo popolare (174), starring
1975: Il cav. Costante 13

Ugo Tognazzi, Ornella Muti and

Michele Placido.
Pupi Avati’s contribution to
the screenplay has been wildly
overestimated over the years,
much to Fulci’s chagrin. The di-
rector was adamant that Avati
wrote only a few pages, namely
the trip to Romania (but not the
encounter in the night club,
which Fulci claimed as his own
creation). Even thought the
theme of sexual ambiguity and
grotesque eroticism are the core
of many Avati films, from Bor-
della (about a male prostitute
brothel) to La casa dalle finestre
che ridono, the many allusions to
homosexuality—from Costante’s
dance with a male customer in
the nightclub to his sexual en-
counter with the bisexual Count
Dragulesku and his effeminate
male friend Sperandeu, and
Nicosia’s subsequent fear of hav-
ing become “a fag”—must be as-
cribed to Fulci himself, who had
developed the theme of the dis-
covery of one’s own sexual am-
biguity in one of his best thrill-
ers, Una lucertola con la pelle di
It is interesting to note how Italian poster for Il cav. Costante Nicosia demoniaco ovvero: Dracula
the Italian farces on vampirism in Brianza (1975). Art by Averardo Ciriello.
adopted a political approach.
Whereas Tempi duri per i vampiri (15, Steno) producing the toothpaste “Pasta del Colonnello”
depicted the bloodsucker as a remnant of the (a nod to one of Italy’s most popular toothpaste
past in a country undergoing an economic brands, “Pasta del Capitano”), but is still strug-
boom, Fulci’s film analyzes the master/workers gling to make himself accepted as “one of them.”
dynamics, in the wake of the 170 “Statuto dei Therefore, he is an outsider well before becom-
lavoratori” (Workers’ Statute), which finally reg- ing a vampire; like Robert Neville in Richard
ulated labor law and established rights never be- Matheson’s I Am Legend, he is the different one,
fore codified, after the strikes, struggles and the anomaly, despite his attempts at hiding his
protests that characterized the previous decades origin.
and especially the “hot autumn” of 16. On the On the one hand, the script plays on the
other hand, …Hanno cambiato faccia had also stereotype of the virile Southerner, Buzzanca’s
analyzed vampirism as a metaphor for power, pièce de resistance; on the other, it investigates
in the light of Marcuse’s work, with a bleak hu- the individual’s fear of the way society perceives
morous vein. his image, and the attempts at becoming one and
This time, however, and with quite a smart the same with the moral (and judging) majority,
move, the audience is invited to identify with in a similar way as the previous Fulci-Buzzanca
the vampire. Costante Nicosia is a successful comedy All’onorevole piacciono le donne (172),
businessman, an industrialist who has emigrated where the focus was on Catholic sin. In Co-
from Sicily and made a fortune in the North by stante’s case, his drama rises from a duality that
140 1975: Il cav. Costante

recalls such Victorian characters as Dr. Jekyll. the septuagenarian Prime Minister during his
His attempts at integration range from aesthetic term in office. Interestingly, in a neat reversal of
(he dresses in fashion and inhabits a house fur- conventions, it is in his beloved Northern Italy
nished with stylish, modern objects, in stark that Nicosia is surrounded by monsters and
contrast with the old-fashioned apartment freaks, from the hunchback employee Peppino
where his relatives live) to behavioral ones (he to his octogenarian virgin maid, whereas the
tries to move and speak like Brianza people, and Count—partly modeled upon the character of
gives generous tips like he believes the rich do), the homosexual Count von Krolock in The Fear-
and even involve the sexual sphere: like his less Vampire Killers—is an effete character ac-
Northern industrialist peers, Nicosia keeps (and companied by beauties.
maintains economically) a lover, whom he treats The vampirization—which is the result of
as his own property. And yet he cannot detach Costante’s homosexual seduction on the part of
from his roots—the burden of family, the cult the Count—has a weird effect on Nicosia. At
of the deceased, the superstitious beliefs—which first he is scared of the implications, and his
haunt him and come out at every step, prevent- quest (devoted to check his own masculinity)
ing his mimesis with the surrounding world and has the effect of making him aware of the real
society. nature of the world and people who surround
The first part plays like an amusing modern- him. As a capitalist vampire, once he has become
day variation of Jonathan Harker’s trip to Tran- aware of his thirst for blood, he also becomes a
sylvania in Bram Stoker’s novel. For one thing, ruthless businessman, what he always wanted
here it is Costante who acts like Stoker’s super- to be but failed to because of his good-natured
stitious peasants, giving way to his Southern Southern essence.
good luck practices, such as carrying horseshoes Eventually Costante detaches from his
in the pocket and spreading salt in the aircraft’s roots: he stops giving away money to to Peppino,
pilot cabin. The view of Communist Romania who allegedly brought him good luck, fires his
is as funny as it is bleak: Costante has brought a good-for-nothing relatives, rejects the trade
suitcase full of female garments, in the hope of union requests (all of them bloodsucking para-
seducing the local beauties, but finds himself in sites in their own terms), and eventually draws
a squalid night club whose only other occupant blood from his employees with the excuse of a
is another Italian traveler (Franco Nebbia), sip- blood bank, thus exploiting them twice, both as
ping mineral water with bicarbonate (the only workers for his enterprise profit, and as human
drinkable item in the place), who has been stuck beings for their blood. As in Jean-Paul Sartre’s
in the country for weeks because of the local bu- short story The Childhood of a Leader, where
reaucracy and is reduced to wearing the female Lucien’s one-time sexual encounter with a ho-
panties he, like Costante, had hoped to trade for mosexual poet is followed by him becoming a
sex. The scene in which the two men, out of res- powerful member of the élite, Cavalier Costante
ignation, dance together in the deserted dance Nicosia has finally become what he so desper-
floor, surrounded by rapacious waiters, is a ately pursued. The transformation is complete.
priceless moment which sums up the union of Considering that Buzzanca had played a
bitter humor and socio-antropological observa- trade unionist in Luciano Salce’s excellent po-
tion of the best Commedia all’italiana. litical comedy Il sindacalista (172), Fulci’s film
When Costante arrives at the castle of offers a pointed commentary of class struggle
Count Dracula,2 he becomes a willing victim of through the director’s mordant anarchist vision.
power’s blandishments. The Count (John Steiner) After Tempi duri per i vampiri’s Dracula cha cha,
welcomes him in the company of three gorgeous it is up to yet another song to function as a sign
and very uninhibited girls (one of them is an of the times: sung by Franco Nebbia, Vampiro
uncredited Ilona Staller) and treats him to a S.p.A. has lyrics that go as follows, “I have a slo-
“Transylvanian dinner” whose participants have gan that works in any circumstance / give blood
to attend in the nude. At the end of the ensuing to your master, don’t let him without it by any
orgy, an imbibed Costante, surrounded by chance.” The director’s world view is as grim as
naked women, yells “Forza Italia!”—the name the one he depicts in his horror movies: in a so-
of the political party founded by Silvio Berlus- ciety where everyone is trying to suck each
coni in 14. It is an unintentionally prophetic other’s blood, only the ruthless survive—and
bit that predates the notorious orgies hosted by rule. The ending (which includes a nod to Rose-
1975: Frankenstein 141

mary’s Baby, as Nicosia finds out that his new- as a butler and sex slave of sorts, preparing
born son in a pram sports vampire fangs) pokes coffee for the guests and boiling hot water for
bleak fun at the so-called “Compromesso storico” extreme S&M practices.
(Historical compromise), the much rumored al- With a total box-office grossing of about
liance between the Italian Communist Party one billion lire, Il cav. Costante Nicosia demoni-
(PCI) and the Christian Democrat party (DC) aco ovvero: Dracula in Brianza did not do as well
that was in talks since 173 and eventually be- as expected. Buzzanca was a declining name by
came factual in 176, and which led to an in- then, and homemade horror spoofs did not en-
crease in far-left terrorism, resulting in the kid- counter the audience’s favor, as proven also by
napping and killing of DC leader and Prime Armando Crispino’s Frankenstein all’italiana.
Minister Aldo Moro. In Fulci’s film, Nicosia per- However, it remained one of the director’s fa-
fects a “union compromise”: the workers give vorite films.
their blood in exchange for a modest rise in their
pay, and the capitalist exploits them even more NoTeS
than before. Power always triumphs in the end. 1. The working title was Il cavaliere del lavoro Costante
The gags are aplenty, and diverse in range. Bosisio indemoniato, ovvero Dracula in Brianza.
Some are clever jokes (the association between 2. The scenes in the castle were filmed near Merano, in
vampirism and a dental hygiene product is quite Trentino Alto-Adige.
amusing in retrospect), others are more blatantly
at the service of Buzzanca, who is typecast in Frankenstein all’italiana—Prendimi,
one of his usual virile Southern characters, and straziami, che brucio di passion!
focus on Nicosia’s superstition, a hint of his diffi- (Frankenstein Italian Style—Take Me, Tor-
culty in blending with the North and a revealing ture Me, as I Am Burning with Passion!)
sign of his Southern roots. Buzzanca is not a D: Armando Crispino. S and SC: Massimo
subtle performer, but his energy is remarkable Franciosa, Luisa Montagnana; DOP: Giuseppe
in his duets with both Rossano Brazzi (well-cast Aquari (Telecolor); M: Stelvio Cipriani, con-
as Nicosia’s physician-cum-confidant) and Cic- ducted by the author (Ed. C.A.M.); E: Angela
cio Ingrassia. The latter duo strike sparks on Cipriani; ArtD: Mario Molli; CO: Adriana
screen in Ingrassia’s only scene in the movie, as Spadaro; MU: Pino Ferranti; Hair: Corrado
the “Wizard of Noto,” a charlatan psychic who Cristofari; AD: Franco Longo; C: Carlo Aquari;
is supposed to cure Nicosia from the evil eye— AC: Filippo Neroni, Maurizio Mascoli; AE: Tina
a moment constructed like one of those old Mastrolillo, Claudio Orecchia; Construction
beautiful sketches that Fulci used to pen for co- managers: Alfredo Talusi, Alfredo Pacini; As-
medians like Totò or Franco & Ciccio, allowing stArtD: Mauro Passi; SE: Sergio Chiusi, Basilio
the actors to rely on improvisation. As in Non si Patrizi; SO: Goffredo Potier; SOE: Luciano
sevizia un paperino, magic is seen as the expres- Anzellotti; Mix: Romano Pampalone; SS: Flavia
sion of a backward culture, but played for Vanin. Cast: Aldo Maccione (The Monster), Gi-
laughs. Fulci even throws in some in-jokes, such anrico Tedeschi (Dr. Frankenstein), Ninetto
as the scene where Costante is upset by the sight Davoli (Igor), Jenny Tamburi [Luciana Tam-
of his basketball team players taking a shower burini] (Janet McLynne), Anna Mazzamauro
in the locker room, with close-ups of the naked (Maud), Lorenza Guerrieri (Alice), Alvaro Vitali
male butts, an ironic reference to All’onorevole (Priest), Alessandra Vazzoler (Singer at wed-
piacciono le donne. ding), Aldo Valletti (Wedding guest); uncredited:
Despite the presence of some luscious- Alessandro Tedeschi (Wedding guest), Maria
looking women, the sex scenes are played for Tedeschi (Wedding guest). PROD: Filiberto
grotesque effect, from Nicosia’s assault on his Bandini for R.P.A. S.A.S. (Rome); PM: Claudio
wife’s (Sylva Koscina) buttocks (a moment fea- Grassetti; GM: Carlo Cafiero; PSe: Vivien
tured prominently in the Italian locandina), to Boden. Country: Italy. Filmed in Bomarzo
his disastrous encounter with a nymphomaniac (Viterbo) and at R.P.A. Elios Studios (Rome);
upper class man-eater (Valentina Cortese) who Running time: 6 minutes (m. 2623); Visa n.
craves sex with “monsters” and recites verses of 6747 (11.1.175); Rating: V.M.14. Release date:
D’Annunzio’s poems; lastly, and more memo- 11.23.175; Distribution: Euro International Film.
rably, the protagonist visits a monstrous domi- Domestic gross: 25,863,000 lire. Home video: n.a.
natrix (Moira Orfei), whose elderly husband acts Also known as: Stringimi forte che brucio di
142 1975: Frankenstein

Dr. Frankenstein (Gianrico Tedeschi, left) and the Monster (Aldo Maccione) are about to perform a
transplant in Frankenstein all’italiana (1975).

passione (Italy—Alternate TV title), Franken- Armando Crispino’s eighth and final film—
stein a la italiana (Spain), Casanova Franken- in an all-too-brief career that counted among
stein (West Germany; 7.23.176), Plus moche que others the outstanding gialli L’etrusco uccide an-
Frankenstein tu meurs (France). cora (172) and Macchie solari (175), and the
Dr. Frankenstein returns to his castle with nunsploitation drama La badessa di Castro
his fiancée, Janet, but the wedding is interrupted (174)—was commissioned by producer Filib-
by the Monster, who wreaks havoc in the place erto Bandini, with whom Crispino was working
before falling victim to a rejection crisis. Franken- on a series of TV ads. Originally entitled Frank-
stein decides to put him back in shape with the enstein diventa nonno (Frankenstein Becomes
help of his assistants: Maud, Alice and Igor the Grandpa), Massimo Franciosa and Luisa Mon-
hunchback. The experiment succeeds, but the tagnana’s script was a farce blatantly “inspired”
Monster flees across the countryside. Upon cap- by Young Frankenstein that ripped off as many
turing it, Frankenstein and his assistant discover elements as possible from the model.
that the Monster has an insatiable sexual urge, Despite being largely centered on one of
and Maud takes advantage of it to satisfy her ap- the recurring gags in Brooks’ film—the mon-
petites. Alice (who is in love with Frankenstein) ster’s enormous schwanzstucker—the result is
attempts to have the Monster seduce the still- only mildly vulgar, but more on the side of a
virgin Janet, so as to win back the doctor’s heart, harmless, silly sex farce, with none of the polit-
but she ends up raped by the creature instead. ical undertones of Lucio Fulci’s Il cav. Costante
After finding the Monster in Janet’s bed, Franken- Nicosia demoniaco ovvero: Dracula in Brianza.
stein decides to perform surgery on his creature As noted by Crispino’s biographer Claudio
and transplant the latter’s penis onto himself, but Bartolini, the director attempted to develop the
the intervention is a failure, and both are left im- humor on three different levels: the verbal gags
potent as a result. It will be Igor’s turn to satisfy range from vulgarity and double-entendres to
the women of the house. more refined “short-circuits between the scien-
1975: Frankenstein 143

tist’s words and the images that the camera starring in a couple of films directed by Claude
brings to our attention,”1 such as the opening Lelouch (Le Voyou and L’aventure, c’est l’aven-
scene where Frankenstein describes the sur- ture), is a caricatured monster that pales in com-
roundings to Janet: “Sweet country, pleasant parison with Peter Boyle’s creature in Brooks’
place. Happy people, tied to the land,” under film, and Davoli—Pier Paolo Pasolini’s favorite
shots of barren fields populated with skeletons actor—is miscast as Igor. The charming Jenny
of peasants and oxes. A second level pertains to Tamburi and Lorenza Guerrieri are a joy for the
the visual gags, which play on repetition and on eyes, but are given little to do except looking
the character’s ineptitude. Bartolini points to a great in négligées, whereas Anna Mazzamauro
third level, symbolic comedy based on the mix- is less effective than in Luciano Salce’s Fantozzi
ture of genres, which is “by far the one in which (175). Electrician-turned-actor Alvaro Vitali—
Crispino is more at ease, thanks to his knowl- a recurring face in Italian erotic comedies of the
edge of genre cinema…. In the confluence of decade after his early roles in Fellini’s films—
genres lies in fact the demystifying strength of makes an all-too-brief appearance as a cross-
a film which spoofs not only two pre-existing eyed priest who has trouble picking up com-
texts … but a whole production system which, munion wafers during Mass. Aldo Valletti (one
in 175, had already started to show its cracks, of the four libertines in Pasolini’s Salò o le 120
and toward which Crispino started to express a giornate di Sodoma, and an easily recognizable
severe disillusion.”2 extra in a number of Italian films of the period)
The main problem with the movie is that here is given a few lines and even shows his bare
most of the gags just don’t work, starting with butt.
the parody of the Gothic imagery and the Frank- Submitted to the board of censors in No-
enstein myth, that gives away the sloppiness and vember 175, Frankenstein all’italiana had a first,
hastiness with which the film was made. The very brief release at the end of the year and was
“castle” is an embarrassing miniature, and the immediately withdrawn. It stayed in a limbo for
sets—replete with papier-maché bats on strings, several months and was re-released in a re-
secret passages and mumbo jumbo lab stuff— edited, shortened version in mid–176, after the
are slapdash. The actors are left to deal with tire- producers unsuccessfully attempted to have the
some vaudeville bits that seemingly go on V.M.14 rating revoked, with the title Prendimi,
forever (the best, or least worse, might be the straziami, che brucio di passion!,3 to poor box-
breakfast scene, with the Monster hiding under office performance. The critics were ferocious:
the table, stealing food, and ogling at legs, with- “Eighty minutes of screening, at the average
out anyone noticing), Addams Family–style vi- price of 25 lire a minute. An enormity for this
sual puns (such as Frankenstein’s car having a amateurish display of vaudeville … which came
skeleton as a hood ornament), and a few surreal out last year in only one city. They tucked it away
bits (Igor purchasing the gallons of blood immediately. Upon watching the new version,
needed for Frankenstein’s experiment at a bar we cannot imagine anything worse.”4
attended by vampires). As Jenny Tamburi recalled, “That was a
As with a number of other farces of the pe- bloodbath, literally…. It was an amusing film,
riod (see for instance Marino Girolami’s 177 and the actors were all very good—Gianrico
World War II spoof Kakkientruppen), Crispino Tedeschi was absolutely great—but it just didn’t
does not sway away from the macabre and gory, do well at the box office, perhaps because it was
albeit played for fun, such as a scene where a cat badly distributed by Euro International.”5 The
steals the Monster’s tongue. Another marginally director himself was trenchant about the results:
interesting factor is the use of Bomarzo’s Parco “Frankenstein all’italiana was undoubtedly a
dei Mostri (seen in Il castello dei morti vivi) in compromise dictated by necessity, if not a mis-
the scene where the Monster ends up at a pros- take. It’s the only one of my films that was born
titute’s shack and his “hidden qualities” are re- from a script in which I did not take part at
vealed. all…. Honestly I think I can say that the movie
The cast is oddly assembled: Tedeschi, a was not completely shameful, at least in the first
renowned stage actor with a British aplomb, part.”6
tries to give as much dignity as he can to his It was an unexpected and sad endnote to
character, while Maccione, a gifted comedian the filmography of an interesting, eclectic and
who met a certain popularity in France after often overlooked filmmaker. Crispino was
144 1975: Il medaglione

sucked down by the spreading economic crisis Film, Magdalena Produzione (Rome); GM: Al-
of Italian cinema, and was not able to make any fredo Nicolai; PS: Michele Germano, Claudio
more films. This also resulted in the shelving of Cuomo; PSe: Giuseppe Ercolani; AP: Raffaele
the third part in his giallo trilogy, Apparizioni— Donato; ADM: Piero Speziali, Claudio Lazzari.
originally titled Verrà un demone e avrà occhi Country: Italy. Filmed in Spoleto (Perugia), Villa
d’argento (There Will Come a Demon and It Will Parisi (Frascati), Palazzo Chigi (Ariccia) and
Have Silver Eyes)—a story that mixed mystery London, and at Safa-Palatino Studios (Rome).
and supernatural with plenty of very violent and Running time: 5 minutes (m. 2466). Visa n.
gory scenes: it reached an advanced pre- 6638 (4.17.175); Rating: V.M.18. Release dates:
production stage in late 176/early 177 before 5.22.175 (Italy); 3.176 (U.S.A.); Distribution:
being aborted. Crispino died in 2003. I.I.F. Domestic gross: 178,075,227 lire. Also
known as: El medallón ensangrentado (Spain);
NoTeS Emilie, l’enfant des ténèbres; Possédée (France).
Still upset by the death of his wife, who
1. Claudio Bartolini, Macchie solari. Il cinema di Ar-
mando Crispino (Milan: Bloodbuster 2013), 17. plunged in flames from a window of their house,
2. Ibid., 181. TV documentarian Michael Williams leaves from
3. A TV print carries yet another alternate title, London to Spoleto, Italy with his little daughter
Stringimi forte che brucio di passione. Emily and the nanny, Jill Perkins, to shoot a movie
4. M. Po. [Maurizio Porro], “Mostruosa creatura,” Cor-
riere della Sera, June 16, 176. Incidentally, the article mis-
on the presence of the devil in art. He is par-
spells the title of the rerelease as Prendimi, saziami che bru- ticularly interested in a painting kept in an 18th
cio di passione. century villa where a tragic event happened two
5. Gomarasca and Pulici, 99 donne, 14. hundred years earlier. The painting—which
6. Bartolini, Macchie solari, 184. reproduces a scene eerily similar to the end of
William’s wife—is said to be the work of Satan.
Il medaglione insanguinato (Perché?!) Helped by the beautiful Joanna, with whom he
(The Night Child, a.k.a. The Cursed Medal- starts a relationship, Michael starts working on
lion) the documentary, but finds out that a technical
D: Massimo Dallamano. S: Franco Marotta, flaw has ruined the footage that portrays the
Massimo Dallamano, Laura Toscano. SC: Anto- painting. Against the advice of the elderly countess
nio Troisio, Raoul Katz, Tonino Cervi; DOP: Cappelli, who implores him not to deal with that
Franco Delli Colli (Eastmancolor, Telecolor); M: cursed item, Williams dedicates himself to his
Stelvio Cipriani (Ed. Grandi Firme della Can- work undaunted, but his skepticism will have
zone); E: Antonio Siciliano; PD: Luciano Puc- tragic consequences: Jill, who is unhappily in love
cini; CO: Liliana Galli; AD: Franco Cirino; with him, is murdered, and Joanna almost ends
2ndAD: Riccardo Sesani; AsstD: Raffaele Do- up dead too. It turns out that Emily, who is mor-
nato; C: Arcangelo Lannutti; AC: Giancarlo Gi- bidly attached to her father, is the reincarnation
annesi, Enrico Priori; APD: Pasquale Germano; of the little girl whose end is depicted in the paint-
MU: Dante Trani; Hair: Rosa Luciani; AE: ing…
Franca Silvi, Giuseppe Cino, Ugo Morelli; SO: Although often superficially associated
Luciano Wellish [Welisch]; B: Armando Bon- with the thread inspired by (or ripping off) The
dani; SP: Paul Ronald; SS: Beatrice Banfi; Mix: Exorcist—a comparison the movie itself tries to
Franco Ancillai. Optical effects: Biamonte- solicit with a final epigraph quoting none other
Cinegroup; Painting: Antonello Geleng. Cast: than Pope Paul VI, who explicitly mentioned
Richard Johnson (Michael Williams), Joanna the devil during a general audience on Novem-
Cassidy (Joanna Morgan), Evelyne Stewart [Ida ber 15, 172, claiming: “From some fissure the
Galli] (Jill Perkins), Nicoletta Elmi (Emily smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God….
Williams / Emilia), Edmund Purdom (The Doc- He is the occult enemy who sows error and dis-
tor), Riccardo Garrone (Police Inspector), Dana grace in human history”—Massimo Dallamano’s
Ghia (Emily’s Mother), Eleonora Morana only out-and-out Gothic film (originally to be
(Countess’ Maid), Lila Kedrova (Countess Cap- titled La bambina e il suo diavolo [Emily], The
pelli); uncredited: Aristide Caporale (Nazareno), Little Girl and Her Devil—Emily) actually takes
Massimo Dallamano (Man at Airport), Tom Fel- quite a different path from its peers.
leghy (Michael’s Boss at BBC). PROD: Fulvio Similarly to Marcello Aliprandi’s Un sus-
Lucisano, William Reich for Italian International surro nel buio (176), the movie centers on a re-
1975: Il medaglione 145

volt of the sons against the fathers, which here Whitmore a merciful incarnation of Death, Dal-
becomes violent and destructive. The script (by lamano leaves poor Emily at the mercy of evil
Dallamano and the husband-and-wife team of forces. Unlike Aliprandi’s film, which plays with
Franco Marotta and Laura Toscano) revolves the indecision between the actual existence of a
around the drama of a little child, Emily (Nico- supernatural presence, Il medaglione insan-
letta Elmi), morbidly jealous of her widower fa- guinato never puts the Fantastic element into
ther, the English film-maker Michael Williams question—as proven by the pleonastic flash-
(Richard Johnson), who has traveled to the Um- backs that identify Emily as the reincarnation
brian town of Spoleto for a documentary about of a witch, another element that draws back to
demonic art and is fascinated by a painting that early Italian Gothic—but uses it in an interesting
is said to have been painted by the devil.1 way, to highlight the sense of inevitability and
In addition to the element of the painting, announced tragedy that looms over the story
and in general of art as a means to let the darker from the early scenes, climaxing in a “downbeat
side of human nature loose, Dallamano depicts double-death tableau recalling the 171 Hammer
the clash between past and present through the film Hands of the Ripper,” as Jonathan Rigby
typically Gothic theme of the traveler in a noted.3 The incestuous implications (which at
foreign land, facing a mystery whose solution times predate Bava’s Shock) are surprisingly dar-
conceals his own fate, not dissimilarly to Pupi ing for today’s standards, and were the main
Avati’s masterful La casa dalle finestre che ridono. reason behind the V.M.18 rating on the part of
The script also echoes early classics such as the Italian Board of Censors, although the final
Mario Soldati’s Malombra (142),
openly quoted in the scene where
Countess Cappelli (Lila Kedrova)
sees Emily’s ghost play the piano
and hide her love letters inside it, as
Marina di Malombra’s ancestor Ce-
cilia did.
Debatably described by some
as “part Bava, part Freud,”2 Il me-
daglione insanguinato actually em-
ploys the style and language of
melodrama—soft-focus images, fig-
urative mannerisms, tourist foot-
age—and comes off like a perverted
rereading of the contemporaneous
tearjerkers centered on unhappy or
sick children, such as L’ultima neve
di primavera (173, Raimondo Del
Balzo), Il venditore di palloncini
(174, Mario Gariazzo) and Bianchi
cavalli d’agosto (175, Raimondo Del
Balzo), all of them starring the
blond Renato Cestié. In many ways,
Nicoletta Elmi was the dark half of
the doomed kids played by Cestié,
and her eerie looks, her red hair and
subtly malevolent freckled features
made her the ideal choice in a num-
ber of gialli and horror movies made
in those years.
Whereas Il venditore di pal-
loncini embraced a metaphysical ap-
proach to the tale, by making the Italian poster for Il medaglione insanguinato (Perché?!) (1975).
balloon vendor played by James Art by Tino Avelli.
146 1975: Le orme

epigraph introduces a blatant morality warn- Baby Death and Emily’s Studio) released by
ing. Cinevox Records; it did mediocre business in
Formally, Il medaglione insanguinato is an the director’s home country. It was Dallamano’s
accomplished film, like all of Dallamano’s works. second-to-last movie. He then directed La fine
Franco Delli Colli’s cinematography is elegant, dell’innocenza and the crime film Quelli della
with a predominance of cold blues, greys and calibro 38 before his untimely death on Novem-
violets that emphasize the decadent, autumnal ber 14, 176, at 5, of a pancreatic tumor.
atmosphere (shooting took place in the fall of
1744), suitably enhanced by Stelvio Cipriani’s NoTeS
music score. The overall mood brings to mind
1. It was actually the work of Antonello Geleng, who
Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, perhaps the would become one of Italy’s greatest art directors.
film’s major influence, as noted also by critics at 2. Calum Waddell, “A fistful of Dallamano,” booklet for
the time of its release.5 The director (who briefly the U.K. DVD of The Night Child released by Arrow.
appears in the airport scene, as the man who 3. Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic. Classics of Continental
Horror Cinema (Cambridge: Signum 2016), 320.
comments on Joanna Cassidy’s beauty) makes 4. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
ample use of his trademark hand-held long filming began on October 28, 174.
takes, achieving dynamic results, and empha- 5. R.P., “Demonio pittore macabro a Spoleto,” Corriere
sizing the beautiful Umbrian settings, such as della Sera, April 25, 175.
Spoleto and the nearby monumental Ponte delle 6. Some sources list the film as an Italian / British co-
production, but in fact the companies that officially pro-
Torri; in an early scene Dallamano even uses duced it were Italian.
Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Bur-
ghers of Calais,” set in London, to introduce the
first flashback, cutting from Rodin’s hovering Le orme (Footprints, a.k.a. Footprints on the
faces to the angry mob that populate Emily’s vi- Moon)
sions—a testimony to the director’s eye for keen D: Luigi Bazzoni. S: from the short story
visual ideas. The erotic interludes are also han- Las Huellas by Mario Fenelli; SC: Mario Fenelli,
dled expertly, showing one of the main charac- Luigi Bazzoni; DOP: Vittorio Storaro (Techni-
teristics of Dallamano’s cinema, which imbued color); M: Nicola Piovani (Ed. Nazional Music);
such works as Le malizie di Venere (16), Das E: Roberto Perpignani; PD, CO: Pierluigi Pizzi;
Bildnis des Dorian Gray (170), Innocenza e tur- MU: Giancarlo Del Brocco; Hair: Iole Cecchini;
bamento (174) and La fine dell’innocenza (176). AD: Umberto Angelucci; SD: Corrado Ricercato;
Still, the apt direction cannot overcome the C: Enrico Umetelli, Gianfranco Turini; AC:
script’s many shortcomings and recycled ideas. Giuseppe Alberti, Mauro Marchetti; SP: Agenzia
The wide-angle flashbacks featuring badly Pierluigi; AE: Piera Gabutti; 2ndAE: Carlo Bar-
made-up extras are disappointingly banal, the tolucci; Color technician: Ernesto Novelli; MU:
mystery subplot about Jill’s murder does not re- Giancarlo Del Brocco; Hair: Jole Cecchini; SO:
ally hold up, done away as it is with a couple of Pietro Spadoni; Mix: Renato Cadueri; SE: Carlo
rushed explicatory flashbacks, and the dialogue Ventimiglia; SS: Alma Luzzati; Press attache:
ranges from banal to grating. Johnson, in full Lucherini-Rossetti-Spinola. Cast: Florinda
physical decline, is pathetically miscast as the Bolkan (Alice Crespi / Alice Campos), Peter
love object of three unhappy women. McEnery (Henry), Klaus Kinski (Prof. Black-
As a number of Dallamano’s films, Il me- mann), Lila Kedrova (Mrs. Helm), Nicoletta
daglione insanguinato was conceived primarily Elmi (Paola Bersel / Paola Burton), Caterina Bo-
for the foreign market6 and benefitted from pop- ratto (Boutique Owner), John Karlsen (Alfredo
ular names in the cast: producer Fulvio Lu- Laurenti / Alfred Lowenthal), Esmeralda Rus-
cisano’s money allowed for the casting of Rich- poli, Evelyn Stewart [Ida Galli] (Mary), Myriam
ard Johnson, who had played the lead in Ovidio [Miriam] Acevedo (Alice’s Supervisor), Rosita
Assonitis’ eerie Chi sei? (174), and Joanna Cas- Toros [Torosh] (Marie Leblanche), Luigi [An-
sidy, seen in Stuart Rosenberg’s The Laughing tonio] Guerra; uncredited: Franco Magno
Policeman (173) and John Flynn’s The Outfit (Member of the International Congress), Feri-
(173). The movie was originally released in Italy dun Çölgeçen (Hotel Concierge). PROD: Lu-
as Perché?! (“Why?!,” possibly a nod to Chi sei?) ciano Perugia for Cinemarte S.r.l. (Rome); EP:
before reverting to Il medaglione insanguinato, Marina Cicogna; PM: Paolo De Andreis; PS:
as proved by the 7" soundtrack record (featuring Alessandro Mattei; PSe: Gabriela Butti; ADM:
1975: Le orme 147

Fiorella Bologna. Country: Italy.

Filmed in Kemer and Phaselis (Tur-
key), EUR, Rome and at Safa Pala-
tino (Rome). Running time: 6 min-
utes (m. 2620). Visa n. 65760 (12.12.
174); Rating: V.M.14. Release date:
2.1.175; Distribution: Cineriz. Do-
mestic gross: 202,505,676 lire. Also
known as: Primal Impulse (U.S.A.—
video title), Huellas de pisadas en la
luna (Spain; 6.28.178); Spuren auf
dem Mond (West Germany); Mare-
ridt bli’r virkelighed (Denmark);
Mardröm blir verklighet (Sweden);
Slady (Poland); Mardrøm blir virke-
lighet (Norway—video title); Apa-
gogi ston planiti Z (Greece—video
Alice, an interpreter, is haunted
by a recurring nightmare in which an
astronaut is abandoned on the moon
by a scientist named Blackmann—
actually a scene from a science fiction
movie, which she’d seen years before,
“Footprints on the Moon.” Alice is
shocked to find out that she has had
a blackout and does not remember
anything at all about the last two
days. The only clues are a postcard
from a seaside resort named Garma
where she does not remember ever
having been before, a missing earring
and a yellow dress, covered with
blood, that she finds in her closet.
Alice travels to Garma to find out
what has happened. Once there,
everybody seems to know her, and
further clues point out that she
indeed has spent the two days there,
under the fake name Nicole. Alice
meets a little girl named Paola, who
tells her she was looking for a myste-
rious house on an island. Eventually,
Alice finds out that her blackout was
triggered by the memory of an event
in her past, when she was abandoned
by her young lover Henry, which she
connected to the scene of the movie Italian locandina for Le orme (1975).
she saw…
One of Gothic’s fundamental elements is kinds of misadventures, but also the descents
the subjective dimension through which reality into the depths of paranoia and madness of
is filtered: not only the explosions of feelings Edgar Allan Poe’s characters. A famous poem
that characterized the virtuous heroines of by Emily Dickinson reads: “One need not be a
late 18th century novels, the victims of all chamber to be haunted, / One need not be a
148 1975: Le orme

house; / The brain has corridors surpassing / turns into the livid lunar surface that haunted
Material place.” the woman’s dreams. Are they merely mental
One of the most interesting and original projections, or real presences (nurses, police
variations of the so-called “female Gothic,” re- officers) which the schizophrenic woman asso-
visited in a psychoanalytic way, is Luigi Bazzoni’s ciates with those in her nightmares? The film
Le orme. It is a movie with auteur ambitions, ends enigmatically, with the image of the moon,
which only marginally flirts with popular cin- a symbolic reference to the heroine’s tormented
ema, and does so in a strikingly original way, duality, while a laconic inscription informs us
bowing only in minimal part to the genre’s con- that Alice has been locked up in a psychiatric
ventions, and opting for a style and atmosphere hospital: like the astronaut in the movie, she has
that are quite different from the paths of Italian been abandoned for good, and her life will com-
cinema, past and present. Nevertheless, Baz- plete the ending of the film which she missed.
zoni’s film is influenced, in its theme and mood, It is a stark and perturbing ending, which, while
by the period it belongs to, and falls into the stressing the protagonist’s madness, does not
realm of the “paranoid texts” analyzed by David dissolve the tale’s ambiguity.
Punter. The script was allegedly based on the short
Similarly to Francesco Barilli’s Il profumo story Las Huellas, by the Italian-Argentinian
della signora in nero,1 but with a more subdued Mario Fenelli, who attended film school in
narrative somehow akin to Robert Altman’s Im- Rome in the 150s and became close friends
ages, Le orme centers on a contemporary descen- with Manuel Puig, also enrolled at the CSC. He
dant of the Gothic’s fragile heroines, whose ap- and Puig wrote two scripts together, but Fenelli
pearance of an independent woman hides a core enthusiastically supported Puig’s early writings,
of traumas buried in her subconscious. With a and encouraged him to become a fiction writer
brilliant intuition, Bazzoni evokes the heroine’s instead of a filmmaker.2 Together with Néstor
schizophrenia in the shape of snippets from a Almendros, Severo Sarduy, Juan Goytisolo and
black-and-white science fiction B-movie, com- Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Fenelli was part of
plete with a mad doctor of sorts (Klaus Kinski, the group Los Cinco de Oro (“Golden Five”)
on screen in the film-within-the-film for a cou- which unconditionally supported Puig’s work
ple of minutes tops), which gradually takes over for publishing.3 Bazzoni and Fenelli had also col-
reality, and assumes the traits of a conspiracy laborated on a number of short films, such as Di
against her. domenica (163) and Immagini cortonesi, and on
Both Le orme and Il profumo della signora the director’s giallo, Giornata nera per l’ariete,
in nero give new depth to the theme of the dou- based on a novel by D.M. Devine.
ble, an embodiment of the “return of the re- Fenelli and Bazzoni scattered the story with
pressed” that haunts the chamber / brain. Flor- psychoanalytic references (the neuropsychiatric
inda Bolkan is an Alice, by name and by fact, hospital of Kustnatz, where Alice is confined, is
whose uneven, difficult route to fill a hole in her a reference to the Swiss village of Küsnacht,
memory leads to the discovery of her alter ego— where Carl Gustav Jung died), and hinted at a
Alice herself, who, wearing a red wig and a yel- prominent issue of the period, antipsychiatry.
low dress, turns into the unfriendly, elusive By comparing Alice’s final recovery into a
Nicole—whose footprints the heroine retraces, mental institution to the fate of the astronaut
in one of the film’s many elegant subtexts. left to die on the moon by an evil scientist, the
Through the looking glass, Alice comes across movie seems to hint at the necessity of a more
her unresolved trauma, the fear of abandon and humane, empathetic way to cure mentally ill pa-
loneliness: the fortress of independence and self- tients, a theme explored in a direct way in such
affirmation she built around herself finally col- works as Nelo Risi’s Diario di una schizofrenica
lapses, and her repressed insecurity leads to an (168).
act of violence, just like with Susannah York’s The film’s strength lies in its visual choices:
character at the end of Images. the story takes place between the marble, geo-
Paranoid texts are based on the ambiguity metric buildings of Rome’s EUR district and an
of persecution, and Le orme is no exception. In elusive Middle-Eastern resort by the sea (the
the movie’s final scene, Alice is chased and cap- imaginary Garma, recreated in Turkey), both
tured on the beach by two astronauts who in- poles apart from the usual Gothic settings. And
congruously appeared there: the sunny shore yet the Mediterranean landscapes of Le orme be-
1975: Le orme 14

come a striking catalyst for the typical Gothic Blu Gang e vissero per sempre felici e ammazzati
novel material: the journey and the arrival in a (173, starring Jack Palance), that showed what
strange (and therefore hostile in itself) land; the an interesting and underrated filmmaker he was.
imposing, out of time haunted house, here a di- Le orme received critical praise at the time of its
lapidated luxury hotel in Liberty style, which release: the renowned Giovanni Grazzini wrote
bears traces of the previous, elusive occupant; that “following Dario Argento’s exploits, Italian
the presence of architectural ruins (an ancient cinema can count on another director who
buried village) as a catalyst to repressed memo- knows how to make a thriller…. The movie nails
ries and feelings. you to the chair, keeps you awake, sows in doubt
Bazzoni employs Vittorio Storaro’s lumi- and curiosity, and eventually does not make you
nous, gorgeous cinematography—which at regret the time and money spent.”6 However,
times brings to mind echoes of Resnais’ L’année with just 202 million grossed, it was a box-office
dernière à Marienbad—to portray Alice’s mental disappointment.
void from the very beginning among the square Bazzoni’s final work was the multimedia
shapes and the blinding whiteness of her apart- visual-audio event Roma Imago Urbis, which
ment in Rome’s EUR district; the mysterious yel- underwent a sad and paradoxical fate. Con-
low dress stands out like a warning of the ceived in the 180s, it consisted of fifteen films
woman’s suppressed desire, in turn opposed to (one hour each) about Rome as a unique exam-
the warm and exotic Garma. The director here ple in the history of man, the cradle of modern
draws from Sigmund Freud’s famous definition civilization and the place where the ideas of
of the subconscious as “the inner foreign coun- State, religion, church, history and law took
try” as opposed to reality, the “outer foreign shape; it was developed with the assistance of a
country.” But the movie deals with other intrigu- scientific committee (which included film di-
ing suggestions. In addition to Alice’s sexual rector Carlo Lizzani and art critic Giulio Carlo
trauma, it explores modern-day alienation (see Argan), co-produced by Rai and shot in 24 dif-
the protagonist’s work in a highly competitive ferent countries between 187 and 12. Ennio
environment) and subtly hints at apocalyptic Morricone wrote the music and Vittorio Storaro
questions (the congress where Alice works as an took care of the cinematography: as Franco Nero
interpreter focuses on the possibility for man to explained, “Vittorio said he’d do the film on one
survive to world annihilation). condition, if they hire Luigi Bazzoni for the en-
Shot in nine weeks between Rome and tire program.”7 The budget was 3 million euros,
Turkey in spring 174,4 Le orme benefits enor- and the project also included a series of mono-
mously from Florinda Bolkan’s committed graphs with Storaro’s photographs, printed by
performance as Alice. “It was a fascinating ex- the State Mint. The episode Immortality, which
perience in which I immersed myself psycho- premiered in New York in 12, was labeled by
logically and physically, and I even lost eleven the magazine American Cinematographer as a
pounds’ weight,” the actress claimed. “If shoot- “beautiful visual poem about the ancient
ing hadn’t finished in time, I’d ended up getting world.”8 The project was officially premiered in
seriously ill. I already lost my sleep. In the end, Italy at Rome’s Pantheon, in 14, in a worldwide
it proved that actors’ real nature is masochism.”5 broadcast, at the presence of the then President
Le orme was Luigi Bazzoni’s fifth and last of the Italian Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.
feature film as a director. Born in Salsomaggiore Then it disappeared. It resurfaced at the section
Terme, near Parma, in 12, Bazzoni was the of Roman art of the Metropolitan Museum in
elder brother of cinematographer and director New York, but was not broadcast on Italian tel-
Camillo, Vittorio Storaro’s mentor. Formerly an evision until April 2012, one month after Baz-
assistant director to Mauro Bolognini, on such zoni’s death, at the age of 82, in his home village
important works as Il bell’Antonio (160) and La of Salsomaggiore. One of the few who remem-
viaccia (161), during his wavering career Baz- bered him was his old friend Francesco Barilli,
zoni had touched the mystery with his striking in a moving column for the magazine Nocturno
debut La donna del lago (165, co-directed with Cinema.
Franco Rossellini) and Giornata nera per l’ariete.
He also directed a couple of odd Westerns, NoTeS
L’uomo, l’orgoglio e la vendetta (167, a version 1. Barilli only saw Le orme in 2011, at the Trieste Science
of Mérimée’s Carmen starring Franco Nero) and + Fiction festival: he called it “an intriguing, elegant,
150 1975: La pelle

suggestive film, very courageous and peculiar, very well murderer. Following Helmut’s sudden death and
shot and with a beautiful photography by Vittorio Storaro.” the mysterious disappearance of the professor’s
Francesco Barlli, “In Nero,” Nocturno Cinema #116, April
2012, 4. body, Silvia is abducted. The culprit turns out to
2. Suzanne Jill Levine, Manuel Puig and the Spider be Helmut, who faked his own death in order to
Woman: His Life and Fictions (Madison WI: University of carry out his experiments with re-animation, with
Wisconsin Press, 2001), 2. techniques borrowed from the Nazis; his aim is
3. Ibid., 182.
4. According to the Public Cinematographic Register,
to make a living body have intercourse with a
shooting began on April 2, 174. dead one and breed a new living organism, and
5. Anonymous, “La Bolkan a Milano: ‘Sono maso- the chosen victim is Silvia. The police stop Helmut
chista,’” Corriere della Sera, January 2, 175. just in time, but Silvia is still under the influence
6. Giovanni Grazzini, “Sulle orme tragiche della memo- of the mad doctor’s will…
ria,” Corriere della Sera, February 23, 175.
7. Tom Lisanti, Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961– An obscurity in its own home country,
1974 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015), 20. Alessandro Santini’s little-seen La pelle sotto gli
8. American Cinematographer, Vol. 75, 14, 72. artigli is yet another example of the way the
Gothic paraphernalia were reprised and re-
La pelle sotto gli artigli (The Skin Under worked in the early Seventies, in order to ac-
the Claws) commodate ample erotic elements, according to
D: Alessandro Santini. S and SC: Alessan- a recipe that had found its ideal fertile terrain
dro Santini; DOP: Luigi De Maria (Techni- in the adult comics of the period. With its mad
color—Techniscope); M: Francesco Santucci hodgepodge of diverse elements, Santini’s script
(Ed. Fly Record); E: Otello Colangeli; AD: Fer- looks like it was lifted almost verbatim from
nando Balmas; CO: Osanna Guardini; MU: Ul- such paperbacks as Oltretomba—not an unlikely
timo Peruzzi; AC: Luciano Ronconi; SO: Ignazio occurrence, since scriptwriters often recycled
Bevilacqua; SS: Ferdinando Merighi. Cast: Gor- unfilmed stories by selling the material to
don Mitchell (Prof. Ernst Helmut), Geneviève adults-only publishers.
Audry (Dr. Silvia Pieri), Tino Boriani (Dr. Gi- The basic premise is yet another variation
anni Dani), Ettore Ribotta (Commissioner Ri- of the Frankenstein tale, one of the most fre-
naldi), Agostino De Simone (Brigadier Tacconi), quent blueprints for erotic-tinged horror flicks
Renzo Borelli (The Porter), Mirella Rossi (Pros- during the decade, not the least because of the
titute), Franco Rossi, Ada Pometti; uncredited: sensation caused by the first heart transplant
Mike Monty (Medical examiner), Goffredo Tri- performed on December 2, 167, by Christiaan
firò (Himself). PROD: Produzione San Giorgio Barnard. As in Frankenstein ’80, with which San-
Cinematografica. GM: Vincenzo Matassi; PM: tini’s film has some elements in common (in-
Elio Ottaviani; PS: Tullio Dramis. Country: Italy. cluding the presence of Gordon Mitchell as the
Filmed at Cave Studio (Rome). Running time: mad doctor) the story is set in the present day;
85 minutes (m. 231). Visa n. 65550 (12.3.174); however, this time the doctor’s experiments on
Rating: V.M.18. Release date: 5.10.175; Distribu- artificial life have an even nuttier goal, which
tion: Produzione San Giorgio Cinematografica. leads to a trashy variation on the theme of
Domestic gross: 1,827,400 lire. Also known as: necrophilia. Dr. Helmut’s Promethean search is
Semillas de sangre (Spain); La piel bajo las uñas focused on the possibility of having the dead
(Spain). impregnate the living, and even more: “I want
Rome. A mysterious man, who has dug up to reach the breeding between two clinically
a dead body in a cemetery, savagely murders a dead beings, so that even if one day a nuclear
prostitute. The police find traces of decomposed explosion should destroy all humanity, we could
human flesh under the victim’s fingernails. Soon still store some dead specimens capable of re-
another murder follows, and the victim is found producing.” This leads to a demented climax in
hacked to pieces in a suitcase. Meanwhile, a which Silvia (Geneviève Audry), lying on the
tender romance blossoms between Dr. Gianni mad doctor’s operating table, is surrounded and
Dani and his colleague Silvia Pieri. Both work at groped by sex-crazed re-animated corpses.
a private clinic run by the friendly Dr. Helmut, The script never clearly explains how Hel-
who claims he has perfected a method to preserve mut’s method works: aside from talk of a mirac-
body parts and increase life expectancy. The in- ulous serum, we must be content with the sight
vestigations are conducted by commissioner Ri- of Gordon Mitchell applying some kind of elec-
naldi, who suspects Dani of being the mysterious tric tool near the heads of his victims, who are
1975: La pelle 151

conveniently undressed on an operating table from the start, as Gordon Mitchell’s peculiar fea-
in the mad doctor’s basement, and performing tures, angular jaw and large nose can be easily
a hypnotic ritual which deprives them of their detected under the mask in the opening scene
will. On the other hand, a typical Gothic theme— at the cemetery, where the mad doctor digs up
the double—is only marginally touched upon in a corpse, Dr. Hichcock-style, and carries it away
the end, and the final revelation that Silvia is a for his unspeakable experiments.
dead ringer to the doctor’s deceased wife, whom The fact that the opening exhumation,
he apparently wants to revive, comes out of the which supposedly takes place at night, happens
blue at about one minute before the word “The in broad daylight without any day-for-night
End,” and sounds like a silly throwaway to say filter is an early clue of La pelle sotto gli artigli’s
the least. overall amateurishness, which the remainder of
In order to give a pseudo-scientific basis to the film proceeds to confirm. The story’s alleged
the mad doctor’s re-animation techniques, the trash value is badly let down by its flat direction
script throws in a reference to the Third Reich’s and somnolent pacing, not to mention its shoe-
experiments which predates the so-called Nazi- string production values. The movie was al-
erotic subgenre: Helmut explaims that he has legedly shot at Gordon Mitchell’s Cave Studio
perfected his technique from the Nazis, after Film, the cheapest in Rome, and the sets are
discovering shocking surgical footage upon his poor beyond belief: the police station is placed
arrival in Berlin at the end of the war with in an anonymous basement, the clinic where
South-African troops. Not a novelty, though: La Mitchell lectures his colleagues on the necessity
vergine di Norimberga had introduced a Nazi to preserve human life is basically an empty
subplot as the explanation for the mystery, and room, and so on. Continuity errors are the norm
adults-only comics such as the controversial (in a scene, the commissioner lights the same
Hessa (published from 170 to 172) had already cigarette twice), and the plot stumbles on with
dabbled with the Third Reich’s atrocities in quite no regard for narrative coherence, allowing
an unpleasant way. room for utterly gratuitous interludes.
More significantly, La pelle sotto gli artigli One such is the scene in which Silvia and
hybridizes the Gothic motifs with elements of Gianni visit a painter friend, whom Silvia labels
the giallo by trying to pass off as a whodunit of as “the Superman of color.” It is Goffredo Trifirò,
sorts, centered on a mysterious Jack the Ripper– a self-taught Sicilian artist who exposed his
like figure in black gloves and shades who kills works at the 172 Biennale in Venice, as himself.
prostitutes and unfortunate young women in Trifirò enjoyed a short-lived popularity, due less
and around Rome, while the chain-smoking cop to of his art than to some publicity stunts that
on the case gropes in the dark for most of the depicted him as a “playboy painter,” such as the
running time. But the suspense is non-existent, alleged love stories with movie starlets1 or the
as the murders invariably occur off-screen, and news that an American customer had paid for
the only gory moment has the first victim turn- one of Trifirò’s paintings by giving him his wife
ing up in the nude and holding what are sup- in exchange for six months. 2 In the movie,
posed to be her exposed viscera—read: slaugh- Trifirò sits comfortably on a sofa between two
terhouse’s waste of the day; the same lousy trick naked models that were posing for his paintings
is repeated near the end where Mitchell pretends (which, incidentally, portray palm trees and veg-
to tuck some viscera into a dead woman’s torso. etation, not human bodies…). He and his guests
Another nod to gialli is the villain’s very have a chat while the bored-looking girls just
first appearance, his face covered with a black stay on the sofa, reading magazines and not even
nylon mask, which brings to mind the faceless bothering to cover themselves in front of the vis-
entity of 6 donne per l’assassino. The script tries itors. The sequence, totally extraneous to the
hard to persuade the audience that the shy, well- plot, looks like an awkward plug that possibly
mannered and workaholic Dr. Gianni, who allowed the filmmakers to scrape up some
clumsily courts his colleague Silvia (“I’ll put my bucks.
lips where you just put them … and it’ll be like The director’s own script sports some of
I’m kissing you” he says, while smoking her the worst dialogue ever committed to celluloid:
same cigarette) in a syrupy romantic subplot, is when the killer approaches a prostitute and has
actually the culprit. But the camouflage all too her get in his car, the girl’s introductory line is
obviously gives away the killer’s identity right “Be nice! Let me see what color your eyes are
152 1975: La pelle

and I’ll show you what color my panties are!”— (164) and La valle dell’eco tonante (164) and
which, incidentally, she does. Later on, when the Ruggero Deodato’s Zenabel (16); her last film
commissioner is told that the dead prostitutes role would be in Fabrizio Taglioni’s abysmal ad-
had fragments of decomposed skin under their venture/crime flick Gli uccisori (177). As the
nails (hence the title), he wisely comments: “I commissioner, photonovel regular Ettore
can’t believe that a putrefied corpse picks up Ribotta (a recurring presence in the fotoromanzi
whores and then kills them!” Even worse are the published by Lancio and Grand Hotel) has per-
attempts at philosophical mumbo jumbo: “When haps the most relevant role in a nondescript film
we travel on a crowded train, we don’t want any- career, which consisted mainly of small parts in
one to get on. In fact, we’d like people to get off. such rubbish as La bambola di Satana (16,
Life is a miracle, but so is death,” Silvia claims Ferruccio Casapinta), Paolo Lombardo’s Dagli
in a scene. After such pearls of wisdom, one is archivi della polizia criminale and Ordine firmato
tempted to read the opening credit sequence as in bianco (175, Gianni Manera). Similarly, this
a metaphor of sorts: it takes place at a children’s was former photonovel star Tino Boriani’s third
outdoor puppet theater, where Pulcinella is bat- and biggest role, after bit parts in Luigi Bazzoni’s
tling a skull-faced Death puppet. A thinly dis- L’uomo, l’orgoglio e la vendetta and Vittorio
guised, symbolic commentary on the never- Caprioli’s excellent Splendori e miserie di
ending moral struggle between Good and Evil, Madame Royale (170). It was also his last movie
perhaps? Never mind: the final twist, which role to date.
comes totally out of left field, is guaranteed to La pelle sotto gli artigli had no small trouble
have anyone’s jaw drop in disbelief and bury any with the Italian board of censors. On first in-
attempt at critical re-evaluation. stance, in November 174, it was denied the visa,
If Santini did not care much about plot, the board’s motivation being that “it is a contin-
pacing and filmmaking, he was very much pre- uous display of shameless female nudity in a
occupied with piling up as much nudity as pos- context of conscious and absurd sadism which
sible, including a squalid night club scene where offends any sense of modesty.” On appeal, the
an African stripper performs some wannabe commission demanded that the scene where the
tribal dance for a scant and very bored audience, second victim strips naked before the killer be
and having the second victim perform an en- “sensibly cut,” and consequently gave the film a
thusiastic striptease in front of her killer (“You V.M.18 rating. It was released theatrically in
know I like all that is sex … it’s true, I’m a spring 175, and soon disappeared into obliv-
nymphomaniac, but you’re a lecher!”)—not to ion.4
mention the sight of the mad doctor’s dungeon, La pelle sotto gli artigli was Alessandro San-
scattered with chained nude women (one tini’s third film as a director. A former produc-
hanged upside down to a St. Andrew’s cross) tion manager whose career consisted of obscure
which openly flirts with sex comics’ sadistic im- items such as the erotic flick Questa libertà di
agery. avere … le ali bagnate (171), Santini remains
Gordon Mitchell overacts as expected and one of Italian cinema’s most obscure and over-
sports his customary mad grin; when inter- looked figures. His real place within Italian pop-
viewed by Christian Kessler, he recalled an ac- ular cinema can perhaps be somewhat clarified
cident which took place during shooting: “In the by a news article dated early 177, about the up-
end there is a scene, where I try to strike dead a coming trial against the members of a couple of
girl with a stone, but the police shoot me. Un- phony production companies, “Cinema TV
fortunately the stunt boy messed up this scene. 2000” and “Globarfilm.”
He lost control over the car and drove over the According to the article, “Hundreds of per-
actress! I even tried to snatch her from the car, sons were deceived by a group of skilled crimi-
but in vain. This story then brought her into nals who used to perfection the insidious
hospital for months, thus we had to use a stand- weapon of the mirage of fabulous earnings in
in to finish the shooting.”3 the world of movies, television and photonov-
The American ex-bodybuilder is the only els.”5 The plan had taken shape in August 171,
noteworthy presence in a cast of third-rate sup- in various Italian cities, through newspaper ads,
porting actors. The female lead Geneviève posters on buses, and so on. The ads announced
Audry had appeared in a handful of movies, in- job offers for movie extras in “important Italian-
cluding Tanio Boccia’s Il dominatore del deserto American productions,” often related to Spa-
1975: La pelle 153

ghetti Western. The swindlers were setting up polizia interviene. Polselli had also authored the
phony auditions, and asked money to their vic- script for Questa libertà di avere … le ali bagnate,
tims to “cover the expenses.” During the screen and two of his regular actresses worked with
tests, the camera rolled with no film inside. Santini: Mirella Rossi appeared in La pelle sotto
Those who protested were sometimes sent to gli artigli as the first victim, and Rita Calderoni
the sets of some down-to-heel productions as would co-star in Santini’s subsequent work,
extras, in order to divert suspicion. That the Dolce pelle di donna (178). There has been spec-
swindlers managed to cheat about 500 individ- ulation that Vani and Polselli were somehow in-
uals is telling about the fascination that cinema volved in the making of La pelle sotto gli artigli;
still exerted on many Italians. however, there is no actual evidence of this.
The head of the organization was Gaetano Polselli’s involvement in the scam is any-
Ferri, who, together with Oddone Furia, pre- one’s guess, but some episodes are telling:
sented himself as the head of the production Polselli himself admitted that Mania was made
company. Among the eleven accused there was thanks to the financial efforts of leading man
Alessandro Santini, as the director: “He claimed Ettore Elio Aricò, a.k.a. Brad Euston; what is
he was shooting some films in order to make his more, the article reported that one of the cheated
role more believable…. While passing in review aspiring actresses, Consolata Moschera, was told
a line of aspiring movie stars, he dwelled his at- to cut her long hair, which she was proud of, for
tention on one of them: ‘But you have features the role, “a sadistic component … which was in-
worthy of a great actor! I absolutely suggest you tended to make the scam more believable, and
get in touch directly with my colleague Federico which turned into an extra humiliation to
Fellini. He will certainly have a role for you!’”6 many.”11 Moschera’s only film role is in Polselli’s
Ferri, Furia, Santini and a couple of others were Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel Trecento…
arrested in February 172,7 and released soon af- The trial ended with three convicted (Gae-
terwards. The trial took place five years later. tano Ferri, Alessandro Mancini and Oddone
The article mentions the titles of several Furia); the others were acquitted.12
Santini films, I sette amuleti, Al di là dell’odio,
Una forca per un vigliacco (possibly Una forca NoTeS
per tre vigliacchi), Una vergine per Satana. With
1. Ugo Naldi, “Non sono una fabbrica di ‘cuori in-
the exception of Al di là dell’odio (which featured franti’!,” Corriere d’Informazione, May 10, 173.
Ferri as an uncredited extra) the others were un- 2. Anonymous, “Dà in affitto la moglie per sei mesi in
finished,8 which makes one suspect that these cambio del quadro di un pittore,” Corriere d’Informazione,
productions were set up only to collect money, January 14, 174. The article mentions a written deal be-
tween the painter and the American customer (a “Preben
without the intention of actually completing the Soresen”) signed by two witnesses: one of them is Gordon
film (and therefore avoid paying for development, Mitchell. The publicity scam was concocted around the
print, submission to the censors board, etc.). same time as the shooting of Santini’s film, which began
Una vergine per Satana, a horror film shot on December 3, 173
in 171 about a satanic sect devoted to the god- 3. Christian Kessler, “Maciste und die Spaghetti aus
dem Weltall,” The German lan-
dess Selene and headed by a masked man who guage interview was published in a shorter, slightly
calls himself “Satana,” was co-directed by Bruno different (and not completely faithful) English translation
Vani, who had penned Al di là dell’odio, and who in the Video Watchdog magazine. Namely, the above quo-
was also among the accused in the trial. What tation is nowhere to be found in the VW version. Christian