Raul reviews the Arrow Video boxed set, Killer Dames.
Giallo is a term which is often disputed on in regards to what it truly is, but basically it's an Italian murder-mystery thriller. New to blu-ray this month, thanks to the studious efforts of Arrow Video, is a boxed set comprising two underrated modern gothic Giallo films from director Emilio P. Miraglia: Killer Dames which encompasses the films The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)
Alan Cunningham is a wealthy aristocrat who has a penchant for torturing and murdering redheads that resemble his dead wife Evelyn. Needless to say he has some mental issues and often recurring visions of her. He decides to get married and try to turn his life around. After the marriage and returning to live in his gothic family estate, various relative start getting killed and strange occurrences begin taking place, suggesting Evelyn may not be dead after all. Has Alan lost his mind or is Evelyn really back from the dead?
Comparing the two motion pictures, this is the weaker of them. It is somewhat uneven but still manages to be interesting with some memorable moments. There are multiple plot twists that are typical of the giallo subgenre and they make for an exciting final fifteen minutes or so. The gothic settings and castle used are very nice and mix well with the modern era furniture and clothing prominently featured. Other gothic elements in this include a seance sequence and an elaborate dungeon torture room. The score is absolutely incredible from the great Bruno Nicolai, who had long worked with famed movie composer Ennio Morricone and also served as the composer on several spaghetti westerns and Jesus Franco pictures. There is one particularly unforgettable burlesque sequence involving the stunning Erika Blanc that is definitely unlike anything you've ever seen before. There is pretty much nonstop nudity throughout with the women prancing around nude or in some type of negligee most of the time. That is part of the appeal and there are many fans of this one specifically because of that and the beautiful co-star Blanc, who has a pretty strong fan following.
The main issue with this film is the selection of Anthony Steffen as the lead character Alen, who doesn't do the greatest job of showing the nuances of being driven into a state of insanity. Basically known for his appearances in spaghetti westerns with his gruff and steel faced look, someone else would have arguably been better suited for this role. There are so many plot twists and head scratching things that occur that make you question the legitimacy of everything that is taking place. But that is just the very nature of the giallo, you're expected to suspend rationale and go for the ride. It is still an interesting selection in the giallo subgenre especially for the notable burlesque scene and the final climactic ending with multiple twists and turns. Hardcore giallo fans would score this much higher and label this as a classic among the subgenre.
The Reds Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)
An old family curse says that every one hundred years, the Red Queen returns to kill off seven victims for the seven times she was stabbed. A string of murders starts to occur when a first pair of sisters' grandfather is murdered by what appears to be a mysterious woman in red. Are the sisters Kitty and Franziska (Barbara Bouchet and Marine Malfatti) truly curse? Has one of their ghostly ancestors returned to claim them as victims or is there something far more sinister taking place?
This is by far the superior of the two pictures included in this boxed set. With a much larger budget, they were able to shoot in some absolutely stunning old gothic locations. Mostly filmed in a small town just outside of Munich, the old town and large castles show off the scenery and add an extra element to the picture. This is juxtaposed with modern locations and clothing with most of the family and victims being involved in the fashion industry. All of this makes this one seem so much grander than the previous film.
Once again composer Bruno Nicolai has created a simply amazing score for the picture. The villain in this is far more memorable with the flowing red cape, knife and shrill laughing. There is an excellent dream sequence involving the killer which makes for one of the most outstanding scenes in the movie. There are more ambitious camera shots and angles with the kills being far more gruesome and bloody this time around. The acting overall is far better as well, with great performances from Bouchet and Malfatti. Like the other movie, there are multiple plot twists and turns at the ending with a very large scale and elaborate finale that is quite impressive.
Much like the other picture there are plot points that you ultimately will question, but just like the previous picture and other gialli you're simply expected to suspend disbelief. This can be hard for the more casual viewers of this subgenre and many will find this to be something that detracts from the overall quality.
- Raul Vantassle