Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
(The following paragraph was stolen from my own review of Arrow’s Luciano Ercoli giallo double-feature Blu-ray)
Like most genre-centric filmmakers, giallo directors can be broken down into tiers. At the top, you have the innovators – your Mario Bavas, Dario Argentos, and Lucio Fulcis. Next, you have the stalwarts – directors with a wide breadth of work in the genre, like Umberto Lenzi, Sergio Martino, and Antonio Margheriti. Then, you have your ‘one hit wonders’ – filmmakers that didn’t exactly thrive in the confines of the category, but still managed to make at least one brilliant contribution to the giallo pantheon, like Massimo Dallamano, Giulio Questi, and Pupi Avati. At the bottom, you have your shlock artists and Johnny-come-latelys – guys that jumped on the bandwagon, cashed their checks, and moved on to the next big thing. There are too many of these guys to name.

Emilio Miraglia belongs somewhere between tiers two and three (along with Luciano Ercoli). After years as an assistant/second unit director on projects, like Lucio Fulci’s Two Public Enemies (Italian: I due pericoli pubblici, 1964), Carlo Lizzani’s  Wake Up and Kill (1966), and a load of Luciano Salce movies, he first-unit directed six films (sometimes under the pseudonym “Hal Brady”). These included obscure crime thrillers ( Assassination, 1967; The Falling Man, Italian: Quella carogna dell'ispettore Sterling, 1968; and The Vatican Affair, Italian: A qualsiasi prezzo, 1968) and a single obscure western ( Joe Dakota, Italian: Spara Joe... e così sia!, 1972), but his most well-known work was a pair of excellent and particularly gothic giallo The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italian: La notte che Evelyn usci’ dalia tomba; aka: The Night She Rose from the Tomb and Sweet to be Kissed, Hard to Die) and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (Italian: La dama rossa uccide sette volte; aka: The Lady in Red Kills Seven Times, Blood Feast, Feast of Flesh, and The Corpse That Didn’t Want to Die).

Killer Dames Double-Feature

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

(1971)
A troubled aristocrat named Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) is haunted by the death of his first wife, Evelyn, and tries to move on by marrying the seductive Gladys (Marina Malfatti). Marital bliss is short-lived, however, as various relatives meet untimely and gruesome deaths, prompting speculation that a vengeful Evelyn has risen from the grave…(from Arrow’s official synopsis)

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is a favourite among many giallo fans, due to its smorgasbord approach to the genre. Miraglia stirs Argento-like plot devices, Fulci-like psychedelia, intense violence (though not all that graphic, until the final few minutes), and lurid S&M into a pot and serves it all up with the gothic flair of one of Bava or Margheriti’s pre- giallo horror dramas. This Euro-trash medley operates on a strict regiment of boundary-pushing content that pacifies even a discerning genre enthusiast with oodles of the best/worst post-’60s fashion (the dippy band at the costume party provides a hearty laugh), good-natured sleaze, and some amusing, if not entirely logical plot twists. The screenplay was written by Miraglia and The Weekend Murders (Italian: Concerto per pistola solista, 1970) co-writers Massimo Felisatti and Fabio Pittorru. Their plot is a slight reworking of the ‘everyone wants the inheritance’ murder mystery/body count standby that has served crime fiction for generations. Miraglia’s most horror-esque direction is top notch, even though the film never delves into the straight horror that the title implies. He introduces Alan’s torture chamber with the relish of Bava’s Baron Blood (1972), his séance sequence is punctuated with stylish trick editing (similar to what Fulci would use in City of the Living Dead almost a decade later), and Alan’s visions of Evelyn are authentically skin-crawling.

The problem that casual viewers will likely have with The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is that there’s really no protagonist with which to identify. The main character and central victim is emotionally haunted, but completely misogynistic psychopath and he’s surrounded by unapologetic enablers (it is never clear if he actually murders anyone). This isn’t an unusual situation for a giallo, of course – Sergio Martino, in particular, made a mini-career out of movies with detestable male pseudo-protagonists. But Martino expects his audience to revel in the psychological downfalls of those men, while Miraglia and his co-writers seem to want us to pity Alan. It’s much more of a difficult narrative balancing act and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is too front-loaded with genuinely cruel sadism and humourless to walk that particular tight-rope. It doesn’t help that Miraglia can’t handle the dramatic scenes as eloquently as his psychedelia or horror. This draws out the goofier and meandering qualities of the story. Fortunately, he keeps the camera moving and the ridiculous twists unravelling. The finale is an ‘all-timer.’

There are many versions of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, nine English language edits alone, according to imdb.com, and at least one of those cuts ended up in the public domain or the ‘grey market,’ if you prefer. Unfortunately, this led to a glut of budget R1 DVDs from the likes of Alpha Video and Brentwood. These releases weren’t only ugly, 1.33:1, VHS-quality transfers, but they were heavily cut, because they used an edited for television version. In addition, there was a misframed 1.85:1 R2 German DVD from X-Rated Kult, but the best versions were the 2006 R0 US and R2 Italy versions from NoShame Films. The US DVD was only available as a two-movie collector’s set with The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (“The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set”) and went out of print when NoShame closed its doors. According to wikipedia, Arrow’s Blu-ray is the second HD release, following a BD from Aussie distributor Gryphon Entertainment in 2013, but I can only find evidence of a DVD from the company.

This Blu-ray was sourced exclusively for Arrow in 2K from 35mm, 2-perf Techniscope camera negatives. The results are typically solid, including huge upgrades in detail, clarity, and a lack of compression artefacts. Wide-angle shots are especially impressive in terms of their elemental separation and hue consistency. Gastone Di Giovanni’s photography embraces neutral and natural hues, but is also highlighted by vibrant set-pieces and costume items that pop nicely with only a hint of bleeding. Some of the night shots – the opening titles, for example – are clouded in shadows and very dark blue tones, which can be stifling, but I can assure you that these scenes were entirely indiscernible in SD and that the sharper highlights really do make a huge difference. Based on the grey quality of black levels during these sequences, it’s likely that Arrow did their best to mitigate the darkness without creating a washed-out mess. My advice is to just make sure you watch the movie in the darkest room possible. There are some hints of scanner machine noise throughout, but I believe that the majority of fuzz is genuine grain structure, even when it causes minor discolouration.

The original mono Italian and English soundtracks were mastered from the 35mm sources and are presented in LPCM 1.0 sound. As per usual, both are dub tracks, because most Italian productions at the time shot without (useable) sound, using multilingual casts. In this case, the dubbing is far enough off on both tracks that it doesn’t really matter that the major players seem to be speaking English. The added environmental effects – birds, crickets, the echoing whip-cracks – and music sound identical between the dubs. The English dialogue is a bit louder, while the Italian dialogue blends with the effects a little better. Bruno Nicolai’s music is balanced and clean on either of the tracks. Arrow has included the option to watch Italian or English on-screen titles as well.

Nicolai was hired in large part because he was a collaborator and conductor for Ennio Morricone at the time. Morricone had just redefined the expectations of a giallo soundtrack when he scored The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and was in such high demand that his skills were stretched thin. Nicolai, who actually trained Morricone, was probably considered the next best thing at the time, which does him a disservice, because many of his gialli (not to mention spaghetti western scores) were good enough to rival his friend. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave was his second shot at a thriller shortly, following his work on Martino’s The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (Italian: La coda dello scorpione, 1971), which was released in Italy only two days earlier. Neither is his best work, but they set the stage for better work to come, including The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.

Extras include:
  • New audio commentary by Troy Howarth – The author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films and co-author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava is very professional and well-prepared for this info-packed track. Every once in a while, he falls into the trap of simply describing the on-screen action, but, on the whole, his focus is sharp. He also scores points for his honest criticisms of the film, which he wedges between celebratory and defensive notes. This track is a good entry point for burgeoning giallo fans.
  • Exclusive introduction by actress Erika Blanc (1:00, HD)
  • Remembering Evelyn (15:10, HD) – In this new interview, critic and author of Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents Stephen Thrower discusses The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave’s themes, warring gothic and giallo elements, illogical plot points, the difficulties of an unlikable protagonist (darn, thought I had an original idea there…), and the career histories of various cast members. There’s also a sampling of how bad the pan & scan DVDs/VHSs looked for comparison sake.
  • The Night Erika Came Out of the Grave (9:40, HD) – The last exclusive extra is a new interview with Blanc, who recalls choreographing her own strip tease, her relationship with the other cast members, selling counterfeit boots to fans, the appeal of BDSM, and her Playboy spread. She is so hammy and adorable.
  • Trailer
  • NoShame’s archival extras:
    • Blanc’s original, 2006 introduction (00:40, SD)
    • The Whip and the Body (21:00, SD) –  An additional 2006 interview with Blanc. There’s overlap between the interviews, of course, but the actress comes at the stories with a different tone and there’s quite a bit more info about the production itself here, along with her other horror movies/thrillers.
    • Still Rising from the Grave (22:50, SD) – Production designer Lorenzo Baraldi talks about his career, the Italian film industry, and blending elaborate gothic decore with period-appropriate fashions.


 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature


Killer Dames Double-Feature

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times

(1972)
An age-old family curse hits sisters Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) and Franziska (Marina Malfatti), following the death of their grandfather, Tobias (Rudolf Schündler). Every hundred years, so the legend goes, the bloodthirsty Red Queen returns and claims seven fresh victims. Was Tobias just the first… and are Kitty and Franziska next? (From Arrow’s official synopsis)

Surely, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is one of the more beloved gialli by a non-star filmmaker, but The Red Queen Kills Seven Times holds the more lofty title of one of the genre’s most underrated entries. For his second shot at meshing typical Italian murder mystery thrills with gothic traditions, Miraglia was much more successful without neglecting his original audience’s expectations. There’s still plenty of sleaze, a major uptick in gory violence, and enough manic plot twists to make Sergio Martino blush. As in the case of Luciano Ercoli’s back-to-back Death Walks gialli ( Death Walks on High Heels, Italian: La morte cammina con i tacchi alti, 1971; Death Walks at Midnight, Italian: La morte accarezza a mezzanotte, 1972), the director and his co-writer, Fabio Pittorru (Massimo Felisatti is not a credited co-writer this time), are recycling and refining story elements/themes. As a result, the two films share a lot of connective tissue, from basic story elements (another war over inheritance), to very specific imagery that doesn’t necessarily extend to other popular Italian thrillers. The most obvious comparison is the fact that both plots are driven by characters named Evelyn that are presumed dead and their unexpected resurrections both require non-supernatural explanations, no matter how convoluted. In addition, painted portraits and insane asylums play key roles, major female characters don red hooded cloaks, and, most arbitrarily, in The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave one of Alan’s hallucinations connects his dead lover’s disembodied voice to the queen of hearts from a deck of playing cards.

Some first-time viewers may find the repeated motifs annoying, but The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is an improvement on every level. Miraglia finds better excuses for mixing modern and gothic images by tying the spooky castle to plot, setting the film in a metropolitan area that accommodates older architecture, and making the lead actress a fashion designer/photographer – the latter point being a common gialli standby since the early days of Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (1965). Besides shooting more convincing and gory horror/suspense set-pieces, he tightens the editing, forgoes dead-end subplots, and moves the narrative along at a much quicker pace. The screenplay doesn’t necessarily makes more sense than The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, but it is definitely better structured. The labyrinthine plot is improved by hinging more of the story on a likeable female character – portrayed by the always amiable Barbara Bouchet – instead of a pair of psychopaths, and making the male co-victim (who is framed for the murders) a sympathetic sap, rather than a woman-beating (and maybe murdering) scumbag. Characters are introduced in a timelier manner as well, which makes it easier to keep track of the players in this long con.

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times didn’t have a public domain ‘problem,’ so it was much more rare on home video. In fact, the only official DVD releases were from NoShame in US and Italy. Arrow’s 2.35:1, 1080p Blu-ray debut was also sourced in 2K from 35mm, 2-perf Techniscope camera negatives. The results are generally the same as the Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave disc. Cinematographer Alberto Spagnoli’s brighter photography gives the transfer a small advantage over its counterpart, though the darkest sequences still require a gamma tweak that leaves the blacks a tiny bit washed out. There are also fewer suspicious artefacts, i.e., the grain here appears more like definite film grain, not machine noise. On the other hand, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has the advantage of being a sharper production and Spagnoli’s use of soft focus and diffused light makes for a slightly fuzzy image. The colour quality is a bit more bluish than its DVD versions, but skin tones and natural hues are still consistent and the searing reds really pop.

The original mono Italian and English soundtracks were mastered from the 35mm sources and are presented in LPCM 1.0 sound. In case you didn’t read the previous entry, both are dub tracks, because Italian productions at the time were shot without sound while using multilingual casts. There are more minor inconsistencies between the two language tracks this time. Though effects and music match, the tonal quality and clarity are both distinctly better on the English track. The Italian track, which has a much more naturalistic language dub (the Italian casting director actually hired children to dub children), is definitely fuzzier and more compressed, even where the music is concerned. Nicolai’s fantastic score is a big improvement over The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, including one of the best title themes in the genre’s history, and it deserves the broadest dynamic range.

Extras include:
  • New audio commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman – Jones, the author of Profondo Argento (among others), and Newman, the author of Nightmare Movies (among others), return for their fourth paired commentary for an Arrow Video giallo release. The duo offers their usual mix of anecdotes, criticism, and contextualization as they delve into the genre’s themes and the careers of the cast & crew. This track offers a unique perspective on the film and even long-time fans will likely learn something.
  • The Red Reign (13:50, HD) – Critic/author Stephen Thrower returns to discuss Miraglia’s second gialli. He covers the confusing plot, the careers of the actors, the gothic vs. giallo themes, the significance of the colour red (including comparisons to Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now), the various US drive-in releases (under the title The Lady in Red Kills Seven Times and Blood Feast), and talks briefly about Miraglia’s relatively obscure career.
  • The Life of Lulu (19:50, HD) – The final new interview is with Sybil Danning, who (donning the same outfit she wore for her Howling II interviews with Scream Factory) runs down the intricacies of her career in Euro-horror/exploitation in complete and understandable terms. She has fond and vivid memories of her Red Queen Kills Seven Times character.
  • Alternative opening sequence (00:40, HD)
  • Italian and English trailers
  • NoShame’s archival extras:
    • Introduction by production/costume designer Lorenzo Baraldi
    • Dead à Porter (13:40, SD) – Having exhausted all of his industry chat during his Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave interview, Baraldi sticks a bit more to the film at hand this time.
    • Rounding Up the Usual Suspects (18:24, SD) – Actor Marino Masé talks about the film, the giallo and poliziotteschi genre trends, and working on multiple Miraglia movies.
    • If I Met Emilio Miraglia Today... (4:10, SD) – In this brief featurette, Blanc, Baraldi, and Masé answer the same question (the one posed by the title of the featurette, that is).
    • My Favourite… Films (1:00, HD) – Actress Barbara Bouchet very quickly outlines her gialli career.


 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

 Killer Dames Double-Feature

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


Links: