Lisa and the Devil (UK - BD RB)
Marcus is followed around by the devil and ends up in a house of exorcism...
A young American tourist Lisa (Elke Sommer), is transfixed by an image of the devil while on holiday and begins to find herself lost amongst the city streets. Seemingly followed by a strange man (Telly Savalas), Lisa finds herself in the home of a family of Spanish aristocrats, whose house is plagued by supernatural evil and dark secrets. Can Lisa survive the night and what is her connection to the family’s twisted past?
This 1974 Italian horror film directed by Mario Bava is a twisted affair. From the get go Bava manages to rinse out every thread of tension within his scenes and makes the eerie events in Lisa’s night play mind games with the audience as much as it does with Lisa. This is actually quite an abstract course of events. Lisa leaves her friend and begins wandering around the strange city she is visiting. She potentially kills a man, gets a lift from strangers, winds up at another families home and stays in their cottage. Images begin to repeat themselves. Broken clocks, strange men, odd occurrences and before you know it you are drawn into the odd little film wanting to know just what the hell is going on.
Telly Savalas just shines in all of his screen time. Bava apparently suggested his now famous lolly pop for this film, to add character to his offbeat performance but Savalas is obviously in love with his character. He’s charming, creepy and eats through his dialogue to delicious effect. The actors around him are playing it quite melodramatically but Savalas has a cool sense of playfulness with his scenes and really makes for a great ‘devil’.
Lisa and the Devil is very much a mood piece. Camera angles and trickery makes for some very uneasy moments. This is quite the twisted horror story but it never really goes anywhere all that disturbing by modern standards. Instead, this Bava movie offers up a story that feels like a classic spooky tale, with messed up families, a weird house and plenty of creepy imagery. Sure, towards the end it gets a little more conventional but never enough to enable the audience to guess the next film’s next move, right up to it's spooky and Twilight Zone-esq twist ending.
The colours in this presentation are very nice. There are warm European good looks in the largely bright summer exterior scenes to begin with. Greens and blues hold up very well and while they are a tad more pastel than I think is intended, there’s no escaping their pop. Detail is also very rich in the naturally lit early scenes with details in the Spanish buildings and streets holding up very well. Flakey painted walls, moss covered architecture, it’s all very nice to look at in HD.
As we move into the spooky family home, everything gets much darker. Scenes still offer a great deal of colour, almost technicolour when it comes to skin textures in fact but there’s a murkiness to edges and the lesser lit scenes. It’s also in the house where dirt, specks and general condition of the source material begin to show. There’s only a handful of scenes where it gets really bad but there is generally a constant presence of damage somewhere in the frame. For the age of the film, I’d say this wasn’t a bad transfer. The soft focus scenes can suffer a wee bit and there are large portions of dancing grain in the earlier scenes, especially in the blue skies but really all of that is expected and doesn’t take away from the good parts of this presentation.
Well of course, to begin with there’s the overdubbed disconnected dialogue but that was always expected given this Italian/English horror. The dialogue is still pretty good despite that, strong and central for the most part even if there’s always a constant sense of the film’s age due to the recording techniques.
Music is generally an eerie case of the volume rising and dropping out as opposed to anything too effective. When there no score to tell you how to feel about situation there's usually plenty of airy wind to add to the creeps and that is usually back ended with a shrill screen or hollow thud of bass.
Generally the English LPCM 2.0 audio track is solid but never impressive. There’s some hiss, there’s not a great deal of range but it still generates the desired mood for the film and generates just the right amount of creeps.
The extras are split into two sub sections but more on that later.
The Lisa and the Devil audio commentary by Tim Lucas is essentially a fact track. Twenty minutes in and you’ll feel like you know everything there ever was to know about the film, the director and its stars and is really a great track to boost fan’s knowledge of the film.
‘The Exorcism of Lisa’ (25:05 SD) is a great look at the film’s history and it’s changes, to become another film, which I’ll go into a bit more in a moment.
The ‘Alan Jones Introduction’ (03:31 SD) is more of a featurette, offering up a ton of detail in a very short time.
There’s also the ‘Unfinished Trailer (03:19 SD) and a deleted scene (02:35 SD) packed with nudity.
The disc’s menus are split between Lisa and the Devil and The House of Exorcism which is actually a whole other 90 minute film presented in HD. Essentially these movies are the same thing but at the same time not at all- When Lisa and the Devil went to Cannes it was very well received but the filmmakers had not secured distribution. After sitting on the shelf for a year, it was decided to shoot news scenes and re-edit the film into The House of Exorcism. There’s a bit more to it than that, but essentially the majority of Lisa and the Devil becomes a side order to a new central story where Lisa becomes possessed by the Devil and is exercised by a failing priest. Sound familiar? It should because it’s a blatant and intentional spin on The Exorcist. Weirdly this still all works, sort of and even though the two films cobbled together do not quite match visually, this is quite a good example of how to make a bit of cash oout of a failed project.
The House of Exorcism comes with its own commentary with producer Alredo Leone and Elke Sommer. It’s very much Leone heavy and he gives a full account of went down between the two films, his director and intentions for the two projects.
The ‘Alan Jones Introduction’ (02:56 SD) for House of Exorcism is another great overview for the film and last up we have a ‘House of Exorcism Trailer’ (03:18 SD), ;U-cert Trailer’ (01:15 SD) and a radio spot.
Lisa and the Devil feels like something that’s not really done anymore. For the longest time it’s a horror that cares more about making you feel uneasy than it does about letting you in on what’s going on. It’s got a whole host of characters that feel like they are in different films to one another and that adds even more unease and in amongst all that Telly Savalas delivers a wonderfully playful performance. Disc wise, you can’t really grumble, given the solid collection of extras as well as a whole other film, The House of Exorcism(even though it’s not really a whole other film technically speaking). The disc also has a good A/V presentation and makes for another cult classic that’s been given a great HD once over.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 4th February 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 English, English SDH, LPCM 2.0 Italian
Extras: House of Exocism, Commentaries, Featurette, Trailers, Deleted Scene, Radio Spot
Easter Egg: No
Director: Mario Bava
Cast: Elke Sommer, Telly Savalas, Alessio Orano
Genre: Drama, Horror and Thriller
Length: 95 minutes
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