Another brilliant Mario Bava Blu-Ray shot straight from Arrow Video to you. Lisa and the Devil is Arrow’s second Bava release after Black Sunday and it’s equally as intriguing a horror movie.
Made in 1974, the film tells the story of Lisa (Elke Sommer) an American tourist in a small Spanish village who gets seperated from her tour group. Whilst lost, she encounters the strange and slightly scary Leandro (TV’s Kojak, Telly Savalas) who seemingly resembles a fresco of the Devil that she saw on an ancient church wall.
Spooked, Lisa run,s getting further entangled in the maze of streets until she gains a lift from a wealthy couple and their driver. Fate has another path for Lisa though and the car breaks down in front of a large mansion which is owned by a blind Countess (Alida Valli from Suspiria and Eyes Without a Face) and her son Maximilian (Alessio Orano). They just so happen to employ Leandro as their manservant.
From here Lisa is plunged into a feverish nightmare of ghostly apparitions and visions of past lives as she becomes further embroiled in the machinations of the unhinged occupants of this opulent house.
As members of the party are murdered and others seem to come back to life, Lisa starts to wonder if she is losing her mind. Could she simply be in the control of a darker power that will not let her escape?
As visually stunning as all his other movies, Bava conjures up a dream-like tale that plunges the viewer into a chaotic and confusing world where seemingly reality and fantasy, the past and the present are merged into one.
The film uses some brilliant settings from the start. From the scenes of Lisa lost in the labyrinthine corridors of the Spanish village (which contemporaneously echo Don’t Look Now) to the excellent set of the mansion (which is full of statues and dummies, always watching the character’s every move from the edge of the frame) you are compelled to feel as caught up in this crazy nightmare as Lisa is.
Playing out as a warped family drama, the film is steeped in eroticism as well as horror. And although the story is confusing at times, it’s still very involving and Bava makes sure he creates enough atmosphere and mood to keep the audience as tense and unnerved as Lisa is.
When the murders do start they are bloody and brutal and as the film heads towards its tragic climax the shocks and scares are entertainingly amplified.
Pure 70‘s from start to finish, the soundtrack is great. The performances are solid with Sommer screaming and fainting her way through the film and Savalas wonderfully keeping his character constantly on the edge of ‘creepy’ and ‘comedy’.
Lisa and the Devil comes full of extras including an audio commentary by Bava biographer and expert Tim Lucas. There’s also one by producer Alfredo Leone and star Elke Sommer, introductions by Alan Jones, deleted scenes and trailers.
Most interestingly of all is that Arrow have included the re-cut and re-edited version of the film which was made for the US, titled The House of Exorcism – to cash in on the popularity of The Exorcist at the time of its original release. This version is a whole different movie, mainly told in flashback with many new scenes shot and added in, and Robert Alda playing a priest charged with exorcising Lisa.
With two horror films for the price of one (plus a heap of other extras) this is a must have for Italian horror fans and Bava enthusiasts, as well as anyone that is a fan of 70’s horror.