This review originally appeared in issue 13 of THE CINEMA LASER.
LISA AND THE DEVIL
Director Mario Bava is certainly recognized as one of the masters of Italian horror cinema. Unfortunately, his work is nearly impossible to see on domestic Laserdisc. Thankfully, Elite Entertainment Inc. has made it possible for Laserdisc collectors to finally see two of Bava's later works in near original form. This is particularly true of Bava's LISA AND THE DEVIL.
BARON BLOOD is a wonderfully atmospheric horror shocker. Set in Austria, BARON BLOOD is the tale of a horribly sadistic 16th century nobleman who is resurrected by a 20th century descendent. When the "Bloody Baron" rises from his grave, he disguises himself so that he may purchase his own castle with his hidden treasure. What follows is a series of gruesome murders, as the Baron restores his castle and torture chamber, while his descendent seeks a way stop the evil that has been unleashed. The cast of BARON BLOOD features Joseph Cotton and Elke Sommer.
The plot of BARON BLOOD is simple, but in the hands of director Mario Bava, it is a marvelous exercise in style. Bava makes full use of the medieval castle setting, placing the camera to assure the most visually interesting compositions. BARON BLOOD also features a wonderful sequence where Elke Sommer is pursued through the streets by the Baron. During the chase, Bava uses light, shadow and fog to startling effect.
Elite Entertainment has given BARON BLOOD a very good Letterboxed transfer which recreates the 1.85:1 aspect ratio quite well. The source film element is in excellent shape, and has only minor blemishes. The source element itself was created especially for this release from the original negative, and restores scenes that were cut from the film's original American release. As for the transfer itself, it belies the limitations of the early seventies film stock which tends to favor earth colors. The image also has a slight problem with film grain. Still, the image is nicely detailed and the colors are rather strong. The digital monaural soundtrack is reasonably good, considering the bad reputation for sound on Italian productions. Additionally, this edition of BARON BLOOD features the original musical score by Stelvio Cipriani.
LISA AND THE DEVIL is Mario Bava's most difficult film to see in an unadulterated form. When it was first produced, LISA AND THE DEVIL was a haunting study of death, decay and necrophilia. As it was, LISA AND THE DEVIL lacked commercial appeal, so it was recut by the producer, with new footage (not Bava's), to turn it into an EXORCIST clone. The adulterated edition bared very little resemblance to Bava's original film, and was released under the title HOUSE OF EXORCISM. For this Laserdisc release, Elite Entertainment has secured a print of Bava's original version. In its intended form, LISA AND THE DEVIL is one of the most surreal horror films I have ever encountered.
The plot of LISA AND THE DEVIL concerns a tourist named Lisa (Elke Sommer) who finds herself stranded in an isolated mansion with a group of incredibly neurotic individuals, and a butler (Telly Savalas) who just might be the devil himself. A number of grisly murders take place at the mansion, eliminating one by one, all the occupants of the manor. During her stay, Lisa discovers that she is the exact double of the woman who was the unfaithful lover of the mansion's owner. In addition to the "living" residents of the mansion, the estate is also peopled with numerous wax dummies which appear to be the souls of the dead. Bava never makes it clear if the events of the film are real, a hallucination, or if Lisa is already dead and in hell and among the damned.
LISA AND THE DEVIL has a haunting quality about it that stays with you long after it has ended. Bava makes the viewer feel as though the camera is lovingly caressing death itself, thus turning us all into necrophiliacs. Mario Bava's LISA AND THE DEVIL is both a beautiful and disturbing horror film.
The Letterboxed transfer of LISA AND THE DEVIL is even better than that of BARON BLOOD. Colors are superior, and there is less apparent film grain in the 1.85:1 transfer. The digital monaural soundtrack suffers from no glaring faults that were not part of the original sound production. The Pioneer pressing was very clean.
Supplements include theatrical trailers for both films, as well as various bits of footage that were cut from LISA AND THE DEVIL. The footage was cut because of graphic violence or nudity that it contained. Elite Entertainment Inc. has made this double feature of BARON BLOOD and LISA AND THE DEVIL available at the price of $60.00 and it is certainly something that horror fans will want to add to their collections.
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