Some genres of film are just meant to be seen on blu-ray, and Italian giallo films are no exception. The two gothic murder-mysteries in this excellent box set are both classic examples of the genre. Both feature the thematic and stylistic tropes you would expect from gialli: brutal murders, vivid and lurid colour schemes, lots of naked and fetishized flesh, terrific production design, eerie sound design, melodramatic score, a twisty plot, and people being driven to madness.
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave tells the story of a disturbed English aristocrat, Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) who is grief-stricken and haunted by the death of his wife Evelyn, a striking red-haired woman. His way of dealing with this is not entirely normal. He lures red-haired prostitutes and strippers back to his country mansion, where he tortures them and kills them. In an attempt to rid him of his obsession, a séance is performed to summon Evelyn’s spirit. As the people involved in the ceremony start to die, they suspect a vengeful Evelyn may be the culprit.
This is an enjoyable and gothic slice of exploitation cinema, full of enough nastiness, kinkiness, and glorious 70s style to keep the average cult film fan happy. If that weren’t enough, giallo icon Marina Malfatti is also in the film, playing Alan’s new wife.
The second film in the set, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, is slightly less entertaining. It follows two sisters cursed by an ancient painting, and the deadly and avenging spirit conjured by their actions. Again, there is plenty of blood, a couple of inventive death scenes, and some vivid imagery scattered throughout the film. But it is all bogged down in a very talky plot that kills much of the momentum. The design of the film is fantastic however, with the lurid 70s style juxtaposed against the creepy gothic castle, with it’s crypts, cobwebs and billowing curtains.
Thematically it covers much of the same ground as The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, with revenge, greed, sex and murder all on the menu. It also features another icon of Italian horror, with the stunning Barbara Bouchet in the lead role.
Director Emilio Miraglia, is very much a lesser known filmmaker. He directed six films between 1967 and 1972, and then made no more. The two films in this set are not quite in the same league as the luminaries of the genre (Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci) but they have achieved a cult status over the years, and they deserve to be seen.
As for the box set itself, Arrow Video cement their status as one of the best distributors in the business, with this exquisite limited edition. Spread across four discs, and packed with extras including a 60 page booklet, this is why people still buy physical media. There is brand new and exclusive artwork, as well as a fantastic mix of archival material alongside new and insightful interviews and discussions with key cast and film scholars respectively. Both films have been given a sumptuous 2K makeover, restored directly from the original negatives. There are new commentaries, introductions to the films, and various audio and subtitle options including an English dub or the original Italian soundtrack.
The films are very much 3 star affairs, but this is a superb release, and a must have for giallo fans.
Cast: Barbara Bouchet, Marina Malfatti, Anthony Steffen, Director: Emilio P. Miraglia Writer: Emilio P. Miraglia Released By: Arrow Video Certificate: 18 Duration: 99/103 mins Release Date: 23rd May 2016