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Lisa e il Diavolo

Lisa and the Devil
El Diablo se lleva a los Muertos / Der Teuflische / La Casa dell'Esorcismo / The House of Exorcism / Il Diavolo e i Morti

Italy/Spain/West Germany 1973
produced by
Alfredo Leone for Leone International, Euro America Produzioni Cinematografiche, Roxy Film, Tecisa
directed by Mario Bava
starring Telly Savalas, Elke Sommer, Alida Valli, Sylva Koscina, Alessio Orano, Eduardo Fajardo, Gabriele Tinti, Espartaco Santoni, Kathy Leone, Franz von Treuberg
written by Mario Bava, Alfredo Leone, music by Carlo Savina, special effects by Franco Tocci

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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On a bustour to Toledo, Spain, Lisa (Elke Sommer) is somehow seperated from her group after running into mysterious Leandro (Telly Savalas), who bears a striking resemblance to a fresco of the devil on a nearby wall and whose main purpose it seems to be to carry life-sized puppets about.

Lucky for her, Lisa eventually runs into Francis (Eduardo Fajardo) and Sophie Lehar (Sylva Koscina) and their driver George (Gabriele Tinti), who agree to take her with them, but unfortunately, before long their car breaks down, and they seek shelter at a mansion where the countess (Alida Valli) resides with her son Max (Alessio Orano), and where Leandro works as servant - though he goes about his work rather eccentrically.

Thing is that everybody soon thinks that Lisa is in fact Max' deceased wife Helen, including Carlo (Espartaco Santoni), the deceased husband of the Countess who had an affair with Helen, and who prowls about the premises event hough he's dead.

And while the Lehars and George all meet horrible deaths, things start to make less and less sense for Lisa, as rooms seem to change every time she turns her back, living people turn out to be puppets and puppets turn out to be living people, people - including the Countess - are killed, and the dead seem to repeatedly come back to life. And Max, the only one who always seemed to care about her, suddenly chlorophorms and rapes her, next to the skull of Helen ...

And suddenly, Lisa wakes up, naked on a bed in the forest surrounding the mansion, and all she finds of the inhabitants of the mansion are their tombstones. But when she dresses and leaves, kids playing nearby take her for a ghost.

In  panic, Lisa gets a cab to the airport and takes the next flight to wherever ... when she notices she's all alone in the airplane, all alone with the puppets of the people at the castle ... and the pilot of the plane turns out to be Leandro ...

 


My synopsis of Lisa and the Devil might sound a tad confusing to say the least, and the film itself is just as confusing as I make it sound, maybe even more so - and that's what makes the film nothing short of a masterpiece, a film that totally abandons rational storytelling and instead follows the logic of a nightmare ... and of course, nightmares are pretty much blueprints for horror films in the first place, right ? And what's totally fascinating about the film - besides its highly stylish, atmospheric, poetic, disturbing and deliberately disorienting direction - is that Bava never even tries to give a rational explanation of what happens on screen - which of course only makes the film all the more haunting.

Unfortunately, the film's obvious qualities as an unusual piece of horror cinema were also the exact reasons that initially the film didn't find a distributor and producer Alfredo Leone persuaded director Mario Bava to add a series of scenes to make the film resemble the then incredibly popular The Exorcist - which totally ruined the film, now titled House of Exorcism, but made it a financial success.

Fortunately, the film in its original format has since turned up and has been released to great critical acclaim, and it is considered one of Bava's very best films.

Highly recommended !

 

Oh, and by the way, this is the film that actually introduced us to Telly Savalas with a lollipop, even before Kojak.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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Out now from
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directed by
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written by
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