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