I love Lenzi's gialli offerings, or at least the one's I have experiences! I still need to see KNIFE OF ICE and A QUIET PLACE TO KILL. SPASMO and EYEBALL are some of my more favorite gialli viewings. Two very stylish yet, odd in nature but still very effective in the payoff!
It's been a long time since I first seen his SO SWEET... SO PERVERSE (1969), was that not just recently issued on DVD again??
I absolutely loved Freda's brilliant I VAMPRI! Now, what was the deal with Bava being uncredited for with this again? I know he had something to do with the overall direction, but what's the full story on that again?
Any opinions about this more recent giallo? I've heard some bad things but when I found it dirt cheap on eBay, I couldn't resist the temptation of picking it up. Figured I need to give some of the more recent horrer/thriller stuff a chance too. Still waiting for it to arrive and I'm not quite sure what to expect of it but at least it has a pretty good cast that includes famous transsexual Eva Robins from TENEBRAE (1982) and the good-looking Elisabetta Rocchietti, who has been cropping up in a lot of horror stuff like THE THREE FACES OF TERROR (2004), DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? (2005) and THE LAST HOUSE IN THE WOODS (2006). Not to mention supporting roles by Florinda Bolkan and Franco Nero! Anyone here seen it?
Interesting looking film out of Italy with Irish/Spanish co-financiers. Directed by Italian SFX man Stefano Bessoni.
In the 1600s, long before the invention of photography, a scientist named Girolamo Fumagalli was obsessed with the idea of reproducing images. He discovered that by killing a victim and removing the victim's eyeballs, it was possible to reproduce on paper the last image imprinted on that person's retinas. He named this technique 'thanatography'. Today, the same kind of gruesome ritual and abominable crime recurs within the walls of an international school of cinema. -imdb.com
Also stars the daughter of Charlie Chapman, Geraldine Chaplin as well as her daughter Oona.
Well, it seems this is yet another Argento flick that is taking a beating in the review department. Even die hard fans are not too pleased with this outing. Anyhow, the PAL R2 DVD is now out via a Polish company that found it important to force the Polish subs!
Looks like this will be getting a UK release first via Arrow Films! I still haven't seen this, it was on my radar during last year's Midnight Madness during the Toronto Film Fest. The disc will be released March 15th..
(1972/Italy) a.k.a. Un bianco vestito per Marialè /Reviewed by: Johan Melle /Cast: Evelyn Stewart [Ida Galli], Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Pilar Velazquez, Giancarlo Bonuglia, Edilio Kim, Shawn Robinson, Gengher Gatti, Ezio Marano, Franco Calogero, Gia
a.k.a. Un bianco vestito per Marialè
Reviewed by: Johan Melle Cast: Evelyn Stewart [Ida Galli], Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Pilar Velazquez, Giancarlo Bonuglia, Edilio Kim, Shawn Robinson, Gengher Gatti, Ezio Marano, Franco Calogero, Gianni Dei, Carla Mancini Written by Giuseppe Mangione & Remigio Del Grosso Directed by Romano Scavolini Source: Fansub of Italian VHS (84 minutes)
Italian filmmaker Romano Scavolini is primarily known as the director of the extreme American slasher film NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN (1981), which became one of the many infamous “Video Nasties” in Britain. Far less attention has been paid to Scavolini’s earlier work in his native Italy but his early films are certainly not without interest – especially not his giallo SPIRITS OF DEATH, whose impressive leading cast ought to wet the appetite of most aficionados of Italian B-cinema.
The plot kicks off sometime in the 1940s, as a beautiful woman dressed in white (Evelyn Stewart) and her naked lover (Gianni Dei) have a secret rendezvous in a picturesque forest. Unfortunately, the lovers are caught red-handed by the woman’s jealous husband, who proceeds to shoot both of them dead. He then turns the gun on himself; making it a triple tragedy. All of this is witnessed by the married couple’s impressionable little daughter, Marialè, who screams and cries in terror at what happens in front of her eyes…
Cut to 30 years later. Marialè has grown into a beautiful woman (she, too, played by Evelyn Stewart) and is married to Paolo Bellaria (Luigi Pistilli), a wealthy marquis. The couple lives together in large castle but Marialè’s existence is all but a happy one. Paolo is keeping her a virtual prisoner; refusing her to leave the estate. He and the creepy majordomo, Osvaldo (Gengher Gatti), also forcefully medicate Marialè with sedatives to keep her more calm and cooperative. All of this is apparently to protect Marialè because she is mentally unstable.
Longing for contact with the outside world, Marialè is able to secretly send out telegrams to a group of old friends; inviting them to come to a party at her and Paolo’s castle. And, suddenly, six people do indeed show up at the estate, leaving an annoyed Paolo with no choice but to let all of them enter. The guests are made up of Massimo (Ivan Rassimov), a handsome and likeable guy who is an old, good friend of Marialè; the beautiful and flirtatious Mercedes (Pilar Velazquez) and her husband Sebastiano (Ezio Marano); the heavy, middle-aged Jo (Giancarlo Bonuglia); as well as the temperamental and unsympathetic Gustavo (Edilio Kim) and his bizarre, sensitive black girlfriend Semy (Shawn Robinson).
Everyone is eager to explore the large castle and the group eventually ends up in the basement, where they happen upon some creepy old mannequins dressed in old costumes. Marialè finds a mannequin dressed in the same white dress her mother wore when she was killed all those years ago, and decides she wants to wear it for dinner. The rest of the guests dress up in bizarre costumes and clash a lot of creepy make-up on their faces. It doesn’t take long before dinner escalates into a trippy orgy of food, alcohol and scandalous behavior. Eventually, one of them is found brutally murdered and more victims follow in quick succession…
Scavolini would go on to dismiss SPIRITS OF DEATH entirely; deeming it “a film which deserves only to be forgotten” when interviewed by Luca M. Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta in the ‘Spaghetti Nightmares’ book in the 1990s. A pretty harsh judgment of one’s own work and, frankly, Scavolini’s assessment is rather unfair, although it’s true that his film isn’t without its share of problems.
It all begins very promisingly, with the gripping pre-credit sequence in which poor Marialè witnesses her father kill her mother and her lover – very classic giallo imagery, of course. Contrasting the disturbing content of the scene is the sheer beauty of the surroundings, captured with lush cinematography and accompanied by the film’s hauntingly beautiful main theme. It’s a really terrific opening but by setting the bar so high this early on, Scavolini gives himself quite a challenge on how to continue the film without it feeling anticlimactic.
Truth be told, he doesn’t really succeed. Certainly, the introductory scenes showing how the domineering Paolo keeps Marialè a prisoner in her own home are well-handled and raise the film’s central question: is Paolo a jealous tyrant who wants total control of his wife, or is really trying to protect Marialè because it’s she who is the crazy one? It’s a good premise but, unfortunately, Scavolini loses his grip on the story as soon as all the guests arrive at the castle. An astounding amount of time is spent on them exploring the castle, dressing up in bizarre costumes and indulging in a warped Felliniesque orgy of mad behavior, food and naked dancing. All of this is impressively shot but it does nothing to further the plot. On the contrary, it stops the film dead in its tracks and quickly becomes tiresome. Underneath it all is the intriguing plot of Paolo and Marialè, and her feelings towards her old friend Massimo but it’s almost forgotten about while irrelevant stuff such as the black girl Semy repeatedly acting hysterical or dancing around naked takes center stage.
Rather than spreading out the murder scenes throughout the film’s running time, Scavolini holds back the killing until almost an hour into the proceedings. After that, the deaths pile on very quickly and the film finally gets back on track in time for its excellent finale, in which the film comes full circle and resolves its mystery in a rather ambiguous manner; making it all the more memorable.
The excellent beginning and end of SPIRITS OF DEATH almost, but not quite, make up for the rather dull stretch in between. Most of the blame for the failed middle act should probably be attributed to the screenwriters, Giuseppe Mangione and Remigio Del Grosso, whose plot loses the focus completely in favor of irrelevant details. To his credit, Romano Scavolini saves the film from disaster by directing these scenes in a very stylish manner. Scavolini was also the film’s cinematographer and has shot the film beautifully; employing a lot of atmospheric camera angles. The murder sequences are pretty well-handled too; being quick but quite brutal. The film is further aided by an outstanding soundtrack by Fiorenzo Carpi (with the orchestra directed by the more well-known Bruno Nicolai). Carpi’s score is nothing short of excellent and really enhances the film’s mood and atmosphere; particularly the hauntingly beautiful main theme, which is complete with wordless female vocals by the ubiquitous Edda Dell’Orso.
SPIRITS OF DEATH also benefits from an excellent cast made up of some of the most memorable and frequent players in gialli of the 1970s. The glamorous and versatile Evelyn Stewart (or Ida Galli as her real name is) could play both sympathetic and unsympathetic roles with great ease and is perfectly cast as the fragile Marialè. After seeing her play supporting roles in the likes of THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH (1968), THE CASE OF THE SCORPION’S TAIL (1971) and KNIFE OF ICE (1972), it is wonderful to see Stewart in a giallo where she actually gets to play the leading role. Luigi Pistilli is also put to good effect as the intimidating husband (a type he portrayed in several other gialli too) while the shifty-eyed Ivan Rassimov takes on a more sympathetic role than usual. The supporting players are left with less to do but generally deliver the goods; particularly Gengher Gatti from THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT (1973) and LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974), who looks very creepy as the suspicious majordomo, Luigi Batzella regular Edilio Kim as the selfish, hot-tempered Gustavo, and one-film wonder Shawn Robinson as Kim’s eccentric black girlfriend.
Apparently dubbed into English and given the export title SPIRITS OF DEATH, even though the original Italian title, UN BIANCO VESTITO PER MARIALÈ, translates to the far more suitable but probably less marketable ‘A White Dress for Marialè’. In any case, the English dub doesn’t seem to have surfaced anywhere – condemning the film to a fate of relative obscurity. Thankfully, English fan subs have been created and added to a pretty good-looking widescreen version from an Italian VHS so that more people can enjoy this forgotten film. While not a prime giallo, SPIRITS OF DEATH has plenty of good moments and a fine cast working in its advantage; making it a must for giallo enthusiasts in spite of its disappointing middle act.