The Films (5/5 - TNECOHG, 4/5 - TRQK7T)
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is about Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen), a sexual sadist who was driven mad by the betrayal of his dead ex-wife, Evelyn. He attempts to start his life anew by marrying Gladys (Marina Malfatti), a woman as different from his ex as he could find. But the specter of Evelyn is too strong -both in his memories and as an undead creature walking the grounds of the castle- for Alan to have any kind of normal life. Could he finally be losing his mind? Has Evelyn really returned from the grave?
As far as the giallo genre goes, Evelyn is easily in my top 5 favorites of all time. This wild and weird gothic murder mystery has everything Italian genre cinephiles crave: J&B Scotch whiskey, suspicious glances, a séance sequence, fuzz guitar, brutal murders, a garish color scheme, and a parade of lovely lady flesh in nearly every scene. The fact that Anthony Steffen’s character is completely bonkers and totally unlikeable right from the start is just part of the craziness this film has to offer. Fair warning, his purple felt suit might make you fall in love with him in spite of it all. The rest of the cast is just great with genre stalwarts like Umberto Raho, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Enzo Tarascio, and Erika Blanc. The lovely Marina Malfatti steals the movie with her vivacious performance and dresses with plunging necklines that defy gravity.
The Red Queen Kills 7 Times stars Barbara Bouchet as Kitty Wildenbrück, a fashion photographer whose family is plagued by an old legend saying that the “Red Queen” will kill seven unlucky people with Kitty herself being the final victim. I’m keeping my plot synopsis to that one sentence because holy shit, this movie’s story is insanely convoluted and practically demands multiple viewings to get everything straight. The red herrings almost outnumber the victims! While Bouchet is the star of the show this time around, Malfatti is hot on her heels with yet another great performance. To top things off, the luscious Sybil Danning is here as well as Lulu, a conniving fashion model.
I’m a big fan of Red Queen but it loses half a point for a gratuitous rape scene that has no effect on the story whatsoever. It’s no surprise that something superfluous would be crammed in along with the gothic trappings, seedy characters, dream sequences, and a drug dealing subplot! The budget for Red Queen was much bigger (thanks to the success of Evelyn) and it really shows with one of the most elaborate setpieces I’ve ever seen in a giallo outside of those found in the films of Dario Argento.
Director Emilio P. Miraglia made a pair of essential gialli that complement each other perfectly and he was fortunate enough to have composer Bruno Nicolai do the scores for both. While I hate to admit that the score for Red Queen is better, I still get chills from the breathy female vocals, oscillating echoes, and ethereal passages of Evelyn. As giallo fans can attest, the music for these films is extremely important and you’re in the hands of one of the masters here.
Audio/Video (4/5 both films)
Finding something to complain about with this set in terms of audio and video quality will be very difficult for me. While neither is perfect, Evelyn and Red Queen have excellent quality English and Italian (with English subtitles) audio tracks. Both films are in 2.35:1, enhanced for 16:9 TVs and look absolutely brilliant. The underrated cinematography of Gastone Di Giovanni (Evelyn) really pops here with vibrant colors and deep blacks. Alberto Spagnoli (Red Queen) is no slouch either and this Blu-ray lovingly displays his eye for capturing the very detailed and dynamic set and costume designs.
Troy Howarth’s audio commentary for The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is very informative but he spends most of the track disparaging the film and displaying his huge hate-on for Anthony Steffen (which is insane because Anthony Steffen is friggin’ awesome). The best bits are when Howarth talks about the origin of the giallo and the blatant misogyny that was so prevalent in Italian genre cinema of the 1970s. Stephen Thrower has a short though very interesting segment talking about the film. The real gem on this disc is the inimitable Erika Blanc talking about working on Evelyn. It won’t be a surprise to Blanc fans but she’s utterly fantastic even though she’s well into her 70s at the time the interview was conducted.
Alan Jones’s and Kim Newman’s audio commentary for The Red Queen Kills 7 Times is one of my favorite tracks in a long while. These guys have a fantastic rapport and an energy that is infectious. Stephen Thrower is back to talk about Red Queen and he kind of blew my mind with his Chris de Burgh joke. The eternally youthful Sybil Danning talks about how she went from cosmetology to acting and about working on the film.
The set also features beautiful packaging and an accompanying booklet that’s full of essays by James Blackford, Kat Ellinger, Leonard Jacobs, and Rachael Nisbet. As if all of this wasn’t enough, there are also multiple trailers for the films and even an alternate beginning for Red Queen! Want more? You got it! Arrow has ported over all of NoShame’s Evelyn and Red Queen extras from their DVD set. Each disc has an extras archive with all of the NoShame goodies.
The first time that I ever saw The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, it was on a budget DVD set with 8 or 10 other neglected movies. The film looked like hot garbage but there was just something about it that was like a bolt of lightning to my imagination. I’ve since purchased this film three more times to find the best copy out there. While I was over the moon with NoShame’s version, Arrow Video has sent me to Mars and beyond with their utterly fantastic set. Between this and their Death Walks set, Arrow can do no wrong in the eyes of this giallo fan.
Emilio P. Miraglia seemed to be equally in love with the gothic and the ultramodern and his knack for mixing them both together rendered his gialli into these strange alien landscapes where everything seems out of place and utterly strange. While my heart will always be in the grave with Evelyn, I have to say that the Red Queen gets closer to murdering me every time I dip into this double feature. I don’t know what you think you’re doing right now but get you need to get off your ass and buy this boxset.