Night of the Devils
Director - Giorgio Ferroni
Cast - Gianni Garko, Agostino Belli
Country of Origin - Italy
Discs - 1
Distributor - Raro Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (4/5)
The Leo Tolstoy short story the Wurdulak was first adapted to the screen by Mario Bava as the 2nd of 3 features in his anthology film Black Sabbath. It was the longest of the 3 stories, and was a capable, and beautiful looking rendition of the story featuring classic horror actor Boris Karloff in one of his last memorable roles.
9 years later Mill of the Stone Women director Giorgio Ferroni would take a stab at the material with his film Night of the Devils. This time the story has been stretched to feature length, consider that the film was based off a short story my initial concern was that the film would feel overlong and the material stretched too thin. I would be proven quite wrong in that regard.
In Ferroni's version of the tale Gianni Garko plays Nicola an Italian businessman, whose car breaks down in the middle of the woods while taking a shortcut on a business trip. He runs into a rural family on their way back from the funeral of one of their own. Jovan (Roberto Maldera) agrees to help him fix his car, but not until morning. He explains that there is a vampiric witch, which his Father has gone out to kill, but they will not be safe on the outside until daybreak. He is allowed to stay with the family, and begins to fall in love with Sdenka.
The patriarch of the family, Gorca, returns home but it is not until late the next evening after they were told to kill him with a stake if he returned. He is now a Wurdulak, but the family disagrees on this point, and initially allows him to live. The next morning the youngest girl of the family, Irina disappears, the family alongside Nicola search for the pair, but never find them. When only Gorca returns that evening, he is staked, and Nicola leaves to go to the police believing what has just occurred is murder. While he is with the police Brigadier, Irina returns, and kills her Mother, which begins the process of turning the whole family into wurdalak. When Nicola returns to rescue Sdenka his nightmare truly begins.
I don't want to do much in the way of comparisons of the 2 versions, I will say that Bava's version in Black Sabbath is very much his own stylistically. It features the wonderful colors that Bava was known for, moderate pacing, and an almost classic horror feel to the piece. Night of the Devils on the other hand has a more distinctly modern horror feel (for the 70's)incorporating the extreme violence and nudity that Italian genre films of the period were known for. The film also opens on a series of images that offers a shocking nonlinear approach into the characters mind, and makes the audience wonder, what could have happened to this man to leave him with such images?
After the opening moments the film settles into a nice atmospheric pacing, and the story is allowed to unfold at a leisurely, but effective pace up until it's blood-soaked denouement. The film is grounded by an excellent cast including Eurohorror veterans Gianni Garko (Cold Eyes of Fear, The Psychic), and Robert Maldera (The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her Grave). The film offers up that twisted small village/town reality feel, like the Wicker Man or Dead and Buried, but on a much smaller scale. I love the feeling of these stories of strange wanderers from cities wandering into primitive scenarios not willing to accept their archaic legends, and having the past catch up to them. These kind of stories are staples of the horror genre, and should be cliché by this point, but with a film as good as Night of the Devils genre staples, and stereotypes are quickly forgotten in favor of an excellent well made horror romp.
Night of the Devils is definitely an obscurity in the world of European and Italian horror. I, myself, have thought I had seen a good majority of the so-called Italian horror classics, and yet this film did not appear on my radar until the Raro release announcement, and the sudden hullabaloo surrounding it. Upon seeing it just the one time, I am ready to declare Night of the Devils one of the tragically unsung masterpieces of Italian horror. A great suspenseful supernatural horror film, that combines a wonderful story, with a fantastic sense of atmosphere, an abundance of nudity, and a dash of well executed 70's Italian violence courtesy of then bourgeoning effects man Carlo Rimbaldi (E.T., Lizard in a Woman's Skin). Night of the Devils could be nothing else, but highly recommended here at EuroCultAV.com.
I will preface this by saying that so far I have only been able to get my hands on the DVD release of Raro's Night of the Devils. This review will be updated for the Blu-ray, when I manage to get my overexcited mitts on that somewhere down the line. Raro has gone to great lengths to restore Night of the Devils, as was seen from a restoration demo that surfaced a few months ago, and even on DVD it truly shows.
Raro have presented Giorgio Ferroni's magnificent Night of the Devils in a glorious 2:35:1 transfer that is 16x9 enhanced. The transfer accurately reflects the look and feel of the film. There is nice attention to detail, flesh tones, and the black levels are nice and solid. There is some minor softness in some exterior sequences, but I find that more a matter of the production rather than the transfer itself.
The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian (or English) language track that sounds fantastic. The score by composer Giorgio Gaslini (a truly integral element of this film) comes through nice and clear, as does the dialogue and sound effects. German and English optional subtitles are included. I did not detect any audio defects like cracks, pops, or hissing on the track.
The disc kicks off with a video introduction to the film with the enthusiastic and informative Chris Alexander editor-in-chief of Fangoria Magazine. We also are treated to an interview with the films composer Giorgio Gaslini, a Jazz musician, and film composer who is still working today. This disc also includes a full color booklet with liner notes also by Alexander.
For those that haven't seen it or haven't heard of it prior to this DVD reissue. Giorgio Ferroni's Night of the Devils is an absolutely surprise stunner of a Eurohorror film. Raro Video's DVD restoration looks fantastic (and I can't wait to get hold of the Blu-ray), and the extras although slim offer a nice addition to the overall package. Raro Video's DVD of Night of the Devil's comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.