Halloween is a month-long affair for me, when I ramp up the Horror and the spooky stuff even more so than usual. In my quest for good new Horror films to watch during this Halloween season I have taken a chance on a couple of rare Italian Gothic films. Now, I am already a fan of the genre, so this isn’t strange within itself, but these two films are notable for their rarity. Both are vampire themed and have Italian casts, but the characters in the respective stories all bear Germanic names.
MYA DVD for “Lucifera: Demon Lover (1972).
The first film “L’amante del demonio“, a/k/a “Lucifera: Demon Lover” (1972), is one that is very hard to come by, and goes for a lot online, but we just happened to get a used copy of the DVD at work, so I decided to check it out. Now I know why it’s so rare; even the inclusion of lovely cult film starlet, Rosalba Neri couldn’t save this film, although it did have some interesting ideas in it. This is obviously meant to be a wide movie, as one can tell from the awful pan & scan job. Occasionally people almost disappear from frame leaving only scenery and a quarter of their person in sight, which isn’t so much a fault of the film, as it is a fault of the DVD manufacturer, but it certainly detracts from the viewing experience. The opening credits mention that the story was inspired by the Grand Guignol, which is a bit of a stretch, but arguably applicable. I liked the folklore references and some of the imagery, but the script meandered and there were exploitation scenes which seemed almost inserted as an afterthought, and had no bearing on the plot as I understood it.
Italian poster for “Lucifera: Demon Lover” (1972).
A group of traveling girls in contemporary times (contemporary in this case being the early 1970’s) decide to visit an old castle which they heard was the residence of the Devil. They arrive after hours but are still given a private tour of the premises, of course, and are even granted permission to pass the night in the untenanted bedchambers (only in the movies).
One of the girls, Ms Neri, dreams that she is a young bride-to-be, named Helga, in what appears to be the 17th century, who is lead astray by Gunther, a mephistophelean character in a red satin lined black cape who tempts her into adultery and murder, before leaving her to deal with the consequences of her actions. There is also a subplot involving a village girl who is jealous of Helga and who engages a local crone to curse her for stealing her sweetheart away, which doesn’t end well for her.
There are a couple of creepy scenes, like one in which Helga’s girlfriends, who earlier had deserted her during a ritual and were kidnapped and raped (the gratuitous scene I referred to before) then bitten by a naked vampire woman in a cape, return to visit their friend as wan, shuffling vampire revenants.
In the end, Ms Neri awakens from her dream and she and her friends safely take their leave of the castle. The caretaker then addresses his master, the lord of the castle who was absent during the opening segment of the film, and yet turns out to have a face we’ve seen before.
On a final note, the relationship between Gunther and Helga reminded me a bit of Sor Maria and Luzbel from the Mexican nunsploitation film, “Satanico Pandemonium”, which came out just a few years later. I cannot say that I recommend the film, but if one is a fan of Rosalba Neri, or Italian Gothic Horror, you might as well check it out, although I recommend trying to find a cleaned up version with it’s original aspect ratio, which could make a difference to one’s enjoyment of the film. Perhaps Severin Films will find a good print someday and release a decent home video version–one can only hope.
One7Movies DVD for “Lilith, a Vampire Who Comes Back”.
Gianni Virgadaula’s 2008 silent film, “Lemuri – Il bacio di Lilith”(a/k/a “Lilith, a Vampire Who Comes Back”) is an homage to the Horror films of yore. The DVD (distributed by One7Movies) begins with a series of quotes attributed to “The director of silence”, whom I assume is Virgadaula, wherein he praises the art of the Silent Film era in broken English, the same awkward patois that is used for the title cards throughout the film. This is a bit distracting, because it diminishes the quality of the viewing experience as one has to devote one’s attention to deciphering the import of much of the dialogue and cannot quite follow what is going on in the film itself.
Also, for a fan of the German Expressionist genre, he seems to have not learned the proper use of shadows, although he makes use of tinting in some scenes. Another thing which I found odd was that although he endeavors to make the a point of the film being a throwback to the Silent Film era, the images run at a modern projection speed and seem too fluid.
He makes reference to such iconic films as F.W. Murnau’s infamous adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, the legendary “Nosferatu” (1922), but does not seem to understand what made this such a classic. He has a character who appears to be modeled after Knock, Murnau’s version of Renfield. He looks a bit like him and acts like him, but he is not really essential to the story line. If anything, he is almost a red herring, or a distraction from the real monster of the tale, Lusilla Helm.
Lusilla is the late wife of Baron Ludwig von Reder. Apparently, she died on their honeymoon and he has been lost in grief ever since. He worshiped Lusilla, and speaks of her in reverent tones, but there is talk in the village of her being a witch. When young women and children begin to disappear in the village, the people blame Lusilla’s witchcraft. Eventually, the baron finds something in the belongings of his deceased beloved, which makes him wonder if the rumors aren’t true after all.
I give Gianni Virgadaula a B for effort. He has some decent ideas and his vampire looked creepy, although her teeth were a bit large for her mouth. He also seemed to leave the window open for a possible sequel, but if he has done anything since this film, there is no trace of it on the Internet.
I did not find this film to be essential viewing. If you come across it some day, and are a fan of the genre, by all means watch it, but I wouldn’t seek it out. Again, I believe this is another case of a film being rare for good reason.