24 April 2014

Lisa & the Devil (1972)
93 min.
Directed by Mario Bava.
With Elke Sommer, Telly Savalas, Alida Valli, Sylva Koscina, Alessio Orano, Gabriele Tinti, Eduardo Fajardo, Carmen Silva, Franz von Treuberg, Espartaco Santoni.
This Bava classic is an utterly surreal journey.

Sightseeing with a group, tourist Lisa (Sommer) is momentarily mesmerized by an odd fresco of the Devil...but seconds later she finds herself alone & lost among the winding pathways of the town. Lost. Can't find her way about.

Night comes, and totally out of the blue Lisa arrives at a strange mansion where she can take shelter until daylight.

Unfortunately, the villa Lisa has found is anything but a safe haven. Creepy butler Leandro (Savalas) seems to lead a three-ring circus of depravity and murder...a world where memory, recall & death work in tandem to create a most bloody mosaic of complete weirdness.

Compelling for those who go along for the ride, the reality-challenged Lisa & the Devil is a lyrical composite of haunting imagery and moody murder.

Elke Sommer is great in what must surely have been a difficult role to maneuver, while Telly Savalas as the lollipop-sucking Kojak-cum-devil is sheer onscreen joy.

Not to be confused with 1974's rather banal possession-themed horror House of Exorcism, which is a re-edited version of Lisa.

When producer Alfredo Leone viewed Bava's final cut of Lisa, he immediately saw the hopelessness of marketing such a sublime, dream-like horror.

So Leone went in and re-shot additional scenes of Elke as Lisa "possessed by the devil," slurring profanities, vomitung pea soup, and the like. He slapped the new scenes in, added priest Robert Alda, retitled the whole thing House of Exorcism, and voila! Instant Friedkin ripoff.

Genre lovers would do well by starting off with Bava's original Lisa cut first, and then giving House of Exorcism a separate viewing.

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