SEPTEMBER 6, 2008
For some reason I completely forgot about the 2nd volume of the Bava set. I know some of the movies aren’t horror, but neither is the first one, and I went through that pretty quickly (compared to other sets; I still haven’t finished the Masters of Horror set and I’ve had that well over a year now). Sorry about that.
Anyway, Lisa And The Devil is definitely a good choice for Horror Movie A Day, because it’s actually two movies. Apparently, after the film was released (and tanked), the producer decided to rip off The Exorcist and re-edit the film to accommodate that decision. The result was titled The House Of Exorcism, and contains about a half hour’s worth of new footage (with about as much removed from Bava’s original version). So I decided to review both, because I couldn’t in good conscience consider House its own movie.
Both have their merits. Lisa is atmospheric and a bit slow, like many of Bava’s films, and House is ridiculous and incoherent. If I had to watch one at the New Bev, it would be House, but Lisa is the one I actually prefer. I should note that the best scene in either version appears in both: when a woman begins running over her husband over and over and we just see the dummy corpse rolling around, battered and broken. It’s awesome.
The movie also features Telly Savalas, so you know you’re in for some silly scene chewing and lollipops. Some of his stuff is lost in the re-edited version, and that is a shame, but there is still enough to savor, particularly the scenes where he works on his mannequins. Also enjoyable is Alessio Orano as Max, the batshit insane man who keeps his wife’s corpse in bed with him. I wish I could tell you what the hell his deal was, but after more or less watching the movie four times (each version has a commentary) I still can’t really tell what the hell is going on in certain parts. The original version is merely weird, but the re-edit is just baffling at times, particularly the end, in which the two stories sort of combine in a manner that simply makes no sense and doesn’t really conclude anything.
Most of the new stuff involves Elke Sommer’s character becoming possessed and going through the usual Exorcist rip off motions: body contorting, foul mouthed male voices, pea soup... it’s all here. Within these scenes is my 2nd favorite devil expletive of all time: When the priest asks where she came from (meaning the demon), it replies “From a cunt, you jerk!” (my favorite remains “Do you know what she did? Your cunting daughter?”). These scenes are entertaining, despite the unoriginality, but I wish they made it a bit more clear how the two stories were entwined. I think we are supposed to believe that the old footage (which Bava shot) is merely a dream or something? A flashback? The adventures of her soul? I have no idea. Maybe they just actually split into two people, who knows. All I know is, the re-edited version is missing the original’s hilarious conclusion, in which Telly flies a plane (lollipop still in hand!) populated with corpses.
I was amused by how they cut from old footage to new and tried to make it look “seamless”. Basically, whenever they needed to cut from Bava’s footage to Leone’s, they would go from a random object. Like, there would be a shot of a watch in Bava’s footage, so Leone would begin a scene on a clock or whatever. He gives up after awhile though; by the halfway mark, every “possessed” scene just begins with Sommer making some face and then turning her head toward whoever was in the scene with her. I like to imagine that he began watching Bava’s version with an editor and the two of them pointed out possible “entry” points. “Hey, there’s a shot of a melted candle... we can go from that to pea soup splattered on the floor.”
Tim Lucas (who else?) provides the commentary for Lisa, and as usual, he’s over-informative. In addition to stuff about the actual movie, you’ll learn odd bits that have nothing to do with the movie, such as the name of the actress who dubbed one of Lisa’s actresses in a completely unrelated film. Like his other tracks, he still sounds like he is reading cereal ingredients, but I don’t doubt that he is the premiere expert on Bava, and that guy's sort of dead, there’s probably no one better to have on the track. House has the meddling producer (Alfredo Leone) and Ms. Sommers, but she barely speaks throughout the track. Instead Leone mostly just sort of explains why he recut the movie (money) and points out the “new” stuff. I wish Lucas had joined in, since he doesn’t talk too much about it on his track and I find this area of the film’s lifeline to be the most interesting, but oh well. Now I know the names of other movies that were filmed in the same city and the name of the author who came up with the line “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.”
Actually I forget both of those things. Plus I dozed off for a while listening to it, and then I had the terrifying experience of dreaming with Tim Lucas’ narration. My dreams didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, but I could hear Lucas throughout, talking about impotence (Max's junk isn’t functioning right – I think it’s an important plot point) and what not as dream-BC tried to find his new room at a college dorm made to look like something from ancient Greece.
I’ve never been a huge fan of any of Bava’s films (except Shock, which Lamberto sort of took over I guess); I tend to enjoy them but forget about them within a few days. But this one was a lot of fun... it’s well made, strange, and occasionally gory, all of which is fine by me. If you’ve never seen any of his films, I think this would be a good place to start.
What say you?