Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers by Emilio P. Miraglia (4-Disc Special Limited Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]
Limited Special Edition, Limited Edition
DVD + Blu-ray
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At the height of the Italian giallo boom in the early 1970s, scores of filmmakers turned their hand to crafting their own unique takes on these lurid murder-mystery thrillers. This limited edition double pack features two distinctive offerings by Emilio P. Miraglia, which meld twisty whodunit narratives with gothic chills.
In The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, troubled aristocrat Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen, Django the B*stard), haunted by the death of his first wife Evelyn, tries to move on by marrying the seductive Gladys (Marina Malfatti, All the Colours of the Dark). Marital bliss is short-lived, however, as various relatives meet untimely and gruesome deaths, prompting speculation that a vengeful Evelyn has risen from the grave...
Meanwhile, in The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, an age-old family curse hits sisters Kitty (Barbara Bouchet, Milano Calibro 9) and Franziska (Marina Malfatti) following the death of their grandfather Tobias (Rudolf Schündler, The Exorcist, Suspiria). Every hundred years, so the legend goes, the bloodthirsty Red Queen returns and claims seven fresh victims. Was Tobias just the first... and are Kitty and Franziska next?
With both films making their worldwide Blu-ray debuts in stunning new 2K restorations, there has never been a better time to explore these little-seen giallo gems!
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE
THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES
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In “The Red Queen Kills Seven Times” (1972), an ancient family curse falls on sisters Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) and Franziska (Marina Malfatti) following the death their grandfather Tobias (Rudolf Schundler). According to the curse, every hundred years the bloodthirsty Red Queen returns and claims seven fresh victims.
Both films fall within the Italian giallo genre — lurid murder mysteries with considerable female flesh on view. Their heyday was the early 1970s. The films in this box set contain a number of gruesome scenes and escalating suspense. Acting is not the best, but the style carries the day. Production design, the use of color, and atmospheric locations all contribute to an eerie mood. Both films are unrated and in the widescreen format.
There is an incredible amount of bonus material in the set, including alternate openings, archival interviews with Barbara Bouchet, Lorenzo Baralsi, Marino Masse, and Erika Blanc; new interview with Sybil Danning; new audio commentary; original Italian and English soundtracks; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned art work; and a limited edition 60-page booklet containing details of production, critical evaluation and background on the giallo genre.
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) introduces a bit of the supernatural in its story of the mentally unstable Lord Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) whose guilt over the death of his unfaithful red-headed wife, Evelyn, leads him to lure a slew of similar red-heads to his secret torture chamber. While his wealth lets him avoid any prosecution, his illness gets harder to hide after a whirlwind marriage to Gladys (Marina Malfatti) prompts even more frequent visions of his dead bride rising from her tomb. Is it an actual haunting...or is someone after his substantial inheritance?
Evelyn splits the difference between Gothic ingredients (castles, ghosts, secret rooms) and more traditional giallo thrills pretty evenly. There's quite a bit of Bava's The Whip and the Body referenced here in Lord Cunningham's basement pleasure palace, but Miraglia lets it all hang out with copious amounts of nudity. And the film's elaborate murder sequences - including a rather pointless snake attack and the grisly disposal of another body fed to a pack of foxes living on the estate - are typical showy exploitation fare, far removed from the subtle mysteries of Hitchcock's Rebecca.
Yet it's this wishy-washy plotting that keeps the film interesting, despite that fact that it lacks any sympathetic character to latch onto. Add in some slow-motion flashbacks, an interrupted séance, a handful of red herrings and a striptease artist whose act involves emerging from an ornate coffin and you've got a giallo that may never connect all the dots but still offers two hours of pleasant distraction.
The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972) skews more towards a predictable body count picture involving a family curse, squabbling siblings and a grandfather's will. Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) and her sister Evelyn have hated each other since childhood, a scenario that seems to fulfill a family prophecy involving one sister's death followed by her ghostly revenge. And, indeed, the prophecy seems to prove all too real when Kitty's accidental murder of her sister leads to unexplained murders by a woman dressed in red.
The film's plot is muddled from the get-go, adding another sister, Franziska (Marina Malfatti, again) into the mix and a host of potential suspects / victims at the fashion design house where they all work. Once more a Bava film comes to mind - this time Blood and Black Lace - but Red Queen takes some unusual left turns including a Phantom of the Opera-style finale involving a flooded castle passageway and hundreds of waterlogged rats. Bouchet's character is asked to do little more that widen her eyes in shock on command and, beyond a quick nude scene from co-star Sybil Danning, this one is light on sex appeal as well. But the score by Bruno Nicolai, which revolves around a childhood tune much like Argento's Deep Red would use three years later, is catchy to the point of distraction.
Miraglia's films almost demand a 10-page flowchart, but logic was certainly never a big part of the giallo's appeal. Both titles fit comfortably in the "above-average" category - with transfers that are well above the curve - and Arrow's Blu-ray / DVD combo is an obvious upgrade from the previous NoShame set from 2006 (whose extras are ported over here under the archive section). Evelyn comes with a commentary from giallo author Troy Howarth and interview with critic Stephen Thrower that combine to shed light on the confusing plot points. Also included is an exclusive interview with co-star Erika Blank and the aforementioned archival extras.
Red Queen adds another commentary (this time from Alan Jones and Kim Newman) to match up with Stephen Thrower's on-camera analysis, plus an alternate opening, theatrical trailers and new interview with Sybil Danning, who still looks marvelous! Both films come with a reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Gilles Vranckx.
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