In this re-edit of Lisa and the Devil (1973), a troubled priest attempts to exorcise the soul of an American tourist who has been possessed by the Devil after witnessing supernatural events at a Spanish villa.
Lisa is a tourist in an ancient city. When she gets lost, she finds an old mansion in which to shelter. Soon she is sucked into a vortex of deception, debauchery and evil presided over by housekeeper Leandre.Written by
I prefer ghosts to vampires, though. They're so much more human; they have a tradition to live up to. Somehow they manage to keep all the horror in without spilling any blood.
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To capitalize on the success of The Exorcist, some new footage, featuring Robert Alda as a priest, was shot. It involved Lisa (Elke Sommer) being possessed by a demon. The original cut of Lisa and the Devil was edited and used as flashback material to surround the possession theme. This resulting version was released in 1975 as "House of Exorcism." See more »
It becomes clear almost from the outset that with this film Bava is out to mess with our heads and narrative cohesion isn't a priority, so it's best just to sit back and enjoy the ride, knowing you're in good hands.
While viewing a strange fresco in a town on holiday, Lisa becomes distracted by the sound of music and in a small shop off the beaten track finds a music box with some creepy figurines spinning on top. She tries to buy it but learns that it belongs to the shop's only other customer: Telly Savalas, who greatly resembles a figure on the fresco that was described as the devil! Telly for some reason is carrying a life-sized figure of a man and finds it highly amusing when Lisa runs off.
Lisa soon gets lost and after wandering around the strange streets, has to ask someone for directions, and that someone is Telly Savalas! This is where Bava starts really messing with us as the dummy in his hands is obviously actually played by an actor - but only in certain shots. Things get even more confusing when Lisa encounters a live version of the dummy who falls down a flight of stairs and dies.
Eventually Lisa ends up getting a lift from a bickering couple (the wife of whom is having an affair with her chauffer) and they all end up at the usual huge mansion/castle inhabited by angry man Maximillian, his blind mother Alida Valli, and chirpy butler Telly Savalas, complete with Kojack lollipop. The house is full of Bava's favourite prop: creepy dolls, and things just get stranger and stranger for here on out.
There's no point in detailing any more of the plot, but it involves murder, mysterious characters locked in rooms surrounded by slices of cake, people becoming dummies and Telly Savalas breaking the ankles of a corpse in order to fit it into a coffin. I was never really sure what was going on at all due to all the mind games Bava was playing. He even has certain characters follow the exact same path through the house using the exact same camera angles which just adds to the surrealism, and through it all Telly Savalas acts like that whole thing is some bizarre comedy. It all works for me though!
He also has the light shine deliberately off of Savalas' head quite often too, films the action from above or below, and uses an awful lot of colour wherever he can. My favourite set was the mock-funeral that is later smashed to pieces by one of the characters. I wasn't expecting the film to be off the wall as much as it was and was nicely surprised.
Perhaps it was this film that Umberto Lenzi and Lucio Fulci had in mind when they directed the House of Doom series in the late Eighties? I was getting a severe House of Clocks vibe from this film.
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