• Lisa And The Devil/House Of Exorcism

    Released by: Kino
    Released on: September 18, 2012.
    Director: Mario Bava
    Cast: Elke Sommer, Telly Savalas
    Year: 1973
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    The Movie:

    LISA AND THE DEVIL is both Mario Bava's most inscrutable and brilliant film. The film is ostensibly about an American tourist (stunning German actress Elke Sommer) lost in Spain after being separated from her tour group. After seeing the image of the devil on a local mural she is drawn by some strange music to a local antiques shop where she sees a man who looks exactly like the the fresco image (Savalas). Startled, she then flees and is lost in winding streets but ends up being rescued by a strange couple in a limo. The car soon breaks down and the group is then stranded at a strange mansion where they encounter the unnamed Countessa (Alida Valli), and her odd son Maximilian (Alessio Orano). The remainder of the movie comprises a variation on the "ten little Indians" theme with characters being betrayed and killed off in sometimes shocking ways. The primary mystery revolves around Lisa's resemblance to Max's dead lover. As in most Bava films there is a heavy supernatural element.

    This is no straightforward horror film. LISA AND THE DEVIL has all the inherent logic of a fractured nightmare. It is short on narrative cohesion and long on colorful atmosphere, slightly off-key but mesmerizing performances and a distinctive aura of both the playful... and the terrifying. Opening with a full screen animation of the inimitable Telly Savalas which quickly turns into the real thing and is followed by a sequence of eye popping red velvet and tarot cards it is clear from the start that we are in for for a rare visual treat.

    While Bava's other masterpiece BLACK SUNDAY drips with oppressive Gothic atmosphere and is shot in severe black and white LISA is a candy colored acid trip. Filled with surreal imagery this is a film that owes as much to the classic art-house European cinema of Fellini and the French New Wave as the traditional horror film. The cast is also an eclectic and interesting group. Telly Savalas, while not exactly a traditionally trained actor, is perfectly cast here as the sinister but amusing butler who may or may not be the devil himself. His interactions with the mannequin at the beginning of the film are both bizarrely amusing and slightly horrifying. Sommer is both gorgeous and slightly aloof and the Countessa and Max always seem a bit "off" - which is the perfect approach. Gabriel Tinti is also excellent as the sleazy but sexy chauffeur.

    The plots of Bava's films generally tended towards the confusing but his stylistic and visual gifts were his true calling card and the fact that the cast is perfectly suited to the material here is an added plus. Those with an appreciation for fine craftsmanship, beautiful imagery and a tolerance for startling, but highly effective violence will find much pleasure here. LISA AND THE DEVIL is a magnificent work of art.

    Kino has also generously included THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM on this Blu. Unfortunately, LISA ran into serious distribution problems so the producer decided to radically re-edit the film and create the goofy HOUSE OF EXORCISM believing he could make the film more sellable..The primary change was the insertion of a Father Michael (Robert Aldo) character who is forced to perform an exorcism on the title character. The insertion of this subplot is clumsy at best, jarring at worst. It also disrupts the flow of Bava's strong original vision. The fact is that this was a pathetic attempt to ride the bandwagon of William Friedken's THE EXORCIST. The vomiting of frogs is mildly amusing but HOUSE OF EXORCISM is a disgrace for the most part. Some find it acceptable exploitation fare but this reviewer has never had much use for it other than as a curio. Keep in mind as well that many of the new sequences were not even shot by Bava!


    As usual on Kino's recent spate of titles, LISA has a strong film-like transfer. The 1080p, 1.78.1 . framed image looks mighty good. Extensive clean-up was not done so you will occasionally see a hair in the frame gate and some mild print damage. That said, what you WILL not see is any nasty DNR, edge enhancement or ugly digital tweaking. Some of the film is soft but that's the way it was shot. The key words here are natural and lifelike. Colors pop, skin tones look strong and detail (Telly's trademark facial mole has never looked livelier!) is excellent. This is an EXTREMELY colorful film at times and the transfer is up to the task. The color palette was apparently a bit more muted on some older home video versions of the film but not having seen the editions in question I can an only say this one looks very good to my eyes. It is also a significant upgrade to the version in the old Anchor Bay box set. All of the above also applies to THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM as well.

    The English LPCM 2.0 Mono tracks on both films are perfectly adequate. Keeping in mind when these were recorded and the technology available at the time these are as good as they are ever going to sound bar an expensive remix - which I am generally not a fan of anyway. Volume levels are strong and consistent and hiss and dropouts are not present. There are no subtitles or alternate dubs on either film however.

    The usual excellent Tim Lucas audio commentary for LISA and an interesting 18 minute piece called "Bava on Bava" where the late director's son Lamberto discusses his father's work and their collaborations is included as well. Well worth seeing. As for Lucas there is not much to say. His knowledge of Bava is vast and his audio commentaries cover just about anything you might want to know about the films. This one is no different and essential for Mario Bava fans. THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM cut also carries a commentary - this time from producer Alfred Leone and star Sommer. Its of interest to those who want to know more about the alternate version of LISA and Leone is fairly detailed on those issues. Sommer has some interesting stories to tell about the cast and the shoot but this track really belongs to Leone. The extras are finished off with some Bava/Kino trailers and a radio spot.

    The Final Word:

    Lovers of arthouse horror and quality chills rejoice. Kino has done a lovely job of bringing one of Bava's masterpieces to the HD format. Bava's many fans should be highly pleased at getting both versions, a new featuretette and the best previously released extras under the same roof. Very highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!