• Night Of The Devils, The



    Released by: Raro Video
    Released on: November 6, 2012.
    Director: Giorgio Ferroni
    Cast: Gianni Garko, Roberto Maldera, Agostino Belli, Cinzia De Carolis, Teresa Gimpera
    Year: 1972
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    The Movie:

    Directed by prolific director Giorgio Ferroni, the man best known to horror fans for directing The Mill Of The Stone Women, 1972’s The Night Of The Devils sees Gianni Garko play a man locked inside a mental hospital after he’s pulled from a river. Never addressed by his name, as the doctors poke and prod at him his memory is spurred and the film then plays as a giant flashback as to what happened to him and how he wound up there.

    We see him drive his car through the woods somewhere in Eastern Europe where a mechanical failure leaves him stranded in the middle of nowhere. He wanders through the woods and soon finds a home inhabited by a quirky family presided over by a man named Gorca Ciuvelak (William Vanders) who has recently returned home after getting involved with an attempt to spear a witch who lives out in the woods – a wurdulak, if you will. After Gorca’s arrival, it quickly becomes obvious that he’s not who he once was, something is definitely different about him. Gorca’s son knows this but his daughter, the beautiful Sdenka (Agostino Belli), holds out hope as Garko’s character quickly falls in love with her. As the family tries to figure out what to do, chaos erupts and our hero quickly finds himself fighting for his life.

    Very similar in structure to Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (both films are based on Aleksey Tolstoy’s short story ‘Lu Famille du Wurdulak’), The Night Of The Devils ups the sex and violence considerably when compared to Bava’s picture, made only ten years prior. The opening ten minutes or so is a pretty heavy salvo of blood, guts and sex as we’re treated with full frontal female nudity, a gun blast to the face and a decomposing skull riddled with maggots. From there the movie slows down the pace quite a bit but damn if it doesn’t make a pretty strong first impression! Though the middle part of the film is very much subdued, things definitely pick up again as the story comes to its finish and while the twist that occurs towards the end is one most fans will see coming, it doesn’t lake for impact thanks to some clever framing and an inspired physical performance from Garko in a role far removed from the cowboy roles he is best remembered for.

    The rest of the cast also fare quite well here. Vanders is sympathetic in his role as the fatherly Gorca (the role that Karloff played in Bava’s version). He has a kindness and a wisdom to him here that serves the part well and he really just works well in the role. Also impressive, though for different reasons, is Agostino Belli. Striking, beautiful and completely sympathetic it’s all too easy to see why Garko’s character would quickly fall in love with her. Throwing the equally attractive Teresa Gimpera into the mix doesn’t hurt things either. The rest of the cast also fare well, with some quirky child actors who cackle maniacally during a key moment during the finale adding some spooky atmosphere to the proceedings.

    The effects in the film were handled by Carlo Rambaldi, best known for work on pictures like Fulci’s Lizard In A Woman’s Skin. They’re fairly strong stuff, from the aforementioned opening scene to the sequences involving some face melting there’s no shortage of grue, all rendered quite effectively here. The score, which comes courtesy of composer Giorgio Gaslini, is atypical for a movie of this type. It seems more interested in contrasting what’s happening on screen (something Gaslini discusses in the interview in the extras) than complimenting it but it works well in its own strange way, even if it periodically uses a bizarre ‘boing’ sound that feels like it was lifted from an episode of Loony Tunes. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Manuel Berenguer the film shows off some excellent use of color and of shadow and light. A few well timed close ups help to heighten the tension in a few important sequences, resulting in a movie that, despite some slower moments, manages to be as memorably bizarre and macabre as it is entertaining.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Raro presents The Night Of The Devils on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen in full 1080p high definition. The transfer isn’t always mind blowing in detail and texture but it sure is a nice step up from the grey market and bootleg releases that have made the rounds over the years – but this should theoretically go without saying. Some softness that appears to be inherent in the original photography comes through here and on top of that there does look to be some noise reduction applied in spots but it doesn’t smear the image the way the worst offenders tend to. Noise is obvious at times, but colors look excellent throughout, the reds are bright without looking too boosted while black levels are fairly strong. Some shots show what looks like natural grain and film like texture, others do not. The good does outweigh the bad though, and by a fair margin at that.

    Audio options are provided in English and Italian, both mixes in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono, with optional subtitles (that don’t appear to be quite 100% accurate in translating the Italian track… but close enough) available in English or, strangely enough, in German. The quality of the Italian track is noticeably superior to the English dubbed version in terms of clarity and balance, but the English track gives some of the family members interesting accents that fit the tone and themes of the story rather well, so both are welcome here. The score sounds nice, dialogue is clean and clear throughout. The English track is a bit on the thin side compared to its Italian counterpart and the music seems a bit off but it isn’t unlistenable.

    Extras kick off with a five minute introduction from Fangoria’s editor, Chris Alexander, who speaks enthusiastically about why he likes this movie so much. Additionally, there’s a half hour long video interview, conducted in Italian with English subtitles, with composer Giorgio Gaslini. Subjects covered here include how he came into being a film composer, his work as a jazz musician, his appreciation for Ferroni’s work and what his intentions were with the rather unorthodox score that he created for The Night Of The Devils.

    Menus and chapter selection round out the extras on the disc, the US trailer advertised on the packaging is nowhere to be found. The keepcase fits inside a slipcase featuring alternate artwork, a nice touch, and inside includes a full color booklet featuring a short essay on the history of the movie and the declining censorship standards of the seventies by Chris Alexander as well as a short text interview with Giorgio Gaslini.

    The Final Word:

    Raro Video gives The Night Of The Devils its first ever home video release first on DVD and now on Blu-ray. While this isn’t a transfer that will blow your mind, it’s a pretty substantial step up from how most fans have seen it until now and having it uncut and in its original aspect ratio in good quality will make this a nice addition for man Euro horror fans. Throw in a few decent extras and this one comes up a winner.

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









































    Comments 9 Comments
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      Still waiting for my preorder, dammit. The Gaslini score is my favorite of his, the title piece, with those haunting vocals, is simply amazing. Great opening the way it plays over the titles. Nice review!
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Thanks Andrew! And I agree about the score. It's very unusual for a movie of this type but somehow it works.
    1. Marshall Crist's Avatar
      Marshall Crist -
      I know some of you have already had a belly-full of my saga; to you, my apologies.

      I had the Blu-ray on pre-order but cancelled when I heard from someone else that the English audio track is terrible. My main question, for which I have not received a definitive answer, is WHAT LANGUAGE WERE THE LEAD ACTORS PERFORMING IN? If Italian, I would prefer to watch this in Italian and the quality of the English audio is moot for me. If they are speaking English (like, say DEEP RED or THE BEYOND) the quality of the English soundtrack suddenly becomes very important to me. If anyone can help a brother out, please do.
    1. Barry M's Avatar
      Barry M -
      Dunno. There's a youtube video, maybe if you watch enough dialogue in it, you could try to lipread a guess? I'm going to guess Italian, but maybe it varied from actor to actor.

    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      I just took a look at my Midnight dvd-r, Marshall. I'd hazard a guess that the cast are speaking a mix of Italian and Spanish - or perhaps just saying numbers/gibberish. I feel pretty confident in saying that they're not speaking english - Garko occasionally matches the dub but that happens often even in non-english speaking films.
    1. Marshall Crist's Avatar
      Marshall Crist -
      Thanks, guys. I did try watching the YouTube videos a while back to no avail. (Very little dialogue, and one was out of sync anyway.) I will probably wind up getting this, although I fear it will bore my ass off.
    1. LoBo's Avatar
      LoBo -
      Italian films at the time was not shot with sound, so regardless what dub you watch, it's still dubbed.
    1. Marshall Crist's Avatar
      Marshall Crist -
      Yeah, I get that, but I like the lips to match and to hear the actor's actual voice when possible.
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      What a great review I wrote.