• Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers By Emilio P. Miraglia (The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave/The Red Queen Kills Seven Times)

    Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers By Emilio P. Miraglia (The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave/The Red Queen Kills Seven Times)
    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: May 24th, 2016.
    Director: Emilio Miraglia
    Cast: Sybil Danning, Anthony Steffen, Marina Malfatti, Erika Blanc, Barbara Bouchet
    Year: 1971/1972
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    The Movies:

    While Italian director Emilio Miraglia never rose to the heights of some of his fellow directors like Dario Argento or even Umberto Lenzi, he holds a special place in a many a genre fan's withered heart for a few of the six films he did direct: a crime film entitled Assassination starring the one and only Henry Silva, a Spaghetti Western starring Richard Harrison entitled Shoot, Joe, Shoot! and the two giallos that are in this set from Arrow Video, the infamous The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. Both films, which were previously paired together on DVD by the long, gone NoShame Films, prove to be solid thrillers with some great casts, plenty of style, and some cool murder set pieces as well.

    The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave:

    Antonio De Teffe (of the excellent horror infused Spaghetti Western, Django The Bastard, also known as The Strangers Gundown) plays the somber Lord Alan Cunningham, a man whose life has been nothing but sorrow since his wife Evelyn passed away a some time ago. As the result of some sort of psychotic therapy treatment, he's decided to help cope with his loss by abducting beautiful young women who look like his wife. His MO is to take them back to his place and torture them to death – and each of the women who would appear to be his victims have a more than uncanny likeness to the his dearly departed Evelyn. After he's spent some time in deranged pursuit of a sultry nightclub dancer named Susie (Euro-cult starlet Erika Blanc of The Devil's Nightmare), his friend Richard (Giacomo Stuart-Rossi of Joe D'Amato's excellent Death Smiled On A Murderer) encourages him to move on a find a new wife. Cunningham is a bit of a weirdo and while Evelyn still haunts his dreams and nightmares, he's obviously got more than a few screws loose upstairs.

    Cunningham's murderous ways remain secret to most, so his social standing hasn't diminished in the least. He's a wealthy man who comes from good stock so it's no surprise to find him out one night at a rather prestigious upper society shin-dig where he meets a pretty young woman named Gladys (Marina Malfatti of Umberto Lenzi's Seven Blood Stained Orchids). It doesn’t take long for him to fall head over heels in love with her. Luckily for Cunningham, the feeling is mutual and their whirlwind romance soon blossoms into a marriage that seems to be the very thing he needed to curve his murderous ways. Things are looking up for Cunningham until many of the people in his circle start being killed off, seemingly by a jealous wife named Evelyn who, as the title implies, might just have returned from the dead…

    An atmospheric film that owes as much to Mario Bava's older gothic films like Black Sabbath and The Whip And The Body as it does to the Hitchcock influenced giallos of Dario Argento and Sergio Martino, The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave relies as much on its ghostly atmosphere as it does on more traditional giallo elements like red herrings and psychological twists. Plenty of shadowy cinematography, creepy location shots and a fantastic score courtesy of Bruno Nicolai make this one an interesting giallo that doesn't necessarily play by the stalk and slash rules that so many of its sister films do.

    The movie also makes great use of its cast. Steffen isn’t always the most exciting lead but here he does a fine job. As the movie makes us question his sanity and portrays him as a bit of a sadism enthusiast, what with his penchant for tying up and whipping his lovely lady friends, he manages to make the part his own. Of course, the lovely Erika Blanc makes quite an impression here as well, emerging from a coffin at a nightclub during her strip tease debut in the film. Giacomo Rossi Stuart and Marina Malfatti are also pretty enjoyable here.

    The Red Queen Kills Seven Times:

    Our second film introduces us to the Wildenbruck family. As wealthy and illustrious as they may seem on the surface, have their fair share of problems just as any other family unit does. Two of the daughters, Kitty (the gorgeous Barbara Bouchet of The Black Belly Of The Tarantula) and Evelyn get into a scrap one fine and sunny afternoon and Kitty winds up killing her sister. It was completely by accident mind you, but she did wind up tossing her body into the lake on the family estate. This murder seems to tie into a curse that has been put upon the family in which 'The Red Queen' returns from her grave once every hundred years to kill and kill again – well, seven times at least – hence the title. Kitty's all too familiar with this story. She's known it since she was a child and a painting that portrays the notorious Red Queen hangs proudly in the living room of the home.

    At any rate, fourteen years after these events the father of the family, Tobias Wildenbruck (Rudolf Schundler of Win Wenders' The American Friend), is also found dead. After this unfortunate turn of events, Kitty starts having horrible dreams about murder and death and they prove to be so distracting that she's having trouble at her job as a fashion magazine photographer. The dreams eventually culminate in the death of her boss, who is found murdered under rather bizarre circumstances. To make matters worse, witnesses have seen a woman running around dressed in garb all too similar to that worn by the Red Queen in the painting that Kitty grew up around.

    Like the film that came before it, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times benefits from an interesting supporting cast. Look for a young Sybil Danning (of The Howling II) as one of Kitty's models named Lulu, while Marina Maltaffi returns in the role of Franziska, another one of Kitty's sisters. Marino Mase, who had a brief role in Ruggero Deodato's Phantom Of Death is easy to spot as one of the cops on the case, while pretty Pia Giancaro of The Bloody Hands Of The Law shows up in the role of Rosemary. Performances are about what you'd expect from a seventies giallo, they're decent if a little ham-fisted at times though Bouchet does very well in the more intense scenes. She looks genuinely scared at times, which makes the proceedings considerably more suspenseful than they would be otherwise. She’s not only a beautiful woman, but pretty damn convincing in her work on this picture.

    Like its predecessor, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times makes very good use of its European locations. The family home is creepy in and of itself, but when you add to that some of the surprises that lay in the basement and the surrounding grounds and you've got the perfect setting for a gothic murder mystery. The Red Queen herself, garbed in a black suit with a garish red cape, looks like quite the killer and when she shows up she definitely makes an impression. The pacing drags a little bit in the middle but there are enough plot twists and gory murder scenes in this one to make it a whole lot of fun regardless.


    Both films are presented in brand new 2K restorations of the films from the original camera negatives in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and they look fantastic. Detail is strong in both features, especially in close up shots but hardly limited to those as you'll notice while the movies play out. There's excellent depth and texture here as well and color reproduction is beautiful. Black levels are nice and strong and there's very little actual print damage here, just a normal looking coat of film grain. The discs are also very well authored with each feature getting a pretty healthy bit rate. As such, there are no problems with any obvious compression artifacts nor is there any heavy edge enhancement or noise reduction to note. The aforementioned No Shame DVD release looked great for its time, but this Blu-ray offers a significant upgrade in clarity, detail, texture and depth.

    Arrow presents both films in your choice of the original Italian and English soundtracks in LPCM mono audio with newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks. Regardless of which option you choose for either film you'll get nicely balanced audio with strong clarity, good resonance and decent range. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note and the movies' respective scores sound noticeably more detailed and powerful than on the past DVD release. The removable subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read.

    Extras on The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave start off with an audio commentary from Troy Howarth that proves to be a pretty enjoyable listen. Howarth offers up his thoughts on what makes this one work but is also savvy enough to note some of the film’s flaws. It’s fairly scene specific, allowing him to offer up info on the cast and crew as their work appears on screen but as he does this he notes some of the film’s gothic trappings and how they differentiate this film from a lot of other giallos. Lots of good information on Steffen (not a fan) and Blanc (definitely a fan) here as well as some input and opinion on Bruno Nicolai’s score, how the locations amp up the production values and some of the specific assets that the female cast in particular bring to the film.

    Arrow has also created two new featurettes for this release, starting with a fifteen minute piece called Remembering Evelyn wherein writer Stephen Thrower offers up his thoughts on the film. While this featurette and the commentary do inevitably cover a few of the same details (such as the gothic influence on the film), Thrower offers up his own take on the picture, fills us in on what happened to some of the people involved in the production after it was made and generally just gives us his typically well informed opinion on the movie mixed in with some interesting trivia. The Night Erika Came Out Of The Grave is a new ten minute interview with Erika Blanc. She starts off by talking about how the strip tease scene for which the movie is famous was her idea and how she choreographed it before going on to talk about what it was like working with Steffen, some of the film’s kinkier elements and how they affected her performance and a fair bit more.

    Arrow has also carried over the supplements from the older NoShame Films DVD release, staring with an interesting video interview with Erika Blanc entitled The Whip And The Body. Here the actress talks about her career in Italian genre films, working with co-star Anthony De Teffe and her experiences with director Emilio Miraglia. Blanc comes across as a rather gentle lady and it's interesting to hear how she made up her infamous dance number for this film as she went along. This featurette runs for just over twenty-one minutes and Blanch fans should eat it right up. A second archival featurette entitled Still Rising From The Grave is a nice twenty-three minute long interview with Lorenzo Baraldi who served as the production designer on the film. This is a pretty thorough discussion of Baraldi's career in Italian cinema, he talks about his beginnings in the industry and follows the trail right up to The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave where he gives us the run down on his experiences with Miraglia and some of the performers on the shoot. It's a pretty interesting examination of how the unique look of the film was created from the mouth of the man who made it all happen. The quick intro that Blanc recorded for the NoShame disc is also carried over.

    There’s also a quick, newly shot one minute optional intro to the film courtesy of Erika Blanc. Rounding out the extras on Evelyn disc are English and Italian trailers for The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave, animated menus and chapter selection.

    Extras for The Red Queen Kills Seven Times start off with a new audio commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman, who have a good chemistry here. Their track makes some interesting observations about how the film precedes the slasher trend that would follow in a few years, and it also allows the two men to discuss the directorial style and the cinematography’s effectiveness. They talk up some of the performances, offer plenty of information on the cast and crew and their various filmographies and generally just do a fine job of dissecting the picture and documenting its history and possible influence.

    Writer Stephen Thrower pops up again on The Red Queen Kills Seven Times for the fourteen minute piece called The Red Reign. Again, he offers up a nice mix of critical insight and opinion, trivia, biographical information and assorted thought and observations on the picture. Also new to this disc is a twenty-minute interview with actress Sybil Danning called Life Of Lulu. Here she talks about how she wound up being cast in the film after various career moves that lead to modelling and then acting. She also shares some stories about a few of the earlier films that she worked on before then going on to talk about her thoughts on Red Queen and her feelings on some of her co-stars.

    And then, once again, we have the archival supplements from the older NoShame release. First up is an interview with the still lovely Barbara Bouchet entitled My Favorite Films that runs just over a minute in length. Though this is all too brief, it's interesting to hear her talk about the giallos she was involved in and how she was surprised to learn of their cult movie status in North America. If I Met Emilio Miraglia Today is a featurette in which Marino Mase, Erika Blanc and Lorenzo Baraldi wax nostalgic about the director for a couple of minutes. Each one shares a little story about some of the time that they spent with him and while it isn't ultra-informative, it's a nice tribute to the man who was responsible for both movies on this set and it clocks in at about four minutes in length. Lorenzo Baraldi and Marino Mase are both given separate featurettes entitled Dead A Porter (at roughly fourteen minutes) and Round Up The Usual Suspects (roughly fifteen minutes) respectively. In this quick segments they go into some detail about their experiences on set with Miraglia and give us a quick history of their experiences in the film industry. These are interesting enough but like the Bouchet featurette, leave you wanting more. The quick forty second introduction from production designer Lorenzo Baraldi has also been carried over.

    Rounding out the extras on this first disc are English and Italian trailers for The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, an alternate opening credits sequence for the movie, menus and chapter selection.

    Each movie is presented in its own clear Blu-ray case that comes with a DVD version of the movie inside it as well. The individual cover art inserts for each movie contain new artwork from Gilles Vranckx on one side and original poster art on the flip side. These fit inside a cardboard slipcover that also contains a limited edition full color booklet with essays on the films from authors James Blackford, Kat Ellinger, Leonard Jacobs and Rachael Nisbet that is nicely illustrated with original archival stills and posters as well as some unique artwork.

    The Final Word:

    Arrow Video have done a great job bringing Emilio Miraglias’ The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times to Blu-ray. This limited edition boxed set release not only carries over all of the supplements from the previous DVD release but it offers up some very worthwhile new additions in that department as well. The audio and video presentation for each film is very impressive and the movies themselves hold up quite well. Highly recommended.
    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!