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Pulp Culture
New DVDs muddy
European horror

October 2, 2003
By Franklin Harris

When we first see Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) he is trying to escape from a mental institution. When we catch up with him some time later, he is luring a redheaded prostitute to an untimely end. Now here is the funny bit: Alan is the hero.

"The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave" has been a Eurotrash horror favorite since its release in 1971. A heavily edited and therefore virtually incomprehensible version made the rounds on late-night television. But now Sinema Diable and Eclectic DVD have released an uncut, widescreen edition.

The film itself is an interesting example of Italian suspense cinema, although certainly not on the level of a Mario Bava or Dario Argento film. Its entertainment value comes mostly from its absurdity, plot holes and sleazy characters.

Alan is haunted by memories of his late wife, Evelyn. Evelyn was a redhead, too, which is why Alan likes to bring other redheads to his personal torture chamber. Nevertheless, he settles down with a blonde, Gladys, played by Marina Malfatti.

Everyone thinks Alan is crazy, which he probably is, but when Gladys starts seeing and hearing strange things, you begin to wonder: Is Evelyn back from the dead? Was she ever dead at all?

Eurohorror starlet Erika Blanc ("The Devil's Nightmare") co-stars as an exotic dancer Alan takes home for a night of fun and games.

Unfortunately, Sinema Diable's presentation is a disappointment. The print is the uncut U.S. theatrical version, but it's blemished with scratches, dirt and other visual artifacts. Pops and hisses similarly mar the audio track. Even calling the film "widescreen" is a stretch. Yes, it is letterboxed, but it is still missing part of the picture on both sides and at the bottom. Apart from the nudity absent from the TV edit (available from Brentwood Home Video), the DVD has nothing to recommend it.

This is not a good start for Sinema Diable. "Evelyn" is one of the label's first three DVD releases, all of which retail for $14.95.

"The Eerie Midnight Horror Show" (1977) sounds like a rip-off of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Actually, it's one of the many Italian "Exorcist" clones. ("The Sexorcist" is one of the film's alternate titles.)

Stella Carnacina plays Danila, an art restorer possessed, in more ways than one, by a demon (Ivan Rassimov). After a few "dream" sequences, in which the demon rapes and crucifies Danila, the film moves into standard "Exorcist" territory. A maverick priest stares down the demon inhabiting the bedridden woman.

Sinema Diable's presentation is full frame, but it's relatively clean and far superior to the "Evelyn" print.

Of note to fans of Italian trash cinema: The late Gabriele Tinti, husband and frequent co-star of Laura "Black Emanuelle" Gemser, has a supporting role.

The last of Sinema Diable's initial offerings is from Spain. Despite its promising title, "The Vampire's Night Orgy" (1972) has no orgies. What it does have is a busload of tourists who find themselves stranded in a small, rural village inhabited by vampires. It also has Jack Taylor, star of other Spanish shockers like "The Bare-Breasted Countess" and "Horror of the Zombies." (Roman Polanski gave Taylor a small role in his 1999 thriller, "The Ninth Gate.")

While the picture is a bit muddy, the Sinema Diable print is clean and in the proper aspect ratio.

Obviously, Sinema Diable isn't giving its releases the loving care some other cult labels, like Blue Underground and Shriek Show, give theirs. But its discs are superior to "budget" releases from Diamond, Alpha and Brentwood. Casual viewers might find them acceptable rentals, but aficionados of Eurohorror should know that these are not the definitive versions of these films.

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