Lisa and the Devil

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Mario Bava

REVIEWED: 06-22-98

Elke Sommer gets separated from her tour party in an Italian village and gets lost, eventually winding up at a rambling mansion inhabited by a perverted son, a blind mother, and a lollipop-chomping Telly Savalas as the butler (and presumably the Devil). During the course of a long and very confusing night, she falls in love with the son, gets mistaken for the son's dead wife, and finds herself in the middle of some truly Grand Guignol-style murders. Many images stick in one's mind; Savalas making mannequins of everyone in the house (thereby stealing their souls), the son (Orano) trying to make love to a chloroformed Elke with his dead wife's skeleton in bed next to them, the l920's touring car repeatedly running over the hated husband of the houseguest couple. The mansion where this all takes place has a seemingly unlimited number of rooms and is laid out like a huge maze; the whole film has a dreamlike, almost hallucinatory quality. It also makes almost no sense at all, but if you let yourself go with its wild machinations it only heightens the unnerving, macabre, decadent atmosphere that pervades this film. Later reworked as House of Exorcism for American release (with additional unrelated footage added, including washed-up Robert Alda and Elke vomiting frogs), Lisa and the Devil is probably Bava's best work from the latter part of his career. Derivative and wildly original at the same time, it calls to mind Poe and the gloomy Russian fairy tales of which Bava was so fond. Beautiful, dark, and unsettling as hell, a real must for Mario Bava fans. Anchor Bay Entertainment has an excellent uncut version available on video.

--Jerry Renshaw

Other Films by Mario Bava
Blood and Black Lace
Lizard in a Woman's Skin

Film Vault Suggested Links
Nightmare Concert
Lizard in a Woman's Skin
The House by the Cemetery

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