"The worms are waiting" for the guilty on THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE, on Blu-ray from Arrow Video USA.
Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen, PLAY MOTEL) is tormented by visions of his unfaithful, red-headed wife Evelyn who died in childbirth. The mentally-unstable libertine indulges his obsession by taking red-headed prostitutes back to his ruined family estate for some sadomasochism that usually culminates in murder as he succumbs to blackouts. His doctor Richard (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, SOMETHING CREEPING IN THE DARK) advises that he forget about Evelyn by getting remarried, his dandy cousin George (Enzo Tarascio, THE CONFORMIST) suggests that he spend some time in London among high society, while his wheelchair-bound younger Aunt Agatha (Joan C. Davis) suggests contacting Evelyn from the beyond will make his violent attacks disappear. Alan agrees to participate in a séance but faints upon seeing Evelyn's apparition, after which he instructs his lawyer Farley (Umberto Raho, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE) to spend whatever is require to restore the castle within a month's time (and to wall up Evelyn's tomb). At a decadent party thrown by George, Alan meets blonde Gladys (Marina Malfatti, SEVEN BLOODSTAINED ORCHIDS) and proposes to her before they even go to bed because she makes him feel human again. They return to the castle to find that Aunt Agatha has hired five blond maids, George cheerful even though he will no longer inherit the title, and Evelyn's brother Albert (Roberto Maldera, NIGHT OF THE DEVILS) the gamekeeper blackmailing Alan and accusing Gladys of violating the house with her presence. Despite Alan's continuing obsession with Evelyn's portrait, things appear to be going well until Gladys notes in passing the presence of a red-haired maid she had never seen before. As more unusual events occur and someone starts knocking off the extraneous cast members, Richard believes Alan's sanity is deteriorating while Gladys wonders if Evelyn is truly dead. When she takes it upon herself to destroy Evelyn's painting, she may have set off the dark, stormy NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE.
A hybrid of the psychedelic giallo and the Italian gothic, THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE never convinces in its supernatural aspects but the many red herrings are essayed with suitable shiftiness by Italian genre regulars. Things remain interesting even as we are more and more sure that money is the more likely motive rather than supernatural retribution or even Alan's madness (even as the hero, he does appear to be a murderer as well even if some of his attacks may be manipulated). Most striking in what little screentime she has is Erika Blanc (THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE) as stripper Susi whose act commences with her emerging rump-first from a coffin. Although the settings are not remotely British, the villa and its grounds make for a striking backdrop as characters stroll about or sit around the dinner table while trying to find logical explanations for strange occurrences. Neither Alan's sadism and possible murders nor the identify of Evelyn's lover are ever resolved, but the film makes good on its twist revelation with some surprising last minute bloodshed and fisticuffs culminating in a strange end credits freeze-frame. The photography of Gastone di Giovanni (DEATH RIDES A HORSE) is only occasionally inventive but Bruno Nicolai (ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK) provides another of his diverse atmospheric scores with psychedelic rock, Edda dell'Orso vocalizing, and a trumpet-lead main theme (although two of Alan's victims dance to separate themes recycled from Nicolai's score for Jess Franco's EUGENIE, THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION).
Released stateside by Phase One Films and in heavy rotation in theatres in double bills, THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE first became available on home video to most English-speaking viewers courtesy of a fullscreen VHS transfer from VCI and different widescreen transfers from Sinister Cinema and Something Weird Video. The film made its DVD debut on a number of PD labels utilizing Sinister Cinema's transfer before a superior but still cropped 1.85:1 letterboxed transfer became available in Germany from X-Rated Kult Video with an English track that looped some dialogue for scenes missing from their English source. NoShame debuted a new HD-mastered 16:9 DVD in Italy with an English dub and then stateside with the dub and English subtitles for the Italian track in a boxed set with THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIME that also included a figurine of the latter film's titular character. Extras included interviews with Blanc and production designer Lorenzo Baraldi (SCENT OF A WOMAN), and virtually identical English and Italian theatrical trailers.
Arrow's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer of this Techniscope film – first released last year with companion feature THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES in the KILLER DAMES: TWO GOTHIC CHILLERS BY EMILIO P. MIRAGLIA boxed set – is derived from a new 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negative. The brightness levels of the night scenes and interiors are better judged than the NoShame, the image crisper and less smeary (although this may have had more to do with NoShame's conversion of the PAL downconversion of their HD-mastered transfer), more detailed with some subtle color gel lighting more evident than before in its accenting of the image foreground or background (as well as a thruway shot that may references another RED QUEEN), and also reveals more picture information on either side of the frame in many instances. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono English and Italian tracks are clean and convey the music as crisply as the dubbed dialogue. Optional English subtitles are available for the Italian track and English SDH subtitles are included for the English dub. Seamless branching allows for the inclusion of the Italian and English opening title sequences. The English title sequence is complete for possible the first time as the Phase One prints usually cutting from the cinematographer credit to that of the director (skipping those for editor Romeo Ciatti, art director Baraldi, and the film's production manager).
The NoShame disc started off with an optional introduction by Blanc (0:37) which Arrow has included in a special features sub-section of "archival extras" in favor of a new one (0:54). The author of the three-volume giallo compendium SO DEADLY, SO PERVERSE Troy Howarth contributes his first audio commentary for the Arrow disc. He points out the story's debt not only to LES DIABOLIQUES – noting that EVELYN is one of the few films of this type that focused on a mentally fragile man rather than a woman – as well as REBECCA, and voices his appreciation of the film's female cast while finding Steffen an underwhelming lead on par with Robert Hoffman (NAKED GIRL KILLED IN THE PARK). He spends as much time discussing the problematic aspects of the film's plotting and its filler subplots (and appreciating the titillating elements) as on the giallo genre as a whole. He also discusses the careers of the cast and crew, revealing that Malfatti was an accomplished stage actress and that one of her pre-giallo roles was as Beryl Stapleton in an Italian television adaptation of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. Some of the aspects of the genre and the mechanics of Italian filmmaking have been covered elsewhere before by the likes of Tim Lucas, Thomas Rostock, and the pairing of Alan Jones & Kim Newman (who provide commentary on the co-feature), but his take on the narrative is perhaps necessary to contextualize his remarks on the film and its production as well as providing an introduction to the genre to viewers for whom THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE (as part of the set or the inevitable individual combo) is their introduction to the genre.
"Remembering Evelyn" (15:11) is an appreciation by critic Stephen Thrower who also discusses the hybrid gothic giallo stylistics, the cast, the settings, and the film's theatrical success worldwide. Blanc's 2006 NoShame interview "The Whip and the Body" (20:57) is also "archived" but she also appears in a new interview titled "The Night Erika Came Out of the Grave" (9:45) in which she recalls inventing her striptease (and that both of her dance scenes were performed to different cues than heard in the film), her friendship with "vain" Steffen, and that she was really whipped in the film. She closes out the interview with the surprise appearance of her Playboy centerfold. Also carried over from the NoShame release is the archival interview with production designer Baraldi "Still Rising from the Grave" (22:48) along with the virtually identical Italian and English export theatrical trailers (2:44 each). Sadly, Arrow was not able to track down the Phase One trailer (which presumably vocalized the American tagline "The worms are waiting!"). The limited edition sixty-page booklet containing new writing by James Blackford, Kat Ellinger, Leonard Jacobs and Rachael Nisbet from the boxed set has not been reproduced here but the disc does feature a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx. (Eric Cotenas)
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