A troubled, paralyzed woman becomes easy prey for the Devil in this Italian Exorcist knock-off.
What do you get when you cross Bruno Nicolai, Ennio Morricone, Joe D’Amato, Alberto De Martino, Mel Ferrer and Carla Gravina?
Mmmhmm. One of the better demonic possession movies you’ll run across – complete with all the trimmings, that’s what. I’ve said it before and I will say it until my last breath, you cannot go wrong with an Italian production. When they set their minds to cash in on a freshened up facsimile of a blockbuster idea, they go at it hard and fast until they deliver.
Carla Gravina (The Invisible Woman, The Violent Four) stars as Ippolita, a paralyzed woman who grows bitter as her last hope of being cured by faith fails miserably and not without humiliation. The love of her father (Mel Ferrer in the fledgling stages of his Euro-horror career) has been her only comfort, but now that he’s in love with Greta (Anita Strindberg; Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key; The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) she feels her life slipping away uncontrollably.
Her uncle, the Bishop Oderisi (played by none other than Arthur Kennedy) hires a psychiatrist who feels that he can cure her guilt-induced paralysis by regression hypnotherapy and delving into her past life. (I’m glossing over some aspects so as to not ruin the film completely when you watch it, fyi)
Now where would this movie be without her previous incarnation being a devil-worshipping-priest-hating, burned-at-the-stake blasphemer? It’s interesting to note though, that in reality her ancestor (who shares not only her looks but name) only ran to the arms of a devil-worshipping cult on the eve before being forced into a convent. Religious servitude or eternal damnation, which would you choose?
This film has layers for you to muck about in! If I were to sit here and describe this piece by piece as it unfolded, the thoughts that it conjured throughout; I’d likely be here all night and I have a whole month of movies to review!
Nevertheless, in her morally weakened state evil pounces and possesses her soul much to the delight of the viewer. You are in for a real feast for the eyes, my friends! A mesmerizing display of both Ippolitas shown in tandem accepting The Devil! We witness past-Ippolita receiving her indoctrination into Satanism with all of the visual luxury that can be mustered; simultaneously present-tense Ippolita writhes alone, naked in bed, her actions merging with the past as she receives her unholy lover. This is achieved to great effect with cross-cutting and precise, brilliant editing.
My rudimentary, bullshit description of this lands miles away from doing it any kind of justice. I am trying to leave out the really yummy bits (which HURTS!!) so that it will be a wonderfully wicked and depraved sequence that you will be unable to wash from your brain for all eternity. In a lesser film this would surely be the highlight, but there is a staggering attention to detail and anyone with hungry eyes will find plenty to appreciate throughout the runtime.
I never thought too much of Alberto De Martino, particularly since he’d done Pumaman, which aside from being one hell of a good MST3K episode, leaves much to be desired if you’re judging a man’s directorial catalog. I’d be willing to bet that this film is his greatest cinematic achievement because from what I can tell it appears that he built a career on directing his own scripts based, at least loosely, on more successful films. The cast is undeniably solid and they all bring their A game to the table. I was slightly disappointed by the underuse of George Coulouris and Alida Valli but this is a small complaint in light of the overall enjoyment the film provided.
Would I recommend this? Without hesitation and with great joy! It’s not a perfect film, but it has an undeniable opulence that allows you to overlook any momentary tedium or irritation that you may feel. It’s your classic Italian knock off to which there are certain die-hard rules that apply:
- There will be blatant recycling of the ideas of others and secondhand gimmicks.
- The dialogue will be nonsensical at times, characters will even contradict themselves.
- It will essentially be a hot bed of interesting ideas, most of which never quite come to fruition
- It will be done with more style and panache than you can shake a stick at.
If you can sign up for this without reservation then I can do no more than highly recommend; it’s absolutely essential.
What the fuck are you waiting for?! Buy it now!
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
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Jocelyn lives on 35 acres of woodland in an undisclosed Appalachian location. When not boozing it up or fighting the power she's tending her organic garden or collecting punk/soundtrack albums. Her best friends walk on 4 legs. She does not own a cell phone.