The only two giallo films of Emilio P. Miraglia, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, have been combined into one top notch package by U.K.'s Arrow Films. Available in a limited edition box set with only 3000 copies being made, this Killer Dames Collection, as it's being called by Arrow, is a collector's paradise.
While The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is probably the more known of the two films here in the U.S., for my money it's the weaker of the two films. In the film, Lord Alan Cunningham (Antony Steffen, aka Antonio De Teffe) is driven to madness by the sight of his former wife in the arms of another man before dying in childbirth. Never quite the same, Lord Alan has acquired a penchant for killing buxomy redheaded prostitutes. The film has an extended scene involving the lovely Erica Blanc (The Devil's Nightmare) as Susie, a stripper who barely escapes his dilapidated mansion with her life. Convinced by his cousin George (Roberto Maldera) to go out in search of another woman, he discovers Gladys (Marina Malfatti) and falls in love. Of course, some things just aren't meant to be.
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has a dark, gothic sensibility about it, though the story drags in places and there are times that the script seems to prefer talkin' over T&A. Fortunately, at least for most fans of this genre, such scenes do end and we get extended appearances from the likes of the wonderful Blanc.
Blanc herself seems to be the main person who cooperated with this packaging from this particular film, though she is a delight and she makes all the extras work the time.
The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, alternately known as The Lady in Red Kills Seven Times, is the second of Miraglia's giallo films and, at least by a slight measure, the better of the two films. The two films share a certain commonality, mainly a central character traumatized by memories of an Evelyn, but for the most part the similarities end there. This film is set in Germany, as opposed to Italy for The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. This film, as well, is less gritty and less dark and tends to be set in more of an upper society setting. Much as is often true giallo, Red Queen kicks off with childhood trauma as two young sisters, Kitty and Evelyn, begin attacking each other in a violent rage and are stopped from stabbing each other only by their wheelchair-using grandfather (Critic's Note: As a film critic in a wheelchair, it's hard not to notice that both films also have a relatively minor yet important character in a wheelchair). It is said that they were driven mad by a family painting of The Red Queen, a cursed painting whose subject returns every 100 years to claim seven lives.
Fast forward to, well, you know...the year the aforementioned queen is due to arrive. Kitty is now a successful fashion photographer. Evelyn? She was killed by Kitty in one of those painting-fueled fits of rage. Of course, people start dying. Is the curse alive? Is it Evelyn?
The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is classic giallo with a storyline that feels obvious yet never is obvious. Miraglia's pacing, somewhat of a problem with his first film, is sublime here and makes one regret that he would never make another film in the genre and, in fact, made only five films in a six-year period before never being heard from again. The killings here, while modestly familiar, are sublimely created and realized. Alberto Spagnoli's lensing is like a gothic fantasy, while Bruno Nicolai's original score is a highlight among all giallo films. The film features a tremendous performance from Barbara Bouchet as Kitty along with Marina Malfatti and, in one of her earlier appearances, a marvelous Sybil Danning. Danning also shows up in the extras with a new interview.
The extras, as we've become accustomed to with Arrow, are simply fantastic including archival interviews and a tremendous commentary featuring Alan Jones and Kim Newman, two of the best known experts regarding giallo.
With stellar packing and two fine examples of giallo, this latest Arrow Films collection is one you won't want to miss.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic