Mario Bava (director)
Arrow Films (studio)
Cert 18 (certificate)
04 February 2013 (released)
22 February 2013
The movie was meant to be director Mario Bava’s masterpiece, instead it turned out to be a trip into cutting room hell.
Starring German bombshell Elke Sommer in the title role, the story unfolds gradually when Lisa (portraying an American tourist!) loses track of her tour party during a holiday in Spain. After fruitless efforts to find the group, she is lured into a crumbling old mansion by way of mysterious butler Leandro (Telly Savalas), who turns out to be… well, you can guess!
Inside the mansion, an elderly and blind countess (Alida Valli) holds reign not only over the castle but also over her son Maximilian (Alessio Orano). He quickly becomes obsessed with Lisa, as she reminds him of his dead lover, and persuades her to stay on. Bad advice she’s taken up here, as soon enough her stay descends into a hallucinatory nightmare involving murder, bizarre dummies, doppelgängers, necrophilia, plus an ever present Leandro who divides his duties as a butler with his hobby: creating more and more dummies… It’s particularly amusing to note that in almost every scene, Savalas sucks on lollipops – a cinematic habit he continued soon after when he portrayed iconic NY detective Lieutenant Kojak.
Despite hauntingly gorgeous photography, and an almost surreal plot, Lisa And The Devil failed to impress. It was deemed too ‘old fashioned’ and too confusing, and not quite scary enough. Bava put the blame on Alida Valli’s purple dress she wore throughout the movie, stating that ‘purple’ always was his unlucky colour!
It was the beginning of the 1970’s, and William Friedkin’s satanic shocker The Exorcist had only just recently introduced its audiences to new levels of fear. One year later, film producer Alfredo Leone convinced Bava to cash in on the craze by adding newly shot sequences to Lisa And The Devil, now called House Of Exorcism and featuring Elke Sommer as a dead ringer for Linda Blair (albeit an older one). Despite a convincing performance by Sommer, the plan backfired. Added scenes depicting her possessed and strapped to a hospital bed made little sense in context with the story of the original release. At times it feels as if scenes from a totally different film had been inserted, making House Of Exorcism even more confusing than Lisa And The Devil.
Still, hardcore Bava fans will undoubtedly find much to cherish in this new release, available as standard definition DVD and high-def Blu-ray. Plenty of bonus material adds the treat to the devil’s tricks.