In the 1970s, Italian director Emilio P. Miraglia never quite made it as big as Dario Argento. For that matter, he never made it as big as Mario Bava or Lucio Fulci, nor Sergio Martino, or Umberto Lenzi or even Ruggero Deodato. Still, he managed to make, under the assumed name Hal Brady, the thrillers Assassination and The Falling Man as well as the spaghetti Western Joe Dakota, and under his own name, the thriller The Vatican Affair and the two gialli The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. It is with those latter two that we are here concerned, as Arrow Video releases them together in a box set as Killer Dames.
The Film Itself
I’ve said already that Emilio P. Miraglia never quite made it big with his gialli, or his attempts at other exploitation genres. On the evidence here, it isn’t exactly surprising. While the two films presented here offer all the usual lurid colours, kinky perversions, plot twists, casual nudity, brutal violence, and sense of the Gothic, both are ultimately too uneven to offer even the flawed fun of oddities like Martino’s Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is an inheritance drama, following an unconvincingly English lord, Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen), who keeps foxes in a cage on his estate for some reason, and murders redheads for reasons that, to be fair, actually do get elaborated on. Thus the most interesting actresses get unsatisfyingly offed, the twists pile up, and finally we’re left with something that makes little sense, and that fails to thrill, frighten, or titillate, despite its occasional flourishes (a dream-like opening sequence, a striptease out of a coffin performed by Erika Blanc, a troublingly ambiguous ending). The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is a step up, offering a crossover of sorts with the roughly equivalent German krimi subgenre, and making its setting convincing by actually shooting in Germany. Its Gothic story kicks off when two rival sisters learn from their grandfather the family curse in which a red queen always murders a black queen (rival sisters, each time), every hundred years. No-one is surprised to learn that the curse is set to strike again, but when the Red Queen is murdered, it looks as if it’s getting averted this time. No such luck, as the Red Queen comes back from the grave and, as fate would have it, kills seven times. But is everything that simple? Here the picture morphs into a faster-paced police thriller with a number of memorably nasty kills, before returning to the Gothic mode for a horrific finale with hordes of realistically filthy sewer rats. If Miraglia’s second giallo is superior in almost every way to his first, from its pacing to its setting to its twists to its horror scenes, then still it never establishes itself among the foremost pictures of its genre, thanks to an unevenness of approach and a hard-to-follow plot involving several very similar-looking women.
Audio and Visuals
Both films are lurid in all the right ways; their frequent night scenes are never too difficult to see, nor are they so light as to spoil the mood; and there is an absence of notable film grain or damage. Bruno Nicolai’s excellent scores are done justice. The only flaw is that, between the menus, the films, and the special features, the volume is horrifically uneven, and will have viewers frequently adjusting their sound systems.
Both films feature reversible artwork, and are housed together in a rather wonderful box. The menus are pleasant if the viewer can ignore how terrifyingly loud they are.
Both films can be selected in either their Italian or English versions. Once that’s been taken care of, the disc for The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave offers an optional introduction by bit-player Erika Blanc, a useful audio commentary by giallo historian Troy Howarth, who sheepishly admits it’s his first stab at a commentary, not that you’d know it to listen to him; “Remembering Evelyn”, a brief appreciation by Arrow regular Stephen Thrower; “The Night Erika Came Out of the Grave”, a longer (though still short!) interview with Erika Blanc; Italian and English trailers; and, grouped together as archival materials, a different introduction by Erika Blanc, from 2006; “The Whip and the Body”, an archival Erika Blanc interview; and “Still Rising from the Grave”, an archival interview with production designer Lorenzo Baraldi. On the disc for The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, we get a brief introduction from Baraldi; a commentary by veterans Alan Jones and Kim Newman; “The Red Reign”, another Stephen Thrower appreciation; “Life of Lulu”, an interview with an (admirably aged!) Sybil Danning; an alternative, gimmicky opening sequence counting the dates as we get closer to the Red Queen’s return; Italian and English trailers; and, in the archive, “Dead à Porter”, an(other) interview with Lorenzo Baraldi; “Round Up the Usual Suspects!”, an interview with actor Marino Masé; “If I Met Emilio Miraglia Today…”, in which Masé, Blanc, and Baraldi discuss how they would react to meeting the disappeared director now; and “My Favourite…Films”, an extremely brief interview with actress Barbara Bouchet.
Neither picture is essential viewing, other than for giallo fans, for whom they would be essential viewing no matter what. Either way, Arrow has given both films a high-quality treatment that anyone can appreciate.
The Basket Case Trilogy arrives on our shelves today (14th March), will you be buying yourself a copy? Let us know in the comment box below!