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A Movie A Day: Quint on LISA & THE DEVIL (1973)
I prefer ghosts to vampires, though. They’re so much more human.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Today is Mario Bava’s LISA & THE DEVIL, produced by Jose Gutierrez Maesso, who wrote yesterday’s TRAGIC CEREMONY. To further bridge the two films yesterday was about a Satanic Cult and this one is about the Devil. Kinda. A little bit. Maybe? Yeah, it is, I think. This is another weird one. So weird in fact, the DVD comes as a double feature with a flick called THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM, which is a recut version of this movie to capitalize on the success of THE EXORCIST. I knew this going in, but was pretty shocked as LISA & THE DEVIL unfolded because there is absolutely nothing involving possession in Bava’s film. What you have is Elke Sommer as a tourist (named Lisa, naturally) in Italy who is looking at an old fresco of “Satan taking the dead to hell,” and that Satan is bald with a distincitive mole and face structure. Yeah, the only thing the devil’s head didn’t have was a sucker in his mouth. Of course, she gets lost and finds herself in a creepy little antiques-y store where Telly Savalas is sucking on a lolly while admiring a custom made mannequin he’s about to take out.

Now, I didn’t really love this movie, but it gets so bizarre that I can’t help but respect it. For instance, Lisa runs into Savalas shortly after, while running around lost in the cobblestoned alleys of Italy and he’s carrying the mannequin, but it’s obviously not a mannequin anymore, but an actor playing the mannequin. But Bava only films the real actor at one or two angles during Sommer and Savalas’ conversation and the mannequin is there for the majority of it. That’s kind of fucking brilliant. Especially when Elke runs into the mannequin man a scene later, freaks out and inadvertently pushes him down a flight of steps, killing him. She’s still lost, mind you, so she wanders a bit and is picked up by a rich couple and their driver. Of course, the car breaks down at a castle and guess who opens the door… Mr. Savalas, but not as the Lord of the house. Nope, Satan is a butler, another nice move.

But the movie kind of falls into a weird experimental bit of insanity from this point out. There’s something off about the family living there. There’s an innocent looking young man, begging Elke to stay, his blind mother who seems to hate everybody and something that likes cake and lives behind a mirror. Of course people start dying and Sommers screams a lot as the camera shimmies. I can’t say I was particularly drawn into the plot of the family… it wasn’t all that interesting, to be perfectly honest, but Telly Savalas is what keeps you clued in. He’s insane and his performance swings for the fences. Gotta say, though, I really did dig the ending, which takes place on an airplane (yeah, I was surprised, too). I won’t spoil it, but I enjoyed moving the setting out of Example 47 of Scary European Castle and the final shot is one you see coming from a mile away, but damn if it isn’t fulfilling. Final Thoughts: I can’t complain… there’s some good gore, good atmosphere, Elke Sommers nudity and Telly Savalas just going hellbent for leather make for a fascinating watch even if the movie is uneven at best. I’m actually really curious to see how different the EXORCIST rip-off take on the material is. Melding ‘70s US studio exploitation with ‘70s EuroHorror style will either be a huge mess or cause a black hole of coolness that’ll destroy the world. Fun trivia fact: Savalas did Kojak this same year and this flick marks the first time he had his trademark suckers because he was attempting to quit smoking. Interesting, eh?

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Tuesday, September 9th: BARON BLOOD (1972) Wednesday, September 10th: A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964) Thursday, September 11th: THE PINK PANTHER (1963) Friday, September 12th: THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975) Saturday, September 13th: THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976) Sunday, September 14th: REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER (1978) Monday, September 15th: THE TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER (1982) Tomorrow we hit our last Bava movie for a bit, BARON BLOOD, which also marks a big moment for this column. See you tomorrow for more Elke and Mario! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony

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