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Reviews

Lisa and the Devil

Lisa and the Devil

Lise e il Diavolo

Mario Bava

Italy, 1972

Credits

Review by Matt Bailey

Posted on 11 October 2004

Source Image Entertainment DVD

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After the success of Baron Blood, director Mario Bava was given carte blanche by producer Alfredo Leone to make next whatever film he desired. The result was Lisa and the Devil. An impressionistic fable full of necrophilia, symbolism, and family intrigue strung together with dream-like logic and suffused with a deep black humor, the film was a spectacular flop. Expecting another straightforward spook-fest, Leone instead got a strangely personal meditation on love and death. With no clue how to sell the picture, Leone chopped the film up, added new footage of star Elke Sommer vomiting frogs, and brought forth an astoundingly banal knock-off of The Exorcist called The House of Exorcism. This version was the only version seen for decades until the original cut of the film (under Bava’s chosen title, Lisa and the Devil) began circulating on bootleg video, finally emerging on a legitimate video release in the mid-1990s.

What was originally thought to be one of Bava’s worst films was suddenly seen to be one of his best. Bava’s visual trademarks, including the idiosyncratic shock zooms and jewel-colored lighting, are all there, but so is a profound melancholy and a great sense of frustration over the power of death over love. Elke Sommer, never one of our great acting talents, is actually used quite well as a woman who seems to have forgotten her identity but who can see quite clearly back through time. Telly Savalas, the devil of the title, makes a sardonic, raffish Beelzebub.

It might take a few viewings before the full beauty (not to mention the plot) makes itself clear, but Lisa and the Devil rewards those repeated viewings richly.

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