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Old 04-17-2006, 08:09 PM
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Default Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set, The



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: April 17, 2006

Released by: NoShame
Release date: 4/25/2006
MSRP: $34.95
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline ImageFreddy. Jason. Pinhead. Chucky...Evelyn? Over the years there have been iconic horror villains, but few as interesting and obscure as Evelyn. Featured in both The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and The Red Queen Kills 7 Times, Evelyn is an interesting little giallo vixen. She doesn’t have any one-liners or distinguishing weapons or kill tactics – even her methods of dress, with a cape in one film and a dress in the other, lacks uniformity. The only thing that really distinguishes her as unique is her sex. She is not your strong seductress like most horror villainesses are (think Catherine Trammel or someone from early Argento). Instead, she’s entirely feminine, embracing her beauty and care for feelings over her ability to brandish a machete. It is that quality that gives the films their charm.

inline ImageBoth were directed by Emilio Miraglia, who made his life as an A.D. only to end it off with these two films in the early seventies. Red Queen was the last film he ever worked on in any capacity, ending his career young at 48. Curious, since the life of a filmmaker is often much longer, and Italy was in the midst of a huge industry boom throughout the seventies. There is a mystery to his career, and a further one to his films, since they are so few and so little known. With the vaults of the unreleased giallo increasingly sparse in light of the efforts by Blue Underground, Shriek Show, Anchor Bay and now NoShame, we are getting a welcomed influx of giallo off the beaten path. A few months ago NoShame released the interesting Luciano Ercoli giallo double feature, and they are back again with this Emilio Miraglia box set. Add in more extras and one of the coolest looking action figures ever, and this has the makings for one of the best releases of the year. Is this Killer Queen box set as killer as it sounds?


The Story

inline ImageIn a beautifully mounted opening montage, we see Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) deliriously running through the woods in his hospital gown. He has escaped from the Richard Timberlane psychiatric hospital, and this is the start of his deranged journey. In addition to being one of the craziest men in Italy, Alan Cunningham is also one of the richest. He lives in a beautiful gothic mansion, and through his money and good looks is able to seduce practically any woman he wants. The girls he chooses though, all bear the same resemblance: long locks of red. His late wife, Evelyn, was a red head, and he’s been trying to fill the void ever since. She remains entombed in his back yard, but as the title suggests, in her tomb she does not stay.

inline ImageEvelyn’s painting hangs in Alan’s mansion, and often possess him whenever he brings a lady home. He is drawn to sadistic whipping games, all done seemingly for his lost wife. When he finally decides to move on with a new wife, the gold digger Gladys (Marina Malfatti), things seem to be progressing nicely. Quickly though, Alan’s sanity begins to again deteriorate – but he’s not the only one. Evelyn’s tomb is empty, and more and more people are turning up dead on the Cunningham estate. Has Evelyn really come out of the grave, or are there more devious secrets yet to be revealed?

inline ImageBuoyed by an exotic and wanting soundtrack by Morricone collaborator, Bruno Nicolai, The Night Evelyn Came out of the Grave is a surprisingly sensual entry into the giallo canon. When Alan replays his wife’s debauchery over and again in his mind, it unfolds with a beauty not dissimilar from the iconic tree-side lovemaking scenes in The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh. Both scenes are shot in a soft focus slow motion and scored to perfection, they both highlight the indistinct line between sex and violence. Where Wardh was more about torture, Evelyn is more about love. In essence, Emilio Miraglia’s film is a love story about a man who mourns the loss of his wife transposed into the giallo school of presentation.

inline ImageThe first half of the film is such a seductive treat on the senses – filled with beautiful music, beautiful montages and beautiful women, it makes being insane a fate as lucrative as a winning lottery ticket. Although there are plenty of grisly murders – including the disembowelment of a corpse by a pen of ravenous foxes, the movie is always more gorgeous than it is grimy. As the film trudges on though, it gets increasingly bogged down by complex giallo plotting and an unsatisfying bait and switch finale. For a movie that starts off so sensual, it comes as a great disappointment when becomes just like every other giallo for its final act.

inline ImageStill, what remains to distinguish and recommend the film is its uniquely delicate touch. Miragli’s filmmaking style is as soft and tender as his female antagonist. It celebrates beauty when most gialli just throw it in there as a backdrop. The ending may be plagued by too much talk talk, but the film is nonetheless a product of a unique directorial vision – one that would be even better realized with Miragli’s next film.



inline ImageThe Red Queen Kills 7 Times begins like some beautiful little fairy tale, where two little girls play within the walls of a beautiful castle. They get in an argument, and their grandfather comes to break it up. The youngest of the two, Evelyn, becomes infatuated by a vintage painting in which a black queen is seen stabbing a red queen. Her other sister, Kitty, is taken aback by the painting as well. Their grandfather explains to them that the painting is subject of a family curse that dates back to the gothic ages, where seven victims were sacrificed because of a rivalry between two sisters (the queens). The curse has since repeated itself every 100 years, but the girls have nothing to worry about. One hundred years is still 14 years away.

inline ImageJump forward 14 years and their grandfather finally kicks the bucket, but Evelyn is nowhere to be found. When it comes time to reap the inheritance, it is between Kitty (Barbara Boucher), her sister Franziska (Marina Malfatti, again) and Evelyn’s abandoned husband. Complications in the will mean everyone must wait before finding out their inheritance, during which time several of the inheritors find their lives endangered. Prowling the streets is a woman with a red cape, a white mask and jet black hair. She bares a physical resemblance to Evelyn, but that can’t be, since Kitty knows a few things about Evelyn’s disappearance that nobody else does. It is a mystery to find out who is behind the cape, but as those familiar with the gialli know, it’s the last person you’d suspect.

inline ImageMiraglia’s sophomore effort, The Red Queen Kills 7 Times, is superior to Evelyn in every respect. The death scenes are far more brutal and far more frequent, with the standout being a woman impaling her neck on a metal fence bar. For every bit more gore though, there is even more beauty. Bruno Nicolai’s score is possibly his best, transforming even the most rudimentary walking scene or location transition into a piece of galloping rhythm. The biggest improvement is in the story department, which is laced with twists and macabre turns at every juncture. Where Evelyn got stalls in the second half with drawn out plotting, Red Queen accelerates as the twisty script really starts to reap the rewards of its intricate plotting. The whole story of rivaling sisters is one beautifully evoked with the childhood prologue, and it pays off right to the end.

inline ImageWhat set Evelyn apart was its tender feminine slant, but Red Queen takes it a step further. Like the recently released The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, this is a film entirely grounded within its two female protagonists. Evelyn, although about the titular character, often revolved around the Alan Cunningham character. Red Queen though, sticks with the rivalry between sisters, and its devotion to more melodramatic subject matter over scares makes it the giallo equivalent to a soap opera. The gore will please horror fans, but the womanly thematics is what make the film unique from every other giallo ever made. That, and the red queen is just an incomparably cool villainess.

inline ImageOutside of these two little gialli, Emilio Miraglia directed little else. Considering he was only just a beginner, he did great things with a similarly inexperienced crew. Although Luciano Ercoli has had a slightly longer career, he too has been a director that time has overlooked. NoShame made possible a new critical dissection of his giallo works, and they’ve now done it again with Emilio Mirgalia. While neither Ercoli’s nor Mirgalia’s works will be remembered as the genre’s best, they all have their own unique qualities and more than hold their own in the genre. Mirgalia’s films are unblinkingly feminine from the protagonist to the killer, and the delicate music and photography bring it out in a way rarely done in horror before.


Image Quality

Both films are presented in cleaned up 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen prints, and they both look quite good. Colors are strong and vibrant, which is essential considering the amount of sensual outdoor photography featured throughout.. The image is relatively sharp and for the most part grain levels are kept low. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave does have some bits on the final reel that show considerable grain, but for the most part the images are clean. Another problem with Evelyn is an overly dark picture, most distracting at the opening as it becomes tough to discern what is going on. The major problem with The Red Queen Kills 7 Times is a slight bit of edge enhancement that shows up particularly during the very-sixties primary colored backgrounds. The enhacement is kept to a minimum, but is still evident at times throughout. There are some scratches and lines that show up for seconds at a time during both films.

On the whole, both films look very good, but compared to previous NoShame films they are a slight step down in quality. This though, is to be expected, considering the extreme obscurity of both. A good job on the whole by the fellas without shame.

Sound

Like with the video, NoShame has done a considerable amount with the audio here, although there are still some problems. NoShame continues to impress with their inclusion of both English and Italian soundtracks, included on both films. Like with their previous releases though, there are discrepancies between both versions, and the Italian tracks come off this time as the cleaner of the two for both films. There are a few really bad audio blips on the English track on The Red Queen Kills 7 Times (1:34:25 & 1:37:05) that thankfully are absent on the Italian track. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has some comparable improvements on its Italian track compared to the English one as well. Both tracks though, do have moments of hiss and audio distortion. The hiss is noticeable most during the musical portions of both films, particularly Nicolai’s opening song for Evelyn.

Complaints aside, gialli are traditionally mono-only affairs (save for the fabulous 5.1 mix on The Bird With the Crystal Plumage) and NoShame has at least done the right thing in including language options for both films. They could sound better, but both are clear and always discernable, and for something this obscure that will do the job just fine.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageFirst, before we delve into disc extras, a note on the packaging. The entire set is housed in a strong paper box, with a clear front displaying an 8” replica of the red queen. Although it certainly isn’t McFarlane, it is nonetheless a great little figure, and one hopes this won’t be NoShame’s last. Horror fans, your collection will become instantly cooler with this box atop it. The DVD case itself is located in a tough to access back portion of the box, where two DVDs are housed in a single amaray case. The artwork on the case itself, with art for Evelyn on the front and Red Queen on the back, is pretty murky and disappointing. Two included post cards with official theatrical artwork are much better, as is NoShame’s standard booklet with essays and bios.

inline ImageOn the actual supplement side, let’s look at The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave first. The less dense of the two discs, this one features a couple of interviews, trailers, a still gallery and an introduction. The introduction is by Erica Blanc, and in less than a minute she warns that the film is scary and that she looks much more beautiful then than now. A little weird, but her 20-minute interview, “The Whip and the Body” is even more bizarre. The entire featurette takes place in a powder room where she affixes her makeup. She puts such a generous caking of makeup on her face that she actually starts to resemble, unintentionally, the red queen herself. She then talks about how Tarantino made the giallo popular again, although she holds spite because he brought Barbara Bouchet to the Venice Film Festival and not her, despite her self-proclaimed influence on the genre. She then talks about her stance on nudity and how she was gradually influenced to do it. Blanc concludes saying how the industry is without professionals anymore, and how she’d much rather work in theater. She makes sure to say, though, that her last film was a masterpiece.

Blanc’s interview is a vanity piece to be sure, where if she isn’t stroking her ego she is stomping on others. The whole thing is made worse by NoShame’s characteristic non-editing, where interview clips go on too long and too long uninterrupted, all without any visual aids to help crystallize the things spoken about. Blanc talks about the boots she wears in the film now becoming collector’s items, yet the editor never cuts to a shot of said boots from the film. It is this lack of B-roll and clip trimming that often makes NoShame’s supplements much less than they could have been, and here it is no exception.

inline ImageBetter is the interview with production designer Lorenzo Baraldi. He is a much more humbled and enlightened speaker, and offers a detailed retelling of his career and how he made it in the business. For aspiring filmmakers it is a nice little ode to the movies, where he talks about the film climate of the time he was first getting into films, and how the giallo factors into everything. He then speaks in-depth (maybe a little too in-depth) about the production and costume design in Evelyn, but for those interested this is an invaluable little interview. Still, it suffers from pedestrian editing. Please, NoShame, get somebody who understands at the very least the rudimentary aspects of documentary editing.

The disc is rounded off by a short little still gallery and a couple of groovy trailers. Coming from the psychedelic school of trailer cutting, the editors have a field day with the tinting and visual effects. Like the trailers for some of Sergio Martino, this is another that is uncompromisingly violent and sensual all at once.

The Red Queen Kills 7 Times has a few more extras, although it is more or less the same as the previous disc. The introduction is this time by Lorenzo Baraldi, and he’s much better than Blanc, talking about how everyone worked so hard on the picture, and how they never once thought of whether the film was an A-movie or a B-movie. It runs less than a minute before the film starts.

inline ImageThe first major extra is another featurette with Baraldi, which begins slowly as he discusses the fashion designer he worked with for Red Queen. He branches off into other aspects of the film, like discussing DOP Alberto Spagoli, who went on to shoot Daisy Miller, and how he began with working for Michelangelo Antonioni. He tells some personal anecdotes about the film too, like the rats scene and Emilio Miraglia’s dedication to realism. He’s a good speaker, and even if the editing is clunky and loose at 14 minutes, Baraldi still makes for a good subject.

A little longer at 18 minutes is an interview with Marino Mase, who is just burgeoning with tidbits on whatever topic he chooses to discuss. He talks about working with Miraglia for the first time before Red Queen¸ and how he directed his actors. He then talks about everything from Argento to ideological censorship in Italy. Fascinating stuff.

inline ImageThere’s a quick little tribute to Miraglia as well, with Marino Mase, Erica Blanc and Lorenzo Baraldi all commenting on what they’d say to Miraglia should they run into him on the street. Mase is overly congratulatory, saying that Red Queen is now a classic of contemporary cinema, and Blanc of course takes time to congratulate her performance over the film itself. It is Baraldi, who got his start with Miraglia, who offers the kindest words, and his little one minute tribute is heartfelt. The whole thing runs four minutes, three if you cut off NoShame’s traditionally robust credit sequences on each supplemental feature.

“My Favourite…Films” not only contains an inexplicable ellipsis, but the title itself is a complete misnomer. The interviewed Barbara Bach does not talk about her favorite films, but instead, in what seems to be an incomplete sentence, says she likes “this” film by Lucio Fulci (we never find out which) and then she says that Red Queen and Black Belly of the Tarantula are cult films in America. The supplement runs a minute and is definitely one…of the most out of place…supplements…I’ve ever come…across.

inline ImageRed Queen is rounded off by a fuzzy, short little gallery, a terrible little prologue that was used in the US releases of the film, and a cool little 2-minute extra following around Barbara Bouchet and Quentin Tarantino at a recent film conference. The egg is without audio, instead to the tune of Nicolai’s catchy music, but still a nice little look into Tarantino’s life with his guard down and his film geek face on.

While none of the supplements are a complete knockout, this is a well rounded set with a fair bit of worthwhile information. While it would have been nice to have had a critical commentary like on Bird With the Crystal Plumage or even better a soundtrack CD like in The Luciano Ercoli Death Box Set, this is still a fascinating little package. Kudos to the folks at NoShame for treating these lost films with respect.



Final Thoughts

Emilio Miraglia’s Killer Queen films are a rare, sensual, exotic type of giallo, centered around women and shot with luscious location extravagance. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave may have several story issues, but The Red Queen Kills 7 Times is high quality giallo all the way. The video transfers on both films are good, although they do suffer from age. The sound is similarly marred by age and obscurity, but the included English and Italian tracks for both films should keep all parties happy. The supplements are a diverse batch of good, bad and weird, and should please those looking for some more information about the films. If this were an empty box I’d probably still recommend it, given the sheer awesomeness of the killer queen action figure. There is much to enjoy in the two films though, so once again this is another NoShame effort that giallo fans will be lacking without.

Rating

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave[/b]
Movie - B-
Image Quality - B
Sound - B+

The Red Queen Kills 7 Times[/b]
Movie - B+
Image Quality - B
Sound - B-

Supplements - B+


Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 47 minutes (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave), 1 hour 38 minutes (The Red Queen Kills 7 Times)
  • Not Rated
  • 2 Discs
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Mono
  • Italian Mono

Supplements
  • Introductions by Erica Blanc and Lorenzo Baraldi
  • Interviews with Lorenzo Baraldi, Erica Blanc, Barbara Bouchet and Marino Mase
  • Alternate opening for The Red Queen Kills 7 Times
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Poster & still galleries
  • Collectible Booklet
  • 2 post cards

Other Pictures

 

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