Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Italy/West Germany/Spain/USA, 1973. Leone International. Screenplay by Mario Bava, Alfredo Leone. Cinematography by Cecilio Paniagua. Produced by Alfredo Leone. Music by Carlo Savina. Production Design by Nedo Azzini. Film Editing by Carlo Reali.
Elke Sommer is terrific as a tourist visiting Spain who is distracted from her walking tour after seeing a fresco depicting the devil carrying bodies to hell. Stepping into a small shop, she spies an intense looking man in a suit (Telly Savalas) who is purchasing something, then when she leaves the establishment is suddenly and completely lost: the streets are empty and she can’t find her way back to the main town square, spending hours wandering until a mysterious vintage automobile stops and gives her a ride. The couple riding inside (the wife played by the lovely Sylva Koscina) take her to a grand old mansion where a blind, stubborn matron (Alida Valli) lords over everyone with her suspicious gaze while her lovelorn son insists that Sommer has been there before. Savalas turns out to be the house butler, and Sommer notices that the creepy mannequin he is constantly carrying around turns into an actual person who terrifies her with his presence in her room. Odd and unconventional, this is no standard horror movie but a richly enjoyable melodrama with supernatural elements, a passion project for the great Mario Bava who was finally allowed to make it after the previous year’s Baron Blood was a financial success. Unable to secure distribution in North America thanks to exhibitors finding it too strange, this version of the film wasn’t released until 1983, after Bava’s death, while an altered cut with new scenes inspired by the recent success of The Exorcist came out in 1975 as House of Exorcism.