One of the more interesting experiments by Italian filmmakers in the seventies was to try and fuse the giallo genre with the then popular trend for supernatural films. The fact that virtually every effort was spectacularly unsuccessful is largely irrelevant, because what the bulk of these films lacked in common sense/decent production values they made up for it with top flight entertainment value(The Killer reserved nine seats is a major case in point).
These hybrid films usually took one of three basic plot twists.
1. The supernatural element was just part of the devious bad guys plan to get his hands on the loot/woman/inheritance, and he was usually unmasked near the end a'la Scooby Doo by our intrepid hero/heroine. Examples of this are Emilio Miraglia’s The Lady in Red Kills Seven Times and The Night Evelyn Came out of the Grave.
2. The supernatural element is all in the main protagonist’s mind, and the hero who we have been rooting for in the previous ninety minutes or so is, in fact, as mad as a box of frogs.
3. The supernatural element is actually real. This usually means that the crack Italian special effects team has a ball making various items float around in front of the bemused cast. Because the effects budget is never quite as high as the one for Poltergeist, the resourceful effects technician usually achieves the floating effect by tying clearly visible string to the offending item and using a fishing rod to manipulate it around the set.....
“But what about the film you rambling fool?” I hear you scream.
Peter Craney (Jorge Rivero) is a man of "independent means". I think this means that he has inherited a shedful of cash, doesn’t have to work, and spends all his time getting pissed and shagging loads of fit Euro-totty. He does all of this while wearing an absolutely horrendous array of polyester suits (the brown one is a particularly garish example of hideous seventies fashion crimes against humanity). This lack of taste doesn’t seem to stop an array of beautiful women flocking around Peter (although the fact that they have all got blouses with collars that you could land a small plane on, two bottles of Rimmel on each eye and horrendous tight "bubble" perms probably stops them pointing the finger at Peters fashion lapses).
Peter is not a happy man, however. Every night he suffers extremely realistic dreams where members of a black magic cult exhort him to murder various family members and friends.
To get away from all this doom and gloom Peter does what any self-respecting playboy would do-he visits a fashion show!
Here he meets a young woman, Yvonne, who tells him that she has been having similar dreams which end up with Peter murdering her. So obviously she decides that the best course of action would be a weekend away with Peter. The next morning Peter wakes up to find Yvonne is indeed dead. This unnerves him so much that he decides to see a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of these creepy premonitions. He doesn’t really get much further in working out what’s going on, but fortunately he manages to take his mind off things by tapping off with the doctor’s secretary Turino, conveniently forgetting about his long term girlfriend Targa, who is played by Daniela Giordano. Giordano is so gorgeous that in my book the fact the he is playing away is already cast iron proof that Peter is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
Enter Inspector Ranieri (played by the marvelous and sadly recently deceased Anthony Steffen) who is becoming more than a bit suspicious that Peters friends are exhibiting a life expectancy similar to that of a resident of a Palestinian border town.
More deaths occur, and the Inspector slowly realises that there is more going on here than meets the eye.
Evil Eye is by no means a classic example of the genre. It works best during its many dream sequences-the ubiquitous fish eyed lens coming to the fore as per usual. The opening black magic/orgy scene is the most impressive sequence in the entire film, and it never really reaches these heights again. Saying that, the rest of the film is not without merit; the cast are easy on the eye, the plot is vague enough to keep you intrigued right to the end, and the effects are risible enough to have you laughing out loud at various points of the proceedings.
Anthony Steffen is as good as always(he is often labeled wooden but apart from a couple of his phoned-in performances in some of his more low budget efforts I’ve always found him to be a reliable and affecting actor).
Stelvio Cipriani does his usual sterling job with a bright and breezy score, the direction is solid and the attractive cast does their best with the rather underwritten roles they have been asked to play.
The release on review is the German release on the X-Rated label. It was limited to 1000 copies and came with a bonus disc full of trailers. The disc, unfortunately, is not without fault. While I’m no Video Watchdog type of ratio expert, the framing of the film looks incorrect to my untrained eye, so I suspect the purists will be up in arms about this basic error. Also, X-rated have pulled a stunt that I’ve complained about before; they have dug out a German soundtrack for the film, but not bothered to leave the original Italian soundtrack on the disc.
In conclusion, while no means an essential purchase I can recommend Evil Eye to anyone who has seen the bulk of the "essential" giallos and is now tracking down some of the lesser known examples of the genre.