Handsome playboy and man-about-town Lord Alan Cunningham (Antonio De Teffe) is also a part-time sex murderer and psychopath whose weekend sport consists of picking up young red haired euro-totty, stripping them naked in the torture dungeon he's set up in the vaults of his castle, and then throttling them to death! After getting away with the murder of several beautiful women, Cunningham decides it's time to hang up his whip and settle down again -- since his sex-crazed slayings are begining to be disrupted by morbid hallucinations of his red haired ex-wife Evelyn, who died in childbirth some years previously. Both his psychiatrist (Giacombo Rossi-Stuart) and his brother George (Roberto Maldera) think this would be a good idea, but they don't expect him to propose to the very next woman he comes across -- hours after meeting her at one of brother George's groovy, swinging parties! Alan sets up home with his new wife Gladys (Marina Malfatti) in a mansion in the grounds of his castle; which also houses his disabled wheelchair-bound aunt Agatha (Joan C. Davis) and Evylen's brother Albert (Rod Murdock) who is the only person who knows about Alan's previous murderous hobby and demands regular payments to keep quiet! At first, Alan's new life seems almost idyllic; but after his new wife starts to see a mysterious red-haired woman around the house, a series of murders occur...
This giallo has become a firm cult favourite over the years as US fans remember it from numerous late-night TV screenings. But its unavailability on DVD (except in cut and poor quality prints) has only enhanced its reputation. This latest release from Germany's X-Rated Kult DVD label restores the film to its full length, but is far from being the definitive edition.
Director Emilio Miraglia is not a top name in the euro-exploitation genre, and "Evelyn..." is hardly a first division giallo entry either. It is, however, rather successful at combining many of the more disreputable elements of Euro-cult cinema into one rather crazed and crazy hybrid movie that may not make a lick of sense but includes something for everyone somewhere within its sprawling, nonsensical plot. Set in England (according to the dialogue in the English dub at any rate) but very clearly shot in Italy, the opening sequences set off on a guided tour of the landscape of the classic Italian Gothic cinema of Freda and Bava; take a detour into the sadistic, sex-crazed psychedelic dungeons of prime Jess Franco "horrotica"; before settling in the violent, misogynistic terrain of the generic giallo.
The film begins with Lord Alan Cunningham (played stiffly by a wooden Antonio DeTeffe) bringing one of his women back to his baroque castle-home in the country, where the dilapidated interiors have been allowed to deteriorate until they've gained the look of a shadowy cobwebbed Gothic cavern. But Cunningham has decorated only one room in the vigorously gaudy 'modern' style of a late-sixties/early seventies bachelor pad, which is where the initial seduction of his female guests begin -- before relocating to a dingy basement murder room full of our hero's kinky, S&M fetish gear! The film's classic Gothic themes of madness born of repression are first identified with the genre's traditional setting, then brought bang-up-to-date with their expression in a modern form of exploitation cinema. The protracted torture/murder scene which follows (spiked with the protagonist's hallucinations) could have come out of any Jess Franco movie of this period. Cunningham even makes his victims strip naked and wear only a pair of fetishistic, thigh-high leather boots -- just like Franco muses, Soledad Miranda and Lina Romey, before chasing them round the room with a whip and, finally, strangling them to death! The Jess Franco ambience is further enhanced by Bruno Nicolai's score which utilises several cues from Franco's excellent "Eugine: The Story Of Her Journey Into Perversion". Having already gone way further than most films of its type, director and co-writer Miraglia then repeats the whole scenario again, this time with euro-starlet Erica Blanc (who is first seen performing a bizarre, necrophilia themed erotic dance: another Franco influenced motif) as its beautiful victim!
Only in the Italian thriller could we be asked to sympathise with a remorseless sex killer! Many films have told their stories from a killer's point of view: from "Psycho" to "Peeping Tom" and on to Mario Bava's "Hatchet For A Honeymoon "; but like those films, most either take a detached view of their subject or else a scathingly satirical one. "Evelyn..." appears to have been made without the slightest inkling that a depraved sex murderer might be considered an odd choice for a sympathetic hero! After Cunningham gets married, the story suddenly becomes a familiar giallo mystery thriller: an inheritance is at stake; suspicious characters prowl around behaving -- well ... suspiciously; some of Cunningham's relatives are done away with (one is fed to a cage-full of foxes!) and the whole thing ends with a series of curiously predictable "Les Diaboliques-style" twists.
If we're meant to suspect Cunningham might be behind the murders because of his actions in the first part of the movie, then there is precious little attempt to make this red-herring very convincing, and the film's rather rushed conclusion seems to completely forget that he's hardly someone we can feel much empathy with -- even if some of the previously likeable characters also turn out to be malicious plotters and murderers! The direction and photography are rather flat throughout this portion of the film and it loses all of the transgressive flair of its sexploitation opening act; instead, it simply trots through the motions, giving us a series of unimaginative killings and generating very little tension or suspense as to the eventual outcome of it all. Things are not helped by an un-involving performance from lead actor Antonio De Teffe and the usual bad dubbing and clunky translation of the script.
German label X-Rated Kult DVD continue to release rare, sometimes previously unavailable, cult classics on DVD and this release offers a marked improvement over previous poor quality versions of this particular film. There are big problems with it if you are a non-German speaker though: although an English dub audio track has been included, it is poor quality and rather hissy in comparison to the German audio track and, although the film itself is uncut, the English audio appears to have been taken from a source that is not -- there are numerous instances where the soundtrack seems to have been looped with ambient noise to cover missing lines of dialogue and near the end, a whole scene is without sound ... the film's theme music plays over it instead! The non-anamorphic visual presentation is mostly fair, although a few of the previously cut scenes may have been taken from an inferior VHS source. The film is presented in the incorrect aspect ratio of 1.85:1 instead of 2.35:1 and this is often very noticeable with some of the action wandering out of the frame. Extras are limited to a series of trailers for other titles in X-Rated Kult DVD's Giallo Collection and an alternative English title sequence. The disc is packaged in one of the company's unique DVD cases which looks more like a hardback book and there is a choice of several alternative covers.
This is not a bad giallo but certainly not a first rate one either. The film's many fans do at least get a watchable, uncut version with this release to replace the blurry, full-screen bootlegs of previous editions though.