PURE TERROR MONTH: The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

“The worms are waiting are waiting for you, Gladys!”

If I had a nickel every time a fellow film lover told me they hate Italian Gialli and that the films make no sense. . . . It certainly doesn’t help when a skull-faced woman in a curly-red wig and flowing nighty sashays around a crumbly castle. I guess you have to be a video store dork raised on UHF television suffering from a case of the nostalgia-blues to understand the attraction of a skull-faced woman in a curly-red wig and flowing nighty sashaying around a crumbly castle.

Today, with the advent of DVDs released through boutique imprints, horror connoisseurs can watch these Neapolitan thriller-horrors in their pristine state, free of the heartless butchering imposed by American distributors for their ‘70s Drive-In and UHF television and ‘80s VHS distribution. It was those distributors—according to Roberto Curti’s comprehensive Giallipedia, Italian Gothic Horror Films 1970-1979 (2017)—who additionally cheapened the beauty of Evelyn with William Castle-styled camp-servings of “bloodcorn,” actually dyed-red popcorn. I guess dumping red food coloring onto popcorn was cheaper than printing up bogus “insurance policies” (a stunt pulled on Night of Bloody Horror, also available on the Mill Creek Pure Terror 50 Box Set) or “vomit bags.”

Evelyn circulates under a variety of titles on public-domain, bargain DVD box sets (and its early ‘80s VHS reboots), such as The Night She Rose from the Tomb, The Night Evelyn Left the Tomb, Evelyn Raises the Dead, Evelyn’s Back from the Dead, and the really crummy title of Sweet to Be Kissed, Hard to Die. Don’t be fooled: When you come across any of those titles, know you’re seeing a heavily-edited cut—not that the American cuts under the film’s original title are any better. Thankfully, Sinema Diable, Sinister Cinema, and Arrow Video each offer restored, uncut letterbox editions of the film in its full 99-minute format. However, if you’re not a hardcore Giallo fan and can’t afford to purchase boutique DVDs, the version provided on the Mill Creek Pure Terror 50 Box Set is a great introduction to the golden era of Italian horror cinema.

This twisty whodunit-hybrid mixed with British Hammer-Amicus gothic overtones is directed by Emilio P. Miraglia (of the Giallo The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) and tells the tale of a psychologically-troubled British aristocrat recently released from an asylum who’s haunted (read: obsessed) by the death of his “cheating” first wife, the red-headed Evelyn. To assuage the “haunting,” he seduces red-heads in the local taverns that he subsequently tortures and kills in his kinky dungeon. Then he meets and marries Gladys (Marina Malfatti of the Giallo All the Colors of the Dark), which triggers a series of Twitch of the Death Nerve-styled deaths at Lord Cunningham’s crumbly, remote estate. Or is this more Henry James-inspired “turning of the screws” afoot amid the greedy cast of characters?

Arrow’s art department for the win!

One of the Lord’s “conquests” is Erika Blanc of The Devil’s Nightmare, Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby, Kill, and the German Hammer Studios-inspired romp, Witches Tortured Till They Die, aka Mark of the Devil II, and a slew of Italian spaghetti westerns with the words “Django” and “Fistful” in the title.

There are two trailers available: The Italian version, while nicely cut and more “stylish,” it looks like it’s promoting an episode of TV’s Columbo—with an occasional splash of a full-frontal and a web-strewn crypt. The American trailer cheeses it up a bit, but at least shows Evelyn isn’t a G-rated American detective romp, but the Giallo-gothic screw turner we know and love.

Ugh! We lost the Italian one. Argh! At the risk of another black box of death: we’ll link instead of embed the American one. We also reviewed this, previously, due to it’s Arrow reissue. Of course, you can get a copy — plus 49 more films — on Mill Creek’s “Pure Terror” box set, which we reviewed, in full.

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his rock ‘n’ roll biographies, along with horror and sci-fi novellas, on Facebook.

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