ARROW BOX SET RELEASE: Giallo Essentials: White Edition

Arrow Video continues its exploration of giallo with its fourth box set after the Black, Red and Yellow editions of Giallo Essentials.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971): Emilio Paolo Miraglia created two giallo — this film and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. This one goes more into the horror realm than the typical themes of the genre.

Lord Alan Cunningham starts this movie off by running away from an insane asylum, a place he’s been since the death of his redheaded wife, Evelyn, who he caught having sex with another man. To deal with his grief, Alan does what any of us would do — pick up redhead prostitutes and strippers, tie them up, then kill them.

A seance freaks Alan out so badly he passes out, so his cousin — and only living heir — Farley moves in to take care of him, which basically means going to strip clubs and playing with foxes. Alan nearly kills another stripper before Farley gives him some advice — to get over Evelyn, he should marry someone that looks just like her. Alan selects Gladys (Marina Malfatti, All the Colors of the Dark) as his new wife and comes back home.

Sure, you meet someone one night and marry them the next. But nothing could compare Gladys for the weirdness of living in an ancient mansion, along with a staff of identical waitresses, Evelyn’s brother and Alan’s wheelchair-bound aunt. Our heroine is convinced that Evelyn is not dead. And the other family members get killed off — Albert with a snake and Agatha is eaten by foxes!

Gladys even looks at the body in the tomb before Alan catches her and slaps the shit out of her, as he is going crazier and crazier. Finally, Evelyn rises from her grave, which sends him back to a mental institution.

The big reveal? Gladys and Farley were in on it all along. But wait, there’s more! Susan, the stripper who survived Alan’s attack, was the one who was really Evelyn and Gladys has been poisoned! Before she dies, the lady who we thought was our heroine wipes out the stripper and Farley gets away with the perfect crime.

But wait! There’s more! Alan had faked his breakdown and did it all so that he could learn that it was Farley who was making love to his wife and killed her when she refused to run away with him. A fight breaks out and Farley gets burned by acid. He’s arrested and Alan — who up until now was pretty much the villain of this movie — gets away with all of his crimes!

This is a decent thriller, but it really feels padded in parts and tends to crawl. That said, it has some great music, incredibly decorated sets and some twists. Not my favorite giallo, but well worth a Saturday afternoon watch. There are some moments of sheer beauty here, such as the rainstorm where Alan sees Evelyn’s ghost rise.

The Arrow Video blu ray release of this movie has commentary by Troy Howarth, an exclusive introduction by Erika Blanc, an interview with critic Stephen Thrower, two interviews with Blanc and one with production designer Lorenzo Baraldi and a trailer.

The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire (1971): Other than The Ghost, I hadn’t seen many Riccardo Freda films before, only really knowing him from not finishing both I Vampiri and Caltiki – The Immortal Monster, films which Mario Bava took to completion. After The Bird with the Crystal Plumage made giallo into a box office success, Freda decided to try his hand at the form.

While the film’s credits say that this is based on the book A Room Without a Door by Richard Mann, that was probably an invention of the filmmakers. Freda ended up being unhappy with the movie, wanting Roger Moore for the lead.

The first thing you may notice about this film is that it’s made in Ireland, so the typical giallo set pieces aren’t there. There’s one gorgeous shot of the hills and rocks high above the water later in the movie that is completely breathtaking. And the accents in the film mark this as nowhere near Italy.

Starting with the first murder, where a girl has acid thrown in her face and her throat slashed, the film sets the tone that this is a lurid, scummy affair. But unlike most giallo, the murders appear at odds with the story. They just happen — there’s rarely any lead or tension to them and we often only see the final results, unlike the movies of Argento that wallow in both the set-up and execution of the murders, often at the expense of the story itself.

Once the corpse is found inside a limo — one that belongs to Swiss Ambassador Sobiesky — that suspect claims diplomatic immunity. So the police pull an end around, bringing in tough ex-cop John Norton (Luigi Pistilli, A Bay of BloodEnter the Devil, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) to get close to the family and discover the real killer.

He gets close in the biblical sense with the ambassador’s daughter Helen (Dagmar Lassander, The House by the CemeteryHatchet for the Honeymoon)and caught up in the blackmail and sheer lunacy of the entire clan. Valentina Cortese (The Girl Who Knew Too MuchThe Possessed) really stands out as the mother, who is always smoking long cigarettes and showing up way overdressed for any situation.

This is the kind of movie where every single individual — even the grandmother and daughter — can be the killer. It also has a completely pointless scene where the family cat is decapitated and left in the icebox. There’s no real hero here, just a lot of bad people and people who are worse than them. By the end of the film, you’ll have an entire living room filled with red herrings, trust me.

Arrow Video has released the ultimate version of this film, using a new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative, along with the original English and Italian soundtracks, titles and credits (with newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack).

There’s also audio commentary by giallo connoisseurs Adrian J. Smith and David Flint; Of Chameleons and Iguanas, a newly filmed video appreciation by the cultural critic and academic Richard Dyer; Considering Cipriani, a new appreciation of the composer Stelvio Cipriani and this film’s score by DJ and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon; The Cutting Game, a new interview with Iguana’s assistant editor Bruno Micheli; The Red Queen of Hearts, which is an essential and thorough interview with actress Dagmar Lassander; the original Italian and international theatrical trailers; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys and a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Andreas Ehrenreich.

The Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975): A few minutes into this movie and you realize that you’re watching the work of a master. Sergio Martino made a series of six giallo from 1971 to 1975 that — for me — define the genre. The Strange Vice of Mrs. WardhThe Case of the Scorpion’s TailYour Vice Is A Locked Room and Only I Have the KeyAll the Colors of the DarkTorso and this film point to a high watermark for the genre.

This is the last of Martino’s giallo and doesn’t feature his usual cast, like Edwige Fenech or Ivan Rassimov. It does, however, have Claudio Cassinelli, who was in Murder Rock and What Have They Done to Your Daughters?

Cassinelli plays police detective Paolo Germi, who meets a girl named Marisa (Patrizia Castaldi, in her only acting role before becoming a costume designer) who is soon murdered. She was a prostitute and now, Germi is haunted by her death and wants to find the killers. Unfortunately, Marisa was in way over her head and getting the answers won’t be simple. After all, there’s a man with mirrored shades killing everyone that gets close to the truth.

This film is a combination of poliziotteschi and giallo, shot under the title Violent Milan. It was written by Ernesto Gastaldi, who wrote everything from Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory and The Horrible Dr. Hichcock to The Whip and the BodyThe Long Hair of DeathThe PossessedLight the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming, All the Colors of the DarkTorsoAlmost HumanConcorde Affaire ’79 and Once Upon a Time In America.

There’s even a meta moment where the cops question a subject in the movie theater while Martino’s Your Vice Is A Locked Room and Only I Have the Key plays. And look out — Mel Ferrer (Nightmare CityEaten Alive!) is in here as a police captain.

While this film doesn’t reach the lunatic heights of Martino’s finest works, it’s still a gleaming example of how great 1970’s Italian genre film can be.

The Arrow Video release of this film also has extras like audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films; an interview with Martino and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon.

This limited edition Arrow Video box set comes in rigid packaging with the original poster artwork in a windowed Giallo Essentials Collection slipcover. You’ll enjoy 2K restorations from the original camera negative for all three films as well as reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx, Graham Humphreys and Chris Malbon.

You can get this from MVD.

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