In his career, director Emilio P. Miraglia only made a handful of films. But before turning his hand to filmmalking he worked behind-the-scenes on scores of Italian B Movies and genre films. The work he’s now most famous for—and the two films included in this ‘Killer Dames’ release from Arrow Video—are 1971’s The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and 1972’s The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. Miraglia is not one of the names you instantly associate with giallo, but fans will be pleased to see Arrow Video release this double-bill as the label continues its mission to shed light on the genre’s peripheral titles.
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave
This is a film that entirely relies on the twists and turns of its plot. It’s a shame then that these twists and turns are both predictable and never-ending, as they pile up at the back end of the film. It unfolds like 80-minutes of rather dull setup for the final 20-minutes or so, at the end, when all the twists are let loose. There’s a redundant secondary plot, lots of nudity, man-eating foxes, and no real visual style. Overall, it’s a hard film to make a case for. It’s certainly one of the least interesting films from the giallo genre that I’ve yet to encounter. The logic and plotting of the narrative are all over the place, but this wouldn’t be an issue for a giallo film if it had other things going for it. Unfortunately, it simply doesn’t.
The film starts with a man escaping from a mental hospital and running through the British countryside (filmed in Italy). He’s a young English aristocrat, Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen), and he has a thing for murdering redheads. There are a host of other English elites who may or may not be interested in his money, and there’s a pervert who stalks the grounds. It turns out that he’s Evelyn’s brother. Evelyn supposedly died in childbirth and triggered Lord Alan’s loss of sanity. But the repeated slow-motion images of red-haired Evelyn running through the garden towards another man suggest a jealousy-fuelled murder. Eventually, the love of a woman (Marina Malfatti), to whom he proposes within hours of meeting, leads him on a path of reform before the past comes back to haunt him.
The production design and the cinematography are very good, considering the small budget and quick shooting schedule that would’ve been in place, but the visual style you come to expect from giallo films is almost entirely absent in The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. An early high angle flourish aside, the film is shot efficiently but blandly compared to the genre’s best films. There’s enough blood and naked women to satisfy casual viewers, but if you’re looking for much more than that, you won’t find it here.
The Red Queen Kills Seven
Both the mystery and the plotting are handled more adeptly in The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. It’s by no means a giallo classic, and the heaviness of the dialogue scenes can sometimes cause the film to drag, but there’s more to like here than in the previous offering. Details unfold at a steadier rate once the initial premise has been set up in a rather heavy-handed opening scene. The murders committed by the Red Queen are much more imaginative and menacing than anything that was mustered in The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, too. It manages to nicely contrast the modern 1970s locations with the family’s gothic castle, proving yet again that the attention paid to production design and location choices can’t be faulted.
Three sisters are caught up in a spree of murders. One of them might be dead, one of them could be the murderer and, meanwhile, there are also inheritances to think about as the death count rockets. This allusion to greed is just one of the tropes that Miraglia recycles. There are also affairs and suggestions that the murderous Red Queen is a ghost returning from the dead, much like in The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. But as long as you can keep track of all the characters and their backstories, this is a pretty enjoyable giallo film. It might be standard and unexceptional, but that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.
The Arrow Video box set itself comes with plenty of added extras to complement the two films. As you’d expect, there is a lengthy booklet to read, as well as introductions to the films. The interviews include both archive footage and contemporary recordings to add some extra context. Giallo expert, Troy Howarth provides the audio commentary for The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. And Alan Jones and Kim Newman do the same for The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. Both commentaries are enlightening for anyone who isn’t familiar with the films and their creators. On top of that, you have the choice of viewing the Italian versions or dubbed English versions of the two films.
Cast & Crewdirector: Emilio Miraglia.
writers: Massimo Felisatti, Fabio Pittorru & Emilio Miraglia ('The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave') & Emilio Miraglia & Fabio Pittorru ('The Red Queen Kills Seven Times')
starring: Anthony Steffen, Marina Malfatti, Erika Blanc & Giacomo Rossi-Stuart ('The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave') & Barbara Bouchet, Ugo Pagliai, Marina Malfatti & Sybil Danning ('The Red Queen Kills Seven Times')