Fascinating Ironic Horror Comedy - But NOT the Best DVD Vers
Timothy Liebe | 10/18/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you only know this Mario Bava movie based on its American re-edited (i.e., cheapie EXORCIST-style scenes featuring Robert Alda added by producer Alfredo Leone) version HOUSE OF EXORCISM, rest assured that this is a far more intriguing, and in many ways humorous work (though Alda does not appear in this version, despite Amazon's claim above). While this Cheezy Flicks disc is really inexpensive (I got it for under $5US with Amazon Prime free shipping), the transfer is at best okay and NOT 16:9 enhanced, the extras are skimpy and, outside of an incomplete "original trailer", do more to promote distributor Cheezy Flicks than inform you about this film's troubled production and distribution history. The more expensive 16:9 enhanced Anchor Bay version, which includes both LISA AND THE DEVIL and HOUSE OF EXORCISM, along with commentary on both versions (VIDEO WATCHDOG publisher and Bava maven Tim Lucas for LISA, Leone and star Elke Summer for EXORCISM), is far preferable.
Quick Synopsis: American Tourist Lisa Reiner (Elkie Summer) gets lost in Toledo, Spain after an encounter with Telly Savalas, who just HAPPENS to resemble an image of Satan in a nearby fresco. Catching a ride with some squabbling down-at-heels aristocrats, the car breaks down in front of a palatial estate where she runs into Savalas again, who claims to be the house's butler, Leandro. Leandro's employers are an ill-tempered old woman known only as the "Countess" (Alida Valli), and her suavely demented son Max (Alessio Orano). Max for some reason addresses Lisa as "Elena" (as did the man/dummy Leandro had been carrying during Lisa's early encounters with him), and claims to be in love with her. Lots of illicit canoodling and homicides ensue, which Savalas deals with in comically long-suffering stride - right up to the end, where the mystical-horror elements hinted at in the beginning finally come to roost.
Watching LISA AND THE DEVIL reminded me of nothing so much as a cross between Eurohorrors like THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE and commedia d'el arte, largely thanks to Savalas's amusing, self-aware performance. Whether intentional on Bava's part or not, he highlights the classical comedy elements in the film as well as the fantastical ones."