A Black Veil for Lisa (short) Blu-ray Review (originally published 2015)
Police inspector Franz Bulon (John Mill) is intent on bringing down a major drug ring operating in Hamburg. Thwarted at every turn by an assassin who is systematically killing informants, jealous of his beautiful, younger wife Lisa (Luciana Paluzzi) and suspecting her of having an affair (is it real or imagined?), Bulon can scarcely focus on his work. With jealousy nearing the boiling point, Bulon hires Alex (Robert Hoffman), the assassin he’s arrested for the recent informant murders, to kill his wife. (From Olive’s official synopsis)
Massimo Dallamano’s modest thriller A Black Veil for Lisa (Italian: La morte non ha sesso, 1968) was made right on the cusp of giallo’s big boom. Dario Argento’s first film, Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo, 1970), proved so popular that the subgenre switched gears from spaghetti-flavoured film noir to mimicking Argento’s formula. Like Mario Bava (Blood and Black Lace [Italian: Sei donne per l'assassino, 1965]), Antonio Margheriti (Naked...You Die! [Italian: Nude... si muore; aka: The Young, the Evil and the Savage, 1968), Umberto Lenzi (Orgasmo, 1968), and other pre-Crystal Plumage filmmakers, Dallamano spent his energy injecting chic fashion, sex, and violence into more standard thriller and detective concepts. The screenplay (credited to Dallamano, Vittoriano Petrilli, and Giuseppe Belli) is closer to a traditional post-WWII film noir in that it focuses on the police’s side of the story, unlike the post-Argento movies and their amatuer detective protagonists. The investigation here concerns gangsters and violent criminals, instead of tortured psychosexual maniacs, which recalls Jean-Pierre Melville’s cool cop thrillers (Le Samouraï  and Le Cercle rouge , for example). Even the presence of an antagonistic femme fatale (Luciana Paluzzi) falls more in line with the Hollywood noir tradition. However, Dallamano and his cohorts introduce macabre and gothic elements to their otherwise typified murder mystery and, in doing so, they pay a considerable debt to the works of Hitchcock (there are shades of Vertigo  blended into the plot), Fritz Lang (certain scenes are direct homages to M ), and, most of all, Bava. Between relatively blaisé scenes of cops arguing and gangsters shaking people down, the director plays with the familiar imagery of Bava’s black-gloved, black-hatted killer. In the end, Black Veil’s major appeal lies in the fact that its attempts to imitate Hollywood and French counterparts is so at odds with its inherent Italian identity. There really are two different and conflicting movies here and I find myself enjoying the duality, even if it is a bit sloppy.
Dallamano is an undervalued figure in ‘60s/’70s Italian cinema. He began his career as a cinematographer and his work on Sergio Leone’s transformative first two spaghetti westerns, A Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari, 1964; co-credited with cinematographer Federico G. Larraya) and For a Few Dollars More (Italian: Per qualche dollaro in più, 1965), led him to make his (non-documentary) directorial debut, Banditos (aka: You Die... but I Live, 1967). A Black Veil for Lisa was only his second movie as director and much closer to the type of thing you’d expect from a former cinematographer. Following Black Veil, Dallamano found greater success with flashy sexploitation exercises, including Venus in Furs (Italian: Venere in pelliccia; aka: Devil in the Flesh, 1969 – not to be confused with Jess Franco’s 1969 film also titled Venus in Furs) and Dorian Gray (Italian: Il dio chiamato Dorian, 1970), and a reasonably popular straight horror movie called Night Child (aka: The Cursed Medallion, 1975), but, besides his contributions to Leone’s westerns, he’s probably best-known for his other two gialli, What Have You Done to Solange? (Italian: Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange?, 1972) and What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (Italian: La Polizia Chiede Aiuto; aka: The Police Ask for Assistance, 1974).
It appears that Black Veil for Lisa hasn’t been released on digital media home video in any country, at least not officially (an internet search revealed bootleg versions of an Italian TV rip only). For giallo fans, Olive’s new 1.78:1 (slightly reframed from the 1.85:1 OAR), 1080p Blu-ray release is a pleasant and unexpected surprise. The fact that it looks pretty good is definitely a plus. In broad terms, details are above SD standards, elements are well-separated, and the mostly neutral color palette looks natural. Print damage artifacts crop up with relative regularity, including scratches, dirt, and a fair bit of pulsing. Contrast is even-handed and black levels are strong without a lot of crush or pooling. But there are also a number of avoidable problems peppered in between easily ignored issues with the original material. Theoretically, this transfer came from Paramount, but it has the same sheen of telecine noise and over-cranked white levels seen on a number of Italian-scanned genre titles from other studios, like Blue Underground and Shout Factory. The issue isn’t particularly distracting in this case, but the telecine noise definitely causes some odd-looking artifacts, as well as banding effects. Fortunately, these are more obvious in still frames and no one has tried to counteract the problems by applying excessive DNR or over-sharpening the occasionally rough background textures. The blooming, detail-eating whites are a bigger problem, albeit one that only affects a handful of scenes. In other good news, the lack of extras and brief run-time leave plenty of room for the video file, so there are very few compression artifacts.
The only audio option here is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono English dub. Now, to reiterate what I always say in regards to Italian titles from this era, there is no non-dubbed track. Black Veil for Lisa was shot without sound, so every language version had ADR dialogue and foley sound effects. In this case (like many), most of the cast was speaking English on set as well (though they have international origins – John Mills is British, Robert Hoffmann is Austrian, Luciana Paluzzi is Italian, and so on). The lip-sync is solid and the fidelity of the performances is very natural for a ‘60s ADR dub. The sound effects are expectedly minimal, but more well-integrated and better layered than your typical post-dub Italian thriller – especially the super noisy ‘fun fair’ sequence. Giovanni Fusco & Gianfranco Reverberi’s music is a bit too generic for a giallo, but sounds clean on this uncompressed track. Olive is working from Paramount’s US cut of the movie, which runs 88 minutes. The uncut Italian version runs 95 minutes. I’m going to assume that those Italian-only minutes were never dubbed into English.
There are no extras.
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