The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave Blu-ray Review (originally published 2016)
A troubled aristocrat named Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) is haunted by the death of his first wife, Evelyn, and tries to move on by marrying the seductive Gladys (Marina Malfatti). Marital bliss is short-lived, however, as various relatives meet untimely and gruesome deaths, prompting speculation that a vengeful Evelyn has risen from the grave…(from Arrow’s official synopsis)
(The following paragraph was stolen from my own review of Arrow’s Death Walks on High Heels/Death Walks at Midnight Blu-ray double-feature)
Like most genre-centric filmmakers, giallo directors can be broken down into tiers. At the top, you have the innovators – your Mario Bavas, Dario Argentos, and Lucio Fulcis. Next, you have the stalwarts – directors with a wide breadth of work in the genre, like Umberto Lenzi, Sergio Martino, and Antonio Margheriti. Then, you have your ‘one hit wonders’ – filmmakers that didn’t exactly thrive in the confines of the category, but still managed to make at least one brilliant contribution to the giallo pantheon, like Massimo Dallamano, Giulio Questi, and Pupi Avati. At the bottom, you have your shlock artists and Johnny-come-latelys – guys that jumped on the bandwagon, cashed their checks, and moved on to the next big thing. There are too many of these guys to name.
Emilio Miraglia belongs somewhere between tiers two and three (along with Luciano Ercoli). After years as an assistant/second unit director on projects, like Lucio Fulci’s Two Public Enemies (Italian: I due pericoli pubblici, 1964), Carlo Lizzani’s Wake Up and Kill (Italian: Svegliati e uccidi, 1966), and a load of Luciano Salce movies, he first-unit directed six films (sometimes under the pseudonym “Hal Brady”). These included obscure crime thrillers (Assassination, 1967; The Falling Man, Italian: Quella carogna dell'ispettore Sterling, 1968; and The Vatican Affair, Italian: A qualsiasi prezzo, 1968) and a single obscure western (Joe Dakota, Italian: Spara Joe... e così sia!, 1972), but his most well-known work was a pair of excellent and particularly gothic giallo – The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italian: La notte che Evelyn usci’ dalia tomba; aka: The Night She Rose from the Tomb and Sweet to be Kissed, Hard to Die, 1971) and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (Italian: La dama rossa uccide sette volte; aka: The Lady in Red Kills Seven Times, Blood Feast, Feast of Flesh, and The Corpse That Didn’t Want to Die, 1972).
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is a favorite among many giallo fans, due to its smorgasbord approach to the genre. Miraglia stirs Argento-like plot devices, Fulci-like psychedelia, intense violence (though not all that graphic, until the final few minutes), and lurid S&M into a pot and serves it all up with the gothic flair of one of Bava or Margheriti’s pre-giallo horror dramas. This Euro-trash medley operates on a strict regiment of boundary-pushing content that pacifies even a discerning genre enthusiast with oodles of the best/worst post-’60s fashion (the dippy band at the costume party provides a hearty laugh), good-natured sleaze, and some amusing, if not entirely logical plot twists. The screenplay was written by Miraglia and The Weekend Murders (Italian: Concerto per pistola solista, 1970) co-writers Massimo Felisatti and Fabio Pittorru. Their plot is a slight reworking of the ‘everyone wants the inheritance’ murder mystery/body count standby that has served crime fiction for generations. Miraglia’s most horror-esque direction is top notch, even though the film never delves into the straight horror that the title implies. He introduces Alan’s torture chamber with the relish of Bava’s Baron Blood (Italian: Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga, 1972), his séance sequence is punctuated with stylish trick editing (similar to what Fulci would use in City of the Living Dead [Italian: Paura nella città dei morti viventi, 1980] almost a decade later), and Alan’s visions of Evelyn are authentically skin-crawling.
The problem that casual viewers will likely have with The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is that there’s really no protagonist with which to identify. The main character and central victim is emotionally haunted, but completely misogynistic psychopath and he’s surrounded by unapologetic enablers (it is never clear if he actually murders anyone). This isn’t an unusual situation for a giallo, of course – Sergio Martino, in particular, made a mini-career out of movies with detestable male pseudo-protagonists. But Martino expects his audience to revel in the psychological downfalls of those men, while Miraglia and his co-writers seem to want us to pity Alan. It’s much more of a difficult narrative balancing act and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is too front-loaded with genuinely cruel sadism and humorless to walk that particular tight-rope. It doesn’t help that Miraglia can’t handle the dramatic scenes as eloquently as his psychedelia or horror. This draws out the goofier and meandering qualities of the story. Fortunately, he keeps the camera moving and the ridiculous twists unravelling. The finale is an ‘all-timer.’
There are many versions of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, nine English language edits alone, according to imdb.com, and at least one of those cuts ended up in the public domain or the ‘grey market,’ if you prefer. Unfortunately, this led to a glut of budget R1 DVDs from the likes of Alpha Video and Brentwood. These releases weren’t only ugly, 1.33:1, VHS-quality transfers, but they were heavily cut, because they used an edited for television version. In addition, there was a misframed 1.85:1 R2 German DVD from X-Rated Kult, but the best versions were the 2006 R0 US and R2 Italy versions from NoShame Films. The US DVD was only available as a two-movie collector’s set with The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (“The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set”) and went out of print when NoShame closed its doors. According to wikipedia, Arrow’s Blu-ray is the second HD release, following a BD from Aussie distributor Gryphon Entertainment in 2013, but I can only find evidence of a DVD from the company.
This Blu-ray was sourced exclusively for Arrow in 2K from 35mm, 2-perf Techniscope camera negatives. The results are typically solid, including huge upgrades in detail, clarity, and a lack of compression artifacts. Wide-angle shots are especially impressive in terms of their elemental separation and hue consistency. Gastone Di Giovanni’s photography embraces neutral and natural hues, but is also highlighted by vibrant set-pieces and costume items that pop nicely with only a hint of bleeding. Some of the night shots – the opening titles, for example – are clouded in shadows and very dark blue tones, which can be stifling, but I can assure you that these scenes were entirely indiscernible in SD and that the sharper highlights really do make a huge difference. Based on the grey quality of black levels during these sequences, it’s likely that Arrow did their best to mitigate the darkness without creating a washed-out mess. My advice is to just make sure you watch the movie in the darkest room possible. There are some hints of scanner machine noise throughout, but I believe that the majority of fuzz is genuine grain structure, even when it causes minor discoloration.
The original mono Italian and English soundtracks were mastered from the 35mm sources and are presented in LPCM 1.0 sound. As per usual, both are dub tracks, because most Italian productions at the time shot without (useable) sound, using multilingual casts. In this case, the dubbing is far enough off on both tracks that it doesn’t really matter that the major players seem to be speaking English. The added environmental effects – birds, crickets, the echoing whip-cracks – and music sound identical between the dubs. The English dialogue is a bit louder, while the Italian dialogue blends with the effects a little better. Bruno Nicolai’s music is balanced and clean on either of the tracks. Arrow has included the option to watch Italian or English on-screen titles as well.
Nicolai was hired in large part because he was a collaborator and conductor for Ennio Morricone at the time. Morricone had just redefined the expectations of a giallo soundtrack when he scored The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo, 1970) and was in such high demand that his skills were stretched thin. Nicolai, who actually trained Morricone, was probably considered the next best thing at the time, which does him a disservice, because many of his gialli (not to mention spaghetti western scores) were good enough to rival his friend. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave was his second shot at a thriller shortly, following his work on Martino’s The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (Italian: La coda dello scorpione, 1971), which was released in Italy only two days earlier. Neither is his best work, but they set the stage for better work to come, including The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.
New audio commentary by Troy Howarth – The author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films and co-author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava is very professional and well-prepared for this info-packed track. Every once in a while, he falls into the trap of simply describing the on-screen action, but, on the whole, his focus is sharp. He also scores points for his honest criticisms of the film, which he wedges between celebratory and defensive notes. This track is a good entry point for burgeoning giallo fans.
Exclusive introduction by actress Erika Blanc (1:00, HD)
Remembering Evelyn (15:10, HD) – In this new interview, critic and author of Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents Stephen Thrower discusses The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave’s themes, warring gothic and [i]giallo[/i] elements, illogical plot points, the difficulties of an unlikable protagonist (darn, thought I had an original idea there…), and the career histories of various cast members. There’s also a sampling of how bad the pan & scan DVDs/VHSs looked for comparison sake.
The Night Erika Came Out of the Grave (9:40, HD) – The last exclusive extra is a new interview with Blanc, who recalls choreographing her own strip tease, her relationship with the other cast members, selling counterfeit boots to fans, the appeal of BDSM, and her Playboy spread. She is so hammy and adorable.
NoShame’s archival extras:
Blanc’s original, 2006 introduction (00:40, SD)
The Whip and the Body (21:00, SD) – An additional 2006 interview with Blanc. There’s overlap between the interviews, of course, but the actress comes at the stories with a different tone and there’s quite a bit more info about the production itself here, along with her other horror movies/thrillers.
Still Rising from the Grave (22:50, SD) – Production designer Lorenzo Baraldi talks about his career, the Italian film industry, and blending elaborate gothic decor with period-appropriate fashions.
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Full-sized versions can (currently) only be accessed by right-clicking/ctrl-clicking the images and opening them in a new window/tab. Note that there will be some JPG compression.