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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

The Seventh Grave Blu-ray Review


Severin Films

Blu-ray Release: May 30, 2023 (Danza Macabra disc 2)

Video: 1.66:1/1080p/Black & White

Audio: Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Run Time: 77:29

Director: Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo


Note: This Blu-ray is currently only available as part of Severin’s Danza Macabra: Italian Gothic Collection, Volume One four-movie set, which also includes: Renato Polselli’s The Monster of the Opera (1964), José Luis Merino’s Scream of the Demon Lover (1970), and Mel Welles’ Lady Frankenstein (1971).


A group of strangers, including a young psychic named Katy (​​Stefania Menchinelli), are summoned to the ancestral castle of Sir Reginald in rural Scotland for the reading of a deceased’s will. The group learns that Reginald was a relative of Sir Francis Drake and that there is a considerable fortune hidden somewhere in the castle and, soon after, they’re killed one-by-one by an unknown assailant.



As the post-Black Sunday (Italian: La maschera del demonio, 1960) Italian Gothic cinematic fad drew to an early end, budgets and production times predictably shrank. Saturation never reached the level of peplums and spaghetti westerns, but 1965 was still a particularly big year for black & white chillers. It was a year brought audiences an array of future classics, including Massimo Pupillo’s Terror-Creatures from the Grave (Italian: 5 tombe per un medium) and Bloody Pit of Horror (Italian: Il boia scarlatto), and Mario Caiano’s Nightmare Castle (Italian: Amanti d’oltretomba). It also brought us Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo’s The Seventh Grave (Italian: La settima tomba). Fortunately, the early Gothics were a small enough part of Italian horror history that 1965 still had a pretty good average and even zero-budget, made-over-the-weekend (technically over three weeks) quickies like The Seventh Grave have something to offer in terms of genre context.


The Seventh Grave (a title possibly meant to evoke Mark Robson’s The Seventh Victim [1943]) was made by a motley crew of first-timers – co-writer/director Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo, who never wrote or directed again, co-writer/co-star Alessandro Santini, who never wrote again (but had a successful acting career), and co-writer Antonio Casale, who worked on a couple more films, but never made much of an impact on the industry. Together, they stumble their way through a veritable Mad Lib of haunted house clichés borrowed from other Italian movies, Hollywood classics, and Roger Corman-styled drive-in fodder. It looks cheap and the plot is somehow both derivatively simple and overcomplicated, yet, if you’re capable of traversing the listlessness, The Seventh Grave has a certain ‘kitchen sink’ appeal. Just when you think you can’t take another second of endless exposition, Caracciolo will throw in a fun reference, like a séance, perhaps alluding to Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957), or a killer using hidden passage within castle walls, definitely evoking The Cat and the Canary (whichever version). Other callbacks are more vague, but Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) and Hammer’s early hits are also clear influences.



The scares are tepid and there’s a distinct lack of the kind of visual trickery that Bava brought to the Italian brand of Gothic horror, but, to his credit, cinematographer Aldo Greci puts creative effort into maybe one-fourth of his compositions, leading to the occasional attractive image littered throughout the otherwise flat sequences. The séance scene is genuinely visually dynamic and images of the characters wandering the hallways and grounds of the real castle location are almost soothing in a sort of sight-seeing tour manner. The denouement is quite unintentionally funny, as well. The cast, while appearing slightly tranquilized, takes the whole affair very seriously, which also lends the film and its attempts at romantic subplots some credibility. Said cast is made up mostly of actors of minor note in the realms of cult movies, aside from spaghetti western favorites Antonio Casale and Ferruccio Viotti, Germana Dominici, who appeared in Black Sunday and became one of the industry’s leading dub performers, and trash icon Gianni Dei.


If you are interested in further discussion of the year that brought audiences Black Sunday and House of Usher, please check out the two-part 25th episode of the Genre Grinder podcast, where Patrick Ripoll and I take a look at the Year in Horror: 1960:


Bibliography:

  • Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969 by Roberto Curti (McFarland & Company, 2015)



Video

The Seventh Grave doesn’t appear to have been released in American theaters or even dubbed for release outside of Italy, let alone appear on non-Italian VHS or DVD. Besides a poor quality Italian TV rip on YouTube, this Blu-ray is most of the world’s first chance to actually see the film and definitely the first time to watch it in widescreen and HD with an English subtitle option. Like the other films in Severin’s Danza Macabra: Volume One collection, the 1.66:1, 1080p black & white transfer was taken from a new 2K scan of the original negative. The image quality is a bit below some other recent HD scans of B&W Italian thrillers from the early ‘60s, but is still plenty impressive for a forgotten, extremely low-budget movie. The main thing the transfer has to overcome is heavy, snowy grain, some of which creates posterization effects in the otherwise nice gradations. I think this means that Severin was working with a 16mm source. There are machine noise effects, but most of it looks like old-fashioned grit. Greci’s sharp black & white levels are strong without overwhelming the important greys. Print damage is mostly limited to specks and small scratches, but there are also a handful of ragged splices and moldy frames.


Audio

The disc features a single Italian dub option, presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound. If there was an English dub recorded for The Seventh Grave, it has since been lost. The dubbing is surprisingly clumsy, including canned effects and fuzzy dialogue, but the actors are clearly speaking Italian on set and the lip sync is actually better than average for the period. Leopoldo Perez Bonsignore’s score is a bit generic, but has a couple of interesting additions and unusual instrumentations, and would fit well with just about any B-grade American Gothic thriller from the early ‘60s. At its loudest, the music distorts, along with the dialogue, while effects remain oddly sharp, leading me to wonder if the foley work was done more recently, perhaps for a TV broadcast.



Extras

  • Commentary with Rachael Nisbet – The critic, co-host of the Fragments Of Fear podcast, and self-professed gialli fiend does her best to hype up this difficult-to-hype film. She offers an honest portrait of the movie’s weaknesses and strengths, and talks about its place in the larger canon, the careers of the cast & crew, the history of the main location, and fills in some important details about Caracciolo and his work.

  • Seven Graves and a Mystery (12:52, HD) – Professor of History of Italian Cinema at University for Foreigners of Perugia (in Italy), journalist, and critic Fabio Melelli offers further details on Caracciolo, his life outside of stage & film, and the film’s production.

  • English Aesthetic with Giallo Blood (14:43, HD) – A new video essay from Gothic scholar, author, and confidence coach Rachel Knightley, who discusses the genre connections and various tropes seen in The Seventh Grave.



The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.


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