If you're a Bishop, Judge Paul Corupe suggests you pick up the Willing Pawns boxed set instead. Otherwise, Killer Queen is the way to go.
Nothing so appalling in the annals of horror!
Italian film specialists NoShame Films are set to make a lot of giallo buffs very happy with the release of their highly anticipated The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set, a unique two-DVD set that brings together the definitive editions of director Emilio Miraglia's two horror-tinged giallo efforts, the kinky fan-favorite The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and its relatively obscure follow-up, The Red Queen Kills 7 Times.
Facts of the Case
In The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen, Django the Bastard) pines for his late wife Evelyn by secreting similar-looking strippers and prostitutes back to his decrepit manor. There, haunted by visions of Evelyn cheating on him in a grassy field, he whips and (possibly) murders the girls, paying off his wife's voyeur brother to keep his mouth shut. Alan's family finally convinces him that marriage is the only cure for his crumbling psyche. When he meets Gladys (Marina Malfatti, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids) at a swank party that night, he proposes marriage on the spot. Gladys' companionship only seems to drive Alan further into madness and despair. As the rest of his family is murdered one-by-one under bizarre circumstances around the castle, Alan becomes convinced that Evelyn has come back from the dead to avenge herself once and for all.
A myth about a murderous, scarlet-clad woman who returns every 100 years is at the heart of The Red Queen Kills 7 Times. Consumed by the lethal legend, fashion photographer Kitty (Barbara Bouchet, Don't Torture a Duckling) believes she accidentally drowned her sibling Evelyn when they were younger, a crime she has covered up for years. While waiting to claim their recently deceased father's inheritance, remaining sisters Kitty and Franziska (Marina Malfatti again) reunite, and are caught up in a web of murders centered around a fashion studio, all committed by a black-clad woman sporting a flowing red cape. But who could be perpetrating these brutal and bloody acts? Is it Evelyn back from the grave to get her sister—the Red Queen fulfilling this century's quota—or someone else entirely?
A well-respected Italian filmmaker, Emilio Miraglia made his mark on Euro-crime flicks in the late 1960s. He turned his attention to the increasingly popular giallo genre that took the country by storm—stylishly shot thrillers with hilarious, often nonsensical titles. Though he only managed to crank out a few more films until his untimely death in the mid-1970s, his two biggest hits, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and The Red Queen Kills 7 Times have stood the test of time, deftly mixing the styles of legendary Italian genre filmmakers Dario Argento and Mario Bava.
Widely available as a public domain DVD, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has garnered a lasting reputation with cult horror fans thanks almost entirely to its striking poster art: a painting of a scantily clad, skull-faced woman hoisting the decapitated head of a screaming man. Though the image doesn't actually appear in the film, it has ensured The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave a steady viewership for more than 30 years. It is still being used on the cover of bargain bin releases, which up until now have been the film's lifeblood. But those who have settled for a cheap DVD in the past will find The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set is an excellent excuse to toss that dollar disc in the trash. NoShame has presented the film in a striking 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that includes all the flesh-baring, blood-gushing, whip-cracking sleaze that was ruthlessly removed from prior editions.
Though ostensibly a giallo, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is a distinctly gothic take on the Italian thriller genre, making the most of creepy settings like a decrepit castle, a shadowy mausoleum, and a sinister torture dungeon. Though the well-worn plot of a mentally unstable character being pushed to the edge by the sudden appearance of a ghost has been a horror mainstay for decades now, it more or less works here thanks to some unexpected twists and a doozy of a final reel that sets new standards for outlandish giallo scripting. As Lord Cunningham, Anthony Steffen turns in a hammy performance that alternates between suave cool and batshit crazy. His performance compliments the over-the-top tone of the film and certifies Miraglia's first effort as one of the most widely seen giallo classics. Even for non-fans, it's worth seeing if only to get an eyeful from Erika Blanc's legendary coffin striptease, and to catch the few daring scenes of gore (including one shocking scene of a woman's intestines being ripped out and chomped on by a den of feral foxes).
Because The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has been so widely seen over the years, true blue Euro-cult aficionados will be far more interested in The Red Queen Kills 7 Times, an obscurity that has never been released stateside on home video. Unfortunately, this film finds Miraglia following rather than leading. It is a slightly above average giallo exercise that dispenses with everything that made The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave unique. It offers instead a typical plot and the presence of Barbara Bouchet, who was one of Italy's most popular actresses in the early '70s.
The Red Queen Kills 7 Times replaces a moody chiaroscuro castle with the bright palettes of the Italian fashion world. The maniacally giggling, red-caped Queen is the only notable change of pace in a film that otherwise hits all the expected giallo notes, including a barely comprehensible script. Hampered by what seems to be missing chunks of exposition (not to suggest that NoShame's presentation has been cut) The Red Queen Kills 7 Times is endlessly confusing. It diverts attention from its Swiss cheese plot with a series of quick (and surprisingly bloody) murders and an admittedly inspired climax that has Bouchet attacked by a pack of water-logged rats. The blonde starlet is pretty good as the put-upon heroine of the piece, easily garnering audience sympathy even when things get muddled beyond comprehension. The Red Queen Kills 7 Times certainly delivers the gory goods and has another eye-popping ending, but as a stickler for plot logic, this follow-up just wasn't as impressive to me as Miraglia's first giallo-horror hybrid.
As expected, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave looks terrific in its 2.35:1 transfer, boasting deeply saturated colors and excellent detail. Both the 2.0 Italian and English audio options sound OK, but they're occasionally plagued by hiss and questionable fidelity. The Red Queen Kills 7 Times isn't quite as nice, though, with a distinct softness detectable in some scenes and some minor artifacts. Again we have 2.0 Italian and English audio tracks, but they're not in the greatest shape. Hiss, audio hiccups, and distortion are frequent. The English dub is poorly mixed, with quiet dialogue and a blaring score by Bruno Nicolai that forced me to keep my finger on the volume control the whole way through. English subtitles are available for those who wish to watch it in Italian, but once again NoShame has disabled on-the-fly switching.
There is an impressive array of extras included in this limited edition box set, even if they aren't all essential. Packaged in a large cardboard box, the first thing you'll notice about this DVD is that it comes with a Red Queen figurine: a posed PVC statuette on a base that has been packaged with the first 7,000 DVDs. It's a little gimmicky, especially when you see that there isn't much detail on the Queen herself. But it is an inspired inclusion, and you've got to give NoShame credit for continually trying new packaging ideas. As for the extras on the two included discs, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave features two 20 minute interviews; one with star Erika Blanc and the other with production designer Lorenzo Baraldi. Blanc's interview is easily the better of the two, and though she doesn't have much to say about the film, she cracks jokes and comes across as a warm, kind person. There's a brief introduction to the film by Blanc, along with a pair of trailers and the usual still gallery. Baraldi returns on The Red Queen Kills 7 Times disc to both introduce the film and talk more about his work on that film. The interview is followed by a non-revelatory, 18-minute interview with star Marino Masé. The brief "If I Met Emilio Miraglia Today…" is a throwaway bit with all the interview subjects giving nods to the director, while "My Favorite…Films" is a 60-second interview with Bouchet, who simply name-drops her best-known gialli in poor quality audio. Overall, this is an impressive list of interviews, but the participants spend a surprising amount of time talking about everything but the two films on this set. It's better to think of these extras as career retrospectives for the interviewees rather than a collection of fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes for the titles at hand; a distinct disappointment for those wanting to get some insight on the production of these notable gialli. There's also an alternate opening for the film that lists of a bunch of dates over a static shot of the castle which probably only confused international audiences even more, and the usual still gallery. In the DVD case you'll find an extensive booklet with well-researched biographies and a couple of lobby card reproductions, one from each film.
Despite my issues with the relevance of the included extras and the spotty audio, The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set is one of this year's first essential Euro-cult release, perhaps only after NoShame's earlier The Luciano Ercoli Death Box Set. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and The Red Queen Kills 7 Times are both indispensable giallo/horror titles that deserves a place on every Euro-cult fan's shelf. Those wanting to snag themselves a Red Queen figurine should pick this one up as soon as possible.
Not logical maybe, but also not guilty.
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Scales of Justice, The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave
Perp Profile, The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave
Studio: NoShame Films
Distinguishing Marks, The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave
• Red Queen figurine
Scales of Justice, The Red Queen Kills 7 Times
Perp Profile, The Red Queen Kills 7 Times
Studio: NoShame Films
Distinguishing Marks, The Red Queen Kills 7 Times
• Introduction by Lorenzo Baraldi
Review content copyright © 2006 Paul Corupe; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.