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review added: 5/11/00



Lisa and the Devil
The House of Exorcism

Double Feature - 1973/1975 (2000) - The Alfredo Leone Trust (Image)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Mario Bava Double Feature Lisa and the Devil

Film Rating: C

Disc Rating (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B+

Specs and Features

95 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, dual-layered (Lisa and the Devil is on the first layer), Snapper case packaging, theatrical trailer, Mario Bava biography/filmography, cast filmographies, deleted scene, photo and poster art gallery, liner notes by Tim Lucas, film-themed menu screens, scene access (14 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: none

The House of Exorcism

Film Rating: B-

Disc Rating (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/A

Specs and Features

91 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, dual-layered (The House of Exorcism is on the second layer), Snapper case packaging, audio commentary (with co-director/producer Alfredo Leone and star Elke Sommer), 2 theatrical trailers, Mario Bava biography/filmography, cast filmographies, deleted scene, photo and poster art gallery, film-themed menu screens, scene access (14 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: none

"Dinner is served!"

Mario Bava is a film god - there's no question about that. I'm pretty excited that he's had a reawakening on DVD. Starting with the resurrection of his lost film Rabid Dogs, and leading up to the preservation of these two films, Bava is finding a new audience. I couldn't think of a filmmaker more deserving.

Mario Bava, as anyone who reads the liner notes of the DVDs put out by Image, started making movies before he could crawl. He was born into it, and I'm not even going to bother wasting my time trying to eloquently put how gifted, influential and vastly superior he is to most people working in Hollywood today. If you wish to know, find everything you can and learn about him. Or wait patiently for Tim Lucas to finish his biography about the man - which should be soon, huh Tim? But I will go on a bit about why there's now a double feature disc (put out by Image) for two of his films, that look like they have very little to do with each other. The fact is... they're basically the same film.

Lisa and the Devil

Lisa (Elke Sommer) is a tourist in Toledo, Spain. She sees a mural on a wall depicting the Devil ushering the dead into hell. Seems like an odd bit of graffiti, but when in Spain, right? Shortly thereafter, she breaks from the tourist pack and finds herself in a shop where she bumps into Telly Savalas, who looks just like the Devil in the painting, and he seems to recognize her as well. She stumbles out of the shop into the streets of Toledo and gets lost, all the while bumping into people who recognize her but couldn't possibly know her. When night falls, she begs a ride with a passing car that mysteriously breaks down in front of a house (that looks like it's straight out of an Edgar Allen Poe story). Inside, there's a young man, his mother and their butler - Telly Savalas. Lisa's now freaking out and must endure a night with these people, as they drop like flies and their twisted lives become slowly consumed by the evil in the house.

Lisa and the Devil is a very beautiful, if slow moving and slightly convoluted, tale. Of all the Bava films I've seen, this film impresses me the least in terms of story. On the flip side, in terms of the look of the picture, this has to be one of his most captivating films. His use of color, light and shadow is more painterly in approach here than that of any cinematographer I've seen. Every shot is so beautiful, you'll thank Image for putting it out on DVD just so you can pause the picture and stare. It's that beautiful. The acting is actually pretty good as well. But for the life of me, I can't fully grasp exactly why I just don't dig this film (although I think what I like about it is for the right reasons).

When the movie was released, it made little to absolutely no money, which upset producer Alfredo Leone (an American who produced Bava's Baron Blood and gave Bava carte blanche for his next film - this one). He couldn't sell it, and it was driving him nuts. So what do you do with a film you can't sell? Well, if you're Leone, you retool it and it becomes...

The House of Exorcism

The House of Exorcism is - and I don't care whether Alfredo Leone agrees or not - a direct and obvious riff on The Exorcist (Leone mentions in the commentary that he doesn't think it really is. Bah!). The film starts the same way as Lisa and the Devil, with Lisa (Sommers) seeing the mural and then bumping into the Devil. Except this time, the Devil takes a bust that looks exactly like her and touches it, instantly possessing her. Now she has the Devil in her, and she passes out as she runs into the street. Her friend calls for help, and to her rescue comes Father Michael (played by Robert Alda - Alan's dad). She's taken to a local hospital, and Father Michael must battle the Devil as she/he/it temps him with his past life, as he/she/it tells a story about Lisa's alter ego (which just happens to parallel the story in Lisa and the Devil). Still with me?

The House of Exorcism is a slightly more entertaining film than Lisa and the Devil, but ironically enough, it looks awkward. In all the ways that Lisa and the Devil was beautiful to look at, House seems clumsy. The retooling wasn't as seamless as one would hope and there are problems. I watched House before I watched Lisa on this DVD (although I've seen them both before). Seeing them together shows how obviouslly the original film was redone. But in saying that, I don't mean that House is a bad film. I think each one works on their own.

As for you purists out there who think Bava had nothing to do with House, you're wrong. Bava himself helmed most of the reshoot, except for the scenes that involved gratuitous sex and cussing. He'd set up the camera and walk out of the room, begging the actors not to participate. They did, and he didn't seem to hold things against them. He did not, however, participate in the editing, having walked out after a disagreement with his co-director and producer on the shoot, Mr. Alfredo Leone.

Both films stand on their own as works of a certain art. House is a fine example of The Exorcist rip-off as art, and Lisa is pure eye candy through and through. If you'd rather, these discs are available all by themselves on stand alone, single-sided, single-layered DVDs from Image. But if you're a fan, the double feature is the only way to go.

Here, you get both films presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and the transfer on each looks pretty damn good. Lisa and the Devil is the same transfer used for the laserdisc put out by Elite years ago, which was originally supervised by Don May, Jr.. It's up to Don's regular standard of good work and translates to DVD very well. The House of Exorcism is a brand new transfer for DVD and looks wonderful. Both films showcase bold colors and super looking prints. The blacks are solid and there isn't much moiré or other artifacts to be found. The soundtrack is straight mono and it does the job. There's no audible hisses or cracks to be heard, and it blends nicely with the film (dubbing and ADR-wise). The image and sound quality for this disc is the same as on the movie-only editions. The big difference is in the extras.

Here, you get a commentary track with Leone and Sommer (with Leone talking the most). They discuss the making of the film, working with Bava and the history of why there was a revisioned film for distribution. It's pretty fascination and worth checking out. I had absolutely no problems listening to them talk, and they both had some great things to say. You also get the standard Bava biography/filmography written by Tim Lucas, as well as a Lucas-penned liner notes section. I always enjoy reading Lucas - even more so on these jackets. In addition, you get three trailers (one for Lisa and two for House), a photo and poster art gallery and an extended sex scene that was edited down for the version in the film. All in all, another great Bava salute from Image.

If you have no idea who Bava is, and you enjoy the teases we give here on the Bits, you really should check out some of his films. You'll have to look hard to find my favorite, Rabid Dogs, but most of his other stuff is slowly coming out on DVD from Image and Anchor Bay. I prefer the Image stuff like Black Sunday and Baron Blood. This double feature is pretty cool as well. Get yourself a bag of lollipops - sit on down and enjoy an offering from Bava. He'll change the way you look at movies... and that's more than a good thing. It's a gift.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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