The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave directed by Emilio MiragliaThe Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave directed by Emilio Miraglia

Italian director Emilio Miraglia’s second film, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972), had previously impressed me as one of the most perfect giallo pictures that I had ever seen, when I first saw it six years ago, so I had a feeling that I was going to enjoy seeing his first. But because of that earlier film’s title — The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave — I was somehow expecting something more on the order of a supernatural/ghost story. To my delighted surprise, however, Evelyn turns out to be both: a modern-day Gothic melodrama that combines insanity and S&M elements and that ultimately segues quite unambiguously into grisly giallo terrain. Released in 1971, the film succeeds dazzlingly well on both fronts, and reveals itself to be a remarkably self-assured outing for the first-time director.

In The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, the viewer meets a British lord named Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen, who here resembles, at times, a young and dissipated Peter Falk). Sir Alan, when we first encounter him, is in the bughouse, having had a mental breakdown after the death of his redheaded, unfaithful wife Evelyn, who had died during childbirth. After his release, Alan becomes infatuated with his new hobby: picking up redheaded hookers and strippers to bring home and torturously whip — and possibly kill — in his castle dungeon. Two of the strippers are played by yummy Maria Teresa Tofano and scrumptious Erika Blanc; Erika, who had previously impressed this viewer in such films as Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) and Charles Lecocq’s The Devil’s Nightmare (1971), here gets to perform a memorable nightclub striptease after arising from a coffin!

Following the advice of the institution’s Dr. Timberlane (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, who had costarred with Erika in Kill, Baby, Kill, although they sadly share no screen time here), Alan resolves to forget his dead wife by meeting another woman. And soon enough, he meets a beautiful blonde named Gladys (squisito Marina Malfatti, who viewers may recall from another giallo film with decided supernatural overtones, Sergio Martino’s 1972 gem All the Colors of the Dark), who he proposes to after just a few hours. But marriage with Gladys only seems to make Lord Alan’s obsessions worse, as the crypt of dead Evelyn is revealed to be empty, her walking cadaver is glimpsed, and ghastly murders erupt around the estate…

Happily, Evelyn turns out to be a super-stylish film that features inventive and off-kilter camera angles (DOP Gastone di Giovanni has done a marvelous job shooting this project), sumptuous sets, a wonderful use of color, and a gorgeous theme song by Bruno Nicolai that even maestro Ennio Morricone could not  better. Most viewers will have little idea where this picture is headed during its first 2/3 (the modern-day Gothic section, which showcases an eerie séance, Evelyn’s ghost, and that castle), and even less during the stunning giallo section that culminates the picture. And fans of this distinctly Italian genre will not feel shortchanged, either, as the film ends with as hairy and grisly a bunch of murderous set pieces as could be desired: mayhem via a venomous snake, head clubbing, traditional poison, knifings, sulfuric acid … and some particularly ravenous kenneled foxes. Even more pleasing, the film manages to pull off not just a surprise ending, but a TRIPLE twist/surprise ending, for one bravissimo and loopy windup!

I could not for the life of me figure out why it was necessary to set this film in England (doesn’t Italy have its own strip clubs, castles, and wealthy landowners?), or why we see, in one startling scene, Alan’s beautiful but paralyzed Aunt Agatha (Joan C. Davis) arise from her wheelchair and walk, but other than these two minor quibbles, Miraglia’s first work strikes me as being a practically flawless giallo gem. The film has been deemed “dreadful” by the often-stingy (when it comes to genre fare, at least) editors of the Maltin Movie Guide, but this viewer much prefers the verdict of the indispensable film book DVD Delirium 3, which tells us that Evelyn is “particularly deranged,” with a denouement that is an “unforgettably unhinged concoction.”

But perhaps the Maltin editors would revise their old assessment if they could see the DVD of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave that is currently available from NoShame. Sporting a gorgeous, uncut, properly framed print in the original Italian and with excellent subtitles (“the first worthwhile video release of this title in any format,” DVD Delirium 3 claims), the film might come as a revelation to those who have only seen it on lousy-looking videotapes with even worse dubbing. Seen in this pristine-looking NoShame format, Evelyn reveals itself to be the handsome, stylish, imaginative and surprising giallo outing that it is. Further good news regarding the NoShame DVD are two of the disc’s extras: a 21-minute reminiscence by the modern-day Erika Blanc herself (still a looker) as she sits at her makeup table, and a 23-minute talk by the film’s set designer, Lorenzo Baraldi. In all, a terrific package for a terrific film. To all the fine folks at the always-dependable NoShame, my most heartfelt “Grazie!”


  • Sandy Ferber

    SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....