(For those new(ish) to Things That Don't Suck The Unseen is a column where I examine the horrors of The DVD's that have made it into my collection without being viewed ooooooohhhhh!!!
In all seriousness, I'm guilty as anyone, when it comes to being a know it all on Titles viewed. So It's nice having a column all about reinforning the idea that I always have more to learn. So for the next week, it's going to be all Unseen All The Time. In order to give the red headed stepchild of a column a chance to catch up against my shameful neglect of it.
I'll just go ahead and say this now, there are going to be some bonafide classics coming up over the next week that I am flat out embarrassed to admit I haven't seen. But that's always part of the fun of being a cinephile isn't it?)
Why’d I Buy It?: Came In The Mario Bava Boxset I purchased.
Why Haven’t I Watched It?: Didn’t make the first the cut for my first Bava binge. Just never quite got around to it. Also I have a weird pet peeve about films that have two definitive cuts. And while it’s obvious that Lisa And The Devil is the preferred cut, just because House Of Exorcism is a bad Mario Bava movie doesn’t change that fact that it’s still a Mario Bava movie.
How Was It?: Depends which version we’re talking about. Of course.
Lisa And The Devil is as rumored, a latter day masterpiece, sumptuously styled, hallucinogenicly plotted, and more then a little personal. House Of Exorcism is on the other hand a borderline nonsensical Friedkin rip off so shameless that it makes Beyond The Door look like a piece of great artistic integrity.
Both film’s follow Lisa, an American Tourist who undergoes a profound spiritual crisis after encountering Telly Savalas, first in mural;
then in physical form.
Now Savalas has been known to cause spiritual crisis’s in many situations and sexual crisis’s even more.
(I mean how could you not?)
But in this case, things are made even more acute, by the fact that Telly is the Devil. The Lord Of Lies enjoys carrying around mannequins and lemon suckers, and also tormenting the souls of those that is damned.
Sevelas does this by having Lisa and a series of strangers undergo an ennui soaked spiritual fugue/rash of giallo killings, in an old manor in Lisa And The Devil. And by having her put on pancake makeup and swear at a Priest like a fifth grader who has just learned how in House. This footage was shot when the producers looked at Lisa And Devil and suddenly realized "Oh shit. We funded an art movie." followed by "We better put some exorcism in our Satan movie." Said footage was then shoved the cheap exorcism scenes in under the flimsiest of pretenses. Believe it or not, Lisa And The Devil is the more effective of the two.
What surprised me about Lisa And The Devil wasn’t how strange and arty it was. I had been well prepared for that. No what surprised me was how unadulteratedly lurid and vaguely trashy so much of it was. From a piece of vehicular homicide so gleefully perpetrated and filmed that I was actually taken aback. To one which is almost matched in delight with a candlestick bludgeoning late in the game.
And if Lisa’s ambitions and opaque surrealism sometimes cross the line into self parody, there are just as many where the dream logic tone just works. Most notably in the film’s climax upon a Ghost Airplane, that manages to be well and truly freaky.
Sevalas makes a game Old Scratch and Bava obviously put a lot into it. House Of Exorcism is just the same but less so. Aside from the tacked on Friedkin impersonation, the remainder of the film is just a strangely reedited chateau encounter. A re edit which strips away the dream logic and leaves in its place, absolutely no logic.
House Of The Exorcism may not make any less narrative sense then Lisa And The Devil. But it does lack that lunatic gleam of conviction to carry it through.