January 3, 2013

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)

Directed by Emilio Miraglia. Starring Barbara Bouchet ("Kitty Wildenbrück"), Ugo Pagliai ("Martin Hoffman"), Marina Malfatti ("Franziska Wildenbrück"), and Marino Masé ("Police Inspector"). Rated PG (according to IMDB). Body Count: 10.

Source: Region 1 DVD (NoShame/Ryko)
Running time: 01:39:10
Country: Italy, West Germany

I honestly have no idea where to begin with THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES. For starters, it's an extremely convoluted and nonsensical Giallo from the director of THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE. It would seem that both were produced back-to-back, but I'm not sure if it's the case. They do bear a lot of similarities though. Both films are gorgeous to look at and star actress Marina Malfatti in a lead role, scantily-clad no less. Also, both films, to an extent, feature people being haunted in some form or another by a character named Evelyn. In fact, you could probably tweak a few things in either film and make one the sequel to the other because of how similar they are in a lot of ways, but that would probably just make things even more confusing than they already are.

As much as I'd love to give my own synopsis and review certain elements of the plot, I can't. The short version is that two sisters - Kitty and Franziska Wildenbrück - are united through unfortunate circumstances when their grandfather dies. There's some sort of inheritance that Pappy Wildenbrück left behind. Apparently he saw the third sister, Evelyn, right before he croaked, which would be impossible considering she's dead. Or is she? Not only is she dead, but she was accidentally killed by one of the sisters who subsequently covered it up and has kept it a secret ever since. Or was she? Following grandpa's death, people close to the family get killed by a woman in a red cape, who may or may not be the ghost of Evelyn. The killer's modus operandi bears similarities to the legend of the Red Queen, which is something entirely different that's established in the film and would be a chore for me to describe. And yes, that's the short version.

So yeah, dead grandpa, money, sisters, lies, serial killer in a red cape, paranoia. I think that about sums it up. If there's one thing that director Emilio Miraglia isn't very good at, it's telling a story. But, like I mentioned earlier, he at least knows how to make a stylish film. THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE is the superior of the two in terms of visuals, but that's sort of a given considering it's more of a Gothic horror movie than a Giallo and there's a lot more to play with as far as cinematography and creating atmosphere. Nonetheless, RED QUEEN is still a visual treat, if anything for the stunning beauty of Barbara Bouchet wearing outfits like these...

As a Giallo, RED QUEEN is pretty standard aside from the allusions to the killer being a ghost, which is something you typically don't see in Italian slashers. A lot of the conventions and tropes are here, though: lead characters working at a modeling agency, members of high society being terrorized by an outside force, boobs, blood, so on and so forth. Another Giallo trend, and a trend in Italian genre films from the 70's and 80's in general, is the inclusion of an American actor or actress amongst a cast of Europeans. In this film's case, it's a young Sybil Danning, who's almost unrecognizable if you know her mostly from her 80's output.

Earlier I mentioned the similarities between RED QUEEN and EVELYN; one thing I failed to bring up is the fact that both movies have reveals that I like to refer to as "Scooby-Doo moments", but that's about all I can say without getting into details. RED QUEEN has so many things going for it when it comes to my tastes. A cast of beautiful actresses for one, and the fact that it's a Giallo starring Babs Bouchet is reason enough for me to see it. Plus, the director made a horror movie that I was a fan of prior to seeing this, and for the two to be so similar in many ways, there shouldn't be any reason why I wouldn't like this. Unfortunately, it's the story itself that drags this movie down for me, and it got to the point where not even the visuals, the style, and Ms. Bouchet could save it. I'm sure many other Giallo enthusiasts out there would strongly disagree with me, but I find that patience wears thinner with each Giallo I watch when it comes to unnecessarily complicated plots that only lead to underwhelming reveals. The last twenty or so minutes of RED QUEEN really drags, the twist is confusing, and the info-dump at the end is brutal. At least there's a spectacular set-piece towards the end involving a flooded room, but it doesn't change the fact that this film is too convoluted for its own good.

Score: 6

1 comment:

  1. Great review, duder. A bit harsh but fair. For me, Red Queen makes up for the baffling plot by being crazy fun.