Lisa and the Devil (1973)

Lisa and the Devil (1973)

Lisa and the Devil lives in one of the lesser-known corners of the Mario Bava-verse. Telly Savalas as the possible devil Leandro is an amusing presence, and if he is not particularly devilish, the dream-like plot definitely is. Lost tourist Lisa comes across Leandro in an unnamed European town, and she is immediately afraid of him—he looks like the devil she‘s just seen in a fresco on a church wall. That devil carried the bodies of the dead under his arms, and Leandro is picking up a dummy he’s having repaired to carry home. She tries to return to her group, but the streets become maze-like and darkness falls, so she is forced to ask for a lift with a rich couple and their chauffeur. The car breaks down at the door to a gothic manor house, and when they knock for help, it is answered by Leandro, who invites them inside.

And it just gets more complicated from there. There’s a family, and mannequins, and ghostly knockings, and a dream lover that Lisa thinks she knows, and a killer in the house, and lots of running through enormous abandoned rooms. It all looks ravishing and has plenty of fun performances, but it’s more of a ghostly mystery than particularly frightening, an adult fairy tale. The acting has a hammy, knowing quality which, along with the fantastical tone, constantly reminds the viewer that this is an artifice. I would have enjoyed it more if it had ended on the penultimate scene, but Bava insists on a silly final twist that slightly spoils it.

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