Friday, October 30, 2009
EVIL FACE - review
As the director of what were to become a couple of "video nasties" in Britain (SS: EXPERIMENT CAMP, SS CAMP 55: WOMEN'S HELL), Sergio Garrone is certainly an institution in euro-cult films. While his Nazi-exploitation films are notoriously known, his work in the horror genre, limited as director to two films, is rarely seen. Mya's release of LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE (THE HAND THAT FEEDS THE DEAD; on the Mya DVD as EVIL FACE) now provides one half of Garrone's horror output, the other half being LE AMANTI DEL MOSTRO (LOVER OF THE MONSTER), a film that shares much of the same cast, crew and locations. Both films are distinguished by their placement in a late 19th century East Europe or Russia, a world seemingly separated from humanity, where passions and bizarre weirdness can flourish, unseen by society or any national authorities. It helps enormously that Klaus Kinski is at the head of these two productions, and that the music by Elio Maestosi and Stefano Liberati provides an emotional handle on the stories and passions of the characters.
LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE takes its cues from surgery horror films like EYES WITHOUT A FACE and THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF. Here Professor Nijinsky (Klaus Kinski) attempts to surgically reclaim the beauty of his burn-scared wife Tanja (Katia Christine), the daughter of the late Baron Ivan Rassimov (yes, "Ivan Rassimov"!), who died tragically in a laboratory fire. Professor Nijinsky, a devoted assistant of Rassimov, needs the skins of beautiful women for his work. With the unexpected but welcome arrival of a newly married couple, Nijinsky finds his most suitable source of flesh in the bride (also played by Katia Christine).
Garrone builds up his suspense through a stately, not flashy, progression of incidents. It's not art, but it does have eventual impact, providing several memorable frissions in the last fifteen minutes or so of LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE. (Btw, the original title makes no sense in the context of the film; Mya's new title--EVIL FACE--is suitable, however much it lacks in finesse.)
Klaus Kinski performs with his usual mixture of somberness and intensity, though his presence on the shoot must have been limited, as in most of the lab scenes a stand-in, mask covering face to hide the duplicity, takes his place. Kinski's most amazing moment comes when he talks to a doll, Anjuska, about his love for his wife and his dejection over her betrayal. Though the set-up may seem completely ridiculous, Kinski manages to searingly impress us with his character's suffering sincerity. It's a dazzling lesson in acting.
Special effects are handled with gruesome expertness by Carlo Rambaldi, and the set decoration and costume design by co-producer Amedeo Mellone are precise and fine. Though obviously done on a limited budget, the film has a suitably rich veneer for its intentions.
As with their presentation of L'AMANTE DEL DEMONIO (LUCIFERA, DEMONLOVER), Mya uses an obvious video element for its source. This time, though, the presentation is in the film's proper aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (non-anamorphic) and the colors are bolder and the picture sharper. If it weren't for the numerous video imperfections that streak throughout the play of the film, and the noticeable aliasing that comes from using analog video, the quality would have been quite good.
Mya's presentation is in the original Italian language, with optional English subtitles. (The film probably never had English dubbing.) Included is a picture gallery, mainly of Italian photobustas. There are a couple of cover shots of recent CD releases from the score, one cue from which is obviously used for the menu screen, as it has a fuller and cleaner timbre than what comes across in the film itself.
EVIL FACE is available on Amazon.com.
Posted by Mirek at 8:44 AM