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Dr. Eswai is called by Inspector Kruger to a small village to perform an autopsy on a woman who has died under suspicious circumstances. Despite help from Ruth, the village witch, Kruger is killed and it is revealed that the dead woman, as well as other villagers, have been killed by the ghost of Melissa, a young girl who, fed by the hatred of her grieving mother, Baroness Graps, exacts her revenge on them. Dr. Eswai, along with Monica, a local nurse, are lured into a fateful confrontation at the Villa Graps. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
The American title suggests a serial killer knocking off bouffant-haired go-go dancers in a whiskey bar, but this is really a rather old-fashioned Gothic ghost story. Rossi-Stuart (resembling an auburn-haired Hugh O'Brian at times) plays a coroner, brought to a desolate village where citizens keep killing themselves, apparently against their own will. It seems that the place is cursed because of some long ago wrongdoings and now people are taking their turn at hurling themselves off of walls onto sharp fences or slicing their throats with rusty old weapons. Even more oddly, Rossi-Stuart finds gold and silver coins imbedded in the dead people's hearts! Before the victims commit their acts of suicide, they always see and hear a little girl in a frilly dress who laughs a lot and bounces a ball around. Blanc plays a young woman who has only recently returned to the village following a long tenure at school. She takes a particular interest in the situation and in the doctor when she's assigned to assist him in his autopsies. Also in the mix are a police inspector, a town official, a sorceress, an innkeeper and his daughter and a haunted-looking baroness. The actual plot of this film is pretty simple and straightforward despite the various odd touches and aspects of it. What makes it stand out for many people is the overriding atmosphere and the creativity of the direction. Much attention is paid to setting a mood. There are unnaturally colored lights throughout, heavily detailed sets, creative camera angles and a somewhat hypnotic musical score. These things, to some viewers, help make for a moody and haunting film experience. To other (possibly less patient) viewers, these make for an interminable and boring experience. Regardless of one's acceptance of all the atmospheric elements, the film does offer a few memorable and striking scenes. In one, Rossi-Stuart chases the little girl through room after room until he catches up with himself! Another makes exceptional use of a spiral staircase. It isn't easy, when watching a dubbed version of the film, to accurately gauge the acting, but overall it seems rather solid. This film (along with others by it's director Mario Bava) has influenced and inspired many filmmakers in their own works (amongst them Martin Scorcese and David Lynch.) The deranged baroness (Vivaldi) is clearly a template for Grace Zabriskie in David Lynch's TV series "Twin Peaks". Much of the business of the film has since been cribbed and reworked, so it doesn't always come off as particularly startling now, but that's hardly the fault of the creators, who were among the first to utilize the various ideas. Fans of vintage horror should find themselves entertained for its relatively brief running time.
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