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Alberto De Martino
Don't be fooled into believing it's a zombie-film or a Edgar Wallace film; this is as "yellow" as a Giallo comes
The reason this being one of the more obscure Giallos (or as purist would say: Gialli), can be blamed on "clever" promoters, who had hoped to cover more bases than were available. In the US they tried to market this off as a Living Dead flick. Needless to say that those expecting zombies were none too happy when no walking corpses appeared in the film. In Germany on the other hand, the film was marketed under the Titel "Das Geheimnis des Gelben Grabes" ("Secret of the Yellow Grave") as a Edgar Wallace movie. True, this novel was written by AN Edgar Wallace but not THE Edgar Wallace, and similarly, the fans of "Kraut Krimis" were disappointed, even though the film counts as final Edgar Wallace flick that was produced by veteran Artur Brauner.
So we better stick with the alternative English-title, "Etruscan lives again", and yes, the film has all the hallmarks of a Giallo: a mix of Psycho-Thriller, Who-dunnit, mix with gratuitous nudity, sex and violence.
The story itself is rather simple: An archaeologist Jason Porter discovers an ancient Etruscan grave in Tuscany. The grave features frightening wall-painting to Tuchulcha, an Etruscan demon of death and destruction. The excavation-sight happens to be under the property of the despotic musical-director Samarakis. This creates a great deal of tension, since Samarakis is married to Porters Ex-wife Myra. But jealousy and sexual tension takes a back-step, when a mysterious killer stalks the area, killing couples whom he catches in the process of love-making and disposes his victims with an Etruscan mallet. Soon everybody finds himself on the list of suspects and everyone seems to have their own skeletons in the closet: Jason, who still battles with the demons of alcoholism and having been confined to a mental-ward, the shady Samarakis, the gay Theatre-director Stephen and many other, all who seem to share some seedy background.
Like with most Gialli, "seedy" is one of the keywords. The Gialli was always considered the dirty cousin of the squeaky clean Kraut-Krimi, laden with lurid psycho-sexual images and sadistic violence, that's constantly pending between art and Slasher. "Etruscan lives again" makes no exception. The cast is well picked, all do a fine job and, as suitable, the viewer is never quiet sure if and which figure deserves any sympathy at all. That includes protagonist Alex Cord, whom the American audience will likely best remember for his role as one-eyed Michael in "Airwolf". Horst Frank, although only having a relatively minor role, steals the show as we had often done in this type of movie. Despite his character being a homosexual, Frank with his burning glare comes across as menacing and threatening as ever. Wonderful soundtrack, as is to be expected from veteran Riz Ortolani (though his sometimes schmaltzy sound isn't everybody's cup of Chianti) and Crispino does an admirable job, despite not counting among the big Giallo-directors like Bava or Argento. Crispino utilizes the wonderful landscape of Tuscany almost like a second actor, making the best of the locations (again, another trademark of any good Giallo).
Within the confines of it's genre, I'd give it a well-meaning 7/10, as a pure Psycho-Thriller perhaps a little less, since not everybody is comfortable with the Giallo-style, lurid storytelling and choppy structure. Again, I'd like to point out to whoever added the line "The first zombie movie to be filmed in anamorphic wide screen" in the trivia-section, I assure you: there are no Undead to be seen and those who get killed in "Etruscan lives again", stay as dead as a corpse can be.
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