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Lisa is a tourist in an ancient city. When she gets lost, she finds an old mansion in which to shelter. Soon she is sucked into a vortex of deception, debauchery and evil presided over by housekeeper Leandre. Written by
As oft repeated here: the version titled "Lisa and the Devil" is the more serious of the two versions of this film. "Lisa" captures perfectly that nightmarish atmosphere that Italian filmmakers such as Bava and Argento seem to have such a knack for creating. This is one of the first films I ever saw that relied on visual narrative instead of a solid script to make its point, and even at an early age this really held my interest. Of course, the argument could also be made that this film suffers from slow pacing and a telegraphed conclusion, but I still think the movie is gorgeous, and Elke Sommer is a delight.
But don't let that stop you from checking out "House of Exorcism", either! This takes the film to the other end of the spectrum, exploiting the loose narrative by forcing a possession plot that finds Elke's character now confined to a hospital bed doing her best Linda Blair impression. Everyone involved with the making of these scenes had to have known they were trashy, including Elke herself, so it's a riot to see how game she was to go over the top. She just cuts loose & goes for it, mugging for the camera, vomiting toads, and dripping lots of green bile (natch).
Compared to "Lisa and the Devil", "House of Exorcism" is an absolute abomination, but the producer was a demented genius in forcing the issue of the possession subplot, since the film in its original form was far too "art house" to make any money on the drive-in circuit. If you get ahold of the special edition DVD with both cuts of the film on it, be sure to listen in to the commentary track, which features some great chat from Alfred Leone (the film's producer) and Elke Sommer herself. The opportunity to view both versions of the film gives the viewer a unique opportunity to experience two radically different visions of one film: first as a sumptuously filmed dreamlike masterpiece, then as a masterpiece defiled, hacked to pieces for an exploitation thrill.
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