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Richard is a medieval nobleman. After his first wife dies in an accident and is buried in the family vault, he remarries and has children by his second wife. A mad longing for his first wife Leonor comes over him, and he sells his soul to the devil for a chance to get her back. But when she returns, she is a murderous vampire. Written by
If anything, LEONOR is a very Grimm fairy tale of love, loss, sorrow, and horror set in the Middle Ages during the time of the black plague but unfortunately, it's also less than the sum of its parts. Feudal lord Richard (Michel Piccoli), mad with grief over the death of his beloved wife Leonor (Liv Ullman), tries to assuage his torment by marrying a village girl (Ornella Muti) who eventually bears him two sons. Ten years pass but the pain doesn't ease and when Richard gets the chance to bring his lost love back, he takes it. His dream comes true but soon animals can't be tamed, crops won't grow, and children begin disappearing from the village...
Filmed among the mountains and crumbling castles of Spain by Luis Buñuel's writer/director son Juan (who worked mostly in TV after this), LEONOR is a vampiric variation on "The Monkey's Paw" and "could have been a contender" since dark romantic horror can be just as potent as erotic horror in the right hands. The sweeping vistas and medieval tableaux by Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA cinematographer Luciano Tovoli and the moody Ennio Morricone score both serve the story well but the Gothic, Poe-like tale (based on a 19th century work by J. Sheridan Le Fanu contemporary Matthew Gregory Lewis) is slow moving and the horror implied rather than explicit. Both factors work against the film but the casting of Liv Ullman in the role of "Leonor" is the final nail in the coffin, so to speak. Ingmar Bergman's muse may be a very good actress but as someone quipped to Katharine Hepburn when she said she wanted the part of Scarlett O'Hara, "I can't see anyone chasing you for ten years" and if Liv and ravishing Ornella Muti had switched places this would have gotten a 8/10 from me. As is, it's a 7.
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