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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Slow moving romantic horror story

6/10
Author: Alex Klotz from Geilenkirchen, Germany
19 May 2004

Don't expect 70s Eurohorror in the vein of Jess Franco and the like, and don't expect anything ingenious like the efforts of the director's father. It's a loose adaptation of motives by early romanticist Ludwig Tieck, and since there was no vampirism in literature back then, THERE ARE NO VAMPIRES IN THIS MOVIE EITHER! Just Liv Ullman coming back from the dead after 10 years and strangling children. Great locations, good acting, but neither a convincing drama nor a satisfying horror film. But I've seen much worse than that and young Ornella Muti's a treat. And I like the fact that some screenwriters of the seventies got back to classic seldom filmed literature (like Ado Kyrou did in the far superior 'Le Moine') instead of copying plotlines, themes and motives that have been used a thousand times before.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Dark Romance

10/10
Author: matheusmarchetti from Brazil
28 February 2010

This is probably one of the most underrated, if not, THE most underrated horror film of all time. It has a 4.8 rating on IMDb, yet it deserves at least a 7.8. Never released in theaters in the US, the film eventually showed up on VHS, marketed as a cash-in on The Exorcist, under the title "Mistress of the Devil", and it was a huge disappointment, mainly because the two films have absolutely nothing in common. The story here, which recalls the works of Poe, follows a man who makes a pact with the Devil to have his dead wife, played by Liv Ullmann, back from the grave. She does come back, but as vampire who preys on young children. Stylishly directed by Luis Bunuel's son - Juan Bunuel, the film is a slow-burn, but never really boring, and it is actually pretty scary at times, while being romantic and touching as well, including some of the most heartbreaking scenes in horror cinema. The beautiful cinematography, courtesy of Suspiria's Luciano Tovoli, and the gorgeous locations at the Spanish countryside, add to the film's brooding Gothic atmosphere. Ullman gives an amazing performance as usual, and is one of the most gorgeous vampires out there IMO. Ennio Morricone's fantastic score perfectly captures the gloominess and foreboding atmosphere of this tragic love story. Overall, 10/10 for me.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

LEONOR (Juan Luis Bunuel, 1975) **1/2

6/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
6 November 2010

Being an arty example of horror (much more so, in fact, than the same director's poltergeist-themed EXPULSION OF THE DEVIL [1973]), this medieval tale revolving around a Satanic pact that results in resurrection and a spate of vampire killings was considered too atypical for either sensibility and consequently fell through the cracks over the years; then again, such disparaging remarks by popular critics as Leonard Maltin – who labeled it "idiotic", even awarding the film his dreaded (but undeserved) BOMB rating – has not helped the chances for a proper reappraisal much! Indeed, most seemed to be of the same opinion as it prematurely terminated the director's career in mainstream cinema – he would go on to make just one more feature-length film in 1986, an obscure Western entitled THE REBELLION OF THE HANGED – and was restricted to work exclusively in TV thereafter!

Though the film is a Spanish/Italian/French co-production, the copy I acquired was mostly dubbed in English with the occasional lapse into Italian (actually, I had first watched it eons ago on late-night TV in the latter language). The presence of Michel Piccoli and Liv Ullman drew obvious parallels with the works of Bunuel's own more renowned father and Ingmar Bergman respectively; the obsessive love lasting beyond the grave shared by the protagonists and the general sense of godlessness on display was clearly up the Spanish Surrealist's alley, while the character-driven downbeat nature of the whole is akin to the austere Swede's chamber dramas.

Ornella Muti co-stars as Piccoli's young and lovely second wife who, failing to replace his affection for Ullman, the inconsolable husband coldly eliminates and disposes of. The wanderer-cum-devil he meets soon after was similarly featured in this guise in the contemporaneous ALUCARDA (1975), where he was played by Claudio Brook (a Bunuel Snr. regular!); here, he tells Piccoli that he can bring back his former spouse but asks him to let her rest in peace – naturally, our hero thinks only of himself, and Ullman's return has serious repercussions on both their lives and that of the entire community.

The vampirism angle is not rendered explicit and even abruptly handled: no sooner has Leonor re-awakened – the ten-year period is itself seen passing at the bat of an eyelid – that there are a dozen or so kids missing from the village (the inference being that she drains them of blood); in fact, she at first rejects Piccoli's advances but, once she has been nourished, feels quite ready to express passion – this recalls the Sadean credo perhaps best exemplified by the horror classic THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932), when Count Zaroff states something to the effect of "Kill, then love – only then will you have known true ecstasy!". The Inquisition/plague elements which come into play during the latter stages also tie LEONOR to THE MONK (1972), adapted by the elder Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carriere (who also co-wrote this) from Matthew Gregory Lewis's classic novel; incidentally, the protagonists' children here are named after that particular author!

Apart from the afore-mentioned Muti, there are three other notable Italian credits – screenwriter Bernardino Zapponi (who was just coming off Dario Argento's DEEP RED [1975]), as well as cinematographer Luciano Tovoli and composer Ennio Morricone, both of whose contribution is essential to the film's stunning recreation of a distant and harsh past. Still, if the film does not emerge a complete success, it is because of the rather unsympathetic characterization of the central figures (the boorish Piccoli in particular), a general lack of incident (as already mentioned, the introspection and feeling of dread would have doubtless gained from a better exposition detailing Piccoli's solitude and Ullman's depredations) and the fact that, frankly, it seems not to have much idea how to end (after being lured into a trap by the locals, the female bloodsucker escapes and makes it back home, where she kills one of her former husband's children and even seems to attack Piccoli but, now presumably afflicted himself, the two of them take off on horseback, one suspects, to spread the vampire plague even further: as with the two versions of NOSFERATU {1922 and 1979}, this much-abused horror device is equated with an all-pervasive - and very real - disease).

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Excellent film that has regrettably fallen into the cracks between art and horror

Author: lazarillo from Denver, Colorado and Santiago, Chile
24 May 2010

Although not strictly a vampire film, this is one of those interesting European combinations of horror and art, typified by "Daughters of Darkness" in the 70's or "Let the Right One In" more recently. The plot involves a a 14th century nobleman who loses his young wife (Liv Ullman) to a horseback-riding accident (and to primitive medical practices of the era). He re-marries and has children, but remains mired in grief and unable to forget his first wife (even though his new wife is played by a Ornella Muti, who would make most men forget their own name). Finally, in a kind of "Monkey's Paw" scenario he manages to actually will her back from the grave, but she's not the same, and a lot of local children begin to mysteriously disappear and it isn't long before his new family is threatened. . .

This is more an art film than a horror film, not surprisingly since it was directed by Luis Bunuel's son and features Ingemar Bergman's frequent lead actress and muse. It's more serious than a lot of Euro-horror films, realistically set against the background of the Black Death plague and seriously commenting on the prevailing superstitions of the time (i.e. the fool-hardy medical practices, the witch-burnings). The vampiric element is present mainly in the undead Ullman's predations on peasant children, which recalls the "Bloofer Lady" that the undead Lucy Westeridge becomes in Bram Stoker's original novel "Dracula", an element that has been left out of almost all the subsequent movie adaptations because it't just too disturbing. It's also really quite heartbreaking to see the maternal instinct so corrupted, and to see undying love gone so horribly wrong.

This movie has, unfortunately, kind of fallen through the cracks between art and horror. It is not as exploitative as Jean Rollins sex-and-blood-soaked vampire films, on one hand, but it is not quite as self-consciously arty as something like Ingemar Bergman's "Hour of the Wolf" either (if Bergman or the Bunuel father had simply put their NAME on this movie, it would no doubt be much more well-known today) . It deserves better though. Ulman and Piccolo are very good as the star-cursed lovers, and Ornella Muti is amazing (if WAY too beautiful to be forsaken for a dead woman). It is ripe material for a DVD release.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Amazing romantic horror tragedy

10/10
Author: jbernhard from Somerville Mass
28 May 2008

There are no vampires here, the synopsis given here is incorrect. What you get is a devastating film that details a love lost but never forgotten, and what happens when that lost love returns 10 years later resulting in murder, chaos and violence. Even more impressive, the film does not resort to nudity or gore to keep the viewer's attention. The cast is excellent, the script and story are fresh and inventive, and the direction hits all the right notes. Truly a one of a kind horror film, absolutely NOT for the slasher / torture porn crowd. The Magnetic video from 1980 contains the 85 min English dubbed version. The IMDb lists 100 min for the Spanish version, which is set for DVD release in June 2008. The dubbing is above average and nothing seems missing from the 85 min version, but I'm curious about the Spanish DVD when it comes out. This could be the ultimate art house horror!

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It could have been a contender...

7/10
Author: melvelvit-1 from NYC suburbs
21 June 2014

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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