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Eerie and Elegant Occult Horror By Massimo Dallamano
Massimo Dallamano was doubtlessly one of the most gifted filmmakers in Italian 70s cinema, his greatest achievement being the 1972 Giallo-masterpiece "Cosa Avete Fatto A Solange" ("What Have You Done To Solange?"). Prior to his premature death in a car accident in 1976, Dallamano was responsible for a fistful of true classics of Italian 70s cinema including "Solange" and "La Polizia Chiede Aiuto" (1974), and I therefore also had high expectations for this occult Horror gem, "Il Medaglione Insanguinato" aka. "Perché?!"/"The Night Child"/"The Cursed Medallion" of 1975. Well, I must say that my high expectations were easily met, maybe even surpassed by this film, which turned out to be a highly atmospheric, suspenseful and also original gem that is definitely worthy of more attention.
Too often are occult Horror films from the first half of the 70s just dismissed as being blatant imitations of "The Exorcist"; this might be true in some cases, but it certainly isn't the case here. Other than the film being about possession and having a child as a central figure, this film has little to nothing do with "The Exorcist". Some time after his wife's tragic death in a fire, British reporter Michael Williams (Richard Johnson) goes to Italy with his daughter Emily (Nicoletta Elmi) and her nanny, in order to do a documentary on art. Little Emily, who, after witnessing her mother's gruesome death, is still haunted by nightmares, is given a beautiful silver medallion, which is supposed to have a mysterious past, by her father. Soon after their arrival, strange things begin to occur...
British character actor Michael Williams (whose resemblance to "The Omen" leading man Gregory Peck may be intended or not) delivers a very good performance in the lead, and Joana Cassidy and genre-beauty Ida Galli make a nice female support. The true star of this film, however, is little Nicoletta Elmi, doubtlessly the greatest child star in Italian Horror cinema, who once again proves that children can be great actors - and unspeakably eerie. 11 years old at the time this film was made, Nicoletta Elmi had already starred in a number of brilliant cult-productions including Mario Bava's "Bay of Blood" (1971) and "Baron Blood" (1972), Aldo Lado's Venetian Giallo "Chi L'Ha Vista Morire" (1972), Paul Morrisey's "Flesh For Frankenstein" (1973) and Dario Argento's masterpiece "Profondo Rosso" (1975). While "The Night Child" is not the most brilliant production Elmi has ever been part of (that would be a draw between "Profondo Rosso" and "Flesh for Frankenstein" for me), it was her first and only leading role, and it proves more than any other film what a great talent she was. Elmi quit acting in her mid-20s in order to become a doctor.
"Il Medaglione Insanguinato" is a film as beautiful as it is eerie. Fantastically photographed on beautiful and impressive settings, and with fascinating set-pieces, this is another film that proves that Italian Horror is as visually overwhelming as cinema gets. The film maintains a haunting and creepy atmosphere from the first minute to the end, the generally eerie mood is intensified by several nightmarish and downright frightening sequences. Eerie, haunting and beautiful, this is yet another great film by the great Massimo Dallamano. Standing ovations for the tremendously gifted Nicoletta Elmi. 8.5/10
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