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John Phillip Law,
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Maurizio Degli Esposti,
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Directed by Ugo Liberatore (who co-scripted Giorgio Ferroni's fantastic 1960 Gothic Horror film "Il Mulino Delle Donne Di Pietro" aka "The Mill of the Stone Women"), "Nero Veneziano" of 1978 is an elegant, creepy and bizarre occult flick which is sometimes unfairly called a 'rip off' of American films like "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Omen". This only makes sense if any film that has to do with the Antichrist released after the aforementioned films is automatically a rip-off (in which case one would also have to argue that all American Slashers are rip-offs of Italian Gialli like Bava's "Bay of Blood"). "Nero Veneziano", in my opinion, is not a rip-off. Also, some people seem to regard this film as a Giallo, which astonishes me since it simply isn't at all: There is no murder series or murder mystery here, but occult and supernatural Horror - Which makes it anything but a Giallo. While it is a worthwhile and elegant film it isn't a masterpiece either, as whereas the visual style is wonderful and the film's bizarre nature is fascinating, the flick also isn't too coherent, and it occasionally becomes a little lengthy in-between. Still, it is a compelling experience which my fellow fans of Italian Horror should not miss.
"Nero Veneziano" is terrifically set in Venice, which contributes a lot to the film's visual beauty. Mark (Renato Cestiè), a boy who has been blind for the last three years, is tormented by occasional gruesome and infernal visions. When the orphaned boy and his older sister Christine (Rena Niehaus) also loose their grandmother in a tragic event, Mark's disturbing visions turn out to be more than bizarre nightmares...
The film is visually beautiful and impressive, though the whole thing is bleak and the colors are kept very cold. Actually, the visual style somewhat reminded me of Pupi Avati's brilliant "La Casa Delle Finesetre Che Ridono" ("The House with the Laughing Windows"), though Avati's film is set in the countryside, and furthermore a masterpiece, which this film isn't in my opinion. Still the story is fascinating, though it has its holes. The film is rather slow-going, but includes a bunch of truly disturbing outbursts, such as Mark's violent visions. Leading actor Renato Cestiè, who was 15 when this film was made, is best known for playing child roles in older genre gems, such as Mario Bava's "Reazione a Catena" ("A Bay of Blood", 1971) and Sergio Martino's "I Corpi Presentano Tracce Di Violenzia Carnale" ("Torso", 1973). Rena Niehaus, who plays the female lead, might also be known to fans of Italian Exploitation/Cult cinema for starring in Epinardo Visconti's "La Orca" (1976) and the sequel "Oedipus Orca" (1977). Overall, this is a creepy and atmospheric occult horror film that is especially recommendable due to its elegant visual style and bizarre mood. Recommended.
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