In this re-edit of Lisa and the Devil (1973), a troubled priest attempts to exorcise the soul of an American tourist who has been possessed by the Devil after witnessing supernatural events at a Spanish villa.
Tourist Lisa Reiner faints on the street and is taken to hospital. She shows disturbing sings of demonic possession, so a priest, Father Michael, is brought in to perform an exorcism. However, he first tries to investigate how she became possessed by the devil in the first place. Despite the fact that her personality has now completely blended together with the demonic entity within her, she none the less tells him about the horrific experiences she lived through in the mansion of a twisted Spanish aristocratic family with a dark secret and the devil she met there.
Though it's already listed as being connected with Woody Allen's Annie Hall, which shows The House of Exorcism as a twin-bill on a marquee, it's actually worked into a visual punchline since Woody's character, Alvy Singer, hates Los Angeles, and jovial Christmas music plays while this marquee, along with Messiah of Evil is shown, is shown, representing Alvy's feelings. See more »
THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM (Mario Bava and, uncredited, Lamberto Bava & Alfred Leone, 1975) *1/2
Although one might understand producer Alfred Leone's concern at having bankrolled a film nobody wanted to distribute, i.e. Mario Bava's LISA AND THE DEVIL (1973) – one is more likely to empathize with the latter's unenviable plight of having to defile his own "masterpiece" by inserting lots of ludicrous (and ludicrously irrelevant) footage in the hopes of turning it into a marketable commodity (albeit shot by Leone himself and Bava's own son Lamberto and credited to one "Mickey Lion" on U.S. prints)! Diabolism in cinema had hit a peak with the artistic and commercial success of William Friedkin's THE EXORCIST (1973) and both Hollywood and European film-makers were quick to jump on the bandwagon: from Jesus Franco's EXORCISM and LORNA THE EXORCIST to Ovidio G. Assonitis' BEYOND THE DOOR (1974) to Alberto De Martino's THE ANTICHRIST (all 1974)! Due to the tenuous devilish connection in Bava's original version (but, then, Telly Savalas' inherently comic persona there simply makes no sense vis-a'-vis his would-be unholy influence on Lisa in the reworking!), the chance for Leone to add his own product to the mix must have seemed too good to pass by. Needless to say, this necessitated that additional scenes be shot featuring a demonically-possessed protagonist (which star Elke Sommer reportedly shot for free!), a cleric literally picked off the streets of Toledo who just happens to be adept at exorcism (a visibly distraught Robert Alda) and the resulting gravity-defying shenanigans at the hospital (witnessed by Leone's own daughter Kathy, whose role as Sommer's travelling companion was consequently enlarged). Apart from all this, a few erotic or violent sequences are far more graphically rendered in this version, while even Carlo Savina's previously lyrical music score has been punched up by ominously percussive beats over the opening credits
Even though I do not quite rank LISA in the top-tier of the director's works myself, the desecration done to it by this travesty is still too great to overlook or forgive: incidentally, I had twice previously watched it in English, but this latest viewing came by way of the Italian-language 'original' culled off "You Tube" and, for what it is worth, it does play better this way meaning that the obligatory profanities spouted by Sommer at the befuddled Alda are even funnier now! To be fair to it, none of the various EXORCIST copycats that I have come across treated the possession theme with the requisite seriousness and spirituality, preferring to indulge in rotating heads, levitations and copious vomit-spewing. While, as already intimated, THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM does include some of these (Sommer even throws up live frogs!), its 'backstory' – that is, the footage pertaining to LISA AND THE DEVIL and which the leading lady insists has already happened and is happening again, whatever that is supposed to mean – has little bearing on Lisa's current condition and how can she be strapped to a hospital bed while simultaneously living a nightmare at the villa?! For good measure, Alda is lamely shown – like Jason Miller's priest in the Friedkin film – to have issues with the Catholic faith that could jeopardize his 'mission' due to personal tragedy (cueing an entirely gratuitous full-frontal nude seduction by his conveniently much younger dead spouse!).
Leone may have removed slow, uneventful passages from LISA (not that the substitutes were any good, and the change in tone between one setting and another is most jarring) but he also ruined a number of judicious edits: most notable are a cut from Alida Valli's face to an eerie fish sculpture that forms part of a fountain, and the dinner sequence in which Telly Savalas' own visage is reflected in the contents of a spilled wine bottle on the floor – now overlapping into a puddle of green vomit beside the hospital bed – only to return to this very point (highlighting Savalas' nervously apologetic reaction to his slip-up) at the next instalment of Lisa's 'recollections'! In the end, it is worth noting that, much as would again prove the case with Enzo G. Castellari's THE LAST SHARK (1981; deemed plagiaristic and refused distribution in the U.S. at the time of release) and JAWS III (1983), the climax of THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM would in return be ripped off by Hollywood for the no-less maligned (and, oddly enough, itself be subject to tinkering in the hope of salvaging it) EXORCIST II – THE HERETIC (1977)!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this