Combustible Celluloid
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With: Elke Sommer, Telly Savalas, Sylva Koscina, Alessio Orano, Gabriele Tinti, Kathy Leone, Eduardo Fajardo, Franz von Treuberg, Espartaco Santoni, Alida Valli
Written by: Mario Bava, Alberto Cittini, Alfredo Leone, etc.
Directed by: Mario Bava
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/01/1974

Lisa and the Devil (1973)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Crazy 'House'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One of Bava's own personal favorites, Lisa and the Devil stars Elke Sommer as a lost tourist who stumbles into a den of weridos, complete with plastic dummies, preserved corpses, past lives (also a theme in Bava's Black Sunday), doppelgangers and chocolate cake.

Alida Valli plays a creepy, blind old woman, and Telly Savalas plays a bald butler who sucks on a lollipop! (This was Savalas' trademark on his hit TV series "Kojak," which debuted the same year.)

Sommer gives a most peculiar performance, with barely any lines of dialogue and jutting her neck and eyes out at every moment like a startled rooster. (Thankfully, she's still quite beautiful.) Yet the movie contains some of Bava's most lush cinematography.

Oddly enough, this strange brew is actually a love story, which probably explains why Bava and producer Alfredo Leone were unable to sell or release it.

So they were forced to re-edit, incorporating some demon possession/exorcism elements cribbed from The Exorcist, and finally released it a year later as The House of Exorcism. This cut contains about one-third new footage -- set in a hospital, with scenes between the possessed Lisa and a priest -- with the original footage serving as a kind of flashback/dream sequence. There's also some nudity added, and strong language as well. Gorehounds may prefer this cut to the dreamier original, but both cuts are interesting in many ways.

In 2012, Kino Lorber released a wonderful new Blu-ray containing both versions, and both looking startlingly beautiful, though the garish new footage in House of Exorcism doesn't quite match the colorful, dreamy cinematography of the original film. As on the DVD, Bava biographer Tim Lucas provides a commentary track for Lisa (which is helpful in establishing the history of the two films and their differences), and Ms. Sommer and producer Leone provide a track for House. Other extras include trailers, and an interview with Bava's filmmaker son Lamberto.

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