Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her Grave is an exploitative Italian horror film from the early 70s, a murder mystery that shows an unusual lack of imagination. Although filmed at the same Roman villa as many other Italian horrors, like The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, it is set in England, where Lord Cunningham (Antonio de Teffe, aka Anthony Steffen) entices beautiful women back to his creepy home to murder them in his torture chamber. Obsessed with his dead wife Evelyn, he directs his rage at new female victims while in a psychotic trance. Between killings, he turns down his best friend Dr. Timberlane (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) advice to check into an asylum.
Cunningham is soon beset with two more beauties. Susie (Erika Blanc) is a stripper who disappears during a murder session, and he marries Gladys (Marina Malfatti) after one night's lovemaking. Odd occurences pop up, and we quickly realize that one of the rich man's relatives is (surprise!) engineering an elaborate ruse to inherit his estates by getting him declared insane.
Originally titled La Notte che Evelyn usć dalla tomba, the movie is a crass excuse to parade as much female nudity as possible. There's so little imagination involved that it grows almost immediately tedious. The actors are chosen for their looks and Emilio Miraglia's direction is flat and uninspired. We get repetitive trips to the torture dungeon, and slow-motion flashbacks of Evelyn cavorting on the castle grounds. A trip to a nightclub introduces top-billed Erika Blanc as a stripper who emerges from a coffin as part of her act. The women wear revealing clothing exclusively, even when prowling rat-infested tombs in the middle of the night. All the picture really has to sell is the nudity, because the mystery here is obvious from the start. Several red-herring characters are presented for our approval, but we can tell who is responsible and can guess the cynical game being played.
Cynical isn't a strong enough word, for the film's three Italian writers have made their hero a serial killer. He kills one woman, tries to kill two others, and we're given to believe that there have been more. By the final curtain, almost the entire rest of the cast is dead or in police hands, and the story never addresses the fact that Cunningham is still at large. The guilty are of both sexes but the film seems to have it in for women. We start from the position that they're all toys for male amusement, and all we meet are wanton sirens intend on entrapping men.
Besides being a good example of slick but trashy Euro-horror, The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her Grave has two things going for it. The beautiful score by Bruno Nicolai features Edda del Orso's haunting vocals, and sounds like Ennio Morricone but without his distinctive edge. The 'scope photography is also said to be beautiful, with bright colors and textures.
Unfortunately, Eclectic DVD Distribution's Sinema Diable disc is of terrible quality. The source element is a scratched, spliced scope print with badly-faded color. The box says uncut, which is entirely possible, but there are jump cuts throughout, as if some enterprising projectionist had harvested sexy clips for his private collection. The colors in some interiors are passable, but one reel change transforms the color scheme from warm reds to dark green, in the middle of a scene. Another reel change finds the film two perfs out of frame, and the telecine operator obligingly re-frames on the run. That's quality control!
Overall the picture is washed out, blurry, and slightly overscanned. The actual digital compression looks all right, so it's my guess that the source of this disc is a very bad 'scope transfer that's been digitally squeezed for 16:9. Except for picture stability, it's no better than a research-quality graymarket VHS. I define 'research quality' as what one watches until a decent version becomes available.
As for being complete, at 99 minutes, it's 11 longer than the cut original American release, but 4 short of the supposed full-length version. If it started as a PAL conversion, that might account for the gap.
The packaging promises high quality on the order of a Blue Underground or Anchor Bay disc, and the package copy says that 'no Euro-horror collection can be complete' without it. Believe me, this disc is a big disappointment.