Lisa and the Devil (1973)

Genres - Fantasy, Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Gothic Film, Psychological Thriller, Supernatural Horror  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - Germany, Spain, Italy  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Patrick Legare

Though this horror film from Mario Bava is not considered one of his best, it is one of his most notorious. When original screenings failed to sell the picture, producer Alfred Leone decided to have Bava shoot additional footage and re-cut the picture. The result -- an attempt to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist -- was titled The House of Exorcism and released in the U.S. in 1975. Bava's original cut is confusing at times, but it is far better than the "possession" theme that was oddly spliced into House. Elke Sommer is solid as the tormented Lisa while co-star Alessio Orano plays Max as a demented mama's boy -- an interesting twist considering the role was originally offered to and turned down by Psycho star Anthony Perkins. The real highlight of the performances is Telly Savalas as the jovial, lollipop-sucking butler. The late Kojak star plays this devilish servant with a darkly comic glee that few actors could have brought to such a part. His finest sequence finds him breaking the legs of a corpse while trying to squeeze it into a too-small coffin while singing "Say It With Flowers." As with every Bava film, his visuals deserve the highest praise. Lisa's frightened walk through the city's dark streets in the beginning is particularly noteworthy. In every shot, Sommer is framed by the stunning architecture making a scene that is simultaneously scary and beautiful.