Tuesday, July 03, 2018


Although it never did get a theatrical release in the US (and was not dubbed into English), EVIL FACE should be better known than it is. The MYA Communications DVD, sourced from an Italian video tape and thus not something for those who make a big stink about 4K restorations and HD shit, received poor reviews on the cult video websites, so I was able to pick up a used copy for next to nothing (alas, that was years ago....the cheapest used copy now is $50!). I don’t have a large-screen TV--I consider myself lucky to have a 27” one my children chipped in together to buy us a few years ago—so it looks fine to me, like a copy of an old VHS tape, which I suppose it is.

Evidently this is an upgrade from the version that floated around prior to the MYA disc’s release in 2009. The film was an Italian-Turkish co-production, and the bootleg copies floating around in the 1990’s and after were from copies of a blurry and cut Turkish-dubbed video tape--so I’m glad MYA released it at all, whatever their source!

The Spanish and Italian and French horror films which played American drive-ins in the early 70’s tended to be atmospheric period-pieces, with a languorous feel and at least some nudity and gore. They would be perfect for the drive-in setting, where often the first film would start before the sun was fully set, where you had a lousy small speaker clipped to your window, and where many of the patrons were as interested in getting high or getting drunk....or fooling around with their date....as they were in the movie. What counted was ATMOSPHERE and MOOD....and some nudity or gore that would get their attention and get them looking at the screen again. You did not get the fine detail at a drive-in----you got a fuzzy, spliced, washed-out experience. The few film fanatics who were REALLY paying attention to the film (on occasion I was one of those, on other occasions I was in either (or both) of the other categories) were people who went out of their way to find off-the-wall films and would enjoy the elliptical, woozy feel of these early 70’ Euro-horror films, such as DEATH SMILES ON THE MURDERER, which also starred Klaus Kinski. Even if you did not take drugs, the films put you in a drugged-like state.

EVIL FACE did not play here back in the day, but it has all the best qualities of the ones that did. Originally titled LA MANO CHE NUTRE LA MORTE (more or less, THE HAND THAT FEEDS THE DEAD), it is filled wall-to-wall with classic gothic horror tropes. In the first few minutes, we have a crazed assistant (he’s not a literal hunchback, but he prowls around bent over like one) to a mad doctor put under a spell and then sent to attack a couple making out in the woods near the doctor’s estate, taking the woman attacked and handing her over to mad doctor KLAUS KINSKI, who uses her in experiments to restore the lost beauty of the disfigured daughter of his medical mentor, who died in the fire that disfigured the daughter—now Kinski’s wife (a variation on the old Bela Lugosi THE CORPSE VANISHES plot, and then fifty others after that). There are many scenes of Kinski, at his most cerebral and self-absorbed, fooling around with hypodermic needles and doing various surgeries and grafts on topless women, always looking INTENSE and radiating that indescribable Kinski-ness that producers gladly paid the master to provide. His dialogue is minimal (though not as minimal as SOME films in the late 60s and early 70s where he has virtually no dialogue, and just glares mysteriously, even when he’s top-billed!), but he doesn’t have to say a thing—he just has to BE Klaus.

The orchestral soundtrack is the kind of downbeat almost funereal score that these films need, and it perfectly matches the languid, fragmented, fever-dream feel of the visuals—the combination of music and image totally captures a mood of decay. The “historical” setting in no particular era, the kind of vague “historical” semi-gothic past you see in comic books and horror movies, helps to create an elegant feel for the film, and by the end of it, you’ll feel as if you too are infected with the disease/malaise that EVIL FACE radiates so well.

Director-writer Sergio Garrone (brother of actor Ricardo Garrone, a man well-known to Euro-western fans) and his Turkish production partner made two films with Kinski back-to-back in an eight-week period. The other one, LE AMANTE DEL MOSTRO (aka LOVER OF THE MONSTER), is even more obscure than this one, if that’s possible. It sounds vaguely similar in plot (but with a Jekyll and Hyde angle) and features most of the same cast. The early 70’s were really a Golden Age of Italian and Spanish horror films. When you can have a little-known, quickly made, seemingly throwaway film like this one deliver the goods so well and be so atmospheric and moody from beginning to end, you know that the film grows out of a great period—there must have been something in the air they were all breathing or the water they were all drinking. Fortunately, we can still catch that spirit (or be infected by the malaise) on this Mya DVD of EVIL FACE.

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