Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Halloween 31 For 31: The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)

Director: Emilio P. Miraglia
Screenplay: Fabio Pittorru and Emilio P. Miraglia
Cast: Barbara Bouchet (as Ketty Wildenbrück); Ugo Pagliai (as Martin Hoffmann); Marina Malfatti (as Franziska Wildenbrück); Marino Masé (as Inspector Toller); Pia Giancaro (as Rose Mary Müller)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #43

After The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971), director Emilio P. Miraglia made one other giallo, one that is dressed in a gothic gown, a red cape in this case, but is far more explicitly a giallo in terms of a narrative. The prologue sets up a tale of dwelling sisters - Kitty and Evelyn - representations of the Black Queen and the Red Queen respectively, the later said to haunt people after her death by the Black Queen, returning to kill seven people from the grave every hundred years. Cut to modern 1972 and Evelyn is inexplicably missing and another sister Franziska (Marina Malfatti) exists to comfort Kitty (played by Barbara Bouchet). This begins the very knotted and convoluted plot of Red Queen; if Evelyn was closer to gothic horror, in how its plot of a man being driven mad by his late wife coming out of the grave fits that genre's many plots, this has a similar type of plot but structures it closer around the conventional structure of a giallo as a body count starts and a figure dressed in a red cloak is responsible, causing Kitty anxiety as a potential romantic interest Martin (Ugo Pagliai) is being incriminated for the crimes.

The complicated nature of Red Queen's narrative is the one potential issue depending on each viewer's reaction to it, very much whether you can accept how far it goes or find it overburdening and difficult to follow. Giallo can cheat and be incredibly convoluted - Evelyn glibly changes the board its game was being played on constantly to keep the viewer on their toes - but Red Queen is a lot more complicated than most giallo for how little breathing space there is at points, the inclusion of Franziska when it transitions to the main modern day narrative a great example you have to adjust to quicker than with other moments. It also has a lot of plot strands to keep in mind, all adding a lot to love in the film but keep things very dense at points. The entire nature of what's happened to Evelyn, Kitty's guilt over this fact, married businessman Martin having to profess his innocence as a suspect, Franziska's existence alongside other women like Lulu (Sybil Danning) and Rosemary (Pia Giancaro), a fashion company Martin becomes head of when the original boss is killed by the Red Queen, the inheritance left by Kitty's late father stalled for a year, not to mention Evelyn's creepy drug addicted former boyfriend who just wants the inheritance...a lot to deal with, many red herrings that are whittled down as the deaths take place, very much a story that has to be relished for its elaborate plot points or it would become overwhelming. The result is a giallo churning some many plot points of the genre into one dense narrative, erotic and stylish at the same time.

The style is a lot of why Red Queen is actually able to succeed with this condensed plot. Particularly with its production design by Lorenzo Baraldi, who also contributed greatly to Evelyn's advantage, it has a great sense of mood that connects everything together, the conflict between modernism and the gothic the central issue in this plot, a tale from Kitty's family haunting her amongst the modern settings as well as the historical ones. The titular Red Queen is certainly one of the most evocative figures from giallo I've seen, a woman with raven black hair and a Little Red Riding Hood cloak, manically laughing after each murder she commits before disappearing round a corner, evoking European fantastique literature rather than straightforward mystery stories. The gothic lashings - the inheritance, the gothic home of Kitty's family - nestle perfectly with the then-modernist decor, like with The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, because the type of story as a giallo suits the vibe of gothic too, of backstabbing and people chasing figures around darkened corridors. Red Queen is also open in its more lurid content, Kitty's family home having an underground dungeon and the climax involving a room that fills up with canal water straight out of the Lou Chaney Phantom of the Opera (1925), and because giallo could be both artistic and openly absurd with such content, this fits the world perfectly without question.

The emphasis on art is important as, whilst they could be trashy and sleazy, the best giallo which Red Queen joins at least technically were very artistically minded in how colourful and how carefully made they were, a sense of pride felt in its aesthetic which was put together with thought despite how quickly these films were made in their boom period between 1970-2. Even if there's kitsch, the fashion and a large part of the story about the fashion industry a time capsule to that period, there's an incredible glamour to Red Queen that's undeniable. Of beautiful people in beautiful locations which makes it moments of bloody red paint gore more stylish, all score by Bruno Nicolai creating another great score after Evelyn, and cinematographer Alberto Spagnoli shooting everything, especially the colour red, in full vibrancy. Even if the plot gets ludicrous at points in its shifts, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is still incredibly watchable. 


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