Oooooohhhhh here?s what?s going-on with LISA AND THE DEVIL (and LISA ND THE DEVIL?S ?successor:? HOUSE OF EXORCISM):
Mario Bava died in 1980 (five or six years) after making LISA AND THE DEVIL; so Lisa and the Devil is a ?ghost story? written and directed by (Mario Bava) a man with only six years left to live
?no, of course MARIO BAVA did not know he would die less than five years after making Lisa and the Devil, but, in seeing Lisa and the Devil ?now? one realizes that it?s a film about Death and the inescapability of death. Furthermore the artist, MARIO BAVA, is ?saying? that Death and Dying is (like) being cheated out of Life and Living by The Devil.
Watching LISA AND THE DEVIL and HOUSE OF EXORCISM (relatively) back-to-back allowed me to see them with a new understanding.
Most people have neither heard of either Lisa and the Devil nor House of Exorcism;
House of Exorcism is a ?Producer-cut? version of Lisa and the Devil with different scenes revolving around an exorcism and the possessed person informing a priest that Ghosts have been and are continuing to torment one another for the past FIFTY years in ?The House of Exorcism.?
In THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM it turns out that The Ghosts haunting The House of Exorcism are actually the main characters in Lisa and the Devil and the priest drives round to The House of Exorcism drive out the spirits that have been tormenting one another for the past half-century.
Lisa and the Devil and House of Exorcism remind me of the dual-linear quality of the original television program DARK SHADOWS and CARNIVAL OF SOULS. Every so often, DARK SHADOWS would ?split? into a dual-time narrative where the actors would play their characters? ancestors to further augment the plot. Let?s say Barnabas Collins was in love with Josette in 1784, Jonathan Frid and the actress playing Josette would play themselves in the present-1967 storyline as well as the past-1784 storyline.
In House of Exorcism and Lisa and the Devil, Elke Sommer portrays Lisa Reiner in present-1974 storyline and she also portrays Eleanor in the past-1924 flashbacks where she?s in love with Carlo who is The Countess? soon to be late husband.
It reminds me of CARNIVAL OF SOULS because Lisa, like the protagonist in Carnival of Souls, becomes ?Doomed? close to the movie?s beginning?she wanders off into another dimension of existence and can?t seem to find her way back.
But then, Carnival of Souls reminds me of the TWILIGHT ZONE episode where ?Nan? picks up a hitch-hiker over and over and over again only to learn that she?d been killed in an auto-accident miles up the road.
(Moviegoers today wouldn?t give a crap about nor understand a film presented in a dual-linear fashion . . . probably only The Great Quentin Tarantino would be able to ?seduce? an audience into enjoying a multi-linear plot. And moviegoers today would totally turn their noses up at LISA AND THE DEVIL and HOUSE OF EXORCISM because they would find either film to be incoherent and annoying)
Lisa and the Devil is a consummate art-film?its MARIO BAVA (who used to direct films like ?Black Sabbath? ?Black Sunday? ?Twitch of the Death Nerve? ?Blood-Spattered Bride? and ?Planet of the Vampires?) suddenly ?changing-up? and directing an ?incoherent? ?dream-like? film where there is very little action spread over a comparatively long narrative.
Unfortunately when a director ?suddenly? decides to go from directing horror movies (and some action-movies) to directing a ?deeply personal? film expressing miserable, apprehensive about death and decay, like here with Bava, he loses his existing core audience and he loses a larger commercial audience. As a result LISA AND THE DEVIL couldn?t capture a distribution deal because distributors ?can?t? sell a film that ?doesn?t make any sense? especially since Mario Bava?s name was no longer en vogue by 1975.
My argument is that LISA AND THE DEVIL makes perfect sense. While visiting Madrid, Spain, Lisa hears a distant lullaby presumably emanating from a music-box and wanders off from the tour group as the group is looking at a fresco of The Devil carrying off The Dead?The Dead that The Devil is carrying-off in the fresco looks like a mannequin.
Lisa finds the source of the music-box in an old antique shop. Inside the antique shop, Lisa learns that the music-box isn?t for sale and it?s owned by the customer with his back turned towards her. The Customer turns to face Lisa and Lisa is shocked to see that the customer had the same face as The Devil in the fresco. Lisa escapes The Devil?s countenance (yet not The Devil?s presence); exiting the antique shop into a strange deserted ?version? of the city she was visiting with her tour group.
Eventually Lisa bumps into The Devil who directs her back to the town square.
Before Lisa reaches the Town Square she runs into Carlo; Carlo looks exactly like a mannequin that The Devil was carrying away from the antique shop and also resembles the mannequin that The Devil was portrayed as carrying in the fresco. Carlo frightens Lisa and calls her Eleanor more than once before Lisa accidentally pushes him down a flight of stairs.
Lisa continues to wander around the ?version? of town until evening where she comes upon a husband, wife, and chauffeur in a 1920s motor-car. The party of three invites Lisa to join them and shortly thereafter, the motorcar sputters and halts before a huge villa made to look very menacing and mysterious due to the lateness of the hour.
The chauffeur knocks on the door of the villa and The Devil answers the door; Lisa sees The Devil and cowers away further behind the motorcar. Somewhere from inside the villa, The Countess is calling for Leandro to send the party away; Leandro is The Devil?s name and Leandro apparently is The Butler.
Leandro, the butler (who is The Devil), hesitates in ?sending them away? and a young man who is a dead-ringer for Joaquin Phoenix and the guy who played Quentin in DARK SHADOWS creeps up behind Lisa begging her and the others not to leave.
The Countess at first tells her son ?no? that the people may not stay but then agrees.
(Guys, this will go on FOR-EVER . . . let me wrap this up).
It turns out that LISA is a doppelganger of a woman named Eleanor who was once Maximilian ?s girlfriend.
Carlo was The Countess? husband (thus Maximilian ?s step-father) who ended-up sleeping with Eleanor, his step-son?s girlfriend.
Maximilian ?s mother, The Countess, is heartbroken that Carlo her husband slept with Eleanor, her son?s fiancee.
Yet (in THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM'S narrative, we learn that The Countess was abusive to Maximilian's rendering him impudent thus ?forcing? Eleanor to seek-out Carlo and sleep with HIM rather than vice versa.
Avenging his mother?s grief, Maximilian's killed Eleanor and hid her body so Carlo could not find her. Carlo ultimately leaves The Countess and her Crazy Son Maximilian's and then dies and is brought back to the villa by The Devil.
Apparently, The Countess, Maximilian, Eleanor, and Carlo had been ghosts for quite some time as their attire is about fifty years older than the clothes worn by The Husband The Wife and The Chauffeur who seem to have suffered the same fate as Lisa; they too ?wandered? into the alternate dimension haunted by The Countess, Maximilien's, Eleanor, and Carlo, a dimension governed by The Devil in which they are all puppets. Just as Carlo cheated on his wife The Countess, The Wife cheats with The Chauffeur.
The Countess murders The Chauffeur with a pair of scissors; The Wife murders The Husband by running him over with the motorcar forwards and reverse and forwards and reverse and forwards again; and Maximilian murders The Wife by bludgeoning her to death with a heavy torchiere. When the ghost of Carlo tries to sleep with Lisa, Maximilian bludgeons Carlo to death.
Because Carlo is impudent and wants to ?make-it? with Lisa ?real-bad,? Carlo tricks Lisa into entering the attic-room where he has stored the body of Eleanor for the past one hundred years (remember: Carlo, Maximilian, The Countess, and Eleanor were ghosts for about fifty years, then the chauffeur the husband and the wife showed-up in the 1920s to join the ?ghost-party? and then Lisa became trapped with the two haunting in the 1970s).
Carlo drugs Lisa with Chloroform and when Lisa?s ?knocked-out? he lays Lisa?s body on the bed beside Eleanor?s corpse. Carlo sensually disrobes Lisa and ?does-it? with her and ejaculates to the swell of Joaquin Rodrigo?s Concierto de Aranjuez .
?After-sex? Carlo pierces his mother?s heart with a candle holder and eventually falls out of a window and becomes pierced by the tip of an iron gate.
Lisa awakens and finds herself surrounded by aged debris making it look like she?s been asleep for fifty years (remember Lisa is in a haunting that recycles every fifty years).
When she exits the villa a group of school children call Lisa a ghost and run away. Lisa makes her way to the airport and passes Leandro just as Leandro is receiving a mannequin of her from the antique dealer.
Once on the airplane, Lisa finds herself deserted and alone listening to the pilot's voice that sounds like Leandro?s voice. She sees that the only other passengers on the plane are THE CORPSES OF The Chauffeur, The Wife the Husband, Maximilian, The Countess and Carlo.
Lisa barges into the flight-cabin and The Devil is The Captain. Lisa suddenly dies: turning into the corpse of Eleanor showing signs of fifty years worth of decay.
. . .
Now imagine trying to ?sell? what you?ve just read to an international movie going audience.
I remember in Philadelphia being only one of 14 people in a showing of DELLA MORTE DELLAMORE (also known as) and one of about 30 people in a showing of THE THIRD MOTHER.
PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE ?weird? MOVIES that can?t be summed-up in two sentences.
But . . . Art is Art and there are people like me (and about two hundred other people) who LOVE movies like LISA AND THE DEVIL and CEMETERY MAN and THE THIRD MOTHER.
I always wonder why it seems like it?s only me and ?two hundred other people? who seem to enjoy these GREAT MASTERPIECES.