The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

What a peculiar film. I’ve filed it under both “horror” and “thriller” here because I’m not sure which is the “right” one… maybe “gothic” is better than either. Set in a strangely unconvincing England where the cars all have left-hand drive, our hero—or is he?—is Lord Alan Cunningham, youngish fellow affected badly by the death while giving birth of his wife Evelyn; despite his vows never to marry again, he winds up doing so when he meets a nice young lady, Gladys, and life is nice again, Alan’s finally able to let go of Evelyn… Except he isn’t, really; Alan has unfinished business with his late wife thanks not only to her untimely death, but also her infidelity (she’d been putting out for some other blokes), and this manifests in a tendency to seek out redheads who remind him of his wife, and torture and kill them. And this is where the film becomes peculiar, because although the trailer gives the impression that his Lordship is a frankly villainous figure, the film itself presents him much more ambivalently, to the point of being more sinned against than sinning. What was really odd, though, was the way in which, after the first half hour or so, Alan’s murderous tendencies are pretty much sidelined for the rest of the film, until they do finally play into the climax; but until they do we’re treated to what seems like almost a completely different film (in which Alan’s unfinished business appears mild compared to what appears to be Evelyn‘s unfinished business)… and for some reason Death Laid an Egg popped into my head, and I just had this feeling the twist in this film was going to prove awfully similar to the twist in that film, given how Alan’s little killing spree goes curiously unremarked. And, well, it kind of was… which was slightly disappointing, but hey, at least it all looks pretty good as it unfurls, there’s some good elegant lifestyle porn (thanks Tim Brayton for that phrase), although there’s something in the nature of the story (man being driven mad in old castle and all that) that made me feel a 19th century period setting would have made rather more sense than the contemporary (i.e. early 70s) setting… and a markedly faster pace wouldn’t have hurt it either. Still, not bad on the whole, and at least I managed to find a copy on YT that was the right length and aspect ratio unlike some of the DVD releases out there…

Written for the 3rd Annual Italian Horror Blogathon at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies

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