The House of Exorcism (1975) Region 2
I’ve never seen Maio Bava’s Lisa and The Devil but from the original footage used in this bastardised version it looks like a pretty standard giallo murder mystery. This re-edited version, featuring new footage shot by the producer Alfredo Leone to cash in on the success of The Exorcist, is another animal altogether.
The structure of the film has been completely altered so that Bava’s footage is used in flashback to reveal what happened to Lisa Reiner (Elke Sommer) that resulted in her hospitalisation and the subsequent involvement of a priest played by Robert Alda. This restructuring results in the film making virtually no narrative sense.
Bava was an inventive filmmaker who could do a lot with a minuscule budget, creating such stylish features as Black Sunday and Planet of the Vampires, the latter an obvious influence on Ridley Scott’s Alien. Sadly here his style is so diluted as to be all but unwatchable.
The performances are nothing to shout about either. Elke Sommer is there primarily to look pretty while Telly Savalas plays the lollypop sucking butler (or is he the devil?) as if he were Kojak.
So does the film have anything to recommend it? Well yes, sort of. If features some hysterical exorcism scenes that are far funnier than anything featured in The Exorcist spoof Repossessed starring Leslie Nielsen.
The DVD presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 but it’s non-anamorphic and looks awful, particularly in darker scenes, of which there are a lot. The sound is little better with the choice of either English or French mono that shows it’s age.
The only extra consists of some notes on the films chequered past but only in French (understandable as this is a French DVD).
Possessed (2000) Region 2
Based on the true story that inspired The Exorcist this sees former Bond Timothy Dalton as a priest haunted by his experiences during World War ll.
When the parents of a young boy turn to the church as a last resort to help their troubled child, its Father Willam Bowden (Dalton) who gets assigned the case and ultimately sanctioned to perform the exorcism by Archbishop Hume (Christopher Plummer).
Dalton gives a performance far better than this rather dull TV movie deserves, showing us the tortured soul of this man of god who’s seen too much of mankind at its worst. He’s not your regular priest either, more that happy to take a swing at the police when they attempt to arrest some peaceful black protesters and not averse to using a bit of foul language.
As for the film, it can’t seem to decide if it wants to be historical drama or horror film and in the end succeeds as neither. The acting is for the most part competent though Jonathan Malen, as the possessed kid, is no Linda Blair and his performance kills any chance the film has at any scares. In truth it verges on unintentional hilarity at times, most memorably in the runaway school desk scene, which sees Malen take out several students and the teacher when his desk lurches around the classroom with him hiding under it.
Without Timothy Dalton there would be no point in watching this and even with him your time would be better served re-watching the film the real life events inspired.
The aspect ratio of the film on DVD is 4:3 and while the transfer is nothing to write home about it does a decent job of presenting the film. The sound is 2.0 Dolby Stereo and is clear if unspectacular.
Extras consist of cast biographies and a trailer.
Next week: The Legend of Hell House and The Haunting of Hell House.