The Whip & the Body
or, reedited as:
Directors: Mario Bava & Alfredo Leone

Directors: Mario Bava & Alfredo Leone

Director: Mario Bava (credited as John M. Olds)

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Lisa and the DevilElke Sommers goes to Spain, sees herself depicted in a mural with the devil, & then some stuff ensues in a palace, featuring Telly Sevalas as the butler/devil.

The story for Lisa & the Devil (La Casa del l'Esorcismo, 1973) makes no effort to be cohesive or logical, intentionally constructed as a nightmare with scarsely even a dream-logic. Intentionally chaotic or not, it is very much not captivating.

It almost seems made up without any script, like the actors would show up & Mario Bava would tell them, "Well, let's see, how about today if we reveal that your character once screwed a corpse." Much the feeling one got from old Dark Shadows episodes.

I'd do her anywayA second edit of this film is in circulation as House of Exorcism & is not at all the film Mario Bava intended.

A DVD exists with both versions. House tells quite a different tale, highlighting what is only a subplot in the Lisa & the Devil edit.

The re-edit adds footage intended to imitate The Exorcist, a runaway hit earlier that same year. It's hard to believe this could be possible, but the second version is even stupider.

Been a long time since I fast-forwarded this much of a film. It's obvious why this never had a theatrical release when it was new.

The Whip & the BodyThe restored widescreen technicolor dvd copy of The Whip & the Body (La Frusta e il corpa, 1963) is gaudy & pleasing.

The stiff melodramatic acting, tacky sets & props, Dark Shadows costuming, & general all round hokiness, give the film an old-fashioned sense of Victorian "sensation fiction," & it is occasionally almost elegant in its total lack of realism & overuse of shadows.

Kurt (Christopher Lee) is the wastrel brother who returns to reclaim his birthright from the good brother, whose wife is a masochist who cannot help but be attracted to the bad brother.

Although Kurt is nominally the villain, no one's really interesting enough to be the hero, so Kurt is de facto the evil hero.

The leading lady, Daliah Lavi as Nevenka, has timeless beauty, coming across as a lesser Barbara Steele.

The Whip & the BodyLavi & Lee could've been sexy together with the s/m whippings & sighings & beat-me-more please beat-me-more, but it's played as purely ridiculous.

The Gothic Romance elements are endlessly hokey & the Demon Lover motif too thinly developed, though perhaps in 1963 it seemed daring to have the leading lady overtly enjoy a good whipping.

And indeed, for its first American release decades anon, the key whipping scene, minor though it was, ended up on the cutting room floor of the censors. So if it had been done well it wouldn't've been seen anyway.

The Whip & the BodyThe most charming-by-default element of the film is how everyone seems to think they're in a Community College production of Shakespeare rather than in an ultra-soft softcore s/m fetish soap opera.

And there is much could be said in favor of the retro lighting mixed with gaudy sets & cinematography reminiscent of old Hollywood family films like Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) rather than anything truly gothic or horrific.

When a third of the way through Kurt is found murdered, for a moment there it seems like the story couldn't possibly pick up steam with any of the remaining cast at center stage, because they all suck. But never fear, Kurt shall be seen again!

The Whip & the BodyWhen the seeming ghost of Kurt first appears at a window, there's still no shivers, but more a sense of relief that we won't have to sit through two-thirds of this inane movie with best actor prematurely missing.

And the "mystery" of whether Kurt is a real ghost, a trickster, or the delusion of a madwoman, scarcely makes any difference really.

The Whip & the Body compares favorably to Hammer period horror films or Roger Corman's Poe cycle, but the recurring allegation of its being a masterpiece is seriously misplaced.

For some, anything by Mario Bava, no matter how campy & dumb, provides a one-way ticket to ecstasy. For my tastes, this one lumbers along from one gothic soap opera cliche to the next, the whipping fetish bits too few & silly to provide even a fresh whiff of sleeze. Recommended primarily for blind Bava fanatics or as a cure for insomnia.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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