An ancient family curse gets a giallo twist in Emilio P. Miraglia's THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIME on Blu-ray from Arrow Video USA.
Sisters Kitty (Barbara Bouchet, AMUCK!) and Eveline Wildenbrück have been at odds since childhood, to the point that their grandfather Tobias (Rudolf Schündler, SUSPIRIA) fears that they will be the latest pair of siblings to enact the curse of the Red Queen and the Black Queen. In the middle ages, the long suffering Black Queen stabbed her sister The Red Queen seven times; whereupon the dead woman rose from the grave a year later and murdered six innocent people and then claimed her sister as the seventh victim. Every hundred years this pattern has repeated itself, and it looks like Kitty and Eveline are gearing up for the next centennial in 1972 (fourteen years after the childhood prologue). Before Tobias dies of a heart attack that year, he leaves a codicil to his will that says the heirs will not be named nor the money and property divvied up until another year has passed. Although he had hoped to prevent the curse from being fulfilled this way, Tobias was unaware that Eveline did not run away to America but was accidentally killed the year before by Kitty during a violent argument. Kitty's older sister Franziska (Marina Malfatti again) and her crippled husband Herbert (Nino Korda, SATAN'S BREW) helped cover up the crime in exchange for half of Kitty's portion of the estate, but Kitty is also being blackmailed by Eveline's junkie boyfriend Peter (Fabrizio Moresco, DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT). What is even more disturbing is that both Franziska and Herbert believe that the cackling Red Queen was responsible for Tobia's death and that she had the face of Eveline (whose body is still rotting in a secret room in the castle's dungeon). When Springe department store manager Hans (Bruno Bertocci, CALIBER 9) is stabbed to death by a dark-haired woman in a red cloak and fashion photographer Kitty's boyfriend Martin (Ugo Pagliai, FATAL FRAMES) becomes the new head of fashion, Kitty wonders if he has not used the legend to his benefit. When more employees are murdered, Inspector Tuller (Marino Masé, NIGHTMARE CASTLE) ties the murders to Martin and Kitty without knowledge of the curse, but Kitty starts receiving calls from someone claiming to be Eveline who is planning to kill her last.
More believably set in Bavaria with authentic schloss settings and location footage backdrops for the fashion shoots, THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES is also ripe with enough incident and shifty characters – among them, Martin's mad wife who claims to receive nightly visits from a woman called Eveline – to keep the film interesting in between scenes of the photogenically-terrified Bouchet and ambiguous Malfatti wandering the corridors and dungeons of the castle. Pagliai is a rather stiff hero and Masé does not so much solve the case as explain things after they are revealed to the audience, but a pre-enhanced Sybil Danning (HOWLING II: STYRBA, WEREWOLF BITCH) is fun as a sexpot model, and Pia Giancaro (EVIL EYE) also attractively hovers about the periphery as Hans' former secretary. The plot is more muddled than THE NIGHT EVELYN CAM E OUT OF THE GRAVE but the staging and editing is far superior. The appearances of the Red Queen are striking – including a nightmare sequence that could have inspired a similar one in Lucio Fulci's MURDEROCK – the stabbings and other deaths more brutal (including a fence impalement and a dragging by car that anticipates a more technically proficient set-piece in DEEP RED), and the bright, sharp, and colorful photography of Alberto Spagnoli (BEYOND THE DOOR II) a better match to the lyrical scoring of Bruno Nicolai (which recycles some cues or at least some demos from his score for Jess Franco's A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD).
Released theatrically stateside as THE LADY IN RED KILLS SEVEN TIMES and then reissued as BLOOD FEAST, RED QUEEN went unreleased on video (available to the more persistent collectors via a Greek-subtitled tape) until NoShame's 2006 KILLER QUEEN boxed set. Arrow Video's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen encode of this Techniscope film – previously released last year in the KILLER DAMES boxed set with THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE – comes from a 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negative. Solid and highly saturated reds clothing is undistorted and evinces texture, the painting of the Red and Black Queens has brush strokes now, Eveline's face is evident as the actress' own rather than a mask in the one scene in which a character is supposed to recognize her, and the enhanced resolution suggests that the coarser and slightly bleached look of the flashbacks is intentional. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono tracks are clean and highlight Nicolai's lullaby-like theme and the death cries of the film's victims. Optional English subtitles are provided for both the Italian and English dubs. Seamless branching allows for the selection of either the English or Italian opening and end credits sequences (the English title is indeed LADY rather than RED QUEEN).
The optional introduction by production designer Baraldi (0:38) is carried over from the NoShame DVD along with the archival special features Baraldi interview "Dead à Porter" (13:38), "Round Up the Usual Suspects" (18:24) with Marino Masé, "If I Met Emilio Miraglia Today..." (4:14) in which Masé, Baraldi, and Blanc make remarks to the absent director, and the "My Favorite... Films" (0:59) convention footage in which Bouchet expresses her surprise that she has fans of her Italian giallo work. New to the release is an audio commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman who remark on how the film does anticipate the slasher template and (half-jokingly) how the Red Queen would have made a striking franchise figure had the film been made a couple years later. They point out the plot's misdirections as well as its inconsistencies, the blandness of Pagliai (in terms of clothing as well since Masé's detective looks sharper than the supposed fashion expert), and the ambitiously-staged climax. Jones draws heavily from the NoShame extras, citing information gleaned from the Baraldi interview about the location scouting as well as the use of Mila Schon's entire line to clothe the female and male cast (with Bouchet showcasing the alta moda line and most of the other actresses wearing the boutique line). They also point out that the Springe department store fashion studio and German police station were built inside of Rome's then-new National Library and that Martin's apartment is the same one previously inhabited by Edwige Fenech in THE STRANGE VICE OF SIGNORA WARDH.
In "The Red Reign" (13:48), critic Thrower offers another appreciation on the film, the film's possible inspiration for DON'T LOOK NOW, its American releases (BLOOD FEAST was accompanied by promotional red-dyed popcorn), the other works of Miraglia (including the two different English-language cuts of THE FALLING MAN) and the director's disappearance following his two best-known films. In "Life of Lulu" (19:48), actress Danning discusses her beginnings studying dental hygiene, moving to cosmetics, and then to modeling (getting her first jobs when her boss went on a business trip and had her minding the phones), and her first films (including the David Friedman German co-production THE LONG, SWIFT SWORD OF SIEGFRIED), and her other co-productions. She discusses her clothes on the film, speaks highly of Spagnoli's photography of herself and the other actresses as well as the film's authentic locations and set dressing (despite statements to the contrary made elsewhere on the disc, she recalls getting along with Bouchet). She is also pleasantly surprised about how good the film is as a thriller. Carried over from the NoShame release is the alternative opening (0:39) for some English prints meant to be inserted in between the end of the title sequence and the first present day sequence counting down in increments of two years from the 1958 prologue to 1972, as well as identical English and Italian theatrical trailers (presumably the LADY IN RED and BLOOD FEAST release were so small they did not merit trailers). The sixty-page limited edition booklet from the boxed set containing new writing by James Blackford, Kat Ellinger, Leonard Jacobs and Rachael Nisbet has not been included here but the disc does feature a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx. (Eric Cotenas)
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