Sunday, September 16, 2007

Believe In What You Think You See

Mario Bava fans, does this place look familiar?

During my audio commentary for Bava's LISA AND THE DEVIL, to be released on October 23 as part of the MARIO BAVA COLLECTION VOLUME 2, I note -- as Lisa (Elke Sommer) exits the antiques shop and gets lost in a series of backstreets -- that some of the locations recall the labyrinthine passages of Karmingen, the fictional village where KILL, BABY... KILL! (1966) takes place. In his audio commentary for THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM, producer Alfredo Leone remarks that all of these early scenes were filmed in Toledo, Spain, where the mural of the Devil carrying away the dead is seen by Lisa's tour group.

On the basis of Alfredo's remarks, I scrapped from my book manuscript (to the best of my knowledge) any reference I had once made to the possibility that some of these set-ups might have been filmed in Faleria, the ancient Italian village where KILL, BABY... KILL! was made. As I recorded my commentary, I couldn't resist adding a mention of the similarity, and after watching the film again on my preview disc, I was driven to pull out the two films and look for shared points of compass.

The above shot is a frame grab of one such supposedly Spanish location from LISA that has always jogged a little KILL, BABY... KILL! muscle in my brain. Now, compare it with the following shot:

This is a fairly famous image from KILL, BABY... KILL! featuring Giacomo Rossi-Stuart and Erika Blanc. The location is obviously the same, albeit with Bava's peerless knack for atmosphere applied to it, making every shadow pregnant with the unseen presence of the ball-bouncing spectre Melissa Graps. We know for a fact that KILL, BABY... KILL! was not shot in Spain.
Here is Elke Sommer, passing through the same location in LISA AND THE DEVIL, filmed seven years later. Not in the nearly 30 years I've been acquainted with both films have I ever consciously matched the location shared by these two shots.

And here is Lamberto Bava revisiting Faleria more than 30 years after LISA AND THE DEVIL, in David Gregory's "Kill, Bava, Kill!" featurette -- intended for release on Dark Sky Films' regrettably withdrawn KILL, BABY... KILL! DVD. I rather prefer that stone wall with the green moss clinging to it, don't you?

Also in LISA AND THE DEVIL I found this shot, which is another setting I felt I had seen more recently. It turns out it was also photographed in Faleria, on the street outside their San Giuliano L'Ospitaliero Church. This particular set-up doesn't appear in KILL, BABY... KILL!, at least to the best of my notice, but the church's bell tower memorably does.

Finally, here's Lamberto Bava again, rediscovering the location in the David Gregory featurette. He notes, a few moments later, that the crew of KILL, BABY... KILL! used to take their meals on the steps outside that church on the very cold evenings of the production.

Certainly, I'm not blaming Alfredo for not remembering a little side trip to Faleria during the making of LISA AND THE DEVIL thirty-some years ago. How could I, when these shared locations weren't obvious to me after countless viewings of both films over a period of decades? Also, as you can see, there's a world of difference in how these locations can look in different times of day and also over the years.

The confirmation of recurring Faleria settings in LISA AND THE DEVIL is actually significant, because the film originated from a screenplay co-authored by Roberto Natale and Romano Migliorini, the authors of KILL, BABY... KILL! After finally confirming the logistical connection I long intuited between the two films with these screen grabs, my imagination began to accelerate and still more connections between the two films began to suggest themselves. The Baroness Graps (played by Giovanna Galletti) dies at the end of KILL, BABY... KILL! and the Contessa (played by Alida Valli) in LISA AND THE DEVIL is blind and dies differently... but are they not, in some inexplicable way, the same character? They look and dress much the same, and both are noblewomen who never leave their morbid, secluded villas. Is the Contessa's "shrine of death" villa not an echo of Villa Graps? Are not both women doomed by their unhealthy attachment to their children? And, as I ask in my LISA commentary -- in the movie's closing minutes, as Lisa emerges as a ghost from the ruins of the villa with a ball in her hand -- might not Lisa be short for... Melissa?

These are discoveries and ideas that didn't occur to me until long after finishing my book, so I am evidently still learning about my subject, even after writing close to 800,000 words. I can assure you that you'll learn some new things about LISA AND THE DEVIL from my audio commentary for the DVD, even if you've read my chapter on the film in MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK... and vice versa. But it's only now that I have confirmed for myself this spatial relationship between the two films, and I'm glad to have an additional venue like Video WatchBlog, where I can share these eurekas with like-minded folk immediately.


  1. Anonymous11:55 PM

    Great observation on Melissa and Lisa possibly being linked. Now I'll have to watch the movies again!

    BTW, How come some posters of Kill Baby Kill have 'Metro Goldwyn Mayer Presents' written on them? as far as I know MGM did not distribute that movie.

  2. That was a domestic release for Spanish language markets. Some of the posters are in English, but some also carry the title MATA, BEBE, MATA!


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