Tuesday, April 16, 2013

LISA AND THE UNNATURALS: A Buzzati Connection?

In my review of SCHREIE IN DER NACHT -- the German DVD release of Antonio Margheriti's CONTRONATURA/THE UNNATURALS, 1969) -- in the current VIDEO WATCHDOG, I mention that it bears a surprising narrative similarity to Mario Bava's heretofore unique LISA AND THE DEVIL (1973).

I just learned from the organizers of the "Contronatura" section of the Operazione Paura Festival that Margheriti's film was loosely based on a story by Dino Buzzati entitled "And Yet They Keep Knocking At Your Door." (This is not mentioned in the film's credits.) Further research revealed that this story was translated into English for a hardcover collection entitled CATASTROPHE: THE STRANGE SHORT FICTION OF DINO BUZZATI, published here in 1965. When I first started looking into this, I thought, on the basis of the film's resemblance to Margheriti's earlier CASTLE OF BLOOD (DANSE MACABRE, 1964), that it might have some basis in the writings of Algernon Blackwood. In looking over some customer comments about Buzzati at Amazon.com, I noticed that one of them described him as a kind of  "Italian Algernon Blackwood."

I was also struck last night, while revisiting Jess Franco's A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD (1971), by the similarities of this dream-like film to Margheriti's and Bava's, in that it's about a living woman who spends time in a house full of people, one of them blind, who are eventually revealed to be dead, the ghostly figments of a damned existence. In LISA AND THE DEVIL, Elke Sommer plays Lisa Reiner; in A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, Christina von Blanc plays Christine Reiner. Coincidence?
Unfortunately Buzzati's CATASTROPHE is now a very rare book; I could only find a used copy going for more than $300 -- a bit too steeply priced to read just one story. However, Bava supposedly read everything in the genre he could get his hands on and I suspect there is a connection here to be explored.

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