SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE
La morte negli occhi del gatto
1973 - Dir. Antonio Margheriti
***1/2 / Amazon Image - C
The score's a bit on the dimestore Morrione cop show side, but that's hardly bad thing. The main benefit here is gorgeous photography lush enough that at times Birkin's luminous hair is so perfectly reflected in her candelabra's lamplight we can count the strands. This film bumps up three stars now that it's not a panned, scanned, washed-out mess. Margheriti clearly loves along with the writing of the godfather of the giallo, Edgar Wallace.
One of the stand-out elements here are the clothes, which 'nod' to an assumed setting of 1930's England, but just nod, keeping the high fashion edge rather than getting bogged down in stuffy details like bowler hats and woolen overcoats. For her mourning wear (above) Birkin is given a beautiful black fur collar and her nightgown's sexy without being tacky (Von Sternberg would have approved). The whole production, aside from lingering close-ups of rats eating the face of victim #1, is very tasteful. The music is the orchestral suspense-generating variety rather than the moody giallo electric guitars of the time, but that's not worth a demerit. Indeed, the only demerit is maybe dubbing Serge Gainsbourg (he's the detective) with a fake Scotch burr.
SPECIAL NOTE: My experience with Prime, and finding a good stream, is that there are often numerous options --the one in the upper left of the screenshot at right has a picture of the DVD cover art, so seems to be the most reliable, but it has an issue in the last half where the image jerks around like every third frame is missing. Too bad, as the image is divine. The middle version (left) with a green frame isn't 'Prime' so who cares?
Then there's another version, also "Prime", with no cover thumbnail art at all (circled) but there's no jerking; however the image is somewhat softer, though not to a dealbreaker extent. The beauty still comes through. This is of course subject to change. However, it's good enough that if you love the film you may be prompted to buy the Blue Underground DVD and you'll be glad ya did.
(1933) Dir. T. Hayes Hunter
*** / Amazon Image - B (various versions exist on Prime)
Long just a streaky duped public domain blur, available only on second-hand dupes, The Ghoul has since been spiffed up and now is a personal favorite that's just oozing with delicious spooky Universal-does-Edgar Wallace atmosphere (with dabs of The Mummy). Pure 30s horror / old dark house mood it is, with enough fog to carry it through to the giddy end (no tired moments or tedious exterior daytime shots). And if you lose track of who has the jewel, or where it's hid, or where everyone else is relative to everyone else on the grounds, don't worry, just vibe on the old dark house glory of it all, and watch it again later. It gets better, and easier to understand, with every viewing... now that you can see what's going on, kind of, in the fog.
Amazon also has a 1970s Ghoul with Peter Cushing, no relation to the 1933 version, and with terrible dupe streaks and bad framing. There are several uploads of the 1933 version on Prime too, so pick a good one. The green and white cover with Karloff's face is the one I'm covering here. It's a slow burn joy, so is Seven Deaths.
Optional Third Choice (for the die-hards)
1963 - dir. Roger CormanA personal October perennial, this loose comedic 'adaptation' of Poe's poem has reluctant sorceress Vincent Price longing for his Lenore on a dark and stormy night, reading forgotten lore until Peter Lorre (bloated but hilarious) as the raven interrupts his moody brooding with a request for wizarding aid. A drunken sorcerer of lesser skill, Lorre tells Price he was turned into a raven by Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff)--whose castle is right down the coast (Big Sur, naturally). It just so happens Scarabus killed Price's master sorcerer father in a duel years earlier. Price lost Lenore (Hazel Court) to him as well (a bit like Karloff stole Lugosi's wife in the 1934 Black Cat --another Poe "adaptation") but doesn't know she's still alive. Soon they're all packed away in a carriage, along with a young Jack Nicholson as Lorre's son Rexford and Olive Sturgess as Price's cute daughter.The Les Baxter score at times errs on the side of the Mickey Mouse-ish but this is pure uncut Halloween delight, so you might as well bring the kids, by which I mean depressed lovelorn sophomores reeling from too much bad acid, as I was, catching this at the Student Union while a sophomore, and needing desperately at the time to return to the Gothic chambers and forgotten lore of childhood, wherein every fairy tale was grim.
**** / Amazon Image - A
**** / Amazon Image - A
In the land of the damned Price is as the soothing balm of Ativan to the alcoholically twisted.