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Blu-ray Review - THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES (1972)

A dead girl appears to return to enact a centuries old family curse.




Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Emilio Miraglia

Starring: Barbara Bouchet, Ugo Pagliai, Marina Malfatti, Sybil Danning



The Red Queen delivers everything you could want from a giallo. On the evidence here, it's a shame Miraglia would never direct again, as over two films he seems to have mastered the genre's aesthetic.



Emilio Miraglia had a short directorial career, helming a mere six features over a five year period. During that time he contributed two entries to the giallo genre - The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, a movie in which the protagonist is driven mad by the seeming reappearance of a dead girl named Evelyn, and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, a movie in which the protagonist is driven mad by the seeming reappearance of a dead girl named Evelyn. I guess he knows what he likes and he likes what he knows.


Despite the glaring similarities in premise, the two films are very different. The UK set Evelyn incorporated gothic horror influences and was light on the nudity and outlandish killings you expect from gialli, whereas the German set Red Queen plays very much to type, loaded with enough blood and boobs to sate the most demanding of Euro-horror fans.

As gialli are so often wont to do, The Red Queen opens with an operatic incident of childhood trauma, as young sisters Kitty and Evelyn go at each other in a violent rage, eventually prevented from stabbing each other by their wheelchair bound grandfather. They've been driven mad by a family painting, a depiction of 'The Red Queen', a figure said to curse their family, appearing every hundred years to claim seven victims. She's next due to arrive in 1972. "That's ages away!" one of the girls remarks.


Cut to 1972 and Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) is now a photographer at a fashion house filled with sleazy execs and bitchy, horny models. She receives a call from her other sister, Franciska (Marina Malfatti), informing her that gramps has passed away, his heart attack induced by the appearance of a mysterious figure in a red cape. When the owner of Kitty's fashion house is stabbed to death by the very same killer, Kitty and Franciska begin to wonder if Evelyn could be responsible, which seems unlikely given how the pair have Evelyn's corpse walled up in the family castle, Kitty having accidentally killed her during one of their painting induced rage bouts.

The Red Queen delivers everything you could want from a giallo. It boasts a winding plot that keeps you guessing, but unlike many of the entries in this genre, it holds up to scrutiny. 'Evelyn', clad in her blood red cape, is a classic giallo antagonist, laughing maniacally after each murder. In Bouchet, Malfatti and Sybil Danning (brilliant in an early role as a ruthless model), you have a trio of classic European beauties, draped in the unmistakeable Italian fashion of the day. Bruno Nicolai's lounge-tastic score is one of the composer's best, a real earworm that you'll catch yourself humming for days after. The exquisite cinematography of Alberto Spagnoli gives us some striking imagery, none more so than a dream sequence in which the titular killer runs through a stark, modernist corridor.


But most of you bloodthirsty fiends probably just want to know if the killings deliver, and boy do they. Miraglia stages a gruesome nod to Hitchcock's Spellbound with a character impaled on railings while attempting an asylum escape, and there's a death by car dragging that rivals the climax of Argento's Deep Red, yet precedes it by three years! It's as though Miraglia received criticism for the lack of violent invention in his earlier 1971 giallo and set out to really deliver this time.

On the evidence here, it's a shame Miraglia would never direct again, as over two films he seems to have mastered the giallo aesthetic. Newcomers to giallo should start with the obvious trio of Argento, Bava and Fulci, but The Red Queen is an excellent starting point for a deeper exploration of the genre.

Extras:
As the other half of Arrow Video's 'Killer Dames' boxset alongside The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, The Red Queen is typically loaded with extras. The audio commentary comes from two of the best giallo experts you could find in Alan Jones and Kim Newman, while genre buff Stephen Thrower assesses the film in a featurette (though he's uncharacteristically mistaken regarding the director's age). There's a new interview with Sybil Danning, who looks incredible for her age. An alternate opening, trailer, booklet and archival interviews with actor Marino Mase, actresses Erika Blanc and Barbara Bouchet, and production/costume designer Lorenzo Baraldi.

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The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is released by Arrow Video as part of their 'Killer Dames' boxset on May 23rd.