Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972), AKA Blood Feast

After a long hard day, a brief trip to a different time period in a faraway place is usually what it takes to provide the right amount of escapism I crave in order to feel restored and at peace again. I’m sure that you sometimes feel the same way, and I think you’ll find Emilio Miraglia’s “THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES” to be a source of much needed respite. The cinematography in the film ably makes use of exotic locations in a 1970s time period that, in a way, provides a pleasant getaway for you to enjoy from the comfort and safety of your couch. So if you’re feeling a bit burned out and in need of a vacation, come with me to a castle and town in Europe, where you can relax to the seductive visuals of a different time and place and enjoy the company of lovely Euro-beauties (like Barbara Bouchet and Marina Malfatti) as well as a ghostly killer just to make things more interesting and to your liking. 
At the beginning, the film instantly draws the viewer in with a very exotic and almost tourist-like European setting, where Kitty and Evelyn Wildenbrűk, 2 sisters of about 9 years of age, are enjoying playtime in a very luxurious courtyard with a marvelous castle looming in the background. The peace and serenity the ambiance this location provides is disrupted as Evelyn snatches Kitty’s precious doll from her and dashes through the castle grounds causing Kitty to chase after Evelyn, with great concern for the safety and integrity of her doll. The chase ultimately leads into the castle where Grandfather Tobias Wildenbrűk (played by Rudolf Schűndler, the witch expert from SUSPIRIA!) is disrupted from his morning paper because of all the bratty shouting. Just then, Evelyn becomes possessed from a gory painting nearby and starts chanting “I’m the red queen, and Kitty’s the black queen” and then completely loses it, grabs a knife and begins to viciously stab Kitty’s doll repeatedly before ripping its head off in a fit of maniacal laughter (an impressive and amusing performance from the child actor).


 
You see, all this sibling rivalry is analogous to the legend that surrounds the murders that take place in the film. After calming the children down, Grandfather Tobias gives an account of the legend behind the painting and its connection to the Wildenbrűk family curse. 
Hmmm…. I must be subconsciously attracted to stories about family curses, because I’ve just realized that this is the third film I’ve written about that involves a family curse (see AN ANGEL FOR SATAN and THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE). Not that I mind, because family curses are a lot of fun and are a mainstay for classic Gothic horror, and I can’t help thinking they will probably pop up in future reviews as well ;-). Anyways, back to the Wildenbrűk family curse…. 


The painting that sent little Evelyn into a murderous frenzy is a disturbing image of the so called “black queen” stabbing the dark haired “red queen” in the neck. Both characters in the painting could easily be viewed as older versions of the 2 quarreling girls at present. The curse is explained in a rather quick and confusing manner that caused me to have to rewind it a few times, so allow me to explain it to you more clearly…. 
The story behind the scene in the painting is that the 2 queens were sisters who lived in that same castle centuries ago and have always hated each other since childhood. After she was fed up from her sister’s pranks, the black queen murdered the red queen while she was sleeping, by stabbing her seven times. The legend goes that a year after her death, the red queen arose from the grave and murdered 6 innocent victims before killing the black queen. After killing 7 times, the red queen finally has her vengeance and can return to her grave to rest in peace. However, since this is a curse, the same thing has been known to occur every 100 years and always involves 2 sisters from the family bloodline and wouldn’t you know it, the next curse deadline is only 14 years away. 
After a great montage, set to an enchanting score by composer Bruno Nicolai, of Kitty falling victim to several pranks from Evelyn, the film flashes forward 14 years to the modern day of 1972. Old man Tobias Wildenbrűk still inhabits the castle and is being cared for by a third daughter Franziska (played by the irresistible Marina Malfatti), who was unaccounted for in the film’s prelude. Nowadays he rarely hears from his other 2 daughters, since Evelyn supposedly lives in America and Kitty (The insanely awesome Barbara Bouchet) is busy as a fashion photographer living in the city. 


One restless night while lying in bed, Tobias receives an alarming visit from a female intruder in a red cape clutching a dagger in a most threatening manner. He calls out to Franziska for help but suffers a heart attack in front of the menacing intruder. 
The death of Tobias results in the family coming back together to collect their inheritance, only strange thing is Evelyn doesn’t seem to show up for the funeral. Well the story behind that is explained relatively early in a flashback sequence of Kitty and Evelyn going at it in a “cat fight”. Even though these 2 are fully grown now, they still fight like little children. Kitty ultimately delivers a killer right back slap to poor Evelyn, and she hits her head on a stone monument and falls into the castle moat. Evelyn is now floating unconscious and bleeding profusely, as Kitty immediately realizes she just seriously wounded her sister. Rather than call for an ambulance, Kitty, Franziska, and her husband Herbert (Nino Korda) opt to hide Evelyn’s corpse in the castle crypt. Things could get rather sticky for Kitty and Franziska if the police decide to investigate Evelyn not showing up to her father’s funeral or to the reading of the will in order to collect her due inheritance. 


At this point, there are probably several questions scratching at the viewer’s mind such as will Evelyn really arise from the grave as the killer red queen?, who was the red caped knife wielding diva that scared the bejesus out of poor Tobias Wildenbrűk?, and why is Barbara Bouchet so damn foxy? Well sit back and pour you another glass of wine because we are only 13 minutes into the movie and there’s a lot more to come before any of those questions are answered. 
So, now we have all the conventions of a great Gothic horror tale, but the atmosphere of the film seems to switch at this point as we transition into what feels like a different movie. The vibe completely changes to more of a giallo film (which is way cool with me), as we follow Kitty at work snapping photos of supermodels at the Springe fashion organization. It is here that several new characters are introduced to the story, who basically serve as murder victims for the ghoulish red queen, or are suspects in a possible red queen hoax. Also, the prospect of a murder mystery involving characters in a fashion designer clique reminded me a lot of Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (which is a good thing, I might add). 
When everyone, minus Evelyn, gathers to hear the Will Executor read aloud Grandfather Tobias Wildenbrűk’s living testament, they find out that the inheritance is not to be collected until the end of the year. It seems Tobias knew he would die the year of the family curse and felt it best that the inheritance not be collected until all that “killer queen” hoopla be good and over with.


Thrown into the pot of Red Herrings is Evelyn’s previous lover, Peter, who is wise to it all (Fabrizio Moresco from DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT). He threatens to go to the police about Evelyn’s accidental death, but he is a drug addict and is really only interested in harassing Kitty for money. His presence, more or less, adds to the story that trashy flavor we know and love from this type of film. 
Another main character that is introduced later in the story is Martin Hoffmann (Ugo Pagliai), the new general manager of Springe, who took over after the former manager Hans Meyer (Bruno Bertocci) was murdered by the red queen, while out shopping for a prostitute in the interest of having a threesome with his mistress Lulu (Sybil Danning). 
Not sure why former manager Hans was so unsatisfied with Lulu, a hot supermodel at his own industry, that he has to go out with her and a fetch a prostitute. But I guess some men are never satisfied…. 
Taking over as general manager of Springe has placed a good deal of suspicion on Martin from police inspector Toller (Marino Masé). Even though he is married, Martin gets sexually involved with Lulu as well…. Geez, took the old manager’s job and his girl, I see why the inspector suspects him so much. 


Now, I’m beginning to like this Martin guy more and more, because he even tries to seduce Kitty as well, thus inducing jealousy from Lulu, and we learn that he used to be involved with Rosemary (Pia Giancaro), an assistant at Springe. Did I mention that his wife is in an insane asylum to? 
Out sleeping with most of the hot characters in the film while his wife has been institutionalized… What a piece of work this guy is! But seriously, if Martin dressed like the red queen and was the killer, we wouldn’t have much of a murder mystery now would we?

 
To make things juicier, Martin’s wife Elisabeth explains to him during a conjugal visit that Evelyn visits her at night and that they run free in the forest that surrounds the institution, and that Evelyn promises to eventually take her away forever. Watching Elisabeth explain this to Martin in a delirious state of mind is very entertaining and causes one to ponder if her account of Evelyn is true or not, given her current mental state. Well, later that night the red queen does come for Elisabeth and helps her to escape the asylum forever. As Elisabeth is climbing the gate to freedom, the red queen cuts the ladder resulting in much blood flow as Elisabeth’s head is impaled by the deadly sharp ornaments that line the top of the gate. A stand out gory moment in the film… 


During all of this, the supposed Red Queen makes her rounds violently knocking off other characters that seem to know a thing or two about what’s going on. Knowing that she must be the seventh victim, Kitty really starts to fear for her life as the body count increases and gets ever closer to seven. 
Much to Kitty’s surprise, the artist sketches of the murderer resembles her supposedly deceased sister Evelyn, and when the anxiety becomes too much for her nerves, Kitty ventures forth into the bat filled castle crypt to make sure Evelyn’s corpse is still where it should be. 
The big question is finally addressed during the film’s action packed watery climax: Is it really Evelyn committing the murders, or is something else going on? 


Though it’s only 98 minutes long, TRQK7T feels epic, and after viewing it for the first time, I felt overwhelmed by how much was going on. A lot happens during the film’s run time, and it wouldn’t be uncommon for viewers to be a bit confused when all is said and done. I did however enjoy analyzing it a lot more during a second viewing, as the high density of story events does give it a good deal of re-watch value. 

Yes, I have the toy and I adore it...

I also can’t help thinking that I might be being a bit too thorough with the film's plot, because what really outshines here is the murders by the red queen, the great music from Bruno Nicolai, the attractive female cast, the vintage 70’s designer fashions, and the exotic European settings. The film combines the giallo film style and Gothic horror tale with panache, and if you enjoy those two things, then TRQK7T is likely to be a treat. 

One standout murder sequence that scores the films some major points involves the red queen driving a car and dragging a victim, stuck in the car door, along the road. This sequence brought to mind another very similar moment from one of my favorite films, Dario Argento’s legendary masterpiece DEEP RED, but TRQK7T predates that film by a good three years….

4 comments:

  1. If they ever decide to do a re-release, they should include a zombie Evelyn toy as well!

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    1. Yes, and they should definitely include the coffin she comes out of, too. Such a pity that No Shame went out of business; I loved their material DVD supplements. The monster amulet that came with Dark Waters has been on my wall for six years. Unfortunately, my cat chewed off the rubber knife on my killer queen model since that picture was taken. :P

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  2. The flat with the green striped wallpaper must be the same as the set from The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh.

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    Replies
    1. Your suspicion is correct. Here's a striking motion tribute to Giallo Glamour by Filmbar70 that at one part edits in scenes of the set from the two different films: Filmbar70 loves Giallo Glamour

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