Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

Even with the gory movie poster and the seductively macabre title, movie theaters thought this film could use a little extra hype during its premiere, by serving red popcorn, otherwise known as bloodcorn. Moviegoers were then probably expecting a gratuitously bloody show of a female zombie getting vengeance with some of the craziest and most terrifying scenes of which the world had never seen before on the big screen. What they got instead was a slow burning mystery and a lot of time spent with a mentally ill mind. Oh how they must’ve been disappointed….   

Similar to Emilio Miraglia’s own THE RED QUEEN KILLS 7 TIMES, THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE establishes itself as a giallo just as much as it does a modern Gothic horror piece. It contains all of the conventional trappings of Gothic horror, such as the creepy mansion, supernatural themes, a séance, and a promise that something will rise from the grave, a promise that the movie admirably keeps. But, it also has a fair share of that addictive ‘70s modern look; with the European nightclubs, swinging parties, sexy divas, and a brutal faceless killer, giving it an undeniable giallo feel. Fans of both genres that haven’t checked this out yet, really should, and anyone that has already seen it, should take the coming analysis as an attempt to make you want to watch this again.   

Experiencing grief for the loss of his deceased wife, Evelyn, formerly institutionalized nobleman, Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen), finds solace by frequenting the London night scene, in search of something or someone new. However, there is an added facet to his inner-torment and that is the reoccurring and haunting memories of when his once precious Evelyn was disloyal to him. 


The flashbacks in Alan’s mind are a visual highlight in the film, consisting of a dreamy daytime setting with light fog and that soul melting music from composer Bruno Nicolai, as Evelyn runs through a grassy field in slow motion, simultaneously disrobing before embracing her lover in the nude, in Alan’s own lovely garden. The scene is so beautiful that it is hard to believe it is Alan’s tormenting memory of his late cheating wife, but I like to think of it as a sort of symbolic suggestion of how something as beautiful as love can even symbolize pain.   

Evelyn was a redhead and this has resulted in a complex for Alan, for he has a fixation with redheads, which to some could be seen as an inability to let go, but Alan is the vindictive type who is not looking for comfort by sleeping with other women who remind him of his wife, but, with a sense of vengeance and perversion, he finds satisfaction in bringing the women he meets back to his place and sadistically subjecting them to torture before murdering them as a way of punishing his ex-wife. Like a bad night life addiction, things are better for him in the morning, but not before long he gets that itch again to find another victim to salve his craving.  


Looking for a real good fix, Alan is told by his cousin, George, Enzo Tarascio, about a real stunner of a redhead who’s performing at the Crazy Cat nightclub that night, and Alan wastes no time in checking this dancer out. The dancer is Susan, played by Erika Blanc, and she is introduced into the story with a Gothic striptease, sexily emerging from a coffin and boogying down to a live band while slowly blowing out candles and removing articles of clothing before the scene goes dark. Blanc is amazing here and really does showcase some great moves, and anyone with a fixation for fiery redheads that are more than capable of satisfying one’s inner perversion, has just hit pay dirt. 

So it’s not surprising that Alan later lets loose his inner demon after the high profile dancer/call-girl comes home with him to his isolated Gothic mansion deep in the woods. Susan does manage to flee from the mansion before ending up in a cemetery. Alan catches up to her, and in the throes of one of his Evelyn flashbacks, he passes out and Susan escapes. Analogous to someone waking up on the floor one morning after a night of too much drinking and drugs, Alan wakes up in his family cemetery after a night of too much sadism and red headed booty. Taking advice from his doctor, Richard, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Alan decides to marry again.

The narrative develops into more of a mystery style after Alan immediately marries a woman he met and went home with after a nocturnal gypsy-themed outdoor party, Gladys, Marina Malfatti, who doesn’t know how lucky she is to be blonde. The unease of wondering just how long the marriage will keep Alan’s madness at bay keeps things interesting and so does the presence of new characters in the mansion, these being a couple of Alan’s relatives and a humorous line-up of all blonde maids; this is a dark joke considering what we know about Alan. All of the characters are suspicious in their own ways, and it’s not long before it is discovered that Evelyn’s corpse is missing from the cemetery and certain characters start getting violently murdered. Given that this movie was from 1971, the murder scenes are surprisingly violent and cruel, one of which includes the use of real intestines, which is something that I didn’t think became common place until after DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978).   

The mystery develops further before the film delivers its climatic moment that most will be anticipating, based on the movies TALES FROM THE CRYPT style title. This is one of those movies where things continue to be twisty even when it seems that all maybe said and done, resulting in an ending that I found quite satisfying.

"What do you offer, to drink with me?"--Susan/ Erika Blanc

Other Interesting Movie Posters Similar to EVELYN's:


  1. Red popcorn? Eww... Well, at least that's something different. I like hearing about the old gimmicks used with scary movies. The poster sure gets a person's attention!

  2. It most certainly is eye catching and one of my favorite movie posters. What I think may have been what I previously mentioned as disappointing to viewers of this film is the fact that the supernatural elements exist as red herrings, something that is not uncommon for the Gothic giallo. I can’t help thinking that the gimmicks used to promote this film, may have caused a lot of people to expect something else, which I think was a contributing factor, along with being heavily edited, to it being known as an Italian turkey.

  3. I actually picked up this movie in a DVD collection last week. Looking even more forward to watching it now.

    1. Hopefully it is not one of the edited versions. I’d suggest seeking out the edition No Shame released from 2006 because from what I understand, it was the first time the film was properly restored. Hope you dig it nonetheless, and thanks for joining!

  4. Before I read this, I would have absolutely sworn I had seen this movie--I definitely know the poster art from the video box--but it doesn't really sound familiar at all. I think I just felt a grey hair come in just now!

    1. Welcome back, J! It’s good to hear from you. There are other movie posters that have very similar art, like Samurai Cop or The House That Dripped Blood. Check them out. Since I couldn’t figure out how to paste them in the comments section, I added them to the post. Perhaps one of these was the culprit.

    2. No, it was EVELYN. I remember THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD poster, as well, but I've never seen the SAMURAI COP artwork. I don't know why I have no memory of the movie itself.

      Sorry that my "big return" is a bit of a dud! I'm up to my neck in WALKING DEAD stuff lately (3 and counting!), and desperately need to get back to movies. I've been recording a lot of stuff from EPIX DRIVE-IN lately, but I haven't watched most of them.