An awful lot like Inferno, with the ludicrous plot, hysterical acting and silly deaths. But also like Inferno, the visuals are excellent enough that I can forgive all that. I think I actually prefer Inferno, even though this one has better music and funnier death scenes.
Eva Axén went from working with Visconti in classy period pieces to getting stabbed, thrown through windows and hung by Argento:
Eva up there escapes from a prestigious dancing school, goes to stay with a friend, and is dramatically killed (along with the friend) by an unseen evil which cares little for logic or reasonable dialogue, only for the picturesque posed deaths of young women.
Our heroine in the middle is Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise, Pennies From Heaven). At left is Stefania Casini, an older sister in Blood For Dracula.
New student Suzy picks up the narrative from there, discovering right off the bat that her school is creepy but not figuring until the end that it’s a front for a coven of witches run by a hundreds-year-old evil mother.
The Mother Of… something:
One thing the movie’s got going for it: casting Udo Kier. But it loses points for casting Udo Kier in a tiny, talky role, essentially letting everyone BUT Udo Kier overact. Bad call. Maybe Kier was busy in Fassbinder’s The Stationmaster’s Wife at the time.
While Suzy has fainting spells, deals with a plague of maggots falling from the ceiling, and talks with Udo Kier and some professor (Rudolf Schündler, actor since the 30’s and director in the 50’s and 60’s, also in The Exorcist and Wenders’ Kings of the Road and The American Friend) about historical nonsense, more deaths occur. Her friend Stefania Casini is murdered by the unseen hand in a similar over-the-top manner to the first death (barbed wire, razor stabbing, nails through the eyes). And the blind pianist is kicked out of school and walks through the abandoned square at night. The music warms up, the lighting declares the buildings to be a threat, and suddenly a stone gargoyle comes alive and flies overhead… but in the end, he’s simply killed by his guide dog.
Blind Daniel (Flavio Bucci of Il Divo) getting kicked out of school by mistress Alida Valli (star of Eyes Without a Face, Senso, Il Grido, The Third Man, played a caretaker in Inferno)
Joan Bennett (30+ years after Scarlet Street), in her final film role, has got some wicked wallpaper.
Amazing cinematography by Luciano Tovoli (from Antonioni to Argento to Barbet Schroeder to Titus), who shines red and blue colored lights on simply everything. The dubbing is mostly good, and I liked the pumping Goblin music surprisingly well. I dig when Goblin sings along quietly with a sinister “la la la.”
Argento’s debut seven years prior was titled The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
OCT 2017: watched the new 4k restoration at the Alamo, wowie wow wow.