Lisa and the Devil (1973)

aka House of Exorcism, Lisa e il diavolo
Article 4329 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-7-2013
Directed by Mario Bava and Alfredo Leone
Featuring Telly Savalas, Elke Sommer, Sylva Koscina
Country: Italy / West Germany / Spain
What it is: Tale of the supernatural

A woman gets lost in a foreign city, and ends up staying with a strange family in a creepy home. And this family has its share of skeletons in its closet…

This movie came into my list under the alternate title THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM. I was originally going to watch a copy of the movie under that title that I had, but the print was in such poor shape that I opted to watch a streaming rental of it instead, and because I’d heard in advance of the compromises made to the movie in its initial release, I opted for the original version titled LISA AND THE DEVIL. For the record, the original movie was unable to find a distributor, and so footage was added to turn it into a “possession by the devil” movie similar to THE EXORCIST; it was that version that was released as THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM. For the record, I’m glad that I did; I don’t see how possession footage added to his movie would have done anything more than render it a piece of tripe.

Not that I find the original movie to be perfect; after a creepy opening section, I find much of the first half of the movie to be a little on the dull side, and the title character (Lisa, not the devil) is one of those characters whose sole purpose seems to scream when necessary; if her situation wasn’t nightmarishly captivating and she wasn’t easy on the eyes, I’d have no interest in her at all. However, the nightmare she is going through is indeed fascinating; some of the secrets and events are truly grotesque and even perverse. Then there’s an amazing performance from Telly Savalas, who, though on the surface appears as the family’s manservant, is probably the other title character (the devil, not Lisa). His reactions are unexpected, often humorous, and quite unsettling. It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen from him. The whole story itself is made from some very familiar elements, but they’re assembled in a creative way, and I like the movie enough that I’ll even forgive it’s rather pat final twist. I’m really glad I opted for this original version.

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