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The Devil's Kiss (DVD)

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1 Review

Genre: Horror / Studio: Arrow Drome / Released: 17.10.2011

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      16.01.2012 09:40
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      A strange and slightly underwhelming horror flick

      This DVD from Arrow Video costs about £6 on amazon.

      There are dozens of European horror movies from the 60s and 70s in which dodgy things happen in big castles. This seems to be a default setting for a lot of Euro horror - possibly the quaint, olde worlde setting made the film more sellable in America, possibly castles were just cheap to film in for some reason. Either way, though, once you start to seriously get stuck into Eurotrash horror, you'll soon find yourself treated to many, many castle-related movies. This obscure Spanish castle horror from 1975 has recently been released by Arrow.

      The plot is crazy. Some years previously, a poor woman, Claire, married an aristocrat. He was ostracised by his posh friends, and ended up killing himself. Years later, Claire has become an evil psychic. Along with her partner, mad scientist Professor Gruber, she ingratiates herself with the Duc de Haussemont (although a Spanish film, this is set in France). The Duc was one of those who tormented her husband, but he is happy enough to welcome the pair into his castle. After a séance, he decides to let them stay and carry out experiments in his cellar, hoping to learn occult secrets from them.

      And that's just in the plot-heavy first fifteen minutes. After that we get a bald, satanic zombie, a sex-crazed dwarf and a whole lot of nudity. Some of the plot elements will try the patience - the Professor's weak heart, for instance, is mentioned every two minutes or so, and much as you pray for some kind of twist to that storyline, it never comes. The plot is very predictable in some ways - Claire sending a zombie out to kill her enemies is standard horror fare - but it does throw curveballs at us occasionally. Enough to more or less get away with its silliness and still end up as a fairly entertaining - if undemanding - 70s horror flick.

      Several of the cast are also in a dreadful Paul Naschy vehicle called The Man With the Severed Head (also released by Arrow), and at least one was recognisable from Jess Franco's oevre. None are terribly memorable, but there's enough Euroschlock pedigree in there to keep fans interested. I wouldn't really call any of the performances good, but like almost all films of this type, the dialogue was all dubbed in post-production anyway (in a variety of languages), so we probably don't get to hear any of the actors' actual voices. It's the usual mix of peculiarly camp men and uninhibited women, anyway. One of the butlers looks a lot like Nick Cave.

      It takes us up an awful lot of blind alleys. It begins with a weird fashion show in the castle, following which one of the models is a) almost raped by the butler; and b) gets seriously freaked out by something supernatural during the séance. She then leaves, never to be seen or mentioned again - we never find out what freaked her out, and the butler is never brought to justice. Sure, she was just there to do a nude scene, but most films would make at least a token effort to give her a basic plot function, or at the very least a gory death scene. Even weirder, the sex dwarf (who's actually more like an unusually short guy than an actual dwarf) doesn't really do anything apart from have an erotic dream about Claire and eat some chicken. Nice work if you can get it.

      It's obviously a very low budget piece of work. The castle itself is kind of impressive, and there are slightly more cast members than I expected. But the interior scenes give away the cheapness - one bedroom is used repeatedly, presumably to save money. The mad scientist's lab is dreadful, with what looks like a cheap child's microscope and a few test tubes filled with inert coloured liquid.

      The music is disappointing, being turgid, flat organ chords with none of the delightful prog intensity or languid eroticism you find in similar films by people like Jean Rollin. It's made without any real flair - there are one or two nicely framed shots, but they only go to highlight how disappointing the rest of the film is.

      There is precious little gore in this, presumably because of the low budget. Most deaths tend to involve strangulation, a special-effects-free method of onscreen killing. Unforgivably, an entire house full of people gets murdered and we don't even get to see it. This is probably why the film gets away with a 15 certificate. I was surprised by that, though. There's a lot of full frontal nudity (we learn, for instance, that the buxom maid isn't a natural blonde), and a pretty full-on, slobbery sex scene.

      But that's not really enough to make this stand out. It's a harmless enough way to kill 90 minutes, but it's far from essential.

      The picture quality on the DVD is decent. Not quite pristine, but perfectly watchable. We get a kind of showreel of some of Arrow's releases before the menu loads, which is OK, but it's getting a bit tired after seeing it a few times. There are no trailers for other Arrow releases, but the disk does include trailers for some movies released by the same 70s company (Eurocine) that funded this. These include a lot of Jesus Franco movies, including Oasis of the Zombies; and Jean Rollin's Zombie Lake. So that's trailers for the two worst zombie films ever released on one DVD. Again, the trailer for Zombie Lake has some fairly explicit nudity, so evidently you can get away with a lot more in a 15 than used to be the case.

      There's also a decent booklet by always-entertaining critic Stephen Thrower, who gives some background on the film. You can watch the film in either French or English (not Spanish).

      I've no idea why this is called Devil's Kiss - the name doesn't relate to anything we see on screen. Buit whatever - it's hardly a lost classic, but is cheap enough to check out if you like obscure European horror movies.

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    • Product Details

      One kiss dragged the dead from their graves... Claire Grandier is a medium with one thing on her mind... Blood drenched vengeance. She s a psychic black widow who ll stop at nothing to destroy the Duke De Haussement, the man she holds responsible for her husband s untimely death. After charming her way into the creepy basement of the Duke s crumbling castle on the promise of revealing occult secrets, she sets to work with a sick professor and a twisted dwarf, creating a demon-possessed Frankenstein zombie who s programmed to Kill! Kill! Kill! in this demented and mixed up Spanish classic. Wild 70s fashion and fashionable devilry collide with every cliché in the gothic horror manual for a wild ride into sleazy retro Euro-terror. Prepare to feel the wicked caresses of Satan...