October 18th -- Lisa and the Devil
Like Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava was a filmmaker that relied more on the visual image and atmosphere than any sort of consistent narrative thread or sense of logic. When these filmmakers hit the mark (Bava's "Bay of Blood", Argento's "Suspiria" and Fulci's "The Beyond") they were absolutely unbeatable. When they missed, however, the results could be muddled, confusing and excruciatingly slow. Bava's "Lisa and the Devil" is not, unfortunately, one of his better films.
Elke Sommer plays a tourist in Italy who gets majorly creeped out by a fresco depicting the devil as a jovial, bald-headed man. She winds up lost and finds herself at a creepy manor house where the same figure from the fresco is the butler. Egad! What's a girl to do? In this case, the answer is wander endlessly about the mansion, get involved in odd supernatural shenanigans and meet an ending that you could probably see coming within ten minutes of watching the film.
Not much about this seems to hold up to Bava's other work. The color scheme is great, as always, but the story is unnecessarily confusing and doesn't hold up to close inspection. This wouldn't be a problem if the mood and atmosphere worked but the dream-like, hallucenagenic feel only takes you so far. Sommer is fairly worthless as the lead waif but Telly Savalas, as the devil/butler, is pretty good. He spends the entire film sneering and sucking on lollipops and the effect is pretty impressive. I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more if there were more Telly, but there really isn't much to his role.
At the end of the day, if you're a Bava completist, you should probably make time for this one. Otherwise, you'd be better served watching one of his better films.