- Spouse abuse
- Pity the insane murderer
The movie opens with a scene of a man running through a lawn fleeing a gaggle of orderlies. He is attempting to escape from a mental institution. He reaches the fence and begins to climb, but too slowly! The orderlies catch up, drag him down, and carry him off screaming. This man is Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffan), driven mad by the death of his unfaithful red-headed wife, Evelyn. The precise circumstances of her death are treated as a reveal. Suffice it to say that Lord Cunningham was not responsible.
Unfortunately, however, her untimely death has made it impossible for him to process his jealous rage. He is released from the institution, calmer if not precisely saner. Having been denied the opportunity to take vengeance, he takes out his anger on red-headed prostitutes. He takes them home to his rotting castle, cajoles them into thigh-high boots, restrains them in what they initially mistake for a sex dungeon, and then murders them to death.
Since Alan is a murderer, perhaps we expect the slasher formula. We anticipate him slaughtering several victims until he finally picks the wrong girl, and that girl will end Alan’s reign of terror. But that’s other movies. In this movie, all of the preceding is merely the setup.
Alan’s physician and family — an aunt and a cousin — know he’s not quite right but don’t seem to have figured out that he’s a serial killer. They encourage him to move on with his life by remarrying. This he does almost immediately, proposing to the blonde party guest the morning after he meets her. When his bride Gladys (Marina Malfatti) moves into the rotting castle, she starts seeing a strange redhead skulking about. Then the body count starts to rise, and Alan is not the one responsible.
As a story, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is frustrating. It tries to do too much. The plot is too convoluted, the characters too devious. It is exhausting to keep up as the twist endings pile on, each more implausible than the last. If watching the narrative collapse on itself like the House of Usher sounds entertaining, this is absolutely your movie. It just made my head hurt.
On the other hand, I don’t really watch giallo movies for the finely tuned stories or the subtle acting. I watch giallo because I want to see beautiful people in gloriously gothic sets or 70s interior design, and this movie features all three. Much of the film takes place in a dilapidated ruin; the last scene in an intensely modern building that is just as decadently 70s as the castle is antique romanticism. If the scenes here begin to drag, you can ignore the action and marvel at the upholstered staircase.
There are also foxes that we are told are savage beasts but are cute as the dickens. This scene is the highlight of the movie as far as I’m concerned.
Giallo movies were born from pulp novels, and this movie is pure pulp. It is overdone eye-candy with a plot that is as confusing as it is shallow, and it ends on a vaguely nihilistic note that you don’t want to spend too much time pondering. But we are still watching it fifty years on because, I guess, it’s just too damn fun.