Released the same year as Dario Argento’s The Cat O’ Nine Tails, 1971’s The Night Evelyn Came out of the Grave is also an Italian giallo film, this one directed by Emilio Miraglia.
The movie centers on Alan (Anthony Steffen, veteran of Spaghetti Westerns, such as The Strangers Gundown, Shango, and Arizona Colt Returns), a serial killer who also happens to be a very rich lord of something or other. Anyway, Alan is obsessed with his dead wife Evelyn, who he believes was disloyal to him. Because of his love-hate obsessive behavior, Alan is driven to seducing lovely redheads of ill repute (strippers, prostitutes, and opportunists), taking them to his abandoned castle, and there engaging in a mix of sex, torture, and murder.
Aware of his psychosis, Alan seeks medical treatment from psychiatrist Dr. Timberlane (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart), who insists that the best way to overcome his guilt over Evelyn is to marry again. After some thought (and a failed attempt at murdering another redhead), Alan abdicates, ordering his attorney to restore the castle. Alan with the help of his cousin George (Enzo Tarascio, here billed as Rod Murdok) then meets Gladys (Marina Malfatti), who from the beginning seems to be carefully guiding Alan into a seduction, although Alan believes he is in full control. The two eventually marry, but the ghost of Evelyn gives the couple no peace, haunting both during the darkest hours of the night and even during the day.
The film’s final reel indulges in a double double-cross, with Alan set up first as a victim, only seconds later turning the tides and taking down his final victims, Gladys and George. The film does not hold up, however, as Alan is shown as having overcome his guilt of Evelyn long ago. If that is the case, then were all the murders at the beginning of the movie just fantasies?
What makes this film interesting for me is that filmmaker Emilio Miraglia mixes the elements of a traditional giallo (gruesome murders; a mysterious, gloved murderer who is not who is suspected; and twist endings) with facets of Gothic horror (huge castles, torture implements, a séance, and of course hints of the supernatural). The actors put in solid performances, and there are some genuinely creepy and disturbing moments throughout.
As evidenced by the title, Evelyn (or someone we believe at the moment to be Evelyn) does indeed rise out of her grave. Although the sequence’s special effects are not that great (you can tell it is a mask on the face), a later sequence demonstrates that it should be that way, as the scene is not supernatural after all.
Another confusing issue is the film’s opening scene, which seemingly shows Alan trying to escape from an insane asylum. The exact nature of Alan’s sanity is the crux of the film, yet there is never a definitive answer, which perhaps is the point of the flick.
Although there are truncated versions of his movie out there, seek out the definitive version, as this one contains plenty of nudity and some gore (the death of Aunt Agatha, who is devoured by Alan’s collection of foxes). The movie may not please hardcore fans of horror movies, but those into the weird (five maids who all look alike so Alan won’t get the nasties stirred up inside), the unusual (watch for the coffin striptease by easy-on-the-eyes Erica Blanc of The Devil’s Nightmare and Kill Baby Kill), or just the bent (the stabbing scene between two ladies) will really enjoy watching this entry into the giallo genre. Be warned, however, that the final reel is a mess, and some of the sequences that have come before have no payoff (why does wheelchair-bound Agatha finally get up and walk?).
The Night Evelyn Came out of the Grave can be purchased either as a standalone product or as part of a collection, such as Night of Horror Do Not Watch Alone.