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  Murder Mansion Domicile of Danger, Death and Deceit!
Year: 1972
Director: Francisco Lara Polop
Stars: Analia Gadé, Evelyn Stewart, Andres Resino, Anna Lisa Nardi, Franco Fantasia, Eduardo Fajardo, Alberto Dalbes, Ingrid Garbo, Yelena Samarina, George Rigaud
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hitching a ride cross-country, sexy Laura (Anna Lisa Nardi) is groped by middle-aged lech Mr. Porter (Franco Fantasia). So she ditches the creep at the service station and takes off with handsome motorcyclist Fred (Andres Resino), but shortly thereafter the young couple are stranded in the spooky woodlands. Meanwhile, high-strung heiress Elsa (Analia Gadé) is finalising her divorce from sponging husband Ernest (Alberto Dalbes), who seeks solace from his frigid wife in the arms of mistress Ellen (Ingrid Garbo). Amidst the impenetrable fog, lawyer Tremont (Eduardo Fajardo) and his wife (Yelena Samarina) nearly run over Fred and Laura, who then discover Elsa, lost in the woods, babbling hysterically about seeing a wicked witch and her zombie chauffeur.

Everyone winds up at a fog-shrouded, spooky mansion, deep in the woods, next to the cemetery. Marta (Evelyn Stewart), the eerily lovely housekeeper, regales her guests with tales of how the ancestral owners were killed by a vampire and their bodies buried next door, and how the previous owner was a witch who died in a car crash alongside her chauffeur. Glancing at a nearby portrait, Fred notices an unsettling resemblance between Marta and the long-deceased witch. Later that night, strange noises and horrific apparitions plague an already-brittle Elsa. As the bodies pile up, Fred and Laura set out to investigate. Who is the stranger in the trenchcoat and black hat and did he buy them at an all-night giallo outfitter?

On the surface this Spanish-Italian co-production seems like a haunted house horror but as things play out becomes another Latin twist on the giallo genre, akin to A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1973) and Seven Murders for Scotland Yard (1971). Making his directorial debut, Francesco Lara Polop kick-starts proceedings with a series of complex, realistically drawn character intros then gradually cranks up the groovy gothic atmosphere as characters lose themselves in cobwebbed corridors, or nightmarish forests where tangled branches and shadowy figures lunge out of the dark.

“I keep having the sensation we’ve crossed the barrier from real to unreal”, remarks Porter early into proceedings. The film is deliciously twisted and though its Scooby-Doo plot ultimately proves far less intricate than Elsa’s frequent flashbacks suggest, Polop sustains the tension masterfully via close-ups on flickering candles and eyeballs, strange noises in the dark and an ethereally unsettling turn from giallo regular Evelyn Stewart (real name: Ida Galli). A handful of potent shocks include a great bit where one character awakens in bed beside a hideous zombie and another finds a friend hung from a meat hook a la The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1973).

While sour-faced, self-involved heroine Elsa grows progressively more shrill and hysterical, young lovers Fred and Laura’s whole Fred and Daphne act proves wholly appealing. Gutsy and vivacious, their combination brings a lightness to an otherwise bleak but very satisfying end. Plus they do what generations of adolescents always suspected Scooby-Doo’s Fred and Daphne secretly got up to, namely sneak away for a quickie while the ghosts run amuck.

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Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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