Wednesday, April 24

Shout Factory's Elvira's Movie Macabre: The Devil's Wedding Night (1973) DVD

Somewhere between the mastery of Mario Bava's The Mask of Satan (1960) and the silly stuffiness of Pierre Chevalier's Dr. Orloff's Invisible Monster (1970), Luigi Batzella's The Devil's Wedding Night (Il plenilunio delle vergini) concerns twin identical brothers (dual-roled by Mark Damon) travelling to a foreboding Transylvanian castle in search of a powerful ring.

Upon arriving a ravishing countess (Rosalba Neri) and her exotic, slightly dead maid (Esmeralda Barros) are found attracting an increasing amount of virgin girlies to their creepy abode. It becomes clear the countess is the bearer of the evil band and is attempting to seduce one of the brothers into becoming her next groom, or the new Count Dracula, but she first needs virgin blood. Armed only with his wits and an ancient amulet, can the other brother stop her dastardly plan?

This bit of Italian horror fluff with some astounding gothic flourishes   deserves much better than its current fate. I was first attracted to check out this excuse for soft erotica masquerading as baroque horror when a friend acquired the ultra scarce Japanese VHS on the Sony Exciting label. It's the only release to contain the fully uncut English language version with all other English tapes and discs worldwide missing bits here-and-there. The Italian Cinekult DVD is fully uncut too, but only features the Italian dub. I don't, haven't, and will probably never own the Japanese tape (only four copies are known to exist, let's not even mention prices), but after getting some details about it wanted to check this Shout Factory DVD to see how it fares.

...Not too well. The first red flag is right on the case showcasing Elvira heaving assets. Don't get me wrong, I like Elvira's shtick, but it's obvious Shout wasn't particularly serious about putting their best foot forward. Shout actually retrofitted old Elvira Movie Macabre segments in a "new" presentation of this film from a 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical print (the correct ratio, IMDB is wrong). This is easily spotted as cropped, colorless, and just butt ugly video-sourced movie footage is seen in some of Elvira's interruptions.

This frankensteining between old and new material brings forth one of the most problematic issues with this DVD. It's nice that you have the option of just watching Devil's Wedding Night without Elvira, but in a stupid move about every ten minutes there's a distracting video fade out/in effect (think commercial breaks) where those segments were. This is bullshit especially since each version is given its own file on the disc so why didn't Shout make the encode for the "film-only" version before they shoehorned the Movie Macabre pieces into it? This would have made this version at least more "proper" in a traditional sense of presenting just a movie on home video.

reel change horror
The theatrical print used here is amazingly beat up; like a truck ran over it as it lay unspooled along a stretch of asphalt. Green scratches are constant while flecks and blobs run wild on your screen. The reel changes are a real treat as the damage kicks into overdrive as it nears the splice. Then the next damaged reel abruptly begins about five to ten seconds into the next scene.

This is really troublesome in the first reel as one of the brothers leaves the amulet at an inn. After his departure, a maid girl is seen making a bed and the jump into Reel #2 occurs right before she finds the amulet under a pillow. So as viewers we're kinda lost as to why she suddenly appears later at the castle to give it back. Some slivers of dialogue are also muffled or missing due to the persistent damage. And a shot of a lightning bolt replaces one of a blood spurting severed arm in the climax. However; aside from these big issues, the non-anamorphic picture quality under all the wear actually looks decent. The color is sometimes wonky but facial detail is surprisingly strong and blacks are deep without looking too murky. As stated before, The Devil's Wedding Night (Il plenilunio delle vergini) deserves better. It's no overlooked masterpiece of gothic horror; with its fits of pure silliness, but Damon doesn't look down at the material, Neri is gorgeous (especially nude), and Joe D'Amato's atmospheric cinematography is often stunning.

some screencaps with the matting cropped away, click to enlarge


DrunkethWizerd said...

Glad you went all out on this one. I lost my screenshots from a few years and haven't watched it since, but totally remember how gruesome the picture quality, cuts, fades and Elvira segments were. A real oddity this disc.

Anonymous said...

I cant get through it, much like any gothic horror. Tis' a rare tape for sure, but not the rarest. Theres also more than 4, my Japanese contact has two copies in his collection. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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