Friday, August 12, 2011

La Vendetta di Lady Morgan – review

Director: Massimo Pupillo

Release date: 1965

Contains spoilers

La Vendetta di Lady Morgan is not an easy film to come across but I managed to track down a copy, in the original Italian (which sounds odd as the film is set in Scotland) with fan subs built into the dvd-r, at iOffer. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best quality print, clearly lifted from a VHS that had recorded it from TV but that is probably the best we can hope for at the moment. A nice, restored version on DVD would be appreciated from a good progressive DVD company.

It is also a film that will befuddle you, as you watch it, unless you know going in that it is one of the rare vampiric ghost types of films. This aspect appears at the very end of the film and, for the most part, it seems like a period crime thriller.

Barbara Nelli as Susan
It begins with Susan (Barbara Nelli), the niece and only relative of the local Lord Neville (Carlo Kechler), sat beneath a tree with architect Pierre Brissac (Michel Forain). He has been doing work on her Uncle’s stately home, but the work is complete and he has to go back to Paris. However, she is in love with him and does not want him to leave. She was meant to marry Harold (Paul Muller, I Vampiri, Count Dracula and Nightmare Castle) but she tells Harold and her Uncle that she loves Pierre. Harold bows out gracefully (it seems) and her Uncle is delighted.

Pierre with amnesia
Pierre has to nip back to Paris and whilst crossing the English Channel is knocked out and tossed overboard. So it is that Susan follows her Uncle’s wishes and marries Harold a few months later. The proviso is that she go away with her Uncle for a while and only return when she feels right about it. Mention is made, by Roger (Gordon Mitchell) who is Harold’s manservant, of how lucky he is that Pierre fell into the sea leaving the opening to marry the country’s richest heiress! Susan can only whisper ‘I do’ and the priest makes her repeat until she screams the words. Somewhere a man (Pierre) who has been in a coma awakens but has amnesia.

the eyes have it
When Susan (now the Lady Morgan, as that was Harold’s surname) gets back she finds that all the servants have been replaced. She says she is tired and is led to her room by the maid Lillian (Erika Blanc, Kill, Baby, Kill!). The camera lingers on Lillian’s eyes giving a thought that they were hypnotic and, when Susan sleeps we hear her voice calling her to obey. Actually she calls through a grate in the fireplace and the next section of the film concentrates on Roger, Lillian and Harold conspiring to send Susan mad. They even kidnap Uncle Neville and chain him in the dungeon.

Susan the ghost
This is the crime thriller I spoke of and it gets to a point where they have Susan pretty darn mad, walk her to the edge of the roof and then cause her to fall in a way that looks like suicide. She dies with Pierre’s name on her lips and his memory suddenly returns. He, some time later - as his legs are wasted at first, goes back to the house and it is in ruins inside, but Susan comes to him. She tells him that the spirit of a violent death must linger but, if that spirit were pure (which she was) she can become corporeal in the presence of her true love.

tormenting her killers
Pierre has a tough time believing the tale she tells him, but she becomes incorporeal and lets his arms drift through her. She tells him how she got her revenge upon the conspirators by turning themselves on each other and leading them to their untimely deaths. However, they are now ghosts too, blood drinking ghosts who have kept Uncle Neville chained up and drink his blood night after night to become corporeal. Poor old Pierre is now on the menu as well…

Susan will faint in just one moment
The film looked pretty grim on the print I watched but you could see there was a genuinely atmospheric film underneath. The story was unusual and it was nice to be able to watch such a film without an awful dub. It perhaps wasn’t up there with the best of Italian horror and the story's narrative really was dependent on the fact that Susan was such a gullible wimp.

the vampiric ghosts
The vampiric ghosts are absolutely blood hungry, spill blood on the floor and they race to lap it up – how they managed to restrain themselves and keep Neville alive for so long is beyond me. There was a wonderfully dour tone to the ending, which I won’t spoil. The film really was a film of several parts and that did give it a little bit of a disjointed feel.

Worth tracking down as a rare bit of Italian horror and a rare vampiric ghost tale. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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