Lisa and The Devil/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
The complicated birth of HOUSE OF EXORCISM began in 1973 with the film LISA & THE DEVIL, written/directed by the legendary Mario Bava, and featuring his trademark dreamy, surrealistic style. It tells the tale of tourist Lisa (THE OSCAR's Elke Sommer) who is visiting Italy with a tour group. After becoming lost she encounters butler Leandro (Telly Salvalas of the KOJAK T.V. series), who offers her shelter at the crumbling mansion of his employer, the blind "Countess" (Alida Valli). Her disturbed son (Alesso Orano) is instantly enamored with Lisa, since she bares a striking resemblance to his deceased lover. Simultaneously, an unidentified killer starts killing off the various inhabitants residing at the estate.
When the film went to Cannes it received a good reception. Unfortunately it was a commercial flop when released theatrically in Italy. This made it impossibly to find a distributor for the United States. Producer Alfredo Leone came up with the idea of retool LISA into another EXORCIST rip- off. While he was initially able to convince Bava, the director became increasingly despondent over the drastic editing (in which twenty minutes were excised) and crude new footage that replaced it. He would set up the scenes and then literally walk off the set to leave Leone to direct the actors (This included actor Robert Alda who was added as the new film's exorcist). Bava eventually completely exited the production, attempting to convince Elke Sommer to follow his lead.
The final film makes a half-assed effort of marrying the material by having the LISA footage being some sort of psychological battle residing within the possessed Lisa. Also, Savalas' character has now inexplicably become the Devil. So to put a fine point on it HOUSE is exactly what would be expected of such a cynical effort -- A schizophrenic mess of two conflicting styles -- One lyrical and poetic, the other schlocky and gratuitous -- slapped together with a thick coating of greed.
HOUSE finally received its U.S. release in 1975 (nearly two years after the original EXORCIST) and promptly flopped. In a perfect case of poetic justice for Bava the reworked version has faded into obscurity while the original LISA is held in high regard and considered one of his best films.
Reviewed by Angel Orona