I admire the skill it takes to craft an intricately-plotted, tightly-paced mystery story. I also appreciate the sight of hella-groovy, mostly-nude redheads in thigh-high leather boots fleeing from a madman with a whip. I have no difficulty in reconciling these two elements of my taste, even if a movie like "The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave" caters to only one of them. I've grappled with how best to present "Evelyn" to an audience that's justly wary of wasting *another* ninety minutes on *another* clumsily Frankensteined-together Italo-thriller, and I've concluded that the best way to pique the appropriate kind of interest is to say that this flick plays out like a Gothic Horror pictorial from "Oui" magazine. Which is to say: there's a hastily-sketched story, a loving eye for cutting-edge fashion, and a whole heaping load of excellent boobage. If you're willing to contextualize the movie in this manner, you'll dig it--trust me.
As I set out to describe the plot, I find myself flummoxed by the sloppiness of this film. Lord Alan Cunningham has recently been discharged from a mental hospital where he was recovering from a breakdown following the untimely death of his wife Evelyn. We find that this release was what I'll daintily dub "Significantly Premature," since the second scene finds Alan abducting, torturing and killing a mightily-foxy prostitute. As it shakes down, Alan uncovered Evelyn's infidelity and is repeatedly Venting His Spleen on other nubile redheads. Now, if you think you're starting to understand the plot and how it'll be about Alan having murdered Evelyn and the fact that he'll get his eventual satisfying come-uppance, you're much like me, and you're also totally wrong. While this movie could be seen as the less-intelligent spiritual cousin to "Rebecca" or "Gaslight," "Evelyn" doesn't seem to concern itself at all with concocting a compelling narrative. Shit goes supremely off the rails as early on as fifteen minutes into our story, after Alan's psychologist, Dr. Timberlane, recommends that Alan get married again in order to stop his homicidal urges. Then there's a seance, and Evelyn's spirit starts manifesting the fuck out of itself, and Alan murders another mightily-foxy prostitute, and then Alan goes to a radical hippie party thrown by his alarmingly Paul-Lynde-ish cousin and gets married to a character named Gladys for no reason that I could discern other than the fact that she's blonde, and then Gladys is investigating Evelyn's ghost and...
Yeah, I'm not going to get anywhere selling you guys on the virtues of this movie's plot, because there's no disguising the fact that it's a DISASTER. However, without thinking too hard at all, I can name several elements surrounding the story that I loved all to crazy.
- Alan's Aunt Agatha is an attenuated, black-clad figure whose wheelchair confinement doesn't hamper her spying ways
- Flashbacks of Evelyn's infidelity feature both a diaphanous gown and slow-motion, nude running
- Grave-robbing figures prominently in the plot
- A character gets gruesomely eaten by foxes in an extended and unexpected gore sequence. SIDEBAR: How friggin' cute are foxes? F'reals--this was almost as good as the similarly adorable Death By Cats in "Night of a 1,000 Cats."
- There's a hilariously-awkward funeral-themed striptease that had me giggling while simultaneously hoping for a glimpse of bush--that's no mean feat, friends
- A key encounter takes place at a groovy hippie party-slash-orgy with live music by one of the cringe-worthiest psychedelic bands I've heard. A Top Forty future was never in the cards for Pandora's Box, I'm afraid.
- Gothic elements are pervasive throughout the movie, from Alan's ancestral castle--which ranges from run-down to uber-groovy to torture-chamber-tastic to stately over the course of the film--to not one but two family tombs to the aforementioned seance scene
That's all great goddamn stuff, friends, and if you don't worry too much about the story "making sense," then you'll be able to enjoy the glorious ridiculosity of what this movie has to offer. It's as if the filmmakers just piled a bunch of freaky ideas into a bucket and didn't concern themselves with anything more than stringing them together in the most tenuous, "Mad Libs" manner possible.
As a grooviness delivery device, "The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave" is an incredibly successful effort. I really can't emphasize how much I LOVED the look and feel of this movie--the combination of colorful Bava-esque Gothickry with jet-setting Euro-fashions made the Tenebrous Heart sing. Every scene has some sort of stylish highlight--here are a few:
- Alan makes his unwitting hooker-victims wear the hottest thigh-high black leather boots in the world
- Alan's bedroom is a fantasy of interior design that combines white plastic, Baroque murals, a bubble television and flokati rugs (to make no mention of the prerequisite J&B cameo)
- Gladys has an astonishing array of cleavage-bearing nightgowns (also: WIGS!)
- When Alan takes Gladys back to retarded-groovy Manderley--erm, the Cunningham Estate, they meet the newly-hired staff of maids. Which is to say, five identically-blonde-afro'ed maids in black-and-white livery. THAT, friends, is "showing class."
Some movies can be called "morally ambiguous"--take "The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh" as an example of this sort of grayness. "The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave" is downright "morally reprehensible," though, since I'm pretty sure this movie has terrible, terrible things to say about women. It becomes apparent about halfway through the film that the viewer is meant to empathize with Alan, who is--to put it politely--WAY more rapey-murderey than I like my protagonists. This kind of balls-out misanthropy characterizes the entire movie. There's nobody for us to latch on to and root for in the cavalcade of hedonists, blackmailers, conspirators, gold diggers and criminals that populates this movie. But I'll be damned if I didn't actually kinda respect that decision by the end.
Or perhaps I was just sufficiently distracted by the parade of awesome nekkidity and awesomer-still style.
Whichever way I slice it, I can't not love "The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave." It's fantastically un-boring, unashamedly over-the-top and thoroughly entertaining. Check your higher brain functions at the door and put this one on your to-watch list if you, like me, are an aficionado of sleaze cinema.