Emilio Miraglia was not a prolific filmmaker, having directed just six titles despite working on a number of films as an assistant or second unit director. La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, 1971) and La dama rossa uccide sette volte (The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, 1972), both gialli, are his two most notable works. The latter film, also titled Blood Feast on VHS and DVD, has received a 2K restoration for a new Blu-ray release from Arrow Films.
The simple plot revolves around a family curse in the form of an ancestral Red Queen who embarks on a murderous spree every 100 years. When sisters Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) and Fransizka (Marina Malfatti) inherit their estate, several acquaintances are killed by a woman in a red cloak with long dark hair. Is this the vengeful spirit of the Red Queen, or someone with more earthly intentions using the legend to their own purposes?
Bruno Nicolai’s score is hauntingly beautiful, in the style of a children’s nursery rhyme that was popularised in later, and perhaps more well-known, gialli such as Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso (Deep Red, 1975). Similarly, with its supernatural undertones and red-cloaked, cackling murderess, the film channels the uncanny aspects of the fairy tale to present an outlandish thriller worthy of any gialli or Italian horror fan’s time.
Alberto Spagnoli’s cinematography is visually striking; the measured palette is accentuated in the restoration to stunning effect, with neutral, earthy tones punctuated by the bright and alluring 1970s fashion and décor, particularly the almost violent splashes of the colour red throughout the film. This edition thus warrants the archival introduction and interview with production and costume designer, Lorenzo Baraldi.
However, the highlight of this release, in addition to the 2K restoration and high definition Blu-ray, is an audio commentary from Italian horror aficionados, Alan Jones (Profondo Argento, 2004; Dario Argento: The Man, the Myths & the Magic, 2016) and Kim Newman (Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88, 1988) who do a great job in situating the film within, and comparing it to, the wider genre of gialli. Their insightful discussion is complemented by a thorough interview with critic Stephen Thrower (Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci, 1999).
Finally, a series of interviews with actors such as Erika Blanc, Marino Masé, and Sybil Danning provide an interesting insight into the production of the film. Of these segments, an interview that focuses on the actors’ relationship with director Miraglia stands out, in that it provides a rare snapshot of the man himself and his artistic vision. Overall, though La dama rossa uccide sette volte may not be as memorable or popular as other films in this genre, it is a solid entry in this canon, and a stunning piece of cinema that fully deserves this gorgeous edition.
The special edition of La dama rossa uccide sette volte from Arrow Films is available from 17th April 2017.