Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)

There might be those that grow weary of the routine plot of gialli films. They usually rely on similar circumstances, plot twists, glamorous characters and black-gloved killers. If you are a fan of giallo, though, you just can’t get enough of ‘em! There is just something about their sophisticated style, vivid visuals, gory death scenes and elaborate who-done-its to keep you hooked!

In 1972’s The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, director Emilio Miraglia never strays far from the giallo formula, but still manages to create a tension-filled film with candy-colored set-pieces, an impressive cast and sufficient plot twists to keep you guessing!

In the wealthy Wildenbruck family, an old legend says that every hundred years two sisters, the Red Queen and the Black Queen, will violently quarrel. The Black Queen will kill the Red Queen, but a year later the Red Queen will return for revenge, killing six people before finally killing her sister, the Black Queen. Sisters Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) and Evelyn Wildenbruck never really got along in childhood and as grownups have drifted apart. Kitty is a fashion photographer working for a fashion house and still visits her family’s castle where she and Evelyn were raised by their grandfather. Evelyn hasn’t been heard from for some time, but it’s assumed she’s living in America, where she moved to one year prior.

One night, their grandfather has a heart attack after a fright and the Red Queen, wearing a flowing red cape and cackling loudly, is seen near the castle. When the grandfather’s will is read, it is discovered that no one can touch it until the following year. Did the grandfather know something about the 100 year curse that his heirs don’t?

Soon after, murders begin occurring. It seems as if people from the fashion house where Kitty works are being targeting. After the general manager is killed, the police come up with a sketch of the murderer from an eyewitness. Kitty recognizes the face as the face of her own sister Evelyn! Problem is, she killed Evelyn a year ago.

Has the prophecy about the Red Queen come true or is someone else to blame for the murders? Could it be Kitty’s lover, vying for the general manager position, top model Lulu seeking revenge, drug-addict Peter seeking money or is Evelyn really back from the grave?

Red Queen’s luscious visuals and lurid color palettes make for a sensational viewing experience. Rather than bathing entire shots in bright hues of red and blue (think Argento’s Suspiria), each object – a bright yellow car, a blood-red cape, a cool blue and green apartment – pops out at you. The colorful 70s fashions also help bring a real liveliness to the film – plaid polyester suits, batiks, bold cuts and colors contribute to the sense of excitement. The settings – the Wildenbruck’s opulent castle, the fashion house’s posh office and the characters luxurious apartments, for example – all seem larger than life as well! These visuals grab your attention and help pull you into the story.

Giallo fans know the story is usually the weakest point in the film (gialli usually rely more on visuals than a cohesive storyline), yet Red Queen did a fine job of working all its kinks out. It also hid its secrets pretty well, with the villain never being obvious until close to the end. Except for a few rough patches (unnecessary rape scene, I’m looking at you!) the story flowed smoothly and made sense.

The acting was also done extremely well. Barbara Bouchet was fantastic as Kitty Wildenbruck. She was both an independent woman, yet vulnerable at the same time. As she begins to unravel, you can’t help but feel sympathetic towards her. Even though she was behind Evelyn’s demise (or was she?) it is very easy to feel sorry for her when everyone around her starts dying and she’s forced to face her demons. The rest of the cast is equally impressive. All the ladies in the film are absolutely gorgeous and include the previously mentioned Barbara Bouchet as well as Marina Malfatti, Maria Pia Giancaro and Sybil Danning. Unfortunately for us girls, the men aren’t as attractive as the women, but nonetheless they put on a good show.

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times isn’t as gory as some other gialli, but it does deliver. Make sure not to miss the scene where an escaping mental patient is purposely impaled on an iron fence or the death by VW Bug. Just like the rest of the film’s visuals, the blood is brightly garish!

Gialli often follow the same formula – a deep, dark secret is revealed which unleashes a black-gloved killer, usually in a posh clique, and everyone is a suspect. Still, despite the formula that most seem to follow, they can still be incredibly entertaining. The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is no different and is a sophisticated, sexy, stylish and sinister romp into the world of giallo.

Available from Amazon!

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