Directed by: Sergio Garrone and Yilmaz Duru
Written by: Sergio Garrone
Starring: Klaus Kinski, Katia Christine and Marzia Damon
Reviewed by: Josh G.
ďMaybe my husband didnít tell you the whole story. Havenít you asked yourself why I cover my face with a veil? Itís not for the sorrow of the my fatherís loss. This is my bedroom. There are no mirrors. I donít want to see my face. I donít run away from other people, but from me! From what I became. There are no candles or fire. That damned fire that killed my father destroyed me too! Look...Ē
Originally titled La mano che nutre la morte, which translates as ĎThe Hand That Feeds the Deadí, this transplant horror featuring effects by Carlo Rambaldi (Alien; E.T.) sunk into obscurity for many years. When folks who attempted to dig it up went forward with their quest, they found things became a little tricky along the way. In addition to being a rarity, La mano che nutre la morte also had the displeasure of being directed by Sergio Garrone, the same man who had brought us Le amanti del mostro (Lover of the Monster). The confusion rears its persuasion once one realises that both horrors also contain the cast of Klaus Kinski, Katia Christine, Marzia Damon, Stella Calderoni, Romano De Gironcoli and others, as well as being from 1974. Though it may have been convenient for Sergio Garrone to juggle two films at the same time thirty five years ago, it would prove to be a monster for fans, many of whom fell victim to its mild similarities. Finally, after trekking through such a puzzling endeavor, you would be able to sit down with both films and enjoy the show. But is it worth all of the organization? Or does this Italian terror turn out to be something of a wild goose chase?
Picking up the Mya Communication DVD, released late 2009, I was excited to pop in this rarely seen piece. As soon as I realised the transfer was that of a video, 1.66:1 ratio or not, I was alarmed. The title credits simply did not show promise for the presentation about to unfold. The first couple scenes also gave me a nervous set of indigestion, mixed with the sights of video blips here and there. Alas, after five minutes, though the quality was still in my head, the lingering thoughts were pushed aside and the true marvel of the actual movie replaced it. Popping colors and a nice sound for the source was enough to overcome the first impressions. Held in a large late 19th century home, the tale of Doctor Baron Ivan Rassimov and his daughter Tanja being caught in a fire long ago fit right in with the mood. Rassimov, dying in his lab, and Tanja barely escaping with massive disfiguring burns, led student Professor Nijinski (Klaus Kinski) to care for the ugly surviving girl. And not only care for her, but to marry and cure Tanja of her beauty handicap, through laboratory experiments involving the transferring of healthy flesh...from defenceless younger women!
Incorporating a Frankenstein vibe with the help of Nijinskiís Igor-like henchman, and the constant reworking of the human body, Evil Face treads some familiar ground while upping the unease and limit pushers. The first bit takes a while to get into, even with the gory flesh tearing and introduction of news characters. Scandalous sexy Sonia (Stella Calderoni), stranded honeymoon couple Masha and Alex (Katia Christine and Ayhan Isik) and curious sister of a missing woman, Katja (Marzia Damon), are all guests at Mr. Nijinskiís place. Plans for a newly structured Tanja seem to be getting prepared rather well. With creepy dolls, a bloody plot and powerful lesbian sex imagery, Evil Face is no kids flick. Simple to follow and reluctant to fall into routine, its sleepy mystery surrounding Katjaís disappearing sister jumps to intriguing fresh-for-the-time hunting in the mansion. The awkward henchman is even more threatening than the main antagonists themselves.
Stefano Liberati and Elio Maestosiís dignified music adds class to the picture, even with some outrageous violent ideas. The body count is of average amount for a slasher flick of even today, and the blood is plentiful at the experiment times. Klaus gives three comforting roles in the movie; one which can be described as dark and ruthless, wanting nothing more than to destroy at all costs for the loveliness of his bride; poised and gentleman-like, even if an act, not giving away any sense of strangeness when allowing his house guests the opportunity to tour and stay at his home; distraught and obsessed, with the thought that perhaps Tanja may just be using him for the surgical gain, without an ounce of love in her soul. Klaus always had that devious edge to his appearance, which is why he was always cast as such a fellow, but I see his acting abilities shine brighter when he brings out emotion in the viewer, to feel for his loss despite all of the terribleness left in his heart.
Shouting out loud in protest during the mutilation of one of the girls, I found out what a wonderful job the creators must have done to bring out such an attachment with me. Even after cheating, sleazing it up between the sheets, and acting like a prude, the people were real, and that matters greatly when you want the audience to keep your film in mind for long roads ahead. Somewhat predictable, at other times very clever, the action picks up near the closing, gives room to breathe, and then leaves you with an equally satisfying but heartbreaking finale. And you do not even have to pick your brain for any clues. Reverting back to the lesbian sex scene, which came way out of left field due to the calming nature one participant previously portrayed, itís an example of Evil Faceís peculiarities for flying under the radar so well. Sweet, a little dirty, highly erotic and queerly romantic, paired with the scalping of skin, La mano che nutre la morte will keep you talking it over with yourself at least until the end of the night, from moment to moment.
Subtitled in English for those not fluent in Italian, Myaís disc also has a picture gallery contained. The presentation, a VHS rip as stated further above, is not a spectacle, but in its original aspect ratio and color fluffing, itís about as good a deal as youíll find. I actually forgot about its source for long after the frighteningly poor credits, which shows how good movies can prove themselves even in the roughest states. We never found out what made the henchman cry in agony because of the vibrating metal fork Nijinski used, or that much of the previous visitors that contributed to Tanjaís body work, but most everything is packed tight. Toned to be a darker story of vanity for the price of lives, itís a fun dramatic and semi-gothic flick that can be enjoyed multiple times. The title Evil Face is fairly new, created for the DVD, but I suppose it makes a little more sense than The Hand That Feeds the Dead. There are evil people, and there are cut up faces. Good enough. Go Buy it!
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