Friday, November 2, 2012

DVD Review: THE NIGHT CHILD (1975)

Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: 0 PAL
Rating: TBA
Duration: 88 mins
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Italian and Englih Dolby Digital 2.0
Cast: Richard Johnson, Joanna Cassidy, Ida Galli
Director: Massimo Dallamano

Synopsis: When a documentarian delves into the dark world of satanic art for a new film, he unearths a disturbing painting that leads him into a world of post-Exorcist Italo-Horror where cursed medallions, possessed children and the overwhelming power of the dark lord converge to create a visually stunning and wildly eccentric exploitation classic from Massimo Dallamano (WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH SOLANGE?)

The Film: THE NIGHT CHILD (1975) comes to us from Italian director Massimo Dallamano, who also directed WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? (1972) and THE SECRET OF DORIAN GRAY (1970) two fantastically atmospheric slices of Eurosleaze. Dallamano, also a talented cinematographer, worked on both Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) and as such his films, the few I have seen anyway, are quite visually stunning and this occult chiller is no exception. This time out he works with cinematographer Franco Delli Collie who lensed STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER (1975) and DJANGO KILL...IF YOU LIVE SHOOT! (1967)

A lot of Italian 70's and 80's occult cinema gets thrown in with the more obvious pasta-possession films like BEYOND THE DOOR (1974) following the worldwide success of William Friedkin's THE EXORCIST (1973) but this one stands apart with tons of eerie atmosphere, nightmarish imagery and fantastic settings. 

Michael Williams (Richard Johnson, ZOMBIE) is a documentary filmmaker researching satanic artwork for his next film when he comes across a painting depicting a mob in pursuit of a young girl underneath the image of a fiery angel falling from the sky and Satan. The image of the fiery Angel stirs painful memories of his own wife's fiery death, a tragedy witnessed by his young daughter Emily (Nicoletta Elmi, A BAY OF BLOOD) who is haunted by the unforgettable images. A local art dealer/psychic tells Michael of the cursed artwork's mysterious origins, it is said to have appeared the night a young girl's corpse disappeared from the village some 200 years earlier, he's warned to stay away from the cursed object for it will bring death to his family but he nonetheless continues his obsessive research which reveals a medallion that bares an uncanny resemblance to his daughter's own necklace.

Father and daughter are joined by nanny Jill (Evelyn Stewart, LA DOLCE VITA) and his production manager Joanna (Joanna cassiday, BLADERUNNER) who bares an uncanny resemblance to the dead girl's mother, it turns out both women have romantic leanings for the documentarian, the romantic angle sorta dragged a bit for me at times but didn't bring it crashing down, honestly it just wasn't sleazy enough for me, ridiculous I know but we do get some shots of Joanna Cassidy's wonderful breasts but no sleazy euro-fucking *sigh* 

Nicoletta Elmi's "Emily" is a creepy ginger-haired young woman, freckle faced and haunted by nightmares of her mother's incendiary death, she's also plagued by visions of persecution at the hands of an angry mob which mirror the depictions in the painting her father is so fascinated by, soon she starts acting very strange, the young girl takes up cigarette smoking and begins speaking to herself in the mirror, and before you know it the nanny is pushed from a cliff with a crochet mallet falling into the river below where she is swept downstream to her death, it's a well shot scenario as is the entire film, it's just a gorgeous production from the top down with many nice visual elements. Quite simply a gorgeous and lyrical tale of child possession and occult-tinged tragedy, a great watch that's maybe a bit slow at times and features some dated effects but for those with the taste and temerity for a slow-burn occult thriller THE NIGHT CHILD will be sure to please. 

DVD: The film is presented in it's original widescreen aspect ratio (1.85:1), the 16:9 transfer is sourced from a very nice print with very few flaws aside from some minor dirt. Colors are deeply saturated and pop nicely, blacks are quite good and there's a nice layer of film grain present. The English Dolby Digital track sounds pretty decent though it does throw out some hiss and pop from time to time, the Italian language track is a bit cleaner but both are adequate, just not outstanding. The DVD from Arrow Video is region-FREE and PAL formatted.  

Special features include EXORCISM ITALIAN-STYLE Documentary (12:43) with critic Paolo Zelati, filmmaker Luigi Cozzi (CONTAMINATION) and screenwriter Antonio Tentori (DRACULA 3D) reflecting on the brief boom in pasta-possession movies of the 70's and 80's following the unparalleled success of Friedkin's THE EXORCIST a few years after ROSEMARY'S BABY broke the horror genre through the b-movie barrier. They offer fond remembrances of Dallamano's work and of his skill not only as a director but as an accomplished cinematographer, too. They also speak about child star Nicoletta Elmo (DEEP RED, DEMONS) the "little Dark Lady" of Italian cinema. There's also the Italian Trailer ((2:28) and the US Trailer (1:55). The review screener did not include the reversible sleeve artwork or booklet.

Special Features:

- Newly translated optional English subtitles
- EXORCISM ITALIAN-STYLE Documentary (12:43) 16:9
- Original Italian Trailer (2:28) 16:9

- US trailer (1:55) 16:9
- Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by author/critic Calum Waddell
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned 
Graham Humphreys artwork 

Verdict: A creepy Euro-horror child possession film that sticks with you for a bit after the titles scroll, good stuff and a recommend especially for fans of Italian horror with an atmospheric Mario Bava tinged occult flavor. Would love to see this attractively shot b-movie chiller get a Blu-ray release at some point. (3.5 Outta 5)