Miraglia puts things through an agreeably loopy blender, with RED QUEEN owing as much to the Italian gothic cinema of the 60s, as it does to the – then in vogue – high class slashings of the early 70s, typified by the cinema of Argento.
RED QUEEN revolves around a curse that supposedly revisits the Wildenbrück family every hundred years: the feuding of medieval sisters – the Black and the Red Queen – resulted in the death of one of them, who, according to legend, returned from the dead to kill seven times, with the surviving sister being the last victim. In 1958, Grandpa Wildenbrück tells Kitty and Evelyn, two of his young granddaughters, (in perhaps an unwise move) that the curse is due to repeat itself in 1972 - when the two girls will have undoubtedly turned into sultry Eurobabes. He tells them not to worry about it, even after one of them decapitates her doll with a daggers in front of a painting of the two queens, going boss-eyed and saying “Whenever I look at that picture I go funny inside!”. I smell trouble ahead!
Flash forward to 1972: Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) is now a successful fashion photographer, working for a ‘far out’ fashion house, Springe Fashions. However, it appears that history is indeed repeating itself, as Kitty is hiding a dark secret: it seems that, during a cat fight worthy of DYNASTY, she accidentally brained sibling rival Evelyn. This accident was seen by the other sister, Franziska (Marina Malfatti), (who was presumably waiting in the wings whilst all the kiddie queen musings were going on), and her husband, Herbert. To cover up for Kitty, they hide Evelyn’s body deep within the bowel’s of Wildenbrück castle. Kitty pretends that Evelyn has emigrated to America (as you do) – even to her fiance Martin (Ugo Pagliai), who, curiously, has a goggle-eyed wife stewing in an asylum on the edge of town …
Pretty soon, someone wearing a red cape and white mask is carving up the models and workers of Springes Fashions with a ceremonial dagger. Has Evelyn risen from the grave for revenge? Has the Red Queen returned? Or is it simply good old-fashioned murder and somebody after a slice of the Wildenbrück fortune?
Until recently Emo Miraglia’s ‘Evelyn’ gialli have been difficult to see in decent versions. If, like me, before the advent of DVD, you’ve suffered through murky grey market dupes, you’ll know what a difference a pristine print can make – although, having said that, both the versions of THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME FROM THE GRAVE (1971) and THE RED QUEEN KILLS 7 TIMES – bad as they were – looked like high definition masters next to the tape I’ve got of an even more obscure example of the genre, Riccardo Freda’s IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE (1971) (which looks like an abstract painting with the occasional blurred object wandering off screen). But I digress …
Despite the German setting RED QUEEN is a veritable melting pot of Italian horror. The spooky gothic corridors of the Wildenbrück castle recall the heyday of Barbara Steele, whereas the swinging fashion house smacks of Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) (a setting that quickly became a staple of the genre).
Whilst Miraglia is no Argento, Bava or even Martino when it comes to spinning a thrilling tale, RED QUEEN is filled with more than enough gloriously daft plot twists and bloody violence to keep even the most casual gialli fan glued to the screen. His earlier THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE was similarly loopy, although RED QUEEN is not quite as gleefully perverse (the dungeons and whippings of that film are almost up to the dizzy heights of Renato Polselli's gleefully demented DELIRIUM (1972)). However, kitsch delights that do await include Sybil Danning as a scheming trollop named Lulu; a killer who cackles maniacally every time a body hits the floor; a police inspector who says such wonderfully daft things as, “You’re batting on a sticky wicket, as my English friends might say!” – and, surely, this is the only film where they use a pop-art identikit picture to try and finger the killer! RED QUEEN is also blessed with some strikingly poetic images – not least of the eponymous figure running down a white corridor in slo-mo to attack a sleeping Kitty, plus a typically irresistible soundtrack from Bruno Nicolai. But it’s also a film very much of its time – can you imagine a film today where a character rapes the heroine in one scene and then becomes a good Samaritan the next?
It is all rounded off with a spot of epic scenery chewing – and a climax worthy of the Perils of Pauline. RED QUEEN certainly isn’t the best example of the genre – it’s unevenly paced and sometimes a little incoherent – but for those looking for some seriously demented, 70s Italian gialli fun you could do worse than check this out.
female:6 / male:4
1) Male has heart attack
2) Female cracks head and drowns
3) Male stabbed to death
4) Female stabbed to death
5) Female has neck impaled on spike
6) Male dragged behind car
7) Female shot dead
8) Female found with knife in her back
9) Female shot repeatedly
10) Male drowns