Whilst this may not be the most accomplished giallo – it drags at times and has a rather scatter shot approach with the genre – THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE has enough backstabbing, madness and faux fur covered spiral staircases to make it well worth checking out.
Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen), is rich and handsome – the only problem is that he is also barking mad. Well, at least he was until being seemingly cured by a bout psychiatric care (we see him trying to escape during a trippy opening). He is sent home with restored sanity by his doctor friend Richard (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart), who should be struck off really as Lord Cunningham is actually still insane – only better dressed. The root of his problems seems to be that his flame-haired wife – the eponymous Evelyn – died in childbirth, but not before putting it about with the locals. He can't forgive this 'betrayal', so tries to punish her from beyond the grave by bringing sexy red-heads back to his gothic abode; where he whips and eventually kills them in his well equipped dungeon.
One of these is Susan (Erica Blanc), who his cousin – and sole heir to his fortune – George (Enzo Tarascio) suggests he visits to see her sexy dance routine at the Crazy Cat Club (to take his mind off his dead wife). Of course, Susan also has red hair. Blanc's turn as the erotic dancer has rightly stuck in the minds of most who have seen it, as she rises from a coffin under the watchful gaze of the curiously middle-aged men and women in the audience (who seem to think its a right jolly wheeze), before flinging her knickers across the club with gay abandon. Alan is suitably impressed and offers her a £1,000 to spend the weekend with him. She unwisely agrees and ends her days in the family crypt – or does she?
A séance is organised by wheel-chaired bound Aunt Agatha (Joan C. Davis) (who's having it off with the gardener Albert (Roberto Maldera), who happens to be the late Evelyn's bother – are you keeping up at the back?). That doesn't help, as Evelyn appears as a ghostly apparition in the centre of the table (quick, someone call Derek Acorah!); causing Alan to keel over. His old friend, Richard, declares the only way he can get over his malaise (and erotic dancer and prostitute murdering ways) is to get remarried. This is easier than it sounds, as he bumps into glamorous blonde Gladys (Marina Malfatti) – they chose all the sexy British names didn't they? All they need it a nymphette called Ethel or a flame-haired Winifred. Surprisingly, Gladys agrees to marry Alan the night he beds her (what first attracted you to mental millionaire Alan, Gladys?).
At first, home life is idyllic. Aunt Agatha even hires five maids with identical blonde hairdos, so they won't reignite Alan's madness for his dead wife. The fact that they all have tight afros like Harpo Marx only adds to the fun. However, a certain red-head hasn't finished with Alan just yet ...
There's lots to enjoy here, including Aunt Agatha and her wheelchair hiding in a wardrobe to spy on people. Plus the hilariously tone deaf pop-combo at the outdoor party. Then there's Malfatti's miraculously tiny wardrobe, which shows as much cleavage as humanely possibly without letting her nipples burst free. Bruno Nicolai's score is typically lush and the film boasts some great cinematography – plus some seriously gorgeous 1970s furniture (now who wouldn't want that grey faux fur spiral staircase in their home?).
THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE also features some amusingly inauthentic locations. Some gialli – such as ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK (1972) actually went to the trouble of filming in London. No such effort here, which puts a very Italian spin on the supposedly English landscape. Only the talk of British currency and number plates gives any clue that it's not supposed to be taking place outside Roma.
It is also particularly 'erotique' – even for a giallo. Erotic in that peculiarly 1970s way, where people really did think the other half ran through the fields with chiffon fluttering around their swinging buttocks (in slo-mo), before consummating passion under an apple tree. Whilst this makes for some fun retro viewing, it does serve to kill the action stone cold dead.
Thankfully, it picks up in a series of climaxes (no, not that kind), each one even more delirious than the last; culminating with a swimming pool that just happens to have bags of sulphuric acid sitting on the side. The final twist is morally ambiguous and cynical in the kind of way that makes your heart yearn for the 1970s and faux fur spiral staircases.
Director Emilio P. Miraglia went on to direct the slightly more orthodox – but no less barmy – giallo THE QUEEN IN RED KILLS SEVEN TIMES (1972), which also starred Marina Malfatti. The fact that in one scene in THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE he zooms in on a Queen of Hearts in a playing deck suggests he was either psychic or already had his second giallo well mapped out.
female:4 / male:1
1) Female killed with knife off-screen
2) Male killed with snakebite
3) Female hit over the head with a rock
4) Female poisoned
5) Female stabbed to death