BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH (Kino Lorber)

By • Feb 9th, 2015 •

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Much faster paced than BLACK SUNDAY, though not nearly as solidly anchored, nor as historically important as Mario Bava’s iconic gothic Italian Horror flick, THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH is the more consistently enjoyable of the two and, despite the similarities between so many of the Spaghetti Horrors of the period, it manages to have a very different, distinct aesthetic style.

The camera moves are beautifully designed, using the actors as pawns in a grand visual pattern, moving them from foreground to background, circling each other, with the gliding camera mimicking the unfolding of the mystery of the plot. I personally prefer this manipulation of space to Bava’s classical yet stolid, claustrophobic shots, substantive and intricately lit as they may be.

However, smooth and calculated as the dolly moves are, that’s how frustratingly crappy the focus puller executed his job. I’m fairly certain that the tight shooting schedule negatively impacted this crew-member’s work, but whatever the reason, a number of shots are lost to unintentionally soft focus.

There are also several shots that display the results of static electricity on the film’s emulsion. Usually this undesired effect – manifested as lightning across the frame – occurs when ‘short ends’ of film are being used in the camera, usually to save a little dough. They are not intended as a horror effect, but might be mistaken for such by viewers unaccustomed to the phenomenon, since digital photography can’t replicate this problem. These static-affected shots are not the fault of the mastering – they occurred on the original camera negative.

The plot involves the uncovering and avenging of two murders in the 15th Century. The vengeance is accomplished with the aid of a beguiling, highly sexualized woman (the daughter and sister of the two murderees), played of course by 60s Scream Goddess Barbara Steele, who gets to whip some new colors out of her thespian paint-box. She appears comfortable with the difficult blocking, and the floating camera and alternating lighting set-ups give us constantly evolving ways of perceiving her exquisite features. However, the male lead is less mesmerizing, and the film’s rapid pace slows down in the middle because of his limited charisma. Ms. Steele recalls: “They liked pretty boys in those roles, and they weren’t strong actors. This guy was French.” And about her director, she adds, “Margheriti had a lot of anger, which good directors must have.”

The ’long hair’ of the title serves two purposes. Its primary and more amusing use is to hide the stand-in’s face during Steele’s love scene. But it is also a key element of the male protagonist’s mental disintegration in the third act.

A booklet is enclosed, containing a 5-page essay by revved Fangoria editor Chris Alexander, who also intros the film in his usual manic style. Included in the package are interviews with Margheriti’s son, Edoardo and Antonio Tentori. The back cover of the BluRay lists all the key filmmakers involved, with their Americanized names in parentheses.

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