Bonus Reviews: From Beyond the Grave (1974) and Il Demonio (1963)
Horror Bulletin Bonus Reviews for week 170
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a couple of spooky horror movies, The Peter Cushing-centric anthology “From Beyond the Grave” from 1974, and one of the first major exorcism films, “Il Demonio,” an Italian/French film from 1963.
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From Beyond the Grave (1974)
• Directed by Kevin Connor
• Written by Robin Clark, Raymond Christodoulou
• Stars Peter Cushing, David Warner, Donald Pleasance, Ian Ogilvy
• Run time: 1 Hour, 38 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s another 1970’s Amicus anthology, this time with four segments. Peter Cushing takes command of the wraparound story, and overall it’s really a good one.
Edward Charleton goes into the cluttered emporium, and the creepy old proprietor greets him. Edward likes an antique mirror, but thinks it’s overpriced and talks the old man down from 200 pounds to 25. The old man takes the deal...
The Gate Crasher
Edward brags to his friends about how he cheated the old man by claiming the mirror was a reproduction but knew himself that it was real. One of his friends wants to do a seance.
The seance begins, with everyone seated around a table. The candle flashes blue and Edward invites “something” in. The old mirror goes all smoky and a face appears.
Edward finds himself in a cloudy realm as the scary man approaches and stabs him with a knife. The seance, and the vision, ends with a scream.
Later that night, all alone, Edward hears the mirror crack and sees the man on the other side. “You must feed me,” it says. Edward goes out and hires a 5-pound prostitute and takes her home. Edward stabs her— and wakes up to find a bloody spot on his sofa. He finds other evidence that proves his “dream” was real.
The next night, the thing in the mirror wants to be fed blood again. “How many more?” He asks. “Until I am fulfilled,” moans that mirror-man. Edward breaks the mirror. His friend Pamela comes over, and Edward sees that the mirror is now intact again.
Edward doesn’t want to let Pamela in, but the face insists. She leaves, but soon, the man downstairs finds blood dripping through the floor. He goes up to talk to Edward; he knows about all the women Edward’s been bringing home. Edward finds where he’s been stashing the bodies under the floor. He stabs the man downstairs.
The face in the mirror says he is now complete. The man appears in the room physically and stabs Edward. A great deal of time passes, and the new tenants in the apartment decide to hold a seance in front of the old antique mirror over the fireplace. Guess who’s inside it now?
An Act of Kindness
Back in the emporium, the proprietor sees a man outside. The man outside, Mr. Lowe, then donates to an ex-serviceman selling matches. Mr. Lowe’s wife gives him grief for being a sucker. Actually, his wife gives him a lot of crap, and we see that he's a bit of a crybaby.
The next morning, he buys more matches from the same man. He then goes into the emporium and buys an old medal for Distinguished Service, to impress the match seller. Lowe doesn’t have “a certificate” proving he won the medal, so the proprietor won’t sell it. Lowe steals the medal to get it anyway.
He shows the medal to the man on the street, Mr. Underwood, who wants him to come over for dinner. Lowe appreciates finally being looked up to, so he accepts the offer.
Mr. Underwood introduces Lowe to his daughter Emily. He tells his wife that he’s been working overtime. Lowe starts going over to the Underwood house regularly. Lowe tells all his marital troubles to Underwood and Emily.
That night, Emily is in Lowe’s bedroom and stabs his wife to death. No, it was just a dream. The next evening, Emily sings a really weird song as Lowe has dinner. Emily says she wishes “to serve you. I would do anything you ask. Anything at all. It must be your will.” They end up having sex.
The next morning, she wants more “orders.” She’s made a voodoo doll of Lowe’s wife and sticks it with a hot pin. The doll bleeds.
Lowe rushes home to find his wife his dead. The Underwood’s arrive, and soon Emily and Lowe are married. When Emily cuts the groom in half on the wedding cake, Lowe dies. It seems Lowe’s son wanted him dead...
Reginald Warren goes into the emporium and switches price tags so he can get a nice 40-pound snuffbox for the price of a cheap one, 5 pounds (the same going rate as a cheap prostitute!). He then talks the old man into taking four pounds.
A woman on the train tells him “You have an elemental on your shoulder.” The woman explains that an elemental is like a small demon. She sees him there, but Warren thinks she’s just crazy. She gives him a card; she’s Madame Orloff, Clairvoyant.
He gets home and his own dog barks at him. That night, something tries to strangle his wife Susan, but she thinks it was him. He decides to call Madame Orloff.
Orloff is suitably weird, but Reggie and Susan are all in on fixing the problem. She does a sort of ridiculous exorcism, and things in the room fly around, wrecking the place.
Everything is fine now. Except... now there’s something stomping around upstairs. Reggie goes upstairs and something throws him right back down again. Now there’s something on Susan’s shoulder; she beats him to death with a fireplace poker.
The proprietor sees a man hanging around outside. Another man, William Seaton, goes into the shop. He likes a huge old door with a devil's face carved into it. The proprietor wants fifty pounds, but William accepts forty. The old man leaves the register open...
William installs the creepy old door into his house onto the front of a cupboard. That night, William opens the now cupboard door and finds an entire room, all in blue, beyond. He hears someone else in the rooms beyond that and runs back into his own home.
The next night, he goes back in and reads a book about “evil.” The room must be fed with blood from time to time. The other door in the room is there to trap souls. The other door opens, and a ghostly man comes out. William sees him and then runs back into the real world.
William’s wife Rosemary thinks William has gone crazy. Suddenly, the phone stops working and all the doors are sealed shut— in their apartment. Rosemary goes to the door and the man inside takes her.
William grabs an ax and hacks the magic door to pieces. The blue room collapses as William and the man fight over Rosemary.
Rosemary finishes smashing the door, and the two return to their world. William then cuts the door off its hinges, trapping the evil man inside. Everything is fine now, and the room is just a regular cupboard again. Turns out, William didn’t steal the money from the store. Good choice!
Outside the emporium, a man who’s been hanging around all day finally sneaks inside. He wanders around through the clutter of junk until he comes to the display case we’ve seen before. The proprietor pops out of nowhere with two pistols. The burglar takes them.
The burglar cocks the guns and points them at the proprietor. He shoots, twice, but nothing happens. He falls into a box lined with spikes. “Nasty!” Says the proprietor. “The love of money is the road to all evil.” What does he have that YOU want?
This is fairly long for an anthology in four parts; each part is around 25 minutes.
This is where we learn that Donald Pleasence’s daughter can be even creepier than he can be.
The first tale is really bloody. The second has a fun twist at the end. The third is straight-up played for laughs. The fourth is a bit of a mystery, but is also the only one with a happy ending. Because of the moral lessons of the movie. Bad things happen to bad people.
Peter Cushing was the proprietor here, a fairly small role, really, but he does well in it. The store full of evil merchandise trope has been done lots of times, but this one was still a lot of fun, especially if you like the cast.
The Demon (1963)
• AKA “Il Demonio”
• Directed by Brunello Rondi
• Written by Brunello Rondi, Ugo Guerra, Luciano Martino
• Stars Daliah Lavi, Frank Wolff, Anna Maria Aveta
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 38 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
A decade before “The Exorcist” there was “The Demon”. It’s weird in a way that makes it very watchable. A slow-moving film that’s well worth it.
This is a true story, which took place in Italy to a local girl named Purificata. She pokes herself in the chest with a pin until it bleeds. Then she cuts off some of her hair. She wads these up in cloth and then burns it in the stove; it’s a spell of some kind. She mashes up what’s left of the ashes and stuffs some in bread and the wine. She then goes to church, where the other parishioners don’t approve of her. She prays to the demon to curse the priest.
On the way home, she spots Antonio and follows him through the woods into town. Antonio discusses his upcoming wedding with the people in town. In his mind, he already has names for his future children picked out. Puri follows him from a distance, and finally confronts him. He broke it off with her months ago, but she doesn’t want to give up that easily. He’s engaged to someone else now, but she doesn’t care. They argue and then fall down and make out for a bit. Eventually, he gets up and walks away. She tricks Antonio into drinking the blood-potion. “I have bewitched you!” She cries.
Later, at home, her father Vincenzo goes crazy and tries to whip her to death; he knows what she did, but her mother says Puri would never do such a thing, and they all leave the room.
It’s the day of the wedding for Antonio and his bride, who is definitely not Puri. During the ceremony, the candle on the bride’s side fades, which is a bad omen. Again Puri curses Antonio in the name of the demon. She then beats on the door of the church during the ceremony, very much a sore loser.
The bride and groom’s families do a ritual in the bedroom to drive out evil spirits and demons. The parents also stand guard outside all night as the young couple consummates their marriage. Puri does yet another curse, this time with a dead cat.
Puri runs off, and that night is raped by a shepherd who catches her hiding in his field. The next morning, she runs into a little boy named Salvatore, and they talk. When she gets home, she hears that Salvatore has just died of a long-term illness. Who did she talk to? When she tells the others, they blame her for Salvatore’s death. They call her a sorceress in front of Father Tommaso, who tries to help her.
Puri takes part in the boy’s funeral procession, and there’s lots more superstition and ritual with that. The villagers all publicly confess their sins almost like they are trying to compete for the worst. Puri admits she has spoken to a demon and then falls down.
Puri’s family goes to Uncle Giuseppe to help with the demon. He works with Puri to exorcise the demon. She goes to Antonio to apologize, and he literally throws her off his property. She goes home and moans and writhes in bed, and we soon see that she has claw scratches all over her body.
The family ties her up and takes her to church, where Father Tommaso tries to exorcize the demon. She’s much less cooperative than she was with Uncle Giuseppe. She bends over backward and does a spider-walk around the church. The ritual continues until Puri passes out.
Later on, the villagers have a ritual to “scare away” the dark storm clouds that approach on Passover. “The witch! The witch!” Once again, the villagers blame Puri for the dark clouds and chase her across the fields, all the way home.
Puri’s family locks her in the cellar with no way out. They don’t want anyone in town to know that she’s still there. Her father tells the others that she left. When she hears Antonio outside, she calls back to him, giving herself away to the angry villagers. They pull her out of the cellar and chase her off by throwing stones at her.
Puri goes to a convent, but the nuns there already know her history. Still, the mother superior insists that Puri be allowed to stay with them. When Puri attacks one of the nuns, the Mother Superior threatens to have her committed to an asylum.
Back in town, Antonio gets sick and blades Puri. Uncle Giuseppe says it must be a spell, as his body is becoming covered in spots. Giuseppe says that Antonio must burn the witch in a bonfire. Everyone in town builds a big fire and takes burning torches as they search for Puri.
Puri and Antonio have their final confrontation. They make out as before; he really just has no self-control at all. They spend the night together and in the morning, he stabs her to death. How romantic!
The various rituals and magic spells are interesting to watch, and some of them are obviously rooted in real beliefs. Turns out, the people in the village have way more strange rituals and weird beliefs than Puri does.
This came out in 1963, and was probably the most realistic exorcism on film prior to “The Exorcist” in 1973. I like this one. And it’s nothing like the Exorcist, which seems to have influenced every exorcism movie that followed.
Actually, the influence of this film on “The Exorcist” is clear in a couple of scenes. That spider-walk— they didn’t have CGI or anything of the sort in 1963. This was real and looked really difficult, and it was clearly the actress Dahlia Lavi and not a stunt double.
It’s fairly slow-moving and very tame by today’s standards, but this is one of the first “serious” attempts to show demon possession and exorcism rituals. I imagine this was pretty disturbing and intense for audiences in 1963, but it’s a little slow and weird for a modern audience.
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