Label: Anchor Bay/ Catalogue: DV11490/ Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: August 6, 2002
Synopsis: Partly paralyzed from a childhood accident, an angry young woman becomes possessed by the Devil, spouting unholy venom and green puke from her frothy little mouth. Only an exorcism can save her soul and the carpet from further evil.
Special Features: “Raising Hell” – Interviews with Director Alberto De Martino & Composer Ennio Morricone (10:19) Widescreen (1.85:1) Anamorphic / TV spot
After “The Exorcist,” it was open season on possession films, a sub-genre that ran a fairly fruitful and icky course for several years before zombies and cannibals became the new vogue. Many of these variations were quickly produced for fast cash, starring former silver screen greats (in this case, Mel Ferrer as the weak-willed father of Carla Gravina, Arthur Kennedy as the Friendly Priest, and wrinkly Alida Valli reduced to housekeeper status), and helmed by workman directors whose own careers moved from one craze – spies, car chase, westerns, Mafia epics – to the next, though “The AntiChrist” remains one of the better-produced possession epics, successfully holding its own for nearly two hours.
Shot in gorgeous Rome, “The AntiChrist” (aka “The Tempter”) makes great use of locations (particularly the colosseum for the film’s finale), and contains plenty of inappropriate behaviour and imagery most American directors wouldn’t touch. (A case in point is Carla Gravina’s possession, which combines clever cross-cutting, unbridled nudity, and ceremonial tests that includes an active tongue and, um, a startled goat.)
Anchor Bay’s transfer is very nice, preserving the cold blue schemes that director De Martino saves for the film’s possession sequences, and deep red to enhance Gravina’s various states of madness. The widescreen cinematography is also very attractive – one of Aristide Massaccesi’s numerous genre assignments before becoming a director himself, as the infamous Joe D’Amato – and the locations and sets are particularly decadent (including a weird hallway with marble busts who lean out and peer at passersby).
The film’s mono soundtrack is well-balanced, and makes good use of Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai’s evocative score, which Morricone himself dissects in the DVD’s excellent featurette, “Raising Hell.” Both the composer and director De Martino reveal some of the intelligent and creative ideas that not only set “The AntiChrist” apart from the other “Exorcist” imitators, but shows De Martino as a more than a hack who rode the rip-off wave through much of his career. The director also gives ample credit to star Gravina, who manages to be alluring, repugnant, sympathetic and demonic at the snap of a finger (or frothing at the mouth after too much turkey… or goat). Both the film and the featurette are presented at 1.85:1, with the latter containing optional English subtitles for Morricone and De Martino’s Italian responses.
The DVD’s extras also include a decent still gallery for the U.S. and European campaigns; and the film’s American TV spot, which zooms out from a black & white still of a woman in her windy bedroom – a close imitation of “The Exorcist” campaign – and billed under the U.S. title, “The Tempter.”
There’s also an insert card of the film’s Italian poster, and Gravina’s demonic visage on the DVD cover is one of the most gripping images among Anchor Bay’s recent releases. If you stare at it too long, she actually seems to move closer…
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan
DVD / Film: Exorcist, The (1973)
Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review