olor, 1980, 90 mins. / Directed by Lamberto Bava / Starring Bernice Stegers, Stanko Molnar, Veronica Zinny, Roberto Posse, Fernandino Orlandi / Music by Ubaldo Continiello / Cinematography by Franco Delli Colli / Anchor Bay (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), EC Entertainment (Holland R0 NTSC), Vipco (UK R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1)

After years of working as an assistant director on his father Mario’sfilms, Lamberto Bava finally went solo in 1980 with Macabre, anatmospheric psychological study which joins The Beyond andCannibal Apocalypse for the largest number of Italian actorsimpersonating American Southerners. The central gimmick of the film hasbeen spoiled by everything from reviewers to the U.S. video box cover,but for the uninitiated, we’ll leave it to the mysterious basics here.

Jane (City of Women’s Bernice Stegers), a wife and mother of two,relieves the tedium of her New Orleans social life by dallying on theside with her passionate lover, Fred, in a boarding house inhabited bythe blind and unfortunately named Robert Duval (Stanko Molnar) and hismother. One day Jane’s erotic idyll is interrupted when her psychoticdaughter, Lucy (Veronica Zinny, sister of horror actor UrbanoBarberini), calls up her mom and then drowns her little brother in ajealous snit. Jane and Fred leap into the car and tear across town whenthey hear the news, only to ram straight into a construction site whichleaves Fred mangled beyond repair.

One year later, Jane is released from a mental institution and takes aroom at Robert’s house. Lucy now lives only with her father butmaintains contact with her mother; however, Jane may not be quite allthere. Every night Robert hears his newest tenant engaging in hot andheavy sessions in her bedroom, always following the sound of somethingbeing unlocked from the refrigerator...

Based very loosely on a newspaper story discovered by co-producer PupiAvati, Macabre was originally written as a kind of joke butquickly developed into a serious gothic chamber piece. Apart from theoccasional New Orleans exterior shot, this is unmistakably the work ofBava blood, steeped in the same overripe visual decay which earmarkedsuch masterpieces as Lisa and the Devil (another European poem tonecrophilia, by the way). The badly dubbed Southern accents becomegrating rather quickly, but Bava’s steady visual sense carries the filmover its rough spots and really crackles to life for the finale, inwhich Stegers’ unnerving, fragile beauty finally tips over the cliffinto full blown psychotic mania. The influence of Avati is evident aswell, mainly in the deliberate, restrained pacing and the emphasis onpsychological rifts forming beneath the surface of normality;unfortunately, this is the only Lamberto film that could ever really betermed "subtle," as it plays for the most part like a particularlyskewed episode of Night Gallery instead of the splatter-heavycontemporaries of its time. Apart from the aforementioned accents, thefilm’s only major misstep is a terribly conceived shock ending whichends the film on a ridiculous illogical note and renders its origin as a"true story" highly dubious at best.

First released in the U.S. by Lightning Video as Frozen Terrorand in Canada by CIC under its original title, this sick little gem hassuffered from some awfully bland transfers over the years which sappedaway much of its visual allure. The Lightning tape in particularfeatured weak colors and made this look like an especially drytelevision movie. Anchor Bay’s DVD corrects much of the damage andrestores the intricate, colorful production design to its properoverripe splendor. The screen is frequently oversaturated with acres ofred velvet, gold décor trim, and shimmering silk sheets, all of whichadd considerably to the film’s potent atmosphere. The disc also includesa nice 8 minute interview with Lamberto (entitled "A Head for Horror"),in which he discusses the genesis of the story, his father’s reactionafter the premiere, and more. Other goodies include the Europeantheatrical trailer (which blows the entire ending, so be careful!), some solid (and unfortunately well hidden) liner notes by Travis Crawford, and aLamberto bio.

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