24 September, 2007

Severin's SATAN'S BABY DOLL/MALABIMBA

I can't get enough of Aldo Sambrell (b. 1937), the prolific Spanish actor who has worked with many famous European genre directors such as Sergio Leone and Jess Franco (KILLER BARBYS; KILLER BARBYS VS DRACULA). The image above shows him as one of Lee Van Cleef's henchmen in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966).

The best thing about LA BIMBA DI SATANA is Aldo's typically intense presence as Antonio Aguilar, a degenerate heroin addict who terrorizes his very dysfunctional family. Mario Bianchi's LA BIMBA DI SATANA is now available in a superior Severin Films DVD edition under the English language title SATAN'S BABY DOLL.

Playing the heavy once again, Sambrell never seems to run out ways to make the various bandits, horror movie monsters and real life maniacs he plays seem larger than life. His career includes 150 plus films as an actor along with a number of films which he has directed.
A minimalist remake of Andrea Bianchi's [superior] MALABIMBA (1979) this film was packaged as a quickie cash-in. The veteran director Mario Bianchi discusses LA BIMBA... in a fascinating 16 minute documentary extra, EXORCISM OF BABY DOLL, which is actually more compelling than the actual feature presentation. After talking about his early career in B minus Spaghetti Westerns he reveals that MALABIMBA writer Piero (I VAMPIRI) Regnoli basically presented him with a short treatment which, being a happy hack, Bianchi accepted after some brief complaints. Bianchi appears to be a pleasant fellow and it's interesting to hear him talk about his admittedly modest career. He points out that he was basically hired because he was quick and never made a film which lost money. MALABIMBA producer Gabriele Crisanti kept the budget for this follow up so low that it had to make a profit through advance bookings and profits kicked back into production.
Mariangela Giordano returns in the nun's role, this time as Sister Sol, who again sacrifices herself to exorcise her charge. There's some sex, more gore than in MALABIMBA (including a servant biting the head off a live chicken!) and a perfunctory sense to the proceedings. Mario Bianchi (directing as Alan W. Cools [!]) basically uses two tools, the zoom lens and more of the zoom lens. Without the music of Berto Pisano and the talents of Franco Villa this story doesn't really survive the second time around.However, Sambrell and Ms. Giordano do very good work under the circumstances. Sambrell has got the physical representation of a jonesing addict down to a science. His acting out of the addict's desperation, spasms, shooting technique and lapses into drug induced ecstasy are spot on. Jacqueline Dupre does not impress as the possessed Bimba.
The film does have its neo-gothic moments set in the bowels of the dank Castello, but not enough of them. But it's short and, as a midnight sleazefest, acceptable enough.
MALABIMBA is the real ticket. Andrea Bianchi gives the impression of a lavish, decadent EXCORCIST rip off by directing his cast to go way over the top and stay there. Patrizia Wembly as a manipulative slut and Enzo Fishichella as the guilt ridden father of the title character are quite good but it's the gravitas of Mariangela Giordano as Sister Sofia pretty much holds the film together even with the confusion evident about what kind of film the makers wanted to produce. It's a hardcore feature which doesn't really benefit from the graphic clinical closeups, some of which were obviously, if skillfully, incorporated into the film after being shot post production. Katell Leannec's feral, disturbed Bimba is enough. Castello Balsorano and its remote surroundings are cleverly deployed by veteran DP Franco Villa, who also lights the interiors to make some colorful tapestries and a few pieces of furniture give the impression of a sumptuous environment. The handheld forward tracking shots, used to represent the presence of the female demon, are a very effective touch, a low budget way of approximating the high tech FX of THE EXORCIST.
Berto Pisano's atmospheric, menacing music cues are mostly recycled from his earlier score for Joe D'Amato's DEATH SMILES AT MURDER (1973) but work just as well here. Besides the documentary featurette, discussed in our previous blog on this presentation, the most important extra feature is that there are three different ways to watch the film. As the Integral Version, which includes about 10 minutes of "deleted scenes" incorporated back into the feature (these are in rather poor VHS quality), as a stand alone 88 minute feature or just watching the 88 m version and then paging through the individual deleted scenes afterward. The runtime of the Integral Version is 1hr 37m 53s.
In a clear, colorful 1.85:1/16:9 transfer MALABIMBA looks better than it ever has before. The video quality of the deleted scenes do clash if one watches the Integral Version but given the options I'm glad they are available and I wish more DVD companies would attempt both Integral and the separate deleted scenes folder options.
(C) Robert Monell, 2007






4 comments:

ecom said...

Interested viewers who have not picked up MALABIMBA should know (for better or worse) that the HC inserts are part of the pristine source and that the deleted scenes (which can be viewed separately or integrated into the film - though some DVD players may have trouble with the branching) are mainly expository and almost all of them are helpful in explaining the plot and motivations (only a couple are redundant).




SPOILERS:

I read a review that said it was Bimba's mother who died during the opening seance after becoming possessed. In the pristine cut, it is unclear who the medium is but she is not the mother. They were trying to contact the spirit of the mother. The medium appears in two further scenes (at the longer version of the dinner sequence and upon the discovery of Bimba's bear). Why these scenes and other relevant ones would seem to be explained by Franco Villa in the interview. Though he claims not to have been involved with the inserts (though they match too well), he explains that hardcore was risky at the time and that distributors could not just insert footage as the footage lengths of the prints had to match recorded lengths or there would be trouble from the censors so it was necessary to trim out the same amount of footage to be inserted. Other than the thing with the medium's role the film "works" without the footage but the additional footage really does demonstrate Regnoli's strengths as a writer and that the actors and the directors also had a sense of continuity on the set.

Robert Monell said...

Thanks for the insights, ecom. I consider Regnoli to be the true auteur of this film. For me, the HC doesn't really help the film, it diverts attention from the source of the horror. And I agree that the deleted scenes really flesh out the story, characters and theme.

ecom said...

I agree about Regnoli's contribution to the film as it moves along quite smoothly compared to BURIAL GROUND also directed by Bianchi (and probably less than enthusiastically scripted by Regnoli with the usual elements but he probably found zombies less interesting than possession).

JohnBraun said...

G60sZb write more, thanks.