La Notte Dei Diavoli, The Night of the Devils (1972)
Directed by: Giorgio Ferroni
Written by: Aleksei Tolstoy, Eduardo Manzanos, Gianbattista Mussetto, Romano Migliorini
Starring: Agostina Belli, Cinzia De Carolis, Gianni Garko, Luis Suárez, Maria Monti, Roberto Maldera, Sabrina Tamborra, Teresa Gimpera
THE NIGHT OF THE DEVILS (1972)
Directed by Giorgio Ferroni
Available on Blu-Ray from Raro Video
A bloodied and delirious stranger is found and brought to the hospital where the doctors attempt to treat him. Unable to get any answers from their latest patient, the frustrated hospital and local police force put out a plea asking the public for any information on the identity of the man. When a young woman named Sdenka turns up at the hospital claiming to know the man as Nicola, a lumber importer, the doctor allows her to see him in the hope that he may begin to cooperate with the doctors, but her presence only makes the patient even more distressed. After being escorted back to his room, Nicola begins to have flashbacks of the events that led him to his traumatised state.
Set in Yugoslavia, Italian horror THE NIGHT OF THE DEVILS is based on Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy’s gothic novella, The Family of the Vourdalak (La Famille du Vourdalak), which also formed the inspiration for an earlier Italian horror, Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath.
Spaghetti Western star Gianni Garko stars as the troubled, handsome Nicola whose clearly experienced something traumatic enough to send him into shock. At the beginning of the film, we see him stumbling along looking dishevelled, his clothing torn and bloody. This immediately opens up a series of questions, the main one being ‘what on Earth has caused this lumber importer to be injured and terrified for his life?’ The flashbacks that Nicola experiences takes us right to the beginning of his story as we see Nicola make his way into a woodland village after his car veers off the path and breaks down. Seeking help from the villagers, he discovers a family who’ve just been burying one of their own. It turns out that they’re the only family living in the village and that everyone else has cleared out of the area in recent times, and for good reason. As night falls, the doors of their humble home are bolted shut and the wooden shutters jammed fast. Whatever is outside at night is certainly something they don’t want to let in.
Being a guest in a stranger’s home, Nicola is like anyone would be – curious and a little suspicious of his hosts. He can’t overstep the mark though as he has nowhere to go, and they’re being generous enough to feed him and provide him with a bed for the night until the car can be looked at in the morning. He’s totally at their mercy and so can do little but play along with their superstitions. But what exactly lies outside in the woods at night? Why is it so dangerous to go out? And what actually happened to Gorca’s brother, who the family have just buried?
Like many of the Euro horrors of the era, THE NIGHT OF THE DEVILS lays on the fear factor by effectively using a dramatic slow build up and the silent stare. If attempted today it would likely be laughable, but the 60’s and 70’s films of this genre utilised this technique to great effect and, in this instance, is quite chilling to behold, especially as the final act rolls around. This isn’t the only way in which the storytelling uses actions rather than words, with the camera zooming in and out of extreme close-ups, particularly of Nicola’s eyes, to depict the current state of where the story is at. We follow Nicola as he transforms from a reasonable man but one who doesn’t believe in fairytales, to someone who ends up fearing for his very life.
As a film that embraces Eastern European folklore, there’s not a great deal of the red stuff to be seen, nor is there a requirement, but that’s not to say we aren’t treated to some inspired scenes, such as severed fingers and an impaling. Like fine dining, these are small but delicate treats to be savoured, whilst the main course is certainly the delivery of the story involving the family dynamic and how they’re coping and managing to survive in the place they so dearly call home that has, for quite some time, been slowly turning into a living nightmare.
Like any good Euro horror, THE NIGHT OF THE DEVILS isn’t shy about embracing a little bit of eroticism and delivers a female front pubic shot very early in the movie during Nicola’s psychotic state at the beginning of the film. It’s quite unexpected and out of place, to be quite honest, but things soon settle down to the usual state of titillation from films of this genre and era. Agostina Belli and Teresa Gimpera are the beautiful ladies who bare the flesh for cinematic effect but not all of their brief nude scenes are orchestrated to arouse. One in particular raises the pulse in quite a different way…
A film that very much places its power into the storytelling and performances from its cast, including that of two very fine little actresses in Cinzia De Carolis and Sabrina Tamborra as sisters Irina and Mira, THE NIGHT OF THE DEVILS is an eerie, atmospheric example of a claustrophobic survival nightmare.
The Raro Video Blu-Ray of THE NIGHT OF THE DEVILS is filled with a number of interviews with the cast and crew, all of which are in Italian with English subtitles, as well as an interview with horror critic Chris Alexander. For the cherry on top, respected British horror authors and critics, Kim Newman and Alan Jones, provide a fascinating commentary for the movie that is well worth a listen.
- Audio commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman
- “The Devils Among Us” – Archival interview with actor Gianni Garko (24 mins)
- “The Angel and the Devils” – Archival interview with actor Agostina Belli (25 mins)
- “The Child of Darkness” – Archival interview with actor Cinzia de Carolis (13 mins)
- “Celestial Light” – Archival interview with camera operator Nino Celeste (18 mins)
- “Fear and Jazz” – Archival interview with composer Giorgio Gaslini (32 mins)
- Archival interview with critic and horror expert Chris Alexander (6 mins)