Friday, July 8, 2011

#2: Devil With Seven Faces

Drive In Movie Classics
Disc 1: Side A

Next up is The Devil With Seven Faces, which is less a thrill-free Italian thriller from 1971--though it is that--than a cavalacade of bad, early 70s fashions and tastes. We first glimpse our heroine Julie Harrison (Carroll Baker) leaving a party, where the guests are wearing some of the most hideous outfits imaginable, including a patchwork dress that looks to have been hastily stitched together from the remnants of other, equally hideous dresses. The combined power of all this pea-green, mustard-yellow and puke-orange fabric is staggering. Things get even more dated from there, when we realize Julie is being clumsily stalked through the shadows by a man in a loud, ill-fitting tweed-suit. All of which is to say nothing of the oversized, day-glo table lamps and rotary phones on display throughout the film, which you can't help but gaze at in a stupor the way the attention of small infants are automatically drawn to any nearby bright, shiny object.

In some ways I felt bad focusing so much on the garish clothes and hairstyles while watching this movie. After all, it's not really the movie's fault that it was made at a time when restraint and good taste were rare commodities; if anything The Devil With Seven Faces acts a a time capsule, a somewhat accurate depiction of its era. Or is it? These were the sorts of questions I found myself asking as yet another sweaty, unshaven man accosted Julie and accused her of stealing a diamond from his boss, mistakenly believing her to be her twin sister.

"Mary and I are twins," Julie explains to a friend at one point. "I mean identical twins. But just physically. That's as far as the resemblance goes."

Yes, such riveting dialogue is typical of The Devil With Seven Faces, usually delivered as the characters lounge in shag-carpeted living rooms, sip coffee and enjoy long puffs on their smooth, satisfying cigarettes. But the excitement doesn't stop there. We also get quite a bit of footage of people parking cars, getting out, closing the door behind them, walking to the front door of houses and then--spoiler alert--knocking on the door. Stay tuned until the very end, though, for an obligatory, unsurprising plot twist of the sort expected in a movie involving twins and mistaken identity, followed by an endless final shot of a plane taking off into a hazy sky.

And yet, watching The Devil With Seven Faces wasn't quite the miserable, begrudging chore I've made it out to be. Such dull, uninspired movies are a necessary part of the 50-pack experience. Through their sheer incompetence and insipidity they make the few semi-decent movies in the collection seem all the better, even elevating heretofore dire fare like the comedy-less comedy Twister's Revenge! to so-bad-it's-good status. Though I nodded off a few times during the middle of The Devil With Seven Faces, I somehow felt rejuvenated after watching it, optimistic that the next movie will be marginally better. It’s almost cathartic enduring such pain. It’s like the gloomy hopefulness of a bad day at work--there’s no way tomorrow can be any worse.

Anybody else seen this snooze-fest? Did it put you to sleep, too? Thoughts on the 70s decor?

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