Another entry in our Witchy Wonder and Demonic Delight Season– a beautiful little obscure piece of early seventies Italian Eurocult horror- Queens of Evil aka Le Regine (1970). Ray Lovelock plays a freewheeling hippy, David. This is not unlike the freewheeling hippy he also plays in Oasis of Fear (1971), To Be Twenty (1978) and The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)– seen here complete with obligatory wild hair and motorcycle. I’m not wanting to suggest Ray was typecast in any way, but it has to be said he made a damn fine hippy. As David (Lovelock ) freewheels the night away coasting from town to town on his trusty bike he comes across a stranger who has broken down in the middle of the night. A middle aged man with a luxury car who apparently has lots of money but no idea how to change a tyre, so our hippy friend plays good Samaritan and offers to help out. All this gets him is a lecture for his trouble- on cutting his hair and the joys of learning to fit in with society- to which David responds ‘Hey Mister, what’s your bag? Are you some kind of guru of sex?’ before rolling on his merry way. The stranger has stuck a nail in David’s tyre though and he isn’t going to get very far. Stranded for the night, he takes refuge in the garden shed of a secluded cottage, only to discover the next morning the homestead is inhabited by three gorgeous women, Liv (Haydee Politoff), Samantha (Silvia Monti) and Bibiana (Ida Galli). Luckily for David these luscious ladies look like fashion models and seem in desperate need of a man. Despite the twee cottage façade of their home it is decked out like a vogue style luxury pad inside, and what’s more they want to prepare decadent feasts to welcome David into their nest- and later their beds. But all is not as it seems, the ladies are a strange breed, and like to sneak off into the woodland for odd magical rituals. When David enters the house uninvited, he finds everyone has disappeared and the kitchen that was stocked to the hilt just an hour before is nothing but an empty cardboard shell. With things becoming more and more peculiar by the hour, it might be time for David to move on, that is if the girls are going to let him, which seems unlikely seeing as he is just what they have been waiting for all this time alone in the forest.
Cast and Crew
Heading up the cast we have the aforementioned Ray Lovelock as David, looking decidedly fresh faced and on his usual party vibe when he’s in one of these type of roles. Lovelock does a worthy job in being a rather naive free spirit who has no idea what he’s about to get himself into. The actor even has his own theme song- We Love You Underground– sang by Lovelock himself (which consequently got released in Japan on 7 inch vinyl). Quite the cheeky chappy his character is chocked full of free-loving philosophy, with lines such as when asked about remaining faithful to one woman, ‘if I was faithful to one woman I would be being unfaithful to all the others’. Even though, when taken out of context, this might seem on the misogynistic side, Lovelock’s character is anything but. Instead the character of David inhabits the spirit of the age when hippy ideals were strong in youth culture (there is a reason for this, and it all makes sense when the film hits its final punchline). As for our female cast members they are all suitably glamourous and alluring. Given the mysterious aspect of the trio of beauties there is not much for them to do, other than be seductive, and appealing without giving much away as to their real nature. Each of the actresses Haydee Politoff, Silvia Monti, and Ida Galli are able to play out their roles convincingly- given they are all strikingly good looking ladies. That is not to say the female players are there to just add eye candy, however, the plot is delivered in such a way that it is necessary for their roles to be somewhat understated and wrapped up in a furtive and enigmatic veil in order for things to develop in the sweet subtle way that they do.
Director Tonino Cervi is not a name that many are acquainted with outside of his native Italy. The director’s relative obscurity probably explains why this feature still lacks a much needed English friendly DVD release (although there is a fantastic fan dubbed release floating around on the internet for English speakers). Cervi takes an extremely sophisticated and intelligent approach to building up his narrative, packing his feature full of modish visuals that remain memorable long after viewing. Careful attention has obviously been given to the finer details such as swanky set and costume design; giving the film a high class vintage slick fashion aesthetic. The use of psychedelic editing effects on some of the set pieces also aid to give the film a very offbeat feel overall, making it a surprisingly solid and well-crafted piece of lesser known Italian horror.
Queens of Evil is one of those strange late sixties, early seventies, Eurocult films that has a strong cultivated voguish look, and slick production values- relating specifically to the similar witchcraft/erotica line, think Baba Yaga (1973); just less explicit. Unlike many of the likeminded films of the age, this one sadly hasn’t had the same attention from English speaking audiences. What may put some off is the slowly, slowly, catchy monkey approach to getting to any sort of conclusion. Cervi doesn’t stuff his film with gore, or gratuitous sex and nudity- there are small moments of both, but nothing to write home about. Instead what Queens of Evil does offer is an especially curious tale, ample atmospherics and a sharp satirical punchline that rips into bourgeoisie culture and materialistic values. On this level Queens of Evil is an extremely clever film imbibed with some sharp wit that comes delivered alongside a beguiling serpentine plot, which- if you allow it to be- is easy to become absorbed in. In some respects you could perhaps call this an adult version of Hansel and Gretel with erotic undertones. For me it was one of those films that demonstrates the wild creativity of that particular time and place in cinematic history. They certainly don’t make them like this anymore, that’s one thing that is for sure. This is definitely one for all those who love horror flicks that stray outside of the normal genre defined margins and in my opinion is well worth the extra effort it may take to track it down. If you can employ the patience Queens of Evil is an extremely rewarding watch, and a fine piece of Eurocult horror that is crying out to be explored by a wider audience.