Film #305: A WHITE DRESS FOR MARIALE aka UN BIANCO VESTITO PER MARIALE aka SPIRITS OF DEATH aka EXORCISME TRAGIQUE
A White Dress for Mariale aka Un Bianco Vestito Per Mariale aka Spirits of Death aka Exorcisme Tragique
3 out of 5 stars
A child sees her mother murdered by her father (who then kills himself). Years later, we find her married and living in seclusion in her gloomy mansion on the hill with a husband and a creepy manservant. She invites some friends over for the weekend for a party (and so she can wear the dress her mother was killed wearing… as ya do) and, as the party gets started, people begin to turn up dead. This obscure giallo, directed by Romano Scavolino (NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN), stars Ida Galli (LA DOLCE VITA, MANIAC MANSION), cannibal film regular Ivan Rassimov (MAN FROM DEEP RIVER, JUNGLE HOLOCAUST, EATEN ALIVE), and giallo stalwart Luigi Pistilli (BAY OF BLOOD, THE GREAT SILENCE) and is written by Remigio del Grosso (MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN) and Guiseppe Mangione (ANZIO). Overall, the film is competently made and looks terrific while the story unfolds well and has all the makings of a terrific giallo in the vein of things like Bava’s 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON, Ferdinando Baldi’s NINE GUESTS FOR A CRIME, Giuseppe Bennati’s THE KILLER RESERVED NINE SEATS, or heck, even Ken Russell’s GOTHIC. The main cast do journeyman’s jobs and it’s clear that they’ve all done this before. Supporting cast is solid as well – the women are beautiful and the men are all lantern-jawed and/or creepy. There are some stunning looking set pieces (the tour through the castle’s basement especially - which is very Bava-esque) and it all goes along swimmingly albeit sometimes illogically. At one point, there’s an early ‘70s version of an orgy (lesbianism and men in makeup cavort while rock music blares) and some whipping, but, given the backstory, it all doesn’t make a lot of sense (other than as a set-up for a giallo). The second act of the story does get a little rote, but the visuals sort of make up for it and things keep moving along. Once the killings start (and boy do they!), they’re not particularly splashy (the way, say Argento’s kills are splashy), but they are pretty nasty (the killing in the pool as but one example). As the film winds down, the bodies piled up, motivations are revealed and, well… pretty much everybody but the dog dies. Still, A WHITE DRESS FOR MARIALE is a lovely little timewaster that exhibits its filmmaker’s love of the genre and it wears its influences (see above) proudly on its sleeve. Recommended mostly for giallo fans and Euro-trash cinema aficionados. BTW, keep your eyes peeled for the ‘snake on a string’ and how it is dispatched (spoiler: a guy literally SHOOTS it off a woman’s leg!).