The Possessed - The Possessed(Blu Ray) [Arrow Video - 2019]From the mid-1960s The Possessed is a subtle creepy, and at times grimly noir infused Italian mystery- thatís knee deep in atmosphere & dread. On Arrow Video- both in the UK & US- here we have a recent Blu Ray reissue of the film- offering up a new bleakly monochrome print of the film, as well as a nice selection of extras.
Released in 1965 The Possessed( aka La donna del lago) is often quoted as one of the examples of proto Giallo, and while to a certain extent I can see why that is- in my mind, itís much more a carefully paced & gloomy mystery or moody low-key horror film. It was co-directed by Luigi Bazzoni (Man, Pride & Vengeance, The Firth Cord, Footprints On The Moon) & Franco Rossellini- whose more known as a producer of the likes of Caligula. Unusually for a co-directed film, The Possessed feels very focused & firm in its flow- sure itís moves at a deliberately slow, and moody considered pace- but there is very much continuity to the whole thing.
The films based in a small Italian lakeside town in the winter- revisiting the local hotel is troubled novelist Bernard(Peter Baldwin)- who the last time he was there became emotionally captured & obsessed with a waitress called Tilde. Soon after arriving in the town, he finds Tilde passed away under mysterious circumstances- so he teams up with the decidedly creepy & bleakly leering local photographer to find out what really happened. The film unfolds in a very paced & often eerier manner- with lots of shots of the shadowy hotel corridors, moonlight lakeside locations, forests & bleak seemingly people-less shops. Iíd say the atmosphere here is akin to something like the dreamy melancholia of Carnival Of Souls, or maybe the less erotic & gloomy moments in Jess Francoís Virgin Above The Living Dead. Also at times, the film brought to mind some of Bela Tarís work too- and I guess this comes from the films bleakly arty euro touches.
The Possessed really is more about atmosphere & mood, and less about a dramatic plot, gory murders, or been an effective who-done-it. You have to go into this looking for a bleak & at times subtle mystery, and less a pulse-racing Giallo/ thriller. Iíve recently reviewed Luigi Bazzoni later film The Firth Cord( also on Arrow Video), finding that somewhat of a let down due to itís attempt to creating a more brooding & grimly arty take on the Giallo form- but I was really rather hypnotized & taken in by The Possessed.
Moving onto this new reissue- and we get a nicely crisp & wonderfully defined black & white print of the film- with the options of either English or Italian versions of the film. Extras wise we get a very informative commentary track from writer and critic Tim Lucas- which sees him discussing the cast in detail, the films setting, the original novel & the true crime story the film was based on, the tone & cinematography of the film, and more- itís a great fact-filled track, thatís very balanced & interesting. Next, we get a twenty-five-minute appreciation by cultural critic and academic Richard Dye- this sees him comparing the film to Euro arthouse films- discussing itís original novel, and itís proto Giallo leanings- this once again is a worthy extra, and thankfully not too highbrow. Next, we get two ten-to sixteen minutes of interviews with two people involved in the film's production makeup artist Giannetto Rossi & assistant art director Dante Ferretti. Lastly, we get a half an hour interview with actor/director Francesco Barilli, discussing his relationship with Luigi and Camillo Bazzoni- the films Co director, and his camera operator brother.
After being a little under-whelmed by The Fifth Cord, I wasnít expecting too much from this- so Iím pleased to say that I was very much taken by The Possessed. So if you enjoy slow & bleakly tinged mystery with arty edges- I think youíll also enjoy what we have here too.