The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (Italy 1972)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/22/22
Director: Emilio Miraglia
Cast: Barbara Bouchet, Marina Malfatti, Pia Giancaro, Sybil Danning

A family curse states that every 100 years, one sister kills the other, and the dead one returns from the grave to kill seven people, ending with her killer. It's time for the curse to manifest itself again, and this time it's between fashion photographer Kitty Wildenbrück (Barbara Bouchet) and her manic and abusive sister, Evelyn. After Evelyn disappears and their grandfather dies, a series of murders are committed by the mysterious Red Queen, and it's only a matter of time before Kitty becomes a victim herself.

This is a classic Italian giallo film that combines both modern and gothic elements. The story is a complex web of mystery and suspense, and it offers enough false leads that anyone could conceivably be the killer. The film looks fantastic, features a wonderful music score, and the women are glamorous and gorgeous. A radiant Barbara Bouchet shines brightly as the tormented and terrified Kitty, and does a great job of carrying the film. Reportedly, she moved to Italy and started making horror movies after growing tired of getting only bimbo roles in Hollywood. That proved to be a smart choice, as she's a very capable actress. It's a shame that Hollywood couldn't see past her pretty face and offer her better opportunities. Pia Giancaro is stunning as one of Kitty's rival coworkers, and a completely unrecognizable Sybil Danning plays a promiscuous and manipulative model named Lulu.

While it's a well-made film, it suffers from numerous plot holes and continuity issues. Barbara Bouchet's hair in particular constantly changes between shots. The English dubbing is weak and the Italian dub fares a bit better. However, neither one matches the actors' mouth movements very well, so it's hard to tell what language they were speaking in and what the original lines actually were. Much of the film doesn't make sense, but that doesn't diminish the sense of dread or how compelling and interesting the characters are. The final reveal is overly drawn out and convoluted, and the film ends on a note of uncertainty as an ambulance speeds away accompanied by inappropriately happy music. Does this mean that the heroes survived and lived happily ever after? It's definitely an odd scene and almost feels like it was imposed by the studio or follows some archaic film ethics code. Despite its warts, I enjoyed the film immensely and it made me want to track down more of Barbara Bouchet's European work.