Tag Archives: Elke Sommer

The Art of Love (1965)

art of love

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Artist fakes his death.

Paul (Dick Van Dyke) is a struggling painter living in Paris who has not been able to make any money with his paintings and feels ready to give up and move back to the states. Casey (James Garner) is his roommate and best friend who tries to convince him to stay by coming up with a scheme where Paul fakes his death by jumping off a bridge and committing suicide, which should bolster the value of his paintings based on the concept that an artist’s work becomes more sought after once they are dead. The plan works, but it forces Paul to go into hiding and allows Casey to make a play at Paul’s fiancée Laurie (Angie Dickinson). When Paul finds out about this he confronts Casey and then things get really zany.

Carl Reiner’s script is trite to the extreme and although it moves at a brisk pace it is not very funny, or even passably amusing. The concept of an artist having to die in order to get his work to sell is an interesting idea to explore, but unfortunately like everything else in the film it is handled in a superficial way and used mainly as a springboard to all sorts of other wild scenarios that become increasingly sillier as it goes along.  Norman Jewison’s direction is dull and unimaginative and despite the fact that it has a European setting it was actually filmed on a Universal studios back-lot, which doesn’t help give it any atmosphere or distinction.

Van Dyke’s character is unrealistically ‘goody-goody’ and clean-cut.  He comes into contact with Nikki (Elke Sommer) a beautiful blonde woman who shows a strong interest in Paul, but he immediately and rigidly rebuffs her like he has no sex drive at all. The comic schtick that he does here is the same stuff we’ve seen him do hundreds of times before and he basically becomes Rob Petrie again simply transplanted into a European setting.

Although he has less comic opportunity Garner is clearly the better actor and has much more of a screen presence. It is easy to see why he continued to get choice movie roles for decades to come while Van Dyke became permanently demoted back to television.

Sommer is wasted in a transparent role. Dickinson, who three years later co-starred with Van Dyke in Some Kind of a Nut is equally forgettable and her constant propensity at fainting becomes increasingly more unfunny the more it occurs.

Ethel Merman makes the most of her role despite its limitations, but every time she speaks she seems to be shouting. Reiner is probably the most amusing out of all the characters in a brief bit as Garner’s shyster lawyer.

I wish I could tell you that there was at least one truly funny moment here, but there really isn’t. The humor is flat and dated and no better than a poor TV-sitcom and in many ways even worse.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 30, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Norman Jewison

Studio: Universal

Available: None at this time.

The House of Exorcism (1976)

house of exorcism

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Possessed by the devil.

When Mario Bava’s Lisa and the Devil, which was reviewed yesterday, failed to generate any business at the box office the film was reedited using footage cut from the first film as well as adding some new scenes. In this version Lisa (Elke Sommer) is a tourist in Spain who becomes possessed by the devil right out in broad daylight on the cobbled streets and in front of her fellow tourists. She is taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital and accompanied by Father Michael (Robert Alda). The doctors are unable to explain her condition medically and as she gets worse and more violent it is up to the Father to excise the demon.

This version is an improvement over the Bava one in fact Bava’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on the credits and instead the film’s producer Alfredo Leone is listed as the director under the pseudonym Mickey Lion. Obviously it’s a huge rip-off of The Exorcist and in some ways gets unintentionally funny particularly when the Priest has a conversation with the demon during the exorcism. However, it is still fun and more flamboyant than the original and at least has a coherent plot that helps propel the movie along. The only problem is that the exorcism scenes are intercut with scenes from the original film showing Lisa visiting the mansion and meeting up with the strange characters. Supposedly this is the alternative reality that she is in while the demon possesses her body, but it adds little and bogs down the pace.

Sommer comes off much better here than she did in the first one. The way she contorts her face during the possession sequence is entertaining and she does well under the difficult demands. Telly Savalas as the devil disguised as a butler is still wasted. He doesn’t even seem to be taking the part seriously and seems to give it a tongue-and-cheek approach, which doesn’t work.

Alda’s presence is rather bland, but Carmen Silva who plays Anna his wife before he entered into the priesthood is a stunner. She appears nude in a rather gratuitous flashback segment that should more than appease any self-respecting voyeur.

The ending has a little more pizazz than the original as well where the Father goes into an empty mansion and tries to fight off the demon while having snakes thrown right at him. It’s not the best, but not the worse either.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 9, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Directors: Mario Bava, Alfredo Leone

Studio: Peppercorn-Wormser Film Enterprises

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix streaming

Lisa and the Devil (1973)

lisa and the devil

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where is the plot?

Lisa (Elke Sommer) is a tourist in Spain who gets lost and finds shelter inside a large mansion run by a butler Leandro (Telly Savalas) and a Countess (Alida Valli). Soon Lisa begins to experience strange occurrences and visions. People turn up dead and then alive again. When she tries to escape she finds that she can’t and is now stuck in a surreal world with no exit.

I am use to watching Italian horror films being strong on the visual end and weak with the plot, logic and character development especially when they attached to either Mario Bava or Dario Argento, but this one goes to the extreme. Nothing makes sense and scenes are thrown in haphazardly and go nowhere. The basic premise is too general and unfocused and the entire production seems to be an exercise in interesting camera work and nothing more. Yes there are a few atmospheric moments, but it all adds up to very little.

Had the special effects been gory or impressive I might have forgiven it, but for Bava standards they are lacking as well. For one thing there is very little gore to begin with and what we do see looks amateurish. The scene where a man gets run over by a car clearly looks like a mannequin and as the driver backs up and runs him over several more times it becomes even more obvious.

Sommer makes for a weak heroine. Her character is as vague and mysterious as all the others, so the viewer never gains any empathy or concern for her fate. Her short shoulder length haircut makes her look middle-aged and dowdy. Also, Sylvia Koscina her costar has facial features that are too similar to Elke’s and for a while I thought she was Elke with a brunette wig. Her best moment is actually her nude scene of which she looks great although I noticed her eye lids constantly fluttering when her character was supposedly asleep.

Normally I love Telly Savalas and he can be effectively menacing, but here he is sorely underused. The character pops in and out sporadically, but really doesn’t do much. I did like that he is constantly sucking on lollipops, which later became his trademark during his run on the ‘Kojak’ TV-series.

I was hoping for some grand over-the-top finale to make up for having to sit through all this, but it never came. The climax, which takes place inside a jet airliner no less, is as underwhelming as everything else. Not surprisingly this film was edited into a completely different story and reissued as The House of Exorcism, which will be reviewed tomorrow.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 9, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mario Bava

Studio: Leone International

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming